Category Archives: New Testament

Roman soldiers in the region of Decapolis

The RACE show at Jerash, Jordan, is a must if you have the opportunity to visit the area. RACE stands for Roman Army and Chariot Experience. You will see actors in authentic dress as armed legionaries, gladiators, and a short chariot race. The show takes place in the Roman hippodrome of Jerash. The view of the city ruins in the vicinity make this a wonderful setting for the performance. Full details may be found here. I have seen the program three times. On the last visit, earlier this year, I thought the performers showed less discipline and the show was not quite as good as on my previous visits.

Jerash was the second largest city of the Decapolis (after Damascus) in New Testament times. People from the Decapolis followed Jesus during His ministry in Galilee (Matthew 4:23-25). When Jesus traveled through the Decapolis he possibly visited the area around Jerash (Mark 7:31).

The photo shows the Roman soldiers of the 6th Legion from the time of the Emperor Hadrian (A.D. 117-138). A visit to this show provides several good photographs to illustrate New Testament times.

Roman soldiers at Jerash, Jordan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman soldiers at Jerash, Jordan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Repeat from October 8, 2010.

Roman inscription of formerly unknown governor of Judea discovered

Phillippe Bohstrom has written a fascinating and informative article about the discovery of a Roman inscription mentioning the province of Judea and a previously unknown Roman governor.

This Marcus Paccius ruled Judea before the Bar Kochba Revolt (about A.D. 135).

There were nearly 20 Roman prefects or governors during the first century A.D., but we learn only the names of Pontius Pilate (the trial of Jesus), Felix (Acts 23-24), and Festus (Acts 25-26) in the New Testament.

Haifa University underwater archaeologists found this inscription off the coast of Dor.

The newly found inscription, carved on the stone in Greek, is missing a part, but is thought to have originally read: “The City of Dor honors Marcus Paccius, son of Publius, Silvanus Quintus Coredius Gallus Gargilius Antiquus, governor of the province of Judea, as well as […] of the province of Syria, and patron of the city of Dor.”

The inscription is now on display in the Haifa University Library.

Stone inscription with the name of Marcus Paccius, governor of the province of Judea and Syria. Photo by Jenny Carmel in HaAretz.

Stone inscription with the name of Marcus Paccius, governor of the province of Judea and Syria. Photo by Jenny Carmel in HaAretz.

Read Bohstrom’s article with photos here.

Our photo below shows the area around ancient Dor.

Aerial view of Dor. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of Dor. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

For a list of Old Testament reference to Dor click here.

Under the jail – a visit to the Kishle

Read The Citadel of Jerusalem here.
Read Views from the Citadel of Jerusalem here.

After our visit to see Jerusalem from the roof of the Citadel we made our way through the recently cleared dry moat to the steps and pool from the time of Herod the Great. Our guide, David, used a variety of visual aids to explain where we were and how this might have looked in the time of Herod.

Herodian steps at the Citadel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Herodian steps at the Citadel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

From there David led us to the Kishle (Turkish word for Barracks, and many use it as Prison). The Tower of David web site has this brief explanation of the Kishle.

The site known as the “Kishle” is adjacent to the Citadel and Tower of David Museum complex. The structure was erected in 1834 by Ibrahim Pasha who governed the Land of Israel (Palestine) from Egypt.

When the Ottoman Turks regained the area in 1841, the “Kishle” continued to serve as a military compound. During the period of the British mandate, it was used as a police station and prison where some members of the Jewish underground were also incarcerated.

In an article in Archaeological Diggings, Caroline Shapiro (Nov. 2015) explains how this excavation came about.

The Kishle Building, as it is called, stands adjacent to the Tower of David, the ancient citadel that guards Jerusalem’s Old City at the Jaffa Gate entrance. It was built in 1860 as an Ottoman prison or army barracks. The prison was then used as such by the British during Mandate times and then left desolate until the Tower of David Museum decided to clean up the iron prison cells and create a new wing for the Education Department. It housed members of the pre-State underground, the Irgun, the evidence of which is scratched on the walls.

