Monthly Archives: September 2012

Acts 14 — Photo Illustrations

G. Walter Hansen comments on the religious life of Galatia and the importance of Zeus and Hermes to the people who lived there.

Zeus was the most widely worshipped god in Galatia; temples to Zeus were ubiquitous. Zeus was often linked with other gods. In the territory of Lystra there are carvings and inscriptions which show Zeus accompanied by Hermes. An inscription found near Lake Sugla is a dedication to Zeus of a sundial and a statue of Hermes. The names of the dedicators are Lycaonian. A stone altar near Lystra is dedicated to “the Hearer of Prayer [presumably Zeus] and Hermes.” A relief near Lystra depicts Hermes with the eagle of Zeus. In Lystra a stone carving shows Hermes with two other gods, G and Zeus. (Gill and Gempf, The Book of Acts in its First Century Setting, Vol. 2: Graeco-Roman Setting, 393)

This evidence, says Hansen, provides the setting for the events of Paul and Barnabas at Lystra. Luke describes the reaction of the Lystrans when they saw Paul heal a lame man.

When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they raised their voice, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have become like men and have come down to us.”  And they began calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker.  The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds.  (Acts 14:11-13 NAU)

Bruce reminds us that “Zeus was the chief god in the Greek pantheon; Hermes, the son of Zeus by Maia, was the herald of the gods” (The Book of the Acts, NICNT, 292).

Our photo of Zeus is of a bust displayed in the archaeological museum at Ephesus.

Paul was called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. Hermes was the messenger of the gods. How appropriate that our word hermeneutics, coming from the name Hermes, is used to describe the important work of interpreting the Scriptures. I have heard some speakers make fun of the word and then proceed to say that a certain phrase in the Scripture means … ! The photo below shows Hermes tying on his sandal in preparation for delivering a message. Some may recognize Hermes as the Latin Mercury, who is used as the symbol for the floral industry.


The King James Version used the Latin terms Jupiter and Mercurius in Acts 14:12. Bruce says this is “due to an old and foolish fashion of replacing Greek proper names by their Latin equivalents in English translations from the Greek.”

This post is reprinted from December 1, 2011, with improved photos.

Thomson’s “The Land and the Book” on Logos community pricing

William Thomson’s 3-volume set, The Land and the Book, is now on community pricing at Logos.

Thomson - The Land and the Book

The Land and the Book

This set of books was published by Harper & Brothers between 1880 and 1886.

Thomson spend many years living in Beirut and traveling throughout the region. This is one of the excellent books telling of travel in those days, and of the then-current understanding of the location of various sites.

I am delighted that this book is now on community pricing for $18. If enough people place a bid the price could be lower. Place your bid today.

HT: Brooks Cochran

Acts 13 — Photo Illustrations # 2

During the trip to Israel I got a little behind in the photo illustrations for the chapters of Acts.

When we come to Acts 13 and 14, there are so many places to consider that it could take weeks to cover them all in detail. In fact, if you use the search box you will see that we have posts on most of the places mentioned in these chapters.

It seems that Paul and Barnabas did not stop to preach in Perga on the outgoing portion of the first journey. The text says, almost casually, that “going on from Perga, they arrived at Pisidian Antioch” (Acts 13:14).

Here we have one of the longer sermons of the book of Acts — Paul’s sermon in the Jewish synagogue. While it appears that we have a vibrant Jewish community in Pisidian Antioch, we also find a receptive Gentile audience. When the Jews rejected the message of the risen Christ, Paul and Barnabas said,

“we are turning to the Gentiles.” (Acts 13:46 ESV)

Pisidian Antioch was a city of numerous idol temples. There was a sanctuary or temple dedicated to the Emperor Augustus (30 B.C. – A.D. 14) built by Tiberias (A.D. 14-37).

Ruins of the Augustus Imperial Sanctuary at Pisidian Antioch. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ruins of the Augustus Imperial Sanctuary at Pisidian Antioch. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The foundation of the sanctuary is cut from the solid bedrock.

The Augustus Imperial Sanctuary at Pisidian Antioch. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Augustus Imperial Sanctuary at Pisidian Antioch. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Peter Walker describes the temple,

Beyond the propylon was a large, semicircular courtyard, surrounded by colonnades, the eastern part of which was cut out from the hill-side’s rock. And standing in the centre, towards the back, was the sanctuary of Augustus’ temple. Though quite small – some 15 by 30 feet (4.5 x 9 m) – it was set on a high foundation of natural rock and approached by a further twelve steps. Antioch’s residents were expressing in impressive fashion their gratitude to the emperor for their city’s increased prestige under his rule. However, for Paul it demonstrated the daunting challenge ahead. What room would there be for his own message, focused on a rival world-ruler, in a city where this imperial cult was evidently growing at such a pace? (In the Steps of Paul, 87,89).

Maps. In your study of Acts you might enjoy the use of the Digital Map of the Roman Empire available here. This map, based on the Barrington Atlas, includes the road system. Because the maps show the terrain, you can get some concept of the difficulties encountered by Paul and his companions as they traveled from place to place.

Thanks to Dr. Rasmussen for the lead to this map.

More about Magdala

Yesterday we called attention to the Magdala synagogue and table. We noted that it was impossible to get any good photos at the site. I didn’t even try.

