Monday, April 30, 2012

Books from Eretz Magazine

If I subscribed to magazines without regard for the cost, Eretz would be high on my list. At $89 a year (six issues), I will be content to read it in the library when time permits, but I was pleased recently to see several affordable books that collect many articles published over the years.

Pilgrims Companion: Galilee (170 pages; $14.50)

ERETZ the Book: A Selection of Articles 1985-2005 (336 pages; $32.00)image

ERETZ Guide and Handbook to Israel (400 pages; $49.90)

ERETZ Guide and Handbook to Jerusalem (352 pages; $49.90)

Hiking In Israel: 36 of Israel's Best Hiking Routes (202 pages; $24.90)

ERETZ Guide to Parks and Sites of Israel (322 pages; $39.90)

Pilgrims' Companion: The Land of Abraham (64 pages; $3.95)

ERETZ Guide to Museums and Historic Sites in Israel (56 pages; $3.95)

More details about each are given here and here on the magazine’s website.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Q&A: Chorazin in the First Century

Question: How do you address the skeptic who argues that Chorazin did not exist in Jesus’ day? –J.H.

Answer: Two of the Gospels record that Jesus condemned Chorazin for its lack of faith (Matt 11:21; Luke 10:13). Scholars have identified Chorazin as Khirbet Karazeh, a site located two miles north of Capernaum, but excavations have not revealed remains earlier than the 2nd century AD. You’re asking if this contradicts the New Testament.

First, the incidental reference to Chorazin would hardly have been invented by a Gospel writer. One could potentially use the reference to argue that the Gospels were written only much later in the second century, but there is abundant evidence dating Matthew and Luke to the first century.

Second, in some cases the name of a site is preserved in the area but not at the specific location. Names did move in antiquity as well as today (e.g., Beth Zur, Socoh), and this possibility cannot be ruled out.

Third, another ancient text, the Talmud, refers to the existence of Chorazin in the first century. Rabbi Yose said that they would have brought the wheat from Chorazin to the temple for the Omer offering if it had been closer to Jerusalem (b. Men. 85a).

Fourth, in an unpublished report written in 1926, J. Ory described an earlier synagogue 650 feet (200 m) west of the second-century synagogue: “A square colonnaded building of small dimensions, of a disposition similar to the interior arrangement of the synagogue, 7 columns, 3 on each side...with sitting benches in 5 courses” (cited by Foerster on page 26 of Ancient Synagogues Revealed). This building has not been re-located, but it is possible that this is the synagogue of Jesus’ time.

Finally, we must recognize that archaeology has recovered so little of the ancient world. First-century synagogues in Galilee are a great example, as textual sources indicate the existence of dozens and yet archaeology has found only a handful (e.g., Magdala, Gamla). The fact that these are not known today hardly means that they did not once exist. Perhaps the architecture was different than what archaeologists have been looking for, perhaps the Roman destruction was severe in some cases, or perhaps it is just a case of not having sufficient resources to excavate the hundreds of archaeological sites in Galilee.

A telling example of just how limited archaeology is during this time period is the apparent complete disappearance of the nearby city of Bethsaida-Julias. Archaeologists excavating et-Tell so much want it to be the glorious first-century city constructed by Herod Philip but they have not found it (despite their claims to the contrary). The problem is not with the ancient sources but with the preserved remains and archaeologists’ ability to find them.

Chorazin panorama from west, tb041103211-labeled

Chorazin from the west

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Geography in the Apocrypha

There are difficulties in identifying certain cities in the biblical text, but I’ve never seen anything as strange as the location as Bethulia in the book of Judith. The following is abridged from the Bethulia entry by Sidnie Ann White in the Anchor Bible Dictionary (1: 715-16).

