Category Archives: Church History

Acts 28 — Photo Illustrations

Many of the places mentioned in Acts 28 have been discussed, with photos, over a period of years. For sure, we have posts on Malta, (Publius), Syracuse, Rhegium, (Appian Way), and Rome. Use the search box to locate these for your study and teaching.

For this final post on the Book of Acts I have decided to look at a thought suggested by Paul when he spoke with the leading men of the Jews in Rome.

 17 After three days Paul called together those who were the leading men of the Jews, and when they came together, he began saying to them, “Brethren, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.
18 “And when they had examined me, they were willing to release me because there was no ground for putting me to death.
19 “But when the Jews objected, I was forced to appeal to Caesar, not that I had any accusation against my nation.
20 “For this reason, therefore, I requested to see you and to speak with you, for I am wearing this chain for the sake of the hope of Israel.” (Acts 28:17-20 NAU)

Paul was taken to Rome in chains as a prisoner of the Roman Empire. See also Acts 21:33; 22:29; 26:29; Ephesians 6:20.

The Basilica of St. Paul, commonly known as St. Paul Outside the Walls, dates to the time of Constantine, and is thought to be the site of the burial of Paul.

Among the statues on the property is the one shown below. Paul is portrayed as a writer and a prisoner ready to be offered. We recall that the Prison Epistles (Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians) were written from Rome. My own understanding is that Paul was likely released after about two years. During that time we know very little about his activities, but believe that he wrote 1 Timothy and Titus. Later he was imprisoned a second time in Rome and writes another prison epistle, 2 Timothy.

Statue representing Paul as a writer in chains. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Statue representing Paul as a writer in chains. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The chains are difficult to see in the photo above, but in the view below they are clearly visible.

Paul in chains. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Paul in chains. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This final post in the series on Acts is sent forth with the hope that the material will be of value to students and Bible class teachers for years to come.

Myra, home of Saint Nicholas

The town Myra is known to students of the New Testament as a place where Paul transferred ships while he was being taken to Rome for trial before Caesar (Acts 27:5).

In the centuries following, Myra became the home of a (Greek Orthodox) bishop known as Nicholas. Born in Patara, Nicholas died December 6, 343. Several legends arose around Nicholas who was noted for giving gifts to the poor and raising the dead.

Highly revered in Greece and Russia, St. Nicholas is known as the patron saint of children, sailors, merchants, and scholars. From his life of piety, kindness, and generosity arose the legendary figure celebrated today as St. Nicholas, Father Christmas, or Santa Claus. (Fant & Reddish, A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey, 256)

The ancient Myra is associated with the modern Turkish town Demre (or Kale). I thought you might enjoy seeing a few pictures related to Saint Nicholas. In the town square is a recent statue showing St. Nicholas with children. The statue was a gift of the Russian government in 2000. Many Russian tourists were visiting the day I was there.

Modern statue of Saint Nicholas at Myra. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Modern statue of Saint Nicholas at Myra. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A few decades ago I saw an older statue near the entrance to the church. It now has a fresh coat of black paint.

Older statue of St. Nicholas near the entrance of the Byzantine church ruins. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Older statue of St. Nicholas near the entrance of the Byzantine church ruins.This statue depicts him carrying a bag of gifts.  Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Byzantine church dates to the 6th century A.D. Several writers point out that the sarcophagus of Nicholas was broken into by Italian merchants in the 1087 A.D., and his bones were taken to Bari, Italy.

Wilson says the church is built like a basilica “in the shape of an orthodox cross” (Biblical Turkey 88).

St. Nicholas Byzantine church, Myra, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ruins of the St. Nicholas Byzantine church, Myra, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This last photo shows one of the poorly preserved frescoes.

Fresco on the wall of St. Nicholas church in Demre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Fresco on the wall of St. Nicholas church in Demre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tourism seems to be thriving at Myra even though the town is off the beaten track. Whether there are any Christians in the town is doubtful.

For an earlier post about Myra and St. Nicholas, see here.

Reformation Day

October 31 is known as Reformation Day because it was on this day in 1517 that Martin Luther posted Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. The Ninety-Five Theses were issues that Luther thought should be debated by the theologians. These questions were brought about due to the sale of indulgences and general corruption within the Roman Catholic Church.

The term Protestant was not used to describe those who aligned themselves with Luther for another 12 years, but the Protestant movement can be dated the the event at Wittenberg.

There are many issues on which I would differ with Luther, but I admit that I admire the man and the stand that he took against practices of his day which were departures from the Apostolic doctrine.

This statue of Luther stands in the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. The official name of the town is Lutherstadt Wittenberg.

