Category Archives: Culture

Arson suspected at Tabgha, Church of Multiplication

Haaretz reports (here, premium edition) this morning the suspected arson at the Church of the Multiplication on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee at Heptapegon (= Tabgha). A storage room and offices were damaged in the fire.

The church is claimed by Catholics to be the site of the miracle of the feeding of the multitudes by Jesus (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6). Egeria described the site in her fourth century travel diary and claimed it to be the site of the feeding of the multitudes. Some also claim that this is the site of Dalmanutha (Mark 8:10).

I am among those who are uncertain that the area of Tabgha is the site of Dalmanutha, and rather certain that this is not the site of the feeding of the Five Thousand. It is, however, a beautiful location where one can study and meditate about the Biblical miracle.

Our photo shows the location of the property associated with the Church of the Multiplication. Perhaps even more significant is the clarity of this view as it shows the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee and the Golan Heights.

A view of the area of Tabgha from the west. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A view of the area of Tabgha from the west. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

There are many ancient mosaics in the floor of the church. The most famous one is the mosaic of the loaves and fishes.

The mosaic of the loaves and fishes at Tabgha. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The mosaic of the loaves and fishes at Tabgha. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Archaeological Store Rooms Damaged. In a related matter, two days ago The Times of Israel reports (here) the arson of storerooms containing 4,000 year-old artifacts from an emergency excavation at Tel Kishon near Mount Tabor.

Bronze age tools and artifacts damaged in the fire. Photo: Israel Antiquites Authority

Bronze age tools and artifacts damaged in the fire. Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority.

When we destroy that of which we are ignorant we reflect lack of appreciation of any history. It happens all over the world. If we destroy that with which we disagree, what will happen when someone disagrees with us?

Jesus spoke about that when Simon Peter tried to defend Him with a sword.

Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. (Matthew 26:52 ESV)

Alpine Europe tour group photo

We had a wonderful group of tour members on our recent Alpine Europe tour of Austria, Germany, and Switzerland (and we stopped in tiny Lichtenstein, too). Most of these individuals had traveled with us before to a wide variety of places. For one lady it was her 13th tour, and I think for one couple it was their 15th tour with us.

Aside from having all tour details per-arranged, the thing that makes a tour like this special is the association with new and former friends. We have been truly blessed to travel with folks like this for the past 49 years. Most of our tours have been to what we call the Bible Lands – Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Italy. On some of the earlier tours we visited Crete, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. But we have made tours to many other parts of the world, including one tour around the world.

On each tour we usually locate a photographer who makes and prints photos and sells them to the group. On this tour we made our own photo. I am sure that friends of these tour members will enjoy seeing it.

We gathered on the steps of the Wieskirche along the Romantic Road between Oberammergau and Neuschwanstein in Germany.

Alpine Europe Group Photo at Wieskirche along the Romantic Road.

Alpine Europe Group Photo at Wieskirche along the Romantic Road.

Our tour included persons from AL, CA, FL, IA, IN, KS, NM, SC, and TX.

For those who understand, this was a tour of men and angells.

Click on the photo for a larger image.

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.

He’s just a carpenter

Jesus is called a carpenter in Mark 6:3. In Matthew’s account He is called the carpenter’s son. The study note in the NET Bible suggests that this was probably a derogatory term. Those who used the term thought of Him as “a common laborer like themselves.”

Lane says the term carpenter (Greek tekton) “commonly designates a worker in any hard material: wood, metal or stone, and so comes to mean a builder.”

Louw-Nida says,

There is every reason to believe that in biblical times one who was regarded as a tekton would be skilled in the use of wood and stone and possibly even metal.

A carpenter’s shop is exhibited at Nazareth Village. It is correct in showing tools for stone cutting as well as wood working.

A carpenter's shop at Nazareth Village, showing woodwork and stone work. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A carpenter’s shop at Nazareth Village, showing wood work and stone work. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This post is about what the term carpenter implies, but we concur with Josh McDowell that He is More Than A Carpenter.

New wine is for fresh wineskins

When Jesus was questioned by the scribes of the Pharisees about how His practices differed from those of John the Baptist, He gave three similar illustrations to teach the newness of His teaching and practice.

