Saturday, May 27, 2006

Jerusalem Model update

The "Holyland Hotel model" of Jerusalem is close to opening at its new location at the Israel Musuem, according to the JPost. Three items not mentioned in previous news releases:

1. Entrance to the model will be included with payment for entrance to the museum. That's not ideal for student groups who need to go to the model at the beginning of their program and to the museum at the end.

2. The Holyland Hotel gave the model to the museum.

3. The model will open on June 12. That's a week or two too late for the hoards of tourists here now. Are there any evangelicals from Texas not in Israel this month??

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Forgery Trial Update

The Boston Globe has the latest on the ongoing trial of Oded Golan, Robert Deutsch, and Rafi Brown for the forgery of ancient antiquities, including the James Ossuary and the Jehoash Inscription.

One expert I spoke with recently suggested that all three of the most well-known alleged forgeries (the above two and the Ivory Pomegranate) may well be authentic. It's more than just Hershel Shanks who doubt the committees' conclusions, but there are difficulties in voicing that opinion given today's climate.

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Lick the Megiddo Prison Mosaic

The Philatelic Service of Israel is wasting no time in issuing stamps of a mosaic from the Megiddo Prison Church, allegedly built before Christianity became the official religion about 320 A.D. The press release says,
A mosaic from the antiquities site in Megiddo Prison (Kfar ‘Othnai – Legio), which was recently uncovered in IAA excavations that were carried out by prisoners, will be commemorated in a special souvenir sheet that will be issued on the occasion of the international stamp exhibition – Jerusalem 2006. The exhibition will be held in Jerusalem on May 8-11, 2006, at the Jerusalem International Convention Center (Binyaney Ha'ooma). The mosaic was discovered in an antiquities site situated along the edge of the Jezreel Valley, on a hill south of Nahal Kini and Tel Megiddo, in the Megiddo Prison compound....
Depicted in the mosaic are geometric patterns, a medallion with fish and three ancient Greek inscriptions: an inscription mentioning a Roman army office who contributed for the construction of the mosaic (see the margin of the souvenir sheet); an inscription honoring the memory of four women and an inscription that mentions a woman who dedicated a table (altar) to the memory of the Lord Jesus Christos. The fish that adorned the mosaic floor were an early Christian symbol, and it is known that the Christians ascribed an acronym to the Greek word for fish meaning "Jesus Christ Son of God, the Savior”. The combination of the three inscriptions in the mosaic from the third century, which link a Roman army officer with Christianity in a prayer hall, is a unique and rare find.
Jacob Richman's site (www.jr.co.il) does a good job of posting the latest stamps of Israel, though it doesn't yet have this one online.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Sodom Identified?

I've been reading for a few weeks about new excavations by Steve Collins of a site that he thinks is biblical Sodom. You can read a typical report in the El Defensor Chieftain (also here and here), which doesn't tell you much besides the site's name and the excavator's enthusiasm. The proposed site is Tell el-Hammam, which didn't ring any bells. So I grabbed my copy of the best place to start for research on biblical sites in Jordan: "East of the Jordan:" Territories and Sites of the Hebrew Scriptures, by Burton MacDonald (ASOR, 2000). It says that the site is located on the northeastern region of the Dead Sea, in what is known biblically as the "plains of Moab." Bells went off, as I know from previous study that of the three possible regions for the location of Sodom and Gomorrah based on all of the Scriptural evidence (northeast, southeast, under the Dead Sea), the least likely is the northern theory. The second problem is not insurmountable, if the excavators can find evidence of occupation from a different period that has been found already. I'll quote MacDonald in full here, as it may be useful in the months/years to come as the Hammam excavation moves forward.
Tall al-Hammam appears to be a very large and strongly built Iron Age I-II fortess (sic) completely enclosed by a strong outer fortification wall (Glueck 1951: 379). The East Jordan Valley Survey reports Iron I-II sherds as dominant at the site (Yassine, Sauer, and Ibrahim 1988: 192, 197-98). Prag's 1990 work at the site indicates that relative to the northeast tell at Hammam 'the most prominent ruins are probably of the Iron Age II and Persian periods, when it appears to have been strongly fortified. These remains were recorded in some detail by Glueck, who dated them to the Iron Age 1 and 2 periods' (1991: 60). Tall al-Hammam is a good, though not certain, candidate for the location of Abel-shittim (MacDonald 2000: 90).
Perhaps then Collins will have one biblical site (Abel-shittim) if not the other (Sodom).

What does the team need to find in order for this site to potentially be identified with Sodom? A destruction layer in EBIV/MBI/Intermediate Bronze (2300-2000 B.C.). The Iron Age mentioned above is dated roughly 1200-600 B.C.

Bab edh-Dhra is the site most frequently identified with biblical Sodom.

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Guess Where These Photos Were Taken

In my completely non-objective opinion, the Pictorial Library is the best collection of Bible-related photos on the planet. But that doesn't mean that we've stopped taking pictures. Today was just one of many incredible days that the Lord has given us lately for photos. It was so good though that I am very tired, and so this blog is going to give only questions and no answers. If you want the answers, sign up for the BiblePlaces Newsletter. If all goes well, we'll have a great issue out next week that answers these questions and more.

The question: where were these pictures taken and what are they?






Hint: they were all taken within a 10-mile (15-km) radius.

Our preference would be that you not put any answers in the comments section (and spoil the fun for others). You are welcome to make other comments or to note how many of the pictures you correctly identified (place and object). My guess is that very few, if any, of my readers know them all (with correct specifics).

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Monday, May 01, 2006

What Do You Know About This Photo?


I took the above photo today. A few questions about it:

1. Can you figure out where it was taken?
2. Can you imagine a more beautiful time of year?
3. What are most of the trees in this photo (and in the entire region)?
4. Can you name at least 7 events of biblical significance that happened within the view of this photo?
5. What common theme characterizes this area from biblical times until present?

To check your answers, see this page.