Category Archives: Bible Study

More on Roman Roads and Milestones

We have had a few follow-up questions from our post on Roman Roads and Milestones. One reader asked on Facebook, “Is the milepost inside Jaffa Gate for real??”

If you enter the Old City of Jerusalem at Jaffa Gate you should turn left on the second street (lane would be better). You may not see the name, but it is Demetrius Street. A column, now serving as a lamppost, is actually a portion of an inscribed Roman column. Jerome Murphy-O’Connor (Holy Land, 5th edition) says the Latin inscription reads,

M(arco) Iunio Maximo leg(ato) Aug(ustorum) Leg(ionis) X Fr(etensis)—Antoninianae—C. Dom(itius) Serg(ius) str(ator)eius.

Roman column near Jaffa Gate. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman column near Jaffa Gate. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Murphy-O’Connor explains,

The inscription honours Macus Junius Maximus, Legate of the Augusts (i.e. the emperor Septimius Severus and his eldest son Caracalla), which implies that he was the governor of the province of Judaea, and Legate of the Tenth Legion Fretensis.

The column was erected about A.D. 200. Hoade (Guide to the Holy Land) says the once-taller column “was scalped by a bomb in 1948.” This column is comparable to a milestone but apparently never served that purpose. The camp of the Tenth Roman Legion was immediately south of this place in the area now occupied by the Armenian Quarter. After the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, Titus allowed the Tenth Legion to remain in Jerusalem.

[Titus] … permitted the tenth legion to stay, as a guard at Jerusalem, and did not send them away beyond the Euphrates, where they had been before; (Josephus, Wars of the Jews 7:17)

Close-up of Roman column mentioning 10th Roman legion. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Close-up of Roman column mentioning 10th Roman legion. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

What is a mile? Another reader asked, “How does the mile mentioned in the NT (I would assume the Roman mile) compare in length to our mile?”

The Greek term used in Matthew 5:41 is milion. BDAG says the term is used of “a Roman mile, lit. a thousand paces, then a fixed measure = eight stades = 1,478.5 meters.”

But the term used in Luke 24:13 and John 6:19 is stadion. This term is defined as “a measure of distance of about 192 meters, stade, one-eighth mile” (BDAG). This word also came to mean “an area for public spectacles, arena, stadium.” This is the term translated race in 1 Corinthians 9:24.

Our English versions typically adapt the Greek term stadion “to familiar measurements of distance” (Louw-Nida).

When is a gate not a gate? Rethinking the Lachish discovery

Last Monday, following material posted by Luke Chandler, I posted a blog here with this heading: “Have new gates been discovered at Lachish?”

Yesterday Luke posted a clarification here that was sent to him by the Fourth Lachish Expedition director Yossi Garfinkel. Garfinkel suggests that the new architectural features discovered at Lachish probably should not be called “gates.” He says there are no chambers on both sides of the opening. He says, “so we might have simple openings in the city wall rather than official gates.” The first opening had already been noted by Olga Tufnell after the first expedition at Lachish by Starkey. Tufnell said it was a “blocked Iron Age” gate. Garfinkel thinks it “is probably a Middle Bronze blocked gate.”

Prof. Garfinkel says the second opening found this year is “dated to Level I (Persian) and Level II (586 BC destruction), so this opening is not ‘Early Iron Age’ as [Chandler] wrote.”

This illustrates one of the reasons archaeologists often withhold their findings from the public until they can be more certain about what they have, and even then they point out that the findings are preliminary.

I have dabbled in archaeology enough through personal study, participation at Lachish in 1981, and attendance at the annual meetings of the professional societies fairly regularly for the past 40 years, to know that interpretations change from day-to-day, and season-to-season. Patience is recommended.

Chambered gate at Gezer. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Chambered gate at Gezer. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

 

Have new gates been discovered at Lachish?

Luke Chandler has reported the identification of new entrances to the ancient city of Lachish here. The late Iron Age gate where the Lachish Letters were discovered is marked by an oval (almost circle). This is the entry to the site used by tourists who visit.

The newly-identified entrances are in the area of the rectangle marking. This is the area where most (or all) of the current excavations have been conducted.

Aerial view of Lachish showing Iron Age gate (oval), and the earlier gate (rectangle). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of Lachish showing Iron Age gate (oval), and the earlier gate (rectangle). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Chandler says that the newly-identified entrances have preliminary dating to the earlier Iron Age [1200-900 BC, the period of the Judges and the United Kingdom] and the Middle Bronze periods [2050-1550 BC, the period of the Patriarchs]. He says this is where Prof. Yosef Garfinkel plans to begin the 2015 season of excavations.

Chris McKinny, a staff member of the Tel Burna Excavation Project, discusses the importance of the discovery if one of the gates does prove to belong to the “early Iron Age.” He says,

If this is in fact a gate that can be dated to the “early Iron Age,” then this is a very important discovery for reconstructing Israel/Judah’s geopolitical character in the 10th and 9th centuries BCE.

Read his full discussion at Bible Places.

 

Roman Roads and Milestones

A new website devoted to Roman Roads and Milestones in Judaea/Palaestina has recently come to our attention. This site is co-sponsored by the Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee Department of Holy Land Studies and Tel Aviv University IMC-Israeli Milestone Committee. Most readers will know that Kinneret is the Hebrew name for the Sea of Galilee. The website includes articles by the late Israel Roll and others, as well as maps showing the location of the roads. Many of the articles are in Hebrew or another language other than English. The maps, however, should be useful to those who do not read Hebrew.

The English website is available here. (If it links to the Hebrew page look in the upper left hand corner and click on EN.)

Good Bible atlases include a map of the known roadways. See, for example, the following:

  • Rasmussen, Zondervan Atlas of the Bible. Rasmussen includes a map showing the Natural Routes/Roads, and a discussion of International Routes.
  • Beitzel, The New Moody Atlas of the Bible. Beitzel includes a map showing The Roads of Palestine and a discussion of the principles back of making decisions about the roads.
  • Schlegel, Satellite Bible Atlas. The second map in this atlas shows the Regions and Routes of the Land of Israel.

Our photo below shows remains of the Roman road that Jesus might have taken from near Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee. These roads are often in danger of destruction by careless builders and farmers.

The Roman Road near Golani Junction in Galilee. This road collected Diocaesarea (Zephoris) and Tiberias. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Roman Road near Golani Junction in Galilee. This road connected Diocaesarea (Zephoris) and Tiberias. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jesus taught His disciples about the attitude they should have toward the Roman authorities.

And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.(Matthew 5:41 ESV)

New Testament writers gave distances in their descriptions of travel from one city to another. Luke says that Emmaus was about seven miles from Jerusalem (Luke 24:13). John says that Bethany was about two miles from Jerusalem (John 11:18).

Milestones were common in Roman times and numerous ones have been found throughout the land of Israel. I understand that the milestone below is from the Jezreel Valley. It is one of many displayed on the grounds of the Beit-Sturman Museum near En Harod.

Roman Milestone from the Jezreel Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman Milestone from the Jezreel Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

HT: Jack Sasson

Gaza is in the news again

After my first tour to the Bible Lands, including Rome, Greece (Athens and Corinth), Egypt, Lebanon, Syria (Damascus), Jordan, and Israel, in April/May, 1967, I decided to make a second tour the following year. For many years, I always added some new places on each tour. In 1968 I added Beersheba and Gaza. The Gaza Strip (named such because of the long, narrow size of the small entity) had been under Egyptian control for several decades until June, 1967
There was not much to see at Gaza. By the time we visited in 1968, Gaza was under Israeli control. We drove to the coast where there were only a few houses and some small fishing boats. This is one of the few slides that I have to illustrate the visit to Gaza.

Gaza on the Mediterranean Sea in May, 1968. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Gaza on the Mediterranean Sea in May, 1968. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Gaza is mentioned several times in the Old Testament. Here is a summary of these references.

  • Gaza was the southwestern boundary of the Canaanites in the table of Nations (Genesis 10:19).
  • The original inhabitants of Gaza were replaced by the Caphtorim, likely the ancestors of the Philistines (Deuteronomy 2:23).
  • Joshua defeated Canaanites “even as far as Gaza” (Joshua 10:41).
  • Joshua eliminated the Anakites except in Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod (Joshua 11:21-22). We recognized these cities as later belonging to the Philistines.
  • Gaza is listed as belonging to the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:47; Judges 1:18).
  • The Midianites oppressed Israel, “as far as Gaza”, for seven years (Judges 6:4).
  • Samson had contact with the inhabitants of Gaza (Judges 16).
  • Gaza is listed as one of the five Philistine cities in the time of the Israelite Judges (1 Samuel 6:17).
  • Solomon controlled territory as far southwest as Gaza (1 Kings 4:24).
  • Hezekiah defeated the Philistines as far as Gaza and its territory (2 Kings 18:8).
  • Jeremiah makes reference to Gaza being conquered by Pharaoh (Jeremiah 47:1).
  • The prophets of Judah pronounced judgments upon Gaza (Amos 1:6-7; Zephaniah 2:4; Zechariah 9:5).

The only New Testament reference to Gaza is in Acts 8:26. Philip the evangelist was instructed to go south on the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza. English translators struggle with the issue of whether the city was desert, or the road leading to the city ran through a desert area. (I will leave that for some other time.)

The first display one sees as he enters the archaeology wing of the Israel Museum is that of the anthropoid coffins from Deir el-Balah, a site south of Gaza city. The coffins, excavated by Trude Dothan in 1972, bear evidence of Egyptian influence. They date to the 13th century B.C.
Anthropoid Coffins from Deir el-Balah in the Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Anthropoid Coffins from Deir el-Balah in the Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Reprint from January 7, 2012.

John was “on the island called Patmos”

John, the writer of the book of Revelation, was “on the island called Patmos, because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (Rev 1:9). I am convinced that this was the apostle John. He was there because of (Greek dia, on account of) the word of God. Filson says this could mean either banishment, or banishment to hard labor. He points out that the word of God and witness or testimony are used in Revelation 6:9 and 20:4 “in reference to a persecution situation” (Interpreter’s Dictionary Bible III:677).

The Romans used the island as a penal settlement to which they sent political agitators and others who threatened the peace of the empire (Tacitus Annals 3.68; 4.30; 15.71). According to Eusebius, John was banished to Patmos by the Emperor Domitian, A. D. 95, and released 18 months later under Nerva (HE III.18.1; 20.8-9).

View of the port of Skala from Chora. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View of the port of Skala from the monastery at Chora. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Patmos is a rocky island off the west coast of Asia Minor in the Aegean Sea, about 37 miles southwest of Miletus. The island is one of the Dodecanese (twelve) or of the Southern Sporades. It is about 10 miles long (N–S) and 6 miles wide at the north end, and consists of about 22 square miles of land area. The island is mountainous and of irregular outline. Some visitors to the island have suggested that the natural scenery “determined some features of the imagery of the Apocalypse” (HDB III:693-94).

Patmos has been a part of Greece since 1947, and may be reached by boat from Piraeus, Samos, Kos, or Rhodes. The ferry from Samos takes about 2 1/2 hours, arriving at the port of Skala. Some cruise ships sail from Kusadasi, Turkey, to Patmos.

On the way from Skala to Chora, the only other town on the island, one passes the Monastery and Cave of the Apocalypse. This site is marked as the traditional place where John received the Revelation.

At Chora, the monastery of St. John the Theologian dominates the island. It was built by a monk called Christodulos (slave of Christ) in A. D. 1088. The monastery library is noted for its manuscripts, but especially for its collection of more than 200 icons. The oldest book in the library is part of a 6th century codex of Mark (Codex Purpureus). The second oldest manuscript is an 8th century A. D. copy of Job.

Bell tower on the Monastery of St. John the Theologian at Chora. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Bell tower on Monastery of St. John the Theologian at Chora. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Bosphorus − “a liquid line”

For years I have received Saudi Aramco World (Saudi was added to the name a few years ago). From time to time there are articles pertaining to some portion of the Bible World. The March/April 2014 issue has an article by Louis Werner entitled “Bosporus: Strait Between Two Worlds.” The leading paragraph sets the tone for the article.

