Monthly Archives: February 2011

Discovery’s last trip

It is not like being at Kennedy Space Center, but we had a nice view of the first few seconds of Discovery’s last trip. We have been at Daytona Beach for the past two days. I think this is about 45 to 50 miles north of the Kennedy Space Center.

Discovery's last trip. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins. Feb. 24, 2011.

Discovery's last trip. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins. Feb. 24, 2011.

We took our two sons to see the Apollo 11 blast-off almost 42 years ago. See photo here.

Trust each of you have your sights set on something higher.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:2 ESV)

Grass on the roof

In the previous post we wrote about the account of some men putting a hole in the roof of the house where Jesus was teaching in Capernaum. Our photos illustrated the way roofs were constructed at the time. This art by Balage Balogh of Archaeology Illustrated shows clearly the roofs. You can see the flat dirt roof with the poles (we might say rafters) showing under the surface.

The houses of Capernaum in the time of Jesus.

The houses of Capernaum in the time of Jesus. Art by Balage Balogh,

Other biblical passages become clear when we understand the nature of house construction during Bible times.

Take a look at Proverbs27:15. Think of what the winter rains might do to one of the roofs of the day.

A continual dripping on a rainy day and a contentious wife are alike. (Proverbs 27:15 NET)

One of the Psalms of Ascent calls for the overthrow of  those who hate Zion.

May they be like the grass on the rooftops which withers before one can even pull it up, (Psalm 129:6 NET)

In another text we are told that King Hezekiah of Judah prayed to the Lord during the days of the Assyrian threat to Judah. The prophet Isaiah informs the Assyrian king Sennacherib that the Lord has overthrown His enemies in the past and will do so again. Notice the illustration:

Their residents are powerless, they are terrified and ashamed. They are as short-lived as plants in the field, or green vegetation. They are as short-lived as grass on the rooftops when it is scorched by the east wind. (2 Kings 19:26 NET = Isaiah 37:27).

They removed the roof above Jesus

The following paragraph by M. J. Selman in the New Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed., provides a good summary about houses in Bible times.

Many houses had two storeys, though, since no building in ancient Israel has yet been preserved with a complete roofed ground floor or ceiling, the original height of a building is not always certain. Upper rooms were reached by stairs or ladders. These rooms provided the main living and sleeping accommodation (cf. 2 Ki. 9:13, 17), and guests could also be looked after there (1 Ki. 17:19; 2 Ki. 4:10-11).

Roofs were constructed from beams covered with branches and a thick layer of mud plaster, though the rafters were sometimes supported by a row of pillars along the middle of the room. Cylindrical stone rollers about 60 cm. [23.6 inches] long were used to keep the roofs flat and waterproof, though roofs needed to be re-plastered annually prior to the rainy season to seal cracks which had developed during the summer heat.

The family would often sleep on the roof in summer or use it to dry raisins, figs, flax, etc., in the sun. A parapet was to be built as a safety precaution according to Dt. 22:8. Vaulted roofs were certainly in use in Palestine by the Persian period, while the tiled roof also appeared before NT times. The rooftop was also a place of worship, either for Baal and especially the host of heaven (Je. 19:13; Zp. 1:5), or for the true God (Acts 10:9).

The first photo shows a portion of a roof made from wood and mud. You will also notice a roof roller on the roof. After the winter rains it was necessary to roll the roof.

Typical roof from NT times with roof roller. Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Typical roof from NT times with roof roller. Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo shows the roof a little later in the year after grass has grown on the roof and died under the summer heat.

Typical of a roof from NT times with grass growing on it. Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Typical of a roof from NT times with grass growing on it. Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

From the inside of the house the ceiling might look something like this.

Ceiling of roof made of timber and reeds. Nazareth Village. Photo by F. Jenkins.

Ceiling of roof made of timber and reeds. Nazareth Village. Photo by F. Jenkins.

Notice the New Testament texts implying such a roof.

When they were not able to bring him in because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Jesus. Then, after tearing it out, they lowered the stretcher the paralytic was lying on. (Mark 2:4 NET)

The account of Luke, a gentile physician, adds an interesting point that creates a small problem in interpretation.

But since they found no way to carry him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down on the stretcher through the roof tiles right in front of Jesus. (Luke 5:19 NET)

Did you notice the reference to roof tiles? One of the Translator’s Notes in the NET Bible discusses this problem.

There is a translational problem at this point in the text. The term Luke uses is keramos. It can in certain contexts mean “clay,” but usually this is in reference to pottery (see BDAG 540 s.v. 1). The most natural definition in this instance is “roof tile” (used in the translation above). However, tiles were generally not found in Galilee. Recent archaeological research has suggested that this house, which would have probably been typical for the area, could not have supported “a second story, nor could the original roof have been masonry; no doubt it was made from beams and branches of trees covered with a mixture of earth and straw” (J. F. Strange and H. Shanks, “Has the House Where Jesus Stayed in Capernaum Been Found?” BAR 8, no. 6 [Nov/Dec 1982]: 34). Luke may simply have spoken of building materials that would be familiar to his readers.

There are other possible interpretations, but I hope this information with the photos will help you better understand the biblical text.

Mark Wilson’s book on Biblical Turkey

Mark Wilson’s book on Biblical Turkey: A Guide to the Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor is now available through Amazon. Use this Amazon link to order.
Biblical Turkey: A Guide to Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor

A little over two months ago I started a post about Wilson’s book, intending to write a brief review. I see now that A. D. Riddle has written a review over at the Bible Places Blog. I direct our readers to that post for more info about the book.

Since 2003 we have had A Guide to Biblical Studies in Greece and Turkey by Fant and Reddish. Now we have a book by Mark Wilson that is superior in several ways. Wilson includes sites not mentioned by Fant and Reddish, and his book contains an abundance of color photos. Every person who plans a trip to Turkey to visit Biblical sites should study both books.

Dr. Wilson proudly displayed his book at the SBL meeting in Atlanta last November. Mark loves Turkey and its biblical sites. For several years he has spent at least half his time studying and exploring in Turkey. If you wish to know about the biblical sites of Turkey, you will enjoy this book.

Mark Wilson shows his new book at SBL in Atlanta. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Mark Wilson shows his book at SBL in Atlanta. Photo by F. Jenkins.

Dr. Wilson spoke to one of my groups in Izmir in 2008. See here.

Prof. Anson F. Rainey — 1930-2011

Word comes today of the passing of Prof. Anson F. Rainey. He was Emeritus Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Cultures and Semitic Linguistics, Tel Aviv University. He taught in some of the most prestigious programs both in Israel and the United States.

One might disagree with his conclusions, but you never went away wondering about his position.

A list of his publications and teaching positions may be found at the website of the Department of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University here.

I am delighted to have an autographed copy of The Sacred Bridge. In the general category of Bible Atlases it stands in a field by itself as the most thorough and comprehensive. Todd Bolen said the book is “probably the most important work of historical geography ever written” while admitting that it is over the head of most students, and sometimes his own. See here and here.

Anson Rainey, Ferrell Jenkins, and Stephen Notley at SBL, 2006.

Anson Rainey, Ferrell Jenkins, and Stephen Notley at SBL, 2006.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

The donkey: beast of burden

Donkeys are mentioned throughout the Bible beginning in Genesis 16:12. This photo shows the donkey belonging to a shepherd in the area of Gilead in Transjordan.

A donkey in Gilead (Transjordan). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A donkey in Gilead (Transjordan). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Abraham took a donkey when he went to the land of Moriah to offer Isaac.

So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. (Genesis 22:3 NAU)

Jesse loaded a donkey with food supplies to send to Saul when the Israelites fought against the Philistines in the Valley of Elah.

Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread and a jug of wine and a young goat, and sent them to Saul by David his son. (1 Samuel 16:20 NAU)

Qumran after 62 years

February 15 was an anniversary of the discovery of Qumran on the shores of the Dead Sea. Note the article in The Jewish Chronicle Online.

