Category Archives: Photography

The shepherd and the sheepfold

We still see scenes in the Bible world today of shepherds, sheep, and sheepfolds. The scene pictured below was made in the Jordan Valley in late August, a time that is extremely dry in the area.

Bedouin camp and sheepfold in the Jordan Valley in late August. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Bedouin tent and sheepfold in the Jordan Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Scenes such as these remind us of the Biblical patriarchs who moved about from place to place with their flocks. Abraham and Lot provide an example.

And Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, (Genesis 13:5 ESV)

There are several biblical references to the sheepfold, or the fold of the sheep (Jeremiah 50:6; Micah 2:12; John 10:1, 16). Jesus used an illustration involving the sheepfold:

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. (John 10:1-2 ESV)

Greek Orthodox church sells property. You may be surprised.

The Times of Israel ran an article Tuesday stating that,

The Roman Amphitheater and the hippodrome in the ancient Israeli coastal city of Caesarea have been sold off, in secret, to a mysterious overseas holding company by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate.

Earlier we had read that the Greek Orthodox sold the land where about 1,500 owners of leased property in Jerusalem live.

The Greek Orthodox Church acquired some 4,500 dunams (1,110 acres) of real estate in the center of Jerusalem during the 19th century, primarily for agriculture. In the 1950s, just after Israel’s independence, it agreed to lease its land to the JNF for 99 years — with an option to extend. Even Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, is built on Greek Orthodox-owned land.

Almost anyone who has made a tour to Israel has visited the theater at Caesarea Maritima. The theater was built originally by Herod the Great but was added to and modified in later centuries. The seating capacity in its final stage was about 4,000.

This aerial photo shows the position of the theater (facing west) toward the Mediterranean Sea.

Herodian theater at Caesarea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The reconstructed theater at Caesarea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Don’t let the new seating fool you. Most of the seating has been restored since the excavation in the early 1960s. Beginning here, groups continue to the palace of the procurators, the hippodrome, and the Crusader fortress at Caesarea.

A tour group in the theater listens as the guide begins to tell them about the important of Caesarea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A tour group in the theater listens as the guide begins to tell them about the importance of Caesarea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

An inscription bearing the name of Pontius Pilate was found at Caesarea Maritima June 15, 1961 during the excavation of the Roman theater. The stone on which the inscription is found had been reused in the theater. The photo below shows a replica of the inscription displayed in the building described by Murphy-O’Connor as the Palace of the Procurators. The original inscription is in the Israel Museum.

Pilate inscription displayed in the Palace area at Caesarea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Pilate inscription displayed in the Palace area at Caesarea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

For more information about this inscription see here.

The two articles from The Times of Israel will provide much additional information. You may locate them here and here.

Camel caravans carry merchandise and people

Traveling in the Sinai Peninsula is an interesting experience. I recall flying into the Sinai twice, and traveling through the Peninsula by bus or car twice. Thoughts immediately turn to the Israelites traversing this wilderness, stopping at Mount Sinai to receive “the Law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel” gave to them (Ezra 7:6).

The caravan traveling here in the eastern Sinai is not carrying merchandise, but is on its way to the resort area of the Gulf of Eilat (or Aqaba). The camels seem to be ready with their saddles to entice the tourists to ride. The little camels are ready for the kids.

Camel caravan in the Eastern Sinai Peninsula. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Camel caravan in the Eastern Sinai Peninsula. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Several Biblical stories come to mind. Think of Rachel coming from Padan-Aram to southern Canaan to wed Isaac.

And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she dismounted from the camel (Genesis 24:64 ESV)

Or of the sons of Jacob preparing to sell Joseph to a band of Ismaelites.

Then they sat down to eat. And looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. (Genesis 37:25 ESV)

At Avedat in the Negev Highlands of Israel there is a display of the types of goods often transported across the Spice Route by the Nabateans.

Frankincense, Myrrh, and other spices were transported by camel caravans across the famous Spice Route. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Frankincense, Myrrh, Pepper, and other spices were transported by camel caravans across the famous Spice Route. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

An Iron Age pitcher in the Hecht Museum

The Hecht Museum is located in one of the major buildings of the University of Haifa. They have a wonderful teaching collection with some unique items. Many of the artifacts, however, are unprovenanced. This means they come from an unknown source. There is a big controversy among scholars about the publication and display of these items.

In my judgment it is better to display them with the information that is known than to store them in an inaccessible basement or warehouse.

According to the information with the museum display this is a pitcher, with a spout, red burnished, 10th century B.C., Israel Iron Age.

Iron Age pitcher. Displayed in the Hecht Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Iron Age pitcher. Displayed in the Hecht Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Then I set cups and pitchers full of wine in front of the members of the Rechabite community and said to them, “Have some wine.” (Jeremiah 35:5 NET)

Guys, I suggest you don’t show this to your wife. She may want one for her china cabinet.

The stork in the Bible and the Bible Lands

Early in my travels to the Middle East I learned about the migration of the stork. They spend the winters in south-east Africa and then follow the great rift or depression through Israel, some going east to Asia and others going west to Europe. In the fall of the year they make their way back to Africa.

If you have traveled from Tiberias to Jericho by way of the Jordan valley you know that the valley is sometimes far below the highway. Once I saw a flock of storks traveling north through the valley. The stork, and other birds, spend some time in the Hulah valley north of the Sea of Galilee before continuing their trek.

Jeremiah seems to be describing the migratory habits of the stork.

Even the stork in the heavens knows her times, and the turtledove, swallow, and crane keep the time of their coming, but my people know not the rules of the LORD. (Jeremiah 8:7 ESV)

I have seen many storks in Turkey. They make their nests on chimneys (has to be summer!), on power poles, and on old columns. The Psalmist indicates that they also nest in the fir trees (Psalm 104:17). Our photo today was made near an old Roman road at Kovanlik, Turkey. It’s almost like they know to follow the roads through Asia to Europe.

A stork standing on her nest at Kovanlik, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A stork standing on her nest at Kovanlik, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

According to the Mosaic law the stork was an unclean bird (Leviticus 11:19; Deuteronomy 14:18). The prophet Zechariah uses the movement of the storks with their strong wings as an illustration (which I dare not try to interpret).

Then I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, two women coming forward! The wind was in their wings. They had wings like the wings of a stork, and they lifted up the basket between earth and heaven. (Zechariah 5:9 ESV)

The Keren Kayemeth Leisrael JNF website provides good information about storks, and other birds, in the Hulah valley here. Here is another nice site with information about storks and some good photos.

Improved look of the Holy Sepulchre edicule

The dome of the Holy Sepulcher (Sepulchre) is easily recognizable to all visitors of the Old City of Jerusalem. It is the larger of two gray domes seen in the photo below. The smaller dome marks the traditional site of Calvary, the place where Jesus was crucified. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher was built by the Roman Emperor Constantine after his mother Helena visited Jerusalem. Murphy-O’Connor dates the dedication of the building to September 17, 335.

The aerial photo below shows Jaffa Gate at the bottom center. The Citadel is in the bottom right. The traditional Holy Sepulchre (larger gray dome) and the site of Calvary (smaller gray dome) are visible in the upper left corner of the photo. Evidence leads us to conclude that the Holy Sepulchre was outside the city wall at the time of Jesus. The Old City is now enclosed by a 16th century A.D. Ottoman (Turkish) wall.

Aerial view of Jaffa Gate. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of Jaffa Gate area. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

An edicule or small building within the church is said to cover the tomb in which Jesus was laid after the crucifixion, that is, the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 27:57-60). The photo below shows some of the metal scaffolding used to secure the structure in recent years.

For years it was known that the structure needed to be repaired. Finally, someone donated $1.3 million dollars to be sure the work could begin.

A view of the edicule with scaffolding to hold it up prior to the recent reconstruction work. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A view of the edicule with scaffolding to hold it up prior to the recent reconstruction work. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Below is the photo I made in late April, 2017.

A view of the edicule in late April, 2017, after the refurbishing. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A view of the edicule in late April, 2017, after the refurbishing. Multitudes line up daily to have an opportunity to go inside for a moment. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Only a few people saw the area of the original tomb during the renovation. Again the original tomb is covered by stone. The Franciscan Museum in the Old City of Jerusalem has a model to show what the original tomb looked like.

Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Cross section model of the tomb at the Holy Sepulchre in the Franciscan Museum, Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, the late Catholic scholar, asks the question, “Is this the place where Christ died and was buried?” He answers, “Yes, very probably.”

But Murphy-O’Connor also describes vividly the situation one finds today.

One expects the central shrine of Christendom to stand out in majestic isolation, but anonymous buildings cling to it like barnacles. One looks for numinous light, but it is dark and cramped. One hopes for peace, but the ear is assailed by a cacophony of warring chants. One desires holiness, only to encounter a jealous possessiveness: the six groups of occupants—Latin Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Syrians, Copts, Ethiopians—watch one another suspiciously for any infringement of rights. The frailty of humanity is nowhere more apparent than here; it epitomizes the human condition. The empty who come to be filled will leave desolate, those who permit the church to question them may begin to understand why hundreds of thousands thought it worthwhile to risk death or slavery in order to pray here. (The Holy Land, 5th Ed., p. 49).

Our faith in the resurrected Christ does not depend on the actual tomb in which He was placed after being taken down from the cross. It depends rather on the testimony of those reliable witnesses who saw Him after the resurrection. Luke reports that eyewitness testimony (Luke 1:1-4). Here is what he says the women who went to the tomb on the first day of the week were told when they found the empty tomb.

He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee,  that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” (Luke 24:6-7 ESV)

Where had Mary and Joseph stopped when they missed Jesus?

After his presentation in the Temple, there is no record of Jesus returning to Jerusalem until he is 12 years of age.

Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.  And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom.  (Luke 2:41-42 ESV)

When the Feast of the Passover ended, his parents began the return to Nazareth. We can easily imagine that a large caravan of people were traveling together on this trip that would take several days. Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem spending time among the teachers, “listening to them and asking them questions.” Because Mary and Joseph had relatives and acquaintances in the caravan they assumed that Jesus was among them until the end of the first day.

Keener provides some background on caravan travel.

Caravans, which afforded protection from robbers, were common on pilgrimages for the feasts in Jerusalem. Traveling with a caravan, in which neighbors from their town would watch the community children together, Mary and Joseph might assume that the near-adult Jesus was with companions, especially if by now they had younger children to attend to. If we assume a pace of twenty miles per day (though perhaps slower, depending on transportation and the children), Nazareth would be a little over three days’ journey along the shortest route. (Keener, C. S., The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament)

Where did Mary and Joseph stop at the end of that first day of travel? We can not be certain of the route taken from Jerusalem to Nazareth. Travel from Galilee to Jerusalem was often through Perea on the eastern side of the Jordan Valley. We later find Jesus traveling north along the central mountain range through Samaria (John 4).

Ruins of medieval church beneath a Mosque in El Bireh. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ruins of medieval church beneath a Mosque in El Bireh. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tradition identifies the stop at el-Bireh (El Bira). Tradition has it that the first day’s stop after leaving Jerusalem was at a place now known as El Bira (or Bireh) east of Ramallah. El Bira is an Arab town. There is a spring and ruins of a medieval church. The Hachette World Guides: The Middle East (1966) says that the tradition associating this event with El Bireh dates to the 16th century. Eugene Hoade says it is probable that this church was built in 1146 “in memory of” the event mentioned in Luke 2. (Guide to the Holy Land). The apse of the church is visible in the photo below. The Hachette World Guide says the building was destroyed in 1915 and the stones were used for building bridges along the mountain route.

Ruins of medieval church beneath a Mosque in El Bireh. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ruins of medieval church beneath a Mosque in El Bireh. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This site is only about 8 miles north of Jerusalem, but with a large caravan including women and children it is possible that a short distance was covered the first day. It was necessary to stop where water and various food supplies were available (John 4:6-8; Luke 9:51-53).

View of the ruins of the church at El Bireh. The apse is visible in the foreground. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View of the ruins of the church at El Bireh. The apse is visible in the foreground. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Is this Beeroth? Since the time of explorer Edward Robinson (1867), some scholars have identified El Bireh with the Old Testament Gibeonite city of Beeroth. The word Beeroth indicates the presence of a well. Biblical references include Joshua 9:17, 18:25, Ezra 2:25, and Nehemiah 7:29. Beeroth was considered part of the tribe of Benjamin (2 Samuel 4:2).

The late David Dorsey, after surveying the scholarship on the matter, says,

At present, therefore, the site of biblical Beeroth remains a matter of dispute. The most likely candidate would still seem to be the one originally proposed by Robinson, i.e., el-Bireh. (The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary)