By Gordon Franz


    The consequence of King Uzziah’s military strategy associated with his foreign policy is summarized by a proverb of wise King Solomon.  He stated: “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18).  Let us examine the geography of King Uzziah’s military expansionist policies and show how these policies led to a proud heart and eventually to his downfall.  King Uzziah (also called Azariah in II Kings 15:1-7) is an example of a king who starts out spiritually on the right foot, but ends up on the wrong foot (II Chron. 26).


    At this point in Israel’s history the Kingdom is divided.  The ten tribes to the north called Israel and the two tribes to the south called Judah.  King Uzziah, also known as Azariah, reigned from 792-740 BC.  He was 16 years old when he came to the throne (792 BC) after the death of his father Amaziah.  Uzzaih “sought God in the days of Zechariah” which was about 25 years.  When he was 41 years old, about 767 BC, he rebuilt Eilat.  His expansionist policies led to a “strong heart being lifted up” and in the year 750 BC, the Middle East was struck with a devastating earthquake and Uzziah was struck with leprosy.  In the northern Kingdom, Jeroboam II was ruling from Samaria (792-753/2 BC).

    The Rebuilding of Eilat

    King Uzziah stepped out of the will of God as revealed in the Word of God, by taking territory that did not belong to him.  It is unusual for the writer of the book of Chronicles to mention the building activities in the summary formula of the king’s reign.  The Spirit of God included this statement of the building of Eilat because it a key to understanding Uzziah’s pride, and his subsequent downfall.

    The southern border of Israel, which is also the southern border of the tribal territory of Judah, is explicitly given in Numbers 34:3-5.  It states: “Your southern border shall be from the Wilderness of Zin along the border of Edom; then your sourhern border shall extend eastward to the end of the Salt Sea; your border shall turn from the southern side of the Ascent of Akrabbim, continue to Zin, and be on the south side of Kadesh Barnea; then it shall go to Hazar Addar; and continue to Azmon; the border shall turn from Azmon to the Brook Egypt, and it shall end at the Sea.”  Joshua basically reiterates the same borders: “The border of Edom at the Wilderness of Zin southward was the extreme southern boundry.  And their southern border began at the shore of the Salt Sea, from the bay that faces southward.  Then it went out to the southern side of the Ascent of Akrabbim, passed along to Zin, ascended on the south side of Kadesh Barnea, passed along to Hezron, went up to Adar, and went around to Karkaa.  From there it passed toward Azmon and went out to the Brook of Egypt; and the border ended at the sea.  This shall be your southern border” (15:2-4; CBA 51).

    There are two things to note in these passages.  First, the line of the border goes from the southern end of the Dead Sea, to the south of the Ascent of Akrabbim (the scorpion), through the Wilderness of Zin to a point south of Kadesh Barnea.  The second thing to note is that the territory of Edom lies to the south of the Land of Israel and the tribal territory of Judah (Crew 2002).

    The city of Eilat that was built by King Uzziah was in Edom’s territory.  When King Solomon sent out his Red Sea fleet, they departed from “Ezion Geber, which is near Elath on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom” (I Kings 9:26).  “Then Solomon went to Ezion Geber and Elath on the seacoast, in the land of Edom” (II Chron. 8:17).

    In the description of the Children of Israel wandering in the wilderness, the territory of Edom is mentioned and Eilat and Ezion Geber are placed in this territory (Deut. 2:1-8).

    When I was a student at the Institute of Holy land Studies in Jerusalem, I had a class on “Modern Israeli Society.”  One lecture was by a member of Israel’s parliament, the Kenesst.  His name was Yehuda ben Moshe.  He made a statement I never forgot.  He said his only claim to fame in life was: “I was the first mayor of Eilat in 1948 and it was a city that did not belong to us Biblically!”  I thought that was an odd statement when he made it, but when I began to study the life of King Uzziah, I realized he was right.  Eilat belonged to Edom, not Israel.

    The Identification of the Eilat

    The region of Eilat / Akaba was first surveyed by Fritz Frank in 1933.  He identified Tel el-Kheleifeh with Biblical Ezion Geber.  Nelson Glueck conducted three seasons of excavations at this site between 1938 and 1940.  He identified Tell el-Kheleifeh with Biblical Ezion-geber and Eilat (Glueck 1938: 2-13).

    Prof. Benjamin Mazar challenged Glueck’s view.  He stated: “The immediate vicinity of ‘Aqaba is the most suitable spot for an Israelite fort to be associated with Ezion-Geber, located within the settled area of Elath.  The latter would be the earlier name of the site, and the fortress of Ezion-Geber would have been founded, after David’s conquest of Edom, as an emporium for the South-Arabian trade” (Mazar 1975: 119*).  He suggested that Tell el-Kheleifeh was Ebronah, one of Solomon’s “store-city” (Mazar 1975: 120*), also known as Biblical Abronah (Num. 33: 34-36).

    Burno Rothenberg identifies the Ezion-Geber with Jezirat Fara’un, known as Pharaoh’s Island, to the west of modern Eilat (Rothenberg 1972: 202-207; Flinder 1989: 30-43).

    Recently, a reappraisal of the excavations and identification of Tell el-Kheleifeh was done by Gary Pratico (1985: 1-32; 1986: 24-35; 1993: 17-23).  He concluded that the “identification of Tell el-Kheleifeh is both an archaeological and an historical problem.  One may argue the identification from the perspective of possibility or probability but the problem of verification precludes examination of the site in the context of Biblical Ezion-geber and/or Eilath (1985:27).

    While we may not know precisely where the ancient site of Eilat is today, it is safe to say that it is in the area of modern day Eilat (Israel) and Akaba (Jordan).  It’s location on the tip of the Red Sea (Gulf of Eilat / Akaba) made it ideal for mercantile trade.  Sea trade and caravans through this port brought an increase in wealth for Judah because of this trade.  There were two other Israelite / Judean kings that took Eilat as well, Solomon (I Kings 9:26; CBA 112, 115) and Jehoshaphat (II Chron. 20:36).

    The Military Preparations and Expansionist Conquests

    The Chronicler records the military activity of King Uzziah.  He states: “Now he [Uzziah] went out and made war against the Philistines, and broke down the wall of Gath, and the wall of Jabneh, and the wall of Ashdod; and he built cities around Ashdod and among the Philistines.  God helped him against the Philistines, against the Arabians who lived in Gur Baal, and against the Meunites.  And the Ammonites brought tribute to Uzziah.  His fame spread as far as the entrance of Egypt, for he became exceedingly strong.  And Uzziah built towers in Jerusalem …  And Uzziah built towers in the desert (midbar).  He dug many wells, for he had much livestock, both in the lowlands (Shephelah) and the plains (Coastal Plains); he also had farmers and vinedressers in the mountains and in Carmel, for he loved the soil” (II Chron. 26:6-10; CBA 141).

    At the beginning of his military campaigns, Uzziah made war against the Philistines and God helped him (26:6, 7).  The southern border of Israel was the “brook Egypt”.  Nadav Na’aman places this border at the Nahal Basor, just south of Gaza city (1979:68-90; 1980:95-109).  Anson Rainey disputes this identification and places it at Wadi al-Arish (1982:130-136).  Judah should have driven the Philistines out of this territory long ago because they were a bad influence on Judah / Israel, a fact acknowledged by the Prophet Isaiah (2:6).

    The securing of Philistia and the settlement of Judeans within the coastal plains had two economic benefits.  First, it gave them the opportunity to develop the agriculture in the area.  This was something that Uzziah had a keen interest in (II Chron. 26:10).  Second, Uzziah was able to extract tribute from the caravans that used the International Coastal Highway that went through the territory of Philistia (CBA 9, 10).

    Uzziah also turned his attention to the Arabians that lived at Gur Baal (26:7).  The location of Gur Baal is a much debated topic, but it appears to be somewhere in the region southwest of Judah and near Philistia (Eph’al 1982: 77, 78).  The Meunites (26:7) appeared to have settled in the northern Sinai Peninsula to the west of the Aravah and Edom’s territory (I Chron. 4:41, 42; Eph’al 1982:65, 66).  In this military action, Uzziah is trying to secure his trade routes to Eilat from any attacks from the west.

    The statement that the Ammonites brought tribute to King Uzziah (26:8), implies that Judah controlled the area as well as the strategic Transjordanian Highway that went through their territory, thus brining more tribute money (CBA 9, 10).

    Uzziah built towers (migdalim) in the desert (midbar).  The midbar in view here is the Wilderness of Zin and its surrounding areas (26:10).  Rudolph Cohen has excavated a number of Iron Age fortresses in the Central Negev Highlands, the area of the Wilderness (midbar) of Zin (Cohen 1979: 61-79).  These fortresses, along the southern border of Judah, guarded the road to Eilat (Aharoni 1967: 15-17).  For a contrary view, see Finkelstein 1984: 189-209.

    Uzziah also dug many wells, or cisterns (borot) in the area.  Some of which can still be seen in the area (Cohen 1981: xxvii, 62-64, site 101).

    The Relationship of the Kings of Judah to Wealth and Power

    Moses sets forth the rules and regulations concerning the future rule of kings of Israel / Judah (Deut. 17:14-20).  He states that the king will be chosen from “your brethren” (17:15).  He was not to multiply horses to himself (17:16).  This is to prevent the king from boasting about his own strength (cf. Josh. 11:6; II Sam. 8:4; Micah 5:10).  The king is not to multiply wives (17:17a).  An example of one who did was Solomon and the foreign wives drew his heart away from the Lord.  The king was not to greatly multiply silver and gold to himself (17:17b).  They need silver and gold to keep the kingdom functioning, but the instruction is not to “multiply” the precious metals.  The king was to write a copy of the (Mosaic) Law (17:18) and read the Law (17:19).  The king is subject to the Law and is not above it (17:20).

    King Uzziah followed all these principles in the first part of his reign.  In the beginning he learned to fear God (II Chron. 26:16a); he observed God’s statues (26:16b); his heart was not lifted up (26:16b); nor did not turn away from the LORD (26:18), thus his days were prolonged (26:21).  Yet after he took Eilat, he built up his military and it included multiplying horses for his army.  As a result of controlling the international highways and receiving tribute, he multiplied gold and silver to himself.  The Prophet Isaiah acknowledged this state of affairs.  “Their land [Judah] is also full of silver and gold, and there is no end to their treasures; their land is also full of horses, and there is no end to their chariots” (2:7).

    The Earthquake in the Days of King Uzziah

    In the mid-8th century BC, the Middle East was hit with a devastating earthquake.  The prophets warned both the Northern Kingdom as well as the Southern Kingdom of impending danger if they did not turn from their evil ways and return to the Lord and His ways.

    Two years before this earthquake, the Judean shepherd from Tekoa, cried out against the social injustices in the northern kingdom under the rule of Jeroboam II (Amos 1:1; 9:1).  The book that bears his name is replete with warnings of an earthquake to come.  In the southern kingdom, Isaiah warns of this earthquake as well because of the haughtiness of the people of Judah (Isa. 2:6-21).  Hundreds of years later, the prophet Zechariah reminds the people of Judah of the devastation caused by this earthquake (Zech. 14:4, 5).

    Evidence for this earthquake has been uncovered by the archaeologists spade throughout Israel and Jordan.  Graphic evidence can be seen at Hazor and Ein Hazeva (Biblical Tamar).  I tri-authored an article with two geologists on this earthquake and it was concluded that the earthquake measured an 8.2 on the Ritcher scale and the epicenter was located in the Beka Valley, in present day Lebanon (Austin, Franz and Frost 2000: 657-671).  An earthquake of that magnitude would put the fear of the LORD into anybody.

    Josephus, the First Century Jewish historian, described the events in Jerusalem during this earthquake.  King Uzziah was in the Temple trying to offer incense on the altar at Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, a duty only allowed the High Priest (Lev. 16 and 17).  The priests tried to stop him, but he was defiant.  Josephus records what happens next: “But, while he [Uzziah] spoke, a great tremor shook the earth, and, as the temple was riven, a brilliant shaft of sunlight gleamed through it and fell upon the king’s face so that leprosy at once smote him” (Antiquities of the Jews 9:225; LCL 6:119; cf. II Chron. 26:19-21, 23).  The Bible does not place the two events together chronologically, but Josephus may have had access to records that are no longer available to us.

    Uzziah was so full of pride that he thought he was above the Law and could do anything he wanted to do.  The Chronicler again records: “But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the LORD his God by entering the Temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense” (II Chron. 26:16).  The same Hebrew words are used in Proverb 16:18 which states: “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.”  Uzziah paid a high price for his pride and disobedience to the Word of God.  He was put outside the city in an “isolation house” and was not allowed into the Temple again (II Chron. 26:21).

    The Death of King Uzziah

    The Bible records the death of King Uzziah in these terms: “So Uzziah rested with his fathers, and they buried him with his fathers in the field of burial which belonged to the kings, for they said, ‘He is a leper'” (II Chron. 26:23).  He was buried with his fathers, but not in the royal tombs.  His burial cave is probably the cave in the City of David overlooking the “Tower of Siloah.”

    In the 19th century, a burial inscription was discovered on the Mount of Olives (Cameron 1973: 120, #255).  It read: “Here were brought / the bones of Uzziah, / King of Judah, / and not to be opened.”  The paleography of the inscription is late 1st century BC.  Joesphus records that Herod the Great erected a monument over the tomb of David after he tried to steal some of the gold and silver from the tomb.  This was probably the time when Uzziah’s bones were moved and the inscription was written.

    Summary of King Uzziah’s Foreign Policy and Spiritual Regression

    King Uzziah began his reign on the “right foot” by being obedient to the Word of God.  Somewhere along the line, he stepped out of the will of God, as revealed in the Word of God, by taking Eilat.  When he did this, he had built up his military in order to control the Transjordanian Highway and the International Coastal Highway.  As a consequence of controlling these roads, he had to fortify these and other routes.  Yet with the control of these roads, the national treasury increased.  Yet the sad fact is, because of his military strength and wealth, King Uzziah developed a proud heart that led to his downfall (II Chron. 26:15, 16; Prov. 16:18).

    Outline of the Life and Times of King Uzziah (II Chron. 26)

    A.   Introduction.  26:1-5.

    B.   The prosperity of King Uzziah.  26:6-15.

    1.    Material possessions.  26:6-10.

    2.    Military preparations.  26:11-15.

    C.   The pride of King Uzziah.  26:16-19; cf. Deut. 8:6-18; Prov. 16:18.

    D.   The punishment of King Uzziah.  26:20-23.


    Aharoni, Yohanan

    1967    Forerunners of the Limes: Iron Age Fortresses in the Negev.  Israel Exploration Journal 17/1: 1-17.

    Aharoni, Yohanan; Avi-Yonah, Michael; Rainey, Anson; and Safrai, Ze’ev

    2002   The Carta Bible Atlas.  Fourth edition.  Jerusalem: Carta.  (Footnoted as CBA).

    Austin, Steve, Franz, Gordon, and Frost, Eric

    2000    Amos’s Earthquake:  An Extraordinary Middle East Seismic Event of 750 B.C.  International Geology Review 42/7: 657-671.

    Carmon, Efrat, ed.

    1972    Inscriptions Revealed.  Trans. by R. Grafman.  Jerusalem: Israel Museum.

    Cohen, Rudolph

    1979   The Iron Age Fortresses in the Central Negev.  Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 236: 61-79.

    1981   Archaeological Survey of Israel.  Map of Sede Boqer – East (168).  Jerusalem: Archaeological Survey of Israel.

    Crew, Bruce

    2002   Did Edom’s Original Territories Extend West of ‘Wadi Arabah?  Bible and Spade 15/1: 2-10.

    Eph’al, Israel

    1982    The Ancient Arabs.  Jerusalem and Leiden: Magness and E. J. Brill.

    Finkelstein, Israel

    1984      The Iron Age “Fortresses” of the Negev Highlands:

    Sendentarization of the Nomads.  Tel Aviv 11/2: 189-209.

    Flinder, Alexander

    1989    Is This Solomon’s Seaport?  Biblical Archaeology Review 15/4: 30-43.

    Glueck, Nelson

    1938    The Topography and History of Ezion-Geber and Elath.  Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 72: 2-13.


    1937   Antiquities of the Jews.  Books 9-11.  Vol. 6.  Trans. by R. Marcus.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.  Loeb Classical Library 326.  Reprinted in 1987.

    Mazar, Benjamin

    1975    Ezion-Geber and Ebronah.  Eretz-Israel 12: 46-48, 119*.

    Na’aman, Nadav

    1979    The Brook of Egypt and Assyrian Policy on the Border of Egypt.  Tel Aviv 6: 68-90.

    1980    The Shihor of Egypt and Shur that is Before Egypt.  Tel Aviv 7: 95-109.

    Pratico, Gary

    1985    Nelson Glueck’s 1938-1940 Excavations at Tell el-Kheleifeh: A

    Reappraisal.  Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental

    Research 259: 1-32.

    1986    A Reappraisal of the Site Archaeologist Nelson Glueck Identified as King Solomon’s Red Sea Port.  Biblical Archaeology Review 12/5: 24-35.

    1993    Nelson Glueck’s 1938-1940 Excavations at Tell el-Kheleifeh.  A Reappraisal.  Atlanta, GA: Scholars.

    Rainey, Anson

    1982     Toponymic Problems (cont.).  Tel Aviv 9/2: 130-136.

    Rothenberg, Beno

    1972    Timna.  Valley of the Biblical Copper Mines.  Aylesbury: Thames and Hudson.

    This paper was first read at the Association of American Geographers meeting in Boston, MA on April 16, 2008.

  • Jerusalem Comments Off on “The Most Important Discovery was the People”: An Interview with Dr. Gabriel Barkay

    By Gordon Franz and Stephanie Hernandez

    Raised in the ghettos of Budapest, Hungary, Israeli archaeologist Gabriel Barkay has had an accomplished career in the archaeology of the Bible Lands.  Barkay holds both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Hebrew University and a PhD from Tel Aviv University.  His doctoral dissertation, completed in 1985, was on “Northern and Western Jerusalem at the End of the Iron Age.”

    Gordon Franz: Thank you for doing this interview for us Goby.  In which schools have you taught?

    Gabriel “Goby” Barkay:  I taught for 27 years at Tel Aviv University in their Institute of Archaeology.  Since 1997, I have taught at different schools, mainly Bar-Ilan University, the Hebrew University Rothberg School for Overseas Studies, and for more than 30 years I’ve been teaching at the American Institute of Holy Land Studies, better known today as the Jerusalem University College.

    Gordon: Where have you excavated?

    Goby: I started my excavations at Tel Arad in 1963.  In 1964 I participated in a short excavation in Jerusalem on the road going up to Mount Zion, known as the Pope’s Road.  In 1965, I participated in a dig as a student with Yigael Yadin at Megiddo.  That same year I started for several seasons excavating in the Negev with Avraham Negev, including Beersheva and Tel Masos for eleven seasons.  I also spent fifteen years at Lachish.  Since the 1970’s I concentrated my efforts on Jerusalem and its immediate vicinity.  For seven seasons, I directed the excavations at Ketef Hinnom below the St. Andrews Church of Scotland as well as several burial caves in the Hinnom Valley.  To the west of Jerusalem I dug one of the tumuli and also a short season at Ramat Rachel.  I dug for two seasons at Jezreel.  I dug one season at Susa in Iran during the winter of 1969.  In the last seven years I have been involved in a project in the Shephelah at Tel Zayit, digging with Professor Ron Tappy from the Pittsburg Theological Seminary.

    Gordon: How did you become involved in the Temple Mount Sifting Project?

    Gody: A violation of the law took place on the Temple Mount when a gigantic mosque was built inside Solomon’s Stables in 1996.  In 1999 there was a removal of an enormous quantities of soil saturated with archaeological material from inside the Temple Mount.  We were all enraged.  I remember myself in December 1999 or January 2000, participating in a demonstration that took place near the piles of dirt removed from the Temple Mount and remember being interviewed by different television stations on the subject.  I was very much enraged by the fact that the Temple Mount, being the most important archaeological site in the country, is a black hole in the archaeology of Jerusalem.

    We actually know nothing about the Temple Mount archaeologically.  We know it is more than twice the size of the City of David and is the center of activity in ancient times in Jerusalem and not a single sherd was published from the Temple Mount.  Not one survey was carried out on the Temple Mount and that is something that is almost unthinkable.

    In 2000, two of my former students, Zachi Zweig and Aran Yardeni showed up at this very place we are sitting right now.  They were very upset and they emptied onto the dining room table here two plastic bags that included much mud, but also pot sherds of different periods that I could identify.  They covered a wide range of the history of Jerusalem, starting with the Iron Age and ending with the Ottoman-Turkish period.  Even earlier than that, I collected pieces of pottery on the piles removed from the Temple Mount which showed that the pile is embodied in it a potential of archaeological studies.  The two students and their enthusiasm convinced me that something had to be done.

    I negotiated in 2000 with different bodies in an attempt to organize a systematic sifting of the material, but the damage was done.  The corpse of the destruction act of the Islamic Waqf was done, the body was already there.  The question was now, how to get something positive out of this tragedy.  In any case, I was encouraged by Zachi and eventually, after long deliberations, denials and negotiations, and even threats, we managed to get a license in the beginning in my name only and later in Zachi’s name as well.  We managed to get a license for sifting through the material in 2004.

    Gordon:  Some archaeologists have suggested that the project is not real archaeology.  What can we learn from the sifting project that will help in our knowledge of Jerusalem in general and the Temple Mount in particular?

    Goby: I would prefer to have real archaeology on the Temple Mount, if it were possible.  That would be great.  Because of political and religious reasons, one can not dig on the Temple Mount.  I do not see in the coming future any possibility of carrying out any normal pre-initiated excavations on the Temple Mount.  We have to suffice with what we can do.  It is always like that in Jerusalem.  In Jerusalem, you do not dig wherever you want to dig, but wherever it is possible.  So this is in line with Jerusalem’s archaeology.

    Of course, it is much easier to stand on Mount Olympus, dig some site in Greece or in Turkey, or in Hazor or Megiddo, or any other place and criticize people working in Jerusalem.  Jerusalem is under totally different conditions than any other sites.  And in Jerusalem, the archaeology and politics: what can we do?  It goes hand in hand.  It goes together and there is much influence to the archaeological activities in Jerusalem by all kinds of political and other interventions.

    If I am interested to know about the Temple Mount, then I am directed by my interests, my motivations.  I am interested in the Temple Mount and so is the scholarly world in general.  Everyone does what everyone can.  This is how I can learn something about the Temple Mount.  Of course, I would prefer to have normal excavations on the Temple Mount, but that is impossible, so we have to go in the possible way and not criticize the conditions, but get the advantages of what we can do.

    Eventually at the end of this sifting project, or even before the end, we are going to have a kind of a graph showing the intensiveness of human activity upon the Temple Mount in different periods, the statistics of pottery found on the Temple Mount from each and every one of the archaeological periods.  The pottery and the amounts of pottery will eventually show the history of occupation upon the Temple Mount.  I am well aware of the fact that we work with material which does not have any context.  It does not come from the floors, it does not come from stratigraphy, and it does not come from the ideal conditions that an archaeologist would prefer.

    Our project is comparable to a surface survey.  If you go to a site which was not yet studied, the first thing you do is collect the pottery from the surface, assuming that upon the surface there is a proper representation of all periods and all the civilizations that once were active on the site.  The activity throughout the years brought up to the surface from the activity on that certain site.  The archaeological survey is a legitimate and common archaeological activity.  That is also without any context to the finds.  You collect the pottery and draw conclusions without having any floors, any architecture, any stratigraphy, and so forth.  Nevertheless, you come to historical, geographical conclusions.  So our work is comparable to a surface survey of any archaeological site.  When we know nothing, it is better to know little than to despair and give it all up.

    Gordon:  You have studies what has been sifted so far.  Is there any aspect of our understanding of the history of Jerusalem, and specifically the Temple Mount, that the sifting project would change?

    Goby: The answer is yes, very much so.  We have already some preliminary results which changed the history of Jerusalem on the whole and even the Temple Mount.  For example, we have a group of flint implements from the prehistoric Epi-paleolithic period, approximately 15,000 years before our time.  This was a period previously unknown in Jerusalem.  We have some implements and nice arrowheads of the Neolithic period which is hardly known in Jerusalem.  So, this is by itself a very important contribution.  We have some Bronze Age pottery and it is hard to tell if the Temple Mount was part of human activity in Jerusalem in the 4th, 3rd, 2nd millennia BC.  But nevertheless, we have some Chalcolithic pottery, Bronze Age pottery, 2nd millennium pottery from the time of the Canaanites.  We have scarabs of the general Egyptian times, one of which is probably from the Middle Bronze Age and the other from the Late Bronze Age, which is a welcomed addition to the scarce knowledge we have of Jerusalem in the second millennium BC.

    Concerning the Iron Age, it is very interesting we do not have any pottery that we can clearly say is part of the Iron Age I.  On the other hand, Iron Age 2A, from the 10th century BC, is where we have some material, not of quantitative value, but still we have some pieces that can be clearly dated, and burnished pieces which are of the 10th century BC.

    Concerning the later periods, we have a large number of coins and that is one specialty of the sifting project.  We have many thousands of coins and we have for example, one Yehud coin of the Persian Period in the 4th century BC.  This type of coin has been rare and is important to have.  We have several coins of the early Hellenistic period from the rule of the Ptolemy’s, the late 4th and 3rd centuries BC.  We have some coins from the Seleucid rule in Jerusalem, and that period is quite enigmatic in the archaeology of Jerusalem, since we do not have many finds in other digs from that time.  So we can draw a nice picture of the history of Jerusalem from the coins.

    Concerning other periods, such as the Byzantine period, the Christian period, we do not have too many good sources of the Temple Mount.  In the account of pilgrims coming to the Holy City of Jerusalem, the Temple Mount is entirely ignored.  It does not play any important role in the early Christian period.  In the written sources one can surmise the Temple Mount was either empty, not active, or was a garbage heap at the time.  The results of the sifting project show a totally different picture.  It shows much activity.  We have a large number of objects dating back to the early Christian period, drawing a totally different picture than what was known before.  We have a large number of coins from the 4th, 5th, and 6th centuries of the Common Era.  We have a large number of weights from weighing gold, showing that there was economic activity on the Temple Mount.

    We have a large amount of pottery of the Byzantine period: oil lamps, household ware, as well as course ware of different kinds and types.  In addition, we have architectural fragments of Corinthian capitals, which evidentially belong to ecclesiastical structures.  I think that the whole role of the Temple mount in the early Christian period should be reevaluated, which means that in a densely built up city, which Christian Jerusalem was in the 4th, 5th, and 6th centuries, I can not imagine a large, vast area of 145,000 square meters in the heart of the city being totally abandoned and totally unused, while the vicinity of the city, just outside Jaffa Gate, on the slopes of the Mount of Olives, on the hills surrounding the city on the north up to St. Etienne on the north and even further than that, there was much activity.  There was an overflow of human activity on the outskirts of Jerusalem.  So why did the inside of Jerusalem remain empty, such a vast area left unused?  That does not make sense on the one hand and on the other hand we have an abundance of material.

    Among the material we have are a large number of pieces of jewelry, which at the moment are understudied, but typologically, they could be related to the early Christian period.  Among the finds we have about ten or so cruciform C-shaped pendants which were left by the pilgrims or Christians who were active on the Temple Mount.  We have from sources perhaps an existence of a nunnery, maybe even an ecclesiastical building; a pinnacle church.  So all this hints to a possibility that we will have in the future the ability to change what is known about the Temple Mount in the history books.

    Now, another period which is interesting is the Early Roman period.  The Temple Mount was destroyed by Titus.  We know about the Temple Mount only seventy years later, when Hadrian rebuilt the city of Aelia-Capitaline.  The question is what happened between.  What happened towards the end of the 1st century AD and the 2nd century AD?  I believe that our finds will enable us to draw a picture of the Temple Mount history of that enigmatic period of time.

    Gordon: What do you think are the most important objects found during the sifting project so far, and why are they important?

    Goby: First of all, the most important discovery we have is not the finds.  I discovered that people are more important than finds.  We work with a very, very fine team of people who are very sensitive, very helpful, very good natured people and I’ve witnessed the arrival of 40,000 volunteers who participated in this project.  The greatest discovery is the immense interest of the people in archaeology and also from circles who would not come to any other archaeological project but who are drawn by a connection to the Temple Mount.  In any case, very devote Christian evangelists, the Jewish ultra-orthodox and Orthodox circle come and participate and sift.  They are thrilled to have their hands upon the objects that were in the immediate vicinity or area of the Temple Mount itself and were part of the worship of the Temple.  So watching the people, watching their excitement, watching their emotional involvement in our project is one of the greatest discoveries.

    We collect in the project everything that was either made by man or used by man or testifies about man’s environment.  So we collect seashells and we have them in abundance.  We collect animal bones and we have them in abundance and eventually those parts of a general assemblage of materials will be of great importance.  Among the bones we have several pig bones, several foxes, and we have all kinds and types of wild animals as well as household animals.  We have a large number of burnt bones, especially of sheep and goats.  Eventually, in the future, we are not only going to identify the bones but also date them with advanced techniques, such as C-14 data.  We are going to have some knowledge about the sacrificial activity upon the Temple Mount.

    We have much information about the Islamic periods on the Temple Mount and I would like to stress that.  We deal with all the periods of the Temple Mount, from the earliest involvement of mankind in the past of the country and until our own days.  We have rich finds from the Arabic period, from the time of the Umayyad Dynasty, the time of the Abbasid Dynasty, the time of the Fatimid Dynasty, time of the Crusaders.  We have an abundance and rich collection of Crusader coins minted in Jerusalem and we ought not to forget that the headquarters of the Knights Templar were in the southern quadrant of the Temple Mount where the soil was removed.  We have a rich collection of Mamluk and Turkish-Ottoman finds including art objects, gaming pieces, glass objects, coins, jewelry, and an abundance of all kinds of types and finds.

