Category Archives: New Testament

Hippodromes/Circuses Part 1

In the Late Roman Period through the Early Byzantine (Christian) Era chariot racing was one of the most popular events of the public.  “Hippodrome” comes from two Greek words: hippos (meaning horse) and dromos (meaning “course”).  In Greek times they were used for horse races and chariot races.

The Latin equivalent to a Hippodrome was a “Circus,” meaning “circle,” that took over the functions of the Hippodromes and was also used for other events.  The most famous, and largest, of the Circuses, is the Circus Maximus in Rome.

One end of the Circus Maximus in Rome.

The Circus Maximus was over 2,000 feet long and could accommodate over 150,000 people!  It was used for Chariot Racing, Religious Festivals, and Political and Military Processionals.

In Rome the Flavian Amphitheater, aka. the Colosseum, was used for Gladiatorial contest and other public spectacles: mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, etc.

The Flavian Amphitheater in Rome could seat 65,000+ spectators.

For those readers of this blog, many of you have visited Caesarea Maritima.  The west, or seaside, Hippodrome/Circus, evidently dates to the days of Herod the Great (r. 37 t0 4 B.C.).

View looking north from the Promontory Palace where the governor of Caesarea Maritima resided.

This Hippodrome/Circus was 950 [290 m.] feet long and 165 feet [50 m.] wide. The prominent position of this Palace, from which this picture was taken overlooking the circus, was a reminder to those attending the chariot and foot races that Rome (the Emperor as represented through the governor) was the great benefactor of the games and of the political order.

In the second century A.D., a much larger (30,000-capacity) hippodrome was constructed in another section of Caesarea and the southern third of the Circus was converted to an Amphitheater that was used for gladiatorial contests.

View looking south along the length of the 1,476 ft. [450 m.] long hippodrome.

On both the right (west) and left (east) side of the image, the slopes outlining the hippodrome are visible. This is where the seating for 30,000 people was located.

The re-erected obelisk is clearly visible and beyond the hippodrome are three smokestacks from the electrical power plant at Hadera.  The hippodrome is now either used for agricultural purposes—note the stubble of the harvested crop.

In addition, some of you have visited Istanbul/Constantinople and the outline of the large Hippodrome in the Sultanahmet district.

The Hippodrome in Constantinople was 440 yards. 480 m.] long and 107 yrds. [117 m.] wide.  Some believe it could hold 100,000 spectators.

The Hippodrome was first constructed around A.D. 200 by the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus as part of his rebuilding of the city of Byzantium.  Constantine the Great and his successors later expanded it. The royal box was close to where the entrance to the Blue Mosque is now situated.

Today a park covers most of the hippodrome and it still reflects its elongated shape.  Here chariot races and other extravaganzas were held: including victory parades and coronations.  Here also the Nike riot of 532 began, and it was here that some 30,000 partisans were slaughtered.

What really happened in an ancient Hippodrome/Circus?  Well, we have the next best thing to an ancient photograph or video.

Advertisements

Eflatunpinar — Did Paul Stop Here Four (!) Times?

The Hittites are mentioned 61! times in the Hebrew Bible.  Eflatunpinar (map below) is a mysterious, out-of-the-way Hittite site that is located about 50 mi. [80 km.] due west of Konya (classical and biblical Iconium; Acts 13:51; 14; 16:2; 2 Tim 3:11).

TCSCEP01

Hittite Monument — Spring — Pool

At Eflatunpinar (Eflaltun Pinar) there is a spring and a very well–preserved Hittite monument that dates to the second half of the thirteenth century B.C.—to the reign of the Hittite king Tudhaliya IV (ca. 1259–1229 B.C.)—biblically, about the time of the Israelite conquest of Canaan.

It is actually very possible that the Apostle Paul stopped at this wonderful spring twice as he traveled from Pisidian Antioch to Iconium and back on his first journey (Acts 13:5; 14:21), and as he probably traveled from Iconium to Pisidian Antioch on his second (Acts 16:4-6) and third journeys (Acts 18:22-23).

The monument is a “spring head” that feeds a pool that measures 110 ft. x 100 ft. (34 m. x 30 m.).  Eflatun Pinar means “lavender-colored spring.”

TCSCEP02

Main Hittite Monument

The monument is composed of 19 large stone blocks that measures 23.3 x 23 ft. (7.1 x 7 m.).  This upper portion is composed of twelve figures.  The two central deities (not well-preserved) are probably the main god and goddess—the symbolism may be that of the gods “who carry the sky and connect it with the earth” (source).   These two deities support two two-winged sun disks and above them is a huge two–winged sun disk tops the monument.

On the right side two deities, one on top of the other, are clearly visible–as are their counterparts on the left (west) side of the monument.

TCSCEP04

Five Mountain Gods

At the base of the monument are five mountain gods.  The central three are the best preserved and note how the central three have holes in them—just below their folded arms—through which water originally flowed.

To view the lower portions of these deities when they are not covered by water, Click Here.  Additional holes for the discharge of water are clearly visible as are their “skirts.”

