Tag Archives: Apostle Paul

Turning from idols to serve the living God

Recently I was browsing through photos made in the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki (Salonica, Thessalonica), Greece, in 2008. I was impressed with the images of various gods and goddesses that were known in the city in the first century A.D. There were statues and busts of Egyptian gods such as Isis, Serapis, and Harpokrates/Horus. Greek gods and goddesses such as Dionysus, Hades, Apollo, Athena, Aphrodite, Demeter, and the mother of the gods often associated with Kybele (Cybele) were known. And there were others.

Athena. Archaeology Museum of Thessaloniki. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Athena. Archaeology Museum of Thessaloniki. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Immediately my mind was drawn to Paul’s commendation of the saints at Thessalonica in the middle of the first century A.D.

 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,
7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.
9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,
10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.  (1 Thessalonians 1:6-10 ESV)

But there were other “gods” known to the Thessalonians. The deified Alexander, considered a son of Zeus, was represented in the museum. Another significant form of idolatry was the Cult of the Emperor of Rome. A sign associated with one display says,

The cult of the emperor was both an instrument of imperial policy propaganda and a means for the transmission of Roman culture. The image of the emperor gives a concrete form to the abstract idea of the Empire. Whether a full-length statue or a bust, it makes his presence felt everywhere: in outdoor and indoor spaces, in fora, in villas, and in libraries.

Here is a statue of Octavian Augustus, the first emperor of Rome (27 B.C. – A.D. 14). Augustus was emperor at the time of the birth of Christ (Luke 2:1).

Statue of Augustus, Archaeology Museum of Thessaloniki. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Statue of Augustus, Archaeology Museum of Thessaloniki. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Claudius, Vespasian, Titus, and other emperors were represented in the museum displays.

An interesting temporary exhibition was about the discovery of an important archaeological site known as Kalindoia. The site is located about 48 km (30 miles) southeast of Thessalonica. Paul traveled a few miles north of Kalindoia when he went from Philippi, via Amphipolis and Apollonia, to Thessalonica (Acts 17:1). Below is the drawing of the chamber of the imperial cult. A temple for imperial worship was located here from the 1st century B.C. to the 3rd century A.D.

Artist conception of the chamber of the Imperial Cult. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Artist conception of the chamber of the Imperial Cult. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The sign associated with this drawing states that there were pedestals for statues here. “One of them was the statue of Emperor Octavian Augustus.” The Cult of the Emperor was especially pervasive in the eastern part of the Roman Empire and may have some bearing on understanding the man of lawlessness (sin) in 2 Thessalonians 2. It is certainly helpful in understanding the background of the book of Revelation.

But that’s not all. Another sign mentions the eponymous local heroes such as war heroes, deified mythological figures, or the heroized dead “were also worshipped.”

The gospel of Christ has power to touch the hearts of men and inform them about the difference between idols made of “gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man,” and the God who does not dwell in temples made by man (Acts 17:29 ESV).

The real story about Saint Nicholas on Amazon Prime

You have read on this blog and other places about the Saint Nicholas of Myra, a town on the southern Mediterranean coast of Turkey. Recently I learned of the video featuring Dr. Mark Wilson and Dr. Adam English now available free for those who have access to Amazon Prime. The 55-minute video is high quality.

The video provides information about the priest by the name of Nicholas and his work in and around Myra. As Bishop of Myra, Nicholas defended the doctrine of the trinity at the Council of Nicea (Nicaea) in A.D. 325. There is a strong claim that he is buried in Bari, Italy.

I think you might enjoy the film and learn something about Church History in the process.

If you have Amazon Prime you can search for Saint Nicholas: the Real Story, or use this link: Saint Nicholas: the Real Story.

The town of Myra is known to students of the New Testament as a place where the apostle Paul transferred ships while he was being taken to Rome for trial before Caesar (Acts 27:5). My most recent post about the city is available here.

Modern statue of Saint Nicholas at Myra. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Modern statue of Saint Nicholas at Myra. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Lesbos, Syrian refugees, and “Come before winter”

A recent evening news report on the Syrian refugees trying to reach some semblance of safety in Europe shows the dangers they face trying to get from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos. Some of the heavily loaded rafts and small boats have overturned in the rough sea. Why is that? It is because of the approach of winter. Keep that thought in mind and we will return to it.

Our first photo shows the ruins of the temple of Athena at Assos. The Aegean island of Lesbos is visible across the strait.

A view of Lesbos across the strait from Assos and the temple of Apollo. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A view of Lesbos across the strait from Assos and the ruins of the temple of Athena. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The apostle Paul undoubtedly saw the temple of Athena when he traveled the approximate 20 miles from Alexandria Troas to Assos by land. His companions had traveled by boat from Troas to Assos. The historical account reads this way:

But going ahead to the ship, we set sail for Assos, intending to take Paul aboard there, for so he had arranged, intending himself to go by land. And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and went to Mitylene. (Acts 20:13-14 ESV)

The island across the strait is Lesbos. Follow the island coastline south and you will come to the town of Mitylene.

The island of Lesbos is close to modern Turkey. Credit: biblos.com.

The Greek island of Lesbos is close to modern Turkey. Credit: biblos.com.

Now, back to the danger of the sea in winter. There is a valid reason why Paul would encourage Timothy, after picking up his cloak and parchments at Troas [see the map] to come to him in Rome “before winter.”

Do your best to come before winter.  (2 Timothy 4:21 ESV)

Paul, having experienced his own shipwreck on the way to Rome, knew of the danger of traveling too late in the year. We are told that there were 276 persons aboard the ship that wrecked on Malta (Acts 27:37).

Model of ship like Paul would have used on his voyage to Rome. Rali Museum, Caesarea, Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Model of ship like Paul would have used on his voyage to Rome. Rali Museum, Caesarea, Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The ships that regularly cruise the Aegean Sea are only about half the size of those we are accustomed to in the Caribbean. They sail from April through mid-November. After that the sea is too rough.

Imagine the horror of taking one’s family out on the sea in a small raft during the winter season?

New “water law” inscription from Laodicea

Hurriyet Daily News reports here the discovery at Laodicea of a marble slab containing a code of laws pertaining to the water supply of the city during the reign of the Roman Emperor Trajan in 114 A.D. The article says,

The rules were prepared by Anatolian State Governor Aulus Vicirius Matrialis.

This marble slab discovered at Laodicea contains a code of laws protecting the water supply of the city of Laodicea in the early second century A.D. (Photo credit: AA photo)

This marble slab discovered at Laodicea contains a code of laws protecting the water supply of the city of Laodicea in the early second century A.D. (Photo credit: AA photo)

Here is some further information about the discovery.

The excavation works, led by Pamukkale University and supported by Denizli Municipality, have continued on Stadium Street in the ancient site. Excavations head Professor Celal Şimşek of Pamukkale University, said, “The Laodicea Assembly made this law in 114 A.D. and presented it to a pro council in Ephesus for approval.

The pro council approved the law on behalf of the empire. Water was vital for the city. This is why there were heavy penalties against those who polluted the water, damaged the water channels or reopening the sealed water pipes. Breaking the law was subject to a penalty of about 12,500 denarius – 125,000 Turkish Liras.”

One hundred twenty-five thousand Turkish Liras amount to approximately $42,700. Fairly stiff fine.

The full article is accompanied by several nice photos and will be well worth your time. Another article about the discovery appears in Ancient Origins here.

Last year my fellow-traveler Leon Mauldin and I made a personal study tour in Turkey. We had the opportunity to make a return visit to Laodicea and see the continuing excavations at the site. I think the city is destined to become one of the most popular sites in the country.

Leon Mauldin on Syria Street in Laodicea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Leon Mauldin on Syria Street in Laodicea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Laodicea is known to us from the book of Revelation (1:11; 3:14-22), and from Paul’s epistle to the Colossians.

For I testify for him that he has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis. Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings, and also Demas. Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house. When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea. (Col 4:13-16 NAU)

One might easily connect this discovery to what we already knew about the water system at Laodicea. I was rather sure that I had written about the source of water and the water distribution tower, but I find only the photo of the tower here. I have written about the subject in material distributed to my tour members. Perhaps I will be able to reprint some of that material in another post. Meanwhile, I call attention to the recent good post by Carl Rasmussen about this same discovery. He includes comments about the “lukewarm” water at the Holy Land Photos’ Blog here.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

Response about Pentecost Post

It has happened twice that I have been in Jerusalem during Pentecost. I wrote a little note here about the experience of being in Jerusalem as a non-Jew during Pentecost. It was similar to one I had written several years earlier here.

