Category Archives: New Testament

In the Fullness of Time (Galatians 4:4) and the Altar of Peace (Rome)

An Era of Peace and Harmony. Full-size image below.

The Ara Pacis Augustae, (the “Altar of Augustan Peace”), commonly called the Ara Pacis, is not one of the places normally visited by groups that only spend a day or two in Rome.

As Christians begin to celebrate the season of Advent, I thought I would share a reflection on how the Ara Pacis illustrates at least one aspect of “the fulness of time.”

Gal. 4:4 But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law,

The Ara Pacis Augustae, (the “Altar of Augustan Peace”) is commonly called the Ara Pacis.  Please see below for two images of the altar that illustrate these “peaceful conditions.”

This altar was dedicated to Pax, the Roman goddess of peace in honor of the peaceful conditions that the Emperor Augustus (r. 27 B.C.–A.D. 14) was able to bring to the Roman Empire. It was dedicated on January 30, 9 BC.  Thus, this altar was over 60 years old by the time Paul arrived in Rome as a prisoner!

This Augustus is the same Roman Emperor who is mentioned in

Luke 2:1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.

Roman Emperor Augustus (r. 27 B.C.–A.D. 14) could write about himself

I extended the borders of all the provinces of the Roman people which neighboured nations not subject to our rule. I restored peace . . . with no unjust war waged against any nation.

It is interesting that Paul wrote in the book of Galatians

Gal. 4:4 But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under 1the Law,

During the years following Augustus—ca. First Century A.D.—it was relatively safe to travel by land and by sea, the Greek language was understood and spoken by many, and peaceful conditions prevailed.

In the providence of God, it was during such an era that people such as Paul had the freedom to travel about to spread the “Good News”—the Gospel of Jesus Christ (but see note 1 below).


The following two images of the Ara Pacis exhibit the “peacefulness of the era”—think Royal (governmental) propaganda!

Harmony and peace surround either Pax herself, or Tellus, the earth goddess.  See below for a color representation of how it might have originally looked.

View of the upper left rear panel of the Ara Pacis with Tellus, the earth goddess—or possibly Pax, the goddess of Peace. Note the peacefulness of the image—Augustus had established peace in the Roman Empire (= pax Romana).

The two infants look so contented in the arms of the goddess.  The two semi-nude figures on the left and right of the goddess, with the billowing cloth, may represent the sky (on the left with the bird) and the sea (on the right with a tamed sea creature).  The sheep and the large ox seem very docile!

A procession of dignitaries processing to the dedication of the altar—including Augustus himself on the very left side of the image.

View of the upper south panel of the Ara Pacis.  Near the center of the procession is a child holding his father’s hand.  The father, tall, head–covered (like a priest), facing to the left of the image, is the son–in–law of Augustus, Marcus Agrippa.  The woman on our right of the child is Agrippa’s wife, Livia/Julia, daughter of Augustus, and the child is Gaius Caesar their offspring—an intended heir of Augustus.

On the left side of the image, there is a partial figure with a sharp vertical break.  This figure is that of Augustus himself!

The Ara Pacis was located in the Campus Martius, a large, formerly swampy, parade ground on the east side of the Tiber River—about 1 mi. northwest of the center of the Roman Forum.  Because of the flooding of the Tiber, it was buried in 12 ft. of debris and gradually fragments of it have been recovered.  It was reassembled in 1938.

Check Here to view additional images of the altar.

BTW — Ara Pacis was originally in full color:

This image is from this website.

Note 1 — obviously, in Judea and Galilee there was much discontent with Roman Rule during the first century A.D.

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Magdala: the Chapel of the Encounter — Hemorrhaging Woman

For the many who have inquired, this mural is available for purchase Here.

In a recent visit to Magdala the students of the Jerusalem University College were graciously and expertly hosted by the excavator Arfan Najjar and Jennifer Ristine.

I like to visit Magdala for two reasons. One is to visit the antiquities of the First Century Synagogue and the Second is to reflect on the role of women among the first followers of Jesus.

MagdalaEncounterChapel

The Encounter Chapel, in the lower lever of Duc In Altum, is dedicated to Jesus’ encounter of all of us, as illustrated by the hemorrhaging woman.  Note how she touches the hem of Jesus’ garment.  (Mark 5:25–34)

The Encounter Chapel is first of all an archeological treasure: the floor is that of the original first century market place of the Magdala port.

