Category Archives: Archaeology

They removed the roof and let down the bed

During the ministry of Jesus at Capernaum four men brought a paralyzed man to see Jesus, likely seeking healing, but there were so many people in the house that it was not possible to get in to see Jesus.

And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. (Mark 2:4 ESV)

Reconstructed house at Nazareth Village showing roof construction. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Reconstructed house at Nazareth Village showing roof construction. Notice the few weeds growing on the roof. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Craig S. Keener describes the way the roofs of these houses were constructed.

The roof was approached by an outside staircase, so they could reach it unimpeded. The roof of single-story homes was sturdy enough for walking but was normally made of branches and rushes laid over the roof’s beams and covered with dried mud; thus one could dig through it. (The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament)

M. J. Selman says,

Roofs were constructed from beams covered with branches and a thick layer of mud plaster, though the rafters were sometimes supported by a row of pillars along the middle of the room. Cylindrical stone rollers about 60 cm. [23.6 inches] long were used to keep the roofs flat and waterproof, though roofs needed to be re-plastered annually prior to the rainy season to seal cracks which had developed during the summer heat. (New Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed.)

The picture below shows a reconstructed house at Nazareth Village with a roof like the one mentioned above. Notice the beams made from small trees, the mud on the top, and some grass and weeds growing in it.

Reconstructed house at Nazareth Village showing roof construction. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Reconstructed house at Nazareth Village showing roof construction. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo shows a portion of a roof made from wood and mud. You will also notice a roof roller on the roof. After the winter rains it was necessary to pack the roof with a roof roller. Roof rollers are commonly discovered during archaeological excavations.

Typical roof from NT times with roof roller. Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Typical roof from NT times with roof roller. Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The account of Luke, a gentile physician, adds an interesting point that creates a small problem in interpretation.

But since they found no way to carry him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down on the stretcher through the roof tiles right in front of Jesus. (Luke 5:19 NET)

Did you notice the reference to roof tiles? One of the Translator’s Notes in the NET Bible discusses this problem.

There is a translational problem at this point in the text. The term Luke uses is keramos. It can in certain contexts mean “clay,” but usually this is in reference to pottery (see BDAG 540 s.v. 1). The most natural definition in this instance is “roof tile” (used in the translation above). However, tiles were generally not found in Galilee. Recent archaeological research has suggested that this house, which would have probably been typical for the area, could not have supported “a second story, nor could the original roof have been masonry; no doubt it was made from beams and branches of trees covered with a mixture of earth and straw” (J. F. Strange and H. Shanks, “Has the House Where Jesus Stayed in Capernaum Been Found?” BAR 8, no. 6 [Nov/Dec 1982]: 34). Luke may simply have spoken of building materials that would be familiar to his readers.

There are other possible interpretations, but I hope this information with the photos will help you better understand the biblical text.

Pay your taxes and do not fear the authorities

While reading Romans 13 I came to Paul’s admonition to the saints at Rome, “Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good.” My mind immediately turned to the mosaic which was discovered during the excavation of the Byzantine public area at Caesarea Maritima.

The context in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans reads this way.

For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13:3-4 ESV)

The sign at the site describes the building where the mosaic was found as a Tax Archive. The original is said to be on display at the Kibbutz Sdot Yam Museum. The edifice is identified as “Byzantine government offices where clerks recorded tax revenues.”

Mosaic Treasury at Caesarea Maritima. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Mosaic Treasury at Caesarea Maritima. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I suppose they did not understand that this is politically incorrect!

Passing through the grainfields on the Sabbath

All three Synoptic Gospels record the incident of Jesus and His disciples passing through the grainfields on a Sabbath.

On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” (Luke 6:1-2 ESV; See also Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28)

I thought I would put together some photos to help you visualize what happened here. First, we have a photo of a wheat field below Mount Tabor. The photo is made looking north west from near the site of ancient En-dor. The area is famous as the home of the medium visited by King Saul (1 Samuel 28:7).

Wheat field with view NW to Mount Tabor. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Wheat field with view NW to Mount Tabor. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Now, imagine the disciples taking ripe grain in their hands.

