Locating Bethel

John Ronning ronning at xsinet.co.za
Fri Jul 14 16:28:23 EDT 2000

Walter wrote:

> "Edward Robinson (1867:452-53) was the first modern scholar to propose that
> Beeroth be identified with el-Bireh...He argued that this site not only has
> toponymic support but fits Eusebius' description : "el-Bireh can be seen on
> the right at about 7 miles distance from Jerusalem as one travels to Emmaus
> via el-Jib." 

This is, of course, Robinson being quoted, not Eusebius. 
(Eusebius would not make reference to any "el-Bireh.")  What
Eusebius said is that Beeroth was at the seventh mile marker
from Jerusalem on the road to Nicapolis, which is sufficient
to exclude el-Bireh (which is on the road to
Neapolis/Nablus).  Robinson evidently wanted to make
Eusebius say that when one is at said location, one could
see Beeroth off in the distance, several miles away - but
that is not what Eusebius said.  Where Eusebius put Beeroth
makes sense based on the fact that it was part of the
Gibeonite coalition - it's quite a ways from el-Bireh.

> Albright suggested that tell en Nasbah, south of el-Bireh, is a
> better candidate because it is closer to Jerome's mileage from Jerusalem.

But still on the wrong road!

> After Elihu Grant found walls and pottery from the Bronze Age at el-Bireh
> (at Ras et-Tahuneh, the the center of town), however, scholars returned to
> Robinson's identification DESPITE THE FACT THAT EL-BIREH IS 9 ROMAN MILES,
> (cf. ABD 1.646 David A. Dorsey, "Beeroth," 1992)

Hopefully you will learn that the ABD is not nearly
infallible and that simply quoting it does not constitute
"research" (see below).

> If Bethel lay 12 Roman miles from Jerusalem, then, obviously, Ronning's
> assertions that el-Bireh is Bethel and that Ai is Khirbet el-Maqatir, just
> don't hold up to scholarly enquiry. Perhaps Mr. Ronning could quote some
> scholarly sources to back up his assertion that el-Bireh is indeed 12 Roman
> miles from Jerusalem and not 9 Roman miles ?

Perhaps Mr. Mattfield could quote some scholarly source for
his assertion that el-Bireh is only 9 roman miles north of
Jerusalem?  Albright said that it was nine miles north of
Jerusalem *IN A STRAIGHT LINE*.  The church fathers were
going by roman mile markers along roads, not straight lines.
Probably Albright was also measuring from the outskirts of
Jerusalem, instead of the center, where the zero mile marker
would have been.

You could start with the following (all from the Westminster
Theological Journal):
David Livingston, "Location of Bethel and Ai Reconsidered"
33/1 (1970-71), 20-44
Anson Rainey, "Bethel is Still BEITIN" 33/2 (May '71),
Livingston, "Traditional Site of Bethel Questioned" 34 ('71)


(Dr.) John Ronning

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