Tag Archives: Book of Acts

Acts 27 #2 — Did Paul dock at Cnidus (Knidos)? — Photo Illustration

Paul’s voyage to Rome, as it is often called, was actually a trip as a prisoner on a variety of ships from Caesarea Maritima to Puteoli in Italy (Acts 27:1 – 28:13. The trip westward from Myra, on the Mediterranean coast, took the ship near Cnidus (also spelled Knidos) (Acts 27:6-7).

We sailed slowly for many days and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus. Because the wind prevented us from going any farther, we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone. (Acts 27:7 NET)

Mark Wilson says,

Paul would have passed within sight of Cnidus on his return to Jerusalem during his second and third journeys, possibly even stopping at the city (Acts 18:21-22; 21:1). The grain ship upon which Paul was traveling on his captivity voyage to Rome encountered fierce head winds as it tacked westward along the coast of Asia Minor. It is not clear if Paul’s ship was able to make port in Cnidus’ commercial harbor, but the sailing conditions probably prevented it (Acts 27:7). — Biblical Turkey, 192.

A British archaeologist excavated at Cnidus in 1957-59. A colossal marble lion that once rested on a monumental tomb was taken to the British Museum where it is displayed in the Queen Elizabeth II Great Court. The lion dates to the late 4th-early 3rd century B.C.

Colossal marble lion from Cnidus. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Colossal marble lion from Cnidus. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The sign in the British Museum informs us that,

This lion crowned a monumental tomb at the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea. The hollow eyes were probably inset with glass to catch the light.

Did Paul see this lion? More than likely, I think, during the return from the second and third journeys.

The map below shows the location of Cos, Cnidus, Rhodes and Patara. Click the image for a higher resolution.

Map showing Cnidus, Rhodes, and Patara. Made with Bible Mapper 4.

Map showing Cnidus, Rhodes, and Patara. Made with Bible Mapper 4.

Acts 9 & 11 — Photo Illustrations: Tarsus in Cilicia – home of Saul (Paul)

Tarsus in Cilicia was Paul’s native home, described as “no insignificant city” (Acts 9:11; 21:39; 22:3). The city had been important historically. Located near the Mediterranean on the River Cydnus, about 30 miles from the famous Cilician Gates, it was a fortified city and trade center as early as 2000 B.C. It had been captured by the Assyrian kings, Shalmaneser III (833 B.C.) and Sennacherib (698 B.C.), and had seen the likes of Alexander the Great and Cleopatra.

Roman Road at Tarsus in Cilicia. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman Road at Tarsus in Cilicia. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tarsus was important commercially. Ancient writers mention the linen woven here from flax which grew in the fertile plain. A material called cilicium was woven from goat’s hair and used to make coverings which would protect against cold and wet. The city was also culturally important. Strabo describes the people as being avid in the pursuit of culture. Tarsus was a university town and noted as the home of several well-known philosophers, especially of the Stoic school. Barclay says:

“If a man was destined to be a missionary to the world at large, there was no better place in all the east for him to grow to manhood than in Tarsus” (The Mind of Paul, 25-26).

After Hellenistic Jews in Jerusalem sought to put Saul to death, the brethren sent him off to Tarsus.

And he was talking and arguing with the Hellenistic Jews; but they were attempting to put him to death. But when the brethren learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus. (Acts 9:29-30 NAU)

When Barnabas was overwhelmed in the work at Antioch, he went to Tarsus to look for Saul. Saul came to Antioch with Barnabas and they taught a large number of people (Acts 11:25-26).

Acts 10 — Photo Illustrations

Joppa (Yafo, Jaffa) is about 35 miles northwest of Jerusalem on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Yafo is on the south side of Tel Aviv.

Joppa has a history dating back to the 15th century B.C. when it is mentioned in the town lists of Pharaoh Thutmose III.

In this post I will limit my comments to some of the significant events of the Book of Acts related to Joppa.

  • Tabitha (Dorcas) lived in Joppa. When she died the disciples sent for Peter who was a Lydda. He came to Joppa and raised Dorcas (Acts 9:36-42). (Acts 10:6).
  • Peter stayed many days in Joppa with Simon the tanner (Acts 9:43). His house was by the sea (Acts 10:6). A house near the port is shown as the house of Simon, but there is no way to know this with certainty.
  • Peter received the housetop vision and learned that he was to go to Caesarea to preach the gospel to the Gentiles at the house of the Roman centurion Cornelius (Acts 10:23).

On one of the narrow streets of Joppa is a fairly modern house identified as the House of Simon the Tanner. Directly behind the house stands the lighthouse standing watch over the harbor. We take claims like this one with a grain of salt. But I often tell members of my tour groups, “It may not have been here, but it was not far from here.”

