Category Archives: Biblical Studies

Traveling in Europe

For the past week my wife and I have been traveling in Europe, revisiting some of the places we have enjoyed with groups over the years. Berlin is one of those places. We did some of the typical sightseeing, but the main visit was the museums with Ancient Near Eastern collections.

My first visit to the Pergamum Museum was about 1978. I returned several times when the Museum was behind the Berlin Wall, and have been there several times since the fall of the wall.

The Egyptian collection formerly was in the west, but now is housed in the Neues Museum in the building on the left of the photo below. Considerable construction is underway in the area. The former entry to the Pergamum Museum is closed. The red sign in the distance points to the temporary entry. Crowds are so large that people wait in line for four hours or more to buy at ticket and gain admission to the Museum. The only way to avoid this is to purchase a ticket online with a 30 minute time span for admission. I purchased a two day Museum pass after I arrived in Berlin and then made an appointment online for two different days. A single entry costs about 13 Euro (a little under $20 per entry).

berlin_pergamum-crowd-01fj_1

Crowds waiting in line to enter the Pergamum Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Pergamum Altar already has some scaffolding in place. At the end of September the exhibition will close for __________ years (you know about government projects).

The visit was somewhat disappointing because of the appointment requirement, but mostly because portions of the Museum are closed. Whole galleries pertaining to the the Greco-Roman world are not open. The great Ishtar Gate from Babylon is open, and the Miletus Marketgate, which was covered with netting the last time I was in Berlin, is now one of the nicest exhibits. The halls dealing with Babylon, Assyria, and the Hittites were open.

Later I hope to share some representative photos with you, but I confess that I am traveling with a Samsung Tab 4 and have had difficulty getting the single photo above loaded into the blog. I refused to pay the $20+ a day to be online at the hotel. I only ate at one place that offered time online, and they could not locate the card with the passport. :-(

We are in Paris now and I have Wi-Fi at the hotel. The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays, so I went to the Tourism office and purchased tickets to the museum in order to avoid the long lines the next two days. The tickets here are under $20 per entry.

If any reader has experience in loading photos from an Android tablet into WordPress I would be glad to hear about it. Who knows, maybe I will be able to load a second photo.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament

Those who preach and teach might enjoy, and profit by, Preaching and Teaching From the Old Testament by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. The 2003 book is $3.99 today in Kindle format. It is normally $22.00. Click on the book for more information.

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9 ESV)

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.(Romans 15:4 ESV)

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.(1 Corinthians 10:11 ESV)

 

 

Grab ‘em today – books in Kindle format

Neil Lightfoot’s How We Got the Bible, revised and expanded 3rd edition, is available today only for $1.99 in Kindle format.

This book is a wonderful beginning resource to help one understand how the Bible came to be in English. Today only. Learn about manuscripts, transmission of the text, the Canon, and other important topics.

Ray Summer’s Worthy Is the Lamb, commentary on the Book of Revelation, is available for a limited time for $2.99 in Kindle format. Summers discusses the historical background of the book of Revelation, methods of interpretation, and a commentary section. (HT: Brooks Cochran)

Reading the blogs #2

Michael G. Hasel of Southern Adventist University will join Yosef Garfinkel and Martin G. Klingbeil as co-directors of The Lachish Expedition in 2014. Southern has begun a web site devoted to the dig here. Categories include Project Overview, Goals and Strategy, History of Research, and Staff. We wrote about the Lynn H. Wood Archaeological Museum, at Southern, here.

The Judean fort at Lachish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Judean palace-fort at Lachish is the largest Iron Age structure in Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Associates for Biblical Research announced here the death of ABR founder Dr. David Livingston. An issue of Bible and Spade devoted to the work of Dr. Livingston has been made available in PDF. Dr. Livingston gave much attention to locating Biblical Ai. I am hopeful Ancient Days, the web site devoted to his writings, will be maintained here.

Check ORBIS here. This is the Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World. Lot’s of possibilities here in studying Paul’s journeys.

The BBC reports on how some maps of the modern Middle East were drawn here.

Tom Powers has left Jerusalem for North Carolina. Hopefully he will maintain his View From Jerusalem web site. Now would be a good time to check “My Articles” and download his research material on the ancient aqueduct system, Conrad Schick, American Colony, and some ossuaries.

My friend Steve Wolfgang is trained as a historian and is a minister with a wide range of interests. This is reflected in his blog, ἐκλεκτικός.

I enjoy Larry Hurtado’s Blog. Check “Where did Earliest Christians Meet?” here. If you thought they always met in private homes, you might learn something.

One of my favorite blogs, checked regularly, is Charles Savelle’s Bible X, a blog devoted to all things Bible Exposition. Charles surveys material helpful to teachers and ministers. He recently included a link to online tools for creating Infographics, Self-Editing for Better Writing, and lots of brief book reviews.

I like to check on Dr. Rod Decker’s NT Resources. Rod has been diagnosed with cancer. One of his colleague’s is dealing with TN — “a nonterminal condition that produces some of the most excruciating pain known to medical science, and that on a very frequent basis.” Recently the two of them spoke in chapel before their students on the general theme “When Your World Crashes Down.” Their comments are available for download.

For sure I have mentioned Biblical Studies and technological Tools by Mark Hoffman. This is a great resources. The most recent post evaluates online backup and data syncing options.

For a few years now I have been using Dropbox for syncing material between my study computer and my traveling laptop. If you click here you will get 2.25 gig free, and I will get .25 gig addition. Click here.

Jerome Murphy-O’Connor – 1935-2013

The École Biblique et Archéologique in Jerusalem announced Monday the death of Jerome Murphy-O’Connor (1935-2013).

Fr. Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, O.P., passed away peacefully on Monday, November 11, 2013. He was 78 years old.

Fr. Murphy-O’Connor taught for more than four decades at the École Biblique et Archéologique. He was a world-renowned biblical scholar and author of numerous books on St. Paul and the Holy Land. Many throughout the world counted him their friend.

The writings of Murphy-O’Connor have been helpful to me. I have especially enjoyed The Holy Land An Oxford Archaeological Guide which is now in its 5th edition. In my recommendations of books for those traveling to Israel I have annotated this book with the words “Excellent. The Best.” I am pleased to say that I have seen several tour members using their copy of the book. I see the book is now available for the Kindle.

Holy Land

St. Paul’s Corinth: Texts and Archaeology (Good News Studies, Vol. 6) has been helpful in studying about Corinth. His article about traveling conditions in the first century in the second issue of (the now defunct) Bible Review has been extremely helpful in studying Paul’s journeys. (Murphy-O’Connor. “On the Road and on the Sea with St. Paul.” Bible Review 1:2 (1985).

HT: Jack Sasson; Bible Places Blog.

Jehoash Tablet must be returned to owner

The Supreme Court of Israel ordered that the Jehoash Tablet, a 9th century inscription about repairs to the temple in the days of King Jehoash of Judah, must be returned to the owner.

The Jerusalem District Court had earlier ruled that he state had not proved that this  inscription was a forged document.

Chiseled in ancient Hebrew and dated to the ninth century BCE, the tablet describes renovations of the First Temple – which is said to have been built by King Solomon – ordered by Jehoash. It corresponds to the account in II Kings 12:1-17, in which the king laments the state of the temple and commands that money the priests collect from the people be used to fix it up.

îùøã äçéðåêThe Jehoash Tablet

Read the account in today’s Haaretz here.

Matthew Kalman has been keeping abreast of this decade-long case and reports at Bible and Interpretation here.

Like the James Ossuary, we will probably never know if this document is authentic.

Solomon’s Seaport at Ezion-geber

The cedar from Lebanon was brought by sea to Joppa for the building of Solomon’s temple (2 Chronicles 2:16). But that port was not adequate to meet Israel’s needs. Scripture informs us that Solomon built a fleet of ships at Ezion-geber.

King Solomon built a fleet of ships at Ezion-geber, which is near Eloth on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom. And Hiram sent with the fleet his servants, seamen who were familiar with the sea, together with the servants of Solomon. And they went to Ophir and brought from there gold, 420 talents, and they brought it to King Solomon. (1Kings 9:26-28 ESV)

Then Solomon went to Ezion-geber and Eloth on the shore of the sea, in the land of Edom. And Hiram sent to him by the hand of his servants ships and servants familiar with the sea, and they went to Ophir together with the servants of Solomon and brought from there 450 talents of gold and brought it to King Solomon. (2 Chronicles 8:17-18 ESV)

Ezion-geber is said to be near Eloth (Elat, Elath, in some English versions). We pointed out in the previous post that Nelson Glueck thought he had located Ezion-geber at Tell el-Kheleifeh and that it was the same as Eloth. In 1962 Beno Rothenberg demonstrated that the installation at Tell el-Kheleifeh could not have been for copper smelting. In 1965 Glueck wrote an article in which he agreed with Rothenberg. This means that Tell el-Kheleifeh may not be Ezion-geber.

The north end of the Gulf of Eilat.Aqabah. The view is to the east and the city of Aqabah, Jordan. Tell el-Kheleifeh is only a few blocks north of the shore. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The north end of the Gulf of Eilat/Aqabah. The view is to the east and the city of Aqabah, Jordan. Tell el-Kheleifeh is only a short distance north of the shore in Jordan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Alexander Flinder says the coastline at Tell el-Kheleifeh is a “sandy beach, with shallow water – totally unsuitable for small craft, let alone for a substantial merchant fleet” (“Is This Solomon’s Seaport?” BAR, July/August 1989, p. 38). Flinder has suggested that Ezion-geber may have been on a small island in the Gulf of Eilat/Aqabah called Jezirat Faraun (Pharaoh’s Island). It is located about seven miles south of modern Eilat, but now under Egyptian control. Flinder’s study shows that there has been an artificial harbor at this location in several historical periods and that it was characteristic of other known Phoenician ports. See the complete article for more details and photos.

Pharaoh's Island in the Gulf of Eilat/Aqabah from the west. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Pharaoh’s Island in the Gulf of Eilat/Aqabah from the west. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Meir Lubetski, ABD, says,

Unique were the underwater archaeological findings which established the existence of an artificial enclosed harbor bordering a sizable natural anchorage, with jetties built out into the water to influence currents opposite the island on the shore of the mainland.

I can only point to a suggestion regarding the identity of Ezion-geber with Eloth (Elath). Kenneth A. Kitchen (New Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed., 1996, p. 305). says the two places were,

  • Separate stations during the Israelite wandering (Numbers 33:35-36; Deuteronomy 2:8).
  • Ezion-geber appears to be mentioned alone in the 10th-9th centuries, and is the point from which Solomon sent ships.
  • Jehoshaphat’s planned expedition from Ezion-geber was wrecked (1 King 22:48; 2 Chronicles 20:36-37).
  • King Uzziah of Judah captured Elath/Eloth from Edom and rebuilt it in the 8th century (2 Kings 14:22).
  • Ahaz lost the port to the Edomites (2 Kings 16:6).
View of Pharaoh's Island from the west. The view looks east across the Gulf of Eilat/Aqabah. The land in the distance is Saudi Arabia, the Biblical land of Midian. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View of Pharaoh’s Island from the west. The view looks east across the Gulf of Eilat/Aqabah to Saudi Arabia, the Biblical land of Midian. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The map at BibleAtlas.org shows the places we have discussed in this and the previous post. Notice the location of Ezion-geber is indicating, with a question mark, the location of Pharaoh’s Island.

Map of Ezion-geber, Elath, and Timnah. BibleAtlas.org.

Map of Ezion-geber, Elath, and Timnah. BibleAtlas.org.

Chester Beatty papyri digitized by CSNTM

The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) announces that they have filmed the Chester Beatty papyri. Here is the press release signed by Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, Executive Director of CSNTM:

The Chester Beatty papyri, published in the 1930s and 1950s, are some of the oldest and most important biblical manuscripts known to exist. Housed at the Chester Beatty Library (CBL) in Dublin, they have attracted countless visitors every year. It is safe to say that the only Greek biblical manuscripts that might receive more visitors are Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Alexandrinus, both on display at the British Library.

The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) is pleased to announce that a six-person team, in a four-week expedition during July–August 2013, digitized all the Greek biblical papyri at the Chester Beatty Library. The CBL has granted permission to CSNTM to post the images on their website (www.csntm.org), which will happen before the end of the year.

The New Testament papyri at the CBL include the oldest manuscript of Paul’s letters (dated c. AD 200), the oldest manuscript of Mark’s Gospel and portions of the other Gospels and Acts (third century), and the oldest manuscript of Revelation (third century). One or two of the Old Testament papyri are as old as the second century AD.

Using state-of-the-art digital equipment, CSNTM photographed each manuscript against white and black backgrounds. The result was stunning. Each image is over 120 megabytes. The photographs reveal some text that has not been seen before.

Besides the papyri, CSNTM also digitized all of the Greek New Testament manuscripts at the CBL as well as several others, including some early apocryphal texts. The total number of images came to more than 5100.

CSNTM is grateful to the CBL for the privilege of digitizing these priceless treasures. The staff were extremely competent and a joy to work with. Kudos to Dr. Fionnuala Croke, Director of CBL, for such a superb staff! This kind of collaboration is needed both for the preservation of biblical manuscripts and their accessibility by scholars.

Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, Ireland. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, Ireland. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Larry Hurtado tells a little more about the background of this project here. If you wish to see the quality made possible by the CSNTM, see these pages from a 3rd century papyri at the University of Pennsylvania here.

Sargon II, Ashdod, and Isaiah 20:1

Ashdod was located along an international highway known as the Way of the Sea, the Way of Philistia, or the Via Maris. This was the important route connecting Egypt and Assyria. We have already discussed, in the past few posts, that the Assyrian king Sargon II captured Ashdod in 712/11 B.C. The prophet Isaiah makes reference to this event in Isaiah 20:1.

 The LORD revealed the following message during the year in which King Sargon of Assyria sent his commanding general to Ashdod, and he fought against it and captured it. (Isa 20:1 NET)

Sometime discoveries are made, but get little attention. A discovery at Tel Ashdod in 1963 falls into this category. Tel Ashdod was excavated from 1962 to 1972 under the direction of Moshe Dothan. David Noel Freedman wrote an article in Biblical Archaeologist (26:4, 1963)) about “The Second Season at Ancient Ashdod.” He describes the fragments of a stele of Sargon II.

Fragments of another stele, commemorating the victories of Sargon, were found at Ashdod during the current season, thus offering direct confirmation and vivid illustration of the biblical and Assyrian accounts. In all, three pieces of the stele were discovered. Enough can be made of their contents to show that the inscription duplicated in content if not precisely in wording other victory steles of the Assyrian king. By comparing the Ashdod stele with the others it will be possible to reconstruct the missing parts, one of which described the actual conquest of Ashdod. The inscription was carved in cuneiform signs characteristic of Sargon and his period, on all four sides of a slab of basalt which had been imported from a region north of Megiddo. It may have served as a pedestal for an obelisk, or a statue of the emperor. It must have been erected between the year of victory at Ashdod and the death of the king in 705 B.C., perhaps in 707 when a similar stele was set up in Cyprus. With the accession of Sennacherib in 704, most of the vessel countries revolted; Hezekiah of Judah and Sidqa of Ashkelon were the ringleaders in the west. They were able to liberate Ashdod from Assyrian control, and doubtless the event was observed by the destruction of Sargon’s victory stele, symbol of foreign oppression. These fragments of a monumental Assyrian inscription are the first ever found in Palestine.

The photos below were published in an article by Hayam Tadmor (“Philistia Under Assyrian Rule.” Biblical Archaeologist (29:3, 1966). Several years ago I used a digital camera to copy the photo. Sorry it is not better, but at least you can see the pieces. A photo of the piece in the middle below is also published in a BAR article (Jan-Feb, 2007) by H. Shanks on the “Assyrian Palace Discovered in Ashdod,” but the quality is about the same.
Fragment of the Sargon II inscription found at Ashdod.

Fragment of the Sargon II inscription found at Ashdod.

For several years the fragments were displayed in a case across from the replica of the Siege of Lachish in the Israel Museum. For the past years the fragments have not been on display. I made inquiry at the Museum earlier this year without any success. I wonder if the pieces have been moved to the Corine Maman Museum of Philistine Culture in Ashdod. Can anyone help with this?

This discovery is one of those that complement the biblical record. Sargon II (721–705 B.C.) is mentioned only once in the Bible — Isaiah 20:1. Isaiah says that the commanding general of Sargon II fought against Ashdod and captured it.

The photo below shows Sargon II (right) facing a person who is generally considered to be an Assyrian high dignitary. (See the discussion in Fant & Reddish, Lost Treasures of the Bible, 133-140.

Sargon II and an attendant. Displayed in Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sargon II and an official. Displayed in Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jack Finegan says of the reference to Sargon II in Isaiah 20:1,

… for a long time this was the only place in extant literature where his name was known.

The palace of Sargon II was discovered by Paul Emile Botta at Khorsabad in 1843. This relief comes from that palace, and is displayed in the Louvre. Other reliefs and artifacts from the palace are exhibited in the British Museum and the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

Written copies of Isaiah existed in what we know as the Dead Sea Scrolls nearly 2000 years before the discovery of Sargon’s palace and archive. Perhaps we should be slow to think of Isaiah and other biblical writers as being unhistorical. To say this in a positive way, this illustrates the historical trustworthiness of the Bible. That the only reference to Sargon is specifically linked to Ashdod is even more impressive.