Queries & Comments
Rainbow Shines Through
Winfred F. Hill
Did He Use a Filter?
As a subscriber to BAR for almost 20 years, I look forward to each issue. I have especially enjoyed the magnificent photography and was overwhelmed by the cover of the 20th anniversary issue. How did the photographer create the image? What kind of camera? Which film, exposure, time of day, month of year, how soon after the rain?
A few days after finishing BAR, I was leafing through the Cokin filter catalogue. What a disappointment to find a filter with what appears to be a rainbow at exactly the same angle!
Could this be the trick? Can any amateur “create” this image? One doesn’t need to be at the right place, at the right time. Shouldn’t the caption credit Mr. Nalbandian with “creating” this image rather than capturing it?
Charles P. Rosenbaum
Garo was amused and somewhat outraged at Mr. Rosenbaum’s suspicion that he created the rainbow over Jerusalem with a filter. He assured me that he never uses color filters or creates rainbows artificially. “If I did that,” he said, “I would not be a photographer anymore. It’s not my culture; I can’t do it.”
As for the technical questions about the
March/April BAR cover(BAR 21:02): the camera was a Nikon 8008, the film was Kodak Ektachrome; the exposure was about f16; the time of day was 8 o’clock in the morning, probably in the spring. As for “how soon after the rain?” Garo laughed heartily at this question. He said to remind our reader that a rainbow only appears while it is still raining.—Suzanne F. Singer
Many readers have asked the same question. Prints measuring 30 by 40 centimeters (about 12 by 16 inches) can be purchased for $25 plus $5 for shipping and handling from the photographer, Garo Nalbandian, Armenian Convent, P.O. Box 14001, Jerusalem, Israel.—Ed.
Your 20th anniversary issue made me do it! I am not of the persuasion that writes letters to the editor (although I love reading them), but I just had to congratulate editor Hershel Shanks and all the rest of the BAR staff. The articles by Kenneth Kitchen and Shlomo Bunimovitz were both absolutely stunning. I just extended my subscription for another two years, although it didn’t expire until 1996.
I just have to insert one barb of my own: Did you realize that the “unsolicited manuscripts … ” bit that you lambasted in your original statement of purpose (see
Merilyn F. George
Salt Lake City, Utah
I am red-faced. This addition to our masthead went in without my knowledge.
It is no longer there, however.—Ed.
The William F. Buckley of Biblical Archaeology
Thanks for “The Patriarchal Age: Myth or History?” BAR 21:02, by Kenneth A. Kitchen. He did a good job of 014presenting the conservative point of view of Hebrew history/archaeology. Keep it up!
Duane M. Zwiers
North St. Paul, Minnesota
Kenneth Kitchen’s “The Patriarchal Age,” BAR 21:02, was certainly fascinating in many respects. Among his opponents, Kitchen identifies John Van Seters and Donald Redford. He refers to the former’s 1975 book and the latter’s 1970 book. However, Van Seters followed with major books in 1983, 1992 and 1994. Redford’s 1992 book, Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times (Princeton Univ. Press), won the BAS Publication Award for best scholarly book on archaeology for 1991–1992. I highly recommend the works of Redford and Van Seters to anyone who is interested in why critical historians do not accept the patriarchal age as historical.
Professor Jim Ash
Fort Lewis College
I Can Get It for You Wholesale
Professor Kitchen’s discussion of the dating of the Joseph story gives me the opportunity to ask a question I have had since I first read his analysis in Ancient Orient and the Old Testament. He notes that the price the Ishmaelite traders paid for Joseph, 20 silver shekels, was the going price of a slave in about the 18th century B.C.E. This price seems to be a retail price, the cost of a slave in urban markets.
But the Ishmaelites were buying Joseph for resale. It would have made no sense for Joseph’s brothers to sell him otherwise, as they wanted to be sure Joseph never returned to reveal their actions.
I am not familiar with business practices in the second millennium B.C.E., but the basic rules of profit are constant. Traders do not resell commodities for the same price they paid for them. Their gain comes from their mark-up. If the Ishmaelites paid 20 silver shekels for Joseph in the wilderness of Dothan, they surely expected to sell him for a good deal more than that in metropolitan Egypt. Alternatively, if the going price for a slave was 20 silver shekels, they would not have paid nearly that much for him.
