Archaeologists Dig Up Authentic Biblical Artifacts at Ancient City of Shiloh

by Chris Mitchell/CBS News – JERUSALEM, Israel – Archaeology doesn’t set out to prove or disprove the Bible. What we want to do is to illuminate the biblical text, the background of the text, so to set it in a real world culture to what we call verisimilitude, Dr. Scott Stripling

Driving along the route known as the Way of the Patriarchs in Samaria, the heart of biblical Israel, you’ll come to ancient Shiloh.

The Bible says this is the place where Joshua parceled out the Promised Land to the 12 tribes of Israel. It’s also where the Tabernacle of the Lord stood for more than 300 years.

Excavation Director Dr. Scott Stripling, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

Excavation Director Dr. Scott Stripling, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

Dr. Scott Stripling directs the excavations at Shiloh. Along with dozens of volunteers, he and his crew are digging into history.

“Welcome to ancient Shiloh,” Stripling greeted us. “This is the first capital of ancient Israel and it’s a sacred spot because the Mishkan was here, the Tabernacle, where people came to connect with God.”

“We’re dealing with real people, real places, real events,” he continued. “This is not mythology. The coins that we excavated today – we’re talking about coins of Herod the Great, Pontius Pilate, Thestos, Felix, Agrippa the First, Agrippa the Second. The Bible talks about these people. We’ve got the image right here.”

Aerial view of ancient Shiloh, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

Aerial view of ancient Shiloh, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

That ‘image’ includes a fortified wall built by the Canaanites. The team finds a treasure trove of artifacts there, which includes ancient coins and some 2,000 pieces of pottery a day.

“Now, this one was from yesterday,” he said. “It’s been washed already so you see the same form right out of the ground in yesterday and those are those handles from the stone vessels. Remember, Jesus’ first miracle in Cana? There were stone jars full of water. That’s that ritual purity culture of the first century.”

Unearthing ancient pottery, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

Unearthing ancient pottery, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

An archaeologist like Dr. Stripling looks at these shards as a fine time piece.

“Just like your great grandmother’s pottery is different from your pottery that you’re using today…once we learn the pottery, then we can use it as our primary means of dating.”

Stripling says literally digging into the Bible can change your life.”

“You can read the Bible, you can walk the Bible, but the ultimate is to dig the Bible,” he said. “You know, when we actually get into the swill, like these students from Lea University. They’re literally – it’s under their fingernails and in their nose and in their mouth and their ears and they’re exposing this ancient culture. It becomes one with you. It’s sort of like we came out of the soil and as we dig into the soil, we connect with God and with each other, I think, in a very important way,” he said.

Abigail Leavitt, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

Abigail Leavitt, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

Abigail Leavitt, a student at the University of Pikesville, serves as object registrar.
“I love getting my hands dirty. I love digging in the dirt. It’s my favorite thing,” she told CBN News.

While people of all age volunteer at the dig, the main drivers are students like Abigail.

“It’s tiring and exhausting, but it’s really rewarding,” she said. “It’s exciting to find ancient things – things that have been just waiting for us for thousands of years.”

Leavitt says the Bible comes alive in the dirt.

“I read the Bible totally differently than I did before I came here, and I can see when I read the Bible I know the places, I know what’s going on. I understand it more deeply, especially where previous archaeologists have claimed the archaeology disproves the Bible. But when we dig here, we find that everything matches. You read it in the Bible. You dig in the dirt and there it is,” she said.

Stripling said, “Archaeology doesn’t set out to prove or disprove the Bible. What we want to do is to illuminate the biblical text, the background of the text, so to set it in a real world culture to what we call verisimilitude,” he explained.

Cross-section of the Archaeological dig - Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

Cross-section of the Archaeological dig – Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

“So, we get an ancient literary description. Now, we have a material culture that matches that,” he continued. “Chris, you’re sitting where Samuel and Eli and Hannah and these people that we have read about, they came just like us, needing answers, needing to connect with God, needing forgiveness.”

Stripling says they dig into the past and find lessons for the present.

One of the faith lessons for us is that God is the potter and we are the clay

One of the faith lessons for us is that God is the potter and we are the clay

“One of the faith lessons for us is that God is the potter and we are the clay. And even if our lives are broken like these vessels are, God told Jeremiah after He had told him to go to Shiloh and see what He had done, He told him to go to the potter’s house and look at a flawed vessel and see how the potter puts it back on the wheel and works out the imperfections. So my faith lesson is this: Yes we’re imperfect, but if we will allow God, He wants to put us [on] His potter’s wheel and make us a vessel of honor.”

Stripling often cites Psalm 102.

