Monthly Archives: May 2009

Sir William M. Ramsay

William M. Ramsay (1851-1939), a native of Scotland, studied classics at the University of Aberdeen. In 1880 he won a traveling studentship to study in Asia Minor. For several decades he was able “to study the geography and archaeology of Roman proconsular Asia, Phyrgia, Lycaonia, Cappadocia, and Galatia” (Gasque, Sir William M. Ramsay Archaeologist and New Testament Scholar, 15; I am indebted to this work for much information about Ramsay). He was knighted in 1906.

Gasque’s book has recently been made available here by Rob Bradshaw of Biblical in either PDF or Scribd. Grab it while it is available. Rob is providing a wonderful service in making works like this available.

Some of Ramsay’s more significant writings include The Historical Geography of Asia Minor, The Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia, St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, The Letters to the Seven Churches, and A Historical Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistles to the Galatians. He wrote many articles for the 9th edition of Encyclopedia Britannica and for the five-volume Dictionary of the Bible by Hastings, including “Roads and Travel in the New Testament.”

This photo of a butterfly among wild flowers was made west of Konya, Turkey. Konya was biblical Iconium (Acts 13:51 – Acts 14).

Spring wild flowers growing west of Konya, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Spring wild flowers growing west of Konya, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In the next post we will explain more about the significance of Ramsay to New Testament studies.

The Lion of Babylon

Babylon was excavated by Germans between 1899 and 1917. Local villagers discovered the image of a lion trampling a man during one of the periods when the archaeologists were not present. Upon return, the archaeologists completed the excavation of the image. This is the way the sculpture looked in 1970. I have noticed the image in several photo by American military personnel.

The Lion of Babylon trampling a man. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Andre Parrot says,

There is … no such certainty about the basalt statue of a lion trampling on a man. This extraordinary work, which represents a beast overcoming a man, does not seem to be Mesopotamian in origin; it has been thought to be Hittite. (Babylon and the Old Testament 29-30)

Parrot also points out that the lion was associated with the goddess Ishtar.

The Bible records that Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians captured the city of Jerusalem in the days of Jehoiachin the king of Judah (2 Kings 24).

He carried away all Jerusalem and all the officials and all the mighty men of valor, 10,000 captives, and all the craftsmen and the smiths. None remained, except the poorest people of the land. And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon. The king’s mother, the king’s wives, his officials, and the chief men of the land he took into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon. And the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon all the men of valor, 7,000, and the craftsmen and the metal workers, 1,000, all of them strong and fit for war. (2 Kings 24:14-16 ESV)

Reverse Reading?

Overnight we lost 3380 hits. Long ago I put a simple counter, supplied by WordPress, on this page. There is also a stats chart that I can see when I login. The chart was based on some time zone other than the one in which I live. So, each morning when I am home I write down my own daily stats. When I opened the page to do that this morning I noted that I had 3380 hits less than yesterday morning.

What happened to all of my readers? Maybe you had been reading and decided to take it back! I don’t know what happened, but I see that WordPress has changed the stats chart to match my time zone. I don’t know how that could have messed up the total number. Anyway, deep in my heart I know you have been here. The count this morning should have been about 170,685 +/-. I was looking forward to a big 200,000-hit party and inviting each of you to come read and see. Don’t know what I will do now.

More importantly, my ranking at Alexa has continued to improve significantly. Thanks for coming my way.

Another view from Babylon

The early part of the week finds me traveling in Alabama, but I brought along another old slide scan of a photo I made at Babylon in 1970. When I compare the quality of the camera I used that year with the one I use today it is amazing that the old photo is this good. Slides fade even under the best home conditions.

This site is identified as Nebuchaznezzar’s Principal Palace. You will notice that even then, long before Saddam Hussein, some reconstruction had been carried out at the site. The lighter colored bricks at the top of the walls are part of the reconstruction to give the viewer some idea of what was original. It also helps one to visualize the size of the rooms, etc. This is the sort of thing we see at Masada, Megiddo, and other sites in Israel where the black line distinguishes the original from the reconstructed.

Nebuchadnezzar's Principal Palace in 1970. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Nebuchadnezzar's Principal Palace in 1970. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I understand the white on the ground to be salt residue.

The prophet Isaiah predicted the overthrow of the Neo-Babylonian Empire.

