Oct 8, 2018

The Private Life of the Romans: Updated and Revised Edition

After about one year of editing and working on this work it is finally completed. New modern easy-to-read layout, over 250 photos, maps, and charts. 291 pages in full color or black and white paperback. Includes a table of images and full index.
      Harold Whetstone Johnston was a gifted teacher, noted classical historian, and professor of Latin who first published this work in 1903. It quickly became one of the most widely read works on the life of the Romans. The original work was written for college students and amateurs interested in the private life of the later Republic and early Roman Empire. It was one of the only books of its kind used by students reading Roman literature from Cicero (106–43 BC) to the close of Hadrian’s reign (138 AD). The original bibliography only contained secondary sources, but Johnston did not list primary sources as he assumed that his intended audience would not have the original languages.
     This newly revised edition is based on the 1909 text with the language updated for the modern reader. This edition has included a completely new typeface and page layout and design that makes it easier to read. The content of some of the chapters was reorganized to better structure the material. Numerous illustrations, and over 250 contemporary photographs were added to replace many of the older illustrations and provide the most recent archaeological research. An updated bibliography and index of subjects are also provided to assist the user in accessing the material. Johnston had originally numbered his paragraphs to locate material throughout the book, but this numbering system was replaced with a more traditional updated footnote format.
     It is the hope of this editor that this present work will continue to assist high school and college students, or others who want to know more about the realities of life in ancient Rome.

7X10 paperback format, 291 pages. Available in:
Black and white paperback (ISBN: 978-1726864916) from Amazon; AbeBooks; Alibris; Blackwell; and Book Depository.
Full color paperback (ISBN: 978-1727139952) from Amazon; AbeBooks; Alibris; and Book Depository.

May 24, 2018

Earliest Fragment of the Gospel of Mark

P.Oxy LXXXIII 5345
Public Domain

During a debate in 2012 between professor of New Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary, Daniel B. Wallace, and agnostic Bart D. Ehrman, Wallace announced the discovery of an early fragment of the Gospel of Mark.[1] The small fragment (4.4 x 4 cm) from the foot of a well-preserved papyrus codex leaf has been published as Oxyrhynchus Papyrus LXXXIII 5345[2] and contains Mark 1:7–9, 16–18. 
 7 And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. 9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. . . 16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him.” (ESV)
Although originally believed to date to the first century, a second/third cent. date, recorded in the publication Parsons and Gonis, eds., The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, vol. 83 and is confirmed by the Oxford papyrologist Dirk Obbink who published the fragments, has been ascribed to the fragment.[3]

Of interest is that in Mark 1:17 instead of αυτοις ο Ιησους (autois ho Iēsous, “to them Jesus”) the papyrus does not have ο Ιησους (case of ho Iēsous, “Jesus”). This may be a case of nomen sacrum which is a “sacred name” that is abbreviated, in this case ΙΥ with a supralinear bar over it.[4] This may help in the dating as these nomina sacra are all found in Greek manuscripts of the 3rd cent. AD. However it is more likely that this is a case of parablepsy where a scribe is distracted and his eye omits the text.

Note that the two fragments are an example of opistrograph and actually one piece, but written on both sides, front (recto) and back (verso). The recto and verso are displayed together side by side for illustration purposes.

This discovery further supports an early date for the writing of the Gospel of Mark. This would be older than Papyrus 45 (housed in the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin), which is dated to the first half of the third century and considered the oldest NT manuscript to date. It contains the texts of Matthew 20-21 and 25-26; Mark 4-9 and 11-12; Luke 6-7 and 9-14; John 4-5 and 10-11; and Acts 4-17.

The fragment was excavated by Grenfell and Hunt (ca. 1903 based on its inventory number (# 101/14(b)) and is now held in the collection of the Egypt Exploration Society. They provide further details of the history of the Mark fragments.

