Assyrian Nimrud (Calah) destroyed

The phrase “Assyrian Triangle” came to be used of three famous Assyrian cities of northern Mesopotamia: Nimrud, Khorsabad, and Nineveh. I think an understanding of this helps when we study Jonah 3:3.

Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. (Jonah 3:1-3 ESV)

Parrot says that the word Nineveh might have been understood by those living far away from Assyria by what we now call “‘the Assyrian triangle’ which stretches from Khorsabad in the north to Nimrud in the south, and with an almost unbroken string of settlements, covers a distance of some twenty six miles” (Nineveh and the Old Testament, 85-86).

As Alexander explains, this is,

“the region between the rivers Tigris, Zabu and Ghazir, extending from Dur-Sharrukin (Khorsabad) in the north to Calah (Nimrud) in the south” (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, Vol.26).

A few days back we learned of the wanton destruction of gates at Nineveh and various artifacts from the museum in Mosul. Friday we learned from various news outlets that Nimrud was bulldozed.

Nimrud is identified with the Calah of Genesis 10:11-12. When I made a short visit to the region in 1970, we stopped at Tell Nimrud for only a few photos. Here is one that has held up fairly well.

A Lamassu at one of the entries to Assyrian Nimrud. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, 1970.

A Lamassu at one of the entries to Assyrian Nimrud. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, 1970.

For examples of these winged bulls in better condition we must visit the British Museum or one of the other museums where a few good examples may be found.

The other photo I am sharing is of the ruins of the ancient ziggurat at Nimrud. Our guide, George, is seen talking with a man I recall as being a keeper at the site. Ziggurats are common in Iraq, but because many of them were were made of mud brick they often resemble a pile of dirt from a distance.

Ruins of the ziggurat at Nimrud. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, 1970.

Ruins of the ziggurat at Nimrud. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, 1970.

Christopher Jones continues his good updates on the Gates of Nineveh here. The Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) has a helpful report here.

If you like to follow this sort of thing, the National Geographic report is here. A friend on FB sent the TIME report here.

Eleanor Robson, Professor of Ancient Near Eastern History at the University College London, recommends Nimrud: Materialities of Assyrian Knowledge Production.

A great old resource now available

If you use Logos Bible Software you probably already know about Community Pricing. Logos takes on some older works and produces them in the Logos format only when there is sufficient interest to pay for production. Some may take a year or more; others may never make it to production.

A Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols)

This product is a download.

One great old resource that I have in print format is A Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols.). This work by 5 authors (primarily James Hastings) is +/- 100 years old, and for many entries you must use more current resources. But I have found it to be highly valuable over the years.

Logos describes this resource as follows:

The Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols.) is a landmark reference work edited by biblical scholar James Hastings. It is a thorough index of all key terms in Scriptures. With over a hundred scholars contributing, this five-volume set contains over 4,500 pages with over 1,500 definitions. The articles focus on people, places, archaeology, geology, theology, and obscure biblical terms. It was the goal of Hastings to compile a reference work that would enable the Church to teach in wisdom and knowledge. These in-depth definitions are easy to read, yet academic in nature.

Not to be confused with Hastings’ one-volume Dictionary of the same name, this separate resource is a fantastic reference addition to your library. An important documentation of historical biblical scholarship as well as solid interpretation and definitions of key terms and ideas, The Dictionary of the Bible (5 Vols.) is even easier to use with the Logos edition. Hastings’ massive resource is now instantly searchable by topic or Scripture, making study and research a breeze.

This resource is available until 12:00 pm (PST) on Friday, 3/6/2015 for a bid of $15.00. After that you will pay at least $99.95 for it.

Go to Logos.com and look under the Community Pricing resources, or just search for Hastings (or add A Dictionary of the Bible). Do not confuse it with the one volume work which already sells for $24.95.

Tel ‘Eton is thought to be biblical Eglon

Tel ‘Eton (also Tel Eiton and Tel Aitun) is not the easiest archaeological site to locate. The site is situated on Israel’s border with the Palestinian West Bank. Palestine is on the east side of the mound and a military firing range is on the west side. When Leon Mauldin and I located the place we decided it would be best to stick to the gravel road without straying too far to the left or the right — sort of like Joshua.

“Be very firm, then, to keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, so that you may not turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left,  so that you will not associate with these nations, these which remain among you, or mention the name of their gods, or make anyone swear by them, or serve them, or bow down to them.  (Joshus 23:6-7 NAU)

Tel ‘Eton currently is equated with biblical Eglon by many scholars. Recent excavations have been conducted under the direction of Prof. Avi Faust of Bar Ilan University.

Here is a photo of the tel from the south and perhaps a little to the east.

Tel 'Eton (Tel Eiton; Tel Aitun) from the south (and east). Photo by

Tel ‘Eton (Tel Eiton; Tel Aitun) from the south (and east). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Eglon is mentioned at least eight times in the Bible, all in the book of Joshua (10:3, 5, 23, 34, 36, 37; 12:12). The Scripture emphasizes that Israel defeated the king of Eglon. Notice the relationship between Lachish and Eglon.

And Joshua and all Israel with him passed on from Lachish to Eglon, and they camped by it and fought against it.  They captured it on that day and struck it with the edge of the sword; and he utterly destroyed that day every person who was in it, according to all that he had done to Lachish.  Then Joshua and all Israel with him went up from Eglon to Hebron, and they fought against it.  (Joshua 10:34-36 NAU)

The distance from Lachish to Eglon (on a straight line) is 7 miles. From Eglon to Hebron is 10½ miles.

A recent article in Popular Archaeology reports,

An archaeological team has uncovered remains of what may have been an administrative center during the period when Judahite kings ruled out of ancient Jerusalem.

Led by project director Avraham Faust, an archaeologist with Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv, Israel, excavations at the site of Tel ‘Eton located on the edge of the fertile Shephelah and the Hebron hill country to its east have revealed structures, artifacts, and fortifications that tell of an ancient city that historically straddled the eastern edge of the lowlands between the biblical kingdom of Judah and Jerusalem in the east and the cities of the Philistines on the Mediterranean coastal plains of the west.

Among the finds was a large, 240 sq.m. 8th century BCE house structure built following a four-room plan typical of ancient Israelite dwellings, featuring high-quality construction and, with its location at the highest point on the mound, commanding a strategic view of all areas below. The ancient building, along with its town context, was strategically located at the cross-roads of important north-south and east-west routes, set above fertile agricultural country.

“The structure was excavated, almost in its entirety, and was composed of a large courtyard with rooms on three sides,” stated Faust. “The building was nicely executed, including ashlar stones in the corners and openings. Hundreds of artifacts were unearthed within the debris, including a wide range of pottery vessels, loom weights, many metal objects, botanical remains, as well as many arrowheads, evidence of the battle which accompanied the conquest of the site by the Assyrians.”

The article also reports,

But the most abundant finds for the early periods were dated to the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1550-1200/1150 BCE).

That is the period of Joshua.

Here is a portion of the excavation from 2011.

Tel Eton excavation in 2011. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tel Eton excavation in 2011. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Tel ‘Eton Excavations website contains many small photos, plans, history, bibliography, etc.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Parrot: It is necessary to see in order to understand

When I began to learn of and appreciate the work of André Parrot, Curator-in-Chief of the French National Museums, Professor at the School of the Louvre, and Director of the Mari Archaeological Expedition, I purchased most of those masterful little books he wrote about Biblical cities. In connection with the recent post about Nineveh I took down my well-marked copy of Nineveh and the Old Testament (1955) and began to read again.

André Parrot writes of his April 1950 arrival at Mosul.

During the twenty years spent in Iraq or in Syria, we had never had an opportunity to cross the ‘Assyrian triangle’ Once again we realized how necessary it is to see in order to understand, and especially to hold in the memory. Knowledge gained from books is certainly not enough, for names which are not attached to any reality are nothing more than ghosts. Ghosts of cities, shadows of men, vague floating shapes, without solidity, though one tries to capture it with the aid of a drawing, a photograph or a vivid description. All students of archaeology know this by experience: nothing can replace actual contact with the object. That is why museums are so important; because there one can recognize the long chain of human history stretching out continuously from its beginning, but in which, instinctively we have a special interest in detecting and observing the first links. But the object is a prisoner in its glass case. Tom from its natural surroundings it has lost its true speech. Nevertheless it exerts a pull, it beckons one to take the road. It is impossible to contemplate the Assyrian reliefs in the Louvre or the British Museum without calling up the image of Nineveh.

Parrot points out that a visit to Nineveh can be disappointing “if one expects to see murals or palaces.” These things, he says, have been destroyed or crumbled away.

No kingdom endures forever, as the prophet Daniel reminded us long ago. Parrot says that he had only four days to visit the Assyrian Triangle (Nineveh, Nimrud, Khorsabad, and Asshur). In the evenings during his visit, he stayed with the Dominican Fathers. He says his memory of Nineveh,

is bound up with that of Mosul and the white cell in the monastery where, every evening of that short stay, we were able to meditate only a few yards from the Assyrian capital, on the vanity of empires and the fate which awaits all of them.

For the same reasons I have spent many years encouraging Bible students to visit the Bible lands.

The British Museum displays many reliefs from Nineveh. Information posted with the relief below says that it dates to about 700-692 BC. It comes from the SW Palace, Rm. 14, panels 13-15. After the capture of Alammu, a town of uncertain location, the prisoners are brough before the Assyrian king. Some carry heads of the dead. The king, Sennacherib, was shown in his chariot, but this part is now lost (WA 124786-7). Click on the photo for a larger image.

This Assyrian relief from Nineveh shows Prisoners from the town of Alammu. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This Assyrian relief from Nineveh shows Prisoners from the town of Alammu. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

 

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.