"The near universal scholarly consensus"

Posted by admin on January 18, 2008

One of the key participants in the Talpiot Tomb conference was Eric Meyers, Bernice and Morton Lerner Professor of Judaic Studies at Duke University, and former President of the American Schools of Oriental Research, who made this statement for this blog:


Prof. Eric Meyers

"Here is what I can say:

I was shocked that the near universal scholarly consensus that the Talpiot tomb could not be the Tomb of Jesus was ignored by the press. In a surprise move, Simcha Jacobovici addressed the group at the closing session and made special mention of the speech of Joseph Gat's widow about his fearing to tell the world about his discovery in 1980. The problem with this is that several Israelis noted that Gat could not have known the meaning of the inscriptions since he did not read epigraphy, let alone appreciate their potential significance had he been able to decipher them."

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One more nail in the Ossuary

Posted by admin on January 17, 2008

The Third Princeton Symposium on Judaism and Christian Origins: Jewish Views of the After Life and Burial Practices in Second Temple Judaism: Evaluating the Talpiot Tomb in Context (Jan 13-16, 2008, Mishkenot Sha’ananim, Jerusalem)

Throughout this conference, almost without exception, the archaeologists, scientists, epigraphers and textual scholars could find no compelling evidence that would support the claim that the Talpiot Tomb under discussion (one of many tombs in the Talpiot district of Jerusalem) was anything other than a first-century Jewish family tomb with no connection to any known historical family. There were a few scholars on hand, working in the literature and the social sciences, who would contend that there was some likelihood that the tomb was actually the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth and his family.

The final panel comprised Shimon Gibson, one of the original excavators of the tomb; Eric Meyers, Professor of Archaeology at Duke University; Chairperson James Charlesworth of Princeton Theological Seminary; Israel Knohl, Professor of Jewish History and Literature at the Hebrew University; and James Tabor of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. In his concluding statement, Shimon Gibson said no to the identification of the tomb as belonging to Jesus of Nazareth (preferring the traditional location at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher). Eric Meyers said that there was no compelling evidence to support the film's identification with the tomb of Jesus and his family. James Charlesworth said he did not believe it was the tomb of Jesus but that he would not rule out the possiblility that it might be the tomb of other members of Jesus' family. Israel Knohl stated publicly that although there is no compelling evidence to support it, it well could be the family tomb of Jesus. However, privately he stated that he feels there is only a 50-50 chance of it being so. James Tabor, as expected, feels that the likelihood is high to certain that it is the family tomb of Jesus.


Final Panel: Gibson, Knohl, Meyers, Tabor and Charlesworth (left to right)

To my ears, most of those in attendance, in good academic form, would not totally rule out the possiblilty that this is the tomb of Jesus, but would say that the possibility is highly unlikely to remote. This is far from being "50 of the top scholars in the world" now concluding that "the Talpiot tomb might very possibly be the tomb of the Holy Family." I would say that the participating scholars, equipped with improved methodologies and more knowledge than a year ago, would say that they are better equipped to judge, and that the tomb's chances haven't gotten any better (in fact, worse).

There was not a single archaeologist present who believed that it would be a responsible act to confirm that this was the family tomb of Jesus. Concerning the central ossuary, "Yeshua? bar Yehosef", Naveh concluded that, although it was difficult to read, the first name was most likely to be read as “Yeshua?” based in part on the fact that the name “Yeshua” shows up on another ossuary in the tomb. Because of this, he left the name “Yeshua?” with a question mark and all scholars since then, including Rachmani, left the question mark in because of the difficulty of the reading, leaving the name still in the realm of speculation. (The observation that Joseph Gat, according to his widow, had believed that the tomb was that of Jesus of Nazareth only goes to illustrate that speculation concerning the tomb was already alive and well during the early 90's. This is but a distraction from the current issue since, with the exception of Joseph Naveh's tentative decipherment of the "Yeshua? bar Yehosef" inscription, other essential scientific data was unavailable at that time.)

In the meantime, this is the handout from my talk at the conference on the Yeshua? bar Yehosef ossuary. Better supportive pictures are available on earlier postings of this blog.

S. Pfann


The two scribal hands of the Yeshua? bar Yehosef inscription

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Talpiot Tomb Conference in Jerusalem

Posted by admin on January 13, 2008

Jewish Views of the After Life and Burial Practices in Second Temple Judaism

Evaluating the Talpiot Tomb in Context

Jan 13-16, 2008 in Mishkenot Sha’ananim, Jerusalem

The Third Princeton Symposium on Judaism and Christian Origins

Steering Committee: J. Charlesworth, D. Mendels, M. Aviam, G. Mazor, S. Gibson, D. Bahat



Registration and check-in

6:00pm - 7:30pm

1) Welcome

2) Opening Address “Jerusalem’s Tombs During the Time of Hillel and Jesus”

Professor James H. Charlesworth

7:30pm – 9:00pm



Brief lectures of ten-twenty minutes each, followed by open discussions.

8:00am - 9:30am

Panel Discussion: Ancient Beliefs About the Afterlife and Burial Customs: Session I

Presiding: Charlesworth

Choon-Leong Seow “Views of the Afterlife in Job”

F. W. Dobbs-Allsopp “Love as Strong as Death”: A Reading of Song 8:5-8,

with Special Attention to the Imagery of Death and the Afterlife"

Geza Vermes “The Afterlife in Jewish Apocryphal Works and the Dead Sea Scrolls”

• What were the major views of death and the afterlife among Hebrews, Israelites, Jews, or “Christians” in these periods?

9:30am – 10:00am

Coffee Break

10:00am - 11:30am

Panel Discussion: Ancient Beliefs About the Afterlife and Burial Customs: Session II

Presiding: Oded Newman

Casey Elledge “Views of the Afterlife and Post-70 Judaism: Josephus”

Alan Segal “Views of the Afterlife and Post-70 Judaism: Rabbinics”

Israel Knohl “By Three Days, Alive: Messiahs, Resurrection, and Ascent

to Heaven in Hazon Gabriel”

Arye Edrei* “Burial customs and Rabbinic Law”



11:30 am Amos Kloner, “The Characteristics of the Necropolis of Jerusalem in the Late Hellenistic and Early Roman period”


All participants will present a ten-minute overview of the question raised, the method used to answer it, and the most likely conclusion. When all panelists have presented succinctly their research, the panel will discuss among themselves and then the floor will be open for general discussion. Each participant is to prepare a one-page summary for 50 people.


