Category Archives: Book of Acts

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.

Purple fabric dyed from Murex found in Judean desert

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced last week the discovery of two pieces of fabrics found at Wadi Murabba’at on the western shore of the Dead Sea.

Thousands of fabrics dating to the Roman period have been discovered in the Judean Desert and regions of the Negev and the ‘Arava. So far only two were colored with dye extracted from the murex snail. Now, within the framework of a study conducted by Dr. Na‘ama Sukenik of the Israel Antiquities Authority, three other rare fabrics belonging to pieces of prestigious textiles were exposed that might have been used as clothing in the Roman period. …

These prestigious textiles, from the Wadi Murabba‘at caves located south of Qumran, were revealed in a study that analysis the dye of 180 textiles specimens from the Judean Desert caves. Among the many textiles, most of which were dyed using substances derived from plants, were two purple-bordeaux colored textiles – parts of tunics that were double dyed utilizing two of the most expensive materials in antiquity: Murex trunculus (Hexaplex trunculus) and American Cochineal insect.

Purple fabric discovered at Wadi Murabba'at at caves south of Qumran. Photograph: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Purple fabric discovered at Wadi Murabba’at at caves south of Qumran. Photograph: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The valuation of the Murex purple in the ancient world is explained.

Of all of the dyes that were in use, purple is considered the most prestigious color of the earlier periods; however it seems the public’s fondness for this reached its peak in the Hellenistic-Roman period. The purple dyed fabrics attested to the prestige of the garment and the social status of its owner. There were times when the masses were forbidden from dressing in purple clothing, which was reserved for only the emperor and his family. These measures only served to increase the popularity of that color, the price of which soared and was equal to that of gold.

The photo below shows two Murex shells that I collected at the ruins of the ancient Phoenician site of Tyre.

Murex shells from Tyre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Murex shells from Tyre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Purple is mentioned in several New Testament texts. Notice these:

  • A rich man who habitually dressed in purple and fine linen (Luke 16:19).
  • Jesus was dressed in a purple garment to make him look like a king (Mark 15:17).
  • Purple was one of the products commonly traded and transported in the Roman Empire (Revelation 18:12).

If you are interested in more information about the Murex and the color Purple put the word Murex in the search box. You should locate six posts on this topic.

For the purple made from the madder root sold by Lydia (Acts 16:14), see here.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Caesarea Maritima – the Lower Palace

A few columns of the Palace of the Procurators have been restored at Caesarea. The late Jerome Murphy-O’Connor describes the lower level of the Palace.

From the west colonnade one can look down to the sea shore at a point where its dominant feature is a rectangular rock-cut pool (35 x 18). There are channels to the sea on both sides. A square statue base can be discerned in the middle. The colonnaded pool was originally the centerpiece of a two-storey building (83 x 51 m) which surrounded it on all sides. Presumably it was here that the Roman procurators lived. Wave action and the activities of stone robbers have ensured that virtually nothing remains. A staircase in the north-east corner gave access to the upper level. (The Holy Land, Fifth Edition, p. 243)

Our photo below shows this area. In the foreground you will see portions of some mosaics.

The lower level of the Place of the Procurators. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The lower level of the Place of the Procurators. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This was not a bad place for the Roman procurators to live a luxurious life while the Apostle Paul was held in custody nearby (Acts 23:23 – 26:32).

Procurators associated with Caesarea in the New Testament include…

  • Pilate (A.D. 26-26) – John 18, et al.
  • Felix (A.D. 52-59) – Acts 23-25
  • Festus (A.D. 59-61) – Acts 24-26

The Jewish rulers associated with Caesarea include…

  • Herod the king [Agrippa I] (A.D. 37-44) – Acts 12
  • Herod Agrippa II (lived A.D. 27-100) – Acts 25-26

The Hippodrome at Caesarea Maritima

Herod the Great built a hippodrome along the Mediterranean coast at Caesarea Maritima in 10 B.C. to celebrate the opening of the city. In the second century A.D. the south end of the hippodrome was reconstructed as an amphitheater to be used for gladiatorial contests.

The seaside Hippodrome at Caesarea Maritima. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The seaside Hippodrome at Caesarea Maritima. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The apostle Paul was in prison at Caesarea for two years between A.D. 58 and 60 (Acts 23:23 – 26:32).

We discussed Paul’s possible use of the charioteer in Philippians 3:12-14 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.

Caesarea Maritima – Palace and Hippodrome

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).

Herod the Great built a city on the site of Strato’s Tower and named it Caesarea in honor of Caesar Augustus. It became a center of Roman provincial government in Judea. The city had a harbor and was located on the main caravan route between Tyre and Egypt. This city is called Caesarea Maritima (on the sea) to distinguish it from Caesarea Philippi.

The setting of the city on the Mediterranean is beautiful. The photo below shows the south end of the excavated hippodrome and the palace of the procurators.

Palace of the Procurators and the south end of the Hippodrome. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Palace of the Procurators and the south end of the Hippodrome. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

An inscription with the name of Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator, was found during the reconstruction of the theater June 15, 1961.

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), perhaps in the palace of the procurators.

The Erastus inscription at Corinth

Even though the relationship between the Apostle Paul and the Corinthians was always a strained one, we know the names of numerous saints at Corinth who were helpful to Paul in his ministry.

Paul calls attention to a person named Erastus who was a “city treasurer.” He would be one of the few (“not many”) Christians who were among the socially elite at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:26). A person named Erastus is mentioned three times in the New Testament. Whether these are two or three different persons, or all the same person, I do not know. Here are the biblical references:

  1. “And having sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.” (Acts 19:22 ESV)
  2. “Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus, greet you.” (Romans 16:23 ESV) [We understand that Romans was written from Corinth. The Greek term for "city treasurer" is oikonomos.]
  3. “Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus.” (2 Timothy 4:20 ESV)

It is of interest that during the 1929 archaeological excavation of the area near the theater (see here), a plaza was located that contained a stone inscription bearing the name of Erastus and indicating that he was a public official.

Ferrell Jenkins points to the Erastus Inscription at Corinth.

Ferrell Jenkins points to the Erastus Inscription at Corinth.

John McRay says the pavement in which this inscription was found dates to before A.D. 50. The letters are 7 inches high. The complete inscription reads:

ERASTVS-PRO-AEDILIT[at]E S-P-Stravit
In full: Erastus pro aedilitate sua pecunia stravit.

The English translation of the inscription is, “Erastus in return for his aedileship laid (the pavement) at his own expense.” (Archaeology and the New Testament, 331).

Originally the letters were filled with bronze, but most of that was removed long ago. The name ERASTVS is seen in the closeup below.

The name Erastus in the inscription near the theater. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The name Erastus in the inscription near the Corinth theater. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

For those who have interest in a more technical discussion of this inscription may find it in David W.J. Gill, “Erastus The Aedile.” Tyndale Bulletin 40.2 (1989): 298. Gill asks,

Are we to identify the Erastus inscription with the Erastus of Romans? It needs to be pointed out that the evidence will not allow a certain identification or a certain rejection.

We are not able to answer the question with certainty, but the possibility that this man was among the disciples at Corinth, and a friend of Paul, is intriguing.

Paul stood before Galilo at Corinth

Luke records, in the book of Acts, an important historical event involving Paul during the 18 months he worked at Corinth

12 But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal,
13 saying, “This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.”
14 But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, O Jews, I would have reason to accept your complaint.
15 But since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves. I refuse to be a judge of these things.”
16 And he drove them from the tribunal.
17 And they all seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of this. (Acts 18:12-17 ESV)

The photo below 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 in the agora of Corinth. The Acrocorinth is in the distance. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The bema in the agora of Corinth. 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).

An inscription found at Delphi names Gallio the proconsul of Achaia. Gallio was the brother of the famous Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca. Gallio’s terms as proconsul of Achaia is usually dated to either A.D. 51/52 or 52/53. This is an important chronological help in our study of Paul’s journeys. In the largest fragment of the inscription, the name of ΓΑΛΛΙΩ (GALLIO)  may be seen in the center of the third line from the top.

The Delphi (Gallio) inscription. Photo by David Padfield.

The Delphi (Gallio) inscription. Photo by David Padfield.

I have been to Delphi at least two times, but the broken pieces of the Gallio Inscription were in a storage room. I did have written permission to see the fragment, but the slides I made were of poor quality. Thanks to David Padfield for permission to use the nice photo above which is now displayed in the museum at Delphi.

The theater at Corinth

The theater at Corinth is a short distance from the agora and the Temple of Apollo. Reddish and Fant describe the theater:

The theater dates from the 5th century B.C.E. and later was rebuilt by the Romans, who added a multistory stage building . In Paul’s time it seated approximately 14,000 spectators. (A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey, p. 59)

According to the same source, both the theater and the odeion, “were later used for gladiatorial spectacles; the theater was even fitted for mock sea battles.”

Ruins of the theater at Corinth. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ruins of the theater at Corinth. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The theater is not on the typical tourist route at Corinth, but it can be reached along a rugged path north of the major excavated area.

The Apostle Paul spent 18 months among the Corinthians.

And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. (Acts 18:11 ESV)

Report by Gordon Franz on the “International Noah and Judi Mountain Symposium” – Sirnak, Turkey

Gordon Franz sent me the report on his recent visit to southeastern Turkey and the “International Noah and Judi Mountain Symposium.” He said, “If you want to post it on your site, you are more than welcome.” This is an issue of much importance, and I am delighted to share it with our readers and help give it wide distribution.

Twice I have visited Eastern Turkey. In 2007 I was aware of the argument for Cudi Dagh (or Mount Judi), but was advised by my Turkish tour operator not to go to the mountain. Still hopeful of seeing the mountain someday.

Here is the first part of Gordon’s report:

Report on the “International Noah and Judi Mountain Symposium” – Sirnak, Turkey

By Gordon Franz

Introduction
The “International Noah and Judi Mountain” symposium was held in Sirnak, Turkey, under the auspices of Sirnak University. One of the purposes of this conference was to set forth the case for Cudi Dagh, the mountain just to the south of Sirnak, as the landing-place of Noah’s Ark in South East Turkey. This mountain is not to be confused with the (late) traditional Mount Ararat, called Agri Dagh, in northeastern Turkey.

Ararat (Agri Dagh) in north eastern Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Traditional Mount Ararat (Agri Dagh) in north eastern Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Interestingly, at this conference I learned of another mountain that allegedly Noah’s Ark landed on. It is located at Mount Gemikaya in Azerbaijan. By my count, that is the sixth mountain vying for the honors of this historical event: two in Turkey, three in Iran, and one in Azerbaijan. The Iranian and Azerbaijani sites are far outside the Land of Ararat / Urartu, and in the case of the Iranian sites, deep inside the Land of Media. We can safely dismiss these mountains as the place where Noah’s Ark landed according to the Bible. To be truthful, Agri Dagh must be dismissed as well because it is a post-Flood volcanic peak in a plain, and not within the “mountains (plural) of Ararat” (Gen. 8:4).

The Setting of the Symposium
The symposium was held at the Sehr-I Nuh Otel (translation: Noah’s City Hotel) in Sirnak, just north of Cudi Dagh (Cudi or Judi Mountain). This mountain is within the “mountains of Ararat” (Gen. 8:4) where Noah’s Ark landed. The facilities at the hotel were first class, the food was absolutely delicious, and we had a spectacular view of Cudi Dagh from the panorama view windows as we ate our meals.

Cudi Dagh (Mount Judi). Photo courtesy of Dr. Mark Wilson.

Cudi Dagh (Mount Judi). Photo courtesy of Dr. Mark Wilson.

Special thanks goes to Dr. Mehmet Ata Az, a philosophy professor at Sirnak University, for coordinating the speakers and making sure our needs were met. He truly has a servant’s heart and our best interest in mind. Thank you my friend!

— ♦ —

At this point Gordon gives a synopsis of select papers, including his own on the topic, “Did Sennacherib, King of Assyria, Worship Wood from Noah’s Ark?

Read the report in its entirety at Gordon’s Life and Land Seminars site. I think you will be profited, and perhaps enlightened, by doing so.