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Last month, Shimon Gibson and James Tabor returned for one “final” season of digging the “Cave of John the Baptist.” The results of the season have now been released by the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. The archaeologists followed a corridor which seems to be leading to yet another cave, making this an even more significant water system in the Iron Age. In addition, seven stone pillars were found in the middle of this corridor. Apparently the new discoveries may be leading Gibson to consider non-ritual purposes for the cave.

In his 2004 book, Gibson argues that “evidence showed that the cave at Suba was already more than 700 years old at the time of John the Baptist. It was a place, I believe, that must have possessed a hoary Israelite tradition of ritualistic bathing going back into the mists of time.” As more evidence has been uncovered Gibson has broadened his theorizing and currently is uncertain of the original function of the facility. There are no precise parallels to this kind of complex from the Iron Age.

We’re all for any thinking that considers non-ritual purposes for the site.

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One of the results of this week’s election is the immediate implementation of a resettlement program throughout Israel. The demographic problem has long been cited as a major issue affecting national harmony and the new plan has widespread support for resolving internal social tensions.

In the first phase, all Israeli citizens will be identified by tribal affiliations. Much of this work has already been collected by the Yad VaShem Archives. New teudat zehut (national identity) cards will be issued, color-coded according to tribe (one “senior administration official” says that Judah’s color will be blue).

In the second phase, the inhabitants of Syria and Lebanon will be asked to relocate to Uganda. If they do not, the Israelis are prepared to march around Damascus and Beirut for 7 days.

The resettlement will occur in the third phase and will follow the guidelines laid out by a former national spokesman, known to the public only by the name Ezekiel. His decree is widely regarded as fair because each tribe gets “one portion.” This will reduce tension resulting from Israelis who are used to privileged status. The established boundaries will locate Dan in the northernmost district, with the descendants of Asher just to the south. The territories will continue in east-west bands to the south where members of Judah will receive the land just to the north of Jerusalem and Benjamites will be located to the south of the Holy City. Gad will receive the southernmost region, including the springs of Meribah Kadesh.

There are a variety of positive benefits to this plan:
1. Families will be united. Grandparents will no longer be separated from their grandchildren.
2. Those expelled from Gush Katif will no longer be homeless.
3. The population of Tel Aviv will be reduced to a few thousand.
4. There will be no more conflict at the border with Lebanon.
5. In response to the plan, Israel’s new national leader has agreed to make the Dead Sea fresh.

Responses have generally been positive, though Shimon Peres has voiced concern that the grave of Yasser Arafat not be disturbed. Omri Sharon says that once he gets out of prison, he will enthusiastically endorse the plan. Benjamin Netanyahu thinks there should be a referendum on it. 

Ehud Olmert is taking credit for the idea.

On the world scene, Jordan’s King Abdullah is ecstatic that his territory will be untouched and that his northern neighbor will move to Africa. Syria’s President Assad says he will announce his decision after reading Joshua 6. Former President Bill Clinton says that he has no idea where such a plan came from.

According to the law, all phases of this plan must be implemented not later than one year from today, April 1.

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A man from the Netherlands is building his own scale model of Noah’s Ark, reproducing as much as possible the boat described in the Book of Genesis. The ark is one-fifth the size of Noah’s and is built of American cedar and Norwegian pine, but otherwise intends to match the biblical description. The builder, Johan Huibers, is spending $1 million, but hopes to recover that cost by charging admission to visitors. In September, he plans to sail the boat through the interior waters of the Netherlands. The article has more information and a couple of photos.

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Biblical Archaeology Society has just announced the release of New Testament Archaeology in Pictures. This CD includes 285 digital images (1024×768 resolution) for $70. We weren’t impressed with the previous The Biblical World in Pictures CD (nor was The Journal of Biblical Studies), but we haven’t seen this one. If anyone has it, feel free to add a comment here. We’re always looking for good teaching resources.

Mars Hill in Athens. I took this picture yesterday.
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There’s always something new to see in Israel. This is one of those things that I’ve driven (or rode) past dozens of times over the years, but never was aware that it existed. Well, I knew in theory that there are warm, salty springs that contribute to the salinity of the Dead Sea, but I didn’t realize that there are a couple that are not built over and are accessible today. This spring is hot, smelly, and shallow, but it’s also good for your skin and it’s free.

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