Archive for category Biblical archaeology
While on the Greek island of Rhodes, I revisited the site of Acts 21: 1. This location is Rhodes Town, the site of the Colossus of Rhodes and St. Paul’s Gate. Here Paul and Luke landed in the 50’s AD.
It is quite easy to miss but within the walls surrounding the Gate of St. Paul, there is a 15th century image of the Apostle high up on the wall.
The image itself is faded and undefined. But it represents the familiar image of the Paul we know.
This is Paul the elderly and powerful. His left arm is raised. His right arm is carrying a sword. Representing the sword of the Spirit. His head is leaning to the left.
The Gate of St. Paul was constructed during the 15th century and fortifies an area of the harbour known as the Kolona Harbour. The locals of Rhodes town generally accept that this was the precise location where Paul and Luke landed. This location satisfies me as the site of Acts 21: 1.
Once again, as always, it was wonderful to stand in the places written about in the Bible. The message is clear, keep our eyes fixed upon the Apostles’ doctrine (Acts 2: 42).
“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
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 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.
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.
It is true that 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.
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.
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.
In Rome there stands the Arch of Titus. This arch stands on the Via Sacra and was built c 82 AD to commemorate the Roman victory over Jerusalem and the Jewish people.
I had read about the Arch of Titus for many years, and during my visit to Rome it was quite a monumental moment for me to look directly at this treasure of the Biblical era.
The actual arch contains some of the few secular and historical images of the artefacts from the Herodian Temple and the siege of Jerusalem. The arch contains an image of the Menorah which was the very same Menorah that was standing in the Temple in Jerusalem when Jesus was on earth. The Arch also contains excellent representations of the gold Trumpets and the Table of Show bread as written about in the Bible.
It is claimed that the images were once coloured in gold and the background blue.
The inscription on the arch reads like so;
A literal translation into English, would read something like this;
people Roman Titus divine
Vespasian son Augustus
With some emphasis on translation, it could read like this;
(The) Roman Senate and (the) people to (the) Divine Titus Vespasian son (of) Augustus.
On another note, the situation I so often find myself in is at variance with so many modern claims of secular scholarship. I find it hard to respect certain branches of modern critical scholarship when certain claims are made against the Bible, arguing the narratives are not factual history, but merely religious fiction. These claims are at variance with me continuously, especially when I see facts such as the Arch of Titus standing before my very eyes.
The Arch of Titus strengthens the case to claim that the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke were all written well before AD 70, likewise the book of Revelation.
The following verses are affirmed by the Arch of Titus;
Matthew 24: 2
Mark 13: 2
Luke 21: 6
The thing is many modern scholars must claim the Gospels were written after AD 70 and not by eye witnesses or the truth of Biblical prophecy will be clearly seen. The Gospels claim that Jesus, during His incarnation, prophesied the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple around 40 years or more prior to the events themselves. The problem is that many modern critical scholars do not believe in prophecy and therefore approach the texts with that persuasion. Thus, if a person looks at the Biblical narrative through certain spectacles and in denial of the supernatural, that person will only see a natural explanation. Thus, the conclusion will be made that the Gospel narratives were written after the events they prophesied and not by eye witnesses.
As controversial a statement as it may seem these days, there is no actual evidence that the Gospels themselves were written after AD 70. On the contrary, the evidence of the Arch of Titus affirms the New Testament step by step and the Old Testament also.
This claim is not any new argument or contrary to Ecclesiastical history or historical Theology.
Since 2011 I have been producing and presenting a number of Biblical, Historical and Theologically based documentaries. I have been making films for a number of years now and my latest documentary “The Apostle Paul at Rhodes” was filmed in 2014 during my visit to the Greek Island of Rhodes. As part of a possible series and not unlike “The Apostles at Paphos” I visited the ancient sites associated with appropriate texts of Acts of the Apostles
The latest film is based upon a singular reference to Rhodes in Acts 21: 21, and somewhat explores the Apostle Paul and the theme of his mission to the Gentiles. Granted, there is no actual text that states that Paul spent time on Rhodes, but the theme is no less engaging or devoid of interest.
Local tradition on Rhodes claims that he visited Lindos, at a harbour known locally as ‘St Paul’s harbour” or ‘St Paul’s bay’ to tourists. This location is a popular destination and much of the documentary was filmed there.
I am very pleased to say that the Network premier of ‘The Apostle Paul at Rhodes’ can be viewed tomorrow (UK time) @ 2pm on RevelationTV SKY: 581, FREESAT: 692, FREEVIEW HD: 241 and Saturday 9th May 8pm, Sunday 17th May 11pm, Friday 22nd May 12: 30pm, and Saturday 30th May 6: 30pm.
Alternatively the documentary is available for viewing online at YouTube.
During this time frame known as “Holy Week” in which Christians throughout the world of many denominations move toward Easter. In liturgical denominations, Christians remember Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, where He was hailed as Messiah by His people who laid Palm leaves as He rode into Jerusalem on the back of a Donkey.
As the world looks on, our thoughts are on the Passion and the Resurrection of Christ.
It is with this in mind that my construct of conversation is not one which believes the many claims of our present modern scholarship, particularly those which deny the authenticity of the Bible, its claims and accuracy. Amongst the many criticisms, arguments, and speculative claims modern so-called ‘Biblical scholars’ make, I take a direct road that knows fully that the Bible is the Truth and that Jesus Christ truly died for our sins according to the Scriptures. As far as I am concerned, there is no debate: The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a fact. However, one problem for some people is is that many modern secular scholars deny this, and present minds seeds into the unsuspecting public without really showing them the absolute information which is available.
For some reason, the ‘opinions’ of the academic elite appears to be more important to some people than the Truth itself.
One very important archaeological testament not so often presented by the so-called ‘academic elite’ is what is known as ‘The Nazareth Inscription’ or ‘The Nazareth Decree’. The tablet itself dates to the 1st century and was written in Koine Greek (The language of the New Testament) and was acquired in the 19th century from Nazareth, the home town of Jesus. This inscription is made of marble and contains a Greek edict from a Caesar.
This is a transcript of what it says:
“EDICT OF CAESAR
It is my decision [concerning] graves and tombs—whoever has made them for the religious observances of parents, or children, or household members—that these remain undisturbed forever. But if anyone legally charges that another person has destroyed, or has in any manner extracted those who have been buried, or has moved with wicked intent those who have been buried to other places, committing a crime against them, or has moved sepulcher-sealing stones, against such a person, I order that a judicial tribunal be created, just as [is done] concerning the gods in human religious observances, even more so will it be obligatory to treat with honor those who have been entombed. You are absolutely not to allow anyone to move [those who have been entombed]. But if [someone does], I wish that [violator] to suffer capital punishment under the title of tomb-breaker.”
When this edict is linked up with Matthew 28: 12-13, they match up perfectly.
Visiting ancient Biblical sites in the Mediterranean is always an experience for me and is something I find second to none. Although I like some of the wonders of modernity, I regard our present world as unappealing, noisy and somewhat shallow. Because of that, I prefer history rather than the present
Last month, I travelled to Rome, the ancient and modern city known for being somewhat of an open air museum. Being a history fanatic myself and absolutely intrigued by the Bible, as always I was in inner rapture.
During the afternoon of the first day I visited the ancient area of the Forum leading to a place known as “Mamertinum”or the Mamertine Prison. This ancient prison is within a stones throw of the ancient forum, a Comitium which once felt the feet of the Apostles Peter and Paul and also of Luke and of Aquila and Priscilla.
The Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles were probably written while Luke was in Rome. We also know that Luke was with Paul during his time in prison. This is understood from 2 Timothy 4: 11.
The Mamertine prison, known historically as the “Tullianum”, was probably constructed between 640-616 BC and was likely a cistern. The amazing thing for me was that scripture was written from this damp dark cell.
In 2 Timothy 1: 16 Paul referred to his “chain” this chain now resides at ‘St Paul outside the walls’ which was build on his ancient tomb. Writing from the Mamertine, in 2 Timothy 2: 7-9 Paul wrote: “Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things. Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel: Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound.”
On entry down the stairs to the upper level of the complex, I saw ancient Frescos. These can be found on the walls and show Christians depicted with the arms and hands held out. Over recent years Archaeologists have uncovered evidence that have connections to St Peter as early as 7th century. The evidence also suggesting the Mamertine was used as a Church by the 8th century.
The claim that St Peter was in Rome goes all the way back to the 1st century from his probable coded use of the word “Babylon” for Rome in 1 Peter 5: 13, 2 Peter 5: 13, and his crucifixion linked to John 21: 18 where Jesus foretold him of his future suffering. The claim of his crucifixion in Rome comes from the 1st or 2nd century “Acts of Peter” which we know was in circulation in the 2nd century. The “Acts of Peter” claims that Peter was crucified upside down in Rome at his own request. This claim is also affirmed by Clement between AD 80-98 in his letter to the Corinthians (chapter 5). An event which probably took place near where St Peter’s Basilica now stands around AD 64 during the reign of Emperor Nero.
There was a time when condemned prisoners were held in this cell before execution. We know for certain that 2 Timothy was written from the Mamertine and it is possible that Philippians was also written here too. If Peter was in fact executed in Rome then he most certainly was held in the Mamertine, as a strong tradition affirms. If that be true which I think it is, 2 Peter may also have been written in this dungeon.
Other Biblical texts possibly written from the Mamertine or nearby, include Philemon, Ephesians, Colossians and possibly Galatians. It is one of the most outstanding thoughts and realities of life that the Truth of the Gospel is that suffering produces great things. Persecution never destroys the Church, on the contrary it enhances it. It is truly amazing to think that such a light as Scripture itself could come from such a dark damp cell. That such a light could truly shine from such a dark place.
I love this little prison.
“The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.” Psalm 2: 2-4
For quite a while now, some modern archaeologists and scholars have been mocking the historical claims of the Bible and propagating their theories that it is an unreliable source. But their Political agenda stricken claims are repeatedly proven wrong, as recent discoveries consistently prove. There is no doubt to the historical authority of the Scriptures.
Israel belongs to the Jews!