Category Archives: Temple

I have never seen this before . . . .

Recently we led a group of travelers from Paul’s Shipwreck on Malta to his martyrdom in Rome.  Along the way, we visited the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Paestum that is located about one hour (by car) south of Pompeii.

The Athena temple at Paestum that dates to 450 B.C. Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download.

Paestum has three major temples that date from 550 to 450 B.C.  Our travelers, most of whom had already been to Israel, Turkey, and Greece, were overwhelmed by the beauty and the state of preservation of these temples.  But there was something else that I had not seen before . . . .

There is a wonderful, modern, museum that displays artifacts from the site.   As we were walking through the museum, oohing and aahing at the artifacts, all of a sudden we saw a display where disaster had struck.

There, to our dismay, a lighting panel, from above the artifacts, had come crashing down upon some of the priceless 2,500-year-old objects!  I think this had just happened, for the museum personnel were scurrying about with concerned looks on their faces!

I suppose that by now, the artifacts have been repaired and the display fixed, but this was something that I had not seen before—and hope never to see again!

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Paul at Assos — Part 1

In a previous post, “Paul on the Road to Assos,” I shared some comments and an image of the road that led from Troas to Assos (Acts 20:5–12).

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The western road that led to Assos from the north—through the “necropolis”
The road was lined with funeral monuments honoring the élite of the city
Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

As Paul approached Assos he probably would have come down this road that was lined with funerary monuments that honored the deceased of the city.

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View south at the Western Gate of Assos that dates to the Hellenistic Period
The road in the foreground is probably the one that Paul used to approach the city
Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

He then would have entered this magnificent city gate that was built in the fourth century B.C. and is still standing to a height of 46 ft.!  Alternatively, he may have taken the road that skirts this gate to the west and descends directly to the harbor.

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Western Wall and Western Gate at Assos
Built in the 4th century B.C.
Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

The Hellenistic walls at Assos are some of the best preserved from ancient times.

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The remains of the Doric Temple of Athena on the Acropolis of Assos
It was built around 530 B.C. In the distance is the Island of Lesbos
Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

At the time of Paul’s visit, the Temple of Athena was almost 600 years old.  It is situated on the Acropolis that towers 780 ft. over the Aegean Sea.

For additional images of the Temple of Athena Click Here.
For images of the walls, necropolis, and gates Click Here.

Warning to Gentiles from the Days of Jesus — Inscriptions

The Jewish Temple in Jerusalem was surrounded by a fence (balustrade) that was about 5 ft. [1.5 m.] high.  On this fence were mounted inscriptions in Latin and Greek forbidding Gentiles from entering the temple area proper (image below).

One complete inscription was found in Jerusalem in 1871 and is now on display on the third floor of the “Archaeological Museum” in Istanbul.

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The Temple Inscription warning Gentiles not to proceed beyond this barrier—on threat of death. Istanbul Archaeological Museum.

The Greek text has been translated:  “Foreigners must not enter inside the balustrade or into the forecourt around the sanctuary.  Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his ensuing death.”

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The first century Jewish historian Josephus mentions the barrier and inscription in two places:

(193) When you go through these [first] cloisters, unto the second [court of the] temple, there was a partition made of stone all round, whose height was three cubits: its construction was very elegant; (194) upon it stood pillars, at equal distances from one another, declaring the law of purity, some in Greek, and some in Roman letters, that “no foreigner should go within that sanctuary;” for that second [court of the] temple was called “the Sanctuary;” (Josephus Jewish War.5.5.1 [193–194]

(417) Thus was the first enclosure. In the midst of which, and not far from it, was the second, to be gone up to by a few steps; this was encompassed by a stone wall for a partition, with an inscription, which forbade any foreigner to go in, under pain of death. (Josephus Jewish Antiquities 15.11.5 [417]

Compare the accusation against Paul found in Acts 21:28-29:

Acts 21:28 shouting, “Men of Israel, help us! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple area and defiled this holy place.”  29 (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple area.)

There is also the possibility that this barrier is referred to by Paul when he writes:

Eph. 2:14     For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,

 

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This six-line fragment of the Temple Warning was found by J. H. Iliffe east of the Old City of Jerusalem wall—near the Lion’s Gate.

 

Translation of the inscription from Elwell, Walter A., and Yarbrough, Robert W., eds.  Readings from the First–Century World: Primary Sources for New Testament Study.  Encountering Biblical Studies, general editor and New Testament editor Walter A. Elwell.  Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1998, p. 83. Click Here to view for purchase from amazon.com.

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.

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.

My Favorite Site in Israel

People often ask me “what is your favorite place to visit [in Israel]?”  This is a tough question to answer, for I am “in love” with many “sites” in Israel.  But when forced to commit myself, my favorite site is a not-too-well-known place called Omrit — a site that is located on the western slopes of the Golan—just east of the Huleh Valley.

Plaza and approach to the Imperial Temple at Omrit (Caesarea Philippi?)

 

Omrit Excavation Teams

One major reason for my “love” of Omrit is that here you can really clearly see the foundations and significant architectural pieces of  THREE temples that actually look like temples—including the one that Herod the Great built for the worship of the Roman Emperor Augustus and that was actually in existence in Jesus’s day!

