Category Archives: Photography

The Fall of Nineveh (again)

The ancient site of Nineveh is located about 300 miles north of Baghdad. The mound is one mile east of modern Mosul near the bank of the Tigris River.

Nineveh, the most renowned capital of the Assyrian Empire, is most prominent in the Bible during what we call the Neo-Assyrian Period (900-612 B.C.). Well known kings include Ashurnasirpal (885-860 B.C.), Shalmaneser III (859-824 B.C.), Tiglath-pileser (745-727 B.C.), Shalmaneser V (727-722 B.C.), and Sargon II (722-705 B.C.), Sennacherib (705-681 B.C.), Esarhaddon (681-669 B.C.), and Ashurbanipal (669-c. 627 B.C.). [List and dates from the revised ISBE article by Donald J. Wiseman.]

Nineveh fell in 612 B.C., and the Assyrian Empire came to an end at the battle of Carchemish in 605 B.C.

The LORD called it “that great city” (Jonah 1:2), but little remains of the grandeur and the beauty of ancient Nineveh. My only opportunity to visit Nineveh was on May 14, 1970. I would like to have better photos, but I wanted to share a few slides that I made of the gates.

The first photo shows some reconstruction around the Addad Gate. Ancient ruins can be seen at the entry. This is the gate we have seen continuously on various news programs since the first week we learned of the Islamic State (also ISIS and ISIL) in the area. (I have replaced the colorless sky with blue. Or, is it gold?)

Addad Gate of ancient Nineveh. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, 1970.

Addad Gate of ancient Nineveh. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, 1970.

The next gate is known as the Nergal Gate. In 1970 there was one complete winged bull and one partially destroyed bull within the reconstructed gate.

Reconstructed Nergal Gate at Nineveh. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, 1970.

Reconstructed Nergal Gate at Nineveh. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, 1970.

The only other gate I was able to photograph is the Shamash Gate.

Reconstructed Shamash Gate at Nineveh in 1970. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Reconstructed Shamash Gate at Nineveh in 1970. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The traditional tomb of Jonah is at Nebi Yunus.

Ancient Nineveh. Map by Fredarch, Wikimedia Commons.

Ancient Nineveh. Map by Fredarch, Wikimedia Commons.

Jonah the prophet was sent to preach in Nineveh. See the book of Jonah and the comment Jesus made on this in Matthew 12:38-41. You will notice Nebi Yunus on the sketch map. This designated the tomb of the Prophet Jonah according to Islamic tradition. Incidentally, Jonah is popular in the Muslim religion and there are several monuments to him. He is said to be buried at Nebi Yunus and at Mashad (Gath-hepher) in Israel. Some reports indicate that this tomb has been destroyed by IS.

At another time we may discuss some of the significant biblical events associated with Nineveh.

Yesterday I watched the 5+ minute video of the destruction of artifacts in the Mosul Museum. Later last evening I thought I would watch it again, but discovered that it had been taken down by YouTube. Excerpts are currently available at the BBC, the Daily Mail, and likely other news outlets.

We can be thankful that great collections from the ancient Assyrian Empire can be seen at the British Museum and the Louvre, with smaller collections scattered in other museums. To this thought Todd Bolen added, “where they are safe, for now.” Another friend wrote by Email, “If they [ISIS thugs] are not stopped, this could be coming to a museum or library near you!!”

I just came across a blog called Gates of Nineveh written by Christopher Jones, a Ph.D student in ancient Near Eastern history at Columbia University. Some of our readers might find this site helpful.

Update. Christopher Jones assesses the damage at the Mosul Museum. He identifies many of the pieces recently destroyed in a current post here. I have added this blog to my list of blogs I follow on the Scholarly Page of the Biblical Studies Info Page.

Pilate erected a Tiberium in Caesarea Maritima

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 Maritima. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

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

It is the inscription that has bearing on our current study relating to the Imperial Cult in Roman Palestine. Murphy-O’Connor gives the following translation:

Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judaea, made and dedicated the Tibereieum to the Divine Emperor. (The Holy Land, Fifth Ed., p. 243)

The top line has the word for Tiberium. The second line has [Pon]tius Pilatus, and the third line seems to be the title of Pilate. Only one letter remains on the fourth line.

Joan Taylor, whose 2006 New Testament Studies article we have mentioned before, reads the inscription as follows:

  1. [_ _ _] S TIBERIÉUM
  2. [_ _ PO]NTIUS PILATUS
  3. [PRAEF]ECTUS IUDA[EA]E
  4. [_ _ _ _ _] É[_ _ _ _ _ _ _]

She translates the inscription as,

  1. [. . .] Tiberieum
  2. [.Po]ntius Pilate
  3. [Pref]ect of Judaea
  4. [. . .] e [. . .]

If you use Logos, you will be able to locate a suggested reconstruction of Pontius Pilate’s Inscription in the Faithlife StudyBible Infographics.

Taylor’s interpretation of the inscription is significant.

The word ‘Tiberieum’ is found nowhere else in the corpus of Latin inscriptions or literature and, given the relatively small size of the inscription and its terse quality, this Tiberieum should probably be understood as something of modest proportions. Possibly this small structure was attached to the theatre of Caesarea, located in the southern part of the city, which would explain its existence as a step in the remodelled theatre later on. (566)

Taylor describes the Tiberieum.

A dedicated structure in honour of the emperor Tiberius, a res sacra, would easily be called in Latin a ‘Tiberieum’. The most natural thing in terms of the Latin word would be to consider this to be not some secular lighthouse for the help of sailors or any other profane building, but an edifice or annex associated with the Roman imperial cult. (567)

Taylor’s excellent article covers Pilates coins, the shields he erected in Jerusalem, and the tiberium he built at Caesarea. This allows her to conclude that Pilate “does seem to have been purposively determined to maintain, if not advance, the Roman imperial cult in Judaea.” (582)

Once more, for those who wish to follow up on this subject, here is the bibliographic reference to Taylor’s article.

Taylor, Joan E. “Pontius Pilate and the Imperial Cult in Roman Judaea.” New Testament Studies 52. 2006: 555-582.

Other helpful materials include:

Bond, Helen K. “The Coins of Pontius Pilate: Part of An Attempt to Provoke the People or to Integrate Them into the Empire? Journal for the Study of Judaism XXVII 3. 1996: 241-262.

Carl Rasmussen has written about this topic on his Holy Land Photos’ Blog here. In a post here, Rasmussen emphasizes that Herod’s Imperial Cult Temples were “all less than 40 miles from Nazareth/Capernaum,” and that the temples “had been in existence for over 40 years!”

We may add that Pilate’s activities were closer to the time of the ministry of Jesus and the beginning of the church.

Note to Those Who Heard My Florida College Presentation. While I was working on this series of articles I noticed that I had misspelled the name of the Roman Emperor Tiberius throughout the presentation. I used the spelling of the town Tiberias. I am sure that all of my former students will agree that there should be no counting off for misspelled words. :-)

I am also aware of the different spelling of the structure credited to Pilate. Tiberieum is the more typical British-type spelling; Tiberium is often used by American writers.

Emperor Worship in Asia Minor. I have been asked if I will discuss Emperor Worship as it relates to the book of Revelation. At this time the answer is no. Perhaps later on. I always presented material on this when I taught Revelation, and I have included a chapter on the subject in Studies in the Book of Revelation which is available at the Florida College Bookstore.

Pilate promoted the Imperial Cult by setting up shields in Jerusalem

In addition to the use of coins, Pilate used other means to promote the Imperial (Emperor) Cult in Roman Palestine.

In the previous post we called attention to the article by Prof. Joan E. Taylor who said that the coinage of Pilate and the Pilate inscription from Caesarea,

“indicate a prefect determined to promote a form of Roman religion in Judaea.”

The residence of the governor of Judea was at Caesarea Maritima, but he came to Jerusalem for special events. Pilate would likely stay at Herod’s place. This is where he would have set up shields in honor of the Emperor Tiberius. Both Josephus (JW 2:169ff.) and Philo of Alexandria (Legatio ad Gaium) record this episode.

What were these shields? This coin that was minted later by Felix, prefect of Judea about AD 52-59 (Acts 23-24) might give us an idea. The obverse of the coin shows two oblong shields and two spears.

Coin of the Prefect Felix showing shields and spears.

Coin of the Prefect Felix showing two oblong shields and two crossed spears.

The actors involved in the RACE show at Jerash, Jordan, show us what the shields of the 6th Roman Legion might have looked like.

Enactment of soldiers of the 6th Roman Legion. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Enactment of soldiers of the 6th Roman Legion. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A denarius bearing the image of Augustus was struck in Lyon between 2 BC and AD 4. The reverse shows Gaius and Lucius standing, facing, holding shields and spears. In this case the shields are round, and are shown in association with the lituus and simpulum, symbols of the Imperial Cult. (I think you can easily find larger images of this coin on the Internet.)

Coin of Augustus showing shields, lituus, and simpulum.

Coin of Augustus showing shields, lituus, and simpulum.

Our point in all of this is to show that when Pilate erected the shields in Jerusalem it was in fact a symbol of the Imperial cult.

Next we plan to discuss the tiberium built by Pilate at Caesarea.

Pilate used coins to promote the Emperor Cult

After the death of Herod the Great, his son Herod Archaelaus (Archelaus, Matthew 2:22) ruled over Judea until AD 6. His misrule prompted Rome to appoint a series of prefects or governors over Judea. There were 15 governors appointed from Coponius (AD 6-9) to Gessius Florus (AD 64-66).

Pontius Pilate served as Governor of Judea from AD 26-36 (Matthew 22:7; Luke 3:1).

Carl Rasmussen called my attention to an excellent article by Joan E. Taylor in New Testament Studies dealing with the part played by Pilate in promoting the Imperial Cult. Taylor, now Professor of Christian Origins and Second Temple Judaism at King’s College in London, says that the coinage of Pilate and the Pilate inscription from Caesarea,

“indicate a prefect determined to promote a form of Roman religion in Judaea” (Taylor, Joan E. “Pontius Pilate and the Imperial Cult in Roman Judaea.” New Testament Studies 52. 2006: 555-582.)

Pilate minted two types of coins. The first coin, minted in AD 29, shows three bound ears of barley on the obverse. The inscription reads “Julia, of Caesar.” After the death of Livia, wife of Augustus, and mother of Tiberias, she was given the name Julia. One ear of barley is standing and two are drooping. On the reverse we see a libation ladle (simpulum) used by Roman priests to pour wine over sacrificial animals. The inscription reads, “TIBEPIOY KAICAROC (of Tiberius Caesar) and date LIS” (Hendin).

Coin minted by Pilate in A.D. 29.

Coin minted by Pilate in AD 29.

The second coin, struck in AD 30, shows a lituus, a wooden staff or wand used by Roman augures to signify their authority. The inscription on the obverse reads TIBERIOY KAICAROS (Tiberius, Caesar). The reverse shows a wreath with the date.

Coin minted by Pontius Pilate showing a lituus.

Coin minted by Pontius Pilate in AD 30 showing a lituus.

Taylor describes the coins of Pilate’s predecessors as showing primarily agricultural images. She says,

Pilate’s coins, by contrast, depict two key items of specifically Roman religious spiritual use: the lituus and the simpulum. In depicting these instruments on the Judaean coinage Pilate advertised particular rituals of exclusively Roman cult. These instruments were not generic to all cults in the Empire, which now embraced the Hellenistic world, let alone to Jewish or Samaritan rituals, but had emblematic and ritual uses within Roman rites alone. The ritual instruments themselves are described by terms not used for profane utensils, even when these utensils are quite similar (see Arnobius Adversus Nationes XXTV.1-6). They were entirely sacred implements, and they were cared for and stored in sacred space. (558-559)

Carl Rasmussen discusses Pilate’s coin showing the lituus here.

Roman coins and the Imperial Cult

Coins were important in the time of Jesus, and were more significant than their face value. On one occasion the Pharisees plotted against Jesus in an attempt to entangle Him in His words. They sent some of their disciples to Jesus to ask, “is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

Tiberius in the Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Bust of Tiberius in the Louvre.

When Jesus asked them to show him the coin used for the tax they brought Him a denarius. The denarius of that time would likely be one minted by the Emperor Tiberius (A.D. 14-37). Jesus asked, “Whose likeness [eikon] and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Jesus responded, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Read the full account in Matthew 22:15-22).

The photo below shows a Denarius with the image of the Emperor Tiberius. The inscription on the obverse (heads) reads “TI CAESAR DIVI AVG F AUGUSTVS” (Tiberius, Caesar Augustus, Son of the Divine Augustus).

Denarius minted by Emperor Tiberias.

Denarius minted by Emperor Tiberius.

David Hendin (Guide to Biblical Coins, 1st. ed, 170-171) describes the reverse (tails) of the coin: “Female figure sits on a plain chair to right, she holds olive branch in her left hand and long sceptre in her right.” The inscription PONTIF MAXIM means High Priest, which Hendin says is “another of the emperor’s titles and later a title of the Bishop of Rome.”

This coin clearly demonstrates the Emperors’ claim to being the son of the divine Augustus, and to being High Priest in the Imperial Cult.

Florence Aiken Banks says,

It is not surprising that this Tiberius denarius–popularly known as the “tribute penny”–is of all coins the one most in demand by collectors who cherish their New Testaments. (Coins of Bible Days, 99)

In the next post I plan to discuss Pontius Pilate, prefect of Judea, and what we can learn about the Imperial Cult from his coins and the inscription bearing his name at Caesarea Maritima.

Special Note About Coin Images. For many years I have included several links to coin and coin collectors under the Bible Places page at the Biblical Studies Info Page. I have found that these web sites come and go. If I use the image of a coin that rightfully belongs to another photographer I will be pleased to give credit if you will point me to the site.

Herod built a temple to Augustus at Samaria

Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel, was well known in Old Testament times. In New Testament times the term Samaria seems to be used of a region rather than a city. See Luke 17:11; John 4:4-7; Acts 1:8; 8:1,9,14; 9:31; 15:3.

The city of Samaria had been rebuilt by Herod the Great and named Sebaste in honor of the Emperor Augustus. The modern name of the small town of Samaria is Sebastia.

Herod the Great built a temple to Augustus with a monumental staircase over the palace area of the Israelite kingdom. The temple was destroyed, but later rebuilt along the same plan by Septimius Severus (Roman emperor, A.D. 193-211). The monumental staircase still stands at the top of the tell.

Monumental steps mark the site of Herod's Temple to Augustus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Monumental steps from the time of Septimius Severus mark the site of Herod’s Temple to Augustus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Some remnants of column capitals rest at the top of the steps.

Remnants of some of the columns rest at the top of the staircase. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Remnants of some of the columns rest at the top of staircase. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This was the second of three temples erected by Herod in honor of Augustus. In two previous posts we have discussed the temple at Caesarea Maritima and the one in the district of Caearea Philippi (perhaps Omrit).

Carl Rasmussen wrote about the Imperial Cult a few months back on his Holy Land Photos’ Blog here. He says,

IMHO we also need to give emphasis to the fact that Herod the Great had built  three Imperial Cult Temples — all less than 40 miles from Nazareth/Capernaum.  By the time that Jesus began his public ministry these Imperial Cult Temples (namely those at Caesarea Maritima, Sebastia, and the one near Caesarea Philippi [= Omrit])  had been in existence for over 40 years!

In my recent lecture at the Florida College Lectureship I discussed two texts from the ministry of Jesus that may be understood in the light of the Emperor worship prevalent in the country. One was the location of Peter’s confession of Jesus: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16 ESV). See a discussion here. The second text I used was the one involving the question, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” (Matthew 22:17). More about that in a post to follow.

Dust storms afflict Egypt, Palestine, and Israel

Almost four years ago I wrote a post about the strong East winds of the Middle East, also calling attention to the winds from the south. Several bloggers have called attention to a recent occurrence of the winds affecting Egypt, Palestine, and Israel in particular. I thought it would be appropriate to reprint some of that earlier material here with an update.

— • —

Almost everyone who has visited Israel has learned of the West winds that make their way through the depressions around the Sea of Galilee and create storms on the Sea. Unless you travel in the “transitional season” or in the (dry) summer season you may not have learned about the East wind. This wind is called the sirocco. In Egypt it is known as the khamsin, and in Israel as the sharav.

Denis Baly, The Geography of the Bible (1974 ed., pp. 51-53), explains these winds. He says they occur in the transitional seasons from early April to mid-June, and from mid-September to the end of October. Baly says,

It is this intense dryness and the fine dust in the air which are so exhausting, for other hot days, though troublesome, do not have the same effect. People with a heart condition, nervous complaints, or sinus trouble are particularly affected, but even the mildest-tempered person is apt to become irritable and to snap at other people for no apparent reason. Tourists find the sirocco especially frustrating, for not only does travel become fatiguing, but the fine yellowish dust which fills the air drains it of all color, blots out all but the immediate vicinity, and makes photography a mockery.

Here is how Larry Haverstock described his day walking the Jesus Trail in an Email to me.

No blog last night because of the storm. I woke to high winds from the east which dusted up the air so badly that photos were mostly useless. Worst part was that it was directly against me and really HOT. Pushing against 20+ mph winds really took the steam out of me. By the end of the day I was utterly exhausted.  Drank my full 3 litres and had good dinners and breakfasts, but energy levels are still very low.

The photo below is one of the aerial shots Larry and I made a week earlier. It was made while flying over the west shore of the Sea of Galilee, with the view to the west. You can see Mount Arbel and the Wadi Hamam below. The Via Maris runs in this valley which is also called the Valley of the Doves. You will notice two lines of mountains further west.

I am rather sure that this is the route Larry was walking. Larry lived in Washington state for many years. I think he is not bothered by the sudden rains, but the intense heat and strong wind from the east may be another matter. I want you to think about the fact that all of the biblical characters from the Patriarchs to Jesus and His disciples encountered conditions similar to these (and worse).

Aerial view of Arbel, Wadi Hamam, and the Via Maris. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of Arbel, Wadi Hamam, and the Via Maris. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Baly cites several biblical references to the east and south winds that bring in the hot air and the dust storms. He says, “Where the mountains come close to the sea a strong sirocco pours down the slopes like a flood, at 60 miles an hour or more, stirring the sea into a fury.”

By the east wind you shattered the ships of Tarshish. (Psalm 48:7 ESV)

In the prophecy against Tyre, Ezekiel says,

“Your rowers have brought you out into the high seas. The east wind has wrecked you in the heart of the seas. (Ezekiel 27:26 ESV)

Notice Elihu’s comments to Job about the south wind.

Do you know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him who is perfect in knowledge,  you whose garments are hot when the earth is still because of the south wind?  (Job 37:16-17 ESV)

Jesus also observed the effect of the south wind:

And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and it happens. (Luke 12:55 ESV)

Do you remember Jonah’s problems after enjoying the shade of his plant?

When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:8 ESV)

Baly calls attention to the effect of the spring siroccos on the crops.

The spring siroccos destroy the winter grass and may damage the crops if they come too soon, and hence they appear constantly in the Bible as a symbol of the impermanence of riches or of human life.

Note these additional references in your own study: Psalm 103:16; Isaiah 40:6-8; Hosea 13:15; Ezekiel 17:10; James 1:11. In a recent post Barry Britnell (Exploring Bible Lands) add Deuteronomy 28:15-24 here.

Larry Haverstock’s own description which he later wrote here in his blog is included here. (There are some great pictures of his descent from Mount Arbel.)

It was while making this first effort of the morning that I encountered my nemesis for the rest of the day.  It was only 10 o’clock but already a hot wind was blowing in my face.  What I couldn’t know at that moment was that as I climbed the western slope the mountain was acting as a shield so that I wouldn’t feel the brunt of this wind until I summited.  As soon as I stepped out upon the actual heights of Arbel I knew I was in for an unusual day.

The view was phenomenal and despite the dust in the air I got the following shot of the Plain of Gennesaret.  This is the Northwest corner of the Sea.  Just out of sight on the waterfront to the right are the ruins of ancient Magdala from whence one very famous Mary came.  All the rest of the shoreline is the area in which Jesus spent a tremendous amount of time, preached some of His very most famous sermons, worked many miracles, and made His home in Capernaum which is along the shore as it turns the corner and heads off to the right in the distance.  Much food for thought when you stand in this place.

Unfortunately, the wind was howling and dangerous here.  I don’t have a weather report, but guess it was in the vicinity of 40 miles an hour since I was actually being pushed off balance and forced to take a step now and then to keep from falling over.  It did give me pause, but I was determined to take the shorter, harder, steeper trail down, so I spent about 20 minutes re-rigging my equipment.  Fearing the monopod “sword” might jam itself on the rocks somehow I removed it from the under arm position and strapped it vertically to the back of the pack.  Then, using the extra leather chin strap rope I’d brought along for emergency, I took off my hat and lashed it on the back of the pack too.  This hat had a very wide and stiff brim which had helped shield my face from the gale on the way up, but was now a liability, capable of catching the wind and pulling me off balance, so I stowed it.  Then I took the pack’s belly straps and lengthened them so that rather than directly clutching my stomach, they came out and over the front pack so that I could tightly restrain it from swinging.  Having thus reduced my exposure to the wind I started down.

It was now man against mountain, rather than nonchalant tourist with a camera time.…

Shortly afterwards I called attention to the comparative photos that Dr. Carl G. Rasmussen has included in his Zondervan Atlas of the Bible, and on his Holy Land Photos website here. These photos provide a vivid contrast that the dust storms make.

In today’s Weekend Roundup at Bible Places Blog, Todd Bolen calls attention to the current article in The Jerusalem Post here, and the 25 or so outstanding large photos from Egypt, Palestine, and Israel in London’s Daily Mail here. Be sure to look at these photos.

I have experienced a delayed flight in Egypt due to the sand storms, and the scorching hot wind with dust in Israel, but nothing like these photos reveal.