Beneath Biblical Lands

There was a time when historians would have to accept some details of the past as great unknowns. Without the ability to go back in time, recording and relating history will always pose difficulties. But each year, more and more of these oppositions are being removed. Today, modern archaeological research allows for continued historical discovery. For example, scholars have just recently discovered an ancient text fragment. This small excerpt of text, experts believe, refers to Jesus as having a wife, presumably Mary Magdalene. Although tests are being run to validate the authenticity of this document, it does provide a fascinating glimpse into the role of women in Jesus’ time. With one simple discovery, long standing theories can quickly be turned on end.

Eric M. Meyers and Mark A. Chancey parse out the significance of similar ground-breaking research, painting a new portrait of ancient lands in Alexander to Constantine: Archaeology of the Land of the Bible.

The book focuses on the influences of Greco-Roman cultures on the people of the ancient Near East. Entire Roman-period cities still stand throughout Israel and Palestine, testaments to the cultural powers of these rulers. For an example, one must look no further than the jacket image of the book, portraying the beautiful and mysterious “Mona Lisa of the Galilee.” She is located in the House of Dionysus in Sepphoris, an intricately placed collection of tiles portraying Aphrodite, the Greek god of love. Hidden in the ruins of a city in northern Israel, she seems comically misplaced, but her existence is merely another clue into the history of these ancient lands. Meyers and Chancey explain that these rulings led to the birth of Christianity, which was indistinguishable from Judaism for most of this history.

As modern researchers and scholar continue to work through mysteries like the “Mona Lisa of the Galilee,” one’s understanding of these complicates histories can constantly be updated.

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