Examples in Archaeology: The Multiple Burial in the Corner of the Hexamilion North of the Roman Bath (Gully Bastion)

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 When and where the feature was found

The multiple burial (Grave 2 Gully Bastion) is located in the Corner of the Hexamilion North of the Roman Bath at Isthmia.  The grave cut into what is assumed to be ground level at the time of the construction of the Hexamilion wall which is a hard white soil.  The grave itself was excavated in the 1970 season and was found under a later kiln or oven.

Location of Grave 2 in corner of the Hexamilion wall,
Gregory, T.E., Isthmia: Vol.5, The Hexamilion and the Fortress (1993)

 Topelev = 41.08

Botelev = 40.18

 Brief Description

Located in a corner of the Hexamilion wall the Gully Bastion Grave Two has the interior face of the wall forming both the West and the North sides with the North side slightly undercutting the Hexamilion by around 20cm. The sides of the grave are lined with large tiles, these tiles also included in their number one stamped tile[1]  and another which being heavily smoke stained indicates that it may have originally been part of the nearby Roman Bath.[2] The interpretation of this tile as formerly of the Roman Bath is also suggested by how the smoke staining does not extend to the corners of the tile where it would have been resting on top of hypocausts.

 The grave is actually split into two irregular sections, North and South.  These two sections were split by a line of vertical tiles which ran West to East across the grave.  Within the north section was found two skeletons with their heads to the west and within the south compartment eight skeletons were uncovered also with their heads to the west.  There is some debate to who these individuals were, whether they were part of the garrison assigned to guard or build the Hexamilion or from some other associated part of society.

 Underneath the lowest body in the southern section a number of artefacts were found, namely an Athenian glazed lamp fragment which shares much of the characteristics of other lamps found in the Roman Bath (IPL 70-100)[3] which can be dated to the second half of the fourth century after Christ. There is debate over the function of the lamp in the grave.  Was it part of some religious ceremony for the deceased or simply just lost or for another reason yet to be thought of? Either way this lamp fragment allows for the best dating of the grave in relation to similar lamps found in the Roman Bath as mentioned previous.  Several other items were found in the same area as the lamp fragment including a coarse dark reddish bowl (IPR 70-26) which like the lamp can be dated to the second half of the fourth century.[4]  A bronze buckle (IM 70-32) and a bead on a wire (IM 70-54) were also excavated.


The north side of the grave undercutting the Hexamilion along with the relation between the lamp fragment found in the south section of the grave in relation to lamps found in Roman Bath dating to the fourth century suggest that the grave was contemporary with the construction of the Hexamilion.  This is further indicated by how the grave sides are the interior of the wall on two sides.  The graves construction can hence be placed either at the time the Hexamilion was being built or slightly after but before the kiln/oven was placed on top.

The position of the skeletons within the grave suggests primarily a Christian burial with the skeleton’s heads to the west. Christian burials of the period were generally orientated East-West with the head to the West end of the grave in order to mirror the layout of the Christian Church and the direction from which Christ is meant to come on judgement day.


Gregory, T.E., Isthmia: Vol.5, The Hexamilion and the Fortress (1993), pp.42-45


                  Gully Bastion 1970 Vol.2 – pp.47-72 May 1970

                  Gully Bastion 1970 Vol.3

 Wohl ‘Deposit of Lamps’ No. 24

Fraser, P.M., Archaeology in Greece, 1970-71, Archaeological reports, No.17 (1970-71), p.9

[1] Gully Bastion Notebook Vol.2, p.47 and 53

[2] Ibid., p.49

[3] Ibid., p.55

[4] Ibid., p.68


Welcome to GraecoMuse!

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This site is aimed at similar people who are interested in archaeology, ancient history, philology and epigraphy. Interesting stories, archaeological tidbits and blogs will be put up as I partake in digs myself and come across things to share.

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SSEC (Society for the Study of Early Christianity) Conference 2013

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English: Macquarie University sign

SSEC Conference 2013 

SSEC 2013 conference brochure – Link to PDF

Conference Curtain Raiser
Thursday 2 May 7.05pm

Museum of Ancient Cultures.

Professor James McLaren (ACU) Jewish actions against the
followers of Jesus: reassessing the evidence within the context of
the Roman Empire

Dr Don Barker 9850 9962
Professor Alanna Nobbs 9850 8844

Notes on Speakers
James McLaren Professor of Ancient History and
Biblical Studies in the Faculty of Theology and
Philosophy at Australian Catholic University. Currently
the Associate Dean (Research) for the Faculty and
member of the Centre for Early Christian Studies.
Dr John Dickson Honorary Fellow, Department of
Ancient History, Macquarie University; Founding
Director of the Centre for Public Christianity
Dr Chris FORBES lectures in New Testament history,
the Classical Tradition and the Hellenistic Age at
Macquarie University.
Dr Rosalinde Kearsley Honorary Research Fellow,
Department of Ancient History, Macquarie University
Dr Brent Nongbri Macquarie University Research
Mary Jane Cuyler PhD student at University of Sydney
& Field Director of OSMAP excavations of the
synagogue at Ostia
Dr Marianne Dacy University of Sydney
Rev Dr Erica Mathieson Honorary Research Fellow,
Department of Ancient History, Macquarie University
Jennifer Turner Migliore PhD Student University of


Differentiation of Christians and Jews in the 2nd and 3rd Centuries

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Pontius Pilate asked ‘What is truth?’ Both Christians and Jews viewed themselves as the portrayers of truth; The Romans viewed both as conveyers of false religion.  But how and why did the Christians differentiate themselves from Jews in the second and third centuries and how did the Romans distinguish the Christians and the Jews from each other? This essay will explore the how these groups were differentiated and distinguished in this period and what implications the Roman perspective has for the way we view the relationship between Christians and Jews.

Antonio Ciseri's depiction of Pontius Pilate p...
Antonio Ciseri’s depiction of Pontius Pilate presenting Jesus to the people.

In order to assess how and why Christians differentiated themselves from Jews in the second and third centuries it is necessary to explore texts by Christian writers in this period. Unfortunately there is a limited corpus of texts available from the second and third centuries. Despite this, the words of writers such as Aristides, Tertullian, Ignatius and Justin give us some understanding of the differentiation made and why they were distinguished by the Christians.  Regardless of which group is being referred to, the overriding theme is prescription of correct practices.

In examining the Christian texts, one of the main points of differentiation relates to the concept of truth.  The Christians saw themselves as the conveyors and students of truth and the Jews as a people who had erred from true knowledge.  Aristides, a second century writer, asserts that the Christians have come nearer to truth and genuine knowledge than the rest of the nations and the Jews have strayed from truth and instead make observances to angels and not to God.[1]  Tertullian, writing from the end of the first century and into the second, in his Apology also makes this differentiation, explaining that with truth comes hatred of truth, Jews are strangers to the truth and hence Christians are the enemies.[2]

The Christians also differentiated themselves from the Jews in terms of origins.  Tertullian explains that the Christians traced the origins of their religion to the reign of Tiberius, from Jesus the ‘son of God.’[3]  Aristides also expresses this in his Apology, saying that the Christians trace their religion to the Messiah.  Aristides explains that this is a significant difference between the Jews and the Christians as the Jews trace their origins of their religion from Abraham, ‘who begat Isaac, of whom was born Jacob. And he begat twelve sons who migrated from Syria to Egypt; and there they were called the nation of the Hebrews, by him who made their laws; and at length they were named Jews…’[4]  The Christians appear to be very determined, moving through the second and third centuries to express that there was little place in the Christian religion for Jewish laws and customs, this may be a significant reason why the Christians differentiated themselves in relation to origins.  But Christian writers in most cases do not attempt to completely divorce themselves from origins from Abraham.  Justin, for instance, asserts that Christians are the true spiritual descendants from Abraham; this terminology though still gives a distinct sense of differentiation between the Christians and the Jews.[5]