We visited the site on the most recent tour, but everything is covered in a way that make it difficult or impossible to make sense of it.

Overnight I received a photo from Steven Braman who was with us on the tour. He shared a photo he made from the bus window while our guide was negotiating a visit. I had been turned away on two previous attempts to see the site.

Site of the Magdala synagogue. Photo by Steven Braman.

Site of the Magdala synagogue. Photo by Steven Braman.

This looks like a construction site. It is. Notice the new buildings in the background of the photo. The Franciscians, under the name Galilee Project, are building a hotel, media center, cathedral, et al. In fact, the synagogue might not have been found for decades had it not been for the construction project. Hundreds of emergency excavations are conducted each year in Israel as a result of construction projects, the widening of roads, laying of pipe lines, and improving sewer systems.

The Magdala synagogue and table

Several times in the past few years we have called attention to the site of Magdala (Migdal). In September, 2009, we noted the announcement by the Israel Antiquities Authority of the discovery of a synagogue from the Second Temple period (50 BCE—100 CE).

A synagogue from the Second Temple period (50 BCE—100 CE) was exposed in archaeological excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting at a site slated for the construction of a hotel on Migdal [Magdala] beach, in an area owned by the Ark New Gate Company. In the middle of the synagogue is a stone that is engraved with a seven-branched menorah (candelabrum), the likes of which have never been seen. The excavations were directed by archaeologists Dina Avshalom-Gorni and Arfan Najar of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The town of Magdala is not mentioned in the Bible, but Mary Magdalene is mentioned a total of 12 times in the four gospels. This place may have been her birthplace or her home. A few late manuscripts mention Magdala (Matthew 15:39 KJV), but earlier manuscripts read Magadan. Magdala is located about 4 miles north of Tiberias on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.

The Hebrew word Magdala means tower. In New Testament times the city had become Hellenized and bore the Greek name Tarichea because of the importance of the salted-fish industry there. Mendel Nun located a harbor at the site. He says,

“In ancient times, pickled sardines were an important element of diet throughout the country–especially for those who lived near the lake” (BAR, Nov/Dec 1993).

Josephus had his headquarters at Magdala during the first Jewish Revolt against Rome (A.D. 66-70). He was able to get a group of at least 230 boats to go from Magdala to Tiberias (Jewish Wars 2.635-637). Vespasian attacked the town from the sea and destroyed it.

We visited the site on the most recent tour, but everything is covered in a way that make it difficult or impossible to make sense of it. We are fortunate to have a photo made by Jim Joyner a few years ago.

The Magdala/Migdal Synagogue. Photo by Jim Joyner.

The Magdala/Migdal Synagogue. Photo by Jim Joyner.

There is a replica of the “table” that was found in the synagogue at the site. The glare on the case was bad, but I followed the tip of Dr. Carl Rasmussen (Holy Land Photo’s Blog), I went to the Notre Dame Hotel and made a photo of the replica there. Since his photo, the table has been put in a case. Notice the menorah.

Magdale Synagogue Table - Notre Dame Hotel, Jerusalem.

Magdala Synagogue Table – Notre Dame Hotel, Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

We were told at the site that the original is now in the Rockefeller Museum. Whether on display or being examined by the IAA, I do not know.

The “wife of Christ”

Reminds me of a preaching brother in the Ohio Valley a few decades back who had trouble pronouncing the letter “L”. As a result, he often spoke of the “wife of Christ.” True story. Like the Europeans who says “elewator” in stead of “elevator.”

Having been out of the country for three weeks and still delayed in New York, I have been unable to mention the recent spate of media attention to the claim of a document in which Jesus mentions His wife.

For those who are interested in reading some reliable responses to this nonsense, I call attention to two posts by Todd Bolen at the Bible Places Blog.

In the first one, Bolen briefly summarizes his response to the story under the title “Somebody Once Believed That Jesus Had a Wife” here.

In the second one, here,  he lists a summary of more than a dozen articles worth reading.

Don’t go to church Sunday morning without being prepared. Someone is sure to mention one of the brief reports they heard on TV.

Understanding the Land

Charles Savelle, over at Bible X calls attention to a Wall Street Journal article on the importance of geography in understanding world affairs. Read the article here. It might help you to understand better some of the situations going on in Russia, China, Iran, and Syria.

Later, Charles quotes from a new book on Joshua about the same subject and adds his comments about the importance of geography here. I want to share the paragraph he cites from Coleson’s commentary on Joshua in the Joshua, Judges, Ruth (Cornerstone Biblical Commentary)

“Because humans live on the surface of the earth, geography is always important. Because every ancient Israelite, humble or great, lived in close and intimate relationship with the land, if we wish to understand ancient Israel, we need to learn ancient Israel’s geography. Canaan was the Land of Promise God gave to Israel through the events recorded in Joshua; if we want to understand the message of Joshua, we need to study both the physical and the human geography of ancient Israel God’s grand plan of redemption for the human race may transcend both time and space, but God has so far worked it out in a very definite, limited place through a sequence of events in history. To understand God’s plan and its fulfillment, it helps to understand the timeline and the map” (Joshua, Judges, Ruth, p. 33).

I could not agree more.