Look at an atlas of the oceans, and one place always seems to catch the eye. The Bosporus, that narrow waterway connecting the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara, which cuts the city of Istanbul into two halves, stands out alone among the world’s other major straits and canals. Along with the wider twin, the Dardanelles, the Bosporus famously divided east and west, while the rest − the Suez and Panama Canals, the Malacca and Magellan Straits, to name but a few − link different regions.

Its function as a barrier between continents, a liquid line strung between Europe and Asia, has given the Bosporus such prominence in both history and legend: The ancient Greeks sailed up the strait to their Black Sea colonies, the Persian King Darius built a floating bridge across it in the fifth century BCE; in 1451 CE, Mehmet the Conqueror built a fort on its European bank to strangle Constantinople; during the Cold War, Joseph Stalin said that Turkish control over the Bosporus held the USSR “by the throat”; today it is an essential part of global shipping trade in petroleum.

The Bosphorus (more common spelling) has fascinated me since I first saw it in 1968. I have enjoyed looking at the great vessels traveling one way or the other through the waterway. Tour groups enjoy a boat ride on the Bosporus. The photo below shows one of the more narrow areas. Cargo ships can be seen awaiting their turn to go through the strait.

Cargo and tourists making their way through the Bosporus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Cargo and tourists making their way through the Bosporus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In the past we have written about the delivery of Peter’s epistles with the suggestion that the messenger came through the Bosphorus into the Black Sea and along the coast of Bithynia and Pontus. If this is correct, and I think it is, the Bosphorus was an important waterway to those Christians addressed by Peter. See “The Delivery of Peter’s Epistles” here.

July 4th at Lachish

In the previous post I mentioned that several former students and friends are participating in the dig at Tel Lachish this year.

Six years ago on this day I wrote about Lachish on July 4th, 1980. Since we have many more readers now I think it appropriate to re-post that entry here.

— • —

On July 4, 1980, I was participating in the excavation at Tel Lachish in Israel along with three of my colleagues from Florida College (James Hodges, Phil Roberts, and Harold Tabor). There were sizable numbers of participants from Israel, United States, Australia, South Africa, and Germany. In addition to the hard work out in the sun, we had some fun. On the morning of July 4th a few of the guys got an American flag and put together a drum and bugle corp and marched across the tel. Note especially the plastic bucket being used as a drum in this photo.

"Parade" at Tel Lachish, July 4, 1980

“Parade” at Tel Lachish, July 4, 1980

Lachish is identified with Tell ed-Duweir, located in the shephelah (lowlands) of Judah about 30 miles south west of Jerusalem. It is mentioned in Scripture during the period of the conquest (Joshua 10, 12, 15). Lachish served as one of the Judean store cities during the period of the kingdom Judah. Many of the LMLK jar handles have been found here. The city fell both to the Assyrians and the Babylonians.

Excavations were carried out by the British between 1932 and 1938 under the direction of J. L. Starkey. Starkey was murdered in 1938 while en route to the opening of the Palestine Archaeological Museum (later the Rockefeller Museum) in Jerusalem. Professor Yohanan Aharoni of Tel Aviv University excavated the “Solar Shrine” in 1966 and 1968. A new excavation was begun in 1973 under the auspices of The Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University and The Israel Exploration Society. Dr. David Ussishkin served as the director until 1994.

One afternoon while we were in our tented camp a short distance from the tel, a bus load of Arabs from Jordan arrived. They had once lived in the area, prior to the founding of the State of Israel. Some of the older men had worked with Starkey. This photo which I took shows four of the Arab men and three of the Israeli archaeologists, along with one American. See if you recognize Gabriel Barkay, Richard Whitaker, Adam Zertal, and David Ussishkin.

http://ferrelljenkins.files.wordpress.com/2008/07/lachish_arab-visit_07-1980-t.jpg?w=500

The Arab men enjoyed seeing the old photos from the Starkey excavations and pointing out themselves as much younger men. I think you will see Ussishkin’s head to the left of the Arab, and Barkay on the right.

http://ferrelljenkins.files.wordpress.com/2008/07/lachish_07-1980_arab-visit-photos-t.jpg?w=500

Update (July 6, 2008). Todd Bolen, at BiblePlaces.com has commented on this blog under the title Reminiscences of Lachish. He says he heard Gabriel Barkay tell about this event, but he includes some additional information that I did not know, including the name of the village where the Arabs previously lived.

The town of Qubeibe was leveled by the Israeli military in the 1960s and the stones of the village, probably many taken from the ruins of Lachish, were sold to building contractors.  Who knows but some ancient inscription was unknowing transferred from Lachish to Qubeibe and is now part of a wall in the area?

I recall that Richard Whitaker was the one best able to converse in Arabic.

New excavations at Tel Achziv (Achzib)

The Nelson Glueck School of Archaeology, Hebrew Union College, and the French Research Center at Jerusalem has announced the first season of an Israeli-French mission at Tel Achziv from June 29 to July 9. This announcement is from Yifat Thareani, one of the directors of the dig. (HT: Jack Sasson).

The town of Achziv (English Bibles use Achzib) is located on the Mediterranean coast of Western Galilee about 9 miles north of Acco (Akko, Acre = Ptolemais). This is in the northern portion of the Plain of Acco.

Achziv was assigned to the tribe of Asher (Joshua 19:29; Judges 1:31), but Asher was not able to drive out the Canaanite inhabitants of the land.

Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of Acco, or the inhabitants of Sidon or of Ahlab or of Achzib or of Helbah or of Aphik or of Rehob, (Judges 1:31 ESV)

Achziv remained primarily a Canaanite or Phoenician town throughout most of biblical history.

In exchange for cedar and cypress timber and gold, Solomon gave 20 cities in the land of Galilee to Hiram king of Tyre (1 Kings 9:11-13). That portion of western Galilee was called the land of Cabul. This is another indication that this region continued under the influence of the Phoenicians. King Hiram visited the cities but they did not please him.

Sennacherib, king of Assyria (704-681 B.C.), claims in the Taylor and Chicago Prisms to have conquered the cities of Sidon, the mainland city of Tyre, Achziv, and Acco.

In New Testament times Achziv was known as Ecdippa (Ekdippon) (Josephus, JW 1.257).

The map below shows the location of Acziv between Acco and the Ladder of Tyre. The Ladder of Tyre is a natural formation that has served as a border between Israel and Lebanon during many historical periods, including the present time.

Aczib on the Mediterranean coast of Western Galilee. BibleAtlas.org.

The Crusaders built a fortress at Achzib and named it Casal Imbert. The Mamluk’s captured the site in 1271, and an Arab village remained there until the War of Independence in 1948.

Achziv is built on a sandstone (kurkar) ridge overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The remaining structures from the Arab period, now part of a National Park, are made from stones of the Crusader fortress.

Arab period structures made from stones of the Crusader fortress. The Mediterranean Sea is in view when you reach the top of the tel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Arab period structures made from stones of the Crusader fortress. The Mediterranean Sea is in view when you reach the top of the tel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This photo was made from Tel Achziv looking north to Rosh Hanikra and the Ladder of Tyre, a distance of about 4 miles.

The view north from Tel Achziv to Rosh Hanikra. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Some artifacts from Achziv are exhibited in the Hecht Museum in Haifa.

Changes at the Bema in Corinth

Luke records, in the book of Acts, an important historical event involving Paul during the 18 months he worked at Corinth (Acts 18:12-17).

The photo below, made in May 2012, shows the actual platform or bema mentioned in Acts 18. Popular English versions use the terms tribunal, judgment seat, place of judgment, or judge’s bench.

The Bema at Corinth where Paul stood before Gallio. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Bema at Corinth where Paul stood before Gallio. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The bema dates to A.D. 44, but could be as early as the time of Augustus (Murphy-O’Connor, St. Paul’s Corinth, 28).

You see that some sort of work was going on around the bema. Notice the rope, the pile of sand, and the bags on the top. I remarked to some of our tour members that we formerly were able to stand on the bema. I feared this might be an end to that practice.

Yesterday I was catching up on some blogs that I enjoy reading. One of those is Gordon Franz’ Life and Land. Gordon was writing about a tour he led earlier this year. One line caught my attention. In telling about the visit to Corinth, Gordon says,

Recently the Bema was repaired and reopened so tourists can walk up and stand where Gallio passed judgment on the Apostle Paul (Acts 18:12-17).

Anyone have a nice photo to share of the bema since the restoration?