Backgrounders on the Bible through Biblical Archaeology

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1629-1630 John Goldingay – The First Testament & The Reader’s Guide to the Bible

John Goldingay

John Goldingay

Bible translations, and there are multitudes of them available today, attempt to bring a book written years ago in a strange language, into the context of our modern world so that we can understand its message. But the new translation by John Goldingay, The First Testament (InterVarsity Press), moves in the opposite direction. It attempts to drag us back into that biblical world so that we can understand it in its context. That’s how I would describe it, anyway.

In this interview, John describes the importance of a word-for-word Bible translation and how he treated some of the words in a few of the more familiar passages of the Old Testament.

Another of his recent books is The Reader’s Guide to the Bible (also InterVarsity Press), which was written to help Bible readers get a handle on the context of the world’s perennial best seller, which is not as well known and understood as one might expect from the sales figures.

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1628 Clyde Billington – Masada and Tel Shimron

Masada, Herod's fortress overlooking the Dead Sea.

Masada, Herod’s fortress overlooking the Dead Sea.

Masada is the most visited national park in Israel and also one of the most important archaeological sites of Israel. In the early 1960s, when Yigael Yadin excavated Masada, it was the first time crowdsourcing was used in archaeology. Yadin invited volunteers to come and work with him, and they did. And ever since, volunteers have been a key component in the institutional archaeological excavations which take place, mostly in the summer, every year.

Masada still has secrets to divulge to excavators even now more than a half century later and some of them are reported in the latest issue of Biblical Archaeology Review. Professor Billington and I discuss this report.

We also review another article which describes the beginning of a new excavation in the Jezreel Valley, Tel Shimron. This is an ancient city which at times in history apparently outshone it’s neighbor across the valley, Tel Megiddo. It will be interesting to see what this excavation reveals in the years ahead.

(Masada photo by John DeLancey)


1627 Clyde Billington – Israelite Psalms Found in Egypt

Sphinx & pyramid

Sphinx & pyramid

Some of the Biblical Archaeology stories we report in ARTIFAX magazine come from Egypt, such as the item in our latest issue: Three Ancient Israelite Psalms Found in Egypt. Professor Billington discusses the significance of this finding (non-biblical Psalms have also been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, as I remember).

We also discuss the history of writing as it relates to Egypt, in the context of another Egypt digest item: First Known Semitic Abecedary in Egypt. This abedecary dates to the 15th century BC, roughly the time of Moses according to the biblical Chronology, an important connection that shows it’s not impossible to think that Moses could have written the Torah.

We also discuss the innovations of technology that help us better understand the ancient world, such as the new Virtual Reality tour of the Tomb of Nefertari, sometimes called the “Egyptian Sistine Chapel.” Nefertari was the primary queen of Ramses II, who ruled from 1279-1212BC.


1626 Clyde Billington – Carbon 14 + Sepphoris and Tiberias

Excavation of the underground winepress at Sepphori

Excavation of the underground winepress at Sepphoris.

Reviewing more reports from the summer issue of ARTIFAX magazine, we discuss research into the accuracy of Carbon-14 dating, and significant questions that have been raised.

We also discuss the discovery of an underground winepress at Sepphoris and a Jewish burial cave from Tiberias, the two cities thata served as the capitals of the Galilee during the time of Jesus.

And finally, brief mentions of a report that the government of Israel is going to invest $140 million in archaeology to benefit tourism, and an archaeological fraternity has been formed at George Washington University.


1625 Clyde Billington – Jonah’s Whale and Mosaic Discoveries

The spies of Huqoq

The spies of Huqoq

Reviewing some of the recent news reported in the summer issue of ARTIFAX magazine, we take a look at some mosaic stories. Once again this summer, another mosaic image is released from the Huqoq synagogue excavation in the Galilee: a picture of the two Israelite spies returning from Canaan with a large cluster of grapes.

We also mention the recent discovery of another beautiful mosaic on the property that is being excavated in preparation for the construction of a mosaic museum at Lod. And the excavation of St. Hilarion’s Monastery in Gaza, the oldest monastery in the region, will include mosaic remains.

We also discover archaeologists have found evidence that certain types of whales, which fit the story of Jonah, once actually were found in the Mediterranean, contrary to popular belief. The story comes from an excavation of Roman ruins at Gibralter.


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.