Monthly Archives: August 2012

Acts 9 — Photo Illustrations

Damascus is first mentioned in the Bible at the time of Abraham (Gen. 14:15; 15:2-3). As the capital of Syria, the city had much contact with the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.

All of the New Testament references to Damascus are related to the conversion of Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9; 22; 26; 2 Cor. 11:32; Gal. 1:17). Saul had participated in the stoning of Stephen and was active in the persecution of the disciples of Christ in Jerusalem. He asked the high priest for authority to go to Damascus and seek out men and women who belonged to the Way and bring them bound to Jerusalem.

The Lord appeared to Saul as he approached Damascus and told him to go into the city where he would be told what he must do (Acts 9:6). Saul stayed at a house on the street called Straight. Ananias came to him and told him to arise and be baptized so that his sins might be washed away (Acts 22:16; 9:18). Saul stayed with the disciples for several days and immediately began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues as the Son of God (9:20).

The photo below is one I made on Straight Street in 2002. This is not the main shopping street in the old city, but is historically significant.

The street called Straight in Damascus (the Via Recta). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The street called Straight in Damascus (the Via Recta). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The street called Straight (Acts 9:11), the ancient Via Recta of the Roman city, now lies about 20 feet below the present street which runs the length of the old city, east to west. At the east end of the street a Roman gate has been elevated to the present level and partially restored.

Roman arch at the east end of Straight Street. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman arch at the east end of Straight Street. Some of the stone work on the left of the central arch is original. The gate is now called Bab Sharki (Eastern Gate). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A small monumental arch, pictured below, can be seen near the middle of the Via Recta.

Roman Gate on Straight Street in Damascus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman Gate on Straight Street in Damascus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Note: This post is repeated, with editing, from Sept. 26, 2008 where it was entitled “Saul (Paul) in Damascus.” Another post on Damascus and Paul may be read here.

Acts 8 — An Ethiopian

So he [Philip] got up and went; and there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship, (Acts 8:27 NAU)

Where was Ethiopia in the first century? One might immediately think of the modern country of Ethiopia. And, I am certain that many modern Ethiopians might think so.

Nubia Today. Wikipedia Commons.

Nubia Today. Wikipedia Commons.

By checking numerous reliable sources, it becomes obvious that the terms Ethiopia in Acts 8 describes the ancient kingdom of Meroë. It was also known as Cush and Nubia in ancient times.

The ETHIOPIA referred to here is not the modern country of the same name but the ancient kingdom of Meroë, which lay along the upper Nile S of Aswan to Khartoum in the Sudan. (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Rev. Vol. 2).

The map of the region of Nubia also shows the 6 cataracts of the Nile from Aswan in Egypt to Khartoum in Sudan.

One of the older sources says that the country we now call Ethiopia took rise about the middle of the first century A.D.

Another kingdom, that of Axum in the mountain region of Abyssinia proper, seems to have taken its rise about the middle of the 1st cent. A.D., but that does not come into view in our present inquiry. (Feltoe, (Hastings) Dictionary of the Apostolic Church).

R. H. Smith, in The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, says,

The place name “Ethiopia” (possibly meaning “land of the people of burnt faces,” i.e., dark skin; cf. Jer 13:23) appears, as such, only once in the Bible (Acts 8:27), but in the LXX it usually translates the Heb kūš (Cush), a name which appears several dozen times in the OT.

Nubian man at Philae Island near Aswan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Nubian man at Philae Island near Aswan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The building of the new Aswan dam by modern Egypt formed Lake Nasser, stretching south from Aswan for about 340 miles into northern Sudan. This made it necessary for the Nubians to be resettled around Aswan. Some of the famous monuments of Abu Simbel were covered by the lake. The Nubians are easily distinguished from the Egyptians because of their dark skin. They (and the Cushites) were distinct in the ancient Egyptian paintings and statuary.

Many of the Nubians have been employed in the tourism business. I wonder how they are surviving since the recent revolution.

Can the Ethiopian change his skin Or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good Who are accustomed to doing evil. (Jeremiah 13:23 NAU)

The distance from Jerusalem to Ethiopia could be as much as 1500 miles. Quite a trip in a chariot.

Check the posts about Aswan here, and one about the Nubians here.

Good tips for any day

Over at the HolyLandPhotos’ Blog, Prof. Carl Rasmussen has begun a series of Travel Tips each Tuesday about places you should visit. So far all of them are in Israel.

