Ancient Coins from the Temple Mount

Ancient Jewish Coins

Rare ancient Jewish coin

A silver “YHD” coin dating to the 4th century BC (credit: Breaking Israel News)

It is fun to find things from the ancient past. At virtually every archaeological site we visit on each study tour we lead, one can easily find a piece of potsherd from the past. Broken pottery is plentiful at every site. Coming in all kinds of shapes and colors (reddish to brownish to tannish primarily), pottery is actually what helps the archaeologist date stone architectural structures or walls. The finding of ancient coins can do the same. And while it is much more rare to find a coin than a piece of pottery, there have been to date thousands of coins found all over Israel.

Temple Mount Sifting Project

Emek Tzurim National Park

Our group at the Emek Tzurim National Park Sifting Project

Occasionally on our Israel trips, we schedule a two hour slot with the Temple Mount Sifting Project. To give you a little background to this Sifting Project, it was in 1999 when the Islamic Waqf began to carelessly dig on the Temple Mount. The goal of the Waqf was to build an underground mosque on the southeast corner of the Temple Mount. This led to the removal of about 400 dump-truck fills of Temple Mount dirt and debris over about a week’s time. The dump-trucks unloaded this dirt primarily in the Kidron Valley. Understanding that this dirt should have been carefully archaeologically excavated with brushes, Gaby Barkay (a leading Jerusalem archaeologist) co-founded a rescue effort of this dirt and debris. These piles of dirt were brought to the northern end of the Mt. of Olives. These piles were then carefully sifted through. Today in the Emek Tzurim National Park, the sifting of Temple Mount dirt and debris still takes place.

To date, this Sifting Project has recovered items from both the 1st and 2nd Temple periods. While groups (like ours) typically find pottery, mosaics, bones, special stones, beads, and even tiles, coins have been also found. According to Zachi Dvira, co-director of the Project, about 6,000 coins have been found.

The “YHD” Coin

Roman coin

The coin one of our guys found at the Sifting Project

However, just recently (about a year ago I understand), a few exceptionally rare coins have been found at the Sifting Project (one pictured above). These five coins found are some of the first coins minted by Jews. According to the article, “The newly-discovered coins bear the letters ‘YHD,’ or Yehud, the Aramaic name for the biblical kingdom of Judea, and are dated to the end of the 4th century BCE.” Dvira states, “What makes the discovery of these coins so remarkable is that only five other coins of this kind have been found in the 150 years of archaeological digging in ancient Jerusalem sites.”

Emek Tzurim National Park

Close up of the coin found in May!

Now when our group when to the Sifting Project about two weeks ago now, two guys in our group found coins! While they still have to be carefully cleaned and analyzed, it will be interesting to hear what coins they were. At first guess, the experts on site suggested they were both Roman coins. But stay tuned!

Here is the entire article on recent ancient coins discovered in the sifting of Temple Mount debris:

Rare Jewish Coins Found at the Temple Mount Excavations.

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Next Israel Tour Begins This Weekend!

I am excited for what God has in store for us on this next Israel tour. God has brought together 90 people for this next trip. It will be co-lead by Gordon Govier (biblical archaeology correspondent for Christianity Today magazine and editor of ARTIFAX magazine) and Pastor David Simon from North Carolina. Both Gordon and David have traveled with us before! For me, this will be my 60th Israel trip.

The Itinerary

Old City of Jerusalem

The Old City of Jerusalem

The itinerary we wrote for this trip is quite extensive! We head south first (through the Shephelah and Negev). We even spend one night in the Judean Desrt (Hanokdim) before climbing the Roman ramp at Masada the following morning.

We then head north through the Samaritan Hill Country to the Galilee area. The life of Christ comes into full view here!  We plan to stay for 3 nights on the southern end of the Sea of Galilee.

The trip ends in Jerusalem, with many unique experiences that await us here over the course of four full days. We plan to participate in the Temple Mount Sifting Project. We are even in this capital city of Israel when the US Embassy is supposed to move here. It should be an exciting (and crowded) time!

All-in-all, we will see about 60 biblical sites! Daily posts will be made about the trip to allow you to follow our day-to-day experiences.