To view additional images of Eflatunpinar Click Here.

Domus Galilaeae — Near Korazin

Visitors to Israel will often stop at the Second Temple/Talmudic site of Korazin (Chorazin: Matt 11:21; Luke 10:13) where an impressive basalt synagogue has been partially reconstructed.  To the west of Korazin, on the south side of route 8277 is beautiful is a Roman Catholic retreat center known as Domus Galilaeae.  It opened in 2000 and was blessed by Pope John Paul II.  It is generally not open to visitors so I thought I would share a few of my images of the place.

INSGDD06

View from the patio of Domus Galilaeae of Jesus teaching his disciples
In the background is the Sea of Galilee — 3 mi. distant

INSGDD03

The main chapel of Domus Galilaeae

INSGDD08

Library Reading Area
Inside of the beautiful deep blue plexiglass reading area
Note the desk and in the center is a scroll of scripture

To view additional images of the retreat center Click Here.

A New Discovery at Perga — Turkey

Perga is mentioned twice in the New Testament in connection with Paul’s First Missionary Journey.  I like to visit the site for many additional reasons for it is a place where one can get a real feel for what a large Greco-Roman city was like—without all of the crowds, think of the crowds typically visiting Ephesus.

One of the famous people of Perga was Plancia Magna, who lived after the days of Paul and who was a great benefactress of the city.  The guide books said that her tomb was located just south of the south city wall.  During my visits to the city, I had never really spotted anything that looked like her tomb.

When we visited the site in May of 2019, new excavations were underway in that area and the foundation of the Tomb of Plancia Magna was on full display!

View looking northeast at the front of the Tomb of Plancia Magna.

Note the finely chiseled four-tiered base (crepidoma) that the “tomb” stands on.   On top of this, between the two projecting walls (antae) are three additional stairs that lead up to where the tomb itself stood.  The “tomb” almost looks like a small temple.  It stands to the south of the southern gate complex of Perga.

Plancia Magna was the daughter of the proconsul of Bithynia. She dedicated her life and her wealth to the beautification of the city [of Perge], undertaking large remodeling projects during Hadrian’s reign [A.D. 117-138]. She was “elevated to the rank of tutelary divinity of the city.”

View looking southwest at the front of the Tomb of Plancia Magna.

Note the four-tiered base (crepidoma) that the “tomb” stands on.   On top of this, the well-chiseled base of the tomb stands upon.  The “tomb” almost looks like a small temple.  It stands to the south of the southern gate complex of Perga.

I am not certain why there is still “dirt” on one of the crepidoma.  The rough stones on the top of the platform were probably covered with marble—that has been since stripped off.

View of a statue of Plancia Magna in marble that was found at Perge. It is 6.6 ft. tall.

`Plancia Magna was the daughter of the proconsul of Bithynia. She dedicated her life and her wealth to the beautification of the city [of Perge], undertaking large remodeling projects during Hadrian’s reign [A.D. 117-138]. She was “elevated to the rank of tutelary divinity of the city.”

Note that she is wearing TWO garments.  Below her knees and partially covering her feet, the vertical folds of her inner chiton are visible.  The chiton was the most common Greek/Roman garments.  The outer garment, that is wrapped around her head, shoulders, and arms, and that hangs down to her knees, is a himation. On the top of her head are the remains of a priestly diadem – indicating that she functioned as a priestess of the imperial cult!


Perga is located 8 mi. [13 km.] north of the Mediterranean coast of Turkey — about 10.6 mi. [17 km.] northeast of Antalya. It is situated on the large fertile plain of Pamphylia just west of the Cestrus river (modern Aksu river). In New Testament times ships were able to sail up the Cestrus to a point near Perge.

On Paul’s first missionary journey, Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark sailed 175 mi. [280 km.] from Paphos on Cyprus to Perge. Here John Mark left the “team” while Paul and Barnabas walked 155 miles [246 km.] inland through the Taurus mountains to Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:13–14). After having completed their work in Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe, Paul and Barnabas returned to Perge, where they preached (14:25), before departing from nearby Attalia (Antalya) for Antioch on the Orontes.

God Fearers in the Synagogue and Early Church — Evidence from Miletus

MiletusMap3In the New Testament the book of Acts 13-28 describes the spread of Christianity primarily through the efforts of Paul and his companions.  As they traveled throughout Asia Minor and Greece some Jews and many Gentiles adopted the new faith.  Some of these Gentiles where already interested in the God of the Jews and involved in synagogue worship.  This group is mentioned several times in the book of Acts (Acts 13:16, 26, 43; 17:4, 17).

Clear evidence for the presence of a Jewish population living at Miletus, which Paul stopped at on the return leg of his Third Journey (Acts 20:15ff), is evidenced by an inscription that is located on the fifth row of seats on the southeast side of the large theater at Miletus (see below).

