Monthly Archives: December 2012

Acts 28 — Photo Illustrations

Many of the places mentioned in Acts 28 have been discussed, with photos, over a period of years. For sure, we have posts on Malta, (Publius), Syracuse, Rhegium, (Appian Way), and Rome. Use the search box to locate these for your study and teaching.

For this final post on the Book of Acts I have decided to look at a thought suggested by Paul when he spoke with the leading men of the Jews in Rome.

 17 After three days Paul called together those who were the leading men of the Jews, and when they came together, he began saying to them, “Brethren, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.
18 “And when they had examined me, they were willing to release me because there was no ground for putting me to death.
19 “But when the Jews objected, I was forced to appeal to Caesar, not that I had any accusation against my nation.
20 “For this reason, therefore, I requested to see you and to speak with you, for I am wearing this chain for the sake of the hope of Israel.” (Acts 28:17-20 NAU)

Paul was taken to Rome in chains as a prisoner of the Roman Empire. See also Acts 21:33; 22:29; 26:29; Ephesians 6:20.

The Basilica of St. Paul, commonly known as St. Paul Outside the Walls, dates to the time of Constantine, and is thought to be the site of the burial of Paul.

Among the statues on the property is the one shown below. Paul is portrayed as a writer and a prisoner ready to be offered. We recall that the Prison Epistles (Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians) were written from Rome. My own understanding is that Paul was likely released after about two years. During that time we know very little about his activities, but believe that he wrote 1 Timothy and Titus. Later he was imprisoned a second time in Rome and writes another prison epistle, 2 Timothy.

Statue representing Paul as a writer in chains. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Statue representing Paul as a writer in chains. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The chains are difficult to see in the photo above, but in the view below they are clearly visible.

Paul in chains. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Paul in chains. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This final post in the series on Acts is sent forth with the hope that the material will be of value to students and Bible class teachers for years to come.

Hoping to grow frankincense in the Arava of Israel

Botanist Dr. Elaine Solowey is already known to us for the successful sprouting of a 2,000 year old date palm. See here.

Matthew Kalman reports that she is now trying her hand at growing frankincense in the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies.

“This is the first frankincense tree to set seed in Israel in 1500 years,” Dr Solowey told me as she presented the tiny sapling for its first public photo-call this week. “It was necessary to bring this variety back to the country because the last people growing these trees near the Dead Sea left and the trees left with them.”

Frankincense tree, Salalah, Oman.

Frankincense tree, Salalah, Oman.

In biblical times, frankincense, myrrh  and balm of Gilead were used among the ingredients of the incense used in Solomon’s Temple (1 Chronicles 9:29-30). Solowey and other scientists are examining the medical uses of these products.

Every student of the New Testament remembers the gifts brought by the Magi (wise men) to Jesus.

As they came into the house and saw the child with Mary his mother, they bowed down and worshiped him. They opened their treasure boxes and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11 NET)

Our photo show frankincense displayed at Avdat, a Nabatean site along the ancient incense route. Frankincense is linked with gold in Isaiah 60:6, and is considered a great value.

Frankincense on the ancient spice route at Avdat, Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Frankincense on the ancient spice route at Avdat, Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

To read all of Kalman’s informative article, see here.

We have written about frankincense and myrrh, with more photos and details, here and here and here.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

When a lot of rain is a good thing

Having watched the rise and fall of the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret) over a period of 45 years, it is exciting to learn that winter storms have pushed the lake to the sharpest December rise in 20 years.

According to an article in Haaretz the lake “is expected to have risen 26 centimeters [9.84"] since heavy rains began Thursday, it sharpest December rise in 20 years. [1991 and 1992]“

As a result of the increased flow in northern streams, the Kinneret’s water level rose sharply, reaching 212.07 meters [695.77 feet] below sea level Saturday morning.

Sightseeing boat on the Sea of Galilee. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Boat on the Sea of Galilee near the Plain of Gennesaret. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. (Matthew 14:34 ESV)

Rain also fell as far south as Ashdod and Kiryat Gat, “but failed to affect the Negev this time.” This reminds us of the days of the Patriarchs whose lives were often disrupted by lack of rain in the Negev.

According to the report, almost 20 inches of snow has fallen on Mount Hermon.

If you have an interest in weather conditions in Israel, I suggest Kinneret Bot and the site of the Israel Meterological Service.

