Diogenes of Sinope, Biblical Pontus

November 4, 2020

The Roman province of Pontus is mentioned three times in the New Testament in the following passages:

There were residents of Pontus (among many other) present for the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, the day on which the Gospel message of salvation through the resurrected Christ was preached for the first time: “Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia” (Acts 2:9).

Paul’s dear friend and fellow-tentmaker Aquila, was from Pontus: “And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome” (Acts 18:2).

The Apostle Peter wrote the letter of 1 Peter to Christians in Pontus (and other Roman provinces): “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. . .” (1 Pet. 1:1).

The coast of Pontus was colonized by the Greeks ca. 700 BC. Sinope was a major port city of Pontus located on the Black Sea. This is in Turkey’s territory today.

Map showing Sinope on the coast of the Black Sea. In biblical times in the Roman province of Pontus. Today in Turkey.

Diogenes, the Cynic philosopher (ca. 412 BC – 323 BC), was a famous resident of Sinope. He was notorious for carrying a lamp during the daytime in Athens, claiming to be looking for an honest man.

Statue of Diogenes in Sinope holding a lantern. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

At the base of this statue is a plaque relating another legend about Diogenes and Alexander the Great.

Diogenes’s famous statement to Alexander the Great. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Plutarch relates the story of what happened when Alexander sought out Diogenes at Corinth:

[14] [1] And now a general assembly of the Greeks was held at the Isthmus, where a vote was passed to make an expedition against Persia with Alexander, and he was proclaimed their leader. Thereupon many statesmen and philosophers came to him with their congratulations, and he expected that Diogenes of Sinope also, who was tarrying in Corinth, would do likewise. [2] But since that philosopher took not the slightest notice of Alexander, and continued to enjoy his leisure in the suburb Craneion, Alexander went in person to see him; and he found him lying in the sun. Diogenes raised himself up a little when he saw so many persons coming towards him, and fixed his eyes upon Alexander. And when that monarch addressed him with greetings, and asked if he wanted anything, ‘Yes,’ said Diogenes, “stand a little out of my sun.” [3] It is said that Alexander was so struck by this, and admired so much the haughtiness and grandeur of the man who had nothing but scorn for him, that he said to his followers, who were laughing and jesting about the philosopher as they went away, “But verily, if I were not Alexander, I would be Diogenes.” (Plutarch’s Lives, Alexander, 14:1-3).


Landing at Syracuse (Acts 28:12)

November 3, 2020

The city of Syracuse, located on the southeast coast of Sicily, was founded in 733 BC by Greek settlers from Corinth. Some names associated with Syracuse include Aeschylus, considered the father of the Greek tragedy. The philosopher Plato was in Syracuse. Syracuse was the birthplace of Archimedes, the famous mathematician and most influential scientist of the ancient world.

But to the Bible student, it is its mention in connection with Paul’s journey (as a prisoner, among 276 passengers) to Rome that gives this ancient site special interest. Of that point in the sea voyage portion of the trip Luke writes, “And landing at Syracuse, we stayed three days” (Acts 28:12). Here is a photo of the harbor.

Harbor at Syracuse. Photo ©Leon Mauldin

Syracuse is rich in archaeological remains, including Roman and Grecian.

The Roman amphitheater was built in/on a natural rocky outcrop. The building would have been crowned with a portico. The inscriptions on the marble parts of the balustrade designate the seats of the dignitaries from Siracusa. There were eight entrances from the crypta onto the arena.

Roman Amphitheater at Syracuse. Photo ©Leon Mauldin

Fodor’s Italy has this info:

The well-preserved and striking Anfiteatro Romano (Roman Amphitheater) reveals much about the differences between the Greek and Roman personalities. Where drama in the Greek theater was a kind of religious ritual, the Roman amphitheater emphasized the spectacle of combative sports and the circus. This arena is one of the largest of its kind and was built around the 2nd century AD. The corridor where gladiators and beasts entered the ring is still intact, and the seats (some of which still bear the occupants’ names) were hauled in and constructed on the site from huge slabs of limestone. (Fodor’s Italy 2014 Kindle Locations 21621-21622).

Another important site at Syracuse is the Altar of Hieron (perhaps dedicated to Zeus) built in the Hellenistic period by King Hiero II. It is the largest altar known from antiquity.

