Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Outstanding Archaeology Resources for Accordance

Accordance Bible Software has some terrific resources related to archaeology on sale this week. If you haven’t already added these to your collection, this is a great opportunity to do so. I’m particularly fond of these first two photo sets:

Historic Views of the Holy Land: Bible Places—American Colony Collection – more than 4,000 spectacular photos, many of scenes you’ll never seen again. The sale has reduced the price from $149 to $99.90.

Historic Views of the Holy Land: Bible Places—Views That Have Vanished – another collection that is close to my heart. Nearly every day I come across these images as I browse through my broader collection searching and I just love these early color photographs taken by the wonderful David Bivin. Now reduced to $26.90!

The sale includes some other outstanding resources, including (1) Archaeological Study Bible Notes – I took many of these photographs and wrote some of the articles; (2) Biblical Archaeology Review Archive – hundreds of issues of the best archaeology magazine instantly searchable; and (3) the one and only The Sacred Bridge, 2nd edition, for only $109.

These resources will pay you back in deeper knowledge and valuable illustrations many, many times over for years to come. And the search capabilities of Accordance makes it so much easier to find what you are looking for. All of the details are here. The sale ends on the 15th.

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Monday, April 07, 2014

Tiberias Today

If you haven’t been on a tour of Tiberias in the last decade, you have a lot to catch up on with the work of various excavation projects. Shmuel Browns has a well-illustrated summary of some of the important discoveries, including:

  • The decorative gate of Herod Antipas
  • The main street of the city in use for 700 years
  • The Roman theater built by Herod Antipas
  • A Roman temple (Hadrianeum)
  • A Byzantine monastery and church

His post also includes a number of interesting historical details about the city.

For some interesting descriptions and illustrations of Tiberias in the 19th century, check out Life in the Holy Land.

Mount Hermon from Tiberias, mat08928

Tiberias, the Sea of Galilee, and Mount Hermon
Photo from Northern Palestine

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Egyptian Museum To Be Renovated

From the Associated Press:

Egypt unveiled Friday a multimillion dollar renovation project for Cairo’s famed Egyptian Museum, including plans to demolish a scorched building that stands between it and the Nile, in a bid to draw tourists back and restore a sense of normalcy after more than two years of unrest.

Organizers said they want to return the dusty 111-year-old museum to its former glory by painting the walls and covering the floors in their original colors and patterns.

The lighting and security systems also will be upgraded to meet international standards, Minister of Antiquities Mohammed Ibrahim said, announcing the plan during a news conference in the museum’s leafy courtyard. The displays also will be rearranged, although he did not give details about how.

One of the museum’s most famous exhibits, King Tutankhamun’s treasures, will be moved to a new Grand Egyptian museum that is being built near the Giza pyramids. It is scheduled to be completed in 2015.

Along with the overall tourist industry, the museum has suffered in large part due to its location near Tahrir Square, the epicenter of protests and frequent clashes since the start of the 2011 revolution that ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Violence spiked again after the July 3 military coup that ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

But the interim government that has assumed power is struggling to regain control of the streets and bring back the visitors who long made Egypt a top tourist spot.

Ibrahim said the ministry’s revenues, including the entrance fees from tourist sites, fell from 111 million Egyptian pounds in October 2010 to 7 million Egyptian pounds ($1.14 million) in October 2013.

“From Tahrir, on a Friday, we are sending a positive message to the entire world: Egypt is doing well,” Ibrahim said on the anniversary of the museum’s inauguration in 1902.

The full story describes the anticipated cost and the involvement of an international team.

HT: Jack Sasson

Cairo Museum, exterior, mat01484

Cairo Museum, early 1900s
Photo from The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection

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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Picture of the Week: The American Colony and the 1917 Surrender

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

Last week we provided a brief history of the American Colony and G. Eric Matson.  Before we move to the next collection in the Historic Views of the Holy Land series, there is one other story about the American Colony that I have to share.

Due to their reputation for organizing charitable work, their connections with the local authorities, and their location within the city of Jerusalem, the American Colony was able to play a role in some of the major historical events of their day.  Last week I mentioned that they were involved in the visit of Kaiser Wilhelm.  Another example is the following story about the day that the mayor of Jerusalem surrendered to the British in 1917:


The final approach of the British forces to Jerusalem, in December 1917, and the subsequent surrender of the city, involved American Colony personnel in a number of curious and fascinating ways. For one, it gave rise to perhaps the most memorable of all American Colony photographs, that of the "first" surrender—by some counts there were as many as five!—of the city of Jerusalem in World War I. By the morning of December 9th Turkish army units had completely withdrawn from Jerusalem and the Turkish governor, Izzat Pasha, fleeing shortly before dawn (in a horse-drawn carriage borrowed from the Colony!), left in the hands of the mayor a letter of formal surrender, including an order that not a shot was to be fired in the city‘s defense. Thus, that Sunday morning the city‘s Arab mayor, Hassain Effendi al-Husseini, armed with the Pasha‘s letter of capitulation, set out to turn the city over to the British. On his way he first stopped to inform his close neighbors at the American Colony, where he had once been a student and was still a frequent visitor. Stopping first at the Big House he encountered Lewis and Edith Larsson, then proceeded to the nearby Vester house where his good friend Anna Spafford was then in residence. In the meantime, Larsson grabbed his camera, his three-year-old son, and a young assistant and hurried to join the mayor‘s growing group in Jaffa Road. In the process, someone from the American Colony—accounts differ as to who—fashioned the requisite white flag of surrender: a bed-sheet from one of the Colony-run hospitals nailed to a broomstick.
Near the village of Lifta on the western fringes of Jerusalem, the party encountered the British forward units, and the mayor tried to "surrender" to two sergeants on sentry duty. While they were waiting for higher-ranking officers to arrive, Larsson immortalized the moment with his camera, a scene showing the mayor, his entourage of municipal officers and Turkish policemen, Sergeants Hurcomb and Sedgewick of the Londoners, and the white bed-sheet flag—the famous image of the "first" surrender of Jerusalem. In the ensuing few hours, al-Husseini also "surrendered" to two artillery officers; to their commander, a Lieutenant Colonel Bailey; and then to Brigadier General C. F. Watson. Some of the local leaders asked Watson, as the ranking officer on the scene, to show himself to the populace in order to help quell some looting that had already broken out. Thus it was that Watson appeared with the mayor at Jaffa Gate and there (according to at least one version) accepted the mayor's surrender document .... On this occasion, Larsson managed to take more photos, including an "official" shot of Watson opening the letter of surrender, with Mayor Husseini and others standing beside him. This all occurred by about 10 a.m....  
Larsson also managed to save the makeshift truce flag, which eventually found its way to the Imperial War Museum in London.

Quotation from Tom Powers, "Jerusalem's American Colony and Its Photographic Legacy," (essay included in The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection, 2009), pp. 35-36, 38. This photo and over 400 others are included in Volume 7 of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection, and can be purchased here with free shipping.  For more information on the surrender of Jerusalem, see my previous post here.

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Picture of the Week: The American Colony and Eric Matson

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

The last few weeks we have been examining photographs from The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection.  The pictures have ranged from Lower Beth Horon to Gerasa, from the damming of the Nile to the flooding of the Jordan, and from the interior of Barclay's Gate to the Locust Plague of 1915.  We are indebted to the work of the American Colony and Eric Matson for these photographs.  This week we will focus briefly on the American Colony itself.

The American Colony started as an American religious group that migrated to Jerusalem in 1881 under the leadership of Horatio Spafford, author of the well-known hymn "It Is Well with My Soul."  This group was known for charitable work throughout its existence.  In 1896, a significant number of Swedish immigrants joined the group (again, for religious reasons) and the group was able to develop some projects that provided some consistent income for the community.  The photography department became especially lucrative when the group was granted special permission from the German government to photograph the trip of Kaiser Wilhelm to Jerusalem in 1898.  Due to their coverage of that trip and the use of their photographs in newspapers around the world, the photography department earned recognition worldwide.  In subsequent years, the photographers of the American Colony went on several expeditions to capture pictures of various peoples and places.

For example, the photo below is from an expedition to Egypt, and captures what was surely one of the highlights from that trip: an American Colony photographer is standing near the top of one of the pyramids of Giza readying his camera and tripod.  The photo was taken sometime between 1900 and 1920.


There was a split within the American Colony in 1930, and at that time the photography business was handed over to one of the members of the photography staff: G. Eric Matson. Matson kept the department going until 1934 when he and his wife left the community. Then he started his own business called the Matson Photo Service.  He continued to add new photographs to the thousands of pictures that the American Colony had collected over the years.  Below is a picture of Matson and several others from the American Colony on the day of his wedding in 1924.


In 1946, Matson and his wife moved to America bringing most of the collection with him, and in 1966 he donated the whole collection to the Library of Congress. Finally, in the early years of the 21st century, digital copies of the American Colony and Eric Matson Collection were collected, edited, and organized by a Bible teacher named Todd Bolen, with the help of some faithful friends.  Bolen's edition of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection is available for purchase at LifeintheHolyLand.com.

These photographs, along with over 250 others, are available in Volume 8 of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection which can be purchased here for $15 with free shipping.  This volume of the collection features various people that lived in the Holy Land during the early 20th century: Arabs, Jews, Christians, Bedouin, and many others.

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Picture of the Week: Gerasa in the 1920s

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

What is it about old photographs that make them so fascinating? 

I think part of the answer lies in our natural curiosity about the past.  What did things look like back then?  And to a student of archaeology, old photographs of archaeological sites can be especially fascinating because it raises the question: What did things look like when the first archaeologists stepped onto the scene?

Our picture of the week comes from Volume 4 of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection, which focuses on Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. In the photo below, you can see the southern theater and the forum at Gerasa (a.k.a., Jerash) in the modern country of Jordan.  Gerasa was one of the cities of the Decapolis, and "the country of the Gerasenes" is mentioned in Mark 5:1, Luke 8:26, and Luke 8:37.


The photo was taken sometime between 1920 and 1933. Another early photograph of the forum can be found here on LifeintheHolyLand.com. By way of contrast, this page on BiblePlaces.com shows you what Gerasa looks like today, after the archaeologists have excavated, cleaned up, and reconstructed these ruins. The differences between then and now are striking.

The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection is a wealth of information and has a variety of uses:

  • For the archaeologist, this collection provides photographs of early digs and of sites as they looked before excavations. For better or worse, this was an age when a lone scholar stood over a team of local workers who moved tons of dirt in a single season (and this practice can be seen in the collection). Yet this was also a period when things were fresh and exciting as archaeologists were digging into sites for the first time.
  • For the preacher and teacher, this collection provides additional material which can be used to transport your listeners back to a culture and landscape similar to biblical times. It also can be used to discuss geography or illustrate particular sites.
  • For the historian, this collection provides windows into this dramatic period of history. This was the period of the late Ottoman Empire and the British Mandate when Jewish immigrants were migrating to Palestine and establishing new settlements. It was also a time when technology was on the rise: electric stations and telephone stations were being built, railroads were being constructed, and automobiles and airplanes were coming onto the scene.
  • For the artist and graphic designer, this collection provides many beautiful, crisp, black & white photos of places in the Holy Land that can be used in a variety of ways.  These photos still capture people's attention and fire their imaginations.
This photograph and over 700 others are available in Volume 4 of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection and can be purchased here for $20 (with free shipping).  Historic images of other Roman cities can be seen here, here, and here on LifeintheHolyLand.com.

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Thursday, February 07, 2013

Picture of the Week: Jordan River Flooding in 1935

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

Joshua 3:15 makes the following comment in passing: "now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest" (ESV). In the context of this chapter, Israel is about to cross into the Promised Land over a miraculously dry riverbed and this comment is included to give greater significance to the miracle. But before you rush to the Jordan with your camera during the next harvest season to snap a photo of this natural phenomena, let me save you some shekels by telling you that the flooding of the Jordan River is not something that happens today.

According to a 2010 report about the Jordan River (noted previously on this blog here), the Jordan River contains only 3% of the water that it did 100 years ago.  According to that report, the river discharged 1.3 billion cubic meters of water in the 19th and early 20th centuries (but see a more conservative estimate in the quotation below from the Encyclopaedia Judaica).  The report contrasts this with the current discharge of the river which is 20 to 30 million cubic meters.  Or to put it in numerical form:

  • 1,300,000,000 cubic meters per year in the past.
  •     30,000,000 cubic meters per year today.
 So "overflowing all its banks" is not a phrase that is typically used when describing the Jordan River today.

Fortunately, we have photographs from the first half of the 20th century that can help us illustrate this biblical phrase.  Our picture of the week (and a bonus picture) come from Volume 3 of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection which focuses on Southern Palestine.  To show the contrast in the river's levels, I have included two photos from that collection.  The first photo is a picture of the newly constructed Allenby Bridge with the Jordan River flowing peacefully about 30 feet below it.  (As a side note, this is not the Allenby Bridge/King Hussein Bridge used today, but merely a forerunner of the modern bridge.)


The date of the photograph above is around 1920.  The photograph below was taken in February, 1935.  This was an unusually high year for the Jordan River and it "overflowed all its banks," damaging and destroying surrounding buildings and roads.


If you look closely in the upper right section of the photo you can see the Allenby Bridge with its bottom edge touching the water.  A closer view of the bridge can be seen in another photo from the collection which is posted here.

This flood year is mentioned in passing in the Encyclopaedia Judaica:

The Jordan discharges c. 875 million cu. m. into the Dead Sea a year; its yearly fluctuations are great and are caused mainly by the Yarmuk: in 1933, 287 million cu. m. and in 1935, 1,313 million cu. m.

According to this statistic, the Jordan River discharged 50% more water that year than the yearly average.  There is no way of knowing how much water was discharged during the year that Joshua and the Israelites crossed, but we can be certain that the photograph above is a much better illustration of how it looked than any picture that could be taken today.

Fortunately the future of the Jordan River is looking brighter.  This last summer, this blog noted a report about a plan by Israel to divert some additional water to Jordan River (see post here).  Perhaps future generations will again be able to see the Jordan overflow its banks.

These photographs and over 550 others are available in Volume 3 of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection and can be purchased here for $20 (with free shipping).  Other historic images of the Jordan River can be seen here and here on LifeintheHolyLand.com, as well as a page devoted to illustrating Joshua and the Israelites "Entering the Promised Land" here

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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Picture of the Week: Interior of Barclay's Gate

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

This was a difficult week to come up with a photo to share.  The problem wasn't due to a lack of good material ... the problem was that there were too many good photos available!

This week's photo comes from Volume 2 of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection, which focuses on Jerusalem.  These are photographs of Jerusalem taken in the first half of the 20th century before many of the modern developments were built.  So much has changed in the city since that time (both physically and politically) that this volume is a gold mine of material for Jerusalem studies.

Here is a list of some of the photos I could have chosen for this week's post:

  • The City of David when it was still being used for farmland.
  • A German zeppelin hovering over the Old City.
  • The interior of the Golden Gate on the Temple Mount.
  • The interior of the Double Gate on the Temple Mount.
  • The interior of Solomon's Stables in the Temple Mount (but see here for a similar photo).
  • The interior of the Hurvah Synagogue before it was destroyed in the War of Independence.
  • The Pool of Hezekiah filled with water instead of trash (but see here for similar images).
  • Sealed entrances to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
  • The short-lived and aesthetically questionable clock tower built on top of Jaffa Gate (but see here for a previous post on that subject).
  • Remains of a Crusader-period monastery in the Kidron Valley, a small portion of which was only briefly excavated in 1937 and then buried again.
  • Crowfoot and Fitzgerald's 1927-28 excavations in the City of David.
  • A smog-free landscape looking east which includes the Hinnom Valley, Mt. Zion, the Judean Wilderness, the Dead Sea, and the mountains of Moab.
  • The Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall as they looked before the War of Independence (but see here for a similar photo).
Instead, I will present the following rare photo of the interior of Barclay's Gate (or at least the top section of the gate) on the western side of the Temple Mount, taken sometime between 1940 and 1946.

 
Barclay's Gate was one of the entrances to the Temple Mount during the Second Temple Period (the time of Jesus and the apostles). A modern photo of the outside of Barclay's Gate, in the women's area of the Western Wall Plaza, can be seen here.  Only the stone that formed the lintel is visible today from the outside.  In the PowerPoint notes included in the collection, Tom Powers explains what we can see in the photograph above:

This fascinating photograph (looking northwest) shows a room lying beneath the surface of the Temple Mount (to Muslims, the Haram esh-Sharif, or “Noble Sanctuary”). This space was the subject of several descriptions and drawings by 19th century explorers but has rarely been seen by Westerners—or photographed. Much better known, actually, is the opposite side of the thick wall seen here at the end of the vaulted room: it is the massive lintel and blocked opening of an original western entrance of the Herodian Temple Mount, the so-called “Barclay’s Gate” partially visible in the very southern end of today’s Western Wall (women’s prayer area).  
The ancient gate was identified in modern times by James T. Barclay, an American Protestant medical missionary and amateur explorer of Jerusalem’s ancient places. In the course of recounting his identification of the exterior gate elements, Barclay also described the space pictured here: 
“During the period of my admission into the Haram enclosure I discovered in this immediate vicinity, on the interior, a portion of a closed gateway, about fourteen or fifteen feet wide; but whether it is connected with that on the exterior, I was not enabled to determine, for the guards became so much exasperated by my infidel desecration of the sacred room, el-Borak, where the great prophet tied his mule on that memorable night of the Hegira, that it was deemed the part of prudence to tarry there but a short time and never to visit it again . . . . Only the upper portion of the gateway can be seen—the lower part being excluded from view by a room, the roof or top of which is formed by the floor of this small apartment.”
-- James Barclay, City of the Great King (1857), pp. 490-91 
In the passage quoted above Barclay, alas, garbles some elements of the Muslim tradition (he calls the mythical beast a “mule” and confuses Mohammed’s Night Journey with the hegira, his flight from Mecca to Medina). Nonetheless, his notion that this “small apartment” might be connected to the gate he had identified from the outside was correct, as confirmed by other explorers only several years later. Barclay was also correct that the mosque occupied only the uppermost part of the gateway. But, whereas Barclay presumed the existence of a lower room, the mosque actually overlies a great volume of debris deposits (or fill) behind the blocked gate. 
In this photo, the vaulting overhead is the top of the Herodian gate passage, and the dark line in the masonry of the far wall (beneath the shallow arch) corresponds to the bottom of the great lintel (apparently the lintel itself is not visible). Experts estimate the height of the Herodian gate opening, from sill to lintel, at 25 to 30 feet (7.8 to 9.3m), with the sill lying only a few yards (meters) above the Herodian street. Thus, in the original gate passage here, a broad stairway no doubt ascended (far beneath the floor shown here) toward the east and the surface of the Temple Mount. The original passage ran eastward from the western wall for at least 70 feet (22 m), but it was reconfigured and altered in many ways over the ages. For example, the distinctive arch of chamfered voussoirs (beveled and molded arch-stones) seen here, and others like it, point to a major redesign and rebuilding of the passage in Omayyad times (7th-8th centuries), when the gate was still open and in use. Since the Arab chronicler Al-Muqadassi in 985 still lists the gate (called by him, and all previous Arab sources, Bab Hitta) among the active entrances into the Haram, it must have gone out of use and was blocked sometime after that date. The eastern part of the passage was walled off at some point, plastered, and used as a cistern. 
The “al-Buraq” Mosque pictured here, again, is built into the vaulted internal gate passage of Barclay’s Gate, along the western wall and inside the Haram (Temple Mount) enclosure. It is situated immediately next to the Mughrabi Gate, to the north, and below the level of the Haram platform, from which it is accessed by the two flights of stairs pictured here. The Matson-supplied date for this photo is 1940 to 1946, and the mosque apparently still exists today. ... 

This photograph and over 650 others are available in Volume 2 of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection and can be purchased here for $25 (with free shipping).  Other historic photos can be seen on various pages of LifeintheHolyLand.com.  You can find the links the Jerusalem pages in the left column of the homepage.

