Backgrounders on the Bible through Biblical Archaeology


1458-1459 Mike Molnar – The Star of Bethlehem Mystery

Mike Molnar's Antioch Coin

Mike Molnar’s Antioch Coin

The Star of Bethlehem brought the Wise Men from the East to see the baby Jesus, but how come everyone else missed its significance. That’s just one of the questions that Rutgers University astronomer answered in his ground-breaking research into the celestial phenomenon that heralded the Savior’s birth.

We talked with Molnar several times in the past and return to the subject this holiday season one more time, in reaction to a major conference in Europe recently that focused on Molnar’s research. Does he answer all of the questions about the star? Give a listen and see what you think.

1457 Clyde Billington Sheshonq’s Scarab

Sheshonq's Scarab

Sheshonq’s Scarab

More discoveries reported in the latest issue of ARTIFAX magazine reviewed on this program, including the recently announced scarab of Sheshonq, the Egyptian pharaoh who raided through Judah and took all of Solomon’s gold out of the Jerusalem temple. His scarab was found in 2006 at a copper production facility in Jordan.

We continue with a discussion of research at another nearby copper facility in Israel at Timna and what has been learned about the men who worked there. We discuss the oldest metal object ever found in the Middle East, an awl at Tel Tsaf, also found several years ago but just recently announced. And finally, the discovery of an ivory game board at an area of the Tel Gezer excavation that’s been dubbed “Solomon’s casino.”

1456 Clyde Billington – Temples and Tombs 2014

Temple Excavation at Tel Megiddo

Temple Excavation at Tel Megiddo (2008 photo)

It’s catch-up time once again on The Book & The Spade as we review items from the news digest of the latest issue of ARTIFAX magazine that haven’t been discussed on the radio program yet. Professor Billington, my ARTIFAX co-editor, discusses a large Late Bronze temple excavated this past year at Tel Burna in the Shephelah region.

Then we discuss new information on animal sacrifices at the Early Bronze Age temple being excavated at Megiddo, “the most monumental single structure uncovered so far from the Early Bronze Age in the Levant.”

And finally, a few words about the most exciting excavation currently underway, the excavation of a massive tomb in northern Greece from the time of Alexander the Great.

1455 Geoffrey Ludvik – Abraham and the Stone Beads

Bronze Age Carnelian Bead from the Indus Valley

Bronze Age Carnelian Bead from the Indus Valley

What can we learn about the time of Abraham from simple stone beads? Quite a lot actually.

University of Wisconsin PhD student Geoffrey Ludvik has made ancient stone beads his specialty and gives us the inside perspective on how he does his research and what he has learned about the ancient Near East from simple stone beads.

1454 Steven Fine – The Arch of Titus

After talking about the synagogue and menorah image excavated at Magdala with Steven Fine of Yeshiva University, we transitioned to a discussion of another menorah image on the Arch of Titus in Rome. Professor Fine is involved in research that has uncovered vestiges of pigment, indicating the arch was very colorful when it was first constructed. He’s also narrated a video on the arch for Khan Academy (above).

We also include a short discussion of his research on the Samaritans.

1453 Steven Fine – Mary Magdalene and Magdala, part 4

The mysterious Magdala carved stone with menorah and other objects.

The mysterious Magdala carved stone with menorah and other objects.

We continue our discussion on this amazing first century city that is being uncovered along the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee by focusing on the first building that archaeologists excavated, a first century synagogue.

Our guest is Steven Fine, professor of Jewish History at Yeshiva University. Professor Fine compares this synagogue to other first century synagogues that have been discovered, and discusses the mysterious carved stone that was found in the very center of this synagogue.

1452 Father Eamon Kelly – Mary Magdalene and Magdala, part 3

Father Eamon Kelly

Father Eamon Kelly LC

The excavations at Magdala began as a salvage excavation, as a Catholic order began plans to build a retreat center along the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Father Eamon Kelly, the assistant director of the Magdala Center, says that they prayed that there would be no archaeology found, or if there was, that it would be something good like a Byzantine church. What was actually found exceeded everyone’s expectations, the intact ruins of a first century city from the time of Jesus.


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