As with any digging in Jerusalem, the clearing up became an excavation and close to 3000 years of history was discovered under its floorboards. The excavations were carried out in 1999–2000 by Amit Re’em, Jerusalem District Archeologist, together with a team from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), but since then the building has been left untouched. Entrance to the Kishle is via the newly opened moat where visitors walk down the impressive Herodian steps leading down into a Hasmonian pool that would have been the lavish pool connected to King Herod’s palace. (These are the only excavations of King Herod’s Palace; huge foundation walls can be seen as well as an impressive water sewage system.)

The whole site has been dug down some 10 metres (33 ft) deep and about 50 metres (165 ft) long to reveal the various strata. With an arched, cross-vaulted Ottoman ceiling, it is a cavernous, silent cathedral of ancient stones that had been untouched by daylight for millennia.

This is our first view of the excavation as we enter the Kishle. I think it is not incorrect to say that ancient ruins will be found anywhere archaeologists dig in Jerusalem. Many sites of importance are in basements.

General view of the archaeological excavation of the Kishle. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

General view of the archaeological excavation of the Kishle. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

On the far right of the photo above, and below, you will see a stretch of wall from Herod’s palace.

Herodian ruins in the Kishle. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Herodian walls in the Kishle. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The oldest ruins uncovered during the excavation belong to the 8th century B.C. Perhaps these ruins belong to the time of Hezekiah, King of Judah (729-686 B.C., McKinny).

Ruins from the 8th century B.C., possibly from the time of King Hezekiah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ruins from the 8th century B.C., possibly from the time of King Hezekiah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Bible describes the work Hezekiah did in response to the Assyrian threat.

He set to work resolutely and built up all the wall that was broken down and raised towers upon it, and outside it he built another wall, and he strengthened the Millo in the city of David. He also made weapons and shields in abundance. (2 Chronicles 32:5 ESV)

The Jewish Quarter Excavations began in 1969 under the direction of Professor Nahman Avigad of Hebrew University. Shapiro says he uncovered a 130-foot long section of stone wall that was 23 feet wide and probably 27 feet high. This is the wall we now call the Broad Wall (Nehemiah 3:8; 12:38).

The Broad Wall excavated by Avigad. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Broad Wall excavated by Avigad. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The wall within the Kishle is even further to the west, on the top of the western ridge of the Old City.

Re’em Amit, the archaeologists in charge of the dig, argues that this is the palace of Herod the Great, and the location of the Praetorium where the trial of Jesus took place (John 19:13). When I first began to visit Jerusalem we thought the paved area in the Sisters of Zion was the Praetorium. We still visit the site if time permits because it is important in understanding the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, but we now know that the pavement there belongs to the second century A.D.

The Roman Prefect, such as Pilate, would make his residence in Herod’s Palace on his visits to Jerusalem from Caesarea. Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great, and Pontius Pilate, the governor [prefect] of Judea were both in Jerusalem at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus (Luke 3:1; 23:4-16). And they were both staying at the best “hotel” in town.

Herod's Palace in the Second Temple model at the Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Herod’s Palace in the Second Temple model at the Israel Museum. The Fortress of Antonio is visible at the top/right of the photo. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This is not a new hypothesis, but it does provide new evidence to sustain the view. Shimon Gibson has written extensively on this for several years. Gibson, with an allusion to the writing of Josephus, says,

After the grandeur of the Jewish Temple, Herod’s palace was reportedly the most amazing building complex in Jerusalem. (Final Days of Jesus, 93)

Gibson has a essay on this subject in The World of Jesus and the Early Church, edited by Craig A. Evans. In both of these articles Gibson includes drawings of the area under consideration.

Visiting the Kishle:

The Tower of David is open with English guides Sundays to Thursdays at 11 a.m. At other times one may visit with an audio guide. Adult admission is 40 NIS (about $11).

The guided tour including the Kishle (From Herod’s Palace to British Prison) is available in English on Fridays at 10 a.m. for 45 NIS.

Dates, hours, and admission prices change from time to time. Check the Tower of David web site for current information.


Josephus Elaborates on the Palace

— “ —

176 Now as these towers were themselves on the north side of the wall, the king had a palace inwardly thereto adjoined, which exceeds all my ability to describe it;
177 for it was so very elaborate as to lack no cost nor skill in its construction, but was entirely walled about to the height of thirty cubits, and was adorned with towers at equal distances, and with large bedchambers, that would contain beds for a hundred guests a piece,
178 in which the variety of the stones is not to be expressed; for a large quantity of those who were rare of that kind were collected together. Their roofs were also wonderful, both for the length of the beams, and the splendour of their ornaments.
179 The number of the rooms was also very great, and the variety of the figures that was about them was prodigious; their furniture was complete, and the greatest part of the vessels that were put in them was of silver and gold.
180 There were besides many porticoes, one beyond another, all around, and in each of those porticoes elaborate pillars; yet were all the courts that were exposed to the air everywhere green.
181 There were, moreover, several groves of trees, and long walks through them, with deep canals and cisterns, that in various parts were filled with brazen statues, through which the water ran out. There were with this many dove courts {a} of tame pigeons about the canals.  (Jewish War 5:176-181 or 5.4)

— ” —


Selected Sources:

AP You Tube video featuring Re’em Amit, the Jerusalem District Archaeologist of  the IAA in charge of the excavations of the Kishle. In this video Amit seems to be explaining in English and someone else is translating in another language.

Rasmussen, Carl. Kishle Tour. Photos included.

Rotem, Itay (guide), Tower of David Museum. You Tube.

Shapiro, Caroline. “Doorway to the Past.” Archaeological Diggings, Nov. 2015.

Tower of David web site. Here you will find several links to popular articles about the new excavation.

Ziese, Mark. “The Barracks.”

________.  “What Lies Beneath.”  In both articles Ziese includes some historic photos bringing to mind the use of the Kishle during the British period.

The Citadel of Jerusalem

The Citadel at Jaffa (Joppa) Gate in the west wall of the Old City of Jerusalem provides one of the most distinctive and memorable views of the city.

This view of the Citadel was made from the west, looking across the Hinnom Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This view of the Citadel was made from the west, looking across the north-south stretch of the Hinnom Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The distinctive square tower (with the flag) is popularly known as the Tower of David, even though the Citadel never had anything to do with David.

The photo below shows the towers of the citadel as they are reconstructed in the Second Temple Model at the Israel Museum. The informative booklet describing the model identifies the towers as follows:

  • Left: The tower of Phasael, Herod’s brother. This is the tower now known as the Tower of David. It has been dated to the Herodian period, but scholars differ over whether it should be identified with Phasael or Hippicus towers. Herod the Great reigned from 37-4 B.C., but his “period” could be thought of as continuing until the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70, and overlapping with the Roman period. The Roman period could be considered from the entrance of Rome into the country to the beginning of the Byzantine period (64 B.C. to A.D. 324).
  • Center: The tower of Hippicus, Herod’s friend.
  • Right: The tower of Mariamne, named for the favorite wife of Herod whom he later murdered.

Josephus describes these towers in The Jewish War V:161-183.

The three towers of the Citadel from the time of Herod the Great. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The three towers of the Citadel from the time of Herod the Great. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Our next photo provides a nice aerial view of the present condition of the Citadel. On the left you see Jaffa Gate, the only entrance to the Old City from the west. Notice the red-roofed building on the extreme right of the photo, with parking further to the right. That is the Kishle, the Old City Police Station. More about that in a future post. The Tower of David Museum is housed in the Citadel. The TOD web site may be accessed here. Click on Citadel for information related to this post.

Aerial photo of the Citadel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial photo of the Citadel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Citadel has undergone several archaeological excavations. Here is a brief list as discussed by Renée Sivan and Giora Solar in Ancient Jerusalem Revealed, ed. by Hillel Geva (1994).

  • Extensive survey by Conrad Shick in 1898.
  • The first archaeological excavation was conducted by C. N. Johns, on behalf of the British Mandatory Department of Antiquities, 1934-1947. Jones “exposed the outer north and west faces of the First Wall (8th century B.C.) comprising four phases of construction.” On the eastern, inner side of the wall, he found material from the Roman period.
  • R. Amiran and A. Eitan excavated in the Citadel courtyard in 1968-1969. They uncovered Hasmonean buildings (late 2nd to early 1st century B.C.) “overlaid by a complex of walls which they interpreted as part of the foundations of Herod’s palace.”
  • Hillel Geva excavated the southern part of the Citadel courtyard between 1976-1980.
  • Sivan and Solar excavated several portions of the Citadel.