The traditional house of Simon the Tanner at Joppa. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The traditional house of Simon the Tanner at Joppa. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

At least some houses during Bible times were build with a flat roof which could serve some practical uses. In the case of Peter it provided a good place to pray and to fall into a trance.

Paul and the Nabatean ruler Aretas IV

Luke’s account of the conversion of Saul and his subsequent time in Damascus records the nighttime escape from the city.

When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him,  but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.  (Acts 9:23-25 ESV)

A modern chapel built into the old city wall marks a spot where this might have happened. Tradition calls it St. Paul’s Window.

St. Paul's Window in Damascus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

St. Paul’s Window in Damascus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul provides historical context for this event.

At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me,  but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands. (2 Corinthians 11:32-33 ESV)

Paul says that the governor (literally ethnarch) under Aretas the king was guarding the city. Aretas IV was a Nabatean ruler whose jurisdiction, in some way, extended to Damascus. The king, whose rule extended from 9 B.C. to A.D. 40, was father-in-law to Herod Antipas. This chronological note lets us know that Saul’s conversion was prior to A.D. 40.

Sometimes one gets lucky when visiting certain sites or museums. My last visit to the Vatican Museum in Rome provided a nice surprise. A Nabatean tomb inscription mentioning Aretas was on display in a special exhibit.

Nabatean inscription mentioning King Aretas. Vatican Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Nabatean inscription mentioning King Aretas. Vatican Museum. Photo: Ferrell Jenkins.

A friend in Pisa, Italy, Dr. Arrigo Corazza, has provided me with a quick translation of the Latin sign underneath the inscription:

NABATEAN SEPULCHRAL INSCRIPTION REFERRING TO THE 46th YEAR OF THE KING ARETAS (37 AD), WHO IS QUOTED BY THE APOSTLE PAUL (WHO CONVERTED AROUND THIS TIME).

For those who may have forgotten, the Nabateans were responsible for the beautiful temples and tombs we see when we visit Petra.

Acts 9 — Photo Illustrations

Damascus is first mentioned in the Bible at the time of Abraham (Gen. 14:15; 15:2-3). As the capital of Syria, the city had much contact with the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.

All of the New Testament references to Damascus are related to the conversion of Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9; 22; 26; 2 Cor. 11:32; Gal. 1:17). Saul had participated in the stoning of Stephen and was active in the persecution of the disciples of Christ in Jerusalem. He asked the high priest for authority to go to Damascus and seek out men and women who belonged to the Way and bring them bound to Jerusalem.

The Lord appeared to Saul as he approached Damascus and told him to go into the city where he would be told what he must do (Acts 9:6). Saul stayed at a house on the street called Straight. Ananias came to him and told him to arise and be baptized so that his sins might be washed away (Acts 22:16; 9:18). Saul stayed with the disciples for several days and immediately began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues as the Son of God (9:20).

The photo below is one I made on Straight Street in 2002. This is not the main shopping street in the old city, but is historically significant.

The street called Straight in Damascus (the Via Recta). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The street called Straight in Damascus (the Via Recta). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The street called Straight (Acts 9:11), the ancient Via Recta of the Roman city, now lies about 20 feet below the present street which runs the length of the old city, east to west. At the east end of the street a Roman gate has been elevated to the present level and partially restored.

Roman arch at the east end of Straight Street. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman arch at the east end of Straight Street. Some of the stone work on the left of the central arch is original. The gate is now called Bab Sharki (Eastern Gate). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A small monumental arch, pictured below, can be seen near the middle of the Via Recta.

Roman Gate on Straight Street in Damascus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman Gate on Straight Street in Damascus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Note: This post is repeated, with editing, from Sept. 26, 2008 where it was entitled “Saul (Paul) in Damascus.” Another post on Damascus and Paul may be read here.

Acts 8 — An Ethiopian

So he [Philip] got up and went; and there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship, (Acts 8:27 NAU)

Where was Ethiopia in the first century? One might immediately think of the modern country of Ethiopia. And, I am certain that many modern Ethiopians might think so.

Nubia Today. Wikipedia Commons.

Nubia Today. Wikipedia Commons.

By checking numerous reliable sources, it becomes obvious that the terms Ethiopia in Acts 8 describes the ancient kingdom of Meroë. It was also known as Cush and Nubia in ancient times.

The ETHIOPIA referred to here is not the modern country of the same name but the ancient kingdom of Meroë, which lay along the upper Nile S of Aswan to Khartoum in the Sudan. (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Rev. Vol. 2).

The map of the region of Nubia also shows the 6 cataracts of the Nile from Aswan in Egypt to Khartoum in Sudan.

One of the older sources says that the country we now call Ethiopia took rise about the middle of the first century A.D.

Another kingdom, that of Axum in the mountain region of Abyssinia proper, seems to have taken its rise about the middle of the 1st cent. A.D., but that does not come into view in our present inquiry. (Feltoe, (Hastings) Dictionary of the Apostolic Church).

R. H. Smith, in The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, says,

The place name “Ethiopia” (possibly meaning “land of the people of burnt faces,” i.e., dark skin; cf. Jer 13:23) appears, as such, only once in the Bible (Acts 8:27), but in the LXX it usually translates the Heb kūš (Cush), a name which appears several dozen times in the OT.

Nubian man at Philae Island near Aswan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Nubian man at Philae Island near Aswan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The building of the new Aswan dam by modern Egypt formed Lake Nasser, stretching south from Aswan for about 340 miles into northern Sudan. This made it necessary for the Nubians to be resettled around Aswan. Some of the famous monuments of Abu Simbel were covered by the lake. The Nubians are easily distinguished from the Egyptians because of their dark skin. They (and the Cushites) were distinct in the ancient Egyptian paintings and statuary.

Many of the Nubians have been employed in the tourism business. I wonder how they are surviving since the recent revolution.

Can the Ethiopian change his skin Or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good Who are accustomed to doing evil. (Jeremiah 13:23 NAU)

The distance from Jerusalem to Ethiopia could be as much as 1500 miles. Quite a trip in a chariot.

Check the posts about Aswan here, and one about the Nubians here.

Acts 8 — Photo Illustrations

Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel, was well known in Old Testament times. In New Testament times the term Samaria seems to be used of a region. See Luke 17:11; John 4:4-7; Acts 1:8; 8:1,9,14; 9:31; 15:3.

The city of Samaria had been rebuilt by Herod the Great and named Sebaste in honor of the Emperor Augustus. Whether Acts 8:5 has in mind Sebaste or some other city of the region of Samaria is impossible to determine with certainty.

Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. (Acts 8:5 ESV)

If we follow the reading “the city of Samaria” we might properly think of Sebaste. There is strong manuscript evidence for this reading. Some manuscripts omit the definite article (the). This would allow the translation we find in the Christian Standard Bible:

Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. (Acts 8:5 CSB)

For the moment I am going to assume that Philip went to the city known as Samaria in Old Testament times, and Sebaste in New Testament times.

Herod the Great built a temple to Augustus with a monumental staircase over the palace area of the Israelite kingdom. The temple was destroyed, but later rebuilt along the same plan by Septimius Severus (emperor, A.D. 193-211). The monumental staircase still stands at the top of the tell.

Samaria - Site of Augustus Temple built by Herod the Great. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Site of Augustus Temple built by Herod the Great at Samaria. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In addition to the ruins of the temple, other Roman remains at Samaria include a stadium, a forum, a small theater, and a long colonnaded street.

This photo shows a portion of the ruins of the forum and mountains surrounding Samaria.

Samaria-Sebaste Forum ruins. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Samaria-Sebaste Forum ruins. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Everything we have seen that was build by Herod the Great is magnificent, even in ruins. Samaria-Sebaste would have been no exception.

Acts 7 — Photo Illustrations

In the speech recorded in Acts 7, Stephen speaks of “the tabernacle of testimony in the wilderness” which God commanded Moses to make according to the pattern he had been given (7:44; cf. Exodus 25:9; Hebrews 8:5).

A full size model of the Israelite tabernacle has been constructed in Timna Park, 17 miles north of Eilat. The original tabernacle was built while the Israelites were at Mount Sinai (Exodus 25-40). The tabernacle was a movable tent of worship which was taken each place Israel wandered during the forty years in the wilderness.

The photo below shows the front of the Tabernacle with the altar of burnt offering in front of it.

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

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

When some men from the Synagogue of the Freedmen argued with Stephen, “they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking” (Acts 6:10). They secured false witnesses to say that Stephen has spoken “blasphemous words against Moses and against God” (6:11). They also charged that he constantly speaks against “the holy place and the Law” (6:13-14).

The following brief summary by the late Princeton scholar, Charles R. Erdman, explains Stephen’s argument in a nutshell.

Stephen had been accused of blasphemy for declaring that God could be worshiped without the Temple and its rites; but, in referring to sacred history, he reminded his hearers in his first sentence that “the God of glory appeared unto … Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia”—surely this was outside the Holy Land and the Temple. So he had revealed himself to Joseph in Egypt, and to Moses in the wilderness. Even when the Temple was finally built, Solomon, in his prayer of dedication, had reminded the people that the Most High could not be confined to the precincts of any building [1 Kings 8:27].

Step by step, the revelation of God had become more perfect, and it had reached its culmination in Christ, so Stephen seems to argue: first God revealed himself through a man, and then a family, and then a nation, and then a ceremonial, and finally in his Son. Toward the appearance of the Messiah all Jewish history had moved as to its goal; and now, through Christ, believers can worship God not only in the sacred mountain and the Temple, but wherever they turn to him “in spirit and truth.” God has a message for each of us even when surrounded by pagans and unbelievers, as Abraham in Mesopotamia; or when imprisoned and alone, as was Joseph in Egypt; or when driven into some wilderness by presumption and anger, as was Moses; or when worshiping by some ritual, as in the tabernacle; or when bowing beneath the beauties of some superb tabernacle, as did Solomon. However, all our experiences should be interpreted as designed to point us to Christ, and to lead us to find fellowship with God in him.

Acts 6 — Photo Illustrations

Acts 6 records the selection of seven devout men to tend a need that has arisen among the new disciples of Christ. The function of these men seems similar to that of those later referred to as deacons (Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8ff.).

One of these men, Stephen, had a leading role in the spread of the word and the resultant obedience to the faith by many. Even priests were becoming obedient to the faith. But there was opposition which eventually led to the stoning of Stephen.

Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen.  (Acts 6:9 ESV)

These Freedmen were liberated slaves (“Former Slaves” in the CEB). The term Libertines used in the KJV and the ASV probably leaves the wrong impression to a modern reader.

An inscription was discovered by French Archaeologist Raymond Weill in 1914 (some say 1913) in the area of the hill of Ophel or the City of David, south of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

The inscription is known as the Theodotus Inscription. Theodotus was the name of the priest and synagogue ruler whose name is the first word of the inscription. It is 25″ wide and 17″ high. This synagogue was for the use of Jews of the Diaspora when they visited Jerusalem. Saul of Tarus in Cilicia was probably comfortable among those who assembled there.

Herschel Shanks says this synagogue,

“is one of the most dramatic archaeological finds of the century. Like the Masada synagogue, it serves to confirm rather than to challenge our expectations regarding the existence of pre-destruction synagogues. For the Talmud tells us that before the Roman destruction of the Temple there were 394 synagogues in Jerusalem and gives us much the same picture of the synagogue as the one offered by the Jerusalem synagogue inscription. (Judaism in Stone: The Archaeology of Ancient Synagogues, 20)

Theodotos Inscription from Synagogue of Freedmen. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Theodotos Inscription from Synagogue of Freedmen. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This inscription was formerly displayed in the Rockefeller Museum, but is now exhibited in the Israel Museum. Click on the image for a larger one.

The translation of the Greek inscription reads as follows:

“Theodotus son of Vettenus, priest and synagogue leader, son of a synagogue leader, grandson of a synagogue leader, rebuilt this synagogue for the reading of the Law and the teaching of the commandments, and the hostelry, rooms and baths, for the lodging of those who have need from abroad. It was established by his forefathers, the elders and Simonides.” (Shanks, BAR, July/Aug 2003.)

The phrase “synagogue leader” which is used three times in the inscription is the Greek term archisunagogos. Luke uses the same term three times in his history of the early church (Acts 13:15; 18:8; 18:17). In each case he is writing about a synagogue leader of the Diaspora Jews.

Acts 5 — Photo Illustrations

The temple held a central place in the early days of the church. The gospel was preached to the large number of Jews from “every nation under heaven” in the temple precinct. After their acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Christ, the disciples continued “in the temple” (Acts 2:5; 2:46).

Twice in Acts it is recorded that the followers of Jesus met in Solomon’s Portico.

Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. (Acts 5:12) ESV)

The Greek word for portico or porch is stoa. The term is used in Acts 3:11; 5:12; John 5:2; 10:23. BDAG says it is used of,

a roofed colonnade open normally on one side, portico.

During a winter visit to Jerusalem at the time of the Feast of Dedication, Jesus “was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon” (John 10:23).

Second Temple Model showing porticoes around the perimeter of the Temple precinct. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Notice porticoes around the perimeter of the temple precinct. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This photo provides a better view of some of the Royal Portico on the south side of the temple platform (left). The other portico is on the west side. Solomon’s Portico is hidden by the wall on the east side.

Second Temple Model showing Porticoes. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Second Temple Model showing Porticoes. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Each portico was formed by two rows of columns and was 49 feet wide. These “lent great splendor and majesty to the lofty Mount and served also – the royal Portico in particular – as the gathering place for great assemblies” (Mazar, The Mountain of the Lord, 124). Fragments of these gigantic monolithic columns (27 ft. high; 4.6 ft. in diameter) have been uncovered during the Temple Mount excavations directed by Professor Mazar.

The Royal Portico was built by Herod along the southern end of the Temple courts and is described by Josephus as deserving to be mentioned above any under the sun (Antiquities 15.11.5).

Solomon’s Colonnade or Portico ran along the eastern portion of the outer court of the temple precincts.