Hikes

The Zin desert

The Desert / Canyon of Zin (Numbers 13)

A number of hikes are included on this trip as well. This includes hiking up and down many off-the-beaten-track archaeological sites (Gezer, Qeiyafa, Gath, Lachish, Arad, Avdat, Omrit, Gamla, Hippos, etc…) but also hiking in the Zin Desert, up the Roman ramp at Masada, to Cave 1 at Qumran, and up Arbel in the Galilee. We’ll even enjoy a 30 minute camel ride in the Judean Desert.

Pray for the group

Sunset Sea of Galilee

Sunset on the Sea of Galilee

So please follow us and pray for life-changing encounters over these next two weeks. The tour begins Saturday, with arrival in Israel on Sunday. The tour ends May 18th.

Shalom Shalom!

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2,700 Year-old Seal Impression Discovered in Jerusalem

A New Exciting Discovery!

seal impression found in Jerusalem

7th century BC seal impression found in Jerusalem (credit: IAA)

New exciting archaeological discoveries connecting us to the Bible are happening all the time in Israel. It’s exciting!! The latest find took place in Jerusalem. In fact, the discovery was made within 75 yards of the most holy place for Jews today … the Western Wall of the Temple!

Found below the level of today’s Kotel (Western Wall Plaza), a seal impression (also called a docket) bearing the words, “To (or belonging to) the governor of the city.”  This unique seal was actually a stamped piece of clay from the 7th century BC. In their description of this seal, the IAA (Israel Antiquities Authority) stated, “it measures 13 X 15 mm and is 2–3 mm thick. The upper part of the sealing depicts two figures facing each other, and the lower part holds an inscription in ancient Hebrew script.”

Specifically and in more detail, Professors Tallay Ornan of the Hebrew University, and Benjamin Sass of Tel Aviv University, studied the docket and describe it in this way:

“…Above a double line are two standing men, facing each other in a mirror-like manner. Their heads are depicted as large dots, lacking any details. The hands facing outward are dropped down, and the hands facing inward are raised Each of the figures is wearing a striped, knee-length garment. In the register beneath the double line is an inscription in ancient Hebrew: לשרער, with no spacing between the words and no definite article. It denotes לשר העיר, i.e., “belonging to the governor of the city.” (IAA – You Tube Channel)

Watch the Video

The video produced by the IAA describes the discovery thoroughly. This seal was one of seven others found in this area. Israeli archaeologists share about this incredible discovery dating to about 700 BC:

 

Connection to the Bible

In the Old Testament we have two references to city governors. 2 Kings 23:8 mentions “Joshua, the city governor,” and 2 Chronicles 34:8 mentions “Maaseiah the ruler of the city.” These governors served essentially served as mayors of the city.

The excitement of this discovery also connects us to ancient Jerusalem. Nir Barkat, Jerusalem’s mayor today, added his perspective:

It is very overwhelming to receive greetings from First Temple-period Jerusalem. This shows that already 2700 years ago, Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, was a strong and central city. Jerusalem is one of the most ancient capitals of the world, continually populated by the Jewish people for more than 3000 years. Today we have the privilege to encounter another one of the long chain of persons and leaders that built and developed the city. We are grateful to be living in a city with such a magnificent past, and are obligated to ensure its strength for generations to come, as we daily do.”  (IAA – You Tube Channel)

Stay tuned to see what is discovered next in this amazing city of Jerusalem Israel’s ancient and eternal capital!

 

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Top Archaeological Discoveries in 2017 in Israel

Archaeology in Israel

Small theater Jerusalem

Small theater discovered near the Western Wall in Jerusalem (image provided by Israel Antiquities Authority)

Archaeologists in Israel are uncovering artifacts on a regular basis! At each and every archaeological excavation, something from the past is found. While each dig is rather grueling, tedious, and usually hot (sorry, but the Indiana Jones version of archaeology is only for the movies), the diligent efforts of both the archaeologists and the scores of volunteers that help yield exciting discoveries.

About a month ago, a good friend of mine, Gordon Govier, compiled a recent list of the top archaeological finds of the year. It was for a Christianity Today article, December 28, 2017. In addition to writing occasionally on the topic of biblical archaeology for CT, Gordon is editor of ARTIFAX magazine and executive producer of The Book & The Spade radio program and podcast. Incidentally, he is also co-leading an upcoming extensive archaeological Israel Tour with me in May, 2017 (go HERE if you are interested in joining us. The tour is almost sold out, but a few spaces still remain!).

The Ranking of the Top 10 Discoveries

Skeleton at Gezer

One of the skeletons found at Tel Gezer (image provided by SW Baptist Seminary)

While each of these “Top 10” discoveries is important in their own way, about a month ago Gordon kindly asked me (as well as Todd Bolen, professor of biblical studies at The Master’s University and editor of Bibleplaces.com) for our help in ranking them. Talk about a difficult task! While this is a subjective task, Gordon’s final ordering of these discoveries is excellent. Gordon has been researching archaeology, interviewing archaeologists, and writing about the topic for many years.

Summary of the Top Discoveries

El Araj - Bethsaida

El Araj – the new possible archaeological site for Bethsaida

Here is Gordon’s list (in descending order) of the top discoveries in archaeology in Israel in 2017. You will quickly notice the many connections these discoveries have with the Bible!

10) Pagan center discovered at Hippos/Sussita

9) Byzantine church mosaics found

8) Augustus temple altar at Caesarea

7) Merneptah’s destruction of Gezer

6) 12th Dead Sea Scrolls cave confirmed

5) Seal impressions and tower redating in City of David

4) Timna copper camp dated to time of David and Solomon

3) Rethinking the identity of Bethsaida

2) A relic from the temple that Jesus knew

1) Small Roman theater found next to the Temple Mount’s Western Wall

The Full Article

Now that you see the list, you will want to read the full article – Biblical Archaeologist’s Top 10 Discoveries of 2017

Special thanks to Gordon for bringing to us this list. I highly suggest subscribing to ARTIFAX magazine to keep up with the latest archeological finds.

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Top Archaeological Discoveries in 2017 in Israel

Archaeology in Israel

Small theater Jerusalem

Small theater discovered near the Western Wall in Jerusalem (image provided by Israel Antiquities Authority)

Archaeologists in Israel are uncovering artifacts on a regular basis! At each and every archaeological excavation, something from the past is found. While each dig is rather grueling, tedious, and usually hot (sorry, but the Indiana Jones version of archaeology is only for the movies), the diligent efforts of both the archaeologists and the scores of volunteers that help yield exciting discoveries.

About a month ago, a good friend of mine, Gordon Govier, compiled a recent list of the top archaeological finds of the year. It was for a Christianity Today article, December 28, 2017. In addition to writing occasionally on the topic of biblical archaeology for CT, Gordon is editor of ARTIFAX magazine and executive producer of The Book & The Spade radio program and podcast. Incidentally, he is also co-leading an upcoming extensive archaeological Israel Tour with me in May, 2017 (go HERE if you are interested in joining us. The tour is almost sold out, but a few spaces still remain!).

The Ranking of the Top 10 Discoveries

Skeleton at Gezer

One of the skeletons found at Tel Gezer (image provided by SW Baptist Seminary)

While each of these “Top 10” discoveries is important in their own way, about a month ago Gordon kindly asked me (as well as Todd Bolen, professor of biblical studies at The Master’s University and editor of Bibleplaces.com) for our help in ranking them. Talk about a difficult task! While this is a subjective task, Gordon’s final ordering of these discoveries is excellent. Gordon has been researching archaeology, interviewing archaeologists, and writing about the topic for many years.

Summary of the Top Discoveries

El Araj - Bethsaida

El Araj – the new possible archaeological site for Bethsaida

Here is Gordon’s list (in descending order) of the top discoveries in archaeology in Israel in 2017. You will quickly notice the many connections these discoveries have with the Bible!

