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Hebrew inscriptions on ancient slab of marble near Lake Kinneret

Israeli archaeologists find Hebrew inscriptions on ancient slab of marble near the Galilean Sea

In December 2015 Hebrew inscriptions were discovered on an ancient piece of rare marble discovered by Israeli archaeologists during an excavation on the shores of Lake Kinneret [which is 64 sq mi (166 sq km), extending 13 miles (21 km) from north to south and 7 miles (11 km) from east to west, it is pear-shaped]. The lake is c.700 ft (210 m) below sea level and occupies a downwarped basin being fed and drained by the Jordan River.

The finding of the 1,500-year-old slab in the great depression of the Jordan, dug up by scientists in Kursi confirms historians’ belief that the ancient village of Kursi was inhabited either by Jews or Christians.

Kursi is located in Golan Heights

English: Tilapia zilli (redbelly tilapia, &quo...

Tilapia zilli (redbelly tilapia, “St. Peter’s fish”), typical serving in a Tiberias restaurant (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kursi lies on the eastern shore of Israel’s most important source of drinking water. Today it is also known for the Talmudic site which is located near the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee (also Sea of Chinnereth or Chinneroth, Kinneret, from the Old Testament or Hebrew Tanakh “sea of Kinneret” in Numbers 34:11 and Joshua 13:27, also known as Lake of Gennesaret, or Lake Tiberias) on the bank of a river bed, Nahal Samakh, descending from the Golan Heights, where one can find the ruins of a 5th century monastery and its church, staying in use throughout the Byzantine period (in Israeli-Judaic terms: the Mishnaic and Talmudic periods). In the New Testament the lake is named variously from nearby geographical features – Galilee, Gennesaret, or Tiberias. The lake was the source of a thriving fishing industry in the time of Christ. The fish life of the Sea of Galilee has an affinity with that of the East African lakes. Fish species to be found today include damselfish, scaleless blennies, catfish, mouthbreeders, tilapia or ‘St. Peter’s fish‘ and barbels.

PikiWiki Israel 19333 Geography of Israel.jpg

Tiberias, Tveria, Tiveria, Israeli city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee

The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus wrote of nine cities on the shores of the lake in ancient times, but of those only one of the four Jewish holy cities, the Israeli city on the western shore Tiberias has survived. Kefar Naḥum (ancient Capernaum), near the northwestern shore, has preserved one of the most beautiful synagogues of the Galilee region, dating from the 2nd and 3rd centuries ce. A sanctuary for the Druze (an independent sect founded in the 11th century with a creed containing elements of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity) is located near the Moshav shitufi Kefar Ḥittim near the western shore.

The finding of the 1,500-year-old slab with Hebrew text is the first indication that there was a Jewish presence, and it reinforces the belief that the town of Kursi was the place where Jesus performed the ‘Miracle of the Swine.’ At this place Jesus healed one or two men possessed by demons by driving these into a herd of pigs (Mark 5:1-20, Matthew 8:28–34, Luke 8:26-39). The apostle look at the miracle from a different angle and as such details differ somewhat in the three gospels dealing with the episode, and again some more in different ancient manuscripts of those same gospels. The events take place in the land of either the Gerasenes, Gadarenes or Gergesenes located near the modern city of Jerash, Jordan (Mark 5:1, Matthew 8:28, Luke 8:26). Exorcised was either one man (Mark and Luke) or two (Matthew). The whole herd of swine subsequently ran into the Sea of Galilee and perished.

English: Kursi, Israel

Kursi, Israel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Israeli archaeologist Dan Urman started his research when in 1970 by road construction the labourers bumped on the ruins of a monastery. The major excavation took place between 1971 and 1974. Dan Urman and his Greek colleague Vassilios Tzaferis for the Israel Antiquities Authority excavated the largest Byzantine monastic complex found in Israel. Further excavations have since been taking place, the marble-lined bath-house being one of the more recent discoveries.

Prof. Michal Artzi of Haifa University and Dr. Haim Cohen in concert with the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority supervised the recent excavations and finding of the stone slab.

