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NEAS San Diego, CA

From 20 - 22 November 2019, San Diego, CA, experienced an invasion of over 2,800 evangelical Christians. These men and women came to San Diego to attend the Evangelical Theological Society's (ETS) annual meeting of three days of meetings, presentations, and exhibitors from many Christian organizations. The Near East Archaeological Society (NEAS) is one of the exhibitors, but also in a partnership with the ETS hold their annual meeting, which this year consisted of 23 distinct presentations covering subjects from Genesis to Acts. The presenters represented a spectrum of speakers, including our special speaker, Frankie Snyder, who is known as the "Floor Lady" due to her expertise on Roman and Crusader tile floors. Overall, the presentations garnered on average, 41 listeners with a high of over 90.

A listing of the presenters demonstrates the impact the Associates for Biblical Research (ABR) has in the field. ABR members or others associated with the Shiloh Dig included Doug Petrovich, Steven Rudd, Frankie Snyder, Scott Stripling, Brian Peterson, Richard Lanser, and myself as the program chair. Other ABR members and friends were frequently in attendance as well, providing the opportunity to find out what has been happening in their lives. In general, the ABR presenters represented about 30% of the entire program. This level of attendance indicates the professionalism and academic rigor of ABR members. 

As noted above, the presentations ranged from Genesis to Acts. We kicked off Wednesday morning with presentations on Genesis the first with the intriguing title of "What is the Author Doing by What He is Saying in Genesis 1-2?" where T. D. Proffitt suggests that God was providing a critique of other ancient cosmological epic stories. Doug Petrovich followed with "Pinpointing the Identity of the Sons of God in Genesis 6 and Possibly in the Archaeological Record," suggesting that the Nephilim might be the Neanderthal man population in ancient times. Not to be outdone by the earlier presentations, Clyde Billington gave a presentation on "Is The Screaming Mummy The First Born Son of Pharaoh?" claiming that this was the son of Pharaoh Amenhotep II (believed by many to be the pharaoh of exodus).   Following along with the Exodus theme, Steven Rudd proposes that Petra be the location of Kadesh Barnea where the Israelites spent many years during the Wilderness wandering before entering the Promised Land with his presentation called "The Search for Kadesh Barnea." With this start, it was looking like we were going to have a great conference, and the remaining presenters did not fail us.

Wednesday afternoon demonstrated there is always more to learn about Israel during the conquest period to the time of the Persian Empire. Beginning with Seth M. Rodriquez, who discussed the Conquest Period with his "The Land Was Subdued Before Them: A Search for Israelite Settlements in Late Bronze Canaan," focusing on the archaeological evidence for the conquest period. Not to be outdone, Chris McKinny demonstrated through his "Historical Geography Gone Awry at Khirbet er-Ra‘i?" presentation that a recent announcement that identified Ziklag with Khirbet er-Ra‘i is a misusing of historical geography. Charissa D. Wilson, a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, followed  Chris with her presentation on "The Shishak Destruction and the Ninth Century Occupation at Tel Gezer" discussed the impact Egyptian influence had on the city after the Shishak invasion. Chet Roden with the intriguing title of AI but not Ai: A Look into Biblical Archaeology and Artificial Intelligence (AI)" then took the stage and presented some ideas on how the use of artificial intelligence (AI) might assist in developing excavation strategies that would effectively excavate sites in Israel. Todd Bolen wrapped up the first day of presentation with a presentation on "The Archaeology of Esther: Susa, Reliefs, Inscriptions, and Artifacts" demonstrating how photographs of Esther's environment as revealed through archaeology enhances our understanding of the scripture from the time of the Exile in Persia.

Thursday morning started with our special speaker, Frankie Synder. She is affectionately known as the "Floor Lady" due to her expertise with Roman and Crusader floors, especially the floor that was on Herod's Temple platform floor. Her first talk concerned the Temple Mount tiles found in the Shifting Project that she has been participating in, and her second presentation was on Crusader floors. Our third and fourth presentations were a pictorial excursion over the Vilively title of Appia travel by Paul as he appealed to Caesar for a trail. Mark Wilson traced and discussed Paul's route from Malta to Sineussa, while is colleague followed up with tracing the journey from Sineussa to Rome. With our morning filled with images of Roman tiles, roads, structures, and other artifacts, we took a break and looked forward to the coming presentations in the afternoon.

The afternoon presentations focused on several biblical archaeological sites. The first on Lachish dealt with James Adcock's "Hezekiah’s Reform Reaches to Tel Lachish?" In this presentation, he discussed how the recent discovery of a toilet in one of the gate structures that may have held a place of worship is indicative of Hezikiah's reforms, as discussed in II Chronicles 31:1. Dale Manor's presentation followed and discussed the impact a new road is having on Tel Beth-Shemesh, which contains multiple occupation layers revealing all manner of artifacts. The importance of the site excavations resulted in the rerouting of the road. As we continued our review of archaeological sites, Scott Stripling discussed the Shiloh excavation which is sponsored by ABR. His discussions on the cultic nature of Shiloh up to the time of Eli and its follow-on destruction by the Philistines was indicative of the great work ABR is supporting in the Promised Land. What with cultic items, scarabs, administration areas, storerooms, large pithos jars, etc. that this is an excavation that is worth volunteering your time if you go to Israel. Ralph Hawkins followed Scott with his report on the Excavation at Khirbet ʿAuja el-Foqa. This Iron Age II site identified with biblical 'Ataroth which was built by the Gadites in the 13th century as a means to control the Jordanian Plateau. A review of various Roman-era sites in the northern part of Israel followed this presentation. Of interest was the discussion on the Roman Legion that was constructing buildings in upper Israel based near Megiddo. Thus we conclude our second day of presentations in biblical archaeology.

On Friday afternoon, we had a series of presentations that focused, for the most part on the time of Jesus. Brian Peterson brought an excellent paper on how God in His providence kept the Dead Sea Scrolls safe for about 2000 years to provide a validation of the scripture at a time when it was most needed. In the mid-20th century, it was normal for many to believe that the Old Testament scripture available in no way could be an accurate rendering of the Old Testament since the earliest version available was from around AD 1000. Thus the possibility of significant errors occurring was possible. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls pushed back the available manuscripts to before the time of Jesus. A comparison of the transmitted text, when compared with the portions of the available scrolls, demonstrated that God had indeed worked to ensure His word was adequately maintained. The title of the presentation reflects the event of this miracle with the title of "The Sovereign Hand of God in the Discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls." Brian's presentation was followed by two chronology oriented papers, one presented by ABR staff member, Richard Lanser and the other by Roger Young. Richard's presentation focused on "Pinpointing the Date of Christ's Birth: Insights from Priestly, Birth and Seasonal Cycles." Whereas, Roger's presentation focused on establishing the death of Herod the Great with his title of "NT Chronology and the Death of Herod the Great" that results in a different date for the birth of Jesus than Richard's. Next, we had Robert Smith who discussed the construction of the roof through which the Paralytic was lowered through as described in Mark 2:4 and Luke 5:19. Luke's use of the word for tiles suggested that the roof was composed of mudbrick tiles. Robert discussed how he and his students had made some sundried mud-tiles, which could easily support the weight someone building the roof and then quickly remove them as the scripture notes to lower the Paralytic into the room. Of course, this method of constructing a roof would allow for rapid repair as well. Robert even brought a model of the idea which enhanced his presentation. Our final presentation was by David Sielaff, who suggested that there was a fountain on the Temple Mount to support the removal of sacrificial blood during high holy days.

Thus we conclude our summary of the events over a three days conference on biblical archaeology. During these three days, we learned much and now have even more questions to pursue as we continue of studies and ministries. I hope that this has sparked a fire within you to come to the next NEAS conference i17-19 November 2020 in Providence, RI.

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