Alan Pfeffer, Associate Professor of Business
Saratoga Springs, New York
Kenneth Kitchen replies:
It is most likely that the resale of Joseph in Egypt was the Ishmaelites’ intention (though not stated), and their expectation would be to gain not less than they paid. However, the ancient Near East was an exchange-economy, with no fixed provision for such things as profit-margins (whose consistent application is more a modern, Western concept). Thus, the specific motif of explicit profit is not to be seen in the many records of sales among Egyptian workmen at Deir el-Medina in western Thebes, for example. All that we can normally do is to note the going prices (for slaves or anything else) for each epoch. Naturally, higher and lower prices occur, governed by glut or scarcity, and by better or inferior condition/nature of the merchandise (humans included). As a comely, intelligent youth, Joseph no doubt could have been sold above the basic 20 shekels.
[For more on this point and others, see Ronald Hendel’s article, “Finding Historical Memories in the Patriarchal Narratives,” in this issue.—Ed.]
Was There a Pharaoh in Abraham’s Time?
Kenneth Kitchen writes that both Abraham and Jacob encountered Pharaoh. The trouble is, there were no pharaohs in Egypt in Abraham or Jacob’s time. The first king to call himself Pero was Akhenaten, 1370–1353 B.C. The Egyptian word “Pero” (in Hebrew, pharaoh) means “big house” and refers to the palace. Since all government functions were in or from the Big House, Akhenaten referred to himself as the Big House.
The stories of Abraham and Jacob must have been written after 1353 B.C.
Thomas B. Rhodes
Kenneth Kitchen replies:
We must distinguish clearly between modern and ancient uses of the term “pharaoh” (derived from “great house,” as Mr. Rhodes notes). We first find it used occasionally of the kings of Egypt in monumental texts from the mid-XVIIIth Dynasty, under Thutmose III (early 15th century B.C.) onwards (earlier than Akhenaten); it is very common in everyday documents (ostraca and papyri) in hieratic from the XIXth and XXth (Ramesside) Dynasties onward. This fits very well with the Genesis narratives in their present form not being earlier than the XIXth Dynasty (“land of Rameses,” Genesis 47:11), the time when Moses and the Hebrews finally left Egypt (cf. Exodus 1:11, 12:37, etc.). So, no problem here. By contrast, modern writers have extended the use of the term “pharaoh” back to include all kings of Egypt from the Ist to the XXXth Dynasties. We do not know how far back this usage went; we have almost no record of it before the XVIIIth Dynasty.
Christianity And Judaism
Invasion of the Heretics
I was sailing through the latest issue quite nicely when I came upon the article by Helmut Koester (“Historic Mistakes Haunt the Relationship of Christianity and Judaism,” Queries & Comments, BAR 21:02). I still can’t believe what I read! The credentials certainly don’t fit the man: a Lutheran pastor and professor of New Testament Studies at Harvard Divinity School (then again, from the heretics invading our churches, I begin to understand from whence they cometh). When he said, “my hands froze,” in reference to Wolfhart Pannenberg’s statement that the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament—Old Covenant) could only be properly understood in the light of its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ, I wondered, “Does it get any better than this?” Is not the Old Testament replete with promise after promise of the coming Messiah? Millions of Christians (and others) understand the New Testament to be the culmination of many of those prophecies and not the end of Hebrew life but the fulfillment of it.
It gets better. I don’t believe that it was John Strugnell’s wish that “all Jews should be converted to Christianity.” Rather, it was his wish that all Jews should recognize and accept their own Messiah, who had been promised by no less a prophet than Isaiah.
Koester’s next statement really threw me. “It is a simple historical fact that Jesus was an Israelite from Galilee, and that he understood himself to be nothing else but a prophet in Israel and for Israel. … ” No prophet ever said, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). No prophet ever said, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, … and then I will profess unto them, I never knew you … ” (Matthew 7:22–23). “And Simon Peter answered and said, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered and said unto him, ‘Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven’” (Matthew 16:16–17). One cannot possibly read the Gospels and come away with the impression that Jesus thought of Himself as a mere prophet. That is stretching comprehension beyond belief. Koester’s supposition that Jesus considered Himself nothing more than a mere prophet either states that Jesus was not the Son of God, or, that even though He was, He was unaware of His mission. Incredible.
