All posts filed under: Archaeology

Herdodium complex Credit: Eitan Yaaran/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

Tomb of Herod the Great discovered

In 2007, Hebrew University of Jerusalem announced the discovery of the tomb of Herod the Great, including his sarcophagus and mausoleum, on the Northeast slope of Mount Herodium. This confirmed the existence of a major player in early New Testament history. Herod was part of a larger clan who ruled Palestine during its Roman occupation — his grandfather and father had ruled before him. Herod, who was declared “King of the Jews” in 40 BC by the Roman Senate, died in 4 AD. Most Christians are familiar with Herod the Great and his role embedded in the Christmas story. Herod was the king that the Magi consulted when they came to Judea looking for the “King of the Jews” (Matthew 2:1). This news troubled Herod (v 2) and he asked the Magi to report back when they had found the new King. When the Magi – warned in a dream – took a different route home, Herod was enraged (v 16). After consulting his advisors, Herod determined where the Jewish Messiah had been born and brutally ordered …

Credit: Rob Fransdad/Flickr/Creative Commons

A donkey speaks again, this time about King Solomon’s copper mines

Liberals have tried to picture King David and King Solomon as little more than tribal chieftains instead of how the Bible portrays them as leaders of a nation numbering millions of people. Unfortunately, a donkey seems to have upset the Liberal apple cart. Archaeologists working at the site of an ancient copper mine in Israel’s Timma Valley made an unusual discovery — they found donkey dung. It wasn’t just any kind of donkey dung, when they carbon dated it, they discovered it was 3,000 years old. This made the site older than archaeologists initially thought and the donkey’s appearance dated the mines to King David’s and King Solomon’s day. The area being excavated not only contained numerous mines, but also several areas where it was smelted including furnaces and piles of slag. This was a major production center. The mines explain several verses in the Old Testament that spoke of Solomon’s incredible wealth. When King David charged his son with building the temple, he listed bronze as part of the kingdom’s resources: 16 Of the gold, …

The Wadi-Qumran Credit: Otto_Friedrich45/Flickr/Creative Commons

Does an ancient copper scroll hold clues to the secret location of the Ark of the Covenant?

According to Breaking Israel News (BIN), a copper scroll discovered in 1952 in caves along with the infamous Dead Sea Scrolls may actually be an ancient treasure map. The two thousand-year old scroll, made of thin sheets of copper, sticks out from its fellow Dead Sea Scrolls made of papyrus discovered in caves found in cliffs below a large plateau a mile away from the northwestern edge of the Dead Sea. The scroll also differs in one other significant way — while the Dead Sea Scrolls contain Biblical texts and other religious writings — the copper scroll is a map with 64 different locations marked out on it. It also lists quantities of gold and silver associated with each site along with clues and descriptions of the secret locations. Archaeologists believe the map probably outlines where Jews hid money during the Jewish revolt that led to the Romans destroying the Jewish temple in 70 AD. But one of the sites also mentions something else — Jewish vestments — suggesting the Jews may have hidden some …

Credit: Ezio Melotti/Flickr/Creative Commons (Modified)

What do the remains of two dead dogs tell us?

There is a verse in the book of Nehemiah that I have always found a bit odd. After Persia conquered the Babylonian Empire in 539 BC, it basically assimilated the Israelis who were in exile under the Babylonians. The Book of Nehemiah records how the Persians allowd Nehemiah — a cupbearer for the Persian king Artaxerxes I (also known as Longimanus 465-424 BC) — to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city. Three days after he arrived in Jerusalem, Nehemiah decided to inspect the walls. Because of the various political factions in the city, he did it under the cover of darkness to hide what he was doing. Then we read this puzzling verse: “And I arose in the night, I and a few good men with me. I did not tell anyone what my God was putting in my mind to do for Jerusalem and there was no animal with me except the animal which I was riding. (Nehemiah 2:12-15) Nehemiah rode a horse, but then specifically adds he took no other animals with …

Mosul, Iraq Credit: Kawa Somar/US Government/Voice of America/Wikipeidia

What ISIS intended as evil ends up as a confirmation of the Biblical record

One ancient tradition states the tomb of the prophet Jonah is located near the remains of the city of Nineveh. This particular site has been considered Jonah’s tomb since the 4th century and resulted in the construction of a Christian church and monastery at the site. God wanted Jonah to go to Nineveh and call the city to repent of its sins. Fearing the city would escape God’s judgement if it responded, Jonah refused and sailed off to Tarshish located on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. However, God stirred up a storm that eventually resulted in Jonah being tossed overboard and swallowed by a large fish. Stuck in it’s stomach for three days, Jonah repented and was coughed up on land. He went back to Nineveh who then responded to Jonah’s message. If this tradition is right, Jonah must have stayed on in Nineveh.  However, this is not universally accepted. Other traditions state that Jonah returned to his home town of Gath-Hepher where he died. The Assyrian church initially built at the shrine located just …

