Category Archives: Bible Places

Hierapolis – the Sacred Pool

Hierapolis is mentioned only once in the New Testament. The apostle Paul mentions Epaphras as a brother who has worked hard for the saints 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. (Col. 4:13 ESV)

Hierapolis is noted for its warm springs which attract visitors due to their beauty and healing benefits.

The places where one may walk on the limestone cascades, or wade, or swim in the warm water is limited. But there is one public pool. Most of the time it is crowded with tourists, but I caught a time when very few were in it.

Fant and Reddish explain the significance of the pool.

The pool has attracted visitors throughout its history. During the Roman period, columned porticoes surrounded the pool. As a result of earthquake damage, several of the columns and other architectural pieces tumbled into the pool, where they can still be seen today. (A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey, p. 212).

One of the springs at Hierapolis now flows over the ruins of an ancient temple.

Visitors generally disregard the signs which ask them to stay off the newly formed hillsides.

In modern times the warm water is channeled to turn the hillsides into cotton castles. The town is now known as Pamukkale, a word meaning cotton castle or cotton fortress.

Looking south you may be able to see some of the ruins of Laodicea about six miles away. Colossae is located about ten miles southeast (to the left of this image).

Tirzah, Israel’s second capital

Tirzah is used in the Bible as the name of one of the daughters of Zelopehad. She and her sisters were married into the clans of the people of Manasseh the son of Joseph (Numbers 36:11; Joshua 12:24). The man in Song of Songs (or Solomon) tells his lady “You are beautiful as Tirzah, my love, lovely as Jerusalem, awesome as an army with banners” (6:4 ESV). The context, including Jerusalem, indicates he is comparing her to a beautiful city.

Tel el Farah north in March, 2022. A few stones from the excavations are visible among the weeds. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
This photo shows a few of the excavated ruins of Tel el Farah, thought to be the site of Tirzah.

In today’s post we consider the name Tirzah as the name of a place.

  • Joshua captured the king of Tirzah during the conquest of the promised land (Joshua 12:24; 17:3).
  • Earlier when Abraham was at Shechem, the LORD promised him and his descendants the land of Canaan (modern Nablus) (Genesis 12:1-9).
  • About 931 BC after the death of Solomon Jeroboam rebelled and became king over Israel (the northern kingdom) at Shechem (1 Kings 11). Later the capital was moved to Tirzah (1 Kings 14:17).
  • R. K. Harrison describes the importance of Tirzah in the kingdom of Israel: “perhaps as the result of increasing political and economic relationships with Syria. Tirzah was the capital of Israel during the time of Baasha (1 Kings 15:21,33) and Elah (1 Kings 16:8-9). The seven-day reign of Zimri ended when he burned the palace over himself at Tirzah was being besieged by Omri (1 Kings 16:17-18). After ruling from Tirzah for six years, Omri moved the capital of Israel to Samaria (1 Kings 16:23-24) , probably because of his economic and political alignment with Phoenicia. Menahem, a resident of Tirzah, was able to overthrow Shallum (752 B.C.) toward the close of the northern kingdom’s existence and to usurp the throne, ruling for almost eleven years.
Caretaker at Tel el Farah (Tirzah) in 1982. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
In 1982 I first visited Tel el Farah with the late Jimmy Cravens, a photographer friend from Tampa, Florida. The site still showed evidence of excavation. The gentlemen in the photo lived in a little house on the tel and served as the caretaker. I recall that he is showing us some of the walls that indicated a divider between the poor and those better off. He said he had worked with De Vaux during all of the excavations. The image is scanned from a slide that is still in good condition after 40 years.

The location of Tirzah is not certain. W. F. Albright identified it with Tel el Farah, a mound located about seven miles NE of Shechem (at modern Nablus). Roland De Vaux was associated with the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem and conducted nine seasons of archaeological excavations at Tel el Farah between 1946 and 1960. Most of the tel is currently covered by an orchard.

Shrine model from Tel el Farah north from the excavations. Now in the Louvre.
Several archaeological artifacts from Tel el Farah are displayed in the Louvre. This is a shrine or temple model from the site.

Tel el Farah north (likely Tirzah) should not be confused with Tel el-Farah south (likely Besor). See our article about a visit there a few years ago here. Google Earth Pro includes one photo from the south site with the information about the north site. It is easy to make this mistake.