My last point of contention is the statement “It is not true that only the Holocaust has made it illegitimate for Christians to criticize the Jews.” I might remind him that Christians and the Holocaust have absolutely nothing in common. Hitler was not a Christian by any stretch of the imagination and his cause was anything but Christian. Many Christians suffered at his hands in attempting to thwart his diabolical scheme. It is, indeed, illegitimate for Christians to criticize the Jews or anyone else, for that matter, but it has nothing to do with the Holocaust. Timidity in professing the truth will usher no one into the Kingdom of God. As Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto Salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
Helmut Koester replies:
Frank Leupp’s letter raises two issues: (1) the relevance of critical Biblical scholarship for the understanding of Christian faith, and (2) the role of anti-Judaism in the Christian church and theology, past and present.
(1) Biblical scholarship has known for more than a century that the Gospels of the New Testament are not direct transcripts of the teaching and ministry of Jesus. Rather, they are the result of a long development of traditions about Jesus in the early Christian churches. Study of this process of transmission, which eventually—after about half a century—resulted in the composition of written Gospels, has demonstrated that very few words of Jesus have been preserved in their original form, and that even those words that derive from original sayings of Jesus are often recorded in different versions (compare the two versions of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9–13 and Luke 11:2–4). Alterations were made according to the needs of the early Christian communities; explanations by Christian preachers were attached to parables of Jesus (see the interpretation in Mark 4:13–20 of the parable of the sower, Mark 4:3–9); and as the risen Lord was still speaking to the church through prophets, many new words were added. It also seems likely that all the Christological titles of Jesus (Messiah, Lord, Son of Man, Son of God) did not have their origin in words of Jesus but rather in the life of the church that worshiped Jesus as savior.
The results of these scholarly investigations necessitate what has been called “the quest for the historical Jesus.” To be sure, scholars may differ in their attempts to recover the words, life and ministry of the human being Jesus of Nazareth (as distinct from the Christ and Lord worshiped in early Christian churches). Some prefer to interpret Jesus’ ministry as that of a prophet, others prefer the designation “wisdom teacher,” others again tend to see Jesus as a social revolutionary. Some conservative scholars may want to ascribe to the historical Jesus some sayings in which Jesus is identified with the coming Son of Man. It is difficult to achieve a consensus. But such is the lot of all inquiries into history. However, there can be no doubt with respect to the basic insight that there is a critical but also fruitful tension between the historical Jesus and the Christ of faith. Theologically spoken, this tension is reflected in the Christian doctrine of incarnation that insists upon the human appearance of Jesus, fully and completely a human being who was bound into the historical, cultural and social conditions of his time—not a God walking on earth. I stated no more and no less when I characterized Jesus of Nazareth as Israelite and as a prophet in the tradition of Israel.
(2) Yes, it can be said that Adolf Hitler was not a Christian; and it is also true that upright and confessing Christians were persecuted, tortured and murdered by Hitler. At the same time, Hitler’s program explicitly stated that his national-socialist movement was based on a “positive Christianity,” and many Christians in Germany—even entire churches—greeted Hitler with some 017enthusiasm or were at least willing to tolerate him. However, this implicit or even explicit complicity of Christians and Christian churches with Hitler’s anti-Judaism has roots that go back into centuries of Christian history. It began with the decrees of the Christian emperor Theodosius (end of the fourth century C.E.) forbidding the building and repair of synagogues, was continued in numerous pogroms against Jewish people (such as the expulsion of the Jews from Spain by Christian kings with the approval of the Pope), and it has not ended: Even in this country many people still use the name of Christ in their campaigns of hate against Jews (and against blacks and against homosexuals). As in Nazi Germany, the majority of Christians may not agree, but it is frightening that too many of us are silent.
I agree that the Bible of Israel (called the Old Testament by us Christians) is a prophecy and a promise of God for the coming of one who would bring peace, reconciliation and salvation to all nations. We Christians believe that this promise has been fulfilled in the coming of Jesus. That, however, is our special understanding of such prophecies. We know very well that Israel’s prophets actually thought of quite different agents of God’s future actions; for example, the book known as Deutero-Isaiah (Isaiah 40–56) actually referred to the Persian king Cyrus as the coming savior. The dialogue between Jews and Christians must acknowledge that such prophecies are open to different interpretations.
I was unable to applaud Wolfhart Pannenberg’s statements 30 years ago because they did not leave any room for a discussion of different interpretations of the prophets of Israel. How can we discuss such an issue if we Christians state at the very beginning of the discourse that we are right and the Jews are wrong? Moreover, this discussion is burdened by the fact that, in the course of history, Christians were usually the winners and the Jewish people were the victims. If we Christians want to be the agents of the proclamation of peace and reconciliation in this world, we must own up to the fact that a good deal of the history of the Christian people has falsely seen God’s presence on the side of the winners. When Jesus died on the cross, it was proclaimed to all the world that God is actually on the side of the losers and of those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness.
Do Historic Mistakes Haunt Helmut Koester?
In “Historic Mistakes Haunt the Relationship of Christianity and Judaism,” Helmut Koester avers uncritically that “it is a simple historical fact that Jesus … understood himself to be nothing else but a prophet in Israel and for Israel. … ” On the contrary, it is a simple historical fact that the former claim is anything but a simple historical fact; it is, in actual historical fact, a matter of sustained controversy.
Since when does a mere prophet forgive sins (Mark 2:1–12), preside on judgment day (Matthew 7:21–23, 19:28), claim to be Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:27–28), accept worship (Matthew 14:32–33; John 9:38), parade his Davidic royalty (Mark 11:1–10), announce his superiority to the Temple and to Solomon (Matthew 12:6, 42), invite but refuse to decline the suggestion that he is the Messiah (Mark 8:27–30), offer his life as a ransom for others (Mark 10:45), proclaim that he, as the Son, is the only way to the Father (Matthew 11:27) and promise his second coming (Mark 13:26–27, 14:61–62)? It is question-begging at best to assume that this New Testament evidence is altogether spurious; and merely calling Koester’s view a simple historical fact does not, of course, make it so.
Koester fosters the simple error that the New Testament is a “tragic mistake,” mainly on the ground that some Christians have been guilty of anti-Semitism. He might have argued, in a similarly fallacious vein, that the Jewish scriptures are a “tragic mistake” on the ground that some Jews have been anti-Christian. The simple historical fact is that one cannot plausibly fault a religious tradition and canon on the basis of the immorality of some wayward proponents; nor can one rewrite history simply to promote social or theological unity. Koester’s goal of Jewish-Christian unity is commendable, but his uncritical rewriting of New Testament history is not. We need unity on the basis of historical truth, not at the expense of such truth—and the apostle Paul would have heartily agreed (Romans 10:1–13).
Paul K. Moser, Professor
Loyola University of Chicago
Helmut Koester replies:
I am afraid that Professor Moser has missed the crucial point of my statement about Jesus, which was that Jesus was a Jew and wholly belonged to the tradition of Israel. Whether I have said enough about Jesus’ authority, expressed in his deeds and his words, is certainly a matter of debate. However, critical New Testament scholars concerned with the question of the historical Jesus are generally not willing to ascribe most of the verses quoted by Professor Moser from Matthew, Mark and John to the 018historical Jesus.
The fact remains—and it is indeed an indisputable historical fact—that Christianity has its roots in the religion of Israel. It has affirmed these roots in its claim to the scriptures of Israel as part of its canon. At the same time, the most precious possession of the Christian tradition, the New Testament, also establishes a seemingly insurmountable obstacle to the reconciliation with the other heir of the traditions and scriptures of Israel, namely Judaism. I am not making the naive suggestion that Christians should surrender the New Testament. Rather, Christians must recognize that the New Testament is for the believers and the churches both glory and burden. That cannot be argued away by claiming that only “some Christians have been guilty of anti-Semitism.” If only some “wayward proponents” had blemished the otherwise spotless history of the Christian churches, we would not have a problem. However, that is a wishful view of history. The fact is that, beginning with the New Testament itself, the entire Christian tradition and many periods of its history have been burdened with this evil, and that statements by the Roman Catholic Church as well as by the reformer Martin Luther have shared and reinforced it.
