Category Archives: New Testament

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.

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.

Nazareth: The House of Jesus?

Most visitors to Nazareth will visit the beautiful Church of the Annunciation with its wonderful murals of the Virgin and Child.  Nearby, is the Sisters of Nazareth Convent that is frequently visited by Catholic Pilgrim Group.  In the “lower level” of the Sisters of Nazareth are the remains of archaeological excavations including an area that Ken Dark argues was the house of the family of Jesus in Nazareth!

View of the remains of a first century house that is preserved in the lower level of the Convent. Ken Dark believes that this might be the house in which Jesus grew up. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

“. . . the rock–cut doorway of the first–century house . . . .  The combination of rock–built construction and quarried–rock construction can be seen clearly.  The door opens to the ‘Chambre Obscure,’ another part of the original house structure partly cut out of the natural rock.  The rock overhang in the corner is naturally occurring and was likely left in its current form to support the roof.  In front of the doorway, a fragment of the original floor survives.” (Dark, p. 56)

Another view of the remains of a first century house that is preserved in the lower level of the Convent. Ken Dark believes that this might be the house in which Jesus grew up. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The east side [on right side of image] of the structure originally had rock built walls, as this part of the house was built away from the naturally occurring rock cave.  The visible wall was rebuilt in the Crusader period but may incorporate remains of the first–century A.D. wall. (Dark, p. 56)

View of the entrance to the Sisters of Nazareth Convent where first century, Byzantine, and Crusader remains have been found and preserved in the lower level of the Convent.

Dark, Ken. “Has Jesus’ Nazareth House Been Found?” Biblical Archaeological Review 41, no. 2 (March/April 2015): 54–63, 72.

CNN 6 Part Mini Series on Jesus

Beginning tonight, Sunday, 26 February, CNN will be showing a Mini Series on Jesus.  It begins at 7:00 PM Central Time.  Below is a 2:00 minute trailer.

I see that Ben Witherington III is one of the scholars who contributed to this series.

The Transfiguration — A Fresco — Is the Apostle Peter “Flipping Out?”

Normally when tour groups visit Berea they visit the “bema” that commemorates Paul’s preaching in the city (Acts 17:10–15).  However a few years ago we had the chance to visit one of the 50 Byzantine Churches in the city—The Church of the Resurrection of Christ in which there are some well–preserved frescoes from the 14th century.

transfiguration01

A view of the Transfiguration of Jesus.   Below Jesus are three frightened disciples—from left to right, one recoiling in fear, and the center one prostrate facing away from Jesus, and on the right one doing a back flip(!) with his mouth covered! Could this be Peter who was “embarrassed” by what he had just said?  Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

A detailed view of the Transfiguration of Jesus in the center of the image above the roundels on the south wall of the 14th century Church of the Resurrection of Christ in Berea/Verroia.  Below Jesus are three frightened disciples—from left to right, one recoiling in fear, and the center one prostrate facing away from Jesus, and on the lower right one doing a back flip(!) with his mouth covered! Could this be Peter who was in awe and “embarrassed” by what he had just said?

 Matt 17:4 And Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and behold, a voice out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!”  6 And when the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were much afraid.

Mark 9: 5 And Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  6 For he did not know what to answer; for they became terrified.

Luke 9:33 And it came about, as these were parting from Him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah” — not realizing what he was saying

bereachurch

The Church of the Resurrection of the Christ in Verria/Verroia.

There are over 50 Byzantine Churches in Verria/Verroia.  In the Church of the Resurrection of Christ there are some very well preserved frescoes by George Kaliergis, one of the great painters of the 14th century.

In the church there is also a very unusual is the fresco of Jesus climbing a ladder to be crucified on the cross!

jesusladder

A detailed view of the very unusual depiction of Jesus climbing a ladder ON TO the cross! Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

Usually, when a ladder appears with the cross it depicts the removal of Jesus’ body from the cross with Adam’s skull below the cross—as here.  To the right of this image is Jesus being placed in a sarcophagus (tomb).

To view 6 free images of frescoes in this church Click Here.

Paul in the Cities: Where did They Meet? 2 (Ask Eutychus! Acts 20:9)

Alexandria Troas — Paul on His Return to Jerusalem
on His Third Journey

Acts 20:7     On the first day of the week . . . Paul spoke to the people . . . and kept on talking until midnight.  8 There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting.  9 Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead.

What kind of building was this group of believers meeting in?  Probably an “apartment building” (insula).  After 2,000 years do any still exist?  Yes!

itoscb07

High Density Roman Housing at Ostia — the Port of Rome  View of a street on which the Casa di Diana is located. On the left side of the image note the high–density housing (insulae). There were at least three floors, with rooms arranged around a central courtyard where there was a communal fountain.  The upper stories were probably made of perishable materials such as wood.

The term insula refers to a multi–story housing block, that was subdivided into apartments for rent with shops on the ground floor.  Windows and balconies were the principal light sources for the tenants.  The insulae were probably first built of wood and thus susceptible to destruction by fire—a big problem!  (I am not aware of the preservation of any wooden insula)  Often times they were constructed of baked Roman bricks—like this example at Ostia.

itoscb05

View of a street lined with apartment buildings (insulae) near the via Della Fontana at Ostia. The staircase on the left led up to the upper floors of the building—at least 3 stories high.  This large structure was probably owned by one person who rented apartments, shops, and workplaces to tenants.

The ground floor of insulae were usually shops and stores.  The best apartments were on the lower floors and sometimes were decorated with simple paintings and mosaics.  The upper apartments (on floors 2 and 3) were smaller, more difficult to reach, and dangerous (fire!)—because they were built out of wood!  The upper storeys were typically without heat, running water, and toilets.  The poor, who lived there, would sometimes dump trash and human excrement out of the windows into the street below!  Most of the people, poor and “middle class,” would live in these structures.

New Testament Importance:
Since Acts 20:9 mentions Eutychus falling from a third floor, the group of Christians that Paul was speaking to must have been meeting in a cramped, lower class apartment such as the above.  But to date, no such insulae have been found at Alexandrian Troas, but they were probably built of wood and have perished over the last 2,000 years!

Paul in the Cities: Where Did They Meet? 1

The cities of the Roman world were filled with small shops that were rented from their owners by the shop keeper.  Some shops were located on the ground floor of elite houses.  Some on the ground floor of an insula (more in later posts).  A number of such shops have been found at the well–preserved sites of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Ostia (all in Italy).

itpocb04

This is a fullonica (from Pompeii). It is a large shop that was designed for the washing of dirty laundry. Note the modern staircase that leads to the “living room” above the shop. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The photo above is a view of the main entrance (just right of center in the light) to a wool processing/cleaning shop (a fullonica; see here for 5 additional images of this shop).  Note the pool in the lower left, and the modern staircase that led up an upper floor of this shop.  Jerome Murphy–O’Connor writes that typically merchants/craftsmen/etc. “. . . used the lower level for their shop and the upper level for living quarters” (see below for the important biblical discussion).

A fullonica was designed for the washing of dirty laundry and degreasing of fabrics. Based upon inscriptions it is believed that Stephanus was the owner of the fullery. He died during the eruption in 79 AD while trying to escape. The workers for Stephanus, almost all slaves, had to tread on fabrics and clothes for hours, placed in a liquid containing human and animal urine.  The urine was collected in pots placed along the streets.  The smell in a fullonica must have been “putrid” — but the shop was on a main street and houses (upper class) surrounded it!  To view more images of the fullonica with commentary Click Here.

Jerome Murphy–O’Connor wrote p. 48:

The first churches may have occupied the upper-level living quarters of shops like this [his picture is that of a thermopolium—see my previous post]. Shopkeepers typically rented such . . . rooms [from landlords], which opened onto the sidewalk, and then built a wooden platform halfway up to divide the room into two levels [see the picture above!]. They used the lower level for their shop and the upper level for living quarters. . . . .  Statements that Prisca and Aquila, at Ephesus and Rome, hosted “a church in their house” (1 Corinthians 16:19; Romans 16:5), or more literally, “the group [of believers] which meets in their home,” suggest that the early Christians met in the living room above Prisca and Aquila’s shop. Such a room could probably accommodate 10 to 20 persons. This may explain why Paul, at Corinth, preached in the synagogue and later in the house of Titius Justus, rather than in Prisca and Aquila’s home, where he lived (Acts 18:3–7), as these locations could accommodate larger crowds than a room above a shop.

itpocb09

View looking into the fullonica from its entrance. Note the large rinsing tub on the right side and the rooms and the frescos on the left side. In the distance is the atrium and the processing areas of the fullonica.

Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome. “Prisca and Aquila — Traveling Tentmakers and Church Builders.” Bible Review 6 (December, 1992): 40–51, 62.