Monthly Archives: October 2009

Something lite for October 31

This is a photo I made in front of Stephen King’s house in Bangor, Maine.
Stephen King House in Bangor, Maine.

The Tel Dor Excavation Project

About two months ago we wrote about Tel Dor here. The day before that we noted the discovery of the miniature carving of Alexander the Great here.

Alexander carving from Tel DorAlexander Carving from Tel Dor

Paula Waiman, a PhD student at the University of Haifa, left a comment on the post about the Alexander carving. Her advisor is Dr. Ayelet Gilboa, co-director of the Tel Dor Excavation. I suggested to her that we move up her comment so it would be easier for readers to see.

The exquisite gemstone of Alexander the great that captured your attention, as seen in you website, is only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, of one of the largest, long lasting and high profile archaeological projects in Israel. If you care about the archaeology of biblical times (Israelites, Phoenicians and Sea People), the Classical periods, and the cultural heritage of Israel and the Mediterranean; and if you are interested in forging a bond between Israel and the international community – please take a moment to look at the attached file [see Tel Dor website for full info]. Like almost cultural projects around the globe, we need your help to endure.

We would be grateful if you could pass this message to any other interested parties.

Tel Dor website:
Tel Dor has also a facebook wall. You are welcome to visit us.

Prof. Sarah Stroup, University of Washington, has posted some nice photos of the excavation here.

Looking for Libnah

A new blog, called The Tel Burna Excavation Project, has been launched to report on the preliminary survey of Tel Burna. The tel is located in the Shephelah of Israel among such sites as es-Safi/Gath, Zayit, Goded, Mareshah, Azekah and Lachish.

The Shephelah. Map: Tel Burna Excavation Project.

The Shephelah. Map: Tel Burna Excavation Project.

In the case of Tel Burna, with no excavation material available, the problem is even more difficult. despite this, several scholars have suggested identifying the site with Biblical Libnah (although one should note that nearby Tel Zayit is a very likely candidate as well – as Ron Tappy, the excavator there, has recently published).

Libnah was a Canaanite town that was conquered by Joshua who allotted it to the tribe of Judah (Joshua 10:29-30; 15:42). The city was chosen as one of the Levitical cities (Joshua 21:13), which points to its role as a border site. According to 2 Kings 8:22 (and 2 Chronicles 21:10), the city of Libnah was involved in the rebellion against Jehoram the king of Judah (in 9th century BCE) and later, a woman from Libnah married King Josiah in the 7th century BCE (Kings 23:31-32;2 Kings 24:17-18; Jeremiah 22:11).

In any case, even if the site is not Libnah, it is clear for the survey results (which will be mentioned in an upcoming post) that the site was a very important site in the Iron Age, along the border between Judah and the Philistines.

HT: Luke Chandler’s Blog; Aren Maeir.

Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem

The Al-Aqsa (or Al-Aksa) Mosque is one of the two important buildings erected by Moslems on the platform built by Herod the Great. A Brief Guide to the Dome of the Rock and Al-Haram Al-Sharif, published in 1965, says the Al-Aksa Mosque was built in A.D. 693 or A.D. 705. The other significant building on the platform is called The Dome of the Rock or the Mosque of Omar. It is built over the rock where, according to tradition, Abraham offered Isaac (Genesis 22), and where the Temple of Solomon once stood (1 Kings 6).

Al-aksa Mosque. View toward south west. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This building has often been in the news. In 1951 King Abdullah of Jordan was assassinated in the Mosque. In 1969 an Australian tourist set fire to the building. Just a couple of days ago we saw news reports of disturbances in the Mosque. The Guardian of London headline reports,

Palestinians clash with Israeli troops at al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. Demonstrations at holy shrine erupt into violence as youths fight battles with riot police.

The Western Wall tunnel

Most first time visitors to the Western Wall in Jerusalem, whether in 1967 or 2009, probably think they are looking at a wall seen by Jesus and other first century characters prior to AD 70. In a sense they are. That is, they are seeing the same wall, but not at the first century level.

The Western Wall is the western side of the temple platform enclosure built by Herod the Great. Jesus drove money changers out of the temple precinct (hieron) (John 2:13-17). In their discussion with Jesus the Jews called attention to the length of time the temple (naos) had been under construction (John 2:19-21).

Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body. (John 2:19-21 NAU)

The photo below shows the largest visible stone in the western side of the Temple precinct. According to the Western Wall Tunnel web site, this stone is the largest one in the tunnel. It is 41 feet long, 11.5 feet high, and 15 feet deep. The web site says that this stone is 20 feet above the street level of the first century.

The largest visible stone in the Western Wall tunnel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The largest visible stone in the Western Wall tunnel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Tunnel was dug in the years following 1967, but an exit was not cut on the north end until 1996.

