Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Turkey Travelogue 11f - The Istanbul Archaeological Museum (Cont'd)

The museum complex also has a large collection of treasures from the Ancient Near East. I took pictures of a few highlights.

These are reliefs from the Ishtar gate in Babylon, which was constructed by Nebuchadnezzar II in 575 BC and excavated between 1902-1914 (according to Wikipedia):

Other reliefs from the same gate are apparently scattered in museums around the world including Detroit, Sweden and the Louvre.

According to the write-up beside this picture, this "winged genie" was taken from the northwest palace of King Assurnasirhpal II (ca. 883-859 B.C.):
And this is Shalmaneser II (858-824 BC), king of Assyria:
(In case you are wondering, the Shalmaneser mentioned in 2 Kings 17:3 and 18:9 is Shalmaneser V who ruled between 727-722 BC.)

The tile museum is housed in a building constructed in 1472. Lots of pretty things here. This looks like one of t's home-made Christmas decorations:
Wall decorations:

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Turkey Travelogue 11e - Temple Warning Inscription, etc.

Another treasure just down the hall from the Siloam inscription is the "Balustrade" or "Temple Warning" inscription:
According to Josephus and the Mishnah, signs were posted in Greek and Latin along the boundary separating the court of the Gentiles from the Jerusalem Temple sanctuary, warning Gentiles not to enter on pain of death. The complete Greek inscription (pictured above) was discovered in 1871 and is--you guessed it--on display in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. A second fragmentary Greek inscription, discovered in 1935, is now in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Here's another photo of the inscription (taken with a flash):
The warning reads as follows: "No foreigner is to enter within the forecourt and the balustrade around the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his subsequent death" (ABD 2.963; a transcription of the Greek text may be found here).

Evidently, the warning was taken seriously:
27 When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, who had seen him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd. They seized him, 28 shouting, "Fellow Israelites, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against our people, our law, and this place; more than that, he has actually brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place." 29 For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple. 30 Then all the city was aroused, and the people rushed together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut. (Acts 21:27-30; NRSV)
The warning was taken seriously, no doubt, but Shaye Cohen has pointed out how difficult it would be to enforce, since he argues most Jews were indistinguishable from Gentiles in the first century. (See Cohen's excellent book, The Beginnings of Jewishness, for the details.)

I also took a picture of this Greek inscription because I thought I might use it at some point to illustrate the development of Greek writing styles over the centuries (for other Turkey Travelogue inscriptions see here and here):
The inscription commemorates the rebuilding of the land walls around Constantinople in 1433. It's a nice inscription. Too bad the walls didn't last. Just 20 years later, the city fell to the Ottoman turks.
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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Turkey Travelogue 11d - The Siloam Inscription

Note: I will keep adding to the bottom of this post links to the ongoing saga of Israel's request for the return of the Siloam inscription.

Sometimes, it is more exciting not to read the guide books before visiting a site--or at least that's the excuse I make for not doing my research in advance. This time, however, the guide books would not have prepared me for what we stumbled upon as we made our way through the exhibits on the tomb-like third floor of the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. Neither the Blue Guide nor the Lonely Planet Guide, nor the brochure we picked up at the front gate mention what in Israel would be considered a national treasure--the Siloam inscription: The Siloam inscription was discovered in 1880 by a youth who was wading up from the pool of Siloam in Jerusalem toward the Gihon spring. The six line inscription is in the Paleo-Hebrew script and dated to the 8th century BCE. It describes how two construction crews, working from opposite ends, dug a tunnel through 500 meters of bedrock to channel water from the Gihon spring into the city of David. The inscription is famous not only because it is one of the oldest Paleo-Hebrew inscriptions ever discovered and because it describes an ancient engineering marvel, but also because of its connection to 2 Kings 20:20:
The rest of the deeds of Hezekiah, all his power, how he made the pool and the conduit and brought water into the city, are they not written in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah?
According to R.B. Coote in the Anchor Bible Dictionary, "It is the nearly unanimous view of historians that the Siloam tunnel is Hezekiah's conduit, and that the inscription in it was written shortly before 701 B.C.E." The conduit is also mentioned in 2 Chr 32:30; Isa 22:11 and Sir 48:17. Isaiah's perspective is a salutary reminder: "You made a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the old pool. But you did not look to him who did it, or have regard for him who planned it long ago."

