There are enough scholars who have serious doubts about the authenticity of the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” that when a report circulated that Harvard Theological Review had decided to not publish the article, many scholars believed it. Brian LePort has some of the back and forth.
Mark Hoffman excavated at et-Tell (Bethsaida?) this summer and is sharing his photo book of the dig. (No account is needed to flip through it, and full screen provides the best view.)
This week’s photo focuses on what is arguably the last of the “Bible Places.” If the Garden of Eden is the first Bible Place, the island of Patmos could be considered the last.
Our picture of the week comes from Volume 12 of the revised and expanded version of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, which focuses on the Greek Islands. The photo is entitled “Patmos, View of Island North from Acropolis Panorama” (picture ID # tb061606331). If you have this volume, the photo can be found in the Microsoft PowerPoint presentation on Patmos. This photo is one of several beautiful panoramas that are available as part of the PLBL. (Click on the photo for a higher resolution.)
Why is this the last of the Bible Places? The small island of Patmos is where John received his heavenly visions which were later written down in the last book of the Bible: the book of Revelation. In Revelation 1:9 the apostle writes, “I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (ESV).
Patmos is a small island: only 7.5 miles long and 6 miles wide. To walk from one end to the other would take only a few hours. It is situated between modern Turkey and Greece, and is a volcanic island with rocky soil. The island was settled on and off throughout the centuries. During the Roman period, there is evidence that there was a temple to Artemis and a gymnasium there, so it is unlikely that John was alone during his stay. According to the notes in the PLBL, there have been over 300 churches built on the island over the last 2,000 years. With only 13 square miles of real estate, that means there has been an average of 23 churches per square mile!
But is this really the last of the Bible Places? After all, there are still 22 chapters of scripture after Patmos is mentioned in chapter one. Within these chapters, several other locations are mentioned, such as Ephesus (Rev. 2:1), Sardis (Rev. 3:1), and Laodicea (Rev. 3:14). Yet Patmos is the last identified location of an apostle mentioned in scripture, so that counts for something. 😉 Mount Zion is mentioned in Revelation 14:1, but is this referring to the hill called Mount Zion during biblical times or the modern Mount Zion that was mislabeled by the Byzantines? Until the jury weighs in on that issue, Mount Zion is disqualified. “Babylon” is the focus of Revelation 17 and 18, but Bible scholars are divided about whether that refers to actual Babylon, to Rome, or to something else entirely, so that option should be ruled out. Some people probably would argue that the prize for the last Bible Place should be awarded to the new heaven and the new earth described in Revelation 21 and 22, but unfortunately John did not take any photographs for us and we can’t take tourists there, so that’s not really practical. So in the end, with our tongue planted firmly in our cheek, we award the illustrious prize of the last BiblePlace to the tiny (yet significant) island of Patmos!
This and other photos of Patmos are included in Volume 12 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands and can be purchased here. More information on Patmos and additional photos can be found on the BiblePlaces website here. For a more serious reflection on the biblical significance of the island and how this may have influenced John’s description of the new creation in Revelation 21:1, check out my post at the Wild Olive Shoot blog here.
Today is Yom Kippur and I suggest you read Wayne Stiles’ lavishly illustrated article on the tabernacle and its significance for the Day of Atonement.
A full-scale replica of the Tabernacle stands in the very wilderness where Moses and the children of Israel wandered for forty years.
It is like entering a doorway to history—and viewing a picture of your salvation.
Reading the Tabernacle’s dimensions in Exodus 35-40 is so different from seeing them with your own eyes—and in the same wilderness where the Tabernacle stood (Exodus 40:34-38).
The realistic replica echoes of Yom Kippur—the Day of Atonement—when God forgave the sins of His people.
Excavations along a highway in northern Israel revealed a 50-acre site dating to the Neolithic period. One of the most impressive discoveries was a small stone bowl with several hundred stone beads.
Among the special finds that were uncovered in the excavation is a group of small stone bowls that were made with amazing delicacy. One of them was discovered containing more than 200 black, white and red stone beads. Other important artifacts are clay figurines of animals (sheep, pig and cattle) that illustrate the importance of animal breeding in those cultures. The most importance finds are stone seals or amulets bearing geometric motifs and stone plaques and bone objects decorated with incising. Among the stone plaques is one that bears a simple but very elegant carving depicting two running ostriches. These objects represent the world of religious beliefs and serve as a link that connects Ein Zippori with the cultures of these periods in Syria and Mesopotamia. According to Milevski and Getzov, “The arrival of these objects at the ʽEin Zippori site shows that a social stratum had already developed at that time that included a group of social elite which used luxury items that were imported from far away countries”.
Check out Wayne Stiles’ descriptive and devotional thoughts about Tel Dan. “By providing alternative places of worship [at Dan and Bethel], Jeroboam appealed to the laziness of the human spirit.”
If you’re looking for full-color, poster-size maps of biblical history, take a look at WordAction’s Bible Teaching Maps. The $35 set includes 10 large maps and 10 reproducible charts. The maps were produced by Zondervan and Oxford University Press.
They are easily mounted on foam board for display and transport.
I’ve been updating the previous post with links to good articles about the subject, including questions of the discovery’s authenticity, genre, and significance. The “blockbuster” documentary airs in 10 days and that rightly concerns everyone not making money off of it. There also is some movement afoot to use this discovery to support the spurious claims made by “Jesus Tomb” proponents who allege that Jesus had a wife and family. Here’s the updated list:
How would being a tentmaker be an advantage to Paul while he was on his missionary journeys? Archaeology provides some possible insights.
The picture of the week comes from Volume 11 of the revised and expanded version of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands which focuses on Greece. The photo is entitled “Corinth Shop on Western Side of Lechaion Road” (photo ID # tb031706129). Click on the photo for a higher resolution.
Paul stayed in Corinth for about a year and half during his second missionary journey (Acts 18:11).
Here is how the book of Acts describes the beginning of his time in that city:
After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla …. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks. (Acts 18:1-4, ESV)
The term translated “tentmakers” could refer to craftsmen who were skilled in all sorts of leatherwork, not just in making tents. As Paul worked alongside Aquila and Priscilla, they may have worked out of a shop such as the one shown in this picture. Here they would have made leather goods, repaired leather items, and also sold their wares to the public. Shops such as this were located along the Lechaion Road in Corinth as well as in the North Market. However, it should be stressed that the exact location of Aquila and Priscilla’s shop (assuming they had one) cannot be determined.
The way the participle and main verb are combined in 1 Thess 2:9, “working we proclaimed,” indicate that Paul did not separate work and preaching. Indeed, one of the advantages of leather-working was that he could easily do both; the environment was clean and pleasant, and the only sound the soft thump as the awl went in. …
From a shop in a busy market or giving on to a crowded street Paul had access, not only to co-workers and clients, but also the throng outside. In slack periods he could stand in the door and button-hole those whom he thought might listen …. It is difficult to imagine that his dynamic personality and utter conviction did not quickly make him a ‘character’ of the neighbourhood, and this would have drawn the curious, not merely the idlers but also those genuinely seeking.
The workshop also provided other advantages. Those attracted by his message could come in to question or chat as he worked. Married women with their attendants, who had heard of him, could visit on the pretext of coming to buy. In times of stress, when persecution or simple harassment threatened, believers could encounter him as clients. The workshop also brought him into contact with municipal officials. …
In sum, therefore, the workshop was a very astute choice for a missionary center, but it should not be imagined that Paul thereby had it easy. The average artisan of the period barely made ends meet … and in Paul’ case his wandering life made it difficult for him to build up the local reputation that outweighs competition. Long hours of exhausting toil were necessarily his lot, and how many times did he have to start all over again in another small shop in a strange city?
This and other photos of Corinth are included in Volume 11 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands and can be purchased here. More information on Corinth and additional photos can be found on the BiblePlaces website here. The quotation is taken from Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, St. Paul’s Corinth: Texts and Archaeology, Good News Studies, vol. 6 (Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, Inc, 1983), 169-170, and can be purchased here.
The problem with today’s headline story is not the discovery of an ancient document that suggests that someone once believed that Jesus had a wife. There were many false and unbiblical teachings in ancient times, just as there are today. The problem is the media can very easily make a minor story into something sensational that appears to threaten historic Christianity.
A papyrus fragment from the fourth century contains a phrase in which Jesus refers to “My wife,” which a U.S. scholar says is the first evidence supporting the belief among early Christians that he was married.
That’s the version that most will read. Contrast that with first paragraph of the academic paper on which the story is based (bold font mine):
Published here for the first time is a fragment of a fourth-century CE codex in Coptic containing a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples in which Jesus speaks of “my wife.” This is the only extant ancient text which explicitly portrays Jesus as referring to a wife. It does not, however, provide evidence that the historical Jesus was married, given the late date of the fragment and the probable date of original composition only in the second half of the second century. Nevertheless, if the second century date of composition is correct, the fragment does provide direct evidence that claims about Jesus’s marital status first arose over a century after the death of Jesus in the context of intra-Christian controversies over sexuality, marriage, and discipleship. Just as Clement of Alexandria (d. ca 215 C.E.) described some Christians who insisted Jesus was not married, this fragment suggests that other Christians of that period were claiming that he was married.
A few observations:
1. We have known for a very long time that some people around the year 200 argued that Jesus had a wife.
2. A newly discovered but poorly preserved fragment may suggest that some people around the year 200 argued that Jesus had a wife.
3. Ancient texts that showed that some people believed that Jesus had a wife were non-existent until the discovery of this fragment.
4. There were many “Christian” groups in the first few centuries that had bizarre beliefs that contradicted Scripture.
5. The early church was in wide agreement that Jesus did not have a wife.
6. No first-century document ever mentions or hints at the possibility that Jesus had a wife.
7. Jesus understood his identity and his atoning death from the beginning of his earthly ministry, and he knew that marriage was not part of his mission.
Karen L. King, the author of the academic paper, gives a good introduction to the discovery on this video produced by Harvard Divinity School.
As I learn of good articles on the subject, I will add them below.
The Gospel of John could well be titled “Jesus and the Jewish Festivals,” given the author’s focus on Jesus’ presence in Jerusalem during Passover, Tabernacles, and Hanukkah. Gary M. Burge has just written the latest in his “Ancient Context, Ancient Faith” series, looking at the Jewish background that informs Jesus’ bold claims in the Fourth Gospel. The book answers many questions that the Christian with less knowledge of the Old Testament and the Jewish world will naturally have, including:
How did Jesus exploit the central feature of Passover in feeding the 5,000?
How did Jesus use shock and irony in his claims at the feast of Tabernacles?
How did Jesus use Hanukkah to reveal his identity?
The 140-page book is loaded with great illustrations and should have a wide appeal to Christians of different backgrounds and educations. $10 at Amazon.
Jesus and the Jewish Festivals is the sixth volume in the series. Readers here may be interested in the other volumes as well: