This online institute is designed to give a brief analysis and discussion of all scientific disciplines through the lens of a biblical world view. +++ SDG +++

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Archaeology Wing Lessons # 7 to # 17

          Welcome to the Archeological wing of the institute.  These lessons #7 through #17 will give you an amazing tour through much of what archeological evidence has to say about the validity of Scripture

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
Lesson #7
            Welcome to class.  Please take out your Bibles and prepare to take copious notes as the information that follows is of great value….
            We have examined the truth of God’ word from numerous angles and I would like to start an in-depth look into the relationship between archeology and God’s word.  To begin this walk we must first define archeology and its origins.  Middle Eastern and Oriental cultures as early as 1000 years ago can claim the earliest interest in the collecting of artifacts.  But it was not until the 18th century that we find a German, Johann Wickelmann who is considered the father of modern day archeology, his focus was primarily art history and architecture.  Britain was the first country to develop a systematic approach to archaeology and to recognize it as a discipline in its own right.  The first individuals to take a serious interest in the subject were clergymen.  Many were motivated by the benefits of collecting artifacts as physical evidence for Biblical historic narratives.

            As we look at archeology we must acknowledge bias.  There are those who believe that human reason stands above God’s word and that bias will lead to archeological conclusions that contradict scripture.  I stand with those who hold God’s word to be above human reason; this bias will lead to archeological conclusions that are in harmony with scripture.  The question in not are archeologist biased the question is what is their bias.  I see all fields of study through the lens of God’s word.  Therefore as Christians we do not determine, regulate or judge what God’s word says, with the help of the Holy Spirit we discover, recognize and witness to what God’s word says.  Those things which on the surface appear to be illogical we place in the realm of mysteries of the faith such as miracles or the resurrection, we proclaim these truths as soundly as any logical truth.

            In the discipline of Archeology there has been no discovery to date that in anyway has contradicted or disproven scriptural truth.  There have been archeologist that make such claims but these are clearly speculations based on their bias, not indisputable facts based in observable evidence.  There are however many thousands of archeological finds and many of them reflect favorably on biblical accounts and in numerous cases affirming in various ways the accuracy of Holy Scripture in its detailed historical accounts.                      

            First let’s look at some archeological finds that have some bearing on the flood account found in Genesis.  There are Sumerian king list from circa 2100 BC that that is in two parts kings before and after the great flood. This list is of special interest to the biblical archaeology because of its antediluvian or pre-flood portion for two reasons. First, it mentions a pre-flood civilization, a great flood, and second, the pre-flood kings have very long life-spans (seen by their long reigns), and after the flood, the life-spans drop dramatically.  The length of reigns gradually decreases until they reflect ordinary life-spans.  There are problems with the time spans but these two similarities are of great significance, allowing us to consider that both accounts refer to the same historical event, and only one account is divinely inspired.

            There are examples of world wide flood accounts with a select group being rescued by God on a boat in many cultures found on all the continents.  Let’s examine one more artifact this month. Tablet 11 of the epic of Gilgamesh from the 7th century BC is similar to the Genesis account in many details.  Here is a quick list of the similarities; man’s transgression, divine destruction, favored family, Ark provided, destruction by water & universal, man saved, animals saved, landing on mountain, birds sent out, survivors worship, Survivors favored by God.  While there are many differences as well, the similarities between this and may other accounts and God’s inspired argue for the historicity of the Biblical account.

            We have just entered a vast store house of archeological artifacts that will take some time to go through.  Join me next month as we brush the dust off of some more interesting finds.          

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
Lesson #8
            Welcome to class.  Please take out your Bibles and prepare to take copious notes as the information that follows is of great value….
            Let’s jump right in to some archeological artifacts and brush the dust off of some very interesting finds that shed some light on biblical truth.

            The ancient town of Ur, Abram’s (who later becomes Abraham) home town, fell to the Elamites around 1940 BC.  This town is believed by many archeologists to have been the biggest city in the world from 2030 BC to 1980 BC, with a population of over 65,000 people.  This evidence is interesting when you consider that according to scripture, Abram left the once great and now conquered and declining Ur around 1925 BC, seeking greener pastures in Haran.  A coincidence? I think not.

            There are interesting paintings in an Egyptian tomb called Beni Hasan dating from around 1900 BC that bear a strange resemblance to the detailed descriptions of Abram and his people. A coincidence? I think not.

            The law code of Hammurabi, which pre-dates the Exodus by about 300 years, bears a remarkable witness that there was a common-law code in the ancient Near East.  Hammurabi’s code is clearly corrupt in many ways when you consider its substance, however it does point to the reality that all Semitic peoples share a common ancestry through Noah’s son Shem.  This common ancestry is why the biblical codes and other Near Eastern law codes have similarities.      A coincidence? Or evidence of a loving and involved creator and redeemer?

            The Hittites are mentioned over 20 times in scripture and critics claimed for centuries that they never existed.  However in about 1832, a pesky archeologist by the name of Charles Texier discovered the capital city of Hattusas, in what is now Turkey, some 100 kilometers from the Black Sea and 150 miles from Ankara. Occupied between about 1600 and 1200 BC, Boghazkoy (its modern name) is most famous for the recovery of over 10,000 cuneiform tablets.  No coincidence—only evidence of scriptural accuracy and authority.

            The Nuzi Tablets, a collection of 20,000 baked clay cuneiform tablets dating between 1500 BC and 1401 BC, bear remarkable similarity to the culture and costumes recorded for the same period in Genesis.  Are practices such as marriage, adopting an heir, surrogate mothers and inheritance, a coincidence? Clearly not.

            The modern day village of Haran sits atop its ancient predecessors which even predate Abram and his arrival.  Near Haran are also found the villages of Serug and Nahor, Abram’s grandfather and great-grandfather.  Besides the relocation reasons mentioned earlier, Joshua 24:2 mentions Terah (the father of Abraham) worshiped other gods, and both Ur and Haran shared the same main deity the moon god.  Just coincidence, or further evidence of historical accuracy of the biblical account… you decide.

            Let us finish up this month with a visit to Egypt and the eastern Nile delta area.  Scripture tells us that the Israelites were slaves in the cities of Pithom and Raamses.  Tell el-Daba (a tell is a mound or hill that was once a town or city) is today identified as the ancient city of Raamses and not far away is Tell El-Retaba, currently believed to be the city of Pithom.  Both of these could be considered to be in the region of Goshen.  Many scholars believe the location of Raamses and the Israelites either overlap or could be one and the same.  In essence, the city of Raamses may have been build over where the Israelites lived in Goshen.  This is an unpopular view due to weaknesses in the Egyptian (man-made) timeline which many hold to religiously, and because it fits so nicely with biblical timelines and accounts.  Academia as a whole is not interested in things that concur with biblical truth; they see it not as a source of information but something to be critiqued.  But you will not find an archeologist in the Middle or Near East who does not have as a reference book some translation of the Holy Bible.  Odd, don’t you think?
Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
Lesson #9
            Welcome to class.  Please take out your Bibles and prepare to take copious notes as the information that follows is of great value….

            Let’s break out our brush again and knock some dust off more interesting archeological artifacts. This veritable mountain of ancient treasures all makes perfect sense in light of God’s truth.  But I will try to give a more abbreviated list or we will never get out of the field of archeology.

Horned altars the bible describes them in detail, many are found in the archeological record  
Pharaoh Merneptha claims on a 7 foot tall stele (tablet) to have conquered the Israelites in 1230 BC. Hmmm if he conquered them in battle maybe they existed.  This same battle is depicted on a long wall in the great Karnak Temple dated at around 1209BC. 

Jericho is a gold mine of biblical evidence.  The city walls have clearly fallen due to numerous “earthquakes” that seem to be to unique to that little piece of property.  There are some who claim the walls have clearly fallen outward.  There were so many cities on that little hill today known as “Tell es-sultan” it is uncertain which one Joshua conquered.  However here are some interesting biblical facts about it. In Joshua 6 verse 26 it says   “Joshua laid an oath on them at that time, saying, "Cursed before the Lord be the man who rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho.” "At the cost of his firstborn shall he lay its foundation, and at the cost of his youngest son shall he set up its gates." Then a little over 500 years later some arrogant or ignorant guy by the name of Hiel put God to the test. We find this in I Kings 16:34 where it says In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun. Now today’s scholars will say the scribes made these two accounts connect, while dismissing the linguistic and archeological evidence that separates the these two text.  And there is the strange coincidence that the tell or hill is still uninhabited today.  It is on the northwestern edge of the area that is today called Jericho surrounded by farms. But no one lives in or on the site and the evidence strangely suggest no one has lived on that particular hill for oh say about 3000 years.  The town however claims a 9000 year old heritage attached to that hill. This is actually an abbreviated discussion on Jericho.

Temple of Rameses III has a carving on one of its wall describing a pesky sea people called the Philistines.  Another group of people that is well described in scripture and archeological evidence, mountains of it, validate biblical truth.

Canaanite gods & goddesses. In the 1930’s hundreds of stories were found on clay tablets in the city of Ugarit in Syria.  These tablets speak of Asherah, Astarte and Ashtaroth, amazingly these are the same names recorded for the Canaanite gods in Numbers, 1 Kings, Jeremiah and Hosea.

Dan is another amazing little town in northern Israel, evidence of Laish a Canaanite town that was destroyed in 1150 BC and then built upon and inhabited by Israelites. Just as recorded in Judges and 1 Kings.  You will find the same archeological story throughout Israel, Canaanite town destroyed Jewish town built on the ruins; Megiddo, Hazor and many others.

Ashkelon, lets finish up today’s lesson with an ancient seaport.  Ancient Israel never conquered this philistine stronghold.  However four of God’s prophets predicted its demise; Amos, Jeremiah, Zephaniah and Zechariah all predicted its destruction and in 604 BC Nebuchadnezzar destroyed it completely.  Strangely enough excavations that were begun in the 1980’s provide much evidence for this fulfilled prophecy.                

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
Lesson #10
            Welcome to class.  Please take out your Bibles and prepare to take copious notes as the information that follows is of great value….

            Let’s break out our brush again and knock some dust off more interesting archeological artifacts. This veritable mountain of ancient treasures all makes perfect sense in light of God’s truth.  But I will try to give a more abbreviated list or we will never get out of the field of archeology.

Cities: here is a small list of Middle Eastern cities or towns that either have or have had archeological digs that validate biblical chronologies with regard to those places: Gezer, Shiloh, Ashdod, Beth Shemesh, the pool at Gibia, Gibeah, Beth Shean, Jerusalem, Beersheba, Samaria, Hazor, Carchemish, Babylon, Suza, Nazereth, Bethsaida, Cana, Capernaum, Gergesa, Sychar, Jericho, Bethany, Tiberias, Ceasarea Philippi, Megiddo, Sepphoris, the ten cities of the Decapolis, Damascus, Areopagus, Corinth, Ephesus, multiple Antioch’s, Thessalonica, Smyrna, Pergamum, and Sardis.  This is really only a very small sampling of a very large list of such places.

House of David: the inscription found on a piece of stone at Tel Dan, this is the first extra biblical mention of King David.

Ivory: decorative ivory ornaments, and other objects with Hebrew inscriptions, have been found in several sites in Palestine dating to the time of King Solomon.  They may not come from his ivory and gold covered throne, but they do give evidence of a unique craft in use at the time and place of the biblical Solomon.

Ancient donation receipt: ostracon, the word for pieces of pottery used for notes, messages and receipts.  Because they are made of pottery, they can be dated very accurately. There is a 2800 year old ostracon that is a receipt for a donation of 3 shekels to the house of Yahweh.  Hmmmm Solomon’s Temple anyone???

Royal Seals:  a number of royal seals carved out of precious stone have been discovered.  These seals bear the names of Uzziah, Hoshea, Hezekiah and Solomon.  They went to a lot of trouble to carve these stones for kings that many skeptics say never existed and are the stuff of cultural legend, not history.

Things carved in stone: there are many things carved in stone that are a real problem for those who seek to dismiss biblical history.  On a Moabite stone, King Mesha brags of fighting off the king of the Israel and even uses that phrase “house of David” on the stone.  Shalmaneser’s black obelisk brags of conquering the Israelites.  Lachish has a 62 foot long relief boasting of the defeat of Israel, and Sennacherib had a 15 inch tall 6 sided prism carved claiming to have vanquished Israel.  Pharaoh Shishak describes on the walls of the temple of Karnack about invading Judah around 925 BC.  A lot of kings had a lot of carving done to brag of their defeat of Israel that just happens to jive chronologically with scripture.  And for those who would argue that the Israelites were just a small band of nomads, consider this:  do kings brag about destroying a large and powerful nation or do they brag about defeating a small band of shepherds.  When you put it that way, the stone seems to speak for itself.

I think we will have done a pretty thorough summary of the field of archeology in a few more sessions so that we can then move on to the realm of general science by this summer sometime.

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
Lesson #11
            Welcome to class.  Please take out your Bibles and prepare to take copious notes as the information that follows is of great value….

            Let’s wrap up our discussion on Old Testament archeology with a few more interesting
archeological artifacts. Then we can move on to some archeological support for some New Testament finds.

