Category Archives: Bible

The Aqueduct at Caesarea

Caesarea Maritima, on the Mediterranean coast in northern Israel, is a truly beautiful place to visit.  In this newsletter I wanted to share with you some photos of an aqueduct that brought freshwater to the city.  The original aqueduct was built by Herod the Great.  Emperor Hadrian expanded the project in the second-century A.D.

Aqueduct 1

In this first picture, you can see the Roman arches that support the aqueduct.  The arch was widely used by the Romans as a way of supporting large structures.  Herod, who had the original aqueduct built, is known as “the great” because of his many building projects.  Many of his projects reflect a Roman influence.  Looking through the arches you can see the Mediterranean Sea.

Aqueduct 2

In this picture, you can see the aqueduct extending northward.  This particular aqueduct is more than six miles in length.  The aqueduct was fed from a source at Mount Carmel.  While large lengths of the aqueduct were built on arches as seen in this picture, part of the newer aqueduct included a tunnel.

Aqueduct 3

This picture was taken on the Mediterranean side of the aqueduct.  This picture showcases the remarkable stonework in the aqueduct.

At the time of Paul’s visit to Caesarea, there was only one aqueduct bringing water to the city.  In the second-century A.D. a second aqueduct was built that entered the city alongside the first.  The original aqueduct is on the left and partially missing in this picture.  The newer aqueduct was on the right.

Aqueduct 4

This final photo was taken at the end of the aqueduct where we visited.  At the top of the structure you can see a channel.  This is where the water flowed.  In this image you can also get a good look at the bricks and stones used in making the aqueduct.

Aqueducts were of great importance in the ancient world as they supplied great quantities of fresh water to thriving cities and settlements.  For the people of the New Testament era these were a common site.

 

If you are wondering if Caesarea Maritima is important for New Testament studies, the answer is “yes.”  This is a city where Paul was imprisoned for a period of time and also where he appealed to Caesar (Acts 23:23ff; 25:11).  Also, this is the city where the centurion Cornelius lived (Acts 10).

 

The Old Testament City of Lachish

Lachish.jpg

It may not look like much from this picture (notice the size of the hill compared to the trash can in the front of the picture), but at one time the fortified city on the hill was one of the three most important citites in Judah.  The city is located to the southwest of Jerusalem and overlooks a large area known as the Shephelah.  Here are a few fast facts about Lachish:

  • Prior to the conquest of the Israelites, Lachish was occupied by Amorites (Josh 10:5).
  • Lachish was conquered by the Israelites under the leadership of Joshua (Josh 10:31–32).
  • Lachish was rebuilt by King Rehoboam of Judah so that it would function as a defensive city (2 Chron 11:9; see also Jer 34:7)
  • King Amaziah of Judah fled from a palace coup in Jerusalem to Lachish.  However, those who sought him killed him at Lachish (2 Kgs 14:9; 2 Chron 25:27)
  • King Sennacherib of Assyria laid siege to, and conquered, Lachish in 701 BC (2 Chron 32:9).  King Sennacherib had his victory over Lachish memorialized in a series of stone reliefs at his palace in Nineveh.
  • King Sennacherib encamped at Lachish while he laid siege to Jerusalem (2 Kgs 18:14, 17; Isa 36:2)
  • King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon laid siege to Lachish (Jer 34:7) – he would eventually conquer the city of Lachish
  • The Israelites reoccupied Lachish during the time of Nehemiah (Neh 11:30)

 

It’s after Easter, now what?

The Church calendar is a continuous cycle.  We celebrate the same holidays and set aside the same days every year.  For some, the special days that we celebrate have become a mere routine and have lost their significance to the person.  For others, each year offers fresh new opportunities to celebrate these days and the events that they represent all over again.  The pageantry, the gifts, the fellowship, and the significance of the days are forever pleasant in the minds of such individuals.

The Church calendar is a great teaching tool that aids in our worship and the sharing of our faith.  However, it is a cycle that repeats itself year after year.  The same cannot be said for the Christian faith.  Nor can it be said of our own journeys as followers of Jesus Christ.  As disciples of Jesus we grow, or at least should grow, in our faith.  Those who are not growing in their faith are not simply going through different phases in a cycle.  Instead, their faith is stagnant.

