Monthly Archives: June 2011

Ossuary belonging to Miriam, granddaughter Caiaphas, discovered

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced earlier today that a 2,000 year old ossuary belonging to a daughter of the Caiaphas family of high priests has been discovered.

The ancient ossuary bears an Aramaic inscription from the time of the Second Temple: ‘Miriam Daughter of Yeshua Son of Caiaphas, Priests [of] Ma’aziah from Beth ’Imri’. The researchers: “The prime importance of the inscription lies in the reference to the ancestry of the deceased — Miriam daughter of Yeshua — to the Caiaphas family, indicating the connection to the family of the Ma’aziah course of priests of Beth ’Imri”. The high priest Yehosef Bar Caiaphas, is especially famous for his involvement in the trial and crucifixion of Jesus.

Three years ago the Israel Antiquities Authority Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery acquired a decorated ossuary bearing an engraved inscription. The ossuary was discovered by antiquities robbers who plundered an ancient Jewish tomb of the Second Temple period. During the course of the investigation it was determined that the ossuary came from a burial cave in the area of the Valley of Elah, in the Judean Shephelah.

To check the authenticity of the artifact and the significance of the engraved inscription, the Israel Antiquities Authority turned to Dr. Boaz Zissu of the Department of the Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology of Bar Ilan University and Professor Yuval Goren of the Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations of the Tel Aviv University.

This week, the two scientists published the results of their research, which summarize the importance of the find and confirm its genuineness. The study appears in the Israel Exploration Journal (Volume 61) published this week by the Israel Exploration Society.

This photo of the decorated ossuary with the inscription is made available through the courtesy of Dr. Boaz Zissu, Bar-Ilan University. Click on the photo for a larger image.

Ossuary of Miriam, daughter of the Caiaphas family of High Priests. Photo: Dr. Boaz Zissu, Bar-Ilan University.

Ossuary of Miriam, daughter of the Caiaphas family of High Priests. Photo: Dr. Boaz Zissu, Bar-Ilan University.

We are not surprised to hear of the discovery of an ossuary of another member of the Caiaphas family of high priests. We recall that a tomb containing 12 ossuaries, two of which contained the name of the well-known family of high priest by the name of Caiaphas, was discovered south of Jerusalem in 1990. One ossuary bore the inscription Qafa. The other bore the name Yehosef bar Qayafa (Jospeh, son of Caiaphas), and Yehosef bar Qafa (Joseph, son of Caiaphas). The beautiful ossuary is now displayed in the Israel Museum.

Caiaphas, son-in-law of Annas, was a leading character in the trial and crucifixion of Jesus .

So the Roman cohort and the commander and the officers of the Jews, arrested Jesus and bound Him, and led Him to Annas first; for he was father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. (John 18:12-13 NAU)

This is just one more in a long series of archaeological discoveries showing the historical context of the New Testament.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Continuing dispute over the Mughrabi Bridge

For many years visitors to the Western Wall in Jerusalem were able to climb the earthen ramp up to the Mughrabi Gate and enter the Temple Mount platform. In biblical times the temple of Solomon was located there, then the rebuilt temple of Zerubbabel after the return from Babylonian captivity, and then Herod’s Temple. Today this is where we find the Mosque of Omar (commonly called the Dome of the Rock) and the Al Aska Mosque.

Israel built wooden bridge from the Western Wall Plaza to the Temple Mount platform and excavated the earthen ramp. This has become a controversial diplomatic issue. Itamar Eichner reports in Ynet here.

A diplomatic crisis is brewing between Israel and Jordan over the planned renovations of the Mughrabi Gate Bridge, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Monday.

Plans for razing the old Mughrabi Gate bridge, which leads from the Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem to the to the al-Aqsa Mosque and Temple Mount, in favor of a new one have been in the works for a while. According to the report, the bridge was to be torn down next week, but upon signing the final agreement, Israel was stunned to learn that Jordan, along with Egypt, Iraq and Bahrain, filed a complaint against Israel with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) over the planned renovations. The motion asks for a UNESCO censure of Israel. Jordan is also demanding that UNESCO order Israel to stop the archeological excavations in the Old City.

This photo of the bridge was made in early May.

Mughrabi Bridge from the Western Wall Plaza. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Mughrabi Bridge from the Western Wall Plaza. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

We know that the level below the bridge, both north and south, is from the first century. Here is the view from the bridge looking down on the former earthen ramp.

Excavation below Mughrabi Gate Bridge. View to the south. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Excavation (or clean up?) below Mughrabi Gate Bridge. View to the south. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I have no specific knowledge about the dating of these ruins, but I would venture to say that they are later than the 7th century A.D. Perhaps a reader can help.

Update. After completing this post last evening, I was looking at the Bible Places Blog and noted that Todd Bolen has written about this bridge. He has given links to the background of the controversy and posted some photos. Check here.

Ha’aretz has two more articles for those who are interested in the far-reaching repercussions over what happens in Jerusalem. Check here and here.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Comments on the detestable shepherds in Egypt

A few days ago we wrote in response to the question, “Why were shepherds detestable to Egyptians?”

We get more comments on the posts at Facebook than on the blog itself. Often I wish the (serious) comments were added here. I am going to share some comments made on this post. Christine, a regular reader of the blog and a friend from church, wrote:

“the cattlemen and the sheep herders of the American west were at odds, and I have read that sheep eat roots and all of the grass, ruining the grazing for cattle…could have an economic basis. And I could be wrong.”

Mark T., former student, wrote: “I learned that from reading cowboy books as a teenager. :-) ” [During class? FJ]

Mark B., former tour member, wrote:

“I never thought about the animosities between cattlemen and sheep herders here in the old west and how the sheep tear up the good grass if left to graze too long in one spot. What a great point!”

Listening to the sound tract of Oklahoma would give a tip about the conflict between the cowmen and the farmers. I think the point about the cattlemen and the farmers is a great one to show the conflict that often exists in a society.

However, we must not overlook the point made by John T. Willis that the term livestock includes cattle, sheep, goats, etc. Note the comment.

John T. Willis points out that the term livestock (or cattle; Hebrew, miqneh) is “a comprehensive term including cattle, sheep, goats, and the like” (Genesis in The Living Word Commentary on the Old Testament).

It is common in the Middle East for shepherds to take sheep into a grain field as soon as the harvesting is complete. This could be a real problem if cattle of any kind got into the fields in advance of harvesting. Remember that fences are virtually unknown there.

This photo is one I made in eastern Turkey north of Sanliurfa (and Haran). Even before the combine gets out of the field the shepherds are there with their sheep.

Sheep grazing as a field is being harvested. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sheep grazing in Eastern Turkey as a field is being harvested. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Recently we posted a photo of sheep grazing in a field that had been harvested in the Shephelah of Israel here.

Searching for info on David (or other Bible characters)

A former student left a comment at another place on this blog:

I’ve been enjoying your blog and the pictures! What a blessing that you’ve been able to travel to all these places and then share that info with those of us who have never been! I’m looking for some information about David for teaching 7th-8th graders and was wondering if you could direct me to where to look on your blog or website. I wanted to be able to show them some ancient historical evidences. Also, may I have permission to use some pictures as visual aid in the classroom? Thank you!

Always nice to hear from former students and friends.

First, regarding permission. You certainly have permission to use any of this material in Bible classes as long as the credit line is maintained. I am honored and delighted that you find the material helpful.

Locating material on David (or anyone else, or any place). The search box on the blog is not the greatest in the world, but it can be helpful. Just put the word David in the search box. It is true that you may get a mention of some other person named David, but I think you will find it helpful. Also try Saul, Elah, Kiriath (as in Kiriath Jearim), En Gedi, stronghold, Ziklag, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, or any other person or place you are studying about. We certainly haven’t covered every Bible character or place, but we have covered a lot in past four years.

Also take a look at the Biblical Studies Info Page. Look under Scholarly, then Photos and Art, for photo sources. I think every church should have the collection of photos from Bible Places. Good photos can be found at Holy Land Archives, and Bible Land Photographs.  Also check the Maps of Bible Lands category. Bible Atlas is especially helpful in identifying the places associated with David (or any other Bible character).

I am including a recent photo of Abu Ghosh and the site of biblical Kiriath-jearim (or Kiriath Jearim). The view is to the west.

Abu Ghosh and the site of Kiriath Jearim. This is where the Ark of the Covenant rested for 20 years until David took it to Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Abu Ghosh and the site of Kiriath Jearim. This is where the Ark of the Covenant rested for 20 years until David took it to Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Kiriath-jearim’s highest honor is in the association with the ark of the covenant. The Israelites took the ark from the tabernacle at Shiloh to the battle field at Ebenezer when they were fighting with the Philistines (1 Samuel 4). The ark was captured by the Philistines and taken to Ashdod, then to Gath, and finally to Ekron before they decided to get rid of it. The ark was returned to Beth-shemesh (1 Samuel 4-6).

The men of Beth-shemesh sent messengers to the residents of Kiriath-jearim asking them to come and take the ark to their town. The ark was brought into the house of Abinadad on the hill. His son, Eleazar, was consecrated by the men of the city to keep the ark of the LORD. The ark remained there for many years until David had it brought to Jerusalem (1 Samuel 6:21-7:2; 2 Samuel 6).

Check Bible Atlas here for maps showing Kiriath-jearim.

Why were shepherds detestable to Egyptians?

A readers asks about Joseph’s instruction to his family when they moved to the land of Goshen in Egypt.

“When Pharaoh calls you and says, ‘What is your occupation?’ you shall say, ‘Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our fathers,’ that you may live in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is loathsome to the Egyptians.”  (Genesis 46:33-34 NAU)

Why was every shepherd loathsome (an abomination, disgusting, abhorrent, detestable) to the Egyptians. Here are some suggestions.

G. J. Wenham says,

Shepherds are detestable to the Egyptians probably reflects a common distrust of nomadic peoples by urban dwellers (cf. attitudes to gypsies and ‘travellers’ in modern society). (The New Bible Commentary)

The IVP Bible Background Commentary says,

It is unlikely that native Egyptian herdsmen would be detested by other Egyptians. Joseph’s advice to his father is both a warning about Egyptian attitudes toward strangers and a piece of diplomacy in that they would claim independent status (they had their own herds to support them) and show they were not an ambitious group who wished to rise above their occupation as shepherds.

