When I was first studying biblical archaeology and history, we would learn about the latest discoveries every few months from the newest issue of Biblical Archaeology Review or from The Jerusalem Post, if we scanned its printed pages carefully, or from reports from our professors. Journal articles were also helpful, when we had some extra time in the library.
Today we hardly need to go looking and we are overwhelmed with updates from every part of the biblical world. This year alone I wrote about 100 weekend roundups, covering more than 1,000 stories or events, including discoveries, resources, and online lectures. The sheer mass of information makes a year-end review valuable, as we can look back over the last twelve months and enjoy a better perspective on what was most important.
This top 10 list is my own, reflecting what I judge to be of greatest interest for biblical archaeology and history. I tend to attach greater significance to stories more closely related to the biblical lands and biblical time periods. Following the top 10, I have included several lists of noteworthy stories from Jerusalem, Israel, and elsewhere.
In addition, I’ve compiled lists of the top stories related to tourism, notable resources of 2021, and a review of some we lost this year. A final section provides links to other top 10 lists of 2021. I am of course greatly indebted to many, including the archaeologists who made the discoveries, the journalists who reported them, and many friends who sent links. In terms of archaeological discoveries, 2021 was a very good year.
1. Archaeologists discovered two dozen scroll fragments in a cave near the Dead Sea. Most are Greek translations of portions of Zechariah and Nahum.
For a year in which most excavations were cancelled, it was remarkably fruitful for archaeology in general. Some of that is owing to the continuation of certain excavations such as rescue projects sponsored by the government. In other cases, discoveries made in previous years were only announced in 2020.
The following list prioritizes archaeological discoveries closer in time and place to the biblical record. It was prepared from a survey of the year’s roundups, without consulting other lists (see below for links to those).
In addition to the top ten, I have included a good number of additional discoveries, primarily as a reminder of just how many interesting finds were made in a year that might otherwise be considered a loss.
3. A stone measuring table and several dozen stone weights were discovered in a plaza along the first-century AD street from the Pool of Siloam to the Temple Mount. Archaeologists believe that the area it was found served as the Jerusalem’s central market.
$40 million will be spent to upgrade the Tower of David Museum, with a plan to double the size of the current museum, including the addition of seven new galleries, a new sunken entrance visitor center outside the Old City walls, and a multi-sensory experience in the Kishle excavations.
In the previous post – I indicated that I was cynical about the Cenacle being the location of Pentecost. For Part 1 – see here. In this post, we will look at some of the implied intertextual allusions related to Pentecost and the coming of the Spirit. In the last post, we also highlighted Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Book of Acts through Revelation. For this one – I’d like to highlight the excellent collection of photos and notes put together by the BiblePlaces team. The full entry is Anderson, Steven D., A. D. Riddle, Kris Udd, and Todd Bolen. Photo Companion to the Bible: Acts. BiblePlaces, 2019. This amazing resource is available on this site – click the above link or photo below. This current post utilizes many photos from the PCB Acts.
Continuation of excerpt from McKinny, Chris. “The Location of Pentecost and Geographical Implications in Acts 2.” Pages 77–93 in Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Book of Acts through Revelation. Edited by Barry J. Beitzel. Lexham Press, 2019.
We will now turn our attention to the numerous intertextual allusions between the Old Testament (and the Gospel of Luke) and Acts 2.  We will organize these possible allusions chronologically, but our intention is to show both the chronological and geographical development of the relationship between the Holy Spirit and God’s people with specific emphasis on the temple mount.
The Reversal of Babel – Genesis 11:1-9; Acts 2:5-13
The first allusion to an Old Testament passage is rather obvious – the reversal of the confusion of languages at the tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9) with the supernatural ability to understand foreign speech in their original language at Pentecost (Acts 2:5-13).
Compare the “whole world… moved eastward to the plain of Shinar and settled there” (Gen 11:1) to the gathering together of Jews from “every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5).
Compare the “whole earth had one language and the same words” (Gen 11:1) to “each one was hearing them (the disciples) speak in his own language” (Acts 2:6).
Compare the confusion after the change of languages (Gen 11:7-9) to the “bewilderment” of understanding those hearing their own language come out of a Galilean mouth (Acts 2:6, 12).
Compare the “plain of Shinar” and “Babel” (Gen 11:1, 9) to the first Jews mentioned in “Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia” (Acts 2:9) who are clearly identified with Jews of the Babylonian diaspora.
Compare the preceding table of nations in Genesis 10 (who are the subject of Gen 11:1-9) to the list of Jews from all over the known world in Acts 2:8-11.
Compare the source of the language confusion in Genesis 11:5-8 (Yahweh) to the source of the language understanding in Acts 2:11 (i.e., God, cf. also Acts 1:8)
Finally, the intertextual link between Babel and Pentecost points to the conclusion that the coming of the Holy Spirit would undo the division of peoples and their “scattering over all the earth” (Gen 11:8) by inaugurating a new era of “understanding” between the nations, even those who are “far off” (Acts 2:39; cf. also Acts 10:44-48). Moreover, it also implies that God was opening a new way to heaven for at least 3,000 (Acts 2:41) of the “devout men from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5), after the failed attempt at Babel to reach heaven by means of “brick, stone and mortar” (Gen 11:4). With regards to the three-fold geographical “outline” of the events of the Book of Acts (Acts 1:7 – Jerusalem/Judea, Samaria, and the end of the earth), the reversal of Babel at Pentecost is the first step in the process which will culminate in the apostle’s bringing the Gospel “to the ends of the earth.”
The Giving of the Law – Exodus 24:12-18; Acts 2:1-13
There are not explicit textual allusion between Pentecost (Acts 2) and the giving of the Law (Exod 24:12-18). However, second temple Jewish literature plainly points to the fact that contemporary Jews believed that Pentecost was the day when the law was given at Sinai. Specifically, it was understood that Moses was given a covenant that had already been given to Noah (“on heavenly tablets”), which had been lost until Sinai (Jub 6:15-23). Against this contemporary backdrop, parallels between the two events are relatively straightforward.
Both events contain fiery theophanies (Exod 24:16-17/Acts 2:3-4, cf. also Christ’s “cloud” in Acts 1:9). Both events are connected with a new covenant (cf. Luke 22:20; Jer 31:31).
Both events use a prophetic messenger to explain the significance of what God has done (Moses – e.g., Exod 25:1-2; Peter – Acts 2:14). Regarding this, VanderKam points to the possible echo of a rabbinic tradition in which all the foreign speakers heard the giving of the Law from Sinai in their 70 languages (b. Shabb. 88b).
Finally, one can also point to the subsequent spiritual anointing of the 70 elders at the tent of meeting in Numbers 11:25. This event directly links the transfer of Yahweh’s Spirit from Moses to the elders at His place of residence (i.e., the tent of meeting). Moses’ following statement to Joshua in Numbers 11:29 indicates the hope that one day “all Yahweh’s people were prophets, that Yahweh would put His Spirit on them!” This text likely lies behind Joel 2:29, and is therefore particularly relevant to the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost.
The “Cloud” of Yahweh in the Solomonic Temple – 1 Kings 8; Acts 2; cf. Acts 1:9
The next allusion is connected to an intertextual chain that can be traced back to the theophanies associated with Yahweh’s cloud seen at the giving of the Law (Exod 24:15-18), throughout the wilderness wanderings (e.g., Exod 13:21-22; Num 14:14), and his residence in the tent of meeting after its construction (Exod 33:9; Num 12:5; Deut 31:15). Significantly, the rest of my suggested allusions are geographically localized to the temple precinct as a result of Solomon building “the house of Yahweh” (1 Kgs 6 ) and, subsequently, Yahweh’s physical indwelling of his house (1 Kgs 8:10-13).
On this occasion (which is probably a parallel to the Feast of Tabernacles, cf. 1 Kgs 8:2), Solomon assembled all of the leaders of Israel and had the priests bring up the “ark of Yahweh, the tent of meeting, and all the of the holy vessels that were in the tent… to its place in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the Most Holy Place (i.e., the Holy of Holies), beneath the wings of the cherubim” (1 Kgs 8:4-6). With his physical mobile throne and his treasures secured in his new residence, Yahweh appeared once more in his theophanic cloud that “filled the house of Yahweh, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of Yahweh filled the house of Yahweh” (1 Kgs 8:10-11). In my opinion, Solomon’s inauguration of Yahweh’s temple is clearly parallel to the events of Pentecost. Consider the following parallels:
Both events feature the gathering of Israelites/Jews from everywhere (the kingdom/diaspora) to the temple in Jerusalem (1 Kgs 8:1; Acts 2:5).
Both groups witnessed the astonishing, supernatural physical manifestation of God’s Spirit in the form of cloud (1 Kgs 8:10-13) and tongues of fire (Acts 2:1-5).
Both events specifically reference the “house” being filled by Yahweh’s Spirit (1 Kgs 8:10; Acts 2:2). From my perspective, this intertextual link is one of the main reasons why the events of Pentecost should be located on the temple mount.
Both events were followed by the main leader (Solomon/Peter) delivering a long oration directed at explaining the significance of what the crowd had just seen (1 Kgs 8:12-61; Acts 2:14-40).
This last parallel requires some unpacking. For Solomon (1 Kgs 8:12-61), Yahweh’s presence in this new house meant the fulfillment of Solomon’s end of the Davidic covenant (2 Sam 7; cf. 8:12-26) and the perpetuation of the Mosiac covenant with its blessings and cursing (e.g., Deut 32-33, cf. 1 Kgs 8:31-61). Significantly, Solomon also expressed his humility and incredulity that the uncontainable Yahweh would graciously choose to reside in a permanent structure from which he would hear the “pleas of your servant (i.e., Solomon and Davidic kings) and of your people” (1 Kgs 8:27-30).
