Tag Archives: Roman Emperor

Roman artifacts in the Samsun Archaeology Museum

Our main interest in visiting the Black Sea coastal cities of Samsun and Sinop is because they are part of the ancient Roman province of Pontus. Somewhere in Pontus, probably Amisos (now Samsun), was the beginning point for the messenger who carried Peter’s first epistle to the elect of the diaspora residing in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia (1 Peter 1:1).

The Archaeology Museum in Samsun has only a few items from the first century Roman period on display, but they are significant.

A marble head of Augustus is displayed prominently. Augustus was the Roman Emperor from 30 B.C. to A.D. 14. He is mentioned only once in the New Testament, but his influence in the eastern part of the Empire is evident in many way. The apostles traveled along roads built in the days of Augustus.

Luke records that the decree for a census to be taken of all the inhabited earth went out from Augustus.

Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. (Luke 2:1 NAU)

This accounts for Mary and Joseph traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem at the time of the birth of Jesus.

Roman Emperor Augustus. Displayed in Samsun Archaeology Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Augustus. Displayed in Samsun Archaeology Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I was surprised at the many references to Augustus on this blog. Just put the word Augustus in the search box to locate posts that mention him.

There is a first century image is that of a young athlete in the museum. He is full height, with arms missing.

Young Roman athlete in Samsun Archaeology Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Young Roman athlete in Samsun Archaeology Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Apostle Paul used several illustrations from athletics. He told the young preacher Timothy that discipline and self control were necessary in his work as a preacher.

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:25-27 ESV)

Persecution of Christians in Pontus

Pliny. Pliny was the governor of the Bithynia and Pontus. According to The Dictionary of the Christian Church he was born c. 61 and died c. 112. He exchanged a series of letters with the Roman Emperor Trajan (98-117 A.D.). I have done some browsing in the older Loeb edition (revised by Hutchinson) of Pliny Letters. I see references to the Black Sea cities of Heraclea (now Eregli), Amastris (now Amastra), Sinope (now Sinop), and Amisus (now Samsun). I mention this to emphasize that Pliny was familiar with the cities of Pontus. He writes of Sinope being ill supplied with water and suggests a solution to the Emperor.

Roman Emperor Trajan in the Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman Emperor Trajan in the Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Pliny wrote to the Emperor saying that he was uncertain about how to deal with the Christians in his province. He said that he had not been present at any of the trials of Christians. He explains his procedure to the Emperor:

In the meanwhile, the method I have observed towards those who have been denounced to me as Christians is this: I interrogated them whether they were Christians; if they confessed it I repeated the question twice again, adding the threat of capital punishment; if they still persevered, I ordered them to be executed. (X.xcvi).

The Christians were ordered to offer wine and incense to the image of the Emperor. Pliny had been told that those who are really Christians would not make such an offering. Some of those who were questioned said they had quit serving Christ as much as 25 years earlier. Think about that date (about 85 A.D.). This gets us close to the date of Peter’s epistles (1 Peter 1:1).

Trajan answered Pliny:

The method you have pursued, my dear Pliny, in sifting the cases of those denounced to you as Christians is extremely proper. (X.xcvii)

He said that no search should be made for the Christians. If a Christian repented and demonstrated his repentance by “adoring the Gods” [offering the wine and incense to the image of the Emperor] they should be pardoned. I think this is the type of worship mentioned in the book of Revelation which was written a few years earlier to the churches of the Roman province of Asia (Revelation 13; 14:9-11).

Phil Harland comments on the charges brought against the Christians.

The addressees were faced with “suffering” primarily in the form of verbal abuse: they were spoken against, blasphemed, reviled, and falsely called “wrongdoers” (1 Peter 2:12; 3:9, 15-17; 4:3-5; 5:9). The reasons for this suffering stemmed from the Christians’ failure to participate in religious life in the same way as they had before: the Gentiles “are surprised that you do not now join them in the same wild profligacy, and they abuse you” (1 Peter 4:4 [RSV]). Persecution of Christians, which was local and sporadic, was more often than not a consequence of denying the gods and goddesses of others, along with the social implications of non-participation in the rituals that honoured these deities

For more along this same line see Phil Harland’s post about Bithynia and Pontus here.

My intention is to turn next to the specific question of the route of travel taken by the messenger who delivered Peter’s epistles throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.

More famous Sinopeans

In addition to Diogenes and Serapis, Sinop in Pontus was the home of several other well known people in early church history.

Aquila. (Not the Aquila of Acts 18:2.) This Aquila, a native of Sinop in Pontus, is said to have been a relative of the Emperor Hadrian (A.D. 117-138). He was converted to Christianity during a visit to Jerusalem, but was rejected because he refused to give up his studies of astronomy. Later he became a proselyte to Judaism.

