Category Archives: BIBLICAL

This Is the Oldest Known Inscription Bearing the Full Name of Jerusalem

This Is the Oldest Known Inscription Bearing the Full Name of Jerusalem

The oldest discovered inscription of “Jerusalem” found to date
The oldest discovered inscription of “Jerusalem” found to date

The Israel Museum unveiled a pillar from the 2nd Temple period bearing a 3-line inscription, the earliest stone inscription of the full modern Hebrew spelling of “Jerusalem.”

“Hananiah son of Dodalos of Yerushalayim [the way the ancient Jewish city is written in Hebrew today]” was discovered during a salvage excavation earlier this year of a large Hasmonean Period Jewish artisans’ village near what is today’s western entrance to the city.

In an interview with The Times of Israel, Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Danit Levi said when her team alerted her to the find.

She could not believe that the word “Yerushalayim” could be on an ancient pillar and that it must be graffiti.

Danit Levy, director of the excavations on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, inspects the inscribed column in the field.

When she saw the expertly chiseled Hebrew lettering in the 31.5-inch tall column, she dusted it off and began to read.“My heart started to pound, and I was sure everyone could hear it. My hands were trembling so badly I couldn’t properly take a picture,” she said.

Levi believes the column and inscription date back to 100 BCE, and belonged to or was built with money from Hananiah son of Dodalos—Dodalos being a nickname used at the time to refer to artists, based on the Greek myth of Daedalus.

Levi said the column was located in a Jewish village, but that it was found in a ceramic construction workshop used by the Tenth Roman Legion—the army that would eventually destroy Jerusalem and exile the Jews—evidently being reused in a plastered wall.

There is a disagreement among experts as to whether the word “Yerushalayim” was etched in Aramaic or Hebrew. While the bar is the Aramaic word for “son,” the Aramaic pronunciation of Jerusalem was “Yerushalem,” whereas the word in the inscription was written “Yerushalayim,” just like in Hebrew.

The artisan village was located near a natural source for clay, water, and fuel, along the main arter leading to the Temple, which, as noted by IAA’s Jerusalem Regional Archaeologist Dr. Yuval Baruch at the event, is still in use today as a roadway to the Old City.

The artisan village is situated on a massive 200-acre plot, likely in order to accommodate the needs of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who would ascend to the Temple three times a year during festivals, as well as the 50,000 residents of the city at the time.

The column is currently on display at the Israel Museum in the Second Temple period exhibit.

Though this is the first inscription of its kind in stone, the full spelling of Jerusalem has been seen before, including on the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were written as early as 400 BCE.

Source: livescience

Ancient 3,000-year-old tablet suggests Biblical king may have existed

Ancient 3,000-year-old tablet suggests Biblical king may have existed

The pieced together remains of the ninth century B.C. inscribed tablet known as the Mesha Stele.
The pieced together remains of the ninth century B.C. inscribed tablet known as the Mesha Stele.

A new reading of an ancient tablet that is hard to decipher suggests that the biblical King Balak may have been a real historical person, suggests a new study.

But the study’s researchers recommend that people take this finding “with due caution,” and other biblical experts agree.”As the authors admit, this proposal is very tentative,” said Ronald Hendel, a professor of the Hebrew Bible and Jewish Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved in the study. 

The tablet in question is known as the Mesha Stele, an inscribed 3-foot-tall (1 meter) black basalt stone that dates to the 2nd half of the 9th century B.C. The 34 lines on the Mesha Stele describe how King Mesha of Moab triumphed over the Israelites. The inscription is written in Moabite, which is very close to Hebrew.

However, the Mesha Stele is extremely cracked and parts of it are challenging to read because of that damage. When Westerners became aware of the tablet in the 1860s, several people tried to buy it from the Bedouins, who owned the stone.

As negotiations dragged on, 1 Westerner was able to get a paper rubbing of the Mesha Stele; that paper was torn during an ensuing fight, according to a 1994 report in the journal Biblical Archaeology Review.

In the meantime, negotiations soured between the Bedouins and the prospective buyers, who included people from Prussia (North Germany), France and England, in part because of political affiliations with an Ottoman official, whom the Bedouins disliked. So, the Bedouins smashed the Mesha Stele into pieces by heating it up and pouring cold water on it.

Since then, archaeologists have tried to reassemble the smashed tablet by connecting the broken pieces. Now, the Mesha Stele is on display at the Louvre Museum in Paris; about two-thirds of the tablet are made of its original pieces, and the remaining one-third is made of modern writing on plaster, which was informed by the torn paper rubbing, according to the 1994 report.

What does it say?

Researchers have spent countless hours trying to decipher the tablet’s challenging portions. For instance, in the mid-1990s, it was proposed that line 31 referred to “the House of David,” that is, the dynasty of the biblical king.

But some experts are skeptical of this interpretation. In the fall of 2018, the France Secondary School (College de France) had an exhibit on the Mesha Stele, showing a high-resolution, well-lit image of the rubbing. “And of course, we wished to check the validity of the reading ‘House of David,’ suggested for this line in the past,” said study co-researcher Israel Finkelstein, a professor emeritus at the Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University in Israel.

The text contained a definite “B,” Finkelstein said. The earlier interpretation was that this stood for “Bet,” which means “house” in Hebrew. But Finkelstein and two colleagues thought that it stood for something else: Balak, a Moab king mentioned in the Hebrew Bible’s Book of Numbers.

“If Balak is indeed mentioned in the stele as the king of Horonaim [a city in Moab], this is the 1st time in which he appears outside of the Bible, in real-time evidence, that is, in a text written in his own time, in the 9th century BCE.

But this is just one idea, and it might not be correct, Hendel said.”We can read one letter, b, which they are guessing may be filled out as Balak, even though the following letters are missing,”

“It’s just a guess. It could be Bilbo or Barack, for all we know.”Moreover, the Bible places King Balak about 200 years before this tablet was created, so the timing doesn’t make sense, Hendel said.

The authors acknowledge this gap in the study: “To give a sense of authenticity to his story, [the Mesha Stele’s] author must have integrated into the plot certain elements borrowed from the ancient reality.”

In other words, “the study shows how a story in the Bible may include layers (memories) from different periods which were woven together by later authors into a story aimed to advance their ideology and theology,” Finkelstein said. “It also shows that the question of historicity in the Bible cannot be answered in a simplistic ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.”