Monthly Archives: February 2011

Walking on Roman roads

Gordan Franz, Life and Land Seminars, recently led the 2011 Talbot Bible Lands study tour of Turkey and Greece. He writes about the Roman roads used by Paul in his journeys. See here.

Photos are included of the following roads, portions of which still exist.

  • The Via Taurus, “a beautifully preserved road between Tarsus and the Cilician Gates” (Acts 15:36).
  • The Via Sebaste (“Emperor’s Road”) connecting Iconium and Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:51; 14:21-23).
  • The Roman Road west of Assos (Acts 20:22-23).
  • The Roman Road inside the city of Alexandria Troas leading to the harbor (Acts 16:8-11).
  • The Via Egnatia which connected Neapolis and Philippi (Acts 16:11-12; 20:6).
  • The Appian Way (Acts 28:14-16).

The link to photos made by one of the tour members is given at the bottom of the article. At this moment you will need to copy the link and paste it into your browser. There is an extra http// in the embedded code.

The photo below is one provided by friend David Padfield of the Roman road near Assos.

Roman Road near Assos. Photo by David Padfield.

Roman Road near Assos. Photo by David Padfield.

I have been on journeys many times, in dangers from rivers, in dangers from robbers, in dangers from my own countrymen, in dangers from Gentiles, in dangers in the city, in dangers in the wilderness, in dangers at sea, in dangers from false brothers… (2 Corinthians 11:26 NET)

Was this Jericho tower the world’s first skyscraper?

Many who have visited Tell es-Sultan, the site of Old Testament Jericho, have been amazed at the tower built on the inside of the city wall. The tower was uncovered during the excavation by Kathleen Kenyon in 1952-1958. Kenyon dated the tower to the Neolithic period, about 7000 B.C. The current material makes the tower 11,000 years old, but the entry by Kenyon in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised, gives the date of 7000 B.C.)

Holland describes the tower:

On the West side of the town in Trench I, the first town wall was associated with a large stone-built tower situated against its inner side, 8.5 meters in diameter [almost 28 feet] at the base with a surviving height of 7.75 meters [about 25½ feet]. The construction of the tower was solid except in the center, which had a staircase providing access to the top from the interior of the town. — The Anchor Bible Dictionary 3:727

A photo suitable for use in teaching is available by clicking on the image. This tower is definitely in need of cleaning and restoration.

The Tower excavated by K. Kenyon at Jericho. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Tower excavated by K. Kenyon at Jericho. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Kenyon thought the tower served some defensive purpose. A new computer analysis study by two Israeli archaeologist, Ran Barkai and Ron Liran, has led to the conclusion that when the tower “was built the nearby mountains cast a shadow on it as the sun sets on the longest day of the year.” They say, “The shadow fell exactly on the structure and then spread out to cover the entire village.”

A brief article in the The Jerusalem Post says,

The world’s first skyscraper was built by early farmers, who were frightened into erecting a solar marker by mankind’s early bosses, archaeologists say.

Long before its Biblical walls came tumbling down, Jericho’s residents were being enticed to give up hunting and gathering and start farming for a living. They settled in this oasis next to the Jordan River and built a mysterious 8.5-meter (28-foot) stone tower on the edge of town.

When discovered by archaeologists in 1952, it was dated at over 11,000 years old, making it the first and oldest public building even found. But its purpose and the motivation for erecting it has been debated ever since.

Now, using computer technology, Israeli archaeologists are saying it was built to mark the summer solstice and as a symbol that would entice people to abandon their nomadic ways and settle down.

“The tower was constructed by a major building effort. People were working for a very long time and very hard. It was not like the other domestic buildings in Jericho,” said Ran Barkai of the Department of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University, who was part of a team that did the computer analysis.

The stone tower is about nine meters in diameter at its base and conical in shape. Built out of concentric rows of the stones, it also contains an enclosed stairway. Archeologists say it wasn’t used as a tomb.

Barkai and fellow archaeologist Roy Liran used computers to reconstruct sunsets and found that when the tower was built the nearby mountains cast a shadow on it as the sun set on the longest day of the year. The shadow fell exactly on the structure and then spread out to cover the entire village.

The complete article may be read here. The brief article is based on a scholarly article by the two archaeologists in Time and Mind: the Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness and Culture, available in PDF here. There is a short article by Liran and Barkai in the March, 2011, issue of Antiquity, here. There is also an article in The Media Line here.

It may be that the tower served an astronomical purpose, but the suggestion that it was built to entice the local inhabitants to become farmers is nothing more than an interesting speculation.

Note also that this tower has nothing to do with the biblical account of the destruction of the city of Jericho as recorded in Joshua 6. That did not occur until about 1400 B.C. (or later, according to the “late date” theory of the Exodus).

HT: Joseph Lauer

Byzantine church at Khirbet Midras to be covered up

The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced about two weeks ago the discovery of a Byzantine church with a mosaic floor at Hirbet [Horbat, Khirbet] Midras, a site in the Judean Shephelah southwest of Jerusalem. See the report here.

