Monday, September 29, 2008

Recent News and Resources

I’ve been collecting items of interest over the past week:

Archaeologist Shimon Gibson claims that a concert near Jaffa Gate would damage antiquities (JPost).

A Christian organization in Colorado Springs is spending $2.3 million on a replica of the Western Wall, and a building to showcase it.  50 million tons of stone will be brought from Israel.

King Tut comes to Dallas on Friday.

The JPost Magazine has a profile of Eilat Mazar, currently excavating in the City of David.  She says, "I work with the Bible in one hand and the tools of excavation in the other. The Bible is the most important historical source."

The ESV Study Bible, which was mentioned before here, is due out in a couple of weeks and its visual components (maps, charts, drawings) gets further explanation in an interview with Justin Taylor.

Leen Ritmeyer, renowned for his architectural work on the Temple Mount, is now offering some of his excellent work in affordable PowerPoint files.

I’ve just added Ferrell Jenkins’ Travel Blog to the blogroll.

This is not new, but I do not remember really recognizing all that is here before, so perhaps you did not either.  The Archaeological Study Bible website has many dozens of photos, charts and maps (medium-resolution) available for download.  You can find your way around from here, or go directly to Introduction, Old Testament, New Testament, or Maps.

David Padfield has photos of a Roman army enactment performed at Jerash.  There are 15 free PowerPoint-size images.

If you’re an image junkie, you’ll save time downloading images from the last two sites if you have a download manager.  (I use Free Download Manager with FlashGot on Firefox)

Shana tova (happy new year)!

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Free E-Book: Cyprus and Crete

The Biblical Archaeology Society is offering a free 70-page e-book entitled “Island Jewels: Understanding Ancient Cyprus and Crete.”  The pdf file includes five articles and one book review, all previously published in Archaeology Odyssey or Biblical Archaeology Review.  You can get the e-book here by signing up for their newsletter.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Wheaton Lectures: From Migdol to Aswan

The first one has passed, but Wheaton College has many more in their fall lecture series entitled, “From Migdol to Aswan: Geoarchaeology in Egypt and Sinai.”  I don’t see it stated explicitly on the website, but in previous years the lectures were open to the public, free of charge.  For locations and other information, see their website.

Monday, October 6, 7:00 PM
The Application of Satellite Imagery to Archaeological Research
Sarah Parcak, University of Alabama-Birmingham

Mining Operations in Sinai in Pharaonic Times
Greg Mumford, University of Alabama-Birmingham

Monday, November 3, 7:00 PM
"Moses Slept Here:" A Critical Review of Popular Exodus Theories
James K. Hoffmeier, Trinity International University
Stephen O. Moshier, Wheaton College

Monday, November 10, 7:00 PM
Some Applications of Geologic Science in Ancient Egyptian Archaeology
James A. Harrell, University of Toledo

Monday, November 17, 7:00 PM
New Insights into the Geography of the Exodus:
Reports from Excavations in the Eastern Delta and Northwest Sinai
James K. Hoffmeier, Trinity International University
Stephen O. Moshier, Wheaton College

Monday, December 1, 7:00 PM
Paleolithic Occupation of the Sinai
Jim Phillips, Field Museum of Natural History


Monday, September 22, 2008

Work Continuing on Herod’s Tomb

Since most people don’t read comments on blogs, especially on posts from a year and a half ago, I’ll note one made today by Sigho concerning Herod’s tomb at Herodium.

Thanks for your information. I was preveledged to be able to enter the site of Herod's Tomb Yesterday (Sept. 21, 2008). The site is open for public from a distance. But we (3 people) were granted by on site-archaeologists to enter the site. It is still being excavated. Unfortunately, pictures I took yesterday cannot be publicized. Just wait for the official publication by the archaeologists.

I did not realize that work was on-going here.  The restriction on taking photos may indicate that they’re doing more than sweeping dirt.

