Michelangelo’s Moses

August 22, 2014

One of the innumerable attractions in Rome is Michelangelo’s Moses, housed in the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli.

Church of San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Church of San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

The main attraction inside is the statue of Moses, sculpted by Italian High Renaissance artist Michelangelo Buonarroti, creating this work in the years 1513-1515. This sculpture was originally commissioned in 1505 by Pope Julius II for his tomb.

Michelangelo's Moses, 1513-1515. In Rome. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Michelangelo’s Moses, 1513-1515. In Rome. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Moses is here depicted as seated, holding the two tablets of stone. Some suggest the intensity portrayed is meant to represent his holy anger when he cast down the stones upon being confronted with Israel’s idolatry.

Moses is seen here with horns on his head. This is based on a rendering in the Vulgate, the Latin translation of the Bible in use during Michelangelo’s time. The text of our English Standard Version renders Exodus 34:29, which speaks of Moses coming down from Mt. Sinai after talking with God, says, “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.” The Latin Vulgate renders the Hebrew word qaran, “to shine” as “horned.” Hence the horns on Michelangelo’s Moses.

The statue stands 8 feet, 4 inches and is made of solid marble.

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Forum of Julius Caesar

August 20, 2014

During our recent tour of Italy we were able to take some photos of the Forum of Julius Caesar, the first of the Imperial Forums. Construction was begun by Caesar in 54 BC (Rome: Oxford Archaeological Guides). This is the location where the senate would meet before him. It was also here that Caesar built the Temple of Venus Genitrix.

The temple (Fig. 62) was introduced to Caesar’s original plan at a slightly later stage. It was vowed by Caesar the night before the Battle of Pharsalus in 48 BC, during his civil war with Pompey, to win over Pompey’s favoured goddess Venus Victrix, though when inaugurated in 46 BC (while still unfinished) it actually honoured her as Venus Genetrix, ‘universal mother’, from which Julius Caesar’s family (and thus all the emperors from Augustus to Nero) claimed descent (ibid.)

Forum of Julius Caesar. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Forum of Julius Caesar. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

The three Corinthians columns were added at the time of Hadrian.

Mamertine Prison in Rome

July 24, 2014

It is not unusual for a tour group to discuss what was their favorite or most meaningful location/event during their trip. On our recent “Highlights of Italy Tour,” many of our group cited the Mamertine Prison in Rome as being at the top of their list. To be able to walk down to the dark prison cell, and recall Paul’s last words in 2 Tim. 4, really enhances one’s understanding of the text and of Paul’s circumstances:

6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. 9 Be diligent to come to me quickly; 10 for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica — Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry. 12 And Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. 13 Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come — and the books, especially the parchments. 14 Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. 15 You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words. 16 At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. 17 But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. 18 And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen! (2 Tim. 4:6-18).

Mamertine Prison in Rome. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Mamertine Prison in Rome. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

We cannot affirm that this is the exact part of the prison that Paul was in as he penned the above text. But this is definitely a part of the state prison complex, and it illustrates the biblical setting as Paul, near death, penned his last letter to his faithful friend and fellow-worker, Timothy. I.e., it is safe to say that Paul was in a cell like this, in this area, awaiting execution. BAS in their photo collection has this information:

Near the Forum, at the base of the Capitoline Hill, is the dungeon of the Mamertine Prison. This was the state prison of Rome, and Paul may have ended his days here.

We see the lower of two chambers constructed of blocks cut from tufa, the local porous rock. Originally, this 30-foot diameter room could be reached only through the hole visible in its ceiling. This would have been the dungeon cell for prisoners; above it is a smaller room for the warders. Conflicting Roman traditions attributed the building of the prison to different rulers of the 7th and 6th centuries B.C.E. Some modern investigations have suggested a 3rd-century B.C.E. date for this lower chamber and a 1st-century B.C.E. date for the room above, but there is no question that it was in use in Paul’s time. Christian tradition also places Peter’s final internment here, at the time of Nero’s persecution. (Biblical Archaeology Society: The Biblical World in Pictures).

The Wycliffe Historical Geography of Bible Lands has this entry:

Tradition has it that during his second imprisonment Paul was detained in the Mamertine Prison in Rome. The name Mamertinus is postclassical; during the Empire the place was known simply as the Carcer. This was the ancient state prison of Rome at the foot of the Capitoline Hill. It was used as a place of detention, not of penal servitude, although executions occurred there. The upper room is a vaulted trapezoid, the sides varying in length from eleven to sixteen feet.

