Category Archives: Temple

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

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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.

Model of Second Temple Jerusalem

The model of Jerusalem on a 1 to 50 scale that depicts Jerusalem as it would have appeared just prior to the First Revolt (began ca. 66 CE) is justly famous.  Professor Michael Avi–Yonah was the original consultant and the model has been updated on a number of occasions—based upon new archaeological discoveries.

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I thought some might find the following labeled image useful.

modelgeneral01View looking north northeast at the model of Second Temple Jerusalem.  On the left (west) side of the image is the higher “western hill.”  This is where the elite of Jerusalem lived (see Wohl Museum).  Note the placement of the “theater.”  However, no archaeological evidence of the structure of theater has been found.

Note the bridge that connects the Western Hill with the Temple Mount (see Wilson’s Arch) and the platform and staircase to the south of it (see Robinson’s Arch).

In the center, and right (east) of center, is the Herodian Temple platform with the Temple clearly visible.  On the south end of the platform the long red–roofed building is the Royal Portico (stoa).  Below it are the two Double Gates that led up into the Temple Mount.  Note the staircases that lead up to them.  The large open space to the south of the Mount is where originally a “stadium” was placed.  However, in spite of excavations, no evidence of it has been found and thus it was removed from the model.

On the northwestern corner of the Temple Platform is the Antonia Fortress.

This model was originally built on the grounds of the Holy Land Hotel but has been moved to the Israel Museum.

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
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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.
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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
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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.

Worshiping the Roman Emperor

After preparing for, leading, and reflecting on some twenty trips to Turkey and Greece that emphasize the development of the early church there, it has become more and more evident that one of the “cutting edges” of scholarship has to do with how the Early Church came into contact and conflict with the common practice of “worshiping” the Roman Emperor.

This conflict has been examined extensively in connection with the New Testament book of Revelation, but it is now more evident that Paul and others interfaced with this cult to a much greater degree than was previously emphasized.

Questions such as to whom did early Christians owe their allegiance arose?

The Roman Emperor Claudius (nude as a deity in a divine epiphany with drapery billowing above his head; A.D. 41-54) portrayed as a deity receiving homage from the earth (cornucopia on the lower left) and the sea (ship’s steering oar lower right)
Claudius is presented as a “universal saviour and divine protector”
Original from the Sebasteion (below) now in the the museum at Aphrodisias

To the Emperor?  To a crucified peasant from a far eastern Roman province—namely Jesus?   How could these “Jesus is the King” people be loyal subjects to the Kingdom of the Emperor while at the same time being loyal subjects to the Kingdom of God?

Continue reading

Adada and Paul’s First Journey

AdadaAdada is a well–preserved Roman city located 40 mi. north of Perge on the road that led from Perge to Pisidian Antioch.  It is probable that Paul and Barnabas passed through the city as they traveled south, descending from Pisidian Antioch to Attalia (see below).

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This well preserved temple at Adada was dedicated to the Roman Emperors
Three temples dedicated to the Emperors have been found at Adada
Click on Image to Enlarge

The city minted its own coins in the first century BC and it was very prosperous during the rules of the Roman Emperors Trajan, Hadrian, and Antoninus Pius (ca. AD 98–160).

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Remains of the Roman Forum — The massive “staircase” is more probably a seating area where the council of Adada could meet.
Click on Image to Enlarge

The remains at Adada include a Forum, a theater, and temples to Roman Emperors!

AdadaMapTHYDr. Mark Wilson notes that there were two routes that connected the Pamphilian Plain (Perge and Attalia) with Pisidian Antioch.  He suggested that Paul and Barnabas took the western route, the via Sebastia, from Perge to Pisidian Antioch but followed the quicker, but steeper central route on their return journey south to Perga (Acts 14:25)—thus passing through Adada on their return journey.

Wilson, Mark. Biblical Turkey — a Guide to the Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor. Istanbul: Ege Yayinlari, 2010, p. 106.

To view 24 high resolution images of Adada, along with commentary, Click Here.