1 Thessalonians 2 – Paul’s Work in Thessalonica & Lost Cities of the Americas: Chichen Itza (4 of 7)

Finger Pointing Up1 4Correct me if I’m wrong, but the author of the below article said that this tribe was “the most sophisticated and had advanced astronomy,”  I call that statement an oxymoron. 

That statement would fit the devil simply because he runs the darkness, but no individual can be wise if they play with Satan’s toys.

Back to Thessalonica, Paul had done a lot of traveling in his time, so tomorrow we’ll look at…

1 Thessalonians 2
Paul’s Work in Thessalonica

2 One of the hoops
One of the hoops or rings set into the walls of the Great Ball Court.
Although this is called a \scoring ring it is not actually known how the Maya ball game was played or what the precise role of the ring was, no matter how appealing the apparent parallel with basketball.

The ring is set high in the side-wall, and knocking the heavy rubber ball through it would have been a feat of tremendous skill.

1 For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain:

2 But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.

“Shamefully entreated” – Paul was deeply hurt by the way he had been treated in the city of Philippi.

3 For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile:

“Deceit” – the Greek for this word was originally used for a lure for catching fish; it came to be used for any sort of cunningness used for profit.

4 But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.

“Our hearts” – not simply our emotions, but also our intellects and wills.

5 For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness:

“Covetousness” – personal profit was never Paul’s aim.

6 Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.

3 Edward Herbert
Edward Herbert Thompson (September 28, 1857 – May 18, 1935) was a United States born archaeologist and diplomat who is best known for his study of ancient Mayan culture.
In 1885, he became U.S. Consul in the Yucatán, where he would remain for the next forty years.

He worked extensively in the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, where he uncovered several novel artifacts.

Thompson traveled extensively across the region and went to great lengths to associate himself with the Mayans.

He was famous in his time for the discoveries that he made at Cenote Sagrado and elsewhere across the Yucatán.

His work would serve to unlock ancient secrets and confirm Mayan legends.

Much about Mayan civilization would have remained lost to the world without the lengthy labor of this dedicated archaeologist.

Although Thompson had no formal training in either archaeology or in anthropology, he used the field-work techniques of both with great skill, so that his contribution to each far excelled those of many professional practitioners of these disciplines.

“Might have been burdensome” – apostles were entitled to be supported by the church (see 1 Cor 9:13-14; 2 Cor 11:7-11).  Paul did not always take advantage of the right, but insisted that he had it.

7 But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children:

8 So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.

9 For ye remember, brethren, our labor and travail: for laboring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.

“Labor and travail” – Greeks despised manual labor and viewed it as fit only for slaves, but Paul was not ashamed of doing any sort of work that would help further the gospel.  He did not want to be unduly dependent on others.

10 Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe:

11 As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children,

12 That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.

13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.

14 For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews:

15 Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men:

16 Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.

“Wrath is come” – the eschatological wrath, the final outpouring of God’s anger upon sinful mankind.  It is spoken of as already present, either because it had been partially experienced by the Jews or because of its absolute certainty.

17 But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored the more abundantly to see your face with great desire.

18 Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.

19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?

20 For ye are our glory and joy.

True both now (cf. Phil 4:1) and when Christ returns.

Lost Cities of the Americas (4 of 7) 

5 The Yucatán
The Yucatán Peninsula in southeastern Mexico, separates the Caribbean Sea from the Gulf of Mexico, with the northern coastline on the Yucatán Channel.
The peninsula lies east of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, a northwestern geographic partition separating the region of Central America from the rest of North America.

The peninsula comprises the Mexican states of Yucatán, Campeche, and Quintana Roo; the northern part of the nation of Belize; and Guatemala’s northern El Petén Department.

Chichen Itza

Location: Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
Date of Construction: C 600 C.E.
Abandoned: 1000 or 1250 C.E.
Built By: Maya
Key Features: Sacred Cenote; El Castillo Pyramid; El Caracol Observatory; High Priest’s Temple; Casa Del Monjas; Great Ball Court; Chac Mool Statues

6 Copán
Copán is an archaeological site of the Maya civilization located in the Copán Department of western Honduras, not far from the border with Guatemala.
It was the capital city of a major Classic period kingdom from the 5th to 9th centuries A.D.

