Pharaoh Chephren/Khafra/Khafre

June 11, 2022

Chephren was pharaoh during Egypt’s 4th dynasty, reigning ca. 2520-2494 BC. He was the son of Cheops (builder of the Great Pyramid), and builder of the second pyramid at Giza. He is also the creator of the Great Sphinx.

This life-sized statue is housed in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, having been discovered by Auguste Mariette in 1860, in Chephren’s valley temple at Giza. It is made of diorite, a high quality stone. On the stature throne are carved symbols of royalty, the lion paws on the front, and on the sides are displayed the symbol of the sema-tauy, representing the uniting of Upper and Lower Egypt.

Statue of Pharaoh Chephren, Egyptian Museum. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Chephren’s feet are bordered by his cartouche. On the back of the royal headdress is the falcon god Horus, god of dynastic divinity in Egyptian mythology. It was believed that Pharaoh was the representative of Horus on earth, while the god manifested himself in the person of the Pharaoh, the living Horus.

Chephren, sideview, shows Egyptian god Horus on his shoulder. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Click images for larger view.


Recommended Resource: 1 & 2 Kings Photo Companion

June 10, 2022

I have received the Photo Companion to the Bible on 1 & 2 Kings, from Dr. Todd Bolen. This is a portion of scripture on which I’m currently focused in study and writing, so it is a very welcome resource to me personally. I’ve made use of the BiblePlaces library for almost 20 years now, and am glad to highly recommend this most recent addition. More info and how to order is found here: https://www.bibleplaces.com/june-2022-newsletter/

The Books of Kings has long been an area of specialized study for Dr. Bolen, as explained in his newsletter.

This new resource has PowerPoint presentations on all 47 chapters of 1 & 2 Kings, with more than 7,400 slides! But this is not just a collection of photos–the descriptive text and explanatory notes are most helpful.

This type of resource is most helpful in giving the text of scripture its cultural and geographical context, and thus enhancing ones understanding of the Bible.

Thanks to Dr. Bolen and his colleagues for yet another great resource in this series!


Pharaoh Amenemhat III, cont’d.

May 20, 2022

In our previous post we featured the Sphinx of Amenemhat III (ca. 1859-1813), who ruled during the time of the biblical patriarchs. This unique colossal bust of Amenemhat III was found on the site of the ancient capital of The Fayum, Shedet (the Crocodilopolis of the Greeks). The Pharaoh is dressed in a panther skin, with its head and paws lying on the king’s shoulders. A double band across his chest passes under the menat collar worn about his neck. The upper portion of two scepters terminating in falcon heads are visible on each side of his head.

Amenemhat III in priestly attire. Photo ©Leon Mauldin. Egyptian Museum, Cairo.

The Egyptian Museum also displays a double statue of Amenemhat III as a Nile god, “The offering bearers of Tanis.”

Double Statue of Amenemhat III bearing lotus flowers, fish and geese. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

In this double statue, Amenemhat III is represented as the Nile god bearing all the nourishment indispensable to life. One explanation of the doubling of the king is that the two figures represent him as ruler of both Upper and Lower Egypt. Others suggest that one image depicts the reigning king and the other his deified counterpart.

During his long reign, Amenemhet III had almost continual turquoise mining expeditions in the Sinai. More than fifty rock inscriptions have been found there referencing this. He was the last great ruler of the Middle Kingdom.


Sphinx of King Amenemhet III

May 14, 2022

The Egyptian Museum in Cairo displays the sphinx of King Amenemhet III, who ruled in the Middle Kingdom, 12th dynasty. This is one of seven sphinxes of Amenemhat III that were found in Tanis in the eastern Delta.

Sphinx of King Amenemhet III. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.
Sphinx of King Amenemhet III. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

The sphinx has the head of the king and the body of a lion, symbolizing the vitality and power of the pharaoh.

Amenemhet III reigned for 45 years (ca. 1859-1813 BC), which included a long coregency with his father Sesostris III. Dr. Douglas Petrovich states:

The major project of his reign was the reclamation of more arable land in the Fayyum by manipulating the water level of Lake Moeris, which led to his veneration in the Fayyum. His long and peaceful reign is viewed as the time when the MK [Middle Kingdom] reached its cultural peak. He also strengthened the border at Semna and enlarged some of the fortresses, in addition to constructing a large temple to Sobek at the site of Crocodilopolis, in the Fayyum.

(Origins of the Hebrews, p. 13).

Petrovich identifies Sesostris III (ca. 1878-1840 BC) as the pharaoh of the famine at the time Joseph (Ibid., 29). The patriarch Jacob’s death is dated as 1859 BC (Ibid., cf. Andrew E. Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, p. 74). “Amenemhet III ascended the throne as coregent with his father in ca. 1860/59 BC, which took place either just before so soon after Jacob’s death” (Petrovich, 29).

