Thursday, October 27, 2016

2,800-year-old papyrus confirms organized kingdom at Jerusalem

The Israel Antiquities Authority has revealed the earliest known extra-biblical reference to Jerusalem in Hebrew writing on a papyrus document confiscated from thieves by Israeli authorities.

The 2,800-year-old papyrus was found following an international enforcement operation by the IAA against antiquities robbers operating in the Judean Desert. Where the robbers found the papyrus cannot be stated with certainty, but it seems to have been found in a cave by the Hever Stream in the desert.

The papyrus is rare not only for the ancient Hebrew writing and the name of Jerusalem, but for existing at all. The arid desert certainly has conditions appropriate to preserve organic material over centuries, but ancient documentation that survived thousands of years remains rare. Only two other papyri dated to the First Temple era have been found, one of which had been erased.

The papyrus was revealed at the IAA’s Innovations in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and its Region conference.

Archaeologists are usually wary of publicizing finds not made through formal excavation due to the uncertainty of their origin. In this case, the researchers are confident that the find is authentic.

Carbon-14 analysis suggests the papyrus is between 2,500 and 2,800 years old. The Hebrew lettering is typical of the seventh century B.C.E. (699 B.C.E. – 600 B.C.E.) Though the writing itself could have been forged, the archaeologists believe it too is authentic.

Two lines of ancient Hebrew script were preserved on the papyrus, the IAA says.

Most of the letters are clearly legible, say Prof. Shmuel Ahituv of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Dr. Eitan Klein, deputy director of the IAA’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery and Amir Ganor of the IAA, who believe the text says:

“From the king’s maidservant, from Naʽarat, jars of wine, to Jerusalem.”

In other words, says the IAA, the papyrus is an original shipping document from the time of the First Temple, describing the shipment of jars of wine from storehouses in Na’arat to Jerusalem.

Naʽarat would likely be the Naʽarat mentioned in the description of the border between Ephraim and Benjamin in Joshua 16:7: “And it went down from Janohah to Ataroth, and to Naʽarat, and came to Jericho, and went out at Jordan.” However, 1 Chronicles 4:5, 6 also indicates it could be a woman’s name.

Ahituv notes that the papyrus isn’t just the earliest extra-biblical source to mention Jerusalem in Hebrew writing – “to date no other documents written on papyrus dating to the First Temple period have been discovered in Israel, except one from Wadi Murabbaʽat.

“Also outstanding in the document is the unusual status of a woman in the administration of the Kingdom of Judah in the seventh century B.C.E.”

Ahituv adds that the document reinforces that the city’s original name was “Yerushalem,” not “Yerushalayim”, a later spelling that might represent a compromise with non-Jews, linking the name with either a pagan deity or the idea of 'two hills'. 

“The document represents extremely rare evidence of the existence of an organized administration in the Kingdom of Judah,” stated Klein. “It underscores the centrality of Jerusalem as the economic capital of the kingdom in the second half of the seventh century B.C.E. According to the Bible, the kings Menashe, Amon or Josiah ruled in Jerusalem at this time; however, it is not possible to know for certain which of the kings of Jerusalem was the recipient of the shipment of wine.”

Actually, according to biblical chronology, (see my column About Time, part two: Bible history versus secular history) the kings of Judah in the last half of the seventh century were:

  • Josiah                          659-629 B.C.E.
  • Jehoahaz                      628
  • Jehoiakim                    628-618
  • Jehoiachin                   617
  • Zedekiah                     616-607 B.C.E.

 Bill K. Underwood is a freelance columnist and author of several books, including three novels.They are available in paperback or ebook on this page at You can help support this site by purchasing a book.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

UNESCO Tries to Revise Jerusalem's History

Photo By Bantosh, Wikimedia

If UNESCO has their way, they might very well take down the sign shown here. Instead, they seem intent on putting up a plaque that looks something like the following:

