Category Archives: Bible Study

Babylon – index of articles

The Babylonian Empire was relatively short lived (626–539 B.C.), but it played a large role in biblical history. We have written about all of the Babylonian kings mentioned in the Bible. In this post I am pulling together an index collection of these articles to make it easy for one studying about the Babylonian captivity to locate all of them in one convenient place.

Dragon made of chrome brick on the Ishtar Gate. (Museum of the Ancient Near East, Berlin). The dragon is a composite creature with the head of a fire-spewing dragon, body and tail of a serpent, front feet of a feline, and back feet of a bird. This provides a good illustration of the apocalyptic language found in the Old Testament prophets. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The dragon made of chrome brick on the Ishtar Gate from ancient Babylon was an emblem of Marduk (Museum of the Ancient Near East, Berlin). The dragon is a composite creature with the head of a fire-spewing dragon, body and tail of a serpent, front feet of a feline, and back feet of a bird. This provides a good illustration of the apocalyptic imagery found in the Old Testament prophets and the book of Revelation. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The articles below, especially those with an * after the title, are considered minor references. They still might provide some helpful material and photos for the Bible student and teacher.

I trust this list will be helpful to students and teachers alike.

In the future, when I write something about Babylon I will try to remember to include a link in this index. I would appreciate learning if you find this index helpful.

Repairs made during the time of Hadrian

Hadrian has been in the news this week because of the recently discovered inscription found north of Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. In the Israel Museum there is an inscription that reads,

The August emperor Caesar Trajan Hadrian made [the aqueduct] by [means of] the unit of the Tenth Legion Fretensis.

Inscription says Hadrian made the aqueduct. Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Inscription says Hadrian made the aqueduct. Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This inscription was taken from the aqueduct at Caesarea Maritima and dates to near the time of Hadrian’s visit about A.D. 130. The accompanying sign in the Israel Museum says,

other dedicatory inscriptions discovered on the aqueduct indicate that additional work was conducted by soldiers of the Second, Sixth, and Tenth Legions throughout the Roman Period.

A couple of years ago I learned from Carl Rasmussen that a portion of the famous Caesarea aqueduct could be seen about 3 miles from Caesarea near the town of Bet Hannanya. (See his directions and photos here.) The photo below shows a portion of the aqueduct at that place.

Aqueduct at Bet Hannanya. The inscription in our next photo is visible at the far left of the photo. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins

Aqueduct at Bet Hannanya. The inscription in our next photo is visible at the left of this photo. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The inscription in this aqueduct is the same as the one on display in the Israel Museum.

Inscription mentioning Hadrian at Bet Hannanya. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Inscription mentioning Hadrian at Bet Hannanya. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Meanwhile, at Caesarea Maritima, visitors may see the high-level aqueduct at the point where it come to an end likely due to erosion from the waves of the sea. According to Murphy-O’Connor the eastern channel (on the right) was “built by a Roman Procurator about the middle of the C1 AD.” The western channel was built by Hadrian. Some attribute the eastern channel to Herod the Great.

The high level aqueduct at Caesarea Maritima. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The high level aqueduct at Caesarea Maritima. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Caesarea Maritima was a first century Roman capital and seaport. The gospel was first preached to the Gentiles here when Peter came from Joppa to Caesarea to tell Cornelius words by which he could be saved (Acts 10, 11).

The Apostle Paul used the harbor at Caesarea several times. He was imprisoned here for two years before departing for Rome (Acts 24:27; 27:1).

Emperor Hadrian inscription uncovered in Jerusalem

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced Tuesday the discovery earlier this month of a partial inscription bearing the name and titles of the Roman Emperor Hadrian (A.D. 117-135). The English translation of the Latin inscription reads,

(1st hand) To the Imperator Caesar Traianus Hadrianus Augustus, son of the deified Traianus Parthicus, grandson of the deified Nerva, high priest, invested with tribunician power for the 14th time, consul for the third time, father of the country (dedicated by) the 10th legion Fretensis (2nd hand) Antoniniana.

Inscription bearing name and titles of Hadrian is displayed in front of the Rockefeller Museum, headquarters of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Jerusalem. Photo by Yoli Shwartz, courtesy IAA.

Inscription bearing name and titles of Hadrian is displayed in front of the Rockefeller Museum, headquarters of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Jerusalem. Photo by Yoli Shwartz, courtesy IAA.

The discovery was made north of Damascus Gate during a salvage operation. Dr. Rina Avner and Roie Greenwald were the excavation directors. IAA experts discovered that this inscription was part of an inscription already known from a discovery by French archaeologist Charles Clermont-Ganneau (1846-1923) in the late 19th century. That inscription is displayed in the courtyard of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum Museum.

Part of the Hadrian inscription discovered in the late 19th century by Clermont Ganneau, now located in Studium Biblicum Franciscanum Museum. Photo by Garo Nalbandian, courtesy of the Museum.

Part of the Hadrianic inscription discovered in the late 19th century by Clermont-Ganneau, now located in Studium Biblicum Franciscanum Museum. Photo by Garo Nalbandian, courtesy of the Museum.

The IAA Press Release says,

The events of the Bar Kokhba revolt are ascribed to the reign of the emperor Hadrian. He is remembered in Jewish history for having issued dictates imposing the persecution and forced conversions of Jews, which the sources referred to as the ‘Hadrianic decrees’.

The history of the Bar Kokhba revolt is known from, among other things, the works of the contemporary Roman historian Cassius Dio, who also mentions Hadrian’s visit to Jerusalem in the year 129/130 CE, within the framework of the emperor’s travels in the eastern empire. These travels are also documented on coins issued in honor of the occasion and in inscriptions specifically engraved prior to his arrival in different cities. This is apparently exactly what happened in Jerusalem.

The completion of the two parts of the text reveals an especially large inscription that is quite impressive. According to Dr. Abner, “The inscription itself might have set in the top of a free-standing triumphal arch on the city’s northern boundary such the Arch of Titus in Rome.”

The fate of Jerusalem following the destruction of the Second Temple (70 CE) and prior to the Bar Kokhba revolt (132-136 AD) is one of the major issues in the history of the city and in terms of the Jewish people’s connection to it.

We know from ancient writers and the inscriptions on coins that the new city, which Hadrian established, was granted the status of ‘colonia’ (that is, a city whose citizens and gods are Roman) and its name was changed to Aelia Capitolina (COLONIA AELIA CAPITOLINA in Latin). That name incorporates within it the emperor’s name that is in the inscription, whose full name is Publius Aelius Hadrianus, and Rome’s main family of dieties [sic, deities].

The complete English Press Release is available here.

I read this first in the The Times of Israel, but soon found that it was discussed widely on several blogs. Todd Bolen has included several additional links at Bible Places Blog here.

We have written about other Hadrianic arches in Athens, Antalya (Attalia), and Jerash. A recent series on the Tenth Roman Legion is available here.

Index to Olives and Olive Trees

The olive tree was one of the most important plants in Bible times, and it still is today throughout portions of Europe and the Middle East.

The wood of the olive tree was used in some of the furnishings of the temple (1 Kings 6:23-33).

Stump of an olive tree at Beit Jimal. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Stump of an olive tree at Beit Jamal (? En-Gannim). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Wood from dead or destroyed olive trees is often turned into carvings and souvenirs such as this carving of the faithful spies (Caleb and Joshua; Numbers 14:30) that I secured in Bethlehem many years ago.

Then they came to the valley of Eshcol and from there cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes; and they carried it on a pole between two men, with some of the pomegranates and the figs. That place was called the valley of Eshcol, because of the cluster which the sons of Israel cut down from there. (Numbers 13:23-24 NAU)

Olive wood carving of the faithful spies. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Olive wood carving of the faithful spies. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Index to Articles About the Olive Tree and Olives

Related minor posts about olives.

When I add other posts pertaining to olives I will try to remember to add them to this index.

Unearthing Magdala Conference Streaming Live Today

Nyack College, in partnership with the Center for the Study of Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins, will host a gathering of scholars and dignitaries from 4:00–7:30 pm at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Manhattan, focused on discoveries from the excavations at Magdala.

Dr. R. Steven Notley, director of Nyack’s graduate program in Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins, says,

“Perhaps the most significant discovery at Magdala is its synagogue. Within the walls of the synagogue was found a stone artifact engraved with distinct and meaningful images, giving students of Judaism, early Christianity, and ancient art a tangible piece of religious history from the late Hellenistic and Roman periods.”

