Sunday, May 31, 2015

Weekend Roundup, Part 2

Philistines living at Yavneh used hallucinogenic drugs, according to Israeli archaeologists.

The Dhamar Regional Museum in Yemen was destroyed in a Saudi airstrike. It was completely destroyed, according to these photos.

Revelers at a Burning Man festival destroyed prehistoric remains near Nahal Boker in the Negev (more at Haaretz premium).

The US has returned 25 artifacts looted from Italy, including a first-century BC fresco from Pompeii.

A fresco from a 12th-Dynasty tomb in Middle Egypt has been hacked out by thieves. A statement from the Catholic Leuven University confirms “the grave news that the tomb has been entered and that a relief has been stolen.”

A plan being examined by Israel’s Tourism Minister would apply a 3.5% tax to tourists’ purchases at hotels, restaurants, goods, and services. The Haaretz (premium) article also notes that “Israel dropped to 72nd place out of 141 countries in the World Economic Forum 2015 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index released this month.”

This week’s guest on the Land and the Book is Dr. Filip Vukosavovic, Curator at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem.

Coming to theaters in January: RISEN.

Final deliberations have begun on the fate of an archaeological center in the City of David.

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

Proposed Archaeological Center

Photo Credit: City of David

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Weekend Roundup, Part 1

A cylinder seal from the Early Bronze period may depict the earliest known musical scene in Israel. The seal was found in western Galilee in the 1970s.

A record-breaking heat wave in Israel sparked forest fires, caused flight delays and prompted a sharp increase in reported cases of dehydration and fainting.” Temperatures in Tel Aviv reached 42ºC (107ºF).

ISIS has begun destroying statues in Palmyra’s museum, says the International Business Times. Nothing has been destroyed, reports the New York Times. ISIS is promising not to destroy the site’s monuments. Reuters recounts some of Palmyra’s illustrious history. Experts fear for remains of the city’s Jewish history, including the longest biblical Hebrew inscription known from antiquity.

If you want to preserve the Dead Sea Scrolls, it’s best to leave them in a dark cave. Do not use tape or glass panels, according to this article on conservation at the Jewish Independent.

Digging up Jericho: Past, Present & Future is the title of a conference being hosted next month at the Institute of Archaeology at University College London.

Ken Dark is on the Book and the Spade discussing the archaeology of Nazareth (part 1, part 2; mp3 links here).

Gabriel Barkay says that careful surveillance is required for archaeological activity on the Temple Mount.

Aren Maeir has fired up the tractor in his excavations of Gath.

The St. Louis Zoo offers a Biblical Animal Scavenger Hunt.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, A.D. Riddle

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Weekend Roundup, Part 2

The lighthouse of Alexandria is to be rebuilt near its original location.

An ancient Egyptian temple has been discovered at the Gabal Al-Silsela quarries.

One of the earliest complete copies of the Ten Commandments (from the Dead Sea Scrolls) will be on display at the Israel Museum two days a month for the next seven months.

Wayne Stiles: The Mount of Olives—Where to Stand and What to Read

A PEF lecture by James L. Starkey’s son: Not for the Greed of Gold: A Tribute and Biography of the Life and Career of J.L. Starkey, Director of the Wellcome-Marston Archaeological Expedition to Palestine, 1932-1938.

A new aerial panoramic photo from SourceFlix: Where David fought Goliath.

The Museum Center at 5ive Points in Cleveland, Tennessee, is hosting an exhibition with artifacts from Khirbet el-Maqatir.

Vandals have painted Palestinian flags on the ruins of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Haluza in southern Israel.

The Israeli government has approved a five-year plan to upgrade the Western Wall plaza.

HT: Agade, Paleojudaica

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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Weekend Roundup, Part 1

Palmyra has fallen to ISIS. The fear now is for the safety of the monuments and museum.

This CNN slideshow features 19 monuments destroyed in the war.

“Cyber-archaeologists” are working to virtually restore what has been destroyed.

Archaeologists were baffled at a meticulously excavated Byzantine-era winepress in Jerusalem until they learned it was exposed by local teenagers.

Catacombs are being constructed in Jerusalem to bury the dead. The first stage of the underground necropolis will hold 22,000.

This weekend’s celebration of Shavuot/Pentecost may be the largest in Israel’s history.

Donald Brake is on the Land and the Book discussing Jesus: A Visual History.

A 20-year-old female tourist died at Masada after she suffered heat stroke and fell from a cliff. UPDATE: More details here.

What would be at the top of your list of yet-to-be-discovered finds in biblical archaeology? Steven Anderson lists his top ten.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Agade, Ted Weis

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

37 Years of BAR for $60 Today Only

I almost missed this, but still available through today is this great deal for every issue of Biblical Archaeology Review through 2012 for $60. That’s less than $2/year for 37 years. I suspect they may be preparing a 40th anniversary edition, but it will likely cost two or three times as much for the additional 3 years.

I have a BAR archive produced for Logos that goes through 2003 [no longer available]. This new archive has the additional years and may be easier to use because of its browser interface.

The website highlights these features:

  • Archive of all 220 issues of BAR
  • 4,100 BAR articles
  • 13,000 breathtaking photos, maps, drawings and charts
  • Searchable by keyword/phrase, author, title and images
  • Easy-to-use, intuitive interface
  • Option to separately print the text of an article and its accompanying images/captions
  • DVD preloaded with Mozilla Firefox browser and all archive content; no Internet connection required

This deal ends at midnight (reg. $130). Shipping in the US is $9.

BAR Archive DVD 1975-2012


Jerusalem Lower Aqueduct Section Discovered

A new section of the Lower Aqueduct built by the Hasmoneans to bring water to Jerusalem has been exposed near Har Homa between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. A press release from the Israel Antiquities Authority gives more details.

The Israel Antiquities Authority conducted an archaeological excavation there following the discovery of the aqueduct. According to Ya’akov Billig, the excavation director, “The Lower Aqueduct to Jerusalem, which the Hasmonean kings constructed more than two thousand years ago in order to provide water to Jerusalem, operated intermittently until about one hundred years ago. The aqueduct begins at the ‘En ‘Eitam spring, near Solomon’s Pools south of Bethlehem, and is approximately 21 kilometers long. Despite its length, it flows along a very gentle downward slope whereby the water level falls just one meter per kilometer of distance. At first, the water was conveyed inside an open channel and about 500 years ago, during the Ottoman period, a terra cotta pipe was installed inside the channel in order to better protect the water”.

The aqueduct’s route was built in open areas in the past, but with the expansion of Jerusalem in the modern era, it now runs through a number of neighborhoods: Umm Tuba, Sur Bahar, East Talpiot and Abu Tor. Since this is one of Jerusalem’s principal sources of water, the city’s rulers took care to preserve it for some two thousand years, until it was replaced about a century ago by a modern electrically operated system. Due to its historical and archaeological importance, the Israel Antiquities Authority is taking steps to prevent any damage to the aqueduct, and is working to expose sections of its remains, study them and make them accessible to the general public.

The Umm Tuba section of the aqueduct was documented, studied, and covered up again for the sake of future generations. Other sections of the long aqueduct have been conserved for the public in the Armon Ha-Natziv tunnels, on the Sherover promenade, around the Sultan's Pool and additional projects are planned whose themes include the Lower Aqueduct.

The story is reported by the Jerusalem Post, Arutz-7, and The Times of Israel. A more complete report of an earlier excavation of this aqueduct is available in Excavations and Surveys in Israel 2011. The Pictorial Library of Bible Lands includes a 50-slide presentation on the entire ancient aqueduct system.

UPDATE: Joseph Lauer sends along a link to three high-res photos.

Lower Aqueduct section

Lower Aqueduct section recently discovered
Photo courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

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Monday, May 18, 2015

New Video: Sea of Galilee, Golan Heights, Huleh Valley, and Mt. Hermon

Bill Schlegel has released another teaching video based on the Satellite Bible Atlas, this one focused on the northern regions of Israel. The 18-minute video describes the geographical and historical significance of the:

  • Sea of Galilee
  • Golan Heights
  • Huleh Valley
  • Mt. Hermon

Schlegel has taught college and graduate students as a resident professor in the land of Israel for 30 years. His new video series combines his expertise with excellent maps and aerial footage taken with a drone. These videos could serve your own family as well as a small-group Bible study or a school classroom. The series now includes 10 videos. They are all free. If you benefit from them, you might consider commenting on their Facebook page or sharing with your friends.

