This is the question that typically follows any statement of my particular vocation. More often than not, it is in fact the single most asked question I receive as an archaeologist. Perhaps this post will not give you the answer you were hoping for, but at least to some, I can lay to rest the question that has been on your mind for a long while. 1981 in fact. This is of course, the release of the swashbuckling adventure of Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark, which inspired many archaeologists (including myself) and filled them with dreams of traveling the world, fighting Nazis, getting the girl and discovering aliens exist (…maybe we’ll just forget about that last one). If I haven’t lost many of you by now after mentioning last installment of The Crystal Skull, jokes aside, I will attempt in this post to give some history of the Ark, its purpose, and some historical and traditional views on what might have happened to it.
The Ark of the Covenant was first created as a result of a commandment by God in the Book of Exodus 37, approximately one year after the events of the exodus while the Israelites were in the Sinai wilderness. It was constructed of Acacia wood, 45 inches longs, 27 inches wide, and 27 inches tall. The chest was then overlaid with gold, bolted with rings for carrying poles and was finally a lid with two solid gold cherubim (angels) figurines facing each other with their wings outstretched toward each other and spread out over the lid. According to the New Testament book of Hebrews 9:4, this iconic relic held three things within its confines: the tablets given to Moses containing the Ten Commandments, the Staff of Aaron which was used in the Plagues as well as the same staff which bloomed signifying that Aaron’s sons would be the priests (Levites) to uphold the Laws of YHWH, and a golden pot of manna collected from the wilderness.
The function of the Ark has been debated, however the Bible does mention that it was to contain the “Presence of God." The Hebrew word kepporet seems to indicate that the lid of the Ark functioned as the Throne of God as he is “seated upon the Cherubim” mentioned in Isaiah 37:16 “O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth.” This would fit well within its ancient Near Eastern Context if we look at other contemporaneous cultures during the time period of the Late Bronze age such as Egypt and Assyria. Egypt has perhaps two of the best examples of similar throne structures. The first and perhaps most popular is the throne of King Tutankhamen.
One can see that there are many animal-like figures which match the description of Cherubim in the ANE (Ancient Near East) as hybrid-winged creatures and symbolize the realm of the gods. In this throne, it can be plainly seen that King Tut was seated upon Cherubim creatures, which represented his protection by angelic beings as well as his place among the gods. Pharaohs in ancient Egypt were essentially the reincarnation of the god Horus.
The next example is far more obvious when it comes to the role of the Ark in light of Egyptian religion. This scene is a depiction of Pharaoh Rameses II’s tent structure at Abu Simbul in Egypt.
The relief dates to Rameses II’s reign in 1279-1213 BCE and shows a tent structure with the Pharaoh’s throne at the center of the camp. Many have made connections with his military tent to the Tabernacle and its arrangement. Rameses’ throne room has two cherubim with their wings outstretched with his cartouche (the encased name of the Pharaoh in hieroglyphics) between them. It’s a remarkable image that perhaps shows that author of the Exodus is reworking the Tabernacle and throne imagery to show that YHWH, not Pharaoh, is the one worthy of worship.
Therefore, the purpose of the Ark was to be the throne of God, not necessarily that his presence was in the Ark, but rather, seated on top since YHWH was supposed to be the first and only king of the Israelites. This also fits with other passages of the Hebrew Bible which instruct the Israelites to carry the Ark before them as they travel. Majority of the events surrounding the Conquest of Canaan center around the Ark, such as the crossing of the Jordan River in Joshua 3 and the battle of Jericho in Joshua 6:4-15. The Ark was supposed to symbolize the fulfillment of God’s covenant with his people in that they would indeed be given the land promised to them as well as God being the one who would fight Israel’s battles for them.
The Ark after this point has a rough history. The Ark was housed in the biblical city of Shiloh (currently being excavated today) until the Philistines capture it (mentioned in 1 Samuel 4:3-11) and was kept for 7 months until its return back to Israelite territory. It was then housed in different cities such as Beth Shemesh (also being excavated today) before being sent to David’s capital in Jerusalem. It was not until Solomon built his Temple that the Ark had a final resting place for a hundred years or so. The Ark was returned to the Temple during Josiah’s reign (7th century BCE) and the Bible is not clear why or who removed it from the Temple (2 Kings 21-23) prior to this event.
After the Ark was established in the Temple of Solomon, it plays a pivotal role in the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippor (The Day of Atonement). On this special day, only the high priest was allowed into the Holy of Holies on behalf of the people of Israel. Their job was to sprinkle the blood of an unblemished lamb upon the Ark, or the throne of God. This symbolized the price for the sins of Israel being atoned by this act. This holiday occurs once a year and was the only time anyone was allowed behind the curtain into the Holy of Holies.
This is when the location of the Ark becomes murky. After the destruction of the Temple in 586 BCE it is implied that the Babylonians might have been the ones to raid the temple and take the Ark with them back to Babylon as plunder along with the Judean exiles. In the book of 1 Esdras (an ancient Greek form of the book of Ezra), it claims that vessels of the Ark were taken with them but not the Ark itself (1 Esdras 1:54). There is a possibility it could have been taken with the Babylonians, however it is unknown.
2 Maccabees 2:4-10, however also states that the prophet Jeremiah, knowing of the oncoming campaign of Nebuchadnezzar and his army of Babylonians, took the Ark and hid at the site of Moses' resting place on Mt. Nebo (in modern day Jordan) until “the time that God should gather his people again together."
There is the theory that the Pharaoh Shishak (most likely Shoshenq I of the 22nd Dynasty of Egypt) mentioned in the Bible in 1 Kings 11:40, 14:25 and 2 Chronicles 12:2-9, took the Ark of the Covenant during one of his campaigns through the Levant. He raided the temple of Solomon and took its riches back to Egypt. No doubt this would have included the Ark of the Covenant. However, there is no written sources whether Egyptian, or Biblical that can confirm this theory. A version of this theory is of course used in the Raiders of the Lost Ark film.
If the Ark still exists and survived either campaigns of the Egyptians or Babylonians, there are several places which claim to have the sacred box. The most popular among these locations is the Chapel of the Tablet at the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Axum, possession of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. Only one priest is allowed in the building where the Ark is held. A popular book written by British author Graham Hancock, The Sign and the Seal: The Quest for the Lost Ark of the Covenant also proposes this location as the final resting place for the ark. However there is little historical merit to his claims and most scholars do not hold to these views or claims.
The search for the Ark is a popular topic and inspires many with dreams of adventure, intrigue and conspiracy. However, there is not much historical and archaeological data that give any evidence as to what happened to an object such as this. More than likely (and this is my own opinion) that the empires of Egypt and Assyria would have little use for a sacred box containing some tablets, a staff and a pot of flowers. They would simply have stripped the gold from its wood and added it amongst their booty. I realize this is an anticlimactic end to such an influential and symbolic object of the Bible, however Jewish religion continued on. The Holy of Holies in Zerubbabel’s Temple and in Herod’s Temple was void of the Ark of the Covenant although the presence of God was supposed to still be dwelling behind the curtain; the curtain’s purpose being to separate the righteousness of God with the sinful world.
The Jews of the Second Temple Period clearly did not feel the need to remake another Ark and were satisfied with the vacancy in its place. On Yom Kippur the blood of the lamb, that was to be sprinkled on the Ark, was instead sprinkled on the empty place where the Ark sat, most likely a reminder of the sins of the people, which led to their sacred relic being taken from them. Therefore, Jewish life and ritual continued on. Perhaps if the ancient Jews were willing to let the Ark be lost, we should too.
November for academics is perhaps one of the most stressful months of the year. Project deadlines are due, professional meetings take place (SBL, ASOR, ETS) and preparing for finals is on the horizon. Contrary to what you may believe, I have always said that finals week and the week before is actually quite pleasant. By this time I have typically wrapped up all of my projects and papers and I only have to focus on finals. For this semester, I have gotten the chance to try my hand at teaching some courses in Andrews University's seminary. One course in particular is called "Egypt and the Bible." Next semester, I will most likely post something that pertains to material and research I have been doing for this class, but for this month, I wanted to address a popular subject in Biblical Studies: the Dead Sea Scrolls
Working with the Horn Archaeological Museum, I get the opportunity to work aside great scholars and archaeologists. One of my earlier posts this year was on the subject of Zoroastrianism and Critical Scholarship, in which I was able to present at our Horn Lectureship Series (see post below). This Fall we were able to invite Dr. James VanderKam from the University of Notre Dame. He is an expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls (from now on DSS) and has been involved with DSS studies for the past few decades. Many people no doubt have heard of the discovery of these ancient texts, and know that they have some relationship to the Bible we have today, but how exactly are the two connected? How do they give us any reliability in the Bibles we have on our shelves and on our coffee tables? In this post I would like to introduce the subject of the DSS, and its influence on the Bible and Biblical studies. Then I will let Dr. VanderKam (who is indeed the expert) do the rest of the talking as I am linking his lecture at Andrews to this post.
In 1946, along the hilly West Bank of the Dead Sea, a Bedouin shepherd boy was throwing rocks into random caves, as no doubt any child would do at that age, passing the time while his sheep grazed in a nearby field. He did this until he heard one of the rocks collide with something (perhaps ceramic) in one of the caves. Afterwards, the shepherd boy alerted his family and they inspected the cave, discovering seven scrolls and fragments in jars near the site of Qumran. As fantastic of a story this is, one would be surprised to know that most great archaeological finds begin in a similar fashion. This is the story of the discovery of Cave I. Since then eleven caves have been located in which the scribal community at Qumran hid their precious documents during the time of the Jewish Revolt in 68/69 CE.
Who were these people? Why did they do such a thing? Dr. VanderKam has some interesting theories as to these people (so be sure to click the link to watch his lecture). Regardless of who or why, this archaeological discovery is no doubt perhaps one of the greatest in the history of "Biblical Archaeology" and Biblical studies. Before the discovery of the scrolls, the oldest Hebrew Text was the Masoretic Text (known as the MT in Biblical Studies) dating to the 10th Century CE. There were questions as to the reliability and transmission of such a text that has ancient claims when the earliest documents which survived are significantly late.
Some would like to compare the transmission of the Bible to a game of "Telephone." An entertaining children's game where one child whispers a word or phrase and waits as it is whispered around the room, waiting to see the product of the transmission. Usually the end result is nothing compared to the word or phrase which began the game. In the same way, questions were raised concerning the continuous copying of the biblical text and over time, one would expect what we have in our Bibles to be different to what was originally written.
However, after the discovery of the scrolls, the biblical texts found in the caves date as early as the 2nd Century BCE, almost a thousand years older than the MT! Scholars jumped at the possibility to examine the text to see if there were discrepancies and were baffled at the unusual accuracy of the texts compared to the Old Testament text we have today. One of the pioneers of Biblical Archaeology, William F. Arbright stated "We may rest assured that the consonantal text of the Hebrew Bible, though not infallible has been preserved with an accuracy perhaps unparalleled in any other Ancient Near Eastern literature."
Of the scrolls, over 225 Biblical texts were found in the caves of Qumran. Other deuterocanical books recognized by the Catholic and Orthodox faiths were discovered such as the books of Tobit, Ben Sirach, Baruch 6 and Psalm 151. An entire Isaiah scroll (known as the Great Isaiah Scroll) was among the first seven scrolls discovered in Cave 1 and remains the only complete Biblical text and is on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem (shown above). This however is only the tip of the iceberg as this great discovery is still making waves today in Biblical Studies.
Many books and articles have been published as to the results of intense analysis of these great scrolls and the community that may have preserved them. Why were they preserved? What purpose did they serve to their creators? Now is the time for me to step down and let Dr. VanderKam do the talking. Please watch his lecture and feel free to post comments and questions!
Perhaps one of the most important stories in the Bible is the event of the Exodus, which unfolds with the Israelites in the land of Egypt. It is referenced many times in scripture and is often seen as a great victory of the Israelites and their God, Yahweh, as well as perhaps Egypt’s greatest defeat. The story in Exodus tells of the sons of Jacob (also known as Israel) seeking refuge in Egypt after a famine. Unbeknown to them, their brother, Joseph, who was sold to slave traders in Canaan, made a name for himself in Egypt and became a vizier in Pharaoh’s kingdom. Then a Pharaoh who “did not know Joseph” enslaved the Children of Israel into bondage.
Although there are many debates as to the historicity of the event, the focus of this study is that of slavery in general in the land of Egypt. Historians and scholars have to be careful of not committing ethnocentrism when evaluating other cultures according to the standards and customs of one's own culture. The word “slavery” in post-Enlightenment/post-Colonial America is a loaded term and brings to mind a certain type of slavery that was implemented first by Greeks and then ultimately by the Western World in the Americas. The slavery that will be the focus here is the slavery in ancient Egypt. This is important for scholars and those that read the Biblical Accounts as well as evaluating any ancient document. It is very easy for us to view the story and events through our own lenses without any prior knowledge of life in ancient times. This is also important because we discover that slavery viewed in the ancient world was very different than slavery implemented in the Americas.
First to mention is that the data analyzed in this study are from sources found by archaeology and the first problem encountered lies in the sheer amount of sources. Egypt contains a wealth of information concerning how the ruling Pharaoh’s lived day to day. This should be no surprise considering how kings and rulers in the Ancient Near East (Egypt to Mesopotamia) spent majority of their lifetime making efforts to ensure that their name would be remembered forever by building monuments to themselves and having their names carved in stone and in the very foundation of their palaces and temples. Majority of those that were literate in ancient times were those that used reading and writing in their everyday lives, such as those in politics, government or in religious institutions.
In other words, the nobles and upper class typically were the ones privileged enough to learn how to read and write. One will be hard pressed to find anything written by a peasant or slave considering they were more than likely farmers, traders, and miners or had skills in other trades. These trades do not require a formal training in literacy. The sources uncovered which give a glimpse of the ancient life of a peasant or slave are from that of a wealthier human whom, in fact, was not a slave. However regardless of these difficulties, archaeologist and historians make an educated initiative to piece together the lifestyle and liberties of a servant/slave based on written transactions or law codes that correspond with the treatment of slaves.
Second, the term "slave" has a wide semantic range. Anyone who had a master or a lord had “slaves” or servants working under him or her. The Egyptian word for slave/servant is “hm” which is used in a variety of contexts. A priest can be the gods’ slave (hm-ntr), and this phrase also can be the in title of the Pharaoh being a “servant of the gods.” There were however slaves that were, in a sense, property owned by the estate of wealthy families, priests and officials but they were not necessarily confined to hard labor. Many servants worked in occupations in the household and some had significant liberties and responsibilities over their duties and had other servants working under them.
The main source of slaves that populated Egypt was that of prisoners of war. Egypt had many enemies and campaigns through Canaan, Sinai, Lybia and south into the land of Nubia. All of those captured by the Egyptian military became immediately the property of Pharaoh. The Pharaoh was free to divvy out those captured to the temples, his royal residences, or as a gift to soldiers who were brave in battle. In the Brooklyn Papyrus of the Middle Kingdom period, the text provides a list of ninety-five servants given to Senebtisy, an Egyptian noble woman, by Pharaoh. The list gives the names of each worker and their occupation. Of the names mentioned, thirty-three are Egyptian, which implies that they may be criminals assigned to fieldwork because of their crimes. However, forty-five are Asiatic slaves that bear Semitic names, most likely from the land of Canaan.
These Semites show they are skilled workers, most likely captured from war, that were handpicked to serve the Egyptian noblewoman Senebtisy. The Asiatics in this case appear to be highly regarded because of their skills compared to the criminal Egyptians citizens that were probably sent to work hard and manual labor. This included working in the mines, which had the highest mortality rate of other means of labor in the Kingdom. It appears that the Egyptians had no issues with foreigners if they were useful in their particular vocation and in the case of this document, they might have even been preferred workers.
The type of slavery in Egypt and throughout the ancient Near East, was mostly what is known as Chattel Slavery. This is however different from the slavery of modern times where the individual had extreme legal limitations and freedoms. In ancient times, a household slave possessed more social, economic and legal freedom than that of an Egyptian peasant who was also a citizen. Foreign slaves in Egypt could own property, as well as be active in the market place. They even enjoyed the same workweek as an Egyptian (ten days of work, one day off).
In terms of power, the Egyptians seem to have no problem with foreigners (that may have at one point been a slave) taking official positions of power if they excelled at their occupation. The most famous story of course is that of Joseph, sold into slavery and slowly climbing the ranks of Egyptian hierarchy until he became Vizier of Egypt. There are also many Egyptian sources of nobles and officials with Libyan, Nubian and Semitic names given considerable positions of power in ancient Egypt. Slaves in Egypt enjoyed a type of social, political and economic freedom that would have been unheard of in Colonial American slavery.
Servitude to a master was not only limited to criminals and prisoners of war. Slavery was a means to pull oneself out of debt. This would fall into the category of “indentured servitude.” This is not an uncommon practice today and it certainly was not one in ancient times. One could sell himself along with his family, into “slavery” to work off a debt to the owed party. If one has the ability to do this, logically one can assume that economically, it would be better to put oneself under a master in order to provide means and protection of one’s family. It almost appears, as the concept of a “middle class” does not exist in that of the Ancient times. There is simply a “lord” or master and his servant, which he provides, protects and has ultimate responsibility over his subjects, servants and slaves.
There are sources that suggest the masters take familial ownership of their servants. Theban tomb 216 contains a statue of a man with his wife who are clearly affectionate for their young, female servant. Child labor was also perhaps frowned upon in Egypt as according to an eighteenth dynasty letter, children were not allowed to be used in slave labor but masers could only employ them in easier labor such as domestic services. They can even provide education for them in a trade that will one day make them a skilled worker. They would provide the funds for a child to take an apprenticeship under a skilled worker if they did not have the ability to join their father in his trade.
Perhaps the term “slavery” used in an Egyptian context is too semantically broad. It is not the same limited freedoms, which was employed by the Greeks and in later Colonial America in recent memory. Slaves in Egypt had rights, freedoms and the ability for social, and economic mobility. However, when it comes to the Exodus, the labor endured by the Israelites must have been one that was too extreme for even slavery in the Ancient Near East. The Bible is straightforward in the injustices of Egyptians upon their captors. This can be seen in Exodus 3:7 “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings,” and again in Exodus 3:9 “And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them.” This is interesting considering what is represented in Egyptian literature compared to law codes that deal with slaves in the Pentateuch.
The laws on treatment of slaves in the Bible resemble that of the Egyptian practices and social mobility and freedoms. The situation of Egypt becoming more limiting of their freedoms concerning slaves can easily be traced to after the Hyksos period, which fits nicely with the typical proposed dates for the Exodus. The New Kingdom Period becomes a very powerful unified Egypt after a time of foreigners (Asiatics) whom had control of the Two Lands in the 2nd Intermediate Period. Egyptian views and treatment of foreigners may have drastically changed which would explain the harshness of the labor imposed on the Israelites of whom were also Asiatics (Semites). The Israelites living in Egypt clearly had complaints of their treatment and the Bible seems to imply that there was a shift in the freedoms and liberties typically given to foreign slaves.
As mentioned before, the purpose of this study is to evaluate Egyptian sources in the lifestyle of slaves in Egypt to form a better understanding of slavery in Egypt as well as in the Ancient Near East. The Bible (Lev 25) also has regulations in how to deal with slaves/servants and it is best to understand this law code in its Ancient Near Eastern context. Too often we view these subjects through our own ethnocentric lenses and imposing these views upon another ancient culture. Let me know what you think in the comments. I will also provide a short bibliography and some sources for further reading and research.
Hallo, William W., and Younger, eds. The Context of Scripture: Archival Documents from the Biblical World (Context of Scripture) Vol. 3. Leiden: Brill, 2002.
Redford, Donald. Ed. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press, 2001.
Wilson, John A. The Burden of Egypt An Interpretation of Ancient Egyptian Culture. The University of Chicago Press, 1951.
 Donald Redford. Ed. Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. “Slaves.” 294.
 William Hallo et all. The Context of Scripture. Vol II. “Semitic Slaves on A Middle Kingdom Estate”. Brill. 35.
 John Wilson. The Burden of Egypt. University of Chicago Press. 187.
 Contemporary scholars typically place the Exodus during the mid 15th Century BCE (Thutmoses III/Amenhotep II Dynasty 18) or the mid 13th Century BCE (Rameses II Dynasty 20).
There are few accounts that take place within the Bible that can be cross-referenced by other ancient cultures in such a way such as the Battle of Lachish. In the early 8th century BC Assyria with its king, Sennacherib, campaigned throughout the Levant (that ancient land strip from modern day Lebanon and Syria south all the way to Gaza and Sinai) on a mission to expand his empire and while collecting tribute.
These events are well recorded in Sennacherib's annuls and in wall reliefs at his palace in Nineveh. For those that are familiar with their Old Testament Bible, they should recognize the name Sennacherib and Lachish in passages such as 2 Chronicles 32:9 and Isaiah 36:1-2. However, the event spoken of in the text and what is represented in reliefs and in the famous "Sennacherib Prism" speak of the same event, but it plays out much differently.
In the Sennacherib Prism, also known as the Taylor Prism (one of them kept right here in Chicago at the Oriental Institute of Research Museum), reads:
"As for the king of Judah, Hezekiah, who had not submitted to my authority, I besieged and captured forty-six of his fortified cities, along with many smaller towns, taken in battle with my battering rams. ... I took as plunder 200,150 people both small and great, male and female, along with a great number of animals including horses, mules, donkeys, camels, oxen, and sheep. As for Hezekiah, I shut him up like a caged bird in his royal city of Jerusalem. I then constructed a series of fortresses around him, and I did not allow anyone to come out of the city gates. His towns which I captured I gave to the kings of Ashdod, Ekron, and Gaza" (translation provided by Oriental Institute).
It is intriguing how the two stories conflict considering the Biblical Text claims that the Assyrian army was unsuccessful in taking the city of Jerusalem. What is far more interesting is that in Sennacherib's palace wall reliefs, he is depicted taking the city of Lachish in 701 BC. However, there is no relief showing him conquering Jerusalem, which he even admits is "a royal city." Why does he focus on Lachish and not Jerusalem? A colleague from Andrews University, Bruno Barros, writes a publication for ASOR (American Schools of Oriental Research) this month that perhaps Sennacherib focuses on the victory of Lachish because he was perhaps, as the Bible accounts, unsuccessful in his assault on Jerusalem.
Assyria was well known for its "psychological terrorism" by employing fear upon smaller nations, bullying them to pay tribute to their mighty empire. Much of this imagery is depicted of the Assyrian assaults show how brutal they were in warfare and in maintaining their empire. In the reliefs, one can see people impaled on large stakes, which was one of the fear-tactics that made Assyria infamous. Also, what appears to be a siege ramp for their "battering rams" is shown in the relief.
At Tell Lachish in Israel, remains of the Assyrian siege ramp are still present (see above). For a view of the Siege of Lachish, search "Lachish Reliefs" and online you will find pictures taken at British Museum where they are currently held (below). To see the Taylor Prism, do the same or visit the Oriental Institute museum at the University of Chicago, it's a free museum!
Let me know what you think in the comments!
As part of the Persia Symposium back in February of 2018, three students and myself researched topics of interest and presented our research to the university and community. My paper was on Achaemenid Religion and Zoroastrianism.
I remember in my younger undergraduate days, someone out of the blue asked me if I knew that Zoroastrianism was the world oldest Monotheism and in turn, heavily influenced the writers of the Bible. Coincidently, there are quite a few scholars who follow this line of thinking. As I have often questioned, I asked, "where does this tradition/assumption come from?" I discovered that much of what is assumed about this religion is based off of what we know in modern dayZoroastrianism. In my lecture, I explore Archaeological evidence to determine if there is enough data to exhibit that Zoroastrianism was the state religion of the ancient Achaemenid Persian Empire (550-330 BC). I also explore what critical scholarship considers as "influence" upon another religion. I approach the subject logically and come to several conclusions. One of these conclusions is that we know very little about ancient Zoroastrianism, if it was at all practiced in Ancient Persia. What appears to be happening is a problem of propinquity (something being associated within time and space). Critical Scholars whom believe this, impose modern day Zoroastrian theology and themes upon ancient Judaism. Please watch my lecture and let me know what you think in the comments.
