Category Archives: Bible Study

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.

“If Christ be not raised…”

Several tombs of the type in which Jesus was buried have survived the centuries. This one was discovered during road construction a few years ago near the Jezreel Valley, not very far from Megiddo.

Roman period tomb with a rolling stone near the Jezreel Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman period tomb with a rolling stone near Jezreel Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

So far as I know no New Testament writer ever used the expression “empty tomb” but the phrase accurately reflects what they taught.

The resurrection of Christ is mentioned more than 100 times in the New Testament. Take a look at just a few statements. With the exception of the Gospel of John and the book of Revelation, we have good evidence that each of these books was written prior to A.D. 70. John wrote both the Gospel and Revelation before the end of the first century.

Matthew

“He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.” (Matthew 28:6-7 NAU)

Mark

Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large. Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. (Mark 16:4-6 NAU)

Luke

And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. (Luke 24:2-3 NAU)

“He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” (Luke 24:6-7 NAU)

John

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. So she ran and came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” So Peter and the other disciple went forth, and they were going to the tomb. The two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first; and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in. And so Simon Peter also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed. For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. (John 20:1-9)

Peter

“But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. (Acts 2:24 NAU)

“God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. (Acts 10:40-41 NAU)

… who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:21 NAU)

Paul

“But God raised Him from the dead; (Acts 13:30 NAU)

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, (1 Corinthians 15:3-4 NAU)

John in Revelation

John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood– and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father– to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:4-6 NAU)

Conclusion

Several of these references indicate that they believed that the Old Testament Scriptures had predicted the resurrection.

Occasionally there are critics of the Bible who seek contradictions within the Bible, but there is clearly one message on the resurrection of Christ. Confidence in the resurrection of Christ provides a foundation on which to build our faith and provides the hope of our own resurrection from the dead.

Egyptian culture evident in discovery near Tel Halif

TTel Halif is located between Hebron and Beersheba in the Negev (Negeb, Negev region, South land or South country).

Abram continually journeyed by stages down to the Negev. (Genesis 12:9 NET)

Now Isaac had returned from Beer-lahai-roi and was dwelling in the Negeb. (Genesis 24:62 ESV)

Tel Halif (= Arabic, Tell el-Khuweifeh). In an article about the Biblical identity of Tel Halif, Oded Borowski points out that this was territory allotted “to the tribe of Simeon (Joshua 19:1-9) and later to the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:20-32).” He discusses various efforts to equate the site with a site named in the Bible. Borowski narrows his discussion to four main candidates: Sharuhen, Hormah, Ziklag, and Rimmon. He think Rimmon (= En-Rimmon) is the correct choice (Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol. 51, Issue 1). Rimmon is mentioned five times in the Bible (Joshua 19:7; 1 Chronicles 4:32; Joshua 15:32; Nehemiah 11:29; Zechariah 14:10). I am not in a position to venture even a guess.

The photo below shows the terrain near Tel Halif, north of Beersheba.

Sheep in the Negev near Tel Halif. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sheep in the Negev near Tel Halif. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced today the discovery of artifacts excavated from a cave near Tel Halif, in the region of Kibbutz Lahav, in the south of Israel.

The artifacts included “seals, seal rings, figurines and amulets in the image of gods sacred to the Egyptian culture.” The archaeologists say,

The collection indicates “the presence of an administrative center that existed in the region.”

Other artifacts discovered included seal rings made of faience and a wealth of figurines and amulets in the image of gods sacred to the Egyptian culture.

A collection of artifacts with characteristics of the Egyptian culture, which were discovered in the excavation. Photographic credit: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

A collection of artifacts with characteristics of the Egyptian culture, which were discovered in the excavation. Photographic credit: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Items dating as late as the Iron Age were also found during the excavation conducted by the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery of the IAA. The excavation followed the discovery that the cave had been plundered.

An oil lamp and a ceramic jar that date to the Iron Age, which were discovered in the cave. Photographic credit: the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

An oil lamp and a ceramic jar that date to the Iron Age, which were discovered in the cave. Photographic credit: the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

According to Dr. Daphna Ben-Tor, curator of Egyptian archaeology at the Israel Museum,

“Most of the scarab seals found in the excavation date to the fifteenth–fourteenth centuries BCE. During this period Canaan was ruled by Egypt”. Dr. Ben-Tor adds, “The names of kings appeared on some of the seals. Among other things, we can identify a sphinx lying opposite the name of the pharaoh Thutmose who reigned from about 1504–1450 BCE. Another scarab seal bears the name of Amenhotep who reigned from about 1386–1349 BCE. Still another scarab depicts Ptah, the principal god of the city of Memphis.”

The Biblical record indicates Egyptian influence in Israel as late as the Iron Age.

 (Pharaoh, king of Egypt, had attacked and captured Gezer. He burned it and killed the Canaanites who lived in the city. He gave it as a wedding present to his daughter, who had married Solomon.) (1 Kings 9:16 NET)

The prophet Isaiah warned about reliance on Egypt in the 8th century B.C. (Isaiah 30:1-5).

HT: Joseph Lauer

 

 

 

 

Jesus’ calendar during Passover week

If we consider the Gospel of John a sort of “Day Planner” for Jesus, we have nearly complete activity recorded for two weeks of the earthly ministry of Jesus. The first is in John 1:19—2:11 where activity for six of the seven days is recorded. I think the omitted day is the sabbath.

