Category Archives: Bible Places

A sower went out to sow…

One of the best known parables of Jesus is the parable of the sower and the soils. Note the account recorded in Mark.

 Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:1-9 ESV)

Jesus used this simple, easily understood illustration to teach about the word of God and the hearts of men. Read the full account in Matthew 13:3-23, Mark 4:1-20, and Luke 8:5-15.

A few years ago I was traveling in the vicinity of Hebron in late August and saw these fields that had been plowed and readied for planting. I assume the crop would be barley or wheat. I was standing on the road. You can see the rocks (be sure the soil is rocky), the weeds (if not thorns), and the good ground. In the time of Jesus seed would be broadcast, scattered by hand. Seed would fall on all the areas, but only that which fell on good ground would bring forth an acceptable crop. Many of the fields in the central mountain range north of Bethlehem are much smaller, but each field has the four elements of good soil, rocks, thorns, and road. How would you describe your heart?

A field showing good soil, rocks, and weeds. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A field showing good soil, rocks, and weeds. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

For photos of the area where Jesus likely taught this and other parables, see this post on The Cove of the Sower here.

The Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem

Though I have been in Jerusalem’s Old City many times, I have visited the Armenian Quarter only a few times. The Armenian Quarter is the southwest corner of the walled city. Entrance is easy from Jaffa Gate on the north, or from Zion Gate on the south.

The name Armenia comes from the people who lived in the eastern portion of what we now know as Turkey. Old maps showing this name are easily accessible on the Internet. The area is sometimes referred to as Turkish Armenia or Western Armenia. According to many records there was a genocide of the Armenians in 1915 during the time of the Ottoman Turkish Empire. Popes and Presidents have cried out about the near-elimination of Armenians in the area.

This brings us back to the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem. From Jaffa Gate one walks along Armenian Orthodox Patriarchate street. The other streets bear the names of St. James, St. Mark and Ararat. In 2013 I happened to be walking in the Armenian Quarter on April 24. This homemade sign caught my attention.

Sign calling attention to the Armenian Genocide. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sign calling attention to the Armenian Genocide. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Have traveled in Eastern Turkey and seen the ruined Armenian churches I understood what this meant. Some residences (or businesses) displayed photos of events from the episode of 1915.

Photo of the "genocide" above an entry. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Photo of the “genocide” above an entry. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Yesterday’s The Times of Israel carried a lengthy article titled, “Urging recognition, Jerusalem Armenians mark 100th anniversary of genocide.” The subhead reads, “Thousands marching on April 23-24 to commemorate massacre of 1.5 million, the ‘wound that all the time is dripping blood.'” The pictures are vivid. See the complete article here.

A Restoration Movement Connection

Earl Irvin West, in the 3rd volume of The Search for the Ancient Order covers the period of the Restoration Movement from 1900 to 1918. West includes a few pages dealing with the preaching efforts of Churches of Christ in Armenia (pp. 357-362). One account begins in 1889 when a young man named Azariah Paul was supported by some churches in Nashville to preach in Armenia. Paul died from a sickness, but his brother Asadoor Paul continued the work.

When World War I began, Paul wrote that he would likely be pressed into military service. He dropped out of sight and by the time of America’s entry into the war in April 1917, it was generally assumed he had been killed.

West describes the persecution that came to the Christians from the Khurds, Turks, and Persians. Alexander Yohannan wrote to his American supporters on December 5, 1914,

…that all Syrian church buildings had been burned by them, that some people had been burned in ovens, that more than a thousand people had been killed in the vicinity of Charbosh, Persia.

West says,

“Black Sunday” was December 21, 1914, when Christian people moved into American mission enclosures as their houses and property were looted and burned by Moslem soldiers.

A related post about the region of Armenia is available here.

More stories about the Armenian Quarter later…

Russian archaeologists say enclosure wall uncovered at Memphis, Egypt

Not much is left at the ancient Egyptian city of Memphis. This is not surprising to those who believe the Bible includes prophecy about various ancient nations.
The prophet Ezekiel has this to say about Memphis.

This is what the sovereign LORD says: I will destroy the idols, and put an end to the gods of Memphis. There will no longer be a prince from the land of Egypt; so I will make the land of Egypt fearful.  (Ezekiel 30:13)

The alabaster sphinx of Rameses II  (13th century B.C.) is one of the nicest pieces on display at the open air museum. It is also one of the few artifacts to be seen. The prophecy has surely come to pass.

Alabaster sphinx of Rameses II at Memphis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Alabaster sphinx of Rameses II at Memphis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A recent article in The Cairo Post here reports that an archaeology team of the Russian Institute of Egyptology has uncovered ruins of the enclosure wall that surrounded Memphis about 3200 B.C.

The article includes a note saying the new Grand Egyptian Museum, being built near the Giza Pyramids, is scheduled to open in 2018. The uprising in Egypt that occurred in 2011 has caused the delayed opening of the Museum.

HT: Agade List

New wine is for fresh wineskins

When Jesus was questioned by the scribes of the Pharisees about how His practices differed from those of John the Baptist, He gave three similar illustrations to teach the newness of His teaching and practice.

And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made.  And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins– and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.” (Mark 2:19-22 ESV)

The third illustration is about putting new wine into old wineskins. As the wine ferments it expands and stretches the wineskin. If an old wineskin is used, the expansion will cause the wineskin to explode.

Our photo below shows an animal skin being use for churning, but it is easy to understand wine being placed in an animal skin like this.

A Bedouin at Petra using an animal skin for churning. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A Bedouin at Petra using an animal skin for churning. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Instead of using stone jars for storing new wine, Klinck says,

More likely, however, they would use wineskins for this purpose. These are the “bottles” of the Bible. A wine bottle was made out of a goatskin, sewn together where it had been cut to remove it from the carcass. This formed a sack that could be tied at the neck and hung up. The resilience of the new rawhide took up whatever expansion might result from the process of fermentation. Of course, no one would think of putting “new wine into old wineskins,” since the old dried and cracked skins from the previous year were unsafe (Matthew 9:17). (Klinck and Kiehl, Everyday Life in Bible Times, p. 54).

The Gibeonites tricked the Israelites with old wineskins that were “worn-out and torn and mended” (Joshua 9:4). They claimed that the wineskins “were new when we filled them, and behold, they have burst” (Joshua 9:13 ESV)

Elihu used the same illustration in defense of his much speaking.

I also will answer with my share; I also will declare my opinion. For I am full of words; the spirit within me constrains me. Behold, my belly is like wine that has no vent; like new wineskins ready to burst. I must speak, that I may find relief; I must open my lips and answer. (Job 32:17-20 ESV)

They removed the roof and let down the bed

During the ministry of Jesus at Capernaum four men brought a paralyzed man to see Jesus, likely seeking healing, but there were so many people in the house that it was not possible to get in to see Jesus.

And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. (Mark 2:4 ESV)

Reconstructed house at Nazareth Village showing roof construction. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Reconstructed house at Nazareth Village showing roof construction. Notice the few weeds growing on the roof. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Craig S. Keener describes the way the roofs of these houses were constructed.

The roof was approached by an outside staircase, so they could reach it unimpeded. The roof of single-story homes was sturdy enough for walking but was normally made of branches and rushes laid over the roof’s beams and covered with dried mud; thus one could dig through it. (The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament)

M. J. Selman says,

Roofs were constructed from beams covered with branches and a thick layer of mud plaster, though the rafters were sometimes supported by a row of pillars along the middle of the room. Cylindrical stone rollers about 60 cm. [23.6 inches] long were used to keep the roofs flat and waterproof, though roofs needed to be re-plastered annually prior to the rainy season to seal cracks which had developed during the summer heat. (New Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed.)

The picture below shows a reconstructed house at Nazareth Village with a roof like the one mentioned above. Notice the beams made from small trees, the mud on the top, and some grass and weeds growing in it.

