Backgrounders on the Bible through Biblical Archaeology


1543-1544 James Edwards – Paul’s Riot in Ephesus

Roman theater in Ephesus, where the silversmith's riot took place.

Roman theater in Ephesus, where the silversmith’s riot took place.

Ephesus is mentioned more times in the New Testament than any other city, with the exception of Jerusalem. In these two programs with James Edwards, professor of Theology at Whitworth University, we review the city as Paul knew it and the archaeological evidence that is being uncovered in Ephesus today. And over the past 100+ years in fact, by an Austrian excavation.

The most prominent feature of the ruins of Ephesus is the Roman theater, which was able to seat 25,000 people. Missing is the temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, which drew pagan worshipers to the city in Paul’s day and supplied a source of revenue for the city’s silversmiths. What happened when the silversmiths got upset at Paul and filled the theater with angry Ephesians is recounted in Acts 19.

Riot in Pompeii – Carl Rasmussen has shared photos from Pompeii where an amphitheater riot from 59 A.D. is depicted.

UPDATE – The Turkish government has apparently cancelled the Austrian excavation at Ephesus, after more than 100 years of digging up the city.

1542 Clyde Billington – Jerusalem’s Trash & Ancient Writing

Kidron Valley - Jerusalem

Kidron Valley – Jerusalem

More news digest items from the latest issue of ARTIFAX magazine covered in this week’s program with ARTIFAX co-editor Clyde Billington, including:

  • The discovery of the garbage dump from first century Jerusalem including the remains of the Last Supper (not identified yet, but it’s got to be in there somewhere)
  • A cache of first century writing tablets from London, at the other end of the Roman Empire
  • An abecedary (alphabet listing) from 15th century BC Egypt, the time of Moses
  • And conclusive evidence that the ancient Coptic papyrus fragment that mentions the wife of Jesus is actually a forgery

Information on subscribing to ARTIFAX is at the radioscribe website.


1541 Clyde Billington – Solomon’s Pools and Judean Caves

Small fragments of the raw glass as they were found at the site

Small fragments of the raw glass as they were found at the site

Another update with news of the latest discoveries and developments in biblical archaeology from the pages of the summer issue of ARTIFAX magazine.

The news includes the collapse of one of Solomon’s Pools south of Bethlehem, part of the system that fed water to Jerusalem for centuries; new excavations taking place in Judean desert caves overlooking the Dead Sea, to preempt looting in the area; and the discovery of an ancient glass factory near Mt. Carmel, one of the two main centers of glass production in the ancient world .

ONLINE UPDATE: One of our listeners, professor Carl Rasmussen, sent along this link to a story about a 9-ton slab of glass found in Israel back in the 1960s. He also sent a link to a photo of ancient glass items from the Israel Museum.

#1540 Clyde Billington – Philistine Cemetery at Ashkelon

Philistine grave from Ashkelon

Philistine grave from Ashkelon

From the news digests in the summer 2016 issue of ARTIFAX magazine, we report on the latest discoveries in biblical archaeology, including a Philistine cemetery at Ashkelon, and an Egyptian statue found at Hazor.

We briefly mention the mosaics of Huqoq and the speculation of another tomb inside the Tomb of Tutankhamun, a search that seems to be fruitless at this point.


1538-1539 Dan Warner – Canaanite Water System at Gezer

Water System sign from Gezer

Water System sign from Gezer

A number of archaeological sites in Israel have water systems that have been excavated – Megiddo, Hazor, Beersheba, Sepphoris, and even Jerusalem – and all are marvels of engineering. But the water system at Gezer may be the largest and earliest of them all, and perhaps not even (originally) a water system.

Dan Warner, professor of archaeology and Old Testament at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, has been excavating at Gezer’s water system for seven years and discovered that the mystery increases with each succeeding year. On these two programs he brings us up to date on what they’ve discovered so far and what they still need to do.

1536-1537 Jodi Magness – Huqoq Synagogue Mosaics 2016

jodiJodi Magness, a prolific archaeologist, author, and Book & The Spade guest (on a half dozen times already) has turned up some of the most beautiful mosaics ever found in Israel. Every summer for the past four years there have been stories about the mosaics, and so we figured it was time to talk with her and get an update.

The critical issue she’s investigating is the dating of early synagogues, and so far what she’s found backs her premise that many of these synagogues were built several centuries later than scholars thought, during the Byzantine era, which means Judaism was still thriving when Christians were in charge.

1534-1535 Cynthia Shafer-Elliott – Daily Life in Ancient Israel

s200_cynthia-shafer-elliott-1There are many mentions of food in the Bible but what was their daily diet like? That’s one of the questions that concerns Cynthia Shafer-Elliott, a professor of Hebrew Bible and Archaeology at William Jessup University. We discussed what archaeology has dug up to complement what the Bible tells us about eating habits of the ancient Israelites.

Dr. Shafer-Elliott’s article on the diet of ancient Israelites was recently featured on the blog of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR).