Monthly Archives: September 2009

Visiting Malta

Yesterday we arranged for a car and driver to take us to the places we wanted to go on Malta. It is possible to rent cars, but the driving is after the British style (one the left side of the road), and few roads are straight. Many are not marked. I know we got to a few places were would not have found on our own. Our driver was an older gentleman who was a native of the area. Except for St. Thomas Bay, he seemed to be well aquainted with the area and the good places to stop for photos.

We visited a spot near St. Paul’s Islands for photos. This is the traditional spot of the shipwreck involving Paul and Luke. Poor Luke gets no attention here, but there are churches dedicated to Paul in many places. Then we had a nice view from a high spot to see Mellieha Bay. This is the most northern of the bays and is thought by some to satisfy Luke’s description of the shipwreck being at the place where two seas meet (Acts 27:41). We also vsited St. Thomas Bay and Salina Bay.

Our driver took us to a few places we would not have gone had we been on our own, but we really enjoyed the short time we had at each one. We could have used more time, of course. The photo below is of Mdina. The Lonely Planet guide for Malta says,

The citadel of Mdina was fortified from as long ago as 1000 BC when the Phoenicians built a protective wall here and called their settlement Malet, meaning ‘place of shelter’. The Romans built a large town here and called it Melita. It was given its present name when the Arabs arrived in the 9th century – medina is Arabic for ‘walled city’. They built strong walls and dug a deep moat between Mdina and its suburbs (known as rabat in Arabic).

Mdina, Malta. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Mdina, Malta. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I think most of the current building in Mdina date from the 18th century. St. Paul’s Cathedral is said to have been built on land belonging to Publius.

Now in the region around that place were fields belonging to the chief official of the island, named Publius, who welcomed us and entertained us hospitably as guests for three days. (Acts 28:7 NET)

This photo shows the beautiful marker in the Maltese language and in English.

St. Publius Square in Mdina. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

St. Publius Square in Mdina. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I also made a quick stop at the Maritime Museum in Vittoriosa, on the south side of the Grand Harbor at Valleta, to see the Roman anchors that have been found in Maltese waters.

Because they were afraid that we would run aground on the rocky coast, they threw out four anchors from the stern and wished for day to appear.(Acts 27:29 NET)

Roman Anchors found in Maltese Waters. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman Anchors found in Maltese Waters. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

St. Paul’s Bay in Malta

We said goodbye to our group early this morning at the Rome airportas they prepared to depart for the USA. Elizabeth and I went to another terminal to wait for our noon flight to Malta.This was my first time to fly Air Malta. The planes bear the distinctive Maltese Cross on the tail.Malta is renowned for its association with the 12th century Knights of Malta (also know as the Knghts of Rhodes, and the Knights of St. John). They were also called the Hospitalers. I think they built the first hospital in Jerusalem at a site now near the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Air Malta planes display the Maltese Cross. Photo by Ferrell Jenkin in Malta.

Air Malta planes display the Maltese Cross. Photo by Ferrell Jenkin in Malta.

Malta is a popular resort and is still in the high season. We are staying at a hotel on the southern side of St. Paul’s Bay. My purpose in coming here is to photograph possible sites associated with Paul’s shipwreck.

After we had safely reached shore, we learned that the island was called Malta.  2 The local inhabitants showed us extraordinary kindness, for they built a fire and welcomed us all because it had started to rain and was cold. (Acts 28:1-2).

This is one of the first photos I made from our hotel balcony.

View of St. Paul's Bay. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View of St. Paul's Bay. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo was made at sunset and shows a portion of the rocky coast even in an area now filled with shops and seaside restaurants.

The rugged coast of St. Paul's Bay at Sunset. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The rugged coast of St. Paul's Bay at Sunset. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sunday in Rome

Sunday we worshipped with La Chiesa di Christo in Rome. This church was begun through the efforts of Sandro Corazza several decades ago. His son, Stefano, now serves the church as evangelist. Brother Sandro continues to spend his time in translating good biblical literature into Italian. At the invitation of the church I spoke yesterday and plan to speak again next Sunday. Stefano, one of my students about 30 years ago, translated for me. These men are doing a good work in a challenging area.

Ferrell Jenkins and Stefano Corazza visiting after the Sunday Sermon. Photo by C. West.

Ferrell Jenkins and Stefano Corazza visiting after the Sunday Sermon. Photo by C. West.

Our visit of the Colosseum and the Forum was marred by rain. It is difficult to complain about rain; it is such a blessing from the Lord. If you have ever tried to make photos in or after a rain I think you know what I mean. The Colosseum was built in A.D. 80 by the Emperor Titus. He used 10,000 of the slaves from Judea in this work. Titus was in charge of the Roman army when Jerusalem was burned in A.D. 70.

