Category Archives: New Testament

Cornerstone

One of our favorite places to visit in Turkey is the Temple of Apollo at Didyma.

Didyma is an ancient religious site located near Yenihisar in western Turkey. It is situated about 39 mi. [62 km.] south of Ephesus (as the crow flies).

It was the site of a world famous oracle of Apollo (compare Delphi! in Greece). The oldest temple at Didyma was completed about 560 B.C. but destroyed in 494 B.C. by Darius I, the Persian. About 300 B.C. Seleucus I Nicator began building the well-preserved Hellenistic Temple that still stands today. For the next 500(!) years it was under construction. It went out of use during the fourth century A.D. as Christianity grew stronger in this region.

People from all over the world would come to Didyma to consult the prophetess here. In addition, every fourth year a festival — including music, oratory, drama, and athletic events — was held here. Technically, Didyma was not a city, but a religious site.

View looking south along the northwest portion of the platform (crepidoma) upon which the Temple of Apollo stood. The visible “cornerstone” is in the lower right portion of the image.

Note, that if the cornerstone is “off,” so the foundation will be “off.”  But when the cornerstone is properly aligned then the foundation can be as well.  See the folowing.

In the book of Ephesians Paul compares the Church to the building of a Temple:

Eph. 2:19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.  21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Of course, it is probable that those living in Ephesus would have thought about the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, that was located there.

View looking north at the area where the Temple of Artemis was located.

Not much remains of this once great temple. The water in the foreground, and the two (rebuilt) columns mark the spot where this temple once stood.

In the distance the walls on the horizon mark the site of the Ayasuluk Citadel and the large building below it is the Isa Bey Mosque. Below and to the right of the large tree on the horizon, barely visible, are the remains of the St. John Basilica.

In its day, the Temple of Artemis was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. At its height it had 127 columns

A coin of the city of Ephesus, showing the Temple of Artemis, from the reign of the Roman Emperor Maximus (A.D. 235–38).  On display in the British Museum.

Note the gabled pediment, the staircase leading up to the temple, the eight columns supporting the roof, and the statue of Artemis! Below the staircase is the name Ephesus spelled out in Greek.

View of a model at Miniatürk (Istanbul) of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus.

The Ephesians began to construct this version of the temple in 356 BC after a man named Herostratus had burned down the former temple. It was one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world until the Goths sacked it in A.D. 263.

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Magdala — Some Uncertainties

My late, great, and brilliant Professor (and colleague) Anson Rainey use to tell his students, “let me enrich you with some new uncertainties!”

The synagogue during excavation. The “stone box” is in the center of the Image. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

Since many readers of this blog have visited Magdala, located along the northern part of the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, I thought I would share a link to a recent article by Dr. David Gurevich who has revisited some of the interpretations of the Synagogue at Magdala—especially those presented by the volunteer guides at the site.  “Magdala’s Stone of Contention.”

Reconstruction of the Synagogue with the entrance on the west side.

For example, Gurevich notes that the entrance of the synagogue on the west side is a complete reconstruction!  He believes that it was on the south side.

Much of the article is taken up with a variety of interpretations of the now-famous “Magdala Stone.”

The “Stone” with the Menorah. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

Is it a table for the Torah Scroll?  An Incense Altar?  A representation of the Second Temple?  A Prayer Table?  Gurevich’s article discusses all of these possibilities.

Magdala’ Stone of Contention” by Dr. David Gurevich is scholarly, but non–technical.  IMHO —a worthwhile 10 to 12 minute read.

For 16 photos of the Synagogue Click Here.  For previous blog posts on Magdala see Synagogue, the Stone, and The Chapel.

 

 

Patmos — A Temple to Aphrodite?

Rev. 1:9    I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

Although many think that Patmos was a barren Alcatraz-like island where John was exiled, this is not true.

As Franz has stated (p. 115)

First-century Patmos, with its natural protective harbor . . . [was] a large administrative center, [with] outlying villages, a hippodrome (for horse racing), and at least three pagan temples made Patmos hardly an isolated and desolate place!

It has been suggested that one of the those temples, the one dedicated to Aphrodite, was located on the Kalikatous Rock that is located in the Grikos Bay.

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View looking east at the area of Grikos Bay. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

View looking east at the area of Grikos Bay—the boat is entering the bay.  On the right (south) side of the bay is the Kalikatous Rock (see below).  In the distance are the islands east of Patmos.  This bay has been officially included in the 2011 catalogue of “the most beautiful bays in the world” by the UNESCO Foundation.

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View looking south at the Kalikatsou Rock.

Historical sources indicate that a Temple of Aphrodite was located on the Island of Patmos and many believe that the Temple to Aphrodite was located here but no excavations have taken place.  Note the carvings on the rock.

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View looking south at carvings and stains in the Kalikatsou Rock that may have been part of the Temple of Aphrodite that was located here.

