Recently I noted an article about a planned animal sacrifice in Jerusalem.  This event was controversial because 1) there is no temple or altar in Jerusalem today; 2) killing an animal makes some people mad.

Friends in Jerusalem went to the Old City that day and saw a guy they suspected of carrying a ritual knife in his briefcase and followed the guy through a wild maze of streets in pursuit.  It turned out they followed the right guy.  They filmed the service.

We talked about the appropriateness of putting this online.  The 5-minute video is as graphic as it gets.  More and more people today don’t realize that meat doesn’t originate at a grocery store.  They have little concept of an animal being raised and then slaughtered.  Furthermore, almost no one in the Western world has ever sacrificed an animal for religious purposes.

I think, however, that is precisely why this *graphic* video should be shown.  We read about sacrifice in the Bible but we don’t really understand what that means.  We read passages that talk about the “life being in the blood,” but those are just words that we don’t really consider.  We “know” that the wages of sin are high, but we don’t get the life lesson that the ancient Israelites received every year.

The point of sacrifice was simply this: you deserve to die because of your sin.  This animal is dying in your place.  Watching the priest slice his throat and watching the blood drain out drove the point home much better than reading a chapter of Leviticus.

Today New Testament believers know that the blood of bulls and goats is not enough to take away sin.  But I think that we can often just take for granted Jesus’ death in our place.  We don’t think about his innocent blood draining away because we can’t conceptualize it.  We don’t always appropriate the idea of substitute because we’ve never seen a living object die in our place.  But our loss can be this: sin is easy because forgiveness (we think) is cheap.

The video was made by SourceFlix Productions.  Instead of dubbing over the scene with English commentary, they chose to include some explanatory text below.  Don’t watch this video while eating, and if you’re thinking about showing your children, watch it yourself first.

Passover begins Saturday at sundown.
Related: for photos and explanation of the Samaritan Passover, see BiblePlaces.com (modern photos) or LifeintheHolyLand.com (19th century photos and text).  Several years ago I wrote an article about a visit to the Samaritan Passover sacrifice (En Gedi Resource Center).

The Jerusalem Post is reporting that stones in the Western Wall are crumbling.  A little background:

The “Western Wall” is a 60-meter section of a 480-meter long western compound wall of Herod’s Temple Mount.  This portion of the wall has been revered by Jewish people for centuries as a place of prayer because the temple does not exist and access to the temple court areas has been forbidden (either by rabbis or Muslim rulers or both).

Three distinct sections of construction are visible in the prayer portion of the Western Wall today. 

The lowest seven courses (blue box in photo below) were constructed by King Herod in the 1st century B.C.  The wall above this was destroyed, probably mostly in the Roman destruction of A.D. 70.  Arab rulers in the 7th-8th centuries rebuilt part of the wall and these stones are visible above the Herodian stones (between blue and red boxes). 

In the 19th century, there were problems with Muslims throwing objects and trash from the Temple Mount down on Jewish worshipers at the wall and so the British-Jewish philanthropist Moses Montefiore donated so that the wall could be built to a higher level.  It is these stones (in red box) that are the subject of this JPost story.  Read the article to learn more about whether the rabbis will permit restoration or not.

Western Wall, tb122006991
The crumbling stones are the smallest and most recent stones (red box). 
The original Herodian stones are in the blue box.
Update (4/17): Leen Ritmeyer has a lengthy explanation of the situation on his blog.

Haaretz gives an update of the forgery trial against Oded Golan and Robert Deutsch.  Most of what is “new” here seems to be taken from the courageously honest 60 Minutes report.  I’m always reluctant to analyze a news article written by a journalist because I know how skewed facts can get between the interview and the printed page.  But I’ll make a few comments on the assumption that the record is generally accurate.

1. The prosecution has been presenting its case for three years.  Israel doesn’t have constitutional protections like the United States, but some judge should intervene to tell them that there’s something humane about a speedy trial, and if the prosecution can’t present its case in short order, it’s over.

2. The “silver bullet” in the case is an Egyptian artist.  The article says that he “confessed to manufacturing many items for Golan, including the Jehoash inscription.”  I need more evidence than the reporter’s word (or the prosecution’s statement).  Note that 60 Minutes, who interviewed him on TV, did not have a statement from him that he forged it.  Maybe he did, or maybe the prosecution wants to make you think he did.  That’s why there’s such a thing called cross-examination.  (For those of you new to the case, it’s simply incredible that a guy with a shop in an Egyptian market has the necessary skills to make an object of this nature that has fooled many experts into thinking it is authentic.  Scholars have told me that there’s not a single person alive with all of the knowledge necessary to make the Jehoash Inscription.  Maybe five scholars collaborated, each contributing their own specialized knowledge.  But one artist in Egypt?)

3. The article says:

Among the evidence presented by the prosecution in court: photos and exhibits taken from the labs in Golan’s home, where, according to the indictment, the forgeries were made; various sketches and other materials that were used in the preparation of the forgeries.

Now this sounds convincing to the reader at home.  Open-and-shut case.  If so, then why all of the delay?  Why do they need to bring the Egyptian artist to testify?  Again, this is why this case cannot be decided in the media alone.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll note it again: I don’t know if any of these items are authentic or not.  And I don’t care.  It doesn’t change my view of the Bible or archaeology if the James Ossuary or the Jehoash Inscription are forgeries.  But there are very significant problems with the way that these matters have been handled by the Israel Antiquities Authority, the prosecution, and some scholars.  There are other agendas.


A couple of developments in the land of the Philistines are worth noting:

A Philistine temple is being excavated at a site south of the five major Philistine cities.  The temple dates to late Iron I (circa 1000 B.C.) and is a few miles south of biblical Gerar (Tel Haror) and northwest of Beersheba.  Aren Maier has a brief report of his visit and some of the finds.

The Canaanite gate at Ashkelon has now been completely restored.  They claim that it is the “oldest arched gate in the world,” but pushing the date of the Ashkelon gate a little earlier and the date of the Dan gate a little later.  Even archaeologists are competitive!  The JPost has a picture of the gate with a modern arch which looks like it was designed for schoolkids.  Below is a photo before they added the arch.

Ashkelon Middle Bronze gate, tb083006557
Ashkelon Middle Bronze Gate (circa 1800 B.C.)