Why I Wrote ‘The Cities that Built the Bible’

The Roman Forum

The Roman Forum

On March 15, 2016, HarperCollins will be releasing my latest book, The Cities that Built the Bible. You can read more about the book and preorder your copy today at http://citiesthatbuiltthebible.com.

In a nutshell, I wrote the book because Nicole Kidman once asked me where the Bible came from, and I didn’t have a ready answer. So I spent the next decade researching the question. But instead of asking who wrote it, or how it became the holy word of God to believers, I wanted to demonstrate how various ancient political entities and international events–each represented by a particular city–contributed to the composition of the Bible.

I also wanted to look at the Israelite, Judahite, Jewish, and Christian responses to these events, as these reflections upon the successes and tragedies experienced by those who believed in the Hebrew God became some of the very texts preserved in the Bible.

Cover of The Cities that Built the Bible by Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D.So join me as we travel through these ancient cities and we’ll explore their history, their archaeology, and how each of them drove the building of the Bible.

For both the religious and the non-religious, understanding the forces that shaped this most influential of books is possible on a guided tour through The Cities that Built the Bible.

Preorder today at http://citiesthatbuiltthebible.com.

 

 

Preorder now: The Cities that Built the Bible

On March 15th, my latest book, The Cities that Built the Bible will be released by HarperOne. Cover of The Cities that Built the Bible by Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D.

The book has a simple thesis: without the cities of Tyre, Sidon, Byblos, Ugarit, Nineveh, Babylon, Megiddo, Athens, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Qumran, Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Rome, we wouldn’t have the Bible as we have it today. I wrote this book in order to demonstrate the influence that certain cities in antiquity had over the composition and canonization of the Bible. Each city discussed in the book makes key contributions that produced the Bible we have today.

Now to be sure, I could have discussed a number of other cities like Corinth, Thessaloniki, Ephesus, Constantinople / Istanbul, İznik (Nicaea), etc. (and to be honest, I did originally, but had we left them in the manuscript, we’d be looking at an expensive 2-volume set), but these are the cities that made the largest contributions to the development of the Bible.

I’ve written this book so that everyone can read it, from specialist to newcomer; from those who know Hebrew and Aramaic and Greek to those who have only heard of those languages. I include a number of my own stories (like that time I, well, kind of entered into Lebanon illegally, or the time I got to visit the secret vault inside the Shrine of the Book where the Dead Sea Scrolls are stored) and experiences on archaeological excavations and other travels through the Holy Land. I deliberately included a ton of relevant Bible verses in an effort to demonstrate how the social setting and the archaeological discoveries from each of these cities influenced and relate directly to the Bible.

As I said earlier, The Cities that Built the Bible is on sale March 15, but you can preorder your copy today at the book’s website, http://citiesthatbuiltthebible.com. It is my hope that the book will deepen your understanding of the biblical world, the history of the eastern Mediterranean, and will inspire you perhaps to travel to a few of these places. Once you’ve preordered your copy of The Cities that Built the Bible, visit the Media section of the website to read and download quotes from the book that you can share on your social media sites. And please link to http://citiesthatbuiltthebible.com when you post them!

Enjoy the book! Tell your friends. I can’t wait to hear what you think of it. And I hope you have as much fun reading it as I had writing it.

Some questions about the recent news of the discovery of a seal bearing the name of King Hezekiah in Jerusalem

Given the recent news of the discovery of a seal bearing the name of King Hezekiah in Jerusalem, I have a few questions pertaining to the details, the timing, and the relevance of the announcement.

The main question I’m asking is why now? Why issue a press release now? This seal was discovered in 2010 after wet sifting dirt from the Ophel Excavation in 2009. No one disputes Hezekiah’s historicity, especially given the extra-biblical corroboration in Sennacherib’s Annals. And there are previous known seal impressions with the name of Hezekiah on them. So why again? Why now?

Is it because it is Christmas?

Is it for political purposes to combat the annual (false) Palestinian claim that there is no evidence of a Jewish presence on the Temple mount?

Is it to draw a distinction between the Ophel Excavation (Dr. Mazar’s excavation) and the Temple Mount Sifting Project whose sifting facility it shares?

