Category Archives: Bible Study

Myra, home of Saint Nicholas

The town Myra is known to students of the New Testament as a place where Paul transferred ships while he was being taken to Rome for trial before Caesar (Acts 27:5).

In the centuries following, Myra became the home of a (Greek Orthodox) bishop known as Nicholas. Born in Patara, Nicholas died December 6, 343. Several legends arose around Nicholas who was noted for giving gifts to the poor and raising the dead.

Highly revered in Greece and Russia, St. Nicholas is known as the patron saint of children, sailors, merchants, and scholars. From his life of piety, kindness, and generosity arose the legendary figure celebrated today as St. Nicholas, Father Christmas, or Santa Claus. (Fant & Reddish, A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey, 256)

The ancient Myra is associated with the modern Turkish town Demre (or Kale). I thought you might enjoy seeing a few pictures related to Saint Nicholas. In the town square is a recent statue showing St. Nicholas with children. The statue was a gift of the Russian government in 2000. Many Russian tourists were visiting the day I was there.

Modern statue of Saint Nicholas at Myra. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Modern statue of Saint Nicholas at Myra. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A few decades ago I saw an older statue near the entrance to the church. It now has a fresh coat of black paint.

Older statue of St. Nicholas near the entrance of the Byzantine church ruins. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Older statue of St. Nicholas near the entrance of the Byzantine church ruins. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Byzantine church dates to the 6th century A.D. Several writers point out that the sarcophagus of Nicholas was broken into by Italian merchants in 1087 A.D., and his bones were taken to Bari, Italy.

This is said to be the sarcophagus of St. Nicholas. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This is said to be the sarcophagus of St. Nicholas. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Wilson says the church is built like a basilica “in the shape of an orthodox cross” (Biblical Turkey 88).

Older statue of St. Nicholas near the entrance of the Byzantine church ruins. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Older statue of St. Nicholas near the entrance of the Byzantine church ruins. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

On the left side of the apse there is a fresco of St. Nicholas. On a previous posting about Myra reader Al Sandalow sent me a few photos he made in the area including one of the fresco. I now have some photos, but I think Al’s is better and I post it here with thanks.

Fresco of Saint Nicholas in the church at Myra. Photo by Al Sandalow.

Fresco in the church of Saint Nicholas at Myra. Photo by Al Sandalow.

Tourism seems to be thriving at Myra even though the town is off the beaten track. Whether there are any Christians living in the town is doubtful.

For an earlier post about Myra and St. Nicholas, see here.

This is an edited re-post, with additional photos, from December 22, 2012

Advertisements

Sixty three years ago today…

Warning. This is a rare personal note that does not fit with the general tenor of this blog, except that the woman I speak of here has made much of my work possible through her love and support.

– ♥ –

Sixty three years ago today Elizabeth Ann Williams and I committed ourselves to one another and to God. We did not date very long and I lacked a few weeks being 19 years of age, but we were determined to build a marriage according to the will of God.

Ferrell Jenkins and Elizabeth Williams

Ferrell Jenkins and Elizabeth Williams married December 16, 1954.

We met at Florida Christian College (now Florida College), Temple Terrace, FL. Our ceremony was in the small lobby of Sutton Hall (facing the Dorm Supervisor’s apartment).

After my graduation from the four-year Bible program at FCC we moved to work with churches in Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Indiana, and Ohio, before returning to Florida College where I would teach a total of 25 years and Elizabeth a total of 27 years.

Our residence is about a mile from where we said our marriage vows. It has been a good marriage. Elizabeth has been a true helper for me (Genesis 2:18) in the work I chose to do— preaching and teaching the Word of God, and teaching the Word by introducing interested persons to the Land of the Word. I love her dearly.

Was this pillar intended for the Temple?

In the Jerusalem area we have evidence of numerous quarries from which stones and pillars (columns) were taken for the Biblical Temple and other buildings. Much of the area now covered by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, including Golgotha, was once a quarry. In a series of post we discussed the so-called Solomon’s Quarries here and here.

It is also known that an area now referred to as the Russian Compound was a quarry in Biblical times. This is the location of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, the central police station and the law courts.

The area lies on the northwest corner of the Old City of Jerusalem, and us bounded on the south by Jaffa Road and the Street of the Prophets on the north. It is often referred to as the area of the Assyrian Camp, referencing the occasion when Sennacherib, king of Assyria from 704 to 681 B.C., sent two of his commanders with “a great army from Lachish to Jerusalem” (2 Kings 18:17).

The Taylor Prism reports that Hezekiah was shut up in Jerusalem like a caged bird. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Taylor Prism reports that Hezekiah was shut up in Jerusalem like a caged bird. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Taylor Prism, found at Nineveh, and now displayed in the British Museum, claims that Hezekiah did not submit to his y0ke, but was “shut up in Jerusalem” like a caged bird.

Only one column remains visible in the quarry of the Russian Compound. It is 12.15 meters (almost 40  feet) long and has a mean diameter of about 1.75 meters (5.74 feet). It is greater at the base than at the head.

Pillar left in the quarry at the Russian Compound, Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Pillar left in the quarry at the Russian Compound. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Blue Guide Jerusalem says,

[The 19th century French scholar] Clermont-Ganneau suggested that the size agreed with that of the columns of the Royal Portico of the Temple of Herod the Great (1 C BC), and may have been one of the engaged columns placed adjacent to the wall.

