The Institute of Biblical Culture has just launched, and they are registering now for courses beginning in the fall. These live online courses are taught by Jewish and Christian professors on subjects such as biblical literature, biblical archaeology, and biblical backgrounds. You can start here, or go straight to the list of classes being offered this fall.

Here’s one suggestion: you can take a course on Rabbinic Literature, including Mishnah and the Talmud, from a rabbi. The early bird discount ($100 off) ends on Friday.


I’ve recommended Ginger Caessens’s study tour of Jordan in the past, and I’ve always received enthusiastic reviews from those who participated. Of course, I’m not surprised because I participated on this outstanding trip more than a dozen years ago.

The UHL website has all the details, including a full itinerary, but here’s the short version:

A ton of biblical history occurred in Jordan and if you don’t see it, you will miss it. There is no better program on the planet than that offered by UHL and taught by Dr. Caessens. If you want to see all the major biblical sites in Gilead, Ammon, Moab, and Edom, and you want to understand what you’re seeing, this is your trip. There are all kinds of people who go back to Israel their third, fourth, or tenth time and they’re not going on this trip, and I just don’t understand that. Maybe they just don’t realize that it was in the (modern-day) country of Jordan where:

  • Jacob wrestled at the Jabbok
  • The Israelites looked on the bronze serpent
  • The Israelites defeated the army of Sihon
  • Moses spoke the book of Deuteronomy
  • Moses viewed the land from Mount Nebo
  • Gideon pursued the Midianites
  • Jephthah fought the Ammonites (and then his daughter)
  • Ruth married Naomi’s son
  • Saul delivered the city of Jabesh Gilead
  • Uriah the Hittite died because of David’s treachery
  • David fled from his son Absalom
  • Ahab was killed by the Arameans
  • Jehoshaphat fought the Moabites
  • Jehu launched his coup
  • Elijah was born and later ascended into heaven
  • The prophets spoke against Ammon, Moab, and Edom
  • John the Baptist ministered and baptized
  • Herod Antipas beheaded John the Baptist
  • Jesus traveled through Perea

And I didn’t even mention the Medeba Map, Wadi Rum, or Petra.

You’re missing half of the story by not studying the east side of the Jordan River.

It’s worth your time, and it’s worth your money. Download an application here.

Amman citadel fortification eastern wall, tb031115005
The ancient citadel of Rabbath-Ammon where Uriah was killed
by Chris McKinny

I am excited to announce that Seeking a Homeland is planning a study tour of Israel for this upcoming summer! See here for details/registration and below for a discussion of the uniqueness of the planned tour.

Dates: June 10-19, 2016

Leader: Chris McKinny

Brief Itinerary (10 field days): 
June 10 Arrival/Coastal Plain, June 11 Shephelah and Negev, June 12 Dead Sea, June 13-14 Jerusalem, June 15 Jordan Valley, June 16 Jezreel Valley, June 17-18 Galilee, June 19 Coastal Plain, June 20 Departure or Tel Burna Archaeological Project (see below)

Focus: Geographical, historical, biblical, and archaeological background of Israel, the land of the Bible

Level of Difficulty: Moderate, a lot of walking and several difficult hikes

Availability: 15-30 people

Price: $2,300/person (excluding airfare and lunches)

Add-on: Tel Burna Archaeological Project June 19-July 15, 2016 (1-4 weeks); a $150 discount will be applied to a participant who joins the project (minimum one week).

Deadline: March 31, 2016


This study tour is not for everyone. During this tour, there will be very little time for relaxation and even less time for shopping, but we will find time to swim in the Mediterranean, Sea of Galilee and Dead Sea.

This tour is built on the IBEX (The Master’s College) model – where I have taught/led study tours since 2010. This type of study tour will be much different than your standard “church” or religious tour of Israel that often devote equal amounts of time to the hotel’s swimming pool as they do at biblical sites.

While intensive study tours are much less common than the typical tour described above, there are other good options. So what makes Seeking a Homeland’s tour unique?

Two things:

First, this tour will be led by an experienced teacher who also is a trained and active biblical archaeologist (in the field, classroom, and the academy).

Second, participants will have the opportunity to excavate at Tel Burna (Libnah), a major archaeological site, immediately following the tour. In my opinion, an archaeological excavation is the natural “follow-up experience” to an intensive geographical study of Israel. This is born out by the fact that many people who visit Israel develop an interest in biblical archaeology and attempt to follow current discourse through such means as Biblical Archaeological Review and this blog. On the other hand, there are some who have only taken part in an archaeological excavation in Israel and have not had the opportunity to travel throughout Israel and, subsequently, gain a working knowledge of the country’s geography and history. Planning the field tour in connection with the archaeological project allows for participants to experience both the broad scope of biblical geography while also participating and helping recover the “nuts and bolts” (or “weapons and pottery”) of individuals who actually lived during the time of the Bible. This combination makes Seeking a Homeland’s tour unique and a good opportunity for those who have never been to Israel or returnees who would like to refresh their past geographical knowledge and gain new insight by participating in an important archaeological investigation of a biblical site.