Christian texts from the second and third centuries illustrate that customs and laws were also used as a basis for differentiation. Frend assesses that Christians saw themselves as the ‘true Jews’, ‘the true vine’, but rejected Jewish ceremonial law.[6]  It was the rejection of this claim by Jews and Romans alike that led to the Christian’s often precarious situation.[7] One of the most evident of these differences is that of food laws.  Barnabas lays out the food-laws of the Jews; “Ye shall not eat swine, nor an eagle, nor a hawk, nor a crow, nor any fish…”[8]  Jews were also distinguished often by their clothes and dwellings in a separate quarter of the urban community, distinctions that the Christians rejected explicitly.[9]  Aristides also outlines some of these distinctions; he explains that unlike the Christians, the Jews celebrate the beginning of months, feasts of unleavened bread and a great fast, and fasting and circumcision and the purification of meats.[10]  Tertullian again illustrates how the Christians differentiated themselves from Jews in this way, stating that ‘we neither accord with Jews in their peculiarities in regard to food…sacred days…bodily signs, nor in the possession of a common name;’ which he suggests surely the Christians would if their God and religion were the same.[11]  The Didache even lays out the situation in reference to fasting and how Christians should make a point of fasting on days which are not fasting days of Judaism, of ‘hypocrites.’[12]

Justin Martyr
Justin Martyr

Justin Martyr wrote that the Jews ‘did not recognise Christ even when He came…He was crucified by them.’[13] In examining how the Christians distinguished themselves we see that many saw the Jews’ unrecognition of Jesus as Son of God as a key point. The Jews were seen as having rejected Christ and so were rejected by Christ.  The rejection of Christ by the Jews is an important point when assessing why the Christians took the liberty to differentiate themselves from the Jews so explicitly.  Aristides expressed that the Jews were the murderers of Jesus; pierced and crucified by them.[14]  Not only did the Jews reject the basis for the Christians origins but expressed it as blasphemy as Justin notes with Barchochebas, the leader of the Jewish revolt, who gave orders that Christians alone should be led to cruel punishments unless they would deny Jesus Christ and utter blasphemy.[15]

Melito in relation to the Jews and their rejection of Christ appears to even accuse them of deicide.[16]  The Jews are said not to have understood that which their own prophets predicted and therefore did not recognise Christ when he did come and so in seeing Jesus treated him with contempt.[17] In comparison, the Christians embraced him despite their lack of knowledge and prophecy.  In the minds of the Christians the Jews had killed Christ which is probably why this accusation of deicide appears in the likes of Melito. It seems a fair assessment that this ideology of the Jews would have been a key factor in why the Christians wished to be defined apart from the Jews as they had rejected the saviour, especially since the Christians saw themselves as the chosen people, despite lacking the wealth and the antiquity of the Jews.  Whether this rejection was out of ignorance or divine will is a subject which was debated and questioned even in the period under examination.

Throughout the majority of Christian texts addressing the Jewish religion a recurring theme of differentiation is the idea of old and new.  For instance, Tertullian asserts that the Jews had false trust in their ‘noble ancestors’; and Ignatius advises in his letter to the Magnesians not to be led astray by ‘old fables’ and that the Jewish converts walked in ‘ancient customs’ where as the Christians walked in a ‘new hope’.[18] The Christians did not have the antiquity that the Jews had and differentiated themselves through a sense of newness and regeneration.  Barnabas illustrates this stating that he made us new by the remission of sins he made us ‘another type’, that we should have the soul of children, as though he were creating us afresh.”[19] This idea of Christianity as new is also seen in the Roman texts but is seen in a different, more negative light.  Ignatius in his letter to the Philadelphians expresses that in the end Christianity was seen by the Christians as the superior group and their teachings and religion was to be preferred before all others.[20]  The Jews were seen as the lesser group and should only relate to the Christian teachings to show the superiority of the Christians.

The question remains of how the Romans distinguished the Jews and the Christians in the second and third centuries. The Romans distinguished the Jews as a special people in contrast to other groups due to their imageless worship (ἀθεότης), refusal to participate in the traditional and their exclusiveness (ἀμιξία). This exclusiveness and separation from the rest of society was a key point of differentiation that the Romans made between the Christians and the Jews.  The Jews kept to themselves whereas the Christians interacted with the rest of the community.  Caecilius illustrates this, describing the Jews as a people who ‘skulk and shun the light of day, silent in pubic…the lonely and wretched race of the Jews…but the Christians! What marvels, what monsters to they feign!’[21] This indicates that the Jews were distinguished from the Christians as not only a separate group but as a people who purposely isolated themselves from society.  Tacitus also expresses this idea of isolation, explaining that the Jews sit apart at meals, sleep apart and do not associate with strangers and foreigners.[22]  The exclusivity of the Jews seems to have been also a way that the groups were distinguished.  Jews were exclusive, Christians were not.

There are unfortunately few pagan references to Christianity in the second century but from the few sources available it appears that Romans also distinguished the Christians from the Jews in relation to the idea of a third race the ‘genus tertium’, though this idea is often debated by modern scholarship. The Treatise Scorpiace, for instance, indicates that the designation of Christians as a third race was common in Carthage in the third century.[23]  This designation was made on the grounds of faith and is implicit of a distinction between the Jews and the Christians; the Romans being the first race, the Jews the second, and the Christians the third. Tertullian also refers to this distinction made by the Romans, stating ‘Tertium genus [dicimur] de ritu.’[24] This distinction of Ἕλληνες, Ἰουδαῖοι, and Γαλιλαῖοι is seen throughout literary evidence, both Christian and Roman, and appears to be a key way that the groups were distinguished by the Romans.  This distinction is one that was made in relation to Roman society and is not to be confused with other ideas of race distinction based on locality which was also a common distinction in the period, as the Christians and the Jews were ‘genos’ based within the Roman populace.

The Christians differentiated themselves from the Jews in terms of presenting themselves as a new hope, a new faith.  The Romans also made distinctions between Christians and Jews by distinguishing Christians as new.  Benko explains that Christianity was seen as a new superstition that could not claim the sanction of antiquity like Judaism could.[25]  Even Tacitus who describes the Jews as ‘perverse and disgusting’ admits that ‘Jewish worship is vindicated by its antiquity.’[26]  Christianity, like Judaism, was seen by the Romans as ‘perverse and disgusting’ but was distinguished by also being ‘foreign and new’ and therefore much worse than Judaism.[27]  Frend also asserts that in the second and third centuries the Jews needed not the introduction that the Christians did.  This further suggests that the Romans distinguished the Jews and the Christians as old and new.  The newness of Christianity and that Christians did not offer tangible substitute of loyalty to the Empire like the Jews did was regarded as proof of subversive intent.[28] Saying this, Christianity was seen as a new thing but not necessarily as a new religion in itself but an invading one, new to society, and Christians were seen as people who had turned their backs on the traditions of their forefathers.

Literary sources also indicate that the Romans distinguished Christians and Jews in relation to physical attributes, for instance, circumcision and imagery. The pagan writer Tacitus shows this distinction by asserting that the Jews adopted circumcision as a mark of difference from other men.[29]  A difference between the Jews and the Christians that the Romans also exhibited knowledge of was the idea of imagery and idolatry that was practiced by the Christians but not by the Jews.  Tacitus again alludes to this distinction, stating that the Jews ‘do not allow any images to stand in their cities, much less in their temples.’[30]  This indicates that the Romans, not unlike the Christians, made distinctions between the two groups on a basis of customs as well as beliefs.

The Romans also distinguished Christians from Jews as they regarded Judaism as a genuine faith and Christianity as a subversive counterfeit.[31]  This, along with the distinction of old and new, relates significantly to the large number of stories about the Christians which contributed to the distinctions made.  Tertullian shows this distinction through accusations that the Christians killed children as part of holy rites, practiced incest and impious lusts.[32]  He explains that this was the type of thing that Christians had long been accused of and that no pains had been taken on the part of the Romans to elicit the truth of the accusations.  Frend also alludes to Octavius 150-160 which distinguishes the Christians as users of black magic, initiators of scandal and Bacchanalianism.[33]  Suetonius also accuses Christians of using magic and introducing a new and dangerous superstition.[34]  This is indicative of one means of distinction used by the Romans.  The Jews do not seem to be subject to such explicit accusations in this period as they were regarded as a genuine faith; the Christians on the other hand were distinguished as a superstitio through rumours and ideas created through distinct lack of knowledge.

