Jerusalem Biblical Temple Floor Designs

Archaeologists in Jerusalem say they have for the first time reconstructed likely designs of a Biblical Jewish temple floor using original fragments.

CHR Comment: The courts of the Second Temple, reconstructed by Herod the Great, was a site where Jesus taught His disciples and where early Christians gathered for prayer. If these reconstructions prove accurate, they will give us a better sense of one place where early Christian teaching was shared. It’s important to learn more about how the reconstruction of the tiles took place.

Source: Jerusalem Biblical Temple floor designs ‘restored’ – BBC News

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Roman ‘Curse Tablets’ Made of Gold Discovered in Viminacium, Serbia

The precious tablets feature an incomprehensible language and symbols that were perhaps designed only to be read by gods and demons.

CHR Comment: Use of curses is very ancient, found in many Near Eastern Religions where curses were written on pottery and then smashed. The golden Roman era tablets include Christian titles for God alongside titles for pagan deities, illustrating syncretism of religious devotion. Such practices are well documented and perhaps not as surprising as the article asserts. For example, many Christians today will go to church and use official literature and practices while also consulting their horoscope or making use of other popular religious practices.

Source: Roman ‘Curse Tablets’ Made of Gold Discovered in Viminacium, Serbia – NBC News

Discovery of Philistine Cemetery May Solve Biblical Mystery

An unprecedented find in southern Israel may finally reveal the origins of one of the Hebrew Bible’s greatest villains.

CHR Comment: The discussion of the Philistines has played a significant role in modern criticism of the Bible and church controversies about it. Critics have questioned the Bible’s accuracy since Genesis 21 and 26 refers to “Philistines” at the time of the Patriarchs while many critical scholars consider the settlement of the Philistines to be a much later development. The newly discovered cemetery dates between the eleventh and eighth centuries BC. In other words, from the time of the Judges to the time of King Hezekiah/Prophet Isaiah, according to traditional biblical chronology. This  would be long after Moses wrote Genesis. However, as the article mentions, there were earlier movements of “Sea Peoples” who were described in Egyptian documents. Moses may have referred to one of these earlier groups from patriarchal times.

The “Philistines” in Genesis may be Sea Peoples, who were culturally related to the Philistines. The name “Phicol” in Genesis 21:22 is neither Hebrew nor Egyptian and may be a name or title used by people from the Aegean or Asia Minor. The use of the word “Philistine” in Genesis could represent an editorial update of the name for the location. A scribe working on Genesis may have called the place/people by the familiar name used in his day. Just such an updating of a place name is know from Genesis 14:14 where the Canaanite city of Laish is called by its later name, “Dan.” Consider how writers describing the “Promised Land” have changed the name of the region, which is called Canaan, Israel, Palestine, and perhaps other things by other cultures. (E.g., the Egyptian story of Sinuhe titles the region as Retjenu in c. 1960 BC, around the time of the Patriarchs.) Which title you use can depend on your audience and what you are describing. There is evidence of trade between Mediterranean people and those dwelling in Canaan/Israel from an early date and perhaps these traders are associated with the later Philistines. Archaeologists have yet to discover the settlements for these earlier foreign traders but, as the National Geographic article points out, they are just discovering a Philistine cemetery for the first time!

An exciting feature of the discovery is that scientists may now do DNA analysis of the Philistines and perhaps get a better picture of where they came from.

Source: Discovery of Philistine Cemetery May Solve Biblical Mystery

Archaeologists Locate Lindisfarne monastery

A crowd-funded archaeology dig has uncovered evidence of the lost medieval monastery where the Lindisfarne Gospels were written.

CHR Comment: The site yields important information about early Anglo-Saxon Christians, examples of their artistry, and the result of attacks by the Vikings. The monastery was founded in 635 AD but researchers had not identified its exact location.

The article mentions the importance of “frith” in Anglo-Saxon names (also spelled “vride”). The word is related to the modern German term “friede,” which means “peace” or “security,” and was an important ideal in Germanic society and law.

Source: Archaeologists dig up Christian grave marker that pinpoints site of first Lindisfarne monastery | Christian News on Christian Today

Medieval Church Paintings in Northern Sudan

A large group of paintings dating back to the ninth century have been discovered by archaeologists inside the ancient Church of Raphael in Northern Sudan.

CHR Comment: Archaeologists from the University of Warsaw have uncovered a set of paintings in the Church of Raphael. The paintings depict historical persons from the ninth century to the fourteenth century, as well as archangels and angels. The images also depict relations between Makuria and Dongola, kingdoms in the region.

Source: North Sudan: Archaeologists discover ‘unique’ ancient church paintings | Christian News on Christian Today

1,700-Year-Old Jewish Inscriptions Unearthed in Galilee

“The wealth of inscriptions from the cemeteries attests to the strong Jewish presence and the city’s social elite in the Late Roman period,” says archaeologist.

CHR Comment: The inscriptions illustrate the ongoing use of Aramaic alongside Greek during the era of the late Roman Empire, about the time that Christianity became a recognized religion under Constantine. The latest tomb inscriptions found at Tzipori use the term “rabbi,” though archaeologists are still discussing just what that term means in this era. Tzipori is ancient Sepphoris, a Hellenized city in Galilee near Nazareth.

Source: 1,700-year-old inscriptions linked to ‘rabbis’ unearthed in Galilee – Israel News – Jerusalem Post

Ancient Greek Citadel Discovered under Jerusalem Car Park

Israel’s antiquities body claimed Tuesday to have solved “one of Jerusalem’s greatest archaeological mysteries” by unearthing an ancient Greek citadel — the Acra — buried under a car park.

CHR Comment: The citadel built by Antiochus IV Epiphanes during the time between the testaments was likely buried when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD.

Source: ‘Ancient Greek citadel’ discovered under Jerusalem car park

Stunned Archaeologists Find 22 Ancient Greek Shipwrecks

Two weeks of diving uncovered centuries of sunken ships, and researchers are deciphering the clues contained in each.

CHR Comment: Twelve of the 22 wrecks date from the late Roman period (300-600 AD) when Christianity was ascendant or dominant in the empire. Excavations should yield new information about life in those times and perhaps also matters of faith.

Source: Stunned Archaeologists Find 22 Ancient Greek Shipwrecks