Tag Archives: Jesus

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

Jesus lived in Nazareth

This photo of two children was made at the Nazareth Village (a nice place to visit).

Children at the Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Children at the Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

All four Gospels and the book of Acts make a reference to Nazareth as the place where Jesus lived in his early years. This one from the Gospel of Luke is set at a time when Jesus was about 12 years of age (Luke 2:42), and before He was 30 (Luke 3:23).

And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:51-52 ESV)

Healing of the blind man at Bethsaida

There are several accounts in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) of Jesus giving sight to the blind.

  • Two blind men were healed (Matthew 9:27-31).
  • A blind, mute, demon-possessed man was healed by Jesus (Matthew 12:22).
  • Two blind men near Jericho were given sight (Matthew 20:29-34). It may be that the blind beggar named Bartimaeus was one of these (Mark 10:46-52).
  • A blind man was brought to Jesus at Bethsaida and healed (Mark 8:22-25).
  • The man who was blind from birth, and was told to go wash in the pool of Siloam in Jerusalem (John 9).

My eyes have experienced several problems over the past few years. I am fortunate to have received excellent care from a team of competent professionals. Earlier this week I had my first cataract surgery. I have been surprised that most of my friends who knew about the surgery asked “which eye?” I always said, “right,” but I wonder if their response would have been different if I had said “left.”

When you had your cataract surgery I thought it was minor and routine. When I had mine it was more serious! Actually it was not too difficult. I can tell that I see better in the right eye, but I must wait a couple of weeks to see what will be done about the lens I have been wearing before I will know how effective it has been. And then there is the left eye.

Well, all of this got me to thinking about the miracles of Jesus in the healing of the blind. One of the physicians at the clinic where I go has a nice piece of sculpture in his waiting area.

"Miracle of Sight" at Tampa Eye Clinic. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
Miracle of Sight.

I suspect that this sculpture is based on the account of the blind man in John 9. It could possibly be the account of the man at Bethsaida (Mark 8).

Bethsaida is now identified with et-Tell. In with Jesus through Galilee according to the fifth Gospel, the late Bargil Pixner points out that the man was healed in stages. He then says,

The place of the healing near Bethsaida is marked today by a memorial stone on which two eyes have been chiselled, one half-closed and the other open brightly. (page 95)

I had the opportunity to meet Pixner once at Tabgha and have him autograph a copy of his book. I asked him if he knew how long the marker had been at the site. He told me exactly and then added, “I put it there.” You might like to see that memorial stone.

Memorial stone placed at Bethsaida by Bargil Pixner. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
Memorial stone placed at Bethsaida by Bargil Pixner. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Mohammed Ali Mosque in Cairo

Mohammed (or Mohammad) Ali Alabaster Mosque in Cairo. No, not the boxer. He took the same name. Mohammed Ali was an Albanian who played a prominent role in the history of Egypt during the 19th century. He brought numerous reforms to Egypt and his influence continued until the middle of the 20th century.

Mohammed Ali Alabaster Mosque in Cairo. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Mohammed Ali Alabaster Mosque in Cairo. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

My first visit here was in 1967. I vividly recall sitting on the floor of the mosque with the others of my group listening to our guide, Ahmad, explain about the history of the mosque and answering any questions we had about the Muslim religion. Someone asked him if one was free to be a Christian in Egypt. He said, “Yes, if you are born a Christian you are free to be a Christian.” He went on to say that one would not make a change of religion unless there was some bad motive involved.

In many countries the preaching of the gospel of Christ is not freely allowed. The very nature of the gospel assumes that one must make a change in order to be acceptable to God. Jesus makes this clear in his discussion with the Jewish leader Nicodemus. A spiritual birth is necessary for one to become a Christian.

Jesus answered, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born of water and spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (John 3:5 NET)

Man of Galilee now available

The Man of Galilee by Atticus G. Haygood is a small book that should be read by every person interested in the identity of Jesus of Galilee. The book was first published in 1889, and has been republished several times. I published it as part of Evidence Quarterly in 1963. It has been available at our Biblical Studies Info Page for a number of years. Now DeWard Publishing Company has published The Man of Galilee in an attractive paperback edition of 108 pages. This book will make an excellent gift to any young person who is of an age to be thinking about the Jesus of the New Testament.

Melvin Curry comments about this book:

Some big books need to die; this little one needs to live. Haygood’s Man of Galilee is a profound argument about the uniqueness of Jesus.

Dan Petty says,

Haygood discusses the truly unique and universal quality of the character of Jesus in a manner that is thoughtful, thorough, and logical. It is presented in terms that the student will find interesting, refreshing, and in the end, compelling.

Order The Man of Galilee.

I wish to commend DeWard Publishing Company for making this book available. Take a look at their web page.