Photo courtesy: Haifa University/Jennifer Munro

Slab of marble with Hebrew inscription found in Kursi – Haifa University/Jennifer Munro

Further reading

  1. 1,500-year-old marble tablet at the Sea of Galilee suggesting place was once a Jewish or Jewish-Christian settlement
  2. Kursi, Northeast Shore of the Sea of Galilee: Hebrew inscriptions found
  3. Excavations Near the Sea of Galilee Uncover Evidence of Where Jesus Miraculously Cast Out Legions of Demons Into a Herd of Pigs
  4. The Five Most Beautiful Places in Israel
  5. Murals I created for a sukkah: panels 1, 2, 3, showing Sea of Galilee, Golan Heights
  6. The Golan Trail
  7. ‘Israel concerned with build-up of Iranian forces in Syria near Golan border’
  8. Islamic State gaining ground on Golan border as moderate rebels wither
  9. Giant Oil Deposit Found in Southern Golan
  10. Let me understand: Rothschild takes the Oil in the Golan, Israel takes the Middle East and we Europeans should take the immigrants?
  11. Why don’t they bargain like this: The Russian Federation keeps Crimea, Israel keeps the Golan and Assad keeps the rest of Syria. And the war ends.
  12. Israel is braced for Russian aerial intrusions over its Golan border
  13. Israel to annex Golan Heights after ‘billion barrel’ oil find
  14. The IDF starts training drill on Golan Monday night

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Nazarene Commentary Luke 3:3-6 – John Preaches Baptism of Repentance

Luke 3:3-6 – John Preaches Baptism of Repentance

LK3:3 And so John went into all the surrounding regions of the Jordan [river], preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,[1] LK3:4 just as it has been written in the bible[2] of the prophet Isaiah’s words: “A voice crying in the desert:[3] ‘Prepare the way of YHWH![4] Make His paths straight!’ LK3:5 Every valley will be filled in, and every mountain and hill will be leveled off. The crooked will be straightened and the rough smoothed out. LK3:6 All flesh will see the salvation of The God.” [Isaiah 40:3-5 LXX]


[1] Sins: Against the Law of Moses.

[2] Bible: Or, book, scroll, writings. The Greek is BIBLO.

[3] A voice crying in the desert: The source is Isaiah 40:3-5. Compare Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3.

  • Commentaries for the Second Sunday of Advent, Year A (stjoeofoblog.wordpress.com)
    Historical-Cultural Context. The Gospel reading in light of 1st century Mediterranean culture.
    Lector Notes. Brief historical and theological background to the readings.
  • 8th December, Gospel Reading (Matthew 3:1-12) (prayers4reparation.wordpress.com)
    In due course John the Baptist appeared; he preached in the wilderness of Judaea and this was his message: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’
    +
    if you are repentant, produce the appropriate fruit, and do not presume to tell yourselves, “We have Abraham for our father,” because, I tell you, God can raise children for Abraham from these stones. Even now the axe is laid to the roots of the trees, so that any tree which fails to produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown on the fire.
  • Isaiah 40:3 (jasondrenning.wordpress.com)
    The prophet had some reference to the return of the Jews from Babylon. But this is a small event, compared with that pointed out by the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, when John the Baptist proclaimed the coming of Christ into the world (Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; John 1:23). When eastern princes marched through desert countries, ways were prepared for them, and barriers removed.
  • In those days: the kingdom at hand (friarmusings.wordpress.com)
    Matthew 3:1–12 describes John’s preparation for Jesus (also see Mark 1:2–8; Luke 3:1–18; John 1:19–28). Although we normally call him “the Baptist,” Matt 3:1-12 does not focus on his baptizing activity as much as on other aspects of his ministry: John as Preacher/Prophet, and John as the Forerunner to Jesus.

    Contrary to today’s popular misconceptions, biblical prophets do not merely or even primarily “predict” the future. Rather they “speak on behalf of God” (Greek pro-phemi), and they do this through both their words and their actions. Thus, John not only talks like a prophet (preaching a message of repentance), but he also acts like one (as Matthew describes his clothing and diet in the desert). John not only calls all people in general to repent, but he has particularly harsh words for some of the more “religious” people, challenging them to show their repentance in their actions, to “produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance” (3:8), as all other biblical prophets also did.

