Category Archives: Archaeology

Jewish Presence at Hierapolis (Menorahs)

The important city of Hierapolis is mentioned only once in the New Testament.

Epaphras, who is one of you . . . is working had for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.
(Colossians 4:12-13; NIV)

Epaphras evidently founded the churches at Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis that are located in the Lycus Valley—possibly during the long stay of Paul at Ephesus.  For a variety of reasons we would expect some type of Jewish presence in these cities.

Although actual synagogues have not been found (Colossae had not been excavated) a variety of menoroth (menorahs; seven branch candlesticks) have been found engraved on tombs, a sarcophagus, and a column indicating a Jewish presence in the area.

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Tomb 163d Dating to the First Century A.D.
Note the menorah (seven branch candelabra) located
to the left and above the green plant
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

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The family tomb on which the menorah is engraved
The remains of 31 individuals were found in the tomb
Click on the Image to Enlarge/Download

To view Tomb 148b with its very faint menorah and lulav Click Here.

Carl Rasmussen Copyright and Contact

Marble lid of a Jewish sarcophagus with a menorah
and a faint Greek inscription
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

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“Assured Results” of Archaeology

I love archaeology, and love having the chance to share my passion with others.  But as my teacher and later colleague Professor Anson Rainey use to say: “archaeology is the science of digging a hole and spinning a tale about it.”  One example of a change in the interpretation of finds follows.

Temple to Augustus or ???

Years ago the above structure was interpreted as possibly the Temple to the Roman Emperor August that Josephus mentions as being by the harbor at Caesarea Maritima.

But now, a Nymphaeum (monumental fountain), not a Temple.

Today, the structure is interpreted as being a monumental fountain that is located at the northwestern corner of the podium on which the Temple to Augustus stood.

Thus, as research continues, the interpretation, and dating of finds can change: think at Timna—Solomon’s Mines, Not Solomon’s Mines, and now, Solomon’s Mines.  Hmm.

For an article on the projected “visitor upgrades” at Caesarea Maritima see Here.

Hercules Farnese of Perge and . . . .

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Hercules Farnese From the Baths at Perge
Second Century A.D. — Antalya Museum

A beautiful second century A.D. statue of Hercules was found in the baths of Perge.  The Boston Museum of Fine Arts returned the top portion of the statue to Turkey in September 2011.  Prime Minister Mr. Recep Tayyip Erogan personally brought the important portion to Turkey himself.  Portions of over 60 such statues are known and are called the “Hercules Farnese” (named after a famous Italian collection now housed in the Naples National Archaeological Museum).  This is a Roman copy of a bronze original.  Note the positioning of the head, arms, and legs, and especially the body muscles.  The skin of conquered Nemean Lion flows down on his left side as it tumbles to the ground.

Below is THE Hercules Farnese that is displayed in the Naples National Archaeological Museum.

Below is a five (5) in. high image of a “Hercules Farnese” found at Pergamum and displayed in the museum in Bergama.

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A Bronze Five (5!) Inch High “statue” of Hercules
From Pergamum — In the Museum at Bergama

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. (Nemea is a site in the Peloponnese region of Greece).

Samothrace — Seldom Visited by Tourists, BUT Visited by Paul (Acts 16:11)

Samothrace is a Greek Island that lies 25 mi. south of the Greek mainland.  This mountainous island was the home of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods where famous religious ceremonies took place.

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The sacred hall called the Hieron where the mysterious sacred rites took place Click On Image to Enlarge/Download

On Paul’s Second Journey he traveled by ship from Troas (in Asia Minor) to Neapolis (in Europe).  Acts 16:11 notes that the trip took two days

From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day on to Neapolis.

It is clear that the ship overnighted at Samothrace before continuing on to Neapolis—the port city of Philippi.

There is no indication that Paul ever stepped off the ship, but if he did (which I think is probable), he may have visited the “Sanctuary of the Great Gods.”  Since their rituals were practiced at night, he may have even witnessed—from afar—some of the rites.

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It was here that the famous “Winged Victory/Nike of Samothrace” was discovered—the original is now on display in the Louvre in Paris

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An exact copy of the “Winged Victory of Samothrace”
The original is in the Louvre — the above in the museum on Samothrace
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

On his third journey Paul made the same trip, in the reverse direction, in 5 days (Acts 20:6)—evidently the winds were not as favorable on that trip (in the spring of the year).

To view 18 images, with commentary, of Samothrace Click Here.

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Foundations of a mysterious Cult Building on Samothrace

Jerusalem: The Tomb of Jesus (short video)

I have seen a number of news articles describing the newly refurbished Tomb of Jesus that is within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.  Todd Bolen has summarized what appears to be the most complete article on the topic from The Daily Mail—with 14 clear photos (the original article is worth reading/viewing)

The Refurbished Tomb — From The Daily Mail and AP

I was wondering where the “what is believed to be the original stone wall of the burial cave inside the renovated Edicule in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre” was located.  The following 0:41 second video shows that it is on the far (west) wall of the burial chamber (see 0:30 following).

To view 11 photos of this structure before the refurbishing Click Here.

Laodicea — Menorah and Cross

Laodicea is the last of the seven churches addressed in the book of Revelation (1:11; 3:14–22). In the letter there may be a number of allusions to the local setting of Laodicea: the lukewarm water, riches, gold, white garments, and eye salve! (see The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in their Local Setting by Colin J. Hemer; click here to view for purchase from amazon.com).

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Menorah with Flames Flanked by a Lulav and Shofar — Above it a cross was inscribed — Click (actually two clicks) on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

The above column was discovered while “cleaning out the nymphaeum” at Laodicea (Wilson, p. 251; see below).  The search for the Late Roman/Byzantine Jewish presence in Asia Minor is ongoing.  The above column attests to a Jewish presence at Laodicea but its relationship to the Christians there is ambiguous.  To this untrained eye it looks like the cross was added to the menorah.  Did this mean that Christians and Jews were peacefully coexisting at Laodicea?  Or was this an indication of Jewish Christians there?  Or that Christianity had “superseded” Judaism?

(Addition.   In the scholarly article mentioned in Mark Wilson’s comment below, Steven Fine comments on this artifact in light of the anti-Jewish Council of Laodicea that was held soon after the death of Julian the Apostate in A.D. 363. After a long discussion Fine draws attention not only to the “Christianization” of pagan shrines but also of Jewish synagogues and he concludes, “my own instinct, however, is to suspect the worst and to suggest that the kind of social distancing given expression by the Council of Laodicea adversely affected the local [Laodicean] late-antique Jewish community, of which our column is the only archaeological evidence.)

To view additional Menoroth with a lulav see  Hierapolis Tomb 148B, the steps of the Library of Celsus at Ephesus, the plaque from the synagogue at Andriace (Turkey), a square post at Umm el-Qanatir (Israel, Golan Heights), and the mosaic synagogue floor at Sepphoris (Israel).  Menoroth with shofars are rather common.

LaodiceaMap4Laodicea is a very large mound located to the north of Denizli. It was founded by Seleucid kings during the third century B.C. By the New Testament era it was a very large and very important city. It had evidently replaced both nearby Hierapolis and Colossae as the most important city in the area.

It was located near good water sources although an aqueduct brought water to the city from the south. Most importantly it was located at a key road junction. The major road coming from the east (Syria, Mesopotamia, Arabia, India, China) came to Laodicea and from there one could continue west, 112 mi. [180 km.], to the port city of Ephesus, or head northwest towards Philadelphia from where roads headed either west to Smyrna, or continued northwest to Pergamum. From Laodicea, one could also travel southeast to Attalia, a port on the Mediterranean Sea.

It is probable that Epaphras was instrumental in establishing the church at Laodicea, and Paul writes that his letter to the church at Colossae (only 8 mi. [13 km.] distant) should be read by the believers at Laodicea (Col 2:1). Paul also wrote a letter to the church at Laodicea (Col 4:16). This letter has not been discovered, although many scholars speculate that the book called “Ephesians” was originally addressed to the church at Laodicea.

Mark Wilson’s Biblical Turkey — A Guide to the Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor is the best up-to-date resource available on biblical sites in Turkey (amazon $35.35).

The Road to Emmaus — A Farewell

David N. Bivin, founder and editor–in–chief of the Jerusalem Perspective has produced a wonderful article A Farewell to the Emmaus Road.

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Curbing on the Roman Road to Emmaus — Luke 24 — in the valley on a hill to the east of Motza that Bivin discuses in his article.

Bivin writes:

The Emmaus Road narrative is the climax of Luke’s Gospel. In it, two of Jesus’ disciples encounter their resurrected Lord as they follow the road leading west from Jerusalem. Not only do the hearts of the disciples burn as they speak with their risen Master, the hearts of the readers burn as well, since, unlike the disciples, we know that it is Jesus himself who is accompanying them as the disciples relate the sad tale of how all their hopes for the redemption of Israel were dashed when Jesus was crucified outside the walls of the holy city. Readers feel almost as if they were present with the disciples on the road as Jesus walked and spoke with them.

In his article he evaluates the arguments for the two most prominent candidates for biblical Emmaus.  He rightly (IMHO) rejects the identification of biblical Emmaus with Emmaus/Nicopols and correctly argues for its identification with Qaloniyah (modern Mozah).

The materials from all the relevant sources are conveniently cited in the article along with a helpful map from Carta Publishers and a labeled aerial photograph 1917.  In addition, detailed footnotes are included.

Bivin states that:

I conducted an experiment to put this hypothesis to the test. On October 2nd of the year 1987, I walked with my son Natan from the Western Wall of the Temple Mount (the Kotel) to the springs at Motza following the route of the Roman road (on which, see below) as closely as possible in order to measure how long such a journey would take. It was the eve of Yom Kippur, so no vehicles were moving on the streets to slow us down, and we set out from the Western Wall at 6:10 p.m. under a full moon, walking at a leisurely pace. Together we covered the distance from the Western Wall to the Motza springs in one hour and twenty minutes.[18] My experiment proves that Jesus’ disciples could easily have made the trip down from Jerusalem to Motza-Emmaus and back again within the time frame Luke describes.

According to Luke, the two disciples who were heading to Emmaus set out from Jerusalem sometime after morning, for they knew of the women’s report of the empty tomb (Luke 24:22-24), but it could have been as late as mid-afternoon. The disciples did not head back to Jerusalem until after they had sat down for their evening meal in Emmaus (Luke 24:29, 33).

This is the most complete set of video clips and photos that I know of that document the road.

There are five short video clips:

  1. Josephus on Emmaus — 3:00
  2. Mishnaic Evidence on Emmaus — 3:00
  3. Emmaus Road erosion — 0:50
  4. Emmaus Road erosion 2 — 0:30
  5. Emmaus Road: Hope for the Future — 1:26

There are a series of photos of the road from different years that document its condition.

  1. 1992 — 14 photos
  2. 1997 — 7 photos
  3. 1999 — 11 photos
  4. 2003 — 20 photos
  5. 2007 — 16 photos
  6. 2016 — 19 photos

IMHO A Farewell to the Emmaus Road is well–worth the 15–20 minutes it takes to process.