Category Archives: Places in Israel

2,800 year old Wall Collapsed — Tel Dan

Dan is the name of a town mentioned 27 times in the Old Testament. It was located on the northern boundary of Israel and appears in the well–known phrase “from Dan to Beersheba.” It is located near one of the powerful springs that feed the Jordan River.

The collapse of the Iron Age Wall (think divided monarchy/Northern Kingdom) is visible on the right. See below for prior to the collapse.

In December of 2016 it was reported that an ancient wall had collapsed at Dan due to heavy rains in the area.  We visited Tel Dan in January 2017 and I took the above picture of the damage—sigh!  See the following picture for the wall prior to its collapse.

Iron Age Gate and Wall — prior to collapse (right side of image).

There were confused reports as to where this wall was.  In fact, it was east of the famous Iron Age (1000–586 B.C.) gate in the center of the image above—not the early Middle Bronze II gate that is located on the east side of the tel, not on the south side of the mound (MB II Gate dates to ca. 1750 B.C.—see below).

View looking west at the outside of the Middle Bronze II city gate (ca. 1750 B.C.). It dates to the time of — or shortly after — Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. — No collapse here!

For 23 images of Dan Check This Out.


The Arabic name of this large 50 acre [20 ha.] site is Tell el-Qadi. Avraham Biran excavated here since 1966.

Another Son of God? Pilate’s Tiberieum at Caesarea Maritima

Pontius Pilate was the Prefect of Judea that condemned Jesus to death (Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 18 and 19). He is mentioned 61 times in the New Testament.  He governed Judea from A.D. 26 to 36.

The Pontius Pilate Inscription from Caesarea Maritima—now in the Israel Museum.

Pilate was facing at least two major problems when Jesus appeared before him to be tried.  The first was that he needed to deal with any potential rebellion against Rome—what else would a “king of the Jews” do?

A second problem was how seriously should Pilate take the accusation that

John 19:7-8  . . .  he [Jesus] must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”  When Pilate heard this, he [Pilate] was even more afraid,

Why was Pilate “more afraid” when he heard this charge?  Well, the dead “ascended” Augustus was worshiped throughout the Roman Empire as a deity.  By the time that Jesus began his public ministry there were Imperial Cult Temples (namely those at Caesarea Maritima, Sebastia, and the one near Caesarea Philippi [= Omrit])  that had been in existence for over 40 years!

And in addition, Augustus’ son, and now Emperor(!), Tiberius, was worshiped as the “son of god” (that is, the son of the deified Augustus)!  In this regard it is not often remembered that it was Pilate who built a temple for the worship of Tiberius as the “son of god” at Caesarea Maritima!  How could there be a “son of God” to compete with the Imperial “son of god?”  In addition Pilate was confronted with the potential accusation of the local leadership: “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar” (John 19:12).  Pilate had a “lot on his plate!”

In light of this, I invite you to check out the following description and discussion of the “Pilate Inscription” from Caesarea Maritima.


In 1961 by an Italian expedition that was excavating the theater at Caesarea Maritima discovered a Latin inscription that actually mentions him.

The “Pilate” Inscription from Caesarea Maritima

When people comment on this inscription they usually emphasize that now there is actual archaeological evidence for Pilate’s activity in Judea and that his title was “Prefect.”  This is fine,  BUT what about the word “Tiberieum” in the first line?  To what does “Tiberieum” refer?

This stone was used at least three ways.  First, it was probably a dedicatory inscription in a temple called a “Tiberieum.”  Pilate built this temple to honor the Roman Emperor Tiberius (A.D. 14–37)—the current “son of god”!  This was then the second imperial cult temple in Caesarea—the first was the (probably much larger) Imperial Cult Temple that had been built by Herod the Great (37– 4 BC) for the worship of Augustus and deified Roma!

Thus it should be noted that at Caesarea Maritima the imperial cult founded by Herod the Great was still being practiced AND that Pilate as a good governor was also promoting the Imperial Cult—adding a structure for the worship of the ruling Roman emperor, Tiberius (14–37).  All of this going on during the time of Jesus’ public ministry (ca. 26–30)!

Secondly, the stone was taken from the temple and used as part of a well–head—note the half-circle on the right hand side.  Finally, it was used as a step in the fourth century Byzantine theater (where it was discovered).

