Category Archives: Greece

Corinth and Neighboring Cities

After Jerusalem, Corinth is one of the best-known cities mentioned in the New Testament. The apostle Paul visited Corinth on his second preaching tour (Acts 18). At the “judgment seat” (Greek, bema) in the agora Paul stood before the proconsul Gallio. Based on the inscription now exhibited in the museum at Delphi we think that Paul entered Corinth in the fall of A.D. 51, and left in the spring of A.D. 53.

The map is cropped from a larger map of the area around Corinth on the Bible Mapper Blog here.

Since my last visit to Corinth some reconstruction has been made on the Bema and our photo below is published courtesy of Charles Savelle of BibleX.

The Bema at Corinth with the Acrocorinth in the background.
The Bema where Paul stood before proconsul Gallio. The Acrocorinth looms over the city. Photo courtesy of Charles Savelle.

Corinth is located about two miles south of the narrow isthmus which forms the land bridge, and controlled access, between the main land mass of Greece and the Peloponnese. The isthmus is less than five miles wide. Small ships were dragged across the isthmus on the paved road now called the diolkos; larger ships unloaded their cargo which was carried across and reloaded. This avoided the long 200-mile journey around the Peloponnese. Nero abandoned his attempts to dig a canal across the isthmus (A. D. 67). Some scholars think the road only allowed the “occasional movement of military ships, conveyance of building materials from the southern to northern Corinthia, small-scale portaging of luxury goods, and [served as] the principal road from the Corinthian Gulf to the pan-Hellenic sanctuary of Poseidon at Isthmia” (Pettegrew, blog). The canal one sees today was constructed in 1881–1893.

Corinth “was situated on a plateau overlooking the Isthmus of Corinth about two miles from the Gulf. It lay at the foot of Acrocorinth, an acropolis which rises precipitously to 1,886 ft.…” and was easily defended in ancient times (Rupprecht 960).

Corinth had two good ports. Lechaion, to the west, on the Gulf of Corinth (an arm of the Ionian Sea), and Cenchrea, to the east, on the Saronic Gulf (an arm of the Aegean Sea).

The harbor of Cenchrea, home of Phoebe. From here Paul set sail for Judea.
The harbor of Cenchrea where Paul had his hair cut before departing for Jerusalem. Cenchrea was the home of Phoebe (Romans 16:1).

Another important community near Corinth was Isthmia. The biennial Isthmian games, second in importance to the Olympic games, were held there in honor of Poseidon at the isthmus of Corinth. Some scholars think Paul may have been present for one of these events while he was at Corinth. He frequently used athletic illustrations in his letters. See 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 as an example.

The location of the ancient Isthmian games of Greece.
Ruins of the ancient site of Isthmia. The Corinth canal is to the right of this image. View is to the North West.

Over the years since the beginning of this blog I have posted several articles about Corinth. I suggest you put the name Corinth in the Search Box for a list of these posts. I think of this blog as a mini-dictionary of Bible lands and customs. I hope you will find it useful in your study of the Bible. Share it with you friends and suggest that they join our mailing list.

Jerash (Gerasa) in Jordan

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


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

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

Hadrian's Arch, Jerash, Jordan. Photo:

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

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

Cardo from Roman city Jerash, Jordan. Photo:

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

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

Capernaum follow up – from the air

The first photo today shows that Caperanum is located on the [north] shore of the Sea of Galilee. The enclosed area belongs to the Franciscan Fathers who bought the property already thought to be Capernaum in 1894. The site was fenced to prevent removal of the materials.

In our photo you see the property as it has been edited by various archaeological digs. Two structures stand out among the ruins – the synagogue and the new memorial church we wrote about in the previous post. Click on the photo for a larger image suitable for use in teaching.

Capernaum from the air. Photo:

Viewing Capernaum from the air. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

With our view to the north, the property on the right of the Franciscan property belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church. You will see their little red-domed church near the middle of our image. The property between that church and the Franciscan property was excavated after 1978 under the direction of Vassilios Tzaferis but is not open to the public.

Further east a dock extending into the water provides a place for boats to dock and allow passengers to meet their bus to continue touring.

Capernaum from the air. Fransciscian property on left (west) and the Orthodox property on the right (east). Photo:

Capernaum from the air. Fransciscian property on left (west) and the Orthodox property on the right (east). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Much of the earthly ministry of Jesus was conducted in this little plot of land. Imagine such a small beginning here and in the surrounding towns. By the early 60s of the first century the preaching that Jesus is the Christ had reached the capital of the Roman empire (Acts 28).

