If you’ve only been to Israel in the last five years, then you never had a chance to visit inside the Muslim buildings on the Temple Mount. In fact, chances are good you weren’t even allowed on the Temple Mount at all. If you visited before the outbreak of violence in 2000, you likely visited these but probably were not able to enter “Solomon’s Stables” below Al Aqsa Mosque. Now there’s a recent video showing all of that.
When I first saw the link, I ignored it because it didn’t seem that it would have anything of interest to me. Certainly no one has been able to take a videocamera through all of the off-limits areas in recent times. I was wrong. And the 4-minute video is worth watching if you have any interest in seeing the interior of the Dome of the Rock, the Al Aqsa Mosque and Solomon’s Stables. The clip could benefit with an audio commentary explaining what you’re seeing (including some remains of Herodian architecture!), but most of it is easy to understand.
Here’s a lesser known aspect of the Pool of Siloam excavations. Most people know that the pool is fed by Hezekiah’s Tunnel, but they may not be aware of a second channel (known as Channel #2, or the Siloam Channel/Tunnel) which connects the Gihon Spring and the Pool of Siloam but on the east side of the City of David. This channel runs on the western slope above the Kidron Valley and it was once believed that it watered the King’s Gardens in the valley via a series of square openings.
One of those openings is on the southern end of the City of David. Here’s a photo taken in September 2002.
You can see that the opening looks square and the channel looks full of trash. Also note the street pavement and the crack in the bedrock in the upper left.
Eli Shukron’s recent excavations of the Pool of Siloam has included work on this channel, and our students have had some involvement in that (no glory here: more like cleaning out a sewer). But you can see the difference once the pavement has been removed and the channel cleared. Stephen’s head (on the left) is at about pavement level.
Today was a glorious day. Fortunately I was in town early for a lecture and had some free time before the church service, and I took advantage of it. I confess that of late I have become something of a poofy white cloud fanatic. So often the sky in Israel is flat blue and when you get poofy white clouds, the effect is dramatic. Here’s Jerusalem from the Mt. of Olives:
I could dig up a picture without the clouds, but it’s late and I’m tired, so just imagine :-).
And here’s Bethlehem this morning (from the north). This could be my favorite Bethlehem picture. I had to wait a while for the clouds to move so the city was in the sunlight. What I probably like most about the picture is that Bethlehem is hard to see :-). The countryside grabs more of your attention, which is how it all used to be. Now the modern city is so un-photogenic that you really can’t get anything interesting inside it.
My only regret on the day is that I wasn’t on the Mount of Olives for the beautiful sunset. Instead I watched it in my rearview mirror as I drove back into town for an evening lecture.
I decided that blog format with its narrow width didn’t quite suit tonight’s post, so I’ve put it on a separate page. Today after dropping our three oldest off at VBS, I headed to the City of David with a handful of old photographs that I had printed off. My goal was to get the “now” version. For the most part, it was not successful. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it greatly, but it means that things have changed so much that many times I couldn’t even get to the same location where the photograph was taken (or figure out exactly where it was). But I had success in a couple of places, and one of them I have posted, with downloadable high-res versions so you can flip back and forth between them. Take a look.
I have two books on my desk right now, and both make the same annoying point. One is Finkelstein’s The Bible Unearthed, and the other is Dever’s Did God Have a Wife. A major premise of the latter and a point made in the former is that according to archaeology, worship of Yahweh only developed in the late period – time of Hezekiah or Josiah. Here’s Finkelstein:
“Yet archaeology suggests quite a different situation—one in which the golden age of tribal and Davidic fidelity to YHWH was a late religious ideal, not a historical reality. Instead of a restoration, the evidence suggests that a centralized monarchy and national religion focused in Jerusalem took centuries to develop and was new in Hezekiah’s day. The idolatry of the people of Judah was not a departure from their earlier monotheism. It was, instead, the way the people of Judah had worshiped for hundreds of years” (Finkelstein and Silberman 2001: 234).
One can hold to this view, but please don’t pretend that it is based on archaeological grounds. These authors seem to miss the most obvious point: worship of Yahweh as commanded in the Bible didn’t leave archaeological evidence. The exception would be the temple, and nothing of that exists thanks to the Babylonians, Zerubbabel, Herod, the Romans, and the Muslims. These authors argue that because they have found Asherah figurines, bull statuettes, high places, and inscriptions related to non-Yahwistic worship, and because they haven’t found the same for “Biblical religion,” then therefore the latter didn’t exist. They date it to the late kings because that’s when they date the text.
Still no archaeological evidence, mind you.
Another common error in these works is reflected in Finkelstein’s comment immediately before:
“The biblical picture of Judah’s history is therefore unambiguous in its belief that the kingdom had once been exceptionally holy but had sometimes abandoned the faith” (ibid.).
Why do some liberals insist on this mischaracterization? It is patently false. The biblical record is that the Israelites consistently failed to follow the Lord. The exceptions were those who did. That doesn’t make biblical faith less true, real, or required. It does tell us that archaeology should expect to find significant remains of non-biblical religion. When it does, archaeologists act surprised and say, “Aha, I told you the Bible wasn’t telling you the truth.” In fact it is, but like the ancients, moderns refuse to listen.
I’ve only skimmed Dever’s work at this point, but Finkelstein’s is full of similar errors, inconsistencies, and gaps of logic. It’s also one of the best-selling books on “biblical archaeology” in the last decade.
The BiblePlaces Blog provides updates and analysis of the latest in biblical archaeology, history, and geography. Unless otherwise noted, the posts are written by Todd Bolen, PhD, Professor of Biblical Studies at The Master’s University.