Panel Discussion: Tombs, Ossuaries, and Burial Practices: The Archaeological Evidence

Presiding: Adolfo Roitman

Dan Bahat

Jodi Magness

Eric Meyers

Motti Aviam

• When, where, and why were ossuaries used in Jewish burials?

• To what degree are ossuary and cave burials a sign of wealth and status?

• How typical are ossuaries for the Jews in and near Jerusalem?

• What do we learn from the ossuaries: markings, decorations, inscriptions?

• What are the broad burial and cemetery patterns around Jerusalem?

• What was typical about burial customs in the Galilee?

• What were the different types of Jewish burial in the period?

• What does the Church of the Holy Sepulcher inform us about Jesus’ burial?



2:30pm – 4:00pm

Panel Discussion: Burial Beliefs and Practices: The Architectural and Textual Evidence

Presiding: Choon-Leong Seow

Eldad Keynan

Rafi Lewis

Konstantinos Zarras

Eli Shai

Shimon Gibson

• Focus on ideology and texts

• How do texts inform our understanding of material evidence?

• How are Hellenistic burials related to views of the afterlife?

• What do we learn about Jewish burial customs from the classical Jewish sources and from the archaeology of the Shroud Tomb?

• To what extent are burial facades and monuments markers of political ideology, religious belief, and prestige?

4:00pm – 4:30pm

Coffee Break

4:30pm – 6:00pm

Panel Discussion: Onomastics and Prosopography in Second Temple Judaism

Presiding: Emanuel Tov

Christopher Rollston

Rachel Hachlili

André Lemaire

Claude Cohen-Matlofsky

• How and when can we match inscriptional names with known historical figures?

• How representative is our surviving onomastic data?

• Attempting prosopography with the Talpiot inscriptions? What are the issues and potential results?


9:00am – 10:30am

Panel Discussion: The Talpiot Ossuaries and their Epigraphy

Presiding: F. W. Dobbs-Allsopp

Jonathan Price

Stephen Pfann*

Eldad Keynan

James Tabor

Claude Cohen-Matlofsky

• Reading the “Yeshua bar Yehosef” inscription.

• Issues related to the names: Yose, Mariah, Matya, and Judah bar Yeshua

• How is the Greek inscription (Mariamenou/Mara) to be read and understood?

• What is the significance of Greek inscriptions in Jewish tombs?

10:30am – 11:00am

Coffee Break

11:00am – 12:30pm

Panel Discussion: Forensic Archaeology, Paleo-DNA and their Archaeological Applications

Presiding: John Hoffmann

Joe Zias

Mark Spigelman

Chuck Greenblatt

• What is the history of the use of DNA on skeletal remains from tombs?

• What are the value and limitations of Mitochondrial and Nuclear results?

• The results from the Akeldama “Tomb of the Shroud” as a test case

• What was learned from the tests on the “Yeshua” and “Mariamene” ossuary remains?

12:30pm - 2:00pm


2:00pm – 3:30pm

Panel Discussion: The Landscape of Tombs – New Methods of Research and Archaeological Applications


Boaz Zissu

Motti Aviam

Howard Feldman

Aryeh Shimron

Charles Pellegrino*

What are the scientific methods for the study of a necropolis?

• Patterns of tombs and their significance

• What can we learn from patina on stone surfaces?

• What do preliminary tests tell us about the patina of the Talpiot tomb ossuaries?

• What are future prospects for this area of research?

3:30pm – 4:00pm

Coffee Break

4:00pm – 5:30pm

Panel Discussion: The Talpiot Tomb in March 1980

Presiding: Gabi Mazor

Shimon Gibson “Intrepretation in Archaeology and the Talpiot Tomb”

Gabi Barkay “Reflections on the Talpiot Excavation”

• An overview of the March, 1980 excavation and its wider contexts

• A description of the tomb and its contents

• What records and photographs remain of the excavation?

• What do we know about the skeletal remains?

• How were skeletal remains typically studied and handled in 1980?

• How and when were the finds catalogued and studied?

• What do we not know that we wish we knew?

• What would be done differently today with more time and refined methods?

5:30pm – 7:00pm

Panel Discussion: Mary Magdalene in Early Christian Tradition

Presiding: V. Hemingway

Ann Graham Brock

Jane Schaberg

April DeConick

• What do we know about the historical Mary Magdalene?

• How valuable historically are the later Coptic and other non-canonical traditions?

• What are the arguments pro and con regarding Jesus being married or having children?

• Would early Jesus’ followers have called Mary Magdalene “Master”?

• Was Mary Magdalene a woman of means with a Hellenistic cultural background?

• Does the presence of a “Judah son of Jesus” ossuary in the Talpiot tomb necessarily disqualify it as being the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth?


9:00am – 10:30am

Panel Discussion: Relating Tomb Archaeology with Historical Figures: Possibilities and Problems Discoveries

Presiding: Moshe Zimmerman

Dino Politis “Relating sites to historical figures: Lot’s Cave”

Joe Fitzmyer* “The James Ossuary”

Ehud Netzer “The Discovery of Herod’s Tomb”

André Lemaire “The Ossuary of Simon and Alexander”

• What methodologies help us discern Herod’s Tomb at the Herodium?

• Evaluating the Caiaphus, Shimon bar Jonas, and Alexander/Simon of Cyrene inscriptions: What are the methods and presuppositions involved?

10:30am – 11:00am

Coffee Break

11:00am – 12:30pm

Panel Discussion: The Burial of Jesus, the Empty Tomb, and the Jesus Family

Presiding: Tom Oates

Petr Pokorný

James Tabor

Lee McDonald

• Exploring the Palestinian Jesus Movement and Jesus’ Clan

• A discussion of the family movement, from the Baptizer to James and beyond

• What are the basic theories on the Jesus family: brothers, sisters, paternity

• What is known of the death of Jesus’ brothers?

• The empty tomb and resurrection theology.

• What is our best historical evidence on Who’s Who and what happened in history? James, Shimon bar Clophas, the brothers Yose and Judah

• Are the roles of James and Jesus’ brothers crucial to understanding pre-70 CE Christianity?

• What were the major parties and politics involved: Peter, Paul, James?

12:30pm – 2:00pm


2:00pm – 3:30pm

Panel Discussion: Statistics and the Talpiot tomb

Presiding: James Joyner

Andrey Feuerverger

Camil Fuchs

• What can statistics potentially tell us? What are the limitations involved?

• What are some of the different statistical models and methods that might be employed with relation to Talpiot?

• Evaluating Feuerverger’s results

• Statistical methods of evaluating the cluster of names in the Talpiot Tomb

• Are historical identifications crucial to historical analyses?

