News from Nazareth

The IAA (Israeli Antiquities Authority) has announced the discovery of the first solid archaeological evidence of a modest house dating to the time of Jesus. There are a few nice pictures provided in links below.

It is usual and customary for there to have been a rash of announcements and discoveries timed for release during the “holy” days of Christmas and the Festival of lights, it is a specially sweet confirmation of the biblical record about Nazareth. The biblical picture is of a rather small, even remote farming village in Northern Galilee. This discovery seems to collaborate the impression that scholars and archaeologists have had about Nazareth.

It wasn’t terribly long ago when the very existence of Nazareth was suspect. The rationale: there is no mention of the village in the Old Testament so it is highly unlikely it existed in the New Testament period. But this is a very weak argument. The absence of evidence is not the same thing as the evidence of absence!

We can all relax now and continue to enjoy the wonderful Nativity narratives of the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem; we have the authoritative assurance of the most recent find in Northern Galilee. There were residents in Nazareth in the days of Jesus! How about that?

It seems that it is terribly inappropriate of Christ-followers to have an inner confidence of the validity of the biblical record until there is 100% confirmation. Well, there is never a 100% confirmation in the world of archaeology, biblical or otherwise. But, there is a growing body of evidences that support our faith and confidence in the Bible. That’s what I take from the news of a discovery.

1st Time Discovery of 2nd Temple building in Nazareth
First-Century house excavated in Nazareth.

Published in: on December 22, 2009 at 6:01 pm  Comments Off on News from Nazareth  

Soul sleep

Question: regarding the state of the soul after death
“The Bible states at one point that the dead in Christ shall rise to greet Him at His return, which indicates to me that, at the point of our physical death, we will have to wait for Him to return and greet Him via the first, second or third “bus” so to speak. That could be a long wait for some or a short time for others to sleep in the earth or if they choose cremation then to wait in a jar till His return (hoping they don’t have claustrophobia!)
or whether they choose to be scattered after cremation, or … God forbid … even if someone should accidentally drop that jar on the floor and it breaks and one’s ashes end up in a dust pan! On the other hand, when Christ was crucified and He said to the thief that today you shall be with Me in paradise, did that just single out the thief as a major favor to him, or does that apply to everyone today who qualifies for Heaven? ”

Answer: Jefferis Kent Peterson, biblical and theological web scholar

The rising of the dead to meet Jesus at his return appears to have to do more with the resurrection of the body than soul sleep. There are many sections of scripture that point to both a “consciousness” of the dead, both of those in Christ and those who are lost. The touchstone verse for me would be Paul’s own anticipation of “going home” to be with the Lord, rather than dying and losing consciousness:

“So we are always of good courage; we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. We are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5:6-8, RSV.
“I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.” Philippians 1:23, 24, RSV.

There is also the parable or story of Lazarus and Dives told by Jesus, where the man in torment asks for water from Lazarus who is in the “bosom of Abraham” (Luke 16:19-31). And the letter to the Hebrews describes those who have gone before us as a “great cloud of witnesses” who are watching from heaven and cheering us on in the race of salvation (Hebrews 12:1). So the idea of soul sleep doesn’t match up with the general sense of scripture.
Finally, while cremation was an ancient pagan practice, outlawed in Europe under pain of death by the First Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne, since so many martyrs to the faith were burned at the stake and their ashes scattered, I figure the God who knows every hair on your head and has numbered them would have no problem gathering up all the atoms of your former body if that is what He needed to do to put you back together 🙂

Published in: on July 10, 2009 at 9:43 pm  Comments Off on Soul sleep  

Oldest Bible Whole again

Codex Sinaiticus
Technological advancements have always been viewed as either a blessing or bondage. Advocates and antagonist flail away at one another with relentless propaganda.
The digital revolution is one such technological advancement. I have both blessed and cursed its arrival on the contemporary cultural scene.
Today, I bless the internet and all of the efforts of the British Museum and Leipzig University for the publication of the Codex Sinaiticus; one of the oldest nearly complete New Testament copies in existence. Not an easy task when one realizes that four different nations (Britain, Germany, Russia, Egypt) held pages from the Codex.
The Codex, which is believed to contain the most accurate version of the New Testament, can now be viewed online in high-definition pictures, with a full transcript of the Greek text, and translation into English and German of some key passages.
I suspect only by the cooperative efforts of scholars, museums, universities, and private collectors to the digitalization of such documents will they ever be made whole and available to us all.
Today I love the internet.

Read more:
German University puts 4th century bible online
4th century bible put online
Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts
Home page for Codex

Published in: on July 10, 2009 at 12:46 am  Comments Off on Oldest Bible Whole again  

The Tomb of Esther & Mordecai placed on Iranian treasure registry


The present building of this mausoleum (Hamadan), which is visited by Jewish pilgrims from all over the world, has nothing to speak about from the architectural point of view. Under its simple brick dome there are two graves with some Hebrew inscription up on the plasterwork of the wall. Two exquisite wooden tomb-boxes are also to be seen, one of which is of an earlier date and bears an inscription in Hebrew.

The original structure dates to the 7th Century A. H. [13th Century A.D.] and it might have been erected over other and more ancient tombs. The exterior form of this mausoleum, built of brick and stone, resembles Islamic constructions, and the monument consists of an entrance, a vestibule, a sanctuary and a Shah-ni-shin (King’s sitting place). Some believe that the mausoleum is the resting-place of Esther, the Achaemenian Queen and wife of Xerxes (Khashayarshah) and the second tomb belongs to her uncle, Mordecai.

Read more:

Jewish shrine in Iran registered as national work

Published in: on December 16, 2008 at 8:50 pm  Comments Off on The Tomb of Esther & Mordecai placed on Iranian treasure registry  
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Perfume vials from Christ’s Era Unearthed in Israel.

anointing-the-feet-of-jesus1Archaeologists excavating in the biblical town of Magdala, on the Northwestern shores of Galilee, have unearthed vials of perfumed ointments.  The vials (known as Unguentarium) had been preserved intact at the bottom of a 1st century pool. The contents are been chemically analyzed and perhaps will give us an insight into 1st century perfumes, ointments and cosmetics.

News reports are linking the perfume vials with the New Testament story of the anointing of the feet of Jesus by a woman named as Mary (John 11:2, 12:3).


The name Mary is used 54 times in the New Testament and there are several different Mary’s mentioned; Mary, the mother of Jesus (19 times), Mary Magdalene (13 times), Mary, sister of Martha (11 times), Mary, mother of James (9 times), and Mary, mother of John Mark (1 time).


The anointing of the feet of Jesus as recorded in the gospels may be two accounts of the same event or two reports of separate events. But, what is clear is Mary Magdalene is not to be identified as the Mary in the gospel passages.


There is every possibility that Mary of Magdala may have had perfumed ointments. Perhaps even stored them in similar vials but that’s the extent of the connection to this remarkable discovery.


I have driven by the sparse remains of Magdala many times and just wondered when someone would launch more excavations at the site. I am thrilled that the Italians are at the site, on the job and on the ball (or on the vial).


Read more: 



Italians find Jesus’ foot salve



Photo – G. Caffulli –




Published in: on December 15, 2008 at 6:17 pm  Comments Off on Perfume vials from Christ’s Era Unearthed in Israel.  
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Newly discovered Inscription could alter notions of Biblical David

Ostacon of Kh Qeiyafa

Ostacon of Kh Qeiyafa

KHIRBET QEIYAFA, Israel— “Overlooking the verdant Valley of Elah, where the Bible says David toppled Goliath, archaeologists are unearthing a 3,000-year-old fortified city that could reshape views of the period when David ruled over the Israelites. Five lines on pottery uncovered here appear to be the oldest Hebrew text ever found and are likely to have a major impact on knowledge about the history of literacy and alphabet development.

The five-acre site, with its fortifications, dwellings and multi-chambered entry gate, will also be a weapon in the contentious and often politicized debate over whether David and his capital, Jerusalem, were an important kingdom or a minor tribe, an issue that divides not only scholars but those seeking to support or delegitimize Zionism.”


Without going into a long arduous discussion of the two major positions (minimalist and maximalist) archaeologists take regarding the historical reliability of the Hebrew Bible and Christian Scriptures, let me simply state that the former is the dominant view in the lands of the Bible.

Therefore, on a regular basis when discoveries, interpretations, and analyses of archaeological materials run countercultural to the majority view they are met with denial, forced re-analysis, and loud public statements of just how wrong the “other guys” are. Perhaps the majority view isn’t right after all. Who stands to lose the most when evidence compatible with the Biblical record is laid on the table?

Again, the long search for collaborative evidence for King David’s magisterial reign, as outlined in the Bible, has taken another possible step forward with the discovery of these ostraca.

Finally, this note to remember: the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence.

Learn more:




Published in: on November 17, 2008 at 3:09 pm  Comments Off on Newly discovered Inscription could alter notions of Biblical David  

Catholic theologians growing concerned about Biblical literacy.



These articles reflect a fascinating and refreshing development within Catholicism. I have had countless discussion with my Catholic friends and colleagues about the role of Scripture in the lives of practising, good, faithful Catholics. They assured me  there was a vital movement within the church to reemphasize the Bible in the daily lives of the church’s members. It seems they were in the know.

I have observed that Pope Benedict XVI, as a more conservative theologian with  pragmatic bent, seems to nudge the faithful towards a more personal connection with  the Scriptures.

Biblical illiteracy is a bane to Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant life. Long live the Scripture! 

Published in: on November 17, 2008 at 2:27 pm  Comments Off on Catholic theologians growing concerned about Biblical literacy.  