10) Pagan center discovered at Hippos/Sussita

9) Byzantine church mosaics found

8) Augustus temple altar at Caesarea

7) Merneptah’s destruction of Gezer

6) 12th Dead Sea Scrolls cave confirmed

5) Seal impressions and tower redating in City of David

4) Timna copper camp dated to time of David and Solomon

3) Rethinking the identity of Bethsaida

2) A relic from the temple that Jesus knew

1) Small Roman theater found next to the Temple Mount’s Western Wall

The Full Article

Now that you see the list, you will want to read the full article – Biblical Archaeologist’s Top 10 Discoveries of 2017

Special thanks to Gordon for bringing to us this list. I highly suggest subscribing to ARTIFAX magazine to keep up with the latest archeological finds.

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Stone Jars & Cana

It is always very interesting and exciting to learn of new discoveries that connect us with the Bible. While we must begin with a starting point that contends that the Bible is historically accurate and trustworthy, the role of archaeology is to simply reveal the truth of the Bible. What archaeology does is this – it connects us with the stories from the Bible This seems to be the case once again from a recent discovery in the region of the Lower Galilee between the biblical cities of Nazareth and Cana.

stone jar found near Cana

2,000 year-old stone jar (credit: Times of Israel)

As we know from John 2, Jesus’ first miracle happened during a Jewish wedding taking place in Cana. The miracle was the changing the water into wine. For ceremonial purposes, stone jars were used at this wedding. What makes this recent archaeological discovery so exciting is that it is believed that the place where these stone jars were made (e.g. stone factory) may have been found in this precise area between Nazareth and Cana! While we of course can’t say for sure that the stone jars used in the John 2 story were actually made here, nonetheless it is a good possibility they were made here in this soft chalk limestone cave!

Excavation site of Cana stone jars

The excavation site near Cana (credit IAA)

As shared in at helloChristian.com, this stone-jar workshop was only discovered by chance as the construction of a sports centre got underway in the area. About this “accidental” discovery, Amanda Borschel-Dan at the Times of Israel writes, “A man-made chalkstone quarry cave was recently discovered between Nazareth and the village of Kana. What is unique in this excavation is the additional find of a stoneware workshop — one of only four in Israel.”

stone vessels near Cana

Stone vessels (credit: IAA)

This dig is being done by Ariel University located in Samaria. Dr. Yonatan Adler, senior lecturer at Ariel University and director of excavations for the Israel Antiquities Authority says, “The production waste indicates that this workshop produced mainly handled mugs and bowls of various sizes. The finished products were marketed throughout the region here in Galilee, and our finds provide striking evidence that Jews here were scrupulous regarding the purity laws.”

Below is a video that describes the excavation in fuller detail.

 

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Easter Hope

The garden tomb

The Garden Tomb, Jerusalem

The centerpiece of our Christian faith is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We call it our Easter hope! The wonderful words of the angel at the tomb says it all – “He is not here!  He is risen! (Matthew 28:6).”  If an ossuary (a small stone box containing the bones of the deceased person) would ever been found complete with the name of Yeshua on the outside and the bones of Jesus inside as Paul said, “our faith would then be futile (1 Corinthians 15:17).”  But that wasn’t the case!  The tomb was empty, not because of the body of the Savior being stolen nor because His followers hallucinated or made up the story. The tomb was empty because Jesus was literally raised to life.

In Israel, 100s of Second Temple Tomb (tombs dating to the 1st century) have been found. About 2 dozen tombs have actually been found in and around the Holy Sepulcher Church.  In my humble opinion, this is the most likely area of Christ’s tomb, in contrast to the Garden Tomb, which although is a much nicer atmosphere to consider the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection, is not a 1st century tomb but rather a classic 1st Temple (Iron Age) tomb.  But we worship the Person, not the place.  And we honor not merely tradition, but historical truth, and reality of Christ’s resurrection.

3 Tomb Reconstruction copyThe most likely type of Second Temple Tomb Jesus was laid in on Friday afternoon was an arcasolium tomb.  The most common type of tomb during the period of the New Testament was the koch (kochim, plural) or niche tomb.  However, it seems as if they angels in the resurrection story couldn’t sit at the feet and head of Christ (John 20:12) within a narrow and elongated niche tomb. Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb was a newly-hewn tomb (Matthew 27:60), and must have been a tomb of prominence. What a dramatic event it must have been for the women at the tomb who were told by the angels of Christ’s resurrection! What an amazing experience also for Peter and John who ran to the tomb shortly after!

