More on Laodicea

June 28, 2010

One interesting find at Laodicea in a large house just off Syria Street, was this filter connected to indoor plumbing.

Water Filter at Laodicea. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

The right side and center is for water entering the building, while the left side is designed for water leaving the building. In another post we want to discuss further the water situation at Laodicea.

In our articles/photos posted on the Seven Churches of Rev. 2-3, we have repeatedly seen evidence of temples devoted to various pagan gods.  It is difficult to overstate how widespread and pervasive idolatry was in the biblical world, in both Old Testament as well as New Testament times.  At Laodicea one can see the remains of a temple, known as Temple A, located on the north side of the city.

Temple A. Laodicea. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Of course, every city of significance had a theater.  Pictured here is the Hellenistic theater, located on the west side of the city.

Hellenistic Theater at Laodicea. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Click on image for larger view.  More to come.

Laodicea, cont’d.

June 26, 2010

In our previous post we saw a startling difference between the Laodiceans’ assessment of themselves, and the Lord’s evaluation.  They thought they were rich and in need of nothing; Jesus said that spiritually they were “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev.3:17).  They were blissfully unaware of their true condition before God! Further, their lukewarmness was a condition that nauseated the Lord.

That’s why we have the Bible. Therein is revealed how to be saved by the provisions of God in Jesus Christ, and then further teaching furnishes the Christian with what God wants His people to be.  In other words, to avoid the condemnation of the Lord, and to have His approval, requires constant looking at the Scriptures as the standard, and examining self in light of that Word.

But we want to explore further the city itself where the church addressed in Rev. 3 was located.

Besides the evidence of many public buildings and facilities, archaeologist have also excavated some private residences, such as the one in this photo. Note the storage jar at left center.

Private Residence at Laodicea. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Such storage jars would have been used in homes for storage of grain and other such items.  Such items are indicative of considerable purchasing power.

Storage Jar in Private Residence at Laodicea. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Still more to come on Laodicea.  Click on image for larger view.

Laodicea, the Church that Nauseated the Lord

June 25, 2010

Laodicea is the seventh of the seven churches addressed in Revelation 2-3. Laodicea was a biblical city of great importance: it was a wealthy banking center, it was known for its black raven wool and the manufacture of clothing; also it was known for its invention of eye salve.   Located in the Lycus River Valley, Laodicea was strategically situated on an east-west travel route.  Nearby Hierapolis was known for its medicinal hot springs; neighboring Colossae was known for its cold refreshing water.  Laodicea was noted for neither; its water was tepid, lukewarm and sickening. With these things in mind, consider Jesus’ assessment of the church, which had taken on the lukewarm characteristics of the wealthy city:

15 ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot! 16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth! 17 Because you say, “I am rich and have acquired great wealth, and need nothing,” but do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked, 18 take my advice and buy gold from me refined by fire so you can become rich! Buy from me white clothing so you can be clothed and your shameful nakedness will not be exposed, and buy eye salve to put on your eyes so you can see! (Rev. 3:15-18, NET).

Since 2000, extensive excavation has been done at Laodicea, and continues through the present. Much of the work has been to reveal some of the major streets of the city, including the main street featured in our photo here. This street was called Syria Street.

Laodicea Syria Street. Main Street in City. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

The scoring of pavement stones made by chariot wheels may be seen at some points in the street.

Grooves in Street Made by Chariot Wheels. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Syria Street as well as other streets would have been lined with shops on either side.  Our photo below depicts a mosaic at the entrance of an ancient shop.

Laodicea Mosaic at Shop Entrance. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

More to come on Laodicea.  Remember to click on photo for larger view.

Philadelphia, Oxen and Garlands

June 21, 2010

Recent posts have featured the biblical city of Philadelphia, one of the cities with churches addressed in Rev. 2-3.  The Lord had only good things to say about two of those churches — Smyrna and Philadelphia.

Bear in mind that when we speak of churches we are not referring to church buildings, but the people, Christians, who made up those local congregations.

Note this artifact found at Philadelphia.

