Category Archives: New Testament

Philistines introduced new plants to the coastal plain

One of my neighbors came to the USA from an Asian country spelled with five letters beginning with “I”. After he moved in, some strange plants that I had not seen in our part of the world began to grow. Perhaps he got then at  Exotic Plants R Us, but I doubt it.

Maybe you have had the same experience. Apparently the same thing happened to ancient Israel. Typical plants known to the Biblical Israelites include wheat, barley, grapes, olives, pomegranate, date, and fig.

Sign in the Ashkelon National Park indicating one of the groups that inhabited the city. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sign in the Ashkelon National Park indicating one of the groups that inhabited the city. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

What happened when the Philistines moved in? A recent article by Frumin, Maeir, Horwitz, and Weiss in Scientific Reports provides an answer. The authors describe their approach.

Here we propose a novel research approach aiming to study the different anthropogenic impacts on an ecosystem resulting from the advent of an extinct historical culture, the Philistines–one of the so-called “Sea Peoples”–that appeared in the southern Levantine littoral, after ca. 1,200 BCE. Until quite recently, the accepted view was that the Philistines originated from a single region, most likely somewhere in the Aegean. Recent research has revised this view and shown that in fact, the Philistine culture is comprised of migrants of multiple foreign origins, including the Aegean, who, when arriving in Canaan, intermingled with local Canaanites. The non-Levantine origin of a substantial portion of the Philistine culture is evidenced by their distinctive architecture, ceramic ware, technologies and ritual activities that point to their diverse and multifaceted origins with different components resembling Aegean, Cypriot, Anatolian, Egyptian and even Southeast European cultures.

The article is chocked-full of maps and diagrams which I will leave for you to explore at your leisure. What really caught my attention was the introduction of new species of plants by the Philistines. The three plants were,

  1. Cumin (Cuminum cyminum), found at Aphek in the early Iron Age.
  2. Sycamore (Ficus sycomorus) found at Ashkelon in the late Iron Age.
  3. Opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) found at Ashkelon in the late Iron Age.

Cumin and sycamore came from the Eastern Mediterranean, but opium came from west Europe.

Let’s take a look at a few Biblical references to cumin and sycamore.

Cumin is mentioned by the prophet Isaiah in the 8th century B.C. (28:25, 27), and then by Jesus in the first century A.D.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. (Matthew 23:23 ESV)

Cummin for sale at Aswan, Egypt. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Cummin for sale at Aswan, Egypt. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The sycamore is mentioned in connection with Solomon who wanted to make cedars as plentiful in Jerusalem as the sycamores were in the Shephelah.

And the king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stone, and he made cedar as plentiful as the sycamore of the Shephelah. (1 Kings 10:27 ESV)

Amos of Tekoah claimed to be one who took care of the sycamore fig trees.

Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, “I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. (Amos 7:14 ESV)

And there is the well known story of Zacchaeus who climbed up into a sycamore tree at Jericho in order to see Jesus as He passed by.

So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. (Luke 19:4 ESV)

Sycamore figs at Ashkelon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sycamore figs at Ashkelon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The opium poppy is not mentioned in the Bible and is not currently grown in Israel. Turkey is one of three countries where it is grown for medicinal purposes . I have seen small fields of it in several places in Turkey.

Opium poppies are grown for medicinal purposes in Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Opium poppies are grown for medicinal purposes in Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The link to the full article by Frumin, Maeir, et al. is here. Near the top there is a link to the PDF file. An informative article by Nir Hasson appeared in Haaretz here earlier this week.

Archaeology does not consist solely of stone walls and broken pottery. It also includes uncovering and identifying the tiniest of seed.

HT: Thanks to Aren Maeir, director of the excavation at Gath for the original article. Check out his blog.

Possible speaker’s podium found in City of David

The first headline I clicked on this morning when Haaretz arrived was the one reading “Second Temple-era Soapbox Found in City of David?” I located the IAA press release, and then a few hours later my inbox was loaded with links to various coverage of the find.

Several years ago the archaeologists working in the City of David uncovered a staircase and a drainage channel leading from the Temple Mount to the Pool of Siloam.

My group was one of the first to walk through the drainage channel in May, 2010. See my report and photos here.

Here is a photo of the steps leading from the Pool to the Temple Mount.

Steps leading from the Pool of Siloam to the Temple Mount. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Steps leading from the Pool of Siloam to the Temple Mount. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The discovery we report today was somewhere along those steps. The press release issued today by the Israel Antiquities Authority says,

This structure, situated alongside the 2,000 year old Second Temple stepped street, which carried pilgrims on their way from the Shiloah (Siloam) Pool to the Temple, which stood atop the Temple Mount. The street, a section of which was excavated in the past, is remarkably well-preserved and is built of enormous stone slabs. The street most likely runs above the 2,000 year old drainage channel, discovered a number of years ago, which carried rain water out of the city. It was constructed sometime in the fourth decade of the first century CE, and was one of the largest construction projects undertaken in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period. Dozens of whole pottery vessels, stone vessels and glassware were found at the foot of the pyramid-shaped staircase.

Szanton and Uziel sit on the recently uncovered podium. Photo: IAA

Szanton and Uziel sit on the recently uncovered podium. Photo: IAA

According to archaeologists Nahshon Szanton and Dr. Joe Uziel, who direct[ed] the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The structure exposed is unique. To date such a structure has yet to be found along the street in the numerous excavations that have taken place in Jerusalem and to the best of our knowledge outside of it. For this reason, its exact use remains enigmatic. The structure is built along the street in a place that is clearly visible from afar by passers-by making their way to the Temple. We believe the structure was a kind of monumental podium that attracted the public’s attention when walking on the city’s main street. It would be very interesting to know what was said there 2,000 years ago. Were messages announced here on behalf of the government? Perhaps news or gossip, or admonitions and street preaching – unfortunately we do not know. Bliss and Dickie, two British archaeologists who discovered a small portion of this structure about 100 years ago, mistakenly thought these were steps that led into a house that was destroyed. They would certainly be excited if they could come back today and see it completely revealed.”

Rabbinic sources speak of an “auction block” where slaves could be sold, and of a “Stone of Claims” where one who had found an item might announce it and the owner might claim it. The IAA Press release provides the references here.

Dr. Joe Uziel seated on the top step of the "podium." Photo: IAA.

Dr. Joe Uziel seated on the top step of the “podium.” Photo: IAA.

The coin below, from the Second Temple period, was found in the destruction layer atop the street.

Coin from period of the Great Revolt against the Romans. Copyright Clara Amit, IAA.

Coin from period of the Great Revolt against the Romans. Copyright Clara Amit, IAA.

We had already made a possible association of these steps with the blind man who left the Temple precinct to go to the Pool of Siloam at the bidding of Jesus (John 9).

A passage that now comes to my mind is from the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus teaches His disciples how to (and not to) pray.

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. (Matthew 6:5 ESV)

HT: Joseph I Lauer for the additional links.

New “water law” inscription from Laodicea

Hurriyet Daily News reports here the discovery at Laodicea of a marble slab containing a code of laws pertaining to the water supply of the city during the reign of the Roman Emperor Trajan in 114 A.D. The article says,

The rules were prepared by Anatolian State Governor Aulus Vicirius Matrialis.

This marble slab discovered at Laodicea contains a code of laws protecting the water supply of the city of Laodicea in the early second century A.D. (Photo credit: AA photo)

This marble slab discovered at Laodicea contains a code of laws protecting the water supply of the city of Laodicea in the early second century A.D. (Photo credit: AA photo)

Here is some further information about the discovery.

The excavation works, led by Pamukkale University and supported by Denizli Municipality, have continued on Stadium Street in the ancient site. Excavations head Professor Celal Şimşek of Pamukkale University, said, “The Laodicea Assembly made this law in 114 A.D. and presented it to a pro council in Ephesus for approval.

The pro council approved the law on behalf of the empire. Water was vital for the city. This is why there were heavy penalties against those who polluted the water, damaged the water channels or reopening the sealed water pipes. Breaking the law was subject to a penalty of about 12,500 denarius – 125,000 Turkish Liras.”

One hundred twenty-five thousand Turkish Liras amount to approximately $42,700. Fairly stiff fine.

The full article is accompanied by several nice photos and will be well worth your time. Another article about the discovery appears in Ancient Origins here.

Last year my fellow-traveler Leon Mauldin and I made a personal study tour in Turkey. We had the opportunity to make a return visit to Laodicea and see the continuing excavations at the site. I think the city is destined to become one of the most popular sites in the country.

Leon Mauldin on Syria Street in Laodicea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Leon Mauldin on Syria Street in Laodicea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Laodicea is known to us from the book of Revelation (1:11; 3:14-22), and from Paul’s epistle to the Colossians.

For I testify for him that he has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis. Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings, and also Demas. Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house. When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea. (Col 4:13-16 NAU)

One might easily connect this discovery to what we already knew about the water system at Laodicea. I was rather sure that I had written about the source of water and the water distribution tower, but I find only the photo of the tower here. I have written about the subject in material distributed to my tour members. Perhaps I will be able to reprint some of that material in another post. Meanwhile, I call attention to the recent good post by Carl Rasmussen about this same discovery. He includes comments about the “lukewarm” water at the Holy Land Photos’ Blog here.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

Discovery of first century ritual bath with inscriptions and drawings

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced Wednesday the discovery of a ritual bath (mikveh, miqwe) dating to the second temple period in the Arnona quarter of Jerusalem during the construction of a nursery school. Arnona is east of the Hebron Road and north of Ramat Rahel.

In the excavation an impressive ritual bath (miqwe) dating to the time of the Second Temple (first century CE) was exposed inside an underground cave. An anteroom, flanked by benches, led to the bath. A winepress was excavated alongside the ritual bath.

The walls of the miqwe were treated with ancient plaster and were adorned with numerous wall paintings and inscriptions, written in mud, soot and incising. The inscriptions are Aramaic and written in cursive Hebrew script, which was customary at the end of the Second Temple period. Among the symbols that are drawn are a boat, palm trees and various plant species, and possibly even a menorah.

The entrance to the cave when discovered during an inspection by the Israel Antiquities Authority, prior to the construction of a neighborhood nursery school. Photo by Shai Halevy, courtesy of the IAA.

The entrance to the cave when discovered during an inspection by the Israel Antiquities Authority, prior to the construction of a neighborhood nursery school. Photo by Shai Halevy, courtesy of the IAA.

The IAA English press release with a link to 11 photos and a short raw video may be downloaded here. I will post just one more of the photos showing some drawings and inscriptions on the walls of the mikveh. [Added note: I have been informed that the news release I mentioned above does not have the photos and video. Here is a link to that material on Dropbox. I have no control over this material on other sites. If you would like to get 2.25 gig of Dropbox free, click here.]

Inscription on the wall of the ritual bath. Photo Shai Halevy, courtesy IAA.

Inscriptions on the walls of the ritual bath. Photo Shai Halevy, courtesy IAA.

Arutz Sheva includes all of the photos provided by the IAA and their own video of the mikveh. They point out that the claim that this mikveh dates to the end of the second temple period (by A.D. 70?) is indicated by the script, pottery, and coins.

Something I noticed in the IAA video that I did not see mentioned is that there are two characters depicted on the wall. In my knowledge this is not otherwise known as early as the end of the second temple period. In later centuries it became common to have humans depicted. Is it because this is not a synagogue? Comments by knowledgeable persons welcomed.

Two significant New Testament references mention the Jewish rites of purification.

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. (John 2:6 ESV)

Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. (John 3:25 ESV)

Leen Ritmeyer reports on this discovery here and includes a couple of his drawings to help illustrate the find.

Many fascinating discoveries are made as a result of various types of construction work. Keep up the good work.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer and several Israeli papers.

Babylonian and Roman destruction of the Temple

Many of the Jewish people recently observed Tisha B’Av. This phrase, strange to Christians, means the Fast of the Ninth. The observance “is a day of mourning to commemorate the many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people” (Judaism 101). According to this source, five terrible events took place on or near the ninth day of the month Av, the fifth month of the Jewish calendar.

The most significant of these events are the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. (2 Kings 25:8-9; Jeremiah 52:12-13), and the destruction by the Romans in A.D. 70.

In the past half century a considerable amount of evidence has come to light concerning the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. The temple destroyed in 586 B.C. had been constructed by King Solomon in about 966 B.C. It was rebuilt by those who returned from the Babylonian Exile (530-516 B.C.).

Herod the Great began about 19/20 B.C. to rebuild the temple. This work was still in progress during the ministry of Jesus.

Then the Jewish leaders said to him, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and are you going to raise it up in three days?” (John 2:20 NET)

Christians take seriously the prophecy of Jesus.

Now as Jesus was going out of the temple courts and walking away, his disciples came to show him the temple buildings. And he said to them, “Do you see all these things? I tell you the truth, not one stone will be left on another. All will be torn down!” (Matthew 24:1-2 NET)

There is no archaeological evidence of the temple building itself. The site where the temple once stood is now covered with paving stones and the Dome of the Rock which was constructed by the followers of Mohammed in the 7th century A.D.

The Dome of the Rock stands where Solomon's Temple was built. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Dome of the Rock stands where Solomon’s Temple was built. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Vivid evidence of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem was discovered at the SW corner of the temple area in the Tyropean Valley. Some of the rubble can still be seen on the street which was probably built by Agrippa II in the 60s of the first century.

Stones that fell from the Temple Mount to the street below in A.D. 70. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Stones that fell, or were pushed, from the Temple Mount to the street below in A.D. 70 at the time of the destruction by the Romans. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Wayne Stiles recently wrote an article here on this topic with several excellent photos from the Burnt House in Jerusalem, a house burned during the Roman destruction in A.D. 70.

