Monday, May 7, 2007

Tomb of King Herod Found

Once again, the Gospels interface with secular history.
Archaeologist Finds Tomb of King Herod

Prof. Ehud Netzer of Hebrew University, fulfilling a career-long goal of solving this national-historic mystery, has uncovered the grave of King Herod - at the Herodium (Herodion), east of Efrat in Gush Etzion.

Prof. Netzer announced his discovery at a Tuesday morning press conference at the Mount Scopus campus of Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He explained that a combination of the location, type of work at the tomb, the decorations, and pieces of the coffin led to the definite conclusion that this was Herod the Great's burial site.

Herod was the Roman-appointed king of Judea from 37 to 4 BCE. He was renowned for his many monumental building projects, including the expansion of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, the palace at Masada, and the Herodium complex, 15 kilometers south of Jerusalem. The Herodium, Herod's final resting place, is among the most outstanding of his building projects. Prof. Netzer has led archaeological digs there since 1972, and the "exposure of the king's tomb here becomes the climax of this site’s research," Netzer said.

Here is some additional analysis from Todd Bolen's blog. Todd is a professor at the Master's College and lives in Israel.
Apparently, the tomb was found on the slope of the hill, and not in the complex that Herod had prepared for his burial. Some possibilities: 1) Herod ordered the location change in order to thwart tomb robbers (if so, he failed). 2) Herod's subjects buried him here, defying the wishes of the king (as did Herod's sister in ordering the leading men of the kingdom released before Herod's order to kill them could be carried out). 3) Herod's body was moved at a later time. 4) This isn't Herod's tomb.

The basis for this "definite" identification is "a combination of the location, type of work at the tomb, the decorations, and pieces of the coffin." In other words, there is no inscription. In order to make a convincing case, the workmanship of the tomb and coffin are going to have to be of the highest quality. It is interesting that "location" is factored into the identification, as it seems that the location, not in the prepared burial place, would argue against the identification. But of course, it is at the Herodium, and presumably, not just any wealthy citizen could be buried there.

Another one of Todd's entries reads:
The main question I've been getting concerns the authenticity of the find. On this, there is only one piece of relevant evidence at this time: the tomb was discovered by Ehud Netzer. He is a highly respected archaeologist in Israel, and he's been looking for the tomb for a long time. I think that if he was one to jump to premature conclusions, he would have done so long ago. Instead, he has proposed possibility after possibility and acknowledged coming up short. I can't imagine that he wouldn't be making such an announcement without solid evidence.

Ehud Netzer is sometimes known as "Mr. Herod" because of his excavation of numerous Herodian sites, including Jericho (1973-87, 1998), Caesarea (1975-76, 1979), possible family tomb of Herod in Jerusalem (1977), Masada (1989), and Herodium (1970-present, with breaks). Netzer is professor emeritus in the Department of Classical Archaeology at Hebrew University.

I guess what fascinates me about this discovery is how frequently the Bible crosses paths with secular history. Why don't you ever hear about archaeological discoveries like this related to the Book of Mormon?

After all, if the Book of Mormon truly is a "second revelation" from God, then shouldn't we expect the same historical accuracy as the Bible? Instead, we have yet to find any credible evidence of cities or artifacts that correspond with the Book of Mormon's descriptions.

For more on this theme, see: The Bible vs. The Book of Mormon

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