The IAA has a report here. Note this explanation about the site.

Hirbet Madras is known as the site of a large, important Jewish community from the Second Temple period until its destruction during the Bar Kokhba Revolt in 135 CE. Among the remains at the site are those of buildings, caves, agricultural installations and extensive underground hiding tunnels. The site was identified by a number of scholars as the location of a major community. Research of the site was begun in the late nineteenth century and continues until the present.

Scholarly speculation ties the church found here with the tomb of the prophet Zechariah.

As previously mentioned, researchers who visited the site are of the opinion that the site is the residence and tomb of the prophet Zechariah. Ancient Christian sources identified the burial place of the prophet Zechariah in the village of Zechariah, and noted that his place of burial was discovered in 415 CE. The researchers believe that in light of an analysis of the Christian sources, including the Madaba Map, the church at Hirbet Madras is a memorial church designed to mark the tomb of the prophet Zechariah. This issue will be examined and studied in the near future.

We understand now that he site soon may be buried. See the Jerusalem Post report here. This may be because there is no money to prepare the site for a large number of tourists and to maintain the site. It may also be because of vandalism in the area. It was here, at Khirbet Midras, where a rolling stone tomb was vandalized a few years ago. See our earlier report here.

The photo below is provided courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Byzantine Church excavated at Khirbet Midras. Photo: IAA.

Byzantine Church excavated at Khirbet Midras. Photo: IAA.

The Jerusalem Post report includes a video report by tour guide Danny Herman.

Much lies beneath the surface in Israel.

HT: Faith in Hand; Paleojudaica; Joe Lauer.

Understanding modern and ancient Egypt

The ancient Egyptians were descendants of Ham through his son Mizraim (Genesis 10:6). Mizraim is “the correct Hebrew word for Egypt, comprising the lower and upper divisions of that land” (The Wycliffe Bible Commentary 14). Most of the inhabitants of Egypt today are Arabs (Semitic, descendants of Shem and Abraham through Ishmael).

Modern Egyptians are caretakers of a history left by an ancient people. I note in recent days that President Mubarak and antiquities director Zawi Hawass try to tie themselves with the ancient Egyptians. They have no genetic connection with the ancient people. That ancient empire crumbled centuries ago.

By the Persian, Hellenistic, and Ptolemaic periods of history, we no longer observe an Egypt ruled by Egyptians but one ruled by foreigners. Descendants of Ham no longer controlled the land, but it was dominated by foreigners who were descendants of Japheth. In the 7th century A.D. the country came under the control of Arab rulers who were descendants of Shem. This same rule by foreigners now continues in the present Egyptian government headed in recent time by presidents Nasser, Sadat, and Mubarak. The modern Egyptians are simply caretakers of the ruins of ancient Egypt.

The prophecy of Ezekiel has been fulfilled.

Thus says the Lord GOD, “I will also destroy the idols And make the images cease from Memphis. And there will no longer be a prince in the land of Egypt; And I will put fear in the land of Egypt. (Ezekiel 30:13).

The alabaster sphinx of Memphis, one of the few ruins at the site of the ancient city, has been variously identified. Some suggest that it represents Amenophis II (about 1427-1400 B.C.). The current sign at the site dates the sculpture to 1200 B.C. without the name of any ruler.

The Sphnix of Memphis, Egypt. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Sphnix of Memphis, Egypt. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The rule of Egypt by foreigners now continues in the present Egyptian government headed in recent time by presidents Nasser, Sadat, and Mubarak. The modern Egyptians are simply caretakers of the ruins of ancient Egypt.

New Testament artifacts in the Israel Museum

There are some highly significant artifacts relating to the study of the New Testament in the Israel Museum.

  • The Pilate inscription from Caesarea Maritima (Acts 13:28; 1 Timothy 6:13).
  • The ossuary of the high priest Caiaphas (Matthew 26:3). An inscription on the ossuary reads “Yehosef bar Qafa” (Joseph the son of Caiaphas). There are several ossuaries bearing common names of the New Testament period such as Mary and Jesus.
  • The fragment of one of the warning inscriptions once in the wall separating the Court of the Gentiles from the Court of the Women (Acts 21:29; cf. Ephesus 2:14). The only full inscription discovered in Jerusalem is now in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum.
  • The Theodotus Inscription. This inscription came from a Synagogue of Freedmen (liberated slaves). Stephen contended with some men from this synagogue (Acts 6:9). This item was previously displayed in the Rockefeller Museum.
Theodotus Inscription now displayed in the Israel Museum.

Theodotus Inscription now displayed in the Israel Museum.

And more….

One item I failed to see (if it was on display) was the “Chair of Moses” from the Synagogue at Chorazin (Matthew 23:2). In some cases the replicas at the site of discovery are good — and they may be photographed. Examples are the chair of Moses and the Pilate inscription.