    If we go to the most touching piece that we have I would say that I was very much touched by a small piece, about 10 cm in size, of stone which is sculpted in the Herodian style.  It has a remnant of a floral or vegetal design, very beautifully and artistically carved out of hard limestone.  The piece itself got exfoliated or unpeeled from a building as a result of conflagration at a high temperature.  The piece is in the style of the Jewish art of the Herodian Dynasty’s time and is close in style to the facades of sculpted burial caves, and in the style of the decorated ceilings of the Huldah Gate passages underneath the present day Al-Aqsa Mosque.  It is beyond any doubt belonging to the time of Herod the Great.  At the edge of the object there is a remnant of black soot from the conflagration.  Actually, this is a piece which enable us to visualize the great fire in which the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD.  So this is in touch with the destruction of the Temple.  I can even suggest that the stone could have come from the Temple itself.

    Another piece which is very touching is a piece dating back to the First Temple period, to the time of the Prophet Jeremiah.  It is a bulla, a tiny lump of clay which has on the back side of it an imprint of some fabric.  It probably was the imprint of a satchel that was tied with a string and upon the knot they put a sealing in order to ensure the contents of the satchel which included silver scraps, the hoard of silver of somebody.  The other face of the bulla has the impression of the seal of the owner.  The bulla itself was made in the negative, and the impression is made in the positive.  Eventually someone opened the satchel and the seal got broken.  Nevertheless we have two lines of writing upon it.  It says the name “[Ga’]alyahu” and in the second line, which is well-preserved, we have the name “[son of] Immer”.  The Immer priestly family and another son of the family by the name Pashchur, son of Imer, is mentioned in the book of Jeremiah, chapter twenty, being the man in charge of the Temple.  He was the chief clerk in the Temple.  He is the man who arrested and tortured the Prophet Jeremiah.  The Immer family continues to exist in Jerusalem and we find them in the Post-Exilic period in the Book of Nehemiah (7:40; Ezra 2:37).  So through this tiny bulla we have direct regards from the First Temple, from Solomon’s Temple.  This is of great importance.

    Some other finds which made me especially enthusiastic were some of the coins from the First Revolt against the Romans.  Some of the coins of the late First Revolt are found burned, twisted and defaced from the fire, from the conflagration.  On the first coin that we found we had the slogan of the Zealots and the people who fought the Romans: “for the freedom of Zion.”  It is very touching to see after 2,000 years.  Actually, each and every one of the objects that we find: beads, a piece of early Arabic period, or a piece from Turkish-Ottoman decoration that surrounded the Dome of the Rock, the glazed tiles that we have pieces of, a bead remnant that that were left by Christian pilgrims in the past, or some Bronze Age or Iron Age pottery, all is very significant for the history of the Temple Mount.

    Gordon: You mentioned earlier that you found some bones from foxes.  What is the significant of that?

    Goby: The Prophet Micah prophesized that the Temple Mount would be destroyed (3:12), and that was in the 8th century BC.  In the 8th century there was a corruption of the priesthood that calls the prophet to have a prophecy, and he prophesized that the Temple Mount would he desolate and that foxes would walk upon it.  In the book of Lamentation we have also the fact of foxes upon the Temple Mount (5:18).  This of course symbolizes the fact that human activity was not there anymore and the place was desolate.  In Talmudic literature we have a semi-legendary story of Rabbi Akiva, one of the most influential people in Judaism in general (Tractate Makkoth 24b).  Akiva, the son of Joseph, one of the greatest among the sages, is said to have visited Jerusalem after its destruction.  He lived in the 2nd century of the Common Era and was executed by the Romans in Caesarea.  He is said to have visited the Temple and it said that there he watched a fox come out of the place where the Holy of Holies stood.  Of course, he regarded it as a fulfillment of the prophecy of Micah and maybe the fox we have is the very one he had seen when he came there in the 2nd century.

    Gordon: Thank you very much Goby.

    This article first appeared in the Winter 2009 issue of Bible and Spade.  Vol. 22, no. 1, pages 3-8.


    By Gordon Franz


    Most Bible believers who live outside the Land of Israel may read Psalm 125:2, “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds His people from this time forth and forever,” and think, “Humm, that’s a comforting and encouraging passage.  The Lord surrounds His people.  He protects us and watches over us forever.”  Yet they may not fully appreciate the word picture used by the psalmist in the first part of the verse.

    The ABR sifters had the privilege of being guided through the City of David excavations by Aran Yardeni, an archaeological staff member of the TMSP and a graduate of Bar Ilan University.  We started at an overview of the City of David on the top of a house situated only meters from where David’s palace once stood (Mazar 2007:52-66).  As we read Psalm 125 we looked to the east and saw the range of the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:4), the southern spur being called the Hill of Corruption (II Kings 23:13).  To the north, we observed Mount Zion, also called Mount Moriah or the Mountain of the LORD (Psalm 48:1, 2; II Chron. 3:1; Micah 4:2).  To the west was the Western Hill called the Mishnah in the Hebrew Bible, and usually translated into English as the  “Second Quarter” (Zeph. 1:10; Jer. 31:39; II Kings 22:14).  Finally, to the south of the city, off in the distance, was the Hill of Evil Counsel.  Today the United Nations headquarters for the Middle East is situated on this ridge!

    The psalmist composed this psalm in the City of David and literally saw the mountains surrounding Jerusalem and used this word picture to convey a dynamic and powerful spiritual truth; the Lord surrounds His people forever!  What an impact that had on each of the sifters.

    Hebrew Hymnbook for the Temple

    The book of Psalms was the Hebrew Hymnbook for both the First and Second Temple and is still used in the synagogues today.  Each psalm was composed by a real people, who were experiencing real events in real places.  This article will present some of those places and put the psalm in its historical context.

    Beautiful in elevation – Psalm 48:2

    A popular song in Evangelical circles is based on Psalm 48.  You know the one: “Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised …”  After touring the City of David, a person will never sing this song the same way again.  On the tours of the City of David that I guide, after walking through Hezekiah’s tunnel and visiting the Pool of Siloam, I usually start walking back up the steep road to the Dung Gate at a very brisk pace.  I wait until somebody in the group “complains” and says, “Stop, slow down, this is such a steep hill to climb!”  At that point I stop and read Psalm 48 to the group.  Verse 2 says, “Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth; Is Mount Zion on the sides of the north, the city of the Great King.”  From the Pool of Siloam to the top of the Temple Mount is a 106 meters elevation change.  Mount Zion was on the north side of the City of David”.

    The psalmist, one of the “Sons of Korah,” probably lived in the City of David.  He would, on occasion, walk up the hill from his house to Mount Zion, the City of the Great King, in order to minister in the Temple.  It was with joy that he took this strenuous walk because he knew he was going to the place where the LORD resided.  Thus he described this elevation as “beautiful.”  Fortunately for the ABR sifters, Aran arranged for a bus to drive us up the beautiful elevation!

    A City Compact together – Psalm 122:3

    The City of David looks like an elongated tongue protruding from the Temple Mount.  In antiquity, there were houses built on terraces on the slopes of the city.  It seems that houses were practically built one on top of the other.  This is reflected in the words of Psalm 122: “Jerusalem is built as a city that is compact together” (v. 3).  Dr. Yigael Shiloh, the former excavator of the City of David, used to tell his volunteers that excavated with him, “If you want to know what the Cityof David looked like ‘compact together,’ look across the Kidron Valley to the Silwan Village.  It too is built on a slope and the houses appear to be built one on top of the other.”

    At Home in Death – Psalm 49:11

    One afternoon we visited the excavations at Ketef Hinnom below the St. Andrew’s Scottish Presbyterian Church.  Here we studied a series of burial caves from the time of the Judean Monarchy.  One cave in particular was of interest because the two oldest Biblical texts were discovered there in 1979 (Franz 2005:53-59).  When we visited the City of David two days before, we noticed a house in Area G that was built following the pattern of typical Israel four-room house.  Interestingly, the pattern of the burial cave is similar.  After I pointed out the similarities between the house and the burial cave, I read Psalm 49:11: “Their inner thought is that their houses will last forever, Their dwelling places to all generations.”

    In this psalm, the wealthy materialistic person at the end of the 8th century BC knew that their earthly dwelling place would one-day collapse because it was made of stone, mudbrick, wooden beams and a dried mud roof with grass on top.  This person desired to “live eternally” in his earthly body (Ps. 49:9), yet reality told him otherwise.  Desiring a more permanent dwelling, knowing that one-day death would be the end results, a burial cave was hewn out of the rocky escarpment outside the city and was patterned after his earthly house.  He wanted to feel “at home in death!” (Franz 2005: 59).

    By contrast, the psalmist puts materialism in its proper perspective when he concludes the psalm by saying, “But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave (Sheol), for He shall receive me.  Selah.  Do not be afraid when one becomes rich, when the glory of his house is increased; for when he dies he shall carry nothing away; his glory shall not descend after him.  Though while he lives he blesses himself (for men will praise you when you do well for yourself), he shall go to the generation of his fathers; they shall never see light.  Man who is in honor, yet does not understand, is like the beasts that perish” (Psalm 49:15-20).

    Cave of Adullam – Psalm 57

    After David feigned madness in Gath of the Philistines and fled through the Elah Valley, he hid in a cave at Adullam with 400 of his family and friends (I Sam. 22:1, 2).  On another occasion, David was in the cave while the Philistines were occupying his hometown of Bethlehem.  David wanted a drink of water from the well of the city, so three of his mighty men fetched him some water.  When they returned, David poured out the water before the Lord (I Chron. 11:15-19).  Perhaps on one of these occasions David composed Psalm 57.  While the superscription of the psalm does not say when this occurred or which cave David was in, the psalm follows Psalm 56 which was written when David was captured in Gath (I Sam. 21:10-15).  The order of the psalms seems to hint that it was written when David fled from Saul and hid in the cave of Adullam.

    Green Grass in the Wilderness – Psalm 103:15-18

    David composed a beautiful psalm extolling the character and attributes of God (Ps 103) in which he contrasts the unchangeable and eternal God with humans that are like grass and flowers.  In verses 15-18 David draws on his experiences in the Judean desert.  During the winter months, the desert is green with grass and there are an abundance of flowers if it was a good rainy season.  Soon after Passover, the hot, dry Hamsin winds come off the Arabian Desert and scorch the grass and flowers so they wither away.  David sang, “As for man, his days are like grass, as a flower of the field, so he flourishes.  For the [Hamsin] wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.  But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting”.  The Prophet Isaiah makes a similar analogy, but he contrasts the shortness of life with the eternality of the Word of God (40:6-8).

    When we went on our Dead Sea Field Trip in June the Judean Desert was dry, brown and desolate.  There was not a blade of green grass, or a single flower to be seen!  Some of the sifters questions what I said about the grass and flowers.  Fortunately our tour hostess, Stephanie, had visited Israel in the springtime a few years earlier and was able to vouch for this phenomenon.

    The summer months are the setting for another psalm composed by David when he was in the Wilderness of Judah.  He wrote: “O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water” (63:1).

    Masada and the Psalms

    I should preface my comments about the passages on Masada in the psalms by recounting a story.  While teaching at the Institute of Holy Land Studies in Jerusalem, I was invited to speak to a Christian tour group in one of the local hotels.  The tour host never took his groups to Masada because, as he put it, “The site is post-resurrection [of Jesus], thus unimportant.”  One elderly lady in the group asked me quite piously and condescendingly, “You don’t take your groups to Masada, do you?”  I knew where that question was coming from.  I smiled and said, “Of course I do, it’s a very important Biblical site.  King David visited the site on at least three occasions and composed several psalms that mention Masada!”  The shocked look on her face was one of those priceless Kodak moments! J  She told the group leader of our conversation.  He examined the passages and from that point on, he took his groups to Masada.

    The word “Masada” in the Hebrew Bible is generally translated “stronghold” or “fortress” in the English Bibles.  David visited the site on at least three occasions.  The first time he saw it was when he was fleeing from Saul.  After his family joined him in the cave of Adullam (I Sam. 22:1, 2), David decided to take them to the Land of Moab and ask the king of Moab to let them stay under his protection in his land.  David and his entourage would have gone past Masada as they forded the Dead Sea at the Lisan (“tongue”).

    As David passed by, he would have noted the strategic and military value of Masada.  The mountain plateau was situated 360 meters above the plain floor on the southeastern edge of the Wilderness of Judah, opposite the Lisan of the Dead Sea.  Strategically, from the top of the site, David would have a commanding view of the Dead Sea region and the eastern slopes of the Wilderness of Judah.  If there was any large troop movement by Saul, or even the Philistines, he could quickly escape across the Lisan to Moab.  Militarily, he also noticed the site had steep sides all around it with only one accessible path to the top on the eastern side of the mountain, today called the “Snake Path.”  It was easily defensible from any attackers because of its elevation and the single path to the top.  The defenders on top could easily roll down boulders of rocks to stop any attackers.

    David made good on his observations and stayed at the “stronghold” (Masada) after he left his parents in Moab.  As long as there was water on top of the mountain, David felt safe and secure and did not want to leave.  It was not until the prophet Gad came and told David to leave, that he left for the Forest of Hereth in the Land of Judah (I Sam. 22:4, 5).

    The second time David and his men went to Masada was after he spared Saul’s life at Ein Gedi.  The Bible says, “And Saul went home, and David and his men went up to the stronghold” (I Sam. 24:22).  Here was the “parting of the ways” between Saul and David.  Saul goes northwest, back to his palace at Gibeah of Saul, and David goes south to the stronghold situated 18 km to the south of Ein Gedi.

    The third time we know of David at Masada is after he was anointed king of all Israel in Hebron.  The Bible says, “All the Philistines went up to search for David.  And David heard of it and went down to the stronghold” (II Sam. 5:17).  Notice the topographical indicators in this passage.  Hebron (Tel Rumeida) is situated 944 meters above sea level.  The base of Masada is 300 meters below sea level.  David literally went down to Masada.

    Masada was extensively excavated by Professor Yigael Yadin in the early 1960’s.  Most of the excavations concentrated on the Early Roman period remains built by Herod the Great and used by the defenders at the end of the First Jewish Revolt in AD 73.  Yadin, however, also found 10th century BC, Iron Age pottery scattered on the surface (1966:202).  Perhaps some of the 10th century pottery was left by David and his men.

    David composed at least four psalms in which he mentions Masada.  The first psalm is Psalm 18.  This psalm was written on the “day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul” (18: superscription).  In it he sings, “I will love You, O LORD, my strength.  The LORD is my rock and my fortress (Masada) and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold (lit. “high tower”)” (18:1, 2).

    The second psalm is Psalm 31.  Again David sings, “In You, O LORD, I put my trust; Let me never be ashamed; Deliver me in your righteousness.  Bow down Your ear to me, Deliver me speedily; Be my rock of refuge, a fortress (Masada) of defense to save me.  For you are my rock and my fortress (Masada); Therefore, for Your name’s sake, Lead me and guide me” (31:1-3).

    The Hebrew word “Masada” is also used in Psalm 66:11 and is translated into English as “net” (NKJV; NASB) or “prison” (NIV).

    The third psalm that uses Masada is Psalm 71.  It is uninscribed, but most likely written by David.  In it he sings: “In You, O LORD, I put my trust; Let me never be put to shame. … Be my strong refuge, To which I may resort continually; You have given the commandment to save me, For you are my rock and my fortress (Masada)” (71:1, 3).

    The fourth psalm composed by David that mentioned Masada is Psalm 144.  In this psalm he sang: “Blessed be the LORD my Rock, Who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle –  My loving-kindness and my fortress (Masada), My high tower and my deliverer, My shield and the One in whom I take refuge, Who subdues my people under me” (144:1, 2).

    One other psalm mentions a “stronghold.”  Psalm 91 is uninscribed, but some commentators attribute it to Moses and suggest it is a continuation of Psalm 90.  The superscription of that psalm says: “A Prayer of Moses the man of God.”  In Psalm 91 it starts out: “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress (Masada), My God, in Him I will trust” (91:1, 2).

    This would have been a psalm David knew by heart.  He understood theologically that the LORD was his fortress / stronghold and his trust was in God.  Perhaps when he saw Masada for the first time, it reminded him of the Lord.  After staying there on several occasions, he came to realize, as secure as this rocky plateau may seem, the Lord truly was his Masada!

    The Ein Gedi Cave and Ibex

    Another stop on our Dead Sea Field Trip was the overlook at the Ein Gedi Field School.  There was a great view of the waterfall in the Nahal David, the spring and tel of Ein Gedi and the ancient terraces on the slopes of the mountains.  Somewhere in the area, David hid in a cave when he fled from King Saul (I Sam. 24).  Psalm 142 was composed “in a cave”.  This might have been the context of this psalm.

    The name Ein Gedi means the “spring of the young goat.”  Whether it is the domesticated goat or the ibex, the mountain goat, is unclear.  David mentions them in Psalm 104:18, as does Job (39:1).  Ein Gedi is a nature reserve so the animals are protected, so we were fortunate to see a few ibex “up close and personal’.

    Casting Our Sins into the Dead Sea

    The prophet Micah admonished the people of Israel to “cast all our sins into the depth of the sea” (7:19-20).  The word-picture that Micah has in view is the sacrifice in the Temple.  The priest would offer a sacrifice for a person, but the blood of the sacrifice could only “atone” (cover) for the sins of the offerer, but it could never take the sins away.  From the Temple Mount, the blood was washed down a pipe into the Kidron Valley and this blood mingled with the water as it flowed through the Wilderness of Judah to the Dead Sea.  This sea is the deepest surface of water anywhere on the face of the earth, some 400 meters below sea level.  It is also the saltiest body of water and nothing lives in it.

    In the Temple economy, sins were covered (“atoned for”) but never taken away.  That is why the offerer had to offer a new offering each time he fell into sin.  Yet when the Lord Jesus Christ, God manifest in human flesh, died on the Cross, He paid for all the sins of all humanity (I John 2:2) and there is no need for any more sacrifices (Heb. 10:1-18).  God has forgiven, and forgotten, all the sins of those who put their trust in His Son.  The prophet Jeremiah proclaimed the New Covenant that was made with the House of Israel and Judah, and by extension, those in the Church.  In it, God proclaimed that the “sins and lawless deeds I will remember no more” (Jer. 31:34; quoted also in Heb. 8:12 and 10:17).

    What the prophet Micah is saying is this: based on the mercy of God, our sins are cast into the depth of the [Dead] Sea.  What God has forgiven, God has forgotten.  God does not want His children to go fishing for something that does not exist (our sins)!  We can thank the Lord Jesus for paying for all our sins and be assured of the promise of God, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to [continually] cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

    Summing Up the Field Trips

    One of the sifters, Paula Owen, commented that this trip was: “An incredible journey of a lifetime – that would be the bottom line description of the TMSP!!  I can truly say that never have I learned so many valuable Biblical facts at one time, as I did on this trip!!  By Day #2 my brain went to the overload mode in the pure excitement and pleasure of this archaeological adventure.  It was so overwhelming!”

    The history, archaeology and geography of the Land of the Bible can enrich ones reading of the Word of God.  The psalms were written by real people, experiencing real events in real places.  To see the psalms in their context could enhance our worship of the Lord God.

    We took the words of Psalm 48 to heart and acted upon them.  “Walk about Zion, and go all around her.  Count her towers; mark well her bulwarks; consider her palaces; that you may tell it to the generation following” (48:12, 13).  I trust the background information and the spiritual truths learned by each sifter will be passed on to other people, and thus, another generation.


    Franz, Gordon

    2002   “At Home in Death”:  An Archaeological Exposition of Psalm 49:11.  Bible and Spade 15/3: 85-91.

    2005   “Remember, Archaeology is NOT a Treasure Hunt!”  Bible and Spade 18/2: 53-59.

    2007   Archaeology, Assyrian Reliefs and the Psalms of the Sons of Korah.  Bible and Spade 20/1: 13-24.

    Mazar, Eilat

    2007   Preliminary Report on the City of David Excavations 2005 at the Visitors Center Area.  Jerusalem and New York: Shalem.

    Yadin, Yigael

    1966   Masada.  Herods Fortress and the Zealots Last Stand.  Jerusalem: Steimatzky.  Reprinted 1984.

    This article appeared in the Winter 2009 issue of Bible and Spade, vol. 22, no. 1, pages 14-19.

  • Prophecy Comments Off on WAS “BABYLON” DESTROYED WHEN JERUSALEM FELL IN AD 70? – part 1

    By Gordon Franz

    In the ongoing Rapture Debate, one of the points the Preterists love to attack the proponents of the Pre Trib Rapture is the identification of Babylon in Revelation 17 and 18 (DeMar 2001:115-130).  The Preterist propose the Babylon was Jerusalem and they see the fulfillment of these passages in the destruction of the city in AD 70.

    In 1999 I gave a paper at the annual meeting of the Pre-Trib Research Center entitled, “The Preterist View of Jerusalem: Are the “Fulfillments” Historically Accurate?”  In the paper, I agreed with the Preterists on the identification of Babylon with Jerusalem.  However, I strongly disagreed with their dating of the fulfillment.  I sent John Noe, the president of the Prophecy Reformation Institute and a leading preterist, a copy of my paper.  He found the paper interesting and commented, “I think you may be on your way to becoming a preterist.”  (Personal letter to author, Feb. 11, 2000).  I encouraged Mr. Noe to, “not hold your breath on me becoming a preterist.  The more I read preterist literature, the more historical problems I see with the position!” (Personal letter to Mr. Noe, Feb. 24, 2000).

    I believe we can agree with the Preterist on the identification of Babylon with Jerusalem, however, we must categorically reject their claims that the prophecies were fulfilled in AD 70.  This chapter will demonstrate that there is no credible historical evidence to show that the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 fulfilled Bible prophecy the way the Preterist claim.

    Dr. Toussaint gave a paper at the 1995 Pre Trib meeting entitled “A Critique of the Preterist View of the Olivet Discourse”.  In the Q & A session, someone asked if there was a good book that refuted the preterist position from a historical perspective.  The questioner observed that the Preterists were “historical revisionists” who took history and made it fit their viewpoint.  When no book was mentioned, he went on to challenge one of the “history buffs [in the group] to dig into it.”  Having worked on archaeological excavations, I like to dig, so I accepted the challenge.  This chapter is the part of the fruit of that challenge.

    The subject of Jerusalem is near and dear to my heart.  I have lived, on and off, in the City of the Great King for over 20 years guiding field trips, working on excavations in and around Jerusalem, and ministering in one of the local assemblies.  I am confident that I have a good working knowledge of the history and archaeology of that great city.  So let’s “dig into the subject.”

    Before we do, I need to make a few preliminary remarks.  It has been my objective to read the Preterist material and let them speak for themselves.  I do not want to know what we think they say; I want to know what they say!

    The questioner on the tape referred to the preterists as “historical revisionists”, a remark I would give a hearty “Amen!” to.  It has been my observation that the preterists have a very vivid imagination when it comes to taking historical facts and twisting them to fit the Biblical text.

    I must also confess, at first I was very intimidated by their bitter sarcasm and name-calling.  But the more of their material I read, the more I become convinced they are wrong.  We “Pre-Trib-er’s” have no need to be intimidated by their position.  If one sits down with an open Bible, a good translation of Josephus, and reads the Preterist material carefully (by checking the footnotes and comparing what the proponents say, with what the Bible and Josephus say), one will see that the Preterist view does not have any historical justification.

    I talked with Edward Stevens and John Noe, two leading proponents of preterism, at the 1999 Evangelical Theological Society meeting in Boston.  One of my questions was “What is the best Preterist commentary on the Book of Revelation?”  In unison, both responded, “David Chilton’s Days of Vengeance.”  In this paper, I would like to focus my attention on this commentary.

    I would also like to make one comment about the Pre-Trib position.  The biggest problem with the Pre-Trib position is NOT the exegesis of the text, but the eisegesis of the text (reading into the text, that which does not belong there) by the date setters and sensationalists!  I was struck by the similarities between the eisegesis of the Preterist on the one hand and that of the sensationalists and date setters within the Pre-Trib position on the other.

    The Preterist View

    The Preterist view has been defined as that view which “holds that the book of Revelation was mostly fulfilled in the first century with the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  Thus, most of the aspects (such as the Beast, the Great Tribulation, the fall of Babylon, and Armageddon) have already occurred” (Balyeat 1991:226).  Within the Preterist camp, there are two positions, the Full Preterist position and the Partial Preterist position.  R. C. Sproul, a Partial Preterist, calls the Full Preterist position “radical preterism” because “all future prophecies in the NT have already been fulfilled” (1998:24).  Chilton would call them “consistent preterists” (1987:264).  Sproul would call himself a “moderate preterist” because “many future prophecies in the NT have already been fulfilled.  Some crucial prophecies have not yet been fulfilled” (1998:24).  R. C. Sproul, Kenneth Gentry, Gary De Mar, and others champion the partial preterist position.  John Noe, Edward Stevens, David Chilton right before his death, espouses the Full Preterist view.  When I talked with Stevens and Noe at the ETS meeting, they said that Sproul and DeMar are heading toward the Full Preterist position, but Gentry is not.  The Full Preterist position is making inroads into the theological world and the Pre-Tribulation position is beginning to respond to the position.

    One of the key tenets of the Preterist position is that the Babylon mentioned in the Book of Revelation is Jerusalem of AD 70.  They would say that the judgment that was poured out on this Babylon was fulfilled with the destruction of the city of Jerusalem in AD 70.  Kenneth Gentry summarizes the evidence for Jerusalem as being the Harlot Babylon in a footnote in his book, Before Jerusalem Fell.  “(1) Both are called ‘the great city’ (Rev. 14:8; 11:8).  (2) The Harlot is filled with the blood of the saints (cp. Rev. 16:6; 17:6; 18:21,24; with Matt. 23:34-38; Luke 13:33; Acts 7:51-52).  (3) Jerusalem had previously been called by pagan names quite compatible with the designation ‘Babylon’ (cp. Rev. 14:8 and 17:5 with 11:8).  (4) Rome could not fornicate against God, for only Jerusalem was God’s wife (Rev. 17:2-5, cp. Isa. 1:20; Jer. 31:31).  (5) There is an obvious contrast between the Harlot and the chaste bride (cp. Rev. 17:2-5 with Rev. 21:1ff) that suggests a contrast with the Jerusalem below and the Jerusalem above (Rev. 21:2; cp. Gal. 4:24ff.; Heb. 12:18ff.).  The fact that the Harlot is seated on the seven-headed Beast (obviously representative of Rome) indicates not identity with Rome, but alliance with Rome against Christianity (cp. Matt. 23:37ff.; John 19:6-16; Acts 17:7)” (1998:240,241, footnote 26).  In the preface of the new edition he expands on these ideas (1998:liv-lxvi).  There are other studies that elaborate on this subject (Ford 1975; Balyeat 1991; Preston 1999; Davies 2000; Holford 2001).

    The Dating of Revelation

    Another key tenet of Preterism is dating the Book of Revelation to before AD 70.  The strongest defense for the pre-AD 70 date in recent years has been by Kenneth Gentry, Jr. entitled Before Jerusalem Fell, Dating the Book of Revelation (1998, Revised Edition).  This book is a reworking of his doctoral dissertation from Whitefield Theological Seminary in Lakeland, Florida.

    Most Preterists believe that the Olivet Discourse and the Book of Revelation predict the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.  If this is the case, than the Book of Revelation has to be written before the destruction of the city.  If, on the other hand, it was written during the reign of Emperor Domitian (AD 95) than their whole scenario of the destruction of Jerusalem falls apart.  Gentry recognizes this when he reviewed Chilton’s commentary on Revelation.  He says, “if it could be demonstrated that Revelation were written 25 years after the Fall of Jerusalem, Chilton’s entire labor would go up in smoke” (1987:11).  In his own book he states, “If the book was written two and one-half decades after the destruction of the Temple, however, then the prophecies are necessarily open to an extrapolation into the distant future, and to the exclusion of the important events of AD 67-70.  Hence, the whole bearing of Revelation on New Testament eschatology may well be altered by the determination of the matter before us” (Gentry 1998:21).

    It is not the purpose of this paper to discuss the date of the book of Revelation.  The reader is invited to read Mark Hitchcock’s chapter in this volume.  I have not been convinced by Gentry’s arguments for the pre-AD 70 date of the book of Revelation, called the “early date”.  I believe the best evidence points to the writing of the book during the reign of Emperor Domitian about AD 95, called the “late date” (Thomas 1994).  I will, however, make a few observations about the “early date” for Revelation.

    The Acts of John

    Gentry comes up with an interesting scenario to get around the writer of the apocryphal The Acts of John clear statement that John wrote the book of Revelation on Patmos during Domitian’s reign.  He acknowledges a Domitianic exile, but suggests that “the rationale for the exile is suggestive of a prior publication of Revelation.  It could be that John was banished twice, once under Nero and later under Domitian (which would explain the two traditions of a Neronic and Domitianic exile)” (1998:100).  He then gives selective quotes from The Acts of John to show that Revelation was written earlier.  Let’s look at the account.

