R. Steven Notley, Ph.D. Lecture
Headline-Making Archeological Find in the Holy Land
Sunday, December 8th, at 7:00 PM
Modern-day pilgrims to the Holy Land are often unaware that until recently almost every site they visit had been lost for centuries. Destroyed, abandoned and forgotten, only in the middle of the nineteenth-century did explorers from abroad begin the process of relocating places that find mention in the Bible and other ancient writings (e.g. Megiddo, Capernaum, Masada). One such location has drawn recent attention and debate. For the last 30 years, archeologists working on the site of et-Tell, north of the Sea of Galilee, have identified it with New Testament Bethsaida. However, nagging questions about their claims have persisted. Its remote distance (1 ½ miles) from the lakeshore makes it an odd location for a fishing village described in both Jewish and Christian sources. In addition, the minimal Roman period remains found there do not fit the description by those who walked its streets. For the last four seasons (2016-2019) archeologists and volunteers from Kinneret College (Israel) and Nyack College (New York) have evacuated at el-Araj, an alternatively proposed location for Bethsaida. In August 2017, headlines around the world declared that Bethsaida, the home of Peter, Andrew and Philip (Jn. 1:44), had finally been found. Another wave of media attention announced this summer that excavators had found the long-lost Church of the Apostles, a Byzantine church reportedly built over the home of Peter and Andrew. In this lecture, Dr. Notley will consider the method by which archeologists and historians identify ancient sites. How do the excavations at el-Araj compare with the historical picture we receive of Bethsaida-Julias from the ancient sources? Professor Notley will present the findings from the first four seasons of the El-Araj Excavation Project, which may have finally found evidence for Herod Philip’s urbanization of the New Testament era fishing village on the Sea of Galilee, transforming it into a Jewish polis.
Professor Notley is Distinguished Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins on the New York City campus of Nyack College (2001-present) and director of the graduate programs in Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins. He received his Ph.D. from the Hebrew University, where he studied with David Flusser. Dr. Notley lived sixteen years with his wife and four children, during which time he was the founding chair of the New Testament Studies program at the Jerusalem University College. He has been directing groups of students and laypeople to Israel and the eastern Mediterranean region for 30 years. He is the author of many books and articles.. He continues collaborative research and publications with Israeli scholars in the fields of historical geography, ancient Judaism and Christian origins. His numerous published works include his work with Ze’ev Safrai (Bar Ilan University) on a pioneering collection and translation of the earliest rabbinic parables that provide the literary and religious context for the parables of Jesus, The Parables of the Sages (Carta 2011). Since 2016 he has served as the Academic Director of the El-Araj Excavation Project in its search for first-century Beth-Julias, the lost city of the Apostles.