Aviva and Shmuel Bar-Am tell the fascinating story of Moses Shapira and his alleged discovery of an ancient scroll of Deuteronomy. The Times of Israel article includes quite a bit of interesting information about Christ Church, even though it is not really relevant to the story. The question that has never been resolved is whether Shapira held the first discovered Dead Sea Scroll.

Christ Church was the first Protestant church in the entire Middle East, and the only evangelical church in the region. Outwardly resembling a grand European synagogue more than a Christian house of worship, it was erected in 1849 by the London Society for the Promotion of Jews to Christianity for the express purpose of drawing Jews into the Christian fold.
Before that time, simple proselytizing — and the promise of financial gain — had resulted in very few Jewish conversions; the Protestant Bishopric in Jerusalem hoped that an attractive, accessible church might facilitate the cause.
Church fathers wanted Jews to feel comfortable in the sanctuary, which is why the interior is replete with Jewish symbols.
Jewish students at the workshop manufactured the stunning olive wood communion table, decorated with both a Star of David and the Christian Alpha and Omega.
There were no crosses in the church; the cross on the table appeared in 1948, when Jordanians captured the Old City and Anglicans feared their sanctuary would be mistaken for a synagogue.
Moses Wilhelm Shapira, born Jewish in 1830, was 25 when he left his Russian homeland for the land of Israel.
Somewhere along the way, he converted to Christianity.

The full story is here. Shapira’s story is told in greater length in Neil Asher Silberman’s Digging for God and Country: Exploration, Archaeology, and the Secret Struggle for the Holy Land.

UPDATE: See the Jim Davila’s comments here.

Christ Church, tb011612801
Christ Church in Jerusalem
Photo from Pictorial Library of Bible Lands

Yitzhak Sapir claims that Matthew Kalman has misrepresented the verdict regarding the ownership of Oded Golan’s artifacts. Kalman has responded briefly.

A report from this season’s excavations of the Roman camp of Legio near Megiddo is now online.

Wayne Stiles provides a perspective, with photos and video, from atop the walls of Jerusalem.

The lecture schedule for the Bible and Archaeology Fest is now online. There are many interesting topics planned.

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary is now offering a masters of arts in biblical archaeology in partnership with Mississippi State University.

Haaretz reports on students excavating in the port of Dor as part of a new English MA in Maritime
Civilizations at Haifa University.

An article at The Christian Science Monitor about Khirbet Qeiyafa is more interesting for its profile of Israel Finkelstein.

Barry Britnell suggests a number of opportunities to learn.

Britnell also links to a beautiful video on the Sky Above Jerusalem.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Jack Sasson

Dor harbor area from north, tb090506883
The ancient harbor of Dor
Photo from Samaria and the Center

The forgery case against Oded Golan has been concluded with the court’s rejection of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s claim of ownership of the Jehoash Inscription. Matthew Kalman has covered the case for nearly a decade and he reports on the 2-1 decision by an appeal panel of Israel’s Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court ruling caps a crushing defeat for the Israel Antiquities Authority following the sweeping 2012 acquittal of Golan and dealer Robert Deutsch on multiple charges of archaeological forgery. Israeli prosecutors advised by the Israel Antiquities Authority had argued that even though they continue to believe the inscription is a modern forgery, the reverse of the stone had been “dressed” in ancient times and was therefore classified as an antiquity that should belong to the state. But those arguments were rejected by the majority decision of the court. Oded Golan is now poised to reclaim both the tablet and the more famous item, the James ossuary, along with dozens of pieces confiscated by the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israeli police at the time of his arrest in 2003. Golan greeted the decision as “good news.” He says he plans to put both the ossuary and the tablet on public display. The latest about-turn could be the final twist in a nail-biting finale to the decade-long pursuit of Golan. However, a sternly-worded ruling by the same court in September suggests that the battle over the future of the antiquities trade is just beginning. In an 8,000-word ruling handed down on September 29, a panel of three Supreme Court Justices rejected Golan’s appeal against his conviction and sentence on three minor charges and used the opportunity to declare war on the antiquities market. Branding the trade in antiquities “damaging” and motivated by “avarice,” the ruling authored by Supreme Court Justice Daphne Barak-Erez depicts “a world of collectors exchanging treasures teeming with trembling hands and heart – often within the law, and sometimes without,” and notes with approval that “in most countries of the world there is a general ban on the trade in antiquities, because of their recognition as a national resource.” She further observed, that this "conception also serves as the basis for the antiquities law” in Israel.

The full story is at The Bible and Interpretation and includes Golan’s response to the court’s broadside on the antiquities market. Since I believe that the tablet is likely authentic, I am happy to hear that Golan plans to put the artifact on public display.


Nir Hasson reports in Haaretz on the continuing saga of the Jehoash Inscription.

The Jehoash Tablet is a stone bearing an inscription in ancient Hebrew describing the renovation of the First Temple by the Jehoash, King of Judea. If it is authentic, it is one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the last century. But for many years, in one of the most complex cases ever to come before an Israeli courts, the state has claimed that it was a fake.
The Jerusalem District Court has ruled that the state failed to prove that the tablet was a fake, paving the way for the defendant, antiquities collector Oded Golan, to be cleared of most of the charges against him. But the state has gone to the Supreme Court to seek possession of the tablet – perhaps because maybe, just maybe, it’s real after all.
Over the course of seven and a half years, the court heard testimony from 130 witnesses, including dozens of Israel’s most prominent experts in geology, chemistry, microbiology and ancient scripts. In the end, Judge Aharon Farkash ruled that the state had failed to prove its case.
The state did not challenge most of the exonerations, but as for the Jehoash Tablet – that’s another story. The state wants it.
The state still claims that the tablet is a forgery because the letters of the inscription did not have a patina that was consistent with its purported age.
But that is only one element in which the court must be persuaded beyond a reasonable doubt, Golan and his attorney, David Barhum, stated in their response. It must also be persuaded that “scratches on the tablet [which the state claims are signs of forgery] are indeed ‘fresh,’ and that the collective opinions presented to the court, that it impossible for this inscription to have been made in the past 50 years, are baseless and mistaken.”

Go to Haaretz to read the full story (registration required). Matthew Kalman reported on the story earlier this month.

HT: Jack Sasson


Hershel Shanks has weighed in on the Israeli government’s astonishing about-face on the Jehoash Inscription.

Gordon Govier and I discuss the “palace of David” discovery in this week’s broadcast of The Book and the Spade (direct link here).

Luke Chandler has an exclusive scoop on recent finds from Khirbet Qeiyafa.

Ferrell Jenkins has posted a beautiful aerial photo of Gezer.

Wayne Stiles writes about 5 Christian Sites in Jerusalem You Should Know About.

My memory of whitewater rafting on the Jordan River is more thrilling than what this Haaretz writer
describes, but maybe it’s just grown with the telling.

This article about antiquities thieves in Jordan reveals that some ancient sites are guarded by
powerful genies.

The Garden of Eden is to become a national park in Iraq. (If you don’t see a guard armed with
flaming sword, it may be a swindle.)

Accordance is ending the summer with some deals sure to interest those who love Bible geography,
history, and archaeology.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Jack Sasson

Walls of alleged “palace of David” at Khirbet Qeiyafa.
Photo by Steven H. Sanchez

Matthew Kalman has a very interesting article on the latest in the Jehoash Ossuary trial, reporting that the Israeli government is now demanding to keep the artifact on the basis that it is authentic! Kalman reports:

In a stunning about-turn, after losing a 10-year legal effort to prove that an Israeli antiquities collector faked an inscription from Solomon’s Temple, Israel’s deputy state attorney begged the high court in Jerusalem on Wednesday to allow the Israeli government to keep the artifact on the grounds that it is “an antiquity.”
Oded Golan, the Israeli antiquities collector who was acquitted of forging the Jehoash Tablet after a seven-year criminal trial, said he had offered to loan it to a museum for study and public display, but he would fight the attempts by the state to confiscate it.
Following Golan’s arrest, a panel of experts appointed by the Israel Antiquities Authority declared the Jehoash Tablet and the James ossuary fakes. Golan and four others were indicted in December 2004 on multiple counts of forgery and accused of being members of an international antiquities forgery ring. None of the charges held up in court.
A year after Golan’s acquittal, Judge Farkash ordered the prosecution to return the Jehoash Tablet, the James ossuary and the other items to Golan.
But after arguing for a decade that the Jehoash Tablet was a fake, the prosecution has suddenly decided it is an antiquity, and therefore the property of the state under the 1978 Israel Antiquities Law.

Read the full report for quotations from the prosecutor and defendant. Kalman concludes with the hint that a compromise may be in the offing. See here for expert analysis that the inscription is genuine.

J Tablet 2013-2

Jehoash Inscription.
Photo by Matthew Kalman