Biblical Archaeology Still Has Much to Discover
Some exciting discoveries in Jerusalem and other near eastern sites emphasize the fact that archaeologists have much more to explore in the lands of the Bible.
Jerusalem: The house of a wealthy family on old Mt. Zion from the first century was reported on Live Science and Science Daily. Archaeologists are surmising that the dwelling belonged to a priestly family. James Tabor indicated that this discovery can help shed light on Jesus in two ways: by characterizing the lifestyle of the rich He criticized, and by understanding their financial motivations for condemning Him to death.
“If this turns out to be the priestly residence of a wealthy first century Jewish family, it immediately connects not just to the elite of Jerusalem — the aristocrats, the rich and famous of that day — but to Jesus himself,” Tabor said. “These are the families who had Jesus arrested and crucified, so for us to know more about them and their domestic life — and the level of wealth that they enjoyed — would really fill in for us some key history.”
Jerusalem: Tia Ghose at Live Science reported a research project at a city dump outside old Jerusalem that provides insight into the animal sacrifice economy that thrived in Jesus’ day, when thousands of pilgrims would buy or bring animals to the Temple for holy day offerings. Isotopes in the bones can reveal the location of origin for the animals. “The study found that many of the animals found in the city dump came from rural desert regions hundreds of miles away, such as Arabia or Transjordan.”
City of David: Eilat Mazar is shown holding up a portion of a golden medallion found in the City of David near the Temple Mount in coverage on Bible Places Blog. This “once in a lifetime” discovery of coins and other golden treasures from the Byzantine period (after the New Testament) was also reported on Science Daily. based on a press release from Hebrew University. The article also mentioned the Canaanite inscription found earlier nearby, possibly from the time of David (see Live Science coverage).
Dalmanutha: Artifacts believed to be from Dalmanutha, mentioned only in Mark 8:10-12, have been found in the Ginosar Valley along the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Mark mentioned the town as a place where Jesus confronted the Pharisees who demanded to see a miraculous sign. The town is near Magdala, home of Mary Magdalene. If the pottery remains and Corinthian capitals are indeed from Dalmanutha, it indicates a prosperous town thrived there in the first century.
Abel Beth Maacah: It has an imposing tell (mound) at the north end of the Huleh Valley, near the border of Lebanon, but it has never been excavated—till now. It’s Abel Beth Maacah, at the crossroads of important trade routes in ancient and modern times. Bible Places Blog, quoting the ASOR Blog, describes the initial survey and first season that are providing hopes the site will prove as productive as Tell Dan and Hazor. The town is known from a moving story in 2 Samuel 20:14-22 about a woman who saved the town by appeasing David’s army captain Joab. The site appears to have prominent Aramean influence. One of the major towns of the northern kingdom of Israel, was destroyed in 733 BC by Assyrian conqueror Tiglath-pileser.
Derbe: Mentioned in Acts 14, 16, and 20, Derbe is one of the last cities on Paul’s missionary journeys to be excavated. Alongside a photo of the impressive mound, Bible Places Blog pointed to a news article about a new excavaction at the site begun by Selçuk University. So far they have uncovered a possible early Christian church.
We commend Live Science for reporting stories on Biblical archaeology, not just on DODO evolution, wanton sex, and liberal politics (as they have been wont to do, for which we cannot commend them).
We would also point out to readers that archaeology is one of several active sciences dependent on intelligent design principles: determining the products of mind from the evidence of physical artifacts.