Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Colosseum, Roman Forum, Mamertine Prison

***Well this is it, the last post of this trip. It has been a long, and amazing 3 1/2 weeks. We have successfully made it home in one piece, with all of our luggage, and Emily and I are feeling much better. We appreciate all the prayers and emails of encouragement we received while we were gone. We are really looking forward to being able to teach to others what we have learned, in the near future.***

Sunday was spent seeing a final few sites in the city of Rome. We started out at the Colosseum.

I learned two interesting facts about the Colosseum. First, it hadn't even started to be built until 72AD so Paul wouldn't have seen it. Secondly, it wasn't finished until 80Ad and since Nero was already long dead by then, we can eliminate the myth that Nero killed Christians in the Colosseum.

This is an inscription on the Arch of Titus which was erected in 81 AD. I found this fascinating. Look closely at the inscription. It depicts the looting of Herod's Temple in Jerusalem by the Roman army after it's destruction in 70AD. Notice the menorah, the table of showbread and the two silver trumpets.

This is a view of the remains of the ancient Roman forum (marketplace).

The ashes of Julius Ceasar are here and people still pay their respects.

This is the "Milliarium Auream" or "Golden Milestone"(at least the base of it). Remember the phrase "All Roads Lead to Rome?" Well this is where mile marker zero was.

Perhaps the highlight of the day was seeing the Mamertine prison. This was the prison Paul (and probably Peter) were imprisoned in right before their executions. (Not to be confused with the apartment prison Paul stayed in during his first Roman imprisonment). Two things to note, first I'm 6 feet tall and my head is touching the ceiling. Secondly, the gray post on the left side of the picture is where the chains would have been attached to.

This is the only flat space in the entire cell. It is very probable that this is the exact location Paul wrote 2nd Timothy from.

For visitors there is now a convenient staircase but Paul (and Peter?) would have been lowered down, and received food through, this hole in the ground. (The white object you see is a person in the cell area).

St. Paul's Basilica (Burial Site) and Three Fountains (Execution Site)

After spending the morning at the Vatican we journeyed just outside the city limits to two of the sites I was really looking forward to; the execution and burial locations of Paul. It was much more intense than I was expecting. Probably because for the previous 3 weeks we had been recreating his every step, reading passages from the Bible in their cities of destination or origin, and these two locatoins are where it all ended.

While visiting these two sites the irony was not lost on me that Paul started out as a persecutor of Christians and then died as a persecuted Christian. I wonder if this would have been some form of closure for him for the guilt he surely felt at times?

These are the stones Paul walked on from his holding cell as he was marched to his execution spot.

This monument stands over the spot that church tradition says he was executed at. Because Paul was a Roman citizen, he couldn't be crucified. (Peter was not a Roman citizen.) Therefore he was beheaded which was seen as much more humane.

Church tradition says that Paul's head bounced three timies and in each location a fountain sprang up. There is an altar like this one in each of those three locations. (Paul's execution location is now a monastery). Considering that these fountains are about 30 feet apart from each other I'd say that it'd be just about impossible for this to be true, but it's interesting non-the-less.

After his death one of his friends in Rome took his body a few miles down the road to her family burial location. St. Paul's Basilica now stands over that location.

This altar stands over the spot Paul's body is located.

This is as close as you can get to Paul's coffin.

Scientists have identified Paul's coffin because it has these words on it which mean "Paul, Apostle, Martyr." However for some reason they are hesitant to open it to verify that Paul is in there. (I guess the only way to verify would be if the neck bone is severed than it's probably Paul but if it's not than you got the wrong guy.) Why won't they do this? Is it perhaps because of the loss revenue if it isn't him?

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Vatican

Saturday was a very busy day in Rome. The first half of it was spent touring the Vatican. While I'm not going to spend the time right now to explain the numerous reasons why, it's safe to say I'm not Catholic. That being said I was very interested in seeing the Vatican, especially since it has had such a huge impact on history. I had mixed reactions. On one hand I was wowed by the sheer splender of the place. The architecture and paintings are stunning. On the other I was saddened. It seemed so spiritually empty. So many rituals but no passion. One of our group members went to take communion in St. Peter's. The Priest asked him if he was a Catholic. He responded with "I'm a devout follower of Jesus Christ." The Priest again asked him "But are you a Catholic." He responded with "I'm a Christian." "Then you may not take communion" and he walked away. Truly Sad.

Photo of St. Peter's taken from the square. St. Peter's was built partly as a statement of the counter-reformation.

If you look at the four yellow windows, apparently the Pope lives in the second one from the right. (At least I overheard a tour guide say that).

This is the Papal altar where the Pope gives mass. It is also the alledged burial site of Peter. Traditionally on June 29th (64 AD or 67 AD depending on your view), church history holds that both Paul and Peter were martyred. Peter was crucified upside down (alongside of his wife) at the Circus of Nero which was just outside of present day St. Peter’s. Excavations have found the bones of a 60ish year old man from the 1st century AD have been found under the altar but how can one know if they belong to Peter?

Embalmed bodies of past Popes (such as this one of Pope John XXIII of Vatican II fame) are found throughout St. Peter's for devout Catholics to pray to.

While walking through the Vatican museum I was disturbed to see many statues of various dieties such as this one of Artemis. Why would you have images of false gods in the Vatican?

This is a double edged sword found on a statue. I included this photo because this is the type of sword used to execute Paul.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Ostia Antica and the Appian Way

We successfully made it from Athens to Rome very early friday morning. Unfortunately Rome doesn’t have as much internet access as I was hoping for so these last three posts are a bit late. (I'll post one now and the remaining ones tomorrow when I get back to the States.)

After landing in Rome we immediately traveled down to Ostia Antica. Ostia was the ancient port city for Rome. Paul’s journey into Rome started down in the boot of Italy so he wouldn’t have come in through Ostia. However, if Paul was released at the end of his two year imprisonment (which I believe he was) and if he did travel on to Spain (which some of the Epistles hint at and Church history states that he did) than he would have most likely departed from this seaport.

Ostia has one of the few known (and best preserved) synagogues from the 1st century AD in the Roman world.

The early church (pre-Constantine) in Rome met in one of three locations: villas, synagogues or apartment blocks. Below is the picture of the remains of an apartment block. Never higher than 50 feet, apartments offered absolutely zero privacy. Since the poorest lived on the top floors, it is likely that’s where the Christians met as well.

We then left Ostia and drove to within a few miles of the city walls of ancient Rome and walked the final two and a half miles of the Appian Way which leads into Rome. This is the road Paul took to enter Rome.

Roman law mandates that the dead are buried outside of the city. As Paul was walking up the Appian Way and about to enter into Rome he would have seen thousands of graves such as the one below lining the road. As he was journeying to Rome a prisoner to be tried and likely executed, I imagine this was incredibly difficult emotionally.

This is me on the ancient steps of the Appian Way, just a few miles outside of Rome. Paul walked these very steps.

Hundreds of thousands of graves like this one, line the entrance into a city.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


We visited the city of Athens today. Interestingly Athens, like Rome, Istanbul and Lisbon, has 7 hills in the city. I also found in interesting that there are no skyscrapers in the city. I couldn’t find any building higher than 6 to 10 stories tall. They don’t want anything coming close to the height of the acropolis I guess.

Emily and I in front of the world famous Parthenon.

Climbing to the top of Mars Hill.

This is Mars Hill from the Parthenon. Notice the agora at the far right of the photo.

Acts 17:16 “While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols.”

These are just a few of the idols that Paul would have walked by. It was said that in ancient Athens it was easier to find an idol than a human. Later in the day we walked through the National Museum of Greece in Athens and it was packed full of idol statues found during excavations. I can easily see why Paul would have gotten so upset.

As we realized in many other sites, there is such a deeper understanding of the Scriptures having actually been here. I’m realizing things that never noticed before. For example, as Paul is defending his case against the aeropagus (the court responsible for defending Zeus against new ideas), he says:

Acts 17:24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands”

Paul would have been saying this less than 100 yards from the temple to Apollo. Not only that but right over his shoulder the aeropagus would have been looking directly at the temple to Athena (now known as the Parthenon) looming against the skyline. This would have been a very clear message to the court. There are tons of other examples of this in the passage.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Corinth, Isthmia, and Cenchreae

We visited Isthmia, Cenchreae and Corinth today. Isthmia is where the famous Isthmian games of ancient times originated and Cenchrea is mentioned in both Romans 16 and Acts 18 as the harbor Paul used coming in and out of the Corinth area. But since Corinth is such an important Biblical site, I'll keep my post focused there.

This is a view ALMOST from the top of Acro-Corinth where the Temple of Aphrodite and her 1000 temple prostitutes were. Sailors would come into port and hike two hours up a grueling path just to ...um ... visit with the temple workers. In the background nestled in the mountains is the city of Delphi.

This is a very important inscription. It used to be filled with bronze letters but those were stolen. It reads "Erastus in return for his aedileship [a top city official position] laid [this pavement] at his own expense." Due to several factors such as Erastus being a very uncommon name as well as the job description we are virtually certain this is the samae Erastus of Romans 16:23 and 2 Timothy 4:19.

This is the Bema seat that Paul would have stood before Gallio at. This was a huge event because when Gallio refused to hear the case, he was acknowledging Christianity as a part of Judiasm (which was a protected religion). When the Roman governnment realized Christianity was something very different several years later, that is when the persecution began.

This is the Corinth Canal. It was built in the 1800's so that they no longer had to put boats and cargo on rollers to get across the isthmus.

Here is one of the few known busts of the infamous Nero. Do you think perhaps his insanity was due in any small part to the fact that he had enormous ears? (Click on the photo to see what I mean).

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Delphi. For those familiar with it the name is synonymous with evil. If Jerusalem was the throne of God, than Delphi was the seat of Satan. This was the center of all ancient cult worship. This is where people would come from all over the known world every year to consult with the future-telling oracle. I don't have enough time to really go into all the details, but let's just say 2000 years ago you probably wouldn't want to raise your kids here.

This is the Temple to Apollo and the center of the cult city. People would hand a priest a written question to ask the oracle. The priest would then enter into the temple where the oracle was sitting in a special chamber. Interestingly this chamber was directly over a fissure in the earth that emitted noxious vapors. These vapors would cause the oracle to utter nonsense words which would be interpreted by the priests. (These interpretations were very vague). The oracle could never be wrong.

This is the entrance to the oracle chamber.

We walked through the Delphi museuem which is loaded with artifacts from the cult days. You can still very clearly feel a strong sense of demonic oppression in certain parts of the museum.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Thessalonica and Berea

Okay, I think this post should just about bring us up to date. Yesterday Emily and I visited Thessalonica and Berea (which I'll write about in just a minute) and today we took a long bus ride down through the countryside and visited a monestary high atop some cliffs. We then continued through the country and are spending the night in Delphi. I should have some pictures of Delphi in my next post.

Emily's throat is much better but she still has a bit of a cough. Both of our stomachs are feeling better but are still not 100%.

We've been so many places it seems a bit confusing so here's a map with a rough estimate of the route we've taken so far:

We began the day in Thessalonica. I was disappointed as there are hardly any ruins at all. Most of this modern city has been built on top of the ruins so there's no way to excavate them.

Modern Thessalonica. I doubt Paul stopped at this Starbucks on his journey. Note the ruins to the left.

These agora remains are about the only ruins in the entire city.

After Thessalonica we visited Vergina (where Phillip II was assassinated and Alexander the Great crowned King) and saw the royal tombs. We then headed to nearby Berea. I was really looking forward to visiting Berea but when I got there I discovered there are no ruins left. The entire city has been built up. However there was this monument built in the old part of town.

This is the site of an ancient Synagogue although there is no way to know for sure if this is where Paul met with the Bereans.

Philippi and Neapolis

Following Paul's route (though we went by land instead of by sea) once he received his vision of the Macedonian man, we left Assos very early in the morning and took a ferry across the Dardanelles. After a long bus ride we crossed the border into Greece and headed towards Kavala. Kavala is the modern day name for the city of Neapolis, the seaport Paul landed in as he entered into Greece for the first time on his second journey.

Now a storage area for old boats, this is what's left of the ancient harbor Paul sailed into.

Sunrise over the Egnatian Way. This is the road Paul took from the harbor of Neapolis towards Philippi.

Philippi is only about 5 miles from Neapolis, easily a one day's journey.

This is the traditional location of Lydia's baptism.

It's a bit difficult to see from here but in the foreground is the bema (judgement) seat that Paul and Silas stood at as the city government decided to send them to jail. The marketplace they were dragged to for exorcising a demon is in the background.

This is the traditional site of Paul and Silas' jail.

Assos, Troas and Troy

Emily and I both came down with some stomach bug (she's still batteling her other illness on top of this) but even though we weren't feeling well we spent the day visiting some very interesting places. We started the day with a sunrise at Assos. This is the city that Paul sailed to and from on his third journey.

This is the road Paul would have used to enter the city.

The small harbor in Assos hasn’t changed very much since Paul’s time. It’s still in use today.

We then went over to Troas, a city Paul visited no less than 5 times. I was really looking forward to visiting Troas for two major reasons: First, it’s where Paul had his vision of the Macedonian man on his second journey and it’s also where God (via Paul) raised Eutychus (who’s name means “good fortune”) from the dead after he fell asleep during one of Paul’s sermons and fell from a window.

This unknown temple in Troas dates back to the 1st century BC. Paul would have walked by it quite a few times.

We then headed over to Troy of the Iliad fame. This excavation is divided into 9 strata’s or layers so it’s hard to know what you are looking at.

These are the walls that would have been in use during the time of the Iliad.

These bricks from a mud house date back to 2500BC.