Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Gospel Trail Inaugurated in Galilee

Several years ago some private individuals developed the “Jesus Trail” for travelers who wished to walk from Nazareth to Capernaum. We described this effort at some length last year. Yesterday the government Israel dedicated the “Gospel Trail,” a route that travels the same ground as the “Jesus Trail” and apparently competes with it. The Jerusalem Post reports on the story:

Minister of Tourism Stas Misezhnikov inaugurated on Tuesday the new Gospel Trail pilgrimage route which has been created by the Ministry of Tourism along with the Jewish National Fund.

The trail, which cost NIS 3 million to develop over three years, is designed to further increase the already large numbers of Christian tourists and pilgrims who visit Israel each year.


The route of the Gospel Trail follows the path which Jesus walked at age 30 after he was evicted from Nazareth, as related by the New Testament.

The trail, which runs for 63 kilometers, starts at Mount Precipice just outside Nazareth and continues eastwards down to Capernaum, taking in a number of important Christian holy sites.

These include the Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount; Magdala (Migdal today) the home of Mary Magadelene; Tabgha, the site of the Feeding of the Five Thousand; and Capernaum, where Jesus established his ministry and met his first disciple Peter.

Those traveling the trail will be able to do so by car, bicycle and, more traditionally, on foot – despite the current lack of amenities and accommodation along the route. The ministry says it is working on a program to encourage entrepreneurs to develop tourist facilities to provide services for those walking the trail.

The story includes a 3.5 minute video which features interviews with Christian pilgrims pleased with the announcement.

A search for Gospel Trail takes one to, a site owned by Jesus Trail™.

The Israel Ministry of Tourism website includes a description of the Gospel Trail route and the infrastructure created by the $700,000 investment. The site also includes links to a 12-page booklet (which includes the map posted below), a stage-by-stage guide, and a high-resolution satellite map with the trail marked.


Map of the Gospel Trail from the Israel Ministry of Tourism booklet

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Western Wall Bridge Destruction Delayed

After the city engineer of Jerusalem demanded that the Mughrabi bridge be repaired or closed for safety reasons, Israel’s prime minister has ordered that the reconstruction of only non-Muslim access to the Temple Mount be postponed because of Muslim opposition. From the Jerusalem Post:

According to the report, work on the bridge - which received approval in March - was to have begun early Sunday morning.  The initial work of demolishing the existing structure would have necessitated the deployment of large IDF and security forces in Jerusalem and around the Temple Mount, as well as stepped up army preparedness in the West Bank.

Channel 2 reported that Cairo and Amman warned Jerusalem that the work would likely lead to "disruptions" in both Jordan and Egypt.  
Officials in both the Prime Minister's Office and the Jerusalem Municipality refused Sunday night to relate to the reports.
Previous work on the bridge caused widespread rioting in neighborhoods throughout the Jerusalem area and in Jordan.


Under the plans, a permanent bridge is to be built to replace the current temporary wooden structure that has been in use since a 2003 earthquake and winter storm caused part of the original bridge to collapse. The bridge is used as the main entry point for non- Muslim tourists and security forces entering the Temple Mount.

The full story is here. Haaretz has additional details. For background, see this post from one month ago.

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Weekend Roundup, Part 2


Plans are being made for a renovation of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, beginning with a long-delayed replacement of the roof.

Paleobabble gives a summary of Randall Price’s recent presentation on the 2011 search for Noah’s Ark.

The Israeli government is planning to relocate 30,000 Bedouin in the Negev.

The seed of the date palm discovered at Masada has now grown to a 8-foot (2.5 m) tall tree after more than five years. The tree was planted last week at Kibbutz Ketura in the Arabah. Previous updates were posted in 2006 and 2008.

A new study of textiles has determined that the Qumran inhabitants differentiated themselves from their contemporaries by what they wore.

“Moammar Gadhafi’s forces tried to flee Tripoli with a sack of ancient Roman artifacts in hopes of selling them abroad to help fund their doomed fight, Libya’s new leaders said Saturday as they displayed the recovered objects for the first time.”

The Jerusalem Post has added a two-minute video on the dating of the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount, including sound bites from Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron.

Joseph Naveh passed away this week. His life and publications are remembered by Christopher Rollston.

HT: Biblical Flora, Joseph Lauer, Jack Sasson

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Weekend Roundup, Part 1


The Museo Egizio di Torino has recently posted 11,000 objects from ancient Egypt online.

