The best compliment I can receive about any of my reconstruction drawings is for the viewer to say: “It really makes the site come to life!” Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about photographs, however professionally taken. Take the site of Capernaum, perhaps the most visited site in the Galilee in any tour of the Land. Here, the place in which Jesus taught and in which he cast out an unclean spirit (Mark 1.21-28, Luke 4.31,32) is shown. It is all too easy to shoot photos of your group with the impressive synagogue structure emphasizing the magnificence of its architectural decoration and the dazzling white limestone from which it is built.
But this then is the image you take away with you and the picture that springs to mind when next you read Jesus’ reference to the centurion: “he loves our nation and has built us a synagogue” (Luke 7.5).
But look more closely beneath the ruins of the beautiful white synagogue and you will see that it rests on an older building made of dark stones.
To commemorate the retirement of Hershel Shanks from the Biblical Archaeology Society which he founded in 1975, Eilat Mazar published an article in the latest issue of Biblical Archaeology Review about a bulla (seal impression) that was found in the Ophel area. The title of the article is “Is This the Prophet Isaiah’s Signature?” The seal was discovered back in 2009, but only came to light after cleaning by wet-sifting.
As expected, this find has been widely published here, here, here and in many other places. Here is an excerpt from the latter report:
The clay impression is inscribed with letters and what appears to be a grazing doe, “a motif of blessing and protection found in Judah, particularly in Jerusalem,” according to the BAR article.
The oval-shaped bulla, however, is not intact. On its legible portion, there is an inscription with First Temple Hebrew letters that seem to spell out the name l’Yesha’yah[u] (Belonging to Isaiah). On a line below, there is the partial word nvy, which presumably spells out “prophet.”
“Because the bulla has been slightly damaged at end of the word nvy, it is not known if it originally ended with the Hebrew letter aleph, which would have resulted in the Hebrew word for ‘prophet’ and would have definitively identified the seal as the signature of the prophet Isaiah,” Mazar said.
The above drawing by Reut shows that there is space on the bottom register for the missing aleph. Reut is well known to us from the Shiloh Excavations directed by Scott Stripling.
Although the identification is not 100% watertight, it is unlikely to have belonged to anybody but the Prophet Isaiah who supported King Hezekiah through difficult times.
The seal was found in trash that had been dumped outside the city wall of the time. The seal of King Hezekiah on which we commented in a previous post was found nearby.
One of my readers, Daniel Wright, commented on my previous blog: “Once again Leen, I would like to thank you for addressing the persistent “temple location” confusion. I frequently get questioned as to my point of view on the “City of David” location theory. Directing the inquisitive to your blog is a real asset. It is important and useful to remind readers that you worked directly for Dr. Benjamin Mazar and you were also a contemporary of Ernest L. Martin, as both of you were there in Jerusalem during the same timeframe. Your personal involvement with Mazar’s team as these things were discovered, and your role as archaeological illustrator make you a primary authority on this topic. I am grateful that you continue to publish materials that address this needless controversy.”
Thanks, for the encouragement Daniel. As promised, I now hope to deal with yet another aspect of the Temple Mount that proponents of the City of David location often bring up in support of their theory, i.e. the Antonia Fortress.
These theorisers have a problem with the existing walls of the Temple Mount and have therefore suggested that they must have belonged to the Antonia Fortress that stood north of the Temple. Such a suggestion shows ignorance of and contradicts the historical sources and archaeological evidence. Let’s begin with the historical sources. Continue reading “The Antonia Fortress”
How a Hebrew inscription blasts the Temple Mount deniers
One of the most interesting and important discoveries at the Temple Mount Excavations directed from 1968 till 1978 by the late Prof. Benjamin Mazar, was made at the southwest corner in 1969. After digging through Umayyad, Byzantine and Roman destruction levels, a large corner parapet stone was found lying on its side on the paving stones of the Herodian street, about 1.5 meter (5 feet) from the southwest corner. A niche was cut out of the inner slope of the stone on its southern side. Above this niche was an inscription written in Hebrew, which reads (from right to left) “l’bet hatqia l’hakh . . . ”
The first two words “l’bet hatqia” mean “to the place of trumpeting,” but the last Hebrew word is incomplete. Scholars have suggested completing the inscription with l’hekhal (to the Temple), l’ha-kohn (for the priest) or “l’hakhriz,” (announce). The latter suggestion, which would make the inscription read, “to the place of trumpeting to announce”, has the most support.
