Join a Dig: See the World

As any dig volunteer will tell you, there is nothing like the adventure of going on your first dig. Of course, digging is itself exciting, but there’s also the adventure that comes along with being immersed in a different country and culture and exploring a part of the world that many never get to […]

Machaerus: Where Salome Danced and John the Baptist Was Beheaded

Salome danced at Machaerus. And John the Baptist was beheaded there. The gospel story is supplemented by the Jewish historian Josephus: It all began when Herod Antipas (King Herod the Great’s son who ruled Galilee and Perea between 4 B.C. and 39 A.D.; see the following article) lusted after his brother’s wife Herodias. Herod […]

Was King Saul Impaled on the Wall of Beth Shean?

The Bible tells us that King Saul was killed by the Philistines and that his body (as well as those of his three sons) was hung on the wall of Beth Shean:

“Brother of Jesus” Inscription Is Authentic!

In all the hubbub and flurry of the verdict last March in the “forgery case of the century,” one question—the central question—seems to have gotten lost: Is the ossuary inscription “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” genuine or not? And if it is, does it refer to Jesus of Nazareth? After all, “Jesus” […]

The Persisting Uncertainties of Kuntillet ‘Ajrud

Everything about it has been difficult. Located in the Sinai desert about 10 miles west of the ancient Gaza Road (Darb Ghazza, in Arabic) as it passes through Bedouin territory separating the Negev from Egypt, it is remote and isolated from any other settlement. In 1975, a Tel Aviv University archaeologist named Ze’ev Meshel, […]

What’s the Oldest Hebrew Inscription?

Four contenders vie for the honor of the oldest Hebrew inscription. To decide we must determine (1) whether they are in Hebrew script and/or language and (2) when they date. Not easy! The first contender, the already famous Qeiyafa Ostracon, was discovered only in 2008 at Khirbet Qeiyafa, a site in the borderland of […]

Turkey’s Unexcavated Synagogues
Could the world’s earliest known synagogue be buried amid rubble? By Mark R. Fairchild

BAR specializes in articles about sites that have been excavated, featuring the often dramatic finds archaeologists uncover. But what about finds from sites that have not been excavated (and should be)? We know a lot about the Jews of Cilicia from the New Testament and other ancient sources. Before becoming a follower of Jesus, […]

Death at the Dead Sea

If I were to ask you to guess where the largest group of cemeteries in the ancient world—with tens of thousands of graves—was located, where would you say? Outside some thriving ancient metropolis? In some verdant landscape redolent of Eden? The last place in the world that would probably come to mind would be […]

Antipas—The Herod Jesus Knew

Herod the Great gets all the press. His son Herod Antipas is known mostly, as the preceding article explains, as the Herod for whom Salome danced and who ordered John the Baptist to be beheaded. Many people mistakenly think it was Herod the Great for whom Salome danced. This is understandable because the Gospels […]

Ancient Inscription Refers to Birth of Israelite Monarchy

The already famous Qeiyafa Ostracon, found only in 2008, has been read and interpreted quite differently by a variety of senior scholars, as recounted in the previous article by Christopher Rollston. One of the most fascinating interpretations is by Émile Puech, the senior epigrapher of the prestigious École Biblique et Archéologique Française in Jerusalem. […]

Scribe Links Qumran and Masada

Recently Ada Yardeni, the foremost paleographer working in Israel today, made a startling claim: More than 50 Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts were copied by the same scribe.1 The 54 manuscripts came from six different caves: Qumran Caves 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 11. Even more surprising, Yardeni identified the same scribal hand in […]

“Castle of the Slave”—Mystery Solved

One of the most dramatic archaeological monuments in Jordan—an admittedly Jewish one—has been repeatedly misidentified. French historian Ernest Will called it the “Finest Hellenistic monument in the Near East”1 and considered it a château.2 The structure is known locally as Qasr al-Abd, or “Castle of the Slave (or Servant).” It is part of a […]

Tales from Tombstones

Amid the desolate, rocky wasteland of Biblical Zoar, Konstantinos Politis and others have discovered hundreds of remarkable tombstones that preserve detailed portraits of life—and death—among the Christians and Jews who once dwelled there. The often brightly colored and intricately decorated stones are a treasure trove of information about these two communities during the fourth […]

Did Pharaoh Sheshonq Attack Jerusalem?

“In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, King Shishak of Egypt marched against Jerusalem.”

Did Eilat Mazar Find David’s Palace?

On some things, all agree: Hebrew University archaeologist Eilat Mazar is a careful, competent excavator who welcomes even her severest critics to her site. And, unlike many, she promptly publishes preliminary excavation reports, making available the details of her finds, as well as her interpretations. Criticism of her excavation in the oldest part of […]

Josephus vs. Jeremiah
The Difference Between Historian and Prophet By Avishai Margalit

At age 13, I was called a traitor.

Is T1 David’s Tomb?

“Then David slept with his ancestors, and was buried in the City of David.” (1 Kings 2:10) According to the Book of Kings, most of David’s immediate successors down through Ahaz were also buried in the City of David.a The City of David, a 12-acre site, is well established as the earliest settlement of […]

Layers of Ancient Jerusalem

If you go to the famous Western Wall in Jerusalem, which is actually the western retaining wall of Herod’s Temple Mount and Judaism’s holiest prayer site, and then turn around, you will see at the other side of the plaza an area of less than half an acre that has recently been excavated. Large-scale […]

What Jews (and Christians too) Should Know About the New Testament

Most Jews do not grow up with New Testament stories. While the term “Prodigal son” may be familiar, Jewish readers may not know that this very Jewish parable, which begins “There was a man who had two sons” (Luke 15:11), evokes the Hebrew Bible stories of Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and […]

When Job Sued God

Job is a righteous man from Transjordana who is deliberately made to suffer by God. The deity, incited by the Satan (see Job 2:3; ha-satan is Hebrew for “the adversary”)—the angel who is charged with finding fault with human beings—wants to discover how deeply Job’s piety runs. If all his worldly goods, his servants […]

From Jewish to Gentile
How the Jesus Movement Became Christianity By Geza Vermes

The combined expression “Jewish Christian,” made up of two seemingly contradictory concepts, must strike readers not specially trained in theology or religious history as an oxymoron. For how can someone simultaneously be a follower of both Moses and Jesus? Yet at the beginning of the Christian movement, in the first hundred years of the […]

Inn of the Good Samaritan Becomes a Museum

“What must I do to inherit eternal life?” the man of the law asks Jesus. “What is written in the law? What do you read there?”

Can Archaeology Help Date the Psalms?

The previous issue of BAR included an article on the possibly oldest Hebrew inscriptions. Among the candidates were two abecedaries—that is, inscriptions of the alphabet. No words, just the alphabet.1 These abecedaries can also provide some archaeological help in dating the Book of Psalms! The 150 psalms in the Book of Psalms are traditionally […]

When Did Ancient Israel Begin?
New hieroglyphic inscription may date Israel’s ethnogenesis 200 years earlier than you thought By Hershel Shanks

Longtime BAR readers are familiar with the Merneptah Stele, now in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, which is generally recognized as containing the oldest extrabiblical reference to Israel.a The hieroglyphic inscription can be dated quite precisely to somewhere between 1210 and 1205 B.C.E. But is it the oldest? Egyptologists are now twittering about whether […]

Saida, Lebanon
Myra, Turkey
Tamassos, Cyprus
Folkestone, England
Qaryat al-Faw, Saudi Arabia