Here's the text of the inscription (following Coote's translation):
1 [ ] the tunneling, and this was how the tunneling was completed: as [the stonecutters wielded] 2 their picks, each crew toward the other, and while there were still three cubits to g[o], the voices of the men calling 3 each other [could be hear]d, since there was an increase (in sound) on the right [and lef]t. The day the 4 breach was made, the stonecutters hacked toward each other, pick against pick, and the water 5 flowed from the source to the pool [twel]ve hundred cubits, even though the 6 height of the rock above the heads of the stonecutte[rs] was a hundred cubits! (Click here for a transcription of the original Hebrew text.)
As Jerusalem was still under the control of the Ottoman empire at the time, the inscription was moved to Constantinople (now Istanbul) around 1890 and added to the collection of the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, which opened in 1891.

The inscription is behind a protective covering, but unlike the statue of Artemis at the Selçuk Archaeological Museum, where no-flash signs are prominently displayed, the nearest museum guard was happy to let me photograph the inscription however I liked.
I hoped the guard was bemused rather than offended at my delight in photographing a non-Turkish artifact.

Obviously, we remarked as we walked away, Israel would like to have the inscription back. But it seemed hopeless. If you have to go to Berlin to see the great altar of Pergamum or to the Ephesus Museum in Vienna to see many of the artifacts from Ephesus, what hope does Israel have of acquiring the Siloam inscription? Everyone wants their own antiquities returned to the country where they were excavated, but beginning the process would set a dangerous precedent, because it would mean that the country requesting the antiquities would have to consider returning the antiquities in their possession that originate in other countries. In the case of popular exhibits, they would also run the risk of losing revenue--though that doesn't seem to be an issue in Istanbul.

My ears perked up this summer when I heard that Israel has been negotiating with Turkey for the return of the Siloam inscription. Various media reports made it sound as though negotiations are moving ahead. Back in September, in fact, Jim Davila noted a Washington Times article that announced a deal had been reached. Since I have heard nothing further since then, Todd Bolen's response--"Don't believe it"--seems correct. Negotiations to return the inscription have been underway for the last 20 years.

The saga continues:
  • The Nov 15, 2007 edition of the Turkish newspaper, Today's Zaman, reports on Shimon Perez's request for the temporary loan of the inscription (HT: Jim Davila).
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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Turkey Travelogue 11c - What does Istanbul have to do with Jerusalem?

From the Aya Sofya, we wandered downhill in the general direction of the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, hoping to find some cheap eats along the way. We eventually gave up, fortified ourselves with the remaining snacks in our backpacks, and ventured into the main museum building. Hungry and exhausted as we were from the previous night's journey, we still managed to stay until the staff asked us to leave.

The prize display in the museum is a collection of magnificent sarcophagi "excavated" from Sidon by the great Ottoman archaeologist and tomb raider, Osman Hamdi Bey. (I note that Hamdi Bey was by all accounts a model archaeologist of the 19th century variety, and that Sidon was part of the Ottoman empire at the time; his Western European contemporaries had the unfortunate habit of retrieving artifacts from outside their respective empires.) There are some excellent pictures of the Sidon sarcophagi, as well as artifacts in the rest of the museum here. Update (28 June 2009): There is a nice article about the "Alexander" sarcophagus here.

The bear (?) in this picture is part of a hunting scene on one of the less prominent sarcophagi:
Though there was still too much for us to absorb in one visit, large sections of the main building were undergoing needed renovations. This was a relief in a way, because it put limits on my compulsion to see everything. Still, I took a few pictures of items that seemed more relevant to my research interests. This is a fine statue of the emperor Hadrian:

And here's a bust of the emperor Tiberius:I was disappointed not to see signs that they were installing air-conditioners. Even with open windows the air was hot, humid and stuffy--especially on the third floor, where we noticed several displays related to Syria-Palestine...

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Turkey Travelogue 11b - A few more Hagia Sophia pictures

When the Aya Sofya was transformed into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest in 1453, most of its wall decorations were plastered over and replaced by geometric patterns. (Thankfully, the building itself was not destroyed.) Several of the Byzantine mosaics have been restored since its conversion into a museum. The "wise men" on either side of this 12th century madonna and child are the emperor "John II Commenus (1118-43) and his wife Eirene." John, it seems, was a good emperor (Blue Guide):
We know this mosaic was completed in the 11th century because it depicts the Empress Zoe and her third husband, Constantine IX who reigned between 1042-55 CE:
The mosaic was actually completed earlier during the lifetime of Zoe's first husband. It underwent repeated head upgrades when she remarried (in dubious circumstances).