TWCSML06

Greek Theater Inscription
τόπoς Ειουδέων τῶν καὶ Θεοσεβίον”the place for the Jews and the God–worshipers” or
“the place of the Jews who are also God–worshipers”
Click on image to enlarge/download

τόπoς Ειουδέων τῶν καὶ Θεοσεβίον

This inscription seems to mark “reserved seating” for Jews and possibly related “God–worshipers.” There are other “reserved seat” markings in this, and other, theaters.  As it stands the inscription reads “the place of the Jews who are also God–worshipers.”

But some have suggested that whom ever wrote the inscription may have inverted the “τῶν καὶ.” If this is the case, then the inscription could refer to two groups of people, Jews and Gentile God–worshipers (= “the place for the Jews and the God–worshipers”). Compare the same categories found in the book of Acts, although not quite the same terminology (Acts 13:16, 26, 43; 17:4, 17).

TWCSML04

The Theater at Miletus
The “God-Fearer” inscription is located where the two people are sitting near the center of the image
Click on image to enlarge and/or download

To View More Images of Miletus Click Here.

Paul in Spain! September Tour

My friend, and Pauline scholar, Dr. Mark Wilson will be leading “once in a lifetime” tour “To the End of the Earth: Paul’s Journey to Spain” — to Spain and France: September 15–29, 2019.

Paul in Spain? At the close of his letter to the Romans he mentions twice his plan to visit Spain (15:24, 28). Pauline scholars note that there is a gap in the chronology of his life in the early 60s. At this time he might have visited Spain, for there are strong church traditions indicating he did so. Clement and the Muratorian Canon as well as Chrysostom and Jerome assume that Paul fulfilled his intention. Paul’s journey by land would have taken him through southern Gaul along the Via Domitia. In France we will visit the UNESCO World Heritage sites at Lyon, Orange, Arles, and Pont du Gard. In Spain the Via Augusta followed the Mediterranean coastline to its terminus at the “end of the earth” — Gades. In Spain we will visit the UNESCO sites at Tarraco, Cordoba, and Merida. At Italica we will see the birthplace of the emperors Trajan and Hadrian. Our itinerary includes many of the best-preserved Roman sites in the world, cities that Paul would have seen during his journey to Spain.

Mary and I are looking forward to participating in this unique experience.  See the following for a brochure:   BAS-FRANCE-SPAIN-2019

This trip is offered by Tutku Tours and is endorsed by the Biblical Archaeological Society.

You can contact Tutku Tours HERE for details.

Paul’s Shipwreck on Malta: Anchor Stocks—Part 1

During a stay on the Island of Malta where Paul was shipwrecked and then spent 3 months on the island before being transported to Rome for trial (Acts 28:1, 11).  One of the highlights of our stay was a visit to the Malta Maritime Museum.

View looking northeast at the exterior of the Malta Maritime Museum.

The museum is housed in the former Royal Naval Bakery that was built in the 1840. The bakery supplied naval personnel of the British Mediterranean Fleet. The main part of the collection (97%+) includes boats, models of ships, anchors, amphorae, cannons, etc.  But I had come to see the Roman Anchors that figure so prominently in the discussion of where exactly Paul’s ship ran aground and was broken up (see Franz below for a discussion).

Acts 27:29 Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. 30 In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow.

Acts 27:40 Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach.

After spending over an hour looking at interesting, but not too relevant displays, I had not found the anchors that I was looking for.  So I asked the attendants at the entrance about these anchors.  Well, it turned out that the display of the ancient anchors was in transition and they were collected in a rather small corridor near the entrance to the museum. The plan being executed will eventually display these precious artifacts in a wonderful display. However, when I was at the museum, they were not on “public” display so please, cut the museum a bit of slack for how the anchor stocks look in these pictures! But I had traveled 4,000+ miles and was thrilled just to be able to see these anchors—and they were kind enough to allow me to take pictures (without flash of course).

Temporary “home” for the Roman Anchor Stocks that are in the Malta Maritime Museum.

In this temporary “home” 11 Anchor Stocks were collected.  Ok, so what is an anchor stock?

A modern reconstruction of an anchor from the Roman Period.

In the above (from the Museum) all the parts of this “ancient anchor” are modern except the lead “Stock.”

The “Flukes” are the parts of the anchor, usually wooden and sometimes tipped with copper, that dig into the bottom of the sea. At the top of the wooden shank (right) a rope connects the anchor to the ship. The “stock” is made out of lead and often has a wood core,. It helps the anchor to sink and helps to position the anchor so that the “flukes” dig into the sea bottom.

This is a reconstruction of a typical anchor from the Roman Period. All the parts of this “ancient anchor” are modern except the lead “Stock.”

Ok, are any of these Anchor Stocks from Paul’s wrecked ship?  See the following blog posts.


For a good discussion of the shipwreck, ancient anchors, etc.,  and a vigorous interaction with the views of Robert Cornuke, see Gordon Franz “Does the ‘Lost Shipwreck of Paul’ Hold Water?  Or, Have the Anchors from the Apostle Paul’s Shipwreck Been discovered on Malta?”