Category Archives: Book of Acts

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).

Beautiful mound covers the site of ancient Lystra

The mound of Lystra, now called Zordula, is located about 18 miles south of Konya (biblical Iconium), Turkey, near the village of Hatunsaray.

Lystra was visited by Paul and Barnabas on the First Missionary or Preaching Journey (Acts 14). Lystra and Derbe were towns of Lycaonia (Acts 14:6). The locals spoke the Lycaonian language. They called Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes (14:12). Inscriptions have been found that identify these particular gods with Lycaonia.

This was the home of young Timothy, “the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek” (Acts 16:1). Timothy accepted the invitation of Paul to join him on the second journey. Two of Paul’s epistles were written to Timothy.

The mound of Lystra, 18 miles south of modern Konya. View to the south. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A sarcophagus from the Tomb of the Kings

One of the things we must learn when studying antiquities is that names (designations) may not be correct. To illustrate:

  • The Tomb of the Kings is not the tomb of the kings David and Solomon or any other of the kings of Israel.
  • The pools of Solomon were built long after the time of Solomon.
  • The pool of Hezekiah was not built by Hezekiah. (Be sure to see Tom Powers comment below. I will not go against Tom’s reasoning on this).

The tomb of the kings in the Sheik Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem, near the American Colony Hotel and other newer hotels such as the Grand Court and the Olive Tree, belonged to Queen Mother Helena of Adiabene.

Here is how the facade of the tomb looked in 2008. The tomb was not open to the public but I made arrangements for our tour operator for my group to make a visit.

Tomb of the Kings, Jerusalem

The Tomb of the Kings at it appeared in 2008. The tomb has been closed most of the time since then. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A few photos have appeared in newspapers from various cities. Compare this one with the photo I made in 2008 and you will see some significant repairs. The indication is that this is now open to the public (when Covid-19 conditions permit).

Repaired Tomb of the Kings reopened in 2019.

Daily Hayom reports the reopening of the Tomb of the Kings. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The tomb belonged to Queen Mother Helena of Adiabene. She came to Jerusalem with her son, King Izates, as a convert to Judaism in A.D. 46. Adiabene was located in northern Mesopotamia east of the Tigris River. During the famine in Judea, mentioned in Acts 11:28-30, the queen sent to Egypt for grain and to Cyprus for dried figs (Josephus, Ant. 20.51). For more from Josephus check this post.

A large burial complex was dug north of Jerusalem for the burial of the Queen and her family. This is the tomb referred to in modern times as the Tomb of the Kings. It is a good place to see a rolling stone and a tomb hewn from solid rock. The property is under French control and was closed for many years in need of repairs to the facade.

The tomb was reopened in 2019 but I have not been able to visit since that time. When the tomb was originally excavated by Louis Felicien de Saulcy various artifacts including sarcophagi were taken back to Paris and are now displayed in the Louvre.

The following sarcophagus was identified by Saulcey as a princess of the lineage of David, the Queen Helena of Adiabene.

Possible sarcophagus of Queen Helena of Adiabene. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

This sarcophagus, now displayed in the Louvre, was thought by Saulcey to belong to Queen Helena of Adiabene. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ferrell’s Favorite Foto #21

Surely a greater percentage of tourists who have visited ancient Corinth have stopped at the Corinth Canal for a photograph. The canal was constructed between 1881 and 1893. A much smaller number probably recall that there was an ancient paved road, called the diolkos, on which smaller boats could be dragged across the isthmus.

A portion of the Ancient Diolkos at the point where the modern Corinth Canal was dug through the Isthmus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Pettigrew (Corinthian Matters) says that Strabo uses the term diolkos of the narrow land strip, rather than a physical road.

Interestingly, the modern use of the term “diolkos“ is one of the great misnomers of modern scholarship.  Strabo uses the word in a geographic sense to describe a land strip visible from Acrocorinth and equivalent to the narrowest part of the Isthmus.  No one in antiquity associated the term with the physical road.

The cargo of larger ships was unloaded and carried across the isthmus and reloaded. Ships that could be dragged across the land bridge avoided the 200 mile journey around the Peloponnesus. Nero abandoned his attempts to dig a canal across the isthmus in A.D. 67. Josephus records that 6,000 of the strongest men involved in the Galilean revolt were sent to Nero, “to dig through the Isthmus [of Corinth]” (JW. 3.540).

A portion of the Ancient Diolkos and the entrance to the modern Corinth Canal on the Gulf of Corinth. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

This view looks east to the Gulf of Corinth where a submersible bridge allows motor vehicles to cross the entrance to the modern canal. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The diolkos was in use during the time Paul was at Corinth. The commercial benefit to Corinth, as well as to the port cities of Lechaion and Cenchrea, was significant.

And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. (Acts 18:11 ESV)

I like these photos because because they remind me of the ministry of the Apostle Paul at Corinth (approximately A.D. 51-53).

A Google Map showing this region may be seen here.

Ferrell’s Favorite Foto # 18

The island of Malta is mentioned in the book of Acts as the place where Paul was shipwrecked during the voyage to Rome.

After we were brought safely through, we then learned that the island was called Malta. (Acts 28:1 ESV)

Saint Paul's Bay and Island in Malta. Photo: FerrellJenkins.blog.

Saint Paul’s Bay and Island in Malta. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

There are several natural bays and harbors at Malta that have been suggested as the place of the shipwreck described in Acts 27-28. Saint Paul’s Bay is thought by some scholars to be the place where two sea met (Acts 27:41). Several English versions follow this reading (for example: NAS, NAU, NKJ, KJV)

The new Photo Companion to theBible: Acts contains photos of all of the places where the shipwreck could have occurred.

Ferrell’s Favorite Foto # 15

This may be the least attractive photo I have published in this series. Why post it, you may think? It is a picture of Inscription No. 124 found at Corinth in 1898. Lacking one letter we have a reference to a MACELLV [macellum]. I knew of this inscription from my earliest tours and always showed it to my group when we visited the museum at ancient Corinth. But one year I went to the place where the inscription had been displayed and it was not there. The metal hooks which held it to the wall were still there, but not the inscription. Afterwards for several tours I asked my guide to inquire of the inscription which she also recalled seeing. At first we were told they did not know where the artifact was. On my visit in 2012 I was told that the inscription was in storage and they could not show it to me. That is the last I have heard of it. Perhaps by now it is again on display.

Macellum Inscription - Corinth, No. 124. Photo: FerrellJenkins.blog..

Macellum Inscription – Corinth, No. 124. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins in 1971.

Perhaps you wonder if I am losing my mind. In fact, Henry J. Cadbury wrote about “The Macellum of Corinth” in the Journal of Biblical Literature in 1934. Putting aside 2 Timothy 4:13, which uses the word membranas (parchment), as a genuine Pauline reference, Cadbury says there are only two Latin words in Paul: praetorium (Philippians 1:18) and macellum (1 Corinthians 10:25).

Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. (1 Cor. 10:25 ESV).

We also have an inscription from Corinth mentioning the meat market built by the family of the Cornelli and another mentioning Lucius butcher. All of these inscriptions date to the Roman period. Paul was describing things that really existed during his stay at Corinth.

Not the most beautiful photo, but I am fond of it because I happened to be at Corinth at an opportune time to capture this inscription on film.

Ferrell’s Favorite Fotos # 14

During his preaching journeys, the apostle Paul used several of the famous Roman roads. When he came to Rome as a prisoner he traveled the Appian Way (Latin Via Appia).

There we found brothers and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage. And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who guarded him. (Acts 28:14-16 ESV)

Remains of the Appian Way on the outskirts of Rome. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Remains of the Appian Way on the outskirts of Rome. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Great Resource for Teaching Acts

The new Photo Companion to the Bible, produced by Todd Bolen and BiblePlaces.com, is a wonderful resource for those who teach the Bible. The first set in this series of material was on the book of Ruth. Next came the Gospels. And now we have the book of Acts.

There are more than 4000 images in this set on Acts. The images for each of the 28 chapters are included in a PowerPoint presentation with annotations explaining the image selection and background.

I could say much more about the value of this collection of material, but I suggest you go immediately to the detailed information here. You will see samples of the work and ordering information. For a limited time you can get this material at a special sale price.

Visit Hierapolis at modern Pamukkale, Turkey

The city of Hierapolis (“holy city”) is one of the three cities of the Lycus River valley named in the New Testament.

For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. (Colossians 4:13 ESV).

Today Hierapolis is known as Pamukkale, Turkey. The name Pamukkale means “cotton castle” or “cotton fortress,” a name derived from the limestone formation at the site. Mellink describes the formation. He says the city,

… is famous for its continuing geological transformation. Hot mineral springs issue from the rock in the city, and the waters streaming down the cliffs have deposited limestone in large formations, the surface of which is made a gleaming white ‘frozen cascades’ (IDB II:601).

A view of the travertine formation that has formed as a result of the warm water running over the hillside. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A view of the limestone cascade that has formed as a result of the warm water running over the hillside. The spring water at the source is a constant 30º celsus (95º for the rest of us). Click the photo for a larger image. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Hierapolis was the home of Papias (c. A.D. 60 to c. A.D. 130), a disciple of the apostle John and a companion of Polycarp. Some traditions associate Philip with the city. All of the information at the site identify this as Philip, one of the apostles of Jesus (Matthew 10:3). Some scholars suggest the association was with Philip the evangelist (Acts 6:5; 8:5; 21:8). Wilson briefly sorts through the confusion and concludes the better evidence indicates the apostle Philip (Biblical Turkey, 245).

In the 5th century A.D. a monument called the Martyrium of Philip was built to remember the disciple of the Lord from Palestine. In the next post we will show some photographs of the ruins of the monument.

Visiting Ctesiphon in Iraq

Ctesiphon was a favorite camping ground of the Parthian kings during the last centuries before Christ. The surviving building probably dates from about the 3rd century A.D. This great Sassanian hall is the widest single-span vault of unreinforced brickwork in the world. The width is over 80 feet and the height from the pavement is 118 feet.

The ruins are located on the East bank of the Tigris River a few miles south of Baghdad, Iraq.

Here is a photo of my 1970 Bible Land group at Ctesiphon. In the event that any publisher should wish a photo of the structure I have one of the same view without people.

Ctesiphon, Iraq. Ferrell Jenkins tour group. 1970.

Ferrell Jenkins Bible Land Group at Ctesiphon, near Baghdad, Iraq, May 15, 1970. There were 16 in the group. I made the photo. Three of our group are totally hidden. My son, Ferrell Jr., is in the foreground. The man over his left shoulder was our guide, an Iraqi named George. Several of these tour members are now deceased. This photo was made before I learned how to line up a group for a photo.

The Parthians are mentioned only once in the Bible. In the account of the events of the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus we are informed that Parthians were among those present in Jerusalem.

Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia,… (Acts 2:9a ESV)

The Parthians were the dreaded enemy of Rome in the east. They lived east of the Euphrates. Some prominent scholars on the book of Revelation see a reference to the Parthians in Revelation 9:13-14.

Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” (Revelation 9:13-14 ESV)

Beale says, “In John’s time the Parthian threat from beyond the Euphrates was identified with the OT tradition…” (The Book of Revelation in the NIGTC, p. 507). In such an event, Asia Minor, including the seven churches, would be caught in the middle and suffer from this invasion.

A ceramic plaque of a mounted archer from Parthia. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A ceramic plaque of a mounted archer from Parthia. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Earlier this week I received a note via the Agade list about a conference on Ctesiphon. Here is the complete notice:

Washington D.C. – Conference
Ctesiphon: An Ancient Royal Capital in Context

Saturday, September 15, 2018, 2 pm
Freer, Meyer Auditorium; Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Smithsonian

Located on the eastern bank of the Tigris River near present-day Baghdad, Iraq, the city of Ctesiphon served as a royal capital of the Persian Empire in the Parthian and Sasanian eras for over eight hundred years. The city’s most iconic structure was the Taq Kasra (Arch of Khosrow) palace, one of the wonders of the ancient world.

Built by the Sasanian ruler Khosrow I (reigned 531–79), the palace’s vaulted brick throne room measures eighty-four feet across, making it the largest of its kind.

To celebrate this exceptional monument, Touraj Daryaee, Matthew Canepa, Katharyn Hanson, and Richard Kurin discuss the site’s importance and recent preservation efforts. Then, watch the first documentary on this unique monument, Taq Kasra: Wonder of Architecture, directed by Pejman Akbarzadeh, produced by Persian Dutch Network, and funded by the Soudavar Memorial and Toos Foundations. Watch the trailer.

This event was organized with support from the Tina and Hamid Moghadam Endowment for Iran and the Ancient Near East and the Ancient Near East Fund.

Free and open to the public.
Independence Avenue at 12th Street SW Washington, DC

HT: Antonietta Catanzariti  via Agade