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:

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 # 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:

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 #6

The Greek island of Patmos is mentioned only once in the New Testament.

I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. (Revelation 1:9 ESV)

The island of Patmos.

A view of the island of Patmos from Chora. Ships and other boats dock at the port of Scala. John the Apostle was exiled to this island in the last decade of the first century A.D. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

For more information about Patmos and John’s banishment to the island see here.

2500 year-old ship replica back in the water

During a visit to the Hecht Museum at the University of Haifa (Israel) last year I was impressed by the reconstructed ruins of a ship that sailed the Mediterranean during the Persian period about 400 B.C. Information with the display reads,

In the autumn of 1985, remains of a 2400 year old merchantman were discovered in shallow water off the coast of Kibbutz Ma’agan Mikhael. A thick layer of sand and a large quantity of ballast stones covered the ship, thus protecting the wood and other perishable materials, from the elements.

Three seasons of excavation (1988-1989) were conducted by marine archaeologists from the Center for Maritime Studies of the University of Haifa and volunteers. After a long process of conservation the ship was placed on display in The Ma’agan Mikhael Ship Wing of the Hecht Museum.

The vessel measured approximately 12.5 m. long and 4 m. wide and had a load capacity of about 15 tons. Thirteen tons of stones and rocks were found during the excavation, the majority being bluechist. “It was used for roofing, flooring and for decorative articles” and originated from the Greek island of Euboea, northeast of Athens.

All of my information comes from signs displayed in the Hecht Museum.

The Ma'agan Mikhael ship displayed in the Hecht Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Ma’agan Mikhael ship displayed in the Hecht Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Word comes that the a replica of the ship has been reconstructed and that it will be displayed for the press Friday, March 17. Here is the Press Invitation which explains about the reconstruction.

— “ —

The Ma’agan Michael Ship is “going back” in the water: 2500 years after the ship sank off the coast at Ma’agan Michael, and 30 years after the shipwreck was discovered and removed from the water, a replica of the vessel will be launched. The official launching ceremony will take place this coming Friday (17 March 2017) and will be organized by the University of Haifa and the Israel Antiquities Authority. The replica was built over the past two years, using exactly the same materials, working methods, and tools that were used 2500 years ago.

The Ship launching ceremony will be attended by the President of the University, Professor Ron Robin, the Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority Mr. Yisrael Hasson, ship builders staff, volunteers and their families. According to the ancient practice of launching a new ship into the sea, oil and water to be poured into the sea for good luck (“Blessing Poseidon”), and it will set sail (weather permitting).

Ma'agan Michael-replica. Photo courtesy of the University of-Haifa.

Ma’agan Michael replica. Photo courtesy of the University of Haifa.

The ancient Ma’agan Michael Ship has always been a star. It was discovered in 1985 by Ami Eshel, a member of Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael, some 70 meters from the kibbutz. The ship was removed from the sea in 1988 in a project directed by Dr. Elisha Linder, one of the founders of the Department of Maritime Civilizations at the University of Haifa. Most of the ship had been covered in sand, helping to preserve it in a remarkable condition. The keel, numerous wooden plates, 14 crossbars, and the base of the mast were all preserved, offering researchers rare insights into the method used to construct the ship. In addition, the preserved tools found in the ship included the carpenter’s toolbox, a discovery that sparked the dream of building a replica using the same methods and tools used by the original shipwrights. In a complex procedure undertaken at the University of Haifa, a special preservative was inserted into the wooden base of the ship, which received its own display room at the university’s Hecht Museum.

The late Prof. Yaacov Kahanov of the Department of Maritime Civilizations at the University of Haifa did not abandon the dream of building a replica of the ship. Prof. Kahanov was a young research student when the ship was taken out of the water. Two years ago, he finally began the work of building a replica, together with Avner Hilman of the Israel Antiquities Authority, for whom the use of the ancient working methods formed part of a doctorate thesis. Together with a team of volunteers, they began the work, most of which took place at the Naval Academy in Akko.

However, the team working on the replica project soon encountered a problem. While they were familiar with the basic principle of the work – assembly using bolts and sockets – the other details were lost in the mists of time. They were unsure of the proper and most efficient way to bend the wooden beams in order to create the curved shape of the ship; the most suitable type of wood for the mast; and the precise temperature to which the copper nails should be heated. In many cases the team worked on a trial and error basis until they produced the desired result.

Ma'agan Michael-replica. Photo courtesy of the University of-Haifa.

