26th Annual Bible and Archaeology Fest Lectures

Elizabeth Backfish

Greater is the Art of the Ending: Poetic Closure in the Psalms

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow famously said, “Great is the art of the beginning, but greater is the art of the ending.” He might initially have been referring to more existential endings of life and seasons of life, but the same sentiment can arguably be extended to poetry: how poems end is of crucial importance, both for the poem’s meaning, and for how readers are to respond to the poem.

Much study has been done in the field of literary theory and poetics on how poems end, what gives them a sense of “closure” and how that affects the reader. Biblical scholars are also starting to take a closer look at how Hebrew poetry ends, including the variety of closure strategies involved, the methodologies needed to identify those strategies, and how such strategies direct the reader. For example, some endings focus the reader’s attention to the ending itself. Some invite readers to revisit the beginning of the poem in light of the whole. Some bring readers back to a central part of the poem, to emphasize a point or to disambiguate a point. Some poems even refuse to end, but push the reader forward to the next poem or to self-reflection. This lecture will explore various ways that Hebrew poems end by focusing on select examples from the book of Psalms.

Robin Gallaher Branch

Biblical Nicknames

Think of nicknames you may have been called or heard during your lifetime. The Bible likewise has appositives, endearments, and downright slurs peppering its pages.

From Turtledove to Warhorse, Beloved to Fool, Forsaken to Married, nicknames provide a consistent theme throughout scripture. Enlarged by historical insights and enlightened by archaeology finds, nicknames allow us to laugh and weep as we ponder biblical stories and characters.

Join Dr. Robin Gallaher Branch in a fast-paced romp from Genesis to Revelation using nicknames as a guide. She will show how this literary tool of epithets and soubriquets will sweetly deepen your understanding and enjoyment of the Bible, for after all, one of her nicknames is Sweets.

Erika Brown

Panelist (Top Finds in Biblical Archaeology)

Biblical Archaeology and Social Media

Sidnie White Crawford

The Library at the Qumran Caves

The 10 Qumran caves in which inscribed material was found constitute a coherent collection of texts, in other words, a library. What was in the Qumran library, and what can we learn about the nature of the community who lived there through the types of texts they collected, copied, and conserved?

April DeConick

Where Did All the Christians Come From?

Discover what Professor DeConick has learned as she wrote her book, Comparing Christianities: An Introduction to Early Christianity. Come to understand how an expansive number of early Christian movements emerged from a first-century Jewish messianic movement and why there was so much debate over whose God is really God. Her findings will surprise you.

Jennie Ebeling

Bread on God’s Table: Lechem Hapanim (Bread of the Presence) in Context

Lechem Hapanim (“bread of the presence” or “showbread”) was the only food on continual display before YHWH, Israel’s national god, in the Tabernacle and the Jerusalem temple. Each week, priests were commanded to bake twelve loaves of bread and arrange them on a golden table in YHWH’s presence to the right of the entrance to the Holy of Holies, the most sacred part of the temple. While other food and drink brought to the temple as offerings were burned, the priests were compelled to eat the week-old bread every Sabbath before replacing it with fresh loaves. In this presentation, I will contextualize this practice through an examination of feasting scenes in the art of Israel’s neighbors that depict stacks of bread presented on tables before gods, rulers, and others. I will also compare the placement of bread loaves before YHWH to the baking of cakes for the Queen of Heaven and the arranging of a table for Gad described by Jeremiah and Isaiah. Recognizing the importance of bread and other baked goods in ancient Israelite culture helps us understand the motivation and meaning behind the weekly practice of placing twelve fresh loaves of bread before YHWH in His house.

Kristine Garroway

Growing Up in Ancient Israel

Join Dr. Kristine Garroway as she explores what it was like to grow up in Ancient Israel. Drawing from the biblical text and archaeological record, she will present different stages in the life of a child including the parents’ desire for children, issues surrounding barrenness and infertility, dangers in pregnancy and childbirth, naming children, feeding and transporting infants, and dressing and adorning children.

Mark Goodacre

Did the Evangelists Dictate their Gospels to Scribes?

Everyone agrees that the evangelists probably composed their gospels on papyrus scrolls, but the logistics of working with unwieldy book rolls make the process difficult for us to imagine, all the more as there is scant evidence for the use of desks in antiquity. In this talk, Mark Goodacre looks at the widespread ancient evidence for dictation to scribes, and explains how this context helps to explain how the evangelists worked with sources, and how they composed their gospels.