BETHULIA (PLACE) [Gk Baityloua (Βαιτυλουα)]. City where the events of the book of Judith are located (Jdt 4:6). The author of Judith gives many indications of the location of Bethulia: it is N of Jerusalem (11:19), near Betomasthaim (4:6), over against Esdraelon (4:6), near Dothan (4:6), in the hill country of Samaria (6:11). It is described as having a spring below the city (7:12–13), and it is positioned to hold the narrow mountain pass giving access to Jerusalem from the N hill country (10:10–11). However, the name Bethulia is unknown to modern readers, and its exact location, despite all the descriptive material, is uncertain. Enslin (1972) points out that we do not even know whether the city was actually known to the author.


None of these locations is definitive. It is possible that the author of Judith modeled his city on one of the major cities in the N hill country (Shechem being the most likely candidate), but that does not lead to an absolute identification. It seems most helpful to follow Craven (1983) when she says, “It seems best to leave the details of the Book of Judith alone as the products of a fertile, creative imagination.”
This reminds me of an interview once in which I was asked about various place names that sounded somewhat biblical but were clearly misinformed. Though not without its challenges to interpreters 2,000 years later, the Bible clearly stands apart from other religious texts.

To say it another way, there is no Pictorial Library of Apocryphal Lands or Pictorial Library of Mormon Lands because one cannot photograph what did not exist.

Shiloh from west, tb120806860

Judges 21:19 (NIV) “But look, there is the annual festival of the Lord in Shiloh, to the north of Bethel, and east of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem, and to the south of Lebonah.”

Footnote: Not all apocryphal or deuterocanonical texts are ahistorical or a-geographical, but as readers have long recognized, the biblical books are unique.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Deal: Volumes 1 and 2 of Dead Sea Scrolls is running a special on two volumes of James Charlesworth’s The Dead Sea Scrolls. Retailing for $150 each, they are available now for $20. These are not the first books to buy on the Dead Sea Scrolls, but they are essential for more careful study of the sectarian literature.

21994: The Dead Sea Scrolls, Volume 1: Rules of the Community and Related Documents The Dead Sea Scrolls, Volume 1: Rules of the Community and Related Documents
By James H. Charlesworth / Westminster John Knox Press

"This important work brings together all copies of the Dead Sea Scroll text known as THE COMMUNITY RULE (also called the Manual of Discipline), with original Hebrew and English translations on facing pages. This volume offers the most up-to-date research, an indispensable compendium for anyone doing research on the scrolls." [taken from BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY REVIEW] THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS Vol. 1 was winner of the Biblical Archeological Society Publication Awards--Best Scholarly Books on Archaeology for 1995. Includes introduction, selected bibliography, and footnotes.
22037: The Dead Sea Scrolls, Volume 2: Damascus Document, War Scroll, and Related Documents The Dead Sea Scrolls, Volume 2: Damascus Document, War Scroll, and Related Documents
By James Charlesworth / Westminster John Knox Press

The Princeton Theological Seminary Dead Sea Scrolls Project was established to make available the first comprehensive edition of texts, translations, and introductions to all the Dead Sea Scrolls that are not copies of books in the Biblia Hebraica. Hence the documents composed at Qumran, as well as the Jewish writings composed elsewhere but found in the 11 Qumran caves, are collected in this series.

Amazon has volume 1 for $110 and volume 2 starting at $90.

HT: Peter Wong

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Jerusalem on IMAX

I don’t receive all that many direct suggestions for this blog, but probably a full half of them are recommending this IMAX video trailer. People obviously really enjoy it and want to make sure that I didn’t miss it (though I mentioned it last June and September). If others missed it, you may have too, and so for that reason, and in hopes of saving my readers time to write, I am posting this again.
By the way, the search box at this blog’s upper right is real handy for locating items we have previously mentioned. I often use it to help me remember what I have posted here. (Now if only I could do that for things I say in the classroom...)


