Pr.31.10

Pr.31.10

 

Here is a lamp with the X (chi), p (rho) symbol. The previous lamp had the p (rho) symbol reversed. These letters are an abbreviation of the word Christos (anointed) or Christ. Messiah in the Jewish tongue refers to an “anointed one” and Christos in Greek is the translation. The New Testament  was all written in the Greek language. The Old Testament is written in both Hebrew and Aramaic while the Greek translation of the Old Testament  produced about 250 B.C.E. is known as the Septuagint and designated LXX (70).

Pr.29.5

Pr.29.5

Here is an North African oil lamp without Christian markings from the same period of 4th century. This picture was clear so I included it. It seemed this collection had more lamps with Christian symbols than generic ones, which, to me shows a possible prominence. At least it could be safely said that the prevalence of Christian symbols shows an important reference in this culture.

Pr.29.5

Here is an North African oil lamp without Christian markings from the same period of 4th century. This picture was clear so I included it. It seemed this collection had more lamps with Christian symbols than generic ones, which, to me shows a possible prominence. At least it could be safely said that the prevalence of Christian symbols in its found artifacts shows an important reference in this culture.

Pr.28.5

Pr.28.5

Pr.28.5

At the beginning of the 4th century, Christian symbols on oil lamps became a favored feature in many North African societies. During the last days of August, I will display the youngest lamps found in this collection, all from North Africa. This will close out my oil lamp posts. Not all the lamps from this period have Christian symbols, but those that do reflect the transformation of individuals in this part of the Roman world.

Roman civilization adopted the high culture of the Greeks or, at least, admired and tried to preserve much of the literature, art, language, and other aspects. The Greek and Roman world had similar gods which couldn’t give any hope, generate sincere love, or fill their hearts with peace. When the Christian message started to be proclaimed, it started a revolution in society, where the empty paganism was abandoned, which had previously pervaded these people’s lives. The new relationship with the one true God of the Old Testament was made possible when Jesus sent the Other Comforter to live and be with individuals forever. This was God, The Holy Spirit promised beforehand to indwell and teach those who trusted Christ.

Since the members of the Trinity indwell each other (see John 17), Christ could say to His disciples: “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Mt.28:18b-20 WEB). Jesus promised to be with the disciples along with both authorizing and enabling their ministry. The Christians who received this “light of the gospel” thought it fitting to put a Christian symbol on their light-giving lamps.

Pr.25.2

Pr.25.2

Pr.25.2

The depiction on the shoulder of grape leaves and fruit clusters cause me to think that the person on the discus of the lamp is possibly holding a cutting. As I understand it, grape vines are propagated from cuttings as trying to reproduce a plant from the seeds is very haphazard. Therefore a select and highly desired vine is first identified and then further produced by slips or cuttings. Though this is a Greek oil lamp, I am reminded of the verse in Psalm 80.8 “You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it.” (NIV). It is evident that this technology of vegetative cuttings, or cloning existed for at least 3000 years.

In Jn. 15 Jesus says He is the true vine and the Father is the vinedresser. To be fruitful, a Christian needs to abide in the vine (Jesus). Doing the work of God is intrinsically connected with God’s enabling of the Holy Spirit.

Pr.20.4

Pr.20.4

Pr.20.4

Here is a very ornamented lamp featuring a soldier holding a spear with his horse. Notice the several “filling holes”. The lamp could be refilled by merely pouring the oil on the discus and it would drain into one of these holes filling the reservoir. The lack of soot seems to imply an unused lamp or possibly being buried in a wet environment.

Pr.19.5

Pr.19.5

Pr.19.5

Generally, the more decorated a clay lamp is, the more recent the artifact. As potter technology advanced and new techniques developed, the lamps began to feature a higher degree of artistry. It is safe to think that the most unique lamps would fetch a higher price or sell quicker than older styling or plainer lamps.

The Burning and Shining Lamp: John the Baptist

John the Baptist

Jesus used the figure of an oil lamp to speak about the revelation and ministry of John the Baptist. In responding to those Jews who opposed Him, Jesus claimed John’s witness: “You sent a delegation to John, and he testified to the truth. Although I don’t accept human testimony, I say these things so that you can be saved. John was a burning and shining lamp, and, at least for a while, you were willing to celebrate in his light.” (Jn.5:33-35 CEB)

In the Gospel of John, the apostle, introduces the Baptist in the first chapter and records the testimony John gave to the Jewish leaders: “The Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask John who he was. John gave witness to them. He did not try to hide the truth. He spoke to them openly. He said, ‘I am not the Christ.’” (Jn.1:19-20 NIRV). Upon further questioning, the Baptist quotes Isaiah 40:3 as who he was and describes his ministry as the Lord’s forerunner announcing His arrival: “John replied, using the words of Isaiah the prophet. John said, ‘I’m the messenger who is calling out in the desert, Make the way for the Lord straight.'” (Jn.1:23 NIRV). This “making the way straight” refers to the Jewish people’s spiritual condition that they should return to the Lord individually: “Before Jesus came, John preached that we should turn away from our sins and be baptized. He preached this to all Israel.” (Acts 13:24 NIRV).

John the Baptizer would be the “Elijah” sent before the Lord’s advent as announced to John’s father by the angel during the incense offering in the Holy Place: “He will bring many Israelites back to the Lord their God. He will go forth before the Lord, equipped with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will turn the hearts of fathers back to their children, and he will turn the disobedient to righteous patterns of thinking. He will make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Lk.1:16-17 CEB). The angel quotes some of Mal.4:6 and seems to refer to verse 5 also when he mentions John’s ministry: “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the LORD arrives. His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.” (Mal.4:5-6 NLT). This section in Malachi constitutes the last verses of the Old Testament and seems expectant for the Messiah’s arrival.

Immediately after the revelation of God on the Mount of Transfiguration where Jesus appears glorified with Moses and Elijah speaking with Him, the disciples ask Jesus about the common understanding of the Elijah prophecy in Malachi, and Jesus seems to answer with possibly two Elijahs: “As they went back down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, ‘Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.’ Then his disciples asked him, ‘Why do the teachers of religious law insist that Elijah must return before the Messiah comes?’ Jesus replied, ‘Elijah is indeed coming first to get everything ready. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, but he wasn’t recognized, and they chose to abuse him. And in the same way they will also make the Son of Man suffer.’ Then the disciples realized he was talking about John the Baptist.” (Mt.17:9-13NLT). This seems to imply three Elijahs, since in The Transfiguration the Old Testament Elijah appeared.

Additionally, Jesus gives testimony to the importance of John and quotes Malachi 3:1: “He is the one written about in Scripture. It says, ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you. He will prepare your way for you.’ What I’m about to tell you is true. No one more important than John the Baptist has ever been born. But the least important person in the kingdom of heaven is more important than he is.” (Mt.11:10-11, Lk.7:28 NIRV). In one way, the Baptist was more important than other prophets because at least in two places in the Old Testament he was foretold.

The fact of John’s preparatory ministry before the Lord’s revelation to Israel also makes him supremely important. John’s message was the same as Jesus’ proclamation but from a different perspective as Jesus describes the general reception both received from the nation: “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces, who call to their companions and say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you didn’t dance. We mourned for you, and you didn’t lament.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children [actions].” (Mt.11:16-19 WEB).

John’s parents were told that he would be a Nazarite from birth, thus showing his separation from the world in a very outward, physical manner. John the Baptist would also be filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb: “for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.” (Lk.1:15 NIV). While John was in his mother Elizabeth’s womb he rejoiced when the virgin Mary, now pregnant with Jesus, greeted his mother: “For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” (Lk.1:44ESV).

The questioning from the Pharisees seems to show that either they expected the Messiah or His forerunner to baptize: “The ones who had been sent were from the Pharisees. They asked him, ‘Why then do you baptize, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?’” (Jn.1:24-25 WEB). This raises the question of what John’s baptism actually signified. Some Bible students believe it pictured the experiences the Israelites went through in the Red Sea crossing and the Jordan River miracles. The idea is that The Prophet who would be like Moses in authority and other aspects needed to have this similarity somehow. Further, it is significant that Jesus’ name is the same as Joshua of the O.T. who took the Israelites into the promised land. In a future post, I plan to show the similarities of Jesus, the promised Prophet to Moses, but will focus on the Baptizer here.

John, of the house of Aaron, seemed to understand or it was revealed to him that the sacrificial system of the Jews was about to be fulfilled. Notice that he announced Jesus, not in the role of “the Son of David,” (and therefore King) though Jesus was David’s promised son, but as Jesus the substitute, for that was what the sacrificial system was all about: “The next day, he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who is preferred before me, for he was before me.’” (Jn.1:29-30 WEB). John also knew of Jesus’ divinity from this statement and Christ’s greater role of Savior of the “world.”

In another way, very possibly, that John recognized this ministry of Jesus’ sacrifice was in the words John used against the shallow professions of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and much of the crowds who came to be baptized of him: “He said therefore to the multitudes who went out to be baptized by him, ‘You offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?’” (Lk.3:7 WEB). This echoes the words of Gen.3:15: “I will put hatred between you and the woman. Your children and her children will be enemies. Her son will crush your head. And you will crush his heel.” (NIRV). In this passage, God both pronounces a curse on the serpent (the Devil) and promises redemption for humanity by the Seed of the woman (virgin birth). By calling the Jewish leaders and the fickle crowd viper offspring, was John prophesying to the nailing of Jesus’ heel in crucifixion? I plan to post a more detailed discussion of Gen. 3:15 in a future post, but, the Baptist’s words seem a striking fulfillment.