David and Jerusalem

After being crowned King of Judah and then eventually of Israel (the northern tribes) in Hebron, David moved to conquer Jerusalem.  Evidently it was his “general” Joab who with his men who surprised the Jebusites inside of the city by gaining access via the sinnor—usually translated “water system” (2 Samuel 5:1-12 and 1 Chronicles 11:4–9).  Previously I described this system and included pictures of the recently (ca. January of 2014) opened to the public system that dated back to the 18th century B.C.

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The “step–stone structure” is located on the eastern slope of the City of David. It evidently dates back to ca. 1100 B.C. and many believe on top of it was a Jebusite fort and/or palace. It is about 80ft. high! — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

 

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Hebron is the “natural” capital of the south (Judah) while “Shechem” is the “natural” capital of the northern tribes. Note the “neutral” position of Jerusalem.

By moving his capital from Hebron (in Judah) to Jerusalem David accomplished a number of things.

  1. Because he captured it, Jerusalem became his personal possession (not that of any particular tribe).
  2. Because Jerusalem was located between the northern and southern tribes it was in a sense a “neutral” city.  If the capital had remained in Hebron the northern tribes might of accused him of favoring the Judeans (his own tribe) and if he moved the capital to Shechem his own tribe of Judah would have been offended.
  3. By capturing Jebus, a pagan city and population that was located in the heartland of Israel was eliminated.
  4. By bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6, 1 Chronicles 13) he began the process that led to its becoming the religious capital of Israel.
  5. And finally, its position in the Hill Country, not on the Coastal Plain to the west, meant that his capital was not on the normal military route through the Land of Canaan.

The topography of the “Old Ancient Core” of Jerusalem (ca. 15 acres in size) is that of a “bump in the bottom of a bowl.”

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The “City of David” a.k.a. “the Old Ancient Core” is in the center/bottom of the photo. The Kidron Valley is on the right (east) of it. Note how the Mount of Olives is higher to the east, how Mount Scopus is higher behind it (to the north), and how the western hill rises to the left. This picture was taken from a higher hill to the south.

In light of the above, note:

As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore.”
Psalm 125:2 (NIV)

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? [not the princes of Judah or Israel]  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
Psalm 121:1–2 (NIV)

See also Psalms 2, 46, 48,  87, 122, 132 among many others!

Next Monday—Solomon builds the Temple.

Accordance Electronic Zondervan Atlas of the Bible on Sale

The beautiful Accordance version of my  Zondervan Atlas of the Bible is temporarily on sale for $27.90 (save $12.00).

Click Here for this deal and a nice review—expires Oct 20, 11:59 PM EDT.  For a screen shot, see here.

I am a Pagan — A Rare Papyrus from A.D. 250

I have frequently heard and read about how there were “tests” to see if people were Christians or not.  Usually the tests consisted of invoking the gods and offering a prayer and wine to the image of the Emperor (see my previous post for this type of test by Pliny and the relevant text from A.D. 112).

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P.Luther 4 — Owned by Luther College Decorah Iowa — A Decian Libellus — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

The above papyrus document is from the ancient village of Theadelphia that was located in the Fayum of Egypt.  It is a document drawn up by a man (Aurelious Sarapammon) to attest that he had “sacrificed, poured the libations, and tasted the offerings” according to a decree of the Roman emperor Decius (ruled A.D. 249–251).  This document was then signed by two local officials to attest that he had done so.  There are only about 45 such “Decian Libellius” documents in existence.

Christians, both lay and leadership, had difficulty performing such acts and thus could be subject to torture and execution—see conveniently the Wikipedia article on Decius and his persecution of Christians.

The above text reads:

To those who have been selected to take charge of the sacrifices, from Aurelius Sarapammon, servant of Appanus, former exegetes of the most–illustrious city of the Alexandrian, and however he styled, residing in the village of Theadelphia.  Always sacrificing to the gods, now too, in your presence, in accordance with the orders, I sacrificed, poured the libations, and tasted the offerings, and I ask that you sign below.  Farewell

(Second hand) We, Aurelius Serenus and Hermas [way you sacrificing …

Translation by W. Graham Claytor, University of Michigan in the “Qualley Papyri Exhibit” at Luther College, Decorah, Iowa. — Date of document ca. June12–July 14, 250 C.E.  My emphasis.

