Category Archives: Culture

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

Weaving in Bible Times: “Her hands hold the spindle…”

The importance of weaving in Bible times is described by John A. Beck.

The typical family of Bible times had its own looms and some family members who were skilled at the art of weaving (Prov. 31:13). At its most fundamental level, weaving involved the interlocking of threads at right angles to one another in order to create a piece of cloth that could function as a garment, tent curtain, or even carrying sack. The threads were derived from wood, flax, or goat hair that could be left in their original, subtle tone or be dyed radiant colors. (Beck, John A. The Baker Illustrated Guide to Everyday Life in Bible Times. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2013; 292.)

This practice continues in many parts of the world to this day. On various tours that I have conducted the group will gather around a woman working at the loom to make clothing or carpets. They usually marvel at her skill and finesse.

In the description of the worthy woman (or capable wife), the book of Proverbs says,

She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. (Proverbs 31:13 ESV)

She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. (Proverbs 31:19 ESV)

We see a wonderful example of this at Nazareth Village. Sometimes an older, more experienced woman demonstrates how to spin wool to weave cloth. On this occasion a young lady was using wool previously dyed to make the thread needed for the project we see on the loom.

A young lady spinning wool at the Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A young lady spinning wool at the Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

There is a long history behind the wool waiting in a nearby basket, but that is for another time.

A basket of wool waiting to be spun into yarn. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A basket of wool waiting to be spun into yarn. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

You might enjoy a longer article about “Weaving in Bible Times” here.

Thomson on the pesky sparrows in Syria

William M. Thomson writes of the pesky sparrows in Syria.

No traveler in Syria will need an introduction to the sparrow on the house-top. They are a tame, troublesome, vivacious, and impertinent generation, and nestle just where they are not wanted. They stop up the stoves-pipes and water-gutters with their rubbish, build nests in the windows and under the beams in the roof, and would stuff your hat full of stubble if they found it hanging in a place to suit them. They are extremely pertinacious in asserting their right of possession, and have not the least reverence for any place or thing. David alludes to these characteristics of the sparrow in the eighty-fourth Psalm, when he complains that they had appropriated even the altars of God for their nests [Psalm 84:3]. Concerning himself, he says, “I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house-top” [Psalm 102:7]. When one of them has lost its mate—a matter of every-day occurrence—he will sit on the house-top alone, and lament by the hour his sad bereavement. As these birds are not much relished for food, five sparrows may still be sold for “two farthings;” and when we see the eagerness with which they are destroyed as a worthless nuisance, we can appreciate the assurance that our heavenly Father, who takes care of them, so that not one can fall to the ground without his notice, will surely take care of us, who “are of more value than many sparrows.” [Matthew 10:29, 31; Luke 12:6-7] (Thomson, William M. The Land and the Book. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1886. Vol. 2, p.59.

The photo below shows one of the many varieties of sparrows found in the Middle East.

Two sparrows at Ein Avedat in the Negev of Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Two sparrows at Ein Avedat in the Negev of Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The first verse mentioned by Thomson illustrates the nuisance of the sparrow, making a nest even at the altars of the LORD.

Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God. (Psalm 84:3 ESV)

The next speaks of the lonely sparrow.

I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop. (Psalm 102:7 ESV)

The last reference speaks of the custom of buying sparrows.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31 ESV)

The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Keener, Craig S.)  explains this custom.

Sparrows were one of the cheapest items sold for poor people’s food in the marketplace, the cheapest of all birds. Two were here purchased for an assarion, a small copper coin of little value (less than an hour’s work); Luke 12:6 seems to indicate that they were even cheaper if purchased in larger quantities. This is a standard Jewish “how much more” argument: If God cares for something as cheap as sparrows, how much more does he care for people!

The Lord’s use of simple examples from nature and everyday life to illustrate great truths provides an example for all who teach.

Tomb complex discovered in Tiberias

Many interesting discoveries are made by construction workers who are preparing to build a new structure, built a new road, or install new water, sewer or gas lines. It happened this month in Tiberias. Here is a portion of the report from the Israel Antiquities Authority.

