Category Archives: Bible Study

The City Gate − Heart of the Ancient City

The site of et-Tell, thought by some to be the location of New Testament Bethsaida, has provided more evidence of being Old Testament Geshur, or a town of Geshur.

Maacah, one of David’s wives, was the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur (2 Samuel 3:3). Absalom, son of David and Maacah, stayed at Geshur for three years (2 Samuel 13:37-38).

Our photo shows the city gate of this Iron Age city. A sign in the courtyard says,

This is the heart of the ancient town. Here the public activities of the city took place. It was the center of commercial, judicial, and religious life.

And it includes a fitting text that illustrates the importance of the gate in a Biblical city.

Now David was sitting between the two gates, and the watchman went up to the roof of the gate by the wall… (2 Samuel 18:24 ESV)

The Iron Age city gate at a town of Geshur. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Iron Age city gate at a town of Geshur. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Notice the plain standing stones on either side of the gate. And notice the stylized figure of a horned bull on the right of the gate. The image is said to represent an Aramean (Syrian) god. There is a Biblical reference to such an image in 2 Kings 23:8.

For more information see these posts:

 

Using an animal skin churn

The practice of churning to make butter has been around for thousands of years. It is mentioned in the Wisdom Literature of the Bible.

For the churning of milk produces butter, And pressing the nose brings forth blood; So the churning of anger produces strife. (Proverbs 30:33 NAU)

The ESV consistently uses the word pressing, from the Hebrew mits, three times in that verse.

For pressing milk produces curds, pressing the nose produces blood, and pressing anger produces strife. (Proverbs 30:33 ESV)

The NET Bible probably best conveys the meaning of the text by the use of churning, punching, and stirring up.

For as the churning of milk produces butter and as punching the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife. (Proverbs 30:33 NET)

The photo below shows a churn made of an animal skin in the reconstructed first century kitchen at Nazareth Village. I remember from childhood that we kept our churn on the hearth near the fire.

A churn in the kitchen. Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A churn in the kitchen. Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Don’t “churn” anyone in the nose today.

The shepherd and the sheepfold

One may visit an ancient biblical site without sensing the reality of people living at the place. One sees only the foundation of ancient buildings. But when one visits Nazareth Village he sees real people acting out the common activities of Bible times.

I have visited Nazareth Village several times and it is always different. It may be because of the time of the year, but sometimes it is because there are different actors filling the various roles. No two visits have been the same. This photo of the shepherd with sheep in the sheepfold was made in May, 2010. Look carefully at the sheep between the sticks of which the sheepfold is made.

Shepherd and sheep fold at Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Shepherd and sheep fold at Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

There are several biblical references to the sheepfold, or the fold of the sheep (Jeremiah 50:6; Micah 2:12; John 10:1, 16). Jesus used an illustration involving the sheepfold:

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. (John 10:1-2 ESV)

Hadrian’s Arch in Antalya (Attalia)

Many of the Roman ruins we see in the Bible World belong to the early second century. This illustrates the tremendous power of the Empire throughout the region at that time.

Hadrian ruled from A.D. 117-138. We know that one of the major persecutions against Christians came during his reign. Many arches were constructed to honor him. The most impressive Roman ruin in Antalya (Attalia of Acts 14:25) is Hadrian’s Arch. The three-arch gateway was extensively restored between 1960 and 1963.

Hadrian's Arch in Antalya, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Hadrian’s Arch in Antalya, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The area around the arch bustles with tourists.

Archaeological Study Bible available for Kindle

Act quickly. The NIV Archaeological Study Bible is available in Kindle format for $4.99. The cheapest hard cover edition is available for $32.33 at Amazon. Use this link:
NIV Archaeological Study Bible: An Illustrated Walk Through Biblical History and Culture

NIV Archaeological Study Bible

NIV Archaeological Study Bible

This book was produced by conservative scholars and includes many valuable archaeological insights into the Bible.