To summarize, within the Citadel we have ruins which belong to the Iron Age (8th century B.C.), Hasmonean Period (late 2nd to early 1st century B.C.), Herodian Period (late 1st century B.C. to A.D. 70), Roman Period (64 B.C. to A.D. 324), Byzantine Period (4th to 7th centuries A.D.), the Early Arab Period (8th-9th centuries A.D.), the Crusader Period (A.D. 1099-1260), the Mamluk (A.D. 1260-1517) and Ottoman Periods A.D. 1517-1918). See the chapter by Hillel Giva in Jerusalem Revealed (1994) for more details. (Dates are those used by Max Miller, Introducing the Holy Land).

The photo below provides a view of the interior of the Citadel from the Tower of David. Within this area we have ruins from the various archaeological/historical periods mentioned above, covering a period of about 2700 years.

Interior southwest view of the interior of the Citadel from the Tower of David. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Interior southwest view of the interior of the Citadel from the Tower of David. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Before leaving the article by Sivan and Solar, allow me to mention that the Tower of David was exposed to the bedrock during their excavation, “except for its north-western corner which was built on small stones and debris.” The bedrock at this point is 766.65 meters (2515.26 feet) above sea level.

Everyone who reads this blog probably knows that the walls surrounding the Old City of Jerusalem date to the Turkish period, built in the 16th century A.D.

More about the Citadel and a visit to the Kishle in post(s) to come. The photos in this post are sized for use in PowerPoint presentations for the classroom. I hope some of you will find them useful. Publication requires the usual licensing.

Where the Romans breached Jerusalem wall

There is abundant evidence of the presence of the Romans in Jerusalem and the land they would later call Palestine. Now comes specific evidence of the place where Titus’ army breached the Third Wall of the city.

The excavation site in the Russian Compound. One can see the sling stones on the floor, which are tangible evidence of the battle that was waged here 2,000 years ago. Photographic credit: Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The excavation site in the Russian Compound. One can see the wall and sling stones on the floor, which are tangible evidence of the battle that was waged here 2,000 years ago. Photographic credit: Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The Israel Antiquities Authority released this information earlier today.

— “ —

Impressive and fascinating evidence of the battlefield and the breaching of the Third Wall that surrounded Jerusalem at the end of the Second Temple period was uncovered last winter in the Russian Compound in the city center. The finds were discovered in an archaeological excavation the Israel Antiquities Authority conducted in the location where the new campus of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design is slated to be constructed.  During the course of the excavation archaeologists discovered the remains of a tower jutting from the city wall. Opposite the tower’s western facade were scores of ballista and sling stones that the Romans had fired from catapults towards the Jewish guards defending the wall, who were stationed at the top of the tower.

Kfir Arbib, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, cleans one of the sling stones. Photographic credit: Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Kfir Arbib, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, cleans one of the sling stones. Photographic credit: Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

According to Dr. Rina Avner and Kfir Arbib, excavation directors on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “This is a fascinating testimony of the intensive bombardment by the Roman army, led by Titus, on their way to conquering the city and destroying the Second Temple. The bombardment was intended to attack the sentries guarding the wall and provide cover for the Roman forces so they could approach the wall with battering rams and thereby breach the city’s defenses”. The historian Josephus, an eye witness to the war, provided many details about this wall. According to him, the wall was designed to protect the new quarter of the city that had developed outside its boundaries, north of the two existing city walls. This quarter was named Beit Zeita. The building of the Third Wall was begun by Agrippa I; however, he suspended its construction so as not to incur the wrath of Emperor Claudius and to dispel any doubts regarding his loyalty. The construction of the Third Wall was resumed some two decades later by the defenders of Jerusalem, as part of fortifying the city and the Jewish rebels’ preparations for the Great Revolt against Rome.

. Dr. Rina Avner, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority. Photographic credit: Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

. Dr. Rina Avner, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority. Photographic credit: Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Josephus described in detail the route of the wall that began at Hippicus Tower, which is now identified with David’s Citadel. From there the wall continued north to the enormous Psephinus Tower, which defended the northwestern corner of the city wall. At that point the wall turned east and descended toward the Tomb of Queen Helena, which is identified with the place known as the Tombs of the Kings. [Jewish Wars 5:147]

The excavation site in the Russian Compound. One can see the sling stones on the floor, which are tangible evidence of the battle that was waged here 2,000 years ago. Photographic credit: Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

One of the sling stones on the floor, tangible evidence of the battle that was waged here 2,000 years ago. Photographic credit: Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the IAA.

An unresolved debate among researchers has been going from the early twentieth century up until the current excavation as to the identity of the Third Wall and the question concerning Jerusalem’s boundaries on the eve of the Roman onslaught led by Titus. It seems that the new discovery in the Russian Compound is proof of the wall’s existence in this area.

. A spearhead from the battle against Titus’ army. Photographic credit: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

. A spearhead from the battle against Titus’ army. Photographic credit: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

— ” —

Christians see the A.D. 70 destruction of Jerusalem as a fulfillment of the prophecy of Jesus.

“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.” (Luke 21:20 ESV; see also Matthew 24 and Mark 13)

Some of the photos can be enlarged by clicking on the image.

HT: Joseph Lauer, several Israeli newspapers.

What is that building?

Frequently over the years I have had tour members ask me, “What is that building?” as they pointed to the building with golden onion tops. The simple answer is that this is the Russian Garden of Gethsemane. More specifically, the building is known as the Church of St. Mary Magdalene.

The Church of All Nations (left) and the Church of St. Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Church of All Nations (left) and the Church of St. Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Many will recognize the Church of All Nations and its’ Garden of Gethsemane. Murphy-O’Connor says,

No one can be sure of the exact spot at which he prayed, but this limited area was certainly close to the natural route leading from the Temple to the summit of the Mount of Olives and the ridge leading to Bethany. (The Holy Land, 5th ed., p. 147).

The New Testament account explains that the disciples of Jesus went with him to the Mount of Olives (Matthew 26:30), to a placed called Gethsemane.

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” (Matthew 26:36 ESV)

The Church of St. Mary Magdalene has received quite a bit of attention in the Israeli newspapers because Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, went there after attending the funeral of former Israeli President Shimon Peres. The paternal grandmother of Prince Charles, Princess Alice of Battenberg, died in 1969 but was transferred to the Mount of Olives according to her request in 1988. The Times of Israel explains,

Alice of Battenberg was recognized by Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial as a “Righteous Among the Nations” and by the British government as a “Hero of the Holocaust.”

Prince Phillip is said to have visited the Church in 1994.

The web site of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem says,

Princess Andrew of Greece (Princess Alice of Battenberg), mother of the Duke of Edinburgh visited the church and stayed in the monastery in the 1930s. Her wish was to be buried near her Aunt ‘Ella’, the Grand-Duchess Elizabeth whose devotion to the church and to nursing and charitable service she strove to emulate. Princess Andrew died at Buckingham Palace in 1969. Her wish to be buried at the Convent of Saint Mary Magdalene in Gethsemane was finally realized in 1988 when her remains were transferred to her final resting place in a crypt below the church.

The church stands in the Garden of Gethsemane, the place where Jesus spent His last night on earth. Also found on the convent grounds are the remnants of a pre-Roman road, the biblical entry to Jerusalem. Not far from this road is a large stone on to which the Mother of God dropped her cincture to Apostle Thomas on the third day following her Dormition.

A different sunrise on the Sea of Galilee

In looking through some photos from 2011, I noticed that the photos I made one morning were different from most sunrise photos I have taken. I thought some readers might enjoy seeing this. Click on the image for a larger photo.

Sunrise on the Sea of Galilee in 2011. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sunrise on the Sea of Galilee in 2011. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

We know that Jesus utilized the evening cool and the early morning in His ministry.

32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons.
33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door.
34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.  (Mark 1:32-35 ESV)