Herodium tomb of Herod, tb051708036dxo Herod’s tomb, May 2008

UPDATE (9/23): Ferrell Jenkins has given me permission to post a photo he took of construction work going on at the tomb last month.

Photo courtesy of Ferrell Jenkins, August 23, 2008


“Christ” Inscription in Egypt

Here’s a strange one: An archaeologist in Alexandria, Egypt claims to have found a cup with a Greek inscription, “Dia Chrestou Ogoistais” (“through Christ the Magi”).  What’s stranger is that he’s claiming that he found it in a stratified context dating to A.D. 50. 

You can read the article (in Spanish) here.  Some comments and nice photos are here.  More comments are here.

HT: Gene Brooks

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Khirbet Qeiyafa Status Update

I’m working on a lengthy (or two-part) post on Khirbet Qeiyafa, but in the meantime, the excavator of the site has given an update, summarized by G. M. Grena and posted on biblicalist:

Prof. Yossi Garfinkel, co-director of the excavation, has given me permission to share his team's tentative publication schedule (quotes mark his exact words):

1) Their website "is under reorganization and shortly many photos of the site and the excavation will be available to the public."

2) They are still working on an official press release that should be ready "in a week or so."

3) They have already given the Israel Exploration Society "a preliminary text and 7 photos" for the "Notes and News section" of their journal, IEJ.

4) "A larger Hebrew article with 14 photos was given to a book conference to be published in 2 month[s]", but he wasn't sure about the official name of the book yet. "The conference is a cooperation between the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University and the Jerusalem district of the IAA. It will present to the public the latest results of research and excavations carried out in the Jerusalem area in the last year."

In a later post, the location of some new photos of a pottery presentation is given.

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Dead Sea Scroll Lecture Series in NC

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is running a Distinguished Lecture Series in conjunction with its exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls. 

The list includes:

The Dead Sea Scrolls: Controversies and Theories of Early Judaism and Christianity
Eric Meyers
Wednesday, October 1

Women in the Dead Sea Scrolls and at Qumran
Sidnie White Crawford
Thursday, October 16

The Archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls
Jodi Magness
Thursday, October 30

The Biblical Dead Sea Scrolls
Emanuel Tov
Thursday, November 20

The Dead Sea Scrolls and Early Christianity
Bart Ehrman
Wednesday, December 10

For more information, see the details hereTickets are $25.  For the subject of the Dead Sea Scrolls, you really cannot beat this line-up of speakers and topics.

HT: Joe Lauer


Art and Scrolls in New York Museums

The press release of the Israel Antiquities Authority:

Two Exhibitions from the Vast Collections of the IAA in New York City Beginning September 21, 2008

The Metropolitan Museum of Art will exhibit the dazzling Gold - Glass Table from Caesarea.  The Gold Glass Table will be on display in the Byzantine Galleries of the Metropolitan Museum. Dating to the late 6th, early 7th century CE, this extraordinary, one of a kind panel was excavated in a Byzantine period mansion in the coastal city of Caesarea, when a large mosaic floor known as the Birds Mosaic, was exposed for conservation in 2005. The nearly intact panel is shaped like the letter sigma and made of small glass pieces using the opus sectile technique. The panel was discovered with its face down directly on the mosaic floor and was covered by ashes and debris from the ceiling and the second floor. It comprises a wide frame surrounding the central part, both made of a combination of delicate, translucent gold - glass pieces and opaque, colored mosaic glass pieces. The square gold - glass pieces were decorated with a stamped design of flower or cross. A workshop for wall opus sectile made of stone panels was recently excavated in Caesarea, and one can assume the Gold Glass Table was produced by local artists. The conservation, restoration and exhibition of the Gold Glass Table, was made possible by generous funding from the Margot and Tom Pritzker Foundation. Also at the Met, in the Ancient Near Eastern Art Galleries, are remarkable Chalcolithic period objects on long-term loan to the museum, including examples from the Nahal Mishmar treasure such as the Hippopotamus tusk with circular perforations, and the wonderful copper standard, as well as ivory figurines from Beer-Sheva.

