/ Gathering Stones aka Biblical Archaeology

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Where Satan Dwells

Satan dwelled in Pergamon in the form of paganism in the Asklepieion. The Askelpieion was a treatment center for those ailing in mind, body, or soul. The word scalpel is derived from the name of Asklepios—the ancient god of healing.

The Askelpieion was a structured area. The plans for the Askelpieion would include a healing spring and a bath. There would be a house for the priests and officials, a college for training the priests, and a hostel for the patients. Included within the parameters of the Pergamon Askelpieion were a library, gymnasium, theater, sleeping center, and temple to Asklepios. There would also be a serpent pit.

The priest was the head official. He may or may not be a physician, but he was the general administrator. He was appointed annually, and historical records at the Askelpieion in Athens indicate that he would have been frequently re-elected. He had a share in the financial management of the Askelpieion.

The lesser positions of priests bore torches to light the way for the physicians, higher priests, and patients; or they carried the fire to light the fires on the altars. Other members in the association were key bearers who may be considered to be a type of porter. Some members were not affiliated to the treatment center, but were simply there to charge and receive payments for the facility.

Women had their place in the Askelpieion as both basket bearers and the carriers of mysteries or holy things. Some women simply attended to the sick and carried those who were unable to walk. It is not known if they were trained in medicine as nurses or simply caregivers to the ill.

There were doors with locks throughout the Askelpieion complex; therefore, one wonders if the locks were to keep people out or to keep people in.

While it was a treatment center, religious steps were a substantial part of the treatment. Askelpios was the mythological god of healing and his temple was in the medical compound for worshippers to present gifts. There were only three primary treatment centers in the ancient Roman world to which the sick would come to visit an Askelpieion seeking a cure for their ailments.

The theater within the treatment center would seat 3500 people, but certainly the treatment facility could not house such a large number. Many of those attending the performances there simply must have done so for entertaining purposes.

Upon arriving, the patient would have an interview with the physician/priest and make financial arrangements for their stay. Having completed these necessities, the patient was ritually bathed and would offer sacrifices and offerings in the temple. A poor man would sacrifice a cake while the rich man would provide a sheep, pig or goat. It was understood that only pure souls could enter the temple.

At bedtime the patient would bring his bed clothes to the treatment center and sleep on the marbled slabs, while leaving a gift on the table near the bed. A priest would light sacred lamps, recite evening prayers and ask for divine enlightenment for those in the treatment center. Then the priest collects the gifts.

Later a priest puts out the lights, commands silence and everyone is told to sleep. Additionally, he asks for guiding visions from the god. The refreshing air on the mountain and the cool breezes from the Aegean Sea helped them to sleep. Sometimes opium was administered to insure a deep sleep.

During the night’s sleep, the patient would receive a vision or see a visionary of Askelpios concerning their illness. Of course, this part of the treatment was an outrageous farce. Whether the vision was a drug-induced hallucination or the visionary was a priest acting on behalf of the god is not certain but by some means, the person received audible instructions for their care.

In the morning, the patient would reveal to the priest what was said to him during the night, and the priest/physician would establish a treatment program seeking a cure according to the god’s instruction. It was a win/win situation for the priest/physician.

The serpent played an important role in the treatment program. Serpents roamed freely in the treatment rooms and patients were encouraged to feed cakes to them. In turn, the serpents were trained to lick the afflicted with their tongues. Hundreds of historical records identify the cures associated with serpents.

My personal favorite case concerns a patient with “dropsy” who visited the Askelpieion. While there, the god Askelpios cuts off the patient’s head, holds him upside-down allowing all the fluids to leave his body and then puts the patient’s head back on. The patient returns home cured—or so the record says.

The majority of the time spent in the treatment center the patients did anything which brought them comfort. The patient could read quietly in the library or opt for a visit to the gymnasium for a work out.

The patient could receive mud baths or oiled massages in the bath along with fresh fruits and vegetables in the diet and fresh air. Wines and drugs such as opium were available for treatment programs.

The Askelpieion was a beautiful site to behold with marbled, columned, and plastered buildings, tree-shaded grounds, and social amenities. Beautiful sculptures appeased the eye and religious pleasantries such as burning incense complemented the sense of smell. The ancient Askelpieion would put today’s spas to shame.

