Category Archives: Church History

The tour photo

We spent the full day in Cappadocia. As usual with our tour, we have a local photographer to make a group photo at one of the interesting spots we visit. Our photo this time was made at Uchisar. Do you know anyone in our group?

Ancient Crossroads Tour of Biblical and Historical Turkey. Photo taken at Uchisar in Cappadocia. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ancient Crossroads Tour of Biblical and Historical Turkey. Photo taken at Uchisar in Cappadocia. Click on photo for a larger image.

The Bible tells us that Jews of Cappadocia were present in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:9). Peter wrote his epistles to saints scattered throughout Cappadocia and other places in Roman Asia Minor (modern Turkey).

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,  2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. (1 Peter 1:1-2)

John Freely describes Cappadocia in these words:

“Most of this part of Cappadocia is covered with a deep layer of tufa, a soft stone of solidified mud, ash and lava which once poured down from the now extinct volcanoes on Hasan Dagi and Ericiyes Dagi, the two great mountain peaks of Cappadocia. In the eons since then the rivers of the region have scoured canyons, gorges, valleys and gulleys through the soft and porous stone, and the elements have eroded it into fantastic crags, folds, turrets, pyramids, spires, needles, stalagmites, and cones, creating a vast outdoor display of stone sculptures in an incredible variety of shapes and colours” (The Companion Guide to Turkey, 238).

In the centuries after New Testament times many Christians settled in this volcanic region of perhaps 50,000 cones.

Church History book available for Kindle

Do you have a good book on Church History? I have observed that many church members are generally ignorant of church history. A few months ago I learned that two books by Zondervan were to be available in Kindle format for $3.99 each. The second volume in the series was available, but there was some delay in getting the first volume online. Volume two is available today for $3.99. For how long I do not know.

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Everett Ferguson’s Church History ,Volume One: From Christ to Pre-Reformation: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political Context: 1, is currently available for the Kindle for $3.99. The regular price for the Kindle edition is $44.99. This book begins with the historical setting for the coming of Christ and the establishment of the church. It ends at about 1300 A.D.

Ferguson is widely respected as a scholar in early church history. With a Ph.D. from Harvard, he is professor emeritus of Bible and distinguished scholar-in-residence at Abilene Christian University. He is author of several books on early Christianity.

An eBook like this could be helpful for travelers visiting the Bible lands. In Turkey, for example, one sees the development of the Church Councils. In Italy there is the rise of the papacy and Catholicism. The Crusades involved numerous countries, including Israel. Sections on monasticism and the rise of Islam can be helpful as well. Ferguson also covers the “Dark Ages” and sets the stage for the earliest Reformation efforts.

Our photo shows ruins of The Church of Mary, also called the Church Council Church, at Ephesus. In A.D. 431 the Council of Ephesus was conducted here.

Church Council Church at Ephesus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Church of Mary (Church Council Church) at Ephesus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

HT: Brooks Cochran

Visiting the shepherd’s fields near Bethlehem

After the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, Luke records that an announcement of His birth was made to shepherds in the field at night.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:8-11 ESV)

There was enough distance that the shepherds said, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” (Luke 2:15 ESV)

We do not know the exact time of the birth of Jesus. We have a reasonable degree of certitude about the place of His birth, but places such as the field of the shepherds are not certain. As a result, traditions have risen about the place. Here I will mention three places that one can visit a short distance east of Bethlehem, near the wilderness of Judea. This area is known as Beit Sahour.

The first place is the Shepherd’s Field of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land (a Roman Catholic site). The photo shows the modern church built over a cave.

The Shepherd's Field of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Shepherd’s Field of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. Photo: F. Jenkins,

Under the church there is a large cave. These caves are not uncommon in the central mountain range. A display illustrating the birth of Jesus can be seen in the cave. One little note of interest. It is often pointed out that the manger of Luke 2:7 might be a feeding trough cut from stone. In this display the baby is placed in an ossuary! Notice the lid to the right.

Display in cave at Shepherd's Field. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Display in cave at Shepherd’s Field. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Outside one sees fields and olive groves.

Shepherd's fields at Beit Sahour. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins

Shepherd’s fields at Beit Sahour. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Not far away is the Shepherd’s Field of the YMCA. Some call it the Protestant Shepherd’s Field. There is a large cave on the property overlooking the fields of the region.

Caves at YMCA Shepherd's Field. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Caves at YMCA Shepherd’s Field. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Greek Orthodox site features ruins of a Byzantine church dating from the 5-7th centuries.

Byzantine church ruins at the Greek Orthodox site of the Shepherd's field. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Byzantine church ruins at the Greek Orthodox site. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Carl Rasmussen wrote about the “3 Christmases in Bethlehem” here, and Mark Ziese wrote about the Milk Grotto here. We have written about the Church of the Nativity several times, including here.

If not Tell Ḥesbân, where is Heshbon?

If Tell Ḥesbân is not biblical Heshbon, then the pool uncovered by S. H. Horn is likely not the pool mentioned in Song of Solomon 7:4.

If Tell Ḥesbân is not biblical Heshbon, then where is biblical Heshbon?

A sign at Tell Ḥesbân, erected by the excavators, lists evidence of occupation during the following periods:

  • Ajarmah [local tribe] village – ca. AD 1870-present
  • Ottoman Village
  • Mamuluk Regional capital – AD 1260-1500
  • Abbasid pilgrim rest. – AD 750-1260
  • Umayyad market town – AD 650-750
  • Byzantine Ecclesiastical center – ca. AD 350-650
  • Roman temple town – ca. 63 BC – AD 350
  • Hellenistic fortress – ca. 198 BC – 63 BC
  • Ammonite citadel – ca. 900 – 500 BC
  • Proto Ammonite village – ca. 1200 – 900 BC
  • Traditional Ammorite Stronghold.
Roman steps and market area at Tell Ḥesbân. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman steps and market area at Tell Ḥesbân. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Remember that we are looking for a town of Moab, and there is no evidence of the Moabites at Tell Ḥesbân.

Because not every reader of this blog speaks Bronze Age and Iron Age, I think I should list the general dates of these archaeological periods (following J. A. Thompson, The Biblical World (ed. Charles Pfeiffer).

  • Early Bronze (EB) — ca. 3200 – 2100 BC
  • Middle Bronze (MB) — ca. 2100 – 1550 BC – period of the Patriarchs
  • Late Bronze (LB) — ca. 1550 – 1200 BC – period of Moses, the Exodus, and the Conquest
  • Iron I — ca. 1200 – 900 BC – period of the Judges & the United Kingdom
  • Iron II — ca. 900 – 600 BC – period of the Divided Kingdom
  • Iron III — ca. 600 – 300 BC – period of Exile and Return
  • Hellenistic (Grecian) — ca. 300 – 63 BC – Between the Testaments
  • Roman — ca. 63 BC – AD 323 – New Testament & early Christian period

We are looking for a city belonging to the period of Moses, the Exodus, and the Conquest (the Late Bronze archaeological period). [*see note below]

After the disappointment at Tell Ḥesbân, those associated with Horn formed the Madaba Plains Project in order to continue the search for Heshbon. One of the great things about Todd Bolen’s Pictorial Library of Bible Lands is the fact that many of the photos include brief documentation with the photos. With one of the Tell Ḥesbân photos he says,

After this disappointing series of digs, the Madaba Plains Project was formed and the search for Heshbon continued.  Four Late Bronze sites were found within a 6 mile (10 km) radius of Tel Hesban; Tel Jalul is the biggest and thus the most promising site. Tel Jalul is the largest site in Jordan south of Amman.
Three possibilities exist for the location of biblical Heshbon: Tel Hesban, Tel el-Umeiri, and Tel Jalul. Hesban preserves the name, which makes it a good candidate, but it lacks archaeological evidence.
The PLBL collection includes photos of all of these places. The Institute of Archaeology Siegfried H. Horn Museum at Andrews University maintains a helpful web site that includes information about the Madaba Plains Project here.
Byzantine church at Tel Hesban. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Byzantine church at Tel Hesban. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The photo above shows the ruins of the Byzantine church at Tell Ḥesbân. Tel Jalul may be seen in the distance. Look for the long, plain “hill”, on the top of the hill on the far left of the photo.
Added Note: In the original post I stated that “We are looking for a city belonging to the period of the Patriarchs (the Late Bronze archaeological period).” A friend called my attention to the oversight. The chart above shows that the period of the Patriarchs is the Middle Bronze Age. I should have said, as now corrected above, that “We are looking for a city belonging to the period of Moses, the Exodus, and the Conquest (the Late Bronze archaeological period).”

More on the Vandalization of the Protestant Cemetery in Jerusalem

This is a brief follow-up on our report here of the vandalization of the Protestant Cemetery. Trent Dutton, “Our man in Jerusalem”, reports that once AP released a story about the vandalism, several Middle East and American news outlets have come to the cemetery for photographs, and have re-posted the story.

Fox News: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/10/09/vandals-damage-graves-in-jerusalem-in-latest-attack-against-christians/?intcmp=latestnews

Washington Times: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/oct/9/jerusalem-grave-vandals-set-christians-edge/

Ma’an News (Jordanian) discusses this in the context of the general problem faced by some Arabs: http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=634823

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4GY6D02dksI

The aerial photo below shows the Church of the Dormitian, the Catholic, Armenian, and Greek cemeteries in the upper left portion. Along the bottom of the photo, overlooking the road along the south of the Old City where it joins with the Hebron Road, is the Jerusalem University College. The Protestant Cemetery can be seen among the trees just above our copyright notice. Click on the photo for a larger image.

Aerial photo of the Protestant Cemetery. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial photo of the Protestant Cemetery. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

You can probably see that it would be rather easy for one to enter the cemetery from the road below.

HT: Trent Dutton

Huge columns said to be 1900-years-old found buried at Laodicea

Hurriyet Daily News reported today the discovery of a large number of “1,900-year-old huge columns” at Laodicea.

Excavations in the Aegean province of Denizli’s ancient city of Laodicea have revealed 1,900-year-old huge columns seven meters underground. The columns were found in the area known as the northern agora, one of the oldest faith centers in Anatolia.

The head of the excavations, Professor Celal Şimşek, said the northern agora had been discovered last year and they were continuing restoration and conservation work there. He said the area was one of the largest agoras in Anatolia. “The columned galleries here are in a rectangular shape on an area of 35,000 square meters. We previously revived the columned galleries that we call the eastern porch. This year we found the extension of these columns seven meters underground. They were in the same condition as when an earthquake ruined them. The columns date back to 1,900 years ago. Dust erosion and residue have filled the earth here and preserved the columns.”

Şimşek said their goal was to finish the excavations by the end of the year and to revive the columns in the beginning of the next year. He said the ancient city of Laodicea had served as a religious center.

“When the columned galleries are completely unearthed, there will be a very nice touring area. Tourists will have the chance to see traces from the past up close.”

A nice gallery of photos illustrate the article. One is a drawing showing how the area may have looked before being destroyed by earthquake. We are given no hint how the age of the columns was determined and whether the earthquake that felled them was also about 1,900 years old. Mark Wilson says,

Because of earthquakes the city was rebuilt numerous times during its history. A devastating earthquake during the reign of Focas (AD 602-10) finally caused the site to be abandoned. The residents founded a new city called Ladik, now the Kaleiçi district of Denizli. — Biblical Turkey, 247.

Laodicea is mentioned only in Paul’s epistle to the Colossians (2:1; 4:13-16) and in the Book of Revelation (1:11; 3:14). Paul says that Epaphras worked diligently for the saints in Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis. These were cities of the Lycus River valley.

We have visited Laodicea several times over the years and been delighted with the archaeological reconstruction underway. The city should be on everyone’s list of “must see” sites of Turkey. Turkey has approximately 1100 historical sites, and the country has made considerable progress in preparing some of them for visitors. Use the search box on this blog to locate previous entries about Laodicea.

Tourists on the Syrian Street at Laodicea. Colossae is located at the foot of Mount Cadmus, seen in the distance to the east. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tourists on the Syrian Street at Laodicea. Colossae is located at the foot of Mount Cadmus, seen in the distance to the east. Hierapolis is to the north (our left as we view the photo). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

Crusader period hospital building in Jerusalem

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced yesterday that a building from the Crusader period (1099–1291 A.D.) has been excavated. The building is in an area of the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem known as the Muristan (“a corruption of the Persian word for hospital”). Our first photo shows part of the Muristan near the old structure. You can see the tower of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer. This is near the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

The Muristan in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. The tower of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer is visible. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Muristan in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. The tower of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer is visible. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Between the Lutheran Church and the Armenian Quarter on Muristan Street stands a monument identifying the area where the hospital of St. John of Jerusalem was established. Click on the image if you wish to read the inscription.