Israel plans major excavation at Western Wall

Israel National News reports, in an article by Samuel Sokol, plans to conduct a archaeological dig under the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Israel is planning a major archaeological dig under the Western Wall (Kotel) plaza, opposite the Temple Mount, officials announced Thursday. The excavations will create an archaeological park directly underneath the area where worshippers currently stand while praying at the Kotel.

The current prayer area will remain open, supported by pillars, while a new area will be added underneath, at the level at which worshippers at the ancient Temple stood in the past.

The complete article may be read here, and another here from The Jerusalem Post.

This drawing shows the planned part underneath the present pavement at the Western Wall.

Proposed Western Wall archaeological park. Photo: Antiquities Authority.

Proposed Western Wall archaeological park. Photo: Antiquities Authority.

Here is the way this area looks at the present time.

The Western Wall platform. View to north toward Wilson's Arch. Photo by F. Jenkins.

The Western Wall platform. View to north toward Wilson's Arch. Photo by F. Jenkins.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Pressing on toward the goal

Paul’s admonition to the brethren at Philippi is often used in sermons.

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)

Most often we hear speakers compare what Paul said to the effort put forth by individuals running in a race. This is certainly not inappropriate. However, many years back I ran across a statement by E. M. Blaiklock that changed my thinking. Blaiklock was a noted classicist. This particular comment comes from Cities of the New Testament.

One mark of the Roman colony is perhaps to be detected in the letter which Paul wrote, over ten years later, to the Macedonian church which he had come to love. It is a hidden metaphor from the chariot race. Exhorting his Philippians to effort and single-minded endurance, Paul writes: ‘This one thing I do-forgetting the things behind, and stretching out to those before, I make for the mark, the prize of the upward calling’.

Commentators generally have not marked the fact that Paul appears to have in mind, not the athletic contests of the Greeks, from which he commonly drew illustration, but the chariot racing of Rome. He was writing to a Roman colony. He was writing also from Rome itself, and never was there such rivalry of racing colours, and circus fever than at that time. The common talk of the soldiers of the soldiers was of the chariot racing, and Paul would gain a vivid impression of this most perilous of sports.

Such a race as that which forms the substance of Paul’s figure is described well in Ben HUR. The charioteer stood on a tiny platform over sturdy wheels and axle. His knees were pressed against the curved rail, and his thighs flexed. He bent forward at the waist, stretching out hands and head over the horses’ backs. This is surely what he means by ’stretching out to the things before’. The reins were wound round the body, and braced on the reins the body formed a taut spring. It can easily be seen how completely the charioteer was at the mercy of his team’s sure feet and his own fine driving skill. Euripides, in his Hippolytus, tells how the hero fell and was killed in such conditions. Ovid describes the same disaster in Book XV of his Metamorphoses. In his intense preoccupation the driver dare not cast a glance at ‘the things behind’. The roaring crowd, crying praise or blame, the racing of his rivals, all else had perforce to be forgotten. One object only could fill the driver’s eye, the point to which he drove at the end of each lap.

Here is a photo that might help to illustrate what Blaiklock said. It was made at the RACE show (Romy Army and Chariot Experience) at Jerash, Jordan.

Chariot race at the RACE show in Jerash, Jordan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Chariot race at the RACE show in Jerash, Jordan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This is a reprint from April 30, 2008, but with a different photo suitable for use in presentations. Click on the image for the larger photo.

Paul’s burial in Rome

The apostle Peter gets the most attention in Rome, but Paul also has his share of shrines. Paul was taken to Rome in the custody of the Roman Empire (Acts 27-28).

I appeal to Caesar. (Act 25:11)

Tradition has it that Paul was buried outside the walls of Rome where we now find the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

The basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The statue in front of the church shows Paul with a drawn sword and a book. The inscription reads PREDICATORI VERITATIS and DOCTORI GENEIUM. Paul was a preacher of truth and a teacher of the Gentiles.

For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. (1Timothy 2:7 NAU; see also 2 Timothy 1:11)

Appian Way mile marker

Mile markers were commonly used in the Roman world. Over the past forty years I have seen several in Israel and Jordan. Many of them have disappeared or have been taken to a secure place.

The marker here is the first one south of the city wall in Rome. Just as we have markers on our highways to indicate distances, so did the Romans.

Mile marker on the Appian Way in Rome. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Mile marker on the Appian Way in Rome. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tomb of Caecilia Metella on the Appian Way

Several ancient structures may be seen along the Appian Way south of Rome. One of the most impressive is the Tomb of Caecilia Metella. The woman for whom this tomb is named was the wife of a certain M. Crassus who shared power in Rome with Julius Caesar and Pompey.

The decorations on the tomb seem to date it to the beginning of the Augustan period (Wycliffe Historical Geography 538). I think we can safely conclude that Paul passed this structure on his way to Rome (Acts 28:13-14).

The Tomb of Caecilia Metella on the Appian Way. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Tomb of Caecilia Metella on the Appian Way. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.