The winners for this survey were the city of Jerusalem (7 different churches proposed), with the Church of the Holy Sepulcher receiving the most individual votes. Bethlehem has two favorite churches, and Galilee two others. Only two churches were selected outside of the land of Israel. Here is a brief review of a few of the favorites and some reasons they were chosen.

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem

“Each time, I always find something new and interesting to learn about the history of this church.
And it seems likely that some of history’s most significant events happened within its walls.”

“There is just something about this place for me. To think it may have been the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection for one gives me goose bumps. Then there is the building’s long history and its levels and twists and turns. It’s also interesting to watch the people.”

Holy Sepulcher, Stone of Unction, March 30, 1839, drra3g03440
Church of the Holy Sepulcher
Lithograph by David Roberts

The Church of All Nations (Gethsemane)

“Wonderful mosaic of Jesus, the natural light inside, the location, the symbolism of the name.”

Christ Church (Jerusalem)

“Ministry to Jews – no statues – clean architecture.”

Church of St. Anne (Jerusalem)

“The beautiful acoustical sound as songs of worship are sung by peoples of all languages – creating
for me an atmosphere of praise to the Lord!”

St Anne's Church interior, tb102903601
Interior of the Church of St. Anne

Dominus Flevit (Jerusalem)

“The location and view from the church toward the Old City, emphasizing Temple grounds and beyond the Holy Sepulchre.”

Church of the Nativity (Bethlehem)

“Stubbornly commemorates the birthplace of Messiah in the city of the birthplace of David.”

Church of the Shepherds’ Field (Bethlehem)

“Singing Christmas carols (I sang O Holy Night here) with the beautiful acoustical sound
reverberating throughout reminding us of Christ’s birth somewhere near here.”


“Beautiful and full of peace.”

Church of the Primacy (Tabgha)

“It is small and intimate…but mostly for the setting right along the Sea of Galilee.”

Duc In Altum (Magdala)

“Because it is beautiful, particularly the mural depicting the woman with the discharge of blood.”

Magdala chapel, Duc In Altum, Encounter chapel, woman touching Jesus's garment, tb053116468
Encounter Chapel in Duc In Altum

Sardis (Turkey)

“On the southeast corner of the magnificent ruins of the Temple of Artemis at Sardis is a small brick church built around the 4th century CE after the Temple had fallen into disuse. It’s one of the earliest church structures in existence. I like it because, although it pales in compares to the Temple of Artemis, it is a testimony to the power of God in the presence of things the world considers to be of no consequence. I appreciate being able to reflect in a relatively quiet spot where Christians gathered 1400 years or so ago.”

Titus Church (Crete)

“Went to church there one Sunday morning while my wife went to Knossos. Really good experience.”

Thanks to all who participated. August is over, but we’ve enjoyed this enough to continue it in the coming months, though probably less frequently than once a week.


Some tour groups visit every church as part of their pilgrimage to the Holy Land, while others visit only those they can’t avoid. Whatever your persuasion, it’s hard to deny that there are some beautiful buildings that have been constructed at or near biblical sites. You might choose one because of its architectural symmetry, because of the significance of the event it commemorates, or because of a special experience you enjoyed there.

The boundaries here are very broad. By “church” we include everything from a cathedral to a chapel and it can be anywhere in the biblical lands, from Israel to Rome.

Thanks for joining in! You can look for a reporting of the results on Thursday.


Readers of this blog are big fans of the Tel Dan Inscription, taking first place with twice the number of votes for the runner-up, the Siloam Inscription. It dropped off steeply from there with only four votes for the Pilate Inscription, two for the Ketef Hinnom silver amulets, and one each for a number of others. Some respondents explained their choice, so let’s take a look at a few of those.

#1: Tel Dan Inscription

First recognized mention of David, the kings of Israel and Judah seen as closely related polities, its early date, royal rhetorical devices, claims of divine intervention for the same event which Kings and Chron claim for another deity (still history on both counts!). Plus its early discussion revealed the disparity we call min & maximalism more clearly than ever before.

Can’t beat this one. Any extrabiblical reference has some weighty significance, but to have one connected to King David is beyond remarkable. Truly an amazing discovery.

The irony that proof of David’s house was preserved in the very place Jeroboam tried to compete with it (1 Ki. 12).