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Picture of the Week: Lower Beth Horon in the Early 20th Century

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

It is impossible to send a photographer back to biblical times to capture the sights that were familiar to Abraham, David, and Peter...but a photographer taking pictures in the early 20th century could come pretty close.

Our picture of the week comes from Volume 1 of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection.  This is a remarkable collection of photographs from the first half of the 20th century.  I had a hand in the early stages of this project, working through and cataloging thousands of photos.  It was a remarkable experience and in the process I learned much about the cultures of that period, the daily life of the inhabitants, the notable events of the day, and the various archaeological sites.  The collection published by LifeInTheHolyLand.com is a selection of the best of the photographs taken by the American Colony and Eric Matson.  Over 4,000 photos from Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt are presented in eight volumes. We will spend the next few weeks highlighting a photo from each volume. LifeInTheHolyLand.com describes the collection in this way:

Founded in 1881 by Horatio Spafford (author of the famous hymn, It is Well With My Soul), the American Colony in Jerusalem operated a thriving photographic enterprise for almost four decades. Their images document the land and its people, with a special emphasis on biblical and archaeological sites, inspirational scenes, and historic events. One of the photographers, G. Eric Matson, inherited the archive, adding to it his own later work through the “Matson Photo Service.”

As you spend time in the collection, you really do feel like you have stepped back in time.  The landscapes are picturesque because buildings are sparse or non-existent and the air is free from smog. The local villages are full of primitive dwellings while the new churches, hospitals, and municipal buildings are pristine.  You see dirt roads, horse-drawn carriages, boats powered by wind, and people walking from one town to the next.  Archaeological sites are untouched by the excavator's spade or are being subjected to excavation for first time.  What an amazing time to be a photographer in the land of the Bible!


For example, as I was looking through Volume 1 the picture above stood out to me.  Two women are walking barefoot along a narrow, dirt path in the hills of Ephraim, balancing water jugs on their heads.  Behind them is the small town of Lower Beth Horon surrounded by farmland and a handful of trees.  You can almost feel the silence that must have hung in the air in this sleepy countryside.  Such a scene must have been familiar during the biblical period, and a photo such as this has the ability to transport us back to biblical times and to help us read Scripture in its historical context.

This photograph and 600 others are available in Volume 1 of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection and can be purchased here for $20 (with free shipping).  Volume 1 focuses on "Northern Palestine," and other photos from the volume can be seen here, here, and elsewhere on LifeInTheHolyLand.com.  Images and information about other work carried out by women during this period can be found here.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Big Discount on American Colony Collection for Accordance

Accordance Bible Software has just announced an End of Year Sale which includes $40 off the American Colony Collection. This is one of the “staff favorites,” and Martha Holladay writes,

My favorite module is the BP American Colony.  The ability to view photos which illustrate the way the land looked in Biblical times helps bring Bible study alive.  Also, the historical views of Israel before modern technology and the founding of the nation are fascinating.  This module is an excellent resource for teaching illustrations as well.

I agree! The Accordance edition of this collection has a number of improvements over the original edition, and this is a great deal for a limited time.88866-m

Recreation of feast in fields of Bethlehem, such as described in the book of Ruth

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Friday, October 05, 2012

Recommended: The Land and the Book

One of my book sets that was acquired through some measure of trial and tribulation is William Thomson’s The Land and the Book. If you’ve done much reading of ancient customs and how they may illuminate the Bible, then you’ve certainly heard of this three-volume work if you haven’t read it yourself. You also may have enjoyed selections from it if you have The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection that was produced by us and published for Accordance.

Logos Bible Software has put the set in its Community Pricing which gives you the opportunity to get the full text for a low price. (The way that C.P. works is that a single bid of $20 is equal to two bids of $10, so feel free to bid low if you get a friend to join you.)

To give you a sense for some of Thomson’s writings, I opened up a few of the American Colony presentations and started reading. I very quickly found a number of quotes that relate very well to my recent study and teaching in Genesis.

For instance, when I was reading Genesis 18, I was struggling with the timeline. The three men show up “in the heat of the day,” eat a prepared calf, and then walk down to Sodom by evening. Apart from the fact that this makes it very difficult (i.e., impossible) to locate Sodom on the northern side of the Dead Sea, I was wondering how the calf could have been cooked so quickly. Thomson’s experience was helpful.

With the Bedâwin it is nearly universal to cook the meat immediately after it is butchered, and to bake fresh bread for every meal. Visit any Arab sheikh, for example, whose tent is now in the valley below us, and you will witness the entire process. A sheep or calf will be brought and killed before you, thrust instanter into the great caldron which stands ready on the fire to receive it, and, ere you are aware, it will reappear on a large copper tray, with a heap of bûrgûl, cracked wheat, or of boiled rice and leben, sour milk. In Cincinnati, a hog walks into a narrow passage on his own feet, and comes out at the other end bacon, ham, and half a dozen other commodities; at the sheikh's camp, it is a calf or sheep that walks past you into the caldron, and comes forth a smoking stew for dinner. (2: 205)

Of course, we cannot assume that the way things were in the late 1800s are the way things were more than three thousand years ago. But it is possible that traditional ways were maintained for a long time.

