Category Archives: Bible Study

Visiting the Dome of the Rock

We begin today’s journey with an aerial view of the Temple Mount, the site believed to be the Mount Moriah of the Bible, the location of the Temple of Solomon and the location of the Temple built by Herod the Great. The area underwent a number of changes after the destruction of the temple by the Romans in A.D. 70

Since the late 7th century A.D. the site has been occupied by Moslem shrines, the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aksa Mosque.

Our aerial photo shows the enclosed Islamic sanctuary area that is commonly called the Haram es-Sherif. Benjamin Mazar says that this area is about 40 acres in size. He points out that Josephus and the Mishna give smaller dimensions, and says that they apparently refer to “the Soreg or sacred enclosure” (The Mountain of the Lord, 119-120). Other writers say the area is 36 acres in size. Certainly large enough for the crowds who came to Jerusalem for festivals such as the Passover and Pentecost.

Aerial view of the temple precinct from the time of Herod the Great. Today the area is occupied by Moslem shrines, Al Aksa Mosque and the Mosque of Omar (Dome of the Rock). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of the temple precinct from the time of Herod the Great. Today the area is occupied by Moslem shrines, Al Aksa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In this precinct the events of Acts 2, including the first preaching of the Gospel by the apostles of Christ, took place on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus.

In A Brief Guide to the Dome of the Rock and Al-Haram Al-Sharif, published by the Supreme Awqaf Council (1966), it is stated that the entire area, also known as the Noble Sanctuary, “is the religious center of the Muslims of the Middle East and second only to Mecca in the Muslim World” (p.1). The claim is made that,

The Prophet himself spoke of Al-Aqsa, the original name for the place and, according to tradition, made a miraculous journey to it.

My first visit inside the Dome of the Rock was in April, 1967. It has been a number of years since I have been inside the Dome of the Rock. The beautiful building covers the rock upon which Abraham offered Isaac (Genesis 22), the site of some parts of Solomon’s Temple (2 Chronicles 3:1), and the site of the Temple Jesus visited during his earthly ministry.

This rock was once the threshing floor of Araunah purchased by David as a site upon which he built an altar to the LORD (2 Samuel 24).

The beautiful building now standing in this place is commonly called the Dome of the Rock. Here is an exterior view.

Dome of the Rock exterior. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Dome of the Rock exterior. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

When one steps into the building he first sees a circular wall about six feet tall in the center. Drawing close, he peeks over the wall and sees a huge rock, the top of Mount Moriah. This is the centerpiece of the building.

The rock around which the Dome of the Rock is built. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The rock around which the Dome of the Rock is built. Lights and electrical cords are laid out on the Rock. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Leen Ritmeyer, one of the best experts on the Temple, believes that the rock is where Solomon built the Holy of Holies. See his Jerusalem The Temple Mount (published by Carta, 2015), pages 130-135, for details.

Over the rock is a beautiful dome. The interior is pictured here.

The ceiling of the Dome of the Rock. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The ceiling of the Dome of the Rock. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Next, we go to the cave underneath the rock. Ritmeyer says,

Walking round to the south, you reach an opening to an underground cave known as al-Maghara. This was a small natural cave, enlarged by the Crusaders and used to commemorate the angel’s announcement to Zacharias that he would have a son (Luke 1.1 3) . A hole is cut in the rocky ceiling to let the smoke from candles and incense escape (p. 132).

This photo shows the cave and a remnant of the structure built by the Crusaders.

The underground natural cave enlarged by the Crusaders for the construction of a church or chapel to commemorate the announcement to Zacharias (Luke 1:13). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The underground natural cave enlarged by the Crusaders for the construction of a church or chapel to commemorate the announcement to Zacharias (Luke 1:13). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

There is much modern history of interest, but I will leave that for your further, individual study.

In a future post we hope to share our visit to the Al Aska Mosque.

More on the recently discovered Roman Road

Less than 3 months ago we reported here on the discovery of a second century Roman road uncovered in the vicinity of Beit Shemesh and the Elah Valley. Recently we came down to the area from Hwy. 60 south of Bethlehem on Hwy. 375. The information in the IAA press release indicated that the newly discovered road was near Beit Natif (Netiv), but we saw no indication of it. We went into the village of Beit Netiv and a gentleman pointed us back toward Bethlehem and told us that we would find a road on the left where he thought some work was being done.

Following the kind gentleman’s instruction we turned successively into two roads, but neither led us to the Roman road. Finally I checked this blog and downloaded the IAA Press Release for a phone number and called the IAA office. A lady there said she did not know where the road was located but that we should give her 10 minutes and then call back for the answer. When we called back there was no answer. Hmm.

Deciding to retrace our steps we headed back toward Bethlehem again. This time we had a good view to the left of the highway and saw the Roman road. The road did not come down to the modern highway 375. How would we get to it?

We had passed the satellite antennas and the Etziyona Junction of Hwy. 367 going to Neve Micha’el when we saw the Roman road on the hillside coming down from the hill on which Ramat Beit Shemesh is built. Then we realized that the Work Area, which seems to be for road work, was the only place we could turn in. This time there was not as much equipment in the area and we saw an opening leading toward the fields and the road. We took that road and found parking out of the way of any workmen that might need to come through. Note  Hwy. 3855 coming down to Hwy. 375. The Work Area is a short distance from the junction.

I am hopeful that the annotations on this previously published aerial photo will be helpful to anyone hoping to visit this road.

Aerial photograph of the road in the lower right corner of the photo. Photographic credit: the Griffin Aerial Photography Co., courtesy IAA. Annotations added.

Aerial photograph of the road in the lower right corner of the photo. Photographic credit: the Griffin Aerial Photography Co., courtesy IAA. Annotations added.

In the next photo you see the difference that a few months make in the fields. The satellite station and the turn to Hwy. 367 is a short distance to the right of this photo.

Roman road looking down to Highway 375. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman road looking down to Highway 375. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Israel National Trail crosses the new road. The white, blue, and orange stripes mark this trail all over the country.

The Israel National Trail crosses the new road. The white, blue, and orange stripes make this trail all over the country. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Israel National Trail crosses the new road. The white, blue, and orange stripes mark this trail all over the country. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In the short time we were there we saw two young men and three young ladies cross the 1800-year-old Roman road. The Trail continues up the field road and between the trees on the right.

Three young ladies take a break from hiking while standing on the Roman Road. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Three young ladies take a break from hiking while standing on the Roman Road. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I decided to take a little break on the curb of the road which is thought by the archaeologists to have provided a way from an ancient village to connect with the Emperor’s highway which comes down from the mountain ridge of Judea.

Ferrell Jenkins waiting on the curb of the Roman Road as it approaches the location of the Emperor's Highway. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Ferrell Jenkins waiting on the curb of the Roman Road as it approaches the location of the Emperor’s Highway. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The Roman Roads of which we find remnants in Israel today date mostly from the late first or early second century A.D. Israel Roll, who has written much on the subject, says,

The Roman road network in Judaea was not constructed at once, but evolved gradually from the First Revolt onward. Until then the Roman administration used roads that had been built during or prior to the reign of Herod. Our knowledge of those roads is scanty, and is based essentially on isolated written sources—mainly in the New Testament and Josephus. These sources do not
mention anything relating to road construction or maintenance before the beginning of the rebellion in 66 C.E. (Israel Roll, “The Roman Road System in Judaea,” Jerusalem Cathedra 3 (1983): 138.)

James F. Strange, in discussing the roads in Roman Galilee, says,

Paved, Roman imperial roads mostly date from the second century CE. They are broad, hard-surfaced, featuring curb stones, sometimes center stones, and even milestones. Such is not the case for village ways or paths.

Strange concludes his study with this statement:

One can readily see that a dense network of trails, tracks, and footpaths probably covered Roman-period Galilee. The network was the imprint of everyday travel in the Galilee for trade, some of it from cities like Sepphoris or Tiberias and some from villages like Nazareth or Shikhin. Part of the network is international, but the majority is formed of local trails. Some have wondered how Jesus gathered crowds, but it is simpler to imagine given such a solid web of footpaths, ways, and roads. (James F. Strange. “The Galilean Road System.” Galilee in the Late Second Temple and Mishnaic Periods. Ed. David A. Fiensy and James Riley Strange. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2014.)

The Roman road was high on my wish list for this recent personal study trip, and I am glad to have seen it with my own eyes and walked on it with my own feet. Trust you will enjoy these photos until you have the opportunity to visit the road.

Update: Reader Barry Britnell pointed out that the road I identified as Hwy. 375 (before the curve) is actually Hwy. 3855. Many thanks for the correction. I think I have made the corrections in the text for those who may be serious about locating the Roman Road.

The Galilee sunrise after a night of fishing

Sunrise on the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret; Sea of Tiberias) evokes many memories of the ministry of Jesus and His disciples. No matter how many photos one takes, each one is unique.

I usually make these sunrise photos with two cameras, using multiple settings. The photo today is one that I especially like because I was able to catch the fisherman heading to harbor after a night of fishing.

Sunrise on the Sea of Galilee, May 17, 2015, 5:54 a.m. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Notice this text detailing the third appearance Jesus made to His disciples after the resurrection.

 1 After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way.
2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together.
3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.
5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.”  (John 21:1-5 ESV)

Read the rest of the story and the miraculous catch of fish in John 21:6-14.

This post is a repeat from October 21, 2015.

The Arch of Titus once had a golden menorah

Many who have visited the Roman Forum have seen the Arch of Titus at the southeast of the Forum. Mark Cartwright describes the Arch in the Ancient History Encycl0pedia here. There are many links within this quotation for those interested in following them.

The Arch of is a Roman Triumphal Arch which was erected by Domitian in c. 81 CE at the foot of the Palatine hill on the Via Sacra in the Forum Romanum, Rome. It commemorates the victories of his father Vespasian and brother Titus in the Jewish War in Judaea (70-71 CE) when the great city of Jerusalem was sacked and the vast riches of its temple plundered. The arch is also a political and religious statement expressing the divinity of the late emperor Titus.

The Arch of Titus in the Roman Forum commemorates the Roman victory of the Jews in A.D. 70. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Arch of Titus in the Roman Forum commemorates the Roman victory over the Jews in A.D. 70. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The original inscription on the opposite side reads,

SENATUS
POPOLUS QUE ROMANUS
DIVO TITO DIVI VESPASIANI F
VISPASIANO AUGUSTO

The inscription attributes divinity to both Vespasian and his son Titus.

One of the large panels inside the arch shows Roman soldiers parading items taken from the Temple in Jerusalem in triumph through the streets of Rome. You will see the table of showbread, and the Menorah. One of the placards carried by the soldiers mentions the laws of the Jews.

Josephus, the first century Jewish historian, provides a first person account of the procession in Jewish Wars.

… and for the other spoils, they were carried in great plenty. But for those who were taken in the temple of Jerusalem, {c} they made the greatest figure of them all; that is, the golden table of the weight of many talents; the lampstand [Menorah] also, that was made of gold, though its construction was now changed from that which we made use of;
149 for its middle shaft was fixed upon a basis, and the small branches were produced out of it to a great length, having the likeness of a trident in their position, and had everyone a socket made of brass for a lamp at the tops of them. These lamps were in number seven, and represented the dignity of the number seven among the Jews;
150 and the last of all the spoils was carried the Law of the Jews.
151 After these spoils passed by a great many men, carrying the images of Victory, whose structure was entirely either of ivory or of gold.
152 After which Vespasian marched in the first place, and Titus followed him; Domitian also rode along with them, and made a glorious appearance, and rode on a horse that was worthy of admiration. (JW 7:148-152)

Arch of Titus relief showing Roman soldiers carrying the items taken from the Temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Arch of Titus relief showing Roman soldiers carrying the items taken from the Temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

It appears that the first soldier carrying the Menorah on his shoulder is also carrying a pigeon, perhaps for an offering.  <grin>

Live pigeon on head of Roman soldier. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Live pigeon on head of Roman soldier. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

For many years Dr. Steven Fine of Yeshiva University has been pursuing his interest in the Menorah. This, of course, led him to the Arch of Titus in Rome where the Menorah is depicted. The most recent results of his study,

includes the Digital Restoration Project, which in 2012 discovered the original yellow polychromy of the Arch menorah; numerous studies of the Arch and its menorah by Professor Fine, an upcoming exhibition and international conference on the Arch organized by Yeshiva University Museum (Summer, 2017), a free online Coursera course, The Arch of Titus: Rome and the Menorah, a 2016 summer seminar in Rome under the auspices of the Schottenstein Honors Program, and courses taught in Revel, Yeshiva College and Stern College.

Take a look at the Arch of Titus in color based on the 3D scan of the reliefs here. You will find a neat video showing the spoils panel in color, and a lecture by Dr. Fine presented at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. There are also links to various articles about the project.

The emblem of the State of Israel is based on the Menorah depicted on the Arch of Titus.

The view from Mount Nebo

Our photo today was made on Mount Nebo in Jordan. The view is west across the northern end of the Dead Sea, the wilderness of Judea, and the central mountain ridge (or water-parting route).

View of the Dead Sea, the wilderness of Judea, and the central mountain range from Mount Nebo in the Transjordanian Plateau. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View of the Dead Sea, the wilderness of Judea, and the central mountain range from Mount Nebo in the Transjordanian Plateau. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Mount Nebo is the place from which Moses viewed the land that the LORD had promised to Abraham’s seed (Deuteronomy 34:1-8).

In the next photo the northern tip of the Dead Sea is visible on the left of the photo. This photo looks NW from Mount Nebo across the Jordan Valley (the plain of Moab) and toward the highlands of the promised land.

View from Mount Nebo NW across the Jordan Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View from Mount Nebo NW across the Jordan Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Moses saw this and much more, and probably more clearly. Both of our photos are sized for use in PowerPoint presentations.

Have you seen “Following the Messiah”?

Many of our readers have likely seen some of the new videos produced by Appian Media. Following a fundraising campaign a small group, including two professional producers and a cinematographer, visited Israel to film places associated with the ministry of Jesus.

Jeremy Dehut, a minister in Alabama, was so impressed with his visit to Israel a few months earlier with Barry Britnell he convinced his brother Craig, Stuart Peck, and Jet Kaiser, to join him and Britnell in this undertaking. These guys are not filming with their iPhone. Take a look as they get organized for one of their international flights. When you view some of the videos you will see the quality.

The Appian Media film crew gets ready for an international flight.

The Appian Media film crew gets ready for an international flight.

After a fundraiser this team made their trip to Israel and then spent months editing the large amount of video into this series of videos called “Following the Messiah.”

Go to the web page of Appian Media here and take a look at some, or all, of the videos. You may even download them for your own use in teaching.

The Appian Media team is engaged in their 2017 fundraising campaign in anticipation of another trip that will concentrate on the final days of Jesus in Jerusalem. The web page explains how you can participate in this effort.

Search for @appianmedia on Facebook or in Messenger to find the Appian Media page easily.

Appian Media is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization designed to create FREE quality Biblical video content and other resources and make them available to everyone!

Take a look. You will be able to see where many of the events in the earthly ministry of Jesus took place, and your Bible reading will take on a new dimension.

A question about dolmen

A reader who read our report on the dolmen field in the Golan Heights ask on Facebook if these structures could be the high places or altars mentioned in the Old Testament. The simple answer is “No.” They are thought to be tombs.

This photo of a dolmen was made at Gamla in the Golan Heights.

Dolmen at Gamla in the Golan Heights. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Dolmen at Gamla in the Golan Heights. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In an article about the Golan Archaeological Museum at Qatzrin in the Golan Heights, Nemlich and Killebrew make these comments:

Another strange sight on the Golan is fields of dolmens. Throughout the Golan, hundreds of dolmens are visible on the horizon. They are made of huge unworked basalt slabs and resemble giant stone tables. In fact the word dolmen derives from two Old Breton words—dol, meaning table, and men, meaning stone.

Dolmens were built to serve as tombs. Because of the absence of any associated contemporary house remains, we infer that the dolmen builders were nomadic or seminomadic tribesmen.

The Golan dolmens vary in size, ranging from those built of three or four large boulders to the giants measuring over 20 feet wide and rising to heights of over 10 feet. Some dolmens are free-standing, but many others are partially—or completely—covered by stone heaps, or tumuli. Still others are surrounded by circles of stones.

Beneath each table-like structure is a rectangular underground chamber with a paved floor and a roof made with heavy slabs. Apparently, this chamber was used for a secondary burial: About a year after death, when the flesh of the deceased had decayed, the bones were reburied in the chamber beneath the dolmen, together with a few funerary gifts of pottery vessels and weapons, usually of copper. Many dolmen chambers were reused as ready-made tombs, both in ancient and modern times. The earliest artifacts found in them, however, enable us to date them to the period archaeologists call Middle Bronze I—about 2200–2000 B.C. (a little before the most commonly dated period for the patriarchal age). (Nemlich, Shlomit and Ann Killebrew. “Recovering the Ancient Golan—The Golan Archaeological Museum.” Biblical Archaeology Review.  Nov/Dec 1988.)

There are other suggestions about the purpose of the dolmen. David E. Graves left this comment, with photos, on our Facebook page:

In 2009 we excavated an undisturbed dolmen in Jordan at Tall el-Hammam and recovered 16 EB whole vessels. We did not discover any skeletal remains and so hypothesis they were family memorials and used the table top to de-flesh the remains before reburial.

Perhaps the most fascinating thing about the recently announced discovery reported this past week is the images inscribed on the dome of the dolmen. The recent IAA Press Release says this,

The chamber inside the dolmen where the engravings were found on its ceiling is large, measuring 2 × 3 meters, and the stone covering it is also huge, weighing an estimated fifty tons at least! This is one of the largest stones ever used in the construction of dolmens in the Middle East. The dolmen was enclosed within an enormous stone heap (tumulus) c. 20 meters in diameter, and its stones are estimated to weigh a minimum of 400 tons. At least four smaller dolmens that were positioned at the foot of the decorated dolmen were identified inside the stone heap. In other words, what we have here is a huge monumental structure built hierarchically (with a main cell and secondary cells). This is the first time such a hierarchical dolmen has been identified in the Middle East.

The engravings that were exposed on the inside of the built chamber. Photographic credit: Gonen Sharon, Tel Hai College.

The engravings that were exposed on the inside of the built chamber. Photographic credit: Gonen Sharon, Tel Hai College.

There is much more to learn about the dolmen.