Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Archaeologists discover entrance to Herod’s palace near Bethlehem

Herod's palace

Herod’s palace

Baptist Press reports on the story.

Full text:

Israeli archeologists have uncovered an impressive entrance to Herod’s palace at Herodium. Located only three miles southeast of Bethlehem, Herodium played an important part in the events surrounding the early life of Christ.

The December announcement by Hebrew University archeologists Roi Porat, Yakov Kalman and Rachel Chachy dovetails well with the seasonal interest in the nativity accounts of Luke and Matthew in the New Testament.

While both Luke and Matthew wrote that King Herod governed Judea during the era of Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem (Luke 1:5, Matthew 2:1), they included nothing concerning Herod’s massive palace/fortress complex at nearby Herodium.

Herodium, like Herod’s other isolated palace/fortress complexes at Masada and Machaerus, was built on a mountain. To enhance its impressive scale, Herod artificially extended the height of the hill to make it the tallest mountain in the Judean desert.

While the site included the usual Herodian luxuries such as a palace, bathhouse, theatre and garden, Herodium was essentially a fortress, a place where Herod could find refuge if his people revolted.

Herod’s fear of a Jewish revolt led him to establish many fortresses in both urban centers (he maintained two in Jerusalem itself) and in isolated rural areas away from the urban centers.

A small community close to the fortress housed the construction teams and, later, the garrison soldiers and palace servants. The servants who waited on the king indeed worked in an impressive palace.

The newly uncovered entranceway apparently was still being constructed near the time of the monarch’s death.

As shown in one of the photographs, the entryway included three levels of arches in a 65-foot corridor that was 19 feet across and 65 feet in height leading to the palace’s courtyard. Curiously enough, the nearly completed entrance was abruptly stopped and backfilled around the time of Herod’s death. The archeologists speculated that the now-aging Herod instead sought to convert the entire palace into a memorial mound for his upcoming burial at the site.

Indeed, Herod’s plans for Herodium unfolded as Jesus was born and as He spent His early life in nearby Bethlehem. When the magi arrived in Jerusalem and announced they had come to worship the “king of the Jews,” Herod sent them to Bethlehem after learning the location of the Messiah’s birthplace from the chief priests and learned scholars. The monarch hoped to ascertain from the magi which of the town’s small children was the designated royal candidate. Then Herod hoped to execute the child (Matthew 2:1-8, 2:16).

When the magi failed to return with this information, Herod ordered his soldiers into Bethlehem to murder all children age 2 and under. Warned to flee to Egypt, the holy family escaped Herod’s plans, but an undisclosed number of children were killed by Herod’s soldiers. Although never stated in the biblical account, the soldiers who carried out the old king’s infamous order were either stationed in Jerusalem (seven miles from Bethlehem) or in the closer post at Herodium. In fact, Herodium overlooked Bethlehem and could have functioned as a convenient headquarters for Herod’s deadly operation.

While the holy family resided in Egypt, another Herodium connection to the early life of Christ took place. After a long and terribly painful illness, Herod died. His surviving eldest son (Herod had murdered his three oldest sons), Archelaus, then buried him in Herodium at a pre-selected tomb and gave his father an elaborate funeral at the site and spared no expense, according to the Jewish historian Josephus (Jewish War, 1,673).

Israeli archeologist Ehud Netzer claimed to have found Herod’s tomb and damaged sarcophagus (stone coffin) in 2007 at Herodium, but in 2013 and 2014 other archeologists have raised doubts about the tomb and the sarcophagus. Israeli archeologists Joseph Patrich and Benjamin Arubas largely based their doubts on the modest tomb site and the unimpressive sarcophagus. They believe that the mega-maniacal Herod would have commissioned a larger tomb and a more elaborate sarcophagus.

With Herod now buried in Herodium and with Archelaus eventually ruling over much of his father’s former kingdom as an “ethnarch” (“ruler of the people”), the New Testament noted the change in political leadership (Matthew 2:19-22). The change prompted Joseph to consider a move back to Judea (perhaps back to Bethlehem itself where the family had lived for about two years), but his misgivings about a Judea under the rule of an already unpopular Archelaus and a warning in a dream led him to reconsider. The decision was a wise one. A return to Bethlehem in the “shadow of Herodium” and the nearby royal city of Jerusalem placed the holy family at potential risk.