Separately, at the Jewish Museum, a wonderful exhibition - The Dead Sea Scrolls: Mysteries of the Ancient World, will include six Dead Sea Scrolls from the collections of the Israel Antiquities Authority - the largest and most comprehensive collection of Dead Sea Scrolls in the world. The scrolls on display represent the important transformation that occurred in Jewish worship from sacrifice to Bible study and prayer, the debates among Jewish groups of the Second Temple Period, and the indirect connections between the scrolls and early Christianity. The scrolls on display include a part of one of the earliest copies of the Hebrew Bible, the Book of Jeremiah, which dates to 225-175 BCE. Other texts include an apocryphal Jewish work, the Book of Tobit, which was rejected for the Hebrew canon but eventually accepted into the Christian Old Testament; an early example of a prayer from Words of the Luminaries; and Aramaic Apocryphon of Daniel, which mentions a son of God. Also shown will be excerpts from two sectarian compositions.

The Israel Antiquities Authority is the pre-eminent organization in the field of Biblical and Israeli archaeology, custodian of more than 1.5 million objects among them 15,000 Dead Sea Scrolls, and 30,000 archaeological sites. These exhibitions are part of our continued effort to share the archaeological treasures of the Land of Israel with audiences around the world.

For downloading images please click here [ ]
1. The Gold Glass Table - Photo by Niki Davidov, Israel Antiquities Authority
2. A Fragment of a 2,000 Year Old Psalm Scroll- Photo by Tsila Sgiv, Israel Antiquities Authority

HT: Joe Lauer

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Avraham Biran (1909-2008)

From the Agade list via Joe Lauer:

It is my sad duty to inform you that Prof. Avraham Biran passed away last night. He was one month shy of his 99th birthday. Avraham Biran, a third generation Israeli, received his Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University under William Foxwell Albright and was Thayer Fellow in the American Schools of Oriental Research, Jerusalem, 1935-37. Formerly Director of the Israel Department of Antiquities and Museums, he served as Director of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion's Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology in Jerusalem from 1974-2003. He participated in the excavations of the University of Pennsylvania in Iraq, at Tepe Gawra near Mosul, and at Khafaje near Baghdad. He accompanied Nelson Glueck in his epoch-making discoveries at the head of the Gulf of Eilat. Professor Biran directed the excavations of Anathoth, Tel Zippor, Ira, Aroer, the synagogue of Yesud Hama'alah, and the longest ongoing excavations in Israel at Tel Dan (under his direction from 1966 to 1999).

He is already sorely missed.

Dr. David Ilan, Director
Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

UPDATE (9/19): HUC has posted an obituary.

UPDATE (10/6): The NY Times has posted an obituary.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Speculation on the Khirbet Qeiyafa Inscription

With regard to the Khirbet Qeiyafa inscription, there are those who know and those who don't.  Those who know have been sworn to secrecy, leaving only those of us who don't know to speculate.  I am happy to oblige and suggest below some reasons on why this inscription is significant, thereby possibly fueling more speculation by others also in the dark.

What is not speculation is the fact that the inscription is being studied by Haggai Misgav, a Northwest Semitic epigraphist (source).  Given the location of its discovery, this is no surprise, but it clearly rules out the possibility that inscription was written in another language.  Misgav Haggai says at present that his conclusions are "doubtful and temporary" and he does not know when he will be ready to publish (reported by Jim West).  That suggests that the inscription is difficult.  I offer some ideas that may explain archaeologist Aren Maier's comment that this inscription "is going to be VERY INTERESTING!!!!"

1. The inscription is long.  This is a guess based upon a photograph of the potsherd and a friend's report that the inscription is 4-5 lines long.  Too many inscriptions are known only from a small portion preserved.  The recent ostracon found at Gath with a name similar to Goliath received much attention, but it contained only two words.

2. The inscription is meaningful.  This is in contrast to other early inscriptions, such as the Tel Zayit abecedary (10th c.) and the Izbet Sartah abecedary (11th c.).  Certainly alphabetic inscriptions are meaningful, and scholars can write much about them.  But the primary reason why they get so much attention is because there are few other contemporary inscriptions.  Sometimes conclusions about the state of writing are made that may be without warrant.  The combination of a brief or ambiguous text with a lack of contemporary material makes possible many wrong interpretations.

3. The inscription was discovered in a stratified context.  This is in contrast to the Gezer Calendar, which was found in the debris pile in 1908.  The Tel Zayit abecedary was found in a wall, not in its original context.  Archaeologists do not have a clear stratigraphical context for many important inscriptions. 

4. The inscription is early.  Khirbet Qeiyafa has occupation from the 10th century and then a gap until the Hellenistic period (2nd c.).  The inscription certainly dates to the time of the settlement, which guarantees a 10th century date (assuming that the site itself has been correctly dated).  There are very few 10th century inscriptions in Israel, and all have some problems.  (The only 10th c. inscriptions from Israel that come to mind are the Gezer Calendar, Tel Zayit abecedary, and the Shishak inscription, but there are probably others.)  The significance of an inscription increases exponentially each century that you go back in time.  A seal impression in the city of David from the 6th century is less rare and thus less valuable than a letter or poem from the 10th century.

5. The inscription dates to a period now highly controversial in biblical archaeology.  In the mid-1990s Israel Finkelstein proposed a "Low Chronology," which essentially re-dated all material believed to be from the 10th century to the 9th century.  The poor material culture from the 11th century was brought down to the 10th century.  Historically, then, Israel and Judah were impoverished and weak, or, more likely, non-existent (according to Finkelstein) at the time when the Bible describes the great United Monarchy.  Like so many theories in biblical archaeology, this one is highly dependent upon a large amount of "white space," in which one's own ideas can be inserted.  Almost certainly this new inscription will fill in some of the gaps, as well as spawn its own controversies.

More speculating remains to be done on the site identification of Khirbet Qeiyafa, but that will need to await a future post.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Qeiyafa Ostracon Photo

G. M. Grena has noted in a comment below and on a post on biblicalist that a photo of the 10th century ostracon is apparently already online here.  You cannot see the inscription, but you get an idea for the size of the potsherd. 

Grena speculates further on biblicalist:

For those not who didn't attend last year's ASOR conference, Prof. Garfinkel had presented a paper, "Khirbet Kiafa: Biblical Azekah":

Though he did not reveal to me anything about the ostracon, in personal correspondence this morning he confirmed that Kiafa "cannot be" Azekah after having completed their first large scale excavation this past summer. Joseph Lauer also brought to my attention a Hebrew University of Jerusalem web page for the excavation, which states the same thing:

"In the past we suggested an identification with the biblical city of Azeka, but the dating of the Iron Age settlement to the early 10th century BC clearly dispro[ves] our first hypothesis."

Normally, it would be somewhat embarrassing to have your thesis "ruined" so quickly (less than a year), but I'm guessing that with the new discovery, nobody associated with the work at this khirbet minds!

The statement that dating the site to the early 10th century means that it cannot be Azekah does not make sense to me, as the story of David and Goliath mentions Azekah at approximately this time (1 Sam 17:1).  Azekah also existed at the time of the Conquest (Joshua 10:10; 15:35), which means that any candidate for the site must have Late Bronze remains.

Another possibility, perhaps too good to suggest, is that the ostracon provides the biblical name of Khirbet Qeiyafa/Kiafa.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

10th Century Inscription from Shephelah

Aren Maier, excavator of Gath, was at a meeting in Jerusalem recently with a group of Israeli archaeologists and Yossi Garfinkel and Saar Ganor presented a newly discovered inscription from Khirbet Qeiyafa.  Maier reports on the ANE-2 list:

This absolutely fantastic, fortified Iron Age site (late Iron I/early Iron IIA) has a very nice assemblage of pottery, and what may be the most important Iron Age Semitic inscription found in Israel in the last decade! (to be published by Haggai Misgav of the Hebrew University).

I can't give details about it, but OH BOY - this is going to be VERY INTERESTING!!!!

Clearly, the site, its dating, the finds, and their significance, will be of paramount importance in the discussions of the Iron Age southern Levant, and just about anything connected to it, in the near future.

Based on Yossi's previous track record in publishing excavation results, publications should be appearing soon!

I doubt Maier is exaggerating, and this could provide some fun discussion in the months ahead.  It may help some readers if I spell out more of what Maier means by "the site, its dating, the finds, and their significance."

The site: Khirbet Qeiyafa (aka the "Elah Fortress") is located opposite Azekah along a ridge north of the Elah Valley, near the famous battle of David and Goliath.

The date: The site, and therefore presumably the inscription, dates to "late Iron I/early Iron IIA," which is the scholarly way of saying "10th century B.C."  David and Solomon were kings in Jerusalem in the 10th century.

The finds: Some of this has already been reported, but Maier probably is meaning the inscription itself, about which nothing has been revealed to the public.  I reported previously that the ostracon (inscribed potsherd) has 4-5 lines of writing.

Its significance: The major discussion in "biblical archaeology" right now centers on the 10th century.  The newer view (popularized in this book) denies that Judah was a nation-state until hundreds of years later, insisting that the biblical account of the United Monarchy is pure fabrication.  Most archaeologists reject that view.  My guess is that Maier's excitement is because this inscription will play a role in this discussion.

Other inscriptions: It may be worth noting that two (or three) other significant 10th century inscriptions were found in the same region.  To the north, Robert Alexander Stewart Macalister found the Gezer Calendar in the early 1900s. To the south, Ronald Tappy discovered an abecedary (alphabetic inscription) at Tell Zayit a few years ago.  To the west at Gath, Maier uncovered the "Goliath inscription," which dates to the 10th or 9th centuries.  If you're an archaeologist looking for a 10th century inscription, head for the Shephelah.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Student's Perspective on Israel

A friend who works for the Jerusalem Post has alerted me to the first in a new series of articles: perspectives on Israel from college students studying near Jerusalem.  You can read the first one about a visit to the Old City of Jerusalem here

The students writing in this series are studying at the Israel Bible Extension (IBEX) of The Master's College.  The school is located in the Judean hills west of Jerusalem, and students come from the United States to study biblical geography, archaeology, history, Hebrew, and more.  The semester-long program is very popular among students, and, in my opinion, is one of the best things a college student can do, anywhere, ever.  I'm not unbiased; I taught at the school for many years until my present study leave. 


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Caesarea Underwater

The underwater excavations of the Caesarea harbor are shown and discussed in a 2.5 minute video on  Part of the transcript is posted here.

HT: Paleojudaica


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

"Pilgrim's Route" in Jericho area

Haaretz has a story on the new "Pilgrim's Route," select portions of which are below. 

Some three million tourists are expected to visit Israel next year. And when they arrive, they will discover a new "Pilgrim's Route" leading from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. Along the way, they will be able to visit the site where the New Testament story of the Good Samaritan took place; the Qumran caves; and the site where, according to the New Testament, John the Baptist baptized Jesus.

It is not clear what is meant by "Pilgrim's Route."  Ideally, there will be a walking path along the ancient Roman road.  More likely, there will be signs installed at each place designating it as part of the "Pilgrim's Route."

The Good Samaritan site is just off the highway leading from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. During the Byzantine era, a church was built at that spot to commemorate the New Testament's tale of a man attacked by robbers while en route from Jerusalem to Jericho, who is refused help by all the passersby except the Good Samaritan. Archaeologists recently reconstructed the entire mosaic floor of the church.

It is unlikely that this site is anything more than a traditional place to remember the story.  If there was an inn, it was probably in Jericho, not in the middle of the inhospitable wilderness.  Furthermore, this may have been a story that Jesus created to teach a point and not a historical event (Luke 10:25-37).

Concerning the baptismal site:

According to Shai Weiner, the Tourism Ministry's deputy director general for economics, planning and infrastructure, the first stage of the site's development, which includes setting up shaded areas and making it wheelchair accessible, will be finished in about two months. The ministry has thus far invested some NIS 3.5 million in the site, and the Defense Ministry will invest about another NIS 1 million to improve the access road.

In addition to shaded areas, they need to get some of those amusement-park-type misters.

Weiner said that other Christian pilgrimage sites in Israel typically attract between 400,000 and 600,000 visitors a year, and he expects the same at this site. The ministry noted that the site would also jump start other businesses in the area, such as restaurants and souvenir shops.

Note to investors: buy stock in these new shops and sell your holdings in Yardenit.

Oni Amiel, CEO of Amiel Tours, which specializes in Christian pilgrims, said it is about time Israel began competing with the Jordanian site. "There's an enormous flow of tourists there," he said. "It's important that the site on our side also be respectable - and above all, that there be water in that dried-up Jordan."

So you get a flow of tourists where there once was a flow of water.  Not such a good trade-off.

The full story is here.

HT: Joe Lauer

Jordan River by Bethany beyond Jordan, tb060303267
Jordan River near Jericho


Excavations in Turkey

From Today's Zaman:

Excavations on some historical sites are not being carried out properly and the Culture and Tourism Ministry is not even sure if excavations are still continuing on others, the head of the ministry has said.

"If the excavation heads and professors who are not excited about the excavations any longer or are just carrying on their duties in a monotonous manner will let us, we will look for excavation heads who are more excited and enthusiastic to improve the conditions at the excavation sites both physically and scientifically," Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay told the Anatolia news agency.

Noting that he has visited many excavation sites, the minister said he respected excavation leaders who care for their excavations and the antiquities they find like children and who attempt to improve the situation of their sites.

There are currently 134 excavation projects being carried out in Turkey -- 90 by local teams and 44 by foreign teams. More than 100 surface research projects are under way.

In the excavation projects carried out by Turkish teams, the majority of the excavation heads are professors from İstanbul University and Ankara University. Currently most excavation heads are from Ankara University.

The story continues here.

HT: Explorator


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

"First Wall" of Jerusalem found

The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a press release today describing the discovery of part of the southern wall of Jerusalem during the time of Christ.  Built by the Hasmoneans sometime after 150 B.C., Josephus dubbed it the "First Wall," in distinction to Herod's (?) "Second Wall" and Herod Agrippa's "Third Wall."  The "First Wall" encompassed the city on all four sides (unlike the later two), and had sixty towers.  Archaeologists recently discovered one of those towers preserved to a height of 10 feet (3 m).  The wall was in use until the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

Some more details:

  • The wall was discovered on "Mount Zion," the modern name for Jerusalem's Western Hill.
  • The results were revealed in a press conference on Mount Zion today.
  • The area had been excavated 100 years ago by Frederick Jones Bliss and Archibald Dickie, once described in the Jerusalem Post as "archeologist Blis Vediki." No kidding! (In Hebrew, "ve" means "and.")
  • Archaeologist Yehiel Zelinger lectured on his discoveries about 6 weeks ago at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem.
  • Portions of this wall have previously been excavated in Area G, the Citadel complex, south of the Citadel underneath the Turkish wall, and near the Broad Wall next to the "Israelite Tower" (unfortunately closed to the public now for years).
  • The chief contribution of this discovery will not be in revealing where the wall was (we already knew that), but in giving us more details about that wall, by means of careful stratigraphic excavation.  Bliss and Dickie excavated by digging underground tunnels, hardly the method for understanding the history of a structure.
  • The archaeologist is impressed: "This is one of the most beautiful and complete sections of construction in the Hasmonean building style to be found in Jerusalem."
  • Apparently the remains will be preserved in the Jerusalem City Wall National Park.
  • Remains were also unearthed of the Byzantine period wall constructed by Empress Eudocia.

The story is also carried by the Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, and BBC (with two great photos).

UPDATE: The Israel Antiquities Authority has made five photos available for download.  The aerial photo reveals that the excavation is on the west side of the Catholic cemetery on the south side of Mount Zion.  The most famous inhabitant of the cemetery is Oskar Schindler.  His tomb is visible on the lower right of the photo.

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Crediting Sources

The lead story yesterday at Arutz-7 is entitled "Supreme Moslem Council: Temple Mount is Jewish."  It begins:

The widely-disseminated Arab Moslem position that the Temple Mount is not Jewish has been debunked - by the Supreme Moslem Council (Waqf) of Jerusalem, in a Temple Mount guide published in 1925.

It then includes a couple of scanned images from the 1925 guide.  The story credits the guide to the Temple Institute.

The Jerusalem-based Temple Institute ( reports that it has acquired a copy of the official 1925 Supreme Moslem Council Guide Book to Al-Haram Al-Sharif (the Moslem name for the Temple Mount).

We are honored that our story was picked up by a major news organization.  They didn't give us credit, even though the basis of their story and the scans that they post came from here.  Reader Sean Q purchased the booklet, scanned it, and we posted it.  The Temple Institute took the story and pdf file and presented it as their discovery.  This isn't a copyright issue, but it is an ethical one.  Perhaps they'll do better next time.


Monday, September 01, 2008

New Book: Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus

A new book is out this week that I want to recommend highly.  Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus: A Journey Through the Lands and Lessons of Christ combines passion with humor in a unique "tour" through Jesus' life.  Author Wayne Stiles has not written a "life of Christ" book, nor has he produced a work recounting the geographical background of Jesus' ministry.  What he has done, through his deep knowledge of Jesus' life and land, is to take the reader on a delightful and challenging journey to the physical and spiritual places where Jesus lived and taught.Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus Cover

Stiles' skill as a writer and "tour guide" makes the book engaging and rich with insights.  As a pastor for many years, Stiles is gifted in making lofty ideas of Scripture readily understandable to the average person, and he does so with many fun anecdotes and helpful analogies from his travels in Israel.

From Bethlehem, to Galilee and Jerusalem, and ending in Patmos, the book largely travels "in the footsteps of Jesus."  Here is a snip related to the wilderness:

I have walked in the wilderness where Satan tempted Christ, just west of where He was baptized. Good grief, what a place. This is the wilderness of Judea where God shaped the character of the future King David in “the valley of the shadow of death” (Ps. 23:4). Here David prayed, “my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Ps. 63:1). David wasn’t kidding. Endless piles of rocks, steep hills, no trees, modest vegetation, little water, slight shade, and lizards. As far as my eye could see, it was empty, dry, and depressing. I tried to imagine the silence, solitude, and struggle Jesus would have endured here for over a month. But I could not.

We can barely stand to fast for a day or two. Can you imagine fasting forty days? Jesus did so in preparation for temptation—and became desperately hungry and needy. And in His moment of need, the devil slipped in. He waits for moments like these.

“If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread” (Luke 4:3).

The devil is no idiot—and also no gentleman. When he tempts, he plays dirty. No rules. No concessions. No mercy. He waited for a moment of vulnerability and then tempted Jesus to satisfy His legitimate need for food in an illegitimate way: “Turn this stone to bread—use your power to gratify your need.” What a cheap shot. Every stone would then become a temptation. And believe me, the Wilderness of Judea has plenty of stones! Jesus’ reply—although He was physically hungry—showed that He was spiritually full.

“It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”

If you haven't yet been on a trip to the Holy Land, you'll enjoy visiting it virtually through this book.  If you have been, you'll see it in ways that you haven't before, even if you've visited countless times.  This journey combines so many of my favorite things in one book: the places of the land of the Bible, the life of Christ, fascinating stories, excellent writing, and God-exalting, people-challenging truth.  Pick this up for your next plane ride to Israel (or anywhere) and enjoy!

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