Monthly Archives: August 2011

Roman sword & menorah engraving discovered

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced Monday the discovery of a Roman sword still in a scabbard and a stone with the engraving of the temple menorah.

Roman sword in scabbard. IAA photo by Clara Amit.

Roman sword in scabbard. IAA photo by Clara Amit.

During the course of work the Israel Antiquities Authority carried out in Jerusalem’s ancient drainage channel, which begins in the Siloam Pool and runs from the City of David to the archaeological garden (near the Western Wall), impressive finds were recently discovered that breathe new life into the story of the destruction of the Second Temple. The excavations are being conducted on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, in cooperation with the Nature and Parks Authority and are underwritten by the City of David Foundation.

A 2,000 year old iron sword, still in its leather scabbard, was discovered in work the Israel Antiquities Authority is doing in the channel, which served as a hiding refuge for the residents of Jerusalem from the Romans at the time of the Second Temple’s destruction. In addition, parts of the belt that carried the sword were found. According to the excavation directors Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa, “It seems that the sword belonged to an infantryman of the Roman garrison stationed in Israel at the outbreak of the Great Revolt against the Romans in 66 CE. The sword’s fine state of preservation is surprising: not only its length (c. 60 cm), but also the preservation of the leather scabbard (a material that generally disintegrates quickly over time) and some of its decoration”.

A stone object adorned with a rare engraving of a menorah was found in the soil beneath the street, on the side of the drainage channel. According to Shukron and Professor Reich, “Interestingly, even though we are dealing with a depiction of the seven-branched candelabrum, only five branches appear here. The portrayal of the menorah’s base is extremely important because it clarifies what the base of the original menorah looked like, which was apparently tripod shaped”. The fact that the stone object was found at the closest proximity to the Temple Mount to date is also important. The researchers suppose a passerby who saw the menorah with his own eyes and was amazed by its beauty incised his impressions on a stone and afterwards tossed his scrawling to the side of the road, without imagining that his creation would be found 2,000 years later.

Menorah found beneath 1st century street. IAA photo by Vladimir Naykhin.

Menorah found beneath 1st century street. IAA photo by Vladimir Naykhin.

An AP report with several enlargeable photos is available here.

I think this blog was the first one to report walking through the sewer more than 15 months ago. See here.

Two words are used for sword in the Greek New Testament. The more common word is machaira which describes a short, tongue-shaped sword or dagger. The term rhomphaia, which describes a long sword, is used only in Luke 2:35 outside the book of Revelation. It is used 6 times in Revelation. Probably all but one of these finds Christ as the bearer of the sword (1:16; 2:12; 2:16; 6:8; 19:15; 19:21). The book of Revelation has a setting in the Roman Empire outside of Palestine. The use of rhomphaia seems to be the appropriate term.

In one of the news reports about the recently found sword, archaeologist Elie Shukron is quoted as saying that the sword was the type used by Roman centurions, but that it was probably taken from the Roman garrison by one of the Jewish rebels (see here). This seems much more plausible to me.

G. K. Beale comments on the sword coming out of the mouth of Jesus:

The Christians in Asia are to understand that Jesus will do battle in this manner not only against the evil nations (19:15) but also against all those among the churches who compromise their faith (2:16). The consensus is that this sword alludes to that of the Roman soldier, used in battle, further enhancing this idea. (The Book of Revelation in NIGTC, 212)

This photo was made at the RACE show (Roman Army and Chariot Experience) in the hippodrome at Jerash, Jordan. It shows the centurion wearing both swords.

Roman Centurion at Jerash with two swords. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman Centurion at Jerash with two different swords. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

HT: Bible Places Blog; Joseph Lauer.

Monday meandering — August 8

St Cuthbert Gospel. © British Library Image.

St Cuthbert Gospel. Copyright British Library Image.

British Library launches a campaign to raise $14.3 million for a 1300 year old copy of the Gospel of John. St. Cuthbert’s Gospel is said to be Europe’s oldest book. The Latin book is also called the Stonyhurst Gospel.

Information about the small bound book may be read here. The British Library has a nice video about the book, including clear images, may be viewed here. (HT: Paleojudaica).

Latin works such as this one play an important role in the history of the English Bible.


Wood used in the Roman siege of Masada came from other areas, according to a study by scientists at the University of Haifa.

First, the researchers examined the amount of wood that exists today in the Judean Desert and in the wadi deltas in the vicinity of Masada, and thereby were able to estimate the amount and types of wood that the desert could supply. Next, they calculated the amount of timber and firewood that would have been needed for the inhabitants of Masada, from 150 BCE, when it was a small fortress, through the Herodian period, when the fortress as we know it was constructed, and up to the siege, which ended in 73 CE. According to the researchers, in those times, timber was mostly used for construction, heating and cooking. Based on accepted evaluations of wood consumption for these purposes in traditional societies, on the conservatively estimated number of Masada inhabitants in each time period, the harsh climatic conditions in the desert and Masada’s topography, the researchers were able to conclude that by the time the Romans arrived at Masada and began their siege (73 CE), the entire area was void of timber and firewood, due to 2,220 years of massive exploitation of the immediate environment up to that point. The Romans would have had no choice but to import wood from other areas for their weapon machinery, ramparts and basic living requirements.

The brief report may be read here. (HT: Joseph Lauer)


C. S. Lewis and the Devil. John A. Murray has a fascinating article on “C. S. Lewis and the Devil” in The Wall Street Journal. Read the complete article here. Here is a small excerpt.

As Lewis explained, “There is no uncreated being except God. God has no opposite. . . . The proper question is whether I believe in devils. I do. That is to say, I believe in angels, and I believe that some of these, by the abuse of their free will, have become enemies to God. . . . Satan, the leader or dictator of devils, is the opposite, not of God, but of Michael.”

In his original preface written from Magdalen College at Oxford on July 5, 1941, Lewis warned of what he called “the two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils.” One error “is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” Lewis concluded that the devils “are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”

Dr. David McClister, Bible professor at Florida College, visited Oxford during his summer break. He shares one of his photos of Lewis’s study at the Kilns.

C. S. Lewis Study at the Kilns. Photo by David McClister.

C. S. Lewis Study at the Kilns. Photo by David McClister.

No wonder Lewis accomplished so much. No phone. No computer. If you are a fan of any of Lewis’s work, you might enjoy our earlier photos and info here.

HT: Bible X.

The wilderness — a dry and weary land

Wilderness of Judea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A scene in the Wilderness of Judah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah. O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1 ESV)

The plain of Acco from Haifa north

Please refer to yesterday’s post about the plain of Acco. In the photo below we begin over Mount Carmel and look north toward Acco, and east toward the mountains of upper Galilee. The city of Haifa, Israel’s third largest city after Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, is below. This photo had to be made without the window of the plane being opened and lacks a little of the sharpness I like. I think it does illustrate the narrow “plain” as it stretches along the Mediterranean coast.

View of Plain of Acco from above Mount Carmel and Haifa. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View of the Plain of Acco from above Mount Carmel and Haifa. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Our next photo looks southwest over the southern portion of the plain. Notice the narrow strip of city buildings and the beautiful farm land. The land extending out into the Sea is that little hump that teachers learn to draw when they sketch the coastal outline of Israel. Don’t overlook that there is more to Mount Carmel. It extends from the northwest to the southeast for about 14 ½ miles.

Southwest view of the Plain of Acco. Mount Carmel is in distance. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Southwest view of the Plain of Acco. Mount Carmel is in distance. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins

The next photo is much the same except that it was made a few miles inland. A tell (archaeological mound) is seen on the plain of Acco. This site is known as Afek (Aphek) of the tribe of Asher (Joshua 12:18; 19:30). Don’t confuse this with Afek (Aphek) in the account of Israel losing the ark of the covenant to the Philistines (1 Samuel 4). More about that another time.

Afek of Galilee with southwest view of Plain of Acco toward Haifa. Photo: F. Jenkins.

Afek of Galilee with southwest view of Plain of Acco toward Haifa. Photo: F. Jenkins.

Now that we have discussed the plain of Acco, we suggest you refer to our posts mentioning the plain of Sharon (here), and the plain of Philistia (here).

The plain of Acco: Acco, Aczib, Ladder of Tyre

The coastal cities of Acco and Aczib (Achzib) were allotted to the tribe of Asher in the days of Joshua (Joshua 19:24-31). According to this text the territory reached from (Mount) Carmel on the south to Great Sidon on the north. Israel was not able to control all of the territory

Geographers describe the coastal portion of Asher as the plain of Acco.

Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of Acco, or the inhabitants of Sidon, or of Ahlab, or of Achzib, or of Helbah, or of Aphik, or of Rehob. (Judges 1:31 NAU)

The map below, intended to show the location of Aczib, shows the coastal area from Mount Carmel (where Haifa is located) to the Ladder of Tyre. The Ladder of Tyre is a natural formation that has served as a border between Israel and Lebanon during many historical periods. Within this territory you see Acco and Aczib.

Aczib, plain of Acco in Asher.

Map showing Plain of Acco in tribe of Asher.

In the aerial photo below you will see the view north from Acco, including the Crusader city, to the ladder of Tyre. The total distance is about 20 miles.

Aerial view north from Acco to the Ladder of Tyre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view north from Acco to the Ladder of Tyre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In New Testament times the city of Acco was know as Ptolemais. The only biblical reference to the city is in the account of Paul’s return from his third journey. From Tyre to Ptolemais is a distance of about 45 miles. Paul and his companions stayed stayed seven days at Tyre, but only one day at Ptolemais.

When we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais, and after greeting the brethren, we stayed with them for a day. On the next day we left and came to Caesarea, and entering the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, we stayed with him. (Acts 21:7-8 NAU)

In a subsequent post we plan to show you the Plain of Acco between Mount Carmel (Haifa) and Acco.

Monday meandering — August 1

My upgrade to BibleWorks 9 arrived about a week ago. I am enjoying getting acquainted with some of the new features and resources. For information see here.

Bible Works 9

Mark Hoffman has given a sort of pre-review at his Biblical Studies and Technology Tools website here. Hoffman was a beta tester for the new version.

Hoffman also talks about Logos for Android here. As a user of Logos (Libronix) I was delighted to see this beta app for the Android. I am enjoying access to many of the Logos books and have downloaded a couple of significant volumes.

Carl Rasmussen, author of Zondervan’s Atlas of the Bible, recently visited a well preserved portion of the Caesarea aqueduct. But it is not the portion of the aqueduct that most tourists see immediately north of Caesarea. This portion is about 3 miles north-northwest of Caesarea. Nice photos included on his HolyLandsPhoto blog here.

Carl also reports that a new paved road now goes directly to Yodfat (Jotapata). This is an improvement over the hour long walk to the site. See here. He visited Qumran, caves 1 and 11. See here.

Since I wrote the two paragraphs above there is a new post about the Middle Bronze I Age tombs (2200-2000 B.C.) located about 16 miles northeast of Jerusalem at Dhahr Mirzbaneh (east of Ein Samiya). Click here.

These three posts by Prof. Rasmussen include photos with a link to additional photos at his Holy Land Photos site.

The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) announces that they have added Free Audio and Video at iTunes U.

The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) has always been committed to helping others understand the reliability of our New Testaments, the history of translations, the study of the text, and significant figures who have made this possible.

Beginning today, CSNTM is making a series of videos concerning New Testament manuscripts, textual criticism, history of the New Testament, and expert commentary on key verses available as a free download on iTunes U.

Featured in the videos are interviews and footage shot around the world of important people involved in the work of the Center. Dr. Daniel B. Wallace will also be featured as he explains important aspects in the study of the text of the New Testament.

CSNTM homepage is here. The direct link to the series on Biblical Criticism at iTunes U is here. Inexpensive way to get a great education. Daniel Wallace does a superb job with these presentations. Take some time to listen and study.

Dr. Wallace will debate Bart D. Ehrman at SMU in Dallas Saturday October 1 on the subject Can We Trust the Text of the New Testament? There is a charge for admission, but perhaps this material will be available later on audio/video. Info here.