Weekend Roundup

The big story of the week is the discoveries made in excavations at Caesarea, including the altar of Herod’s temple, an inscribed menorah, and a statue of Asclepius. You can read the press release here or download high-res photos here. Haaretz has the best illustrated story. The Times of Israel emphasizes the discovery of an inscribed menorah. The Jerusalem Post focuses on the $27 million project. Art Daily provides another brief summary.This 3-minute video includes English subtitles.

A colossus of Ramses II has been re-erected in front of Luxor Temple’s first pylon.

Ten nations have created an “Ancient Civilizations Forum” to work together to protect ancient heritage from Islamic extremism.

Israeli police arrested a man in Hawara and confiscated hundreds of antiquities they discovered in his house.

A petition is now circulating to save the Yale Babylonian Collection.

A first-century AD bust of Drusus Minor will be returned to Italy by the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Should Egypt sell some of its artifacts to raise money?
BBC: “Madain Saleh isn’t as well-known as Petra, but the Nabateans’ second-largest city played a
crucial role in their mysterious empire.”

Simon Gathercole looks at the historical evidence for Jesus’s life and death.
BAS has published online a web-exclusive chart of 53 biblical people who have been confirmed in inscriptions.

Wayne Stiles’s recent post on Mount Carmel includes photos of its beauty and its burning.

Leon Mauldin visited Bethphage yesterday.

What happened to the cross that Jesus died on?

Mark Hoffman suggests that you may want to download Google Earth before it’s gone.

The Corinth Excavations Archaeological Manual has been published and a pdf has been made available for free. The post includes a link to previously published archaeology manuals.

The four-volume Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity is available on
Logos at a pre-pub price of $51. I recommend it.

I’ll be traveling much of May and June, so I probably will not be able to do many roundups.

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


On Location with Abraham, Part 1: Shechem

Post by Seth M. Rodriquez, Ph.D.

“What do those words make you see?” Years ago, I worked as a reading tutor. It was my job to help people decode written words and understand the meaning being communicated through those words.

Reading comprehension experts will tell you that the best way to understand and remember what you read is to allow the words to create pictures in your head. As a tutor, I was trained to repeatedly ask the question: “What do those words make you see?”

It is no different when we read the Bible. As we read, we should allow the words on the page to form pictures in our head. Unfortunately, this can sometimes prove to be a challenge. Often we are not familiar with the places and things mentioned in the Bible. How tall was Mount Carmel where Elijah called down fire from heaven? How dry is the Judean Wilderness where David hid from Saul and where Jesus was tempted? What is a horned altar and what did look like?

Fortunately, today we have the means to bridge the gap between our world and the world of the Bible.
Collections of images provided through websites such as BiblePlaces.com and LifeintheHolyLand.com can go a long way in helping us to form vivid pictures in our minds of biblical places, characters, and events. To help you on the journey, I am kicking off a new series on this blog called, “On Location.” As the name implies, we’ll go “on location” with the people in the Bible. We will see some of the same sights they did … or at least see what these sights look like in modern times. The goal is to help you more accurately visualize the biblical stories.

To get things started, let’s talk about Abraham. Abraham’s journey started at the east end of the Fertile Crescent in the city of Ur in Mesopotamia. From there, he moved to Haran in the northern part of the Fertile Crescent, and eventually moved to the land of Canaan to the southwest. The story begins in Genesis 12 …

“Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’ So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. (Genesis 12:1–7, ESV)

What do those words make you see? Let me help you out with the last few verses where Abraham enters Canaan for the first time and arrives at the site of Shechem. 
Shechem (modern Nablus) lies between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal in the very center of the land of Canaan. However, there is no indication archaeologically or in the biblical text that there was actually a city there in Abraham’s day. The city seems to have been founded in about 1900 B.C., about 200 years after Abraham would have passed through here. So to help paint our mental picture, we need to get out of the modern city located at the site of Shechem and see some wide open spaces nearby. In the image below, we are standing a few miles away from Shechem and we can see Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal in the distance. This is similar to what Abraham would have seen back in 2100 B.C.
Mount Gerizim, Shechem, and Mount Ebal from the East

A close-up image of the Shechem area will help us complete our mental picture. The modern city sprawls over the area today. So to help us form a proper image in our minds, it is helpful to dig into one of the historic collections provided through LifeintheHolyLand.com and go back in time. This next image shows what the area between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal looked like about 100 years ago. The photographer is standing on Mount Gerizim and looking across the valley. In Abraham’s day, this area probably had many more trees than can be seen in the image below (Joshua 14 mentions a forest covering this region) but you can get a feel for what the topography is like through this photograph.

Looking north from Mount Gerizim (photo taken 1910-1920)

According to Genesis 12, this was the place where God spoke to Abraham shortly after he entered the land of Canaan for the first time. This is where He made Abraham the promise, “To your offspring I will give this land.” And in response, this is where Abraham built an altar to the Lord.

More images and information about Shechem can be found on the BiblePlaces website here.

Historical images of places from Abraham’s life can be found on the LifeintheHolyLand website here.
The images used in this post were taken from Vol. 2 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands (available for purchase here) and Vol. 1 of the American Colony and Eric Matson Collection (available for purchase here).


Weekend Roundup

“An Egyptian archaeological mission in Luxor has announced the discovery of a major tomb in the city’s west bank area dating back to the 18th Dynasty and containing priceless artefacts.”

Israeli archaeologists have begun to study an ancient Jewish pyramid near Khirbet Midras in the Shephelah.

Archaeologists have discovered an estate of Emperor Marcus Aurelius in the mountains of southwestern Turkey.

Symbols found on the the Vulture Stone at Gobekli Tepe in Turkey has led researchers to propose the earth was struck by a devastating comet around 11,000 BC.

Shots were fired near St. Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai, but there are different explanations of what happened.

The Qumran and Bible Exhibition is now online with an audioguide and with a video introduction.

The latest edition of The Holy Land Magazine is online and includes tourist articles on Nazareth Village, Yad VaShem, Neot Kedumim, and more.

Tom Powers considers David Bivin’s recent post on the deteriorating road to Emmaus and adds some observations of his own.

Elizabeth Sloane, writing in Haaretz, asks, “Did the Egyptian goddess Hathor originate with Semitic miners from Canaan?”

The Temple Mount Sifting Project must meet its fundraising goal or it will receive none of the pledged funds.

The Amarna Letters are the topic of the week on The Book and the Spade with guest Alice Mandell.

The Khirbet el-Maqatir exhibit in Pikeville, Kentucky is drawing visitors.

Eisenbrauns is offering the Victor Avigdor Hurowitz memorial volume at a savings of 40% for a few more days: Marbeh Ḥokmah: Studies in the Bible and the Ancient Near East (2 vols). List $139.50; sale: $83.70.

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


Walking the Bible Lands Website

Today is the last day to sign up as a charter member of the new website Walking the Bible Lands.

Here’s my short explanation of why I recommend it:

Walking the Bible Lands is a marvelous resource for all those who have longed to visit Israel and for those who would love to return. The beautiful video footage makes you feel like you are right there, and Wayne Stiles carefully guides the viewer through his excellent biblical teaching and application. By joining this new site, you will feel like you’re there, without the scorching sun or the obnoxious crowds. I highly recommend it to all!


Weekend Roundup

“In an statement timed just ahead of Passover, the Temple Mount Sifting Project said Sunday it had found a stone finger that may have belonged to a Bronze Age Egyptian statue, but conceded it wasn’t sure.”

For the first time ever, a reenactment of the Passover sacrifice took place in the Jewish Quarter.

Wayne Stiles has released the third video in his virtual tour of the Passion Week.

Carl Rasmussen has written a series of informative posts related to Jesus’s trial and crucifixion, including “Another Gethsemane?,” “Site of Crucifixion of Jesus?,” “Gordon’s Calvary,” and “The Burial Bench of Jesus?

