Category Archives: Book of Acts

The real story about Saint Nicholas on Amazon Prime

You have read on this blog and other places about the Saint Nicholas of Myra, a town on the southern Mediterranean coast of Turkey. Recently I learned of the video featuring Dr. Mark Wilson and Dr. Adam English now available free for those who have access to Amazon Prime. The 55-minute video is high quality.

The video provides information about the priest by the name of Nicholas and his work in and around Myra. As Bishop of Myra, Nicholas defended the doctrine of the trinity at the Council of Nicea (Nicaea) in A.D. 325. There is a strong claim that he is buried in Bari, Italy.

I think you might enjoy the film and learn something about Church History in the process.

If you have Amazon Prime you can search for Saint Nicholas: the Real Story, or use this link: Saint Nicholas: the Real Story.

The town of Myra is known to students of the New Testament as a place where the apostle Paul transferred ships while he was being taken to Rome for trial before Caesar (Acts 27:5). My most recent post about the city is available here.

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

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

Books for self and others #3 – books by David E. Graves

David E. Graves sent me two of his recent books. The first to mention is Biblical Archaeology: An Introduction with Recent Discoveries that Support the Reliability of the Bible. I like the subtitle: An Introduction with Recent Discoveries that Support the Reliability of the Bible. This is a large paperback of 375 pages, published in 2014.

  1. Introduction to Biblical Archaeology
  2. Archaeology and Biblical Manuscripts
  3. Genesis
  4. Exodus and Conquest
  5. United and Divided Monarchy
  6. The Gospels
  7. Acts and Epistles
  8. Revelation

Graves, Biblical ArchaeologyBiblical Archaeology includes more than 140 charts, maps and photographs (all in black and white), a glossary, extensive bibliography and index.

Dr. Graves holds a Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen, has been involved in teaching the Bible and archaeology for more than 30 years. He has participated in archaeological digs for several years.

This book will not please the person who wants a slick paper, large print book filled with color photos. It will be extremely helpful to the person who would like to have a thorough survey of Biblical Archaeology.

Key Themes of the New Testament: A Survey of Major Theological Themes is a 2014 paperback of 441 pages. Here are the chapters:

  1. Kinds of Literature
  2. Birth and Early Years of Jesus
  3. Ministry of Jesus
  4. The Death of Jesus
  5. Resurrection and Ascension
  6. The Founding of the Church
  7. The Formation of the Church
  8. The Development of the Church
  9. The Future of the Church
  10. Conclusion

This book covers so comprehensive that one is bound to disagree with a point here and there. Points that I observed gave me opportunity to think and expand my thinking. The book is available in Kindle format for about half the price. Graves also has a similar book dealing with the Old Testament themes.

David maintains Deus Artefacta, a blog about issues like those discussed in these books.

I provided five photos for this book, and two for the book on archaeology.

Another mosaic uncovered at Lod

In the Old Testament Lod is listed as a town of the tribe of Benjamin (1 Chronicles 8:12), but it seems significant only after the return of the Jews from Babylonian exile (Nehemiah 11:25; Ezra 2:33).

In the New Testament the town is known as Lydda and the place where the Apostle Peter preached and healed a paralytic named Aeneas (Acts 9:31-35).

In modern times Lod is the location of Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport.

You might enjoy this account by the Israel Antiquities Authority about the discovery of another impressive mosaic in Lod.

While building the visitor center for the Lod Mosaic, which was exposed in the past and is considered one of the most spectacular in the country, another impressive mosaic was discovered at the site

This week the Israel Antiquities Authority, in cooperation with the Lod municipality, invites the public for a unique opportunity to come see the new mosaic

An impressive mosaic revealed in archaeological excavations by the Israel Antiquities Authority in Lod will be open for the first time this week, specifically for visits by the public, in cooperation with the Lod municipality.

In June–November 2014 a team of archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority directed a large excavation in the Neve Yerek neighborhood of Lod, in an area where a breathtaking mosaic that served as the living room floor in a villa some 1,700 years ago was previously exposed. The aim of the excavation was to prepare the ground for construction of a visitor center, to which the beautiful mosaic will be returned when it completes a series of exhibitions in museums around the world. Important artifacts were discovered in the new excavation, the most notable of which is another colorful mosaic (11 × 13 m) that was the courtyard pavement of the magnificent villa that had the famous mosaic in its living room.

A portion of the newly discovered Lod mosaic showing fish. Photo by Assaf Peretz, Israel Antiquities Authority.

A portion of the newly discovered Lod mosaic showing fish. Photo by Assaf Peretz, Israel Antiquities Authority

According to Dr. Amir Gorzalczany, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The villa we found was part of a neighborhood of affluent houses that stood here during the Roman and Byzantine periods. At that time Lod was called Diospolis and was the district capital, until it was replaced by Ramla after the Muslim conquest. The building was used for a very long time”.

The northern part of the complex, where the “Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Center” will be constructed, was exposed when the Israel Antiquities Authority was inspecting development work being carried out in the early 1990s prior to the construction of Highway 90. The mosaic, which was discovered and excavated at that time by the late Miriam Avissar, is among the most beautiful in the country, and has been exhibited in recent years in some of the world’s leading museums, including the Metropolitan, the Louvre and the State Hermitage etc. It is currently on display at the Cini Gallery in Venice, Italy, and in the future it will be housed in the main building to be erected in Lod.

A portion of the newly discovered Lod mosaic showing fanimals. Photo by Assaf Peretz, Israel Antiquities Authority

A portion of the newly discovered Lod mosaic showing fanimals. Photo by Assaf Peretz, Israel Antiquities Authority

The southern part of the complex was exposed in the current excavations. Among other things, it includes a large magnificent courtyard that is paved with a mosaic and surrounded by porticos (stoas–covered galleries open to the courtyard) whose ceiling was supported by columns. According to Dr. Gorzalczany, “The eastern part of the complex could not be completely exposed because it extends beneath modern buildings in the neighborhood”. The scenes in this mosaic depict hunting and hunted animals, fish, flowers in baskets, vases and birds. Dr. Gorzalczany added, “The quality of the images portrayed in the mosaic indicates a highly developed artistic ability”. Numerous fragments of frescoes (wall paintings prepared on wet plaster) reflect the decoration and the meticulous and luxurious design, which are in the best tradition of the well-born of the period. In light of the new discoveries, this part of the villa will also be incorporated in the visitor center.

Archaeologists Hagit Torgë, Uzi ‘Ad, Eriola Jakoel and Yossi Elisha of the Israel Antiquities Authority participated in the excavation.

According to the press release: “Visiting hours: Tuesday–Wednesday, November 17–18: 8:00 to 16:00. Friday, November 20: 8:00 to 13:00. Driving directions: Come to Ha-Halutz Street in Lod, by way of Ginnaton Junction.”

HT: Joseph Lauer

Lesbos, Syrian refugees, and “Come before winter”

A recent evening news report on the Syrian refugees trying to reach some semblance of safety in Europe shows the dangers they face trying to get from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos. Some of the heavily loaded rafts and small boats have overturned in the rough sea. Why is that? It is because of the approach of winter. Keep that thought in mind and we will return to it.

Our first photo shows the ruins of the temple of Athena at Assos. The Aegean island of Lesbos is visible across the strait.

A view of Lesbos across the strait from Assos and the temple of Apollo. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A view of Lesbos across the strait from Assos and the ruins of the temple of Athena. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The apostle Paul undoubtedly saw the temple of Athena when he traveled the approximate 20 miles from Alexandria Troas to Assos by land. His companions had traveled by boat from Troas to Assos. The historical account reads this way:

But going ahead to the ship, we set sail for Assos, intending to take Paul aboard there, for so he had arranged, intending himself to go by land. And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and went to Mitylene. (Acts 20:13-14 ESV)

The island across the strait is Lesbos. Follow the island coastline south and you will come to the town of Mitylene.

The island of Lesbos is close to modern Turkey. Credit: biblos.com.

The Greek island of Lesbos is close to modern Turkey. Credit: biblos.com.

Now, back to the danger of the sea in winter. There is a valid reason why Paul would encourage Timothy, after picking up his cloak and parchments at Troas [see the map] to come to him in Rome “before winter.”

Do your best to come before winter.  (2 Timothy 4:21 ESV)

Paul, having experienced his own shipwreck on the way to Rome, knew of the danger of traveling too late in the year. We are told that there were 276 persons aboard the ship that wrecked on Malta (Acts 27:37).

Model of ship like Paul would have used on his voyage to Rome. Rali Museum, Caesarea, Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Model of ship like Paul would have used on his voyage to Rome. Rali Museum, Caesarea, Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The ships that regularly cruise the Aegean Sea are only about half the size of those we are accustomed to in the Caribbean. They sail from April through mid-November. After that the sea is too rough.