  • What’s Cooking? (ianritchie.wordpress.com)
    The great yearning for greater fairness in government has been with the human race for a long time. So it was also in the time of the prophet Isaiah, over 720 years Before Christ. If you read through the first ten chapters of the book of Isaiah, you read about injustice and unrighteousness in both the chosen nation and all the “other nations.” And we read about a lot of violence and destruction, a lot of gloom, and doom, both in what was then the present, and what was to come.
  • In those days: some notes (friarmusings.wordpress.com)
    Repent: the biblical idea of repentance involves a willingness to turn one’s life around in the sense of a complete re-orientation. the kingdom of heaven is at hand: “heaven” (literally, “the heavens”) is a substitute for the name “God” that was avoided by devout Jews of the time out of reverence. The expression “the kingdom of heaven” occurs only in the gospel of Matthew. It means the effective rule of God over his people. In its fullness it includes not only human obedience to God’s word, but the triumph of God over physical evils, supremely over death. In the expectation found in Jewish apocalyptic, the kingdom was to be ushered in by a judgment in which sinners would be condemned and perish, an expectation shared by the Baptist. This was modified in Christian understanding where the kingdom was seen as being established in stages, culminating with the parousia of Jesus.
  • December 8 (stmarkssa.wordpress.com)
  • Getting ready for Advent 2 (revdavidyonker.wordpress.com)
  • Second Sunday of Advent 8.12.13 Matthew 3.1-12 (preachersfriend.wordpress.com)
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Nazarene Commentary Matthew 3:1-6 – A Wilderness Baptist Prepares the Way

Matthew 3:1-6 – A Wilderness Baptist Prepares the Way

|| Mark 1:1-6; Luke 3:1-6, 12-14

The Jordan River

The Jordan River (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

MT3:1 But in those days[1] John the Baptist[2] came from the Judean wilderness,[3] MT3:2 preaching, “Repent[4] for the Realm[5] of Heaven has drawn near.[6] MT3:3 For this is the One spoken of by Isaiah[7] the prophet, saying, ‘A voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make ready the Way of YHWH – make straight His roads.”’” [Isaiah 40:3] MT3:4 But this John dressed in camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist and hips. His food was locusts[8] and wild honey. MT3:5 Then Jerusalem and all the Judeans[9] and all the country along the Jordan came to John, MT3:6 and they publicly confessed their sins[10] and John baptized[11] them in the Jordan river.[12]


[1] Those days: Luke gives the precise timing by paralleling these activities with several contemporary rulers and priests (Luke 3:1ff). It was the year 29 AD.

[2] John the Baptist: The prophet from the desert is mentioned 150 times in the Christian Bible. The name “John” means “Yah Favors.” Jesus ranks him equal to any of the greatest people in the Bible (Matthew 11:11, 12). Jesus compares him to the prophet Elijah.

[3] Wilderness: BER: the Judean desert.

[4] Repent: Repentance is a key word in the Bible. It means to “change the mind” or “feel sorry” for sins. The word group occurs 70 times in the Bible with the first at Job 42:6 and most often in Luke, with Revelation second. John’s call to repentance was regarding sins against the Mosaic Law.

[5] Realm: The Greek is BASILEIA and is often translated “kingdom.” MOF: Reign of heaven. The word occurs 366 times, first at Genesis 10:10 and most often in Daniel and then Matthew. The word may mean the seat of government, that is the king, or source of the authority. It may also mean the realm, territory or domain of the King. Here John has in mind the future manifestation or appearance of the Messiah Jesus, the “king of Israel.” “Kingdom of heaven” (Matthew) or “kingdom of God” (Luke) is used most often by the Nazarene to mean the “realm of profession” or the Church (Compare the parables in Matthew 13).

[6] Near: Usually the word “near” means within hours or days. John has in mind the coming of Messiah as the future King of Israel.

[7] Isaiah: The quote is from Isaiah 40:3 and leans toward the LXX though paraphrases a bit.

[8] Locusts: A common food of Middle Eastern nomads. GDSP: dried locusts; BECK: grasshoppers. John is very austere if not ascetic.

[9] All the Judeans: John’s preaching has a wide impact among the Jews.

[10] Their sins: That is sins against the Mosaic Law. These are all Jews.