Four lines of the Latin inscription are visible.

[_ _ _]S TIBERIÉUM
[_ _ PO]NTIUS PILATUS
[PRAEF]ECTUS IUDA[EA]E
[_ _ _ _ _ ] É [_ _ _ _ _ _ _] (Taylor, p. 564)

[. . .] Tiberieum
[. Po]ntius Pilate
[Pref]ect of Judaea
[. . .]e[. . .] (p. 565)

Joan E. Taylor translates the inscription as:   “Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judaea, [made and d]e[dicated] the Tiberieum for the (Augustan) gods” (p. 570).

For a detailed development of this topic please see Joan E. Taylor “Pontius Pilate and the Imperial Cult in Roman Judaea.” New Testament Studies 52 (2006): 555–82—especially pages 564–65.

The Best Rolling Stone Tomb in Israel — Khirbet Midras

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View Looking East at the Entrance to the First Century A.D. Tomb

View looking east at the entrance to the tomb. The rolling stone was 6 ft. [1.8 m.] in diameter and 1.3 ft [0.4 m.] thick. It was placed between two walls, each built of hewn stone. When discovered, it still rolled in its trough!

The tomb itself was in use during the Roman Period — up until A.D. 135.

In my estimation, it was the best example of a rolling stone tomb in the country of Israel. It seems to illustrate well passages from the Gospels which speak of Jesus’ tomb as being closed by a rolling stone. See especially Matthew 27:57-66; 28:1-2; Mark 15:42–47; 16:1–8; Luke 24:1–2, 10–11; and John 20:1, 11–18.

MidrasMap3Horvat Midras (Hebrew) or Khirbet Durusiya (Arabic) is located 19 mi. [30 km.] southwest of Jerusalem in the Shephelah. The ancient remains are spread over hundreds of dunams in the area. The site dates to the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

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View of the Courtyard of the “Rolling Stone Tomb” at Khirbet Midras—prior to its destruction

In 1976 part of the cemetery was excavated. Several tombs were uncovered, including, in my estimation, THE BEST ROLLING STONE TOMB in the country. Unfortunately in the late 1990’s the tomb site was totally destroyed by vandals!#%$@!!

BUT it has been reconstructed and is now visible in the Adullam Park!

To view 3 additional image of the tomb Click Here.

For images of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher see: Calvary and Tomb.

Click to see images of Gordon’s Calvary and the Garden Tomb.

Domus Galilaeae — Near Korazin

Visitors to Israel will often stop at the Second Temple/Talmudic site of Korazin (Chorazin: Matt 11:21; Luke 10:13) where an impressive basalt synagogue has been partially reconstructed.  To the west of Korazin, on the south side of route 8277 is beautiful is a Roman Catholic retreat center known as Domus Galilaeae.  It opened in 2000 and was blessed by Pope John Paul II.  It is generally not open to visitors so I thought I would share a few of my images of the place.

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View from the patio of Domus Galilaeae of Jesus teaching his disciples
In the background is the Sea of Galilee — 3 mi. distant

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The main chapel of Domus Galilaeae

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Library Reading Area
Inside of the beautiful deep blue plexiglass reading area
Note the desk and in the center is a scroll of scripture

To view additional images of the retreat center Click Here.

Nazareth: Perfect Crusader Capitals — Scenes from the Gospels and Acts

One of the places in Nazareth that is rarely visited is the Archaeology Museum of Nazareth.  It is actually located below the plaza on to which visitors to the Church of the Annunciation exit!  Of the displays, pride of place must go to the five capitals of the crusade era, unearthed by Father Viaud at the beginning of the 1800s, in a grotto dug to the north of the crusade Basilica, close to the grotto of worship.

View of the only rectangular capital called the “Fides–Ecclesia.” Click on Images to Enlarge and/or Download.

The central capital shows a scene that has been open to several interpretations and represents a crowned woman holding a cross, while she travels to the left accompanied by a barefoot man among figures of the devil.
Some academics see the scene as the Byzantine theme of the liberation of Adam through the decent of Christ to the underworld. On the other hand, others identify the crowned woman with the Church Mother, holding the hand of an apostle, helping him to stand up to temptations, represented by the demons armed with bows and ready to shoot their arrows.

