Category Archives: New Testament

The day after Tisha B’av

The phrase Tisa B’av may be strange to Christians, but it means the Fast of the Ninth. The observance “is a day of mourning to commemorate the many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people” (Judaism 101). According to this source, five terrible events took place on or near the ninth day of the month Av, the fifth month of the Jewish calendar.

The most significant of these events are the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. (2 Kings 25:8-9; Jeremiah 52:12-13), and the destruction by the Romans in A.D. 70.

In the past half century a considerable amount of evidence has come to light concerning the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. The temple destroyed in 586 B.C. had been constructed by King Solomon in about 966 B.C. It was rebuilt by those who returned from the Babylonian Exile (530-516 B.C.).

Herod the Great began about 19/20 B.C. to rebuild the temple. This work was still in progress during the ministry of Jesus.

The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” (John 2:20 ESV)

Christians take seriously the prophecy of Jesus preserved by the Jewish writer Matthew.

Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” (Matthew 24:1-2 ESV)

Vivid evidence of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem was discovered at the SW corner of the temple area in the Tyropean Valley. Some of the rubble can still be seen on the street which was probably built by Agrippa II in the 60s of the first century.

Evidence of Roman destruction of the Temple precinct in A.D. 70. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Stones that fell, or were pushed, from the Temple Mount platform to the street below in A.D. 70 at the time of the destruction by the Romans. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

As a result of archaeological excavations in Jerusalem since 1967 we have other vivid examples of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Take a look at the ruins of the Burnt House in the Jewish Quarter. These ruins were discovered at a depth of about 20 feet below street level. It is near the Western Wall of the temple and is what is left of a luxurious house belonging to the Kathros family, a family known for the making of incense. A stone weight bearing the phrase “of Bar Kathros” was found in the excavations (Avigad, Discovering Jerusalem, p. 130. The wealth of the family living here is evidenced by the stone table and the stone jars found in the rubble.

Bar Kathros weight in the Burnt House, Jerusalem. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

A stone weight with the inscription “of Bar Kathros.” Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The stone weight was found among the rubble of the basement work room of the Kathros family.

The burnt house after the Roman destruction of Jerusalem. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

The house of the family Kathros, makers of incense for use in the temple, after the destruction by the Romans in A.D. 70. I have used a filter to highlight the result of the burning. Notice the ashes in the lower left corner. Some of the jars have taken on a silver look but they are stone jars. Do you see the arrow? Click on the photo for a larger image. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

It happened just as Jesus said it would.

The Pool of Bethesda

The Pool of Bethesda is mentioned only once in the New Testament. At this pool Jesus healed a man who had been an invalid for 38 years.

Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. (John 5:2 ESV)

The pool consisted of two pool near what we know today as the Lion’s Gate or Saint Stephen’s Gate to the Old City of Jerusalem. The church of Saint Anne faces the east side of the southern pool. The two pools were divided by a barrier wall between them. Citing the 1938 French publication by N. Van Der Vliet , Shimon Gibson says,

The Bethesda Pool was divided into two parts: the “Northern Pool” (53 x 40 m) which served as a reservoir for collected rainwater (with a capacity of some 21,200 cubic metres of water), and the “Southern Pool” (47 x 52 m) which was used for bathing (see below). The two pools would have been surrounded by porticoes (stoai) on four of its sides (with flat, not tiled, roofs), and with an additional portico (open on both sides) ex- tending across the barrier wall separating the two pools. The pools were not symmetrically rectangular, but were trapezoidal in form, (“The Excavations at the Bethesda Pool in Jerusalem: Preliminary Report on a Project of Stratigraphic and Structural Analysis”, pp. 17-44 in F. Bouwen (ed.), Sainte-Anne de Jérusalem. La Piscine Probatiquen de Jésus À Saladin. Proche-Orient Chrétien Numéro Spécial. 2011, Saint Anne: Jerusalem, p. 23).

Photo of the Pool of Bethesda from the Second Temple Model, Israel Museum, Jerusalem. In this model you see the two pools with the five colonnades or porticoes, the Herodian temple, and the Antonia (the building with the four towers build to protect the temple precinct. Notice that the model shows tiled roofs which Gibson says was not the case. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins

Gibson says that the archaeological excavations have revealed that Early Roman, Late Roman, two phases of Byzantine, and the Crusader period are known here. That area now looks like this.

The Pool of Bethesda excavations. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

The excavated area of the Pool of Bethesda showing the Crusader and Byzantine ruins. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This nice map from the Bible Mapper Blog shows the relationship of the Pools of Bethesda to the Temple Mount. Those who have visited the Temple Mount in recent years may have exited on the northern side and visited the Pool (or Pools) of Bethesda. As you exit there is a noticeable depression. This is where the Pool of Israel or the Sheep Pool was located.

This map shows the Pools of Bethesda near the top. It comes from the Bible Mapper Blog.

The foreground of the next photo shows ruins of various pools from the Roman period that are known to have been considered a place of healing. Votive offering to Serapis and Asklepius, pagan healing gods, were found in the excavations.

In the foreground, to the east of the church ruins, we have ruins from the Roman period showing a sacred area known to have been considered a place of healing. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Even though the invalid of John 5 had been brought there by friends or neighbors (he could not have come by himself) he remained an invalid. André Parrot says Jesus,

… achieved a victory over the gods of classical paganism which had been introduced into the very heart of Jerusalem, the city of Yahweh (Land of Christ, p. 100).

The Wilderness of Judea – a Hard Way to Go

A portion of the Judean Wilderness is displayed in Green on this map, but it is a very dry area of the country. The walking trip from Jericho to Jerusalem takes at least 7 hours and 30 minutes. Made with BibleMapper.

John the Baptist preached in the wilderness of Judea (Matthew 3:3), and Jesus was tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1). Jesus spoke to the crowds about John this way:

What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? (Luke 7:24 ESV)

This is a fairly typical view of the Wilderness of Judea at sea level. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The wilderness (Greek eremos) of Judea is described this way in Bauer (BDAG):

Of the Judean wilderness, the stony, barren eastern declivity of the Judean mountains toward the Dead Sea and lower Jordan Valley.

Wilderness of Judea. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

The wilderness of Judea a short distance west of Jericho. The shadows constantly change the appearance of the wilderness. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Hebrew word for this wilderness is midbar. Charles F. Pfeiffer said the wilderness of Judea,

is the region of rugged gorges and bad lands in the eastern part of Judah where the land slopes off toward the Jordan Valley. In ancient times this area was infested with wild animals. Except for a brief time during the spring rains the wilderness is arid. (Baker’s Bible Atlas, 201)

The Saint George monastery hangs along a cleft in the wilderness of Judea where the Wadi Kelt runs from near Jerusalem past Jericho. Notice the beautiful color shades here. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Many people who read the Bible in English, without checking into the matter, think of the wilderness as being a place filled with wild growth and underbrush. Jesus’ question to the crowds indicates that no reeds are to be found in the wilderness. In this case a picture really is worth a thousand words. This shows one of the many changing views one might see in the wilderness. This one was made in the month of November and shows a view west toward Jerusalem.

The wilderness of Judea stretches from the eastern slope of the central mountain range to the Jordan River. Of course, it extends much farther south along the Dead Sea.

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.

Gerasa/Jerash

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

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: ferrelljenkins.blog.

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: ferrelljenkins.blog.

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).

Ferrell’s Favorite Foto #38 – a thistle

Our favorite foto today was made near Tel Goded, also known as Tell el-Judeideh. This mound has been suggested as the site of Moresheth-gath, the home of the prophet Micah (1:14; see The Sacred Bridge, 170). This site is located on the Israel National Trail.

Tel Goded, also known as Tell el-Judeideh, may be the location of Moresheth-gath, the home of the prophet Micah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Our photo was made near an underground spring, or possibly a cistern, just outside the lower right corner of the photo.

This map was created using BibleMapper 5. Moresheth-gath is located 5.9 miles from Lachish. The suggest site for Libnah is known today as Tel Burna.

Thorns and thistles are mentioned as a plant more or less worthless. As a result of man’s sin, the earth was to bring forth thorns and thistles (Genesis 3:18-19). Jesus said that false prophets could be recognized by their fruits. He said, “Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? (Matthew 7:15-16, ESV).

A large variety of thorns and thistles grow throughout the bible lands. During the rainy season many of them produce beautiful flowers, but later on they become a real problems to those who wish to walk through the fields. Peter may be drawing on this figure when he says, “Therefore, gird your minds for action”  (1 Peter 1:13 NAS). Just as a person of that time would gird up their flowing garment to keep it from hanging on the encroaching thistles along the path they were walking. We miss the imagery with our newer versions that say something like, “preparing your minds for action” (ESV).

William Barclay says,

He tells them to gird up the loins of their mind. This is a deliberately vivid phrase. In the east men wore long flowing robes which hindered fast progress or strenuous action. Round the waist they wore a broad belt or girdle; and when strenuous action was necessary they shortened the long robe by pulling it up within the belt in order to give them freedom of movement. The English equivalent of the phrase would be to roll up one’s sleeves or to take off one’s jacket. Peter is telling his people that they must be ready for the most strenuous mental endeavour. They must never be content with a flabby and unexamined faith; they must set to and think things out and think them through. It may be that they will have to discard some things. It may be that they will make mistakes. But what they are left with will be theirs in such a way that nothing and nobody can ever take it away from them. (Barclay, William, ed. The Letters of James and Peter. Philadelphia: Westminster John Knox Press, 1976. Print. The Daily Study Bible Series.)

I looked through several books showing the plants of the bible lands as well as the Thorns and Thistles photos in the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands. I think this is the Holy Milk Thistle, sometimes called Mary’s thistle.

Butterfly, thistle, insect near Tel Goded. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

A beautiful butterfly on a thistle near Tel Goded (T. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

What makes this photo a favorite is not only that it is a thistle but that it also has a beautiful butterfly on it. If you look closely you may also see an insect, but you can’t miss the sharp thorns.

The comment by G. E. Post in the old Hastings, A Dictionary of the Bible, is interesting – even colorful.

There is probably no country on earth of the same extent which has so many plants with prickles and thorns as the Holy Land. One would be tempted to believe that this is a providential provision to protect them from the ravages of goats, asses, and camels, were it not that the mouths of these creatures are provided with a mucous membrane so tough that it seems impervious to thorns.

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.

The Jordan River at Qasr el Yahud

From the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea is a distance of 65 miles but the Jordan river twists and turns for about 200 miles. The fall is about 590 feet (about 9 feet per mile). Nelson Glueck began his 1945 book, The River Jordan, by describing the river in beautiful terms.

THE JORDAN is a weird stream. It twists and tears its way swiftly downward in an almost incredibly sinuous manner from the sweet waters of the Lake of Galilee to the bitter wastes of the Sea of Salt or Dead Sea. Squirming frantically, burrowing madly, seeking wildly to escape its fate, the Jordan’s course from its crystal-clear beginnings to its literally dark and bitter end is a helpless race to a hopeless goal. Like Lot’s wife, it looks backward, but only inevitably to perish in the perdition of Bahr Lut, the “Sea of Lot,” as the Dead Sea is called by the Arabs. (p. 3)

At the traditional site of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, a place called Qasr el Yahud, a few miles north of the Dead Sea, only very short stretches of the river are visible (Matthew 3:13-17; John 1:28). The photo below shows one of the many curves in the river. Click on the photo for a larger image.

Jordan River at the site of the baptism of Jesus. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

This photo was made at Qasr el Yahud, the traditional site of the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The prophet Jeremiah describes the heavy growth on the banks of the Jordan as the thicket of the Jordan (Jeremiah 12:5; 50:44). Perhaps the reading in the Net Bible, “the thick undergrowth along the Jordan River,” provides a clearer understanding. “Lions could suddenly appear from the bushes” (Jeremiah 49:19; Lalleman, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries).

Rolling stone tombs #6 – a tomb near Megiddo

Several tombs of the type in which Jesus was buried have survived the centuries. This one was discovered during road construction a few years ago near the Jezreel Valley, not very far from Megiddo. This is my favorite photo of rolling stone tombs.

