Antioch of Syria, Modern Antakya

April 11, 2017

This week I am enjoying the opportunity to present a Visualized Survey of the New Testament with the Mt. Olive church of Christ, in Mt. Olive, AL. Included in our studies is the book of Acts, in which we are told how the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch: “and when he [Barnabas] had found him [the Apostle Paul], he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians” (Acts 11:26, ESV).

Antioch of Syria, today’s Antakya. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

It is thrilling to read how that here at Antioch men were “preaching the Lord Jesus” (Acts 11:20). Further, “And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord” (v.21). Then the church at Jerusalem sent Barnabas to help: “When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose.” A Christ-centered message, a Christ-centered conversion, and Christ-centered focus and purpose. Such key verses go a long way in helping us to see a biblical definition of a Christian!

Our photo shows Antioch with bridge crossing the Orontes River in foreground. I took this photo in May, 2007.

I have previously written on the biblical site of Antioch here and here. Antioch/Antakya is within Turkey, but is very near the Turkey/Syrian border.


The Nile River in Egypt

April 5, 2017

The Nile River is mentioned numerous times in the Bible. It was truly the “lifeblood” of Egypt.

Nile River. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

These folks in the two boats in the photo had either been fishing or were about to go, as they had fishing nets with them.

From Harper’s Bible Dictionary we have this info on the Nile:

the great river of Egypt flowing north from its sources in Lake Victoria in Uganda and in the highlands of Ethiopia, a distance of 4,037 miles, the entire length of the Sudan and Egypt, to the Mediterranean. The two major branches, the White Nile (from Lake Victoria) and the Blue Nile (from Ethiopia), merge at Khartoum, with one modest tributary somewhat farther to the north and none at all in Egypt itself. Beyond Khartoum the Nile flows through several cataracts, inhibiting navigation but not preventing it. The last cataract is at Aswan, the beginning of the Nile Valley proper. (Because the Nile flows from south to north, the southern Nile valley is referred to as Upper Egypt.) From here on the Nile flows north in a well-developed valley with cliffs on either side almost as far as Cairo, and the river becomes important for its overflow and the hydraulic irrigation of the adjoining floodplain. Within the Nile Valley the river is fairly constant at about six-tenths of a mile in width, whereas the valley varies from six to nine miles across (p.705).

The land of Egypt has great significance for the biblical narrative. God told Jacob, father of the twelve tribes of Israel, that He would make of him a great nation in Egypt (Gen. 46:3). As the book of Exodus opens, Israel is already a numerous people, and the new pharaoh of Egypt felt he had to take oppressive measures against them (Ex. 1).

While a young child, Jesus, along with Joseph and Mary, were told to leave Bethlehem (where Herod would seek to kill them), and flee to Egypt. “Now when they [the wise men from the East] had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him” (Matt. 2:13)

The Nile River makes life in Egypt possible, both in ancient as well as modern times.

I’ve previously written on the Nile here and here.

 


At Rhegium, Italy, on the Way to Rome

April 3, 2017

Acts 28 narrates the Apostle Paul’s voyage to Rome, traveling as a prisoner. Having wintered at Malta due to a ship wreck, the journey continued: “We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. From there we cast off and arrived at Rhegium, and after one day a south wind sprang up and on the second day we came to Puteoli” (vv.12-13).

At Rhegium, Italy, looking across Strait of Messina to Sicily. Paul’s ship made a brief stop here. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible has this information on Rhegium:

Important Italian harbor visited by Paul in his journey to Rome (Acts 28:13). From Malta, Paul’s ship traveled north to the Sicilian capital of Syracuse; then in the absence of a south wind they may have tacked into the Strait of Messina, finding good harbor at Rhegium. Another south wind carried them from Rhegium to Puteoli in the Bay of Naples—the ship’s destination, since Puteoli was southern Italy’s chief port, receiving the great Alexandrian grain vessels.

The Strait of Messina was well known to every Roman navigator. Passage here was necessary in order to gain access to Italy’s west coast; but its obstacles were numerous. Obstructions, shallows, and the narrow width (c. seven miles from Rhegium to Messina) forced ships to stay at Rhegium until an adequate south wind arose.

The name “Rhegium” (modern Reggio or Reggio di Calabria) may have come from a Greek verb, meaning “to tear” or “rend.” Sicily, it seemed, had been “torn from the mainland” and Rhegium was the nearest Italian port. (Vol. 2, p. 1857).

Rhegium, on the “toe” of the “boot” of Italy, across from the island of Sicily. BibleAtlas.org.

Click images for larger view.


Ye Are the Light of the World

March 14, 2017

In the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), Jesus told His disciples:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (5:14-16, ESV).

Oil Lamp in Nazareth. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Jesus, ever the Master Teacher, often used similes and metaphors to create vivid word pictures as he communicated spiritual and eternal truths. Jesus’s disciples are those men and women who have been illuminated by the Light of the World. They hear His voice and follow Him. They have the qualities enumerated in the “beatitudes” which is in the immediate context of our text above (Matt. 5:3-12). As such Jesus’ disciples are light in a world of darkness, pointing others to the way of Jesus and His Word, and ultimately the path to heaven.

Click photo for larger view.


Nain of Galilee, where Jesus Raised the Dead

March 6, 2017

I love to read the account of the time Jesus went to the Galilean city of Nain, raising a young man from the dead. How the widowed mother must have rejoiced!

Luke narrates as follows:

Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd. 12 And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother. 16 Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.” (Lk. 7:11-16).

Nain in Galilee. BibleAtlas.com.

Nain in Galilee. BibleAtlas.com.

The purpose of Jesus’ miracles was to show who He was/is. The limited occasions recorded when He raised the dead give proof that He is Life, He is the source of Life. He is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25). And yet such occasions show the very real compassion of Jesus as well. The compassion He had during His ministry on earth He continues to have at this present time.

We had the opportunity to make a quick stop at Nain during our tour to Israel last November ’16.

Nain, where Jesus raised the dead. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Nain, where Jesus raised the dead. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

By the way, the mountain in the background is the Hill of Moreh, mentioned in connection with the account of Gideon and his 300 men (Judges 7). Click photo for larger view.


Wailing Wall at Jerusalem at Night

February 10, 2017

Jerusalem is defined by three valleys: the Kidron, Tyropean and Hinnom. In the photo below we are standing in the Tyropean Valley. Jews come here to mourn the destruction of the temple, among other reasons. This wall was not part of the temple itself, but was the retaining wall for the temple and the structures on the temple mount. Some of the courses of larger stones starting from bottom are Herodian, and weigh several tons each.

In Jerusalem, "Wailing Wall" at night. This was part of the retaining wall that supported the temple complex. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

In Jerusalem, “Wailing Wall” at night. This was part of the retaining wall that supported the temple complex. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

I’ve visited this very special location on numerous occasions, but this past November I had the occasion to take some night-time photos.

Click image for larger view.


Crossing the Kidron

February 6, 2017

John 14-16 records Jesus’ Final Discourse with the disciples prior to the events of Gethsemane. At John 14:31 we read, “But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here.” The discourse continues and then John 17 records Jesus’ high-priestly prayer. Then John 18:1 states, “When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which He and His disciples entered.”

In his classic A Harmony of the Gospels, A.T. Robertson notes on John 14:31, “Apparently they leave the Upper Room” and entitles the section continuing in John 15 and 16, “The Discourse on the Way to Gethsemane,” with the subtitle, “Possibly on the Street.”

Kidron Valley. Jerusalem/temple mount on left and in distance. Jesus crossed the Kidron going from Jerusalem to the Mt. of Olives. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Kidron Valley. Jerusalem/temple mount on left and in distance. Jesus crossed the Kidron going from Jerusalem to the Mt. of Olives. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

It is possible that Jesus and His disciples rose up immediately at John 14:31, and that the continued discourse and prayer of chapters 15-17 occurred en route from the Upper Room on the way to Gethsemane. Others suggest that the short time required for Jesus’ teaching of chapters 15-16 and the prayer of chapter 17 can better fit within that Upper Room setting. That would not be unlike our saying, I [we] need to be going now, and yet a few more minutes of conversation take place before the actual departure.

J.W. McGarvey observes, “Some think that Jesus then left the room, and that the next three chapters of John’s Gospel contain matters spoken on the way to Gethsemane. But it is likely that the words of these chapters were spoken in the upper room after they had risen from the table and prepared to depart, and that John 18:1 marks the leaving of the upper room as well as the crossing of the Kidron”(The Four-Fold Gospel.667).

Lenski goes into a bit more detail in his remarks:

Nevertheless … arise, let us be going hence” ends the Passover feast. No destination is indicated, yet the disciples know that Jesus intends to meet “the world’s ruler” and thus once more do the Father’s ἐντολή. The asyndeton ἐγείρεσθε ἄγωμεν is idiomatic, as is also the combination of the present imperative with the hortative present subjunctive. The action of arising from the couches on which the company had dined is merely preliminary to the action of leaving the place and going elsewhere. Those who regard “Arise,” etc., as a separate sentence incline to the opinion that Jesus left the upper room at this point, spoke the next three chapters somewhere on the way to the Kidron, crossed this at 18:1, and then went on to Gethsemane. When we note that the bidding to arise and to leave is only the conclusion of a longer sentence, that 15:1, etc., indicates no change of place, and that ἐξῆλθεν in 18:1 reads as though Jesus did not leave the upper room until that moment, we are led to conclude that after the company arose from their couches they lingered in the upper room until Jesus finished speaking the next three chapters. This delay consumed only a short time. We cannot think that the next three chapters were spoken while the company was in motion, and John nowhere indicates that they halted at some spot along the way (Lenski, R. C. H. The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel.1023–1024).

William Hendriksen notes:

Why not assign to these words their most natural meaning, and interpret them as actually amounting to a command that the disciples get up from their couches, coupled with an exhortation meaning, “And let us go away from here, that is, from this Upper Room; hence, from this house”? That still would not imply that the little company now immediately rushes out of the house! How often does it not happen even among us Westerners that between the exhortation, “Now let us be going,” and the actual departure there is a period of ten minutes? During that ten minutes a great deal can be said. Now, the following must be borne in mind:
a. In this very context Jesus clearly implies that there are still certain things which he wishes to say to the disciples (14:30).
b. Speaking calmly and deliberately, without any attempt to rush himself, Jesus may have uttered the contents of chapters 15, 16, and 17 within a period of ten minutes! When a company has been together for several hours, what is ten minutes? . . .

Accordingly, we shall proceed upon the assumption that the contents of chapters 14–17 comprise a unit, and that all of this was spoken that night in the Upper Room (Exposition of the Gospel According to John, Vol. 2.290–291).

In 2012 I posted an aerial photo of the Kidron here.