New Photo Collection on the Gospels

Todd Bolen of has finished a new DVD photo project to illustrate the Life of Christ. Many Bible teachers and scholars alike would benefit from this collection as it uses a variety of photographs, both modern and historic, to illustrate virtually every verse in the Gospels.

Continue reading “New Photo Collection on the Gospels”

The Genesis Sanctuary

Last year, Carta of Jerusalem asked us to write two new books for their “Understanding …” series. The first one, Understanding The Holy Temple of the Old Testament, From the Tabernacle to Solomon’s Temple and Beyond was published last year and the other one Understanding The Temple Jesus Knew will hopefully be published this year.

In this series, Carta has published titles such as Understanding Biblical Archaeology, Understanding the New Testament, Understanding the Alphabet of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Understanding the Boat From the Time of Jesus and many more.

As we have written extensively on the Temple Mount it was difficult to give a new slant to this book without repeating ourselves too much. We therefore decided to go back in history and see where the idea of holiness and a sanctuary came from. We found it in the Book of Genesis.

In the early chapters of Genesis we read that God created a garden in Eden and placed Adam and Eve in it to look after it. God Himself walked in this garden (Gen. 3:8) and therefore it represented the dwelling place of God, comparable to the Holy of Holies of the later Tabernacle and Jerusalem Temples. God spoke in the Garden of Eden and also in the Holy of Holies that is sometimes called debir (oracle, derived from dabar, to speak). A similar expression of God walking in a sacred space is used of the Tabernacle (Lev. 26:11,12):

And I will set my tabernacle among you: and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people.

One of the earliest extra-biblical references to the Garden of Eden being a representation of the Temple comes from the apocryphal Book of Jubilees 8:19:

“[Noah] knew that the Garden of Eden is the holy of holies, and the dwelling place of the Lord.”

Adam was given a charge to dress (abad —work) and keep (shamar —watch) the garden:

And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. (Gen. 2:15)

The Hebrew verbs ‘to dress’ and ‘to keep’ are also used to describe the work of the priests in the Tabernacle (Num. 3:6,7):

Bring the tribe of Levi near, and present them before Aaron the priest, that they may minister unto him. And they shall keep his charge (derived from shamar), and the charge of the whole congregation before the tabernacle of the congregation, to do the service (derived from abad) of the tabernacle.

It could be suggested therefore that Adam was given a priestly duty to look after this garden-sanctuary.

A schematic representation of the Genesis Sanctuary, showing the Garden of Eden with four rivers coming out of it and the proto-Tabernacle with the cherubim and an altar.

After Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden of Eden, cherubim with a flaming sword that turned in all directions were placed to the east of the garden to prevent their return. In Hebrew, the word “placed” (yasken), in Genesis 3:24, is closely related to the word for Tabernacle, which is mishkan in Hebrew. The original language appears to indicate that the cherubim were made to dwell in a tent-sanctuary or tabernacle that was erected to the east of the Garden of Eden. Although little else is known about this sanctuary, the text would seem to be describing a proto-Tabernacle or Genesis Sanctuary, which would serve as a model for future meeting places between God and man.

East-facing Sanctuary

The location of the sanctuary at the east side of the garden can be compared to that of the Holy Place of the later sanctuaries of Israel. The forbidden Paradise lay therefore to the west of the guarded entrance to the Garden of Eden. A road may have run from the east to an entry point or gate in a boundary that surrounded the Garden of Eden. Here the principles of worship would have been established, creating a pattern for subsequent places of worship. Anyone wanting to visit this dwelling place would have had to approach it from the east and face west. This direction of approaching a holy place from the east has been preserved in the Tabernacle and the Temple constructions, the entrances of which all faced east, while the Holy of Holies is in the west.

The Altar

The principle of approaching God by sacrifice would also have been established in this place. The sword of the cherubim may have been used, not only to preserve the way to the Tree of Life by keeping humans out, but also for killing sacrifices and the flame for igniting the wood. It would be reasonable to suggest that the offerings that Cain and Abel brought to God were presented to these cherubim. Abel may have placed his offering on an altar. It was in this place that the cherubim, as divine representatives, would have taught Cain and Abel which sacrifices were acceptable and which ones were not. In the New Testament Book of Hebrews 11:4, we are told that God testified of Abel’s gift. Was this testifying done by the fire of the cherubim consuming Abel’s sacrifice? A similar event happened with the sacrifices brought by Gideon (Judges 6.21) and Elijah (1 Kings 18.38).

Thinking about this proto-Sanctuary in Genesis, we can see that the principles of holiness were laid out right in the beginning of the Hebrew Bible. There are many other parallels with the later Sanctuaries of Israel that are mentioned in this book. It appears, however, reasonable to suggest that this bi-partite division of a Holy of Holies and a Holy Place may have become a blueprint for later Israelite and non-Israelite sanctuaries alike.