Likewise, Peter employed Joel 2:28-32 to explain the supernatural phenomenon that they had just observed – namely the outpouring of Yahweh’s Spirit (Joel 2:29) upon them. In its contemporary first temple setting (as well as Peter’s day), the prophecy of Joel is based on the basic understanding that Yahweh’s Spirit was not at that time upon individual people (except for unusual circumstances, e.g., Elisha – 2 Kgs 2), but resided in the inner sanctuary of the temple. Therefore, it stands to reason that Joel 2:28-32 is textually linked to 1 Kings 8 (as well as 2 Ch 5-6). Accordingly, the prophecy of Joel concerns a future event that will shift the localization of Yahweh’s Spirit from a physical structure to a spiritual people (cf. also Jer 3:15-18; Zech 12:10). Therefore, Peter was claiming that the prophecy of Joel was currently being fulfilled before their very eyes. In light of the connections that we have outlined above, Peter was also implicitly referencing the earlier indwelling of the Solomonic temple on which Joel’s prophecy is based. Peter, like Solomon, then explained that this amazing change had occurred on account of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus – the son of David (Acts 2:32-41; cf. Solomon’s use of the Davidic Covenant above). But he also makes the bombastic claim that Jesus received the “promise of the Holy Spirit” from the Father and was the one “who poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing” (Acts 2:33). In this regard, Peter proclaimed that Jesus was responsible for the filling of Yahweh’s new temples (i.e., the disciples) with his Spirit, in the same way that Yahweh was responsible for filling his physical temple in the days of Solomon. To underscore this intertextual link, compare Jesus’ “cloud” that the disciples saw at his ascension a few days before the events of Pentecost (Acts 1:9).
The Departure of Yahweh’s Spirit from the Solomonic Temple – Ezekiel 8-11
In relation to what we have discussed above, it is worth mentioning that according to the prophetic visions of Ezekiel, Yahweh’s Spirit departed from the Solomonic temple in the years before its destruction (Ezek 8-11). In this vision, the Spirit is personified as a mobile throne with “whirling wheels” (for details see Ezek 10:2, 9-17; cf. 1:5-21) and also as a “cloud with brightness around it and fire flashing forth continually” (Ezek 10:3; cf. 1:4). With regards to the latter description, the cloud is obviously linked with 1 Kings 8:10-13, and it seems probable that the fire (πυρὸς in the LXX) of Ezekiel 1:4 and 10:6 can be connected to the “tongues of fire (πυρὸς)” of Acts 2:3.
Besides similar imagery between the depictions of Yahweh’s Spirit, Ezekiel’s multi-step departure of Yahweh’s glory/Spirit from the Solomonic temple in Ezekiel 10-11 can be linked to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. First, before the departure of the Spirit, Ezekiel 11:19-20 indicates that a “new spirit” would be placed within the returning Israelites. This is a clear connection to Christ’s outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (Acts 2:33). Second, Ezekiel’s address was to those who were “far off among the nations… those scattered among the nations” (Ezek 11:16), which mirrors the addressees of Peter’s sermon in Acts 2:39 (cf. Joel 2:32). Third, Jesus ascended from the same location that the Spirit had departed to – the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:12; Ezek 11:22; cf. also Zech 14:4). Therefore, Jesus’ outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost is a geographical reversal of the Spirit’s departure in Ezekiel 8-11. This geographical reversal is all the more intriguing when one considers that after mirroring the path of the Spirit from the Mount of Olives (Jesus – Acts 1:7-11) to the temple courts (Acts 2:1-5), the Spirit entered the disciples instead of re-entering through the torn curtain of the holy of holies (Luke 23:45; Matt 27:51; Mark 15:38; cf. Heb 10:20), and thereby fulfilled the prediction of the prophets (e.g., Ezek 11:19-20).
The Return of Yahweh’s Spirit in and from His Son – Luke 3:16; Acts 2:33
On a related point, there does not appear to be a clear reference to the return of Yahweh’s Spirit to Zerubbabel’s temple. In my view, there are a number of textual parallels between Ezra 3 and 1 Kings 6-8 and the parallel passage of 2 Chronicles 2-6 (e.g., the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles – 1 Kgs 8:2; Ezra 3:4; receiving cedars from Tyre and Sidon via Joppa – 2 Chr 2:16; Ezra 3:7; etc.). These parallels likely indicate that Ezra’s presentation of the return to and rebuilding of the temple is attempting to follow in the steps of its glorious predecessor. However, these similarities stop abruptly with a huge difference at their conclusion. As we have seen, when Solomon inaugurated the temple (1 Kgs 8:1-12), Yahweh’s Spirit filled it and the people rejoiced. However, when the exiles finished inaugurating the temple – just at the point where one would expect to see the theophanic cloud return – nothing supernatural happened. In fact, Ezra 3:12-13 indicates that the “old men” who had seen Solomon’s temple wept over the sight of the new one. While it is obviously incorrect to state that Yahweh’s Spirit was not active during the second temple period, it seems significant that (to my knowledge) no reference is made to the return of Yahweh’s Spirit to its former home on Zion.