The majority of points of distinction made by the Romans are of a particularly negative nature during this period, especially in regards to the Christians, who they regarded as new and dangerous.  Examination of some texts though illustrates namely two things; firstly that little was known about the Christians and so many distinctions were made in relation to rumours or other groups such as the Jews, and secondly that in this period there appears to have been a sense of leniency towards the Christians that distinguished them from the Jews on behalf of the Romans. For instance, under Hadrian in the second century the Roman imperial powers appear to have made a distinction in favour of the Christians.[35] Granianus thought it unjust to kill Christians without accusation or trial, to appease popular clamour. Hadrian wrote back saying that petitions and popular accusations should not be recognised.[36]  In light of the suppression of Jews in Asia Minor at the time this presents a distinction lenient to the Christians, despite Hadrian leaving the general question of Christianity rather vague.  It also expresses that while popular view was that Christians were a threat, Roman imperial powers saw them more as just a nuisance.

This sense of distinction is also seen in Pliny and Trajan’s correspondence.  These letters display a lack of knowledge in regards to the Christians and a leniency by imperial powers.  Pliny shows this lack of knowledge, stating that he does ‘not know what offenses it is practice to punish or investigate, and to what extent.’ Whether it is the name itself, even without offenses or only the offenses associated with the name that are to be punished.’[37] Pliny and Trajan do not appear to believe that Christians constituted a threat to the security of the State, though popular belief was that Christians detracted from the unified empire.[38]  Trajan almost seems tolerant and tells Pliny that Christians aren’t to be hunted but if denounced put to trial.[39]  The Roman perspective in many cases appears to be that the Christians were not a religious problem but one of disloyalty where as the Jews still paid their due to the Empire.  This suggests that the rulers were mostly acting on the demands of the pagan majority and common opinion.  In a period where the Jews were revolting and causing extensive problems, these ideas indicate a differentiation between groups.

The list of ways that the Romans distinguished Jews and Christians is diverse and variable throughout time and localities, so what is discussed above is a collection of some of the most widely spread and explicit ideas.  The way that the Romans saw the Jews and the Christians in the second and third centuries cannot be fully recognised in the present day, even when one attempts to fully explore these ideas and the branches of information and ideologies that spring from them.  Like the modern scholar, the writings of the second and third centuries were greatly hampered by bias and influence, and this again makes it difficult to assess how and why differentiations were made.  In order to create a better picture of how and why, a more extensive study needs to be made than is possible here.

The Roman perspective that we can reproduce from texts does have a variety of implications on the way we view the relationship between Christians and Jews in this period.  At first thought one might think that the Jews and Christians were both groups separate from Roman society and so understood each other’s predicaments.  This is the kind of idea the Roman perspective often implies.  There is the distinction of races; Romans as the first, Jews as the second and Christians as the third; despite this being a somewhat clear distinction by the Romans, the idea remains of there being the Romans and then the others.  The implication here is that the relationship between the Jews and the Christians was not a bad one, as they both fell into the category of degraded foreign cults.[40]  Other distinctions though are implicit of bad relations between Jews and Christians.  The distinction of old and new which is often imposed by the Romans has the implication that we view the relationship between Christians and Jews in this period on those terms, as a contest between old Israel and the new.[41]

As you can see, there are several ways that the relationship between Christians and Jews in this period can be viewed.  This is particularly influenced by whether one is looking at the Roman perspective as seen through the eyes of the Romans or of the Christians and Jews.  For instance, when looking at the Roman perspective of Christians in relation to accusations of magic, from the Roman writings we see mainly ignorance and rumour; but from looking at the Roman perspective from Christian writings we see an accusation of spreading rumours and hatred, accusations spread by the Jews to downsize and hurt the Christians, displaying a very negative relationship.  When looking at Roman writings, the implication is that we look onto the relationship between Jews and Christians with a limited knowledge and habit of distinguishing groups only to a certain point. When looking at the Roman perspective from Christian and Jewish texts, the way we view the relationship is fairly different, more severe and distinct but is influenced by the perspective of the groups in question themselves.  The Roman perspective in general implies a sense of ignorance or subjective thought in the way we view the relationship between Jews and Christians.

1250 French Bible illustration depicts Jews (i...
1250 French Bible illustration depicts Jews (identifiable by Judenhut) being massacred by crusaders

The Christians differentiated themselves explicitly from the Jews in the second and third centuries as can be seen in numerous Christian texts from the period.  This was done in relation to differences in customs, ideologies and philosophies such as origins, physical differences like circumcision and the idea of truth.  This differentiation was made based on ideas of competition and rivalry of old and new as well as clashes in ideology.  The Romans also took time to distinguish them on the basis of antiquity, origins, customs and accusation and this Roman perspective, which is seen in Roman, Christian and Jewish texts, has implications on how we view the relationship between Christians and Jews as the Roman perspective presents a different picture of the relationship than the Christian and Jewish perspectives and is generally a more available perspective due to the limitations of sources.



Modern Sources:

Adler, M., The Emperor Julian and the Jews, in The Jewish Quarterly Review, Vol.5, No.4 (Jul.1893), pp.591-651

Barnes, E.W., Rise of Christianity (London, 1948)

Barnes, T.D., Legislation against the Christians, in The Journal of Roman Studies, Vol.58, Parts 1 and 2 (1968), pp.32-50

Benko, S., Pagan and the Early Christians (London, 1984)

Bickerman, E.J., The Name of Christians, in The Harvard Theological Review, Vol.42, No.2 (Apr., 1949), pp.109-124

Cochrane, C.N., Christianity and Classical Culture (London, 1968)

Frend, W.H.C., Martyrdom and Persecution in the Early Church (Oxford, 1967), pp. 155-172, 461-466

Hazlett, I., Early Christianity: Origins and Evolution to AD 600 (Nashville, 1991), pp.52-64

Janssen, L.F., ‘Superstitio’ and the Persecution of the Christians, in Vigiliae Christianae, Vol.33, No.2 (Jun., 1979), pp.131-159

Keresztes, P., The Imperial Roman Government and the Christian Church, I: From Nero to the Severi, in ANRW II 23.1, pp.247-315

Keresztes, P., The Jews, the Christians, and Emperor Domitian, in Vigiliae Christianae, Vol.27, No.1 (Mar., 1973), pp.1-28

Lane Fox, R., The Spread of Christianity: Pagans and Christians (Canada, 2006), pp.428

Macmullen, R., and Lane, E.N., Paganism and Christianity 100-425CE: A Sourcebook (Minneapolis, 1992), pp.74-78

Macmullen, R., Christianizing the Roman Empire (A.D. 100-400) (London, 1984), pp.25-42, 132-138

Momigliano, A., The Conflict Between Paganism and Christianity in the Fourth Century (Oxford, 1963), pp.17-37

Poteat, H.M., Rome and the Christians, in The Classical Journal, Vol.33, No.3 (Dec., 1937), pp.134-144

Sanders, J.T., Christians and Jews in the Roman Empire: A Conversation with Rodney Stark, in Sociological Analysis, Vol.53, No.4 (1992), pp.433-445

Sherwin White, A.N., The Letters of Pliny: A Historical and Social Commentary (Oxford, 1966)

Sordi, M., The Christians and the Roman Empire (London, 1986), pp.57-60

Wilken, R., Pliny: A Roman Gentleman, in idem., The Christians as the Romans Saw Them (New Haven, 1984), pp.1-30

Wilken, R., The Christians as the Romans saw Them (Michigan, 1984)


Ancient Sources:

Aristides, The Apology of Aristides the Philosopher, (Trans. From the Syriac Version, by Kay, D.M., University of Edinburgh) []

Barnabas, Epistle of Barnabas, from: Apostolic Fathers, Kirsopp Lake, (Loeb Classical Library) (1912)

Caecilius (in Minut. Felix, viii. f.), []

Diadache (Trans. Roberts and Donaldson) []

Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, trans. J. E. L. Oulton, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, Mass. 1932)