Statue of Martin Luther in the Wittenberg Castle Church. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Statue of Martin Luther in the Wittenberg Castle Church. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The original door of the church was destroyed by fire in 1760. Doors covered with bronze plaques with the Ninety-Five Theses on them were installed in 1858. The door of the church is pictured below.

Door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Free Book. Those who use Logos Bible Software may download a copy of the Ninety-Five Theses under the title Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences. For information click here.

Interested in the Reformation? If you have interest in Church History and the place of the Reformation within it, you might enjoy this post on “The background of the Protestant Reformation,” or posts on Zwingli, Tyndale and Knox (and here), Heinrich Bullinger, St. Andrews, and Savonarola.

HT: HMcK

Acts 19 — Photo Illustrations

Ephesus is one of the most excavated sites from the Biblical world. Teams of Austrian archaeologists have worked at the site since 1895.

Items of interest at Ephesus include the single standing column of the Temple of Diana (Artemis), the harbor which is now silted up, the great theater which seated nearly 25,000 (Acts 19:29), the Marble street, the Library of Celsus, the Agora, the Temple of Hadrian, the Temple of Domitian (or the Flavian Emperors), and much more.

The first instance of believers baptized into Christ at Ephesus is recorded in Acts 19. Many changes took place in the church between the time when Paul spent nearly three years in the city, and the time when John lived there. There are two letters in the New Testament addressed to the church at Ephesus. The first is the letter of Paul to the Ephesians. The other is the letter included in the book of Revelation (Revelation 2:1-7).

Yamauchi comments on the size of Ephesus in the first century:

“In the New Testament era it was probably the fourth greatest city in the world (after Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch) with a population of about 250,000″ (Archaeology of New Testament Cities, 79).

The photo below shows the site of the Temple of Artemis (Diana). Notice the stork standing on top of the sole standing column. Click on the photo for a larger image.

The site of the Artemis temple at Ephesus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The site of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The ruins of the famous temple were discovered in 1869 by J. T. Wood, an English engineer.  Pausanias, the second century A.D. geographer, said the “temple of Diana surpassed every structure raised by human hands.” The temple was four times as large as the Parthenon. The platform of the temple was 239 feet wide by 418 feet long. The temple itself was 180 feet wide by 377 feet long, and the roof was supported by more than 100 sixty-foot columns. The temple served as a bank and a place of asylum for criminals. The earliest stage of the temple was built about 600 B.C. The Hellenistic temple which Paul and John saw was destroyed in A.D. 262.

Wallace: Fifteen Myths about Bible Translation

Prof. Daniel B. Wallace discusses “Fifteen Myths about Bible Translation.” Wallace is a well known and respected scholar dealing with issues pertaining to the Greek language and Textual Criticism.

Wallace says,

Perhaps the number one myth about Bible translation is that a word-for-word translation is the best kind.

Whatever your current level of knowledge about Bible translations, you are sure to learn something from these “Fifteen Myths” even if you don’t agree with all of them.

Read the full article here.

HT: BibleX

Acts 15 — Photo Illustrations

James, the Lord’s brother, is one of the prominent characters in Acts 15. In fact, Paul later refers to the events of Acts 15, and speaks of James, Cephas,and John.

and when James, Cephas, and John, who had a reputation as pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we would go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.  (Galatians 2:9 NET)

In the Armenian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem we find the Cathedral of St. James. Murphy-O’Connor says,

Facts and legend are juxtaposed as casually as are artistic creations of different talents and periods. The church is dedicated to St. James the Great, son of Zebedee, who was executed by king Herod Agrippa I in 44 (Acts 12:1-3).

But the building also claims to hold the “patriarchal throne of St James the Less, the brother of the Lord…” (Murphy-O’Connor). This is the James of Acts 15. (It is sometimes difficult for readers to keep all of those named James, John, and Mary, separate when reading the New Testament — not to mention Herod.)

Photos were not allowed inside the building when I was there to observe a service. This photo shows the entrance to the Cathedral.

Entrance to St. James Cathedral in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Entrance to St. James Cathedral in the Armenian Quarter. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In one of the quietest places in the Old City one comes upon St. James Street.

St. James Street in the Armenian Quarter. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

St. James Street in the Armenian Quarter. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Other names of interest in the Armenian Quarter include St. Mark’s Street and Ararat Street. A century ago the Armenians had a large presence in eastern Turkey, where the Mountains of Ararat are located.

The “wife of Christ”

Reminds me of a preaching brother in the Ohio Valley a few decades back who had trouble pronouncing the letter “L”. As a result, he often spoke of the “wife of Christ.” True story. Like the Europeans who says “elewator” in stead of “elevator.”

Having been out of the country for three weeks and still delayed in New York, I have been unable to mention the recent spate of media attention to the claim of a document in which Jesus mentions His wife.

