Monthly Archives: July 2008

New study material online (including Español)

Over at BibleWorld I have posted the following items including Español el material de estudio de la Biblia.:

  • La Authoridad Biblica (under Foreign Language Materials). This book is for class or individual study.
  • Introduction to the Prophets. (This, and the other items below, are under Old Testament Studies.) Brief introductory outline showing the role of the prophets in Israel.
  • Analysis of the Book of Isaiah. This is the analysis by George L. Robinson.
  • Comparison of Kings of Israel, Judah, and Foreign Rulers. Helpful chart with dates for all rulers.

One you get to BibleWorld click on the Download Study Material in PDF link. Then scroll to the material you would like to take a look at and download if you wish.

Here is the link to BibleWorld.

CUIL – new search engine

My search engine of choice is Google. Occasionally I use one of the other popular ones. Now another one comes along claiming to be the world’s biggest search engine. They say they have already indexed over 120 billion web pages. I see that some of the technical articles are critical of CUIL (pronounced COOL). My approach to this sort of thing is to try it for yourself and see if it provides good results. I can’t say that I am immediately attracted to Cuil, but it will probably improve. When I entered my name [isn’t that what you do?] a lot of the posts on this blog came up.

Cuil is an old Irish word for knowledge. For knowledge, ask Cuil.

To get directly to the search page go here. To read about CUIL go here.

Second Temple Model in new location

For years the model of Jerusalem from the time of the second temple was displayed on the grounds of the Holyland Hotel in Jerusalem. When the hotel needed the space to enlarge, the decision was made to relocate the model on the grounds of the Israel Museum. This was a wonderful decision. It is now possible to visit the model, the Shrine of the Book, and the archaeology museum with one stop. Also, the Bible Lands Museum is across the road.

Second Temple at the time of Herod and Christ? I know that Bible students wonder about this designation. In our Bible classes we often point out that the temple was first built by Solomon, king of Israel (970-931 B.C.). That temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The temple was rebuilt after the return from the Babylonian Exile in the days of the Persian King Darius (520-516 B.C.). If we consider Herod’s work a remodeling of the second temple, then I suppose we could think of it as the second temple. Herod’s work was so massive that we probably should think of it as the third temple. Herod began this work about 19/20 B.C. There is a reference to the long project in the gospel of John.

John 2:19-22  Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”  20 The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”  21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body.  22 So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken. (John 2:19-22)

Here is a photo I made in April of the model which is based on available literary and archaeological evidence. In the background you see the Knesset of Israel and the Shrine of the Book where some of the Dead Sea Scrolls are displayed.

Second Temple Model of Jerusalem at its new location

A river in Pamphylia

This week I am busy with a number of projects, but I wanted to share a beautiful photo that I made early one morning in the mid-80s. This is a river that flows from the Tarus Mountains into the Mediterranean at Antalya, Turkey. Antalya is know in the Bible as Attalia. Paul and Barnabas sailed from Attalia at the conclusion of the first preaching journey.

When they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed to Antioch, from which they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had accomplished. (Acts 14:25-26)

Attalia was in the Roman province of Pamphylia in the days of Paul.

A river in Pamphylia with the Tarus Mountains in the background.

Sinaitic Manuscript now online (with some problems)

The AP news release about the Sinaitic Manuscript can be read here [now broken]. The release correctly points out that the manuscript from the fourth century is the oldest complete New Testament. Of course, we have manuscripts of portions of the New Testament from the early second century.

The British Library says the full text of the Codex Sinaiticus will be available to Web users by next July, digitally reconnecting parts that are held in Britain, Russia, Germany and a monastery in Egypt’s Sinai Desert.

It is significant that all parties owning portions of the manuscript have agreed to work together to make the material available online. In the past I have made a few photos of the open pages of the manuscript in the British Museum. But with the glare of the glass it was always difficult to get a good photo. More recently the British Museum manuscript has been displayed in the new British Library, but in a dimly lit room.

Now you eventually will be able to read the manuscript online. The manuscript includes some portions of the Old Testament, too. To illustrate the high quality of the manuscript I am posting a photo of the first few lines of the Lamentation of Jeremiah over the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. This is from a manuscript in Leipzig.

Notice that the words for Israel and Jerusalem are abbreviated. They are the words with the line over them. The name of Jeremiah is seen in the last line.

