Tag Archives: museums

Leichty: “We have forty thousand of these things here”

The Agade list reports the passing Monday night of Dr. Erle Verdun Leichty (1933-2016), Emeritus Professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (Assyriology) at the University of Pennsylvania.

The announcement says,

In 2006, a number of colleagues and students banded together to produce “If a Man Builds a Joyful House. Assyriological Studies in Honor of Erle Verdun Leichty” (Brill). This volume is available for download at < http://tinyurl.com/zgdf9pb>. In it, his Penn colleague Barry Eichler tells about “Cuneiform Studies at Penn: From Hilprecht to Leichty,” where can also be found details on Leichty’s fine career and contributions.

I did not know Dr. Leichty, but did have a chance meeting with him at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in 2004. I was looking for a particular ancient document and inquired of the staff. They could not provide the answer but said that Dr. Leichty might be able to help me. When I arrived at the research area where the cuneiform tablets were kept, Dr. Leichty cheerfully left the work he was doing and spent some time with me. He said the document was not in their collection. He told me about the dictionary he was working on.

Dr. Erle Leichty showing the cuneiform tablets at the University of Pennsylvania. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Dr. Erle Leichty showing the cuneiform tablets at the University of Pennsylvania. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

What impressed me that day was that Erle Leichty cheerfully took time to answer a question from an unknown. As I was leaving the research lab we passed the cabinets where some of the cuneiform tablets were stored. He pulled open one of the drawers and picked up one of the tablets. He said, “We have forty thousand of these things here.”

I have forgotten what document I was looking for, but I have not forgotten that pleasant meeting with Erle Leichty. That was a nice day.

Sinuhe takes a trip through Canaan

The earliest description of Canaan comes from an Egyptian literary text. In The Story of Sinuhe (see-NUU-hay) written in the 20th century B.C., a traveler tells of his pleasant stay in northern Canaan (possibly the Beka Valley of Lebanon). He describes the land as follows:

Figs were in it, and grapes. It had more wine than water. Plentiful was its honey, abundant its olives. Every (kind of) fruit was on its trees. Barley was there, and emmer. There was no limit to any (kind of) cattle. (qtd. in Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts, 19)

This description reminds one of the promise God made to the Israelites to bring them into a land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:8). A copy of The Story of Sinuhe written on stone is on display in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, England. The stone below, now in the British Museum, contains the final stanza of the Story or Tale.

A portion of the Tale of Sinuhe. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A portion of the Tale of Sinuhe. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The photo of grapes from Lachish reminds us of the abundance of the land through which Sinuhe traveled.

Ripe grapes near Lachish in the Shephelah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Grapes on the vine near Lachish in the Shephelah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Turning from idols to serve the living God

Recently I was browsing through photos made in the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki (Salonica, Thessalonica), Greece, in 2008. I was impressed with the images of various gods and goddesses that were known in the city in the first century A.D. There were statues and busts of Egyptian gods such as Isis, Serapis, and Harpokrates/Horus. Greek gods and goddesses such as Dionysus, Hades, Apollo, Athena, Aphrodite, Demeter, and the mother of the gods often associated with Kybele (Cybele) were known. And there were others.

Athena. Archaeology Museum of Thessaloniki. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Athena. Archaeology Museum of Thessaloniki. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Immediately my mind was drawn to Paul’s commendation of the saints at Thessalonica in the middle of the first century A.D.

 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,
7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.
9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,
10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.  (1 Thessalonians 1:6-10 ESV)

But there were other “gods” known to the Thessalonians. The deified Alexander, considered a son of Zeus, was represented in the museum. Another significant form of idolatry was the Cult of the Emperor of Rome. A sign associated with one display says,

The cult of the emperor was both an instrument of imperial policy propaganda and a means for the transmission of Roman culture. The image of the emperor gives a concrete form to the abstract idea of the Empire. Whether a full-length statue or a bust, it makes his presence felt everywhere: in outdoor and indoor spaces, in fora, in villas, and in libraries.

Here is a statue of Octavian Augustus, the first emperor of Rome (27 B.C. – A.D. 14). Augustus was emperor at the time of the birth of Christ (Luke 2:1).

Statue of Augustus, Archaeology Museum of Thessaloniki. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Statue of Augustus, Archaeology Museum of Thessaloniki. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Claudius, Vespasian, Titus, and other emperors were represented in the museum displays.

An interesting temporary exhibition was about the discovery of an important archaeological site known as Kalindoia. The site is located about 48 km (30 miles) southeast of Thessalonica. Paul traveled a few miles north of Kalindoia when he went from Philippi, via Amphipolis and Apollonia, to Thessalonica (Acts 17:1). Below is the drawing of the chamber of the imperial cult. A temple for imperial worship was located here from the 1st century B.C. to the 3rd century A.D.

