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.

Graves vandalized on Mount of Olives

According to The Times of Israel more than 40 graves have been vandalized at the Mount of Olives cemetery. You may be able to access the short article here.

Jewish graves on the Mount of Olives. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jewish graves on the Mount of Olives. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The western slope of the Mount of Olives is filled with Jewish graves. Numerous Moslem graves can be seen along the eastern wall of the Old City of Jerusalem. Our next photo shows many of the graves on the Mount of Olives and the Kidron Valley. Look along the wall of the Old City for Muslim graves, with a large number visible at the right of the photo (near the Lion Gate).

Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Vandalism of graves is not new. We have reported on vandalized graves in the Protestant Cemetery on Mount Zion here and here, and the Midras Ruins rolling stone tomb from the Roman period here.

We have also called attention to fake tombs near the Temple Mount here.

In either case, it is sad.

Uruk (Erech) in the Pergamum Museum

The Pergamon Museum’s Ancient Near Eastern Department (Vorderasiatisches Museum) has a collection of artifacts from Uruk, now know as modern Warka in Iraq. German excavators began work at Uruk in November 1912. An English sign with the display of artifacts explains the significance of the city.

In the Old Testament, Uruk is mentioned under the name Erech, along with Babylon and other important ancient cities. But written references to Uruk extend much further into the past. The city plays a role in the Gilgamesh epic which can be traced back to the second half of the 3rd millennium BC. The legendary Sumerian king Gilgamesh whose exploits are the subject of the poem is credited with building the wall that surrounded the city. A number of objects uncovered at Uruk before 1939 came to Berlin and the museum with the division of finds following on the excavations. Together with artifacts from Babylon and Assur, they document the material legacy of ancient oriental cultures.

Uruk was the major center for the worship of the goddess Inana/Ishtar. The first photo shows a portion from the façade of the Inanna Temple built by the Kassite ruler Kara-indash at Uruk about 1413 B.C. The museum explains,

Standing male and female deities alternate in the niches. Life-giving water pours forth onto the earth from the vessels in their hands. The hump-like symbols on the projecting elements of the niched façade and on the garments of the male divinities refer to the mountainous region where the Kassites originated. An inscription on the bricks names the Kassite ruler Kara-indash as the person who commissioned the structure.

Portion of the façade of the Inanna/Ishtar Temple at Warka (Uruk/Erech). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Portion of the façade of the Inanna/Ishtar Temple at Warka (Uruk/Erech). Display in the Pergamum Museum, Berlin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo shows a reproduction of a limestone cult vessel from Uruk.

Stone cult vessel from Uruk. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Stone cult vessel from Uruk. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Museum explains the design on the vessel.

The limestone vase from the Eanna Temple precinct at Uruk is one of the most impressive works of pictorial art produced in the Uruk Period. The arrangement of the motifs reflects the Sumerian world view, with life-giving water flowing forth in the lowest zone to sustain the plant and animal world above. The representations continue with a procession of nude men bearing votive offerings for the goddess Inanna which culminates in the upper register.

The New International Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology points out,

There are no direct references to Sumer in the Bible, although it corresponds to the “land of Shinar” mentioned eight times in the OT.

Amraphel is designated as the king of Shinar (Genesus 14:1). Notice a couple of other references.

The beginning of his [Nimrod] kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. (Genesis 10:10 ESV)

And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. (Genesis 11:2 ESV)

This map of southern Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) shows the location of Erech (Uruk) north of traditional Ur.

This map shows the location of Erech (Warka). Map: biblos.com.

This map shows the location of Erech (Warka in southern Iraq). Map: biblos.com.

Book on the origin of Israel available

Daniel I. Block’s book, Israel: Ancient Kingdom or Late Invention?, is available in Kindle format today for $2.99. The retail price of the hardback is $28.

The publisher (B&H) of the 2008 book describes it as

a collection of essays responding to the radical claims that Israel and its history actually began following the Babylonian exile, and that the history of Israel we read about in the Bible is a fictionalized account.

Contributors are leading Bible and archaeology scholars who bring extra-biblical evidence to bear for the historicity of the Old Testament and provide case studies of new work being done in the field of archaeology.

The book includes the following essays dealing with some of the current discussions in Biblical studies.

  • Israel – Ancient Kingdom or Late Invention? – Daniel I. Block
  • The Value and Limitations of the Bible and Archaeology – Alan R. Millard
  • Contextual Criticism as a Framework for Biblical Interpretation – John M. Monson
  • North-West Semitic Inscriptions and Biblical Interpretation – Joel Drinkard
  • From Joseph to David: Mari and Israelite Pastoral Traditions – Daniel E. Fleming
  • Major Geographical Issues in the Accounts of the Exodus – James K. Hoffmeier
  • Slavery and Slave Laws in Ancient Hatti and Israel – Harry A. Hoffner Jr.
  • Were the Israelites Really Canaanites? – Alan R. Millard
  • Syria and the Bible: The Luwian Connection – Richard S. Hess
  • David and Solomon’s Jemsalem: Do the Bible and Archaeology Disagree? – Alan R. Millard
  • Who Were Israel’s Transjordanian Neighbors and How Did They Differ? – Gerald L. Mattingly
  • Shalmaneser III and Israel – K. Lawson Younger Jr.
  • Did the Israelites Really Learn Their Monotheism in Babylon? - Simon J. Shenvin
  • Did Persian Zoroastrianism Influence Judaism? – Edwin M. Yamauchi
  • Interpreting the Bible as an Ancient Near Eastern Document – John H. Walton