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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Weekend Roundup, Part 2

In honor of Jerusalem Day, Noam Chen shares 25 sets of then and now photos of the city.

Biblical Archaeology Review is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a two-volume coffee table book that features one article from each year.

“The Digital Atlas of Ancient Egypt is a digital cultural map of archaeological sites in Egypt” produced by students at Michigan State University.

The Minerva Center for the Relations between Israel and Aram in Biblical Times is calling for applicants for stipends for doctoral studies at Bar Ilan University.

Research into the heights of Egyptian mummies reveals the prevalence of incest among the families of the pharaohs.

A study of animal mummies from Egypt has revealed that a third of them were empty. “Experts believe as many as 70 million animals were‭ ‬ritually slaughtered by the Egyptians to foster a huge mummification industry that even drove some species extinct.”

The Indiana Jones exhibit has opened at the National Geographic Museum. Artifacts on display include the movie version of the ark of the covenant.

Mark Wilson describes what it’s like for a biblical scholar to live in Turkey (requires login). Wilson’s Biblical Turkey is now available through Amazon.

HT: Agade, Charles Savelle, Ted Weis

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Weekend Roundup

Leen Ritmeyer explains with word and image the Treasury of the Temple in Jerusalem.

The IAA stopped two would-be tomb robbers as they were about to penetrate a Roman period burial chamber.

Fifty years ago this week Yigael Yadin announced the discovery of the Bar Kochba letters. (An aside: if you’re looking for summer reading, I enjoyed this biography on Yadin.)

Covenant Journey is a new Taglit- (Birthright-) type program designed for Christian students to visit Israel for only $500. It is being funded in part by the Museum of the Bible.

The NIV is celebrating its “50th” anniversary with the free NIV 50th Anniversary Bible App, a 365-day reading plan, a video “The NIV: Made to Study.” And I really appreciated the academic-level review of the translation philosophy of the NIV by Doug Moo, available both in video form and free eBook.

The ruins of Palmyra are at risk in fighting between the Islamic State and Syrian forces.

Students at Johns Hopkins are learning how to re-create ancient Greek pottery.

Leon Mauldin shares a group of photos of biblical Troas.

In the category of bad Hebrew tattoos, this one ranks high.

HT: Agade, Steven Anderson, Joseph Lauer

The temple of the sun, Palmyra, pp2191

The ruins of Palmyra
from Picturesque Palestine, Sinai and Egypt

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Saturday, May 09, 2015

Weekend Roundup

The oldest complete copy of the Ten Commandments is going on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem for a brief time. No articles provide the dates of the display. High-resolution images of this Dead Sea Scroll are available here.

Archaeologists have discovered an Egyptian army headquarters from the New Kingdom at Tell Habwa.

“The Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW) and the Digital Library Technology Services (DLTS) in the New York University Division of Libraries have redesigned and relaunched the Ancient World Digital Library (AWDL) online portal.” The new ADWL includes 121 titles from Brill.

65 titles from ASOR are now available online including works by Charlesworth, Cross, Glueck, King, Lapp, Levine, MacDonald, Meyers, and Pritchard.

Forward has photos of this year’s Samaritan Passover sacrifice. The Daily Mail has many more.

Ten mosaics in the museum in Antioch on the Orontes have been seriously damaged during restoration.

Wayne Stiles: Why I Don’t Use My Holy Land Photos on My Blog

This week on the Book and the Spade, Clyde Billington draws a connection between Khirbet Qeiyafa and the heights of David mentioned in Pharaoh Shishak’s inscription.

The ancient synagogue of Meiron was recently vandalized.

Theresa Howard Carter has died.

HT: Agade, Ted Weis, Charles Savelle

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Friday, May 08, 2015

Seminar: Archaeology and Text

The Institute of Archaeology at Ariel University will be holding an international seminar on May 10-12 in Jerusalem and Ariel entitled: “Archaeology and Text: Toward Establishing a Meaningful Dialogue between Written Sources and Material Finds.”

