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).


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.





Jewish Book Week in London

Beginning next Saturday, February 26th and lasting for 9 days, the JBW2011 has a sparkling programme. There are two talks that I would love to attend:

Jerusalem, the Biography, by Simon Sebag Montefiore (the great-great nephew of the founder of modern Jerusalem), giving a taster of his new book.

Blackwell’s review of the book reads as follows:

Jerusalem lies at the centre of the world, the capital of three faiths, the prize of many conquerors, the jewel of many empires, and the eye of the storm of today’s battle of civilisations.

But the city lacks a biography. It lacks a secret history. Simon Sebag Montefiore’s epic account is seen through kings, conquerors, emperors and soldiers; Muslims, Jews, Christians, Macedonians, Romans and Greeks; Palestinians and Israelis; from King David via Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander the Great, Herod, Caesar, Cleopatra, Jesus and Saladin, to Churchill, King Hussein, Anwar Sadat and Ariel Sharon. Their individual stories combine to form the biography of a city – a gritty, dramatic, violent tale of power, empire, love, vanity, luxury and death, bringing three thousand years of history vividly to life.

In the course of its history, Jerusalem has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times. It has been Arab, Persian, Jewish, Roman, Greek, Babylonian, Turkish, Mameluke, British, Byzantine, Crusader, Ottoman; Napoleon almost took it but marched past, Kaiser William visited, the Allied forces fought for it in the First World War. The extraordinarily rich history of this small city in the Judean hills forms nothing less than a history of the world.

The epic story of Jerusalem told through the lives of the men and women who created, ruled and inhabited it.


• Fifty Year Reflections of a Jewish Historian, by Martin Gilbert

Martin Gilbert

The JBW website describes his much anticipated lecture as follows:

With consummate skill, patience and brilliance in equal measure, Martin Gilbert has recounted most of the major events of the 20th century. His work encompasses both world wars; the definitive set of Churchill biographies; chronicles of the Jewish people; and accounts of their adversaries and saviours. He has also created 12 pioneering historical atlases on everything from Russian history to the Arab-Israel conflict. We are delighted that Martin Gilbert will share with us some of his most historic discoveries over a lifetime of outstanding scholarship, culminating in his latest work: In Ishmael’s House: A History of Jews.

The full programme is here

Our youngest son Joel will be filming the event.

Volume on The Temple in Jerusalem in honour of Prof. Louis Feldman now out

The Temple of Jerusalem: From Moses to the Messiah: Studies in Honor of Professor Louis H. Feldman (Brill Reference Library of Judaism) [Hardcover]

On the weekend of May 11 – 12, 2008, I attended a conference at the Yeshiva University, New York, on The Temple of Jerusalem: From Moses to the Messiah. This conference was in honour of Prof. Louis Feldman, who I knew as a contributing translator of the Loeb translation of Josephus, which I use constantly. In Yeshiva University, he is revered as a brilliant scholar and mentor of generations of students – he has taught there for the last 56 years.

This conference was the inaugural gathering of the university’s Center for Israel Studies , which: “nurtures excellence in interdisciplinary scholarship and the teaching of Israel throughout history and across disciplines, with a keen focus upon the longue durée and the modern state.” Professor Steven Fine, director of the centre, organised a stimulating Programme of Lectures around an exhibition of models of the Tabernacle, Solomon’s Temple, Herod’s Temple and Herod’s Temple Mount. I was commissioned to design these models by the late Ben Adelman of Silver Spring, M.D. Mr Adelman’s estate bequeathed the models to the Yeshiva University. You can read my blog where I record the highlights of the conference here.

Last Friday, the postman brought a new book for our shelf, the volume which documents the conference – a welcome addition to our Temple section! The publisher’s blurb is as follows:

“The Temple of Jerusalem: From Moses to the Messiah brings together an interdisciplinary and broad-ranging international community of scholars to discuss aspects of the history and continued life of the Jerusalem Temple in Western culture, from biblical times to the present.”

Subjects covered in the essays range from: The Tabernacle at Sinai to the Temple Scroll, my own essay on the process of model making, the Temple in late Medieval Spanish Altarpieces, and Archaeology and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Of particular interest to me because of my background are the essays:

“See, I Have Called by the Renowned Name of Bezalel, Son of Uri …”: Josephus’ Portrayal of the Biblical “Architect” …      by Steven Fine, Yeshiva University

“Notes on the Virtual Reconstruction of the Herodian Period Temple and Courtyards” by Joshua Schwartz and Yehoshua Peleg, Bar-Ilan University

“Some Trends in Temple Studies from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment” by Matt Goldish, The Ohio State University (a masterful survey of this compelling subject)

“Avi-Yonah’s Model of Second Temple Jerusalem and the Development of Israeli Visual Culture” by Maya Balakirsky Katz, Touro College

“Jerusalem during the First and Second Temple Periods: Recent Excavations and Discoveries on and near the Temple Mount” by Ann Killebrew

Steven Fine is to be congratulated on the production of this most useful volume. The involvement of Yeshiva University students in the editing process and bringing the book to production is especially commendable.

Recommended: Biblical Turkey, A Guide to the Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor

Mark Wilson: Biblical Turkey, A Guide to the Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor, Ege Yayinlari, 2010.

Biblical Turkey is one of those rare books that will move only from our desks to our rucksacks. It might not ever make it to our bookshelf and in order to facilitate lending it out, we will have to purchase another copy! Much-anticipated and prodigiously researched, the publication of this small triumph fills a huge gap in the guide literature to Turkey, a country which Wilson points out that, apart from Israel, has more Biblical sites than any other country. He emphasises illuminatingly, that: “approximately two thirds of the New Testament was written either to or from Asia Minor.”

Now the most sought-after tour guide to Biblical sites in Turkey, the New Testament scholar would attribute his expertise to the nine years he has spent actually living in the country with his wife. In the introduction, he writes: “I have travelled tens of thousands of miles/kilometers via plane, train, boat, bus, minibus, taxi, dolmuş, and on foot, visiting nearly every site mentioned in this volume.” When you consider that over one hundred sites, spread over seven regions, covering 9412 square miles, are discussed here, that is a staggering achievement. And being steeped in the works of William Ramsay, whose The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia and The Cities of St. Paul were controversial classics, (Wilson was Revising Editor for a number of Ramsay’s works) was a rigorous early schooling. Previous to the issue of Biblical Turkey, one had to rely on the easily procurable Fant and Reddish’s, A Guide to the Biblical Sites of Greece and Turkey (Oxford, 2003), (which actually only covered 24 sites in Turkey) and the books one was fortunate enough to pick up when visiting the various sites. On this last matter, Wilson writes that his “rule of thumb with books in Turkey is this: if you see a book you’re interested in, buy it immediately because you might never find it again.” We can vouch for the truth of this statement!

Wilson has gone with a Turkish publisher Ege Yayinlari, whose website says that they publish “everything that helps to understand the past of Turkey.” The book’s layout provides much to feast on. For some sites, we are given, apart from the expected site information, a section called Ancient Voices, which features the words of a local author. For example, at Antioch on the Orontes, the Seleucus Inscription may explain why the family of Paul was granted Roman citizenship. Sections called Sidetrips direct you to nearby sites of Biblical interest. The In-Site section is the most valuable of all, providing unique insights into the Biblical text. Questions that have exercised commentators, such as Why did John Mark leave Paul and Barnabas and the reason for Paul’s Walk to Assos are given reasonable answers that are informed by intimate acquaintance with the terrain involved.

The photographs are stunning and a labour of love. We were intrigued to read Wilson’s words in an interview that was published online: “I really love the cover photograph, which was taken in March 2008 at Miletus. Normally I’m not at the site in the evening. Rainwater was standing in the area that used to be the theater harbor. I was able to catch the reflection of the theater in the water just as it would have appeared in antiquity.” There is no such comment in the book, which brings us neatly to the only quibble we would have with it. That is, that it is clear that Wilson was under tremendous pressure to be brief, resulting in a rather dense volume. This means that when you go to a site to read up on it, you come away feeling cheated, fully aware that he knows much more than he is able to give here. On the other hand, you realise how up-to-date the book is when you visit sites such as the recently excavated Laodicea which is presently being restored. Here, Wilson’s notes nicely supplement the site’s excellent new information panels.

Laodicea: The large marble temple complex located north of the main street. This temple has not yet been identified and therefore is simply referred to as Temple A. It is being reconstructed at the time of writing (2010).