The capitals are made of high quality “sultan” stone.  The background surface is rough while the figures are very smooth.  The five, apparently unused, capitals from the Crusader Period depict episodes from the canonical apostles and from apocryphal writings regarding the life of the apostles.

View of one of the four octagonal capitals called the “Capital of Saint Peter.”

This capital represents two images of scenes from the life of the apostle Peter, taken from the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles.
The three arches on the right in all likelihood represents the episode of the apparition of Jesus to the apostles, after the resurrection, at the lake of Tiberias. Peter, throwing himself from the boat to reach the shore, holds his hand out to Jesus, who is calling him. Below the three left arches there is a scene of the resurrection of the disciple Tabitha, in the city of Jaffa, by the hand of Peter, as told in the Acts of the Apostles. The apostle lifts the disciple from her deathbed, while three witnesses observe the prodigious miracle.

View of one of the four octagonal capitals called the “Capital of Saint Thomas.”

This capital is one of the four octagonal capitals. Below six arches, a unique scene is depicted, narrating the episode of the meeting between Saint Thomas and Jesus Christ, after the resurrection.
Thomas, absent at the time of the first apparition, is put to the test by Jesus who is showing the apostle the wound on his ribs, which Thomas had previously not believed in when hearing the take from the other apostles.
Christ is recognizable by the halo and the cross. The other saints present at the scene are the apostles: among these can be noted Peter, to the right of Christ and the brothers James and John in the arch on the left [not visible in image].

Most of the above information is from the Custodia Terrae Sanctae: Sanctuary Nazareth.


The Crusader Period in the Holy Land is from 1099 until 1291.  However, after the battle of the Horns of Hattin on July 4, 1187 the rule of the Crusaders was doomed.

Nazareth: The House of Jesus?

Most visitors to Nazareth will visit the beautiful Church of the Annunciation with its wonderful murals of the Virgin and Child.  Nearby, is the Sisters of Nazareth Convent that is frequently visited by Catholic Pilgrim Group.  In the “lower level” of the Sisters of Nazareth are the remains of archaeological excavations including an area that Ken Dark argues was the house of the family of Jesus in Nazareth!

View of the remains of a first century house that is preserved in the lower level of the Convent. Ken Dark believes that this might be the house in which Jesus grew up. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

“. . . the rock–cut doorway of the first–century house . . . .  The combination of rock–built construction and quarried–rock construction can be seen clearly.  The door opens to the ‘Chambre Obscure,’ another part of the original house structure partly cut out of the natural rock.  The rock overhang in the corner is naturally occurring and was likely left in its current form to support the roof.  In front of the doorway, a fragment of the original floor survives.” (Dark, p. 56)

Another view of the remains of a first century house that is preserved in the lower level of the Convent. Ken Dark believes that this might be the house in which Jesus grew up. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The east side [on right side of image] of the structure originally had rock built walls, as this part of the house was built away from the naturally occurring rock cave.  The visible wall was rebuilt in the Crusader period but may incorporate remains of the first–century A.D. wall. (Dark, p. 56)

View of the entrance to the Sisters of Nazareth Convent where first century, Byzantine, and Crusader remains have been found and preserved in the lower level of the Convent.

Dark, Ken. “Has Jesus’ Nazareth House Been Found?” Biblical Archaeological Review 41, no. 2 (March/April 2015): 54–63, 72.

The Lighter Side: The “Trip” within “The Trip”

Okay, as an academic I have introduced many academic groups to the “Historical Geography” of the Holy Land.  These classes have included pre–trip readings and map markings, lectures, field trips, and exams—serious stuff.  On the other hand, I am well–aware that although most of the students (young and old) are “onboard” with what we are doing, sometimes they have different agendas (other than “academics,” like basking on the beach, meeting the local folk, etc.).

A few years ago a number of young (“A” students) produced the following—all the while really engaging with all the “academic” material.

In the video you may see some of the places that you visited on your trip(s) to Israel.  BTW – I am “featured” very briefly at 00:01 and 2:45  and check the gymnast at 1:20 on Mount Gerizim.

BTW1: this blog will self destruct in four days!
BTW2: I disavow all knowledge with regard to the filming or production of this video.