Participation is by prior arrangement only; please contact Dr. Yonatan Adler:

Seminar Schedule

Sunday, May 10 - National Library of Israel, Jerusalem

09:00-09:15 Reception
09:15-09:30 Greetings, Dr. Itzhaq Shai (Ariel University) and Dr. Tareq Abu Hamed (Ministry of Science, Technology and Space)

Session 1: Chair: Dr. Matthew J. Adams (W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research)

09:30-10:00 Literary and Archaeological Sources: “Can [the] Two Walk Together?” (Amos 3:3), Prof. Lee I. Levine (Hebrew University)

10:00-10:30 Casually Reading the Finds? Towards a Methodologically Sound Relationship between Text and Archaeology in Phoenician Colonization, Dr. Eleftheria Pappa (University of California, Santa Barbara)

10:30-11:00 Midian in Moab: Do the Historical Sources refer to the Mudayna Sites near the Arnon River?, Prof. Haim Ben David (Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee)

11:00-11:20 Coffee

Session 2: Chair: Prof. David Ussishkin (Tel Aviv University)

11:20-11:50 Herod’s Royal Portico on the Temple Mount - Between Josephus’ Text and the Archaeological Finds, Dr. Orit Peleg-Barkat (Hebrew University)

11:50-12:20 Purity Observance among Diaspora Jews, Prof. Jodi Magness (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

12:20-12:50 Josephus Flavius in the Galilee: Text and Archaeology, Dr. Mordecai Aviam (Institute for Galilean Archaeology and Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee)

12:50-14:00 Lunch

Session 3: Chair: Prof. Israel Finkelstein (Tel Aviv University)

14:00-14:30 Text and Archaeology: The Case of Tel Rehov in the 10-9th Centuries BCE, Prof. Amihai Mazar (Hebrew University)

14:30-15:00 Iconographic Exegesis: One Interpretative Nexus of Archaeology and Text, Dr. Izaak J. de Hulster (University of Helsinki and Georg-August Universität Göttingen)

15:00-15:30 Archaeology and Dating the Messiah: Establishing the Historical Background of Isaiah 10:28-34, Dr. Shawn Zelig Aster (Bar-Ilan University)

15:30-15:50 Coffee

Session 4: Chair: Prof. Ronny Reich (Haifa University)

15:50-16:20 The Migdal Synagogue in the Context of Late Second Temple Synagogues in the Land of Israel, Prof. Lutz Doering (University of Münster)

16:20-16:50 Cultic Items and Epigraphic Material: What is the Connection?, Dr. Ian Stern (Hebrew Union College) and Prof. Esther Eshel (Bar-Ilan University)

16:50-17:20 Reading Between the Lines: Late Ancient Jewish Mortuary Practices in Text and Archaeology, Dr. Karen B. Stern (City University of New York, Brooklyn College)

17:20-17:50 Hagiographical Holy-Man and Archaeological Monk: Holiness and Mundane Life in the Countryside of the Levant in Late Antiquity, Dr. Jacob Ashkenazi (Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee)


Monday, May 11 - Ariel University, Ariel

09:00-09:15 Reception

09:15-09:30 Greetings, Prof. Michael Zinigrad (Ariel University - Rector)

Session 1: Chair: Dr. Alexander Fantalkin (Tel Aviv University)

09:30-10:00 Texts, Master Narratives, and the Non-Textual Archaeological Record, Prof. David Small (Lehigh University)

10:00-10:30 The Interface between Text and Artifact: Back to Basics? Some thoughts on “Bible and Spade, Prof. Aren M. Maeir (Bar-Ilan University)

10:30-11:00 Wood there be Context? Dendroprovenance & Ancient Texts, Dr. Sara Rich (Maritime Archaeology Trust)

11:00-11:20 Coffee

Session 2: Chair: Prof. Joseph Patrich (Hebrew University)

11:20-11:50 Purity and Purification in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Mikva’ot of Qumran: The Convergence of Archaeology and Text, Prof. Lawrence H. Schiffman (New York University)

11:50-12:20 Praxis versus Theory: Greek Papyrus Amulets and the Instructions for their Preparation, Laura Willer (Heidelberg University)