Ignatius, The Letter to the Magnesians (Trans. Roberts and Donaldson) []

Ignatius, The Letter to the Philadelphians (Trans. Roberts and Donaldson) []

Josephus, trans H. St. J. Thackeray et al., Loeb Classical Library, Vols 1-10 (Cambridge, Mass, 1926)

Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho (Trans. Roberts and Donaldson) []

Justin Martyr, The First Apology of Justin (Trans. Roberts and Donaldson) []

Melito, From the Discourse on Soul and Body (Trans. Roberts-Donaldson) []

Pliny, Letters, Book X, 96-97 (Trans. Melmoth, W., Harvard Classics Series, reproduced from: Internet Medieval Source-Book, ed. P.Halsall [])

Polycarp, The Epistle of Polycarp (Trans. Lightfoot, J.B.,) []

Tacitus, The Histories []

Tertullian, An Answer to the Jews (Trans. Rev. Thelwall, S., (Canterbury)) []

Tertullian, Apology (Trans. Rev. Thelwall, S., (Canterbury)) []

Tertullian, Scorpiace (Trans. Rev. Thelwall, S., (Canterbury)) []

The Martyrdom of Saint Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna (Trans. Hoole, C.H., (1885))

[1] Aristides, The Apology of Aristides the Philosopher, (Trans. From the Syriac Version, by Kay, D.M., University of Edinburgh) [] Chapter XV

[2] Tertullian, Apology (Trans. Rev. Thelwall, S., (Canterbury)) [] Chapter 7

[3] Ibid., Chapter 7

[4] Aristides, op.cit., Apology

[5] Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho (Trans. Roberts and Donaldson) []

[6] Frend, W.H.C., Martyrdom and Persecution in the Early Church (Oxford, 1967), p.130

[7] Ibid., p.130

[8] Barnabas, Epistle of Barnabas, from: Apostolic Fathers, Kirsopp Lake, (Loeb Classical Library) (1912), Chapter 10 – the food-law of the Jews

[9] Frend, op.cit., p.146

[10] Aristides, op.cit., Apology

[11] Tertullian, Apology, op.cit., Chapter 21

[12] Diadache (Trans. Roberts and Donaldson) [] 8:1

[13] Justin Martyr, The First Apology of Justin (Trans. Roberts and Donaldson) [] Chapter 36

[14] Aristides, op.cit., Apology

[15] Justin, Apology, op.cit., Chapter 31

[16] Melito, From the Discourse on Soul and Body (Trans. Roberts-Donaldson) [] II 224-44

[17] Justin, Apology, op.cit., Chapter XLIX

[18] Tertullian, Apology, op.cit., Chapter 21 and Ignatius, The Letter to the Magnesians (Trans. Roberts and Donaldson) [] 8.1 and 9.1-2

[19] Barnabas, op.cit., 6.11

[20] Ignatius, The Letter to the Philadelphians (Trans. Roberts and Donaldson) []

[21] Caecilius (in Minut. Felix, viii. f.), []

[22] Tacitus, The Histories [] Book 5

[23] Tertullian, Scorpiace (Trans. Rev. Thelwall, S., (Canterbury)) [] x.: a word to heretics who shunned martyrdom

[24] Tertullian, Apology, op.cit., I.xx

[25] Benko, S., Pagan and the Early Christians (London, 1984), p.21

[26] Ibid., p.22

[27] Ibid., p.22

[28] Frend, op.cit., p.192

[29] Tacitus, op.cit., Book 5

[30] Tacitus, op.cit., Book 5

[31] Frend, op.cit., p.208

[32] Tertullian, Apology, op.cit., Chapter 7

[33] Frend, op.cit., p.187

[34] Ibid., p.124

[35] Ibid., p.169

[36] Ibid., p.168

[37] Pliny, Letters, Book X, 96-97 (Trans. Melmoth, W., Harvard Classics Series, reproduced from: Internet Medieval Source-Book, ed. P.Halsall []) Book X, 96

[38] Sordi, M., The Christians and the Roman Empire (London, 1986), p.58

[39] Trajan in Pliny, op.cit., Book X, 97

[40] Benko, op.cit., p.21

[41] Frend, op.cit., p.133

The Transfiguration: Mark 9.2-10 and Parallels

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Form critics have asserted that the Transfiguration pericope may have been a misplaced resurrection account.  If this is so then it may allude to the resurrection appearance in 1 Peter 1.3.[1] By considering the subject matter of Mark’s transfiguration account, and Luke’s and Matthew’s, we gain a better understanding of why such critics have formed this opinion. There are parallels between the resurrection and transfiguration accounts, but the majority of these can be dismissed when considering a misplaced resurrection account. For instance, it has been argued that the transfiguration and the resurrection are the only occurrences where a miracle is done to Jesus. This can be debated due to the occurrences of miracles, such as during the baptism accounts. Stein even firmly argues that there stronger dissimilarities between the transfiguration and resurrections than there are similarities.[2]

Mosaic of the Transfigration, St. Catherine's ...
Mosaic of the Transfiguration, St. Catherine’s Monastery, Mount Sinai

Theories concerning the placement of the time reference in Mark 9.2 are numerous.  It may come from a Pre-Markan tradition following the six days Moses spent on Mount Sinai (Exod. 24:16); the six days preceding the Sabbath.  It could also refer to the seventh day which could in turn relate to the Sabbath.  However, the form of the Greek of this time reference actually makes this theory unlikely as the Sabbath would more likely be represented by the term ‘after the sixth day.’ Which begs the question: the sixth day after what?

If the Transfiguration is a misplaced Resurrection narrative, then the period of six days is unusual.  Most Resurrection accounts have very distinct temporal references to three days, the first day and during forty days but never six days. This time reference is also not unique in appearance as it occurs throughout the synoptic accounts in places with no association with the Resurrection. This suggests that what is seen as an indicator of resurrection is more an indicator of tradition.

There is also the hypothesis that James and John are later additions to the transfiguration story as only Peter speaks and if all three were present at the transfiguration how then could they have later denied their Lord? The three disciplines appear firmly embedded in Mark’s version despite only Peter speaking.  This is seen in the use of numerous third person plural terms and phrase which reflect the presence of multiple disciples; James, John and Peter. Such words as αυτους (them), μονους (by themselves), αυτων (of them), αυτοις (to them), εκφοβοι γαρ εγενοντο (for they were exceedingly afraid) and αυτοις ακουετε (You (pl.) listen), reflect that there is small ground for the view that the Transfiguration was originally only associated with Peter.

The two passages, Mark 9.2 and Mark 14.33, tell similar narratives in that Jesus took Peter, James and John along with him.  There have been theories concerning the Transfiguration occurring not at the time given in Mark but originally on the last night of the Lord’s life at Gethsemane when the three were alone with Jesus on the hillside. This would coincide with Luke’ account of the sleeping disciples.  There are several agreements between the two stories; notably, the presence of Peter, James and John, and the idea of not knowing what to say in Mark 9.6 and 14.40.

Whatever the case, the centrality of the characters is implicit in these two theories of the relation to the parallels between the two passages in Mark mentioned.  Not knowing what to say is indicative of the almost foolish nature of the disciples witnessed throughout Mark.  This parallel and the presence of the characters at the transfiguration could be seen as exemplar of their inability to understand despite how clearly it is laid out for them.  Could this be why they could have later denied their Lord anyway? If the Transfiguration did occur around chapter 14 as suggested, Mark could have separated them as an emphasis technique to make privy the nature of these disciples.

Luke’s version of the Transfiguration has a number of parallels with the ascension story in Acts 1.9-10.[3] The first notable comparison is seen in the inclusion of a cloud in Luke 9.34 and Acts 1.9, which blocks the disciples’ sight.  Some critics assert that this is an indication of a misplaced resurrection story in Luke but it appears more likely that it is an allusion to Old Testament tradition.  The idea of the cloud overshadowing is seen also in Exodus 40.34[4] and 1 Kings 8.10.[5] One of the most significant and obvious differences, which indicates that to the transfiguration belonging in its own category, is that in Luke the cloud leaves Jesus when it departs while in Acts the cloud hides Jesus from sight and he is taken up. A cloud regularly symbolises the presence of God and is not an indication of resurrection.

There is also the parallel of the two men which appear beside them, which is often taken similarly as an indication of misplaced resurrection.  While both appearances represent sinless and perfect beings, the type of which Jesus also belongs as a representation of the exemplar, the stories differ surrounding their actions and placement.  In Luke 9.30, the two men, Elijah and Moses, talk directly with Jesus and have no dialogue in the version.  In Acts 1.10, the two men remain unnamed and talk directly to the disciples; they appear after the ascension of Jesus rather than beside him.

The third comparison which holds scholars in debate is the physical appearance of the two men described in Acts and Jesus’ appearance in Luke 9.29. Jesus is described by Luke as having the ‘appearance of his countenance altered, and his raiment became dazzling white’ which parallels the white garments of the two men in Acts. Yet again the appearance in white could be alluding to Old Testament tradition, as paralleled in Daniel 7.9 where the Most High has clothing ‘as white as snow.’ It is a sign of holiness and sinlessness but it does not necessarily represent resurrection.  Jesus is acknowledged in Luke as the perfect man; in the presence of god it seems that occasion called for such an appearance.

Mark 9.9 is indicative of the Messianic secret found in Mark (paralleled in Matthew 17.9 and Luke 9.36).  This is the final time in Mark that we see the idea of secrecy surrounding Jesus as the Messiah.  The passages in Mark and Matthew clearly tell of the Son of Man being raised from the dead, asserting knowledge of the resurrection was presented to the disciples. The implication of this is that after the resurrection has occurred, the risks of letting the secret out no longer are issues.  The passage also provides the disciples with an explanation for finding the tomb empty after the Crucifixion (Jn.20.8). The passages announce the upcoming death of Jesus; notably in Luke with the preceding passage (Luke 9.31-31). It is directly related to knowledge of the Passion of Christ as well as the Messianic secret in the words “Until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.”

The message from the heavenly voice in Mark 9.7 addressed to the disciples is implicit of the importance of listening to the Lord, especially when he speaks of the approaching passion. This is particularly of significance in relation to Peter who had previously been unwilling to do so.  For instance in Mark 8.32, ‘He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him,’ after Jesus predicts his death and resurrection.

The occurrence of the voice in Mark 1.11 is implicit of the presence of God, but the focus differs to the occurrence in Mark 9.7. Here the voice is directed at Jesus rather than the disciples and while it introduces the heavenly voice, it does not have the same purpose.  Mark 15.39 does not include the heavenly voice but instead echoes the message of the voice. It is as if the voice in these three passages is part of a formula that is implicit of the message that Jesus is the Son of God. Mark 1.11 introduces the idea and presents it to Jesus himself, Mark 9.7 presents the idea directly to the disciples though in Mark they fail to fully comprehend, and Mark 15.39 conveys the understanding of the message. This idea presents an argument against the idea that the transfiguration is a misplaced resurrection story as it makes no sense for the incomprehension to appear after the acknowledgement.

The Markan narrative of the Transfiguration story appears to have a significant function in the overall set out of Mark’s gospel. As discussed below, the words of God especially emulate the baptism and resurrection accounts.  This suggests that the transfiguration functioned as a link between the periods of Jesus’ life. It has been asserted that the transfiguration represented the climax of Mark’s gospel because afterwards it was all downhill, but this seems terribly unimaginative. Its function is more likely a prediction of events to come, an introduction to the glorified Jesus Christ and the explanation of the Messianic secret. Whether or not it was a resurrection account originally; the transfiguration in all three accounts has received a conscious placement which indicates that to the writers it was not misplaced.

Peter offers to build three shelters for Jesus, Elijah and Moses.[6] When one looks at the following line concerning Peter’s lack of knowing what to do, one questions Peter’s motives for this statement.  Mark 9.6 reads ‘He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.’ This shows that Peter and the disciples were confused and fearful, suggesting that the proposal was probably not made with consideration as it was made out of fear of an unusual event.  Such proposals generally don’t involve a judgement call.

The confusion that is seen is the result of Peter’s recent awakening from sleep to witness the strange event. Peter thinks of all three figures as if they were the same, but Jesus differs from Elijah and Moses and this grouping is made without thought. Jesus is seen as more important than his companions in this passage and yet Peter fails to differentiate. Peter’s proposal though is logical in the situation and practical; if these figures were to remain on the mountain-top for the night then they would indeed benefit from shelter.

The term ωφθη which is used preceding Peter’s proposal in 9.4 has also been said to indicate that this account was originally a resurrection account.  It is true that the verb ωφθη is often used in relation to resurrection appearances, though in this case the argument is dismissed by its agreement.  The verb in Mark 9.4 refers to Elijah and Moses rather than to Jesus as it would in a resurrection account.

The title that Peter gives to Jesus here is interesting when one considers the Greek.  While English translators often translate Mark’s version to read ‘Master’, the term is actually Ραββί (teacher, preacher). This suggests that Mark was not relating a misplaced resurrection story for two main reasons.  Firstly, the term likely belongs to a Pre-Markan tradition because Mark only makes use of it on two other occasions (Mark 11:21 and 14:45).  Secondly, it seems unrealistic to assume that a resurrection story would refer to Jesus as a risen Rabbi; there are far more suitable titles.

Matthew and Luke treat the issue of the fear and lack of understanding of the disciples differently to Mark though they also make mention of the issues.  Mark stresses that the disciples and Peter were afraid with the use of the adverb ‘exceedingly,’ or at least this is what one thinks until they refer back to the Greek text and find that the adverb is here missing, reading only ‘ου γαρ ηδει τι αποκριθη, εκφοβοι γαρ εγενοντο,’ but the emphasis remains. Mark’s placement of these issues though illustrates the point of the additional adverb by placing them together at the beginning of events and he attributes the issues to each other, ‘For he did not know what to say, for they were exceedingly afraid.’

Luke separates the issues and presents them as logical actions in the space of occurring events unlike Mark who presents the disciples as fearful and thoughtless from the first instance.  The not knowing what to say in Luke is a logical reaction to the appearance of Moses and Elijah, just as the fear is a logical reaction to the overshadowing of them all by a mighty cloud that basically blinds them.  Their fear in Luke is more an effect of awe in the presence of unexplained phenomena and the presence of the voice of God.

Matthew in turn presents the issues differently from Mark, but has some parallel in Luke.  Matthew ignores the ignorance issue altogether and excludes the idea of not knowing what to say in order to overshadow the ignorance theme seen in the Markan version.  This is a theme seen throughout Matthew.  The issue of fear is similar in appearance to that in Luke.  It appears as a logical reaction to awe rather than ignorant fear.  Matthew relates this clearly, saying ‘When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces, and were filled with awe.  But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.”

Matthew, Mark and Luke have similarities which demonstrate that all three share the same essence of the text. They also contain some interesting differences.  Luke starts his account by displaying one such differentiation; the temporal designation of ‘after eight days’ (Luke 9:28). We see parallels throughout the New Testament which may explain the eight days in context. Eight days was known as a week in the period. John 20:26 also includes the appearance of the divine after a period of eight days when Jesus appears to Thomas.  This suggests that Luke may have been taking from a known tradition or independent source which he believed to be a more suitable inclusion.

Luke alone records that Jesus was praying when his appearance changed. Luke appears to be indicating that Jesus was in contact with the heavenly world.  This passage is also exemplar of Luke’s independence from the other synoptic gospels as it is presented as a narrative in the past tense.  ‘Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῳ προσεύχεσθαι αὐτὸν τὸ εἰδος του προσώπου αὐτου ἑτερον καὶ ὁ ἱματισμὸς αὐτου λευκὸς ἐξαστράπτων.’ (Luke 9:29)

Luke’s version of the transfiguration is the longest account, followed by Mark, with Matthew being the shortest in length.  The extra length in Luke’s version is due to the dialogue reported in Luke 9:31-32 and the experience of the disciples. This material expresses the upcoming departure of Jesus which he will accomplish in Jerusalem. The addition of this material from a possible independent source contributes to the argument that the transfiguration is not a misplaced resurrection story by emphasising Luke’s agreement with Matthew and Mark that the transfiguration was an event in the life of Jesus.