Imagine the horror of taking one’s family out on the sea in a small raft during the winter season?

Hastings five volume Dictionary of the Bible

A few weeks (months?) back, after a long wait, I received the 5-volume A Dictionary of the Bible, ed. by James Hastings, in Logos format. I have mentioned earlier that this is an old set that is not a substitute for owning newer materials. The fifth volume is an Extra Volume that includes some special studies. William M. Ramsay wrote sections on Roads and Travel in the New Testament. This material was published in 1911 and 1912.

Ramsay also wrote the Dictionary entry on Troas. Here I will share a few excerpts from that material that I think will illustrate the value of such material.

TROAS (Τρῳάς, or more correctly Ἀλεξάνδρεια ἡ Τρῳάς [Alexandria Troas]) was a city on the Ægean coast of Asia Minor, opposite the small island of Tenedos. The district in which it was situated was sometimes called as a whole Troas, and is in modern times generally called the Troad; it was the northwestern part of the land of Mysia….

It became one of the greatest and largest cities of the north-west of Asia. In the coasting voyage system of ancient navigation, it was the harbour to and from which the communication between Asia and Macedonia was directed (cf. Ac 16:8, 20:5, 2 Co 2:12). Owing to the greatness of Troas and its legendary connexion with the foundation of Rome, the idea was actually entertained by Julius Cæsar of transferring thither the centre of government from Rome (Suet. Jul. 79); and some similar scheme was still not wholly forgotten when Horace protested against it in Od. iii. 3. Hadrian probably visited Troas and it was perhaps his interest in it that led the wealthy and politic Herodes Atticus to build there an aqueduct (the ruins of which were imposing in very recent times) and baths….

The route followed by St. Paul, with Silas and Timothy, from the Bithynian frontier near Dorylaion or Kotiaion, brought the party to the coast at Troas (Ac 16:6–8). There can be little doubt that this road led down the Rhyndacus valley past the hot springs Artemaia, sacred to Artemis, on the river Aisepos.

Don’t dismiss the “old guys” in your studies, but don’t limit your studies to them.

Ruins of the Bath of Herodes Atticus at Troas. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ruins of the Bath of Herodes Atticus at Troas. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Don’t confuse the Herodes Atticus mentioned here with the Herod’s of the New Testament. Herodes Atticus was a wealthy Greek from Athens who later became a Roman senator. The dates for his life are given in several sources as about A.D. 101–177. Those who have visited Athens may recall seeing the Odeon of Herodes Atticus on the slopes of the Acropolis.

Odeon of Herodes Atticus on the slope of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus on the slope of the Acropolis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Visiting ancient Samaria again

On our recent personal study tour in Israel I decided to see if we could travel south from Nazareth through the West Bank along the central mountain ridge of the country. There is always something worthwhile to see whether taking the central mountain route, the Jordan Valley, or the coastal plain (a longer route). The security guy at the border saw our passports and waved us through.

Everything went well except for the condition of the road in the vicinity of Jenin. I have been through here many times during a bus tour, but the main highway is not clearly marked and is in bad repair in many places. Many speed humps have been added all the way to Samaria.

We were able to get some nice photos of Tel Dotan (Dothan) on the way to Sebastia (Biblical Samaria).

My last visit to Samaria was in September, 2013. For several years the road leading from the main road (= Hwy. 60) to the site has been in bad repair. Our bus driver took his bus through the crooked, narrow streets of Sebastia to get to the site of ancient Samaria. That left everyone leaning in toward the aisle.

This photo shows the condition of the road in 2012. In some places it was much worse.

The road along the base of the tel at Samaria in 2012. Several Roman columns stand along the route of the ancient street. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins

The road along the base of the tel at Samaria in 2012. Several Roman columns stand along the route of the ancient street. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The owners of the Samaria Restaurant said the condition of the road changed regularly. He and I drove from the Restaurant (and the Roman Forum) along the road and then called the driver to say that he would be able to make it. Once when I was there rocks were piled in the road, and a portion of it was broken up.

Our driver was able to negotiate the road with finesse. I was waiting at the Hellenistic Towers to see if he could make it.

Tourist bus leaving Samaria by the old Roman street. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tourist bus leaving Samaria by the old Roman street. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

When we reached the entrance to Samaria this year we were surprised to see a newly paved road. What an improvement. Is this a sign of things to come?