Click photo for larger view.

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Walking in Paul’s Footsteps: Assos

October 19, 2021

In our previous post of September 28, I reported that our tour group (of 45 passengers) had arrived safely and were set to begin our Steps of Paul and John Tour. We had a great tour, visiting sites from southern to northern Greece, then crossing the Dardanelles and exploring Troas, Assos, the cities of the Seven Churches, also Colossae and Hierapolis, and finally concluding in Istanbul.

I had intentions of making posts in this blog during the tour, but due to several factors, it turned out to be more workable to use my Facebook account and make posts on my phone. But now that we are back in the states we plan to report on the tour on this site. In upcoming posts I want to begin at Corinth, and basically follow our itinerary with appropriate posts. In this post however, I want to “fast-forward” to Assos, and look at the wonderful Roman road there which we were able to see for the first time. But first, a group photo taken at Thessaloniki, Greece. The famous White Tower is in the background.

Mauldin’s Group at Thessaloniki, Greece. Photo by Maria Psychari.

The Road from Troas to Assos.

Assos is only mentioned on one occasion in Scripture. On Paul’s return trip on his 3rd Missionary Journey, after departing from Troas, he walked on to Assos and rejoined his traveling companions there. Paul had preached all night, only stopping at midnight when Eutychus fell from the 3rd floor, and was taken up dead. Paul raised him from the dead. Acts 20 continues the narrative:

11 Now when he [Paul] had come up, had broken bread and eaten, and talked a long while, even till daybreak, he departed. 12 And they brought the young man [Eutychus] in alive, and they were not a little comforted. 13 Then we went ahead to the ship and sailed to Assos, there intending to take Paul on board; for so he had given orders, intending himself to go on foot. 14 And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and came to Mitylene (Acts 20:11-14).

Paul purposefully traveled overland by himself, and then rejoined his traveling companions on the ship at Assos. The route over land was 31 miles! Luke does not supply the reason why Paul chose to leave the group and travel overland to Assos. A statement Paul made in the larger context of our passage may be helpful: “And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me” (Acts 20:22-23).

Though not knowing the details, Paul knew that his freedom would soon be taken away, that he was about to enter a period of confinement/imprisonment once he arrived at Jerusalem. On the ship there would be little if any opportunity to be alone. It would seem that those miles on his walk from Troas to Assos furnished time for deep thought and prayer. For sure it would be the final such opportunity before he became “Paul, the Prisoner” (from the point of his arrest in Jerusalem, Acts 21:26ff, until Acts concludes at 28:30-31, Paul will be a prisoner in chains).

Leon Mauldin on Roman Road on which Paul would have walked from Troas to Assos. Note Acropolis of Assos in upper right. Photo by Dr. Paul Douthitt.

In 2006, former professor Ferrell Jenkins and I made a personal study trip to western Turkey, including Assos and Troas. It was not until then that I “connected the dots” and saw what would have been involved in that two day journey by land. Later, Dr. Carl Rasmussen posted photos of the well-preserved road connecting Troas and Assos: https://holylandphotos.org/browse.asp?s=1,3,7,20,55&img=TWNAAS24. More recently, Dr. Meg Ramey featured this road in an article in BAR, November/December 2019 issue. She reported that “Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism has caught the vision for preserving and promoting this sacred way.” See https://www.troycultureroute.com/route/.

In short, more than two years ago, when I was putting together the itinerary for this trip, I wanted to include a walk on this road if at all possible. I asked Orhan, who has served as our guide before, to help me with this. He had never seen this little known road, but promised he would make it happen. Because of the pandemic, our trip which was originally scheduled spring ’20, was rescheduled for fall ’20, and then again for the dates of September 27 – October 8, 2021. So finally (Oct 3) the time had come to be on the road to Assos. The group did not know the “surprise” that I had planned for them, but all seemed very pleased!

Roman Road. Paul’s destination of Assos can be seen at top center. The harbor was directly below. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Here is a closer view:

Zooming in gives you a view of the acropolis of Assos, left, and the Aegean Sea. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Our guide Orhan was delighted to learn of this road. Here he is pointing out markings indicating this road as part of the Paul Trail in this area.

Guide Orhan showing trail marking. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.
Looking back toward Troas. Tour members Andrew Yeater and Sarah Bragwell (in part) at right. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Here is a map of the area:

Map showing Troas and Assos, where he was joined his fellow-workers on board. Map: BibleAtlas.org.

I have posted previously on Assos here and here.

Dr. Mark Wilson has said that Assos is one of his top 10 favorite places in Turkey to visit. I have to agree!

Click images for larger view.

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Safe Arrival in Athens, Greece

September 28, 2021

We are thankful for safe arrival in Athens, Greece early afternoon, to begin our tour “In the Steps of Paul and John,” seeing biblical sites in Greece and Turkey. Forty-five passengers make up our group. This afternoon is free time, getting settled in our hotel and having dinner, and hopefully a full night’s rest (our time zone is 8 hours ahead of Central Standard Time, though our group is from all over the US.).

Tomorrow we begin with a visit to Corinth. In this photo below you can see the ruins of the temple of Apollo, and in the background, the acrocorinth.

Temple of Apollo at Corinth. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

We invite you to follow our blog during the tour.


Assos, in Asia Minor

July 9, 2021

Today Assos is in a village called Behramkale, in the Turkish province of Çanakkale.The philosopher Aristotle lived at Assos 348-345 BC.

Craig Keener writes, “The temple of Athena in Assos may have been six centuries old by Paul’s day. The city also hosted the imperial cult.” (Acts: An Exegetical Commentary: 15:1–23:35 (Vol. 3, p. 2982). This of course serves as a reminder that idolatry was thoroughly pervasive in the biblical world, both that of the Old as well as the New Testament. Idolatry was truly everywhere! The Gospel entered the world in the first century to challenge that along with every false system, to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:4,5).

Our photo below shows some of the remaining columns of the temple there at Assos, captured as the sun was setting. Note the little girl at lower right for a sense of scale.

Columns on the Doric order at Assos. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Former professor Ferrell Jenkins and I photographed Assos at evening and then again the following morning. This was in 2006, on a personal study trip.

Ferrell Jenkins on acropolis at Assos. Aegean Sea is in background.

Biblical mention of Assos is found in Acts 20:11-14: “Now when he [Paul] had come up, had broken bread and eaten, and talked a long while, even till daybreak, he departed. And they brought the young man [Eutychus] in alive, and they were not a little comforted. Then we went ahead to the ship and sailed to Assos, there intending to take Paul on board; for so he had given orders, intending himself to go on foot. And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and came to Mitylene” ( NKJV).

Click images for larger view.



The Pantheon in Rome

July 8, 2021

The Pantheon was built to honor all gods of Rome. It was rebuilt (having previously burnt) by Emperor Hadrian AD 126. The dome measures 142 feet high by 142 feet wide, and was the largest freestanding dome until the 20thcentury.

Pantheon in Rome by night. Photo from 2014.

Completed by the emperor Hadrian c. AD 125, the Pantheon has now stood for almost 1,890 years, one of the most magnificent architectural monuments of antiquity. Even today its domed interior space (the Rotunda) inspires a special awe, not just because of its size (the dome held the world record for a concrete span until the CNIT building in Paris in 1958) but also the quality of the light, the colour, and sound. The building owes its survival partly to the fact that it was converted into a church in AD 608 (St Mary of the Martyrs) but even more to the extraordinary strength and stability of its construction. It was the third ‘Pantheon’ on the site. The first, built by Marcus Agrippa in 27–25 BC, was destroyed in the great fire of AD 80. Replaced by Domitian, it then was struck by lightning in AD 110 and burned again. Plans for rebuilding were probably put in hand immediately by Trajan and work may have been fairly well advanced by the time he died in AD 117 but not actually finished. Hadrian (as was his practice in all the buildings he restored or rebuilt in the city, with the exception of the Temple of Deified Trajan) did not dedicate the new Pantheon in his own name but in that of the original dedicant: thus the bold inscription on the front: M. AGRIPPA L. F. COS TERTIUM FECIT (Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, thrice consul, made this). Faintly legible beneath is a two-line inscription in small letters which refers to renovations by Septimius Severus and Caracalla in AD 202: pantheum vetustate corruptum cum omni cultu restituerunt (with every refinement they restored the Pantheum, worn by age) but it seems that no rebuilding was involved. The structure comprises two distinct parts: the front porch and the circular drum, which share the same low plinth (1.3 m, 4½ RF high) but are architecturally in strong contrast—even conflict—with each other. The porch belongs firmly in the Classical tradition of monumental entrances, its pedimented front supported on Corinthian columns with monolithic shafts of Egyptian granite and bases and capitals of white Greek (Pentelic) marble, its exterior also once clad in white marble. The design of the Rotunda, on the other hand, although once coated in white stucco to look like a marble building on the outside, comes from the purely Roman world of concrete bath buildings and palatial halls. (Claridge, Amanda. Rome: Oxford Archaeological Guides, 226-227).


