Category Archives: Bible Lands

Good reading for the weekend

Noah

There has been much discussion in the past few weeks about the Noah movie. In last Saturday’s roundup, Todd Bolen called attention to the blog of Dr. Brian Mattson. In a post entitled “Sympathy for the Devil” Mattson comments about the movie. He reminds us of the following important point: The Bible is not the text for this movie. Several writers, and speakers, have pointed out that about the only things in common between the Noah movie and the Noah/Flood story of the Bible are a man named Noah, an ark, and water.

Mattson claims and documents the philosophical background of the director of the movie in Gnosticism and Kabbalah. I am certain that many people will see the movie and have no awareness of that, just as many ready Paul’s epistle to the Colossians, and John’s epistles without understanding how they are responding to early Gnostic doctrines.

Here is the link to Mattson’s articles:

The Wife of Jesus, again.

It is almost Easter, so we can expect a rerun on various strange views about Jesus. I first called attention to this speculation about the wife of Jesus back in September, 2012, here. Todd Bolen recently commented on the same material that is now getting new attention. Here, he provides links to the article in the New York Times, and the Harvard Theological Review article by Dr. Karen King (available for download). The Times of Israel article is available here.

Papyrus fragment possibly claiming that Jesus has a wife. Photo: Harvard University, Dr. Karen L. King.

The GJW (Gospel of Jesus Wife) papyrus fragment possibly claiming that Jesus had a wife. Photo: Harvard University, Dr. Karen L. King.

Bolen summarizes the pertinent material, showing that the document tells us nothing about 1st century events:

An initial radiocarbon analysis dated the fragment to 404–209 BC; a second analysis gave a mean date of AD 741. King concludes with a date in the 7th or 8th centuries AD. As far as being a reliable witness to 1st century events, it is not. The author notes that the fragment should be studied in light of the Muslim view that prophets were usually married.

In King’s reading, “The main point of the GJW (Gospel of Jesus Wife) fragment is simply to affirm that women who are wives and mothers can be Jesus’s disciples.”

Larry Hurtado has written three posts about the papyrus document. Begin here and then scroll back for the other two.

Wild Boar at Caesarea Philippi

Carl Rasmussen’s recent Israel student group encountered a herd of about 15 wild boar at Caesarea Philippi. He provides some nice photos to back up his claim, and discusses the various Biblical references about swine. Access the HolyLandPhotos’ Blog here.

Using Google Books

Rob Bradshaw is making many books and journals available in PDF format. I check his BiblicalStudies.org.uk site regularly for materials that might be helpful in my study. Recently he called attention to a short video by Tim Bulkeley on how to access Bible commentaries without a library. The helpful, brief video is here.

 

 

 

 

Visualizing Isaiah 28: the threshing sledge

Toward the end of Isaiah 28 several agricultural illustrations are used. Notice the references to the threshing sledge in verses 27 and 28.

Dill is not threshed with a threshing sledge, nor is a cart wheel rolled over cumin, but dill is beaten out with a stick, and cumin with a rod. Does one crush grain for bread? No, he does not thresh it forever; when he drives his cart wheel over it with his horses, he does not crush it. (Isaiah 28:27-28 ESV)

A threshing sledge was made of wood with sharp stones placed in the bottom. The sledge was pulled around and around over stalks of wheat or barley to cut the stalks into small pieces. The sledge was pulled by oxen or another animal. A young man, with perhaps some weights would be placed on top of the sledge to make it more efficient. The photo below shows an antique threshing sledge at Aphrodisias, Turkey.

Threshing sledge with most of cutting stones gone. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Threshing sledge with most of cutting stones gone. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo shows another sledge with many of the stones still in place. Every time the sledge went over the grain the pieces became smaller.

A threshing sledge with most of the cutting stones gone. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A threshing sledge with many of the cutting stones in place. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The entire process of threshing, winnowing, and sifting, is shown in the art by Balage at Archaeology Illustrated.

Araunah's threshing floor. Art by Balage, Archaeology Illustrated.

Araunah’s threshing floor. Art by Balage, Archaeology Illustrated.

 

Visualizing Isaiah 27: women make a fire of dry boughs

The judgment upon Israel will become severe before the redemption comes. Here is one illustration of the bad conditions.

For the fortified city is solitary, a habitation deserted and forsaken, like the wilderness; there the calf grazes; there it lies down and strips its branches. When its boughs are dry, they are broken; women come and make a fire of them. For this is a people without discernment; therefore he who made them will not have compassion on them; he who formed them will show them no favor. (Isaiah 27:10-11 ESV)

Our photos were made at Haran, the home of Abraham and his family before they departed for the promised land (Genesis 11:31 – 12:5). Haran is a few miles north of the Syrian border in Southeastern Turkey. The beehive mud houses have been in use here for several hundred years. The first photo shows a woman bringing in dry branches to her house to use for building fires.

Woman carrying dry boughs at Haran. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Woman carrying dry boughs at Haran. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

And the photo here shows a large supply of dried boughs and a large stack of dung cakes which will be used to make fires for cooking and heating.

Dry boughs gathered for fire at Haran. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Dry boughs gathered for fire at Haran. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

 

Visualizing Isaiah 25: “on this mountain”

Isaiah continues the apocalyptic description of the judgment of the LORD and the return from captivity. The city that will be destroyed by the Babylonians will become a place of great feasting for all nations.

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.(Isaiah 25:6 ESV)

Early in the book Isaiah has informed us that “the mountain of the LORD” would become a place for blessing all men through the word which would go forth from Jerusalem.

It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:2-3 ESV)

Jerusalem is not directly on the top of the central mountain range that runs from the north to the south in the land of Canaan/Israel. It is situated on the eastern slope of the mountain ridge. Even then there are mountains that are higher. In the photo below you see the Old City of Jerusalem, where the Temple of Solomon once stood. But you see that Mount Scopus and the Mount of Olives are higher than Jerusalem. In God’s plan Jerusalem would become the highest of all. We see the fulfillment of this in Acts 2.

Notice Jerusalem in the mountains. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Notice Jerusalem in the mountains. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The photo above was taken from the Haas Promenade south of Jerusalem. Click on the photo for a larger image and a better view of the city.

Reading the Blogs # 4

Do you rob temples?

You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? (Romans 2:22 ESV)

Charles Savelle has a helpful chart at BibleX on Romans 2:22. What does the text mean? The chart allows the student to see various interpretations at a glance, with observations to enhance understanding.

Ruins of the temple of Apollo at Corinth. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ruins of the temple of Apollo at Corinth. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

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God’s fellow-workers. Daniel B. Wallace responds, on his blog, to the question, “What Does ‘We are God’s fellow-workers’ in 1 Corinthians 3:9 Really Mean”. Dr. Wallace says,

The King James Version in 1 Cor 3.9 reads, “we are labourers together with God…” This unambiguously suggests that Paul and Apollos were considered in some sense on the same level with God. Of course, ‘in some sense’ covers a multitude of possibilities, but there nevertheless seems to be an underlying tone of synergism and mutual credit.

After discussing 38 works (translations and commentaries), Wallace provides a “Table of Interpretations and Translations of 1 Cor 3:9.” The three views of the meaning of this verse are,

  1. Paul and Apollos are co-workers with God.
  2. The statement is ambiguous, tending toward the first view.
  3. Paul and Apollos are co-workers with each other in the service of God.

Then Greek-language illustrations from writers such as Josephus, Philo, and Justin Martyr are provided along with other Biblical references that might shed light on the subject.

Wallace concludes that the “co-workers” are the ministers who belong to God.

Too many Bible classes overlook the difficult passages of Scripture without any explanation. Dr. Wallace provides a good illustration of how to deal with these verses. Tables and charts usually help the teacher and the student.

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“The Authenticity of the James Ossuary” is a technical article on the archaeometric analysis of the James Ossuary from the Open Journal of Geology. The article by Rosenfeld, Feldman, and Krumbein is scholarly and technical, but may be of interest to some readers.  Download the PDF here.

— • —

Wadi Zin comes to life. “The  river doesn’t flow every year, and it has been several years since it last came to life.” The Times of Israel includes a short video showing the wadi (nahal, brook) coming to life in a powerful way. See it here. See the same video at examiner.com.

A dry wadi in the wilderness of Zin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A dry wadi in the wilderness of Zin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Israelites wandered in the Wilderness of Zin (Deuteronomy 32:51). See more here.

Places to look out over Jerusalem

The Times of Israel has a nice illustrated article today entitled “Five Glorious places from which to look out over Jerusalem.” Aviva and Shmuel Bar-Am show photographs from the following five places. Click here for the complete article.

  1. Haas-Sherover Promenade
  2. Confederation House Overlook
  3. Mount Zion Promenade and Overlooks
  4. Mount Scopus Observation Decks
  5. Gandhi Overlook (many will recall this as the lookout from the Mount of Olives)

Our photo below slows the modern view of Jerusalem from the Mount Scopus overlook.

View of Jerusalem from the Mount Scopus Overlook. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View of Jerusalem from the Mount Scopus Overlook. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

 

Visualizing Isaiah 21: a watchtower

Isaiah 21 contains oracles concerning Babylon, Edom, and Arabia. The watchman is to describe what he sees. From his watchtower where he stood day and night he was able to announce the fall of Babylon.

For thus the Lord said to me: “Go, set a watchman; let him announce what he sees. When he sees riders, horsemen in pairs, riders on donkeys, riders on camels, let him listen diligently, very diligently.” Then he who saw cried out: “Upon a watchtower I stand, O Lord, continually by day, and at my post I am stationed whole nights. (Isa 21:6-8 ESV)

More information about the role of the watchman may be found in Ezekiel 3 and 33. The photo below shows a watchtower reminiscent of Biblical times.

