November 11, 2005 | David F. Coppedge

Bible History News

Three stories of interest to historians of the Holy Land were reported recently:

  1. A Is for Aleph:  A stone abecedary, or alphabet tablet, has been unearthed in the hill country south of Jerusalem.  It is dated to the 10th century BC, the time of David and Solomon.  See MSNBC News for a summary.  The New York Times says this indication of early writing will undoubtedly fire up the squabble over the minimalist interpretation of archaeology, which assumes David and Solomon were minor tribal chieftains rather than the glorious kings as described in the Bible.  An alphabet from this time period would indicate that literacy was already well established.  Scholars say the script is early Hebrew.  See also a report in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
        In addition, according to Biblical Archaeology Review, proof of writing from this period would also weigh in on debates over whether the Bible was passed on by oral tradition or through written records.  Unlike Egypt, Palestine has a paucity of stone inscriptions.  Perhaps official records were inscribed on less durable media; in King Josiah’s day, the priests rejoiced to find a lost scroll of the Law of Moses, and by Jeremiah’s time (6th century BC), King Jehoiakim cut up the prophet’s writings and burned them in the fire (Jeremiah 36).  Few such ancient combustible manuscripts could be expected to survive the repeated conflagrations the Holy Land has suffered, but the Jewish scribes were masters at preserving their sacred texts, as evidenced by the Dead Sea Scrolls.
  2. The Early Church:  A mosaic floor of a church dating from the third century was uncovered by surprise by prisoners working for the Israeli Antiquities Authority in an Israeli high-security prison at Megiddo, reported MSNBC, National Geographic News and the Biblical Archaeological Society.  Dating from a period when Christians were persecuted, this marks one of the earliest known Christian churches.  The mosaic clearly shows the fish symbol and some inscriptions, one crediting a Roman official for funding the mosaic.  Another clearly establishes the belief of the worshipers in the deity of Christ.  It says, “The God-loving Aketous has offered this table to the God Jesus Christ as a memorial.”
  3. Goliath Found:  Sling my stones!  An inscription similar to the name Goliath was discovered on pottery dating from the period of the Philistine giant David made famous (by killing him), according to MSNBC News.  A definitive link to the giant cannot be established, but it shows the etymological equivalents of the name existed at the time Goliath lived.  It was, moreover, discovered at the site believed to be his hometown – Gath.  The Jerusalem Post has a picture, and explains that the inscription contains two names that are “remarkably similar” to Goliath.
  4. Destroying History:  Tragically, the Muslims are destroying Jewish history in Jerusalem and getting away with it.  Ryan Jones reported in Jerusalem NewsWire that Temple Mount destruction continues, as Muslims perform illegal construction work to turn the sacred site into a mega-mosque and remove all traces of Jewish history where their famed Temple once stood.  “To date, 12,000 tons of earth and debris rich in Jewish artifacts has been removed from the Mount and dumped unceremoniously at garbage dumps outside Jerusalem’s Old City,” Jones writes.  “Several historical treasures have been reclaimed from the dump sites.  Untold others have been lost, possibly forever.”  The Jewish authorities are fearful of intervening because of Muslim threats of violence if they try.  See earlier entries from 08/23/2004 and 04/17/2005.
  5. Tourist Trap:  Should the north shore of the Sea of Galilee become a theme park?  The Christian Science Monitor has mixed feelings about it.  Evangelicals are working with Israeli authorities on plans for a “sprawling Holy Land Christian Center” to accommodate the flood of pilgrims to the lands where Jesus walked.  They want to prevent kitsch and commercialism from distracting from the seriousness of the subject.  Facilities of the proposed “Galilee World Heritage Park” might include a large auditorium, amphitheater, a garden of Bible plants, and quiet sites for prayer and reflection.

One of the backers of the Galilee Park is televangelist Pat Robertson who, incidentally, just warned Pennsylvania voters that God might judge them with a natural disaster for voting against intelligent design (see 11/09/2005 story).  MSNBC News, as could be expected, had fun with that suggestion. Update 01/12/2006: Pat Robertson was cut out of the deal by the Israeli government due to statements he made on the air in January 2006 suggesting that Prime Minister Sharon’s stroke was punishment from God for dividing “His land.”  See Pilot Online.

Pat Robertson’s indiscretions aside, the archaeological findings listed here are tremendously interesting and important.  They coincide with dates and times mentioned in the Old Testament and gird up confidence in the historicity of the Bible.  That is the ongoing record of Biblical archaeology.
    How the Muslims can get away with their illegal and unconscionable actions on the Temple Mount in the most important religious site on earth is unbelievable.  Where is the outrage by all the liberals, who are quick to condemn America any time there is destruction of artifacts in Iraq, even if not the military’s fault?  Where is the United Nations, with their protection of World Heritage Sites?  Why aren’t they bringing international pressure to bear against these criminals?  Where are the academics?  To see how asymmetric today’s virtue of “tolerance” is, just imagine world reaction if Jews destroyed Islamic holy sites.  Remember the violence and death sparked by just a rumor that American soldiers had desecrated a copy of the Koran?  Appeasement as a policy has a bad history.  Dads used to teach their kids the correct way to deal with bullies.
    As to a theme park on the Sea of Galilee, bad idea.  Galilee is too important historically for attempts at gilding the lily.  The best experience for modern day pilgrims is to see it like Jesus and his disciples saw it, unvarnished with 21st century theatrics.  Despite their claims that this will not become a Disneyland, just wait.  You can visualize it already, can’t you?  Contemporary music concerts blaring out from the amphitheater over the waves where Jesus commanded, Peace: be still.  Vendors are sure to follow the dollar and line the tourist avenues with Jesus trinkets, souvenir fishnet stockings and boat rides where you can try your skill at walking on water.  Ugh!  Let’s bomb this idea (figuratively) before the Palestinians do (literally).

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Categories: Bible and Theology

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