Promised posts on the book of Revelation have not been forgotten but other more pressing things have consumed my time.
This morning I ran across some photos I made of the Suez Canal and thought I would post one of them. This photo was made from the Asia side of the Suez Canal. The view is west toward Africa. At this point the Suez Canal cuts through Lake Timsah.
Ship passing through the Suez Canal where it crosses Lake Timsah at sunset. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
The Suez canal connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea. After ten years of work the canal was completed in 1869.
Some scholars have suggested that the crossing by the Israelites as they left Egypt may have been in the area around Lake Timsah (through, south or north of it). Other suggestions include a site in the vicinity of Lake Ballah or the Great Bitter Lake for the crossing. We have several posts dealing with this subject. Search for Suez Canal, Great Bitter Lake, or the Exodus.
“The book of Revelation is addressed to the seven churches that are in Asia. In the Roman Empire the province of Asia comprised the territory in Asia Minor south of Bithynia, north of Lycia, west of Galatia, and east of the Aegean” (Pfeiffer 287). Separate letters are addressed to the seven churches of Asia: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea. The “letters” actually take the form of Imperial edicts, opening “with the characteristic verb of declaration, legei [says]” (Horsley I:40; cf. Deissmann 375). These churches must be representative, for there were other churches in Asia: Troas (Acts 20:7); Colossae (Col. 1:2); Hierapolis (Col. 4:13). Beginning at Ephesus, the cities named formed a type of circuit or loop. If one begins at Ephesus and follows the route suggested in Revelation, the distance from Ephesus to Laodicea is about 256 miles. From Laodicea to Ephesus is almost 100 miles.” See source below.
The map showing Patmos and the area of Asia Minor where the Seven Churches of Revelation 1-3 were located in Asia Minor (Revelation 1:4, 11). Take a look at the map. Begin with Ephesus, then move north to Smyrna, on to Pergamum. Then take the road southeast to Thyatira. Continue southeast to Sardis. From there continue east to Philadelphia, then southeast to Laodicea. If you wanted to complete the circuit you could travel west back to Ephesus. You could trace these same places on a modern map of Turkey, but the modern names of the cities must be followed: Selcuk, Izmir, Bergama, Akhisar, Sardes, Alasehir. Laodicea is located between Pamukale and Denizli. Most tours use the hotels at Kusadasi (near Ephesus) or Izmir, and Pamukale, working in and out from these cities.
The seven churches are said by the Lord to be “seven golden lampstands” (Rev. 1:20). We should not think of the Menorah, a seven-branched lamp. Instead we think of seven individual stands, each with a lamp on top. The church is to hold up or display the light. The example from Ephesus pictured below may give us insight into the imagery being used here.
When we read about the church in Jerusalem, Samaria, and other cities of the Levant we see a special set of problems related to the relationship between the new Christian movement and Judaism. When we move into the territory of Syria, Cilicia, Galatia, Asia Minor, Greece and Rome we see different problems and circumstances.
One reads Exodus in the light of the circumstances faced by the Israelites in Egypt. One reads Leviticus and Numbers in the light of the wilderness travel of the Israelites. The gospels are read with an understanding of the background of Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. In Asia Minor, Greece, and Rome we read the Epistles and Revelation with an understanding of that background.
Source: The first paragraph is from: Jenkins, Ferrell. “Introduction to the Book of Revelation.” Overcoming with the Lamb: Lessons from the Book of Revelation. Ed. Ferrell Jenkins. Temple Terrace, FL: Florida College Bookstore, 1994. 19. Print. Florida College Annual Lectures.) This book is available from Logos in digital format.
The word Colossae appears only once in the New Testament.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2 To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. (Colossians 1:1-2 ESV).
Colossae was one of the tri-cities of the Lycus River valley. Paul’s letter to the saints at Colossae mentions two other cities, Laodicea and Hierapolis (Colossians 4:13-16).
Colossae is located on the south bank of the small Lycus River which continues to flow westward to join the Meander River. In the photo below you will see the ancient mound central in this image. In the backgound (south) to the left you will see Mount Cadmus. The city of Honaz is located at the base of the mountain.
Between the vineyard in the foreground and the mound there is a a little black line. Hidden there is the small Lycus River flowing west (to the right).
The mound or tel ( Huyuk in Turkey) of Colossae is located on the north side of Mount Cadmus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
The site of Colossae was discovered by William J. Hamilton in 1835. The tell (Turkish, huyuk) is located on the south bank of the Lycus River about three miles northwest of Honaz. Colossae was deserted by A.D. 800 when the city moved to the new town of Khonai (modern Honaz). There is little to be seen today. Several organizations have shown interest in excavating Colossae but so far there has been no major expedition. See article by Dr. Harold Mare, NEAS Bulletin, New Series No. 7, 1976. A group from Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia, has conducted some research in the area.
Hierapolis is a city famous for its hot mineral springs and terraced travertine formations. Tradition associates this city with Philip. It is not clear whether Philip the apostle, or Philip the evangelist is intended. See here for more information and photos. A colonnaded street and the Arch of Domitian (emperor A.D. 81-96) was erected by Julius Frontinus, proconsul of Asia about A.D. 82-83. The book of Revelation was written about the time of Domitian’s death.
The colonnaded street and Arch of Domitian, Roman Emperor (A.D. 81-96), erected by Julius Frontinus, proconsul of Asia about A.D. 82-83. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
Papias (about A.D. 60 to A.D. 130) was a disciple of the apostle John and a companion of Polycarp. Fragments of his writings about the apostles survive in Irenaeus and Eusebius. He is said to have been Bishop of Hierapolis. Eusebius (active about A.D. 185), tells us that Papias wrote as follows:
Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him.
Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia. (Euseius, Against Heresies III.1.1)
Paul commended Epaphras for his labor on behalf of all of the churches of the Lycus River valley.
For I testify for him that he has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis. (Colossians 4:13).
The photo is suitable for use in presentations for teaching.
After the Parthians destroyed Maresha (40 B.C.), the city moved to a nearby village known as Bet (or Beth, or Beit) Guvrin. In A.D. 200, the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus established a Roman city and named it Eleutheropolis (A. Kloner, The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, I:195). Murphy-O’Connor says, “The prosperity of the city at this period is underlined by an oval amphitheatre.”
Aerial view of Bet Guvrin (Eleutheropolis). The amphitheater is located at the bottom of the left top corner of the photo. Highway 35 is on the right. Some ruins of Eleutheropolis can be seen on the south side (right) of the highway. If you have traveled in this area you may have stopped at the small gas station for a snack or a bite of lunch. The small road in the upper right corner leads to the entry to Maresha and the caves. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins in April, 2016.
Marble bust of Emperor Septimius Severus (A.D. 193-211) displayed in Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
Before I move to the idea of a pandemic I should say that I really enjoy the artwork used in so many of Israel’s national parks. I even use one from the city of Avedat as the header for this blog.
There were plagues in the Roman Empire. The popular article by Caroline Wazer in The Atlantic discusses “The Plagues That Might Have Brought Down the Roman Empire” (March 16, 2016).
When Leon Mauldin and I visited the excavated ruins at Bet Guvrin in 2017 we enjoyed seeing many of the cutout figures adorning the ancient ruins. There were leaders from the Roman, Byzantine, Crusader, and the Mamluk period welcoming us.
Loosen your mind and let it fly as we enter this Israeli National Park, imagining there is a pandemic. I wanted to be friendly. At first I thought the soldier was welcoming me, but I think now that he may have been saying “stay two meters” from me. If we can’t control this thing we may have to begin wearing masks. None of us want that.”
Ferrell Jenkins with a Roman Soldier at Bet Guvrin. Photo by Leon Mauldin.
As we approach the Roman amphitheater we observe that those still willing to gather in public are social distancing as they approach the entry.
The Amphitheater at Bet Guvrin has been decorated to remind us of the Roman period. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
Some fans can not resist giving their opinion to the others around them.
One fan turns to the other and asks if the monkey has been tested. The man behind wonders if he has been washed. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
The amphitheater has been reconstructed with seating for various modern performances.
Inside the amphitheater we noticed that almost everyone was social distancing. We felt better about deciding to attend. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
The gladiators are fighting viciously but still keeping their distance.
Even the gladiators keep their distance. Getting the virus could be worse than the sword or trident. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
In a future post I plan to show you how the pandemic is affecting the archaeological work at the site.
When we are once again allowed to travel to Israel I think you may want to visit Bet Guvrin.
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.
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.
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 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.
The prophet Jeremiah was was from the little town of Anathoth northeast of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 1:1). We still lack certainty regarding the specific location of the town, but the name lives on today in the Arab town of Anata.
It is difficult to get a good photo of the hillside town of Anata. I think my photo from several years ago was made from a bus traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho along Highway 1. It was back when some tourist buses still had windows that would let down a few inches at the top. I asked the driver if he could slow down some to give me the opportunity to make a photo.
Jeremiah’s town may be buried somewhere under this village or nearby. The photo is suitable for use in visual presentations.
Anata, an Arab town on the eastern slope of the central mountain range. View to the north. The town of Anata derives it name from the biblical site of Anathoth, the home of the prophet Jeremiah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
The stork is listed among the unclean birds in Leviticus 11:19 and Deuteronomy 14:18. The Psalmist says, “the stork has her home in the fir trees” (Psalm 104:17.
I have not seen a stork nest in a fir tree, but I have often seen them on the top of electric poles, chimneys, and ruined columns.
These storks are building a nest on the top of an old brick column at Kovanlik, Turkey. This photo was made yards away from the beginning of the Via Sebaste or Imperial Road that leads northeast across the mountains from the Pamphylian coastal plain to the Anatolian plateau. The approximate location is 37 10.4234N, 30 35.875E. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins
The prophet Jeremiah uses the faithfulness of the stork as it moves from one continent to another and then returns as an illustration of the faithfulness not seen in the people of the LORD.
Even the stork in the heavens knows her times, and the turtledove, swallow, and crane keep the time of their coming, but my people know not the rules of the LORD. (Jeremiah 8:7 ESV)
I have seen this played out repeatedly in my travels in Israel and Turkey. The storks fly from Europe and other northern climes to Africa in the fall of the year. The Great Rift provides the way for them to navigate through Syria and Israel/Jordan.
This is a composite photo showing a stork in the Jordan Valley and a sunrise over the Golan Heights. Photos by Ferrell Jenkins.
The prophet Zechariah also uses the wingspan of the stork as an illustration. In one of his visions he says,
Then I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, two women coming forward! The wind was in their wings. They had wings like the wings of a stork, and they lifted up the basket between earth and heaven. (Zechariah 5:9 ESV)
The Keren Kayemeth Leisrael JNF website provides good information about storks, and other birds, in the Hulah valley here. Here is another nice site with information about storks and some good photos.
HT: Dr. Mark Wilson, author of Biblical Turkey, who gave the directions of the Via Sebaste mentioned with the first photo to Leon Mauldin and me. An article by Mark R. Fairchild in BAR includes a map showing two possible routes from Perga in Pampylia to Pisidian Antioch. The caption with the map suggests the Via Sebaste as possibly being used by Paul, but Dr. Fairchild does not think Paul would have traveled that way. Nonetheless it is possible that Paul might have used this route in one direction or the other, more likely on the return. (Fairchild, Mark R. “Why Perga?” Biblical Archaeology Review 39.6 (2013): 53–59.)
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 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).
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.
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.
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