Biblical Archaeology Forum


The Biblical Archaeology Forum (BAF) begins its fifty-first year this autumn, and the twentieth at the JCC. Please join us for a series of eight in-person scholarly lectures and several Zoom events on the latest archaeological findings and related fields such as history, art, and texts of ancient times in the Near East and Eastern Mediterranean.

To subscribe to the entire 8-session lecture series plus Zoom events for $48, or for more information, please contact

Fees per lecture are (cash or check only at the door):

Free – High school students.
$5 – Residents of CES Life Communities, college students, and co-sponsors.
$8 – BASONOVA & Bender JCC members
$10 – General public.


Love, Marriage and Domestic Violence in the Book of Hosea Wednesday, October 11th - 8:00 PM
Discovery of a Temple Near Jerusalem Challenges Traditional Views of Religion in Ancient Israel Sunday, November 12th - 3 PM
Wisdom and Folly in Early Jewish Wisdom Literature Wednesday, January 10th - 8:00 PM
Imperial Terror and Personal Trauma in the Second Temple Period Wednesday, February 7th - 8:00 PM
Reconstructing Mysteries of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods at Samothrace Sunday, March 10th - 3:00 PM
Excavating Theater History at Pompeii’s House of the Four Styles Thursday, April 18th - 8:00 PM
After 1177 BCE: The Survival of Civilizations Sunday, May 19th - 7:30 PM
Piracy and the Late Bronze Age Collapse Wednesday, June 19th - 8:00 PM
Wednesday, October 11 | 8:00 PM | Open to the Public

Join Dr. David Bosworth of The Catholic University of America for an evening of Biblical history. The Hebrew Bible is replete with episodes of war and violence. One less explored facet of this presentation includes intimate partner violence in the biblical Book of Hosea. In many of the prophet Hosea’s passages, God appears as an abusive husband. What is a reader to do? Is there a way to examine this difficult narrative and make it edifying in today’s world? Yes, perhaps there is a useful pathway to understanding these passages.

The Hosea text may serve as a case study in how some violent biblical texts can be examined such that it can impel us to become better lovers of God and neighbors. If we transform our obvious discomfort with personal violence into curiosity, then we may be able to apprehend these destructive forces in such a way that we also discover multiple correlations in Hosea that teach us non-intuitive truths about intimate partner violence.

Sunday, November 12 | 3:00 PM | Open to the Public

Join Shua Kisilevitz of Tel Aviv University and Israel Antiquities Authority for an afternoon of archaeology. A stunning new find in Israel has revealed a monumental temple complex similar in architectural plan, size, and decoration to Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem and also to contemporary temples found in northern Syria.

Ongoing excavations at Tel Moza have already revealed a cultic precinct with a series of temples from the First Temple Period (10th to 6th centuries BCE). The site, about four miles from Jerusalem, has reignited the debate on the formation and practice of religion in ancient Judah and Israel.

The examination of the various phases of the precinct and their finds, which include standing stones, altars, remains of sacrificial offerings, and cultic artifacts, affords an unparalleled opportunity to examine the development of cultic traditions and patterns of ritual activities in Judah. These finds indicate that Solomon’s Temple was neither the only temple in Judah nor was it necessarily the ‘First’.

Wisdom and Folly in Early Jewish Wisdom Literature

Wednesday, January 10th
8:00 PM

Wednesday, January 10, 2024 | 8:00 PM | Open to the Public

Join Dr. Bradley Gregory of The Catholic University of America for an evening of biblical literature discussion. This presentation will highlight struggles to grapple with the pursuit of wisdom in early Jewish works such as the Dead Sea Scrolls and the second century BCE biblical books of Baruch, Daniel, and the Wisdom of Ben Sira, as well as the earlier Book of Job and the foundational Book of Proverbs.

The Book of Proverbs, for example, juxtaposes the personifications of “Woman Wisdom” and “Woman Folly” in order to show that while both figures appear to be good, only Woman Wisdom is truly good. Woman Folly, on the other hand, is portrayed as a counterfeit who is not what she seems.

This dynamic undergoes significant transformations during the Second Temple Period. Why was it that for some early Jewish sages, the ability even to find Wisdom seems to have receded from humanity?