Against this backdrop, one should pay close attention to the Gospel predictions and depictions of Christ’s role in returning the Spirit both to its rightful home (i.e., the temple) and its new home (i.e., the hearts of his disciples). John the Baptist’s announcement of the Messiah who “will baptize you with Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16; cf. John 1:26) is a prediction that was fulfilled in Jesus’ outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Luke makes this clear within Peter’s appeal at the end of the sermon (Acts 2:38-40), which employs very similar language to Luke 3:16, 21-22. Therefore, in its main context within Luke-Acts, Pentecost serves as the fulfillment of Christ’s ultimate destiny that was promised by his forerunner. Still, one must also be attuned to the fact that the Gospel writers depicted Christ’s life and ministry as being “filled with the Spirit” following his baptism by John (e.g., Matt 4:1; Luke 4:1). As a logical inference, and even though this is never explicitly highlighted in the Gospels, one should not miss that Christ’s actions in the temple (e.g., Luke 4:9; cf. Luke 9:31) represented an actual physical return of God’s Spirit to his former residence. Nevertheless, Peter grounds his culminating argument in two great truths that are explicitly tied to location (or geography). First, the risen Jesus was currently seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Second, “this” Jesus had poured out the Holy Spirit in their midst (Acts 2:32-36).
In conclusion, and despite early Christian tradition to the contrary, the events of Pentecost should be entirely localized to the temple mount. This localization underscores numerous implied intertextual parallels between the appearances and activities of Yahweh’s Spirit from his residences (i.e., Sinai, tabernacle, and Jerusalem temple) and the outpouring of Yahweh/Jesus’ Spirit upon the disciples in Acts 2. The absence of the Holy Spirit from the temple following its departure (Ezek 11) and the prediction of Christ’s “baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16) represent the major turning point in this geographical change from physical to spiritual. Notably, the anointing of the Holy Spirit upon the hearts of the followers of Jesus from Pentecost onward is one of the major pieces of Christ’s culminating redemptive work that supersedes the need for a physical, atoning temple with its various cultic protections and rituals (e.g., priests, curtains of separation, etc.) The transformation of the abode of the Spirit from a physical mountain, tent, or building, to a spiritual, sacerdotal people has massive implications for believers. This point is made clear by the temple imagery of Peter (1 Pet 2:9), John (Rev 1:6; 5:10; cf. “kingdom of priests” Exod 19:5-6), Paul (1 Cor 6:19), and the writer of Hebrews (especially Heb 9:6-22). Therefore, one can take immense joy when observing the geographical movements of the Holy Spirit that Peter (as recorded by Luke) described and implied during his Acts 2 sermon. In response, we might also, like Solomon did when witnessing Yahweh’s cloud filling “the whole house” (1 Kgs 8:27; Acts 2:2), marvel that our uncontainable God through the manifestation of his Spirit would choose to reside in his redeemed people, and thereby make them living, breathing temples of God (cf. 1 Pet 2:4-5).
 There are certainly more than I have discussed below, as my focus is primarily on the geographical implications associated with the intertextual allusions. For example, the reference to drunk priests and prophets in Isaiah 28:1-15 may be linked with Peter’s initial statement “these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day” Marshall, “Acts,” 531.
 When it comes to determining the viability of intertextual allusions or echoes, as a general guiding principle we should pay close attention to Paul’s instruction to the Corinthians (compare especially his association of Christ with “the spiritual Rock that followed them” 1 Cor 10:4). See discussion of method in A. Chou, The Hermeneutics of the Biblical Writers: Learning to Interpret Scripture from the Prophets and Apostles (Kregel Academic, 2018). With specific reference to Luke’s use of the Old Testament see B. Witherington III, The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Eerdmans, 1998), 123–27.
 Contra Marshall, “Acts,” 532 who does not see any “concrete evidence” for this connection.
 See discussion in VanderKam, “Weeks, Feast Of,” 6.897. B. Shabb. 88b reads as follows, “with regard to the revelation at Sinai, Rabbi Yoḥanan said: What is the meaning of that which is written: “The Lord gives the word; the women that proclaim the tidings are a great host” (Ps 68:12)? It means that each and every utterance that emerged from the mouth of the Almighty divided into seventy languages, a great host,” A. E. I. Stensaltz, “Shabbat 88b,” in William Davidson Talmud, Sefaria (Koren Publishers, 2017), https://www.sefaria.org/Shabbat.88b.3?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en.
 “Yahweh came down in the cloud spoke to him (Moses), and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders” (Num 11:25).
 The return of Yahweh’s Spirit to the temple (from the Mount of Olives – “coming from the east”) is also predicted in Ezekiel 43:1-9, which is the reverse vision of Ezekiel 8-11 (cf. 43:3). Whether or not this was fulfilled or partially fulfilled at Pentecost is a matter of theological debate that goes beyond the scope of our discussion.
 Marshall, “Acts,” 531–32; see also D. L. Bock, Acts, 2 vols., Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) (Baker, 2007) who in his discussion on Acts 2:2-3 connects Philo’s discussion of “fire” in Decalogue 11.46 and several Old Testament passages.
 A similar geographical connection can be seen in the use of Spirit/river imagery flowing from the the temple in Joel 3:18; Ezekiel 47:1-12; Zechariah 13:1; 14:8 which appear to be some of “the Scriptures” that Jesus was referring to in John 7:37-39.
As we enter into the holiday of Shavuot/Pentecost – this year from May 28-30 – I thought this would be a good occasion to discuss the location and setting of Shavuot/Pentecost in AD 33 (or AD 30 if you prefer). That festival of course was the setting of the events that are recorded in Acts 2 – which detail the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Beginning of excerpt from McKinny, Chris. “The Location of Pentecost and Geographical Implications in Acts 2.” Pages 77–93 in Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Book of Acts through Revelation. Edited by Barry J. Beitzel. Lexham Press, 2019.
It should be noted that we are only attempting to pinpoint the location of the apostle’s reception of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4). Thus, we are not questioning the location of the reaction of the multi-ethnic multitude (Acts 2:5-13) or Peter’s sermon (Acts 2:14-40). It would seem obvious that these events clearly took place on the temple mount. This is made clear by the reference to many Jewish worshipers hearing their own native tongues on the lips of the Aramaic-speaking disciples (Acts 2:6-12). In addition, Acts 2:41 indicates that those “who received his (Peter’s) word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” This number should be compared to the “120” in Acts 1:15, who were present at the selection of Matthias as the replacement for Judas (Acts 1:15-26). The setting of this earlier event is clearly the “upper room” (Acts 1:13). However, there seems to be a time gap between Acts 1:26 and 2:1, as noted by the reference to “when the day of Pentecost arrived.” Thus, the events of Acts 1:15-26 (the selection of Mattathias) and Acts 2:1-4 (the outpouring of the Spirit upon the disciples) are separate events, even if the setting of the latter has not been certainly determined. In any event, the baptism of 3,000 people is clearly a mass religious event that would have required a large facility with available ritual baths. Excavations around (various) and beneath (C. Warren in the 1860s) the temple mount revealed numerous ritual baths and cisterns that would have been available to second temple Jewish worshipers. Therefore, we can conclude that the majority of Acts 2 occurred on the temple mount and its environs, but the location of the event in Acts 2:1-4 remains debated.
From a textual standpoint, the location of Pentecost may possibly be connected to the “upper room” of Acts 1:14 by the reference in Acts 2:1-2. The latter indicates that the outpouring of the Spirit occurred where they were “all together in one place” and describes the Spirit’s rushing wind noise as “filling the entire house.” However, a literary connection between these two passages is not definitive, as no transition from the presumed “upper room” location to the temple mount is included in Acts 2:4-5. Moreover, Acts 2:6 indicates that the multitude heard “this sound” (i.e., the rushing wind of Acts 2:2), so in order to hold to the traditional view (see below) that Pentecost occurred in the upper room (i.e., on the western hill) then one must assume that the apostles moved from there to the temple mount after receiving the Holy Spirit.
While the evidence for locating the outpouring of the Spirit in Acts 2:1-4 from the Book of Acts is relatively inconclusive, Byzantine tradition clearly favored a connection between the upper room of the Last Supper and the location of Pentecost connecting both events with the Cenacle/Tomb of David on Mt. Zion. The two earliest traditions come from Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 315-373 CE) and Epiphanius of Constantia/Salamis (c. 315-403 CE), who connected the “Upper Church of the Apostles” or the “Church of God” with the events of Pentecost. Notably, Epiphanius’ referred to the “Church of God” beside the “seven synagogues which alone remained standing in Zion.” While not mentioning the church directly, the anonymous Pilgrim of Bordeaux (written in c. AD 333) provides even earlier testimony corroborating Epiphanius’ statement about seven synagogues on Mount Zion (i.e., the western hill). After visiting the Pool of Siloam and the Gihon Spring the Pilgrim writes,
“On this side one goes up Sion, and sees where the house of Caiaphas the priest was, and there still stands a column against which Christ was beaten with rods. Within, however, inside the wall of Sion, is seen the place where was David’s palace.Of seven synagogues which once were there, one alone remains; the rest are ploughed over and sown upon, as said Isaiah the prophet (actually Mic 3:12; cf. Isa 1:8, Itinerarium Burdigalense Jerusalem).”
These traditions indicate that the western hill of Jerusalem was still in ruins during the 4th century AD. Within these ruins, only one of the seven synagogues remained with the rest presumably destroyed in either the AD 70 destruction by Titus or following the Bar Kochba Revolt in AD 132-135. Notably, this lone remaining synagogue (see Epiphanius and the Pilgrim) is distinct from the “the church of God” (Epiphanius), which was built in the small area of the western hill that “escaped destruction.” Eusebius (Ecc. Hist. 3.5.3) and Epiphanius (Weights 54a) relay that the Jewish-Christian community of Jerusalem, which had fled to Pella during the Jewish Revolt, returned to Jerusalem following the AD 70 destruction. Subsequently, they apparently resided in the city until the arrival of Hadrian (cf. Proof 3.5.124d). Later Byzantine tradition held that it was this community that built the church on Mount Zion connected with the Last Supper and Pentecost. In the late 4th century AD, the large Hagia Sion church was built on the western hill in near proximity to the pre-existing “Upper Church of the Apostles.” Christian pilgrim accounts, iconographic, and archaeological evidence (see below), indicate that these two buildings were separate, but nearby structures as late as the 7th century.
To this point, we can conclude the following. First, Byzantine tradition connecting the “Upper Church of the Apostles” with the upper room of the Last Supper and Pentecost is well attested by the earliest Christian sources. Second, to my knowledge there does not appear to be a rival Byzantine tradition connecting Pentecost (whether the entire event or only the witness of the multitude and Peter’s sermon) with the temple mount. Third, it seems abundantly clear that there was an early Jewish-Christian community on the western hill, who built a church there at least sometime before Cyril of Jerusalem (c. AD 350). While it is possible that this church has not been located, it seems probable that the building known today as the Church of the Upper Room and the Tomb of David is in fact the original church built at some point before the mid-4th century AD.
Possible archaeological support tying Pentecost to the Cenacle comes from the suggestions of Bargil Pixner. Pixner developed a complex theory that incorporated the biblical text, the above referenced traditions, and J. Pinkerfield’s unpublished excavations of the floor of the “Tomb of David” in 1949. Pinkerfield claimed that the building was originally a synagogue constructed in the Late Roman period. In response to this, Pixner agreed that it was a synagogue, but suggested that it should be dated to the 1st century AD since it was built using Herodian-style masonry. He further hypothesized that this synagogue was none other than the room of the Last Supper (as well as the home of John Mark), the location of Pentecost, and the church/synagogue that is referenced by Cyril of Jerusalem, Epiphanius, and the Pilgrim of Bordeaux. While future excavations in the Cenacle might indicate the viability of Pixner’s theory, several scholars point out that there is very little archaeological evidence in support of Pinkerfield or Pixner’s conclusions suggesting that the original structure was a synagogue. A recent, limited excavation inside of the Cenacle and in the adjacent courtyard by Reʿem seemed to indicate that the building was constructed in the 4th century AD.
The Church of the Upper Room has early Christian tradition connecting it with both the location of the Last Supper and Pentecost. This tradition is probably based on a supposed textual connection between Acts 1:13 and 2:1-4. But as we have seen, Acts 2:1-4 does not necessarily have to be connected with the upper room. Therefore, I would conclude that this early Christian tradition connecting Pentecost with the upper room probably originated from a misreading of Acts 1-2 and not an independent Pentecost tradition. Nevertheless, this negative conclusion concerning the location of Pentecost does not mean that one should determine that the Cenacle was not the location of the Last Supper (as well as other possible connections, see above). Regarding the archaeology, we must remain cautious, but it appears that the Cenacle was either constructed or underwent significant building activity in the 4th century AD. This evidence matches the contemporary references to the “Upper Church of the Apostles,” if not their attestations to earlier building activity and occupation by “Jewish-Christians” during the Early and Late Roman periods.
Therefore, if the Church of the Upper Room should not be connected with Pentecost, then it seems highly probable that the entirety of the Pentecost event (including Acts 2:1-4) took place in the temple precinct. From a historical and archaeological perspective, this conclusion clearly matches the purposes of the Herodian temple mount as a place for mass religious gathering. In addition, it is worth mentioning that religious Jews were supposed to be worshiping in the temple during the festival of Pentecost (Acts 20:6; 1 Cor 16:8), as well as during Passover (e.g., John 11:55) and Tabernacles (e.g., John 7:2). So, by referencing Pentecost (Acts 2:1), Luke is allowing for the inference that the disciples were in the temple, because that would be the obvious location for celebrating the feast. In addition, locating Pentecost entirely on the temple mount implies intertextual geographical parallels between the descent of the Holy Spirit on believers and the activities of Yahweh’s Spirit (in various forms) in the Old Testament.
We will discuss these intertextual geographic parallels in Part 2.
 E.g., C. S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, 2nd ed. (InterVarsity Press, 2014), 322.
 See discussion in L. Ritmeyer, The Quest: Revealing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (Jerusalem: Carta, 2006), 221–33.
 Also known as the mother of all churches, the church of the apostles, the church of God, the Coenaculum, the church of the Upper Room, etc. See discussion in C. Kopp, The Holy Places of the Gospels (New York: Herder, 1963); A.F. Rainey and S. Notley, The Sacred Bridge: Carta’s Atlas of the Biblical World (Jerusalem: Carta, 2006), 370; see discussion in Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700, 5th ed. (OUP Oxford, 2008), 115–18; see especially D. C. Clausen, The Upper Room and Tomb of David: The History, Art and Archaeology of the Cenacle on Mount Zion, Kindle version (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2016).
 “We know the Holy Ghost, who spake in the Prophets, and who on the day of Pentecost descended on the Apostles in the form of fiery tongues, here, in Jerusalem, in the Upper Church of the Apostles; for in all things the choicest privileges are with us. Here Christ came down from heaven; here the Holy Ghost came down from heaven. And in truth it were most fitting, that as we discourse concerning Christ and Golgotha here in Golgotha, so also we should speak concerning the Holy Ghost in the Upper Church… (Catechetical Lectures, Lecture XVI.4).” See translation in Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Cyril of Jerusalem’s Lectures on the Christian Sacraments: The Procatechesis and the Five Mystagogical Catecheses, trans. F. L. Cross (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1951). Apparently, Cyril of Jerusalem also mentioned that the supposed bones of James (the brother of Jesus) were temporarily interned near the church, see Clausen, The Upper Room and Tomb of David, chapter 3.
 “And he (Hadrian) found the temple of God trodden down and the whole city devastated save for a few houses and the church of God, which was small, where the disciples, when they had returned after the Savior had ascended from the Mount of Olives, went to the upper room. For there it had been built, that is, in that portion of Zion which escaped destruction, together with blocks of houses in the neighborhood of Zion and the seven synagogues which alone remained standing in Zion, like solitary huts, one of which remained until the time of Maximona the bishop and Constantine the king, “like a booth in a vineyard,” as it is written (quoting Isa 1:8; Epiphanius Weights 54c).” Epiphanius of Salamis, Epiphanius’ Treatise on Weights and Measures: The Syriac Version, trans. J. E. Dean, Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilizations 11 (Chicago: Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 1935), 30.
 According to O’Connor, the Byzantine tradition relating the western hill of Jerusalem to Zion is rooted in a misunderstanding of Hebrew poetry, which employs synonymous parallelism instead of referring to two (or three) different hills in Jerusalem, see Murphy-O’Connor, The Holy Land, 115.
 These traditions connecting Zion and the Palace of David (cf. 2 Sam 5:11-12) with the western hill of Jerusalem are indicative of Byzantine confusion regarding the location of the original settlement of Jerusalem.
 Pilgrim of Bordeaux, Itinerarium Burdigalense, ed. A. Stewart, Online Edition-Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina 175 (London: Palestine Pilgrim’s Text Society, 1887), http://www.christusrex.org/www1/ofm/pilgr/bord/10Bord01MapEur.html.
 See sources in D. C. Clausen, “Can the Cenacle on Mount Zion Really Be the ‘Upper Room’ of Jesus’s Last Supper?,” The Bible and Interpretation May (2016), http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/2016/05/cla408003.shtml; Clausen, The Upper Room and Tomb of David.
 The ruins of Hagia Sion are located beneath Dormition Abbey, which was constructed in the early 20th century.
 These include two 6th century AD depictions of the Hagia Sion church with a small church (presumably the Cenacle) in immediate proximity; the Medeba Map’s depiction of Jerusalem and a similarly dated mosiac from the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. Clausen, “Can the Cenacle on Mount Zion Really Be the ‘Upper Room’ of Jesus’s Last Supper?,” 10–11; Clausen, The Upper Room and Tomb of David, chapter 3.
 See Clausen, The Upper Room and Tomb of David, chapters 12-14 who persuasively argues for this view against the suggestions of an original Jewish synagogue or a pagan Mithraeum.
 Before he could finish his report, Pinkerfield was murdered (along with three others) by Jordanian soldiers during an archaeological tour of Ramat Rahel in 1956.
 J. Pinkerfield, “‘David’s Tomb’: Notes on the History of the Building: Preliminary Report,” in Bulletin of the Louis Rabinowitz Fund for the Exploration of Ancient Synagogues, ed. M. Avi-Yonah, vol. 3 (Jerusalem: Hebrew Univeristy, 1960), 41–43; Clausen, “Can the Cenacle on Mount Zion Really Be the ‘Upper Room’ of Jesus’s Last Supper?,” 3.
 See discussion in Pixner, Paths of the Messiah and Sites of the Early Church from Galilee to Jerusalem, 319–59.
 E.g., Murphy-O’Connor, The Holy Land, 155–58; Clausen, The Upper Room and Tomb of David, chapter 12.
 A. Reʿem, “The Tomb of David on Mount Zion: Theories versus Archaeological Reality,” Hidushim Ba’archiologiyah Shel Yerushalayim Usvivoteha 7 (2013): 185–86; see also A. Reʿem and I. Berkovich, “New Discoveries in the Cenacle: Reassessing the Art, Architecture and Chronology of the Crusader Basilica on Mount Sion,” New Studies in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and Its Region 10 (2016): 56*-92* for an interesting new analysis of the Crusader chapel.
 In light of these references, it seems likely that a post-AD 70 church (or a Jewish-Christian religious structure, as it unclear if the term “church” would have been used for such a structure during this period) was constructed on the western hill, which is either represented by the Cenacle or in its immediate proximity.
We live in remarkable days, archaeologically speaking. More excavations at more sites are uncovering a tremendous amount of all kinds of information about ancient civilizations. Much of what is learned doesn’t make for a sensational news story, but is perhaps more important than the headline discovery.
The end of the year is a good time to look back over the stories, and attempting to identify highlights, and even to rank them, provides a good opportunity to determine what we consider important and why. My list here is decidedly subjective, and with my own undeniable biases towards discoveries from the biblical periods made in the land of Israel. The value isn’t in the accuracy of the list but in the opportunity to reflect on what we’ve gained and what may lie ahead. Here, then, is my list of the top 10 discoveries in biblical archaeology in 2019:
1. A seal impression belonging to “Nathan-Melech, servant of the king” discovered in Jerusalem’s City of David. Why is this in my top 10? Scholars believe this is likely the same individual who served Josiah, king of Judah (2 Kgs 23:11). If so, this is an archaeological artifact created by someone named in the Bible.
2. A statue likely depicting an Ammonite king in the 9th or 8th centuries BC discovered in Amman. Why is this in my top 10? Depictions of ancient kings are quite rare from Israel or their neighbors in Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Phoenicia, or Aram.
3. A destruction layer from the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 586 BC discovered on the Western Hill of Jerusalem. Why is this in my top 10? The Babylonian conquest is well-documented in the Bible, but archaeologists have found less trace of it in excavations than you might expect.
4. Massive fortifications exposed at Gath. Why is this in my top 10? This provides further insight into the nature of this Philistine city at the time when Goliath went out to battle and never came home.
5. A 7th-century BC seal impression “belonging to Adonijah, the royal steward” discovered in the City of David. Why is this in my top 10? Though this is not the famous Adonijah, son of David, it gives us an ancient example of the same name, in the city where he lived. In addition, this Adonijah was “chief of staff” to one of the kings of Judah, possibly Manasseh and Josiah.
6. The possible discovery of the “Church of the Apostles” at el-Araj (Bethsaida?). Why is this in my top 10? Anything that furthers the discussion about the correct identification of Bethsaida is valuable.
7. A mosaic depicting the Israelites’ encampment at Elim as well as two of the four beasts of Daniel 7 discovered in the ancient synagogue of Huqoq. Why is this in my top 10? Before there were photographs illustrating the biblical record, there were mosaics. But most synagogue mosaics depict Zodiacs and other non-biblical subjects.
8. A mosaic floor in a church at Hippos apparently depicts Jesus’s multiplication of the fish and loaves (Haaretz premium). Why is this in my top 10? This may well be an ancient depiction of a miracle near the place where it happened.
I compiled my lists before reading any others, and I see there’s quite a bit of difference between them. One reason: I excluded discoveries made or announced in previous years. But it can be tricky knowing when a discovery was “made,” as sometimes a lengthy analysis delays the announcement. Of course, in some cases, the announcement is necessarily made before the analysis!
Previous Years: You can revisit the top stories of previous years with these links:
I have read it now, and I believe that Haaretz did a grave disservice to Erez Ben-Yosef in their headline. Though my assumption was that this story was mere clickbait, what Ben-Yosef writes is quite important.
At the heart of Ben-Yosef’s argument is that archaeology is often used to answer questions that it cannot answer. The foundation of his argument comes from his work at Timna as well as analysis of the comparable mines at Faynan in Jordan. Here’s one quotation:
We know about the existence of a strong nomadic kingdom in the Arava solely because of its copper production; if the economy of the nomadic tribes of the Kingdom of Edom had been based only on commerce and agriculture, archaeologists would probably have reconstructed an “occupation gap” in the Arava region.
You have several options in what to read, should the issue of “archaeological invisibility” be of interest to you. (I’m particularly interested in it with regard to the Israelites in the time of Merneptah, but that is not addressed here.) There is the popular-level Haaretz article which Ben-Yosef wrote himself. That is based on his article in Vetus Testamentum, “The Architectural Bias in Current Biblical Archaeology,” which is available on Academia. A three-page version is published in the current issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (also available on Academia).
As noted before, Israel Finkelstein wrote a response on Facebook. And Ben-Yosef posted a response on Facebook and Academia, concluding thusly:
In other words, while assertions such as that Genesis 36 depicts a 6th century BCE reality or that David’s activities in Edom reflect an 8th century reality might be based on valid arguments, archaeology cannot be one of these arguments. It is often the case that when convenient, biblical archaeologists from the minimalist school resort to biblical criticism, and when less so, to archaeology (mostly to “absence of evidence”). However, one cannot have one’s cake and eat it too.
Those keeping score at home might be most surprised when they realize that this argument is being made by a professor at Tel Aviv University.
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.