Centuries ago a group of Jesus’ closest followers sat in a room with a degree of uncertainty about the future.  Jesus had been crucified, buried, and was now risen from the dead.  Some of their number had seen the empty tomb.  Still, uncertainty and insecurity seemed to rule the day.  In the midst of this uncertainty Jesus made appearances to the Apostles and to others followers of His.  One would think that these visits would ease their doubts and give a renewed sense of purpose to those that saw Him.

Yet, there was very little forward movement on the part of Jesus’ followers.  For instance, several of Christ’s Apostles were found fishing on the Sea of Galilee shortly after the resurrection (John 21:1-14).  Fishing was the occupation of Peter before he began following Jesus (Matt 4:18).  So, was Peter returning to his work as a fisherman instead of going “into all the world” and preaching “the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15 NIV)?

Indeed, even at Pentecost the Apostles “were all together in one place” (Acts 2:1 NIV).  But, that day would turn out to be like no other day.  As they sat there in that room together the Holy Spirit came upon them in a most unusual way.  They were touched with what appeared to be tongues of fire, were filled with the Holy Spirit, and spoke languages that were not their own (Acts 2:3-4).  From that day forward the followers of Jesus Christ would be movers and shakers.  This group of unlikely candidates would go from a huddled mass to the emboldened spearhead for the spread of Christianity into an unwelcoming and frequently hostile world.

After you have read the four Gospels and move into the remaining twenty-three books of the New Testament, you will notice that there is no looking back.  In much the same way we are a forward looking people.  I once heard it said that God put eyes in the front of our head because we were to look forward and not backward.  Yes, there is a time and a place to look back.  Looking back is what keeps us grounded and true to our faith and calling.  But what we cannot do is become stuck.  God does not want for us to become stagnant.  Instead, we are to be about the work of advancing His Kingdom wherever we are.  As we move forward from Easter and look forward to the celebration of Pentecost, remember the power that has been given to us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Then, let us look forward and consider the ways in which we can each continue to grow in Christ this year.

Passion Week

Passion Week is now upon us.  During this week we will take time to remember the days that led up to the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord.  Of the many holy days (holidays) that we celebrate as Christians, there is no day more important than Easter Sunday.  Sure, you could say that without Christmas there would be no Easter.  However, Scripture and the history of Christianity shout out that Easter is the chief of special days on our calendar.

While the four Gospels only contain two infancy narratives, they each contain an account of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  Further, the shear amount of space devoted to the Passion Week in contrast to the nativity speaks to God’s (the author behind the authors) intent that we would place more emphasis on the death and resurrection of Jesus than on His birth.  If you read beyond the Gospels you will see that the New Testament continues to pay only scant attention to Jesus’ birth while repeatedly referring to His death and resurrection.

There is good reason why the Scriptures place so much emphasis on the events of that final week in Jesus’ earthly life.  Our salvation is undeniably connected to those events.  Jesus died for our sins.  He took the Father’s wrath upon Himself for us.  He rose from the dead conquering death so that we too could conquer death and have eternal life.  Without the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we would all still be lost in our sins and under condemnation.  But, thanks be to God, that He “…so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV).

So, why is it that we seem to give Christmas so much more attention than Easter?  In response, I think it is important to point out that churches do still give proper respect to the Easter Holy Day.  Many churches will have special activities or worship services planned for the week and the worship services on Easter Sunday are typically the most beautiful of the year.

However, the same cannot be said about our culture in general.  While it is seemingly easy to capitalize on Christmas, this does not necessarily hold true with Easter.  At Christmas time there are pictures of a jolly Santa Claus and a cute baby in a manger along with sales advertisements and other enticements to lure consumers into spending money.  It seems easy for merchandisers to separate the Christmas holiday from its root in Jesus’ birth.  But, when it comes to Easter there are no cute pictures and jolly, chubby guys in red suits.  The imagery of Easter and the week leading up to that day is that of a crucified Savior dying for the sins of the world, being buried in a tomb, and rising from the dead.  And, as Paul told us under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit centuries ago, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18 NIV), and “but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1 Cor. 1:23 NIV).

