Tag Archives: Gordon Franz

A Fortress on Patmos

Although many think that Patmos was a barren Alcatraz-like island where John was exiled, this is not true (see Franz below).

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View looking west into the modern harbor of Patmos. The “mountain/hill” in the background is the Citadel of Patmos that is called the Kastelli. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

On the central portion of Patmos, the “Kastelli” (acropolis) towers over the main harbor at an altitude of 1,550 ft. [472 m.].

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View looking south at the west gate on the summit of Kastelli (the acropolis) of Patmos. Note the well-preserved exterior staircase.

The woman in the image is actually standing in the entrance–way.  The original line of fortifications is from the Hellenistic Period (third century B.C.), although this gate may have been rebuilt in more recent times.

fortification-towerView looking southeast at six courses of stone of one of the towers on the north slope of the acropolis of Patmos that is called the “Kastelli” (acropolis).  These fortifications date to the Hellenistic Period—that is about the third century B.C.  Compare the style of the well–preserved Hellenistic fortifications found at Priene and Assos—both in Turkey.

To view additional images of the Acropolis/Kastelli on Patmos Click Here.

For a helpful article describing the Patmos that John was exiled to, see Gordon Franz, “The King and I (Part 2).” Bible and Spade 12 (2000): 115–23.  It is also available on Gordon Franz’s web site Life and Land but without graphics.

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Where did Paul and Silas Appear Before the Magistrates at Philippi?

Did Paul and Silas really appear before the “magistrates” at the bema in Philippi—as is commonly thought (see quote at end of post)?  Probably not—see the following.

But if not, where did Paul and Silas really appear before the magistrates at Philippi? Well, in spite of the common misconception, the text of Acts nowhere mentions a bema in connection with Philippi.

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View of the Council House (Bouleuterion, Curia) at the northwest corner of the forum at Philippi. Paul and Silas may have appeared before the Magistrates HERE!

The word for “magistrates” that is used in Acts 16:20, 22, 35, and 38 is the Greek word στρατηγὸς that means “captain, commander; chief magistrate.”   Because Philippi was a Roman Colony settled by veterans, the magistrates would have been high-ranking military men, or descendants of them.

The magistrates (στρατηγὸς) of Philippi would have tried legal cases either in the Bouleuterion (Latin Curia) or the nearby Basilica—not at the bema, which was the “raised speaker’s platform.” It would have been that in one of these structures the Magistrates sent Paul and Silas to prison but later needed to “apologize” to them—after Paul “pulled the Roman citizenship card” on them.

Both the Council House (see above) and the Basilica (see below) are located at the west end of the forum at Philippi.

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View of the apse of the Basilica on the west side of the forum of Philippi. Paul and Silas may have appeared before the Magistrates HERE! In the upper left portion of the image the expanse of the forum is visible.


The customary bema interpretation is illustrated by the quote below:

The bema at Philippi, [as] the probable location where the Apostles Paul and Silas were tried before the magistrates (Acts 16:19–24). Bema is the Greek word for a raised speaker’s platform where proclamations were read, speeches made (Acts 12:20–23) and citizens tried before officials (Mat 27:19; Jn 19:13; Acts 25:1–12; Acts 18:12–17) (Franz)

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View of the bema—the speaker’s platform—at Philippi. But Paul and Silas did NOT appear before the Magistrates here. Please see above.

In this connection usually reference is made to the well–known bema at Corinth where Paul appeared before the proconsul Gallio (Acts 18).

Franz, Gordon. “Gods, Gold and the Glory of Philippi.” Bible and Spade 17 (2004): 115–22.

Magdala Stone Interpreted

Bible History Daily has published an important article by Jennifer Ristine, the longtime coordinator of the Visitors Center and the Magdalena Institute at Magdala, on the interpretation of the famous “Magdala Stone”—”The Magdala Stone: The Jerusalem Temple Embodied.”

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The Magdala Stone in place near the center of the First Century Synagogue. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

In her article, Ristine cites the work of Dr. Rina Talgam of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Motti Aviam, Professor of Archaeology at Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee.

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A depiction of the Temple in Jerusalem? A seven-branched Menorah with the sacrificial altar below it (?),  flanked by two vessels—one for water, one for oil?

Click here for additional images of the Magdala Stone.  And for the interpretion of the symbols see especially Ristine’s accessible article!

Magdala is open daily to the public from 8:00 to 18:00. For more information, visit www.magdala.org.

Images in this post courtesy of Gordon Franz who maintains the web site Life and Land.

For my previous posts on Magdala see here, here, here and here.

Patmos — A Temple to Aphrodite?

Although many think that Patmos was a barren Alcatraz-like island where John was exiled, this is not true.

As Franz has stated (p. 115)

First-century Patmos, with its natural protective harbor . . . [was] a large administrative center, [with] outlying villages, a hippodrome (for horse racing), and at least three pagan temples made Patmos hardly an isolated and desolate place!

It has been suggested that one of the those temples, the one dedicated to Aphrodite, was located on the Kalikatous Rock that is located in the Grikos Bay.

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View looking east at the area of Grikos Bay. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

View looking east at the area of Grikos Bay—the boat is entering the bay.  On the right (south) side of the bay is the Kalikatous Rock (see below).  In the distance are the islands east of Patmos.  This bay has been officially included in the 2011 catalogue of “the most beautiful bays in the world” by the UNESCO Foundation.

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View looking south at the Kalikatsou Rock.

Historical sources indicate that a Temple of Aphrodite was located on the Island of Patmos and many believe that the Temple to Aphrodite was located here but no excavations have taken place.  Note the carvings on the rock.

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View looking south at carvings and stains in the Kalikatsou Rock that may have been part of the Temple of Aphrodite that was located here.

Note the rock-cut stairs and the carvings to the right of the stairs.

Thus it is very possible that the island where John was exiled (Revelation 1:9) was “populated” with not only a citadel and a temple dedicated to Aphrodite, but also with temples dedicated to Artemis (possibly where the Monastery of Saint John is located) and Apollo (possibly near the modern harbor).  For these suggestions and references please see Gordon Franz’s article cited below.


To view additional images of the Kalikatsou Roack and the Bay of Grikos on Patmos Click Here.

For a helpful article describing the Patmos that John was exiled to, see Gordon Franz, “The King and I (Part 2).” Bible and Spade 12 (2000): 115–23.  It is also available on Gordon Franz’s website Life and Land but without graphics.

First Century Synagogue at Magdala — Did Jesus Worship Here?

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Click on Panorama to view descriptive details.

In 2009, in preparation for the construction of a Franciscan Retreat Center on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, excavations took place before the construction began.  Much to the surprise of the excavators they came down upon a first century A.D. synagogue.

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The Interior of the First Century Synagogue at Magdala at the time of excavation
Note the benches around the side, the frescoed columns, and especially the unique stone box in the center of the image
Click to Enlarge — Photo: Gordon Franz

The synagogue measures 33 x 33 ft. and has benches on all four walls.  There is evidence that it was renovated between A.D. 40 and 50.  A coin from A.D. 29 was found among the debris and the synagogue was destroyed in A.D. 67 when Titus (the Roman General, later emperor) leveled the city.

If this dating, and interpretation are correct, it is very probable that Jesus, His disciples, Mary Magdalene, and others worshiped in this structure!!

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The “Stone Box” in-situ
Note the representation of a Seven Branch Menorah (on a tripod) that is flanked by two vases and clusters of columns
Click on Image to Enlarge — Photo: Gordon Franz

This solid “stone box” is totally unique.  Who ever carved the menorah probably saw the ones in the Temple in Jerusalem (prior to its destruction in A.D. 70).

For brief comments on Magdala see below
For 12 images of the Stone Box, Frescos,
and Mosaics of the Synagogue Click Here.
Many of these images are courtesy of Gordon Franz who publishes
articles on his website Life and Land

The site of al–Majdal (Arabic for “tower”) is located 4 mi. northwest of Tiberias, along the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.  This is evidently the site of New Testament Magdala (from migdol “tower”) that is the same as Taricheae (“the place of salted fish”) mentioned by Josephus where a bloody naval battle took place between the Jews and Romans during the first Jewish Revolt (ca. A.D. 66–70; War 3.10.1–10 [462–542]).

It was evidently the home of Mary Magdalene, one of the followers of Jesus who is mentioned 12 times in the NT.  It actually may also be the site of “Magadan: (Matt 15:39) and/or “Dalmanutha” (Mark 8:10).

The site was excavated in the 1970’s and more recent (ongoing) excavations have found the remains of an early Jewish Synagogue dated to the first century A.D. as well as ritual baths, streets, houses, and even the wharf.