Archaeology


It was announced last week that another King Hezekiah bulla has been found (initially discovered in 2009).  This is a small clay seal (13×12 millimeters) used by Hezekiah to seal and authenticate a document. It was molded around the strings that tied the document shut. In fact, we can still see the impression from the fibers on this bulla.

We already had eight other bullae bearing King Hezekiah’s name, but they were unprovenanced. This new bulla was uncovered during an official excavation at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem by Dr. Eliat Mazar. It reads, “Belonging to Hezekiah, (son of) Ahaz, king of Judah.”

There’s a nice video on the find here.

The discovery of this bulla should remind us again that the Bible is not a book of fairy tales. It is written as history, and archaeological finds such as this prove that it is based on real historical people and real historical events.

"Jesus said to them, 'My wife'" highlighted.

“Jesus said to them, ‘My wife'” highlighted.

I had previously written about the so-called Jesus’ Wife fragment that was brought to the public’s attention in 2012 by Karen King of Harvard Divinity School (here, here, and here). It was greeted by a lot of controversy regarding its authenticity, with the evidence leaning heavy in the direction of forgery. We had been waiting for tests to be performed on the papyrus and ink for well over a year to see if they also pointed in the direction of forgery. Those results finally came out in April 2014. It turns out that the materials are old (~8th century A.D.), but not nearly as old as King initially suggested and the paleographic evidence indicated (4-5th century A.D.).

Despite the ~300 year difference between estimated age and actual age of the papyrus, this seemed to be a vindication for King against those who argued that it is a modern forgery.  But is it?  Couldn’t it be a modern forgery using ancient materials?  After all, no forger buys his paper at the local Wal-Mart!  We would expect a forger to use an old papyrus for his forgery, so an analysis of the materials alone is not sufficient to tell us whether this is a forgery (it can confirm forgery, but not preclude it).  The analysis of the contents (vocabulary, grammar, writing style, etc.) is equally important, if not more important than the material composition itself for evaluating authenticity.

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James Ossuary

James Ossuary

Amnon Rosenfeld et al recently published an article in the Open Journal of Geology citing further evidence vindicating the authenticity of the James Ossuary.

 

HT: Ben Witherington

The latest issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (March/April 2014) has an article detailing 50 people named in the Bible, both great and small, that have been confirmed archaeologically. It’s not an exhaustive list, but very informative. Read all about it at BAR.

I visited the Asian Art Museum today to see their exhibit featuring the Cyrus Cylinder.  If you don’t know what the Cyrus Cylinder is, or why it is important, visit my post here.  I must say that I was beyond ecstatic to see this little 9″ long piece of baked clay!  I must have stood there for an hour just gazing away. Here’s some photos I took:

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Herod's SarcophagusKing Herod reigned for 33 years.  He is most famous for his building projects, including the glorious expansion of the temple in Jerusalem.  Christians know of him from the New Testament as the king who reigned at the time of Jesus’ birth, and who attempted to kill the newborn king.  Herod died shortly thereafter in 4 B.C.

Archaeologists have been excavating King Herod’s summer home at Herodium (near Bethlehem) for 40 years.  Approximately 250 artifacts, including his bathtub, statues, palatial columns, sarcophagus, and a replica of his mausoleum, went on display today at a special exhibit at the Israel Museum titled “Herod the Great: The King’s Final Journey.”

The best pictures are available at the Pinterest, Mail Online, and The Times of Israel.

News sources:

 

This story continues to fascinate me.  It’s like CSI Miami for Biblical nerds!  And new insights and arguments continue to be offered for and against the authenticity of the GosJesWife.

Christian Askeland has a nice 10 minute video demonstrating some of the peculiarities of the writing on the GosJesWife which cause scholars to doubt its authenticity.

Hugo Lundhaug and Alin Suciu discuss the problems around dating the GosJesWife and evidence that a paintbrush was used for the writing.

Timo Paananen disputes James Watson’s methodology for concluding that the GosJesWife is a patchwork of the Coptic GTh.

Peter Head examines some of the reasons King et al concluded that the writing was authentic, including the lack of ink in a hole created by an insect, the lack of ink where fibers have gone missing from the papyrus, ink on the frayed edges, and the faded ink on the recto and finds them wanting.

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