Category Archives: Artifacts

The Divine Name — YHWH — at Mt. Gerizim

I have posted on my web site some images of the archaeological remains that have been excavated on Mount Gerizim—the Samaritan’s holy mountain.

Mount Gerizim on the left (south) and Mount Ebal on the right (north)
For a higher resolution version of this image Click Here

In addition to the images of the archaeological remains, I have posted three images of inscriptions, among many,  that were found on Mount Gerizim and that are now on display in the Good Samaritan(!) Inn Museum—on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho.

The Divine Name YHWH carved in stone — from the excavations at Mount Gerizim

One of these stone inscriptions actually contains the divine name Yhwh in Paleo-Hebrew script and might be of interest to some of you.

To view additional images of the remains on Mount Gerizim Click Here.

Pilate’s Tiberieum at Caesarea Maritima

Pontius Pilate was the Prefect of Judea that condemned Jesus to death (Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 18 and 19). He is mentioned 61 times in the New Testament.  He governed Judea from A.D. 26 to 36.

In 1961 by an Italian expedition that was excavating the theater at Caesarea Maritima discovered a Latin inscription that actually mentions him.

The “Pilate” Inscription from Caesarea Maritima

When people comment on this inscription they usually emphasize that now there is actual archaeological evidence for Pilate’s activity in Judea and that his title was “Prefect.”  This is fine,  BUT what about the word “Tiberieum” in the first line?  To what does “Tiberieum” refer?

This stone was used at least three ways.  First, it was probably a dedicatory inscription in a temple called a “Tiberieum.”  Pilate built this temple to honor the Roman Emperor Tiberius (A.D. 14–37)!  This was then the second imperial cult temple in Caesarea—the first was the (probably much larger) Imperial Cult Temple that had been built by Herod the Great (37– 4 BC) for the worship of Augustus and deified Roma!

Thus it should be noted that at Caesarea Maritima the imperial cult founded by Herod the Great was still being practiced AND that Pilate as a good governor was also promoting the Imperial Cult—adding a structure for the worship of the ruling Roman emperor, Tiberius (14–37).  All of this going on during the time of Jesus’ public ministry (ca. 26–30)!

Secondly, the stone was taken from the temple and used as part of a well–head—note the half-circle on the right hand side.  Finally, it was used as a step in the fourth century Byzantine theater (where it was discovered).

Four lines of the Latin inscription are visible.

[_ _ _]S TIBERIÉUM
[_ _ PO]NTIUS PILATUS
[PRAEF]ECTUS IUDA[EA]E
[_ _ _ _ _ ] É [_ _ _ _ _ _ _] (Taylor, p. 564)

[. . .] Tiberieum
[. Po]ntius Pilate
[Pref]ect of Judaea
[. . .]e[. . .] (p. 565)

Joan E. Taylor translates the inscription as:   “Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judaea, [made and d]e[dicated] the Tiberieum for the (Augustan) gods” (p. 570).

For a detailed development of this topic please see Joan E. Taylor “Pontius Pilate and the Imperial Cult in Roman Judaea.” New Testament Studies 52 (2006): 555–82—especially pages 564–65.

The Thrill of Discovery—in a Museum!

The Museum of the Ancient Orient in Istanbul contains a number of “world class” objects that were gathered by the rulers of the late Ottoman Empire from all over the Middle East—including glazed tiles from the Ishtar Gate in ancient Babylon and a copy of the Treaty of Kadesh (between the Egyptians and the Hittite—late 13th century B.C.).

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“I am happy to meet you Mr. Lion!”
See below for the ferocious lion that this child is making friends with!
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

Often times people tire quickly when visiting museums, but this January we observed one young visitor who was in the process of making friends with a ferocious looking lion that once guarded the approach to an 8th century Hittite Palace at Zincirli (ancient Samal).

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One of the pair of basalt lions that guarded the entrance
to the 8th century Hittite Palace at Zincirli
Note the detail of the mane and whiskers
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

Oh to see the world through a child’s eyes.  The joy of discovery/encounter!

Nemea — A Marvelous “PanHellenic” Site to be Closed

NemeaMap030708One of my favorite sites in the Peloponnese area of Greece is the site of Nemea.  Nemea is located only  11.6 mi. southwest of Corinth.  There, one of the four PanHellenic festivals was held every two years in the stadium of Nemea.  The other locations of these festivals were Delphi, Isthmia, and Olympia.

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The Temple of Zeus at Nemea
Click On Image to Enlarge/Download

Nemea has been well-excavated and presented to the public.  Its museum is outstanding for the extraordinary finds, and their presentation, contain therein.  It is a shame that this place is slated for closing (!#$%@!)  as the Greek government tries to balance its budget.

