Photo: Abila Lecture in Biblical Archaeology

Abila Lecture in Biblical Archaeology

The Abila Lecture in Biblical Archaeology is a bi-annual lecture series that promotes understanding of the archaeology and history of the Biblical world to audiences at John Brown University and in Northwest Arkansas. Each year the Abila Lecture will bring in two scholars to speak on the history and archaeology of the Biblical world. Abila Lectures held in the Fall will typically focus on the Old Testament and lectures in the Spring on the New Testament. Funding for the lecture series has been provided by generous donors to John Brown University’s Abila Archaeological Project which excavates at Abila of the Decapolis in Northern Jordan.  All lectures are free and open to the public.  We hope you will join us.  


Spring 2017 Abila Lecture in Biblical Archaeology


"Excavating Abila of the Decapolis:  the First Thirty-Six Years"

Thursday, March 2, 7:00 p.m. in the Cathedral of the Ozarks


The Decapolis was a group of ten cities that formed a Greco-Roman confederation located near the Sea of Galilee in the Transjordan and included the ancient city of Abila. The region of the Decapolis is mentioned in the New Testament as a region frequented by Jesus and his disciples. (See Mt 4:25, Mk 5:20; 7:31).  At one time, Abila boasted a population of nearly 15,000 people, but today the city lies completely underground awaiting the careful hands of archaeologists to uncover it.  Beginning in 1980, Dr. W. Harold Mare of Covenant Seminary in St. Louis began taking teams of archaeologists to excavate the ruins of Abila.  Work at the site has continued down to today, and has uncovered five Byzantine churches, a Roman Bath complex, a Christian monastery, an extensive road system, several miles of water tunnels, and dozens of magnificent painted tombs.  In 2008, Dr. David Vila was named Director of the Abila Archaeological Project, and in 2013 the excavation was adopted as an official program run by John Brown University.

In the Spring 2017 Abila Lecture in Biblical Archaeology, Dr. Vila will trace the rise and fall of ancient Abila over the course of its 4000 year history of occupation and will show highlights of the findings of the last thirty-six years of excavation work done at the site.  To date, over 100 members of the John Brown University community (students, faculty, staff, and alumni) have participated in the excavation work at Abila.  We hope that you will join us to hear this fascinating story of discovery that will make the land of the Bible come alive.  


Dr. David Vila - John Brown University, Siloam Springs, ArkansasDavid Vila

Dr. Vila came to John Brown University in the Fall of 1999 from Saint Louis University where he completed a PhD in Historical Theology.  His dissertation, Christian Martyrs in the First Abbasid Century and the Development of an Apologetic Against Islam, focused on early Christian-Muslim relations, especially as seen in the hagiography of the period.  He spent the ‘95-‘96 academic year on a Fulbright grant in Jordan, studying Arabic and working on his dissertation.  Prior to his doctoral work David completed a BA in English Literature at Covenant College, an MA and an MDiv at Covenant Theological Seminary, and worked for two years with a Spanish language publisher in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

Much of Dr. Vila’s research and publications focus on early Christian-Muslim relations and the early development of Arabic Christianity.  In addition, since 1990 David has been involved with an archaeological excavation in northern Jordan at the ancient site of Abila of the Decapolis.  In 2008 he was named Director of the Abila Archaeological Project and has been leading the excavation ever since.  In 2006 David started a Jordan Summer Studies Program at John Brown University that takes students to work with the excavation while earning academic credit toward their degrees.  Most summers find David traveling or excavating in the Middle East.  During the ’06-’07 academic year, David was a Fulbright Scholar at Jordan University where he taught in the Department of English Language and Literature and did research in the Department of Archaeology.  He is currently working on a book entitled The Churches of Abila that documents the five Byzantine churches found at Abila.  He is also in the midst of a book on the 11th-12th century Muslim theologian al-Ghazali.



Future Lectures

Fall 2017 - TBA


Past Lectures

Fall 2016 - Dr. Tremper Longman III,  Westmont College

"If Jericho Was Not Razed, Is Our Faith in Vain?:  Why History Matters" Video  


Spring 2016 - Dr. Robert Smith, Mid-Atlantic Christian University

"Looking for Joseph of Arimathea's Tomb:  Archaeology and the Burial of Jesus" Video


Fall 2015 - Dr. Steven Ortiz, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

"Tel Gezer: Gateway to Jerusalem - Recent Excavations at King Solomon's Fortified City" Video


Spring 2015 - Dr. David Chapman, Covenant Theological Seminary

"Crucifixion in the Roman World:  a Historical and Archaeological Survey"  Video



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