Paul in the Cities — Where Did They Eat?

The Apostle Paul resided in many cities of the Roman Empire including Tarsus, Antioch, Ephesus, Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth, and Rome.  As I lead tours to these ancient cities, we often wonder what life was like in them in the first century A.D.  One of the interesting “institutions” are the thermopolia—”fast food establishments” that were found in every large city.  For example, eighty–three thermopolia have been discovered at Pompeii, and more have been discovered at nearby Herculaneum and at Ostia—the port of Rome.  (be sure and see the final two paragraphs of this blog)

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View of a Fast Food establishment (thermopolium, popina, taberna) at Pompeii. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

This is the Thermopolium of Vetutius Placidus (aka T. of Asellina) that is located on the lower floor of his house in Pompeii (Italy).  It is situated on the main street of Pompeii, the via dell’ Abbondanza.  Food and drink were sold and consumed here.  Note the large storage jars that are built into the masonry and marble counters.

On the back wall is a well–preserved lararium—a shrine dedicated to the household gods.   Among others Mercury, the god of trade, and Dionysus, the god of wine are depicted (maybe assisted sales?!).  A hoard of 6.6 lbs. of worthless coins were found in one of the jars.  It was evidently left behind when the owner fled Pompeii as ash rained down from the eruption of the volcano Vesuvius (picture below).  In the back of the shop, not visible, was a slightly more private eating area.  A staircase led to guest rooms on the second floor—a brothel?  These thermopolia were situated street side on the ground floor of apartment buildings and even elite houses.

The thermopolia were visited primarily by the lower classes as the upper classes would dine in the luxurious surroundings of their own homes.  The houses of lower classes of people rarely had kitchens, thus they would eat at an establishment such as this, or they would “carry out” the food to take back home.

Since many (most?) of the early Christians were from the lower classes, they probably frequented places like the local thermopolium.  And, it is very probable that Paul and other leaders of the Early Church did so as well in the cities that they resided in!  Is it not possible that in establishments like this that the Early Christians shared their belief in “Jesus is Lord”—rather than “Caesar is Lord?”

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A Thermopolium from nearby Herculaneum—also destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius.

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Mount Vesuvius that erupted in August of A.D. 79 covering Pompeii with ash and Herculaneum with a pyroclastic flow.

For use or publication of any of these images please see this link.

Tombs in the Kidron — The Arrival of the Greeks!

When Christian tour groups are in Jerusalem usually they will visit the Mount of Olives and some of the churches on it.  However, they often will not have an opportunity to visit or reflect upon the monumental tombs from the Second Temple Period that are located in the Kidron Valley—on the lower, eastern slope of the Mount of Olives.

The Mount of Olives and the Kidron Valley with Monumental Second Temple Tombs

Often a guide will refer to these tombs from a moving bus as being in existence in Jesus’ day and some reference will be made to Matthew 23:27–32—Jesus’ condemnation of the hypocrisy (whitewashed tombs) of some of the leadership of his day.

However, it seems to me that these monuments deserve more than just a glance from a moving tour bus.  If one stops in the vicinity (see below) it is really a great place to share with your group how Greek influence in the land was introduced by Alexander the Great (332 B.C.) and increased during the days of the Seleucids

So-called “Pillar of Absalom” with Syrian Style “Hat”

Upper Portion of the “Pillar of Absalom”

(Seleucids: Greeks ruling from Syria; note the “Syrian style hat” on the “Pillar of Absalom”) and Ptolemies

Tomb of Zechariah” with Pyramid Shaped top and Ionic Capitals

(Ptolemies: Greeks ruling from Egypt; note the pyramid shaped top of the “Tomb of Zechariah”).  Greek culture in general had certainly affected the lifestyle of the Jewish Jerusalem elites that probably had built these tombs — note the Ionic columns on “Absalom’s Pillar” and the “Tomb of Zechariah” and the Doric columns on the “Tomb of the sons of Hezir“).

By the days of Jesus the arrival of Greco–Roman culture  had rewritten, and was continuing in the process of rewriting, the cultural landscape of the peoples of the land.  All of this may seem to be a bit “technical” for a typical tour group but what better place to visually introduce your group to the fact and importance of  the arrival of Greco–Roman culture than here?

This rewriting of the cultural/religious landscape certainly had a very significant impact on the outlook of the people living in the land—including the Maccabees/Hasmoneans, Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Zealots, Herodians, etc.  How did these various groups deal with these powerful external influences?  Adopt the new culture?  Reject it?  Fight against it?  I believe that these are powerful questions that should be taken into account not only when discussing Second Temple Judaism, but also when expounding upon the ministry and message of Jesus.

