Mar 23, 2011
In Israel, a new archaeological “discovery” of sorts is buzzing and making bold claims that they may be the next “Dead Sea Scrolls.” They include a collection of scrolls as well as 70 lead codices (ancient scripts bound in book form, rather than as scrolls). However, we have conflicting reports on the nature of these “newly found” artifacts. They are owned by “Hassan Saeda, a Bedouin farmer in Galilee who says they have been in his family’s possession since his great-grandfather found them in a cave in Jordan, a century ago.” Although there is still a lot of skepticism surrounding these artifacts, there are some strong voices that are willing to attest to their authenticity, wanting to avoid another possible Shapiro Affair.
Christian or Kabbalistic?
Right now we seem to either have two camps on the theory of origins and contents of these manuscripts. However, this may be a result of the various text which may be present among the collection. According to one source, these manuscripts “could hold a contemporary account of the last years of Jesus.” According to another source, they appear to be Kabbalistic with references to Bar Kochba and Shimon bar Yochai, and “the nature of the content indicates a magical incantation style of writing.” Both reports confirm that the manuscripts are not just comprised of Hebrew or Greek text, but images and symbols which are in need of deciphering. Some of these codices are also said to be sealed and have created speculation that they may possibly be “secret writings referred to in the apocryphal Book of Ezra.”
How can these theories be so divergent? Just look at the early theories surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls, and all of the controversy and imagination that has lead to cloak & dagger speculation in the last half a century, including John Allegro’s laughable “The Sacred Mushroom and The Cross.” When indecipherable manuscripts come to light, it seems sensational imagination rules the roost.
One legitimate reason for the diverse interpretation may simply be there are multiple types of documents contained within the cache, not dissimilar to the Oxyrhynchus Papyri. The different scholars are merely examining two different texts, which contain seemingly polar information. The quick evidence I see for this is the one article’s description of the codices, compared to the photo made available in the other article (the photo I have included at the top of this article). In the first article, the codices are described as being “tiny credit-card-sized volumes.” However, in the photo you can see that this particular codex is much larger than this.
Either way, we will have to wait and see what turns up by way of translation and authentication. Either way, it will be an exciting journey. Hopefully, the reports will be out sooner than later, and the texts of these discoveries will find their way to the public much sooner than the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Cairo Geniza Fragments or the Oxyrhyncus Papyri.
Update: Further Reading
I have just been made aware of these other (and more extensive) articles on this discovery:
Also, here is another (better) image of a codex:
Lead codex with cryptic text and images visible
I have posted my first follow up here.
Feb 23, 2011
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…
Feb 6, 2011
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.
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.
Feb 3, 2011
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.
Feb 3, 2011
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