The city was located in the extreme southeast of the Mesoamerican cultural region, on the frontier with the Isthmo-Colombian cultural region, and was almost surrounded by non-Maya peoples. In this fertile valley now lies a city of about 3000, a small airport, and a winding road.

The greatest city of the northern Maya, located in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, Chichen Itza is today one of the most famous and most visited of their ancient relics, celebrated for its pyramids, its Great Ball Court and for the brooding cenote, or water-filled sinkhole, which gives the city its name and made it a site of religious importance and pilgrimage long after its collapse.

Chichen Itza means “at the mouth of the well of Itza”, the “well” being the Cenote Sagrado, or Sacred Cenote, also known as the Cenote of Sacrifice, into which, according to Mayan legends recorded in post-Columbian times, human sacrifices were flung to intercede with the subterranean gods.

In Spanish the city’s name is often written as Chichén Itzá, the accents showing that the stress should be placed on the second syllables of each word. This is standard pronunciation practice for Yucatec Mayan, the language of the local people today, and probably the language spoken by their ancestors who built the city.

To be even more correct, the name should be written as Chich’en Itza, the apostrophe signifying a glottal sound in the pronunciation of ch’en (“well”).

Maya of the North

The Maya were the most sophisticated pre-Columbian culture in the Americas; the only one with a fully-developed system of writing, along with all the other characteristics shared by Mesoamerican civilizations, such as monumental architecture, advanced astronomy and mathematics and highly developed water management.

It spread its influence across a wide zone from the southern states of Mexico to Guatemala and Belize. What is known as the Classic period of Mayan civilization began in or around 250 CE, centered on the southern zone of the Mayan heartland, with city-states such as Palenque, Copan and Tikal.

9 The head
The head of a feathered serpent looks out over the Great Ball Court, the largest Mesoamerican ball court, where teams competed to knock a heavy rubber ball around the court.
The losers could suffer a grisly forfeit — murals show the victorious captain decapitating his foe.

These collapsed dramatically in the 9th century, after which the northern lowlands of the Yucatan, and Chichen Itza in particular, took over the mantle of the leading Mayan city-states.

Chichen Itza itself became a significant city sometime around 600 CE and the architectural styles it displays suggest a mixed heritage of Mayan and other influences, including “Mexican” ones (i.e. from the Valley of Mexico, where pre-Aztec civilizations such as the Toltecs were coeval with the Maya).

According to the Chilam Balam, a history written by Mayan sources after the Spanish conquest had begun, the city took its name from a group of foreigners known as the Itza, who spoke only a broken version of Maya.

It is thought that this might be a reference to a group known as the Chontal Maya from areas to the west, in the modern Mexican states of Tabasco and Campeche, who spoke a different dialect of Maya.

They would have had contact with Mexican cultures and hence could have introduced these influences to Chichen Itza.

8 A short walk
A short walk from the Great Plaza is the Sacred Cenote, an impressive and mysterious sinkhole that was once the site of ceremonies to appease Chaac, the Mayan rain god with offerings and human sacrifices.

The cenote was dredged in 1904-7 by Edward Thompson, the American Consul to Merida, and by the National Geographic Society and CEDAM (Mexican Dive Association) in 1960-61 and 1967-8, respectively.

Over the years, the murky water has yielded over 30,000 artifacts including gold, jade, copper, turquoise, obsidian, copal or incense, pottery, rubber, shells and the bones of around 200 people, mostly children and old men who had the misfortune to be selected as an offering to the gods.

The Chilam Balam goes on to relate how, in the 10th century CE, a group of Toltec immigrants from the west led by Kukulcan (the Maya name for the god known to the Aztecs as Quetzlcoatl), took over the city and remade it in an even more Mexicanized style, as a Toltec city.

But the archaeological record seems to tell a slightly different tale, because there is evidence of a major population influx in the 9th rather than 10th century, corresponding with the collapse of the Classic sites in the southern lowlands – presumably people fleeing famine and warfare made their way north to city-states less affected by the drought that is thought to have triggered the Classic collapse.

