Category Archives: Archaeology

The Death of Archaeologist Eilat Mazar

This afternoon I received an Email from Tali Aronsky, International Media Director, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, about the death of Dr. Eilat Mazar. His brief report reads as follows:

(Jerusalem, May 25, 2021)—Dr. Eilat Mazar, a pioneering archaeology professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology died today, she was 64.  Mazar was a third-generation Israeli archaeologist who participated in digs from a young age, as the granddaughter of Benjamin Mazar who excavated the Land of Israel during the British Mandate period.  Eilat Mazar specialized in the Phoenician culture of Israel’s northern coastal plain and directed excavations in the City of David and the Temple Mount’s southern wall. 

During her tenure, Mazar discovered the possible remnants of King David’s palace and a portion of an ancient city wall presumed to be built by King Solomon.   In 2013, Mazar unearthed a trove of gold coins and a rare Byzantine medallion with a menorah (candelabra) etched into it.  Most recently, Mazar made headlines when she unearthed clay seals “Belonging to Hezekiah, (son of) Ahaz, King of Judah” and later, seals that may have belonged to Isaiah the Prophet. 

Mazar is survived by a daughter and three sons.


Dr. Mazar’s name will be found several times on this blog. I appreciated the opportunity to meet her in 2019 when Luke Chandler and I were visiting with Dr. Yosef Garfinkle in the archaeology lab at Hebrew University. She was very pleasant and graciously posed for a photo with us.

From left to right, Luke Chandler, Dr. Yosef Garfinkle, Dr. Eilat Mazar, and Ferrell Jenkins in the archaeology lab at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Problems faced by the Seven Churches # 4

The city of Thyatira, modern Akhisar, Turkey, is said to be the least important city among the seven mentioned in the book of Revelation. Yamauchi quotes Pliny the Elder’s statement about Thyatira in the Roman period as “a city of no first-rate dignity” (The Archaeology of New Testament Cities, 51). Thyatira was strategically situated on a main road that ran between Pergamum and Laodicea. Philadelphia also was on this road. Most travel was through the valleys. This road, which was part of “the imperial post road linking Italy-Greece-Asia Minor with Egypt, gave it commercial importance” (New International Dictionary of Church History, 974). The modern road between Izmir and Thyatira is good, but the road between Pergamum and Thyatira has not been among the best during my trips. See map here.

Inscriptions and coins show that Thyatira was noted for its many trade-guilds, roughly equivalent to our labor unions. “There are references to unions of clothiers, bakers, tanners, potters, linen-workers, wool-merchants, slave-traders, copper-smiths and dyers” (Hemer, “Unto the Angels of the Churches,” Bible History 11 (1975). 110). The Christians who lived there objected to the guilds because of the guild rites which required all members to eat a sacrificial meal and to honor a pagan deity. Immorality was often associated with the banquets.

One of the most prominent deities at Thyatira was Tyrimnos, an ancient sun god, but there was also a Artemis type temple whose goddess was called Boreitene. No temple to the Roman Emperor was ever built there. Cosmades says, “When the Romans took over the city, the emperor-worship cult was united with the dominant system” (Nothing Beside Remains, p. 56). Even without a temple to the Emperor at least four Christians of Thyatira (mid third century) were taken to Pergamum and martyred (Meinardus, St. John of Patmos and the Seven Churches of the Apocalypse, p. 95).

The major excavated ruins of Thyatira cover a square block in the center of modern Akhisar, Turkey.

Thyatira rooftop view. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

A rooftop view of Thyatira. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

For years columns and arches of the ancient city have lain scattered across the square block in Akhisar. In October, 2020, Dr. Mark Wilson, author of Biblical Turkey who makes Turkey his home, was able to get his first photo of the restored stoa of Thyatira. I have only seen it in the ruins.

The recently reconstructed stoa of Thyatira. Photo by Dr. Mark Wilson. Used by permission.

There are numerous inscriptions strewn among the ruins of Thyatira that illustrate some aspects of this longest of the seven letters [edicts].

You may have noted that various statements about the glorified Christ in chapter 1 are used in the text of the individual edicts. One statement says, “his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace” (Rev. 1:15 ESV). Roman coins from Thyatira highlight this statement.

Coin of ancient Thyatira, Ramsay, Letters to the Seven Churches, 325. ferrelljenkins.blog

Hephaestus is portrayed as a metal worker making a helmet for Diana. Ramsay, Letters to the Seven Churches, p. 325.

