The “Horns of Moses”

June 14, 2018

One of the innumerable attractions in Rome which we were able to see last week was that of Michelangelo’s Moses, housed (among other artistic works/artifacts) in the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli. The statue of Moses was sculpted by Italian High Renaissance artist Michelangelo Buonarroti, who created this work in the years 1513-1515. This sculpture was originally commissioned in 1505 by Pope Julius II for his tomb.

Michelangelo’s Moses, 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.

But to the point of this post, Moses is seen here with two horns on his head. This is based on a rendering of Exodus 34:29 in the Vulgate, the Latin translation of the Bible in use during Michelangelo’s time. The English Standard Version renders the text, which speaks of Moses coming down from Mt. Sinai after talking with God, “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 NET Bible contains this translator note:

The word qaran is derived from the noun qeren in the sense of a “ray of light” (see Hab. 3:4). Something of the divine glory remained with Moses. The Greek translation of Aquila and the Latin Vulgate convey the idea that he had horns, the primary meaning of the word from which this word is derived. Some have tried to defend this, saying that the glory appeared like horns or that Moses covered his face with a mask adorned with horns. But in the text the subject of the verb is the skin of Moses’ face.

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

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

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Bologna’s Sea-god Neptune, and More

June 9, 2018

As we continued our travels in Italy, we left Florence this morning and made a lunch stop at Bologna where we saw a statue of the Roman Sea-god Neptune at the square.

Portion of city square at Bologna, Italy. Sea-god Neptune is seen at far left center. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

As we traveled north we crossed the Po River. The terrain had changed as we left the hills and saw flat, very fertile, farmland.

Po River. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

We reached our destiny of Trieste by late afternoon. Tomorrow our group is meeting with a congregation made up of Christians, many of whom have ties and connections with the folks on our tour. Gianni Berdine is the local evangelist here in Trieste. Several of us went for a walk after dinner.

Trieste Square. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Trieste is located in the extreme northwest of Italy, on the Adriatic Sea, and borders Slovenia. This is one of the great Piazzas of Italy.

 


St. Paul Outside the Walls

June 5, 2018

My group arrived safely Tuesday morning in Rome. We visited the Papal Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls, as well as other stops, including the catacombs, as time permitted before dinner. This building was constructed to honor the martyrdom of Paul.

The facade at the quadriportico at the Basilica of st. Paul outside the Walls. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

As a result of the Edict of Milan in the year 313 AD, the official persecution of Christians cease. The Emperor Constantine had a basilica built over the tomb venerated as that of the Apostle Paul.

Group shot at the basilica. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Group shot at colonnade at basilica. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

All of our group is well. More to come!


Paul’s Journey to Jerusalem and the Role of the Spirit

May 16, 2018

As Paul’s 3rd Missionary Journey draws to a close, the text states, “After looking up the disciples [at Tyre], we stayed there seven days; and they kept telling Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem” (Acts 21:4). At first glance it would seem that the Holy Spirit is instructing Paul not to go to Jerusalem. Is that what the passage means?

View of Jerusalem, looking west, from Mt. of Olives. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Every passage of Scripture has a context. Previously Luke recorded, “Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome” (Acts 19:21, ESV). Then a few verses later, ” And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there” (20:22, ESV). We know that capitalization is supplied by the translators but you see that the English Standard Version, along with many others, indicate this is the Holy Spirit, not Paul’s spirit, in these texts, Who is directing Paul. Further, that Paul’s journey to Jerusalem was clearly endorsed by the Lord is seen in 23:11, “The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome” (ESV). Additionally, when Paul and his companions were forbidden by the Holy Spirit (on the 2nd Journey) to preach in Asia, Mysia and Bithynia, they did not resist the Spirit, but passed through those regions on to Macedonia (Acts 16:1-10). These passage furnish the surrounding context in which Acts 21:4 must be viewed.

J.W. McGarvey wrote, “We are not to understand that these entreaties [in our opening text, 21:4] were dictated by the Spirit; for this would have made it Paul’s duty to desist from his purpose; but the statement means that they were enabled to advise him not to go, by knowing, through the Spirit, what awaited him. The knowledge was supernatural; the advice was the result of their own judgment” (A Commentary on Acts of the Apostles, p.255).

Bob & Sandra Waldron explained, “The Spirit is telling Paul there will be trouble, but it is the people who are begging him not to go” (Go Tell the Good News, p.184).

I do believe that this gives the best explanation of Acts 21:4, as any other view would contradict the related texts immediately before and after the passage. I’m convinced this must be the approach when approaching a challenging text–explanations must be ruled out which contradict other plain passages of scripture.


“Who Sent out the Wild Donkey Free?”

April 7, 2018

In the concluding chapters of the book of Job, God asks a series of rhetorical questions to help Job see the incomprehensible greatness of God. Many of these questions have to do with God’s creative power.

5 “Who sent out the wild donkey free? And who loosed the bonds of the swift donkey, 6 To whom I gave the wilderness for a home And the salt land for his dwelling place? 7 “He scorns the tumult of the city, The shoutings of the driver he does not hear. 8 “He explores the mountains for his pasture And searches after every green thing. (Job 39:5-8, NASB).

Note the translation of the NKJV: “Who set the wild donkey free? Who loosed the bonds of the onager” (Job 39:5).

The onager, the wild donkey referenced in Job 39:5. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

I had the opportunity this past week in Israel to visit the Yotvata Hai-Bar Nature Reserve, situated in the Southern Arabah, and photograph animals that are native to the Bible lands. This photo helps us visualize the animal (the onager) God was mentioning to Job in our above text.

The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible has the following info in its entry on “animals”:

The onager or Syrian wild ass (Equus hemionus hemihippus) is an intermediate between the true horse and the true ass. Its ears are longer than those of a horse but shorter than those of an ass. The front hooves are narrow; there are chestnuts (callouslike spots on the inside of the knees) on the front legs only, and the tail is short-haired for a long distance from its root so that it appears to be tufted.

The Sumerians (ancient Mesopotamians) were able to domesticate the onager, which was eventually replaced by the horse. It was used to draw chariots in Ur; a number of onagers were buried with their vehicles in a royal grave that dates from about 2500 BC. Later the wild onager was a favorite hunter’s prize for Babylonian and Assyrian kings.

The onager was very common in the steppe lands near Israel where it was described as a freedom-loving desert animal (Jb 24:5; 39:5–8; Ps 104:11; Is 32:14; Jer 2:24; Hos 8:9). Ishmael was described as “a wild ass of a man” (Gn 16:12), one who could not adjust to domestic life. Nebuchadnezzar lived among the wild asses when he was mentally ill (Dn 5:21). Drought seems to have been responsible for the population decline of the onager in biblical times (Jer 14:6). The modern onager (Equus hemionus onager) is slightly larger than the Syrian wild ass which is extinct. (Vol. 1, p. 94).

As Job learned more of the greatness of the awesome God he faithfully served, his faith and trust grew in the most difficult of circumstances.

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Trip Summary &the Siq at Petra

March 30, 2018

Ferrell Jenkins & I are at the TLV airport, awaiting flights (different airlines) to Florida and Sweet Home Alabama respectively. It has been a great trip. In Israel we’ve traveled and photographed from “Dan to Beersheba”, and on down to Elath. Our time was rather equally divided between Jordan and Israel. We’ve seen the Mediterranean, the Jordan (and some of its tributaries: the Banias, a sliver of the Dan, the Senir), the Dead Sea and the Red Sea. On the Jordan side we were able to see the Arnon and the Jabbok (where Jacob wrestled with the Angel).

There is such variety in the land: a bit of snow could be seen on Mt. Hermon, the highest point of elevation in Israel. At the Dead Sea we were at the lowest point on earth. We traversed longitudinal zones: the coastal plain, the gently rising hills of the Shephelah, the hill country of Judea, Samaria and Galilee; the Jordan Valley, and the Trans-Jordan Plateau. We saw numerous green fields, some with crops, much agriculture, but also the barren desert.

I learned a lot on this trip, enjoyed the companionship of a valued professor, esteemed friend, and fellow-worker. I took a few thousand photos which hopefully find use in various venues of teaching, preaching, classes and writing, as well as resources for our local congregation.

For now I’ll share a photo of the Siq at Petra:

The Siq at Petra. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The 1.2km siq, or canyon, with its narrow, vertical walls, is undeniably one of the highlights of Petra. The walk through this magical corridor, as it snakes its way towards the hidden city, is one full of anticipation for the wonders ahead – a point not wasted on the Nabataeans who made the passage into a sacred way, punctuated with sites of spiritual significance.

The Siq starts at an obvious bridge, beside a modern dam. The dam was built in 1963, on top of a Nabataean dam dated AD 50, to stop floodwater from Wadi Musa flowing through the Siq. To the right, Wadi Muthlim heads through a Nabataean tunnel – the start (or finish) of an exciting hike. The entrance to the Siq was once marked by a Nabataean monumental arch. It survived until the end of the 19th century, and some remains can be seen at twin niches on either side of the entrance. Many people charge through the Siq impatient to get to Petra. That’s a pity because the corridor of stone is worth enjoying for its own sake and the longer you take to travel through it, the more you can savour the final moment of arrival. Technically, the Siq, with its 200m-high walls, is not a canyon (a gorge carved out by water), but a single block that has been rent apart by tectonic forces. At various points you can see where the grain of the rock on one side matches the other – it’s easiest to spot when the Siq narrows to 2m wide. The original channels cut into the walls to bring water into Petra are visible, and in some places the 2000-year-old terracotta pipes are still in place. A section of Roman paving was revealed after excavations in 1997 removed 2m of soil accumulation.

Some historians speculate that the primary function of the Siq was akin to the ancient Graeco-Roman Sacred Way. Some of the most important rituals of Petra’s spiritual life began as a procession through the narrow canyon, and it also represented the end point for Nabataean pilgrims. Many of the wall niches that are still visible today along the Siq’s walls were designed to hold figures or representations (called baetyls) of the main Nabataean god, Dushara. These small sacred sites served as touchstones of the sacred for pilgrims and priests, offering them a link to the more ornate temples, tombs and sanctuaries in the city’s heart, reminding them that they were leaving the outside world, and on the threshold of what was for many a holy city. At one point the Siq opens out to reveal a square tomb next to a lone fig tree. A little further on, look for a weathered carving of a camel and caravan man on the left wall. The water channel passes behind the carving. Hereafter, the walls almost appear to meet overhead, shutting out the sound and light and helping to build the anticipation of a first glimpse of the Treasury. It’s a sublime introduction to the ancient city. (Lonely Planet Jordan: Travel Guide).


At Biblical Elath, on the Red Sea

March 27, 2018

The past two days Ferrell Jenkins and I have explored various sites in the Arabah (see Deut. 1:1 & etc., NASB), using Elath (spellings vary) as our base. This evening I took a photo looking out to the Red Sea.

Looking out to the Red Sea from Elath. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

It was in this area that King Solomon stationed a fleet of ships: “King Solomon also built a fleet of ships at Ezion Geber, which is near Elath on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom” (1 Kings 9:26).  This was made possible through the cooperation of the Phoenicians. 2 Chronicles 8 records, “Then Solomon went to Ezion Geber and Elath on the seacoast, in the land of Edom. And Hiram sent him ships by the hand of his servants, and servants who knew the sea. They went with the servants of Solomon to Ophir, and acquired four hundred and fifty talents of gold from there, and brought it to King Solomon” (vv.17-18).

Note the location of Elath:

Location of Elath on the Red Sea. BibleAtlas.com.

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