Monthly Archives: April 2009

The house of Caiaphas

Jesus observed the Passover of the Jews somewhere in the upper city of Jerusalem, the present Mount Zion. Scholarly consensus locates the house of Caiaphas at a site near the Cenacle on Mount Zion. Another site, further down the slope toward the Pool of Siloam, is held by some as the house of Caiphas. It is  called St. Peter in Gallicantu (cock-crow). According to this tradition, it is the place where Jesus was taken after His arrest (Matthew 26:57). If correct, this would be the site of Peter’s denial of the Lord.

The late W. Harold Mare says,

Whatever interpretation is accepted, one is impressed with the ancient stone stairs that run from the vicinity of the Cenacle down past the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu to the Pool of Siloam, stairs that are thought to be from the Jewish period. It could be that these were the very stairs used by Jesus as he went down from the Last Supper to the Kidron Valley and on to Gethsemane (John 18:1). (The Archaeology of the Jerusalem Area. Baker, 1987)

My understanding is that Jesus would have observed the Passover and instituted the Lord’s Supper in the Upper City. He then went with His disciples to Gethsemane. From there He was taken to the House of Caiaphas. Jesus may have taken these steps in both directions. Here is a photo of those stone stairs that I made in 1979.

First century steps leading to the Upper City. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

First century steps leading to the Upper City. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Jesus Tomb Unmasked

unmasked_thumbExpedition Bible has produced a high-quality DVD entitled The Jesus Tomb Unmasked. This is an expose of the Discovery Channel “documentary” about the Talpiot Tomb. You remember the claim that this was the tomb of Jesus and his wife Mary. The Jesus Tomb Unmasked may be ordered as a DVD, or watched online free. Information here.

The film features several of the scholars who were quoted in the Discovery Channel film. In this film they say their comments were taken out of context in The Lost Tomb of Jesus.

HT: Todd Bolen, BiblePlaces Blog.

A place called Gethsemane

Gethsemane is a place well known in the minds of Christians, for according to the Gospels it was there that Jesus prayed alone to the Father before his arrest and trial. The word Gethsemane means oil-press. It is the name of an olive orchard on the Mount of Olives. Not many olive trees remain on the mountain originally named for them. This photo was made in the modern Garden at the Church of All Nations.

Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Take time to meditate on the events of that night.

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.” And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”

And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more.

Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.  “Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!” (Matthew 26:36-46 NASu)

The Way of the Cross – Via Dolorosa

Numerous events from the last day prior to the crucifixion of Jesus are recorded in the New Testament (Matthew 26-27; Mark 14-15; Luke 22-23; John 18-19). As early as Byzantine times Christians began to follow the final steps of Jesus on specified days. Over the centuries many changes were made in the route and the stops. The traditional Via Dolorosa, as known today, was fixed in the 18th century.

Jerome Murphy-O’Connor says,

The Via Dolorosa is defined by faith, not by history. (The Holy Land, 5th edition, 37)

He continues,

The present Way of the Cross has little chance of corresponding to hsitorical reality… (38)

According to tradition, the third station of the cross is where Jesus falls the first time under His cross. It sounds reasonable, but the Gospels make no specific mention of this.

Roman period street near 3rd station of the cross. Photo by F. Jenkins.

Roman period street near 3rd station of the cross. Photo by F. Jenkins.

This photo shows the street in front of the third station. The plaque in Hebrew, Arabic and English provides the following information about the street.

Paving stones, apparently from the Second Temple Period (ca. 100 B.C.C. – 100 C.E.). The street was found in its entirety 3 meters below the existing level and was partially restored by the Municipality of Jerusalem … 1980-1981.

This means that the street Jesus might have walked is at least 10 feet below the present street level.

Inscription from time of Kings of Judah

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced the discovery of a fragment of a Hebrew inscription from the period of the Kings of Judah. Here is the complete news release.

In Archaeological Excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is Conducting at the City of David, in the Walls Around Jerusalem National Park:

A Fragment of a Hebrew Inscription from the Period of the Kings of Judah was Found

A fragment of a limestone plaque bearing several letters of ancient Hebrew script was discovered while sifting soil that was excavated in the vicinity of the Gihon Spring, within the precincts of the “Walls around Jerusalem National Park”. The excavation is being carried out on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, under the direction of Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa and Eli Shukron of the IAA, and is sponsored by the ‘Ir David Foundation.

The stone fragment dates to the eighth century BCE and this is based on the numerous pottery sherds that were discovered together with it, as well as the shape of the Hebrew letters that are engraved in the inscription.

The plaque is broken on all sides. All that remains of the inscription are two lines of writing: In the upper line the last part of a given name is preserved: …]קיה, or as it is transliterated into English …]kiah. Unfortunately the remains of another letter before the kof cannot be discerned. If the letter preceding the kof was a zayin, we could complete the name to read חזקיה, or Hezekiah in English, and perhaps ascribe historical importance to the inscription. On the other hand, there are other first names that were used in Judah and Jerusalem at that time that could be mentioned here such as Hilkia, Amekiya, etc.

In the second line are the remains of two words. Here too, is a suffix of a word: …]כה, or as it is transliterated into English …]ka. Here we have several possibilities for completing the word such as: בְּרָכָה, or birqa, that is, a greeting expressing best wishes (a possible ending for some sort of commemorative inscription). Another possibility is the word בְּרֵכָה, or brecha, meaning water reservoir. The reconstruction of this word is possible based on the fact that Brechat HaShiloah, or the Shiloah Pool in English, is located nearby, and also based on the fact that a pool is mentioned in the famous Shiloah inscription that was discovered close by.

In any event the fact that we are dealing with a stone plaque indicates that this is a commemorative inscription that may have been meant to celebrate some sort of building project.

All that remains is to wait and hope that in time other fragments of the inscription will be found.

The IAA news release is available here. Below is a photo of the inscription.

Inscription from Kingdom of Judah.  Photo: Vladimir Naikhin, courtest IAA.

Inscription from time of the Kingdom of Judah. Photo: Vladimir Naikhin, courtest IAA.

According to Thiele’s chronology, Hezekiah was king of Judah from 716/15 to 687/86 B.C. The book of Chronicles mentions his important work of bringing water from the Gihon spring to the west side of the city of David.

It was Hezekiah who stopped the upper outlet of the waters of Gihon and directed them to the west side of the city of David. And Hezekiah prospered in all that he did. (2 Chronicles 32:30; see 2 Kings 20:20 also).

HT: Joe Lauer

Hellenistic pier found at Akko – Ptolemais

A harbor from the Hellenistic period was found at Akko on the Mediterranean coast. Here is a brief description of the discovery provided by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The part of the floor that has been revealed so far extends for a distance of 15 meters and is 4 meters wide (the full dimensions of the floor have not yet been exposed). The floor was built of rectangular, smoothly dressed kurkar stones that were placed atop a foundation course of roughly hewn kurkar stones arranged next to each other as “headers”. In probes that were conducted beneath the floor, numerous fragments of ceramic jars of Aegean provenance (from Rhodes, Kos and elsewhere) were found that were used to transport wine, as well as tableware and cooking vessels. Among the other artifacts recovered were a Greek style bronze arrowhead and bronze coins that are covered with marine encrustations. A preliminary identification of the finds shows that the floor was constructed in the Hellenistic period (end of the third century until the middle of the second century BCE) as part of a national project.

Akko Crusader wall. Excavated area of Hellenstic Harbor. Photo: Kobi Sharvit, IAA.

Akko Crusader wall. Excavated area of Hellenistic pier. Photo: Kobi Sharvit, IAA.

The photo below shows some of the kurkar stone pavement discovered one meter under the present water level.

The floor from the Hellenistic period. Photo: Kobi Sharvit, IAA.

The floor from the Hellenistic period. Photo: Kobi Sharvit, IAA.

Akko (Acre or Accho) is mentioned in Judges 1:31 as a city of the tribe of Asher. During the late 3rd or early 2nd century B.C. Akko was given the name Ptolemais by Ptolemy I or II of Egypt. Ptolemais is the name we read in the New Testament. Paul and his companions stopped at Ptolemais for one day on the return from his third journey in the Greco-Roman world.

When we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais, and we greeted the brothers and stayed with them for one day. (Acts 21:7 ESV)

Several things are learned from this text (and context). The previous stop was a few miles north at Tyre where they had stayed for seven days (Acts 21:4-6). After Ptolemais they arrived at Caesarea.

Paul’s companions included all of those “messengers” of the churches who were taking the contributions of the churches of Macedonia and Achaia to the poor among the saints at Jerusalem (Romans 15:25-27; 2 Corinthians 8-9). A list of names is given in Acts 20:4.

A view of the Mediterranean from the Crusader ramparts at Akko. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A view of the Mediterranean from the Crusader ramparts. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The monastery of the Gerasene swine

Stephen G. Rosenberg, senior fellow of the W. F. Albright Institute of Archeological Research in Jerusalem, has an article about the monastery of the Gerasene swine in The Jerusalem Post here. Take a look.

This site, located on a hill above the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, marks the traditional site of the miracle of the swine running down the steep cliff into the sea.

When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs. They were so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way. And they cried out, saying, “What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” Now there was a herd of many swine feeding at a distance from them. The demons began to entreat Him, saying, “If You are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.” And He said to them, “Go!” And they came out and went into the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the waters. The herdsmen ran away, and went to the city and reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs. And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region. (Matthew 8:28-34 NAS)

The article by Rosenberg points out that this would have been the land of Geshur in Old Testament times. David was married to Maacah, “the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur” (2 Samuel 3:3). Maacah was the mother of Absalom. The Bible points out that Absalom spent three years in exile after killing Amnon.

Rosenberg says,

Geshur is well-known from the Bible. King David married Maacah, the princess of Geshur, in the early years of his reign. That will have been for political reasons, to ensure a security pact with Geshur, which could shield David from the power of Aram (Syria) to the north, but this lady must have been powerfully beautiful as well. Her two children by David, Tamar and Absalom, are both described as being unusually good-looking. Tamar was “beautiful” and as for Absalom, “there was none in Israel to be so much praised for his beauty.”

Remember that the excavators of et-Tell like to identify it as Old Testament Geshur and New Testament Bethsaida. The sites are not far apart and both belonged in the general region of Geshur.

This photo of the basilica, made of black basalt with white limestone columns, was made last August. This site provides a wonderful view west across the Sea of Galilee.

The basilica at Kursi. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The basilica at Kursi. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Murphy-O’Connor says this has been a place of pilgrimage since the fifth century A.D. He suggests the name of the place, Kursi, “is possibly a dialectical deformation” of Chorazin. (The Holy Land).

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

My Father

Last night was the 30th anniversary of my father’s death. I have been thinking about him quite a bit lately.

B. M. Jenkins

B. M. Jenkins

It took me about six months to get over being downcast after his death. It wasn’t that I did not not have hope. There were two major factors. (1) It was just the sense of loss that I felt. I could recall our time together, but we would no longer be able to talk and discuss matters of common interest. (2) I began to think of my life. If I lived only to the age of 65 what would I do with these few remaining years? Even though I have passed 65 by several years, I still think about this question.

My father was an intelligent man, but not an educated man. He finished the eighth or ninth grade, but he knew how to work and make sound financial decisions for his family. My father spent my earliest years living on the farm where my grandfather was a share-cropper. It was hard on farms in those post-depression years. My father was a good mechanic and carpenter. In 1943 he drove about 60 miles each week from Harvest, Alabama, to Tullahoma, Tennessee. There was some type of building project in progress. After his death I found a receipt showing that he had earned about $13 for the week. From that he paid his gas expenses, stayed in a boarding house for four nights, and paid 13 cents in Old-Age Benefits. This program, now called Social Security, was set up by the Federal government in 1937 to provide retirement benefits. He evidently had enough left to provide whatever store-bought food, and other things, our family needed.

My paternal grandfather was named Joseph Frank. My grandmother was named Mary Magdalene. They had 12 children, and each of them was given a Bible name. My father’s name was Bartholomew (Matthew 10:3). He had no middle name, so he just made up the middle initial when he needed a middle name. His friends called him B.M., or Barley, or Bolly. And, yes, he had brothers named Philip, Thomas, James, Matthew, and John. He had sisters named Ruth, Mary Magdalene, Eunice, Naomi, and Elizabeth. One sibling died young. Only three are still living. My grandfather heard my second sermon. (It was the same as my first one.)

Most of the members of this family had a spirit of independence and entrepreneurship. Several of them ran small businesses and none of them ever got involved with “big business.”

My Father set a good spiritual example for his family. Sometime when I was between six and ten we walked about two miles on a country road to meet with other Christians to worship. One Sunday morning some family members drove up about the time we were to leave for church. They had come from across the county to see us. My Dad invited them to go to church with us. When they demurred, he told them to make themselves at home until we got back. The next time they came in the afternoon.

Dad served for a short time as an elder in a local church, but when the others began to advocate practices he thought were wrong, he resigned and began to worship with brethren who thought as he did.

Perhaps I should somehow relate this post to travel. I was able to take my mother to the Bible lands twice after my Father’s death. About the time I told them that I was going a third time, my Dad said, “Don’t you think you have been enough?” I wish he could have gone with me.

He taught me a lot. I think of him almost daily.