Category Archives: New Testament

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

Spring beauty in Pergamum

The ancient city of Pergamum, at Bergama, Turkey, was the location of one of the churches addressed in the book of Revelation (the Apocalypse). Like the other six local churches mentioned in the book, a short letter is addressed to Pergamum (Revelation 1:11; 2:12-17). I thought I would share a beautiful spring photo made among the ruins of the city.

Reconstructed temple of Emperor Trajan in Pergamum. FerrellJenkins.blog.

Reconstructed temple of Emperor Trajan in Pergamum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This photo shows the reconstruction of the Temple of Roman Emperor Trajan (A.D. 98-117). This was the second temple in Pergamum dedicated to the Emperor. The first temple in all of Asia was erected to Augustus in 29 B.C. Altogether Pergamum had three imperial temples. Emperor worship was common throughout the Roman Empire, but especially in the eastern part of the Empire. In the centuries following New Testament times this would create a problem for those who were devoted to Jesus Christ as Lord and God.

Transporting cedars for the temple

The cedars grew in the high mountains of the Lebanon range, the north-south range along the Mediterranean coast.

Cedars also grow in the Amanus mountains north of Antakya, Turkey (Antioch of Syria in Acts 11 and 13). I have seen a small number of cedars still growing in the Taurus Mountains of Turkey. In Lebanon, the most famous of the trees are growing in the high mountains about 100 miles north of Beirut near the town of Besharre, but there are also some growing southeast of Beirut at Barouk.

(A geographical note for those who may not know. If we go east we have the Bekah Valley and then the Anti-Lebanon range of mountains. The Lebanon range continues south and becomes the mountains of upper and lower Galilee, and the mountains of Samaria and Judea. The Bekah Valley continues south to become the Hula Valley, passing through the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan Valley, passing through the Dead Sea, the Arabah, etc. The Anti-Lebanon mountain range continues south through the Golan Heights, the Mountains of Gilead, and the trans-Jordan plateau or highlands.)

Browsing in Pritchard’s Ancient Near Eastern Texts, I noted numerous reference to ancient rulers cutting cedars and transporting them to built projects in their home country.

Gudea of Lagash (2141-2122 B.C.) calls the Amanus Mountains “the Cedar Mountain.” He says “he formed into rafts cedar logs 60 cubits long, cedar logs 50 cubits long (and) KU-wood logs 25 cubits long and brought them (thus) out of the mountain.”

Tiglath-Pileser I, King of Assyria (1114-1076 B.C.), says he went to the Lebanon mountains and cut cedar beams for a temple.

Ashurnasirpal II, King of Assyria (883-859 B.C.),  says, “I ascended the mountains of the Amamus … and cut down (there) logs of cedars” and other trees.

Shalmaneser III, King of Assyria (858-824 B.C.), claims that he ascended the mountain Amanus and cut cedar and pine timber.

Esarhaddon, king of Assyria (680-649 B.C.), claims he made 22 kings of the Hatti transport material for his palace: “big logs, long beams (and) thin boards from cedar and pine trees, products of the Sirara and Lebanon (La-na-na) mountains which had grown for a long time into tall and strong timber….” Sirara was one of the towns of southern Mesopotamia. Esarhaddon left his image and an inscription on the cliffs above Dog River in Lebanon.

Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon (605-562 B.C.), refers to the Lebanon as the “[Cedar] Mountain, the luxurious forest of Marduk, the smell of which is sweet.” He says no other god has desired and no other king has felled the trees. He says Marduk desired the cedars “as a fitting adornment for the palace of the ruler of heaven and earth.”

The Neo-Babylonian king claims to have rid the country (Lebanon) of a foreign enemy and returned scattered inhabitants to their settlements. In order to transport cedars to Babylon, he explains some of his projects.

What no former king had done (I achieved): I cut through steep mountains, I split rocks, opened passages and (thus) I constructed a straight road for the (transport of the) cedars. I made the Arahtu flo[at] (down) and carry to Marduk, my king, mighty cedars, high and strong, of precious beauty and of excellent dark quality, the abundant yield of the Lebanon, as (if they be) reed stalks (carried by) the river. Within Babylon [I stored] mulberry wood. I made the inhabitants of the Lebanon live in safety together and let nobody disturb them. In order that nobody might do any harm [to them] I ere[cted there] a stela (showing) me (as) everlasting king (of this region) and built … I, myself, … established.…

The Arahtu was a canal built by Nebuchadnezzar near Babylon that was used in the transportation of the cedars. Some of the kings speak of building roads for the transportation of the cedars.