Flowers at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem

Flowers at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem

So today, all the Christian world rejoices in the resurrection of Jesus! Easter lilies stand tall in celebration! Easter flowers bloom brilliantly as a sign of life!  May our lives also radiate the hope and joy of Christ’s resurrection!

He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Our Redeemer Lives!

 

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“Physical Settings of the Bible” Church Seminar

Physical settings of Israel

Learn the “physical settings” of Israel, the land of the Bible!

Another church just hosted a “Physical Settings of the Bible” Seminar last weekend! The Trinity Evangelical Free Church in Holdrege, Nebraska just hosted a weekend seminar (March 31-April 1). The seminars are taught by Dr. John DeLancey of Biblical Israel Ministries & Tours. The purpose of these church seminars is to bring a unique, eye-opening, stimulating, and inspiring church-wide weekend experience to church congregations around the country. Each seminar makes the Bible “come alive” and opens up the world of the Bible in “3-D” color!

This recent seminar was attended by about 125.  A few who attended this past weekend offered their personal experiences:

  • Dr. DeLancey’s ‘Physical Settings of the Bible’ Seminar was so interesting and enlightening.  It covered several places I had not seen on my two trips to Israel.  The archaeological information and pictures shed so much light on Israel’s past history, proving once again that the Bible is indeed true.”  (D. Carlson)
  • Dr. DeLancey’s seminar was both educational and enjoyable.  I will long remember how geography and archaeology inform our understanding of Scripture!” (J. Clayton)

  •  “In order to attend the ‘Physical Settings of the Bible’ Seminar I gave up a little trip my husband and I have enjoyed together for many years, so I was hoping the seminar would be worth attending. It definitely was!  It truly made me feel like I have been to Israel and it opened my eyes so much more to the Bible.  The devotion on Saturday morning was greatly meaningful and helpful to me personally. The whole experience and what I learned will never be forgotten!” (L Kayton)

  • Recently Dr. DeLancey presented the ‘Physical Settings of the Bible’ Seminar at our church.  Individuals from all around our area attended, and the feedback has been amazing!  Seeing the archaeological evidence of ancient sites as they relate to the Bible, along with “touring” various places throughout Israel make this seminar a ‘must,’ especially for those who may not feel that are able to travel to the Holy Land.  Those who attend will feel as though they have had the opportunity to experience Israel in ways that will make the Bible come alive in new and exciting ways. This seminar will also provide an extensive review for those who have had the opportunity to visit the land of Israel.” (Dr. & Mrs. T. Carlson)  

  • Regarding Dr DeLancey – certainly our time invested in listening to his impactful discourse on Israel was highly valued.  Dr. DeLancey’s style, knowledge, and presentation communicated very well!  We would attend again.” (R&M Allmand)

Learning the “playing board” of the land of Israel is an important part of studying the Bible. Just like one has to first learn the “playing board” of the game of Monopoly or chess in order to know how the game is played, similarly the student of the Bible must also learn the “playing board” of the Bible (e.g. the physical land of Israel along with the land’s geography, topography, biblical archaeology, etc…). Becoming familiar with this “playing board” enables one to read between the lines and understand the stories of the Bible within the physical context of the land. This is especially true and exciting in regard to better understanding the life and ministry of Jesus!

If you and your church are interested in hosting a “Physical Settings of the Bible” for your church, it will be a wonderful discipleship “pictorial Bible Study” experience!  Each seminar is led by Bible teacher and Israel Tour Leader Dr. John DeLancey. After pastoring two evangelical / Bible-believing churches for 26 years, he now serves as the Director of Biblical Israel Ministries & Tours. Dr. DeLancey has studied historical geography and biblical archaeology in Jerusalem for one year (at Jerusalem University College), has excavated at four different biblical sites in Israel, and has led 52 study tours to Israel to date. Through multi-media Power Point & video presentations that includes a focus upon the historical, geographical, archaeological, and cultural backgrounds of the Bible, this weekend church seminar aims to do three (3) things for you and your congregation:

  • EXCITE your congregation about the Bible. It will enable your church to begin to uniquely see and understand the Bible with a 3-dimensional perspective. The Bible will indeed “come alive” in amazing ways!
  • ENGAGE your congregation in the context of the Bible. This includes becoming familiar with the “playing board” of the Bible. Often times as “western” readers of the Bible, we miss the context in which all the stories of the Bible took place. This includes understanding the Hebraic background of the life and ministry of Jesus.
  • ENCOURAGE your congregation to grow deeper in their faith and understanding of God’s Word. A weekend seminar is not just about bringing new contextual insights to God’s Word, but it will also inspire followers of Christ in their walk of faith!
Pool of Siloam

Dr. DeLancey sitting on the steps of the Pool of Siloam (John 9)

The seminar is divided into six (6) sessions:

  • Introduction: “Physical Settings of the Bible”
  • “Connecting the Dots” – Geography of Israel
  • Archaeology & the Bible
  • Jerusalem in the Old Testament
  • Jerusalem in the Days of Jesus
  • Manners & Customs of the Bible

(Dr. DeLancey has also prepared an supplemental Hebraic Background of the life and ministry of Jesus seminar as well. This can be requested.)

Roman stones Jerusalem

Fallen stones from the Herodian Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple and all of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD

Visit this WEB PAGE for further details about scheduling Dr. DeLancey for a “Physical Settings of the Bible” seminar. You can reach Pastor John at PastorJohn@ittworld.com or by calling 412-999-5697.

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The 2016 Gezer Dig in Review

silver medallion gezer

Cleaning by the Israel Antiquities Authority revealed an embossed, eight-pointed star and a crescent shape on the cult pendant discovered at Gezer. Researchers believe the star represents the fertility goddess Ishtar and the crescent shape symbolizes the moon god, Sin. (Credit: Baptist Press; Photo by IAA)

The biblical site of Gezer is one of my favorite archaeological sites. We will be stopping by the site next week once again on the next tour I lead. The ruins of Gezer date from the Middle Bronze Period (around 2,100 – 1500 BC or so, give or take 50 years depending on what scholarship chronology you use) to the Iron Age I & II (also called Israelite – 1200- 586 BC). The site is located along the Ajalon Valley in a region called the Shephelah (lowlands) of Judah. I had the chance to dig here this past June. You can read my “personal” take on it HERE.

The location of the ancient city of Gezer made it one of the more strategically held cities through the Middle Bronze and Iron Age periods. Founded on the crossroads of the primary south-north route (called the Via Maris) and a west-east route (from the MEd Sea to Jericho and the Jordan River Valley to the east), it is no wonder why not only the Canaanites and Egyptians were interested in controlling the city but also Solomon. In fact, Israel’s third king refortified the city, along with Jerusalem to the east and Megiddo and Hazor to the north (see 1 Kings 9:15).

Aerial view of Gezer

An aerial view of Tel Gezer (credit: Ferrell Jenkins)

In this blog, I want to share with you an update of the exciting archaeological finds from last summer’s excavation. While I wrote about it already (see link above), this is a more thorough summary of last summer’s dig.

Among the many interesting finds, the most significant was the silver medallion. The Baptist Press reported:

The silver pendant was discovered, along with a cache of other items, in the complex of rooms associated with the wall. The cache of items had been wrapped in a linen cloth and placed in a clay “container” made of two bowls. The container was then hidden in the foundation of one of the rooms.

location of gezer

The strategic location of Gezer (credit: Bible Atlas)

Dr. Dan Warner, one of Gezer’s archaeologists, believes that the cache represents a “foundation deposit” meant to bless the room. “Finding a foundation deposit like this one in what appears to be a public storeroom is rare,” Warner said. “Surely it had a religious function; an offering to gods to make sure the structure would remain standing.”

The pendant includes a disk embossed with an eight-pointed star and prominent crescent shape. Irit Ziffer from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) believes the star disk represents the Canaanite fertility goddess Ishtar and the crescent symbolizes the Mesopotamian moon god Sin. It was very neat to see this medallion firsthand as it was carefully extracted from the dig.

Gezer

Tel Gezer Canaanite Water system

Although this medallion was the most important discovery, the primary focus of the dig in June (the July team focused on Iron Age ruins) was the Middle Bronze water system. Throughout the last few seasons, a massive effort has been on-going to extract all the debris from the water tunnel. One hundred years ago, Macalister, one of the first pioneer archaeologists in Israel, cleaned it out, but since then it has filled back up with mud and massive stones (probably form the tower or wall above). The task is to once again clear it out again.

Click HERE to read the full article.

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Has the House of Jesus in Nazareth Been Found?

house of Jesus in Nazareth

Is this the house of Jesus in Nazareth? Archaeologist Ken Dark suggests it could be! (photo: Ken Dark)

Has the house of Jesus in Nazareth been found? I just came across an article the other day that suggests it has been found…. well, maybe! How is that for an answer!  It’s really the best I can do.

Now in the age of archaeological forgeries and church traditions, to answer this question requires great care. For to answer “yes” to this question holds the precarious potential for followers of Jesus to worship the place where Jesus potentially spent many years of His young life. But to answer “no” to this question may cause someone to begin to doubt the relationship we see between biblical archaeology and the Bible. To answer “no” may even cause the skeptic to doubt the historicity of the Gospel account.

Well, for sure archaeologists have uncovered in recent years the remains of 1st century stone structures. While the walls of what appears to be house structures have been dated to the time of Jesus primarily by the type of pottery found, we just can’t be sure to label this particular house as the very dwelling place of Jesus during His childhood years. However, I must admit that it is fascinating to think that it could be the house. But I think that is as far as we should go.

map of Nazareth

Map of Nazareth

According to archaeologist Ken Dark (of the University of Reading), the rock-hewn courthouse found argues that although the evidence can’t prove Jesus grew up in the house, it does suggest it’s possible. In Dark’s own words, “It is always very hard to link archaeological evidence to specific people.

All throughout Israel, there has been many places “venerated” as traditional locations associated with Jesus. The three examples that come to mind around the Sea of Galilee are these: The site of Tabgha – the location of the Feeding of the 5000; The site Peter Primacy – the location where Jesus appeared to His disciples after the resurrection (John 21); and the site of Peter’s house in Capernaum (Mark 1). None really hold any archaeological weight, if you will. That doesn’t mean these “traditions” couldn’t be the very location of where the stories form the Gospels took place, but we just can’t be certain. We also have “traditional” sites for Jesus’ birth (Church of Nativity in Bethlehem), death & resurrection (Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem). So to identify this ancient 1st century house in Nazareth as the house of Jesus is quite intriguing!

Now if you hear a bit of skepticism within me, it’s only because there’s a big difference between identifying a stone house structure as a 1st century dwelling dating to the time of Jesus (which it for sure is!) and suggesting it could be the house of Jesus!  Saying this, I do appreciate Dark’s reluctance to say that this is actually the house of Jesus with definitive assertion.

According to the excavation report produced by the Nazareth Archaeological Project, the dig (that first started in 2006) “revealed a first-century ‘courtyard house’ that was partially hewn from naturally occurring rock and partially constructed with rock-built walls. Many of the home’s original features are still intact, including doors and windows. Also found at the site were tombs, a cistern and, later, a Byzantine church.” The presence of Byzantine ruins on top of the 1st century site does indicate that at the very least Christians in this Late Roman Period seemed to believe that this area was special for some reason. As the article states, “The remains combined with the description found in the seventh-century pilgrim account De Locus Sanctis point to the courtyard house found beneath the convent as what may have been regarded as Jesus’ home in Nazareth.”  While this adds some value to the statement that this was the house of Jesus, once again, it is only a tradition.

Nazareth in Israel

The city of Nazareth today

Today, a few other “traditional” sites are located in this general vicinity of the archaeological dig. This includes the Catholic Church called the Church of Annunciation (where Mary was visited by the angel in Luke 1) and a Greek Orthodox Church called the Church of the Well (where the town’s water source was originally located). Today, Nazareth is a city of about 100,000 people (Arabs and Jews).

Either way you want to look at this, I must admit that the archaeological discoveries and revelations are indeed intriguing! Just keep in mind that if archaeology does come up with definitive proof that this was the house of Jesus while growing up, we worship the Person and not the place. 

To read the Biblical Archaeology Review article HERE.

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