On the Banks of Jordan

March 18, 2018

On the banks of the Jordan River: Ferrell Jenkins and I are enjoying an opportunity to explore biblical sites in Israel/Jordan, currently in Jordan. We have seen Pella and Jerash, which were cities of the Decapolis. The past two nights we stayed at Bethany, within easy walking distance of the Jordan.

On the banks of the Jordan at Bethany, the traditional location of Jesus’ baptism. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Seeing the reeds here along the Jordan reminded me of some biblical references. Jesus asked the people regarding John: “As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?” (Mt. 11:7). John was certainly no reed shaken by the wind!

Today we saw Mt. Nebo, where Moses stood when he looked across to see the Promise Land, then Dibon, where the famous Moabite stone was discovered. We had stunning views of the Arnon gorge, and made our way on the King’s Highway to Petra, arriving after dark.

I’ve previously posted on the Jordan River here, here, and here.

I’ve not posted until now due to internet issues, but plan to be able now to share more photos.


Thessalonian Politarch Inscription & its Bearing on Acts 17:6,8

February 21, 2018

Acts 17:6,8 mention the “rulers of the city” of Thessalonica, who beat and imprisoned Paul and Silas. Luke, the inspired writer of Acts, is a most careful historian. Different cities/districts used specific words to designate their rulers. Here Luke uses the word “politarch” (πολιτάρχης) which was a “very rare title for magistrates” (see Schaff below). Was Luke correct or was he mistaken?

Last month in London I was able to photograph a very important inscription, the Politarch Inscription of Thessalonica, removed from a Roman gateway of the city.

Inscription from Thessalonica using the word “politarchs” to designate rulers, as found in Acts 17:6,8. Photo ©Leon Mauldin. British Museum.

Church historian Philip Schaff, in a section entitled “The Acts and Secular History,” wrote:

The “politarchs” of Thessalonica, 17:6, 8 (Greek text: τοὺς πολιτάρχας, i.e., τοὺς ἄρχοντας τῶν πολιτῶν, praefectos civitatis, the rulers of the city).

This was a very rare title for magistrates, and might easily be confounded with the more usual designation “poliarchs.” But Luke’s accuracy has been confirmed by an inscription still legible on an archway in Thessalonica, giving the names of seven “politarchs” who governed before the visit of Paul.

The Thessalonian inscription in Greek letters is given by Boeckh. Leake, and Howson (in Conybeare and Howson’s Life and Letters of St. Paul, ch. IX., large Lond. ed., I. 860). Three of the names are identical, with those of Paul’s friends in that region-Sopater of Beraea (Acts 20:4), Gaius of Macedonia (19:29), and Secundus of Thessalonica (20:4). I will only give the first line:

ΠΟΛΕΙΤΑΡΧΟΥΝΤΩΝ ΣΩΣΙΠΑΤΡΟΥ ΤΟΥ ΚΛΕΟ. (Schaff, P., & Schaff, D. S. (1910). History of the Christian church (Vol. 1, p. 735). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Inscription in its original setting in Thessalonica. Photo ©Leon Mauldin. British Museum.

Schaff earlier in that section mentioned the significance and importance of such artifacts as pertains to the book of Acts:

Bishop Lightfoot asserts that no ancient work [as that of Acts, L.M.] affords so many tests of veracity, because no other has such numerous points of contact in all directions with contemporary history, politics, and typography, whether Jewish or Greek or Roman. The description of persons introduced in the Acts such as Gamaliel, Herod, Agrippa I., Bernice, Felix, Festus, Gallio, agrees as far as it goes entirely with what we know from contemporary sources. The allusions to countries, cities, islands, in Syria, Asia Minor, Greece, and Italy are without exception correct and reveal an experienced traveler. Ibid.732)

In other words, time and time again, Luke has been proven to be right! You can trust the Bible!

The British Museum Curator’s comments are interesting:

This large stone was built into a wall at the Vardar Gate of Thessalonica and was removed in 1877. The stone has been assumed to name city officials of the era. The inscription is important to New Testament scholars because it is one of the few stones that attests the existence of the office of politarch, mentioned in the Bible (Acts 17:6 and 8) and in only a few other literary sources. It is also curious because it mentions the mothers as well as the fathers of two of the politarchs. How the number of politarchs in this inscription should be counted varies among the modern editions; the translation here presents the usual interpretation of the inscription (see vom Brocke). (http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=398975&partId=1)

I should mention that this inscription is not regularly on display. It took three days to get an appointment to go into the room where is it housed, but it was worth it!

Click images for larger view.

 


Jerusalem, SW Temple Mount Panaroma

January 26, 2018

A panoramic view looking toward the SW corner of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Panorama of Jerusalem, SW corner of Temple Mount. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

At the base of the ancient wall on your left (western side) you can see stones lying in place. These were from the Herodian Temple of Jesus day, falling down to their present position in the 70 AD Roman destruction of Jerusalem. Though seemingly small in our photo, some of these broken stones weight tons.

The view straight across shows southern side of temple mount. The distant view at right center is the Mount of Olives, across from the Kidron Valley (which cannot be seen from this view.

This photo is from Spring, 2017.

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A Diadem, British Museum

January 10, 2018

References to the diadem in the book of Revelation include 12:3, 13:1, and 19:2.

Gold Diadem. Made in southern Italy, 250-200 BC. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

“The diadem is the sign of royal status. Rev 12:3: the dragon had “seven diadems” on his seven heads; 13:1: the beast had “ten diadems” on his ten horns; 19:12: the rider of the white horse had “many diadems” on his head.” (Exegetical dictionary of the New Testament (Vol. 1, p. 298).

This is one of the literally thousands of interesting artifacts in the British Museum, so many of which can be used in the context of biblical teaching/illustrations, etc.

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Paul & Barnabas Preached at Salamis, Cyprus

January 3, 2018

“. . . they sailed to Cyprus. When they reached Salamis, they began to proclaim the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews” (Acts 13:4,5). The preaching here at Salamis in Cyprus was the beginning of what is usually called Paul’s “First Missionary Journey” (Acts 13-14).

Salamis on the Island of Cyprus. Pictured here is area of the gymnasium. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Luke, the author of Acts, is very brief in his account of the preaching that took place here, without recording any results from the proclamation of the Gospel in the synagogues, quickly moving on in his narrative SE to Paphos, and continuing on from there. Our photo here shows the area of the gymnasium at Salamis.

It is interesting to note that Barnabas, Paul’s traveling companion and fellow-preacher, was from Cyprus (Acts 4:36).

Here is the harbor into which their ship would have sailed for their arrival at Salamis.

Harbor at Salamis, Cyprus. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

We have previously posted on Salamis here here and here.


Beth Guvrin at Mareshah, Israel

December 15, 2017

Beth Guvrin in Israel was a Roman city on the outskirts of biblical Maresha (see Josh. 15:44; Micah 1:15).

Emperor Septimus Severus turned Beth Guvrin into a major administrative center (ca. 200 AD). I took this photo of the amphitheater on April 27, 2017.

Panorama of amphitheater at Beth Guvrin. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

This amphitheater would have been used for animal and gladiator fights.

BTW: Often folks refer to theaters as “amphitheaters.” There is a difference: the amphitheater makes an oval shape while a theater only makes a half circle.

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“I Heard the Sound of Harpists Playing their Harps”

December 13, 2017

The Apostle John wrote, “And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps” (Revelation 14:2). I heard this harpist playing her harp in Jerusalem, at the Damascus gate this past April.

Harpist in Jerusalem, Joppa Gate. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

The context of Revelation 14 is that of the Lamb standing victoriously on Mount Zion with His people, those “having His Father’s name written on their foreheads” (v.1). What joy belongs to those described in the text! — “These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb” (v.4).

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