Digital resources for studying the Bible and archaeology

A YouTube page, a YouTube series, and a podcast have all emerged recently dealing with topics related to the Bible and archaeology. For those interested:

  • Dr. Robert Cargill, Associate Professor of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Iowa has a YouTube page, XKV8R, where he’s already discussed topics such as The Shapira Strips and the Tel Dan Inscription.
  • Dr. Andrew Henry, creator of the famous Religion For Breakfast YouTube page, has been working on a series in partnership with Patheos titled “Excavating the History of the Bible”. He’s covered several topics already including the origins of the Israelites, the identities of the Canaanites and Philistines, and personalities like King Ahab, King Josiah, and King Herod.
  • The podcasting collective known as OnScript has released a spin-off podcast called OnScript: Biblical World. Their first episode looked at King Hezekiah and his reforms.
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Dietary practices in ancient Galilee

Rossella Tercatin of The Jerusalem Post reports on recent finding from a pit at Tel Bet Yerah that reveal the common Hellenistic (Greek) diet in Galilee from approximately 2,200 years ago. Jewish settlements from the time include ‘cattle, sheep, and goat bones’ while Greek settlements include ‘snail shells both from saltwater and freshwater species, as well as pig and gazelle bones, all of which are unconsidered unfit to eat by the laws of kashrut.’

This further supports to findings of scholars who have argued that Jewish Galilee was distinctly Jewish as they could be in the early age of Hellenization.

Read ‘Feast of snails and pigs sheds life on Hellenistic life in ancient Galilee’.

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The Real Bethsaida

In 2015 I traveled around Israel with my doctoral studies supervisor (now Doktorvater), Craig Evans, my good friend, Greg Monette, and several employees of Faithlife, as they worked on a documentary that addressed what archaeology can tell us about the context of Jesus’ life (‘Archaeology and Jesus’). One of the things we noticed is that when it came to the site a given archaeologist was working, they tended to be quite apologetic, but when it came to other sites, they tended to raise the demands of the criteria. It was good to see that people who work with material artifacts are required to do interpretation just like those of us who work with texts because sometimes archaeology is seen as a much more exact science than the evidence supports.

BAR, Spring 2020

One of the debates we encountered had to do with the location of Bethsaida. We visited Et-Tell where Rami Arav explained to us how they know this is the Bethsaida mentioned in the Gospels. On the trip we met Mordechai Aviam while visiting the dig at Shikhin (see my interview with James R. Strange, ‘Shikhin Excavations’). While I don’t remember Aviam discussing Bethsaida then, I do remember some archaeologists expressing skepticism regarding Et-Tell. It turns out that Arav and Aviam are featured in this month’s Biblical Archaeology Review debating the identity of the real Bethsaida. Arav argues for Et-Tell still. Aviam, along with R. Steven Notley (who has made a similar public argument in Christianity Today: ‘Have Archaeologists Found the Lost City of the Apostles?’), argue for El-Araj.

See, I did meet Aviam!

This makes me want to go back to Israel again. It’s one thing to read about these debates in a magazine. It’s something different to have visited at least one of these places and talked with the personalities doing the work. Again, I’m glad to see that there’s some strong subjectivity to the work of archaeologists. This means we must do more than just examine the material remains to make claims about the past. That said, archaeology has a special role to play in that anyone can create a narrative, but you can’t make the remains of a city appear or disappear overnight (usually), which is why archaeology is so important to our understanding of the past, the Bible, etc.