Bohemian Chanukah (a Queen adaptation)

Hanukkah began yesterday evening. Whether or not you celebrate, this version of “Bohemian Rhapsody” may bring a smile. Enjoy!

 

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New BiblePlaces photo collection of Persia

The fabulous BiblePlaces photo collection has a new addition most of us would not have expected to see. A 1,600 high-res photo volume on Persia is now available for purchase at the introductory price of just $25.

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The new Persia volume of the BiblePlaces photo collection

Ancient Persia is of course modern Iran, which brings political barriers for many Western travelers, particularly from the United States. Todd Bolen was able to visit earlier this year and describes his experience in the new BiblePlaces newsletter.

… The trip was everything I could have hoped for and more. I was able to visit every site on my itinerary, following in the footsteps of such figures as Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes, and Artaxerxes. I saw the famous Behistun Inscription, walked around one of the best preserved ziggurats, explored numerous museums, and marveled at the well-preserved tomb of King Cyrus. You can still see the ancient necropolis where Darius, Xerxes, and Artaxerxes carved their tombs into a cliffside, and the famous Persian gardens (from whence we get our word “paradise”) are as beautiful as they say. The people were friendly and the food was fantastic. The highlight for me was walking through the ancient palace where Esther approached Ahasuerus to beg him to stop the evil plot of Haman.

A lot of work goes into the BiblePlaces collection, but the photos would not be as valuable without the researched explanations that accompany them. It is one thing to see a place, but wholly different to understand its connections and meaning. The BiblePlaces collection accomplishes this on a higher and more affordable level than most things you will find. The Persia volume comes with 1,600+ high resolution photos in jpeg format. The photos also come organized into pre-made PowerPoint presentations with illuminating notes for each slide plus a bibliography.

I just purchased my Persia volume. If you are a teacher or serious student of the Bible, you should do the same. Ancient Persia, including Elam and Media, illuminates the books of Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther, and connects with Isaiah, Jeremiah, Haggai, and Zechariah. People from Parthia (Roman-era Persia) were present in Jerusalem for Peter’s sermon in Acts 2.

The other volumes appear to be on sale right now (Dec. 3rd, 2018) so consider purchasing your favorites, or even the complete set. These are not simply pictures. The BiblePlaces Photo Collection is a valuable resource for understanding biblical locations and events, and is fully worth your investment.

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My Bible Lands Tour in June, with optional extension to Join a Dig

If you want to have a special Bible Lands experience, join my “Journey Through the Testaments” tour from June 10th to 22nd, 2019. Whether it’s your first time or a repeat visit, this trip will help you perceive and understand the Bible on a fuller, deeper level.

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This immersive 13-day tour includes:

  • A marvelous itinerary that literally takes you “from Dan to Beersheba”
  • Round trip flights between New York (JFK) and Israel.
  • Accommodation in First Class hotels with daily breakfast and dinner buffets
  • Exclusive use of a motor coach with professional driver throughout the tour
  • A licensed Israeli guide to accompany our group
  • All entrances and admissions
  • All gratuities, taxes & fees
  • Five half-hour Master Classes during the tour on biblical archaeology, cultures, and geography

This complete 13-day package is $4,245 and is payable in up to three installments.

If you want to go even deeper with your Bible Lands trip, extend it another 13 days, through July 5th, for just $1,000 more. This additional time gives you bonus days in Jerusalem and lets you join an archaeological dig with me at a biblical site. Meet like-minded people from around the world, learn directly from world-class scholars, and discover artifacts from biblical times. This is the experience of a lifetime, and it is available to you.

If you have already visited Israel, you need to go again. There is so much more to see and learn that you couldn’t absorb your first time, or even your second time. This will be my twelfth guided overseas tour and my fourteenth personal visit to Israel, and I still learn new things every time. Download the full brochure and registration form, then reserve your place today on this magnificent trip. I hope to hear from you soon!

Brochure cover

Posted in Bible Lands tour, Biblical Archaeology, Israel, Jerusalem, Khirbet Arai, Overseas trips, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Island appears in the Sea of Galilee

The land of Israel is undergoing one of its periodic droughts, to the point that an island has appeared in the receding Sea of Galilee.

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The newly revealed island near the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee (Credit: Yuval Gassar)

The Sea of Galilee water level frequently drops during the dry summer months and rises with the rainy season in late fall and winter, so the island will almost certainly be covered again by November or December at the latest. Its surprise appearance shows the intensity of the current drought in Israel.

As a recent article in Haaretz states, “The situation is dimmer than it was [during a previous drought] in 2001. At that time water was pumped out of the lake into the national water system, but that has almost completely stopped. Israeli Water Authority spokesman Uri Shor warns, “The levels are low despite the almost complete cessation of pumping water out. If we were taking water out, the level would drop below the black line and the lake would be finished.” (The black line is the estimated minimum level to prevent ecological damage.)

Israel’s growing population has put strains on the region’s limited water sources. The construction of several expensive desalination plants to convert seawater into potable water has decreased reliance on natural freshwater sources such as the Sea of Galilee. Hopefully the drought will break soon and avoid any permanent impact to the lake’s ecosystem.

Read the Haaretz article for more photos and details, including a flyover drone video. (Possibility of a paywall)

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A view of the newly revealed Galilee island from the southern shore. (Credit: Gil Eliyahu)

 

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Now Available: “The Book of Ruth” Photo Companion from BiblePlaces

Last year, BiblePlaces released the Photo Companion to the Gospels, a wonderful and unique tool for Bible teachers and students. Bible Places now offers the next addition to the series, The Book of Ruth. It’s discounted at nearly half-price until April 21st, so look into this before the price goes up.

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The Photo Companion to the Bible is a unique collection of digital photographs that illustrate the biblical text verse by verse. It is a PowerPoint resource with a wide variety of images.

This resource was created by a team of experienced, trained professors and scholars with a deep understanding of the Bible Lands. Each chapter of Ruth is illustrated verse-by-verse with 65 to 135 photos per chapter.

The set includes:

  • New aerial photographs of Bethlehem
  • Detailed markings of routes that Naomi and Ruth traveled
  • Annotations explaining image selection and background
  • Free lifetime updates
  • Generous copyright permissions

The website offer free downloadable sample of this resource, covering Ruth 2:1-4. Look through it and read the illuminating commentary included with the PowerPoint slides. This is an ideal resource for teaching the Bible in churches or classrooms, as well as for personal study.

I use the Photo Companion to the Gospels regularly in my teaching and study, along with the complete BiblePlaces photo set. These resources provide insights and images unavailable elsewhere. I recommend them highly for every Bible teacher and student and look forward to delving into my new purchase of The Book of Ruth.

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New Archaeology Documentary on Lachish Dig (It’s free)

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a new documentary video on the recent archaeological expedition to biblical Lachish. This video shares perspectives from both directors and volunteers who worked on the dig, and shows some new discoveries that are significant to the early Kingdom of Judah.

The filmmakers, Bob Henry and Rachel Martin, offer this video freely to everyone. You may screen it openly to anyone or any group that may have an interest in archaeology and the Bible. Here is a description of the video and its purpose directly from Bob and Rachel.

This documentary brings you into the exciting world of Biblical Archaeology as it reveals the history of one of the largest Old Testament cities and tells the story of the volunteers who dig it up. This epic story reveals the turbulent warfare of the first temple period of Biblical history, the discoveries that expand the Biblical narrative, and the impact this experience had on the people who came to Israel to dig. Watch as these determined volunteers unearth a Biblical land mark’s secrets that haven’t been touched in over two thousand five hundred years.
What were we trying to achieve in making the documentary?
We had a number of hopes and aspirations for this piece. First, it was our heartfelt desire to connect people with the amazing Biblical archaeology going on in Israel. The work being done there is revealing the Biblical story in breathtaking ways, and it’s our passion to share the excitement the digging experience brings. For us, as well as for so many we encountered, digging in Israel has been transformative in many ways.
Second, we are passionate about the Biblical text. We wanted to tell this story in a way that would make the Old Testament come alive by showing it through the lens of the history of the Ancient Near East. Revealing Lachish in the context of the legendary events that surround this Biblical city has been incredibly challenging, and exciting. One of our most important goals has been to share this narrative in a way that does justice to the First Temple period’s epic saga. In the case of Lachish, the real story is so exciting that you don’t have to reach to hold people’s attention. It is an unbelievable story all by itself.
Finally, we wanted to share the story of the Fourth Expedition to Lachish, and the incredible contribution they’ve made to both Jewish history and Biblical archaeology. We wanted the world to know the teams lead by Dr. Yossi Garfinkel and Dr. Michael Hasel did more than just show up. They unearthed Rehoboam’s wall, and changed the way the history of the southern Levant will be written.- –
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Here is the video. Feel free to contact me for a download link, or to get contact information for Bob and Rachel.
Posted in Biblical Archaeology, Documentary, General Archaeology, Israel, Lachish, Tech & Resources | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Isaiah’s Personal Seal Found?

Archaeologists may have found Isaah’s “autograph” during excavations in Jerusalem. This clay impression (bulla) was uncovered a few years ago along with others, including one belonging to King Hezekiah.  It was finally announced this morning in a press release. Dr. Eilat Mazar has an article on this find, calling it “a unique and fantastic discovery” in the upcoming issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

The damaged bulla bears the inscription, “Yesha‘yah[u” (Isaiah), followed by the word “nvi” which, with the addition of the Hebrew letter aleph, would mean “prophet.” The area where the missing aleph should be located is damaged, so we can’t know if it was originally there. Without the missing aleph, the word “nvi” can be translated as a place name (“from Nob”). There is room for the missing letter, so is this the prophet Isaiah’s personal seal?

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The Isaiah Bulla, a 2,700-year-old clay seal impression which potentially belonged to the biblical prophet. (Ouria Tadmor/© Eilat Mazar) The top portion (damaged) appears to have a motif (symbol or picture), likely a grazing doe according to Dr. Eilat Mazar. The middle line has the name of Isaiah in Hebrew, and the bottom line read “NVI” from right to left. If the damaged space to the left had a Hebrew aleph, the bottom line would translate as “prophet.”

The illustration below shows how the full circle around the inscription allows room for additional letters. The middle line in this drawing imagines the last letter of Isaiah’s name along with a letter for the word “the,” which would be expected if the bottom word is “prophet.”

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Drawing by Reut Livyatan Ben-Arie of the Isaiah Bulla, a 2,700-year-old clay seal impression which potentially belonged to the biblical prophet Isaiah. (Illustration: Reut Livyatan Ben-Arie/© Eilat Mazar; Photo by Ouria Tadmor/© Eilat Mazar)

Isaiah the prophet is frequently named alongside King Hezekiah in the Bible, so it is notable this Isaiah impression was found only feet away from Hezekiah’s personal seal. It could have belonged to another Isaiah, but several scholars who have weighed in say this seal could have belonged to the famous prophet.

Even though this could be the seal of the biblical Isaiah, we lack the letters that would confirm it. (This sort of thing happens a lot, but then we’re talking about very old, breakable objects.) This impression was found in a proper excavation, which makes it more authentic than many others seals we encounter. (Have you noticed how many seals on display in the Israel Museum have “Provenance Unknown” on the labels? How many of those might be fakes?)

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Area of the Ophel excavations at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. (Courtesy of Andrew Shiva)

As mentioned above, the Isaiah bulla was found just a few feet away from an intact seal impression that belonged to King Hezekiah, shown below.

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The seal impression of King Hezekiah unearthed in the Ophel excavations at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount, conducted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology (Courtesy of Eilat Mazar; photo by Ouria Tadmor)

You can read a good article on the discovery here., plus another writeup by National Geographic. You may also enjoy this 12+minute video on the Isaiah impression discovery.

Posted in archaeologists, Biblical Archaeology, Inscriptions and Manuscripts, Israel, Jerusalem, New Discoveries, Short videos | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Video on Lachish Excavation

If you are interested in Archaeology and the Bible, and especially if you’re curious what it’s like to join a dig, a new video is available for your enjoyment. The video covers recent work at biblical Lachish and was created by Bob Henry and Rachel Martin, a couple that participated in recent excavations there. Lachish is one of the most important sites in Israel with major discoveries, old and new, that illuminate our understanding of the Bible and its times.

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Aerial view of Tel Lachish from the new video. Notice the tent shades over several of the work areas. (Screen shot)

Why dig at Lachish, specifically? What is it like to be on a dig? How do these excavations affect our understanding of biblical times and events? The video interviews dig volunteers from all walks of life plus co-Directors Prof. Yossi Garfinkel and Prof. Michael Hasel. (I also make a couple of appearances along the way.)

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Archaeologist Yossi Garfinkel, co-Director of the Fourth Expedition to Tel Lachish. (Screen shot)

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Yours Truly in the new video on the Tel Lachish excavations. (Screen shot)

The video includes what is certainly the most significant discovery of our work at Lachish. It fills in a large archaeological blank on the early Kingdom of Judah.

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Archaeologist Hoo Goo Kang standing on the most significant discovery of our multi-year excavation. What is it? See the video for an explanation! (Screen shot)

Watch the full video and consider joining a dig! I will be organizing a group of volunteers to dig in the summer of 2019. Follow my Facebook page or visit my tour website to see details when they become available later this year.

Posted in Ancient Battles, archaeologists, Biblical Archaeology, Israel, Lachish, New Discoveries, Short videos, Tech & Resources | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Museum of the Bible opening today in DC

Today marks the grand opening of the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC, just blocks from the U.S. Capitol and the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. The Museum of the Bible is free and boasts a massive collection of artifacts and biblical manuscripts. It includes a special exhibit on my first dig site, Khirbet Qeiyafa., called “In the Valley of David and Goliath.”

The museum website states the building has 430,000 square feet of space providing an immersive, high-tech experience on “the history, narrative, and impact of the Bible.” Features include a 472-seat theater with immersive visuals and sound, several smaller theaters, a café and restaurant, a biblical garden, recreations of biblical places, and many interactive displays. It is clearly made to provide a grand experience and the designers, in the words of Jurassic Park‘s John Hammond, “spared no expense.”

This CGI preview shows some impressive looking displays. I even caught a glimpse of what appeared to be replicas of Sennacherib’s wall panels depicting the conquest of Lachish, my second dig site.

This new museum drew controversy before its grand opening when its chief benefactor, Hobby Lobby founder Steve Green, was discovered to have imported many Middle Eastern artifacts with unknown origins and improper documentation. While it appears this was done out of naiveté and over-eagerness, the museum faces the real prospect that portions of its collection are fake or looted. The museum manuscript collection includes several unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls, but many scholars are convinced some or most are modern-day forgeries. These issues have threatened the museum’s reputation before its grand opening.

The Green family and the museum have responded about as well as one would hope, paying a large settlement and bringing in credentialed experts to assist in evaluating and vetting the collections. The museum website includes a page that discusses these issues and states new policies to counter these problems in the future.

The Museum of the Bible was originally conceived as a way to promote specific theological and apologetic viewpoints of the Bible. In light of the clouds hanging over its collections, and on the advice of some scholars, the museum decided to take a more objective approach. Exhibits and displays focus less on theology and more on the facts of textual transmission, history, culture, and impact of the Bible. In short, it’s intended to be more “we report, you decide.” While I likely agree with some theological viewpoints of the founders, I believe this a wiser approach. Presenting the Gospel is work for a church, not a museum. Organizations with specific theological agendas run a high risk of over-interpreting available facts. Conclusions that may just be possible have sometimes been presented as certain in attempts to define opinion (or misinterpretation of Scripture) as orthodoxy. Remember when the Catholic Church tried to mic drop on Galileo?

If the Museum of the Bible continues in its new course, I believe it has tremendous potential to promote discussion and understanding of the most influential book in history – the Bible. I plan to arrange a visit at my earliest opportunity. It’s free, but be sure to reserve tickets in advance!

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Artist construction of the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC. (Courtesy of The Museum of the Bible)

Posted in Biblical Archaeology, Inscriptions and Manuscripts, Interesting places to visit, Khirbet Qeiyafa, Links to interesting stuff, Museums | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Jerusalem Discoveries: New stone courses for Western Wall, theater-type structure

The IAA has announced new discoveries from excavations under Wilson’s Arch, near the Western Wall in Jerusalem. The press release includes interesting details and I encourage you to read it.

Some excerpts and photos:

“Eight stone courses of the Western Wall that had been buried under an 8-meter layer of earth were recently uncovered in excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority in the Western Wall Tunnels in Jerusalem.  These stone courses, completely preserved, are built of massive stones and are outstanding in the quality of their construction.

“Furthermore, after the removal of this layer of soil, the archaeologists were surprised to discover that it covered the remnants of an extraordinary theater-like structure from the Roman period… Apparently, a great deal was invested in the construction of the theater which contained approximately 200 seats.”

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Dr. Joe Uziel of the Israel Antiquities Authority, sitting on the steps of the theater structure. (Photograph: Yaniv Berman, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority)

The new stone courses match the level of others in the Western Wall tunnels. Having been buried for so many centuries, these are better preserved than the exposed stones at the Western Wall. They show typical massive, high-quality Herodian masonry.

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Eight courses of the Western Wall were discovered in the excavation. (Photograph: Yaniv Berman, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority)

I suggest watching this short video to see exactly what they found.

Wilson’s Arch is visible inside a synagogue to the left (north) of  the Western Wall plaza today. The larger archway in this photo is the synagogue entrance.

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Wilson’s Arch is inside the larger of the two archways in this photo. The archway visible here is currently the entrance to a synagogue. Wilson’s Arch dominates the view inside when you look up. 2,000 years ago, Wilson’s Arch supported a bridge leading to the Temple Mount. (photo by Luke Chandler)

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The Western Wall and the Western Wall Tunnels – general view. (Photograph: Yaniv Berman, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

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The Western Wall is among the most familiar sights to visitors of modern Jerusalem. The new discoveries were found under the structures immediately to the left of the plaza. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Western Wall plaza excavations

Most visitors today do not see this view. The Western Wall plaza clearly sits on top of the past. For years, archaeologists have been excavating below visitors’ and worshippers’ feet. A street from 2nd-century Jerusalem is easily visible near the bottom left of this photo. (photo by Luke Chandler)

Not surprisingly, there are plans to open this new area to tourists. Perhaps it will be ready in time for my May, 2018 tour?

Update: Leen Ritmeyer has images on his blog  showing how Wilson’s Arch appeared with the Temple Mount some 2,000 years ago. He also has an impressive photo of Wilson’s Arch inside the modern synagogue by the Western Wall.

Posted in Ancient Architecture, archaeologists, Biblical Archaeology, Jerusalem, New Discoveries, Short videos | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment