Backgrounders on the Bible through Biblical Archaeology


1444 Clyde Billington – Huqoq Mosaics and Bethsaida Site Survey

Huqoq mosaic detail

Huqoq mosaic detail

Continuing our review of recent discoveries in Biblical archaeology as reported in the summer issue of ARTIFAX magazine we discuss with professor Clyde Billington the discovery of curious mosaics at a Byzantine synagogue at Huqoq, and a shovel survey of what some archaeologists believe may be the real site of the biblical Bethsaida.

The first two seasons of excavations at Huqoq (near the NW shore of the Sea of Galilee) revealed mosaics depicting episodes in the life of Samson. But in this past summer’s third season the mosaics uncovered seemed to veer from the biblical account. One may even depict Alexander the Great.

What is usually called New Testament Bethsaida, the site of et-Tell, is a mile and a half from the NE shore of the Sea of Galilee. Thinking that et-Tell may be too far from the shore to be Bethsaida, some archaeologists are taking another look at Khirbet el-Araj, which is nearer the shore.

1443 Clyde Billington – The Stone Rejected by the Builders and Counting with Tokens

Herodian stones in the western wall of the temple mount.

Herodian stones in the western wall of the temple mount.

Discussing some of the items in the archaeology news digests in the latest issue of ARTIFAX magazine, Professor Clyde Billington and I discuss the discovery of the Stone Rejected by the Builders in the western wall of the Temple Mount, the stone mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 21:42, quoting Psalm 118:22-23.

We also report on the discovery of counting tokens used several millenia after writing and record keeping supposedly transitioned from the use of tokens to cuneiform. The story of the invention of writing is intertwined with the biblical story and the history of Christianity. This is an intriguing development.

1441-1442 Brian Daniels & Corine Wegener – Preserving Culture in War

Tomb of Jonah destroyed

Tomb of Jonah destroyed

War and natural disasters like earthquakes, as destructive as they are, can be a boon for archaeologists centuries later. But the current fighting in Syria and Iraq, in addition to the devastating destruction wreaked on millions of lives, is also threatening the archaeological/cultural/religious resources of the region, which is sometimes called the Cradle of Civilization.

In these two programs we begin a discussion on efforts to try to preserve these resources with Brian Daniels, Director of Research and Programs, Penn Cultural Heritage Center at the Penn Museum. Brian is one of the modern Monuments Men, working with a network of archaeologists and museum professionals in the field of disaster risk management.

UPDATE: In program #1442 Corine Wegener joins the conversation relaying her experiences as an Army Reserve officer and a Smithsonian Institute employee.


1440 Robert Mullins – Abel Beth Maacah 2014


Abel Beth Maacah

Abel Beth Maacah has now seen two seasons of excavation and we checked in again with professor Robert Mullins of Azusa Pacific University. Abel Beth Maacah was a border site between Israel and Syria in ancient times, and a small Aramean kingdom before that. Today it sits near the border between Israel and Lebanon.

Our discussion included an update on the ancient silver hoard found during last season’s dig, as well as the probing of a large pre-Israelite administrative building.


1437-1439 Christopher Moroney – The Archaeology of Music

Ancient Echoes

Ancient Echoes

As important as music is in the worship of churches today, you have to figure that music was important in biblical times also. There’s the Psalms, of course, but what did they sound like?

About ten years ago we discovered Ancient Echoes, a project by the San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble, which attempted to answer the question.

Here again, this week and for the next two weeks, our 3-part interview with SAVAE’s artistic director Christopher Moroney on the research and other aspects of how the project came together, along with a few cuts from the CD. This is a follow-up to our two previous programs on The Language Jesus Spoke.

1435-1436 Seth Sanders – The Language that Jesus Spoke

Christ Pantocrator

The oldest surviving panel icon of Christ Pantocrator, encaustic on panel, c. 6th century.

Pope Francis and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a brief dispute about it, but what language DID Jesus speak? What was the linquistic climate of first century Palestine? To find some answers, we queried Seth Sanders, professor of religion at Trinity College in Hartford CT. Seth is the editor of the Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions. We spoke to him a few years ago about the development of Hebrew writing.

1434 Gordon Govier – Personal Reflections

Gordon Govier

Gordon Govier

After 31 years hosting The Book & The Spade I finally took the opportunity to share some personal reflections on Biblical Archaeology. Earlier this year, following a couple of articles I wrote for Christianity Today, some radio news colleagues invited me to come on their radio programs to talk about Biblical Archaeology. So this week’s program is constructed from edited portions of Bill Feltner’s program, His People, and Keith Peter’s interview program on Classics Radio. Nothing too amazing, just a slightly different format.


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