In the Forum there is an arch dedicated to Titus. The inside of the arch has two important reliefs. On one side we see the Roman soldiers taking away the seven-branched menorah, a table, and trumpets from the temple in Jerusalem. The other side shows a triumph scene. The Emperor rides in his chariot through the streets of Rome. Paul draws an analogy to this common scene in 2 Corinthians 2:14 and Colossians 2:15.

Rojman soldiers remove furniture from the temple. Arch of Titus. Photo by F. Jenkins.

Roman soldiers remove furniture from the temple. Arch of Titus. Photo by F. Jenkins.

Ready to go home

We had a good day in Rome, worshiping with brethren and friends at La Chiesa di Christo. In the afternoon we visited the Colosseum and the Roman Forum in the rain.

In the morning everyone leaves for the airport. Most of the group is returning to the USA. Elizabeth and I will be remaining in Italy, Malta, and Sicily for a week.

Hopefully we will post some more photos later, but now my 24 hour Internet fee is about to run out.

Vatican City and the Vatican Museum

We had a busy day Saturday in Rome. In the morning we visited St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Vatican is an independent state within Italy. This is the largest church building in the world. Thousands of people visit it each day. There probably isn’t anyone who reads this blog who had not been here or seen photos or video of the building and its art treasures.

St. Peter's basilica in Vatican City. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

St. Peter's basilica in Vatican City. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

St. Peter’s is located on the site of Nero’s Circus. Nero’s persecution of Christians was in his circus, A.D. 64.  (Tacitus, Annales, XV, 44).

St. Peter’s was financed through the sale of indulgences in the 16th century. The reaction to this practice was an important factor in the Reformation Movement. Dr. Dan Petty explains a little about Martin Luther’s role.

Doctrinal Issues and Religious Authority. The immediate issue that prompted Martin Luther to post his 95 propositions for debate in 1517 was the abuse of the Roman Catholic system of indulgences. The doctrine of indulgences, first formulated in the thirteenth century, was associated with the sacrament of penance and the doctrine of purgatory. While the sacrament was believed to provide forgiveness of sin and eternal punishment, it was thought that there was a temporal satisfaction that the repentant sinner must fulfill in this life or in purgatory. The indulgence was a document that one could purchase for a sum of money that would free him from the temporal penalty of sin. The excess merits of Christ and the saints were believed to be stored up in a heavenly “treasury of merit” which the pope could draw from on behalf of the living.  In 1517 the Dominican Johann Tetzel was selling a special plenary indulgence (promising complete forgiveness of all sin) to raise money for the church. Half of the money was to be given to Archbishop Albert, to whom the pope had given a special dispensation to hold two offices. The rest would help finance the completion of Saint Peter’s cathedral in Rome. Luther’s protest initially was against what he saw as the abuse of the system of indulgence. It was also a challenge to the papal authority that made such abuses possible.

After the visit to St. Peter’s we went to the Vatican Museum. I broke away from the group to make some photos in the Roman section of the museum. Tremendous crowds visit this museum. I have been here several times since my first visit in 1967, and I have never seen the crowds worse than today.

In the afternoon the group went to the catacombs, I took leave to return to the hotel and continue work on my lesson for the Sunday service at La Chiesa di Christo, via Sannio 69 (Roma).

Learning the Bible in the Middle Ages

Duomo, Baptistery, and Campanile. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
Duomo, Baptistery, and Campanile. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Cathedral (or Duomo) of Florence is of the Gothic style and dates to the 12th century A.D. The church, along with the baptistery, and the campanile (bell tower) have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The bronze baptistery doors, often designated as the Gates of Paradise, was designed by Lorenzo Ghiberti in the early 1400s. The gates we see today are reproductions.

In the Middle Ages Bibles were not available to the common people. One of the ways the Bible was taught was through the stained glass windows, wood carvings, and cast works such as the doors of the baptistery. The panel in the photo below shows the Israelites crossing the Jordan, and the capture of Jericho (Joshua 3-6). Remember that for the Western World those were the Dark Ages.

Baptistery panel showing capture of Jeriocho. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
Baptistery panel showing capture of Jeriocho. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

There is more that should be said about Florence, but we arrived in Rome last evening. Today and tomorrow will be filled with activity in Rome.

Be careful where you start a fire

Piazza della Signoria in Florence with Savonarola marker showing. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Piazza della Signoria in Florence with Savonarola marker showing. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Yesterday morning I visited the Piazza della Signoria in Florence, Italy. I think many people walk through this Piazza to get to the Uffizi Gallery and never notice the plaque about Savonarola. Sometimes groups of people were standing on the plaque. When it was clear, one man walked up and said to his companions “Who’s that?” The group walked on without an answer.