The Unearthing Magdala Livestream is scheduled for today from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. EDT. Use this link: http://www.nyack.edu/content/Magdala

Magdala Synagogue Table. End view. Replica at Notre Dame, Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Magdala Synagogue Table. End view showing columns, menorah, and two vases. Replica at Notre Dame, Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Conference presentations will include:

  • Magdala: History And Geography During The Late Hellenistic And Roman Periods by R. Steven Notley, Nyack College
  • The Importance Of Magdala’s Synagogue by Steven Fine, Yeshiva University
  • Mary Magdalene In Eastern Orthodoxy by John McGuckin, Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University
  • Mary Magdalene in Armenian Orthodoxy by Roberta Ervine, St. Nersess Theological Seminary.
  • Visual Journey Of The Magdalene Liturgical Cycle In Late Medieval Art by Sarah Wilkins, Pratt Institute:
  • Magdala Today And Its Importance In Christian Pilgrimage by Father Eamon Kelly, LC, Pontifical Institute of Notre Dame of Jerusalem.

The town of Magdala is not mentioned in the Bible, but Mary Magdalene is mentioned a total of 12 times in the four gospels. This place may have been her birthplace or her home. A few late manuscripts mention Magdala (Matthew 15:39 KJV), but earlier manuscripts read Magadan. Magdala is located about 4 miles north of Tiberias on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.

See here for one of our earlier posts about Magdala.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

1700 B.C. Hittite city wall unearthed

The Hurriyet Daily News reports the discovery of a 3,700-year-old city wall built to protect the ancient Hittite city of Hattuşa (now Bogazkale).

Archaeologists have unearthed part of the 3,700-year-old city wall of Hattuşa, capital city of the ancient Hittites, in the northern province of Çorum.

The Hittites had built the 4.5-kilometer city walls to protect their capital Hattuşa. “The city walls were first unearthed during the first year of excavations between 1906 and 1907. Some 700 meters of the 4.5-kilometer-long city walls have been unearthed. We worked for the restoration of 400-meter parts of the walls over the last three years. These walls were the first big project of the Hittites. The wall surrounds the whole city,” said Dr. Andreas Schachner, who is caryring out the excavations for the German Archaeological Institute, noting that their most recent archaeological work had focused on restoring the walls.

A view of Hattusas from the Upper City. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A view of Hattusas from the Upper City. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Schachner said they had also discovered 10 underground tunnels in some parts of the wall. “These tunnels were made for soldiers to leave the city in secret during an attack or occupation and fight. There is a tower in every 20-25 kilometer of the walls. The Hittites built the walls on an artificial hill to show the city’s power and magnificence,” he said.

He said the city walls were 10 meters high when they were built but later fell to five-six meters.

See this report and a photo here. For additional photos and information about this ancient Hittite city, use the Search box to look for Hittite or Hattusas.

HT: Jack Sasson

New Discoveries from the Antikythera Shipwreck

The Antikythera Shipwreck was a special exhibition at the Athens (Greece) National Museum between April 2012 and April 2013.

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 sailings towards Italy.

Thera (aka Santorini) has been one of the stops on several of our tours that included an Aegean cruise. Antikythera (“opposite Kythera”) is a Greek island between Crete and the Peloponnese (where Corinth is located).

Now comes word (Oct. 10, 2014) that a team of archaeologists have recovered additional items including a bronze spear measuring more than 7 feet, a golden ring, an anchor, and an amphorae cluster. More information is available in TO BHMA here. Three short videos are included with the article.

The photo below, part of the Athens exhibit, shows some of the pottery from the earlier expedition scattered on the sea bottom.

Pottery and the cast of a horse on the sea bottom at Antikythera.

Pottery and the body of a horse sculpture on the bottom of the sea at Antikythera. Photo: Ferrell Jenkins

The ship was carrying numerous statues in bronze and Parian marble. The photo below shows Odysseus the mythical king of Ithaca wearing a one-sleeved chiton fastened on the left shoulder, and a conical cap on the head (museum display sign).

A statue of Odysseus, the mythical king of Ithaca. Parian marble. Before the middle of the 1st century B.C.

A statue of Odysseus, the mythical king of Ithaca. Parian marble. Before the middle of the 1st century B.C. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

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

Greek archaeologists announced 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 seem to have been grain ships (Acts 27:38), but there may have been other cargo on some of them.

More photos from the special exhibition are available here and here.