Monday, April 23, 2012

Megiddo Prison Church

Did the mosaic floor unearthed in 2005 in the yard of a prison near Megiddo belong to the “world’s most ancient Christian church”? As far as the developers of a $7 million project are concerned, it did. The prison will be moved within two years and a tourist center constructed to welcome half a million tourists in the first year alone. Haaretz reports:
The church remains were unearthed four years ago [sic], during prison renovations. The excavations revealed a mosaic floor, with three inscriptions. The one to the west of the mosaic reads, "The god-loving Akeptous has offered the table to God Jesus Christ as a memorial." The inscription and other findings, such as coins, are believed to date from the third century.
The findings suggest that the Roman army that was positioned at the site was involved in Christian community rituals even before the institutionalization of the Christian church.
When the findings were unearthed archaeologists said that "it is likely that the inscription points to the antiquity of the building. At first there were tables that served an eating ceremony, and only later alters were added. That takes us back to an ancient period, before the institutionalization of churches with basilicas."
The full report is here. Previous related stories on this blog include:

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Weekend Roundup

The Friends of the Israel Antiquities Authority has announced the establishment of the Brandt-Lewis Center for Ancient Jewelry and Artifacts, to be part of the Schottenstein National Campus for the Archaeology of Israel in Jerusalem.

The BBC reports on a dispute over oil pipelines that run under the ruins of Babylon.

The Jerusalem Post reviews the 30th volume of Eretz Israel.

The Freeman Institute has produced a 14-minute film on the Rosetta Stone and how they create full-size replicas.

James Tabor explains why he believes that finding Jesus’ remains in the Talpiot tomb does not contradict Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection. Michael Heiser writes an excellent response.

Joe Yudin describes the wonders of the Small Machtesh.

Don’t forget about Eisenbrauns 30/30/300 sale. It ends on the 30th.

I’ll be traveling the next couple of weeks, but I have some posts prepared and may have a little time along the way. When I return I’ll have the most important announcement in the history of this blog.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Jack Sasson
Machtesh Qatan panorama, tb042207334
Machtesh Qatan panorama

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Friday, April 20, 2012

Khirbet Qeiyafa at the Time of David

A preliminary report for the fourth and fifth seasons (2010-2011) at Khirbet Qeiyafa has been published by Hadashot Arkheologiyot. Written by Yossi Garfinkel, Sa‘ar Ganor, and Michael Hasel, the report summarizes the finds in Areas A through E, gives a stratigraphical chart of the six strata (from Late Chalcolithic to Ottoman), and concludes with an assessment of the site in its three major periods. Of most interest to us are the finds from Stratum IV, dated to the late 11th and early 10th centuries. This portion is excerpted below, with emphasis added for those who like to skim.

The lower stratum, from Iron Age IIA, dates to the late eleventh–early tenth centuries BCE. The remains of this settlement, uncovered to date, included two gates, two gate plazas, twenty-eight casemates (twenty complete), ten residential buildings and remains of administrative buildings at the top of the site. Large quantities of artifacts were discovered on the floors of the houses in each area, including hundreds of pottery vessels that can be restored, hundreds of stone objects, dozens of metallic objects and small finds. It is obvious that this stratum was suddenly destroyed. Much evidence was found of ritual activity, including mazzevot, a cultic chamber, models of temples (two of ceramic and one of stone) and a figurine.

The Iron Age city had impressive architectural and material finds:

1. A town plan characteristic of the Kingdom of Judah that is also known from other sites, e.g., Bet Shemesh, Tell en-Nasbeh, Tell Beit Mirsim and Be’er Sheva‘. A casemate wall was built at all of these sites and the city’s houses next to it incorporated the casemates as one of the dwelling’s rooms. This model is not known from any Canaanite, Philistine or Kingdom of Israel site.

2. Massive fortification of the site, including the use of stones that weigh up to eight tons apiece.

3. Two gates. To date, no Iron Age cities with two gates were found in either Israel or Judah.

4. An open space for a gate plaza was left near each gate. In Area C an area was left open parallel to three casemates and in Area D, the area was parallel to four casemates.

5. The city’s houses were contiguous and built very close together.

6. Some 500 jar handles bearing a single finger print, or sometimes two or three, were found. Marking jar handles is characteristic of the Kingdom of Judah and it seems this practice has already begun in the early Iron Age IIA.

7. A profusion of bronze and iron objects were found. The iron objects included three swords, about twenty daggers, arrowheads and two spearheads. The bronze items included an axe, arrowheads, rings and a small bowl.

