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!

Magdala: the Chapel of the Encounter — Hemorrhaging Woman

In a recent visit to Magdala the students of the Jerusalem University College were graciously and expertly hosted by the excavator Arfan Najjar and Jennifer Ristine.

I like to visit Magdala for two reasons. One is to visit the antiquities of the First Century Synagogue and the Second is to reflect on the role of women among the first followers of Jesus.

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The Encounter Chapel, in the lower lever of Duc In Altum, is dedicated to Jesus’ encounter of all of us, as illustrated by the hemorrhaging woman.  Note how she touches the hem of Jesus’ garment.  (Mark 5:25–34)

The Encounter Chapel is first of all an archeological treasure: the floor is that of the original first century market place of the Magdala port.

A port market place is about as busy a spot in any town you can imagine – probably the main metro train station or airport in our terms – where people without any discrimination rub shoulders.
Since we have also discovered significant infrastructure for fish processing, it is most logical that fishermen of the Sea of Galilee, many known to us by on a first name basis, who wanted to sell their fish for export to Rome (documented by Flavius Josephus) would have gravitated to Magdala’s port, probably not unfamiliar to Jesus’ fishermen disciples. Jesus´ ease at sitting in their boats and mingling with large crowds helps us to see many people encountering him in this marketplace and he can engage the workers and the traders.

The large painting (titled “Encounter”) gives us a snapshot of the encounter of the hemorrhaging woman who tries to touch Jesus for healing (Mark 5: 25-29).

The Encounter Chapel, in the lower lever of Duc In Altum, is dedicated to Jesus’ encounter of all of us, as illustrated by the hemorrhaging woman. Located on the marketplace of the first century port, the Encounter Chapel is modeled after the structure of the Magdala First Century Synagogue with room for up to 120 people.

As you visit the Sea of Galilee and reflect on Jesus’ ministry in the area, I commend to you a visit to Magdala—about 1 to 1.5 hours so see it all.

Adada and Paul’s First Journey

AdadaAdada is a well–preserved Roman city located 40 mi. north of Perge on the road that led from Perge to Pisidian Antioch.  It is probable that Paul and Barnabas passed through the city as they traveled south, descending from Pisidian Antioch to Attalia (see below).

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This well preserved temple at Adada was dedicated to the Roman Emperors
Three temples dedicated to the Emperors have been found at Adada
Click on Image to Enlarge

The city minted its own coins in the first century BC and it was very prosperous during the rules of the Roman Emperors Trajan, Hadrian, and Antoninus Pius (ca. AD 98–160).

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Remains of the Roman Forum — The massive “staircase” is more probably a seating area where the council of Adada could meet.
Click on Image to Enlarge

The remains at Adada include a Forum, a theater, and temples to Roman Emperors!

AdadaMapTHYDr. Mark Wilson notes that there were two routes that connected the Pamphilian Plain (Perge and Attalia) with Pisidian Antioch.  He suggested that Paul and Barnabas took the western route, the via Sebastia, from Perge to Pisidian Antioch but followed the quicker, but steeper central route on their return journey south to Perga (Acts 14:25)—thus passing through Adada on their return journey.

Wilson, Mark. Biblical Turkey — a Guide to the Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor. Istanbul: Ege Yayinlari, 2010, p. 106.

To view 24 high resolution images of Adada, along with commentary, Click Here.

Tomb of Jesus to Be Revealed

I cannot believe that this is going to happen in my lifetime!  The Christian communities that control the Church of the Holy Sepulcher have agreed to take apart the aedicule that encases what is believed to be the tomb of Jesus—beginning in April 2016!

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View looking down from the dome of the rotunda on to the structure that covers the Tomb of Jesus. This structure is the most recent of a series, from the time of Constantine that have enshrined the tomb of Jesus. It was constructed after the great fire of 1808 and was completed in 1810.

The New York Times has an extensive article on this topic that informs this post.

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View looking south at the northern wall of the monument that encases the Tomb of Jesus. The entrance to the tomb is from the left side of the image—behind the three large candelabra. Note the iron casing that prevents the structure from collapsing—that were put in place in 1947.

The idea is to peel away hundreds of years of the shrine’s history, clean it and put it back together.

