Category Archives: Archaeology

The Cave/Grotto of Paul and Thecla at Ephesus

One of the most interesting early extra–biblical stories is the one of Paul and Thecla (2nd century A.D.; Thecla is said to have been a female companion of Paul and eventually [for most of her life] a respected preacher of the Christian faith).

TWCSEPPT04

From right to left: Theocleia (mother of Thecla), Paul, and Thecla
Fresco from the Grotto of Saint Paul at Ephesus
Click on Image to Enlarge

At Ephesus there is a not–too–frequently–visited cave sometimes called “The Grotto of Paul” (= Cave of Paul & Thecla).  It is located on the northern slope of Bülbül Dag, away from the normal visitors’ routes through Ephesus.  It overlooks the site of ancient Ephesus from the south.

On the western wall of the grotto a painting portrays an event from the apocryphal book called The Acts of Paul and Thecla (ca. early second century A.D.).  The painting (5th/6th century A.D.) depicts the initial event described in the book, in the city of Iconium, where Thecla is looking from a window at Paul preaching while Thecla’s mother (Theocleia) looks on.  Thecla, against the wishes of her mother and her finance Thamyris, gave up her betrothal (engagement) in order to remain a virgin and to follow Paul.

TWCSEPPT06

Detail of Thecla looking down from a window at Paul preaching
Paul’s raised hand is visible on the right
Click on Image to Enlarge

Eventually Thecla was separated from Paul and became a significant preacher and witness to her faith.  Her life and impact has been much discussed during the past thirty years and this painting has figured large in the discussions.

In addition, The Acts of Paul and Thecla contains the earliest physical description of Paul:

“And he [Onesiphorus] saw Paul coming [towards Iconium], a man small in size, bald-headed, bandy-legged, well-built, with eyebrows meeting, rather long-nosed, full of grace.”

TWCSEPPT03

Paul and Theocleia (mother of Thecla) — Note the names spelled out in Greek
Also compare the artistic representation of Paul with the literary
Click on Image to Enlarge

The facial image of Paul in the fresco seems to match this description as do iconographic representations of Paul.

The cave seems to have served as a chapel from the early Byzantine period through the early 19th century.

TWCSEPPT01

Vestibule to “The Grotto of Paul and Thecla” at Ephesus

TheclaCave01-2

Plan of “The Grotto of Paul and Thecla”

The grotto is 50 ft. long 6.5 ft. wide and 7.5 ft. high gallery that was expanded to the south in the form of a “presbytery.”  It was excavated by Dr. Renate Pillinger from the University of Vienna in 1995.

Not familiar with the fascinating story of Paul and Thecla?  You can get a Kindle version of the story for only $1.99 in the New Testament Apocrypha—along with 43 other stories!

To view additional images of this Grotto and Frescos Click Here.

The Tomb of Philip the Apostle at Hierapolis (Turkey)

Early Christian tradition states that Philip the Apostle (= disciple of Jesus), along with his daughters, settled at Hierapolis.

Tradition states that Philip was martyred and buried at Hierapolis.  In July of 2011 it was announced that the very Tomb of Philip had been discovered.  In another release it is stated that the actual Church/Tomb was located on a hill 120 ft. [40 m.] from the Martyrium.

TWCSHRPC01

Tomb of Philip (the Apostle) at Hierapolis
The Tomb is to the right of the center of the image
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

View of Philip’s Tomb on the right side of the image.  It is built out of hewn stone and has a gabled roof.  The open area in the foreground is actually part of a basilica style fifth century church.  To the left of the church, notice the stairs that lead up the hill.

TWCSHRPC05

Looking Down on to the Fifth Century Church
that is just to the west of Philip’s Tomb
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

View looking southeast at the central apse, chancel, and nave of the fifth century Byzantine Basilica.  The benches in the apse (synthronos) were used for clergy.

TombOfPhilip

Recently some of the columns of the church have been re-erected.

To view (download if you wish) 25 high-resolution images (no charge) Clicking Here will take you directly to the images.

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).

TSCADAD01

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).

TSCADAD14

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.

70 FREE Aerial Views of Israel & Maps

Bill Schlegel, the author of the Satellite Bible Atlas, has made available to those who own his Atlas two wonderful teaching tools.

The first is a complete digital set of the maps that he produced for use in his Atlas.  One of the questions that I frequently receive is “where can I get maps that I can use in my PowerPoint presentations?”  Well, these certainly are useful for that purpose.

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0027.JPG

View of Caesarea Maritima looking east. In the foreground, protruding out into the Mediterranean Sea is the Herodian Palace. Behind it to the right is the theater and behind it to the left is the Stadium/Hippodrome/Circus. Courtesy of Bill Schlegel, Satellite Bible Atlas.

Recently he has also made available 70 Aerial Photographs of sites of biblical significance.  They are also free to download (for owners of his Atlas).  They are of good resolution and will be useful for personal use and (again) in PowerPoint presentations.  Each image is 300-400 KB in size.  He took them in very clear weather using a drone.

Along with the 70  aerial photos is a pdf document with an entry for each of the images.  Each entry, after naming the image, provides a short synopsis of the biblical importance of the site.  Most of the images are of sites that most travelers to Israel will have visited, but there are also a few of  not–so–frequently visited places, such as: et–Tell, Maqatir, Dothan, Timnah,  Wadi Farah, and Tel Serah (Ziklag).

He has also produced numerous teaching/learning videos that I have previously noted.

William Schlegel’s Satellite Bible Atlas can be purchased here.

Worship (illicit) at the City Gate

One of the not–to–frequently mentioned actions that the ancients practiced at city gates was  worship ([always?] illicit).

2 Kings 23:8     Josiah brought all the priests from the towns of Judah and desecrated the high places, from Geba to Beersheba, where the priests had burned incense. He broke down the shrines at the gates—at the entrance to the Gate of Joshua, the city governor, which is on the left of the city gate. (NIV)

One of the best places to envision an example of one of these shrines is at a not–too–frequently visited place in Israel called et–Tell—probably to be identified as biblical Geshur (home of Absalom; see below for location).  One of the spectacular finds is a massive four–chamber Iron Age Gate.

Iron Age II City Gate at et-Tell/Geshur

Iron Age II City Gate at et-Tell/Geshur

View looking west into the entrance of the east gate of et–Tell.  Note the basalt paving stones and the two upright standing stones on each side of the gate.  On the right (north) side are three steps that led up to a “high place” (= worship center?).

GeshurStelaThe carved basalt stela found at the Iron Age Gate at et–Tell (probably biblical Geshur).  Note the bull headed figure that is place upon a tripod and wearing a sword.  It may be a representation of the storm god Hadad.  The stela dates to the 9th or 8th centuries BC.

high-place-detailView looking north at the High Place and stela located on the north side of the Iron Age gate that leads into the city.  On the left is one of the seven(!) stelae that were found in the gate area—this one is not inscribed.  Slightly to the right of center note the three steps that lead up to a high place that has a basin—carved black basalt—on the top platform.  Note the replica of a stela with the deity Hadad engraved on it.

GeshurEt-Tell is located about 2 miles north of the northeast shore of the Sea of Galilee on the east side of the Upper Jordan River.  It is often identified with the New Testament city of Bethsaida but in fact the remains from the Old Testament period are much more significant and it is probably to be identified as biblical Geshur (home of Absalom).

More on sanctuaries at the city gate on Monday.

 

Defending the City at the City Gate

Often times the gate of an ancient city was located at a low point that was easily approached—via an incline ramp—from outside the city.

six-chamber-gate-model

View of the model of the six–chamber gate that was discovered at Megiddo. The initial excavators dated it to the days of King Solomon but today its dating is disputed—and some still prefer a Solomonic date.

Note how there are outer and inner gate houses—with a courtyard between them.  Also note how towers abound in the gate houses and associated structures.  As a city was being defended, the courtyard between the two gate houses could be viewed as a killing field whereby defenders could shoot down from their towers and wound and/or kill the attackers with arrows and/or spears.  Even if attackers were merely incapacitated, they would lie there bleeding and moaning and other attackers—in the deafening bloody chaos—would have to climb over their bodies in order to try to gain entrance to the city.  Of course they themselves were vulnerable to same the fate as their “colleagues.”  This must have had a detrimental effect on the second wave’s enthusiasm to attack the city!

In addition, as the attackers attempted to make their way through the inner gate, they would have to break down its outer door.  They would then be confronted with another killing field between the six chambers (three on each side) of the inner gate.  In this area, defenders could be positioned directly above the attackers—shooting arrows down on them.

HazorGateModel01

Model of the six–chamber gate (Solomonic) at Hazor. The dark green gate is located in the lower left portion of the image.  (Outside the citadel is to the upper left of the gate)  This particular gate has two projecting towers—one on each side.  A double (casemate) wall is attached to the gate (also dark green).

As for “doors”—there does not seem to be too much physical evidence for how the gates were “sealed/closed.”  However, we do know that in other structures that a pair of doors each swung on columns that could pivot in a socket.  More on this, next post.

For some brief comments on the dating to the six–chamber gate at Megiddo Click Here.  More on gates to follow.

Gezer

GezerMapOne of the most interesting archaeological sites in Israel is Tel Gezer.  Gezer is situated along the eastern branch of the International Highway (aka The Via Maris) and guards the entrance to the Central Hill Country (territory of Benjamin and Jerusalem and to the north Ephraim).  It is mentioned 14 times in the Old Testament and was of such importance that it was fortified by King Solomon.

Here is the account of the forced labor King Solomon conscripted to build the LORD’S temple, his own palace, the supporting terraces, the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer.  (NIV; 1 Kings 9:15).

After discovering six-chamber gates at Megiddo and Hazor, that were dated to the days of Solomon, Yigal Yadin suggested that William Dever, in the 1960’s the excavator of Gezer, reopen R.A.S. Macalister’s so-called “Maccabean Palace” that looked like it might actually be another six-chamber gate—like those at Megiddo and Hazor (1 Kings 9:15).

solomonic-gate-1

The six-chamber gate that is located on the south side of Tel Gezer.

View looking south at the area of the “Solomonic Gate” on the south side of the mound of Gezer.  The area at the bottom of the image is inside the ancient city, while the top half of the image is outside the city.

In the center of the image an ancient drain is visible that led water and waste out of the city — draining from bottom to top of the image.  The drain runs right through the center of the city gate — it was of course covered with paving stones in ancient times.

If you look carefully, you will notice that stone foundation walls on one side of the gate are matched by foundation walls on the other side of the gate.  There were actually three rooms on each side of the gate — yielding a total of six “rooms” in the gate area.  Traffic in and out the city traveled on a paved street, which was above the drain.

According to the initial thoughts of the excavator, Dr. William Dever, the gate dates to the period of King Solomon (970–931 B.C.).  From 1 Kings 9:15 note how Solomon fortified Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer.

dever-and-aharoni

William Dever (right) hosting Yohanan Aharoni (center) at Gezer in the spring of 1967 when we were digging at Gezer. This was the beginning of the re-investigation of the “Solomonic Gate.”

Steve Ortiz and Sam Wolff are currently excavating structures to the west of the gate.  One of their goals is to attempt to clarify the dating of the six-chamber gate.