Ma’agan Michael-replica. Photo courtesy of the University of-Haifa.

After two year’s work, the project was completed successfully and the replica was taken to Israel Shipyards and then to Kishon harbor. The ship will be officially launched at the harbor according to all the proper ceremonies and will return to the waters where its elder sister sailed 2500 years ago. Prof. Yaacov Kahanov, the leading spirit behind the project, passed away just before the work was completed.

The launching ceremony will take place on Friday, 17 March 2007, from 10:00 a.m. at Shavit fishing and sailing harbor in Haifa – Nachal Kishon. We invite you to cover the event.

— ” —

The Nachal (River) Kishon is where the LORD defeated Jabin and Sisera at a point several miles east of the mouth of the river (Judges 4-5; Psalm 83:9). I wish I could be there to see the ship launched.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Aleppo National Museum – #4

See our previous articles on Aleppo here, here, here, and here.

The Ebla tablets were discovered by an Italian team of excavators at Tell Mardikh in Syria (about 30 miles S of Aleppo) in 1975. More than 17,000 cuneiform tablets were discovered, dating to the mid-third millennium B.C. when Ebla was the capital of a great Canaanite empire. Scholars state that there are important affinities between the Eblaite language and biblical Hebrew, both being members of the Northwest Semitic family.

Pottery from Tell Mardikh (Ebla) in Aleppo Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Pottery from Tell Mardikh (Ebla) in Aleppo Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

It is my understanding that the Aleppo National Museum became the main repository of the Ebla tablets. In a major controversy between the archaeologist (Paolo Matthiae) and the epigrapher (Giovanni Pettinato), the Museum took the side of Professor Matthiae.

The controversy between these two scholars played out in scholarly and popular archaeological journals in the late 1970s and the early 1980s.

We have posted several articles about Ebla in previous years. You need only put the word Ebla in the Search box to locate those.

A large eagle caught our attention. David and I were of the opinion that it belonged to the Roman period, but one of the guards we spoke with insisted that it belonged to the Hellenistic period.

An eagle possible from the Hellenistic Period in the Aleppo Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

An eagle possibly from the Hellenistic Period in the Aleppo National Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Statues and busts of Asclepios are fairly common throughout the ancient Greek world. Asclepios was known as a god of medicine in the Greek religion. I do not know where this bust was discovered.

Bust of the god Asclepios. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Bust of the god Asclepios. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Even though the quality of the photos leaves much to be desired, I am hopeful that these photos and brief descriptions will be of benefit to those who have not been, and may never get to see the Aleppo National Museum.

This concludes the series on Aleppo.

Visiting Iznik (Nicea, Nicaea), Turkey – Part 1

This is the first in a series of posts about Nicea, the site of the first and seventh ecumenical councils.

My travels in Turkey – A brief survey

A couple of years ago I wrote a little piece here about why a Bible student should want to visit Turkey. In a category entitled Post New Testament church history I said,

The Ecumenical Councils met in the place we now call Turkey in the following cities: Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, Chalcedon.

My first trip to Turkey was in 1968 when I visited the area of the seven churches of the book of Revelation and the city of Istanbul. It was not until 1984 that I went back to the area with Melvin Curry and Phil Roberts, a couple of teaching colleagues, for a more detailed study. We also visited several of the Greek islands mentioned in the Bible. Then in 1985 I put together a tour I called, from that time forward, Steps of Paul and John. This tour included biblical sites in Greece and Turkey. At the end of that tour Raymond Harris, a fellow preacher, and I visited all of the sites associated with Paul’s first journey with the exception of Cyprus – a place I had already visited.

Melvin Curry, Ferrell Jenkins, Phil Roberts in Heraklion, Crete.

In Heraklion, Crete, we stayed with a former student and her family during the 1984 trip. My recollection is that she made this photo as we left for the airport to go to Athens. Left to right: Melvin Curry, Ferrell Jenkins, Phil Roberts.

In 1987 I conducted my first Ancient Crossroads tour to include the Hittite territory of Anatolia, Cappadocia, and the sites associated with Paul’s first journey. In 1995 the Steps of Paul and John tour included a cruise of the Greek islands. This cruise, touching at places like Patmos, Rhodes, and Crete, would be repeated several times over the years.

I had been able to visit most New Testament sites in Turkey, but certain Old Testament sites had eluded me because they were far away in eastern Turkey near the borders of Syria, Iraq, Iran and the Soviet Union (now Armenia). In 1995 I was joined by Curtis Pope with whom I taught, and his brother Kyle, for a visit in eastern Turkey. We picked up a car in Adana, visited sites associated with Abraham and the Patriarchs, and went through the region of Urartu as far as the traditional Mount Ararat.