If we can find forgiveness and healing and renewal and hope in the Christian message, we have to accept also our share of the burden and guilt of a Christian history that is less than glorious, from the anti-Judaism of Luke’s Acts of the Apostles and the anti-Jewish legislation of the emperor Theodosius to the deafening silence of most Christians and their leaders at the time of the Holocaust. In view of this history, it is preposterous to suggest, even “in a fallacious vein,” that I might have argued “that the Jewish scriptures are a ‘tragic mistake’ on the ground that some Jews have been anti-Christian.”
Was Paul a Pharisee?
It never fails to amaze me that people who should (and probably do) know better insist on perpetuating myths about Paul. Although the Reverend Helmut Koester is a scholar and is friendly to the Jews, his training and profession predispose him to repeat traditional Christological misconceptions. He claims that Paul was a Pharisee. Let’s examine that allegation in light of Paul’s writings.
No Jew—whether Pharisee, Sadducee, Essene or Nazarene (as was James, head of the Jerusalem Council, who differed sharply with Paul)—would proclaim that a man born of woman was a deity. In fact no Jew would accept another divinity—it violates the Second Commandment.
No Pharisee would speak of the Torah (the “Law” in Paul’s words) in the denigrating and insulting terms Paul used. He called the Law a curse: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law” (Galatians 3:13). He claimed that the Law brought death (Romans 7:10). And Paul further asserted that through the Law came his knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20).
Professor Koester writes, “Paul never wanted to establish anything else than the ‘New Israel.’” This is true. By sleight of words Paul transferred Israel’s heritage to the Gentiles (who were to become Christians) by calling them the “New Israel.” At the same time he assigned to the descendants of Isaac (i.e., Jews) the role of Gentiles, claiming that the latter were the progeny of the Egyptian handmaid Hagar (Galatians 4:14)! Surely no Pharisee would engage in such creative genealogy.
And what Pharisee would accuse the Jews of deicide, as Paul did in 1 Thessalonians 2:15?
Pharisees did not read the Hebrew Bible in Greek. They spoke, read and understood Hebrew, none of which Paul did. His misconstruing of verses throughout the Tanakh [Hebrew Bible] was due both to mistranslations in the Septuagint and to Paul’s Hellenistic orientation. Paul came from a Hellenist background, spoke Greek and was most comfortable living among and preaching to Gentile Hellenists. He came to Jerusalem only upon orders from the Jerusalem Council, over which at that time he had not yet gained ascendance. Paul was ordered there because his teachings were contrary to the beliefs of the Jewish Nazarenes.
In short, Paul was no Jew of any variety—Pharisee or otherwise.
Many Christian scholars have “tortured” the words of Paul in an effort to deny his anti-Judaism. However, lay readers and their priests and pastors have read and understood Paul’s words very clearly over the centuries as anti-Jewish. It doesn’t help to deal with anti-Semitism by denying it. The evil has to be confronted and refuted.
Lillian C. Freudmann
Helmut Koester replies:
Although one might doubt the historicity of the statements in the speeches ascribed to Paul in Acts 23:6 (“I am a Pharisee and a son of Pharisees”) and Acts 26:5, we have Paul’s witness from his own hand in Philippians 3:5 (“According to the Law I was a Pharisee”). And if that statement can be trusted, we know at least of one Pharisee, namely Paul, who read the Bible in Greek. Moreover, most scholars today would agree that it is extremely difficult to be certain about the Pharisees and their beliefs in the period before the Jewish War. After all, the Gospels of the New Testament and the letters of Paul are the earliest and only available direct witnesses.
To say that no Jew would proclaim that someone born by a woman was “a deity” misstates the case. For Paul, Jesus is the “son of God”—a title that even Psalm 2:6–12 ascribes to the king of Israel. Religious diversity in Israel at the time of Jesus was the rule, and it is impossible to know for certain what Israelites or “Jews,” or for that matter “Christians,” could or could not believe in the first century C.E., before both Judaism and Christianity established boundaries for their beliefs at the end of the second century.
The statement about the “Jews” or “Judeans” in 1 Thessalonians 2:15 is most likely a later interpolation into a genuine Pauline letter. Galatians 4:24–30 (not 4:14) is difficult and could easily be taken as a condemnation of Judaism; but it should not be overlooked that Paul is not arguing here against Jews but against Christian “Judaizers” who claim that they possess authority that rests on Jerusalem.