"On this site about 1935 B.C.E., Melchizedek, King of Salem, blessed Abraham the Hebrew."
"On this site in 1070 B.C.E., King David the Israelite defeated the Jebusites and established Jerusalem as his capital."
"On this site in 1026 B.C.E. Solomon dedicated the new Jewish temple he'd built.
"On this site in 607 B.C.E. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Jewish temple.
"On this site in 537 B.C.E. Zerrubbabel rebuilt the Jewish temple."
"On this site in 168 B.C.E. Antiochus desecrated the Jewish temple."
"On this site in 165 B.C.E. Judas Maccabaeus rededicated the Jewish temple."
"On this site in 18 B.C.E. Herod the great began rebuilding the Jewish temple."
"On this site in 33 C.E. Jesus foretold the destruction of the Jewish temple."
"On this site in 70 C.E. the Roman army under General Titus destroyed the Jewish temple.
"On this site in 638 C.E. Islamic armies took control of Jerusalem."
"On this site in 691 C.E. Muslim Caliph Abd el-Malik built a shrine called the Dome of the Rock."
" On this site in 820 C.E., Caliph al-Mamun removed the name of Caliph Abd el-Malik from the dedication plate and inserted his own name instead."
"On this site in 1119 the Crusaders took Jerusalem back from the Muslims, and the Knights Templar Identified the Dome of the Rock as the site of the Temple of Solomon and turned it into a Catholic Church.
"On this site in 1187, Muslims retook Jerusalem and re-dedicated the Dome of the Rock to Islam."
"On this site in 1967, during the Six-Day War, Jewish forces took over the Dome of the Rock. A few hours later, General Moshe Dayan ordered the Israeli flag lowered, and he turned over authority of the Temple Mount to the Muslim Religious Trust."
"On this site in 2016, UNESCO decided the Temple Mount has always been a Muslim holy site and has no importance to Jewish history."

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  Bill K. Underwood is the author of several novels and one non-fiction self-help book, all available at You can help support this site by purchasing a book.

Monday, October 24, 2016

TXA drug found to dramatically reduce surgical complications

A DRUG that prevents ­patients from losing excessive amounts of blood during and after surgery dramatically reduces complications, a global trial led by The Alfred hospital has revealed.

In a study out of Australia, about 40 per cent of patients who have open-heart ­surgery need blood transfusions and emergency surgery to stem the bleeding, putting them at risk of worse outcomes.

But giving them the drug tranexamic acid (TXA) cut those complications nearly in half.

Anaesthetists and surgeons leading the study say the drug can be used safely for everything from heart surgery to hip replacement.

Melbourne researchers are also hopeful it will prove to be an effective “roadside drug” that reduces bleeding in trauma patients while they are being transported to hospital.
Doctors were concerned the drug’s tendency to promote clotting might raise the risk of heart attack or stroke. But Associate Professor Silvana Marasco, a cardiothoracic surgeon at The Alfred and co-author of the study,­ said the findings of the 10-year trial of more than 4000 patients found no evidence to support these fears.

She said excessive bleeding in surgery could reduce the ­patient’s recovery and increase costs to the health system because of blood transfusions and emergency surgery.

“Bleeding during a surgery prolongs it, but it also causes a problem when the patient continues to bleed after you close the chest,” she said.

“If they have ongoing bleeding, you have to give them a blood transfusion, and sometimes the amount of blood they lose can collect around the heart and actually compress the heart and stop it from working ­properly. In that situation, they ­become quite unstable and you are rushing them back to the operating theatre for emergency surgery and we have to reopen them, find where the bleeding is coming from and give them drugs to reduce it.”

Professor Paul Myles, director of anaesthesia and perioperative medicine at The Alfred, said the findings meant almost every heart surgery patient could be treated with TXA.

“Use of TXA can also be safely expanded to prevent bleeding with other kinds of major surgery, such as knee and hip replacements, trauma surgery and spinal surgery — operations where TXA is not much used at present,” he said.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, was funded by the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists and the ­National Health and Medical Research Council. [Read more here…]

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Bill K. Underwood is the author of several novels and one non-fiction self-help book, all available at You can help support this site by clicking on the link.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Did Jesus die on a cross?

The old expression "The Greeks had a word for it" is very literally true. They have, for example, not one but four different words for "love."

There are two words used in the original Greek bible to describe the implement of Jesus' death. Yet nearly every English bible says that Jesus was killed on a "cross", and the verb form says that he was "crucified."

 The two Greek words in question are stauros (pronounced Stou-ros or stavros) and xylon (pronounced ksee-lon).  Here's what Greek scholars say about those two words: 

Strong’s Greek Dictionary:

4716. Stauros
"A stake or post (as set upright), i.e. (specially), a pole or cross (as an instrument of capital punishment) Appears 28 times in the NT."

The Anchor Bible Dictionary defines "Crucifixion" as:
The act of nailing or binding a living victim or sometimes a dead person to a cross or stake (stauros or skolops) or a tree (xylon)"

The New Catholic Encyclopaedia:
"Crucifixion developed from a method of execution by which the victim was fastened to an upright stake either by impaling him on it or by tying him to it with thongs..."

Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary defines "Crucifixion" as:
"The method of torture and execution used by the Romans to put Christ to death. At a crucifixion the victim usually was nailed or tied to a wooden stake and left to die..."

Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words:
"Stauros denotes, primarily, an upright pale or stake. On such, malefactors were nailed for execution..."