12:20-12:50 Toward an “Archaeology of Halakhah”: Prospects and Pitfalls of Reading Early Jewish Ritual Law into the Ancient Material Record, Dr. Yonatan Adler (Ariel University)

12:50-14:00 Lunch

Session 3: Chair: Prof. Gunnar Lehmann (Ben-Gurion University)

14:00-14:30 “And there was Peace between Israel and the Amorites” (1 Sam. 7:14) – Israelites and Canaanites in Late Iron I, Dr. Yigal Levin (Bar-Ilan University)

14:30-15:00 Samaria’s Role in the Days of Ahab and His Sons: History, Bible and Archaeology, Dr. Amitai Baruchi-Unna (Hebrew University)

15:00-15:30 “Now there was no Smith Found throughout all the Land of Israel...”: 1 Samuel 13:19-23 in Light of the Accumulating Evidence for the Transition from Bronze to Iron Production, Dr. Naama Yahalom-Mack (Hebrew University) and Dr. Itzhaq Shai (Ariel University)

15:30-15:50 Coffee

Session 4: Chair: Prof. David Small (Lehigh University)

15:50-16:20 Heroes in the Post-Classical Polis: On Interpreting Archaeological and Written Sources, Dr. Lucia Novakova (Trnava University)

16:20-16:50 Traditions of the Rock: Discerning and Defining Ancient Jewish Burial Grounds in Rome, Jessica Dello Russo (International Catacomb Society and the Pontifical Institute of Christian Archaeology)

16:50-17:20 Monumental Building Projects of Late Second Temple Jerusalem in Light of Historical Sources and Recent Archaeological Excavations, Dr. Joe Uziel (Israel Antiquities Authority), Mr. Nahshon Szanton (IAA), and Mr. Moran Hagbi (IAA)


Tuesday, May 12 - Israel Museum, Jerusalem

09:00-10:00 Visit to the Dead Sea Scrolls Laboratory, Israel Antiquities Authority, Guided by Mrs. Pnina Shor (Director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Projects Unit of the IAA)

10:00-10:30 Coffee and Farewells

The seminar is jointly sponsored by Ariel University and The Ministry of Science, Technology and Space.


Thursday, May 07, 2015

Was the James Brother of Jesus Ossuary Buried in the Talpiot Tomb? A Summary of Arguments

(by Ryan Jaroncyk)

Yesterday I shared a list of arguments concerning the identification of the Talpiot Tomb with the tomb of Jesus and his family. Last month proponents of that theory claimed that analysis of the “James son of Joseph brother of Jesus” ossuary reveals a geochemical fingerprint virtually identical to the Talpiot Tomb. If true, this means that the James Ossuary would have been buried in the Talpiot Tomb as well. Below I have gathered arguments presented in favor of this latest claim as well as significant objections.

Supporting Arguments
1. At least one geologist who was involved in the analysis believes the geochemical link is indisputable.

2. A majority of scholars believe the entire inscription is authentic and from the 1st century.

3. The latest statistical study concluded that it is likely only 1.7 individuals with that unique combination of names and their apparent relationships on the ossuary lived in 1st century Jerusalem. Moreover, the study calculated a 38% chance only 1 such individual existed, compared to a 32% chance for 2 individuals, 18% chance for 3, 8% chance for 4, etc.

4. There are no other “James son of Joseph” ossuaries.

5. The addition of “brother of” likely means that this brother “Jesus” was a well-known, influential public figure at the time. Jesus of Nazareth is an ideal candidate.

6. Only one other “brother of” ossuary has been discovered from this era.

Opposing Arguments

1. The results have not yet been published or submitted to a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

2. The sample size may be too small to yield meaningful conclusions.

3. This ossuary’s photograph was dated to the 1970s by a former FBI director during an Israeli trial, four years before the Talpiot Tomb was even excavated.

4. There is a 2nd-century reference and 4th-century literary evidence of James being buried in the Kidron Valley, not the Talpiot area.

5. The possible soil match could be from another area of the East Talpiot region and not this specific tomb.

6. This theory requires the Talpiot Tomb held 11 ossuaries, not 10 according to several of the original excavators.

7. This ossuary would have just happened to be the one by the opening to the tomb, leaving it vulnerable to illicit removal.

8. This would have just happened to be the only ossuary that was raided and stolen, while every other ossuary in the tomb was left untouched.

9. There is a minority of reputable scholars who question the authenticity of the inscription, specifically the “brother of Jesus” part.

10. Two statistical studies have estimated that there were 1.7 to 3.3 “James son of Joseph brother of Jesus” individuals alive during Jesus's lifetime. The most recent statistical analysis estimated the following: 38% chance there was only 1 “James son of Joseph brother of James,” 32% chance there were 2 “James son of Joseph brother of Jesus” individuals, 18% chance there were 3 individuals, 8% chance there were 4 individuals, etc. This suggests that there is a 62% chance there were 2 or more individuals with this full appellation in 1st-century Jerusalem, meaning it is not likely to be totally unique.

11. At least three top scholars have argued that the “brother of Jesus” portion of the inscription is insufficient to link to Jesus of Nazareth, without any further descriptors.

12. James originated from a relatively poor family and lived in relative poverty as leader of the Jerusalem church, yet the style of the ossuary is consistent with wealth.

13. Josephus referred to James as the “brother of Jesus, who was called Christ” (Ant. 20.9.1 [§200]). This differs from the James Ossuary which calls James the “son of Joseph.” In addition, Josephus’s descriptor, “who was called Christ” offers a definitive link to Jesus of Nazareth that is not present in the ossuary.

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Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Was Jesus Buried in the Talpiot Tomb?: A Summary of Arguments

(by Ryan Jaroncyk)

As a layman, I have followed the “Jesus Family Tomb” and “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” Ossuary controversies fairly closely since 2007. In an attempt to bring greater clarity to those of us who are not archaeological, biblical, or philosophical scholars, I have composed lists summarizing what appear to be the pros and cons of each position. All of my research was conducted online and focused on reading scholarly blogs and magazine articles, scholars’ personal websites, book excerpts, and popular science and news media sources.

I tried to read a variety of views across the theological and philosophical spectrum. For example, I consulted sources which offered the opinions of scholars such as James Tabor, Aryeh Shimron, James Charlesworth, Jodi Magness, Eric Meyers, Christopher Rollston, Joel Baden, Candida Moss, Hershel Shanks, Stephen Pfann, Steve Caruso, Oded Golan, Gary Habermas, Ben Witherington III, Joseph Fitzmyer, Camil Fuchs, André Lemaire, Mark Goodacre, Robert Cargill, and James Davila.

I view these lists as a “running tally” of the ongoing arguments and not the final word. Critique is welcome and future revision is likely as more data emerges.

Arguments Given in Favor of Identifying the Talpiot Tomb as the Tomb of Jesus

1. The Talpiot Tomb is consistent with the style of a 1st-century tomb.

2. Most scholars are willing to accept the full “Jesus son of Joseph” inscription as being accurately translated.

3. Jesus is called the son of Joseph in the Gospel of John.

4. Mary (and/or Joseph) had ancestors with the name (or variant) Matthew, at the level of grandfather and older.

5. The tomb contains 4 out of 6 names of Jesus and his immediate family (of those who are specifically named in the New Testament).

6. The tomb is suggestive of wealth, which is consistent with the wealthy Joseph of Arimathea, who is recorded as having buried Jesus.

7. Removal of Jesus’s body from an original tomb could be consistent with the Jewish authorities’ claim in the Gospel of Matthew.

8. Removal of Jesus’s body from an original tomb could be consistent with Mary Magdalene’s initial wondering if a gardener had moved the body, as recorded in the Gospel of John.

9. Most ancient Jewish rabbis were married, which means the hypothesis that Jesus may have been married to Mary Magdalene is at least a theoretical possibility.

10. The Talpiot Tomb does not necessarily negate any of the (first burial) accounts recorded in the Gospels.

11. Some ancient sources place Mary’s burial in Jerusalem.

Arguments Given Against Identifying the Talpiot Tomb as the Tomb of Jesus

1. At least two Aramaic scholars contest the “Jesus” portion of the “Jesus son of Joseph” inscription on one of the ossuaries. They believe “son of Joseph” is an accurate translation, but “Jesus” is not.