[11] Baptized: The word (BAPTIZONTO) means “immerse” or “submerge” (RHM) and always occurs where there is “a large body of water.” The word group occurs over 100 times. There are two water baptisms in the Christian Bible: that of John the Baptist for Jews (Acts 18:25; 19:3) and Christian baptism into Nazarene discipleship. “Baptism” is connected to salvation (1 Peter 3:21). There is a baptism into God’s spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13; John 3:3-5). There is a baptism into Christ’s leadership (1 Corinthians 10:2). There is a baptism into the life course as a disciple (Mark 10:38). There is a baptism into death (Luke 12:38; Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12). Baptism is a fundamental teaching (Hebrews 6:2). Jesus commanded his eleven apostles to go and baptize people of all nations (Matthew 28:18, 19).

  • December 8 (stmarkssa.wordpress.com)
    To the people of the Old Testament period, the word would mean to turn, to return. Their experience of being in exile in Babylon and returning to Jerusalem was a powerful cultural memory to them. When “repent” was translated from the Greek, another meaning emerged: “to go beyond the mind that we have.” So repentance is all about change, to go beyond where we are and open ourselves to transformation.
  • The Gospel of Matthew: The Messiah of Promise 3:1-12 (anchorlongbeach.wordpress.com)John the Baptist came at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, which Mark notes as the first words of his gospel. Luke, marks the time with his announcement (“15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,” which puts it around 26 A.D. making both John and Jesus around 30 (See Luke 3:23), but all four gospels discuss this event in Jesus’ life, because it is an important fulfillments of prophecy about the Messiah (See Matthew 11:9-10 cf. Malachi 3:1). The fact that John the Baptist came “preaching in the desert,” is significant, because the desert was a place that God had called His people out from to worship Him, and it was usually represented renewal.
    +
    Although the Greek word for “Repentance” is Metanoia, which carries the idea of a changed mind, theologian D.A. Carson writes; “What is meant is not merely intellectual change of mind or more grief, still less doing penance…but a radical transformation of the entire person, a fundamental turnaround involving mind and action and including overtones of grief, which results in ‘fruit in keeping with repentance.’”Now, John’s baptism, was preparing “the way” for those to come to Jesus, but as we see elsewhere, it was only after Christ was raised from the dead that repentance led to the transformation of the Holy Spirit (See Point #5 cf. Acts13: 24ff; 19:4-6).
  • Getting ready for Advent 2 (revdavidyonker.wordpress.com)
    We know that the person John is talking about is  Jesus, but Craddock notes, “the narrative asks us to exercise restraint and let the story unfold in its own time.” We’ll get to Jesus soon enough.  John simply says in verse 11, “he who is coming after me” and “I am not worthy to carry his sandals.”  If you’ve heard the story before we know who is to come.  But when it comes to the church, how many times to we assume that everyone knows the story.  We assume people know about God’s love made known in Jesus Christ; we assume they know the story of his birth.  We assume because we know.  But that isn’t the case.  We still have to prepare the way of the Lord.
  • In those days: John’s Baptism (friarmusings.wordpress.com)
    John’s Baptism.“to lead righteous lives, to practice justice toward their fellows and piety towards God, and so doing join in baptism”  John’s baptism was a symbolic act that people who had already done these things – or were committed to living as such – were forming a “faithful remnant” of the covenant.  In the gospel accounts all of John’s words (except the word against Antipas) are spoken to persons seeking this baptism. His words show that John was unreceptive to those whom he judged to have bad faith, while he was friendly to those who were truly repentant. To the former he repeated threats and warnings and perhaps added new ones, while to the latter he gave hope for further dramatic renewal of their lives as well as ethical guidance relevant to their particular vocations. The former group seems to have been made up of people whose commonality was lording power over the common people: the religious leadership, the wealthy, the tax collectors and soldiers.
  • Lectionary blogging: Why was Jesus baptized? (johnmeunier.wordpress.com)
    It seems only right that we ask questions about the meaning of baptism since John the Baptist himself asked such questions.
    +
    Wesley comes down on the side of interpreting Jesus’ baptism as a model for his followers. Jesus was baptized even though he had no sin and required no repentance, which were key aspects of John’s baptismal message. Jesus did this to set a model for us. For Wesley the baptism of Jesus is an example of the obligations that rest on us as Christians for no other reason than Jesus Christ commands us to observe them. If we reject the command, Wesley argues, we should not expect the Holy Spirit.
