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Follow Mark Goodacre as he explores the latest research on Mary Magdalene—including the validity of the Coptic papyrus fragment The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife—and the role she plays in the early Christian texts.
Ancient Israel’s Exodus from Egypt, rather than being a single, momentous event that can be confirmed through archaeology, should be viewed as a deep-seated cultural memory that allowed disparate groups of highland villagers and escaped Canaanite slaves to coalesce into a single people. How this story arose and why the early Israelites adopted this memory are key questions, which find coherent answers in the relationship between Canaan and the Egyptian empire of the Late Bronze Age. By fusing historical and fictional memories, the story created the necessary social context for the birth of Israel as a people.
This video features Hershel Shanks’s engaging interview with Dead Sea Scrolls experts Weston Fields and George Brooke, who present key findings about the scrolls and the fascinating story behind their study and interpretation. Shanks focuses on British scholar John Marco Allegro, a maverick and self-proclaimed publicist who contended the scrolls could relate to early doctrines of Christianity. Fields and Brooke also discuss the controversial letter written to and published in The Times (of London) by five Dead Sea Scrolls team members disassociating themselves from Allegro and his opinions. Later, they comment on the unique Copper Scroll with its Hebrew “treasure map” listing valuable lost items from the first-century C.E., likely from the Jerusalem Temple. Is the list fact, as Allegro passionately believed, or just a fantasy?
In this lively interview, BAR editor Hershel Shanks engages James Charlesworth and Sidnie White Crawford in a conversation about John Strugnell, a linguistics genius and editor-in-chief of the Dead Sea Scrolls project who was ousted as the project’s head in 1990 (as well as from his post at Harvard University) following alleged anti-Semitic remarks. Charlesworth and Crawford share personal accounts of their work with Strugnell and the Dead Sea Scrolls. This in-depth discussion also explores the role of the scrolls in relation to the study of early Christianity.
In this wide-ranging interview, Hershel Shanks sits down with 90-year-old priest and New Testament scholar Joseph Fitzmyer to reflect on Fitzmyer’s work with the Dead Sea Scrolls in Jerusalem in 1957 and 1958. The still-lively Fitzmyer recalls those years and more while relating anecdotes about the creation of a concordance from the scroll fragments and the publication team’s tentative transcriptions of the texts. It was these valuable transcriptions that eventually allowed the scrolls to be released to the public.
A “perfect storm of calamities”—earthquakes, droughts and rebellions—caused the demise of the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1500–1200 B.C.). The great empires and mighty kingdoms of the ancient world—the Egyptians, Mycenaeans, Minoans, Hittites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Cypriots and Canaanites—all suddenly collapsed. Learn how the lessons of this amazing historical era relate to the ongoing turbulence and uncertainty of our own day.
Many of the stories from ancient Near Eastern literature are often labeled “folk tales” and are presumed to have no basis in reality—the Biblical texts are no exception. Many stories in the Bible are seen as allegories or folk tales. But when we read these stories, should we just simply label them “folk tales,” or should we investigate the possibility that they may contain some factual elements? This lecture examines this question using several well known examples from the Bible, including the story of Moses’ birth and the Biblical account of King Solomon’s wealth and prestige.
A vexing irony inhabits the Book of Deuteronomy. On the one hand, the book makes exclusive worship at a single site chosen by Israel’s God Yahweh the defining criterion of community faithfulness. On the other hand, the book fails to identify the sanctuary’s location. The quest to resolve this conundrum has directed scholarly attention to Shechem, Shiloh, Bethel, Gilgal, Gerizim, and, most recently, Mt. Ebal—all sacred sites identified in early Israel’s settlement traditions. This lecture reviews linguistic, historical and archaeological evidence that may help us identify where Deuteronomy’s “place of the name” was actually located.
Speculating on the whereabouts of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel has been popular for longer than the search for the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail. Suggestions for where they ended up have ranged from America and Britain to India and Africa, and virtually every place in between. However, few proper investigations of this “mystery” have been conducted. Now, utilizing three separate and completely independent sources—the Biblical account, contemporary neo-Assyrian inscriptions, and archaeological remains from both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah—it can be confidently shown that the Ten Tribes of Israel were never lost.