— “ —

A fine and complex burial cave dating from the Roman period (c. 2000 years ago) came to light a couple of days ago in Tiberias. The cave was discovered in the course of development works carried out by the Tiberias Municipality for a new neighborhood in the northern part of the town. The contractor immediately informed the Israel Antiquities Authority when a mechanical digger exposed the cave entrance, and an antiquities inspector came to the site.

The tomb was exposed accidentally during preparation for construction of a housing project. Photo: Miki Peleg, IAA.

The tomb was exposed accidentally during preparation for construction of a housing project. Photo: Miki Peleg, IAA.

The rock-hewn cave comprised an entrance hall decorated with colored plaster, a central room with several burial niches, decorated ceramic and stone ossuaries, and a small inner chamber. Carved stone doors stood at the entrances into the rooms. In one of the chambers Greek inscriptions were engraved with the names of the interred. These inscriptions will be studied by specialists. The cave was probably robbed in antiquity.

According to Yair Amitsur, Antiquities Inspector of Tiberias and Eastern Lower Galilee in the Israel Antiquities Authority, “the cave must have served as a burial complex for a family who lived in the town of Tiberias or in one of the adjacent villages”.

This photo provides a wonderful view into the Roman period tomb with burial niches (kokim) and ossuaries. Photo: Miki Peleg, Israel Antiquities Authority.

This photo provides a wonderful view into the Roman period tomb with burial niches (kokhim) and ossuaries. Photo: Miki Peleg, Israel Antiquities Authority.

Two thousand years ago, in 18 CE, Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great, and Governor of the Galilee, established the city of Tiberias and named it in honor of the Roman Emperor Tiberius. Over the centuries, Tiberias served as the capital of the Galilee, and was one of the largest cities in the country. The city extended from south of Hamei Tiberias, the hot springs, to the center of the modern town. In the Roman and Byzantine periods, several smaller villages grew up on the outskirts of the city, including Bet Maon, the home of Resh Lakish, Kofra, Beer Meziga and others. The cave must have been owned by a family from Tiberias, or from one of the surrounding villages, who chose to be interred north of Tiberias, overlooking the Lake of Galilee.

According to Amitsur, “The burial cave is a fascinating discovery since it is an almost unique find in this area. The high-quality rock-hewing, the complexity of the cave, the decorations, and the Greek inscriptions point to the cave belonging to a wealthy family, who lived in the area in the Roman period.”

The cave was blocked up in order to protect it, and it will be researched by experts from the Israel Antiquities Authority.

— ” —

The kokhim-type tombs such as this were typically in use by Jews from the end of the second century B.C. to the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (McRay, Archaeology and the New Testament, citing V. Tzaferis on p. 204). There may be more recent evidence that would change this understanding, especially in Galilee.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Who is this bearded man from Abel Beth Maacah?

This small head was found at Abel Beth Maacah (also Abel-beth-Maacah, and spelled as one word) during the 2017 archaeological excavations. Announcement was made recently after the artifact was put on display in the Israel Museum.

Faience head of a king discovered at Abel Beth Maacah in northern Israel. Photo released by Azusa Pacific University.

Glazed ceramic head of a king discovered at Abel Beth Maacah in northern Israel. Photo released by Azusa Pacific University.

According to Robert Mullins, Ph.D., lead archaeologist at Abel Beth Maacah and chair and professor in Azusa Pacific’s Department of Biblical and Religious Studies, the head measures 2.2 x 2 inches and has carefully executed features, including glossy black tresses combed back from a headband painted in yellow and black and a manicured beard. His almond-shaped eyes and pupils are lined in black and the pursed lips give him a look that is part pensive, part stern. The glazed surface is tinted light green due to the addition of copper to the quartz paste. Its elegant style indicates that the man was a distinguished personage, probably a king. By all appearances, the head appears to have broken off from the body of a figurine that stood 8-10 inches high.

“Despite the head’s small and innocuous appearance, it provides us with a unique opportunity to gaze into the eyes of a famous person from the past; a past enshrined in the Book of Ages,” said Mullins. “Given that the head was found in a city that sat on the border of three different ancient kingdoms, we do not know whether it depicts the likes of King Ahab of Israel, King Hazael of Aram-Damascus, or King Ethbaal of Tyre, rulers known from the Bible and other sources. The head represents a royal enigma.”

The News Release continues,

Details about the figurine head and its discovery were recently presented to the Israeli archaeological community at the 44th Annual Archaeological Congress at Ben Gurion University of the Negev by Dr. Naama Yahalom-Mack of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. A more detailed article about the head and the current excavations at Abel Beth Maacah will appear in the June issue of the professional journal, Near Eastern Archaeology. The dig is licensed by the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

This photo shows the north end of Abel Beth Maacah with Mount Hermon in the distance across the Beka Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This photo shows the northern end of Abel Beth Maacah with Mount Hermon in the distance across the Beka Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The biblical references to Abel Beth Maacah include the following episodes.

No sooner had King David put down the rebellion of his son Abaslom when a Benjamite by the name of Sheba led a rebellion against him. The men of Israel rebelled against David and followed Sheba, but the men of Judah remained loyal to the king.

Realizing that Sheba was a greater threat than Absalom had been, David called on Abishai to take servants (warriors) and capture Sheba. Joab’s men went out from Jerusalem to capture Sheba. This pursuit took Joab’s men all the way to the north of the Israelite territory, to a town named Abel-Beth-Maacah. Some English versions use Abel Beth Maacah, or a similar variant. In modern Israel this archaeological mound is almost on the border with Lebanon between Kiryat Shmona and Metulla.

The wise woman reasons with Joab. She tells him that this town formerly was a place where people would ask for advice to end a dispute. She said,

 I am one of those who are peaceable and faithful in Israel. You seek to destroy a city that is a mother in Israel. Why will you swallow up the heritage of the LORD?” (2 Samuel 20:19 ESV)

Joab agreed that he would not destroy the city if she would hand over Sheba. She agreed to throw the head of Sheba over the wall. She did what she promised and the destruction was averted. Joab went back to the king in Jerusalem.

Abel-beth-Maacah is mentioned in at least two other passages.

  1. The city was conquered by Ben-hadad, king of Aram [Syria] (1 Kings 15:20).
  2. The city was captured by Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, in the days of Pekah of Israel.

A nice photo of the little head on display in the Israel Museum is included with an article by Ilan Ben Zion in The Times of Israel here.

HT: Joseph Lauer

The Arabah – Copper mining at Timna

The “promised land” was described to the Israelites as “a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper” (Deuteronomy 8:9). Copper was mined by Egyptians in the Arabah of Israel as far back as the 13th-12th century B.C. Recent research has demonstrated that copper was also mined there during the Iron Age

Until the the mid 1970s copper was still mined at Timna about 25 miles north of Eilat (close to Ezion-geber). (See the comment by Tom Powers on our introductory post here.)

The Timnah associated with Samson (Judges 14:1) is a different site near Beth-shemesh (Joshua 15:10), and the Sorek Valley (Judges 16:4).

The Bible does not say that Solomon had copper mines at Ezion-geber, but the presence of mining facilities dating to the 10th century B.C. indicates that this may have been one of the reasons why the King built a port and had a navy stationed there (1 Kings 9:26-28). Ezion-geber was more than 220 miles from Jerusalem. The copper provided a good medium of exchange for gold, spices, and other items that Israel needed.

Timnah Park is a beautiful place to visit. Incidentally, it is privately operated and charges an admission fee not covered by one of the tourist cards honored at  the national parks. Since my last visit in 2011, a nice Visitor Center has been erected. Here you can buy tickets, souvenirs, and snacks. There are cases with a few (mostly replica) artifacts from the ancient mining, also beautiful photos, maps and videos. I observed a “ranger” explaining the biking routes to a few travelers.

The Chudnow Visitor Center at the entrance to Timnah Valley which is humbly called "one of the world's most beautiful parks." Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Chudnow Visitor Center at the entrance to Timnah Valley which is humbly called “one of the world’s most beautiful parks.” Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The plaza outside the Visitor Center provides an opportunity to make souvenir photos, as I did. This gives one the sense of the ancient.

Leon Mauldin poses in an Egyptian chariot, but I see he doesn't have much horse power. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Leon Mauldin poses in an Egyptian chariot, but I see he doesn’t have any horse power.

