Queries & Comments
Who Needs More Bad News?
Please do not send me any more Biblical Archaeology Review. It’s bad enough reading modern history.
Santa Monica, California
Something to Sink Your Teeth Into
What a delight it is to receive each issue of BAR! I love to read the letters to the editor and bathe in the ebb and flow of competing and conflicting ideas and interpretations.
Reading BAR has answered some of my questions, opened my mind to many other questions and greatly expanded my grasp of the reality of Biblical history. Far from being a distant mythical wisp of belief, Biblical history now has a reality that it never had for me before I began receiving your magazine. I might not always find the flavor to my exact taste, but I’m never left looking for something real to sink my teeth into.
BAR’s Credibility at Risk
The credibility of BAR suffers from ads that feature a neon-blue-eyed Jesus who has just stepped out of a beauty parlor (BAR 18:06). That’s archaeology? At what price, Mammon?
Norbert E. Hattendorf, Pastor
Grace Lutheran Church
Christians Who Practice Druidism
I initially subscribed to BAR reluctantly, because I was concerned that it would be promoting a single Biblical perspective. From the beginning of my subscription, however, I have been pleased that your magazine takes great effort to present an unbiased view of new and developing archaeological material. In doing this you receive a good deal of emotional salvos fired from all sides. I congratulate you for your courage in continuing to present unbiased reporting in a very fine publication.
I find the readers making an issue of your advertisements for Egyptian statues rather amusing. How many self-righteous “Christians” practice Druidism each December by cutting down a tree and decorating it with silver and gold? This practice, which is supposedly responsible for keeping the sun from falling off the edge of the earth, is specifically admonished in Jeremiah 10:2–5, which refers to “a tree … [that] people bedeck with silver and gold.” And how many more deify the sun by honoring that day as “holy” (and use the Roman accounting method, midnight to midnight) when Jesus himself kept the Sabbath?
James I. Brewster
Article All Fowled Up
In “New Mosaic Art from Sepphoris,” BAR 18:06, Ehud Netzer and Zeev Weiss express some concern about the apparent absence of religious symbolism in the mosaics, but they do not mention the fowl in the mosaic pictured in the article and probably didn’t recognize their significance. Even with the top of the fowls’ heads missing from the picture, one can recognize these fowl as the product of selectively bred jungle fowl (genus Gallus). Notice the spurs on the lower legs of the males facing each other. The spurs turn up slightly, and they are pointed. Fowl have two uses for spurs. They can scratch in dirt with them to dig up food, in which case the spurs will turn down toward the ground, or fowl can fight each other with them, in which case the spurs are as pictured. Through selective breeding, man produced fowl like those in the mosaic, with spurs positioned to enable the cocks better to injure or kill one another.
In his book, The Origin of Cockfighting, Dr. Clifton D. Bryant writes that the Phoenicians were responsible for the spread of cockfighting. Phoenician sailors in the employ of King Solomon were probably responsible for exposing Israel to cockfighting, much to the chagrin of later rabbis!
The Talmud (Bava Kamma 7:7) contains a prohibition against the keeping of domestic fowl because of the probability of their causing ceremonial defilement. Rabbinic sources indicate that they were kept as 012much by Jews as by Romans during the period of Roman rule.
An onyx seal bearing the figure of a cock was found near Mizpah, north of Jerusalem, containing the inscription “belonging to Jaazaniah, servant of the king.” This Jaazaniah (Jezaniah) is likely the same person mentioned at 2 Kings 25:23 and Jeremiah 40:8, indicating that Israel kept cocks at least as far back as the seventh century B.C.E.
The figure of a cock has also been found on a sherd of a cooking pot excavated at ancient Gibeon.
Robert B. Six
Ms. Egypt in France?
I have a question to put to Ehud Netzer and Zeev Weiss concerning the Nile River mosaic (“New Mosaic Art from Sepphoris,” BAR 18:06):
The pose and depiction of the female figure personifying Egypt in the upper left hand corner is very similar to a painting in the Chateau de Fountainbleau, the summer palace of Napoleon. The emperor was an avid Egyptologist.
The painting, however, depicts the source of a stream flowing through the palace grounds. The similarity prompted me to wonder if Napoleon had viewed a similar scene with the Egyptian female personifying the source of the Nile.
Sheldon W. Sayles
St. Petersburg, Florida
Zeev Weiss replies:
I don’t know if Napoleon or even one of his artists ever saw our mosaic or something similar to it. A similar figure appears on some other artifacts from the Byzantine period all over the empire, not only in Egypt. This kind of the art was the fashion during the period, just as common themes are found in different places in other periods. It may be that Napoleon or someone else came across a similar depiction and was inspired by it, but this is a question that an art historian specializing in 19th-century art should answer.
A Basic Error
In “New Mosaic Art From Sepphoris,” BAR 18:06, by Ehud Netzer and Zeev Weiss, the authors identify the figure supporting the foot of the Nile god is female. If this figure is female she was given an abnormally large clitoris! I compared this figure with the two other figures mentioned by the authors and have come to the conclusion that the figure is actually male. I will concede that all three figures have an androgynous appearance.
