Category Archives: Places in Jerusalem

Tomb of Queen Helena of Adiabene — Now Open . . . but

There is a tomb complex north of the Old City of Jerusalem that is variously called the Tomb of the Kings or the Tomb of Queen Helena of Adiabene.  It is owned by the French Government and for many years it has been closed to visitors.  It is now “open,” but visiting times area very restrictive and the interior of the tomb itself is not “open.”  Because of this, I thought I would share a few images of the complex from the 1970’s—when it was more available to the pubic—including the interior.

This is a view looking down into the courtyard of the Tomb of the Kings. Click on image to enlarge and/or download.

Three steps lead up to the monumental entrance of the tomb that is partially preserved. On the top of the tomb entrance, there were originally three pyramids—none of which are preserved.  The courtyard measures 90 x 82 ft. and is carved out of the solid rock. It is about 30 feet deep.

This is the 30-foot wide 23-step staircase that leads down to the courtyard of the Tomb of the Kings. It was carved out of the solid rock.

View inside the Courtyard of the Tomb of the Kings looking southwest.

On the right side of the image, three steps lead up to the monumental entrance of the tomb that is partially preserved. On the top of the tomb entrance, there were originally three pyramids—none of which are preserved.  On the left (south) side note the solid rock wall that separates the Courtyard from the Staircase. The “door” opening on the far left leads to the staircase.

A detail of the small square entrance to the multilevel burial chambers of the Tomb of Queen Helena.

Note especially, the slightly broken rolling stone that was used to cover the entrance to the tomb. Rolling stone tombs are very rare in Israel.  There is a tradition that this tomb would open automatically on a certain day of the year, but this seems very far fetched!  BTW — You have to get down on your hands and knees to enter the tomb at this point—although once in, it is possible to stand erect in some chambers.

A detail of an arched burial bench (arcosolium) found in the chambers of the Tomb of Queen Helena.

This type of burial, plus niches into which bodies were inserted are found in this tomb.  One of the sarcophagi found in the tomb is now in the Louvre in Paris.A detail of the very small interior staircase inside of the Tomb of Queen Helena that leads from one level of the tomb to another.

A detail of the very small interior staircase inside of the Tomb of Queen Helena that leads from one level of the tomb to another.

A detail of the Architrave above the entrance to the Tomb of Helena, Queen of Adiabene.

From top to bottom note: the carved upper portion, the circular wreaths surrounded by Acanthus Leaves and below that, the not-too-well preserved triglyphs and metopes.  Originally, two columns would have supported this Architrave.


For more on the “Opening” of the Tomb, see: “Tomb of Kings Now Open!” in Bible History Daily — Biblical Archaeology Society (June 1, 2020)

The Dead Sea Scrolls and COVID-19

An articleThe Dead Sea Scrolls are in self-isolation – but they mean more than ever in Forward, contains quite a bit of unique and interesting information regarding the display and storage of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Shrine of the Book.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, which include some of the earliest biblical texts, are considered the most significant archaeological find of the 20th century. [the curator, Hagit] Maoz is one of the people charged with their safekeeping . . . knows exactly where the museum’s scrolls are: behind five locked doors in a humidity and temperature-controlled vault at the Shrine of the Book.

The Dome covering the central display area of the Shrine of the Book. In the background the Israeli Kenesset (Parlament). To the right, the black wall. Note the contrast, the light vs. the darkness.

Many of you have visited the exhibit inside the Shrine of the Book.  The article states that it takes four days to clean the ceiling inside the “dome” of central display area and they have done it this year (2020)

This [year, 2020] marks the first time since a 2004 renovation that all of the scrolls have moved into the vault.

In the article, the move of the scrolls from under the dome is described in detail—and worth a read in the article.  From under the dome two people

. . . slowly walked the scroll section into the vault, passing through five open doors to place it onto a shelf in the innermost room, so secure that only Maoz and three other museum employees have permission to enter. When they returned, they closed the case, opened the next one, and started the process over again. The vault is just 10 or so yards from the exhibit, but it took around 90 minutes for them to complete the task.


Since they do not allow photography in the Shrine of the Book, here is a sample of a Qumran Scroll from the Archaeological Museum in Amman, Jordan.

This is one of the very important Hebrew texts that was discovered in Cave 1 in 1947 (1QSa/1Q28a).  It is related to the longer “Rule of the Community Text.”  The two preserved columns describe the community in “the Last Days” and include information about a communal meal and a startling (and controversial) passage on how G-d will “father” the Messiah (descendant of David), thus “if the traditional reading is correct, then this Qumran text is describing a messianic figure who is in a special way a ‘son of God'” (Wise, p. 144)!

For a translation and commentary on this text please see Michael Wise, pp. 143–147 in Wise, Michael O., Martin Abegg, Jr., and Edward Cook. The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996.

This text is/was on display in the Jordan Archaeological Museum located on the Citadel in Amman.

 

Place of Peter’s Denial of Jesus?

Many Christian tour groups to the Holy Land will visit the Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu. This church is located on the eastern slope of the western hill of ancient Jerusalem—south of the Old City wall, on present day Mount Zion.

View looking west southwest at the church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu. Below and to the right of the church note the excavations and the staircase the leads up and down the hill that dates to the Second Temple Period.

According to a sixth or seventh century tradition this is the site of the Palace of Caiaphas before whom Jesus was questioned (mentioned 9 times in the New Testament; Matt 26:57–68; Mark 14:53–65; Luke 22:54).  According to the Gospel accounts, Peter, in the courtyard denied any association with Jesus after which the “rooster crowed” (= Latin: galli-–cantu; Matt 26:69–76; Mark 14:66–72; Luke 22:55–65; John 18:25–27).

The church was completed in 1931 and the Assumptionist Fathers serve there.  The church is built on three levels, the bottom of which contains a series of rock cut caverns that are said to date to the time of Jesus.

View looking west at the steps that ascend the western hill (Mount Zion) from the central Tyropoeon) Valley.possible that Jesus walked on these steps.

Excavations to the north of the church have revealed a variety of rock cut remains along with a flight of steps that leads up and down the hill—it is said to date to the time of Jesus (= Second Temple Period).

View of one of the underground rock cut chambers located on the lowest level of Saint Peter in Gallicantu.

Supposedly the church is build over/near the house of Caiaphas the High Priest (mentioned 9 times in the New Testament), before whom Jesus was questioned.  According to tradition, Jesus was imprisoned here during that time and later Peter and John were imprisoned here as well (Acts 5).

The caves/chambers evidently date to the Second Temple Period.

For 16 images of Saint Peter in Gallicantu Click Here.

A Jerusalem Cross — An Unusual Photo

One of the sites that all Christian groups visit in Jerusalem is the site of Dominus Flevit on the Mount of Olives (see below for a description as to why this church is important).  Although the view from within the church, overlooking Jerusalem, is justly famous (see below) on that day I took the following photo.

View of Jerusalem from Dominus Flevit. Under the cross is the Dome of the Rock. To the left of the Dome is the bell tower of the Church of the Redeemer. To the right of the Dome is the bell tower of Saint Savior’s Church.

I have not added anything to the above photo!  For those of you who have visited Jerusalem you may be saying, “what in the world is this?”   This is what I saw—although I have flipped the photo horizontally 180 degrees.  (Ok, I cleaned up a few spots—the window was dirty!).

Yes, this photos was taken outside of Dominus Flevit looking back at the reflection of Jerusalem in its main window!

By the way — please notice the “crown of thorns tree” on the left side of the image.


Dominus Flevit is a Roman Catholic Church (compound) located on the upper third of the Mount of Olives overlooking the city of Jerusalem to the west.

This church was designed by Antonio Barluzzi and was constructed in the 1950’s.  The roof of the church is designed to resemble a “tear drop” — as the church commemorates Jesus weeping over the city of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41–44).  On each of the four corners of the church are large representations of small glass vessels which were used to catch the tears of mourners in the first century AD.

This is the “normal” view that visitors normally see from within Dominus Flevit.

 

Bone Box of Caiaphas the High Priest

Caiaphas, the High Priest, is mentioned 9 times in the Gospels and is one of those before whom Jesus appeared before being condemned to death by Pilate (Matthew 26; John 18).  A few years ago a “bone box” (ossuary) was found, along with 11 others, in a Second Temple tomb located two miles south of Jerusalem on a hill that today is called “the hill of Evil Counsel” (John 11:49–50).  On it the name “Joseph “son” of Caiaphas” was inscribed!

The Joseph “son” of Caiaphas Ossuary. In the Israel Museum. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.  See below for the inscription.

The ossuary has a slightly curved cover that is etched with designs.  The front of the soft limestone ossuary is beautifully carved with rosette and leaf designs.  Note the red paint is still visible in some places.

The bones of six(!) individuals were found inside of the ossuary: 2 infants, 1 child, 1 teen aged boy, 1 adult woman, and a man—approximately sixty years old.

View of one of the Aramaic inscriptions on the Ossuary [bone box] of “Joseph ‘son’ of Caiaphas.”

On one of the short sides, and on the back, the name Caiaphas had been etched into the stone with a nail—see the  image.  It is evident that the ossuary was prepared in a workshop, but then when the bones were placed inside the name was inelegantly scratched on to it.

The Aramaic inscription on this side of the ossuary reads “Joseph the ‘son’ of Caiaphas.”

 יהוסף בר קפא 

Most scholars believe that the Caiaphas mentioned here is the same one that is mentioned six times in the New Testament as well as in Josephus.  Ronny Reich argues that the person was named “Joseph” and had a nickname “Caiaphas.”  Caiaphas was High Priest from 18 to 36 CE and was the one before whom Jesus was tried and is famously quoted in John 12:50

For an accessible discussion of the name Caiaphas, plus others appearing on ossuaries, see Reich, Ronny. “Caiaphas name Inscribed on Bone Boxes.” Biblical Archaeology Review 18, no. 5 (September/October 1992): 38–44.

Place of Peter’s Denial of Jesus?

Many Christian tour groups to the Holy Land will visit the Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu. This church is located on the eastern slope of the western hill of ancient Jerusalem—south of the Old City wall, on present day Mount Zion.

View looking west southwest at the church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu. Below and to the right of the church note the excavations and the staircase the leads up and down the hill that dates to the Second Temple Period.

According to a sixth or seventh century tradition this is the site of the Palace of Caiaphas before whom Jesus was questioned (mentioned 9 times in the New Testament; Matt 26:57–68; Mark 14:53–65; Luke 22:54).  According to the Gospel accounts, Peter, in the courtyard denied any association with Jesus after which the “rooster crowed” (= Latin: galli-–cantu; Matt 26:69–76; Mark 14:66–72; Luke 22:55–65; John 18:25–27).

The church was completed in 1931 and the Assumptionist Fathers serve there.  The church is built on three levels, the bottom of which contains a series of rock cut caverns that are said to date to the time of Jesus.

View looking west at the steps that ascend the western hill (Mount Zion) from the central Tyropoeon) Valley.possible that Jesus walked on these steps.

Excavations to the north of the church have revealed a variety of rock cut remains along with a flight of steps that leads up and down the hill—it is said to date to the time of Jesus (= Second Temple Period).

View of one of the underground rock cut chambers located on the lowest level of Saint Peter in Gallicantu.

Supposedly the church is build over/near the house of Caiaphas the High Priest (mentioned 9 times in the New Testament), before whom Jesus was questioned.  According to tradition, Jesus was imprisoned here during that time and later Peter and John were imprisoned here as well (Acts 5).

The caves/chambers evidently date to the Second Temple Period.

For 16 images of Saint Peter in Gallicantu Click Here.

Palm Sunday and “Holy Week”

On Sunday, 14 April, Christians will be remembering Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.

For those of you who might be looking for High Resolution images related to the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, the Last Supper in the “Upper Room,” and the events clustered around the final week in his earthly life I will be posting some useful links in the days ahead.

To view 10 images (with commentary) of a modern procession commemorating this event Click Here.

Use the following links to find High Resolution images related to Gethsemane, the Upper Room, a Rolling Stone Tomb, Gordon’s Calvary, the Garden Tomb, and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Warning to Gentiles from the Days of Jesus — Inscriptions

The Jewish Temple in Jerusalem was surrounded by a fence (balustrade) that was about 5 ft. [1.5 m.] high.  On this fence were mounted inscriptions in Latin and Greek forbidding Gentiles from entering the temple area proper (image below).

One complete inscription was found in Jerusalem in 1871 and is now on display on the third floor of the “Archaeological Museum” in Istanbul.

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The Temple Inscription warning Gentiles not to proceed beyond this barrier—on threat of death. Istanbul Archaeological Museum.

The Greek text has been translated:  “Foreigners must not enter inside the balustrade or into the forecourt around the sanctuary.  Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his ensuing death.”

TempleBuildingUse

 

The first century Jewish historian Josephus mentions the barrier and inscription in two places:

(193) When you go through these [first] cloisters, unto the second [court of the] temple, there was a partition made of stone all round, whose height was three cubits: its construction was very elegant; (194) upon it stood pillars, at equal distances from one another, declaring the law of purity, some in Greek, and some in Roman letters, that “no foreigner should go within that sanctuary;” for that second [court of the] temple was called “the Sanctuary;” (Josephus Jewish War.5.5.1 [193–194]

(417) Thus was the first enclosure. In the midst of which, and not far from it, was the second, to be gone up to by a few steps; this was encompassed by a stone wall for a partition, with an inscription, which forbade any foreigner to go in, under pain of death. (Josephus Jewish Antiquities 15.11.5 [417]

Compare the accusation against Paul found in Acts 21:28-29:

Acts 21:28 shouting, “Men of Israel, help us! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple area and defiled this holy place.”  29 (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple area.)

There is also the possibility that this barrier is referred to by Paul when he writes:

Eph. 2:14     For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,

 

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This six-line fragment of the Temple Warning was found by J. H. Iliffe east of the Old City of Jerusalem wall—near the Lion’s Gate.

 

Translation of the inscription from Elwell, Walter A., and Yarbrough, Robert W., eds.  Readings from the First–Century World: Primary Sources for New Testament Study.  Encountering Biblical Studies, general editor and New Testament editor Walter A. Elwell.  Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1998, p. 83. Click Here to view for purchase from amazon.com.

A Potter’s Village — A “Potter’s Field?” — Matthew 27 — An Aramaic Inscription from Jerusalem

Recently it was announced that a Potter’s Inscription was found in secondary usage (= spolia) near the International Convention Center in West Jerusalem.  Is it possible that the “Potters’ Field,” mentioned in Matthew 27, was located near here (see end of post)?

The Aramaic inscription reads “Hanania son of Dudolos from Jerusalem.” Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The Aramaic inscription reads “Hanania son of Dudolos from Jerusalem.” It is the first epigraphic evidence to the name “Jerusalem” spelled as Yerushalayim (as it is written Hebrew today), as opposed to Yerushalem or Shalem.

The full “column” that bears the Aramaic Inscription—it is about 2 feet tall.

The column was originally part of a building that stood in a Jewish potters’ village on the outskirts of Jerusalem. “The site was eventually converted by the Tenth Roman Legion into a workshop for ceramic building products [aka “roof tiles”]. The column drum probably came from a workshop or some other structure belonging to Hanania or a public building that he helped finance. Hanania’s father’s name — Dudolos — is based on the name of the mythological Greek artist Daedalos; it may have been a nickname alluding to the father’s artistic abilities. it is interesting to note that although the village was very close to the city, Hanania still found it meaningful to mention his Jerusalem origins.” Source: Israel Museum Label


In a recent edition of Artifax (Autumn 2018, p. 2) the editor notes that it is interesting that the 30 pieces of silvers that Judas returned to the Temple was used to purchase a “Potter’s Field.”  This “potter’s village” is only a few miles west of the site of the Second Temple.

7 So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. 8 That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9 Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty silver coins, the price set on him by the people of Israel, 10 and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”

“Perhaps the field that was purchased was located in the vicinity of the potter’s village where this stone inscription was found.” (Artifax p. 2)


“‘Jerusalem’ Inscribed on Column Dating to 100 BC.”  Artifax (Autumn 2018; vol. 33, no. 4), p. 2.  http://www.BibleArtifax.com

Yom Kippur 1973 — Did Golda Meir Know An Attack Was Coming?

Today, September 18/19 2018, is Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement)—the Jewish Fast Day when there is no work, no traffic, no TV, no radio, etc.,.  On Yom Kippur 1973, Saturday, October 6, my family and the family of Jim Monson were walking below the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament,  when we saw a few cars racing up and down the street.

Israel’s Kenesset—Parlement.

We wondered what was going on, in light of the fact that driving, especially in Jerusalem, was/is forbidden on the day.  Soon the air raid sirens went off!!   In a coördinated surprise attack, both Egypt and Syria had attacked Israel on its most sacred day (BTW it was also Ramadan!).

The Monson’s headed back to their house, and we headed back to our apartment.  When we arrived at our apartment we found our neighbors cleaning out old mattresses, bicycles, etc., from the bomb shelter.  The husband of one of our friends was stationed in one of the Israeli forts on the east side of the Suez Canal—the ones that the Egyptians overran.  But his fort was the only one not to be overrun!

How much of a surprise was the attack?  A  telegram (pre-internet age) from the head of Mossad, Zvi Zamir, to Prime Minister Golda Meir, warned, in the morning of Yom Kippur, that Egypt would attack that afternoon.

See Ynet for the telegram and English summary and commentary please see the interesting article:

We all know what happened!