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Archaeology Archives ~ Aletheia Baptist Ministries Skip to main content

Biblical Pottery

Biblical Pottery

by Debra Conley

Did You Know?

By Debra Conley

 

             Pottery is referenced in several Biblical passages, usually referring to the body as a vessel like a clay pot. Much of the determination of time periods is done with archaeological finds of pottery. Of course, all the “dating” is done by man, the time periods assigned made up by man, and the craft improvements help men see the possibility of  future developments, but most is educated guess work. What seems to be more fascinating to me is the actual vessel itself. According to The Archaeological Study Bible, information found in modern digs shows that pottery was big business simply because for many centuries, it was the primary means for storing almost anything-from foods to manuscripts, as we know from the Qumran discoveries. It became the decoration of choice; pottery was formed in many soft and flowing patterns as much as it was in sturdy functional shapes. Then came the colors! Apparently, black was the first color added to the clay pottery, then came red and white. Somewhere after 500 B.C., excavators found pots with name inscriptions defining the pride of the potter. Some have been found with words similar to, “belongs to the king” since those were special pots made by the king’s royal guild potters and colored with his own coat of dynastic colors.

If you look at various pictures of these ancient pots, see how definite and even the added colors are. A number of sources were used to create the colors. Biblical areas were noted for red ocre and oxides ground to fine powders and applied to the pots with water. Beautiful purples and blues were often made from one of several species of sea snails that are found in the eastern Mediterranean. These are the the spiny dye murex, originally known as murex shells. In Acts 16, Paul gets his first convert in Europe, Lydia, the famed seller of purple dye. The talent of pottery, of colors, and artistry is often in the Bible.

Note how many shapes and sizes of pots have been found. If a pot is highly curved, how did those potters get the color lines so even? I wonder. This was a great skill for one with an artistic eye and steady hand. If you have ever tried to form a lump of clay on a potter’s wheel, you will realize what skill is involved in making the perfect pot. The skilled potter knows what the end result is to be; he sees it in his mind’s eye and that is the same as the Biblical reference to us as products of the Lord’s exacting craft. He knows what the end result will be and His potter’s wheel is constantly turning, improving each vessel.

 

 

The British Library

The British Library

by Debra Conley

Did You Know?

By Debra Conley

            

             Many visits to the British Library in London left me with countless images to remember, particularly the vast collection of ancient Biblical texts, including one of the most beautiful I have ever seen:

The Lindisfarne Gospels is an illuminated manuscript consisting of 258 leaves of calfskin vellum, created in the late seventh to the early eighth century.

This legacy of an artist monk living in Northumbria (northeast coast of England near border of Scotland) in the early eighth century is a precious testament to the tenacity of Christian belief during one of the most turbulent periods of British history. Costly in time and materials, superb in design, the manuscript is among our greatest artistic and religious treasures. It was made and used at Lindisfarne Priory on Holy Island, a major religious community that housed the shrine of St Cuthbert, who died in 687.

Medieval manuscripts were usually produced by a team of scribes and illustrators. However, the entire Lindisfarne Gospels is the work of one man, giving it a particularly coherent sense of design. According to a note added at the end of the manuscript less than a century after its making, that artist was a monk called Eadfrith, Bishop of Lindisfarne between 698 and 721.

Apart from its original binding which is believed to have been lost in a Viking raid, the Lindisfarne Gospels survived intact throughout the centuries.

The Viking raid on Lindisfarne in 793 is the earliest known written account of a Viking raid. In traditional history writing this event marks the beginning of the Viking Age in the British Isles. Monks managed to save the book and took it with them when they fled from Lindisfarne in 875 after suffering Viking raids

There is a book seller online at ABEBooks.com which offers some great illustrated Bibles. Below are some of their descriptions of illustrated Bibles:

Gustave Doré was one of the most acclaimed and popular illustrators of the nineteenth century, and his illustrated Bible is a landmark in the field. He made more than 200 engravings, illustrating the events of the Bible with detail and emotion. The first edition appeared in France in 1866, but his work was reprinted throughout Europe in the ensuing decades. The earliest editions tend to be the most expensive, but many collectors are happy with any nicely bound edition.

John Baskerville’s Bible marks a high point of eighteenth-century printing and typography. He printed four illustrated editions of the Bible between 1760 and 1772. The 1763 printing is considered one of the most beautiful ever made.

Benjamin Franklin called Massachusetts printer Isaiah Thomas “the American Baskerville.” Thomas printed two Bibles in 1791, a spectacular illustrated folio edition (about 15 inches tall) and a smaller “quarto” edition (about 12 inches tall). Both can be expensive, but his 1802 Bible is an affordable connection to the earliest days of American Bibles.

Gutenberg’s 42-line Bible is probably the most valuable printed book, with single leaves selling for $60,000 and up. First printed in 1456 , the Gutenberg Bible was the first book produced with moveable type. A copy sold in 1987 for $4.9 million at Christie’s New York.

Even in the earliest Gutenberg originals, a spacious margin was allowed so that illuminated decoration could still be added by hand which was done by dedicated monks or scribes.

 

 

The Stones Cry Out

The Stones Cry Out

by Debra Conley

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In reading several books about the  archaeological finds of the recent century, I fully expected to  come across much  duplication  of items  and related text on the importance or impact of such finds. However, this book  introduces finds that I had not encountered in other books, and that  is most likely because the author is an  archaeologist and professor of Biblical Archaeology. His reports within this text contain his personal discoveries with pictures and anecdotes of the dig.

At first,  the author seems to be bent on disproving the veracity of the methods or  conclusions of other archaeologists. Being an archaeologist himself, though,  Price  clarifies his  position with empirical evidence and its support of biblical passages. He points out that while other researchers refuse to acknowledge any evidence supporting Scripture, it is because they refuse to accept that other assumptions can have common ground. On page 90, Price relates how an Israeli professor called the Abrahamic stories just campfire lore and that the Patriarchs were only a projection  created to paint a glorified but non-historical past.  The author suggested to this professor that for an Israeli to  negate Abraham and God’s covenant with Israel was tantamount to “sawing off the limb on which they were sitting.”

Once  Price relates his adventures with other research and its secular bent compared to his perspective, the remainder of the book gets down to the basics of what he has discovered. This books covers a large section from chapters 9-11 on the Temple Mount and interestingly, new evidence not in other books I have read  is given, such as the exact excavation of the Broad Wall and the Israelite Tower. The chapter on Kings and Prophets (12) details the most of the small finds, such as the Bulla of Baruch, Jeremiah’s scribe, the coins, jewelry, the irons implements used in battle, pottery, and even oil lamps. One new discovery and its biblical enigma I had not come across in other texts was the information about the water tunnel of Hezekiah. II Kings 20 tells us that Hezekiah dug such a tunnel, but the specifics on how it was accomplished are not in the biblical text. Price and his colleagues (and his daughter) discovered how the 1750s zig-zag tunnel was dug.

To gain a very clear understanding of the battle Price has fought over the relevance of archaeological finds to the Bible, read chapters 17 and 18 on the various perspectives the author has encountered in working with other archaeological researchers. It is important for us to know and understand the world’s view of the Bible. To the post-modern thinker, it is just a good story only to be accepted as one sees fit for his own personal advantage. This then becomes the world’s view of such finds that collaborate Scripture. The book also contains an extensive list of the museums where artifacts are displayed.

Just as an end note, these books are important reading, but possibly the most clear, concise, and valuable book I have on artifacts from biblical periods is still Dr. Peter Masters’ work, Heritage of Evidence in the British Museum (Wakeman Trust, 2004). Pastor Shrader and I spent an entire day in the Museum with that book. You have the artifacts in view while Masters’ text explains its place in the Bible.

 

 

The Popular Handbook of Archaeology and ...

The Popular Handbook of Archaeology and the Bible

by Debra Conley

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In the Preface the reader is told, “The content of this book is not meant to be an exhaustive treatment of manuscripts or archaeological findings” (p. 17). However, by the time the reader is into Part One, he is more than knee deep in the history of the findings, their significance to the authority of the Bible, and a very good explanation of the various manuscripts which have been found and used to form the Bible most of us have today. The thorough connection the authors make between the Old Testament Manuscripts that have been found and the biblical portions they reveal is enough to convince. However, Holden and Geisler clearly state that to assume that any extrabiblical discovery or literature determines or “proves” the Bible is to make the greatest error. The authors clearly agree that one must believe in the inerrant Scripture first, then appreciate how many archaeological and literary discoveries support its authenticity. I caution the lay reader that this book is not one to lay out pictures of rocks on a page, or make great lists of each of the Dead Sea Scrolls, or stone engravings (called Steles), but there is considerable text which is highly enlightening. I enjoyed the section on the various maps in Part Five. A Greek mosaic floor map depicting Jerusalem and Damascus compares accurately to the Holy Land we find in the Bible. In chapter 18 there is a complete run down of the discoveries related to the Amarna Letters which confirms the ancient biblical city of Megiddo and tells much of the same events we have in I Kings concerning Solomon, the Temple, Kings Darius, Xerxes, and Artaxerxes.

I especially enjoyed Chapter 22’s extensive information of literary confirmations other than the popular Dead Sea Scroll references.  We have all read Josephus, but in this chapter, the authors tie the writings of the Babylonian Talmud, the words of Tacitus, of Gaius, of Pliny, of Lucian, and even Erastus to Scripture.

I learned much about the Temple Mount in chapter 24. This chapter connects each of the Temples built, their destruction and rebuilding to various archaeological finds and separates each for easier reading.

As with many books, I often buy just for the extensive bibliography. You will not be disappointed in this book or its references.

 

 

The Archaeological Study Bible

The Archaeological Study Bible

by Debra Conley

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Understanding a work of literature by determining the author’s intent and perspective is a critical element in the study of all primary literature. Any worthwhile teacher would fail a student who assumed the theme or intent of a literary work on his own terms without delving into the author’s purpose in writing the work. We fervently teach that exposition (background information necessary to understanding the work) is required for competent analysis and understanding of literary works as well as speeches, dramatic presentations, and even videos.

But the most important book we have, the Bible, is often treated as passively as the “warming instructions” on a frozen entrée when it comes to studying the author’s purpose in writing.  Let me quote from the introductory notes of this book:

“Awareness of the context of the Bible is an antidote to the dangerous dismissal of history that we see too often in both the church and the academy. In our day the postmodern outlook all but rejects history and context. Under the influence of this movement readers simply refuse to hear the writers of Scripture on their own terms and instead assert that it is up to each reader to make whatever he or she will of the ancient texts…The author’s intended meaning is thus rendered irrelevant to the modern reader, who feels free to interpret a text in any manner whatsoever. Such an approach makes a mockery of Biblical authority.” Studying to show ourselves approved means more than just reading Scripture. We must understand the Author’s purpose by knowing as much as we can about the inspiration of the writer in his circumstance and historical context.

This book is not an easy read. It is a study work, with over 2200 pages of history, sociology, geography, political history, maps, chronologies, and genealogies. It comes with an interactive CD-ROM full of color pictures, maps, charts, and other data from the book. There is text concurrent with the history so that one may read Scripture alongside the exposition.

 

Dead Sea Scrolls CD

Dead Sea Scrolls CD

by Rick Shrader

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Because some of the actual Dead Sea Scrolls are on exhibit in Kansas City for three months, our church bought as many tickets as possible and will be going to see them.  I then pulled out this CD which I have had for quite a few years.  We will be viewing the CD for a couple weeks before we see the actual scrolls.  This presentation allows you to go into the caves, see the scrolls and reconstruct the Khirbet Qumran village.  The CD has extensive audio and visual information on the languages, people groups, history and actual scroll work.  It pays extra attention to the Isaiah scrolls and the copper scroll.  The last section gives the intriguing history since the discovery.

 

Archaeology and the Bible

Archaeology and the Bible

by Debra Conley

The Archaeological Study Bible

Understanding a work of literature by determining the
author’s intent and perspective is a critical element in the study of all
primary literature. Any worthwhile teacher would fail a student who assumed the
theme or intent of a literary work on his own terms without delving into the author’s
purpose in writing the work. We fervently teach that exposition (background
information necessary to understanding the work) is required for competent
analysis and understanding of literary works as well as speeches, dramatic
presentations, and even videos.

But the most important book we have, the Bible, is often
treated as passively as the “warming instructions” on a frozen entrée when it
comes to studying the author’s purpose in writing.  Let me quote from the
introductory notes of this book:

“Awareness of the context of the Bible is an antidote to the
dangerous dismissal of history that we see too often in both the church and the
academy. In our day the postmodern outlook all but rejects history and context.
Under the influence of this movement readers simply refuse to hear the writers
of Scripture on their own terms and instead assert that it is up to each reader
to make whatever he or she will of the ancient texts…The author’s intended
meaning is thus rendered irrelevant to the modern reader, who feels free to
interpret a text in any manner whatsoever. Such an approach makes a mockery of
Biblical authority.”1 Studying to show ourselves approved means more
than just reading Scripture. We must understand the Author’s purpose by knowing
as much as we can about the inspiration of the writer in his circumstance and
historical context.

This book is not an easy read. It is a study work, with over
2200 pages of history, sociology, geography, political history, maps,
chronologies, and genealogies. It comes with an interactive CD-ROM full of
color pictures, maps, charts, and other data from the book. There is text
concurrent with the history so that one may read Scripture alongside the
exposition.

1. Notes from The Committee on Bible Translation, The
Archaeological Study Bible (Grand Rapids: The Zondervan Corporation, 2005) xi,
note #4.

 

Heritage of Evidence in the British Muse...

Heritage of Evidence in the British Museum

by Rick Shrader

Thanks to our missionary Russ Ivison for bringing this book to my attention.  Peter Masters has put together a book-guided tour of those parts of the British Museum that substantiate Biblical history.  The book contains pictures of various artifacts as well as diagrams of the lay-out of the museum’s halls.  Copies can be bought online at www.wakemantrust.org.  Peter Masters has been the pastor of Metropolitan Tabernacle since 1970.

 

Biblical Archaeology in Focus

Biblical Archaeology in Focus

by Rick Shrader

I recommend this 1982 Baker book by Keith Schoville as a standard conservative (not in everything!) text for referencing.  You can find it in used book stores at a reasonable price.  He doesn’t always hold the conservative view (the Exodus date, for example) but gives it equal time. You get a lot of info for your money!

 

Archaeology and the New Testament

Archaeology and the New Testament

by Rick Shrader

This is a 1991 Baker Book written by John McRay, long time professor at Wheaton College.  The book is good because of its up to date facts and its more modern layout, pictures and illustrations.  It makes a good reference book to illustrate New Testament passages.  McRay is more conservative than many in this field.  The price may be prohibitive.