Monthly Archives: August 2012

Could the “Herodian Mansion” have been the house of Annas the high priest?

Archaeological architect Leen Ritmeyer is interviewed by Justin Taylor about the “Palatial Mansion” or “Herodian Mansion” here. Ritmeyer takes the position that the Palatian Mansion, identified as the Wohl Museum, may be “the place of residence for Annas the high priest.”

Todd Bolen, at the Bible Places Blog, says,

While I appreciate the way that Ritmeyer makes these discoveries so accessible to the average Bible reader, I am less optimistic that this particular house is the very house where Jesus stood on trial and Peter denied the Lord. In favor of making this positive identification is the fact that this is the largest house known from this time period in Jerusalem. On the other hand, most of the land in the Old City has never been excavated. If there were 100 houses in Jerusalem in the first century, how likely is it that the only complete one excavated is the same one mentioned in the Bible?

A similar claim is made for the site known as Saint Peter in Gallicantu. Tour groups to Jerusalem often visit both sites. Maybe one of these places is the house of Annas and Caiaphas, and maybe not. Each may provide a good illustration of what happened when Jesus was brought before the high priest. I often say to my groups, “It may not have been right here, but it wasn’t far away.”

St. Peter in Galicantu, Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

St. Peter in Galicantu, Jerusalem. This exterior view shows the modern building covering the excavation that some suggest was the house of the high priest. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In comments to the Ritmeyer interview, Shannon Brown shares an album of photos he made at the Wohl Museum a few years ago.

For the Biblical background of this discussion, see John 18:13-24; Matthew 26:57-68; Mark 14:53-65; and Luke 22:54-65.

Acts 13 — Photo Illustrations

How long would it take to provide photo illustrations for Acts 13? Here are some of the places and persons we might consider.

  • Syrian Antioch
  • Seleucia
  • Cyprus
  • Salamis, Cyprus
  • Paphos, Cyprus
  • Barnabas
  • Sergius Paulus
  • Perga in Pamphylia
  • Pisidian Antioch
  • Iconium

Not to mention the historical references in Paul’s sermon in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch. (You can find posts about most, if not all, of the above list by using the Search box.)

For today, I have chosen to call attention to Barnabas and his association with Cyprus. The first stop made by Barnabas, Saul, and John Mark on Cyprus was at the eastern port of Salamis. A few miles west of the harbor and ancient city we now have the Monastery and Church of St. Barnabas. Salamis, and this building, are now located in the Turkish Republic of Norther Cyprus. The folks in the south, the Republic of Cyprus, speak of the north as occupied territory. (I leave the politics of the issue for others.) The monastery and church, erected in A.D. 477, now houses an icon museum and a small archaeological museum.

Tradition has it that Barnabas was martyred by Jews on Cyprus, but we have no evidence to back up this assertion.

Church of St. Barnabas at Salamis, Cyprus.

Late 5th century church of St. Barnabas at Salamis, Cyprus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Acts 4:36 informs us that Joseph was also called Barnabas by the apostles. The name Barnabas means Son of Encouragement or Exhortation. He must have been an eloquent speaker, especially good at exhorting and encouraging others. He was generous with his property, a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith (Acts 11:24).

Barnabas was of the tribe of Levi and a native of the island of Cyprus. He later introduced Saul of Tarsus (Paul) to the brethren in Jerusalem (Acts 9:26-27) and preached in Antioch (Acts 11:22-30). Barnabas, and his cousin John Mark (Colossians 4:10), joined Saul for the first preaching journey (Acts 13-14).

After a sharp disagreement between Barnabas and Paul, Barnabas took Mark with him to Cyprus (Acts 15:39). One wonders if Mark also was a native of Cyprus.

A new Archaeology Museum in Turkey

Turkey is a marvel of historical sites, and many of them have their own archaeological museum. A new museum has opened in Aydin, due east of Kusadasi (near Ephesus). Here is a description of the museum and its contents.

Aydın Provincial Culture and Tourism Director Nuri Aktakka said around 3,000 historical artifacts are on display in the 2,500-square-meter museum. “Most of the artifacts were discovered at the Tralleis, Magnesia, Alinda, Nysa, Alabanda and Ortasia historical sites in Turkey. We hope to increase the number of artifacts in the museum in the future. We have many historical sites in Aydın, and excavations are under way to discover more artifacts,” he said.

Aktaka also said 11,000 archeological and 45,000 numismatic and 4,000 ethnographic artifacts are currently registered at the museum and they will be on display by turns.