8. Trade and imported objects. Ashdod ware, which was imported from the coastal plain, was found at the site. Basalt vessels were brought from a distance of more than 100 km and clay juglets from Cyprus and two alabaster vessels from Egypt were discovered.

The excavations at Khirbat Qeiyafa clearly reveal an urban society that existed in Judah already in the late eleventh century BCE. It can no longer be argued that the Kingdom of Judah developed only in the late eighth century BCE or at some other later date.

The full preliminary report, with illustrations, is here. All of this data provides archaeologists with much to evaluate with regard to the 10th-century debate.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Khirbet Qeiyafa west gate, tb010412815

West gate of Khirbet Qeiyafa, facing Azekah

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Egyptian Scarab Discovered in City of David

A unique discovery in Jerusalem a couple of weeks ago was surprisingly carried by only one news source—Israel Hayom. Joseph Lauer saw the report and passed it on.

An Egyptian scarab, dating back to the 13th century B.C.E. (the era when some scholars speculate the Exodus may have occurred) was uncovered on Thursday at an excavation sponsored by the Israel Antiquities Authority at the City of David National Park.

The seal is about a centimeter and a half in length and was used to stamp documents.

It bears the name, in Egyptian hieroglyphic writing, of the sun god Amon-Ra, one of Egypt's most important deities. It is made of soft gray stone and also bears the imprint of a duck, which was apparently one of the sun god's symbols.


"This is the first time we've found a scarab of this kind in the City of David," said archaeologist Eli Shukrun, who is directing the dig along with Dr. Joe Uziel.

The full story, with a photo, is here. I wonder why the Israel Antiquities Authority didn’t report this. Perhaps they had already prepared their Passover story (the recovery of Egyptian coffins) and didn’t want to save it for next year. I’m curious too where they discovered the scarab. I’ll be in the City of David next week and post what I learn.

UPDATE: Aren Maeir has corrected me in the comments below. This is not the first Egyptian scarab found in the City of David. I misread Shukrun’s quote: it’s the first scarab of this kind that he has found in the City of David. The post above has been changed accordingly. My apologies for the error.

City of David sign, tb051908123

Sign at entrance to City of David National Park

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wednesday Roundup

In an article published in the new issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Emile Puech’s view of the Qeiyafa Ostracon is summarized. He believes that it “announces the installation of a centralized royal administration and it makes this announcement to a distant frontier province. He concedes that it is difficult to establish with certainty whether the new royal administration is that of Saul or David. On balance, however, he concludes that, most likely, the ostracon refers to Saul’s accession.”

Gordon Franz discusses three possible locations for the temple to Augustus near Panias/Caesarea Philippi. He concludes that the site of Omrit is likely the backdrop for Peter’s confession.

Using satellite images taken over a span of 40 years, Shmuel Browns shows how the Dead Sea is shrinking.

The first quarter of 2012 saw a record number of tourists to Israel.

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority says that if visitors pay they are less likely to trash a site.

Aren Maeir has announced a major scholarship for those wishing to join the excavations at Gath and/or Tel Burna this summer. The application deadline is May 6.

HT: BibleX

Omrit temple from east, tb032905151

Roman temple at Omrit

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Implications of an Altar on Mount Ebal

I intended to ignore this article (as I do many others), because I doubt that the identification is accurate and this article in Israel Hayom is but a popular presentation of a discovery now 25 years old. So you’re not reading this here because I agree that the “altar” on Mount Ebal is “the world’s most important Biblical archaeological site” and the “the Holy Grail of Biblical archaeology.” But the article helpfully points out scholarly biases that affect interpretation.

One of the people on the tour asks whether there are researchers – colleagues – who support him. Zertal names the late Professor Benjamin Mazar, who “supported me to an extent, but it was difficult for him because he was part of the mainstream. If you support a revolutionary idea, you pretty much cut off your relationships with certain people in positions of power.” Once again, he quotes Professor Lawrence Steiger of the Harvard Museum of Semitic Studies who said at the end of the 1980s: “If the ruin on Mount Ebal is what Adam Zertal says it is, the effect on archaeology and Biblical studies will be revolutionary; we will all have to go back to kindergarten. But that’s a big if.”