Before watching, if you are not familiar with the arguments, let it be known that Critical Scholarship typically places the composition of the Bible during or after the Persian period (550-330 BC). The assumptions of Zoroastrian ideas imposed on the Bible are made by those that believe in a late composition of the text.
Also, let me know if you would like me to upload the full paper or send a pdf to you personally.
Hope you enjoy! Click the button below to watch the lecture.
The following links are to four lectures from students and myself at Andrews University. Every year, the Institute of Archaeology and Siegfried H. Horn Museum have a Scholar's symposium for the students and local community to attend. Last February, 2018, the Horn Lectureship Series had the "Persia Symposium." We all did research and wrote scholarly papers on a subject of our choice centered around a larger theme of the Persian Empire and its connections to subjects in Archaeology and the Bible (Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, and Daniel). These lectures are:
Dorian Alexander: "Fact or Fair Tale? The Historicity of Esther in the Cultural-Historical Context of Ancient Persia"
Maksym Gordiienko: "The Decree of Cyrus in the Bible: Historical Document or Jewish National Propaganda?"
Omwocha Nyaribo: "The Persian Magi and the Stars"
Click on the buttons below to view the lectures.
I will post my own lecture on Zoroastrianism and the Hebrew Bible in a post following this one since I can include a basic summary of the lecture. Andrews University owns the rights to these videos and I did not film the lectures myself. Please click the links and enjoy! Let me know what you think of them in comments.
There is an abundance of information available to us. In a world of subjective truth, fake news, and where everyone is entitled to their opinions, how can one find answers to difficult questions or simply find information which pertains to their interests? I attend a local congregation where I often am given the opportunity to teach and I find more and more, people are ill-informed and settle for information that was found in an instant rather than taking the time to process data and information while considering the source. Technology has come a long way and it has benefited us a culture, however post-modernity has given everyone a voice and unfortunately, not every voice is informed on the subject by which they may be discussing. Sadly, the most uninformed are, in some cases, the loudest. This is one reason why I created this site. I want to make it perfectly clear how archaeology is applied within the realm of Biblical Studies.
Originally, archaeology became popular in the late 19th Century until the mid 20th century on account of evangelicals whom walked through the Holy Land with a shovel in one hand and a Bible in the other. Archaeology as a discipline is ever evolving and becoming more scientific with its methodology. Motivations have changed in the discipline and archaeology has melded in with other humanitarian disciplines such as Anthropology. This, however, is not a bad thing. Those within archaeology have developed ways in order to keep themselves and their colleagues accountable, and more importantly, being able to publish discoveries that help mankind preserve its cultural and intellectual heritage. This makes the finds and discoveries more credible to every party, not just religious or ideological groups.
With that said, I will say this, archaeology is not going prove the Bible and it is safer to simply let the Bible be the Bible and let archaeology be archaeology. This blog was created to simply make information available to those that are interested in Biblical studies and archaeology. There are some that believe that the Bible should not be considered to have historical merit because it does not fall in line with the ways in which we ourselves write history. However, who is to say that we are masters of history? Winston Churchill famously quotes that history in this day and age is often "written by the victors." Does this not imply that there is a bias and lens by which all of history is viewed through? Therefore, the writers of the Biblical Text were writing their form of history in the way they knew how. With research, you will find other cultures, propinquitious with those as the culture of Ancient Israel, writing in a very similar literary function. Archaeologist and historians use king's lists/annuls from Egypt and Mesopotamia (also written with content which contained mythology and the supernatural) and correspond these with their political histories with little to no scrutiny, so why cannot the Bible be used in the same manner?
I believe this is enough for my first blog post. I have brought up several topics that I am sure can each be a discussion and further blog posts on their own. I will however keep philosophical discussions to a minimum and post more about new discoveries and archaeology that illuminate the culture and history of the narratives and events of the Bible. Additionally I will also upload any papers, topics of interest and streamed or videoed lectures that come up as I am working on my PhD. Please let me know what you think and we can start a conversation. I do ask that all comments and discussions stay appropriate and respectful. Thank you for visiting my site!