There is also uncertainty about what happened to Chichen Itza to cause its decline and eventual abandonment. The traditional account is that the city rose to prominence in the 9th century and became the leading power of what is known as the Late/Terminal Classic period.

This does not necessarily mean that it was the capital of a Mayan empire, because the lack of pack animals and the limitations of Mayan agriculture tended to restrict the military reach of Mayan city-states, so that the control of any one king could not extend much further than his own power base.

But Chichen Itza was the dominant force in the region, its authority possibly bolstered by the prestige of its Sacred Cenote. After two centuries of this hegemony, it lost control after a civil war, recorded in the Mayan chronicles, which eventually led to the razing of the city in around 1250 CE, testified to by the burnt remnants of some of the temples atop its pyramids.

More recently, however, this chronology has been challenged, with dating of the site by radiocarbon dating and analysis of ceramic styles suggesting that it actually collapsed in around 1000 CE, just when it was previously thought to have been at the height of its power.

Such an early date would also seem to rule out Toltec influence on the city, since the Toltecs did not flourish until after this date. Whatever the actual date of its decline, Mayan sources suggest that the site was not forgotten because of the Sacred Cenote, which pilgrims continued to visit.

7 Tikal
Tikal is one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centers of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization.
It is located in the archaeological region of the Petén Basin in what is now northern Guatemala.

Situated in the department of El Petén, the site is part of Guatemala’s Tikal National Park and in 1979 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Tikal was the capital of a conquest state that became one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient Maya.

Though monumental architecture at the site dates back as far as the 4th century B.C., Tikal reached its apogee during the Classic Period, ca. 200 to 900 A.D.

During this time, the city dominated much of the Maya region politically, economically, and militarily, while interacting with areas throughout Mesoamerica such as the great metropolis of Teotihuacan in the distant Valley of Mexico.

There is evidence that Tikal was conquered by Teotihuacan in the 4th century A.D.

Following the end of the Late Classic Period, no new major monuments were built at Tikal and there is evidence that elite palaces were burned.

These events were coupled with a gradual population decline, culminating with the site’s abandonment by the end of the 10th century.

The Sacred Cenote

The key to Chichen Itza’s power was its cenotes. The northern lowlands of Yucatan can be arid, with rainfall coming intermittently and unpredictably (and often destructively, in the form of hurricanes), and no rivers or streams of any sort.

The strange geology of the region, with porous and easily eroded karst limestone, which is low-lying and thus very close to the water table, means, however, that water is accessible through the cenotes and these supplied the Maya with water and made it possible to support sizeable populations in an otherwise inhospitable region.

The Sacred Cenote is a particularly large example. It is almost perfectly circular, with a diameter of more than 164 feet and a 651½ feet drop to the murky green water, which itself is at least 49 feet deep, with a bottom of thick slime and mud.

Chroniclers of the post-Columbian era recorded that the Maya would make offerings and sacrifices to the rain god Chaac, hoping that they would intercede with him and gain his favor. In particular, they would throw in young maidens.

Sometimes several would be tossed in at dawn and any who survived until midday would be hauled out and interrogated about what they had seen, relating lurid stories of their exchanges with those who dwelt in the black depths of the well.

Inspired by these tales, in 1894 Edward Thompson, the American consul in the nearby town of Merida, purchased the land on which Chichen Itza’s ruins stood and determined to make a remarkable investigation of the depths of the Sacred Cenote.

He brought in dredging equipment and spent years scooping foul muck from its bottom, having calculated the correct spot to explore by throwing corpse-sized logs from the rim to see where they landed and sank.

He successfully brought up a range of artifacts, including spears, axe heads, copper discs, pottery and votive offerings such as jade ornaments and small gold bells. The ornaments had been deliberately broken and the bells flattened, perhaps as a way of symbolically killing them.

He also brought up large numbers of balls of copal incense, which was burned during sacrifices, and the bones of many young women and other victims.

Finally, when it appeared that the scoop was striking bedrock, he donned a heavy diving suit and had himself lowered into the inky black depths.

10 Chaac
Chaac or Chaak the Yucateekse name of the Mayan god of rain and thunder , as such, is also of great importance for agriculture was.
He was in the four directions and took their ritual colors.

The Aztecs worshiped a deity who resembled Chaac ( Tlaloc ) and the same applies to all other Mesoamerican peoples agriculture.

In pre-Hispanic times, he was depicted with a strange, plant-like, sometimes trunk-like snout and a human body with the characteristics of a reptile.

He was closely associated with the Bacabs , the four old men of the underground, especially the underground water supplies and rivers.

The most important ancient Mayan-fold book, the Dresden codex, contains much information about the rain gods, their habitats, and the days of rain rituals.

The ancient Mayan rulers had a special relationship with the rain god, whom they often bore the name as a title.

Among the traditional Mayan rain gods still play an important role.

People associate Chaac Chaak or the color Maya blue that sacrifices and human sacrifices were painted.

Groping around he discovered that he was at the bottom of a huge, deep well scooped out of the thick mud. “I felt a strange thrill when I realized that I was the only living being who had ever reached this place alive and expected to leave it again still living,” he reported in his 1933 book “People of the Serpent.”

Buildings of Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza has an “old town”, known as Old Chichen, where temples and structures are located, but the most impressive ruins (many of them restored) are in the newer city. It is dominated by the great stepped pyramid of Kukulcan, known as El Castillo (“the castle”).

A stairway runs up each of the four sides, climbing up nine platforms to a height of 25 meters (82 feet). The pyramid is aligned so that at the spring equinox the corner of the pyramid casts a snakelike shadow onto its northern face, which slithers as the sun progresses across the sky (attracting huge crowds of tourists).

Buried within is another, older pyramid, with a chamber within containing a jaguar shaped throne and a Chac Mool statue. Chac Mool statues are reclining figures with dishes for offerings in their laps, first discovered at this site.

A smaller but similar pyramid is known as the High Priest’s Temple, because when Thompson investigated it he found what he took to be the burial chamber of a priest. In fact he found a descending series of burial chambers, starting at the top of the pyramid.

Sounding the floor with a steel rod he detected a void beneath and pried up the flagstone, accessing another chamber. He repeated this through five tombs until he penetrated a space carved into the rock below the pyramid, which was full of ash and heat-fused jade beads.

In an evocative passage he describes what happened when he lifted a slab in the corner of this chamber, expecting to find only a heap of ashes beneath:

“It yielded so suddenly that I fell back with it… My companions also fell back, for it disclosed a big, circular, pitch-black hole… [from which] came a… cold, damp wind… The two natives [his companions] were simply glued to their places in sheer terror. Finally Pedro spoke. ‘It is the mouth of Hell.’”

In fact it was a 50-foot deep pit, and in true Indiana Jones style, Thompson had himself lowered into it to discover that it was crawling with toxic spiders guarding a collection of mortuary artifacts.

Other important buildings are the Temple of the Warriors, a stepped pyramid with rows of carved columns showing warriors, similar to Toltec structures at the city of Tula.

A building known as La Casa del Monjas (“the nunnery”) because it was thought to have been a sort of convent for an order of priestesses and female initiates, it is now understood to have been a governmental building.

To the north of this is El Caracol (“the snail”), a round building on a square platform named for the spiral stone staircase that winds up the interior of the building. It resembles a modern-day observatory and indeed was used for this purpose by the Maya.

To the northwest of the castle is the Great Ball Court, the largest such court ever discovered. It is 574 feet long and 229½ feet wide, making it bigger than an American football field, and has 23 feet high walls along each side, decorated with carvings of teams of players, including a grisly depiction of what happened to the losers of the Mesoamerican ball game.

This was played with a heavy ball of rubber, which players kept aloft with their forearms, hips and thighs, possibly with the aim of scoring through hoops, two of which are set into the tops of the court’s side-walls. In one of the carvings the captain of the defeated team is shown decapitated, with jets of blood spurting from his neck.

…travel in the Greco-Roman World.

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