Remains of the ancient city of Babylon in Iraq as seen from Saddam Hussein's former summer palace: Credit US Navy Arlo K Abrahamson/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

Cuneiform tablet confirms the gruesome story of Jeremiah 39

Jeremiah chapter 39 paints the gruesome fall of Jerusalem to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in 586BC/587BC. King Zedekiah had previously been installed by the Babylonians as Judah’s puppet king after Babylon defeated Jerusalem in 597 BC. Jerusalem remained largely intact, and Judah was forced to pay an annual tribute to Babylon. However, Zedekiah, who was 21 years only when he was set up as a vassal king, eventually tired of the arrangement and rebelled against Babylon by forming an alliance with Egypt. The prophet Jeremiah who initially served as one of Zedekiah’s counselors warned against the move, but Zedekiah was by this stage doing evil in the sight of the Lord (Jeremiah 52:1-3) setting the stage for God’s devastating judgement. When King Nebuchadnezzar returned a second time to bring Jerusalem back into submission, he was in a foul mood. The battle predictably turned against Judah and with Jerusalem on the brink of falling, King Zedekiah, along with his family and personal guards, fled with the Babylonian army in pursuit. After the invaders caught up with …

Painting of Israel carrying the Ark of the Covenant into the Promised Land under Joshua by Benjamin West (1738 -1820) Credit: Wikipedia

Archaeologists to excavate site that once held the Ark of the Covenant

It is one of the great mysteries of the Bible – what happened to the Ark of the Covenant. When the Babylonians captured Jerusalem in 586 BC, they ransacked the city, hauled its citizens off into captivity and looted the Temple taking its treasures as spoils of war. A number of Bible passages list the items the Babylonians stole. One found in Jeremiah is particularly detailed and includes even pots and spoons (Jeremiah 52:17-23). But strangely missing from all the lists including Jeremiah’s and the listings provided in 2 Kings 24:13, and 2 Kings 25: 13-18 is any mention of the Ark of the Covenant. It was a gold-plated wooden box on which God’s Presence manifested. As the most important piece of furniture in the temple, the Babylonians would have coveted it. Many believe the Jews hid the Ark to stop it from falling into Babylonian hands. But when Babylon hauled Israel’s citizens into captivity for 70 years, the people who hid the Ark died and its location forgotten. Rumors even circulated that the prophet …

The Strait of Gilbralter near the location of the fabled City of Atlantis Credit: joko facile/Flickr/Creative Commons

Is the Biblical city of Tarshish the fabled city of Atlantis?

Some believe the mythical city of Atlantis is just that — a fable. The city was only mentioned once in ancient writings by fourth century Greek philosopher Plato (428 BC to 348 BC) who wrote of a traveler Solon who had visited the sea-faring city and described it as an advanced and wealthy civilization. But others are not convinced it is a myth. In a documentary, Atlantis Rising, produced for National Geographic, famed film-maker James Cameron (the movie Titanic) and journalist/archaeologist Simcha Jacobovici claim they have unraveled the mystery surrounding the ancient city. Plato said Atlantis was covered with mud and water and sank, leading the duo to conclude it was probably hit by a tsunami. But the philosopher also provided a clue to the city’s site describing it as being past the “Pillars of Hercules.” Cameron and Jacobovici believed these pillars referred to the Straits of Gibraltar. In an interview with Breaking Israel News (BIN), Jacobovici said this would put it along the coast of Spain, Portugal or the Iberian Peninsula. Though Atlantis is …

Artists portrayal of Nero's persecution of Christians by Heinrich von Siemiradzki (1843-1902): Wikipedia

