Monthly Archives: November 2011

Identifying Lystra

Biblical sites are identified several ways. A few sites have been known for millennial. For example, Jerusalem (earlier Jebus, 1 Chronicles 11:4-5; and Salem, Genesis 14:18), Damascus, Athens, and Rome.

Some scholars have identified sites on linguistic grounds. For example, Edward Robinson identified biblical Bethel with Beitin in 1938. This proposal had been generally accepted until David Livingston suggested, in the last few decades, that Bethel should be identified with el- Bireh. Some names have remained virtually unchanged. Modern Anata is thought to be biblical Anathoth (Jeremiah 1:1). I note that the Syrian town of Ribleh is identified with biblical Riblah (2 Kings 25:6). After all these centuries only one letter is different.

Other sites are identified on the basis of inscriptions. Such is true of Gezer, Thyatira, and Lystra. This brings me to my topic today.

The identification of Lystra was made by J. R. S. Sterrett in 1855 on the basis of a Latin inscription found at the site. The inscription is now displayed at the archaeological museum in Konya (biblical Iconium).

Inscription with the name Lystra. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Inscription with the name Lystra. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The inscription includes the full Roman name Colonia Iulia Felix Gemina Lustra. See Mark Wilson, Biblical Turkey, 173. We called attention to this inscription, with a photo of the entire stone as it is displayed at Konya more than four years ago, during the first month of this blog, here.

The brethren of Lystra and Iconium spoke well of young Timothy at the time Paul chose him to join his preaching party.

Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek,  and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium. (Acts 16:1-2 NAU)

I have failed to say recently that archaeological mounds (tells) in Turkey are identified by the Turkish word höyük (pronounced who-youk).

Illustrations from Lystra

Looking through some slides, I found a nice photo of Lystra. In this photo from 1987 you will see that farmers have plowed the slopping side of the tell as far as practical. Often we see crops growing on the top of a tell, especially one that has not been excavated.

Lystra. 1987 Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Lystra. 1987 Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

From another year, likely in the 80s, the sower is broadcasting seed. This is a practice that I saw frequently while growing up in the rural South. We rarely see this practice in the modern days of mechanization either in the USA or in the Bible World.

Sower at Lystra. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sower scattering seed at Lystra. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The practice of the sower scattering seed is mentioned several times in the Bible. Notice Isaiah 55:10-11.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;  So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.  (Isaiah 55:10-11 NAU)

Notice Paul’s use of the Isaiah text in 2 Corinthians 9:10.

We think also of the parables of Jesus.

3 And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow;  4 and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up.  5 “Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil.  6 “But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7 “Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. 8 “And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.  9 “He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:3-9 NAU)

Lystra — the home of Timothy

The mound of Lystra, now called Zordula, is located about 18 miles south of Konya (biblical Iconium), Turkey, near the village of Hatunsaray.

Lystra was visited by Paul and Barnabas on the First Missionary or Preaching Journey (Acts 14). Lystra and Derbe were towns of Lycaonia (Acts 14:6). The locals spoke the Lycaonian language. They called Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes (14:12). Inscriptions have been found that identify these particular gods with Lycaonia.

This was the home of young Timothy,  “the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek” (Acts 16:1). Timothy accepted the invitation of Paul to join him on the second journey. Two of Paul’s epistles were written to Timothy.

The mound of Lystra, 18 miles south of modern Konya. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The mound of Lystra, 18 miles south of modern Konya. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

After Paul healed a lame man, the residents of Lystra wanted to worship Paul and Barnabas as gods. Paul preached one of two sermons to Gentiles recorded in the Book of Acts (Acts 14 at Lystra; Acts 17 at Athens). The Jews of Pisidian Antioch who rejected the gospel message followed Paul to Lystra and persuaded the people against Paul. Paul was stoned, presumed dead, and dragged outside the city (Acts 14:19).

In the second letter to Timothy, Paul says that Timothy knows about the persecution he endured at Lystra.

10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra–which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:10-17 ESV)

Here is a brief summary of the events at Lystra during the visit of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14:6-20).

  • Healing of a lame man.
  • Priest of Zeus and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifice to Barnabas and Paul.
  • Sermon on the witness of God in nature.
  • Paul was stoned and dragged outside the city for dead.

In previous posts we have discussed the significance of Lystra in the work of Sir William Ramsay here and here.