3:30pm – 4:00pm

Coffee Break

4:00pm – 4:15pm

How to prepare publishable papers: Charlesworth

4:30pm – 6:30pm

Lifetime Achievement Award Joseph Gat

Panel Discussion: Summing Up – What Have We Learned?

Presiding: I. Gruenwald

Panel: James Charlesworth, Eric Meyers, James Tabor, Israel Knohl, and Shimon Gibson


Closing Reception

Sponsored through the generosity of many including George Blumenthal and the Foundation on Judaism and Christian Origins.

* = Scholars who cannot appear but will send a paper.

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There are certain inherent advantages to researching Biblical history in the land where it took place!


Research, Internship, Volunteer Opportunities


a. Pots with Bones! “Don’t cast what is holy to the dogs.” UHL’s Dept. of Forensic Archaeology explores the macro and microscopic world of archaeological remains from Qumran and other sites, including remains of the communal meals, buried in pots in the plateau at Qumran. www.uhl.ac/resources/publications

b. Dead Sea Scrolls Research. UHL has been at the forefront in scrolls’ research and the publication of reference works on the scrolls since 1992. President Stephen Pfann is a member of the International Team of Dead Sea Scroll Editors and Director of the Multimedia Educational Suite on Qumran and Second Temple Period Judaism. UHL students have unparalleled opportunity to view the scrolls firsthand. www.uhl.ac/projects/the-dead-sea-scrolls

c. A home with the dead! Epigraphy and palaeography, together with archaeology and the study of historic texts, provide a multi-dimensional exploration of the burial customs of Second Temple Period Judaism. UHL’s expertise has recently been brought to bear in connection with the attention-grabbing collection of ossuaries from the tomb of Jesus of Talpiot and the ossuary of James the son of Joseph the brother of Jesus. www.uhl.ac/projects/talpiot-tomb

* Internship and Research Opportunities include work at Nazareth Village, a unique, first-century farm excavated and restored under UHL’s academic guidance. First-century daily life, farming, and shepherding—based on UHL research into archaeological, textual and ethnographic sources—come alive at Nazareth Village.


University of the Holy Land

POB 24084, Mt. Scopus

Jerusalem 91240 Israel

Website: www.uhl.ac

E-mail: info@uhl.ac

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A Novelist Looks at the Nativity Story

Posted by admin on December 24, 2007

In the last several weeks, we have been evaluating "The Lost Tomb of Jesus" from a writer's and journalist's standpoint. When can fiction techniques be used? How can they be used honestly? We've also taken a look at fiction genres, seeking standards for their use of fact.

Now it's your turn. In honor of Christmas Eve, we are presenting a fictionalized account of the Nativity story, based on the research of Claire and Stephen Pfann. While you read it, refer to "New Light on an Old, Old Story," compare it to your own knowledge of first century Jewish culture, and let us know: is this honest historical fiction?

"Accuracy is essential," writes Joyce Saricks of Booklist. "Many readers, myself included, derive a great deal of our knowledge of history from historical fiction because we don't respond to the often-dry style of history textbooks or biographies." She adds, "even though we know we're not consulting primary sources – and suspect that the authors have, by necessity, taken some liberties in telling their tales – we trust these novelists to do so responsibly, that is, without falsifying facts as they are generally known."

Read, evaluate, and enjoy.

I made a dash across the wet stone courtyard, arms full of extra bedding. The sound of rain drumming on the roof grew louder and louder as I swiftly climbed the stairs and entered the large guest room which took up the entire upper story of our home. The floor was covered with rows of mats, some occupied by small, napping nieces and nephews. Several clay lamps set in wall niches relieved a little of the late afternoon gloom, while in the far corner of the room a small charcoal brazier fought unsuccessfully with the pervading cold and dampness. I disposed of my armload in the large cupboard set into the thickness of the wall, then bent over the cradle of my newest nephew, baby Noam. To my surprise, his round brown eyes stared back at mine, and he let out a lusty wail for attention. I snatched him out of the cradle, but it was too late. Little Naomi, Yoav, Abigail, Tamar, and Shammai awoke. Within moments, they began laughing and running around the room. Their mothers – my older sisters – would be furious!

Then I heard Aunt Dvorah's voice on the stairs, and her round cheerful face appeared in the doorway. "Is that the children I hear?" she exclaimed. "Oh, it's been so long since I've seen them! Let me take the baby, Hava," she said to me. Nodding at the three girl-cousins behind her, she added, "I've got plenty of help. You go on, dear. You've had your hands full for days, getting ready for our arrival, and it's time you had a rest."

With a grateful smile, I kissed Aunt Dvorah's plump cheek. As I descended the stairs, a wave of warm air laced with the aroma of garlic, simmering lentils, and baking bread rose up to meet me from the lower floor. To my right, the cooking area was crowded with chattering women: my sisters and aunts and cousins. Some were tasting broth, some slicing vegetables, some grinding barley into flour, some pouring out wine into pottery cups and mixing it with water. Like a queen, my mother presided over it all, while the firelight etched the laugh lines in her face and touched the silver in her hair.

To my left, uncles and brothers-in-law and cousins lounged on low couches around a large brazier, the men talking, the boys listening with sparkling eyes, and all facing my white-headed father who sat with his back to me. "Roman subjects, Roman taxes," he was saying now. I frowned. I wanted to think of this time as an unexpected family holiday, not the result of the Roman emperor's command. So we were now a Roman province; so we had to register in our hometowns: at least that brought everyone I loved most to stay under the patriarchal roof. "The family inn," my father liked to call it, but that's just our way. When we travel, we stay with family. And home, real home for an Israelite – no matter how old – is in his father's house.

Now only two were missing from the family circle. One was Yosi, my older brother, the only son in a large family of daughters. The other was Nathan. An orphaned distant cousin who had grown up in our house, he had come to regard my father as his own. It was only natural, then, that I'd recently been betrothed to him. My father was overjoyed to have his youngest child's future settled so well, especially since at fourteen, I was well on my way to old-maidhood. Now, during our betrothal year, I was learning all my mother could teach me. Meanwhile, Nathan had joined my brother in the relatively new Jewish settlement in Galilee. There (unlike our changeless ancient hometown) he found plenty of work as a stonemason and carpenter. It was only three days' journey to the north, but it might as well have been Spain for how far away it felt. Sending letters was only for the rich, or for those with connections to the Roman military, so I had no way of knowing when Nathan would come. Still, I could get ready for his arrival.

The upper room was already filled to bursting, but there was still the storeroom, a natural cave beneath the house which my father had enlarged by cutting into the terraced hillside where he grew grapes and tended his olive grove. I made my way carefully down the ladder, breathing in the warm scent of hay. Now that it was winter, a pen in the corner of our cave-room sheltered the lambs and kids from the cold and rain. Most of the spacious area, though, was filled with huge clay jars of wine, grain, and oil. Near these I piled a thick cushion of hay and spread a sheepskin over it to make a bed. Lying down to test its softness, I stared idly at the bunches of herbs and strings of dried figs dangling overhead and drank in the quiet. The bustling world upstairs seemed far away.

A breeze billowed the thick goat’s hair curtain over the original cave entrance, fitfully allowing sound to reach me inside the storeroom. The thrumming rain had died down to a few scattered drips and drops. I heard sheep baaing in the distance, then the rattling of a few stones, the rustle of approaching footsteps, and the low hum of voices somewhere outside.

"What?!" I heard my father roar in surprise and anger. Someone murmured a reply.

"Doesn’t he know that his failure is my failure?"

"But he didn’t do it!" It was a man’s voice, blurred and unrecognizable.

My father ignored him, adding, "For the rest of his life, he’ll be known as the man who couldn’t wait."

The other voice persisted softly, "I tell you, he didn’t do it."

There was a pause, and then my father groaned, "Why, oh why did we ever think that a Galilean girl would make a proper wife…"

"How can you slander a daughter of Israel? She is innocent. I know her and I can tell you this much."

Again there was a long pause. Finally, I heard a heavy sigh, and my father said, "Well, if I believe that, then I must I doubt my own son."

My heart contracted. His son? My brother was in trouble?

"Sir," the other voice said eagerly, "Your son is an honorable a man as was Boaz when he spread the protection of his name over Ruth."

"Is he indeed?" my father said heavily. Then he added in a brisk tone, "Come inside and get warm. I must at least discuss the matter with the other men." The voices were drawing nearer now, and my father lifted the curtain. A ray of weak sunlight shot through the gap as he entered my cave-refuge and dropped the flap behind him.

"Abba!" I said, and my father peered at me through the gloom

"Hava," he began sharply, but stopped as the flap was lifted again. There, hair and clothing alike dripping, was Nathan. He lowered his head and shook like a dog, saying, "If I could just borrow a cloak, sir, I’ll wait outside with them."

"I’ll get it!" I said, winning a surprised smile from Nathan. My father said nothing, only rested a heavy hand on my shoulder for a moment before I turned to get the sheepskin from the bed.

Thanking me, Nathan donned the heavy makeshift cloak and hurried back into the wavering daylight. I ached to go with him, to see my brother, but I was left alone with my father.

Uncomfortably aware that I had been eavesdropping, I stood with head bowed as the silence deepened around me. When I risked a glance at my father’s face, I saw that his eyes were closed and his lips were moving soundlessly.

At last, a lamb bleated from its pen in the corner, and my father, shoulders slumped, turned toward the ladder that led to our home.

"Abba," I blurted, "Yosi is here... May I please go out to him?" He did not turn, but I thought I saw him nod slightly.

Ignoring the knot in my stomach, I hastily lifted the curtain and saw that the rain had stopped completely. Above the red disk of the setting sun, the cloudless sky reddened innocently as if there had never been a storm. I rushed to the courtyard gate. There, beside a loaded donkey, stood a dripping young man, red mud splattered up to his knees. It was my brother, Yosi. Leave it to the Romans to arrange a census during the rainy season, I thought wryly. The plains would be cubits deep in mud, and the roads in the hill country treacherously carved up by flash floods. No wonder Yosi looked so travel-stained.

But who was that on the donkey? A woman thickly swathed in sodden layers of clothing, whose body drooped heavily, as if each limb was filled with stone. With infinite care, Yosi lifted her off the donkey and set her gently on the ground, where he continued to support her with one strong arm. Turning to me, he said quietly, "This is Miryam."

Though slightly taller than I, she was just my age. Her large dark eyes, glowing with some sort of excitement, were in curious contrast to the rest of her face, which was drawn with weariness and - was it pain? Now that she was standing I saw why: she was heavy with child.

My mind began racing. A child? I couldn't believe this of my beloved brother. I knew he'd been betrothed at about the same time as Nathan and I, to a distant relative whom I'd never met, but I hadn't expected that he would choose this kind of girl.

Wait! My thoughts flicked back to the conversation I had overheard. The "Galilean girl" my brother was protecting was this Miryam, and the thing he "did not do" was father this child. Or did he? I studied his weary face, wondering if the rougher life in Galilee had really changed my upright brother so much. As if in answer to my doubts, Yosi smiled at me, his brown eyes warm and steady.

I stood there irresolutely, looking from my brother to this girl and back again. Then I felt a hand on my shoulder, and turned to see Nathan looking at me pleadingly. "Don't you realize that I could easily take your brother's place of honor in the family if he is discredited?" He took a deep breath, adding, "So why would I defend him if I believed him to be wrong?"

"And," added my brother quietly, "Why would I marry Miryam if I believed her to be unfaithful?" Unbidden, a picture came to my mind: this girl waiting, her life hanging in the balance while Yosi made his decision. Betrothal, after all, was a contract so binding that if he refused to acknowledge the baby, she could be stoned as an adulteress. But if he claimed the baby, he'd be marked as a man of weak character.

There was another option, of course. Since some rabbis allowed a man to put away his wife for reasons as small as burning his food, Yosi could have divorced her quietly, saying only that he had changed his mind. Miryam, then, would have been cut off from her home, and forced to take refuge with distant friends. Somehow I couldn't imagine my brother weak enough to take the easy way out. Instead he'd risked his reputation – because he loved her.

I heard a slight moan, and looked up to see Miryam pressing a hand to her side. Evidently the arduous journey had brought on early labor pains, and here she was, miles from her own family, and about to deliver a baby.

"Yosi, why are you just standing there?" I scolded. "Can't you see she needs help?"

Yosi was laughing at me now, but he whisked Miryam into his arms. "Is that better?" he asked. Then he grew sober, adding, "I'd like to speak to my father first." My father. Now here was an obstacle indeed. If Abba accepts Yosi, then so must we all, I thought. But with so many hopes invested in his only son, would my father accept him so easily? At best he could only conclude that Yosi had made a foolhardy decision in marrying this girl, in his love for her forgetting his own family: forgetting that in covering her shame, he involved all of us.

Well, I could only try.

