Monthly Archives: March 2008

In the air and on the road again

We are off to Israel and Jordan.

Soon we will be leaving our hotel and heading for Lufthansa at the JKF International Airport to meet our group. There were at least eight of us at this hotel last night. We have an intermediate stop at Frankfurt, and then on to Tel Aviv. If we arrive on time we will be able to visit Joppa before sunset. Our overnight stay will be at Netanya, along the beautiful Mediterranean.

If possible we will connect to the Internet at Frankfurt. Otherwise, expect our first post from Netanya. We hope to give you a brief behind the lense look at the places we visit in Israel and Jordan. Our time in Israel and Jordan will be seven hours ahead of EDT.

Nikon D40X and Ferrell Jenkins on Roman Road near Tarsus.

Greek NT Manuscripts Discovered in Albania

Daniel B. Wallace reports on the discovery of what is being called a “treasure trove” of Greek New Testament manuscripts. Wallace heads up the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (www.csntm.org). Last summer a team went to the National Archive in Tirana, Albania, to photograph some manuscripts.

According to Wallace, there are now 5752 New Testament manuscripts known and catalogued. These range from the small John Rylands fragment of the Gospel of John to complete manuscripts of the New Testament.

Seventeen formerly lost manuscripts were found to be in the Albanian archive. This was not the most exciting part of the discovery in Albania. Wallace explains,

This was not the only good news of the day, nor even the most momentous. The catalog revealed several other Greek New Testament manuscripts that had never been catalogued by western scholars. Simple arithmetic told us this: There were forty-seven Greek New Testament manuscripts listed in the National Archive catalog, while the K-Liste noted only thirty in Albania (thirteen plus the seventeen that had been presumed lost). Thus, Tirana was housing at least seventeen manuscripts unknown to western scholarship and as many as thirty-four! Since the dawn of the 21st century, an average of two or three Greek New Testament manuscripts is brought to light each year. A cache of 17 to 34 manuscripts is a remarkable find, regardless of the age and pedigree of the manuscripts.

Codex Beratinus from the 6th century was the oldest manuscript in the Archive.

The oldest manuscript in the collection is Codex Beratinus, a codex that had been dyed in purple, with silver and gold letters written on it. Containing only Matthew and Mark today, this codex, written in the sixth century, is very rare because it is a royal codex. Only a handful of purple biblical codices still exist.

You may read the complete account here.

Wallace mentions one of the manuscripts that does not contain the account of the woman taken in adultery (John 7:53-8:11). He gives us a good discussion of how textual critics deal with this question.

The Parchment and Pen blog has carried a series of articles on textual criticism. To find all of these worthwhile articles scroll down and look for Dan Wallace Contra Mundane in the left column. Click here and look for these good articles.

Back to travel. The whole issue of determining the original text of the New Testament comes down to some practical issues. A visit to Israel and Jordan might include the following places:

  • Bethany beyond the Jordan (John 1:28). Or should it be Bethabara?
  • The Pool of Betheda (John 5:2). Or should it be Bethzatha, Bethsaida, or Belzetha? And should that verse (4) about the stirring of the water even be in the text?
  • The country of the Gadarenes (Matthew 8:28). Or should it be Gergesenes or Gerasenes?

A news release about the Albanian manuscript discovery may be read here. A PDF copy is available here.

Added Note: Video report. WFAA, Dallas, aired a brief report about Dr. Wallace and the Albanian discovery. I could not get it to work in Firefox, but it is o.k. in Explorer. Click here. I wish TV and newspaper reporters could think of something better than “a modern Indiana Jones!”

Roman soldiers and chariot races at Jerash

If you have an opportunity to visit Jordan you should make an effort to see the RACE show at Jerash. RACE stands for Roman Army and Chariot Experience. You will see actors in authentic dress as armed legionaries, gladiators, and a short chariot race. The show takes place in the Roman hippodrome of Jerash. The view of the city ruins in the vicinity make this a wonderful setting for the performance. Full details may be found here.

Jerash was the second largest city of the Decapolis (after Damascus) in New Testament times. People from the Decapolis followed Jesus during His ministry in Galilee (Matthew 4:23-25). When Jesus traveled through the Decapolis he possibly visited the area around Jerash (Mark 7:31).

The photo shows the Roman soldiers of the 6th Legion from the time of the Emperor Hadrian (A.D. 117-138). A visit to this show provides several good photographs to illustrate New Testament times.

The 6th Roman Legion at Jerash, Jordan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Suez Canal and Egyptian peddlers

USA Today has an AP report today that a ship under contract to the U.S. Navy fired shots at a small Egyptian boat. The article explains why the small boats would approach a ship going through the canal. The full article is here.

Small boats selling cigarettes and other products often swarm civilian ships moving through the canal. These waterborne merchants know not to approach military vessels but the Global Patriot looked like a civilian vessel, said the security official, speaking on customary condition of anonymity.

Egyptian peddler’s are among the most persistent in the world. Many Americans are caught off guard, and even frightened, by the persistence of these men (and children). Americans are accustomed to going into a store, picking up what they want, and saying “How much?” It isn’t that way in many parts of the world, especially in Egypt. You may say, “I don’t need that,” or “I don’t want that.” “Leave me alone.” The response you get is like that of a three-year old, “Why you don’t need that?” And the persistence continues until you are safely inside the security of the tour bus and driving away. Even then the salesman may hold on to the side of the bus as it leaves his area.

The photo below was made at Edfu during a Nile Cruise. I think these men are Nubians, but I have several other photos of Egyptians doing the same thing.

Nubian peddlers on the Nile River at Edfu. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Corinth Canal

The city of Corinth is located about two miles south of the narrow isthmus which forms the land bridge, and controlled access, between the main land mass of Greece and the Peloponnesus.

The isthmus is less than five miles wide. In ancient times small ships were dragged across the isthmus on a paved road called the diolkos. Small portions of the diolkos may still be seen. Larger ships unloaded their cargo which was carried across and reloaded. This avoided the long 200 mile journey around the Peloponnesus. Nero abandoned his attempts to dig a canal across the isthmus (A. D. 67).

A canal was constructed between 1881 and 1893. Here is a photo of that canal with a tug boat pulling a ship through the canal.

Corinth Canal. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The apostle Paul likely came to Corinth about A.D. 51, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Claudius, and remained there for eighteen months (Acts 18). The book of Acts records the success of that work:

Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized. (Acts 18:8).

Archaeological excavations have been conducted at the ancient city of Corinth since 1896 by the American School of Classical Studies in Athens.

Is there a “third Jesus”?

If you have been impressed by seeing Deepak Chopra on TV telling about his new book, The Third Jesus (the Christ we cannot ignore), I suggest you read this post by Ben Witherington. Click here.

Postmodern man is unwilling to accept the Jesus of the Bible, but he still needs to believe, and wants to believe. This is what makes all of the cable TV programs about the mysteries of Jesus, the unknown years, and those dealing with the claims of the Gnostic literature so popular.

Here are a few Scriptures that might be helpful as you think of Jesus.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. (2 John 1:7)

… concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, 4 who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord… (Romans 1:3-4)

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ– this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36)

Peter’s great confession of Jesus took place at Caesarea Philippi.

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)

The photo below was made at Caesarea Philippi, one of the major sources of the Jordan River. This was the site of Peter’s great confession.

Source of the Jordan River at Caesarea Philippi. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Senator McCain visits the Western Wall

USA Today reports that Senator John McCain visited the Western Wall during his visit in Israel. This is not uncommon for political figures. Travelers to Israel want to see the Western Wall, or as many of them call it, “The Wailing Wall.”

The Western Wall is the western side of the enclosure wall built around the temple mount by Herod the Great. Herod’s wall would have been seen by Jesus and His disciples on their many visits to Jerusalem. Since 1967, after Israel took control of the Old City of Jerusalem, a large portion of the Western Wall has been exposed. The portion we see in our photograph now serves as a place for prayer. It is divided into two portions, one for men, and one for women.

The temple platform is where Solomon’s temple (966-586 B.C.), the temple of Zerubbabel (built 520-516 B.C.), and Herod’s temple (building began about 19 B.C.), once stood. According to the Gospel of John, work continued on Herod’s temple for 46 years.

Then the Jewish leaders said to him, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and are you going to raise it up in three days?” (John 2:20, NET Bible).

The Western Wall in Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
The temple platform, now the location of the Mosque of Omar (the Dome of the Rock with the gold dome), and the Al-Aqsa mosque with the silver dome, is now administered by a Muslim group called the Waqf. Currently it is not possible for tourists to visit the temple platform.

The Wailing Wall between 1900 and 1920. Matson Photograph Collection.

This old photo from the Matson Collection shows the Wailing Wall sometime between 1900 and 1920. This is the way the wall looked when I first saw it in May, 1967. At that time the area was under Jordanian control and no worshipers were present. Notice how small the area is, and how few rows of stone are visible.