Backgrounders on the Bible through Biblical Archaeology


1624 Clyde Billington – Who Is This Biblical King?

Likeness of a Biblical King from Abel Beth Maacah.

Likeness of a Biblical King from Abel Beth Maacah.

On the cover of the latest issue of ARTIFAX magazine, the photograph of the head off of a small statue that is believed to be a king from the 9th century BC. But is it a king of Israel, Aram, Phoenicia, or somewhere else?

This faience face was excavated in 2017 at Abel Beth Maacah, a border town down through much of history, as it is today, located between Israel and Lebanon. It is now on display at the Israel Museum.

On this program we also discuss more of the news coverage featured in the latest ARTIFAX issue, in particular excavations at the two sites vying to be the biblical Bethsaida, home of three of the Apostles. Excavations continued this summer at et-Tell and El-Araj, the two sites near the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. First century A.D. remains were found at both locations. Excavations will continue again next year in an attempt to solve this biblical mystery.


1623 John DeLancey – Volunteering to Excavate at Gath

John DeLancey

John DeLancey

Archaeology is the rare science in which untrained laymen (and women) can make major discoveries. From the beginning we hosts of The Book & The Spade, and some of our guests, have invited listeners to volunteer to participate in these excavations, and some listeners have done so.

On this program we explore just exactly how one goes about volunteering for an excavation in Israel. Dr. John DeLancey, co-leader of our May Israel tour, has volunteered on three different excavations in recent years. This summer he spent a week at the excavation of Tel es-Safi/Gath, one of the five Philistine cities and the home town of Goliath.

John worked in the city gate area that is currently under excavation. On the program, he explains how he made arrangements to join the excavation, and what it was like. He also created a video of Tel es-Safi/Gath.

For those who want the official report on the Gath excavation from dig director Aren Maier, you can check out the excavation blog.

Here’s the account of another volunteer who excavated at Tel Jezreel.

1621-1622 Scott Stripling – Shiloh 2018

Scott Stripling

Scott Stripling

Shiloh, where the tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant were located for several hundred years, is once again under excavation. Last year we heard from dig director Scott Stripling, and this year he has given us an update on what is probably the largest dig in Israel, in terms of the number of volunteers.

This large number of volunteers, over 140, means that the excavation had enough people to use the wet sifting process, which was responsible for the discovery of items like a cartouche, which otherwise would have been missed. Another significant discovery: a ceramic pomegranate. And there’s a lot more to talk about regarding this important Old Testament excavation site.


1620 The Jesus Trail

The Jesus Trail is one of Israel’s many hiking trails. It covers 40 miles, from Nazareth, the town where Jesus grew up, to Capernaum, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus based his ministry. The Jesus Trail was established in 2007, and in May of 2018 I walked it. This week’s TB&TS program has a few observations and some audio clips about the archaeological sites that are along The Jesus Trail.

The Jesus Trail conjures up visions of walking grassy paths through olive groves, where you can almost see the dusty footprints of the apostles. Our experience was a little different. We did the trail in four days, in unseasonable heat. We visited two archaeological sites along the way. Following are photos from our 4 days on The Jesus Trail.

Mary's Well

Mary’s Well is probably the strongest link in Nazareth to the lives of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. As the city’s water source, Mary would have visited daily. And as the inset shows, it is the symbol of Nazareth found on manhole covers.

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1047-1048 William Varner – The Didache

varner's book

William Varner’s book

From the Book & The Spade archives, the story of an important ancient Christian document that has been largely overlooked by most scholars and is totally unknown to most contemporary Christians. Ten years ago we talked with William Varner, professor of Biblical Studies at The Master’s College in Santa Clarita, California.

The Didache may be older than some of the later books of the New Testament, and speaks with apostolic authority, even though it was not included in the New Testament canon.

William Varner’s book is available on Amazon. You can find more information on the Didache at the Early Christian Writings website.

1480-1481 Ken Dark – Nazareth Archaeology

Church of the Annunciation - Nazareth

Church of the Annunciation – Nazareth

Having just visited Nazareth, but without enough time to visit the important archaeological sites, I decided to go back to the archives and bring out the 2015 interview that I did with Ken Dark, of Reading University, who has been investigating a unique archaeological site right across the street from the Church of the Annunciation, in the center of Nazareth.

It’s difficult to say whether this site could possibly be the childhood home of Jesus, but Dark believes that the Byzantine Christians who revered this site, believed it was the home of Jesus.

1618-1619 Mordecai Aviam – Galilee Churches and Finding Bethsaida

Mordecai Aviam, Kinneret College

Mordecai Aviam, Kinneret College

At the end of our recent Book & The Spade Israel tour, I had a chance to sit down and talk with Israeli archaeologist Mordecai Aviam about two of the big projects that he’s working on. We did the interview in his office at Kinneret College, on the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee, where he is senior lecturer in the Department of the study of the Land of Israel.

The first half of the interview covers his research into Byzantine churches of the Galilee, pagan populations that became Christian when Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire. He is in the middle of excavating a number of the church sites, looking for mosaics that give information about church history.

The second half of the interview covers the recently begun excavation of el-Araj, a site along the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, which may be the New Testament city of Bethsaida. For 30 years the nearby site of et-Tel has borne the Bethsaida identification, but there are issues with et-Tel and el-Araj has compelling discoveries which may indicate it is the real Bethsaida.