Friday, July 18, 2008

What did the 'Passover Cup' look like?

I had an email this morning from a pastor in Virginia asking if I knew what an ancient 'Passover' cup might have looked like?
I haven't illustrated the 'Lords Supper' as yet, so I've not done any research along these lines.

I know that Passover cups of today are fairly ornate like the one pictured, but did they have special cups that were kept just for the Passover meal in the first century, or would the Lord Jesus have used a normal pot, limestone or wooden cup supplied by the owner of the upper room?
I thought I might throw this question open to our regular readers, Bible artists and of course our resident researchers!

I was tempted to call this post 'The Quest for the Holy Grail' but I resisted!
Photo ©

Update 20 July 08:
Dr Leen Ritmeyer kindly emailed me last night with an answer to the above question. He also sent one of his very helpful pictures to illustrate the point.

One of the subjects discussed in our book "The Ritual of the Temple in the time of Christ" is the passover cup, or rather cups, for 4 cups were, and still are, used in the Passover ritual. Here is a passage of our six-page treatment of Passover: "The four cups of wine stipulated in Pesachim 10.1 (an ancient Jewish tract on Passover) as obligatory to be drunk during the feast symbolize four expressions of redemption used in the words of God to Israel in Exodus 6.6-7: "I will bring you out", "I will rid you out of their bondage", "I will redeem you" and "I will take you to me".

The cups were made of ordinary pottery - no holy grail, as you can see! Here is my illustration (above) of the 4 cups, which is based on actual cups that have been excavated.

Recently we attended a Passover ceremony at the Rabbi of Adelaide's house in Australia and indeed four cups of wine were drunk.

If you would read the Passover account in Luke chapter 22, you will see that two cups are mentioned, one in vs. 17 and one in vs. 20, while vs. 18 indicates that he did not drink the fourth or last cup, for "the Fruit of the Vine" was the collective name for all four cups.

Thanks Leen! There's also a short video that can be viewed here that backs up Dr Ritmeyer's comments.

Other 'Question' posts:
What did Jesus look like?
What did Herod's Temple look like?
What do Angels look like?
What do Cherubs look like?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The lost Coin

The lost Coin
I'm back onto the Bible stories at last! Our latest powerpoint is the 'Parable of the lost coin'. I've based the lady on the actress Olivia Hussey who played the part of Mary in the 'Jesus of Nazareth' film.

I drew the coins in picture one (right) from a photo I have of some first century silver coins.
In picture two, the young lady has lit an oil lamp and is reaching out for a broom in order to sweep the floor of her house in search of the lost coin. Although it's daylight, the rooms are still dark due to the small windows in the houses at this time. See the 'Houses in Bible times' post.
There are four pictures in this story which brings our total Bible picture count to 706.

Posts on a selection of other Bible stories:
  • Blind Bartimaeus
  • The Rich Young Rular
  • Zacchaeus
  • Crucifixion part 1
  • Crucifixion part 2
  • On the road to Emmaus
  • The Nativity
  • Raising Lazarus
  • Woman taken in Adultery
  • Feeding the 5,000
  • The Ten Commandments

    The Ten Commandments
    Have you ever wondered why the Ten Commandments are always shown to be on single, or double-arch topped stone tablets? If you check out the Ten commandments on 'Google images' almost all of the images show a double-arched top stone! You can Buy a 'Ten commandments' silver pendant with a double-arched top , or even a double arched top (life-size) resin garden ornament of the Ten commandments! So how did we arrive at this shape? Where did it originate? Is it authentic? You might be tempted to blame Cecil B. DeMille for starting it all in the 1956 Biblical epic 'The Ten Commandments' starring Charlton Heston, but it goes back a lot further.

    O.k. then, what about Gustave Doré? Was he responsible? Well, he also showed the Ten Commandments to be on a double-arched top stone tablet in his 1865 engraving, but the shape goes back even further than Gustave Doré. In fact, 350 years earlier!

    This is the earliest picture I came across (see left) showing the double-arched top stone tablet.
    This picture dates back to 1512. (Sorry I don't know the artist!) You can clearly see the hand of God handing Moses the 'double-arched top' stone tablet. This image is taking us back into the realms of Christian Iconography, and I still can't find any clues as to why this shape was used-!!

    What I would like to do though is suggest another shape that the tablets might have been! Square!
    I was reminded when reading 'The Quest' of the significance of the square in the Bible . Many of the items that God designed were square. The 'Holy of Holies' in the Temple was square, The 'high priest's breastplate' was square, the 'alter of burnt offerings' was square, as was the 'alter of incense'. The end elevation of the 'Ark of the covenant' (which contained the stone tablets) was square, and the "Great City, the Holy Jerusalem" spoken of in Revelation is square! With this in mind, and the fact that the first tablets were written by God, isn't it feasible that the tablets might have been square in shape?

    Of course, we won't know the shape of the tablets containing the Ten commandments until they find the Ark of the covenant. But, it's an interesting theory! Let me know your thoughts! Photo © NEAEHL

    Update: 17 July 08
    Just found out that the Talmud does record that the 'Ten commandment tablets' are in fact Square! (Amazing!) See the comments for more information on this.

    Related posts:
    The contents of the Ark

    Monday, July 14, 2008

    'The Quest'

    I've just finished reading Dr Leen Ritmeyers excellent book 'The Quest' which is a study of the archaeology of the Temple Mount. This is a terrific book and I would highly recommend it to Bible artists. It's packed with visual information. Diagrams, photos, illustrations, etchings, maps and some superb artwork done by Jewish artists for the Temple Institute which show many of the Temple rituals in detail.

    There's too much in the book to cover here, so I'll just touch on a couple of subjects to 'whet your appetite!'
    The positioning of the Ark
    Dr Ritmeyer has uncovered what appears to be very strong evidence pointing to the actual positioning of the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies (Debir).
    This is a fascinating section of the book which indicates that the Ark would have been seen 'end on' when entering the Holy of Holies via the veil. Not 'side on' as most artists, (including myself), have drawn up until now. It you want to know more, you'll have to get the book!

    Golden Spikes!
    The Quest also deals with the Temple itself and is packed with information regarding it's construction and the many activities that took place there.
    Did you know, for instance, what the golden spikes that edged the temple roof were for? To answer this Ritmeyer quotes the Jewish historian Josephus who saw Herod's Temple with his own eyes:
    "from its (the Temple's) summit protruded sharp golden spikes to prevent birds from settling and polluting the roof,"

    The Quest also touches on some of the interesting topics that we've discussed on this blog such as "What might the Cherubim have looked like?" Josephus said, "As for the cherubim themselves, no one can say or imagine what they looked like."
    Despite this, 'The Quest' has some nice photos of a small scale model showing the giant cherubim that overshadowed the Ark in Solomon's Temple. (Not to be confused with the cherubim on the Ark itself).

    My conclusion? Some might find the archeological details heavy going in parts, but I enjoyed it and would recommend it as a very useful tool for Bible artists.

    Copies of The Quest are obtainable either directly from the author or from the publisher. There are other interesting titles by the same author, (and his wife), available from the Carta bookstore.

    Related posts:
  • Guest Bible Artist #4
  • What did Herod's Temple look like?
  • Houses in Bible times