A port market place is about as busy a spot in any town you can imagine – probably the main metro train station or airport in our terms – where people without any discrimination rub shoulders.
Since we have also discovered significant infrastructure for fish processing, it is most logical that fishermen of the Sea of Galilee, many known to us by on a first name basis, who wanted to sell their fish for export to Rome (documented by Flavius Josephus) would have gravitated to Magdala’s port, probably not unfamiliar to Jesus’ fishermen disciples. Jesus´ ease at sitting in their boats and mingling with large crowds helps us to see many people encountering him in this marketplace and he can engage the workers and the traders.

The large painting (titled “Encounter”) gives us a snapshot of the encounter of the hemorrhaging woman who tries to touch Jesus for healing (Mark 5: 25-29).

The Encounter Chapel, in the lower lever of Duc In Altum, is dedicated to Jesus’ encounter of all of us, as illustrated by the hemorrhaging woman. Located on the marketplace of the first century port, the Encounter Chapel is modeled after the structure of the Magdala First Century Synagogue with room for up to 120 people.

As you visit the Sea of Galilee and reflect on Jesus’ ministry in the area, I commend to you a visit to Magdala—about 1 to 1.5 hours so see it all.


Daniel Cariola is the creator of the mural of the “encounter.”  For more information on the mural I suggest that you contact the folk at Magdala directly:
info@magdala.org
http://www.magdala.org

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

Recently I was able to spend a few days 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?”

Patmos: The Monastery of Saint John

PatmosMapPatmos is a Greek island in the Dodecanese group, located about 40 mi. [65 km.] west of the western coast of Turkey.

It was here that John was exiled received the revelation that he wrote about in the New Testament book of Revelation (Rev 1:9).  Tradition maintains that he was exiled to Patmos during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian (A.D. 81–96).  He was eventually released and returned to Ephesus—located about 60 mi. [100 km.] to the northeast of Patmos.

patmospanorama

View looking north at the Island of Patmos from Mt. Saint Elijah—the highest point on the Island of Patmos (2,900 ft.). The Monastery of Saint John the Theologian and the village of Chora are in the center of the image. Double Click on Image to View and/or Download the full size Panorama.

Notice that the island is not very wide and visible on both the right (east) and left (west) side of the image a variety of near-by islands are visible—providing a “geographical context” for the Island of Patmos.

Patmos is shaped somewhat like the letter “C”—open to the east.  It is composed of three parts connected by two isthmuses.  The larger northern part is connected to the central (main) part by a narrow isthmus.  The island is about 7 mi. [11 km.] long, and up to 3 mi. [5 km.] wide.  It is 13 sq. mi. [34 sq. km] in area and has a population of about 2,750 persons.

PatmosMonastery

The Monastery of St. John the Theologian

The most famous structure on the Island of Patmos is the Monastery of St. John the Theologian.  It was built in A.D. 1091 by the “Holy” Christodoulos who had received permission from the Byzantine Emperor Alexis I to build it.  This fortress–like monastery is situated on a prominent hill about 1.5 mi. [2.4 km.] inland from the port of Skala at an elevation of about 790 ft. [240 m.].  This is one of two places that “day visitors” visit during their brief stop at Patmos.

Click Here to view 13additional images of the Monastery of St. John the Theologian.

This past May we had the opportunity to explore some of the remote portions of the island and I will be sharing some pictures from that visit in future posts.

Why Corinth?

CorinthIsthmus04

See the full size image below!

At the time of Paul’s visits to Corinth it was a thriving commercial city of over 200,000 people.

Corinth was situated in the northeastern corner of the Peloponnese — very near the narrow land bridge (isthmus) that connected the Peloponnese to the mainland of Greece. Its strategic location was enhanced due to its proximity to the diolkos — the stone-paved roadway that connected the Saronic Gulf with the Gulf of Corinth. By using this overland passageway, passengers and cargo avoided the difficult and time-consuming trip around the southern end of the Peloponnese.

aerial-of-isthmus

The Isthmus of Corinth from the air. For comments on this image, see above. To Enlarge and/or Download Click on Image.

The Greek city of Corinth had been (partly) destroyed by the Romans in 146 B.C., but the rebuilding process, as a Roman city, had begun by 44 B.C.  For a long time it had been famous for its immorality (think prostitutes associated with the Temple of Aphrodite) and its commercial character. Its two harbors were Lechaion (Gulf of Corinth) and Cenchreae (Saronic Gulf). Every two years important games were held at nearby Isthmia.

Paul spent 18 months here on his second journey and maybe three months on his third. The letters of first and second Corinthians were written to the church here, and Paul probably wrote first and second Thessalonians and Romans while in Corinth.


