Bible scholars from the Doubting Thomas Research Foundation (DTRF) believe
they may have discovered the route Moses took when he led the Children of Israel
out of slavery from Egypt and to the Promised Land.
The group told the Daily Star Online that they traveled to Saudi Arabia
three times during their research and found evidence that the Israelites
traveled through the modern-day kingdom to get to Israel.
DTRF researcher Ryan Mauro is still working on this theory but said the most
“plausible” route is one where the Israelites left Egypt through
Cairo and crossed into the Sinai Peninsula. He believes they crossed into
ancient Midian and stopped at Mount Sinai, which he claims is the peak of Jabal
al-Lawz in eastern Saudi Arabia.
“After three trips to Saudi Arabia, and I’m fully convinced that the
Israelites went into the ancient land of Midian when they fled slavery in
Egypt,” he told the Daily Star Online.
Last year, the organization released a documentary detailing their quest to
find Mount Sinai in Saudi Arabia.
Mauro said he and his team discovered several pieces of evidence that Jabal
al-Lawz is where Mount Sinai was located.
“The golden calf, the split rock, Moses’ altar, the Red Sea crossing
site; all of these pieces need to fit, and they fit at this site in a way that
no other site does,” he said.
Mount Sinai is traditionally associated with Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. The
St. Catherine Monastery was built over what is believed to be the site where
God spoke to Moses in the burning bush.
“Perhaps these (skeptics) have doubted the historical account of the
Exodus story because of a lack of evidence at the traditional site at St.
Catherine’s, but what we have found appears to fit the ancient accounts,”
Mauro said of the Jabal al-Lawz peak.
Jabal al-Lawz has been previously been identified as the possible site of
Mount Sinai, but scholars doubt this theory.
“There is no credible historical, geographical, archaeological or
Biblical evidence for the thesis that Mt. Sinai is at Jabal al-Lawz in Saudi
Arabia,” said creationist researcher Gordon Franz.
Mauro also told the Daily Star Online there is evidence that Moses
split the sea at the Gulf of Aqaba on the modern-day beach of Nuweiba. There,
the crossing would be just eight miles wide and a depth of only 33 meters (108
“It’s going to take some time to bring this alternative theory into
mainstream historiography, but I believe that our work is going to seriously
shift the landscape on this subject,” Mauro said.
Mainstream scholars seriously doubt the historicity of the events recorded
in Exodus due to a lack of archaeological evidence.
Mauro encourages them to have an open mind.
“I would basically say to someone who’s (skeptical) about the Exodus to
keep an open mind about the subject,” he said. “These events really
did happen. It doesn’t require belief in one of these faiths to accept the
Mauro said his team is currently trying to piece together an exact timeline
and map structure for Exodus based on their findings.
“What I found there was simply
mind-blowing. I couldn’t believe that there was all this evidence for the
Exodus and hardly anyone outside this region was aware of it.
Two minuscule 2,600-year-old
inscriptions recently uncovered in the City of David’s Givati Parking Lot
excavation are vastly enlarging the understanding of ancient Jerusalem in the
late 8th century BCE.
The two inscriptions,
in paleo-Hebrew writing, were found separately in a large First Temple
structure within the span of a few weeks by long-term team members Ayyala Rodan
and Sveta Pnik.
One is a bluish agate stone seal
“(belonging) to Ikkar son of Matanyahu” (LeIkkar Ben Matanyahu). The
other is a clay seal impression, “(belonging) to Nathan-Melech, Servant of the
Eved HaMelech). Nathan-Melech is named in 2 Kings as
an official in the court of King Josiah.
This burnt clay impression is the
first archaeological evidence of the biblical name Nathan-Melech.
The inscriptions are “not just
another discovery,” said archaeologist Dr. Yiftah Shalev of the Israel
Antiquities Authority. Rather, they “paint a much larger picture of the era in
According to Shalev, while both
discoveries are of immense scholarly value as inscriptions, their primary value
is their archaeological context.
The ‘Natan-Melech/Eved Hamelech’
bulla found in the City of David. (Eliyahu Yanai, City of David)
“What is importance is not just that
they were found in Jerusalem, but [that they were found] inside their true
archaeological context,” Shalev told The Times of Israel. Many other seals and
seal impressions have been sold on the antiquities market without any thought
This in situ find, said Shalev,
serves to “connect between the artifact and the actual physical era it was
found in” — a large, two-story First Temple structure that dig archaeologists
have pegged as an administrative center.
“It is not a coincidence that the
seal and the seal impression are found here,” said Shalev.
It is not a coincidence that the seal
and the seal impression are found here
According to archaeologist Prof.
Yuval Gadot of Tel Aviv University, in the 8th century BCE, this area of the
City of David becomes the central administrative center of Jerusalem. The newly
unearthed two-story public building, constructed with finely cut ashlar stones
shows, illustrates the beginning of a westward move of the administration area
in the large sprawling city.
Mendel-Geberovich believes “Ikkar”
refers to a personal name rather than an occupation. If so, this would be the
first evidence of such a name. The other portions of the inscription are more
familiar to biblical Hebrew linguists: “The name Matanyahu appears both in the
Bible and on additional stamps and bullae already unearthed,” said
What is most likely to capture
popular interest is the burnt clay seal impression, which features the words:
“(belonging) to Nathan-Melech, Servant of the King” (LeNathan-Melech Eved
HaMelech).” The fact that it was written without a surname indicates his fame
is on par with celebs of today, such as singers Madonna or Adele.
