Archive for category Christianity

Recent discoveries in the Mamertine Prison, Rome

Mamertine Prison Rome. By Simon Peter Sutherland © 2014

Mamertine Prison, Rome © 2018 Simon Peter Sutherland

“In 2017 I revisited the Mamertine prison, and forum, Rome and explored a number of new discoveries made at the Mamertine the previous year. I believe Paul wrote 2 Timothy from that prison. I also think it possible that 2 Peter and Acts of the Apostles was written from here.

The Mamerine Prison is one of my favorite Biblical places in the world. I have visited the proposed cell of St. Paul at Philippi, I have visited St. Paul’s Grotto, Rabat, Malta, but the Mamertine has won me. It is or was, a cold, damp, dark and dingy place, and such is what I love about it. It is highly primitive. Ancient. Biblical!

In the Basilica of St. Paul outside the walls, Rome, there is an ancient ‘chain’ reputed to have been used to bind St. Paul during his time in Rome. The chain was found in the ancient tomb of St. Paul over which the Basilica was built. When I visited the basilica in 2014, I noticed in 2 Timothy 1: 16 Paul referred to his “chain”. This in the Greek and the English is in the singular. For me, it perfectly matched the description given by Paul. It also fit perfectly with the type of chain that would have been used to bind Paul at the Mamertine.

Having read through an excellent series of books entitled “The Book of Acts in its first century setting” Volume 3, Paul in Roman Custody by Brian Rapske, it is explicitly clear that the Apostolic era was a time of great suffering. Here at the Mamertine, Paul suffered greatly and wrote to Timothy about his departure being at hand (2 Timothy 4: 6). He had stood trial before Casear, probably at the Curia and Eusebius in Ecclesiastical history 2: 22, informs us it was on Paul’s second visit to Rome that he was martyred under Nero.

At the Mamertine when Paul was held there about 60 AD and later, the 2016 excavations revealed that the cell did not have an upper floor like we see today. The upper floor is only about 500 years old and was constructed into the building when it was used as a Church. The original cells were more in the format of a cave rather than a fixed upper and lower level structure. Visitors for many years have believed that Paul was lowered into the lower dungeon via the circled hole in the upper cell floor. But the 2016 excavations revealed that the entrance to the lower cell area came from the upper roof, not the upper floor. When Paul was incarcerated here before his execution, he would have been lowered into the lower dungeon from the upper roof.

This practice often left prisoners physically damaged. Sometimes the broke a leg or an arm. We do not know of the level of damage Paul suffered here, but we know that his time at the jail, within the cell, would have been to face death. Once prisoners were put in here, it was to await execution.

The excavations revealed areas not seen by the public for centuries. These areas were around the main cell, and raised somewhat. If Peter was ever held here, he would have been held in the upper cells until his trial, and when condemned, dropped into the lower cell from the upper roof to await his death.

As I previously mentioned, it is also possible that 2 Peter was written in this cell. Although some modern scholars claim that Peter never wrote 2 Peter, I disagree entirely. While in Rome I attempted to view the letter from the perspective of the ancient city. Upon my return to England I researched the letter internally and found hints of ancient Rome in the text. One of which involved the great fire of Rome, of whom Nero, by tradition, is believed to have blamed the Christians. If Peter was in Rome at the time, he too would have been accused of either arson or inciting it. This could reveal insight into his references to “fire” in 2 Peter 3: 7, 12. He may well have been using the ‘fire’ reference to provoke believers to remember that a coming judgment will bring about the destruction of the world, by “fire”. There can be little doubt from this perspective that the great fire of Rome, would have been the fresh and current hot topic of the city. If Peter was being held in the Mamertine while the great fire was fresh in the minds of the Roman people, it is not difficult to see why he used this reference to remind people of the coming greater judgment at the end of the world. This would place the composition date toward the summer/autumn of 64 AD, because the fire took place in July of that year.”

Excerpt from upcoming book by Simon Peter Sutherland
© 2018 Simon Peter Sutherland
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Revisiting Kos

Harbour Stoa at Kos Agora © 2017 Simon Peter Sutherland

The ancient remains of the Harbour Stoa at Kos town © 2017 Simon Peter Sutherland

On my last visit to the Greek island of Kos I largely explored the island from the perspective of St. Luke, and the impression the Island of Hippocrates might of had on him as a physician. I made a film about it in 2015 which you can be viewed here

Recently I revisited the island and explored it from the perspective of St. Paul and his mission as recorded in Acts 21: 1. I also took the refreshing perspective of early Church history and how Paul’s visit impacted the island during the early centuries of Christianity.

As always, it was refreshing to me to walk once again in the Apostles footsteps because I regretfully wrestle so deeply with many claims of so many modern ‘Churches’ that a swim in the ancient waters brings me back home. There is nothing quite like washing off the filth of half-truths and misconceptions with a dip in the ocean of Scripture followed with a drink of historic Christianity at the local cafe of consistency.

Kos town and the ancient city of Kefalos are two of those places. My prime locations are the ancient Agora and harbour Stoa of Kos town and Ayios Stefanos near Kefalos. The latter for its ecclesiastical archaeology and the former for its Biblical locations and insights.

Ancient Agora Kos town © 2017 Simon Peter Sutherland

Ancient Agora of Kos town © 2017 Simon Peter Sutherland

We can be certain that Paul and Luke visited the ancient Agora of Kos and although the majority of it now lies in ruins, the discoveries of archaeology provide some very insightful things concerning the cults and cultures the Apostle faced when he and Luke visited the area.

On first entry to the town Paul and Luke would have entered into the Agora (marketplace) from the harbour stoa, from here they would have met with the influence of the ancient Greek gods of Aphrodite and Dionysos.

My visit was so inspiring to me that I filmed yet again another documentary on the subject and that film with be available for viewing in the future. I also have the distant desire to publish a book of my voyages and journals of Biblical Greece in the coming years. My love of God and His Bible and Truths has taken me many thousands of miles over the years and one bright day I hope to share the many things I have noticed in these ancient Greek cities.

It is true that in themselves these ancient sites are just historic ruins, but when a believer is walking through them with presence of the Holy Spirit, the Lord Jesus Christ and a Bible, they are anything but ruins.

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‘All Hallows’and ‘Reformation day’ in Oxford

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St Mary’s Oxford © 2016 Simon Peter Sutherland

This year my wife and I and our sons spent ‘all hallows’ and ‘Reformation day’ in Oxford remembering the true meaning of the so-called ‘Halloweeen’. Visiting the ancient sites associated with historic Christians such as John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, Hugh Latimer, Nicolas Ridley, Thomas Cranmer and Welsh Bible translator William Salesbury.

Oxford is one of those cities where history and the present meet together on every street. If one looks closely, stories and histories can be told on every street corner.

One of those stories which stood out to me on this trip was that of the trial of Hugh Latimer. A great reformer of the 16th century.

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The exact spot where the Oxford Martyrs were burned © 2016 Simon Peter Sutherland

Latimer had studied at Cambridge and became a Bishop in the Church of England and for a time served as Chaplain to King Edward V1. However on the Coronation of bloody Mary to the throne, Latimer was brought to trial for his Biblical teachings and would eventually be condemned and burned at the stake with Nicolas Ridley, outside the city walls and Balliol College, on Broad Street where John Wycliffe had been Master.

During our time in Oxford we visited St Mary’s Church where the trial took place. As I stood in the centre of that room Latimer’s words echoed through my mind. Upon being questioned concerning his denial of Transubstantiation, Latimer declared that his memory had “plain gone” and that his teachings were true to Scripture and agreed with the Church fathers, when the Church fathers agreed with Scripture.

Concerning the Eucharist, Latimer was presented with a series of articles of which article 1 said “In the sacrament of the alter, by the virtue of God’s word pronounced by the priest, there is really present the natural body of Christ, conceived of the Virgin Mary, under the kinds of appearance of bread and wine; in like manner His blood.

To this doctrine, Latimer replied;

I answer that for the right celebration of the Lord’s Supper, there is none other presence of Christ required than a spiritual presence; and this presence is sufficient for a Christian man, as the presence by which we abide in Christ, and Christ abideth in us, to the obtaining of eternal life, if we persevere therein.

Note that Latimer held to the very Biblical position that faith in Jesus Christ is ‘past, present, continuous‘ and ‘if’ we abide in Christ, Christ abides in us and by this abiding faith, we obtain eternal life, “if we persevere therein”.

For many Christians, these truth’s are nothing less than exactly what Scripture teaches. But concerning the case of Latimer, the enemies of Biblical truth were the Roman Catholic Priests and the Anabaptists. Of whom he goes on further to say; “And this I here rehearse lest some sycophant or scorner should suppose me, with the Anabaptists, to make nothing else of the sacrament but a bare and naked sign.

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The location in St Mary’s where Cranmer stood trial © 2016 Simon Peter Sutherland

As I stood in the exact location in the Chapel where Latimer stood and the location where Cranmer made his defence, I was reminded of the cost of following Christ and being true to His Word. I know that from my own trials over the years within the Christian Church, my loyalty to Scripture has cost me the pulpit more than once.