How Tacitus’ contradiction of the Biblical record actually confirms the Bible

Roman senator and orator Tacitus (55AD-118AD) is considered one of the great ancient historians. He wrote a number of books, and in his last work entitled Annals he had a couple of paragraphs about Jesus and the Christians. Though small, these two citations pack a wallop because they provide various confirmations about the Biblical account and even one contradiction that actually proves the Bible’s accuracy of events. Tacitus was providing a brief history about the Roman Emperor Nero (37AD – 67AD) and because of this felt compelled to give an explanation about Christians and Christ as they played a role in the Great Fire of Rome (July 18-23 64 AD). Many Romans believed Nero purposefully set the fire as part of his grandiose plan to rebuild Rome. To deflect the blame, Tacitus said Nero accused Christians of arson: [neither] human effort nor the emperor’s generosity nor the placating of the gods ended the scandalous belief that the fire had been ordered [by Nero]. Therefore, to put down the rumour, Nero substituted as culprits and punished …

Muslim quarter of Old Jerusalem. Credit: meghamama/Flickr/Creative Commons

2,700 year-old reference to Jerusalem discovered on a piece of papyri

On October 26, 2016, archaeologists announced they uncovered the earliest non-Biblical reference to Jerusalem. This proves once again that the indisputable Jewish connection to Jerusalem predates the Muslim arrival by thousands of years. They discovered the name Jerusalem on an ancient piece of papyri radio carbon dated to 7 BC that antiquity robbers had pillaged from Judean desert caves in the West Bank. This is the oldest extra-Biblical reference to Jerusalem found so far. The 2,700 year-old papyri was uncovered in an operation undertaken by Israel Antiquities Authority who became aware of the theft and mounted an operation to seize back the stolen antiquities before the robbers sold it on the black market. The small piece of papyri written in Hebrew reads “From the king’s maid servant, from Na’arat, jars of wine to Jerusalem.” Because the writer specifically calls herself a servant of the king, archaeologists suspect the document — referring to the transfer of two jars of wine to Jerusalem — was part of a tax payment. It was made during the reign of …

When national leaders choose to believe a lie

The Nation of Israel and Jews have been part of the Middle East for thousands of years. One of the earliest non-Biblical references to Israel is found on the Merneptah Stele in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Egypt. The stele, a 10 foot high (3 meters) granite stone monument, was discovered in 1896 during archaeological work on the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes Also called the Israel Stele, it is dated to the reign of the Egyptian king Merneptah (1213 BC – 1203 BC). It outlines his various military victories. The last three lines list his defeat of Canaan including Israel: “Israel is laid waste and his seed is not;” Yet despite this find and thousands of other archaeological discoveries, in a recent UN vote Egypt along with 23 other nations passed a motion that effectively denies any Israeli connection to Jerusalem’s temple mount and Western Wall (the Jewish Wailing Wall). This  motion declaring the Temple Mount a purely Muslim site was passed in a 24-6 vote by the United Nations Educational and Scientific and …

Tel Lachish from inside the city. Credit: Wikipedia/Liadmalone

Does an ancient toilet confirm 2 Kings 10:27?

27 They also broke down the sacred pillar of Baal and broke down the house of Baal, and made it a latrine to this day. (2 Kings 10:27 NASV) This verse tells the story of King Jehu eradicating Baal out Israel. After destroying the idols in one particular temple, Jehu ordered his men to set up a toilet in the Baal sanctuary. This transformation to an outhouse was the kings way of desecrating the temple and recent archaeological excavations suggest it was a common practice. Archaeologists working at the Tel-Lachish site in central Israel have made an amazing discovery. They found a toilet in an ancient Baal shrine. The site is dated to the reign of King Hezekiah (715BC to 686BC). This is the remains of the ancient city of Lachish mentioned several times in the Bible (2 Kings 14:17-19). Many consider it Judah’s second most important city behind Jerusalem. King Sennacherib of Assyria destroyed Lachish in 701AD during the reign of  Judah’s King Hezekiah. Hezekiah, one of Israel’s most prominent reforming kings, is listed in …

Ein Gedi Leviticus scroll. Credit: Dr. Brent Seales

Ancient Leviticus text reveals the accuracy of the Bible

Using a process called ‘virtual unwrapping,’ scientists were able to read the the text on a parchment destroyed in an ancient synagogue that burned down in 600 AD. The parchment was inside a box called the Holy Ark used by Synagogues to store Biblical scrolls. The scrolled parchment made up of five layers was found in 1970 in a synagogue discovered in the archaeological remains of a small Jewish community referred to as Ein Gedi on the coast of the Dead Sea. The whole town apparently burned down at the same time. Archaeologists stopped working on the scroll when it disintegrated at touch. It sat unstudied until University of Kentucky computer scientists scanned the charred parchment using a mico-CT scanner at the request of the Israeli Antiquity Authority. They basically used this to create digital images of the scroll and then flattened the sheets. Because the Jews used an ink with metal properties the scanners were able to easily pick out the Hebrew lettering. According to Breaking Israel News (BIN), the scroll contained text from …