John DeLancey is on The Book and the Spade discussing the latest renovations of the edicule in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

DeLancey also recently announced a tour this fall of Egypt, Jordan, and Israel.

An archaeologist claims that a thick layer of sand at Tel Achziv attests to a tsunami that hit the coast of Israel in the 8th century BC.

Evidence discovered below the Dead Sea suggests that there were significant droughts in the past.

On the ASOR Blog, Douglas Petrovich discusses some of his discoveries behind his theory that Hebrew is the language behind the world’s first alphabet. Alan Millard has written a response. You can get a 25% discount on Petrovich’s book with code PET25.

The Linda Byrd Smith Museum of Biblical Archaeology opens today at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas.

Israel’s Good Name recently went on a Bar Ilan U tour of the Old City and Ramat Rahel.

The latest issue of Biblical Archaeology Review has articles on the Arch of Titus, Magdala, and three more biblical people confirmed by archaeological evidence.

Leen Ritmeyer notes two new apps that take visitors to ancient Jerusalem. Live Science has more about the Lithodomos VR app.

Divers in Italy have begun the search for a third pleasure barge of Emperor Caligula.

The site of Humayma in southern Jordan was probably founded by the Nabatean king Aretas IV early in the first century AD.

“War and Storm: Treasures of the Sea Around Sicily” is a special exhibit of recovered antiquities at Glyptotek in Copenhagen.

According to The Irish News, some of the Chester Beatty manuscripts are now on display in the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin.

John the Baptist would feel right at home at a Mariners’ game with their new menu offering of toasted grasshoppers.

Frederic William Bush, longtime Professor of Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary, died last week.

HT: Charles Savelle, Agade, Joseph Lauer, Steven Anderson


Weekend Roundup

Gabriel Barkay believes that they have discovered one of the capitals from Solomon’s Colonnade on the eastern side of the Temple Mount. Leen Ritmeyer seems inclined to agree, but he clarifies an issue with a measurement.

An excavation last month of Qumran Cave 11 resulted in the discovery of an upper chamber, linen textiles, medicinal plants, and leather and wooden artifacts. An international workshop on Cave 11 will be held later this month.

An underground tunnel network from the Bar Kochba period has been discovered in the Hebron hills.

The dating of donkey dung supports a Solomonic-date for a mining camp at Timna Valley in southern Israel.

Construction has begun on the “Sanhedrin Trail,” running from Beth Shearim to Tiberias. It will be a “smart” trail that “will communicate with the hikers using an innovative, augmented reality-based application.” The project also includes the building of a visitor’s center in Tiberias.

After the Temple Mount Sifting Project sent out an urgent plea for funds, the Prime Minister of Israel stepped in to restore the lost funding. Or did he?

The Egyptian Antiquities Ministry announced the discovery of a 13th dynasty pyramid, currently being excavated in Dahshur’s royal necropolis.

A Roman bath complex has been inaugurated in Alexandria.

Magnetometers and ground-penetrating radar has been used to discover the concession stands, taverns, and souvenir shops that surrounded a Roman amphitheater in Austria. (If you substitute “NFL” for “gladiator,” it will all make perfect sense.)

“Colorising the Arch of Titus: The Spoils of Jerusalem” is a new 4-minute video that reveals the results of a recent study led by Steven Fine of the original design and colors of the famous panel.

Ferrell Jenkins shares a couple of photos of the view from Mount Nebo.

Joel Pless suggests a biblical connection in his recent interview on Pompeii and Herculaneum on The Book and the Spade.

Israel’s Good Name recently visited Solomon’s Quarries, the Jerusalem Archaeological Park, and more.

Later this month, New College of the University of Edinburgh will be hosting a conference entitled “Coins and the Bible: Understanding Ancient Coinage.”

This month, Logos is offering Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels, by Kenneth E. Bailey for only $1.99.

Winged Bull Press released several new titles on April 1. And their new shipping service is a hoot!

