Category Archives: New Testament

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.

Ballooning in Cappadocia

The photo below was made earlier this year over Cappadocia in Turkey.

Ballooning Over Cappadocia in Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ballooning Over Cappadocia in Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

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)

London and the British Museum

We finally reached the third of the big three museums with Ancient Near Eastern collections that we had planned to visit. We spent large portions of two days in the museum. The museum is open every day of the week. Closing time is 5:30 p.m. every day except Friday when the time is 8:30 p.m. There is no required entry fee, but a request is made for a £5 (about $8.50) or more donation.

I have emphasized the crowds in the Pergamum Museum, and the Louvre. The same was true in the British Museum. The photo below was made a few years ago at the end of September. Once school is in session one should be able to find times without hugh crowds. Many galleries have natural light that comes in. Some photos are better with the natural light and others are better with the artificial light, depending on the glare on the case.

British Museum entrance on Great Russel Street, London. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

British Museum entrance on Great Russell Street, London. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The British Museum was founded in 1753 to house the collection of Sir Hans Sloane which had been left to the nation. It is now among the greatest museums of the world.

Each of the big three museums has a specialty depending on the areas where the country has done archaeological work. The Pergamum museum is loaded with material from Mesopotamia and Turkey. The Louvre has a fabulous collection from the Levant, especially Syria, and Iran (Persia). The British Museum is big on the Levant, Egypt and Mesopotamia. All three have nice Roman and Greek galleries.

I knew that the Cyrus Cylinder had been part of a traveling exhibit for a few years. When we got near the Ancient Iran Room I told my wife that I would make a quick run to see what was there. I was delighted to see the Cyrus Cylinder prominently displayed.

Cyrus Cylinder in the British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Cyrus Cylinder in the British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Cyrus Cylinder is important to Bible students because Cyrus is the Persian king who allowed the Judeans to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple.

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing:  “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the LORD his God be with him. Let him go up.’” (2 Chronicles 36:22-23 ESV; cf. Ezra 1:1-4).

Some artifacts that I had expected to see were not on display. Cases are changed and artifacts are moved around. Sometimes there will be a sign saying that the items is on loan, being photographed, or studied. In other instances there is no reference to the removed item. One significant item that I missed seeing in its usual place is the Babylonian Chronicle that gives the date of the Babylonian capture of Jerusalem in 597 B.C. Another missing item was the Standard of Ur.

A BBC report says that the 80,000 artifacts displayed in the British Museum amount to only 1% of the artifacts held by the Museum. On several occasions I have made inquiry about an artifact and been given a time when someone would be available to show it to me.

The British Museum web site provides information about planning a visit, and it also includes an online collection with photos.

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.

 

Boxing in the Greek world

My friends David and Sharon Runner recently traveled with us in Turkey, but made additional excursions into Greece and Italy. David agreed to share this photo of “The Boxer” from the National Roman Museum in Rome.

"The Boxer" in the National Roman Museum. Photo by David Runner.

“The Boxer” in the National Roman Museum. Photo by David Runner.

David describes the statue: “This famous Greek statue called “The Boxer” dates from around 330 B.C. and depicts an ancient fighter, apparently after a match, still wearing his caestus, a leather wrap used as boxing gloves. The small white objects at the bottom of the statue are motion sensors that chime if you get too close. (I found out a couple of times as I moved in a little too much for some close-up pictures.)”

Below is a closeup of the boxers gloves, showing his “brass knuckles.”

Closeup of the hands of "the Boxer". Photo by David Runner.

Closeup of the hands of “the Boxer”. Photo by David Runner.

Paul used a boxing illustration to describe his own disciplined work in preaching.

So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:26-27 ESV)

Rare hoard of coins from pre-AD 70 discovered near Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway

The Israel Antiquities Authority announces today the discovery of a box containing 114 bronze coins dating to Year Four of the Great Revolt (Jewish Revolt against the Romans). The discovery was made several months ago during work on the new Highway 1 project (between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv).

Coin hoard as it was found in the excavation. Photo Vladimir Nuhin, IAA.

Coin hoard as it was found in the excavation. Photo Vladimir Nühin, IAA.

According to Pablo Betzer and Eyal Marco, excavation directors on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The hoard, which appears to have been buried several months prior to the fall of Jerusalem, provides us with a glimpse into the lives of Jews living on the outskirts of Jerusalem at the end of the rebellion. Evidently someone here feared the end was approaching and hid his property, perhaps in the hope of collecting it later when calm was restored to the region”. All of the coins are stamped on one side with a chalice and the Hebrew inscription “To the Redemption of Zion” and on the other side with a motif that includes a bundle of lulav between two etrogs. Around this is the Hebrew inscription “Year Four”, that is, the fourth year of the Great Revolt of the Jews against the Romans (69/70 CE).

The hoard was concealed in the corner of a room, perhaps inside a wall niche or buried in the floor. Two other rooms and a courtyard belonging to the same building were exposed during the course of the archaeological excavation. The structure was built in the first century BCE and was destroyed in 69 or 70 CE when the Romans were suppressing the Great Revolt.  Early in the second century CE part of the building was reinhabited for a brief period, which culminated in the destruction of the Jewish settlement in Judea as a result of the Bar Kokhba rebellion. This is attested to by three complete jars that were discovered embedded in the courtyard floor.

It seems that the residents of this village, like most of the Jewish villages in Judea, were active participants in both of the major uprisings against the Romans – the Great Revolt and the Bar Kokhba Revolt. As a result of their involvement the place was destroyed twice, and was not resettled.

The Israel Antiquities Authority and Netivei Israel Company are examining the possibility of preserving the village remains within the framework of the landscape development alongside the highway.

Pablo Betzer, IAA District Archaeologist for Judah, with a coin from Year Four of the Great Revolt. Photo Vladimir Nühin, IAA.

Pablo Betzer, IAA District Archaeologist for Judah, with a coin from Year Four of the Great Revolt. Photo Vladimir Nühin, IAA.

This discovery might remind Bible readers of the illustration used by Jesus.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Matthew 13:44 ESV)

HT: Joseph Lauer