All of this was therapeutic to the patient—culture, literature, arts, exercise, rest, healthy food and fresh air. That—and the supplement of drugs, if needed, would certainly make the majority of patients feel better. It was primarily a means of mind over matter. For others, the treatment center was a vacation from the stresses of everyday life.

Woe to those who did not respond to the treatment proposed by the god in the sleep center. For those unfortunate souls whose true medical difficulties could not be met, they were given the boot out the nearest door with the accusation that Askelpios had rejected them. Since they were dying, no priest/physical could defile themselves with death.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I Know Thy Works

Today the city is known by its Turkish corrupted name Bergema, but in antiquity it was known as Pergamon. Pergamon (Pergamos) is found in Strong’s Concordance meaning “height or elevation,” yet is also a derivative of the Greek word purgos (πύργος) meaning “tower.”

Indeed, the city of Pergamon sat on the mountain overlooking the plains towards the Aegean Sea and it had its own form of a “tower” replicated in the altar of Zeus, generally recognized as “Satan’s Throne.”

The population of Pergamon in the Roman era is estimated at 150,000 residents. The first stop was the public bath, a requirement of anyone entering the city in an effort to control disease. After the fall of Athens, Pergamon became the leading center of culture. The library at Pergamon held 200,000 volumes and was the second largest in antiquity—second only to Alexandria, Egypt. The supply of papyrus from the Nile region was being depleted by the great demand for a writing product.

Pharaoh Ptolemy V was jealous of the cultural acknowledgements of Pergamon and the status afforded to the city because of the knowledge source in the library; therefore, he refused to sell anymore papyrus to the king in Pergamon. So, the king ordered a replacement to be found for papyrus, and his learned and skilled court found a substitute in the product of parchment. In fact, parchment and Pergamon have the same word base in Greek. Parchment is known as “Charta Pergamena” and is sometimes called vellum.

Not only was Pergamum a literary center, but is was also a religious center. The first temple built to the Caesar cult was built at Pergamon. It was among many other pagan temples on the acropolis. There was a temple to Zeus, one to Athena, and yet another to Asklepios as the god of healing.

After the time John received the Revelation of Jesus Christ, many other temples were built on the acropolis, but when the letter was penned, the temples to Zeus, Athena, Asklepios, and Caesar were the primary cult worship centers. When Christianity was introduced to Pergamon, many of the ancient temples to paganism were converted to basilicas for Christian worship.

The ancient theater at Pergamon was the steepest ever constructed. It was built on the steep slope of the mountainside facing toward the middle city. As one approached the acropolis of Pergamon, the theater appears as though it were platforms of steps leading to the ominous altar of Zeus, the throne of Satan.

Another word related to the city of Pergamon is the Greek word gamos (γάμος) which means marriage. From the word for marriage we also receive the words for bigamy and polygamy, which appropriately fits the morale code for this time in Pergamon. Sexual immorality was an accepted practice and the letter to the church in Pergamon identifies fornication as one of the problems in the church.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Garden of Gethsemane

The time of the Passover was a time when all the Jews came to Jerusalem for the event. The city would be housed to a maximum capacity and every “nook and cranny” would be utilized for quarters. The Cave of Gethsemane was one such case. Normally the cave would be used for processing olive oil, but at this time of the year, the cave would be unused and available for quarters. The people of Jerusalem opened their homes to their kinsmen by providing them with shelter. The kinsmen would arrive with the paschal lamb and upon leaving would leave the animal skin as a token of appreciation for their kindness.

John 18:1
1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples.

Tourists flock to the Garden of Gethsemane to venerate the site of Jesus' arrest without understanding that it is the TRADITIONAL site and not one that is proven by archaeological or historical evidences. Instead, the earliest archaeological and historical evidences point to the cave which is known as the Grotto of the Apostles, a place which is almost hidden by the TRADITIONAL site of the Tomb of the Virgin which was built next to the cave in the fifth century.

The Gospel of John is the only text to use the word "garden.” In the Greek text, the word is kepos which can be translated as a garden, but in reality, it is more accurately translated as “a cultivated tract of land.” (Taylor: 1995)

Just as the text of John 18:1 says Jesus “went forth” from Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives, the text of John 18:4 identifies again that Jesus went forth from something or somewhere in the garden when the soldiers came to arrest him. Since Jesus entered the garden (John 18:1) yet did not go out of the garden to speak to the guards, then the text implies that Jesus was in another area than the olive grove.

