Thursday, April 27, 2017

On Location with Abraham, Part 1: Shechem

Post by Seth M. Rodriquez, Ph.D.

"What do those words make you see?" Years ago, I worked as a reading tutor. It was my job to help people decode written words and understand the meaning being communicated through those words. Reading comprehension experts will tell you that the best way to understand and remember what you read is to allow the words to create pictures in your head. As a tutor, I was trained to repeatedly ask the question: "What do those words make you see?"

It is no different when we read the Bible. As we read, we should allow the words on the page to form pictures in our head. Unfortunately, this can sometimes prove to be a challenge. Often we are not familiar with the places and things mentioned in the Bible. How tall was Mount Carmel where Elijah called down fire from heaven? How dry is the Judean Wilderness where David hid from Saul and where Jesus was tempted? What is a horned altar and what did look like?

Fortunately, today we have the means to bridge the gap between our world and the world of the Bible. Collections of images provided through websites such as BiblePlaces.com and LifeintheHolyLand.com can go a long way in helping us to form vivid pictures in our minds of biblical places, characters, and events. To help you on the journey, I am kicking off a new series on this blog called, "On Location." As the name implies, we'll go "on location" with the people in the Bible. We will see some of the same sights they did ... or at least see what these sights look like in modern times. The goal is to help you more accurately visualize the biblical stories.

To get things started, let's talk about Abraham. Abraham's journey started at the east end of the Fertile Crescent in the city of Ur in Mesopotamia. From there, he moved to Haran in the northern part of the Fertile Crescent, and eventually moved to the land of Canaan to the southwest. The story begins in Genesis 12 ...

"Now the Lord said to Abram, 'Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.' So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, 'To your offspring I will give this land.' So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. (Genesis 12:1–7, ESV)

What do those words make you see? Let me help you out with the last few verses where Abraham enters Canaan for the first time and arrives at the site of Shechem. 

Shechem (modern Nablus) lies between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal in the very center of the land of Canaan. However, there is no indication archaeologically or in the biblical text that there was actually a city there in Abraham's day. The city seems to have been founded in about 1900 B.C., about 200 years after Abraham would have passed through here. So to help paint our mental picture, we need to get out of the modern city located at the site of Shechem and see some wide open spaces nearby. In the image below, we are standing a few miles away from Shechem and we can see Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal in the distance. This is similar to what Abraham would have seen back in 2100 B.C.


Mount Gerizim, Shechem, and Mount Ebal from the East

A close-up image of the Shechem area will help us complete our mental picture. The modern city sprawls over the area today. So to help us form a proper image in our minds, it is helpful to dig into one of the historic collections provided through LifeintheHolyLand.com and go back in time. This next image shows what the area between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal looked like about 100 years ago. The photographer is standing on Mount Gerizim and looking across the valley. In Abraham's day, this area probably had many more trees than can be seen in the image below (Joshua 14 mentions a forest covering this region) but you can get a feel for what the topography is like through this photograph.


Looking north from Mount Gerizim (photo taken 1910-1920)

According to Genesis 12, this was the place where God spoke to Abraham shortly after he entered the land of Canaan for the first time. This is where He made Abraham the promise, "To your offspring I will give this land." And in response, this is where Abraham built an altar to the Lord.

More images and information about Shechem can be found on the BiblePlaces website here. Historical images of places from Abraham's life can be found on the LifeintheHolyLand website here. The images used in this post were taken from Vol. 2 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands (available for purchase here) and Vol. 1 of the American Colony and Eric Matson Collection (available for purchase here).

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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Weekend Roundup

“An Egyptian archaeological mission in Luxor has announced the discovery of a major tomb in the city’s west bank area dating back to the 18th Dynasty and containing priceless artefacts.”

Israeli archaeologists have begun to study an ancient Jewish pyramid near Khirbet Midras in the Shephelah.

Archaeologists have discovered an estate of Emperor Marcus Aurelius in the mountains of southwestern Turkey.

Symbols found on the the Vulture Stone at Gobekli Tepe in Turkey has led researchers to propose the earth was struck by a devastating comet around 11,000 BC.

Shots were fired near St. Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai, but there are different explanations of what happened.

The Qumran and Bible Exhibition is now online with an audioguide and with a video introduction.

