Monthly Archives: September 2010

The Scribe

Baruch, the scribe (Hebrew, sopher), served as the amanuensis or secretary of Jeremiah the prophet.

Then Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah, who wrote on it at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of the scroll that Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire. And many similar words were added to them. (Jeremiah 36:32 ESV)

A few years back a bulla of the seal of Baruch the scribe was discovered during an archaeological excavation in Jerusalem. A bulla is a piece of hardened clay bearing the impression of a seal.

A scribe working in the synagogue at Masada. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A scribe working in the synagogue at Masada. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A scribe was copying a manuscript in a small room of the synagogue at Masada last May. This was the first time I had noticed a scribe there. In the days prior to the invention of the printing press the scribe played a highly significant role in society.

King of Israel felled by stray arrow

The story is in 1 Kings 22. Ahab, king of Israel (874-853 B.C.), and Jehoshaphat, king of Judah (870-848), decided to try to take back the city of Ramoth-gilead which had fallen under the control of the king of Aram (Syria). Ramoth-gilead is a city of tranjordan, now in the northern part of Jordan near the border with modern Syria.

Ahab was fearful to be seen in battle and disguised himself to avoid attack.

Now an archer shot an arrow at random, and it struck the king of Israel between the plates of his armor. The king ordered his charioteer, “Turn around and take me from the battle line, because I’m wounded.” (1 Kings 22:34 NET)

The king of Israel died and was taken to Samaria for burial.

JP van de Giessen, a fellow blogger at Aantekeningen bij de Bijbel, has kindly granted permission for the use of these wonderful photos he made at the Romanfestival in Nijmegen (the Netherlands). He tells me that the festival is organized every two years with many actors. At this festival there were about 100 soldiers, 10 calvary and 120 civilian people (from slave to noble).

JP says the archers he photographed are Persian archers dressed according to the time of the Seleucids (the period between the testaments). They provide great illustrations for a lesson on 1 Kings 22.

Persian archer dressed as at the time of the Seleucids. Photo: JP van de Giessen.

Archer from the time of the Seleucids. Photo: JP van de Giessen.

According to JP, one of the archers he spoke with said he needed a year to create his costume, and another year for his bow and sword.

Archer from time of Seleucids. Photo by archer dressed as at the time of the Seleucids. Photo: JP van de Giessen.

Archer dressed as at the time of the Seleucids. Photo: JP van de Giessen.

More photos may be viewed here. JP van de Giessen holds the rights to these photos, but I think he is pleased when they are used in teaching. Click on the photo for a larger image.

The deal is the thing; buying & selling in the Middle East

Most Americans who have traveled with me find the bargaining that goes on in a shop  in the Middle East difficult at first. Items are not marked with a price. The seller, whether in a high class shop or a vendor on the street, tries to make as much as possible. He tries to convince his prospective buyer that this is the first sale of the day, will bring him luck, or is a good deal.

The Jerusalem Post Online Edition ran an article yesterday about an auction in Tel Aviv of the coin collection of Wolfgang Masser. The article says he “has spent decades assembling one of the best private collections of ancient coins in Israel.” He said that he did not “wish to burden his children or grandchildren with the sale.” I imagine they are happy, too!

Masser explains how he became involved in collecting biblical era coins.

“I must admit that I became enthusiastic quite quickly,” he said. “Can one really find and acquire coins that lay in the hands of men and women who lived in this country 2,000 years ago and bore names from ancient writings such as Shimon Bar-Kochba, Pontius Pilate and Herod? “My Zionist idealism was mixed with curiosity and romanticism. The time was indeed opportune – the situation had ‘normalized’ after the events of the Six Day War. People from the “field” – Jews, Arabs and, of course, officials interested in archeology began to search for coins, and relatively many specimens came into the open.”

Since Masser had a car and Yashin [the neighbor who got him interested in coins] didn’t, the two began to drive regularly to Bethlehem and Jerusalem on Saturdays in search of rarities.

“The main and richest source was a young Greek-Catholic Arab dealer from Bethlehem called Kando,” Masser recalled. “This slightly built young man had been introduced to the ‘profession’ by his father, Khalil Eskander, an antiquities dealer nicknamed Kando.

“The father became known in connection with the discovery and sale of the famous scrolls of Qumran near the Dead Sea to Hebrew University Prof. Eliezer Sukenik (father of Yigael Yadin). He made some money with the scrolls, which he used to set up an antiquities shop for his son in Bethlehem and to buy himself a hotel in Jerusalem, where he set up a similar shop – but where we only rarely found anything of interest,” continued Masser.

“The antiquities shop of Kando Jr. was a modest place in the main street of Bethlehem, not far from Manger Square and the Church of the Nativity. As you came inside, there were display cases on the right and left with ancient ceramic, glass and a few ancient metal artifacts. No coins in view. In the background stood an enormous desk and behind it, Kando Jr.”

Negotiations over a sale involved an elaborate and time-consuming ritual, recalled Masser. “If he had a visitor, then he would bid him a hasty farewell and turn to us. First coffee, family and politics. Then he would slowly bring out for us his latest acquisitions in a ceremony – the longer it lasted, the more beautiful and valuable were the coins he presented.

“This was intended, and put us in a heated state of anticipation. The coins were examined with a magnifying glass and their history and year of issue were discussed.

“Finally the price was mentioned. This part of the conversation was usually handled by Haim, who had much more experience than me. In most cases, there was a discount.

“Kando was, despite his youth, clever enough to know how to handle regular customers who were market-savvy. On especially successful occasions he made us a present of an ancient oil lamp from the same period, or invited us to lunch. He was a very good salesman. There was full trust on both sides.

“When he showed us especially valuable pieces which I desired but did not have enough money on me for – I never bought on credit – he would let me take the coin with me, saying, ‘So we shall meet in 14 days, with the money or with the coin.’ Everything took place without written agreements.”

Read the full article here. Kando’s store in Bethlehem is still open, and similar dealing still goes on. The store is run by Shibly (in the green shirt), grandson of Kando, and other family members. Kando, from his portrait over the cases, still looks down on the deal.

Kando's Antiquities Shop in Bethlehem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Kando's Antiquities Shop in Bethlehem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The sort of dealing mention in the article is reminiscent of what we read regarding Abraham’s purchase of a burial place for Sarah from Ephron the Hittite (Genesis 23).

HT: Joseph Lauer

Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens

A reader asks about the location of the Arch of Hadrian that we wrote about in the previous post. The Arch is on the busy Leoforos Amalias. If you approach the arch and go through it, it leads to a park where the  Temple of Olympian Zeus, or Olympieion, stands. This is the area east of the Acropolis. The first photo shows the view from the Acropolis. The Temple is clearly visible. On the left you may also see the Olympic Stadium. The Arch of Hadrian is visible near the lower left corner.

The Temple of Olympian Zeus from the Acropolis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Temple of Olympian Zeus from the Acropolis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

If you enter the park through the Arch of Hadrian you will have a nice view of the what remains of the Temple.

The Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Blue Guide on Athens and Environs says this is “the largest temple in Greece. It took 700 years to complete.” A temple was begun here as early as 550 B.C., but was not completed until the time of Hadrian.

Perhaps Paul saw this temple as he visited the sites of the city while awaiting the coming of Silas and Timothy from Macedonia.

For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. (Act 17:23 ESV)

A map of Athens showing the central area, including the Arch of Hadrian, is available here.

Hadrian’s arch in Athens

The Roman emperor Hadrian (A.D. 117-138) left arches in many cities he visited. The arch in Athens marks the entry to the Temple of Zeus. Rant and Reddish describe the arch:

The imposing Arch of Hadrian was constructed in honor of the emperor following the completion of the temple [to Zeus], and Hadrian himself walked through it to attend the dedication of the temple in 131 C.E. The western side of the arch (toward the old city) carries the inscription “This is Athens, the city of Theseus.” The inscription on the eastern side of the arch facing the temple (and toward a section of Athens that had been newly renovated by Hadrian) states, “This is the city of Harrian and not of Theseus. (A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey, 33)

To get a photo like this one requires some good footwork. The arch faces one of the busiest streets in Athens, but one must move out into the street between cars to get an unobstructed view.

Arch of Hadrian in Athens. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Arch of Hadrian in Athens. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Photoshop, and some other photo editing programs, provide the opportunity to manipulate photos in unusual ways. Here is the same photo textured as if it were painted on canvas.

Arch of Hardrian on canvas. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Arch of Hadrian on canvas. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The fourth major persecution of the church by the Roman Empire came in the days of Hadrian.

Armenians gather in Turkey

The 10th century Armenian church on Akdamar Island in Lake Van (Turkey) was restored and reopened as a museum by the Turkish government in 2007.  About three months after the opening I was able to visit the church.

Armenian Church on Akdamar Island in Lake Van. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Armenian Church on Akdamar Island in Lake Van. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

There are some marvelous frescoes and carvings of Bible stories inside and outside the church. The one pictured below shows the raising of Lazarus (John 11) and the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (John 12). Scenes such as these served to remind those who saw them of the biblical accounts. An Armenian translation of the (Greek) Septuagint Old Testament “was made for the Christian communities of eastern Asia Minor” about A.D. 400 (Price, The Ancestry of Our English Bible, 3rd rev. ed., 119). The New Testament translation was made about the same time (198). Price says,

Armenian manuscripts are very numerous, probably more numerous than those of any other version except the Latin Vulgate.

Bible stories in the Akdamar Island church. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Bible stories in the Akdamar Island church. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Earlier this week USA Today reported that the Turkish government allowed several Armenian Christian pilgrims to visit the Akdamar church last Sunday. This was the first time a service had been held in the church since it was “abandoned during the mass killings of Armenians 95 years ago.”

The media has directed much attention lately to the problems of minority religions in Turkey. The CBS news show 60 Minutes included a feature about restrictions on the Greek Orthodox in Turkey a few weeks ago.

The region around Lake Van in eastern Turkey was the ancient region of Urartu, known as Ararat in the Bible.

  • Noah’s ark landed on the mountains of Ararat (Genesis 8:4).
  • The men who assassinated the Assyrian king Sennacherib fled into the land of Ararat (2 Kings 19:37 = Isaiah 37:38).
  • The kingdoms of Ararat may have joined other nations in the capture of Babylon (Jeremiah 51:27).

The Book of Kells and the Scottish connection

Last week I visited the Trinity College Library in Dublin, Ireland, to take another look at the Book of Kells which dates to about A.D. 800.

Entrance to Trinity College Library. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Entrance to Trinity College Library and the Book of Kells. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Two volumes of the famous illuminated Gospels in Latin were on display in a special case. One showed the first words of Luke 4.
And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness. (Luke 4:1, ESV)

Two full pages were used for these words and the associated drawings. Another volume was open to John 7:31-40.

The Book of Kells is famous for its drawings showing the The Four Evangelists, that is, the four writers of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Souvenirs may be seen in shops throughout Ireland with these images imprinted on them. Here is a plate depicting John as an eagle.

John as an Eagle. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

John as an Eagle. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In A.D. 597 Saint Columba went from Ireland to Iona, an island near the coast of Scotland, to teach Christianity. The famous Book of Kells, an illuminated Gospels, was likely prepared by the monks of Iona about A.D. 800.

It is not certain that anything remains on the island of Iona from the time of Columba, but there are numerous medieval ruins. Here is a photo I made a couple of years on the island.

Columns on the Isle of Iona, Scotland. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Columns on the Isle of Iona, Scotland. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Eventually the Book of Kells was brought to the Abbey of Kells, a monastery that had been founded by Columba, about 40 miles north of Dublin.

Trinity College was founded in in 1592 under a charter of  Queen Elizabeth. The oldest remaining buildings date to the early 1700s. Visitors are allowed to visit the Long Room of the Old Library. This room, almost 200 feet long, is impressive to anyone who loves books.

The Long Room of Trinity College Library

The Long Room of Trinity College Library. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.