Palm Branches in Jerusalem

January 31, 2017

When Jesus began the Final Week of His ministry, He rode on a donkey (fulfilling Zechariah 9:9) from the Mount of Olives to the city of Jerusalem. It was on a Sunday. The text reads, “Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road” (Matt. 21:8, NASB). John’s record tells us the large crowd “took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, “Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, even the King of Israel” (John 12:13, NASB). While in Jerusalem in November (2016) I made this photograph.

Palm tree in Jerusalem. Photo©Leon Mauldin.

Palm tree in Jerusalem. Photo©Leon Mauldin.

This is why that Sunday prior to Jesus’ crucifixion is today commonly known as “Palm Sunday.”

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Temples in Pompeii, Italy

January 27, 2017

The Roman city of Pompeii, as was generally the case in the world of the 1st century, was a city of many gods.

Pompeii–as you might expect, given its many gods–had many temples, though by no means one for every god or goddess who might intervene in the lives of its inhabitants. They came in all sizes, in varying degrees of prominence and with very different histories. Some stretched back to the earliest years of the city. The temple of Apollo next to  the Forum was established by the sixth century BCE at the latest. (The Fires of Vesuvius.281-282).

Temple of Apollo, Pompeii, Italy. Photo by Leon Mauldin. Mt. Vesuvius may been seen the the background.

Temple of Apollo, Pompeii, Italy. Photo by Leon Mauldin. Mt. Vesuvius may been seen the the background.

Most of the rest [of the temples] date to the second century BCE or later. The Small Temple of Fortuna Augusta was dedicated to an almost untranslatable combination of the goddess of Good Fortune or Success (Fortuna) and the power of the emperor (the adjective Augusta can confusingly, or conveniently, refer either to the first emperor Augustus himself, or to imperial power more generally–for subsequent emperors used “Augustus” as part of  their titles too)  (Ibid.)

Temple of Fortuna Augusta, Pompeii. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Temple of Fortuna Augusta, Pompeii. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Pompeii is a city “frozen” in time by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, AD 79. Though this is not a “biblical city” it preserves scenes from a Roman city in the AD 1st century, and thus has tremendous value to us. Thus it helps us to see the setting for the biblical world in the early New Testament era.

When contemplating the widespread idolatry of the biblical world, I often think of Paul’s statement to the Corinthians, many of whom had themselves formerly been idolaters:

we know that “an idol is nothing in the world,” and that “there is no God but one.” For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth– as there are many “gods” and many “lords”– yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we through Him. However, not everyone has this knowledge. (1 Cor. 6:4-7, HCSB).

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The Threshing Sledge

January 24, 2017

I am currently enjoying teaching 1 Chronicles in our Bible class in our local congregation. The record of David’s ill-advised census and its terrible consequences is found in 1 Chron. 21. An angel and a prophet were used by God to instruct David: “Now the angel of the LORD had commanded Gad to say to David that David should go up and raise an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite” (v.18, ESV). David purchased the threshing floor at the “full price” from Ornan, “And David built there an altar to the LORD and presented burnt offerings and peace offerings and called on the LORD, and the LORD answered him with fire from heaven upon the altar of burnt offering” (v.26, ESV).

Ornan had made this offer: “See, I give the oxen for burnt offerings and the threshing sledges for the wood and the wheat for a grain offering; I give it all,” but David insisted that he pay “the full price” (v.24); David would not offer to the Lord “that which costs me nothing.”

Note that reference is made to the “threshing sledges for the wood.” The threshing sledge was pulled across the grain to separate the kernel from the chaff. In Aphrodisias, Turkey, I had the opportunity to photograph several threshing sledges.  This helps us to visualize what David used for wood for the burnt offerings in our Chronicles text.

Threshing Sledge at Aphrodisias, Turkey. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Threshing Sledge at Aphrodisias, Turkey. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Though the text is challenging, it seems that its placement in Chronicles is to show the usage God made of the event. The property David purchased for offering for atonement for sin would become the site for Solomon’s building the temple! “Then David said, ‘Here shall be the house of the LORD God and here the altar of burnt offering for Israel'” (22:1).

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