Category Archives: Book of Acts

Pentecost in Jerusalem

Last evening at sundown the Jews began to celebrate their modern interpretation of  Pentecost (Shavu’ot). Christians know this from the Old Testament scriptures as the feast of weeks (Leviticus 23:15; Deuteronomy 16:9). Last evening we saw many Jews heading for the Western Wall through the Damascus Gate when we were there. The Orthodox Jews were the easiest to detect because of their distinctive dress.

Pentecost comes 50 days after Passover. It follows a sabbath and amounts to a two-day holiday here in Jerusalem. Those who are not religious may be seen at recreational places enjoying the time off as many persons in America do on any holiday. Some of the religious take the family to a hotel and allow non-Jews to serve them the food they wish. The hotel has a Shabbat elevator. You only make the mistake of getting on it once. It requires no work (= pushing the button for your floor), but it takes a long time to get where you are going. The elevator is programmed to stop at each floor. I don’t recall seeing anyone using the one in our hotel.

Back to more important issues. The church had its beginning with the preaching of the gospel in its fullness on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ (Acts 2).

Model of Herod's Temple now displayed on the grounds of the Israel Museum. It was in this large area where the gospel of Christ was first preached in its fullness by Peter and the other Apostles on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Model of Herod’s Temple now displayed on the grounds of the Israel Museum. It was in this large area where the gospel of Christ was first preached in its fullness by Peter and the other Apostles on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Apostle Paul, through his teaching and example, taught the early Christians to take their collection and to observe the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16:1-2; Acts 20:7). On the return from his third preaching journey he hurried to be at Jerusalem for Pentecost.

For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he might not have to spend time in Asia, for he was hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost. (Acts 20:16 ESV)

I did not specifically pick the time of Pentecost to be in Jerusalem; it just happened to coincide with my travel schedule. 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.

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.

“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.

Herod built a temple to Augustus at Samaria

Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel, was well known in Old Testament times. In New Testament times the term Samaria seems to be used of a region rather than a city. See Luke 17:11; John 4:4-7; Acts 1:8; 8:1,9,14; 9:31; 15:3.

The city of Samaria had been rebuilt by Herod the Great and named Sebaste in honor of the Emperor Augustus. The modern name of the small town of Samaria is Sebastia.

Herod the Great built a temple to Augustus with a monumental staircase over the palace area of the Israelite kingdom. The temple was destroyed, but later rebuilt along the same plan by Septimius Severus (Roman emperor, A.D. 193-211). The monumental staircase still stands at the top of the tell.

Monumental steps mark the site of Herod's Temple to Augustus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Monumental steps from the time of Septimius Severus mark the site of Herod’s Temple to Augustus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Some remnants of column capitals rest at the top of the steps.

Remnants of some of the columns rest at the top of the staircase. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Remnants of some of the columns rest at the top of staircase. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This was the second of three temples erected by Herod in honor of Augustus. In two previous posts we have discussed the temple at Caesarea Maritima and the one in the district of Caearea Philippi (perhaps Omrit).

Carl Rasmussen wrote about the Imperial Cult a few months back on his Holy Land Photos’ Blog here. He says,

IMHO we also need to give emphasis to the fact that Herod the Great had built  three Imperial Cult Temples — all less than 40 miles from Nazareth/Capernaum.  By the time that Jesus began his public ministry these Imperial Cult Temples (namely those at Caesarea Maritima, Sebastia, and the one near Caesarea Philippi [= Omrit])  had been in existence for over 40 years!

In my recent lecture at the Florida College Lectureship I discussed two texts from the ministry of Jesus that may be understood in the light of the Emperor worship prevalent in the country. One was the location of Peter’s confession of Jesus: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16 ESV). See a discussion here. The second text I used was the one involving the question, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” (Matthew 22:17). More about that in a post to follow.

Herod’s temple to Roma and Augustus at Caesarea Maritima

We began this theme in the previous post with the temple Herod the Great erected to the emperor Augustus in the region of Caesarea Philippi. We pointed out that Herod had already built temples to the Emperor at Caesarea Maritima and at Sebaste (= Samaria).

Caesarea Maritima was built on the site of Strato’s Tower and became a center of Roman provincial government in Judea. It was located on the main caravan route between Tyre and Egypt. The harbor at Caesarea was built by Herod and named Sebastos (Greek for Augustus) in honor of the Emperor.

Our photo below shows the harbor and the location of the Imperial temple indicated by a red oval. The inner harbor extended over the grassy area, almost to the steps of the temple. When we first began visiting Caesarea it was thought that another building, north of the inner harbor, marked the site of the Augustus temple. It is now identified as a nymphaeum.

Aerial view of Caesarea Maritima showing the Sebastos harbor and the site of the Augustus temple. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of Caesarea Maritima showing the Sebastos harbor and the site of the Augustus temple. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The excavation of the Temple Platform began in 1989 under the direction of Kenneth G. Holum of the University of Maryland. Holum says the temple of Augustus was torn down about 400 A.D. with most of the stone being used in others buildings. The scant ruins enable the archaeologists to determine that the temple measured 95 by 150 feet. He says it towered “perhaps 100 feet from the column bases to the peak.” The temple was made of local sandstone, called kurkar, and coated with a white stucco.

The Temple Platform was covered by an octagonal Byzantine church in the 6th century. Those are the ruins we see today within the Crusader city.

The 6th century Byzantine church was erected over the earlier temple to Augustus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The 6th century Byzantine church was erected over the earlier temple to Augustus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A sign at the site of the Temple, already stained in 2005, provides some indication of the appearance of the building.