A couple of Israeli readers took exception to some of the things I wrote and made their views known in the comments. I am compelled to make a response to some of the questions and issues raised. You will need to read the comments in order to understand my response.

Modern Interpretation of Pentecost. I have been in Jerusalem twice on Pentecost and I have never seen anyone doing what Leviticus 23:15-22 describes.

15 “You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering.
16 You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the LORD.
17 You shall bring from your dwelling places two loaves of bread to be waved, made of two tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour, and they shall be baked with leaven, as firstfruits to the LORD.
18 And you shall present with the bread seven lambs a year old without blemish, and one bull from the herd and two rams. They shall be a burnt offering to the LORD, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.
19 And you shall offer one male goat for a sin offering, and two male lambs a year old as a sacrifice of peace offerings.
20 And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the LORD for the priest.
21 And you shall make a proclamation on the same day. You shall hold a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work. It is a statute forever in all your dwelling places throughout your generations.
22 “And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 23:15-22 ESV).

Does it need to be said that these offerings were to be made at the tabernacle, or later the temple? Anything short of that has to be a new interpretation.

Count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath [of Passover week]. The seventh Sabbath is the 49th day. The 50th day is the first day of the week, known in the New Testament as the Lord’s Day (Revelation 1:10).

Neither in Leviticus 23 nor Deuteronomy 16:9-12 is there anything about the Feast of Weeks “celebrating the gift of the Torah.”

Sabbath + Pentecost “amounts to a two-day holiday.” My USA readers probably had no problem with this. When a national holiday comes on Monday, those who do not work on Saturday frequently say they have a three-day holiday. We know that each day is separate and only one is the national holiday. Sorry that I did not make this clearer for other readers. I know that I did not have any hot food at the hotel for two days.

“What you call the Lord’s Supper” was taken once a year. I do my best to speak where the Bible speaks (1 Peter 4:11). The terms/phrases used in the New Testament to describe this meal are Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:20), Lord’s Table (1 Corinthians 10:211), Communion (1 Corinthians 10:16), and Breaking of bread (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 10:16). There is no evidence that the early Christians observed this meal only once a year. The Lord’s Supper was observed on the Lord’s Day. Did ancient Jews only keep the Sabbath once a year?

The earliest Christians were Jews. Full agreement. The book of Acts makes this abundantly clear. They were slow to recognize Gentiles as children of God. We see this discussed in some detail in Acts 15, and the books of Galatians, Romans, and Hebrews.

Law of Moses or Apostolic Doctrine? Those Jews who accepted the gospel of Christ on that Pentecost when it was first preached in its fullness did not continue in the teaching of Moses. The biblical text says,

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:42)

Interesting, isn’t it? That these Jews from every nation under heaven (Acts 2:5) should come to Jerusalem following the teaching of Moses, and that about 3,000 of them would begin following the teaching of the Apostles, is one of the most surprising things in Scripture.

My statement, “It would be wonderful to see the gospel freely preached again in this city as it was on that first Pentecost after the death and resurrection of Jesus nearly two thousand years ago” has nothing to do with censorship. I understand that the preaching on Pentecost was in fulfillment of Isaiah 2.

2 It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it,
3 and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:2-3 ESV)

The early Christians gradually drifted away from the original teaching of the New Testament. As a Christian who seeks to follow the teaching of Christ and His apostles, I can, and do, make this statement in my own hometown.

Lack of knowledge and anti-Semitism. It is popular these days to accuse one with whom we disagree of being racist, sexist, homophobic, intolerant, or anti-Semitic. While I grant that I may have a lack of knowledge on this subject, the charge of anti-Semitism is absurd.

I have devoted my entire adult life to serving and teaching the message of Jesus Christ. Here are just a few things I believe regarding Him.

  • He is the Divine Word who was made flesh, the son of David, the son of Abraham (John 1:1-14; Matthew 1:1).
  • This same one who was descended from David according to the flesh “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:4)
  • He said, “Salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22).
  • This very people “crucified and killed” him by the hands of lawless men (Acts 2:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15).