As it was found lying directly on the street and underneath other fallen Herodian stones, it must originally have been located at the top of the southwest corner whence it was the first stone to have been thrown down.
The new find supports the biblical rendering of the existence of a governor of Jerusalem 2,700 years ago, says archeologist.
A rare, well preserved Hebrew-inscribed and stamped piece of clay from the First Temple Period belonging to the “governor of the city” of Jerusalem was recently discovered during excavations by the Israel Antiquities Authority in the Western Wall Plaza.
According to Dr. Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah, excavator of the site on behalf of the IAA, “The Bible mentions two governors of Jerusalem, and this finding thus reveals that such a position was actually held by someone in the city some 2,700 years ago.”
“The finding of the seal with this high-rank title – in addition to the large assemblage of actual seals found in the building in the past – supports the assumption that this area, located on the western slopes of the western hill of ancient Jerusalem, some 100 m west of the Temple Mount, was inhabited by highly ranked officials during the First Temple period.”
Two governors of Jerusalem are mentioned in the Bible, Joshua in 2 Kings 23:8 and Maaseiah in 2 Chron. 34:8, both of whom lived at the end of the First Temple period.
This drawing shows what Jerusalem at the end of the First Temple period looked like:
How garbage disposes of the idea that the Temple once stood over the Gihon Spring.
No, Jerusalem is not garbage, but the ancient 2000-year old garbage dump discovered in 2013-2014 on the eastern slope of the City of David refutes recent suggestions about a different location of the Temple in Jerusalem.
I am often asked what I think about the idea that the Temple stood in the City of David and not on the Temple Mount. This was first suggested by Ernest Martin and then followed by Bob Cornuke, Marilyn Sams and others, and this idea has found credence in some circles, mainly in the United States.
During the Herodian period, a colonnaded hall, known as the Royal Stoa, graced the whole length of the Southern Wall. Constructed in the shape of a basilica with four rows of forty columns each, it formed a central nave in the east end and two side aisles. The central apse was the place of meeting for the Sanhedrin, the supreme Jewish Council. The main part of this building was used for the changing of money and purchase of sacrificial animals.
Although the existence and location of this magnificent building was never doubted, questions remain about its plan and decoration. I was pleased therefore to hear of Dr. Orit Peleg-Barkat’s new publication, “Herodian Architectural Decoration and King Herod’s Royal Portico,” that appears in Qedem 57, edited by Eilat Mazar, The Temple Mount Excavations in Jerusalem, 1968–1978 Directed by Benjamin Mazar Final Reports Volume V.Continue reading “The Royal Stoa of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem”
Carta Jerusalem, the publishing house that has published so many of our books, has embarked on a new venture: BIBLEWHERE. This Online Visual Content Collection was developed by Shay Hausman, the present CEO of Carta and continues to expand.
The Israel Antiquities Authority and The Western Wall Heritage Foundation made an important announcement today, reporting the discovery of the remains of a small Roman theatre or odeon in Jerusalem, just below Wilson’s Arch. This report includes a video in English. The Jerusalem Post also reports this find.
It has been reported, eg. here (Hebrew with pictures) and here, that remains of Jews who perished in the Great Revolt against the Romans and were discovered in Binyamin were secretly buried in Ofra.
The bones of Jews who perished in the Great Revolt by Jews against the Roman Empire, and which were discovered at an archaeological site near the community of Givat Assaf in the Binyamin region, were recently brought to burial secretly in Ofra.
The remains were discovered in 2013 at the archaeological site, which is a Jewish village from the time of the Second Temple. Mikvahs, coins from the time of the Great Revolt and vessels made out of stone were discovered at the site.
The bones belonged to seven women and a boy who hid in a cave, and were killed by the Romans in 69 CE, one year before the destruction of the Second Temple.