Being loyal to Scripture is a battle from start to finish, and the Church is often the one that prevents the Christian loyalty to the Biblical text. So often it is a historic fact that the so-called Christian Church has been one of the major opponents of true Christianity. But in all this I count it all as part of the cost of knowing Christ. We lose in this life, but Christ wins. Even amidst persecution, Christ wins. After all, was it not the so-called Christian Church which persecuted the reformers? Was it not the official legal priests who insulted and accused my Lord Jesus Christ? Was it not the priests who murdered the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament Apostles? How much more then will the hypocrites continue to accuse those who obey Scripture rather than the whims, fictions and fairy tales of men.

Christians, be encouraged, stand with Latimer in the Truth and know that if you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and abide in Him, you will never perish.

On that note Christians, I leave you with the echoing words and memory of Hugh Latimer, who, proceeding his trial, on his way to being burned at the stake, declared his salvation to men, saying thus;

Play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.”.

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“The love of money”a 19th century poem against money preachers

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The Love of Money © 2016 Simon Peter Sutherland

Recently I acquired a 19th century scrapbook.

The scrapbook contains a lot of truly interesting things. Newspaper articles, letters, pictures, concert advertisements, and toward the front there is a poem. This poem is called “The Love of Money” and speaks against money preachers and ministers of the 19th century. It begins with a quote from 1 Timothy 6: 10 “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows”. 

In that text, Paul was stating that many had been led away from Truth and walked away from Christ and lost what they had and in doing so fell into a life of misery.

The poem is an insightful warning and one that is even still so relevant to our day, where so many people fall away from Truth and into error out of their love of money, and the pursuit of acceptance. As Bob Dylan once wrote; “money doesn’t talk, it swears“.

The old poem reads like so;

“MONEY ! oh money ! thy praises I sing,

Thou art my Savior, my God, and my King;

Tis for thee that I preach, and for thee that I pray, And make a collection twice each sabbath day.

I have candles, and all sorts of dresses to buy,

For I wish you know that my church is called high-

I don’t mean in structure of steeple or wall,

But so high that the Lord cannot reach it at all.

I have poor in my parish who need some relief –

I preach to their poverty, pray for their grief;

I send my box round to them, morning and night,

And hope they’ll remember “the poor widow’s mite.”

I gather my knowledge from wisdom’s great tree,

And the whole of my Trinity is £,s, and d ;

Yes, pounds, shillings, and pence, are all that I crave.

From my first step on earth to the brink of the grave.

When I’m laid low, and my body at rest,

Place a box on my grave, – ’tis my latest request,

That friends may all see who come for reflection,

I can’t rest in peace without a collection.

Money’s my creed, I’ll not pray without it,

My heaven is closed ‘gainst all those who doubt it;

For this is the essence of parson’s religion-

Come regular to church and be plucked like a pigeon.

My pay may be hundreds or thousands a year-

Double it, treble it, still I’ll be here

With my box or my bags, collecting your brass,

For I can’t do as Jesus did -ride on an ass.

I’ll have carriage and horses, and servants, and hall, –

I am not going to foot it, like Peter and Paul;

Neither like John – live on locust and honey, –

So out with your purses, and down with your money.

Fools sometimes ask what I do with this money !

They might just as well ask what bees do with honey !

 I answer them all with a wink or a nod;

I keep three-birds myself, and give praises to God.

In the cold silent earth I may soon be laid low,

And sleep with the blest that went long ago;

I shall slumber in peace till the great resurrection,

Then be first to my legs to make a collection.”

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The Love of Money © 2016 Simon Peter Sutherland

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A mysterious torn image of William Tyndale

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Diwygwyr, Merthyron, A Chyffeswy. Eglwys Loegr, Ynghyd A’R Prif DDIWYGWYR YN Scotland, A GWLEDYDD TRAMOR. Gan T. Jones. 1813

Earlier this year I found an old Welsh book in Wales on Christian martyrs dating to 1813. The book itself covers the lives of William Tyndale, Martin Luther, George Marsh, John Bradford, Nicolas Ridley, and so forth and the pages appear in good condition for the age. However, a page that stood out to me contained an image of William Tyndale. The 16th century martyr and translator of the New Testament into English. The reason the print stood out is because Tyndale’s image had been ripped out.

Tyndale was a good Christian man and dedicated his life to the delivering of the Word of God to all English speaking people. The Church of his day rejected him, but his translation work laid the foundations of the Coverdale Bible, Bishops Bible, Geneva Bible and the King James Bible of 1611 and all significant English translations from 1535 to this day. 80-90% of the New Testament in the King James Bible has been shown to be the translation work of Tyndale.

The torn image seems to be deliberate? I say this because the book appears to have no damage elsewhere. However, even if the tare is coincidental, it still begs me to think upon how torn apart true Christians can be at times. Men like Tyndale held fast to the Bible and would not deny the text even in the face of danger, excommunication, imprisonment and execution. And how often has it taken place since his day that men and women who stand firm upon the text of the Bible are either rejected by the Church or ridiculed, mocked, insulted, and maligned by the world.

How true is that of our day.

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Researching Titus 1: 5 and filming on Crete

Kaloi Limenes, Crete © 2016 Simon Peter Sutherland

Kaloi Limenes, Crete © 2016 Simon Peter Sutherland

I have recently returned to England from my visit to the Greek island of Crete.

Travelling thousands of miles across Biblical landscape is always insightful and my primary goal on Crete was to seek out the historic locations written about in Acts 27 and Paul’s letter to Titus.

My desire was to gain a more historic understanding of Titus 3: 5

for this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are wanting”.

2000 years ago Paul gave commission to Titus to appoint elders in every city on Crete. My aim in visiting Crete was to discover those ancient cities and gain an historic understanding of the work Titus did on Crete. Along the way standing face to face with the ancient law code of Gortyna, the mysteries of the Phaistos disc, ancient Minoan culture, and in some cases frustration at the sheer amount of unexcavated sites, leading to a general lack of information.

Kaloi Limenes 'Fair Havens' Crete © 2016 Simon Peter Sutherland

Kaloi Limenes ‘Fair Havens’ Crete © 2016 Simon Peter Sutherland

However, travelling over 100 miles across the island, visiting the ancient cities of Heraklion, Gortyna, Lasea and the spectacular mountains to port of ‘Kalio Limenes’ (fair havens) proved insightful to the Biblical narrative yet left many unanswered questions.

Part of the reason for this is that much of the history of ancient Crete has little connection to the New Testament era. Ancient cities such as Knossos have connections but they were long gone by the 1st century AD. But Gortyna and Kalio Limenes are key locations.

 

The Church of St. Titus, Gortyna © 2016 Simon Peter Sutherland

The Church of St. Titus, Gortyna © 2016 Simon Peter Sutherland

On Crete I filmed around 5 hours worth of footage for a documentary on the subject, battling with strong winds. I hope to complete that task in the distant future but in the meantime, I will continue in researching Paul and Titus’ work on Crete.

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Richard Baxter 400th anniversary 1615-2015

Richard Baxter © 2015 Simon Peter Sutherland

Richard Baxter © 2015 Simon Peter Sutherland

Thursday 12th November 2015 saw the 400th anniversary of 17th century Puritan Theologian, hymn writer and minister Richard Baxter.

Richard Baxter was born on 12th November 1615 and died 8th December 1691. He is famed for being minister at Kidderminster. He was a towering figure in the nonconformist movement. He lived through the English Civil war.

Richard Baxter Saint's everlasting rest © 2015 Simon Peter Sutherland

Richard Baxter Saint’s everlasting rest © 2015 Simon Peter Sutherland

He was a great Christian man and a true witness to the life of Christ. He wrote many books, which are still published even to this day and his work “the Saints everlasting rest” is one of my favoured works in all of Christianity.

Baxter interpreted Scripture that Christ died for ‘all mankind’ in the sense of Christ dying for sins, not only for the elect. The substitutionary atonement of Christ was available for all men in Adam, no one was excluded. The atonement was available for all who believe in Jesus Christ and that no man was excluded from believing in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.

Baxter’s Theological position on the universal offering of salvation was not favoured by the majority Calvinists of his day and he ran into conflict with John Owen, the author of ‘the death of death in the death of Christ’. Owen believed that the sacrifice of Christ granted nothing for the none-elect and the doctrine of ‘double predestination’ was a logical conclusion to the doctrines of predestination, election and reprobation.

Baxter believed the doctrine of ‘limited atonement’ in the 5 point Calvinist sense, was inconsistent with the Bible and I agree with Baxter that Christ is available as Saviour for all mankind and I believe the Scriptures affirm this explicitly.

If I had only four books to choose from, my first would obviously be the King James Bible, then the Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, the third would be the Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and my final would be “Saints everlasting rest” by Richard Baxter. My reason for these choices is that the Bible is the absolute measuring line and rule of faith and practice for any Christian: the ‘Imitation of Christ’ helps me with humility and devotion: The ‘Foxe’s Book of Martyrs’ offers remembrance of our own Christian history, showing us where we have come from proceeding the Apostolic era to the Reformation and the ‘Saints everlasting rest” shows me quite clearly where Christians are going.

When I read ‘Saints everlasting rest’ I look forward to heaven.

I am truly thankful to men like Richard Baxter who stood up for Biblical truth and fell out of favour with many for doing so and I am thankful to God for His outpouring of love upon His people, showing us time and time again the treasures and glorious future He has stored up for those who love Him.

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