My Articles

The articles posted below grew out of my fascination with this land, and also from my studies in the guide course — I hope you’ll find some of them interesting and instructive.


A ‘Simon of Cyrene’ in Jerusalem: An Ossuary’s Story (2002)

My original article exploring the mysteries of a 1st century burial chest uncovered in Jerusalem many decades ago and bearing names we know from the New Testament!  It was first published in the USA-based digest Artifax (Autumn 2002), and another version appeared in Biblical Archaeology Review in their July-August 2003 issue. PDF file.

A Second Look at the ‘Alexander Son of Simon’ Ossuary (BAR, 2006)

My follow-up article, as published on-line by BAR in 2006, which looks at several several additional aspects of this fascinating object, with some surprising conclusions. PDF file (from HTML).


Conrad Schick & Tabor House  

A glimpse at one of 19th-century Jerusalem’s more colorful characters, the German missionary, architect and explorer Conrad Schick, and the unique house he built on Prophets Street.  PDF file.

Jerusalem’s Ancient Aqueduct System

A preserved aqueduct segment opposite the Old City walls serves as the reference point for an overview of Jerusalem’s water supply network, an intricate and mostly forgotten marvel of ancient engineering. Illustrated with diagrams, maps and photos.  PDF file.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre: Some Perspectives from History, Geography, Architecture, Archaeology and the Holy Scriptures

This article evolved over several years, beginning as an essay to accompany a “virtual tour” of the church. A later version was published in three installments in 2004/2005 in ARTIFAX, a USA-based biblical archaeology digest ( The version posted here is illustrated with plans and photos.  PDF file.

Jerusalem’s American Colony & Its Photographic Legacy

 (Click on title to go to introductory page)

4 Responses to My Articles

  1. Tom:

    I’ve been following your site since reading about your photos of the Aqueduct discovery off Jaffa Gate. Bible Places Blog…

    My wife and I visited Jerusalem in 2005. I took a beautiful, panoramic photo of Jerusalem from up on top of Herod’s Tower.

    Your paper on the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is highly illuminating. The place defies an earthly description. I look forward to returning with so much more understanding, thanks to your article.

    So the Church of Christ’s Birth in Betlehem is considerably older than the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, right?

    Lord Bless and Keep you, Sir.

    S Michael Oliver
    Jacksonville, Oregon

    • Tom Powers says:

      Michael, hi — and thanks for your comments! Glad you found the article helpful.

      Regarding the Nativity church in Bethlehem, Eusebius and Jerome both indicate that it is exactly contemporary in its origins with the Holy Sepulchre, in the time of Constantine and his mother Helena. It does seem that the Nativity church may have been dedicated first, though (whether actually built or not), while Helena was physically present in the Holy Land, ca. 326-327:

      “[I]n the province of Palestine … on the very site of the Lord’s sepulchre, he [Constantine] has raised a church of noble dimensions, and adorned a temple sacred to the salutary Cross [the Holy Sepulchre] … In the same country he discovered three places venerable as the localities of three sacred caves: and these also he adorned with costly structures, paying a fitting tribute of reverence to the scene of the first manifestation of the Saviour’s presence [Nativity] …” (Eusebius, Eulogy to Constantine 9; the text goes on to describe another church which is clearly the ‘Eleona’ on the Mt. of Olives, while identification of a fourth is more problematic but most likely the ‘Terebinthus’ church at Mamre near Hebron, described elsewhere.)

      “without delay she [Helena] dedicated two churches to the God whom she adored, one at the grotto which had been the scene of the Saviour’s birth [Nativity]; the other on the mount of his ascension [the Eleona]…” (Eusebius, Life of Constantine 3:43)

      “From the time of Hadrian to the reign of Constantine – a period of about one hundred and eighty years … [e]ven my own Bethlehem … was overshadowed by a grove of Tammuz, that is of Adonis; and in the very cave where the infant Christ had uttered his earliest cry, lamentation was made for the paramour of Venus.” (Jerome, Letters 58:3; he describes a pagan Roman shrine on the site, until the Nativity church was built by Constantine.)

      JUNE 2011 – After all this time, I think I finally understand your query about the age of the two churches!! While they are contemporaneous in their origins (4th cent.), the CHS which we see today is mostly Crusader construction (12th cent.), much of the original Constantinian complex having been destroyed in 1009. The Nativity church, however, stands as a mostly intact 6th cent. structure, with parts going back to the 4th cent. So, yes, the Nativity Church, as a surviving, largely intact building, is older — by some 600 years.

  2. Ray Riley says:

    Tom — Great article on the Jerusalem Aqueducts.

    Perhaps you can tell me more about what Edersheim said in his book “The Temple and it’s services at the time of Christ”?

    In chapter 8 about the morning and evening sacrifices he says, on page 159 my version, regarding the priests washing their hands and feet:

    “The sound of the machinery as it filled the laver with water, admonished the others to be in readiness.”

    Machinery? I have wondered how they filled the giant laver every night and assumed that they hauled it up from the Gihon Spring by hand in jars, but if there was a shaft drilled down to the cisterns underneath the mount and they had a windlass arrangement of some kind water could be hauled to the surface without walking it so far.

    Any ideas?

    Thanks for all you are doing,


    • Tom Powers says:

      Ray, hello — and thanks for your comments.

      The ancients were extremely clever about gathering, moving and utilizing water, all the way back to the Mesopotamians and Egyptians: water-wheels, bucket-wheels, irrigation systems and the like. By Roman times there were mechanical pumps for raising water short distances. And don’t forget Archimede’s Screw. Clever. The Romans also had quite sophisticated cranes — employing block and tackle, counterweights, etc.; used in conjunction with treadmill-like lifting wheels they were capable of lifting loads of great weight. One need only look at the great ashlars of the Herodian Temple Mount to realize those ancient engineers employed some rather remarkable technology, some of which we can only guess about today.

      If you are interested in ancient technology, you might enjoy reading bits of Vitruvius, the ancient Roman engineer and architect who left us his textbook! His chapters VIII and X might be relevant to your query. See: (

      As for the Temple, the great cisterns beneath the surface I’m sure were specifically created for the service of the Temple cult. Whatever the actual technology was for drawing the water up, you can be sure it was state-of-the-art (whatever the time period) and involved the least possible effort.

      Something I just found on the internet: A reconstructed Roman water-wheel, apparently used to pump out a gold mine! ( So, the technology was certainly available.

      Finally, there is one specific Gihon-Temple connection that I am aware of, and that is a special water-drawing ceremony that, according to the Mishna, was carried out during Sukkot. This daily water libation during the feast presumably recalled in a symbolic way the water that issued from the rock in the desert (Num. 20:2-13). A priest filled a golden vessel at the Siloam Pool and it was carried into the temple courts accompanied by trumpet blasts; there, they mixed the water with wine and poured some on the altar each day, amid great rejoicing. Source: Mishna Sukkah 48b. (This is particularly interesting because Jesus’ utterances in John 7 about “living water” take place in the Temple, during the Feast of Tabernacles!)


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