Burial Plaque: On the Mt of Olives stands a Russian church and on its grounds is a burial plaque that states the following “Here the bones of Uzziah, King of Judah were brought do not open”  someone went to a lot of trouble to carve a burial plaque that fits in the culture and architecture of the reign of King Uzziah circa 775-725 BC or this is just another piece of evidence for the scriptural accuracy of Chronicles and the whole of Scripture.    

A commemorative inscription: in 701 BC King Hezekiah completed a tunnel which allowed for the safe gathering of water from the Gihon spring without leaving the safety of the city walls.  In 1880 to boys playing in the tunnel discovered an inscription in the wall of the tunnel that celebrated the completion of this tunnel.  Confirming exactly as recorded the accounts in 2 Kings 20 and 2 Chronicles 32.  a clear physical witness to biblical accuracy.  

The Hezir Family: 1 Chronicles 14 and Nehemiah 10 mention this priestly line and a complex and elaborate burial site in the Kidron valley carries this same name and three generations buried in this tomb.  Hezir was on the list of priests during reign of Kind David.  This is no coincidence this is evidence of a culture and a people matching God’s Holy word.

Pleas for Help:  In 1935 an archeologist discover 21 letters in the ruins of the ancient city of Lachish, these letters (on ostracon) pleaded for help from the city of Judah. Their content concur historically with the events prophesied by Jeremiah and recorded in 2 Kings of the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon in 587 BC   

The Dead Sea Scrolls: These amazing scrolls, some of them almost 2300 years old contain some or all of 38 of the 39 Old Testament books, only Ester is missing. Some of these text are over 1000 years older that our oldest copy when they were discovered in 1947.  this 1000 year gap was bridged amazingly there were no errors that in any way affected the text meaning.  These are a miraculous witness to scriptures divine origin, accuracy and infallibility!!

Over 2600 years old: That is how old the piece of jewelry found in a tomb in Jerusalem is.  On this ear ring was as silver scroll, and on this scroll are carved the oldest existing word of scripture the word often referred to as the Arronic blessing, found in Numbers 6:24-26.  you may have herd similar words at the close of worship. “The Lord bless you and keep you, make His face shine on you and be gracious to you, the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you Peace.”

            This blessing is a great place to complete our study of archeology from an Old Testament prospective.  Tune in next month when we will examine some artifact from the time of Christ and the early Church.

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
Lesson #12
            Welcome to class.  Please take out your Bibles and prepare to take copious notes as the information that follows is of great value….

            Let’s continue our discussion on archeology but let’s shift our attention to some more recent historical events—let’s say around 2010 years ago to 1985 years ago.  In essence let’s look at some of the sites from the life of Christ that reflect great consistency with the biblical narrative contained in the Gospel accounts of His life. 

The Church of the Nativity: There are ancient records that record the cave upon which this church was built, and which was a point of Christian pilgrimage as early as the first century AD.  Whether or not it is the exact cave upon which this church was built, this almost 1700 year old church is clearly in a place and in the town that fits the biblical narrative.  The Holy Land is filled with many Churches built on similar locations.  The annunciation, the crucifixion, and many other significant events in Christ’s life are marked with churches in the locations where those events happened.  Some may be yards from the actual location but few biblical scholars question whether most of these churches sit in the general location of these biblical events.

The City of Woe: Bethsaida has had much archeological work done since its discovery in 1987.  Biblical maps made since that date now accurately show this dried up harbor city which is the birth place and home town of Peter, Andrew and Philip.  Only Jerusalem and Capernaum are mentioned more in the Gospel accounts than Bethsaida.  But Jesus condemned Bethsaida, as recorded in Matthew 11:21 and Luke 10:13.  The town was destroyed around 66-68 AD and never rebuilt.    

Capernaum Synagogue: During His ministry in Galilee, Jesus taught and healed at the synagogue in Capernaum.  There is clearly a black basalt foundation from the time of Christ beneath the ruins of a synagogue built some 350 years later.  It is easy to tell the difference between the two because the newer stones are white.

Jericho: The accent city of Jericho remains uninhabited. However, there is a modern city that bears its name close by and there was a city close by in Jesus’ day as well.  That is the location of Herod the Great’s winter palace--the same Herod who was King when Jesus was born.  It also is the same place that Jesus met Zacchaeus the tax collector.  That’s right—the same short man in the sycamore tree from the Sunday school song.  There was a heavily traveled road between Jerusalem and Jericho, the same one Jesus used in His parable of the Good Samaritan.  The historical accuracy of scripture is a real thorn in the side of those who would dismiss it as fable and myth.

Bethesda: The pool by the sheep gate with the five covered colonnades where Jesus healed the cripple man as recorded in John 5:2.  You can visit the ruins of that pool today.  It has been unearthed since 1956, and portions of all five porticos have been reconstructed as well.

Lazarus: Let’s end this month with a resurrection.  The town of Bethany exists and was a regular stopping point for Jesus and His apostles as they traveled to and from Jerusalem.  Bethany had a cemetery and about 1700 years ago a church was built over what is believed to be the tomb from which Lazarus was raised from the dead.  That tomb was preserved and is open to the public today. It is empty just like the one in the church of the Holy Sepulcher, but the resident of the tomb in Bethany returned to the grave while the resident of the tomb of the Holy Sepulcher conquered death and sits at the right hand of God and is daily present in your life.     

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
Lesson #13

Welcome to class. Please take out your Bibles and prepare to take copious notes as the information that follows is of great value….

Let’s continue our discussion on archeology that we started last month, shifting our attention to some more recent historical times. The archeological evidence for a real historical Christ, when you weigh the biblical events of his ministry against that evidence, is quite astounding.

Pontius Pilate: He was not some fictitious character but the real historically verified governor of Judea, a roman vassal state in the time of Christ. Besides Jewish historical accounts of his leadership in the region and many traditions of his Italian origins and life, Eusebius sited some early apocryphal accounts that claim Pilate suffered misfortune in the reign of Caligula (AD 37–41), and was exiled to Gaul where he eventually committed suicide in Vienne. There are also ruins of a small Roman house known as "The House of Pilate" in the town of Abruzzo in central Italy.  In 1961 however, real carved-in-stone evidence was found in the ruins of a temple dedicated to Emperor Tiberius (another name matching biblical accounts) by none other than the region’s governor—Pontius Pilate.

Caiaphas:  His ossuary (a traditional Jewish box for human bones) was found in 1990 just south of Jerusalem and is now on display in the Israel Museum. The name, date, and other bones and ossuaries found in the tomb, make it very likely that this contained the bones of the same man who brought Jesus to trial.

Crucifixion: There is much evidence for the practice of crucifixion for execution in many ancient historical accounts, but there is also one solid piece of physical evidence in the form of a heel bone that was discovered in 1968 with a Nail through it, used to nail the person to something, presumably a cross.

King Herod: (74BC-1BC)  He was the great builder of Herodium, his 45 acre palace about 2 miles south of Bethlehem, which is one of his many well known architectural achievements. (This is the same Herod who ordered the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem.) Some of Herod's other well-known architectural accomplishments are Masada, the whole city of Caesarea Maritima, and also Jerusalem's second temple of which only the massive foundation area still stands, held up by what we know today as the Wailing Wall.  This is not to mention the large quarry discovered by Yuval Baruch on September 25, 2007, which was used to supply the second temple project.  Coins, pottery and iron stakes found there proved the date of the quarrying to be about 19 BC.  Many clear examples exist of this real historical king who sought to murder the Son of God as recorded in scripture. No one debates the existence of Herod or his monuments, just his attempt to kill the promised messiah, because that would require acknowledging the historicity of Christ.  It is dismissed not on evidence or lack thereof, but on preconceived notions which do not acknowledge or even allow for the possibility of Christ.

The Madaba Mosaic Map: This amazing 1450 year old map accurately represents the holy land from Egypt to Lebanon, including Sinai, Israel, Palestine, and Transjordan. This decorative church floor covering is the oldest map of this region found to date and the best topographical representation of the area in 560AD. Most amazing is that it identifies in writing the names and locations of numerous important biblical events and where they took place. What remains of the map identifies 156 locations by name, of which only about 25 have not been positively identified. This map is so cool it has its own website check it out ( or just Google Madaba Map.

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
Lesson #14
            Welcome to class.  Please take out your Bibles and prepare to take copious notes as the information that follows is of great value….

            Let’s continue our discussion on archeology, with our attention on some more recent historical times about 2000 years ago.  The archeological evidence for a real historical Christ in the context of a biblical world view is very revealing when you weigh the biblical events of his ministry against the existing evidence of culture, architecture, and other archeological finds. 

A Boat from the time of Christ was discovered in the Sea of Galilee during a drought in 1986.  The craft and the coins and pottery found onboard were well preserved in the low oxygen, salty mud of the sea.  All date to the time of Christ and fit the context of the time as described in God’s Word.

