Category Archives: Bible Study

Damascus Gate in Jerusalem

After dinner this evening we went to Damascus Gate to try our hand at some night shots of the Gate. Here is one of my resultant photos.

Damascus Gate at Night. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Damascus Gate at Night. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Damascus Gate is the main one of three gates on the north side of the Old City wall in Jerusalem. The gate we see was built over a gate from the early second century when the city was rebuilt by the Romans, and likely over the earlier gate from New Testament times.

The gate is called Damascus because this formerly was the way one would depart Jerusalem to head for the city of Damascus. Paul may have used an earlier gate when he made his way to Damascus to locate and bind followers of Christ and bring them to Jerusalem for trial (Acts 9, 22, 26).

The weather was pleasantly cool this evening. Earlier in the week in Tiberias we found the 104° to be uncomfortable.

He’s just a carpenter

Jesus is called a carpenter in Mark 6:3. In Matthew’s account He is called the carpenter’s son. The study note in the NET Bible suggests that this was probably a derogatory term. Those who used the term thought of Him as “a common laborer like themselves.”

Lane says the term carpenter (Greek tekton) “commonly designates a worker in any hard material: wood, metal or stone, and so comes to mean a builder.”

Louw-Nida says,

There is every reason to believe that in biblical times one who was regarded as a tekton would be skilled in the use of wood and stone and possibly even metal.

A carpenter’s shop is exhibited at Nazareth Village. It is correct in showing tools for stone cutting as well as wood working.

A carpenter's shop at Nazareth Village, showing woodwork and stone work. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A carpenter’s shop at Nazareth Village, showing wood work and stone work. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This post is about what the term carpenter implies, but we concur with Josh McDowell that He is More Than A Carpenter.

Jesus visited His hometown

Early in His ministry Jesus left Nazareth and made Capernaum his base of operation. From there He went all over Galilee and as far away as Tyre and Sidon and the Decapolis.

In the course of time Jesus returned to His hometown. Here is the  account of the events associated with that visit as recorded in the Gospel of Mark.

He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.  (Mark 6:1-6)

We often hear the expression, “You can never go home again.” We see this played out in many ways. The college student who has enjoyed the freedom of being away from home seldom feels comfortable back in the family basement.

Jesus’ expression is also  commonly repeated.  “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.”

The familiarity with Jesus in His pre-ministry years, knowledge of his work as a carpenter, and his family, caused the residents of Nazareth to reject Him.

Our photo shows the interior of the synagogue at Nazareth Village. Perhaps the synagogue of Jesus’ time looked somewhat like this.

The Synagogue at Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Synagogue at Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

While we may not be able to return to the place where we grew up, we are always welcomed into the presence of the heavenly father.

Jesus taught in the synagogue at Capernaum

The gospel of Mark mentions Jesus teaching and performing miracles in the synagogue at Capernaum.

  • He taught in the synagogue and performed a miracle there (Mark 1:21-29)
  • He healed a man with a withered hand (Mark 3:1-5)
  • Jairus, one of the rulers of the synagogue, implored Jesus to make his daughter well. Jesus raised the young girl from the dead (Mark 5:22-43)

A synagogue has been partially reconstructed from the archaeological ruins at Capernaum. Scholars differ on the age of the synagogue with opinions ranging from the late second century to the fifth century. Italian archaeologists who excavated the site in 1981 say the synagogue dates to the Byzantine period (late fourth or early fifth century). Israeli scholars tend to place the synagogue in the second/third century.

The Italians think they have found the basalt ruins of the first century synagogue under the floor of the fourth/fifth century one. You can see part of that black basalt foundation to the left of the steps. They believe that this earlier synagogue is the one built by the Roman centurion (Luke 5:1-5).

The reconstructed synagogue at Capernaum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The reconstructed synagogue at Capernaum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Our photo below shows a closer view of the basalt foundation.

The black basalt foundation is visible under the white limestone building. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The black basalt foundation is visible under the white limestone building. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Several articles about the Capernaum synagogue are available in Biblical Archaeology Review (1982 and 1983).

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.

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)