  1. The newly opened baptism site at the Jordan River (here).
  2. Notre Dame restaurant [hotel, too] in Jerusalem. Many groups have their days full of activity with dinner provided at the hotel. The collection of artifacts and replicas, including the stone table from Magdala, make it worth a visit. I haven’t been there, but now it is on my bucket list. See here.
  3. Jezreel. Carl provides a list of important biblical events that transpired in the vicinity of Jezreel. See here.
The sign at the Jezreel pointing to historical sites in the area. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The sign at Jezreel pointing to historical sites in the area. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Free Book. Logos is offering The Epistle to the Hebrews by Brooke Foss Westcott as the free book for August. This book is from the 14-volume Classic Commentary on the Greek New Testament. Click here.

Todd Bolen’s Roundup. Todd Bolen’s Bible Places Blog is the best place on the Internet to keep up with a wide variety of archaeological work and other significant news from the Bible world. He usually has a Weekend Roundup, and sometimes a Midweek Roundup. The other days provide a more in depth look at Bible Places.

Shmuel Browns, a licensed Israel Tour Guide, is an accomplished photographer. Take a look here at his recent pictures from the desert, Mount Gerizim, Mar Saba Monastery in the wilderness of Judea, etc.

Acts 8 — Photo Illustrations

Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel, was well known in Old Testament times. In New Testament times the term Samaria seems to be used of a region. See Luke 17:11; John 4:4-7; Acts 1:8; 8:1,9,14; 9:31; 15:3.

The city of Samaria had been rebuilt by Herod the Great and named Sebaste in honor of the Emperor Augustus. Whether Acts 8:5 has in mind Sebaste or some other city of the region of Samaria is impossible to determine with certainty.

Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. (Acts 8:5 ESV)

If we follow the reading “the city of Samaria” we might properly think of Sebaste. There is strong manuscript evidence for this reading. Some manuscripts omit the definite article (the). This would allow the translation we find in the Christian Standard Bible:

Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. (Acts 8:5 CSB)

For the moment I am going to assume that Philip went to the city known as Samaria in Old Testament times, and Sebaste in New Testament times.

Herod the Great built a temple to Augustus with a monumental staircase over the palace area of the Israelite kingdom. The temple was destroyed, but later rebuilt along the same plan by Septimius Severus (emperor, A.D. 193-211). The monumental staircase still stands at the top of the tell.

Samaria - Site of Augustus Temple built by Herod the Great. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Site of Augustus Temple built by Herod the Great at Samaria. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In addition to the ruins of the temple, other Roman remains at Samaria include a stadium, a forum, a small theater, and a long colonnaded street.

This photo shows a portion of the ruins of the forum and mountains surrounding Samaria.

Samaria-Sebaste Forum ruins. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Samaria-Sebaste Forum ruins. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Everything we have seen that was build by Herod the Great is magnificent, even in ruins. Samaria-Sebaste would have been no exception.

“Hyenas will cry in its towers”

Hyenas are mentioned only three times in the English Standard Version (Isaiah 13:22; 34:14; Jeremiah 50:39). Several English versions use hyenas only once.

The prophet Isaiah describes the overthrow of ancient Babylon. The town that once was the capital of the world would become a desolate place. The important buildings, once housing the likes of Nebuchadnezzar, would become a haunt for the wild animals.

Hyenas will cry in its towers, and jackals in the pleasant palaces; (Isaiah 13:22 ESV)

Hyena at Hai-Bar Nature Reserve in southern Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Hyena at Hai-Bar Nature Reserve in southern Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Here is a portion of A. E. Day’s description of the hyena.

The Palestinian hyena is the striped hyena (Hyaena striata) which ranges from India to North Africa. The striped, the spotted, and the brown hyenas constitute a distinct family of the order of Carnivora, having certain peculiarities of dentition and having four toes on each foot, instead of four behind and five in front, as in most of the order. The hyena is a nocturnal animal, rarely seen though fairly abundant, powerful but cowardly, a feeder on carrion and addicted to grave-robbing. (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised, p. 787.

Makhtesh Ramon in the Wilderness of Zin

Mitzpe Ramon is situated on a cliff overlooking Makhtesh (Crater) Ramon. According to Alon, the crater is…

“about 30 km [18.64 miles] long, up to 8 km [5 miles] wide and some 400 m [1,312 ft.] deep. Its outer rim reaches about 1,000 m [3,280 ft.] above sea level. The crater floor has been hollowed down to its earliest geological strata” (Israel National Parks & Nature Reserves, 420).

Ibex enjoy the view at Mitzpe Ramon in the Wilderness of Zin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ibex enjoy the view at Mitzpe Ramon in the Wilderness of Zin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Makhtesh Ramon is located within the region known as the wilderness (Hebrew midbar, desert) of Zin. The children of Israel lived in this region during the period we commonly call the wilderness wandering. From here the spies were sent to spy out the promised land.

So they went up and spied out the land from the wilderness of Zin to Rehob, near Lebo-hamath. (Numbers 13:21 ESV)