The Cyrus Cylinder

March 20, 2021

“Who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd, And he shall perform all My pleasure, Saying to Jerusalem, “You shall be built,” And to the temple, “Your foundation shall be laid.” ‘ (Isa. 44:28)

I often say that every passage has a context; the greater context of our passage here, Isaiah 40-48, addresses the incomparable greatness of  YAHWEH. This is especially seen in these chapters as the true God is contrasted with the idols made by human hands. The gods created in the imaginations of men cannot see anything, or say anything, or do anything (cf. Isa. 44:9-20). But the God of Israel says,  “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, And his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God. And who can proclaim as I do? Then let him declare it and set it in order for Me, Since I appointed the ancient people. And the things that are coming and shall come, Let them show these to them.” (Isa. 44:6-7).

One manifestation of the true God’s great power is that only He can foretell the future. So while the Assyrians were still the world power, God foretold through Isaiah (8th century BC) that it would be Babylon who would take Judah captive (Isa. 39). Then God foretold the return from Babylonian captivity (Isa. 48:20). But through Isaiah (prophetic work spanned 740-ca.690 BC) God called the future deliverer by name: it would be Cyrus, king of the Persians (r. 559-530 BC). Approximately two centuries before Cyrus ascended the throne, God called him by name, and foretold that he would be the one who would allow the Jews to return from captivity and rebuild their temple! 

The Cyrus Cylinder. British Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

In addressing the significance of the Cyrus Cylinder, the Lexham Bible Dictionary notes:

The Cyrus Cylinder is an important piece of external evidence for the fall of the Neo-Babylonian Empire. Written in Akkadian, the Cylinder is a building inscription celebrating the restoration of Babylon, which Cyrus king of Persia conquered. The Bible records that Cyrus’ conquest brought an end to the Babylonian exile and allowed for the exiled Judahites to return to their homeland (Ezra 1:3; 2:1–67). The Cyrus Cylinder does not explicitly mention the Judahites, but the book of Ezra opens with a decree from Cyrus that allows the Judahites to return from exile and promises Persian patronage for the reconstruction of the temple in Jerusalem.

Krijgsman, M. (2016). Cyrus Cylinder. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Note how this ties in with Ezra’s opening verses that tell of the decree of King Cyrus:

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is among you of all His people? May his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel (He is God), which is in Jerusalem. And whoever is left in any place where he dwells, let the men of his place help him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, besides the freewill offerings for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.

Ezra 1:1-4

Indeed, the true God proclaimed “the things that are coming and shall come”!


Board Games: Royal Game of Ur

March 9, 2021

According to the British Museum:

The Royal Game of Ur is the oldest playable boardgame in the world, originating around 4,600 years ago in ancient Mesopotamia.

The game’s rules were written on a cuneiform tablet by a Babylonian astronomer in 177 BC. From this, curator Irving Finkel was able to decipher the rules – two players compete to race their pieces from one end of the board to the other. The central squares were also used for fortune telling.

https://blog.britishmuseum.org/top-10-historical-board-games/

This game-piece is dated to 2600 BC, consisting of inlaid shell and lapis lazuli, and is among the many artifacts excavated by Sir Leonard Wooley, in the Royal Cemetery of Ur, located in today’s southern Iraq. It is said to be similar to backgammon. The British Museum even provides a YouTube video on how to play. Click here.

The Royal Game of Ur, British Museum. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Status Symbol? An article in BAS article suggests the following:

In the ancient world, board games, one of the world’s oldest hobbies, were played not only to pass the time, but also to signify the wealth and status of the players, according to a new study. Mark Hall, an historian with the Perth Museum and Art Gallery in Scotland, believes the process by which board games spread across the ancient world suggests they were passed along as elite gifts. “Many of the first board games appear to have been diplomatic gifts to signify status,” said Hall. “We have early examples of quite splendid playing pieces belonging to elite, privileged people.” Hall notes that many of the earliest board games from the ancient Near East, including the Mesopotamian game of Twenty Squares (similar to today’s backgammon) and the Egyptian game of Senet (which used a grid of 30 squares), were discovered as offerings or gifts in royal burials, such as the Royal Tombs of Ur and the tomb of King Tutankhamen.

https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/ancient-cultures/daily-life-and-practice/board-games-were-status-symbols-in-the-ancient-world/

Sir Leonard Woolley directed 12 seasons of excavations at the site of ancient Ur (Tell el-Mukay-yar) on behalf of the British Museum and the University of Pennsylvania.

Students of the Bible have an interest in Ur of the Chaldees as the home of the patriarch Abraham (Gen. 11:28,31; Neh. 9:6). Not all agree that Woolley was correct in his identification, but his excavations there are informative and fascinating, to say the least.


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