Lee’s Peterson Discovers 1st Century Artifact

Friday, January 31, 2014
 Garrett Shepherd is shown holding a first-century A.D. jug handle; Also pictured is the Egyptian Scarab amulet depicting a mythological griffin; Simmons holding a Herodian-era lamp moments after discovery; and Peterson standing beside a first-century fenestrated “window wall.”
Garrett Shepherd is shown holding a first-century A.D. jug handle; Also pictured is the Egyptian Scarab amulet depicting a mythological griffin; Simmons holding a Herodian-era lamp moments after discovery; and Peterson standing beside a first-century fenestrated “window wall.”

Lee University School of Theology’s Dr. Brian Peterson, working with the Associates for Biblical Research (ABR), discovered an Egyptian Scarab amulet in the fortress of Khirbet el-Maqatir during his fourth archaeological trip to Israel this past summer. The artifact, dated to the Late Bronze I period (1550-1400 BC), was discovered at the proposed site of Ai, located nine miles north of Jerusalem.


According to Peterson, Egyptian Scarab pendants, which originated with the Egyptians, were designed in reverence to their devotion to the dung beetle and sun god.

The beetle would cover its food with dung and roll it with its legs; the Egyptians believed this motion was associated with the movement of the sun across the sky, therefore proclaiming their devotion to the sacred dung beetle. Worn by the upper class, it was used to seal scrolls and represent a life of good luck and fertility.  


According to Christianity Today, Peterson’s discovery was “the most important archeological discovery in 2013.” Despite continued debate among various biblical scholars and archaeologists, the Egyptian Scarab amulet helps to confirm that the archaeological excavation site of Khirbet el-Maqatir is indeed the location of Ai, the biblical city destroyed by Israel in Joshua chapter eight.


“My time working with ABR has been both enriching and rewarding,” said Peterson. “One never knows what the next spade full of dirt will uncover. Four years of meticulous work in the same few square meters of Khirbet el-Maqatir finally paid off this summer. It is truly an exhilarating experience that changes the way one reads the Bible. In a moment, you can change history and the history books.”


Dr. Bill Simmons, professor of New Testament and Greek at Lee, accompanied Peterson as a colleague and laborer.


“As a professor of New Testament studies, the dig integrated the history, culture, and geography of Israel more than any other experience to date,” said Simmons. “Literally unearthing the world of the first century, handling the artifacts of a bygone era, and listening to lectures by seasoned archaeologists reveals the multifaceted nature of the program.”


Garrett Shepherd, recent Lee alum, also attended the trip during his last semester as a student.


“Each night we would have a session that explained the history of Khirbet el-Maqatir and how it fit into the story of Joshua, geographically and archaeologically, as well as studies on the city of Jericho and its archaeological finds,” said Shepherd. “Even though the Body of Christ is so ‘divided,’ one thing that really stood out to me was how we all came together as one in order to prove the Bible's historical veracity.”


Twelve more Lee students will have the opportunity to accompany Peterson this May as he returns to the location of the Egyptian Scarab discovery. Students will explore and excavate the location for additional artifacts as well as receive class credit hours to fulfill the university- required cross-cultural experience.  


Peterson enjoys spending a portion of his summers doing archaeology in Israel. His passion is combining biblical narrative with historical and archaeological records.  


Peterson joined the Lee faculty in fall 2011 as an assistant professor of Old Testament where he currently teaches a variety of OT classes and Hebrew. Prior to joining the Lee faculty, he taught Bible classes at The Gambia Theological Institute in the Gambia, West Africa, as well as spending a year as an assistant professor of OT at Prairie Bible College in Alberta, Canada. 


Peterson earned his PhD at Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto, a master’s in Old Testament from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a master’s of Theological Studies from Beeson Divinity School. He received his bachelor’s of Biblical Studies at Zion Bible College in Barrington, R.I.



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