Monthly Archives: May 2008

Be sure to read…

I want to encourage you to go back to the post on “The historical credibility of the Gospel of John” and read the comment by my friend Bruce Hudson. Prof. F. F. Bruce was at the University of Manchester for many years. You might enjoy some comments I made about Prof. Bruce last Septermber when I was in Scotland. Click here.

A pretty picture

While looking for a photo for use in a lesson for Sunday I noticed this photo that I made near Konya, Turkey. This is the site of biblical Iconium (Acts 13:51-14:5). I was lucky to catch the butterfly on a poppy (anemone). Enjoy.

Unleash your inner Indy

Anything Indiana Jones is the fad now since the release of the fourth movie featuring the adventuresome archaeologist. The USA Today Travel Newsletter (May 27, 2007) lists 10 great places to unleash your inner Indy. One of the places mentioned is Petra in Jordan. The article says,

“Hike or ride donkey-drawn carts through a slot canyon to arrive at this ancient city carved out of the sandstone cliffs,” [National Geographic's Boyd] Matson says. “Petra offers the chance to hook up with nomadic tribesmen and do either a one-day or multi-day camel safari in the desert.” Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this once-vibrant Nabataean city was an oasis where Greeks, Romans and Arabs met for caravan trading. visitjordan.com

Parts of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was filmed at Petra. In this photo we see the snack shop, coffee shop, and gifts shop, all named for Indiana Jones.

The site of Petra is identified as the biblical Sela (rock; 2 Kings 14:7; Isaiah 16:1), and the home of the ancient Edomites (descendants of Esau). From about 300 B.C. the area was inhabited by the Nabataeans from North Africa. G. Ernest Wright once described them as,

one of the most gifted and vigorous peoples in the Near East of Jesus’ time. (Biblical Archaeology, 229).

This photo shows the Roman theater at Petra which was cut out of the rock in the 2nd or 3rd century A.D. The theater seated about 3,000.

Several archaeologists have already pointed out that what Indiana Jones does is a far cry from real archaeological work. The real work is sometimes exciting, but always tedious. Bryant Wood is cited here:

“It is rather adventurous in a way, because for the most part, you’re going to some exotic country and delving into their past. But it’s not an adventure with a whip and chasing bad guys and looking for treasure,” said Bryant Wood, an archaeologist with Associates for Biblical Research.

“You’re working at one site tediously, probably for many, many years and spending more time processing the finds and writing reports than you do actually digging at the site. But that wouldn’t make for a very good story, spending 70 percent of the time in a library.”

The historical credibility of the Gospel of John

Over at Parchment and Pen, Dan Wallace has written on “The Gospel of John and Historical Realibility – Part 1. Already I am looking forward to Part 2+. Wallace says,

In 1844, the Tübinger Jahrbuch published an essay by F. C. Baur to the effect that John’s Gospel should be dated no earlier than AD 160, and probably closer to 170.

Everyone who has studied New Testament introduction knows that this view was dominant for nearly a century. Wallace tells what rocked Baur’s view:

Ninety years after Baur first published his thesis on John, a young doctoral student studying at Manchester University came across a scrap of papyrus in the John Rylands Library. Colin H. Roberts was intrigued by the papyrus fragment, which had been excavated decades earlier from rubbish heaps in Egypt. It was only 2 & ½ inches by 3 & ½ inches, but its importance far outweighed its size. Roberts immediately recognized it as a fragment of John’s Gospel—chapter 18, verses 31 to 33 on one side, and chapter 18, verses 37 and 38 on the other, to be exact. He sent the photographs of the fragment to three of the leading papyrologists in Europe. Each one reported independently that this fragment should be dated, on paleographical grounds, between AD 100 and AD 150. A fourth scholar disagreed, arguing that the fragment should be dated in the 90s of the first century!

This tiny fragment of John’s Gospel rocked the scholarly near-consensus on the date of John, for it is impossible for a copy to be written before the original text is produced. It effectively sent two tons of German scholarship to the flames. As one wag put it, “This manuscript must have been written when the ink on the original text was barely dry.”

A number of years ago, while leading a tour of the British Isles, I called the Rylands Library at the University of Manchester to ask if I could see the Rylands Fragment. After being assured that I could, I took the train from York to Manchester. At the time, the little fragment was between two pieces of glass taped around the edge. There is only one piece of the fragment, but the image below (from a library slide) shows both sides.

