Thursday, September 17, 2009

New Series: Ancient Context, Ancient Faith

I recently received from the publisher two books in a new series that will be of interest to readers here. The series is entitled “Ancient Context, Ancient Faith,” and the first two books in the series were released this summer. The writer of both of these books is Gary M. Burge, but it’s not clear to me if he will author the entire series.

Both books are very attractive and once you pick the books up, you’ll immediately be impressed by the beautiful maps and photos (disclosure: some are mine). I like the books’ handy size, layout, and logical presentation of these important subjects. burge

The Bible and the Land. I’ve taught a course similarly titled (flip the order of the words) for years, but this book is not a historical geography of Israel. Instead, you get a sense for the contents from the one word titles of the chapters: Introduction, Land, Wilderness, Shepherds, Rock, Water, Bread, Names. These are subjects that are often not carefully dealt with in a Bible atlas, geography course, or tour of Israel, but are very much part of the fabric of the biblical world.

Jesus, the Middle Eastern Storyteller. This book is dedicated to Kenneth E. Bailey, “who taught me [Burge] how to read a parable.” Those familiar with Bailey’s excellent work will see similarities, even in the fact that all but one of the parables studied are from the Gospel of Luke. Like Bailey, Burge seeks a more accurate understanding of Jesus’ parables by considering cultural elements from the 1st century land of Israel. The chapter titles indicate the parables included: the Friend Who Came at Midnight, Stories about Excuses, Stories about Compassion, Stories of Forgiveness (Matt 18), Finding the Lost, and the Foolish Builder.

The books are not long (c. 100 pages each), and they quite possibly will whet your appetite for deeper study. I think that many will find them welcome gifts for birthdays or Christmas. More advanced readers will want to continue with Bailey’s latest work, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels.

Another beautiful book that came out this year that was co-authored by Burge is The New Testament in Antiquity, which was positively reviewed a few days ago by my colleague at The Master’s College, Dr. William Varner, on his new blog.


Friday, September 04, 2009

Recommended Book: Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus

This summer I read a book sent to me by one of the authors that I am happy to recommend to my readers here. Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus is subtitled “How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith.” The essence of the book is to reveal aspects of Jewish life that inform how we (should) read the New Testament. feetrabbi

Ann Spangler teamed up with Lois Tverberg to write an engaging study of first-century customs that would have been familiar to Jesus and his disciples, but are unknown to most readers today. The book includes chapters focusing on rabbis and disciples, education, prayer, blessings, Jewish feasts, Torah, and the kingdom of God. The appendices and glossary provide much helpful information.

Quite a bit of work has been done in the last few decades in the area of Jewish backgrounds of the New Testament, but much of it I cannot recommend. This book distinguishes itself in several ways. First, the research upon which the book is based is trustworthy. I don’t agree with every bit of analysis, but they use the best sources. Second, while the first point would lead you to expect that this is a “scholarly” work, it is, in fact, written to a popular audience and the writing style is superb. Third, the book is not an academic exercise, but the writers are very interested that their discoveries impact the reader’s faith and daily life. Altogether, these three realities combine to make an excellent book.

There were a few things I would change, and I note these more as testimony that I carefully read the whole book than to affect my positive endorsement. I haven’t read too many books that were co-authored, but these writers often told personal stories and the use of the first-person singular (“I”) sometimes felt awkward. Another issue was the way that a chapter would end so that it led to the next chapter. Perhaps it was the intervening page-long study/thought questions that made the transitions not work as well as I think they were intended. Theologically, I am more and more uncomfortable with the way that the definition of the “kingdom” is derived from later church history than from Jesus’ Bible, but the authors can certainly claim to belong to a larger subset of modern Christianity in this regard than I do.

Brief quotations cannot communicate the argument of a book, but as they may give a sense for the tone, I include a few below:

“Instead of making our hearts burn, sometimes Scripture makes us scratch our head in confusion” (12).

“One day, when the presiding rabbi was having trouble generating group discussion, he fired off question after question, finally tossing out a provocative comment to stir things up. But still the group was silent. Exasperated, the rabbi exclaimed, ‘Come on people! Somebody disagree with me! How can we learn anything if no one will disagree?” (29)

“When Jesus called himself a ‘shepherd’ in John 10, he was hinting at his identity as the messianic king, the future ruler of God’s kingdom” (46).

“While the Gospels record many instances of Jesus instantly healing people’s illnesses, we know of not even one instance in which he simply waved his hand to immediately fix an ugly habit for one of his disciples. Instead, he simply kept teaching and correcting them, giving them time to grow” (56).

Of all the popular “Jewish background of Jesus” books that I have read, this one was the best.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

New Moody Atlas

Another excellent atlas has been revised and is due out October 1 of this year.  The second edition of Barry Beitzel’s work is entitled The New Moody Atlas of the Bible and, according to the description, its “one hundred thousand words provide useful commentary for more than ninety detailed maps of Palestine, the Mediterranean, the Near East, the Sinai, and Turkey.”  I have long used the first edition of this atlas as required preparatory reading for seminary courses in Israel.  To give but one example, Beitzel’s discussion of climate in the Holy Land is excellent. 

Since I mentioned the cover photos on another atlas recently, I’ll say here that I like two of the three images selected.  The Capernaum synagogue and the Caesarea aqueduct are not only interesting visually, but they have a connection to the biblical record.  My preference would be to avoid shots, especially close-ups, of the Dome of the Rock on the cover of a book about the Bible.  But I understand why design artists are attracted to it.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Zondervan Atlas, Revised Edition

I just stumbled across an Amazon listing for Carl Rasmussen’s revised edition of the (now titled) Zondervan Atlas of the Bible.  I’ve long used and recommended Rasmussen’s first edition (NIV Atlas of the Bible, 1989) and have no doubt that the second will be even better.  It does seem that the publishers could have chosen a more appropriate cover photo for a Bible atlas than an image of the Nabatean tombs at Petra.  Amazon has it for pre-order for $26, with a scheduled release of March 2010.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

OT Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary Set

The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary Set: Old Testament is scheduled to be released in November. This five-volumeZondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary Set set provides textual and pictorial commentary on every book of the Old Testament. Edited by John H. Walton, the set is 3,000 pages long and includes more than 2,000 photographs. I have not yet seen it advertised, so I thought I’d mention it here. Amazon currently has the best price at $157 (list: $250). The New Testament set came out in 2002.

UPDATE (8/26): The Koinonia blog (Zondervan) has been running a series of excerpts from this series since January.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

New Photo CDs: The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection

I am very excited to announce the release of a new photo collection from and  The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection includes more than 4,000 high-resolution photographs taken by professional photographers living in Jerusalem from 1898 until the 1940s.  I’ve worked with a team for the last five years organizing and improving this collection so that the photos are the highest quality, accurately identified, carefully organized, and elucidated by observations of well-known 19th-century explorers.

The collection spans 8 CD volumes and is being released one volume a month beginning this week.  Volume 1 is “Northern Palestine,” and it includes 600 photos organized in the following categories:

  • Acco (11 photos)
  • Benjamin (43 photos)
  • Caesarea (31 photos)
  • Caesarea Philippi (14 photos)Northern Palestine CD cover
  • Ephraim and Manasseh (34 photos)
  • Galilee Hill Country (20 photos)
  • Haifa (27 photos)
  • Huleh Basin (12 photos)
  • Jaffa (51 photos)
  • Jezreel Valley (47 photos)
  • Mount Carmel (15 photos)
  • Mount Hermon (20 photos)
  • Mount Tabor (12 photos)
  • Nazareth (32 photos)
  • Samaria city (19 photos)
  • Sea of Galilee (41 photos)
  • Sea of Galilee, Capernaum (31 photos)
  • Sea of Galilee, Tabgha (15 photos)
  • Sea of Galilee, Tiberias (39 photos) – free PowerPoint here
  • Sharon Plain (17 photos)
  • Shechem area (22 photos)
  • Tel Aviv (43 photos)

All images are included in high-resolution jpg format as well as in annotated PowerPoint files.  The cost for the CD is now only $20, with free shipping in the U.S.  While volumes 2-8 are not yet available individually, the complete collection is available in DVD format for $99.

I believe this is the finest collection of historic photographs of the Middle East available anywhere in any format.

You can read more about the collection here:

Volume 1: Northern Palestine

Complete Collection: Volumes 1-8

As with everything we do, the goal is your complete satisfaction.  If you don’t like it or need it, return it for a full refund.  If you do like it, we would really appreciate it if you’d pass the word on.  Review copies are available by request.

I plan to post on this blog some interesting images from the CD over the next few weeks.

Nazareth and Mt Tabor, mat05532 Nazareth with Mount Tabor in the distance
Date: between 1900-1920

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

New Book: Eilat Mazar, The Palace of King David

The first preliminary report of Eilat Mazar’s excavations of the City of Davidmazar_palace is provocatively entitled, The Palace of King David.  The cover art shows an artist’s reconstruction of the palace, based on far more than what Mazar has excavated in her first three seasons.  The 100-page work is subtitled Excavations at the Summit of the City of David: Preliminary Report of Seasons 2005-2007, and it is to be published by Shoham Academic Research and Publication in 2009.  Eisenbrauns has it available for pre-order for $22.50.

The publisher’s description is as follows:

The preliminary report of the excavations at the top of the City of David hill in 2005-2007 summarizes the main findings from the Chalcolithic (the 5th millenium [sic] BCE) through the early Islamic (the 11th century CE) periods and presents initial conclusions of great importance to the study of the ancient history of Jerusalem.

UPDATE (8/10): The book is now shipping.

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Qumran Virtual Model

A fantastic resource is newly available for those studying or teaching about the Dead Sea Scrolls.  You may remember the virtual model of the Temple Mount that UCLA created some years ago.  You can tour this by special arrangement at the Davidson Center in Jerusalem or at the UCLA Visualization Portal.  Their latest project is a virtual model of Qumran, home to the Essenes whose library is now famous.

A realtime virtual tour is not yet available online, but UCLA has produced about 50 still shots (ideal for PowerPoint), and eight videos, either in HD or on YouTube.

It is resources like these which pose serious threats to any students’ attempts to catch up on sleep during class.

HT: Ferrell Jenkins

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Monday, June 29, 2009

New DVD: Jericho Unearthed

Expedition Bible has just released a new DVD entitled “Jericho Unearthed.”  Filmed on location, the video features interviews with archaeologists who argue for and against the site’s destruction by the Israelites as described in the book of Joshua.  From the website:jericho_unearthed

The battle of Jericho is one of the most enduring biblical stories.  The description of the “walls falling down” is among its most well-known accounts.   Yet, the most famous excavation of this ancient site, carried out in the 1950's under the direction of Kathleen Kenyon, claims that there wasn’t even a city at Jericho—much less city walls—at the time when Joshua supposedly conquered it. 

What are the implications of the battle of Jericho being disproven?  Wouldn’t the Bible be demonstrated untrustworthy? Couldn’t it be argued that the Jewish people have no more right to the land of Israel than anyone else? The implications really are staggering!

For more than fifty years scholars have built a wall of doubt against the historical accuracy of the Bible using Jericho as one of its cornerstones. It’s time to face those challenges head on!  It’s time to determine whether or not the conclusions of modern scholarship stand in light of the evidence or if those arguments don’t in fact collapse like Jericho’s walls. 

You can view the trailer here, or order the DVD from Amazon for $7.  I haven’t seen the video itself, but based upon the previous work of Expedition Bible, I would expect that this is the best resource available on the subject.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Great Deal: Context of Scripture, 3 volumes

The best reference for ancient Near Eastern texts related to the Bible is the The Context of Scripture, edited by Hallo and Younger.  This three-volume work is superior to Pritchard’s ANET in many ways.  Unfortunately, it is published by Brill and thus is very expensive.cos

Eisenbrauns has an outstanding deal on the complete set in paperback.  Instead of $310, it is available this weekend only for $124 (plus shipping). 

If you miss the sale, each volume is available at Amazon for $200-300 each (1, 2, 3).  Or you can get the set in Libronix (electronic) format for $299.95.

If anyone has volume 1 in hardback and wants to sell or trade, send me an email (tbolen91 at bibleplaces dot com).


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Weekend Roundup (5/26/09)

Logos is set to release a new product entitled “1,000 Bible Images.”  The projected ship date is June 2, which means that the pre-publication price of $20 will soon expire.  From the screenshots, it appears that the illustrations are all black-and-white line drawings.  The collection’s description begins:

Now you can literally see the people, places, and events of the Bible text—right in front of your eyes! Bring your study of the Bible to life with this collection of 1,000 images, drawings, and illustrations—all produced by professional artists under the supervision of biblical scholars, in association with the German Bible Society. This vivid artwork shows the biblical sites, religious objects, plants and animals, archaeological findings, scenes from daily life in the Bible, and much more! As reliable documentation of biblical life, these images often give a better illustration and explanation than the text itself can give.

If you’ve ever considered a trip to Israel with young children, this NY Times article provides some ideas for what to do.  Depending on the length of your visit and where you call home, I would make a few more suggestions: Hai Bar Animal Reserve, Timna Park with the Tabernacle Model, snorkeling in Eilat, the Armored Corps Museum at Latrun, Mini-Israel, a canoe ride on the Jordan River, a beach on the Mediterranean such as Ashkelon, and yes, Yad VaShem.

Hiking in the Judean wilderness can be great fun, but if you do it, take all precautions.  Every year someone loses their life, and this weekend it was a 22-year-old hiking all alone.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

For Biblical Maps, Start Here

By “here,” I mean Mark Vitalis Hoffman’s excellent summary of “Digital Resources for Biblical Mapping.”  Mark has done a fantastic job in the last couple of years of helping Bible teachers with electronic resources.  You can stay up-to-date with the latest fruits of his labor at his blog, Biblical Studies and Technological Tools

Mark has a variety of resources from his website Scroll and Screen (including a roundup of resource for biblical photos), and your favorite section will probably depend upon your particular interest, but truly outstanding and unique (as far as I know) is the listing of maps related to the biblical world.  As you’ll see, there is no “one-size-fits all” for biblical maps (as there is, ahem, for biblical photos), and that’s what makes such an annotated survey so very helpful.  Enjoy, and if you have feedback from your experience with these resources, I’m sure that Mark would be happy to hear it.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

New Website: Life and Land

My friend Gordon Franz has (finally) created his own website.  I’ve been pointing people for years to various articles that Gordon has written and he is now making them conveniently available in one place:  Some of the articles that may be of particular interest to readers of this blog include:

Does “The Lost Shipwreck of Paul” Hold Water? – A critique of the theory of Robert Cornuke.