The Lord tells the church at Sardis,

The one who conquers will be dressed like them in white clothing, and I will never erase his name from the book of life, but will declare his name before my Father and before his angels. (Rev. 3:5 NET

Thyatira inscription showing erasure of Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus II. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

This inscription shows the erasure (blotting or wiping out) of the name of Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus II ) = Elagabalus, A.D. 218-222) on the fifth line from the top. This indicates he was of damnable memory. Note last line – oi gnapheis – the fullers – one of the important trade guilds. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Another inscription from Thyatira has the name of Domitian chiseled off on the fourth or fifth line. You will see the name of Titus Vespasian, the brother of Domitian on the top line.

Thyatira inscripton mentioning Titus and Vespasian, with name of Domitian chiselled off. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Inscription photographed at Thyatira in 2001. It has the name of Titus Vespasian on the top line, but the name of his brother Domitian (Roman Emperor A.D. 81-96) is erased. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The problems faced by the saints at Thyatira was much the same as those faced by the other churches. Idolatry, the worship of pagan gods, and Emperor worship was a problem they all faced to some degree. Eating meat sacrificed to idols and immorality was also a problem for many of the Christians. Compromise with these more common practices had already been mentioned in the letter to the church at Pergamum where the Old Testament character responsible for leading the saints to compromise was the Old Testament character Balaam. In the letter to the saints at Thyatira the person responsible was a woman who claimed to be a prophetess like Jezebel.

What do we know about the Old Testament Jezebel?

  • She was the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians, and a
    devotee to Baal.
  • She supported 450 prophets of Baal and 450 prophets of Asherah.
    It was these prophets of Baal with which Elijah contended on Mount
    Carmel (1 Kings 18).
  • She sought to kill the prophet Elijah (1 Kings 19:2).
  • She had Naboth murdered and confiscated his vineyard at Jezreel (1 Kings 21).

If you have read the Old Testament account you know that Jezebel came under the judgment of the LORD. Both this account and the one in Revelation illustrates the folly of making a concession to error and the practice of immorality.

As mentioned in an earlier post, the situation described in the book of Revelation fits perfectly with what we learn when we read the history of the area and visit the ruins of the ancient cities named in the book.

Problems Faced by the Seven Churches # 1

As Gentiles heard the Gospel and obeyed it, the new Christians faced problems that had not been faced by the Jewish converts. At Lystra a man lame from birth was healed by Paul. So effective was this miracle that the crowd began saying in their own Lycaonian language,

“The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!”  Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker” (Acts 14:11-12 ESV).

Zeus was considered by the Greeks to be the chief god of the pantheon of gods. Among the Romans he was known as Jupiter. Sometimes he was known as Olympian Zeus because he is said to have resided in Mount Olympus.

/classic

View of Mount Olympus from Dion, Greece. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

There may have been several temples dedicated to Zeus in Asia Minor. One outstanding one was the temple at Pergamum. But more about that one later.

This bust of Zeus is displayed in the museum at Ephesus

A bust of Zeus, the chief of the pagan gods, displayed in the museum at Ephesus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In the letter to the church at Pergamum it is said that they had some who hold the teaching of Balaam, “who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality” (Rev. 2:14; see also 2:20; 9:20; 21:8; 22:15 ESV).

For many workers in the ancient world participation in banquets where food was sacrificed to idols was expected and the practice of sexual immorality apparently was common.

At Ephesus the most popular god was Artemis or Diana as she was known to the Romans. There were temples dedicated to her in other cities of Asia Minor. Sardis, for example. Paul’s preaching the gospel of Christ ruined the business of the silversmiths who made small images of Artemis at Ephesus. The outrage brought about the massive gathering in the theater at Ephesus (Acts 19).

We have only a few remains of the Artemis temple at Ephesus, but enough remains to determine the size of the temple where the statue of Artemis was displayed. Pausanias said the temple of Artemis surpassed every structure raised by human hands. One of the best displays of artifacts relating to the temple is in the British Museum.

Model of the Temple of Artemis/Diana. Located in the Ephesus Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Artemis is said to have been worshiped “in all of Asia and the world.” She is described as magnificent and great (Acts 19:27-28). Artemis probably would not have fared well in a modern beauty contest. She was not a lovely figure, but originally she was a “black, squat, repulsive figure” covered with many breasts. It is thought that originally she might have been carved from a meteorite. The final form of Artemis is seen in our photo below. Suggestions regarding her appearance include multiple breasts, ostrich eggs, bunches of dates, ova of bees, testicles of bulls, (bunches of grapes). It is agreed that Diana was the mother of fertility.

Artemis/Diana of the Ephesians. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Artemis statue from Ephesus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

If everyone in town adored Artemis it would be more of a temptation for the new Christians to leave their love for Christ and return to the former practice. The Lord told the Ephesians, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first” (Rev. 2:4 ESV).

Colossae – known only from Colossians

The word Colossae appears only once in the New Testament.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2 To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. (Colossians 1:1-2 ESV).

Colossae was one of the tri-cities of the Lycus River valley. Paul’s letter to the saints at Colossae mentions two other cities, Laodicea and Hierapolis (Colossians 4:13-16).

Colossae is located on the south bank of the small Lycus River which continues to flow westward to join the Meander River. In the photo below you will see the ancient mound central in this image. In the backgound (south) to the left you will see Mount Cadmus. The city of Honaz is located at the base of the mountain.

Between the vineyard in the foreground and the mound there is a a little black line. Hidden there is the small Lycus River flowing west (to the right).

Colossae, Mount Cadmus. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

The mound or tel ( Huyuk in Turkey) of Colossae is located on the north side of Mount Cadmus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The site of Colossae was discovered by William J. Hamilton in 1835. The tell (Turkish, huyuk) is located on the south bank of the Lycus River about three miles northwest of Honaz. Colossae was deserted by A.D. 800 when the city moved to the new town of Khonai (modern Honaz). There is little to be seen today. Several organizations have shown interest in excavating Colossae but so far there has been no major expedition. See article by Dr. Harold Mare, NEAS Bulletin, New Series No. 7, 1976. A group from Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia, has conducted some research in the area.

How would Bet Guvrin look during a pandemic?

After the Parthians destroyed Maresha (40 B.C.), the city moved to a nearby village known as Bet (or Beth, or Beit) Guvrin. In A.D. 200, the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus established a Roman city and named it Eleutheropolis (A. Kloner, The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, I:195). Murphy-O’Connor says, “The prosperity of the city at this period is underlined by an oval amphitheatre.”

Aerial view of Bet Guvrin (Eleutheropolis). The amphitheater is located at the bottom of the left top corner of the photo. Highway 35 is on the right. Some ruins of Eleutheropolis can be seen on the south side (right) of the highway. If you have traveled in this area you may have stopped at the small gas station for a snack or a bite of lunch. The small road in the upper right corner leads to the entry to Maresha and the caves. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins in April, 2016.

Stemius Severus, Roman Emperor, AD 193-211. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Marble bust of Emperor Septimius Severus (A.D. 193-211) displayed in Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Before I move to the idea of a pandemic I should say that I really enjoy the artwork used in so many of Israel’s national parks. I even use one from the city of Avedat as the header for this blog.

There were plagues in the Roman Empire. The popular article by Caroline Wazer in The Atlantic discusses “The Plagues That Might Have Brought Down the Roman Empire” (March 16, 2016).

When Leon Mauldin and I visited the excavated ruins at Bet Guvrin in 2017 we enjoyed seeing many of the cutout figures adorning the ancient ruins. There were leaders from the Roman, Byzantine, Crusader, and the Mamluk period welcoming us.

Loosen your mind and let it fly as we enter this Israeli National Park, imagining there is a pandemic. I wanted to be friendly. At first I thought the soldier was welcoming me, but I think now that he may have been saying “stay two meters” from me. If we can’t control this thing we may have to begin wearing masks. None of us want that.”

Ferrell Jenkins greeted by Roman soldier at Bet Guvrin. Photo by Leon Mauldin/Ferrell Jenkins.

Ferrell Jenkins with a Roman Soldier at Bet Guvrin. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

As we approach the Roman amphitheater we observe that those still willing to gather in public are social distancing as they approach the entry.

The amphitheater at Bet Guvrin. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

The Amphitheater at Bet Guvrin has been decorated to remind us of the Roman period. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Some fans can not resist giving their opinion to the others around them.

Glatiatorial fans approach the entrance. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

One fan turns to the other and asks if the monkey has been tested. The man behind wonders if he has been washed. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The amphitheater has been reconstructed with seating for various modern performances.

Inside the amphitheater we noticed that almost everyone was social distancing. We felt better about deciding to attend. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The gladiators are fighting viciously but still keeping their distance.

Gladiators at Bet Guvrin keep their distance from each other. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Even the gladiators keep their distance. Getting the virus could be worse than the sword or trident. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In a future post I plan to show you how the pandemic is affecting the archaeological work at the site.

When we are once again allowed to travel to Israel I think you may want to visit Bet Guvrin.

The day after Tisha B’av

The phrase Tisa B’av may be strange to Christians, but it means the Fast of the Ninth. The observance “is a day of mourning to commemorate the many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people” (Judaism 101). According to this source, five terrible events took place on or near the ninth day of the month Av, the fifth month of the Jewish calendar.

The most significant of these events are the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. (2 Kings 25:8-9; Jeremiah 52:12-13), and the destruction by the Romans in A.D. 70.

In the past half century a considerable amount of evidence has come to light concerning the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. The temple destroyed in 586 B.C. had been constructed by King Solomon in about 966 B.C. It was rebuilt by those who returned from the Babylonian Exile (530-516 B.C.).

Herod the Great began about 19/20 B.C. to rebuild the temple. This work was still in progress during the ministry of Jesus.

The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” (John 2:20 ESV)

Christians take seriously the prophecy of Jesus preserved by the Jewish writer Matthew.

Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” (Matthew 24:1-2 ESV)

Vivid evidence of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem was discovered at the SW corner of the temple area in the Tyropean Valley. Some of the rubble can still be seen on the street which was probably built by Agrippa II in the 60s of the first century.

Evidence of Roman destruction of the Temple precinct in A.D. 70. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Stones that fell, or were pushed, from the Temple Mount platform to the street below in A.D. 70 at the time of the destruction by the Romans. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

As a result of archaeological excavations in Jerusalem since 1967 we have other vivid examples of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Take a look at the ruins of the Burnt House in the Jewish Quarter. These ruins were discovered at a depth of about 20 feet below street level. It is near the Western Wall of the temple and is what is left of a luxurious house belonging to the Kathros family, a family known for the making of incense. A stone weight bearing the phrase “of Bar Kathros” was found in the excavations (Avigad, Discovering Jerusalem, p. 130. The wealth of the family living here is evidenced by the stone table and the stone jars found in the rubble.

Bar Kathros weight in the Burnt House, Jerusalem. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

A stone weight with the inscription “of Bar Kathros.” Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The stone weight was found among the rubble of the basement work room of the Kathros family.

The burnt house after the Roman destruction of Jerusalem. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

The house of the family Kathros, makers of incense for use in the temple, after the destruction by the Romans in A.D. 70. I have used a filter to highlight the result of the burning. Notice the ashes in the lower left corner. Some of the jars have taken on a silver look but they are stone jars. Do you see the arrow? Click on the photo for a larger image. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

It happened just as Jesus said it would.

Anathoth – the home of Jeremiah

The prophet Jeremiah was was from the little town of Anathoth northeast of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 1:1). We still lack certainty regarding the specific location of the town, but the name lives on today in the Arab town of Anata.

It is difficult to get a good photo of the hillside town of Anata. I think my photo from several years ago was made from a bus traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho along Highway 1. It was back when some tourist buses still had windows that would let down a few inches at the top. I asked the driver if he could slow down some to give me the opportunity to make a photo.

Jeremiah’s town may be buried somewhere under this village or nearby. The photo is suitable for use in visual presentations.

Anata, an Arab town on the eastern slope of the central mountain range. View to the north. The town of Anata derives it name from the biblical site of Anathoth, the home of the prophet Jeremiah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Pool of Bethesda

The Pool of Bethesda is mentioned only once in the New Testament. At this pool Jesus healed a man who had been an invalid for 38 years.

Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. (John 5:2 ESV)

The pool consisted of two pool near what we know today as the Lion’s Gate or Saint Stephen’s Gate to the Old City of Jerusalem. The church of Saint Anne faces the east side of the southern pool. The two pools were divided by a barrier wall between them. Citing the 1938 French publication by N. Van Der Vliet , Shimon Gibson says,

The Bethesda Pool was divided into two parts: the “Northern Pool” (53 x 40 m) which served as a reservoir for collected rainwater (with a capacity of some 21,200 cubic metres of water), and the “Southern Pool” (47 x 52 m) which was used for bathing (see below). The two pools would have been surrounded by porticoes (stoai) on four of its sides (with flat, not tiled, roofs), and with an additional portico (open on both sides) ex- tending across the barrier wall separating the two pools. The pools were not symmetrically rectangular, but were trapezoidal in form, (“The Excavations at the Bethesda Pool in Jerusalem: Preliminary Report on a Project of Stratigraphic and Structural Analysis”, pp. 17-44 in F. Bouwen (ed.), Sainte-Anne de Jérusalem. La Piscine Probatiquen de Jésus À Saladin. Proche-Orient Chrétien Numéro Spécial. 2011, Saint Anne: Jerusalem, p. 23).

Photo of the Pool of Bethesda from the Second Temple Model, Israel Museum, Jerusalem. In this model you see the two pools with the five colonnades or porticoes, the Herodian temple, and the Antonia (the building with the four towers build to protect the temple precinct. Notice that the model shows tiled roofs which Gibson says was not the case. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins

Gibson says that the archaeological excavations have revealed that Early Roman, Late Roman, two phases of Byzantine, and the Crusader period are known here. That area now looks like this.

The Pool of Bethesda excavations. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

The excavated area of the Pool of Bethesda showing the Crusader and Byzantine ruins. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This nice map from the Bible Mapper Blog shows the relationship of the Pools of Bethesda to the Temple Mount. Those who have visited the Temple Mount in recent years may have exited on the northern side and visited the Pool (or Pools) of Bethesda. As you exit there is a noticeable depression. This is where the Pool of Israel or the Sheep Pool was located.

This map shows the Pools of Bethesda near the top. It comes from the Bible Mapper Blog.

The foreground of the next photo shows ruins of various pools from the Roman period that are known to have been considered a place of healing. Votive offering to Serapis and Asklepius, pagan healing gods, were found in the excavations.

In the foreground, to the east of the church ruins, we have ruins from the Roman period showing a sacred area known to have been considered a place of healing. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Even though the invalid of John 5 had been brought there by friends or neighbors (he could not have come by himself) he remained an invalid. André Parrot says Jesus,

… achieved a victory over the gods of classical paganism which had been introduced into the very heart of Jerusalem, the city of Yahweh (Land of Christ, p. 100).

Carchemish and the Rise of Babylon as a World Power

It was a day of high excitement at Carchemish in 605 B.C. when Pharaoh Neco came all the way from Egypt to this city now on the border between Syria and Turkey. On an earlier excursion from Egypt to Carchemish in 609 B.C., Neco killed Josiah, king of Judah, at Megiddo.

The map illustrating Pharaoh Neco’s trip to Carchemish is included in Bible Mapper v. 5. Click on the map to see a larger, more easily read, map.

Pharaoh Neco came to assist the Assyrians as they fought the Babylonians. But the emerging world power from the southern Euphrates city of Babylon overpowered the Assyrians and the Egyptians and sent Neco running back to Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, chased Neco to the border of Egypt.

It is still exciting at Carchemish. I have been within sight of Carchemish a few times. Military installations are clearly visible on top of the tell. The first time I was near Carchemish was in 1995. The tour operator handling my tour in Turkey advised me not to go to Carchemish (Karkamis) because it is “zero on the border” of Turkey and Syria. You may see other photos of Carchemish by using the search box with that word.

This photo was made in Turkey. The site of ancient Carchemish can be seen in the distance to the left of center. The River Euphrates makes a left turn before the mound and continues to flow into Syria and Iraq before flowing into the Persian Gulf. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jerash (Gerasa) in Jordan

Jerash is also called Gerasa and Jarash. It was founded by Alexander the Great about 332 B.C., but declined as an important city about 300 B.C. The ruins are seen today are principally from the second century A.D. Roman city. We can imagine what the city of the time of Jesus looked like.

Gerasa/Jerash

This map shows the relationship of Gerasa/Jerash to Galilee, the principal area of Jesus’ ministry. Photo prepared with BibleMapper v.5. ferrelljenkins.blog.

Jerash is located in a well-watered valley in the mountains of Gilead. The modern village is inhabited mostly by Circassians, who were brought there by the Turks in the last part of the 19th century.

Hadrian's Arch, Jerash, Jordan. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

The Triumphal Arch was constructed at the time of the visit of the Emperor Hadrian in A.D. 129. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A German traveler named Seetzen rediscovered Gerash for the Western world in 1806. Excavations were begun in the 1920s. The main points of interest include the following: Triumphal Arch (built in 129 A.D. to celebrate Hadrian’s visit; Oval-shaped Forum (only one of its kind from the Roman period, from 1st century); Temple of Artemis (columns are 45 feet high with Corinthian capitals); Cathedral Church (ca. A.D. 350-375). Thirteen Byzantine churches have been excavated at Jerash.

Cardo from Roman city Jerash, Jordan. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

A view of the cardo of Jerash in Jordan. Jerash was one of the cities of the Decapolis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

People from the Decapolis followed Jesus during His ministry in Galilee. Jerash was the second largest city of the Decapolis, after Damascus (Matthew 4:23-25). When Jesus traveled through the Decapolis he possibly visited the area around Jerash (Mark 7:31).