View of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Imagine the city as it would have appeared to Jesus when he reached the top of the Mount of Olives. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next nearly complete week is the last week, leading up to the resurrection. John gives more attention to the last week than any other Gospel. Even here we have activities for only six of eight days. This section begins in John 12:1 and continues into John 20. Here is the way I have reconstructed it. Where John does not record the activity I have omitted the scripture reference.

  • Sunday — The King enters Jerusalem — 12:12-19
  • Monday — Cleansing the Temple —
  • Tuesday — Visit of the Greeks — 12:20-36
  • Tuesday — Jewish rejection — 12:37-50
  • Wednesday — No events recorded in the Gospels
  • Thursday Evening — Passover Meal, including Washing Disciples Feet (only in John) — 13:1-38
  • Thur. Eve — Farewell discourses — 14—16
  • Thur. Eve — Prayer — 17
  • Thur. Eve — Annas (only in John) — 18:12-14
  • Thur. Eve — Caiaphas — 18:24-28
  • Friday — Pilate — 18:28—19:16
  • Friday — Crucifixion — 19:16-42
  • Sabbath —
  • First Day — Resurrection — 20

It should be noted that the appearance before Annas and Caiaphas were the Jewish (Religious) trials. The appearance before Pilate [and Herod Antipas] were the Roman (Civil) trials.

John does not record the pronouncement of woes on the religious leaders, the institution of the Lord’s Supper, and the account of the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.

With this sparse attention given to two weeks, no wonder John says,

Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. (John 21:25 ESV)

Updated from April 21, 2011

Jerusalem from above

Today I am sharing an aerial photo of Jerusalem that shows the entirety of the Old City. The 16th century Ottoman walls can be seen along the south and west of the city.

Jerusalem from the air. View north and east. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jerusalem from the air. View north and east. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The view is toward the north and east. You can see that the Judean wilderness is near the city of Jerusalem. Notice that the city is reflected on the wing of the plane. If you look carefully you can see the reflection of the Dome of the Rock and a portion of the Temple Mount. Click on the photo for a larger image. The image is large enough to use in presentations for teaching for those who are willing to spend some time studying the location of various Bible events.

Solomon’s Quarries #2

Begin at Damascus Gate and walk east along Sultan Suleiman Street and you will soon come to the entrance to Solomon’s Quarries (also called Zedekiah’s Cave). See the previous post for a photo of the entrance and the history of how this underground quarry came to light in the 19th century.

At that point of the Old City north wall you will see the wall built high above a natural scarp of rock. Mackowski describes the stone here as Turonian limestone. He says,

Beneath these structures are the so-called Solomon’s Quarries, though we do not think that they should be looked for in the subterranean passages below, but in the area (through which the modern Sultan Suleiman Street passes) between this artificially cut rocky spur of Bethesda and its counterpart (opposite it to the north) which forms a part of Gordon’s Calvary and the traditional site of Jeremiah’s Grotto. (Jerusalem City of Jesus, Eerdmans, 1978, p.16).

Portions of the north wall of the Old City of Jerusalem is built on a natural scarp of rock. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Portions of the north wall of the Old City of Jerusalem is built on a natural scarp of rock. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In this post we will follow-up the previous one about the modern discovery of Solomon’s Quarries with some photos. Our first photo shows the corridor leading from the entry south underneath the Old City.

Due to the artificial lighting each photo can look different due to the camera settings, and/or due to the adjustments in Photoshop.

Corridor leading south from the entry of Solomon's Quarries. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Corridor leading south from the entry of Solomon’s Quarries. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo shows a wider area of the quarry, and you can see a fissure in the ceiling. Fissures like this one may account for Barclay’s description here:

Water was everywhere dropping from the lofty ceiling, which had formed numerous small stalactites and stalagmites—some of them very resplendent and beautiful, but too fragile to be collected and preserved. (The City of the Great King, p. 461)

Solomon's Quarries. Notice the fissure in the ceiling. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Solomon’s Quarries. Notice the fissure in the ceiling. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Next we move into the largest area of the quarries. I think it is in this area where the recent TV series Dig built a pool in which a couple of the characters went skinny dipping. If you have been tempted to watch the series to learn about the archaeology of Israel, you might want to think again. Or, you could read the review in The Times of Israel here.

Freemason's Hall in Solomon's Quarries. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Freemason’s Hall in Solomon’s Quarries. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Next we see the largest area of Solomon’s quarries. This large hall is called The Freemason’s Hall. A sign at the entry to the hall reads,

Members of the Freemason’s Society number among the many European tourists and visitors who have come to see the cave after it was rediscovered in the winter of 1854. The Freemasons regard King Solomon as the first biblical Freemason, and since the cave was popularly viewed as the quarry used by King Solomon in the building of the First Temple, the Freemasons have held their traditional ceremonies during the past century in the main chamber of the cave.

I suppose they would not mind if I take exception to the statement that Solomon was “the first biblical Freemason.”

Freemason's Hall in Solomon's Quarries. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Freemason’s Hall in Solomon’s Quarries. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Earlier we cited Mackowski who suggested that the quarry used by Solomon was probably where Sultan Suleiman Street is now — between the outcropping of rock we showed above and the traditional Gordon’s Calvary.

Lasor reminds us that there is no archaeological evidence for this being Solomon’s Quarries, but that the tradition is not unreasonable.

A tradition that the stone for the temple was quarried in the area near the modern Damascus Gate, known as Solomon’s Quarries, Royal Quarries, Royal Caves, King Solomon’s Mines, and the cave of Zedekiah, is without archeological support, but the tradition is not unreasonable (cf. 1 K. 6:7). (W. S. Lasor, “Jerusalem.” ISBE (Rev. ed.) Vol. II, p.1008).