And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made.  And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins– and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.” (Mark 2:19-22 ESV)

The third illustration is about putting new wine into old wineskins. As the wine ferments it expands and stretches the wineskin. If an old wineskin is used, the expansion will cause the wineskin to explode.

Our photo below shows an animal skin being use for churning, but it is easy to understand wine being placed in an animal skin like this.

A Bedouin at Petra using an animal skin for churning. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A Bedouin at Petra using an animal skin for churning. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Instead of using stone jars for storing new wine, Klinck says,

More likely, however, they would use wineskins for this purpose. These are the “bottles” of the Bible. A wine bottle was made out of a goatskin, sewn together where it had been cut to remove it from the carcass. This formed a sack that could be tied at the neck and hung up. The resilience of the new rawhide took up whatever expansion might result from the process of fermentation. Of course, no one would think of putting “new wine into old wineskins,” since the old dried and cracked skins from the previous year were unsafe (Matthew 9:17). (Klinck and Kiehl, Everyday Life in Bible Times, p. 54).

The Gibeonites tricked the Israelites with old wineskins that were “worn-out and torn and mended” (Joshua 9:4). They claimed that the wineskins “were new when we filled them, and behold, they have burst” (Joshua 9:13 ESV)

Elihu used the same illustration in defense of his much speaking.

I also will answer with my share; I also will declare my opinion. For I am full of words; the spirit within me constrains me. Behold, my belly is like wine that has no vent; like new wineskins ready to burst. I must speak, that I may find relief; I must open my lips and answer. (Job 32:17-20 ESV)

They removed the roof and let down the bed

During the ministry of Jesus at Capernaum four men brought a paralyzed man to see Jesus, likely seeking healing, but there were so many people in the house that it was not possible to get in to see Jesus.

And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. (Mark 2:4 ESV)

Reconstructed house at Nazareth Village showing roof construction. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Reconstructed house at Nazareth Village showing roof construction. Notice the few weeds growing on the roof. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Craig S. Keener describes the way the roofs of these houses were constructed.

The roof was approached by an outside staircase, so they could reach it unimpeded. The roof of single-story homes was sturdy enough for walking but was normally made of branches and rushes laid over the roof’s beams and covered with dried mud; thus one could dig through it. (The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament)

M. J. Selman says,

Roofs were constructed from beams covered with branches and a thick layer of mud plaster, though the rafters were sometimes supported by a row of pillars along the middle of the room. Cylindrical stone rollers about 60 cm. [23.6 inches] long were used to keep the roofs flat and waterproof, though roofs needed to be re-plastered annually prior to the rainy season to seal cracks which had developed during the summer heat. (New Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed.)

The picture below shows a reconstructed house at Nazareth Village with a roof like the one mentioned above. Notice the beams made from small trees, the mud on the top, and some grass and weeds growing in it.

Reconstructed house at Nazareth Village showing roof construction. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Reconstructed house at Nazareth Village showing roof construction. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo shows a portion of a roof made from wood and mud. You will also notice a roof roller on the roof. After the winter rains it was necessary to pack the roof with a roof roller. Roof rollers are commonly discovered during archaeological excavations.

Typical roof from NT times with roof roller. Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Typical roof from NT times with roof roller. Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The account of Luke, a gentile physician, adds an interesting point that creates a small problem in interpretation.

But since they found no way to carry him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down on the stretcher through the roof tiles right in front of Jesus. (Luke 5:19 NET)

Did you notice the reference to roof tiles? One of the Translator’s Notes in the NET Bible discusses this problem.

There is a translational problem at this point in the text. The term Luke uses is keramos. It can in certain contexts mean “clay,” but usually this is in reference to pottery (see BDAG 540 s.v. 1). The most natural definition in this instance is “roof tile” (used in the translation above). However, tiles were generally not found in Galilee. Recent archaeological research has suggested that this house, which would have probably been typical for the area, could not have supported “a second story, nor could the original roof have been masonry; no doubt it was made from beams and branches of trees covered with a mixture of earth and straw” (J. F. Strange and H. Shanks, “Has the House Where Jesus Stayed in Capernaum Been Found?” BAR 8, no. 6 [Nov/Dec 1982]: 34). Luke may simply have spoken of building materials that would be familiar to his readers.

There are other possible interpretations, but I hope this information with the photos will help you better understand the biblical text.

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.