Scenes from Ephesus

April 8, 2010

Ephesus was the most important city of the Roman province of Asia.  The Apostle Paul preached here longer than any other city, working here three years during the Third Missionary Journey (Acts 20:31).  The message of the gospel radiated out from this principle city: “…so that all who lived in the province of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord” (Acts 19:10).

The church in Ephesus was one of seven churches specified in Revelation 2-3 as recipients of letters from the Lord.  It is sobering to realize that a church that had such a promising beginning, and continued to have such good traits, had in fact left its first love (Rev. 2:4).

Ephesus today is a remarkable site; so much excavation has been done, and there is so much to see. We want to share some photos in today’s post, as well as others to follow, from last month’s visit to Ephesus.

Ephesus Odeion. Photo by Leon Mauldin

The seating of this small theater, the odeion, is 1400-1500. It was built by Publius Vedius Antoninus ca. A.D. 150.  It was used for concerts, and as a meeting place for the city council meetings.

Next we make our way to the prytaneion.

Ephesus Prytaneion_Town Hall. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The prytaneion was the government agora, the town hall.  There was a courtyard in front of the building. There is evidence of a former temple of the Egyptian god Isis on the western side. Lance Jenott, University of Washington, says further of this site, “This Agora (usually translated as “market place” but in this case more of a “town square”) was built in the first century CE under the Flavian Emperors as the site of the Roman state cult. In the middle of the State Agora sat the temple of Divius Julius (Divine Julius Caesar) and Dea Roma (the divine personification of the Roman Empire).”

More to come!

Roman Emperors During the Gospels and Acts

April 7, 2010

The book of Daniel foretold of four successive world powers.  Beginning with Babylon, which would be succeeded by Medo-Perisa, there would then be the Grecian Empire, and fourthly the Roman Empire, during which time the Messiah and His kingdom rule would be ushered in (Dan. 2,7).

Accordingly, when the New Testment record begins, Luke informs us, “And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered” (Luke 2:1).  It turns out that this is how it happened that though Mary and Joseph were residents of Nazareth in Galilee, that Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea.  Everyone was to be registered in “his own city” (Luke 2:3), that is, in ones ancestral town, which for Mary and Joseph, of the family of David, meant Bethlehem.  Caesar Augustus had no idea he was helping to fulfill the eighth century B.C. prophecy of Micah, who foretold the birthplace of Jesus (Micah 5:2). Augustus reigned 31 B.C. – A.D 14.

Caesar Augustus.  Istanbul Archaeology Museum.  Photo by Leon Mauldin

Caesar Augustus. Istanbul Archaeology Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Later, the political and religious setting of the biblical world when Jesus began His ministry is recorded in Luke 3:1:

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene…

Here is a bust of Tiberius Caesar, who reigned A.D. 14-37.  He would have been the emperor in power when Jesus said, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21). He would have still been in power when the events of Pentecost transpired (Acts 2), and the church was established and began to spread.

Tiberius Caesar. Istanbul Archaeology Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

We learn in Acts 18 that when Paul arrived at Corinth, he stayed with Aquilla and Priscilla and worked with them.  Luke explains why this couple was in Corinth:

And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he came to them.

Claudius reigned A.D. 41-54.

Caesar Claudius. Istanbul Archaeology Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

As the book of Acts continues, we come to the reign of Nero (reigned A.D. 54-68). He would have been in power when at Caesarea Paul appealed unto Caesar (Acts 25:11). Nero would have been the emperor when later Paul was executed (as anticipated in his 2 Timothy letter). In our photo below we see Nero and his mother Agrippina (wife of Claudius).

Caesar Nero and Agrippina. Aphrodisias Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The info provided with this relief states:

Agrippina crowns her young son Nero with a laurel wreath. She carries a cornucopia, symbol of Fortune and Plenty, and he wears the armour and cloak of a Roman commander, with a helmet on the ground at his feet. The scene refers to Nero’s accession as emperor in AD 54, and belongs before AD 59  when Nero had Agrippina murdered.

The Egyptian god Bes

April 5, 2010

Many of our recent posts have featured biblically related artifacts which are housed in Istanbul’s Archaeology Museum.

As you enter the main entrance of the museum, you are “greeted” by a 3.5 meter statue of the Egyptian god Bes, depicted as holding a lion by its hind legs.

Image of Bes. Istanbul Archaeology Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

It was believed that Bes protected the individual from evil. BAR editor Hershal Shanks writes, “An Egyptian god adopted into the Canaanite-Phoenician pantheon, Bes served as the ordinary person’s chief talisman against evil. He had already assumed a prominent role by the ninth century B.C.” (15:04 July/August 1989).  It was especially thought that Bes was the protector of pregnant women.

The Biblical World in Pictures notes, “Bes was a household Egyptian deity responsible for the welfare of pregnant women, happiness in the home and prevention of disease. Like many other Egyptian motifs, he was adopted in the Levant, especially in Phoenicia.” states that the statue of Bes in the Istanbul Archaeology Museum was brought from the island of Cyprus.

Belief in a god such as Bes was only the proverbial “drop in a bucket” of the pervasive idolatry of the ancient world.  In giving the Ten Commandments God called His people to leave all forms of idolatry and be devoted exclusively to Him:

I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God. (Deut. 5:5-9).