The newly paved Roman street (2015) leading to the Roman Forum where one begins a tour of the ancient ruins. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The newly paved Roman street (2015) leading to the Roman Forum where one begins a tour of the ancient ruins. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Even though Samaria is in the West Bank it is one of Israel’s National Parks.

The site is not in good condition, but could become a wonderful destination with some cleaning up and a financial investment in the site. Our photo below shows the 3rd century Roman theater which, according to Murphy-O’Connor, “may rest on an older Herodian one” (The Holy Land). Above the theater there are ruins of an Israelite wall and a Hellenistic wall. On the far left of the theater’s top row of seats you may notice three courses of a late 4th century Hellenistic tower.

The Roman theater at Samaria. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Roman theater at Samaria. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

What becomes of Samaria is not as much a practical question as it is a political one. Tours could easily make a full day tour from Jerusalem, or on the way from Galilee to Jerusalem, visiting Samaria, Mount Gerizim, Jacob’s Well, Shechem, Shiloh, and a few other stops.

There are only a few tourist shops at Samaria because few tourist come. Over the years I have made friends with Mahmud Ghazal and his family at the Samaria Restaurant. They have a nice shop and an excellent restaurant. We have eaten lunch there several times and always enjoyed it. If you have an opportunity to visit Samaria you should plan to be there at noon so you can enjoy a great lunch. (And, important to tour groups, the toilets are clean.) Mahmud is a graduate of UAB. Yes, Alabama readers, that UAB. If he had known I was coming I am sure he would have worn his Roll Tide crimson shirt.

Elizabeth and I with the friendly and helpful owners of The Samaria Restaurant. Photo by David Padfield.

Elizabeth and I with the friendly and helpful owners of the Samaria Restaurant. Photo by David Padfield.

The restaurant is located at the foot of the ancient tel beside the ruins of the Roman Forum.

The Samaria Restaurant is located beside the Roman Forum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Samaria Restaurant is located beside the Roman Forum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The hill of Samaria was bought by Omri, king of Israel (885/84–880 B.C.), to serve as the capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel (1 Kings 16:23-24). The city was destroyed by the Assyrians in 721 B.C.

By New Testament times Samaria had been rebuilt by Herod the Great who had also erected one of his temples to the Emperor Augustus. Philip, one of the seven servants appointed by the church at Jerusalem (Acts 6:5), later went to Samaria to preach Christ.

Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. (Acts 8:5 ESV)

As a result of the work initiated by Philip, Samaria was visited by the apostles Peter and John (Acts 8:14).

Samaria (Sebastia) has a long post-biblical tradition associated with the burial of John the Baptist.

If you try to make arrangements with a travel agency, driver or guide in Jerusalem to take you to Samaria, most of them will think you want to go to Nablus to see Jacob’s Well. You must specify that you want to include Sebastia. This is not an area where the traveler with little experience should try alone.

Response about Pentecost Post

It has happened twice that I have been in Jerusalem during Pentecost. I wrote a little note here about the experience of being in Jerusalem as a non-Jew during Pentecost. It was similar to one I had written several years earlier here.

A couple of Israeli readers took exception to some of the things I wrote and made their views known in the comments. I am compelled to make a response to some of the questions and issues raised. You will need to read the comments in order to understand my response.

Modern Interpretation of Pentecost. I have been in Jerusalem twice on Pentecost and I have never seen anyone doing what Leviticus 23:15-22 describes.

15 “You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering.
16 You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the LORD.
17 You shall bring from your dwelling places two loaves of bread to be waved, made of two tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour, and they shall be baked with leaven, as firstfruits to the LORD.
18 And you shall present with the bread seven lambs a year old without blemish, and one bull from the herd and two rams. They shall be a burnt offering to the LORD, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.
19 And you shall offer one male goat for a sin offering, and two male lambs a year old as a sacrifice of peace offerings.
20 And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the LORD for the priest.
21 And you shall make a proclamation on the same day. You shall hold a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work. It is a statute forever in all your dwelling places throughout your generations.
22 “And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 23:15-22 ESV).

Does it need to be said that these offerings were to be made at the tabernacle, or later the temple? Anything short of that has to be a new interpretation.

Count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath [of Passover week]. The seventh Sabbath is the 49th day. The 50th day is the first day of the week, known in the New Testament as the Lord’s Day (Revelation 1:10).

