Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Recent Books on Crucifixion

(Post by A.D. Riddle)

I recently saw an announcement for a brand new volume by David Chapman and Eckhard Schnabel that collects together all extra-biblical texts relevant to understanding the trail and crucifixion of Jesus. The book is entitled The Trial and Crucifixion of Jesus: Texts and Commentary. It caught my eye because I find Schnabel’s writing to be very thorough and helpful. Several books on crucifixion, in fact, have appeared in the last few years from the same publisher.

Chapman, David W.
2008 Ancient Jewish and Christian Perceptions of Crucifixion. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2. Reihe 244. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.  [Republished by Baker Academic, 2010.]
The bulk of this volume is devoted to an inductive study of the ancient sources regarding crucifixion with an eye to understanding the way in which Jews perceived crucifixion. Here Chapman discusses ancient texts from various types of literature that can be described as Jewish (e.g., the Apocrypha, Josephus, Philo, rabbinics, etc.). Chapman’s survey reveals a variety of perceptions from martyrdoms to scandalous punishments for brigands and rebels...Concerning the primary sources, it seems that Chapman has not missed any significant extant material....Although acknowledging the existence of various methods and devices, [Chapman] is not claiming that Jesus died on a pole (or other device); rather, he says crucifixion could take place in a number of ways...The goals of crucifixion included torture, shame, and death. How the cross looked or what shape it was in was not the main concern. (Review by Joseph D. Fantin.)

Samuelsson, Gunnar.
2013 Crucifixion in Antiquity: An Inquiry into the Background and Significance of the New Testament Terminology of Crucifixion. 2nd ed. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2. Reihe 310. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.

This work is a semantic study of the Greek words typically translated “crucify” or “crucifixion.” Prior to its release, popular media tried to create controversy out of the book’s “sensational” claim that the Greek terms do not refer specifically to crucifixion, but only generally to suspension.
Gunnar Samuelsson investigates the philological aspects of how ancient Greek, Latin and Hebrew/Aramaic texts depict crucifixions. A survey of the texts shows that there has been too narrow a view of the “crucifixion” terminology. The various terms do not only refer to “crucify” and “cross.” They are used much more diversely. Hence, most of the crucifixion accounts that scholars cite in the ancient literature have to be rejected, leaving only a few. (From the publisher’s website.)

Cook, John Granger.
2014 Crucifixion in the Mediterranean World. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 327. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.

This work, originally conceived as a revision of Hengel's work on the subject, is in some ways a response to Samuelsson. It casts a wider net by investigating Greek, Latin, Hebrew and Aramaic texts, as well as pictorial representations and archaeological evidence. A very brief summary can be found at the Bible and Interpretation website.
To understand the phenomenon of Roman crucifixion, the author argues that one should begin with an investigation of the evidence from Latin texts and inscriptions (such as the lex Puteolana [the law of Puteoli]) supplemented by what may be learned from the surviving archaeological material (e.g., the Arieti fresco of a man on a patibulum [horizontal beam], the Puteoli and Palatine graffiti of crucifixion, the crucifixion nail in the calcaneum bone from Jerusalem, and the Pereire gem of the crucified Jesus [III CE]). This evidence clarifies the precise meaning of terms such as patibulum and crux (vertical beam or cross), which in turn illuminate the Greek terms [e.g., σταυρός, σταυρόω and ἀνασταυρόω] and texts that describe crucifixion or penal suspension. It is of fundamental importance that Greek texts be read against the background of Latin texts and Roman historical practice. The author traces the use of the penalty by the Romans until its probable abolition by Constantine and its eventual transformation into the Byzantine punishment by the furca (the fork), a form of penal suspension that resulted in immediate death (a penalty illustrated by the sixth century Vienna Greek codex of Genesis). Cook does not neglect the legal sources — including the question of the permissibility of the crucifixion of Roman citizens and the crimes for which one could be crucified. In addition to the Latin and Greek authors, texts in Hebrew and Aramaic that refer to penal suspension and crucifixion are examined. Brief attention is given to crucifixion in the Islamic world and to some modern forms of penal suspension including haritsuke (with two photographs), a penalty closely resembling crucifixion that was used in Tokugawan Japan. The material contributes to the understanding of the crucifixion of Jesus and has implications for the theologies of the cross in the New Testament. The relevant ancient images are included. (Abstract from author’s page.)

Chapman, David W., and Eckhard J. Schnabel.
2015 The Trial and Crucifixion of Jesus: Texts and Commentary.
Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 344.
Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.
The purpose of this comprehensive sourcebook by David W. Chapman and Eckhard J. Schnabel is to publish the extra-biblical primary texts that have been cited as relevant for understanding Jesus' trial and crucifixion. The texts in the first part deal with Jesus' trial and interrogation before the Sanhedrin, and the texts in the second part concern Jesus' trial before Pilate. The texts in part three represent crucifixion as a method of execution in antiquity. For each document the authors provide the original text (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Latin, etc.), a translation, and commentary. The commentary describes the literary context and the purpose of each document in context before details are clarified, along with observations on the contribution of these texts to understanding Jesus' trial and crucifixion. (From the publisher’s website.)
Table of Contents
Part 1. The Jewish Trial before the Sanhedrin (E. J. Schnabel)
          1.1 Annas and Caiaphas
          1.2 The Jurisdiction of the Sanhedrin
          1.3 Capital Cases in Jewish Law
          1.4 Interrogation of Witnesses
          1.5 The Charge of Blasphemy
          1.6 The Charge of Being a Seducer
          1.7 The Charge of Sorcery
          1.8 Abuse of Prisoners
          1.9 Transfer of Court Cases
Part 2. The Roman Trial before Pontius Pilatus (E. J. Schnabel)
          2.1 Pontius Pilatus
          2.2 The Jurisdiction of Roman Prefects
          2.3 The crimen maiestatis in Roman Law
          2.4 Reports of Trial Proceedings
          2.5 Languages Used in Provincial Court Proceedings
          2.6 Amnesty and Acclamatio Populi
          2.7 Abuse of Convicted Criminals
          2.8 Requisitioning of Provincials
          2.9 Carrying the Crossbeam
          2.10 Titulus
Part 3. Crucifixion (D. W. Chapman)
          3.1 Crucifixion, Bodily Suspension, and Issues of Definition
          3.2 Bodily Suspension in the Ancient Near East
          3.3 Barbarians and Crucifixion according to Graeco-Roman Sources
          3.4 Suspension and Crucifixion in Classical and Hellenistic Greece
          3.5 Jewish Suspension and Crucifixion
          3.6 Victims of Crucifixion in the Roman Period
          3.7 Suspension and Crucifixion in Hellenistic and Roman Palestine
          3.8 Methods and Practices of Bodily Suspension in the Roman Period
          3.9 Crucifixion Terminology Applied to Earlier Traditions
          3.10 Perceptions of Crucifixion in Antiquity
          3.11 Reception of the Christian Message of the Crucified Messiah

Monday, June 29, 2015

Olive Wood Art Models of Jerusalem

Issam Salsaa of Bethlehem has created a number of detailed models of Jerusalem and Bethlehem that are quite impressive. You can check out his YouTube videos to see several of them:

The Old City

The Citadel of David (and a second)

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher

The Church of the Nativity (and with lights)

Olive wood model of the Citadel of David, created by Issam Salsaa

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Weekend Roundup

Archaeologists working at Kibbutz Magen near the Gaza Strip have discovered a Roman-period marble dolphin statuette.

This week, ISIL is apparently planning to turn the site of Jonah’s tomb into a park. The Iraqi authorities consider that a crime.

Israel is considering the restoration of Khirbet al-Minya, an Umayyad palace near the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

Continued research has been approved for the Antikythera shipwreck.

Sites in Izmir are bringing in the tourist bucks.

The latest video from SourceFlix is an explanation of the topography of Jerusalem.

Archaeologists recently discovered a Byzantine-era mosaic floor at the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth.

You can sign up for a chance to win a trip to the Grand Opening of the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C.

