Queries & Comments
Your magazines are fascinating and a joy to read except when there is a reference or a citation; then one has to flip through pages and pages to somewhere in the back to locate the citation and then flip back pages and pages to the main article until one finds the next reference—perhaps in the very next paragraph—and then the cycle of flipping back and forth begins again with each subsequent reference.
Please change the layout of BAR and Archaeology Odyssey so that all citations are printed at the bottom of the page on which the reference is made.
Tunbridge Wells, England
This is a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t. We are just about the only popular intellectual magazine that includes endnotes with citations. Most magazines are afraid of them; they might scare readers off. We’re not scared, however. We feel we know our readers. Some of them like to check the sources, so we include the endnotes for them. We also like to make sure our authors have authority for what they say but do not necessarily demonstrate in the article. However, while most of our readers don’t check the endnotes and would not like to have them at the bottom of the page—they are comforted knowing they are appended to the story. We do have footnotes at the bottom of the page to refer readers to side matters that may be of particular interest and for citations to related articles in BAR, Bible Review and Archaeology Odyssey. We are trying to reach a happy medium. We know it is impossible to satisfy everyone, although we try.—Ed.
Grinding Personal Axes
I recently picked up a copy of BAR at a local bookstore. I’ve been looking for some time for a magazine with articles on archaeology from Biblical times. The more I read of the November/December 2003 issue the less enthusiastic I became. The amount of space dedicated to personal agenda is irritating, to say the least. Further, the articles are neither Biblical nor especially archaeological. The magazine is misnamed and irritating.
So rather than subscribe, I’m likely never to buy another copy; further, my advice to my friends and those who ask me is to go elsewhere.
The Iconography of St. Lot’s Monastery
In “Where Lot’s Daughters Seduced Their Father” (January/February 2004), author Konstantinos Politis describes a mosaic that contains a cross inscribed with the words telos kalon.
Telos kalon (“good end”) likely refers to the very cross on which it is inscribed, rather than to a wish for the reader that 010his “last days on earth be good ones,” as Politis suggests. While there is nothing “good” per se about the terrible Roman instrument of execution or the horror that Jesus experienced the day he was crucified, the church has nevertheless for centuries considered Jesus’ atoning death on the cross as a “good end” on a “Good Friday.”
Similarly, it is strange that Politis could look at the object beneath the painted, dripping cross and conclude that “the uneven square below the cross represents Golgotha.” The object is too small, for one thing. Moreover, one does not have to look far to find artistic examples of Jesus being crucified atop the tomb of Adam. The Church theologically interpreted Golgotha, the Place of the Skull, and art well demonstrated that theology in making Golgotha literally Adam’s skull. Thus the atoning blood of Christ pours over the head of human sin, represented by the first man’s skull, the man from whom original sin came. I think it more likely that the “uneven square object” beneath the crude painting of a dripping cross is an equally crude representation of the skull of Adam. Just inside the door to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a large wall mosaic with this same theological motif. I wonder, what is the earliest example of this theological theme in church art? Could it be Politis’s crude cross at Saint Lot’s Monastery?
Konstantinos Politis responds:
I thank Bert Gary for his useful and interesting interpretations, which I will certainly take into account in my final report on the site.
In your recent treatment of the Sanctuary of Saint Lot, the sidebar about the Madaba Map on p. 23 unfortunately introduces a bit of confusion about the actual location of the sanctuary on the map.
Your text says the sanctuary is “at center in the detail.” However, the sanctuary is in fact the gabled, red-roofed structure at the top of the map detail shown. The other site, depicted with three towers and an arched gateway, set amid palm trees—which is at the center in the detail—is the city of Zoar. The reconstructed legends for the two sites are, respectively: “The (place) of Saint L[ot]” and “Balak also S[egor, now] Zoara.”
My source for the above is a fascinating website that your readers may be interested in. Dedicated solely to the sacred geography of the Madaba Map, it treats each place in detail, complete with relevant excerpts from both ancient sources and modern scholarship. This very informative resource is found at: http://servus.christusrex.org/www1/ofm/mad/index.html.
When Titles Get in the Way of the View
I enjoy the pictures and drawings in your magazine almost as much as the text. Maybe more sometimes. Too often, however, your feature titles obliterate some of the beautiful photography, which should be left to speak on its own. A case in point are the opening pages of the Saint Lot’s Monastery article. I’ve had the privilege of being to Israel once, and with those memories oftentimes can expand the field of view of your cameras.
I suppose asking you not to do this would be like asking an archaeologist to give up his shovel or a graphic layout person his design skill. Anyway, thanks for a fine magazine.
Jesus and the Essenes
From God, Not from Men
I feel compelled to take issue with the major premise of Magen Broshi’s informative article (“What Jesus Learned from the Essenes,” January/February 2004). As one who believes in an eternal Christ who was with God before the founding of the world (John 17:24), I must conclude that His doctrine did not come from men but God (John 7:16).
I realize that statements of faith must remain outside the scope of a publication such as yours (and rightly so), but I fear silence on this subject might lead to the undermining of the faith of some Christians.
A Living Reality
Re: Magen Broshi’s article “What Jesus Learned from the Essenes”: I suggest that Jesus was more than a purely human being dependent upon lesser human beings for his thoughts and inspirations. I suggest that the books of the Old Testament correctly described him in prophecies. I suggest that the flimsy, baseless speculations of connections of Jesus to the Essenes is pure fantasy. Orthodox Christianity is propelled by a living presence of Jesus in its life, a notion unpopular in many circles but testified to by countless saints, martyrs and scholars down through the centuries. For 2,000 years, millions have borne witness to this peculiar theory that Jesus is a living reality in their lives.
Kenneth A. Bell
Parallels Are Not Influence
Magen Broshi proposes that Jesus drew his teachings on poverty and divorce from the Essene community. He writes, for example, “Jesus must have been deeply influenced by the Essene attitude toward marriage …” To ascribe “influence” to what are similarities or parallels in teachings is, regardless of the degree of parallel, a fallacy that should have long ago been discarded.
Has Broshi never independently drawn a conclusion about a text—to find that someone else has done the same, independent of him?
S. Jeffrey Young
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
The Scriptures are under attack. Judaism and Christianity are under attack. No news there! However, BAR has added another wound, claiming that Jesus learned His teachings from the Essenes!
Robert F. Reiland
Juno Beach, Florida
Poor But Not Poor
I very much enjoyed Magen Broshi’s article on “What Jesus Learned from the Essenes.” I agree with his conclusions, but I wonder if some of the details he discusses are insufficiently understood. In the seventh footnote, Broshi compares Matthew’s “poor in spirit” to Luke’s “poor.” He writes that “‘poor in spirit’ does not mean dumb, but just the opposite: those who have been endowed with the spirit.” I think a simpler explanation is that Matthew was pointing out that members who belonged to communities banning personal property are not necessarily “poor” at all. Like wealthy monasteries in the Middle Ages, considerable amounts of property could be amassed, providing the brethren with a very prosperous lifestyle. So being “poor in spirit” could be seen as a metaphor for “no personal property, but still lots of property.”
An Overlooked Article
The Guide to Sites in the January/February 2004 Dig Issue lists previously published articles in BAR dealing with each site. As one having a vested interest in Hazor, I was disappointed not to find as part of the listing the article “American Tourist Returns Hazor Tablet.” This June 1976 piece brought to your readers a look at the modern-day history of an inscribed sherd found at Hazor. [The letter writer found the tablet in 1962—Ed.] Yigael Yadin, in his book Hazor (Random 013House, 1975), uses this find as proof that the site is Biblical Hazor.
One of your readers, Judge Edward A. Maron, referred to this article and to the translation of the sherd in a letter in BAR in January/February 2002. He also mentioned that the Supreme Court of Israel saw fit to display a picture of the sherd with its full translation, stressing that the rule of law has been important in the area for over 3,800 years.
At a public lecture in New York some years ago, Amnon Ben-Tor, Hazor’s current excavator, began with a slide of the sherd. After the presentation we met and spoke. He was most friendly and implied that this artifact strengthened the belief that Hazor housed an extensive library, like a similarly constructed city in Syria, and encouraged further digs at this site.
Always a pleasure to read BAR. Keep up the good work.
Jesse S. Salsberg
New York, New York
A Vision for a Biblical Archaeology Museum
Your “Museums Abounding” (First Person, January/February 2004) editorial came as a breath of fresh air. A Biblical Archaeology museum in the nation’s capital, based on my hands-on experience with such projects, is (a) of universal interest; and (b) should be a “stand alone” project.