However (personal confession), on my typical trip to the Peloponnese, within the context of a 17 or 21 day trip, we typically do a day excursion from Athens where we visit the Diolkos, Corinth, Mycenae, and Cenchrea.  Because of time (the Greeks close their archaeological sites at 3:00 PM —Ugh [more !#$@!]) and traffic constraints we have not visited Nemea in several years (sigh!!).

[Aside—how in the world can a tourist/academic group get to Corinth or Mycenae by the 8:00 AM opening time — what in the world are the guards/ticket takers doing at that time???  At sites like Corinth, Mycenae, and Nemea, why in the world don't they open later and close later—hello??]

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Heracles and the Nemean Lion — From Perga (Turkey)
Note on his left side the “skin” of the lion — its head and claws
Click On Image to Enlarge/Download

Nemea is also well known in Greek mythology as the site of the first of the twelve labors of Heracles (Herakles).  Heracles was the son of the god Zeus and a mortal Alcmene.  Although originally a mortal, he eventually attained divine status and was widely worshiped throughout Greece.  As punishment for killing six of his children he had to perform 12 “labors” (= very difficult tasks).  The first of which was to kill the Nemean Lion.  He wrestled with the lion, strangled it, and subsequently used its pelt as a cloak.

Find the Images You Want — Quickly

Have you ever been studying a biblical passage, preparing a Sunday School lesson, a sermon, or a classroom lecture and were wondering if there might be some nice images of places that you are interested in that could be useful for your studies or classes?

Now you can easily find what is available on my web site by checking our new Topical Easy Find.

In Topical Easy Find I have chosen from our data base of over 4,100 images those that are related to a variety of important topics.  For example, if you are studying the First Missionary Journey of Paul, I have assembled images that are related to that topic. All you need to do is click to find/view what is available.   As always, you are welcome to use our images in your personal PowerPoint presentations—if you could give credit (and/or a link) to http://www.HolyLandPhotos.org that would be appreciated.

Current “topics” in Topical Easy Find include:

  • Places mentioned in the Gospels
  • Paul’s First Missionary Journey
  • Paul’s Second Missionary Journey
  • Paul’s Third Missionary Journey
  • The Seven Churches of Revelation 1–3
  • Solomon
  • The Early Bronze Age (3150–2200 B.C.)
  • Intermediate Bronze Age (2200-2000 B.C.)
  • Middle Bronze Age II (2000-1550 B.C.)

I am constantly adding to Topical Easy Find so if you have a topic, person, or event that you would like to see there, just let me know via the form below and I’ll try to move your request to the top of my to-do-list.

Nov/Dec Biblical Archaeology Review

Readers of the Biblical Archaeology Review (November/December 2013 – Vol. 39 No 6) will be treated to articles on:

The Nea Church in Jerusalem
Kh. Qeiyafa in the Shephelah of Judean
Perga and Pisidian
Antioch in Turkey

To view additional images and commentary on these sites just click on the following links:

Kh. Qeiyafa
Perga and Here
Perga Artifacts
Pisidian Antioch
Pisidian Antioch Artifacts
(including the Sergius Paulus Inscription)

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Perga — Hellenistic Gate
This Gate was 300 years old when Paul, Barnabas and John Mark Visited Perga
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

 

What Were the Early Christians Like?

One of the earliest sources describing Christians is

Amisus-01that of Pliny the Younger who was the Roman “governor” of Pontus and Bithyna from A.D. 111–113 — very possibly describing the Christian community in Amisus.  He does this writing to the Roman Emperor Trajan (A.D. 98–117) asking him how to deal with the relatively new group.

Pliny writes this fascinating description of Christian (ca. A.D. 112):

that they [called Christians in the preceding paragraph] were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food–but ordinary and innocent food.  —  (Pliny Letters 10.96–97)

This text does not say from where he was writing but in the paragraphs before those asking about Christian he mentions the people of Amisus (see map above) and in a paragraph after (99) he mentions Amastris.  Thus, many have concluded that he penned these words describing Christians in Amisus.

The modern Turkish city of Samsun is partially built over the ruins of Amisus.  At Amisus there is an ancient citadel (acropolis) and several large tumuli that contain burials from the Hellenistic/Roman Periods.

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The modern port of Samsun — Ancient Amisus — where Christians were persecuted by the Roman governor Pliny
Click on Image to Enlarge

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Two Tumuli (burial mounds) at Samsun (ancient Amisus)
They date roughly from 300 B.C. to 30 B.C. and were thus one hundred years old by the time Pliny wrote to the Roman Emperor Trajan

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