In 1949 the site was identified by European and US archeologists, and on February 15 1949 a team lead by Roland de Vaux and Gerald Lankester Harding began excavating the area. The excavations continued until 1956.

The article does not say that east Jerusalem and Qumran was part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan at the time, or that G. Lankester Harding was the Director of Antiquities. He is author of The Antiquities Of Jordan.

Qumran study room. NE view to Dead Sea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Qumran study room. NE view to Dead Sea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The sign in the proposed Study Room is shown below.

Sign in Qumran Study Room. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sign in Qumran Study Room. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Haaretz, an Israeli daily newspaper, runs an article from 1955 about the scrolls here. It states that all seven scrolls were at that time “all seven Dead Sea Scrolls are now  in Israel’s hands.”

Haaretz added that “we have learned from reliable sources that $1 million was requested for the scrolls, but they were purchased for slightly more than $250,000,” a “bargain,” according to archaeologist Prof. William Albright, who played an important part in their acquisition.

Albright estimated the scrolls’ value at half a million dollars, and guessed that their relatively low price reflected, among other things, “propaganda by Prof. [Samuel] Zeitlin, who denied the antiquity of the scrolls, a point of view which is no longer accepted.”

We have written about Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls many times. Just use the search box to locate the articles, or begin here.

HT: Paleojudaica

Walking on Roman roads

Gordan Franz, Life and Land Seminars, recently led the 2011 Talbot Bible Lands study tour of Turkey and Greece. He writes about the Roman roads used by Paul in his journeys. See here.

Photos are included of the following roads, portions of which still exist.

  • The Via Taurus, “a beautifully preserved road between Tarsus and the Cilician Gates” (Acts 15:36).
  • The Via Sebaste (“Emperor’s Road”) connecting Iconium and Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:51; 14:21-23).
  • The Roman Road west of Assos (Acts 20:22-23).
  • The Roman Road inside the city of Alexandria Troas leading to the harbor (Acts 16:8-11).
  • The Via Egnatia which connected Neapolis and Philippi (Acts 16:11-12; 20:6).
  • The Appian Way (Acts 28:14-16).

The link to photos made by one of the tour members is given at the bottom of the article. At this moment you will need to copy the link and paste it into your browser. There is an extra http// in the embedded code.

The photo below is one provided by friend David Padfield of the Roman road near Assos.

Roman Road near Assos. Photo by David Padfield.

Roman Road near Assos. Photo by David Padfield.

I have been on journeys many times, in dangers from rivers, in dangers from robbers, in dangers from my own countrymen, in dangers from Gentiles, in dangers in the city, in dangers in the wilderness, in dangers at sea, in dangers from false brothers… (2 Corinthians 11:26 NET)

Was this Jericho tower the world’s first skyscraper?

Many who have visited Tell es-Sultan, the site of Old Testament Jericho, have been amazed at the tower built on the inside of the city wall. The tower was uncovered during the excavation by Kathleen Kenyon in 1952-1958. Kenyon dated the tower to the Neolithic period, about 7000 B.C. The current material makes the tower 11,000 years old, but the entry by Kenyon in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised, gives the date of 7000 B.C.)

Holland describes the tower:

On the West side of the town in Trench I, the first town wall was associated with a large stone-built tower situated against its inner side, 8.5 meters in diameter [almost 28 feet] at the base with a surviving height of 7.75 meters [about 25½ feet]. The construction of the tower was solid except in the center, which had a staircase providing access to the top from the interior of the town. — The Anchor Bible Dictionary 3:727

A photo suitable for use in teaching is available by clicking on the image. This tower is definitely in need of cleaning and restoration.

The Tower excavated by K. Kenyon at Jericho. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Tower excavated by K. Kenyon at Jericho. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Kenyon thought the tower served some defensive purpose. A new computer analysis study by two Israeli archaeologist, Ran Barkai and Ron Liran, has led to the conclusion that when the tower “was built the nearby mountains cast a shadow on it as the sun sets on the longest day of the year.” They say, “The shadow fell exactly on the structure and then spread out to cover the entire village.”

A brief article in the The Jerusalem Post says,

The world’s first skyscraper was built by early farmers, who were frightened into erecting a solar marker by mankind’s early bosses, archaeologists say.

Long before its Biblical walls came tumbling down, Jericho’s residents were being enticed to give up hunting and gathering and start farming for a living. They settled in this oasis next to the Jordan River and built a mysterious 8.5-meter (28-foot) stone tower on the edge of town.

When discovered by archaeologists in 1952, it was dated at over 11,000 years old, making it the first and oldest public building even found. But its purpose and the motivation for erecting it has been debated ever since.

Now, using computer technology, Israeli archaeologists are saying it was built to mark the summer solstice and as a symbol that would entice people to abandon their nomadic ways and settle down.

“The tower was constructed by a major building effort. People were working for a very long time and very hard. It was not like the other domestic buildings in Jericho,” said Ran Barkai of the Department of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University, who was part of a team that did the computer analysis.

The stone tower is about nine meters in diameter at its base and conical in shape. Built out of concentric rows of the stones, it also contains an enclosed stairway. Archeologists say it wasn’t used as a tomb.

Barkai and fellow archaeologist Roy Liran used computers to reconstruct sunsets and found that when the tower was built the nearby mountains cast a shadow on it as the sun set on the longest day of the year. The shadow fell exactly on the structure and then spread out to cover the entire village.

The complete article may be read here. The brief article is based on a scholarly article by the two archaeologists in Time and Mind: the Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness and Culture, available in PDF here. There is a short article by Liran and Barkai in the March, 2011, issue of Antiquity, here. There is also an article in The Media Line here.

It may be that the tower served an astronomical purpose, but the suggestion that it was built to entice the local inhabitants to become farmers is nothing more than an interesting speculation.

Note also that this tower has nothing to do with the biblical account of the destruction of the city of Jericho as recorded in Joshua 6. That did not occur until about 1400 B.C. (or later, according to the “late date” theory of the Exodus).

HT: Joseph Lauer

Byzantine church at Khirbet Midras to be covered up

The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced about two weeks ago the discovery of a Byzantine church with a mosaic floor at Hirbet [Horbat, Khirbet] Midras, a site in the Judean Shephelah southwest of Jerusalem. See the report here.

The IAA has a report here. Note this explanation about the site.

Hirbet Madras is known as the site of a large, important Jewish community from the Second Temple period until its destruction during the Bar Kokhba Revolt in 135 CE. Among the remains at the site are those of buildings, caves, agricultural installations and extensive underground hiding tunnels. The site was identified by a number of scholars as the location of a major community. Research of the site was begun in the late nineteenth century and continues until the present.

Scholarly speculation ties the church found here with the tomb of the prophet Zechariah.

As previously mentioned, researchers who visited the site are of the opinion that the site is the residence and tomb of the prophet Zechariah. Ancient Christian sources identified the burial place of the prophet Zechariah in the village of Zechariah, and noted that his place of burial was discovered in 415 CE. The researchers believe that in light of an analysis of the Christian sources, including the Madaba Map, the church at Hirbet Madras is a memorial church designed to mark the tomb of the prophet Zechariah. This issue will be examined and studied in the near future.

We understand now that he site soon may be buried. See the Jerusalem Post report here. This may be because there is no money to prepare the site for a large number of tourists and to maintain the site. It may also be because of vandalism in the area. It was here, at Khirbet Midras, where a rolling stone tomb was vandalized a few years ago. See our earlier report here.

The photo below is provided courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Byzantine Church excavated at Khirbet Midras. Photo: IAA.

Byzantine Church excavated at Khirbet Midras. Photo: IAA.

The Jerusalem Post report includes a video report by tour guide Danny Herman.

Much lies beneath the surface in Israel.

HT: Faith in Hand; Paleojudaica; Joe Lauer.