Backgrounders on the Bible through Biblical Archaeology


1744 Clyde Billington – Recent Church Discoveries

Churches on the Mt. of Olives

Churches on the Mt. of Olives (2008)

One of the most important sites in Christianity, the Garden of Gethsemane, is the scene of some current archaeology. Working in the shadow of the Church of All Nations and the Church of Mary Magdalene (Russian Orthodox), workers began preparing the way for a new visitors center and a tunnel under the highway that cuts across the Kidron Valley. There they found remains of earlier Byzantine and Crusader churches and, most interestingly of all, a first century Mikve.

On this week’s program, professor Clyde Billington and I discuss this latest discovery and its significance. We also discuss, as reported in the latest issue of our biblical archaeology newsmagazine ARTIFAX, the discovery of two other churches, a possible first century house church in Laodicea and a fourth century church built over a shrine of the pagan god Pan at Banias (Caesarea Philippi). These are some of the earliest churches of Christendom.

1743 Remembering Al Hoerth


Al Hoerth

Recently we also learned of the passing of Al Hoerth, who taught biblical archaeology at Wheaton College (Illinois) for almost three decades. We had occasion to do an interview with him in 2006, which we have recalled from our archives for this memorial.

1742 Remembering Hershel Shanks


Hershel Shanks

The Book & The Spade radio program owes a great debt to Hershel Shanks. In fact, anyone involved with biblical archaeaology owes a great debt to Hershel Shanks. Although a lawyer, and not an archaeologists, he founded the Biblical Archaeology Review, which became a very popular and influential magazine.

We used BAR, as it’s frequently called, as a resource for TB&TS from the very beginning. And Hershel was a guest on the program about a half dozen times. This program features one of those interviews with some of Hershel’s thoughts on biblical archaeology.

1740-1741 Kathryn Gleason – Herod the Great Gardener

Kathryn Gleason

Kathryn Gleason

The bold architecture of Herod the Great from 2,000 years ago is still seen across Israel today, including remnants of the six palaces he built. Those palaces, as is typical of Roman architecture, had gardens.

We have a better picture of those gardens, thanks to the work of Kathryn Gleason, professor of Landscape Architecture at Cornell University, and her colleagues. Recovering the pollen from the gardens is the key, as she explains in this interview.

1739 Gordon Govier – Archaeology Plans for 2021

Radio guyAn annual tradition for almost all of our 38 years of The Book & The Spade is the annual report on planned excavations for the coming year. Of course almost all of the plans announced one year ago were not realized. But prospects are good for 2021 with COVID vaccinations underway.

In this brief survey of some of the top institutional excavations in Israel we discovered that one excavation, due to start this winter, has already been cancelled, due to current travel restrictions.

1736-1738 Kipp Davis – Dead Sea Scrolls Detective


Kipp Davis

Last year it became clear that not only were the Dead Sea Scroll fragments in the possession of the Museum of the Bible modern forgeries, but more than 50 other fragments that came on the market in 2002 and afterwards were also suspect. Kipp Davis, a scholar formerly associated with the Dead Sea Scrolls Institute at Trinity Western University, was one of the first to raise the alarm several years ago.

Kipp was dubbed “Dead Sea Scrolls” detective in a PBS documentary several years ago. In this series of conversations he tells the story of the modern fragments, why suspicions were first raised, and how the investigation was made.

1735 Gordon Govier – The Top 10 Biblical Archaeology Stories of 2020

Proto-Aeolic Capitals from the Palatial Residence

Proto-Aeolic Capitals from the Palatial Residence

For the past decade or more we have been identifying some of the top stories each year that connect us to the Bible and the biblical world through archaeology. Since 2013 Christianity Today has been publishing our list and has done so again this year. This year there has also been interest from the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC about our list. If we find out more about what they’ve decided to do with the list, we will post it here.

The Museum of the Bible and their issue with the fake Dead Sea Scroll fragments in their collection made the list but our top story related to the discovery of the remains of a palatial residence overlooking Jerusalem from the south, and the additional archaeology that shows how the kings of Judah used the area between Jerusalem and Bethlehem during the latter years of the kingdom.

1734 Clyde Billington – Redating Thera Volcano

Volcano graphicThe explosion of Thera volcano in antiquity, one of the largest explosions in the earth’s geological history, had a huge impact on the Bronze Age world. It destroyed the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete. But its date is the subject of controversy.

The conventional date, according to Carbon 14 evidence, is around 1650-1600 BC. BUt that has some problems. In this program, professor Clyde Billington examines some contrary evidence from Egypt.

In this program we also discuss the discovery of an apparent Canaanite fortress near Lachish, and the unsuccessful search for a wall built by King Hezekiah in the Mt. Zion area of Jerusalem.

728 Mike Molnar – The Real Star of Bethlehem

Mike Molnar's Antioch Coin

Mike Molnar’s Antioch Coin

Much is being made this month of the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter on Monday, December 21. It’s being heralded as their brightest joint appearance in 400 years, something like the original Star of Bethlehem, described in Matthew’s Gospel.

Skywatchers and Bible scholars have been speculating on the real identity of the Star of Bethlehem for centuries. But about two decades ago, an astronomer came up with an explanation of what would have startled the ancient magi and gotten their attention that seems to make the most sense.

I’ve done several interviews with University of Wisconsin alumnus and former Ruthers University astronomer Michael Molnar. This was the 1999 interview that followed the publishing of his book where he laid out all of his research.

1732-1733 Sidnie White Crawford – Are There More Fake Dead Sea Scrolls?

Sidnie White Crawford

Sidnie White Crawford

The news last March that all of the Dead Sea Scroll fragments at the Museum of the Bible were modern forgeries led to a series of online articles that I wrote for Christianity Today. The latest in the series is online and also in the December 2020 issue of the magazine.

This interview with Sidnie White Crawford was foundational for the article, checking with one of the top Dead Sea Scroll scholars about all of the Dead Sea Scroll fragments that went onto the market in the early 21st century. In addition to the ones that ended up at the Museum of the Bible, there are more than 50 others.

Are they all fake? A shadow of uncertainty hangs over them and it’s doubtful anyone else is interested in a purchase at this time.