Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

When Christians Were Atheists

A succinct 5 minute read on the interface of Early Christians with their cultural context. Well worth much more than 5 minutes of study.

Larry Hurtado's Blog

Early Christians were atheists! At least, that’s how some people of the time viewed them in the earliest centuries, and it’s not difficult to see why. Most importantly, they refused to worship the traditional gods. But also, judged by Roman-era criteria, they didn’t even seem to practice a recognizable form of religion. In the crucial first couple of centuries at least, they had no shrines or temples, no altars or images, and no sacrificial rites or priesthood.[1]

Granted, early Christians were accused of various things. There were the wild claims that Christians engaged in cannibalism and sexual orgies, claims that circulated mainly among the rabble. More sophisticated critics, however, portrayed them as deeply subversive of the social, religious, and political structures of the Roman world. One of the other labels hurled against Christianity was that it was a superstitio, a Latin term that designated bad religion, the kind…

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Magdala Stone Interpreted

Bible History Daily has published an important article by Jennifer Ristine, the longtime coordinator of the Visitors Center and the Magdalena Institute at Magdala, on the interpretation of the famous “Magdala Stone”—”The Magdala Stone: The Jerusalem Temple Embodied.”

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The Magdala Stone in place near the center of the First Century Synagogue. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

In her article, Ristine cites the work of Dr. Rina Talgam of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Motti Aviam, Professor of Archaeology at Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee.

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A depiction of the Temple in Jerusalem? A seven-branched Menorah with the sacrificial altar below it (?),  flanked by two vessels—one for water, one for oil?

Click here for additional images of the Magdala Stone.  And for the interpretion of the symbols see especially Ristine’s accessible article!

Magdala is open daily to the public from 8:00 to 18:00. For more information, visit www.magdala.org.

Images in this post courtesy of Gordon Franz who maintains the web site Life and Land.

For my previous posts on Magdala see here, here, here and here.

Main Themes in Romans

A helpful outline of the NT book of Romans. This series looks like it will be worth following!

Reading Acts

“Le premier contact fut écrasant.” – “The first encounter was overwhelming.” M.-J. Lagrange, Saint Paul:Épître Aux Romains. Études Bibliques. Paris, 1950.

Romans 1:16–17 (ESV) For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

In Romans 1:16-17 Paul states his theme: the Gospel is the power of God for salvation for anyone who believes. Paul begins the letter by stating clearly the real good news is not about the emperor or the empire.   The real power for salvation comes from God, not the emperor or the empire.

main-themes-of-romansFirst, humans are estranged from God, unwilling and unable to respond to the revelation of God in creation…

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Gezer Standing Stones

Before moving on to the topic of City Gates, I wanted to add a few comments on a very unusual assemblage of large Standing Stones that R.A.S. Macalister found at Gezer.

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View looking northeast at 7 of the 10 standing stones that were excavated by Macalister (early 1900’s) and re-excavated by Dever (in the 1960’s).

They date to the Middle Bronze II Period (ca. 1800—1550 B.C.).   On the left side of the image the square basin, carved out on the top, which may have formed the base into which a standard was placed.

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Image courtesy of the Palestine Exploration Fund. This is what the standing stones looked like when excavated by Macalister.

Macalister covered up what he had found because he was afraid, probably correctly, that the locals might recycle (euphemism) the materials to use in their own construction projects.

The function of these stones is not certain, but it has plausibly been suggested that they were set up by 10 tribes (one for each tribe) who made a treaty (covenant) among themselves, and that these stones were set up as a memorial/witness to commemorate that treaty.

Note how the Israelites set up stones at the foot of Mt. Sinai (Exodus 24:1–8) in a covenant establishing context:

24:1    Then he said to Moses, “Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. You are to worship at a distance,  2 but Moses alone is to approach the LORD; the others must not come near. And the people may not come up with him.”

3     When Moses went and told the people all the LORD’S words and laws, they responded with one voice, “Everything the LORD has said we will do.”  4 Moses then wrote down everything the LORD had said.    He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel.  5 Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the LORD.  6 Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he sprinkled on the altar.  7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey.”

8     Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.” (NIV)

And at a covenant renewal ceremony at Shechem (Josh 24:26–28) a stone was set up as a “witness:”

Joshua 24:26 And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the LORD.

27     “See!” he said to all the people. “This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the LORD has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God.”

28     Then Joshua sent the people away, each to his own inheritance.

To view additional image of Gezer (including the original Gezer Calendar; the MB II gate; the water system; etc.) Click Here without obligation.

The Passing of David Dorsey

I just received word today that Dr. David Dorsey passed away recently and I wanted to draw that to the attention of those who knew Dave.  He was a beloved Professor at Evangelical Seminary in Myerstown, PA.  He is survived by his wife Janet and three children.  A summary of his life accomplishments and interests can be found here.

Others will write a more complete memorial for this fine man but I just wanted to mention that in the scholarly world he is well-known for two very creative and well-used/respected books:

Dorsey, David A. The Roads and Highways of Ancient Israel. Baltimore: John Hopkins University, 1991.
Dorsey, David A. The Literary Structure of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999.

I first met Dave and Jan when he was studying in Jerusalem at The Institute of Holy Land Studies (now the Jerusalem University College).  Throughout his life he was mentored by the late Professor Anson Rainey—who considered him a “son.”

One short Dave Dorsey story!  In the 1970’s I was Dean of the Institute of Holy Land Studies in Jerusalem and Dave was scheduled to go on a field trip with me (and other of my students) to the Galilee.  The day before the trip I took a colleague up to visit Hazor.

A few years previously I had prepared a clay cuneiform valentine tablet—in Ugaritic—for my wife.  On one side it said something like “Happy Day of Hearts” and on the other “May God Guard and Protect You—Love Carl.”  I pierced a hole in the tablet and glazed and fired it in my parents’ kiln.

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Pillared Israelite Structure at Hazor
The Valentine was “discovered” in a loose surface stone between the columns

Well, I took the “Valentine Tablet” up to Hazor the day before our trip and hid it under a rock in the large pillared Israelite storage facility.  The next day, when I was there with Dave we accidentally discovered this “tablet!”  Well, we were all excited.  As we were traveling in the mini-van to the next site, Dave was in the front trying to decipher the tablet—he had just taken Ugaritic (I had secretly let the other students know what was up).  About 20 minutes into our ride he exclaimed: “I think it’s a love letter!!”  I finally let him in on the secret discovery and we had a great laugh together.

Dave was a beloved colleague and friend!  He will be missed!!

HT: Ginger Caessens