Category Archives: Culture

An Irish Memory

We have enjoyed several tours to Ireland. Some were in combination with the British Isles and others were limited to Ireland. The key words were lush, green, and beautiful.

Ferrell Jenkins Tour Group along the Ring of Kerry in 2010.

Ferrell Jenkins Tour Group along the Ring of Kerry in 2010.

Most, if not all, tour groups stop at the Kerry Bog Village on the Ring of Kerry. This village is a reminder of the great Irish Famine (1845–1852) during which one million people died as a direct result of the famine. The web page says,

It is estimated that a further one million immigrated to countries such as Canada, U.S.A, U.K & Australia. Sadly not all passengers made it to their final destination alive.

Bog Ponies at the Kerry Bog Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Bog Ponies at the Kerry Bog Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Colonel Matthew Lyon (Revolutionary War) was one of the forebears of my maternal grandmother. He was born in Wicklow County Ireland, in 1746 and came to America in 1755. His portrait hangs in the Vermont State House.

Index of articles – the Romans and the ministry of Jesus

The Romans had occupied the land they later called Palestine for nearly a century when Jesus began His ministry. This means that there was no one alive at that time who remembered when the Romans were not in control.
The writings of Josephus cover this period and New Testament writers called attention to the Roman rulers.

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. (Luke 2:1 ESV)

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, (Luke 3:1 ESV)

Roman soldiers roamed the country and eventually destroyed the Holy City Jerusalem. The culture of Rome can still be seen in the ruins of various cities.

Roman Centurion and a Charioteer at Jerash (the RACE show at Jerash). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I am not sure that this list of posts about the Roman empire in Palestine is a complete one, but I think it will be helpful as you study the impact of Rome and its culture on the ministry of Jesus and His apostles. We could compile another list specifically from the book of Acts, the New Testament Epistles, and the book of Revelation. Use the Search Box to locate other subjects you may be looking for.

My Thoughts on the Nile in 2009

This is a re-post from USA Inauguration Day in 2009.

Shortly before sunset, January 20, 2009, I made a few photos of the Nile River looking toward the west bank of the river. I thought I would share this one with you.

Sunset on the Nile, January 20, 2009. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sunset on the Nile, January 20, 2009. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

We are anchored on the Nile a few miles south of Luxor. From my cabin on the Tu Ya cruise boat I am watching the Al Jazeera Network live coverage of the inauguration ceremonies in Washington. The choice of the majority of voters on November 2 was not my choice, but I must say that I am proud at this moment to be an American.

The American ideal of freedom and justice for all is a noble one. Surely there are times when this ideal is not met, but it remains the dream that holds us together, many as one. The diversity of our nation is a testimony to the vitality of that dream.

The inaugural ceremony is the same whether watching it live in Washington, on Al Jezeera in Egypt, or on CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox, or one of the other networks in the United States. Well, maybe. The thing that makes the difference is the commentary afterwards and the news chosen to run underneath the live event.

The Kangal sheep dog of Anatolia

Shepherds in every part of the world have problems they must contend with as they care for their sheep. The Bible uses the analogy of the sheep and the wolves in several places. Jesus warned about the “hired hand” who would abandon the sheep.

He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. (John 10:12 ESV)

Within the past few years I have come across an interesting practice used by shepherds in Anatolia (Central Turkey), and only recently came across an article in a 2003 issue of Saudi Aramco World about the same shepherds. It begins this way,

There are grey wolves in Turkey, thousands of them. There are also bears, jackals, and—recorded just last year for the first time in a quarter century—Anatolian leopards. All are the enemies of sheep and goats. As predators, they live at the expense of the prey animals, the meat-eaters against the grass-eaters. But on Turkey’s Anatolian plateau, the prey have a strong friend, more than a match for any predator: the kangal dog.

On our last visit to the ancient Hittite city of Hattusas (modern Boghazkale) we saw a large number of sheep grazing over the ruins of the ancient city. Our guide said that the dogs we saw with the shepherds were a special breed of dog that were common in Anatolia, but he could not recall the name of the dogs. In fact, he said might be a slightly different breed from the one he was thinking about.

