Monthly Archives: March 2012

The gods of Elephantine Island

Khnum (also Khnoum and Khnemu) was the chief Egyptian god in a region stretching from Thebes (modern Luxor) to Philae. Philae is a short distance south of Aswan and Elephantine Island.

According to Budge,

… the principal sanctuaries of the god were at the two ends of the First Cataract, i.e., on Elephantine on the north and on Philae and the adjoining islands on the south. He [Khnum] was the god par excellence of the First Cataract, throughout which, with his female counterpart Satet and the local Nubian goddess Anqet, he was worshipped from the earliest dynasties … (The Gods of the Egyptians, II:50).

Recently I learned of Ancient Egypt Online. This well-constructed site describes Khnum:

Khnum was originally a water god who was thought to rule over all water, including the rivers and lakes of the underworld. He was associated with the source of the Nile, and ensured that the inundation deposited enough precious black silt onto the river banks to make them fertile. The silt also formed the clay, the raw material required to make pottery. As a result he was closely associated with the art of pottery. According to one creation myth, Khnum moulded everything on his potters wheel, including both the people and the other gods.

Budge sums up the essence of the god when he says that Khnum “was originally a water or river-god, and that in very early times he was regarded as the god of the Nile and of the annual Nile-flood…”

A courtyard and an impressive granite doorway mark the location of the Late Khnum Temple on Elephantine Island. This gate, belonging to Dynasty XXX,  was constructed in the reign of Nectanebo II (c. 350 B.C.). The Wikipedia entry says he was the last native ruler of ancient Egypt.

Ruins of the Khnoum Temple on Elephantine Island. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Granite doorway of the Khnoum Temple on Elephantine Island. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Book of Exodus quotes the LORD saying that, in the plagues of Egypt, he would execute judgment on the gods of Egypt.

I will pass through the land of Egypt in the same night, and I will attack all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both of humans and of animals, and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment. I am the LORD. (Exodus 12:12 NET; cf. Numbers 33:4).

Khnum was the god of the Nile. Not much left today.

Elephantine Island

There are numerous ways to describe the location of Elephantine Island. It is an island in the Nile River at Aswan (= Syene in Ezekiel 29:10 and 30:6). Or we might say that the island is located at the first cataract of the Nile.

According to Budge, the earlier name for Elephantine was Abu. One way of writing the name of the island included the drawing of an elephant (E. A. Wallis Budge, The Gods of the Egyptians, II:51).

Various suggestions have been made regarding the origin of the name Elephantine. Some say the smooth rocks of the first cataract remind one of an elephant back. Others say, the island is shaped like an elephant tusk. Or, the island was the center of ivory trading in the past.

A small granite statue of an elephant has been uncovered on the extreme south end of the island. Aswan, you likely recall, was noted for its granite.

Granite Elephant on Elephantine Island, Aswan, Egypt. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Granite Elephant on Elephantine Island, Aswan, Egypt. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In the Septuagint Old Testament and in the New Testament the word elephantinos is translated ivory. You can think of Samaria’s famous beds of ivory, made from the tusks of elephants (Amos 6:4), or the unsold cargoes of the merchants who could no longer trade with the fallen Babylon [Roman Empire] (Revelation 18:12).

Paul spent a night at Cos (Kos)

Paul and his companions, including the physician Luke, made their way from Miletus to Cos (Kos).

And when we had parted from them and set sail, we came by a straight course to Cos, and the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara. (Acts 21:1 ESV)

Cos is one of the islands belonging to a group of 12 called the Dodecanese. Patmos is also an island of this group. The Mycenaeans settled Cos in the 15th century B.C. In the centuries to follow the island came under the control of the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans. In modern times the island has been under Turkish and Italian control, and German occupation. Since 1948 it has been part of Greece. My only visit to Cos was a brief stop en route from Patmos to Rhodes in 1984. Here is one of the photos I made.

The harbor on the Island of Cos in 1984. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The harbor on the Island of Cos in 1984. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In the time of Paul, Cos was noted as the birthplace of Hippocrates, the “father of medicine.” Hippocrates was associated with the Asclepium, ruins of which can still be seen. A Hellenistic gymnasium and some Roman ruins, including portions of a Roman road, may also be seen. There is also an archaeological museum.

Howard F. Vos describes the island with these words:

One of the most beautiful ports of the ancient world, Cos not doubt was most famous as a health resort. It was the site of the first school of scientific medicine and the sanctuary of Asclepius (Esculapius). The island had a healthful climate and hot ferrous and sulfurous springs, which the great Hippocrates (ca 460–377 b.c.), the father of medicine, first used to cure his patients. (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, revised.)

James Strahan, in the old Hasting’s Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, says,

It was renowned for its vines and looms, its literature and art, and above all for its temple of Æsculapius and school of medicine, which must have made it especially interesting to St. Luke.

According to Josephus, Herod the Great assisted the people of Cos with grain and other goods. (JW 1:424).

Two Other Good Sources:

Fant, C. E. and M. G. Reddish, A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey.

Wilson, Mark. Biblical Turkey: A Guide to Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor. This book deals with Turkey, but devotes ½ page to Cos as a Sidetrip.

Dr. Bryant Wood’s Lectures on Archaeology and the Conquest

Dr. Bryant G. Wood recently presented three lectures on “Archaeology and the Conquest: New Evidence on an Old Problem” for the 2012 William R. Rice Lecture Series. The lectures, and a fourth lecture on Old Testament Archaeological Discoveries, are available in MP3 here.