Luke does appear to use Mark in parts but is generally different in wording and focus. The Markan material is mostly found towards the end of the account with Peter’s conversing with Jesus.  This material also appears in Matthew and all three versions use similar wording with the exclusion of Matthew’s addition of ‘if you wish, I will…’ This addition in Matthew suggests a more conscious motive in Peter to prolong the experience rather than the confusion and ignorance that is expressed in Mark and Luke in the phrase ‘οὐ γὰρ ἤδει τὶ ἀποκριθη’ (Mark 9:6). Luke 9:33 echoes Mark in expressing that Peter has misunderstood the occasion.

The transfiguration account in Luke is again exemplar of Luke’s use of sources, his motive and audience.  We see a use of Markan and independent material which could be extracts from Q.  Matthew does express independent material in his account but not at the same points as Luke which is illustrative of his Markan priority. This is seen, for example, in Matt.17:1-2 where the wording is primarily Markan with few diversions. Luke expresses in his introduction a desire to present an orderly narrative to benefit those with prior knowledge of the faith and to narrate the life of Jesus historically.  The narrative form of the transfiguration and the lack of metaphorical and descriptive terms which are found in Mark and Matthew show this further. For instance in Luke 9:29 in comparison to Mark 9.3, with the description of Jesus’ transformation in appearance.

Matthew echoes Mark in the temporal inclusion of six days and the generally character of the text (Paralleled in Ex. 34:29-35). Matthew does differ from the Markan description of Jesus’ appearance. He reports that Jesus’ face ‘shone like the sun,’ which is a simple simile unlike Mark’s multiple descriptive phrases.[7] Matthew maintains a Jewish character in his text and presented his gospel as a teaching tool which did not require the descriptive disposition of Mark’s gospel. Mark, writing for a gentile audience, needed to provide explanations. The face being compared to the Sun is paralleled in Rev.1:16, which could suggest that a link to resurrection and the coming of Jesus.  But it is just as plausible that the description belonged to earlier traditions.  It is not enough to base the hypothesis, concerning a misplaced resurrection story, on the wording of descriptive phrase and the context of a few parallels.  The sun is a subject which appears throughout the Old Testament tradition (Jdg.5:31, Ps.84:11, 136:8, Mal.4:2).

Matthew exhibits the use of independent source material.  For instance, he is the only one of the synoptic accounts that records ‘with whom I am well pleased’ in God’s address to the disciples (Matt.17:5). This verse makes a link to the baptism account where God addresses Jesus in Matthew 3:17.[8] The ‘ακουετε αυτου,’ which appears alongside this addition, occurs in all three synoptic accounts and echoes Dt.18:15 which reports a promise that a prophet like Moses would one day come.[9]

[1] “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

[2] Stein, R.H., Is the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-8) a Misplaced Resurrection-Account? In Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol.95, No.1 (Mar., 1976), p.83

[3] “After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.  They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.”

[4] “Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.”

[5] “When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the Lord.”

[6] And Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

[7] “…and his garments became glistening white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them.”

[8] “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

[9] “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their people, and I will put my words in that prophet’s mouth. My prophet will tell them everything I command.”

A Source-Critical Analysis of the Parable of the Mustard Seed

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I don’t write about the New Testament often so here is something a bit different. Apparently when a historian like myself gets bored they form a source-critical analysis of Mark 4:30-32, Luke 13:18-19, Matthew 13:31b-32 and the Gospel of Thomas 20:1-2 AKA the parable of the mustard seed. On first comparison we see that all three synoptic texts agree on the essence of the parable but none are identical.  All three texts discuss the kingdom of God in likeness to a mustard seed which could be a proverbial metaphor for something large that comes from very little.

In essence, all three synoptic versions recount the same parable, referring to the kingdom as ‘like a grain of mustard seed.’ This seed when sown grew into a great plant in which the ‘birds of the air’ could make nests.  Each version though differs in its details and even parallels contain variations in the Greek language between accounts.  Matthew, Mark and Thomas make the claim that the mustard seed is ‘the smallest of all seeds’ with slight differentiation to the Greek sentence structure. This is a claim not made in Luke’s shorter version of the parable.

There are some considerable differences between and within the synoptic and Thomas’ versions. Mark’s account is clearly the longest in Greek while Luke’s and Thomas’ are the shortest.  In turn, the introduction to Luke’s is longer that Matthews. The forms of the accounts also differ in relation to the introductions. Luke and Mark both begin with a pair of rhetorical questions.  While Matthew does not follow suit he does, like Luke and Mark, place the introduction of the parable in the mouth of Jesus unlike Thomas who has the disciplines initiate the parable by asking Jesus to ‘Tell us what the Kingdom of Heaven is like.’

What appears the most obvious difference though is the variation in the details of the texts. The nature of the seed’s growth and form is described differently by all form versions. Mark chooses to describe it as a great shrub, which is the most realistic outcome concerning a mustard seed. Luke and Matthew choose to describe it as a tree, but Matthew also calls it the greatest of all shrubs which parallels Mark’s wording.  Thomas creates a more general image, describing it as a ‘great plant.’ Thomas’ description also holds some realism as it recounts the birds sheltering under the plant which would occur in the case of a mustard plant.  In this way, among others, Thomas’ account most closely parallels Mark’s version.

While all versions allude to the birds of the air making use of the plant, the way that this occurs differs between accounts.  Matthew and Luke, alluding to their conclusion that the seed becomes a tree, state that the birds come and made nests in its branches. Thomas and Mark place emphasis rather on the shelter which the ‘shrub’ provides for the birds, though Mark does use the term branches in describing the growth of the shrub.

Mark again proves the closest parallel to Thomas in reference to the sowing of the mustard seed. Mark makes little comment of the sowing action and refers only to the seed as ‘when sown upon the ground’ which is the closest parallel to Thomas’ ‘when it falls on tilled soil.’ Luke and Matthew place a greater emphasis on the sowing action by adding a human element which could act as a catalyst by which the ‘tree’ is grown. Matthew tells of a man who took and sowed it in his field. Luke tells of a man who took and sowed the seed in his garden. Mark places a greater emphasis on the state of the seed shown in his excessive use of adjectives and superlatives.  In this point we see a parallel between Matthew and Luke which cannot be paralleled by either Thomas or Mark. This is implicit of another source being used by Luke and Matthew.

It is interesting to note that Mark and Luke both share details with Matthew but not with each other. For instance, the contrast between the seed and the shrub emphasised in Mark and Matthew, is not seen in Luke. The growth of the tree is seen in Matthew and Luke but not in Mark. Luke is independent from the other versions also because it presents the parable in a narrative context. This is seen clearly in the use of the past tense where Mark, Matthew and Thomas use the present.

Considering the similarities and differences that occur throughout the four versions of the Parable of the Mustard Seed, an explanation is necessary. It appears that the parable is an example of the two-source hypothesis which promotes the use of Mark and Q plus unique sources by Luke and Matthew. Matthew and Luke both have parallels in Mark but they also contain similarities that allude to access to at least one separate source.  Thomas shows a Markan priority and does not appear to have access to the Q source in relation to the mustard seed parable. Luke presents an almost entirely Q version of the parable while Matthew attempts to merge the Markan and Q versions.

Matthew is indicative of Markan priority though Matthew converts Mark’s comparison to a story form while retaining Mark’s botanical addition. Markan priority throughout the gospel is witnessed in his omission of a mere fifty-five Markan verses. There is also a marked use of Q which is emphasised in the use of narrative.  In turn, there is an amalgamation of source material and form in Matthew of Mark and Q.  Matthew is an incomplete narrative because he maintains the narrative of the man sowing the seed attributed to Q but ends in a Markan general statement. Luke is independent in this respect as he does not conclude with a general statement regarding Jesus’ use of parables.

The Jewish character in Matthew’s text is seen throughout the gospel as Matthew sees no need for explanations of Jewish customs.  Matthew’s gospel presents itself like a teaching tool, a manual. It is interesting to note that, despite independent motives, Matthew retains an addition in Mark to explain the significance of the seed to the Gentile audience, ‘the smallest of all seeds.’

Luke uses Mark and the Q source.  In turn, Luke appears to reproduce a version more true to the Q source. The mustard seed parable lands within a chunk of the Lukan gospel which is specifically taken from Q (9:51-18:14). Thomas on the other hand reflects the Markan source almost entirely. Luke’s introduction expresses a wish to present an orderly narrative which would benefit those who have some knowledge already about the Christian faith.  He attempts to narrate the story of Jesus as historical.  Luke also has a considerable amount of further information from unknown sources.

The use of the Q source is seen in the mention of the man in Matthew and Luke which does not appear in Mark. The Q source mentions άνθρωπος towards the beginning of the parable before ignoring him and changing the focus to directly lie on the mustard seed. In fact at this point of the text in Matthew and Luke, both appear to take their Greek account straight from Q which would account for the same Greek, …κόκκω σινάπεως, ‘όν λαβών άνθρωπος…(Matt. 13:31; Luke 13:19).

The use of a separate source by Matthew and Luke is also seen in the parallels concerning the tree (δένδρον) and κατασκηνοῦ εν τοῖς κλάδοις αυτοῦ (Matt.13:32)/κατεσκήνωσεν εν τοῖς κλάδοις αυτοῦ (Luke 13:19). The choice between ‘shrub’ and ‘tree’ is implicit of sources chosen by the gospel authors. The Markan version clearly states that the seed became a shrub which is directly paralleled in Thomas.  This is exemplar of Thomas’ use of Mark.  Luke’s decision to use ‘tree’ reiterates that Luke is usually believed to reproduce a Q form of the parable. This point is an example of the Mark-Q overlap because Matthew represents a mix of Markan and Q forms with the extension of the shrub idea into that of the tree; this is a classic trait in Matthew.  The addition of the tree found in Matthew and Luke alludes to Old Testament roots. The tree in Daniel 4:10-4:27 refers similarly to a kingdom. Mark’s uses of Old Testament allusions are fairly few which is implicit of a Roman audience.

It is difficult to assert the sources which Mark used to compose any of his gospel let alone the Mustard seed parable.  Form-critics have postulated that the existence of comparatively small tradition cycles, oral traditions that date prior to the written gospel.  There are also theories pertaining to the idea that Mark’s gospel was formed from preaching.

The different tenses are indicative of separate sources as well as the differing motives of the authors.  From the use of the narrative form in Luke we can surmise that Q was presented in the past tense while Mark is expressed in the present. The contrast involved in the line ‘smaller than all the seeds on the earth’ also makes a case for use of Q by Matthew and Luke.  Mark explicitly states the contrast whereas Q leaves it implicit.  This would account for the contrast not appearing in the Lukan version.  Luke saw himself as a historical writer which may account for him not needing the explanation; he wrote for those with some prior knowledge so he could make his versions shorter and sharper.

The Gospel of Thomas appears dependent on Mark as it shows many of the Markan features.  It does not appear to have any influence from Q like Luke or Matthew though it may have dealt with an independent source and its choice of words sometimes differs.  For instance, ‘birds of the air’ becomes ‘birds of the sky’ and ‘the greatest of all shrubs’ becomes ‘a great plant.’ This may exhibit though Thomas’ choice of audience and way of writing rather than his choice of sources. Thomas like Mark engages in a more realistic description of the plant and how the birds shelter under it. The omission of the farmer is indicative of the lack of the Q source.

Further Reading

Guthrie, D., Motyer, J.A., Stibbs, A.M., and Wiseman, D.J. (eds.) New Bible Commentary (Leicester, 1992)

Lockyer, H., Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Cambridge, 1986)

Drane, J., Introducing The New Testament (Oxford, 1993)

Goodrick, E.W. and Kohlenberger III, J.R., The NIV Handy Concordance (London, 1982)

Ancient Sites of Cilicia, Anatolia: Part 1

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Hello Everyone, this post is going to be a little different from the informative posts I usually write because I am excited! Not long now and I am off on my next archaeological dig, this time to Turkey!!!

Friends keep telling me to blog as I go so I guess I will, so welcome to a series of posts focused on my archaeological adventures in Turkey. My 7th international dig in the last 6 years.

Post 1: Where on earth am I going this time!?!

Truth be told I don’t know much about Turkey/Anatolia. My area of research is generally Greece but with the progression of my PhD into unknown realms, I’m taking the opportunity to go and partake in some research and data collection and at the same time increase my archaeological skills in Cilicia in Southern Turkey.

I warn you, this post is going to be quite long so get your cup of tea now!

So here is an opportunity for some preliminary research and to create a post on the ancient sites of Cilicia.


Political map of Asia Minor in 500 BC
Political map of Asia Minor in 500 BC

The region of Cilicia is located in the southern part of Anatolia and was officially founded by Antiochis IV in the first century AD though it has a complex history before this time. Located on an active Mediterranean trade route, Cilicia is generally associated with its area of native rebellion and piracy. Cilician pirates particularly dominated between 133 and 67 BC when they were defeated by Pompey the Great. Pompey revolutionised warfare at this time by offering the pirates a peaceful chance to surrender and receive leniency.

Cilicia is surrounded by a natural fortress provided by the Taurus Mountains to the North and East and the Mediterranean on the South with a coast full of ideal hiding places for pirates. Archaeological features in many areas include mooring, construction of buildings and shore access, stairs, defensive walls, fortresses, submerged columns, anchor remains and shipping jars, indicative of a coastal culture. Within Cilicia are two sub-regions known as Flat/Smooth Cilicia or Cilicia Pedias (the Eastern region), and Rough Cilicia or Cilicia Tracheia.  Evidence from the 13th century BC indicates that the region was originally called Kedi/Kode before the fall of the Assyrian Empire in the 7th century BC when it became an independent region ruled by the Syennesis dynasty of kings and then being absorbed into the Persian Empire by Cyrus the Great.

The pirate attacks in Cilicia appear to originally have been directed against Seleucid Kings involving slave and wine trade before they became more indiscriminate at the end of the 2nd century BC and defensive walls were built. Rome thus implemented an official ban of pirate interactions in 102-100 BC and created the Roman province of Cilicia to legitimise these laws. The general M.Antonius was commissioned to curb the pirate menace while the pirates allied themselves to the King of Pontus, Mithridates, to fight against Roman dominance. Eventually they were defeated by Pompey and Mithridates committed suicide in 63 BC. With this the Pontic kingdom also became a Roman province attached to Bithynia. The death of Julius Caesar saw some minor pirate wars in succeeding years but these were easily curbed.

At one point Cilicia was gifted to Cleopatra VII by Anthony but with their deaths it was again split up and handed over in part to Antiochis IV of Commagene. While older tribes such as the Cetae, Lalasseis and Cennatae stayed settled in certain areas of Cilicia, Cilicia then became two Byzantine provinces; Cilicia Prima and Secunda.


Ruins of Iotape in Rough Cilicia

Iotape, also known as Aytap, is a port city about 30km east of Alanya. The first archaeological evidence for human settlement comes from the first century AD though there is a concensus that it was earlier inhabited by tribes. It was originally founded by Antiochis IV in 52AD after he took control of Cilicia. Antiochis named the city for his wife Iotapa and it became Iotape (η Ιωτάπη).

The city is in an excellent place because of its natural harbour for trade and agriculture and its higher plateau where the settlement is protected from the sea and invasions from the coast. The natural harbour is made up of two bays measuring around 100m. Archaeological survey and excavation has uncovered ruins of an Acropolis with huge walls built around it to provide defense. Coins have been found indicating that Iotape included a mint which produced coins from the reign of Trajan to Valerian. There are also remains of Roman sewers, a necropolis and monumental tombs and sculptures, Roman baths, inscriptions and a rectangular Basilica to the East of the Acropolis. Temple ruins have also been excavated with surviving frescos within the city centre of the modern city.


Coin of Faustina II from Selinus, Cilicia with a veiled Demeter and Kore on the reverse

Selinus is now located in the area of modern Gazipasa and has settlement evidence from as far back as the Hittites in 2000 BC. Selinus was established on the River Kestros and is now called Hacimusa and was incorporated into Cilicia in 628 BC. It is located about 180 km to the East of Antalya on the Southern coast of Anatolia.

Selinus became part of the Roman Empire in 197 BC and became particularly famous in the first century AD when the Emperor Trajan died there. As a consequence, for some time Selinus was known as Traianapolis. Selinus later became part of the Byzantine Empire alongside the rest of Cilicia before falling into the hands of the Turks in 1225 AD. It is listed among the castles of Gazipasa alongside Iotape, Lamus, Nephelis and Antiochia ad Cragum and is still subject to archaeological research by a team from Florida State University. The archaeological artefacts from Selinus are now mostly housed in the museum of Alanya.


Public Bath House Remains at Anemurium

Anemurium is now the modern city of Anamur located at the most southern part of Anatolia closest to Cyprus. Archaeological evidence at the site reveals Roman occupation through the ruins of theatres, tombs and walls which are in part still visible today. The modern excavations at the site are being undertaken by the University of British Colombia though former excavations have been undertaken by the University of Toronto in the 1960s and by English Naval explorers in the 19th century.

The tombs at Anemurium appear to date back to the 1st century AD until the Arab invasions of the 650s AD. In addition to the theatre complex, excavations have turned up an odeon and several bath complexes with Mosaic floors, four early Christian churches, a basilica and aqueducts. Numismatic evidence also shows that the city had a mint which produced coins from the first to the third centuries AD when it was eventually captured by the Sassanians.


Tarsus is located inland from the Mediterranean by about 20km in the area of Cilicia. The city is located on a major trade route which increased its prosperity over its 2000 years of known historical contribution. It was an important point of intersection between the land and sea routes making it a significant place of commerce. At one point it was the accepted capital of Cilicia in the Roman Empire and held fame for being the meeting place of Anthony and Cleopatra as well as being the birthplace of Paul the Apostle.

Ancient Road in Tarsus from Roman Period

Excavations at Tarsus reveal that occupation dates back to the Neolithic period and continues throughout the Chalcolithic and Early Bronza Age. Excavations of the ancient city have been limited due to the placement of the modern city but much of the history of the city is known through literary accounts. Tarsus is mentioned in the campaigns of Esarhaddon and in the records of Shalmaneser I and Sennacherib. The foundation of the city itself is unclear but legends spring up in the Roman period and the geographer Strabo asserts that it was founded by explorers from Argos. At first it appears that Tarsus was ruled by the Hittites before falling into the hands of the Assyrians and the Persian Empire. It was a Persian satrapy from around 400 BC and is mentioned by Xenophon in his record of the march of Cyrus the Younger.

The patron god of Tarsus was Sandon throughout the majority of its established history down to the third century AD. And further fame was accorded to Tarsus as it was affected by the passing through of Alexander the Great in 333 BC. Tarsus was also famed for its schools and a library which were said to rival Athens and Alexandria. Around this time Tarsus was also known as Antiochia on the Cydnus. When Pompey defeated the pirates in Cilicia, Tarsus became subject to Rome and took the name Juliopolis. Subsequent to this and the birth of Paul the Apostle, Tarsus held a long and prosperous ecclesiastical association and history.


Claudiopolis, or Ninica as the area was formerly called, was a colony founded by Clausius Caesar and mentioned in Ammianus alongside Silifke in his list of the cities of Cilicia. It is located between the two Taurus mountains in the basin of the Calycadnus which was drained by the Calycadnus. Claudiopolis is often associated with the Calycadnus river’s Northern and Western branches and the passes over the mountains from Laranda. While Pliny and Ptolemy both mention cities by the names of Claudiopolis, only Ammianus’ reference refers definitely to the Claudiopolis of Cilicia. Not much else about Claudiopolis is known.


Besikil Cave Monument at Seleucia

Silifke is also known as Seleucia of Seleukeia and is located on the coast of Southern Anatolia on the banks of the Goksu River which flows from the Taurus mountains. It was founded by Seleucus I Nicator in the 3rd century BC as one of several cities he named after himself. Earlier occupation layers suggest that there was already a settlement on the site, possibly the twoens of Olbia and Hyria which were united under the establishment of Seleucia. The nearby settlement of Holmi was also incorporated into Seleucia in later years as Holmi became vulnerable to pirate attacks so that it was safer in incorporation. Seleucia rivalled Tarsus in commerce and trade.

In the second century BC, the city became an important religious centre surrounding the temple of Jupiter. It received further fame as the site of famous schools of literature and philosophy and as the birthplaces of Athenaeus and Xenarchus. Later additions were added to the city by L.Octavius Memor in 77AD who constructed the stone bridge among other buildings and in 300 AD Seleucia became the capital of the Byzantine state of Isauria. Following this Seleucia was a prosperous area of Christianity and councils were held there by the early Christian bishopd in 325, 359 and 410 AD. It also is the resting place of the famous tomb of the virgin saint Thecla of Iconium who was converted by Saint Paul. The tomb was celebrated and restored many times over the years, most notably by the Emperor Zeno in the 5th century.


Colonnaded Street in Diocaesarea

Diocaesarea is the Roman name of the modern city of Uzuncaburç. Its history spans from the Seleucid period and the majority of the archaeology comes from the Roman peiord. Among the archaeology we find the ruins of the temple of Tyche dating to the reign of Vespasian or Domitian in the 1st century AD. The worship of Tyche though is thought to date back to the Seleucid period because Tyche was venerated in all the cities founded by Seleucus. Remains also remain of the city walls and gates which reveal inscriptional evidence indicating that the gate was erected at the end of the fourth century AD by the emperor Arcadius. The fortifications are believed to have been to cull the threat of mountain dwellers in Cilicia who were believed to be a permanent threat to Roman interests.

Monumental arches mark the start of colonnaded streets towards the temple of Tyche which would have once been fenced by numerous statues. There are also the remains of a nymphaeum, a fountain house, and an aqueduct spanning a good twenty km and which still functions as the water supply for many modern villages. A Roman theatre complete with inscriptions and fortification towers are also still visible from the third century BC and a mausoleum


Port Remains from 3000 BC at Sydra

Syedra is located near the modern town of Seki about 17km southeast of Coracesium. Ancient literature mentions it in Lucian in the first century BC after a phase of complex power struggles which placed Syedra in the province of Pamphylia in the time of Tiberius in the first century AD. Archaeological remains of Syedra include well preserved baths and a theatre, cisterns and city walls on the site of a rounded mountain top near the coast line.

Archaeological evidence for a port at Syedra also exist dating far earlier to the Bronze age period. The monumental door still marks the the entrance to the Roman city of Syedra and painted frescos remain within carved niches in the stone of caves. One of these caves is famously known as a baptising cave. The bath building is located to the east of the town with mosaic floors and columned street remains can be found to the west of the bath complex. The excavations thus far have been conducted mostly by the Directorate of the Alanya Museum where much of the material evidence is now housed. The oldest ruins and inscriptions appear to date to the thirteenth century AD with the earliest dating to the eight or seventh century BC.


Remains of the Laertes Fortress in Cilicia

For information on Laertes I turn to Strabo who tells us that Laertes was a fortress situated upon the crest of a hill, of a pap-like form. It is located east of Syedra and Northwest of Coracesium. The route up to the fortress is defended by two spaced towers and by a stretch of wall. Underneath the fortress is an underground building consisting of three vaulted passages which could have functioned as a storehouse. Additionally on the North side are the remains of a long paved street which would have been originally lined by statues supposedly of Roman emperors. On the south side of the street are the remains of a building approached by steps which is believed to be a council house and numerous statues. To the west are the remains of an agora bordered by a long pavement, an exedra and a large apsed building comprising of complex halls. Other remains of houses and buildings are spread throughout the area with the main necropolis on the mountain slope to the south of the city.

Well I told you it would be a long post, so I have decided to split it. Continue on to PART 2 (Which is currently being written)

In PART 2 we look at:


Cilicia Campestris



Antiochia ad Cragum





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