Archaeological excavations have identified that the cave was used as an area for pressing olives. The time of the Passover Feast in Jerusalem is a time when nights are chilly and the dew settles heavily on the ground. The night that Jesus was arrested was such a night as identified from the text of the Gospel of John citing in verse 18—“for it was cold...” It is only reasonable to understand that the cave where the olives were pressed would be more comfortable than the open air under the olive trees. The translation for Gethsemane is “press of oils” so one may consider that the groves of olive trees on the terraced landside and the cave for the manufacture of olive oil to be one and the same called Gethsemane.

Taylor, Joan E., "The Garden of Gethsemane, Not the Place of Jesus' Arrest," Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 1995

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

John 12:12-20 The Triumphant Entry

12 On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem,
13 Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.
14 And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written,
15 Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass's colt.
16 These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him.
17 The people therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bare record.
18 For this cause the people also met him, for that they heard that he had done this miracle.
19 The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him.

Can you imagine the whispering crowds in Jerusalem before the Passover? As He approaches from Jericho, Jesus is nearing Bethany, the traditional site where He had raised Lazarus from the dead. Being so close to Jerusalem, the town of Bethany is simply bursting at it seams with people who are there for the Passover meal, and the people hear from those who “bore witness" of the resurrection of Lazarus that the Rabbi named Jesus is nearing the city.

They hail Him in the hopes that He will be their Messiah, the Anointed One who will deliver them from the oppression of Roman rule—for they were truly looking for an earthly King of the Jews.

The next day, as Jesus leaves Bethany for Jerusalem, He will be descending from a height of 2750 feet above sea level on a caravan road leading into the Kidron Valley. The road is not straight, but rather like the Jordan River, meanders past olive and date trees on terraced hillsides.

Initially the city of Jerusalem is not visible to those approaching from Bethany. The first view would be the southwestern walls of the Temple Mount and the ridge of Ophel leading southward away from the city.

After a couple of turns and the rise and fall in the elevation of the road, at last the Holy City would be revealed in its splendor.

The white limestone columns are so highly polished that they appear pure white. They are adorned with capitals trimmed in gold. Upon seeing the Holy City Jesus weeps for the people. After three and a half years of ministry, the people have never understood that the coming Kingdom of God is within.

From the Temple Mount, looking eastward toward Bethany, it would be two miles and much of the "pomp and circumstance" of Jesus' entrance to the city would be visible far from the city of Jerusalem. Extra soldiers were garrisoned in Jerusalem during the Passover to control the crowds. The procurator would travel from Caesarea by the Sea to Jerusalem to preside over any matters that should arise during the feast. Pilate, the Procurator of Judea and Samaria, and Herod, the King of Perea and the Galilee, were both in the city.

For centuries nothing would be built within eight hundred feet outside the city walls as a defensive measure; therefore, providing a spectacular view of the Triumphant Entry—the Roman soldiers and authorities approaching Jerusalem from the Kidron Valley, the residents of Jerusalem, the pilgrims at Jerusalem for the feast, and especially the Scribes and Pharisees on the Temple Mount. Before their eyes, the followers of Jesus were laying palm leaves and cloaks before the Son of God riding triumphantly into the city as a fulfillment of prophecy.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Luke 7:11-16

11 And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people.
12 Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her.
13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not.
14 And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.
15 And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.
16 And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people.

Have you ever stopped to think that when the text of the gospels says, "and many of his disciples went with him"... that group would always include Matthias and Joseph called Barsabas (Justus)

As Jesus approached and touched the "bier", it must have seemed startling to the crowd because to touch a corpse would render the person defiled. The "bier" could have been a coffin as we think today, but more probably was a funeral bed, or open basket bearing the body to the tombs.

It is interesting to note that scholars have studied the Bible, Jewish customs, and the history of the land to such extent that we can see a clear image of Jesus approaching the small town of Nain, being unable to enter the city by the city gate because a funeral procession was exiting the city.

Quoting Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah 1883

"The way was long - as we reckon, more than twenty-five miles; but, even if it was all taken on foot, there could be no difficulty in reaching Nain ere the evening, when so often funerals took place. Various roads lead to, and from Nain;3 that which stretches to the Lake of Galilee and up to Capernaum is quite distinctly marked. It is difficult to understand, how most of those who have visited the spot could imagine the place, where Christ met the funeral procession, to have been the rock-hewn tombs to the west of Nain and towards Nazareth.4 For, from Capernaum the Lord would not have come that way, but approach it from the north-east by Endor. Hence there can be little doubt, that Canon Tristram correctly identifies the now unfenced burying-ground, about ten minutes' walk to the east of Nain, as that whither, on that spring afternoon, they were carrying the widow's son.5 On the path leading to it the Lord of Life for the first time burst open the gates of death."

And quoting Dr. Sidney DeWaal, President, Jerusalem University College,

"Christian pilgrimage is ultimately the search for places where one can touch the Jesus story. The Christian Bible includes both the Tanach (Old Testament) and the New Testament, and for Christians, the New Testament makes no sense without its predecessor. The connection between the two parts of the Christian Bible becomes even more apparent in the land where they both took place. This is illustrated quite remarkably by two stories with the same theme. In the first, Elisha raises the son of the woman of Shunem from the dead. In the second story, Jesus raises the son of the widow of Nain from the dead. The first story is in the earlier Testament; the second is in the latter. In my pilgrimage, I discovered that Shunem was located on the southwest slope of the hill of Moreh, near Mount Tabor - and that Nain was located on the northwest slope of the same hill, about one kilometer away. This physical proximity amplifies the significance of, and connection between, the two stories.... Through connections like this, Christian pilgrims who explore the stories of the Bible and the physical sites of their occurrence discover the unity of the Scriptures and the mystery of God's presence in history."

So much to be learned in looking at the passage and place from different angles.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Luke 7:1-5

1 Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum.
2 And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die.
3 And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant.
4 And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this:
5 For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.

The white limestone synagogue which is seen today in Capernaum is dated well after the time of Christ, but the present synagogue is located over the foundation of the first-century synagogue where Jesus would have taught. The fact is there was a Roman garrison in Capernaum. There was a need for a garrison of soldiers in Capernaum to insure the collection of the taxes for Caesar and the Roman government as a very important crossing/stop along the Via Maris... and for the collection of taxes on the fishing industry.

In Biblical Archaeology Review, Sep/Oct 1993, John Laughlin writes concerning the excavation on the Greek Orthodox side of Capernaum, page 57

"The Gospels record an incident in the life of Jesus that took place at Capernaum involving a Roman centurion and his sick slave (Luke 7:1-10....

"New evidence indicates that Romans indeed lived in Capernaum in the first century A.D. Moreover, far from being a poor, isolated village, Capernaum, the center of Jesus' Galilean ministry, was quite prosperous and was apparently home to Gentiles as well as Jews. ..."

"Beneath the bathhouse at Capernaum were earlier remains belonging to the first century A.D. (our stratum IX). Since we did not want to destroy the later building on top, the full plan of this earlier structure is still unknown. In general, however, the outline of the lower building is similar to the bathhouse above it."

and, a more interesting note...
"...Immediately beneath the first-century floor were the remains of an Early Bronze Age wall (third millennium B.C.)! Such walls were also found in other areas of our site--but nothing in between that and the first century A.D."

Thus, evidence that Capernaum was known as some other site in the Old Testament times.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Luke 6:38

Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

A measure that is "good", "pressed down", "shaken together", and "running over" is the guideline that Jesus gave to the people.

In measuring grain, for a fair measure, the merchant would measure by taking a timneh and scooping the grain into the measure. When it begins to get full, the merchant shakes the timneh several times to get the grain to pack in tightly. When it appears to be full, the merchant pressed down on the grain with all of his weight to compress the grain together. Then, when he has a solid foundation, he scoops out the middle of the grain towards the edge and begins to fill the cup that was created, and fills it until the grain is running over.

A measure that is not compressed and shaken down contains about 37 pounds, but one that is measure correctly, shaken down, compressed, and with the cone running over measures in at about 48 pounds, or a difference of 11 pounds. That's a difference of about 25 percent between loose grain and compacted and running over grain.

The question is, I guess, what measure of work do you want to give to God? The amount that looks like a full measure and calling it 100 percent, or going the extra mile and giving God the extra 25 percent? Looking at the measures, they will look the same, and it isn't until they are weighed that the difference is noticeable.

God knows what measure we use.