Mount Sinai is Not at Jebel Al-Lawz in Saudi Arabia (and parts 2 and 3) – A careful refutation of the theory of Ron Wyatt that has captivated many gullible Bible believers.

Did the BASE Institute Discover Noah’s Ark in Iran? – The historical and geographical problems with a recent theory promoted in Christian circles.

The So-Called Jesus Family Tomb “Rediscovered” in Jerusalem – A lengthy analysis of the Talpiyot tomb that recent movie producers have claimed belonged to Jesus of Nazareth.

And much more.

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

60% off: Excavations at Capernaum, Vol. 1

Today only (and maybe also May 7 am?) at Eisenbrauns:

Excavations at Capernaum, Volume 1: 1978-1982, edited by V. Tzaferis, Eisenbrauns, 1989.

List Price: $99.50
Your Price: $39.80
You save: $59.70 (60%)

This is the first of the final reports on the excavations conducted by Israel's Department of Antiquities and Museums, the Greek Orthodox Church, Notre Dame University, Averett College and Southwest Missouri State University at the site owned by the capernaum_book Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The first five seasons have yielded not only much ceramic and numismatic material, but also a rather satisfactory stratigraphic sequence, providing a continuity of some 400 years, from the early 7th century to the early 11th century A.D. The findings are illustrated by eight full-color plates and 14 foldout plans.

These findings are of special importance for their contributions to Late Byzantine and Early Arab pottery, and Umayyad gold coins and for the new light they shed on literary evidence pertaining to Capernaum.


Friday, May 01, 2009

Book Deal Today: Ancient Place Names (Elitzur)

Eisenbrauns’ Deal of the Day is:

Ancient Place Names in the Holy Land: Preservation and History, by Yoel Elitzur (2004). List Price: $65; Today: $26 (60% off)

The book description begins:

That many ancient toponyms in the Holy Land have survived for thousands of years, right up to modern times, is a remarkable and unique phenomenon, ELIANCIENunparalleled in neighboring countries, such as Egypt, Mesopotamia, or Asia Minor. Preserved toponymy provides a basis for research in the historical geography of the country and is also of major importance for studies in the history of Hebrew and Aramaic, being a kind of ancient “recording” of an archaic linguistic inventory. In addition, it has many implications for a wide variety of other scholarly fields, such as Bible studies, Rabbinics, Qumran and Samaritan studies, early Christianity, Arabic and Islam. This reserve of preserved place-names is therefore frequently consulted and used by scholars for their purposes.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Survey of Western Palestine

In this month’s BiblePlaces Newsletter, I commented on the tremendous value of the Survey of Western Palestine (published in the 1880s).  Unfortunately these dozen (or so) volumes are very expensive in reprint form (about $6,000), and it is almost impossible to find the originals for sale.  In about a decade of active searching, I think I’ve only seen it for sale once.  But this week, another copy popped up.  You’ll have to travel to the Netherlands or pay a good bit for shipping, but it’s currently for sale for about $7,000.  That includes the 26 sheets of the map, which itself costs about half of that (when it is available). 

Many of the volumes are now available for free online in pdf format:

An Introduction to the Survey of Western Palestine: Its Waterways, Plains, & Highlands (1881), by T. Saunders (pdf)

The Survey of Western Palestine: Memoirs of the Topography, Orography, Hydrography, and Archaeology: Galilee (Volume 1) (1881), by C. R. Conder and H. H. Kitchener (pdf)

The Survey of Western Palestine: Memoirs of the Topography, Orography, Hydrography, and Archaeology: Samaria (Volume 2) (1882), by C. R. Conder and H. H. Kitchener (pdf)

The Survey of Western Palestine: Memoirs of the Topography, Orography, Hydrography, and Archaeology: Judea (Volume 3) (1883), by C. R. Conder and H. H. Kitchener (pdf)

The Survey of Western Palestine: Jerusalem (1884), by C. Warren and C. R. Conder (pdf)

The Survey of Western Palestine: The Fauna and Flora of Palestine (1885), by H. B. Tristram (pdf).

The Survey of Western Palestine: Arabic and English Name Lists Collected during the Survey (1881), by E. H. Palmer (pdf)

Not Presently Available:

Special Papers on Topography, Archaeology, Manners and Customs, etc. (1881), by C. Wilson, C. Warren, C. R. Conder, et al.

The Survey of Western Palestine: Memoir on the Physical Geology and Geography of Arabia Petraea (1886), by E. H. Hull

Survey of Eastern Palestine: Topography, Orography, Hydrography and Archaeology: The Adwan Country (1889), by C. R. Conder

Available from

A General Index to The Memoirs, Vols. 1-3; The Special Papers; The Jerusalem Volume; The Flora and Fauna of Palestine; The Geological Survey; and to the Arabic and English Names List (info, pdf)

Map of Western Palestine in 26 Sheets from Surveys Conducted for the Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund, by C. R. Conder and H. H. Kitchener (1880).  The CD edition also includes the map from the Survey of Eastern Palestine (info, order)

Forthcoming from

Excavations at Jerusalem 1867-70 (50 Plates), by C. Warren.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Weekend Roundup

The Jerusalem Post has a tourist article on “Bethsaida.”  The author, a senior fellow at the W. F. Albright Institute in Jerusalem, seems to be completely unaware of the disconnect between the archaeological and textual data that strongly throws into question the excavator’s identification of the site.  HT: Joe Lauer

Richard Freund, rabbi and archaeologist, will lecture in the Houston area on May 31 on “The Ten Greatest Archeological Finds of the Lands of Israel.”

Shimon Gibson has a new book out just in time for Easter, entitled “The Final Days of Jesus: The Archaeological Evidence.”  As the title suggests, this work explores the archaeological information for crucifixion and burial in Jesus’ day. One of the “discoveries” Gibson allegedly makes is that Jesus was on trial not at the Antonia Fortress but at Herod’s Palace, and this becomes the basis for an Easter story by CNN.  DailyMail has a similar story, but with a nice graphic that shows the alternate views.  (Gibson’s view has been held by many scholars for decades.)  I haven’t seen the book, but knowing Gibson’s usually careful work, I expect that this will be a very good resource for Bible students.  A friend tells me that the book has an up-to-date bibliography.

“No city ever made a more dramatic entrance.”  So begins a article in the Wall Street Journal on Petra, the impressive Nabatean city in modern-day Jordan.

UPDATE (4/14): Joe Lauer sends along a few updates of interest to the Shimon Gibson story above.  CNN has a 4.5 minute video with Gibson pointing out some of his discoveries.  Haaretz covers the story and includes a quote by Meir Ben-Dov.  Now before I tell you what it is, I’ll just note that whenever a story has a quote by this “senior archaeologist,” you are almost certain to be correct if you take the opposite view (MBD is like Jimmy Carter in that way).  Ben-Dov says that it is “utter nonsense” that the Antonia Fortress is not located next to the Temple Mount.  But, surely he (and the Haaretz article as a whole) has missed the entire point.  The New Testament says that Jesus was condemned by Pilate at the Praetorium.  The question is not where the Antonia Fortress was, but where the Praetorium was.  Gibson, like many scholars for many decades now, believes that the Praetorium was located at Herod’s Palace, south of the modern-day Jaffa Gate.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

PBS Special: Jerusalem: Center of the World

The 2-hour movie narrates the history of the city. Beginning at 9pm Eastern/Pacific, the documentary is narrated by Ray Suarez, Senior Correspondent, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer. Susan Wunderink of Christianity Today reviews the film:

The film starts with Abraham leaving Ur at a time when Jerusalem was already settled by Canaanite tribes. The documentary embellishes biblical history, adding in traditions that say, for example, that Jerusalem is also where God created Adam. jerusalem_pbs

Suarez goes into the details of the destruction and rebuildings of the Jewish Temple. Jesus' short life is given about 15 minutes of the two-hour run time. For viewers who know what happens up to 70 A.D.—and then nothing—it will fill in some big gaps.

The second half of the film explains how the city came to look as it does today, if you can keep up. Toward the end, the pace picks up as Suarez lists how "the world's most contested piece of real estate" changes hands among multiple Christian and Muslim rulers.

Christians, Muslims, Jews, and others fought, came, and went, sometimes leaving Jerusalem little more than a tourist trap. Mark Twain found it an unappealing, sleepy place when he visited. The Romans, after nearly wiping out the Jewish population, expelled the rest; Saladin's Muslims let them re-settle.

The full review is here. The producer’s website includes a trailer.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Biography of Kathleen Kenyon Reviewed

Kathleen Kenyon was recently the subject of a biography written by Miriam C. Davis.  Dame Kathleen Kenyon: Digging up the Holy Land was reviewed in Haaretz by Magen Broshi, an archaeologist and the former curator of the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem.  His review begins:

She never married, and her friends described her as a person whose world consisted of three loves: archaeology, dogs and gin. Kathleen Kenyon was also the head of a women's college at Oxford. She bombarded the press with anti-Zionist and anti-Israel articles and letters − she thought that the Muslims had preferential rights to the Land of Israel because they had been living there for 1,400 years, whereas the Jews had ruled the land only during the First Temple period (about 400 years) and for another 100 years, during the Hasmonean dynasty. She was, however, one of the most important archaeolokenyon_biography gists ever to dig in the Land of Israel.

That is not a negligible achievement, because more archaeological work has been done in the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, in other words in the State of Israel and the territories, than anywhere else in the world. There is no other country that has been so thoroughly researched, and the number of digs and surveys carried out here is incomparably greater than what has been done in far larger countries. Kenyon is not only one of the most important archaeologists to have worked here (and they number over 1,000), she is also the leading female archaeologist to have worked anywhere (along with the prehistorian Dorothy Garrod).

Broshi looks primarily at the three sites in the Holy Land that she excavated, Samaria, Jericho, and Jerusalem.  Concerning the last:

The final site excavated by Kenyon was Jerusalem, and here she was not so lucky. In effect, the digs there, as they are described in the book, were post-climactic. Despite the huge investment - seven digging seasons between 1961 and 1967 - with up to six sites operating simultaneously, employing hundreds of workers, the results were small in number and also unimportant. One reason for this is that while Jordan was still in charge of the old city, Kenyon was not permitted to work in the areas where other archaeologists - like Benjamin Mazar, who excavated south and southeast of the Temple Mount, and Nahman Avigad, who worked in the Jewish Quarter - later discovered many important finds. (Kenyon's work was restricted because the Waqf Muslim religious trust was opposed to excavations in the Jewish Quarter, since there were Palestinian refugees living there).

The second reason is related to the limitations of her modus operandi, the Wheeler-Kenyon method, which relied on examinations in a limited zone and refrained from exposing a horizontal area. Careful examinations in pits, as meticulous as they may be, are likely to lead to a result similar to that of the Indian fable about the three blind men who fell on an elephant but were unable to identify it correctly: The person who fell on the tail shouted "ropes," the one who encountered the legs declared "planks," and the third, who climbed on the tusks, yelled "swords." Only a dig that exposes a horizontal area is likely to take in the whole "elephant."

The review concludes:

The figure of Kenyon as portrayed in the book is a model of diligence and dedication. The book is based on thorough research, including written and oral testimony. It is well-written and the story is appealing. In my opinion it deserves high praise.

HT: Joe Lauer

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

ESV Study Bible Online Access Free This Month

A month ago I mentioned the value of the maps and illustrations of the ESV Study Bible, including its online version.  Now, through the month of March, the publisher has announced that access to the online version is free for all, with registration.  See the previous post (and here) for more info about the variety of images available.  Go here to register and get started.


Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Legacy of William F. Albright

How quickly one’s legacy can be re-defined.  In his day, William Foxwell Albright was regarded with the highest esteem by scholars in biblical and archaeological studies.  In recent decades, his approach is usually dismissed with an disparaging, how-could-anybody-be-so-naive elevation of the nostrils.  The “Albright School” is equated with everything wrong in biblical archaeology.  Even the term “biblical archaeology” is rejected.  Albright certainly made significant mistakes, but I surmise that fifty years hence, the hindsight of time will prove less gracious to Albright’s critics than to the man himself.

It’s thus refreshing to read a recent appreciation of Albright’s work by Thomas Levy and David Noel Freedman, published at Bible and Interpretation.  Freedman was a student of Albright, and he co-wrote a biography of his teacher in 1975.  The current piece looks like it was prepared for publication, and its copyright attribution to the National Academy of Sciences suggests that it may have been written in connection with Levy’s induction into the academy last year.

I recommend reading the biography, but this article is a good, brief summary of his life and scholarly achievements.  The article includes a chronology of his life and a selected bibliography.  I note some interesting facts from the article to stimulate your interest:

  • Albright’s left hand was crippled in a childhood farm accident.
  • When he was ten years old, he received as a present the History of Babylonia and Assyria, by Professor R. W. Rogers.
  • Albright spent 18 hours a day for three days writing terrifying exams for the Thayer Fellowship on Syriac, Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, and German; Hebrew Bible Literature and Criticism; geography; archaeology; history; and epigraphy.
  • He mastered more than 26 ancient and modern languages.
  • He translated and published a text from the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls ten years before the Qumran scrolls were discovered.

Tell Beit Mirsim, excavating house at east gate, mat05732Albright’s excavations at Tell Beit Mirsim, 1926
Source: Library of Congress, LC-matpc-05732
From a forthcoming collection from


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Bethel Excavations, $2.50, and more

Eisenbrauns, a favorite among many academics working in biblical and Ancient Near Eastern studies, has recently begun a “deal of the day.”  Typically the price reductions are outstanding (60-90% off!), and often the book is of interest.  Today’s offer is The Excavations at Bethel (1934-1960), regularly $35 (or used, $21), today $2.50, which is 93% off.  (Plus $5 shipping.)

For such a deal, there are a few hurdles to overcome.  First, to learn about these daily offers, you should subscribe to the RSS feed.  Unfortunately, the link never seems to work in my (Google) reader.  But when you see a title of interest, you can go to the Eisenbrauns home page and navigate from there.  Second, the description of the volume as related to the excavations of Beth-Zur should be ignored.  Third, the author is not Julie Kelso, but William F. Albright and James L. Kelso.  And fourth, there’s a real question that the excavations are even of Bethel!  Other that that, as they say, everything’s perfect.

I am not trying to provoke an argument about the location of Bethel.  I am not advocating for another location.  I simply suggest that if you read this excavation report you will not find any compelling archaeological evidence that indicates that this site is biblical Bethel.  And in fact, there are serious deficiencies with what was found.  But I am not going to argue against this identification on the basis of the absence of evidence.  I am willing, however, to point out that if this was one of the greatest cities of the northern kingdom and the home of one of the major shrines, one would expect to uncover much more than they did.

A related note.  This is related both to the Bethel/Ai debate and to the incorrect first name of the author of the title.  A few days ago I came across a reference in Richard Hess, Israelite Religions, to two entries in the New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land.  He cited the author of the Ai article as Joseph A. Callaway, but the author of the article of nearby Khirbet Raddana as James A. Callaway.  Unfortunately, his citation follows the original; NEAEH “misspelled” Callaway’s first name.  As far as I can tell, the new Volume 5 does not include an errata.

Speaking of typos, here’s an embarrassing one, on the packaging of the esteemed Anchor Bible Dictionary, no less!  (For non-Hebrew readers, the text on the CD design has the first two words from Genesis, but the letters read from left to right.)

Quibbles aside, every book mentioned in this post is worth buying if these are subjects of interest to you.


Friday, February 27, 2009

1967 Archaeology Movie with Pritchard

In 1967 the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania filmed a 27-minute movie about archaeological work in Jordan and the West Bank.  “The Book and the Spade” gives a general introduction to the value and discipline of archaeology, which includes footage of important biblical sites that are not usually on the itinerary of visitors today, including Hebron, Shechem, and Samaria.  The film naturally focuses more on the excavations sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania, Gibeon and Tell es-Saidiyeh.  The latter site is the subject of the second half, and the one who is patient is rewarded with shots of the on-going excavations and an interview with the archaeologist James B. Pritchard.  Pritchard is probably best known today for his three editions of Ancient Near Eastern Texts, but he made significant contributions in his excavations of Gibeon (1956-62) and Tell es-Saidiyeh (1964-67). The film also documents the construction of a mudbrick house.  Though the movie was slow-moving by today’s standards, I enjoyed seeing many sites the way they were 40 years ago.  You can see the contrast of the excavations in the film with a recent photo below.

Tell es Saidiyeh view of Rift Valley to nw, tb110503948Excavation area of Tell es-Saidiyeh, 2003

Other University of Pennsylvania films that may be of interest to readers of this blog include:

Athens (1939)

Ancient Earth: Making History Everlasting (1940)

Iran (1963)

Windows on the Past (1967)

Turkey (1967)

Jordan (1969)

Cyprus (1969)

And more...

HT: Ferrell Jenkins and Gordon Govier

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Saturday, January 31, 2009

ESV Study Bible Images

A friend recently wrote to ask if I knew how to get higher resolution digital images of the maps and reconstruction diagrams for the new ESV Study Bible. Upon investigating, I realized that he missed one crucial step (see below). But in the process, I was struck by the wealth of visual resources that are available to all who own a copy of this Bible. With the steps below, registered owners can get (what I’d call) medium-resolution images of everything in the Bible. For instance, you get:

  • The City of Nineveh
  • Jerusalem in the Time of David
  • The Tabernacle (about 6 beautiful reconstructions)
  • Solomon’s Temple
  • Jerusalem in the Time of Solomon
  • The City of Jericho
  • Jerusalem in the Time of Hezekiah
  • Zerubbabel’s Temple
  • Jerusalem in the Time of Nehemiah
  • The City of Babylon
  • The Temple Mount in the Time of Jesus
  • Galilean Fishing Boat
  • Herod’s Temple in the Time of Jesus
  • The Tomb of Jesus
  • Herod’s Temple Complex in the Time of Jesus
  • Plus a couple hundred maps and charts.

All you have to do is select the image and right-click to save.

The drawings seem to be 1200 pixels wide and the maps are approximately 1000 pixels on the long side. That’s excellent for computer or projector use. Here are the steps to access them (for registered users):

1. Go to

2. Select “Maps and Charts” on the top bar.

3. Scroll down and select desired image.

4. Within popup window, click graphic. This opens up the image by itself in a larger size. (If you skip this step, you’ll end up with a much lower-resolution image.)

5. Right-click image; “save image as” (or equivalent in a browser other than Firefox).

Then you can view the image on your screen, drop it into a PowerPoint, or print it for your wall. I checked with the publisher to make sure what I’m telling you is allowed and they stated that you may use these images for personal use (i.e., saved on your computer) or ministry use (i.e., projected for teaching purposes), but not reprinted in other materials or posted onto websites or blogs. (For questions or permissions, email Crossway.)

If you don’t own the Bible, you can see and download some free drawings, a map, and a city plan on their blog, plus a few at Amazon.

So for $32, you not only get a really fat book, you also get electronic access to 40 reconstruction diagrams plus 200 full-color maps. I know the market pretty well in this area and I’d suggest that you’re getting your money’s worth just from the digital images. It’s like the printed Bible is thrown in for free.

I use the printed Bible and the online Bible every week for reasons entirely other than what is listed above. You can see more of what keeps me coming back (print and digital) even though I have two shelves of other Bibles.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Photos from Iran, ancient Persia

If you’ve been looking for photos of Iran/Persia, you won’t find any in the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.  Maybe one day I’ll make it there, but I don’t have any plans in the near future.  In the meantime, Stephen Jones has sent a link to a terrific collection of photos on flickr, including Susa, Persepolis, and some from the Iranian National Museum.  The photos include helpful historical descriptions.


Friday, December 05, 2008

Temple Mount Poster in National Geographic

Leen Ritmeyer mentions that the current (December) issue of National Geographic includes a poster supplement of the Temple Mount.  He includes a picture of the poster and tells a little bit about his role in its creation.  He links to the NG website, but I cannot find a way to buy just a single issue.  My guess is that a newstand copy would not include the poster, and that a subscription ($15/year) ordered now would not include this issue.  But if you already have a subscription, don’t discard the poster insert before realizing what a resource you have.

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Monday, December 01, 2008

Bible Times Center and Heritage Garden

Visitors to Israel may remember the Biblical Gardens located at Tantur, founded by Jim Fleming (Biblical Resources).  That wonderful center lost its lease in the late 1990s, and moved to a smaller facility in Ein Karem.  The location was more off the beaten track and the steep decline in tourists that started in late 2000 bode ill for the center.  Several years ago I read that all of its large archaeological replicas were going to be purchased by Bridges for Peace.  The center then “moved” to Georgia (about 70 miles sw of Atlanta), where it provides similar instruction about biblical life and times those who may not be able to travel to Israel.

The facility at Ein Karem has a new tenant carrying out a similar work as its predecessor.  Haaretz reports on the Bible Times Center and Heritage Garden.

Before she moved to Israel, Hannah Trasher used to be a professional fashion designer. Today, she spends most of her days dressed up as an ancient Israelite, sporting sandals, a robe and a turban-like head wrap worn by upper class Jewish women during the Second Temple period.

Two years ago, Thrasher, 57, came from the United States to Ein Kerem, the picturesque village in southwest Jerusalem, to become the executive director of the Bible Times Center and Heritage Garden, which she founded and built largely with her own savings. Nestled in the green hills surrounding the capital and tucked away between small streets and rustic churches, the center allows groups of tourists and curious Israelis, tourists and school children to travel back in time to experience how Jews - and non-Jews - lived in the land of Israel in biblical times...

The center, which is housed in a ten-room multistory building from the days of the Ottoman empire, also includes a threshing floor, a stone quarry, a stable with mangers, a wine press, a watch tower, a wedding canopy and a replica of an ancient gravesite.

Trasher, who was born in Louisiana but lived in Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Texas before settling in Jerusalem, started learning about Jewish history about 30 years ago, and has since led many study groups from the U.S. to Israel. On her tours, she often stopped by at the World of the Bible Archaeological Museum and Pilgrim Center, which until 2006 operated in the same house where she later built the Bible Times Center. But when the director of the old center, biblical archaeology and history scholar Jim Fleming, was given an enormous grant to build a similar project in Atlanta, Thrasher suddenly found the site abandoned.

"I was just crushed, as were many people, that this place wasn't available anymore," she said about her decision to move to Israel to establish her own bible center. Although she had always appreciated her predecessor's work, she found that he approached the topic too intellectually. "It was a place that attracted many scholars from all around the world," she said, "but that was not my vision for the place."

The rest of the story is here.

HT: Joe Lauer

UPDATE: The current issue of Biblical Archaeology Review arrived in my mailbox today and it includes an article on the new “Explorations in Antiquity Center” of Jim Fleming/Biblical Resources.  Based on the write-up and what I remember from the center in Israel, it sounds like a worthwhile visit for any interested in the biblical world and passing through Georgia.  One strange thing: the BAR article starts in the first-person, but I cannot find the author’s name listed.  It begins, “I have never been to Israel,” so that rules out Shanks.  The online version includes the first three paragraphs of the article and the author’s name: Dorothy Resig (a BAR editor).

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Qeiyafa, Looting, and Buried Secrets

Owen Chesnut has blogged about Archaeologist Yosi Garfinkel’s presentation (and questions) yesterday at the ASOR meeting about Khirbet Qeiyafa.

The excavators have posted a “chronicle” of events related to the discovery of the Kh. Qeiyafa ostracon, including when they celebrated with a beer and when (and by whom) details leaked to the public. (HT: Yitzhak Sapir).

National Geographic has a good article on the problem of the looting of archaeological sites in Israel.  If you’ve ever bought an antiquity, you help to create the demand, and perhaps this article will help shed light for you on just how destructive the antiquities market is.

PBS broadcast a special earlier this week on the Bible and archaeology, entitled “The Bible’s Buried Secrets.”  You can watch the entire 2-hour show online, get a summary, or read the whole transcript.  The perspective was decidedly mainstream, with no indication that there is a large group of conservative scholars who reject many of the conclusions of mainstream scholars.  The program was well produced and featured interviews with many scholars. 

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Jerusalem, Rome, and Alexandria

Zachi Zweig recently produced photographs of a Byzantine mosaic floor discovered under Al Aqsa Mosque between 1938 and 1942. Zweig is certain that this was part of a Byzantine church on the Temple Mount. To this point, it has generally been held that the Byzantines left the Temple Mount in ruins. The 6th century Medeba Map does not show any buildings in this area. Underneath the mosaic floor was a Jewish ritual bath (mikveh). The story is in the Jerusalem Post, and Leen Ritmeyer comments at his blog.

Google Earth has added a layer for Ancient Rome as it stood in A.D. 320. Judging from a 2-minute video preview, this is an extraordinary resource. As with the rest of Google Earth, it is free. It probably would not be difficult to remove a few buildings and create a layer for Rome in the 1st century. Perhaps someone will be so motivated.

Leen Ritmeyer has created a less detailed Jerusalem layer that shows the city in the 1st century. (UPDATE 11/20: This layer is no longer available.)

This story has been around before, but perhaps its re-circulation indicates that progress is being made. The JPost reports that plans are underway for the world’s first underwater archaeology museum in Alexandria.

"The whole Bay of Alexandria actually still houses the remains of very important archeological sites. You have the place of the Pharaohs - the ancient lighthouse of Alexandria - which is one of the seven ancient wonders of the world. You have the Polonike Palace, which was the palace of Cleopatra, and there might also be the grave of Alexander the Great," she said.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Herod, Gath, and Free Maps

National Geographic is promoting its upcoming special on “Herod’s Lost Tomb” with a number of special features on its website, including photos, reconstructions, video clips, and a game.  HT: BibleX

The Gath expedition has produced a DVD of the 2008 season with dozens of photographs and a couple of PowerPoint presentations.  You can get it for $15 including shipping.

If you’ve ever needed a quick, colorful map of a biblical site, can help.  When you arrive at the website, you may be put off with a block of apparently endless text.  Don’t give up though – simply search for the name of your city, click the link, and you’ll have a map.  Click the map box itself and you can get a high-resolution version of the region.  The maps are made using BibleMapper (which we’ve praised before here), and the quality is excellent.  To summarize, on the positive side: incredibly fast, pre-made maps, with liberal usage allowances.  On the negative side, it gives maps labeling cities, not events.  The Bible Atlas is part of a much larger site,, which has many free resources, and more coming.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Lights On: The Bible and Interpretation

Several years ago one of my favorite websites to frequent was Bible and Interpretation.  I appreciated the news updates as well as the articles, which came from a variety of perspectives.  For lack of funding, the site went dark.  Today the site is back with a new design and the promise of regular updates and essays. I’m delighted to see its return and am sure that it will be worth checking in on.  If you find it valuable over time, consider sending a contribution.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

New Photo CD: Views That Have Vanished (1960s)

After four years of development, I am pleased to announce the latest CD produced by 

Views That Have Vanished: The Photographs of David Bivin is a collection of never-before-seen photographs taken in Israel and the surrounding areas in the 1960s.  The CD is full of unique shots and beautiful views from a land that has changed dramatically in the last four decades. 

You can read more about the collection on's companion site,, and see some "then and now" shots here

A word about the price.  The collection includes more than 700 photographs, yet we are selling the CD for only $20 (through October 31).  That includes free shipping in the U.S.  The CD is worth much more than this—we guarantee it.  For less than 3 cents a photo, you get everything in high-resolution jpg format and PowerPoint files, with notes by David Bivin and me. 

Two "Then and Now" presentations were a late addition and a bonus to the collection.  The CD is so packed that we had to put one of the "Then and Now" presentations online, because we did not want to leave out anything else (the link to that presentation is on the CD).

We have previously featured photographs from this collection on this blog here and here.

Take a look.  We think you'll love it as much as we do!


Monday, September 29, 2008

Recent News and Resources

I’ve been collecting items of interest over the past week:

Archaeologist Shimon Gibson claims that a concert near Jaffa Gate would damage antiquities (JPost).

A Christian organization in Colorado Springs is spending $2.3 million on a replica of the Western Wall, and a building to showcase it.  50 million tons of stone will be brought from Israel.

King Tut comes to Dallas on Friday.

The JPost Magazine has a profile of Eilat Mazar, currently excavating in the City of David.  She says, "I work with the Bible in one hand and the tools of excavation in the other. The Bible is the most important historical source."

The ESV Study Bible, which was mentioned before here, is due out in a couple of weeks and its visual components (maps, charts, drawings) gets further explanation in an interview with Justin Taylor.

Leen Ritmeyer, renowned for his architectural work on the Temple Mount, is now offering some of his excellent work in affordable PowerPoint files.

I’ve just added Ferrell Jenkins’ Travel Blog to the blogroll.

This is not new, but I do not remember really recognizing all that is here before, so perhaps you did not either.  The Archaeological Study Bible website has many dozens of photos, charts and maps (medium-resolution) available for download.  You can find your way around from here, or go directly to Introduction, Old Testament, New Testament, or Maps.

David Padfield has photos of a Roman army enactment performed at Jerash.  There are 15 free PowerPoint-size images.

If you’re an image junkie, you’ll save time downloading images from the last two sites if you have a download manager.  (I use Free Download Manager with FlashGot on Firefox)

Shana tova (happy new year)!

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Free E-Book: Cyprus and Crete

The Biblical Archaeology Society is offering a free 70-page e-book entitled “Island Jewels: Understanding Ancient Cyprus and Crete.”  The pdf file includes five articles and one book review, all previously published in Archaeology Odyssey or Biblical Archaeology Review.  You can get the e-book here by signing up for their newsletter.


Monday, September 01, 2008

New Book: Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus

A new book is out this week that I want to recommend highly.  Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus: A Journey Through the Lands and Lessons of Christ combines passion with humor in a unique "tour" through Jesus' life.  Author Wayne Stiles has not written a "life of Christ" book, nor has he produced a work recounting the geographical background of Jesus' ministry.  What he has done, through his deep knowledge of Jesus' life and land, is to take the reader on a delightful and challenging journey to the physical and spiritual places where Jesus lived and taught.Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus Cover

Stiles' skill as a writer and "tour guide" makes the book engaging and rich with insights.  As a pastor for many years, Stiles is gifted in making lofty ideas of Scripture readily understandable to the average person, and he does so with many fun anecdotes and helpful analogies from his travels in Israel.

From Bethlehem, to Galilee and Jerusalem, and ending in Patmos, the book largely travels "in the footsteps of Jesus."  Here is a snip related to the wilderness:

I have walked in the wilderness where Satan tempted Christ, just west of where He was baptized. Good grief, what a place. This is the wilderness of Judea where God shaped the character of the future King David in “the valley of the shadow of death” (Ps. 23:4). Here David prayed, “my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Ps. 63:1). David wasn’t kidding. Endless piles of rocks, steep hills, no trees, modest vegetation, little water, slight shade, and lizards. As far as my eye could see, it was empty, dry, and depressing. I tried to imagine the silence, solitude, and struggle Jesus would have endured here for over a month. But I could not.

We can barely stand to fast for a day or two. Can you imagine fasting forty days? Jesus did so in preparation for temptation—and became desperately hungry and needy. And in His moment of need, the devil slipped in. He waits for moments like these.

“If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread” (Luke 4:3).

The devil is no idiot—and also no gentleman. When he tempts, he plays dirty. No rules. No concessions. No mercy. He waited for a moment of vulnerability and then tempted Jesus to satisfy His legitimate need for food in an illegitimate way: “Turn this stone to bread—use your power to gratify your need.” What a cheap shot. Every stone would then become a temptation. And believe me, the Wilderness of Judea has plenty of stones! Jesus’ reply—although He was physically hungry—showed that He was spiritually full.

“It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”

If you haven't yet been on a trip to the Holy Land, you'll enjoy visiting it virtually through this book.  If you have been, you'll see it in ways that you haven't before, even if you've visited countless times.  This journey combines so many of my favorite things in one book: the places of the land of the Bible, the life of Christ, fascinating stories, excellent writing, and God-exalting, people-challenging truth.  Pick this up for your next plane ride to Israel (or anywhere) and enjoy!

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

ESV Study Bible

From earlier previews of the maps, illustrations, and study notes, I think that the ESV Study Bible will be a very useful resource for those interested in biblical geography and archaeology.  The Bible includes more than 200 full-color maps, and 40 stunning, up-to-date illustrations.  (For one example of "up-to-date," look at the Pool of Siloam on the Jerusalem illustrations.) 

The Bible is due out on October 15, but the publisher wants everyone to know just how good this Bible will be before then.  To that end, they have just begun a blog.  I'd draw your attention to the post on the Gamla synagogue, with its outstanding reconstruction drawing (which you can download in high resolution).  Leen Ritmeyer gives his perspective on the illustration he helped to create here

If you want to know more about the Bible, there's a 5-minute video overview that shows off some of the beautiful illustrations. 

One thing that I don't think I'll ever understand is how books like this can be so affordable ($31.50 online).


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Interview with Leen Ritmeyer

Justin Taylor at Between Two Worlds has posted a two-part interview with Leen Ritmeyer.  Ritmeyer served as the archaeological and architectural reconstruction editor for the forthcoming ESV Study Bible, of which Taylor is the managing editor. 

Part one of the interview focuses on what theGolgotha and Jerusalem, ESV Study Bible place of Jesus' crucifixion looked like.  It includes a stunning, high-resolution reconstruction of the Temple Mount as it may have looked in the time of Jesus.

Part two of the interview concerns what the tomb of Jesus looked like.  It features a high-resolution image of what the "new tomb" may have looked like.

I have had the privilege of having an preview of dozens of graphics and hundreds of full-color maps that will be included in the ESV Study Bible and I concur with Ritmeyer's assessment:

It is vital for Bible students to have a correct knowledge of the background of the Bible, and I am sure that the Study Bible will be of tremendous help for those who love to study the Word of God. With its many exquisitely rendered reconstruction drawings and accurate maps, a new standard has been set for biblical illustration, raising the bar for many years to come.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

New Book: Walk the Land

One of the simultaneously best and worst experiences of my life was hiking the Israel Trail.  I led a group of intrepid adventurers on a 120-mile hike, beginning in Dan and concluding in Caesarea Israel Trail marker at Machtesh Ramon, tb110702007(skipping a 30-mile section in the middle).  I've hiked many other portions of the trail over the years.  The trail covers some of most beautiful and remote scenery, and it is a way to understand the land of Israel that you'll never get from jumping on and off a bus.  It also can be quite a painful experience for your feet. 

An Israeli couple recently hiked the entire trail from Eilat to Dan (580 miles) and the wife wrote a book about the 2-month trek.  The book, Walk the Land, was recently reviewed by Theresa Newell of CMJ USA (pdf, p. 21).  The review begins:

"What is needed by the reader or teacher of the Bible is some idea of the outlines of Palestine - its shape and disposition; its plains, passes and mountains; its rains, winds and temperatures; its colours, lights and shades. Students of the Bible desire to see a background and to feel an atmosphere; to discover from `the lie of the land' why the history took certain lines and the prophecy and gospel were expressed in certain styles; to learn what geography has to contribute ..." (From the 1894 Preface to the First Edition of The Historical Geography of the Holy Land, by George Adam Smith.)

Over a hundred years later, Judy Pex brings the reader through those very "plains, passes and mountains" about which Smith wrote. Step by step from Eilat to Mt. Hermon on The Israel Trail, Pex describes her country from the ground up.

Judy and John Pex have overseen The Shelter Hostel in Eilat for over 20 years. They lead an international congregation there which grew out of their work of serving soup dinners and giving backpackers a place for overnights. It is a 24/7 kind of job.

Their dream grew over the years: to walk the entire Israel National Trail (Shvil Israel) - a feat accomplished by only about 100 people per year. John decided it had to be done before his 60th birthday! And they did it - all winding 940 km (580 miles) from Eilat to Dan. The Trail meanders through the vast wadis and heights of the Negev, then cuts west to the Mediterranean near Tel Aviv along busy roads, up the coast and across the Carmel Range, ending on Mt. Hermon at the Syrian-Lebanese border. The map and 16 pages of Pex's color photos augment her descriptive passages.

There is also an interview with the author here.

The book sounds like a profitable way to gain insights from the trip without having to wrap your feet in duct tape every morning.

HT: Yehuda Group


The Graduate Junction

I have been alerted to a new resource which may be very helpful for researchers.  From their description:

The Graduate Junction is a brand new website designed to help early career researchers make contact with others with similar research interests, regardless of which department, institution or country they work in. Designed by two graduate researchers at the University of Durham, The Graduate Junction has proved very popular with research students and academics alike. Within the first two weeks after our launch in early May 2008 over 2000 researchers in the UK had registered and the news had spread across 40 countries.

Currently research students have two main sources of information, published literature and academic conferences. Whilst published literature is essential, it can only ever reveal completed work. Relevant academic conferences provide a forum for students with similar research interest to interact but occur infrequently. It is very easy to become isolated, overly focused on the specifics of one's own work and lose a sense of what other related work is being done.

The Graduate Junction hopes to prevent that isolation and allow early career researchers to start forming the networks which can stay with them throughout their careers. The Graduate Junction aims to provide an atmosphere similar to that at academic events and through the use of the internet aims to establish an on-line worldwide graduate research community.

This could be a great way to connect with those working in your field.  Check it out here.


Thursday, July 03, 2008

Free Software: Get Lost in Jerusalem

Some years ago Zondervan released a educational game on CD called "Get Lost in Jerusalem."  The goal of the game was to navigate through the Old City of Jerusalem with the help of clues.  shabanMany American students were particularly delighted to find that "home base" in the game is the shop of the famous Shaban (photo at right).  The copyright on the game has now reverted to its creator, Ted Hildebrandt, and he is making it available for free download.  So if you're hankering for a stroll down the historic narrow alleyways of Christian Quarter, minus the odors, you're in luck.  You can check out Hildebrandt's page with the download (and lots more), get more information at Amazon, or take a look at Biblical Studies and Technological Tools to get some helpful instructions before downloading and installing the 550 MB file.


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Monday, June 09, 2008

Archive of First Protestants in Jerusalem

Haaretz has an interesting article on the historical archive of Christ Church in the Old City of Jerusalem.  Some excerpts:

Tucked away in Jerusalem's Old City, between the entrance to the David Street market and the Armenian Quarter is one of Jerusalem's unsung treasures - a small room chock full of books, letters and documents in the historic Christ Church complex. Many of the documents are hand-written in the flowery style of the 19th century or earlier, written by Europeans, particularly the British, who lived and worked here. Coming to the documents' hopeful rescue is a recently initiated project that applies a combination of cutting edge technology and devotion to history to set them on their way toward digitalization as a means of preserving the stories they tell for future generations....

To explain what the library is all about, Arentsen's supervisor and Christ Church's new rector, Rev. David Pileggi pulls out one of the thousands of glass slides the library also owns. He holds it up, illuminating it in the afternoon Jerusalem sunlight streaming though the windows from the Christ Church courtyard. This one depicts nurses standing next to the beds of patients on a ward of the first hospital in Jerusalem, founded by the missionaries. "Life is complicated," Pileggi says, using the slide to segue into what is obviously a pet subject of his--dispelling the notion that nineteenth-century European Christians "were only interested in converting Jews to hasten Jesus' second coming."

Pileggi, an affable and talkative Floridian who has lived in Israel for 28 years broaches an issue that raises hackles in Jewish and Israeli society. He concedes the hospital's missionary purpose, but seems intent on getting across that it was "mixed with a deep sympathy for the Jews that came from reading the Bible. When you read the Bible and immerse yourself in its culture, as they did in places like England, Holland, and parts of Germany, you begin to identify with the main characters. That's certainly part of what these people were doing....

The precious documents found in the rare holdings closet put the Conrad Schick Library on a list of over 50 priceless collections whose preservation and digitalization is the goal of the Historical Libraries and Archives Survey, a project under the wing of the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London. Along with the Conrad Schick Library, the survey aims to preserve and digitize collections throughout Jerusalem - from the Afeefi family's 43 Arabic manuscripts on astronomy and other science kept in their Jerusalem home to the library in the ancient Syriac Orthodox St Mark's church with at least 300 manuscripts, the Al Aqsa Mosque repository with about 1,000 manuscripts and hundreds of ancient Korans, and the collection of the Admor of Karlin with more than 800 manuscripts, some centuries old. Dr. Merav Mack, 35, a Cambridge University-educated medieval scholar and a fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, is a consultant on the project along with colleague Peter Jacobsen. "We think the project is important because the city's written treasures are of such enormous educational and cultural value to our global heritage."

HT: Joe Lauer

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Friday, May 09, 2008

BAR for a Buck

This just in:

Give a full year of Biblical Archaeology Review for only $6.

That's six fun-filled, fact-filled, controversy-inspiring issues of the premiere magazine of Biblical archaeology for only $1 each. It's the best gift deal we've ever been able to offer, and we don't expect to be able to offer it for long.


Archaeology Handbook: The Key Finds

Insight for Living, the ministry of Chuck Swindoll, has just released Archaeology Handbook: The Key Finds and Why They Matter.  This is a 120-page introduction to the top ten archaeological discoveries related to the Bible.  I think it's an excellent overview of artifacts like the Merneptah Stele, the Tel Dan Inscription, and the Sea of Galilee boat.  There are also chapters on the Temple Mount, Hezekiah's Tunnel, and the Dead Sea Scrolls.  The writing is clear and engaging, the photographs are beautiful, and the layout is attractive.  If you're one of the archaeologists who reads this blog, you probably won't learn anything from this IFL Archaeology Handbook cover book, but if you're someone who hasn't had much exposure to biblical archaeology, this is a great starting point. 

I served as a consultant for the book, supplied many of the photographs, and was interviewed in one of the chapters.  That'll make some of you happy, while others will run the other way.

Here's one of the questions I was asked: What role does faith play within the scientific discipline of archaeology? 

My answer: Archaeology should not be carried out in order to prove some pre-conceived idea, whether pro- or anti-Bible.  Archaeology is best when it is carried out with the best of scientific methods and interpreted by a range of scholars.  Archaeology is ill-served when the interpretation of sites and artifacts is divorced from our knowledge of ancient texts, including the Bible.

Here's another: Has archaeology revealed anything that contradicts the Bible?  If so, what?  And how should Christians respond to such discoveries?

My answer: Archaeology has revealed many things that can be interpreted in a fashion that is not compatible with the biblical record.  But those same things can also be interpreted in a way that is consistent with Scripture.  This ambiguity is not intrinsic to issues related to faith, but is the nature of the discipline.  But those matters related to the Bible are naturally more popular and receive more attention in the press.  I do not know of any major issues that conflict with the accuracy of the Bible.  There are some issues of a lesser nature that are not yet resolved, but I recognize that that is due to the limited nature of the evidence.

Most of the book is more interesting than these questions reflect, as it's not dealing with theory, but with actual discoveries and what they mean.

Through May, the book is available for a donation.  Beginning next month, the book will be sold in their online store.  There is also a video that gives more details about the book.


Saturday, May 03, 2008

Recommended Book: In Their Sandals

I was just reminded of a book that I read last year that I intended to mention here.  David Hansen's In Their Sandals is a helpful work in thinking through different aspects of Jesus' ministry from a fresh hansenperspective.  Hansen is driven to understand Jesus in his original context, thus avoiding some of the pitfalls that beset us when reading the Gospels from such a great distance.  Among the stories that he considers are the woman at the well, the feeding of the 4,000, the penitent thief, and the writing on the ground.  Hansen makes his points clearly and concisely, and I enjoyed being provoked along the way.  I certainly recommend the book for those seeing to better understand the ministry of Christ in the context of the land.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Bible Mapper: New Wiki

With the release of version 3.0 of Bible Mapper, the program became free but support was discontinued.  Now, Mark Vitalis Hoffman has begun a wiki for Bible Mapper where all users can pass on ideas, post questions, and share their maps with others.  I think this will be a great resource for those creating their own maps.

I recently recommended Bible Mapper and shared an experience here.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Recommended Newsletter: Tyndale Tech

One of the most useful newsletters I receive is Tyndale Tech, published by David Instone-Brewer at Tyndale House, Cambridge.  This month's newsletter is on "Maps & Geography in Biblical Studies," and he points the readers to numerous helpful resources for maps and photos, both for use in study and teaching.  I'm sure you'll find something here you didn't know about before.  And as he says, "There is now no excuse to teach or preach without pictures and maps."

If you're new to the newsletter, you'll also want to take a look at last month's "Tyndale Toolbar."


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Interview: Eric Cline on Pseudo-Archaeologists

Book and the Spade has posted its latest program, this one an interview with Eric Cline, entitled "Pseudo-archaeologists and the lost Arks."  The host, Gordon Govier, tells me that he has written an article about a similar subject in the May issue of Christianity Today.  Cline has a related book that came out last year: From Eden to Exile: Unraveling Mysteries of the Bible.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Interview with Jerome Murphy-O'Connor

The Book and the Spade radio program now features an interview with Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, author of The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide (mentioned before here).  There are two parts, each about 15 minutes each.  Part two is currently posted, but this link should get you part one.  If you're interested, grab them now as the mp3 files are archived relatively quickly and I don't think the podcast link is currently working.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Making My Own Map

I recently worked on a project that required me to create some maps and I thought I might share a few tips for those who might be interested in making their own.

First, I'm using Bible Mapper.  This program has lots of functions which makes it easy to add and remove cities, put labels, etc.  The program used to cost $35, but it is now free.  It does requires a free registration key from the author to unlock all of the features.  (No technical support is available.)

Next, let's say I want to make a map of Turkey.  I only want to include certain places.  This requires that I remove some of the ones listed.  That's easy.  Adding sites that aren't already defined is a bit more work.  But this too is not hard with several free resources.

Let's say I want to put Catal Huyuk on the map.  This is an important Neolithic site, but it's not already in the map program (I had to pick a lesser-known site like this one, because all of the biblical sites are already listed; if you're just teaching about the biblical sites, you may never have to do this).  To get the location coordinates for it, I go to the Wikipedia article.  I can then copy the coordinates to Google Earth, if I want to get a close-up look at the site with a satellite view (or to verify the coordinates).  Alternately, I can click on the coordinates in Wikipedia which brings me to a list of maps that I can locate the site on, including Google Earth.  It also gives the coordinates in decimal form which I can copy over to Bible Mapper.


Here's the map I made of Turkey.  It took me about 30 minutes to create, but it would take less time for those who don't have as many specific needs as I do.  There is a learning curve in using the Bible Mapper program, which means that it'll take you a little longer when you start.  Undoubtedly more savvy individuals can make a much nicer map with all of the options available.

One day I hope to add maps like these to so that one can click a site on the map and immediately go to the relevant page of photos.

Which reminds me - and this is a great feature of Bible Mapper - you can use the maps you create for anything!  (From the license: "No copyright restrictions are placed on any maps created with Bible Mapper.")  Most maps and map programs have restrictions on them, which can make your maps of limited usefulness.  Among its many other features, this makes Bible Mapper a terrific tool.


Monday, April 07, 2008

5th Volume of NEAEH

It has been noted on the ANE-2 list that the 5th (Supplement) volume to the New Encyclopedia of vol5Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land (NEAEH) is off the press.  The book is co-published by the Israel Exploration Society and the Biblical Archaeology Society, which should make it easy to buy in either the US or Israel.  Neither site yet has it listed for sale.  When it becomes available, I'll note it here.  I commented on the original set previously here.

Update (4/8): The Israel Exploration Society has a 4-page pdf file describing the new volume.  On this side of the ocean, Eisenbrauns has it listed for sale (but not yet shipping).  The volume is 600 pages and costs $150 (which is the same as the price for the entire 4-volume set).

Update (4/9): The Biblical Archaeology Society is selling it now for $120 plus $10 shipping.  The first 25 orders get a free copy of The City of David, Revisiting Early Excavations (reg. $150).  There doesn't seem to be a way to indicate if you are in the first 25 or not, so I would assume that once 25 orders have been taken, they will remove the red print of the special offer so as to not mislead customers into thinking that they might qualify.

Update (4/16): BAS has extended the special offer to the first 115 orders.  For those more advanced in their interest of archaeology in Israel and Jerusalem, this is a great deal.


New Blog: Tel Dan Excavations

The first excavation in Israel to have a running blog is the The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog.  But it's been several years and no one else seems to have caught on.  Until now.  The Tel Dan Excavations has started a new blog.  At this point, the blog looks more like a website, with static pages but not daily updates.  Presumably, with the start of the season this summer, they'll keep us regularly informed of the progress. 

Permit me one comment on the recruiting banner, as they encourage volunteers to sign up.  The slogan says, on top of the graphic: "The 2008 season begins June 22!  Will you find the missing pieces of the David inscription?  Mail your volunteer application soon."  That's certainly a tantalizing suggestion.  Even though it's been 14-15 years since the three fragments were found, there certainly could be more.  And if more are discovered, you can bet that many of the scholarly theories about the Tel Dan Inscription (TDI) will be cast aside.  In fact, here's something that I had not picked up on until research last week.  Perhaps you know that the TDI was probably written by the Aramean king Hazael and it mentions his killing of King Jehoram of Israel and King Ahaziah of Judah.  This appears to contradict 2 Kings 9 which says that Jehu, not Hazael, killed these two kings.  But here's what I didn't realize: the contradiction entirely hangs on two hypothesized words and letters in the TDI (they are reconstructed because the fragment breaks off at these points).  In other words, we only know that it says "I killed Jehoram" because scholars hypothesized the words "I killed."  Of Ahaziah, it says "killed Ahaziah," but the "I" is reconstructed.  Whether this is a reasonable or unreasonable guess, it is only a guess.  I sure hope they find more fragments.  Maybe it'll be you.

Dan marketplace and Iron Age gate, tb052907121 
Iron Age gate and plaza at Dan

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Friday, April 04, 2008

Book Released on Looting of Iraq

The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago has just published an 88-page book on the looting in Iraq in the aftermath of the war.  From their website:

Catastrophe! The Looting and Destruction of Iraq’s Past
Edited by Geoff Emberling and Katharyn Hanson, 2008

With an introduction by Professor McGuire Gibson, this up-to-date account describes the state of the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad and chronicles the damage done to archaeological sites by illicit digging.

The book can be ordered for $30 or downloaded in pdf format for free.  An exhibit of the same name opens at the Oriental Institute on April 10.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, The Holy Land, 5th Ed.

The best archaeological guide to Israel is now out in its fifth edition.  The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide, by Jerome Murphy-O'Connor is the best companion for a trip to ancient sites jmoanywhere in Israel.  The section on Jerusalem is especially lengthy (150 pages in the 4th edition), and the whole is accurate and readable.  Don't expect to find out about hotels or restaurants - this is a guide to archaeological sites only!  The 4th edition came out in 1998, so while I haven't yet seen the new edition, I expect it will have significant updates.  The author has lived in Jerusalem longer than I have been alive.

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

ANET for Logos

For many years, the accessible source for ancient texts related to the Bible was Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), edited by J. B. Pritchard.  A few years ago Context of Scripture (COS), edited by Halloanet and Younger, was completed, giving a more extensive and up-to-date source for these texts.  ANET still has its place though because 1) all sources more than a decade old provide references only to ANET and 2) ANET has some materials not included in COSCOS has been available in Logos format for a few years ($300 here), and now ANET has been announced as a pre-publication special, which means 1) it will only be produced if enough orders are placed and 2) you can get it for less money if you order now ($60 instead of $80).


Biography of Kathleen Kenyon published

The publisher of this biography has posted the following on the ANE-2 list.

I'm pleased to announce publication of the first full length biography of archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon by Miriam Davis, a historian at Delta State University. Miriam had full access to the Kenyon family's materials and interviewed dozens of archaeologists on 4 continents for her work.

The book is published in a series sponsored by the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, which provided the peer review. It's also been reviewed by Bill Dever and Tom Holland, among others (see their comments on our website).

The official blurb:
Dame Kathleen Kenyon
Digging Up the Holy Land
by Miriam C. Davis
978-1-59874-325-8 cloth
978-1-59874-326-5 paper
March 2008 272 pages, photos

Dame Kathleen Kenyon has always been a larger-than-life figure, likely the most kenyonbioinfluential woman archaeologist of the 20th century. In the first full-length biography of Kenyon, Miriam Davis recounts not only her many achievements in the field but also her personal side, known to very few of her contemporaries. Her public side is a catalog of major successes: discovering the oldest city at Jericho with its amazing collection of plastered skulls; untangling the archaeological complexities of ancient Jerusalem and identifying the original City of David; participating in the discipline's most famous all-woman excavation at Great Zimbabwe. Her development (with Sir Mortimer Wheeler) of stratigraphic trenching methods has been universally emulated by archaeologists for over half a century. Her private life--her childhood as daughter of the director of the British Museum, her accidental choice of a career in archaeology, her working at bombed sites in London during the blitz, and her solitary retirement to Wales--are generally unknown. Davis provides a balanced and illuminating picture of both the public Dame Kenyon and the private person.

The book will be available in paperback next week in the US and in April in the UK, EUrope, and the Middle East.

for more information or to order:

Mitch Allen, Publisher
Left Coast Press, inc.

Amazon has the paperback for $25, minus 5% if you buy it before it is released.  A couple of other biographies of "biblical archaeologists" that I have read and enjoyed include: A Prophet from Amongst You: The Life of Yigael Yadin (Silberman) and William Foxwell Albright: A 20th Century Genius (Running and Freedman).  Good surveys of the history of "biblical archaeology" include A Century of Biblical Archaeology (Moorey) and Shifting Sands: The Rise and Fall of Biblical Archaeology (Davis).


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Recommended Software: BibleWorks 7 (and Maps)

One of the best Bible software programs for the PC is BibleWorks 7.  If you're only interested in reading the Bible and doing simple searches, this program is more than you need.  But those who know, or plan to learn, the original languages will find a wealth of capabilities available at lightning speed.  The powerful "Copy Center" makes it fast and easy to copy and paste multiple translations - any number, any versions - in a single click.  This would have saved me a lot of time on a recent study.  The right-click context menus are also easy to use.  If you're still learning Greek and Hebrew (or haven't started yet), the built-in flashcard module has plenty of options which makes it easy to quiz yourself.  At $350, the program is not inexpensive, but browsing through the list of works included in the copyright list will make you wonder how the software can cost so little.

Version 7 added a map module, and BibleWorks sent me a review copy of the program to evaluate this new feature.  I love the integration of the map module; simply right-click on a site name and choose "Lookup in BibleWorks Maps" to get a list of relevant maps to open.  Teachers will find this a handy way to access a map while in the middle of a course without having to use other software.  The module includes a variety of terrains that you can load, including Landsat data, and some are more aesthetically pleasing than others.  Unfortunately, the map data has significant shortcomings; it reminds me more of a beta program.  BibleWorks has a major revision of the map module underway which I expect will solve many of the labeling problems.  One problem that exists with both the map module and the program in general is that while the documentation is extensive, the features are not always intuitive.  This means the happiest user will be the one who reads first and plays second.  If you never read any of the documentation, you'll probably miss many of the features and spend too much time in frustration.  Would I recommend the program?  Absolutely.  Would I recommend its purchase primarily for the map module?  Not yet.  With their policy of free upgrades within a version, any existing user will be able to download all of the updates as they are released.

Screenshot of Galilee area, with overlays turned on for 4 gospels


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

One of the Gibeonite Cities

If you're into mysteries and tracking down little details, there's an endless supply of material in biblical studies and archaeology.  George Grena latched on to one challenging and controversial issue in archaeology some years ago and he seems determined to become the world's expert on LMLK seals.  (LMLK seals were impressed on royal storejars in the time of Hezekiah.  Nearly everything else about their interpretation is controversial.)  Grena certainly has enriched the world with the extensive information that he has published online and in his book.  That's a little background to a recent blogpost in which he sheds some light on the little-known biblical town of Kephirah/Chephirah/Kefireh.  In the time of Joshua, this was one of four cities of Gibeonites.  Most people know of the treachery of the city of Gibeon, but may not recall that there were three other cities in their league, including one I saw every day for the last decade - Kiriath Jearim.  Grena's post begins with some interesting facts about Kephirah before discussing two LMLK seals


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Survey of Western Palestine

Here's a set I almost never see available for sale (and for many years I have had a continuous search for it going through ABEBooks).  But it's a bit out of my price range, so I'm passing it on to you.

The Survey of Western Palestine, Col. Sir Charles Warren; Capt. Claude Reignier Conder 1881, Published for the committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund (PEF), 1881-1889 - First Edition (according to bibliographic resources). A set of six cloth folios, being 11. Bookseller: Orr Hirschauge, Tel-Aviv  Price: US$ 4500.00

View or Order this Book:

Of course, if you just want the maps, in super high-resolution, you can get those on CD for $35.  Or you can get the Index for free. Archive Books has the reprint set available for £2,995 ($5,966).


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Recent Excavations (and Jonah)

If you've ever been walking around Israel and seen a hole in the ground and wondered what they found in it, or where you can find out, you'll likely find your answer in Hadashot Arkheologiyot: Excavations and Surveys in Israel.  This annual series is published in Hebrew and English by the Israel Antiquities Authority.  Since 2005 the journal has moved to electronic-only format, which makes it easy for anyone to access without having to purchase the volumes or visit a specialized library.

The 2008 issue was just published (HT: Jim West) and it includes reports from 11 excavations, some with illustrations.  One of interest to Bible readers is Tel Gat Hefer.  Usually spelled Gath Hepher, this is the hometown of Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet who went to Nineveh after being swallowed by a fish (2 Kings 14:25; Jonah 1:1).  The report not only describes the recent excavations (only one 5m square), but notes that previous excavations "revealed significant architectural remains from Early Bronze II–III, Middle Bronze II–III, Iron I, Iron IIA–B and the Late Persian period."  Interpreted, that means that the site was nearly continuously inhabited through the Old Testament period.  Jonah lived in the 8th century B.C., which is part of Iron IIB.  The Arab village of Mashhad is located on the slopes of the tell and expanding, which will make future study more difficult.  One way to raise support for such an excavation would be to hold out promise of finding at sign at the town entrance: Welcome to Gath Hepher, City of Jonah the Prophet.  In my thinking, such a sign (and probably a monument) existed for Jonah after his wonderful prophecy of 2 Kings 14 came true.  But as soon as he went to Nineveh, the town likely disavowed their favorite son.  The town, of course, was right: 30 years later it was destroyed by the Ninevites (cf. 2 Kings 15:29).

If you're interested in present excavations, you can see that here.

Gath Hepher aerial from south, 122-02tb_psp
Gath Hepher from southeast


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Understanding Ancient Israel (Free PDF)

A book recently published by Oxford is currently available for free download in pdf format.  Understanding the History of Ancient Israel is edited by H. G. M. Williamson and sells for $99, but you can download the individual chapters in restricted pdf format without charge.

As you can see from the list of chapters below, there is quite a mix of archaeologists and biblical scholars.  It is an interesting reality that archaeologists typically are more conservative than biblical/historical scholars.  On the more conservative side are Mazar, Younger, and Lemaire.  Those sometimes identified with the "minimalist" perspective include Whitelam and Davies.  All will be thought-provoking, no doubt.williamson

As far as I can tell, there are a couple of downsides to the offer.  1) You have to download each chapter separately, and each one requires about five clicks.  (It worked a little faster for me in IE than Firefox.)  2) The pdf files are all locked so that you can't combine them into a single file (or otherwise copy any of the text; commenting and printing is allowed).  I'm guessing that the publisher is offering this as a service to the larger public who wouldn't purchase this book.  Some will discover through this that the book is worth purchasing.  It seems like a win-win situation to me, and I am appreciative to the publisher for doing this.

  • H. G. M. Williamson: Preface; List of Abbreviations
  • J. W. Rogerson: Setting the Scene: A Brief Outline of Histories of Israel
  • Keith W. Whitelam: Setting the Scene: A Response to John Rogerson
  • Hans M. Barstad: The History of Ancient Israel: What Directions Should We Take?
  • Philip R. Davies: Biblical Israel in the Ninth Century?
  • Lester L. Grabbe: Some Recent Issues in the Study of the History of Israel
  • T. P. Wiseman: Classical History: A Sketch, with Three Artefacts
  • Chase F. Robinson: Early Islamic History: Parallels and Problems
  • Amélie Kuhrt: Ancient Near Eastern History: The Case of Cyrus the Great of Persia
  • David Ussishkin: Archaeology of the Biblical Period: On Some Questions of Methodology and Chronology of the Iron Age
  • Amihai Mazar: The Spade and the Text: The Interaction between Archaeology and Israelite History Relating to the Tenth–Ninth Centuries BCE
  • Christoph Uehlinger: Neither Eyewitnesses, Nor Windows to the Past, but Valuable Testimony in its own Right: Remarks on Iconography, Source Criticism and Ancient Data-processing
  • M. J. Geller: Akkadian Sources of the Ninth Century
  • K. Lawson Younger, Jr: Neo-Assyrian and Israelite History in the Ninth Century: The Role of Shalmaneser III
  • André Lemaire: West Semitic Inscriptions and Ninth-Century BCE Ancient Israel
  • Marc Zvi Brettler: Method in the Application of Biblical Source Material to Historical Writing (with Particular Reference to the Ninth Century BCE)
  • Graeme Auld: Reading Kings on the Divided Monarchy: What Sort of Narrative?
  • Rainer Albertz: Social History of Ancient Israel
  • Bernard S. Jackson: Law in the Ninth Century: Jehoshaphat's 'Judicial Reform'
  • Nadav Na'aman: The Northern Kingdom in the Late Tenth–Ninth Centuries BCE

Oxford has more on the book here.  The short description reads:

In popular presentation, some treat the Bible as a reliable source for the history of Israel, while others suggest that archaeology has shown that it cannot be trusted at all. This volume debates the issue of how such widely divergent views have arisen and will become an essential source of reference for the future.

HT: Tell es-Safi/Gath Weblog


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Qumran Excavation Report

The Israel Antiquities Authority has posted the preliminary report (pdf) of the Qumran excavations (1993-2004) by Yitzhak Magen and Yuval Peleg.  You may recall that a recent article in Biblical Archaeology Review indicated that these archaeologists conclude that Qumran was a pottery manufacturing site, not the home of the Essenes.  They state their motivation for this report in the preface:

We felt it necessary to separately publish this article due to the fact that until now, most of the discussion regarding our new theory on the nature of the site has been in newspapers--in articles not initiated by us--and has been based upon unsubstantiated evidence from certain scholars.

The report is well written and illustrated with many beautiful photographs and drawings.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Books Published in Turkey Now Available

In yesterday's Asia Minor Report, Mark Wilson has good news for those books you can buy only in Turkey:

Purchasing books published in Turkey has been difficult for scholars not living in Turkey.  However, Ahmet Boratav of Ege Yayınları has just made ordering such books easier. His web site ( is now available in English and features thousands of books, journals, and magazines. The home page features the Bookseller’s Choices as well as recent releases. Registered surface shipping is included in the price for orders placed from anywhere outside of Turkey.


Monday, December 10, 2007

BiblePlaces Newsletter

I sent out the December 2007 issue of the newsletter today.  If you thought you were subscribed but did not receive it, here are a few suggestions:

1. Check your spam box.  Despite the fact that neither I, nor the newsletter distribution company, ever practice anything but the highest ethics in regard to email, some spam filters stop the newsletter.

2. Consider whether you are subscribed at your current email address.  If you've moved in the last year and changed addresses, you can fix that easily by subscribing with your new address here.

3. Maybe you never subscribed at all.  There's an easy fix here.

Even if you do #2 or #3, you will not get today's newsletter automatically sent to you.  If you would like that, you can send me an email at tbolen81 at bibleplaces dot com [spelled out because I get and hate spam too], and I'll send you one.  But I won't be able to send it until the end of the week, as I'm busy until then.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Turkey in Google Earth

I love Google Earth, and with the help of a friend, have located most important biblical sites and many other historical sites as well.  I have hopes of getting them in sufficient order to share, but time has not yet permitted.  (I know that there are places on the web that distribute files with the locations but some that I have looked at are not reliable.)  But a friend just let me know that some of the terrain is Turkey is much improved.  So if you've looked in the past, you might try again.  Ephesus looks great, and there's finally sufficient resolution to see Colossae.  A few more for fun: Laodicea, Antioch on the Orontes, Haran, and Carchemish.  (The links are kmz files which you can import into Google Earth for the site's location.)


Monday, November 19, 2007

Carta's New Century Handbook

I've updated the post about this below, listing the differences with it and The Sacred BridgeEisenbrauns skipped the Evangelical Theological Society conference in San Diego last week, so I didn't get to see the book myself.  I hope this doesn't mean that Eisenbrauns is losing interest in the evangelical market.


Friday, November 02, 2007

Carta's New Atlas

Carta's New Century Handbook and Atlas of the Bible has arrived at Eisenbrauns.  Because this is a shorter version of The Sacred Bridge, it's been dubbed by some as "The Sacred Abridgement."  The longer volumeRAICARTAS costs $100; the shorter is $50.  The length though is more than half, and I'm sure there's plenty of "bang for the buck."  I haven't seen it, but based on the longer version, I'm sure that it will be a superb resource.

The publisher's description says this:

The object of this concise version is to augment the personal Bible study of all who seek a straightforward understanding of biblical history. Nevertheless, the reader will still have the sense that sacred history came about in a real world, a realm illumined by a multitude of discoveries and studies during the past two hundred years. Furthermore, the geographical dimension of the Bible accounts is being thoroughly presented. Every Bible student may thus put himself in the ancient reality and feel the events as they were experienced by the ancient Israelites and their neighbors.

UPDATE (11/19): Author Anson Rainey told a friend of mine that the differences between the two editions are these:

1) Bibliography and in-text references removed in shorter edition

2) Original language texts removed but translations remain

3) Two chapters on Bronze Age reduced to one

4) Typographical errors corrected

Thus it seems that with CNCHAB you get about 80% of the content for 50% of the price.


Monday, October 29, 2007

The Pictorial Library: Romanian Edition

If you've been waiting for the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands to be available in Romanian, the first two volumes have been released (Galilee, Samaria).  The Jerusalem volume should be available next month.  Just in time for Christmas...for that special Romanian in your life. :-)



Saturday, October 06, 2007

Holyland 3-D CD: Free Update

Some of you may have the Holyland 3-D CD produced by Rohr Productions (Richard Cleave).  This flyover program has been released in several versions over the last 5+ years, and is most commonly sold with the Holy Land Satellite Atlas.  A major update is now available from SkylineGlobe.  I haven't had time to play with it myself, but a colleague is impressed with the improvements.  If you have it and want to compare it with Google Earth or NASA Whirlwind and comment below, you're welcome to do that.  The steps to upgrade are these:

1. Install an earlier version (even as old as v. 2).  If you don't already have it, you can purchase the CD with an atlas here ($65).

2. Install the upgrade.

There are more details about the upgrade at Sunday Software.


Monday, September 24, 2007

NEAEH Update Volume Status

It seems like it has been years that rumor has been circulating that a fifth "update" volume is due out for the New Encyclopedia of neaehArchaeological Excavations in the Holy Land (NEAEH).  Word  from the Israel Exploration Society today is that the volume "will not be released before the beginning of next year."  I guess that means that it can be anytime after January 2008.  Which guarantees that it will need a significant update by the time it first appears.  That's true for many published and delayed works, but especially true in the archaeology of Israel.  (You can still get the four-volume set at Eisenbrauns for the great price of $150).


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Turkey Trip for College Profs

If you're a college professor or other tour group leader, you might be interested in this familiarization tour to Turkey in March.  This came via Mark Wilson, who has led two college/seminary groups this year that I recommended.  Both were delighted with their trips.  It's not clear to me if he is apart of this trip or not, but here are the details they sent:

Dear Professors, Colleagues, and Group Leaders,

We are currently taking sign ups for the MARCH 7-15, 2008 FAM. TRIP! The March familiarization trip is for professors who are bringing or would like to bring a group to Turkey and want to come beforehand to do the tour. This is very limited space because of the special price.  The professor price of $1,095 is land, airfare & tax inclusive, based on double occupancy, with airfare from New York, JFK. The cost of a single room is $1,390 per person. Please ask for our spouse rate. Participants of this trip are responsible for their own transport to and from JFK. If you are interested in signing up for this trip please contact me for further details.

We are also exciting for Tutku Tours’ Newest programs; January Trips, Study Abroad Programs and of course our Ephesus Meeting May 2008, in which we will have many wonderful groups and fascinating speakers.  We customize all of our groups’ itineraries to fit their needs. Please ask for any brochures or further details.

We hope to meet you AT OUR BOOTH in San Diego, November 14-16, at ETS (booth #216), and November 17-20, at AAR & SBL, (booth #737).  We will also be offering additional meetings slide show presentations, The Seven Churches, and the Footsteps of St. Paul in Asia Minor.  ETS additional meeting, date and time will be announced and the SBL additional meeting is Sunday, November 18 from 4:00- 6:30 pm. 

We look forward to discussing your future plans for travel in Turkey, as well as our other destinations Greece, Israel, Egypt, Ukraine, and Northern Cypress.

Attached, you will find the inaugural issue of the latest news of Biblical Turkey, in the ‘Asia Minor Report’ newsletter, put together by Dr. Mark Wilson. We hope it is of interest to all of the scholars that we work with!

We have great references from other college and university groups, which we would be happy to share with you!

Please let me know if I can help answer any questions you may have. We look forward to seeing you and your groups here in 2008!

Best Regards,
Erin Dailey
Director of Operations
Ephesus Meeting

Tutku Tours

After a trip to Israel, Turkey is the place to go.  You need more than a week, but this is just the familiarization trip to get you to come back for a longer time with a lot of people.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Bible Lands Poster Collection

This is probably your last chance to get the best posters of biblical sites in the Holy Lanlogo1d that I know of.  Each poster in the set of 8 has 16-20 spectacular photographs by Richard Cleave. has the "last in existence" for $72 including shipping.  I have my own photos, but you can't print them this cheap, so I bought the poster set and recommend it to others.  If you don't want to plaster your house with these, they could be ideal for a church or school classroom or hallway.  Before you order, you can see exactly what you're getting.


Sunday, August 12, 2007

Archaeologists and the Bible

My friends at SourceFlix Productions have just finished a 3-minute video in which they interview various archaeologists on site to answer the question, "Is the Bible relevant for archaeology in Israel?"  If you don't know the answer to that question, or if you'd just like to hear from some of the best archaeologists working in the Holy Land, take a look.  Among those interviewed are Amihai Mazar, Amnon Ben-Tor, Aren Maier, and Gabriel Barkay.


Friday, August 03, 2007

The Sacred Abridgement

One of my favorite books on my favorite subject is The Sacred Bridge: Carta's Atlas of the Biblical World. I've hoped to do atsb short review of it here, but I haven't had the necessary time yet. I used the book last semester as a required text for a course I taught, but the problem with it is the cost. $100 may be standard for a chemistry textbook, but it's hard on Christian college students who are used to paying much less. Thus the announcement of a shorter and cheaper version is welcome:

Carta's New Century Handbook and Atlas of the Bible: Abridgement of The Sacred Bridge
by Anson F. Rainey and R. Steven Notley
Carta, Jerusalem, Forthcoming, November 2007
280 pages + full color illustrations and maps, English
Cloth, 9 x 12 inches
Your Price: $50.00

In some cases, shorter is better and I think this will be one. For most students, The Sacred Bridge is really over their heads. It's sometimes over my head, and rarely is too basic for me. Thus I am guessing that most students will find the abridged version sufficient for their needs.

Just to be clear, there are many things in this book that I disagree with. If you're looking for something more conservative, try the NIV Atlas of the Bible, by Carl Rasmussen or the Moody Atlas of Bible Lands, by Barry Beitzel. But the advanced version is The Sacred Bridge or its abridgement.

UPDATE (8/8): Not everyone reads the comments, so I'll just note that the chairman of Carta has commented below that they are nearing publication of a new atlas by Paul H. Wright, In His Image: Carta's Atlas of Biblical Geography. Wright is the director of the Jerusalem University College.


Sunday, July 01, 2007

Jerusalem in the Fog

I like a good calendar, especially one with photos of Israel.  But while the title of this one is intriguing, the cover shot just does not inspire me.  Maybe the rest of the shots that you can't see are better!  At $18, I'm not risking it.  But you can see the "Jerusalem in the Fog" calendar and decide for yourself.

Note the Author: Melekh Ben Ya'aqov (King, son of Jacob)


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Archaeology Lectures on DVD

The Biblical Archaeology Society is having a summer sale on DVDs that looks pretty good.  For instance, the BAS Lecture Series Deluxe Set I is $80 and includes 9 DVDs with 15 lectures.  Some of the lecturers are leaders in the field, including William G. Dever, Michael D. Coogan, Bart Ehrman, James Tabor, Aren Maier, and Shelley Wachsman.  A bonus lecture by Dever includes his personal memories of famous archaeologists.  I haven't seen these, but good lecture series usually require a plane ticket and an entrance fee of $25 and up.  There's a second series for $62 which includes 12 lectures.  Some of the topics seem a bit esoteric, and some of the lectures I don't think you'd want to show to a church group, but for many who can't go to grad school, this is one option.


Saturday, June 16, 2007

Virtual Models of Qumran and Rome

If you like virtual reconstruction models, there is information about a couple of new ones now online.

Virtual Qumran is being constructed by UCLA for the upcoming Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at the San Diego Natural History Museum (June 28 - December 31, 2007).  The Quicktime movies are not yet available, but there are several dozen medium-resolution screenshots.  It is ironic how much attention Qumran gets in academia today.  Qumran is the ancient equivalent of Somis, California.  If you don't know where that is, that's the point.  It's the Dead Sea Scrolls that give Qumran significance above the thousands of other ancient sites in the Middle East, but some scholars don't believe the scrolls have anything to do with the site.

Rome Reborn is the title of a project from the University of Virginia.  They built a physical model of Rome in 320 A.D. from which a virtual model was then constructed.  "The goal of 'Rome Reborn' is to create a digital model illustrating the development of ancient Rome from the earliest settlement in the late Bronze Age (ca. 1000 B.C.) to the beginning of the medieval period."  The website seems pretty spartan at this point.

One that's been around for some years but is still a great resource is the site of the Jerusalem Archaeological Park.  This includes some nice panoramas.  They have several animations that show how the water system worked and how  large the city was in various periods.  You can also learn more about how they built the model.  I can't seem to find the great screenshots that used to be available.

UPDATE (6/17): Those Jerusalem screenshots are here.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Review of the Pictorial Library

Bible Software Review has recently posted a helpful review of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.  Rubén Gómez lives in the Mediterranean basin, but has not traveled to the biblical lands.

The saying goes that an image is worth a thousand words, and this is truer than ever in the case of The Pictorial Library of Bible Lands (PLBL). No review can make justice to the fine pictures and excellent presentation of this product. It is the next best thing to actually being there! I love it!

He put the Pictorial Library to the test in preparing a sermon.

Since the proof of the cake is in the eating, I used the slides on Capernaum (Figure 2), among others, to prepare a series of sermons on John 6. I can assure you that watching the shots from the Sea of Galilee and spending some time looking at the remains of the synagogue in Capernaum, built on the earlier basalt level where the original edifice once stood -- and where Jesus most likely delivered his bread of life discourse --, brought everything to life and certainly helped a lot in seeing the whole picture of the episodes found in that chapter. It certainly enriched me in no small degree.

The review includes several helpful screenshots that illustrate several of the methods to access the photographs and notes.  Ruben's kind words are greatly appreciated, as is his faithful work in reviewing various Bible software products.  His site is a beneficial resource to all!


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Logos Software: Near East Archaeology Collection

A representative of Logos Research Systems has contacted me with a note about their Pre-Publication offer for the Near East Archaeology Collection (3 volumes).  The retail price for the set is $430, but they are offering it now for $100.  The three volumes are:

Studies in the Archaeology of the Iron Age in Israel and Jordan, edited by Amihai Mazar (2001).

Urbanism in the Aegean Bronze Age, by Keith Branigan (2002).

Excavations by Kathleen M. Kenyon in Jerusalem 1961-1967, Volume III: The Settlement in the Bronze and Iron Ages, by Margreet Steiner (2001).

I was initially reluctant to mention it here because I feel that these are not foundational archaeological works, which most of this blog's readers probably would be better suited for.  In fact, these books are all quite advanced and I would only recommend them for the scholar, graduate student, or a real nerdy armchair archaeologist.  For me personally, the first volume is the most valuable.  This alone is $150 new at Amazon.  Logos software, of course, offers significant advantages for an electronic edition.

As a Pre-Pub offer, customers get the lowest possible price, as the price goes up once enough orders are received.  If enough orders aren't placed, the books are never produced.

I'd love to see Logos offer in the future some more foundational archaeological works, such as:

Mazar, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible
Stern, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, vol 2
Ben-Tor, ed., Archaeology of Ancient Israel
Hoerth, Archaeology and the OT
McRay, Archaeology and the NT

And I would get real excited if they could get the archaeological encyclopedia sets:

The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, 4 volumes
The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East, 5 volumes

I fear that most/all of these will never happen because publishers tend to be difficult to work with.  It seems to me that publishing an electronic edition several years after the initial publication is a win-win situation.


Sunday, February 04, 2007

Near Eastern Archaeological Society

Many readers may be unfamiliar with the work of the Near Eastern Archaeological Society.  Founded in 1957, this group of evangelical scholars is committed to research in the lands of the Bible.  Membership in the organization includes the annual bulletin (a journal with 4-5 articles and book reviews) as well as 4 quarterly issues of Artifax, an excellent review of the latest news throughout the biblical world.  Full membership requires belief in the inerrancy and inspiration of the Bible.  Supporting associates pay the same dues ($30), but need not sign the statement of faith.  Student members pay half price ($15).  You can get more information as well as subscription information at the NEAS website.


Sunday, January 14, 2007

Two New Bible Atlases

The first is a brand new work, released a few months ago.  The second is the 4th edition and is due out in April.  I have not seen either and so can only judge them by their covers (and both fail on that count).  There must be a good market for Bible atlases with so many out there; in addition to these, I am aware of two revisions underway and two new ones being written.

The IVP Atlas of Bible History, by Paul Lawrence

* Includes nearly 100 superb relief maps.
* Features over 140 colour photographs.
* Includes over 20 site plans and panoramic reconstructions.
* Draws on the latest finds of historians and archaeologists.
* Includes special features on topics such as the peoples and languages of the Bible throughout the text.
* Also includes a Scripture index.

This atlas is currently available for $28 from either Eisenbrauns or Amazon.

Oxford Bible Atlas, 4th ed., by Adrian Curtis

This new edition of the Oxford Bible Atlas, now with full-colour maps and illustrations, has been thoroughly revised to bring it up to date with regard both to biblical scholarship and to archaeology and topography. The Atlas will help readers of the Bible understand the contexts in which its stories are set and to appreciate the world from which it emerged and which formed its background. Maps show the geographical setting of the Bible's stories and reflect the successive stages of the Bible's accounts, while specially chosen full-colour illustrations bring the countries and their peoples to life. The accompanying text describes the land of Palestine, and its wider ancient Near Eastern and east Mediterranean settin  gs. It outlines clearly the successive historical periods, and describes the major civilizations with which Israelites, Jews, and early Christians came into contact. There is also an illustrated survey of the relevance of archaeology for the study of the Bible. The Atlas provides a superb guide to the geography of the Holy Land throughout biblical history, from the Exodus period through to New Testament times.

This edition will be available in April and is currently priced at $28 at Eisenbrauns and $23 at Amazon.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Interactive Satellite Map

There's a new interactive satellite map available for download.  B. G. Galbraith created this using a high-resolution satellite photo of Israel and then identifying major biblical sites.  Each site is hyper-linked to a page with photos, descriptions, and relevant Scriptures about it.   The program is free and may be downloaded here.  This is another great tool to learn about the land and the Bible.


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Book Review: Going Places With God

The problem with studying the geography of Israel is that it can quickly become divorced from the life-changing truths of Scripture. After all, how do hills and valleys help you grow closer to God? Wayne Stiles has the answer to that in his new book, Going Places With God: A Devotional Journey Through the Lands of the Bible. I am often asked what is the perfect follow-up to a trip to Israel. My typical answer (“read a Bible atlas”) just got better: read and meditate on the truths of this devotional guide. What makes this book so good is that it takes “boring” details of Scripture and shows how they are profitable for life and godliness.

Here’s an example: Stiles shows how the geography of Joseph’s brothers tending their sheep brought Joseph to slavery in Egypt and ultimately Israel’s deliverance from famine. Unless you understand the geography, you won’t fully appreciate God’s sovereignty. The author draws from that just how we should relate to our sometimes bewildering circumstances. In another story, Israel has to travel all the way around Edom, and Stiles explains that in God’s plan, sometimes the long way is the best way.

I love too the way that Stiles draws beautiful word pictures. With him as guide, I picture myself one day walking along the shores of the Sea of Galilee and another day watching the sunrise from the Mount of Olives. A pastor for fourteen years, Stiles is a truly gifted communicator with a knowledge of where people are hurting today. One devotional will encourage you to increase your trust in the all-powerful God, and another devotional will challenge you to take heed lest you fall. Familiar lessons some, but brought to life from places in the Bible that you would never otherwise look.

I love the geographical nuggets contained in this book, but the reason that I am recommending it is this: Going Places With God will challenge you to live a radical, Christ-centered life. The book came out a week ago: I encourage you to buy it, read it, and buy a couple for friends.

You can see more about the book and its author at this website. The book lists for $15, but Amazon has it for $10.

[Update: The free copies have all been claimed.]


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Tabor on the Megiddo "Prayer Hall"

Too often new discoveries are sensationalized, and after things are sorted out and more rational conclusions are made, the story doesn't make the news again.  For this reason, anyone interested in the "Megiddo church" would do well to read the book, or at least James Tabor's helpful comments about it.

In November, 2005 the news spread quickly around the world: Oldest "church" ever found has been discovered near the biblical site of Armageddon!

The site was uncovered on the grounds of a modern Israeli prison near Megiddo. It gives us a precious glimpse into early Christian worship and devotion before the time of Constantine (325 AD), for it is only after Constantine that structures we can definitely identify as "Churches" began to spread throughout the Mediterranean world.

Yet this site can not properly be called a church. So what is it? Scholars are just beginning to try and access the impact of this precious discovery. What we appear to have here is what the authors have called a "Christian prayer hall." It is a room, complete with mosaics containing art work and inscriptions, dedicated to "the god Jesus Christ," with obvious ritual functions and symbols, but quite different from later Christian churches of the Byzantine period. The structure appears to date to the early 3rd century, making it by far the most important early Christian archaeological site of its kind ever discovered in the Holy Land. In their book, excavation director Yotam Tepper, and epigraphic expert Leah Di Segni, throughly explore the textual evidence for "sacred meals" from sources such as the Didache, the fascinating early Christian document discovered in 1873 that I discuss in The Jesus Dynasty. Our evidence for pre-Constantinian "Christianity" is almost wholly textual. It is rare to find any kind of material evidence that might shed light on the practices of early followers of Jesus, particularly in the Holy Land. To have found at Megiddo this evidence for liturgical activities that seem to link to rites and practices we read about in ancient texts is something of which we normally can only dream. But there is more. One of the three inscriptions mentions four women, singled out as having special importance to the community. This is clear evidence, echoing what we find in our earliest gospel sources, of the vital importance of woman as leaders and even patrons in the earliest days of the movement.

Now that the dust has cleared a bit, literally, the story of this most extraordinary archaeological find has just become available in an attractive, lavishly illustrated, full-color booklet published by the Israel Antiquities Authority titled, A Christian Prayer Hall of the 3rd Century. The authors, have provided us with a fascinating but authoritative, account of the excavation and its significance narrated in an accessible style for the non-specialist. I recently heard both Tepper and Segni lecture on the discovery at the annual meeting in D.C. of the American Schools of Oriential Research, the preeminent gathering of archaeologists working in areas related to the Bible and the Ancient Near East. Their presentations were riveting and thought provoking and the substance of those lectures, plus much more, is provided in this richly illustrated volume.

This little book is a model for publications in the field of archaeology. It is beautifully done, reasonably priced, and as readable as it is informative. It is a must for anyone interested in the earliest archaeological records of the spread of Christianity in the Holy Land. The IAA has printed a limited but reasonable number of copies. It can be conveniently ordered in the U.S.A. from the Web bookstore: I urge anyone interested in the material evidence related to earliest Christianity to get a copy of this book while they are still available.

Dr. James D. Tabor
Chair, Dept. of Religious Studies
UNC Charlotte
Charlotte, NC 28223

For earlier BiblePlaces posts about this place, see here and here.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

iLumina Bible Software

The best multimedia Bible ever made, as far as I know, is iLumina.  Over the last couple of years, it has been released in several versions, but now I see that the Gold Premium edition (a step above the Parent-Teacher-Student edition) is out and available for the very good price of $50 (retail is $90).  I've given a number of copies of iLumina to friends and it has always been well received (and we're giving a few more this year). 

The program includes:

multiple commentaries, including the Life Application Study Bible Notes, concordances, interactive charts, interactive maps, DIGITAL animations and virtual tours, photographs, and discussion Bible study questions, plus much more....

  • 22 Volume Searchable Bible Encyclopedia
  • 35 animations and 25 virtual tours
  • 10,000 Bible Study notes
  • 8,900 in-depth articles
  • 200 maps and Bible charts
  • 1000 HolyLand Photos
  • 478 Guided Study and Quizzes
  • Full search and concordance features
  • New Living Translation and KJV
  • and more!

Personally, I'm not so enamored with the Bible translations or the Bible study notes (you can find these in plenty of books and software programs).  But I love some of the reconstructions, screenshots, and photos. 

For lots of details and the discounted price, see Sunday Software.


Monday, November 27, 2006

New Videos of Ancient Sites in Israel

Tim Bulkeley of has recently completed several videos (or narrated slideshows) of archaeological sites in Israel, including Lachish, Arad, and Megiddo. Each is approximately five minutes long and they are interesting and informative (though the Arad remains are Early, not Middle Bronze). I've had it in mind to do something like this myself, and perhaps this will renew my motivation. One subject that would lend itself well to this is the location of Jesus' crucifixion. Tim also has some of his photos of Israel available for free (non-commercial) use.

HT: ANE-2 Yahoo Group


Learn Hieroglyphics Online

From the ANE-2 yahoo group:
Have you always wanted to be able to decipher the secrets of ancient Egypt yourself by reading the hieroglyphs? Have you tried teaching yourself hieroglyphs but gave up because you had no one to answer your questions and no other students with whom to learn? If so, Glyphdoctors' course in Middle Egyptian provides you with a complete introduction to Middle Egyptian grammar, enabling you to comprehend and translate literary, religious, historical and documentary texts in the language. The course is taught online and is self-paced so you can fit it into any schedule, anywhere. You will gain access to a virtual classroom where you will have the guidance of Egyptologist Nicole Hansen (who has a Ph.D. in Egyptology from the University of Chicago) and be able to interact with other students.

You can read more about the course here, view an animated course preview here, or see what currently enrolled students are saying about the course here.

The material covered by this course is the equivalent of a first year university-level course in Middle Egyptian.


Monday, November 20, 2006

10 Percent Off has been one of the premier websites for biblical studies for over five years now and we've never celebrated or even noted our anniversaries. We're not particularly proud of ourselves because we know how much better we could be. But we're trying, and there are some terrific resources that we've been working hard on. So, for no special reason, except maybe to encourage people who only buy when there is a "sale," we've decided to offer our first "sale."

How much? 10% percent off

What products?

How long? One week, until November 28, 2006.

How do I get it? This link [expired] will take you to the order page and give you the discount. The reduced prices will be shown on the confirmation page.

How much is shipping? Free, unless you live outside the U.S. or want it tomorrow.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Google Earth and old maps

I count myself a member of the Google Earth fan club.  The latest update to the software gives you the ability to overlay historic maps over the globe.  Of interest to biblical studies is the "Middle East 1961" map, which is a combination of two maps from Keith Johnston.  This map itself is interesting, but maybe no more than that because the detail is so limited.  The map covers a large swath from Turkey to Afghanistan.  A more detailed map like the Survey of Western Palestine would be more useful.

To view this map, or others such as Lewis and Clark 1814, Asia 1710, or Buenos Aires 1892, you must first install the most recent version of Google Earth.  Then in the "Layers" section, under "Featured Content," choose the Rumsey Historical Maps section.

For more on this development, see the ZDNet blog or the comments by the map owner, David Rumsey, on the Official Google Blog.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Holy Land Satellite Atlas and CD

Sunday Software has a special on the Holy Land Satellite Atlas, volume 1, with a fly-over CD, produced by Rohr Productions (Richard Cleave). The atlas itself is splendid and hard to find. This is the atlas to get if you want to see the land of Israel and Jordan. The maps are very detailed (1:275,000, 1:150,000, and 1:100,000) and includes both satellite images and layer-tint views (see the book cover for an example of each). Gorgeous and instructive!

The CD is even more difficult to find. I've seen various editions of this CD and am not sure exactly which one is for sale here, but I think the following adjectives apply to all of the versions I've seen: unique, beautiful, and buggy. For those who use Google Earth, it should be noted that this CD is not as easy to navigate and the resolution is not as high as GE (contrary to what Sunday Software says). But there are some close-up shots of biblical sites which you don't get on GE.

The regular price for both is $70, and it's $5 off until Thanksgiving (Nov. 23). Unfortunately Sunday Software does not carry volume 2 and I can't tell you where to get it. Rohr Productions has been consistent for years in producing some of the best materials for studying the Holy Land and then making it nearly impossible to buy them. (Sunday Software says you can contact Rohr directly about buying volume two; good luck in getting a response.)

There are a lot more details about the atlas and software at Sunday Software's site. They also carry a set of beautiful posters of the Holy Lands. If you're in a rush to get them though, you'll be disappointed. It took over a month for my set to arrive (to a US address).


Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Valuable Maps of Israel

Unless you're in the Israeli military, the best maps of the country are those produced by the Survey of Israel in the 1:50,000 series. The 20 maps cover the land from Dan to Eilat and cost about $20 each. The maps are very detailed and include all the dirt roads and hiking trails, making it ideal for 4x4ers and backpackers. They are in Hebrew only, but if you can read the Hebrew alphabet, the maps are useful. I love 'em and use them all the time. No GPS needed!

A couple other maps worthy of mention from the same website:
Israel-Jordan (1;400,000) - believe it or not, this is the best map of Jordan available anywhere. In English.

South Sinai (1:250,000) - another Israeli map that is better than anything produced by the country itself. In English.

Road Atlas - the easiest one for use when driving around in a car. Not as detailed as the 1:50,000, but if you're staying on paved roads, this will suffice. It's a spiral-bound book, similar to the Thomas Guides or Rand McNally atlases. In English.

Two other resources worth noting:

Survey of Western Palestine - maps from the 1870s, at a scale of 1:63,000. Considered the best source for knowledge of the country before the modern population explosion. Available as part of an 11-volume set for $4,000 here, or in electronic format from us for $35.

Maps of British Mandatory Palestine - maps from the 1940s, showing the current status of Arab and Jewish settlements. We're not sure if these are available for sale anywhere, but is working on publishing an electronic version of them. If you're impatient, contact us directly.

If you're looking more for maps to use in teaching contexts, see our review of "Electronic Maps for Bible Teaching, Part 1." Part 2 has not yet been completed.


Sunday, October 29, 2006

Encyclopedia Judaica (Almost) Ready

I mentioned this some months ago, but the 2nd edition of the Encyclopedia Judaica will soon be available for purchase. The 22-volume work includes 21,000 entries in 17,000 pages at a cost of $1,995. One entire volume is on Israel, and the Holocaust is the second longest entry. The Jerusalem Post has more details, or you can see the official website (one page only at this point), or pre-order it at Amazon. It's due out December 8.


Monday, August 21, 2006

A Favorite Reference Work

I have a lot of books in my office, but only a few are within arm's reach. Those are ones that I refer to most often. One of the best research tools for biblical sites is the New Encyclopedia for Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land. I use this four-volume set frequently, as it is the single best source for detailed information about archaeological data about sites in Israel. In looking over my online "book list," I noticed that the price is now lower than it ever has been - $150 with free shipping at Eisenbrauns (compared to Amazon's $335). I also see that there are only 4 in stock. I don't know if that's the last four or if there are more that they can order. In any case, I highly recommend it for $335; at $150, it is a great deal! I am told that there is a "fifth volume" with updates of certain sites in process, but as far as I know, it hasn't been released yet. Here are the full details from Eisenbrauns.

The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land - 4 Volume Set

The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land - 4 Volume Set

Edited by Ephraim Stern
Carta, Jerusalem, 1993
1552 pages with 3000 photos + 32 plates + 700 maps, charts, drawings, English
ISBN: 0132762889
List Price: $335.00
Your Price: $150.75


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Newsletter on Biblical Archaeology

If you're wondering when the next BiblePlaces Newsletter will come out, the editor is as well. Soon, hopefully. It's not the war, it's other things like family, vacations, projects, and real work.

I can, however, recommend another free newsletter which is faithful to its monthly schedule. The ABR Electronic Newsletter is published mid-month, every month, by the Associates for Biblical Research. In keeping with the twin foci of the organization, the newsletters usually have articles on biblical archaeology and creation/evolution issues.

This month's issue, which came out today, has the best report on the 2006 season at Hazor that I've seen anywhere (without the puff that seems to typify mainstream news sources on archaeology digs this summer). And there's a column on the religious origins of the "Big Bang" theory. Unlike some other e-newsletters, the commercial aspect of it is minimal.

I do not see how you can get a copy of this month's newsletter; it is apparently not online. But you can subscribe by sending a blank e-mail to abrnews at with the subject line "Newsletter" (without quotes).

UPDATE: G.M. Grena has found an archive of all back issues of the newsletter.


Saturday, July 22, 2006

Archaeology Magazine - Limited Time Offer

The most popular archaeology magazine for biblical discoveries is Biblical Archaeology Review. Another magazine that covers similar topics is Bible and Spade. Produced by the Associates for Biblical Research and edited by Dr. Bryant G. Wood, Bible and Spade has a much more conservative perspective than BAR. I recommend a subscription (sample pdf issue here).

This week Galaxie Software announced an electronic collection of all back issues of Bible and Spade. All 31 years (1972-2005) are available for $80, but until July 31, there is a special of $50.

So for the cost of a 3-year subscription, you get all 31 years. And the electronic edition is of course much better. To get the deal you have to order it from this page and enter code 5454. Not later than July 31.


Monday, July 10, 2006

Reason for the French to Rejoice!

BiblePlaces now speaks French. It's taken about a year and the heroic efforts of Mr. Philippe Viguier, but BibléLieux is now ready to share the best photos and descriptions of biblical sites to readers in France, Algérie, Bénin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroun, Cap vert, Centrafrique, Comores, Congo Brazzaville, Côte d'ivoire, Djibouti, Gabon, Guinée, Guinée-Bissau, Guinée-Equatoriale, Haiti, La Réunion, Les Seychelles, Madagascar, Maurice, Mali, Maroc, Mauritanie, Monaco, Niger, République démocratique du Congo, Rwanda, Sénégal, Suisse, Tchad, Togo, Tunisie and Québec.

If you're a French speaker, hop on over and explore the biblical world.

If you're an English speaker, you can do one of the following:
  1. Practice your French and see beautiful pictures at the same time.
  2. Tell all of your Canadian, African and French friends about it.
  3. Take a few minutes to learn something (in English) about a biblical site that you don't know much about, such as Aphek, Edom, Laodicea, or the Nahal Besor.


Sunday, March 19, 2006

New CD: New Testament Archaeology in Pictures

Biblical Archaeology Society has just announced the release of New Testament Archaeology in Pictures. This CD includes 285 digital images (1024x768 resolution) for $70. We weren't impressed with the previous The Biblical World in Pictures CD (nor was The Journal of Biblical Studies), but we haven't seen this one. If anyone has it, feel free to add a comment here. We're always looking for good teaching resources.

Mars Hill in Athens. I took this picture yesterday.


Thursday, March 02, 2006

Biblical Archaeology Review: Back Issue Set

As a grad student in biblical history, I recognized the reference value of Biblical Archaeology Review and began a subscription and collecting back issues. It took me about a decade to get them all (the 70s are rare), but I finally succeeded. I had them all bound (not cheap), and then they came out with all the issues on CD. The advantages of having the articles on computer are obvious, but the printed editions with their large, beautiful pictures still are useful. Now I see a nearly complete set of the first 20 years for sale. The listing, as received from my ABEBooks want list is:
Biblical Archaeology Review (ISSN 0098-9444), Shanks, Hershel (Editor) Biblical Archaeological Society, Hard Cover & Paperback, A set of 17 bound volumes and 14 loose-leaf bi-monthly issues from 1975 to 1995 (vv1-17,20 are bound). Issues 18:1, 4 issues are missing.
Bookseller: International ALERT Academy, Big Sandy, TX
Price: US$ 266.00

View or Order this Book:
I paid much more than that just to have my issues bound. Some issues cost me $10 each. Of course if you're going to be moving back and forth across the ocean, the CD is preferable!


Saturday, February 11, 2006

Encyclopedia Judaica, Revised Edition

I've heard that the text is close to going to the printer for the revised edition of the Encyclopedia Judaica. The original edition, published in 1972, has been an essential reference work on all subjects related to Jewish life and Israel. The new edition probably won't be for sale for a year, I'd guess. The 16 volume set will cost $1900!


Thursday, January 26, 2006

BibleWorks 7 includes Satellite Maps

Somehow I've managed to avoid buying BibleWorks for all these years (using Logos instead), but now I see a new version has been announced. There are a lot of new features apparently, but the one of interest here are the satellite maps. In their words:
BibleWorks comes with a set of beautiful satellite maps that you have to see to believe! The collection includes a full set of editable site and terrain overlays for major locations in Israel and Egypt, along with detailed overhead and elevation data and a comprehensive list of archaeological sites. You can even create your own map views, select sites to display, annotate key locations and trace journeys or battle lines.
If you haven't seen it already, take a look at my review of Electronic Maps for Bible Teaching. (And no, I still haven't made it to doing Part 2.)

Update: The program is for sale from Rejoice Christian Software for $349 with free shipping. In my experience, they usually offer the lowest prices.


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Holy Sepulcher Virtual Tour - Free for a Few Days

I suppose I should send out a BiblePlaces Newsletter for this one, but time is short with a group arriving tomorrow and I don't know that I will. But putting it on the blog is easy...

A month ago a friend alerted me to a new "virtual tour" of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It was selling for $20 and I downloaded the demo and was impressed. But I didn't want to spend the $20 at the moment. A few weeks later I heard that the price was down to $10 and so I went and bought it. Now I just happened to check the site again to see if the special was still on and I see the price is down to ZERO. Until Jan 2. You can't beat that price. And it comes with an 89-page essay about the church written by an expert on it, Tom Powers (whom I also am happy to count a friend).

I know that if you're a Protestant, the church probably doesn't give you the warm fuzzies. But it probably is built on the actual place of the crucifixion and burial, and it certainly is an interesting and historic building.

It's free here. Until Jan 2 Jan 8.

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