Our youngest son, Steve, has served in the Air Force for sixteen-years and has been all over the world. My wife and I had the opportunity to visit him when he was stationed in Aviano, Italy back around 2004. Aviano is about sixty-miles north of Venice in the northern part of the country. After a few days in Aviano/Pordenone, we took a train excursion to Venice and Rome. The highlight of our short stay in Rome was walking through the Colosseum and the nearby Roman Forum. On the east end of the Forum, on the Via Sacra, standing fifty-feet tall, is the Arch of Titus, erected in 81 A.D. to commemorate the military success of the Roman general (later emperor), Titus, during the First Jewish War (66-74 A.D.). Titus had ransacked and completely destroyed the Temple complex in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Historians say the spoils of the Jewish Wars helped finance the construction of the Colosseum, where many of the early Roman Christians were martyred.
There’s a carved relief panel under the Titus arch which depicts Roman soldiers carrying the confiscated treasures of the Temple, including the table of showbread and the lampstand/menorah, through the streets of Rome. Even though I was not walking with the Lord at that time, I was still AWESTRUCK to stand underneath the arch and gaze at this panel, a two-thousand-year-old testimony to the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy:
“And He said to them, ‘Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.'” – Matthew 24:2
Last night, I was reading the latest issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, which featured the cover story, “True Colors: Digital Reconstruction Restores Original Brilliance to the Arch of Titus.” We mistakenly assume ancient Roman buildings originally appeared as plain stone edifices as we see them today, but recent research reveals building and monument exteriors were often decorated with vibrant colors. A team of scientists examined the victory parade panel in the Arch of Titus and discovered traces of yellow pigment on the menorah, indicating the entire panel had been painted. Using computer enhancement, the team was able to digitally restore the panel as it may have originally appeared (see photo). Being somewhat of a history nerd and a Christian, stuff like this absolutely fascinates me.
For the past two millenia, Jewish visitors to the Forum have bitterly resented the Titus Arch and its victory procession panel. When Jews visit the arch, they have been known to proclaim something along the lines of, “Titus, you’re gone, but we’re still here. Am Yisrael Chai! The people of Israel lives!” Israel was re-established as a nation in 1948, one-thousand, eight-hundred, and sixty-seven years after the death of Titus.
“He will raise a signal for the nations and will assemble the banished of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” – Isaiah 11:12
The Lord doesn’t hit the people of the world over the head to show them He’s there, but He’s given us remarkable signs if we would pay attention.