Does suggesting that this is the first seal impression of Hezekiah discovered in a “scientific excavation” imply that previous discoveries of Hezekiah bullae are not credible? Or, is it designed to suggest that they are, in fact, credible because a similar discovery has now been made in a controlled context?

Is suggesting that this is the first seal impression of Hezekiah discovered in a “scientific excavation” designed to counter those claiming that since the seal impression was discovered in an ancient garbage pit (which by nature means that the archaeological stratigraphy is compromised in antiquity), that we can’t trust the dating? If it bears the name of Hezekiah, that’s a pretty good indication of its date, even if the stratigraphy is compromised. (And is the claim of a garbage pit theorized to explain why 8th C. BCE remains are located beneath proposed 10th C. BCE remains? Dr. Mazar explains her thinking in the video, but many archaeologists are not convinced by her claims dating certain structures to the 10th C. BCE.)

The press release states,

“This bulla came to light, together with many pottery sherds and other finds such as figurines and seals, in Area A of the excavations (2009 season), supervised by Hagai Cohen-Klonymus.”

I accept that the bulla is from where Dr. Mazar says it was discovered. I don’t think they mixed up the buckets with the Sifting Project. From what I can ascertain, the dirt from the 2009 Ophel Excavation garbage pit was sent to the Sifting Project’s wet sifting facility (which the Sifting Project claims they share), and in 2010 they discovered the bulla, in the dirt, from the sifting of the garbage pit. There is, or course, the obvious stratigraphical problem of digging in a garbage pit (see 4:15 onward), but that doesn’t mean we discount everything discovered in an ancient dump.

My question has to do with the timing of the new YouTube video and the new press release? Is it to promote the new reading of the Ahaz portion of the seal? If so, should we expect an article discussing the new reading?

And if that’s what this is about (the new reading of the inscription), then what do other epigraphers say about this reading? No “ben” in between Hezekiah and Ahaz? And does it really say Ahaz? Does it fit within the border of the seal?

And is this announcement–especially given the highly charged and controversial location of these two excavations–done for any political purpose?? This is the problem that many people have had with the Ophel and City of David excavations. I can only hope that the timing of this announcement isn’t for any modern political purpose.

 

These are my questions. I have no problem with the discovery. I have no reason to believe it is a forgery. I don’t have a problem with the new reading (but I’d like to know what others think). As far as I know, it’s a nice discovery of a seal of Hezekiah.

The problems is that the discovery is 5 years old, and that at the end of the day, this discovery tells us nothing new. The only real claim from Dr. Mazar is that this is the first Hezekiah bulla to be discovered “in a scientific context”.

My question is why recycle this discovery now? The discovery (from 5 years ago) doesn’t tell us anything new. So why now?

King Hezekiah’s Other Seal Impression

With news (see Dr. Candida Moss’ article) of the discovery of yet another seal impression of King Hezekiah (about whom there is little debate concerning his historicity, as he is already known from extra-biblical sources like Sennacherib’s hexagonal prisms), I thought I’d share the much rarer evidence of King Hezekiah’s lesser known, other seal impression.

King Hezekiah's Other Seal Impression. (Mashup by Robert R. Cargill).

King Hezekiah’s Other Seal Impression.

BTW, you can read all about Hezekiah and Sennacherib’s Annals in Chapter 4 of the forthcoming book, Cities that Built the Bible (HarperOne, 2016), available for pre-order now.

TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY INTERNATIONAL MA PROGRAM IN ANCIENT ISRAEL STUDIES OFFERS $5,000 (US) “SCIENCE IN ARCHAEOLOGY” TUITION ASSISTANCE SCHOLARSHIPS

Tel Aviv University International MA Program in Archaeology and History of the Land of the BibleThe International MA Program in Ancient Israel Studies: Archaeology and History of the Land of the Bible at Tel Aviv University is pleased to announce a new and unique scholarship opportunity for the academic year 2015-2016.

The $5,000 (US) tuition assistance scholarships in Science in Archaeology will be granted to a number of students with proven records of academic excellence in the fields of Life and Exact Sciences who wish to broaden their knowledge and understanding of Ancient Israel, and specialize in the field of Archaeological Science.

