Biblical Colossae

September 2, 2022

We recently began a class study of Paul’s letter “to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are of Colossae” (Col. 1:2) in our local congregation. Knowing somewhat of the geographical setting helps one to enter the biblical world as the text is studied.

Colossae (also spelled Colosse) was a city in the Roman province of Asia, located in the Lycus River Valley about 100 miles east of Ephesus. It was situated near the cities of Hierapolis and Laodicea (see map here).

Location of Colossae. Map curtesy of BibleMapper.com.

I took a group to biblical sites in Greece/Turkey this past October, and Colossae was included on our itinerary.

Tel of Colossae. Photo ©Leon Mauldin. Mt. Cadmus is seen in the background.

During the Persian period, Colossae was a prosperous city, but by the time of the 1st century, it declined in importance, being eclipsed by Laodicea and Hierapolis. “Though commercially less successful, Colossae continued to be a place of importance in the Roman imperial period, as is shown by an inscription of this time and by second and third century A.D. coins that depict the usual city officials, showing that it had the rights of a city under the Romans” (Mare, W. H. (1976). “Archaeological Prospects at Colossae.” The Near East Archaeological Society Bulletin, 7, 43).

Back in 2006, Ferrell Jenkins and I made a personal study trip that included this site. Here is a photo from that occasion, giving a more distant shot than that above.

Colossae at center, 2006. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Unlike many of the recipients of Paul’s letters, Paul had not personally established the Colossian church, but apparently those who learned the truth of the Gospel during Paul’s stay at Ephesus (Acts 19:10), had taught and converted the Colossians.

Further, a comparative reading of Colossians with the personal letter to Philemon will show that Philemon was a Colossian also, so in reality two of the New Testament books were directed initially to this location.

  1. Both letters were written when Paul was in chains.
  2. Timothy joined Paul in both.
  3. Epaphras, Mark, Aristarchus, Demas & Luke joined in salutations.
  4. Onesimus was one of the messengers by whom Colossians was sent.
  5. Archippus is addressed in both.

Colossae has not been excavated as of yet. Click on photos for larger view.


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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More Scenes from Corinth

October 25, 2021

Among the sites our group was able to visit in Corinth was the bema, the judgment seat, mentioned in Acts 18:12-17:

When Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him to the judgment seat, 13 saying, “This fellow persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.” 14 And when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or wicked crimes, O Jews, there would be reason why I should bear with you. 15 “But if it is a question of words and names and your own law, look to it yourselves; for I do not want to be a judge of such matters.” 16 And he drove them from the judgment seat. 17 Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. But Gallio took no notice of these things.

The Bema, Judgment Seat of Galillo at Corinth where charges against Paul were dismissed. Acrocorinth is in background. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

We also saw the Erastus inscription:

Erastus Inscription in foreground. Many identify this Erastus with Paul’s host at Corinth mentioned in Romans 16:23. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Paul wrote the New Testament letter of Romans from Corinth, 3rd Missionary Journey.  In Romans 16:23 we read, “Gaius, my host and the host of the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the treasurer of the city, greets you, and Quartus, a brother.”

In 1929 an inscription was discovered at Corinth naming an Erastus as the one who paid for the paving of the street.  The inscription reads “ERASTVS. PRO. AED. S. P. STRAVIT” which is translated, “Erastus in return for his aedilelship laid [the pavement] at his own expense.” It would seem that the Erastus of the inscription is the same as the one mentioned in the biblical text.

We also saw the famous ruins of the temple of Apollo.

Temple of Apollo at Corinth. Photo by Leon Mauldin

Regarding this site BAS says,

The Temple of Apollo at Corinth was 700 years old by Paul’s time. On the hill directly overlooking the Roman city’s main forum, its sturdy Doric columns served as a dramatic reminder of Corinth’s ancient grandeur. But the temple was already in ruins; to Paul it would have served merely as a sermon illustration of the impotence of the Greeks’ “pagan” gods.

As noted above, the temple was in ruins in the days of Paul, but the centuries of pagan idolatrous influence was still very much there.

The Apollo temple originally had 38 columns of the Doric order.  Today seven are standing.

We also drove to the base of the Acrocorinth. What a view!

Acrocorinth. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Finally, time for lunch at the Corinth Canal.

Some of our group sitting down to lunch at the Corinth Canal. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

This nice restaurant is on the eastern side of the Corinth Canal. You might see someone you know.

Click photos for larger view.


Visiting Ancient Corinth

October 22, 2021

On our way to the archaeological site of Corinth our group made a couple of very important stops. The first was to see the Corinth Canal.

The narrowest point of the isthmus of Corinth is only 4 miles wide. A canal was engineered and completed between 1882 and 1893. Nero (A.D. 67) had the idea of building a canal at that exact route utilized by the modern engineers. He planned to use 6,000 Jewish prisoners as his work force, but the idea was abandoned.

Corinth Canal. Photo by Leon Mauldin

The canal cuts through the Isthmus of Corinth, separating the Peloponnesian peninsula from the Greek mainland. It connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Aegean Sea. On the site is a sign with info:

Info sign at Canal. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

In ancient times there was a paved road that stretched across the isthmus, called the diolkos, which enabled cargo and smaller ships to be hauled overland, thus avoiding the dangerous circumnavigation of the Peloponnese.

Our photos below show two remaining portions of the western end of the diolkos. Photos are on the south side of the canal.

On this pavement cargo could transferred across the Isthmus. Built in 600 BC. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The BAS has this information re: this site in their collection, The Biblical World in Pictures commenting on their photo taken in the same area as mine above:

In Paul’s day a stone-paved sledway, called the Diolkos, was used to haul ships and their cargoes across the isthmus. At both ends of the road the pavement continued down beneath the waterline, allowing the shallow-draft ships to be floated onto and off of the sleds. The sleds were then pulled out of the water and across the isthmus by mule-power.

This view of the Diolkos is near the western end, looking beyond to the Gulf of Corinth (and the mountains along its northern coast sheltering the oracle shrine of Apollo at Delphi). At the right can be seen the western outlet of the modern canal. The stone pavement of the Diolkos clearly shows the ruts formed by sled runners over centuries of use. Corinth, of course, controlled the Diolkos traffic. Moreover, since ship crews and passengers using this route had to leave their vessels temporarily at Corinth anyway, they had less reason to make an additional port-call at Athens’ harbor on the Piraeus. Thus, many more travelers of the Roman era passed through Corinth than through Athens.

The diolkos was paved with hard limestone.

Diolkos. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Click on image for larger view.


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.



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