This lecture sorts through the major scientific, historical and archaeological issues related to the “James ossuary” controversy and the ongoing debate over its authenticity. We examine the variety of media and academic responses to the first-century bone box inscribed “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus,” and clarify what we know about the box and its inscription, and what remains uncertain.
Since the public controversy over the Talpiot “Jesus” family tomb broke in 2007, much has happened behind the scenes. This presentation brings things up to date, examines what we know for certain about who may have been buried in the Talpiot tomb, and how new evidence is helping to separate mere speculation from solid historical and archaeological interpretation.
Recent events surrounding the “James ossuary” controversy and the discovery in the second Talpiot tomb of an image that is arguably one of “Jonah and the big fish” have sparked renewed consideration of the question of whether Jesus’ earliest followers left behind any distinctive archaeological remains. This lecture considers this century-old question and asks how the Talpiot discoveries are changing our perspective on the traditional evidence.
The late Father Bargil Pixner’s well known proposals regarding the location of Jerusalem’s Essene Gate and the Church of the Apostles on Mt. Zion have received a measure of popular acceptance, including in the pages of BAR. This lecture offers an updated evaluation of Pixner’s theory in light of recent textual studies and the findings from the ongoing Mt. Zion excavations.
In this lecture given to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, UC San Diego professor Thomas Levy discusses how new digital technologies are transforming archaeology in the 21st century and helping to preserve the world’s cultural heritage. Using examples from various archaeological projects in the Holy Land, including his ongoing fieldwork at the ancient copper mining site of Faynan (Biblical Punon) in modern Jordan, Levy introduces viewers to the ever-expanding digital toolkit of modern archaeology, from LiDAR scanning and enhanced mapping techniques to 3D virtual recreations of excavation environments.
Professor Zuckerman highlights the exciting new ways that ancient technologies allow us to decipher ancient texts and artifacts. In this dynamic presentation, he literally shines a light on some of the most important inscriptions in the field of Biblical archaeology, from the Copper Scroll to Ugaritic texts. Zuckerman’s demonstration of the groundbreaking InscriptiFact software answers critical questions on ancient Jewish coinage, the Dead Sea Scroll scribes and much more.
Jesus was not the only person considered the Son of God in the ancient world. Other “divine men” were also said to have been born miraculously, to have healed the sick, fed the multitudes, cast out demons, and raised the dead, and who at the end of their lives were thought to have ascended to the heavenly realm to live forever. Why do we never hear of these others? And was Jesus the real thing, whereas all these others were frauds and impostors? This lecture considers some of the other Sons of God, and examines the ways in which Jesus was both similar and different.
Both within the New Testament and in later Christian gospels, writings that describe the death of Jesus increasingly declare Pilate innocent of the whole proceeding. The logic of this exoneration gives rise to an obvious question: If Pilate is not guilty for condemning an innocent Jesus to death, then who is? The early Christian answer? “The Jews.” This lecture examines these ongoing attempts to exculpate Pilate and inculpate the Jews in the death of Jesus, paying particular attention to non-canonical gospels, some of which declared that Pilate eventually became a Christian convert and martyr.
A number of pseudepigraphic works survive from Jewish and Christian antiquity. The Hebrew Bible contains at least two instances (Daniel and Ecclesiastes); the New Testament has many more (the Pastoral Epistles, 1 and 2 Peter, etc.). In each of these examples, an author falsely claims to be a famous person. Some scholars have argued that this was an acceptable practice in the ancient world, and that such books should not be tarnished with the term “forgeries.” Is this true? Or did the ancients themselves consider such books to be deceitful lies? This presentation considers what ancient authors said about books written under a false name and about the people who wrote them.
Scholars have long known that a number of the earliest Christian writings are “forgeries”—books written by unknown authors claiming to be someone famous (e.g., one of the apostles). What is less known is that some of these forgeries were written to counter other books that were also forgeries. This lecture looks at two such “counter-forgeries”—one that made it into the canon of scripture (the first-century book of “James”) and one that did not (the second-century “Letter of Peter”).
Regular Biblical Archaeology Review contributor Mary Joan Winn Leith provides a fresh perspective on the language and imagery of the Book of Exodus by exploring ancient Egyptian iconography of power and authority. Through their acute awareness of Egyptian propaganda and art, the biblical writers and storytellers successfully inverted the very same imagery to illustrate Pharaoh’s ineptitude when confronted by Moses and the Israelite God Yahweh.