Feb 8, 2020

Ron Wyatt's pseudo-archaeology

Many people ask me constantly about what I think of Ron Wyatt, from students to many posts on Facebook and by email. I was tired of posting over and over again the reasons for why I think his claims are non-sense and so decided to post my response on my blog that people can research for themselves.
     On Ron Wyatt (official site Wyatt Archaeological Research [WAR] and Ark Discovery International) most evangelical archaeologist that I know considers him to be a fraudulent, pseudo-archaeologist, with most of his discoveries nothing more than a hoax. See Expose by TentMakers. Wyatt was not a trained archaeologist, but a Seventh Day Adventist adventurer and former nurse anesthetist. However, he was not an evil man but just deluded (he died in 1999). A list of his claims include:
Answers in Genesis response to all these claims.
     Most of us (evangelical archaeologists) try to put as much distance between us and him because he gives legitimate scientific archaeology by evangelicals (NEAS and ABR) a bad name and reason for the critical world to mock us even more.
     Without going into a lot of details, here are some of the reasons that the Associates for Biblical Research (ABR) have put forth about Ron Wyatt. The ABR organization is a group of academically trained evangelical archaeologists who evaluate the evidence of such claims and give professional opinions on the evidence presented.

For an in-depth critique of Wyatt’s claims published by Dr. Collin D. Standish, a Seventh Day Adventists (Wyatt's own denomination) see: 
Standish, Russell R., and Colin D. Standish. Holy Relics Or Revelation. 1st edition. Rapidan, VA: Hartland Publications, 1999. Review of the Book.

Durupinar, 2006 Copyright David E. Graves

Noah's Ark

I have traveled to Turkey as the Director of Operations for ArcImaging, Archaeological Imaging Research Consortium based in Colorado visited Mt Ararat and examined the Durupınar phenomenon that Wyatt claims is Noah’s Ark

I surveyed the region in preparation for the Mount Ararat Expedition. May 7–16, 2006 . Samples were taken and determined to be nothing more than a geological formation with no petrified wood.

Sodom and Gomorrah 

Wyatt's claims for Sodom are based solely on the presence of sulfur balls and salt formations which exist all around the Dead Sea and not on any archaeological excavation. The majority of biblical scholars agree that the cities of the plain can be found around the Dead Sea.
     For archaeological evidence for the site of Tall el-Hammam as biblical Sodom see  
Graves, David E. The Location of Sodom: Color Edition. Key Facts for Navigating the Maze of Arguments for the Location of the Cities of the Plain. Toronto: Electronic Christian Media, 2018.
Graves, David E. “Sodom And Salt in Their Ancient Near Eastern Cultural Context.” Near East Archaeological Society Bulletin 61 (2016): 18–36.
Collins, Steven, and Latayne C. Scott. Discovering the City of Sodom: The Fascinating, True Account of the Discovery of the Old Testament’s Most Infamous City. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013.
Holden, Joseph M., and Steven Collins, eds. Harvest Handbook of Bible Lands: A Panoramic Survey of the History, Geography, and Culture of the Scriptures. Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2020.
Collins, Steven. “Where Is Sodom? The Case for Tall el-Hammam.Biblical Archaeology Review 39, no. 2 (2013), 31-41, 7071.
Collins, Steven, Carroll M. Kobs, and Michael C. Luddeni. The Tall Al-Hammam Excavations: An Introduction to Tall al-Hammam with Seven Seasons (2005–2011) of Ceramics and Eight Seasons (2005–2012) of Artifacts. Vol. 1. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2015.
For an extensive bibliography and list of the Excavation Reports for Tall el-Hammam see Blog Sodom Research.

Jan 28, 2020

Harvest Handbook of Bible Lands Released

Holden, Joseph M., and Steven Collins, eds. Harvest Handbook of Bible Lands: A Panoramic Survey of the History, Geography, and Culture of the Scriptures. Eugene, OR: Harvest House, February 2020. 

New discoveries are constantly being made as archaeologists work to uncover the ancient history of the Bible lands to tell a more complete story of the people, customs, and events of that era. Archaeologist Steven Collins and Bible scholar Joseph M. Holden have spent decades making and researching those discoveries and now offer a wealth of information based on the latest findings.

This exciting addition to The Harvest HandbookTM series provides a textual and visual bird’s-eye view of ancient Near Eastern biblical geography, culture, history, and chronology. If you’re looking for an accurate, readable, and user-friendly resource to further your study of God’s Word, The Harvest HandbookTM of Bible Lands provides a valuable backdrop for biblical narratives and literature.

With the most up-to-date information from biblical and archaeological disciplines, you will find your knowledge greatly enriched through well-written narrative-style text, numerous maps, instructive photographs, illustrations, and charts. This must-have tool will become your favorite resource as you study Scripture

I am grateful to be among the notable contributors (see below).

Breakout articles

 I have contributed eight Breakout articles: 
  • David’s Palace, p.171.
  • 8.02. Alexander the Great,  p. 247.
  • 8.05. The Rosetta Stone, p.252.
  • The Septuagint, p.258.
  •  The Dead Sea Scrolls, p. 258.
  • 9.09. Roman Roads, p. 294-95.
  • 9.10. Burial Practices, p.298-299.
  • 9.13. Crucifixion, p. 306-307.


Also, over 40 photographs to this important reference work. 
  • Fig. 2.13. Hittite Gate, p. 64.
  • Fig. 2.18. Hittite tablets, p. 69.
  • Fig. 2.21. Mesopotamian deities (top right), p. 72.
  • Fig. 2.22. Canaanean deities, p. 72.**
  • Fig. 2.35. Pagan shrine (right), p. 77.***
  • Fig. 3.01. Writing Pens and Ink, Egypt. p. 117.
  • Fig. 3.02. Egyptian texts, Late Bronze Age, p. 118.
  • Fig. 4.02. Semitic Script (11th Cent. BC), p. 150.
  • Fig. 4.11. Fishing Scene, Egypt, p. 156.
  • Fig. 5.01. Tel Dan Stela, p. 161.
  • Fig. 5.08. Iron Age 2 Osctracon, p. 172.
  • Fig. 5.0?. Authority such as a sole monarch. p. 178.
  • Fig. 5.10.  Ancient cooking Tradition p. 181.
  • Fig. 6.01. Shoshenq I Wall relief, p. 187.
  • Fig. 6.02. Shalmaneser III image, p. 190.
  • Fig. 6.03. Tiglath Pileser III, p. 192. 
  • Fig. 6.05. Sargon II, p.192.
  • Fig. 6.09. Sennacherib, p.194. 
  • Fig. 6.12. Siege of Lachish reliefs, p. 198.
  • Fig. 6.07. Flaying captives alive, p. 210.
  • Fig. 6.34. Handles, Iron Age 2b-c (5 bottom handles; Courtesy of George M. Grena), p. 217.
  • Fig. 7.04. Capital, Persepolis p. 225.*
  • Fig. 7.11. Babylon Reconstruction, p. 229.
  • Fig. 8.02. Alexander the Great, p. 243.
  • Fig. 8.03. Early Greek alphabet on Kylix , p. 253.*
  • Fig. 8.06. Arch of Titus (m), p. 256.
  • Fig. 8.13. Roman chicken motifs, p. 261.*
  • Fig. used for centuries, p. 266.
  • Fig. Pottery, p. 267.
  • Fig. Leather straps to secure the scrolls. p. 268.
  • Fig. 9.02. Caligula image, p. 276.*
  • Fig. 9.03. Claudius image, p. 277.*
  • Fig. 9.04. Nero Image, p. 277.
  • Fig. 9.14. Roman Appian Way, p. 293.*
  • Outbreak 9.09. Arched Roman aqueduct (Tarragona, Spain), 294.
  • Fig. 9.15. Roman latrines: Ephesus (L), p. 295.
  • Fig. 9.16. Arched Roman aqueduct (Tarragona, Spain), p. 296.
  • Fig. 9.17. Caesarea Maritima harbor, p. 296.*
  • Fig. 9.18. Roman soldier (Tower of David Museum), p. 296.
* Wikimedia Commons
** Courtesy of Dr. Bryant Wood 
*** Courtesy of Casey Olen 