Inside, the men were engaged in a heated discussion."The honor of our family is at stake," my uncle Micah was sputtering, his patrician face flushed with anger, his lip curling with distaste. My father's face was equally flushed, but his eyes softened as I approached. "Abba," I whispered in his ear, "Please will you come talk to Yosi?" He looked directly into my eyes for a moment, and then nodded as if satisfied. Rising and excusing himself, he went quietly outside.

Bustling into the room, my mother directed Avner, my brother-in-law, to replace the brazier with a low table. Turning to me, she said, "I'll need your help serving supper, Hava." So, while the older women carried food to the men, I presided over the children in the kitchen, doling out the flat loaves, which they used like spoons to scoop lentils from the communal pot. I snatched bites of bread from time to time, but my mind was outside with my father and brother, and with Miryam, who so desperately needed a bed in which to rest.

Clearing the table in front of the men, who had subsided into disgruntled silence, I saw that my uncle Micah had risen and was staring toward the front door in disbelief.

Turning, I saw that my father had returned. He stared directly at me – or through me – with flaming eyes. Behind him was Nathan, who turned to pull the door open wider allowing Yosi to carry Miryam inside! Immediately, aunts and sisters and cousins came running, and after one look, my mother took charge. "Lydia, get some clean rags! Sarah, heat some water. Hava, go tell your aunt Dvorah to bring the children downstairs: we'll need the upper room."

The upper room? I made a swift decision. Pushing my way through the knot of women around my mother, I said quietly, "No, mother, the guest room is too full! Let Miryam have Nathan's spot: he won't mind."

She looked at me keenly, and then nodded. Turning to Yosi, she said, "You can take her downstairs where there'll be more privacy."

With swift steps, uncle Micah approached my father and laid a hand on his older brother's arm."What is going on?" he demanded.

My father appeared not to have heard him. Instead, he seated himself in his chair, and the men again sat down around him. After unrolling a yellowing scroll on the table's scarred wooden surface, my father beckoned me to join them. As I knelt on the floor beside him I saw that it was our family's generation-book, one of our most valuable possessions. It formed an important part of each marriage negotiation and birth in the family – as it did for every Jewish family, but especially for ours. Because of our ancient heritage, it was my father's ambition to marry each of his children to another member of the poor, obscure, but still honored house of David.

"Look, Hava," my father said, pointing at the oldest entries. "Here it says, 'Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar.' And do you know who Tamar was?"

I pursed my lips and pretended to think deeply, recognizing a game I'd been familiar with since my childhood. Every father teaches his children by asking questions, and as the youngest, I had come in for more than my share of questions. Even now as a young woman, I still loved every minute of it.

"Tamar," I said deliberately, "was Judah's daughter-in-law."

My father nodded, and asked, "And who was Rahab, the mother of Boaz and grandmother of our beloved king David?"

My little cousin Daniel let out a small sigh and vibrated with excitement. Obviously, he knew the answer, but my father kept his eyes fixed on me.

"Rahab was a prostitute and a Canaanite," I replied.

"And who," my father growled, "was the wife of Boaz and king David's own mother?"

"A Moabite daughter of pagans," I answered. "Her name was Ruth."

Suddenly my father became animated. With a flourish, he ran his finger down the list of names on the scroll, stopping at last on his own. "And who is the daughter of such an august line?" he asked, his eyes twinkling at me.

"I am," I said.

"Daughter of David," he demanded gaily, "Do you suppose that God was wise to choose a king whose mothers were dishonorable women?"

Now I understood. Looking straight at Yosi, who now stood uneasily by the door, I said, "God is so wise that He looks at the heart, not the appearance."

"Well done," my father replied.

My uncle Abner shifted uneasily in his chair, his face now red with embarrassment. "So you believe your son's story – and accept the woman and her child into our family?"

"Precisely," my father said calmly. "And if we, as the elders of the family, do nothing to fuel the fire, the rumors will soon die down."

In the little silence that followed, I heard several stifled yawns. Most of us had been up since daybreak, and those of us who weren’t weary from a journey were exhausted by preparations to receive those who had come.

"And now," my father said, "To bed!"

Only the children grumbled, while the weary fathers and mothers climbed the stairs to the gigantic task of arranging places for so many people on the floor of the upper room. I kept busy running up and down stairs with more bedding, with drinks of water, and with stray children. At last (it seemed like hours later) the upper room was still – except for a quiet chorus of coughs, cries, and snores.

Bundling up in my cloak, I sat by the kitchen fire, waiting for my mother’s call. The fire crackled quietly and but for a few stifled moans and low murmurs, all was still below. Growing drowsy, I pillowed my head in my arms and soon fell asleep.

A baby’s cry awoke me. It was a thin, newborn baby’s cry, and I jumped up, my heart racing with excitement. "It’s a son!" I heard my mother exclaim triumphantly, and there was a jumble of voices. Then scraping footsteps hurried up the ladder, and Aunt Dvorah’s head appeared in the opening in the floor. Pulling her up the last few rungs, I asked, "Can I see him? Can I see him?"

Aunt Dvorah, panting with the exertion, smiled while she caught her breath, then demanded in a loud whisper, "Are there binding cloths in the house?"

"Of course: there, in the chest by the front door."

"And a cradle?"

"Yes!" I said. "Well, no – I mean, baby Noam is using it."

"Well, then, I’ll see what I can find!" Aunt Dvorah bustled toward the stairs, then turned, saying, "Your mother wants you. Oh, and take the salt!"

Taking the binding cloths and a wooden box of salt, I stumbled quickly down the ladder. In a pool of lamplight, my mother bent over the bed I had made earlier. Over her shoulder she said, "Hava, take the baby, while I tend to Miryam."

Miryam. I expected to see a white, exhausted face on the pillow, but as I came closer, her face flashed forth joy so brightly that I froze and stared at her in wonder. What does she know, to look like that? I thought, following her gaze to the tiny, naked newborn, still blood-smeared, lying in her lap.

Taking him gingerly in my arms, I turned to the basin of steaming water standing near a flickering brazier and washed him clean. After rubbing his skin with salt for health, I wrapped him in wide strips of soft cloth so he would feel as snug and secure as he had while tucked away in Miryam's womb. Then, my task done, I cradled the baby gently in my arms and gazed for the first time at his small, crumpled red face. He stared back unwinkingly, one tiny hand gripping my outstretched finger. The jewel-like depth of those two clear eyes, still looking into mine, was like a well of fresh, clear water, so deep it could never be ruffled by storm.

What do you know, little one, to look like that? I thought, feeling an answering bubble of peace in my heart.

I started as feet thudded down the ladder, and looked up to see that it was Aunt Dvorah. Reaching the bottom, she threw up her hands in defeat. "I hadn't the heart to take a cradle from a sleeping baby," she said, "and I don't know what else we can use... unless it's the kneading trough, and that's full of dough, rising for tomorrow's bread."

"We could use the stone grinding bowl," I chuckled. "But that's full of grain. Or the manger, but that's..." I stopped, realizing what I was about to say. "That's full of hay! It will be soft and warm, and just the right size for a newborn baby."

"It's the strangest bed I ever heard of," my mother said thoughtfully. "What do you think, Miryam?"

Miryam smiled as if at some secret joke. "That will be fine," she said as her twinkling eyes met mine.

"That will be fine," my mother repeated, a little surprised. "Is there anything else you need?"

"I would like to see Yosi," my new sister said softly.

"I'll get him!" I said. "Where is he?"

"Up on the roof," my mother replied.

After bounding up the ladder, I let myself quietly out the front door into the crisp night air. A narrow flight of stone steps led to the flat roof, where my father and brother had spread their beds and sat talking.

"Yosi!" I exclaimed, "You have a son!"

A candle lit in his eyes, he sprang down the stairs and was gone.

My father said nothing, so I stood there, staring at the stars. I saw one, huge and bright, which hung low in the sky, so low that it seemed I could reach out and touch it.

At last my father turned to me and asked solemnly, "Daughter of David, do you doubt the promise of Messiah through David’s line?"

"No sir," I replied, wondering if we had returned to our earlier game, "I do not doubt what God has promised through His prophets." I sat down beside my father and wrapped a cloak around me.

"What would you think," he went on, "if an angel announced the approaching birth of Messiah to his mother, before it was even conceived?"

"Gideon's mother knew of her child through an angel," I said.

"What if, in fact, it was impossible for this child to be conceived?"

"Our father Isaac was conceived by a barren woman and a man so old he was almost dead."

"What if a man received directions in a dream to protect the child Messiah and his mother?"

"God gave our father Joseph dreams," I replied, "And he protected the children of Israel."

My father leaned forward, intense questioning in every line of his body, his eyes blazing as they had when he returned from talking to my brother. "What if I told you that our Joseph has been called to protect the infant Messiah himself? Would you believe that? Would you?"

I froze, but inwardly my heart echoed the words like a clanging bell. "Would you? Would you? Would you?"

A shout rang out in the clear night air. "Shalom, shalom! Is anyone there?" I leaped up and leaned over the parapet. Below, at our front door, I saw a bunch of ten or twelve shepherds clad in rough cloaks or thick sheepskins. One had a kid slung over his shoulders and another carried a tiny lamb in his arms. The leader lifted his torch and stared upward at me.

"Shalom!" he repeated.

"Shalom," I replied, wondering what sort of errand they could possibly be on in the middle of the night.

"Is there a newborn baby in this home?" He paused a moment, and then added quizzically, "A baby in a manger?"

A baby. In a manger. My face must have shown my astonishment, because the shepherd laughed out loud.

"Y-yes," I stammered at last.

"May we see him?" he demanded eagerly. "We have a message. We have a message from some angels!"

My father was leaning over the parapet beside me. "What message?" he called.

"A message to us in David's town," the shepherd shouted back. "From heaven, shalom! Messiah is born! We have a son!"

My father and I stared at each other."What's his name, Abba?" I asked.

My father laughed, his voice echoing merrily from the stone walls of our home. "His name is Salvation."

"I believe it," I said.



New Light on an Old, Old Story

Posted by shoshiepfann on December 18, 2007


In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)

For many of us, these words evoke the isolation, harshness, and difficulty which Mary and Joseph must have faced at Jesus’ birth. Images of cold, windswept winter hills in Bethlehem, overcrowded inns, and a futile attempt to find housing in a strange city paint a bleak picture of the first Christmas, one that fills our Western hearts with sympathy for the new mother and her babe.

And yet, the circumstances of the first Christmas may not have been as bleak as we sometimes think. Understanding that Jewish society at the time of Jesus’ birth was traditional and eastern, several questions arise when we read this passage, questions that receive a fresh answer in this context.

The Judean Connection

When Joseph and his pregnant wife Mary made the journey to Bethlehem, they were returning to his ancestral home, the place where his family originated and in which, undoubtedly, some relatives still lived. From the gospels and early church historians we see glimpses of the network of relatives that Joseph and Mary had living in Judea: Zachariah and Elizabeth lived near Jerusalem; John the Baptist ministered in the Judean wilderness; and Jesus’ brother James later became the head of the Jerusalem church and was well respected by all the Jews living in Jerusalem.

The Family Home

The family in traditional societies is made up of an extended group of people, with a patriarch at the head. Married children and their children usually lived with or near the father and mother. The authority and protection of the father extended to them and their respect and obedience was expected in return (cf. Luke 15). Relatives from other towns were welcomed by the patriarch and brought under his protection during their stay in his village.

The House

The architecture of the family home both today and in antiquity made provision for the occasional guest. The most common dwelling was the courtyard home which was multi-leveled. A lower room or cellar was used as a storeroom. In the hilly areas like Bethlehem, a cave adjacent to the courtyard might often be adapted for this purpose. Here the family’s prized or more vulnerable animals could be fed and sheltered at night, protected from the cold, thieves and predators.

The main living area, partitioned into several sections, was on an upper level. It had a work and kitchen area, where the children often slept, and a separate bedroom for the parents. In a wealthier home, a third room would be added for guests and for entertaining. In Luke 2:7 the Greek kataluma can be translated either ‘inn’ or ‘guest room’ and may have referred to this room in the family home. The latter translation is to be preferred in light of the cultural and societal backdrop of Jewish family life. (It is worthwhile to note that later in Luke, the word kataluma is translated ‘upper room’ or ‘guest room’ [Luke 22:11-12] whereas Luke uses the word pundakeion to mean ‘inn’ in the story of the Good Samaritan [Luke 10:34].)



Patriarchal "Landowner's House" at Nazareth Village

Photo: The Nazareth Jesus Knew; Labels: Dr. Stephen Pfann

The Christmas Story

These facts may shed new light on the circumstances surrounding Jesus' birth. The evangelist presents the picture of a census in Luke 2:1-7, in which all heads of household had to return to their cities of origin. For Joseph, it was Bethlehem. When they arrived, Joseph most likelywent straight to his paternal home, seeking the help and protection of his relatives currently living there, and received it, for Mary was pregnant and Jewish custom would demand such a response. Some time passed, and ‘the time came for her to be delivered’.

Bethlehem—and this family’s guest room—were full of relatives and no private place existed for her to deliver her baby. No private place, that is, until someone had the bright and compassionate idea to suggest that she could have the baby down below, away from the crowded kataluma, in the warmth of the storeroom and animal’s cellar, and yet still be within the security of the family home. Jesus was safely born ‘in the city of David’ as the angels told the shepherds (2:11), and laid in a manger or feeding trough. That a child should be found lying in a manger was unique, and yet it may have reflected, not a situation of abandonment and isolation, but one of compassion and protection and of the order of family life in traditional Jewish society of the first century AD. It is interesting to note that the traditional site of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem is in the middle of the city, where the family homes would have stood in antiquity, and not in the surrounding countryside.

The Weather

Just a closing word on the weather! It must not have been too cold that night, since the shepherds and their flocks were out in the fields, as we read in Luke 2:8. In really cold weather, the sheep are kept indoors at night and graze outside during the day. So Jesus was probably born in mild weather.

These facts combine to create a warmer picture of the circumstances of Jesus’ birth. Mary and Joseph were not necessarily abandoned and alone in a strange city, but were likely incorporated into the larger, extended family of Joseph’s relatives where they found shelter, compassion, and protection on that special night when their precious baby was born.


Exterior of Patriarchal "Landowner's House" at Nazareth Village

(note the movable stone manger/feeding trough sitting outside the front door)

About Nazareth Village click here

Text © Stephen and Claire Pfann, University of the Holy Land

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A New Generation of Dead Sea Scroll Study

Posted by admin on December 11, 2007

After the Editio Princeps of the Dead Sea Scrolls

By Stephen J. Pfann, Ph.D.

The University of the Holy Land, Jerusalem

The publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls in just one generation following their discovery is a wonderful achievement. From the major scrolls found in Caves 1 and 11 – including those published in the Dead Sea Scrolls from St. Mark’s Monastery and The Dead Sea Scrolls of the Hebrew University, as well as 11QpaleoLeviticus, 11QTargum of Job, and 11QTemple Scroll – to the other, often more fragmentary scrolls found in Caves 2-10 (published in DJD), the first editions (editio princeps) are now available for all to read, student and scholar alike, in both photo reproductions and transcriptions.

While transcribing damaged letters, the first editions of the Dead Sea Scrolls generally used two different diacritical marks to indicate degrees of certainty as to the reading. In all of these first editions, a dot above the letter represented a more certain reading than a circlet, if these diacritic marks were applied at all. However, many of the original editors, while brilliant scholars, were often more textual commentators than trained epigraphers or palaeographers. Thus, over the past 55 years of the production of these editions, these diacritics—the dot and the circlet—were understood differently by the more than sixty individual first editors of the scrolls.

For example, to some editors, a broken or malformed letter that was certain or nearly certain deserved a dot, while for others it remained unmarked. For still other editors, the dot was placed only above letters in which there was some uncertainty as to the reading, but less uncertainty than one over which a circlet would be placed (which could almost be any letter). This inconsistent use of the diacritical marks has left the readers unsure of just how certain the transcriptions in these editions really are.

In this new treatment of the Dead Sea Scrolls each of the Biblical and non-Biblical manuscripts has been reread by the editor and his staff with a view toward the consistent application of an expanded set of diacritical marks. Rather than two marks, there are now three, designed to convey a more graduated scale of certainty as to the reading of the letters than has been afforded until now. The following definition of the diacritics has been applied:

Dot = this letter is damaged or malformed, but is certain or nearly certain.

Dash = this letter is damaged or malformed, but may be one of two or three letters.

Circlet = this letter is damaged or malformed, but may be one of four or more letters.

As new sources of information and new methodologies develop, both the original editors and a new generation of editors continue to improve on the certainty of readings and the rearrangement of scroll fragments. Although the transcription of a text may remain substantially the same, it's an important process that will remain on the agenda of Dead Sea Scroll study into the distant future.

This new resource will be made available in the near future in a number of scholarly and user-friendly formats. The Biblical scrolls of this new edition is projected to first appear in Spring 2008 as part of the Logos Bible Software package.

Lost Tomb of Jesus Story: Science, Fact or Fiction? Part 3

Posted by admin on December 09, 2007

We have all had a month to contemplate the last posting and its predecessors.

How shall we now define the form of storytelling that is represented in the Jacobovici and Cameron film and the Jacobovici and Pellegrino book released last March?

The makers of "The Lost Tomb of Jesus" presented a story

Story 1: The New Gospel: a newly created fictitious story which mixed first century Biblical sources with known fictitious Gnostic apocryphal gospel sources.

Which they intertwined with another story

Story 2: The story of the scientists and professionals: apparently supportive statements from reputable scientists, archaeologists, epigraphers and historians, used as supportive pillars to prove the fictional story to be true.

Embedded within an overall detective story

Story 3: The story of the filmmakers: as investigative journalists recording, for all to see, the amazing history of their discoveries in order to convince the world that their methodology was correct and thus their conclusions should be both professionally and credibly communicated (in both film and book).

At first we were all taken in by story 3, and having no way to verify or critique their methods we merely accepted it for the moment as an entertaining and engaging jewel in the crown. When it became clear that story 1 was fictional and story 2 was scientifically unconvincing, many of us, including myself, pronounced publicly that the entire tale was thus nothing more than science fiction. After all, two of the team, James Cameron and Charles Pellegrino are both notable authors of many known science fiction works.

However, a few science fiction writers have justifiably taken issue with this view. The task of a science fiction writer is to produce a compelling fictitious story which gains the interest of its audience by interweaving it with real or theoretical science. However, the science fiction writer never pretends that his work is real history. Even though it may pose a somewhat credible story that could in fact take place, usually in the future, if one takes into account certain scientific facts or hypotheses, it is intended to remain fiction. Like other forms of fiction, the author intends to engage his audience in a piece of literary art posed in the form of a fictitious story. He has crossed the line if he presents his work as a historical fact. These science fiction writers and enthusiasts felt offended and appalled that such a work should be called "science fiction". And why?

The filmmakers posed "The Lost Tomb of Jesus" as real history by selling it to the Discovery Channel. The writers of the book presented their work as nonfiction, where it arose to number 6 on the New York Times bestseller list, not in the category of fictional books, but in the nonfiction category.

We have already found out that the historians are denying the historic basis of the reconstructed gospel (the first story). Most of the interviewed specialists have already stated that they were manipulated and did not mean what was actually aired in the film (the second story). Now we discover that even the part of the film that we took for granted as truth, the exciting story of discoveries made by our investigative reporters, had entire sections which were both staged and the contents manipulated.

Since no actual fiction writer wants to lay claim to this new book as part of their trade, and since the filmmaker and the writers of Lost Tomb want to present their work as nonfiction, under what form of professional work can this be classified?

The professionally allowable artistic license: using narrative techniques to present a nonfiction story, was not followed here. Numerous "facts" were carefully contrived, staged or "made up".

Shall we call this contrived and dishonest nonfiction?

Perhaps we don't have to invent a new term for it. Shall we try:

j) Hoax: “Something accepted or believed in through trickery: something established by fraud or fabrication”

Or shall we seek yet another, less offensive term?

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Lost Tomb of Jesus Story: Science, Fact or Fiction? Part 2

Posted by admin on November 08, 2007

Earlier this summer we asked you, "Exactly what form of reporting or story telling is the film The Lost Tomb of Jesus and the book The Jesus Family Tomb to be classified with?"

The filmmakers say investigative journalism and fact. Your suggestions include pseudo-science, scientific fiction, and just plain fiction. Others chose hoax and science fiction from our list of possibilities.

If you're having a debate, it's important to define your terms. If you're out bird watching, you sometimes need to turn to a bird book in order to discern between similar species. And if you're labeling genres of book or film, it's a good idea to study up on the history of those disciplines.

So, after more research, we've come up with short definitions for each the original choices. What do you think? Does this change your opinion?

a) Investigative Journalism: Historically, reportorial research into social ills with an eye to exposing corruption and stimulating reform.

b) Truth: "A judgment, proposition, statement, or idea that accords with fact or reality, is logically or intuitively necessary, or follows by sound reasoning from established or necessary truths"

c) Documentary: A film genre with close ties to journalism and an emphasis on documenting social, historical, and scientific truths.

d) Docudrama: A sub-genre of the documentary that permits much freer use of dramatic techniques and extrapolation, ideally while refusing to violate any known portions of a story.

e) Creative Nonfiction: A genre of writing, generally found in magazines and full-length books, which uses narrative techniques to report true stories.

f) Historical Fiction: A genre of writing in which fictional characters appear in an authentic historical setting.

g) Science Fiction: A diverse genre of writing: some examples have close ties with fantasy and may hold very loosely to established scientific fact; others (called hard science fiction) generally adhere closely to all known science and present only fictional speculation that is scientifically plausible.

h) Legend: "A story coming down from the past, esp: one handed down from early times by tradition and popularly regarded as historical although not entirely verifiable/ A popular myth, usually of current or recent origin"

Folklore: "Traditional customs, beliefs, dances, songs, tales, or sayings preserved orally and unreflectively among a group of people/ A widely held unsupported specious notion or body of notions"

i) Spoof: "A light, amiable, humorous, but usually telling takeoff (as on human nature, customs, or manners): parody"

j) Hoax: "Something accepted or believed in through trickery: something established by fraud or fabrication"

Selected Bibliography

Investigative Journalism

CBC Radio-Canada, Center for Investigative Reporting, The Center for Public Integrity


Academy Awards, Emmy Award

Bill Nichols, Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana UP, 1991.


The Museum of Broadcast Communications.

Howard J. Blumenthal and Oliver R. Goodenough. This Business of Television. Billboard Books (Watson-Guptill), NY, 1998.

Creative nonfiction

Hersey, John. "The Legend on the License." The Yale Review, 70, 1980. As quoted in Poynter Online.

Clark, Roy Peter. “The Line Between Fact and Fiction.”Creative Nonfiction.

Historical fiction

Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, Santa Clara University, Oregon State University

Science fiction

Gary Westfahl. The Mechanics of Wonder: the Creation of the Idea of Science Fiction University Press, 1998.

"Definitions of Science Fiction"

Truth, Folk legend, Spoof, Hoax

Quoted from Webster's Third New International Dictionary, G. and C. Merriam Company, Springfield, 1971.

Two Discoveries; Two Temples

Posted by admin on November 04, 2007

First Temple Remains

During a recent archaeological inspection on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority over maintenance works of the Waqf, a sealed archaeological level probably dated to the First Temple Period was exposed in the area close the southeastern corner of the raised platform surrounding the Dome of the Rock.

The finds include fragments of bowls, including rims, bases and body sherds; the base of a juglet used for the ladling of oil; the handle of a small juglet and the rim of a storage jar. The bowl sherds were decorated with wheel burnishing lines characteristic of the First Temple Period.

Read more at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"The layer is a closed, sealed archeological layer that has been untouched since as early as the eighth century BCE," said Yuval Baruch, the Jerusalem District archeologist for the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Continue reading the Jerusalem Post article.

The place where it was found, near the south-east corner of the raised platform, is also highly significant. Archaeologists, such as Yuval Baruch, Sy Gittin and Ronnie Reich said that these finds may aid scholars in reconstructing the dimensions and boundaries of the Temple Mount during the First Temple Period.

Leen Ritmeyer illustrates his point with a diagram of the Temple Mount.

Second Temple Quarry

An ancient quarry where King Herod's workers chiseled huge high-quality limestones for the construction of the Second Temple, including the Western Wall, has been uncovered in Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced

Archeologists had previously assumed that the quarry which was used to construct the Temple Mount was located within the Old City itself, but the enormous size of the stones found at the site - up to 8 meters long - as well as coins and fragments of pottery vessels dating back to the first century CE indicated that this was the site used 2,000 years ago in the construction of the walls of the Temple Mount, including the Western Wall.

The entire Jerusalem Post article is here.

The area of the quarry [is] about 2 miles (3 km) north of the Old City... Note the highway to the east of the quarry is similar to the ancient route (known sometimes as the Central Ridge Route or the Road of the Patriarchs).

Bible Places provides a map.

Stephen Pfann, president of the University of The Holy Land and an expert in the Second Temple period, said the discovery was encouraging.

"It would be very difficult to find any other buildings in any other period that would warrant stones of that size," said Pfann, who was not involved in the dig. He said further testing of the rock is necessary to confirm the findings.

CBS News

HT: Todd Bolen

Hello, חבצלת

Posted by admin on October 26, 2007

Imagine greeting the plants of the Bible like old friends.


זית / Olea Europaea / Olive




אלון התבור / Quercus ithaburensis / Tabor Oak



חבצלת החוף/ Pancratium maritimum / Sand Lily                Photo © Christina Brody

Classes at the University of the Holy Land begin this week. It's not too late to register!

Exploring from a distance.

Posted by admin on September 30, 2007

Beginning this academic year, the University of the Holy Land will offer online distance learning courses.

UHL Fall 2007 course offerings

The Fall Semester begins on October 21st.



The Pen of a Ready Scribe