A Dictionary of the Bible, Dealing With Its Language, Literature And Contents, Including the Biblical Theology, in New Testament usage:
"[Stauros] means properly a stake…"

Hastings' Dictionary Of The Bible states:
"The Greek term rendered 'cross' in the English NT is stauros, which has a wider application than we ordinarily give to 'cross,' being used of a single stake or upright beam as well as of a cross composed of two beams."

The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 1980
"The Greek word for 'cross' (stauros) means primarily an upright stake or beam, and secondarily a stake used as an instrument for punishment and execution. It is used in this latter sense in the New Testament."

The Catholic Encyclopaedia
"The cross originally consisted of a simple vertical pole, sharpened at its upper end."

The Classic Greek Dictionary, Greek-English and English-Greek:
"'stauros': upright pale, stake or pole; in plural, a palisade."

The Companion Bible, Appendix 162:
"In the Greek N.T. two words are used for 'the cross' on which the Lord was put to death: 1. The word stauros; which denotes an upright pale or stake, to which the criminals were nailed for execution. 2. The word xylon, which generally denotes a piece of a dead log of wood, or timber, for fuel or for any other purpose. It is not like dendron, which is used of a living, or green tree, as in Matt.21:8; Rev.7:1, 3; 8:7; 9: 4, &c. As this latter word xylon is used interchangeably with stauros it shows us the meaning of each is exactly the same. The verb stauroo means to drive stakes. Our English word 'cross' is the translation of the Latin crux; but the Greek stauros no more means a crux than the word 'stick' means a 'crutch'. Homer uses the word stauros of an ordinary pole or stake, or a simple piece of timber.[footnote, Iliad xxiv.453. Odyssey xiv.11] And this is the meaning and usage of the word throughout the Greek classics. It never means two pieces of timber placed across one another at any angle, but of always one piece alone. Hence the use of the word xylon (No.2 above) in connection with the manner of our Lord's death and rendered 'tree' in Acts 5:30."

Other scriptural evidence: 

  Is there other evidence within the Bible itself that can help us know how Jesus was killed? As it turns out, there is.
As noted above, at Acts 5:30, Peter declared that Jesus was "hanged upon a tree (xylon)." Acts 10:39 and 13:29 also use the same expression, that Jesus was 'hanged upon a tree.' Most Bibles so translate the phrase. 

 Where else does the Bible use that word xylon

Matthew 26:55 "Did you come out to arrest me with swords and sticks (xylon)?" 

 Luke 23:31 "If they do these things when the tree (xylon) is green, what will they do when it withers?"
Galatians 3:13 (KJV) "Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree (xylon)."
1 Peter 2:24 "He carried our sins up to the tree (xylon)."
Revelation 2:7 "...the tree (xylon) of life in the midst of the garden." 

Of the 20+ occurrences of stauros in the Greek New Testament, most Bibles consistently render the word "cross." But, not so fast: the 70 Jewish scholars who created the Greek translation the Hebrew Old Testament known as the Septuagint, shortly before Jesus' day, also had access to the word stauros. Did they ever use it to describe a "cross"? No.

At Esther 7:9 we find the story of Haman erecting a 50-cubit-tall stauros on which he planned to hang Mordecai, on which he ended up being hoisted himself. Was this stauros a cross? Bibles variously render the implement there as "pillar, tree, gallows." None render it "cross." Why not? If the Septuagint translators rendered the word stauros, why shouldn't English translators render it "cross"? Why the inconsistency? 

The answer is obvious: Haman, whose body was displayed on a stauros, wasn't hung on a cross. 

The words "cross" and "crucifixion" come from the Latin word crux, not the Greek stauros. Did the bible writers use stauros simply because there was no Greek word to describe a crossed piece of wood? Of course not. Greeks were great with words.

If Jesus was killed on an implement the Romans called a "crux", the Bible writers would have inserted the Latin word crux. There are numerous examples where the Bible writers used Latin names for things that weren't native to Judea: Census, Praetorium, flagellum, etc. Furthermore, Greek had words that translated the idea of crossing. Luke 16:26 says: "Those wishing to cross (diabenai) from here to you are not able." Acts 16:9 says "Cross over (diabas) to Macedonia and help us." If neither of those words worked, a writer could have simply made up a word, using elements of dia and xylon to convey the idea. Just as there are examples of Bible writers using Latin words, there are also numerous examples of Bible writers making up new words as the need arose. For example, the Greeks had no word for humility until Paul attached the idea of "low" to the word for "mind" and came up with tapeinophrosune. 

Does it matter what you believe on this subject, or is it simply an interesting word puzzle? 

Ultimately, whether Jesus was nailed to a stake, a cross, an X, or was hit by a bus, what matters is this:
  1. His death paid the ransom to buy back life for those exercising faith. 
  2. Wearing the instrument of his death around your neck is idolatry, and it's insulting.
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Bill K. Underwood is the author of several novels and one non-fiction self-help book, all available at can help support this page by purchasing a book.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Should Christians celebrate Halloween?

On January 8, 2005, Prince Harry attended a costume party. The then-20-year-old decided to go as a Nazi. While that may seem like a really stupid choice, to him it was simply a humorous costume, perhaps like something from a movie.

I'm not picking on Harry. I'm simply making a point about memory. An elderly Englander would never have done such a thing. Growing up with real live Nazi atrocities - air-raid sirens, buzz bombs, buildings collapsing, food rationing - he would never have considered anything about the Nazis to be amusing.

The chairman of Britain's Holocaust Educational Trust, Greville Janner, commented on Prince Harry’s gaff:
"There are too many people in Britain and elsewhere whose lives have been wrecked by the Nazis, whose families have been murdered by the Nazis, whose sons were killed by the Nazis. It is too close to the war, too close to the Holocaust, and really a senseless way to behave."
Does that mean that after another generation or two have died off that it will be okay for a person to wear a swastika for fun? The fact that there is such a thing as a Holocaust Educational Trust indicates that forgetting is a bad thing.

What does any of this have to do with Halloween?

The term Jack o’lantern first appeared in print in Ireland in 1750. It refers to a story of an un-dead person who, having outwitted the devil, was condemned to wander the earth eternally, using for light an ember of Hell, protected inside a carved turnip. It’s been so long we’ve all forgotten, but it is something to think about it before you send your kiddies out as the Devil’s representatives on Halloween.

Halloween itself stretches back at least 2,000 years. The Celts, who lived in the area that is now Ireland, Britain, and northern France celebrated their new year on November 1. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain (pronounced sa-wane), when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth, even to their own homes, and treats were put out to appease them. Since it was believed these spirits could cause trouble and damage crops, people built huge bonfires as offerings to their god of light, Lug. People gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities.

During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other's fortunes. Apples or hazelnuts, both viewed as products of sacred trees, were used to divine information concerning marriage, sickness, and death. For example, apples with identifying marks were placed in a tub of water. By seizing an apple using only the mouth, a young man or woman was supposed to be able to identify his or her future spouse. Thus "bobbing for apples" was born.

Samhain was also characterized by drunken revelry and a casting aside of inhibitions. Interestingly, The Encyclopedia of Religion describes modern-day Halloween as “a time when adults can also cross cultural boundaries and shed their identities by indulging in an uninhibited evening of frivolity. Thus, the basic Celtic quality of the festival as an evening of annual escape from normal realities and expectations has remained."

In the bible, God condemns fortune-telling (Deuteronomy 18:10), uninhibited revelries (Romans 13:13), and worshiping other gods (Exodus 20:2). He also assures us that the dead cannot harm us (Ecclesiastes 9:5; Psalms 146:4). The druid priests who used these superstitions to control the Celtic people would have been as disgusting to God as Prince Harry was to those who remembered Nazis. 

But it was so long ago, surely God has forgotten what these symbols mean by now...

In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 as All Saints' Day. It is believed that the pope was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related holiday. The celebration was also called All-hallows Day so the night before it, the night of Samhain, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween. The church later would make November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor all the dead (rather than just dead saints). It was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils.

The macabre roots of Halloween may extend back even further. In his book The Worship of the Dead, writer J. Garnier notes that cultures the world over have some sort of festival for the dead at this same time of year, and he makes a connection to the flood of Noah’s day. The bible gives us the date of the flood: “the seventeenth day of the second month.” (Genesis 7:11) The calendar in use back then seems to have started with the first new moon after the fall equinox, so the 17th day of the second month could easily have been around October 31.

Why should we care? The bible tells us that, prior to the Flood, other angels had joined Satan in his rebellion against God (Genesis 6:2-4; Jude 6; 2 Peter 2:4). These came to the earth and married women and had offspring. At the flood, the wives and children all died. The materialized angels undoubtedly dropped their human forms and went back to being spirits to avoid drowning. And, according to J. Garnier, human society has been helping those wicked spirits mourn their loss every Halloween since.

If pleasing God is important to you and you’re planning to celebrate Halloween, you'd better hope God has as short a memory as Prince Harry.

Feel free to leave a polite comment. To read another of my columns on holidays, click here.

 Bill K. Underwood is a freelance columnist and author of several books, all available at can help support this site by purchasing a book.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

God's Jigsaw puzzle

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 Bill K. Underwood is a freelance columnist and author of several books, including three novels - The Minotaur Medallion, Unbroken, and the best-selling Resurrection Day. All are available in either digital or paperback at