Category Archives: New Testament

Have you seen “Following the Messiah”?

Many of our readers have likely seen some of the new videos produced by Appian Media. Following a fundraising campaign a small group, including two professional producers and a cinematographer, visited Israel to film places associated with the ministry of Jesus.

Jeremy Dehut, a minister in Alabama, was so impressed with his visit to Israel a few months earlier with Barry Britnell he convinced his brother Craig, Stuart Peck, and Jet Kaiser, to join him and Britnell in this undertaking. These guys are not filming with their iPhone. Take a look as they get organized for one of their international flights. When you view some of the videos you will see the quality.

The Appian Media film crew gets ready for an international flight.

The Appian Media film crew gets ready for an international flight.

After a fundraiser this team made their trip to Israel and then spent months editing the large amount of video into this series of videos called “Following the Messiah.”

Go to the web page of Appian Media here and take a look at some, or all, of the videos. You may even download them for your own use in teaching.

The Appian Media team is engaged in their 2017 fundraising campaign in anticipation of another trip that will concentrate on the final days of Jesus in Jerusalem. The web page explains how you can participate in this effort.

Search for @appianmedia on Facebook or in Messenger to find the Appian Media page easily.

Appian Media is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization designed to create FREE quality Biblical video content and other resources and make them available to everyone!

Take a look. You will be able to see where many of the events in the earthly ministry of Jesus took place, and your Bible reading will take on a new dimension.

Second century A.D. Roman road uncovered

Tuesday brought another press release from the Israel Antiquities Authority. The headline of the release calls this “a 2,000 Year Old Road,” but the text states that its’ construction is dated to the time of the Roman Emperor Hadrian (A.D. 117-138).

Aerial photographs of the road. Photographic credit: the Griffin Aerial Photography Company, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Aerial photographs of the road in the lower right corner of the photo. Photographic credit: the Griffin Aerial Photography Company, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The Press Release follows.

— “ —

A wide and impressive 2,000 year old road dating to the Roman period, in an extraordinary state of preservation, was revealed last February in archaeological excavations of the Israel Antiquities Authority near Highway 375. The excavation was conducted prior to laying a water pipeline to Jerusalem, at the initiative of, the Bet Shemesh water corporation “Mei Shemesh”. Students from “Ulpanat Amit Noga” in Ramat Bet Shemesh volunteered to participate in the dig.

The excavation director, Irina Zilberbod, at the site. Photographic credit: the Griffin Aerial Photography Company, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The excavation director, Irina Zilberbod, at the site. Photographic credit: the Griffin Aerial Photography Company, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

According to Irina Zilberbod, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The road that we discovered, which 2,000 years ago passed along a route similar to Highway 375 today, was up to 6 meters wide, continued for a distance of approximately 1.5 kilometers, and was apparently meant to link the Roman settlement that existed in the vicinity of Beit Natif with the main highway known as the “Emperor’s Road”. That road was in fact a main artery that connected the large settlements of Eleutheropolis (Bet Guvrin) and Jerusalem. The construction of the Emperor’s Road is thought to have taken place at the time of Emperor Hadrian’s visit to the country, circa 130 CE, or slightly thereafter, during the suppression of the Bar Kokhba revolt in 132-135 CE. The presence of a milestone (a stone marking distances) bearing the name of the emperor Hadrian which was discovered in the past close to the road reinforces this hypothesis”.

Coins were discovered between the pavement stones: a coin from Year 2 of the Great Revolt (67 CE), a coin from the Umayyad period, a coin of the prefect of Judea, Pontius Pilate, dating to 29 CE and a coin of Agrippa I from 41 CE that was minted in Jerusalem.

The ancient coins that were discovered in the excavation. Photographic credit: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

The ancient coins that were discovered in the excavation. Photographic credit: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The coin at the top is from the Umayyad period (A.D. 661-750). Bottom row (left to right): Herod Agrippa I – A.D. 41; Pontius Pilate – A.D. 29; Jewish Revolt – year 2 – A.D. 67-68.

Up until 2,000 years ago most of the roads in the country were actually improvised trails. However during the Roman period, as a result of military and other campaigns, the national and international road network started to be developed in an unprecedented manner. The Roman government was well aware of the importance of the roads for the proper running of the empire. From the main roads, such as the “Emperor’s Road”, there were secondary routes that led to the settlements where all of the agricultural products were grown. The grain, oil and wine, which constituted the main dietary basis at the time, where transported along the secondary routes from the surroundings villages and then by way of the main roads to the large markets in Israel and even abroad.

According to Amit Shadman, the Israel Antiquities Authority district archaeologist for Judah, “The ancient road passed close to the Israel National Trail and we believe that it will spark interest among the hikers. The Israel Antiquities Authority and Mei Shemesh Corporation have agreed that the road will be conserved in situ, for the public’s benefit”.

— ” —

Just a few days ago Todd Bolen called attention to David Bivins reports on the gradual destruction of the Roman road from Jerusalem to Emmaus here. The situation there is tragic. I have witnessed some deterioration of the Roman road near Golani Junction in just a few years. Let’s hope that the situations here will be reversed, and that this road will be preserved for many to see.

This recently uncovered road apparently connected with the road we described here.

Roman Road 4.2 km W of Mata on Hwy 375. S of Hwy. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman Road 4.2 km W of Mata on Hwy 375. S of Hwy. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I find it especially interesting that coins from A.D. 29, 41, and 67-68 should be found on a road constructed in circa A.D. 130. Others can fill in possible answers.

The roman roads that we see in Israel today were not built until about the time of the first revolt – ca. A.D.66, and mostly in the second century under Trajan and Hadrian.

Israel Roll writes,

The Roman road network in Judaea was not constructed at once, but evolved gradually from the First Revolt onward. Until then the Roman administration used roads that had been built during or prior to the reign of Herod. Our knowledge of those roads is scanty. and is based essentially on isolated written sources– mainly in the New Testament and Josephus. These sources do not
mention anything relating to road construction or maintenance before the beginning of the rebellion in 66 C.E. We may conclude, therefore, that the subject was not of central concern to the Roman procurators. (Israel Roll, “The Roman Road System in Judaea,” Jerusalem Cathedra 3 (1983): 138.

My thought is that the later Roman roads generally followed paths that were already in use by the people.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Ossuaries of interest

Many known ossuaries are undecorated. This means that after a while most people may not remember whose bones are contained therein. But there are some notable exceptions.

Caiaphas was the son-in-law of Annas. He was appointed high priest by Valerius Gratus, procurator of Judea, in A.D. 18 and deposed by Vitellius, legate of Syria, in A.D. 36 at the same time Pilate was removed as procurator of Judea. Caiaphas was the Jewish high priest before whom Jesus was tried (John 18:13-14, 24).

In November, 1990, a burial cave was found accidentally during construction of a water park at a promenade overlooking the Peace Forest just south of the old city of Jerusalem. The cave contained 12 ossuaries, two of which contained the name of the well-known family of the high priest Caiaphas. One ossuary bore the inscription Qafa, and the other bore the name Yehosef bar Qayafa (Joseph, son of Caiaphas) and Yehosef bar Qafa (Joseph, son of Caiaphas). Inside this beautiful ossuary was found the bones of six different people: 2 infants, a child between 2 and 5, a young boy between 13 and 18, an adult woman and “a male of about 60 years!”

According to Josephus, Caiaphas was named Joseph Caiaphas (Ant. 18.2.2).

The Caiaphas ossuary is on display in the Israel Museum. (See articles: Zvi Greenhut, “Burial Cave of the Caiaphas Family,” BAR 18.5 (1992): 29-36. Ronny Reich, “Caiaphas Name Inscribed on Bone Boxes,” BAR 18.5 (1992): 38-44.)

Ossuary of Caiaphas displayed in the Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ossuary of Caiaphas displayed in the Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Simon the Builder. According to Mare “there are Herodian family tombs on Mount Scopus, just to the north of the Mount of Olives.” He says that one of the ossuaries has an Aramaic inscription naming a certain Simon, who is honored as “Builder of the temple” (The Archaeology of the Jerusalem Area, p. 198).

Ossuary of Simon the Builder displayed in the Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ossuary of Simon the Builder displayed in the Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The first archaeological evidence of crucifixion was uncovered in 1968 when, during a controlled archaeological dig under the direction of the late Vasillios Tzaferis, an ossuary (bone box, or receptacle) was found north of Jerusalem, in the same tomb mentioned above, containing the bones of a man who had been crucified. His name was “Yehohanan, the son of Hagakol.” He is thought to have been between 24 and 28 years of age, and was about 5 feet 6 inches in height. His heel bone was recovered with an iron nail in it.

Ossuary of Yehohanan son of Hagkol displayed in the Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ossuary of Yehohanan son of Hagkol in the Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Nothing is quiet as touching as the burial of child. The ossuary pictured below is a small one likely used for the bones of an infant or small child. It is displayed on the grounds of the Trappist Monastery at Latrun Abbey in Israel.

Ossuary for an infant displayed at the Latrun Abbey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ossuary for an infant displayed at the Latrun Abbey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

These three articles should provide a little insight into burial practices of the Jews at the time of Jesus.

I have found the chapter on “Tombs and Burial Customs” in Jodi Magness’ Stone and Dung, Oil and Spit, helpful.