The name Nathan-Melech appears once
in the Bible, in the second book of Kings 23:11. An official in the court
of King Josiah, the biblical Nathan-Melech took part in implementation of
widespread religious reform: “And he took away the horses that the kings of
Judah had given to the sun, at the entrance of the house of the Lord, by the
chamber of Nathan-Melech the officer, which was in the precincts; and he burned
the chariots of the sun with fire.”
While the biblical account uses a
different title than that impressed on the ancient clay, the title “Servant of
the King” (Eved
HaMelech) does often appear in the Bible to describe a high-ranking
official close to the king. According to the IAA, the title appears on other
stamps and seal impressions that were found in the past. In ancient times, seal
impressions, or bullae, were small pieces of clay impressed by personal seals
(such as the “Ikkar” seal) to sign letters.
But is this the very same biblical
Nathan-Melech? That’s still a matter of interpretation.
Doron Spielman, vice president of the
City of David Foundation, which operates the City of David National Park, said,
“This is an extremely exciting find for billions of people worldwide. The
personal seal of Natan-Melech, a senior official in the government of Josiah,
King of Judah, as described in the second book of Kings. The ongoing
archaeological excavations at the City of David continue to prove that ancient
Jerusalem is no longer just a matter of faith, but also a matter of fact.”
However, scholar Mendel-Geberovich
isn’t as quick to confirm the tie.
“Although it is not possible to
determine with complete certainty that the Nathan-Melech who is mentioned in
the Bible was in fact the owner of the stamp, it is impossible to ignore some
of the details that link them together,” said Mendel-Geberovich diplomatically.
A team of French archaeologists has located the remains of a
lost ancient city in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Over the course of six excavations between 2012 and 2018,
researchers uncovered the ancient city at Kunara near the Zagros mountains.
Previously, experts had been prevented from exploring the site near the modern
city of Sulaymaniyah by Saddam Hussein’s regime and conflicts in the region.
Located on the western border of the Mesopotamian Empire, the city may have
been an important center of an ancient mountainous people known as the Lullubi,
according to experts.
The first of the cuneiform tablets discovered during the Kunara excavation.
The tablet records the delivery of different types of flour. (A. Tenu / Mission
archéologique française du Peramagron)
Large stone foundations were discovered at the site, which dates to around
2200 B.C. Dozens of clay tablets covered with cuneiform writing were also
found, shedding light on the city’s agriculture. For example, the first of the
clay tablets discovered records the delivery of different types of flour.
The archaeologists’ research indicates that the city’s demise occurred about
4,000 years ago when it was ravaged by fire.
However, the city’s name is still unknown. Further excavation of the site
will take place in the fall.
The small cup-shaped indents in this structure may have served a ceremonial
purpose, according to archaeologists. (D. Sarmiento Castillo / Mission
archéologique française du Peramagron)
Ancient sites in other parts of the world are also revealing their secrets.
Last year, archaeologists in Greece located the remains of a lost city believed to have been
settled by captives from the Trojan War.
Separately in 2018, archaeologists in Western Mexico used sophisticated
laser technology to discover a lost city that may have had as many buildings as
In 2017, archaeologists harnessed spy satellite imagery and drones to help identify the site of an ancient lost city in Northern Iraq.
An arrowhead fragment made of obsidian, or volcanic glass. that was
discovered at the site. The obsidian comes from Anatolia, which is several
hundred miles from Kunara, according to experts. (F.
Marchand/Mission archéologique française du Peramagron)
The Qalatga Darband site overlooks the Lower Zab river at the western edge
of the Zagros Mountains, is part of a historic route from ancient Mesopotamia
Experts recently created a stunning digital reconstruction of a centuries-old lost
city discovered in South Africa. In another project, researchers have shed new
light on the events that led to the demise of the ancient Cambodian megacity of
The 21st century keepers of this 2,000-year old church are certain it was started by the half-brother of Jesus, James. Jewish Christians were under heavy persecution from the Roman Empire in the days before Rome created the Catholic Church. The other early Christian church from around 300 AD has tile mosaics on the floors illustrating scenes from the book of Revelation.
There are two notable men named James we read about in the New Testament.
There was James Zebedee, the brother of John, who the Bible refers to as the
“sons of thunder”. The ‘other’ James is the half-brother of
the Lord Jesus Himself.
Recently, I came across these amazing videos of
archaeological discoveries dating back to the First Century AD, showing what is
purported to be perhaps the very first Christian church in Jerusalem, one that
was started by James, the half-brother of Jesus. Not to be confused with James,
the brother of John, who wrote the book of James that bears his name.
“Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to
see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I
none, save James the Lord’s brother.” Galatians 1:18,19 (KJV)
I present these videos to you for your viewing pleasure, and hope that you
will all check them out by comparing them with scripture to see if they match
up with the biblical timeline. I am by no means a biblical archaeologist, but I
have watched them many times and remain fascinated by what they show.
Secret Church From First Century Discovered On Mt. Zion
The 21st century keepers of this 2,000-year old church
are certain it was started by the half-brother of Jesus, James. Jewish
Christians were under heavy persecution from the Roman Empire in the days
before Rome created the
Amazing Discovery Shows Scenes From Book Of Revelation
This one really sent chills down my spine, an
early Christian church from around 300 AD that has tile mosaics on the floors
illustrating scenes from the book of Revelation.
The Two Men Named James
FUN FACTS: There are two notable men named James we read
about in the New Testament. There was James Zebedee, the brother of John, that
the Bible refers to as the “sons of thunder”. Along with the apostle Peter,
this trio was blessed to be allowed to witness some amazing things.