Elijah confronting King Ahab and jezebel Credit: Painting by Sir Francis Dicksee (1853-1928)/Wikipedia

Dutch scholar convinced ancient seal belonged to Queen Jezebel

Dr. Marjo Korpel who now teaches Old Testament studies at Amsterdam and Groningen Universities in Holland has concluded an ancient seal discovered in Israel in 1964 actually belonged to Israel’s notorious, evil-Queen – Jezebel. Many consider Korpel to be a careful and respected researcher and her conclusions garnered a huge reaction in the archaeological community. The account — recorded in 1 and 2 Kings — tells the story of King Ahab’s marriage to Jezebel — a Phoenician princess. When Jezebel arrived to take her place at Ahab’s side, she brought a wedding present for her husband — 400 prophets of Asherah and 450 prophets of Baal. Almost immediately, two centers of idol worship popped up — one at each of Israel’s capital cities. A Baal temple was built in Samaria and at the main palace in Jezreel, Jezebel set up the temple of Asherah where the 400 prophets of Asherah served this deity and ate at the table of Jezebel (1 Kings 16:32, 33; 1 Kings 18:19). In the end, she dominated her husband and effectively …

The Magdala Stone: Credit: Hanay/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

Does the Magdala Stone provide a clue to why Jesus was crucified?

The discovery of a small coin dated to 29 AD was tantalizing enough, but its discovery in an ancient synagogue found in Northern Israel along the Sea of Galilee has provided new understanding of ancient Judaism and even the Gospels. The site was uncovered during construction of a christian retreat center and spa for a Catholic order called the Legionnaries of Christ. The organization which trains men for the priesthood has a controversial reputation. Some accused the order of  being cult-like due to its regimented structure that during its early years forbid adherents from contacting their families. This policy has since been completely reversed. The coin confirms the synagogue’s existence during the time Jesus ministered in Galilee. He undoubtedly taught at this synagogue as the Lord regularly spoke at synagogues throughout Israel  (Luke 4:15). The town where the synagogue was discovered is the hometown of Mary Magdalene. She was a close follower, who Christ delivered of evil spirits. 2 as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, …

Do the earliest references to Yahweh in Egypt confirm the Exodus? Credit: clubmed.co.uk/Flickr/Creative Commons

Egypt meets Yahweh: Another confirmation of the Exodus?

When we look at Biblical accounts there are many mentions of Egypt with the most prominent being Israel’s exodus out of that country under Moses. It was  a dramatic encounter that brought the full force of Yahweh against Egypt and its pharaoh who refused to let Israel leave. Similarly, there are several references to Israel in Egyptian records — from mentions on wall carvings and steles to papyris. According to Charles Aling the oldest reference is found on the Merneptah Stele dated to around 1208 BC that refers to a group of people called the Shasu. Aling who specializes in Egyptology is chairman of the History department at Northwestern College. The Egyptians referred to the Shasu several times through the centuries. The word is used to describe a semi-nomadic people who lived in Canaan. It is generally believed that Shasu incorporated all the Semitic people – descendants of Abraham — such as the Edomites, Ishmaelites, Moabites and Israelis. From the Egyptian records the Shasu were generally looked upon as enemies of Egypt and in one …

Workers sifting through the 400 truckloads of dirt hauled out of the Temple Mount as part of the Temple Mount Sifting Project. Photo: Zachi Dvira Pikiwiki Israel

Ancient flooring from Herod’s Temple discovered?

Archaeologists with the Temple Mount Sifting Project believe they have discovered the floor that made up the court-yard of Herod’s temple. This was the floor Jesus walked on when He visited the temple in the Gospels. They made the announcement at a news conference today. The first Jewish Temple built by King Solomon was destroyed by Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC, who then sent most of the Jews into captivity. After Persia’s King Cyrus conquered Babylon, he allowed the Jews under Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah to return to Israel and rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. The construction of the smaller second temple started around 538 BC and was eventually completed in 515 BC (Ezra 6). Though it survived near destruction in 332 BC, after quelling a Jewish rebellion Antiochus IV Epiphanes (215 BC – 164 BC) desecrated this second temple by setting us an idol of Zeus inside it and sacrificing a pig. But the temple continued and it was this version that King Herod restored and expanded in 20 BC.  The transformation was …

Galilean Sunset. You can see the Sea of Galilee in the distance. Photo: Dan Zelazo/Flickr/Creative commons

Matthew 9:35 receives its verification

A verse in the Gospel of Matthew has caused lots of problems. I don’t think Matthew gave it a second thought when he added it. He wrote: 35 Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. (Matthew 9:35 NASV) But those opposed to Christianity have used this verse and other similar ones to discredit and even question Jesus’ ministry. Why? Because Matthew said Jesus had preached in the synagogues in the villages of Galilee and since no synagogues had been found in rural Galilee, it is argued they did not exist and the verse was a complete fabrication. And since it also talked about Jesus healing every type of sickness and disease, this called into question Christ’s ministry. But on August 9, 2016, the Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archaeology discovered a small rural synagogue dated to the second temple period confirming they did exist. This is the temple, built by King Herod, that …

Photo: Nick Kenrick/Flickr/Creative Commons

Evidence of Noah’s flood found in China?

In nearly every culture in the world, there are a stories from their ancient past of a massive flood that wiped out the world — from Eskimos in the Northern Arctic to aborigines in Australia. According to an article in the Washington Post, the Chinese have a story of a flood that covered their mountains and hills. Ancient Chinese emperor Yao wrote: “The flood is pouring forth destruction. Boundless and overwhelming, it over tops hills and mountains. Rising and ever rising, it threatens the very heavens.” Compare his account to how Genesis describes Noah’s flood: 18 The water prevailed and increased greatly upon the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. 19 The water prevailed more and more upon the earth, so that all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered. (Genesis 7:18-19 NASV) Recently archaeologists uncovered evidence of a massive flood that hit China about 4,000 years ago. This included the remains of small children trapped by the waters. Their dating would put it in the time frame of the …

A photo of a Gilgal site revealing its distinctive sandal shape. Photo: Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel

A Gilgal site to become a garbage dump for Palestine?

Breaking Israel News is reporting the Palestinian Authority has contracted a foreign company to handle its garbage. The concern is that the proposed location for a new garbage dump is just a couple hundred meters away from an important archaeological site called Gilgal. The move could potentially damage or even destroy the site near Rimonium overlooking the Jordan valley. No excavation has been done at this site. What is unusual about the site is its unique sandal-shaped design. It is one of five similar styled sites found in Israel. And they can be large. One of them called el-‘Unuq is the size of two football fields (228 feet wide and 816 feet long). The Israelis created them shortly after they entered the Promised Land under Joshua. They were all called Gilgals and marked by large stone walls in the shape of the foot or sandal. Scattered throughout Israel they initially served as spiritual and government centers. At one of the Gilgal sites near Gibeath-haaraloth, Israel circumcised its men after leaving Egypt and held their first …

Jesus entering Jerusalem for the last time by Jean Leon Gerome (1897) Wikipedia

Is Jesus Real? Philo and the Christ Myth

There is a popular argument going around these days “Jesus never existed and we can prove it.” At the time of Jesus, a Jewish writer named Philo lived in Alexandria, a large city on the coast of Egypt. Philo tried to integrate the Jewish religion with Greek philosophy, to make the Jews more Greek and Roman. Historically, he was not popular with his fellow Jews. We know about him now because Christians liked his writings. It is interesting that Philo never once mentioned Jesus in his writings. This man lived when the New Testament tells us Jesus preached and did miracles, and Philo is silent about Jesus. Today, some critics are saying Christians believe in a made up character, the “Christ Myth.” You can search for “Philo” and the other terms on the Internet, but I don’t want to give links because most of the discussions are aggressive and offensive. Today, Philo’s silence encourages some people to believe that Jesus never existed. So what should we do with Philo? The argument of silence is always …

Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, Jerusalem Photo: jordan Pickett/Flickr/Creative Commons

UNESCO to vote if Jews have any connection to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem

This week the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced it is postponing a vote that would put Jerusalem’s Temple Mount firmly in the hands of the Muslim. Whether Israel would actually implement UNESCO’s recommendations is anther issue. But if the motion passed it undoubtedly would embolden the Muslims in their attempts to control the site. The vote is part of a Palestinian-Jordanian initiative that would declare the Temple Mount  a “Muslim-only” site. The vote would see the Temple Mount returned to its status before the 1967 Six Day war. Prior to the Israel Arab conflict, the Jordan Waqf that operates the two Muslim buildings on the site — the al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock — controlled every aspect of the Temple Mount including who could visit the site. But perhaps the most disturbing part of the motion is that it would deny any historical Jewish connection to the Temple Mount. The original motion also referred to Israel as an “occupying force.” When Israel protested the motion later revisions tried to …

Replica of a Viking ship. Photo: valt98/Flickr/Creative Commons

Viking tales and dinosaurs

In the late 1930s, while digging in the remains of an ancient fortress, Sverresborg Castle, located near Bergen, Norway, archaeologist Gerhard Fischer came across the partial skeletal remains of a body in a well filled with rocks. But when World War II broke out the excavation stopped,  the remains buried and the discovery largely forgotten. However according to the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage, in 2014 archaeologists have stumbled across more remains of this body in the well. After dating a bone shard they discovered it was over 800 years old — dating it to 1200 AD. But here the story takes an interesting twist. There are a number of sagas or epic poems written by Vikings and handed down through the generations. Many disregarded them as fanciful tales. But there is one saga entitled the Sverris Saga, dated to the 1200s, that talks about Viking wars, great voyages and clan feuds. In it there is an elaborate story about King Sverre Sigurdsson who led a group called the Baglers. They were so poor they wore shoes made of birch bark. …

Donald Trump Photo: Nathan Congleton/Flickr/Creative Commons

Did Donald Trump become a born-again Christian?

[UPDATED JUNE 29, 2016] If you want to have an interesting, perhaps even heated discussion, bring up Donald Trump with  your friends. People either love him or hate, there is little middle ground. But it looks like he is the Republican’s presumptive nominee for president and will be facing off with Hillary Clinton, the presumptive nominee for the Democrats. Dr. James Dobson, founder of the Christian organization Focus on the Family, recently reported that Donald Trump has become a born-again Christian. Dobson did not lead Trump to Christ but is reporting that he personally knows the person who did, but is not giving his name. In a meeting with several Evangelical Christians, Dobson said, “I don’t know when it was, but it has not been long. I believe he really made a commitment, but he’s a baby Christian.” In reference to Trumps language and rough edges, Dobson added, “You have got to cut him some slack. He didn’t grow up like we did.” Because of the interest in the news about Trump’s conversion, Dobson released …

Jesus's wife fragment almost certainly a forgery. Image: Live Science/Harvard Divinity School

Jesus’s wife fragment declared a fake one more time

An article published in the July/August 2016 issue of The Atlantic has concluded that the small business card-sized fragment of papyrus purporting Jesus was married is a modern-day forgery when the author alleges some of the provenance supporting the fragment’s authenticity is probably fake. The provenance tracks the recent ownership history of a piece of antiquity and is part of the process used to determine legitimacy. In 2012, Harvard Divinity School Professor Karen King caused a stir in her presentation to the Tenth International Congress of Coptic Studies about a papyrus fragment that had the words “Jesus said to them, MY WIFE.” Though the sentences were cut off, other lines such as “She is able to be my disciple”; “I dwell with her,” also indicated a marital arrangement. King suggested that this ancient fragment, supposedly dated to the fourth century, was a copy of an earlier document and is evidence that some close to the time Jesus lived believed He was married. The Biblical narrative makes no reference to Jesus being married and since others …

Three of the pottery shards from Arad Fortress revealing troop movement and costs for fort provisions. Photo credit:PNAS, Faigenbaum-Golovin et al

How words written on 16 pottery shards screwed up Liberal theories, again

Throughout the Old Testament, there are many references to people recording historical events as they were happening. Liberals of course have long disagreed with this. They believe writing was not widely in use during Biblical times and people wrote these stories long after they occurred. They then of course go the next step and insist these historical records and the people named in them were simply made up. This meant Biblical books ranging from Deuteronomy to 2 Kings were written centuries after the events cited in them took place, despite the Bible treating them as eye-witness accounts. Those Liberal views just came crashing down after researchers analyzed writing found on pottery shards discovered in a Jewish frontier fort named Arad, dated to 600 BC. Researchers from Tel Aviv University used computer programs, often employed by forensics to compare writing samples and banks to verify signatures, to find out if the same person wrote them. The research team was made up of a diverse group of people including archaeologists, physicists and mathematicians, After they scanned the …

Ancient tombs dating to the time of Abraham found near Bethlehem

Livescience is reporting that archaeologists working near the city of Bethlehem have discovered an old burial site or necropolis with nearly 100 tombs — some estimated to be 4000 years old, dating to the time of Abraham. The tombs were dug into the side of a hill and consisted of large caves some with multiple chambers. It appears that the workers creating this necropolis used pre-existing caves. They believe this burial site, called Khalet al-Jam’a, was for a yet to be discovered larger town located nearby. Because of the variety of artifacts inside, it is believed the town was a major trading center. Tombs in the site range from 2200 BC — the time of Abraham, to about 650 BC when they abruptly ended. This coincides with Israel’s invasion by Babylon and Assyria, when many of the Israelis were taken off into captivity. Though the tombs were ransacked over the centuries, they still include a family — a man, wife and child dating to about 3,500 BC and another tomb containing an earlier single man …

Mt Gerazim on the left and Mt Ebal on the right. Photo: Tom Miller/Flickr/Creative Commons

Where did Israel’s giant footprints come from?

In Israel’s Jordan valley, archaeologists have discovered a curious phenomena — six huge man-made footprints. These structures, where the low outer stone wall is distinctively foot shaped, are quite large. One referred to as el-‘Unuq is 228 feet wide and 816 feet long — about two football fields in size. Perhaps the most famous of these sandal-shaped sites is one found on Mt. Ebal. Discovered in 1980, its most unique feature is a massive altar found in the center measuring about 23′ by 30′ feet in size. It is also a story high — 10’. Of course, such an altar, created of unhewn stone, required a huge ramp to get on top, which this one had. They also found charred animal bones and ash in and around the altar. It was apparently a religious site where the people made animal sacrifices. This is where it gets interesting. Adam Zertal, the archaeologist who discovered this site, believes this is the altar Joshua created when Israel first entered the Promised Land. 30 Then Joshua built an altar to …

Photo of Pool of Siloam current site and artists rendering of what it looked like initially. Images: photo of pool in 2007/Wikipedia/Daniel Ventura -- Artist rendering Wikipedia/Yoav Dothan

Pool of Siloam discovered

An article in the Los Angeles Times reported on the discovery of the pool of Siloam in Jerusalem in 2004. It was the place of one of Jesus’ more unusual healings (John 9:1-33). In the account recorded in the Book of John, Jesus and the disciples came across a man blind from birth. The disciples asked Jesus if this man was being punished for his parents’ sin or his own sin. Jesus answered neither, then spitting on the ground He created paste from the mud and applied it to the man’s eyes. Jesus then told the man to go to the Pool of Siloam and clean off his eyes. After doing that, the man could immediately see. The healing proved controversial as the pharisees challenged the healing because it took place on the Sabbath and was considered work. Over the years those of a Liberal persuasion have argued that the Pool of Siloam never existed. They believed John made up the pool and by implication the story involving Jesus that came with it. But that …

Hezekiah's water conduit Photo: Kyle Sorkness/Flickr

Ancient seal discovered proclaiming Hezekiah king of Israel

At a December 2, 2015 news conference, archaeologist Dr Eilat Mazar from the Hebrew University announced his team had found a seal bearing the name of King Hezekiah at a site being excavated near the Old City of Jerusalem. The seal reads: “Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz, king of Judah.” The Times of Israel reports that the seal was among a number discovered in 2009 in a garbage dump near a building used by royal officials. But it was not translated until recently when archaeologists using a magnifying glass read the wording on the clay bulla imprint discovering its significance. The bulla would have certified the papyrus, probably signed by Hezekiah, was an official document of the Royal office. The seal imprinted in clay even had faint fiber impressions on the reverse side from the papyrus. Speaking at a news conference Mazar said the seal was: “The closest as ever that we can get to something that was most likely held by King Hezekiah himself.” The seal is significant in several ways. First it confirms the …

The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by John Martin (1789-1854)

Has the ancient Biblical city of Sodom been found?

An archaeological team with New Mexico’s Trinity Southwest University believe they have found the lost city of Sodom mentioned in the Book of Genesis. The city along with Gomorrah was destroyed when God poured down fire and brimstone from the sky. The archaeological team began excavation at the site in 2005 and discovered a huge ancient city dating between 3500 BC to 2350 BC. The city was discovered North East of the Dead sea and described as being on a well-watered plain which fits the Biblical description of the city’s location. In an interview with Popular Archaeology, lead archaeologist Steven Collins said: “Tall el-Hamman seemed to match every Sodom criterion demanded by the text. Theorizing, on the basis of the Sodom texts, that Sodom was the largest of the Kikkar (the Jordan Disk or well-watered plain’ in the Biblical text) cities east of Jordan, I concluded that if one wanted to find Sodom, then one should look for the largest city on the eastern Kikkar that existed during the Bronze Age at the time of …

Jerusalem's Temple Mount Photo: David Ortmann/Flickr

The battle for Jerusalem’s Temple Mount

While Muslims clash with Jews over access to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, workers with the Temple Mount Sifting Project continue to find artifacts solidifying Israel’s claim to the Temple Mount (called Mount Zion in the Bible) and Jerusalem. There are actually some who challenge the Jew’s historical claim to the Temple Mount and even Jerusalem itself. The Temple Mount was the site to the third Jewish Temple visited by Jesus, who also prophesied its destruction (Mark 13:1-2). The Romans destroyed this temple in 70 AD. At the present there are two Muslim buildings on the Mount — the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa mosque. Muslims consider the Dome of the Rock their third holiest site. Some Muslims believe the archangel Gabriel took Muhammad to visit heaven at the spot where the Dome sits, while others believe it happened at the nearby mosque. Muslim extremists, using the al-Aqsa mosque as their base, have attacked Jews who try to pray on top of the Mount instead of the Western Wall down below. The wall is considered …

Inside St. Mary's Church of Zion in Axum, Ethiopia. The church claims to house the Jewish Ark of the Covenant, and some suggest it is behind the curtains. Photo: Flickr/A.Davey

The Queen of Sheba and the Jewish Ark of the Covenant

In my previous post, I wrote about the mystery behind the disappearance of the Jewish Ark of the Covenant, the most important piece of furniture in the Jewish Temple. The Ark was where the Presence of God sat in the Temple’s Holy of Holies. I looked at he numerous theories on what happened to the Ark which just suddenly disappears. In this post, I want to discuss one of the more interesting theories. There is an Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Axum, Ethiopia — St. Mary of Zion — that claims to have the Ark of the Covenant. Unfortunately, they won’t let anyone study it to independently verify if this is the Ark. On May 12, 2008, Archaeologists from the University of Hamburg announced they found the palace of Queen of Sheba in Axum, Ethiopia. But in a strange twist, they also tied the discovery to the mysterious disappearance of the Jewish Ark of the Covenant. According to the team, headed by Helmut Zeigert of the university’s archaeological institute, the palace, dated to 10 BC, was …

Are the remains of the Apostle Matthew at the bottom of Lake Issyk-kul? Photo: Dan Lundberg/Foter/CC BY-SA

What is the Apostle Matthew doing in Kyrgyzstan?

Russian divers from the Tomsk State University in Siberia have uncovered the remains of a lost civilization at the bottom of Lake Issyk-kul in Kyrgystan. Bordering China, Kyrgystan has a population of nearly 6 million people of which 64% are Muslim. Located in the Tian Shan mountains, Lake Issyk-kul is the tenth largest lake in the world by volume. It is the second largest salt lake and never freezes over during the winter and this led to its name which translated means “hot lake.” It has 118 rivers and streams flowing into the lake but with no outlet, it has slowly grown over the years covering a number of ancient buildings and settlements. The divers first discovered the remains of what some believe was an ancient civilization called the Saka buried in the sediment. This group existed about 2,500 years ago and was famous in ancient literature for its strong drink called Soma. They also found more recent ruins on top and in it a piece of ceramic pottery with a stamp written in either …

Archaeologists digging into Gath, the hometown of Goliath Photo: Flickr/orientalizing

The giant gates of Gath, Goliath’s home town, found

Archaeologists say they have discovered the ancient Philistine city of Gath, home to one of the Bible’s most notorious characters — a giant named Goliath. King David’s slaying of the Philistine Giant in 1 Samuel 17 with a sling is a metaphor today of overcoming incredible odds. And today archaeologists are also uncovering evidence the city and the giants living there were very real. Perhaps it was just a coincidence, but archaeologists from Bar Ilan University working at the Tell es-Safi site have not only uncovered pottery at the site with the name of Goliath etched on it, but recently announced they have found the massive gates to the city. They are considered the largest set of gates ever found, perhaps fitting for a city known for its giants. At this point they have just uncovered the top of the gates and massive walls and it will take several years to fully uncover the gates. However, the size of stones at the top suggest the walls were massive. Archaeologists have been working at the Tell …