If you wish to look up the site on Google Earth Pro or the maps you will need to search for Tel Fara North. Remember also that the site is in Palestine.

Streams in the Negev (Negeb; South)

Nelson Glueck (pronounced Glick), wrote Rivers in the Desert, a History of the Negev, in 1959. This book is still fascinating to read. You may find a few words in the following quotation that are rarely heard in our daily conversations. A wadi is a dry river (Nahal) or creek bed that is filled with water during the rain seasons in Israel.

Read Glueck’s description of the…

Terraces built across wadi beds to brake and exact tribute from the occasional winter and spring freshets, cisterns and reservoirs dug and plastered watertight to be filled from their meed [a now-archaic word meaning deserved share or reward] against the certainty of many a rainless day, and all the other devices perfected or invented by the Nabataeans and utilized and even expanded in instances by their immediate successors, could never accomplish for the countryside at large the miracles of rebirth that: a single rainfall over a wide area was able to perform. The grass and flowers fairly spring up after the first shower or storm, and the grim desert becomes a colorful garden overnight. It is as if a magic wand had been passed over the face of the earth. Flocks of birds suddenly make their appearance then, to sing and to swoop about in happy flight, and bands of gazelles and ibexes graze and cavort through the lush green. Camels and goats and sheep and their young wax fat. They drink their fill at pools of water collected in hollows, making it unnecessary for months on end to find other supplies for them. Springs flow more strongly, wells rise to their highest levels and the underground water is replenished in the wadi beds, there to remain long after the flowers have faded and the grass has withered and gone. Sturdy shrubs remain green all summer long because their roots tap the subsurface moisture. This is particularly true where the wadis are wide and shallow and terraced, with the result that the rain waters tend to sink into the ground. Otherwise, if unhindered, they race down narrow gullies and dry stream beds, stripping off the covering soil and gouging out for themselves ever deeper canyons. (Nelson Glueck. Rivers in the Desert: A History of the Negev.  Rivers in the Desert: A History of the Negev. New York: Norton, 1968; 92-93.)

I can’t begin to show you photos of every element mentioned by Glueck in this paragraph, but I will show you a couple of photos from the Wadi Zin in the Negev. First, here is a map from the from the wonderful collection on David P. Barrett’s Bible Mapper Blog.

Our first photo is a view of Wadi Zin a few miles south of Avdat in the Negev of Israel.

Wadi Zin in the Negev of Israel.

You will see evidence here of water having been at high levels. Various shrubs grow where the water remains the longest.

The next photo shows how the swift water cuts it way through the rocks.

The Wadi Zin.

Shearing Sheep in Bible Times

An Illustration from the life of David

The wool from one sheep at shearing time. This photo was made in Syria near the ancient site of Kadesh where the famous battle between the Egyptians and the Hittites took place.

David is well known as a shepherd. An interesting episode from his life is recorded in 1 Samuel 25.

4 David heard in the wilderness that Nabal was shearing his sheep.
5 So David sent ten young men. And David said to the young men, “Go up to Carmel, and go to Nabal and greet him in my name.
6 And thus you shall greet him: ‘Peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have.
7 I hear that you have shearers. Now your shepherds have been with us, and we did them no harm, and they missed nothing all the time they were in Carmel. (1 Sam. 25:4-7 ESV)

A common expression among the Jews was that goats were kept for milk, hens for eggs, and sheep for wool. The wool could be converted into clothing for the family. I have seen Bedouin milking sheep.

Shepherd family living in tents in northwest Syria. Note the woman milking the sheep from the rear.

The wool was converted to yarn, primarily by the women of the village, to be used in the making of clothing for the family.

This yarn has been dyed to be used for making clothing by the women at Nazareth Village.

The Stadium in New Testament Times

Aphrodisias, located in southwest Turkey, was an ancient city of Caria in Asia Minor. It is not mentioned in the Bible, but is close to the cities of Laodicea, Hierapolis and Colossae. Robert F. Tannenbaum, an ancient historian, describes the location of the city this way:

A quiet, fertile valley folded into the Mediterranean hills, clear streams, tall poplars, ancient ruins more than 1,400 years old—a picture of pastoral quiet. (Biblical Archaeology Review, Sept/Oct 1986)

BibleMapper_Aphrodisiash

The map above is cropped from the set of BibleMapper maps now available at
https://biblemapper.com/blog//. Aphrodisias is clearly marked.

The site has been excavated since 1966, beginning under the direction of Kenan Erim of New York University. Marble was readily available at a nearby quarry and the excavation has brought to light a multitude of marble inscriptions and statues from the Roman period including a statue of the Emperor Domitian. Buildings include a theater, an agora, a bath, temples, and a well-preserved stadium.

Louw-Nida describes a stadium as an “open, oval area (frequently including a racetrack) around which was built an enclosed series of tiers of seats for those who came to watch the spectacles – arena, stadium.” When Paul spoke of running the race in 1 Corinthians 9:24, he used the Greek term stadion. The term was also used as a measure of distance and is found in John 6:19. It was about one-eighth of a Roman mile. Most large Greek and Roman cities had a stadium. The figure of the stadium is in mind in Hebrews 12:1-2, where a host of witnesses watch as we run the race.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
(Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)

The stadium at Aphrodisias is the best preserved I have seen and I wanted to share with you the photo I made in 2012. Picture yourself in the stadium.

Aphrodisias

Personal Study in Israel

Once again, Leon Mauldin and I made one of our personal study trips to Israel in March this year. It was cooler than we typically expect for the time of year. We saw some beautiful scenery and spent a considerable amount of time studying the weather. We had rain, snow and hail. It was much cooler that typical for the time of year.

When we make these personal trips we do not visit the sites that need to be on the itinerary of every first-time visitor. We try to visit places we have never been, or it has been a long time since a visit, or we know that there have been some changes at the site. Many of these sites are not accessible by tour buses.

One of the places Leon had not visited, and it had been about half a century since I was there, was Taanach (or Tanach). There are only seven references to the city in the Bible (Joshua 12:21; 17:11; 21:25; Judges 1:27; 5:19; 1 Kings 4:12; 1 Chronicles 7:29).

Deborah and Barak led the Israelites in victory in the vicinity of Taanach (Judges 5:19).

“The kings came, they fought; then fought the kings of Canaan, at Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo; they got no spoils of silver.” (Judges 5:19 ESV).

Taanach is on the south side of the Jezreel Valley and is about five miles southeast of Megiddo.

View of Tel Tanaach looking north in March, 2022. If you were standing on top of the tel you would have a wonderful view of the Jezreel Valley.

A major archaeological excavation took place here between 1902 and 1904 under the direction of E. Sellin. He was assisted by G. Schumacher. A second excavation was conducted by Paul Lapp in 1963 and 1966.

My previous visit was in May, 1973. At that time my photo was made from the opposite side of the tel with my back to the Jezreel Valley. At that time it was very easy to reach Tanaach, but today the suburbs of Jenin reach almost all the way there. Tel Tanaach is within the Palestinian territory and this makes it more difficult for many to visit the site. We hired a driver for the day but he had never been to any of the places we wanted to visit. That’s the way it is for personal study trips.

This slide was made in June, 1973. I have many slides that have been in a slide file chest and stored in an air conditioned room since they were made. I am sometimes impressed by the quality. The wheat had been cut shortly before my photo was made.

Many of the artifacts, including an impressive incense altar, dug by the first expedition are now in the Archeological Museum in Istanbul, Turkey. They are stored in the Palestine Room, a room that is rarely open to the public.

Some of the artifacts from Tanaach now displayed in the Palestine Room of the Archaeological Museum, Istanbul, Turkey.

Source for some details: Stern, Ephraim, editor. The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land. Vol. 4, Israel Exploration Society & Carta, Jerusalem, 1993, pp. 1428-33, 5 vols.

Inauguration on the Nile, 2021

This is a re-post from USA Inauguration Day in 2009 and 2013.

Shortly before sunset, January 20, 2009, I made a few photos of the Nile River looking toward the west bank of the river. I thought I would share this one with you.

Sunset on the Nile during Inaguration. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Sunset during a Nile River cruise January 20, 2009. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

We are anchored on the Nile a few miles south of Luxor. From my cabin on the Tu Ya cruise boat I am watching the Al Jazeera Network live coverage of the inauguration ceremonies in Washington. The choice of the majority of voters on November 2 was not my choice, but I must say that I am proud at this moment to be an American.

The American ideal of freedom and justice for all is a noble one. Surely there are times when this ideal is not met, but it remains the dream that holds us together, many as one. The diversity of our nation is a testimony to the vitality of that dream.

The inaugural ceremony is the same whether watching it live in Washington, on Al Jezeera in Egypt, or on CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox, or one of the other networks in the United States. Well, maybe. The thing that makes the difference is the commentary afterwards and the news chosen to run underneath the live event.

Added Note: I wish to call attention to a fine article by David Diestelkamp in the recent issue of Think under the title @notmyCaesar.

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 # 2

In the first of this series we discussed the worship of Artemis and other gods that were prevalent at Ephesus. None of these problems are limited to a single group of Christians but I will often use one of the churches as an illustration.

The second problem faced by the Christians of Asia Minor was Emperor worship. It is common to hear a lot of talk about the persecution of the early Christians, but the term is not used in the Apocalypse. Instead we find the terms trial (Rev. 3:16) and suffer (Rev. 2:10) and tribulation (Rev. 1:9; 2:9,10,22; 7:14). The term tribulation implies pressure brought upon the Christians. We may think of this as persecution but let us not get hung up on that particular term. In my tour notebooks for this area I have included a chart showing the Ten Major Persecutions under the Roman Empire typically listed in works on church history. Here below is that simple list. Nero’s persecution seems to have been limited to Rome. By the time we reach Diocletian we see a more widespread situation. In A.D. 305 Diocletian ordered that all church buildings be burned along with all books and Bibles of the church.

1. Nero (A.D. 64–67).
2. Domitian (A.D. 81–96).
3. Trajan (A.D. 98–117).
4. Hadrian (A.D. 117–138).
5. Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 161–180).
6. Septimus Severus (A.D. 193–211).
7. Maximinus the Thracian (A.D. 235–236).
8. Decius (A.D. 249–251).
9. Valerian (A.D. 257–260).
10. Diocletian (A.D. 303–311).

Major persecutions against Christians by the Roman Empire. ferrelljenkins.blog

Ten major persecutions against Christians by Roman emperors. Photo: Ferrelljenkins.blog.

If one understands the Babylon of the book of Revelation (14:8; 16:19; 17-18) to be the Roman Empire then we see the “soon” of passages like 1:1, 3:11, et al. to include this entire period. Certainly the same or similar situations face Christians of all ages.

A bit of background of the situation in Asia Minor might be helpful to some readers. The next section comes from my Studies in the Book of Revelation which includes a chapter on Emperor Worship.

The Roman Empire was made up of many smaller nations. Rome accepted all of the “gods” and the Pantheon in Rome was erected so that all these “gods” could be worshiped. Later, the rulers were often worshiped by all citizens. The worship of kings was common in the eastern portion of the Roman empire. About three hundred years before Christ the Attalid Kingdom was set up in Asia Minor. These Attalid kings, many of them bearing the name Attalus, were worshiped as gods. At Pergamum one may see the ruins of the heroon, outside the citadel gate, which served as a sanctuary of the heroized kings.

Attalus III, who died in 133 BC, bequeathed all the movable assets of his empire to the Romans. “This was misinterpreted as meaning all his possessions, including his whole kingdom. Thus, the Romans inherited a country of 66,750 square miles with the most beautiful cities of Asia Minor” (Cosmades, Nothing Beside Remains, 36). This territory served as an excellent buffer between Rome and the Seleucid empire of Syria and later the Parthians. This explains how Rome came to have power in Asia Minor. Emperor worship was easily adopted by the people of this region.

Christians could not worship the emperor and were considered atheists by Empire standards. The Christians were not persecuted for serving Christ, but for not worshiping the emperor. The cities of Asia Minor vied for the honor of erecting a temple to the emperor. Pergamum won this honor as early as 29 B.C. (cf. Rev. 2:13). When the Christians were persecuted some of them were willing to serve the Emperor but others were willing to die. It cost something to be a Christian then. (Studies in the Book of Revelation, p. 5.)

⇒ This book is available from the Florida College Bookstore here. Search for the title of the book or the author’s name.)

One of the significant things to see during a visit to the ruins of ancient Ephesus is called Domitian Square. There we see the platform with steps leading to the top where the Temple of Domitian, or Temple of the Flavian Emperors once stood.

Domitian Square, Ephesus. Ferrelljenkins.blog.

Domitian Square at Ephesus. Some writers refer to this area where the temple stood as the temple of the Flavian Emperors. This would include Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian. The temple stood on the platform above the arches. The steps to the right of center led to the temple. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A large statue of the emperor stood on the platform. Several scholars hold the more recent view that the head discovered here is that of Titus.

Portions of the larger-than-life statue of Domitian (or Titus) from the temple in Ephesus. Ephesus Museum. Photo:  ferrelljenkins.blog.

Smyrna (modern Izmir, Turkey) became a great center for Emperor worship. Out of the Pax Romana (the Roman peace) grew the worship of Dea Roma (the goddess Rome). Smyrna was the first city of Asia to erect a temple to the cult of the city of Rome in 195 B.C. In 26 B.C., during the early imperial period, eleven cities of Asia were competing for the right to build a temple of Tiberias and thus become the neokoros (temple warden) for the Roman Imperial cult. Rome decided in favor of Smyrna in recognition of her long loyalty (Tacitus Annals Iv. 55.56). Smyrna won the title of “First of Asia” (found on coins) and was thrice named “Temple Warden” (Cosmades, Thomas. Nothing Beside Remains, 1964. 26).

During the reign of the emperor Trajan (A.D. 98-117), Ignatius of Antioch passed through Smyrna on his way to execution in Rome. While at Troas he wrote letters to several churches including The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smymaeans, and an epistle to Polycarp (The Ante-Nicene Fathers).

Polycarp, a leader in the church at Smyrna, was martyred by the Romans in about A.D. 156. He was arrested and ordered to say Lord Caesar” and to offer incense to the image of the Emperor Antonius Pius (A.D. 138–161). Upon refusing to do so, Polycarp was then asked to swear by the fortune of the emperor, to
deny Christ and to denounce the atheists (Christians). He was sentenced to death by burning because he would not comply with the wishes of the authorities. He is remembered for his offer to teach the
Roman soldiers, and for saying “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury; how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?” Yamauchi says about 10 other Christians were martyred in the city’s stadium at the same time (The Archaeology of New Testament Cities in Western Asia Minor, p. 61).

Persecution of Christians at Smyrna. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Polycarp of Smyrna was put to death during the reign of Antonius Pius in about A.D. 156. Powerpoint slide: ferrelljenkins.blog.

In Izmir, Turkey, the modern counterpart of ancient Smyrna, we find the Polycarp church. There a large piece of art illustrates what we know about his death.

Artist rendition of the martyrdom of Polycarp displayed in the Polycarp church in Izmir. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Artist rendition of the martyrdom of Polycarp in the city stadium displayed in the Polycarp church in Izmir. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The letter to the church at Pergamum names a Christian by the name of Antipas who was killed (Rev. 2:13). After the close of the New Testament we find other references to followers of Christ who were martyred at the hands of the Romans.

From the writings of Pliny, governor of Pontus, to the emperor Trajan we learn that the same procedure was practiced by the authorities before they killed Christians. See our article with more photos here.

Numerous illustrations could be used from other cities, but I will leave the subject here. 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.

The term autokrator (= English, autokrat) is used of the Roman emperors on coins and inscriptions. Domitian styled himself Master and God. Two inscriptions found at Jerash, Jordan, in 1974 describe Domitian as son of the divine (theou) Vespasian. Domitian’s name is erased from both inscriptions as it is on many other inscriptions indicating that he  is of damnable memory. After the death of Domitian the Roman Senate issued a damnatio memoriae (of damnable memory) and his name was erased from many monuments throughout the Empire. I have examples of this from Ephesus, Smynra, Thyatira, and other places. (See Franz, Gordon. “The King and I: The Apostle John and Emperor Domitian.” Bible and Spade 12.2 (1999): 44. Print.

Above I mentions my Studies in the Book of Revelation. There I list several believers who were martyred during the reign of various Roman emperors (pp. 79-81).

Our lesson from all of this is to be loyal to Christ no matter what the threat may be.

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).