Monthly Archives: July 2011

Tomb of Philip found at Hierapolis?

Italian professor Francesco D’Andria announced the discovery of the tomb of the Apostle Philip at Hierapolis. See more, with a photo, here.

The structure at Hierapolis known as the Martyrium of Philip dates to the 5th century A.D. It is located in the distance above the theater.

Hierapolis. The Martyrium of Philip is in the distance beyond the theater. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Martyrium of Philip is in the distance beyond the theater. Photo by F. Jenkins.

Early tradition associates Philip with the city, but scholars differ over whether it was Philip the apostle (Matthew 10:3) or Philip the evangelist (Acts 21:8). The brief reports of the discovery by Prof. D’Andria does not provide enough information for us to be able to draw a conclusion. The question of which Philip is addressed by Mark Wilson in Biblical Turkey and Fant and Reddish in A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey. I will leave it for the moment.

This new discovery will more likely reflect the 5th century Byzantine tradition about Philip.

Hierapolis is mentioned only once in the New Testament, as one of the cities of the Lycus River Valley.

For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. (Colossians 4:13 ESV)

Hierapolis is also known as the home of Papias (about A.D. 60 to 130) who was a disciple of the apostle John and a companion of Polycarp. Fragments of his writings about the apostles survive in Irenaeus and Eusebius.

We have commented on Hierapolis several times over the years. See here. Use the Search box to locate the other posts if you have additional interest in the city.

HT: Doy Moyer

Two-horned altar found at Tel es-Safi/Gath

Prof. Aren Maeir says, “The news is out! A large stone altar in Area D” at Tel es-Safi/Gath. The unusual altar measures 50 x 50 x 100 cm. For ametric [new word] Americans that is 19.69 x 19.69 x 39.37 inches.

Read more at the Tell es-Safi/Gath blog here.

Prof. Aren Maeir with the two-horned altar at Gath. Photo courtesty of A. Maeir.

Prof. Aren Maeir with the two-horned altar at Gath. Photo courtesty of A. Maeir.

The info below is a brief summary of the brief summary from Maeir’s post. There are several high-resolution photos, including the one we have used here, with his post.

Maeir says this is the earliest altar found from Philistia. Remember that Gath is one of the cities of ancient Philistia (1 Samuel 6:17). The altar, made of one block of stone, is one of the largest found in Israel after the one at Beersheba (made of many pieces), and another found out of context at Ekron.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this altar is that it has two horns instead of four. Maeir says,

This is VERY interesting, since this may very well confirm a theory put forward by our team member Louise Hitchcock that there is a connection between the Minoan/Cypriote “Horns of Consecration” and the horned altars – perhaps brought by the Philistines.

The dimensions of the altar are identical in proportion to the altar in the biblical tabernacle (1 x 1 x 2 cubit) (Exodus 30:2).

The back part of the altar may have been built into a structure behind it.

There is no evidence of burning on the altar.

Read more at the Tell es-Safi/Gath blog here. Other photos at the Foundation Stone web site here. Maeir will be on the LandMinds radio show Wednesday.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

Monday meandering

The Macmillan Dictionary defines meander this way:

  • a river or road that meanders follows a path with a lot of turns and curves
  • to move slowly without a particular direction or purpose in mind
  • to talk or write for a long time, changing subjects or ideas, so that people become bored or confused

We all use the word meander, but do we know its origin? The Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary of 1913 explains the origin:

a river in Phrygia, proverbial for its many windings

The Meander River, now in Turkey, begins northeast of the Lycus River Valley and flows southwesterly past Miletus into the Aegean Sea. The Lycus River begins southeast of the valley that bears its name and flows northwesterly past Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis (Col. 4:13) until it flows into the Meander.

It would take a good aerial photo to show how the river meanders, but you can get an idea here that there are only short stretches visible at any one time before the rivers makes a turn.

Meander River near Aphrodisias, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Meander River near Aphrodisias, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Mark Wilson, in his outstanding Biblical Turkey: A Guide to Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor, comments on Phrygia.

