Backgrounders on the Bible through Biblical Archaeology

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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.


1615-1617 Clyde Billington – Archaeology News Updates

Professor Clyde Billington

Professor Clyde Billington

In preparation for a two and a half week trek to Israel, and in recognition of the latest issue of ARTIFAX magazine, I talked with my ARTIFAX co-editor Clyde Billington about some of the news digests items that hadn’t yet been mentioned on our program. So we have three programs that have been posted online and sent out via RSS with all kinds of archaeological tidbits about what’s been happening in the world of biblical archaeology.

And it’s fair to say that the titles of the three programs just scratch the surface of what’s been reported in biblical archaeology lately:

  • #1615 – “Megiddo and Caesarea Update”
    #1616 – “What Happened to the Ark of the Covenant”
    #1617 – “Negev Desert Archaeology News”

I hope to bring back from Israel more news of biblical archaeology and post it in the weeks ahead. Stay tuned.


1613-1614 John Currid – The New ESV Archaeology Study Bible

Professor John Currid

Professor John Currid

An Archaeology Study Bible is a great resource for Bible study, drawing together information on all of the biblical background and perspective that enlivens our understanding of the biblical accounts and the biblical world.

And now there are two such resources. The new ESV Archaeology Study Bible, published by Crossway, joins the NIV Archaeology Study Bible published about a dozen years ago by Zondervan. In my mind they are different enough that you will enjoy having both, if that is your interest.

In these two programs we talk with one of the main editors, John Currid, of Reformed Theological Seminary, about how the project came together, what’s unique about this particular volume, and about some of his own archaeological experiences along the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, and along the Mediterranean Coast at ancient Carthage.


1612 Remembering James Strange and the Archaeology of Qumran

James F. Strange

James F. Strange

We are sorry to report the passing of James Strange, a professor of religious studies at the University of South Florida, and an archaeologist associated with work at Sepphoris (4 miles from Nazareth) and Qumran (where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered). He died March 23, 2018. He was 80 years old.

We have several programs in our archives with professor Strange. This program was recorded in 2000, when the Israel Antiquities Authority presented a display of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Field Museum in Chicago. There were a number of lectures in association with this event, and at the particular lecture professor Strange reported on the archaeological background of Khirbet Qumran, near where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.