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 www.gospeltrail.com, 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

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.


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


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


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!


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

Black Friday Specials

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

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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.

Invitation: 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 dovrut@israntique.org.il

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


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.


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