Reconstructed house at Nazareth Village showing roof construction. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Reconstructed house at Nazareth Village showing roof construction. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo shows a portion of a roof made from wood and mud. You will also notice a roof roller on the roof. After the winter rains it was necessary to pack the roof with a roof roller. Roof rollers are commonly discovered during archaeological excavations.

Typical roof from NT times with roof roller. Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Typical roof from NT times with roof roller. Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The account of Luke, a gentile physician, adds an interesting point that creates a small problem in interpretation.

But since they found no way to carry him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down on the stretcher through the roof tiles right in front of Jesus. (Luke 5:19 NET)

Did you notice the reference to roof tiles? One of the Translator’s Notes in the NET Bible discusses this problem.

There is a translational problem at this point in the text. The term Luke uses is keramos. It can in certain contexts mean “clay,” but usually this is in reference to pottery (see BDAG 540 s.v. 1). The most natural definition in this instance is “roof tile” (used in the translation above). However, tiles were generally not found in Galilee. Recent archaeological research has suggested that this house, which would have probably been typical for the area, could not have supported “a second story, nor could the original roof have been masonry; no doubt it was made from beams and branches of trees covered with a mixture of earth and straw” (J. F. Strange and H. Shanks, “Has the House Where Jesus Stayed in Capernaum Been Found?” BAR 8, no. 6 [Nov/Dec 1982]: 34). Luke may simply have spoken of building materials that would be familiar to his readers.

There are other possible interpretations, but I hope this information with the photos will help you better understand the biblical text.

Pay your taxes and do not fear the authorities

While reading Romans 13 I came to Paul’s admonition to the saints at Rome, “Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good.” My mind immediately turned to the mosaic which was discovered during the excavation of the Byzantine public area at Caesarea Maritima.

The context in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans reads this way.

For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13:3-4 ESV)

The sign at the site describes the building where the mosaic was found as a Tax Archive. The original is said to be on display at the Kibbutz Sdot Yam Museum. The edifice is identified as “Byzantine government offices where clerks recorded tax revenues.”

Mosaic Treasury at Caesarea Maritima. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Mosaic Treasury at Caesarea Maritima. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I suppose they did not understand that this is politically incorrect!

Passing through the grainfields on the Sabbath

All three Synoptic Gospels record the incident of Jesus and His disciples passing through the grainfields on a Sabbath.

On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” (Luke 6:1-2 ESV; See also Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28)

I thought I would put together some photos to help you visualize what happened here. First, we have a photo of a wheat field below Mount Tabor. The photo is made looking north west from near the site of ancient En-dor. The area is famous as the home of the medium visited by King Saul (1 Samuel 28:7).

Wheat field with view NW to Mount Tabor. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Wheat field with view NW to Mount Tabor. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Now, imagine the disciples taking ripe grain in their hands.

Picking heads of grain. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Picking heads of grain. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

And then rubbing the heads to separate the grain from the chaff.

Rubbing grain to separate the grain from the chaff. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Rubbing grain to separate the grain from the chaff. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Mosaic law allows for plucking standing grain with the hand, but not using a sickle.

If you go into your neighbor’s standing grain, you may pluck the ears with your hand, but you shall not put a sickle to your neighbor’s standing grain. (Deuteronomy 23:25 ESV)

The sickle pictured below was excavated at Tell Beit Mirsim and dates to the Iron Age sometime between 925-701 B.C. It is displayed in the James L. Kelso Bible Lands Museum at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

Sickle from the Iron Age at Tell Beit Mirsim. Kelso Bible Lands Museum, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sickle from the Iron Age at Tell Beit Mirsim. Kelso Bible Lands Museum, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Pharisees were claiming that what the disciples were doing was work prohibited on the Sabbath, but Jesus used the event to teach two important facts.

  • The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
  • The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.

The last two photos were made in the vicinity of Mount Nemrut in eastern Turkey. Larger images, suitable for use in teaching, are available by clicking on the photos.