Daniel M. Madden says,

In the lovely Piazza della Signoria, the political forum of Florence in all ages, Savonarola arranged a huge bonfire in 1497 so that penitents won over by his words could do away with their wigs, perfumes, lotions, powers and other accouterments of an easy way of life. He himself was burned to death in the same piazza a year later as a heretic. The spot where he died is marked with a plaque. It is not far from the copy of Michelangelo’s statue of “David.” (A Religious Guide to Europe)

One may say anything he wishes as long as he does not step on the toes of those in authority. Jesus faced this problem when He dealt with the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem.

“If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” (John 11:48 ESV)

Here is a closeup of the plaque marking the spot where Savonarola died.

Plaque marking spot where Savonarola died. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Plaque marking spot where Savonarola died. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The background of the Protestant Reformation

Dr. Dan Petty, chair of Biblical Studies at Florida College, gave me permission to post some of his information about the Reformation Movement on the blog. Dan has some other material on church history at Lessons on Line. The following section, without indentation, is by Dr. Petty.

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The Protestant Reformation began in 1517, when Martin Luther posted his Ninety-five Theses in Wittenberg, Germany. The background of the movement is complex. The movement was conditioned by political, social, economic, moral and intellectual factors. But it was above all a religious movement led by men interested in a genuine reform of Christianity.

The Decline of Papal Power
The rise of national monarchies in the thirteenth through the fifteenth centuries came at the expense of the power of the papacy. This fact is illustrated by Pope Boniface VIII’s struggle with the king of France, which resulted in the pope’s humiliation and untimely death in 1303. The papacy was subsequently located in Avignon, France for an approximately seventy-year period known in history as the Avignon Papacy or the Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy (1303-77). During that time the papacy was dominated by the French monarchy. Efforts to restore the papacy to Rome at first only resulted in a division, known as the Great Schism. Rival popes claimed legitimacy until the situation was finally resolved in 1417.

Such scandalous affairs in the highest leadership of the Roman Catholic Church led to increasing corruption and a loss of confidence in the church. Many questioned the absolute authority claimed for the pope. Others increasingly called for a reform of the church in “head and members.”

Moral Corruption in the Leadership of the Church
The years leading up to the Protestant Reformation were also plagued by moral corruption and abuse of position in the Roman Catholic Church. The priesthood was guilty of several abuses of privilege and responsibility, including simony (using one’s wealth or influence to purchase an ecclesiastical office), pluralism (holding multiple offices simultaneously) and absenteeism (the failure to reside in the parish where they were supposed to minister). The practice of celibacy which was imposed by the church on  the priesthood was often abused or ignored, leading to immoral conduct on the part of the clergy. Secular-minded, ignorant priests corrupted their position by neglect or abuse of power.

During the fifteenth century the worldliness and corruption in the church reached its worst. The problem of corruption reached all the way to the papacy.

Among those who spoke out for a reform of the church was the Dominican Giralamo Savonarola (1452-1498) of Florence, Italy. This fiery preacher spoke out against the corrupt morals of the city’s leaders and the abuses of the papacy. The people were won over to Savonarola’s cause in Florence, but because of religious rivalries and political circumstances, the movement was short-lived. Savonarola was hanged and burned for heresy in 1498.

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Here is a photo of the Piazza della Signoria in Florence, Italy. This is where Savonarola preached and died. In the next post we will show a photo of the plaque marking the place where Savonarola was martyred in 1498.

Piazza della Signoria in Florence, Italy. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Piazza della Signoria in Florence, Italy. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Our travel group in Florence, Italy

The rain cleared just as we arrived in Florence. Just in time to get a photo of the group from Piazza Michelangelo. This piazza is located on a hill on the south bank of the Arno River and provides a wonderful view of the center of Florence. From here one can see (from right to left) the Santa Croce Church, the Duomo, the tower at the Piazza della Signoria, and the Ponte Vecchio.

From the Middle Ages onward, Florence has been the center of Italian intellectual and artistic life. It was in Florence that Dante, Boccaccio and Petrarch wrote, and Michelangelo, da Vinci and many others worked. In addition to the art treasures, both in and out of the museums, Florence lends itself to leisurely strolling and relaxation.

group-florence-2009

If you know some of these nice folks, you may want to click on the photo for a larger image. All of the fun stuff, and lots of photos, is at Journeys With Jane.

Todd Bolen announces the Jerusalem CD

Todd Bolen has announced the publication of Jerusalem: Volume 2 of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection. We mentioned this marvelous set of photographs earlier here. For more information on the current CD on Jerusalem click here