Sardis Synagogue

June 3, 2010

There is evidence that each of the Seven Churches address in Rev. 2-3 were in cities which included Jewish populations. The synagogue at Sardis has been excavated. Fatih Cimok, in A Guide to the Seven Churches, writes:

The synagogue in Sardis is the largest of its type known to date.  Excavations show that the building was originally a civic basilica which was built between the main street and the gymnasium and converted into a synagogue sometime between 150-350 C.E.  Its unusually large dimensions and rich decoration, as well as the titles of the Jews mentioned in the inscriptions here, show the high status that the Jewish community in Sardis held.

In its final form the synagogue which is thought to date from about 320-40 CE consisted of a colonnaded entrance court and a long assembly hall (p.81).

Pictured below is the Sardis synagogue:

Sardis Synagogue. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Click on photo for larger view. In our photo you can see the forecourt fountain.  In the distance you can see the main hall with table.  Cimok gives the seating capacity of the main hall as one thousand occupants.

More to come.

At Pergamum, the god Asclepius

May 25, 2010

We have been looking at the biblical city of Pergamum, the city where one of the seven churches of Asia (Rev. 2-3) was located.  Our last post featured photos from the Asklepieion, where the god of healing, Asclepius, was worshiped. There were other famous temples dedicated to this medicine god at Epidaurus in north-eastern Peloponnese, also on the island of Kos, as well as Trikala, and Gortys.

This photo is a statue of  Asclepius on display at the Athens Museum.  Notice the serpent intertwined on his staff.

Asclepius. Athens Museum. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

The museum at Pergamum, modern Bergama, displays a serpent, symbol of Asclepius, along with votive offerings left by those who traveled there for healing.

Serpent, symbol of Asclepius. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Here is a shot of body parts, left as votive offerings to the god Asclepius.

Body Parts, as Votive Offerings for Asclepius. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Temples devoted to Asclepius served a dual purpose, as not only a place of worship for the god, but also a luxury health spa of sorts, i.e., supposedly a healing center.

The patients would travel through the sacred passageway, seen in photo below.

Sacred Passageway. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

You see the openings which let in light.  Also it is suggested that “physicians” may have spoken down to the patients as they moved through the passageway, speaking encouragement with their incantations, etc.

Asklepieion Sacred Passageway, top. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

When Jesus wrote the church at Pergamum, He described the Christians there as dwelling “where Satan’s throne is” (Rev. 2:13).  Some see in that a specific reference to Asclepius, with his serpent symbol. Satan appeared in the Garden of Eden in the form of a serpent.  He is called “that serpent of old, the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world” (Rev. 12:8; cf. 2 Cor. 11:3).  Others suggest that Jesus is referring to the prominent worship of Zeus there at Pergamum. Still others would say that it is Pergamum’s position as a center for imperial worship that is under consideration.  Not to mention Bacchus, the wine god!  It is possible that Jesus had in mind specifically  one of these false systems, but it may well be that it is a combination of all of the above that gave rise to His description.

It is instructive to consider what Jesus does NOT tell the church to do.  He doesn’t tell them to pack their bags and move to some other location where it would be easier to live the Christian life.  He expected them to be faithful where they were, to be lights in that world of darkness, to do what was right, even when they lived next door to Satan!


At Pergamum, the Asklepieion

May 21, 2010

Pergamum was the principle seat of the worship of the god Asklepios, the Roman god of medicine and healing.  An elaborate complex devoted to healing was constructed downhill from the upper city. Our photo below was taken from the Asklepieion looking up to the acropolis of Pergamum.

Asklepieion with view toward Pergamum acropolis. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Look at the center of the upper city.  The white ruins are those of the temple of Trajan, featured in an earlier post.

So many people came from so many places to the Asklepieion, that a library and theater were provided.  Included in that number were Roman emperors Marcus Aurelius and Caracalla, both of whom traveled here to be healed. The photo below shows the site of the library and the theater. The theater would seat 3,500.

Asklepieion Library and Theater. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

In the foreground of our photo you see the the column features serpents, the symbol of Asklepios.

At the Asklepieion there were fountains and pools, where patients could bathe, as well as drink what was thought to be sacred water.

Asklepieion Sacred Fountain. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Remember to click on photos for higher resolution.

I plan to follow-up with another post on the Asklepieion, so stay tuned.

On a personal note, I have just concluded a 6-day series of lessons on the History and Geography of the Bible with the church of Christ at Clayton, N.C. William Dickinson is the preacher here.  It has been a good week.

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