Category Archives: New Testament Times

A nostalgic remembrance

In May, 1984 I directed at tour to Israel, Egypt, and Rome. With the group ready to return from Rome to the USA, I went to Athens to meet two of my Florida College colleagues, Melvin Curry and Phil Roberts. The next day we took a flight to Samos, Greece and a ferry to Kusadasi, Turkey. There we picked up a car and visited the sites of the seven churches of Revelation, and other biblical-related places, in western (or Aegean) Turkey.

The photo below was made at Colossae. It was difficult to get to Colossae in those days, but we had come a long way and did not want to be denied. I had read an article by Dr. Harold Mare about a visit to the site and the wish that an excavation could be undertaken. We followed the dirt road to the bank of the Lycus River where this photo was made. Beyond the tell (huyuk, in Turkish) of Colossae is the snow covered Mount Cadmus. The city of Honaz is hidden from view by the mound.

Melvin Curry and Ferrell Jenkins at Colossae. Photo by Phil Roberts.Melvin Curry and Ferrell Jenkins at Colossae in 1984. Photo by Phil Roberts.

After our visit in Turkey we took a variety of boats to Samos, Patmos, Rhodes, and Crete. From there we took a flight back to Athens to complete our tour together.

Melvin served as chair of Biblical Studies at Florida College prior to my stint. We see each other occasionally and enjoy a short visit now and then. Phil succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the young age of 57 in 2005.

After Phil’s passing, Marty Pickup, a younger teacher at Florida College, and I prepared brief tributes to him. I am posting, for the first time, a link to these tributes at here. Former students and friends might enjoy reading these after a 10 year lapse. Marty died suddenly at the age of 53 in 2013.

Three cities of the Lycus River valley are significant to New Testament studies. The saints at Colossae were the recipients of one of Paul’s epistles (Colossians 1:1-2). Hierapolis is mentioned in Colossians 4:13. Laodicea is mentioned in Colossians (2:1; 4:13-16), and was the recipient of one of the letters of the Book of Revelation (Revelation 1:11; 3:14).

Cities of the Lycus River Valley.

Cities of the Lycus River Valley. Made with Bible Mapper.

That was a wonderful trip, and one of many such personal study trips I have been blessed to make in the Bible World.

The fourth archaeological expedition to Tel Lachish

Announcement has been made through various sources of the anticipated fourth archaeological expedition to Tel Lachish. Archaeologists who have been working at Khirbet Qeiyafa (the Elah Fortress), Yosef Garfinkel, Michael Hasel, and Martin Klingbeil, announced a new excavation at Lachish in the Nov./Dec. 2013 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review. BAR has made available a collection of seven articles dealing with the third excavation (1974-1984) under the direction of Prof. David Ussishkin.

These links may be broken in the near future, but if you have access to the BAR on CD or Logos this may serve as a helpful bibliography.

Lachish is thought to be the second most important city of Judah after Jerusalem. This is based on the fact that both the Assyrians and the Babylonians destroyed the city immediately before moving to Jerusalem. Rehoboam (931-913 B.C.) built Lachish and other cities in Judah for defense (2 Chronicles 11;5-9). Other kings fortified them to be used for the storage of food, oil and wine.

Our photo below shows Tel Lachish from the air. In the bottom left quarter (south west) of the photo you will see a small parking lot with a path leading through them to the gate of the city. To the right of the path, beginning at the grove of trees you will see the siege ramp built by Sennacherib, king of Assyrian, in 701 B.C. The photo also shows the defensive Judean counter-ramp found in the 1983, and described by Ussishkin in the 1984 article.

Tel Lachish from the air. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tel Lachish from the air. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The previous excavations at Tel Lachish (earlier called Tell ed-Duweir) are,

  • A British expedition directed by James L. Starkey and Olga Tufnell – 1932-1938
  • Israeli expedition directed by Yohanan Aharoni, Tel Aviv University, 1966, 1968

Use the Search box to locate other entries on Lachish.

HT: Steven Braman

The Annual Meetings # 3 (SBL)

The annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature were held this year at the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago. I think McCormick Place is the largest facility of this type that I have ever been in. Much walking was required to move between sessions. Fortunately there is a good system of escalators to move between levels of the facility.

With the two scholarly organizations meeting together the book exhibit is extremely large. It is impossible to show it all from floor level. Here is a little glimpse of the Baker Academic section.

The AAR/SBL book exhibit, Chicago, 2012. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The AAR/SBL book exhibit, Chicago, 2012. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

David McClister, my former student and colleague at Florida College, looks over one of the map books on display in the exhibit hall.

Dr. David McClister looks over a map book at AAR/SBL 2012. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Dr. David McClister looks over a map book at AAR/SBL 2012. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I spent my time at the SBL sessions dealing with Places in the Bible World. I attended the session on Polis and Ekklesia: Investigations of Urban Christianity Consultation. The theme for the five speakers this year was Roman Corinth.

The Biblical Lands and Peoples in Archaeology and Text Section covered a number of subjects including Moab, Ammon, the Philistines, first century priestly house in Jerusalem (Shimon Gibson), the possibility of a priestly order at Migdal-Gennesar (Richard Notley), et al.

One session consisted of archaeological reports on the new excavations at Azekah (Oded Lipschits, Yuval Gadot), the ongoing work at Khirbet Qeiyafa (Michael Hasel, Yosef Garfinkel, and Madeleine Mumcuoglu), and the new work at Jezreel (Norma Franklin).

Another session featured studies on the Egyptian invasion of the Sea Peoples (James Hoffmeier), Tell Tayinat (Tim Harrison), Tel Dor (Elizabeth Bloch-Smith), Ashkelon (Daniel Master), and Gath (Aren Maeir). There were a couple of other reports on the Philistines that I did not hear. It is always good to hear these reports first hand, long before the reports find their way into journals and books.

Aerial view of Tel Dor. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of Tel Dor on the Mediterranean Coast. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Dor has a long history extending from the Canaanite period around the 20th century B.C. It was also controlled by the Phoenicians, the Sea People, the Israelites, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans. Dor was abandoned in the third century A.D. (Biblical Archaeology Review, Nov./Dec. 2002).

For Biblical references to Dor, see here.

It is nice to be back home with on time flights.

Monday Meandering — October 10

More about Paul’s Shipwreck on Malta. Gordon Franz reviews Robert Cornuke’s recent video on the claimed evidence for the shipwreck.  The review is available at the Associates for Biblical Research site here, or Gordon’s Life and Land blog here.

Gordon also exposes the photos purporting to show giant human skeletons from Greece here.

Shiloh. Leon Mauldin wrote about our recent visit to Shiloh here, here, here. The tabernacle was located at Shiloh for many years after ancient Israel came into the promised land. See Joshus 18; 1 Samuel 1-4, et al.

Recent excavations at the base of Tel Shiloh. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Recent excavations at the base of Tel Shiloh. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jezreel Excavation. A well-trained team of archaeologists, headed by Norma Franklin and Jennie Ebeling, announces renewal of excavations at Jezreel. Details here.

The new website describes the importance of the location of Jezreel.

We are returning to Jezreel because it is an amazing site with a long history that reflects the rich cultural heritage of the area

Perched on the foothills of the Gilboa mountain range it commands an unparelled view over the valley below. The famous sentry site of Megiddo, Biblical Armageddon, lies 15 kms to the west and to the east the renowned city of Bet Shean (Scythopolis).

Reliability of the New Testament Manuscripts. Barry Creamer comments on the “debate between Bart Ehrman and Daniel Wallace on whether the text of the New Testament is trustworthy. Both are world class scholars in textual criticism.” Some interesting comments on the different approach taken by the two textual critics to the problem of no original manuscripts. Read here.

HT:  Bible Place Blog; Bible X.

Featured on The Book & The Spade program

“The Sewers of Jerusalem” is featured as the lead to program #1235 on The Book & The Spade radio program. This long-running radio program providing backgrounders on the Bible through Biblical archaeology is hosted by Gordon Govier and Professor Keith Schoville. Govier is the archaeology correspondent for Christianity Today magazine. Professor Schoville is retired professor of Hebrew and Semitic Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. His book, Biblical Archaeology in Focus, has been used by many students of archaeology.

The link to the newly designed blog of The Book & the Spade is here. You may listen to the entire radio broadcast, or download it in MP3 format, here. I think you will need to use Internet Explorer to be able to save the program. The current program remains available for free download for only a few weeks. The programs produced by Govier and Schoville are always interesting and informative. I keep a permanent link to the site at the Biblical Studies Info Page (under Scholarly).

Our post on “The sewers of first century Jerusalem” may be read here. There are four recent photos with the post. Here is a photo of Roman street and mural of the Pool of Siloam as it is thought to have looked. This is where we expected to turn back and leave the area when one of the booksellers told us the sewer was open.

Perhaps the Pool of Siloam looked like this in the time of Jesus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Perhaps the Pool of Siloam looked like this in the time of Jesus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Worship of Bastet extended to the Ptolemaic Period

Fox News reported here recently on the discovery of a Greek temple dedicated to the Egyptian cat goddess Bastet.

Egyptian archaeologists unearthed the remains of an ancient Greek temple dedicated to Egyptian cat goddess Bastet in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, the antiquities department said Tuesday.

The mission, led by Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud, head of Antiquities of Lower Egypt, discovered the remains of a temple of Queen Berenike, the wife of King Ptolemy III who ruled Egypt between 246 and 222 B.C., in the Kom al Dikka area in Alexandria.

“The discovered remains are 196 feet tall and 49 feet in width,” antiquities chief Zahi Hawass said in a statement. He said the temple was “subjected to destruction during later eras when it was used as a quarry, which led to the disappearance of many of its stone blocks.”

A group of 600 Ptolemaic statues were also unearthed during the routine excavations, including a large collection of icons depicting Bastet, goddess of protection and motherhood.

The discovery in Kom al Dikka is the first Ptolemaic temple discovered in Alexandria to be dedicated to the goddess Bastet, Abdel Maqsoud was quoted as saying in the statement.

“It indicates that the worship of the goddess Bastet continued in Egypt after the decline of the ancient Egyptian era,” he said.

The Ptolemaic period marks the Greek rule of Egypt from 305 B.C. until the Roman conquest in 30 B.C.

Alexandria became the capital city of Ptolemaic Egypt and thrived as the center of Greek culture and trade.

Bastet. Discovered at Alexandria. AP photo.

Image of Bastet, the cat goddess of Egypt, discovered at Alexandria. AP.

Egypt was noted for the worship of numerous gods. The plagues of Egypt were a judgment against “all the gods of Egypt” (Exodus 12:12). Later, in the time of the prophet Jeremiah, the LORD again warned of judgment upon the gods of  Egypt (Jeremiah 43:12-13).

Every time I read Paul’s discussion about the condition of the Gentiles I think of the gods of ancient Egypt.

Professing to be wise, they became fools,  and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. (Romans 1:22-23 NAU)

Bubastis in ancient Egypt was especially devoted to Bastet. The ruins of the city are now surrounded by the city of Zagazig in the Eastern Delta. It was mentioned by the prophet Ezekiel under the name Pi-beseth (Ezekiel 30:17).

Prof. Christian Tietze and a team of Egyptian archaeologists have been working at Tell Basta (Bubastis).

Prof. Christian Tietze and Ferrell Jenkins at Tell Basta, Egypt, 2005.

Prof. Christian Tietze and Ferrell Jenkins at Tell Basta, Egypt, 2005.

The new discovery from Alexandria in the Ptolemaic period shows that the worship of Bastet continued, and was more wide spread than commonly thought.

Did Zoroastrianism influence Christianity?

There are many subjects on which I would enjoy commenting, but I have determined to keep this Blog as a travel blog pertaining primarily to biblically related sites. And, I don’t have time to take care of another blog.

We had a comment on The Persian background of Iran that needs some comment. Our reader says,

And incidentally, there’s much more of Iran in the bible. The original “apple” was actually a pomegranate — which comes from Iran, for example. Mithraism, a Persian religion, was the basis for the celebtration of Christmass. The whole concept of hell and heaven and angles was introduced from Zoroastrianism into Judaism and then Christianity.

The Bible does not speak of an “apple” in the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 3:3 and 3:6 we are told that Adam and Eve had been told not to eat “from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden.” The fruit was good for food. Earlier, in Genesis 1:29 we are told that God gave man “every tree which has fruit yielding seed, it shall be food for you.” The Hebrew words are the same for fruit, tree, and food in both Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. We certainly do not know that the fruit was pomegranate.

The issue of whether Judaism and Christianity have borrowed some basic concept from Zoroastrianism is debatable. Notice the comment by Lewis and Travis in Religious Traditions of the World (Zondervan, 1991).

The relation between Zoroastrianism and the chief monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, is debated. Part of the problem is due to the fact that the collection of Zoroastrian teaching was not completed until the fourth century C.E. [A.D.], leaving in some doubt who may have influenced whom in such matters as angels, resurrection, and eschatology. (57)

If one takes the New Testament as the complete and final revelation of the will of God for man, as I do, any changes in doctrine after New Testament times must be considered as departures from the faith. The argument goes something like this:

  • The New Testament is the completed revelation of the mind of God to man (Ephesians 3:1-7; 1 Corinthians 2:6-13; Ephesians 4:5; Jude 1:3; Romans 1:16; I Corinthians 1:21, et al.). The Scripture is the inspired word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
  • Jesus is God (John 1:1; Hebrews 1:8; Colossians 1:15-17). He became flesh (John 1:14). He died on the cross for the sins of mankind (1 Corinthians 1:23; 2:2, 8; 15:3-4; Hebrews 9:28; Acts 2:36; 4:10).
  • The Bible warns about going beyond this teaching (1 John 4:1; Galatians 1:6-8; 2 John 1:9-11).

It is true that Mithraism was a significant competitor of Christianity in the second century Roman Empire. It was one of the favorite mystery religions of the Roman soldiers. At Caesarea Maritima on the Mediterranean coast, in one of the substructures of a public building, evidence has been found indicating that one of the vaults served as a Mithraeum in the early 2nd century A.D.

Building at Caesarea Maritima converted to a Mithraeum in the early 2nd century A.D. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Building at Caesarea Maritima converted to a Mithraeum in the early 2nd century A.D. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Christmas, as a religious holiday, is not known in the New Testament. In this case we must say that later Christianity borrowed aspects of it from pagan sources. See my article on The Truth About Christmas here for more details.

If you are interested in a complete study about the relation between Persia and the Bible, I suggest Edwin M. Yamauchi’s Persia and the Bible with foreword by Donald J. Wiseman) Baker, 1990.

Yamauchi tells us that “the central cult image of Mithraism was the statue of the tauroctony or depiction of Mithras slaying the bull.” He says over 500 representations of this image have been found. Here is one I photographed in the Britism Museum.

The Sun-god Mithras slaying a bull. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins in the British Museum.

The Sun-god Mithras slaying a bull. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins in the British Museum.