Monday, October 6, 2008

New Discovery - Inscribed Sarcophagus

Maybe I haven't been paying attention as much over the past few years, but it seems like 2008 has been a big year for archaeological discoveries connected to the biblical world. We've had Gabriel's Vision (I know only hyped this year, discovered years ago), the Gedalyahu ben Pashur seal, a Samalian inscription from Zincirli, a Hasmonean wall, a 10th century BCE inscription from the Shephelah, the Chrestou cup, a revived discussion of the Jehoash inscription (odd considering the forger confessed), and now the announcement that a sarcophagus from the Second Temple Period has been found in Jerusalem with the inscription "ben hacohen hagadol" (son of the high priest). Unfortunately, that's all there is. Not enough to make a positive identification. No doubt someone will find a way to connect it to a well known high priestly family from the first century - perhaps Caiaphas. After all, more has been done with less evidence.

Here's an excerpt from the Press Release by the Israel Antiquities Authority:
A unique discovery was revealed in excavations that were conducted north of Jerusalem: a fragment of a sarcophagus cover was found that is engraved with square Hebrew script, characteristic of the Second Temple period. The fragment (length 0.60 m, width 0.48 m) is made of hard limestone, is meticulously fashioned and bears a carved inscription that reads: “…Ben HaCohen HaGadol…”.

Numerous high priests served in the temple during the latter part of the Second Temple period and there is no way of knowing which of the priests the inscription refers to. However, it should probably be identified with one of the priests that officiated there between the years 30 and 70 CE. Among the high priests we know of from the end of the Second Temple period were Caiaphas the priest, Theophilus (Yedidiya) Ben Hanan, Simon Ben Boethus, Hanan Ben Hanan and others.
Other posts about the find today: Jim West, Antonio Lombatti, Todd Bolen.

UPDATE (10/6/08, 9:30 pm): I've corrected my misspelling of "sarcophagus" in this post. Also, Jim Davila has posted the news story, and Ed Cook has offered some thoughts on the orthography of the inscription.

[HT: Jack Sasson, Agade Mailing List]

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