$50 Million anonymous gift to Wycliffe Translators

200px-jwycliffe1Wycliffe USA, a Bible translating organization, received an anonymous gift of $50 million this week, marking the largest donation in the ministry’s history. According to a press release, the funds will be used to accelerate the rate of scripture translation and bring language development and – in most cases – first-time literacy to more than 200 million people by 2025. Using cutting-edge translation techniques developed by Wycliffe personnel, the Last Languages Campaign will accelerate the pace of language development and Bible translation for the world’s remaining language groups from 125 years to 17 years. According to Wycliffe, one in five adults worldwide is illiterate, and more than one-third of the world’s language groups have no Bible translation program underway.


Imagine! In the midst of one of the worst recessions in American history, with US and global markets continuing to decline, unemployment at staggering levels, financial institutions crumbling almost daily, someone(s) step forward and donated $50 million dollars. Not to their alma maters, not to some ridiculous cause but to Wycliffe USA.

$50 million dollars to see the Scriptures translated into the last languages on earth without any portion of the precious Word of God. $50 million dollars to see illiteracy erased on the planet; while using the Bible as a primary text in teaching reading skills.

What glorious and generous ‘good news’ at a time when media is so saturated with bad news. My heart was so encouraged. This grand act made my day and will likely make the eternal days of countless millions of unreached peoples as well. The gift accelerated a major translation project scheduled to take 125 years to 17 years. Now, that’s redeeming the time.

To whoever made this wonderful donation I say “Bless you sir, bless you madam. May the wondrous riches of His grace abound toward you. Thank you for being so selfless in giving such a needed gift.”


Wycliffe USA takes its name from the 14th century Bible translator John Wycliffe.

To learn more:



Published in: on November 13, 2008 at 7:29 pm  Comments (3)  

Herod’s Lost Tomb

The National Geographic Channel will premier Herod’s Lost Tomb, Sunday November 23, 9 PM ET. Check local listing.

Skyview of the HerodiumHerod’s bloody reputation has always hidden another side of one of the Bible’s greatest villains – an architectural mastermind of breathtaking proportions. An Israeli archaeologist claims to have found Herod’s most intimate creation of all – his tomb.

I recommend watching this program but remember just because something is on  TV , even a well-crafted NG documentary, does not mean 100% accuracy or truth. For every archaeological announcement, there are often a slue of alternative interpretations.

I visited the Herodium in 2007 and saw first-hand the excavation site on the steep slopes under the direction of Ehud Netzer.

For more info:  Herod, National Geographic Magazine  More on Herod from Hebrew University News  Herod may have been buried among paintings, Discovery News

Published in: on November 12, 2008 at 5:35 pm  Comments Off on Herod’s Lost Tomb  

118th pyramid unearthed in Egypt

Mideast Egypt New PyramidArchaeologists have discovered a new pyramid under the sands of Saqqara. The discovery is part of the sprawling necropolis and burial site of the rulers of ancient Memphis, the capital of Egypt‘s Old Kingdom, about 12 miles south of Giza.

The 4,300-year-old monument most likely belonged to the queen mother, Sesheshet, who is thought to have played a significant role in establishing the 6th Dynasty and uniting two branches of the feuding royal family. Her son, Teti, ruled for about a dozen years

The find is important because it adds to the understanding of the 6th Dynasty, which reigned from 2,322 B.C. to 2,151 B.C. It was the last dynasty of the Old Kingdom, which spanned the third millennium B.C. and whose achievements are considered the first peak of pharaonic civilization.

Saqqara is most famous for the Step Pyramid of King Djoser, built in the 27th century B.C.

Excavations have been going on here for about 150 years, uncovering a vast Old Kingdom necropolis of pyramids, tombs and funerary complexes, as well as tombs dating from the New Kingdom about 1,000 years later.

So what do I think about this recent discovery?

Here are just a few tidal thoughts that washed ashore in my mind:

·        Much more needs to be done; at Saqqara alone, only 1/3rd of the necropolis has been excavated, over all, only 5-8% of identified Egyptian sites have had excavations,

·        Shrinking budgets and waning interest for mounting excavations, not only in Egypt but also in Israel, the entire ancient Near East, and the Eastern Mediterranean is alarming. Sadly, there is little “taste” or enthusiasm for archaeology (biblical archaeology) even within the believing faith communities,

·        After discovery comes the hard work (often taking years) of analysis and interpretation, too few young people are considering fields of study that could aid the ever-improving science of archeology.

·        Our current picture of the life and times of the peoples, cultures, nations and empires (about which we read in the Scriptures) is informed by such a very small percentage of the artifacts that are no doubt buried just beneath the sands. We need to continue to support the exploration and discovery of ancient sites as part of our duty to be truth-seekers. We ought to support biblical archaeologist, their excavation projects and on-going research, analysis and publication of findings by both our money and muscle.




Published in: on November 12, 2008 at 2:47 pm  Comments Off on 118th pyramid unearthed in Egypt