Finally, this is a beautiful 13th century mosaic of the "Deisis"--Christ at the judgement with Mary petitioning for the world's salvation on his right, and John the Baptist on his left:

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Jesus' Exodus in Luke-Acts

This post is an exercise in thinking out loud about my current research on connections between Moses and Jesus in the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. Over the last several months I have focused specifically on Moses-Jesus connections in Luke's transfiguration account (Luke 9:28-36). A larger theological question in the background is Luke's understanding of salvation and its relation to the death and resurrection of Jesus. (Earlier posts on the same general issue may be found here and here.)

As I mentioned earlier, Luke explains that Moses and Elijah were talking with Jesus about his "exodus" which he was about to fulfill in Jerusalem (Luke 9:31). I suggested that Jesus' exodus refers primarily to Jesus' "exit" from his earthly life at his death, resurrection and ascension, but that it most likely also recalls the Israelites' departure from Egypt.

Based on this verse, it looks like Luke thinks Jesus' death, resurrection and ascension brings a redemption--a deliverance--that parallels the Israelites' earlier departure from Egypt. In support, we can point to Acts 7:25 where Stephen, retelling the story of the exodus in a way that makes Moses look a lot like Jesus, explains how God was giving the Israelites "salvation" through the hand of Moses. And, again, at the last supper, Jesus interprets his death as a "new covenant in my blood," which sounds a lot like Passover and the exodus from Egypt. I think this interpretation is on the right track, but it is not the whole story, and, unfortunately, it doesn't explain everything (or I'm still missing the key).

The main problem with this understanding of Jesus' exodus--and one that has been bugging me for several years (thanks, John Nolland!)--is the fact that Luke 9:31 says Moses and Elijah are discussing "his exodus." They don't refer to the exodus that Jesus will lead or to the deliverance he will bring, they refer to his exodus--and in context, I am convinced that his exodus refers primarily to his departure from earth that begins with his death.

The form that Jesus' "exodus" takes is the shape of a cross. As John Nolland correctly observes, "The link between Jesus' exodus and that of others is specified in vv 23-27." There Jesus summons his followers to "lose their life" (9:24), "deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me" (9:23). In case this summons seems optional, the voice from the cloud declares, "hear him" in language that recalls the covenant at Sinai.

In my experience, Christians are used to taking these verses metaphorically, but within the context of Luke's story, it is a summons to follow Jesus literally on his way to literally die in Jerusalem. Those who would share in Jesus' exodus, must share in his death. Literally. This is why Luke has Paul declare in Acts 14:22, "we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God."

Perhaps, then, the problem is not insurmountable after all, once one gets over the misleading assumption that Christ's death and their discipleship are two different things.

I'm still puzzling over Jesus' offer of salvation already in his Gospel before his death. Maybe I'll get around to this question in another post.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Briercrest Israel Tour 2009

Plans are going ahead for a two-week tour of Israel in May 2009. The tour will be open to current students as well as alumni. I get to go along.

(A little) more information is posted on the tour's blog here:

...As I am responsible to promote the trip, I hope people catch on that I can be very excited about something, and still end my sentences in periods.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Turkey Travelogue 11a - Istanbul, Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia (June 14)

Back in Istanbul after a grueling overnight trip from Göreme, I had every intention of trying to find a cheaper place to stay. But when our shuttle finally let us off in Sultan Ahmet, we made a bee-line back to the Apricot Hotel, and with a little negotiation, secured a room for the same rate in time to enjoy their wonderful Turkish breakfast on the rooftop terrace. After a nap to deal with our 'bus lag' we stumbled out to see the sights.

We had already visited the magnificent Blue Mosque (built 1606-1611) on our first evening in town...
...Now it was time to visit its rival, the Hagia Sophia (or Aya Sofya in Turkish), built a thousand years earlier during the reign of the emperor Justinian in 537 AD:
The Lonely Planet guide opines that the "wham-bam effect" of the Blue Mosque's exterior surpasses the Aya Sofya, but that the latter has the goods when it comes to interior design. This judgement is up for debate (I agreed; t. preferred the Blue Mosque's interior too), but even with the scaffolding, the soaring dome is a stunning achievement:

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Musings on Theology

If theology is anything worthy of the name, it must take seriously real questions as real questions. The impulse to respond by circling the wagons, by treating the questions at a surface level as logical problems, by pretending to ask when we all know the right answer already, is apologetics not theology.