Scholarships for the academic year 2015-2016 will be granted by the academic committee of the Department of Archaeology and Near Eastern Cultures to students with a BSc in Life or Exact Sciences, who meet the program’s application requirements, on the basis of their:

  • Academic CV
  • Final transcript from last academic establishment
  • Abstract of final paper submitted to the last academic establishment
  • Letters of recommendation

Successful applicants will be accepted to the program’s one year (three semester) program, in which they will explore Israel’s perplexing and complex past via classes in theory, field work experience, and study tours of some of the most exciting excavation sites in Israel (such as City of David, Megiddo, Hazor, Masada, and Caesarea).

Upon successfully completing the one year program in Ancient Israel Studies, students will be able to continue on to a second-year thesis track of Science in Archaeology, in which they will be able to conduct research in Archaeobotany, Archaeometallurgy, Archaeozoology, or Archaeomaterials.

Application deadline: July 15th, 2015.

For further information regarding the scholarships, application process and requirements, please contact the program’s manager, Ms. Nadin Reshef, at nadinres@tauex.tau.ac.il.

Iowa State University Lecture: A Virtual Reconstruction of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls

Dr. Robert Cargill looks at a copy of the Great Isaiah Scroll in the Shrine of the Book, Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

Dr. Robert Cargill looks at a copy of the Great Isaiah Scroll in the Shrine of the Book, Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

Iowa State University has posted online the audio of my Oct 23, 2014 lecture at ISU entitled, “A Virtual Reconstruction of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls: Recent Advances and the Future of the Field“, along with the video of my PowerPoint. The video capture of the digital model toward the end is sketchy, but the audio and PPT slides and audio came out OK.

If you want to hear/watch the lecture, simply click the above link, right-click on the “Download Podcast” icon at the bottom of the list on the right, and save it to your computer. (The file is 111 MB total.) After it downloads, add .mp4 to the end of the file name, and then simply double-click to play or open it in QuickTime.

Many thanks to Dr. Hector Avalos for the invitation to speak. It was a beautiful evening on a beautiful campus in Ames, IA

Summary:

Robert Cargill, an assistant professor of Classics and religious studies at the University of Iowa, will discuss how recent advances in the fields of archaeology and the digital humanities have enabled scholars to create digital reconstructions of archaeological remains at Qumran, the site associated with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. He uses 3D and virtual reality to introduce the audience to the ancient sites, proposes various reconstructions, and highlights the process for databasing archaeological data. Cargill was the chief architect and designer of the Qumran Visualization Project at UCLA’s Center for Digital Humanities. He has appeared as an expert on the National Geographic special, Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls, and History’s documentary series Bible Secrets Revealed. He is also the author of the recent book, Qumran through (Real) Time: A Virtual Reconstruction of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Co-sponsored by:

  • ISU Atheist and Agnostic Society
  • ISU Philosophy Club
  • Philosophy & Religious Studies
  • Committee on Lectures (funded by GSB)

 

Raphael Golb re-sentenced to 2 months in prison, 3 years probation

Go_To_JailAccording to the AP:

A man convicted of using digital-age tools to impersonate and malign his father’s academic rivals on the ancient subject of the Dead Sea Scrolls was sentenced Monday to two months in jail after the state’s highest court tossed out some of his convictions — and with them, a state aggravated-harassment law.

The sentencing of Raphael Golb, who also got three years’ probation, came after the Court of Appeals upheld convictions on other charges, including criminal impersonation and forgery. Golb had been sentenced earlier to six months’ jail but free on bail during his appeal.

Golb was given a surrender date of July 22, but could ask the courts to hold off the jail term while appealing the case further.

So once again, the courts have decided that Dr. Golb is a convicted criminal. Dr. Golb was sentenced yet again to two months in prison and three years probation.

Raphael Golb, son of Ludwig Rosenberger Professor in Jewish History and Civilization at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago Dr. Norman Golb, committed multiple crimes, was caught, lied about it to police, then claimed he was just joking, was convicted, was sentenced, appealed his conviction, was still found to be guilty on multiple counts, and now has been re-sentenced.

Dr. Golb is still guilty. Dr. Golb is still a criminal. Dr. Golb has been sentenced to do time.

(And of course, Dr. Golb will appeal yet again…)


For a history of this case, click here.

 

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