 

Archaeologist pushes for a park at Carchemish

The ancient site of Carchemish (modern Karkamiş in Turkey) was identified by George Smith in 1876, and later excavated by the British Museum beginning in 1911. The various directors included Hogarth, Thompson, Wooley, and Lawrence. Many remains of Assyrian and Neo-Hittite periods were uncovered.

Carchemish is mentioned only a few times in the Bible, but it was one of the most significant cities in the ancient Bible world.

  • Isaiah made a reference to Carchemish (Isaiah 10:9). The city had been sacked by Sargon II in 717 B.C.
  • Pharaoh Necho of Egypt went up to Carchemish on the Euphrates to assist the Assyrians against the Babylonians in 609 B.C. (2 Chronicles 35:20; Jeremiah 46:2). King Josiah of Judah tried to stop him, but was killed.

One of the Babylonian Chronicles says that Nebuchadnezzar “crossed the river to go against the Egyptian army which lay in Carchemish.”

The tell (mound) at Carchemish consists of a smaller high mound and a larger lower mound. Hazor, in Israel, would be a similar site. The first photo shows the higher mound which is immediately north of the Turkish border with Syria. The Turkish military is making use of the tell. On the left side of the tell, above the trees you will see a blue metal structure. That is the bridge crossing the Euphrates River. Part of the ancient city is now within Syria. On the right side of the photo above the lower trees you will see portions of ancient walls.

Carchemish is now used by the Turkish military. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Carchemish is now used by the Turkish military. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Professor Nicola Marchetti of Bologna University in Italy has been heading a new excavation on the lower tell. Last year Marchetti announced plans to build a new archaeological park at Karkamiş. Monday he made a new call for the opening of the park and a museum to display artifacts from the site.

He said establishing an archaeology park in the ancient city would draw many tourists to the region.

The most important areas in the excavations are a lower palace and a lower city, which they had unearthed two years ago, and there were two temples in this area, said Marchetti, adding the most important stage of the excavations would be finished this year.

See the article in Hurriyet Daily News here. (HT: Bible Places Blog).

A few weeks ago we were able to get close to the ancient site, but was not able to visit the excavation. In the photo below you will see a military tank on top of the lower tell near the recent excavations. The high tell is immediately to the left.

Lower tell of Carchemish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Lower tell of Carchemish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

 

Mark Wilson speaks to group in Antalya

Dr. Mark Wilson shared a meal with us at the hotel one evening in Antalya, Turkey. After dinner Mark spoke to the group about his work in Turkey. He is the founder and director of the Asia Minor Research Center, and spends most of each year working and doing research in Turkey. He has updated several of the works of Sir William M. Ramsay, and written several helpful books on the book of Revelation. You will find much helpful material by Dr. Wilson on the Seven Church Network web site.

Our tour group heard a brief preview of the presentation Dr. Wilson plans for one of the upcoming annual professional biblical studies meetings in San Diego, California. He has been working on discovering the projected route of Paul’s Second Journey in Anatolia based on the biblical text, known roads, milestones, etc. from the first century. This was ideal for our group who had just completed a tour visiting all of the sites associated with Paul’s First Journey in Anatolia (modern Turkey).

Dr. Mark Wilson speaks about the route of Paul's second journey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Dr. Mark Wilson speaks about the route of Paul’s second journey in Anatolia to a tour group in Antalya, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

We were pleased to see Dr. Wilson’s book, Biblical Turkey: A Guide to Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor, available in many of the museum books stores including the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. Many of our tour members who did not already have a copy of the book got one from Mark after the presentation. You may purchase a copy from Amazon by clicking on the title above.

Tour members were delighted to have their book autographed by the author.

Dr. Wilson autographs a copy of Biblical Turkey for Stacy. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Dr. Wilson autographs a copy of Biblical Turkey for Stacy. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

JERUSALEM in IMAX

Friday morning my wife and I joined three Biblical Studies faculty from Florida College, and a handful of other people, in the MOSI IMAX giant screen theater in Tampa to see the National Geographic Entertainment presentation of JERUSALEM.

The original producers of this film have been promoting it for several years, as you can see from the video that we posted nearly three years ago here. The current production is about 45 minutes in length. The thing that really makes the difference is the IMAX giant screen presentation.

JERUSALEM features three young ladies representing the three religions claiming Jerusalem as the home of their origin: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The girls guide the viewers through the crowded, winding streets of the Old City to the various religious sites of the city. There are a few scenes in other parts of the country: Capernaum, Caesarea Maritima, Joppa, Masada, and the Dead Sea. The only scholar represented in the film is Dr. Jodi Magness. She provides informed commentary about the archaeology of Jerusalem, but it is limited. Views of the Givati garage excavation are shown, but no historical context is provided.

For my part, the hoards of people scurrying through Damascus Gate, or to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, or to the Western Wall is overdone. The three young ladies who serve as guides almost come face to face in one scene, but admit that they still know very little about one another.

The best feature of the film (not shown at all in the video below), is taking ruins that remain and building reconstructions of the city in biblical times. One scene begins at the corner of the temple mount at Robinson’s Arch and builds into a model of the the biblical temple.

I don’t know if the film will be shown in Tampa, but it is showing in several cities. A full list, and other info about the film, is available here.

Jerusalem | Filmed in Imax 3D from JerusalemGiantScreen on Vimeo.

Having spent much time walking in the old city and viewing it from above, I knew where I was (in the film), but I am not sure that those who have little or no acquaintance with the city will find it anything but confusing.

The aerial photo below was made from the east. It shows the western slopes of the Mount of Olives, the Kidron Valley, the Temple Mount, and a portion of the Old City buildings.

Aerial view of Jerusalem from the east. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of Jerusalem from the east. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

 

Traveling in Turkey

“Turkey? Why would you want to go to Turkey?” That is a question I have been asked a number of times over the years since my first visit in 1968. My response usually goes something like this. If you are interested in Bible history, Turkey is very important both for the Old Testament and the New Testament. Of course, the land was not called Turkey at the time of the Bible, but had various names depending on the historical period and the geographical region.

Think of the Old Testament history.

  • It is possible that the Garden of Eden was located somewhere in the mountains of eastern Turkey near the source of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers (Genesis 2:10-14).
  • For sure, Noah’s Ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat (ancient Urartu) (Genesis 8:4).
  • Haran, and the region known as Padan-aram in Mesopotamia, became the ancestral home of Abraham and his family before he went to the land of Canaan (Genesis 28:2; et al.).
  • Bible kings were involved in battles with world powers at the town of Carchemish (Jeremiah 46:2).
  • The Hittites lived in central and eastern Turkey (1 Kings 10:28-29; 2 Kings 7:6). Kue designates Cilicia in Turkey.
  • Both the Assyrians and Babylonians, enemies of Israel, were active in this region (Isaiah 10:9; Jeremiah 46:1-2).
  • The Euphrates and the Tigris, great rivers of Turkey, were important in Bible times (Isaiah 27:12; Genesis 2:14; Daniel 10:4). The Euphrates is often designated simply as the River (Isaiah 11:16).

Think of New Testament history.

  • Paul was a native of Tarsus in Cilicia (Acts 21:39). Timothy was a native of Lystra (Acts 16:1).
  • From Acts 11 onward throughout the New Testament, most of the events take place in Roman Asia Minor.
  • The town we know as Antioch in (the Roman province of) Syria is now located in the Hatay province of Turkey (Acts 11; Galatians 2:11).
  • Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark sailed from Seleucia to begin the first missionary journey (Acts 13:4).
  • With the exception of Salamis and Paphos in Cyprus, all of the places associated with the first journey are in Turkey (Acts 13-14).
  • Many of the towns visited on the second and third journey are in Turkey (Acts 15-16).
  • Paul made stops at the coastal town of Myra on the voyage to Rome (Acts 27:5).
  • Paul’s letters to the Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon were address to churches or persons in Asia Minor.
  • Peter’s two letters were addressed to Christians in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, now in Turkey (1 Peter 1:1; 2 Peter 3:1). Peter also visited Antioch in Syria (Galatians 2:11).
  • The apostle John spent some of his latter years in Ephesus, and addressed the book of Revelation to seven churches in Asia (Revelation 1:4, 11).
Hot air balloons are moved by the wind over the lunar-like landscape of Cappadocia while the pilots control their altitude. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Hot air balloons are moved by the wind over the lunar-like landscape of Cappadocia while the pilots control their altitude. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Post New Testament church history.