We think the Gospel of John was written by John in Ephesus sometime during the 80s, but this manuscript is thought to have originated in Egypt between A.D. 100 and 150 (or earlier?). This is a small illustration of the rapid spread and copying of the Gospel.

The John Rylands Library has a page devoted to the fragment here.

Memorial Day

Memorial Day (Monday) honors all the men and women who have died in military service in the defense of our country. There were 1,465 USA deaths in the Battle of Normandy. In addition, 2,700 UK soldiers and 500 Canadian soldiers died. It is estimated that between 4,000 and 9,000 German soldiers died.

D-Day, June 6, 1944, is a very important day in American history. Here is one of the photos I made at the American Cemetery at Normandy in 2002.

A visit to this cemetery, or any other military cemetery, helps us realize what a great debt we owe to those who gave their lives while fighting for freedom. A few years ago, prior to his death, I visited regularly with a veteran of World War II who was at Normandy. I enjoyed hearing him talk about the war, and asking him questions. I was always encouraged when I left his home.

My wife’s father was in World War I. Here is a photo (after a few Photoshop enhancements to take out scratches) of Karl Wayne Williams made in 1917. Thankfully he made it aback alive. Elizabeth says he was born 114 years ago. We honor his memory along with others who have touched our lives.

When I was a youngster Memorial Day was called Decoration Day because folks decorated the graves of those who died in war. In addition, graves of family members were decorated. Not a bad custom.

The Encyclopedia Britannica’s Guide to Normandy 1944 has some good maps and charts. Take a look.

Home again!

We arrived at our normal abode a short time ago (Friday evening about 9 p.m.). Traveling to educational, inspirational, and exciting places is rewarding, but there is no place like home.

Hopefully we can continue several times a week to post a few photos of places we visited. First, some rest.

More tourists visiting Israel

Todd Bolen of BiblePlaces is now in Israel with a student group. He calls attention to this news item:

The Ministry of Tourism reports that 290,000 tourists visited Israel in April 2008, an amount similar to that recorded in Israel’s record-breaking tourism year, 2000.

The totals for this past April were 26% over April 2006, as well as 41% more than April 2007, when tourism was still negatively affected by the Second Lebanon War eight months earlier.

Annual Rate Up 43%
During the first four months of 2008, 936,000 tourists arrived in Israel – an increase of 43% from the same period in 2007, and 34% more than the same period in 2006.

The current pace of growth is consistent with Tourism Ministry goals to attract 2.8 million tourists to Israel this year. However, Tourism Ministry Director General Sha’ul Tzemach says that this blessing places in bold relief the increasing shortage of available guest rooms in Israel.

“The current number of guest rooms does not match future demands,” Tzemach said. The Ministry hopes to attract 5 million tourists in 2012. “We hope to build another 2,500 rooms within three years, and to increase the budget for building hotels and assisting local and foreign entrepreneurs who have recently shown great interest in investing in the Israeli hotel industry.”

For the full report click here.

When we were there in April, we could see the increase over 2006. We did not see quite as many Americans, but there were more tourists. Hotel space is difficult to get, and I hear that hotel prices are going up. Sort of like oil; the more they sell, the higher they price it!

Disaster strikes! Or was it good fortune?

My last photo with my Nikon D40X was made in the Roman agora at Thessalonica. When we arrived at the Athens airport we saw something that we thought our grandson would enjoy. I took out the trusty D40X, but it would not shoot. We made the photo with the standby Canon Power Shot SD630. At the hotel I discovered that all functions of the camera worked except the lense. I have a 55-200mm lense with me. When I put it on the camera everything worked perfectly.

When I get back home I will head down to the Best Buy with my little warranty in hand to get this taken care of before another major trip.

The lense I normally use is the 18-55mm. Most folks I talk with about cameras say they want to get a zoom, long-distance lense. Most of my photos are shot using the wide-angle feature.

What a wonderful time for the camera to go out. Last shot on the last day of touring. I had noticed the camera seeming to have some difficult in firing for the past few days. Finally, it died. The camera is only about six months old, but it has been used for about 7000 shots.