Rolling stone tomb near the Jezreel Valley and Megiddo. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

This rolling stone tomb was discovered during road work. It is a beautiful example of a tomb of this type. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

To locate this tomb in Google Earth Pro or Google Maps these these coordinates: 32 36 43.31 N, 35 08 17.01 E. It also worked on my Android phone to locate the site on the map and provide a photo of the tomb along the highway.

Rolling stone tombs #5 – the site of the Holy Sepulchre

Jesus was crucified outside Jerusalem (John 19:20), probably not far from a gate (Hebrews 13:12), near a road (Mark 15:29; Matthew 27:39), and near a garden with a new tomb in it (John 19:41). Nothing about the Church of the Holy Sepulchre reminds one of the actual setting where Christ was crucified and buried. One must remember, that Jerusalem has been continuously inhabited for many centuries. Strong evidence suggests that the site now occupied by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was outside the wall of Jerusalem at the time of Christ.

Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Crowds wait to enter the edicule covering the tomb of Jesus after examination and cleaning in 2017. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Kathleen Kenyon found evidence in the 1970s that the wall which now encompasses the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built on the foundation which was constructed about A.D. 41 by Herod Agrippa. In A.D.
30 [or 33, depending on how one reads the evidence], when Jesus stood before Pilate, the site of the Holy Sepulchre would have been outside the wall.

Some columns in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre date from the fourth century church built by Constantine. Excavators exposed part of the foundations of Hadrian’s Roman Forum, dating from A.D. 135, in which the Temple of Aphrodite was built.

A portion of the Herodian wall was discovered in the 1970s by M. Broshi within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This showed that Golgotha was just outside the city wall.

D. Katsimibinis, in the late 1970s, showed that the rock of Calvary still rises nearly 40 feet above bedrock. The rock bears the mark of ancient quarrying. Some scholars believe that this remnant of stone was a rejected quarry stone (Charlesworth, Jesus Within Judaism, 124). “And moreover, there are no competing places for Calvary or Golgotha prior to the last century” (Charlesworth, 123). See also André Parrot, Golgotha and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Jesus would have been placed in this tomb sometime before sun down on Friday, and raised sometime before sun up on the first day of the week (our Sunday). See Luke 24:1, 13, 21.

The tomb of Jesus. Parrot, Land of Christ.

Drawing showing the tomb of Jesus according to the data of the gospels. From Parrot, Land of Christ, 131.

We share the sentiment of the late F. F. Bruce that “interesting as the problem must be to every Christian, it is not of the first importance; wherever our Lord’s sepulchre is to be located, ‘he is not here, for he has risen’” (“Archaeological Confirmation of the New Testament,” Revelation and the Bible, ed. Henry, 330).

Model of the tomb at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. From the Franciscian Museum, Jerusalem.

This model from the Franciscan Museum, Jerusalem, show the tomb at the Holy Sepulchre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Rolling stone tombs #4 – the Midras ruins

The Midras Ruins (Horvat Midras) in Israel are part of the Adulam Grove Nature Reserve east of Hwy 38 between the Elah Valley and Beit Guvrin. According to the Parks department sign at the site, the ruins are part of an ancient settlement including caves, pits, and other installations. The Carta touring atlas says the area was continuously inhabited from the time of the Kings of Judah to the Roman period.

For a more complete discussion of the Midras Ruins tomb, along with links to photos before the tomb was vandalized, read here.

This photo was made in the late afternoon several years after the tomb was defaced by vandals. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The sign at the cave indicates that it was in use from the first century B.C. until the Bar Kochba revolt (about A.D. 135).

The large rolling stone now at the entrance to the cave is a remnant of the grand burial cave once located here.

Beyond the entrance, two chambers were discovered, containing burial niches 1.80 meters [almost 6 feet] long. The inner chamber contains decorated arches, arcosolia, in which ossuaries were placed, containing the bones of the deceased in secondary burial.

The sherds discovered in the cave indicate that it was in use from the end of the first century CE [AD] until the Bar Kokhba Revolt (132-135 CE).

Browsing through my photos I rediscovered the next photo from a visit to the site in 2011. It shows a more natural look except for the destroyed area above the rolling stone.

This photo shows the setting of the tomb with a rolling stone after it was defaced by vandals and then reconstructed. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.