    “And the fame of the teaching of John was spread abroad in Rome; and it came to the ears of Domitian that there was a certain Hebrew in Ephesus, John by name, who spread a report about the seat of empire of the Romans, saying that it would quickly be rooted out, and that the kingdom of the Romans would be given over to another.”  It should be noted that there is no reference to the book of Revelation in this passage.  The sayings could well have been from the oral teachings of John that made it to Rome.  After all, Rome was at the other end of the Ephesus – Rome maritime trade route.  The teachings of John would have been based on the Old Testament prophets and the parables and discourses of the Lord Jesus.   Gentry proceeds to leave out a very important part of the passage.  The text goes on to say when John arrives in Rome, Domitian asks him about his teachings.  “Art thou John who said that my kingdom would speedily be uprooted, and that another king, Jesus, was going to reign instead of me?  And John answered and said to him: Thou also shalt reign for many years given thee by God, and after thee very many others; and when the times of the things upon earth has been fulfilled, out of heaven shall come a King, eternal, true, Judge of living and dead, to whom every nation and tribe shall confess, through whom every earthly power and dominion shall be brought to nothing, and every mouth speaking great things shall be shut.  This is the mighty Lord and King of everything that hath breath and flesh, the Word and Son of the living One, who is Jesus Christ.”  It is obvious why Gentry does not quote this part.  It sounds pretty futuristic to me!  After John demonstrates his power by drinking deadly poison [cf. Mark 16:18], and raising a couple of people from the dead, Domitian banishes him to an island.  The last part of Gentry’s quote is, “And Domitian, astonished at all the wonders, sent him away to an island, appointing for him a set time.  And straightway John sailed to Patmos.”  Unfortunately for Gentry, the sentence does not end there.  It goes on to say, “where also he was deemed worthy to see the revelation of the end” (ANF 8:560-562).  The Acts of John clearly support the “late date” for the writing of Revelation and a futuristic view of prophecy, not the fulfillment in AD 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem.  Yet Gentry seems to be selective in his quotes to prove his point.

    The Seven Stars on the Coins of the Emperors

    Chilton comments on the phrase “In His right hand He held seven stars” in Revelation 1:16.  “The symbolic use of seven stars was quite well known in the first century, for the seven stars appeared regularly on the Emperor’s coins as a symbol of his supreme political sovereignty.  At least some early readers of Revelation must have gasped in amazement at St. John’s audacity in stating that the seven stars were in Christ’s hand.  The Roman emperors had appropriated to themselves a symbol of dominion that the Bible reserves for God alone – and, St. John is saying, Jesus Christ has come to take it back.  The seven stars, and with them all things in creation, belong to Him.  Dominion resides in the right hand of the Lord Jesus Christ” (1987:75.76).

    Chilton is generally very good at documenting his statements with reliable sources.  Most serious preterist works abound with footnotes.  This is very helpful for readers to follow up on the writer’s statements.  However, this statement is not footnoted at all.  A few points should be clarified.  First, the coins of emperors with seven stars on them did not appear regularly until the end of the first century and beginning of the second century AD.  Second, the stars on coins generally symbolize the “idea of divinity or of mortals who have joined the stars, as it were, and become gods” (Jones 1990:297).  The idea of sovereignty comes from a coin of Emperor Domitian’s deceased and deified son sitting on a globe (representative of the earth) reaching for the seven stars (Franz 1999:47-49; Janzen 1994:644-647).  Third, Chilton also has a problem with the dating of the seven star coins.  The first seven star coins that were minted during the Imperial period were struck on the island of Crete during the reigns of Caligula (AD 37-41) and Claudius (AD 41-54) and Nero (AD 54-68).  For pictures, see Plates 54 and 55, coins 963 – 970, 974, 975; Burnett, Amandry and Ripolles 1992:1/2).  A monumental work on Roman provincial coins states the seven stars “represent the Septentriones, the Great Bear; this constellation had a particular connection with Crete as the nurses of Zeus, Helice and Kynosoura, were placed in the heavens as the Great and Little Bear.  Therefore the seven stars linked with the cult image of Augustus brought him into a close relationship with Zeus Cretagenes” (Burnett, Amandry and Ripolles 1992:1/1: 230).  These coins, however, were for “local circulation” and were not widely circulated off the island of Crete (1992:1/1: 231).  It is doubtful most people in the Roman world would have been aware of these coins.

    A second coin was struck in Spain and Gaul during the Civil War (AD 68-70).  According to Chilton, after the book of Revelation was written.  This denarii coin, of the “Divvs Augustus” type, had a crescent and seven stars on the reverse side with Augustus on the obverse side (Sutherland 1984:211, no. 95).  It was observed by Sutherland that “the stars and crescent of no. 95 … are borrowed from Republican times” (1984:200).  What the meaning of the seven stars in the Republican period is unclear, but at that time, there were seven known planets and some have suggested that the stars represented the planets and the crescent the moon.

    Most of the seven star coins come from the end of the first century AD.  The coin of Domitian with his son sitting on the globe with his hand stretched out to the seven stars is unique (Mattingly and Sydenham 1926:179, no. 209A, Plate V: 86).  Others coins with the seven stars and the crescent were struck during the reign of Trajan (Mattingly and Sydenham 1926:307, no. 785) as well as Hadrian in the year AD 119  (Mattingly and Sydenham 1926:362, no. 202; 381, no. 358; 434, no. 731).  Mattingly and Sydenham, two numismatics experts, interpret the seven stars and crescent as “natural symbols of immortality in an age which sought immortality in the stars.  It is probably the memory of Trajan that is here honoured.  The seven stars of the second type may be purely conventional – a representation of the ‘Septenttiones’, the seven stars of the Great Bear” (1926:324).  The argument of the seven stars better fits the “late date” for the Book of Revelation, not the Nero date.

    Historical Fulfillment?

    Under the subtitle “The Ease of Application to the Jewish Wars”, Gentry notes that “much of Revelation’s vivid imagery lends itself admirably to the catastrophic events of the Jewish War” (1998:239).  He ends the paragraph with the statement, “But, with a number of the distinctive elements, there are simply too many converging lines of evidence pointing to the Jewish Wars to allow for this argument’s hasty a priori dismissal” (1998:239).  Is this really the case, or can we dismiss the “fulfillments” as historically inaccurate?

    Before we look at the “historical fulfillments” we should consider Josephus and his writings.  First, Josephus is a reliable witness to the events surrounding the fall of Jerusalem.  He was born into a priestly family on his father’s side and the royal Hasmonean family on his mother’s side (Life 1,2; LCL 1:3).  He was raised in the city of Jerusalem.  He knew the geography and buildings of the city well and it is reflected in his writings.  After he pulled his “Benedict Arnold” routine at Yotapata in Galilee, he became the historian of the Flavian family, which included the soon-to-be emperor Vespasian and his son, Titus.  Josephus was also an eyewitness to the fall of Jerusalem with a very good vantage-point, sitting in the tent of Titus Caesar!  One should also acknowledge his bias.  At certain points Josephus tries to justify his actions that might be seen by his Jewish readers in a negative light.  Many Jews would ask why did he not commit suicide after convincing his fellow countrymen to do so after the fall of Yotapata?  In addition, he was a beneficiary of the Flavian family (Emperor Vespasian and his sons Titus and Domitian).  He also received Roman citizenship from Vespasian as well as compensation for his land in Jerusalem by Titus.  He had a privileged position in Rome (Life 422, 423; LCL 1:155).

    Second, the references to the book, chapter, section, paragraphs, and verses of Josephus’ works can sometimes be confusing.  It is my observation that most Preterist (and most evangelicals for that matter) use the William Whiston edition of The Life and Works of Flavius Josephus.  Within the scholarly community, however, most use the ten volumes, Greek and English, Loeb Classical Library edition (LCL).  The numbering system between the two editions can be confusing.  Fortunately for the user there is a very helpful tool for cross-referencing these works.  In 1984, H. Douglas Buckwalter and Mary Keil compiled a Guide to the Reference Systems for the Works of Flavius Josephus for the Department of Theological Studies at the Wheaton Graduate School.  It was recently published in the ETS monograph series (1995).  In this paper, I will use the Loeb Classical Library reference numbers and translation.

    The Third Seal (Rev. 6:5,6)

    The Third Seal describes a man riding a black horse and holding a pair of scales in his hands.  A voice says, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and wine.”  The Preterist sees this as the famine that resulted from the siege of Jerusalem prior to its destruction.  Several passages from Josephus are quoted in attempt to prove their point (Gentry 1999:243, footnote 35; Chilton 1987:189-191).  This judgment does describe a famine, but what causes the famine?  The answer lies in the phrase “do not harm the oil and wine.”  M. Ford in the Anchor Bible commentary on Revelation as attributing the warning to an order from Titus not to disturb the olive groves and vineyards (1987:191, footnote 15; Ford 1975:107).  Ford is actually quoting a French book but gives no primary source for the statement.  Gentry suggests that the phrase “may even be that the reference to ‘the oil and the wine’ finds expression in the adulteration of the sacred oil and wine by the Jews themselves; Wars 5:13:6″ (1999:243, footnote 33).

    I believe that the proper understanding of the phrase “spare the oil and wine” is found in an event recorded in I Sam. 12.  Heavy rains during the wheat harvest would bring disaster for the wheat farmer.  The context of I Sam 12 is the nation of Israel’s call for a king “like the other nations” and the rejection of the LORD as King.  “Is today not the wheat harvest?  I (Samuel) will call to the LORD, and He will send thunder and rain, that you may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the LORD, in asking for a king for yourselves” (12:17). The people cried out, “Pray for your servants to the LORD your God, that we may not die…” (12:19).

    People do not die from thunder and rain!  However, as Nogah Hareuveni of Neot Kedumim, the Biblical Gardens in Israel, has pointed out, “The ripe, heavy-eared wheat can suffer from a downpour not only through physical damage from the force of the wind-driven rain, but also by rotting from the sudden moisture combined with the high temperatures that prevail in Israel by Shavuot (in late May – early June).  This interpretation explains why the Israelites cried out to Samuel to ‘pray … to save us from death’ (I Sam. 12:19) – from death by starvation that would follow the destruction of the grain crop” (1988:25).  Mildew is one of the results of disobedience to the Word of God (Deut. 28:22; I Kings 8:28 // II Chron. 6:28; Amos 4:9; Hag. 2:17; Boronski 1987:158-160).

    I experienced such a phenomenon in June of 1992.  For two days, Israel was hit with heavy rains during the wheat harvest and the wheat was devastated by mildew.  Ironically, it was right before the national elections when people were crying out “Itzhaq, melek Yisrael! Itzhaq, melek Yisrael”  (Itzhaq, king of Israel) at their election rallies!

    The third seal judgment is an untimely rainstorm during the wheat harvest that destroys a great portion of the crop in Israel and the rest of the Mediterranean world.  The demand for wheat, plus the shortage in supply, will lead to higher prices for all.  The olive trees and grapevines, the “oil and wine”, will not be affected by this rainstorm because they will have already been pollinated.  In fact, the water might even help them.  Thus giving oil and wine for all, rich and poor alike (Franz 2000: 9-11).

  • Prophecy Comments Off on WAS “BABYLON” DESTROYED WHEN JERUSALEM FELL IN AD 70? – part 2

    By Gordon Franz

    The First Trumpet (Rev. 8:7)

    John describes the first trumpet judgment as, “The first angel sounded: And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth; and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up” (8:7).

    Chilton interprets this passage by saying, “St. John sees hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were thrown onto the Land.  The blood of the slain witnesses [I assume the martyrs of the fifth seal, Rev. 6:9-11] is mixed with the fire from the altar, bringing wrath down upon the persecutors.  The result of the curse … is the burning of a third of the Land and a third of the trees, and all the green grass (i.e., all the grass on a third of the Land; cf. 9:4).  If the trees and grass represent the elect remnant (as they seem to in 7:3 and 9:4), this indicates that they are not exempt from physical suffering and death as God’s wrath is visited upon the wicked” (1987:236).

    Several observations should be made at this point.  First, Chilton does not indicate if the hail is literal or not.  If it is not literal, he does not identify what the hail represents.  Later in his book he identifies the hail as something other than hailstones (1987: 417,418).  Second, Chilton makes a qualifying statement, “if the trees and grass represents the elect remnant” and then refers to two passages elsewhere in the book of Revelation.  Do the trees and grass represent the elect remnant?  Rev. 7:3 makes a distinction between the earth, sea and trees and the “servants of our God.”  The Apostle John uses the word “and” to distinguish the trees from the servants.  In Rev. 9:4 the demonic “locusts” were commanded not to harm the grass and trees but “only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.”  In an actual locust plague, the locusts would eat vegetation (i.e. grass or leaves of trees) not attack human beings.  In the case of the demonic “locusts” they were not to attack vegetation but human beings and in particular, those who did not have the seal of God.  In either case the grass and trees do not represent the elect remnant.

    Chilton tries to find a literal fulfillment during the siege of Jerusalem in AD 70.  He says, “Literally, the vegetation of Judea, and especially of Jerusalem, would be destroyed in the Roman scorched-earth methods of warfare” (1987:237).  He then quotes a passage from Wars 6:6-8 describing the desolation of Jerusalem and the surrounding countryside caused by the war.  What Chilton does not say is why the Romans cut down the trees.  The passage before the one quoted by Chilton says, “The Romans, meanwhile, though sorely harassed in the collection of timbers, had completed their earthworks in one and twenty days, having, already stated, cleared the whole district around the town to a distance of ninety furlongs” (Wars 6:5: LCL 3:379).  Elsewhere Josephus says “the trees were felled and the suburbs rapidly stripped; but while the timber was being collected for the earthworks and the whole army busily engaged in the work, the Jews on their side were not inactive” (Wars 5:263,264; LCL 3:283).  Later on, Josephus writes, “though timber was now procured with difficulty [for the erection of earth-works]; for, all the trees round the city having been felled for the previous works, the troops had to collect fresh material from a distance of ninety furlong” (Wars 5:522,523; LCL 3:363).  The Romans cut down the wood in order to use it to build earthworks for its siege of Jerusalem, not to burn as a “scorched earth” policy.

    This conclusion is in marked contrast with the prediction by John of the first trumpet judgment, “a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up” as a result of hail and fire, mixed with blood thrown to earth (apparently from heaven).  The first trumpet was not literally fulfilled in AD 70.

    The Second Trumpet (Rev. 8:8,9)

    In the second trumpet judgment, John sees a great mountain burning with fire thrown into the sea and a third of the sea became blood and a third of the sea creatures died.  Also a third of the ships were destroyed.

    Chilton identifies the mountain as the nation of Israel because they are “the mountain of God’s inheritance” (Ex. 15:17) (1987:238).  A careful reading of Ex. 15:17 shows that Israel is separate from the mountain.  “You [the LORD] will bring them [Your people = Israel, of verse 16] in and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance, in the place, O LORD, which You have made for Your own dwelling.  The sanctuary, O LORD, which Your hands have established.”  The mountain, in the context, is Mt. Zion in Jerusalem where God would eventually dwell (Ps. 48).

    Chilton does not interpret the sea becoming blood or the sea creatures dying, or the ships being destroyed.  It would be better to see this “burning mountain” as a volcano somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea during the Tribulation period.  The descriptions that follow, the sea turning to blood, sea creatures dying and the ships destroyed, are known phenomenona connected with volcanic activity (Bent 1888:817).

    The Sixth Trumpet (Rev. 9:13-21)

    The sixth trumpet judgment begins with the sixth angel releasing four angels that are bound at the Euphrates River.  Their job was to kill one third of mankind.  The army lead by the angels had “myriads of myriads” horsemen.  The NASB and the NKJV give the number as “two hundred million” horsemen.  Chilton argues that the number “simply means many thousands, and indicates a vast host that is to be thought of in connection with the Lord’s angelic army of thousands upon thousands of chariots” (1987:251).  Yet he goes on to say, “as it actually worked out in history, the Jewish rebellion in reaction to the ‘locust plague’ of Gessius Florus during the summer of 66 provoked Cestius’ invasion of Palestine in the fall, with large numbers of mounted troops from the regions near the Euphrates (although the main point of St. John’s reference is the symbolic significance of the river in Biblical history and prophecy)” (1987:252).  He cites Josephus, Wars ii.xviii.9-xix.7 (2:499-545, LCL 2:517-535) and J. M. Ford’s Anchor Bible Commentary on Revelation (page 154).  She in turn cites a French work by S. Giet.  Is this the case?  I do not think so.

    For a good overview of the Cestius Gallus campaign against Judea, see Gichon 1981.  Josephus records Cestius’ preparation in Antioch (Pliny the Elder places the Euphrates River 175 Roman miles from Antioch.  Natural History 5:67; 6:126; LCL 2:269,433) for the “invasion of Palestine” (Chilton’s words). [For the use of the word “Palestine” before AD 135 see, Jacobson 1999:65-74]   “He accordingly left Antioch, taking with him the twelfth legion in full strength (5,400 infantry and 120 cavalry), two thousand picked men from each of the other legions (6,000 more men from the 3rd, 6th, and 10th Legions) and in addition six cohorts of infantry (500 soldiers in a cohort, so another 3,000 men), and four squadrons of cavalry (I am not able to determine how many four squadrons are); beside these he had the auxiliary contingents furnished by the kings, of which Antiochus supplied two thousand horse (2,000) and three thousand foot (3,000), all archers, Agrippa an equal number of foot (3,000) and rather less than two thousand horse (-2,000), Soaemus following with four thousand, of which one-third were cavalry (1,333) and the majority archers (2,666).   … Further auxiliaries in very large numbers were collected from the towns” (Wars 2:500-502, LCL 2:517,519).  The organized army had just over 23,000+ infantry and about 5,500 cavalry.  The 5,500 does not come close to the 200 million in the text, but then again, that is why Chilton interprets it as “many thousands”!

    The horsemen were instructed to kill one third of all “mankind” (9:15) and were successful in this task (9:18).  Chilton ignores this number and attributes no fulfillment to it.  If he were consistent with his position, the Roman army under Cestius, would have had to kill one third of “Israel” in their attack against Jerusalem.  Is this the case?  I do not believe so.  Of the Jews, he records, “Their (the Jews) own losses had been quite inconsiderable” (Wars 2:555, LCL 2:537).  At one point he records 22 being killed in a skirmish with the Romans (Wars 2:519, LCL 2:525).  The irony is that the Romans and their allies lost “five thousand three hundred infantry and four hundred and eighty of the cavalry” (Wars 2:555, LCL 2:537).  That was one fifth of the Roman forces!  But one third of mankind or Israel were not killed.

    Chilton realizes this problem and makes a creative excuse for the Jews.  “The retreat of Cestius was of course taken to mean that Christ’s prophecies of Jerusalem’s destruction were false: The armies from the Euphrates had come and surrounded Jerusalem (cf. Luke 21:20), but the threatened ‘desolation’ had not come to pass. … The Jews recklessly plunged ahead into greater acts of rebellion, unaware that even greater forces beyond the Euphrates were being readied for battle” (1987:258).  The problem with this interpretation is that the text does not say what he tries to make it say!

    Earthquakes in the Book of Revelation

    The word “earthquake” is used seven times in the Book of Revelation to describe five different earthquakes (Rev. 6:12; 8:5; 11:13 [twice], 19; 16:18 [twice]).

    The first earthquake occurs during the sixth seal (Rev. 6:12).  It is called a “great earthquake” and is connected with other cosmic disturbances (6:12-17).  Chilton calls this seal judgement a “de-creation”, or “God ripping apart and dissolving the fabric of creation” (1987:196).  The pattern of this judgment is based on the order of creation (i.e. earth, sun, moon, stars, firmament, land and man).  The first judgment is the earthquake, and its imagery is the destabilization (of earth?).  A number of Scriptures are quoted but Chilton does not say if this earthquake actually occurred.  Another preterist says that earthquakes are “the symbol of revolution, the shaking up of the nations in their various places.  It is the figure of the agitations, upheavals, resulting in the revolutions and wars of Matthew 24:29.  It is the symbol of divine judgment on the nations persecuting the cause of the Lamb” (Wallace 1997:153).

    The second earthquake occurs during the seventh seal judgment (Rev. 8:1-6).  “Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth.  And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake” (8:5).  Again, Chilton does not say if this is a literal earthquake or not (1987:231-235).

    The third earthquake occurs in conjunction with the martyrdom and resurrection of the two witnesses in Jerusalem (Rev. 11:13).  “In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and the tenth of the city fell.  In the earthquake seven thousand men were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven.”  Chilton understands this to mean the defeat of the Lord’s enemies, but does not take this as a literal earthquake (1987:285).

    The fourth earthquake is mentioned at the end of chapter 11.  “Then the Temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His Temple.  And there was lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail” (11:19).

    The fifth and final earthquake in Revelation is after the gathering of the armies of the nations at Armageddon (Rev. 16:16).  This occurs during the seventh bowl judgment (Rev. 16:17-21).  “Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the Temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, “It is done!”  And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings, and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth” (Rev. 16:17,18).  This earthquake, John writes, is like none that occurred since men were on the earth.  If the Preterist position is true, this earthquake was the most devastating earthquake to hit the earth and Jerusalem in particular (vs. 19, “the great city” = Jerusalem).  Yet the Preterist do not take this as a literal earthquake.  Chilton says, “Seven times in Revelation St. John mentions an earthquake (6:12; 8:5; 11:13 [twice]; 11:19; 16:18 [twice]), emphasizing its covenantal dimensions.  Christ came to bring the definitive earthquake, the great cosmic earthquake of the New Covenant” (1987:413).  Another Preterist comments, “These [the voices, thunder, lightnings, and earthquakes] are symbolic of the great energies of God’s throne being loosed in accomplishment of His purpose.  The great earthquake symbolizes the great change in the earth that took place when Israel as a nation under God was destroyed” (Ogden 1985:320,321).  The Preterist does not take this prophecy literally, but rather symbolically.  Why?  The reason is because they have no historical fulfillment from Josephus or any Roman historian to show for this prophecy.  Remember that Josephus was sitting in Jerusalem as an eyewitness to the siege of the city by Titus Caesar.  If any earthquake had occurred, for sure he would have mentioned it, especially one the size that John predicted.

    There were only three recorded earthquakes in Jerusalem during the First century AD.  One occurred in AD 30, in connection with the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus (Matt. 27:51-54; 28:2).  Another in AD 33, where there was slight damage to the Temple and finally another one in AD 48 that caused slight damage (Amiran, Arieh and Turcotte 1994: 265).  Since there was no earthquake, much less the most devastating one to hit the city, the Preterist have to make the earthquake symbolic!

    The Preterist dates the book of Revelation to before AD 70.  If they took this prophecy as a literal earthquake, Pliny the Elder would have put the lie to John’s statement “such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth.”  Pliny was a Roman of equestrian rank and a prolific researcher and writer.  His best known work is the 37 books of his Natural History.  Ironically, Pliny died while investigating the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79.  Writing in AD 77, Pliny described the earthquake that destroyed a portion of Asia Minor (now western Turkey) in AD 17 as “the greatest earthquake in human memory occurred when Tiberius Caesar was emperor, twelve Asiatic cities being overthrown in one night” (2:86:200; LCL 2:331, viii).

    Tacitus, in his Annals, described this earthquake as well.  “In the same year, twelve important cities of Asia collapsed in an earthquake, the time being night, so that the havoc was the less foreseen and the more devastating.  Even the usual resource in these catastrophes, a rush to open ground, was unavailing, as the fugitives were swallowed up in yawning chasms.  Accounts are given of huge mountains sinking, of former plains seen heaved aloft, of fires flashing out amid the ruin.  As the disaster fell heaviest on the Sardians, it brought them the largest measure of sympathy, the Caesar promising ten million sesterces, and remitting for five years their payments to the national and imperial exchequers” (2:47: LCL 2: 459).

    Pliny wrote this statement in AD 77, after John penned the Book of Revelation (according to the Preterist) and he said the AD 17 earthquake was the greatest in human memory.  If there had been an earthquake in Jerusalem right before AD 70, Pliny would have mentioned it as the greatest.  Pliny’s statement would fit better in the context of the book of Revelation having been written during the reign of Emperor Domitian.

    Earthquakes create a big problem for the preterist position because none occurred during the time of the Jewish revolt.  Thus, they have to make it symbolic, and not literal.

    Hailstones (Rev. 16:19-21)

    After the greatest earthquake ever recorded in the history of humanity (Rev. 16:16), the great city (Jerusalem) was divided into three parts.  Chilton, quoting Carrington, attributes this historically to the three rival Jewish leaders within Jerusalem during the siege by Titus (1987:416; cf. Wars 5:184-221; LCL 3:255-267).  The “great Babylon” (Jerusalem) was remembered before God and He poured out His wrath (16:19).  “Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found” (16:20).  Rather than seeing this as some seismic activity resulting from the greatest earthquake to hit the face of the earth (cf. 16:16), Chilton sees this symbolically as the disappearance of false refuge for the wicked to hide (1987:417).

    Then, “great hail from heaven fell upon men, every hailstone about the weight of a talent.  And men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great” (16:21).  Chilton correctly sees the connection between this judgment and the 7th plague during the Exodus from Egypt (Ex. 9:18-26), and the hailstones that fell on the Canaanite at Beth Horon (Josh. 10:11).  In both cases these were literal hailstones and in modern day military parlance, they would be “air-to-surface” projectiles.

    Yet how does Chilton and other preterists, understand these hailstones?  “Hailstones” = stone missiles (ballista stones) shot from Roman catapults against the Jewish defenders of Jerusalem!  (Chilton 1987:417,418; Gentry 1998:245,246; Russell 1996:480,481; Ogden 1996:322,323).  Josephus describes the Roman “artillery engines” (or “stone projectors”) as “wonderfully constructed” and “the rocks which they hurled weighed a talent and had a range of two furlongs or more” (Wars 5:269,270; LCL 3:285).  Elsewhere Josephus mentions the 160 artillery engines that the three Roman legions employed against Jerusalem and ballista stones that weighted one talent (Wars 3:166-168; LCL 2:627).  In modern military jargon these would be “surface-to-surface” projectiles.

    The differences between hailstones and ballista stones are drastic.  One is made of ice and the other is made of stone, and in Jerusalem, limestone.  One is “air-to-surface” and divinely poured out, while the other, is “surface-to-surface” man made artillery shot by the Romans. The only similarities between the hailstones of Rev. 16 and the ballista stones of the Roman siege are that they both weighed one talent.  According to Chilton, a talent is equal to 100 pounds.  Others dispute this claim and say, “no precise weight is intended by the talent-sized hailstones poured out of the bowl of the seventh angel in Rev. 16:21, but they would have been formidable, weighing, even by the late Jewish definition of the talent, at least 20.4 kg” (Powell 1992:6:907b).  If one converted this weight, 20.4 kg would equal 49.982 pounds, half what Chilton states.

    A good example of ballista stones found in an archaeological context in Jerusalem can be seen in the area of the Citadel Museum at Jaffa Gate.  However, these stones are not from the First Jewish Revolt, but most likely from “the siege of Jerusalem by Antiochus VII Sidetes during the reign of John Hyrcanus (133-132 B.C.E.)” (Sivan and Solar 1994:174; a photograph of the ballista stones can be seen on page 173).

    In June of 2000, I gave a field trip to the Herodian, south of Bethlehem.  In Herod the Great’s bedroom there was a pile of ballista stones.  As I sat on top of them, I read Rev. 16:21 to the group of seminarians from The Master’s Seminary.  I pointed to the stones and said, tongue-in-cheek, “Folks, these are the hailstones mentioned in this passage!”  The students, all good Pre-Tribbers, looked at me in bewilderment until someone in the back asked, “Why haven’t them melted?!”  I responded, “Good question, next time you talk to a Preterist, ask him.”

    Rev. 16:17-21 illustrates a glaring problem in the preterist position.  When is the text to be taken literally and when is it to be taken symbolically?  The earthquake in verse 18 is symbolic and the “hailstones” (which, according to the Preterist, are really ballista stones) are taken “literally” and historically fulfilled in AD 70.  Consistent hermeneutics would prove helpful to the preterist in determining literal meaning from symbolic meanings.

    “The Man of Sin”

    James Russell, in his book The Parousia, gives 12 criteria for identifying the “Man of Sin” in II Thess. 2:1-12 (1996:181-182).  They are

    (1)  He will be an individual.

    (2)   He is a public person.

    (3)   He holds the highest rank in the State.

    (4)   He is a Gentile, not Jewish.

    (5)   He claims divinity.

    (6)   He pretends to exercise miraculous power.

    (7)   His character is wickedness.

    (8)   He is a lawless ruler.

    (9)   When the epistle was written, he had not come to power.

    (10)       He was “hindered” by someone known to the Thessalonians.

    (11)       He was doomed to destruction.

    (12)       His “manifestation” was prior to the Parousia.

    Russell goes on to identify the “Man of Sin” as Nero and his step-father, Claudius, as the “restrainer”.

    The biggest problem with this view is that the list of criteria leaves out a very important point.  Paul writes that the “Man of Sin” would sit “as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (II Thess. 2:4).  While Nero claimed divinity, he never sat in the Temple of God in Jerusalem and declared himself God.

    John Noe, following a booklet written by John Bray (1999), has recently suggested that the “Man of Sin” was John of Gischala, one of the commanders of the Zealot forces defending Jerusalem during the Jewish Revolt and the Temple Mount in particular.  The “restrainer” was the Jewish priesthood lead by Ananus, the high priest.  They were removed when John of Gischala had them all murdered (2000:206-212).

    The shortcoming of this view is that John of Gischala never declared himself to be God.  If he did, Josephus would have picked up on it and accused him of blasphemy.  There was no love loss between the two.  In fact, they hated one other.

    Both views have partial fulfillment, but not complete fulfillment.  Nero proclaimed himself to be divine, but never sat in the Temple of Jerusalem.  John of Gischala, on the other hand, was in the Temple in Jerusalem, but never declared himself to be God.  Thus both fail to fulfill the prophecy of Paul in II Thess. 2.  We are still waiting a future fulfillment in a rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem.

    John Noe should be commended for showing the comparison between Matthew 24 and II Thessalonians 2 (2000:296, footnote 2).  But it makes more sense to see the two as future rather that fulfilled in AD 70.

    Some Observations

    The biggest problem with the preterist position is the lack of consistent hermeneutics.  They grope to find historical fulfillment in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.  When historical fulfillment fails the passage or event becomes “symbolic”.  It would be helpful if someone in the preterist camp would write a hermeneutics for his or her position.  What are the criteria for taking something literally?  When does something become symbolic?

    In some cases, they do not give a complete interpretation of a passage.  For example, in the second trumpet judgment, Chilton fails to identify or interpret all the things in the passage.  He makes no mention of the blood, the sea life that died or the 1/3 of the ships that were destroyed (8:8,9).

    They are also selective in their use of the material they use to prove their point.  For example, The Acts of John.

    Sometimes they use the historical data incorrectly as demonstrated by the coins with the seven stars.

    Finally, the “historical fulfillments” are not really fulfillments at all.

    Are the Fulfillments Historically Accurate?

    This chapter began by asking the question, “Are the fulfillments of the preterist view of Jerusalem historically accurate?”  The question must be answered three ways, (1) Biblically, (2) Historically, and (3) Prophetically.  Biblically, is Jerusalem to be identified with Babylon? Prophetically, were the prophecies fulfilled in AD 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem?  Historically, does the historical record fit the fulfillments?

    Biblically, the preterists have properly identified, in my opinion, “that great city” (Babylon) with Jerusalem.  Historically, their evidence for a fulfillment by an AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem has been weighed in the balance and found wanting.  Prophetically, they have misidentified the timing of the event.  I believe “that great city” (Babylon) of Revelation 11-18 is a still future city of Jerusalem where the Antichrist will set up his throne in a rebuilt temple.  This city, trodden under foot by the Gentiles for the last 42 months of the Tribulation, will be destroyed at the end of the Great Tribulation period.

    Babylon is identified as “that great city” nine times in the Book of Revelation.  Seven of which are clearly connected with “Babylon”.  The first mention of the phrase “that great city” is in Rev. 11 where it is clearly identified as Jerusalem, “where our Lord was crucified” (Rev. 11:8).  It is also called “spiritually” (we would say metaphorically) “Sodom and Egypt”.  The city is not Sodom or Egypt, but is called that.  It is identified as the place where our Lord was crucified.  Where was that?  It was not outside of Rome, nor Babylon, nor in Egypt, but Jerusalem.  This first mention of “that great city” clearly identifies the rest of the usage of the phrase.  John uses “Sodom” and “Egypt” in a spiritual (metaphorical) sense for Jerusalem, why could he not use “Babylon” in the same way?

    I believe there are three reasons most Premillennialists have not taken a serious look at this view.  First, they have their preconceived ideas as to the identity of Babylon.  It is either Rome or Babylon in Iraq.  Needless to say, both of these ideas have serious Biblical flaws.  Second, they do not want to admit the Preterist might have correctly identified the city.  Third, they do not want to be accused of anti-Semitism.   Of course, nobody would accuse Isaiah of anti-Semitism after he called the leaders of Jerusalem, “rulers of Sodom” and the people of Jerusalem, “people of Gomorrah” (Isa. 1:10) and “a harlot” (1:21).  Jeremiah calls the prophets of Jerusalem “like Sodom” and the people of Jerusalem “like Gomorrah” (Jer. 23:14).  Ezekiel calls Judah “Sodom and her daughters” (16:46).  This is strong language but it is not anti-Semitic.

    For Further Study

    One area of comparison that I have not been able to pursue is the chronology of the Great Tribulation as set forth by the Preterist with the chronology of the First Jewish Revolt and the history of the Roman Empire during the 60’s of the First century.  Lord willing, and the saints aren’t Raptured first, I will write an article on “The Preterist View of the Great Tribulation and the First Jewish Revolt: Is It Chronologically Accurate?”

    One would have to make a time line of the Jewish Revolt (fortunately Josephus left us meticulous dates for most events) and the Roman Empire in the decade of the 60’s.  Then compare the timeline with the Preterist’s interpretation of the “time span” passages in the book of Revelation (i.e. “five months,” “three and a half years,” “forty-two months,” and “1,260 days”).

    Another area to pursue would be the “fulfillment” of the “Abomination of Desolation” in Matt. 24:15.  The Preterists have suggested several different interpretations to show how this was “fulfilled” during the First Jewish Revolt.

    Still further study should be on their identification of the “Man of Sin”.  Does John of Gischala fit the criteria of II Thess. 2?

    A Final Word

    The Apostle Paul wrote the second epistle to the church at Thessalonika to correct some prophetic errors.  He concludes his epistle by admonishing the believers, “And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed.  Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother” (3:14,15).

    We should be very careful not to stoop to the level of name-calling when we talk with those who hold to the Preterist position.  They are not our enemies, nor are they heretics, but they are our brothers.  They fully believe in the inspiration and inerrency of the Scriptures.  They love the Lord Jesus and His church.  We just do not agree with them on certain points of theology.  When we do disagree, we can kindly say, “I’m sorry brother, I love you but have to respectfully disagree with you.”  After all, it is NOT the end of the world!


    Amiran, D., Arieh, E., and Turcotte, T.

    1994    Earthquakes in Israel and Adjacent Areas: Macroseismic Observations since 100 B.C.E.  Israel Exploration Journal 44/3-4: 260-305.

    Balyeat, J.

    1991    Babylon, The Great City of Revelation.  Sevierville, TN: Onward.

    Bent, J.

    1888    What St. John Saw on Patmos.  The Nineteenth Century 24:813-821.

    Bray, J.

    1999    The Man of Sin of II Thessalonians 2.  Lakeland, FL: John L. Bray Ministry.

    Borowski, O.

    1987    Agriculture in Iron Age Israel.  Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns.

    Buckwalter, H. D., and Shoaff, M.

    1995    Guide to the Reference System for the Works of Flavius Josephus.  Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns.

    Burnett, A., Amandry, M., and Ripolles, P.

    1992    Roman Provincial Coinage.  Vol. 1.  London: British Museum.  Paris: Bibliotheque nationale de France.

    Chilton, D.

    1987a The Days of Vengeance.  Ft. Worth, TX: Dominion.

    1987b Paradise Restored.  Ft. Worth, TX: Dominion.

    1987c The Great Tribulation.  Ft. Worth, TX: Dominion.

    Davies, K.

    2000    Babylon The Harlot City.  Bradford, PA: International Preterist Association.

    DeMar, G.

    2001   End Time Fiction.  Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

    Ford, J. M.

    1975    Revelation.  The Anchor Bible.  Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

    Franz, G.

    1999    The King and I: The Apostle John and Emperor Domitian.  Bible and Spade 12/2: 45-51.

    2000    The King and I: Opening the Third Seal.  Bible and Spade 13/1: 9-11.

    Gentry, K.

    1994a Before Dispensationalism Fell.  A Response to Dr. Robert L. Thomas (Part 1).  Dispensationalism in Transition 8/8:1,2.

    1994b Reconstructionism v. Dispensationalism.  A Response to Dr. Robert L. Thomas (Part 2).  Dispensationalism in Transition 8/9: 1,2.

    1998    Before Jerusalem Fell.  Dating the Book of Revelation.  Atlanta, GA: American Vision’s.

    Gichon, M.

    1981    Cestius Gallus’s Campaign in Judaea.  Palestine Exploration Quarterly.  113: 39-62.

    Hareuveni, N.

    1980    Nature in Our Biblical Heritage.  Translated by Helen Frenkley.  Kiryat Ono, Israel: Neot Kedumim.

    1987    The Emblem of the State of Israel.  Translated by Helen Frenkley.  Kiryat Ono, Israel: Neot Kedumim.

    Holford, G.

    2001    The Destruction of Jerusalem.  An Absolute and Irresistible Proof of the Divine Origin of Christianity.  Nacogdoches, TX: Covenant Media.

    Jacobson, D.

    1999    Palestine and Israel.  Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research.  313: 65-74.

    Janzen, E.

    1994    The Jesus of the Apocalypse Wears the Emperor’s Cloth.  Pp. 637-657 in SBL 1994 Seminar Papers.  Atlanta, GA: Scholars.

    Jones, J.

    1990    A Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins.  London: Seaby.


    1976    Josephus, The Life, Against Apion.  Vol. 1.  Trans. H. Thackeray.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.  Loeb Classical Library.

    1976   Josephus, The Jewish Wars.  Books I-III.  Vol. 2.  Trans. H.

    Thackeray.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard university.  Loeb Classical


    1979    Josephus, The Jewish Wars.  Books IV-VII.  Vol. 3.  Trans. H. Thackeray.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard university.  Loeb Classical Library.

    Mattingly, H., and Sydenham, E.

    1926    The Roman Imperial Coinage, vol. 2.  London: Spink and Son.

    Noe, J.

    2000    Beyond the End Times.  Bradford, PA: Preterist Resources.

    2001    Shattering the Left Behind Delusion.  Bradford, PA: Internationalist Preterist Association.

    Ogden, A.

    1985    The Avenging of the Apostles and Prophets.  A Commentary on Revelation.  Somerset, KY: Ogden Publications.  Third printing, 1996.

    Paher, S.

    1996    Matthew 24.  First Century Fulfillment or End-Time Expectations? Las Vegas, NV: Nevada.


    1979    Pliny, Natural History.  Books I-II.  Vol. 1.  Trans. H. Rackham.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.  Loeb Classical Library.

    1989   Pliny, Natural History.  Books III-VII.  Vol. 2.  Trans. H. Rackham.

    Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.  Loeb Classical Library.

    Powell, M.

    1992   Weights and Measures.  Pp. 897-908 in The Anchor Bible

    Dictionary.  Vol. 6.  New York: Doubleday.

    Preston, D.

    1999    Who Is This Babylon? Self published.

    Russell, J.

    1996    The Parousia, A Critical Inquiry into the New Testament Doctrine of Our Lord’s Second Coming.  Bradford, PA: Kingdom Publications.

    Siven, R., and Solar, G.

    1994    Excavations in the Jerusalem Citadel, 1980-1988.  Pp. 168-176 in Ancient Jerusalem Revealed.  Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society.

    Sproul, R. C.

    1998   The Last Days According to Jesus.  Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.

    Stevens, E.

    1997    What Happened in A.D. 70? Bradford, PA: Kingdom Publication.

    Sutherland, C.

    1984    The Roman Imperial Coinage, vol. 1.  London: Spink and Son.


    1992   Tacitus, Histories IV-V, Annals I-III.  Vol. 3.  Trans. C. Moore and J.

    Jackson.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.  Loeb Classical


    Thomas, R.

    1994    Theonomy and the Dating of Revelation.  The Master’s Seminary Journal 5/2: 185-202.

    Van der Waal, C.

    1991    Hal Lindsey and Biblical Prophecy.  Neerlandia, Alberta: Inheritance.

    Wallace, F.

    1997   The Book of Revelation.  Fort Smith, AR: Foy E. Wallace Jr.


    Wilson, M.

    2000    Zeugma: Armageddon on the Euphrates?  Near East Archaeological Society Bulletin 45: 23-35.

    A variation of this paper was presented at the 1999 Pre-Trib Study Group on Monday, December 13, 1999.

  • Cracked Pot Archaeology, Paul's Shipwreck on Malta Comments Off on DOES THE “THE LOST SHIPWRECK OF PAUL” HOLD WATER? Or, Have the Anchors from the Apostle Paul’s Shipwreck Been Discovered on Malta?

    By Gordon Franz

    Book Review

    Robert Cornuke, The Lost Shipwreck of Paul (2003), Publisher: Global Publishing Service, Bend, OR, 232 pages.


    Mr. Robert Cornuke co-authored three books with David Halbrook and then authored a fourth book on his own in which he claimed to have used the Bible as a “treasure map” (2003: 78) in order to locate “lost” Biblical objects or places.

    In the first book he co-authored, In Search of the Mountain of God: The Discovery of the Real Mt. Sinai (Cornuke and Halbrook 2000), he followed the ideas of the late Ron Wyatt and claims to have found the real Mt. Sinai at Jebel al-Lawz in Saudi Arabia (ancient Midian).  Ron Wyatt was the originator of the idea and first explored the mountain with this hypothesis in mind, yet Wyatt is only mentioned in passing in Mr. Cornuke’s book (2000: 218).  The Bible clearly places Mt. Sinai outside the Land of Midian (Ex. 18:27; Num. 10:29, 30).  The archaeological finds observed by adventurers visiting the area were completely misidentified and misinterpreted.  The claims that Mt. Sinai is Jebel al-Lawz in Saudi Arabia have been carefully examined and refuted (Franz 2000: 101-113; Standish and Standish 1999).

    See also:





    In the second book he co-authored, In Search of the Lost Mountains of Noah: The Discovery of the Real Mts. Of Ararat (Cornuke and Halbrook 2001), he examines Ed Davis’s claim to have seen Noah’s Ark while he was stationed in Iran during World War II.  Mr. Cornuke concluded that Mr. Davis saw Noah’s Ark on Mt. Savalon in Iran based on the suggestion of his Iranian tour guide.  Mr. Cornuke visited the country several times in order to locate the ark, but has not seen, verified, or documented, the ark on any of his trips to Iran.  It seems that Mr. Cornuke has abandoned this idea and now is searching for the ark on Mount Suleiman in the Alborz Range of Iran.

    See: www.noahsarksearch.com/iran.htm

    In the third book he co-authored, In Search of the Lost Ark of the Covenant, (Cornuke and Halbrook 2002), he suggested that the Ark of the Covenant is located in the stone chapel of St. Mary of Zion Church in Aksum, Ethiopia.  This is a revisiting of Graham Hancock’s idea in the book, The Sign and the Seal (1992).  Professor Edward Ullendorff, formerly of the University of London, visited the church in 1941 and was given access to the “ark.”  As an eyewitness, he reported that it was an empty wooden box!  (Hiltzik 1992: 1H).  The claims that the ark is in Ethiopia have been examined and refuted by Dr. Randall Price (2005: 101-115, 167-177).

    Mr. Cornuke has not set forth any credible historical, geographic, archaeological or Biblical evidence for the claims he makes in his first three books when one examines them closely.

    Most recently, Mr. Cornuke has developed a new idea regarding the shipwreck of the Apostle Paul.  In his fourth book, The Lost Shipwreck of Paul (2003), Mr. Cornuke claims to have found the only tangible remains from the shipwreck of the Apostle Paul on Malta, six lead anchor stocks.  Josh McDowell’s prominent endorsement on the dust jacket says, “The Lost Shipwreck of Paul is evidence that demands a verdict,” a play on the title of McDowell’s famous book, Evidence that Demands a Verdict.  This article will examine the claims set forth in the book and will render a verdict based on the evidence.

    I began my research on Malta in January 1997 in preparation for a study tour with a graduate school.  Two follow-up trips were made in May 2001 and January 2005.  In addition to research visits, I have amassed a large collection of books, journal articles and maps over the past few years.  While on Malta, I was able to use several libraries for research.  I visited the St. Thomas Bay region on three occasions and examined the two anchor stocks discussed in the book.  These had been anchors that were turned over to the authorities, and displayed on the second floor of the Malta Maritime Museum in Vittoriosa along with other anchor stocks that likewise were not from controlled archaeological excavations.

    Malta – A Great Place to Visit!

    Malta is an island, rich in archaeological remains, fascinating history, natural beauty, and has Biblical significance.  This island is a jewel of Europe and well worth a visit.  A tourist can still experience the “unusual kindness” and hospitality that Paul and Luke experienced when they unexpectedly visited the island in AD 59/60 (cf. Acts 28:2 NKJV).

    Examining the Evidence for the Shipwreck on the Munxar Reef

    Mr. Cornuke’s investigations on the island of Malta led to the conclusion that the shipwreck occurred on the eastern end of the island of Malta, rather than the traditional site at St. Paul’s Bay on the northern side of the island.  His view is that the Alexandrian grain ship containing the Apostle Paul and his traveling companion, Luke, was shipwrecked on the Munxar Reef near St. Thomas Bay on the eastern side of the island.  Mr. Cornuke claims that he located local spear fishermen and divers who told him about six anchor stocks that were located near or on the Munxar Reef.  Mr. Cornuke has suggested that these six anchor stocks came from the shipwreck of Paul (Acts 27:29, 40).  Four of the anchor stocks were found at fifteen fathoms, or ninety feet of water (Acts 27:28), these would have been the ones the crew threw over first.  The other two were found at a shallower depth and he thinks these were the anchors the sailors were pretending to put out from the prow (Acts 27:30).  He identifies the “place where two seas meet” (Acts 27:41) as the Munxar Reef and the “bay with the beach” as St. Thomas Bay (Acts 27:39).  He concluded that neither the sea captain, nor his crew, would have recognized the eastern shoreline of the Maltese coast.

    Mr. Cornuke made four trips to Malta in order to develop this theory.  On his first trip in September 2000 (2003: 26-73), he scouted out the traditional site at St. Paul’s Bay and concluded that it did not line up with the Biblical account.  Then he investigated Marsaxlokk Bay and decided that it did not fit the description either.  He settled on the Munxar Reef as the place where the ship foundered and St. Thomas Bay as the beach where the people came ashore.

    On his second trip in September 2001 (2003: 75-130), he took a team of people that included Jean Francois La Archevec, a diver; David Laddell, a sailing specialist; Mark Phillips, his liaison with the scholarly community; Mark’s wife; and Mitch Yellen (2003: 75, 76, plate 8, bottom).  On this trip, the group met Ray Ciancio, the owner of the Aqua Bubbles Diving School (2003: 77).  Mr. Ciancio told the research team that two anchors had been found off the outer Munxar Reef in front of a large underwater cave.  The team scuba dived to the cave and confirmed that the depth was 90 feet, or 15 fathoms.

    The third trip to Malta in May of 2002 was prompted by a phone call from Mr. Ciancio claiming he located somebody who had brought up a third anchor (2003: 163-200).  This time the research / film team consisted of Jim and Jay Fitzgerald, Edgar, Yvonne and Jeremy Miles, Jerry and Gail Nordskog, Bryan Boorujy, David Stotts and Darrell Scott (2003: Plate 12 top).  They met Charles Grech, a (now) retired restaurant owner, who found the third anchor in front of the same underwater cave.  Mr. Grech led them to a fourth anchor that might have been found off the Munxar Reef, but this was not certain.  Prof. Anthony Bonanno, of the University of Malta, examined the third anchor stock in Mr. Grech’s home.  The team also visited the Rescue Coordination Center of the Armed Forces of Malta and watched a computer program plot the course of a ship caught in a windstorm from Crete to Malta.  Mr. Nordskog recounted his adventures and made the first official announcement of the new theory in a magazine that he published (2002: 4, 113).

    A fourth trip to Malta was in November 2002 (2003: 201-220).  Mr. Cornuke teamed up with Ray Ardizzone to meet Wilfred Perotta, the “grandfather of Malta divers.”  Mr. Perotta was able to confirm that the fourth anchor was found off the Munxar Reef and introduced the author to a mystery man who informed him of a fifth anchor and a sixth anchor found off the Munxar Reef.

    After his investigations, the author had a problem.  He had no tangible proof of the anchor stocks to show the world.  The first of the anchor stocks was melted down; the second, third and fourth were in private collections; and the fifth and six had been sold.  According to the Maltese antiquities law, it was illegal for the private citizens to have the anchor stocks in their possession, a fear expressed by each diver/family that told their stories about the anchor stocks in his or its possession (Cornuke 2003: 108, 112, 126).  A strategy, however, was devised that would get those who possessed the anchor stocks to reveal them to the public.  The aid of the US ambassador to Malta, Kathy Proffitt, was enlisted to convince the President and Prime Minister of Malta to offer an amnesty to anyone who would turn over antiquities found off the Munxar Reef (2003: 221-223).  The pardons were issued on September 23, 2002.  This resulted in two anchor stocks being turned over to the authorities.  Now the book could be written.

    Thorough Research?

    When I first read the book, I was disappointed to find that Mr. Cornuke does not interact with, or mention, some very important works on the subject of Paul’s shipwreck; nor are they listed in his bibliography.  The classic work on this subject is James Smith’s The Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul. In fact, the noted New Testament and classical scholar, F. F. Bruce said this book was “an indispensable handbook to the study of this chapter [Acts 27]” (1981: 499), and elsewhere, “This work remains of unsurpassed value for its stage-by-stage annotation of the narrative of the voyage” (1995: 370, footnote 9).  Yet nowhere in his book does Mr. Cornuke mention Smith’s work or even discuss the information contained therein.  Nor is there any mention of George Musgrave’s, Friendly Refuge (1979), or W. Burridge’s, Seeking the Site of St. Paul’s Shipwreck (1952).  There are some scholars who do not believe Paul even was shipwrecked on the island of Malta.  Nowhere in Mr. Cornukes’ “Lost Shipwreck” is there an acknowledgment or even a discussion of the Dalmatia or Greek sites.

    James Smith identifies the place of landing as St. Paul’s Bay; others suggest different beaches within the bay.  Musgrave suggested the landing was at Qawra Point at the entrance to Salina Bay.  Burridge places the shipwreck in Mellieha Bay.  Those who reject the island of Malta as the place of the shipwreck point out that the Book of Acts uses the Greek word “Melite” (Acts 28:1).  There were two “Melite’s” in the Roman world: Melite Africana, the modern island of Malta, and Melite Illyrica, an island in the Adriatic Sea called Mljet in Dalmatia (Meinardus 1976: 145-147).  A recent suggestion for the shipwreck was the island of Cephallenia in Greece (Warnecke and Schirrmacher 1992).

    Did the sea captain and crew recognize the land? (Acts 27:39)

    Luke states, “When it was day, they did not recognize the land; but they observed a bay with a beach” (Acts 27:39a).  The sea captain and the sailors could see the shoreline, but did not recognize the shoreline and where they were.  It was only after they had gotten to land that they found out they were on the island of Malta (Acts 28:1).

    Lionel Casson, one of the world’s leading experts on ancient nautical archaeology and seafaring, describes the route of the Alexandrian grain ships from Alexandria in Egypt to Rome.  In a careful study of the wind patterns on the Mediterranean Sea and the account of Lucian’s Navigation that gives the account of the voyage of the grain ship Isis, he has demonstrated that the ship left Alexandria and headed in a northward direction.  It went to the west of Cyprus and then along the southern coast of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) and headed for Knidos or Rhodes.  The normal route was under (south of) the island of Crete and then west toward Malta.  Thus the eastern shoreline of Malta was the recognizable landmark for them to turn north and head for Syracuse, Sicily and on to Puteoli or Rome (1950: 43-51; Lucian, The Ship or the Wishes; LCL 6: 431-487).

    Mr. Cornuke correctly states: “Malta itself was well visited as a hub of trade during the time of the Roman occupation and would have been known to any seasoned sailor plying the Mediterranean” (2003: 31).  Any seasoned sailor coming from Alexandria would clearly recognize the eastern shoreline of Malta.

    He also properly identified two of the many ancient harbors on Malta as being at Valletta and Salina Bay (2003: 32).  The ancient Valletta harbor was much further inland in antiquity and is called Marsa today, and is at the foot of Corradino Hill (Bonanno 1992: 25).  Roman storehouses with amphorae were discovered in this region in 1766-68 (Ashby 1915: 27-30).  When Alexandrian grain ships could not make it to Rome before the sea-lanes closed for the winter, they wintered on Malta (see Acts 28:11).  They would off load their grain and store them in the storehouses of Marsa (Gambin 2005).  Sea captains coming from Alexandria would be very familiar with the eastern shoreline of Malta before they entered the harbor of Valletta.

    The city of Melite was the only major city on Roman Malta, there were however, villas and temples scattered throughout the countryside.  Today Melite lies under the modern city of Mdina / Rabat.  The main harbor for Melite was Marsa, not Salina Bay (Said-Zammit 1997: 43,44,132; Said 1992: 1-22).

    Diodorus Siculus, a Greek historian who lived in the First Century BC, states regarding Malta: “For off the south of Sicily three islands lie out in the sea, and each of them possesses a city and harbours which can offer safety to ships which are in stress of weather.  The first one is that called Melite [Malta], which lies about eight hundred stades from Syracuse, and it possesses many harbours which offer exceptional advantages.” (Library of History 5:12:1-2; LCL 3: 129).  Note his description, “many harbors.”  Many includes more than just two; so where are the rest?

    Knowledge of Arabic can give us a clue.  The word “marsa” is the Arabic word for harbor (Busuttil 1971: 305-307).  There are at least three more harbors that can be added to the list.  The Marsamxett harbor within the Grand Harbor of Valletta; Marsascala Bay just north of St. Thomas Bay; and Marsaxlokk Bay in the southeast portion of Malta all would be Roman harbors.  The last bay was a major Roman harbor / port that served the famous Temple of Juno on the hill above it and was also a place for ships to winter.

    Any ancient Mediterranean Sea captain, or seasoned sailor on the deck of a ship anchored off the Munxar Reef, immediately would recognize the eastern shoreline of Malta with these Roman harbors and anchorages.  Malta was the landmark for sailors traveling from Crete and about to turn north to Sicily.  The eastern end of the island would be what they saw first and it would be a welcome sight.

    There are at least four recognizable points that could be seen from the outer Munxar Reef had this been the exact spot of the shipwreck of Paul as Mr. Cornuke argues.  The first was the entrance to Marsaxlokk Bay where a Roman harbor / port was, the second, the entrance to Marsascala Bay where another Roman harbor was located.  The third point would be the dangerous Munxar Reef (or small islands or peninsula in the 1st century AD) that any sea captain worth his salt would recognize because of its inherent danger.  The final point, and most important, was the site known today as Tas-Silg.  This was a famous temple from the Punic / Roman period dedicated to one goddess known by different names by the various ethnic groups visiting the island.  She was Tanit to the Phoenicians, Hera to the Greeks, Juno to the Romans, and Isis to the Egyptians (Trump 1997: 80, 81; Bonanno 1992: Plate 2 with a view of St. Thomas Bay in the background).

    In preparation for my January 2005 trip to Malta I studied this important temple.  It was a landmark for sailors coming from the east.  Could this temple be seen from the outer Munxar Reef?  On the first day I arrived in Malta, Tuesday, January 11, a fellow traveler and I went to visit the excavations.  Unfortunately they were closed, but we could get a clear feel for the terrain around the excavations.  Near the enclosure for the excavations was the Church of Tas-Silg, a very prominent building in the region.  On Friday, January 14, we walked around the point where St. Thomas Tower is located and then along the edge of the low cliffs to St. Thomas Bay.  There was no wind so the sea was flat and no waves were breaking on the Munxar Reef.  On Sunday, January 16, however, a very strong windstorm hit Malta.  I returned to St. Thomas Bay and walked out to the point overlooking the Munxar Reef.  The waves clearly indicated the line of the Munxar Reef.  After watching the waves, I turned around to observe the terrain behind me.  Up the slopes of the hill the Church of Tas-Silg and the enclosure wall of the Tas-Silg excavations were clearly visible.  Just to confirm the visibility from Tas-Silg, I walked along dirt paths and through fields up to the enclosure wall.  As I stood on the outside of the wall, just opposite the Roman temple, I looked down and could see the waves breaking on the Munxar Reef.  There was eye contact between the outer Munxar Reef and this important shrine with no apparent obstruction in the line of view.  If I could see the Munxar Reef then someone at the Munxar Reef could have seen me and the elevated terrain landmarks around me such as the prominent Temple of Juno.

    If the Apostle Paul’s ship was anchored near the Munxar Reef, when it was morning, the sea captain and the sailors immediately would have recognized where they were.  Luke, who was on board the ship, testifies that they did not recognize where they were (Acts 27:39).  Thus the Munxar Reef does not meet the Biblical criteria for the shipwreck of Paul.

    Is the “Meeting of two seas” at the Munxar Reef? (Acts 27:41)

    When the sea captain gave the orders for the ropes of the four anchors to be cut, Luke says they struck “a place where two seas meet” (Acts 27:41).  The Greek words for “two seas meet” is transliterated, “topon dithalasson.”  The meaning of these two Greek words, “two seas meet,” has been translated in the book as “place of two seas” (2003: 71), “a place where two seas meet” (2003: 217), “two seas meet” (2003: 29, 73, 194), and “a place between waters” (2003: 29).

    Mr. Cornuke gives three possible meanings for this Greek phrase on page 82 of his book and footnotes it as his #16.  Footnote 16 is page 148 of Joseph Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (1893).  When one examines Thayer’s definition of topon dithalasson, he gives more definitions than Mr. Cornuke gives in his book.  Thayer starts off by saying it means, “resembling [or forming] two seas.”  Also “lying between two seas, i.e. washed by the sea on both sides … an isthmus.”  If we take these omitted meanings into consideration, it opens up other possibilities on the island for the location of the shipwreck.

    There have been other studies done on the Greek phrase topon dithalasson which appears only once in the Greek New Testament (Gilchrist 1996: 42-46).  Professor Mario Buhagiar, of the University of Malta, cautions that this term “does not offer any real help because it can have several meanings and the way it is used in Acts 27:41, does not facilitate an interpretation.  A place where two seas meet (Authorized and Revised versions) and a cross sea (Knox Version) are the normally accepted translations but any beach off a headland (Liddell and Scott) or an isthmus whose extremity is covered by the waves (Grimms and Thayer), as indeed most water channels, can qualify as the place where the boat grounded.  The truth is that the Acts do not give us sufficient clues to help in the identification of the site” (Buhagiar 1997: 200).

    There are other locations on the island that fit the description of the lying between two seas and an isthmus.