The world of the 1st century in which the church was established was permeated by idolatry.  The call of the Gospel is summarized by Paul in 2 Cor. 6:16-2 Cor 7:1:

And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.” Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.” “I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the LORD Almighty.” Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

An Empty Tomb

April 4, 2010

As one descends Mt. Carmel going toward Megiddo, there is a rolling stone tomb whose usage dates back to the first century.

Rolling Stone Tomb Near Carmel. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

This tomb was discovered during road construction.  It so well illustrates the biblical texts that narrate the burial of Jesus.  Joseph of Arimathea had a new tomb (one which had not been previously used, John 19:38-42).  Assisted by Nicodemus, Joseph wrapped Jesus’ body in a clean linen cloth, “and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed” (Mt. 27:59-60). The tomb in our photo was hewn out of the rock, and you can see the large stone positioned to the left of the opening.

On Sunday, the 1st day of the week when Jesus was raised from the dead, the text says this about Peter and “the other disciple:”

So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed. (John 20:4-8).

Note the record says the disciple stooped down to look in.  The tomb in our photo shows how this would of necessity be true.

Rolling Stone Tomb. Stooping to Look Inside. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Note that we are not suggesting that this is the tomb in which Jesus was buried; it does however illustrate the type of tomb that would have been used.

For New Testament Christians, each first day of the week is significant.  Christians assemble in the name of Jesus Christ to partake of His memorial feast, the Lord’s Supper.  That Supper points back to His death, His body and His blood.  But we serve a risen Savior!  We proclaim His death till He comes (1 Cor. 11:26).

The Siloam Inscription

April 2, 2010

Another treasure in the Istanbul Archaeology Museum is the Siloam Inscription. Here is its history:

The Old Testament records the Assyrian threat to Judah in the days of good King Hezekiah (715-686 B.C.).  The Assyrians had already taken much of Judah’s territory (the Sennacherib Prism states Assyrian had taken forty-six fortified cities) and were advancing upon Jerusalem (701 B.C).  But Hezekiah had made wise preparation in anticipation of this fearsome foe. Hezekiah had two teams of tunnelers working from opposite directions; one starting from outside the city wall at the Gihon Spring, the other starting from inside the city, chiseling through 1750 feet of solid rock.  As a result, the “gently flowing waters of Shiloah” (Isa. 8:6) were channeled inside the city (2 Kings 20:20-21; 2 Chron. 32:30).

Thus Jerusalem had water inside the city walls, whereas Hezekiah “blocked the outlet of the water of the Upper Gihon” (2 Chron. 32:20, CSB). I.e., they would have water inside the city, but the enemy would not have ready access to water outside the city.

We hope the following photos will help illustrate the text for you:

Siloam Inscription. Istanbul Archaeology Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The inscription tells the story of when the two groups of workers met. The inscription reads:

“This is the story of the boring through. While [the tunnelers lifted] the pick-axe each toward his fellow and while 3 cubits [remained yet] to be bored [through, there was heard] the voice of a man calling his fellow—for there was a split [or overlap] in the rock on the right hand and on [the left hand]. When the tunnel was driven through, the tunnelers hewed the rock, each man toward his fellow, pick-axe against pick-axe. And the water flowed from the spring toward the reservoir for 1200 cubits. The height of the rock above the head of the tunnelers was a hundred cubits.”

Of course, more was involved than Hezekiah’s engineering feat of constructing the tunnel.  There was divine intervention as God delivered Jerusalem from the Assyrians: 2 Kings 19:35 records, “And it came to pass on a certain night that the angel of the LORD went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses — all dead.”

This photo shows the Gihon Spring, the source of the water supply.

Gihon Spring. Jerusalem. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The water still flows inside the tunnel.

Inside Hezekiah's Tunnel. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

It’s a tight squeeze in places:

Leon Mauldin inside Hezekiah's tunnel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Finally, here is a photo of the location where the Siloam Inscription was chiselled out:

Siloam Inscription Location Inside Tunnel. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Herodian Temple Inscription

April 1, 2010

Recent posts have featured biblically related artifacts from the Archaeology Museum at Istanbul. Yet another very important exhibit housed there is an inscription from the Herodian temple, (so called because of extensive renovations by Herod the Great, renovations which continued after his death). Stones with inscriptions (written in both Latin and Greek) such as this featured below were posted at regular intervals within the temple, to designate the point at which Gentiles could proceed no further:

Herodian Temple Inscription. Istanbul. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Thus far only one complete and two fragmentary copies (all in Greek) of this inscription have been discovered.  The inscription translates as follows:  “No foreigner is to enter within the balustrade and embankment around the sanctuary.  Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his death which follows.”

Visitors to the temple in Jesus’ day, and in Paul’s time, would have seen this stone and others like it. Paul in mind this separation of Jew and Gentile, symbolized by this inscription, when he wrote to the Ephesians, telling what a difference the Gospel had made.

For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation [emp. mine, L.M.], having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.  And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.  For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,  having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,  in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord,  in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Eph. 2:14-22).

So the separation of Jew and Gentile no longer exists in Christ; Jew and Gentile are on an equal footing; both are sinners and must be reconciled unto God through the cross, in one body.  This is the temple referenced in our text; a building made of people, living stones, Jews and Gentiles who have come to the Lord for salvation.

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