Biblical Archaeology Forum


The Biblical Archaeology Forum (BAF) begins its thirty-second year in September with Maryland University professor Kenneth Holum looking back on his own three decades excavating King Herod’s monumental building at Caesarea and highlighting recent discoveries.

Please join us for a series of eight scholarly lectures on the latest archaeological research findings and related fields such as history, art and texts of ancient times. Reservations are not required. Fees per lecture are: free – high school students; $5 – Residents of CES Life Communities, college students and co-sponsors; $8 – BASONOVA & Bender JCC members, and; $10 – the general public. For more information, please contact

Click here to subscribe to the BAF 2016-2017 lecture season.

2016-2017 SEASON

Power, Politics and Palaces: The Architectural Innovations of King Herod

Wednesday, February 22, 2017 • 8:00 PM • Bender JCC

Lisa Kahn | George Mason University

When Caesar Augustus appointed Herod as King of the Jews, the political and physical landscape of Judea was bleak. Herod, however, crafted a personal agenda that was to transform his country and his place in history.

Reviled for great cruelty, this king is now also recognized for his daring architectural innovations. Herod rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem and created the thriving port Caesarea Maritima with its Temple of Roma and Augustus overlooking a thriving harbor and one of his most luxurious palaces. He strategically placed other palace-fortresses throughout the country constructing a network of administrative centers. The archaeological evidence reveals an architectural genius, each palace designed with breathtaking synergy with its natural surroundings and clearly intended to impress.

Herod’s final project, his tomb at Herodium, further transformed the already remarkable site. These sites will be presented in light of current findings and analyses, revealing various aspects of this powerful ruler. Click here for the event page.

SekhmetAmenhotep III, Tiye, and Sakhmet: Interpreting the Lion Goddess Statues from the Temple of Mut

Wednesday, March 15, 2017 • 8:00 PM • Bender JCC

Kathe Schwartzberg Memorial Lecture

Betsy Bryan | Johns Hopkins University

More than 700 statues of the goddess Sakhmet in the form of a lion-headed woman were placed in the Temple of Mut (in Luxor, Egypt) on the order of Eighteenth Dynasty Pharaoh Amenhotep III, ca. 1375 BCE, along with statues of him and his primary queen Tiye. Amenhotep “The Magnificent” and Queen Tiye were the parents of Akhenaten, the heretic Pharaoh.

The sheer magnitude of the production of these statues — which were also made and placed in Amenhotep’s funerary temple at Kom el Hettan — has held the attention of both scholars and the general public for two hundred years. This illustrated lecture will examine the statues in the context of the reign of Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye and will highlight the temple rituals associated with the two temples where the statues were erected. Click here for the event page.

deadsea_scrollsWhat the Dead Sea Scrolls Teach Us About The Bible

Sunday, April 30, 2017 • 7:30 PM • B’nai Israel Congregation

Sidnie White Crawford | University of Nebraska at Lincoln

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has dramatically increased our knowledge of the history of the text of the Hebrew Bible and the formation of the Jewish canon.  This lecture will explore what the Dead Sea Scrolls reveal about the text of the Bible.  How did the books of the Bible reach the form they now have?  How did scribes copy and pass down their inherited traditions in the Second Temple period?

The lecture will also consider the process of “canon formation” in the Second Temple period.  What biblical books were considered authoritative for all Jews?  Why did different Jewish groups have conflicting lists of authoritative books?  How did we get the present canon of Jewish Scripture?

Lavishly illustrated, this lecture will bring alive a little-known period of Jewish history through the lens of these transformative historical documents. Click here for the event page.

opheltes-nemeaLife and Death at Nemea: Greek Hero Opheltes and the Origin of the Nemean Games

Wednesday, May 17, 2017 • 8:00 PM • Bender JCC

Jorge Bravo | University of Maryland

The Sanctuary of Zeus at Nemea was host to one of the great athletic festivals of ancient Greece, the Nemean Games, on par with the ancient Olympics. The Games spanned more than three hundred years, beginning early in the sixth century BCE. The ancient Greeks connected the origin of the Games with the myth of the hero Opheltes, a baby whose sudden death created a ritual obligation to honor the child with funerary rites and games.

This illustrated lecture will show archaeological evidence from the Shrine of Opheltes at Nemea, combined with literary and artistic testimony, to shed light on how the bond between the Games and the child hero was celebrated throughout antiquity with ritual observances such as sacrifice and libations. Click here for the event page.