Picking heads of grain. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Picking heads of grain. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

And then rubbing the heads to separate the grain from the chaff.

Rubbing grain to separate the grain from the chaff. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Rubbing grain to separate the grain from the chaff. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Mosaic law allows for plucking standing grain with the hand, but not using a sickle.

If you go into your neighbor’s standing grain, you may pluck the ears with your hand, but you shall not put a sickle to your neighbor’s standing grain. (Deuteronomy 23:25 ESV)

The sickle pictured below was excavated at Tell Beit Mirsim and dates to the Iron Age sometime between 925-701 B.C. It is displayed in the James L. Kelso Bible Lands Museum at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

Sickle from the Iron Age at Tell Beit Mirsim. Kelso Bible Lands Museum, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sickle from the Iron Age at Tell Beit Mirsim. Kelso Bible Lands Museum, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Pharisees were claiming that what the disciples were doing was work prohibited on the Sabbath, but Jesus used the event to teach two important facts.

  • The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
  • The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.

The last two photos were made in the vicinity of Mount Nemrut in eastern Turkey. Larger images, suitable for use in teaching, are available by clicking on the photos.

Egyptian culture evident in discovery near Tel Halif

TTel Halif is located between Hebron and Beersheba in the Negev (Negeb, Negev region, South land or South country).

Abram continually journeyed by stages down to the Negev. (Genesis 12:9 NET)

Now Isaac had returned from Beer-lahai-roi and was dwelling in the Negeb. (Genesis 24:62 ESV)

Tel Halif (= Arabic, Tell el-Khuweifeh). In an article about the Biblical identity of Tel Halif, Oded Borowski points out that this was territory allotted “to the tribe of Simeon (Joshua 19:1-9) and later to the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:20-32).” He discusses various efforts to equate the site with a site named in the Bible. Borowski narrows his discussion to four main candidates: Sharuhen, Hormah, Ziklag, and Rimmon. He think Rimmon (= En-Rimmon) is the correct choice (Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol. 51, Issue 1). Rimmon is mentioned five times in the Bible (Joshua 19:7; 1 Chronicles 4:32; Joshua 15:32; Nehemiah 11:29; Zechariah 14:10). I am not in a position to venture even a guess.

The photo below shows the terrain near Tel Halif, north of Beersheba.

Sheep in the Negev near Tel Halif. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sheep in the Negev near Tel Halif. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced today the discovery of artifacts excavated from a cave near Tel Halif, in the region of Kibbutz Lahav, in the south of Israel.

The artifacts included “seals, seal rings, figurines and amulets in the image of gods sacred to the Egyptian culture.” The archaeologists say,

The collection indicates “the presence of an administrative center that existed in the region.”

Other artifacts discovered included seal rings made of faience and a wealth of figurines and amulets in the image of gods sacred to the Egyptian culture.

A collection of artifacts with characteristics of the Egyptian culture, which were discovered in the excavation. Photographic credit: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

A collection of artifacts with characteristics of the Egyptian culture, which were discovered in the excavation. Photographic credit: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Items dating as late as the Iron Age were also found during the excavation conducted by the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery of the IAA. The excavation followed the discovery that the cave had been plundered.

An oil lamp and a ceramic jar that date to the Iron Age, which were discovered in the cave. Photographic credit: the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

An oil lamp and a ceramic jar that date to the Iron Age, which were discovered in the cave. Photographic credit: the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

According to Dr. Daphna Ben-Tor, curator of Egyptian archaeology at the Israel Museum,

“Most of the scarab seals found in the excavation date to the fifteenth–fourteenth centuries BCE. During this period Canaan was ruled by Egypt”. Dr. Ben-Tor adds, “The names of kings appeared on some of the seals. Among other things, we can identify a sphinx lying opposite the name of the pharaoh Thutmose who reigned from about 1504–1450 BCE. Another scarab seal bears the name of Amenhotep who reigned from about 1386–1349 BCE. Still another scarab depicts Ptah, the principal god of the city of Memphis.”

The Biblical record indicates Egyptian influence in Israel as late as the Iron Age.

 (Pharaoh, king of Egypt, had attacked and captured Gezer. He burned it and killed the Canaanites who lived in the city. He gave it as a wedding present to his daughter, who had married Solomon.) (1 Kings 9:16 NET)

The prophet Isaiah warned about reliance on Egypt in the 8th century B.C. (Isaiah 30:1-5).

HT: Joseph Lauer

 

 

 

 

Solomon’s Quarries #2

Begin at Damascus Gate and walk east along Sultan Suleiman Street and you will soon come to the entrance to Solomon’s Quarries (also called Zedekiah’s Cave). See the previous post for a photo of the entrance and the history of how this underground quarry came to light in the 19th century.

At that point of the Old City north wall you will see the wall built high above a natural scarp of rock. Mackowski describes the stone here as Turonian limestone. He says,

Beneath these structures are the so-called Solomon’s Quarries, though we do not think that they should be looked for in the subterranean passages below, but in the area (through which the modern Sultan Suleiman Street passes) between this artificially cut rocky spur of Bethesda and its counterpart (opposite it to the north) which forms a part of Gordon’s Calvary and the traditional site of Jeremiah’s Grotto. (Jerusalem City of Jesus, Eerdmans, 1978, p.16).

Portions of the north wall of the Old City of Jerusalem is built on a natural scarp of rock. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Portions of the north wall of the Old City of Jerusalem is built on a natural scarp of rock. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In this post we will follow-up the previous one about the modern discovery of Solomon’s Quarries with some photos. Our first photo shows the corridor leading from the entry south underneath the Old City.

Due to the artificial lighting each photo can look different due to the camera settings, and/or due to the adjustments in Photoshop.

Corridor leading south from the entry of Solomon's Quarries. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Corridor leading south from the entry of Solomon’s Quarries. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo shows a wider area of the quarry, and you can see a fissure in the ceiling. Fissures like this one may account for Barclay’s description here:

Water was everywhere dropping from the lofty ceiling, which had formed numerous small stalactites and stalagmites—some of them very resplendent and beautiful, but too fragile to be collected and preserved. (The City of the Great King, p. 461)

Solomon's Quarries. Notice the fissure in the ceiling. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Solomon’s Quarries. Notice the fissure in the ceiling. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Next we move into the largest area of the quarries. I think it is in this area where the recent TV series Dig built a pool in which a couple of the characters went skinny dipping. If you have been tempted to watch the series to learn about the archaeology of Israel, you might want to think again. Or, you could read the review in The Times of Israel here.

Freemason's Hall in Solomon's Quarries. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Freemason’s Hall in Solomon’s Quarries. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Next we see the largest area of Solomon’s quarries. This large hall is called The Freemason’s Hall. A sign at the entry to the hall reads,

Members of the Freemason’s Society number among the many European tourists and visitors who have come to see the cave after it was rediscovered in the winter of 1854. The Freemasons regard King Solomon as the first biblical Freemason, and since the cave was popularly viewed as the quarry used by King Solomon in the building of the First Temple, the Freemasons have held their traditional ceremonies during the past century in the main chamber of the cave.

I suppose they would not mind if I take exception to the statement that Solomon was “the first biblical Freemason.”

Freemason's Hall in Solomon's Quarries. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Freemason’s Hall in Solomon’s Quarries. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Earlier we cited Mackowski who suggested that the quarry used by Solomon was probably where Sultan Suleiman Street is now — between the outcropping of rock we showed above and the traditional Gordon’s Calvary.

Lasor reminds us that there is no archaeological evidence for this being Solomon’s Quarries, but that the tradition is not unreasonable.

A tradition that the stone for the temple was quarried in the area near the modern Damascus Gate, known as Solomon’s Quarries, Royal Quarries, Royal Caves, King Solomon’s Mines, and the cave of Zedekiah, is without archeological support, but the tradition is not unreasonable (cf. 1 K. 6:7). (W. S. Lasor, “Jerusalem.” ISBE (Rev. ed.) Vol. II, p.1008).