Six new galleries for ancient Egypt and Nubia opened today at the Ashmolean Museum. The Ashmolean is the most popular free UK museum outside of London.

The British Museum will close its Department of the Middle East to visitors from December 12, 2011 to January 20, 2012.

John E. Curtis will be lecturing on “Babylon: A Wonder of the Ancient World” at the Met on December 19.


The latest production by SourceFlix is now available. You can watch the trailer of “The Sacrifice” at their site. It looks great.

The Logos version of Austen Henry Layard’s Nineveh and Its Remains will close in community bidding on Friday. It’s now at $18 but may well go down to $16 or $14.

BAS has dozens of items for sale this weekend only, including 50% off Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, Freeing the Dead Sea Scrolls, The Copper Scroll, and Scholars on the Record.

Glo Premium is available for only $35 through Monday. The special includes a free DVD.

Accordance is selling all Carta modules and combos for 20% off through December. The sale includes Ritmeyer’s The Quest, Rainey and Notley’s The Sacred Bridge, and Eusebius’ Onomasticon.

Tyndale Tech explains why Perseus, now available for free in Logos, is the best collection for studying backgrounds of the New Testament.

HT: Jack Sasson

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Western Wall Discovery: Follow-Up

The discovery announced yesterday was analyzed by a number of writers:

Doug Petrovich (ANE-2) notes that “it long has been accepted” that King Herod did not finish the Temple Mount project and that “all this find does is to date more precisely the building of the SW corner of the Temple Mount (to AD 17/18).”

Ferrell Jenkins observes that “we already knew” what archaeologists claim to have discovered, given the record of Josephus and John 2.

Alexander Schick provides photos of the incomplete section on the northern end of the Western Wall, suggesting that the story is sensational only because the New Testament evidence was ignored. (Google translation link)

Shmuel Browns was at the press conference and provides his own summary. He also makes some observations and poses some questions in a comment to yesterday’s post on this blog.

The Reuters story provides one solution to the press release by suggesting that academic historians are aware of Josephus but that tour guides are not.

Leen Ritmeyer explains the phases of construction of the western and southern walls of the Temple Mount. This is a must-read for any tempted to claim that Herod did not build the Western Wall. Ritmeyer’s expert diagrams will help you to understand even if you are not familiar with some of the terms and place names. Read it!

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Western Wall Discovery: IAA Desperate for Headlines

Today’s press conference at the Western Wall promised to “challenge the conventional viewpoint” of the dating of the construction of the Temple Mount. The new evidence does that only if imagines that the conventional viewpoint was something other than it is. Someone in the Israel Antiquities Authority obviously felt that this minor story needed to be a major story and this justified creating a new conventional viewpoint that could be contradicted.

All quotations are from the official press release (also here) of the Israel Antiquities Authority, not from some journalist untrained in the field.

The release begins:

Who built the Temple Mount walls? Every tour guide and every student grounded in the history of Jerusalem will immediately reply that it was Herod.

This might be true. When asked a simple question, a tour guide may respond with a simple answer.

However, in the archaeological excavations alongside the ancient drainage channel of Jerusalem a very old ritual bath (miqwe) was recently discovered that challenges the conventional archaeological perception which regards Herod as being solely responsible for its construction.

Ah, but now they’ve twisted the question so as to create a dramatic discovery. The question asked every tour guide above was not who was solely responsible for its construction. Actually, every tour guide and student knows that Josephus reported that in AD 64 work was halted on the Temple Mount and 18,000 workers were laid off (Ant. 20:219-23).

In fact, the press release acknowledges as much, in the concluding (and bolded) paragraph:

This dramatic find confirms Josephus’ descriptions which state that it was only during the reign of King Agrippa II (Herod’s great-grandson) that the work was finished, and upon its completion there were eight to ten thousand unemployed in Jerusalem.

So if this find confirms Josephus’ descriptions, how does it “challenge the conventional viewpoint”? The fact is that it doesn’t.

Furthermore, the press release fails to note that the New Testament makes it clear that the Temple Mount construction was on-going during the time of Jesus’ ministry (ca. AD 30).

John 2:20 (NET) “Then the Jewish leaders said to him, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and are you going to raise it up in three days?’”

The conventional viewpoint is that construction on the Temple Mount began in 20 BC and continued, likely with some stops and starts, until AD 64.

There is valuable information gained from the recent excavation that is nearly obscured by the pathetic attempt to garner headlines with inaccurate reporting. The excavations of Shukron and Reich demonstrate that construction of Robinson’s Arch and the area in the southwestern corner of the Temple did not begin until AD 17/18. This spectacular staircase may have been freshly completed when Jesus arrived with his disciples. So if the story corrects an interpretation for guides and students of the Temple Mount, it is that King Herod, who died in 4 BC, never entered the complex by means of the southwestern gate.

The press release, with inline photos, can be read at the Israel MFA site. Two high-resolution photos may be downloaded at the IAA site (temporary link) or with this direct link to the zip file.

The story is reported in the media by the Associated Press, the Jerusalem Post, Arutz-7, and Haaretz. All of these publications report that the excavations “challenge” what we knew and “confirm” what Josephus says. None of them mention John 2:20.

Leen Ritmeyer provides photos including a portion of a well-known unfinished section and notes that “this late date is not surprising” because of the reference in John 2.

First-century street below Robinson's Arch, tb051805944

Southwestern corner of the Temple Mount and Robinson’s Arch

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Black Friday Specials (CBD) has some Black Friday specials that may be of interest to readers here.

255727: Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary Old Testament, 5 Volumes Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary Old Testament, 5 Volumes. Hardcover. List is $250, on sale for $120 (Amazon: $175)
613176: Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds NT Commentary,  4 Volumes Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds NT Commentary, 4 Volumes. Paperback. List is $130, on sale for $35 (Amazon: $69)
939580: NIV Archaeological Study Bible Renaissance Fine Leather, Venetian Brown 1984 NIV Archaeological Study Bible Renaissance Fine Leather, Venetian Brown 1984. List is $110, on sale for $50 (not listed at Amazon)

The best deal above is the 4-volume ZIBBC NT set.


Announcement Forthcoming: Construction of Western Wall

Joseph Lauer passes along a press conference invitation sent by the Israel Antiquities Authority, the City of David, and other related parties.


Tomorrow (Wednesday, November 23, 2011) at 11:15 AM–a Press Conference in the Jerusalem Archaeological Garden

A find will be presented that challenges the conventional viewpoint in archaeology regarding the construction of the Western Wall of the Temple Mount.

The press conference will be held in the Jerusalem Archaeological Garden, next to the Western Wall.

For further information, kindly contact: Yoli Shwartz, Israel Antiquities Authority spokesperson, 052-5991888

Leen Ritmeyer has posted a note suggesting that the new information has to do with the date of the construction of Robinson’s Arch.

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Eilat Mazar and Her Critics

The controversy surrounding the work of Eilat Mazar in Jerusalem is the focus of a recent article written by Morey Altman for the Jerusalem Report. At the heart of the conflict is the role of the Bible in archaeological interpretation.

Eilat Mazar readily concedes the use of Scripture as a guide but acknowledges the limitations of the Bible as an historical document. "The fact is all historical documents are biased because they are written by people."

But she’s also critical of those who too readily dismiss the use of the Bible as a reference tool. "You don’t want to go the other extreme and ignore a document that’s potentially helpful. Information at hand, whether we’re talking about the Bible or historical documents, may direct us a certain way, but the minute you start excavating, you are obliged by very high scientific standards," she maintains. "We can use the Bible as a starting point, just as archaeologists working in the Near East have always done," she tells The Report. "People investigated what they knew, and they knew the Bible."

Nevertheless, Finkelstein’s concerns go beyond the validity of Scripture. "It is not clear whether the wall was an outer wall or an inner wall within the city," he tells The Report. "And in any event, no 10th century BCE city-wall has ever been found in Jerusalem."

I hope that Finkelstein wasn’t trying to make the argument that Mazar could not have found a 10th-century wall because no 10th-century wall has ever been found.

The article concludes with a quotation from Mazar that she still has a few secrets.

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Weekend Roundup

Luke Chandler has responded to some of my questions about the recently announced cultic room at Khirbet Qeiyafa. I’m still curious if anyone else is convinced that Garfinkel has found one cultic room, let alone three. (Or, did pillars ever support roofs or were they only used for worship?)

The results from the first two seasons of excavation at Tel Burna (Libnah?) were presented at the ASOR meeting yesterday and the PowerPoint presentation is now available for download.

Haaretz reports on the development of the Abraham Path, a route intended to run from Haran in Turkey south to the patriarch’s burial place in Hebron.

Wayne Stiles introduces readers to the first-century boat found on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The Jerusalem Post article includes 7 photos.

In his weekly column, Joe Yudin gives the historical basis for locating the Pools of Bethesda next to the Church of St. Anne.

The reason that the Jordan River today is a pathetic stream composed largely of sewage is that “97% of its historical flow of some 1,250 million cubic meters per year has been diverted by Israel, Syria and Jordan,” according to a report described in the Jerusalem Post.

The AP reports on the progress being made in mapping every tombstone on the Mount of Olives.

Another former church in Turkey, this one famous for hosting the Second Council of Nicaea, has been turned into a mosque.

HT: Al Sandalow, Joseph Lauer

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Friday, November 18, 2011

City of David: Then and Now

There’s a good chance that many of our current blog readers were not with us back in 2005. So while I’m traveling today, I thought I’d re-post a link to a photo comparison of the City of David. It’s worth a look.

I also have just created a PowerPoint presentation with these two photos to make it easier to flip back and forth.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Gezer Excavations, 2006-2009

Several weeks ago I mentioned briefly the preliminary report from the first four seasons of the Gezer excavations of Ortiz and Wolff (2006-2009). As it may be easy to skip reading a lengthy online report, I thought I would return to it and note the conclusions here, in easier-to-read bullet-point fashion:

“Major results from the first four excavation seasons include:

  • the exposure of the Middle Bronze Age glacis;
  • the discovery of a Late Bronze Age stratum, consisting of several wall fragments and a large pillar base that probably indicates the presence of a major public structure;
  • the clarification of the Iron Age fortification systems;
  • the distinguishing of three major architectural strata from Iron II;
  • a large Israelite four-room house and three public buildings that were destroyed in the eighth century BCE, probably as a result of Tiglath Pileser III’s campaign in the region;
  • and the excavation of three Hellenistic building complexes.”

Not mentioned in the conclusion, but potentially quite significant with regard to the date of the Solomonic gate and its associated level is the discovery of a stamp.

Several storage-jar stoppers/plugs were discovered in the deep contemporary construction backfill within one of the chambers created by this system. One of these stoppers bore an Egyptian stamp typical of the so-called 'Early Iron Age Mass-Produced Seals' (EIAMS) series, dated by some scholars from the twelfth/eleventh to the early tenth centuries BCE, and by others, to the mid-tenth century BCE, thus dating the glacis and retaining wall system to late Iron I or early Iron II.

Something major was clearly going on at Gezer in the Iron Age before the 9th century. As noted before, Sam Wolff has written that the team is a season or two away from floor levels associated with the (Solomonic) six-chambered gate.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wednesday Roundup

Luke Chandler reports on the discovery of three cultic rooms at Khirbet Qeiyafa. The evidence revealed thus far is limited, and I’ve posted a few questions that I’d like to see answered in a comment on Luke’s post.

The first-ever Crusader inscription in Arabic has been discovered in Jaffa. The inscription mentions the name of the Emperor Frederick II and the date “1229 of the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus the Messiah.”

A new Bible museum will be built in Israel. Though the Haaretz article reports that the cabinet decided on a location in Jerusalem, it also identifies possible locations as the Adullam Nature Reserve, Neot Kedumim, and a place in Jerusalem near the Israel Museum.

The Boğazköy Sphinx has been transported from the Berlin Pergamon Museum to Turkey where it will go on display with its counterpart on November 26 in Boğazkale. (For background, see here.)

Ferrell Jenkins names some photos that are worth 1000 words each. In addition to our Pictorial Library, he recommends the free resources at Holy Land Photos and David Padfield’s website.

The largest Paleo-Hebrew inscription in the history of the world is now on a rooftop in southern California.

Israeli government officials have figured out a positive way to spin their defeat in the campaign to have the Dead Sea named as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.

HT: Jack Sasson

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Book Deal Today: Carta’s New Century Handbook

This one won’t wait for tomorrow’s roundup because it’s a “Deal of the Day” at Eisenbrauns. I’ve mentioned before (many times) the incomparable value of The Sacred Bridge, by Anson F. Rainey and R. Steven Notley (2005). This work sells for $135, but if you do not need the original languages printed in the text (Hebrew, Greek, Egyptian, Akkadian), you can save half by purchasing the Carta’s New Century Handbook and Atlas of the Bible for $70.

