Tag Archives: Jesus

The Jesus Tomb Unmasked

unmasked_thumbExpedition Bible has produced a high-quality DVD entitled The Jesus Tomb Unmasked. This is an expose of the Discovery Channel “documentary” about the Talpiot Tomb. You remember the claim that this was the tomb of Jesus and his wife Mary. The Jesus Tomb Unmasked may be ordered as a DVD, or watched online free. Information here.

The film features several of the scholars who were quoted in the Discovery Channel film. In this film they say their comments were taken out of context in The Lost Tomb of Jesus.

HT: Todd Bolen, BiblePlaces Blog.

A place called Gethsemane

Gethsemane is a place well known in the minds of Christians, for according to the Gospels it was there that Jesus prayed alone to the Father before his arrest and trial. The word Gethsemane means oil-press. It is the name of an olive orchard on the Mount of Olives. Not many olive trees remain on the mountain originally named for them. This photo was made in the modern Garden at the Church of All Nations.

Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Take time to meditate on the events of that night.

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.” And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”

And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more.

Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.  “Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!” (Matthew 26:36-46 NASu)

The Way of the Cross – Via Dolorosa

Numerous events from the last day prior to the crucifixion of Jesus are recorded in the New Testament (Matthew 26-27; Mark 14-15; Luke 22-23; John 18-19). As early as Byzantine times Christians began to follow the final steps of Jesus on specified days. Over the centuries many changes were made in the route and the stops. The traditional Via Dolorosa, as known today, was fixed in the 18th century.

Jerome Murphy-O’Connor says,

The Via Dolorosa is defined by faith, not by history. (The Holy Land, 5th edition, 37)

He continues,

The present Way of the Cross has little chance of corresponding to hsitorical reality… (38)

According to tradition, the third station of the cross is where Jesus falls the first time under His cross. It sounds reasonable, but the Gospels make no specific mention of this.

Roman period street near 3rd station of the cross. Photo by F. Jenkins.

Roman period street near 3rd station of the cross. Photo by F. Jenkins.

This photo shows the street in front of the third station. The plaque in Hebrew, Arabic and English provides the following information about the street.

Paving stones, apparently from the Second Temple Period (ca. 100 B.C.C. – 100 C.E.). The street was found in its entirety 3 meters below the existing level and was partially restored by the Municipality of Jerusalem … 1980-1981.

This means that the street Jesus might have walked is at least 10 feet below the present street level.

The monastery of the Gerasene swine

Stephen G. Rosenberg, senior fellow of the W. F. Albright Institute of Archeological Research in Jerusalem, has an article about the monastery of the Gerasene swine in The Jerusalem Post here. Take a look.

This site, located on a hill above the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, marks the traditional site of the miracle of the swine running down the steep cliff into the sea.

When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs. They were so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way. And they cried out, saying, “What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” Now there was a herd of many swine feeding at a distance from them. The demons began to entreat Him, saying, “If You are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.” And He said to them, “Go!” And they came out and went into the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the waters. The herdsmen ran away, and went to the city and reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs. And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region. (Matthew 8:28-34 NAS)

The article by Rosenberg points out that this would have been the land of Geshur in Old Testament times. David was married to Maacah, “the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur” (2 Samuel 3:3). Maacah was the mother of Absalom. The Bible points out that Absalom spent three years in exile after killing Amnon.

Rosenberg says,

Geshur is well-known from the Bible. King David married Maacah, the princess of Geshur, in the early years of his reign. That will have been for political reasons, to ensure a security pact with Geshur, which could shield David from the power of Aram (Syria) to the north, but this lady must have been powerfully beautiful as well. Her two children by David, Tamar and Absalom, are both described as being unusually good-looking. Tamar was “beautiful” and as for Absalom, “there was none in Israel to be so much praised for his beauty.”

Remember that the excavators of et-Tell like to identify it as Old Testament Geshur and New Testament Bethsaida. The sites are not far apart and both belonged in the general region of Geshur.

This photo of the basilica, made of black basalt with white limestone columns, was made last August. This site provides a wonderful view west across the Sea of Galilee.

The basilica at Kursi. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The basilica at Kursi. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Murphy-O’Connor says this has been a place of pilgrimage since the fifth century A.D. He suggests the name of the place, Kursi, “is possibly a dialectical deformation” of Chorazin. (The Holy Land).

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

Green pastures and quiet waters

Psalm 23 is one of the best known and most loved chapters of the Bible. In it David describes his relationship to the LORD under the analogy of a sheep and his shepherd.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:1-4 NIV)

This Psalm  describes one of the common scenes in certain parts of the Middle East. Our photo was made in the mountains of ancient Urartu (Ararat) in eastern Turkey. Notice especially the green pastures and the quiet waters.

A shepherd provides green pastures and quiet water for his sheep. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A shepherd provides green pastures and quiet water for his sheep. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jesus called Himself the “good shepherd” (John 10:11, 14). Jesus wants the same of elders or overseers in the local church, and He reminds them that it is God’s flock and that He is the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4).

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed:  Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers– not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve;  not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:1-3 NIV)

Good shepherds serve God’s flock willingly to provide food, care, and protection for the sheep. The concept of “lording it over” the flock or “domineering” is foreign to the spirit of a good shepherd. Overseers lead the flock by their example of godliness.

The shepherd and his sheep

Scenes typical of biblical times are common Jordan, Turkey, and portions of the West Bank of Palestine today. There are some differences, of course.

We were traveling between Diyarbakir and Sanliurfa, Turkey, in early June. Several farmers were harvesting their grain using modern combines.

Harvesting grain in Eastern Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Harvesting grain in Eastern Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

As quickly as the combine passed by, the shepherds brought in the sheep to feed.

The sheep/shepherd analogy was used by Jesus to describe His relationship to His disciples.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11 ESV)

When Paul spoke to the elders of the Ephesian church he instructed them “to shepherd the church of God” (Acts 20:28 NAS). I note that the ESV uses the term care instead of shepherd to translate the Greek poimaino. That certainly conveys the right idea.

Shepherds care for their sheep in Eastern Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Shepherds care for their sheep in Eastern Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Peter instructed elders to “shepherd the flock of God among you” (1 Peter 5:2). The NET Bible says, “Give a shepherd’s care to God’s flock among you.” Lest these men who have been appointed to this work be elevated in their own importance, Peter added,

And do not lord it over those entrusted to you, but be examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:3 NET)

not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:3 ESV)

J. B. Phillips, in his translation of this text, used a vivid phrase to illustrate the overreaching of some elders:

You should aim not at being “little tin gods” but as examples of Christian living in the eyes of the flock committed to your charge. And then, when the chief shepherd reveals himself, you will receive that crown of glory which cannot fade.

Longest underground Roman aqueduct

A recent article in Spiegel Online reports on the discovery of “The Ancient World’s Longest Underground Aqueduct.”

Roman engineers chipped an aqueduct through more than 100 kilometers of stone to connect water to cities in the ancient province of Syria. The monumental effort took more than a century, says the German researcher who discovered it.

When the Romans weren’t busy conquering their enemies, they loved to waste massive quantities of water, which gurgled and bubbled throughout their cities. The engineers of the empire invented standardized lead pipes, aqueducts as high as fortresses, and water mains with 15 bars (217 pounds per square inch) of pressure.

In the capital alone there were thousands of fountains, drinking troughs and thermal baths. Rich senators refreshed themselves in private pools and decorated their gardens with cooling grottos. The result was a record daily consumption of over 500 liters of water per capita (Germans today use around 125 liters).

However, when the Roman legions marched into the barren region of Palestine, shortly before the birth of Christ, they had to forgo the usual splashing about, at least temporarily. It was simply too dry.

The article by Matthias Schulz says,

This colossal waterworks project supplied the great cities of the ‘Decapolis’ – a league originally consisting of 10 ancient communities — with spring water. The aqueduct ended in Gadara, a city with a population of approximately 50,000. According to the Bible, this is where Jesus exorcized demons and chased them into a herd of pigs.

The full story may be read here. There are some nice photos and diagrams.

The identification of the “country of the Gadarenes” (Matthew 8:28-34), and the “country of the Gerasenes” (Mark 5:1; Luke 8:26-39), and the exact place where the swine rushed down the steep cliff into the Sea, is a difficult one.  And I don’t have the time to work on it today.

View of Sea of Galilee from Umm Queis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View of Sea of Galilee from Umm Queis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

We know that Gadara had a port on the Sea of Galilee, and that Roman coins of the city portrayed ships.

Here is a photo of the Roman theater of Umm Queis. The earliest buildings of this city are made of basalt, the volcanic rock common in the area.

The basalt theater at Umm Queis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The basalt theater at Umm Queis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

HT: Joe Lauer