As in a “mirror, dimly” 1 Corinthians 13:12

This past summer (2015) on a visit to the Israel Museum we were treated to a wonderful display of antiquities and ancient glass that Renée and Robert Belfer of New York have gifted to the Israel Museum.  Among the objects is “box mirror” decorated with a woman’s head in relief.


A Bronze Mirror From the Belfer Collection on display in the Israel Museum. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

It is made out of bronze, dates to the 4th-3rd century BCE and measures 8.5 x 6.5 inches. It swings open on the top hinge and the inside surfaces were polished in order to be used as mirrors. It appears that there was a latch—now broken—on the lower edge of the mirror.


A view of the interior surface of the mirror.

This artifact well illustrates the type of object that the apostle Paul had in mind when he wrote to the church at Corinth:

1Cor. 13:8   Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.  9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part;  10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.  11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.  12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.  13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. (NRSV)

Although it is not known where the mirror was found, we do know that Corinth was famous for the color and quality of the bronze objects made there.  “It [the bronze] had an unusually high tin content (14%) that gave it an unusual color” (Furnish below).  Indeed Josephus, the first century Jewish Historian, wrote of the gates of the Second Temple that:

Now nine of these gates were on every side covered over with gold and silver, as were the jambs of their doors and their lintels; but there was one gate that was without [the inward court of] the holy house, which was of Corinthian brass, and greatly excelled those that were only covered over with silver and gold.  (Jewish War 5.5.3 [201–205])

Furnish, Victor Paul. “Corinth in Paul’s Time—What Can Archaeology Tell US?” Biblical Archaeology Review 14, no. 3 (May/June 1988): 14–27.

An Unusual New Year Ritual In Antioch on the Orontes (Antakya)

For a number of years our Bethel University groups have flown from Istanbul to Antiochia on the Orontes (also called Syrian Antioch and Hatay) as we began our 26 days of travels in Turkey and Greece—following In the Footsteps of the Apostles.


View looking south southwest over a portion of the modern city of Antakya—ancient “Antioch on the Orontes.”

It was from Antioch that followers of Jesus were first called “Christians” (Acts 11:19–26) and from here famine relief was sent to Jerusalem (Acts 11:27–30).  Paul began all three of his missionary journeys from Antioch (Acts 13; 15:35–41; 18:22–23).  It was the capital of the Roman Province of Syria in NT times.

We have often arrived at Antakya just after January 1st.

BusBlood01The first time we were in Antiakya with a student group I got up early to go for a short walk near our hotel.  As I left the hotel I walked by our bus and noticed that there was blood on the front and back bumpers as well as on the wheel hub caps!  We had driven from the airport to the hotel in the dark, but I could not remember that we had hit anything!

What I later found out is that the hotel administration—at the arrival of the first group in the new year—would slaughter (sacrifice?) a sheep or goat and distribute the meat to the hotel staff to encourage good fortune (luck) in the coming year!!  Mystery solved!!!

Paphos Cyprus — Did Paul “preach” to Sergious Paulus here? (Acts 13:6–12)

CyprusMapCyprus  is mentioned 3 times in the Old Testament and 7 times in the New Testament.  It was the home of Barnabas (Acts 4:36) and was visited by Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark on Paul’s first missionary journey.


View looking west northwest at the Atrium of the “House of Theseus” (= Proconsul’s Villa) at Paphos. In the center of the Atrium (there are several in the villa) is a small sunken pond. In the upper left of the image is an apse—an “exedra” used for gathering. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The “House of Theseus” is named after its main mosaic—that of Thesesus killing the Minotaur (at Knossos on Crete).  It is the largest Roman house discovered on Cyprus and an earlier version of it may very well have been the residence of Sergius Paulus, the proconsul (Roman governor of Cyprus), who is mentioned in Acts 13:4–12, and who was converted to “Christianity.”


View looking southwest at one of the Audience Halls of the “House of Theseus” (= Proconsul’s Villa) at Paphos. Note the mosaic “carpet” of the hall.


Theseus is the central figure in the mosaic with the raised club. He is slaying the “Minotaur” (half bull half human being that inhabited the Labryrinth of Knossos (on Crete)—thus making him eligible to marry the daughter of the king of Knossos, Ariadne. The Greek inscriptions clearly show Ariadne in the upper left part of the image, Crete in the upper right, “Labyrinth” in the lower left, and the name of “Minotaur” in the lower right the Minotaur part of the mosaic was destroyed in antiquity.

The “House of Theseus” is named after its main mosaic—that of Theseus killing the Minotaur (at Knossos on Crete).


Cyprus is located at the northeastern end of the Mediterranean Sea.  It is the third largest Mediterranean Island with a population of 800,000 people.  80% are Greek Cypriots, 11% Turkish Cypriots, and 9% are foreign residents.  It is about 3,572 sq. mi. [9,251 sq. km.] in size—about half the size of the US state of New Jersey.  This palace has been under excavation by a Polish team since 1966.