If you don’t mind bent corners and you make up your mind before noon today (and before they sell out), you can save more than half again and get the book for $25. I wonder if there is a book published in the last 10 years in the field of biblical studies that has more packed into 280 pages than this one.

Eisenbrauns also has a non-bent-corner edition for less than Amazon at $50.

You can see the publisher’s information sheet, including the table of contents, in this pdf file. My previous assessment of “The Sacred Abridgement” can be found here.


Monday, November 14, 2011

“Noah’s Ark”: Analysis of C14 Results

In April 2010, NAMI announced that they had discovered Noah’s Ark on Mount Ararat. They supported this claim by declaring that the date of the wood had been scientifically tested as originating in 2800 BC.

NAMI has never followed up its sensational announcement with data that can be analyzed by scholars. In particular, they have withheld results from Carbon 14 tests done on four samples of wood. Andrew A. Snelling, Director of Research for Answers in Genesis, was provided the test results in order to gain his support ahead of the 2010 announcement. He explained to them why the data did not support their identification of the alleged object as Noah’s Ark, but they ignored his analysis and presented their claim as factual.

Since NAMI continues to attempt to deceive the world, Snelling is now revealing the confidential data they provided. In his report posted online last week, he presents the four test results from the wood. Samples A, B, and C are all less than 700 years old. Sample D was dated by an anonymous lab to approximately 2800 BC and is the basis for NAMI’s claim that the wood comes from Noah’s Ark.

Snelling’s report is lengthy and detailed, but he points to several problems with the date of Sample D: (1) This sample was tested at only one laboratory, and a different one than the other samples. This does not squelch rumors that a laboratory fabricated results for a price. (2) The date of the death of the tree from which the wood came is between 9858-294 BC. That range is too broad to be useful, particularly with a single sample tested at a single laboratory. (3) The tests of dendrochronology on this sample are not reliable. (4) Comparison with samples of fossilized wood from trees killed in the Flood indicate that the date of Ark wood should be closer to 20,000 years BP.

In short, the burden of proof is on those who claim that they have discovered Noah’s Ark. Their unwillingness to report their data so that it can be analyzed by scholars suggests that they are perpetuating a fraud.

Previous posts on this blog about the NAMI discovery include:

Noah’s Ark Discovery Exposed (April 27, 2010)

Responses to the Latest Noah’s Ark Claim (April 29, 2010)

Questions about Noah’s Ark Discovery (May 20, 2010)

Noah’s Ark Confession (January 8, 2011)

Noah’s Ark Confession Repudiated (January 21, 2011)

Weekend Roundup – Link to Dufrene article (May 8, 2011)

“We Sell Hope” – written for another false claim, but relevant here also (August 8, 2006)


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Lecture on Samaritans at Yeshiva University

I cannot find this posted online, so instead of including a link in the Weekend Roundup, I am posting it here in full. A portion of a previous interview by Dr. Tsedeka is online here.

Samaritans, Samaritanism and the Samaritan Pentateuch: Reflections on Samaritan Manuscripts in YU Special Collections

Lecture by Benyamim Tsedeka, Director, A-B Center for Samaritan Studies, Holon, and a leader of the Samaritan Israelite Community in Israel

Thurs, November 17, 2011, Furst Hall 311, Wilf Campus, Washington Heights (184th and Amsterdam Avenue)

Celebrating the completion of his catalog of the YU collection of Samaritan manuscripts, which will be published early next year, Benyamim Tsedeka, Director, A-B Center for Samaritan Studies in Holon, Israel and a leader of the Samaritan Israelite Community will speak on the significance of the YU manuscripts for the modern history of the Samaritans and for the history of the Bible on Thursday, November 17 at 6:45 in Furst Hall 311 on our historic Washington Heights campus (184th and Amsterdam Avenue).

This project is sponsored by the YU Center for Israel Studies.

HT: Jack Sasson

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Weekend Roundup

Gordon Govier has an excellent article on Eilat Mazar and her work in Jerusalem over the last 20 years. Though sympathetic to this secular defender of the Bible, Govier cites some of her detractors and describes the latest twist.

According to provisional results, the Dead Sea did not receive enough votes to be named one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.

Donald Brake is writing a series of articles on the life of Jesus in the Holy Land. This week’s article in the Washington Times explains how one can evaluate the accuracy of tradition, specifically in connection with the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Joe Yudin has a good column this week on Mount Gilboa, though I cannot agree that the witch knew the future.

This week’s radio program LandMinds with Barnea and David features interviews with the president of ASOR Tim Harrison, Yisrael “Winky” Medad, and Israel Finkelstein.

Forward reviews the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit currently in New York City.

Dan Bahat explains the political nature of archaeology in an interview with the Canadian Jewish News.

The Hagia Sophia may become a mosque again.

Every day 35,000 tons of raw sewage flow down the Kidron Valley from Jerusalem, according to a video report in the Jerusalem Post.

Israeli scientists are growing trees in the Arabah in order to improve the environment.

The Biblical Archaeology Society has announced its 2011 Publication Awards Winners for Best Scholarly Book on Archaeology, Best Popular Book on Archaeology, Best Book Relating to the Hebrew Bible, and Best Book Relating to the New Testament.

HT: Jack Sasson, Joseph Lauer

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Friday, November 11, 2011

13th Annual Batchelder Conference for Biblical Archaeology

The conference began yesterday and runs through tomorrow. From the Omaha World-Herald:

The University of Nebraska at Omaha is hosting the 13th annual Batchelder Conference for Biblical Archaeology on Thursday through Saturday at the Thompson Alumni Center.

James Charlesworth, professor of New Testament Language and Literature at Princeton Theological Seminary, will deliver the key address Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Charlesworth will describe how researchers continue to uncover mysteries in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Since 1990, UNO has led a group of institutions in uncovering and studying artifacts at the ancient city of Bethsaida on the northeast shore of the Sea of Galilee. It is one of the most frequently mentioned towns in the New Testament. At least three apostles were born there, and it is purported to be the site where Jesus performed several miracles.

Rami Arav, the archaeologist who discovered the site and directs the excavation each summer at the 20-acre site, will speak Friday night at 7:30. Arav teaches in the Department of Philosophy and Religion and the Department of History at UNO.

The addresses by Charlesworth and Arav, as well as 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. sessions Friday and Saturday, are open to the public. A $5 donation is suggested at the door.

Did Arav discover the site of et-Tell, or should this read that Arav is the most vocal proponent of its identification with Bethsaida? The NEAEH article, written by Arav, says that “Bethsaida was first identified with et-Tell…by…U. J. Seetzen…and again in 1838 by E. Robinson” (5:1611). The imprecise wording must originate with the newspaper and not the University.

The full schedule of the conference is available as a Word document.

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Egypt Closes Giza Pyramids on 11/11/11

From the AFP:

Egypt will close the Great Pyramid of Giza on Friday to avoid any rituals by a group rumoured to have plans to mark the date of 11/11/11 at the site, an official said.

The decision came "after much pressure" from Egyptian Internet users that strange rituals were going to be held "within the walls of the pyramid on November 11, 2011," Atef Abu Zahab, head of the Department of Pharaonic Archaeology, told AFP.

The Supreme Council of Antiquities confirmed the closure Friday of the tourist site, in a statement that only referred to the need for maintenance following a busy period during Muslim holidays.


Some attribute the number 11 to paranormal powers that provide a channel of communication with the subconscious, others see a mystical connection between the number and disasters, like the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

The full story is here. The AP covers the story here.

Cheops' and Chefren's pyramids, tbs58109012

The pyramids of Cheops and Chefren in Giza


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Newsletter Glitch

I missed a checkbox in sending out the November issue of the BiblePlaces Newsletter yesterday and the result, as one reader put it, was “gobblidigook.” A corrected edition was sent shortly thereafter, but some readers did not receive it. Those who prefer not to translate HyperText Markup Language (html) in their head can read the newsletter online here. I apologize for the error.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Wednesday Roundup

ABR is putting the word out for volunteers to join them for the 10th season of excavations at Khirbet el-Maqatir, a possible location of Joshua’s Ai.

IBEX students discovered a beautiful seal this week in excavations at Tel Burna (Libnah?).

Excavations have resumed in Egypt at Tell el-Amarna.

One place that most tourists to Israel never visit is the southern wilderness where the Israelites wandered. Wayne Stiles gives his readers a good feel for the landscape, with several scenic photographs, in his weekly column at the Jerusalem Post.

CITYsights takes viewers on a four-minute video tour of the Herodium in search of Herod’s tomb.

Satellite imagery is being used to identify ancient settlements in the Libyan desert.

Elsewhere in Libya, thieves drilled through a concrete ceiling in the National Commercial Bank and carried off the Treasure of Benghazi. An expert described the loss as “one of the greatest thefts in archaeological history.”