Thanksgiving — 2011

Abundant wheat fields near biblical Endor. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Abundant wheat fields near biblical Endor. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. (Psalm 9:1 NAU)

Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. (Psalm 100:4 NAU)

Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. (Psalm 95:2 NAU)

I will praise the name of God with song And magnify Him with thanksgiving. (Psalm 69:30 NAU)

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6 NAU)

Herod the Great didn’t do it all

Archaeologists in Jerusalem announced yesterday a new discovery that changes popular thinking about the building of the walls around the Temple Mount. It is not much of a surprise. We already knew that the Roman Street found at the SW corner of the wall dates to the period just before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70. The last paragraph of the press release mentions that what was found was in harmony with the account of Josephus.

I have understood John 2:20 to be saying that work on the temple precinct was continuing as late as A.D. 26/27. That is a major reason this is not a surprise.

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)

Here is a portion of the press release issued by the Israel Antiquities Authority. I am leaving it full width for easier reading.

— • —

Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa and Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority: A ritual bath exposed beneath the Western Wall of the Temple Mount shows that the construction of that wall was not completed during King Herod’s lifetime.

Who built the Temple Mount walls? Every tour guide and every student grounded in the history of Jerusalem will immediately reply that it was Herod. However, in the archaeological excavations alongside the ancient drainage channel of Jerusalem a very old ritual bath (miqwe [mikve]) was recently discovered that challenges the conventional archaeological perception which regards Herod as being solely responsible for its construction.…

In an excavation beneath the paved street near Robinson’s Arch, sections of the Western Wall’s foundation were revealed that is set on the bedrock — which is also the western foundation of Robinson’s Arch — an enormous arch that bore a staircase that led from Jerusalem’s main street to the entrance of the Temple Mount compound.

According to Professor Reich, “It became apparent during the course of the work that there are rock-hewn remains of different installations on the natural bedrock, including cisterns, ritual baths and cellars. These belonged to the dwellings of a residential neighborhood that existed there before King Herod decided to enlarge the Temple Mount compound. The Jewish historian Josephus, a contemporary of that period, writes that Herod embarked on the project of enlarging the compound in the eighteenth year of his reign (that is in 22 BCE) and described it as “the largest project the world has ever heard of.”

When it was decided to expand the compound, the area was confiscated and the walls of the buildings were demolished down to the bedrock. The rock-cut installations were filled with earth and stones so as to be able to build on them. When the locations of the Temple Mount corners were determined and work was begun setting the first course of stone in place, it became apparent that one of the ritual baths was situated directly in line with the Western Wall. The builders filled in the bath with earth, placed three large flat stones on the soil and built the first course of the wall on top of this blockage.

While sifting the soil removed from inside the sealed ritual bath, three clay oil lamps were discovered of a type that was common in the first century CE. In addition, the sifting also yielded seventeen bronze coins that can be identified. Dr. Donald Ariel, curator of the numismatic collection of the Israel Antiquities Authority, determined that the latest coins (4 in all) were struck by the Roman procurator of Judea, Valerius Gratus, in the year 17/18 CE. This means that Robinson’s Arch, and possibly a longer part of the Western Wall, were constructed after this year – that is to say: at least twenty years after Herod’s death (which is commonly thought to have occurred in the year 4 BCE).

This bit of archaeological information illustrates the fact that the construction of the Temple Mount walls and Robinson’s Arch was an enormous project that lasted decades and was not completed during Herod’s lifetime.

This dramatic find confirms Josephus’ descriptions which state that it was only during the reign of King Agrippa II (Herod’s great-grandson) that the work was finished, and upon its completion there were eight to ten thousand unemployed in Jerusalem.

— • —

If you wish to see the complete press release click here.

Below are a few of the photos provided by the IAA. The first shows the lowest course of the wall resting on bedrock.

The first course of the wall resting on the bedrock. Photograph: Vladimir Naykhin.

The first course of the wall resting on the bedrock. Photograph: Vladimir Naykhin.

The next photo shows one of the coins dating to the time of Roman Procurator Valerius Gratus in the year A.D. 17/18. He was procurator A.D. 15-26, and followed by the better known Pontius Pilate (A.D. 26-36).

A coin of the Roman procurator Valerius Gratus, which helped in dating the construction of Robinson’s Arch.

A coin of the Roman procurator Valerius Gratus, which helped in dating the construction of Robinson’s Arch. Courtesy IAA.

The third photo shows some of the workers excavating the area.

Archaeologists working at bedrock below Robinson's Arch. Photo: IAA.

Archaeologists working at bedrock below Robinson's Arch. Photo: IAA.

After writing my post, I see that Todd Bolen accuses the IAA of being “desperate for headlines.” See his comments here.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

New insights into the clothing of the Qumran inhabitants

The recent edition of Dead Sea Discoveries has an article by Orit Shamir and Naama Sukenik on “Qumran Textiles and the Garments of Qumran’s Inhabitants.” The article costs $35 from Brill. To order click here. Here is the abstract.

Among the Qumran textiles that were kept at the Rockefeller Museum was a group of textiles that were unusual for Qumran. Most of them were made of wool, and some were dyed or decorated. Their marking QCC—Qumran Christmas Cave indicates their origin. In 2007 the cave was investigated by Porat, Eshel, and Frumkin. The cave is located in the bottom section of Kidron valley and doesn’t belong to Qumran caves. It can now be determined that all of the textiles from Qumran are made solely of linen. They were free of any colored decoration, except for scroll wrappers that decorated in blue. This, and the simplicity and whiteness of the textiles from Qumran, is compatible with the literary sources. It appears that the people of Qumran wished to differentiate themselves from the rest of the population also on the basis of their style of garments.

A popular article based on the technical paper appears in LiveScience here. Some speculation about the writers of the scrolls is based on the cloths found with the scrolls. Look also for an Image Album of 8 captioned photos including the textiles from Qumran and the Christmas Cave.

Most of the cloth wrappings found at Qumran were white and made of linen. The wrappings found at Christmas Cave were colorful and made of wool. The Mosaic law was clear about the clothing to be worn by the Israelites.

Do not wear clothes made of both wool and linen. (Deuteronomy 22:11 CSB)

Jodi Magness cites the War Scroll to illustrate that the “Qumran sectarian clothing must be made entirely of linen” (Stone and Dung, Oil and Spit, 116).

Most Bible students probably think of the Kidron valley running north to south between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives. That is correct, except that the brook joins with the Hinnom valley and continues east to the Dead Sea.

The photo below was made about 4.25 miles south of Qumran along the Dead Sea Road (Hwy. 90) as it crosses the brook Kidron (Qidron). The Christmas Cave mentioned in the article is to the west (left) of the highway as the brook comes down from Jerusalem. (Click on the photo for a larger image.)

Location of the Brook Kidron on Dead Sea Road (view north). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Crossing Brook Kidron on Dead Sea Road (view northeast). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

When David fled from Jerusalem at the time of Absalom’s rebellion, he crossed the Kidron “toward the way of the wilderness.”

Everyone in the countryside was weeping loudly while all the people were marching past. As the king was crossing the Kidron Valley, all the people were marching past on the road that leads to the desert. (2 Samuel 15:23 CSB)

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

Pisidian Antioch was the site of an important announcement

One of the important cities visited by Paul and Barnabas on the first preaching journey was Pisidian Antioch.

Moving from Perga, they arrived at Pisidian Antioch, and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. After the reading from the law and the prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent them a message, saying, “Brothers, if you have any message of exhortation for the people, speak it.” (Acts 13:14-15 NET)

Don’t confuse this Antioch in Pisidia, about 100 miles north of Perga, with Antioch in Syria where Barnabas and Saul began their journey (Acts 13:1-4).

Pisidian Antioch had been founded about 350 B.C. by either Seleucus Nicator or his son Antiochus I in ancient Phrygia, near Pisidia. About two thousand Jewish families were brought to Phrygia from Babylon about 200 B.C. (Josephus Ant. xii.3.4). This explains the presence of Jews and the synagogue.

Our photo shows one of the Roman streets at Antioch. The modern Turkish town of Yalvac can be seen in the distance.

Roman Street in Pisidian Antioch. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman Street in Pisidian Antioch. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Acts 13 should be remembered as the chapter in which Luke records Paul’s sermon on the history of Israel to both Jews and God fearing Gentiles. The sermon recounted here is similar to the sermon Paul heard from the martyr Stephen (Acts 7).

The events at Pisidian Antioch are significant because it is here that we have many Jews and devout god-fearing proselytes accepting the message of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:43). When the Jews began contradicting the gospel we hear the announcement of a more concentrated effort to reach the Gentiles with the Gospel.

Both Paul and Barnabas replied courageously, “It was necessary to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we are turning to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have appointed you to be a light for the Gentiles, to bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'” When the Gentiles heard this, they began to rejoice and praise the word of the Lord, and all who had been appointed for eternal life believed. So the word of the Lord was spreading through the entire region. (Acts 13:46-49 NET)