In 1971 I was able to make a photo of the inscription left by Nebuchadnezzar at Dog River north of Beirut. Some more recent travelers have found this covered by vines. Click on the photo for a larger image and you will get a better view of some of the cuneiform writing.

Nebuchadnezzar's inscription made on the right bank of Dog River in Lebanon. FerrellJenkins.blog.

Nebuchadnezzar’s inscription made on the right bank of Dog River in Lebanon. On the left bank on the rock cliffs there are reliefs and inscriptions by Ramses II of Egypt, and Assyrian kings Shalmaneser III (?) and Esarhaddon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Hiram, king of Tyre, promised Solomon that he would transport cedars by sea to Joppa.

And we will cut whatever timber you need from Lebanon and bring it to you in rafts by sea to Joppa, so that you may take it up to Jerusalem. (2 Chronicles 2:16 ESV)

The parallel text in 1 Kings 5:9 says,

My servants shall bring it down to the sea from Lebanon, and I will make it into rafts to go by sea to the place you direct. And I will have them broken up there, and you shall receive it. And you shall meet my wishes by providing food for my household.” (1 Kings 5:9 ESV)

The comment in The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament explains:

Transport of the logs along the Palestinian coast south would have involved either tying them together into rafts, which required staying very close to shore for fear of storms breaking them up, or loading them on ships. Assyrian reliefs show Phoenician ships both loaded with logs and towing them.

This photograph illustrates the comment above, but the biblical text indicates that the logs cut for Solomon were made into rafts.

Sargon transporting cedar logs from Lebanon by sea. Displayed in the Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sargon transporting cedar logs from Lebanon by sea. Displayed in the Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Lebanon had two famous rivers, both of which had their source in the Bekah valley. The Orontes River flowed north past Kadesh, Hamath, and other cities and then turned west to flow past Antioch into the Mediterranean at Seleucia.

The Leontes River (also known as the Letani), flowed through the Lebanon mountains and into the Mediterranean a few miles north of Tyre. Since we know of other rulers floating the timbers on rivers, I have thought that perhaps some of those going to Jerusalem may have been moved from the southern forests by means of the Leontes, then tied into rafts near the coast for the trip to Joppa.

The Litani river a few miles north of Tyre, Lebanon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Leontes (= Litani) river a few miles north of Tyre, Lebanon. Photo: Ferrell Jenkins.

The distance from the mouth of the Leontes River to Joppa is about 95 miles (152 km). Our photos below is an aerial view of Joppa and its modern harbor.

Aerial view of Joppa, showing the modern harbor. ferrelljenkins.blog.

The modern harbor at Joppa. We know that the tel (a green mound with some paths on it) you see in the left bottom quarter of the photo was inhabited by Egyptians as early as the 15th century B.C. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land (1990) says,

Some scholars believe that the port referred to is that of Tell Qasile, east of Jaffa.

If that is so, the logs would be floated up the Yarkon River a short distance to Tell Qasile which is a little northeast of Joppa, close enough to be considered Joppa.

From Joppa the logs were transported by Solomon’s men across the plain of Sharon and up into the mountains of Judea. Quite a project without trucks or trains. In addition to the temple, the Bible records that Solomon built “the House of the Forest of Lebanon” (I Kings 7:2).

Our final photograph shows some stone anchors displayed at Tel Qasile which is located on the grounds of the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv. I notice that these are larger than anchors found at the Sea of Galilee. These would be more suitable for use on a river such as the Yarkon.

Stone anchors displayed at Tel Qasile at the Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv. FerrellJenkins.blog.

Stone anchors displayed at Tel Qasile at the Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

 

Dr. Jack P. Lewis — 1919 – 2018

We note the death of Dr. Jack Pearl Lewis earlier this week on July 24th. The name Jack Pearl Lewis will be unknown to many readers of this blog. Others will recognize his name and his work. I write here because he was an outstanding biblical scholar who played a part in my travel experiences.

Lewis was a founding faculty member at the Harding Graduate School of Religion in Memphis, now known as Harding School of Theology. At the time of his retirement he was named Professor Emeritus. Among several good teachers that I had, Lewis was unique. He held two earned doctorates, a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, and a Ph.D. in Old Testament from Hebrew Union. He was the most demanding teacher I had, and one of a few from whom I learned the most.