You certainly cannot travel in Turkey with only this book in your luggage. Wilson states that he always carries one of the well-known guide books such as a Rough Guide or a Lonely Planet and that he will not be providing directions to sites, only when: “the site is obscure and not known generally through other means.” We think he might revise this decision for some sites that are fiendishly difficult to find, such as Colossae!

The unexcavated mound of Colossae under snow-capped Mount Honaz

We found this evocative, unexcavated mound, under the snow-capped peak of Mt. Honaz, only because we had looked it up in advance in Google maps. None of our friends who have toured Turkey, bar one, have been able to find it. Even the local policeman, parked a mile away from the site, did not know where it was! It would also be helpful if the maps could be standardised for the next edition, as they were taken from relevant prior publications and not made especially for this book.

As an aside, it is inspiring to learn that Wilson was galvanised to commence his Asia Minor Study Centre in Izmir, which focuses: “on the intersection of early Judaism and Christianity in the Greco-Roman world in Asia Minor,” by a short study programme he followed in Jerusalem. Here he saw the abundance of study centres devoted to the history and archaeology of Israel and compared that with the complete absence of an equivalent in Turkey. Now he directs two non-profit organisations in the country, the latter and the Seven Churches Network which provides more general information on Turkey and its Biblical sites.

We sincerely hope that this pioneer’s wonderfully clear-eyed book will get the distribution and the sales it deserves. Order from

Update 12/03/’10: Mark Wilson informed us that his book will be distributed by David Brown/Oxbow Books in North America and the UK, hopefully in the near future.

The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Daily Life in Roman Palestine

This must be required reading:

The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Daily Life in Roman Palestine
Edited by Catherine Hezser

Written by an international and interdisciplinary team of
distinguished scholars, The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Daily Life in
Roman Palestine is an indispensable reference compendium on the
day-to-day lives of Jews in the land of Israel in Roman times. Ranging
from subjects such as clothing and domestic architecture to food and
meals, labour and trade, and leisure time activities, the volume
covers all the major themes in an encompassing yet easily accessible
way. Individual chapters introduce the reader to the current state of
research on particular aspects of ancient Jewish everyday life –
research which has been greatly enriched by critical methodological
approaches to rabbinic texts, and by the growing interest of
archaeologists in investigating the lives of ordinary people. Detailed
bibliographies inspire further engagement by enabling readers to
pursue their own lines of enquiry.The Handbook will prove to be an
invaluable reference work and tool for all students and scholars of
ancient Judaism, rabbinic literature, Roman provincial history and
culture, and of ancient Christianity.

* Interdisciplinary approach presents the most up-to-date
perspectives on the study of ancient Jewish daily life
* An indispensable reference tool for all students and scholars of
ancient Judaism, Roman provincial history and culture, and early
* Written by a team of internationally renowned scholars
* Extensive bibliographies help to orientate future research projects
* Part of the prestigious Oxford Handbooks series

About the Author(s)
Catherine Hezser is Professor of Jewish Studies at the School of
Oriental and African Studies, University of London

HT: Jack Sasson

Recommended: The Online Catalogue of the École Biblique in Jerusalem

Tom Powers, an American citizen living in Jerusalem, runs a lively blog, called View from Jerusalem. Whilst perusing our post Lost in Words – Recommendations from our library, he decided to pass on information about the On-line Catalogue of Jerusalem’s École Biblique, which went online about two years ago.

The Atrium of the École Biblique - photo Tom Powers

Here is an excerpt from Tom’s interesting post:

From the very beginning (ca. 1890), the Dominicans here made a point of indexing their collection on the level of the individual articles contained in journals, periodicals and books. Thanks to their foresight and diligence, that means that someone today can sit at their computer — wherever in the world – and do a search of the catalog by keyword, author, or any number of other parameters, and pull up the reference data on a whole host of relevant articles (and books), materials that they might then have access to in their own institutional library or via internet resources such as JSTOR.

About the École’s Library:

More than 140,000 volumes and 400 specialized periodicals are available for ready consultation. The great majority of this material concerns biblical exegesis, the archeology and literature of the Near East, ancient languages, etc.

Knowing the rich collection of this library, we agree that the online catalogue will be an extremely useful tool for anyone who wants to dig deeper into the Archaeology of the Holy Land and the Near East.