Every issue of BAR since its first in March of 1975 is in my possession. I value them greatly.
Dale M. Schum
No Last Names in Antiquity
First, there was no such thing as a Caiaphas Family Tomb, as there is today a Hancock Family Tomb in Forest Lawn. There were no last names in Judea in the first century. The Caiaphas of the first century was most likely Joseph the Caiaphas in the court of the high priest.
Second, modern Biblical archaeology and literary studies have shown that the word caiaphas was a title, not a proper name or a last name. In the first-century Dead Sea Scrolls, one can read a manuscript that begins: “The report of the caiaphas, being an account of his rounds of the afflicted … ” A caiaphas was a medicine expert, an exorcist of demons and a religious inquisitor. Dr. Ronny Reich of the Israel Antiquities Authority was correct to call the writing in the tomb a “nickname,” not the proper name that we still find in the Gospels. The first-century Jewish historian Josephus was correct to call Joseph (Caiaphas) “Joseph who was called Caiaphas of the high priesthood.” He most likely was not Caiaphas the high priest, since Annas was high priest at that time.
Alan Albert Snow
Santa Ana, California
Ronny Reich replies:
The publication in BAR of the Caiaphas family tomb and ossuaries brought a deluge of requests from the media for interviews and queries from readers. I must stress again: We are positive that we have found the burial cave, or one of the caves, of the Caiaphas family. As for positive identification with the very high priest mentioned in the Gospels, one has to be careful. An additional title “the high priest” inscribed next to his name would have 013been decisive proof. Alas, this was not there.
Mr. Snow suggests that Caiaphas was a title, as demonstrated by literary studies, the title of a “medicine expert, an exorcist of demons and a religious inquisitor.” In that case, two members of the family were active in this occupation as there are two ossuaries bearing the name. Isn’t this a little far-fetched?
Archaeology Finds More People Mentioned in Literary Sources
“Caiaphas Name Inscribed on Bone Boxes,” BAR 18:05, by Ronny Reich, was very interesting and informative. The inscription illustrations (text and Hebrew transcription) are first rate.
The introductory notes on the very few people known from literary sources who are identified by name in archaeological artifacts were also interesting. The point is well taken: Artifacts generally are not that specific. However, the list in BAR may be too short. Indeed, Books in Brief, BAR 18:04, identifies at least one more. In the review of Masada, The Yigael Yadin Excavation 1963–1965, Final Reports, an ostraca found at Masada is apparently a “lot” that mentions “ben Yair,” the Eleazer ben Yair referred to by Josephus.
Here are some other possibilities:
1. The house of Peter excavated in Capernaum is reported to contain inscriptions (graffiti?) naming “Peter” and “Jesus” (see James Strange and Hershel Shanks, “Has the House Where Jesus Stayed in Capernaum Been Found?” BAR 08:06).
2. Pilate is named in a Latin inscription from the Roman theater at Caesarea (which I have seen and read firsthand [see letter from Robert J. Bull, “Pontius Pilate Inscription,” Queries & Comments, BAR 08:05]).
3. Sergius Paulus is named in a Greek inscription as Lucius Sergius Paulus discovered by Ramsay in 1913 (Acts 13:6ff).
4. Erastus (Romans 16:23) of Corinth was identified in a Latin inscription found in 1929 at Corinth.
5. Gallio (Acts 18:12–17) was identified as proconsul of Achaea in a Greek inscription from Delphi.
6. Aretas (2 Corinthians 11:32) was identified as Harethat IV in inscriptions found at Avdat in the Negev.
John R. Charles
San Jose, California
Ronny Reich replies:
I can accept Mr. Charles’ suggestions as to Masada’s ben Yair. As for his other suggestions, Pilate and Aretas were of course rulers (or officials), and the list specifically excluded these categories. All of his other suggestions are mere possibilities. My point was to show that few personalities are known and attested by epigraphic data.
In “Burial Cave of the Caiaphas Family,” BAR 18:05, by Zvi Greenhut, the top picture on page 33 is identified as an external view of the entrance to the cave but appears to be the entrance to loculus IV.
San Bernardino, California
You are correct. We regret the error.—Ed.
Greek Among Us
Jewish Funerary Inscriptions Reveal Ancient Emotions
The article “Jewish Funerary Inscriptions—Most Are in Greek,” BAR 18:05 (Pieter W. van der Horst), was very eye-opening to me. As I read about a father’s love for his foster son and a husband’s grief as he lost his wife of only one year, I finally saw a side of these ancient people we rarely see: their hearts. So often in archaeology we discover what people did and how they lived, but rarely do we get a glimpse into their human emotions. You helped me to see a humanness to these ancient people that we rarely see. Thank you!
The Peter Pun Works in Hebrew
The excellent reply of Joseph Fitzmyer (Queries & Comments, BAR 19:01) to a query concerning the petra and Petros of Matthew 16:1 calls for one very minor correction to the statement, “The play on words cannot be expressed in Hebrew.” Oh, but it can. Although “rock” is most frequently sela‘ in Bible and Mishnah, k
La Crescenta, California
Professor Joseph Fitzmyer replies:
Reader Fliegel might be right that the petros/petra pun itself would be possible in Hebrew if k
A Pox on All Your Houses
Re your BAR 18:05, specifically the articles by Greenhut, Reich, van der Horst and Fitzmyer:
I was astonished to find such half-baked, incomplete, speculative and ignorant articles. To sum it up, all four Hellenize my people beyond reality, maybe to a point of no return! The fact that we returned to rebuild anew our old-new land, language, people and culture put to shame your attitude—which upon reading and rereading I felt—as if there is no connection between our past and present.
A. Zvi Greenhut’s “Burial Cave of the Caiaphas Family”:
1. Greenhut writes: “So it was that we discovered the final resting place of the Caiaphas family … presided at the trial of Jesus.” Isn’t this rushing to a conclusion? Could there not have been more than one Caiaphas family? Is there only one Mr. Jones in town?
2. He also writes: “It seems that the reburial (in ossuaries) reflects a belief in the physical resurrection … ” Why this out-of-thin-air assumption? It is more logical to explain burial in ossuaries according to the Biblical practice of putting to rest one’s forefathers, Lishkav im Avotav!
3. The whole discourse about the coins by Greenhut (and Hachlili) is to show the validity of the pagan coin-in-the-mouth practice adopted by Jews. Indeed, it might be true and valid. Still, it might also be far-fetched, so why speculate? In any case, even if Greenhut is right, the practice probably would have been limited to the upper class, maybe to high priests, many of whom were known to be Hellenized Sadducees.
4. Greenhut writes: “This custom must be seen as part of a wide range of pagan influence on the Jewish population of this period.” On all the Jewish population? I find it to be too speculative!
5. Greenhut writes: “The red color may symbolize the non-Jewish ritual of pouring blood on the bones of the deceased.” Though Greenhut finally uses the term “may,” his remark is still a speculation. The red color can be explained in at least four other ways: for art’s sake, because of having extra money, to enhance status or just simply pomposity.
B. Ronny Reich’s “Caiaphas Name Inscribed on Bone Boxes”:
Reich writes: “inscriptions were added to ossuaries after they had been placed in the loculi. That also accounts for the fact that some of the inscriptions read from the bottom up.”
Really?! Let us use some logic and practice. If I have to squeeze my hand and scratch a name with a nail, I will either write (a) horizontally, but backward; (b) push my hand as far as I can and write horizontally from right to left, in a more or less blind way; or (c) simply write from top to bottom at the corner close to me! Certainly, 014I will not bother to bend down on my knees on the floor, or in a minimal depression in the floor of the cave, in order to write the name from bottom upward—even Chinese will not write like this! The poor execution of inscriptions can simply indicate that they were not put there by those who made the ossuaries nor by the (probably) highly educated members of the family nor by friends of the deceased. Such people certainly would have taken their time to pull the ossuary out and write the name properly.
The poor execution of the inscriptions suggests that they were written by people of low education, who may have scratched quickly for one reason or the other—maybe by simple-minded grave attendants, who certainly were less educated.
C. Pieter van der Horst, “Jewish Funerary Inscriptions—Most Are in Greek”:
Van der Horst writes: “This epitaph (written in Greek, found in the catacombs of Beth-She’arim) is clear proof that Palestinian Jews were familiar … also with Greek literature.” Really? Is it clear proof to find one epitaph of one person—and we are not sure if he is from Eretz-Yisrael at all—suspected of being Hellenized, alienated and estranged from his people’s culture? Luckily, the writer does not have to present his case in a court of law, where it would be thrown out on the spot!
D. Joseph Fitzmyer: “Did Jesus Speak Greek?”:
Initially, I resent—and I am sure Jesus would resent too—being termed a Palestinian Jew.
The funniest assumption and speculation from Fitzmyer’s pen follows: Jesus and Pilate did engage in some … conversation … Since Pilate, being Roman, could not speak Hebrew or Aramaic, and since there is no mention of an interpreter, they must have spoken Greek!” Since there is no mention in the New Testament of a scribe to write down the verdict, does that mean there was no scribe? If one text does not mention the windows of the court, does that mean there were no windows? Was an interpreter such an important figure that it had to be mentioned in the text?
Furthermore, how does Fitzmyer know that Pilate did not speak Hebrew or Aramaic? After all, he was here for a few years. Quite a few American ambassadors over the years have learned to speak Hebrew, specifically in order to be able to talk to the people directly!
Dead Sea Scrolls
Suggestions for Better Preservation
I am somewhat shocked at what is being done to the Dead Sea Scroll fragments at the 015Rockefeller Museum (“Conservators Race Against Time to Save the Scrolls,” BAR 18:04). I am not an expert, but I have some experience in dealing with ancient manuscripts, which causes me to have some serious reservations concerning the gluing of the fragments onto sheets of rice paper.
Aside from the concern mentioned in the article about improperly arranging the fragments in a fixed position, they may be creating a disaster just waiting to happen. Glues, no matter what they are made of, tend to deteriorate over time. This deterioration of the glue may lead to the loss or damage of fragments as they become separated from the backing. A more sinister possibility involves gases or chemicals released by the glue as it ages. These may affect (interact with) the fragments in unforeseen ways, causing further irreparable damage or possibly even speeding up the deterioration process itself.