The latest edition of The Holy Land Magazine is online and includes tourist articles on Nazareth Village, Yad VaShem, Neot Kedumim, and more.

Tom Powers considers David Bivin’s recent post on the deteriorating road to Emmaus and adds some observations of his own.

Elizabeth Sloane, writing in Haaretz, asks, “Did the Egyptian goddess Hathor originate with Semitic miners from Canaan?”

The Temple Mount Sifting Project must meet its fundraising goal or it will receive none of the pledged funds.

The Amarna Letters are the topic of the week on The Book and the Spade with guest Alice Mandell.

The Khirbet el-Maqatir exhibit in Pikeville, Kentucky is drawing visitors.

Eisenbrauns is offering the Victor Avigdor Hurowitz memorial volume at a savings of 40% for a few more days: Marbeh Ḥokmah: Studies in the Bible and the Ancient Near East (2 vols). List $139.50; sale: $83.70.

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

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Walking the Bible Lands Website

Today is the last day to sign up as a charter member of the new website Walking the Bible Lands.

Here’s my short explanation of why I recommend it:
Walking the Bible Lands is a marvelous resource for all those who have longed to visit Israel and for those who would love to return. The beautiful video footage makes you feel like you are right there, and Wayne Stiles carefully guides the viewer through his excellent biblical teaching and application. By joining this new site, you will feel like you’re there, without the scorching sun or the obnoxious crowds. I highly recommend it to all!

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Weekend Roundup

“In an statement timed just ahead of Passover, the Temple Mount Sifting Project said Sunday it had found a stone finger that may have belonged to a Bronze Age Egyptian statue, but conceded it wasn’t sure.”

For the first time ever, a reenactment of the Passover sacrifice took place in the Jewish Quarter.

Wayne Stiles has released the third video in his virtual tour of the Passion Week.

Carl Rasmussen has written a series of informative posts related to Jesus’s trial and crucifixion, including “Another Gethsemane?,” “Site of Crucifixion of Jesus?,” “Gordon’s Calvary,” and “The Burial Bench of Jesus?

John DeLancey is on The Book and the Spade discussing the latest renovations of the edicule in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

DeLancey also recently announced a tour this fall of Egypt, Jordan, and Israel.

An archaeologist claims that a thick layer of sand at Tel Achziv attests to a tsunami that hit the coast of Israel in the 8th century BC.

Evidence discovered below the Dead Sea suggests that there were significant droughts in the past.

On the ASOR Blog, Douglas Petrovich discusses some of his discoveries behind his theory that Hebrew is the language behind the world’s first alphabet. Alan Millard has written a response. You can get a 25% discount on Petrovich’s book with code PET25.

The Linda Byrd Smith Museum of Biblical Archaeology opens today at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas.

Israel’s Good Name recently went on a Bar Ilan U tour of the Old City and Ramat Rahel.

The latest issue of Biblical Archaeology Review has articles on the Arch of Titus, Magdala, and three more biblical people confirmed by archaeological evidence.

Leen Ritmeyer notes two new apps that take visitors to ancient Jerusalem. Live Science has more about the Lithodomos VR app.

Divers in Italy have begun the search for a third pleasure barge of Emperor Caligula.

The site of Humayma in southern Jordan was probably founded by the Nabatean king Aretas IV early in the first century AD.

“War and Storm: Treasures of the Sea Around Sicily” is a special exhibit of recovered antiquities at Glyptotek in Copenhagen.

According to The Irish News, some of the Chester Beatty manuscripts are now on display in the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin.

John the Baptist would feel right at home at a Mariners’ game with their new menu offering of toasted grasshoppers.

Frederic William Bush, longtime Professor of Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary, died last week.

HT: Charles Savelle, Agade, Joseph Lauer, Steven Anderson

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Monday, April 10, 2017

TV Special: Opening the Tomb of Jesus

Tonight National Geographic TV is airing its special on the opening of the traditional tomb of Jesus in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The episode is scheduled for 10 pm Eastern. This story from October has some of the details and images that will likely appear in the show.

HT: Urban von Wahlde

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Saturday, April 08, 2017

Weekend Roundup

Gabriel Barkay believes that they have discovered one of the capitals from Solomon’s Colonnade on the eastern side of the Temple Mount. Leen Ritmeyer seems inclined to agree, but he clarifies an issue with a measurement.

An excavation last month of Qumran Cave 11 resulted in the discovery of an upper chamber, linen textiles, medicinal plants, and leather and wooden artifacts. An international workshop on Cave 11 will be held later this month.

An underground tunnel network from the Bar Kochba period has been discovered in the Hebron hills.

The dating of donkey dung supports a Solomonic-date for a mining camp at Timna Valley in southern Israel.

Construction has begun on the “Sanhedrin Trail,” running from Beth Shearim to Tiberias. It will be a “smart” trail that “will communicate with the hikers using an innovative, augmented reality-based application.” The project also includes the building of a visitor’s center in Tiberias.

After the Temple Mount Sifting Project sent out an urgent plea for funds, the Prime Minister of Israel stepped in to restore the lost funding. Or did he?

The Egyptian Antiquities Ministry announced the discovery of a 13th dynasty pyramid, currently being excavated in Dahshur's royal necropolis.

A Roman bath complex has been inaugurated in Alexandria.

Magnetometers and ground-penetrating radar has been used to discover the concession stands, taverns, and souvenir shops that surrounded a Roman amphitheater in Austria. (If you substitute “NFL” for “gladiator,” it will all make perfect sense.)

“Colorising the Arch of Titus: The Spoils of Jerusalem” is a new 4-minute video that reveals the results of a recent study led by Steven Fine of the original design and colors of the famous panel.

Ferrell Jenkins shares a couple of photos of the view from Mount Nebo.

Joel Pless suggests a biblical connection in his recent interview on Pompeii and Herculaneum on The Book and the Spade.

Israel’s Good Name recently visited Solomon’s Quarries, the Jerusalem Archaeological Park, and more.

Later this month, New College of the University of Edinburgh will be hosting a conference entitled “Coins and the Bible: Understanding Ancient Coinage.”

This month, Logos is offering Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels, by Kenneth E. Bailey for only $1.99.

Winged Bull Press released several new titles on April 1. And their new shipping service is a hoot!

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Mike Harney, Ted Weis, Charles Savelle, Alexander Schick

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Friday, April 07, 2017

New Videos on the Passion Week of Jesus

Wayne Stiles has long impressed me with his knowledge of Israel and his application of the biblical truths to our lives. He’s written three excellent books, and he has faithfully written regular posts on his blog for many years.

But I think his new project is his best yet, and I’d encourage you to take a look.

Wayne has produced a series of three videos tracing the Passion Week of Jesus, “The Week That Changed the World,” as he calls it. It is outstanding. I encourage you to check out these free videos. It’s a perfect way to prepare for and experience the Passion Week.

See them here: www.passionweektour.com

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Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Passover Sacrifice To Be Held in Jewish Quarter of Old City

It’s been more than 1,900 years since the Jewish people have slaughtered a Passover lamb within the walls of Jerusalem. But this one still doesn’t “count” because it’s not on the Temple Mount. From The Times of Israel:

An annual reenactment of the sacrifice for the upcoming Passover festival will be held for the first time inside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem.

The High Court of Justice on Monday upheld a police decision to bar a group of Temple Mount activists from holding their annual ceremony at Davidson Park, an archaeological site adjacent to the Western Wall on the southern side of the Temple Mount complex.

But in an unusual move, police on Wednesday said the activists would be allowed go ahead with the reenactment on Thursday in the main square of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City.

[…]

Just like the Passover sacrifice that was offered in the time of the Temple, it will include slaughtering a lamb, flaying it in the traditional manner, throwing its blood on a model altar, and roasting and eating it.

The full article has more details including the time of the event.

Jewish Quarter courtyard from Hurva Synagogue, tb010312412

The Jewish Quarter Plaza, location of the sacrifice demonstration

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Monday, April 03, 2017

Luke & Acts: Historical Reliability - 4

(Posted by Michael J. Caba)

This series of posts examines the historical reliability of the New Testament books of Luke and Acts by comparing these books to other ancient textual sources and the archaeological record. In addition, background information on key elements of the various narratives is also given.

One of the persons mentioned in Luke 3:1-2 is "Philip, tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis." In addition to this biblical reference, the 1st-century AD historian Josephus also refers to Philip and notes that he was the son of Herod the Great and Cleopatra of Jerusalem (Antiquities 17.1.3). Having been born in c. 22 BC, Philip was assigned a portion (i.e., Iturea and Traconitis) of his father's kingdom when the later died in 4 BC. Philip ruled until he died in his own turn in AD 34, and Josephus refers to Philip as a "person of moderation and quietness in the conduct of his life and government" (Antiquities 18.4.6).

Interestingly enough, despite his apparent affinity for "moderation and quietness," Philip married Salome, a woman with at least one episode in her life that was anything but moderate and quiet. By way of pedigree, Salome was the daughter of Philip's half-brother Herod (tetrarch of Galilee) and Herod's stolen wife Herodias. Further, as a younger woman she is actually the one who danced for this same Herod and his dinner guests, which, as many are aware, led to Herod's ill-advised promise to give her "up to half" of his kingdom, which in turn led to the violent death of John the Baptist. The sordid details of the event (including the reasons for the death of John the Baptist) are recorded in Mark 6:14-29, and this rather interesting (to say the least) collection of behaviors has ever after been the inspiration for much drama and art, among which is the following work produced by Titian, the Venetian Renaissance master, in c. 1515.


In addition, Philip reconstructed the city of Paneas (originally named for the Greek god Pan) and renamed it "Caesarea Philippi" (after Caesar Augustus and himself) to distinguish it from "Caesarea Maritima," which was constructed by Herod the Great along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It was in the region of Caesarea Philippi, which is north of the Sea of Galilee, that Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" In reply, Peter proclaimed, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:13-20).  The following aerial photo shows the ruins of Caesarea Philippi including the Cave of Pan (near center of photo) into which offerings to the god were placed.


By way of additional note, the 1st-century AD Jewish philosopher Philo makes reference to Philip when he says that Agrippa, "the grandson of Herod the king," was eventually given Philip's territory to rule (Flaccus, V. (25)).

For similar correlations between the biblical text and ancient sources, see Bible and Archaeology - Online Museum.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Weekend Roundup (The Real Edition)

High school students excavating in Ramat Beit Shemesh have uncovered remains of a Jewish village from the first century AD.

Aviva and Shmuel Bar-Am describe the recently opened Mikveh Trail south of the Temple Mount.

“Did archaeologists find the royal banqueting complex of King Herod the Great in Jerusalem?”

Carl Rasmussen shares an unusual photo of a cross in Jerusalem.

The predators center (walk-through exhibit) at Hai Bar Yotvata is now closed.

Israel’s Good Name recently paid a visit to the Jerusalem Bird Observatory.

John DeLancey has a wrap-up of his latest Israel tour. You may resonate with some of his concluding observations.

This week on The Book and the Spade, Clyde Billington and Gordon Govier discuss the Jebusite and Roman walls of Jerusalem.

Simon Gathercole lectured recently on “The Journeys of Jesus and Jewish Geography” at the Lanier Theological Library.

Gary Shogren suggests his favorite 5 New Testament archaeological discoveries of recent years.

Appian Media is getting closer to reaching its fundraising goal so they can finish the “Following the Messiah” series.

Douglas Clark of LaSierra University will be leading a team of scholars to create the Madaba Regional Archaeological Museum.

Construction workers have discovered a tomb from the Neo-Assyrian period in Erbil, Iraq.

Restoring the Mosul Museum will not be easy without any remaining artifacts.

A new walking trail and viewing terraces have been created to attract more tourists to the Titus Tunnel near the ancient port of Seleucia.

Archaeologists have discovered 38 graves in an ancient Jewish cemetery in Rome.

The tourist company Roma Experience now offers visitors to Domus Aurea an augmented reality experience with 3-D glasses that brings to life Nero's palace as it was in the first century.

In a new article “The Old Testament and the Ancient Near East: Profits and Losses” published on the ABR website, Eugene Merrill identifies “five clear profits,” “three claimed profits,” and “two mixed blessings.”

The National Post loves Eric Cline’s 480-page tome, Three Stones Make a Wall: The Story of Archaeology. An illustrated excerpt discussing the antiquities trade has been posted on the ASOR Blog. The Bible and Interpretation has posted his Megiddo chapter.

Karl Katz, the first curator of the Israel Museum, has written an autobiography entitled The Exhibitionist, which is reviewed by Asher Weill.

Eisenbrauns has published another valuable study (at a much more affordable price than many academic publishers): The Shephelah during the Iron Age, edited by Oded Lipschits and Aren M. Maeir, with articles about Gezer, Beth Shemesh, Azekah, Qeiyafa, Gath, Zayit, Burna, and Halif. Maeir’s chapter on Gath is online.

William Kelly Simpson and Louis H. Feldman died recently.

HT: Agade, Ted Weis, BibleX

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Saturday, April 01, 2017

Weekend Roundup

The Israel Antiquities Authority has announced a “GoFundMe” campaign in order to excavate all remaining biblical sites before the antiquity thieves do. If all funding targets are met, security officers will be hired to protect these sites for an additional three months.

All tourists desiring to visit the Western Wall will now be required to walk on the Mikveh Trail and be immersed in one of the ancient ritual baths.

Muslim authorities have recently opened the Huldah Gates so that visitors can view the ancient Jewish architecture and engravings underneath the Al Aqsa Mosque on their way to visit the site of Solomon’s temple.

Schoolkids working on an excavation in Jerusalem have discovered a golden-hued metallic headpiece inscribed with the name “Jedidiah.” Tests are now being run to determine if there’s any connection with the ancient royalty of Judah.

Archaeologists in Israel will now begin selling artifacts from their excavations as soon as they have photographed and recorded them. Roadside stands will enable visitors to purchase figurines, mosaics, oil lamps, and more, right on the spot, thus providing immediate funding to the excavation team.

New book alert: Erich Kleen’s 480-page tome, Three Sticks Make a Staff: An Old Man’s Reminiscences on Excavating Nearly Every Site in the Middle East.

Following the signing of the Tourist Recruiting Initiative, Israel, Turkey, and Egypt will now be competing to offer the largest bonus checks to visitors arriving at their respective airports.

Amen Been-Thar has announced the discovery of the Hazor archive. He found it in Yigael Yadin’s storage room at the university. The exasperated scholar exclaimed, “It just never occurred to me to look there.”

With the recent Supreme Court ruling affirming the Catholic Church’s claim of ownership of the Sea of Galilee, construction work has begun on a chapel to be built on glass stilts in the middle of the lake.

With the release of the LaserScan SuperPro, archaeologists will be setting aside their Marshalltown trowels in favor of the new handheld gadget that produces a 3-D scan of an entire tell at a resolution of nearly 16 dots per inch. Instead of excavating layer by layer, the team will now be able to pinpoint exactly where the museum treasures are, thus preserving the site from massive environmental destruction.

The British Museum has agreed to return the Elgin Marbles. Within a few months they will be on display in a new museum in Turkey, sovereign power over Athens at the time they were shipped to London.

Following a public outcry, the Jordanian government will be reducing the entrance fee to Petra from $125 to $10, effective every year on the anniversary of T. E. Lawrence’s death.

The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo has announced an expansion of their petting zoo. Visitors will now be able to better understand the life of David by personal encounters with the exhibit’s Syrian bear and Asian lion. Asked about the dangers, the zookeeper explained that the animals are fed regularly and children under the age of 4 will not be allowed entrance unattended.

The Caesarea Maritima National Park has begun reconstruction of Herod’s harbor. The design will closely adhere to the original blueprints recently discovered in the cache of Med Sea Scrolls, and funding has already been met from the tariffs assessed of every visitor to this most popular park in the nation. When complete, tourists will be able to climb the Drusus lighthouse, board a replica of Paul’s prisoner ship, and watch a live actor re-enact the gruesome death of Herod Agrippa.

A new website called www.holylandselfies.com is soon to become operational. The director, Will E. Itslegal, expects to launch customized editions of the Selfie Bible Atlas in the near future.

Young tourists are raving about the new zipline that just opened at the top of Masada. While only college students and military personnel are permitted to ride the one beginning at Herod’s northern palace, others are enjoying the zipline above the siege ramp. The mid-way line will serve seniors on days when the cablecar is not running. Engineers are currently working on the final zipline which will plunge riders directly into the Dead Sea.

Scholars have now successfully translated the genuinely authentic Jordanian lead codices, confirming that the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife proves that the famous Galilean carpenter was buried in a tomb in Talpiot.

If this silly exercise has tested your patience, you can rejoice that not until 2023 will the next weekend roundup fall on April 1.

HT: R.A.S. Macalister, Montague Parker, Moses Shapiro

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