In Acts 2:10 Jews from Phrygia are mentioned Mark Wilson, Biblical Turkey, coveramong those gathered in Jerusalem for the day of Pentecost. …

During the Roman period western Phrygia was in the province of Asia, eastern Phrygia was in the province of Galatia. Paul passed through both Galatic and Asian Phyrgia on his way to Troas on his second journey (Acts 16:6) and to Ephesus on his third journey (Acts 18:23). During Paul’s time in Ephesus churches were established in the Phrygian cities of Laodicea, Hierapolis, and Colossae (Colossians 1:2; 4:13,16). (page 188)

Thanks for meandering through Bible lands with me. We will use the river as our new header for a while.

Excavations at Shechem

Dutch and Palestinian archaeologists are working at Tel Balata, the site of biblical Shechem, under the auspices of the Palestinian Department of Antiquities. The Associated Press report in Ha’aretz provides a brief summary of archaeological work at the site over the past century. Fox News reports on the excavation here.

We wrote about a visit to Shechem, with a summary of the biblical history of the site, here.

Other significant posts are listed for your convenience.

  • The Temple of Baal-Berith at Shechem here.
  • The Entrance to the Temple of Baal-Berith here.
  • The Sacred Standing Stone at Shechem here.

The photo below was made in December, 2009. The site of Shechem is in the foreground. Mount Gerizim is in the distance. Notice how the apartment buildings are crowded around the archaeological park. The site was in fairly good condition at the time, but there were no signs marking the ruins.

View of Mount Gerizim from Shechem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View of Mount Gerizim from Shechem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins in 2009.

Below is a photo I made in 1973. Notice that there are more trees on Mount Gerizim, and fewer buildings around Tel Balata.

View of Mount Gerizim from Shechem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins in 1973.

View of Mount Gerizim from Shechem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins in 1973.

This next photo was made from atop Mount Gerizim in 1982. Ancient Shechem is located near the center of the photo below the line of trees. The location of Jacob’s Well is just out of the photo on the right.

A view of Shechem from Mount Gerizim in 1982. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A view of Shechem from Mount Gerizim in 1982. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Shechem has never been a very popular stop for tourists. Many will stop to see Jacob’s well without knowing that this important biblical site is just blocks away. We are delighted to know that archaeological work is going on in the West Bank Palestinian territory.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Brooks Cochran.

Unique golden bell found in Jerusalem drain

Arutz Sheva (Israel National reports that archaeologists have “discovered a rare gold bell with a small hook at its end.”

The directors of the excavation on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, archaeologists Eli Shukron and Professor Ronny Reich of Haifa University, said after the finding, “The bell looked as if it was sewn on the garment worn by a man of high authority in Jerusalem at the end of the Second Temple period.

“The bell was exposed in the city’s main drainage channel of that period, between the layers of dirt that had been piled on the floor of the channel,” they continued. “This drainage channel was built and hewn west to the Western Wall of the Temple Mount and drained the rainfall in the different parts of the city, through the City of David and the Shiloah Pool to the Kidron valley.”

The excavation area, above the drain, is located in the main street of Jerusalem which rose from the Shiloah Pool in the City of David. In this street an interchange was built through which people entered the Temple Mount. The remains of this interchange are what is known today as Robinson’s Arch. Archaeologists believe that the eminent man walked the streets of Jerusalem in the area of Robinson’s Arch and lost the golden bell which fell off his outfit into the drain beneath the street.

The full news report may be read here.

Golden bell found in Jerusalem drain. Photo:

Golden bell found in Jerusalem drain. Photo: IAA.

The best I can tell from the description of the location is that it is near the area of Robinson’s Arch. We saw workmen at the northern end of the drainage channel about which we have reported earlier (here) during our visit to the area in May. I understand that eventually the channel will be open all the way from the A.D. 70 street below Robinson’s Arch to the Pool of Siloam. I have lightened the area under the grill so you can see the workman’s arm.

Opening in A.D. 70 street below Robinson's Arch. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Opening in A.D. 70 street below Robinson's Arch. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I note in the news report that the archaeologists did not rule out the possibility that this bell might have belonged to one of the high priests. Actually, one can not rule out much of anything with so little information. My first thought almost simultaneously was the bells on the garments of the high priest and a woman’s jewelry. Note the earlier discovery of jewelry here.

