Touring Israel, up the coast and on to Tiberias

March 15, 2019

My Israel/Jordan tour got off to a great start Wednesday, making stops at Caesarea, Mt. Carmel, Megiddo, Nain and Tiberias. We have some young folks on this tour. That is a good thing; good for them and good for the rest of us to have them along. For tonight I’ll briefly post a couple of photos.

Theater at Caesarea. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

This monument stands at Mt. Carmel as testimony of Elijah’s victory over the Baal prophets during the days of Ahab and Jezebel.

Elijah’s monument at Mt. Carmel. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Click on photos for larger view. More later.

Paul’s Military Escort: From Jerusalem to Caesarea via Antipatris

June 20, 2018

Acts 23 records how Claudius Lysias, the Roman commander stationed in Jerusalem, upon learning of a Jewish plot to kill his prisoner, the Apostle Paul, provided for a military escort to Caesarea, the Capital. “And he called to him two of the centurions and said, ‘Get two hundred soldiers ready by the third hour of the night to proceed to Caesarea, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen.’ 24 They were also to provide mounts to put Paul on and bring him safely to Felix the governor” (vv.23-24). These unusual measures were taken because Paul, although a Jew, was also a Roman citizen. It was upon previously learning that fact (Acts 22:25-29), that the Commander provided for Paul’s safe transport to the Governor’s residence, Herod’s Praetorium. Claudius Lysias certainly did not want responsibility for the assassination of a Roman citizen on his watch!

Their route from Jerusalem to Caesarea took them through Antipatris: “So the soldiers, in accordance with their orders, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris” (Acts 23:31).

Antipatris, a stopping point on Paul’s escort to Caesarea. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

This past March, Ferrell Jenkins and I saw the RACE Show (Roman Army and Chariot Experience) in the Roman amphitheater at Jerash of the Decapolis (in today’s Jordan). This helps us visualize the Roman soldiers/spearmen that would have accompanied Paul.

Roman soldiers (actors) at Jerash of the Decapolis. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

From there Paul was taken on to Caesarea: “But the next day, leaving the horsemen to go on with him, they returned to the barracks. When these had come to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they also presented Paul to him” (Acts 23:32-33).

Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast. Ruins of the Palace. Paul was taken here. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

The closing verse of Acts 23 records the Governor’s (Felix) reception of Paul: “‘I will give you a hearing after your accusers arrive also,’ giving orders for him to be kept in Herod’s Praetorium” (v.35). There is on-site at Caesarea some artwork that helps us to visualize the Praetorium.

Artwork showing Herod’s Palace at Caesarea. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Click images for larger view.


Caesarea Maritima

December 6, 2017

Acts 10 narrates the exciting history of how the door of faith was opened to the Gentiles. The Apostle Peter was directed to leave Joppa and go up the coast to Caesarea where he would find a man with an honest and good heart, Cornelius the Roman Centurion, as well as his relatives and close friends.

Wave action at Caesarea, on the south side of the Herodian Palace. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Peter, who had the “keys of the kingdom of heaven,” had preached to the Jews first on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and was then privileged to preach to the Gentiles in Acts 10. Peter began by saying, “Opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (Acts 10:34-35, NASB). Cornelius and those present heard “words by which you and all your household will be saved” (Acts 11:14, CSB). They were receptive to and obedient to the faith!

From this new beginning the gospel would go on to include Gentiles in Antioch (Acts 11), and on to the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8; cf. Acts 13-28, etc.).

We have several posts on Caesarea, including here, here, and here.

Caesarea, and on to Galilee

November 2, 2016

This morning upon leaving Natana with its beautiful view of the Mediterranean, we first visited Caesarea, the Roman capitol of Israel during Jesus’ Ministry. We saw lots of wave action.

Waves at Caesarea. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Waves at Caesarea. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Caesarea is mentioned numerous times in the New Testament. This became the home of Philip the evangelist (Acts 8:40; 21:8). Cornelius, the first Gentile convert, resided here (Acts 10-11). Paul used the port when leaving for Tarsus (Acts 9:30), and when returning from 2nd and 3rd journeys (Acts 18:22; 21:8). Later Paul was imprisoned here for two years (Acts 24:27), during which time he stood before Felix and Drusilla (Acts 24), Festus (Acts 25) and Herod Agrippa II (Acts 26). Paul left for Rome still as a prisoner from here (Acts 27).

Our Israeli guide, Zack, and my son, Seth. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Our Israeli guide, Zack (left), and my son, Seth, at Caesarea. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

As we were leaving Caesarea I noticed some pomegranates. I was compelled to drink a glass of a couple of these, freshly squeezed.

Pomegranates at Caesarea. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Pomegranates at Caesarea. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Later at the strategic city of Megiddo we saw several points of interest, including Solomon’s stables.

Solomon's Stables at Megiddo. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Solomon’s Stables at Megiddo. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

As we headed on the way to Tiberias we stopped briefly for a photo of Nain of Galilee, the village where Jesus raised from the dead a young man, the only son of a widow (Luke 7:11-17).

Nain, of Galilee, where Jesus raised a young man from the dead. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Nain, of Galilee, where Jesus raised a young man from the dead. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Thanks for following our travels. I’m writing this from Tiberias, on the Sea of Galilee. More to come!



Paul Landed at Syracuse

January 20, 2016

In the book of Acts we read of Paul’s route from Caesarea, Israel, to Rome, as a prisoner, with the trip’s various stops along the way. As they journeyed in the Mediterranean there was a shipwreck which resulted in their staying for the winter at the island of Malta. Then Luke, who was on that journey with Paul continues, “After three months we sailed in an Alexandrian ship whose figurehead was the Twin Brothers, which had wintered at the island. And landing at Syracuse, we stayed three days” (Acts 28:11-12).

Syracuse is mentioned in the NT only as having been a harbour where St. Paul lay at anchor for three days on his voyage from Malta to Rome. The shipwrecked crew and passengers, after spending three months in Malta, set sail on the Dioscuri, evidently one of the Alexandrian fleet of imperial transports carrying grain from Egypt to maintain the food supply in Rome.† They started, evidently, very early in the year, probably in February, before the settled weather and the customary season for navigation (mare clausum 11 Nov. to 5 March) had begun. That implies that a suitable and seemingly steady wind was blowing, which tempted them to embark, and carried them straight to Syracuse, a distance of about 100 miles. On the voyage from Malta to Rome as a whole, see RHEGIUM.

Nothing is said with regard to any preaching by St. Paul in Syracuse, nor could any be expected to occur. The ship was certainly waiting for a suitable wind to carry it north to the straits of Messina; and under such circumstances no prisoner was likely to be allowed leave of absence, as the ship must be ready to take instant advantage of the wind (Ramsay, W. M. (1911–1912). SYRACUSE. In J. Hastings, J. A. Selbie, A. B. Davidson, S. R. Driver, & H. B. Swete (Eds.), A Dictionary of the Bible: Dealing with Its Language, Literature, and Contents Including the Biblical Theology (Vol. 4, p. 645). New York; Edinburgh: Charles Scribner’s Sons; T. & T. Clark.)

Sicily is noted for its rich history (Greek, Roman and more), culture, theater & amphitheater, architecture, and as the birthplace of the preeminent mathematician and engineer Archimedes. But my special interest in it has to do with its being included among biblical sites!

Siracusa Theater Greg and Carlo_Picogna

At Greek Theater at Syracuse. Greg Picogna (r) with his father Carlo (now deceased). Photo taken in 1998.

Also at Syracuse you can view the Fountain of Diana.

At Syracuse, Fountain of Diana, goddess of the hunt. Photo supplied by Greg Picogna.

At Syracuse, Fountain of Diana, goddess of the hunt. Photo supplied by Greg Picogna.

Giulio Moschetti (1847-1909) created this fountain in Syracuse; it portrays Diana, the mythical goddess of the hunt, in all of her calm and pride.

Another famous site in Syracuse is the “Ear of Dionysus” (Italian Orecchio di Dionisio). It was most likely formed out of an old limestone quarry. It is 75.5 feet high and extends 213 feet back into the cliff. Because of its shape this unusual formation has extremely good acoustics, making even a small sound reverberate throughout the cave.

Ear of Dionysius at Syracuse. Photo supplied by Greg Picogna.

Ear of Dionysius at Syracuse. Photo supplied by Greg Picogna.

I’m looking forward to seeing these sites at Syracuse, along with other locations in Sicily and Italy, with my tour group coming up in March.

Aqueduct at Beit Hananya

September 25, 2015

In perusing some homeschooling curriculum on the Roman Empire there was a heading entitled “Amazing Architects.”

The Romans were among the best builders in history. They built things that served practical purposes, such as canals, bridges, sewers, harbors, and roads. But it was perhaps in constructing aqueducts that their engineering skills were most impressive.

Aqueducts were developed by the Romans. They are channels for carrying water that were mostly dug into the earth, following the contours of hills. Where this was not possible, the Romans build arches made of concrete and stone. It took great skill to build an aqueduct. The water channels had to slop at exactly the right angle all the way along its length to give a steady flow of water. (Peter Chrisp, Ancient Rome, p.46).

Many sections of the ancient Roman aqueducts still survive in various parts of the former Roman Empire. The aqueduct that emptied into Caesarea on Israel’s coast is a prime example. Caesarea was the capital of Judea during the ministry of Jesus. See our post here.

In Sept. 2011, Ferrell Jenkins & I made a personal study trip to Israel that included a stop at Beit Hananya, in the biblical “Plain of Sharon,” where a portion of the aqueduct can still be seen. This is north of Caesarea by a few miles. (Fresh water was channeled to Caesarea  from a distance of 8.5 miles).

Roman Aqueduct at Beit Hananya, north of Caesarea. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Roman Aqueduct at Beit Hananya, north of Caesarea. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Beit Hananya Aqueduct as seen from top. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Beit Hananya Aqueduct as seen from top. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The water was channeled to course down the top of the aqueduct.

Click photos for larger view.

Hippodrome at Caesarea (cont’d)

October 31, 2013

In regard to our previous post of Herod’s hippodrome, a reader writes, “Intriguing photos!  In the top (“dry”) picture, is the twisted metal in the center of the photo just a modern effort to prevent people from falling into ancient holes?  Do you know the function of the hole(s) (is it a Herodian well or cistern)?  Thanks so much for posting these images!”

Though hard to distinguish in the photo he referenced (See that post here), the metal work is an artistic representation of the horses and chariots that would have been used here in the horse races. Caesarea, Herod’s capital, was a Roman city; the hippodrome with its horse races (and other events) was standard Roman entertainment. This view from the side perhaps helps. This photo I took in 2009.

Horses with chariot at hippodrome at Caesarea. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Horses with chariot at hippodrome at Caesarea. Photo by Leon Mauldin.


The driver would have been standing up in the chariot during the race, urging the horses on in their speed. Here is a close-up:

Horses and chariot close-up. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Horses and chariot close-up. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

I think the “holes” asked about were just shadows in the photo.

We welcome reader response.

Click on images for larger view.



Herod’s Hippodrome at Caesarea

October 29, 2013

Herod the Great (reigned 37-4 BC) built a hippodrome at his capital city of Caesarea.

Hippodrome at Caesarea. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Hippodrome at Caesarea. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Herod’s hippodrome would have seated about 10,000 spectators.

The above photo was taken just two weeks ago. When I was here two years (Spring, 2011) ago this area was under water. Much damage along the coast here had been done by storms.

Hippodrome Spring 2011. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Hippodrome Spring 2011. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

This photo was taken at the opposite end of the hippodrome.


The Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Bible has this info:

Hippodrome. A course for chariot-racing, the prototype of the Roman circus. Like the stadium, it was long, narrow and elliptical, but straight at the end from which the racing started.

The hippodrome of Gerasa was excavated in 1931–3. Situated outside the city at some distance to the south, its inside length is 266yd, with an inside width of 56yd at the north end and just under 55yd at the south end. The date of construction is not clear. Some scholars believe that it was built at the end of the second or beginning of the 3rd century ad and never completely finished, while others prefer a date of about ad 70. The hippodrome of Gerasa is the only one that has been excavated in Palestine and Transjordan. Remains of others were found at Caesarea Kanath, Bostra (Bozrah), Beth-Shean and Gadara. Josephus, (Life, 132, 138) mentions the hippodrome of Taricheae. (See also Magdala.)

Like all other similar public buildings the hippodrome was an offence to pious Jews and most of the cities referred to above had a primarily Hellenistic population. Only Taricheae had a Jewish population, though the upper class was Hellenized. In similar conditions, Herod had a hippodrome constructed in Jerusalem (Josephus, Antiq. xvii, 193), probably in the Tyropoeon valley.

Click images for larger view.

Sarcophagus at Caesarea Maritima

September 23, 2013

Among the remains near the theater at Caesarea Maritima is a sarcophagus, a burial box. The word sarcophagus means flesh eater. This is due to the fact that a common practice was to remove the bones from the sarcophagus once the flesh had decomposed, and place the bones in an ossuary, a depository for the bones. The sarcophagus would then be reused as needed by other deceased family members.

Sarcophagus at Caesarea Maritima. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Sarcophagus at Caesarea Maritima. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The information sign informs us:

Stone coffins were made out of two huge blocks – a cavity in which the corpse was placed and a double-slopped roof lid on which a Greek inscription was engraved: “the grave of Prokopios the Deacon.” The coffins were decorated with flora, hunting mythological scenes or with geometric shapes for more modest coffins.

Most sarcophagi [plural of sarcophagus] discovered in Caesarea belonged to the Roman-Byzantine cemetery which is still to be fully excavated.

Caesarea was the Roman capital of Judea during the ministry of Jesus.

Click image for larger view.



%d bloggers like this: