BAR July/August 2012
The “forgery trial of the century” is over, but the defendants’ acquittal doesn’t answer the question of whether or not the “brother of Jesus” inscription on the James Ossuary is genuine. Hershel Shanks explains in “‘Brother of Jesus’ Inscription Is Authentic!” why he believes it is. But is the reference to Jesus of Nazareth or to someone else named Jesus?
Then a detective case in progress. Ancient sources, including the New Testament, tell us of a large Jewish population in Cilicia in southeastern Turkey, but not a single synagogue has been found there—until now. As Mark R. Fairchild reveals in his article “Turkey’s Unexcavated Synagogues,” tantalizing survey finds from two unexcavated sites in Cilicia suggest the presence of two hitherto-unknown early synagogues, including what could be the earliest synagogue ever discovered.
Next up in our series of historical mysteries: “Did Pharaoh Sheshonq Attack Jerusalem?” According to the Bible, Shishak, king of Egypt, marched against Jerusalem during the fifth year of the reign of Rehoboam, Solomon’s son and successor. Shishak, actually Pharaoh Sheshonq I, left his own account of this northern campaign carved into the walls of the Temple of Karnak in Egypt, but he does not mention Jerusalem among the places he conquered. With new insights, Israeli scholar Yigal Levin examines the historical veracity of both the Biblical account and that of the Egyptian monarch.
Sometimes the Biblical text helps illuminate artifacts, but other times ancient objects shed light on the Bible, as is the case here. What do ancient alphabetic inscriptions called abecedaries reveal about the date of some of the Psalms? Could something as simple as the order of letters of the Hebrew alphabet be key to dating these Psalms? Read “Can Archaeology Help Date the Psalms?” by Mitchell First to see why the answer is “yes.”
Keep reading and learning in our columns. First Person includes a thoughtful discussion of four different kinds of “past,” while Ron Hendel defends the usefulness of critical Biblical scholarship in Biblical Views. Davida Eisenberg-Degen explores “the archaeology of scribbles” in Archaeological Views and explains how rock art can give us direct access to the ancient mind.
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