Establishing a museum of this magnitude and subject matter is a complex undertaking. The message of such a museum is political, academic, historical and religious, with a generous sprinkling of the contentious. Its makeup too, is political, wrought with domineering personalities and egos, academic rivalries and financial controls. All these come out and raise their heads once the project is put on track and appears to be moving forward.
I believe that an affiliation with the Israel Museum in Jerusalem is obvious and a must, yet affiliations with other world 014museums should not be preempted. This will contribute to the universality of the theme and mission of the museum. To this end, the museum should promote affiliations with many institutions and universities around the world. But, it should stand alone—independent. Only this will assure its ongoing success.
New York, New York
Put It Near the Tower
Your suggestion that the Israel Museum establish a branch in New York City is brilliant. Sorry, I can’t donate a site or much cash, but …
Downtown Manhattan is clamoring for an influx of cultural institutions. The rebuilt World Trade Center will be a major attraction.
Don’t forget to invite me to the groundbreaking.
New Rochelle, New York
Almost as soon as the Jehoash Inscription—a stone tablet that purports to record a series of repairs to the Jerusalem Temple by King Jehoash—came to light, many scholars claimed that it was a modern-day forgery. In particular, they argued that the phrase bedeq ha-bayit (“repair of the Temple”) derived from modern Hebrew usage. Victor Hurowitz, who served on the Israel Antiquities Authority committee that labeled the Jehoash Inscription and the James ossuary inscription as fakes, wrote BAR a letter clarifying his view of the word bedeq (Queries & Comments, January/February 2004). His colleague, Chaim Cohen, here argues that the Jehoash Inscription cannot be read as containing telltale signs of modern Hebrew. Cohen made the same point at greater length at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature last November (see Hershel Shanks, “A Tale of Two Meetings,” BAR, March/April 2004; interested readers should also see, in the same issue, David Noel Freedman, “Don’t Rush to Judgment”).
It’s Biblical—Not Modern—Hebrew
Most scholars maintain that the phrase va’a‘as ’et bedeq ha-bayit in lines 10–11 of the Jehoash Inscription can only mean “I made the repair(s) of the Temple,” and they take this as philological proof that the inscription is a forgery because such a meaning can only be based on modern Hebrew usage.
I contend, however, that a complete contextual and syntactic analysis of lines 10–14 of the inscription demonstrates conclusively that the phrase cannot derive from modern Hebrew and that the only correct translation of these lines in context is: “(Then) I renovated the breach(es) of the Temple and of the surrounding walls, and the storied structure, and the meshwork, and the winding stairs, and the recesses, and the doors.”
All scholars agree that the ancient meaning of bedeq, both in Biblical Hebrew and as the primary meaning for the Akkadian cognate batqu, is “breach,” “fissure” or, more generally, “damage.” The meaning of va’a‘as in this context, with its last five direct objects, can only be “to reconstruct, to renovate,” and that must also be its meaning with the first two direct objects (“the breaches of the Temple and of the surrounding walls”). There is evidence in Biblical Hebrew for this meaning of ‘asah—“to reconstruct, to renovate”—in building contexts, as is also true for the regular Biblical Hebrew verb for construction, banah, and their two semantic equivalents in Akkadian.
Finally, there is decisive evidence from Biblical Hebrew syntax that the usage of ’et … w … w’et in lines 10–12 is proof that the term “bedeq the breach(es) of” serves as a construct noun not only for ha-bayit (“the Temple”), but also for ha-qirot saviv (“the surrounding walls,” that is, all direct objects until the first w’et; compare with Genesis 14:11). This is the reason for translating above “and of the surrounding walls,” and it constitutes further evidence against understanding bedeq in the Jehoash Inscription according to its meaning in modern Hebrew (there is no modern Hebrew phrase bedeq ha-qirot, “the repair of the walls”). If my translation is correct, the claim that the usage of the phrase va’a‘as ’et bedeq ha-bayit in the Jehoash Inscription is based on modern Hebrew—and is therefore philological proof of forgery—must be rejected.
Understanding the phrase as deriving from modern Hebrew usage can only be achieved by completely ignoring the phrase’s immediate and wider contexts—a flagrant violation of one of the most fundamental rules of Biblical and comparative Semitic philology.