Logos users might want to grab the Ancient Context Ancient Faith set while it’s on pre-pub.

Ferrell Jenkins describes his return to the ruins of Samaria.

Luke Chandler offers some “tidbits from the tell” on his first week in digging at Lachish this year.

There will be no roundup next weekend.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Charles Savelle, Agade

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Bible Mapper 5

(Post by A.D. Riddle)

Have you ever needed a map for teaching or for a class paper, but cannot find just the right map that you want on the web? Bible Mapper may be the answer to your problem.

Last month, David Barrett released Bible Mapper 5. “Bible Mapper is a fully interactive, highly accurate Bible mapping system that helps you quickly and easily create customized maps of the Holy Lands or study a particular period and aspect of Bible history.”

Having used previous versions of Bible Mapper, the things that impress me most about Bible Mapper are:
  • The accuracy of the data.
  • The degree of customization possible.
  • The wide area of coverage: from India and Uzbekistan in the east, to Portugal and Morocco in the west; from Great Britain in the north, to Ethiopia and Somalia in the south.
  • The maps you create with Bible Mapper are copyright free and may be used in papers, lectures, websites, and publications.
The key features new to version 5 are:
  • Create high resolution maps of Jerusalem (the Jerusalem Ordnance map of 1876 is also able to be overlaid on the terrain).
  • Upload your custom objects or styles to a repository to share with other registered users, or restrict access to yourself for easy import into other maps.
  • Import basic KMZ/KML data (points, lines, areas, etc.) created by other software (e.g., Google Earth) and customize it on your map.
I find that last feature to be especially convenient. For more information, visit the Bible Mapper website, read Mark Hoffman’s review, or read Todd's review of version 4 on this blog.

Bible Mapper may be downloaded for free. Most features of the program are available to unregistered users, so you can give it a try. A registration key ($37) is required to use the program’s advanced features and to save maps that you create.

When you open the program, Bible Mapper looks like this.

Bible Mapper allows you to choose between colorized terrain (above), or a monochrome appearance (below).

The "Tools" menu allows you to calculate distances between places, find a site, or obtain coordinates for a site.

In my opinion, the real gold is the "View" menu. Here you can select what information is displayed: sites, roads, geographic features, or historical periods. Here are some of the options available.

You can import your own sites, adjust the widths and colors of lines, and adjust the appearance of dots. There are even options for repositioning labels.

A number of sample maps can be viewed at the Bible Mapper website gallery.

Bible Mapper is a Windows program. As a Mac user, I am able to use it by running Windows on a virtual machine (such as Parallels). One small issue I experienced was that Mac for some unknown reason appended .exe to the downloaded file. The file should be .msi, so Mac users may have to change the file extension manually before installing.

David Barrett also has created a Bible geography quiz just for fun.

Previous Posts:
Bible Mapper 2.0
Making My Own Map
Bible Mapper: New Wiki
Bible Mapper Version 4


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Weekend Roundup

Brian Peterson reports on the third and final week of excavations at Khirbet el-Maqatir. The discoveries included a third scarab.

Bible History Daily posts a report on current excavations at Ashkelon.

Arsonists destroyed two storerooms filled with antiquities excavated at Tel Kishon in the Jezreel Valley.

Luke Chandler has arrived for excavations at Lachish. Watch his blog for updates.

Archaeologists working at Hippos have discovered the imprint of a Roman soldier’s shoe.

The mummies of 8 million dogs have been found in catacombs in Memphis.

Ferrell Jenkins takes a new look at Magdala.

Norma Franklin does not carry a Marshalltown trowel, a pencil, notebook, or ruler in her dig bag.

CNN has a 3-minute feature on restoration work on Babylon.

The current issue of BASOR is available for free for a limited time.

The first issue of PEQ from 2014 is also available for free.

The Daily Star reports on the long-running excavations of Sidon.

Robert Deutsch posted some photos from a recent investigation of the ivory pomegranate. He believes the inscription is authentic.

Israel’s Tourism Ministry is beginning to rank hotels according to the five-star system.

We’ll be sending out a BiblePlaces Newsletter in the next few days. You can sign up for a free subscription here.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Church of Multiplication Severely Damaged by Arsonists

Arsonists attacked the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fish at Tabgha at 3:30 this morning. Graffiti left at the site indicates that the attack was perpetrated by religious Jews. Police have arrested and released 16 suspects, all minors from Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The graffiti reads, “The false gods will be eliminated,” a reference to a Jewish prayer and consistent with similar attacks in the past.

The Times of Israel has the most extensive report. The Jerusalem Post provides a 1-minute video of the destroyed building. Prime Minister Netanyahu has condemned the attack, and a Catholic church adviser indicates that pilgrims groups are considering canceling their trips.

The church is most famous for its ancient mosaic of five loaves and two fish. The earliest known record for this location of the miracle dates back to the time of Lady Egeria (381-384) and the first church was built in 350. A century later another building was erected with a mosaic floor covering about 5,400 square feet (500 sq m), half of which is preserved. The present site was rediscovered in 1932 and the current church completed in 1982. We have more photos and information about the historic site of Tabgha here.

HT: Charles Savelle


Tabgha from northwest

Tabgha mosaic of fish and loaves, tb110106544

Mosaic of loaves and fish, 5th century AD
Photos from Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, volume 1

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

New Video: From Jericho to Jerusalem on the Roman Road

Using maps from the Satellite Bible Atlas and new aerial imagery, Bill Schlegel has created a video that takes you from Jericho up to Jerusalem along the ancient route. Jesus traveled this way many times including on his way up to the city to present himself as king. This was also the route of the man whose life was saved by the Good Samaritan.

The 11-minute video includes aerial photos and video taken from a drone, and includes some spectacular imagery of the Judean wilderness in the spring when the hillsides are green. Few people are able to travel this 18-mile route today.

You can see more videos and subscribe to the Satellite Bible Atlas channel here.


Ascent of Adummim on south side of Wadi Qilt

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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Weekend Roundup, Part 2

To mark the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Palestine Exploration Fund, the University of Haifa and the Gottlieb Schumacher Institute are inviting papers for a December conference on “PEF and the Early Exploration of the Holy Land.”

Gershon Galil proposes another reading of the Ishbaal inscription from Khirbet Qeiyafa.

Terrorists were killed attempting an attack at the Karnak Temple in Luxor.

Egypt’s new Suez Canal will open in August.

Israeli tour guide Max Blackston points out the irony of ultra-Orthodox rabidly defending a “tomb of David” created by the Crusaders.

Antiquities thieves convicted of pillaging a cave in the Judean wilderness above Nahal Tseelim have been sentenced to prison terms of 18 months.

Islamic State militants are making millions selling antiquities from Iraq and Syria.

The British Museum is guarding an artifact looted from Syria in hopes of returning it when the country is stable.

More than 21,000 artifacts have been transferred to the Grand Egyptian Museum, more than half of which have recently been restored. The article does not give the current estimate for the museum’s opening date.

The Greek Museum of Underwater Antiquities is slated to be opened near the ancient harbor of Athens in Piraeus.

io9 suggests seven archaeologists whose lives can be compared to Indiana Jones. provides tours by drone of three ancient sites, including the Colosseum in Rome.

The TV series “Dig” has been cancelled due to poor ratings.

The BAS Blowout Sale has some big markdowns, including the BAR archive now down to $30.

Eisenbrauns is turning 40 next month. You can download their latest catalog here.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Charles Savelle, Ted Weis, Explorator, Paleojudaica

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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Weekend Roundup, Part 1

Archaeologists have discovered a Byzantine church near Abu Gosh during construction to widen Highway 1. UPI has five photos of the excavation. High-res photos may be downloaded here. Haaretz has posted a 1-minute video in Hebrew with English subtitles.

The season at Khirbet el-Maqatir (Ai?) is underway with Bryant Wood giving a report from the first week and Suzanne Lattimer giving a report from the second week.

A summary of the first week of excavations at Tel Burna includes many photos.

