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Temple Update: Sanhedrin Chamber of Hewn Stone Blueprints Revealed

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Chamber of Hewn Stone blueprint

Aerial view of the Chamber of the Hewn Stone

Recently, the Temple Institute released the blueprints for the Chamber of the Hewn Stone (the Lishkat haGazit, in Hebrew), the area of the Temple complex in which the Sanhedrin would convene. This is very exciting to see, and makes the possibility of the Holy Temple’s rebuilding somewhat tangible. Even more so is the computer-generated, virtual “fly-through” that they have created as well. You can really visualize what it might be like.

If you’re not familiar with the Chamber of Hewn Stone, it probably because there’s not a great deal of information circulating about it. This chamber was used by the Sanhedrin for judgement. They would hear cases and deliberate upon them in this area.

When Israel became occupied by foreign powers, the Sanhedrin removed themselves from this location as an act of protest, since their power was essentially stripped from them (particularly in the area of capital cases). Although I had thought it took place much earlier, the Jewish Time Line Encyclopedia (p.93) says this took place in 29 C.E.

Some have claimed that this would have been where Jesus would have been taken and tried upon his arrest. However, there are several problems with this assumption, two of which are 1) The Sanhedrin could not try capital cases at night (Sanhedrin 35a-b), and 2) he was not tried by the Sanhedrin proper. He was sentenced before a kangaroo court, which did not legally have the authority to any sentence at all.

Also interesting is the fact that of all of the parts of the Holy Temple which they could have been the initial focus, the Chamber of the Hewn Stone was chosen. Why? According to the Temple Institute,

The Sanhedrin Chamber of Hewn Stone is but a single chamber in the northern wall of the Holy Temple. It was chosen as the initial focus of the blueprint project, not because of its architectural significance, per se, but because of its overwhelming spiritual significance to the world. The seventy elders of the Sanhedrin have been vested with the authority of the seventy elders whom G-d commanded Moshe to appoint in the desert…

These elders are not only judges, but also teachers who task is to ensure that “for out of Zion shall the Torah come forth, and the word of HaShem from Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 2:3).

But could this also be a dual fulfillment of prophecy? Psalm 118:22 says:

“This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.”

We know this is in fulfillment of Jesus, the Messiah. However, could it also be connected to the Chamber of Hewn Stone, the literal “stone” which was once rejected now becoming the “cornerstone” of the rebuilding of the House of God? Just a thought…

Israelites found in Ancient Egypt

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Israelite house remains in Egypt

For a long time, archaeologists and biblical minimalists have renounced the idea of an Israelite captivity in Egypt corresponding to the biblical record of the Exodus. Today, evidence has been published to the contrary. Manfred Bietak, director of the Institute of Egyptology at the University of Vienna and of the Austrian Archaeological Institute in Cairo, has published an article in the Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) citing several evidences of the existence of ancient Israelite slaves in Egypt.

Although he draws on a number of sources, Bietak’s impetus was the recent unearthing of Israelite-style four-room homes found among Medinet Habu, opposite Luxor in Egypt near the remains of the temple of Ay and Horemheb. He compares these homes to the many which have been found in excavations in the land of Israel, and notes the distinct similarities of pattern & function, making a clear point to say they are not Egyptian at all in design.

This is an important discovery by which archaeology begins corroborating the evidences of the biblical record yet again. And although the timeline doesn’t seem to entirely match, this is a great moment for those anyone who both appreciates the science of archaeology, but holds to the authority of the biblical record.

Read the very detailed article here.

Update:

In 2009 there was evidence found in Egypt of the biblical Joseph. The coins contained both Joseph’s Hebrew and Egyptian name, along with an image of a cow to represent Pharaoh’s dream. You can read about it here and here.

Police find 2nd Temple-era coins, jugs during arms raid

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Jerusalem Post reports the following:

Police officers stumbled on a large stash of jugs and coins dating back from the Second Temple era in the Galilee village of Mazara on Thursday, during an arms raid.

The archeological finds were kept in a yard belonging to family suspected by police of keeping arms.

After finding the artifacts, a representative of the Israel Antiquities Authority was called out to the scene, and he dated the findings to the Second Temple period.

Read the full report here.

1,500 Year Old Church Unearthed in Israel

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Yesterday Israeli archaeologists presented the public with the first glimpse of an ancient church from approximately 1500 years ago. Hirbet Madras, a site located in the hills of Judea, southwest of Jerusalem, a Byzantine church has been discovered and unearthed over the last two months. It sports an “unusually well-preserved” mosaic floor with images of lions, foxes, fish and peacocks. Thought at first to be an ancient synagogue, the site is now known to be a church due to several stones being engraved with crosses.

And, for whatever reason, they also suspect it to conceal the tomb of the biblical prophet Zechariah. It will only be available for viewing for another week before archeologists cover the site with dirt to protect it until a full preservation effort can be mounted.

Read the full story on the NPR website.

Read about it on Discovery.com

Pagan Influences in Christianity & Judaism

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Beth Alpha synagogue mosaic

Beth Alpha synagogue mosaic

Many people have disparaged Judaism as being filled with paganism, particularly orthodox Judaism’s rabbinic leadership. Some even claim that it is satanic at the root (G-d forbid). Many people have had similar remarks about Christianity, especially when they discover Messianic Judaism and discover all that Christianity has forgotten over the last two thousand years in relationship to it Jewish origins. Everything is then questioned, and its origins suspect. For instance: What is the origin of the Christmas tree? Was it originally an asheroth pole? What about the Easter bunny, and the name “Easter” itself? Are they connected to Ishtar, the pagan goddess of fertility? Was the star of David originally a magical symbol used by the pagans? Questions such as these continue to pound away at both Judaism and Christianity.

Biblical Archaeology Review recently published an article examining pagan symbols in Jewish worship, specifically looking at the various synagogues unearthed in Israel which portray zodiac symbolism in their floor mosaics. The most famous is the Beth Alpha synagogue, which sports a very large floor mosaic (28×14 meters, roughly 90×30 feet) whose central panel shows the complete zodiac. It is described as follows:

Figures of four women were at the four corners, with inscriptions (in Hebrew) identifying each as a season of the year. Inside the square was a wheel, 3.12 meters in diameter, with a smaller circle (1.2 m) in its center. The wheel was divided into 12 panels, each with a figure and a name identifying it as a sign of the zodiac. And in the center, a man was pictured driving a quadriga (four-horse chariot) through the moon and stars. Rays of the sun were coming out of his head; it was clear that he was Helios, god of the sun.1

This article continues to describe in detail several such synagogues found in Israel with this type of imagery. Although there is still some mystery surrounding the use of these symbols (particularly in a house specifically designed for study & worship), I feel the author’s explanation of them plausible.

This brings a lot of questions to mind (for which I do not have the answers). When and how were pagan symbols introduced into Judaism and Christianity? What do we “accept” and what do we “reject”? Where do we draw the line? How far is too far? Are there such things as coincidence? What are the “majors” and what are the “minors” in all of this? If others believers continue to unknowingly incorporate pagan symbolism in their sincere worship, what is our responsibility? These are a lot of difficult questions. Fortunately, someone has done a lot of homework on the subject.

What About Paganism?

First Fruits of Zion has recently published a 4-disc audio teaching on this very subject. It’s called “What About Paganism?” Toby Janicki tackles this subject and brings in a ton of information relating to both Christian and Jewish practice which may or may not be pagan in origin and gives suggestions as to our response. This is a good starting point to get some honest discussion on the table in regard to this topic, rather than living on our assumptions. It is based on historical evidences and the teachings of Yeshua. When we abide in the teachings of our Master, Yeshua, we will “know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

  1. From the BAR article.
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