Monthly Archives: December 2014

2014 in review (according to WordPress)

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

WordPress has provided a summary of our year prepared by their stats helper monkeys. Just some fun stuff, but I am delighted to know that folks from more than 200 countries read at least one of our posts during 2014.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 220,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 9 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Ancient underground city discovered in Cappadocia

Turkey’s Central Anatolian province of Nevşehir is known for the unusual rock formations. Now comes a new report that a previously unknown underground city has been found during destruction of some buildings in preparation for new buildings around the Nevşehir fortress.

The city was discovered by means of Turkey’s Housing Development Administration’s (TOKİ) urban transformation project. Some 1,500 buildings were destructed located in and around the Nevşehir fortress, and the underground city was discovered when the earthmoving to construct new buildings had started.

TOKİ Head Mehmet Ergün Turan said the area where the discovery was made was announced as an archeological area to be preserved.

“It is not a known underground city. Tunnel passages of seven kilometers are being discussed. We stopped the construction we were planning to do on these areas when an underground city was discovered,” said Turan.

The city is thought to date back 5,000 years and is located around the Nevşehir fortress. Escape galleries and hidden churches were discovered inside the underground city.

Stating that they were going to move the urban transformation project to the outskirts of the city, Turan said they had paid 90 million Turkish Liras for the project already, but did not see this as a loss, as this discovery may be the world’s largest underground city.

Hasan Ünver, mayor of Nevşehir, said other underground cities in Nevşehir’s various districts do not even amount to the “kitchen” of this new underground city.

“The underground city [was found] in the 45 hectares of the total 75 hectare area that is within the [urban] transformation project. We started working in 2012 with the project. We have taken 44 historical objects under preservation. The underground city was discovered when we began the destruction in line with the protocol. The first galleries were spotted in 2013. We applied to the [Cultural and Natural Heritage] Preservation Board and the area was officially registered,” said Ünver.

The newly discovered underground city will be the biggest among the other underground cities in Nevşehir that have been discovered so far.

The brief Hurriyet Daily News report is available here.

Several underground cities are open to the public. Our photo below was made at Kaymakli, a site registered on the World Heritage List in 1985.

Kaymakli Underground City in Cappadocia. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A room in the Kaymakli Underground City in Cappadocia. 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; 1 Peter 1:1-2).

HT: Jimmy Dan Alexander

 

NASA photos of Israel and Middle East

NASA has posted several excellent photos made by Barry Wilmore from the International Space Station on Facebook. The photos were made on Christmas day, 2014. See how many landmarks you can identify. Click on the photo for a larger image. Do you see Tyre?

Israel, the West Bank, and part of Jordan from the ISS. Photo: NASA/Barry Wilmore.

Israel, the West Bank, and part of Jordan from the ISS. Photo: NASA/Barry Wilmore.

The photo below shows portions (or all) of (L to R) Egypt, Sinai Peninsula, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey (including Euphrates River), and Iraq. Great photo.

The Middle East from the ISS. Photo: NASA/Barry Wilmore.

The Middle East from the ISS. Photo: NASA/Barry Wilmore.

Get out your Bible atlases and study these photos.

Our tax dollars put to good use, I would say.

Frankincense and Myrrh in the Bible

Frankincense and myrrh are mentioned together in the Song of Solomon and in the account of the visit of the magi from the east to see Jesus. Several significant things can be learned from these Biblical verses.

Look first at Song of Solomon 3:6.

“What is this coming up from the wilderness Like columns of smoke, Perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, With all scented powders of the merchant? (Song of Solomon 3:6 NAU)

  • Myrrh and frankincense are associated with the wilderness (desert; Hebrew, midbar).
  • Perhaps incense used in sacrifice or offering, “like columns of smoke.”
  • Associated with perfume and scented or fragrant powders.
  • Something traveling merchants would bring from the wilderness.

Song of Solomon 4:13-14 provides more insights.

“Your shoots are an orchard of pomegranates With choice fruits, henna with nard plants,  Nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, With all the trees of frankincense, Myrrh and aloes, along with all the finest spices. (Song of Solomon 4:13-14 NAU)

  • Associated with trees, and classified with spices.
The wilderness of Zin near Avdat. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The wilderness of Zin near Avdat. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The reference in the New Testament is in the account of the birth of Jesus (Matthew 2:1-11).