#2 = a wonderful seating area to view the tombs, Kidron Valley, and Mount of Olives
#1 = a view down on Eilat Mazar’s Excavations (Travel Tip #8)

One great place to view and discuss the monuments and their significance is from viewing point #2 above (as a bonus the southeastern corner of the Temple Mount towers over you, and the famous “seam” in the eastern wall is clearly visible).  Another way is to actually visit the monuments.  A walk from the Pool of Siloam north in the Kidron Valley will take you to these tombs.  This walk provides an interesting opportunity to get a good “feel” for the Kidron, the location of the Gihon Spring, the City of David, and the Arab neighborhood of Silwan (check to see if local conditions are “calm” before taking this walk, and I do not suggest walking alone).

Click Here to view 12 high resolution images of these monuments in the Kidron Valley.

The Road to Emmaus — A Farewell

David N. Bivin, founder and editor–in–chief of the Jerusalem Perspective has produced a wonderful article A Farewell to the Emmaus Road.

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Curbing on the Roman Road to Emmaus — Luke 24 — in the valley on a hill to the east of Motza that Bivin discuses in his article.

Bivin writes:

The Emmaus Road narrative is the climax of Luke’s Gospel. In it, two of Jesus’ disciples encounter their resurrected Lord as they follow the road leading west from Jerusalem. Not only do the hearts of the disciples burn as they speak with their risen Master, the hearts of the readers burn as well, since, unlike the disciples, we know that it is Jesus himself who is accompanying them as the disciples relate the sad tale of how all their hopes for the redemption of Israel were dashed when Jesus was crucified outside the walls of the holy city. Readers feel almost as if they were present with the disciples on the road as Jesus walked and spoke with them.

In his article he evaluates the arguments for the two most prominent candidates for biblical Emmaus.  He rightly (IMHO) rejects the identification of biblical Emmaus with Emmaus/Nicopols and correctly argues for its identification with Qaloniyah (modern Mozah).

The materials from all the relevant sources are conveniently cited in the article along with a helpful map from Carta Publishers and a labeled aerial photograph 1917.  In addition, detailed footnotes are included.

Bivin states that:

I conducted an experiment to put this hypothesis to the test. On October 2nd of the year 1987, I walked with my son Natan from the Western Wall of the Temple Mount (the Kotel) to the springs at Motza following the route of the Roman road (on which, see below) as closely as possible in order to measure how long such a journey would take. It was the eve of Yom Kippur, so no vehicles were moving on the streets to slow us down, and we set out from the Western Wall at 6:10 p.m. under a full moon, walking at a leisurely pace. Together we covered the distance from the Western Wall to the Motza springs in one hour and twenty minutes.[18] My experiment proves that Jesus’ disciples could easily have made the trip down from Jerusalem to Motza-Emmaus and back again within the time frame Luke describes.

According to Luke, the two disciples who were heading to Emmaus set out from Jerusalem sometime after morning, for they knew of the women’s report of the empty tomb (Luke 24:22-24), but it could have been as late as mid-afternoon. The disciples did not head back to Jerusalem until after they had sat down for their evening meal in Emmaus (Luke 24:29, 33).

This is the most complete set of video clips and photos that I know of that document the road.

There are five short video clips:

  1. Josephus on Emmaus — 3:00
  2. Mishnaic Evidence on Emmaus — 3:00
  3. Emmaus Road erosion — 0:50
  4. Emmaus Road erosion 2 — 0:30
  5. Emmaus Road: Hope for the Future — 1:26

There are a series of photos of the road from different years that document its condition.

  1. 1992 — 14 photos
  2. 1997 — 7 photos
  3. 1999 — 11 photos
  4. 2003 — 20 photos
  5. 2007 — 16 photos
  6. 2016 — 19 photos

IMHO A Farewell to the Emmaus Road is well–worth the 15–20 minutes it takes to process.

Ancient Quarry at Alexandria Troas

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Ancient Columns in a Quarry about 10 Miles from Alexandria Troas
These ancient columns are about 30-40 feet long and 4-5 feet in diameter
Note the two students in the upper left of the photo
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

On our trips to Turkey we like to visit an ancient quarry that is located about 10 mi. east southeast of Alexandria Troas (scroll down for some brief comments on AT).  In this quarry there were at least 12 huge, mainly completed, columns.  Some of them were about 30-40 feet in length and about 4-5 feet thick.  It was amazing to contemplate how they were quarried and rounded as they were being prepared for shipment.

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Perspective: note the two students on two of the columns

AlexandriaTroasMap3In the New Testament it is mentioned five times as Troas. It was here, on Paul’s second missionary journey, that in a vision he received a call to proceed to Europe (Acts 16:8–11).

As Paul was traveling from Corinth to Jerusalem at the end of his third journey he stopped in Troas for seven days (Acts 20:6–12). Acts records that during Paul’s teaching, in an upper room on the third floor of a building, that Eutychus (“Good Luck”) fell to his death – but was revived by Paul! From Troas Paul walked (31.2 mi. [50 km.]) to Assos where he met up with his traveling companions who had traveled by ship.

Later, when Paul was in prison in Rome, he requested Timothy to bring the cloak, books, and parchments which he had left with Carpus in Troas — among the last recorded requests of Paul (2 Timothy 4:13).

Alexandria Troas is huge — about 1,000(!) acres [405 ha.] in size. It is largely unexcavated although in recent years some work has begun at the site; and more is planned for the near future.

The Lighthouse at Patara

At the end of Paul’s third journey, as he was heading for Jerusalem, he and Luke changed ships at Patara—a port located on the Mediterranean coast of present day Turkey (see map below).

… we put out to sea [from Miletus] and sailed straight to Cos. The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara.  We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail.  After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria. We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo.  (Acts 21:1-3; NIV)

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View looking southwest at the square foundation and the cylindrical Lighthouse built upon it at Patara
Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

A mysterious structure is located on the northern edge of the beach and on the western edge of the now silted harbor of Patara.  It is claimed that this is the ‘oldest preserved’ lighthouse in the world!

According to Dr. Mark Wilson (personal communication updating his book) writes that “the inscription should be dated to Nero’s eleventh tribunician power, thus between October 64 and October 65.”  And . . . “a second lighthouse (antipharos) still lies buried in the sand on the opposite side beneath Kurshunlutepe.”

The Greek inscription names “Marcus Sextius Priscus . . .  who served as governor until the reign of Vespasian in 71-72.”

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Entrance to the Circular Tower of the Lighthouse
Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

View looking east at the doorway that is on the west side of the cylindrical tower.  Behind the student the solid interior cylinder is visible behind the modern supporting column.  There actually is an outer “cylinder” (the student is standing in it) that is constructed around a round central column and stairs are wedged in between the two parts.  The round central column is visible behind and to the right of the woman in the picture.  She is about 5 ft. 7 in. [1.5 m.] tall.

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Internal Staircase (woman is standing on it), the Outer Cylindrical Wall (just right of center) and the inner solid column with the staircase wedged in between them
Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

A view of the interior staircase of the cylindrical tower.  In the center of the image the cylindrical exterior wall is visible and on the left side of the image the massive solid interior column.  Note how the staircase is bonded to both the exterior wall and the interior column. The woman in the image is about 5 ft. 2 in. [1.3 m.] tall.

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Note the location of Patara along with Cos and Rhodes
All mentioned in Acts 21:1-13

To view 14 images and commentary on the Lighthouse at Patara Click Here.
(Free of charge, without obligation and/or registration)

Dr. Mark Wilson’s comments on Patara and the lighthouse can be found in:  Mark Wilson, Biblical Turkey — A Guide to the Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor.  Istanbul: Yayinlari, 2010, pp. 90–99.

Ancient Picture of the Trojan Horse!

In light of the 2005 movie Troy many people are interested in the events surrounding the Trojan War—especially the “Trojan Horse” that was used by the Greeks to gain access to Troy and eventually to capture and destroy the city—ca. 1200 B.C.

As surprising as it may seem, we actually have a graphic representation of the Trojan Horse from around 670 B.C.!

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The “neck” of a burial jar on which there is a clear depiction of what the potter/artist thought the Trojan Horse looked like—670 B.C.
Click on Image to see Details—And the Commentary Below

This representation is from a huge burial jar (pithos) that was found on Mykonos in 1961.  It dates to around 670 B.C. and is about 5 ft. [1.5 m.] tall!  In this close up of the Trojan Horse on the pithos  note the detail of  the head, ears, eye, nose, mane, body, tail, and four legs of the horse are clearly visible.  In the seven windows are the heads of Greek soldiers hiding in the horse and there are weapons in the arms of several of them.  Note also the four wheels by the four hoofs of the horse.  In addition there are four standing warriors with spears and shields (I assume from Troy).

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One of the panels of a battle scene from the Trojan War
Warrior on the left, woman on the right, and a child being killed by a large sword!
Click on Image to Enlarge

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The 5 ft. tall burial jar on which there are representations of the battle for Troy
Including a depiction of the Trojan Horse used by the Greeks
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

To view more images of Mykonos Click Here.

Excavations at Church of Nativity in Bethlehem

Although I have visited the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem many times I came across an interesting article on the excavation and preservation of the Armenian “Hall of Saint Jerome”—something I had not seen before.

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Excavation of the “Hall of Saint Jerome” that is part of the Armenian complex of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.  Photo from article linked below.

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Excavation of the “Hall of Saint Jerome” that is part of the Armenian complex of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Photo from article linked below.

For details please see the article “CHURCH OF THE NATIVITY | WISCONSIN CONNECTION: UW-Madison professor helps preserve historic church in Bethlehem” that describes Professor Dante Fratta of the UW-Madison’s work in the church (a 3 min read with photos).