Category Archives: New Testament

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

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.

Paul traveled through Amphipolis

When Paul and his companions went from Troas into Macedonia on his second preaching journey, they went ashore at Neapolis (modern Kavalla, Greece), and continued to Philippi. Luke remained at Philippi while Paul, Silas and Timothy followed the Egnatian Way to Thessalonica. There is no indication of any preaching done in Amphipolis and Appollonia. In fact, the reference to the cities barely attracts notice.

Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. (Act 17:1 ESV)

Amphipolis was situated about 30 miles west of Philippi on the Via Egnatia. The River Strymon runs past Amphipolis and continues for about 3 1/2 miles south where it flows into the Aegean Sea.

The River Strymon at Amphipolis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The River Strymon at Amphipolis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

K. L. McKay, in an article in The New Bible Dictionary, describes the city briefly:

Prized by the Athenians and Macedonians as the key both to the gold, silver and timber of Mt Pangaeus and also to the control of the Dardanelles, it became under the Romans a free town and the capital of the first district of Macedonia. Amphipolis is about 50 km WSW of Philippi on the Via Egnatia, a great Roman highway, and Paul passed through it on his way to Thessalonica (Acts 17:1).

The city is somewhat difficult to reach and there is little to be seen. The most impressive ruin is a reconstructed lion dating to the 4th century B.C. standing along the highway.

The Lion of Amphipolis from the 4th century B.C. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Lion of Amphipolis from the 4th century B.C. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

New excavations recently have uncovered what may turn out to be an impressive tomb from the 4th century B.C.  More about that in a post to follow.

Following the Blogs

Available today only in Kindle format: How We Got the Bible by Neil Lightfoot. This is not the only book you need on this subject, but it is a good beginning source.

Todd Bolen’s Bible Places Blog is the best source for keeping up with news and recent materials related to Bible Places. I am a fan of the Weekend Roundup, with links to a variety of helpful materials. Today’s post reports that that rooms of Emperor Augustus on the Palatine Hill in Rome are now open to the public. Read here.

House of Augustus on the Palatine Hill, Rome. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

House of Augustus on the Palatine Hill, Rome. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Charles Savelle provides a regular flow of links to helpful tools for serious Bible teachers and students at his BibleX (Bible Exposition). He recently pointed us to material on the Didache, The Dating of Deuteronomy and the Suzerain-Vassal Treaty Forms, and The Importance of Biblical Geography. I check this site regularly.

I enjoy following Bible Lands Explorer, the blog of Mark Ziese. Mark is a unique writer. His most recent post points us to a Brazilian newspaper for which he provided photos of the Jesus Trail. You may not be able to read the Portuguese newspaper, but there is a nice slide show of Mark’s photos.

Reading Acts. The blog by Phillip J. Long has some helpful articles for Bible students. Check some of these recent posts:

Ancient History Encyclopedia. This is a nice site including an encyclopedia that is primarily intended for high school level. Includes Index, Timeline, Maps, Photos, Videos, etc. Check the article on Roman Roads here.

ePlace. Research materials provided by Asbury Theological Seminary. Includes TREN collection of professional conference papers, dissertations, et al.

The Journal of Inductive Biblical Studies. This journal is built on the well-known work of Kuist, Traina, and others who wrote on Inductive Bible Study.

Daily Dose of Greek. Sign up for a 2-minute video Daily Dose of Greek by Rob Plumber, professor of Greek and New Testament at Southern Baptist Seminary.

Mark Hoffman, Biblical Studies and Technological Tools, recently posted two helpful lists of Greek lexical forms. Click here.

Resources to Help You Defend the Deity of Jesus. A list of resources by J. Warner Wallace, author of Cold Case Christianity.

HT: Brooks Cochran

The Altar of Zeus in the Pergamum Museum

The Pergamum Museum in Berlin gets its name from the reconstructed altar of Zeus from Pergamum (Bergama) in western Turkey. I noted earlier that this fabulous reconstruction is now closed for refurbishing. When we visited the Museum in mid-August, 2014, some scaffolding was already in place.

The Pergamum Altar in the Pergamum Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Pergamum Altar in the Pergamum Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The altar of Zeus was built by Eumenes II (197–159 B.C.) to commemorate the victory of Attalus I over the invading Gauls. This is the most important and largest building from the Hellenistic age. The unique discovery of the Altar is told by Dr. Henry Koch:

Carl Humaan

Carl Humaan

“A German engineer named Carl Humann had been authorized to build a road from Pergamon to the Aegean Sea. While he was supervising the work he noticed that marble statues and torsos were being carted from the ruins of the city and brought to the limekiln to be burnt into lime. It is to be feared that many a valuable statue was thus reduced to limestone. One day Humann also observed, how a peasant was hauling a marble slab adorned with statues and figures to the limekiln. He halted the peasant, asked him, how much he wanted for the slab, paid the price and immediately had the slab sent to the curators of the Berlin Museum in Germany. He offered the peasant more money, if he could procure additional slabs for him. The peasant gladly consented. For him it was lucrative business; for the curators it was a precious find.

