Category Archives: Church History

Hadrian’s Arch in Antalya (Attalia)

Many of the Roman ruins we see in the Bible World belong to the early second century. This illustrates the tremendous power of the Empire throughout the region at that time.

Hadrian ruled from A.D. 117-138. We know that one of the major persecutions against Christians came during his reign. Many arches were constructed to honor him. The most impressive Roman ruin in Antalya (Attalia of Acts 14:25) is Hadrian’s Arch. The three-arch gateway was extensively restored between 1960 and 1963.

Hadrian's Arch in Antalya, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Hadrian’s Arch in Antalya, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The area around the arch bustles with tourists.

JERUSALEM in IMAX

Friday morning my wife and I joined three Biblical Studies faculty from Florida College, and a handful of other people, in the MOSI IMAX giant screen theater in Tampa to see the National Geographic Entertainment presentation of JERUSALEM.

The original producers of this film have been promoting it for several years, as you can see from the video that we posted nearly three years ago here. The current production is about 45 minutes in length. The thing that really makes the difference is the IMAX giant screen presentation.

JERUSALEM features three young ladies representing the three religions claiming Jerusalem as the home of their origin: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The girls guide the viewers through the crowded, winding streets of the Old City to the various religious sites of the city. There are a few scenes in other parts of the country: Capernaum, Caesarea Maritima, Joppa, Masada, and the Dead Sea. The only scholar represented in the film is Dr. Jodi Magness. She provides informed commentary about the archaeology of Jerusalem, but it is limited. Views of the Givati garage excavation are shown, but no historical context is provided.

For my part, the hoards of people scurrying through Damascus Gate, or to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, or to the Western Wall is overdone. The three young ladies who serve as guides almost come face to face in one scene, but admit that they still know very little about one another.

The best feature of the film (not shown at all in the video below), is taking ruins that remain and building reconstructions of the city in biblical times. One scene begins at the corner of the temple mount at Robinson’s Arch and builds into a model of the the biblical temple.

I don’t know if the film will be shown in Tampa, but it is showing in several cities. A full list, and other info about the film, is available here.

Jerusalem | Filmed in Imax 3D from JerusalemGiantScreen on Vimeo.

Having spent much time walking in the old city and viewing it from above, I knew where I was (in the film), but I am not sure that those who have little or no acquaintance with the city will find it anything but confusing.

The aerial photo below was made from the east. It shows the western slopes of the Mount of Olives, the Kidron Valley, the Temple Mount, and a portion of the Old City buildings.

Aerial view of Jerusalem from the east. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of Jerusalem from the east. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

 

Traveling in Turkey

“Turkey? Why would you want to go to Turkey?” That is a question I have been asked a number of times over the years since my first visit in 1968. My response usually goes something like this. If you are interested in Bible history, Turkey is very important both for the Old Testament and the New Testament. Of course, the land was not called Turkey at the time of the Bible, but had various names depending on the historical period and the geographical region.

Think of the Old Testament history.

  • It is possible that the Garden of Eden was located somewhere in the mountains of eastern Turkey near the source of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers (Genesis 2:10-14).
  • For sure, Noah’s Ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat (ancient Urartu) (Genesis 8:4).
  • Haran, and the region known as Padan-aram in Mesopotamia, became the ancestral home of Abraham and his family before he went to the land of Canaan (Genesis 28:2; et al.).
  • Bible kings were involved in battles with world powers at the town of Carchemish (Jeremiah 46:2).
  • The Hittites lived in central and eastern Turkey (1 Kings 10:28-29; 2 Kings 7:6). Kue designates Cilicia in Turkey.
  • Both the Assyrians and Babylonians, enemies of Israel, were active in this region (Isaiah 10:9; Jeremiah 46:1-2).
  • The Euphrates and the Tigris, great rivers of Turkey, were important in Bible times (Isaiah 27:12; Genesis 2:14; Daniel 10:4). The Euphrates is often designated simply as the River (Isaiah 11:16).

Think of New Testament history.

  • Paul was a native of Tarsus in Cilicia (Acts 21:39). Timothy was a native of Lystra (Acts 16:1).
  • From Acts 11 onward throughout the New Testament, most of the events take place in Roman Asia Minor.
  • The town we know as Antioch in (the Roman province of) Syria is now located in the Hatay province of Turkey (Acts 11; Galatians 2:11).
  • Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark sailed from Seleucia to begin the first missionary journey (Acts 13:4).
  • With the exception of Salamis and Paphos in Cyprus, all of the places associated with the first journey are in Turkey (Acts 13-14).
  • Many of the towns visited on the second and third journey are in Turkey (Acts 15-16).
  • Paul made stops at the coastal town of Myra on the voyage to Rome (Acts 27:5).
  • Paul’s letters to the Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon were address to churches or persons in Asia Minor.
  • Peter’s two letters were addressed to Christians in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, now in Turkey (1 Peter 1:1; 2 Peter 3:1). Peter also visited Antioch in Syria (Galatians 2:11).
  • The apostle John spent some of his latter years in Ephesus, and addressed the book of Revelation to seven churches in Asia (Revelation 1:4, 11).
Hot air balloons are moved by the wind over the lunar-like landscape of Cappadocia while the pilots control their altitude. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Hot air balloons are moved by the wind over the lunar-like landscape of Cappadocia while the pilots control their altitude. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Post New Testament church history.

  • The Book of Revelation describes events that would affect the saints of Asia (Revelation 1:4). The information we have about the Roman Emperors and the temples erected to their honor throughout Turkey fit perfectly with what we read in Revelation.
  • The Ecumenical Councils met in the place we now call Turkey in the following cities: Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, Chalcedon.
  • Some of the better known early church fathers are associated with places in Turkey.

Good enough reasons to visit Turkey, I’d say.

Note: This is intended only as a suggestive list; not a complete one.

 

A visit to Nicaea in Bithynia.

Today  my friend Leon and I made a 10 hour trip from Istanbul to Iznik, Turkey. Iznik is the name of ancient Nicaea (Nicea) in Bithynia. This is a region of Asia Minor into which Paul was not allowed by the Spirit to travel. Instead, he was directed to go down to Troas where he received the call to come over into Macedonia.

And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. (Acts 16:7-8 ESV

Bithynia is across from Istanbul on the south side of the Sea of Marmara. It is a beautiful mountainous region with valleys filled with olive trees and fruit orchards.

The Epistles of Peter are addressed to saints living in Bithynia, but no specific towns are mentioned (1 Peter 1:1; 2 Peter 3:1).

The Roman province of Bithynia. BibleAtlas.org.

The Roman province of Bithynia. BibleAtlas.org.

The modern town of Iznik utilizes the layout of ancient Nicaea. Nicaea was the site of the first and seventh of the ecumenical councils held between 325 and 787 A.D. Hopefully I will be able to write more about these councils and their importance in the history of Christianity at a later time.

For today I wanted to share a photo I made of a little lighthouse in the fresh water Lake Iznik.

Lighthouse in Lake Iznik. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Lighthouse in Lake Iznik. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Excavations at Derbe

The first excavations ever have begun at the ancient city of Derbe. Derbe was visited by the Apostle Paul and Barnabas on the first preaching journey (Acts 14:20-21). Paul returned with Silas on the second journey (Acts 16:1).

Today our tour group visited Kerti Hüyuk, the site widely believed to be ancient Derbe. Several squares were opened on the top of the mound in 2013.

Recent excavation at Derbe. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, May 14, 2014.

Recent excavation at Derbe. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, May 14, 2014.

The report in a Turkish newspaper quotes Associate Professor Mehmet Tekocak of Selçuk University:

So far the excavations have unearthed ancient wall remains. “There are brick and stone walls. We found graves and skeletons inside the walls. Anthropologic works will reveal the ages and genders of these skeletons and how they died. Works show us that this place received a lot of damage, and most architectural materials were removed for use in other places. This place was seen as a kind of stone quarry. We found the remains of a church-like structure, and we believe that we will find new structures as excavations continue. Even these remains alone show us that a Christian society lived in this tumulus,” Tekocak said.

There is no hint as to the age of the church-like structure.

See the report in Hurriyet Daily News here. We look forward to future reports from Derbe.

HT: HolyLandPhotos Blog.

The tour photo

We spent the full day in Cappadocia. As usual with our tour, we have a local photographer to make a group photo at one of the interesting spots we visit. Our photo this time was made at Uchisar. Do you know anyone in our group?

Ancient Crossroads Tour of Biblical and Historical Turkey. Photo taken at Uchisar in Cappadocia. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ancient Crossroads Tour of Biblical and Historical Turkey. Photo taken at Uchisar in Cappadocia. Click on photo for a larger image.

The Bible tells us that Jews of Cappadocia were present in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:9). Peter wrote his epistles to saints scattered throughout Cappadocia and other places in Roman Asia Minor (modern Turkey).

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,  2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. (1 Peter 1:1-2)

John Freely describes Cappadocia in these words:

“Most of this part of Cappadocia is covered with a deep layer of tufa, a soft stone of solidified mud, ash and lava which once poured down from the now extinct volcanoes on Hasan Dagi and Ericiyes Dagi, the two great mountain peaks of Cappadocia. In the eons since then the rivers of the region have scoured canyons, gorges, valleys and gulleys through the soft and porous stone, and the elements have eroded it into fantastic crags, folds, turrets, pyramids, spires, needles, stalagmites, and cones, creating a vast outdoor display of stone sculptures in an incredible variety of shapes and colours” (The Companion Guide to Turkey, 238).

In the centuries after New Testament times many Christians settled in this volcanic region of perhaps 50,000 cones.

Church History book available for Kindle

Do you have a good book on Church History? I have observed that many church members are generally ignorant of church history. A few months ago I learned that two books by Zondervan were to be available in Kindle format for $3.99 each. The second volume in the series was available, but there was some delay in getting the first volume online. Volume two is available today for $3.99. For how long I do not know.

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Everett Ferguson’s Church History ,Volume One: From Christ to Pre-Reformation: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political Context: 1, is currently available for the Kindle for $3.99. The regular price for the Kindle edition is $44.99. This book begins with the historical setting for the coming of Christ and the establishment of the church. It ends at about 1300 A.D.

Ferguson is widely respected as a scholar in early church history. With a Ph.D. from Harvard, he is professor emeritus of Bible and distinguished scholar-in-residence at Abilene Christian University. He is author of several books on early Christianity.

An eBook like this could be helpful for travelers visiting the Bible lands. In Turkey, for example, one sees the development of the Church Councils. In Italy there is the rise of the papacy and Catholicism. The Crusades involved numerous countries, including Israel. Sections on monasticism and the rise of Islam can be helpful as well. Ferguson also covers the “Dark Ages” and sets the stage for the earliest Reformation efforts.

Our photo shows ruins of The Church of Mary, also called the Church Council Church, at Ephesus. In A.D. 431 the Council of Ephesus was conducted here.

Church Council Church at Ephesus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Church of Mary (Church Council Church) at Ephesus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

HT: Brooks Cochran