The first release of the Codex Sinaiticus Project went online a few minutes ago here. The only New Testament book in the present collection is Mark. At the moment the page is not behaving correctly, but I think that will be corrected in time. I am unable to see the image of the MS, but the transcription shows up fine. Take a look, and be patient. You will find some valuable information about the manuscript and the project.

I think I am getting a message saying the system is out of memory. Try later after the crowd leaves home!

Saint Catherine’s Monastery

The Monastery of St. Catherine is located at an altitude of about 4925 feet in the Wadi el-Deir at the foot of Gebel Musa. Tradition identifies this as the site where Moses tended the flocks of Jethro and saw the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-4:17). The Monastery was built near the middle of the sixth century A.D. during the reign of the emperor Justinian. It is dedicated to Saint Catherine of Alexandria and is the oldest continuously inhabited convent in the Christian world. Through the centuries many monks have lived there; today it houses fewer than a dozen Greek Orthodox monks.

The monastery became a great center of over 3000 old manuscripts and over 2000 icons. Only the Vatican library has more manuscripts. The Sinaitic Manuscript (Aleph) of the Bible was discovered by Constantine Tischendorff in 1844. The Sinaitic is the oldest surviving complete manuscript of the New Testament (about 350 A.D.). In 1975 the monks at the monastery found a large number of previously unknown documents. (One interesting recent book dealing with the monastery and its manuscripts is Secrets of Mount Sinai by James Bentley.)The bedouin who work at the Monastery are called Jabaliye (Arabic for People of the Mountain).

“According to their tradition they are descendants of Christian slaves who were brought here by Emperor Justinian from Wallachia, today Rumania, as builders of the monastery and later its guards. In the course of time, when Sinai came under strict Moslem rule they were compelled to embrace Islam” (Vilnay, The Guide to Israel, 564).

There is a mosque within the monastery walls.

I have had an opportunity to visit the area of Gebel Musa a few fimes, and to visit the monastery a couple of times. Here is a photo of the monastery that I made on my last visit to the area in 2005.

Saint Catherine's Monastery

Absalom, John the Baptist, and Zechariah

The Kidron Valley in Jerusalem has several ancient tombs in it. The Bible records that Absalom, son of King David, built a monument for himself in the King’s Valley.

Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and set up for himself the pillar that is in the King’s Valley, for he said, “I have no son to keep my name in remembrance.” He called the pillar after his own name, and it is called Absalom’s monument to this day. (2 Samuel 18:18 ESV)

The so-called Absalmon's Monument in the Kidron Valley

In AD 1170 Benjamin of Tudela associated one of the monuments in the Kidron Valley with the monument of Absalom. The monument actually belongs to the early first century B.C. It is a funerary monument in front of an eight-chambered tomb.

Joe Zias, of Hebrew University, was able to locate an inscription on the right side of the monument in 2002. The inscription is written in Byzantine Greek of the fourth century AD and reads,

This is the tomb of Zacharias, martyr, very pious priest, father of John.

Could this be the priest Zacharias (also spelled Zechariah in English versions) who was the father of John the Baptist? I think the best we can do is agree with Murphy-O’Connor,

Such Byzantine identifications reflect the piety of the period and have no historical value.

An archaeology joke

Claude Mariottini calls attention to a funny archaeology joke. At least he thinks it is funny, and I agree.

An archaeologist was digging in the Negev desert in Israel and came upon a casket containing a mummy. After examining it, he called the curator of a prestigious natural history museum.

“I’ve just discovered a 3,000 year old mummy of a man who died of heart failure!” the excited explorer exclaimed.

The curator replied, “Bring him in. We will check it out and see if your calculations are correct.”

A week later, the amazed curator called the archaeologist. “I don’t know how you guessed so accurately, but you were right on target about the mummy’s age and cause of death. How in the world did you know?”

Like Dr. Mariottini did, I will send you here for the punch line.

John the Baptist at Machaerus

All four of the Gospels make some reference to the imprisonment of John the Baptist (Matthew 14:3,10; Mark 6:17; Luke 3:20; John 3:24). This must have been a significant and traumatic event for both the disciples of John and the disciples of Jesus.

Mark, the shortest gospel,  gives the most complete account of why Herod Antipas arrested and executed John. See Mark 6:17-32.

Josephus, the late first century Jewish historian, includes a long section about John in Antiquities 18:116-119. Perhaps another time we will take a closer look at all of it. For now, I am concerned with the place of execution.

Accordingly he was sent as prisoner, out of Herod’s suspicious temper, to Machaerus [or spell it Macherus], the citadel I before mentioned, and was there put to death. Now the Jews had an opinion that the destruction of this army was sent as a punishment upon Herod, and a mark of God’s displeasure to him. (Antiquities 18:119)

Josephus also records that Herod’s wife, the daughter of Aretas IV, king of Petra (the Nabateans), learned of his plan to divorce her and marry Herodias. Without telling Antipas that she knew, she asked for permission to be sent to Machaerus.I suspect that Herod was glad to get her out of town. She was no dummy. She had made arrangements for her father’s army to bring her safely [from Machaerus] to Arabia [perhaps Petra]. This event led to a war between the armies of Aretas and Herod Antipas. Herod’s army was destroyed. See Antiquities 18:109-115 for the full story.

Here is a brief summary about Machaerus.

  • Built by Alexander Jannaeus (102-75 B.C.).
  • Rebuilt by Herod the Great. This fortress is the eastern parallel to Masada.
  • Assigned to Herod Antipas at the death of Herod the Great (4 B.C.).
  • Destroyed by the Romans (A.D. 57).
  • Occupied by Jewish rebels (A.D. 66).
  • Captured by the Romans (A.D. 71).

Machaerus has an impressive location overlooking the Dead Sea from the east. There was so much haze (eastern sand) in the air the day we visited last April that it was not possible to see the Dead Sea below. This photo gives some idea of the terrain. The citadel is located about 2300 feet above sea level. This would make it about 3600 feet above the Dead Sea. The hill to the east, where I stood, is about 60 feet higher than the citadel.

Here is a view of some of the reconstructed ruins at the top.

Where was John buried? Mark tells us that his disciples “came and took away his body and laid it in a tomb” (6:29). Did they bury him at Machaerus? At Samaria? Neither the Bible nor Josephus inform us.

If you could use some nice photos of Machaerus to illustrate Bible lessons, I suggest you check out those by David Padfield here.

John the Baptist and Samaria

I am in the process of preparing some material on John the Baptist in Biblical and Church History. There is a tradition that John was buried at Samaria. This is one of those late traditions that reflect the understanding of believers in the centuries following the time of John.

Jerome Murphy-O’Connor makes some comments on this in the fifth edition of The Holy Land. See our earlier reference to the book here.

Christian tradition very quickly (before 361) identified Samaria as the site of the infamous birthday party at which Herod Antipas had John the Baptist executed (Mark 6:17-29). With greater probability Josephus locates the murder at Machaerus in Jordan (Antiquities 18:119). This information, however, was not available to all Christians, and the much more accessible Samaria was associated with the name of Herod, who had held a wedding party there and much later executed two of his sons there. The fact that the two Herod’s were father and son would not have bothered the popular credulous mind. Two churches were built in John’s honour, one near Herod’s temple and the other in the modern village. (The Holy Land, 5th edition, 461)

Samaria is in the West Bank of Israel, under the Palestinian Authority. It has been impossible to visit Samaria on a regular basis for many years. My last visit was in 2000, but I was trying to use the “latest” in digital technology. The photos are not very good. Another thing to remember about important sites like this is that they are not well maintained. Here is a photo of the Church of St. John that I have scanned from a 1984 slide.

At the Biblical Studies Info Page I keep a list of good sources for photos (check Scholarly, then Photos). None of these have a photo of this site. On May 19, 2005, some scholars associated with the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in Jerusalem made a visit to Sebaste (Samaria). There are several good photos of approximately 800 x 600 pixels, with commentary. These are stashed away in the archives of the web site. Perhaps you can access them here. These photos include the Iron Age site belonging to the time of the Divided Kingdom, and the Herodian and Roman site from the time of the New Testament (Acts 8).

Here is a comment from the Franciscan site about the two churches at Sebaste identified with John.

The Alleged Discovery of the Baptist’s Head. It is not known what happened to the head consigned to Herodias; but as early as the fourth century, stories begin to appear about the finding of the supposed relic. One such inventio took place in Sebaste in the place regarded as the Baptist’s prison. A church associated with this discovery was erected near the acropolis, while the large church containing the tomb was below to the east, in the cemetery area.

The cathedral from the mid-12th century, now a mosque, is said to enshrine the tomb of John the Baptist. The church is in the village of Sebaste. I am taking the liberty of showing you the photo of the exterior of the church from the SBF web site.