To view important artifacts from Corinth, including the Erastus inscription, a menorah, and others, Click Here.

Excavations have been conducted at Corinth for over 100 years. Major finds have helped us understand the history and culture of the city that Paul spent so long ministering in. See the images included in this section and John McRay’s Archaeology and the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1991.  To view for purchase Click Here.

Suggestion:  You may also be interested in the images of the Corinth Canal, the diolkos, the port of Cenchreae, and the Acrocorinth.

Via Egnatia (Peqin, Albania)

Paul probably traveled on this road on both his second and third missionary journeys, as he traveled between Philippi and Thessalonica.  The current issue of Aramco World has a wonderful article on this road—describing it from west to east.  It includes some pictures, a video and a helpful map.

The Via Egnatia is the name of a Roman Road that connected ports on the Adriatic Sea with Byzantium.  From west to east, a traveler from Rome (Italy – not on map) would head southeast overland to Brundisium (a port on the east coast of Italy).

ViaEgnatia01From there they would sail east, across the Adriatic Sea, landing at either Apollonia or Dyrrhachium (both on map).  They would head east, overland, on the “Via Egnatia” toward Byzantium — via ThessalonicaAmphipolisPhilippi, and Kypsela.

Although completed in stages, it was begun in the second century B.C. and it was expanded and repaired by the Romans in subsequent centuries.  It is named after the second century B.C. Roman proconsul of Macedonia, “Gnaios Egnatios.”  Its length varied according to the period, but Roman milestones suggest it was 535 Roman miles long (= 493 English miles [790 km.]).

GNMTVE11

View looking east at a portion of the Via Egnatia near the Albanian village of Peqin. Here the roadbed is being used for local rural traffic!

GNMTVE13

Carl and Mary Rasmussen on a Roman Bridge that supported the Via Egnatia near Peqin (Albania)

GNMTVE10

View looking northeast at a bridge of the Via Egnatia near the Albanian village of Peqin. Here local traffic is diverted to the right of the bridge.

HT:  Drs. William Burlingame and Mark Wilson.

Emperor Worship at Herculaneum Part 2

In a previous post I shared some images and thoughts on what I believe is the only completely preserved building dedicated to the worship of Roman Emperors in the First Century A.D.  I want to complete the posting of images from the main room where the statue of the Emperor was located.  In these two frescos, the Emperor is portrayed as the mythical hero Hercules!

On the left is Hercules with his club, lion’s skin, and a bow and arrows.

View looking at the north wall of the cult room of the Sacellum (chapel) of the Augustales (priests in charge of Emperor Worship).  The central panel is flanked by two slender spirally fluted columns.  It appears that there is an attempt to portray this central panel as a hanging tapestry.  On the left is Hercules with his club, lion’s skin, and a bow and arrows.  The nude figure next to him is a river deity that is attempting to snatch away Hercules’ wife, Deianeira.  Hercules is about to rescue her!  Tuck suggests that this is a metaphor for the Emperor as Hercules who protects/rescues his people.

Flanking the central piece are “windows” that look out on to the world.  Note especially the two chariots with horses in the upper two corners.

Hercules, without club or lion’s skin, is sitting nude. The female in the foreground is the deity Minerva and in the back, between the two of them, is Zeus’s wife, Hera.

View looking at the south wall of the cult room of the Sacellum (chapel) of the Augustales (priests in charge of Emperor Worship).  The central panel is flanked by two slender spirally fluted columns.  It appears that there is an attempt to portray this central panel as a hanging tapestry.  Hercules, without club or lion’s skin, is sitting nude.  The female in the foreground is the deity Minerva and in the back, between the two of them, is Zeus’s wife, Hera.  Tuck believes that this is a representation of Hercules about to be taken up to be with the gods (= apotheosis) and that he and Hera are here reconciled—Hera had attempted to kill him.  Tuck believes that this is a metaphor for the apotheosis of the Emperor—being represented as Hercules.  In other words, Vespasian, like Emperors before him, was taken to be with the gods—and thus became a god!

To view 6 images of this important room Click Here.


Professor Tuck (see below) suggests that this room was renovated shortly after the death of Vespasian in A.D. 79, early in the reign of Titus—which implies that the room was soon buried by the pyroclastic flow from Vesuvius—ca. 24 August 79.

I am indebted to the explanatory comments of Steven L. Tuck in his engaging “Worshipping the Emperors at Herculaneum,” Lecture 21 in Pompeii: Daily Life in an Ancient Roman City.  Produced by the Great Courses/The Teaching Company, Course No. 3742, 2010.