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Mike Harney, Ted Weis, Charles Savelle, Alexander Schick


New Videos on the Passion Week of Jesus

Wayne Stiles has long impressed me with his knowledge of Israel and his application of the biblical truths to our lives. He’s written three excellent books, and he has faithfully written regular posts on his blog for many years.

But I think his new project is his best yet, and I’d encourage you to take a look.

Wayne has produced a series of three videos tracing the Passion Week of Jesus, “The Week That Changed the World,” as he calls it. It is outstanding. I encourage you to check out these free videos.

It’s a perfect way to prepare for and experience the Passion Week.

See them here: www.passionweektour.com


Passover Sacrifice To Be Held in Jewish Quarter of Old City

It’s been more than 1,900 years since the Jewish people have slaughtered a Passover lamb within the walls of Jerusalem. But this one still doesn’t “count” because it’s not on the Temple Mount. From The Times of Israel:

An annual reenactment of the sacrifice for the upcoming Passover festival will be held for the first time inside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem.
The High Court of Justice on Monday upheld a police decision to bar a group of Temple Mount activists from holding their annual ceremony at Davidson Park, an archaeological site adjacent to the Western Wall on the southern side of the Temple Mount complex.
But in an unusual move, police on Wednesday said the activists would be allowed go ahead with the reenactment on Thursday in the main square of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City.
Just like the Passover sacrifice that was offered in the time of the Temple, it will include slaughtering a lamb, flaying it in the traditional manner, throwing its blood on a model altar, and roasting and eating it.

The full article has more details including the time of the event.

Jewish Quarter courtyard from Hurva Synagogue, tb010312412
The Jewish Quarter Plaza, location of the sacrifice demonstration

Luke & Acts: Historical Reliability – 4

(Posted by Michael J. Caba)

This series of posts examines the historical reliability of the New Testament books of Luke and Acts by comparing these books to other ancient textual sources and the archaeological record. In addition, background information on key elements of the various narratives is also given.

One of the persons mentioned in Luke 3:1-2 is “Philip, tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis.” In addition to this biblical reference, the 1st-century AD historian Josephus also refers to Philip and notes that he was the son of Herod the Great and Cleopatra of Jerusalem (Antiquities 17.1.3). Having been born in c. 22 BC, Philip was assigned a portion (i.e., Iturea and Traconitis) of his father’s kingdom when the later died in 4 BC. Philip ruled until he died in his own turn in AD 34, and Josephus refers to Philip as a “person of moderation and quietness in the conduct of his life and government” (Antiquities 18.4.6).

Interestingly enough, despite his apparent affinity for “moderation and quietness,” Philip married Salome, a woman with at least one episode in her life that was anything but moderate and quiet. By way of pedigree, Salome was the daughter of Philip’s half-brother Herod (tetrarch of Galilee) and Herod’s stolen wife Herodias. Further, as a younger woman she is actually the one who danced for this same Herod and his dinner guests, which, as many are aware, led to Herod’s ill-advised promise to give her “up to half” of his kingdom, which in turn led to the violent death of John the Baptist. The sordid details of the event (including the reasons for the death of John the Baptist) are recorded in Mark 6:14-29, and this rather interesting (to say the least) collection of behaviors has ever after been the inspiration for much drama and art, among which is the following work produced by Titian, the Venetian Renaissance master, in c. 1515.

In addition, Philip reconstructed the city of Paneas (originally named for the Greek god Pan) and renamed it “Caesarea Philippi” (after Caesar Augustus and himself) to distinguish it from “Caesarea Maritima,” which was constructed by Herod the Great along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It was in the region of Caesarea Philippi, which is north of the Sea of Galilee, that Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” In reply, Peter proclaimed, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:13-20).  The following aerial photo shows the ruins of Caesarea Philippi including the Cave of Pan (near center of photo) into which offerings to the god were placed.

By way of additional note, the 1st-century AD Jewish philosopher Philo makes reference to Philip when he says that Agrippa, “the grandson of Herod the king,” was eventually given Philip’s territory to rule (Flaccus, V. (25)).

For similar correlations between the biblical text and ancient sources, see Bible and Archaeology – Online Museum.