[1] Candida R. Moss and Joel S. Baden, “Why Did the Museum of the Bible’s Scholars Destroy AncientEgyptian Artifacts?,” The Christian Century, November 29, 2017, .
[2] Peter John Parsons and N. Gonis, eds., The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, vol. 83, Graeco-Roman Memoirs (London, UK: Egypt Exploration Society, 2018), 5345.
[3] https://www.classics.ox.ac.uk/publications-2017.
[4] For a recent discussion of nomen sacrum, see Larry Hurtado, Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006], 95–134.

For more on other similar biblical fragments recently released see LINK.

updated June 11, 2018

Jul 17, 2017

The Times of Israel on the Shiloh Excavation

From L-R Dr. David Graves, Dr. Phil Silva, Greg Gulbrandsen
Dr. Leen Ritmeyer in front.
This is square AG28 that was part of the 5.5 MB city wall.
I was the square supervisor of this square for 4 weeks.
We reached bedrock on the outside of the wall.

Here is the link to the Times of Israel article on our excavation this season at Shiloh. They interviewed some of our folk but did not get much information from the square supervisors. They try and maintain a balanced view by interviewing Israel Finkelstein as well.

Several things stood out for me from the article. Finkelstein stated “I strongly believe that one needs to conduct archaeological research in the best of methods and carry out biblical exegesis in the best of methods. There is no need to start from a perspective of either confirming or dismissing the historicity of a given biblical text,” Finkelstein told The Times of Israel.

The problem with such a statement is there is no neutrality. Everyone has preconceived notions even Finkelstein. Finkelstein outright dismisses the historicity of the biblical text. The Times of Israel describe him as on the forefront of the “radical” evidence-based revision of the history of Israel in the 10th and 9th centuries BCE (versus the biblical narrative), and Finkelstein himself states “The story of the ark is fascinating; but it can teach us mainly about the world of the authors who lived centuries after the destruction of Iron I Shiloh.” As The Time of Israel accurately point out "Finkelstein tends to see the Hebrew Bible as the nationalist mythology of a people attempting to centralize its power and faith." So even Finkelstein does not practice his own methods and begins his archaeology by dismissing the historicity of the text from the start.

Secondly, he states “In a site like this – to differ, e.g., from the desert fringe – one can expect to find built remains. In my own excavation, the only finds from the Late Bronze Age came from a pit which included what seemed to be cultic refuse,” said Finkelstein.

In my square this season we had Late Bronze Age I and II pottery and if I'm not mistaken so did all the other squares. One cannot determine their conclusions from what is not found. He just didn't dig long enough to find it.

Lastly, I want to put is on the record once more that personally I am not trying to prove the Bible. It does not need me to vouch for its authenticity. It does not need proving. What archaeology does is help us to better understand the text and culture of the Bible. One might read the header to my blog one more time to get my meaning.

Finkelstein has just announced that he will now be excavating Kiryat Ye’arim, the other location for the Ark of the Covenant for 20 years prior to being moved to Shiloh. Link

There will be more on the Ark of the Covenant in the years to come from two excavations in Israel, one excavated by those who take the Bible as historically true and one who does not. Stay tuned.

Jul 12, 2017

Preservation of Shiloh walls 2017

In June of this year (2017) I had the privilege of working at the Shiloh Excavations with over 100 volunteers. The project lasted 5 weeks with the last week designated for preservation of some of the wall excavated earlier in the month. It was great working with Dr. Leen Ritmeyer, Dr. Phil Silva and Greg Gulbrandsen on the preservation in the final week while everyone else toured Israel. The process was assisted by a mortar gun (see below) that I spotted at the local hardware store. To my knowledge this type of a gun has never been used in this application before and knew it would be a great help from my previous use of calking guns for painting and construction work. It exceeded our expectations once we got the right consistency of the mortar mixture down. Leen dig a great job in mixing the perfect consistency and it went into the small cracks and crevices like a charm. Leen has posted a great overview with pictures at his website ritmeyer.com.

Mortar gun used to fill between the loose stones.

Jun 26, 2017

King Herod’s Ritual Bath at Machaerus

BAR has just published an article about King Herod’s Ritual Bath at Machaerus.

Not far from Machaerus, in 2011, a similar Ritual Bath was excavated at Tall el-Hammam believed to be the ancient site of Livias (captial of Perea) where Herod Anitpas lived. While the structure dated to the Byzantine period it was built over a previous bath that dated to the first century AD.

See the article and image at LINK

See also the article Graves, David E., and D. Scott Stripling. “Re-Examination of the Location for the Ancient City of Livias.” Levant 43, no. 2 (2011): 178–200.

Feb 17, 2017

How to break into a Wax Seal

In light of the reports of many forgeries in the antiquities world I came upon this description of how ancient people read wax sealed documents without detection from the recipients. I found this fascinating.

The description is given by Lucian of Samosata (Λουκιανὸς ὁ Σαμοσατεύς, Latin: Lucianus Samosatensis) who lived ca. AD 125–180.
"Listen, therefore, in order to be able to show up such impostors. 
The first, my dear Celsus, was a well-known method; heating a needle, he removed the seal by melting through the wax underneath it, and after reading the contents he warmed the wax once more with the needle, both that which was under the thread and that which contained the seal, and so stuck it together without difficulty. 
Another method was by using what they call plaster; this is a compound of Bruttian pitch, asphalt, pulverized gypsum, wax, and gum Arabic. Making his plaster out of all these materials and warming it over the fire, he applied it to the seal, which he had previously wetted with saliva, and took a mould of the impression. Then, since the plaster hardened at once, after easily opening and reading the scrolls, he applied the wax and made an impression upon it precisely like the original, just as one would with a gem.
Let me tell you a third method, in addition to these. Putting marble-dust into the glue with which they glue books and making a paste of it, he applied that to the seal while it was still soft, and then, as it grows hard at once, more solid than horn or even iron, he removed it and used it for the impression. There are many other devices to this end, but they need not all be mentioned, for fear that we might seem to be wanting in taste." (Lucian Alexander the False Prophet, 2122.)1
1. Lucian of Samosata, Anacharsis or Athletics. Menippus or The Descent into Hades. On Funerals. A Professor of Public Speaking. Alexander the False Prophet. Essays in Portraiture. Essays in Portraiture Defended. The Goddesse of Surrye, trans. A. M. Harmon, vol. 4, 8 vols., LCL 162 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1925),  234235.

Feb 8, 2017

The twelfth Dead Sea Scroll cave is confirmed and I was there.

Cave 53 (now Q12) identifying the artifacts
as they are removed from the cave in buckets and
transferred to cardboard boxes for processing.

In January of this year (Dec 28, 2016-January 25, 2017), I had the privilege of working on the excavation of the newly announced Dead Sea Scroll cave number 12 (See news links below) with my colleague Dr. Randall Price of Liberty University, USA and Dr. Oren Gutfeld and his assistant Ahiad Ovadia of Hebrew University Institute of Archaeology, Israel. Several Liberty university students and volunteers also worked with us. My role was registrar of finds and it involved the proper recording and processing of all artifacts that were discovered in the cave (some 400), so I was able to see the artifacts firsthand and can verify the accuracy of those finds mentioned in the article published by Hebrew University. I was assisted by Eva Palmer of Liberty University and Dr. Lemar Cooper of Criswell College.

Cave 53, located west of the Qumran plateau, was supported by the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria (KMAT), by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, and the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), and is a part of the new “Operation Scroll” launched at the IAA by its Director-General, Mr. Israel Hasson, to undertake systematic surveys and to excavate the caves in the Judean Desert. This present cave is now the 12th Dead Sea Scroll Cave to be identified and will be designated Q12. For a report on Operation Scroll that was launched in 1993, see Neil Asher Silberman, “Operation Scroll,” Archaeology 47/2 (1994): 27–28; Neil Asher Silberman, “Operation Scroll,” in K. D. Vitelli (ed.), Archaeological Ethics (London: Altamira Press, 1996): 132–35.

Cave 53 is now the12th Dead Sea Scroll Cave to be identified and will be designated Q12. The letter Q refers to a Qumran cave standing in front of the number to indicate that this is now an official number for Qumran documents. Normally Qumran caves are designated with the number of the cave in front of the Q as in 1QIsa for the scroll of Isaiah found in Qumran cave 1 or 4Q175 (4QTest) for the Testimonia scroll from Qumran cave 4. However, as Gutfeld explains
“Like Cave 8, in which scroll jars but no scrolls were found, this cave will receive the designation Q12 (the Q=Qumran standing in front of the number to indicate no scrolls were found).” Press Release
Some may object that because no scrolls were found it should not be considered a Qumran cave. See BAR article. However, as Belis stated in 2016 “It is axiomatic that if linen was found in a cave, then this cave must also have contained scrolls.” Mireille Belis, “The Unpublished Textiles from the Qumran Caves,” The Caves of Qumran. Edited by Marcello Fidanzio (Brill 2016): 136. (I am indebted to Randall Price for this quote).

Some of the linen cloth collected by our team
from Cave 12 in 2017.
Courtesy of Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld.
Quite a number of pieces of the linen that covered the scrolls, as well as leather ties were discovered in-situ. In addition, Qumran style jars were discovered in-situ, similar to the pattern of the other manuscript caves, identifying this cave a Qumran Scroll cave.

The cave was originally excavated in 1993 and reported in a 2002 journal article by Cohen and Yisraeli. Although the article is in Hebrew, the English summary on page 207 of the article states:
“Two caves and a rock shelter were discovered south of Nahal Qumran. . . The entrance to Cave XII/53 spans the entire width of the cavity (Fig. 4); two pillars for supporting the ceiling and a thin wall (Plan 3 [The layout of the cave is provided on page 209]) were built inside the cave. Four strata were discernible in the excavation, but the finds were mixed in part of the area. Stratum I dates to the Early Islamic period; Stratum 2 to the Early Roman period based on the pottery vessels uncovered in it (Fig. 5:2-5); Stratum 3 to the Pottery Neolithic period (Fig. 6:2, 3, 5-1 O); and Stratum 4, in which Byblos arrowheads were found (Fig. 7: I, 2), to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period.” Cohen, Rudolf, and Yigal Yisraeli. “The Excavations of Rock Shelter XII/50 and in Caves XII/52-53.” Atiqot 41, no. 2 (2002): 207–13.
It is worth noting that the photograph on page 207 of the 2002 article by Cohen and Yisraeli miss-identified the cave as number 50, but it is actually cave 53. Drawings of the pottery and flint blades were provided on pages 209 and 211.
All our artifacts were identified with Cave 53 for processing (see the cardboard box in the top photograph).
Dust from our two sifting stations.
All the dirt from the cave was sifted
to find the smallest find.

Initially no connection with the Dead Sea Scrolls was made from the excavation in 2002, however in 2006 Dr. Randall Price identified Cave 53 as a good potential for containing Dead Sea Scrolls. The initial read of the stratigraphy of the cave in 2002 has been confirmed by our recent systematic and thorough excavation of Cave 53, with a number of additional finds (over 400) including Qumran pottery and a small leather scroll piece (7 cm). We can now say without question that the cave did once contain some of the famous Dead Sea Scrolls.

Unfortunately, the cave had been looted probably by local Bedouin in the past looking for valuable scrolls. We did have one of the relatives of the Bedouin family, who first discovered the caves, working with us Joseph Ta’amarah. What an amazing eye he had for finds. Gutfeld reported “The jars were all broken and their contents removed, and the discovery towards the end of the excavation of a pair of iron pickaxe heads from the 1950s (stored within the tunnel for later use) proves the cave was looted.” Press Release