2. Two or three other “Jesus son of Joseph’ ossuaries have been discovered from this period.

3. Statisticians have estimated that 1 in 79 males, in and around Jerusalem during the time of Jesus, were called “Jesus son of Joseph,’ which would have been approximately 1,000 men.

4. In Acts and Mark, the earliest Gospel, Jesus is often called “Jesus of Nazareth,’ not “Jesus son of Joseph.’

5. In the earliest Gospel, the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is referred to as the “son of Mary,’ not the “son of Joseph.’

6. Mary was the most common name of Jewish females in the 1st century. 1 in 5 girls was named Mary.

7. The inscription, “Mariah,” for Mary is not unique. It is found on several other ossuaries.

8. Joseph, Mary, Jesus, and their immediate family were residents of Nazareth. Therefore, a family tomb in Nazareth, not Jerusalem, would have been more likely.

9. The Talpiot tomb bore hallmarks of a tomb for the wealthy. There is no indication that Jesus’s family was wealthy.

10. The Talpiot Tomb bears no sign, mark, or inscription of the wealthy Joseph of Arimathea.

11. The Talpiot Tomb was ornate and visible. Therefore, it did not appear to be covertly concealed so as to hide its potentially “myth-busting’ contents from potential public investigation.

12. There is no record of a “Mattia” or Matthew in Jesus’s immediate family.

13. Jesus’s other brothers (or cousins), Simon and Judas, are not present in the tomb. The Judas/Judah ossuary in the tomb belongs to a Judas/Judah who was the son of Jesus, not Joseph.

14. Besides the Mary and Mariamne e Mara ossuaries, there are no other female inscriptions despite Jesus having sisters (or female cousins).

15. [Removed]

16. There is no record of Jesus ever having had a child.

17. There is one other tomb on the Mount of Olives which contains several of these same names grouped together.

18. These type of tombs were often multi-generational and could contain bones of close relatives, extended family, adopted family, step family, and even cherished servants and slaves, making any precise familial relationships difficult to decipher.

19. All four Gospels record Jesus being buried in a tomb, by himself, by Joseph of Arimathea without ever being moved to a different tomb at any time.

20. If a small group of Jesus’s followers secretly moved his bones to the Talpiot tomb, who were they and why are there no records or even legends about them?

21. If Jesus’s bones were moved to the Talpiot Tomb, then his closest apostles, particularly Peter, James, John, and Paul were either terribly deceived or terrible deceivers themselves. Keep in mind that we have records of Peter, James, and Paul being martyred for their faith in the resurrected Christ.

22. How were James and Paul unaware of the Talpiot Tomb? Both were former skeptics who spent a good deal of time in and around Jerusalem. And James was a family member.

23. How was the Talpiot Tomb hidden from hostile sources, i.e., Roman or Jewish authorities who would have loved to squash the central teaching of Christianity at its outset?

24. Why didn’t Jesus’s subsequent family members or small band of followers who knew of the Talpiot Tomb ever destroy his alleged ossuary in order to preserve the myth of a resurrected Christ?

25. Even according to most critical (i.e., skeptical) scholars, the bodily resurrection of Christ was believed and taught no later than five years after the crucifixion. A “spiritual” resurrection was not so taught.

26. The gable and rosette of the Talpiot tomb are consistent with a pre-Christian Jewish symbol. It is not indicative of an early Christian tomb.

27. Mary Magdalene is never called Mariamne in any early historical literature. She is always called Maria.

28. There is no ancient literature that reports of a romantic or conjugal relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

29. The Mariamne Mara ossuary inscription is likely better interpreted as “Mary and Martha” or “Mary known as Martha.”

30. There is no DNA control sample of Jesus’s family to make any meaningful genetic comparisons.

31. DNA testing proved no positive links.

32. There were at least 14-18 different individuals’ bones in the tomb, making it difficult to decipher whose bones were actually tested.

33. The statistical analysis is based on several critical assumptions. If even one assumption is incorrect, the odds of this being the family tomb of Jesus begin to drop.