If you’re interested in knowing more what’s involved in an archaeological excavation, you can check out this year’s manual for the Tell es-Safi/Gath excavation.

Israel has approved a scaled-down version of a visitor’s center in the City of David. Both sides claimed victory.

An Israeli judge ruled that Joe Zias overstepped the bounds of proper academic criticism and awarded a judgment of $200,000 to Simcha Jacobovici. Jacobovici had been seeking $3 million.

The Herodium and Herod’s palace at Jericho provide some striking geographic ironies of Jesus and Herod the Great.

PEF posts a photo with Starkey, Petrie, and Tufnell.

Ferrell Jenkins reports on recent changes made at the site of Capernaum.

Leon Mauldin explains and illustrates the significance of Nahal Besor.

Carl Rasmussen has long wanted a tour of the excavations under the Kishle and yesterday his wish was fulfilled.

The New York Times reports on how tourism in Jordan is suffering due to the conflict in Syria. That is too bad; Jordan is safe and has many important biblical sites.

Here are five reasons you shouldn’t buy that ancient artifact.

This week on the Book and the Spade Gary Burge discusses his new book, A Week in the Life of a Roman Centurion.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer

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Saturday, June 06, 2015

Weekend Roundup

This summer’s excavation on Mount Zion begins soon. Here’s how you can help even if you can’t be in Jerusalem.

Leen Riitmeyer reports on a second arch of Titus uncovered in Rome. And he describes how his search to find the Dedicatory Inscription in the Colosseum ultimately succeeded.

If you’ve ever wondered how they raised animals from underneath the floor of the Colosseum, the Telegraph has an illustrated article showing a reconstruction of the elevators. A 2-minute video shows the process. This is part of a government project to restore the floor of the Colosseum.

James H. Charlesworth has written a lengthy and informative review rebutting David Stacey and Gregory Doudna, Qumran Revisited: A Reassessment of the Archaeology of the Site and its Texts.

Wayne Stiles explains how the four quarters of Jerusalem will be united.

“Wilderness” is the title of a symposium of Biblical scholars from the Universities of Manchester, Sheffield and Lausanne University of Lausanne.

The British Museum is lending 500 artifacts to a new museum in Abu Dhabi for five years. This includes “the world’s finest single Assyrian panel: the Banquet Scene (645-635BC).”

There is fear in Iraq for the safety of the traditional tomb of the prophet Nahum.

The latest issue of Biblical Archaeology Review includes articles on Solomon’s temple, Akhenaten’s monotheism, the Gospel of  Thomas, and the missing pages of the Aleppo Codex.

Congress has passed legislation making it illegal to sell looted artifacts from Syria.

The Library of Congress in Washington D.C. hosted a Tyre Day Symposium to raise awareness about the city’s history.

“Of Kings and Prophets” is a new series beginning this fall on ABC.

A clumsy tourist fell and smashed a 4,000-year-old vase in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum on the island of Crete.

Barry Britnell is sharing photos of last year’s trip as he prepares to lead next year’s trip. Today: Northern Galilee and the Hula Valley.

HT: Ted Weis, Agade, Joseph Lauer

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Thursday, June 04, 2015

Second Inscription from Qeiyafa Published

For the short summary, check out Luke Chandler’s post. He includes a photo and discusses the biblical mentions of the name Ishbaal/Eshbaal.

The publication details are as follows:

Yosef Garfinkel, Mitka R. Golub, Haggai Misgav and Saar Ganor, “The ʾIšbaʿal Inscription from Khirbet Qeiyafa.” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, pp. 217–33.

The article may be downloaded from now (requires registration) or from JStor in the near future.

Here is the article’s abstract:

A new West Semitic inscription from Khirbet Qeiyafa is presented. It was incised in Canaanite alphabetic script on a pottery storage jar before firing. Radiometric dating of the relevant layer has yielded a date of ca. 1020–980 B.C.E. The last few years have seen the publication of several new Semitic alphabetic inscriptions dated to the late 11th–10th centuries B.C.E. and originating at controlled excavations in Israel (Khirbet Qeiyafa, Beth Shemesh, Tell eṣ-Ṣâfi, and Jerusalem). The new inscription is an important addition to this corpus.

HT: Joseph Lauer

UPDATE (6/20): Luke Chandler has posted a follow-up, focusing on the word before Ishbaal.


Central part of the inscription
Photo by Tal Rogovski

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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Weekend Roundup, Part 2

Philistines living at Yavneh used hallucinogenic drugs, according to Israeli archaeologists.

The Dhamar Regional Museum in Yemen was destroyed in a Saudi airstrike. It was completely destroyed, according to these photos.

Revelers at a Burning Man festival destroyed prehistoric remains near Nahal Boker in the Negev (more at Haaretz premium).

The US has returned 25 artifacts looted from Italy, including a first-century BC fresco from Pompeii.

A fresco from a 12th-Dynasty tomb in Middle Egypt has been hacked out by thieves. A statement from the Catholic Leuven University confirms “the grave news that the tomb has been entered and that a relief has been stolen.”

A plan being examined by Israel’s Tourism Minister would apply a 3.5% tax to tourists’ purchases at hotels, restaurants, goods, and services. The Haaretz (premium) article also notes that “Israel dropped to 72nd place out of 141 countries in the World Economic Forum 2015 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index released this month.”

This week’s guest on the Land and the Book is Dr. Filip Vukosavovic, Curator at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem.

Coming to theaters in January: RISEN.

Final deliberations have begun on the fate of an archaeological center in the City of David.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Ted Weis, Charles Savelle

Proposed Archaeological Center

Photo Credit: City of David

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Weekend Roundup, Part 1

A cylinder seal from the Early Bronze period may depict the earliest known musical scene in Israel. The seal was found in western Galilee in the 1970s.

A record-breaking heat wave in Israel sparked forest fires, caused flight delays and prompted a sharp increase in reported cases of dehydration and fainting.” Temperatures in Tel Aviv reached 42ºC (107ºF).

ISIS has begun destroying statues in Palmyra’s museum, says the International Business Times. Nothing has been destroyed, reports the New York Times. ISIS is promising not to destroy the site’s monuments. Reuters recounts some of Palmyra’s illustrious history. Experts fear for remains of the city’s Jewish history, including the longest biblical Hebrew inscription known from antiquity.

If you want to preserve the Dead Sea Scrolls, it’s best to leave them in a dark cave. Do not use tape or glass panels, according to this article on conservation at the Jewish Independent.

Digging up Jericho: Past, Present & Future is the title of a conference being hosted next month at the Institute of Archaeology at University College London.

Ken Dark is on the Book and the Spade discussing the archaeology of Nazareth (part 1, part 2; mp3 links here).

Gabriel Barkay says that careful surveillance is required for archaeological activity on the Temple Mount.

Aren Maeir has fired up the tractor in his excavations of Gath.

The St. Louis Zoo offers a Biblical Animal Scavenger Hunt.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, A.D. Riddle

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Weekend Roundup, Part 2

The lighthouse of Alexandria is to be rebuilt near its original location.

An ancient Egyptian temple has been discovered at the Gabal Al-Silsela quarries.

One of the earliest complete copies of the Ten Commandments (from the Dead Sea Scrolls) will be on display at the Israel Museum two days a month for the next seven months.

Wayne Stiles: The Mount of Olives—Where to Stand and What to Read

A PEF lecture by James L. Starkey’s son: Not for the Greed of Gold: A Tribute and Biography of the Life and Career of J.L. Starkey, Director of the Wellcome-Marston Archaeological Expedition to Palestine, 1932-1938.

A new aerial panoramic photo from SourceFlix: Where David fought Goliath.

The Museum Center at 5ive Points in Cleveland, Tennessee, is hosting an exhibition with artifacts from Khirbet el-Maqatir.

Vandals have painted Palestinian flags on the ruins of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Haluza in southern Israel.

The Israeli government has approved a five-year plan to upgrade the Western Wall plaza.

HT: Agade, Paleojudaica

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