Sunset on the Nile

In this photo we catch a sunset on the Nile River a short distance from Luxor.

Sunset on the Nile River. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sunset on the Nile River. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Some repair photos at the Holy Sepulcher

In the last post we mentioned the long-needed repair of the shrine (edicule) in the Holy Sepulcher, the traditional site of the tomb in which Jesus was placed after the crucifixion.

One of my traveling friends, Steven Braman, just returned from the excavation at Lachish. He offered to send some photos he made within the Holy Sepulcher on June 24th. I am sharing two of these with our readers.

Shrine of the Holy Sepulcher under repair June 24, 2016.

Shrine of the Holy Sepulcher under repair June 24, 2016.

Repair of the shrine of the Holy Sepulcher, June 24, 2016.

Repair of the shrine of the Holy Sepulcher, June 24, 2016.

Tim Blamer, one of our readers, left this comment.

I was there last week. The scaffolding and construction is quite extensive now. Any peace and tranquility that was in the church is now overwhelmed by the sound of construction and heavy equipment moving around. People could still go in to view the tomb, but it’s clear something major is being done.

Thanks to Steven and Tim. I never observed much “peace and tranquility” in the church.

Repair of the Shrine in the Holy Sepulcher

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 gray domes of the Holy Sepulchre (left) and the site of Calvary (right) from the roof of the Citadel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The gray domes of the Holy Sepulcher (left) and the site of Calvary (right) from the roof of the Citadel. 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 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. Widespread reports indicate the work in now underway to remove the structure and then replace it.

The Edicule of the Holy Sepulchre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Edicule of the Holy Sepulcher. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

At this time 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.

Model of the tomb at the Holy Sepulchre. Franciscian Museum. 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 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).

Whether most of us will ever see the remains of the actual tomb is unknown. 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.” (Lukw 24:6-7 ESV)

When Todd Bolen reported (here) the plans to dismantle and rebuilt the shrine he said,

Maybe one of these days they’ll get around to moving the ladder.

This ladder is said by some to have been leaning against the facade above the entry to the church since the 18th century because the various religious groups can not agree who should remove it. The ladder has become a symbol of division. An interesting article about the Immovable Ladder may be found in Wikipedia here.

The ladder above the entrance to the church of the Holy Sepulcher. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The immovable ladder above the entrance to the church of the Holy Sepulcher. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The harbor at Joppa (Jaffa, Yafo)

The harbor at Joppa/Jaffa/Yafo was once a much more significant harbor, but never an adequate one. Only a small leisure harbor remains today. Our late afternoon photo shows the lighthouse rising above some of the buildings of the city.

The leisure harbor at Joppa/Jaffa. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The leisure harbor at Joppa/Jaffa. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Joppa is located in the Plain of Sharon and served as the seaport for Jerusalem which is about 35 miles away. The city is now called Jaffa, or Yafo. Joppa was a walled town as early as the reign of Pharaoh Thutmose III (1490-1435 B.C.) who mentions Joppa in his town lists.

Here are a few of the biblical highlights for Joppa.

  • Joppa was assigned to the tribe of Dan, but was not controlled by the Israelites till the time of David (Joshua 19:46).
  • Hiram of Tyre floated cedar from Lebanon to Joppa for Solomon’s Temple (2 Chronicles 2:16).
  • Jonah sought a ship for Tarshish at Joppa to avoid going to Nineveh (Jonah 1:3).
  • Cedars from Lebanon again were floated to Joppa for the rebuilding of the temple (520-516 B.C.; Ezra 3:7). The port of the city is behind St. Peter’s Church.
  • Tabitha (Dorcas) lived in Joppa. When she died the disciples sent for Peter who was a Lydda. He came to Joppa and raised Dorcas (Acts 9:36-42). (Acts 10:6).
  • Peter stayed many days in Joppa with Simon the tanner (Acts 9:43). His house was by the sea (Acts 10:6). A house near the port is shown as the house of Simon, but there is no way to know this with certainty.
  • Peter received the housetop vision and learned that he was to go to Caesarea to preach the gospel to the Gentiles at the house of the Roman centurion Cornelius (Acts 10:23).
The traditional house of Simon the Tanner at Joppa. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The traditional house of Simon the Tanner at Joppa. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Galilee from Mount Arbel at dusk

The photo below is one I made from Mount Arbel shortly after sundown on a December day a few years ago. Haze often covers the Sea of Galilee, but my experience is that it tends to clear in the late afternoon.

View from Mount Arbel showing the northern end of the Sea of Galilee shortly after sunset. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View from Mount Arbel showing the northern end of the Sea of Galilee shortly after sunset. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

From Mount Arbel we see the Plain of Genessaret below to the north (left). On the north end of the Sea of Galilee we have the sites of Tabgha and Capernaum, with the Mount of Beatitudes on the hill above the lake. Chorazin is a few miles up the hill. Magdala is below Mount Arbel about where the large shrub is showing on the right. Tiberias is further to the south (right). Across the lake we have the Plain of Bethsaida and the Golan Heights.

Much of the earthly ministry of Jesus took place in this vicinity, and He often worked at this time of day when it was cooler.

When it was evening, many demon-possessed people were brought to him. He drove out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick. In this way what was spoken by Isaiah the prophet was fulfilled: “He took our weaknesses and carried our diseases.” (Matthew 8:16-17 NET)

Biblical History Center – LaGrange, Georgia

The Explorations in Antiquity Center, in LaGrange, Georgia, now in its tenth year, has changed the name to Biblical History Center. The new website with detailed information is available here.

New Logo for the Biblical History Center, LaGrange, Georgia.

New Logo for the Biblical History Center, LaGrange, Georgia.

The Biblical History Center is the brainchild of Dr. James (Jim) Fleming, well-known for his teaching in Israel.

Dr. Fleming established Biblical Resources in 1975, for the purpose of producing educational materials and aids for teaching the historical, geographical, and archaeological background of the Bible.

It was wonderful to have these resources together at one place in Israel, but it is beneficial to many more to have the resources available in the Southeastern United States.

We have mentioned the Center prominently here, here, and here.

My wife and I had the opportunity to stop by the Biblical History Center last November. Several significant changes have taken places since our earlier reports. The BHC now has a Biblical Life Artifacts Gallery displaying 250 artifacts from the National Treasures of Israel. Instead of having these items displayed in cases with a sign telling what they are, they are exhibited in life-like settings.

Genuine artifacts from a shipwreck off the coast of Israel displayed in a life-like setting. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Genuine artifacts from a shipwreck off the coast of Israel displayed in a life-like setting. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The new Biblical Life Artifacts Gallery is housed underneath the seating of the Roman theater.

Roman theater at Biblical History Center.

Roman theater at the Biblical History Center. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Of course, there are other important things at BHC. The photo below might remind one of the Middle Bronze Age gate at Tel Dan, and the canopy to the left of the gate recalls the Iron Age gate at the same city. This is where the king or judge sat in the gate to receive the people (2 Samuel 19:8). Other features of housing from biblical times are also shown in this structure.

The gate at the Biblical History Center. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The gate at the Biblical History Center. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Other artifact pertains to farming, shepherding, fishing, the process of dying and weaving cloth, storage, glass production, coins, foods, games – to name a few.

The Biblical History Center is a family place with guided tours. They even have a place where kids can participate in an archaeological dig. And you can arrange for a biblical meal and learn what it means to “recline at table” (Matthew 26:7).

Kids learning about archaeology at the Biblical History Center.

Kids learning about archaeology at the Biblical History Center.

Check the BHC web site for complete information about the various exhibits and hours of operation. If you live close enough, this is a wonderful place to take an entire Bible class or church group. The teachers of the children’s Bible classes at one church I know about went as a group to learn more about Bible times and customs.

Want to see the types of altars mentioned in the Bible? What about crosses or tombs, wine presses or threshing floors? It’s all there.

When I walked into the BHC ticket office I handed my card to Mrs. Crenshaw. She said, “You have written about our Center.” I explained that I had recommended the Center because I knew of the work of Dr. Fleming in Israel. I had met him there and at Professional meetings, but had never been to the Center. In the earlier reviews I used photos made by David Padfield and Jane Britnell. She sold me a ticket for my wife and said, “There will be no charge for you.” Later we had an opportunity to speak with Jim Fleming for a few minutes.

This is a great facility that I highly recommend.

Tristram’s Grackle and other Grackles

Today’s The New York Times has an article in the Science section about “The Grackle’s Secret to Success” here, including a short video of the experiments. It seems that many parts of earth have their own variety of Grackle. And some of them are causing lots of problems for cattle and dairy farms.  The particular bird causing problems for the USA is the great-tailed bird, native to Central America.

Over the past century or so the bird has spread north and its range is still expanding, particularly in the West, where it haunts cattle feed lots and big dairy farms.

Looks like we need a bird wall. Anyway, the article says the birds look smart, but the experiments that were conducted with the birds seemed to prove otherwise.

In the desert areas of Israel and Jordan the Grackle is known as Tristram’s Grackle, named for Henry B. Tristram who wrote The Natural History of the Bible in 1868, and numerous other books about the Bible Lands. I am intrigued by the bird every time I visit Masada, along the shore of the Dead Sea. This black bird with some distinctive orange feathers is known as Tristram’s Grackle, or Tristram’s Starling, and is easy to photograph. They like to pose.

Tristram's Grackle at Masada. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tristram’s Grackle at Masada. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Other photos of the bird may be seen here and here. The photo in the last entry reminds me of the experiments mentioned in the NYTimes article.