August 26, 2019
WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST
Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., explores the Middle Eastern situation, ranging from Egypt through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the surrounding area. Wise first traveled to Israel and the neighboring countries in 1968. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon universities. Wise presents an objective view of the behind the scenes situation in these countries.
One of the fascinating dimensions in the Middle East is the near ending archaeological discoveries that continue to pop up. Of course, the well-known ancient history of the entire region provides a fertile bed for new discoveries. Nearly every major American university annually sends teams of students and professors over to dig.
In addition, Israel knows that these finds collaborate the Old Testament support for their claims to the land. The Palestinians scream when the area around the Temple Mount continues to confirm Jewish claims to the past. However, apart from the political struggles, these recent discoveries enlarge our understanding of ancient history.
Recently, a rare and unusual find was unearthed north of the City of David in Jerusalem. A half-shekel weight was found that dates back to the First Temple period. The weight was found during the shifting of soil in the Emek Tzurim National Park that had been removed from the base of Robinson’s Arch on the Western Wall.
The word “beka” on the weight written in ancient Hebrew indicates this was the required donation for the maintenance of the Holy Temple from every person age 20 and older. (Exodus 38:26)
Another extraordinary find turned up at the Byzantine site of Shivta in the Negev Desert. A previously unknown painting of Jesus was found in part of a depiction of his baptism. This picture presents a youthful Jesus. The picture is in a badly preserved state with traces of red paint that present the outline of the face. Early Christian imagery is also rare in the Holy Land. Another painting was also found in the southern church of the same Shiva town. This painting depicted the Transfiguration of Jesus.
Using high resolution and special lighting, a picture revealed short curly hair, an elongated nose, large eyes, and a long face. To the left of Jesus is a picture of John the Baptist. This is the only in-situ scene of Jesus’s baptism recorded in the pre-iconoclastic Byzantine Palestine period.
The town of Shivta had a total of three churches which probably served pilgrims on their way to St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai Desert.