Certainly the practice of killing a choice animal for visitors was similar in Abraham’s day as it was among Arabs in 19th century Palestine.

Not only is this true, but amongst the Bedâwin Arabs the killing of a sheep, calf, or kid in honor of a visitor is required by their laws of hospitality, and the neglect of it is keenly resented. They have a dozen caustic terms of contempt for the sheikh who neglected to honor his guest with the usual dabbîhah, sacrifice, as it is universally called—a name suggestive of the religious rite of hospitality as practiced in ancient times by the patriarchs, and frequently confirmed by a solemn oath and covenant" (2: 205).

I’ll close with one more, this one related to the story of Esau.

In my rambles about the outskirts of the town last evening I lit upon a company of Ishmaelites sitting round a large saucepan, regaling themselves with their dinner. As they said "Tŭfŭddâl"—oblige us—very earnestly, I sat down amongst them, and, doubling some of their bread spoon-fashion, plunged into the saucepan as they did, and found their food very savory indeed. The composition was made of the red kind of lentiles which we examined in the market at Jaffa; and I can readily believe, from the little experience I had of its appetizing fragrance and substantial taste, that to a hungry man it must have been very tempting" (2: 252).

I wouldn’t let that Thomson’s experience take anything away from your disdain for a son who despised the glorious promises of God, but it is certainly valuable to be able to “see” things more clearly.

You can bid on the Logos set here. There’s a free Google version here. There are many used copies available, but they come in abridged and 2-volume formats that can make purchasing confusing. You might also consider one of the volumes in The American Colony Collection, such as the fascinating Traditional Life and Customs. For $20, you get 600 photographs and hundreds of interesting quotations from Thomson and many other early explorers.

Bedouin hospitality, having coffee in sheikh's tent, mat05980

Bedouin hospitality (photo source)

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Saturday, January 07, 2012

Q&A: Mount Carmel and the Sea

Question: Does your collection include a picture of where Mount Carmel runs into the sea?  I recall seeing a picture once showing the impracticability of travel along the sea. –J.B.

Answer: There actually is a narrow strip of land along the water’s edge that is traversable, unlike the cliffs that plunge into the Mediterranean at Rosh HaNiqra. But in ancient times and modern, travelers have preferred the passes through Mount Carmel. One of the reasons for this in antiquity was the difficult, marshy conditions in the Haifa area.

This first photo comes from the “Acco” group on volume 1 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.

Acco sunset with Mt Carmel from north, tb122100211

This second one comes from the “Haifa” set on volume 1 of the American Colony and Eric Matson Collection.

Haifa and Mount Carmel, mat07135

Both give a sense for the proximity of the edge of Mount Carmel to the sea. You can also check out the view on Google Earth.

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Weekend Roundup

If you are looking for unique Christmas images, the Accordance Blog tells you where to find them.

A scroll containing the Ten Commandments from Deuteronomy has just been put on display at Discovery Times Square in New York City.

Iraq’s second largest museum is paying smugglers to return the artifacts.

If you’ve been intrigued by the title of Jodi Magness’ latest work, BAR has posted a review by Shaye J. D. Cohen of Stone and Dung, Oil and Spit: Jewish Daily Life in the Time of Jesus. The book is available for $16 at Amazon or $20 at Eisenbrauns.

A bulla with the name of a biblical town has been discovered in the Temple Mount Sifting Project. According to ANE-2, Gabriel Barkay will present it at a conference at Bar Ilan University at the end of the month.

The new Egyptian Minister of Antiquities has announced new policies for his department.

Ferrell Jenkins has written an illustrated series appropriate for the season:

Fishermen using illegal nets in the Sea of Galilee have been caught and detained.

The Biblical Archaeology Society has released a new edition of its free eBook, The Dead Sea Scrolls: Discovery and Meaning. The new material looks at the War Scroll, the Temple Scroll, and the Book of Enoch. If you have not already, you must register to receive the eBook.

Olive Tree Bible Software now has the ESV Bible Atlas for sale for $22, the Zondervan Atlas of the Bible for $26, and the Holman Bible Atlas for $20. These atlases are supported on the Android, iPad, iPhone, Mac, and soon the PC.

If you ever hear the name Ron Wyatt in connection with some amazing archaeological discovery, run the other way. His death in 1999 did not prevent his frauds from being perpetuated in email forwards and on various websites. His alleged discovery of chariot wheels in the Red Sea and research claimed to date the objects based on the number of spokes is worthy of being featured as the latest post at PaleoBabble.

HT: Jack Sasson

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Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Featured Accordance Module: American Colony Collection


This month, Accordance's Featured Product is the American Colony Collection module. They are offering the module at a discounted price of $109 (regularly $149) through the month of March. You can read Todd's introduction to the collection here and learn more about the Accordance module from Todd and Accordance's David Lang. If you have already purchased the collection from BiblePlaces.com and are an Accordance user, you may want to consider the crossgrade option.

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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

The Temple Altar and the Dome of the Chain

Construction work in the Dome of the Chain on the Temple Mount gets attention from Arutz-7.

Muslim religious authorities are concluding a clandestine eight-month dig on the Temple Mount that is intended to erase traces of the Jewish Temple's Altar, Temple activists charge.