After the high school years at Athens Bible School, and four years of Bible at Florida Christian College (now Florida College), with teachers such as Homer Hailey and Franklin T. Puckett, I had a good general knowledge of the Bible. I think I had about 60 hours of Bible at FCC. I had added about seven years in full-time preaching before attending the Graduate School. The graduate work was not too difficult, it was just on a more demanding advanced level. Dr. Lewis was always available to talk with if you could locate him among all of the books in his office.

It was part of the graduate program generally, but Lewis taught the importance of using primary sources where possible and the importance of thorough preparation. He entered the class room, called the roll, and began lecturing. As a student I made notes the best I could, then spent hours after each class verifying the names, dates, and facts presented. Different from the students I had in college, we would never imagine asking “How do you spell that?” He taught us the importance of using up-to-date sources in our research.

Jack Lewis was my first teacher who had spent a considerable amount of time studying the land of the Bible. He had worked in the archaeological excavation at Arad, and had spent a year as a fellow at the American Schools of Oriental Research in Jerusalem (now the Albright Institute).

In one of the classes with Dr. Lewis I did a paper on “Authentic First Century Remains in Palestine.” Soon afterward I began to prepare for my own visit to the Bible lands. I might have gone anyway, but I must credit Dr. Lewis, and his unique insight into the land of the Bible, for spurring my interest in traveling to this part of the world. The last time I visited with him was March 6, 2008, at Faulkner University where he made a couple of presentations and was honored for his work. As we visited, he said something like this: “There is nothing as valuable as seeing the places you study about.” So, now you know one of the major motivations in my travels to Bible lands over all these years since the first trip in 1967. I still learn on every trip, and in the preparation for the trip.

Dr. Lewis was a prolific writer. His many books included The History of the English Bible from the KJV to the NIV, The Interpretation of Noah and the Flood in Jewish and Christian Literature, Historical Backgrounds to Bible People, and a two-volume commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. There are also books on the prophets and other areas of biblical studies.

One of the lectures given by Dr. Lewis at Faulkner University was on “The Battle for the Integrity of the Bible.” In his typical rapid-fire manner, he surveyed the battles that have been won in demonstrating the integrity of the Bible. It was just a survey, but he seemed as sharp as in those classes on The History of the English Bible and on Archaeology and the Bible from which I profited so much.

Dr. Jack P. Lewis and Ferrell Jenkins. FerrellJenkins.blog.

This photo was made March 6, 2008, after the lecture on “The Battle for the Integrity of the Bible” at Faulkner University. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

If you would like to learn a little about the background of this unique man we suggest his 2012 autobiography, As I Remember It.

I wrote some of this material back in 2008 after the visit with Dr. Lewis. When our mutual friend, Don Meredith, the librarian at HST, saw it he printed it for Dr. Lewis. Here is the response I received from Dr.Lewis:

I appreciate very much the kind things you had to say.  I am trying to get finished the work on the twelve prophets I started more than twenty years ago.  I am a great one at starting, but less successful in finishing. I will look forward to seeing you in Boston in November  [at the annual professional meetings].  Sincerely, Jack P. Lewis.

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.

2000 in the bag

It is not an earth-shattering achievement, but I am pleased to have been blessed to visit most of the Bible World over the past 50 years. The only major country that eluded me is Iran. At one time I knew a couple working for an American corporation in Iran. The wife was visiting family near me and brought me eight historical and travel books about the country which are still on a top shelf in my study. She encouraged me to bring a group to the country. Not long afterwards there were many political changes in Iran and the tour never materialized.

But I have been greatly blessed to travel and to share my experiences with many others. In 2007 I began a little blog on WordPress to keep family and friends of those on my tour updated to our activities. This is now the 2000th post on ferrelljenkins.wordpress.com and ferrelljenkins.blog. The last 100 or so have been slow in coming, but finally we have reached that milestone.

Post number 2000 for ferrelljenkins.blog.

Post number 2000 for ferrelljenkins.blog. This photo, without the 2000, was made at Avedat in the Negev of Israel.

Some of our blog posts have been tour reports, others have been more significant, and hopefully helpful, posts for all Bible students. A few posts have been repeats with updated information or photos.

Almost every post has included one or more photographs. The greater number of them have been photos from my collection. Over the years I have learned a lot about preparing the photos for publication (in print and on the web). We now have nearly 2700 followers who receive every post we write. According to WordPress we have reached two and a half million hits. I thank each of you for your interest. I still have former students and church friends to ask me what I have written lately! And some who see one photo and a few lines from a post mentioned on social media never click through to read the entire post. Sigh…

My hope is that you think of this blog as a sort of (incomplete) Bible Lands and Customs Dictionary. Use our indexes and the search box to locate places and customs you may be studying.