I am not denying at all that priests and pastors have read Paul’s statements as anti-Jewish. However, Christian as well as Jewish scholars today have gained insights into first-century Israel and its diversity that no longer permit us to paint the first century black and white with the brushes of either anti-Jewish second-century Christianity or anti-Hellenistic second-century rabbinic Judaism.
Koester Doesn’t Go Far Enough
Helmut Koester’s analysis of the Jewish-Christian relationship does nothing to eradicate the anti-Jewish bias that is prevalent throughout Christendom. For centuries the Jew was denigrated and dehumanized by the Church. It is this type of indoctrination of the Christian masses by the Church that led directly to the Holocaust.
If the Church is to redeem itself, it must openly admit its sins towards the people of Jesus, and make an honest effort to atone for them. Pope John XXIII started this process when he wrote:
We realize now that many, many centuries of blindness have dimmed our eyes, so that we no longer see the beauty of Thy Chosen People and no longer recognize in their faces the features of our firstborn brother. We realize that our brows are branded with the mark of Cain. Centuries long has Abel lain in blood and tears, because 020we had forgotten thy love. Forgive us the curse we unjustly laid on the name of the Jews. Forgive us that, with our curse, we crucified Thee a second time.
Unfortunately, this pope’s untimely death stopped the process in its tracks. Someone must pick up the torch and continue what he started if we are ever to see Jews and Christians accepting themselves as heirs to the same tradition.
Naim S. Mahlab
Dead Sea Scrolls
Vermes Missed the Point
Geza Vermes’s review of my recent book, Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls (Books in Brief, BAR 21:02) would have been an opportunity for scholarly exchange about the many controversial issues surrounding the scrolls and their interpretation had it not been spoiled by insufficient attention to the actual thesis of the book. Vermes begins by assailing my claim that “this is the first work ever written to explain” the significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls for “understanding the history of Judaism.” He confuses this with a claim that I am the first to recognize that the scrolls are Jewish. Such a claim would be laughable, as Vermes well knows. My claim is that this book is unique in that the questions it asks of the scrolls pertain to Judaism in its own historical and religious context, rather than to a hidden (or not so hidden) agenda of trying to understand the history or origins of Christianity. One has only to look at the table of contents to see that this is the case. This book bears no resemblance to any of its predecessors.
It is regrettable that Vermes saw fit to devote only two sentences to the main body of the book—the exposition of the scrolls in the context of the history of Judaism. Instead, he concentrated in his review on the history of the discovery, the identity of the sect and the significance of the scrolls for Biblical studies—all parts of the traditional agenda of the last generation of scrolls scholars. He virtually ignored the new ground broken by my study, pausing only briefly to compliment me for it. Perhaps it is for this reason that he failed to grasp the true import of my claim that this is truly an original book taking a new approach.
My claim that other scholars have for the most part followed a “Christianizing” interpretation of the scrolls is explicitly defined in the book as “interpreting the material as if it were a collection of proto-Christian rather than Jewish texts” (p. 16), by which I mean focusing “primarily on what the scrolls said, or could be claimed to say, about the background of Christianity” (p. xxiii). Vermes chooses to define my term “Christianization” in his own way, as “a claim that Qumran and its literature are to be put in the same bag as the New Testament and the early Church.” He then says that I used the term equivocally. Perhaps Vermes’s redefinition (and, in fact, misdefinition) of my term has led to his comments about André Dupont-Sommer. One does not have to be a Christian (with a capital “C”, i.e., a believer) to deal with the scrolls as if their fundamental import is for the history of Christianity. This is what Dupont-Sommer did even if he was, as Vermes says, “a self-confessed anti-Christian.” Certainly Robert Eisenman has done the same, and no one would ever accuse this highly committed Jew of being a Christian. This is not a matter of personal faith but of scholarly hermeneutic. My book calls for a new hermeneutic in which Judaism is the issue at stake, not Christianity.
I must have done something right if a scholar of such eminence as Professor Vermes can find only four minor errors (three of which are real) about which to nitpick in his attempt to claim that my book has been “somewhat spoiled by complacency and carelessness.” I thank him for his corrections, which, along with some other typographical and editorial errors I have assembled, will be corrected in future editions.