Carl Rasmussen has been uploading photos from his excellent Zondervan Atlas of the Bible to the Holy Land Photos website where they can be downloaded for free.

The Book and the Spade radio program features an interview with Eilat Mazar (and a forthcoming profile in Christianity Today). To listen, go here.

A hyena was caught in an illegal trap near Modiin (about halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv). Aren Maeir has the details, a video and some advice.

Now that it has been admitted to UNESCO, the PA is going to sue Israel “for systematically destroying and forging Arab and Islamic culture in Jerusalem.”

It’s been a year now since the American consulate in Jerusalem relocated from East Jerusalem, but since I missed it, someone else may have also. If you lose your passport or need a birth certificate, you’ll need to head to the new facility in Arnona, south of the Old City not far from Ramat Rahel.

Friday (11/11/11) is the last day to vote for the Dead Sea as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. The lowest and saltiest body of water on earth is in the top ten but the Israeli Tourism Ministry is asking everyone to vote.

HT: Jack Sasson, Joseph Lauer

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Tuesday, November 08, 2011

New Book: Verse by Verse Trip through the Holy Land

More than once I’ve been asked to put together a book with my photos. Even if I had the time, I could not do better than others have done. The most recent work features 200 photos from my collection in A Verse by Verse Trip through the Holy Land. Written by Rob and Lisa Laizure, this new book takes the reader on a tour of 27 sites in Israel, guiding them with interesting facts, large doses of Scripture passages, and 1-3 photos on nearly every page. The reader is taken as far north as Caesarea Philippi and as far south as En Gedi, from Capernaum to Bethlehem. Jerusalem is given extra attention.

The book is available from for $25. Those leading a tour can purchase larger quantities at a discount.


Monday, November 07, 2011

Discoveries at Khirbet Summeily Announced

The most dramatic discovery from the first season of excavations at Khirbet Summeily is a unique sculpted animal head. Archaeologists are not sure if the head is of a sheep or a lion, but they say that it is the first of this type they have seen.

Excavations of the site this summer also uncovered an Egyptian scarab, stone figurines, a collection of loomweights, as well as the remains of several buildings. Khirbet Summeily is located near the border of ancient Israel and Philistia, 3 miles (4 km) west of Tell el-Hesi and about 5 miles (8 km) southwest of Qiryat Gat.

Tim Frank has posted the full press release and photograph from Mississippi State University. You may want to check out Frank’s blog “Archaeology and the Bible” while you’re at it, including a recent series of posts on “Life in the Holy Land,” surveying the remarkable work of Gustav Dalman (until now available only in German and Hebrew).

Blog readers may recall Daughter of Lachish, a captivating work of historical fiction written by Frank and published earlier this year by Wipf and Stock (now available from Amazon).

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Sunday, November 06, 2011

Weekend Roundup

Ancient Israel: Highlights from the Collections of the Oriental Institute University of Chicago is a new 127-page publication written by Gabrielle Vera Novacek and illustrated with 66 beautiful photographs and diagrams. The book is available for pre-order from Amazon or as a free download (pdf).

Six lectures in Hebrew are now online from the 12th Studies of Ancient Jerusalem conference held in September in the City of David. The speakers included Israel Finkelstein, Ronny Reich, Gabriel Barkay, Asher Grossberg, Eli Shukron, and Yosef Garfinkel.

“Libya’s famed ancient Roman sites, including the sprawling seaside ruins of Leptis Magna, were spared damage by NATO during the recent airstrikes, says a London-based Libyan archaeologist.”

Muslims continue to bury their dead next to the eastern wall of the Temple Mount, according to the Committee to Prevent the Destruction of Temple Mount Antiquities.

The head of the Supreme Committee of the Grand Egyptian Museum was fired this week.

“Ultra-Orthodox young men curse and spit at Christian clergymen in the streets of Jerusalem's Old City as a matter of routine.” Last week a judge ruled in favor of an Armenian seminary student who fought back.

HT: Daniel Wright, Jack Sasson, ANE-2, AWOL

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Saturday, November 05, 2011

A New Proposal for Israel’s Stonehenge

An AP news story summarizes an article by Rami Arav in the current issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

A newly proposed solution to an ancient enigma is reviving debate about the nature of a mysterious prehistoric site that some call the Holy Land's answer to Stonehenge.

Some scholars believe the structure of concentric stone circles known as Rujm al-Hiri was an astrological temple or observatory, others a burial complex. The new theory proposed by archaeologist Rami Arav of the University of Nebraska links the structure to an ancient method of disposing of the dead.


Most scholars have identified Rujm al-Hiri as some kind of ritual center, with some believing it connected to astronomical calculations. Archaeologist Yonathan Mizrahi, one of the first to excavate there, found that to someone standing in the very center of the circles on the morning of the summer solstice in 3000 B.C., "the first gleam of sunrise would appear at the center of the northeast entryway in the outer wall."

Just like England's Stonehenge — thought to date to around 3000 B.C. at the earliest — Rujm al-Hiri has also provided fodder for ideas of a less scientific sort. One posits the site is the tomb of the Biblical giant known as Og, king of the Bashan. There is indeed a tomb in the center of the site, but scholars tend to agree it was added a millennia or two after the circles were erected.

Arav theorizes that the site was used for excarnation or sky burial. A corpse was exposed so that vultures could pick the bones clean before secondary burial in an ossuary.

If Arav's theory is correct, the biblical narrative written millennia later might offer hints that sky burial remained in the memory of the local population. No longer practiced, it was instead considered an appalling fate wished on one's worst enemies.

In one example, from the Book of Samuel [1 Sam 17:46], the shepherd David tells the Philistine warrior Goliath that he would soon cut off his head. Then David says: "I will give the carcasses of the Philistine camp to the birds of the sky and the beasts of the earth."

This is an interesting article, but I’m not so sure it’s necessary to have excarnation in the background in order to understand David’s threat.

Access to the original BAR article is available with a subscription.

UPDATE: Shmuel Browns has posted some of his thoughts on the proposal in BAR.

Rogem Hiri from south, tb111700218

Rogem Hiri from the south


Friday, November 04, 2011

Springs in Judean Hills Drying Up

From Haaretz:

Springs in the Judean Hills that were the basis for agriculture as far back as the Second Temple era are drying up due to successive drought years and have become polluted, according to a study carried out this year.

The study, conducted this spring by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority under the direction of the Water Authority, was the first of its kind in 30 years. It included 67 of the almost 90 springs in an area from Jerusalem in the east westward almost to Beit Shemesh.

Water quality and quantity, as well as the area surrounding each spring, were examined. The survey included the Sataf, Ein Hindak and Ein Lavan springs, all popular hiking spots, as well as the spring in the center of Abu Gosh.

The surveyors found water in only two-thirds of the springs. Of the springs with water, the flow rates were lower than in previous years and in one out of three springs the water quality was poor or fair.

The surveyors pointed to several consecutive low-rainfall years as the main reason for the low water levels.

Six of the past eight years met the criteria for drought years. Last winter, for example, saw only 60 percent of the average annual rainfall in the region.

The article also describes the impact of human activities on the springs and reports that last year the terraced fields of the Judean hills were recommended as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Ein Handak, tb121302804

Ein Handak in the Judean Hills

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Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Wednesday Roundup

Joseph Patrich provides a great survey of what we know about Caesarea Maritima from archaeological excavations.

Ferrell Jenkins has written a couple of illustrated posts on Saint Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai Peninsula.

The IAA has more information about the Byzantine prayer box discovered in the City of David (aka “Walls around Jerusalem” National Park).

The West Semitic Research Project has made three RTI images available to BAR readers to view without requiring registration. (Background here.)

Wayne Stiles transports his readers to the Mount of Beatitudes in the spring.

You can now register for the 2012 season at Gath. This is one of the most popular excavations in the world.

The ancient mikveh discovered near Zorah is the subject of a 1.5 minute video at the Jerusalem Post.

A bill submitted to Israel’s parliament “aims to preserve the Dead Sea and its internationally treasured natural resources, maintain the salty waters for the benefit of the next generation, curb the plunging water levels of the northern basin and determine new terms of management for the region, which will provide for continued reasonable extraction of minerals while protecting the ecosystems and biodiversity.”

Israel’s Knesset has refused to declassify the Temple Mount Report. “Shin Bet officials argued the report should remain confidential on the grounds its contents were sensitive and its publication could result in confrontations and geopolitical changes at the site.”

A scholar claims that the number of ancient stone wheels visible only from the sky may number more than a million. Google Earth is now being used to identify these throughout Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.

Iraq has budgeted $8.5 million to develop the infrastructure at the ancient city of Babylon.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Jack Sasson

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