Another concern involves the fact that glue and paper have a tendency to absorb and retain moisture. If the fragments are not properly stored, they are asking for additional problems.
Obviously something needs to be done to protect and preserve the fragments. Simply placing them between plates of glass held together by cellophane tape is totally unacceptable. There are a number of other options that should be considered (or reconsidered) that are less potentially damaging than gluing the fragments to a backing and that offer better protection and viewing access to the fragments.
Options include various methods of mounting (placing) the fragments between plates of glass secured in a frame. When properly done, the fragments are not damaged, are easily handled and are adequately protected. Many of the ancient manuscripts preserved in the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, Ireland, are preserved in this way.
Another option is a process called encapsulation, in which the fragments would be sealed in pockets between stiff sheets of inert plastic. This plastic has been successfully used by the Library of Congress to preserve many of its valuable and fragile documents (such as letters of Lincoln and Washington). It would allow the fragments to be safely handled and viewed from both sides.
These are just two options to consider.
Theodore Bernhardt, Jr.
Beverly, New Jersey
From Mongolia, So What If Jesus Was a Creature of His Time?
Living in Mongolia, I have just finished reading the BAR 18:03 issue.
I wish to applaud John W. Wright (see “Another View of the Dead Sea Scrolls Scandal,” BAR 18:03) for his fair, accurate and ultimately conciliatory article on the controversy over the yet unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls.
I have been a BAR subscriber for nearly the entire lifetime of the magazine and have only allowed my subscription to lapse because it would never get here anyway. Ever since the Dead Sea Scroll controversy began, I have been most upset by what I consider the very one-sided debate. As Wright states in his article, “One thing is certain: The official editors of the scroll materials lost the debate.” But, there was no way they could win. The debate judges were setting the ground rules and debating the other side.
What better way to publicize your organization than in engage in controversy. Once the major press (Time Magazine, The New York Times, The Washington Post, etc.) picked it up, it was over. They saw an issue that could only be valuable to them. They (the media) have no interest in the publication of the scroll material. Their only concern is sensational headlines that will sell.
It is better to err on the side of caution than to bring out a translation that later has to be retracted.
What I have read so far has not convinced me that there are going to be any stupendous revelations that will change the face of Christianity. If we find that Jesus was a creature of his times, need we be surprised? How would his listeners understand him if he talked to them about things beyond their grasp?
I look forward to returning to “civilization” and renewing my subscription.
Ulan Bator, Mongolia
Raising, Not Resurrecting, the Dead
Regarding the eye-opening article by Michael O. Wise and James D. Tabor, “The Messiah at Qumran,” BAR 18:06, I believe an improvement in translation could be made at one point. Where the text of 4Q521 was rendered as “resurrect the dead,” I believe “raise the dead” would be equally correct or even better. The former bears the Christian connotation that a resurrected person would from then on be in some special resurrected bodily form no longer subject to death or disease. The latter, on the other hand, could refer to a healing miracle akin to being brought back from a near-death experience (in which the subject may have been clinically dead for many minutes). Jesus’ raising of the daughter of Jairus (Luke 8:41–56; Mark 5:22–43) is a prime example of where this may have occurred. No indication is given in the Gospels that this girl didn’t live a normal life thereafter, eventually dying like anyone else. The author of 4Q52 I could well have meant “bring back to life” here, not “resurrect” as Christians understand the word.
Research Professor Emeritus
Oregon State University
Michael O. Wise replies:
Professor Deardorff raises an important issue in objecting to the use of the term “resurrection.” The fact is that the literal rendering of the Hebrew in question is “he will make the dead to live.” Is that the equivalent of resurrection? The question is difficult to answer, because even in Christian theology, as it has developed historically, there has been no unanimity on precisely what resurrection entails. When we try to project ourselves into the first-century Jewish milieu, the matter is even more uncertain, for we cannot pretend to know just how various individuals or groups would have interpreted the phrase “make the dead to live.” Certainly the equation of bringing the dead back to life with resurrection as commonly conceived is defensible, but Professor Deardorff is correct that it is not certain.
The more basic issues that his objection raises are those connected with all attempts at translation; thus the old Italian apothegm, Traduttore traditore (the translator is a traitor). At best, translation is a very difficult and uncertain business, for we have not merely to consider words and grammar, but to enter the world of the original author, and we can do so only very incompletely.
Perhaps Pierced/Piercing Messiah Ambiguity Was on Purpose
In regard to James D. Tabor’s “A Pierced or Piercing Messiah?—The Verdict Is Still Out,” BAR 18:06, I would like to propose the following. Since there appears to be some ambiguity in the translation, may I suggest that the text was written to purposely encompass both views—that the messiah figure would actually be pierced and do the piercing also; thus, the messiah would play two roles. This works great with Jesus since he not only said that he overcame the world, but also that the world crucified him.
Smearing Dershowitz and Qimron
I received your letter of solicitation [for the Legal Defense Fund], and while I support many of your projects—including the liberation of the Dead Sea Scrolls—I find your approach to fund-raising offensive.
The fact that Elisha Qimron has hired Alan Dershowitz to defend his interests indicates three things: He has the financial resources, he is playing hardball and he wants his case to be high-profile.