Wednesday, February 7, 2024 | 8:00 PM | Open to the Public

Join Dr. Xandy Frisch of George Mason University for an evening of ancient history. Beginning in 586 BCE, a virtually uninterrupted succession of empires ruled over Jews both in Israel and in the Diaspora. This lecture will explore how one specific Jewish community, the sectarians at Qumran, responded to the sorrows and pains imposed by forces out of their control.

Some of this distress inflicted by external, imperial forces is illuminated by their rules of conduct expressed in a number of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Qumran sectarians used purification rituals, such as mikvaot, as tools for coping with the turmoil affecting their community, and also mobilized their own “internal” power and resources.

Sunday, March 10, 2024 | 3:00 PM | Open to the Public

Join Dr. Amy Sowder-Koch of Towson University for an afternoon of archaeology. The island of Samothrace and its mystery cult that promised safety at sea and improved lives for its initiates are mentioned as early as the Homeric poems, but few finds indicate activity in the Sanctuary of the Great Gods prior to the Classical period. Today the Winged Victory statue is the most recognized feature associated with the Sanctuary.

Largely under the patronage of Macedonian and Hellenistic kings, the Sanctuary thrived from the 4th century BC until a series of earthquakes damaged the site beginning in the early Roman period. Due to the secret nature of the initiation rites, there is relatively little in the way of textual or epigraphic evidence to tell us the functions of the great (and often unusual) buildings erected here.

This presentation will discuss evidence for the cult and its surviving physical remains in the sanctuary, demonstrating how the ancient architects capitalized on the natural topography of the site as well as constructed architecture to intentionally shape the ancient visitor’s experience at the site.

Thursday, April 18 | 8:00 PM | Open to the Public

Join Dr. Marden Nichols of Georgetown University for a lecture on ancient Pompeii history. The “House of the Four Styles” is a well-preserved Pompeian house, named for the superb examples of wall painting across all of the Four Styles of Roman mural decoration that have been discovered within it.

In a large room located on the east side of the atrium, a complex figural scene that includes dancers and a rotating theater platform has suffered significant degradation in the over 70 years since its excavation. Archival photographs, however, reveal a painting of remarkable technique and composition.

This lecture demonstrates how the conception of this painting was informed by theater architecture and engineering, as well as the choreography of Greco-Roman theater, civic festivals, and other religious celebrations.

Sunday, May 19, 2024 | 7:30 PM | Open to the Public | At B’nai Israel

Join Dr. Eric Cline at B’nai Israel for an evening of ancient history. In the years after 1177 BCE, many of the Late Bronze Age civilizations of the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean lay in ruins, undone by invasion, revolt, natural disasters, famine, and the demise of international trade. An interconnected world that had boasted major empires and societies, relative peace, robust commerce, and monumental architecture was lost.

‘After 1177 BCE’ will trace the compelling story of what happened during the next four centuries across the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean world. It is a story of resilience, transformation, and success, as well as failures, in an age of chaos and reconfiguration. Those that failed to adjust disappeared from the world stage, while others transformed themselves, resulting in a new world order that included Israelites, Philistines, Phoenicians, Neo-Hittites, Neo-Assyrians, Neo-Babylonians, and world-changing innovations such as the use of iron and the alphabet.

It is now clear that this period, far from being the First Dark Age, was a new age with new inventions, new opportunities, and lessons for us today.

Piracy and the Late Bronze Age Collapse

Wednesday, June 19th
8:00 PM

Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | 8:00 PM | Open to the Public | Zoom

Join Professor Louise Hitchcock of University of Melbourne over Zoom for a discussion of ancient maritime history. The Sea Peoples were emblematic of the mixed ethnic identities that typified pirates of the Mediterranean world near the end of the Bronze Age. These mixed identities, generally drawn from non-elite classes, seem to have coalesced into cultural groupings whose members split their booty equally. Experienced sailors from many countries also “jumped ship” to join the pirates, looking for an easier life-style and greater, shared economic opportunity. Their egalitarianism is also reflected in evidence of communal feasting, and settling into common quarters during winter months when sailing conditions were most dangerous.

Pirates played a role in frustrating transnational trade in the Late Bronze Age, which challenged the economies of even the major nations. Surviving iconography displays pirate ships and booty, evidencing their successful “hit-and-run” surprise tactics. The end of the Bronze Age involved a collapse of international trade. This disintegration likely spelled the end of piracy during these years, too, as without seaborne cargoes to plunder, the rewards for enduring piracy disappeared.