Marker identifying the location of the hospital built by the "Order of St. John of the Hospital in Jerusalem." Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Marker identifying the location of the hospital built by the “Order of St. John of the Hospital in Jerusalem.” Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Press Release contains several bits of historical information that may be of interest to readers. Here is the full Press Release.

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The Israel Antiquities Authority conducted an excavation in the impressive Crusader building, which is similar in appearance to the Knights Halls in Akko and stands 6 meters high, prior to the construction of a restaurant by the Grand Bazaar Company

Part of an enormous structure dating to the Crusader period (1099–1291 CE), which was a busy hospital,  has currently been revealed to the public following excavations and research by the Israel Antiquities Authority there in cooperation with the Grand Bazaar Company of East Jerusalem. The building, owned by the Waqf, is situated in the heart of the Christian Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem, in a region known as “Muristan” (a corruption of the Persian word for hospital), near David Street, the main road in the Old City.

Until a decade or so ago the building served as a bustling and crowded fruit and vegetable market. Since then it stood there desolate. In the wake of the Grand Bazaar Company’s intention to renovate the market as a restaurant, the Israel Antiquities Authority conducted archaeological soundings there.

The structure, only a small part of which was exposed in the excavation, seems to extend across an area of fifteen dunams! Its construction is characterized by massive pillars and ribbed vaults and it stands more than six meters high. The image we have is that of a great hall composed of pillars, rooms and smaller halls.

Ruins of the Crusader hospital built by the Order of St. John of the Hospital in Jerusalem. Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Ruins of the Crusader hospital built by the Order of St. John of the Hospital in Jerusalem. Photo by Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

According to Renee Forestany and Amit Re’em, the excavation directors on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “We’ve learned about the hospital from contemporary historical documents, most of which are written in Latin.  These mention a sophisticated hospital that is as large and as organized as a modern hospital. The hospital was established and constructed by a Christian military order named the “Order of St. John of the Hospital in Jerusalem” and known by its Latin name the Hospitallers (from the word hospital). These righteous warriors took an oath to care for and watch over pilgrims, and when necessary they joined the ranks of the fighters as an elite unit.

The hospital was comprised of different wings and departments according to the nature of the illness and the condition of the patient – similar to a modern hospital. In an emergency situation the hospital could accept as many as 2,000 patients. The Hospitallers treated sick men and women of different religions. There is information about Crusaders who ensured their Jewish patients received kosher food. All that notwithstanding, they were completely ignorant in all aspects of medicine and sanitation: an eyewitness of the period reports that a Crusader doctor amputated the leg of a warrior just because he had a small infected wound – needless to say the patient died. The Muslim Arab population was instrumental in assisting the Crusaders in establishing the hospital and teaching them medicine. Arab culture has always held the medical profession in high regard and Arab physicians were famous far and wide.

In addition to the medical departments, the hospital also functioned as an orphanage where abandoned newborns were brought. Mothers who did not want their offspring would come there with covered heads and hand over their infants. In many instances when twins were born, one of them was given to the orphanage. The orphans were treated with great devotion and when they reached adulthood they served in the military order.

We can learn about the size of the hospital from contemporary documents. One of the documents recounts an incident about a staff member who was irresponsible in the performance of his work in the hospital. That person was marched alongside the building awhile, and the rest of the staff, with whips in hand, formed a line behind him and beat him. This spectacle was witnessed by all of the patients.

The Ayyubid ruler Saladin lived near the hospital following the defeat of the Crusaders, and he also renovated and maintained the structure. He permitted ten Crusader monks to continue to reside there and serve the population of Jerusalem.

The building collapsed in an earthquake that struck in 1457 CE and was buried beneath its ruins, which is how it remained until the Ottoman period. In the Middle Ages parts of the structure were used as a stable and the bones of horses and camels were found in excavations, alongside an enormous amount of metal that was used in shoeing the animals.

According to Monser Shwieki, the project manager, “The magnificent building will be integrated in a restaurant slated to be constructed there, and its patrons will be impressed by the enchanting atmosphere of the Middle Ages that prevails there”. According to Shwieki, “The place will be open to the public later this year”.

Click here to download high resolution pictures . Photograph credit: Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer