Pigeons Pooping in/on the Second Temple?

Recently there has been some interesting discussion on how much of the temple was covered by gold plating—see for example Leen Ritmeyer Here (plus reference to The Biblical Archaeological Review)

golden-vine

The “Golden Vine” as presented in Avi–Yonah’s model of the temple (= a “minimalist” view as to the amount of gold used). Note on the top of the temple the “golden spikes” to prevent birds from alighting and “pooping” in the Temple precincts. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

Ritmeyer discusses the various views regarding the ‘gold plating’ of the temple and the magnitude of the vine, he is more of a “maximalist” than Avi–Yonah.  He also cites the following from Josephus:

From its summit protruded sharp golden spikes to prevent birds from settling upon them and polluting the roof. (War 5.207–226 and also Ant. 15.391-395)

Please see image above.

In March of 2014, when visiting Capernaum, I noticed that the Franciscans had tried the same technique to ward off the pigeons.

PigeonCapernaum01

Note the two pigeons contentedly nesting among the spikes(!) above the light on the left! Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

It looked to me like the Franciscans were trying the old “Second Temple technique” to deter the two nesting pigeons—unsuccessfully!  Hmmmm . . . .

Not very Christmasy, but I couldn’t resist ;-)!

3 Christmases in Bethlehem

On December 25 Protestants and Roman Catholics will celebrate Christmas.  The festivities in Manger Square in Bethlehem will be broadcast worldwide—and some Protestants and Roman Catholics will be celebrating in “Shepherds’ Field” east of Bethlehem (now filled with homes and shops of the village Beit Sahur).

ShepherdsFieldGrotto01

Grotto/Cave at the Roman Catholic Site of Shepherds’ Field
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

On January 7, the Greek, Coptic, and Syrian Orthodox Churches will celebrate Christmas.

ICHJBT51

The Grotto of the Nativity
Said to be the very spot where Jesus was born
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

ICHJBT68

A Greek Orthodox Priest Celebrating the Eucharist
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

On January 6 the Armenian Orthodox Church will celebrate Christmas.

ICHJBT60

An Armenian Service in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem
Armenians Celebrate Christmas on 19 January
Click On Image to Enlarge/Download

For additional images of Bethlehem Click Here.

Our friends a “Israel’s History – a Picture a Day” have posted 6 photographic images of Bethlehem at Christmas around 1900 under Turkish Rule: grotto, processions, etc.  Very interesting!

–   –    –    Personal Story Follows    –    –   –

ICHJBT09

Grotto of the Manger — Only 15 feet from the “star”
Said to be the place where the “manger” was
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

In the early 1970’s, when we were living in Israel, Mary and I and John (our two-year old barely–able–to–walk son) were visiting the grotto of the Nativity, Mary and I were looking at a variety of things.  When we turned around, looking for our son John, there he was, blowing out the candles that the faithful had placed by this site—sorry about that!

Away in a Manger (feeding trough!)

Megiddo Manger

Feeding trough found at Megiddo on the southern edge of the Jezreel Valley

The gospel of Luke contains specific details regarding Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem of Judea.  One of the things mentioned in this narrative is that he was placed in a “manger” (Luke 2:7, 12, and 16).

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, … and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.  And there were shepherds … find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger … found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

The Greek word φαντη that is used here typically refers to a stone type trough that was used for feeding of animals—sometimes in the stalls within a dwelling.

This word is used once more in the Gospels (Luke 13:15) where it refers to a “stall” (NIV), actually a feeding trough, for a donkey—and it is clear from the context that this was within a house (Luke 13:10–17).

Megiddo Trough at Rockefeller Musem

Reconstructed Feeding Trough and Pillars from OT Megiddo

The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall (φαντη; “manger“) and lead it out to give it water?

It appears that after the birth of Jesus, that he was actually placed in a feeding trough somewhat similar to the ones presented here if not ones that were carved into the stone floor of the “stable”—a far cry from the rickety wooden “mangers” of Christmas pageants.

For details on this topic see Kenneth E. Bailey Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes — Cultural Studies in the Gospels. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2008, pp. 28–32 as well at the various Greek lexicons.

As Christmas approaches, I thought I would repost a few “blogs” that are related to the celebration.

Christmas Gifts

As Christmas approaches I thought I would repost a few relevant blogs.  Most will have to do with content, but here are some gift ideas.

I am grateful that recently some other bloggers (here and here) have recommended my two atlases so I thought I would use today’s blog to mention them and some other books as well.

ZEBA01Last year Zondervan released my Zondervan Essential Bible Atlas.  this is a distillation of my more complete Zondervan Atlas of the Bible and includes all of the important maps, commentary, pictures, and timelines.  It was designed for easy reference, personal Bible study, and is light weight enough to carry on a trip to the Holy Lands (recent amazon price – $15.53 paper).

My more complete Zondervan Atlas of the Bible (2010; Hardcover $27.28; Kindle $24.99), besides being available in print, is also available as an “app” for iPad, iPhones, Androids, Macs, Windows Desktops, and Windows Store.

MarkWisonBookFor those traveling to Turkey, Mark Wilson’s Biblical Turkey — A Guide to the Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor is the best resource available (amazon $20.94 [a big price drop]).