Grand Altar of Hieron II (275-216 BC), Syracuse. Photo ©Leon Mauldin

The Lexham Bible Dictionary has info on this Grecian period of ancient Syracuse, including references to Hieron I & II.

Syracuse became prominent in the affairs of Sicily under the rule of Gelon from 485–478 BC and his brother Hieron I from 478–467 BC. It flourished after the establishment of a popular government in 466 BC (Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca Historica, Hist. 11.68–72). The Syracusans successfully withstood the siege by the Athenians in 414 BC (Thucydides, Hist. 6, 7).

The most famous of the later rulers was Hieron II (275–216 BC). Perhaps the most famous resident of Syracuse, the mathematician and inventor Archimedes, flourished during Hieron’s rule. Under Hieron’s grandson and successor Hieronymus, the Romans under Marcellus conquered the city and it fell in 212 BC (Livy, History of Rome 24.21–33). After that, Syracuse was the capital of the Roman province of Sicily. Wentz, L. Syracuse. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary).

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The Greek Island of Samos

October 30, 2020

We are very sorry to learn of today’s earthquake in the Aegean which has resulted in multiple deaths, 12 in Izmir, on the western coast of Turkey, and 2 (teenagers) on the Greek island of Samos, as well as 400+ injuries. Our thoughts and prayers go out on behalf of those impacted by this tragedy.

The island of Samos is of interest to Bible students because of its mention in Acts 20:15, in the context of Paul’s return on his 3rd Missionary Journey, making his way back to Jerusalem.

Acts 20:14-15. Only biblical mention of Samos.
Acts 20:14-15. Only biblical mention of Samos.

Samos is a

Place-name meaning “height.” Small island (only 27 miles long) located in the Aegean Sea about a mile off the coast of Asia Minor near the peninsula of Trogyllium. In the strait between Samos and the mainland, the Greeks defeated the Persian fleet about 479 B.C. and turned the tide of power in the ancient Near East. Traveling from Jerusalem to Rome, Paul’s ship either put in at Samos or anchored just offshore (Acts 20:15). (Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, p.1438).

The rendering of the ESV on Acts 20:15 is: “And sailing from there we came the following day opposite Chios; the next day we touched [emp. mine, L.M.] at Samos; and the day after that we went to Miletus.” They could have just stayed overnight in the ship in the harbor, departing the next morning, or they could have deboarded the ship to actually be on the island itself (briefly of course). The text does not say.

Though the biblical text only mentions Samos this once (Acts 20:15), I welcome the opportunity to visit such sites, and to be able to share photos and use such in teaching.

I had occasion to make a brief visit to Samos in 2006, along with friend Ferrell Jenkins, when we were en route to Kuşadasi. See his article here. Samos is just off the western coast of Asia Minor. There are impressive remains of a temple devoted to the goddess Hera at Samos (see Fant & Reddish, pp. 118-125), but our limited time at Samos that day did not permit our seeing this.

Location of Samos. Map by BibleAtlas.Org.
Location of Samos. Map by BibleAtlas.Org.
Samos, at modern harbor. Photo by Leon Mauldin.
Samos, at modern harbor. Photo by Leon Mauldin.
Mountains of Samos as seen from the Aegean Sea. Photo by Leon Mauldin.
Mountains of Samos as seen from the Aegean Sea. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

On that trip we had flown from Athens, Greece to Samos, then we took the ferry from Samos to Kuşadasi, Turkey, which would serve as our “base” while we visited nearby Ephesus and other biblical sites.

Sunset at Kuşadasi. Photo by Leon Mauldin.
Sunset at Kuşadasi. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

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Mary Visits Elizabeth–Traditional En Kerem

October 16, 2020

After the virgin Mary was informed by the angel Gabriel that by “the power of the Highest” she would conceive “and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS” (Luke 1:31,35), she then went to visit her relative Elizabeth, who was at that time the 6-months expectant mother of John the Baptist. “Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth” (vv. 39-40).

To be clear, the text does not specify which city of Judah in which Zacharias (the priest) and his wife Elizabeth resided. It was a city in the “hill country” of Judah. However the traditional site is that of En Kerem (spelling varies), located about 5 miles west of Jerusalem.

R. Riesner, in his entry entitled, “The Birthplace of John the Baptist” states,

To visit Elizabeth, Mary went “into the hill country [oreinē], to a city of Judah” (Lk 1:39). The Greek word describes the district around Jerusalem (Pliny Nat. Hist. 5.14). A literary tradition that can be traced back to the sixth century identifies the birthplace with En-Kerem (Arabic Ain Karim), seven kilometers west of Jerusalem (ELS 44ff.). Remains of two fourth-century churches indicate, however, that the tradition stretches back to a still-earlier time (GBL II.776). (Archeology and Geography. In J. B. Green & S. McKnight (Eds.), Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (p. 34). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press).

Sign indicating our entry into the city: 

En Kerem, Traditional Home of John the Baptism. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

This photo gives you a feel of the surrounding countryside:

Hill country of Judah at En-Kerem. Photo ©Leon Mauldin

The Church of the Visitation commemorates Mary’s visit to Elizabeth.

Church of the Visitation at En-Kerem. Photo ©Leon Mauldin

Here is a view of the top of the Church of the Visitation:

Steeple Tower of the Church of the Visitation. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Of course the point not to be lost is that when Mary heard the wonderful news that she would become the mother of the Messiah, she traveled from her home in Nazareth to visit Elizabeth, wife of Zacharias the priest, in a city in the hill country of Judea. There Elizabeth “was filled with the Holy Spirit,” and spoke, significantly, not about her own child (John) but about Mary, and the child she would have: “But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

Hopefully some of our photos can help visualize the area in which this important visit took place.

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Exploring Delphi, Greece

October 8, 2020

Delphi, located on the southern slopes of Mount Parnassos, was the site of the sanctuary of Apollo, dating back to about 800 BC. As the sanctuary developed, the Pythia were instituted there. The oracle of Delphi was widely sought by Greeks, foreigners, individuals and statesmen, including King Croesus of Lydia and King Midas of Phrygia.

Delphi was situated at was thought to be the center of the earth, and was thus designated the omphalos, or “navel” of the earth.

Omphalos, navel of the earth, symbolized by this stone. Designated Delphi as the center of the world. Photo ©Leon Mauldin

The Temple of Apollo was an elongated Doric peripteral temple, 4th century BC.

Author’s wife, Linda Mauldin, at the Temple of Apollo, in Delphi. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Among the artifacts displayed inside the Delphi Museum is the Sphinx of the Naxians (dating to ca. 560 BC). It stands over two meters tall. The marble sphinx was an offering from the inhabitants of Naxos. This mythical creature with the head of a woman, the chest and wings of a bird, and the body of a lioness, symbolized earthly divinity and heavenly power. The Sphinx stood on a 12.1 meters column that featured one of the first Ionic capitals, and was erected next to the Temple of Apollo in Delphi.

The Naxian Sphinx, Delphi Museum. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

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Artifacts at biblical Corinth: Jewish Presence

December 18, 2019

Fant and Reddish make these interesting observations about biblical Corinth:

No city in the ancient world both benefited and suffered from its location more than Corinth. Situated on the main north-south route between northern and southern Greece, and with two good ports that linked it to Italy on the west and Asia Minor on the east, Corinth quickly became a center for commerce. But the location of Corinth also had its downside. The city often found itself caught in the middle between hostile neighbors, Athens to the north and Sparta to the south. Armies crisscrossed its streets as often as merchants, and more than once the city had to arise from ashes and rubble. Today only Athens attracts more interest in Greece for its historic antiquities than Corinth. It ranks as a must-see location for every traveler to Greece. (A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey, p.45).

Synagogue Inscription. There is a section of a lintel with a partial inscription, [Syna] goge hebr [aion], “Synagogue of the Hebrews.”

Synagogue Inscription at Corinth. Corinth Museum. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

It is thought that this artifact is to be dated as late Roman or early Byzantine, and hence would post-date the time of the Apostle Paul.

But the Bible shows there was certainly a Jewish presence at Corinth in Paul’s day. In fact, upon Paul’s arrival there (2nd Missionary Journey), he stayed with fellow-tent-makers Aquila and Priscilla, who were Jews, and were there “because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome” (Acts 18:1-2). Claudius was emperor AD 41-54.

Roman Emperor Claudius. Istanbul Archaeology Museum. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

The text in Acts 18 continues, relating Paul’s “reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath” (v.4), and also including brief notation of the conversion of Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue:

3 and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working, for by trade they were tent-makers. 4 And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. 5 But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul began devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. 6 But when they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7 Then he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God, whose house was next to the synagogue. 8 Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized. (Acts 18:3-8).

 

Capital with Menorahs and Palm Branches. There is also on display at the museum there at Corinth a capital decorated with menorahs and palm branches. It is thought that this once decorated the top of a pillar, probably from the synagogue.

Capital with menorahs and palm branches. Corinth Museum. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Paul’s one desire was to live in such a manner as to save as many as possible, whether Jews or Gentiles:

“To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.” (1 Cor.  9:20-22).

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Rock Badgers/Hyraxes at En-Gedi, Israel

November 27, 2019

Proverbs 30:26 states, “hyraxes are not a mighty people, yet they make their homes in the cliffs” (CSB). The NASB retains the Hebrew term, “The shephanim are not mighty people, Yet they make their houses in the rocks.” ESV renders, “the rock badgers.” KJV has “conies.”

It is not unusual to see these animals in En-Gedi.

Rock badgers at En-gedi. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Ferrell Jenkins and I photographed these as we were walking up the trail to see the falls at En-gedi, while doing a personal study trip in Israel in 2009.

Rock badger at En-gedi. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

The NET Bible has this note:

This is the Syrian Hyrax, also known as the rock badger. KJV, ASV has “conies” (alternately spelled “coneys” by NIV), a term usually associated with the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) but which can also refer to the pika or the hyrax. Scholars today generally agree that the Hebrew term used here refers to a type of hyrax, a small ungulate mammal of the family Procaviidae native to Africa and the Middle East which has a thick body, short legs and ears and a rudimentary tail. The simple “badger” (so NASB, NRSV, CEV) could lead to confusion with the badger, an entirely unrelated species of burrowing mammal related to weasels.

Further, “Modern scholars identify this creature with the rock badger (the Syrian hyrax), a small mammal that lives in the crevices of the rock. Its wisdom consists in its ingenuity to find a place of security” (NET Bible note).

En-gedi is known for its beautiful falls.

Waterfalls at En-gedi. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

En-gedi was an area where David and his men fled from King Saul.

Waterfall at En-gedi. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

I previously posted on the rock badger on our blog here.

In our home congregation we are completing a study of the Proverbs, with ch. 30 scheduled for Sunday. I find that visuals such as these can be very helpful in our understanding of the biblical text.

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Shepherds’ Field in Bethlehem

September 13, 2019

Luke 2 narrates the night of the Savior’s birth, when the good news was first announced to Bethlehem-area shepherds:

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 “And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” 15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. (Luke 2:8-18, NKJV).

Sign indicating location of Shepherd’s Field east side of Bethlehem. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

When one visits Bethlehem there is the opportunity to see the area designated as “Shepherd’s Field,” the Franciscan site located  on the east side of Bethlehem. This helps us to visualize where the shepherds would have been that night when the angel informed them of Jesus’ birth in our text above.

Shepherds’ Fields, Bethlehem. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

On most other occasions when I’ve been here the fields were brown and dry. This past March 2019 they were green.

Our group gathered in a nearby cave.

Cave at Shepherds’ Field. Mauldin Group, 2019. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Here we discussed the occasion of Jesus’ birth, and also took advantage of the natural acoustics to sing. Visiting Bethlehem gave us the opportunity to contemplate the wonderful plan of God, that Eternal Deity, the Eternal Word, became man! “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

I’ve previously posted on Bethlehem: click here, here and here. Ferrell Jenkins provides a listing of articles he has written on Bethlehem. Click here 

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Touring Israel

March 21, 2019

Between time constraints and uncooperative internet service we’ve not been able to do a lot of posting regarding our current tour of Israel and Jordan. ((We have been able to posts several photos on FB w/the WiFi on the motor-coach.) Yesterday some sites in Israel we visited included Qumran, Masada, En Gedi, the Dead Sea, and Jericho, before returning to Jerusalem.

Qumran Caves. Here the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Looking down at Roman Ramp at Masada. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

While we were at En-Gedi we saw some young girls demonstrating the way to wash clothes in biblical times. This was in the water flowing down from the lower falls.

Washing clothes the old fashioned way at En-Gedi,Israel. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Today was a walking tour of Jerusalem, and the City of David. More to come!

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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.


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