Some Sources for Dealing with Ron Wyatt’s Claims

September 28, 2013

I recently received a question from a friend, which says in part:

It concerns the crossing of the Read Sea. There is an awful lot of talk about the “traditional” Red Sea crossing maps versus the so-called “archaeological findings” purportedly found at the Gulf of Aqaba.

. . . However, some of our brethren have begun using maps and pictures that show what is believed to be possibly the “real Mt. Sinai” with charred rock covering its cap, a “split rock” in the wilderness, chariot wheels, etc… (I’m not buying it.) All of these things I see look like the work of Ron Wyatt, but all sorts of people have these things on their internet sites.

. . . All of that said, I was wondering if you had any material or resources dealing with the subject head on. I do not plan on making this an issue… nor do I plan on bringing anyone else’s name into the mix. I would just like to be able to give a “ready defense” if I am ever called upon. I’d greatly value your input on the matter. Thank you.
Others more qualified that I have dealt with the claims of Mr. Wyatt. As a starting point I can recommend the following sources: Ferrell Jenkins has an article entitled, “Pharaoh’s Chariot Wheels and Other Things that Won’t Float — Examining the Claims of the Late Ron Wyatt ,” that you can access here, plus another article entitled, “Pseudo Archaeologists” here. These articles have numerous related links for further reading. Additionally I would recommend Gordan Franz’s site, Life and Land, here. Use the search box. He has several entries under “Cracked Pot Archaeology.” The use of caution in using Mr. Wyatt’s material/claims would be prudent.
While no one can be certain of the exact location of Israel’s crossing. the best evidence would be somewhere along the Suez.

From Sinai looking across Suez to Egypt. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

From Sinai looking across Suez to Egypt. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

I took the above photo in 2003, having crossed the Suez. We are standing on the Sinai side looking back across Egypt.

I personally conclude that the traditional Mt. Sinai (Jebel Musa) best fits the biblical criteria.

Click photo for larger view.

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You May Eat the Wild Goat

September 27, 2013

Under Mosaic legislation, Israel was given strict dietary guidelines. This was for a stated purpose: “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth” (Deut. 14:2, ESV). The dietary restrictions were but one means that YHWH used to mold His people into a holy nation and teach them that they were uniquely His.

Deut. 14:4 lists three domestic animals which could be eaten: “These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat,” (This follows v. 3 which states, “You shall not eat any abomination.”)

Then v. 5 lists seven kinds of wild animals: “the deer, the gazelle, the roebuck, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope, and the mountain sheep.” “Some of these animals cannot be identified with certainty.” [1] One thing that obviously makes the text challenging is that three of the seven words are hapax legomena (words that appear only once in a document). The word usually translated “wild goat” (ya’el) is a different word than the one used here (aqqo).

ya’el is found in Psalm 104:18 “The high mountains are for the wild goats. . .”

Another interesting text: “When Saul returned from following the Philistines, he was told, ‘Behold, David is in the wilderness of Engedi.’ Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel and went to seek David and his men in front of the Wildgoats’ Rocks” (1 Sam. 24:1-2, ESV). Note that the site of Engedi is the location of the Rocks of the Wild Goats. The word Engedi means “spring of a kid,” and is located on the western shore of the Dead Sea. The biblical “wild goat” is still frequently seen there today and is most often identified with the ibex.

Goat at Engedi. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Goat/Ibex at Engedi. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

See more on the wild goat in Ferrell Jenkin’s posts here and here.

Click on image for larger view.


 

[1] Christensen, D. L. (2001). Deuteronomy 1–21:9 (Vol. 6A, p. 291). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.


Sarcophagus at Caesarea Maritima

September 23, 2013

Among the remains near the theater at Caesarea Maritima is a sarcophagus, a burial box. The word sarcophagus means flesh eater. This is due to the fact that a common practice was to remove the bones from the sarcophagus once the flesh had decomposed, and place the bones in an ossuary, a depository for the bones. The sarcophagus would then be reused as needed by other deceased family members.

Sarcophagus at Caesarea Maritima. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Sarcophagus at Caesarea Maritima. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The information sign informs us:

Stone coffins were made out of two huge blocks – a cavity in which the corpse was placed and a double-slopped roof lid on which a Greek inscription was engraved: “the grave of Prokopios the Deacon.” The coffins were decorated with flora, hunting mythological scenes or with geometric shapes for more modest coffins.

Most sarcophagi [plural of sarcophagus] discovered in Caesarea belonged to the Roman-Byzantine cemetery which is still to be fully excavated.

Caesarea was the Roman capital of Judea during the ministry of Jesus.

Click image for larger view.

 

 


Physical Features of the Land of Israel

September 19, 2013

Fundamental to an understanding of the land of Israel is the feature of four longitudinal zones that define the land.

Features of the Land. Longitudinal Zones. Map by Scott Richardson.

Features of the Land. Four Longitudinal Zones. Map by Scott Richardson.

The land is naturally divided into four narrow zones running north and south.

