Biblical Archaeology Forum


The Biblical Archaeology Forum (BAF) begins its thirty-third year in September with George Washington University professor Christopher Rollston tracing  and comparing the incipient beliefs in Heaven and Hell during late Second Temple times and the early Christian era.

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

Subscriptions for the BAF 2017-2018 lecture season coming soon.

2017-2018 SEASON

Sacred Writings on the Hereafter: An Early History of Hell and Heaven

Tuesday, September 12, 2017 | 8:00 PM | Bender JCC

Christopher Rollston | Professor, George Washington University

Although Heaven is often mentioned within modern Judaism and modern Christianity, Hell is different. Christianity often focuses on it, while Judaism does not. The root cause of this difference is not modern, but ancient. It has to do with the dramatic differences between the Hebrew Bible (Tanach) and the New Testament on the subject of Hell.

So if you’re interested in hearing about the history of the hereafter, and how differently Heaven and Hell were understood by Jews and Christians of the early Common Era, this lecture is for you. Click here for the event page.

In Living Color: Wall Paintings of the Late Bronze Age Palace of Nestor, Past, Present, and Future

Wednesday, October 18, 2017 | 8:00 PM | Bender JCC

Emily Egan | Assistant Professor of Eastern Mediterranean Art and Archaeology, University of Maryland

The Palace of Nestor, named for the wise Homeric king, is one of the best-preserved examples of a Mycenaean palace. Located in southwestern Messenia, Greece, the edifice was first excavated in the mid-twentieth century by archaeologists from the University of Cincinnati, and has garnered fresh acclaim in recent years as the find spot of the renowned “Tomb of the Griffin Warrior.”

The palace is equally well known, however, for its luxurious and extensive wall painting program, most of which was produced during the structure’s heyday in the thirteenth century BC. This lecture will present an overview of these famous paintings, which feature an array of colorful motifs and scenes, as well as showcase new fresco finds from the site that are actively changing our understanding of early painting traditions in prehistoric Greece. Click here for the event page.

Megiddo and the Roman Sixth Legion: New Excavations and Early Jewish-Christian-Roman Relations

Tuesday, November 14, 2017 | 8:00 PM | Bender JCC

Matthew Adams | Executive Director, W.F. Albright Institute for Archaeological Research; Co-Director, Megiddo Excavations

In the late 1st and early 2nd Centuries CE, dangerous Jewish (and incipient Christian) rebels were causing problems for the Roman Empire in Israel. Though the First Revolt resulted in the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE and in the establishment of a permanent base of the Tenth Legion there, these groups continued to harass their overlords.

Historical sources indicate the Roman Sixth Legion was deployed there in the early 2nd Century CE to provide support for the Tenth Legion, a sure sign that the rebels were acting up again. The Sixth Legion established their base somewhere near Megiddo, but its exact location has been a mystery.

Using historical and geographical sources, aerial photography, and remote sensing, the fortress was recently located, providing the first modern glimpse of a 2nd Century Roman military base in the entire eastern Empire. Together with the early Christian Prayer hall discovered in 2005 in the adjacent Jewish village of Caparcotani, the new excavations shed new light on Jewish-Christian-Roman relations and the composition of the Book of Revelation. Click here for the event page.

Rediscovering the Lost Library of Alexandria

Wednesday, December 13, 2017 | 8:00 PM | Bender JCC

Frederick Winter | Associate Director, Capitol Archaeological Institute

The fabled lost library of ancient Alexandria was more than a collection of books: It was a temple to the Greek muses that combined a museum and library. It became the great center of learning and cultural preservation in the Hellenistic era, the centuries that bridged the gap between the death of Alexander the Great and the advent of Rome as the central power in the Mediterranean world.

Founded by Alexander’s successor kings in Egypt, the Ptolemies, it was conceived as a vehicle for bringing Greek culture to Egypt. The Library became a magnet for Greek scholars from throughout the world who made astounding achievements in astronomy (including the recognition of the heliocentric solar system by Aristarchus of Samos), topography (the measurement of the circumference of the earth by Eratosthenes of Cyrene), poetry (the epic Argonautica by Apollonius of Rhodes), and other fields of learning. Click here for the event page.

The Book of Esther Revealed

Wednesday, February 21, 2018 | 8:00 PM | Bender JCC

Adele Berlin | Professor Emerita, University of Maryland

How should we understand the Hebrew Bible’s Book of Esther? How “biblical” is it? How “religious” is it? How “Persian” is it? How “true” is it? Why was it written? What happened to the book when it was translated into Greek? If Esther makes no reference to God‘s name, to the Temple, to prayer, or to distinctive Jewish practices, then why is it part of the Jewish canon?

These and other points will be discussed as we analyze the literary style and influences on the book, its historical background, and its relation to the festival of Purim. Click here for the event page.

The Ancient Synagogue at Huqoq in Israel’s Galilee

Sunday, March 25, 2018 | 7:30 PM | B’Nai Israel

Jodi Magness | Professor of Early Judaism in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


In Israel’s Galilee lies the ancient village of Huqoq, mentioned in Joshua and 1 Chronicles as land allotted to the tribe of Asher and notable as the location of the Tomb of the Prophet Habakkuk.

Since 2011, Huqoq has gained fame for the excavations directed by Professor Jodi Magness. These excavations have brought to light the remains of a monumental Late Roman period (400s CE) synagogue building that is replete with stunning and unique mosaics, including depictions of the biblical hero Samson, Noah’s Ark, the parting of the Red Sea, and the first non-biblical story ever discovered decorating an ancient synagogue.

In this richly illustrated lecture, Professor Magness will describe these exciting finds, plus the discoveries made during the summer of 2017. For more information visit: Click here for the event page.

Cyrus the Great, King and Messiah

Wednesday, May 9, 2018 | 8:00 PM | Bender JCC

Reza S. Zarghamee | Author of Discovering Cyrus: The Persian Conqueror Astride the Ancient World

One of the renowned figures of antiquity, Cyrus II “the Great” famously appears in the Hebrew Bible* as the “Lord’s Anointed,” or Messiah, the instrument through which God ends the Babylonian Captivity and restores the Temple of Solomon.

This lecture by Reza Zarghamee follows the Persian king’s life and conquests, with a special emphasis on the relations that Cyrus and his successors had with their Israelite subjects. Specific topics will include the authenticity of Cyrus’ decree authorizing the Exiles’ return to Judah and theological developments during the Persian period. Click here for the event page.

[*Cyrus is directly cited in the Bible more than twenty times: in 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Isaiah and Daniel, as well as in the writings of Josephus. – ed.]