The Cave/Grotto of Paul and Thecla at Ephesus

One of the most interesting early extra–biblical stories is the one of Paul and Thecla (2nd century A.D.; Thecla is said to have been a female companion of Paul and eventually [for most of her life] a respected preacher of the Christian faith).

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From right to left: Theocleia (mother of Thecla), Paul, and Thecla
Fresco from the Grotto of Saint Paul at Ephesus
Click on Image to Enlarge

At Ephesus there is a not–too–frequently–visited cave sometimes called “The Grotto of Paul” (= Cave of Paul & Thecla).  It is located on the northern slope of Bülbül Dag, away from the normal visitors’ routes through Ephesus.  It overlooks the site of ancient Ephesus from the south.

On the western wall of the grotto a painting portrays an event from the apocryphal book called The Acts of Paul and Thecla (ca. early second century A.D.).  The painting (5th/6th century A.D.) depicts the initial event described in the book, in the city of Iconium, where Thecla is looking from a window at Paul preaching while Thecla’s mother (Theocleia) looks on.  Thecla, against the wishes of her mother and her finance Thamyris, gave up her betrothal (engagement) in order to remain a virgin and to follow Paul.

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Detail of Thecla looking down from a window at Paul preaching
Paul’s raised hand is visible on the right
Click on Image to Enlarge

Eventually Thecla was separated from Paul and became a significant preacher and witness to her faith.  Her life and impact has been much discussed during the past thirty years and this painting has figured large in the discussions.

In addition, The Acts of Paul and Thecla contains the earliest physical description of Paul:

“And he [Onesiphorus] saw Paul coming [towards Iconium], a man small in size, bald-headed, bandy-legged, well-built, with eyebrows meeting, rather long-nosed, full of grace.”

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Paul and Theocleia (mother of Thecla) — Note the names spelled out in Greek
Also compare the artistic representation of Paul with the literary
Click on Image to Enlarge

The facial image of Paul in the fresco seems to match this description as do iconographic representations of Paul.

The cave seems to have served as a chapel from the early Byzantine period through the early 19th century.

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Vestibule to “The Grotto of Paul and Thecla” at Ephesus

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Plan of “The Grotto of Paul and Thecla”

The grotto is 50 ft. long 6.5 ft. wide and 7.5 ft. high gallery that was expanded to the south in the form of a “presbytery.”  It was excavated by Dr. Renate Pillinger from the University of Vienna in 1995.

Not familiar with the fascinating story of Paul and Thecla?  You can get a Kindle version of the story for only $1.99 in the New Testament Apocrypha—along with 43 other stories!

To view additional images of this Grotto and Frescos Click Here.

The Tomb of Philip the Apostle at Hierapolis (Turkey)

Early Christian tradition states that Philip the Apostle (= disciple of Jesus), along with his daughters, settled at Hierapolis.

Tradition states that Philip was martyred and buried at Hierapolis.  In July of 2011 it was announced that the very Tomb of Philip had been discovered.  In another release it is stated that the actual Church/Tomb was located on a hill 120 ft. [40 m.] from the Martyrium.

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Tomb of Philip (the Apostle) at Hierapolis
The Tomb is to the right of the center of the image
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

View of Philip’s Tomb on the right side of the image.  It is built out of hewn stone and has a gabled roof.  The open area in the foreground is actually part of a basilica style fifth century church.  To the left of the church, notice the stairs that lead up the hill.

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Looking Down on to the Fifth Century Church
that is just to the west of Philip’s Tomb
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

View looking southeast at the central apse, chancel, and nave of the fifth century Byzantine Basilica.  The benches in the apse (synthronos) were used for clergy.

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Recently some of the columns of the church have been re-erected.

To view (download if you wish) 25 high-resolution images (no charge) Clicking Here will take you directly to the images.

Football/Soccer on the Temple Mount (Haram esh–Sharif)?

The folk over at HaAretez newspaper have published an article on how more Jews are more frequently visiting the most sacred site for Jews—the Temple Mount—the place where the First and Second Temples stood.

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Muslim School Children Playing Football/Soccer on the Haram esh–Sharif
Using the Mihrab (that directs worshipers towards Mecca during prayer) as a Goal
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

It mentions that in recent weeks the police “…the police prevented Palestinian children from playing soccer on the mount….”

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Muslim man praying facing towards Mecca on the Haram esh–Sharif
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

The Haram esh–Sharif is the third most sacred site for Muslims—after Mecca and Medina—and here, it is said, that Mohamed made his night journey to the “distant place.”