1. Coastal Plain, from Philistia to Phoenicia. The coastal plain was the highway of commerce and conquest for centuries.

2. Central Hill Country. Rugged terrain, running from Judea though Samaria and into upper Galilee. The only major break in the mountain range is the Plain of Esdraelon also called the Valley of Jezreel. To the SW is the Shephelah,  a belt of gently rolling hills between 500 and 1,000 feet in height. Many of the OT events transpired here.

3. Jordan Valley. Follows the fault  that extends from Lebanon south to the earth’s surface, south to the dry Arabah Valley, the Gulf of Aqabah, and, eventually, the string of lakes on the African continent.

4. Transjordan Plateau. The zone east of the Jordan, where Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh settled.  The setting of Decapolis and Perea in NT times.

These factors helped determine where people lived, what crops could be grown where, and what land was good for cattle, etc. No place on earth has as much variety as the Bible land.


The Egyptian God Serapis

September 14, 2013

I continue to be amazed at how far-flung was the influence and reach of various gods in biblical times. For example, the god Serapis, the Egyptian god of healing, was widely worshiped, and far beyond the territory of Egypt. 

Egyptian god Serapis. Alexandria Museum, Alexandria, Egypt. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Egyptian god Serapis. Alexandria Museum, Alexandria, Egypt. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Serapis was worshiped at Pergamum in biblical Asia Minor, where the ruins of his impressive temple can be seen. See our post here.

In an entry, “Idols, Meats Offered to” in the New Bible Dictionary R. P. Martin gives this info under “The Background,” and note his specific reference to Serapis (the Serapeum mentioned is a temple devoted to the worship of Serapis):

Evidence for the practice of a meal in the temple is found in the following well-known Oxyrhynchus papyrus which Lietzmann regards as ‘a striking parallel’ to the reference in 1 Cor. 10:27: ‘Chaeremon invites you to dinner at the table of the lord Serapis (the name of the deity) in the Serapeum tomorrow the 15th at the 9th hour’ (= 3 p.m.) (quoted and discussed in Chan-Hie Kim’s essay, ‘The Papyrus Invitation’, JBL 94, 1975, pp. 391–402). An invitation to a meal of this character, whether in the temple or in a private house, would be commonplace in the social life of the city of Corinth, and would pose a thorny question for the believer who was so invited. Other aspects of life in such a cosmopolitan centre would be affected by the Christian’s attitude to idol-meats. Attendance at the public festivals, which opened with pagan adoration and sacrifice, would have to be considered. Membership of a trade guild, and therefore one’s commercial standing, and public-spiritedness were also involved, as such membership would entail sitting ‘at table in an idol’s temple’ (1 Cor. 8:10). Even daily shopping in the market would present a problem to the thoughtful Christian in Corinth. As much of the meat would be passed on from the temple-officials to the meat-dealers and by them exposed for sale, the question arose: was the Christian housewife at liberty to purchase this meat which, coming from sacrificial animals which had to be free from blemish, might well be the best meat in the market? Moreover, there were gratuitous banquets in the temple precincts which were a real boon to the poor. If 1 Cor. 1:26 means that some of the Corinthian church members belonged to the poorer classes, the question of whether they were free or not to avail themselves of such meals would have been a practical issue.

This information can help clarify some of the concerns expressed in the letter of 1 Corinthians.

Consider also the situation at Thessalonica, where evidence of Serapis worship (as well as other gods) has been discovered. This would illuminate 1 Thess. 1:9 which states, “For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.”

The 1939 discovery of a Serapeum offers an indication of the religious life in Thessalonica (Donfried, Paul, Thessalonica and Early Christianity, 22–23). Typically, a Serapeum functions as a temple dedicated to the worship of Serapis. The discovery of Egyptian idols, including Serapis, at the site has led to its generic designation as a Serapeum. Nearly seventy inscriptions related to the worship of Egyptian gods have been discovered in the city (Witt, “The Egyptian Cults,” 324–33)—35 of which come from the Serapeum. Other finds at the location include fragmentary statues of Serapis and Isis and Roman statues of Aphrodite, Isis, and Harpocrates (Hendrix, “Thessalonica,” 523; Vickers, “Hellenistic Thessaloniki,” 164–65).
The relatively diminutive size of the Serapeum (11 meters x 8 meters), coupled with the large number of artifacts related to Egyptian deities, indicates that this building could not have been the primary temple for Serapis in Thessalonica. Two inscriptions from the site to Serapis and Osiris indicate it probably functioned as a healing shrine (Koester, “Egyptian Religion,” 134–38). The early church’s emphasis on divine healing (and exclusivity) would have conflicted with the Serapis religious groups and numerous other such groups in the city. .

The mixture of deities at the Serapeum and throughout the city illustrates the syncretic tendencies of Hellenistic Thessalonica. These tendencies did not wane with the shift to Roman rulership, and accentuate the severity of Paul’s encouragement that the Thessalonian Christians “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thess. 1:9) (The Lexham Bible Dictionary).

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