This is not to give the questions the last word, for a “foolish” consistency—“the hobgoblin of little minds”—can bedevil atheist and apologist alike. When we genuinely enter into the questions, living uncomfortably with them in a community of fellow questers, we are, at the best of times, brought back to the Question of God.

Note: I am neither a theologian nor the the son of a theologian, so you are welcome to nuance, qualify or reject these musings as you see fit. I am, however, taken by the NT scholar Markus Bockmuehl's description of theology in Seeing the Word. If theologians agree with his definition, you can sign me up.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Why I like living in Saskatchewan

I got a call the other day from an alumni rep at McMaster University ostensibly to stay in touch, but really to raise money for the school. I did what I normally do in such situations--try to be polite, answer in English, and tune out.

A few minutes into our conversation, my interlocutor, who must have known I did a Ph.D. in religious studies at McMaster, started telling me I should "really" apply for a job at Redeemer University College just outside of Hamilton. She had apparently taken classes at Redeemer and was therefore qualified to affirm that all the professors love teaching there. This took me by surprise, as she did not realize until I enlightened her that my Caronport, SK living address is in Canada and, as far as I recall, she never inquired whether I enjoy working in my current position.

If I had not tuned out, I might have thought to mention that I enjoy living in a place where I can gaze out my study window onto the open prairie, but I was too busy looking through binoculars at our friendly neighborhood orange cat "playfully" batting a dazed mouse around our back yard.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Jesus and Salvation in Luke-Acts

Update: Nick Meyer points to Luke 23, where Luke clearly develops a connection between salvation and Jesus' death in his own way. See the comments for more discussion.

I mentioned in an earlier post that Luke rarely draws attention to the saving significance of Jesus' death. While there are a couple passages in which Luke indicates his awareness of the idea (esp. Luke 22:19-20; Acts 20:28), most scholars agree that Luke doesn't develop them, but chooses instead to focus in Acts on the saving significance of his resurrection and exaltation to God's right hand. Take, for instance, the following passages where Jesus' death is presented as a divine necessity but where his resurrection and exaltation receive more emphasis:
  • "Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear....Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:33, 38).
  • "It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is "'the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.' Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:10-12).
  • See also 10:38-43; 13:26-39; 17:30-31; 26:1-23.
References to salvation in Luke's Gospel are even more surprising for someone like me, who was raised with a narrow Paul-derived (and Gospels-deprived) view of salvation as "Christ's death for the forgiveness of my sins so I can go to heaven when I die."

Before Jesus begins his public ministry, he is associated with salvation: The stage is set in Luke 2:30 when Simeon says "my eyes have seen your salvation" echoing Isa 49:6, and in the quotation from Isa 40:3-5: John is "the voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord.'" As a result of his ministry and the Lord's coming "'all flesh shall see the salvation of God'" (Luke 3:6).

And according to Luke, Jesus brought salvation already during his earthly ministry:
  • Jesus defines his mission as proclaiming "release (=forgiveness) to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind" (Luke 4:18; quoting Isa 61:1). Jesus' commission to proclaim "release" is applied to the forgiveness of sins in Luke 5:20-4 and 7:47-9. (In the passages from Acts quoted above, salvation is closely identified with forgiveness.)
  • In Luke 6:9, Jesus says: "I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?"
  • Jesus responds to questions about the forgiveness of sins by saying to the "sinful woman": "Your faith has saved you; go in peace" (Luke 7:50).
  • Jesus tells the woman with a flow of blood: "Daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace" (Luke 8:48). (Most English translations read: "your faith has made you well," but the phrase is identical to 7:50.)
  • Jesus tells the one grateful ex-leper: "your faith has saved you" (Luke 17:19). All the lepers were made well; only one was saved.
  • And Jesus announces at Zacchaeus's party: "Today salvation has come to this house" (Luke 19:9; cf. the "today" in 4:21).
So Luke works with a broader understanding of what salvation entails. In another post, I'd like to explore how Jesus' "exodus" (Luke 9:31) may or may not fit into his understanding of salvation.