The City of Tiberias:  The home of Herod Antipas still exists today.  The main gate from the time of Christ was discovered during a dig from 1973-1974, and there are many other sites in and around the city that bear witness to the city from which Herod Antipas came and where Jesus did much of His ministry.  The Gospel of Luke records that when Jesus was brought before Pontius Pilate for trial, he handed him over to Antipas, in whose territory Jesus had been active. However, Antipas sent him back to Pilate, because Jesus would not entertain him. The legal basis for these events, and the very historicity of Antipas' involvement in the trial are difficult for the
Minimalist to dismiss, but since they cannot dispute the evidence, they attack the messenger by accusing Luke of later inserting the historic facts.  It is easier for me to question their motives than those of the great evangelist Saint Luke and the Holy Spirit who guided his pen.

Two Ceasareas: Many places were named for Caesar during Roman rule, but two of these cities play a prominent role in scripture. First is Ceasarea Philippi, the same one mentioned in Matthew, Mark and Acts, and the site of archeological digs since 1990.  Situated 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee and at the base of Mt. Hermon, Caesarea Philippi is the location of one of the largest springs feeding the Jordan River. The palace of Herod Agrippa the 2nd was discovered here and matches the description given by the Jewish historian Josephus.  This is the same Herod before whom Saint Paul defended the faith in Acts, chapter 26.  The second city is one I have had the privilege of visiting. Ceasarea Maritima is situated just south of Haifa and north of Tel Aviv, Israel, on the Mediterranean coast.  This has been the site of archeological activity for over 60 years.  Here are some of the things discovered there: Herod the Great’s completely man-made Harbor (using special underwater concrete foundations), streets, the amphitheater, the hippodrome, the market place, shops, miles of aqueducts, temples, homes and a palace complex on a hill overlooking the whole city.  At its peak, this small city of 164 acres was home to over 100,000 people.  This became the capital of the Roman Provence of Judea.  It is where Pontius Pilate lived and is the location for many events in the book of Acts.  I cannot even begin to do justice to this archeological site which now covers over 8000 acres and only 5 acres have been uncovered and explored. Simply Google “Ceasarea Maritima” for more informationIt is a national park in Israel and there are dozens of reputable websites with great information on this mountain of archeological data that affirms and is a witness to the life and times of Christ and the early church.

Let’s finish with one more city this month.
Megiddo: This unassuming little town sits on a hill that overlooks a valley protecting the approaches to the hill county and the coast.  This vantage point has made it a military stronghold over the centuries.  This was also one of the locations where Solomon kept the horses for his chariots, and it was the location of many battles throughout history.  Its location plays a role in Christ’s revelation given to us by Saint John while on Patmos.  You see, the Hebrew word for mountain is “har” so if you translate mountain of Megiddo, you get Armageddon—the location mentioned in Revelation 16 after the sixth bowl of wrath, for the gathering of Kings for the final battle. Those to whom John was writing would have had clear knowledge of this location—not as an actual geographic location, but symbolizing the location of the great final battle between God and all the forces of evil.                        
            Tune in next month when we will continue to examine some artifacts from the time of Christ and the early Church.  We will look at a couple more cities and then maybe focus some deeper attention on the city of Jerusalem. 
Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
Lesson #15
            Welcome to class.  Please take out your Bibles and prepare to take copious notes as the information that follows is of great value….

            Let’s continue our examination of artifacts from the time of Christ and the early Church.  We will look at 10 more cities and then focus some deeper attention on the city of Jerusalem.

            Decapolis: This is actually the name given to 10 cities (deca = 10 and polis = city).  This league of 10 cities, mentioned in Matthew 5:25, Mark 5:20 and 7:31, is where Greek language and culture flourished in the Holy Land and is for the most part spread to the east of the sea of Galilee and the Jordon river with the exception of Damascus to the north and Scythopolis on the west bank of the Jordon River.  All but one city has been positively identified, and the city of Dion may be associated with Tell el-Ashari among other possibilities.  People from those cities were present at the Sermon on the Mount and they also marveled when a man, who had demons cast out of him by Christ, proclaimed what Jesus did had done for him.  These are not fictitious accounts or places.  Our faith affirms their truth, while the places affirm their historicity.

               Stones:  Jesus quoted the psalmist (Psalm 118) when He said, “The stone the builders rejected will become the cornerstone.” The city of Jerusalem is a treasure trove of amazing stones with great stories to tell. Here are just a few.  The capstone to one of the temple towers was discovered at the base of the southwest wall of the Temple Mount. How do we know this was a temple capstone?  Because these towers had designated locations for the trumpeters to stand to blow the call to worship, and on this stone is carved “…to the place of the trumpeting.”  So it is clearly a capstone by its design and a temple capstone because of its inscription. The sundial, discovered by excavators in 1972, was calibrated for the sun’s movement in Jerusalem to mark time and seasons in accord with the Jewish calendar.  It has a menorah carved on the back, and was a likely tool for the priest who had to observe everything in its proper time.  The Entry Warning, located in 1871, is a slab with a warning to gentiles: “No gentile may enter within this temple barrier.”  This warning and others found just like it, carved in Greek, match those described by the Jewish historian Josephus. These were hung on a low wall that divided the public square from the sacred inner courtyard.  These low walls are alluded to when Saint Paul writes to the church at Ephesis in chapter 2, verse 4: “for he [Jesus] is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility.”  What do these three stones have in common? They along with thousands just like them are rock solid witnesses to the fulfillment of Jesus’ words found in Mark 13:2:  And Jesus said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down." We know this to have been fulfilled in 70AD when the Romans crushed a Jewish rebellion, and to teach them a lesson, the Romans completely destroyed their temple.  These stones are all that remain of the once glorious second temple.  

            The Arch of Titus: One thousand nine hundred and forty years ago this past June, Rome had enough of the rebellious Judeans as mentioned in the last paragraph.  So the emperor sent his great general Titus to quell the rebellion and teach them a lesson.  The lesson he gave them was devastating.  He and his army demolished the city of Jerusalem, killing most of its inhabitants and flattened the 585 year old temple.  We can look at the Arch of Titus in the ancient Roman Forum to see all the treasures they carted off from the temple.  Clearly seen on this relief is the table for the showbread, the large menorah, and the sacred scroll of God’s law.

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
Lesson #16
                                                    Welcome to class.  Please take out your Bibles and prepare to take copious notes as the information that follows is of great value….

                                                    Temple Mount, The Dome of the Rock, and the Ark of the Covenant.  An archeologist by the name of Leen Ritmeyer is well known in his field for putting forth interesting theories about the location of the Holy of Holies portion of the ancient Temple.  That Temple was destroyed in 70 AD and some 600 years later the Muslims built the “Dome of the Rock” (that big gold dome you see on most pictures of Jerusalem) on the same location.  Ritmeyer postulates with some convincing matching measurements that the wall foundations of the Holy of Holies and the carved spot where the Ark of the Covenant sat can be clearly seen and identified.  This rock has many cuts and scars on it from numerous construction and demolition events on that location over the millennia.  However the Dome of the Rock has stood in that location for over 1300 years and the marks Ritmeyer identifies match the measurements given in scripture, so that his postulations are quite possibly accurate for the location of this sacred place and this most holy relic.  Where is the Ark of the Covenant?  I believe that it was destroyed with the temple in 70 AD.  This is pure speculation based on my research of the many theories that debate its current existence and location.  What is important is that we know it did exist and it played a very important role in its 1500-year existence pointing toward the coming of the Messiah.

Let’s shift to the Apostle Paul and the early Church

                                                    Straight Street:  Today in Damascus, you can still walk down the street called Straight mentioned in Acts, Chapter 9, in which Paul was converted and made an apostle of Christ by Christ Himself.

                                                    Politarchs:  The believers in Acts 17:6 were dragged before these city authorities.  This term was found only in Scripture until recently and of course, used as a reason to discredit God’s word.  The term has since been found inscribed on stone 32 times, and 19 of them were found in Thessalonica where the events occurred that took place in the first part of Acts 17.

                                                    Areopagus: In the last part of Acts 17, Paul addressed the “Areopagus.” This hill still exists today in Athens and is know to be a place where a council of the city met.  Areopagus means the hill of Ares or Mars and that was also the name of the council that met there. It is amazing to consider that the word of God is so clear and accurate that you can still today stand in a place that is known to be the very location that this great witnessing event took place.  In fact, there are even altars in Greece and Rome inscribed with a dedication to the unknown god.

                                                    Gallio and the Bema:  In Acts 18, Paul is brought before Gallio who was the proconsul of Achaia. This would have taken place at a recently discovered Bema (platform for public addresses) in Corinth. Inscriptions have also been found that identify Gallio as the proconsul of Achaia.

                                                    Ephesus: The ruins of this ancient city, once the home of the temple of Artemis (one of the 7 ancient wonders of the world), is also the location for a number of events in scripture.  Specifically, Acts 19 mentions the amphitheater where Paul’s traveling companions were dragged because Paul’s preaching was hurting the sale of silver statues of Artemis.                                                    

                                                    Erastus: He is mentioned by Paul in his final greetings at the end of the book of Romans.  He is mentioned as “Erastus, the city treasurer” and it just so happens that in 1929, a paving stone was located near the amphitheater in Corinth that names Erastus as a public official.

                                                    We may soon reach the end of our deep exploration of the field of archeology and I think we can start on our next field of study—biology—in just a couple of months.  But first a little more about the early church and some ancient manuscripts. 

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
Lesson #17
            Welcome to class.  Please take out your Bibles and prepare to take copious notes as the information that follows is of great value….

            “All roads lead to Rome”: In my wife’s home town of Fussen Germany is evidence of this interesting little phrase.  The 700+ year old town has a historic marker on one of its many beautiful walking trails that displays evidence of a roman road that once passed on that location.  By the time Christ came to redeem the world Rome had built over 53000 miles of roads around their empire which promoted trade and communication throughout the entire Mediterranean and up into the British isles.  God’s timing was perfect for Christ to come in a time when His great Gospel could travel 53000 miles of newly constructed roads to carry His light into a dark and dying world, let’s look at some great examples of this early church growth.

            Antioch: in America we have six places called Antioch there are also six places called Antioch in Asia, however of the 19 times Antioch is mentioned in scripture most are in Acts and most have to do with the work of Paul and Barnabus during his first missionary journey starting what became one of the earliest and largest Christian communities in the early Church.  This town which today is called Antayak in southern Turkey on the Orontes river with a population of a little over 200,000 was a major Roman crossroad connecting many peoples, roads, a river and the Mediterranean.  Antioch was a main center of early Christianity. The city had a large population of Jewish origin in a quarter called the Kerateion, attracting early missionaries. Evangelized, among others, by Peter himself, according to the tradition upon which the Antiochene patriarchate still rests its claim for primacy.  Converts here were the first to be called ChristiansLarge 2000 years ago with a population estimated by Chrysostom to be about 100,000 people between 252 and 300AD ten assemblies of the church were held at Antioch and it became the seat of one of the four original patriarchates, along with  Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Rome.  The city’s slow growth over the last 2000 years is because it sat on the border between Christianity and Islam for many centuries, not to mention being in and out of the hands of Crusaders.  However because of its rich history it also is a treasure trove of archeological evidence which affirms its place in the history of the early Christian Church.

            Philippi: Located on the Roman road Via Egnatia this is the place where the Gospel was first preached on the European continent.  This was also a prominent seat of early Christianity where you can still see today ancient ruins of the Egnatian way, the Roman Forum, even possible locations of Paul’s imprisonment, and the place where Paul met Lydia who what one of the first converts to the Gospel he was preaching.

            Thessalonica: If you continue another 115 miles southeast on the major east-west corridor of Via Egnatia you will come the second largest city in Greece today Solonika.  Much of ancient Thessalonica lies beneath this modern city.  However the ruins of a number of early church buildings and other Roman and Christian artifacts affirm this as the same place Paul was expelled for preaching the Gospel and it is the same location to which He sent letters that are now part of God’s Holy Word.

            The 7 Churches of Revelation:  Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, & Laodicea are not fictitious places dreamed up by John.  They are real places, four of which have been extensively excavated.  These are now all modern towns or cities with names like Anatolia, Izmir, Akisar, Sart, and Alasehir, while the centers of Pergamum and Laodicea are not covered by modern towns.  These churches also show that there is nothing new under the sun, the same problems these early congregations had 2000 years ago; false apostles, false prophets, false teaching, having no fruits of faith, being worldly, spiritually poor, and blind to the needs of those around them.  Sounds sadly like many groups that call themselves the church today.

We have reached the end of our deep exploration of the field of archeology and will start on our next field of study, biology to start the new year, so break out your lab coats and your Bunsen burners.  Were going to talk about how Biology proclaims its creator.    

Thanks for attending S.M.B.I. …class dismissed J
In Christ,
Pastor Portier
Saint Paul Lutheran Church
1610 Pullen Road, Sevierville TN
Phone: 865-365-8551
Service times: Sun 8:30 & 11:00, Wed 7 PM

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