That we disagree about the history of the Biblical text as evidenced in the scrolls is what scholarship is all about. But I never claimed, as he asserts, that 20 percent of Qumran-type texts are proto-Masoretic, only that they represent a text that is derived ultimately from a proto-Masoretic-type text. This is the case “also with the proto-Samaritan texts. The revised figures of Emanuel Tov do not change the fact that the proto-Masoretic type is the largest and that, taken together with those types ultimately derived from it, it constitutes the majority of the Qumran Biblical manuscripts. Accordingly, I stand by my statement that the Qumran manuscripts prove that the proto-Masoretic text type was dominant in Hasmonean Palestine.
Vermes implies in his review that I have excluded from consideration the genuine parallels between Qumran materials and early Christianity. Nothing can be further from the truth. I believe we agree that these aspects must be fairly and accurately recognized. Yet I maintain that they do not result from direct influence, but from the presence of these elements in the religious culture and milieu of Judaism in this period. Indeed, in my view one of the major errors of scholarship on the scrolls has been to seek direct links where none can be proven to have existed.
Vermes concludes that “scroll veterans still know a thing or two that is beyond the ken of the young lions of today.” I would be the first to agree, but his review proves that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
Lawrence B. Schiffman
New York University
New York, New York
Geza Vermes replies:
Having had my say about Professor Schiffman’s book, I do not wish to enter into a prolonged argument over whether I have misunderstood or misrepresented his thesis, and am quite happy to leave it to the readers of BAR to decide. May I remind them, however, that my appraisal of the work is less negative than Larry Schiffman suggests. I mainly object to the claim that his book is “the first work ever” to use the Qumran texts for a historical understanding of Judaism. Indeed, I repeat that all serious Qumran scholars, non-Jewish and Jewish, have approached the scrolls from the viewpoint of Jewish, especially first-century C.E. Jewish, history. We did not concentrate “almost single-mindedly,” as Schiffman gratuitously accuses us, on the scrolls’ role as a background to Christianity.
Schiffman wrongly implies that my double charge of “complacency and carelessness” leveled against Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls rests on the flimsy base of four minor errors. Those mistakes, as any attentive reader would notice, were meant to illustrate “carelessness.” The allegation of “complacency” is founded on the blunt assertion that “almost all” the previously published books “promote impossible theories about the origins of the scrolls.” This signifies in plain English that not only did “almost all” the predecessors of Schiffman err, but that they were blind too, unable to perceive the nonsense of their impossible theories. Once more, let the reader be the judge. I also stand by my evaluation, which coincides with that of Emanuel Tov, the leading expert in the field, that, pace Schiffman, the majority of the Qumran Biblical material is non-Masoretic, and that Schiffman’s definition of “Christianizing” is at best equivocal.
As for the difficulty of teaching an old dog new tricks, I suppose Larry Schiffman means by this that at my age I cannot be expected to grasp his novel ideas. As a matter of fact, I disagree with the proverb, and I am quite a canine expert. From experience I know that old dogs occasionally do learn new tricks. A metaphorical example of this may be found in my review of Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls. There, on the basis of my recent study of the Cave 4 manuscripts of the Community Rule 021(4QS), I redefine the role of the Sons of Zadok in Qumran history. In my view, two manuscripts of 4QS (b and d) contradict the hitherto generally held view that the Qumran sect was from the word go a Zadokite institution, and signify that the hegemony of the Sons of Zadok was not original, but resulted from a later takeover by these aristocratic priests of the government of an already existing community of non-Zadokite priests and Israelites. Here is then a “new trick” that may require Professor Schiffman to rewrite the substance of his theory of the Sadducean (=Zadokite) beginning of the Dead Sea sect.
Those who would like more information may consult my preliminary remarks published in the “Qumran Corner” of the Journal of Jewish Studies in 1991 and 1992. The full evidence is due to appear in 1996 in the Martin Hengel Festschrift under the title, “The Leadership of the Qumran Community: Sons of Zadok—Priests—Congregation.”
How Many Donkeys?
Richard Heinrich suggests “six donkeys every half year” could have carried all the frankincense and myrrh that passed through Qumran (Queries & Comments, BAR 21:01). In reply, authors Alan Crown and Lena Cansdale indicate they have no reference to the quantities of aromatic resins that were shipped. Last night, the “NOVA” program “Mystery of the Senses, Part 2, Smell,” stated that before the time of Jesus, 3,000 tons of frankincense were harvested and shipped yearly. Even if only a very small fraction of this moved through Qumran, they must have used very large donkeys.
Clyde M. Senger
Wouldn’t you be wise to think a little more soberly about some of the advertisements you publish?
I refer in particular to the advertisement for “Holy Cats!” plates. I don’t worship in a cathedral, being of a different faith from the cathedral builders. However, I can recognize that reducing cathedrals, buildings dedicated to the glory of God, to cutesy little dance halls filled with slyly lascivious “convent cats” and “feline friars” somehow diminishes our perception of the All Holy One.
What was the stimulus for making these plates? What was the stimulus for accepting the ad? Money.
I can’t help but think of One, consumed by a zeal for His Father’s house, who scourged others who were bringing reproach on a place of worship.
Jamie Mariano, manager of corporate communications for the Franklin Mint, replies:
We received the correspondence concerning the Franklin Mint’s advertisement of the “Holy Cats!” plate. This whimsical work of art was intended to be a charming and delightful collector plate.
It was certainly not our intention to offend, and we apologize if we have done so inadvertently. In fact, we produce several inspirational and reverent religious-themed products that represent the worship and devotion of Christians. Working with the Vatican, for example, we have offered collector plates and sculptures of the nativity that honor sacred Christian concepts.
We value your readers’ comments and thank them for taking the time to share them with us.
Minimalists And Maximalists
The True Face of the Minimalists
I greatly enjoyed James Hoffmeier’s discussion of the difference between maximalists and minimalists, and his critique of the latter, in Queries & Comments, BAR 21:02. But nothing could surpass the eloquence of Peter Vokac’s self-condemnation of minimalist thinking in his letter on the same page. “The tiny inscription fragments from Dan … are presently the nearest there is to written evidence of the great King David.” Thus, to the minimalist, chapter after chapter and book after book in the Hebrew Scriptures describing David’s exploits, triumphs, failures and successes are not even “written evidence.” Perhaps this was just sloppy writing; maybe he meant to say “extra-Biblical written evidence.” However, I suspect that despite reasonable-sounding claims of the minimalists’ desire for corroboration before they accept Biblical statements as true, Vokac has in one sentence revealed that the real mindset of the minimalist is that the Biblical statements themselves are not even to be considered as any kind of evidence whatsoever.
This Takes the Bagel
While I want very much to continue as a subscriber to your superb journal, I am not going to. This last issue containing the back-and-forth between self-centered interests simply bothers me to the point where I cannot focus on the excellent articles. Too bad, too, for there appears to be no substitute for BAR on the scene.
BAR has, for the past many years, filled my need for information. For most of those many years, I stole, swiped, absconded, borrowed and otherwise avoided paying you for my reading of BAR. Then I went on the rolls. And became quickly aware of the incredibly childish behavior of the scholars, their infantile sniping, their complete obliviousness to what fools they confirmed themselves to be in the eye of those of us who, while not scholars, are certainly interested students. This latest thing, Rainey on Davies’s back (“The ‘House of David’ and the House of the Deconstructionists,” BAR 20:06), takes the bagel. Awful.
Rocky Hill, New Jersey
Better Than MAD Magazine
I absolutely love your scholarly discussions; in fact I chortle with undisguised glee when I read them. BAR is such a pleasure that it would be cheap at twice its price. You are certainly better than MAD magazine ever was, and far better than anything on TV. Fortunately, I have both the time and the money to indulge myself, and to sit back and enjoy your publication. You’ll never hear “Cancel my subscription” from me.
Glen Burnie, Maryland
I Like Your Approach
I can’t afford to keep BAR coming to me, as I am on a fixed income. (Unfortunately, it hasn’t been fixed lately!)
I do want to tell you, though, that I truly like your approach to the archaeological universe; it is modern, candid and refreshingly irreverent.
Allen Burt, Jr.
A Note on Style
B.C.E. (Before the Common Era) and C.E. (Common Era), used by some of our authors, are the alternative designations for B.C. and A.D. often used in scholarly literature.
Rainbow Shines Through