Geographer Carl Rasmussen says,

All of us who have traveled in Israel and the surrounding countries are well-aware of the importance of the winter rains for the well-being of the inhabitants of the area, local agriculture, and the water supply in general.

HT: Bible Places Blog; Holy Land Photos’ Blog.

Myra, home of Saint Nicholas

The town Myra is known to students of the New Testament as a place where Paul transferred ships while he was being taken to Rome for trial before Caesar (Acts 27:5).

In the centuries following, Myra became the home of a (Greek Orthodox) bishop known as Nicholas. Born in Patara, Nicholas died December 6, 343. Several legends arose around Nicholas who was noted for giving gifts to the poor and raising the dead.

Highly revered in Greece and Russia, St. Nicholas is known as the patron saint of children, sailors, merchants, and scholars. From his life of piety, kindness, and generosity arose the legendary figure celebrated today as St. Nicholas, Father Christmas, or Santa Claus. (Fant & Reddish, A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey, 256)

The ancient Myra is associated with the modern Turkish town Demre (or Kale). I thought you might enjoy seeing a few pictures related to Saint Nicholas. In the town square is a recent statue showing St. Nicholas with children. The statue was a gift of the Russian government in 2000. Many Russian tourists were visiting the day I was there.

Modern statue of Saint Nicholas at Myra. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Modern statue of Saint Nicholas at Myra. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A few decades ago I saw an older statue near the entrance to the church. It now has a fresh coat of black paint.

Older statue of St. Nicholas near the entrance of the Byzantine church ruins. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Older statue of St. Nicholas near the entrance of the Byzantine church ruins.This statue depicts him carrying a bag of gifts.  Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Byzantine church dates to the 6th century A.D. Several writers point out that the sarcophagus of Nicholas was broken into by Italian merchants in the 1087 A.D., and his bones were taken to Bari, Italy.

Wilson says the church is built like a basilica “in the shape of an orthodox cross” (Biblical Turkey 88).

St. Nicholas Byzantine church, Myra, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ruins of the St. Nicholas Byzantine church, Myra, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This last photo shows one of the poorly preserved frescoes.

Fresco on the wall of St. Nicholas church in Demre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Fresco on the wall of St. Nicholas church in Demre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tourism seems to be thriving at Myra even though the town is off the beaten track. Whether there are any Christians in the town is doubtful.

For an earlier post about Myra and St. Nicholas, see here.

“Dried up like a potsherd”

Simple things make good illustrations. Just ask Jesus.

David used many simple illustrations in the Psalms. In one he spoke of the common piece of broken pottery (potsherd) which could be found around every home and camp site.

my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. (Psalm 22:15 ESV)

In this text David describes his own feeling of weakness and/or that of the coming Messiah. There are times, I think, when each of us feels like this.

A common thing we see at archaeological digs is a pile of potsherds from ancient times. Archaeologists relish an unbroken piece of pottery, but even the sherds or potsherds reveal a lot about the age of the stratum being worked and the life of the ancient people. The broken jar handle from Ramat Rachel, south of Jerusalem, tells its own story.

Potsherds at Ramat Rachel excavation. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Potsherds Potsherds at Ramat Rachel excavation. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Unless it is an old college professor (pick your own), nothing is drier than a piece of broken pottery. Great illustration.

The “horns of the wild oxen”

Many Bible stories find their setting, and draw illustrations, based on the land where the writers lived.

David draws on the land when he prophesies the execution of the Messiah (Psalm 22). In one plea he says,

Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen! (Psalm 22:21 ESV)

The term wild oxen in this text comes from the Hebrew word reem. The photo below shows the Arabian Oryx, thought to be the reem of the Hebrew Bible. The King James Version used the word unicorn to translate reem, but modern English versions typically translate it with “wild ox” (Psalm 22:21; Numbers 23:22; 24:8; Deuteronomy 33:17, et al.).

Arabian Oryx at Hai-Bar Nature Reserve near Eilat, Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Arabian Oryx at Hai-Bar Nature Reserve near Eilat, Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Antikythera Shipwreck and “Danger at sea”

The following post appeared in part on this blog June 4, 2012. I am repeating some of it for the benefit of those who missed it, and because it provides some complementary information for the study of Acts 27. A few changes have been made to make it more useful in connection with the Acts study.

The Antikythera Shipwreck is a special exhibition at the Athens (Greece) National Museum which is scheduled to run from April 2012 to April 2013.

The Ship and the Treasures

The shipwreck off the eastern coast of Antikythera is dated to 60-50 BC, a period during which maritime trade and transportation of works of Greek art from the Eastern Mediterranean to Italy flourished. Its cargo dates from the 4th to the 1st century BC. The ship was a freighter of about 300 tons capacity and was sailing towards Italy.

Bronze and marble sculpture luxurious glass vessels and golden jewellery, a large amount of pottery and bronze couches formed part of its cargo. Amongst these the famous “Antikylhera Mechanism” still contributes an enormous amount to our knowledge of ancient Greek technology and astronomy. All the finds recovered from the shipwreck bear witness to the aesthetic preferences of their orderers or potential purchasers but, above all, they reflect the new phenomenon of art trade, the first in the history of the West civilization.

The Mechanism

Constructed in the second half of the second century BC, the Mechanism comprises gears, scales, axles, and dials. The inscriptions on the surface of the Mechanism refer to astronomical and calendar calculations, while the inscriptions on its metal protective plates contain instructions for its use. The Antikythera Mechanism is the earliest preserved portable astronomical calculator. It displayed the positions of the Sun, the Moon and most probably the five planets known in antiquity. It was used to predict solar and lunar eclipses, it kept an accurate calendar of many years, and displayed the date of Pan-Hellenic games (Olympia, Nemea, Isthmia, Delphi and Dodona.

We had visited Thera (aka Santorini) during our Aegean cruise. Antikythera (“opposite Kythera”) is a Greek island between Crete and the Peloponnese (where Corinth is located). This area is north of where Paul’s ship encountered the storm that drove it off course (Acts 27:8-16).

In the earlier post I included two of the sculptures being transported on the ship. Go here to see those photos. I will share some different photos today.

One display case deals with the “Self-Sufficient Microcosm.” In addition to cargo, there were a few human skeletal remains on the ship. Those who traveled by sea often had to take their own food supplies on board with them. It is thought that olives and snails were part of the daily diet. There were stones “for grinding seeds, liquefying vegetables and herbs, and stirring liquids.”

A manually operated quern was used for grinding grain.

Manually operated quern for grinding grain. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Manually operated quern for grinding grain. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Salted meat and fish, as well as olives, and wine could be stored for transport in amphorae and other containers. This display shows some of the amphorae as they might have been scattered on the sea bed.

Amphorae used for transporting goods. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Amphorae used for transporting goods. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Many of the sculptures found with the ship wreckage are encrusted with sea organisms. Be sure to see the previous post. There was one marble statue of a boy. The sign accompanying the sculpture says,

The boy is depicted nude and half bent-over with his head raised. The upper part of his torso leans sharply forward.

Some believe that this young man was preparing for wrestling. Others think he was a pancratiast (one who participated in both wrestling and boxing). Notice that the left side of the statue (our view on the right) is covered with sea organisms. The right side seems to have been buried in sediment on the sea bed, and thus protected.

Statue of a boy from the Antikythera shipwreck. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Statue of a boy from the Antikythera shipwreck. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Numerous bronze pieces are displayed. I especially like the one known as “The Antikythera Philosopher.” See the previous article.

We typically think of ships from the Roman period, and earlier, staying near the shore (coasters). This was certainly true of many of the sea journeys of the Apostle Paul (Acts 20:5, 13-16; 27:5-7).

Greek archaeologists announce here the discovery of two Roman-era shipwrecks in water nearly a mile deep. Sailing to Italy required leaving the safety of the nearby shore for deep waters. Such was true of Paul’s journey to Rome after leaving Crete (Acts 27).

Paul spoke of the dangers at sea in his second letter to the Corinthians (11:24-29) about A.D. 55.

  • Three times I was shipwrecked.
  • A night and a day I was adrift at sea.
  • He mentioned “Danger at sea.”

The Malta shipwreck is the only one recorded in Acts, and it occurred after the writing of 2 Corinthians. Hughes mentions at least nine voyages between Acts 9 and 18. Paul says three of these ended in shipwreck. Hughes says there were at least another nine voyages between the writing of 2 Corinthians and the Malta shipwreck (The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT, 410-411).

At least some of the ships used by Paul were grain ships (Acts 27:38), but there may have been other cargo on some of them.

If you visit Athens between now and April 2013, be sure to take some time for The Antikythera Shipwreck.