“And James the son of Zebedee, and
John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons
of thunder:” Mark 3:17 (KJV)
Peter, James and John were there in the ‘inner circle’ in
Matthew 17 where they witnessed the miracle on the Mount of Transfiguration,
and listened in rapturous wonder as Jesus told them of the last days and the
end of the world in Mark 13 and Matthew 24.
“And when James,
Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given
unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that
we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.”
Galatians 2:9 (KJV)
The ‘other’ James is the half-brother of the Lord Jesus
Himself, and he was used mightily as well. James was personally acquainted with
and sought out by the apostle Paul at the start of his ministry as recorded in
Galatians, and later was the chair of the Council At Jerusalem in Acts 15 where
Paul’s gospel of the grace of God was formally adopted by the church leaders.
modern-day St. Louis, Missouri, you can find towering mounds of earth that
were once the product of a vast North American culture.
was the largest city built by this Native American civilization.
the ancient people who built Cahokia didn’t have a writing system, little
is known of their culture. Archaeological evidence, however, hints at a
Mesopotamia had Ur, a wealthy city from 2100 BCE and a towering ziggurat.
Egypt had Memphis and Alexandria, with their great pyramids and library,
respectively. The Toltecs or Totonacs, who resided in modern-day Mexico, had
Teotihuacan, which hosted over 125,000 people in its monolithic architecture.
Ancient cities seem to have sprung up all over the world, each of which must
have been magnificent sights in their day. But it seems like a handful of these
cities hog all the limelight. Though Teotihuacan may be known, for instance,
few are familiar with North America’s other great ancient city, Cahokia.
Mysterious mounds near St. Louis
Monks Mound, the largest remaining mound
in Cahokia. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
About 10 miles east of St. Louis, Missouri, 80 mounds of earth dot 2,200
acres of land, the largest of which covers 13.8 acres and rises 100 feet high.
These 80 mounds are the remainders of 120 mounds built 1,000 years before
Columbus reached North America by a forgotten people called the Mississippians,
named after the great river they lived near. All told, the mounds would have
required the excavation of about 55 million cubic feet of earth.
The Mississippian civilization is poorly understood; they had no writing
system, and by the time Europeans bothered to seriously document their culture,
they had been scattered, wiped out by European diseases they had no immunities
Instead, much of our understanding of the Mississippians has come from
archaeology, and the city of Cahokia represents the greatest trove of
archaeological evidence. The city was named after the Cahokia tribe that lived
in the area when the French first arrived, though they were not its original
inhabitants. In fact, by that time in the 17th century, Cahokia was abandoned.
Though the Mississippians had no writing system, Cahokia was clearly the
product of some kind of centralized planning. Its many great mounds are a
testament to that, as well as the 50-acre leveled plain of the city named the
Grand Plaza; the remains of a copper workshop; a palisade that surrounded its
central, ceremonial district; and large henges made of wood.
When Cahokia was at its greatest between
1050 and 1200 CE, it hosted an estimated 40,000 Mississippians, more than
the city of London at the time. The bulk of these people flocked to the city
between 1050 and 1100, where they built homes, established the
Grand Plaza, and built more mounds that raised important buildings over the
thousands of other homes in Cahokia.
Life in Cahokia
We can glean some other features of Cahokian life from the fragments they
left behind. We’ve found carved discs throughout Cahokia that were used in a
game called “chunkey” that was played on the large flat field of the
Grand Plaza. Participants rolled the chunkey stone across the field and threw spears toward
where they thought the stone would come to rest. Huge
audiences watched chunkey players, and players often gambled on the
But life in Cahokia wasn’t entirely fun and games. There is also evidence
that the Cahokians engaged in human sacrifice. At one mound in particular,
dubbed Mound 72, researchers found the remains of 272 people. In one instance
of sacrifice, 39 people were lined up in front of a pit and clubbed one by one,
falling into a mass grave. Two dozen different mass graves populate Mound
72, all of which contain the remains of people who had been strangled, clubbed, and even
But there’s also a more reverent
grave at Mound 72: a man buried on 20,000 beads made from seashells, which
were status symbols and luxury items in Mississippian culture. These beads were
arranged in the shape of a falcon. The falcon was an important symbol in
Mississippian culture, typically associated with great warriors and chunkey
The city’s decline
By the time Columbus and other Europeans arrived in America, Cahokia was
abandoned and had been since approximately 1300. What drove the Mississippians
away from the vast city is unclear. It’s possible there had been some kind of
conflict with another people — the palisade that encircled part of the city
speaks to that.
Or, it could be that the unique density of Cahokia led to its downfall. Few
other places in North America had tens of thousands of humans living in close
proximity with one another. It could be that disease wiped out the Cahokians or
that the area was overhunted, overfished, and overfarmed. Some evidence also
suggests that the area was severely flooded twice: once between 1100 and 1260 and
again between 1340 and 1460. Possibly a combination of these factors led the
mound-builders to abandon Cahokia.
Today, Cahokia is preserved as a historic site that anyone can visit.
However, Cahokia only gained its protective status in the 1960s. Prior to that,
it was the site of heavy development — some of its mounds had been leveled for
farming, airfields, housing, and highways. Fortunately, much of the site still
remains, and it represents one of the few ancient cities left to visit in North America.
But Pitterson is convinced Plato’s description of Atlantis matches
biblical records of the Israeli city of Gilgal Refaim.
Speaking on US radio, Pitterson said the story of
the Nephalim matches the tale of the Greek god Poseidon, who was said
to have fathered children with a human woman in Atlantis.
Pitterson, author of the book Judgement of the Nephalim,
said: “One example that really stood out for me is Plato’s description of
RUINS: Ryan Pitterson believes Gilgal
Rephaim, or Rujm el-Hiri, is the remains of Atlantis (Pic: GOOGLE MAPS)
MAPPED: The ruins are in the
Israeli-occupied Golan Heights (Pic: GOOGLE MAPS)
“It’s almost remarkable how similar it is to Ezekiel 31, which
describes the rise of this fallen angel spawning many children and having a
kingdom with an abundance of resources and rivers as well as a military power
and then having it crumble.”
He went on: “In Plato’s account, it was the Greek god Poseidon who fell
in love with a human woman and impregnated her.
“So right from the onset, it was a god coming to an Earthly realm and
conceiving a child with a human woman in the same fashion of Genesis 6.
“Atlantis is described as having all sorts of great minerals — gold,
precious minerals — and in a biblical account in Genesis 2, we’re told the
rivers that ran out of the Garden of Eden encompassed the whole line of
PHILOSOPHER: The Ancient Greek Plato
first wrote about Atlantis in about 350BC (Pic: GETTY)
MONUMENT: Gilgal Rephaim has sometimes
been called the Stonehenge of the Middle East (Pic: GETTY)
Today, the ancient remains of Gilgal lie near Argaman in the
Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
Atlantis was said to have been built outwards in concentric circles with
water running through it.
Similarly, Gilgal features five concentric circles of stones, built using
40,000 tonnes of rock.
Believed to date from around 3,000 years before Jesus‘s birth, it has
earned the nickname “The Stonehenge of the Middle East”.
“On the third new moon after the Israelites had gone forth from the land of
Egypt, on that very day, they entered the wilderness of Sinai. Exodus 19:1
(The Israel Bible™)
As researchers debate the location of Biblical Mount Sinai, the Saudi
Arabian government is moving forward with plans for a mega-city built on top of
one of the prime candidates.
Last year, Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed
bin Salman announced plans to create a mega-city named Neom on the coast of
the Red Sea. The plans for the city are ambitious indeed: at a cost of $500
billion, Neom will be 17 times the size of London and 33 times the size of
Manhattan. The city will cover 10,230-square-miles extending 285 miles along
the coast of the Red Sea and run entirely on renewable energy. The name “Neom”
was constructed from two words. The first three letters form the Ancient Greek
prefix neo- meaning “new”. The fourth letter is from the abbreviation of
Arabic Mostaqbal meaning “future.”
Though the designated area in northwest Saudi Arabia near the Jordanian
border is relatively desolate and empty, conflict arose when several people
asserted that one mountain, Jabal al Lawz (Mountain of Almonds) was where Moses
stood when he received the Ten Commandments from the hand of God.
In a recent documentary, Finding the Mountain of Moses, Ryan Mauro,
National Security Analyst for the Clarion Project, warned of the dire
consequences should the Saudi mega-city be built.
Many scholars claim that Mount Sinai is in the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt but
Mauro rejected that claim based on the “more than 70 times the Bible says the
Israelites went out of Egypt.”
“If all of us don’t take action, Saudi construction in the area may destroy
key evidence and prevent excavation for the foreseeable future,” Mauro said in
Mauro is not alone in his assertion that Jabal al Lawz is the Biblical Mount
Sinai. After visiting the site in 2018, Bible scholar and bestselling author
Joel Richardson told WND,
“If those on the fence actually could visit the site, I guarantee they would be
fully convinced, or 95 percent there.”
“This is a mountain with a dark-colored basalt rock on the top, as well as a
cave on its front – ‘the Cave of Elijah’ – with an altar at its base with bulls
carved all over it, ‘the Golden Calf altar,’ he said. “It also has an animal
corral and altar, and pillars at its base, consistent with God’s command to
Moses to build at the base of the mountain,” said Richardson.
Researchers have proposed
about 20 different locations for Mt. Sinai and there is no consensus of
Scholars fall into two camps: those who suggest sites found in the modern
Sinai Peninsula and those who favor locations in Saudi Arabia. Of the five
proposed locations in the Sinai Peninsula, Jebel Musa (Moses’ Mountain), the
site of St Catherine’s monastery, is the most popular.
In addition to the conflicting opinions, there is also some confusion as the
location of the precise mountain. Jabal Maqlā (Burnt Mountain) located about
four miles to the south, is often misidentified as Jabal al-Lawz by various
authors such as Bob Cornuke, Ron Wyatt, and Lennart Moller as shown by local
and regional maps.
Mauro will be posting a website with a petition calling on the U.S. State
Department and Saudi government to preserve the sites and have them put on
UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Due to Saudi restrictions on visitors, the site
is difficult to research and if the Saudi plans go through, it will be
Newly discovered petroglyphs at the foot of mountain depict archers which
Richardson claimed are based on a warning by Moses that anyone who set foot on
the mountain would be shot with arrows. Another petroglyph depicts a
seven-branched menorah which Richardson maintained indicates the ancient
Hebrews visited the site. Consistent with the biblical account of water pouring
out of the rock, there are clear signs of water erosion in an arid area where
such erosion is evident nowhere else, said Richardson.
Moskoff, the author of the A.R.K Report, concurred that Mount Sinai
is in Saudi Arabia but disagrees with the theory that Jabal al Lawz is Mount
“The theory that Jebel al Lawz is the location of Sinai is very low on
Biblical facts,” Moskoff told Breaking Israel News. Moskoff explained
that the theory was first made popular by a book, The Gold of Exodus, published
20 years ago. “Other researchers followed that lead but there were a lot of
errors in that theory. In order to research this subject, it is necessary to go
back to the original sources which are Biblical and Jewish.”