The adornment of the priestly garment is described in Exodus.

“You shall make on its hem pomegranates of blue and purple and scarlet material, all around on its hem, and bells of gold between them all around:  a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, all around on the hem of the robe. (Exodus 28:33-34 NAU)

Jim Davila, at Paleojudaica, comments wisely on the suggestion that this bell might have belonged to a priest or a man of high authority:

Well, maybe. On the one hand it is true that the only references to golden bells in the Hebrew Bible are to bells on the vestments of the high priest (Exodus 28:33-34; 39:25-26). On the other hand, first, the only other mention of bells (a different Hebrew word) refers to horses’ trappings (Zechariah 14:20). Presumably, bells were used in many other contexts, so our sample of cultural allusions is limited. But, you say, what about golden bells? Well, second, Isaiah 3:16-18 refers to bangles that the rich women of Jerusalem wore on their ankles and which “tinkled” or made some kind of bangle noise. These ladies clearly had lots of jewelery and finery (cf. also vv. 19-23), so it seems entirely likely that they sometimes wore bells as jewelry and that some of those bells might well have been made of gold. And we know that Second-Temple-era ladies in Jerusalem had very nice gold earrings. So this bell need not have come from “a man of high authority.”

The Christian Standard Bible translation of Isaiah 3:16 is vivid:

The LORD also says: Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, walking with heads held high and seductive eyes, going along with prancing steps, jingling their ankle bracelets, (Isaiah 3:16 CSB)

HT: Joseph Lauer

Peeking into the Great Rift Valley

The natural depression that runs from northern Syria, through Lebanon, Israel/Jordan, continuing into the Gulf of Eilat/Aqaba, into eastern Africa, is known as the Great Rift. This rift has an important effect on travel and the life of the people of the area — perhaps more in ancient times than now.

This aerial view was made south of Lake Huleh, looking south toward the Sea of Galilee. You can see the Jordan River descending from north to south. Glueck calls this the Jordan Rift.

Jordan Valley north of the Sea of Galilee. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Jordan Valley north of the Sea of Galilee. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The elevation at Lake Huleh is 230 feet above sea level. By the time the Jordan River flows into the Sea of Galilee, ten miles south, the elevation of about 700 feet below sea level. This is the area of most rapid descent.

Nelson Glueck describes this portion of the Jordan River.

…it tears out on a run that, for some distance, brooks no restraint. It tumbles and cascades almost continuously through a forbidding, black basalt gorge. Foaming and muddy, it bursts out of the ravine. Then, collecting itself somewhat, it wriggles its way for about another mile through a small plain and a delta of its own making into the clear waters of the Lake of Galilee. (The Jordan River, 35)

Jordan River baptism site reported to be open

Several media outlets have reported the permanent opening of the Qasr el-Yahud Baptismal site. Our group made arrangements to visit the site May 3, but we had to wait for military personnel to open the gate. Some construction work was going on, and the road to the site needed repair. See here. See earlier reports here, and here.

Some reports have warned about the impurity of the water. I advised my group not to touch it. A group of Ethiopians were dipping themselves, dipping others, and pouring water on themselves while we were there. A hand full of water looked like mud as it left the hand.

Ethiopians in the Jordan River at Qasr el-Jahud. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ethiopians in the Jordan River at Qasr el-Yahud. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Personally I understand baptism to be a one-time act “for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:28; 8:12; Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:16; Romans 6:3-4; et al.).

Bible students like to visit the Jordan River at this site for several reasons.

  • Ancient Israel crossed the Jordan to enter the promised land (Joshua 3).
  • Elijah and Elisha crossed the river (2 Kings 2).
  • John baptized in the Jordan (Matthew 3:6ff.; Mark 1:5-9; John 1:28; 10:40).
  • Jesus was baptized in the Jordan (Matthew 3:13).
  • Naaman dipped in the Jordan at a site further north (2 Kings 5).

The view was made from the West Bank site looking northeast. A group of western pilgrims are visible on the (Hashemite Kingdom of) Jordan side of the river.

Jordan River Baptismal Site. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jordan River Baptismal Site. View to the NE. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

HT: Bible Places Blog.