Brief comment on Decapolis City named Pella:

Brief Comment on Early Roman tombs in Jerusalem

Akeldama Tomb field

Aceldama (Matt 27:8), the "Field of Blood" in the Gospel.

"In the Shadow of Mount Zion: A First-Century Burial Shroud at Akeldama in Jerusalem"

by Shimon Gibson, W. F. Albright Institute

reported 2003 at ASOR

Emergency investigation of the tomb and careful excavation of the shroud was undertaken by an archaeological team led by S. Gibson, B. Zissu and J. Tabor on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and with the support of the Foundation for Biblical Archaeology

Unusual conditions in one of the burial loculi preserved the shroud and a large clump of human hair.

A radiocarbon date indicated that the shroud belonged to the first century AD.

Study of the textiles by O. Shamir discovered that the shroud had been made from a high quality woolen garment with a simple weave.

DNA and other tests on the shrouded person

Adult male who had suffered from leprosy and died of acute tuberculosis

[remember the leg bone from Abila with TB?]

Typical tomb plan at Akeldama

Interior like the Abila tombs

Ossuaries from Akeldama tombs

Ossuaries from Akeldama tombs

Roman Cookpots

Same archaeologists as the Cave of John the Baptist discovery in 2004

Romans religious system -
United the empire
United Social classes.

Gods and Politics were linked.

Disrespect to the Gods was disrespect to the Romans.

The American Flag is only a piece of material, right? Many people can not tolerate it burned or disgraced. Is the flag part of American STATE religion?

Julius Caesar in Spain (Italica?)

Julius Caesar in Spain (Italica?)

Headless Emporer in Spain (Italica?) = good place to exile trouble makers

Another headless Emporer in Spain (Italica?)

Hadrian bust in Spring (Italica?)

Aelius Hadrianus born in Italica, a Roman colony in Spain

Ruled 117 to 138. Crushed Second Jewish revolut

Italica street

Houses at Italica

Roman Bath Complex at Italica

Maze Mosaic at Italica

Carpet Mosaic at Italica

Romans were tolerant to other religions

The Empire was dotted with temples to Olympian Gods

Zeus in the Prado Museum, Madrid

Zeus in the Prado Museum, Madrid.

Plan of Temple of Baalbek

Standing columns to the Zeus Temple

Fragment of Zeus temple decoration from Baalbek

Fragment of Zeus Temple decoration from Baalbek



Prado Museum, Madrid

Prado Museum, Madrid

Prado Museum, Madrid

Prado Museum, Madrid

Not so pretty Venus!, Prado Museum, Madrid

Temple of Venus at Balbek in Lebanon

Plan of Temple of Venus at Balbek in Lebanon



- god with wings on feet kept your commerce safe

insured no cheating of weights or exchanges

god of capitalists!


Prado Museum, Spain


Temple to Muses at Baalbek, Lebanon

Plan to join in the worship at a Roman Temple?

Fellowship had no regard for sex, wealth, class or status

Initiations sometimes free or small fee

To move up to the different stages might cost money

Like Rosicrucian, Mason, Scientology. [nobody values anything for free!]

One Roman text describes:

Go to the lodge of the priest to study

Approved into the temple by a vote

Charge of 50 denarii

Son of a member only 25 Deneri

Monthly contributions to cover the wine costs

Christians used to criticize them for charging money

Forms of worship could take many forms

Rules would usually be posted near the main entrance

Do not vomit up wine

Do not carve your initials in the temple walls

Be reasonable dressed and uncontaminated

What were the things that would taint a person:
recent child birth
sexual intercourse with women or dogs
sight or touch of a corpse
consuming pork
No chopping down of the sacred forest
no poaching
no lighting fires near the temple walls

There was usually the outline of daily practice
These could be lengthy instructions
190 lines of instructions at the temple of Demeter

an animal or vegetable to the deity

A leg was usually given to the temple
Rest was taken home
At big public sacrifices
, meat would be distributed among the temple staff and the worshippers

Extra meat could be sold in the market

Skin would be sold with the money going to the temple.

CULT CENTERS Cult centers were usually large parks

Housed tame animals like lion, or monkeys

Beautiful flowering shaded grounds

Shaded porticos for a cheerful picnic
or to enjoy and to enjoy a banquet with friends

Dining rooms usually seated 9

Dura and Palmyra (in Syria) - a moderate sized temple had a banquet hall that seated 45.

Two indulgences of these feasts

eating and drinking were taken to extremes.

"It is not the abundance of wine or the roasting of meat that makes the joy of the festival, but the good hope and belief that the god is present in his kindness and graciously accepts what is offered," Plutarch Moralia 1102A


The Sextons were responsible for the everyday care of the temple and for making what ever rituals had to be done on a daily basis, answering questions and keeping order

These people were usually mentioned by travelers as nameless, humdrum and helpful

If anyone had eccentric and questionable behavior it was the worshippers who were tightly wound

The daily job were opening the temple doors in the morning, singing the hymns, lighting the altars and saying the necessary prayers

During the day they would make sure that the proper hymn as sacrifices were performed and at night they would close the doors

Not all temples kept the same hours

- some would never close their doors

others would never open theirs

Night time illumination must have been impressive.

The temples would be grandly illuminated with lamps.

The statues were rubbed with oil that made them gleam in the lamp light, and they would be dressed in sumptuous costumes.

One schedule describes visiting all of the statues and crowing them with wreaths, anointing the statues and occasionally the Gods would be taken out for a ride or for a bath.

In some cases their clothing had to be changed.

Some cult statues where even jointed so they could sit at the banquet hall and join the revelers.


Often sponsored by the wealthy members of the community

who gave money and donated services to the people and to the poor

Guests mixed with the crowds and pursued secular interests, and police were OK

The festivals had a wide mix of entertainment.

Theater was an important part, entertainment.

Bleachers were constructed, or people sat on the steps of the temple to watch drama, comedy, poetry readings and mimes.

The entertainment was a mixed bag of religious liturgy, animal acts, danced hymns, prose and poetry.

They often had a mysterion, which was not a rite performed in secret, but rather a lesson that was to be learned by a large number of people at the same time.

It was also a big fair.

VP fair.

Trade booths were constructed into the porticos of the sanctuaries and merchants would travel the festival circuit selling their wares.

There were cafes, gardens

Usually there would be a company of prostitutes would follow the circuit

Sometimes a group of young men would follow the prostitutes

These festivals usually took place on the 15 or 30 of the month on tax-free, holy days

Mystery Religions


Mystery from the Greek word to "close my eyes and lips" 23 Mystery cults sites amongst the Greeks Ephesus - Artemis

Didyma - Apollo/Artemis

Claros - Apollo
Eleusis - Demeter

Naxos - Demeter

All of these disappear as a result of Christian persecution in the 4th century.

Why did Christian's persecute?

1. Payback for what happened to them in 1st through 3rd centuries.

2. Like the Parable of the Wedding Feast - the are "compelling" unbelievers to come to the feast. Old religions had fossilized and had lost a genuine enthusiasm and excitement

Priests and ministers clung to rituals out of fear and habit

Mysteries believed that the sole purpose of this life is spiritual development

They appealed on a more personal and immediate level and to all the senses.

The drama created a cathartic environment that gave room for individuals rebirth.

Catharsis is a mind cleansing practice that modern therapists often use to bring

their patients to an excited state of collapse before implanting new ideas.

Greek dramas Antigone and Oedipus.

Much like a really great sad movie that when you leave makes you feel more alive.

ELUSIAN MYSTERIES of Demeter of Persphone

Demeter, Persephone, and Triptoleme (the boy) Bas-relief dčEleusis, 450 BC, Calvin College. Demeter (Ceres in Roman mythology), the sister of Zeus, taught Man the techniques of arable farming. Triptolemos was the hero the learned wheat cultivation.

Zeugma mosaic of Demeter

One of the most important and sacred mysteries in the ancient world

Homeric hymn to Demeter, Homer declares that

"Blessed among men on Earth is he who has seen these things."

Emperor Gallienus was so affected that he used his name in the Feminine form on his coins - Galliena Augusta

We visited there still signs of sacrifice in the cave area

Story of Demeter and Persepone is a death and rebirth

also deals with mother daughter relationships

It began in 1000 BC.

Telesterion had 42 columns it was run by two families who were in charge

Hierophant (chief priest), assistant priest, torch bearer, Herald, Altar Priest, Priestess of Demeter, and other Priests.

In preparation the temples sacred objects were transported to Athens,

so that there could be a procession from Athens to Elusisus.

Day 1- Herald invites people to come requiring clean hands, intelligible speech (Greek) and just lives.

Day 2. Initiates are cleansed in the sea and they offer up a pig sacrifice

Day 3. Public sacrifice - purification of late comers

Day 5-Great procession from Athens to Elusisus

Day 6 - Rest - fasting for the nocturnal celebration

Day 7 - rest

Day 8 - rites for the dead

Day 9 - departure

There was a ritual initiation of a child of the hearth

Sacred drama, music and dancing, a gong and many torches

Theophany- manifestation of the deity

Climax there was the display of the golden wheat sheaf

The initiates became one with the maiden, Persephone

They must descend into the world of the dead and arise to a better and richer life

Dionysios Mystery cults:

Example from Abila tomb H-2 excavated by Davis, Fuller and Fuller, 1982

Opposite of Apollo (rational and stoic)

Dionysus believed in blessed ecstasy and rapturous love

1. Child of Zeus and Semele (daughter of Cadmus of Thebes)

2. Mother killed, hidden as girl among Nymphs of Nysa

3. Hera found them out and drove them mad

they became revelers that accompanied him He was raised by Silenus as a Tudor

4. Titans kill and eat all of Dionysios except his heart

5. Zeus eats the heart and resurrects Dionysios as a god.

6. Human race born out the ashes of Titans.

7. The residue of Dionysios composes the human soul.
8. He grew up and carried the pine thersus pine cones being a symbol; of fertility and also used the pine tar to preserve wine

He drove the three daughters of Minos crazy because they refused his advances

Crossed India on a tiger and named the Tigres river

The worshippers would wander the country side alternating between making a lot of noise (Pandemonium) to having long silences.


One of the most famous houses in Pompeii has a series of frescoes painted on the wall which we believe illustrate the initiation of the mistress of the house into the Dionysisan Mysteries.

1. Boy reads the prelude to the ceremonies as the initiate listens.

2. Silenus plays the lyre, the pan flute to show that music transforms the bestiality in us. A female pan offers her breast to a kid goat to symbolize that the initiate must be made as a little child.

3. A satyr peers into a bowl and sees a grotesque reflection of the mask being held above the bowl. The grosser side of man's nature which must be put off.

4. Dionysus and Adrienne recline on couch

5. The initiate bears her back for a ritual whipping which will bring her into a ritual death which is followed by spiritual rebirth.

Cult Statue in the Prado Museum, Spain

Dionyios altar in Spain from Italia?

Dionyios Temple at Baalbek in Lebanon - AD 150, 109' by 164'in size.

Plan of Dionysios Temple at Balbek in Lebanon

Steps of Dionysios Temple at Balbek in Lebanon

View from Interior of Dionysios Temple, Balbek in Lebanon


Vatican Museum Collection

Isis Temple in Pompeii

Pompeii Frescoe of Isis worship

Depicts a statue of Harpocrates ((Horus the child, son of Isis) in a niche and a priest with white roles and shaven head carrying two silver candle holders

Isis Frescoe in Pompeii temple

Egyptian Goddess came from Egypt in 307 BC totally Hellenized

Caligula built a grand temple in 38 BC.

Vespatian became a devotee of Serapis after a miracle cure and a vision in Alexandria.

Domition built huge temples dedicated to Isis after one of her Priestess saved his life.

Trajan, was too much of a soldier to have much interest in such theatrical carrying ones but he is shown on one of his triumphal arches making a sacrifice to Isis.

Hadrian loved all things Egyptian.

She appealed to women, sort of the female equivalent to Mithraic religion

Time of Tiberius there was a scandal when a Roman noble man was enamored by one of the priestess and disguised himself as the God Annubis and tricked he into having intercourse with him

Isis is the wife of Osiris Serapis and was the mother of Horus.

She is the grieving mother that is associated with Demeter

Seth (Semetic people's god) killed Osiris sealed in a coffin and floated to Byblos in Syria and Isis found him Seth then stole him again and dismembered him and spread him all over the worked.

Isis found him and put him together except for the penis, which she made of gold, and made him the king of the underworld. She has baby Horus

Isis was the Queen if heaven, and her worship was linked with the moon

Isis was loving portrayed by the Romans as the Goddess mother with the divine baby Horus on her lap that became the prototype for later depiction's of Mary and Jesus

Part of her popularity was that she was a mother, and accessible and.

Worshippers would approach her temples on their knees

Sistrum - silver rattle still used in the liturgy if the Armenian and Ethiopian church's

Initiation to Isis

Fasting study and indoctrination

Candidate had to go through an initiation, the symbolic sacrifice

Walked through a tunnel lit by torch light,

as soon as the candidate entered the tunnel the great door was slammed behind her and she was alone in the tunnel.

Frightful figures appeared before her

she was presented with the fears of fire and water, and when she finally reached the last door,

suddenly the lamps where blown out

In utter darkness she was taken and lowered over a pit,

the symbolism of the light of the earth, event the firm ground of the earth being taken away.

Total sensory depravation.

At last when the initiate was on the point of total exhaustion and fear an ivory door bound in gold swung

open and she entered into a resplendent temple and was received by the priests

MITHRAS The cult of the great solar warrior appealed to soldiers and was open only to men. It is a cult that we know very little about, but what we do know shows very clear parallels to Christianity.

Mithras was one of Christianity main competitions, Early Christians admired the discipline and the faithfulness of members of this cult.

Tertullian, the 3rd century Christian writer commented that the soldiers of Mithras put the Christians to shame by their fidelity.

Mithras was adopted from the Persian God of light, truth and integrity

It preached for success in this world and security and happiness in the next. They taught that power came thorough discipline.

And part of the way to achieve power in this world was to divert sexual power into psychic channels.


Mithras statue in Vatican Museum

Creator and organizer of the universe looked down from the heaven

Mankind was afflicted by darkness. So he sent his son, Mithras down to earth to help.

The child was born on December the 25, which is near the winter solstice, the darkest say of the year.

MAIN STORY that appears in much of the iconography that surrounds the worship of the cult concerns the great bull of heaven.

There is a bull grazing on the mountain. Mithras grabs him by the horns, mounts it, and is unseated but won't let go.

The bull, exhausted, and Mithras drags him into a cave,

but he escapes and roams the country side.

The sun sends a raven to Mithras and tells him to kill the bull.

Mithras realizes that this a cruel mission, but Mithras as a good soldier

submits to the will of heaven

He chases the bull down with the help of his dog Silvanus,

and eventually grabs the bull by the nostrils and plunges a knife into its heart.

Evil forces represented by the scorpion, the ant and the serpent

try to poison the bull, but they are powerless to impede the miracle.

From the body of the bull comes all the useful plants and herbs

From the spinal cord comes wheat, blood and the seed of the bull is purified by the moon and from it all of the animals that are useful to man are born.

The soul of the bull, protected by the faithful dog, ascend into heaven.

The point is that through sacrifice the bull becomes the creator of all of the beneficent plants and animals on the earth.

stages of initiation

There were several stages of initiation, and we know a little about this from writings.

1st Degree- the Raven

2nd Degree- the Secret: offers bread and wine to the God which is endowed with light.

3rd Degree- Soldier

The initiate is offered a golden crown (sun disk-halo) but he must refuse

"Mithras alone is my crown" and prove himself in a mock battle. The Emperor Commodos got so carried away in one of the mock battles that he actually killed one of the initiates.

4th Degree- the Lion

Separate himself from the outside world

The Raven

The ritual death and rebirth baptism. Candidate descended 7 steps into the cavern.

He is chased by wild animals, priests wearing masks

Fast three days and is trained in ritual military skills.

He must sever all family ties and adopt the other initiates as his brothers.

In the final ceremony there was a clash of cymbal and drums as the God Mithras is unveiled

He must heat a morsel of bread blessed by the sun and accept Mithras as his source of food

Then he must drink wine, the life force.

He is taught a secret password