Our photo below shows a model of the Temple precinct built by Herod the Great with work continuing for many years (John 2:20) . The view is from the northeast. The three people viewing the model are standing at the southwest corner of the Temple precinct. The Royal Stoa is to their right on the south side of the model. They appear to be standing at the location of Robinson’s Arch, the stairway that provided entrance to the Royal Stoa.

The Herodian Temple in the Second Temple Model at the Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Herodian Temple in the Second Temple Model at the Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Though we have here a pillar or column rather than a stone, I think we have a nice reminder of the prophecy of Psalm 118:22.

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. (Psalm 118:22 ESV)

Jesus made reference to this text in His teaching (Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17). The Apostle Peter cited the same text and applied it to Jesus.

This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. (Acts 4:11 ESV).

See also his extended discussion in 1 Peter 2:4-10, and think seriously about the consequences of rejecting the LORD’S chosen stone.

The shepherd goes before his flock

People of the biblical world understood the illustrations used by their leaders, but many today, especially young people, do not understand these illustration without explanation.

Moses had led the people of God through the wilderness, but was soon to die after viewing the promised land from Mount Nebo. He then appealed to the LORD to provide a shepherd for Israel.

15 Moses spoke to the LORD, saying,
16 “Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation
17 who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the LORD may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.” (Numbers 27:15-17 ESV)

Joshua was to be raised up as a leader — a leader like a shepherd.

A shepherd leads his flock in the Jordan Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A shepherd leads his flock in the Jordan Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jesus used a similar illustration.

4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.
5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” (John 10:4-5 ESV)

Our photo provides a good illustration for those who do not have personal knowledge about shepherds and sheep.

Jerusalem from the west

Earlier this week I was browsing through some of my aerial photos of Jerusalem and came across this one that I thought would be informative to good Bible students.

The photo is made while flying over the new (western) city of Jerusalem, some of which is shown in the bottom half of the photo. About mid-way of the photo (from bottom to top) you can see the entire Old (walled) City of Jerusalem. The Dome of the Rock, where the biblical Temple once stood, is almost in the center of the photo (sightly left of center).

The Kidron valley is lost at this angle and the new tombs on the Mount of Olive seem to touch the Old City.

Aerial view of Jerusalem from the west. This photo shows the new (west) city of Jerusalem, the Old City, the Mount of Olives, the wilderness of Judea, the Dead Sea, and the mountains of Moab (Transjordan plateau). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of Jerusalem from the west. This photo shows the new (west) city of Jerusalem, the Old City, the Mount of Olives, the wilderness of Judea, the Dead Sea, and the mountains of Moab (Transjordan plateau). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Continuing east you will see a portion of the Wilderness of Judea, then the Dead Sea. At the extreme left of the Dead Sea a portion of the Jordan Valley is visible.

Beyond the Dead Sea the mountains of Moab are visible in the Transjordan Plateau.

The same photo labeled to identify the places discussed.

The same photo labeled to identify the places discussed.

— Postscript —

Leon Mauldin and I have made numerous personal study trips to the Bible Lands in addition to the tours we have led. We have included flights to photograph these places from the air. I think you will enjoy Leon’s blog. It was a coincident that just as I finished my article showing Jerusalem to Moab, I received Leon’s blog showing the rooftops of the Old City and the Mount of Olives.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: (Matthew 2:1-5 ESV)

Last April I visited Bethlehem hoping to see the refurbished Church of the Nativity, but the work was still in progress. However, I did see something new. In the courtyard of St. Catherine’s church, near the statue of Jerome, there was a very nice nativity display that I wish to share with our readers.

Nativity display in the courtyard of St. Catherine's church in Bethlehem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Nativity display in the courtyard of St. Catherine’s church in Bethlehem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

You may recall that Jerome lived in Bethlehem from about 384 A.D. to 420 A.D. He is best known for translating the ancient Hebrew and Greek manuscripts into what would be called the Latin Vulgate. Our earliest (chronologically) English versions were translated from the Latin rather than from the Greek and Hebrew.

In the past couple of weeks there has been an uptick of interest in previous articles I have written about the birth of Jesus, Bethlehem, and Christmas.

We have compiled an Index of articles dealing with these subject here. Perhaps you will find both the articles and the photographs helpful in your study and teaching.

The Nabateans of Petra and their successors

The Nabateans have been described as “one of the most gifted and vigorous peoples in the Near East of Jesus’ time” (Wright, Biblical Archaeology 229). They exacted high tolls from the caravans which passed their way. The greatest king of the Nabateans was Aretas IV (9 B.C. to A.D. 40). His rule extended as far north as Damascus during the last part of his reign; this was at the time Paul escaped from Damascus (2 Corinthians 11:32).

The Nabateans are still remembered for their numerous carvings we see at Petra in Jordan.

The theater at Petra, dating to the first century A.D., is carved from solid rock. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Roman theater at Petra, dating to the first or early second century A.D., is carved almost entirely from solid rock. Click on the photo for a larger image. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Roman emperor Trajan conquered Petra in A.D. 106 and converted it into the province of Arabia. The Romans continued the rock sculpturing of the Nabataeans but added a theater, a street with colonnades, etc. Some have speculated, on the basis of Galatians 1:17, that Paul spent time at Petra after his conversion to Christ.