The new designation of Q12 is due to the fact the we have now confirmed the presence of Dead Sea Scrolls in cave 53, even though as Dr. Gutfeld stated no scrolls were actually found. Gutfeld reported
“Although at the end of the day no scroll was found, and instead we ‘only’ found a piece of parchment rolled up in a jug that was being processed for writing, the findings indicate beyond any doubt that the cave contained scrolls that were stolen. The findings include the jars in which the scrolls and their covering were hidden, a leather strap for binding the scroll, a cloth that wrapped the scrolls, tendons and pieces of skin connecting fragments, and more. . . The finding of pottery and of numerous flint blades, arrowheads, and a decorated stamp seal made of carnelian, a semi-precious stone, also revealed that this cave was used in the Chalcolithic and the Neolithic periods.” Press Release
 In addition
"Among the organic findings were dozens and dozens of olive pits, dates, various kinds of nuts, some whole nuts, which were left unshelled nuts, several thin ropes, bits of woven baskets, and a few pieces of fabric. The interior of the cave was covered by a wicker bed of palm and thin brush branches, which were used by the dwellers of the cave as a kind of mat. Once the first stratum was removed, findings from the Chalcolithic period were uncovered (5th century BC), as well as the Cermaic Neolithic and the pre-Neolithic period (8th-9th centuries BC)—mainly pottery and flint tools, including arrow heads, various blades and an complete seal made of red Carnelian stone." IAA reporting to YNet News
This is an accurate picture of the various finds among the organic material that we registered.
The rolled-up piece of leather was carefully collected and transported to an archaeological conservation laboratory at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. From there, the scroll was transported to another conservation laboratory under the auspices of the Israel Antiquities Authority. Tests have revealed that the scroll was empty and was most likely in the process of being prepared to be written on. IAA reporting to YNet News

If the piece of leather scroll (orphan) can be linked to one of the scrolls in existence then the designation would likely change to 12Q1 for the parent scroll. There are still more tests and research to be done on the many finds that have come out of cave 53 (aka Q12).

Map showing the location of the cave in
conjunction with the other 11 caves. Locations are
based on those published by the IAA and Google Earth.
Note that Cave 12 is closer to Qumran than Caves 1, 2, and 11.
The Dead Sea Scrolls were originally discovered in 1946 and 1947, with numerous fragments surfacing on the black market since. There are some 930 documents represented in the total Dead Sea Scroll collection, with approximately 15,000 fragments representing 600 documents from Cave 4 alone. Here is a summary of the story of the Dead Sea Scroll discovery. Also, an accessible pamphlet on The Dead Sea Scrolls by Dr. Randall Price is available from Rose Publishing, 2005.
According to Evans,
“Price thinks there may even be a thirteenth cave near the Qumran ruins. Unlike the newly discovered Cave 12, the mouth of the suspected thirteenth cave is concealed — which means there is a chance that it has not been looted. If that is the case, more texts could be discovered. If that happens, who knows what new things we might learn?” Craig Evans

It was a great privilege to be part of this historic event and to help identify the first Dead Sea Scroll Cave in over 60 years to bring the total Dead Sea Scroll caves to twelve. And stay tune there could be more caves to come in the future.

Dr. Randall Price, Scott Stripling (visiting) and myself.
The Qumran plateau is visible behind us.

Photos for download: (Credit for all photos below to Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld):
-Archaeologists Oren Gutfeld & Ahiad Ovadia survey cave http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu170208_orenahiad.JPG
-Archaeologist Ahiad Ovadia digs carefully in cave http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu170208_ahiaddigs.jpg
-Ziad Abu Ganem and student filter material from cave http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu170208_ziad.jpg
-Fault cliff and cave entrance on the left http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu170208_caveentrance.JPG
-Fragments of jars that contained stolen scrolls http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu170208_jarfragments.JPG
-Remnant of scroll when removed from jar http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu170208_remnantremoved.jpg
-Neolithic flint tools found in cave http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu170208_tools.jpg
-Cloth that was used for wrapping the scrolls http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu170208_fabric.jpg
-Seal made of carnelian stone found in cave http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu170208_seal.jpg
-Filtering materials from the cave http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu170208_sorting.jpg

The one fact that none of the news reports mention is that a lone Canadian was involved. :-)

 News Articles based on the original press release by Hebrew University.