Shepherd at hattusas with his sheepdog. Notice the collar that is specially prepared to protect these dogs from wolves and other wild animals. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Shepherd at Hattusas with his sheepdog. Notice the collar that is specially prepared to protect these dogs from wolves and other wild animals. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The shepherds were pleased to show us the spiked collar. A wolf, or other wild animal, would go at the throat of the dog, but the spikes would be a strong deterrent. Notice also that the ears of this dog have been cropped. This, according to the article, is “intended to deprive wolves of a tooth-hold.” The author says,

Shepherds frequently dock their dogs’ ears, saving them the trouble of doctoring wounds when they tangle with a wolf. But the heavy spiked collar they wear, called a çengel, or hook, seems enough to keep even the most determined enemy from biting their heads.

Here is a close-up, and you may click on it for an even larger image, showing the spikes or hook.

A close up showing the spikes on the collar of the dog. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A close up showing the spikes on the collar of the dog. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Shepherds of biblical times carried a rod and a staff (Psalm 23:4). The rod could be used to ward off an attacking animal. The staff was used by the shepherd as he made his way up and down the hillsides, and to separate the sheep.

Source: Werner, Louis. “Shepherd’s Best Friend.” Saudi Aramco World July/Aug. 2003: 38-43.

Why did Abraham go to Hebron?

A reader sent an Email complimenting the blog and asking for help in answering a question.

“When lot and Abraham parted, lot went down to the dead Sea, while Abraham went up to Hebron. Do you know why he went to Hebron? It seems like such a key question I ought to know the answer to, but [so] far it has evaded me!”

Not sure that I will be able to satisfy the curiosity of the reader, but perhaps these comments will help.

Let’s begin with a survey of Abraham’s early time in the land of Canaan. (All of the references are to the book of Genesis unless otherwise indicated.) I suggest that you follow along in your Bible atlas.

View west to the Shechem valley between Mount Gerizim (left) and Mount Ebal (right). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View west to the Shechem valley between Mount Gerizim (left) and Mount Ebal (right). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

  • First stop at Shechem (Genesis 12:6).
  • Later he settled between Bethel and Ai (12:8).
  • Took a trip to Egypt and then returned to the Negev before going back between Bethel and Ai (12:10; 13:1, 3). There was not available land to accommodate the herds of both Abraham and Lot (13:6).
  • Important fact. The Canaanite and Perizites were in the land. Abraham and Lot were strangers and had to move to empty spaces, or perhaps negotiate grazing rights. Lot chose to go to the well-watered Jordan Valley as far as Sodom (13:10).
  • The LORD spoke to Abraham. “The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, ‘Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward,  for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever.  I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted'” (13:14-16 ESV).
  • The LORD instructed Abraham: “Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.” (13:17 ESV).
  • “So Abram moved his tent and came and settled by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the LORD” (13:18 ESV).
  • Abram later rescued Lot at Dan, and continued to chase the eastern armies north of Damascus (14:14).
  • A statement of the extent of the promised land is given in 15:18.
  • Abram later lived in Beersheba (21:31).
A beautiful, fertile valley along the central mountain range between Bethlehem and Hebron. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A beautiful, fertile valley along the central mountain range between Bethlehem and Hebron. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Answer. The trip to Hebron was simply part of the overall plan to walk the land that the LORD was to give to Abraham’s descendants.

It is important to notice that the Canaanite towns visited by Abraham lie along the central mountain range. Rasmussen identifies this range,

The second major longitudinal zone is the central mountain range, which runs from Galilee in the north to the Negev Highlands in the south. (Rasmussen, Carl G. Zondervan Atlas of the Bible. Rev. Ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010. Print.)

The central mountain range is sometimes identified today as the Patriarchs Way or Route.

Patriarchs Route between Bethlehem and Hebron. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Patriarchs Route between Bethlehem and Hebron. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

From time to time I have cited The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament because it provides succinct comments related to the cultural background of biblical events.

The city of Hebron is located in the Judean hill country (c. 3,300 feet above sea level) approximately nineteen miles southeast of Jerusalem and twenty-three miles east of Beersheba. Ancient roadways converge on this site coming east from Lachish and connecting with the road north to Jerusalem, indicating its importance and continuous settlement. Its springs and wells provide ample water for olive and grape production and would have supported a mixed agricultural-pastoral economy such as that described in Genesis 23. Hebron is said to have been founded “seven years before Zoan” (Avaris in Egypt), dating it to the seventeenth century B.C. (see comment on Num 13:22). The construction of an altar here, as at Bethel, transforms this into an important religious site, and its subsequent use as a burial place for the ancestors established its political importance (reflected in the Davidic narrative—2 Sam 2:1–7; 15:7–12). (Matthews, Victor Harold, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament. electronic ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000. Print.)

The cave of Machpelah, burial place of Abraham and Sarah, and others from the patriarchal period. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The cave of Machpelah, burial place of Abraham and Sarah, and others from the patriarchal period. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Understanding the land helps one better understand the biblical text.

Visiting Iznik (Nicea, Nicaea), Turkey – Part 4

The Seventh Ecumenical Council

The first ecumenical council in the fourth century did not achieve unity among Christians. Oxford theologian Allister McGrath comments about doctrines concerning Jesus in Studies in Doctrine (23).

“Theology is often regarded as idle and pointless speculation about irrelevancies – a harmless, if somewhat pointless, pastime of frustrated academics and bishops with time on their hands. If any area of Christian thought has been characterized by apparently pointless speculation of this sort, it is Christology. Gregory of Nyssa [Nyssa was the ancient name of Nevşehir in Cappadocia.], writing in the fourth century, complained that it was impossible to go out shopping in downtown Constantinople without having to put up with speculation of this sort:”

“Constantinople [modern Istanbul] is full of mechanics and slaves, every one of them profound theologians, who preach in the shops and streets. If you want someone to change a piece of silver, he tells you about how the Son differs from the Father; if you ask the price of a loaf of bread, you are told that the Son is inferior to the Father, if you ask whether the bath is ready, you are told that the Son was created from nothing.”

After five other councils, Nicea would again be host to the seventh and last ecumenical council in A.D. 787. This one would deal with the iconoclastic controversy. Fatih Cimok set forth the question,

“Was it right to make painted or sculpted representations of Jesus and the saints, and direct homage to such images?” (Biblical Anatolia: From Genesis to the Councils, 201)

The conflict remained a matter of doctrinal argument until Leo III enforced iconoclasm (removal of the icons – eikons – or images from the churches) in A.D. 726. Irene, the mother of the infant Constantine VI, wanted to restore the icons. Moving cautiously,

She decided to summon a second council in Nicaea. It was held in the church of St. Sophia, whose restored ruins still survive. Among other things the council declared that icons deserved reverence (Greek proskynesis) but not adoration (Greek latreia) which was due to God alone and condemned the iconoclasts. (Cimok, Biblical Anatolia, 202)

Our photo below show the present state of the building, but it has undergone many changes over the centuries. It is presumed to have been used as a place of Christian worship during the Byzantine period. After damages caused by earthquakes in the 11th century many changes were made in the building. After Orhangazi’s conquest of Iznik in A.D. 1331, the building was converted to a mosque. Notice the top of the minaret to the right of the Turkish flag. The latest remodeling was in 2007. The building now serves as a museum. (Info based on signs at the site.)

Haghia Sophia (Orhan) Mosque in Iznik. It is thought that the 7th Ecumenical Council met in the building at this site. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Hagia Sophia (Orhan) Mosque in Iznik. It is thought that the 7th Ecumenical Council met in the building at this site. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Here is the modern entrance to the building. The names indicate the various historical periods. Ayasofya (= Hagia Sophia or Saint Sofia, the church); Orhan recalls the conquest by Orhan Gazi in 1331 when the building was converted into a mosque (= Camii).

The entrance to the restored Haghia Sofia - Orhan - Mosque. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The entrance to the restored Hagia Sofia – Orhan – Mosque. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo shows the interior of the building. In an enlargement of the apse one can see some faint drawings (icons).

Interior of the Haghia Sophia (Orhan) Mosque in Itnik. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Interior of the Hagia Sophia Church (Orhan) Mosque in Iznik. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The information at the site claims that this was seating for (some of?) the bishops attending the 7th Ecumenical Council. Definitely not a plush assignment.

Seats for the bishops attending the 7th Ecumenical Council. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Seats for the bishops attending the 7th Ecumenical Council. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

After the second Nicean Council icons in the form of mosaics, paintings, or statuary became common in both the Eastern and Western Church. The example below shows the Deesis (enthronement, Christ Pantocrator) from the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (Istanbul). The complete 12th century mosaic shows Jesus flanked by Mary and John the Baptism.

The Deesis from Hagia Sophia in Istanbul shows Jesus enthroned with Mary and John the Baptist on either side. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Deesis from Hagia Sophia in Istanbul shows Jesus enthroned with Mary and John the Baptist on either side. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Our next article will show you some of the wall and the gates of Iznik/Nicea.

Getting as close as possible – “zero on the border”

Saturday afternoon I was reading an article about the Turkish military moving across the Euphrates River at Karkamiş (Carchemish) into the Syrian town of Jarabulus. In modern times it is not possible to follow a line of travel that one might wish—for example, following the travels of Abraham, or the movement of the Babylonians and the Egyptians at the battle of Carchemish.

We do our best to get as close as possible. In Syria I have visited the Euphrates river about 25 miles south of Jarabulus/Carchemish, but in Turkey I have been to the base of the Tell of the ancient city of Carchemish, and seen the bridge crossing the river to Jarabulus. A travel expert in Istanbul once described Carchemish to me as being “Zero on the border.”

The mound of ancient Carchemish overlooking the Euphrates River. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.The mound of ancient Carchemish overlooking the Euphrates River. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The mound of ancient Carchemish overlooking the Euphrates River. To the left of the tell you may get a glimpse of a blue structure above the trees. That is the bridge crossing the Euphrates River. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next picture shows the bridge that crosses the Euphrates. Click on the photo for a larger image. A small portion of the ancient city of Carchemish is in Syria.

Tell Carchemish is mostly hidden behind the trees. The bridge crossing the Euphrates River is clearly visible. Syrian hills are visible in the distance. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.Tell Carchemish is mostly hidden behind the trees. The bridge crossing the Euphrates River is clearly visible. Syrian hills are visible in the distance. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tell Carchemish is mostly hidden behind the trees. The bridge crossing the Euphrates River is clearly visible. Syrian hills are visible in the distance. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The ancient site of Carchemish (modern Karkamiş in Turkey) was identified by George Smith in 1876, and later excavated by the British Museum beginning in 1911. The various directors included Hogarth, Thompson, Wooley, and Lawrence (of Arabia). Many remains of Assyrian and Neo-Hittite periods were uncovered.

Carchemish is mentioned only a few times in the Bible, but it was one of the most significant cities in the ancient Bible world.

  • Isaiah made a reference to Carchemish (Isaiah 10:9). The city had been sacked by Sargon II in 717 B.C.
  • Pharaoh Necho of Egypt went up to Carchemish on the Euphrates to assist the Assyrians against the Babylonians in 609 B.C. (2 Chronicles 35:20; Jeremiah 46:2). King Josiah of Judah tried to stop him, but was killed.

One of the Babylonian Chronicles says that Nebuchadnezzar “crossed the river to go against the Egyptian army which lay in Carchemish.”

As we left Carchemish on our way to Gaziantep we saw a local Kurdish shepherd tending a few sheep. Shepherds like to take the sheep to the wheat fields after they have been cut. Times do change. Another photo I have shows clearly that this shepherd is using a piece of PVC pipe as a staff. He is wearing the baggy pants typical of older Kurdish men.

Shepherd with sheep near Carchemish, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Shepherd with sheep near Carchemish, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Some other interesting things happened that afternoon at Carchemish, but I will save them for another post.