Read the full news article here. The name that first caught my attention is Nysa (also Nyssa). Back in 2006 my friend Leon Mauldin and I were driving from Kusadasi to the Hierapolis area. I think I am correct in saying that neither of us knew anything about Nysa, but when we saw the usual brown sign that marks archaeological sites we decided to take the short detour to visit Nysa. It was a pleasant stop.

Nysa (Nyssa), Turkey, archaeological excavation. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Nysa (Nyssa), Turkey, archaeological excavation. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Nysa is also known as Nysa Ad Maeandrum, and became famous as an educational center. The Meander River flows past the city only a few miles south. The city was the home of the ancient geographer Strabo (63 B.C. – A.D. 25).

Another museum to visit.

HT: Jack Sasson

Acts 11 & 13 — Photo Illustrations

Antioch was founded on the Orontes River by Seleucus I Nicator in 300 B.C. The city is about 18 miles from the sea and is the most famous of 16 Antiochs built by Seleucus and named for his father Antiochus. Four of these cities are mentioned in the New Testament (Antioch of Syria, Pisidian Antioch, Seleucia, and Laodicea). Antioch continues today as Antakya, Turkey, with a population of more than 200,000.

Antakya, Turkey (biblical Antioch of Syria). View south from slopes of Mt. Silpius. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Antakya, Turkey (biblical Antioch of Syria). View south from slopes of Mt. Silpius. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Romans came in 64 B.C. and put an end to Seleucid rule. Antioch became the capital of the new province of Syria. It became the third greatest city of the Roman empire after Rome and Alexandria. Some have estimated that in New Testament times the population of the city neared a half million. Even Herod the Great assisted Augustus and Tiberias in beautifying the city.

Seleucus I Nicator, King of Syria (358-280 B.C.). Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Seleucus I Nicator, King of Syria (358-280 B.C.). Seleucus was the founder of Antioch. Displayed in the Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

After Jerusalem, Antioch was the second great center of Christianity in New Testament times. When the disciples were scattered from Jerusalem after the stoning of Stephen, some came to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene (area of modern Lybia) and preached to Greeks as well as Jews (Acts 11:19-21). Nicolas, a proselyte of Antioch, had been one of the seven chosen to serve in Jerusalem (Acts 6:5). When the church at Jerusalem, some 300 miles away, heard of the new work they sent Barnabas. When the work became too much for him he left for Tarsus to look for Saul. The two of them labored at Antioch for a whole year and the disciples of Christ were called Christians first at Antioch (Acts 11:22-26).

Acts 10 & 11 — Photo Illustrations

Cornelius was the first Gentile convert to the faith. This case illustrates clearly that morality alone is not adequate to save one. It was necessary for Cornelius to hear and obey the word of God (Acts 11:14).

A centurion enters the hippodrome. An actor in the RACE show at Jerash, Jordan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

An actor playing the role of a centurion in the RACE show at Jerash, Jordan, enters the hippodrome. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A centurion in the Roman army normally had charge of 100 men (= to Army captain). A regular cohort was one tenth of a legion and had a paper strength of 600 men. An auxiliary cohort was usually comprised of 1,000 men. Cornelius was of the Italian cohort. There is inscriptional evidence for the “Italian cohort” from Syria (See Bruce, The Book of Acts in NICNT, 215). When Paul set sail from Caesarea for Rome he was accompanied by a centurion of the Augustan cohort named Julius (Acts 27:1).

The centurions mentioned in the New Testament make a favorable impression:

  • At Capernaum – Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:2-10
  • At the crucifixion – Luke 23:47.

This was not true of soldiers generally (Luke 3:14).

Acts 9 & 11 — Photo Illustrations: Tarsus in Cilicia – home of Saul (Paul)

Tarsus in Cilicia was Paul’s native home, described as “no insignificant city” (Acts 9:11; 21:39; 22:3). The city had been important historically. Located near the Mediterranean on the River Cydnus, about 30 miles from the famous Cilician Gates, it was a fortified city and trade center as early as 2000 B.C. It had been captured by the Assyrian kings, Shalmaneser III (833 B.C.) and Sennacherib (698 B.C.), and had seen the likes of Alexander the Great and Cleopatra.

Roman Road at Tarsus in Cilicia. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman Road at Tarsus in Cilicia. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tarsus was important commercially. Ancient writers mention the linen woven here from flax which grew in the fertile plain. A material called cilicium was woven from goat’s hair and used to make coverings which would protect against cold and wet. The city was also culturally important. Strabo describes the people as being avid in the pursuit of culture. Tarsus was a university town and noted as the home of several well-known philosophers, especially of the Stoic school. Barclay says:

“If a man was destined to be a missionary to the world at large, there was no better place in all the east for him to grow to manhood than in Tarsus” (The Mind of Paul, 25-26).

After Hellenistic Jews in Jerusalem sought to put Saul to death, the brethren sent him off to Tarsus.

And he was talking and arguing with the Hellenistic Jews; but they were attempting to put him to death. But when the brethren learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus. (Acts 9:29-30 NAU)

When Barnabas was overwhelmed in the work at Antioch, he went to Tarsus to look for Saul. Saul came to Antioch with Barnabas and they taught a large number of people (Acts 11:25-26).

Acts 10 — Photo Illustrations

Joppa (Yafo, Jaffa) is about 35 miles northwest of Jerusalem on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Yafo is on the south side of Tel Aviv.

Joppa has a history dating back to the 15th century B.C. when it is mentioned in the town lists of Pharaoh Thutmose III.

In this post I will limit my comments to some of the significant events of the Book of Acts related to Joppa.

  • Tabitha (Dorcas) lived in Joppa. When she died the disciples sent for Peter who was a Lydda. He came to Joppa and raised Dorcas (Acts 9:36-42). (Acts 10:6).
  • Peter stayed many days in Joppa with Simon the tanner (Acts 9:43). His house was by the sea (Acts 10:6). A house near the port is shown as the house of Simon, but there is no way to know this with certainty.
  • Peter received the housetop vision and learned that he was to go to Caesarea to preach the gospel to the Gentiles at the house of the Roman centurion Cornelius (Acts 10:23).

On one of the narrow streets of Joppa is a fairly modern house identified as the House of Simon the Tanner. Directly behind the house stands the lighthouse standing watch over the harbor. We take claims like this one with a grain of salt. But I often tell members of my tour groups, “It may not have been here, but it was not far from here.”

The traditional house of Simon the Tanner at Joppa. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The traditional house of Simon the Tanner at Joppa. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

At least some houses during Bible times were build with a flat roof which could serve some practical uses. In the case of Peter it provided a good place to pray and to fall into a trance.

Paul and the Nabatean ruler Aretas IV

Luke’s account of the conversion of Saul and his subsequent time in Damascus records the nighttime escape from the city.

When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him,  but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.  (Acts 9:23-25 ESV)

A modern chapel built into the old city wall marks a spot where this might have happened. Tradition calls it St. Paul’s Window.

St. Paul's Window in Damascus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

St. Paul’s Window in Damascus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul provides historical context for this event.

At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me,  but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands. (2 Corinthians 11:32-33 ESV)

Paul says that the governor (literally ethnarch) under Aretas the king was guarding the city. Aretas IV was a Nabatean ruler whose jurisdiction, in some way, extended to Damascus. The king, whose rule extended from 9 B.C. to A.D. 40, was father-in-law to Herod Antipas. This chronological note lets us know that Saul’s conversion was prior to A.D. 40.

Sometimes one gets lucky when visiting certain sites or museums. My last visit to the Vatican Museum in Rome provided a nice surprise. A Nabatean tomb inscription mentioning Aretas was on display in a special exhibit.

Nabatean inscription mentioning King Aretas. Vatican Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Nabatean inscription mentioning King Aretas. Vatican Museum. Photo: Ferrell Jenkins.

A friend in Pisa, Italy, Dr. Arrigo Corazza, has provided me with a quick translation of the Latin sign underneath the inscription:


For those who may have forgotten, the Nabateans were responsible for the beautiful temples and tombs we see when we visit Petra.

Felucas on the Nile

Felucas are common on the Nile in Egypt. The wooden sailing boat is moved by the wind. It seems to take two men to control the sail and the rudder. Many Nubians find work running these boats. See here. The photo below was made at Aswan, Egypt. Aswan is known as Syene in Ezekial 29:10 and 30:6.

Kitchener’s Island is visible on the left, and Elephantine Island is on the right.

A feluca on the Nile at Aswan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Felucas on the Nile at Aswan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Whether at Aswan or Cairo, an afternoon ride aboard a feluca is a pleasant and relaxing experience.

The Rosetta Stone

The Rosetta Stone was found by Napoleon’s soldiers in Egypt in 1799. It was read by Jean-François Champollion in 1822, and thus became the key to unlock Egyptian hieroglyphics. The Rosetta Stone is now displayed in the British Museum in London, where it has been since 1802.

The Rosetta Stone in the British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Rosetta Stone in the British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Candace Keener writes the story of the Rosetta Stone in HowStuffWorks here.

HT: Jack Sasson