Saturday, October 21, 2017

Weekend Roundup

The Israel Antiquities Authority has arrested looters who discovered a cave in a Galilean village that was used for storage and stables in the Roman period.

Aren Maeir reports on a “mini-season” they held this week at Gath.

The “Bible Marathon” traces the route of the Benjamite who raced to tell Eli of the death of his sons.

One month before its opening in Washington, DC, the Museum of the Bible held a press conference to address questions about the museum’s practices.

The abandoned village of Lifta, possibly the site of biblical Mei Nephtoah, has been named one of 25 Endangered World Monuments.

The New York Times has an article in its dining section on the ancient Canaanite food and wine of Tel Kabri.

The Winter 2017 issue of DigSight reports on an exhibit on seals, a seal of “Ushna, servant of Ahaz,” and more.

Carl Rasmussen has begun a series on Paul’s shipwreck on Malta.

The Lod Mosaic will have a home when the Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Archaeological Center opens in 2019.

Volcanic activity may have played a significant role in the demise of the Egyptian Ptolemaic dynasty.

Israel’s Good Name describes his recent camping trip in Park HaMaayanot.

Prof. Zvi Lederman will be giving a lecture on Nov 13 at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology entitled “A Lost Queen of the Sun -- Tel Beth Shemesh, the Age of Amarna, and the Mysterious ‘Mistress of the Lions.’” The lecture is free and open to the public.

Matthew Suriano will be lecturing on Nov. 16 at Brandeis University on “A Tomb with a View: What can we learn about death in the Hebrew Bible from the Silwan Necropolis in Jerusalem?”

Eisenbrauns’ Deal of the Weekend is Unearthing Jerusalem, at 60% off.

The end of an era: Penn State University Press has acquired Eisenbrauns.

HT: Charles Savelle, Joseph Lauer, Ted Weis

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

19th Batchelder Conference for Archaeology and Biblical Studies

The University of Nebraska at Omaha is hosting its 19th annual Batchelder Conference for Archaeology and Biblical Studies from November 9 to 11. Rami Arav will deliver the opening keynote address on “The First 30 Years of Excavations at Bethsaida.” Richard Freund will be the respondent. (Apparently Steven Notley is unavailable.)

The Friday evening address by David Gurevich is entitled “Water and Society: The Water Installation of Jerusalem in the Late Second Temple Period.” Twelve other scholars will speak, but the conference schedule has not yet been released.

The conference is free and open to the public.

HT: Judi King

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Inside the Photo Companion: Cultural Scenes

When we started taking photos in the Holy Land, our gaze was mostly fixed on the sites. That, after all, is the basis for most tour itineraries. This was reflected in our earliest photo collections, as they were organized by country, region, and site.

But as we began thinking about illustrating each verse of the Bible, we knew that we would need much more than photographs of piles of rocks at various sites. In this post we want to draw your attention to some of the many cultural scenes that we have illustrated in the new Gospels volumes of the Photo Companion to the Bible.

farmer-plowing-donkey-mt-gerizim

This scene shows a farmer plowing his field with his donkey. We captured this scene one day as we were passing through the Michmethath Valley on the way to Mount Gerizim (visible in the distance). While certain elements like the headdress differ from the biblical period, we’re still amazed that we can see scenes like this that are so similar to ancient times.

father-and-son-carpenter-jesus-joseph

I was walking through the suq (market) in Nablus last year (my first-ever visit there) and I saw through one doorway a father and son working on a carpentry project. This brought to mind another famous pair of father-son carpenters and I snapped a couple of pictures. While this scene too differs from what first-century Nazareth looked like, it’s still helpful to me in imagining how Jesus worked together with Joseph.

villagers-gathered-welcome-Luke15

Some scenes are just difficult or impossible to capture today. The scene above was taken by an American Colony photographer in 1940, showing a scene of men gathered in a traditional village. There are a number of biblical passages this could illustrate, but we’ve used it here to illustrate the story in Luke 15:1-7 where the rejoicing shepherd returns home to tell his neighbors that he has found his lost sheep.

fattened-calf-luke15

When the prodigal son returned home, his father held a lavish feast, even slaughtering the fattened calf in his son’s honor (Luke 15:27). This American Colony photograph, taken in 1935, shows a group of Bedouin men preparing an animal for the fire. This image will also serve to illustrate other passages, including Abraham’s killing of a choice calf when three “men” came to visit (Gen 18:7).

oil-lamp-broom-woman-lost-coin-luke15

I’ll close with a favorite. I took this picture at the Qatzrin Village in the Golan Heights (a worthwhile stop if you haven’t been). This display illustrates well the verse about the woman who lost one of her coins and in an effort to find it lit an oil lamp and swept the house (Luke 15:8). Many children (and adults) today would be hard pressed to picture what an oil lamp and a broom looked like in the time of Jesus.

It is a lot of fun to photograph these scenes or to find just the right image to illustrate a verse or concept. In creating the Photo Companion to the Bible, we intend to make Scripture not only more understandable but also more engaging and exciting.

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Monday, October 16, 2017

Roman Theater Discovered Next to Western Wall

Archaeologists working in Jerusalem today announced the results of the last two years of excavation underneath Wilson’s Arch next to the Western Wall. The most exciting find is a small Roman theater.

The story is being reported by a number of news sources. The quotations below are from The Times of Israel. The article includes several photos.

“Israel Antiquity Authority archaeologists announced Monday that for the past two years they have been excavating and exposing a massive eight-meter deep section of Jerusalem’s Western Wall, unseen for 1,700 years.

And in the course of their work, which has been quietly proceeding directly beneath Wilson’s Arch — the area immediately adjacent to the men’s section of the Western Wall — they unexpectedly discovered a small Roman theater.

[…]

The work is set to continue for another six months, and the expectation is that First Temple-era findings will be uncovered. When the work is completed, the site will be opened to the public.

The findings of the archaeologists are interesting, and as is often the case, not entirely clear or consistent. Here are a few highlights:

  • The dating of the theater is not clearly stated, but it appears that it was built after the destruction of the temple in AD 70.
  • The theater went out of use following an earthquake in 360.
  • The construction of the theater was never finished.
  • The theater seated 200-300 people.
  • The theater may have been used as a bouleuterion or as an odeon.
  • Wilson’s Arch served as the roof for the theater.
  • Excavations will continue below the theater with hopes of discovering remains from the First Temple Period.
  • The archaeologists will present more of their findings at a conference this week at Hebrew University.

Read the full story here. High-resolution photos are available here.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Roman-theater-Western-Wall-IAA

Roman theater with archaeologist Joe Uziel
Photograph: Yaniv Berman, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Weekend Roundup

I am traveling this weekend, and so this edition is shorter than usual. I’ll pick up any stories I missed next weekend.

Solomon’s Pools will be renovated with a $750,000 grant from the US Consulate in Jerusalem with hopes of turning it into a major tourism site.

An ancient inscription may provide contemporary evidence for the migration of the Philistines and other Sea Peoples, if it is authentic.

“Archaeologists have unearthed a 2,000-year-old olive oil mill in the ancient city of Tripolis in southwestern Turkey.”

The latest issue of Biblical Archaeology Review includes the sad news that Hershel Shanks is retiring after 42 years and turning editorship over to Robert Cargill. Shanks is 87.

Accordance Bible Software is running a sale that includes a 25% off any one item deal. You could use it for one of their photo collections, including The American Colony Collection or Views That Have Vanished.

Wayne Stiles explains the relationship between the Pool of Siloam, the Feast of Tabernacles, and the Messiah.

“The Dead Sea Scrolls at 70” is the title of a free conference that is being held at New York University on November 16-17. Speakers include Jodi Magness, Lawrence Schiffman, and many others.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is hosting a “Foothills of Judah” Conference on November 13-14. Speakers include Itzhaq Shai, Steven Ortiz, and Chris McKinny.

John DeLancey is blogging his way through his current Greece Tour.

Israel’s Good Name recently visited Sachne (aka “Heaven on earth”) and explored some interesting sites in the area.

On Monday the Israel Antiquities Authority is hosting a press conference to reveal discoveries made in the last two years underneath Wilson’s Arch in the Western Wall Tunnels. I’ll post the story on the blog when I have it.

HT: Ted Weis, Joseph Lauer, Agade

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

New Review of the Photo Companion to the Gospels

Pastor Jimmy Reagan writes about ministry and books on The Reagan Review and he has just posted a helpful review of the new Photo Companion to the Gospels. Here’s how it begins:

Wow! I hardly know what to say about this phenomenal collection of photographs on the Gospels. Over the years, I’ve seen attractive photos in books I have and noticed the name Todd Bolen in the photo credits. I had even heard others reference a website called BiblePlaces.com and talk about wonderful photo collections that could be purchased there. Now that I have Photo Companion to the Bible: The Gospels in my hands I know what all the hype was about. For the record, the hype was fully justified.