That is an excursion I would repeat in more detail in 2007 with Leon Mauldin, David Padfield, and Gene Taylor. Leon and I went back to the region of Paddan-Aram in 2014. In 2007, we had visited the Black Sea region of Turkey to explore the cities that might have been visited by the messenger who delivered the Epistles of Peter. See this Index of Articles dealing with this subject. This included the Roman provinces of Pontus and Bithynia.

Eastern Turkey tour by Padfield, Mauldin, Jenkins, and Taylor (left to right). Carchemish in the background.

Eastern Turkey tour by Padfield, Mauldin, Jenkins, and Taylor (left to right). Carchemish is in the background center. We joked that we were out, standing in our field.

Now it was time to visit the site of two of the Ecumenical Councils in Bithynia. Leon and I arranged to do this in 2014. From Istanbul it is possible to rent a car and travel to Iznik (Nicaea, Nicea) across one of the bridges connecting Europe with Asia. That would take a lot of time. We decided to hire a guide/driver to pick us up at our hotel in Istanbul in Europe, take a ferry across the Sea of Mamara to the Asian side into ancient Bithynia, and visit Iznik in one day. This excursion would cost us almost $900.

The return ferry from Nicea to Istanbul. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The return ferry from Nicea to Istanbul. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Here is where I hope to pick up in the next article and begin to tell you about the visit to Iznik. There will probably be about seven articles in the series, with lots of photos. I trust you will find them interesting and profitable.

Turning from idols to serve the living God

Recently I was browsing through photos made in the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki (Salonica, Thessalonica), Greece, in 2008. I was impressed with the images of various gods and goddesses that were known in the city in the first century A.D. There were statues and busts of Egyptian gods such as Isis, Serapis, and Harpokrates/Horus. Greek gods and goddesses such as Dionysus, Hades, Apollo, Athena, Aphrodite, Demeter, and the mother of the gods often associated with Kybele (Cybele) were known. And there were others.

Athena. Archaeology Museum of Thessaloniki. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Athena. Archaeology Museum of Thessaloniki. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Immediately my mind was drawn to Paul’s commendation of the saints at Thessalonica in the middle of the first century A.D.

 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,
7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.
9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,
10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.  (1 Thessalonians 1:6-10 ESV)

But there were other “gods” known to the Thessalonians. The deified Alexander, considered a son of Zeus, was represented in the museum. Another significant form of idolatry was the Cult of the Emperor of Rome. A sign associated with one display says,

The cult of the emperor was both an instrument of imperial policy propaganda and a means for the transmission of Roman culture. The image of the emperor gives a concrete form to the abstract idea of the Empire. Whether a full-length statue or a bust, it makes his presence felt everywhere: in outdoor and indoor spaces, in fora, in villas, and in libraries.

Here is a statue of Octavian Augustus, the first emperor of Rome (27 B.C. – A.D. 14). Augustus was emperor at the time of the birth of Christ (Luke 2:1).

Statue of Augustus, Archaeology Museum of Thessaloniki. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Statue of Augustus, Archaeology Museum of Thessaloniki. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Claudius, Vespasian, Titus, and other emperors were represented in the museum displays.

An interesting temporary exhibition was about the discovery of an important archaeological site known as Kalindoia. The site is located about 48 km (30 miles) southeast of Thessalonica. Paul traveled a few miles north of Kalindoia when he went from Philippi, via Amphipolis and Apollonia, to Thessalonica (Acts 17:1). Below is the drawing of the chamber of the imperial cult. A temple for imperial worship was located here from the 1st century B.C. to the 3rd century A.D.

Artist conception of the chamber of the Imperial Cult. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Artist conception of the chamber of the Imperial Cult. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The sign associated with this drawing states that there were pedestals for statues here. “One of them was the statue of Emperor Octavian Augustus.” The Cult of the Emperor was especially pervasive in the eastern part of the Roman Empire and may have some bearing on understanding the man of lawlessness (sin) in 2 Thessalonians 2. It is certainly helpful in understanding the background of the book of Revelation.

But that’s not all. Another sign mentions the eponymous local heroes such as war heroes, deified mythological figures, or the heroized dead “were also worshipped.”

The gospel of Christ has power to touch the hearts of men and inform them about the difference between idols made of “gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man,” and the God who does not dwell in temples made by man (Acts 17:29 ESV).