The four topics available for listening are:

  • Background and Chronology of the Exodus and Conquest.
  • Digging Up the Truth at Jericho.
  • The Discovery of Joshua’s Ai.
  • Great Archaeological Discoveries Related to the old Testament.

Wood is Director of Research at the Associates for Biblical Research, editor of Bible and Spade, and director of the Excavations at Khirbet el-Maqatir (suggested as a possible site for Biblical Ai).

Jericho's Outer Revetment Wall on South End of Tel es-Sultan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jericho's Outer Revetment Wall on the South End of Tel es-Sultan. Recent archaeological work at Jericho indicates that mud brick had fallen on houses built against this wall. Wood believes that this evidence fits perfectly with the biblical record in Joshua. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

HT: Bible-X

Plants growing in the Sea of Galilee

A member of the Biblical Flora group asks,

I was wondering if anyone knew what kind of water plants grew in the Sea of Galilee. Reeds, seaweeds, water lilies…anything like that?

Here is a slide that I made in June, 1980, at the northeast corner of the Sea of Galilee. I am not aware of the technical names of the plants, but it certainly shows a nice variety. Perhaps some other list member will be able to provide more information.

More recently, much of this area has been cleared for recreational use.

A secluded place on the NE corner of Sea of Galilee. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A secluded place on the NE corner of Sea of Galilee. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

When I made this photo I was thinking of the text in Mark which speaks of Jesus and His disciples going by boat to a desert (Greek, eremos) or secluded place.

And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. (Mark 6:32 ESV)

The reference may be to the land area (cf. Mark 6:35), but it provides a good illustration of the type of place that could be reached by boat.

Those with an interest in Biblical Flora might enjoy being part of the group. Click here for information. J.P. van de Giessen is the list moderator.

Roman Volubilis — “Stunning with few tourists”

Ruins of Roman Volubilis in Morocco. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins 2000.

Ruins of the Roman City of Volubilis in Morocco. Slide by Ferrell Jenkins, 1980.

A feature at Seattlepi.com says that Morocco’s Roman ruins are “Stunning, with few tourists.” The article describes Volubilis,

The jewel in the crown of Morocco’s Roman ruins is certainly Volubilis, located at the foot of the Atlas mountains in a sweeping valley filled with olive and almond trees.

This city of 20,000 was the westernmost extremity of an empire that once stretched to the gates of Persia. The sprawling floor plans of its buildings and brilliant floor mosaics suggest great wealth.

The site is dominated by the remains of the grand public buildings around the forum, with the impressive arches of the Basilica courthouse arrayed in front of pillars of the temple to the god Jupiter — now topped by bushy stork nests. Every old ruin in Morocco appears to host its own of population of the large black and white birds, which soar over the sites or preen in their nests as tourists snap away with cameras.

Ruins of the Roman City of Volubilis in Morocco. Slide by Ferrell Jenkins, 1980.

Ruins of the Roman City of Volubilis in Morocco. Slide by Ferrell Jenkins, 1980.

Students of the New Testament realize that the Roman Empire was vast. Volubilis became part of the Roman province Mauretania Tingitania under the Emperor Claudius in A.D. 45. Claudius was Emperor from A.D. 41-54 during the time of Paul’s journeys to spread Christianity throughout the Empire (Acts 18:2).

And he [Paul] 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, (Acts 18:2 ESV)

Twice I have taken tours to Volubilis, about 20 miles from Meknes. Most of the ruins we see today date from the second and third centuries A.D.

Volubilis has been added to the list of World Heritage Sites because “this site is an exceptionally well preserved example of a large Roman colonial town on the fringes of the Empire.”

The feature about Morocco’s Roman ruins may also be read at CBS News here.

HT: Jack Sasson

Alexander the Great and the Book of Daniel

Josephus, the late first century Jewish historian, records the visit of Alexander the Great to the city of Jerusalem in the 4th century B.C. He recounts how Alexander “went up into the temple” and “offered sacrifice to God.” He says that the Book of Daniel was shown to Alexander. Alexander assumed, as have many commentators since that time, that Daniel was prophesying of Alexander.

Bust of Alexander in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Bust of Alexander in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Here is a portion of the account from the Antiquities of the Jews. Notice especially section 337.

336 And when he had said this to Parmenion, and had given the high priest his right hand, the priests ran along by him, and he came into the city. And when he went up into the temple, he offered sacrifice to God, according to the high priest’s direction, and magnificently treated both the high priest and the priests.
337 And when the Book of Daniel was showed to him {a} wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that himself was the person intended; and as he was then glad, he dismissed the multitude for the present; but the next day he called them to him, and bade them ask what favours they pleased of him;
338 whereupon the high priest desired that they might enjoy the laws of their forefathers, and might pay no tribute on the seventh year. He granted all they desired; and when they entreated him that he would permit the Jews in Babylon and Media to enjoy their own laws also, he willingly promised to do hereafter what they desired:  (Ant 11:336-338)

Read Daniel 8 for more details of the conflict between Alexander, who is compared to a male goat, and the Persian king who is likened to a ram.

As I was considering, behold, a male goat came from the west across the face of the whole earth, without touching the ground. And the goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes. (Daniel 8:5 ESV)