Category Archives: Places in Jerusalem

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.”

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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.

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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!

The 10th Red Heifer? And Dominus Flevit?

I usually don’t following items such as this but I find it rather interesting that some Rabbis in Israel are quite excited about the birth of a perfect Red Heifer.  From an article in BreakingNews Israel Harbinger to Messiah: Red Heifer is Born.” [ME: really?]

Red Heifers were used, along with cedar wood, hyssop, and wool or yarn, in a mixture that was used by the ancient Israelites/Judeans for ritual purification (Numbers 19).  According to Rabbinic sources 9 Red Heifers were slaughtered from the time of Moses until the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE.

In order for the temple to be rebuilt and sacrifices to be reinstuted, the priestly line would need to be purifed—and a RH would be needed to produce the necessary purification material.

Years ago they thought that a RH had been produced in Nebraska (USA)—but due to Israeli laws such an animal could not be imported to Israel.

Almost three years ago the Temple Institute inaugurated its Raise a Red Heifer in Israel program. Due to laws restricting the importation of live cattle into Israel, the Temple Institute imported frozen embryos of red angus, implanting them in Israeli domestic cows. The pregnant cows were raised on cattle ranches in different locations throughout the country. The cows are giving birth this summer with several calves already having been born.

One week after it’s birth, the newborn red heifer was certified by a board of rabbis as fulfilling all the Biblical requirements. The rabbis emphasized that the heifer could, at any time, acquire a blemish rendering it unsuitable. They will be inspecting the calf periodically to verify its condition.

The red heifer was the main component in the Biblically mandated process of ritual purification for impurity that results from proximity or contact with a dead body.  Because the elements needed for this ceremony have been lacking since the destruction of the Second Temple, all Jews today are considered ritually impure, thereby preventing the return of the Temple service.

The red heifer is described in the Book of Numbers.

“This is the ritual law that Hashem has commanded: Instruct B’nei Yisrael to bring you a red cow without blemish, in which there is no defect and on which no yoke has been laid. Numbers 19:2

Several heifers have been found in recent years that seemed to qualify but ultimately were unsuited for the ritual. . . .


No less stringent than the laws pertaining to the heifer are the laws pertaining to the site where the heifer is burned. Almost 30 years ago, Rabbi Yonatan Adler, who is also an archaeologist, performed an in-depth study into the textual references to the site where the red heifer was burned, publishing his results in  in the Torah journal Techumin. His calculations, based on the Holy of Holies being located where the Dome of the Rock stands today, led him to a spot where Dominus Flevit, a Catholic Church built in 1955, now stands. Archaeological surveys discovered unique characteristics of the site that corresponded to descriptions in the Talmud.

View from the Temple Mount area toward Dominus Flevit—the site of the slaying of the Red Heifer?

View from Dominus Flevit towards the Temple Mount (aka Haram esh–Sharif).

Dome of the Prophet

The Haram esh-Sharif (aka “Temple Mount”) seems to always be in the news!   Once, when visiting the site I saw, a person actually praying in the “Dome of the Prophet” (Qubbat al–Nabi).

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View looking northeast at the “Dome of the Prophet” (= Qubbat al–Nabi). Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The “Dome of the Prophet” is located about 20 yards northwest of the Dome of the Rock.  This is a single person prayer area built in 1539 “to mark the site where Muhammad led the prophets in prayer before his ascension into Heaven.”

The large umbrellas in the background shaded worshipers during Friday Prayers during the month of Ramadan.

The capitals on these eight columns look very much like a capital that was on the debris pile east of the Dome of the Rock platform.

Photo: June 17, 2015.

Quote from Leen and Kathleen Ritmeyer. Jerusalem — the Temple Mount — a Carta Guide Book. Jerusalem: Carta, 2015, p. 130.

Palm Sunday and “Holy Week”

On Sunday, 25 March, 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.

King Herod’s Tomb at the Israel Museum

Besides the naval and nature paintings (secco—on dry plaster) at the Israel Museum that I mentioned in my previous post, fragments from the roof of Herod’s Tomb at the Herodium are also on display in the Israel Museum.

HerodiumTombFragmentsOn the left notice the concave roof and on the right one of the acroteria (urn).  For both of these, compare the style of “Absalom’s Tomb” in the Kidron Valley that is slightly earlier in date than Herod’s Tomb.

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“Absalom’s Pillar” (2 Samuel 18:18) in the Kidron Valley. Note especially the “hat” that is similar to the fragments found at the Herodium.  Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

Note, this tomb is NOT from the days of David’s son Absalom (2 Sam 18:18), but was probably constructed in the first century B.C.  It is of mixed styles. The conical-shaped roof is Syrian style, while the columns on the lower portion are of the Greek Ionic style.  Behind, and to the left of, the “Pillar of Absalom,” is the so-called “Tomb of Jehoshaphat.” The grave markers scattered in the green grass are from the “modern” Jewish cemetery on the lower slope of the Mount of Olives.

model-of-herod-s-tombThis is the model of the reconstructed Tomb of Herod that is on location at the Herodium.  Note the “pilasters” (rectangular column–like protrusions) on the base portion and the five “acroteria” (urns) on the roof of it—see one of the originals above.  It is evident that those who made this reconstruction based it not only on the archaeological finds, but also on parallels like “Absalom’s Pillar” above and tombs found at Petra.

For permission to use any images please Check Here.

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The Treasury (Khasneh) at Petra. Note on the center top the “urn” (like that found at the Herodium) on the top of the tholos (circular structure at the top of the “temple/tomb”).  Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The “Treasury” was probably constructed during the reign of the Nabatean ruler Aretas III Philhellene (82-62 B.C.).  Since Herod married a Nabatean woman it is probable that he was familiar with this structure—probably a temple and not actually a tomb.

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The “Monastery” (Deir; Arabic) at Petra—from slightly after the time of Herod the Great. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The Deir, or monastery, was probably built by the Nabatean ruler Malichus (40–70 A.D.)—thus slightly after the time of Herod.  In the upper center of the monument note the rounded tholos and the “urn” (like the one found at the Herodium) on the top of it.

It is also suggested that it dates to the time of King Rebal II in the early 2nd century A.D.  And because of its two side benches in the interior (and altar), that it was used for the meetings of religious associations.

In summary, the near parallel to the “tomb of Herod at the Herodium” is the “Pillar of Absalom” in the Kidron Valley, but its probable predecessor—known to Herod—was the “Treasury” at Petra, and its successor was the “Deir” at Petra.

Did Ehud Netzer discover the “real tomb” of King Herod?  There are significant researchers who think not.  Although Netzer found a significant mausoleum and fragments of sarcophagi, neither the size of the mausoleum and nor the sarcophagi are overwhelmingly impressive—that is fitting for a king of Herod’s ego/stature (see conveniently the summary of Shanks below—and more on the sarcophagus in the next post).

Shanks, Hershel. “Was Herod’s Tomb Really Found?” Biblical Archaeology Review 40 (2014): 40–48.