The digs have been taking place under the Dome of the Chain, believed to have been built over 1300 years ago. For eight months, the dome - which has a diameter of 14 meters - has been surrounded by a metal fence and black cloth, which hide whatever activity has been going on there from outside inspection. The Muslim Waqf religious authority has claimed the activity is simply a refurbishing of the structure, but refuses adamantly to let Jews or tourists near.

The article includes a couple of additional brief paragraphs along with five photographs.  Several months ago a reader wrote to me about this activity and I replied with speculation that the work consisted of no more than the repair of tiles.  That seems to be confirmed by the photographs.  It’s unfortunate that the Muslims are so secretive, as such only contributes to the suspicion that they are damaging Jewish antiquities.  On the other hand, the charge that the Muslims’ intent is to erase traces of the Temple’s altar is not supported by evidence and seems intended to stir up animosity.

I have located my response mentioned above and am including a portion of it here:

Why was it necessary even to build the plastic construction for a 2nd time so that even the “half cm’s” openings would be closed?

They do the same thing on many Jewish excavations in Jerusalem.  Everyone is just so sensitive.  It doesn’t have to be a problem, just the thought of a problem.  Given the dust-up a couple of years ago with the digging of a trench for a water pipe, I’m not surprised they take every precaution, even if it’s just to replace a few tiles (which is what I bet it is).

Why aren’t we allowed to have a look at least?

Because you might be a biased journalist and write some half-cocked story.  No one is safe from journalists.

What is there to get angry about if I want to take a picture of an open door and a floor with tiles?

See above.

Are they digging under the Dome of the Rock?

Certainly not.  The Dome of the Rock is built on bedrock.  If they wanted to dig under the Dome, they’d do it from inside.  It’s possible they could be accessing some underground cavities (cisterns), but I’d really be surprised if they were doing more than superficial repairs.

How is it possible that Israel cannot go on with their openly work on the ramp to the Mughrabi gate outside the Temple compound, and nobody worries about  secret ‘works’ near the Rock itself? What are they ruining there that we are not allowed to see?

This question seems to suggest that you believe that Middle Eastern matters are treated fairly in the court of world opinion.  That’s as far from the truth as could be.  Why aren’t the Israelis doing something?  My guess is that the cost isn’t worth the gain.  Why cause a fuss over something relatively insignificant that you’re not going to win anyway?

Finally, Leen Ritmeyer explains why he believes that the altar was not located under the Dome of the Chain.  His illustrations will help you put it all together.

Dome of Rock, with Dome of Chain, mat03221

Dome of the Rock with smaller Dome of the Chain (left) in the 1930s (Source)

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Monday, February 07, 2011

History of American Colony Photography Department

Barbara Bair has written an interesting and informative article in the Jerusalem Quarterly on the history of the American Colony Photography Department.  Their work is compared and contrasted with other photographic agencies in the Old City of Jerusalem.

An important commercial niche that the American Colony photographers shared with other professional photography businesses in the Near East was the production of images of allegorical “biblical” scenes. Like other photographers needing to remain commercially viable, they took photographs of sacred sites, such as the Mosque of Omar and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. But they also went beyond the standard images well-known to tourists to create extensive documentation of mosques, churches, architectural sites, city-scapes and village homes and streets in greater Syria. An American Colony Store catalogue flyer of American Colony Photo Post Cards available in 1934 featured nearly 300 selections, catalogued geographically, with more than 50 of them Jerusalem scenes.

American Colony “typology” studies of unnamed working Jerusalemites included photographs of a water carrier, a porter, and a rabbi (perhaps a model posing as a rabbi), each indicated in the catalogue as signifying specific verses from the Bible. The generic anonymity of these subjects implied a timeless arc from ancient times to the present, and made the humans featured into symbols of their respective cultures and ways of life, much as the architectural typology of holy buildings symbolized entire faiths. American Colony cameramen joined other photographers in staging “tableau” photographs and took opportunity images that were emblematic of New Testament scenarios (shepherds with their flocks, women at the well, women grinding grain, fishermen with their nets, the arched streets of the Via Dolorosa, the river Jordan). They excelled in this particular niche market, producing albums of gorgeous hand-tinted sepia photographs, and pictorial prints of lush romantic Palestinian landscapes that followed both painterly and popular culture artistic traditions. Albums entitled the “23rd Psalm” and “Blue Galilee” were best sellers, and were also available for order as sets of lantern slides.

The full article is here.

Village guest chamber, mat05610

Village guest chamber (source)

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Thursday, February 03, 2011

American Colony Collection Compared

The American Colony Collection, recently released as a module for Accordance Bible Software, is the subject of a video that highlights some of the value of the photographs and compares them with the PhotoGuide 3 collection.  You can watch the video below or access the podcast here.  (Those reading this in an email or feedreader may need to click through.)

David Padfield (website) has found the collection to be valuable in both formats:

I've used the photographs from the American Colony Collection since you first made them available. While I have over 30,000 photographs of the Bible lands that I have shot over the years, the congregation where I preach enjoy those old photographs every bit as much as the modern ones -- there is something about the "feel" and "character" of the old photos that is lacking in modern photos.

I just purchased the American Colony Module from Accordance and all I can say is WOW. The module makes the photos so much more useful than they were before. I used to spend a lot of time looking for a photo, but the search capabilities of Accordance make it a snap. You have done an amazing job with these photos and I sincerely appreciate your efforts.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Fishless Sea of Galilee?

Scientists fear that they may not be able to halt the precipitous drop of the fish population in the Sea of Galilee.  In 1999, a total of 2,144 tons of fish was caught.  Ten years later, the total was less than 10% of that (157 tons).  Contributing to the crisis are many years of drought.  From the Jerusalem Post:

The ministry wrote that "the data raised real concerns of an ecological disaster that will occur in the Kinneret following the loss of fish resources, turning Lake Kinneret into a fish-less lake."

The announcement came only a few weeks after the Water Authority released dismal reports on the below-average rainfal that has plagued the lake for the last decade, with water levels reaching their lowest average since the 1920s.

The years 2001 to 2010 treated Lake Kinneret particularly poorly, the Water Authority said Monday. Moreover, according to its summary of 2010, Lake Kinneret has dropped back down to last year’s water level because of the severe lack of rain despite the state having reduced pumping this year.

Except for a few major showers at the beginning and the end of the year, Lake Kinneret’s water levels steadily dropped from May to December. Despite pumping less water out of the lake, the water level has dropped from what it was last year and is now significantly below the bottom red line. In fact, the water level rested below the bottom red line for most of the year, with the exception of the months of March to June.

The full story is here.

Fishermen with fish in net, mat05689Fishermen in the Sea of Galilee, early 1900s
(photo source)

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

American Colony Photos for Accordance

I’m excited to announce that the American Colony photo collection is now available as a module for Accordance Bible Software.  Long regarded as the best Bible software on the market, Accordance brings significant advantages to the American Colony collection by providing quick and easy searches as well as tight integration with the Accordance features and modules.

David Lang describes it this way:

The American Colony and Eric Matson collection is a massive (1.4GB) Accordance module containing more than 4,000 historic photographs of the Holy Land and its people. It is fully searchable, and its images will be included any time you use the Search All window to search by Caption. Once you find an image you like, you can drag its thumbnail onto a Keynote or Pages drop-zone to include it in your slide show or document.

You can read the rest of his helpful introduction here.  In my opinion, this is the best collection of historic photographs of the Holy Land anywhere, ever.  I give some very specific reasons for that bold statement here.  In addition to the photographs, the collection is supplemented by thousands of historic quotes and explanatory notes that are a rich resource in themselves.

The creation of this Accordance module makes a good thing better, and I’m delighted that users can benefit from these significant improvements.

You can purchase the Accordance module here.  Those who have already purchased the American Colony Collection from BiblePlaces.com qualify for a crossgrade, which gives a discount of more than $100.

American Colony, Accordance Bible Software

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

American Colony in Jerusalem Collection at the LOC

Readers here are likely familiar with the American Colony in Jerusalem, a “a non-denominational utopian Christian community founded by a small group of American expatriates in Ottoman Palestine in 1881.”  Their photographic enterprise was a thriving industry serving tourists for the first half of the 20th century.  The original glass negatives were donated by the heir of the collection to the Library of Congress in the 1970s and the digitized versions were posted online about five years ago.  That formed the basis of a series of specialized collections that we created here.

Last week the Library of Congress announced the online publication of a new collection of historic documents from the American Colony.

The materials presented in the new American Memory site were donated to the Library in December 2004 by Valentine Vester and the board of directors of the American Colony of Jerusalem, Ltd. The bulk of the collection—received by the Library between 2005 and the present—comprises more than 10,000 items and is housed in the Library’s Manuscript Division.

Many of these items were collected by Bertha Spafford Vester as she wrote her memoir Our Jerusalem: An American Family in the Holy City. The digitized version includes a selection of the full collection, namely that which was displayed in a 2005 Library of Congress exhibition. The full press release is here.  The full collection is described as follows:American Colony, April 1, 1925 entry page, opening of Hebrew University

The physical collection focuses on the personal and business life of the colony from the waning years of the Ottoman Empire, through World War I and the British Mandate, and into the formation of the state of Israel.  It includes draft manuscripts, letters, postcards, telegrams, diaries or journals, scrapbooks, printed materials, photographs, hand-drawn maps and ephemera. Most collection items are in English, with some material in Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish, and Swedish.

Items in the collection begin in 1786 and date to 2006. The bulk of the materials date from 1870 to 1968.  Included are items related to the leadership of the colony by members of the Spafford, Vester, and Whiting families.  There is information as well pertaining to the colony’s Swedish members and other residents, as well as neighbors, friends, diplomats, dignitaries, associates in Jerusalem and sponsors in the United States.

This is akin to finding an old chest in the attic full of precious heirlooms, except that in this case there are many such chests and they are available to anyone with a computer.  I look forward to rummaging through this treasure trove of fascinating information about some momentous years in the history of the holy land. 

The doorway to the attic is here, and the browse and search features will get you where you want to go quickly.  You can read more about the collection and its origin here.  The catalog record is here.

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