  • Frankincense and myrrh are in the category with gold, and offered as gifts to one who is considered a king and is being worshiped.
  • The magi have come from east of Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
  • Gold, frankincense, and myrrh are considered treasures.

All of these tips harmonize with what is known about frankincense and myrrh. The plants or trees from which these come are known to grow in the desert regions. They are not native to Biblical Israel. Traveling merchants from Arabia traveled long distances across the desert, making stops at Petra, Avdat, and other places on their way to Gaza and other Mediterranean ports where the products could be shipped throughout the Mediterranean world.

The photo below was made at Avdat (Ovdat), a Nabatean site in the Negev. The city was especially significant in the first century B.C. and the first century A.D. Avdat was stop number 62 on the famous Incense Route. It is now part of Israel’s National Park system, and a World Heritage Site. A display at the ticket office and shop explains about the Incense Route and shows some of the goods that were transported across the desert.

The header we are using for this blog, showing a caravan crossing the desert, was made at Avdat.

Frankincense and Myrrh on the Spice Route at Avedat. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Frankincense and Myrrh on the Spice Route at Avdat. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This post is a revision of one posted December 14, 2011.

The Herodium becomes more complex

The information below comes from a news release today from the Herodium Expedition at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The Herodium, built by Herod the Great, is located near Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. See our recent Index of articles on Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus for numerous links about the Herodium.

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Archaeologists from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology have discovered a monumental entryway to the Herodian Hilltop Palace at the Herodium National Park. The unique complex was uncovered during excavations by The Herodium Expedition in Memory of Ehud Netzer over the past year, as part of a project to develop the site for tourism. Photo of unique palace entry complex discovered at Herodian Hilltop Palace by Hebrew University archaeologists.

Photo of unique palace entry complex discovered at Herodian Hilltop Palace by Hebrew University archaeologists. (Credit: The Herodium Expedition at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

Photo of unique palace entry complex discovered at Herodian Hilltop Palace by Hebrew University archaeologists. (Credit: The Herodium Expedition at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

The main feature of the entryway is an impressive corridor with a complex system of arches spanning its width on three separate levels. These arches buttressed the corridor’s massive side-walls, allowing the King and his entourage direct passage into the Palace Courtyard. Thanks to the supporting arches, the 20-meter long and 6-meter wide corridor has been preserved to a height of 20 meters.   The Hebrew University archaeologists — Roi Porat, Yakov Kalman and Rachel Chachy — suggest that the corridor was built as part of Herod’s plan to turn Herodium into a massive artificial volcano-shaped hill, a vast and impressive monument designed to commemorate the architect-King.   Surprisingly, during the course of the excavations, it became evident that the arched corridor was never actually in use, as prior to its completion it became redundant. This appears to have happened when Herod, aware of his impending death, decided to convert the whole hilltop complex into a massive memorial mound, a royal burial monument on an epic scale.   Whatever the case, the corridor was back-filled during the construction of the massive artificial hill at the end of Herod’s reign. The upper section of a new monumental stairway stretching from the hill’s base to its peak, constructed during the course of this building phase, appears to have been built over it.   The excavators point out that not only was the arched corridor covered over in the course of the construction of the hill-monument, but also all the structures earlier built by Herod on the hill’s slopes, including the Royal Theater uncovered by the expedition in 2008, while still led by Prof. Ehud Netzer, since deceased.   The only edifice not covered over was the splendid mausoleum-style structure, identified by Netzer and the expedition as Herod’s burial-place. Together with the monumental cone-shaped hill, this constituted the unique Herodian Royal burial-complex.