    Is the “bay with a beach” at St. Thomas Bay? (Acts 27:39)

    In introducing this passage, Mr. Cornuke remarks, “The Bible states that sailors aboard Paul’s ship, having anchored off the coast of Malta in a near hurricane, peered out at the horizon at midnight on the fourteenth night, and … observed a bay with a beach” (2003: 27).  Actually, verse 39 states, “Now when it was day …” (NKJV), “And when day came …” (NASB), “And when it was day…” (KJV).  It was not midnight as stated in the book.  If it were at midnight, and especially during a gragale, it would be pitch black and they would not have been able to see anything.

    There is a second problem with Mr. Cornuke’s identification.  According to Map 3, the ship was anchored on the south side of the Munxar Reef before the ropes were cut.  More than likely in the First Century AD, the sea captain would not have been able to see the low-level beach of St. Thomas Bay from where he was anchored though the elevated landmarks would have been visible and recognizable.

    Geographers who study land forms are well aware that coastlines change over time.  This could be a result of silting, as in the case of Marsa and the Marsascala Bay.  Erosion by the sea is always going on.  Seismic activity could change coastlines as well.  Malta has many fault lines on or around it that could move land mass up, down or sideways.  A certain depth in the sea, or elevation on land, today might not necessarily be what it was 1,000 or 2,000 years ago.  Tsunamis are known in the Mediterranean Sea, and several have been recorded in the history of Malta.  In 1693 a tsunami hit the island of Gozo.  The water receded a mile and then returned with a vengeance (Azzopardi 2002: 60).  Shifting sand moved by a tsunami could have changed the contour of the seabed.

    A careful look at Map 2 with a magnifying glass reveals that the Munxar Reef is above the waterline and has what appeared to be three small islands.  Unfortunately this map is not identified; nor is there a date given for when or by whom it was produced.

    The D’Aleccio map of the siege of Malta in 1565 was produced and published in 1582.  On that map, the Munxar Reef appears as a series of small islands or a peninsula (Ganado 1984: Plate 18).

    An Internet search revealed the Boisgelin Map of Malta produced in 1805, but I have not examined this map first hand.  The Munxar Reef looked like the horn of a unicorn.  Geographically, it could be a peninsula or a series of small islands.

    The earliest known map of Malta was produced in 1536 (Vella 1980).  Map 2 must be later than this one, as are the D’Aleccio and Boisgelin maps.  They tell us that at least in the 16th century there were three small islands, or a peninsula, above the Munxar Reef.  The question is, what was the reef like in the First Century AD?  According to the “Geological Map of the Maltese Islands” (Map 1, 1993) the cliff overlooking the Munxar Reef is made of Middle Globigerina Limestone.  It is described as “a planktonic foraminifera-rich sequence of massive, white, soft carbonate mudstones locally passing into pale-grey marly mudstone.”  Assuming the small islands and/or peninsula were made of the same material, over 2,000 years this soft limestone would have eroded away by the constant wave action and occasional tsunamis.  If this is the case, it raises some interesting questions: Were the small islands bigger, or was it a peninsula in the First Century AD?  If so, how high was the land and how far out did it go?  If it were higher than the grain ship, then it would lead to serious questions as to whether the captain could see the beach at all.  It might have even been impossible to cross over it by sea in order to reach the beach.

    The Six Anchors (Acts 27: 28-30, 40)

    Mr. Cornuke interviewed people, primarily old divers and spear fishermen, who claimed to have located four anchors on the south side of the Munxar Reef at 15 fathoms, or 90 feet of water.  These interviews are the author’s prime evidence for Paul’s shipwreck.  To be more precise, Mr. Cornuke located four anchor stocks, a stock being one part of a whole anchor.

    Before discussing the six anchor stocks that allegedly were discovered, a description of a wooden Roman anchor is necessary.  Roman anchors were made of wood and lead, as opposed to stone anchors of earlier periods.  Douglas Haldane, a nautical archaeologist, has divided the wooden-anchor stocks into eight types (Haldane 1984: 1-13; 1990: 19-24, see diagram on page 21).  Five of the types were used in the first century AD, Type IIIA, IIIB, IIIC, IVA and IVB  (Haldane 1984: 3,13).

    The Type III anchors are made up of five parts (for pictures, see Bonanno 1992: Plate 67; Cornuke 2003: Plate 7, bottom).  The main part is the wooden shank, usually made of oak, which has a lead stock across the upper part.  Haldane subdivides the Type III anchors into three parts based on the design of lead stock.  Type IIIA is made of “solid lead with no internal junction with the shank.”  Type IIIB is made of “solid lead with lead tenon through [the] shank.”  Type IIIC is made of “lead with [a] wooden core” (1984: 3).  This core of wood, called a “soul,” goes though the shank in order to pin the stock to the shank (Kapitan 1969-71: 51).  On the bottom of the anchor are two wooden flukes, sometimes tipped with metal (usually copper and called a “tooth”), perpendicular to the anchor stock.  A “collar” made of lead, sometimes called an “assembly piece,” secures the flukes to the shank (Kapitan 1969-71: 52; Cornuke 2003: Plate 6, bottom; in the picture the collar is below the anchor stock).

    When an anchor is dropped into the sea, the heavy lead stock brings the anchor to the bottom of the sea.  One fluke then digs into the sea bottom.  The stock also keeps “the anchor cable pulling at the correct angle to the fluke” (Throckmorton 1972: 78).

    Mr. Cornuke concluded from his research that the anchors from an Alexandrian grain ship “would have been huge, lead-and-wooden Roman-style anchors common on huge freighters like the one Paul sailed on” (2002: 15).

    Nautical archaeologists and divers generally find only the anchor stocks and the collars and not the wooden parts because the wood rots in the sea.  However, that is not always the case.  Sometimes the wooden core, or “soul” still is found inside the stock.  Wood can also be found in the collar (Kapitan 1969-71: 51, 53).  In some cases the wood does not disintegrate.  A case in point is the wooden anchor from a 2,400 year-old shipwreck off the coast of Ma’agan Mikhael in Israel (Rosloff 2003: 140-146).

    Sometimes lead anchor stocks have inscriptions or symbols on them.  Symbols may be of “good luck (dolphins, caduceus), or related to the sea (shells) or apotropaic (Medusa head).”  Also are found “numbers, names of divinities (= names of ships), e.g. Isis, Hera, Hercules, and rarely, names of men … [that] may provide evidence for senatorial involvement in trade” (Gianfrotta 1980: 103, English abstract).

    One of the reasons antiquities laws are so tough is to prevent divers from looting sunken ships and removing, forever, valuable information such as the wood which could be used to carbon date the anchor and identify the type of wood used for making anchors.  Some Israeli nautical archaeologists have begun to use carbon dating to date some of their shipwrecks (Kahanov and Royal 2001: 257; Nor 2002-2003: 15-17; 2004: 23).  Archaeologists also work to maintain any inscriptional evidence on the anchor stock.

    For a brief survey of the recent developments in the maritime heritage of Malta, see Bonanno 1995: 105-110.

    The first anchor (#1) described in Mr. Cornuke’s book was found by Tony Micallef-Borg and Ray Ciancio in front of a big cave in the outer Munxar Reef at about 90 feet below the surface (2003: 101-105).  When it was discovered in the early 1970’s, it was only half an anchor that was either “pulled apart like a piece of taffy” (2003: 121) or sawn in half with a hacksaw (2003: 231, footnote 18), depending on which eyewitness is most reliable.  The recollection is that it was three or four feet long, with a large section cut off (2003: 102).  The discoverers melted it down for lead weights not knowing its historical and archaeological value.  One diver, Oliver Navarro, had two small weights with “MT” stamped on them for Tony Micallef-Borg.  (Actually “MT” is the reverse image of Tony’s initials, see Plate 6, top).  There is a drawing of the anchor at the top of Plate 7.

    Unfortunately, #1 was melted down.  If it had been found in a controlled archaeological excavation and it contained an inscription, it would have been helpful in identifying the ship or its date.

    In a reconstruction of how the anchor stock was ripped apart, the author surmises that this was the first anchor thrown from the Apostle Paul’s ship and then “ravaged by the reef and the waves” (2003: 122, 123).  The problem with this scenario is that a fluke goes into the seabed where it would serve to slow down the ship, not the anchor stock.  If anything had been torn apart like taffy it would have been the collar, not the anchor stock, assuming the wooden fluke did not break first.  More than likely, the anchor stock was sawn in half by means of a hacksaw by some unknown person in modern times..

    The second anchor (#2) was also found in the early 70’s and was a whole anchor stock found near anchor #1 (2003: 105-110).  It was brought to shore by Tony Micallef-Borg, Ray Ciancio, Joe Navarro and David Inglott and taken to Cresta Quay (Cornuke 2003: 105, 106).  It eventually came to rest in the courtyard of Tony Micallef-Borg’s villa.

    “Tony’s anchor” (2003: 125) is described by different people as a “large anchor stock” (2003: 106), a “huge anchor” (2003: 114), as a “large slab of lead” (2003: 126), and a “massive Roman anchor stock” (2003: 126).  Unfortunately, unlike anchor stocks #1, #3, and #4, there are no measurements given in the book for this one.  The only size indicators are the adjectives “large”, “huge”, and “massive.”

    The reader viewing the photographs of anchors #2 and #3 on Plate 5 might get the impression that anchor #2 (bottom) was much larger than anchor #3 (top).  The bottom picture was taken with the anchor on a bed sheet with nothing to indicate the actual size.  Anchor #3 has three men squatting behind the anchor to give some perspective of size.  The impression the reader would get is that anchor #2 is almost twice the size of anchor #3.  If these anchors were published in a proper excavation report both anchors would have the same scale in front of them and the photograph of each anchor would be published to the same scale.  It then would be seen that anchor #2 is considerably smaller than anchor #3.

    On Friday, January 14, 2005 and Monday, January 17, 2005 I visited the second floor of the Malta Maritime Museum in Vittoriosa.  “Tony’s anchor” was tagged “NMA Unp. #7/2 Q’mangia 19.11.2002.”  This anchor stock came from the village of Q’mangia and was handed over to the museum on November 19, 2002, only four days before the amnesty expired (2003: 223).

    The anchor stock was one of the smallest on display, measuring about 3 feet, 8 inches in length.  Large Alexandrian grain ships would have had for the stern much larger anchors than this one.  The author’s lack of quantifiable measurements regarding the anchor stock keeps the reader uninformed about its actual size.  This anchor stock is a lead toothpick compared to “huge, lead-and-wooden Roman-style anchors” that Mr. Cornuke surmised would be on the ship (Cornuke 2002: 15).

    The “Museum Archaeological Report” for 1963 describes an anchor stock found off the coast of Malta.  It was an “enormous Roman anchor stock lying on the sea bed 120 feet below the surface 300 yards off Qawra Point … its dimensions, 13 feet 6 inches long, were confirmed. … On the same occasion part of the same or another anchor, a collar of lead 84 cms. long, was retrieved from 25 feet away from the stock” (MAR 1963: 7; Fig. 6; Plate 3).  It weighed 2,500 kg, which is two and a half metric tons! (Guillaumier 1992: 88).  This anchor stock is the largest anchor stock ever found in the Mediterranean Sea and most likely came from an Alexandrian grain ship.  It is in storage in the National Archaeological Museum in Valletta.  A picture of it can be seen in Bonanno 1992: 158, plate 66.

    This anchor would be a Type IIIC anchor according to Haldane’s classification.   He dates this type of stock from the second half of the second century BC to the middle of the first century AD based on two secure archaeological contexts (1984: 8).

    If this anchor stock had been recovered in a controlled archaeological excavation there might have been some wood found in the “soul.”  If so, this could have been used for carbon dating and given us a clearer date for the casting of the anchor stock.

    According to Mr. Cornuke, on two occasions Professor Anthony Bonanno was shown a video of this anchor stock.  The first was during dinner with Mr. Cornuke, Dr. Phillips and his wife on their second trip to Malta.  Professor Bonanno was shown it on the screen of a tiny video (2003: 128).  The professor concluded, “Anchor stocks such as the one you are showing me in this video were used from approximately 100 B.C. to 100 A.D.  It could have come from any period within that range” (2003: 129).  The video was again shown to him on Mr. Cornuke’s third trip to Malta.  Again, it was viewed on the screen of a small video camera.  The professor states, “From what I can tell from these videos – again without the benefit of physical examination – these other two anchors also appear to be typical Roman anchor stocks, appropriate to the era of St. Paul’s shipwreck in Malta” (2003: 184).  Professor Bonanno qualifies his observation because he has not physically examined the anchor stock in person.  It is difficult to evaluate an archaeological find on a small video screen.  There is no mention in the book of the professor making a “physical examination” of this anchor stock in the Nautical Museum.

    The third anchor (#3) was found by Charles Grech and Tony Micallef-Borg on Feb. 10, 1972, the feast of St. Paul and Charles’ 33rd birthday.  It was found in front of the big cave at the Munxar Reef and brought up with the help of Tony Micallef-Borg soon after he had found the first two anchors.  Anchor #3 measured “a little over five feet long” (2003: 164).  It was taken to Charles’ house where it resided until he turned it over to the national museum.  The tag on the anchor says, “NMA unp # 7/1 Naxxar.”  A picture of it can be seen at the top of Plate 5.   From my observation of this anchor, it had the lead tenon through the shank, thus making it a Type IIIB anchor.  Haldane dates this type anchor stock from the mid-second-century BC to the mid-first century BC.  Recently, however, Roman legionary anchors were discovered that date to about AD 70 (Haldane 1984: 8).

    Professor Anthony Bonanno examined this anchor and very cautiously said, “It could have belonged to a cargo ship, possibly a grain cargo ship, and possibly one from Alexandria” (2003: 183, emphasis by the reviewer).  He went on to conjecture, “This anchor stock would fit very well within the era of St. Paul” (2003: 184).

    The fourth anchor (#4) was found by “Mario” (a pseudonym) in the late 60’s (2003: 176, 204) and was over 5 feet long (2003: 171).  It was taken to “Mario’s” house where it resides in his courtyard.  A picture of it can be seen at the bottom of Plate 6.  One can observe the lead tenon, making this a Type IIIB anchor as well.

    His widow was not sure whether it was found off the Munxar Reef or Camino, the island between Malta and Gozo (2003: 178).  Wilfred Perotta, however, was able to confirm that the anchor was found off the Munxar Reef (2003: 204).

    Anchor #4 supposedly is in a private collection and the holders are having “meaningful dialogue” with the authorities (Cornuke 2003: 221).  “Meaningful dialogue” is an interesting description as the antiquity laws are clear; all ancient artifacts must be turned over to the proper authorities.  A general amnesty was issued and the deadline passed.

    The other two anchors (#5 and #6), were found by a mystery diver who did not want his identity revealed (2003: 212).  In an account that reads like a cloak and dagger mystery, the author relates his conversation with this individual (2003: 210-215).  The diver claims he found the two anchors in 1994 in front of the “Munxar Pass” in about 10 meters (ca. 33 feet) of water (2003: 213).  The mystery man claims to have sold them (2003: 214).  The whereabouts of these two anchors are unknown.  There is no description of these anchors so the type cannot be determined.

    Mr. Cornuke implies that these are the anchors the sailors on the Alexandrian grain ship were trying to let down right before they were shipwrecked (2003: 208-210, see Acts 27:29,30).

    Computer model

    On his third trip to Malta, Mr. Cornuke gained access to a sophisticated computer at the Rescue Coordination Center of the Armed Forces of Malta with hope that it would “objectively speak to us across the millennia and trace the, until now, uncertain path of the biblical event of Paul’s journey from Crete to Malta” (2003:184).  Computer models are only as good as the information put into the program.

    The information put into the computer program included: (1) the “general parameters of a grain freighter,” (2) the type of wood from the wooden hull, (3) the “veering characteristics of a northeaster,” (4) the “leeway of time,” and (5) the currents during the fall season for that part of the Mediterranean Sea (2003: 188).  Unfortunately, the specific information that was put into the computer was not given in the book, perhaps to maintain a less technical approach for a popular-level book.  Researchers, however, who would like to follow up on this exercise, would need the specific information.

    It should be pointed out that “the precise appearance of great grain ships like those mentioned in the Book of Acts and the writings of Lucian” are unknown (Fitzgerald 1990: 31).  Was it a two-mast or a three-mast grain ship?  How much did it actually weigh?  How did the drag of the windsock, or sea anchors affect the speed and direction of the ship (Acts 27:17 NASB)?  What time did they leave Fair Haven on Crete?  Was it morning or mid-day?  Exactly what time did the wind begin to blow?  These are unknown variables that cannot be put into the computer calculations and would affect the outcome of the computer model.  Of course, the biggest unknown factor would be the sovereign Hand of God controlling the speed and direction of the wind.

    It is not accurate to conclude that “the computer program confirmed that the ship must have had [sic] come from the south and that its drift had completely eliminated St. Paul’s Bay and other bays closely associated with it as the possible landing site” (Cornuke 2003: 192).  To use a baseball analogy, the computer model can put you into the ballpark (Malta in fourteen days), but it cannot guarantee a hit, much less a home run (St. Thomas Bay)!

    Syrtis – Sandy beach or Shallow Bays with Sand bar?

    The reader should be cautious with some of the geographical positions taken in the book that are, at worst, not accurate and that at best, needing more discussion.  A case in point is that of the Syrtis mentioned in Acts 27:17.  The author identifies it as “an inescapable vast wasteland of sun-scorched sand where they would certainly suffer a slow, waterless death” (Cornuke 2003: 42).  According to the book, this sand was on the northern coast of Africa (2003: 190 and map 1).  Unfortunately we have no idea where this idea came from because it is not footnoted or documented.

    In actuality, the Syrtis was not dry desert but two bodies of water, the “name of two dangerous, shallow gulfs off the coast of North Africa” (Olson 1992:4: 286).

    Strabo, a Greek geographer, describes the location and dimensions of the Greater and Lesser Syrtis in his Geography (2:5:20; LCL 1: 473,745).  Elsewhere he describes these two bodies of water in these terms: “The difficulty with both [the Greater] Syrtis and the Little Syrtis is that in many places their deep waters contain shallows, and the result is, at the ebb and the flow of the tides, that sailors sometimes fall into the shallows and stick there, and that the safe escape of a boat is rare.  On this account sailors keep at a distance when voyaging along the coast, taking precautions not to be caught off their guard and driven by winds into these gulfs” (Geography 17:3:20; LCL 8: 197).  No wonder the sailors on the ship the Apostle Paul was on were in fear of the Syrtis, there was no escape (Acts 27:17).

    Dio Chrysostom describes the Syrtis in these terms: “The Syrtis is an arm of the Mediterranean extending far inland, a three days’ voyage, they say, for a boat unhindered in its course.  But for those who have once sailed into it find egress impossible; for shoals, cross-currents, and long sand-bars extending a great distance out make the sea utterly impassable or troublesome.  For the bed of the sea in these parts is not clean, but as the bottom is porous and sandy it lets the sea seep in, there being no solidity to it.  This, I presume, explains the existence there of the great sand-bars and dunes, which remind one of the similar condition created inland by the winds, though here, of course, it is due to the surf” (Discourse 5:8-10; LCL I: 239).

    Strabo was a geographer from Pontus who lived at the end of the First Century BC and beginning of the First Century AD.  Dio Chrysostom was a rhetorician and traveler who lived about AD 40 – ca. AD 120.  Both would be considered near contemporaries with Luke and the Book of Acts.  Luke was sandwiched between these two and his understanding of the Syrtis would have been the same as Strabos’ and Dio Chrysostoms’ understanding.  Today, the Greater Syrtis is the Gulf of Sirte off the coast of Libya.  The Lesser Syrtis is the Gulf of Gabes off the coast of Tunisia (Talbert 2000: I: 552-557, maps 1, 35, 37).

    The Syrtis is two bodies of water in the Mediterranean Sea, and not a “vast wasteland of sun-scorched sand” on the sandy beaches of North Africa.

    Rendering a Verdict

    Josh McDowell gives a prominent endorsement on the dust jacket of this book, “The Lost Shipwreck of Paul is evidence that demands a verdict.”  If the case of the six anchor stocks were brought before a court, how would an impartial jury reason the case as they evaluate the evidence and render a verdict?

    The first bit of evidence to be examined is the clear statement of the Book of Acts that the captain and his crew did not recognize the land when it became light (Acts 27:39).  If the ship anchored off the Munxar Reef, the captain and crew would have recognized the eastern shore of Malta because it was a familiar landmark for them.  Mr. Cornuke’s theory goes contrary to the clear statement in the Book of Acts.

    The next issue to consider is the “topon dithalasson,” the place where two seas meet (Acts 27:41).  We would concur with Prof. Buhagiar that the evidence here is inconclusive and that other sites on Malta are just as likely.

    The third issue to consider is the “bay with a beach” (Acts 27:39).  When confronted with the evidence from the maps of Malta from the last 500 years, we can recognize that more than likely the ship’s captain would not have seen the low-lying beach of St. Thomas’s Bay because the Munxar Reef was actually a series of small islands or a peninsula in the First Century AD which would have blocked their view of the beach.  Yet the Bible says the crew of Paul’s shipwreck saw a “bay with a beach.”

    The last bit of evidence is the anchors.  There are only two actual anchor stocks to consider, anchor stock #2 and anchor stock #3.  Anchor stocks #1, #4, #5, #6 cannot be produced and examined.  Anchor stock #1 was melted down, #4 is in a private collection, and #5 and #6 were sold on the antiquities market.

    One could conclude that anchor stock #2 could not belong to a large Alexandrian grain ship because it was too small to be used as an anchor in the stern of the ship.  The only anchor stock that might possibly be from a grain ship is #3.

    The “case” record here shows that credible historical, archaeological, geographic, and Biblical evidence contradict the claim that the anchors found off the Munxar Reef were from Paul’s shipwreck and that the landing took place at St. Thomas Bay.  The evidence demands a dismissal of this case!


    Ashby, Thomas

    1915   Roman Malta.  Journal of Roman Studies 5: 23-80.

    Azzopardi, Anton

    2002      A New Geography of the Maltese Islands.  Second Edition.  Valletta, Malta: Progress Press.

    Bonanno, Anthony

    1992    Roman Malta.  The Archaeological Heritage of the Maltese Islands.  Formia, Malta: Giuseppe Castelli and Charles Cini / Bank of Valletta.

    1995    Underwater Archaeology: A New Turning-Point in Maltese Archaeology.  Hyphen.  A Journal of Melitensia and the Humanities.  7: 105-110.

    Bruce, F. F.

    1981   The Book of the Acts (NICNT).  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

    1995   Paul.  Apostle of the Heart Set Free.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

    Buhagiar, Mario

    1997    The St. Paul Shipwreck Controversy.  An Assessment of the Source Material.  Pp. 181-213 in Proceedings of History Week 1993.  Edited by K. Sciberras.  Malta: Malta Historical Society.

    Burridge, W.

    1952    Seeking the Site of St. Paul’s Shipwreck.  Valletta, Malta: Progress Press.

    Busuttil, J.

    1971   Maltese Harbours in Antiquity.  Melita Historica 4: 305-307.

    Casson, Lionel

    1950    The Isis and Her Voyage.  Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association 81: 43-56.

    Cornuke, Robert

    2002   Paul’s “Miracle on Malta.”  Personal Update (April) 14-16.

    2003   The Lost Shipwreck of Paul.  Bend, OR: Global Publishing Services.

    Cornuke, Robert, and Halbrook, David

    2000    In Search of the Mountain of God.  The Discovery of the Real Mt. Sinai.  Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman.

    2001    In Search of the Lost Mountains of Noah.  The Discovery of the Real Mts. Of Ararat.  Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman.

    2002   In Search of the Lost Ark of the Covenant.  Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman.

    Dio Chrysostom

    1971    Discourses I – IX. Vol. 1.  Translated by J. W. Cohoon.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.  Loeb Classical Library.

    Diodorus Siculus

    1993   The Library of History.  Books IV.59-VIII.  Vol. 3.  Translated by C. Oldfather.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.  Loeb Classical Library.

    Fitzgerald, Michael

    1990    The Ship of Saint Paul.  Comparative Archaeology.  Biblical Archaeologist 53/1: 31-39.

    Franz, Gordon

    2000   Is Mount Sinai in Saudi Arabia?  Bible and Spade 13/4: 101-113.

    Gambin, Timothy

    2005    Ports and Port Structures for Ancient Malta.  Forthcoming.

    Ganado, Albert

    1984    Matteo Perez d’Aleccio’s Engraving of the Siege of Malta 1565.  Pp. 125-161 in Proceedings of History Week 1983.  Malta: Malta Historical Society.

    Gianfrotta, Piero

    1980    Ancore “Romane”.  Nuovi Materiali Per Lo Studio Dei Traffici Marittime.  Pp. 103-116 in The Seaborne Commerce of Ancient Rome: Studies in Archaeology and History.  Edited by J. H. D’Arms and E. C. Kopff.  Rome: American Academy in Rome.

    Gilchrist, J. M.

    1996    The Historicity of Paul’s Shipwreck.  Journal for the Study of the New Testament 61: 29-51.

    Guillaumier, Paul

    1992    New Perspectives on the Historicity of St. Paul’s Shipwreck on Melite.  Pp. 53-97 in St. Paul in Malta.  Edited by M. Gaiea and J. Ciario.  Malta: Veritas.

    Haldane, Douglas

    1984    The Wooden Anchor.  Unpublished MA thesis.  Texas A & M University.  College Station, TX.

    1990   Anchors in Antiquity.  Biblical Archaeologist 53/1: 19-24.

    Hancock, Graham

    1992    The Sign and the Seal.  The Quest for the Lost Ark of the Covenant.  New York: Crown.

    Hiltzik, Michael

    1992   Does Trail to Ark of Covenant End Behind Aksum Curtain?  A British Author Believes the Long-Lost Religious Object May Actually Be Inside a Stone Chapel in Ethiopia.  Los Angeles Times June 9, page 1H.

    Kahanov, Ya’acov, and Royal, Jeffery G.

    2001    Analysis of Hull Remains of the Dor D Vessel, Tantura Lagood, Israel.  The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 30: 257-265.

    Kapitan, Gerhard

    1969-71             Ancient Anchors and Lead Plummets.  Pp. 51-61 in Sefunim (Bulletin).  Haifa: Israel Maritime League.


    1999    Lucian.  Vol. 6.  Translated by K. Kilburn.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.  Loeb Classical Library.

    M. A. R.

    1963   Underwater Archaeology.  Report on the Working of the Museum Department.  Malta: Department of Information.

    Meinardus, Otto

    1976    St. Paul Shipwrecked in Dalmatia.  Biblical Archaeologist 39/4: 145-147.

    Musgrave, George

    1979   Friendly Refuge.  Heathfield, Sussex.  Heathfield.

    Nor, Hades

    2002-2003       The Dor (Tantura) 2001/1 Shipwreck.  A Preliminary Report.  R. I. M. S. News.  Report 29: 15-17.

    2004   Dor 2001/1: Excavation Report, Second Season.  R. I. M. S. News.  Report 30: 22,23.

    Nordskog, Gerald

    2002   One Memorable Ride.  Powerboat 34/10 (October) 4, 113.

    Olson, Mark

    1992    Syrtis.  P. 286 in Anchor Bible Dictionary.  Vol. 6.  Edited by D. Freedman.  New York: Doubleday.

    Price, Randall

    2005    Searching for the Ark of the Covenant.  Eugene, OR: Harvest House.

    Rosloff, Jay

    2003   The Anchor.  Pp. 140-146 in The Ma’agan Mikhael Ship.  The

    Recovery of a 2400-Year-Old Merchantman. Vol. 1.  Edited by E. Black.  Jerusalem and Haifa: Israel Exploration Society and University of Haifa.

    Said, George

    1992   Paola: Another Punico-Roman Settlement?  Hyphen 7/1: 1-22.

    Said-Zammit, George

    1997    Population, Land Use and Settlement on Punic Malta.  A Contextual Analysis of the Burial Evidence. Oxford: Archaeopress.  BAR International Series 682.

    Smith, James

    1978    The Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul.  Grand Rapids: Baker. Reprint from the 1880 edition.

    Standish, Russell, and Standish, Colin

    1999    Holy Relics or Revelation.  Recent Astonishing Archaeological Claims Evaluated. Rapidan, VA: Hartland.


    1989    The Geography of Strabo.  Vol. 1.  Translated by H. L. Jones.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.  Loeb Classical Library.

    1982    The Geography of Strabo.  Vol. 8.  Translated by H. L. Jones.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.  Loeb Classical Library.

    Thayer, Joseph

    1893    A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament.  New York: Harper and Brothers.

    Talbert, Richard, ed.

    2000    Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World. 2 volumes and atlas.  Princeton, NJ: Princeton University.

    Throckmorton, Peter

    1972    Romans on the Sea.  Pp. 66-78 in A History of Seafaring Based on Underwater Archaeology.  Edited by G. Bass.  New York: Walker.

    1987    The Sea Remembers.  Shipwrecks and Archaeology. New York: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

    Trump, David

    1997    Malta: An Archaeological Guide.  Valetta, Malta: Progress.

    Vella, Horatio C. R.

    1980    The Earliest Description of Malta (Lyons 1536) by Jean Quintin d’Autun.  Sliema, Malta: DeBono Enterpriese.

    Warnecke, Heinz, and Schirrmacher, Thomas

    1992   War Paulus wirklick auf Malta? Neuhausen-Stuttgart: Hanssler-Verlag.

  • Cracked Pot Archaeology Comments Off on MT. SINAI IS NOT AT JEBEL EL-LAWZ IN SAUDI ARABIA – part 1

    By Gordon Franz

    The last ten years has witnessed the proliferation of books, videos, websites and television programs that have proposed a new site for Mt. Sinai – Jebel al-Lawz in Saudi Arabia.  They also told about underwater searches for Pharaoh’s chariots and weapons from the Egyptian army.  This paper examines three aspects of the identification of Mt. Sinai in Saudi Arabia.  First, the paper questions the credibility of the claims.  Second, the paper disputes the false assumptions by the proponents of Jebel al-Lawz.  Third, the paper examines the archaeological evidence.