  • The writer of The Baptism of the Lord (newevangelizers.com) asks his readers to notice that as the Spirit descends upon Jesus, “the Father announces from heaven that this is His beloved Son.”But than straight ahead continues giving the impression that this Voice from the clouds did not tell the truth and gave “a majestic revelation of the Most Holy Trinity, one God in three persons. ” and as such going against all the sayings of Jehovah God and of Jesus himself later in his life when he spoke about his relationship with his heavenly Father.
  • We wonder where Sermo Dei: Baptism of Our Lord (daringlutheran.net) gets it from that the Son of God is incarnate. He does not allow people to question his saying, so this will leave a blank.
    He writes a.o.:
    “By Jesus’ time, prophets of the Lord are seldom seen and heard from – even less so today. The sky tends not to be rent open wide when someone wades in the water. Certainly disembodied voices don’t sound forth from heaven, nor do dove-like Spirits descend in plain sight.”
    Though he seem to recognise the Voice of God or the Logos being able to create or to destroy things he suddenly seem to mix the voice of the Creator with the person of which the Logos gave existence of.
  • Baptism of Christ – unworthy sinners made worthy by Jesus (revpaulhgreenland.wordpress.com)
    judgment is there for those who oppose God’s ways, but fundamentally, God wants to bring us back from sin into His ways. We have the image of the Old Testament prophet, whose job it was to preach judgment and punishment to warn the people of the consequences of their continued sin, but God wants most of all as Ezekiel says, for people to turn and live.
  • Baptism of Our Lord (ijboudreaux.com)
    Father in heaven, at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan you proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit.  Grant that all who are baptized into his name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, One God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.
  • A Title You Can’t Wash Off (jaredhillaryruark.wordpress.com)
    We could say a lot of things about baptism because there are billions of Christians and thousands of Christian traditions, so baptism can take on any number of meanings and people think about it in a lot of different ways.
    +
    John the Baptist, despite his name, doesn’t feel up to the task. He’s already baptized thousands in the River Jordan but when Jesus approaches he says Whoa, whoa. Nope. I’m not baptizing you, you should be baptizing me. The problem seems to be that baptism is for the forgiveness of sins and Jesus doesn’t have sins so why would he be baptized? So John says, no-no-no. You’re the holy one and it makes more sense if you baptize me.You can tell somethings out of place just from their names and titles. John is called the Baptist and they’ll call Jesus a lot of things–Messiah, Christ, Son of God. And you can tell just from the titles that John shouldn’t be baptizing Jesus. Cause you know there are all sorts of Baptists–American baptists and Southern baptists, independent baptists. Larry and Susan the Baptists down the street. But you don’t hear about Joe and Suzy Christ so much. Only Jesus get’s to be called Christ and Christ is quite the title. So John says “I need to be baptized by you.”
  • In those days: some notes (friarmusings.wordpress.com)
    Matthew 3:1 in those days: This is an OT expression that marks the beginning of the new period, not necessarily a precise indication of time (see Mt 13:1; 24:22, 29, 36; 26:29). Here it marks the time-shift from the infancy narrative to the adult Jesus’ appearance.  the desert of Judea: wilderness would perhaps be the better word for modern English. The area is the barren region west of the Dead Sea extending up the Jordan valley.
    +
    Matthew 3:2 Repent: the biblical idea of repentance involves a willingness to turn one’s life around in the sense of a complete re-orientation. the kingdom of heaven is at hand: “heaven” (literally, “the heavens”) is a substitute for the name “God” that was avoided by devout Jews of the time out of reverence. The expression “the kingdom of heaven” occurs only in the gospel of Matthew. It means the effective rule of God over his people. In its fullness it includes not only human obedience to God’s word, but the triumph of God over physical evils, supremely over death. In the expectation found in Jewish apocalyptic, the kingdom was to be ushered in by a judgment in which sinners would be condemned and perish, an expectation shared by the Baptist. This was modified in Christian understanding where the kingdom was seen as being established in stages, culminating with the parousia of Jesus.
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