Biblical inscription from Mt. Ebal, but a note of caution

Mind the Gap, indeed!

Bible, Archaeology, and Travel with Luke Chandler

Archaeologists have revealed a small, ancient lead amulet with an inscription that was discovered on Mt. Ebal in the rubbish pile of a previous excavation. Back in the 1980s, Dr. Adam Zertal uncovered a stone structure atop Mt. Ebal that some interpret as an altar built by Joshua in the Bible (Josh 8:30-31) Mt. Ebal is also one of the mountains of blessing & cursing in Deut. 27 and Josh. 8. These types of amulets are known from the ancient world and contained inscriptions folded and sealed inside thin sheets of lead. The lead folds on this amulet couldn’t be opened without breakage so researchers employed tomographic scans of the exterior and interior to try and discern the hidden inscription.

Images of the folded lead tablet found on Mt. Ebal. The object is small, roughly 1 inch square.
Photo by Michael C. Luddeni. (Courtesy of Associates for Biblical Research)


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Grace, Faith, and Obedience

Footnote 42 — Christopher JH Wright, Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1992), p68 LOGOS edition

“The promise to Abraham was effective because he believed it and acted upon it, continuing to do so long after it had become humanly impossible. The exodus was promised by God, but it would not have happened if the Israelites had not responded to the leading of Moses, and even then some of them did so reluctantly. The same people received the promise of the land, but because their faith and obedience failed at the crucial point, they never received it and perished in the wilderness. And so it goes on all the way through scripture. The promise comes as the initiative of God’s grace and always depends on his grace. But that grace has to be accepted and responded to by faith and obedience.”

Prohibition Mythologies

Footnote 41 — Michael Lewis and Richard F. Hamm, eds., Prohibition’s Greatest Myths: The Distilled Truth About America’s Anti-Alcohol Campaign (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2020).

This is an intriguing scholarly volume of essays marking the centennial of Prohibition in the United States. From the Preface: “This volume began at a conference in the Netherlands when a few prohibition scholars were collectively bemoaning the gap between what historians know about prohibition and what much of the public believes about it…

“As the contributors to the volume were finishing their essays, potent signs of how disruptive alcohol is in our society gave this topic renewed urgency. In a public hearing before a vast audience connected to the scene electronically, a US senator and a nominee for the US Supreme Court questioned each other about whether they drank to the point of memory loss or blackout. Just a week earlier, the World Health Organization had released a massive report on the ill effects of alcohol. It declared that more than 3 million people died because of harmful use of alcohol in 2016. Further, the WHO concluded, “alcohol caused more than 5% of the global disease burden.” Yet, in response to the manifest problems caused by alcohol today, there is no movement seeking to ban alcohol in the United States or throughout much of the world.

“One reason for the lack of such a movement today is that prohibition, especially the American experience of national prohibition, is widely perceived to have been a colossal failure.”

Some of the chapter headings, and myths exploded, in this volume:

“Religious Conservatives Spearheaded the Prohibition Movement”

“Alcohol Consumption Increased During the Prohibition Era”

“Repeal Happened Because Prohibition Was a Failure”

“Prohibition Was Uniquely American”

“Prohibition Changed Little About American Drinking Habits”

“The Current Debates About Marijuana Legalization Are the Same as Those That Ended Prohibition”

And more.

Oblivion Shuns Its Pages

Footnote 40 — Abraham Heschel, God in Search of Man (New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 1983), 242.

“Irrefutably, indestructibly, never wearied by time, the Bible wanders through the ages … as if it belonged to every soul on earth. It speaks in every language and in every age … We all draw upon it, and it remains pure, inexhaustible, and complete. In three thousand years it has not aged a day. It is a book that cannot die. Oblivion shuns its pages. Its power is not subsiding. In fact, it is still at the very beginning of its career.”

“How Archaeology Works” webinar!

Bible, Archaeology, and Travel with Luke Chandler

There is a special opportunity to see and learn how archaeology really works this Sunday evening, August 9, at 8pm Eastern Time. For just $10 (only $5 for ASOR members) you can attend a live webinar from the Biblical Archaeology Society on “Digging Deeper: How Archaeology Works.”