And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the splendor and pomp of the Chaldeans, will be like Sodom and Gomorrah when God overthrew them. (Isaiah 13:19 ESV)

God spoke, and it happened.

Colonial archaeologists and the Ishtar Gate

Recently we called attention to an article in The New York Times about Babylon. Writer Steven Lee Myers says,

Colonial archaeologists packed off its treasures to Europe a century ago.

This statement seemed significant enough to be repeated under the photo of the miniaturized Ishtar Gate at the site. My immediate reaction to the statement is, “Well, aren’t we glad!” Anyone who has visited the Pergamum Museum in Berlin has seen the reconstructed Ishtar Gate. It looks like this.

Ishtar Gate in the Pergamum Museum of Berlin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ishtar Gate in the Pergamum Museum of Berlin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Now, it’s not that the German archaeologists, under the direction of Robert Koldewey, “packed off” what you see here. All of these lions, bulls, and dragons were excavated from the mound of ancient Babylon between 1899 and 1912. Eventually they were taken to Berlin in 1926. Even under the Communist government of East Germany this gate was preserved. I saw it a few times before the Berlin Wall came down. Anyone able to travel to Berlin may see the Ishtar Gate as well as the reconstructed Procession Street. Can one say as much for the ruins of Babylon and the museum in Baghdad?

Babylon was once the greatest city of the world when the Neo-Babylonian Empire reigned supreme in the Ancient Near East (626-539 B.C.). The prophet Daniel was active in Babylon from 605 B.C. until after the fall of the city to the Persians (Daniel).  I can not imagine that he failed to see this gate.

Nebuchadnezzar was a megalomaniac. His pride is evident in the statement recorded by the prophet Daniel.

The king uttered these words: “Is this not the great Babylon that I have built for a royal residence by my own mighty strength and for my majestic honor?” (Daniel 4:30 NET Bible)

Babylon ruins reopen to tourists

The New York Times recently carried an article about the reopening of Babylon to tourists. Most of the attention is given to locals getting a chance to see Saddam Husein’s former palace built to overlook the ruins of the ancient city. Some of the photos are nice. (HT: Todd Bolen, BiblePlaces Blog)

Here is an article I published in Biblical Insights several years back.

– – – – – –

The site of Babylon is located about 55 miles southwest of Baghdad near Hillah in Iraq. The city was located on the River Euphrates, but is now a few miles east of the river on one of the canals. The rivers of Mesopotamia have frequently changed their course.

The earliest ancient name for Babylon, given in the table of nations, was Babel (Gen. 10:10). Babylon was ruled by Hammurabi, best known for his law code, in the 18th century B.C.

The city reached its peak during the Neo-Babylonian empire (626-539 B.C.). The Bible refers to Babylon as “the beauty of kingdoms, the glory of the Chaldeans’ pride” (Isaiah 13:19).

The greatest king of the Neo-Babylonian empire was Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 B.C.). There is abundant evidence of the activities of his reign. The best collections of artifacts are to be found in the British Museum in London and the Museum of the Near East (part of the Pergamon Museum) in Berlin. In Berlin one may see the reconstructed Procession Street, the Ishtar Gate, and the decorated facade of the Throne Room of Nebuchadnezzar from Babylon.

The photo below shows my first view of the site of ancient Babylon in 1970. Jeremiah 51:37 provides a wonderful caption: “And Babylon will become a heap of ruins.”

My first view of Babylon in 1970. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

My first view of Babylon in 1970. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The kingdom of Judea had much contact with the Babylonians. Daniel was in the first group of Judean royal youths taken into Babylonian exile in 605 B.C., and was educated in the literature and language of Babylon (Daniel 1:1-6). Jerusalem fell to Nebuchadnezzar’s army March 15/16, 597 B.C. At that time Jehoiachin and 10,000 captives were taken as prisoners to Babylon (2 Kings 24:8-16). The prophet Ezekiel was among that group of captives. His prophetic call came in the fifth year of his exile by the river Chebar, a tributary of the Euphrates (Ezekiel 1:1-3).

The Judean captives remained in Babylon until the time of the Medes and Persians (Jeremiah 25:11-12). Cyrus, according to a clay cylinder now in the British Museum, allowed captives to return to their home land, build their temples and serve their own gods. This is in harmony with the biblical account in 2 Chronicles 36 and Ezra 1.

Excavations were conducted at Babylon by German archaeologists between 1899 and 1917. Discoveries included the main palace of Nebuchadnezzar, the procession street, some temples, and the Ishtar gate. The most fabulous of the items to be found have been reconstructed in the Museum of the Near East in Berlin. I have been able to visit Babylon only once in 1970.

Robert Jackson – Gospel Preacher

Word has come today of the passing of Robert Jackson, long-time minister of the gospel. I have many fond memories of time spent with Robert. He strengthened and encouraged me in one very difficult time in gospel work. I was especially pleased when he was able to join one of my tours in 2000. Phil Cavender made this photo in the synagogue at Masada.

Robert Jackson and Ferrell Jenkins at Masada in 2000.

Robert Jackson and Ferrell Jenkins at Masada in 2000.

Our deepest condolences go to Robert’s family. May the Lord raise up others like him!

Jacob’s Well — from Jacob to Jesus

Jesus came to Sychar, a city of Samaria, near the piece of land Jacob had owned (John 4:5; Genesis 33:19). The territory was apportioned to the descendants of Joseph, and Joseph was buried there at Shechem (Joshua 24:32). It was a place of great historic importance.

We are not able to speak with certainty regarding the location of Sychar. Some scholars associate the site with Shechem; others think it should be identified with the village of Askar which is located a short distance north. The traditional Jacob’s Well is located at Shechem in the valley between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal. The modern town of Nablus now fills this valley.

André Parrot says,

“Of all the ‘holy places’ of Palestine, none has more reason to be considered authentic than Jacob’s well. Indeed, there is no reason why its authenticity should be questioned” (Land of Christ 65).

Parrot describes the water as “cool and pleasant-tasting…drawn from a depth of 128 feet.” I have drunk the water several times, but in the past couple of decades my guides have advised against it due to pollution in the area.

The Samaritan woman said, “the well is deep” (John 4:11). Parrot reports the well is 128 feet deep. Murphy-O’Connor says it is 22.5 meters deep (about 74 feet). McGarvey cites several measurements mentioned in 19th century writers and reminds us that the well became filled with stones cast in by travelers trying to hear how long it would take a stone to hit the bottom (Lands of the Bible 283). He reports that the well was often dry.

There are numerous springs in the area of Shechem. Jacob, as a late-comer to the region, might have found it necessary to dig a well to assure water for his family and cattle.

A church was erected over the well about A.D. 380. The Crusaders built another church on the site in the 12th century. The property came under the control of the Greek Orthodox church in 1860. By the end of the 19th century the Greeks began a new church, but construction was halted during World War I. The last time I was at Jacob’s well (2000) construction had resumed and Murphy-O’Connor reports completion in 2007.

It has been difficult for groups to visit Jacob’s Well in recent years due to the situation in Nablus.

Jacob's Well. Most likely the well where Jesus met the woman of Samaria (John 4). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jacob's Well. Most likely the well where Jesus met the woman of Samaria (John 4). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

With this information, I leave it to you to study the great lessons of John 4. They are deep, too.

He had to pass through Samaria

The Gospel of John informs us that Jesus had to pass through Samaria (4:4). The most direct travel route between Judea and Galilee was through Samaria. Josephus says, “it was the custom of the Galileans, when they came to the holy city at the festivals, to take their journeys through the country of the Samaritans….” (Ant. XX.118). He also informs us that the trip took three days (Life of Flavius Josephus 1.269). This route ran along the central mountain range, sometimes called the water-parting route.

Carson says geography determined that Jesus had to go through Samaria, but some scholars believe the term had indicates necessity. The following conversation with the woman of Samaria and the visit with the people of Sychar may explain why He had to go through Samaria.

We know that Jesus and His disciples encountered problems when traveling through Samaria (Luke 9:51-56). When Jesus sent out the twelve He told them not to enter any city of the Samaritans (Matthew 10:5).

The Jews, on their way from Galilee to Judea, could travel through Transjordan (Perea). It seems that Jesus took this route when He traveled through Jericho up to Jerusalem (Luke 19).

This photo was made in 1981 from the hill of Samaria with a view of the surrounding “mountains of Samaria” (Amos 3:9). One can easily imagine Jesus and His disciples traveling paths such as this.


Internet router down

My Internet router is down. It will likely be Tuesday before I have the new replacement. How did we ever get by with dial-up?