Backgrounders on the Bible through Biblical Archaeology


1476 Again – John DeLancey – Visiting the Holy Land

John DeLancey

John DeLancey

In preparation for our TB&TS Israel Study Tour next month, we’re hosting tour co-leader John DeLancey of Biblical Israel Ministries and Tours for his “Bringing the Bible to Life” presentation this Friday evening and Sunday morning at City Church here in Madison.

I met John three years ago, the first time we co-led a tour, and at the end of the tour we sat down at the Garden Tomb in Israel for a chat about visiting Israel, archaeology, and the like. Dr. DeLancey has lived and studied in Israel, and has let more than 50 tours to Israel. He is a great tour leader and Bible teacher. If you can’t join us for the seminar, I hope you will enjoy getting to know him through this program.


1611 Mark Chavalas – What the Ancients Thought of Jesus

Icon of Jesus from the church at Tabgha, along the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.

Icon of Jesus from the church at Tabgha, along the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.

Ancient historians didn’t completely ignore Jesus and the nascent Christian movement, there are a few mentions. So, as we prepare for Easter, a time when many different media perspectives on Jesus proliferate, we take a look at what people wrote about him almost 2000 years ago.

Our guest on this week’s program is Mark Chavalas, professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse. His column on what the ancients thought about Jesus is featured in the latest issue of our quarterly magazine, ARTIFAX.

UPDATE: Joan Taylor has posted an article on the ASOR blog on what Jesus might have looked like.

1610 Clyde Billington – Roman Camp at Megiddo

The Jezreel Valley, viewed from Megiddo

The Jezreel Valley, viewed from Megiddo

Megiddo, one of the most famous sites of biblical archaeology, is becoming even more so with archaeological developments in its neighborhood. While the tell excavation continues (a royal burial was announced recently), a new excavation across the road has been uncovering the remains of second century Roman camp, the largest known in the eastern Mediterranean.

Down at the crossroads, about a mile away, an Israeli prison is being demolished. A more modern facility is being built elsewhere, so that the mosaics from Roman period homes can be displayed, one which identifies one of the earliest known Christian worship communities in Israel (discovered in 2005).

We also discuss the mosaics found in Byzantine churches in the Galilee, reconnecting Ephesus to the Aegean Sea, a surveillance network in Syria, and an Assyrian document that echoes the story of Abraham from Genesis.

UPDATE: The Tel Megiddo excavation just released this video from their 2016 excavation season, where a 3600-year-old Royal Canaanite burial was uncovered:

1609 Clyde Billington – Tomb of Jonah and Archaeological Destruction



The Mosque marking the traditional tomb of Jonah in Mosul was destroyed by ISIS four years ago. Now that ISIS is gone, the mosque could be rebuilt but there’s just one problem, it sits on top of a ruin that archaeologists have identified as the ancient palace of Assyrian kings Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, and Ashurbanipal.

These kings are mentioned in the Old Testament. Sennacherib tried and failed to conquer Jerusalem. We bring our listeners up-to-date on what’s happening at this site.

We also report on the looting and destruction of two other palaces in Israel, the Jericho palace of King Herod, and the palace of Archelaus, the son of Herod, just north of Jericho.

(Ashurbanipal image: photo by Johnbod – Wikimedia)

1608 Clyde Billington – Governor of the City Seal

"Governor of the City" seal impression

“Governor of the City” seal impression

Reviewing archaeology news reported in the latest issue of ARTIFAX, we cover a seal impression (bulla) which has the inscription, “Governor of the City.” This conforms to two separate scriptural mentions of the Governor of the City of Jerusalem.

This seal impression was found by Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists working in the western wall plaza area, near the Temple Mount.

Also in this program, we discuss several reports from Egypt, including a new investigation of King Tut’s tomb and the discovery of a void inside of the great pyramid.

And finally, a few words about the great work done by Andrews University archaeologists over the past 50 years at the site of Tall Hisban in Jordan.

1607 Clyde Billington – Signature of Isaiah

Isaiah bulla

Isaiah bulla

This breaking news story in biblical archaeology couldn’t wait. We report the announcement of the discovery of a seal impression (bulla) that’s being connected to the prophet Isaiah, who wrote the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament.

The seal impression was dug up in 2009 in excavations at the Ophel, near the Temple Mount by archaeologist Eilat Mazar. The name on the bulla is clearly Isaiah, in Hebrew characters. In the lower register, it could say prophet but the word is incomplete. But this bulla was found just a few feet from another bulla of Hezekiah, King of Judah. And Hezekiah and Isaiah are linked in the same verse in the Bible 15 times. So Bible scholars will be debating about this bulla for years to come.

1606 Clyde Billington – Herod’s Royal Winery

Herodion Excavations

Herodion Excavations (photo by Ferrell Jenkins)

Once again we’re reviewing the latest news stories about biblical archaeology that have appeared in the digest of the most recent issue of ARTIFAX magazine but haven’t been discussed on the air yet.

There are three items in this review. The first involves excavations in the honeycomb of tunnels beneath Herod’s mountain-top fortress/palace at Herodion. Among other things, archaeologists have discovered the remains of Herod’s winery, including wine jars (amphorae) that were imported from Italy.

We also discuss the Akra Fortress, on a hilltop that no longer exists just southeast of the Temple Mount. Who leveled the hilltop? Dr. Billington, in his article in ARTIFAX, suggests it was Herod.

And finally, the latest news from the renovations in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem a year ago last October, when researchers got their first look at the traditional tomb of Jesus in 500 years. According to analysis of the mortar samples from the site, the oldest construction dates to A.D. 325, exactly when tradition says the Emperor Constantine had the church built.