  • The Book of Revelation describes events that would affect the saints of Asia (Revelation 1:4). The information we have about the Roman Emperors and the temples erected to their honor throughout Turkey fit perfectly with what we read in Revelation.
  • The Ecumenical Councils met in the place we now call Turkey in the following cities: Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, Chalcedon.
  • Some of the better known early church fathers are associated with places in Turkey.

Good enough reasons to visit Turkey, I’d say.

Note: This is intended only as a suggestive list; not a complete one.

 

Choosing a guide; Losing a guide and friend

During my first two or three tours I remember guides asking if I had been “here” before. Actually I have had guides that made up answers to things they did not know, but I did not use them again. Finding and keeping a good guide became an important part of planning a good tour. In the comments to follow I will limit myself to Israel.

My first tour was a few weeks prior to the Six-Day War in 1967. The Old City of Jerusalem and the West Bank were still part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. We crossed from Jordan into Israel through the Mandelbaum Gate. Today the Grand Court and Olive Tree hotels stand nearby. After the war I continued to use Arab guides, all of whom would designate themselves as Christian (usually Lutheran or Greek Orthodox). My two favorite guides for many years were John and Anise. Both were knowledgeable in the events of Scripture and the places of these events. And both of them were good in handling a group. As these men reached the time of their retirement I had to scurry to locate other guides. One year all of the young Arab guides were called in for training by the Israelis. I had a Jewish young lady who had led only two tours prior to mine. I had to do a lot to help her with the group and the information.

In the mid-80s I began to listen in on other guides when visiting various sites. I looked for someone who was knowledgeable in the Bible and the history of the sites. I wanted someone whose English would be understandable to visitors from the United States. I would introduce myself to guides I though might be good with my groups, and we would exchange cards. I needed someone who knew the land and the book, and who was informed in archaeological matters.

In looking through old group photos I find two guides that begin to dominate. Eliemelech Ben Meir was my guide in 1994, but I see Yehuda Guy in some of the photos as late as 1998. I liked both men, and we worked together well I thought. They were both willing for me to make additional comments and explanations for the benefit of the group.

In looking through old group photos, the first photo I find with Elie Ben Meir is a tour twenty years ago in May, 1994. Elie is helping me hold the tour banner. I see that Yehuda continued to guide some groups for a few years. Some years I had two tours to Israel. Eventually it was also Elie guiding some tours. Elie told me that he was introduced to me by my Arab guide Anise whose health was failing.

Ferrell Jenkins 1994 group with Elie Ben Meir.

1994 Group with Elie Ben Meir.

Over the past twenty year period Elie and I became good friends. In addition to the group tours I have made several personal study tours to Israel. Almost always I would be in touch with Elie. He brought his wife Maxine and the young daughters Adi and Danya to have dinner with the group in 2000. From year to year I would see them grow into beautiful young ladies. (I have a few digital photos made on a Sony camera that used a 3½ inch floppy drive, but the quality is too poor to use.)

Elie was not what we might call a “religious” Jew. He told me that on his first visit to Israel he stayed at a “religious kibbutz,” but by the time that stay ended he decided he would not be “religious.” Elie and Maxine wanted their girls to learn the Jewish customs, but bacon from the Armenian butcher would not be uncommon on a weekend morning. Some of the members of my groups would ask me how could Elie know the Bible so well and not be a Christian.

Elie’s family lived mostly in the Cleveland, Ohio, area. When he visited his mother or sister he would give me a call and talk a while. During the mid-2000s I told Elie about my mother who was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. Then the time came when Elie wanted to talk with me about a similar condition his mother was enduring. His trips to the USA became more frequent to assist his siblings in the care for her. I ferried items that Elie or his family needed from the USA to Israel − some special hair-care product for the girls or some beef jerky for the family. Even when I stayed over to visit sites I had not yet been to, Elie and one or both girls would come to the hotel and eat with me.

Elie enjoyed Bluegrass Music. Sometimes, as we drove away from the Tel Aviv airport at the beginning of a new tour he would ask, “Does anyone in the group play Bluegrass?” He kept his guitar in the storage area under the bus so he could pick a little in the evening at the hotel.

On Elie’s last trip to the USA he went to Cleveland to visit family. He left me a call on May 7, but I was already in Turkey by that time and did not receive the call until May 30. On the same day he sent me an Email with this heading and message.

Adi Meyerson, bass | Spring ’14 Ensemble & Recital Series | New School Jazz – New York City – The New School.
Hey Ferrell!
In case you happen to be in NY City!
Hope you and Elizabeth are well!
Sincerely,
Elie
http://events.newschool.edu/event/adi_meyerson_bass_spring_14_ensemble_recital_series_new_school_jazz#.U2rftO29Kc2

Elie was really on his way to NYC to hear his daughter perform. He had sent me other clippings about her.

By May 14 Barry Britnell was forwarding Emails that he received from Maxine because Elie was to be Barry’s guide in early June. She wrote,

There has been a tragedy and Elie had a serious stroke on Sunday night and is now in hospital in Cleveland in critical condition.

I was also receiving updates from Susan who was in touch with Elie’s sister Lynne in Cleveland. Elie had been having headaches for a few days when Lynne took him to the hospital. At some point he had a stroke. By May 18 the outlook did not seem good. Maxine sent Barry, John Barnett (I have not met John, but Elie always spoke highly of him), and me the following Email on May 24th.

So sorry to have to bring you the sad news that Elie passed away on Friday night 11:30pm. He died peacefully with all his siblings, daughters and myself by his side. Much love to all
Maxine

The complete obituary from the Cleveland Plain Dealer reads as follows:

MEYERSON ELIE MELECH BEN MEIR (MALCOLM MEYERSON), beloved husband of Maxine (nee Rabinowitz). Loving father of Adi and Danya. Dear brother of Jay (Jacquie) Meyerson, David (Honey) Meir-Levi, Lynne (Jacob) Meckler. Cherished son of Evelynne and the late Bernard Meyerson. Graveside services will be held Sunday, May 25 at 11:30 a.m. at the Mt. Sinai Cemetery, (SOM Center and White Rd.), Mayfield Village, OH. Family will receive friends at the residence of Jacquie and Aaron Meyerson,… SUNDAY FOLLOWING SERVICES UNTIL 8 P.M.

Elie had a number of qualities that were admirable. He was always ready to recommend the businesses of Moslems and Christians that he thought were honorable people. He warned his groups about those he thought were less than honorable. He always insisted on Fawzy (of Bethany) as the driver for my tours. Fawzy is an excellent driver whom I have known since the days of working with Anise. Elie knew woodworking. He spent time at that during those hard years of 2001-2005 when practically no tourists visited Israel. He did the electrical work for Yigael Shiloh in the City of David excavation. Elie had on his phone the personal numbers of acquaintances such as Sam Wolff (Gezer) and Eilat Mazar (City of David).

On my tour in 2013, Elie and Fawzy invited me to eat with them at Jericho. Here is the photo I made of them. You can see that Elie was a young man. I remember talking with him about his age and retirement, but I will not try to depend on my memory for that.

Elie and Fawzy in Jericho. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Elie and Fawzy in Jericho. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I extend my deepest sympathy to Maxine, Adi, and Danya, whom I have met, and to other family members whom I have not met. I think the hundreds of persons who have spent about 10 days listening to Elie help turn the Bible places from black and white to color, one of his favorite expressions, will share my sentiment.