Below it was a subterranean chamber, originally accessible only by a hole in the roof. This Tullianum was nearly twenty-one feet in diameter and, according to Sallust, twelve feet high. All who wrote of the place described it with horror. Sallust (86–34 B.C.) described it as “exceeding dark, unsavory, and able to craze any man’s senses.” Under such circumstances the apostle would indeed have felt the need of the cloak and the books he had left behind at Troas (2 Tim. 4:13).

As Paul wrote Second Timothy, he had none of the optimism expressed in his earlier letters, when he expected release. He had obtained a preliminary hearing, and it had been a dismal failure (2 Tim. 4:16). Though he found himself in dire circumstances, he delivered what sometimes has been called his valedictory, for he was about to “graduate.” “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6–8) (Eds. Pfeiffer & Vos, 1996).

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Scroll down to see more from our recent trip to Italy.

The Tabularium

May 15, 2012

We continue to explore the Roman Forum. In our photo below we see the Tabularium, the large building in the back.

Tabularium in Roman Forum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

“Tabularium” is a term for a record building. A number of other tabularia were scattered around Rome and other ancient Roman cities, but this article is about the prototype example.

The Tabularium was the official records office of ancient Rome, and also housed the offices of many city officials. Situated within the Roman Forum, it was on the front slope of the Capitoline Hill, below the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, to the southeast of the Arx and Tarpeian Rock.

Within the building were the remains of the temple of Veiovis. In front of it were the Temples of Vespasian & Concord, as well as the Rostra and the rest of the forum. Presently the Tabularium is only accessible from within the Capitoline Museum, although it still affords an excellent panoramic view over the Forum.

The Tabularium was first constructed around 78 BC, by order of M. Aemilius Lepidus and Q. Lutatius Catulus. It was later restored and renovated during the reign of the Emperor Claudius, about 46 AD. (Wikipedia).

The lower level, the gray portion, is the Roman period; upper level was built later.

In a entry entitled “Obtaining Citizenship,” (Roman citizenship) F.F. Bruce is referenced as stating

that legislation at the turn of the first century A.D. called for a legitimately born child of Roman citizens to be registered within thirty days of birth. Children born in the provinces would be legally acknowledged (professio) before the Roman provincial authority at the public record office (tabularium publicum). The professio was then entered in the register (album professionum). We do not know if Paul’s birth was before or after this legislation, but some such formal procedure had to have been in effect earlier. At regular intervals a citizen’s name, age, status and property holdings would thereafter be recorded by census. (Dictionary of New Testament Background: A Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship.)

At right in the photo you can see the Arch of Septimius Severus, dedicated in AD 203.


At present I am en route to Cyprus to join Ferrell Jenkins for a few days of photographing biblical sites, and biblically related sites, in Cyprus and Turkey.

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Temple of Vespasian and Titus

May 4, 2012

In our post today we continue to share some photos of sites of signifance in the Roman Forum. Today’s photo features the Temple of Vespasian and Titus.

Temple of Vespasian and Titus in Roman Forum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Wikipedia has some helpful generic info:

The Temple of Vespasian and Titus (Latin: Templum divi Vespasiani, Italian: Tempio di Vespasiano) is located in Rome at the western end of the Roman Forum between the Temple of Concordia and the Temple of Saturn. It is dedicated to the deified Vespasian and his son, the deified Titus. It was begun by Titus in AD 79 after Vespasian’s death and Titus’s succession. Titus’ brother, Domitian, completed and dedicated the temple to Titus and Vespasian in approximately AD 87.

Throughout Roman history, there was an emphasis on increasing the fame and glory of a family name, often through monuments commemorating the deceased. Therefore, the temple was constructed to honor the Flavian Dynasty, which comprised the emperors Vespasian (69-79), Titus (79-81), and Domitian (81-96). Historians question whether or not Titus and Domitian had a good relationship; however, Domitian ensured the deification of his brother into the imperial cult in order to exalt the prominence of the Flavian name. Titus and Vespasian were each deified through the ceremony of apotheosis. In doing so, tradition guaranteed that Roman citizens and subjects would honor Vespasian and Titus (or at least honor their genius) as Roman deities. This imperial cult worship was as much a sign of allegiance to the emperor of Rome, or as a political and diplomatic gesture, as it was a formal religion.

Structure. The Temple of Vespasian was in the Corinthian order, hexastyle (i.e., with a portico six columns wide), and prostyle (i.e., with free standing columns that are widely spaced apart in a row).[4] It was particularly narrow due to the limited space, measuring 33 meters long and 22 wide. In a constricted space between the temple and the Concord, a small, two story vaulted room made of brick and concrete, and lined with marble, was built against the wall of the Tabularium, and apparently was dedicated to Titus.

Construction and Renovation. Titus began construction and presumably finished the foundations, made of tufa concrete, and the core of the podium, made of white marble. Domitian, however, completed the interior work after Titus’ death. The cella (inner) walls were in travertine, lined with marbles imported at great expense from the eastern provinces. The interior is highly ornate and the frieze depicts sacred objects that would have been used as the symbols, or badges, of the various priestly collegia in Rome. Around 200 to 205, Emperors Septimius Severus and his son, Caracalla, conducted renovations on the temple.

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Temple of Vesta, Roman Forum

May 2, 2012

The Roman goddess Vesta was the goddess of the hearth. She

was considered the patron of the fire that symbolized the perpetuity of the state. It was the responsibility of the priestesses to maintain this sacred fire and to renew it each year on March 1, the first day of the Roman year (The Wycliffe historical geography of Bible lands).

We photographed the remains of the Temple of Vesta in the Roman Forum a few weeks ago.

Temple of Vesta in Roman Forum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

 Vos, in his work, Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Manners & Customs: How the People of the Bible Really Lived, asks the reader to suppose that when Paul’s trial was conducted in Rome that he entered the Forum on the east side:

As Paul came into the Forum area down the Sacred Way from the east, the first building he would have passed was the house of the vestal virgins. He might have observed that the house was rather large for a sisterhood of only six priestesses. But such an objection is erased with the observation that the vestals were held in high esteem and that their house was chosen by private citizens and by the state as a safe deposit for documents.

Adjacent to this house was the Temple of Vesta, considered the goddess of the hearth and the patron of the fire that symbolized the perpetuity of the state. It was the responsibility of the priestesses to maintain this sacred fire and to renew it each year on March 1, the first day of the Roman year (p.606).

Wikipedia has this additional info:

The extant temple used Greek architecture with Corinthian columns, marble, and a central cella. The remaining structure indicates that there were twenty Corinthian columns built on a podium fifteen metres in diameter. The roof probably had a vent at the apex to allow smoke release.


My friend Ferrell Jenkins is currently directing a biblical study tour in Turkey & Greece. He will be posting as time permits on Ferrell’s Travel Blog.

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The Twin Brothers, Castor and Pollux

May 1, 2012

After Paul had suffered shipwreck on the island of Malta (Acts 27:39-44; 28:1), and wintered there, he continued his trip (as a prisoner) to Rome. Luke writes, “After three months we sailed in an Alexandrian ship whose figurehead was the Twin Brothers, which had wintered at the island” (Acts 28:11, NKJV). The Twin Brothers were the mythical Greek gods (assimilated by the Romans) Castor and Pollux, sons of the god Zeus.

The NIV renders the text, “After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island. It was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux” (cf. KJV).

The NET Bibles notes:

tn Or “the ‘Twin Gods'”; Grk “the Dioscuri” (a joint name for the pagan deities Castor and Pollux). sn That had the “Heavenly Twins” as its figurehead. The twin brothers Castor and Pollux, known collectively as the Dioscuri or “Heavenly Twins,” were the twin sons of Zeus and Leda according to Greek mythology. The Alexandrian ship on which Paul and his companions sailed from Malta had a carved emblem or figurehead of these figures, and they would have been the patron deities of the vessel. Castor and Pollux were the “gods of navigation.” To see their stars was considered a good omen (Epictetus, Discourses 2.18.29; Lucian of Samosata, The Ship 9).

Remains of the temple of Castor and Pollux may be seen in the Roman Forum.

Temple of Castor and Pollux in Roman Forum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The temple was built in gratitude for victory at the Battle of Lake Regillus (495 BC). This site furnishes yet another link between surviving archaeological artifacts and references in the biblical text.

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Temple of Venus Genetrix

April 23, 2012

Our photo today shows the Forum of Caesar, located in the north-east corner of the Roman Forum. Construction of Caesar’s Forum was begun in 54 BC. Three remaining columns indicate the location of the Temple of Venus in Caesar’s Forum.

Temple of Venus Genetrix, located in Forum of Caesar, Rome. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The temple was introduced at a slightly later stage, having been vowed by Caesar the night before the Battle of Pharsalus in 48 BC, during  his civil war with Pompey, to win over Pompey’s favored goddess Venus Victrix, though when inaugurated in 46 BC (while still unfinished) it actually honored Venus as Venus Genetrix, “universal mother,’ from which Julius Caesar’s family (and thus all the emperors from August to Nero) claimed descent. (Rome: An Oxford Archaeological Guide, p.150).

Here is a close-up of the columns:

Temple of Venus Genetrix, close-up of columns. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The Temple of Venus Genetrix contained an important collection of statues, paintings and engravings. A gilded statue of Cleopatra VII was erected, setting a precedent for dedications to notable women in the precinct. Paintings in the forum included one of Medea, mythological Greek hero of Euripides’ play Medea, as well as one of Ajax, mythological Greek hero of Sophocles’ Ajax, done by Timomachus. Perhaps more personal to Caesar were six collections of engraved gems. These surpassed in number the collection of Mithridates dedicated by Caesar’s rival Pompey. It is not known where or how Caesar obtained these six collections. (Wikipedia).

The location of a temple at the end of a long enclosure was a practice borrowed by the Romans from the Etruscans. This area suffered fire damage in AD 80; the temple was later rebuilt by Domitian and subsequently restored by Trajan.

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The Roman Forum

April 18, 2012

The Roman Forum was in ancient times at the very hub of western civilization.

Roman Forum At Night. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The Roman Forum (Latin: Forum Romanum, Italian: Foro Romano) is a rectangular forum (plaza) surrounded by the ruins of several important ancient government buildings at the center of the city of Rome. Citizens of the ancient city referred to this space, originally a marketplace, as the Forum Magnum, or simply the Forum. It was for centuries the center of Roman public life: the site of triumphal processions and elections, venue for public speeches, criminal trials, and gladiatorial matches, and nucleus of commercial affairs. Here statues and monuments commemorated some of the city’s most notable figures. Located in the small valley between the Palatine and Capitoline Hills, the Forum today is a sprawling ruin of architectural fragments and intermittent archeological excavations attracting numerous sightseers (Wikipedia).

It was here at the Forum, located between the Capitoline and Palatine hills, that justice was dispensed during the days of the Roman Republic and Empire (509 BC – AD 476). It is thought by some scholars that Paul’s appeal before Caesar would have been heard at the Basilica Julia.

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Emperor Galba: The Year of the Four Emperors

April 12, 2012

Numerous factors came into play that resulted in Galba’s becoming Rome’s sixth emperor. When Nero died in AD 68, the senate pronounced Galba emperor. Nymphidius Sabinus, prefect of the praetorian guard, had bribed his men to abandon their loyalty to Nero. Galba thought the bribe to the guardsmen had been extreme, and refused to pay the promised bonuses.  This of course alienated the soldiers from Galba.

Roman Emperor Galba. Reigned June 68-January 69. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Our photo was taken last month at the Vatican Museum.

On January 15, 69, Galba was murdered by soldiers in the Roman Forum. The historian Tacitus stated that Galba “possessed the makings of a ruler–had he never ruled.” His is a study of what might have been.

AD 69 was the Year of the Four Emperors: Galba, Otho, Vitellius and Vespasian.


We are currently doing our Visualized Survey of the Bible in historic Jonesboro, TN, the oldest town in Tennessee. David Wheeler is the preacher here. We are close to North Carolina and to Virginia. Beautiful country.


Dr. James Hodges passed away this past Tuesday night, April 10. He had been a professor of biblical studies at Florida College in Temple Terrace, FL., for many years. Forty years ago I studied archaeology under him; at that time there were two semesters: Old Testament and New Testament Archaeology. I appreciated his scholarship, and thought highly of him.

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