Instead, Joseph took his family back to Nazareth in Galilee (Matthew 2:22-23). Galilee was governed by Herod Antipas, the younger brother of Archelaus. At the time, this Herodian ruler, with the title of “tetrarch” (“ruler over a fourth”), was regarded as a milder alternative to the volatile Archelaus. Located far away from the recent unpleasant associations connected to Herodium and the slaughter of the children in Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary would raise Jesus in the peaceful surroundings of Nazareth.

The recent archeological find in Herodium and the continuing dispute concerning Herod’s tomb and sarcophagus calls attention to the background story of the early life of Christ as detailed in the Gospel of Matthew. Perhaps some further archeological discoveries at Herodium will uncover additional information about the familiar nativity narrative.

I liked this article on Baptist Press so much, I pasted it here in full – because of the links between history and the Bible. It’s also reported in secular news sources like NBC News and the UK Telegraph.

When I read stories like this, it really makes me question people who think that the New Testament books were not intended to be history. I think the default view has to be that the authors intended to write history, and then we do the work to see which parts pass historical tests – i.e. – how early, how many sources, how many eyewitnesses, etc. And, do we have archaeological evidence to corroborate the narrative.

Filed under: News, , , , , ,

Does archaeological evidence confirm names, dates and places in the Bible?

I spotted this post on Be Thinking by UK apologist Peter S. Williams. (H/T Eric Chabot at Think Apologetics)

So let me pick the ones I liked most for this post.

I have to choose this one because I was just sending John 5 to the woman I am mentoring.

Look:

Jerusalem and The Pool of Bethesda

John 5:1-15 describes a pool in Jerusalem, near the Sheep Gate, called Bethesda, surrounded by five covered colonnades. Until the 19th century, there was no evidence outside of John for the existence of this pool and John’s unusual description “caused bible scholars to doubt the reliability of John’s account, but the pool was duly uncovered in the 1930s – with four colonnades around its edges and one across its middle.”[38] Ian Wilson reports: “Exhaustive excavations by Israeli archaeologist Professor Joachim Jeremias have brought to light precisely such a building, still including two huge, deep-cut cisterns, in the environs of Jerusalem’s Crusader Church of St Anne.”[39]

And this one:

Jerusalem and The Pool of Siloam

In the 400s AD, a church was built above a pool attached to Hezekiah’s water tunnel to commemorate the healing of a blind man reported in John 9:1-7. Until recently, this was considered to be the Pool of Siloam from the time of Christ. However, during sewerage works in June 2004 engineers stumbled upon a 1stcentury ritual pool when they uncovered some ancient steps during pipe maintenance near the mouth of Hezekiah’s tunnel. By the summer of 2005, archaeologists had revealed what was “without doubt the missing pool of Siloam.”[40] Mark D. Roberts reports that: “In the plaster of this pool were found coins that establish the date of the pool to the years before and after Jesus. There is little question that this is in fact the pool of Siloam, to which Jesus sent the blind man in John 9.”[41]

I just read this one because I am working my way through John. In case you haven’t read John, you really should it’s my favorite gospel.

Here’s another one:

Herod the Great

We have a bronze coin minted by Herod the Great. On the obverse side (i.e. the bottom) is a tripod and ceremonial bowl with the inscription ‘Herod king’ and the year the coin was struck, ‘year 3’ (of Herod’s reign), or 37 BC.

In 1996 Israeli Professor of Archaeology Ehud Netzer discovered in Masada a piece of broken pottery with an inscription, called an ostracon. This piece had Herod’s name on it and was part of an amphora used for transportation (probably wine), dated to c. 19 BC. The inscription is in Latin and reads, “Herod the Great King of the Jews (or Judea)”, the first such that mentions the full title of King Herod.

Herodium is a man-made mountain in the Judean wilderness rising over 2,475 feet above sea level. In 23 BC Herod the Great built a palace fortress here on top of a natural hill. Seven stories of living rooms, storage areas, cisterns, a bathhouse, and a courtyard filled with bushes and flowering plants were constructed. The whole complex was surrounded and partly buried by a sloping fill of earth and gravel. Herod’s tomb and sarcophagus were discovered at the base of Herodium by archaeologist Ehud Netzer in 2007.

And one more:

The ‘James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus’ Ossuary

James, the brother of Jesus, was martyred in AD 62. A mid-1st century AD chalk ossuary discovered in 2002 bears the inscription “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” ( ‘Ya’akov bar Yosef akhui di Yeshua’). Historian Paul L. Maier states thatthere is strong (though not absolutely conclusive) evidence that, yes, the ossuary and its inscription are not only authentic, but that the inscribed names are the New Testament personalities.[68] New Testament scholar Ben Witherington states that:“If, as seems probable, the ossuary found in the vicinity of Jerusalem and dated to about AD 63 is indeed the burial box of James, the brother of Jesus, this inscription is the most important extra-biblical evidence of its kind.”[69] According to Hershel Shanks, editor in chief of the Biblical Archaeological Review: “this box is [more] likely the ossuary of James, the brother of Jesus of Nazareth, than not. In my opinion … it is likely that this inscription does mention the James and Joseph and Jesus of the New Testament.”

And finally one short one:

Tiberius Caesar

The Denarius coin, 14-37 AD, is commonly referred to as the ‘Tribute Penny’ from the Bible. The coin shows a portrait of Tiberius Caesar. Craig L. Blomberg comments: “Jesus’ famous saying about giving to Caesar what was his and to God what his (Mark 12:17 and parallels) makes even more sense when one discovers that most of the Roman coins in use at the time had images of Caesar on them.”[48]

This is a good article to bookmark in case you are ever looking for a quick, searchable reference on archaeology and the Bible. There are many more examples in that post.

 

Filed under: Polemics, , , ,

William Lane Craig’s case for the resurrection of Jesus

Dr. Craig’s famous minimal facts case for the resurrection has been posted at the Christian Apologetics Alliance. He presents 4 facts admitted by the majority of New Testament historians, and then he supplies multiple pieces of evidence for each fact.

Here are the four facts:

  • FACT #1: After his crucifixion, Jesus was buried in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea. 
  • FACT #2: On the Sunday following the crucifixion, Jesus’ tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers.
  • FACT #3: On multiple occasions and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead.
  • FACT #4: The original disciples believed that Jesus was risen from the dead despite their having every predisposition to the contrary.

Here’s the detail on fact #3, the post-mortem appearances.

FACT #3: On multiple occasions and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead.

This is a fact which is almost universally acknowledged among New Testament scholars, for the following reasons:

1. The list of eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection appearances which is quoted by Paul in I Cor. 15. 5-7 guarantees that such appearances occurred. These included appearances to Peter (Cephas), the Twelve, the 500 brethren, and James.

2. The appearance traditions in the gospels provide multiple, independent attestation of these appearances. This is one of the most important marks of historicity. The appearance to Peter is independently attested by Luke, and the appearance to the Twelve by Luke and John. We also have independent witness to Galilean appearances in Mark, Matthew, and John, as well as to the women in Matthew and John.

3. Certain appearances have earmarks of historicity. For example, we have good evidence from the gospels that neither James nor any of Jesus’ younger brothers believed in him during his lifetime. There is no reason to think that the early church would generate fictitious stories concerning the unbelief of Jesus’ family had they been faithful followers all along. But it is indisputable that James and his brothers did become active Christian believers following Jesus’ death. James was considered an apostle and eventually rose to the position of leadership of the Jerusalem church. According to the first century Jewish historian Josephus, James was martyred for his faith in Christ in the late AD 60s. Now most of us have brothers. What would it take to convince you that your brother is the Lord, such that you would be ready to die for that belief? Can there be any doubt that this remarkable transformation in Jesus’ younger brother took place because, in Paul’s words, “then he appeared to James”?

Even Gert Ludemann, the leading German critic of the resurrection, himself admits, “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.”3

Yes, Gerd Ludemann is actually an atheist new Testament historian, and he has even debated Dr. Craig on the resurrection – not once, but twice. That’s the kind of evidence Dr. Craig uses in his case. Not just what your pastor will give you, but what atheists will give you. We need to learn to debate like that.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

William Lane Craig’s case for the resurrection of Jesus

Dr. Craig’s famous minimal facts case for the resurrection has been posted at the Christian Apologetics Alliance. He presents 4 facts admitted by the majority of New Testament historians, and then he supplies multiple pieces of evidence for each fact.

Here are the four facts:

  • FACT #1: After his crucifixion, Jesus was buried in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea. 
  • FACT #2: On the Sunday following the crucifixion, Jesus’ tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers.
  • FACT #3: On multiple occasions and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead.
  • FACT #4: The original disciples believed that Jesus was risen from the dead despite their having every predisposition to the contrary.

Here’s the detail on fact #3, the post-mortem appearances.

FACT #3: On multiple occasions and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead.

This is a fact which is almost universally acknowledged among New Testament scholars, for the following reasons:

1. The list of eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection appearances which is quoted by Paul in I Cor. 15. 5-7 guarantees that such appearances occurred. These included appearances to Peter (Cephas), the Twelve, the 500 brethren, and James.

2. The appearance traditions in the gospels provide multiple, independent attestation of these appearances. This is one of the most important marks of historicity. The appearance to Peter is independently attested by Luke, and the appearance to the Twelve by Luke and John. We also have independent witness to Galilean appearances in Mark, Matthew, and John, as well as to the women in Matthew and John.

3. Certain appearances have earmarks of historicity. For example, we have good evidence from the gospels that neither James nor any of Jesus’ younger brothers believed in him during his lifetime. There is no reason to think that the early church would generate fictitious stories concerning the unbelief of Jesus’ family had they been faithful followers all along. But it is indisputable that James and his brothers did become active Christian believers following Jesus’ death. James was considered an apostle and eventually rose to the position of leadership of the Jerusalem church. According to the first century Jewish historian Josephus, James was martyred for his faith in Christ in the late AD 60s. Now most of us have brothers. What would it take to convince you that your brother is the Lord, such that you would be ready to die for that belief? Can there be any doubt that this remarkable transformation in Jesus’ younger brother took place because, in Paul’s words, “then he appeared to James”?

Even Gert Ludemann, the leading German critic of the resurrection, himself admits, “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.”3

Yes, Gerd Ludemann is actually an atheist new Testament historian, and he has even debated Dr. Craig on the resurrection – not once, but twice. That’s the kind of evidence Dr. Craig uses in his case. Not just what your pastor will give you, but what atheists will give you. We need to learn to debate like that.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

William Lane Craig’s historical case for the resurrection of Jesus

Dr. Craig’s famous minimal facts case for the resurrection has been posted at the Christian Apologetics Alliance. He presents 4 facts admitted by the majority of New Testament historians, and then he supplies multiple pieces of evidence for each fact.

Here are the four facts:

  • FACT #1: After his crucifixion, Jesus was buried in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea. 
  • FACT #2: On the Sunday following the crucifixion, Jesus’ tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers.
  • FACT #3: On multiple occasions and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead.
  • FACT #4: The original disciples believed that Jesus was risen from the dead despite their having every predisposition to the contrary.

Here’s the detail on fact #3, the post-mortem appearances.

FACT #3: On multiple occasions and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead.

This is a fact which is almost universally acknowledged among New Testament scholars, for the following reasons:

1. The list of eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection appearances which is quoted by Paul in I Cor. 15. 5-7 guarantees that such appearances occurred. These included appearances to Peter (Cephas), the Twelve, the 500 brethren, and James.

2. The appearance traditions in the gospels provide multiple, independent attestation of these appearances. This is one of the most important marks of historicity. The appearance to Peter is independently attested by Luke, and the appearance to the Twelve by Luke and John. We also have independent witness to Galilean appearances in Mark, Matthew, and John, as well as to the women in Matthew and John.

3. Certain appearances have earmarks of historicity. For example, we have good evidence from the gospels that neither James nor any of Jesus’ younger brothers believed in him during his lifetime. There is no reason to think that the early church would generate fictitious stories concerning the unbelief of Jesus’ family had they been faithful followers all along. But it is indisputable that James and his brothers did become active Christian believers following Jesus’ death. James was considered an apostle and eventually rose to the position of leadership of the Jerusalem church. According to the first century Jewish historian Josephus, James was martyred for his faith in Christ in the late AD 60s. Now most of us have brothers. What would it take to convince you that your brother is the Lord, such that you would be ready to die for that belief? Can there be any doubt that this remarkable transformation in Jesus’ younger brother took place because, in Paul’s words, “then he appeared to James”?

Even Gert Ludemann, the leading German critic of the resurrection, himself admits, “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.”3

Yes, Gerd Ludemann is actually an atheist new Testament historian, and he has even debated Dr. Craig on the resurrection – not once, but twice. That’s the kind of evidence Dr. Craig uses in his case. Not just what your pastor will give you, but what atheists will give you. We need to learn to debate like that.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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