Photo of unique palace entry complex discovered at Herodian Hilltop Palace by Hebrew University archaeologists. Credit: The Herodium Expedition at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Photo of unique palace entry complex discovered at Herodian Hilltop Palace by Hebrew University archaeologists. Credit: The Herodium Expedition at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

During the course of the current excavations, the original impressive Palace vestibule, blocked when the corridor became redundant, was also exposed. This entry-room, decorated with splendid painted frescoes, had a magnificent entryway leading into it, and offered evidence of the rebel occupation during the Great Revolt (66-71 CE), including Jewish Revolt coinage and crude temporary structures.   In addition, the excavations in the arched corridor also turned up impressive evidence from the Bar Kokhba Revolt period (132-135/6 CE): hidden tunnels dug on the site by the rebels as part of the guerilla warfare they waged against the Romans. Supported in part by wooden beams, these tunnels exited from the hilltop fortress by way of the corridor’s walls, through openings hidden in the corridor. One of the tunnels revealed a well-preserved construction of 20 or so cypress-wood branches, arranged in a cross-weave pattern to support the tunnel’s roof.   In the future, according to Mr. Shaul Goldstein, Director of Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority, the excavation of the arched corridor will allow visitors direct access to the Herodium hilltop palace-fortress, in the same way that Herod entered it two thousand years ago. There are also plans to provide tourists direct access from the structures on the slope, the Royal Theater and the Mausoleum, via the earlier monumental stairway, to the hilltop Palace.

Aerial view of the Herodium. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of the Herodium. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority, the Heritage and Commemoration Department of the Prime Minister’s Office, the Israel Antiquities Authority, and the Etzion Bloc Regional Council and Civilian Administration are all co-partners in the development of the Herodium.   Ehud Netzer was a world-renowned professor at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology. Following several decades of excavations at the Herodium, Netzer discovered the tomb of Herod the Great in 2007. He died in 2010 at age 76 after being injured in a fall at the Heroudium archaeological site.

HT: Carl Rasmussen, HolyLandPhotos’ Blog; I see that Bible Places Blog has already posted information about this discovery.

Jesus visited Jerusalem during Hanukkah

The Gospel of John records more visits to Jerusalem by Jesus than any other of the Gospels. John is the only one to record the visit during the Feast of Dedication.

At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter,  and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. (John 10:22-23 ESV)

BDAG translates the Greek term egkainia as “festival of rededication.” The feast is also known as Hanukkah and the Feast of Lights.

What is he Feast of Dedication? This feast, observed on the 25th of Kislev (roughly our December), had its origin in the period between the testaments. The desecration of the temple by the Seleucid ruler Antiochus Epiphanes took place in 168 B.C. The climax of the Maccabean revolt was the removal of all evidences of pagan worship from the temple. An eight day feast of dedication was observed in 165 B.C., and continued to be observed annually by the Jews.

At Modin, a village north-west of Jerusalem, on the way from Jerusalem to Lod, the Syrians tried to force an old priest by the name of Mattathias to offer a pagan sacrifice. The priest refused but another Jew volunteered to offer the sacrifice. Mattathias killed his fellow Jew and the Syrian officer. As word spread, Mattathias became a national hero. He was of the family of Hasmon (or Asmoneus). Thus began the Hasmoneans.

The discovery of a burial cave at Modin thought to have been used by the Maccabees and/or their descendants was reported in November, 1995. There are Israeli scholars who argue that this is not the true grave of the Maccabees. An article in Haaretz says,

Amit Re’em, an archaeologist of the Israel Antiquities Authority says all the evidence points to the fact that these graves are of Christians and pagans and that this burial site actually belongs to an ancient monastery.

Read the Haaretz article here.

Near Modin, signs point to the Maccabean Graves. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Near Modin, signs point to the Maccabean Graves. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Even though the Feast of Dedication was not a feast authorized by the Mosaic Law, it became part of the Jewish heritage, and Jesus came to Jerusalem at that time — at least once.

Jesus cleansed the Temple on two distinct occasions. The first time is recorded in John 2:14-22. The second account is recorded in Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-18; and Luke 19:45-48.

• This is a golden oldie from December 24, 2011.

Index of articles on Bethlehem and the Birth of Jesus

Bethlehem and the Birth of Jesus.  Our total number of posts has now grown to more than 1700 and this makes it difficult to locate a post you may need. This index is prepared to assist you in your study of the birth of Jesus in ancient Bethlehem. Most, if not all, of the posts include at least one photo illustrating the lesson.

Other places near Bethlehem. Most of the links below are related to Herod the Great and the fortress he built near Bethlehem. I see that I have normally used the spelling Herodium, but sometime Herodion.

Historical Connections to Modern Christmas Celebrations. These post are post-biblical, historical references to customs associated with Christmas.

When other posts on this subject are written I will try to remember to update the list.