For further reading on this topic, see:

Parry, D.W. (ed.) (1994). Temples of the Ancient World: Ritual and Symbolism (Salt Lake City).

Beale, G.K., (2004). The Temple and the Church’s Mission, a biblical theology of the dwelling place of God (Leicester).

Hamblin, W.J., (2007). Solomon’s Temple: Myth and History (London).

Beale, G.K., (2011). A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New (Grand Rapids).

Price, R. (2012). Rose Guide to the Temple (Torrance).


Jerusalem the Movie filmed in iMax 3D

About two years ago, we mentioned in a post that an epic movie about Jerusalem was being made in iMax format. As of August 16, this year, the movie has been released and will be distributed by National Graphic. It shows stunning helicopter photography of the Land of Israel and tells the story of Jerusalem through the eyes of three young women, Christian, Jewish and Arab. Here you can watch the trailer:

We are pleased to have been able to contribute to this movie with reconstructions of Jerusalem in the Second Temple and Byzantine periods.

For further information see Facebook:

JERUSALEM releases worldwide in 2013, please click on ‘Welcome’ to sign up for our email list or visit to learn more.


Through the unrivaled beauty and visceral nature of the IMAX® experience, JERUSALEM seeks to increase public understanding and appreciation for Jerusalem’s historical, spiritual, cultural and artistic uniqueness, as well as highlighting some of the intersections between Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Plot outline

Through the unrivaled beauty and visceral nature of the IMAX® experience, JERUSALEM seeks to increase public understanding and appreciation for Jerusalem’s historical, spiritual, cultural and artistic uniqueness, as well as highlighting some of the intersections between Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Initially, the movie will be shown in these locations:

Boston, Massachusetts – Museum of Science

Special Event: Thursday, September 12, 2013

Public Start Date: Friday, September 20, 2013


Charlotte, North Carolina – Discovery Place

Public Start Date: Wednesday, September 18, 2013


West Nyack, New York – IMAX Theater at the Palisades

Public Start Date: Monday, September 23, 2013


Ottawa, Ontario – Canadian Museum of Civilization

Special Event: Monday, September 23, 2013

Public Start Date: Friday, September 27, 2013


McMinnville, Oregon – Evergreen Aviation Museum

Public Start Date: Friday, September 27, 2013


Seattle, Washington – Pacific Science Center

Special Event: Friday, September 20, 2013

Public Start Date: Saturday, September 28, 2013


Garden City, New York – Cradle of Aviation

Special Event: Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Public Start Date: Saturday, September 28, 2013


St. Louis, Missouri – St. Louis Science Center

Public Start Date: Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Lubbock, Texas – Science Spectrum

Public Start Date: Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Houston, Texas – Houston Museum of Natural Science

Public Start Date: Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Paris, France – La Geode

Public Start Date: Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Davenport, Iowa – Putnam Museum

Public Start Date: Friday, November 1, 2013


Hastings, Nebraska – Hastings Museum

Public Start Date: Thursday, November 7, 2013


London, England, UK – BFI IMAX Cinema

Premiere: January, 2014 (date TBD)


The Burnt House in the Old City of Jerusalem

Avigad would be pleased! Yesterday we received Vols. IV and V of the final reports of the Jewish Quarter Excavations in the Old City of Jerusalem, Conducted by Nahman Avigad 1969-1982. The first four volumes were edited by Hillel Geva and the fifth by Oren Gutfield. More volumes are in preparation.

This web page contains descriptions and downloadable PDF flyers, with pictures of the book covers, contents and order forms.

It was a mammoth task to prepare these volumes and Hillel and Oren are to be commended for their dedication and hard work to publish the results of these unique excavations. I can’t resist sharing these newspaper reports of when the Burnt House was first discovered and that were reproduced in Volume IV.

The Jerusalem Post, 16 Jan. 1970


Jerusalem Post, 23 January 1970

I remember Avigad telling me that during the excavation of the Burnt House, people were standing 4-deep around the area  being dug, especially after the finding of a girl’s skeletal arm, the nation of Israel was so electrified.

After working on the Temple Mount Excavations, I began working on the Jewish Quarter Excavations, beginning in 1978. It was a very memorable privilege to have been able to draw up most of the plans for the Burnt House and other areas which were excavated in the quarter, which had been severely damaged by the Jordanians. Working for Avigad wasn’t restricted to my architectural contributions. When the Burnt House was eventually opened to the public, I was honored, to be the only one, with Kathleen, to be entrusted with the care of cleaning the glass display cases of the precious finds from the site. On a number of evenings we had to get a baby sitter for our children so we could drive over the cobble stones of the Jewish Quarter and take our vacuum cleaner and dusters into the eerily silent Burnt House.