He mentions scientists whose revolutionary ideas met with vigorous rejection by the contemporary establishment, which ostracized them, from Galileo to Daniel Schechtman. “Put yourself in the shoes of professors who wrote books for decades, and suddenly along comes some pipsqueak from the Ha-Shomer Ha-Tza’ir movement who discovers an altar that matches, point for point, what is written in the Bible. What would you do? Ze’ev Herzog writes an article entitled ‘The Bible – No Findings on the Ground.’ An entire career was built on the theory of ‘no data.’ And suddenly there are facts! Incidentally, an American researcher by the name of William Dever says that there were only ‘proto-Israelites’ here. It’s not really clear what that means. But we found 420 Israelite sites from the settlement period (the Iron Age I period).”

While this is a most simplistic presentation (“suddenly there are facts!”), his evaluation that this discovery must be ignored because it undermines a particular scholarly perspective is important. A similar approach has been taken with regard to Bryant Wood’s analysis of the pottery at Jericho.

The reason that I doubt that Zertal has found Joshua’s altar is because his claim that the altar “matches, point for point, what is written in the Bible” is false. His evidence dates the altar to 1200 BC, two hundred years after the time of Joshua. Other objections have been raised by various archaeologists concerning the nature of the structure as well. But there are some intriguing things that may well have been ignored because his interpretation would send liberal biblical scholars “back to kindergarten.”

HT: Joseph Lauer

Mount Ebal and Shechem from Mount Gerizim, tb070507676

Mount Ebal from Mount Gerizim

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Saturday, April 14, 2012

New Book: The Walls of the Temple Mount

Eilat Mazar has released a two-volume work through her own publishing company that is now available from Eisenbrauns. The Walls of the Temple Mount has 320 pages of text in the first volume and 6 fold-out maps in the second. From the publisher’s description:

This volume comprises the most comprehensive and detailed documentation of the walls of the Temple Mount to date, and is meant to serve as an accessible, updated database for anyone taking an interest in the Temple Mount. image

The walls of the Temple Mount compound—one of the most magnificent construction enterprises in all of antiquity—reflect the immense scale of King Herod’s vision of some two thousand years ago, a brilliant technological feat of vast dimensions and breathtaking beauty which continues to captivate our imagination even today. This innovative creation occupies a place of honor among the most splendid edifices of the ancient world, and in the cultural legacy of all humankind.

To judge from the $270 price tag, this work is intended primarily for institutional libraries. Given problems with Mazar’s credibility on some recent issues, I will be interested to see a review of this book by Leen Ritmeyer. (Ritmeyer is author of the best book on the Temple Mount, The Quest: Revealing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, a more affordable volume.)

Temple Mount northeastern tower, tb010310607

Northeastern corner of the Temple Mount, one of the highest preserved sections visible

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Friday, April 13, 2012

The Resurrection Tomb Mystery on TV

If you want to capture the hearts and minds of the people, you won’t do it through blogs but through TV specials. Whether or not the movie producers really want to convince people to “believe” or just buy the DVD and book is not clear to me, but the The Resurrection Tomb Mystery (aka The Jesus Discovery) puts forth claims that very few scholars have found convincing.

Some of the latest discussion is reviewed by James McGrath, and Mark Goodacre provides a simple summary of the claim.

The claim at the heart of the new documentary is that this tomb belonged to some of Jesus' disciples, his earliest followers, probably Joseph of Arimathea himself, the man who buried Jesus.  The basis for the claim is twofold: (1) One of the ossuaries is said to feature a picture of a fish, pointing downwards, that is spitting out a stick man.  They interpret this as depicting the Hebrew Bible's story of Jonah and the fish, and they suggest that this is being used as a symbol of early Christian resurrection. (2) Another of the ossuaries features an inscription that they interpret as referring to resurrection.

Goodacre is unconvinced, saying that “the case that this tomb belonged to Jesus’ disciples is very weak.” He then provides his top ten problems with the proposed interpretation.

1. Weak circumstantial evidence alone.
2. Handles on a fish?
3. Layered patterns of geometric shapes.
4. The Composite Computer-Generated Image.
5. The original excavators did not see a fish.
6. Fish in the margins.
7. The handled half-fish.
8. The Inscription Does Not Clearly Refer to Resurrection.
9. The Tomb Does Not Clearly Date to the time of Jesus.
10. Witnessing to Resurrection Does Not Make the Tomb Christian.

Goodacre’s blog explains each point. James Tabor has responded here. The spiritual “mission” of the program is to convince viewers that Jesus rose spiritually but not bodily from the grave. Though the producers obscure this by claiming to have discovered an early “high Christology,” their view constitutes a direct attack on historic Christianity as taught by the apostles until today.

And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead (1 Cor 15:14-15).

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Dead Sea Scroll Fragment in Fort Worth

A local CBS station has more on the new Leviticus fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls going on display this summer in Fort Worth.

The fragment is 14.5 centimeters long and 8 centimeters high. It was put on display for CBS 11 in the MacGorman Chapel. Seminary President, Dr. Paige Patterson, is thankful to have it.


The scrap is called Paleo Leviticus. Paleo means old and Leviticus is the name of the third book in the old testament.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were first discovered in 1947. A shepherd looking for a goat threw a rock into a cave in Qumran and heard something shatter.


One of the scriptures in the fragment is Leviticus 22:21. It tells how a special offering needs to be without defect or blemish which is symbolic of the Messiah.

Steven Ortiz, a Biblical Archeology Professor at the seminary said, “What we do in archeology is actually put the flesh and blood on the actual stories.”

Ortiz is currently involved in two important digs in Israel and Cyprus.

He said, “I think a lot of times, people sitting in pews hear these stories and think of them like Aesops Fables and what we do in archeology is actually put the flesh and blood on the actual stories.”

That recalls a statement by William F. Albright: “Writing without artifacts is like flesh without a skeleton, and artifacts without writing are a skeleton without flesh.”

The story includes a video with images of the fragment. More information about the exhibit can be found here.

HT: Joseph Lauer


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wednesday Roundup

The first two volumes of Harley and Woodward's History of Cartography can now be downloaded for free from the University of Chicago Press (a value of more than $1,000). The links to the volume contents and chapter pdfs are on the left sidebar.

I always tell my class that Ramah, Samuel’s hometown, sits at the crossroads. Though it is known today as A-Ram, the geographical dynamic has not changed.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has unveiled its latest acquisition of a Dead Sea Scroll, a fragment from Leviticus.

In Jerusalem and throughout Israel this is Passover/Holy Week/Spring Break:

Those posing as Roman soldiers outside of the Colosseum have been thrown to the lions.

Wayne Stiles reveals what Jaffa’s greatest export is.

Two items of particular interest at this week:

HT: Bill Soper, A.D. Riddle

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Cave for Demeter Worship Identified in Judean Hills

From Haaretz:

We often hear about how Jerusalem is holy to followers of the three major monotheistic religions. But what is less well-known is that the surrounding Judean hills were home to pagan ritual sites involving Greco-Roman gods. One such site, linked to the harvest goddess Demeter, has been identified at the Twins Cave, according to a study released by the Yad Ben-Zvi historical research institute last week.

In Greek mythology, Demeter's daughter, Persephone, was kidnapped by Hades, king of the underworld. After Zeus intervened, Hades agreed to send Persephone back aboveground - but first he convinced her to taste the seeds of the pomegranate, an underworld fruit. Once she tried them, she could not remain completely cut off from Hades' realm, to which she had to return for three months every year.

And how do you reach the underworld? In Greco-Roman thought, dark, deep pits or caves were considered gateways to hell and were often used for rituals dedicated to pagan gods, say Boaz Zissu, who teaches classical archaeology at Bar-Ilan University, and Eitan Klein, one of Zissu's graduate students.

Zissu and Klein said in the study that the Twins Cave was used for just such pagan rituals between the second and fourth century C.E.

The 42 clay lamps from the late Roman period discovered in the cave were used as part of a pagan rite, apparently meant to guide Demeter's way as she searched underground for her daughter, they said.

The full story is here. For directions to the cave located east of Beth Shemesh, see here.

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Monday, April 09, 2012

Eisenbrauns 30/30/300 Sale

To judge from the titles listed at the Eisenbrauns April sale, one might think they were partly influenced by recent recommendations on this blog. Among the nearly 100 titles for which you can get 30% now and later, these books are of particular interest:

The Horsemen of Israel: Horses and Chariotry in Monarchic Israel (mentioned here last month)

The Fire Signals of Lachish: Studies in the Archaeology and History of Israel in the Late Bronze Age, Iron Age, and Persian Period in Honor of David Ussishkin (mentioned here in December)

Unearthing Jerusalem: 150 Years of Archaeological Research in the Holy City (mentioned here in December)

There are many other books that we haven’t mentioned but that are of great interest. (There are also a few we wish had never been published!) Here are three not yet mentioned here:

Cities through the Looking Glass: Essays on the History and Archaeology of Biblical Urbanismimage

Confronting the Past: Archaeological and Historical Essays on Ancient Israel in Honor of William G. Dever

Critical Issues in Early Israelite History

The full list is here.

By a 30% discount “now and later,” we’re referring to the immediate 30% discount plus the 30% credit that one gets towards future purchases.


Saturday, April 07, 2012

Weekend Roundup

The theme of the month at the ASOR Blog is “Fakes, Looting, and Artifacts Lacking Context” and the first few posts are up:

At Christianity Today, Gordon Govier reviews the recent Easter archaeology stories of the Talpiot Tomb and the James Ossuary verdict.

Joe Yudin provides a history of the temple as preparation for Passover.

Ferrell Jenkins remembers the Passion Week of Jesus with posts on the Via Dolorosa and Reclining in the Upper Room.

Lois Tverberg offers a free download of “A Taste of Passover” through the end of the month.

If you didn’t sacrifice an animal at the temple yesterday, even though such is commanded for Passover, it is very difficult to understand the price that must be paid for your redemption. The Sacrifice video ($10) by SourceFlix will help.

Samaritan Passover, slain lamb, tb041106729

Sacrifice of lambs at Samaritan Passover

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Thursday, April 05, 2012

ASOR: Free Journals for April

There seems to be a new push by the folks at ASOR to get more attention. In addition to the more active blog, they have designated themes for appointed guest editors for the month, and now they are offering free access to the last four years of ASOR journals via JStor.

I have no inside information on what goes on over there, but my thoughts often go back to the survey in about 1997 when they asked readers of Biblical Archaeologist if they should change the name of the magazine. A resounding majority (85%?) said no, but the administration told the readers to shove it and changed the name anyway to Near Eastern Archaeology. I suspect that subscriptions have been declining ever since. At one point they had about 3,000 subscribers compared to some 200,000 for Biblical Archaeology Review.

In any case, their publications have always been essential resources for the field and this is a great opportunity to get more acquainted with them if you are not.

The American Schools of Oriental Research is excited to announce free access to the current content of all three of our publications during the month of April. You are now able to access all content published in Near Eastern Archaeology, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research and the Journal of Cuneiform Studies over the last four years! Simply follow the instructions outlined below. If you decide to take advantage of this promotion we ask that you like us on Facebook at:

All the details are at the ASOR Blog.


Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Wednesday Roundup

Hundreds of pilgrims celebrated Palm Sunday in Jerusalem.

Wayne Stiles visits the Jerusalem of Hezekiah’s time and writes, “I have a faith rooted in history—not mystery. The words on the pages of Scripture are supported by simple elements we can dig out of the ground. They prove nothing, but they support it all.”