The Temple at the Time of Christ

Ancient Jerusalem.jpg

The picture you see above is of a model of the Temple Mount and part of the city of Jerusalem during the time of Jesus.  The model is found at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.  On the upper right hand corner of the Temple Mount there is a another structure that has large towers in its four corners.  That is the Antonia Fortress.  It was built by Herod the Great and named for Mark Antony.  The covered area on the left hand side of the Temple Mount is the “Royal Portico.”  You will also notice that there are covered walkways along the inside of the wall that are lined with columns.  The covered walkway that is closest to you in this picture (you cannot see its columns) is Solomon’s Portico, also called Solomon’s Porch (see John 10:23).   The pinnacle of the temple is believed to be the top of the wall in the southeast corner (see Matthew 4:5; Luke 4:9).  As you view this picture you are viewing west (from where the Mount of Olives is, albeit you would not be this elevated).  So, as you follow along the top of the wall the pinnacle would be the platform area in the lower left hand corner.  The Large structure in the middle of the complex is the temple as it may have looked following its restoration by Herod the Great (see John 2:20).  The structure in the the middle of the Temple Mount is the temple complex.  Between the temple complex and the porticos was a small wall that you do not see in this picture.  This wall was called the Soreg and it separated the outer Court of the Gentiles from the areas that were considered sacred.  As you look at the front of the temple complex you will notice a small entryway in the wall.  If you were to walk through this entryway you would enter the Court of the Women.  If you continued walking straight ahead and up the set of stairs you would come to the Great Gate.  Once you went through the Great Gate you were in the Court of Israel.  The tall building is the temple proper, which is where the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies were located.   Between the Court of Israel and the temple is the Court of the Priests.  Between the Great Gate and the temple, and within the Court of the Priests, was the altar.  If you could see the temple from directly above it would look the letter “T” with the top part ofo the letter being the front of the building.  This front part of the temple was the Porch.  Once you passed the porch you would be in the Holy Place and if you continued walking you would go through a large curtain and enter the Most Holy Place (the Holy of Holies).

Temple Details.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

Qumran: Home of the Essenes and the Dead Sea Scrolls

This is a brief article that I wrote for a church newsletter a few years ago.  Still, the information is good and the pictures are beautiful.

You have probably all heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  The first scrolls were discovered in a cave near the Dead Sea by an Arab shepherd boy in the late 1940’s and have been the source of much scholarly discussion ever since.  Numerous scrolls have been discovered since that original find.  While scrolls have been found in more than one location, they are primarily associated with a site known as Qumran.  This site has been extensively excavated by archaeologists and sheds a great deal of light on the Essenes, the sect that is believed to have occupied Qumran.  In this post I have included some photos from my trip to Qumran during my tour of Israel in 2009.

qumrandressler1

In this first photo you can see several of the walls from the Qumran community.  You can also see hills in the upper right hand corner and in the distance of the upper left hand corner is the Dead Sea.

qumrandressler2

In this second photo you get a better look at the steep hills that bordered the Qumran site.  You can also see more of the settlement’s walls.

qumrandressler3

In the distance of this third picture you can see the Dead Sea.  You can also see that Qumran was built on a plateau.  While you can see some modern developments in the center left of the picture, you can also tell that this is a very dry and desolate area.  The Essenes lived here because they wanted to be apart from others.  They were separatists.  The extremely dry conditions, while because inhospitable to people, are what allowed the scrolls to last as long as they did without decay.

qumrandressler4

In this final picture you can see one of the caves at Qumran where scrolls were found.  As you tell, the cave is not easily accessible.  The difficulty of reaching the caves is another reason why the manuscripts have lasted as long as they have – looters could not easily reach them.

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2017!  I hope this year goes well for everyone out there and that you are able to follow through on your resolutions (if you made any).

For some, the new year marks a point in time at which reading through the Bible in a year will start.  This is truly a remarkable goal, but many will not make it to the finish.  Why? The answers will vary, but one reason will be the lack of a reading plan.

So, if you are looking to read through the Bible in 2017, allow me to encourage you to adopt a reading plan.  My personal favorite: The M’Cheyne Reading Plan.  By following this plan, you will read through the Old Testament once and the New Testament and Psalms twice over the course of a year.  If you would like to utilize this plan, use one of the following links.

For a website that follows the calender and provides the readings, using the ESV, in a convenient manner, click here.

For a printable version of the reading plan, click here.

There are several other plans out there as well, but this is one that I have found profitable for my study.  If you want to go it alone, keep in mind that there are 1,189 chapters in the Bible (unless you are reading a Bible with the Apocrypha/Deutero-Canonical Books, then there are more).  If you read 4 chapters a day, then you will read the Bible within a one-year time-frame with plenty of buffer space for those lazy days and occasional activity packed weekends.

Regardless of how you go about it, I wish you much success if you take on the challenge of reading through the Bible in a year.

Happy New Year!