My two cents: While many rightly recognize this stele as important because of its mention of the “House of David,” I think that its significance as witness to the Aramean oppression of Israel has too often been overlooked. I addressed this matter in my dissertation.

Tel Dan Inscription, tb032014241
The Tel Dan Inscription, on display in the Israel Museum

#2 Siloam Inscription (in Hezekiah’s Tunnel)

You can actually see the thing described in the inscription. Furthermore, the activity of excavating the tunnel was in preparation for an event (Sennacherib’s 3rd campaign of 701 BC) which is documented in archaeological artifacts, destruction layers, Sennacherib’s inscriptions, Sennacherib’s reliefs, the Bible, and more!

The construction of the tunnel in the 8th century BC was an amazing feat–starting from opposite ends and meeting. Whatever may be said about how it was done, I think it was engineered by our great God!

Too few inscriptions are found in situ, and this one is so remarkable in part because there can be no doubt what it is describing, and the fact that this tunnel is mentioned in the Bible (twice!) makes this one of the greatest discoveries in “biblical archaeology.”

Siloam Tunnel inscription panorama with background, adr1006059998b
The Siloam Inscription, on display in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum

#3 Pontius Pilate Inscription

Offers historical proof of Pontius Pilate’s tenure of office

Because of Pontius Pilate’s relationship to Jesus

This discovery in 1961 provided the first inscriptional evidence for this Roman prefect (and confirmed that he was a prefect and not a procurator).

Pilate inscription, closeup, tb032014601
The Pilate inscription, on display in the Israel Museum

Though they didn’t receive as many votes, some others received good support:

The “Shasu of Yahweh” inscription

It is surprising to find that the earliest naming of the Israelite God occurs in an Egyptian inscription from Soleb from the 14th-15th century BC.  As Donald Redford notes, it is “a most precious indication of the whereabouts during the late fifteenth century B.C. of an enclave revering this god.”

The Balaam inscription from Tell Deir ‘Alla

How often do we get a new story about a famous biblical character?

Isaiah 66:14 near Robinson’s Arch

Hopeful Jews from the time of Emperor Julian, (4th century AD) allowed back into Aelia Capitolina were hoping to rebuild the Temple.

There were a number of other good suggestions, including:

  • The Baal Cycle Tablets
  • The Merneptah Stela
  • The Black Obelisk
  • The seal of Baruch the scribe
  • The (complete) Soreg inscription
  • The Miriam ossuary

The one that may be my favorite was not chosen by anyone: the Mesha Stele. Someday I need to make my case for why this is such an outstanding inscription. But for now I’ll note only this: it provides a remarkable witness to the Aramean oppression of Israel!

Thanks for participating and/or reading! This has been enjoyable and we’ll plan to do another survey next Tuesday.


We’re heading indoors for this survey, for when an artifact is discovered, particularly one with writing on it, the archaeologist removes it from the site and it usually ends up displayed in a museum.

This survey may be a little more challenging for some of you, because you can’t just open up your Bible and flip around. Instead you need to retrace your steps in the Israel Museum or the British Museum or some other renowned institution. If you can’t do that, you may recall learning about various inscriptions from a tour guide, professor, or pastor. You have many choices, and there are a number of books dedicated almost solely to inscriptions with biblical relevance (including those by McCarter, Fant and Reddish, Hallo and Younger, and Hays).

But you don’t need to have a book handy. Long-time readers perhaps recall the “Artifact of the Month” series by Mike Caba. And if that’s not enough, you can browse Mike’s list of 50 objects in his Bible and Archaeology – Online Museum.

There are some great possibilities and I look forward to seeing what you pick! Just remember to limit your selection to an inscription—perhaps another time we’ll have a survey for favorite artifacts without writing.

(Email readers may need to click through to fill in the survey.)


This was a fun survey for me to review, and I think it was fun for many of you who suggested a favorite story. Most of the choices were unique, but David and Goliath was chosen four times and several others were picked twice: Gideon, Jesus’s temptation, the Good Samaritan, and Jesus at Caesarea Philippi.

Of all the stories chosen, 70% are in OT. The other 30% were all in the Gospels. Of the stories selected in the OT, they were pretty evenly divided between these four groups: Pentateuch, Joshua-Judges, 1-2 Samuel, and 1-2 Kings, though 1-2 Samuel edged out the others because of the four votes for David and Goliath. Those who chose something in Kings went with a story about Elijah, except for one selection for Josiah and Neco and another for Adonijah’s attempted coup.

Perhaps the most curious vote was for “Enoch’s journey throughout the world,” with a helpful explanation for those of us who might be mystified: “Might not be in most Bibles, but it is in mine.” He or she is right: it’s not in most Bibles!

We should give an honorable mention to Tim Bulkeley for providing not just a suggestion but his own podcast (previously recorded) to explain it. He wrote, “The interplay of peasant (Boaz) and nomadic (Ruth) cultures in their interchange is such fun with her ‘but of course I’m not your servant’ as the key phrase.” The brief podcast provides a simplified summary.

I can’t cover everyone’s choice, so I thought I’d just select one from each of the above sections of the Bible and quote the explanation given. Perhaps this will stir your own thoughts or send you back to the Bible to read the story afresh.


Jacob wrestling with the Angel of the LORD at Penuel. Why?

When I read Genesis Chapter 32 I can picture Jacob wrestling with the Angel of the LORD there at Peniel (Penuel) and I can almost feel myself sitting there in the background watching as Jacob was able to keep the match up through the night. This must have been an amazing sight to see.

Agreed! This is one of my favorite places to visit in Jordan!

Jabbok River near fords, tb030815364


Samson. Why?

Well, it’s probably my second favorite after David and Goliath. But, it’s always amazing to stand in Beth Shemesh and read the story of Samson and visualize the events in a new way. It’s one of those first moments in our trips where the Bible comes to life for people. It also brings richness to a very familiar story, in much the same way as reading David and Goliath in the Elah Valley.

Yes, indeed. This stop always gets me behind on the rest of the day because it’s so hard to resist going through the Samson story blow by blow.

Sorek Valley from Beth Shemesh view west, tb052405993

1-2 Samuel

Saul fighting the Philistines by Mount Gilboa and all the details surrounding that (1 Sam 28-31).


It combines so many geographical details and routes around the Jezreel Valley, and even helps to make some significant historical connections (why were the people of Jabesh Gilead so concerned about Saul?)  If you count chapter 30, it even has interesting details about the Negev area.  Lots of interesting things happening, geographically.

All kinds of fascinating places here, including En Dor, Jezreel, and Beth Shean! Tour groups need to add an extra day to spend in this area.

Jezreel and Mount Gilboa aerial from west, ws011215042

1-2 Kings
Elijah’s contest with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel and his race to Jezreel. Why?

From some vantage points you can see just about all locations and imagine the entire event unfolding before your eyes.

This is another story where I insist on reading the whole passage no matter how windy (or rainy) it is on top of that monastery’s roof!

Jezreel Valley from Mount Carmel panorama, tb032407526

The Gospels

The woman at the well. Why?

Messiah revealed at locale where previous covenants made, i.e., fulfilling the promises. So much to absorb being there. My favorite place in the land.

Great connection here! This story doesn’t “move” from one place to another, but the geographical background is so rich.

Shechem Jacob's well, pcm05907

This was fun. I have another idea for next week, so plan to stop by on Tuesday to share your favorite!


This should be a fun one to read the results: what is your favorite geographical story in the Bible? By that, we want to know which story, with a geographical angle, most captures your imagination. I’ll suggest a few examples to get you thinking about more possibilities.

David and Goliath is a ready favorite, with the two armies encamped on either side of the Valley of Elah and the young boy running down from Bethlehem with Lunchables for his brothers (1 Sam 17).

The Good Samaritan grips us as we envision the wilds of the wilderness and a band of hoodlums attacking a lone traveler (Luke 10).

The war between Asa and Baasha is less well-known, but it captures the back-and-forth dynamic on the Benjamin plateau (1 Kgs 15).

The swine dive at Gadara is a subject of regular debate, and I’ve spent much of last week preparing for publication what I hope to be a significant contribution to the discussion (Mark 5).

Or how about Jehoshaphat’s march into the wilderness, leading his army in brandishing their weapons praising the Lord (2 Chr 20).

There are so many wonderful possibilities. Let us know what your favorite is and we’ll share the results on Thursday!

(Email readers may need to click through to respond.)