Blank Parchment Found in Clay Jar — Bible Scholars Elated

Okay, none of the stories that recently appeared on the web about a recent discovery in the Judean desert bore quite the headline above, but it’s not too far off from the tone of some of the reports. As posted on the National Geographic website among other places, archaeologists have found a twelfth cave in addition to the eleven previously excavated near the famous ruins in the vicinity of the Wadi (i.e., “dry stream-bed”) Qumran, a stone’s throw from the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. Inside the cave these excavators found the remains of ancient clay jars, the pickaxes used to smash them in the mid-twentieth century by previous (and less … [Read more...]

Learn about Ancient Roman Bath Houses

An important and interesting event during the March 9-20, 2016 Israel archaeological study tour was restoration work on the third century A. D. Roman bath house at Tamar. Tamar is an ancient site, 40 km. southwest of the Dead Sea, on the edge of the Arabah Valley in the Negev Desert of Israel. A large fortress was located there in Roman times, part of the Roman limes, border fortresses on the edge of Arabia and the limit of Roman control in the eastern part of the empire. An interesting, and ubiquitous, aspect of Roman culture was the construction of bath houses wherever in the empire Romans lived and congregated. The one at Tamar is … [Read more...]

“He Was Covered with Every Precious Gemstone” (Ezekiel 28:13)

There have been three previous blog posts dealing with the first three courses of stones of the high priestly breastplate in Exodus 28. We will now look at the fourth, and final, row of stones (plus you can watch two video presentations of me recapping all gemstones). These are the taršîš, the šōham, and the yašpeh stones. I will try to demonstrate how the use of ancient languages can help us identify these gemstones with their modern counterpart.   … [Read more...]

Raiders of the Lost Ark or History Channel?

For the first time, “Biblical Archaeology” was taught as a full-term, credit class at Austin Grad in the spring of 2016 (previously, the class had been taught as a directed study). Another first was the archaeological study tour of Israel in the middle of the semester in conjunction with the class. Students learned the history, methods, and controversies surrounding archaeological excavations in Israel, then those who went on the tour got to see the archaeological sites ”up close and personal.” One of the misconceptions about archaeology is that it is a romantic adventure in the Middle East, filled with intrigue and amazing discoveries. … [Read more...]

Spring Break in Jerusalem: Austin Grad’s ’16 Archaeological Study Tour

  The 2016 archaeological study tour of Israel is over, and to hear from the students, church members, and family members who went, it was a resounding success! I have taken groups to Israel since 2004. This one was extremely memorable, in that it was the first time my wife Sheree went with me. It was very brief (only 10 days), but packed with many sites and activities, and we engaged in archaeological work in southern Israel of a type I had never done before: restoration of a Roman bath house and excavation of a Byzantine era synagogue! More of this below, but perhaps a few words about the history of this work are in order first. … [Read more...]

Tel Tamar and Solomon: What Is the Evidence?

Aerial view of Iron Age and Roman Tamar “Archaeology is one part survey, one part excavation, one part documentation, and one part fantasy!” This is the definition given to me by Yigal Israel, an Israeli archaeologist, a few years ago, setting the record straight about the objective and subjective elements in archaeological work. Archaeology is sort of the “hard science” of the biblical field, that is, it relies on physical evidence (artifacts, stratified layers of earth, inscriptions, etc.) in order to make interpretive judgments. Archaeology is, however, not completely “hard.” Archaeology is mute. It cannot interpret itself. Many people … [Read more...]