Eventually, I made this reconstruction drawing of Burnt House:

Reconstruction drawing of the Burnt House. Leen Ritmeyer

Excavating the City of David – Where Jerusalem’s History Began

Recently we returned from a trip to Australia – hence the absence of blogs – and I was excited to receive this long-awaited book in the post.

Ronny Reich, Excavating the City of David – Where Jerusalem’s History Began

Ronny Reich has excavated in several locations in Jerusalem for over 40 years, starting in 1969 as surveyor on Prof. Nahman Avigad’s team in the Jewish Quarter (a position he held till 1978 when I took over this post, after he had left for the Israel Dept. of Antiquities and Museums) and in the City of David, together with his colleague Eli Shukron, since 1995.

This book is a fascinating account of the history of the City of David. The first part of the book recounts the activities of the many excavators who worked in this area and in the second part, Reich reconstructs the history of the City of David based on the results of all of the archaeological excavations.

The story of the early exploration begins with a description of the visit on April 17, 1838 by Edward Robinson to the Gihon Spring, the ever-flowing water source that determined the location of the City of David. This is followed by the account of Charles Warren’s daring walk through Hezekiah’s Tunnel, which Reich prefers to call the Siloam Tunnel. Reich then examines the explorations of many other excavators, such as Schick, Bliss and Dickie, Weill, Macalister and Duncan, Kenyon, Shiloh and others. Each investigator added a little to our understanding of the history of this site and Reich’s useful analysis of these findings makes it easier to fit them into an overall picture of the development of the City of David.

His own and Shukron’s explorations added much to our understanding of the waterworks in this location, especially how the different components, such as the Siloam Tunnel and the different channels worked together. His explanation of the construction of the Siloam Tunnel and how Channel I was used as a “spirit level” to make sure that the water of the Gihon Spring flowed smoothly to the Siloam Pool makes for exciting reading.

The excavations round the Gihon Spring revealed that the spring and its approach from the city were strongly fortified in the Jebusite period. Two massive walls created a safe approach to a Rock-cut Pool from which water could be drawn.

This book was written, according to Reich, “First and foremost … for lay readers who love the history of Jerusalem”. I found Reich’s discussion of the historical interpretations of the different finds honest and frank. He acknowledges, however, that he is a skeptic and minimalist where the Biblical text is concerned and has difficulty reconciling the text and the archaeological remains. He discusses these problems in a special boxed section called “Biblical traditions: David, Solomon and the United Monarchy”, which is well worth reading and may help in an accurate examination of the Biblical text.

The book is illustrated with many beautiful photographs, but I would like to have seen more interpretative drawings showing how certain features fit together. The text is easy to read, but a final edit should have weeded out mistakes in spelling and syntax.

The book was published by the Israel Exploration Society in Jerusalem, it has 384 pages and 207 illustration (most of them in color), Hard Cover, and measures 10 x 7.5 inches. 
   ISBN: 9789652210821

Price: $49.95



City of David: The Story of Ancient Jerusalem

For my birthday last month, I received a magnificent tome called: City of David: The Story of Ancient Jerusalem by Ahron Horovitz (edited by Dr. Eyal Meiron), Jerusalem: Megalim-City of David Institute for Jerusalem Studies, 2009, 325 pp. Amazon price $56.07.

If you are considering requesting the book to be brought from Jerusalem, give a thought to your friend’s baggage allowance! The book is lavishly produced, quite large and very heavy. So heavy indeed  (about 6 pounds) that it was cheaper to bring it 160 miles by car from London to Cardiff, where we live, than to send it by Royal Mail!

The book recounts the Biblical story of Jerusalem and uses the results of archaeological excavations to illustrate it.

Jane Cahill West, a senior staff archaeologist for the Hebrew University’s City of David project (1978-’85) directed by the late Yigal Shiloh, writes in her book review here:

One of the best features of the book is Horovitz’s ability to provide clear, concise descriptions of the debates that surround interpretation of Jerusalem’s most controversial archaeological remains, such as Warren’s Shaft, the Stepped Stone Structure, and the city’s fortifications. Reconstruction drawings depicting how the city may have looked at various stages of Biblical history are based primarily on the interpretation of fellow tour guide Eyal Meiron, while explanations for some of the most controversial features of Jerusalem’s water supply systems are those offered by Zvi Abells, a retired electrical engineer who devotes all his spare time to studying Jerusalem’s water systems. These reconstructions and interpretations offer perspectives on issues of contentious debate rarely seen in print.





GLO for Mac, iPad and iPhone

As a dedicated Mac user, I am pleased to announce that GLO is now available for Mac owners.

Glo is an interactive Bible with a world of media, resources and tools – HD video and documentaries, high resolution images, zoomable maps, 360-degree virtual tours and much more – to help you get closer to the Word of God. The Bible comes to life through Glo, allowing you to experience and explore the biblical world in ways never before possible. And it’s easy to use with Glo’s unique browsing lenses.