For more images of “Daily Life” on the Haram esh-Sharif (aka, Temple Mount) Click Here.

Inscribed Columns in Temples

In the first three chapters of the New Testament book of Revelation the author addresses seven churches in the Roman Province of Asia (=modern western Turkey).  In doing this he often makes allusions to cultural items that were especially meaningful to his first century hearers.

For example, in the name of Jesus he writes to the Church at Philadelphia:

I am coming soon … the one who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my GodI will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. Rev 3:11–13 (NIV)

Continue reading

Churns and Liquid Containers

Animal skins with the openings (orifices) sealed have been used for over 5,000 years for the drawing of water, transportation of liquids (water, wine, milk, etc.) and for the “churning” of milk products.

Modern/Ancient Churn Filled With Milk

Mary is on the “business end” of a live churn in the Arab village of Mukmas (biblical Michmash, ca. 1974), located 7.5 mi. [12 km.] north of Jerusalem.  This type of churn is an animal skin that has its orifices sealed and that has been filled with goat’s milk.  It is then rocked back and forth as it is suspended on the tripod.

Churn/Liquid Carrier

Here is a modern animal skin displayed at the open-air museum at Katzrin on the Golan Heights.

Pottery Churn from the Chalcolithic Period (fourth millennium B.C.) — Amman Citadel Museum

In ancient times even pottery vessels were modeled after these churns/liquid carriers.

Politarchs (Acts 17:6, 8): Luke gets it right—as usual!

Acts 17 describes the arrival of Paul and Silas in Thessalonica, on Paul’s Second Journey, and how that after preaching in the synagogue on three Sabbath days that

4 Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women.

Acts 17:5     But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd.  6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city officials [politarchs], shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here,  7 and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.”  8 When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials [politarchs] were thrown into turmoil.  9 Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go. (NIV)

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This inscription, dated to the second century A.D., lists six Politarchs (“Rulers of the Citizens”) among other officials. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

This term, “politarch,” is used (correctly!) by Luke in Acts 17:6, 8 of officials in Thessalonica.

These “ruler of the citizens” were the chief magistrates of the city and were appointed annually.  “They performed administrative and executive functions, as well as exercising judicial authority . . . of the more than sixty known inscriptions that mention politarchs, three–fourths of them are from the Macedonian area of Greece, with approximately half being from Thessalonica itself.”

The inscription is from an old Roman arch that was part of the old Vardar Gate that was torn down in 1876.  The inscription was given to the British Consulate and eventually presented to the British Museum.

Explanatory information from Fant, Clyde E., and Mitchell G. Reddish, “Politarch Inscription at Thessalonica,” pp. 366–70.   Lost Treasures of the Bible — Understanding the Bible Through Archaeological Artifacts in World Museums. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008.  They also have provided a translation of the inscription on page 367.

To view/download 12 high resolution photos of Thessalonica Click Here.

A Moving “Behind the Scenes” Story

Some of us here in the USA follow American football as an interesting diversion.  I am a “long-suffering” Minnesota Viking fan and am ever hopeful as my favorite team begins preparation for the season.

Clemson’s Mackensie Alexander, left, jumps after blocking a pass from Syracuse’s Dontae Strickland, right, in third quarter of an NCAA college football game in Syracuse, N.Y., Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Nick Lisi)

Clemson’s Mackensie Alexander, left, jumps after blocking a pass from Syracuse’s Dontae Strickland, right, in third quarter of an NCAA college football game in Syracuse, N.Y., Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Nick Lisi)

I found the above on the Daily Norseman web site and was very moved by the ESPN “behind–the–scenes” story of Mackensie Alexnader whom the Vikings selected in the second round part of the “draft” from Clemson University.

Usually all we see is the sterile analysis of what a person like this might do for the team—positive features and faults!  The stories that I read seem to portray Alexander as very “brash” and “in-your-face” confident, but to see the story behind this person opens up a whole new perspective on him and others who are hoping to make it into the “big time.”

The six-minute segment focuses on the life of the cornerback, who since the age of 10 has helped his family [from Haiti] to make a living by picking oranges in the family’s orange grove in Immokalee, Florida. The segment first aired on the 9 AM Central time edition of SportsCenter.

It’s not every day you get a look into the life of someone like this. I’m sure that this segment will give us a different perspective on our newest young cornerback.