Alan Dershowitz is a competent, ethical and well-respected member of the bar. Your letter tries to imply otherwise by accusing him of representing Von Bulow, Tyson and Leona Helmsley. In case you need reminding, defense counsel is required to defend people accused of crimes. By associating Mr. Dershowitz with unsavory people, you attempt to smear him and Mr. Qimron—associating both with murderers, rapists and tax evaders. Shame on you.
Please do not protest that you had no such intention. Such disingenuity should be above you. Whether Mr. Qimron has a case or not will be settled by the legal system, of which I am a proud representative (University of Connecticut School of Law, 1984—cum laude).
Rev. George E. Blair III
Plainfield, New Jersey
Interpreting John Loudon’s Gospel
I can’t remember when I’ve enjoyed a letter column as much as the hoopla created by your review of Dr. Barbara Thiering’s Jesus & the Riddle of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Fragments, BAR 18:05) and skillfully documented in the Queries & Comments, BAR 19:01.
However, whatever your opinion of Dr. Thiering’s methodology or conclusions, I think we all owe her a measure of gratitude for opening the new scholastic school of “pesher deciphering.” Speaking for myself, I am now able to decipher the pesher in everything I read. A case in point is the letter of John Loudon, senior editor at HarperSanFrancisco, in Queries & Comments, BAR 19:01. I will demonstrate my newfound skill by transcribing the original manuscript and then providing the decoded pesher in bracketed italics:
“We are fully aware that Dr. Thiering’s views are controversial and go well beyond the bounds of current scrolls scholarship.” [Her methodology was shoddy. We know it 076and you know it. However, we were hoping that the advertising dollars we spent with BAR promoting the book would help you “overlook” this fact. Bad form chaps!]
“We have therefore reached the sort of readers who have been fascinated by the award-winning Discovery channel TV documentary based on Thiering’s work.” [Because the well informed will obviously reject Dr. Thiering’s conclusions out of hand, we’ve decided to prey on the ignorant masses. Besides they’ll believe anything that states it is award winning, regardless of what award it has won.]
“Clearly there are many such readers since the book has quickly become #1 on the Publisher’s Weekly religious bestsellers’ list.” [Barnum was right; there is one born every minute.]
“The implication that publishers should not publish books that conventional scholarship is likely to dismiss seems fraught with danger.” [Hang reason, logic and responsible scholarship—we’ll publish anything that will turn a profit, regardless of what you stuffy old bores think.]
“Let’s not begin advocating censoring unconventional views at the source.” [Okay, okay, okay. You and your readers have us on the spot! Therefore we’ll fall back on the age-old cry of censorship to cover up the fact that we’ve acted irresponsibly.]
Huntington Beach, California
Some friends taped for us the TV broadcast The Riddle of the Dead Sea Scrolls. They wanted our opinion on what was billed as documentation of Biblical research. My wife and I (both STM, Yale, 1949, 1952) were stunned by the scholastic veneer that sought to paper over what can only be classified as fiction—and poor fiction at that.
Later, we read Hershel Shanks’ review (Fragments, BAR 18:05) and breathed a sigh of relief that someone had blown the whistle on this “academic” travesty.
That would have ended it for us and probably for many others had not John Loudon (senior editor, HarperSanFrancisco) sought to rationalize and defend his publication of Barbara Thiering’s Jesus & the Dead Sea Scrolls. The question before us now no longer concerns Thiering’s book but rather the integrity and judgment of a publisher whose name on a book has heretofore assured us of a reliable source.
One cannot read Mr. Loudon’s defense without grieving over the cynicism that lies behind his words. We have been afflicted ad nauseam in the commercial and political realms with the “if it sells it’s okay” ethic. Now, Mr. Loudon, of Harper no less, pretty explicitly blesses it.
We have from time to time been tempted to try our hands at serious authorship with children and youth in mind. If we ever bring it off, I want publicly to assure Mr. Loudon that our efforts will not be submitted to HarperSanFrancisco. Further, if I were the author of a serious scholastic work, I would not want Harper’s name on it. Harper now has my rejection slip. Henceforth, as we browse through the bookstore offerings, we will do our own critical review of a Harper book before helping to pay Mr. Loudon’s salary.
Leonora A. Green
Dana S. Green
Corpus Christi, Texas
When “Love” Is Rape
In response to Mr. Willis S. Langford’s closing paragraph (“Preaches Love, Not Tolerance” Queries & Comments, BAR 18:06), I want to point out that unwanted, uninvited and unwelcome “love” can also be defined as rape.
Supersessionism in Reverse
I am working on a novel dealing with the life of Jesus as seen through the eyes of Mary Magdelene. It will be extremely controversial to say the least. For, if I may paraphrase the great Martin Buber, “in the depths of our Jewishness, we know him (Jesus) more truly than anyone who is subservient to him.” Which brings me to my point (and I believe, his [Jesus’] point) which is that millions missed the point when they began to pray to him instead of like him (the way he taught, with the Lord’s prayer … Our Father, who art in Heaven … ).
As far as I can tell, Jesus was an extremely observant, if at times controversial, Jew. I believe that rather than worship him as a God, if people instead looked to him as an example of how to live life as a True Human Being, understanding his very special message of forgiveness and compassion, then we would have no need for such ridiculous arguments as have recently appeared in BAR.
Lynne Cohen Robinson
Taos, New Mexico
Reading Out Most of the World
I found Lawrence Schiffman’s statement (Queries & Comments, BAR 18:06) that you have to be a monotheist to achieve “salvation” almost as offensive as Willis’ supersessionist view that you have to be a Christian. Both are exclusivist positions that in practice read out most of the world and deny the validity of other beliefs, whether religious or not. It is high time that people like Schiffman and Willis recognize that their beliefs are no more than hypotheses that at best approximate some objective reality and at worst are dead wrong. Indeed, at least one of them is wrong. Instead of telling us who gets life in the world to come, they should be out searching for independent evidence to support their beliefs: Just believing something, however fervently, does not make it true. Yet each in his own way makes it clear that he “knows” the truth.
Persecutors Twist Scripture
It was flattering to have my last letter printed and to receive the reply from Lawrence Schiffman (Queries & Comments, BAR 18:06). I appreciate being straightened out regarding classical Jewish law. I say this quite sincerely. Professor Schiffman, as a scholar and as a human being, has my respect. There are still some items I question, however.
Schiffman stated that the “Messianic Jews are not denied full citizenship in Israel … ” I would like to believe the correctness of his assertion. Perhaps the National and International Religion Report (vol. 6, no. 4M) was wrong when it reported that “Israel’s Supreme Court in 1989 ruled that Messianic Jews cannot become Israeli residents because they are not true Jews.” I would honestly like to be corrected if this is not true. In any case, Schiffman still admitted that Messianic Jews have been denied certain of the privileges of being a Jew. I am not sure what the difference is between Schiffman’s statement and the denial of full citizenship, but it doesn’t seem to be a terribly enlightened or unprejudiced policy.
Although a Hindu does not have to become a Jew to experience salvation, according to the Noahide code, (s)he must certainly recognize that her/his system is wrong and that (s)he will not enjoy salvation unless the one true God is acknowledged. This is still a form of exclusivism that could lead to racism and persecution of those who are idolaters by those who are not.
The Jewish people have experienced unjust persecution and shameful treatment from those who have claimed Christianity as a belief system. The claim, however, did not match the actions. It was evil to allow the Holocaust to take place. I might add, Christianity was merely twisted at the whim of a madman to justify his actions. When it became obvious that Christianity did not support racism, it was abandoned and its followers persecuted. William Shirer noted, “The Nazi regime intended to eventually destroy Christianity in Germany, if it could, and substitute the old paganism of the early 078tribal Germanic gods … ” (Rise and Fall of the Third Reich [Simon & Schuster, 1960], p. 240). True Christianity treats all mankind with love and protests persecution. True Christianity is nonviolent. Do not forget that there were many Christians who were doing their best to save the Jews from Hitler (e.g., Corrie ten Boom). This does not deny the painful historical fact that people who called themselves Christians, including Martin Luther, have misused text to justify the persecution of Jews. To be able to twist scripture to one’s own selfish end is not the fault of scripture or of Christianity!
The truth is, all belief systems have had adherents who twisted the teachings to meet their own bigoted and/or racist ends. Mankind seems predisposed to persecute anyone who is “different.” So whatever belief system is popular at the time will be used by a bigoted person to justify his or her prejudices. The Roman empire and the Jewish nation used their belief systems to persecute the early Church. Adherents of Islam have been known to persecute those who have converted to other religions. Atheism mixed with Darwinian concepts (survival of the fittest) is used by racists as justification to persecute “weaker” races. We all share guilt with each other, don’t we?
Perhaps this is rather a commentary on mankind rather than on religion.
It is one thing to believe a group of people is wrong about salvation. It is quite a different matter to persecute those people and treat them with violence. Judaism and Christianity view truth as objective. That means someone is wrong, whether it be Christian, Jew, atheist or idolater. The possibility will always exist for one or more groups to be persecuted by the others. Is that the fault of the religious systems? Unless the system demands persecution, it appears to be more the fault of fallen man. It is a tribute to human deviousness and evil to be able to twist teaching to justify persecution of any group.
Please forgive any insensitivity. I do not even pretend to understand the pain the Jewish people must have experienced through the Holocaust. There is no intention, on my part, to insult the intelligence, the race or person of anyone.
Darryl Brent Willis
See Lawrence Schiffman’s reply after next letter.—Ed.
Not Only Christians Can Be Saved
In Queries & Comments, BAR 18:06, Professor Schiffman wrote, “The bottom line is that in Christianity, you must become a Christian to gain salvation; in Judaism there is no such requirement.” While I cannot speak for every Christian religion, I know enough about the Catholic religion to state that he is wrong.
The following quotes come from the Catholic Encyclopedia, edited by Robert C. Broderick (1987). Under the topic of “Salvation Outside the Church,” from the “Decree on Ecumenism,” we read, “Some, even very many, of the most significant elements or endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church herself can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church,” and several sacred actions of the separated brethren “can truly engender a life of grace, and can be rightly described as capable of providing access to the community of salvation.” Under the topic “Desire, Baptism of,” from the “Dogmatic Constitution of the Church,” we read, “Finally, those who have nor yet received the gospel are related in various ways to the People of God. In the first place there is the people to whom the covenants and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the Flesh. On account of their father, this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues … Those also can attain to everlasting salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and, moved by grace, strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.”
Schiffman wrote, “Yes, Judaism does believe that if the Eastern religions worship a multiplicity of gods, or if they actually regard statues or heavenly bodies as gods, they have denied themselves a place in the world to come.” The doctrine of the Catholic faith does not even deny these people a place in the world to come.
As the Catholic faith is the largest Christian faith and as there are probably other Christian faiths that have a similar belief, Schiffman’s statement that you must become a Christian to gain salvation is not applicable to the faith of many, if not most, Christians.
Joseph H. Butler
Lawrence Schiffman replies:
I am beginning to feel that the law of diminishing returns has set in and that we have succeeded already in coming to an understanding of the basic reasons for which Jews have been so sensitive about supersessionism. This doctrine has fueled the fires of anti-Semitism throughout the ages. Any attempt to claim that it is a two-way street and that Jews have done the same would be a gross distortion of history.
Mr. Willis seems to have some misinformation regarding Israeli law. “Messianic Jews” are simply considered non-Jews for purposes of naturalization and, accordingly, can become citizens as can any non-Jew. Please understand that Jews do not consider those who espouse “Messianic Judaism” or “Hebrew Christianity” to be part of their religious community. This has nothing to do with salvation, only with the problem of Jewish self-definition, which is in this case reflected in the law of the secular state of Israel.
I agree wholeheartedly with both Willis and Butler who speak of the misinterpretation of religious belief as a basis for the persecution of others. We all join in wishing that these horrors had never taken place and in the recognition that they are possible in any system of belief. I think many readers of BAR have gotten a better understanding of the Jewish experience as victims of such persecution from the long exchange of letters in this magazine.
Mr. Butler’s quotations from the Catholic Encyclopedia reflect a position that we all wish had been espoused by all Christians throughout the ages, but which unfortunately was not. When the same positions were put forward in this publication by Eugene Fisher, representing the American Catholic bishops (Queries & Comments, BAR 18:06), they were protested by many less open-minded readers. We all must salute and support the efforts of the Catholic Church to reject anti-Semitism, as reflected in documents like this, as well as the commitment of people like Mr. Butler to such an approach. It clearly augurs well for the future of Jewish-Christian relations. But as historians we must admit frankly that things were not this way in the past, and that Jews suffered terribly as a result.
I do want to emphasize one point. Judaism has never hesitated to take strong stands against what it perceives to be idolatry. But the rabbis expressly outlawed persecution and forced conversion even of those whose belief they totally rejected. Hopefully, all faiths will join in taking such an approach in the future.
The Last Word?
The latest tyranny is the idea that we must all give up the most important parts of our faith so that we might all get along. I’ve seen more intolerance in this view than in any one religion. Simply because I believe that I have found the truth, I receive labels such as bigot, racist, homophobe, etc. If this feeling goes unchecked, I would suggest that Jews and Christians develop a good relationship, because we could soon be discussing the identity of the Messiah in the same jail cell.
Who’s Whose Father?
I was extremely surprised to learn from the November/December issue of your honorable magazine that King Solomon was King David’s father. This statement is in “Beatitudes Found Among Dead Sea Scrolls,” BAR 18:06, by Benedict T. Viviano: “According to tradition, David composed hymns, psalms, etc., and his father, Solomon, wrote proverbs.”
This misprint prompted a little investigation among my friends and colleagues. Apparently many of us have difficulty relating to David as Solomon’s father, perhaps because Solomon’s image is that of an old sage, while we all remember David as a teenage warrior.
Please, beware of misprints, lest malcontents among your readers start questioning results of research conducted by your authors.
Thank you for your correction and for your interesting observation. Fortunately, the correct relationship appears twice on the same page as the mistake.—Ed.
Since when was Solomon David’s father? Is this a “new” bit of evidence to come out of the Dead Sea Scrolls? Surely, the historical documents of the Dead Sea Scrolls cannot be rewriting David’s genealogy this drastically! Tell me it is a typo—Please. Other than this glaring error in Benedict Viviano’s article (“Beatitudes Found Among Dead Sea Scrolls,” BAR 18:06), it was an enlightening piece showing the historical backgrounds out of which Jesus spoke.
John L. Bechtel, Pastor
Seventh-Day Adventist Church
Yes, it was a typo.—Ed.
Fun to Watch
Although we readers don’t directly know much about you, since as editor, you are (and should remain) behind the scenes, I still get a strong impression of your wry sense of humor—no doubt sorely tested in the past few years.
In Biblical archaeology, as in my field, there are only a few researchers and scholars, all of whom obviously know each other. It is great fun to watch these people agree, disagree and otherwise interact inside the covers of your magazine.
Keep up the good work, and please let us know how you are feeling these days.
Matthew Rosenstein, D.C.
