Damascus Gate is the main one of three gates on the north side of the Old City wall in Jerusalem. The gate we see was built over a gate from the early second century when the city was rebuilt by the Romans, and likely over the earlier gate from New Testament times.
The gate is called Damascus because this formerly was the way one would depart Jerusalem to head for the city of Damascus. Paul may have used an earlier gate when he made his way to Damascus to locate and bind followers of Christ and bring them to Jerusalem for trial (Acts 9, 22, 26).
This morning I spent some time in the Old City of Jerusalem visiting the Temple Mount, and the Pool of Bethesda. The pool of Bethesda is known to Bible students from the account of Jesus’ healing a lame man, recorded in John 5. Few biblical sites have firmer archaeological evidence. I enjoyed listening to three or four tour groups singing beautiful hymns in the Church of St. Anne, The acoustics are exceptionally good there.
I made some new photos of the excavations of the ancient pool and the Byzantine building that was constructed over them (there are actually two pools). Something new that caught my eye was a beautiful dove perched near where I was standing.
In Psalm 55 David uses the imagery of the dove to describe his desire to be rid of his problems.
Who among us has not at times cried out this same way to be relieved of the problems that overwhelm us? David did indeed flee to the wilderness far away from the comforts of his home, but the ultimate resting place was in the LORD. We also can find that shelter in the Lord.
Mount Hermon is an impressive mountain situated in the Anti Lebanon range and is now divided between three Middle Eastern countries: Lebanon, Israel, and Syria. The mountain can be seen from each of these countries. I am thankful that my travels have allowed me to have some view of the mountain from each of the countries. On the current study trip Leon Mauldin and I were able to go up to the area of the ski trails in Israel. It was beginning to snow that day and I understand that the area was again covered with snow.
We are informed in the Bible that Mount Hermon was the northern boundary of the land promised to the descendants of Abraham; those with whom He made a covenant at Mount Sinai (Deuteronomy 3:8; Joshua 12:1-2; 1 Chronicles 5:23).
The mountain rises to a height of 9,232 feet above sea level, The melting snow provides the water of the significant rivers of Israel that join to become the Jordan River.
Psalm 133 is described as a Song of Ascents of David and reads,
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore. (ESV)
Psalm 89:12 mentions both Hermon and Tabor:
“The north and the south, you have created them; Tabor and Hermon joyously praise your name.” (ESV)
Mount Hermon is of interest to Christians because it may have been the mount of transfiguration spoken of in Matthew 17. Verse 1 specifically says that Jesus took certain of his disciples into a “high mountain.” Mount Tabor is the traditional mountain of Transfiguration but it is not the only plausible site.
Lange’s work is old but the reasoning here is good. I present it for your consideration.
“Since the fourth century tradition has fixed on Mount Tabor, in Galilee, as the locality of this event. See the description of it in Schubert and others. This opinion is, however, evidently untenable. Not only was Mount Tabor inhabited to its summit at the time (see Robinson), but it seems exceedingly improbable that Jesus would have so suddenly left His retreat in the highlands of Gaulonitis, and transferred the scene of one of His most secret revelations to Galilee, where He was everywhere persecuted. Besides, ver. 22 implies that the change of residence to Galilee took place at a later period, while in Mark 9:30 it is distinctly stated, that after these events Jesus had secretly passed through Galilee. “The highest mountain-top in Gaulonitis was Mount Hermon. Accordingly, some fix upon Hermon itself as the scene of this event; others on Mount panius, near Cæsarea Philippi. But from the description of the mountain, and the statement in ver. 9, that “they came down” from its height, it seems likely to have been Hermon. (Lange, John Peter, and Philip Schaff. A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Matthew. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008.
(Lange, John Peter, and Philip Schaff. A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Matthew. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008.
The next day day we visited Mount Bental. It is located in the Golan Heights but is a national park maintained by Israel. It serves as an honor to the military who fought there during the war with Syria. From there we could see the snow on Mount Hermon. Note that the top of the mountain is nearly three times higher than the location of our first picture.
For the past nine days I have been traveling through Israel to places that most tourists do not see. Leon Mauldin, one of my early students at Florida College and now a successful tour organizer, has been traveling with me. We call one of these trips our Personal Study Trips.
I have no idea how many pictures I have made of the sunrise on the Sea of Galilee. since 1967. This one was made from the fourth floor of the Ron Beach Hotel and is the first I have made with a cell phone camera. With a little help in Photoshop it looks pretty good.
Jesus and his earliest disciples lived in Galilee and they must have seen many beautiful sunrises.
I am planning to attend the IBC 2022 conference in Franklin, TN, August 8-10, 2022, and I would like to see many of my friends from across the eastern United States there.
This conference features three days of teaching on JOHN: His Life, Legacy, and Last Words. Having taught all of the writings of John on the college level, and having traveled extensively in the area where John traveled in Israel, Turkey, and the Greek Island of Patmos, I am always interested in learning more.
The brochure for the 2022 Conference tells us:
John is unquestionably one of the central characters of the New Testament. Brad Gray who has been back of these conferences, and whom I have met during our travels in Israel, describes the importance of the conference this way:
John was a disciple. John was the caretaker of Mary after Jesus’s death. John describes himself as an elder to those who received his letters.. John was a writer who penned a gospel and three epistles. And then there’s Revelation.
Something about this man led Jesus to entrust him with the final words in Scripture. He’s seen a vision of the end and has words for us in the present.
In a sense, he’s the Church’s first elder statesman. He was there in Galilee with Jesus in the beginning, and he’s there in Asia at the end of the first century leading and guiding the church as its expanding to the ends of the earth.
90% of John’s gospel includes material that doesn’t show up in the other gospels. And there’s a reason for that. He’s writing last. He’s got a specific audience in Asia, and he’s had six decades for the Jesus story to simmer in his memory and heart. Many of us don’t realize how multi-dimensional his life was and how critical it was to the expansion of the Jesus movement. As a result, we misunderstand and misinterpret things he wrote, and also miss out on so much of what he was saying.
So how does one gain this critical learning? By attending this conference!
This 3-day event will help you encounter John in ways you’ve never experienced before.
Join Us AUGUST 8-10 in Franklin, TN. If you live in the western part of our country the same program will be AUGUST 15-18 in Parker, CO.
The outpouring of love and sympathy shown to me and my family in response to Elizabeth’s death is greatly appreciated. I tried to read every comment and to notice every “like” that was sent our way. We received cards from long time friends and a few from some folks we are not sure we know.
I wanted to express our appreciation and to let you know that we are doing well. While we missed Elizabeth at our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, as well as all the time, we understand that we have been missing her for the past eight or nine years as she gradually declined.
Taking care of various legal and business details has been time consuming. Bringing back furniture from the memory center and tending to other things in the house has also occupied our time.
I am hopeful that shortly we can return to writing more blogs about the Bible lands and customs. The Lord knows that we have plenty of photos to share.
We continue to covet your prayers as we move forward in ways directed by the Lord.
Some of our readers might like to know that I am now identified with the Temple Terrace (FL) church of Christ along with many of my former students.
From time to time I am asked whether I will be leading tours again. I am not saying never, but I have no plans to do so at this time. Younger students of mine, in whom I have taken an interest, are continuing to do so.
I do have plan to continue my personal study trips to some places I haven’t gotten to yet and to check on new developments and keep my photos up to date.
In the earlier days of leading tour groups the trip extended to 21 days. This was allowed by the airlines. We would depart from the New York and fly to Rome. From there we would visit Greece, Egypt, Lebanon with a land trip to Damascus, Jordan, Israel, and a stop in one of the European capitals.
In those days most folks reasoned this way: It cost a lot to fly to the Bible lands and we want to see it all. And they get a good taste. It was far more than the six to nine days to one country we find so common now.
But I really want to tell you about my longest trip. It was made with only one person, my wife Elizabeth. She and I did make some trips alone to Israel, Greece, and Egypt, but I am speaking of a different kind of trip. It lasted almost 67 years. In order to do this I will simply present a variation of the obituary I wrote and read yesterday at her burial service.
Elizabeth Ann Williams Jenkins, 87, Temple Terrace, FL passed away October 11, 2021 after a nine-year struggle with dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.She was born and grew up in the small town of Scottsville, KY, March 5, 1934. She spent four years in Florida in the mid-1950s where she worked at assorted jobs and then in the business office at Florida College. She was able to take courses during that time until 1957 when her husband graduated. She returned to Temple Terrace in December, 1968 with her husband and children. She and her husband considered this location their home.
In the early years of this journey she worked as an accountant and a secretary helping put her husband through college. Her formal education: Florida College AA, University of South Florida BA, MA with honors. She has taken courses almost everywhere we lived. She served as a business education professor at Florida College, Temple Terrace, FL, for 27 years. In the early days she taught typing, business machines, business letters and shorthand (including legal and medical). Often I would see her writing shorthand with her finger on her leg or most any surface. Sometimes I would hear her writing on the sheet at night. By the time she completed her career she was teaching keyboarding and computer applications.
Elizabeth was a member of the Church of Christ, working beside her husband Ferrell in his work as a college teacher, minister, and tour organizer.
We married December 16, 1954 at historic Sutton Hall on the campus of Florida College. I haven’t told you my age but I am nearly two years younger than Elizabeth. A popular song was “They try to tell us we’re too young…”. I don’t recall many people doing that but I must remind our younger generation of today that we think of ourselves at that age as more mature than we observe today.
Two sons, Ferrell Jr. and Stanley, were born to this union while we lived in St. Louis, MO, and that certainly added to the responsibilities and the excitement of this trip.
Our trip included stays of varying length in Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Indiana, and Ohio before returning to Florida in 1968.
Elizabeth was preceded in death by her father Karl W. Williams, her mother Bertha Bandy Williams, four brothers and two sisters. She is survived by her husband, Wm. Ferrell Jenkins, two sons, Wm. Ferrell Jr. and Stanley, daughter-in-law Terri, one grandson, Andrew, and one sister, Linda Rutledge, and many nieces and nephews.
After fifty years of organizing 84 tours I led my last tour group in 2016. But I will never lead another tour like this one with Elizabeth. We may have had a disappointment or two on our journey but by and far it was the most exciting and profitable tour I ever had a part in.
Sometimes younger people ask how we could have stayed married this long. I always told them that there were three in our marriage – Ferrell, Elizabeth and God. This morning I took the wording for our burial plaque to the cemetery. The young lady who was helping me told me that I could add a symbol in addition to the wording. I choose an open Bible and explained this to her. We believe the Bible is the Word of God and we sought to follow His word in our marriage.
In addition to our graveside service, we are planning a memorial service for Saturday, October 30th at the Temple Terrace Church of Christ, 8001 Temple Terrace Hwy., Temple Terrace, FL 33637. Visitation will be at 10:30 AM with a short time of worship and remembrance at 11:00 AM. We invite our friends who have been influenced by Elizabeth’s life to join us.
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.
The city of Sardis is located on the banks of the Pactolus river in the Hermus Valley remained important for many centuries. The river may not look very impressive when compared to the Euphrates, the Thames or the Mississippi but its importance lies in the fact that it was panned for gold. The Lydians lived here as early as the 13th century B.C. and were the first to mint coins of gold in the 7th century B.C. The last and most famous king of the Lydians was Croesus (560-546 B.C.). King Croesus gave his name to the Greek language to the precious metal refined at the site (chrusos).
Later the Persians traveled through Sardis. In fact, the Royal Road that ran through the city was used by the famous Persian post. It is no wonder that Alexander the Great came to Sardis.
In The Campaigns of Alexander, Arrian records the visit of the Macedonian warrior to Sardis. He says that when Alexander came to Sardis he agreed to exact the same tribute which they had paid to the Persian king Darius. He determined to build a temple to Zeus at the same place where the palaces of the Lydian kings had stood.
Leaving Sardis under the control of his officers Alexander continued to Ephesus, arriving there on the fourth day.
The Problems in the Church at Sardis
There seem to be two problems mentioned in the letter to the church at Sardis. The edict to the church begins,
“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.” (Rev. 3:1-2 ESV)
The church had a reputation for being alive but they were dead and none of their works has been completed.