As an example, Moskoff pointed out that Cornuke
based his theory on the Hebrews leaving Egypt 19 days before crossing the sea.
“I don’t know where he gets 19 days from,” Moskoff said. He cited Seder
Olam Rabbah, a 2nd-century CE Hebrew-language chronology detailing the
dates of Biblical events from the Creation to Alexander the Great’s conquest of
Persia. “The Seder Olam Rabbah states explicitly that it was seven days until
they arrived at the sea.”
Moskoff noted that in many cases, sites of Biblical importance were usurped
“There is a bit of tension between the religions when dealing with sites of
Biblical importance,” Moskoff said. He noted that the site of Christian
researchers do not typically refer to Jewish sources. Moskoff noted the irony
in the religious division over the site since Jethro, Moses’ non-Jewish
father-in-law, joined the Hebrews at Mount Sinai. This particular multi-faith
aspect of Sinai is described in the section of the Torah being read by Jews
around the world this week.
“There are monasteries and mosques at most of the holy sites as well,”
Moskoff noted. “This may be a religious conflict but it may also be just
staking out territory. The Palestinians are staking out territory, trying to
take over all of Israel. For the Christians, it is theological. Ideally, it
should not lead to a monopoly by one religion and the exclusion of all others.”
Neom was slated to be completed in 2025 but construction has stalled, if not
from heaven then due to political entanglements. Bin Salman’s government was
accused of murdering a journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. The crown prince admitted
in 2018 that, as a result of the ensuing scandal, “No one will invest [in
the project] for years.”
A Bedouin huntsman and his dog, climbing on rocky mountainous cliffs above
the Dead Sea, spotted a likely prey. The dog chased it into the mouth of a cave
where inside, the Bedouin discovered jars containing scrolls with writing upon
them. The find was reported to Jews living in Jerusalem, who mounted an
expedition into the Judean Desert to retrieve them. They discovered many
scrolls written in Hebrew script, including books of the Bible.
The year was 790 CE.
The events, recorded in a letter written by the East Syriac patriarch Timothy I in
800 CE, eerily anticipate the famous 1946 (re)discovery at Qumran of the trove
of ancient sacred texts we now know as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
For a new team of Qumran excavators, who this week finished a third dig
season high above the Dead Sea, the story is a beacon of hope.
“The Bedouin were not the first ones to find the scrolls in 1947,” said Dr.
Oren Gutfeld, co-director of the Cave 53-Qumran Excavation.
The question is, will looters be the ones to discover any remaining scrolls?
On Tuesday, The Times of Israel joined the Qumran expedition on the last day
of its three-week winter excavation of a new cave complex. Based on results
from two previous seasons, the team, led by Hebrew University archaeologist
Oren Gutfeld and Randall Price from the private Virginia-based Christian
institution, Liberty University, believes there are more undiscovered finds
that have slipped through the fingers of archaeologists — and even of intrepid
For example, no one knows the whereabouts of Timothy’s particular cave, described in his letter as being in the vicinity of
Jericho. Perhaps it was fully emptied, its scrolls used by the community and
eventually deposited in the Cairo Genizah. Or maybe it is one of the 11 major
caves that held the 900-plus manuscripts and 15,000 tiny text fragments that
have been unearthed since the besieged Qumran community stashed them away from
the Romans circa 68 CE.
Or maybe, just maybe, Timothy’s cave is still out there to be discovered. If
so, Gutfeld is positioning his team to find it — as well as a wealth of
information on the people behind the Dead Sea Scrolls and their everyday lives.
The previous two excavation seasons of Cave 53 bear out the possibility of
“We prove in Cave 53 that the caves
of Qumran were not excavated, they were surveyed,” said Gutfeld. The previous
archaeologists “just entered, they found the scrolls or the jars and they took
them,” he said. There was no digging, and certainly no fine sifting of
materials during the heady days of the first excavations.
Beginning in 1949, teams of excavators — authorized and not — combed the
cave-dotted cliffs of Qumran in search of scroll caches. For a while, the finds
were abundant. And then, after the mid-1950s, there was nothing new discovered
under the blazing Dead Sea sun.
For the past three winter seasons, Gutfeld’s team has re-examined previously
surveyed, but unexcavated caves. This year, the team took to the heights and examined
an uncharted cave to discern if more finds await in the sheer cliffs.
Before the expedition concluded, Gutfeld took a pair of journalists up to
the cave complexes numbered 52 and 53, based on earlier archaeological surveys
that found some 600 caves in the cliffs. After ascending the steep, often
unmarked path high above the Qumran National Park, the view is breathtaking
(and not only because this journalist needed to catch her breath from the
rope-aided climb) from the small man-made terrace outside Cave 52, some 212
meters (695 feet) above the Dead Sea.
It is commonly accepted that the major scroll finds originated in 11 caves,
explained Gutfeld before we entered the cave located high above the park’s
hiking trails. The assignation, he said, is often based on secondhand Bedouin
testimony, since several of the manuscripts were purchased, not excavated. He
thinks it possible that the massive hoard may have originated in other caves as
well, which have until now been overlooked by archaeologists.
A faint, spray painted 52 points out the mouth of the cave. In the 1950s, it
was surveyed by a member of the original Qumran excavations team, Józef Milik,
a one-time Catholic priest and archaeologist. Milik, said Gutfeld, wrote an
article in the 1950s suggesting that this spot was in fact the cave described
by Timothy. Milik hypothesized that it had been emptied of scrolls by monks
sent by Timothy from the Jericho Caranthal Monastery, over a thousand years
prior to his survey.
“We believe maybe — we don’t know, but it’s a possibility — that it’s not
the Bedouin who looted the cave, but that it was done hundreds of years earlier
by the monks of the Caranthal Monastery,” said Gutfeld.
In the three seasons of excavations so far, the team has discovered
indications of “scroll activity” — accessories including jars, textile
wrappings, leather ties. This winter, the team also examined a pair of
hard-to-enter elevated caves, reachable only with full climbing gear and metal
guides hammered into the rock.
Taking in the Dead Sea panorama, Gutfeld swept his arm out and said with a
smile, “This is my office.”
What Cave 52 yielded
Spoiler: No scrolls were discovered this winter, either.
From an academic point of view, the 2019 excavation was launched asking the
question of whether caves found so high on the cliff were used as living spaces
or only for hiding scrolls.
Through the excavation of Cave 52 this season, and the paucity of material
culture from every day life, the conclusion is that it was only meant as a
vault. A probe excavation of the even higher Cave 52B offered the same result,
“The story of the cave and the
excavation is more about the climbing, bringing up the tools, and rappelling
when going down,” he said. “Just think about the Essences who climbed with jars
in their hands — what we did with the ropes — how many jars fell?”
The opening of Cave 52 “was a rabbit hole tunnel,” which the team enlarged
with small picks. “Everything was sifted from the first bucket, even the dirt
piles outside the cave,” said Gutfeld, on the assumption that perhaps some of
the looters had dropped some pottery.
Inside Cave 52, the team found Second Temple scroll jar pottery sherds and a
few organic materials.
“The minute we lowered the level of the dirt we started to find the pottery
sherds from Second Temple period jars,” he said. But there were few other
finds, even after excavating a promising back tunnel. “Unfortunately we dug
here for two weeks, it’s a very nice tunnel, but we didn’t find anything,” he
“Our conclusion is that it was used as a scroll cave, but the minute the
jars were taken, it was empty,” said Gutfeld.
What was found in ‘juicy’ Cave 53
Excavation co-director Price, a pastor and Jewish Studies professor,
fervently believes there are more mysteries to be discovered here. Joining
Gutfeld and The Times of Israel at the mid-cliff level Cave 53, Price explained
how the cave — and its surprise adjacent Cave 53B twin — were excavated
beginning in 2017.
“We had hoped to find a scroll cave,” Price said honestly of his initial
goals. He told The Times of Israel that to find a cave holding the sacred
scripture given to the people of this land would be thrilling.
“This is one of the first caves
excavated south of the plateau. The more famous caves are in the north. And in
excavating this,” Price said, sweeping his hand around the cave, “we did find
scroll jars — seven in total.” But no scrolls.
The cave was identified in a 1993 IAA survey and has interesting man-made
features, including a column which supports an overhang ceiling at the cave’s
edge. Although it is has remained stable thus far, it is definitely not a place
to set a chair and enjoy the view.
A second, previously uncharted cave was discovered in an easy climb above
Cave 53, and is called Cave 53B.
The path to and from these caves is unmarked, but at only 100 meters (328
feet) above the Dead Sea it is much less strenuous than that of caves 52 and
52B, which were the focus of this dig season. (At its highest, this year’s path
is only accessible through rappelling).
Today, the mouth of Cave 53 gapes wide open, but during initial checks in
2010, it would have been more hidden from view. Then, Price and Gutfeld spotted
sleeping mats made of palm fronds next to the man-made pillar in the back of
the cave, as well as pottery.
Price secured funding for the excavation from private donations (digs are
not funded through the Israeli government or universities) and a license was
granted by the Staff Officer for Archaeology in the Civil Administration of
Judea and Samaria, which is responsible for excavations in the West Bank, where
Qumran is located.
Ahead of the 2017 winter excavation, all signs were positive. “The
expectation was that there was something here to be found,” said Price.
And there was: What was originally scheduled as a two-week excavation
stretched into an intense five. In addition to pottery pieces for seven scroll
jars, through careful sifting of the dust and dirt the team uncovered hundreds
of olive and date pits, as well as seeds, telling of ancient habitation of the
cave. There was “scroll activity,” including 15 fragments of linen textile that
used to cover the scrolls, cut leather straps, and a carved stick which Price
said was used to wound the manuscripts into the jars.
Through sifting, the team discovered “an acorn that was brought from the
Judean Hills over 50 kilometers [31 miles] away,” said Gutfeld. In sum, they
filled an almost unprecedented 450 bags of organic material.
The two most astonishing finds were discovered in Cave 53B: an intact
Qumran-style oil lamp that was discovered at the mouth of the cave, and a
beautiful bronze pot that was found in the back in a previously undiscovered
The cave complex also offered signs of much earlier habitation: Within
moments of arriving to the terrace outside its mouth, Gutfeld bent over and
picked up several pieces of pottery. In one hand he held a few sherds from the
Second Temple period. In another, prehistoric pottery from thousands of years
ago, possibly Neolithic or Chalcolithic.
Other prehistoric finds include arrow and spear heads, flint blades, an
interestingly carved carnelian seal and a piece of precious obsidian, which
would have somehow made its way from Turkey.
“There was a lot of activity here, but it wasn’t until the Second Temple
period that the jars were brought in, probably from the Qumran community, and
placed here,” said Price.
Price has a theory why the scrolls are absent from this spot: When the
Qumran community was attacked in 68 CE and the Romans turned the plateau into a
fortress, the northern path was closed. So the residents turned south, possibly
to Masada, and picked up their scrolls from this cave on the way.
Cave 53 is now excavated in parts down to bedrock. Charcoaled remains of
thousands of year old fires can be seen on the pillar next to straggly strands
of 2,000-year-old sleep mats. The team said there is no more work to be done
here, and it will soon look for another location.
Ahead of the 2020 excavation
In early February, Gutfeld will begin surveying for locations in the middle
terrace of the cliff for the 2020 excavation. “Hopefully we’ll find another
‘juicy’ cave, like Cave 53,” he said.
“There is still much more to do, especially in this region,” said Gutfeld.
According to a recent Haaretz article, head of the IAA Yisrael Hasson is
on board with the team’s goals. “The desert is full of hiding places. Until we
have thoroughly checked and mapped them all, we won’t declare the work
finished,” said Hasson.
Hasson said his archaeologists are also working in the area: “Six months ago
we excavated six caves and more recently we excavated two more caves in the
northern Dead Sea area, but I won’t say more because I don’t want to give
information to robbers… We’re doing ‘low profile’ work to stay ahead of the
competition,” said Hasson.
Each year the team must apply for a new dig license from the Civil
Administration of Judea and Samaria. Part of the application process includes
secure funding for both excavation and publication of finds. For this team, the
funding comes through private donations — not always easy to come by despite
its high-profile objectives.
Because of the very real threat of looting in the area, the dig is
considered a “salvage excavation” and is permissible by law in order to save
and rescue the potential precious heritage items. Likewise, he said, all
excavation is only conducted after securing a permit. (Asked whether the West
Bank location was an obstacle to garnering funding, Gutfeld said the only
blow-back he has felt so far was from a Jewish woman at a conference in the
But his third reason for why the excavation’s West Bank location is not
significant is that scrolls are overwhelmingly important to Judaism and early
Christianity. They are a direct tie to the historical Land of Israel, which
predates modern borders.
“When I take my kids to the [Israel Museum’s] Shrine of the Book and they
can read directly from the scrolls, it says everything,” said Gutfeld.
By Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz/Breaking Israel
News December 07, 2018
“And thou shalt take two onyx stones, and grave on them
the names of the children of Israel.” Exodus 28:9
Sometimes incredible stories are actually true, and in this
case, experts agree that a small onyx stone, claimed to be given to a Knight
Templar over 1,000 years ago and handed down through one family from generation
to generation, is actually what the present owner claims: a gem from the
breastplate of the High Priest in Jerusalem.
A Prophetic Stone?
The stones of the choshen mishpat, the High Priest’s
breastplate, were referred to in the Bible as the urim v’tummim, a phrase that
And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim
and the Thummim; and they shall be upon Aharon’s heart Exodus 28:30
The Talmud (Yoma 73a) describes how questions were put to
the breastplate, and the stones would light up to spell out the answer. The
book of Samuel lists the urim v’tummim as one of the three forms of divine
communication: dreams, prophets, and the urim v’tummim.
And when Shaul inquired of Hashem, Hashem answered him not,
neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets. I Samuel 28:6
According to the Talmud (Yoma 21b), the urim v’tummim were
lost when Jerusalem was sacked by the Babylonians. The Book of Ezra mentions
that individuals who were unable to prove, after the Babylonian captivity had
ended, that they were descended from the priesthood before the captivity began,
were required to wait until priests in possession of urim v’tummim were
In addition to the 12 stones mounted on the breastplate were
two sardonyx stones fixed in gold settings on the shoulders of the High
And thou shalt put the two stones upon the shoulder-pieces
of the ephod, to be stones of memorial for the children of Israel; and Aharon
shall bear their names before Hashem upon his two shoulders for a memorial.
Experts believe this is one of those stones. If this is so,
contained within it is the power of prophecy and it may play an important role
in returning the Priestly Caste to serve in the Temple.
Discovery: Too Incredible to Believe
In 2000, Dr. James Strange, a noted professor in religious
studies and archaeology, traveled to South Africa. An acquaintance suggested
Dr. Strange contact a family she had met there and if he could, help them with
a pro-bono appraisal of a gemstone. They were of humble means and Dr. Strange
was a certified appraiser whose services were highly sought after.
Dr. Strange met with the family, intending to humor them.
Instead, he was astounded by what they showed him. “I was indeed amazed at
the gemstone,” Dr. Strange told Breaking Israel News. The stone itself was
nothing special. A semi-precious sardonyx, it had little intrinsic worth.
But Dr. Strange was puzzled by the object he held in his
hands. “I was unaware that anyone in the late Middle Ages had the
technology to cut a hemisphere in such a medium, so I tried to exhaust all
other explanations,” he said.
Even more astounding than the cut of the stone was the
inexplicable inscription inside the stone, visible through the clear surface:
two letters in ancient Hebrew. Dr. Stone wrote in his appraisal of the gem,
“There is no modern or ancient technology known to me by which an artisan
could produce the inscription, as it is not cut into the surface of the
Dr. Strange was an expert but when faced with such a
mystery, he sought help. He turned to Ian Campbell, Director of the Independent
Coloured Stones Laboratory in Johannesburg and a leading South African
gemologist. Campbell was equally dumbfounded.
He studied the stone, trying to ascertain its origin. The
owner’s story placing it on the High Priest’s breastplate were too incredible.
But the family had documentation that traced its descent from a Crusader-period
male ancestor who had been in the Holy Land in the Middle Ages and claimed the
stone was a reward from the High Priest. Could it be true?
The Thousand-Year Story
According to the Auret family tradition, the ancestor, named
Croiz Arneet deTarn Auret, received the stone from “the High Priest”
in gratitude for his part in freeing Jerusalem around 1189. The custodianship
of the stone was passed on in the Auret family through the male line until the
nineteenth century. That tradition was broken when Abraham Auret passed away in
1889, bequeathing the stone to his daughter, Christina Elizabeth.
After her marriage to William James Hurst, the stone left
the Auret name, and has been passed on from mother to daughter ever since.
Meticulously recorded family trees and genealogical reports corroborate the
story. The stone was passed on as an inheritance and is presently owned by an
elderly woman in South Africa, who wishes to remain anonymous.
It has been strongly transmitted to each member of the
family through the centuries that it was God’s hand that inserted the
mysterious inscription inside the stone.
The mystery of the writing remained. Dr. Strange noted that
the stone had no external markings, so it clearly hadn’t been set in a ring or
a necklace. He was forced to conclude that it had probably been set in a large
plate or breastplate. He dated production of the stone to approximately the 5th
As an appraiser, Dr. Strange could not erase all doubt, but
he could certainly evaluate it as a one-of-a-kind. He appraised the stone’s
value at $175-$225 million.
The gemologist, Mr. Campbell, photomicrographed
(photographing via a microscope) the stone, confirming it had not been cut open
to make the inscription. When asked to estimate the value of the stone, Mr.
Campbell wrote, “How does one logically go about putting a value to
something like a proven religious artifact that is a ‘one of’ article?”
He estimated that $200 million was a “fair starting
The owner of the stone also consulted Professor M. Sharon
from the University of Witwatersrand. The professor, an expert in ancient
Hebrew, was given a photo of the stone. The blurry photographs hinted at
something astounding but he had to be sure. Intrigued, he asked to examine the
In his written report, he said that when he held it to the
light, he was amazed to see very clearly inside the stone itself, two letters
in ancient Hebrew. The letters seemed to be engraved or burnt into the heart of
“Due to the clarity of the letters and their fine
definition it would be incredible if they are a coincidental natural formation
in the stone,” he stated in his notarized report. “The lack of any
apparent sign of interference with the surface makes the existence of the
letters inside the stone a real enigma.”
He noted the inscriptions in ancient Hebrew script of what
he described as “the equivalent of our ‘B’ and ‘K’.” He identified
the style of script, dating it to be from the year 1000 BCE, give or take
In 1994, Dr. Joan Goodnick Westenholz, who served as Chief
Curator at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem, examined the stone. She
concluded, “It is a unique object that has no similar or identical
counterpart; it is the only one of its kind in the world.”
Dr. Goodnick Westenholz believed that the gem was
“priceless”, estimating the date of the stone’s production to be
approximately the 7th century BCE. She noted the inscription “in the shape
of a possible letter is a ninth century form of an archaic Hebrew letter
In her notarized report, she observed next to the letter bet
“what can be perceived as the image of a wolf.” She noted that the
wolf corresponded to the blessing Jacob gave Benjamin.
Binyamin is a wolf that raveneth; in the morning he
devoureth the prey, and at even he divideth the spoil. Genesis 49:27
But Is It True?
Dr. Westenholz and Ian Campbell have since passed
away, but Breaking Israel News was able to confirm that their statements and
documentation were genuine. Campbell’s apprentice, Jeremy Rothon, confirmed the
original appraisal and told Breaking Israel News that he was well aware of the
stone’s heritage. It had made an enormous impression on Campbell and he had
discussed it at length with his student.
Dr. Strange remembers the stone very well, and is more
convinced than ever of its authenticity. “A lot of water has flowed under
the bridge since then,” Dr. Strange told Breaking Israel News. “I
calculated then that if it were a fraud, then one or more very similar others
would show up on the international market rather soon, but to my knowledge none
He called for new examination of the gem. “I think this
object needs a new appraisal and as many scientific tests as possible to
determine whether it is genuine,” said Dr. Strange. “If it turns out
to be an artifact important to the history of the Jewish people, then that is
truly wonderful. If it turns out to be a masterful fraud, then I will be
pained that I was duped.”
The Journey Home
The present owner has contracted with a South African
businessman to find investors who are willing to purchase the stone and bring
it home to Israel. Both parties prefer to remain anonymous. When he saw the
stone and understood what it was, the businessman was dismayed, understanding
that it could easily turn into a commodity, an object of greed.
He recognized that this small stone was an enormous part of
Jewish history and set out to find an investor who would recompense the owner
with the intention of bringing it to Israel and donating it to the Temple.
“I’ve been involved with deals like this before,”
he told Breaking Israel News. “There are pieces of Egyptian heritage in
museums all over the world. People find something and sell it, without thinking
about what it is. That is what is done and it is a shame, even more so with
this stone. Several people have been trying to buy or sell this stone, turning
it into a business. All I really wanted to do was get the stone back to Israel
where it belongs.”
Many people have begun to discount the Jewish connection to
Israel and the Temple Mount, claiming the Jewish Temples are fairytale
accounts. This small stone and its miraculous engraving that once lit up the
High Priest’s breastplate are proof that the Temple stood in Jerusalem, and may
signal the return of more artifacts that have been misplaced, waiting to return
Revelation 1:3 "Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near".
Watchman for Christ