P.S. Sorry. No pictures.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Turkey Travelogue 10c - Hiking the Cappadocian Valleys 3

We took few pictures on the remainder of our hike because, apart from a nice lunch break, we were concentrating on moving our increasingly tired feet, and finding a way out without retracing our steps.
Near the head of Meskendir Valley we found a road that went more-or-less straight up...
We ended up on the plateau way above Göreme and well behind the Open-Air Museum:Six hours after beginning our trek, we arrived back in Göreme hot, sweaty, and more than a little tired. Since we had already moved out of our room, and chances of a shower before our overnight bus ride back to Istanbul were slim, we decided to cool off in one of Göreme's many empty restaurants. What followed was one of the most unusual of our encounters in Turkey: I attempted to order ice cream from a waiter who knew as much English as I knew Turkish. We eventually concluded that whatever the menu might say, there was no ice cream to be had, and settled down to our tea and Turkish coffee as we watched the waiter wander across the street. A few minutes later he returned, bowl full of ice cream in hand! Evidently, service is a big thing in Turkey.
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Monday, October 8, 2007

Turkey Travelogue 10b - Hiking the Cappadocian Valleys 2

The views on our hike were spectacular, we encountered very few people, and, as a bonus, I got my own little multi-storey cave-climbing adventure. It all started with a rickety wooden ladder:Despite my fear of heights...
and a slight discomfort with narrow enclosed spaces (are there snakes in Cappadocia?),
this was one experience I couldn't pass up.
There's a white 7$ Superstore hat in each of the following pictures (click to enlarge):
I made it as far as the leftmost dovecote (circled in red):

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Turkey Travelogue 10a - Hiking the Cappadocian Valleys 1 (June 13)

A visit to one of Cappadocia's underground cities is standard tourist fare. The Lonely Planet Guide affirms a visit "should be a top priority." For reasons no one can quite fathom, the people of Cappadocia constructed dozens of underground cave cities, only a few of which have been excavated so far. The most popular city, Derinkuyu, originally extended 18-20 floors under the earth and could accommodate around 20,000 people. D. told us before we went to Turkey that the explanation you receive depends on the guide you hire. According to the Blue Guide,

During the holiday months [Derinkuyu's] low, narrow, cramped passageways are filled with sweating tourists pushing and shoving in a desperate attempt to reach yet another rock-cut room or, more often, to escape to the surface and fresh air.
Knowing we would be embarking on another all night bus trip back to Istanbul that evening and more than a little cowed by the Blue Guide's description, t. and I decided to forgo the "must-see" experience and take it easy hiking in the valleys around Göreme. We set out along the road to the open-air museum, and took a turn down "Swords" valley...

I presume these are some of the "swords":

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Saturday, October 6, 2007

Turkey Travelogue 9b - Göreme Open-Air Museum (June 12)

The Göreme Open-Air Museum is a UNESCO World Heritage site located a kilometer outside the village. The museum is actually an abandoned monastery consisting of a half dozen or so churches and other caves built into different rock formations along the side of a valley. This is the Nun's Convent:
Most of the church paintings have been dated to the 10-12th centuries AD. Some have fairly simple decorations in red paint in the iconoclastic style:
Others are much more elaborate:
The Buckle Church is chock full of comic strip style paintings that take you from the birth of Jesus to his ascension: I was especially interested in photographing paintings of the four Evangelists to use in my Gospels class. Here's Luke:
And Luke:
And John:
Unfortunately, I was learning how to take pictures in the dark without a flash as we went along, and Mark was too blurry to be of much use. But here (on the right) is Matthew:
There were also paintings of the Cappadocian church fathers Basil and Gregory, as well as other famous monastic figures such as St. George (and the dragon) and St. Onuphrius, the patron saint of weavers. "He was a hermit who spent 70 years in the desert of Upper Egypt" (Blue Guide):
As we wandered through we kept asking "why so many tiny churches?" And, "where are all the church-goers?"

For some reason this major tourist attraction doesn't have signs posted explaining what happened. But the ever helpful Blue Guide has this to say: "For the most part, the monasteries were abandoned after the arrival of the Turks in Anatolia and they were occupied by the local people. However, some of the churches continued to be used until 1923 when there was an exchange of populations between Turkey and Greece and the Christians left the area" (669).

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