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

Babylon’s Procession Street and Ishtar Gate

German archaeologists, under the direction of Robert Koldeway, excavated at ancient Babylon in Iraq, between 1899 and 1917. The Procession Street ran from the Ishtar Gate to the bridge over the Euphrates River. A 250 meter [820 feet] section of the street was excavated by the German expedition. Only a short section is reconstructed in the Museum in Berlin. The section here is 30 meters [98 feet] long and 8 meters [26 feet] wide. Original fragments were used in the reconstruction. The street was originally 20 to 24 meters [54-79 feet] wide. (See Fant & Reddish, Lost Treasures of the Bible, 199-205.)

The Procession Street from Babylon. Berlin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Procession Street from Babylon. Berlin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Ishtar Gate was constructed during the reign of Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 B.C.). All of these lions, bulls, and dragons were excavated from the mound of ancient Babylon, and eventually taken to Berlin in 1926. Even under the Communist government of East Germany this gate was preserved. I saw it several times before the Berlin Wall came down.

The Babylon Ishtar Gate. Berlin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Babylon Ishtar Gate. Berlin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Procession Street and Ishtar Gate are reconstructed in the Pergamum Museum in Berlin, but technically, this wing of the museum is called the Vorderasiatisches Museum (Museum of the Ancient Near East).

Babylon was once the greatest city of the world when the Neo-Babylonian Empire reigned supreme in the Ancient Near East (626-539 B.C.). The prophet Daniel was active in Babylon from 605 B.C. until after the fall of the city to the Persians (The prophecy of Daniel).  I can not imagine that he failed to see this gate.

Nebuchadnezzar was a megalomaniac. His pride is evident in the statement recorded by the prophet Daniel.

The king uttered these words: “Is this not the great Babylon that I have built for a royal residence by my own mighty strength and for my majestic honor?” (Daniel 4:30 NET Bible)

Byzantine compound discovered during construction

Many significant archaeological discoveries are made during construction. This can be private construction, road work, improvement of water or gas lines, or large construction projects.

The most recent announcement comes from the area of Beth Shemesh (Bet Shemesh, Beit Shemesh). The Israel Antiquities Authority released the following information Thursday.

An archaeological survey conducted on foot along the hills south of Bet Shemesh brought to light remarkable finds. During the survey blocked cisterns, a cave opening and the tops of several walls were visible on the surface. These clues to the world hidden underground resulted in an extensive archaeological excavation there that exposed prosperous life dating to the Byzantine period which was previously unknown.

The compound is surrounded by an outer wall and is divided on the inside into two regions: an industrial area and an activity and residential area. An unusually large press in a rare state of preservation that was used to produce olive oil was exposed in the industrial area. A large winepress revealed outside the built compound consisted of two treading floors from which the grape must flowed to a large collecting vat. The finds revealed in the excavation indicate the local residents were engaged in wine and olive oil production for their livelihood. The impressive size of the agricultural installations shows that these facilities were used for production on an industrial-scale rather than just for domestic use. In the residential portion of the compound several rooms were exposed, some of which had a mosaic pavement preserved in them. Part of a colorful mosaic was exposed in one room where there was apparently a staircase that led to a second floor that was not preserved. In the adjacent room another multi-colored mosaic was preserved that was adorned with a cluster of grapes surrounded by flowers set within a geometric frame. Two entire ovens used for baking were also exposed in the compound.

The directors of the excavation believe the site is a monastery from the Byzantine period. The photo below provides an aerial view of the complex.

Byzantine compound near Ramat Bet Shemesh. Photo: Griffin Aerial Photography, IAA.

Byzantine compound near Ramat Bet Shemesh. Photo: Griffin Aerial Photography, IAA.

Based on the driving instructions provided by the IAA, I can show you the general area. My photo was made from the top of Tel Azekah. The road below the tel runs across the Valley of Elah. In the distant left you will see a white area on the hill with high-rise apartments under construction. The discovery was made near this large construction area. Left of the construction, Tel Yarmuth (Jarmuth, Joshua 10:3, 5, 23; 12:11; 15:35) rises above the trees. Khirbet Qeiyafa is on the hill in the right of the photo.

View from Azekah toward Bet Shemesh and Tell Yarmuth (Jarmuth). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View from Azekah toward Ramat Bet Shemesh and Tel Yarmuth (Jarmuth). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, made May 4, 2013.

The next photo is a zoom shot of the construction area in May, 2013, from Tel Azekah. Tel Yarmuth is just off the left of the photo, as well as the town of Ramat Bet Shemesh.

The construction area from Azekah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The construction area from Azekah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation has been concerned about this new community and its possible encroachment upon the site. Luke Chandler reported on the threat here.