Backgrounders on the Bible through Biblical Archaeology

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1480-1481 Ken Dark – Nazareth Archaeology

Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth

Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth

Nazareth is the Rodney Dangerfield of Biblical Archaeology, it gets virtually no attention from archaeologists and many pilgrimage tours barely visit the city. Very little is known about Nazareth archaeologically, but there is a little more known now following the work of professor Ken Dark, of the University of Reading Research Center for Late Antique and Byzantine Studies.

In this two-part interview Ken explains some of the reasons why Nazareth has been so overlooked, and what he discovered about a possible site that may have been the childhood home of Jesus.

1479 Clyde Billington – The Chebar River & Fatimid Gold

Fatimid gold coins from Caesarea harbor

Fatimid gold coins from Caesarea harbor

More Biblical Archaeology news from the just-published Spring 2015 issue of ARTIFAX magazine. I’m joined by my co-editor, Clyde Billington, to discuss some intriguing cuneiform tablets now on display at The Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem, that offer intriguing insights into the Jewish exile in Babylon. One tablet mentions the Chebar River, the only mention of this river outside of the book of Ezekiel.

Several other news items cover discoveries made by non-archaeologists in Israel: gold coins in the harbor of Caeseara (pictured), and silver coins in a cave in the Galilee. Those who discovered these treasures did the right thing, by notifying the authorities right away so the finds could be studied in order to reveal all possible information about the time periods they represent.

1478 Clyde Billington – The Heights of David, Khirbet Qeiyafa

Interviewing Yosef Garfinkel

Interviewing Yosef Garfinkel, excavator of Khirbet Qeiyafa

Professor Clyde Billington, my co-editor on ARTIFAX magazine, has an article in the latest issue taking another look at Khirbet Qeiyafa. This is a site we’ve discussed a number of times because of its role reframing the debate over David and Solomon and the early Iron Age in Israel. Professor Billington draws a possible connection between Khirbet Qeiyafa and the Karnak inscription of Pharaoh Shoshenq.

#1477 Gary Manning – The James Ossuary and the Suspect Tomb of Jesus’ Family

James Ossuary

James Ossuary

Although there always seems to be something interesting happening in Biblical Archaeology (as we regularly say on the program), with new discoveries and developments, there are also times when overly sensationalized claims are promoted. Sometimes these claims are part of an effort to promote a TV program, a book, or a magazine. So sometimes we have to address these issues.

On this program we talk with Gary Manning, a professor of New Testament at Biola University, about claims that have linked the James Ossuary (with the inscription James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus) with a tomb discovered several decades ago in the Talpiot neighborhood of Jerusalem. Because the names on the ossuaries in this tomb sound familiar to Bible readers, the discovery has been sensationalized with unsubstantiated claims linking them to the family of Jesus, and now one of the most sensational ossuaries in the news over the past decade has also been linked with the tomb.

The evidence is just not there.

1476 – John DeLancey – Visiting the Land of the Bible

John DeLancey

John DeLancey

Our 2015 Book & The Spade Israel Tour didn’t turn out as I expected, it turned out much better than I expected. We didn’t have as many people as I had anticipated so our travel agent, Imagine Tours & Travel, linked us up with another tour. That had worked well once before, on our 1994 tour, and I wasn’t anticipating any serious problems.

As it turned out, my tour co-leader — Rev. Dr. John DeLancey — is about as good as you can get when it comes to Israel tours. I would rank him right up with some of the other top tour leaders I’ve met. He’s lived and studied in Israel and he’s worked on archaeological excavations. He knows the history and the geography, and you can rely on the information that he shares. Yet he’s a pastor and a musician, so the devotional aspects are also handled sensitively, for the pilgrimage experience.

We had just over a week in Israel, so we couldn’t see a lot, yet he packed the tour with powerful experiences. He knew where to cut corners, in order to keep us on schedule, yet there were times when we lingered and times when we just walked, when that was the best thing to do. His rapport with our guide, Shlomo Ben Asher, was also excellent; the two have led lots of tours together.

I didn’t do a lot of interviews on this trip. But I enjoyed our time in Israel immensely and on the last day, as we visited the Garden Tomb, I sat down with John just to talk about his perspective on visiting the Holyland. His report on our tour was posted on his website, during the tour, so our family and friends could share the experience. I’m still working on my version of the tour report.

I’m already looking forward to our next Book & The Spade tour with John DeLancey.

#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.

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