Neither in Leviticus 23 nor Deuteronomy 16:9-12 is there anything about the Feast of Weeks “celebrating the gift of the Torah.”

Sabbath + Pentecost “amounts to a two-day holiday.” My USA readers probably had no problem with this. When a national holiday comes on Monday, those who do not work on Saturday frequently say they have a three-day holiday. We know that each day is separate and only one is the national holiday. Sorry that I did not make this clearer for other readers. I know that I did not have any hot food at the hotel for two days.

“What you call the Lord’s Supper” was taken once a year. I do my best to speak where the Bible speaks (1 Peter 4:11). The terms/phrases used in the New Testament to describe this meal are Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:20), Lord’s Table (1 Corinthians 10:211), Communion (1 Corinthians 10:16), and Breaking of bread (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 10:16). There is no evidence that the early Christians observed this meal only once a year. The Lord’s Supper was observed on the Lord’s Day. Did ancient Jews only keep the Sabbath once a year?

The earliest Christians were Jews. Full agreement. The book of Acts makes this abundantly clear. They were slow to recognize Gentiles as children of God. We see this discussed in some detail in Acts 15, and the books of Galatians, Romans, and Hebrews.

Law of Moses or Apostolic Doctrine? Those Jews who accepted the gospel of Christ on that Pentecost when it was first preached in its fullness did not continue in the teaching of Moses. The biblical text says,

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:42)

Interesting, isn’t it? That these Jews from every nation under heaven (Acts 2:5) should come to Jerusalem following the teaching of Moses, and that about 3,000 of them would begin following the teaching of the Apostles, is one of the most surprising things in Scripture.

My statement, “It would be wonderful to see the gospel freely preached again in this city as it was on that first Pentecost after the death and resurrection of Jesus nearly two thousand years ago” has nothing to do with censorship. I understand that the preaching on Pentecost was in fulfillment of Isaiah 2.

2 It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it,
3 and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:2-3 ESV)

The early Christians gradually drifted away from the original teaching of the New Testament. As a Christian who seeks to follow the teaching of Christ and His apostles, I can, and do, make this statement in my own hometown.

Lack of knowledge and anti-Semitism. It is popular these days to accuse one with whom we disagree of being racist, sexist, homophobic, intolerant, or anti-Semitic. While I grant that I may have a lack of knowledge on this subject, the charge of anti-Semitism is absurd.

I have devoted my entire adult life to serving and teaching the message of Jesus Christ. Here are just a few things I believe regarding Him.

  • He is the Divine Word who was made flesh, the son of David, the son of Abraham (John 1:1-14; Matthew 1:1).
  • This same one who was descended from David according to the flesh “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:4)
  • He said, “Salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22).
  • This very people “crucified and killed” him by the hands of lawless men (Acts 2:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15).

Paul, who called himself “a Hebrew of Hebrews” (Philippians 3:5), used the illustration of the olive tree to say that some of the natural branches have been broken off and that the Gentiles have been grafted in (Romans 11:17). He also said:

And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. (Romans 11:23)

A little church in Nazareth has a beautiful olive tree with a couple of grafts on it in their front yard. I think this may have been intentional on their part to recognize their place in the Lord’s great plan of salvation.

An olive tree in Nazareth with a graft. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

An olive tree in Nazareth with a graft. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

If believing these things makes me anti-Semitic, then I suppose I must acknowledge it, but I think it teaches that some of the Jews accepted Jesus as the Christ (Messiah), and that others did not.

Simon Peter’s sermon to Jews on Pentecost, and his sermon at the house of Cornelius, the first Gentile convert, illustrate that the Lord’s requirements for salvation are now the same (Acts 2; Acts 10-11).

One final word. This does not mean that the Old Testament (the Hebrew Bible) is cast aside. I understand the Old Testament to be foundational for a proper understanding of the New Testament (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11). These inspired texts say that the Old Testament is for our learning, not for our law. The New Testament is the complete and final revelation of God to man (Ephesians 3:1-5).

It may come as a surprise to some non-Christians that the churches with whom I am associated generally have more classes, for both children and adults, in the Old Testament than in the New Testament at any given class period.

It is comforting to me to understand that in Christ Jesus I am a seed of Abraham and an heir of the great promise of Genesis 12:

… I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3 ESV)

And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (Galatians 3:29 ESV)

Other posts about the importance of Pentecost may be found at the following links.

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