An artists' reconstruction of the Temple of Augustus at Caesarea Maritima. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

An artists’ reconstruction of the Temple of Augustus at Caesarea Maritima. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Like the Temple Mount [in Jerusalem], Caesarea’s Temple Platform would have been enclosed at least on the north, east and south by columned porticoes marking the sacred precinct (the termenos). and in the center, uipon a high podium, would have risen the temple that Herod dedicated to the goddess Roma, embodiment of imperial Rome, and to the god-king Augustus. (Kenneth G. Holum)

The article by Kenneth G. Holum appeared in an issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (September/October 2004) devoted to “Herod’s Fun City.” His article is entitled “Building Power: The Politics of Architecture.” There are numerous photographs and diagrams.

Charles Savelle left a comment to the previous post in which he called attention to a few additional sources here. I was especially pleased to see a reference to Caesarea Philippi: Banias the Lost City of Pan by John Francis Wilson. Speaking of the temple at Paneion, he says that the building itself would be scandal enough from the point of view of the Jews in the area.

Wilson states that Herod set the course for Imperial Worship in the east.

“Herod’s strategy in erecting this temple extended far beyond the symbolism represented by the structure itself. He was among the first of all provincial rulers in the empire to commit to the cult of Augustus. His Augustan temples, and the elaborate priesthood they required, may even have been influential in setting the course of imperial worship throughout the Eastern empire. While ostensibly the act of erecting these temples represented loyalty and commitment to Rome, it also furnished a basis for the social and political organization of diverse populations such as those in Herod’s kingdom. At the same time, because the new cult left the traditional local cults intact, it represented no threat to them. In fact, it symbolized an interest in protecting the local culture.” (p. 13)

When we think of Caesarea we recall the major events recorded in the book of Acts.

  • The residence of Pontius Pilate, prefect of Judea (A.D. 26-36), though there is no reference to this fact in the New Testament.
  • The visit of Peter to preach the gospel to the Roman Centurion Cornelius (Acts 10-11).
  • The visit and death of Herod Agrippa I (A.D. 37-44; Acts 12).
  • Paul’s return from his preaching journeys (Acts 18:22; 21:8)
  • The imprisonment of the apostle Paul (A.D. 58-60; Acts 23-26).

We plan to say more about Pilate and his role in upholding the Imperial Cult in Roman Palestine in another post.

Auschwitz happened in my lifetime

Over the years I have been able to visit some places that proved exhilarating. Others have left me somber and contemplative. None more than Auschwitz.

Seventy years ago today Soviet troops entered the camp and liberated the survivors. The iconic sign at the entrance reads “ARBEIT MACHT FREI” (“Work makes free”). There is truth in the statement by itself, but in this case it was deceptive. Reports say that about a million people, mostly Jews, were killed there between 1940 and 1945.

The entrance to Auschwitz. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, 1991.

The entrance to Auschwitz. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, 1991.

Numerous questions come to mind as we contemplate this horrible tragedy. Why did it happen? Why were Jews singled out for elimination? Has something similar, on a lesser scale, happened to other groups? Doubtless. Could it happen again? In the United States? Could Christians face a similar situation?

When we think that we are superior to other humans we overlook the basic premise of creation.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27 ESV)

The apostle Paul spoke to the same issue before the Areopagus in Athens.

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ (Acts 17:26-28 ESV)

The Google Cultural Institute has produced an interesting presentation on the “Evacuation and Liberation of the Auschwitz Camp” here.

Aphek – where the Philistines were encamped

One of the significant battles between Israel and the Philistines took place during the time of Samuel when the ark of the covenant was located in the tent of meeting at Shiloh.

And the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines. They encamped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines encamped at Aphek. (1 Samuel 4:1 ESV)

Israel encamped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines encamped at Aphek in the plain of Sharon. This indicates that the two places were fairly close to each other. Aphek is located about 21 miles west of Shiloh. Ebenezer is about 2 miles east of Aphek.

Herod the Great built a city at the site of Aphek and named it Antipatris in honor of his father.

Herod was also a lover of his father, if any other person ever was so; for he made a monument for his father, even that city which he built in the finest plain that was in his kingdom, and which had rivers and trees in abundance, and named it Antipatris. He also built a wall around a citadel that lay above Jericho, and was a very strong and very fine building, and dedicated it to his mother, and called it Cypros. (Jewish Wars 1:417)

Because Aphek/Antipatris sat on a major south-north and west-east routes, it was dominated by many nations. The dominant feature of the site today is the Turkish fort. Inside are the excavated ruins of buildings from Canaanite to Herodian/Roman times.

The apostle Paul stayed overnight at Antipatris on his journey from Jerusalem to Caesarea (Acts 23:31).

Aphek/Antipatris is known by the modern name Ras el-Ain because it is located at the headwaters of the Yarkon River which flows into the Mediterranean about 11 miles to the west.

Source of the Yarkon River at Aphek/Antipatris. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Source of the Yarkon River at Aphek/Antipatris. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aphex/Antipatris is now dominated by the ruins of an Ottoman fortress.

The Crusader castle of Mirabel, later used as a Turkish fortress. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Ottoman fortress at Aphek/Antipatris. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Our final photo shows the fortress and the source of the Yarkon River from the air. Notice in the previous photos the grass is brown. Those photos were made in August. The next photo was made in December and the grass is green.

Aerial photograph of Aphek/Antipatris. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial photograph of Aphek/Antipatris. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Leon Mauldin has written about Aphek here.

In the next post we plan to write about “The Other Aphek.”