Derek Kidner likes the explanation of J. Vergote:

A more likely explanation is that of J. Vergote, that this is only the perennial antipathy of the town-dweller for the nomad or the gipsy [gypsy]. Joseph saw the importance of emphasizing this, to ensure that Pharaoh’s goodwill would be to the family’s real benefit, not to their detriment by drawing them into an alien way of life at the capital. ( Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries)

Howard Vos says,

The reason for Joseph’s concern was that Egyptians considered shepherds an abomination. Settlement in Goshen would separate them from the Egyptian cattlemen of the Nile Valley and thus reduce friction with Egyptians and preserve their distinctiveness as a people. (Genesis in Everyman’s Bible Commentary)

John T. Willis points out that the term livestock (or cattle; Hebrew, miqneh) is “a comprehensive term including cattle, sheep, goats, and the like” (Genesis in The Living Word Commentary on the Old Testament).

The biblical Land of Goshen, where Israel settled, is the eastern portion of the Nile Delta. This was the home of the Israelites for many years.

Joseph went and told Pharaoh, “My father and brothers, with their flocks and herds and everything they own, have come from the land of Canaan and are now in Goshen.” (Genesis 47:1 NAS)

A typical scene in the Eastern Nile Delta. Photo Ferrell Jenkins.

A typical scene in the Eastern Nile Delta near Tel Daba. Photo Ferrell Jenkins.

To think of the stereotypical view of Egypt as a pyramid in the desert is to misunderstand the area where Israel settled.  Goshen is a flat, fertile, area, situated along the Pelusiac branch of the Nile River. That branch has now been replaced by a canal that runs generally along the same course. Cattle, including sheep, are common in the Eastern Nile Delta today. The canal in the photo below is one of the numerous smaller canals providing water to the farm land of the region.

The land of Goshen near ancient Tanis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The land of Goshen between ancient Tanis and Tel Daba. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I enjoy the vividness of The Five Books of Moses by Everett Fox. Fox translates Genesis 46:34 as follows:

Then say: Your servants have always been livestock men, from our youth until now, so we, so our fathers—
in order that you may settle in the region of Goshen.
For every shepherd of flocks is an abomination to the Egyptians.

This will give you something to consider. Hopefully it will be helpful. We have mentioned Goshen several times in this blog. Put the word goshen in the search box to locate them.

Abraham at Beersheba (Beer Sheba)

Bible students associate the town of Beersheba (Beer Sheba; Be’er Sheva) with the patriarch Abraham (Genesis 21-22).

  • The first reference to Beersheba is when Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael to wander in the wilderness of Beersheba (21:14). This is the region known as the Negev.
  • Abraham dug a well and called the place Beersheba (21:30-31). Abraham and Abimelech, the king of Gerar, made a covenant. Abraham presented seven ewe lambs to Abimelech. The name Beersheba means “the well of the seven.”
  • Abraham planted a tamarisk tree at Beersheba and called upon the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God (21:33).

Archaeological excavations were conducted at Tel Beersheba by Tel Aviv University Institute of Archaeology under the direction of Yohanan Aharoni (1969-1973). The excavation indicated that there was no city at the site before the Iron Age. The outer gate of the reconstructed Iron Age city, an older well, and a tamarisk tree, in the photo below, serve as a reminder that Abraham lived in this general vicinity.This tamarisk tree has been cut back and is putting out fresh branches.

Abraham planted a tamarisk tree at Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God. (Genesis 21:33 NAU)

The outer gate, well, and tamarisk tree at Tel Beersheba. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The outer gate, well, and tamarisk tree at Tel Beersheba. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Negev is suitable for the tamarisk tree. Here is a larger tamarisk at the entry to the site. This photo was made in the month of December. Heavy clouds are visible to the west.

Tamarisk trees at Tel Beersheba. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tamarisk trees at Tel Beersheba. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Fauna and Flora of the Bible describes the tamarisk this way:

The Tamarisk is a small, fast-growing tree with durable wood, to be found abundantly in deserts, dunes and salt marshes.

Tamaris Aphylla is leafless and has green branches and a wide crown. It has small white flowers, and its fruit is a capsule with feathery seeds. (p. 182)

Photos suitable for use in teaching are available by clicking on the images above.

More on the Ophel City Walls site

The Israel Antiquities Authority provided several good photos of the Ophel City Walls site. I thought this was an especially nice photo. The view from the site looks at the new steps leading to and from the excavation. The southern wall of the temple mount enclosure is visible in the distance.

Ophel city walls site. Photo: IAA

Ophel City Walls site. Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority.

Leen Ritmeyer provides insight into the excavation dating back to the mid-1970s when he supervised some of the excavations under the direction of Prof. Benjamin Mazar. Take a look here.

The next photo shows workmen putting the finishing touches on some of the stones. Three pithoi are visible. The view is toward the southwest.

Ophel City Wall site. Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority.

Ophel City Wall site. Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority.