Weekend Roundup, Part 2

The latest from SourceFlix: The Bible as a Tool in Archaeology (4 min)

Not long ago we created a list of U.S. museums with artifacts related to the biblical world. Bible
Gateway has produced a list of museums and exhibits on the Bible itself.

The River Jordan is the subject of this summer’s ARAM Society for Syro-Mesopotamian Studies Forty First International Conference at Oxford. Presenters include Yigal Levin, Amihai Mazar, Gerald Mattingly, Joan Taylor, and many others.

Eric Cline’s lecture on 1177 BC at the Oriental Institute is now online. At the beginning he shares his “over the top” book trailer.

Haaretz has a feature written by Mike Rogoff entitled “What is a City Gate?

Ferrell Jenkins illuminates the story of the man being lowered through the roof.

An Arutz-7 article describes the relations between the Jewish and Samaritan communities on Mount Gerizim.

Registration for MEMRA 2015 is now open. Courses include beginning biblical Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, and Ugaritic.

Maney Online has opened up all of its online content from archaeology, conservation, and heritage journals for free through today. Journals include Palestine Exploration Quarterly, Levant, and Tel Aviv. If you don’t know where to start, try a search for Jerusalem.

BibleWorks 10 has been released.

HT: Agade, James Joyner


Weekend Roundup, Part 1

Archaeologists have uncovered a monumental entrance to the Herodium that was apparently buried by King Herod. The short video is more informative than the article.

Russian archaeologists have discovered portions of the walls of Memphis, capital of ancient Egypt.

The US has returned 123 artifacts smuggled out of Egypt.

Mathematicians at Tel Aviv University are developing algorithms to recognize ancient Hebrew letters inscribed on potsherds (or here).

The Temple Mount Sifting Project has a brief report about and many photos from the carpet job in the Dome of the Rock.

The Shrine of the Book opened 50 years ago this week.

The Plains of Moab remind us to remember what God has done in our lives.

Besides a Beretta, what else is in Aren Maeir’s dig bag?

Menahem Haran died recently at the age of 91.

HT: Ted Weis, Agade

Plains of Moab from Mount Nebo, tb031315120
The Plains of Moab from Mount Nebo

Weekend Roundup, Part 2

John Beck is a guest on Our Daily Bread: Exploring the Land of the Story: Unlocking Biblical Geography. Beck’s Discovery House Bible Atlas has just been released. Beck is interviewed about his atlas on the Good Book Blog.

The Museum of the Bible is hosting a series of lectures in Oklahoma City twice a month through July. The final event is a first-century meal.

Here’s an impressive collection of photographs of medieval stained glass illustrating the Bible.

The Palestine Exploration Fund shares some photos of field books that belonged to Charles Wilson.

There’s a new website for the Sardis Expedition.

The Israel Post has issued a stamp featuring the Cyrus Cylinder.

Juan Manuel Tebes has a lengthy summary of the debate over David and Solomon on the ASOR Blog.

Gabriel Barkay will be lecturing in Kentucky on April 30.

Hershel Shanks is on The Book and the Spade discussing the 2015 excavation season.

HT: Steven Anderson, Agade, Charles Savelle


Weekend Roundup, Part 1

Leen Ritmeyer comments on the report that the stone floor inside the Dome of the Rock is being removed. The Temple Mount Sifting Project posts a recent photo with a note that more details will be posted soon.

A shrine from the 30th Dynasty Pharaoh Nectanebo I was recently discovered in Cairo.

The Shroud of Turin goes back on display tomorrow for the first time since 2010.

ISIS has released video showing its destruction of the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud.

Accordance Bible Software has just released two significant works from Carta on inscriptions related to the Bible: The Raging Torrent: Historical Inscriptions from Assyria and Babylonia Relating to 
Ancient Israel, by Mordechai Cogan and Echoes from the Past: Hebrew and Cognate Inscriptions from the Biblical Period, by Shmuel Ahituv. Both are on sale for a few more days.

Ferrell Jenkins shares a series of photos that illustrate the story of Jesus and his disciples passing through the grain fields on the Sabbath.