Alexander Conze, a curator in Berlin, discerned the great value of the find. He recalled having read that a Roman writer named Ampelius living in the second century after Christ had written a Book of Wonders (Liber Memorialis). Among the wonders he also had mentioned the Altar of Zeus in Pergamum. This was a valuable clue for Conze. Humann was at once requested to obtain as many slabs a possible. Permission was also requested of the Turkish Government to have the slabs sent to Berlin and that excavations could be started at once. Permission was granted and the excavations were carried out from 1879-1885. Fortunately most of the ruins of the Temple had not as yet been found or touched. The curators in Berlin could piece them all together and thus the priceless Altar of Zeus could be assembled” (Koch, The Christian News, Nov. 22, 1976).

The Altar of Zeus was re-assembled in more than twenty years of museum work and is now housed in the special Pergamum Museum in Berlin. A trip to see this fabulous piece of architecture is recommended. The marble frieze depicts the mythological battle between gods and giants. The photo below shows a small portion of a scene.

A portion of the Zeus Altar marble frieze. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A portion of the Zeus Altar marble frieze. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Only the foundations of the altar can be seen at Pergamum. The Turkish government has requested the return of the Zeus Altar and has been putting pressure on Germany. See one report here.

Site of the Zeus Altar at Pergamum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Site of the Zeus Altar at Pergamum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In the Lord’s letter to the church at Pergamum, He says,

I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. (Revelation 2:13 ESV)

Some scholars think the reference to Satan’s throne in this text is a reference to the Zeus altar at Pergamum, but there are other suggestions. Kistemaker summarizes some popular views suggested by Colin Hemer:

  • To a traveler coming from the east, the acropolis [of Pergamum] had the appearance of a throne.
  • The altar of Zeus Sōtēr seemed to be a throne.
  • Asclepius Sōtēr was identified with the serpent.
  • Pergamum was the center of emperor worship.

Or, it might be a combination of these elements.

You will probably need to wait two or more years before you can see the Zeus Altar in the Pergamum Museum.

The Miletus Market Gate in the Pergamum Museum

The Pergamum Museum in Berlin is home to three outstanding architectural remains from the ancient world: the Zeus Altar from Pergamum, the Miletus Market Gate, and the Ishtar Gate from Babylon.

The Market Gate of Miletus, constructed about 120-130 A.D. during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian, has been reconstructed in the museum. Fant and Reddish say,

This two-story gateway is one of the finest examples of Roman façade architecture in existence” (Lost Treasures of the Bible, p. 349).

German archaeologists excavated the gate and sent it to Germany in the first decade of the 20th century. It was more than 20 years before a suitable room was available for the gate to be reconstructed.

Miletus was already a significant city with outstanding monuments when Paul stopped there on the return from his third journey, but this building would not be built for another 60 or 70 years.

The recently renovated Miletus Market Gate in the Pergamum Museum, Berlin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The recently renovated Miletus Market Gate in the Pergamum Museum, Berlin, Germany. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A seated statue of the Emperor Trajan, seen on the left side of the above photo, comes from a different place. We know from the writings of Pliny that some Christians of Asia Minor were persecuted during the reign of Trajan. See here.

The Emperor Trajan (A.D. 98-117). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Emperor Trajan (A.D. 98-117). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

To illustrate the greatness of this museum, if we go through one exit from the room we see the Zeus Altar, but if we go through the gate we see the Ishtar Gate from Babylon. Notice the colored bricks of the Ishtar Gate in the photo below.

The Ishtar Gate can be seen through the Miletus Market Gate. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Ishtar Gate can be seen through the Miletus Market Gate. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Miletus is mentioned only two places in the New Testament. The first is on Paul’s return from the third journey about A.D. 57 (Acts 20:15, 17). The other time is when Paul tells Timothy, in his last letter, that he had left Trophimus “sick at Miletus” (2 Timothy 4:20). This indicates that Paul may have stopped at Miletus on the voyage to Rome, but no activity is recorded.

From Miletus, on the first visit, Paul sent for the elders of the church at Ephesus. In those days it would be a lengthy journey for a messenger to go from Miletus to Ephesus. The distance by land would have been about 63 miles. If the couriers went across the Gulf of Latmos (Latmus) the distance would be about 38 miles. The map below shows the location of Miletus on the south of the Gulf of Latmos. Over the centuries the harbor, fed by the Meander River, silted up. Today Miletus is landlocked about five miles away from the Aegean Sea.

Map showing Miletus and Ephesus. Map courtesy BibleAtlas.org.

Map showing Miletus and Ephesus. Map courtesy BibleAtlas.org.