Paul, who called himself “a Hebrew of Hebrews” (Philippians 3:5), used the illustration of the olive tree to say that some of the natural branches have been broken off and that the Gentiles have been grafted in (Romans 11:17). He also said:

And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. (Romans 11:23)

A little church in Nazareth has a beautiful olive tree with a couple of grafts on it in their front yard. I think this may have been intentional on their part to recognize their place in the Lord’s great plan of salvation.

An olive tree in Nazareth with a graft. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

An olive tree in Nazareth with a graft. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

If believing these things makes me anti-Semitic, then I suppose I must acknowledge it, but I think it teaches that some of the Jews accepted Jesus as the Christ (Messiah), and that others did not.

Simon Peter’s sermon to Jews on Pentecost, and his sermon at the house of Cornelius, the first Gentile convert, illustrate that the Lord’s requirements for salvation are now the same (Acts 2; Acts 10-11).

One final word. This does not mean that the Old Testament (the Hebrew Bible) is cast aside. I understand the Old Testament to be foundational for a proper understanding of the New Testament (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11). These inspired texts say that the Old Testament is for our learning, not for our law. The New Testament is the complete and final revelation of God to man (Ephesians 3:1-5).

It may come as a surprise to some non-Christians that the churches with whom I am associated generally have more classes, for both children and adults, in the Old Testament than in the New Testament at any given class period.

It is comforting to me to understand that in Christ Jesus I am a seed of Abraham and an heir of the great promise of Genesis 12:

… I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3 ESV)

And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (Galatians 3:29 ESV)

Other posts about the importance of Pentecost may be found at the following links.

We don’t like losing readers, but this work is a labor of love and available free of charge to any who wish to read it.

Pentecost in Jerusalem

Last evening at sundown the Jews began to celebrate their modern interpretation of  Pentecost (Shavu’ot). Christians know this from the Old Testament scriptures as the feast of weeks (Leviticus 23:15; Deuteronomy 16:9). Last evening we saw many Jews heading for the Western Wall through the Damascus Gate when we were there. The Orthodox Jews were the easiest to detect because of their distinctive dress.

Pentecost comes 50 days after Passover. It follows a sabbath and amounts to a two-day holiday here in Jerusalem. Those who are not religious may be seen at recreational places enjoying the time off as many persons in America do on any holiday. Some of the religious take the family to a hotel and allow non-Jews to serve them the food they wish. The hotel has a Shabbat elevator. You only make the mistake of getting on it once. It requires no work (= pushing the button for your floor), but it takes a long time to get where you are going. The elevator is programmed to stop at each floor. I don’t recall seeing anyone using the one in our hotel.

Back to more important issues. The church had its beginning with the preaching of the gospel in its fullness on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ (Acts 2).

Model of Herod's Temple now displayed on the grounds of the Israel Museum. It was in this large area where the gospel of Christ was first preached in its fullness by Peter and the other Apostles on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Model of Herod’s Temple now displayed on the grounds of the Israel Museum. It was in this large area where the gospel of Christ was first preached in its fullness by Peter and the other Apostles on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Apostle Paul, through his teaching and example, taught the early Christians to take their collection and to observe the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16:1-2; Acts 20:7). On the return from his third preaching journey he hurried to be at Jerusalem for Pentecost.

For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he might not have to spend time in Asia, for he was hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost. (Acts 20:16 ESV)

I did not specifically pick the time of Pentecost to be in Jerusalem; it just happened to coincide with my travel schedule. It would be wonderful to see the gospel freely preached again in this city as it was on that first Pentecost after the death and resurrection of Jesus nearly two thousand years ago.

Pay your taxes and do not fear the authorities

While reading Romans 13 I came to Paul’s admonition to the saints at Rome, “Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good.” My mind immediately turned to the mosaic which was discovered during the excavation of the Byzantine public area at Caesarea Maritima.

The context in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans reads this way.

For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13:3-4 ESV)

The sign at the site describes the building where the mosaic was found as a Tax Archive. The original is said to be on display at the Kibbutz Sdot Yam Museum. The edifice is identified as “Byzantine government offices where clerks recorded tax revenues.”

Mosaic Treasury at Caesarea Maritima. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Mosaic Treasury at Caesarea Maritima. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I suppose they did not understand that this is politically incorrect!