The God-fearers—referred to several times in the New Testament—may have been a large group of people living in the Mediterranean world during the early centuries of Christianity. Thought to be half-converts to Judaism, God-fearers, according to some scholars, were a fertile source for converts to Christianity. Three feature articles in this issue of BAR present a lively God-fearers debate.
Speaking out against the existence of a large population of God-fearers (“The God-Fearers: A Literary and Theological Invention”) are A. Thomas Kraabel and Robert S. MacLennan. Kraabel has published widely on religious studies and archaeology. Many of his articles are connected with his excavation of an ancient synagogue at Khirbet Shema in Israel, where he served as the expedition’s associate director from 1969 to 1973.
Senior Pastor of the Hitchcock Presbyterian Church in Scarsdale, New York, MacLennan is also a Ph.D. candidate in Ancient Studies at the University of Minnesota. He spent the summer of 1979 with Yigal Shiloh’s City of David excavation team in Jerusalem.
Speaking for the God-fearers (“The Omnipresence of the God-Fearers”) is Louis H. Feldman. Feldman has received an “excellence in teaching” award as Professor of Classics at Yeshiva University in New York City, where he is chairperson of the foreign language faculty. His books include The Biblical Antiquities of Philo and the award-winning Josephus and Modern Scholarship.
Describing a dramatic piece of God-fearers evidence (“Jews and God-Fearers in the Holy City of Aphrodite”) is Robert F. Tannenbaum. Tannenbaum is a former fiction editor, advertising copywriter, and translator of murder mysteries who at age 35 began training as an ancient historian. He has taught classical and Jewish history at Cambridge, Cornell and Columbia universities, and is a contributor to the Oxyrhynchus Papyri series. His book, written with J. M. Reynolds, on the Jewish inscription from Aphrodisias—which he describes here—will be published by Cambridge University Press this year.
In 1937, Nelson Glueck, rabbi and world-renowned archaeologist, began excavating the mudbrick remains at Tell el-Kheleifeh on the shore of the Red Sea. Just four years earlier, German explorer Fritz Frank had identified the mound as Biblical Ezion-Geber, and Glueck agreed. Here, said Glueck, the Israelites had camped on their Exodus wanderings, and Solomon had built his fleet of trading ships.
But in the last 50 years, archaeology has revealed new facts about Ezion-Geber’s stratigraphy, pottery, and architecture, leading Gary Pratico—who studied the site and Glueck’s records—to come to new conclusions, which he shares in “Where is Ezion-Geber?”
Since writing his doctoral dissertation at Harvard Divinity School on Tell el-Kheleifeh, Pratico has taken up posts as Curator of Archaeological Collections at the Harvard Semitic Museum and as assistant professor of Old Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. In addition to working at Tell el-Kheleifeh, he has dug at Carthage, Tunisia, and at Idalion, Cyprus.
Nelson Glueck was 41 when the United States entered World War II. Just returned from a stint as director of the American School of Oriental Research in Jerusalem, he acted quickly to return to the Middle East to help America at war. A week after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Glueck wrote letters to U.S. government officials offering “to serve under any conditions, anywhere. I should be glad to get on a freighter and go to the Near East … to do anything which might be desired.”
The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) took Glueck up on his offer. In “Rabbi Nelson Glueck—An Archaeologist’s Secret Life in the Service of the OSS,” Rabbi Floyd S. Fierman relates this fascinating episode in U.S. history.
Fierman has experience writing about rough territory. From his hometown of El Paso, Texas, he has explored the migration of Jewish pioneers in the American Southwest and written about them in two books, Guts and Ruts and Boots and Roots. Ordained at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Fierman has served as rabbi of Temple Mt. Sinai in El Paso since 1949.
A very unusual arboretum wends across central Israel between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Begun on barren, rocky land just 15 years ago, Neot Kedumim—the Biblical Landscape Reserve in Israel—now displays thousands of different species of flora and aims eventually to be home to every tree, fruit, flower, grain, nut and spice mentioned in the Bible and the Talmud. Helen Frenkley, associate director of Neot Kedumim, tells the story of this reserve’s pioneering work in “green archaeology” in “The Search for Roots—Israel’s Biblical Landscape Reserve”; thanks to Neot Kedumim, the identities of such problematic Biblical plants as “the lilies of the field,” (Matthew 6:29) and “the ezov that grows in the rock” (1 Kings 4:33) may have been discovered. Born in New York City, Frenkley spent the year after her high school graduation working in northern Israel at Kibbutz Gesher Haziv and eventually settled there. Also a writer and editor, she collaborated with Neot Kedumim director Nogah Hareuveni on Ecology in the Bible, published in 1974.
Hareuveni’s beautifully illustrated Nature in Our Biblical Heritage and Tree and Shrub in Our Biblical Heritage are reviewed by Oded Borowski in Books in Brief.
The God-fearers—referred to several times in the New Testament—may have been a large group of people living in the Mediterranean world during the early centuries of Christianity. Thought to be half-converts to Judaism, God-fearers, according to some scholars, were a fertile source for converts to Christianity. Three feature articles in this issue of BAR present a lively God-fearers debate. Speaking out against the existence of a large population of God-fearers (“The God-Fearers: A Literary and Theological Invention”) are A. Thomas Kraabel and Robert S. MacLennan. Kraabel has published widely on religious studies and archaeology. Many of his articles are […]