Tag Archives: Book of Revelation

John was “on the island called Patmos”

John, the writer of the book of Revelation, was “on the island called Patmos, because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (Rev 1:9). I am convinced that this was the apostle John. He was there because of (Greek dia, on account of) the word of God. Filson says this could mean either banishment, or banishment to hard labor. He points out that the word of God and witness or testimony are used in Revelation 6:9 and 20:4 “in reference to a persecution situation” (Interpreter’s Dictionary Bible III:677).

The Romans used the island as a penal settlement to which they sent political agitators and others who threatened the peace of the empire (Tacitus Annals 3.68; 4.30; 15.71). According to Eusebius, John was banished to Patmos by the Emperor Domitian, A. D. 95, and released 18 months later under Nerva (HE III.18.1; 20.8-9).

View of the port of Skala from Chora. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View of the port of Skala from the monastery at Chora. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Patmos is a rocky island off the west coast of Asia Minor in the Aegean Sea, about 37 miles southwest of Miletus. The island is one of the Dodecanese (twelve) or of the Southern Sporades. It is about 10 miles long (N–S) and 6 miles wide at the north end, and consists of about 22 square miles of land area. The island is mountainous and of irregular outline. Some visitors to the island have suggested that the natural scenery “determined some features of the imagery of the Apocalypse” (HDB III:693-94).

Patmos has been a part of Greece since 1947, and may be reached by boat from Piraeus, Samos, Kos, or Rhodes. The ferry from Samos takes about 2 1/2 hours, arriving at the port of Skala. Some cruise ships sail from Kusadasi, Turkey, to Patmos.

On the way from Skala to Chora, the only other town on the island, one passes the Monastery and Cave of the Apocalypse. This site is marked as the traditional place where John received the Revelation.

At Chora, the monastery of St. John the Theologian dominates the island. It was built by a monk called Christodulos (slave of Christ) in A. D. 1088. The monastery library is noted for its manuscripts, but especially for its collection of more than 200 icons. The oldest book in the library is part of a 6th century codex of Mark (Codex Purpureus). The second oldest manuscript is an 8th century A. D. copy of Job.

Bell tower on the Monastery of St. John the Theologian at Chora. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Bell tower on Monastery of St. John the Theologian at Chora. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Huge columns said to be 1900-years-old found buried at Laodicea

Hurriyet Daily News reported today the discovery of a large number of “1,900-year-old huge columns” at Laodicea.

Excavations in the Aegean province of Denizli’s ancient city of Laodicea have revealed 1,900-year-old huge columns seven meters underground. The columns were found in the area known as the northern agora, one of the oldest faith centers in Anatolia.

The head of the excavations, Professor Celal Şimşek, said the northern agora had been discovered last year and they were continuing restoration and conservation work there. He said the area was one of the largest agoras in Anatolia. “The columned galleries here are in a rectangular shape on an area of 35,000 square meters. We previously revived the columned galleries that we call the eastern porch. This year we found the extension of these columns seven meters underground. They were in the same condition as when an earthquake ruined them. The columns date back to 1,900 years ago. Dust erosion and residue have filled the earth here and preserved the columns.”

Şimşek said their goal was to finish the excavations by the end of the year and to revive the columns in the beginning of the next year. He said the ancient city of Laodicea had served as a religious center.

“When the columned galleries are completely unearthed, there will be a very nice touring area. Tourists will have the chance to see traces from the past up close.”

A nice gallery of photos illustrate the article. One is a drawing showing how the area may have looked before being destroyed by earthquake. We are given no hint how the age of the columns was determined and whether the earthquake that felled them was also about 1,900 years old. Mark Wilson says,

Because of earthquakes the city was rebuilt numerous times during its history. A devastating earthquake during the reign of Focas (AD 602-10) finally caused the site to be abandoned. The residents founded a new city called Ladik, now the Kaleiçi district of Denizli. — Biblical Turkey, 247.

Laodicea is mentioned only in Paul’s epistle to the Colossians (2:1; 4:13-16) and in the Book of Revelation (1:11; 3:14). Paul says that Epaphras worked diligently for the saints in Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis. These were cities of the Lycus River valley.

We have visited Laodicea several times over the years and been delighted with the archaeological reconstruction underway. The city should be on everyone’s list of “must see” sites of Turkey. Turkey has approximately 1100 historical sites, and the country has made considerable progress in preparing some of them for visitors. Use the search box on this blog to locate previous entries about Laodicea.