Solomon’s Quarries discovered by American Medical Doctor J. T. Barclay

Dr. James Turner Barclay was sent to Jerusalem by the American Christian Missionary Society in 1851 as a medical and evangelistic missionary. During his first trip he stayed until 1854 and  returned for a second stint from 1858 to 1861. Barclay was active in medical work, treating more than 2,000 cases of malaria during his first year in the city.

Grave stone of James T. Barclay, and his wife Julia, in the Campbell Cemetery at Bethany, WVA. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Grave stone of Dr. James T. Barclay, and his wife Julia, in the Campbell Cemetery at Bethany, West Virginia. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Barclay wrote a book in 1858 about the city of Jerusalem under the title The City of the Great King; or, Jerusalem As It Was, As It Is, and As It Is To Be. In it he tells about some of his explorations in and around the Old City. In a section dealing with nether Jerusalem he discusses the discovery of what is commonly called Solomon’s Quarry. Dr. J. T. Barclay inserts an article written by Dr. R. G. Barclay, his oldest son, about the exploration and their conviction that this was the quarry from which stone for the temple was taken.

This, without doubt, is the very magazine from which much of the Temple rock was hewn—the pit from which was taken the material for the silent growth of the Temple (The City of the Great King; Or, Jerusalem as It Was, as It Is, and as It Is to Be. pp. 462-463).

One of my graduate professors, Dr. Jack P. Lewis, wrote a series of articles about nineteenth century explorers of the Bible Lands in the Biblical Archaeologist (and perhaps some other journals). His article about Dr. Barclay was published in 1988 (Vol. 51). The biographical portraits have been collected in Early Explorers of Bible Lands, published by Abilene Christian University Press in 2013.

Entrance to Solomon's Quarries on Sultan Suleiman St. about a block east of Damascus Gate. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Entrance to Solomon’s Quarries on Sultan Suleiman Street about a block east of Damascus Gate. The sign to the left of the door identifies the place as King Solomon’s Quarries (Zedekiah’s Cave). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Lewis provides a brief summary of Barclay’s discovery of Solomon’s Quarries (also called Zedekiah’s Cave).

Barclay claimed credit for discovering the cavern under the north wall of the city near the Damascus Gate. Popularly known as Solomon’s Quarries, this area is called Zedekiah’s Grotto by Israelis in honor of the last king of Judah. According to legend, Zedekiah is said to have fled Jerusalem through this cavern upon the Babylonian conquest of the city in 587 BCE J. J. Simons, who has identified the area as the Royal Caverns mentioned by Josephus (The Jewish War, book 5, chapter 4, paragraph 2; see Thackeray 1961: 245) estimated that 350,000 cubic meters of stone were quarried there (Simons 1952: 13).

When Barclay heard rumors of a cavern under the north wall, he tried to locate an entrance to it. He and his two sons conducted their search at night in order to avoid detection by Moslems, who would have opposed such an expedition.

The group made their way into the blocked cavern through a hole started by the Barclay dog when it was digging for bones. Once inside the cave they discovered Hebrew and Arabic inscriptions that were too effaced to be deciphered (Barclay 1858: 461–62; Johnson 1858: 98–100). They also found crosses carved into the walls, indicating the presence of Christian pilgrims from an earlier period.

The Barclays were disappointed that they found no outlet to the Haram or the Antonia fortress but they were impressed by the vast piles of blocks and chippings over which they had to clamber and were convinced they had discovered the quarries from which the stones for Solomon’s Temple were cut.

In a future post we will include some photos of the interior of the Quarries.

For more about Dr. James Turner Barclay and his work, see TheRestorationMovement website here.

Another look at Hippos (Sussita)

I think many Bible Land travelers pass En Gev on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee and never realize that the site of Hippos is visible about one and a half miles to the east. Perhaps that is because of the almost magnetic attraction of the Sea of Galilee.

View of Hippos/Sussita (Susita) with the Sea of Galilee. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View of Hippos/Sussita (Susita) with the Sea of Galilee. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Vassilios Tzaferis wrote about Hippos in Biblical Archaeology Review:

If you look at the site of Sussita/Hippos from an adjacent mountain, or, better yet, from the air, and follow the adjoining ridge, or saddle, to the east, the site looks like the head of a horse and the saddle, or ridge, looks like the long, outstretched neck of a horse. It is this configuration that gave the site its name for nearly a thousand years. The ancient Greeks, who apparently were the first to settle the site, must have been aware of this resemblance because they named the place Hippos (horse). When the Jews conquered the city, they translated the name to Sussita, “mare” in Aramaic. When the Arabs conquered it, they called it Qal’at el Husn, the “fortress of the horse.”

The summit of the mountain is a plateau of about 37 acres on which lie scattered the ruins of what was once a beautiful town overlooking the lake.

Our story begins—perhaps it will begin much earlier after the site is thoroughly excavated—about a century after Alexander the Great conquered and Hellenized much of the then-known world. After Alexander’s death in 331 B.C., his empire split in two—the Ptolemies in Egypt and the Seleucids in Syria shared this world. Over the centuries Palestine passed from one side to the other, occasionally winning its own independence. The first evidence we now have of organized habitation at Hippos indicates that it was founded by the Seleucids in the middle of the third century B.C., very probably as a frontier fortress against the threat of the Ptolemaic kingdom to the south. The settlement was located on a most strategic point, on the western approach to Gaulanitis (today’s Golan Heights). The site’s natural fortification and defense allowed it to serve equally as a fortress stronghold and as an effective frontier post, controlling any movement to the east, both in time of war and peace. In about 200 B.C., the boundaries of the Seleucid kingdom were pushed down to southern Palestine, so Hippos lost much of its strategic significance but it retained its importance as an urban cultural center, with a social and political organization in accord with the principles of a Greek polis.

When the town was formally recognized as an official constitutional polis, it was renamed Antiocha, in honor of the head of the Seleucid kingdom, Antiochus the Great (III), although the old name Hippos was also officially used.

Hippos had a port on the Sea of Galilee “to serve the commercial and navigational needs” of the city.

The progress of the city as a Hellenistic center was interrupted for a period of about 20 years during the first half of the first century B.C. Sometime between 83 and 80 B.C., the Judean king Alexander Jannaeus, who then ruled an independent fiefdom, conquered Hippos. According to the first-century A.D. historian Flavius Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews 14.75), Jannaeus forced Hippos’ heathen inhabitants to be circumcised and to accept Judaism. In 64 B.C., however, the Roman army entered the scene. The Roman general Pompey took the city from the Jews; it was then included in the League of the Ten Cities, the Decapolis, created by Pompey in the northern Jordan Valley and adjacent Transjordan. Each city in the Decapolis had jurisdiction over an extensive area. As a member of the Decapolis, Hippos enjoyed internal autonomy and could even mint its own coins. The population of Hippos welcomed Pompey with open arms.

About 35 years later, Hippos again became part of a Jewish realm. In 30 B.C. the Roman emperor Augustus gave Hippos to Herod the Great, who ruled it until his death 26 years later, in 4 B.C. After Herod’s death, Hippos was assigned by the Romans to the province of Syria.

During the First Jewish Revolt against Rome (66–70 A.D.), the Jews attacked Hippos and its Greek inhabitants, who retaliated by killing or imprisoning the Jews residing there. (Biblical Archaeology Review 16:05, Sep/Oct 1990).

Riesner says that Hippos “must be” the city of the Decapolis presupposed in Mark 5:1-20 (the account of casting demons into swine; Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels 40). It might be. Hippos is the closest of the cities of the Decapolis to the area of Jesus’ ministry which was centered in Capernaum. It would make sense that Gentiles in this area might be growing pigs.

And he [the healed demon-possessed man]went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled. (Mark 5:20 ESV)

And great crowds followed him [Jesus] from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. (Matthew 4:25 ESV)

Could Hippos Be the City Set on a Hill? Chris McKinney wrote an article for Seeking a Homeland in May, 2010 suggesting consideration of Hippos (Hippus) for the “city set on a hill” mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 5:14b). He uses Google Earth to show the location of various sites around the Sea of Galilee. There is also a nice photo allowing you to see how the site looks like the head of a horse. Read his article here. Certainly plausible.

Parts of this post are reposted from March 26, 2010. See here.