The main website gives information about GLO for various platforms, such as PC, Mac, iPad and iPhone. FAQs are answered on this site.

Earthquake preparedness in Israel

I used our new CD-ROM, The Seven Churches of Revelation – Walking among the Lampstands, to teach part of a course on The Archaeology of the New Testament yesterday.

Having read this article in Arutz Sheva on Israel’s earthquake preparedness, a few hours earlier, the promise to the overcomers in Philadelphia came home with more force than usual. It quotes from the State Comptrollers’s report this month, which paints a bleak scenario, expecting a 7.5 quake to kill 16,000 people and leave 377,000 homeless. Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss’ wrote that:

“Most earthquake experts feel that the eventuality of an earthquake in Israel that is liable to exact thousands of victims and cause significant damage to property and buildings is almost certain, and that such a quake will definitely come sooner or later…”

“A quake of 7.5 on the Richter scale in northern Israel is expected to cause 16,000 deaths, 6,000 seriously injured, 83,000 lightly injured, 377,000 evacuated from their homes…

“Though it is vital that hospitals continue to operate after an earthquake, many northern hospital buildings are very old and not built according to contemporary standards. A Health Ministry survey found that most of them are liable to collapse during an earthquake.”

The frequency of earthquakes in the volcanic area around Philadelphia was such that it was called Catacecaumene, the “Burnt Land". Photo: © Leen Ritmeyer

Part of the promise to believers in the sixth of the Seven Churches to receive a letter from Jesus Christ was : “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more” (Revelation 3.12).

As we read in the CD captions, temples in Asia in antiquity were always supported by pillars, making them the safest structures in the city. This message, therefore, would have resonated deeply with people living in this notoriously earthquake-prone area. In terms of earthquake preparedness, it is fascinating to read Pliny’s account of the construction of the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus (the first of the Seven Churches):

“It was built on marshy soil so that it might not be subject to earthquakes or be threatened by subsidences. On the other hand, to ensure that the foundations of so massive a building would not be laid on shifting, unstable ground, they were underpinned with a layer of closely trodden charcoal, and then with another of sheepskins with their fleeces unshorn” (Natural History 36.95).

Far-sighted planning indeed!

The Seven Churches of Revelation – New CD-Rom

Response to our existing CDs has been heartwarming, with many requests for more teaching tools like these. Having visited the Seven Churches of Revelation in 2010 and having been immersed in this subject before and since, we had to make this the subject of our next CD. It is the fact that the letters of Jesus to these representative churches were written with full knowledge of the circumstances and environment of each group of believers that make this subject so edifying and compelling.

The latest CD of Ritmeyer Archaeological Design

This presentation has 105 pictures and captions, making it suitable for a two-part talk (or a shorter one, if some slides were left out). It begins on the beautiful Greek island of Patmos, where the Apostle John was told to write the visions which he saw in a scroll and send them to the Seven Churches (Greek singular:”ekklesia”) which were in Asia. We visit these sites: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea in order, with additional slides devoted to Laodicea’s sister churches in the Lycus Valley: Colossae and Hierapolis, (without reference to these neighbouring churches, in particular their water supply, the letter to Laodicea would be unintelligible).

The circular postal route of the messenger is mapped, with a separate map given to highlight his journey from one city to the next. Each section includes a slide containing the full message to each church (quoted from the NKJV) with a useful summary given in its caption. The church and its city is then placed in its geographical and historical setting, with links made to the local background in each letter. Images providing Scriptural insight, accompanied by detailed captions, are given of each city. In Ephesus, you can disembark at the ancient harbour and walk with the messenger up the Harbour Way to the Theatre where the great riot had taken place about thirty years earlier in the time of Paul. With reference to Smyrna, see a possible modern remnant of the “crown of life.” In Philadelphia, ponder the poignancy of the promise to the “overcomers” of that city, never more to have to “go out.” This was to a group of people who were used to always having to flee the city, in an area notoriously prone to earthquakes.

And there are pictures that show the truly stunning location of some of these cities: the lofty acropolis of Pergamum, Sardis’ gentle glen of the Pactolus, in which King Midas is reputed to have washed off his “golden touch” and the breathtaking beauty of the travertine cliffs of Hierapolis. With the photographs having been taken in April, some of them cannot escape being framed with poppies or Judas Trees.

Not living at the time these letters were written, we cannot expect to fully appreciate their force. However, with the help of this presentation and the many illuminating links made to the background of each church, we can better appreciate the message of these letters which are still so remarkably relevant today.

The CD cover slide shows the Temple of Trajan in Pergamum, where the cult of Emperor worship made the city the place of “Satan’s Throne.”