34. There is a 2nd-century reference and plentiful 4th-century literary evidence which points to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher as the likely burial tomb of Jesus. Numerous archaeological digs have provided evidence that is consistent with such a view.

35. The “Mariamne e Mara” ossuary has nothing of Magdala or Migdal in its inscription.

36. The “Mariah” ossuary denotes no family relationship despite a few other local ossuaries providing specific “daughter of” and “wife of” inscriptions.

37. The “Mariamne e Mara” inscription is in Greek, while the others are in Aramaic. Mary Magdalene hailed from a relatively poor Jewish fishing village, where Aramaic, not Greek, would have been spoken.

38. Non-Judean families, if buried in the Jerusalem area, often identified their specific place of origin on their tombs. Jerusalem residents did not. Jesus’s family was non-Judean, yet none of the ossuary inscriptions bear geographical identifiers.

39. If the “Yoseh” ossuary is Jesus’s brother Joses, then where is Joseph’s ossuary?

40. If “Yoseh” is Jesus’s brother, why does his tomb inscription not include “son of Joseph” as well?

41. If “Mattia” is an ancestor of Mary (or Joseph) where are the ossuaries of their more proximal ancestors?

42. If “Yoseh” was Jesus’s brother, why did they not find a “Yoseh son of Joseph brother of Jesus” inscription? Jesus was a prominent figure and many scholars consider the “James son of Joseph brother of Jesus” inscription to be authentic and identified with Jesus of Nazareth.

43. At this time, the vast majority of scholars, from all across the philosophical spectrum, reject the view that this is the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth and his family.

44. It is the universal testimony of the earliest apocryphal writings, as well as the early church historians and theologians, representing both Eastern and Western Christianity, that Mary was buried in Jerusalem, not the Talpiot area.

Recently a new claim was made that the James Ossuary originated from the Talpiot Tomb, thus greatly strengthening the case that the tomb belonged to Jesus’s family. Tomorrow I’ll share a summary of arguments for and against that claim.

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Monday, May 04, 2015

New Video: Pictorial Library of Bible Lands

We have a brand new video to introduce the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands to teachers, pastors, students, and all those who love the places of the Bible! In just two minutes, you’ll learn:

  • What the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands is
  • Why it is the best photo resource
  • How it can help you and those you serve

Watch the short video below (those reading by email should click here).


For more information, go here.


Sunday, May 03, 2015

Weekend Roundup, Part 2

Emek Shaveh has submitted a petition to Israel’s Supreme Court asking that Elad not be allowed to operate the City of David Archaeological Park.

The Museum of Biblical Art in NYC will permanently close on June 14. The American Bible Society could not find a new location for its rare Bible collection when it sold its building recently.

May 5 in NYC: By the Rivers of Babylon – A Symposium Exploring New Evidence from Ancient Texts about the Jewish Exiles

Here is a silent film segment of the Good Samaritan, re-enacted in Palestine in the 1920s.

The Independent has a lengthy profile of the antiquities trade long going on in Syria.

No one is visiting the pyramids of Sudan at Meroe.

Aren Maeir recommends The Archaeology of Jerusalem: From the Origins to the Ottomans as a worthy introductory textbook to the subject.

If you liked the drone video of Herodium, you can see more from Amir Aloni here.

HT: Ted Weis, Joseph Lauer, Agade

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Saturday, May 02, 2015

Weekend Roundup, Part 1

Israeli authorities have arrested 7 Bedouin for illegally excavating at Tel Ma’aravim.

Take a tour of all the discoveries in Ashkelon with Aviva and Shmuel Bar-Am’s well-illustrated article in The Times of Israel.

If you haven’t already purchased Wayne Stiles’s Going Places with God, it’s now only $1.99 on Kindle (for a limited time).

The most detailed article on the Dome of the Rock carpet replacement job is at Israel HaYom.

Exploring Bible Lands shares photos with unique perspectives of the basilica in Nazareth and the spring of Harod.

Gary Manning discusses recent claims of the Talpiot Tomb on the Book and the Spade.

Learn why Jeff Blakely carries a roll of brand new US pennies in his dig bag.

I’ve never had a better perspective of Herodium than from this drone video (2.5 min).

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