Watchtower at the Ibex Garden, Yad Hashmona. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Watchtower at the Ibex Garden, Yad Hashmona. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Visualizing Isaiah 19: “the idols of Egypt will tremble”

Isaiah 19 is a continuation of the announcement of the LORD’S judgment upon Egypt.

An oracle concerning Egypt. Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud and comes to Egypt; and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence, and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them. (Isaiah 19:1 ESV)

All over Egypt we see evidence of the ancient fallen power. This fallen statue of Ramses II at Memphis illustrates what happened.

Fallen colossal statue of Ramses II at Memphis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Fallen colossal statue of Ramses II at Memphis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The princes (leaders) of Zoan, and other places in Egypt, are likened to pillars that were to be crushed. Columns, pillars, and statues are scattered over the ruins of ancient Zoan (Tanis) in the land of Goshen. In the photo below we see columns stacked up.

Fallen stonework piled together at Zoan (Tanis) in the Land of Goshen. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Fallen stonework piled together at Zoan (Tanis) in Goshen. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Those who are the pillars of the land will be crushed, and all who work for pay will be grieved. The princes of Zoan are utterly foolish; the wisest counselors of Pharaoh give stupid counsel. How can you say to Pharaoh, “I am a son of the wise, a son of ancient kings”? Where then are your wise men? Let them tell you that they might know what the LORD of hosts has purposed against Egypt. The princes of Zoan have become fools, and the princes of Memphis are deluded; those who are the cornerstones of her tribes have made Egypt stagger. (Isaiah 19:10-13 ESV)

Visualizing Isaiah 18: “the rivers of Cush”

Israel and Judah found themselves positioned between the great political and military powers of the time: Assyria and Babylon to the north (or east) and Egypt to the south. In Isaiah 18 and 19, the prophet deals with the power to the south. Cush is likely more or less synonymous with Egypt for this purpose. The region is described as one of unrest.

Ah, land of whirring wings that is beyond the rivers of Cush, (Isaiah 18:1 ESV)

The IVP Bible Background Commentary comments on Cush, and explains the difference between Cush and modern Ethiopia.

Cush can refer to several different places in the Old Testament, though it most frequently is the designation for the area translations usually render “Ethiopia.” This is misleading, for the area Cush refers to is not modern Ethiopia (Abyssinia), but the area along the Nile just south of Egypt, ancient Nubia (in modern Sudan). The boundary between Egypt and Nubia in ancient times was usually either at the first or second cataract of the Nile. It is unlikely that Nubia ever extended much beyond the sixth cataract at Khartoum.

The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament comments on the term Cush (Ethiopia) as it is used in several Old Testament prophecies.

In several cases, especially in the prophets, Ethiopia is used in parallel construction as a synonym of Egypt (Isa 20:3-5; Ezek 30:4; Nah 3:9). This probably represents the dominance of Ethiopia (or, more precisely, Nubia) over Egypt between 750 and 663 B.C. Terhakah was a notable Nubian pharaoh who tried, unsuccessfully, to block Sennacherib’s westward expansion (2Kings 19:9 ; Isa 37:9). After 663 B. C. Egypt was independent of Nubia (Jer 46:9; Ezek 25:4, 5, 9).

Nubians now live in Sudan and southern Egypt near Aswan. Some of these people were displaced as a result of the building of the New High dam at Aswan and the formation of Lake Nasser. Some of the Nubians still live in Sudan. They are energetic people and good at selling their wares to the visiting tourists. At the first cataract of the Nile some Nubians have set up a small village with shops and camel rides for those brave enough to try. Notice the example below called Kush (Cush) House.

A Nubian village at Aswan, Egypt, highlights the connection with Cush. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Nubian village at Aswan, Egypt, highlights connection with Cush. Photo: F. Jenkins.

One sign reads “Welcome to Taharka Kingdom.” Taharka ((English Bible: Tirhakah). A photo showing Tirhakah under the protection of the god Amun is available here.

Visualizing Isaiah 17: olives and altars

In the oracle concerning Damascus (Syria), Isaiah uses illustrations of the gleaning of grain and olives –plants common in that time.

Gleanings will be left in it, as when an olive tree is beaten– two or three berries in the top of the highest bough, four or five on the branches of a fruit tree, declares the LORD God of Israel. (Isaiah 17:6 ESV)

We could probably shake off several more of the olives from the limbs below and have a better illustration of what Isaiah says, but hopefully this will serve to illustrate the point.

Olives on a branch at Neot Kedumim. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Olives on a branch at Neot Kedumim. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Another thing Isaiah says is that Damascus would no longer look to the altars they had made with their own hands. These images, and the gods they represented, would fail.

He will not look to the altars, the work of his hands, and he will not look on what his own fingers have made, either the Asherim or the altars of incense. (Isaiah 17:8 ESV)

Altars of incense came in all sizes in those days, and many have been uncovered by archaeologists working at various sites. The altar below, now displayed in the Israel Museum, is from Megiddo.

Altar of Incense from Megiddo. Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Horned altar of Incense from Megiddo. Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.