    This paper discusses the first two aspects briefly because they have already been dealt with in the Fall 2000 issue of Bible and Spade (Franz 2000:101-113).  I have given you a copy of that article.  You have my permission, as well as the editor, Dr. Bryant Wood, to make copies and pass along to those who might be interested.  The article is also posted on Lambert Dolphin’s website.  (www.ldolphin.org/franz-sinai.html).  A revised form of this paper will appear as an article in Bible and Spade.

    The paper discusses the third aspect, the archaeological evidence, in more detail.  The questions dealt with include, 1) Are the archaeological remains that were observed by the proponents of Jebel al-Lawz credible?  And 2) Does the remains match the Biblical text?  The final section of this paper deals with the location of the Red Sea crossing.  Was it in the Gulf of Akaba / Eilat or the Gulf of Suez?

    I believe that this paper, along with the Bible and Spade article, will conclusively demonstrate that there is no credible historical, geographical, archaeological or Biblical evidence to support the thesis that Mt. Sinai is at Jebel al-Lawz in Saudi Arabia.

    The Proponents of Jebel al-Lawz as Mt. Sinai

    Ron Wyatt first proposed the idea that Mt. Sinai was at Jebel al-Lawz.  Whatever one may think of Ron Wyatt’s “discoveries”, he should be given full credit for this discovery.  However, I would like to call your attention to a recent book examining the claims of Ron Wyatt.  It is entitled Holy Relics or Revelation, by two SDA researchers, Russell and Colin Standish.  (Hartland Publications, Box 1, Rapidan, VA 22733.  1-800-774-3566).  This book is a careful, meticulous, in-depth study of Ron Wyatt’s claims.  These researchers “speak the truth in love” but state that Ron Wyatt has not been truthful in his claims.

    During the course of writing the first article, other proponents of Jebel al-Lawz requested that I not mention Ron Wyatt.  Their stated concern to me was that my mentioning of him would “dignify him” and they consider him a “con man”.  They feared that mentioning them in the same paragraph as Wyatt would result in “guilt by associations”!  I pointed out to them that when publishing research results one must begin with a discussion of the history of research and include a review of the literature on the subject.  Ron Wyatt is the key player in this discovery.  Both sets of proponents of this view used the same archaeological evidence to prove their points.  The only difference between the views is their proposed route from Egypt to the Red Sea and the placing of the Red Sea crossing.

    Ron Wyatt went to Jebel al-Lawz in Saudi Arabia with his two sons in 1984.  They were arrested for entering Saudi Arabia illegally and expelled after 78 days.  Eleven months later, Wyatt returned with David Fasold and his “molecular frequency generator” to look for the “gold of the Exodus.”  Again they were expelled and made to promise that they would not return to Saudi Arabia or talk or write about their findings.

    Fasold told Jim Irwin, the Apollo 15 astronaut, of their discoveries.  Irwin, in turn, made contact with Bob Cornuke and Larry Williams who eventually went to Saudi Arabia at least twice in order to ascertain whether Mt. Sinai is at Jebel al-Lawz.  Both returned home and wrote books about their adventures.  Others have since gone and taken video footage of the sites that are now in videos and television programs.  The most recent is a video entitled “The Exodus Revealed” by Lennart Moller.  He also has a book entitled The Exodus Case.  He basically uses Ron Wyatt’s material and follows his ideas.

    Problems with the Jebel al-Lawz location view

    The biggest problem with the identification of Jebel al-Lawz as Mt. Sinai is that it does not meet the Biblical criteria for the site.  In my Bible and Spade article I point out three questionable assumptions made by the proponents of Jebel al-Lawz.

    The first questionable assumption that the proponents make is that the Sinai Peninsula was considered part of the “Land of Egypt” (Franz 2000: 103-105).  The Bible says that when the Israelites left Succoth they were “out of Egypt” (Ex. 13:8-20).  The Land of Goshen was the eastern limits of Egypt.  Apparently the line of fortresses on the eastern frontier canal was the border between Egypt and Sinai (Hoffmeier 1997: 164-175).

    Nadav Na’aman, a professor of Bible geography at Tel Aviv University, made an important point in an article on the “Brook of Egypt”. He states, “Traditionally, in the eyes of the Egyptians the Nile or the Isthmus fringes were considered to be their northern boundary, the Sinai peninsula being regarded as part of Asia.  This view is diametrically opposite to the northern point of view, according to which the southern limits of Gaza, the southernmost city along the coast of Philistia, and the edges of the urban settlements on its eastern side were thought of as the southern border of Canaan, the intervening desert of Sinai being regarded by the northerners as part of Egypt.  In the Late Bronze Age, as the Egyptians came into closer contact with the north, they also became aware of the fact that the Sinai desert was not part of Canaan.  Thus, when their scribes were concerned with the southern coastal area exclusively, they considered its border to be the southernmost limits of the urban settlements in this region, Sinai having the status of a kind of ‘no-man’s land’.”  (Italics his; 1979:74).  Moses never arrived in Canaan so he wrote from an Egyptian, not a Canaanite perspective.  Also note that part of northeastern Sinai was Amalakite territory (Mattingly 1992).

    The second inaccurate assumption is the claim that Mt. Sinai is in the Land of Midian (Franz 2000:105,106).  Most scholars would agree that Midian is in the area of northwest Saudi Arabia, and even part of southern Jordan.  The proponents of Jebel al-Lawz often point to the interview of Prof. Frank Moore Cross of Harvard University in Bible Review as their authority on this point (Shanks 1992: 32).  However, they fail to point out that one of the reasons Cross and “Continental scholars” hold to this view is their adherence to the Documentary Hypothesis (JEDP).  See Cross 1998:53-70.  I also have a letter from Prof. Cross, which states his rejection of the evidence of the proponents of Jebel al-Lawz even thought he still believes Mt. Sinai is still in Midian (Letter from Cross, May 21, 2001).

    Two Biblical passages clearly place Mt. Sinai outside the Land of Midian.  In Exodus 18, Moses and the Israelites are camped at “the Mountain of God” (Mt. Sinai) when Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, visits them.  Verse 27 says, “Then Moses let his father-in-law depart [from Mt. Sinai], and he went his way to his own land [Midian].”  Jethro departs from Mt. Sinai to return to the Land of Midian.  According to Mandelkern Biblical Concordance, the phrase “his own land” (third person singular possessive) is used 30 times in the Hebrew Scriptures (Ex. 18:27; Num. 21:24,26,34,35; Deut. 2:24,31; 3:2; 4:47; 11:3; 29:1 [29:2 Eng.]; 33:13; 34:11; Josh. 8:1; I Kings 22:36; II Kings 18:33; Isa. 2:7,8; 13:14; 18:2,7; 36:18; 37:7; Jer. 2:15; 27:7; 50:18; Prov. 8:31; Dan. 11:19,28; Neh. 9:10; Mandelkern 1896:153).  In the Pentateuch the phrase is use 13 times.  Each time it is used of a specific geo-political entity, a kingdom, nation or tribal area.  It is used of the Kingdom of the Amorites (Num. 21:24,26; Deut. 2:24,31; 4:47), with the borders clearly delineated as going from the Arnon to the Jabbok (Num. 21:24).  The Kingdom of Bashan (Num. 21:34,35; Deut. 3:2; 4:47), which is implied as going from the Jabbok to Mt. Hermon (Deut. 4:48).  The nation of Egypt (Deut. 11:3; 29:1 [29:2 Eng.]; 34:11) as well as the tribal territory of Joseph (Deut. 33:13).  Joshua gives the delineation of the tribal territory of Ephraim and Manasseh which make up the tribes of Joseph (Deut. 33:17; Josh. 13:29-33; 16:1-10; 17:1-18).  If Moses is consistent with his use of the word, and I think he is, the context suggests Jethro returned to the country of Midian, not to a plot of ground that he controlled as the proponents of Jebel al-Lawz contend.

    Ken Durham, a research assistant for Bob Cornuke and the BASE Institute, interpret the phrase “his own land” as an “actual, physical tract of land under the control of a person mentioned in the text- not to an arbitrary political/geographical designation” or “land under ones jurisdiction”  (Letter to Bryant Wood, April 12, 2001).  There does not appear to be lexical support or Hebrew dictionary references that support this use of the term.

    The second passage that places Mt. Sinai outside the land of Midian is Numbers 10:30.  It states, “I [Hobab] will not go, but I will depart [from Mt. Sinai] to my own land [Midian] and to my kinsmen.”  Hobab is returning to Midian where his kinsmen live from Mt. Sinai.

    The third questionable assumption made by the proponents of Jebel al-Lawz is that Galatians 4:25 says that Mt. Sinai is in Saudi Arabia (Franz 2000: 106,107).  One proponent affirms this conclusion when he writes, “The apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, informs us that Mount Sinai is in Saudi Arabia.  Not Egypt!” (Cornuke and Halbrook 2000: 17).  The Bible does not say Saudi Arabia, it only says Arabia.

    One can easily argue that the Apostle Paul used the First Century AD Roman concept of Arabia in this passage.  In the first century AD, based on the prior use by Herodotus, Pliny and Strabo, Arabia extended from the Persian Gulf to the Nile Delta, thus including the Sinai Peninsula in Arabia.  Paul would be perfectly correct in placing Mt. Sinai in the Sinai Peninsula because the Sinai Peninsula was part of Arabia of his day.

    I also interacted in this section with Prof. Cross and Mike Heiser’s suggestion (made at the NEAS meeting in 1998) that Mt. Sinai was outside the Sinai Peninsula based on three passages from the Bible, Deut. 33:2; Judges 5:4; and Habakkuk 3:3 (Franz 2000: 107).  Cross (1998) and Heiser suggest that Seir, Mt. Paran and Teman are located in present day Jordan or even Saudi Arabia.  In my article, I suggested that Teman was at or near Kuntillet ‘Ajrud, Mt. Paran is situated in the area of Kadesh Barnea (Num. 13:26) and Seir (Biblical Edom) included the area of the Central Negev Highlands, the area to the west of the Aravah.

    When my article came out, I realized that I had not adequately documented the thesis that Edom is also on the west side of the Aravah.  My assertion initially came 20 years ago from a friend and fellow student at the Institute of Holy Land Studies in Jerusalem, Bruce Crew.  This assertion was part of his MA thesis.  At my request, Bruce wrote a follow-up article for Bible and Spade on why Edom was also west of the Aravah.  He produced an excellent article demonstrating the case, which will appear in a forthcoming issue of Bible and Spade.  In the course of his writing, I was able to supply him with some articles to help update his material.  I was surprised at the number of archaeologists that had come to this same position based on the Biblical text as well as the topography and archaeological considerations.  Perhaps some day Biblical scholars might catch up with the archaeological world!

    The Archaeological and Geographical Evidence

    There are at least eight pieces of archaeological or geographical evidence that the proponents of Jebel al-Lawz use to support their idea.

    • A land bridge that goes across the Strait of Tiran from the southern tip of Sinai to Saudi Arabia, or the other view has a land bridge that crosses the Gulf of Akaba / Eilat from Nuweiba.
    • A set of bitter wells that they identify as Marah.
    • Twelve springs of al-Bad’ that they identify as Elim.
    • The caves of Moses and Jethro at al-Bad’.
    • An altar for the golden calf with petroglyphs of bovine.
    • The altar of Moses and the twelve pillars.
    • The blackened rock on top of Jebel al-Lawz.
    • The “split rock of Horeb”.

    I examined the archaeological evidence in my article in Bible and Spade and found that this evidence did not line up with the Biblical record (Franz 2000:107-111).   One Saudi archaeologist was very helpful in explaining what the archaeological sites actually were.  I stated in my article that Biblical scholarship ought to wait for an archaeological publication of the material.  I am pleased to announce that an archaeological report of the surveys and excavations in the al-Bad’ area, with a special chapter on Jebel al-Lawz, is “in press” and will be out “shortly”.  My Saudi friend promised me the first copy off the press!

    My original article elicited an interesting exchange of letters with the proponents of Jebel al-Lawz.  One proponent considered the evidence I put forth as the “Muslim position / interpretation” (Letter from Cornuke, May 30, 2001).  Another proponent “discounted the Saudi archaeologists’ objectivity” because they were Moslems (Letter from Durham, Sept. 7, 2001, p. 20, see also pp. 1-5).  These proponents want to take the archaeological evidence out of the realm of science and scientific investigation and placing it in the realm of religion.  One went so far as to suggest that if the Saudis found anything that might relate to the wilderness wanderings of the Israelites they would follow the example of the Talibans in Afghanistan and destroy the evidence!  (Letter from Durham, Sept. 7, 2001, p. 2).  I was shocked and appalled that he would even suggest such a thing.  Saudi Arabia is a member of ICOMOS, the International Council of Monuments and Sites.  This is an “international non-governmental organization of professionals, dedicated to the conservation of [the] world’s historic monuments and sites.”   Afghanistan is not a member.  If the Saudis found anything of interest, they would do what they have done to over 300 other sites in Saudi Arabia. They would fence them in to protect them, not destroy them!  A Saudi archaeologist recently took an Australian archaeologist to the rock art site of Jubbah in northern Saudi Arabia where they had fenced in the site with 5 km of fence.  The Australian was surprised to see this fence and commented that no other country has gone to such great length to fence in an area!

    While I agree with the stated view of the proponents of Jebel al-Lawz that the Bible should interpret the archaeological finds, my conclusion is that in some instances, it is obvious they have not followed their own principles.  For example, the so-called “altar of the golden calf” is made up of huge boulders.  The Bible clearly states that Aaron built the altar (Ex. 32:5).  Yet the proponents of Jebel al-Lawz reconstruct an elaborate scenario whereby the Israelites lifted these heavy boulders into place because they had done heavy manual labor in Egypt.  This scenario goes contrary to the Scriptures; Aaron built the altar, not the Israelites.  These boulders contain petroglyphs of bovine which the proponents claim is the Egyptian deities Hathor or Apis.  Jeff Harrison reports in the video of the proponents that he saw other kinds of animals as well (www.totheends.com).  If that is the case, then an explanation for why they are there must be given.  An ibex can be clearly seen in a picture in one of their books (Williams 1990: plate 14).  Yet more telling is the fact that Moses destroyed the golden calf because it was an idol.  If this was the altar, why didn’t he remove the petroglyphs as well, after all, they represent graven images!  A Saudi archaeologist who did his doctoral dissertation on the petroglyphs in Saudi Arabia informed me that the bovine dated to the Neolithic period, considerably earlier than the Exodus and Wilderness Wanderings.  The archaeological evidence goes contrary to the Biblical records and must be rejected.

    One claim I have heard from people who have heard the proponents of Jebel al-Lawz is that this “altar” with the bovine petroglyphs is the only one in the area.  I was informed by the Saudi archaeologist who did the survey of the area that there were about 300 rock art sites in the northwest Saudi Arabia and about 50 rock art sites with bovine in the al-Bad’ / Jebel al-Lawz area.  If they were drawn by Israelites, then Hebrew graffiti artists drew them as they roamed the desert drawing what the Lord had forbidden them to make!

    The proponents of Jebel al-Lawz might discount the objectivity of the Saudi archaeologists, but they must consider the archaeological remains.  The so-called “Cave of Moses” is clearly a First Century AD Nabatean tomb.  A British archaeologist who worked on the survey of those tombs explained to me how he could date them so precisely.  He said the paleography of an inscription in an al-Bad’ tomb is identical with the paleography of another tomb at another site nearby.  This tomb had an inscription with the name of the decease as well as a date of his death.  It is safe to say the style of those tombs is Nabatean and not earlier.

    The archaeology of the so-called “altar of Moses and the 12 pillars” is also clear.  I was informed by a Saudi archaeologist that the pottery is purely, and only, Nabatean.  There is nothing earlier.  One may debate the function of the building, but the dating is clear.  It is considerably later than the Exodus.

    The proponents of Jebel al-Lawz rejected a Mt. Sinai in the Sinai Peninsula because of lack of archaeological evidence.  They also objected to my suggestion that one would not expect to find any because they were nomadic people dwelling in tents.  A leading American archaeologist, William Dever, said, “we would still find no remains of their ephemeral camps in the desert.”  He goes on to say that any attempts to make maps tracing the route of the Exodus was “doomed to failure” (1997:72).  K. A. Kitchen, a British Egyptologist, concurs with him on the first statement when he says, “That we should find no trace of ever-moving camps in the Sinai desert is entirely correct” (1998:107).  But he goes on to chide Dever about not being able to trace the route.

    The proponents also claim they have other archaeological evidence (Letter from Durham, Sept. 7, 2001, p. 2), but that their evidence awaits publication.  Hopefully it will appear in a peer-reviewed archaeological journal.

    I have asked a British archaeologist to review the soon to be released excavation and survey report of the al-Bad’ area and Jebel al-Lawz for Bible and Spade.  He is a non-Moslem archaeologist who has worked on the survey of the area as well as an expert on Midianite and Nabatean archaeology.  His approach to reviewing the excavation report for the article will include the following steps.  First, he will discuss each of the archaeological sites cited by the proponents of Jebel al-Lawz.  Second, he will deal with how they interpreted the archaeological data.  Third, he will include what the Saudis excavated or surveyed and how they interpreted the finds.  His final step will be his assessment of the different interpretations.  The archaeologist will be well qualified to bring the discussion back to an archaeological debate and not a religious one, as the proponents would like to make it.


  • Cracked Pot Archaeology Comments Off on MT. SINAI IS NOT AT JEBEL EL-LAWZ IN SAUDI ARABIA – part 2

    By Gordon Franz

    Where was the Red Sea Crossing?

    The location of the Red Sea Crossing is a hotly debated topic and I would like to throw my two cents worth into the debate.  There are two studies that I have found to be very helpful and would highly recommend them.  The first is Dr. James Hoffmeier’s book, Israel in Egypt (1997).  While I do not agree with some of his conclusions, it is well documented and sets forth all the different views.  The second study is a ThM thesis by Joel McQuitty done at Capital Bible Seminary in 1986.  It is entitled “The Location and Nature of the Red Sea Crossing.”  Ironically, McQuitty wrote it at the time the proponents of Jebel al-Lawz were carrying out their adventures in Saudi Arabia!  He does not interact with this view because the proponents’ view was not yet in print.

    Is the location of the Red Sea Crossing important for Bible believers?  One commentary on the book of Exodus observes, “The exact place of Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea has no direct theological importance” (Cole 1973:44).  McQuitty points out, “In the form of the statement Mr. Cole is correct, geography normally impinges very little upon theology.  However, how one determines the geography of the Bible may speak volumes concerning one’s theology” (1986:2).

    In the literature, I have been able to discern five general areas that have been proposed for the Red Sea Crossing.  Within each area there are several variations.  I was intrigued to see in the book of one of the proponents, and it is also in their advertisement in BAR, five “proposed traditional Red Sea Crossing sites”.  I have not been able to document four of these anywhere in the literature and he does not have the three usual sites above the Gulf of Suez marked (Williams 1990: map following page 128).

    The five areas that I have been able to discern, from north to south, are;

    • The Mediterranean Sea sites. Usually the crossing is placed at Lake Sirbonis. This identification is based on placing the Baal-Zephon with a sanctuary of Zeus Casios nearby. The leading proponents of this view are O. Eissfeldt, M. Noth, H. Cazelles, Y. Aharoni and M. Avi-Yonah.
    • The northern sites. Several lakes north of the Bitter Lakes have been proposed. They are Lake Timsah, Lake Balah or the southern extension of Lake Menzaleh. The proponents of this area are E. Naville, M. F. Unger, K. A. Kitchen and J. Hoffmeier.
    • The central site. The proponents of this view place the crossing at the Bitter Lakes. Some would suggest that the Gulf of Suez actually came up to the Bitter Lakes in antiquity. The proponents of this view are J. Simons, C. Condor, U. Cassuto, John J. David.
    • The southern view. The proponents place the crossing at the northern end of the Gulf of Suez. Within this view there are two areas. One view places it just off shore from the modern day Suez City. The other places it at a land bridge 4 miles south of Suez City between Ras el-‘Adabiya and Birket Misallat. The proponents of this view are E. Robinson, A. Smith, E. H. Palmer (1977:35-37), Keil and Delitzsch, James Murphy, John Rea, J. McQuitty and G. Franz.
    • The southeastern view. This view places the crossing in the Gulf of Akaba / Eilat. Within the gulf there are two proposed crossings. One crossing, proposed by R. Wyatt and L. Moller, is a land bridge to the east of Nuweiba. The second crossing that was proposed is at a land bridge at the Strait of Tiran. R. Knuteson, J. Irwin, B. Cornuke and L. Williams hold this view.

    Within the debate on the location of the Red Sea crossing there is a sub-debate on the meaning of the name Yam Suph.  The common interpretation of these words today is “Reed Sea”.  The first to suggest Yam Suph means “reedy swamp” appears to be Rabbi Shelomoh Yetzhaki (Rashi) in the 11th century AD.  Personally I am not comfortable with that etymology.  I will leave that discussion for another paper.  I think the meaning of Yam Suph is Red Sea.

    The word Yam Suph is used 24 times in the Hebrew Scriptures (Ex. 10:19; 13:18; 15:4,22; 23:31; Num. 14:25; 21:4; 33:10,11; Deut. 1:40; 2:1; 11:4; Josh. 2:10; 4:23; 24:6; Judges 11:16; I Kings 9:26; Neh. 9:9; Ps. 106:7,9,22; 136:13,15; Jer. 49:21).  The Greek words, Erythra Thalassa, is used two times in the New Testament (Acts 7:36; Heb. 11:29).  These are the Greek words used to translate the Hebrew Yam Suph in the Greek Septuagint.

    In the Greco-Roman world the term Erythra Thalassa covered “all eastern waters, including the Indian Ocean; it specifically referred to the modern Red Sea and Persian Gulf” (Warmington and Salles 1996:1296,7).  Strabo, writing his Geography at the beginning of the First Century AD, said, “There is another canal which empties into the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf near the city Arsinoe, a city which some call Cleopatris [modern day Suez City – GF].  It flows through the Bitter Lakes, as they are called” (17:25; LCL 8:77).  Strabo makes a distinction between the Red Sea, also called the Arabian Gulf, and the Bitter Lakes.  The Bitter Lakes is never called the Red Sea.

    In the Hebrew Scriptures, the Yam Suph could refers to either the Gulf of Suez or the Gulf of Akaba / Eilat.  The context determines the location.  For example, Exodus 10:19 says, “And the LORD turned a very strong west wind, which took the locusts away and blew them into the Red Sea.  There remained not one locust in all the territory of Egypt.”  As J. Rea points out, the “strong west wind” should be translated “sea wind”.  In Egypt, the sea winds are from north-northwest to the south (1975:1:572).  Since the locusts covered “the face of the whole earth [land of Egypt]” (10:15), there would need to be a large body of water to destroy the locusts.  The Gulf of Suez is what is in view.  Exodus 13:18 and 15:4,22; Num. 33:10 refer to the Gulf of Suez.  On the other hand, I Kings 9:26 says “King Solomon also built a fleet of ships at Ezion Geber, which is near Elath on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom.”  This is clearly referring to the Gulf of Akaba / Eilat.  Judges 11:16 and Jer. 49:20, 21 are most likely referring to this gulf as well.

    What are the Biblical criteria for the Red Sea Crossing?  There are three passages that deal with the topography of the Red Sea crossing.  Exodus 14:2 gives Moses perspective.  It states, “Speak to the children of Israel, that they turn and camp before Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, opposite Baal Zephon; you shall camp before it by the sea.”  Exodus 14:9 gives Pharaoh’s perspective.  It states, “So the Egyptians pursued them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, his horsemen and his army, and overtook them camping by the sea beside Pi Hahiroth, before Baal Zephon.”  In the itinerary of sites where the Israelites traveled in Numbers 33:7, 8 it is stated: “They moved from Etham and turned back to Pi Hahiroth, which is east of Baal Zephon; and they camped near Migdol.  They departed from before Pi Hahiroth and passed through the midst of the sea into the wilderness.”  Three topographical sites must be identified from these passages.  They are the Pi Hahiroth, the Migdol and Baal Zephon [See Map 1].

    Scholars have debated the meaning of Pi Hahiroth but the consensus seems to be that it is a Hebraized form of Akkadian origin meaning “mouth of the canal” (Kitchen 1998:78; Hoffmeier 1997: 169-172, 182-183, 188-189, 211, 214; Currid 1997:134; Redford 1992:5:371; Sneh, Weissbrod and Perath 1975: 547; Albright 1948:16; Skipwith 1913:94, 95).  If that is the case, what canal is being referred to?  I would like to propose that there was a canal from the Bitter Lakes to the Gulf of Suez, or at least the remnants of a canal that was started and abandoned by the time of the Exodus, but the toponym was still known.

    Strabo writes of such a canal.  He says, “There is another canal which empties into the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf near the city Arsinoe, a city which some call Cleopatris. … The canal was first cut by Sesostris before the Trojan War – though some say by the son of Psammitichus, who only began the work and then died – and later by Dareius the First, who succeeded to the next work done upon it.  But he, too, having been persuaded by a false notion, abandoned the work when it was already near completion; for he was persuaded that the Red Sea was higher than Aegypt, and that if the intervening isthmus were cut all the way through, Aegypt would be inundated by the sea.  The Ptolemaic kings, however, cut through it…” (Geography 17:1:25; LCL 8:77).

    Aristotle, in his Meteorologica, states, “One of the kings tried to dig a canal to it [the Red Sea].  (For it would be of no little advantage to them if this whole region was accessible to navigation: Sesostris is said to be the first of the ancient kings to have attempted the work.)  It was, however, found that the sea was higher than the land: and so Sesostris first and Dareius after him gave up digging the canal for fear the water of the river should be ruined by an admixture of sea-water” (1:15:25-30; LCL 117).

    Pliny describes the planned canal between the Nile River and the Red Sea in these terms, “This project was originally conceived by Sesostris King of Egypt, and later by the Persian King Darius and then again by Ptolemy the Second, who did actually carry a trench 100 ft. broad and 30 ft. deep for a distance of 34 ½ miles, as far as the Bitter Lakes” (Natural History 6:33:165; LCL 2:461, 463).

    Herodotus, writing in the 5th century BC, describes the building of this canal into the Red Sea.  It was begun by the Egyptian Pharaoh Necho II and finished by the Persian King Darius (The Persian Wars 2:158; LCL 1:471,473).  He does not, however, mention the attempt by Sesostris.

    James Breasted, a noted Egyptologist, believes that Queen Hatshepaut’s expedition to Punt went down the Nile River to a canal through the Wadi Tumilat to a canal connecting to the Red Sea (1912:188, 274-276).  If he were correct, that would demonstrate that there was a canal in existence right before the Exodus from Egypt.  However, several other Egyptologists have disputed this idea (Kitchen 1971: 184-207).

    As Dr. Hoffmeier points out, “The possibility remains that a genuine memory of the canal-excavating accomplishments of one or more of the Sesotrises or Senuserts from Dynasty 12 may be preserved in these classical writers.  The late George Posener thought these references might be connected with the work of Senusert I or III.  Currently, no contemporary Egyptian texts support or deny this tradition” (1997:169).

    The classical sources seem to indicate that a canal was started by Sesostris in the 12th Dynasty [ca. 1900 BC] but not completed.  If that is the case, he might have begun part of the project at the Red Sea but later abandoned it.  This would have been called the Pi Hahiroth, the “mouth of the canal.”  The toponym would have been preserved even at the time of the Exodus.  I would propose that the Pi Hahiroth would be located somewhere near today’s Suez City at the northern end of the Gulf of Suez.

    The next toponym to consider is the Migdol.  K. A. Kitchen says that “the term migdol is simply a common noun from Northwest Semitic, for a fort or watchtower, and we do not know how many such migdols existed in the East Delta region” (1998:78).  There was a fortress at Clysma-Qolzoum (modern day Suez City) that dates to the Late Bronze Age (Bruyere 1966).  The question is, was there an occupational level at the time of the Exodus, or was there another fortress in the area?  This fortress would have guarded the northern end of the Gulf of Suez and the canal, if it existed, as well as the road coming up from the Sinai.

    The next toponym to be considered is Baal-Zephon.  The identification is problematic.  Dr. Hoffmeier has pointed out that the “expression literally means ‘lord of the north’ and is a deity in the Ugaritic pantheon associated with Mount Casius just north of Ugarit” (1997:190).  Eissfeldt suggested it was located at Ras Qasrun based on the account of Herodotus (Persian Wars 2:6, LCL 1:281; 3:5, LCL 2:9).  Baal-zephon was worshipped at Memphis and Tell Defeneh and a cylinder seal depicting Baal-Zephon as the “protector of sailors” was found at Tell el-Dab’a (Hoffmeier 1997:190).  W. F. Albright states that, “Baal-saphon was the marine storm-god par excellence, like Greek Poseiden.  As such, he was also the protector of mariners against storms.  In his honour temples were built and ports were named along the Mediterranean litoral as far as Egypt, where we find Baal-zephon worshipped at Tahpanhes (Daphne) and Memphis” (1968:127.128).  Quite possibly there would have been a temple on Jebel ‘Ataqa over looking the northern end of the Gulf of Suez.  The sailors could petition him on their way out to sea for a safe trip and thank him when they arrive safely to port.

    More than likely, when the Israelites camped by the sea, it would have been on the plains at the north shore of the Gulf of Suez between Suez City and the impressive mountain to the west, Jebel ‘Ataqa.  Robinson describes this area as a “desert plain … composed for the most part of hard gravel” (1977:70).  There is adequate space for the tribes of Israel.

    Where would the crossing have been?  Edward Robinson, in 1838, placed the crossing along the northern shore of the Gulf of Suez.  He seems to favor a somewhat naturalistic explanation for a miraculous event (1977:81-86).

    Topographically, the most suitable site for the crossing is a natural land bridge that lies 4 miles south of the northern shore of the Gulf of Suez that averages 6 meters (ca. 20 feet) below the surface.  This land bridge is ½ mile wide and four miles across.

    With Jebel ‘Ataqa on their right and the sea on their left and the wilderness closing in to a point at Ras el-‘Adabiya, Pharaoh’s statement in Exodus 14:3 makes sense.  “For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, ‘They are bewildered by the land; the wilderness has closed them in.”

    When the Israelites saw Pharaoh and his army approaching they were terrified and complained to Moses.  Moses responded, “Do not be afraid.  Stand still and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today” (Ex.14:13).  Moses lifted up his rod and the LORD divided the sea with a wall on one side and on the other as well (Ex. 14:16, 21, 22, 29) and they went through on dry land.  When the made it to the other side, the waters returned and covered the Egyptians (14:28; 15:4, 5, 19).  There is no naturalistic explanation for this occurrence; it was a first class miracle.

    This location is also where the early Christian pilgrims place the Red Sea Crossing (Wilkinson 1981: 100,101,205-207).

    Once on the other side, where Birket Nisallat is today, the Israelites were in no rush to go anywhere.  There was nobody chasing them anymore.  The Egyptians had drowned.  The Israelites probably spent the next day worshiping the Lord for His great salvation.  We know that Moses composed a song and Miriam and the women danced and sang (Ex. 15:1-21).

    When they began their journey again, they went into the Wilderness of Shur (Ex. 15:22).  Edward Palmer, a 19th century explorer, best described this scene.  He said, “The word Shur in Hebrew signifies ‘a wall;’ and as we stand at ‘Ayin Musa and glance over the desert at the Jebels er Rahah and et-Tih which border the gleaming plain, we at once appreciate the fact that these long wall-like escarpments are the chief if not the only prominent characteristics of this portion of the wilderness, and we need not wonder that the Israelites should have named this memorable spot, after its most salient feature, the wilderness of Shur or the wall” (1872:44).  When I stayed in Suez City last May, I had dinner in a hotel over looking the Suez Canal.  As the sun was setting, I noticed this prominent line of escarpment as well.

    The waters of Marah are three days journey from the Red Sea (Ex. 15:22).  Where these are located, I do not know for sure.  The Numbers account places it in the wilderness of Etham (33:8).  The Wilderness of Etham appears to be the larger area with the Wilderness of Shur the southern part if this wilderness.  The Israelites headed north to Marah.  E. Robinson identifies a “fountain Naba’, three hours distance across the Gulf and so brackish as to be scarcely drinkable (1977:69).  The local Arabs called it el-Ghurkudeh.  This was the source of the drinking water for Suez.  Robinson’s Arab guide described it as “a basin eight or ten feet in diameter and six or eight feet deep, with stone steps to go down into it.  In this basin the water, which is quite brackish, boils up continually and stands two or three feet deep, without any outlet; furnishing enough to supply two hundred camel-loads at once” (1977:89).  Moses cast a tree into the bitter water and it was made sweet (Ex. 15:25).

    Apparently after this incident, the Israelites turned south to Elim with its twelve springs and 70 palm trees (Ex. 15:27; Num. 33:9).  A good candidate for this site is one of the most prominent springs in the Sinai Peninsula, ‘Ayun Musa.  Two geologists observed that “there are twelve springs, from two which good drinking water may be obtained” (Moon and Sadek 1921:2).  In their geological report, they have pictures of this spring with palm trees in the area.  When Robinson visited in 1838 he observed only seven springs (1977:90).

    The Numbers account says that they camped by the Red Sea after their time in Elim (Num. 33:10,11).  Somewhere at the entrance to the Wadi Sudr would be a good candidate for this campsite.  After, they headed up Wadi Sudr to Jebel Sin Bishar, the Biblical (and real) Mt. Sinai (Har-el 1983; Faiman 2000:115-118).

    Menashe Har-el makes a solid case for Jebel Sin Bishar being the real Mt. Sinai.  He points out that Jebel Sin Bishar is the only mountain in the Sinai Peninsula that preserves the toponym “Sinai” in the word “Sin” (Har-el 1983:421).  He states that “the meaning of Sin Bisher is the reporting of the Law, or Laws of man.  This name hints at the “Giving of the Law” (ibid).  Josephus says that Mt. Sinai is the highest mountain in that area (Antiquities 2:264, 3:75,76; LCL 4:279, 355).  While “Jebel sin Bishar is only 618 meters above sea level, it is the most prominent of its surrounding” (ibid).  Remember, Moses at 80 years old, had to climb that mountain several times!


  • Cracked Pot Archaeology Comments Off on MT. SINAI IS NOT AT JEBEL EL-LAWZ IN SAUDI ARABIA- part 3

    By Gordon Franz

    The Chronology from Rameses to the Red Sea

    Bible geographers who deal with the Exodus take the three encampments from Rameses to the Red Sea, i.e. Succoth, Etham and Migdol, to refer to three days of travel.  The Bible does not explicitly say this.

    Joel McQuitty made an interesting suggestion back in 1986.  He suggested that the seven day Feast of Unleavened Bread commemorates the seven days it took to go from Rameses to the Red Sea (1986:103-105; Ex. 13:3,4; 12:33f.; Deut. 16:3; Lev. 23:42-43).  Ironically, one of the proponents of Jebel al Lawz does as well.  However, he goes one step further and says that the Israelites rested on the Sabbath (Letter from Durham, Sept. 7, 2001, p.  14).

    If McQuitty is correct, and I believe he is, then this would fit very nicely with a crossing at the northern end of the Gulf of Suez.  As K. A. Kitchen has pointed out, Rameses is located in the area of Khataana / Qantar (1998:77).  Others place Rameses at Tell el-Dab’a, another site in the area (Shea 1990:98-111).  Kitchen goes on to locate Succoth at Tell el-Maskhuta and Pithom at Tell er-Retaba (1998:78).  From the Qantar area to Suez City is approximately 100 miles.  If we take that number and divide it by seven days it comes out to about 15 miles per day.  Considering the Israelites left Egypt in “haste” (Ex. 12:33; Deut. 16:3) and in “orderly ranks”, a military term for battle array (Ex, 13:18), 15 miles a day would be very reasonable.  Robinson observed that “the usual day’s march of the best appointed armies, both in ancient and modern times, is not estimated higher than fourteen English, or twelve geographical miles, and it cannot be supposed that the Israelites with women and children and flocks, would be able to accomplish more” (1977:75).

    A near contemporary event to the Exodus would be Thutmose III’s first campaign against the land of Canaan.  Aharoni describes the march by Thutmose III and his army to Megiddo this way:  “From Sile, the chief frontier post on the Egyptian border, the army covered the 150 miles to Gaza in nine or ten days, a very rapid pace” (1979:153).  In this march across the northern Sinai they encountered very sandy conditions, but they would have averaged 15 miles per day.  Once they got to Canaan, they slowed down because of resistance along the way by the Canaanites (Aharoni 1979:153).

    Problems with the Gulf of Akaba / Eilat Crossings

    The proponents of Jebel al-Lawz do not agree on the crossing site of the Red Sea in the Gulf of Akaba / Eilat.  One group, consisting of R. Wyatt, J. Pinkoski and L. Moller suggests that the Israelites crossed at Nuweiba.  The other group, consisting of J. Irwin, R. Cornuke, L. Williams, R. Knuteson, K. Kluetz, and K. Durham argues for the Strait of Tiran.

    Regarding the Nuweiba crossing, there are several problems.  The first problem is the distance it takes to go from Rameses to Nuweiba.  Moller, in his video, said their route through the Sinai would take three weeks.  This does not meet the Biblical requirements of seven days.  The second problem is the topography of the underwater land bridge.  From Nuweiba the land bridge slopes down to 850 meters (2,790 feet) but then comes up sharply on the east side as it gets to the shore of Saudi Arabia.  This sharp incline would make the ascent extremely difficult, if not impossible for the Israelites to cross in one night.  Dr. Roy Knuteson, a retired pastor who has done a considerable amount of research on the Red Sea crossing also points out, “The wadi they claim the Israelites traveled on [to Nuweiba] is much to small for those millions of people” (Letter from Knuteson, June 8, 2001).  He goes on to say in the same letter, “…the coral encrusted chariot wheels are interesting, but not convincing.  The so-called ‘golden wheel’ is a fabrication.”  Russell and Colin Standish have also examined the other claims of Wyatt regarding the so-called chariot wheels that were discovered (1999:164-194).

    The second crossing site at the Strait of Tiran has serious problems as well.  The first problem is the distance from Rameses to their Red Sea crossing.  From Tell el-Dab’a to Ras Nasrani at the southern end of the Sinai Peninsula is approximately 350 miles.  The “Geological Photomap of Israel and the Adjacent Areas” shows that most of the way down the west side of the Sinai Peninsula is sand, alluvium, clay, marl and sandstone.  Robinson observed and wrote about the sand and gravel as he traveled south to Jebel Musa (1977:89-96).  This terrain would be difficult to travel on foot or with carts, especially when making a hasty exodus out of Egypt!  This trip would be impossible to do in seven days unless they averaged 50 miles per day for seven days or 58 miles a day if they took Shabbat off.  One should remember Thutmose III’s army averaged only 15 miles per day across the sandy northern Sinai.  The conditions would be very similar.

    The second problem is the topography of their land bridge across the Strait of Tiran.  One of the proponents claims that “the distance shore to shore at the Strait of Tiran is no more than two miles – by far the narrowest channel on both sides of the gulf” (Cornuke and Halbrrok 2000:215).  If one measures on the nautical maps, the distance from Sinai to Saudi Arabia is eleven miles, not two.

    The proponents also seem to imply that the land bridge is relatively flat and can be crossed very quickly.  One proponent says, “Due north sat an oddity of Ripley’s Believe it or Not: a five-hundred-yard-wide coral reef, invisible on the surface yet spanning the entire straits like a stealth aircraft carrier” (Cornuke and Halbrook 2000:212).  He goes on to say, “The coral reef we inspected is sturdy and broad enough – and situated in water shallow enough – to meet this ‘dry land’ criteria.  Two million Israelites, columns of cattle, flocks, fleets of carts and wagons – even Egyptian troops and chariots – would have been able to pass quickly over the tightly compacted coral without getting their feet wet” (Cornuke and Halbrook 2000:214-215).

    The British Admiralty map 801 and the American NOAA map 62222 show that these statements are not accurate.  The shallow reefs do not go all the way across and the land bridge is not flat.  In the midst of the Strait of Tiran is the Enterprise Passage [See Map 2, taken from the NOAA map 62222].  This is an underwater passage / channel that goes north south through the Strait.  It is approximately ¾ of a mile wide with a depth of 700 feet.  The eastern side has a slope with at least a 60% incline.   To put this incline number in perspective, in Bergen County, NJ, where I live, roads can not have an incline of more than 10%.  The 60% would be an extremely difficult, if not impossible, obstacle for travel.  One of the proponents acknowledges this depth, but does not seem to grasp the significance of the problem (Cornuke and Halbrook 2000:214).  It would be a near impossible process for 2 million people to go down and up these slopes, along with their carts and wagons.  It would be next to impossible for the Egyptian chariots to go down and up unless they were SUV chariots with traction tires!  Also, if any of them stumbled going down the slopes they would be cut very badly on the coral.  This passage would be next to impossible, if not an impossible obstacle, because it would slow the pace of the Israelites down considerably or even stop it, as well as cause serious problems for the Egyptian chariots.

    To illustrate the impossibility of the Strait of Tiran crossing, I would like to issue the following challenge to the proponents of this view.

    The Exodus Challenge

    Bob Cornuke and Larry Williams are self-proclaimed “Adventurers of History.”  This challenge will be the ultimate adventure to validate their claims that Mt. Sinai is in Saudi Arabia.

    The Challenge

    Two of the three BASE participants (Bob Cornuke, Larry Williams and/or Ken Durham) are to walk from Tel el-Dab’a (Biblical Rameses) to their Red Sea Crossing, northeast of Sharm el-Shiek, in seven days with one day of rest for the Sabbath (either Saturday or Sunday).

    The Conditions

    They are to wear sandals and walk on the sandy ground, not on the paved road.

    They are to take two ten-year-old children.  (Please get a parental consent form signed by both parents.  I do not want you to be hauled into court for child abuse).  Also bring along two sheep and two goats.

    They will be permitted to buy bottled water along the way.  I do not want to be responsible for their death by dehydration!

    In the event that the pillar of cloud/fire does not reappear, they will be permitted to use road maps and their good judgments as to the timing so as to cover the 350 miles, averaging 58 miles per day, in the allotted time.

    The Concessions

    They will not have to take 2 million men, women or children with them, nor a herd of cattle, a flock of sheep and herd of goats.

    They will not have to bring along any nursing mothers with newborn children.

    They will not need to bring along senior citizens.  Remember, Moses, Aaron and Miriam were all more than 80 years old.

    The Promise

    In the unlikely event the challengers are successful, after being observed by a neutral party and documented on video, I (Gordon Franz) will publicly and in print, renounce my articles against the idea that Mt. Sinai is at Jebel al-Lawz and will wholeheartedly endorse their views.  I will also donate $1,000 to the BASE Institute.

    In the likely event of failure, I will let them decide what their course of action will be.

    Ken Durham called this an “intentionally frivolous challenge”! (Letter from Durham, Sept. 7, 2001, p. 7).  With all due respect, I am very serious about this challenge because if they walk it, they will abandon the idea because they will know (experientially) that it is impossible.  He also objected to placing Rameses at Tell el-Dab’a and would prefer to see it in eastern Goshen.  As they say at Burger King, “Have it your way!”  I am willing to let you start from the eastern end of the Wadi Tumilat and go the 250 miles you think was the distance.

    Durham says, “A steady walking rate of 3.5 miles per hour sustained for 12 hours of navigable daylight results in a ‘days journey’ optimal linear distance of 42 miles. … Therefore, as odd as it may sound to our ears to reckon a ‘day’s journey’ as 42 to 43 miles, it is probably very close to the optimum of the Exodus Hebrews” (Letter from Ken Durham, September 7, 2001, p. 14).  He then sets forth his scenario for the distance traveled each day (pp. 13-15).  On the first day they traveled 36 miles.  The second, 36 miles and camped at Etham, but he does not identify where Etham was located.  On the third day they pick up the pace to 16-18 hours per day and travel 45-48 miles.  The fourth day they cover 48 miles.  The fifth day they cover 40-45 miles, and the sixth day another 45-50 miles.  On Shabbat they rested.  If they can walk those distances each day, I would be impressed.  What really stretches the imagination is his reckoning of the Egyptian forces.  Pharaoh had spies following the Israelites for three days.  On the third day when they realize the Israelites are not stopping, they return to Pharaoh by the fourth day so he can muster his chariot force and foot soldiers in order to pursue the Israelites.  Those spies would have to run back overnight to Pharaoh covering a distance of approximately 120 miles in less than 12-16 hours (running a steady 10 miles per hour!).  If Pharaoh were successful in mustering his troops in one day, they would have three days to catch up to the Israelites.  They would have to average 83 miles per day, on foot and in chariots, in order to cover the 250 miles in three days!  Anybody want to join them? J

    Other Problems With This View

    It has been said, “The devil is always in the details.”  There are other problems with this view.  For example, the Israelites camped at Etham at the edge of the wilderness (Ex. 13:20; Num. 33:6).  The wilderness that is implied is the Wilderness of Etham.  After they cross the Red Sea, they journey in the Wilderness of Etham again (Num. 33:8), also called the Wilderness of Shur (Ex. 15:22; Robinson 1977:80).  If the proponents of Jebel al-Lawz were consistent with their views, the Wilderness of Etham would be somewhere on the west side of the Sinai, yet it would also be across the Straits of Tiran in Saudi Arabia.  It does not make geographical sense to have one wilderness on the west side of Sinai and the same wilderness across the Gulf of Akaba / Eilat in Saudi Arabia.

    Another problem is the Israelites second camp at the Red Sea.  According to the Number’s itinerary, the Children of Israel cross the Red Sea, stop at Marah, then moved on to Elim and camped by the Red Sea (Num. 33:8-11).  According to the proponents of Jebel al-Lawz, Elim is located at al-Bad’ (Williams 1990:178; Cornuke and Halbrook 2000:96, 97, plate 13,14).  If their view were consistent, they would have to give a reasonable explanation as to why the Israelites backtracked to the Red Sea before they proceeded to Jebel al-Lawz.  On the other hand, a stop at the Red Sea, at the mouth of Wadi Sudr, on the way to Jebel Sin Bishar makes perfect geographical sense.

    A third problem is the motivations of the Amalekites to attack Israel at Rephidim (Ex. 17:8-16).  The Biblical records place the territory of the Amalekites around the area of Kadesh Barnea (Gen. 14:7) and the Negev (Num. 13:29).  For a discussion of the archaeology and geography of the Analekites, see Mattingly 1992:1:169-171.  If Mt. Sinai is at Jebel Sin Bishar than the motive is clear.  The Israelites are heading to the Land of Canaan and the most direct route is through Kadesh Barnea and the Negev.  The Amalekites were also protecting the abundant water source at Kadesh Barnea.  If Mt. Sinai is at Jebel al-Lawz, then there is no motive for the Amalekites to travel all the way down to the site to attack the Israelites.  If the Israelites were going to the Land of Canaan, they could go up the Transjordanian Highway and avoid Kadesh Barnea and the Negev all together.  Some proponents of Mt. Sinai in Midian place Kadesh Barnea in the area of Petra.  I have repeatedly asked the proponents of Jebel al-Lawz where they place Kadesh Barnea and they have yet to give me an answer.

    The Conclusion of the Matter

    As popular as this idea may be in certain evangelical (and even Jewish) circles, there is no credible historical, geographical, archaeological or Biblical evidence for the thesis that Mt. Sinai is at Jebel al-Lawz in Saudi Arabia.

    There are several unsubstantiated claims that the proponents of this site need to substantiate or abandon.  First, the Sinai Peninsula was not part of Egypt proper, but “out of Egypt.”  Second, Biblically, Mt. Sinai is not in the Land of Midian, yet Jebel al-Lawz is in Midian territory (northwest Saudi Arabia).  Third, the Sinai Peninsula was part of “Arabia” in the First Century AD.  Paul would be perfectly correct in stating Mt. Sinai is in Arabia if Mt. Sinai was at Jebel Sin Bishar.

    The proponents also need to face up to the archaeological evidence at their site.  The petroglyphs of bovine existed long before Moses ever lived.  The so-called “Cave of Moses” at el-Bad’ were not hewn until long after Moses lived.  The so-called “altar of Moses and the 12 columns” dates to the Nabatean period and has nothing to do with the Wilderness Wanderings.

    The Red Sea crossings at the Gulf of Akaba / Eilat have serious topographical and Biblical / geographical difficulties that the proponents of the view need to consider.

    A more plausible location for Mt. Sinai is at Jebel Sin Bishar in the west central Sinai.  If that is the case, the Red Sea crossing would best be located at a natural land bridge that goes east-west across the northern Gulf of Suez to the east of Jebel ‘Ataqa.  The Pi Hahiroth, the “mouth of the canal”, would be the remnant of an unfinished canal near the modern day Suez City.  The Migdol, “fortress”, would be at or near Clysma.  Baal-Zephon would be a temple to the mariner storm god Baal somewhere on Jebel ‘Ataqa.

    Had the proponents of Jebel al-Lawz examined the evidence in the libraries in the United States carefully and visited the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, they would have come to a different conclusion.  First of all, they would have discovered that they were looking in the wrong place for the Red Sea Crossing and Mt. Sinai.  Second, in the Cairo Museum they would have noticed the chariots of Pharaoh Tutankhamen.  With the exception of Pharaoh’s gold plated chariot, all the other chariots were made of wood and rawhide (leather) with a few copper components.  The first two items that would have disintegrated quickly underwater (Littauer and Crouwel 1992:1:888.889).  Thus there would be nothing left of the chariots to discover with the exception of a few pieces of copper.

    Finally, the proponents would have considered the words of Josephus.  “On the morrow, the arms of the Egyptians having been carried up to the Hebrews’ camp by the tide and the force of the wind setting in that directions, Moses, surmising that this too was due to the providence of God, to ensure that even in weapons they should not be wanting, collected them and, having accoutred [equipped] the Hebrews therein, led them forward for Mount Sinai, with intent there to sacrifice to God and to render to Him the thanks-offerings of the people for their deliverance, even as he had received commandment” (Antiquities 2:349; LCL 4:317,319).  Why look for things that had disintegrated long ago and weapons that were providentially given to the Israelites?  It would be better to follow the example of Moses and go and worship the Lord for His great salvation!


    Aharoni, Y.

    1979    The Land of the Bible.  A Historical Geography.  Revised edition.  Trans. A. Rainey.  Philadelphia: Westminster.

    Albright, W.

    1968   Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan.  Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns.


    1952    Meteorologica.  Trans. H. Lee.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.  Loeb Classical Library.

    Blum, H.

    1998    The Gold of Exodus.  The Discovery of the True Mount Sinai. New York: Simon and Schuster.

    Breasted, J.

    1912    A History of Egypt from the Earliest Times to the Persian Conquest.  New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

    Bruyere, B.

    1966    Fouilles de Clysma-Qolzoum (Suez) 1930-1932.  Le Caire: L’Institut Francais D’Archeologie Orientale.

    Cole, R.

    1973   Exodus.  Downers Grove, IL: Inter Varsity.

    Cornuke, R., and Halbrook, D.

    2000    In Search of the Mountain of God.  The Discovery of the Real Mt. Sinai.  Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman.

    Cross, F.

    1998   From Epic to Canon.  Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins.

    Currid, J.

    1997   Ancient Egypt in the Old Testament.  Grand Rapids: Baker.

    Dever, W.

    1997    Is there Any Archaeological Evidence for the Exodus?  Pp. 67-86 in Exodus The Egyptian Evidence.  E. Frerichs and L. Lesko, eds.  Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns.

    Faiman, D.

    2000    Digging Mount Sinai from the Bible.  Bible and Spade 13/4: 115-118.

    Franz, G.

    2000   Is Mount Sinai in Saudi Arabia?  Bible and Spade 13/4: 101-113.

    Har-el, M.

    1983    The Sinai Journeys.  The Route of the Exodus.  San Diego, CA: Ridgefield.


    1999   The Persian Wars.  Books I-II.  Trans A. Godley.  Cambridge, MA:

    Harvard University.  Loeb Classical Library.

    1995    The Persian Wars.  Books III-IV.  Trans. A. Godley.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.  Loeb Classical Library.

    Hoffmeier, J.

    1997   Israel in Egypt.  New York: Oxford.


    1978    Jewish Antiquities.  Books I-IV. Trans. H. Thackeray.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.  Loeb Classical Library.

    Kitchen, K.

    1971    Punt and How to Get There.  Orientalia 40: 184-207.

    1998    Egyptians and Hebrews, from Ra’amses to Jericho.  Pp. 65-131 in The Origin of Early Israel – Current Debate.  S. Ahituv and E. Oren, eds.  Beer-sheva: Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

    Littauer, M, and Crouwel, J.

    1992    Chariots.  Pp. 888-892 in The Anchor Bible Dictionary.  Vol. 1.  D. Freedman, ed.  New York: Doubleday.

    McQuitty, J.

    1986    The Location and Nature of the Red Sea Crossing.  Unpublished ThM thesis from Capital Bible Seminary.

    Mattingly, G.

    1992    Amalek.  Pp. 169-171 in The Anchor Bible Dictionary.  Vol. 1.  D. Freedman, ed.  New York: Doubleday.

    Moon, F., and Sader, H.

    1921    Topography and Geology of Northern Sinai.  Petroleum Research.  Bulletin No. 10.  Cairo: Government Press.

    Na’aman, N.

    1979    The Brook of Egypt and Assyrian Policy on the Border of Egypt.  Tel Aviv 6: 68-90.

    Palmer, E.

    1872   The Desert of the Exodus.  New York: Harper and Brothers.


    1989    Natural History.  Books III-VII.  Vol. 2.  Trans. H. Rackham.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.  Loeb Classical Library.

    Rea, J.

    1975    The Exodus.  Pp. 568-577 in Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia.  Vol. 1: 568-577.

    Redford, D.

    1992    Pi-Hahiroth.  P. 371 in The Anchor Bible Dictionary.  Vol. 5.  D. Freedman, ed.  New York: Doubleday.

    1997    Observations on the Sojourn of the Bene-Israel.  Pp. 57-66 in Exodus The Egyptian Evidence.  E. Frerichs and L. Lesko, eds. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns.

    Robinson, E.

    1977   Biblical Researches in Palestine, Mount Sinai and Arabia Petraea.

    New York: Arno.  Reprint of 1841 edition.

    Shanks, H.

    1992   Frank Moore Cross.  An Interview.  Bible Review 8/4: 20-33, 61-63.

    Shea, W.

    1990   Leaving Egypt.  Archaeology and Biblical Research 3: 98-111.

    Skipwith, G.

    1913    Pi-Hahiroth, “The Mouth of the Canals”.  Palestine Exploration Quarterly ??: 94-95.

    Sneh, A., Weissbrod, T, and Perath, I.

    1975    Evidence for an Ancient Egyptian Frontier Canal.  American Scientist 63: 542-548.

    Standish, R., and Standish, C.

    1999   Holy Relics or Revelation.  Rapidan, VA: Hartland.


    1982    The Geography of Strabo.  Vol. 8.  Trans. H. Jones.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard university.  Loeb Classical Library.

    Warmington, E., and Salles, J.

    1996    Red Sea.  Pp. 1296-1297 in The Oxford Classical Dictionary, Third Edition.  S. Hornblower and A. Spawforth, eds.  Oxford and New York: Oxford University.

    Wilkinson, J.

    1981   Egeria’s Travels to the Holy Land.  Revised edition.  Jerusalem:


    Williams, L.

    1990    The Mountain of Moses.  New York: Wynwood.

    This paper presented at the ETS / NEAS meeting Thursday, November 15, 2001, 9:50-10:30 a.m. session.  Broadmoor Hotel, Colorado Springs, CO.

  • Noah’s Ark Comments Off on Did the BASE Institute Discover Noah’s Ark in Iran?

    By Gordon Franz

    The recent reputed discovery of Noah’s Ark by the BASE Institute has gotten a great deal of airtime as well as publicity on the Internet.  There are, however, some excellent reviews that critique the claim that Noah’s Ark landed in Iran.  Three such reviews should be noted: the first is a well illustrated article by Rick Lanser, of ABR (http://www.biblearchaeology.org/articles/article49.html), another article by Rex Geissler (http://www.noahsarksearch.com/iran.htm) and the last one by the Institute for Creation Research (http://www.icr.org/news/70/).  In this review, I will add a few details that were overlooked by the other articles.

    I do have an interest in the location of Noah’s Ark, so I read the article on the BASE website (http://www.baseinstitute.org/noah.html), as well as the two books on the mountains of Ararat.  The first book, a gripping, well-written page turner, was entitled, In Search of the Lost Mountains of Noah, the Discovery of the Real Mts. Of Ararat, and was co-authored by Robert Cornuke and David Halbrook. It was published by Broadman and Holman in 2001.  In this book, Cornuke advocated Mt. Savalon in Iran as part of the Mountains of Ararat.  Apparently he did not find Noah’s Ark on this mountain so he sought the ark on Mt. Suleiman in the Elburz Mountain Range in Iran near Tehran.  This location is advocated on the website and the second book authored by Robert Cornuke and entitled, Ark Fever.  It was published by Tyndale House in 2005.

    I went to many universities and libraries in the New York City area (including Columbia University, Drew University, New York Public Library, Princeton University, Princeton Theological Seminary, Union Theological Seminary, and Kutztown University) in order to verify the claims presented on the website, and in the books.  After reviewing the material presented, it became obvious to me that the BASE researchers had done inadequate research and consequently had mistakes on their website and in their books that led them to the wrong conclusions.

    • The Mount Suleiman proposed by the BASE researchers is not within the Biblical “mountains of Ararat” (Urartu) and nowhere near it so it cannot be where Noah’s Ark landed.
    • None of the ancient historians and authors, such as Josephus and Berossus, placed Noah’s Ark on the mountains of Ararat within modern Iran either.
    • Modern scholarship has also found that the Kingdom of Urartu proper never extended 300 miles into Iran to Mount Suleiman in the Elburz range near Tehran.

    These are serious flaws in the research by the BASE Institute that need to be addressed by scholars and should be brought to the attention of the general public.  An informed person will find that there is overwhelming evidence that the object of interest discovered by the BASE team is not Noah’s Ark.

    A disclaimer is in order as well.  A business associate and close friend of the BASE Institute predicted that Mr. Cornuke would be “venomously attacked by both Christians and non-Christians.”  He claims that the reason some Christians would attack him would be because they are jealous, having “spent years and millions of dollars searching on Mt. Ararat in Turkey” and it turned out to be the wrong mountain.

    Personally, I have never searched for anything on Mt. Ararat (Agri Dagh) in Turkey and, in fact, have never been to that mountain, nor do I have any interest in climbing that mountain.  I have done all my archaeological work in Israel (Jerusalem, Lachish, Jezreel, Hazor, Ramat Rachel, etc.) and have never excavated in Turkey.

    This article is a critique of the ideas presented on the BASE website and in the books and nothing more. I will not judge motives. I will simply examine the evidence as a professional. I hope this will invite a similar response from Mr. Cornuke, his organization and his supporters to this or any other factually based critique of his claims.

    One of the flyers distributed by an organization promoting a presentation by Cornuke asked the question, “Is it Noah’s Ark?”  The blurb goes on to say, “Dr. Bob Cornuke, president of BASE Institute is not making any claims.  Instead, he is sharing photographic and laboratory data, and letting audiences draw their own tentative, informed conclusions …”

    Herein is the problem. They raise the question, “Is this Noah’s Ark?”  But they never answer the question whether it is Noah’s Ark or not. What we, in the evangelical community lack is any critical evaluation by the BASE team of the material presented, especially when it goes contrary to the statements of the Bible.  Such an evaluation would allow someone to make a conclusive, informed decision.  Cornuke likes to challenge his listeners with the questions, “What if this is true?”  But the critical question is, “Is this true?” This question is never addressed. What he fails to provide, this article will, and for one reason.  My concern is that evangelical Christian researchers do honest, careful, meticulous research, using original, or primary, sources and hard data.  They must fully and accurately document their findings and arrive at viable conclusions.  That, and no less, should be the goal of this, or any research, done by evangelical Christians.

    Is Mount Suleiman in the Elburz Range within Land of Ararat / Urartu?

    Our compass, the Bible, makes it clear the Ark landed in the mountains of Ararat (Gen. 8:4).  I would agree with the BASE website that Ararat refers to a range of mountains and not just one mountain called “Mount Ararat”.  Herein is the most important issue to be discussed.  Does Mount Suleiman in the Elburz Range fall within the Land of Ararat?  If it does not, then there is absolutely positively no way the object of interest discovered by the BASE Institute could be Noah’s Ark (Ark Fever, pages 229-246).  Also, any talk of whether the BASE team went to the site visited by Ed Davis is totally irrelevant.

    The BASE researchers have made the claim that the Land of Ararat is east of Lake Urmiah in Iran.  If their location for the landing of Noah’s Ark on Mt. Suleiman has any validity then the Land of Ararat / Urartu must extend east of Lake Urmiah, actually 300 miles to the east of Lake Urmiah, all the way to the Elburz Mountain Range and the Caspian Sea.  Do the BASE researchers successfully demonstrate that Mount Suleiman in the Elburz Range in Iran is the landing site of the Ark within the Mountains of Ararat?

    In the book, Ark Fever (page 166) a conversation is recounted between Ali, the guide, and Cornuke.  Ali allegedly reported that the Iranian scholar, Dr. Abdul Hussein Zarinkub, placed the first capital of Urartu in the region of Lake Urmiah.  Cornuke goes on to say that David Rohl agreed with Dr. Zarinkub’s assessment.  He quotes from Rohl’s book, Legend. The Genesis of Civilization.  A Test of Time, vol. 2 (1998).  London: Arrow, page 104.  I found the quote on page 102 in the Century, Random House edition (London, 1998).  The quote, as recorded in Ark Fever, says: “The later kingdom of Urartu [Ararat] was originally located here [east of Lake Urmia] in its early days, before shifting its heartland to the area around Lake Van.”  This is a misleading and inaccurate quote.  Rohl’s actually said: “Scholars have determined that the later kingdom of Urartu (Ararat) was also originally located here (in the Miyandoab plain) in its early days, before shifting its heartland to the area around Lake Van.”  Please notice that Cornuke substituted the words “east of Lake Urmia” for Rohl’s “in the Miyandoab plain.”  The map on page 83 of Rohl’s book places Miyandoab south of Lake Urmiah, not east of it.  Rohl also states, “The lost kingdom of Aratta, mentioned in the earliest Sumerian epics, is to be located within the Miyandoab plain to the south of Lake Urmia in greater Armenia” (page 103, see also page 100).

    Dr. Paul E. Zimansky, a leading expert of Urartian studies, gives a lengthy description of the territory of the Kingdom of Urartu / Ararat.  He states: “Urartian kings would have ruled all of the agricultural lands around Lake Van and Lake Sevan, and the southwestern shore of Lake Urumiyeh.  The upper Aras, particularly the Armavir and Erevan areas, was firmly in their hands, and conquest took them as far north as Lake Cildir.  Along the Murat, evidence for royal control is surprisingly meager, but sufficient to put the Euphrates at Izoli within the conquered zone and the Elazig area in the narrower sphere.  Campaign inscriptions are found well to the east of Tabriz, but the nearest evidence for firm state control in that direction comes from Bastam, thirty-eight kilometers north of Khvoy.  Missing from this picture are the large and fertile plains of Erzurum and Erzincan on the Karasu, the northwest shore of Lake Urumiyeh, the plain of Marand, and the middle Aras from Jolfa to the slopes of Mount Ararat.  All of these are generally assumed to be part of Urartu in some sense, and it is worth examining other forms of evidence to see if there might be some grounds for including them within the perimeter of state control” (Ecology and Empire: The Structure of Urartian State, Chicago: University of Chicago, 1985, page 10).  For a discussion of the inscriptions found to the east of Tabriz (in Iran), in conquered territory outside the borders of the Kingdom of Urartu, see B. Andre-Salvini and M. Salvini’s study, “The Urartian Rock Inscriptions of Razliq and Nasteban (East Azerbaijan, Iran)” in Studi Micenei ed Egeo-Anatolia 41/1 (1999), pages 17-32.

    The territory of Urartu is centered around Lake Van and between this lake and Lake Urmiah.  Lake Van is about 90 miles / 150 kilometers to the west of Lake Urmiah.  Urartu’s eastern border went up to the northern and southern tip of Lake Urmiah (which are in Iran), but not to the eastern side of the lake.  The Mount Suleiman that the BASE Institute claims is the mountain where the Ark landed is about 300 miles to the east of Lake Urmiah and is not in the Land of Urartu.

    It is important to note that the Elburz Range is not included in the Land of Urartu / Ararat.  In fact, the Elburz Range is in the Land of Media (Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 2, edited by I. Gershevitch, 1968, page 36).  The ancient Biblical and historical sources clearly show that Mt. Suleiman, northwest of Tehran, was deep inside the land of Media and far outside the land of Ararat / Urartu where the Ark landed.

    A student of the Bible who is interested in the search for Noah’s Ark should do a serious study on the region of Ararat / Urartu.  It would be helpful to begin with:  W. W. Gasque, “Ararat”, pages. 233, 234 in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 1.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans (1979); A. R. Millard, “Urartu”, page 955 in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 4, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans (1979); Edwin Yamauchi, pages 29-47 in Foes from the Northern Frontier.  Grand Rapids: Baker (1982); Paul E. Zimansky, Ancient Ararat.  Delmar, NY: Caravan Books (1998).  The use of secondary sources (Roux, Gasque, Millard, Yamauchi, and Zimansky) is good for general background information, but it is the proper use of primary sources that builds a compelling case.  The serious student of the Bible should master the primary sources.

    Do Other Ancient Writers Put the Ark in Iran?

    The BASE website identifies three ancient writers that supposedly place the landing of the Ark in Iran: Nicolas of Damascus, Flavius Josephus and Julius Africanus.  Is this an accurate assessment of what these ancient writers actually wrote?

    Let us start by examining the statements of the Jewish historian Josephus.  There are at least six passages in the writings of this first century AD historian that refer to the Ark and / or the location of its landing.  The BASE website only refers to two of the six and on one of them the citation is inaccurate.

    In the first reference, Josephus recounts the writings of Berosus, the priest of the temple of Bel in Babylon, who states the ark, “landed on the heights of the mountains of Armenia” (Against Apion 1:130; Loeb Classical Library 1: 215).

    The second reference by Josephus states, the “ark settled on a mountain-top in Armenia” (Antiquities of the Jews 1: 90; Loeb Classical Library 4: 43).

    The third reference, in Antiquities of the Jews 1: 92 (Loeb Classical Library 4: 45), states: “The Armenians call the spot the Landing-place, for it was there that the ark came safe to land, and they show the relics of it to this day.”  This passage does not state explicitly where the Ark landed, but Josephus does indicate that the Ark still existed in his day.  One needs to determine the territory of Armenia at the end of the 1st century AD.  Did it include Iran?  The answer is, “No, Armenia did not extend into Iran, and for sure, not to the Elburz range.”

    For a good study on the historical-geography of Armenia, see the four articles by R. H. Hewsen in Revue des Etudes Armeniennes, vol. 13 (1978-79) pp. 77-97; vol. 17 (1983) pp. 123-143; vol. 18 (1984) pp. 347-366; vol. 19 (1985) pp. 55-84.

    The fourth reference to the Ark by Josephus is his quotation of Berosus the Chaldaean’s (330-250 BC) description of the Flood and the landing of the Ark.  He quotes, “It is said, moreover, that a portion of the vessel still survives in Armenia on the mountain of the Cordyaeans, and that persons carry off pieces of the bitumen, which they use as talismans” (Antiquities of the Jews 1: 93; Loeb Classical Library 4: 45).  We get the word Kurdistan from the word Cordyaean.  This area is located in southeastern Turkey today.  At one point that was a district in Armenia.

    The fifth quote that Josephus gives is from Nicolas of Damascus which the BASE website quotes from J. W. Montgomery’s book, but they don’t seem to realize the quote was from Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews 1:95; Loeb Classical Library 4:47).  Here, it is reported by Nicolas, “There is above the country of Minyas in Armenia a great mountain called Baris, where, as the story goes, many refugees found safety at the time of the flood, and one man, transported upon an ark, grounded upon the summit, and relics of the timber were for long preserved.”  The importance of this quote is that the Ark landed in Armenia.  Again, Armenia did not extend into what is present day Iran.

    The sixth quote, the one cited on the BASE website, is found in Antiquities of the Jews 20:24, 25 (Loeb Classical Library 10:15).  It is not, as cited by the website, “(Loeb edition, volume 1X, pp. 403-403).”  Here Josephus recounts the story of Monobazus, the king of Adiabene and the wife of Queen Helena, who wanted to see his son Izates before he died.  The capital of Adiabene is Arbela in northern Mesopotamia (present day Iraq).  When Monobazus saw his son, he gave Izates the district of Carron.  The land of Carron is described as a place with “excellent soil for the production of amomum in the greatest abundance; it also possesses the remains of the ark in which report has it that Noah was saved from the flood – remains which to this day are shown to those who are curious to see them.”  The land of Carron must be in the mountains to the north of Mesopotamia (in present day southeastern Turkey), but these mountains are not in present day Iran.

    The BASE website goes on to cite Julius Africanus as supporting their claims that the Ark landed in Iran.  They quote from Lloyd R. Bailey’s book, Noah – The Person and Story in History and Tradition (1989), University of South Carolina Press, rather than the original source.  No page number is given for this quote, but this source can be found on page 65.  In the context, Prof. Bailey does not support the BASE contention that Julius Africanus says the Ark landed in Iran, but rather, the context quotes Julius Africanus as placing the landing of the Ark “somewhere in the mountains of modern Kurdistan (the upper Zagros range, northeast of Mesopotamia)” in the area of ancient Adiabene (page 64).  In the footnote to the Julius reference Bailey adds: “Parthis was generally to the east of Mesopotamia, but occasionally extended its influence to the area of Greater Armenia.  Thus Julius’ reference allows for a number of possibilities” (page 217, footnote 24).  The possibility that he suggests is the ancient “Mount Nisar, which is likely the spectacular Pir Omar Gudrum (called Pira Magrun by the Kurds), just south of the Lower Zab River” (page 65).  This mountain is in the Kurdish part of Iraqi today, not Iran.

    What is interesting is to go back and read the original quote of Julius Africanus.  He says: “And Noe was 600 years old when the flood came on.  And when the waters abated, the ark settled on the mountains of Ararat, which we know to be in Parthia; but some say that they are at Celaenae of Phrygia, and I have seen both places” (The Extant Writings of Julius Africanus, page 131b in Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 6, Hendrickson (1994)).  The last part of the sentence is not quoted by Dr. Bailey or the BASE website.  Phrygia is in Western Turkey, not Iran.

    The Land of Ararat / Urartu is in modern day Turkey and north and west of Lake Urmiah, but it is not in the Elburz range in Iran.  It is wishful thinking on the part of the BASE researchers to claim that the ancient writers placed the landing site for the Ark in modern day Iran.  The ancient writers clearly point to Turkey or Iraq as the place of the landing of the Ark, not Iran.

    The BASE team is free to speculate, within reason, any new theories they may have regarding the landing place of the ark. That reasoning, however, must take into account all the data pertaining to historical geography. These facts must not be overlooked.

    Is Ararat East of the Land of Shinar (Gen. 11:2)?

    The BASE website states that: “The Bible gives us a clear direction for the landing location of the Ark, and it is not in the direction of Turkey.  The Bible says that the survivors of the flood journeyed ‘from the east’ and subsequently settled in ‘Shinar’ (a region generally known as Babylon).”  I would agree with the BASE researchers that the descendents of Noah came from the east, but does the text state that the Ark landed east of Shinar?

    The Biblical passage does not state that Ararat is east of the Land of Shinar.  The scholar that is quoted at the end of this section is Samuel Shuckford (?1694-1754), a Cambridge graduate and the chaplain to King George II.  In his book,  The Sacred and Profane History of the World Connected, From the Creation of the World to the Dissolution of the Assyrian Empire at the Death of Sarda-Napalus, and to the Declension of the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel, Under the Reigns of Ahaz and Pekah, (I kid you not, that’s the title of the book!)  I was able to locate a 5th edition of vol. 1 of this work published in 1819.  The original edition was first published in 1728.  In it, Shuckford says that about 80 years after the Ark landed on the mountains of Ararat the descendents of Noah migrated to the Plain of Shinar (pages 93 and 94), that is plenty of time for the descendents to multiply and migrate to Shinar from wherever the Ark landed.

    The BASE website states: “It is highly unlikely that the descendents of Noah would migrate from the traditional Mount Ararat in Turkey to the Mesopotamia plain.  If they did so, they would have had to traverse impassable mountain ranges to eventually come from the east. The Assyrian invaders found it impossible to cross these mountain ranges thus it would seem that the descendents of Noah would find it equally difficult.”  This statement is simply not true.  The Assyrian invaders did not find the mountain ranges impossible to cross.  Sargon II, in the year 714 BC (see below for citations), took his army from Calah into the Zagros Mountains, up around Lake Urmiah and into Urartu and back to Calah, all in less that one year.  Sargon complained that part of the campaign in the Zagros was difficult, but it was not impossible.  Other Assyrian kings invaded Urartu through the Zagros Mountains as well.  During times of peace, there was trade and commerce between Urartu and Assyria.  The mountains are not impassible and it is not impossible to cross them.  If the Assyrians could do it, the descendents of Noah could as well.

    The BASE website gives a quote from a book by Edward Hitchcock entitled The Religion of Geology and its Connected Sciences (1851).  (Please note the misquotation of the title.  The website entitles the book Religion and Geology.  Fortunately the website did spell Edward Hitchcock’s name correctly and I was able to locate the book).

    Hitchcock says: “Shuckford suggested that some spot farther east corresponds better with the scriptural account of the place where the ark rested.  For it is said of the families of the sons of Noah, that, as they journeyed from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar.  Now, Shinar, or Babylonia, lies nearly south of the Armenian Ararat, and the probability, therefore, is, that the true Ararat, from whose vicinity the descendents of Noah probably emigrated, lay much further to the south” (pages 139, 140).  This quote is an accurate replication of what Hitchcock said, but a good researcher should read the context and follow up on what Shuckford actually believed.

    In the chapter where this quote is found (Lecture IV), Dr. Hitchcock is recounting all the different views of geology and Noah’s Flood that were held by theologians in 1851 (eight years before Charles Darwin published Origins of Species).  Hitchcock is advocating a “local” or regional Flood and not a universal world-wide Flood.  He realized that if the Ark landed on Mount Ararat (Agri Dagh) and the flood waters covered that mountain, then the Flood would have had to be global or universal in scope.  To get around this problem he quotes the above passage from Samuel Shuckford.  Dr. Hitchcock did not fairly represent Chaplain Shuckford’s position.  After dismissing the “common opinion … that the ark rested on one of the Gordyean hills” (page 87), Shuckford advocated a landing site for Noah’s Ark “near Saga Scythia on the hills beyond Bactria, north of India” (page 92).  That area is today northern Afghanistan and Pakistan, located about 1,200 miles ENE of Shinar.  Yet Dr. Hitchcock says the landing site was further to the south of Armenian Ararat, in Shinar / Babylonia, not to the east or ENE and not in Iran or India.

    It is not true that Genesis 11:2 “only allows for a Northern Iran interpretation.”  The descendents of Noah had 80 years to multiply once they left the Ark and migrate to Shinar.  They could have walked from the mountains of Ararat to China and back to Shinar if they wanted.  The text does not demand, or require, that the Ark landed to the east of Shinar.

    Do the maps in Ark Fever confirm the Mount Suleiman location for the landing site of Noah’s Ark?

    Two old maps are presented in Ark Fever in an attempt to bolster the case for the landing site of the ark in Iran (pages 42 and 60).  However, neither map supports the case for Mount Suleiman being the landing site of the ark.

    The first map is found on page 42.  It is identified in the book as a “Map of the ‘Terrestrial Paradise,’ showing Noah’s Ark below the Caspian Sea on the Summit of ‘Mont Ararat.’  Pierre Daniel Huet’s conception from Calmet’s Dictionnaire historique del [sic] la Bible (1722).”  What BASE is trying to demonstrate by this map is that the landing site for Noah’s Ark is below (or near) the Caspian Sea, just as Mount Suleiman, near Tehran, is near the Caspian Sea.  This is very misleading.  The map is not to scale and is an idealized map.  Fortunately one can locate where this mountain is by a careful examination of the map.  Just below the mountain is a city named Ecbatana.  The ancient city of Ecbatana is buried underneath the modern Iranian city of Hamadan.

    Ecbatana is mentioned once in the Bible in Ezra 6:2 (see the margin of any good study Bible) as the capital of the province of Media.  It is also possible that it was one of the “cities of the Medes” to which Israelite captives were exiled to by the Assyrians after the fall of Samaria (II Kings 17:6).  Interestingly, the mapmaker places “Mount Ararat” in the Land of Media and not in Armenia.  This should have raised red flags because this is contrary to our Biblical compass.

    The mapmaker was trying to convey that the Ark landed on a mountain near Ecbatana, but not, as Ark Fever tries to portray, on Mount Suleiman some 250 km to the northeast of Hamadan.  There are Luristan traditions that Noah’s Ark landed in the area of Hamadan.  Major Rawlinson visited the area in 1836 and mentions the tradition of the landing on a “very lofty range, called Sar Kushti” on page 100 in his article in the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London 9 (1839) 26-116.

    The second map is found on page 60.  It is labeled “Map of Armenia showing ‘Ararat Mons’ (Mountains in Region of Iran) from Petras Plantius 1552 & 1622.”    The arrow on the map points to “Ararat mons” and the label says that they are “mountains in region of Iran.”  This map is primitive, and in some cases inaccurate, but a careful examination of the map will show that the mountains are in southeastern Turkey and not Iran.  Just below the “Ararat mons” are the cities of Nineve, Mosul, and Arbela, all cities in northern Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq), and not Iran.  The range of mountains to the right of “Ararat mons”, running in a north-south direction, are the Zagros Mountains, even though they are mislabeled “Caspy (?) montes” (Caspian Mountains).  One can tell they are the Zagros Mountains by the location of Elam and Susa at the southern end of the mountain range.  These locations are to the southeast of the Zagros Mountains.  The label under the map is misleading because “Ararat Mons” is not in the region of Iran.

    The two maps in Ark Fever do not support the claim by the BASE Institute that the landing site of Noah’s Ark was on Mt. Suleiman near Tehran in Iran.

    Where did Sennacherib’s two sons really flee too?

    The Bible states that after Sennacherib, king of Assyria, was assassinated by his two sons, they escaped into the Land of Ararat” (II Kings 19:37 // Isa. 37:38).  This occurred on the 20th day of the month Tebet (October) in the year 681 BC.

    Esarhaddon, Sennacherib’s son that succeeded him after his father’s death, pursued his two brothers.  One of Esarhaddon’s historical texts says, “As for those villains [his two brothers] who instigated revolt and rebellion, when they heard of the approach of my army, they abandoned their regular troops, and fled to parts unknown” (ARAB II: 202).  Esarhaddon does not tell us where they went, but the Bible, our compass, does.  They went to the Land of Ararat.  As we’ve seen before, the territory of Ararat / Urartu does not extend to the east of Lake Urmiah.

    The BASE researchers could have located the site utilizing the statement by E. A. Wallis Budge where he gives the precise location that one of the sons, Sharezer, fled to: a village on Mount Kardo in the ancient Land of Ararat / Urartu which is in present day Turkey and not Iran.

    Another scholar made another interesting suggestion based on Esarhaddon’s “Letter to God” that the two brothers fled to Subria, a buffer state between Assyria and Urartu (Bradley Parker, The Mechanics of Empire (2001) pp. 241-245, 251).  This area is in Turkey, not Iran.

    According to the BASE website, Sargon II described the Mountains of Urartu as a “spine of a fish”.  Is Sargon II describing the Elborz Mountains?

    The BASE website states that “the Elborz Mountains matched to what the real Mountains of Ararat should look like according to a description by Sargon the Second in 714 B.C.  He recorded that the Mountains of Urartu (Ararat) were like the spine of a fish which were very high and impossible to cross.”  They go on to speculate that “Mount Suleiman in [sic] one of several high narrow mountains [sic] peaks that look like the long spine of a fish.  There are fifteen peaks [sic] are over fourteen thousand feet high in that range”.

    The only basis for these claims is a citation from George Roux’s book, Ancient Iraq, 1966 edition, page 313.  Roux’s book is a classic and has gone through several editions with different publishers.  Unfortunately, I was not able to locate a copy of the 1966 Penguin edition, but did find the reference to the “spine of the fish” on page 260 in the 1964 World Publishing Company edition and page 290 of the 1980 second edition Penguin paperback.  A friend informed me that the quote was on pages 283-284 of his tattered copy of the 1966 edition.  Unfortunately for the BASE researchers, this reference does not support their claim.  In fact, their speculation is wrong on two counts.

    The “spine of the fish” quotation comes from Sargon II’s “Letter to Assur recounting the events of the eighth campaign” (Daniel David Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylon, Vol. 2.  London: Histories and Mysteries of Man, 1989, pages 73-99, cited below as ARAB).  He writes, “Mount Simirria, a large mountain peak, which stands out like the blade of a lance, raising its head above the mountains where the goddess Belit-ilani resides, whose summit reaches to the heavens above, whose root strikes downward into the midst of Arallu (the lower world); where, as on the back of a fish, there is no going side by side, and where the ascent is difficult (whether one goes) forward or backward …”  George Roux translates the phrase “back of a fish” as “like the spine of a fish” (page 260 in Ancient Iraq, Cleveland: World Publishing, 1964).

    On this cuneiform tablet, Sargon II the king of Assyria, addresses the supreme god of Assyria, Assur and recounts his campaign against the kingdom of Urartu in the year 714 BC.

    Sargon II and his army left the capital, Calah, and went into the Zagros Mountains to secure his eastern flank before he attacked the kingdom of Urartu.  The “spine of the fish” quote comes in the first part of Sargon’s campaign and not his campaign against Urartu.  Sargon identifies Mount Simimia as the mountain described as the “spine of the fish” (Luckenbill 1989: II: 74).   There have been a number of scholarly works on the geography of eighth campaign by Sargon II against Urartu and this mountain can be pinpointed on a map.

    A helpful tool to research the location of Mount Simimia and follow the route of Sargon’s campaign are the maps in the Helsinki Atlas of the Near East in the Neo-Assyrian Period (Edited by S. Parpola and M. Porter, Casco Bay Assyriological Institute and the Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, 2001).  I engaged in a simple exercise by spreading the map from the back of the atlas out on a table and read the account in ARAB and followed the route from one place, region or mountain to another.  Mt. Simirria was located at Kuh-I Saih Maret, on the eastern edge of the Zagros Mountains, about 40 kilometers to the north of modern day Sanandag and 190 kilometers northwest of modern day Hamadan, not in the Mountains of Urartu as the BASE website maintains (Parpola and Porter 2001: 5, 7, 16; map 11).

    Sargon II’s account is helpful in another respect because it delineates the eastern border of Urartu and demonstrates that the Elborz Mountains are not in the Land of Urartu.

    Sargon II’s campaign goes up the east side of Lake Urmiah and reaches a point near modern day Mount Sahand, a large volcanic mountain to the east of the lake.  Sargon writes, “I stopped my march on Andia and Zikirtu which lay before me, and set my face toward Urartu.  Uishdish, a district of the Mannean country, which Ursa had seized and taken for his own, with its many cities, which are countless as the stars of heaven, I captured in its entirety” (ARAB II: 84, para. 157).  Ursa is the Assyrian name for the Urartian king Rusa.

    Dr. Paul Zimansky has observed: “Sargon’s account shows sensitivity to a distinction between territory that is truly “Urartian” and territory which is merely under Rusa’s political control.  For example, the letter states that Uisdis [also spelled Uishdish – gf] was a Mannean province which Rusa had expropriated” (“Urartian Geography and Sargon’s Eighth Campaign”, Journal of Near Eastern Studies 49 (1990), page 7).

    Sargon goes on to say: “From Uishdish I departed, (and) drew near to the city of Ushkaia, the great fortress on the outer frontier (lit. head of boundary) of Urartu, which bars the pass into the Zaranda district like a door” (ARAB II: 84, para. 158).  Zimansky continues his observation: “Only after his march through it [the district of Uishdish – gf], upon entering the next province, does Sargon claim to have crossed the border into Urartu” (JNES 49 (1990), page 7).  The next province, Zaranda, is northwest of Lake Urmiah.

    The unsubstantiated speculation of the BASE research team that the Urartian mountain, described by Sargon II as like a “spine of a fish,” is in the El Borz Mountain Range is wrong on two accounts.  First, the “spine of the fish” quote by Sargon II is not referring to the Mountains of Urartu, as the BASE website claims, but rather Mt. Simimia in the Zagros Mountain Range.  Second, the Elburz Mountain Range is not in the Land of Ararat / Urartu.

    It is clear that whatever the object of interest found by the BASE team on Mount Suleiman in Iran, it can not be Noah’s Ark because our compass, the Bible, clearly states that the Ark landed in the Mountains of Ararat / Urartu and Mount Suleiman is not in the Mountains of Ararat!  This we can say with certainty. That naturally raises one question.

    What is it?

    Since the object of interest found by the BASE team can not be Noah’s Ark, then what is it?  I can only venture a guess because I have not been to the mountain, nor have I seen the material first hand.  I suspect it is some sort of geological formation.  Or, as one Ark hunter so eloquently put it, “It could be plain old rocks that mean nothing!”  At the end of the day, this will prove to be the correct assessment.

    I was able to locate one geological report on the geology of Takht-i-Suleiman in the Elburz Mountain Range in Iran.  It was co-authored by Augusto Gansser and Heinrich Huber in 1962.  The article, in English, was entitled “Geological Observations in the Central Elburz, Iran” and published in Schweizerische Mineralogische und Petrographische Mitteilungen (Vol. 42, pages 583-630).

    Gansser and Huber observe that “The Pre-Devonian sedimentary uplifts show a regional, though slight metamorphism and their fracture system is accentuated by a dense dike and sill network of diabasic composition” (page 590).  One geologist pointed out to me that “diabase is often a dark rock and could correspond to what was shown in the photos.”

    Since I am not a geologist, I can not make a fair and accurate assessment of the material.  If there are any serious ark researchers with geological training that does not have access to this publication, I will be glad to make it available.  With more published information available, the discussion can go forward on a much more informed academic level.  It would be helpful if the BASE researchers provided other researchers with the exact GPS coordinates for the site.

    The Challenge to the BASE Institute

    I hope in the weeks and months to come, the BASE Institute will follow the standard protocol of the scientific community and present their findings in the proper way.  Ark researchers and some archaeologists would like to see all the material published in a peer reviewed scientific journal(s), either a geological and/or an archaeological one.

    The late Ron Wyatt claimed to have found ninety-two (92) Biblical objects or places, yet he never published a single object in a peer reviewed scientific publication.  The only thing that was ever published in a peer reviewed journal was by his partner, Dave Fasold, and it was not a pretty review of Wyatt’s “Noah’s ark.”  [Lorence Collins and Dave Fasold, “Bogus ‘Noah’s Ark’ from Turkey Exposed as a Common Geologic Structure”, Journal of Geoscience Education 44 (1996) 439-444].  The BASE Institute has made claims of four Biblical discoveries, yet none of the first three (Mt. Sinai in Saudi Arabia, the ark of the covenant in Ethiopia, or the anchors from Paul’s shipwreck off the coast of Malta) have ever been published in a peer reviewed scientific publication by the BASE Institute.  (A popular book for the lay audience, with a few pictures, is not a scientific publication).  I hope with this discovery, the BASE Institute will follow normal scientific protocol and not follow in the footsteps of Ron Wyatt.

    With so many theories claiming to discover biblical truth, the evangelical Christian community must be very discerning and follow the model of the Bereans who, after hearing the Apostle Paul himself, “searched the Scriptures to see whether these things are true.”  Before swallowing the next claim, our community must do our homework on the history, archaeology, geology and geography of the landing place of Noah’s Ark using primary sources and hard data. If we cannot, then hold off judgment (pro or con) until others are given the opportunity to do so.

    At this point the claims made by BASE Institute do not seem to have any merit. For the sake of the truth, however, I encourage the BASE Institute investigators to offer scholars, independent of the BASE Institute, full access to all the data. Let their best evidence come under the tests of scholarly scrutiny. When all the test results are in, the investigation and its claims will either be vindicated or proven false.  The church, the witness to an unbelieving world, and truth itself deserve no less.

    Revised October 15, 2006

    Revised January 26, 2007


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