The Israel Museum has joined the Google Art Project and “online users will be able to view high-resolution images of 520 pieces from the museum's collection.” That future tense should be changed to present, as you can see the images here. Beautiful.

A restaurant in Capernaum has been accused of dumping raw sewage into the Sea of Galilee. “This is one of the most serious cases of coastal environmental damage that the Kinneret has encountered thus far,” said a prosecutor.

Cyprus and Israel are collaborating to form a database for archaeology. There is more in common between the pasts of the two countries than many people know. The article does not explain the reason for why this cooperation is occurring only now: a downturn in the relations between Israel and Turkey.

The Mughrabi Bridge saga continues with Israel’s Supreme Court ruling that planning committees have to consider the women’s prayer area as well as security issues in their decisions. An Islamic petitioner claims that the Western Wall plaza falls under the authority of the Waqf. Jordan’s crown prince made a surprise visit to the Temple Mount today to see the Mughrabi Gate.

Turkey is asking for the return of artifacts from the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Cleveland Museum of Art and Harvard University’s Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection. “‘Turkey is not trying to start a fight,’ said Murat Suslu, Turkey's director general for cultural heritage and museums. ‘We are trying to develop…cooperation.’”

The Israel Antiquities Authority recently recovered the covers of two sarcophagi smuggled out of Egypt.

For one week, the Teaching Company is offering a free video lecture by John R. Hale, "Central Turkey—Ankara, Konya, Cappadocia.”

HT: Joseph Lauer, Jack Sasson

Kourion theater and coast, tb030405137

Theater of Kourion, Cyprus

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Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Christian Inscription from AD 125

Larry Hurtado brings attention to what may be the earliest Christian graffito, suggesting that the find is extraordinary but that because the author “doesn’t have a TV production company behind him, we haven’t seen this item in the daily news.”

The inscription was found in Smyrna, home of a first-century church (Rev 2:8-11), and dates to AD 125/26. The writing includes the words “Lord” and “faith,” but you’ll need to get the forthcoming book by Roger Bagnall or read Hurtado’s summary for the details.

HT: Arne Halbakken

Smyrna, Izmir, modern city from acropolis, tb041405528

View of Smyrna (modern Izmir) from acropolis

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Monday, April 02, 2012

The Greatest Mosaic Artist

Haaretz describes one of the most spectacular mosaics ever discovered in Israel. The masterpiece was composed of 2 million stones.

The Lod mosaic has earned its place of honor outside the conservation laboratory of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The laboratory, in the courtyard of the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem, contains hundreds of mosaics collected over about a century of archaeological exploration in Israel. But the 180-square-meter Lod mosaic, with its dozens of meticulously executed animal images enclosed in spectacular geometric patterns, is the jewel in the crown.

The artist who made it some 1,800 years ago was apparently the greatest mosaic artist ever to work in this land.


The Lod mosaic was found 16 years ago when a tractor hit it by accident. An Israel Antiquities Authority inspector saw the very tip of a panther's tail, and stopped the work. Archaeologist Miriam Avissar started excavating, and slowly but surely the treasure emerged: an elephant trapped in a hunter's net, a giraffe (mistakenly sporting antlers), lions, ducks, fish, deer, a peacock, wolves and snakes. Ships also appeared. Some of the animals are hunting - a panther holds a bleeding deer, a snake swallows a fish, even a little vegetarian rabbit is seen snacking on a cluster of grapes it seems to be sharing with a wolf.

The mosaic was covered until three years ago, when the antiquities authority and the Lod municipality brought it to light, invited the public to see it - and then removed it. Parts have been sent abroad to raise funds for a future museum to house it. It has been displayed in the Metropolitan Museum in New York, San Francisco's Legion of Honor Museum, and the Field Museum in Chicago.

The full article, along with a series of photos, is here. We noted this discovery back in June 2009 and October 2009.

HT: Joseph Lauer

UPDATE (4/3): Tom Powers observes that the photo below is not the Lod mosaic but another found near Lachish. See Tom’s post for images of the Lod mosaic.


Mosaic found near Lachish. Photo: Michal Fattal, Haaretz.