The Roman-era rectangular stone discovered underwater at the Tel Dor archaeology site, south of Haifa. (Jenny Carmel)
Last month, archaeologists in
Israel retrieved from under the water a massive, inscribed slab of stone
dating back to the second century CE. The stone was found at the Tel
Dor archaeological site, an area located on Israel’s Mediterranean coast
about 30 km south of Haifa.
The 85 cm, 600 kilogram (1300 pounds) stone is inscribed
with seven lines of clearly visible Greek writing. Following its
translation, it was discovered that the writings divulge the name of the
Roman procurator, Gargilius Antiquus who ruled in Judea prior to the
second century during the Bar-Kochba Revolt. Researchers are assuming
that the slab is from the base of a statue from Roman times.
“This is only the second time that a
reference to the name Judea was revealed in any inscription from the
Roman period,” University of Haifa archaeologist Professor Assaf
Yasur-Landau, who managed the excavation, and Dr. Gil Gambash, the head
of the Maritime Civilizations Department, who helped decipher the
inscription, said in a joint statement.
“This is a significant discovery,
especially on the heels of the holiday of Hanukkah which commemorates
the Israelites’ success over Greek rule in the Holy Land,” said Roni
Segal, academic adviser for eTeacher, an online Hebrew language academy,
to Breaking Israel News. “It
is fascinating that the Talmud states that one may fulfill the
Rabbinical dictate to read the weekly Torah portion by scrolls written
only in Hebrew or Greek.”
Segal is referring to the fact that
the Greeks conquered and lived in the Holy Land from around 330 BCE
until the seventh century. The holiday of Hanukkah commemorates the
miracles that occurred in 165 BCE. At that time, a weak Jewish army, led
by the Maccabees, successfully defeated the much larger and stronger
Syrian-Greek army who had invoked numerous prohibitions in order to
destroy the Jews’ connection to God and His Bible.
Additionally, the Greeks defiled the
Holy Temple in Jerusalem by bringing idols into the sanctuary. Following
the war, the Jews entered the Holy Temple and discovered one sealed
flask of pure olive oil which was used to light the menorah in the
Temple. Due to the small amount of oil it contained, the flask’s
contents should have been enough to only last one night. God, however,
brought about a miracle and caused the oil to burn for eight days,
allowing enough time for more pure oil to be pressed and prepared for
Another significant occurrence
relating to the Greeks occurred in 246 BCE. The Greek-Egyptian emperor
Ptolemy forced 72 Biblical sages to translate the Hebrew Torah into Greek. Locking them in separate rooms, each was ordered to produce a translation of the holy scroll.
“Hebrew is a complex language with many nuances,” continued Segal to Breaking Israel News.
“Studying the Bible in its original language leads to a much deeper and
clearer understanding of God’s word. Yet, God made a revealed miracle
and all of these sages presented the exact same translation in Greek, known as the Septuagint or ‘of the seventy’, even altering the text 13 times to protect the sanctity of the Bible.”
As exciting as finding this Greek
slab is, historically it also is a reminder of a tragic time in the Holy
Land’s history. The Romans abolished the province of Judea and erased
all traces of its name. Therefore, with the slab identifying Antiquus as
the ruler of Judea in 131 CE, this is a particularly unique find.
“Yet, as Jews all over the world
celebrate Hanukkah, we remember that the ancient Greeks are long gone
and the Jewish people continue to live on,” Segal said with a smile.
“And, Judea has been reestablished with the State of Israel and
continues to thrive in a miraculous way.”
Source: Breaking Israel