Days Away from Nyack's Historic Archaeological Dig

Posted by Deborah.Walker on Wednesday June 29, 2016


Dr. R. Steven Notley, Distinguished Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins and Director of Graduate Programs in Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins based at the Nyack College Manhattan campus, will partner with scholars from The Center for Holy Land Studies in Springfield, MO and head to Israel July 8-25 with a group of students and faculty for Nyack’s first archaeological dig!

The event which holds immeasurable cultural, historical, and religious value will include support in the amount of $20,000—which represents a $10,000 challenge grant from Biblical Archeology Review matched by $10,000 in gifts from individual donors coordinated by Dr. Notley and associate director Constance Diggs through the Center for the Study of Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins. These funds cover Nyack College's commitment to participate in the dig with Kinneret College and the Institute for Galilean Archeology. The El-Araj Excavation Project will be directed by Mordechai Aviam, professor of archaeology at the Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee. Dr. Notley’s role will focus on topography and mapping.

“Nyack College students will participate in a field school that will instruct them on how modern archaeological research is performed. In addition, they will travel on field trips to other nearby archaeological sites guided by leading Israeli archaeologists,” says Dr. Notley. “The expectation is that this will be the first year of a multi-year excavation.” He explains that since the middle of the 19th century there has been an attempt to locate missing places mentioned in the Bible, but which disappeared without a trace. One of those is the first-century Jewish fishing village of Bethsaida on the northeast shores of the Sea of Galilee that is also described as a location for Jesus’ ministry (Mark 8:22; Luke 9:10).

Dr. Notley points out that in 1989 excavations began at a site called et-Tell 1½ miles from the lakeshore, which the excavator claimed was the missing New Testament city. He says, “Today it is routinely described as Bethsaida on maps of Israel. However, there are a number of problems with this claim and it has not gone unquestioned.” In 2007, Notley wrote a challenge to this claim in his article “Et-Tell is Not Bethsaida” for the journal, Near Eastern Archeology. His and others' questions culminated in May 2014 when a shovel-survey was carried out at the alternate site of el-Araj which lies closer to the lake. The results of the survey indicated the profile for a city that matched what would be expected for the history of Bethsaida. 

Learn more about Nyack's AJCO program here!

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