They will take apart, slab by slab, the ornate marble shell built in 1810, during Ottoman rule of Jerusalem. The conservationists will then tackle the remains of the 12th-century Crusader shrine that lies underneath. That was erected after the Shiite ruler of Egypt, al-Hakim, destroyed the first Aedicule in 1009. The original was built by Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, the Christian Roman emperor who did much to elevate the status of Christianity through the empire.

Please see the link to the NY Times article for details.

For more images of this shrine and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher Click Here.

HT: Jim Monson of Biblical Backgrounds

Fair Havens (Acts 27:8)

229_FHavensMap031225Acts 27 describes Paul’s journey, as a prisoner, from Caesarea in Palestine to Rome.

Paul, in the custody of a centurion, sailed W from Cnidus on an Alexandrian grain ship.  the weather forced them to sail on the S side of Crete.  They passed Cape Salmone … and took refuge at Fair Havens.  Since Fair Havens was only an open bay, the centurion, the captain, and the owner of the ship decided to attempt to reach Phoenix ….”
(A. Rupprecht in The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible)

However, the strong wind blew them off course and this led to eventual shipwreck on Malta before continuing on to Rome.

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Kali Limones — Acts 27:8 Fair Havens
The Bay plus the modern dock for small boats

Today the site is called “Kali Limones.”  It is somewhat difficult to get to for one must drive for 45 minutes through some rugged mountains.  The port today is basically a swimming beach with very few structures, an island on which four large oil tanks have been built, a dock (under development 2013) for small boats, and the Chapel of St. Paul—with an associated cave.

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Chapel of St. Paul (white church)
Cave of St. Paul (the brown doorway to the left of center)

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Port of Fair Havens
Note the island with the oil tanks (sigh)

To view 15 high-resolution images of Fair Havens, including more of the port and the interiors of the Chapel of St. Paul and the Cave of St. Paul Click Here.

When the apostle Paul was traveling as a prisoner from Caesarea, in Palestine, to Rome, after leaving the southwestern coast of Turkey

“… we sailed to the lee of Crete opposite Salmone … and came to a place called Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea … after the fast [Day of Atonement in late September] … the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there … so they weighed anchor and sailed along the [southern] shore of Crete … the ship was caught by the storm … we passed to the lee [south] of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure.”  (Acts 27:7-16; NIV translation)

Church of Holy Sepulcher — The Syrians and the “Tomb of Joseph of Arimathea”

Today, while visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, I had a chance to observe portions of a Syrian Jacobite Service in the “cavern-like” chapel just to the west of the Tomb of Jesus.

Carl Rasmussen Copyright and Contact

Syrian Jacobite service near the “Tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.”

Most Christian groups visiting Jerusalem will visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City of Jerusalem.  A few of them will visit the small cavern-like chapel that is located west of the Tomb of Jesus.  If they do, the following is what they see and many will pronounce it “uglee.”

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Syrian Chapel — without a service!  Contrast the image above when it is prepared for the worship service of the Syrian Jacobites!

On the left is the wooden altar—where the priest above was serving—and in the lower right portion of the image is the low entrance into the Tomb of Joseph of Arimathea (see following).

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View of two of the niches (kokhim) of a first century A.D. tomb, into which bodies were placed. The entrances were then sealed.

This tomb is entered via the Syrian Chapel and is sometimes called the “Tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.” The tradition is that Joseph of Arimathea was buried here, after he had given his original tomb for Jesus to be buried in (see, for example, John 19:38-42). For an additional example of a typical tomb from the first century A.D. – from the Mt. of Olives – click here.

I believe that “technically” this area is under the authority of the Armenians, but they permit the Syrian Orthodox to worship here.

Jerusalem: Cutting Edge High Tech?!

And you (and I) thought Jerusalem was all antiquities and ultra religious people!

Well, did you know that:

Entrepreneur Magazine named Jerusalem among its top five places outside of Silicon Valley for tech startups to launch and thrive, calling Israel’s capital a ‘flourishing center for biomed, cleantech, Internet/mobile startups, accelerators, investors and supporting service providers.’

Jerusalem has 500 companies working in tech today.
7 High-tech industrial parks
500+ Startup companies
350+ Tech Events

HT  Israel 21c.