Having become a disciple of the Rabbis, from whom he learned Hebrew and the rabbinical method of exegesis, he used his knowledge to make a revision of the Septuagint, bringing it into line with the official Hebrew text. It was soon adopted by Greek speaking Jews in preference to the LXX, which was used by the Christians. His translation, which was finished probably c. 140, was extremely literal, attempting to reproduce individual Hebrew words and phrases exactly. This procedure frequently obscured the sense; but the fidelity of Aquila’s version to the Hebrew original was admitted by the Fathers most competent to judge, such as Origen and Jerome. (Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. Cross & Livingstone, 94).

Tower and wall on the Black Sea at Sinop, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tower and wall on the Black Sea at Sinop, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Marcion (died c. 160 A.D.). We rarely read or hear the name Marcion without the word heretic attached to it. None of his writings have survived, but his success can be seen by the many early Fathers who spoke of him. (For a list of these see Bercot, ed., A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs.) This influential ship master of Pontus rejected the God of the Old Testament who he described as evil and vengeful. According to him, the Christian gospel was a message of love, and the Father of Jesus was not the God of the Old Testament. Many of his views were similar to those of Gnosticism. Marcion accepted only the Gospel of Luke among the Gospels, and the writings of Paul.

Marcion went to Rome about A.D. 140, but within 4 years he was excommunicated from the church. From Rome he spread his teachings all over the Empire.

Phocas (Phokas). Phocas was martyred at Sinop in A.D. 117 during the reign of the Roman Emperor Trajan.

According to the Dictionary of the Christian Church (1282), a different man named Phocas “the Gardener” was martyred  during the persecution by the Roman Emperor Diocletian in A.D. 303. I haven’t determined if he was associated with the port city of Sinop. Wilson seems to confuse these two persons (Biblical Turkey, 342).

The Sinop Gospels is not a person, but should be mentioned in connection with the Black Sea port of Turkey. This parchment document was dyed purple and written in gold ink. The uncial manuscript 023 contains 43 pages of the gospel of Matthew. The manuscript was discovered in Sinop in the late 19th century is thought to have originated in Syria or Mesopotamia in the 6th century A.D. It is now in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.

A brief description in French, and a small image of two pages of the manuscript may be found here. The manuscript features small drawings to illustrate the biblical text. The displayed page shows Jesus healing a blind man.

Visiting the Black Sea coast of Turkey

One might ask why a person interested in the Bible world would want to visit the Black Sea coast of Turkey. A few weeks ago, while there, I gave some of the reasons here. A summary before proceeding might be advisable. My visit was limited to a region of about 100+ miles from about 20 miles east of Samsun to Sinop.

Both Samsun and Sinop are located in the the region known as the Roman province of Pontus in Asia Minor. By New Testament times the provinces of Bythinia and Pontus were combined and governed as a single province.

Roman Provinces of Asia Minor in New Testament Times. BibleAtlas.org.

Roman Provinces of Asia Minor in New Testament Times. BibleAtlas.org.

There were 13 cities in the province of Pontus (Wilson, Biblical Turkey, 332).

The New Testament mentions Pontus only three times. The first reference is in Acts 2. Note the association with Peter.

  • Jews from Pontus were visiting Jerusalem during Pentecost when the gospel was first announced by Peter (Acts 2:5,9). It is likely that some of these men became obedient to the gospel before returning home.

Beside Peter’s address to Christians in Pontus in his first epistle, the only person named in association with Pontus is Aquila.

  • A Jew by the name of Aquila was a native of Pontus. He had gone to Rome, but was commanded to leave Rome under the decree of the Emperor Claudius (A.D. 41-54). Reaching Corinth, he and his wife Priscilla, met the apostle Paul (Acts 18:2). We are not told whether Priscilla was from Pontus, Rome, or some other place.
  • When Paul left Corinth, Aquila and Pricilla went with him to Ephesus and remained there. When they heard the eloquent Alexandrian preacher Apollos who knew only John’s baptism, they privately taught him the “the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:18, 26). I think the inference is that they encouraged Apollos to go to Corinth.
  • Paul mentions Aquila and Priscila (Prisca) in his letter to the Corinthians which was written from Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:19).
  • During Paul’s third journey, when he wrote to the saints at Rome from Greece (Corinth) during the reign of the Emperor Nero (A.D. 54-68), he sends greetings to Prisca and Aquila (Romans 16:3). This means that by this time they found it safe to reside in Rome.
  • In his final letter from Rome, Paul tells Timothy to “Greet Prisca and Aquila” (2 Timothy 4:19).

We have evidence that the name Aquila was known in Pontus. In the 1909 Dictionary of the Bible (ed. James Hastings), A. Souter says,

an inscription has recently been found referring to one Aquila at Sinope, one of the principal cities of the Roman province Pontus.

Do not make the mistake of thinking this is a reference to the husband of Priscilla. It simply means that the name was known in the region.

Our photo today was made on a dreary, rainy day near Sinop. Notice that the highway is high in the mountains overlooking the Black Sea. At several points there is no coastal road. This is an important fact that we will speak more about in a future post.

A shepherd overlooking the Black Sea near Sinop, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A shepherd overlooking the Black Sea near Sinop, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Paul preached in Athens

Our cruise ship, the Louis Cristal, arrived in Athens early this morning. After breakfast we disembarked and met our local tour operator and guide. Andi has guided my groups several times over the years, and I am pleased to have her with us. She divides her time each year between the USA and Greece.

We drove by the usual historical places in Athens, and stopped at the old Olympic stadium before going to the Acropolis.

Syntagma (Constitution) Square was clean and orderly; not at all the way it has been portrayed on American TV lately. I am not saying that the things shown on TV never happened, but that when the same video clips are shown over and over for many days it leaves the wrong impression.

I had hoped that the scaffolding and cranes used in the restoration of the Parthenon would be gone. Such was not the case. The only place I could get a photo without showing these things was from the back.

The back of the Parthenon in May, 2012. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The back of the Parthenon in May, 2012. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Parthenon, where the virgin goddess Athena was worshiped, was built between 447 and 438 B.C. It is still quite a building.

We also visited the Areopagos (Mar’s Hill), possibly the place where Paul delivered his speech on the Unknown God (Acts 17).

While the group went with the guide looking at some highlights in the Athens National Museum, I made some photos of the nice collection of Roman Emperors.

Below is a photo of the portrait head of the Emperor Claudius (A.D. 41-54) in Pentelic marble.The museum sign says,

The head is crowned with the corona civica (a wreath of oak leaves and acorns) tied with a ribbon.

The Roman Emperor Claudius in the Athens National Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Roman Emperor Claudius in the Athens National Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Paul’s visit to Athens and Corinth was during the reign of Claudius. In fact, the emperor is mentioned in Acts 18:2.

And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them,

The great famine mentioned in Acts 11:28 also took place during the reign of Claudius.

We have plans to visit Corinth tomorrow.

Wall of Jerusalem breached by the Romans

Prof. Aren Maeir, director of the Tel es-Safi/Gath archaeological excavation, explains why some of his team is not working today.

Today, part of the team was not working in the field, since it is the Jewish fast day of the 17th of Tammuz, which commemorates the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem by the Romans, prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE (and according to some traditions, during the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem in 586 BCE as well). Others though were in the field and had a very good day.

Titus, Roman commander at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, was later Emperor (A.D. 79-81). Bust in British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Titus, Roman commander at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, was later Emperor (A.D. 79-81). Bust in British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Whatever the exact day of the event, the siege and destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans was a traumatic event. Christians, and perhaps others, understand it as a judgment upon the corrupt nation at that time (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21). I use judgment in the sense of repeated judgments upon cities and nations as we see it used in the Old Testament prophets. We believe that Jesus predicted the destruction of the city of Jerusalem about 40 years prior the the actual destruction by the Romans.

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. (Luke 21:20 ESV)

There is much archaeological evidence in Jerusalem of the Roman occupation of the city and of the destruction in A.D. 70. In the excavations conducted in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem following 1967, archaeologists uncovered evidence of the destruction and burning of the city. The Herodian Mansion and the Burnt House are two places that are especially interesting to Bible students who visit the Old City. Here is a photo of the exhibit at the Burnt House. The Burnt House is known to be the priestly House of Kathros.

The Burnt House in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Burnt House in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In this photo you see furniture, stone vessels, and clear evidence of the burning of the building in A.D. 70. A larger image, suitable for use in teaching, is available by clicking on the photo.

Hadrian’s arch in Athens

The Roman emperor Hadrian (A.D. 117-138) left arches in many cities he visited. The arch in Athens marks the entry to the Temple of Zeus. Rant and Reddish describe the arch:

The imposing Arch of Hadrian was constructed in honor of the emperor following the completion of the temple [to Zeus], and Hadrian himself walked through it to attend the dedication of the temple in 131 C.E. The western side of the arch (toward the old city) carries the inscription “This is Athens, the city of Theseus.” The inscription on the eastern side of the arch facing the temple (and toward a section of Athens that had been newly renovated by Hadrian) states, “This is the city of Harrian and not of Theseus. (A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey, 33)

To get a photo like this one requires some good footwork. The arch faces one of the busiest streets in Athens, but one must move out into the street between cars to get an unobstructed view.

Arch of Hadrian in Athens. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Arch of Hadrian in Athens. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Photoshop, and some other photo editing programs, provide the opportunity to manipulate photos in unusual ways. Here is the same photo textured as if it were painted on canvas.

Arch of Hardrian on canvas. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Arch of Hadrian on canvas. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The fourth major persecution of the church by the Roman Empire came in the days of Hadrian.

Domitian, a hated emperor

One coin at a time is Brett Telford’s blog about coins. He has a marvelous photo of a silver Tetradrachm showing the image of Domitian. It was struck in Tarsus about A.D. 93-95. Please take a look.

Telford says,

The portrait reveals an emperor weary from insecurity and suspicion of conspiracy in the later years of his reign. His gaze bears witness to the demons that incited his paranoia. Domitian’s reign of terror began at around AD 93 and lasted until his death in AD 96… about the same time that this coin was struck.

After an interesting discussion of Ethelbert Stauffer’s theory that the titles of Domitian equal 666, Telford comments on the coincidence that this coin was minted at Tarsus, home of the apostle Paul.

This coin isn’t without its own Biblical reference. Tarsus, the city in which this coin was minted, was the birthplace of the Apostle Paul. Isn’t it ironic then, that a coin of the purported Biblical “Beast” was struck in the very city that brought us the most notable of early Christian missionaries.

Previously I have called attention to my books on Revelation. I failed to mention another brief publication about Domitian. Several years back Arthur M. Ogden and I wrote a series of exchanges. This publication, Did Domitian Persecute Christian? is available free in PDF at BibleWorld.

I have seen various inscriptions on which the name of Domitian has been scratched off. It means that he was a person of damnable memory. Recently on our trip to Jerash in Jordan we saw two inscription discovered when the theater was being restored. Here is a photo of one of them.

The inscription, which dates to the year A.D. 90/91, bears the title of the Emperor Domitian, but his name has been erased. The emperor is said to be the son of “divine (theou) Vespasian.” At the moment I can’t put my hands on it, but I recall that a translation of both inscriptions is included in the Newsletter of the American Schools of Oriental Research, Oct., 1974. Inscriptions like this definitely need to be in a controlled environment rather than outside in the weather.

On our upcoming Steps of Paul and John tour the name of Domitian will be used often.

HT: Georg S. Adamsen, Revelation Resources.

Resources on the Book of Revelation

Yesterday I received an Email from Dr. Georg S. Adamsen in Denmark, asking that I change the link to his Revelation Resources page on my Biblical Studies Info Page. First, let me say I appreciate his notifying me of the change. Many individuals ask to include a link but never notify us when they close down the page.

Revelation Resources is now presented in blog format. Adamsen describes the blog this way:

Revelation Resources – about 250 hand-picked references on valuable resources for the study of the Book of Revelation. Many topics have separate introductions…

My Old Testament in the Book of Revelation has been included at Revelation Resources for several years. I was pleasantly surprised this evening when I was checking the URL to see that the book is featured on this page (January 7).

Because the current publisher of the book does not have a marketing strategy many people think the book is out of print. You may secure a copy from the Florida College Bookstore. I wasn’t able to locate the book on the website, but you can send an Email to bookstore@floridacollege.edu for information. I think the book now sells for $4.95. I saw a used copy on Amazon recently for $59.96!

Jenkins, The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation

Florida College also recently reprinted my Studies in the Book of Revelation. It sells for $5.99. In my judgment this is an excellent source for a class study of the Revelation.

Jenkins, Studies in the Book of Revelation

Studies in the Book of Revelation (90 page paperback) is composed of these sections.

Introducing the Book at the End of the Bible
Worthy Is the Lamb
Saints Victorious
Does Revelation Teach Premillennialism?
Letters to the Seven Churches
Emperor Worship in the Book of Revelation

If you prefer to call Florida College Bookstore and speak to one of the friendly staff, use their toll free number (1-800-423-1648).

What does this have to do with travel, you wonder. The Revelation was written to the seven churches of Asia, the Roman province of Asia Minor, in the late first century A.D. The seven cities were Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Several of them have significant ruins that can be visited. We have included them on several study tours we call Steps of Paul and John, including Turkey, Greece, and the Aegean Islands. During the course of this tour we spend some time lecturing on the setting of the Book of Revelation. We plan to do that in May when we again visit these and other cities associated with Paul and John.

Temple of Roman Emperor Trajan at Pergamum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This photo shows the reconstruction of the Temple of (Roman Emperor) Trajan ( A.D. 98-117). This was the second temple in Pergamum dedicated to the Emperor. The first temple in all of Asia was erected to Augustus in 29 B.C. Altogether Pergamum had three imperial temples.