Monday, October 22, 2007

In the news:Israeli archaeologists overseeing contested Jerusalem dig find link to first Jewish Temple

Israeli archaeologists overseeing contested Jerusalem dig find link to first Jewish Temple
The Associated Press Published: October 21, 2007

Israeli archaeologists overseeing a contested dig at Jerusalem's holiest site for Muslims and Jews stumbled upon a sealed archaeological level dating back to the era of the first biblical Jewish temple, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Sunday.

Islamic authorities responsible for the Old City compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, said the dig was part of infrastructure work at the site to replace 40-year-old electrical cables. But the Islamic Trust denied that any discovery was made, or that any Israeli archaeologists were supervising the work.

On Sunday, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced that it had discovered fragments of ceramic table wares and animal bones dating back to the first Jewish temple — from the 6th to the 10th centuries B.C.

The finds also included fragments of bowl rims, bases and body sherds, the base and handle of a small jug and the rim of a storage jar, the agency said in a statement.

The site represents the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It houses both the Al Aqsa Mosque and the gold-capped Dome of the Rock, Islam's third-holiest shrine, built over the ruins of both biblical Jewish temples. Archaeological digs for a renovation project earlier this year by Israeli authorities next to the holy site sparked protests by Muslims.

Jon Seligman, Jerusalem regional archaeologist for the Antiquities Authority, said the find was significant since it could help scholars in reconstructing the dimensions and boundaries of the Temple Mount during the first temple period.

"The layer is a closed, sealed archaeological layer that has been undisturbed since the 8th century B.C.," he said.

But the Public Committee Against the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount, a group of Israeli archaeologists, downplayed the findings, saying the dig was conducted in an unprofessional manner without proper documentation. The group previously condemned the maintenance works, which included using a tractor to dig a trench, charging that digging at such a sensitive site could damage Bible-era relics and erase evidence of the presence of the biblical structures.

"I think it is a smoke screen for the ruining of antiquities," said Eilat Mazar, a member of the committee.

Seligman said the maintenance work was necessary to accommodate the thousands of worshippers who flock daily to the site. He said no damage was caused to the site and added that the discovery was merely a pleasant surprise.

"That's what makes this (archaeology) so interesting," he said. "You never know what you are going to find. It is always a bit of an adventure."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Archaeology and the Bible: The House of Yahweh Ostracon

House of Yahweh ostracon

The House of Yahweh Ostracon(pottery)

What is it?
*A tax receipt measuring 8.6 centimeters high, 10.9 centimeters wide

*It dates to Approximately the 9th—7th centuries BCE

*Earliest artifact that most likely mentions Solomons temple


L1 According to your order, Ashya-
L2 hu the king, to give by the hand
L3 of [Z]ekaryahu silver of Tar-
L4 shish for the house of Yahweh
L5 3 shekels

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Seal of Baalis

Seal of Baalis, the Ammonite king

Seal of Baalis the Ammonite

Bible Reference

Jer 40:14 and they say unto him, `Dost thou really know that Baalis king of the sons of Ammon hath sent Ishmael son of Nethaniah to smite thy soul?' And Gedaliah son of Ahikam hath not given to them credence. (ASV)

Monday, October 8, 2007

Archaeology and the Bible 32: The Erastus inscription

In a letter to a congregation in Rome from Corinth in 57 AD, Paul wrote a list of personal greetings at the end of the letter, in whuch he says, 'Erastus, the city treasurer, sends you his greetings...'

An inscription on a pavement was discovered form the ancient ruins of Corinth in 1929 which most likely refers to this Erastus.

The pavement was laid about A.D. 50.

The inscription reads:


One translation is :

Erastus, commissioner of public works [aedile], laid this pavement at his own expense.

The Erastus Inscription

Archaeology and the Bible 31: The pool of Bethseada

Reference in the Bible

Joh 5:2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porches.
Joh 5:3 In these lay a multitude of them that were sick, blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water
You can see the five porches in the above images

Archaeology and the bible 30 : The Nash Papyrus

The Nash Papyrus
About the Nash Papyrus

*The Nash Papyrus is a collection of four papyrus fragments acquired in Egypt in 1898 by W. L. Nash and subsequently presented to Cambridge University Library. They were first described by Stanley A. Cook in 1903.

*Though dated by Stanley Cook to the 2nd century AD, subsequent assesments have pushed the date of the fragments back to about 150-100 BCE.

*The papyrus was by far the oldest Hebrew manuscript fragment known at that time, before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947.

*Twenty four lines long, with a few letters missing at each edge, , the papyrus contains the Ten Commandments in Hebrew, followed by the start of the Shema Yisrael prayer.


1 [ . I am Jalhwe thy God that [brought] thee out of
the land of E[gypt:]
2 [thou shalt not hav]e other gods be[fore] me. Thou
shalt not make [for thyself an image]
3 [or any form] that is in the heavens above, or that is in
the earth [beneath,]
4 [or that is in the waters beneath the earth. Thou shalt
not bow down to them [nor]
5 [serve them, for] I am Jahwe thy God, a jealous God
visiting the iniquity]
6 [of fathers upon sons to the third and to the fourth
generation unto them that hate me, [and doing]
7 [kindness unto thousands] unto them that love me and
keep my commandments. Thou shalt [not]
8 [take up the name of Jahwe] thy God in vain, for Jahwe
will not hold guiltless [him that]
9 [taketh up his name in vain. Remember the day of the
Sabbath [to hallow it:]
10 [six days thou shalt work and do all thy business, and
on the [seventh day,]
11 a Sabbath for Jahwe] thy God, thou shalt not do therein
any business, [thou]
12 [and thy son and thy daughter,] thy slave and thy
handmaid, thy ox and thy ass and all thy [cattle,]
13 [and thy stranger that is] in thy gates. For six days
did Ja[hwe make]
14 [the heaven]s and the earth, the sea and all th[at is
15 and he rested [on the] seventh day; therefore Jahwe
blessed [the]
16 seventh day and hallowed it. Honour thy father and
thy mother, that]
17 it may be well with thee and that thy days may be long
upon the ground [that]
18 Jahwe thy God giveth thee. Thou shalt not do adultery.
Thou shalt not do murder. Thou shalt [not]
19 [st]eal. Thou shalt not [bear] against thy neighbour
vain witness. Thou shalt not covet [the]
20 [wife of thy neighbour. Thou shalt] not desire the house
of thy neighbour, his field, or his slave,]
21 [or his handmaid, or his o]x, or his ass, or anything that
is thy neighbour's. [Blank]
22 [(?) And these are the statutes and the judgements that
Moses commanded the [sons of]
23 [Israel] in the wilderness, when they went forth from
the land of Egypt. Hea[r]
24 [0 Isra]el: Jahwe our God, Jahwe is one; and thou
shalt love]
25 [Jahwe thy G]o[d with al]1 t[hy heart ... . ].

In the news: Statues discovered at Ebla

DAMASCUS, ( SANA) _ Italian renowned Archaeologist Paulo Mattieh on Thursday shed light on the most important archaeological discoveries that the Italian expedition team at the ancient site of Ebla Kingdom had discovered.

" Statues of two women in the royal palace were discovered, the first statue is made of silver and wood and the second one is made of limestone, wood and gold." Matieh said in a press conference at the Damascene hall in Damascus national museum.

He added that two other statues, cylindrical seal of gilt edges belongs to an important figure were unearthed in one of the palace's rooms which dates back to the Akkadi age. A clay that is an economic text was also founded in another room in the palace.

Professor Mattieh noted that the exploration works that were carried out at the royal palace, specially in the temple area, helped in knowing important information and finding integrated buildings that date back to 1600-1800 B.C., the period of fall of Ebla Kingdom.

" The rock temple, as the mission called it, where the work of excavations started in 2004 , now has become an integrated and well preserved on 3,5 meters high and can be considered as traditionally. It represents the pre-classical period in Syria 2400 B.C.
Awaiting pictures!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Jewish interpretations of Isaiah 53

Those that are in favour of a messiah:

Maimonides, a letter to Yemen, 12th century

What is to be the manner of Messiah's advent, and where will be the place of his appearance? . . . And Isaiah speaks similarly of the time when he will appear, without his father or mother of family being known, He came up as a sucker before him, and as a root out of the dry earth, etc. But the unique phenomenon attending his manifestation is, that all the kings of the earth will be thrown into terror at the fame of him -- their kingdoms will be in consternation, and they themselves will be devising whether to oppose him with arms, or to adopt some different course, confessing, in fact, their inability to contend with him or ignore his presence, and so confounded at the wonders which they will see him work, that they will lay their hands upon their mouth; in the words of Isaiah, when describing the manner in which the kings will hearken to him, At him kings will shut their mouth; for that which had not been told them have they seen, and that which they had not heard they have perceived.

The Babylonian Talmud

The Messiah -- what is his name?...The Rabbis say, the leprous one; those of the house of Rabbi say, the sick one, as it is said, "Surely he hath borne our sicknesses." (Sanhedrin 98b)

Rabbi Moshe Kohen ibn Crispin, Spanish 15th-century rabbi

"This passage, the commentators explain, speaks of the captivity of Israel, although the singular number is used in it throughout. Others have supposed it to mean the just in this present world, who are crushed and oppressed now... but these too, for the same reason, by altering the number, distort the verses from their natural meaning. And then it seemed to me that...having forsaken the knowledge of our Teachers, and inclined "after the stubbornness of their own hearts," and of their own opinion, I am pleased to interpret it, in accordance with the teaching of our Rabbis, of the King Messiah."

Nachmanides (R. Moshe ben Nachman)(13th c.)

The right view respecting this Parashah is to suppose that by the phrase "my servant" the whole of Israel is meant. . . .As a different opinion, however, is adopted by the Midrash, which refers it to the Messiah, it is necessary for us to explain it in conformity with the view there maintained. The prophet says, The Messiah, the son of David of whom the text speaks, will never be conquered or perish by the hands of his enemies. And, in fact the text teaches this clearly. . . .
And by his stripes we were healed -- because the stripes by which he is vexed and distressed will heal us; God will pardon us for his righteousness, and we shall be healed both from our own transgressions and from the iniquities of our fathers.

Driver and Neubauer, pp. 78 ff.

R. Sh'lomoh Astruc (14th c.)

My servant shall prosper, or be truly intelligent, because by intelligence man is really man -- it is intelligence which makes a man what he is. And the prophet calls the King Messiah my servant, speaking as one who sent him. Or he may call the whole people my servant, as he says above my people (lii. 6): when he speaks of the people, the King Messiah is included in it; and when he speaks of the King Messiah, the people is comprehended with him. What he says then is, that my servant the King Messiah will prosper.
Driver and Neubauer, p. 129.
Those that are in faovur of the verse being symbolic of the jewish nation (add to later)

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Archaeology & Bible 26: The Dead Sea Scrolls


*Discovered between 1947 and 1956 by Jordanian bedouins in eleven caves along the Northwest shore of the dead sea

*13 miles east of Jerusalem and 1,300 feet below sea level

*The Scrolls appear to be the library of a Jewish sect (most likely the essenes*) which was hidden away in caves around the outbreak of the Jewish-Roman War (66 C.E.). Archaeological evidence indicates the settlement had been inhabited since about 150 B.C.E.

*comprised of the remains of approximately 825 to 870 separate scrolls, represented by tens of thousands of fragments

*The texts are most commonly made of animal skins, but also papyrus and one of copper

*Most of the texts are written in Hebrew and Aramaic, with a few in Greek.

Biblical manuscripts:

*Frangments of every book of the old testament except Esther

*Virtually complete Isaiah scroll which has been referred to as the "Great Isaiah scroll". Has been carbon dated to a range of 335 BC-107 BC.

Other Material

*Commetaries on the Hebrew scriptures

*Community rules

*Apocryphal texts

*Psalm like material of the community

*Commnity wisdom texts


*Perhaps the literature of the essene commuity

*Shows hightened messianic expectaions in the 1st century BCE and early first century, and interpretations of books such as Isaiah

*Shows the book of Daniel to have been in wide circulation in the 1st Century BCE. A wide circulation by this time leads credance to an early composition date

* Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest Hebrew manuscripts of the Bible were Masoretic texts dating to 9th century.The biblical manuscripts found among the Dead Sea Scrolls push that date back to the 2nd century BCE.

Useful Links

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Archaeology Series #25: The Jeremiah Tablet


Nebo-Sarsekim Tablet also called the Jeremiah tablet is a clay cuneiform inscription (2.13 inches; 5.5 cm) in the collection of the British Museum dated to circa 595 BC, referring to an official at the court of Nebuchadrezzar II, king of Babylon.

Archaeologists unearthed the tablet in the ancient city of Sippar (about a mile from modern Baghdad) in the 1870s. The museum acquired it in 1920, but it had remained in storage unpublished until Michael Jursa (associate professor at the University of Vienna) made the discovery in 2007 with the following translation of the inscription:

[Regarding] 1.5 minas (0.75 kg) of gold, the property of Nabu-sharrussu-ukin, the chief eunuch, which he sent via Arad-Banitu the eunuch to [the temple] Esangila: Arad-Banitu has delivered [it] to Esangila. In the presence of Bel-usat, son of Alpaya, the royal bodyguard, [and of] Nadin, son of Marduk-zer-ibni. Month XI, day 18, year 10 [of] Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.
Jeremiah 39:3

And all the princes of the king of Babylon proceeded to come in and sit down in the Middle Gate, [namely,] Ner´gal-shar·e´zer, Sam´gar, ne´bo Sar´se·chim, Rab´sa·ris, Ner´gal-shar·e´zer the Rab´mag and all the rest of the princes of the king of Babylon.