All 89 chapters of the four Gospels are covered by more than 10,000 pictures. I suppose the most common usage for this resource would be for those who want to create sharp PowerPoint presentations. For that use, there’s nothing free on the Internet that even comes close to what we have here. Putting up a slide for a sermon on some passage in the Gospels will now be greatly upgraded for those who possess this resource.

I see another use for this product that may not be as often discussed...

You can read the rest of the review at his site. While you’re there, you might want to poke around and read some of his other posts, including those in the categories of archaeology, Bible atlases, and Bible history.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Inside the Photo Companion to the Bible: The Labels

Last week we began this new series to highlight some new features in the Photo Companion to the Bible. We think this series will benefit both those considering purchasing the collection as well as those who already own it but have not yet seen its full potential.

One of the most useful features, we believe, is the labeling of images to identify significant landmarks on the images. Our practice with labeled slides is to include the image without labels as well so that no details are hidden. (All labels may also be individually modified or deleted.)

herod's-palace-labeled-Luke23_thumb[2]

The slide above shows the area of Herod’s palace overlaid on top of an aerial view of Jerusalem from the west. I would guess that few visitors realize that Herod’s palace covered a large portion of the modern Armenian Quarter. Though little of his palace is visible today, the “Phasael tower” still stands on the northern side as a testimony to its former greatness.

Jacobs-well-labeled-John4_thumb[2]

We particularly love to label panoramas, for we know well how difficult it is for our students to see all that is out there, especially on a day that is hazy or when the sun is in your eyes. The above image was taken from Mount Gerizim overlooking the area where Jesus spoke with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. This perspective, with its labels, helps us to see the relationship of the woman’s hometown (Sychar) with the well and other nearby sites of significance.

Sea-of-Galilee-shoreline-Mark1-labeled_thumb[2]

Tourist buses can be so harmful to understanding the Bible. I wonder how many Christian pilgrims have failed to realize just how close the Mount of Beatitudes is to Heptapegon (Tabgha) and Capernaum. The acoustical wonder known as the “Cove of the Sower” sits right in the midst of all of these!

Pools-of-Bethesda-John5-labeled_thumb[2]

Our new collection of the Gospels provides a number of illustrations of the Pools of Bethesda, but I’ve chosen to skip the aerial views here and feature one that every visitor sees. Yet the scene is such an archaeological mishmash of ancient, less ancient (Byzantine), and almost modern (Crusader) that most people simply give up and head for the singing in the nearby St. Anne’s Church. The labeled slide above distinguishes the location of the southern pool and central portico (of the New Testament times) from the Byzantine church built on top.

Temple-Mount-Treasury-Mark12-labeled_thumb[2]

Our last one today is very simple, but quite helpful. You can read the account of Jesus watching the widow drop her mite into the offering (Mark 12:41), but a slide like this makes it clear where all of this activity was going on. The photo above shows the Temple Mount on the first-century model at the Israel Museum, and the Court of the Women is labeled as the location of the temple treasury. (In the notes we credit the Ritmeyers’ guidebook for this identification.)

We have labeled photographs in our Pictorial Library of Bible Lands and Historic Views of the Holy Land collections, but we think they are particularly useful in the context of biblical verses as presented in the Photo Companion to the Bible.

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Sunday, October 08, 2017

Weekend Roundup, Part 2

“The ancient city of Ephesus . . . is set to once again have a harbor on the Aegean coast, according to an ambitious new project.”

Archaeologists working at Saqqara in Egypt have discovered a portion of a large obelisk from the Old Kingdom period.

The rulers of Gaza are systematically destroying one of the earliest archaeological sites in the Gaza Strip.

“There is a growing emerging consensus among Dead Sea Scroll scholars that many of the fragments in the private collections are fakes.”

Atlas Obscura has a brief, illustrated article on the Tophet of Carthage.

“A Dartmouth-led study has demonstrated how the latest aerial thermal imagery is transforming archaeology due to advancements in technology.”

Yeshiva University Museum is hosting an international conference on “The Arch of Titus – from Jerusalem to Rome, and Back.”

Prior to its opening in November, the Museum of the Bible will be hosting a scholarly panel to “discuss evolutionary process for developing content” as well as addressing questions about disputed artifacts in their collection.

Yale students are “touring” Nimrud before it was destroyed via a new VR system. The story includes a 4-minute video.

A new free MOOC from Bar Ilan University on “The Bible in Light of the Ancient Near East” begins later this month. Some video previews are available: 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5.

Israel’s Good Name reports on his recent visit to Apollonia (Arsuf).

Kenneth Holum, whose work included directing excavations of Caesarea, died last month.

HT: Paleojudaica, Joseph Lauer, Agade

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Saturday, October 07, 2017

Weekend Roundup, Part 1

Robert Mullins has written an update on the major discoveries at Abel Beth Maacah after 5 years of excavation.

A head of an Akhenaten statue has been discovered in excavations at Tel el-Amarna.

Some medieval artifacts were seized in Turkey, including a gold seal attributed to Solomon. James Davila provides some commentary.

The Jerusalem Post profiles the Temple Mount Sifting Project.

Mordechai Aviam and R. Steven Notley make a case that el-Araj should now be considered the leading candidate for the site of Bethsaida-Julias.

Appian Media has released a “sneak peek” from an upcoming upside in the “Following the Messiah” series with an acoustical experiment at the Cove of the Sower.

With the water level of the Sea of Galilee nearly at an all-time low, Ferrell Jenkins illustrates the dramatic difference with several photos of Heptapegon.

David Moster will be lecturing on “The Jordan River and the Two Half-Tribes of Manasseh” in NYC on Nov 14. (We noted some of David’s work on the Jordan River here last year.)

Ben Witherington is on The Book and the Spade talking about his newest book, A Week in the Fall of Jerusalem.

HT: Paleojudaica, Joseph Lauer, Agade

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Thursday, October 05, 2017

Jordan Study Tour 2018

I’ve recommended Ginger Caessens’s study tour of Jordan in the past, and I’ve always received enthusiastic reviews from those who participated. Of course, I’m not surprised because I participated on this outstanding trip more than a dozen years ago.

The UHL website has all the details, including a full itinerary, but here’s the short version:

A ton of biblical history occurred in Jordan and if you don’t see it, you will miss it. There is no better program on the planet than that offered by UHL and taught by Dr. Caessens. If you want to see all the major biblical sites in Gilead, Ammon, Moab, and Edom, and you want to understand what you’re seeing, this is your trip. There are all kinds of people who go back to Israel their third, fourth, or tenth time and they’re not going on this trip, and I just don’t understand that. Maybe they just don’t realize that it was in the (modern-day) country of Jordan where:

  • Jacob wrestled at the Jabbok
  • The Israelites looked on the bronze serpent
  • The Israelites defeated the army of Sihon
  • Moses spoke the book of Deuteronomy
  • Moses viewed the land from Mount Nebo
  • Gideon pursued the Midianites
  • Jephthah fought the Ammonites (and then his daughter)
  • Ruth married Naomi’s son
  • Saul delivered the city of Jabesh Gilead
  • Uriah the Hittite died because of David’s treachery
  • David fled from his son Absalom
  • Ahab was killed by the Arameans
  • Jehoshaphat fought the Moabites
  • Jehu launched his coup
  • Elijah was born and later ascended into heaven
  • The prophets spoke against Ammon, Moab, and Edom
  • John the Baptist ministered and baptized
  • Herod Antipas beheaded John the Baptist
  • Jesus traveled through Perea

And I didn’t even mention the Medeba Map, Wadi Rum, or Petra.

You’re missing half of the story by not studying the east side of the Jordan River.

It’s worth your time, and it’s worth your money. Download an application here.

Amman citadel fortification eastern wall, tb031115005

The ancient citadel of Rabbath-Ammon where Uriah was killed

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Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Inside the Photo Companion to the Bible: The Coins

Today I’m going to begin a short series that provides an inside look at some of the features of the new Photo Companion to the Bible. I think that both those who already own the collection and those who are considering the investment will find these posts helpful.

One of the questions we’ve been asked is whether the Photo Companion to the Bible is just a “remix” of photos included in our other collections. This is a good question, for way back when we conceived this project, we expected it to be primarily a re-arrangement of our images in biblical book, chapter, and verse sequence.

In the years since, however, we’ve significantly expanded our ambitions to include several new categories of photographs. One new group is numismatics, and this is particularly useful in many New Testament books.

Quite a few New Testament rulers minted their own coins, and several are portrayed on those coins. This provides a closer connection to these individuals than what we may have from photographs of landscapes, cities, and buildings.

herod-coin-matt2-ppt

King Herod minted many coins during his 37-year reign, including the coin shown above. This 8-prutot coin has an inscription on the reverse (on right) which reads ΗΡΩΔΟΥ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ (“of King Herod”), and the date is given as L (“year”) Γ (“3”). Herod’s third year was 38/37 BC. A depiction of a tripod and incense bowl is featured in the center. The obverse side depicts a Macedonian-style helmet wreathed with acanthus leaves with cheek pieces and straps (most likely Herod’s personal helmet), a star above the helmet, and palm branches to the sides. It is noteworthy that unlike some of his descendants, King Herod never depicted himself or another person on his coins probably out of deference for his Jewish subjects.

agrippa-coin-acts26-ppt-slide

King Herod’s grandson Agrippa I is mentioned in Acts 12. Shortly before he was struck down by God, he minted a coin (above) depicting his young son, Agrippa II. The obverse side of this coin depicts the bare head of a youthful Agrippa II. On either side of the head are the letters L (“year”) and Ε (“5”), i.e., AD 40/41. Agrippa II was about 12 or 13 at this time.

It’s amazing to think that this image shows the same person that Paul would later testify before in Acts 26, declaring that “I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains” (Acts 26:29).

The inscription around the head is worn, but reads ΑΓΡΙΠΠΑ ΥΙΟΥ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΑΓΡΙΠΠΑ (“of Agrippa, the son of King Agrippa”). The reverse depicts double cornucopias, crossed at the bases, surrounded by the text ΒΑΣ ΑΓΡΙΠΠΑΣ ΦΙΛΟΚΑΙΣΑΡ (“King Agrippa, friend of Caesar”).

denarius-matt22

Coins are also mentioned a number of times in the Gospels as an element of daily life. Jesus told a parable about men who agreed to work a day for a denarius (Matt 20:1-16) and another about a woman who lost one of her ten drachmas (Luke 15:8). Peter caught a fish with a four-drachma (shekel) coin in its mouth (Matt 17:27). And after asking his interlocutors to hold up a coin, Jesus taught that his followers should pay taxes to Caesar (Luke 20:23-25).

As much as we are able, we are photographing coins that will provide as complete of a photographic companion to the Bible as possible. The Gospels collection includes dozens of numismatic images from around the world, with a significant number (including the top two shown above) from the Jared James Clark Collection.

The book of Acts (now in development) will benefit greatly from images of coins, as will the seven churches in Revelation. Perhaps the chapter to benefit the most, when we get there, is Daniel 11 with its amazing prophecy of Seleucid and Ptolemaic rulers in the intertestamental period. Many people are not aware of the extensive numismatic evidence and how it contributes to our understanding of the Bible. We hope that the Photo Companion to the Bible will play a part in helping to bridge the gap.

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Sunday, October 01, 2017

Weekend Roundup

Archaeologists have discovered a Jewish settlement under an abandoned military base near the town of Beit El.

Excavation of a tomb near Jerusalem’s Biblical Zoo uncovered an “afterlife snack pack of nine decapitated toads.”

A lost city of Alexander the Great has been identified at Qalatga Darband, six miles from Iraqi Kurdistan.

The Yeshiva University Museum recently opened a new exhibition, “The Arch of Titus – from Jerusalem to Rome, and Back.”

The Brooklyn Museum has just opened “Soulful Creatures: Animal Mummies in Ancient Egypt.”

The Arab World Institute Museum in Paris is hosting through January 2018 the exhibition, “Oriental Christians: 2,000 Years of History,” featuring artifacts never before displayed in Europe.

BYU has constructed a full-size tabernacle replica.

“The Center for Ancient Middle Eastern Landscapes (CAMEL) at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago is pleased to present the Anatolian Atlas, an online resource for geographical data related to the archaeology of Anatolia (ancient Turkey).”

The IWC at Tel Aviv University has announced its lecture schedule for the fall all centered around the theme “Jerusalem.”

Malka Z. Simkovich tries to explain why Christian monks copied Jewish manuscripts.

Bill Schlegel has created a new video showing sites in Benjamin from the air.

Wayne Stiles explains the value of using maps in your Bible study.

In light of his recent visit to el-Araj, John DeLancey discusses the two proposed locations for Bethsaida.

Ferrell Jenkins has written a well-illustrated post on Barclay’s Gate in the Western Wall. I suspect that most visitors don’t even know that it exists.

New release: Qedem 57: The Temple Mount Excavations in Jerusalem 1968-1978, Directed by Benjamin Mazar. Final Reports Volume V. Herodian Architectural Decoration and King Herod's Portico.

Eisenbrauns is selling all available volumes of Excavations and Surveys in Israel for $5 each (with a few restrictions).

The population of Israel is now 8.7 million, including 6.5 million Jews and 1.8 million Arabs.

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

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