I wanted to share a few beautiful photos as a sort of celebration of the 2000th post.

Spring flowers among the ruins at Pergamum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Spring flowers among the ruins at Pergamum, site of one of the seven churches of the book of Revelation (2:12-17). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In addition to my 50 years of tours in the Bible World and other parts of the world, I have made numerous extended trips with just another person, or up to three others. On these excursions we have been able to visit some places not easily accessible to a group with a bus. Beginning in about 1980 I have made these excursion with Melvin Curry, Phil Roberts, Harold Tabor, Jim Hodges, Raymond Harris, Curtis and Kyle Pope, David Padfield, Gene Taylor, Lowell Sallee, David McClister, Larry Haverstock, Dan Kingsley, and my lovely wife Elizabeth. Leon Mauldin has joined me on more of these personal trips than anyone else; no less than ten. Just as soon as I publish I will surely think of someone else.

One way I sometimes describe my travels, and these are included on the blog, is by a biblical timeline – from Ararat to Patmos (or Genesis to Revelation). We have discussed the possibility other sites for the biblical account of Noah and the Flood, but here is one photo of Greater Ararat in northeast Turkey.

Greater Mount Ararat, in the land of Ararat, near the Iranian border. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Greater Mount Ararat, in the land of Ararat, near the Iranian border. This is the traditional site of the landing of Noah’s ark. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

And here is a photo of the little Greek island where John was exiled in the later years of the first century A.D.

A view of the harbor on the island of Patmos, the place where the apostle John received, and possibly wrote the Book of Revelation. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A view of the harbor on the island of Patmos, the place where the apostle John received, and possibly wrote the Book of Revelation. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This next photo was made May 13, 1970 long before we started this blog. I wanted to use this and another photo to further illustrate the extent of our travels. These photos cover the earliest period of biblical history to the close of the New Testament epistles and the Apocalypse. I only made one tour to Iraq, but we traveled from Ur, the traditional home of Abraham, to Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrians. Our scanned photo shows a reconstructed ziggurat. I always described the ziggurats to my students as a staged, or stepped, temple tower. Steve Barabas describes this ziggurat,

The ziggurat at Ur was 200 feet (63 m.) long, 150 feet (47 m.) wide, and some 70 feet (22 m.) high. The inside was made of unbaked brick; the outside consisted of about 8 feet (2.5 m.) of baked brick set in bitumen. The Stele of Ur-Nammu is a contemporary record of the building of this ziggurat. The tower of Babel was a ziggurat (Gen 11:1–9). (Douglas, J. D., and Merrill Chapin Tenney. New International Bible Dictionary 1987 : 1088. Print.)

The ziggurat at Ur, Iraq. The remaining ruins can be seen above the reconstructed brick work. The reconstruction is about four stories high. Photo made by Ferrell Jenkins, May 13, 1970.

The ziggurat at Ur, Iraq. The remaining ruins can be seen above the reconstructed brick work. The reconstruction is about four stories high.
Photo made by Ferrell Jenkins, May 13, 1970.

If we follow the New Testament epistles to the west we come to Rome, the city where both Paul and Peter are said to have given their lives for the cause of Christ. The statue of Emperor Augustus reminds us of the power of Rome from the birth of Jesus to the close of the New Testament.

Replica of a statue of the Emperor Augustus in Rome. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Replica of a statue of the Emperor Augustus in Rome. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I have made numerous friends as a result of the blog. My first knowledge of Todd Bolen came through his Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, and we corresponded on a few items before we met. We first met in November, 2005, in Jerusalem. He frequently mentions my posts on his weekly roundup at BiblePlaces Blog. I am pleased that he now licenses my photos to publishers who wish to use them.

Other bloggers who have encouraged me include Carl Rasmussen (HolyLandPhotos blog), Charles Savelle, Wayne Stiles, and  Steve Wolfgang for his frequent re-blogging of my posts. Tom Powers has helped me correct or avoid a mistake more than once. And a host of friends who have encouraged me by letting me know they read and use our photos and learn from our comments. Without a count, I am confident that Joseph Lauer has more Hat Tips (HT) than anyone else. Many thanks for all the helpful updates he has provided.

I should add three of my former students and travelers who are now leading tours. Barry Britnell, Luke Chandler, and Leon Mauldin all have high recommendations from those who travel with them.

If you have enjoyed and profited by following this blog will you please tell at least one friend about it? Many thanks.

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