Ralph Hawkins

The Many Temples of Ancient Israel and the Law of Centralization

The conventional wisdom is that the Hebrew Bible prohibited any sites of worship besides the Jerusalem temple, a prohibition that has come to be known as the “law of centralization.” The Bible itself, however, mentions temples at Dan, Shechem, Shiloh, Bethel, and Beersheba, and archaeological remains of temples have been found at several of these sites. In addition, remains of temples have been found at a number of other Israelite sites, as well. In this presentation, we will survey the ever increasing volume of data for the numerous temples in ancient Israel and consider their relationship to the so-called law of centralization.

Jodi Magness

Plenary Speaker

More than Just Mosaics: The Ancient Synagogue at Huqoq in Israel’s Galilee (lecture will not be recorded)

Since 2011, Professor Jodi Magness has been directing excavations in the ancient village of Huqoq in Israel’s Galilee. The excavations have brought to light the remains of a monumental Late Roman (fifth century) synagogue building paved with stunning and unique mosaics, including biblical scenes and the first non-biblical story ever discovered decorating an ancient synagogue. In this slide-illustrated lecture, Professor Magness describes these exciting finds, including the discoveries made in last summer’s season. For more information visit www.huqoq.org.

Albert McClure

Iconoclasm in Yehud: What can the Pentateuch tell us about the Returnees?

In the ancient Near East the destruction of cult materials and cultic sites, called iconoclasm, was common enough and may have begun as early as early as the wars between Umma and Lagash. What does the Hebrew Bible have to say about iconoclasm? Biblical iconoclasm appears in a wide range of biblical texts and is used for various literary purposes. It appears in various genres and is enacted by a host of characters within biblical literature. When we look at iconoclasm in the Hebrew Bible’s legal texts we witness debates about marriage and emigration, for example, how to identify the targets of iconoclasm and legally justify their destruction. Using recent research about the Givati Parking Lot Dig, legal texts that command iconoclasm can be better understood as a debate among Returnees living in Jerusalem about what cultic items had to be destroyed, donated, or could become booty to those who found them.

Chris McKinny

Panelist (Top Finds in Biblical Archaeology)

Armageddon – A Royal Reversal

Armageddon (Rev 16:16) is one of the most well-known place names in the Bible. Despite the widespread usage of the term in popular culture, Armageddon’s historical geographical background has not been adequately explored or understood – in my opinion. In this lecture, we will examine the meaning of Armageddon in light of the literary context of the Book of Revelation and the historical context of the late 1st century CE. Most significantly, we will discuss the usage of Armageddon against the background of the death of King Josiah in the Hebrew Bible and recent archaeological investigations in the Jezreel Valley.

Dennis Mizzi

The Burial of Sealed Jars in the Qumran Cemetery: Disposal of Consecrated Property?

During their renewed excavations at Qumran, Yitzhak Magen and Yuval Peleg opened nine graves from the cemetery adjacent to the built settlement. Instead of human bones, however, two of these contained sealed ceramic jars containing date honey. This phenomenon has puzzled scholars, and the few explanations that have been proffered remain unconvincing. Magen and Peleg suggest that the jars were buried because they had contracted corpse impurity, rendering the vessels and their contents unusable. Jodi Magness follows the same line of reasoning but sees a reflection of sectarian halakha in this practice. Alternatively, Magen and Peleg offer a more mundane interpretation, positing that the jars were buried to keep away pests. In this presentation, I will discuss the difficulties with these interpretations and then, using both archaeological and textual evidence, I will propose a new explanation—namely, that the burial of sealed jars in the Qumran cemetery can be connected with the disposal of consecrated property. If correct, this evidence would shed important light not only on the ritual practices of the Qumran inhabitants but also on their attitudes towards the Jerusalem temple and its priesthood.

R. Steven Notley

Jesus and the Passover: What Can Archaeology Tell Us About the Last Supper?

Much has been written about whether or not “the Last Supper” of Jesus was a Passover meal. To a large extent how one answers this question is dependent upon their reading of the New Testament accounts. The Gospel of John clearly distinguishes between the Last Supper and the beginning of Passover, while according to Luke’s Gospel Jesus tells those gathered with him, “I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you” (Luke 22:15). Our predicament is not unique in the study of history where the historical sources do not always agree. Fortunately, archaeological discoveries in the last century and a careful reappraisal of the language in the accounts can greatly assist us. In this presentation we will find that there is little reason to question that Jesus celebrated a Passover meal with his followers in Jerusalem on the eve of his tragic death.

Steven Ortiz

Searching for Solomon’s City: Recent Excavations at Tel Gezer

This will be an illustrated lecture on the recent excavations and discoveries at Tel Gezer. Tel Gezer has been at the heart of the archaeology of Solomon. Debates concerning the nature of the Israelite Monarchy have become invigorated due to recent archaeological discoveries and proposals. Tel Gezer is located on the border between the Israelites and Philistines. It is strategically located at an important crossroad guarding the pass from the coast up to Jerusalem. The ancient city is mentioned in several Egyptian and Assyrian texts. Gezer is mentioned in the biblical account of Solomon’s fortifications (1 Kings 9:15). It was continuously occupied from the Bronze Age to the Hellenistic Period. Although previous excavations have revealed much of Gezer’s history, there are still many questions left unanswered. A new team has been excavating the site for a decade (2006 to 2017). This lecture will present the latest discoveries at this biblical city: focusing on the transition from a Canaanite City to an administrative center.

Seth Sanders

Barbecuing for the Lord: the Embodied God of the Biblical Priestly Tradition

Did ancient people believe in their Gods? A better question may be, what did they *do* for them, and how did religion affect their lives? In this regard the Priestly tradition of the Pentateuch is vital but controversial: it is the single longest ritual document we have preserved from the ancient Near East, but it takes the form of a literary narrative. But how real was it? Its ritual commands run from Genesis through Numbers and lay out an agenda for an embodied religion, one that nearly excludes human speech and focuses instead on physical action on objects and bodies, up to and including the body of God himself (called his kavod in Hebrew). In this talk I will lay out the main ideas of the Priestly tradition and present overlooked but concrete evidence on precisely what kind of historical reality is involved in Priestly sacrifice.

Katherine Shaner

The (In)Visible City: Foregrounding Enslaved Infrastructures in Ancient Cities and New Testament Texts

Enslaved people are often invisible in the literature and scholarship associated with ancient cities. While their ubiquity is a given, most scholars have insisted on their invisibility. Such invisibility, however, is not only a literary construction, it is a construction of the built environment as well. Using archaeological evidence from first- and second-century CE Ephesos and other cities in Asia minor, this lecture will introduce multiple loci for understanding enslaved life in ancient cities. Inscriptions, elite housing, and imperial reliefs construct ancient (and modern) expectations concerning enslaved invisibility in religious and civic life. These expectations are not unlike those found in Pauline legacy texts (1 Timothy and Titus) and even in portions of the canonical gospels (Luke 17:7–10). Yet it is precisely slaves’ visibility in the archaeological record that “proves” their invisibility. Foregrounding enslaved perspectives reveals both the necessity of enslaved presence for religious practices (including early Christian practices), and the contradictions that an insistence upon enslaved invisibility creates when turning to early Christian texts.

Kerry Sonia

The Changing Landscape of the Dead in Ancient Israel

For a long time, studies of the death and burial in ancient Israel often assumed a stark separation of Yahweh and the dead. Since Yahweh is a god of the living, such studies argue, death is “the ultimate contaminant of all that was particularly sacred to him.” Rituals and spaces associated with the dead, according to this model, are “not the focus of Yahwism and beyond its interest.” However, this talk examines biblical and epigraphic evidence for the shared ritual space between the deity and the dead in the Hebrew Bible and Iron Age tombs in Israel. This notion of shared space is not unique to the Hebrew Bible and ancient Israel but finds analogues in other ancient West Asian cultures as well. This reassessment of the relationship between Yahweh and the dead attests to greater ideological diversity in Israelite religion and gives us a richer understanding of commemorative practices that helped construct and sustain the ancient family and household.

Ben Witherington

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Pisidian Antioch

Why did Paul and Barnabas, instead of going from Perge along the coast back towards Antioch by way of Tarsus etc. instead hiked 120 miles over large mountains to get to Pisidian Antioch. The reason has to do with the governor of Cyprus, Sergius Paulus, and the inscription stone Mark Wilson and I found outside the Yalvac (i.e. Pisidian Antioch) museum that directly mentions Sergius Paulus, who we know from other sources had family connections to Pisidian Antioch. This shows how archaeological evidence can definitely change the way we read and explain certain Biblical texts.