The Ossuaries at Dominus Flevit

Thousands of Jewish graves are visible on the western slope of the Mount of Olives. Some of the grave markers are visible in this photo made from the Mount of Olives to the west. The Old City of Jerusalem is visible in the top half of the photo. I don’t know how old these graves are, but some of them are fairly recent.

Jewish graves visible on the western slope of the Mount of Olives. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jewish graves visible on the western slope of the Mount of Olives. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

But there are older graves in the area. If you have walked down from the observation plaza on the Mount of Olives, where the peddlers and camel jockeys abound, to the Garden of Gethsemane, you have likely passed the entrance to the Franciscan chapel of Dominus Flevit. Tradition has it that this is where Jesus stopped to weep over Jerusalem.

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it (Luke 19:41 ESV)

Ossuaries in one of the tombs at Dominus Flevit on the western slope of the Mount of Olives. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ossuaries in one of the tombs at Dominus Flevit on the western slope of the Mount of Olives. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Dominus Flevit cemetery complex contains three tombs. Murphy-O’Connor says,

The first two on the right (counting from the entrance gate) are typical kokhim graves of the period 100 BC–AD 135, the dead were buried in narrow horizontal shafts and later their bones were collected in beautifully made stone boxes (ossuaries) in order to make room for others. (The Holy Land, 5th ed. p. 145)

Harold Mare describes the content of the cemeteries,

Beside seven sarcophagi, many ossuary (bone) boxes were excavated at the Dominus Flevit cemetery. The ossuary boxes, made of stone or wood and averaging 25 inches long, 15 inches wide, and 13 inches high, were decorated with inscribed designs on the sides and tops and often had names inscribed on them as well. Examples of these boxes can be seen in site in the excavation area at the Dominus Flevit and at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. These boxes were used to contain the bones of the dead in secondary burials after the disintegration of the flesh. They were evidently used in Jerusalem until A.D. 70 or possibly until 135. (Mare, W. Harold. The Archaeology of the Jerusalem Area. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987. p. 198.)

Mare also points out that several biblical names are found on various ossuaries. This does not mean that the ossuaries belonged to a known biblical character, but that the names were common during the period. John McRay gives a list of names found at this site:

Also found on the ossuaries were forty-three inscriptions. Written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, the inscriptions contain names familiar to readers of the New Testament– Yeshua (Aramaic for Jesus), Miriam (Mary), Martha, Eleazar (Lazarus), Judas, Salome, Matthew, Joseph, Jairus, John, Mattia (Matthias), Sapphira, Menahem (Manaean), Simeon, and Zechariah. (McRay, John. Archaeology and the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991. p. 197.)

Both of our photos are sized for PowerPoint use in teaching.

Ossuaries in ancient Jerusalem and Judea

From about 30 B.C. to A.D. 70 (some scholars extend these dates to as late as A.D. 135), ossuaries were used by the Jews in secondary burials. Numerous of these stone receptacles have been discovered. Most of the dead were first buried in caves or rock-cut tombs. After the flesh had decayed, the bones were placed in an ossuary or “bone box.” This provided space for more burials.

The Hecht Museum at Haifa University has a nice display of ossuaries. Six of these have lids on them. The lid is missing on five others.

Display of Jewish Ossuaries in the Hecht Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Display of Jewish Ossuaries in the Hecht Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The sign with the display states that,

This was a prevalent custom in this period, and one that tied in with the strengthening Jewish belief in the individual, physical resurrection of the deceased from within one’s skeleton (Mishna, Sanhedrin 6:5-6; Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 47b).

This is the description of the ossuaries.

The ossuaries are carved of local soft stone (chalk), and most of them lack ornamentation. Ornamentation, if it appears, was executed by carving, incision, or painting. The variety of decorative patterns on the ossuaries includes floral, geometric and architectural patterns. Some have Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek inscriptions stating the name of the deceased.

The top of the sign shows some of the decorations found on ossuaries. Note above, the statement that most ossuaries lacked ornamentation.

Decorations found on Jewish Ossuaries. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Decorations found on Jewish Ossuaries. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Rachel Hachlili describes the typical ossuary:

These ossuaries are small limestone boxes approximately 20 inches long, 10 inches wide and 12 inches high. Usually they have a flat, gabled, or rounded lid. All these ossuaries were used for secondary burials; approximately a year after the original burial, when the body had decomposed, the bones of the deceased were collected and placed in the ossuary. (BAR, July/Aug. 1979).

Stone cutting was one of the main occupations of ancient Israel, and some stone cutters evidently specialized in made-to-order ossuaries.

In a future post I plan to show a cemetery filled with ossuaries.

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.

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.