The Israel Museum should reevaluate the policy of not allowing photographs. There is nothing on display that has not already been published in numerous places. Teachers like to have their own photos to show their students.

Keeping informed

Egyptian Antiquities. Keep up with breaking news about Egyptian antiquities at Andie Byrnes’ the Egyptology News.

Tomb of the Prophet Zechariah at the Madras Ruins. See the report of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs here. James Davila raises lots of questions about this report. See his Feb. 3, 2011, post here.

HT: Paleojudaica

Photos of Turkey and Greece. Mark Hoffman is making available some nice photos of his recent trip in Turkey and Greece. Read, and find the link to the photos here. The photos are geotagged so you may spot the location in Google Earth.

Birdwatching in Israel.

“There were some 25,000 cranes crowded around us this evening,” reports Judith Schwartz, a Kibbutz Ginosar resident. “One night last week there were 42,000. Your eyes can’t quite believe what you’re seeing. They stand in the lake all night, safe from the bobcats in the area. And here they rest, and lift off in their masses at dawn, blackening the sky like a swarm of gigantic locusts, to continue their 5,000 mile trip to their winter home in Africa.”

At least 500 million birds of 200 different species fly across Israel each spring and fall on their way to and from Africa, Europe and Asia, says Dr. Reuven Yosef, director of Eilat’s International Birding and Research Center. And more than 70 native Israeli species head to warmer Africa in winter, such as the cuckoo, Egyptian vulture, short-toed eagle, hobby and lesser kestrel.

See the full article here.

HT: BiblePlaces Blog

Impressions about the “new” Israel Museum

Many groups visit the campus of the Israel Museum. There are now three areas of interest:

  • The Israel Museum
  • The Shrine of the Book where some Dead Sea Scrolls are displayed
  • The Second Temple Model

We wrote about the planned reopening of the Israel Museum here, and about the opening here. The Shrine of the Book remained open during the time the Museum was closed, and the Second Temple Model has been open since it was moved from the grounds of the Holyland Hotel in the middle of 2008. See here.

The  galleries devoted to archaeology remain in the same place as before, but there is a significant difference from before. The entrance to the galleries is not at the top of the steps, but about half way up by the apple core sculpture. There is a small cafe with snacks and drinks at the entrance. Tickets are purchased down below at the entrance to the entire complex.

Entrance to Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Entrance to Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Once inside the galleries entrance, the archaeology section is on the left. One is greeted by a display of seven standing anthropoid clay coffins from Deir el-Balah, a site south of Gaza city excavated by Trude Dothan in 1972. These coffins which bear the evidence of Egyptian influence date to the 13th century B.C.

Clay coffin (sarcophagus) from Deir el-Balah.

Clay coffin from Deir el-Balah

In the March, 1976, issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Hershel Shanks closed an article about the discovery of these sarcophagi this way:

We may close on a Biblical note. “Aron”, or coffin, is used only once in the Bible (Genesis 50:26)—in connection with Joseph’s burial. Joseph, a high-ranking minister in the Egyptian government was naturally buried in accordance with Egyptian rites, including mummification and a coffin. It is likely that his coffin resembled the anthropoid coffins unearthed at Deir el-Balach.

Many sections of the archaeology section remains much the same as before. I will list a few of the items that I think are extremely important to biblical study.

  • The Tel Dan “House of David” Inscription (Isaiah 22:22, et al.)
  • The cult shrine from Hazor.
  • A few pieces of ivory from Samaria (1 Kings 22:39; Amos 3:15; 6:4).
  • Ekron inscription found at Tel Miqne, naming the city and five of its rulers (1 Samuel 6:17).
  • Silver plaques inscribed with the priestly blessing (Numbers 6:23-26). Also known as the Ketef Hinnom discovery.
  • The “Holy of Holies” from the temple at Arad.
  • The Edomite Shrine from biblical Tamar (aka Ein Hazevah).
  • The basalt stele showing a stylized figure of a horned bull from Geshur (aka New Testament Bethsaida).
  • Sennacherib’s siege of Lachish. The original is in the British Museum, but the replica in the Israel Museum has been enhanced to better show the scene (2 Chronicles 32:9).
  • Lachish Ostracon. I only saw one of the letters on display.

And much more…. My time was limited, but I look forward to returning for a longer visit in a few months.

A few things I had seen before, but did not see this time. (It may be that I missed some of these items.)

  • The broken inscription from Ashdod naming Sargon (Isaiah 20:1).
  • The inscribed ivory pomegranate mentioning donations for the priests of the house of the [LORD]. The Israel Museum declared the inscription a forgery in late 2004. There are scholars who believe it to be genuine.

General comments. The display are beautiful and the halls are spacious. Many of the artifacts are displayed in the open (without glass). Visitors are allowed to enter the museum with their cameras. In the past cameras had to be checked. I saw no signs about photography. Shortly after making my first photos I was admonished by one of the docents.

Information about location, hours, tickets, etc. is available at the museum website here.

In another post I will make reference to some of the items of importance to New Testament study.