Periodically I am asked to recommend tours to various countries of the biblical world. I usually don’t have good answers for them. That is not because there are not lots of tours, but because they aren’t ones that I can be comfortable recommending. But I just received this email and can recommend the trip to you. Dr. Mark Wilson is a scholar who knows Turkey like few others.

This May 14–31 I will be leading a study tour to Turkey, and would like to invite you to join our group. The tour theme is “The Journeys of Paul in Asia Minor in their Historical and Geographical Setting.” During our travels we will visit almost every site in Turkey connected with Paul. Full tour details with the itinerary and costs are posted on the homepage of our web site: www.sevenchurches.org.

A unique feature of the trip is our participation in the Ephesus meeting on May 28. For more details on this event, see http://www.ephesusmeeting.com/.


The news: Arutz-7 is reporting initial approval of a promenade to be built along the entire perimeter of the Sea of Galilee. A Knesset committee has approved construction though the bill has to pass several additional votes before final approval is given. According to the article, youth volunteers have already been at work on 35 kilometers of the route. In 2000, a paved sidewalk was constructed on the north end of the lake in preparation for the Pope’s visit. One reason given for constructing the new path is to allow free access to the lake in spite of numerous illegal fences and barriers which have been erected.

My take: while one could argue that construction of a promenade will harm the natural environment, it also gives greater access to the area which is not currently available. If one wants to walk or bike ride around the lake today, one is largely restricted to the modern highway which is both dangerous and at times distant from the shore.

Sidenote: While I and many of my students have ridden around the lake on rented bikes, only two have run all the way around it in a single day. That’s nearly 40 miles as the road goes. I’m guessing that neither David Miller nor Will Custis ever do it again!

This is the view most of the way as you walk around the Sea of Galilee.

I suppose I should send out a BiblePlaces Newsletter for this one, but time is short with a group arriving tomorrow and I don’t know that I will. But putting it on the blog is easy…

A month ago a friend alerted me to a new “virtual tour” of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It was selling for $20 and I downloaded the demo and was impressed. But I didn’t want to spend the $20 at the moment. A few weeks later I heard that the price was down to $10 and so I went and bought it. Now I just happened to check the site again to see if the special was still on and I see the price is down to ZERO. Until Jan 2. 

You can’t beat that price. And it comes with an 89-page essay about the church written by an expert on it, Tom Powers (whom I also am happy to count a friend).

I know that if you’re a Protestant, the church probably doesn’t give you the warm fuzzies. But it probably is built on the actual place of the crucifixion and burial, and it certainly is an interesting and historic building.

It’s free here. Until Jan 2 Jan 8.


Paleojudaica points to a new article in Haaretz on the Pool of Siloam. It’s basically an update of things since the last big reporting in August. There are a few new things of note, which I may or may not have mentioned here before. This includes:

  • The discovery of the 1st century street near the pool. For those of you who know, they found this street in the excavations underneath the road/path that runs between the old pool and the garden which covers the new pool. The archaeologist told me that he would like to reveal the entire length of the road from the Pool of Siloam to the Temple Mount. I told him he was crazy. Unless he is thinking of digging a tunnel underneath all of those houses. Then he’s still crazy :-).
  • The recovery of “cylinder seals.” This is clarified in a post to the ANE list that the Hebrew original has “seals and bullae.” (Bullae are seal impressions.) The archaeologist told me that these date to the 9th century and do not contain personal names (as do most of the bullae found in Area G, dating to the early 6th century B.C.). The importance of these seals, if they date to anything before the mid-8th century, is that they will give evidence of an administrative center in Jerusalem at that time. Many scholars reject the biblical evidence for that, and there’s not much else evidence for it outside the Bible. The article doesn’t say, but I can tell you that these seals were found around buildings which were constructed inside the Middle Bronze pool, which is just to the north of the Gihon Spring and protected by the Pool Tower. That’s the area shown in this photo.

Boy, here’s a line that I can’t believe. At least it wasn’t true a few weeks ago. “Garbage is being collected on a regular basis.” Or maybe they’re collecting the garbage, but they just can’t get the residents to understand that they have to put it in those large containers.

UPDATE: The Hebrew version of the article has a photo montage which shows some of the seals.


Three years ago I started a new project. One year ago I started a new website for this same project. Today it is “done.”

Entitled Life in the Holy Land . com , this website is the historic counterpart to BiblePlaces.com. Whereas BiblePlaces.com give you the here and now, LifeintheHolyLand.com gives you the there and then.

Take a look. There’s a lot there, and I hope that it will provide both for fun browsing and for help in research.

There is more to come, but we’re launching it with five major regional categories (Galilee, Jerusalem, Judah, Lebanon, Egypt) and three cultural categories (Bible Illustrated, Peoples of the Holy Land, Way of Life). Altogether there are about 100 pages and 400 illustrations. I think it is unique in the internet. There are sites with tons of thumbnail pictures and no explanations, and other sites with entire books but no pictures, but this combines the best of both.

Many thanks to Seth Rodriquez for countless hours of work in putting this together. It took the two of us all of 2005 (with breaks for work, school, and the like :-)). David Niblack created the design.

So you, the fine readers of this blog, know first. I’m thinking about a way to promote the site, by giving a way a free CD to anyone who puts a link on their website (or gets one on someone else’s site). That would include blogs. If you’re interested, send me 1) the website; 2) your CD of choice; any one you like from any of my work; if you think you already have them all, ask for something special and I’ll see what I can do; 3) your address. My email address is tbolen23 at bibleplaces.com.


The first point of this post is that this is not news. It happened about five years ago or so. But it took me a few years after it occurred before I visited the site, and then a few more years before I got the idea to put a photo comparison here.

The Shephelah is full of caves, tunnels, and tombs. One of the nicest rolling stone tombs in the country was in the area of Khirbet Midras. This is how it used to look:

Some years ago, vandals destroyed the majority of the tomb. Most suspect that the vandalism was caused by ultra-Orthodox Jews, who are against the archaeological excavation of tombs. This is how the tomb looks now:

Of course, archaeological sites are being destroyed all the time, but not usually sites that are well-known and extraordinary. Sites are destroyed by 1) building contractors who don’t want the delay that would be caused by an excavation of their property; 2) looters who are looking for artifacts to sell; and 3) vandals. My guess is that the frequency is in the order listed.