For those who are interested in reading some reliable responses to this nonsense, I call attention to two posts by Todd Bolen at the Bible Places Blog.

In the first one, Bolen briefly summarizes his response to the story under the title “Somebody Once Believed That Jesus Had a Wife” here.

In the second one, here,  he lists a summary of more than a dozen articles worth reading.

Don’t go to church Sunday morning without being prepared. Someone is sure to mention one of the brief reports they heard on TV.

Visiting the Old City of Jerusalem

We left the hotel this morning at 7:15 in order to be at the security line going to the Temple Mount platform as soon as it opened. After that visit we followed the traditional Via Dolorosa. After a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre we went to the Jewish Quarter to see the Broad Wall, the Burnt House (from A.D. 70), and the Herodian Mansion (or perhaps the house of priests).

We came down to the Western Wall Plaza to visit the Western Wall, then the Davidson Center excavations.

This photo of the Western Wall and Temple Mount platform was made from the southwest. You can see a portion of the Western Wall, the Mughrabi (temporary) Bridge, and the Dome of the Rock (where the biblical Temple once stood).

Temple Mount in Jerusalem from the SW. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Temple Mount in Jerusalem from the SW. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

On the right side of the photo, in the distance, can be seen the hill between Mount Scopus and the Mount of Olives. I think this is where the Augusta Victoria Hospital is located.

It was a full day.

Logos Book of the Month — Psalms and Hymns of Isaac Watts

Pick up almost any book of hymns and you will note several songs by Isaac Watts (1674-1748), a native of Southhampton, England. The Dictionary of the Christian Church says,

Watts deservedly holds a very high place among English hymn-writers. His hymns reflect his strong and serene faith and did much to make hymn-singing a powerful devotional force, especially in Nonconformity… [especially nonconformity to the Church of England at the time, but used of nonconformity to any Established Church]

Logos is offering The Psalms and Hymns of Isaac Watts free to Logos users for the month of September. See details here.

A 1775 edition of a book by Isaac Watts. U. of Otago.

I have Logos Bible Software 4 open now to a hymn based on Galatians 6:14. The title is “Crucifixion to the world by the cross of Christ.” We probably know this song by the first words, “When I survey the wondrous cross.”

Crucifixion to the world by the cross of Christ.
(Gal. 6:14)

 When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.

See from his head, his hands, his feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown!

[His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o’er his body on the tree:
Then am I dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.]

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Watts, I. (1998). The Psalms and hymns of Isaac Watts. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Don’t expect modern shaped notes. And if you know nothing of the Meters that were used in Watts’ time, you may simply use the book for devotional readings.

Notice the vivid fourth stanza describing the dying Christ which is often left out of modern hymn books.

Acts 13 — Photo Illustrations

How long would it take to provide photo illustrations for Acts 13? Here are some of the places and persons we might consider.

  • Syrian Antioch
  • Seleucia
  • Cyprus
  • Salamis, Cyprus
  • Paphos, Cyprus
  • Barnabas
  • Sergius Paulus
  • Perga in Pamphylia
  • Pisidian Antioch
  • Iconium

Not to mention the historical references in Paul’s sermon in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch. (You can find posts about most, if not all, of the above list by using the Search box.)

For today, I have chosen to call attention to Barnabas and his association with Cyprus. The first stop made by Barnabas, Saul, and John Mark on Cyprus was at the eastern port of Salamis. A few miles west of the harbor and ancient city we now have the Monastery and Church of St. Barnabas. Salamis, and this building, are now located in the Turkish Republic of Norther Cyprus. The folks in the south, the Republic of Cyprus, speak of the north as occupied territory. (I leave the politics of the issue for others.) The monastery and church, erected in A.D. 477, now houses an icon museum and a small archaeological museum.

Tradition has it that Barnabas was martyred by Jews on Cyprus, but we have no evidence to back up this assertion.

Church of St. Barnabas at Salamis, Cyprus.

Late 5th century church of St. Barnabas at Salamis, Cyprus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Acts 4:36 informs us that Joseph was also called Barnabas by the apostles. The name Barnabas means Son of Encouragement or Exhortation. He must have been an eloquent speaker, especially good at exhorting and encouraging others. He was generous with his property, a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith (Acts 11:24).

Barnabas was of the tribe of Levi and a native of the island of Cyprus. He later introduced Saul of Tarsus (Paul) to the brethren in Jerusalem (Acts 9:26-27) and preached in Antioch (Acts 11:22-30). Barnabas, and his cousin John Mark (Colossians 4:10), joined Saul for the first preaching journey (Acts 13-14).

After a sharp disagreement between Barnabas and Paul, Barnabas took Mark with him to Cyprus (Acts 15:39). One wonders if Mark also was a native of Cyprus.