Note the rock-cut stairs and the carvings to the right of the stairs.

Thus it is very possible that the island where John was exiled (Revelation 1:9) was “populated” with not only a citadel and a temple dedicated to Aphrodite, but also with temples dedicated to Artemis (possibly where the Monastery of Saint John is located) and Apollo (possibly near the modern harbor).  For these suggestions and references please see Gordon Franz’s article cited below.


To view additional images of the Kalikatsou Roack and the Bay of Grikos on Patmos Click Here.

For a helpful article describing the Patmos that John was exiled to, see Gordon Franz, “The King and I (Part 2).” Bible and Spade 12 (2000): 115–23.  It is also available on Gordon Franz’s website Life and Land but without graphics.

Paul in the Cities — Where Did They Eat?

The Apostle Paul resided in many cities of the Roman Empire including Tarsus, Antioch, Ephesus, Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth, and Rome.  As I lead tours to these ancient cities, we often wonder what life was like in them in the first century A.D.  One of the interesting “institutions” are the thermopolia—”fast food establishments” that were found in every large city.  For example, eighty–three thermopolia have been discovered at Pompeii, and more have been discovered at nearby Herculaneum and at Ostia—the port of Rome.  (be sure and see the final two paragraphs of this blog)

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View of a Fast Food establishment (thermopolium, popina, taberna) at Pompeii. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

This is the Thermopolium of Vetutius Placidus (aka T. of Asellina) that is located on the lower floor of his house in Pompeii (Italy).  It is situated on the main street of Pompeii, the via dell’ Abbondanza.  Food and drink were sold and consumed here.  Note the large storage jars that are built into the masonry and marble counters.

On the back wall is a well–preserved lararium—a shrine dedicated to the household gods.   Among others Mercury, the god of trade, and Dionysus, the god of wine are depicted (maybe assisted sales?!).  A hoard of 6.6 lbs. of worthless coins were found in one of the jars.  It was evidently left behind when the owner fled Pompeii as ash rained down from the eruption of the volcano Vesuvius (picture below).  In the back of the shop, not visible, was a slightly more private eating area.  A staircase led to guest rooms on the second floor—a brothel?  These thermopolia were situated street side on the ground floor of apartment buildings and even elite houses.

The thermopolia were visited primarily by the lower classes as the upper classes would dine in the luxurious surroundings of their own homes.  The houses of lower classes of people rarely had kitchens, thus they would eat at an establishment such as this, or they would “carry out” the food to take back home.

Since many (most?) of the early Christians were from the lower classes, they probably frequented places like the local thermopolium.  And, it is very probable that Paul and other leaders of the Early Church did so as well in the cities that they resided in!  Is it not possible that in establishments like this that the Early Christians shared their belief in “Jesus is Lord”—rather than “Caesar is Lord?”

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A Thermopolium from nearby Herculaneum—also destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius.

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Mount Vesuvius that erupted in August of A.D. 79 covering Pompeii with ash and Herculaneum with a pyroclastic flow.

For use or publication of any of these images please see this link.

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!

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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.

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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!

Sagalassos — Upper Agora

Of the many archaeological remains at the Turkish site of Sagalassos a good number of them are located around the Upper Agora.  An agora is a Greek term for the large open space in a typical Greek polis.

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The Upper Agora at Sagalassos
See the image below to locate structures
Click on Image to Enlarge

During the Roman period the Latin term forum is often used to refer to this space.  In both the Greek and the Roman worlds people would meet here, goods and services were offered for sale, and on their perimeters temples to a variety of deities (and often emperors), law courts (Acts 16:19), council houses (Bouleuterion), monumental water fountains (nymphaeum) and honorific monuments (touting leading citizens of a polis) were common.

SagUpperAgora03The Upper Agora at Sagalassos is no exception.  It, and surrounding structures, have been excavated and partially reconstructed—thus allowing visitors to the site to easily enter into the life of the ancient city.

It was in agoras and forums around the Roman World that philosophers would teach their students and it would have been there that the Apostle Paul (Acts 17:17), Barnabas, Silas, Phoebe, etc. would have had the opportunity to share their faith.  The term agora is used 11 times in the New Testament (9 of the uses in the Gospels).

Our Turkish friends in front of the reconstructed Nymphaeum at Sagalassos.

Click on the city names to view agoras at: Perge, Athens, Thessaloniki, Smyrna, Corinth, and Philippi.

Palm Sunday and “Holy Week”

On Sunday, 25 March, Christians will be remembering Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.

For those of you who might be looking for High Resolution images related to the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, the Last Supper in the “Upper Room,” and the events clustered around the final week in his earthly life I will be posting some useful links in the days ahead.

To view 10 images (with commentary) of a modern procession commemorating this event Click Here.

Use the following links to find High Resolution images related to Gethsemane, the Upper Room, a Rolling Stone Tomb, Gordon’s Calvary, the Garden Tomb, and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.