San Francisco, California
BAR as a Valentine
After months of borrowing my friend’s copies and buying from the newsstand, my wife gave me my own subscription to your delightful magazine for Valentine’s Day (can you think of a more loving gift?). Rest assured, I do not plan to ever be without a subscription again.
I asked my friends who also read BAR what their favorite part of the magazine is. After giving serious evaluations of major articles, they all smiled sheepishly and confided in low tones that the first thing they always read is the Queries & Comments section. So, bring on the scrolls, pictures, crystals, images, etc. There is no entertainment like the war of the pens!
Farrell Gilliland II
Berrien Springs, Michigan
Thank Goodness, He’s Retired
Eugene Fisher’s letter (Queries & Comments, BAR 18:06) represents very well the thinking of mainstream Catholics and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. Unfortunately, a few letters later, Bishop Mitchell presented his thinking as if he believed it was the only Roman Catholic viewpoint; sadly, it sounded more like inquisitional thinking or, at best, certainly pre-Vatican Council. Thank goodness he is retired from active ministry!
Somehow, in quoting this or that specific line of Scripture, the total message can be obscured.
Sister Genevieve Sachse
Sacred Heart Monastery
Learning from Avner Goren
I recently returned from your BAS tour of Turkey with Israeli archaeologist Avner Goren as guide. This was my second BAS tour with Dr. Goren; the other was to Israel in 1990. I am a long-time subscriber of BAR and Bible Review, and an avid reader of your publications, but if you did nothing but sponsor these tours, you would be providing a great service for those who love ancient history as I do.
My original choice had been the Greek tour, but schedule conflicts precluded it, so I decided to settle for Turkey—a country about which I knew very little, past or present. I now know Turkey contains the greatest number and widest chronological range of archaeological sites in the world—Hatti, Hittite, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Armenian, Crusader and Ottoman sites. Of special interest to me as a Christian was the panorama of New Testament drama recreated as we traveled in the footsteps of the apostles.
Among the many sites are ancient Troy, of Homeric and later Schliemannic passion; Yazilikaya, 1500 B.C. Hittite outdoor sanctuary where little stone gods still march across huge cliffs; Pergamon, where parchment was first made; Ephesus, the great Greek and Roman city and home of the world’s first bank. An array of exotic experiences awaits the visitor to Istanbul—the sultan’s palace, harems and jewels; and Byzantine, Roman and Ottoman architectural splendors. There are 70 acres of Grand Bazaar. In the Cappadocian Goreme region, there are beautiful fairy chimney volcanic formations into which homes and churches have been chiseled, huge underground cities, and snow-white cliffs covered with pools of warm mineral spring water and stalactites. The beautiful Turquoise Coast of the Mediterranean has rugged beaches, cozy fishing villages and ancient castle ruins perched on high craggy cliffs. The misty, island-dotted Aegean is a stepping-stone to Greece and the West beyond. The Turkish people are friendly, kind, gentle and industrious.
Avner Goren as tour guide is always patient, always caring, never ruffled—great attributes for a tour guide—but he is first and foremost what he is—an expert archaeologist. His knowledge is unbelievable! He makes his way through every nook and cranny (or should I say crack and crevice) of each ancient site, leaving no stone unturned.
To tour a museum with Avner is to mentally stroke each artifact, fitting it neatly into its place in the great puzzle of the past. In his lectures, Avner blends not only historical, but also physical, political, religious, philosophical, economic and cultural aspects into a vivid description of the past and its relation to the present. His profound respect for and acceptance of all peoples’ beliefs and customs, past and present, are evident.
Other tourists were drawn to our group as they listened to him weave his tales of the ancient peoples. Avner always welcomed them warmly, often assisting them on their way. Israeli tourists’ eyes lighted with respect and recognition at the mention of his name.
Avner also sought to immerse us in the flavor of the present culture; frequently we found ourselves on impromptu excursions—evening walks through the hearts of cities or climbing white cliffs in the moonlight. He delighted in arranging surprises for us: an early morning boatride on the Mediterranean into blue caves beneath huge castle ruins, an elegant lunch at an Ottoman-style restaurant, a sudden arrival at the Pera Palas—home-away-from-home for passengers on the famed Orient Express.
For those to whom it is important, our accommodations, transportation and meals were all “first-class,” the best available. I can’t say enough for your BAS tours. Please reserve a place for me on your trip to Greece next fall.
Barbara Quade, Ed.D.
Praise for Dead Sea Scroll Book
Having recently acquired your excellent book, Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls (Random House, 1992), and having thoroughly enjoyed reading it during my convalescence from spinal injury, I felt that I owed you this brief “thank you” note for a job well done.
While most of the chapters are available to subscribers to BAR, it is very handy to have them all together in a single volume. Moreover, editor Shanks’ introductory “Overview” is the best and clearest summary on the subject that I have seen.
I also appreciated your chapter entitled, “Is the Vatican Suppressing the Dead Sea Scrolls?”—which demolished the theories of Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh to that effect. Thank you for the kind things you had to say about my co-religionists!
Rev. Vincent Fecher
St. James Catholic Church
Who Needs More Bad News?
Please do not send me any more Biblical Archaeology Review. It’s bad enough reading modern history.