Reed SmallAnd for the whole New Testament, I continue to recommend Jonathan Reed’s The HarperCollins Visual Guide to the New Testament. (a STEAL at $2.08+shipping!!).

Never Stop Learning ;-)!

I thought I would use this blog post to share a few web sites that I have found very interesting and that I learn new things from—actually, I check these sites each day (among others).

  1. I have just enrolled in Yeshiva University’s FREE online course entitled Arch of Titus: Rome and the Menorah.  This is taught by Dr. Steven Fine who is a leading scholar on many topics from the Second Temple Period and Late Roman Judaism.  I have viewed the first session of this course and have found it very interesting and informative.  You can “audit” the course for free, or pay a modest fee to receive a certificate.  The first lesson has me waiting for the second one!  Click Here to check out.

    jerusalem-booty-1

    Booty from the Temple in Jerusalem depicted on the Arch of Titus in Rome. Including the menorah, table for show bread, and Torah scroll(?). Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

  2. The American Schools of Oriental Research has initiated a series of online lectures that feature leading scholars on a variety of topics.  This looks very promising.  (Registration is necessary, but does not look overwhelming) It looks like they will try to post one lecture a week.
  3. The Lanier Theological Library has presented online, for free, about 23 lectures by leading scholars on a variety of important topics for Biblical Studies (about one hour in length).  Click here, (scroll down for available lectures; no registration necessary) sit back, and enjoy/learn!
  4. Finally, I am mildly interested in the Ottoman Period (think Suleiman the Magnificent, the builder of the wall of the Old City of Jerusalem), and Ottoman Empire Pics is publishing many photographs AND paintings and maps from 1517 to the present!!  Including images of Palestine, Syria, etc.  Many of these I have found some of them very interesting/informative.

Bulla of King Hezekiah Found in Jerusalem

Today it was announced that a bulla was discovered in Dr. Eilat Mazar’s excavation on the Ophel that mentions Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz, King of Judah!

Seal impression of King Hezekiah unearthed in the Ophel excavations

Seal impression of King Hezekiah unearthed in the Ophel excavations. Photo: © Eilat Mazar, with Ouria Tadmor

Yes, the same Hezekiah as mentioned in the Bible.  The announcement can be found here and I will not repeat all that you can read in the press but I would like to alert you to two items:

The First is a 10 minute video describing King Hezekiah, the discovery, and a great explanation of the bulla.

At 5 minutes into the video there is a great graphic sequence explaining what is on this precious object—please don’t miss this part.

Second, if you are interested in images of the area where this bulla was found, please see my previous post that I have appended below.

Because of the extensive archaeological excavations in Jerusalem over the last one hundred and fifty years most tour groups to Israel will be introduced to, and ooh and ahh at, archaeological remains from the Second Temple Period—particularly from from the time of Herod the Great (37–4BC).

Some, but not all groups, will visit remains from the First Temple Period at the City of David’s Visitor center—including the water system from that and earlier periods.

Remains of a large “Royal Structure” with Storage Jars that was located right next to the Judean Gate.

However, this past year a new area has been opened up that also displays remains from the First Temple Period (ca. 1000 to 586 B.C.)—including the remains of a Judean Gate, a “Royal Structure,” and reproductions of the large storage jars that were found there.

Royal Structure Plus Artifacts

Royal Structure plus Judean Gate

Royal Structure plus Judean Gate

This area was well excavated by, most recently, Eilat Mazar and its reconstruction and signage are outstanding—including a helpful drawing by Balage Balogh.

The Judean Gate Complex
Click Here to view a larger version of the drawing without my markings.

The excavation is located in the southeastern corner of Jerusalem Archaeological Park that is south of the Temple Mount.  The path to it is now open.

#1 Marks the Location of the Remains of the Gate and Royal Structure

The excavation is also visible from the sidewalk along the road.  The remains are clearly visible from that vantage point and photographs from there are good.  But due to the traffic and limited space it is difficult to discuss the significance of the area with a large group.

For more images of this area Click Here.

The REAL Saint Nicholas! December 6

On December 6 the feast of Saint Nicholas is celebrated and so I thought I would bring back this oldie but goodie.

On the outskirts of the Turkish town of Demre is a church that is associated with Saint Nicholas—Father Christmas, a.k.a. in northern Europe as Santa Claus!

Saint Nicholas StatueSt. Nicholas was born in nearby Patara about A.D. 300 and served as the bishop of Myra later in his life.  A number of miracles are attributed to this revered bishop, including his providing a dowry to the three daughters of a local baker.  Thus he is associated with “gift giving!”  He was also the patron saint of sailors and was prayed to for protection at sea—note that Myra is very near the Mediterranean Sea.  He died about A.D. 345.

It is said that he was buried in this church, but that his relics (bones) were taken to Bari, Italy, about A.D. 1088, although other claims are made that the Venetians took them.

TWTQMYCH05

View looking down at the altar area from the top of the synthronon
Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

Every 6 December, the feast day of St. Nicholas, Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant Christians celebrate the Divine Liturgy here.

To view (or download) additional images of the Church of Saint Nicholas Click Here.