Oxen and Garlands at Philadelphia. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

The oxen and garlands featured here put us in mind of Paul’s preaching at Lystra, as recorded in Acts 14:11-18, when the priest of Zeus intended to offer sacrifices of oxen and garlands to Paul and Barnabas, following Paul’s healing of the lame man:

When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they raised their voice, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have become like men and have come down to us.” And they began calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. 14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, WHO MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM. “In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways;  and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”  Even saying these things, with difficulty they restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them.

A couple of observations: Our text is from the New American Standard Bible, which makes us of capital letters, not for emphasis, but to indicate a quotation from the Old Testament(here cf. Psa. 146:6; Isa. 45:18).  Also, for “oxen and garlands,” the NIV renders, “bulls and wreaths.”

This was not an uncommon motif, as you can see from our photo below, taken in the Ephesus Museum:

Oxen and Garlands. Ephesus Museum. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

In this photo, note that rams appear on either side, with the ox in the middle. Click on image for larger view.

Next we plan to visit Laodicia.

A Tribute to My Friend, Raymond Harville

June 18, 2010

You perhaps have noticed that the subtitle of Leon’s Message Board is “Bible History and Geography and More.”  Today’s post is in the “More” category. It is in the “Personal” genre, but something I wish to share with those who would be interested.

Yesterday (June 17), Jackie Richardson and I conducted funeral services for our dear friend, Raymond Harville.  I thought I’d share a couple of photos, as well as my notes prepared for yesterday’s funeral sermon.

I remember bro. Homer Hailey, in class lectures in the Proverbs, making the observation that in life one may have many acquaintances, but will have very few intimate friends (of the nature referenced in Prov. 17:17; 18:24).

In this post I want to pay tribute to Raymond, one of my closest friends.

Raymond & Anne Harville. They were married 54 years. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Funeral Sermon for Raymond Harville

by Leon Mauldin

When Abner died, 2Sa 3:38 states,”Then the king said to his servants, Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel?”

The world tracks its heroes: entertainment stars that don’t know the Lord, that call good evil and call evil good, that boldly have children out of wedlock, and flaunt God’s covenant of marriage.  But God knows who the real heroes are. I want my children and grandchildren to look up to men just like brother Harville.  He was one of my heroes.

We don’t have to look far to count our blessings. Prayers have not been in vain.  We prayed that he might be healed, but if that were not the case, that he would not continue to suffer, and we prayed that God’s will be done. It is a blessing that the Alzheimer’s nightmare is over.  No one would have wished for him a continuation of what he endured for the past years and especially the past several months.

Paul said in Phil. 1:27: “having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” It is “very much better” (NASB).  “Better by far” (NIV).  That is always true for the faithful Christian, but especially when one’s work here is done, when one can no longer function with clarity of mind.

I first met bro. Harville more than 34 years ago. Nathan Hagood was preaching in Valdosta, Ga.; we were in Blackshear.  Raymond had called Nathan regarding a newly established congregation in Hohenwald, Tn.; Nathan did not want to move there, but he told Raymond about me.  When we talked by phone, and I told him a bit about my background, etc., I mentioned I had studied under Bob Waldron, Irvin Lee’s son-in-law.  I learned later that Raymond made one call to Irvin Lee.  Then he told the folks at Hohenwald, “I’ve got you a preacher.”

During those years when we were in Hohenwald and the Harville’s in Mt. Pleasant, Tn., our lives became intertwined in so many ways. During those years a friendship was forged like that described in Prov. 18:24: “But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”  Proverbs 17:17 “A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.” That friendship was manifested in many ways.

Brother Harville was an encouragement to me in the preaching of the Gospel. In radio Q&A work; in the local works in TN and AL; in Gospel meeting work.  “Blest be the tie that binds Our hearts in Christian love; The fellowship of kindred minds Is like to that above.”  In Raymond I found a kindred mind, my kindred spirit.

When the Harville’s moved to Midway in Lauderdale Co., Al, and we moved to Lexington, Al., we were only 10 miles apart.  Typically on Tuesdays we would meet for breakfast or lunch.  Often our Bibles would be spread on the table as we studied.  From there we would often make hospital calls or other visits together.  During those days is was rare for a day to go by without contact of some kind.

My lessons became punctuated with illustrations from Raymond. If I were teaching on some subject which was not a present pressing issue, I would say, Raymond says to preach on modesty in the cold of December.  I.e., you teach and prepare before some topic becomes an emotionally charged issue. On the simplicity of the Gospel: I was present when a “Jehovah’s Witness” after talking a while, and perceiving she was dealing with someone who knew the Bible, defensively said, “I’m not trying to force this on you; why, you couldn’t become a Jehovah’s Witness tonight if you wanted to.”  Raymond immediately replied, “I know that, but if you were teaching people how to become New Testament Christians, they could do that the same hour of the night.”

In 1992, there were four of us who together made our “maiden voyage” for overseas’ evangelism, Raymond, Johnny Felker, Bob Waldron and myself.  That trip was to Czechoslovakia. I’ve said several times there were no three  men on earth I’d rather have taken that trip with.

What has brought us here today is truth. That’s what brought Raymond and me together. Like John and the elect lady (2 John), and John and Gaius (3 John).  Sometime read those short epistles and see how much emphasis is placed on the truth.  Note 2 John 2: “because of the truth which abides in us, and will be with us forever.”  Death ends our relationship on earth, but if we have the truth in common, we have something that we will possess together forever!

As I sum up my personal reflections there are especially three lessons I learned from Raymond. I am happy to say that I shared this with him years ago.

  1. Do right by your family.
  2. The purpose of study is people.
  3. Pay attention to people that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Prov. 10:7 says, “The memory of the righteous is blessed, But the name of the wicked will rot.”

I’ll remember Raymond’s sense of humor. Once while standing in the back with him to greet folks entering the building at Southern Boulevard in Sheffield, a lady asked Raymond, “Is this your brother?” With a straight face he answered, “No ma’am, he’s my son.”  To which she replied, “I could tell there was a strong resemblance.”

Raymond loved the Lord, and loved the church of the Lord. Not a “big shot.”  He was all about souls; about pleasing God. His one purpose in life was pleasing God.

I’ll remember his work ethic. “Do it right, do it fast, and get on to the next job.”

I’ll remember His love for his family.

I’m thankful for the hope we have, Titus 1:2. The promises of God: Remission of sins as one obeys the Gospel.  Jesus’ promise of the resurrection in John 11:25,26.

Jesus cares, Heb. 4:14-16. Promised to be with us Heb. 13:5,6.  In life and in death! 2 Cor. 5:8— We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

Before our Father’s throne We pour our ardent prayers; Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one, Our comforts and our cares.  We share our mutual woes, Our mutual burdens bear; And often for each other flows The sympathizing tear.  When we asunder part, It gives us inward pain; But we shall still be joined in heart, And hope to meet again.

I am thankful that Raymond lived in the Lord; that when he died, died in faith. That he died in the Lord. That he died in hope. May God help each one present today, to partake of the salvation which is in Jesus Christ.

(The two photos used in our post were taken Jan/Feb 2008.  Remember to click on image for higher resolution and larger view.)

Raymond, Leon & Anne. Early 2008. Photo by Linda Mauldin.

Philadelphia, its Environs, cont’d

June 15, 2010

We continue in today’s post to explore biblical Philadelphia, the sixth of the seven cities with churches addressed in Rev. 2-3.

Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary gives this info regarding Philadelphia:

Philadelphia was situated on the Cogamus River, a tributary of the Hermus (modern Gediz) and was about 45 kilometers (28 miles) southeast of Sardis. It was founded by Attalus II (Philadelphus), who reigned as king of Pergamos from 159 B.C. until 138 B.C. Philadelphia was a center of the wine industry. Its chief deity was Dionysus, in Greek mythology the god of wine (the Roman Bacchus).

Volcanic activity has contributed to the fertility of the soil.  In ancient times as well as the present, Philadelphia is well suited for vineyards.  See our photo below.

Vineyards at Philadelphia. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Philadelphia and its environs were prone to earthquake.  Bible and Spade (1976, vol. 5) quotes the Greek geographer Stabo:

…the city Philadelphia [is] ever subject to earthquakes. Incessantly the walls of the houses are cracked, different parts of the city being thus affected at different times. For this reason but few people live in the city, and most of them spend their lives as farmers in the country, since they have a fertile soil. Yet one may be surprised at the few, that they are so fond of the place when their dwellings are so insecure; and one might marvel still more at those who founded the city. (Strabo 13.4.10; trans. Jones)

At the acropolis one may see a few artifacts of interest, such as this architrave fragment.

Architrave Fragment at Philadelphia. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

One may also view an ancient wall, as seen in our photo.

Ancient Wall in Philadelphia. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

A woman walked by in front of that wall.  Apparently she was gathering material for a broom.

Woman with broom materials at Philadelphia. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Every ancient city of significance had a theater.  The one at Philadelphia has not been excavated, but its slope and semi-circular form can easily be detected.

Unexcavated Theater at Philadelphia. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Philadelphia, the Church with an Open Door

June 14, 2010

We continue to give attention to the cities of the Seven Churches addressed in Rev. 2-3, looking now at Philadelphia, modern Alasehir.  The churches at Philadelphia and Smyrna were both commended by the Lord; there were no charges of wrong doing against either congregation.

Further, Jesus said, “Look! I have put in front of you an open door that no one can shut” (Rev.3:8).  Many biblical students believe that the “open door” refers to Philadelphia’s location, on the great trade-route from Smyrna to the highlands of Phrygia.  Their faithfulness would be rewarded by further opportunities to proclaim the gospel to the many merchants and other travelers passing through this strategic site.

Our photo below shows view from the lower city, looking between Byzantine columns (Church of St. John), looking up to the acropolis.

Philadelphia. View from lower city facing acropolis. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Very little excavation has been done in Philadelphia.  In photo below you can see some of the excavated area.

Limited excavations at Philidelphia. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

From the acropolis looking down one has a good view of Philadelphia.

Philadelphia modern Alasehir. View from acropolis. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Click on image for larger view.  More to come on Philadelphia.

Sardis: Baptistry, Gymnasium, Sheep

June 9, 2010

The concept of recycling is ancient; when visiting biblical sites it is common to see evidence of secondary usage of materials.  In our photo below, Fatih Cimok explains that this marble object is made of  “reused material from the Byzantine shops situated next to the synagogue in Sardis.”  This is believed to have been a baptistry.

Sardis Baptistry. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Cimok goes on to say, “The crosses were superimposed over pagan inscriptions and decorations” (A Guide to the Seven Churches, p.76).

Sardis also had an impressive gymnasium and bath complex that comprised about five acres.

Sardis Gymnasium. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

The open courtyard in front was for exercise; the bathhouse was directly behind the gymnasium. This complex is dated as 2nd century A.D.

Another interesting topic while we are featuring Sardis is the matter of its wool-dyeing. In his Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, Todd Bolen writes,

Sardis was known for the invention of wool-dyeing.  Even today sheep are a commonplace appearance at the ruins of Sardis, a city once known for its luxury textile and clothing trade.  John’s reference to soiled garments and the white raiments of Christ in Revelation 3:4 would have been significant to the church at Sardis in light of the city’s trade: “Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy” (KJV).

Our photo below, taken in March 2010, shows sheep grazing at Sardis, a view essentially unchanged over thousands of years.

Sheep at Sardis. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

A frequent question that arises is, “What are the people like over there?” For the most part, people are quite friendly.  When our group was at Sardis there was apparently a school outing that was taking place there.  Some of the students wanted me to take their photo.

School Outing at Sardis. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Remember to click on photo for larger image.

Sardis Synagogue

June 3, 2010

There is evidence that each of the Seven Churches address in Rev. 2-3 were in cities which included Jewish populations. The synagogue at Sardis has been excavated. Fatih Cimok, in A Guide to the Seven Churches, writes:

The synagogue in Sardis is the largest of its type known to date.  Excavations show that the building was originally a civic basilica which was built between the main street and the gymnasium and converted into a synagogue sometime between 150-350 C.E.  Its unusually large dimensions and rich decoration, as well as the titles of the Jews mentioned in the inscriptions here, show the high status that the Jewish community in Sardis held.

In its final form the synagogue which is thought to date from about 320-40 CE consisted of a colonnaded entrance court and a long assembly hall (p.81).

Pictured below is the Sardis synagogue:

Sardis Synagogue. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Click on photo for larger view. In our photo you can see the forecourt fountain.  In the distance you can see the main hall with table.  Cimok gives the seating capacity of the main hall as one thousand occupants.

More to come.

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