O Zion, your servants take delight in its stones and favor its dust.” (Ps. 102:14)

“For me this is sacred soil. This is where the Mishkan was that answers the most basic of all human questions: ‘How do I connect with God?’ And I think that’s their most basic question,” he said.

“I know I messed up. I know that God is holy. How do I bridge that gap when I sin against other people, when I sin against God. Ultimately, Chris, if the Bible is true, then the God of the Bible has a moral claim on our lives. And as we establish the veracity of the biblical text, I hope that everyone watching would just think about that – that God loves us and He has a moral claim on our lives.”

Please check out the original article on the CBN News website. Please don’t forget to support their work on their website.

Chris Mitchell covers CBN News and events in Israel and the Middle East. He brings a Biblical and prophetic perspective to these daily news events that shape our world. Chris first began reporting on the Middle East in the mid-1990s. He repeatedly traveled there to report on the religious and political issues facing Israel and the surrounding Arab states. One of his more significant reports focused on the emigration of persecuted Christians from the Middle East.

In addition to his reports for The 700 Club, Chris is also a regular contributor to Christian World News, a weekly 30-minute newscast that airs nationally in multiple markets. After almost a decade with CBN News, Chris’s goal is to provide in his stories the Biblical “understanding of the times” described in I Chronicles 12:32. Connect with Chris via @JlemDateline and .

Orthodox Rabbis Say Christianity Is God’s Plan, Vatican Says Stop Evangelizing Jews

Alessandra Tarantino / AP Images
Experts assess letter exchange marking 50th anniversary of famous detente.

Five decades ago, the Roman Catholic Church famously acknowledged the unique relationship between Jews and Christians. In the wake of World War II, the Vatican officially rejected anti-Semitism and a common manifestation—charges of deicide—and affirmed the covenant between God and the Jewish people.

Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Nostra Aetate declaration, a group of Orthodox rabbis signed and released a statement this month acknowledging that “Christianity is neither an accident nor an error, but the willed divine outcome and gift to the nations.”

In separating Jews and Christians, God was not separating enemies but partners with significant theological differences, the rabbis wrote. “Both Jews and Christians have a common covenantal mission to perfect the world under the sovereignty of the Almighty, so that all humanity will call on His name and abominations will be removed from the earth.”

A week later, the Vatican, through its the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, honored the Nostra Aetate anniversary by releasing a statement, saying that Catholics should not evangelize Jews—at least in an organized way.

The back-to-back events weren’t unrelated: Rabbi David Rosen, the American Jewish Committee’s international director of interreligious affairs, signed the first document and spoke at the Vatican presentation of the second. [Christianity Today previously interviewed Rosen on how Jews and Christians can converse well.]

The Catholic document is, in its own words, "not a magisterial document or doctrinal teaching of the Catholic Church, but is a reflection … intended to be a starting point for further theological thought." It is entitled “The Gifts and the Calling of God Are Irrevocable” [a nod to Romans 11:29] and explains:

The Church is therefore obliged to view evangelization to Jews, who believe in the one God, in a different manner from that to people of other religions and world views. In concrete terms this means that the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews. While there is a principled rejection of an institutional Jewish mission, Christians are nonetheless called to bear witness to their faith in Jesus Christ also to Jews, although they should do so in a humble and sensitive manner, acknowledging that Jews are bearers of God’s Word, and particularly in view of the great tragedy of the Shoah [the Hebrew term for the Holocaust].

These conciliatory statements are markers of a path that Jews and Christians have been on since the ending of the Holocaust, said Marv Wilson, biblical studies professor at Gordon College and author of several textbooks on Judaism.

“One of the reasons this is happening now is that there’s a growing humility, a modesty in Christian theological expression,” he told Christianity Today (CT). For Jews, the words “mission” or “conversion” are historically connected with the Crusades, the Inquisition, Jewish expulsion from Spain in 1492, and the silence of many Christian churches during the Holocaust.

But today, Jewish leaders have seen “deep introspection and self-correction” in the church, he said. In addition, they see Christianity as an ally against anti-Semitism in Europe or culture assimilation in America, he said.

The Jewish statement—widely seen as the most notable since Dabru Emet, signed by 170 Jewish scholars in 2000—is remarkable for two reasons, North Park Theological Seminary professor Jay Phelan told Christianity Today. First, it comes from Judaism's Orthodox branch, which tends to set itself apart. And second, it calls Christianity the “will of God.” “Few Orthodox rabbis would put it that strongly,” said Phelan. “Maybe they would see [Christianity] as something that God could work with, but not necessarily his intention. That is what is new for me.”

While the Jewish statement is a signpost of improving Jewish-Christian relationships, it shouldn’t be interpreted as a consensus among Jewish rabbis, Orthodox rabbi Yehiel Poupko told Christianity Today.

“No major Jewish Halachic (Jewish legal) authority has signed the statement,” he said. “And Jewish thought has, for centuries, emerged not from individuals signing letters but from a long, slow process of scholarship that builds communal consensus. This statement did not do that. In addition, complex theological issues do not readily lend themselves to full expression in short sentences presented in brief public statements.”

But it isn’t meaningless.

“The statement is a very real indication that the Orthodox rabbinate is grappling with how to understand Christianity in an era when Christianity is reaching out to Judaism and has repented of its sins against us,” he said.

The warm relationship between Jews and evangelicals is still in its infancy, Poupko said. “We are feeling our way, and this statement should not be viewed as a consensus, let alone a final statement. Rather, it’s an indication of the theological and intellectual ferment in the Orthodox rabbinate about Christianity.”

Christianity—and Islam, for that matter—are actually Jewish success stories, he said, “because Christianity and Islam use the Torah, and as a consequence, people who would now be pagans have knowledge of and are in relationship with the one God.”

Experts told Christianity Today that neither statement wipes out the significant theological differences between Christians and Jews.

“The statement focuses on moral rather than theological solidarity,” National Association of Evangelicals president Leith Anderson said of the rabbis’ document. “The emphasis is on some of our common heritage in the Bible and tradition with shared values in justice, love, and righteousness. … The statement moves the conversation from Israel and the Middle East to moral and traditional common ground. Without denying our difference, it declares what we all believe and want.”

The Vatican statement asserts:

[F]rom the Christian confession that there can be only one path to salvation, however, it does not in any way follow that the Jews are excluded from God’s salvation because they do not believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah of Israel and the Son of God.

That apparent contradiction, the Vatican says, “remains an unfathomable divine mystery.”

Should evangelicals leap in with an equivalent offer to abstain from evangelism to Jews? That’s complicated, said Joel Hunter, senior pastor of Northland Church in Florida and co-convener of the Evangelical-Jewish National Conversation.

“While Roman Catholics can, and historically do, consign matters to divine mystery, evangelicals are less prone to let them rest there,” he told CT. “While we can certainly agree that the Jews are participants in God's [unfolding] salvation, and we can affirm that they are complete in that role, it is more difficult for us not to want to share with them our deepest joy.”

Verses such as Romans 1:16 (“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”) and the order of Acts 1:8 (“…and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”) are difficult for evangelicals to avoid when it comes to sharing their faith, Hunter said.

“[Jews] do not need to change in order for them to be God’s gift to us, and for us to cooperate fully with them and love them fully,” he said. “Yet because my identity is Christ [Galatians 2:20], my desire to be personally close to them will involve my sharing Christ by word or deed.”

Jews for Jesus executive director David Brickner was more forceful, calling the Vatican’s position “egregious.”

“They need to be reminded that they first received that gospel message from the lips of Jews who were for Jesus,” Brickner stated in the group’s response to the Vatican statement. “We believe that the Apostle Paul, whose name is invoked frequently in the Vatican document, would be horrified at this repudiation of the words with which he started his letter in Romans: ‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.’”

Jim Melnick, international coordinator of the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism (LCJE), agreed.

“While we applaud the Vatican’s efforts to combat anti-Semitism and to show love and honor to the Jewish people—one area where the document succeeds—we strongly reject how it has turned the scripture of Romans 11 on its head in order to end up with the exact opposite meaning of what the Apostle Paul intended regarding the salvation of the Jewish people,” he stated in LCJE’s response to the Vatican statement. “When Paul wrote that ‘the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable,’ he was saying that the Jewish people remain beloved in His sight—not that they can find salvation without faith in Yeshua.”

Paul’s statement was made in the context of a larger message about the Jewish refusal to recognize Jesus as Messiah, said Jason Poling, Hunter's co-convener of the Evangelical-Jewish National Conversation. “Paul certainly thinks they ought to do so, and he demonstrates throughout his apostolic ministry an interest in Jews and Gentiles alike worshipping Jesus as Messiah and Lord—precisely on the ground of God's grace to all of humanity as demonstrated in Jesus’ own faithfulness.”

But the theological divide shouldn’t stop the Jewish-Christian conversation, he said. “Jewish-Christian relations can only be enriched by the participation of colleagues like these Orthodox rabbis who recognize theological pluralism as a phenomenon without embracing it as doctrine.”

Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra is a freelance reporter; an adjunct instructor at Trinity Christian College and a Contributing Editor to Christianity Today International. Sarah teaches several courses publications, freshman composition, and introduction to journalism at Trinity Christian College where she is also the advisor for the student newspaper, the Courier.

Read the original article on the Christianity Today website.