Artist conception of the chamber of the Imperial Cult. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Artist conception of the chamber of the Imperial Cult. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The sign associated with this drawing states that there were pedestals for statues here. “One of them was the statue of Emperor Octavian Augustus.” The Cult of the Emperor was especially pervasive in the eastern part of the Roman Empire and may have some bearing on understanding the man of lawlessness (sin) in 2 Thessalonians 2. It is certainly helpful in understanding the background of the book of Revelation.

But that’s not all. Another sign mentions the eponymous local heroes such as war heroes, deified mythological figures, or the heroized dead “were also worshipped.”

The gospel of Christ has power to touch the hearts of men and inform them about the difference between idols made of “gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man,” and the God who does not dwell in temples made by man (Acts 17:29 ESV).

Babylon – index of articles

The Babylonian Empire was relatively short lived (626–539 B.C.), but it played a large role in biblical history. We have written about all of the Babylonian kings mentioned in the Bible. In this post I am pulling together an index collection of these articles to make it easy for one studying about the Babylonian captivity to locate all of them in one convenient place.

Dragon made of chrome brick on the Ishtar Gate. (Museum of the Ancient Near East, Berlin). The dragon is a composite creature with the head of a fire-spewing dragon, body and tail of a serpent, front feet of a feline, and back feet of a bird. This provides a good illustration of the apocalyptic language found in the Old Testament prophets. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The dragon made of chrome brick on the Ishtar Gate from ancient Babylon was an emblem of Marduk (Museum of the Ancient Near East, Berlin). The dragon is a composite creature with the head of a fire-spewing dragon, body and tail of a serpent, front feet of a feline, and back feet of a bird. This provides a good illustration of the apocalyptic imagery found in the Old Testament prophets and the book of Revelation. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The articles below, especially those with an * after the title, are considered minor references. They still might provide some helpful material and photos for the Bible student and teacher.

I trust this list will be helpful to students and teachers alike.

In the future, when I write something about Babylon I will try to remember to include a link in this index. I would appreciate learning if you find this index helpful.

Emperor Hadrian inscription uncovered in Jerusalem

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced Tuesday the discovery earlier this month of a partial inscription bearing the name and titles of the Roman Emperor Hadrian (A.D. 117-135). The English translation of the Latin inscription reads,

(1st hand) To the Imperator Caesar Traianus Hadrianus Augustus, son of the deified Traianus Parthicus, grandson of the deified Nerva, high priest, invested with tribunician power for the 14th time, consul for the third time, father of the country (dedicated by) the 10th legion Fretensis (2nd hand) Antoniniana.

Inscription bearing name and titles of Hadrian is displayed in front of the Rockefeller Museum, headquarters of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Jerusalem. Photo by Yoli Shwartz, courtesy IAA.

Inscription bearing name and titles of Hadrian is displayed in front of the Rockefeller Museum, headquarters of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Jerusalem. Photo by Yoli Shwartz, courtesy IAA.

The discovery was made north of Damascus Gate during a salvage operation. Dr. Rina Avner and Roie Greenwald were the excavation directors. IAA experts discovered that this inscription was part of an inscription already known from a discovery by French archaeologist Charles Clermont-Ganneau (1846-1923) in the late 19th century. That inscription is displayed in the courtyard of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum Museum.

Part of the Hadrian inscription discovered in the late 19th century by Clermont Ganneau, now located in Studium Biblicum Franciscanum Museum. Photo by Garo Nalbandian, courtesy of the Museum.

Part of the Hadrianic inscription discovered in the late 19th century by Clermont-Ganneau, now located in Studium Biblicum Franciscanum Museum. Photo by Garo Nalbandian, courtesy of the Museum.

The IAA Press Release says,

The events of the Bar Kokhba revolt are ascribed to the reign of the emperor Hadrian. He is remembered in Jewish history for having issued dictates imposing the persecution and forced conversions of Jews, which the sources referred to as the ‘Hadrianic decrees’.

The history of the Bar Kokhba revolt is known from, among other things, the works of the contemporary Roman historian Cassius Dio, who also mentions Hadrian’s visit to Jerusalem in the year 129/130 CE, within the framework of the emperor’s travels in the eastern empire. These travels are also documented on coins issued in honor of the occasion and in inscriptions specifically engraved prior to his arrival in different cities. This is apparently exactly what happened in Jerusalem.

The completion of the two parts of the text reveals an especially large inscription that is quite impressive. According to Dr. Abner, “The inscription itself might have set in the top of a free-standing triumphal arch on the city’s northern boundary such the Arch of Titus in Rome.”

The fate of Jerusalem following the destruction of the Second Temple (70 CE) and prior to the Bar Kokhba revolt (132-136 AD) is one of the major issues in the history of the city and in terms of the Jewish people’s connection to it.

We know from ancient writers and the inscriptions on coins that the new city, which Hadrian established, was granted the status of ‘colonia’ (that is, a city whose citizens and gods are Roman) and its name was changed to Aelia Capitolina (COLONIA AELIA CAPITOLINA in Latin). That name incorporates within it the emperor’s name that is in the inscription, whose full name is Publius Aelius Hadrianus, and Rome’s main family of dieties [sic, deities].

The complete English Press Release is available here.

I read this first in the The Times of Israel, but soon found that it was discussed widely on several blogs. Todd Bolen has included several additional links at Bible Places Blog here.

We have written about other Hadrianic arches in Athens, Antalya (Attalia), and Jerash. A recent series on the Tenth Roman Legion is available here.

New Discoveries from the Antikythera Shipwreck

The Antikythera Shipwreck was a special exhibition at the Athens (Greece) National Museum between April 2012 and April 2013.

The shipwreck off the eastern coast of Antikythera is dated to 60-50 BC, a period during which maritime trade and transportation of works of Greek art from the Eastern Mediterranean to Italy flourished. Its cargo dates from the 4th to the 1st century BC. The ship was a freighter of about 300 tons capacity and was sailings towards Italy.

Thera (aka Santorini) has been one of the stops on several of our tours that included an Aegean cruise. Antikythera (“opposite Kythera”) is a Greek island between Crete and the Peloponnese (where Corinth is located).

Now comes word (Oct. 10, 2014) that a team of archaeologists have recovered additional items including a bronze spear measuring more than 7 feet, a golden ring, an anchor, and an amphorae cluster. More information is available in TO BHMA here. Three short videos are included with the article.

The photo below, part of the Athens exhibit, shows some of the pottery from the earlier expedition scattered on the sea bottom.

Pottery and the cast of a horse on the sea bottom at Antikythera.

Pottery and the body of a horse sculpture on the bottom of the sea at Antikythera. Photo: Ferrell Jenkins

The ship was carrying numerous statues in bronze and Parian marble. The photo below shows Odysseus the mythical king of Ithaca wearing a one-sleeved chiton fastened on the left shoulder, and a conical cap on the head (museum display sign).

A statue of Odysseus, the mythical king of Ithaca. Parian marble. Before the middle of the 1st century B.C.

A statue of Odysseus, the mythical king of Ithaca. Parian marble. Before the middle of the 1st century B.C. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

We typically think of coasting vessels from the Roman period, and earlier, staying near the shore. This was certainly true of many of the sea journeys of the Apostle Paul (Acts 20:5, 13-16 27:5-7).

Greek archaeologists announced here the discovery of two Roman-era shipwrecks in water nearly a mile deep. Sailing to Italy required leaving the safety of the nearby shore for deep waters. Such was true of Paul’s journey to Rome after leaving Crete (Acts 27).

Paul spoke of the dangers at sea in his second letter to the Corinthians (11:24-29) about A.D. 55.

  • Three times I was shipwrecked.
  • A night and a day I was adrift at sea.
  • He mentioned “Danger at sea.”

The Malta shipwreck is the only one recorded in Acts, and it occurred after the writing of 2 Corinthians. Hughes mentions at least nine voyages between Acts 9 and 18. Paul says three of these ended in shipwreck. Hughes says there were at least another nine voyages between the writing of 2 Corinthians and the Malta shipwreck (The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT, 410-411).

At least some of the ships used by Paul seem to have been grain ships (Acts 27:38), but there may have been other cargo on some of them.

More photos from the special exhibition are available here and here.

Babylon’s Procession Street and Ishtar Gate

German archaeologists, under the direction of Robert Koldeway, excavated at ancient Babylon in Iraq, between 1899 and 1917. The Procession Street ran from the Ishtar Gate to the bridge over the Euphrates River. A 250 meter [820 feet] section of the street was excavated by the German expedition. Only a short section is reconstructed in the Museum in Berlin. The section here is 30 meters [98 feet] long and 8 meters [26 feet] wide. Original fragments were used in the reconstruction. The street was originally 20 to 24 meters [54-79 feet] wide. (See Fant & Reddish, Lost Treasures of the Bible, 199-205.)

The Procession Street from Babylon. Berlin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Procession Street from Babylon. Berlin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Ishtar Gate was constructed during the reign of Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 B.C.). All of these lions, bulls, and dragons were excavated from the mound of ancient Babylon, and eventually taken to Berlin in 1926. Even under the Communist government of East Germany this gate was preserved. I saw it several times before the Berlin Wall came down.

The Babylon Ishtar Gate. Berlin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Babylon Ishtar Gate. Berlin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Procession Street and Ishtar Gate are reconstructed in the Pergamum Museum in Berlin, but technically, this wing of the museum is called the Vorderasiatisches Museum (Museum of the Ancient Near East).

Babylon was once the greatest city of the world when the Neo-Babylonian Empire reigned supreme in the Ancient Near East (626-539 B.C.). The prophet Daniel was active in Babylon from 605 B.C. until after the fall of the city to the Persians (The prophecy of Daniel).  I can not imagine that he failed to see this gate.

Nebuchadnezzar was a megalomaniac. His pride is evident in the statement recorded by the prophet Daniel.

The king uttered these words: “Is this not the great Babylon that I have built for a royal residence by my own mighty strength and for my majestic honor?” (Daniel 4:30 NET Bible)