Contributors to the book.
The most up-to-date information from biblical and archaeological discoveries, numerous maps, and instructive photographs, drawings, and diagrams. This book provides a textual and visual bird’s-eye view of ancient Near Eastern biblical geography, archeological sites, history, and chronology. Anyone looking for an accurate, readable, and usable resource to further their study. Hardcover (ISBN: 978-0736975421). Available at Harvest House and on Amazon.

Jan 26, 2020

Various names of Tall el-Hammam

Tall el-Hammam overlooking the Kikkar of the Jordan (Jordan Valley)
Like most ancient sites, Tall el-Hammam (Arabic translates as Hill of the Hot Baths’. The word ammâm in Arabic (حمّام) means ‘hot spring/well’ and most commonly refers to ‘hot baths’ similar to the Hebrew hamat which means ‘hot springs.’ There are five identified thermal springs around the site. It is the only site in the region with a name associated with thermal springs.  It had a long history represented by various names depending on the period (adapted from Leen Ritmeyer who said "Sodom is Tall el-Hammam but Tall el-Hammam was not always Sodom!"):

  • Beth-Haram( בֵּית הָרָם, הָרָן) Early Bronze period (Brussels E4: Egyptian Execration Text) [1]
  • Sodom (Canaanite)Middle Bronze period (Genesis 14)
  • Beth-Haran-Late Bronze period (Numbers 32:36). The event of Abel-Shittim on the Plains of Moab (Josh 2:1; 3:1) occurred around Tall el-Hammam. Compared with other periods very little LB pottery is found at the site (small room on the acropolis and a few in a nearby tomb).
  • Beth-HaramIron Age (Solomon 1 Kgs 4:7-19)
  • Betharamtha (Βηθαραμθα)1st Cent. BC (Herod the Great; Josephus Antiquities 18.27).
  • Livias1st Cent AD (Herod Agrippa 4 BC; Josephus Antiquities 20.29; Jewish War 2.168; 2.252; see also Theodosius Top. 19.1; P. XHev/Se gr 65.3-4)
  • Julias1st Cent. AD (Herod Agrippa 14 AD; Josephus Antiquities 18.27; 20.29; Jewish War 2.168; 2.252; 4.438).
  • SodomByzantine Period. Severus the Bishop of Sodom attended the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD representing the ecclesiastical province of Arabia [provincia Arabia] (Eusebius Onomasticon 26). This is the name that would have appeared on the Madaba Map not Livias as the pilgrims were only interested in Holy Site.[2]


[1] Brussels E4 (Haram) is generally located at the later Beth Haram, northeast of the Dead Sea. Posener and Mazar identified Beth haram with Tell Ikanu (Adam Zertal Z"l and Shay Bar, The Manasseh Hill Country Survey Volume 4: From Nahal Bezeq to the Sartaba [Leiden: Brill, 2017], 80), however, Haram cannot be located at Tell Iktanu, as there are no Middle Bronze remains on site, but as there is extensive Middle Bronze occupation at nearby Tell Hammam (Kay Prag, “Tell Iktanu and Tell Al-Hammam. Excavations in Jordan,” Manchester Archaeological Bulletin 7 (1992): 15–19), is a better candidate. Margreet L. Steiner and Ann E. Killebrew, The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of the Levant: C. 8000-332 BCE, Oxford Handbooks in Archaeology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 47.
[2] Mouncy identified the Ecclesiastical province that the Bishop of Sodom represented as Provincia Arabia, while Le Quien identified the Bishop of Sodom in the section under Ecclesia Zoarorum or Segor in the Provincia Palaestinae Tertiae (III). Antoine de Mouchy, Christianae religionis institutionisque Domini Nostri Jesu-Christi et apostolicae traditionis (Paris: Macaeum, 1562), 85; Michel Le Quien, Oriens christianus in quatuor patriarchatus digestus, in quo exhibentur Ecclesiae patriarchae caeterique praesules totius Orientis, 3 vols. (Paris: Typographia Regia, 1740), 3:743; Peter Graham, A Topographical Dictionary of Palestine, or the Holy Land (London, U.K.: J. Davey, 1836), 242. For a proposed solution that 
that the diocese of Sodom was later annexed by Zoar, see Graves, The Location of Sodom 2018, pp. 41-45. 

Jan 11, 2020

Livias discovery (Tall el-Hammam) and Excavation videos

Tall el-Hammam with inset of Livia (upper left arrow Roman
 area and hot spring, middle lower arrow another hot spring)
Spouted Roman jar 2014
A video from Livias that was recorded a few years ago (before my beard ;-) in January 2011 that interviews Dr. Scott Stripling and myself (field supervisors of the Roman area) on the discovery of our Roman bath complex (35X40 m.) and Roman aqueduct. We excavated the Roman bath complex from 2007-2014 (Seasons 3-10). Dr. Scott Stripling is featured in the first video, but was excavating in Israel (Khirbet el-Maqatir & Shiloh) and not with us from 2012-2014.

Roman pottery hoard

Dr. Graves clarifying a ceramic jar
Livias was the leading city in the region (τοπαρχίαις toparchiais) of Perea (Transjordan; Josephus B.J. 2.252), on the road linking Esbus (Hesban) with Jericho and Jerusalem (Eusebius On. 12). The prominence of Livias is illustrated by Eusebius who frequently used it as a referent for his geography (On. 12; 16; 44, 48; 168). Herod Antipas, who beheaded John the Baptist, resided here while he was also busy building Tiberias as his Galilean capital (Josephus A.J. 18.36), having already built a wall around Sepphoris (Josephus A.J. 18.27).  Here are two videos where I describe our work from 2011.

One correction in the first video from the narration where I say Justin the Iberian and it should be Peter the Iberian. Also, the date of the earthquake is January 18, 749 which destroyed many of the cities in the Jordan Valley including Tiberias, Beit She'an, Hippos and Pella. Livias was also destroyed at this time and indications are that it was not rebuilt. 

Links to some of the discoveries (2007-2014)


[1] While Herod Antipas was rebuilding Livias in Perea, he was busy building Tiberias as his Galilean capital (Josephus A.J.  18.36), having already built a wall around Sepphoris (Josephus A.J.18.27).


  • Graves, David E. and D. Scott Stripling. “Locating Tall El-Hammam on the Madaba Map.Biblical Research Bulletin 7, no. 6 (2007): 1–11.
  • Collins, Steven, Khalil Hamdan, Gary A. Byers and David E. Graves. “The Tall El-Hammam Excavation Project Season Activity Report: Season Four: 2009 Excavation, Exploration, & Survey.” Biblical Research Bulletin 9, no. 1 (2009): 1–30.
  • Graves, David E. , “Re-Examination of the Location for the Ancient City of Livias,” Levant 43, no. 2 (2011): 178–200.
  • ———. “Identification of Tall El-Hammam on the Madaba Map.” Bible and Spade 20, no. 2 (2007): 35–45. See Madaba Map article
  • ———. “Is Tall El-Hammam on the Madaba Map?” In Near East Archaeological Society, 1–20. San Diego: Near East Archaeological Society, 2007.
  • Graves, David E. “Livias (Tall el-Ḥammâm),”  in The Archaeology of the New Testament: 75 Discoveries That Support the Reliability of the Bible (Moncton, NB: Electronic Christian Media, 2019), 80-81. 
  • Graves, David E. “Livias,” in  Cities of the New Testament World: An Historical Geography of the Bible in the Steps of Jesus and the Apostles (Moncton, NB: Electronic Christian Media, forthcoming), 215-234.
  • Collins, Steven, Carroll M. Kobs, and Michael C. Luddeni. An Introduction to Tall Al-Hammam with Seven Seasons (2005–2011) of Ceramics and Eight Seasons (2005–2012) of Artifacts. Vol. 1. (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2015). Some samples of the Roman pottery from 2007-2012 are published here: Roman Glass, pp. 334-335; Byzantine oil lamps (special obj. 437, 578; “Eulogea oil lamp with Greek inscription “Jesus light shines for all” AD 500), p. 342; Tessara (obj. 314, 423, 338, 430, 449), p. 342; A total of nine Roman/Byzantine coins (obj. surface finds 349, 353, 411, 425, 248, in-situ; Late Roman coins obj. 413, 438, 439, 464), p. 321.
  • Collins, Steven, Khaled Hamdan, & Gary A. Byers. “Tall el-Hammam: Preliminary Report on Four Seasons of Excavation (2006–2009).” Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan (ADAJ) 53 (2009): 385–414.
  • Collins, Steven, Aljarrah Hussein, Gary A. Byers, Carroll M. Kobs, John Leslie, Adeib abu-Shmais, Jehad Haroun, et al. “Tall Al-Hammam Season Six, 2011: Excavation, Survey, Interpretations and Insights.” Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan (ADAJ) 55 (2011): 581–607.

Dec 20, 2019

More on Myrrh

At Christmas we are reminded again that the Magi brought three gifts, gold, frankincense and Myrrh (Matt 2:11). The number of Magi are not mentioned in the Bible, but we assume from the three gifts that there were three. To many westerners, these gifts seem strange, but for those in the Ancient Near East it was a standard gift to honor a deity or king: gold as a precious metal, frankincense as perfume or incense, and myrrh as anointing oil.
     These same three items were apparently among the gifts, recorded in ancient inscriptions found by William Sherrard (English Consul to Smyrna) on the spot between 1709-1716, that King Seleucus II Callinicus offered to the god Apollo at the temple in Miletus in 242 BC (Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.16,3).[A.]
McGrath also points out that:
yet early Christian writers regarded these gifts as more than honorific. Each one disclosed something of the true significance of Jesus of Nazareth. Gold was appropriate for a king, expressing his authority; frankincense was appropriate for a priest, who would make sacrifice in the temple' and myrrh was a sign of his forthcoming death, in that he would be wrapped in clothes soaked in oil [B.] (i.e. theologians call these "the threefold office of Christ").
Commentary of the Seven Churches
Here is a short bit from my Commentary on the Seven Churches which was research I had done for my PhD dissertation. [C.]

The Name of Smyrna The origin and meaning of the name Smyrna (Rev 2:8a);is concealed by ancient mythology and legends. There is also debate over the linguistic connection between Smyrna the city and myrrh מור, mōr; LXX σμύρναsmurna) the spice.1 Harris identifies Smyrna and Myra (Acts 27:5) with the spice2 arguing that “the existence of a trade in spices and frankincense and myrrh between S. Arabia and the Mediterranean”3 led to the naming of Smyrna, Myra and Adramyttion (Άδραμύττιον)4 after “the products which were the stock-in-trade of the first settlers”5 during the pre-Hellenic era.6 This becomes a plausible theory given that western Asia Minor does not produce myrrh on its own and the common practice of colonists identifying the name of a place with either a product or import from their homeland.7 

Myrrh resin

      The ancient Semitic root for “myrrh” is מור (mōr; LXX σμύρναsmurna),8 used 21 times in the OT denoting a sacred oil and perfume extracted from the gum in the bark of the Balsamodendrum Myrrh tree or shrub found in Somaliland, Arabia and Ethiopia.9 The Hebrew word for myrrh (מור, mōr) is derived from the Hebrew root mrr meaning “to be bitter”.10 The physical taste is bitter, hence the term “bitter” (mōr) arose for its name.11

The city later developed the name Smyrna12 from its trading connections with myrrh. The term myrrh is used three times in the NT, excluding the name of the city.13 It was one of the expensive gifts brought to the infant Christ by the Magi (Matt 2:11, LXX σμύρναsmurna). Again, at the close of Christ’s ministry, myrrh was mixed with wine (σμυρνίζωsmurnidzō) to hide the bitter taste of the wine (Mark 15:23).14 Myrrh’s antiseptic properties were also used in embalming the body of Christ (John 19:39, σμύρνηςsmurnēs).[D] The use of myrrh (σμύρναsmurna) in the NT was connected with the humiliation and suffering of Christ, and is consistent with the theme of martyrdom. Hemer concludes that the symbolism of myrrh points to the suffering and death of Christ. He states: “as it has been used in death and burial, in the expectation of an after-life, so Christ himself had died and lived again. The themes of suffering, death and resurrection pervade every verse of our letter”.15 The name of Smyrna is, therefore, indeed appropriate for a city which would come to know significant suffering (2:10).


A. Often repeated without footnotes. Chisbull, Asiatic Antiquities, (New Delhi: Cosmo, 1720), 67;  Pierre-Henri Larcher, Notes on Herodotus: Historical and Critical Remarks on the Nine Books of the History of Herodotus, with a Chronological Table (Whittaker, 1844), 109; Alister E. McGrath, Christianity: An Introduction (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2015), 101.
B.  McGrath, Christianity: An Introduction, 101-102.
C. David E. Graves, Jesus Speaks to Seven of His Churches: A Commentary on the Messages to the Seven Churches in Revelation (Toronto, Ont.: Electronic Christian Media, 2017), 151-152.
D. Robin Ngo "Frankincense and Other Resins Were Used in Roman Burials Across Britain,BAR Archaeology news, December 05, 2014

1 Strabo indicates that part or all of Ephesus was also called Smyrna, which could lead to further confusion (Geogr.
2 J. Rendel Harris, “The Early Colonists of the Mediterranean,” BJRL 10, no. 2 (1926): 330, 340.
3 Ibid., 340.
4 Hazarmaveth (Hebrew, “village of death”), son of Shemite Joktan, (Gen 10:26).
5 Harris, “Early Colonists,” 330.
6 Cecil J. Cadoux, Ancient Smyrna: A History of the City from the Earliest Times to 224 A.D. (Oxford, U.K.: Basil Blackwell, 1938), 31 n.2. However, Cadoux states, if there is a connection between the substance of myrrh and the city, it “remains an unsolved mystery.”
7 Many cities are given names from a connection with their past i.e., New England, New South Wales, Philippi, etc. J. Rendel Harris, “The Early Colonists of the Mediterranean,” BJRL 10, no. 2 (1926): 330.
8 J. Hausmann, “mōr, Myrrh,” TDOT, 8: 557–60.
9 Exod 30:23; Ruth 1:13; 1 Sam 15:32; 22:2; Pss 45:9; 64:4; Prov 7:17; 27:7; Eccl 7:26; Cant. 4:14; Isa 5:20; 33:7; 38:15, 17; Jer 4:18; Lam 1:4; Ezek 3:14; 27:31; Amos 8:10; Zeph 1:14; Gus W. van Beek, “Frankincense and Myrrh in Ancient South Arabia,” JAOS 78, no. 3 (1958): 141–52; “Frankincense and Myrrh in Ancient South Arabia,” BA 23 (1960): 70–95; Nigel Groom, Frankincense & Myrrh: A Study of the Arabian Incense Trade (London, U.K.: Longman, 1981); Philip J. King and Lawrence E. Stager, Life in Biblical Israel (Louisville, KY: Westminster/Knox, 2001), 347–48. Pliny describes several different kinds of myrrh, each identified by the region of origin: “Minaean in Main, Astramitic in Hadhramaut, Gebbanitic in Qataban, Ausaritic in Ausan, Sambracene in southern Tihama and two other types from unidentified location” (Nat. 12:35.69).
10 The Hebrew term marar is used 19 times in the OT (BDB, 600; Wilhelm Michaelis, “Σμύρνα,” ed. Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, TDNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), 7:457.
11 Ibid.
12 The Greek form Smurna is occasionally used on coins and in inscriptions. Georg Petzl, Die Inschriften von Smyrna, vol. 1, AÖAW 23–24 (Bonn: Habelt, 1982), 10.657.
13 Colin J. Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, The Biblical Resource Series (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001). 58–59, 76; Thomas, Rev 1–7, 158; W. A Criswell, Expository Sermons on Revelation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975), 92.
14 Thayer states that: “since the ancients used to infuse myrrh into wine in order to give it a more agreeable fragrance and flavor, we must in this matter accept Matthew’s account (Matt 27:34, viz. ‘mingled with gall’) as by far the more probable.” Joseph Henry Thayer, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Complete and Unabridged (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1889), §4669.
15 Hemer, Letters to the Seven Churches, 59.

Dec 18, 2019

Ancient Fish Sauce (Garum) production site excavated in Ashkelon

Canaanite fortification and gate of
© 2017 David E. Graves

In my book on Archaeology of the New Testament I mention that "The products brought to Masada under the name of King Herod included luxury items such as apples, specialty Italian wines, and a select fish sauce identified as garum.[1]"[2]

A small factory for the production of garum, an odorous fermented fish sauce, has recently been reported discovered near (2 miles) Ashkelon. It was located outside the city due to the smell.[3] Laden reports:
This is one of very few such finds in the eastern Mediterranean. It serves to confirm that the ancient Jewish diet was strongly influenced by the diet of the Romans who conquered them.[4]
 Whether influenced by the Roman it was clear that ancient people enjoyed their fish sauce (garum Pliny Natural History 31.44). Here is a recipe.

The debate is over whether there was a kosher garum used by the Jews and different for the Romans. However, it was found throughout the Mediterranean. [5]


[1] Hannah Cotton, Omri Lernau and Yuval Goren, “Fish Sauces from Herodian Masada,” Journal of Roman Archaeology 9 (1996), 223-238 [esp. 233); Berdowski, Piotr. “Garum of Herod The Great (Latin-Greek Inscription on the Amphora From Masada).” Analecta Archaeologica Ressoviensia 1 (2006): 239–57. Berdowski, Piotr.“Garum of Herod The Great (Latin-Greek Inscription on the Amphora From Masada),” The Qumran Chronicle 16, no. 3–4 (December 2008): 107–22. See also Jonathan C. Edmondson, , ed. Two Industries in Roman Lusitania: Mining and Garum Production (Oxford: British Archaeological Reports, 1987).
[2] David E. Graves, The Archaeology of the New Testament: 75 Discoveries That Support the Reliability of the Bible (Moncton, NB: ECM, 2019), 63-64.
[3] Jonathan Laden, "Ancient Roman Garum Factory Discovered at Ashkelon: A rare find of a first century fermented fish sauce factory holds clues to the ancient Jewish diet." Biblical Archaeology Society, December 18, 2019.
[4] ibid.
[5] Biblical Archaeology Society Staff "The Garum Debate: Was There a Kosher Roman Delicacy at Pompeii?" BAR January 25, 2012

Dec 17, 2019

Away in a Manger, but Not in a Barn

My friend Dr. Gary Byers** (dug together for over 15 years) has a great article in the new Harvest Handbook of Bible Lands: A Panoramic Survey of the History, Geography, and Culture of the Scriptures. Edited by Joseph M.Holden, and Steven Collins, Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2020.

I have also contributed several articles to this wonderful Handbook.

Away in a Manger, but Not in a Barn

by Gary Byers, PhD
Joseph, a descendant of King David, journeyed to Bethlehem, his ancestral home, with espoused wife Mary to participate in a mandatory census (Luke 2:3). In the ancient Near East, a family’s historic ties to their hometown were of upmost importance. Since he was of the royal line of David, space would have been found for Joseph and family upon arrival in the city. Even in the Roman period, the Davidic connection to Bethlehem was so strong that Bethlehem was still known as the “City of David” (Luke 2:4,11).
Even as Mary was Joseph’s espoused wife and close to giving birth, accommodations for a direct descendant within the Davidic ancestral home was not unreasonable. Furthermore, as Luke noted earlier, Mary had relatives nearby in the “hill country of Judea” (Luke 1:39). With Jesus being born “while they were there” (Luke 2:6), it seems possible that there may have been time for such alternate arrangements.
Although no barn is mentioned in the text, the “manger” (Greek phatna) is prominent (Luke 2:7, 12, 16). Stone-carved and plastered mangers are known on the ground floor of domestic structures in Israel throughout biblical times (1 Samuel 28:24; Judges 11:31). Historians and anthropologists have noted the practice of keeping animals in the house down through history. While flocks were kept in sheepfolds out in the fields (Luke 2:8), valuable or vulnerable animals (oxen, donkeys, sick or pregnant sheep and goats) would be brought into the house’s ground floor domestic stable. Such was the place where infant Jesus would have been laid in a manger.
Luke records, “there was not room for them in the inn” (‘inn’ is Greek kataluma; Luke 2:7). The only other New Testament mention of a kataluma is as the upper chamber “guest room” of a Jerusalem house where the Last Supper was held (Luke 22:11; parallel Mark 14:14). There is no reason why Luke’s use of the term in 22:11 (“guest room”) on the last night of Jesus’ life should be different from his use of the same term in 2:7 (“inn”) on the first night of Jesus’ life. His statement “no room for them in the inn” indicates that the “guest room” of the house where Mary and Joseph were staying was already full. The NIV’s 2011 revision acknowledges this fact, changing “inn” to “guest room” (2:7).
Artist’s impression of a 1st century AD house in Palestine.
Luke knew what a public inn was, using that term in the account of the Good Samaritan at an “inn” (pandocheion; 10:34) with an “innkeeper” (pandocheus; 10:35). His use of kataluma indicates an altogether different kind of space: the “guest room” of a family home. Thus, Luke’s nativity account had no barn (or lean-to!), no statement by an innkeeper, nor even an innkeeper! Instead, at that first Christmas baby Jesus was placed in a manger on the ground floor of a Bethlehem house—surely among family—because the upstairs “guest room” was already full.

Partial reconstruction of an Iron Age four-roomed house from Tall Umayri, Jordan. There are three rooms in the front, with one at the back. Wattle and daub (sticks and twigs) are used to form the roof. A mudbrick floor is placed on top of the roof to form another living area. Photo © David E. Graves 
For more discoveries that highlight the biblical text see The Archaeology of the Old Testament and The Archaeology of the New Testament:
Archaeology of the New Testament

Merry Christmas from us all, 2019

**Dr. Gary Byers serves as a faculty member at Veritas International University (VIU) School of Archaeology. He also serves as the Assistant Director and Senior Archaeologist of the Shiloh Excavations and Assistant Director of the Tall el-Hammam Excavation Project, Jordan (since 2005). He has previously worked at Khirbet el-Maqatir (1995-2014), Khirbet Nisya (1993-1994) and Tel Miqne/Ekron (1984) in Israel. An adjunct professor at Trinity Southwest University (Albuquerque, New Mexico) and Faith Theological Seminary (Baltimore, Maryland), Gary has undergraduate and graduate degrees from Liberty University (Lynchburg, Virginia) and a graduate degree from Baltimore Hebrew University (Baltimore, Maryland).