Sample BiblePlaces Newsletter
Vol 5, #1 - January 9, 2006

Two new developments have me excited.  They are also the cause for the lack of one of these newsletters since October.  The first is a new website.  It took steady work throughout all of 2005 to get this up and running and the results are, I believe, impressive. 

Entitled Life in the Holy Land, this website is the historic counterpart to Whereas give you the "here and now," Life in the Holy Land gives you the "there and then."

There is more to come, but we're launching it with five major regional categories (Galilee, Jerusalem, Judah, Lebanon, Egypt) and three cultural categories (the Bible Illustrated, Peoples of the Holy Land, and Way of Life). Altogether there are more than 100 pages and 400 illustrations. I think it is unique in the internet. There are sites with lots of thumbnail pictures and no explanations, and other sites with entire books but no pictures, but this combines the best of both.  Take a look!  And if you can add a link from your website, please do! (and see below)

Second, I have started the BiblePlaces Blog to feature the latest news and analysis of interest in between newsletter editions.  Bookmark this and check it periodically or add the feed to your RSS reader.  (One free offer that I linked to on the blog was extended to Jan. 8, but appears to still be working as of the 9th.)

I wish you the best for the New Year.  May the Lord's will be done in this country and in yours.

Todd Bolen
Assoc. Professor, The Master's College
Israel Bible Extension (IBEX), Judean Hills, Israel


News from Israel

Anchors found in Dead Sea

Two wooden anchors found in the Dead Sea are now on display in the Israel Museum, and are remarkable both for their size and their preservation. These anchors were revealed as the level of the Dead Sea continues to drop, and archaeologists date the two anchors to 500 B.C. and the 1st century A.D. The metal portions of the anchors have corroded away, but the wooden pieces and some of the attached ropes remain. These anchors attest to a time of flourishing boat traffic on the Dead Sea as depicted on the Medeba Map (600 A.D.). Archaeologists are hopeful that as the water level recedes, intact boats may be recovered.  For more information, see the Jerusalem Post article [no longer available].

Ancient Prison Cells Found in Tiberias

Excavations of an important administrative building continue in Tiberias and recently archaeologists have cleared what they believe were detention cells for prisoners. Measuring about 6 by 9 feet (1.8 x 2.7 m), the cells have walls that are about 3.5 feet (1.1 m) thick. The cells probably were not used for long-term prisoners, but instead held those awaiting trial. More information and a photo can be found in the Haaretz article.

Follow-Ups to Previous Stories

More on the "Palace of David"

The Washington Post has a story on the City of David excavations and the "palace of David." The use of the Bible in archaeological work is discussed, as is the political angle. Biblical Archaeology Review has also made available its article on the palace, written by the excavator, Eilat Mazar. I was at the site last week and noticed that the entire excavation area is being covered with steel girders, probably both for protection of the remains and to allow the modern courtyard above to be completed.

Aug 2005

Dec 2005


Don't Tell, Show Someone Else

At the encouragement of a big fan of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, I recently finished creating a PowerPoint "demo" that explains more of the features and advantages of the Pictorial Library collection.  This is not publicly available, but if you'd like to tell your class, friends or anyone else why the Pictorial Library is so valuable, send me an email with a short note as to how you would use it and I'll send the demo to you.  The presentation is largely self-explanatory.  [UPDATE: This is now available to all here.]

Special Offer: Free CD

The new website, Life in the Holy Land, needs "friends" :-).  All of the work that has and will be invested in it will not be of use if people do not know about it.  If you have a website (or blog) and would put a link to Life in the Holy Land, we'll send you a free CD.  Or ask your friend, school, or church to add a link to the site.  If you do, send me [OFFER EXPIRED] 1) the website where the link has been added; 2) your choice of CD; 3) your mailing address.  I'm traveling the rest of the week, so I won't be able to respond immediately, but I will.  Thank you for helping to spread the word.


Featured BiblePlaces Photos: Nazareth Village

If you're one of those who prefers a rural hillside to an icon-filled church for visualizing the biblical sites, some of the most important places in Jesus' life are the most disappointing.  The place of Jesus' birth, Bethlehem, and the place of his home until age 30, Nazareth, are large, crowded cities today.  The best that one can do is visit the churches built over the "holy sites" or to escape the city altogether.

Such is no longer the case in Nazareth, with the completion of "Nazareth Village."  Situated in the heart of the modern city, this re-creation of a 1st century town illustrates ancient life in Jesus' hometown.  Local people play the parts of ancient farmers, carpenters, and weavers, demonstrating and explaining their crafts.  This month's featured photos should help you to better understand and illustrate Scripture, and hopefully will encourage you to make Nazareth Village a stop on your next trip to Israel.

Each photo is linked to a higher-resolution version which may be used freely for personal and educational purposes.  Commercial use requires separate permission.  These photos are also available for download in a PowerPoint file (2.3 MB).  For more high-quality, high-resolution photographs and illustrations of biblical sites, purchase the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands or the Historic Views of the Holy Land series. 


The Farmer

Click picture for higher-resolution version.

During construction of Nazareth Village, excavators discovered that this area had been farmed in the Roman period.  Remains of ancient terraces and a winepress were revealed, and these may have been in use in the 1st century when Jesus lived in the village.


Threshing Floor

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Because Nazareth Village was established as a working farm, the visitor's experience changes throughout the year.  In the fall, the fields are plowed and planted, and in the spring the wheat is harvested and brought to the threshing floor.  Here the threshing sledge separates the grain from the straw, and then the grain was tossed into the air and the wind would carry away the chaff.  For older photos depicting this process, see Life in the Holy Land.


The Well

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Water is life, and if a spring wasn't nearby, a well or cistern is necessary.  Wells were preferred to cisterns because they accessed the water table directly.  Cisterns were simply plastered tanks which stored whatever rainwater could be collected.  For older photos about the "Woman at the Well," see Life in the Holy Land.



Click picture for higher-resolution version.

By the end of visiting dozens of archaeological sites around Israel, my students can be quite frustrated with the "piles of rocks" that start to look all the same.  At Nazareth Village, though, they have "put the roof on," so one can better visualize what ancient houses were really like.  Archaeologists were part of the construction process, so the buildings are as authentic as present knowledge allows.  In addition to the houses, a 1st century synagogue was also reconstructed.


The Meal

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Crops harvested on site are prepared for the table.  Common foods of the time included bread, olives, figs, and vegetable stew.


The Carpenter's Workshop

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According to most English translations of the Bible, Joseph was a "carpenter."  This reflects the European notion that a builder primarily works with wood.  But the word in Greek to describe Joseph and his son is literally "builder," which can indicate woodworking, or more likely in ancient Galilee, stone.  Like today, stone was more readily available than wood and was the primary building material.


The Weaver's Loom

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Typically women did the spinning and weaving at home.  First the wool was spun into thread using a large stick (distaff).  The spindle is held in the hand and rotates as the thread is wound around it.  The thread is then woven on a loom into various types of textiles.


The Olive Press

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Olives are harvested in the fall and brought to the press where a large millstone crushed the fruit to produce virgin oil.  Then a beam-press was operated to extract the second-grade oil from the pulp.  Olive oil was used for food, lighting, cosmetics, and anointing.



Click picture for higher-resolution version.

Work was punctuated with breaks for rest and conversation.  These women sit in the shade of an olive tree.  The idyllic scene in biblical language is of each man sitting "under his own vine and fig tree" (Zech 3:10).




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  All contents (c) 2006 Todd Bolen.  Text and photographs may be used for personal and educational use.  Commercial use requires written permission.