The saints at Sardis needed constantly to be watching. Wake up or else! The Lord will come like a thief and catch them unprepared. This warning would have special meaning to a city which had been caught off guard on at least two important occasions. The city was located in the Hermas Valley on the banks of the Pactolus River (a tributary to the Hermas). The acropolis of the city was built on a spur of Mount Tmolus about 1500 feet above the plain. Mount Tmolus is 5,800 feet high. The acropolis was difficult to reach and was considered unassailable by an enemy. The city spread until it soon had an upper city and a lower city.
In 546 BC the Lydian king Croesus and city of Sardis fell to Cyrus and the Persians. Remember the attitude of the Sardians that the fortress city was unassailable. Herodotus (Book I) tells the story of the fall. The Persians were in the valley below the citadel. A Lydian soldier dropped his helmet over the city wall and scurried down the rock to get it. A Persian carefully marked this in his memory and afterward scaled the city wall, with other soldiers, to capture the city for Cyrus. Croesus was taken prisoner. The confident city had fallen.
In 334 BC Sardis surrendered willingly to Alexander the Great. The city became the administrative center for the Seleucid Dynasty. In 214 BC the city fell to Antiochus Epiphanes through the use of tactics almost identical to those which caused its fall to the Persians more than three centuries earlier. The admonition to watch finds parallel in the teaching of Jesus (Matthew 24:42-43; 25: 13; Luke 12:39; cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:2). We must be on watch at our weak point, and at our strongest point. We need to be especially careful if we say, “that’s the one thing I would never do.”
The city that thought it was secure was actually vulnerable to the attacking enemies. The letters to the seven churches are replete with allusions to local customs and history. We see this in the letter to Sardis. Too many churches of our own time rely on their past achievements of famous meetings, well known preachers, big crowds, or numerous conversions. They started great projects, first ever, annual this or that, but they never finished them. Think about this on a personal basis also.
The problems faced by the Seven Churches of the Book of Revelation are the same or similar to those faced by churches today. Let us listen and learn.
A personal note to our readers: This short series of lessons was begun last November. A brief word of explanation about the delay in completing them might seem appropriate. My wife of 66 years has been dealing with dementia, medically diagnosed by her neurologist as Alzheimer’s Disease, since 2013. This has not been an easy road for her or the man who promised to love her in sickness and in health. Our doctors told me long ago that I would not be able to care for her on my on, but I did so as long as possible. In mid-April we moved her to a nearby assisted living memory care center. She has adapted well but my work is not complete. This task as caregiver still requires a considerable amount of time and your interest in our well being is appreciated.
It’s not that I am slow, and I am aware that the news media celebrated the anniversary of the beginning of the Covid-19 in the United States one week ago today. I keep up with the news. I am sort of a news junkie. I think it is related to my years of travel. It was important that I know what was going on in the various places I wanted to visit.
March 18, 2020 I had an appointment with my ophthalmologist. The waiting time was always long there but I may have been in and out in two hours. When I visit that clinic I frequently stop by a Publix grocery on the corner of Hillsborough and Habana to pick up a few needed items. My regular store is nearer to my home, but I had to get back before our helper was scheduled to leave.
The cell signal was not very good in the eye clinic so I must have missed some significant morning news. First, I was surprised at the large crowd at the grocery. But my real shock came when I went to the bread aisle to pickup up a loaf of bread. You see only one loaf of something that I would not have been interested in unless I was very hungry. It was about 11 a.m. when i walked in the store.
Next, I went by the meat counters. The butchers were bringing out a small tray with perhaps six to twelve items on them from time to time. Shoppers were already waiting to take whatever was available.
Need I go on? The shelves for paper towels, toilet paper, and cleaning products were already cleaned out. This past year has been quite a ride to someone shut in as a caregiver. I have someone who comes to help a few hours a week. This allowed me to keep those necessary appointments, shop for groceries, etc.
My patience with the young ones who complain about beach and bar closings is very limited.
Delighted to say that my wife and I are now weeks past our final vaccine injection. We feel good about that, but we still wear our masks for the benefit of other who may not yet be that fortunate.