Josephus says that Herod the Great built three such temples, one at Caesarea Maritima (but virtually nothing of the Herodian original is visible to today), at Sebastia (where significant remains of a second century AD rebuild are visible), but here at Omrit the foundations and architectural fragments of “Herod’s Imperial Cult Temple” still exist!

Earliest “Shrine” — that was later covered by two later temples!

Since 1999 J. Andrew Overman of Macalester College of St. Paul, Minnesota(USA) has been excavating the site.  He has discovered three successive religious structures—the earliest (a “shrine”) dating to the Early Roman Period.

Southwest corners of the:
First (slightly above and left of center) “Herodian Temple to the Emperor Augustus”
and the Temple from the time of Trajian (lower right)

Huge “composite” capital (combination of Corinthian and Ionic orders) and large base
Note the acanthus leaves

Overman believes that the first Temple was built by Herod the Great to honor his patron—the emperor Caesar Augustus (ruled 28 B.C. to A.D. 14).  Many believe that his temple was constructed in nearby “Panias” but Overman argues (I think correctly) that it was here at Omrit—”in the vicinity of Panias”—that it was constructed.  The second “Temple” was probably constructed during the reign of the Roman Emperor Trajian (A.D. 98-117).  The finds here are so significant that the Israel Museum has a prominent display of them.

Upside down corner capital of the “composite” order

To view new images of Omrit Click Here.

Architectural Fragment

Another Son of God? Pilate’s Tiberieum at Caesarea Maritima

Pontius Pilate was the Prefect of Judea that condemned Jesus to death (Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 18 and 19). He is mentioned 61 times in the New Testament.  He governed Judea from A.D. 26 to 36.

The Pontius Pilate Inscription from Caesarea Maritima—now in the Israel Museum.

Pilate was facing at least two major problems when Jesus appeared before him to be tried.  The first was that he needed to deal with any potential rebellion against Rome—what else would a “king of the Jews” do?

A second problem was how seriously should Pilate take the accusation that

John 19:7-8  . . .  he [Jesus] must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”  When Pilate heard this, he [Pilate] was even more afraid,

Why was Pilate “more afraid” when he heard this charge?  Well, the dead “ascended” Augustus was worshiped throughout the Roman Empire as a deity.  By the time that Jesus began his public ministry there were Imperial Cult Temples (namely those at Caesarea Maritima, Sebastia, and the one near Caesarea Philippi [= Omrit])  that had been in existence for over 40 years!

And in addition, Augustus’ son, and now Emperor(!), Tiberius, was worshiped as the “son of god” (that is, the son of the deified Augustus)!  In this regard it is not often remembered that it was Pilate who built a temple for the worship of Tiberius as the “son of god” at Caesarea Maritima!  How could there be a “son of God” to compete with the Imperial “son of god?”  In addition Pilate was confronted with the potential accusation of the local leadership: “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar” (John 19:12).  Pilate had a “lot on his plate!”

In light of this, I invite you to check out the following description and discussion of the “Pilate Inscription” from Caesarea Maritima.


In 1961 by an Italian expedition that was excavating the theater at Caesarea Maritima discovered a Latin inscription that actually mentions him.

The “Pilate” Inscription from Caesarea Maritima

When people comment on this inscription they usually emphasize that now there is actual archaeological evidence for Pilate’s activity in Judea and that his title was “Prefect.”  This is fine,  BUT what about the word “Tiberieum” in the first line?  To what does “Tiberieum” refer?

This stone was used at least three ways.  First, it was probably a dedicatory inscription in a temple called a “Tiberieum.”  Pilate built this temple to honor the Roman Emperor Tiberius (A.D. 14–37)—the current “son of god”!  This was then the second imperial cult temple in Caesarea—the first was the (probably much larger) Imperial Cult Temple that had been built by Herod the Great (37– 4 BC) for the worship of Augustus and deified Roma!

Thus it should be noted that at Caesarea Maritima the imperial cult founded by Herod the Great was still being practiced AND that Pilate as a good governor was also promoting the Imperial Cult—adding a structure for the worship of the ruling Roman emperor, Tiberius (14–37).  All of this going on during the time of Jesus’ public ministry (ca. 26–30)!

Secondly, the stone was taken from the temple and used as part of a well–head—note the half-circle on the right hand side.  Finally, it was used as a step in the fourth century Byzantine theater (where it was discovered).

Four lines of the Latin inscription are visible.

[_ _ _]S TIBERIÉUM
[_ _ PO]NTIUS PILATUS
[PRAEF]ECTUS IUDA[EA]E
[_ _ _ _ _ ] É [_ _ _ _ _ _ _] (Taylor, p. 564)

[. . .] Tiberieum
[. Po]ntius Pilate
[Pref]ect of Judaea
[. . .]e[. . .] (p. 565)

Joan E. Taylor translates the inscription as:   “Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judaea, [made and d]e[dicated] the Tiberieum for the (Augustan) gods” (p. 570).

For a detailed development of this topic please see Joan E. Taylor “Pontius Pilate and the Imperial Cult in Roman Judaea.” New Testament Studies 52 (2006): 555–82—especially pages 564–65.