Our goals for the field tour will be three-fold:
1) to observe as much of the country as possible.
2) to illustrate and contextualize the Old and New Testament narratives against the backdrop of Israel’s geography, archaeology and history.
3) to internalize the landscape, background, and worldview of the biblical authors and audiences, in order to achieve better and more nuanced interpretations and, thereby, applications of the biblical text.

For those who decide to join the Tel Burna Archaeological project following the tour, an additional goal will be for participants to “experience the physical culture (cooking/eating, religious, military, administration, etc.) of the Canaanite and Israelite world” through a first-hand experience of archaeological excavation. Imagine yourself finding a Canaanite figurine depicting Asherah (Judges 2:13)  or a LMLK seal impression from the time of King Hezekiah (2 Kings 19:8) – both from the town of Libnah, which the Bible says was defeated by Joshua (Joshua 10:31-32) and Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:8). These are the types of finds that are waiting for us at ancient Libnah.

Canaanite Plaque Figurine

Interactive Map of Tour Itinerary:


The largest treasure of gold coins ever found in Israel was recently discovered in the harbor of Caesarea. Most of the coins date to the Fatimid period (ca. AD 1000). There’s a close-up of a well-preserved coin here. Seven high-res images are available here.

The Jerusalem Post has photos and a video of the recent snowfall in Israel. Record snowfall was recorded in Istanbul, and the snow was heavy in Lebanon and Jordan. Yahoo has more photos of Jerusalem here. And Shmuel Browns has some photos from his neighborhood in the German Colony.
Leen Ritmeyer suggests that some paving stones on the Temple Mount pre-date the Roman destruction.

The next stop for the Passages exhibit is the happy town of Santa Clarita, California.

Some of the Dead Sea Scrolls are coming to the California Science Center next month, along with the Jerusalem IMAX movie.

Ever wanted to volunteer in Israel? Wayne Stiles suggests 15 volunteering opportunities.

James Pritchard’s HarperCollins Atlas of Bible History is not the best atlas out there, but it’s currently only $3.99 for Kindle. As one reviewer notes, the text may be more useful on the screen than the maps.

This week on the Book and the Spade: Herod’s palaces and ancient olive oil, with Clyde Billington.

Ferrell Jenkins explains how Pilate used coins to promote the emperor cult.

Codex Vaticanus is now online.

Aren Maeir’s recent lecture at GVSU is now posted on Youtube.

Eric Cline will be lecturing at the Oriental Institute in Chicago next week.

Gabriel Barkay, Zachi Dvira, and others involved in the Temple Mount Sifting Operation are coming on a fundraising tour in April and May. Check out their blog to learn how you can arrange talks or dinners with them.

The Islamic State is reportedly looting ancient sites “on an industrial scale.” Some people are trying to stop it.

HT: Ted Weis, Joseph Lauer, Charles Savelle, Jock Stender

Gold coins discovered in Caesarea harbor
Photo copyright: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

Excavations on Mount Zion this summer revealed a Early Roman period mansion that archaeologists suggest belonged to the family of a priest in the first century. The story is also reported by livescience.

A summary of this year’s excavations of Tel Yafo (Jaffa) is now online. The work focused on the only Egyptian gate known in Israel.

There’s another article on the alleged discovery of Dalmanutha.

Why was Samaria made the capital of the Kingdom of Israel? Norma Franklin argues from her archaeological research that it was the city’s economic potential.

The University of Pennsylvania is celebrating a century since it received the Sphinx.

Logos Bible Software is looking for a Bible Map Designer.

“Explorations in Antiquity in LaGrange will soon open its Biblical Life Artifacts Gallery.”

Philologos explains why Sukkot is a harvest holiday, even though there’s little to harvest. For those beginning the joyous celebration of Sukkot tonight, we say hag sameah!

HT: Mark Hoffman, Jack Sasson, Joseph Lauer

Sphinx, red granite, 19th Dynasty, from Memphis, tb072311783
The Sphinx of the University of Pennsylvania

In an article published in the new issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Emile Puech’s view of the Qeiyafa Ostracon is summarized. He believes that it “announces the installation of a centralized royal administration and it makes this announcement to a distant frontier province. He concedes that it is difficult to establish with certainty whether the new royal administration is that of Saul or David. On balance, however, he concludes that, most likely, the ostracon refers to Saul’s accession.”

Gordon Franz discusses three possible locations for the temple to Augustus near Panias/Caesarea Philippi. He concludes that the site of Omrit is likely the backdrop for Peter’s confession.

Using satellite images taken over a span of 40 years, Shmuel Browns shows how the Dead Sea is shrinking.

The first quarter of 2012 saw a record number of tourists to Israel.

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority says that if visitors pay they are less likely to trash a site.
Aren Maeir has announced a major scholarship for those wishing to join the excavations at Gath and/or Tel Burna this summer. The application deadline is May 6.

HT: BibleX

Omrit temple from east, tb032905151

Roman temple at Omrit