A 2009 lecture by Geza Vermes on the Dead Sea Scrolls is now online.

The new ESV Bible app was designed to be the most beautiful and intuitive Bible app currently
available (for iOS only). Mark Hoffman provides a survey of many available for Android and the

HT: Agade, Ted Weis


Passages Lecture Series

The Passages exhibit recently opened in Santa Clarita, California, and together with the Green Scholars Initiative they are hosting a monthly lecture series. Admission is free, but reservations are required (888-297-8011).

Apr 28, 2015, Visualizing the Bible: Using Sophisticated Technologies to Reclaim Biblical Texts, Marilyn Lundberg

May 26, 2015, Why Is there No Standard Shape to the Book of Psalms?, Bill Yarchin

Jun 30, 2015, The Reel God: Why Cinema Struggles to Depict the Divine, Thomas Parham

Jul 28, 2015, In the Beginning Were the Words: The Origins of Writing and the Alphabet, Chris Hays

Aug 25, 2015, Tel Abel Beth Maacah: Uncovering the Secrets of a Biblical City, Robert Mullins

Sept 29, 2015, Reconstructing Dead Sea Scrolls Letter-by-Letter, Bruce Zuckerman

Oct 27, 2015, How the Flood Became a Children’s Story, Chris Heard

Dec 8, 2015, Whose Gospel? The Kingdom of God vs. the Empire of Rome in the New 
Testament, Adam Winn

Jan 26, 2016, From Scrolls to Scrolling: Scripture, Technology, and the Word of God, Michael Holmes

Feb 16, 2016, New Witnesses to the New Testament Text: Deciphering the Oldest Manuscript of Romans 4-5, Randall Chestnutt and Ron Cox


Converting Israel Coordinates to Use in Google Earth

(Post by A.D. Riddle)

Oftentimes, while researching archaeological sites and/or biblical places, I come across things like this:

map reference 193.142
M.R. 219156
1972 1954

These are grid coordinates for sites. One encounters them in key works such as The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Sites in the Holy Land (5 vols.), Anchor Bible Dictionary, or the volumes from the archaeological survey of Israel. I want to locate these sites in Google Earth, but how do I convert them? (This subject came to mind while reading Chris McKinny’s post on Shaaraim [see here].)

There are two coordinate systems for Israel, the Old Israeli Grid and the New Israeli Grid. Sometimes these are abbreviated OIG or NIG, but typically no indication is given as to which coordinate system is being used. (To read more about OIG, see this page, and for NIG this page.) I have found that most coordinates are according to OIG, even in newer publications. I am going to assume we are using OIG. (If not, hopefully the results are so wrong that one can tell right away that they are not OIG. This point highlights the fact that you need already to have some kind of rough idea where the right location is so that you can verify the results.)

The coordinates should have an even number of digits. Sometimes they are divided in half by a space, period, or slash, but other times there is nothing separating the string of digits.

If you are given six digits, then the first three digits give one coordinate and the second three digits give the other coordinate. If you are given eight digits, then the first four are one coordinate and the second four are the other. And so on.

The first coordinate gives the easting position (think longitude or x-axis), and the second coordinate gives the northing position (think latitude or y-axis). In other words, the coordinates give you lon/lat. This is the opposite order we normally use of lat/lon for geographic coordinates.

The first (easting, x) coordinate is actually always six digits. If you are only given three digits, then you need to append three zeros to the right side. If you are given four digits, then append two zeros to the right side.

The second coordinate, on the other hand, can be six or seven digits, and is a little more complicated. For the second (northing, y) coordinate, if you are given three digits, then you have to append a “1” to the left side and three zeros to the right side.

With these expanded coordinates, you can now make the conversion using a fantastic website named “The World Coordinate Converter.” (Thanks to Shawn French for finding this gem.) In the top right, from the first dropdown list, scroll down to Israel and select Israel 1923. This is the Old Israeli Grid.

Then, paste the coordinates into the fields. Below this in the second dropdown list, you will need to select “WGS 84/Pseudo-Mercator.” It is found under *World, which is the first group of reference systems. This is the datum used by Google Earth. Finally, click Convert and voila! you have coordinates that you can copy/paste into Google Earth/Maps.

Here are three examples.

Khirbet Jazzir

  1. Anchor Bible Dictionary gives the coordinates 219156 for Khirbet Jazzir. This is thought to be the most likely site for the Levitical city Jazer.
  2. The easting (longitude, x-axis) coordinate is 219. We need to add three zeros to make this a six digit number, namely 219000.
  3. The northing (latitude, y-axis) coordinate is 156. We need to add a “1” to the left and three zeros to the right to get 1156000.
  4. Now go to “The World Coordinate Converter,” select Israel 1923, and paste in the expanded coordinates in the same order they were given to us, 219000, 1156000. Make sure you are converting to “WGS 84/Pseudo-Mercator” and click the Convert button.
  5. The converter generates the following lat/lon coordinates that I can then paste right into Google Earth: 31.996063441518004, 35.728730514891744. Make sure lat is first, and lon is second.

Tell el-Maṣfā

  1. In an article by Israel Finkelstein, Ido Koch, and Oded Lipschits, entitled “The Biblical Gilead: Observations on Identifications, Geographic Divisions and Territorial History,” it is proposed that Mizpah of Gilead be identified with Tell el-Maṣfā.
  2. The coordinates given are 227193.
  3. This gets expanded to 227000, 1193000.
  4. The convertor returns 32.32932657748971, 35.815608335148326 which can be used in Google to locate the site. (We note that these coordinates do not correspond to the hill that they have marked on the p. 143 photograph. It looks to me like their arrow needs to be moved about 1 inch to the left.)

Karm er-Ras

Finally, I was recently asked to make a map that shows Karm er-Ras in Galilee. The Hadashot Arkheologiyot article for this site gives very precise coordinates for each excavation area, both NIG and OIG. The OIG coordinates for Area A are 181580/239335. These are already six digits, so all I need to do is paste them into “The World Coordinate Converter” to get 32.74860752349965, 35.33387296365357.

Additional Notes

The OIG and NIG coordinates are measured in meters. If you are given three digit coordinates, then the accuracy could be off by about half a kilometer. If you are given all six digits, then your accuracy is sub-meter.

If the “The World Coordinate Converter” fails to load the Converter, you can still use the website to get the information you want. Once you select Israel 1923 and paste in your coordinates, a placemark will appear on the map with an info-window. The lat/lon coordinates that you can use in Google Earth appear within this info-window.

For batch conversions, you can supposedly import a CSV into Eye4Software Coordinate Calculator 3.2 (Windows only).  I have not successfully completed a batch conversion, but the software claims it can do so.


Weekend Roundup, Part 2

Of the latest concerning “the tomb of Jesus,” the evidence doesn’t add up, according to professors at Yale and Notre Dame. Other scholars agree.

Jeffrey Zorn’s talk on Storage Bins at Tell en-Nasbeh (biblical Mizpah) is now online (20 min).

Archaeologists from the University of Manchester are busy excavating a site in Iraq in an effort to save history from ISIS terrorists.

In fear of ISIS’s advance, monks at the Mar Matti Monastery in Iraq hid their collection of ancient manuscripts.

An opinion piece in the New York Times calls on the world to use force to stop ISIS’s campaign against historic sites and artifacts.

Should antiquities be repatriated to countries unable to protect them?

The latest podcast from Exploring Bible Times focuses on the Hill of Moreh.

Yossi Garfinkel’s talk from last fall at Florida College is now online.

HT: Agade


Weekend Roundup, Part 1

The Holy Fire ceremony was celebrated in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher today.

It snowed on Mount Hermon this morning. The annual precipitation in Israel this year is close to average.

Hershel Shanks is a guest on The Book and the Spade talking with Gordon Govier about 40 years of publishing Biblical Archaeology Review.

Leen Ritmeyer is interviewed on the Voice of Israel about his involvement in the archaeology of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.

The Mujib Biosphere Reserve (biblical Nahal Arnon) is open for another adventure season.

Wayne Stiles provides a spiritual lesson from the skeleton that today stands on ancient Gibeah.

New Bible atlas: The Historical and Geographical Maps of Israel and Surrounding Territories, by
Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, with $10 off the $89 price through April 30.

We’re sharing our favorite 12 sites in Galilee on Facebook and @BiblePlaces.

HT: Steven Anderson

Holy fire ceremony from dome, mat14517
The Holy Fire ceremony in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher
Photo from The American Colony Collection, ca. 1941

Dead Sea Beaches Closing

The declining water level of the Dead Sea is creating sinkholes which are in turn threatening roads, campsites, and beach areas. This past winter two free beaches along the western shore of the Dead Sea have been closed, leaving visitors with fewer and more expensive options.

Nir Hasson writes in Haaretz on the damage to the area, including this part about the En Gedi area.

About two months later it was decided to close the part of the highway opposite Kibbutz Ein Gedi, which is prone to sinkholes, to be replaced by a bypass road. This has led to transportation snarls. Thousands of day-trippers were stuck in a kilometers-long traffic jam. For the kibbutz members every trip takes between 10 minutes to an hour and a half longer. Nimrod Hacker, the head of the community, says that people reserve a room in the hotel and are unable to get there, goods are stuck, farmers who go down to the orchards get stuck in traffic jams.
The 1.5- kilometer section of highway between the nature reserve and the kibbutz must be the most expensive section in the history of the country. In the past decade tens of millions of shekels have been invested, most of which went to waste because of the sinkholes. In 2009 a new and very expensive bridge was dedicated above Nahal Arugot. In recent years the bridge had been “attacked” by sinkholes, and it was recently put out of service along with the section of the highway.
Many solutions have been proposed, any one of which would require an investment of hundreds of millions of shekels, and perhaps over a billion ($255 million), for a 1.5 kilometer section.
It’s no longer sinkholes, it’s massive sinking of land along 700 meters. The wild animals and the Nahal David and Nahal Arugot nature reserves are also liable to suffer from the road that will be dangerously close to them.
Another blow for Ein Gedi came when the Tamar Regional Council and Netivei Israel, the transportation infrastructure company, decided to close the last free beach at the Dead Sea, along with the gas station, the kiosk and the new camping area that were inaugurated on Sukkot. The regional council invested 4 million shekels in improving the beach, and a festive opening was planned for Passover. In addition, a large percentage of the kibbutz’s date orchards, as well as camping grounds, were abandoned years ago because of the sinkholes.
Closing the last free beach now presents a major challenge for those who want to bathe in the Dead Sea. The last organized beaches charge dozens of shekels per person, and bathers also have to descend steps and terraces or travel in a special train, whose route lengthens by the year, in order to reach the water. In the hotel area you can still swim in Dead Sea water – not at the beach but in the industrial swimming pool built by the Dead Sea Works.

The full article is here.

En Gedi new bridge over Nahal Arugot, tb010810115
Bridge over Nahal Arugot, after dedication in 2009; this bridge is no longer in use.
Dead Sea beach, tb100403500
Dead Sea beach at En Gedi, now closed

Witherington on Jacobovici’s Latest Claim

Ben Witherington responds to the latest claim by Simcha Jacobovici that the James Ossuary came from the Talpiot Tomb, thereby proving that this was the burial place of Jesus the Messiah.

Of course [Aryeh] Shimron has not published his results yet, nor has there been peer review of them by other scholars, but nonetheless another Jacobvici movie is already in the works. This is not how proper and objective scholarship is done, either in terms of the financing, nor in terms of the announcements of results. You don’t sort of make a bombshell announcement of conclusions to the press on Easter weekend before other peers have had a chance to weigh in on the evidence, unless of course you are trying to make an impression of a certain sort. And there is little doubt that a certain agenda is being pursued here, as has been clear before with previous films, and in all likelihood with the forthcoming one. Disinterested pure science this is not.

James Tabor responds to Witherington here, but he does not address the issues that Witherington has raised in the paragraph above. If the scholarship is so solid, why use such unscholarly methods?

HT: Ted Weis