The Bible is more than just black and white (and sometimes red) letters on the page of a book. It is a book about real people, in real places, experiencing real events in history. Sometimes it is hard to imagine how people lived in Biblical times because of our 21st century Western mindset and experience. When we think of a lamp, we think of a stand with a shade and an electric light bulb in the socket. In the Biblical world there was no electricity, only olive oil and a wick to light the oil lamp. This exhibition gives a glimpse into the material culture of the Biblical world and will give the viewer a third dimension to Biblical studies! One can experience a: “Oh, now I see [literally] what the Bible is talking about” moment!
As an archaeologist and a Bible teacher, I was fascinated by the whole exhibition on loan from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). I was able to view some of the latest archaeological discoveries from Israel for the first time, objects that I had only read about in the newspapers or in the archaeological journals. The last time the IAA sent such a large display of antiquities from Israel to New York was to the Metropolitan Museum of Art during the winter of 1986-87. Hopefully it will not be another 25 years before the IAA sends another display to the Big Apple! But let’s enjoy this one while we can.
Some of the Highlights
There are over 500 archaeological artifacts on display that illustrate daily life and faith in the Biblical world. These include pottery, bullae, seals, coins, jewelry, ossuaries, figurines, and architectural remains. Some of the objects are shown for the first time outside of Israel. I will mention just a few of them.
Several display cases can illustrate the financial transaction of the Prophet Jeremiah buying the field from his cousin Hanamel in Jeremiah 32. There are scale pans, silver ingots, seals, bullae, shekel weights, and the earthen vessel that deeds might be placed for safekeeping. (For further study, see: Signed, Sealed and Delivered: An Archaeological Exposition of Jeremiah 32:1-15 on the author's website.) There is a display of objects found at the High Place at Tel Dan, including a horned altar and a bath (1 Kings 12:25-33; cf. 2 Kings 10:29; Amos 8:14).
The conquest of Lachish is one of those rare events where the Biblical records (2 Kings 18:14; 19:8; Isa. 37:8), the Assyrian records, an Assyrian “photograph” (the Lachish Relief, now in the British Museum), and the actual excavation at the site, all converge to give us a full picture of what actually took place during this event. On the Lachish Reliefs, archers and slingers can be seen shooting arrows and slinging stones at the Judeans on the walls of the city. During the excavations at Lachish many iron arrowheads and flint sling stones were found from the battle in 701 BC. The size of the sling stone is slightly smaller than a tennis ball. David, when he slew Goliath, probably used a stone about this size that he picked out of the brook in the Elah Valley (1 Sam. 17:40, 49-50).
What really left an impression on me was how small the ancient phylacteries, called tefillin in Hebrew, really were. These small leather containers, with small parchments containing Scripture, were worn by Jewish men to fulfill the injunction to: “bind them [the commandments] as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes” (Deut. 6:6-9; cf. Ex. 13:9, 16; Deut. 11:18). This object is mentioned only once in the Gospels (Matt. 23:5).
There are twenty Dead Sea Scrolls in this exhibition, including fragments of the Book of Numbers, the “Song of Moses” in Deuteronomy, Isaiah, Psalms, Paleo-Leviticus, and Minor Prophets in Greek. There are also parts of the Isaiah and Nahum commentaries and the Targum of Job. Only ten scrolls are displayed at one time. Half way through the exhibition the other ten will go on display and the first ten will rest. The manuscripts are sensitive to light, so the presenters have the scrolls in a darkened environment and the light comes on when a motion detector senses a person looking at the display so as to not “wear out” the parchments.
Where, When, and How Much?
The Discovery Times Square exhibition hall is located at 226 West 44th St., between 7th and 8th Ave. in New York City. It is across the street from the Shubert Theatre and also a parking garage. Please note that West 44th St. is one way going east, so Discovery Times Square must be approached from 8th Ave. (which in one-way going north).
The hours for the exhibit are Monday to Thursday, 10 AM to 7 PM and Friday to Sunday from 10 AM to 8 AM. The last entry is one hour before closing. It will run until April 15, 2012 and then it will move to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia and run for five months beginning in May, 2012.
The ticket pricing is $25 for adults, $22.50 for seniors, and $19.50 for children. One can order tickets through the Internet, or pay at the window at the entrance. There is also a group rate for groups of ten or more people. For groups, please phone 855-266-5387, or email firstname.lastname@example.org