Backgrounders on the Bible through Biblical Archaeology


#1474-1475 Hershel Shanks – Forty Years of Biblical Archaeology Reviews

Hershel Shanks

Hershel Shanks

In the early days of The Book & The Spade radio program, we relied on two key resources to find out what was going on in biblical archaeology: Biblical Archaeology Review and the Jerusalem Post. Now, with the internet, many more sources are available to us. But Biblical Archaeology Review continues to be the of the leading resources for information on biblical archaeology.

So, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Biblical Archaeology Review, we talked with Hershel Shanks about the world of biblical archaeology news and the significance of biblical archaeology. In the second half of the interview, Hershel participated in our annual discussion of the upcoming excavation season, and which sites are going to be excavated. That was a discussion that was always, in the early days, precipitated by the arrival of the January-February issue, with its list of excavation opportunities.

Those opportunities continue to exist, for the sites we discuss, and many more. We hope some of our listeners will take the opportunity to get involved in an actual archaeological excavation.

1472-1473 David Gibson – Finding Jesus

David Gibson

David Gibson (rear)

Easter, along with Christmas, are the two times of the year when major media inflict upon us stories of dubious religious value in a wild attempt to resonate with a religious audience. But occasionally those stories do have credible content, such as the current CNN series Finding Jesus, which is supported by a book of the same name, written by David Gibson and Michael McKinley.

This CNN series examines six holy objects to see what they can tell us about the story of Jesus, such as the Shroud of Turin, the James Ossuary, the Gospel of Judas, pieces of the true cross, and some ancient bones connected to John the Baptist. Some are more credible than others, but all are carefully examined and offer a window into the gospel story of Jesus’ ministry.

1468 – 1471 Khirbet Summeily, in depth

Khirbet Summeily excavation

Khirbet Summeily excavation just after dawn

In this series of interviews, we go in depth to discover how a tiny little excavation on a far corner of the 10th century B.C. kingdom of Judah may reveal some major clues about the biblical world. We talk with Jeff Blakely, James Hardin, and Rachel Hallotte, the co-directors of the excavation, as well as epigrapher Christopher Rollston.

Among the top finds of the 2014 excavation season in Israel were a half-dozen bullae, clay seal impressions, that probably would have been missed by the typical archaeological excavation. But these simple bullae may give us some interesting facts about the much-disputed world of the biblical kings David and Solomon.

(photo courtesy of the Khirbet Summeily excavation)

1466 – 1467 Clyde Billington – Breaking News in Archaeology

Herodium Excavations

Herodium Excavations (photo by Ferrell Jenkins)

With these 2 programs we cover some of the stories from the news digests of the latest issue of ARTIFAX magazine, the Winter 2015 issue, just out.

Items include the newly discovered monumental entrance at Herodium, the newly opened site of Herod’s palace in Jerusalem – where some say Jesus appeared before Pilate, and a commemorative Latin inscription to the Roman emperor Hadrian.

We also discuss a royal escape tunnel found at Iron Age Bethsaida (Geshur), a newly discovered temple of Tuthmosis III – possibly the pharaoh of the oppression in Exodus, and the 8,000-year old remains of olive oil domestication. These items and more, with commentary from professor Billington.


1464-1465 Charles Aling – Patterns of Exodus Evidence

Professor Charles Aling

Professor Charles Aling

Charles Aling, chair of the history department at the University of Northwestern-St. Paul, was featured in the recent documentary Patterns of Evidence, which investigates the historical evidence for the Exodus of the Bible.

The documentary highlights the tensions between the theories for the early date for the Exodus and the late date and other issues related to the historicity of this founding event for two of the world’s major religions.

We discuss some of the theories presented in the documentary, why Dr. Aling supports the early date for the Exodus, and the issues he has with some of the other presentations in the documentary.

UPDATE: Christianity Today posted an excellent article by Gregory Alan Thornbury on “Why It Matters That the Exodus Really Happened.”

1463 Clyde Billington – Temple Mount Archaeology Update

Western Wall Stones

Western Wall Stones

Why are some stones in the Western Wall of the Temple Mount eroded and some as smooth as stones can be? On this program we discuss some of the latest reports on biblical archaeology related to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. That includes an investigation into western wall stone erosion, and some new information from the Temple Mount sifting project.

1462 Todd Bolen – Be Wary of Sensational Biblical Archaeology Stories

Todd Bolen

Todd Bolen

You knew those archaeology stories in the supermarket tabloids were suspect, but now with the internet, how can you tell what’s real and what’s fake? This is an important topic that we discuss with Todd Bolen of

Todd has identified some important clues that will tell you whether an internet account of a biblical archaeology discovery might be true or might be too good to be true. In fact, that’s one of his clues. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


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