This past weekend I attended my class reunion at Luther College (Decorah, IA) where (in a previous life) I did my undergraduate work  in Physics and Mathematics.  Much to my surprise the above document was on display a number of papyri that were found in the ancient village of “Theadelphia” in the Fayum of Egypt.

For the official on-line publication of  “The Orlando W. Qualley Papyrus Collection” at Luther College, including other images) see the Luther Web Site where there are also additional notices.

Monday on the Mount — Entering and Settling the Land of Canaan

DLRLTB10_400The books of Joshua and Judges describe Israel’s entrance into and settlement in the Land of Canaan.  As Israel, led by priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant, crossed into the Land of Canaan, they were entering the Land promised to their ancestors and to which the Lord was guiding them:

13 “In your unfailing love you [the Lord] will lead
the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them
to your holy dwelling . . .
17  You will bring them in and plant them
on the mountain of your inheritance
the place, O LORD, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, your hands established.  18  The LORD will reign for ever and ever.”

This movement was more than a group of people merely moving into a land and conquering it, as often happened in the ancient world.  These were God’s people moving into The Land the He had promised them.  I previously wrote that part of the “Patriarchal Promise” was

that the descendants of Abraham would occupy the Land of Canaan.  See Genesis 12:7; 13:15–17; 15:18; 17:8—about 12 times in Genesis and especially Numbers 34.  From a earlier post.

This was the land where God would place His Name (= His Presence; Deuteronomy 12), the land where they would gather around His sanctuary, and potentially where they could live their lives in “worshipful obedience” in His Presence.  In a very real way, this could potentially be considered a movement back to Edenic conditions where humanity had been purposefully placed (by God)  in the Garden of Eden to live their lives in His Presence in “worshipful obedience”  (Genesis 3:15).

540_ShilohAs part of Israel’s movement into, and settlement in, the Land of Canaan Jerusalem was conquered (Joshua 12:10; Judges 1:7-8, 21; 19:10), but not settled by them—that would not happen until the days of David.  Instead, the Tabernacle was set up at Shiloh, 20 mi. to the north of Jerusalem, on the way to Shechem, and it was to there that the tribes went up to worship—remember Eli the priest, Elkanah the father of Samuel the prophet (1 Samuel 1:3), etc

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View looking north from the summit of Shiloh down on to a rectangular open area (about the size of the courtyard of the Tabernacle) where many believe the Tabernacle was actually set up (under excavation at the time the photo was taken — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

Next Monday — David Conquers Jerusalem.

Paul at Assos — Final Part (Asia Minor/Turkey)

In two previous “posts” I described “Paul on the Road to Assos” (Acts 20:5-12) and “Paul’s Arrival at Assos” and the Temple of Athena at Assos.  The Assos that Paul visited was a well–established Greco Roman city.  Indeed, at one time the philosopher Aristotle had lived and taught in the city (ca. 347–343 B.C.).

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Ancient Theater at Assos with the Aegean Sea Below
Click on Image to Enlarge

As in other Roman cities, the citizens of the city would assemble as the ekklesia in the theater to discuss and debate civic affairs.

The city itself, like other Roman cities, were active in honoring/worshiping the Emperor, his family, and his predecessors.  In fact, in 1881 a bronze tablet was found at Assos that dates to A.D. 37—roughly 20 years before Paul’s visit.  This tablet “records the oath of allegiance that Assos’s inhabitants swore to the emperor Gaius [Caligula] when he gained power.  It reads:

“… Since the announcement of the coronation of Gaius … (Caligula), which all mankind had longed and prayed for, the world has found no measure for its joy, but every city and people has eagerly hastened to view the god [Caligula], as if the happiest age for mankind had now arrived.

It seemed good to the Council, and to the Roman business men here among us, and to the people of Assos, to appoint a delegation … to visit him and offer offer their best wishes and to implore him to remember the city and take care of it ….

We swear by Zeus the Savior and the god Caesar Augustus [Octavian] and the holy Virgin of our city [Athena Polias] that we are loyally disposed to Gaius Caesar Augustus and his whole house, and look upon as our friends whomever he favors, and as our enemies whomever he denounces.  If we observe this oath, may all go well with us; if not, may the opposite befall.
(reference below)

Thus again, Paul and his companions encountered the veneration (worship) of the Emperors even here at Assos.

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The Modern Port of Assos

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The modern harbor at Assos
The hotels on the right are located at the foot of the acropolis
Click on Image to Enlarge

Today the harbor as Assos serves the fisherman and a number of boutique hotels line its dock [on our tours we typically stay in one of these hotels].

However, the harbor that Paul left from for Mytilene was located a bit to the east of the modern harbor.

AssosHarborDiagNote the locations of the Modern and Ancient Harbors.

AssosAncientHarbor-01-2To view additional images of the site of Assos Click Here.

The quote above is from pp. 136–37 in Elwell, Walter A., and Robert W. eds. Yarbrough. Readings From the First–Century World: Primary Sources for New Testament Study. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998.

Paul at Assos — Part 1

In a previous post, “Paul on the Road to Assos,” I shared some comments and an image of the road that led from Troas to Assos (Acts 20:5–12).

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The western road that led to Assos from the north—through the “necropolis”
The road was lined with funeral monuments honoring the élite of the city
Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

As Paul approached Assos he probably would have come down this road that was lined with funerary monuments that honored the deceased of the city.

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View south at the Western Gate of Assos that dates to the Hellenistic Period
The road in the foreground is probably the one that Paul used to approach the city
Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

He then would have entered this magnificent city gate that was built in the fourth century B.C. and is still standing to a height of 46 ft.!  Alternatively, he may have taken the road that skirts this gate to the west and descends directly to the harbor.

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Western Wall and Western Gate at Assos
Built in the 4th century B.C.
Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

The Hellenistic walls at Assos are some of the best preserved from ancient times.

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The remains of the Doric Temple of Athena on the Acropolis of Assos
It was built around 530 B.C. In the distance is the Island of Lesbos
Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

At the time of Paul’s visit, the Temple of Athena was almost 600 years old.  It is situated on the Acropolis that towers 780 ft. over the Aegean Sea.

For additional images of the Temple of Athena Click Here.
For images of the walls, necropolis, and gates Click Here.

Another Update! The Possibility of Great Treasures from 300 B.C. — from Amphipolis

There is a great BBC article on the excavation of the Amphipolis Tomb including photos and a sketch of the tomb—very similar to the ones found at Vergina!!  The site is protected 24 hours a day by two police officers!

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In a report dated 21 August Discovery News reports that the bodies of two sphinxes, 4.8 ft. high(!) have been found in connection with this tomb (10 times larger than the spectacular tomb of Philip II at Vergina!!).  The report also states that this is the LARGEST tomb ever uncovered in Greece.

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Two Sphinxes from Large Macedonian Tomb in Northern Greece (Amphipolis), each 4.8 feet high! — Image from Discovery News

Katerina Peristeri, the archaeologist in charge of the dig hopes to “. . . fully explore the burial by the end of the month to decide who was laid to rest there.”  Speculation: high military official of Alexander the Great?  Or possibly Alexander’s wife Roxana and/or his son Alexander IV who were killed at Amphipolis in 311 B.C. on the orders of King Cassander?  FWIW – the tomb is 3 miles from the famous lion statue (picture below).


Original blog from 13 August, 2014 follows.

A tomb has been discovered near the ancient city of Amphipolis in northern Greece—ancient Macedonia from whence Alexander the Great was from.  The circular mound is about 1,630 ft in circumference.  [for samples of treasures that might be found and why I am excited about this site—see below].  According to the press release a famous marble lion is located near the burial mound and may have actually topped the mound.

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The Lion of Amphipolis — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

View of the funerary monument, possibly that of Laomedon, a naval officer of Alexander the Great, that is dated to the late fourth century B.C. Although destroyed, it was rebuilt from fragments found in the area in the first half of the 20th century.   It is sited close to the large ancient city of Amphipolis — on the east bank of the Strymon River.

Amphipolis was situated on the Via Egnatia on which Paul traveled several times. This monument would have been 350 years old by the time Paul would have seen it.

For news stories on this find click Here and Here.

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View of the lower portion of the tomb — note the encircling wall — Photo: Alexandros Michailidis/AP

If this burial mound is undisturbed, it could contain magnificent treasures—like those from the tomb of Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great.

The following are samples of items found in the area of Amphipolis — who knows what this mound (tumulus) may contain?!!

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View of a Golden Oak Wreath from a tomb near Amphipolis. Note the delicate metal work and even the acorn just left of center. Date: probably around 300 B.C.

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View of a detail of a gold necklace found in a tomb near Amphipolis. Note the fine delicate craftsmanship. Date: probably around 300 B.C.

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View of a box that probably contained the ashes of the cremated person and a golden wreath above it. This type of box is called a larynx. Date: probably around 300 B.C.