Monthly Archives: June 2009

Neapolis was the port of Philippi

During his second journey, while at Troas, Paul saw a vision of a man of Macedonia. Luke gives the following record of the vision and of the subsequent action of the apostle.

A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. (Acts 16:9-10)

Paul and his companions, including Luke, landed at Neapolis (modern Kavalla). The text indicates that the real goal of their mission was to reach the Roman colony of Philippi. Philippi was about 10 miles away, and could be reached by traveling the famous Via Egnatia across Mount Symbolum. Neapolis had been founded in the 7th century B.C. and served as the port of Philippi. Here is a photo of the modern port at Kavalla in northern Greece.

The harbor of Kavalla, Greece, known as Neapolis at the time of Paul. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The harbor of Kavalla (biblical Neapolis), Greece. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Luke uses his words sparingly.

So putting out to sea from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and on the day following to Neapolis. (Act 16:11)

Paul and his companions sailed from Philippi (the port of Neapolis) to Troas on the return from the third journey (Acts 20:3-6.

Cappadocia was home to early Christians

John Freely describes Cappadocia in these words:

“Most of this part of Cappadocia is covered with a deep layer of tufa, a soft stone of solidified mud, ash and lava which once poured down from the now extinct volcanoes on Hasan Dagi and Ericiyes Dagi, the two great mountain peaks of Cappadocia. In the eons since then the rivers of the region have scoured canyons, gorges, valleys and gulleys through the soft and porous stone, and the elements have eroded it into fantastic crags, folds, turrets, pyramids, spires, needles, stalagmites, and cones, creating a vast outdoor display of stone sculptures in an incredible variety of shapes and colours” (The Companion Guide to Turkey, 238).

Devout Jews from Cappadocia were present in Jerusalem on Pentecost (Acts 2:9). Peter=s letters were addressed to Christians living in Cappadocia (1 Pet. 1:1). In the centuries after New Testament times many Christians settled in this volcanic region of perhaps 50,000 cones.

Gliding gently over Cappadocia. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Gliding gently over Cappadocia. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The best way to enjoy the Cappadocian landscape is by taking a hot air balloon early in the morning. Drifting gently over the landscape is a unique experience.

Todd Bolen calls attention to a nice photo gallery of Cappadocia in the Los Angeles Times here.

The Apostle Paul came to Philippi

The Apostle Paul came to Philippi on his second preaching journey. Luke accurately describes the city with these words:

So putting out to sea from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and on the day following to Neapolis; and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia, a Roman colony; and we were staying in this city for some days. (Act 16:11-12 NAU)

The photo below shows ruins of the theater which was cut into the mountain side. It was built in the days of Philip II in the 4th century B.C. During renovations in the second and third century A.D. arrangements were made for gladiatorial contests.

The theater at Philippi. Built in 4th century B.C. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The theater at Philippi. Built in 4th century B.C. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

According to Fant and Reddish,

the theater was modified for gladiatorial contests. The first three or four rows of seats were removed, protective walls were added to keep the animals from the audience, new rows of seats were added on the upper part of the theater, and, in the 3rd century, an underground tunnel was constructed underneath the orchestra for the purpose of bringing in the wild animals. (A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey, 109-110)

Virtual Qumran Reconstruction

Dr. Robert R. Cargill announced here that images and a movie of Virtual Qumran are available for free download. To view the images go directly to www.VirtualQumran.com. These images will be helpful in any teaching about Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Cargill is Chief Architect and Designer of the Qumran Visualization Project.

Virtual Qumran. North East View. UCLA Qumran Visualization Project.

Virtual Qumran. North East View. UCLA Qumran Visualization Project.

Here is a photo I made at the reconstructed ruins of Qumran.

View of proposed study room at Qumran. View NE. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View of proposed study room at Qumran. View NE. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The sign in the room reads,

The members of the Qumran Sect occupied themselves with studying the books of the Bible. Hundreds of pottery lamps were discovered in this room, validating the supposition that it was used for study during the night.

I am not sure this is a valid conclusion.

Qumran Potters Quarter. UCLA Qumran Visualization Project.

Qumran Potters Quarter. UCLA Qumran Visualization Project.

Check our earlier discussion of the Dead Sea Sect here.

Almond staff in the ark of the covenant

Three items from the period of the wilderness (desert) wandering of the children of Israel were considered significant enough to be included in the ark of the covenant.

Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail. (Hebrews 9:3-5 ESV)

The picture below, made at the model of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, shows a replica of the Ark of the Covenant with the contents mentioned by the writer of Hebrews. For more information about the model read here.

Replica of Ark of Covenant showing contents. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Replica of the Ark of the Covenant showing contents. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

At Jerash in Jordan, young boys were selling small bags of green almonds. Not my preference, but apparently there is a market for them. “Jordan almonds” are famous for use at weddings. The fresh almond is bittersweet in taste, but the sugar coating adds sweetness. The “Jordan almonds” are still “Jordan almonds” even when they come from California!

Green almonds at Jerash, Jordan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Green almonds at Jerash, Jordan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jerash is thought to be the site of Gerasa, one of the cities of the Decapolis (Matthew 4:25). Perhaps it is the city belonging to the country of the Gerasenes (Mark 5:1; Luke 8:26,37).

Almonds – a symbol of watchfulness and old age

Almonds were also among the best products of the land sent by Jacob to the man in Egypt (Genesis 43:11). The Hebrew word for almond (seqedim) comes from the root sqd which means “to watch, wake.” King and Stager tell us that the name was given because,

its splendid white blossoms appear as early as the end of January, a true harbinger of spring. Jeremiah plays on sqd: “The word of Yahweh came to me [Jeremiah], saying, ‘Jeremiah, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘I see a branch of an almond tree (saqed).’ Then Yahweh said to me, ‘You have seen well, for I am watching (soqed) over my word to perform it” (Jer. 1:11-12). (Life in Biblical Israel, 105)

The photo below was made in early March near the north border of the Palestinian West Bank near Jenin. Notice that the falling blossoms turn the ground gray.

Almond trees blooming in the West Bank. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Almond trees blooming in the West Bank near Jenin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Other biblical references to the almond include the following:

  • The cups of the lampstand for the tabernacle were shaped like almond blossoms (Exodus 25:33).
  • Aaron’s rod sprouted and brought forth buds, produced blossoms, and bore ripe almonds (yummy; Numbers 17:8).
  • Used figuratively of the person growing older (“the almond tree blossoms,” Ecclesiastes 12:5). Matthew Henry says, “The old man’s hair has grown white, so that his head looks like an almond-tree in the blossom. The almond-tree blossoms before any other tree, and therefore fitly shows what haste old age makes in seizing upon men; it prevents their expectations and comes faster upon them than they thought of. Gray hairs are here and there upon them, and they perceive it not.”
Almond blossoms in the West Bank. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Almond blossoms in the West Bank. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Pistachio nuts among best products of the land

During the days of a severe famine in the land of Canaan, Israel (Jacob) agreed to allow his youngest son Benjamin to go to Egypt at the request of the man who was in charge of dispensing food. That man was Joseph, the son of Israel. Jacob agreed to allow Benjamin to go with his older brothers. He also told the boys to take some of “the best products of the land” including pistachio nuts.

Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the best products of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man as a present, a little balm and a little honey, aromatic gum and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds. (Genesis 43:11 NAU)

I began thinking about this post while studying John 12.

Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. (John 12:3 NAU)

There are several significant words in this text: perfume (muron), pure (pistikos), and nard (vardos). The Greek word for pure (pistikos)  is difficult to define. Bauer-Danker says it is “variously interpreted, but evidently suggesting exceptional quality.” A comment by William Barclay caught my attention.

Oddly enough, no one really knows what that word means. There are four possibilities. It may come from the adjective pistos which means faithful or reliable, and so may mean genuine. It may come from the verb pinein which means to drink, and so may mean liquid. It may be a kind of trade name, and may have to be translated simply pistic nard. It may come from a word meaning the pistachio nut, and be a special kind of essence extracted from it. In any event it was a specially valuable kind of perfume.

Then I noticed the comments by Keil and Delitzsch on pictachio nuts (sic) in Genesis 43:11.

which are not mentioned anywhere else, are, according to the Samar. vers., the fruit of the pistacia vera, a tree resembling the terebinth, – long angular nuts of the size of hazel-nuts, with an oily kernel of a pleasant flavour; it does not thrive in Palestine now [1875], but the nuts are imported from Aleppo.

Well, that led me to think of photos I made in a pistachio orchard near Carchemish on the Euphrates (Jeremiah 46:2). This is about 65 miles from Aleppo.

Pistachio's growing near Carchemish on the Euphrates. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Pistachio's growing near Carchemish on the Euphrates. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I think this is the only place I have seen pistachio’s growing on a tree. The practical comment by Matthew Henry is worth meditating on for a while.

Note, (1.) Providence dispenses its gifts variously. Some countries produce one commodity, others another, that commerce may be preserved. (2.) Honey and spice will never make up the want of bread-corn. The famine was sore in Canaan, and yet they had balm and myrrh, etc. We may live well enough upon plain food without dainties; but we cannot live upon dainties without plain food. Let us thank God that that which is most needful and useful is generally most cheap and common.

That sort of outlines the rambling of the mind back of this post. It is amazing what one may learn once he begins to track down leads. I still don’t know if pure (pistikos) has anything to do with pistachio nuts! Meditate.