“They Let Go the Anchors”

August 1, 2018

Acts 27 is tells the exciting (and scary)  narrative of Paul’s (along with 276 passengers on the ship, v.37) voyage in the storm, shipwrecking at Malta in the Mediterranean en route to Rome. As they approached land, Luke writes, “Fearing that we might run aground somewhere on the rocks, they cast four anchors from the stern and wished for daybreak” (v.29). Then when it was day and they could see land, “And casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea while at the same time they were loosening the ropes of the rudders; and hoisting the foresail to the wind, they were heading for the beach” (v.40). There was no loss of life, and the group wintered at what turned out to be Malta (28:1ff.).

At En Gev on the Sea of Galilee I photographed some anchors which can serve as good illustrations of the Acts 27 text.

Anchors displayed at Ein Gev, Israel. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

House of the Anchors. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Such artifacts are useful in helping to visualize the text and may be used in PPT or printed as handouts.

Anchor at Ein Gev, Israel. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

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Cities of the Decapolis

July 18, 2018

I’m currently presenting a visualized survey of the Bible, with tonight’s lesson dealing with the Life of Christ. Following Jesus’ Galilean Ministry, He pursued a plan to invest more time alone with the Apostles, preparing them for the great work they were to do. This period is known as the Retirement Ministry, “retiring” from the crowds to be with the apostles. One region Jesus traveled during this time was the Decapolis. “Again He went out from the region of Tyre, and came through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, within the region of Decapolis” (Mark 7:31). This largely Gentile area was comprised of ten cities (hence the name) which were given autonomy by Rome.

One of the cities of the Decapolis was Jerash (Gerasa).

Hadrian Gate at entrance to Jerash, one of the cities of the Decapolis. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Here is a view down the Cardo of Jerash.

Cardo at Jerash. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Another city of the Decapolis was Hippos. From here you can see the Sea of Galilee.

Hippos of the Decapolis. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

We’ve previously written here on Hippos.

Back to our text of Mark 7:31. Here was the site of one of Jesus’ many miracles, which gave proof of His deity:

Again He went out from the region of Tyre, and came through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, within the region of Decapolis. 32 They brought to Him one who was deaf and spoke with difficulty, and they implored Him to lay His hand on him. 33 Jesus took him aside from the crowd, by himself, and put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting, He touched his tongue with the saliva; 34 and looking up to heaven with a deep sigh, He said to him, “Ephphatha!” that is, “Be opened!” 35 And his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was removed, and he began speaking plainly. 36 And He gave them orders not to tell anyone; but the more He ordered them, the more widely they continued to proclaim it. 37 They were utterly astonished, saying, “He has done all things well; He makes even the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.” (Mark 7:31-37).

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“Who Sent out the Wild Donkey Free?”

April 7, 2018

In the concluding chapters of the book of Job, God asks a series of rhetorical questions to help Job see the incomprehensible greatness of God. Many of these questions have to do with God’s creative power.

5 “Who sent out the wild donkey free? And who loosed the bonds of the swift donkey, 6 To whom I gave the wilderness for a home And the salt land for his dwelling place? 7 “He scorns the tumult of the city, The shoutings of the driver he does not hear. 8 “He explores the mountains for his pasture And searches after every green thing. (Job 39:5-8, NASB).

Note the translation of the NKJV: “Who set the wild donkey free? Who loosed the bonds of the onager” (Job 39:5).

The onager, the wild donkey referenced in Job 39:5. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

I had the opportunity this past week in Israel to visit the Yotvata Hai-Bar Nature Reserve, situated in the Southern Arabah, and photograph animals that are native to the Bible lands. This photo helps us visualize the animal (the onager) God was mentioning to Job in our above text.

The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible has the following info in its entry on “animals”:

The onager or Syrian wild ass (Equus hemionus hemihippus) is an intermediate between the true horse and the true ass. Its ears are longer than those of a horse but shorter than those of an ass. The front hooves are narrow; there are chestnuts (callouslike spots on the inside of the knees) on the front legs only, and the tail is short-haired for a long distance from its root so that it appears to be tufted.

The Sumerians (ancient Mesopotamians) were able to domesticate the onager, which was eventually replaced by the horse. It was used to draw chariots in Ur; a number of onagers were buried with their vehicles in a royal grave that dates from about 2500 BC. Later the wild onager was a favorite hunter’s prize for Babylonian and Assyrian kings.

The onager was very common in the steppe lands near Israel where it was described as a freedom-loving desert animal (Jb 24:5; 39:5–8; Ps 104:11; Is 32:14; Jer 2:24; Hos 8:9). Ishmael was described as “a wild ass of a man” (Gn 16:12), one who could not adjust to domestic life. Nebuchadnezzar lived among the wild asses when he was mentally ill (Dn 5:21). Drought seems to have been responsible for the population decline of the onager in biblical times (Jer 14:6). The modern onager (Equus hemionus onager) is slightly larger than the Syrian wild ass which is extinct. (Vol. 1, p. 94).

As Job learned more of the greatness of the awesome God he faithfully served, his faith and trust grew in the most difficult of circumstances.

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A Diadem, British Museum

January 10, 2018

References to the diadem in the book of Revelation include 12:3, 13:1, and 19:2.

Gold Diadem. Made in southern Italy, 250-200 BC. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

“The diadem is the sign of royal status. Rev 12:3: the dragon had “seven diadems” on his seven heads; 13:1: the beast had “ten diadems” on his ten horns; 19:12: the rider of the white horse had “many diadems” on his head.” (Exegetical dictionary of the New Testament (Vol. 1, p. 298).

This is one of the literally thousands of interesting artifacts in the British Museum, so many of which can be used in the context of biblical teaching/illustrations, etc.

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Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III & Jehu, Israel’s King

January 9, 2018

Among the many artifacts we photographed today was the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III (r. 858-824 BC). This Assyrian king forced Jehu, King of Israel (r. 841-814 BC) to pay tribute. This is one of those many exciting finds where the Bible and other historical records intersect! The Black Obelisk includes a pictograph/cuneiform record of this very important historical event. The  reads:

The inscription reads: I received the tribute of Jehu of the House of Omri silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden goblet, golden cups, golden buckets, tin, a staff of the king’s hand, (and) javelins (7).”  All 14 of the Israelites pictured are bearded, with long hair and pointed caps. Each wears a belted tunic with fringe at the bottom.  In addition, each of the 13 porters wears a mantle or cloak over the tunic, which extends over the shoulders and is fringed or tasseled down the front on both sides.  Jehu is not wearing the outer garment, possibly as a sign of humiliation before Shalmaneser.  (NIV Arch. Bible).

This is detailed on one of the four sides, second panel down:

Shalmaneser’s Black Obelisk. This panel shows King Jehu paying tribute to the Assyrian King. The year was 841 BC. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Here is a photo of the 4-sided stone in its entirety, with our facing the side that mentions Jehu:

Shalmaneser’s Prism. The Black Obelisk. British Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Todd Bolen has an article on the Obelisk here.

You can read of Jehu in the Bible in 2 Kings 9-10.

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Caesarea Maritima

December 6, 2017

Acts 10 narrates the exciting history of how the door of faith was opened to the Gentiles. The Apostle Peter was directed to leave Joppa and go up the coast to Caesarea where he would find a man with an honest and good heart, Cornelius the Roman Centurion, as well as his relatives and close friends.

Wave action at Caesarea, on the south side of the Herodian Palace. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Peter, who had the “keys of the kingdom of heaven,” had preached to the Jews first on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and was then privileged to preach to the Gentiles in Acts 10. Peter began by saying, “Opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (Acts 10:34-35, NASB). Cornelius and those present heard “words by which you and all your household will be saved” (Acts 11:14, CSB). They were receptive to and obedient to the faith!

From this new beginning the gospel would go on to include Gentiles in Antioch (Acts 11), and on to the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8; cf. Acts 13-28, etc.).

We have several posts on Caesarea, including here, here, and here.


Chester Beatty Library at Dublin Castle

October 18, 2017

Today concludes our Emerald Tour of Ireland, and was a day of “free time” for our group. Some of us included a visit to the Dublin Castle, because here the Chester Beatty Library is located. Among the interesting collections there are some of the very earliest New Testament texts, dating to c.AD 200.

Johnny Felker & Leon Mauldin at Chester Beatty Library. Photo by Martha Felker.

Photos are not permitted inside the exhibition.

Some info re: the New Testament manuscripts:

There are three New Testament manuscripts that are part of the Chester Beatty Papyri. The first, P. I, is labeled under the Gregory-Aland numbering system as P45 and was originally a codex of 110 leaves that contained the four canonical gospels and Acts. 30 fragmentary leaves remain, consisting of two small leaves of the Gospel of Matthew chapters 20/21 and 25/26, portions of the Gospel of Mark chapters 4-9, 11-12, portions of the Gospel of Luke 6-7, 9-14, portions of the Gospel of John 4-5, 10-11, and portion of the Acts of the Apostles 4-17. The ordering of the gospels follows the Western tradition, Matthew, John, Luke, Mark, Acts. These fragments are palaeographically dated to the first half of the 3rd century.

P46 is the second New Testament manuscript in the Chester Beatty collection (P. II), and was a codex that contained the Pauline Epistles dating c. 200.[citation needed] What remains today of the manuscript is roughly 85 out of 104 leaves consisting of Romans chapters 5-6, 8-15, all of Hebrews, Ephesians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, virtually all of 1–2 Corinthians and 1 Thessalonians 1-2, 5. The leaves have partially deteriorated, resulting in the loss of some lines at the bottom of each folio. The manuscript split up between the Chester Beatty Library and the University of Michigan. Scholars do not believe the Pastoral epistles were included originally in the codex, based on the amount of space required in the missing leaves; they conclude 2 Thessalonians would have occupied the final portion of the codex. The inclusion of Hebrews, a book that was questioned canonically and not considered authored by Paul, is notable. The placement of it following Romans is unique against most other witnesses, as is the ordering of Galatians following Ephesians.

P. III is the last New Testament manuscript, P47, and contains 10 leaves from the Book of Revelation, chapters 9-17. This manuscript also dates to the 3rd century, and Kenyon describes the handwriting as being rough (Wikipedia).

It’s been a great tour.

From the Chester Beatty Library Brochure.