Monthly Archives: April 2011

The joy of hidden treasures

It doesn’t happen every day, but hoards of coins are sometimes found in archaeological excavations and other places by chance. The photo below shows a small portion of the Ussfiyeh Hoard of coins now displayed in the Erezt Israel Museum, Tel Aviv University, Israel. I think Ussfiyeh is a Druze town on Mount Carmel, but I have found nothing else about the site. If a reader knows more, please share.

Ussfiyeh Hoard of Tyrian Shekels & Other Coins. Eretz Israel Museum.

Ussfiyeh Hoard of Tyrian Shekels & Other Coins. Eretz Israel Museum.

The information sign with the display reads as follows:

The Ussfiyeh hoard originally contained 6000 Tyrian shekels, half-shekels and Augustaean denarii. Although Temple shekels bore pagan designs, they were accepted as Temple taxes in Jerusalem. The hoard probably represents a delivery of Temple tax intercepted and hidden away due to the events of the Jewish War which broke out in 66 C.E.

Jesus used an illustration related to a treasure found in a field.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Matthew 13:44 ESV)

Click on the photo for a larger image suitable for use in teaching.

The mosaics of the Antakya Museum

Yesterday’s post about Antakya, Turkey (biblical Antioch of Syria, Acts 11), was highly popular. We had more than 1400 hits. Thanks for your interest. We hope you will find other entries of interest as well.

Take a look at the two good comments on the previous post. One from Balagebalogh calls attention to the mosaics from Antakya that are in the Baltimore Museum of Art and to his illustration of Antioch, and another from TBrinley calling attention to the mosaics in the Antakya Museum. I haven’t had the opportunity to visit the Baltimore museum, but I have been to the Antakya Museum a few times.

I thought I would share just one of the many mosaics displayed in the Antakya Museum. These mosaics typically date to the fourth or fifth century as I recall. (I am away from home and do not have access to my usual sources.)

Our photo shows a beautifully preserved mosaic displayed on a large wall. I am taking the liberty of copying info about it from Sacred Destinations, a site we have recommended before. Regarding this mosaic the site says,

Detail of mosaic from the floor of the 5th-century Bath of Apolausis, a small suburban bath uncovered in the Antioch excavations on the slopes of Mount Silpios, east of the city. The woman depicted in the middle is Soteria (Salvation) who formed a pair with Apolausis (Enjoyment). Soteria and Apolausis were minor deities who had the power to deliver people from danger and were popularly associated in late antiquity with baths, whose warm waters could give pleasure and soothe pain. Antakya Museum.

Antakya Museum mosaic displayed on wall. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Antakya Museum mosaic displayed on wall. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Beautiful, isn’t it? Turkey is filled with similar mosaics. I recall especially those from Zeugma displayed in the Gaziantep Museum.

Antioch of Syria, or is that Turkey?

Antioch of Syria on the Orontes River was founded by Seleucus I Nicator in 300 B.C. Antioch became a Roman city in 64 B.C. and capital of the new province of Syria. It became the third largest city of the Roman Empire after Rome and Alexandria.

After Jerusalem, Antioch was the second great center of Christianity in New Testament times and where the disciples of Christ were first called Christians (Acts 11:19-30; 13:1-3; 14:26-28; 15:1-41; 18:22-23; Gal. 2).

Antioch is now called Antakya and is part of the HatayProvince of Turkey, but is near the border with Syria. The area became part of Turkey in 1939.

The photo below was made from the bridge crossing the Orontes River with a view east toward Mount Silipius. Click on the photo for an image suitable for use in presentations.

Antakya, Turkey. Antioch of Syria of the New Testament. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View east toward Mount Silpius from the Orontes River. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A church called the Cave Church of St. Peter honors Peter’s visit to the city (Gal. 2). This is a late Roman Catholic addition to the city, having become a Catholic church in 1946. Not the best choice, I think. Peter’s association with Antioch did not turn out too well. At first he ate with the new Gentile converts, but under pressure from James of Jerusalem played the hypocrite and withdrew from the Gentiles.

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. (Galatians 2:11-13 ESV)

I suggest you read Galatians 1 and 2, for a more complete account of this event.

From here the great journeys of Paul to take the Gospel to the Gentile world began (Acts 13:1-2).

Homemade in the Golan Heights

Today I am traveling, but I thought I would share a photo that illustrates one of the educational and sometimes fun things about travel in cultures other than our own. This Arab peddler has set up his table in the Golan Heights at the overlook from Israel into Kuneitra (Quneitra), Syria.

He seems to have a nice variety of the local goodies: olives, olive oil, nuts, and various fruits. Are those pickled eggs? He has already made two sales and it appears he is about to make a third. It can be really chilly in the Golan Heights, even in early May. Some of the potential customers would probably more quickly buy a sweat shirt.

Peddling homemade goodies in the Golan Heights. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Peddling homemade goodies in the Golan Heights. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Carchemish after a century

The ancient site of Carchemish was identified by George Smith in 1876, and later excavated by the British Museum beginning in 1911. The various directors included Hogarth, Thompson, Wooley, and Lawrence. Many remains of Assyrian and Neo-Hittite periods were uncovered.

Surveys of the vicinity around Carchemish revealed tombs, pottery and weapons from the Middle Bronze Age. The photo shows one such collection displayed in the British Museum.

Pottery found near Carchemish between 1911-1914. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Pottery found near Carchemish between 1911-1914. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The sign that accompanies this display of pottery says,

During the course of the British Museum’s excavations at Carchemish in north Syria between 1911 and 1914, the field directors, Leonard Wooley and T. E. Lawrence, made regular visits to various sites in the vicinity. One such site was Amarneh and it was from here that Wooley acquired large numbers of objects which had been looted from the associated ancient cemetery. The majority of the finds, consisting of pottery vessels and metal weapons, date to the third and early second millennnium BC. Although it is impossible to reconstruct the early tomb groups, it is clear from Lawrence’s notes and sketches that they were large, collective chambers, lined and roofed over with stone slabs, each tomb containing several individuals and hundreds of pots.

The border between Syria and Turkey is now immediately south of Carchemish. The tell is now in Turkey.

New excavations at Carchemish

Carchemish is mentioned only a few times in the Bible, but it was one of the most significant cities in the ancient Bible world.

  • Isaiah made a reference to Carchemish (Isaiah 10:9). The city had been sacked by Sargon II in 717 B.C.
  • Pharaoh Necho of Egypt went up to Carchemish on the Euphrates to assist the Assyrians against the Babylonians in 609 B.C. (2 Chronicles 35:20; Jeremiah 46:2). King Josiah of Judah tried to stop him, but was killed.

One of the Babylonian Chronicles says that Nebuchadnezzar “crossed the river to go against the Egyptian army which lay in Carchemish.”

Our photo shows the tell in the distance. The tell is in Turkey today. In the far left of the photo you may see a bridge over the Euphrates River. The bridge crosses into Syria.

Cemetery at Carchemish, Tell in the distance. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Cemetery at Carchemish, Tell in the distance. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

We are informed that a new excavation will begin at Carchemish this year. The area has been cleared of 1200 land mines. A few details, along with a photo of some of the land mines, may be viewed here.

HT: Bible Places Blog.

“You offspring of vipers…”

When the Pharisees and Sadducees came to John the Baptist for baptism, John said,

”You offspring of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? (Matthew 3:7 NET; cf. Luke 3:7)

Jesus used the same language of the Scribes and Pharisees.

You snakes, you offspring of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? (Matthew 23:33 NET; cf. 12:34)

The photo below shows the Palestinian Viper (behind tough plastic!) at the the Hai Bar Animal and Nature Reserve, north of Eilat, Israel.

Palestinian Viper at the HaiBar Reserve near Eilat, Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Palestinian Viper at the HaiBar Reserve near Eilat, Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The sign at the Reserve gives some explanation about this poisonous viper.

Description of the Palestinian Viper at HaiBar Reserve.
Description of the Palestinian Viper at HaiBar Reserve.

A visit to Hai Bar is a wonderful experience. The kids will love it, too.

Could the ancient metal books be more Kinderhook Plates?

The late Dr. James D. Bales, one of the founding members of the Evangelical Theological Society, and long-time Professor of Christian Doctrine at Harding University, wrote The Book of Mormon? in 1958 (Rosemead, CA: Old Paths Book Club). In this book he tells the story of the Kinderhook Plates.

The Kinderhook Plates were concocted by a few citizens of Kinderhook, Illinois, to demonstrate that the Mormon leader Joseph Smith was not able to read ancient plates like those he claimed to have read in the production of the Book of Mormon.

Bales explains the background of the fraud:

The following is found in Times and Seasons (IV:186-187, May 1, 1843). We quote it as we copied it from the Millennial Star. “On the 16th of April last a respectable merchant by the name of Robert Wiley, commenced digging in a large mound near this place: he excavated to the depth of ten feet and came to rock; about that time the rain began to fall, and he abandoned the work. On the 23rd he and quite a number of the citizens with myself, repaired to the mound, and after making ample opening, we found plenty of rock the most of which appeared as though it had been strongly burned; and after removing full two feet of said rock, we found plenty of charcoal and ashes; also human bones that appeared as though they had been burned; and near the eciphalon a bundle was found that consisted of six plates of brass, of a bell shape, each having a hole near the small end, and a ring through them all, and clasped with two clasps, the ring and clasps appeared to be of iron, very much oxidated. The plates appeared first to be copper, and had the appearance of being covered with characters. It was agreed by the company that I should cleanse the plates. Accordingly, I took them to my house, washed them with soap and water, and a woolen cloth; but, finding them not yet cleansed, I treated them with dilute sulphuric acid which made them perfectly clean, on which it appeared that they were completely covered with hieroglyphics that none as yet have been able to read. Wishing that the world might know the hidden things as fast as they come to light, I was induced to state the facts, hoping that you would give it an insertion in your excellent paper; for we all feel anxious to know the true meaning of the plates, and publishing the facts might lead to the true translation. They were found, I judged, more than twelve feet below the surface of the top of the mound.

“I am. most respectfully, a citizen of Kinderhook,

W. P. Harris, M. D.”

Nine citizens of Kinderhook signed a statement certifying the truthfulness of the statement by Dr. Harris.

Smith agreed that he would translate the plates if they were first submitted to some learned societies for translation. Eventually, after no one was able to translate the Plates,  Smith translated them. According to Bales, he said,

I have translated a portion of them, and find they contain the history of the person with whom they were found. He was a descendant of Ham, through the loins of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the Ruler of Heaven and earth” (Millennial
Star, XXI:41. Extract from Smith’s diary, dated Monday, May 1, 1843).” (Bales, 92-93).

Bales also cites the testimony of the famous Egyptologist James H. Breasted.

James H. Breasted, Orientalist, Historian, Egyptologist, and Professor of Egyptology in the University of Chicago — from 1905 and a number of years thereafter — stated in a letter of R. B. Neal, on April 20, 1914 that the “Kinderhook Plates are, of course, childish forgeries, as the scientific world has known for years.” (Bales, 98)

You may see facsimiles of the Kinderhook Plates in the Salt Lake City Messenger, October, 1981) here, and at a Mormon apologetic site here.

When I first saw the photographs of the ancient lead codices we wrote about in the previous post, I immediately thought of the Kinderhook Plates.

But, maybe I am wrong! Time will tell, and I will be delighted to change my mind.

This should be a good one for April 1.