Tarsus — A Very Unusual Roman Building

Very few tour groups have a chance to visit Tarsus and if they do, they typically visit only the excavations in the center of town (see previous post) and the associated “Well of St. Paul“).  However, there is a very very massive building that is hard to locate and is situated on the edges of residential and industrial neighborhoods.  It is called the “Donuktash” (Turkish for “frozen stones”).  The foundation seems to be composed of a hardened conglomerate of medium size pebbles.


View looking north along the eastern wall of the Donuktash. The preserved portion of this foundation reaches to a height of about 15 ft. [4.6 m.]. This foundation wall is 335 ft. [102 m.] long — about the length of a football field! Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

This mysterious and massive structure is apparently the foundation of a large, second century A.D., Roman Temple.   The exterior core of the temple remains, as do some significant interior foundations—for the marble and stone facing have been stripped away during the centuries.


View looking south at the current interior space of the Donuktash. It is longer than a “football field!”  Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The exterior walls are visible on the right (west) and left (east) sides of the image.  In the far center is a massive foundation upon which the central building (cella) of the temple probably stood.  Even though this picture was not taken from the extreme north end of the Donuktash, it does give some perspective to its size—335 ft. [102 m.] long. The whole structure awaits excavation.

The Donuktash may have been an Imperial Temple dedicated to the Roman Emperor Commodus (A.D. 177–192).

To view additional images of the Donuktash Click Here.

When we visited the site the gate was locked (it always is) and it seemed impossible to find a way in.  I thought to myself that there was no way to keep out the local children, so I asked our guide to ask the neighbor “how to the kids get in?”  Well, the answer was, “there is a ladder around the back!”  So, we climbed the latter to examine the interior!  (remember the walls are 15 ft. high!)


Students checking out the “cella” of the building.


Investigating the walls of the Donuktash.


Exiting the Donuktash.

Tarsus — Birth Place of Saul/Paul

TarsusMap3Tarsus was the birthplace of Paul the apostle(Acts 22:3). It is located at the northeastern corner of the Mediterranean Sea, about 9.5 mi. [15 km.] inland along the Cydnus River. In Paul’s day the city was one of the top five intellectual centers of the Roman world — a center for the Stoics. In Paul’s day possibly 100,000 people lived there.


View looking northwest at the current excavations at ancient Tarsus—at the Cumhuriyet Alani. The 23 ft. [7 m.] wide road dates to the second century B.C. while the colonnade (visible on the right, northeast, side of the road) probably dates to the third or fourth centuries A.D. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

Not much of ancient Tarsus is visible on the surface.  However, in the wake of urban development in downtown Tarsus, an ancient street and associated structures were found.  The street itself was in existence in Paul’s day.  Tarsus was an important center for east-west transit traffic.

Paul was actually a citizen of this distinguished city (Acts 9:11; 21:39—he was also a Roman Citizen). Since he was sent to Jerusalem at an early age, to be trained there under the famous Rabbi Gamaliel, it probably wasn’t until after his conversion that Paul interacted with the Greco-Roman culture of Tarsus — spending some 12–13 years there before embarking on his first missionary journey.


View of the waterfall (Turkish: “Selale”) on the river that runs through Tarsus. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

Paul probably passed though Tarsus as he began his second and third missionary journeys.

A Stone Seal from Davidic Era from Temple Mount

The Times of Israel has an article entitled “Tiny stone seal from King David era found in Temple Mount fill.”


A cone-shaped seal found in the rubble excavated from the Temple Mount believed to date to around the 10th century BCE (Zachi Dvira, Temple Mount Sifting Project.”

Much of the information in the article in the Times of Israel comes from a telephone conversation with Gabi Barkay, a founder of the Temple Mount Sifting Project

Barkay said the seal’s discovery attests to ‘the administrative activity which took place upon the Temple Mound during those times.’

It is amazing to think that something such as this was found on The Temple Mount itself. Although there are bound to be disputes about the dating of this object, it was not found in situ, Barkay’s judgments on such matters are typically widely accepted and sound.

Click on the link above for the full article with additional pictures.


Gabriel Barkay peering into the repository of one of the “Ketef Hinnom” tombs.


Philippi (Greece) — Baptismal Site

Soon after Paul’s arrival at Philippi on his second missionary journey—on the Sabbath—he “went outside the gate to a riverside, where we [Luke included] were supposing that there would be a place of prayer”  (Acts 16:14).  There a woman named Lydia from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics” was converted to Christianity and was baptized (Acts 16:14–15).

Krenides River

The exact site of this event is not known, but its memory is preserved just north of the Krenides gate of Philippi, about 0.5 mi. [0.8 km.] west of the archaeological site.

Baptismal Church of Lydia

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