Chickens in Israel commercialized during Hellenistic Period

For the first few decades of my preaching I ate fried chicken in lots of homes. There were numerous jokes about preachers and chicken. One was that the family of five were told by the head of the house to bow their heads while thanks was being given. Just as he was about to say Amen there was a loud cry of pain. When they looked, the preacher had five forks in his hand.

In the days before frozen meat, or even refrigeration, it was easy enough to make a last-minute decision to invite the visiting minister home without having anything prepared to eat. The woman of the house would send one of the kids to the yard to select a plump fryer. It did not take very long to get that chicken plucked, cut, rolled in flour and fried. It was good.

When I opened the digital headlines from The Jerusalem Post (here) this morning I read an article reporting that chickens were first commercialized in Israel 2,300 years ago. A little later in the day I received reports from Joseph Lauer. First the NPR report (here), and then other sources.

To summarize. Researchers at the University of Haifa have been studying more than a thousand chicken bones excavated at Maresha (= Mareshah), a site in the Shephelah of Israel, from the Hellenistic period (400 to 200 B.C.). Lee Perry-Gal is quoted by NPR:

“The site is located on a trade route between Jerusalem and Egypt,” says Lee Perry-Gal, a doctoral student in the department of archaeology at the University of Haifa. As a result, it was a meeting place of cultures, “like New York City.”

Lee Perry-Gal examining chicken bones from Hellenistic Maresha.

Lee Perry-Gal examining chicken bones from Hellenistic Maresha.

Another photo provided by the folks at Haifa shows chicken bones in an ancient cooking pot.

Cooking pot with chicken wing bones from the excavation.

Cooking pot with chicken wing bones from the excavation.

If you have more technical interest in this story you should see the abstract on the PNAS website here. The article may be downloaded for a fee.

When I began to look at Biblical references to chickens, I was a little surprised at the paucity of references in the Old Testament

There is only one reference to the rooster in the Old Testament (Proverbs 30:31), but the New Testament contains at least a dozen references. Most of them are about Peter’s denial of Jesus.

A rooster at the Greek Orthodox property at Capernaum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A rooster at the Greek Orthodox property at Capernaum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jesus says He wanted to gather the children (used of all the people) of Jerusalem together “the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings” (Matthew 23:37; cf. Luke 13:34 NAU).

If there was no widespread production of chickens in Israel until the Hellenistic period, what did the prophets eat?

Hastings five volume Dictionary of the Bible

A few weeks (months?) back, after a long wait, I received the 5-volume A Dictionary of the Bible, ed. by James Hastings, in Logos format. I have mentioned earlier that this is an old set that is not a substitute for owning newer materials. The fifth volume is an Extra Volume that includes some special studies. William M. Ramsay wrote sections on Roads and Travel in the New Testament. This material was published in 1911 and 1912.

Ramsay also wrote the Dictionary entry on Troas. Here I will share a few excerpts from that material that I think will illustrate the value of such material.

TROAS (Τρῳάς, or more correctly Ἀλεξάνδρεια ἡ Τρῳάς [Alexandria Troas]) was a city on the Ægean coast of Asia Minor, opposite the small island of Tenedos. The district in which it was situated was sometimes called as a whole Troas, and is in modern times generally called the Troad; it was the northwestern part of the land of Mysia….

It became one of the greatest and largest cities of the north-west of Asia. In the coasting voyage system of ancient navigation, it was the harbour to and from which the communication between Asia and Macedonia was directed (cf. Ac 16:8, 20:5, 2 Co 2:12). Owing to the greatness of Troas and its legendary connexion with the foundation of Rome, the idea was actually entertained by Julius Cæsar of transferring thither the centre of government from Rome (Suet. Jul. 79); and some similar scheme was still not wholly forgotten when Horace protested against it in Od. iii. 3. Hadrian probably visited Troas and it was perhaps his interest in it that led the wealthy and politic Herodes Atticus to build there an aqueduct (the ruins of which were imposing in very recent times) and baths….

The route followed by St. Paul, with Silas and Timothy, from the Bithynian frontier near Dorylaion or Kotiaion, brought the party to the coast at Troas (Ac 16:6–8). There can be little doubt that this road led down the Rhyndacus valley past the hot springs Artemaia, sacred to Artemis, on the river Aisepos.

Don’t dismiss the “old guys” in your studies, but don’t limit your studies to them.

Ruins of the Bath of Herodes Atticus at Troas. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ruins of the Bath of Herodes Atticus at Troas. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Don’t confuse the Herodes Atticus mentioned here with the Herod’s of the New Testament. Herodes Atticus was a wealthy Greek from Athens who later became a Roman senator. The dates for his life are given in several sources as about A.D. 101–177. Those who have visited Athens may recall seeing the Odeon of Herodes Atticus on the slopes of the Acropolis.

Odeon of Herodes Atticus on the slope of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus on the slope of the Acropolis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.