Tourists on the Syrian Street at Laodicea. Colossae is located at the foot of Mount Cadmus, seen in the distance to the east. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tourists on the Syrian Street at Laodicea. Colossae is located at the foot of Mount Cadmus, seen in the distance to the east. Hierapolis is to the north (our left as we view the photo). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

Locusts video from Israel

Recently we mentioned the plague of locusts that devastated crops in Egypt. The southern portion of Israel might have been affected except for the effective use of pesticides.

When Joel Kramer, Executive Director of SourceFlix, learned that the locusts were in the southern part of Israel he drove from Jerusalem through the Negev and wilderness to photograph the locusts near the Egyptian border. He shares this with us in a high quality video here.

Joel includes wording from the book of Exodus 10 to remind us of the biblical plague of locusts in the time of Moses.

The writer of Proverbs describes the locusts this way:

 the locusts have no king, yet all of them march in rank; (Proverbs 30:27 ESV)

In studying the book of Revelation, I am impressed at the way in which locust plagues, which were (and still are) common in the Middle East, are used in the sounding of the fifth trumpet (Revelation 9:1-11). The comparison between the locusts and a literal army in their movement and damage is impressive.

 In appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces,
8 their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth;
9 they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle.
10 They have tails and stings like scorpions, and their power to hurt people for five months is in their tails. (Revelation 9:7-10 ESV)

HT: Bible Places Blog.

Restoration of historic sections of Izmir (biblical Smyrna)

Izmir is looking for local input on a restoration plan of the historic areas of Kadifekale and the agora.

On my last visit to Izmir I could see new work underway, especially in the area of the agora. The city now is developing a plan to restore an area of the city to make it more desirable for local citizens as well as tourists.

An article in Hurriyet Daily News (here) reports,

Municipal authorities in İzmir are calling for public participation amid an ambitious new project to redevelop some of the Aegean province’s most famous tourists sites in a bid to draw more visitors.

“We want to share ideas with scientists and the residents of İzmir. If we cannot get the support of citizens, it will not be possible to realize this project,” İzmir Metropolitan Mayor Aziz Kocaoğlu said.

Our first photo shows a portion of the Roman agora. The arches which appear to be at ground level are actually the lower level of a two-story building.

The Roman agora of Izmir, biblical Smyrna. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Roman agora of Izmir, biblical Smyrna. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The second photo was made from the agora, with a view of Kadifekale. The word Kadifekale means velvet castle. In ancient times this hill was called Mount Pagos. The article mentions plans to include a restored area on the mountain, including the theater which was built on the hillside. Mark Wilson says the ancient theater, now build over by houses, seated 16,000 persons (Biblical Turkey, 312).

A view of Kadifekale (Mount Pagos) from the agora. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A view of Kadifekale (Mount Pagos) from the agora. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Smyrna is mentioned in the Bible as the location of one of the Seven Churches addressed in the book of Revelation (the Apocalypse).

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life. (Revelation 2:8 ESV; see also 1:11)

Here’s hoping for a speedy and accurate restoration of the ancient city.
HT: Jack Sasson

Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea, Colossae, and Hierapolis

There were many sites to see today. We left Izmir (Smyrna) in the morning and drove east to the site of ancient Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6). From there we continued to in a southeast direction to Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13). Then we made our way to the Lycus River valley. The first stop was at Colossae (Paul’s epistle to the Colossians). After viewing the ancient mound which still awaits excavation, we went to Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22). On the way to the hotel we stopped for a photo of the cliffs at Pamukkale (ancient Hierapolis, Colossians  4:13). The name Pamukkale means  “cotton castle” or “cotton fortress.”

Mellink describes the formation here. He says the city,

… is famous for its continuing geological transformation. Hot mineral springs issue from the rock in the city, and the waters streaming down the cliffs have deposited limestone in large formations, the surface of which is made a gleaming white ‘frozen cascades’ (IDB II:601).

'Pamukkale 'frozen cascades'. Photomerge by Ferrell Jenkins.

‘Pamukkale ‘frozen cascades’. Photomerge by Ferrell Jenkins.

We could see the white hillside clearly from Laodicea about six miles to the south. The photo above was made just below the cliffs. Hierapolis sits on the plateau. Click on the photo for a larger image.

Nothing has changed in the past few years at Sardis, Philadelphia, and Colossae. A tremendous change is taking place at Laodicea. Portions of the city that had remained buried until the past decade are now coming to light. I was surprised at the changes just in the past four years since I was here. Later on we will try to show you some of these new things.

Tomorrow we plan to visit Hierapolis and Aphrodisias before arriving at Kusadasi on the Aegean Sea near Ephesus.

Everyone in our group remains well and seems to be enjoying the visits and the study time together.

Visiting Pergamum and Thyatira

Today we went north from Izmir (Smyrna) to Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17) where we visited the citadel, the Ascleipion, and the local museum. From there we continued in a southeastly direction to Thyatira before returning to Izmir.

This first photo was made on the acropolis of Pergamum sitting atop a high hill overlooking the territory around it. Sharon, from a previous tour, tries to get a good view of the landscape below.

View from the Acropolis of Thyatira. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View from the Acropolis of Pergamum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

At Pergamum we saw the partially reconstructed Temple of the Emperor Trajan (A.D. 98-117), the area where the famous library of the ancient world stood, the foundation of the temple of Athena, the theater, and the site of the Zeus Altar. The altar has now been reconstructed in the Pergamum Museum in Berlin.

The area of the famous Pergamum library. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The area of the famous Pergamum library. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

When Pergamum could no longer get papyrus sheets from Egypt they developed the writing material called parchment. There are a few shops in the city today (modern Bergama) selling parchment made from goat skin.

Parchment for sale at Bergama. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Parchment for sale at Bergama. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

One interesting difference between our visit to Pergamum today and the last time we visited the site is the addition of a cable car. Buses are no longer allowed to drive to the top of the Acropolis. Visitors take the cable cars to the entrance of the archaeological site.

Cable cars to reach the Acropolis at Pergamum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Cable cars to reach the Acropolis at Pergamum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

There is still little to see at Thyatira. A few scattered ruins can be seen in one square block in the center of the little town of Akhisar. In New Testament times this was the home of Lydia, the seller of purple (Acts 16:14). One of the letters in the Book of Revelation was addressed to the church in the city (Revelation 2:18-29).

I was pleased to see Mark Wilson’s Biblical Turkey: A Guide to Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor, available in a bookshop at Pergamum. Several members of our group who had failed to buy a copy in advance did so today.

Jezreel Valley panorama

The header I am currently using is a panorama composed of three photos I made from the tell of Megiddo. The Jezreel Valley lies before us to the north (and slightly east). Nazareth is located in the mountains of lower Galilee. The valley continues east between the Hill of Moreh and Mount Gilboa to Beth-Shean, the Jordan Valley, and the mountains of Gilead. The valley was known by the Greek name Esdraelon in New Testament times.

Panorama of Jezreel Valley from Megiddo. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Panorama of Jezreel Valley from Megiddo. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Click on the photo for a hi-res image of this great plain for use in teaching. If you prefer a photo without labels, click here.

The vicinity of the Valley of Megiddo (Jezreel/Esdraelon) was the scene of many significant historical battles.

  • Thutmose III of Egypt fought Syrian forces – 1468 B.C.
  • Joshua defeated the King of Megiddo – Joshua 12:21.
  • Deborah and Barak defeated the Kings of Canaan – Judges 5:19.
  • Gideon defeated the Midianites – Judges 7.
  • Saul was defeated by the Philistines – 1 Samuel 28-31.
  • Ahaziah, king of Judah, died there – 2 Kings 9:27.
  • King Josiah was slain in a battle against Pharaoh Neco of Egypt – 2 Kings 23:29-30; 2 Chronicles 35:20-27.

Megiddo, the tell overlooking the valley, became typical of national grief and a symbol of decisive battles, similar to modern Waterloo, the Alamo, or Pearl Harbor. No wonder it provides the symbolism for the decisive battle in Revelation 16.  John’s Greek Har-Magedon becomes the English Armageddon.

The NAU transliterates harmagedon as Har-Magedon. Other English versions use something similar to the ESV.

And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon. (Revelation 16:16 NAU)

And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon. (Revelation 16:16 ESV)

This valley has been significant even in modern times.

  • Napoleon advanced against the Turks in 1799.
  • General Allenby and the British defeated the German-Turkish coalition in 1918.
  • British officer Orde Wingate trained Jewish defense forces in this valley in the 1930s. Later leaders of the War of Independence (1948-1949), including Moshe Dayan and Yigal Alon, were trained by Wingate.

General Allenby read the historical survey about the importance of the valley in G. A. Smith’s Historical Geography prior to his battle against the German-Turkish coalition in 1918. Smith included that battle in later editions of his book.

Earthquakes common in the Bible world

Earthquakes were, and are, common in the Bible world. Earthquakes are common in Iran (Persia), Turkey (Asia Minor), Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan.

The Great Rift runs all the way from northern Syria through Lebanon, Israel, the Arabah, and into eastern Africa. In Israel the area is called the Jordan Valley or the Dead Sea Rift, It is not surprising that earthquakes are mentioned frequently in the Bible. The prophet Amos dates his visions to “two years before the earthquake” (Amos 1:1). The earthquake he makes reference to must have been so memorable that everyone would know what he was talking about. Zechariah (14:5) also calls attention to this earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah.

Jesus, in predicting the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans, said, “and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes” (Matthew 24:7; see Luke 21:11).

About a year and a half ago I wrote about Philadelphia with special attention to the danger of earthquakes here. I suggest you read that post. The letter to the church at Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13) makes an allusion to the events that occur after an earthquake. In the promise to the overcomers the Lord says “I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore (v 12). In the case of earthquakes people stay outside for several days due to the fear of aftershocks. Those who overcome need not fear being toppled, as a pillar might be toppled in the earthquake.

He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name. (Revelation 3:12 NAU)

The archaeological excavations of many Biblical cities throughout Asia Minor, and along the Great Rift, reveal evidence of earthquakes. Some of the gates were built with pieces of timber to absorb the shock from the tremors. The reconstructed gate at Megiddo illustrates this practice.

Megiddo Gate with view of Jezreel Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Megiddo Gate with view of Jezreel Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The same practice is reflected in Scripture in the account of the rebuilding of the temple according to the order of the Persian King Cyrus.

In the first year of Cyrus the king, Cyrus the king issued a decree: Concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, let the house be rebuilt, the place where sacrifices were offered, and let its foundations be retained. Its height shall be sixty cubits and its breadth sixty cubits, with three layers of great stones and one layer of timber. Let the cost be paid from the royal treasury. (Ezra 6:3-4 ESV)

Text and Canon in Providence, RI

For the past few days I have been in Providence, RI, attending meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) and the Near East Archaeological Society (NEAS). The theme for the ETS annual meeting was Text and Canon. I attended the four plenary session papers. These were extremely worthwhile. Here are the topics and speakers:

  • Old Testament Text – Peter J. Gentry
  • Old Testament Canon – Stephen Dempster
  • New Testament Text – Daniel B. Wallace
  • New Testament Canon – Charles E. Hill

Current, scholarly, material on these topics are needed among God’s people today.

I also attend several sessions of the NEAS. I heard Bryant Wood present evidence suggesting that Mount Sinai possibly should be identified with Gebel Khashm et-Tarif, and calling for more research in the area. This site is located about 22 miles north-northwest of the Gulf of Aqaba/Eilat in the Wilderness of Paran on the current Egyptian side of the border. For more information check the Associates for Biblical Research website here.

In one session I heard Rex Geissler present some of the historical evidence for the area of ancient Urartu as the place associated with Noah’s Ark. Rex is president of Archaeological Imaging Research Consortium (ArcImaging). Over at the Biblical Studies Info Page I have several links to good photos by Rex in various parts of the world. You can get to his material at the ArcImaging page.

Bill Crouse presented material to bolster the case for an identification of the landing place of the ark with Mount Cudi in southereastern Turkey. I think Gordan Franz presented material in defense of this view also, but I was unable to be present.

There were two reports on the excavations this year at Tel Gezer in Israel.

Crossway, publisher of the English Standard Version of the Bible, has been sponsoring a special lecture for the past few years. The lecture this year featured Gregory K. Beale of Wheaton College on The Authority of Scripture: A Biblical Theology According to John’s Apocalypse. This was a great paper. Beale is author of The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (New International Greek Testament Commentary). I had heard Beale speak before, but it was a pleasure to hear him again and visit for a few moments. I am honored that my The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation is mentioned in a footnote of this commentary.

Ferrell Jenkins and Gregory K. Beale at ETS Annual Meeting. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Ferrell Jenkins and Gregory K. Beale at ETS Annual Meeting. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The book display at ETS has grown substantially over the years I have been attending the annual meetings(since 1975). The professors and others who attend get an opportunity to buy the recent publications in biblical studies at a sizable discount. I buy very few these days, but I have taken advantage of this opportunity over the years.

Well, its on to Boston for more meetings.

For a Florida guy, I must say that it is cold up here.