The Canon is a wonderful camera, but it has no viewfinder. This is all right for indoor shots, but it is very difficult to see the digital display in bright sunlight. I strongly advise that travelers get a digital camera with a view finder.

Agora. We have mentioned the agora many times in these blogs. The agora (forum) was the marketplace of the Roman city. This morning we walked over to a gas station to get some water. I noticed the sign over the store read Mikre Agora. We would call it a Mini Market.

Thessalonica in Macedonia

The Capsis hotel in Thessalonica was our home for two nights. Wednesday we used our time visiting the city. Thessalonica (called Thessaloniki now) is in biblical Macedonia. The area is still known as Macedonia, but is not to be confused by the modern country by that name. It is marked on maps of Greece as FYROM (former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia). I know too little about the dispute to make any comments.

Paul came to Thessalonica on his second journey (A.D. 50-53; Acts 17). He wrote two letters to the church at Thessalonica while he was at Corinth. Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica accompanied Paul on the voyage to Rome (Acts 27:2). When Demas forsook Paul he went to Thessalonica (2 Timothy 4:10).

I went to the Archaeological Museum of Thessalonica thinking I would jump in, make a few shots of some items I had need of and then move along. In fact, I found a new (since my last visit in 2001) museum with wonderful educational exhibits, nice displays, and great lighting.

There is an impressive full-length statue of the Emperor Augustus (30 B.C. to A.D. 14). Augustus was emperor at the time of the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:1). Here is a photo of the top portion of the statue. This gives some indication of the wonderful lighting in the museum. This photo was made without flash.

On the display around the statue of the emperor there is a statement about the cult of the emperor. In our travels in Asia Minor (western Turkey) we saw many evidences that the admiration of the emperor grew into worship of the emperor as a divine being. This placed a real burden on the Christians of the time. It is this type of tribulation that the book of Revelation addresses.

The cult of the emperor was both an instrument of imperial policy progaganda 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-lenth statue [as this one] of a bust, it makes his presence felt everywhere; in outoor and indoor spaces, in fora, in villas, and in libraries.

Elizabeth and I walked down by the harbor to see the colossal statue of Alexander the Great on his horse, ready to go into battle with sword drawn. We must put Alexander of Macedon among the most influential people of world history. His conquest of the areas we know as the Bible world continue to influence us till this day. He left his mark with the introduction of the oikumene concept of one world and the introduction of Greek culture and language. The Hebrew scriptures were translated into Greek in Alexandria beginning about 280 B.C. The New Testament was written in Greek. Even Paul, the Hebrew of Hebrews (Philippians 3:5), could speak Greek (Acts 21:37).

We visited the Arch of Galerius on the modern Via Egnatia, one of the main streets of Thessalonca. I made a few photos in the Roman agora before we rushed to get our bags packed to fly back to Athens.

By the time we arrived at our hotel, near the airport we had both decided that we were too tired to try to go to Delphi today. From our hotel room we are enjoying the beautiful view of a small town surrounded by mountains draped by blue sky with white clouds.

Paul’s journey in Macedonia

During his second journey, while at Troas, Paul saw a vision of a man of Macedonia. Luke gives the following record of the vision and of the subsequent action of the apostle.

A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. (Acts 16:9-10)

Paul and his companions, including Luke, landed at Neapolis (modern Kavalla). The text indicates that the real goal of their mission was to reach the Roman colony of Philippi. Someone has commented that it is often the case that preachers have a call from a man to come preach somewhere. When they arrive they find mostly women. Paul found Lydia of Thyatira. She was a seller of purple. Whether the cloth or the dye, we are not told. She was the first convert on European soil. We make much of the fact that this was the first preaching in Europe. At the time the most important thing is that it was the first preaching in the Roman province of Macedonia (now northern Greece). Here is a photo of the modern port at Kavalla.

Luke’s account of the first convert in the city is recorded in Acts 16.

And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled. A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us. (Acts 16:13-15)

The river Ganga (some say Gangites) is a short distance north of the Agora of Philippi (IDB, III.787). This must be the river under consideration in the biblical account. Here is a photo of the river that I made yesterday.

We also visited Neapolis (modern Kavalla), Amphipolis and Appollonia.

Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. (Acts 17:1)

Today we plan to visit some important sites in Thessalonica.