The most famous formation in Timna Park if called Solomon’s Pillars.  We have no way to know if Solomon ever came this area. The leaflet distributed at the Visitor Center seems to not include information about the recent excavations. It says,

These sandstone pillars are a natural part of the cliff wall. They are a typical landscape formation that developed as a result of erosion along cracks in the hard red sandstone. They are named after King Solomon, due to a mistaken early theory that copper-mining and production were part of Solomon’s activities in this area.

Solomon's Pillars, one of the most beautiful formations in the park. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Pillars of Solomon. These massive pillars at Timna have been associated with Solomon for a long time.These “pillars”, formed by water, are one of the most beautiful formations in the park. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

When Egyptians worked at Timnah there was a cultic site associated with the Egyptian goddess Hathor. A sign at the site explains that it contains an Egyptian sacred chamer, a central niche, and cultic basins. According to the archaeologists who worked here there are also some local Semitic elements among the ruins: Cultic basins, rock-hewn altar, and standing stones.

The Hator Temple, named after the Egyptian goddess, was used as a cult site during the Egyptian period. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Hator Temple, named after the Egyptian goddess, was used as a cult site during the Egyptian period, and afterward by local Midianites. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In Timna Valley there is one beautiful view after another. The formation below is appropriately called Spiral Hill, so named because it seems to climb to the top like a spiral staircase.

Spiral Hill in Timna Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Spiral Hill in Timna Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

We have already seen the Acacia trees in the northern Araba, but there are some beautiful scenes in Timna Valley.

Another Acacia tree growing in one of the wadis of the Timna Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Another Acacia tree growing in one of the wadis of the Timna Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Four times before I have visited Timna. Two of these was since the construction of the life size reconstruction of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness. It is now included in the admission fee for Timna Park and evidently is open any time the park is open. It deserves a fuller discussion, but I am including this photo which I have enhanced in Photoshop, removing most of the autos, buses, modern roads, poles, and other obstructions. I hope you will enjoy it and perhaps use it in your teaching. Click on the photo for a larger image.

The Tabernacle in the Wilderness at Timna Park. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Tabernacle in the Wilderness at Timna Park. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I am leaving discussion of the Smelting Camp with its illustrations showing how the smelting of copper was done for another time.

Todd Bolen provides a brief summary of the archaeological work indicating that the peak copper production at Timna was in the 10th century B.C. here. Especially important is the link to the report in BASOR.

Leon Mauldin’s blog site is here.

Billy Graham and Temple Terrace, Florida

Word comes this morning about the death of renowned evangelist Billy Graham at the age of 99.

During the years when I actively participated in the annual professional meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Society of Biblical Literature I was frequently asked if Florida College, Temple Terrace, FL, where I taught, was where Billy Graham went to college.

The answer was “Yes” and “No.” Graham attended Florida Bible Institute which was founded in 1940. The campus was already a historic location. In the pre-Depression years it had been the home of a well-known resort, including a hotel associated with the Palmer family of Chicago, and a beautiful golf course. I don’t know why, but Florida Bible Institute soon moved to New Port Richey, FL, and became known as Trinity College of Florida.

For a few years the property in Temple Terrace was unoccupied. During the War years the buildings were used to house soldiers from a nearby air base (where Busch Garden, Tampa, is now located). Florida Christian College (now Florida College) was founded as a private liberal arts college in 1946 on the same campus.

A few years ago several agencies interested in claiming an association with Billy Graham dedicated a little park on the banks of the Hillsborough River a few steps from Florida College in Temple Terrace. I thought some readers would enjoy seeing these photographs of the park. The marker is in the center of the photo.

Billy Graham Historical Marker in a small park on the Hillsborough River, Temple Terrace, FL. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Billy Graham Historical Marker in a small park on the Hillsborough River, Temple Terrace, FL. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Our next photo shows the marker and the Hillsborough River where, or near where, Graham is said to have practiced his early sermons.

The Graham historical marker on the banks of the Hillsborough River.

The Graham historical marker on the banks of the Hillsborough River. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

For those who wish to read the marker I have included this close up. You may click on the photo for a larger image.

Billy Graham Historical marker in Temple Terrace, F. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Billy Graham Historical marker in Temple Terrace, F. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Even if one does not agree with Graham’s religious views, he/she must acknowledge the role he played in American religious life over the past four score years.