This affordable webinar is hosted by Dr. Eric Cline, an internationally renowned archaeologist with more than thirty seasons of excavation experience. His archaeological work ranges from Greece and Crete to Egypt, Israel, and Jordan. Dr. Cline is also a Pulitzer-nominated author and is currently co-directing a new dig at biblical Hazor with Yossi Garfinkel, the archaeologist with whom I have worked for years.

Your $10 (or $5) registration includes several benefits:

  • Get a firsthand look at how archaeology really does work. Break through media misconceptions and see how archaeologists perform their craft. How do they know where to dig? What is it like…

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Footnote 39 – Safed the Sage

Footnote 39 — William E. Barton, The Parables of Safed the Sage (Chicago: Advance Publishing Company, 1917).


I LOVE the work of William Eleazer Barton (father of Bruce Barton of Jesus-as-salesman genre of books). WE Barton was an Illinois native (and Lincoln scholar, particularly of Lincoln’s religion) who preached in the Chicago area before affiliating with Oberlin and then migrating to Vanderbilt when Oberlin’s School of Theology merged with Vandy’s Divinity School. Late in life he became a mentor to a young Vanderbilt grad student, Henry Lee Saint, who late in his life became my major professor at Vanderbilt. Barton was also Editor of Bib Sac for several years. His Safed & Keturah sagas are a hoot (but often with a serious kick). I especially like the Parable of the Potato Bug, among others. Here’s another good one:


“Now there came to me a man with a Sad Countenance, and he said, O Safed, thy words of wisdom are known to all men, and thy virtue exceedeth even thy wisdom; may thy days be long among men.

And I heard him, and I answered not; for the man who cometh unto me with a Little Too Much Taffy and Then Some hath an Axe to Grind. And I said, If thou hast Business, say on; for Time Passeth.

And he said, O Safed, I have a neighbor, and he is an Undesirable Citizen. His house joineth hard unto mine upon the North, and he annoyeth me continually. He and his Kids keep up a continual Rough House, which greatly annoyeth us. And he hath Daughters, and there come to see them Young Men, who sit with them on the Porch till Any Old Time at Night, and they Laugh and Raise Ned so that sleep is driven from our eyes, and slumber from our eyelids. Yea, and when we look that way we see things that Vex our Righteous Souls.

And I said, Are they Immoral? If so thou mayest call the Police.

And he said, They are not what you might call Immoral, for my wife hath watched them much through the Window; she hath a place where she sitteth and watcheth while she Darneth Stockings; yet are they noisy; yea, they are the Limit.

And I said unto him, How many windows hath thy house?

And he said, My house standeth Foursquare, and it hath windows toward the North, the South, the East and the West.

And I said unto him, Move thou over to the South side of thy House; thou shalt have more Sleep and Sunshine. Yea, moreover, speak thou unto thy wife that she Darn her Stockings where she hath less to see.

And he went away angry. But I counted it among my Good Deeds.

And I meditated thereon, and I considered that there are many people who live on the North Side of their own Souls; yea, they curse God that they hear the racket and are sad; and behold, their South Windows are unopened.”

-from The Parables of Safed the Sage, by Wm. E. Barton, Advance Publishing, Chicago, 1917.

Footnote 38 — God and Einstein

Footnote 38 — George Sylvester Viereck, Glimpses of the Great (New York, Macauley, 1930).


In an interview published in 1930, Albert Einstein responded to a question about whether he defined himself as a pantheist:

“Your question is the most difficult in the world. It is not a question I can answer simply with yes or no. I am not an Atheist. I do not know if I can define myself as a Pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds.

“May I not reply with a parable? The human mind, no matter how highly trained, cannot grasp the universe. We are in the position of a little child, entering a huge library whose walls are covered to the ceiling with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written those books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books, a mysterious order, which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of the human mind, even the greatest and most cultured, toward God. We see a universe marvelously arranged, obeying certain laws, but we understand the laws only dimly. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that sways the constellations. I am fascinated by Spinoza’s Pantheism. I admire even more his contributions to modern thought. Spinoza is the greatest of modern philosophers, because he is the first philosopher who deals with the soul and the body as one, not as two separate things.”



So, this happened during the Coronavirus shutdown: I am finally learning to cook.

One of the few things my Mom failed at was teaching her eldest son how to cook. Oh, there were some modest accomplishments: I learned to fry bacon and scramble eggs, grill burgers and hotdogs, mash potatoes, even bake a cake – all the basic food groups. I mean, after all, what more do you really need? I also learned to make a mean “Honeymoon Salad” (lettuce alone). Simple and uncomplicated is good.

True, we have done our fair share of ordering take-out during the shut-down, wanting to support local restaurants which stayed open and keep their employees on payroll. Chicago-style deep-dish pizza is just as tasty when eaten at home.

But along the way, we got a “teaser” offer from Sunbasket, a California firm which markets fresh-food ingredients, home-delivered each week. The first basket of 3 meal ingredients was half-off, with a free meal thrown in. So we selected a diabetic-friendly diet, and soon Sunbaskets started showing up on the porch, reliably delivered to the front door every week. We have discovered that while Instacart and the delivery services of Amazon and Walmart are impressive during “normal” times, they don’t always work well during a pandemic – even when items are in stock.


Cooking is waayy more time- and labor-intensive than I imagined.

Bette is an excellent cook. So was her mother. So was mine. (I knew that already).

Lentil sloppy joes are edible, when properly seasoned – but vastly improved with some beef!

There is a lovely, subtle yet profound intimacy in cooking together with a trusted partner who knows you well.

Still, you want to be pleasant and friendly when your cooking partner has a hand on a sharp utensil, blunt instrument, or pan of hot oil.

Spinach (and other rejected-in-childhood vegetables) CAN be prepared in ways that are downright tasty. But zucchini “noodles,” while nourishing, are still no substitute for pasta.

I have renewed appreciation for the bounty of God’s good earth, which He filled with food.

Props, kudos, and many thanks to the farmers who plant, grow, and harvest our foodstuffs. Many of us would starve if left to our own devices.

Blessings upon the memory of those who “discovered fire,” and the utility of heat which transforms many substances into more palatable forms.

And to those who invented refrigeration, and flash-freezing. (We are also supplementing with Schwan’s home delivery, which we had never used before – not bad for frozen).

I am impressed, and grateful for, the many devices (both manual and electric) which carve, slice & dice, mix, and otherwise manipulate and re-arrange ingredients.

Renewed respect to those professional chefs who not only make it look “easy,” but come up with unusual but delicious food combinations.

And, finally: many, many thanks to the good sisters who have cooked numerous meals for me and others during the various meetings and lectureships I’ve spoken on through the decades. For those who may not have had the experience, these are very nice, even elegant, guest-of-honor meals, with much forethought and advance preparation required. Even though I have tried to make it a point to be complimentary and express sincere thanks, I was likely not nearly as effusive over their efforts as I should have been. Despite my best intentions in expressing gratitude, I’m sure now that I did not comprehend the time, energy, and expertise required. So, thank you, Thank You, THANK YOU! Compliments to the chef!

Now, what’s for supper?

Random Reflections from a Coronavirus Funeral Journey

Random Reflections from a Coronavirus Funeral Journey

As many readers are aware, my mother, Jean Wolfgang, passed away on March 31, and was buried on April 7, in Indianapolis. This necessitated two Chicago-to-Indy trips for Bette and myself, and allowed for some reflection on many things. I’ll share a few impressions here.

Deserted streets. I-65 had far fewer cars than ever before (and plenty of electronic signage reminding us to stay home except for “necessary” trips). But it was well-populated with trucks, bringing us all the stuff we have ordered on Amazon or InstaCart. But the far northeast side of Indianapolis (I-465 & I-69, 86th & 82nd Streets, etc.) is normally a hive of activity and traffic jams, now almost completely deserted.

It is strangely disorienting to stay in a Hampton Inn which has only three other rooms occupied (and one staff person). When we checked in late at night on the first trip, we increased the hotel population by 50%. The second night was crowded: triple the occupants — 10 rooms occupied. Four of them were truckers (at least, there were four big rigs in the parking lot, refrigeration equipment humming).

But no breakfast area, not even coffee (by order of the Department of Health – understandably). The generous Christian who donated points to cover our stay during the funeral commented, “Coronavirus has turned Hampton into a Motel 6!” My response: Nope. Hampton, even on 4 cylinders, is much better!

Thus, I made numerous trips foraging for food, discovering that the only food establishments consistently open, from Chicago to Indianapolis, were McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A, and an occasional Steak&Shake.

We did find that the Longhorn my parents liked, on Washington Street, was open for carry-out. In normal times, we often eat at a Chicago-area Longhorn for Sunday dinner. So I was able to get our usual Sunday meal, on Tuesday: Bette’s favorite salad with pecans, strawberries, orange slices, and grapes, festooned with steak strips from the Flo’s filet we usually get – tender enough to cut with a plastic knife!

We knew already, but re-learned, that Chick-fil-A servers are waayy friendlier than McDonald’s. They have created a culture of pleasantness. Our oldest grand-daughter, Ada, served at the second-largest CFA in Atlanta before the crisis, enjoyed it, and wants to return. They look for conscientious, friendly young people, and teach them the trade. But we do still like McDonald’s coffee much better!

Each time we stopped at a Chick-fil-A, there were numerous happy, pleasant young people, seriously concentrated on fulfilling their assigned tasks, but often laughing and having a good time working with each other and their customers in very unusual circumstances. The lines were long, stretching around the building and into adjacent parking areas, but very well-signed and organized and moving expeditiously, bustling with order takers and food deliverers. “My pleasure” – even through a mask.

On the central purpose for our trip: It is beyond weird to try to organize a funeral during the “present distress.” Severely reduced audiences (more than 100 for Dad’s service only 5 years ago; 7 for Mom’s service – barely enough for pallbearers). Physical distancing. Virtual fist bumps can never replace a good hug. A video of a short graveside service may provide some measure of closure for some, but it leaves others simply wanting “more.”

And, yes, the funeral homes are busy, and using “extra refrigeration,” as one funeral director put it. (Read: refrigerated semi-tractor-trailers to store the bodies).

But in one way it provided a sense of relief. Not just that Mom’s suffering (and frustration at being unable to speak much since her February strokes) is over. But relief, in a sense, for us as well who have been separated from her by this virus — unable to visit, or even talk much since her hand strength was not sufficient to dial or even answer her phone.

Though she was thankfully not afflicted with the virus, in another sense she was essentially taken prisoner by it due to the restrictions it caused. We were basically incommunicado for the last few weeks of her life, dependent upon helpful staff and Hospice nurses to dial her phone for her so we could speak, or occasionally see each other via Skype – and praying that she understood why we could not visit. Blessings upon all who cared for her during this time!

The last thing we saw, leaving the assisted living center after collecting her few earthly possessions, was a young couple, sitting in lawn chairs close to a window of a room in the nursing-home wing, separated but only inches apart from a loved one on the other side of the pane. For many, the struggle continues. May God have mercy!

And, finally and overwhelmingly, tremendous gratitude for the gift of a mother’s love, tendered by a Godly, diligent, intelligent, witty, and spiritual woman, and matched by her love for my father. May she rest in peace, and rise in glory!

P.S. Yes, a Memorial/Celebration of Life service is planned, TBA, at a future date when travel and other restrictions are lifted.

Todd Bolen tells the backstory of BiblePlaces Photos

From Ferrell Jenkins’ blog

Ferrell's Travel Blog

This morning I was pleased to receive the BiblePlaces Newsletter (Vol 19, #1). In it Todd Bolen reminds us that “twenty years ago this month, was born.” He provides us with a brief history of the development of his Photo Collections.

The Pictorial Library of Bible Lands. The Pictorial Library of Bible Lands – 18 volumes.

If you have ever used the images in The Pictorial Library of Bible Lands (now 18 volumes), The Photo Companion to the Bible, or one of the other resources developed under Bolen’s leadership, you know how valuable the material can be in teaching the Bible.

Bolen observes that he bought one of the set of 100 slides that used to be hawked by the guides on tours of Israel. My experience was much the same. Indeed, even if the photos were good but the quality of the duplication was not good.

I trust I have said enough…

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