Queries & Comments
Enjoys the Controversies
As always, I enjoyed the September/October 2004 issue, including the various controversies and personality clashes that seem the normal state of relationships among archaeologists. I must confess to being very grateful, however, that I didn’t follow my own intention as an undergraduate many years ago to become an archaeologist! Instead, I was diverted into a quite different career path, first as a physician and much later as an Anglican priest.
I still maintain my interest in the subject, though, and find both the articles and the often rancorous disagreements in BAR fascinating. In contrast to some letter writers, I do not find archaeology and our Judeo-Christian beliefs in conflict. More often than not, the former tends to strengthen and confirm the latter.
Daniel C. Warren
Newport News, Virginia
Hates the Controversies
I have been an on-again, off-again subscriber to BAR for a dozen years. I will not be renewing.
I have found your magazine very interesting on occasion, but I just can’t stand another issue that seems more devoted to the opinions of amateurs (letters to the editor) than to scholarly articles. Objections to evidence based on theology are similarly unwelcome in my eyes.
Just dig it up.
Give me a few reasonable theories about it.
Pick the strongest one.
And, please, neglect to engage all the arm-chair archeologists who want to add their two cents over the subsequent months.
Also, feel free to disengage from sniping “scholars” articles that amount to no more than “he-said” “she-said” drivel. The turf battles between incompetent and jealous scholars do not interest me. I am interested in the finds of archaeology, not the politics and personalities of the field of archaeology.
Rev. Dr. David Krueger-Duncan
Las Vegas, Nevada
Enjoys the Controversies II
I enjoy your publication immensely, especially the debates in the “Queries & Comments.”
Helen Kauffman, M. Div.
To B.C. or Not to B.C.
I recently bought a subscription and have decided never to renew it. The main reason why is because you guys constantly refer to B.C. as B.C.E. and A.D. as C.E. What the hell is up with that!!? It’s like you have a secular agenda to remove Christ’s finished work from history.
Buffalo, New York
Kudos on Caesarea
The thorough way you covered Caesarea in the September/October 2004 issue was great. I’m not a Biblical scholar, but I’ve 009received BAR for years, and I think it’s terrific. If the scholars who write for you would spend more of their time doing archaeology and less time complaining, they may actually discover something new.
In the letter that follows, author Yosef Porath enumerates a second set of corrections to his recent article on Caesarea, “Vegas on the Med” (BAR 30:05). Dr. Porath had earlier sent us corrections to his edited manuscript that we had incorporated into the text. However, we received this second set only after the issue had been sent to the printer. Many of these corrections have to do with our captions to illustrations and drawings. We apologize to Dr. Porath for these errors.—Ed.
The following corrections should be made in my article:
Page 26—the caption for the picture on pages 24–25: (1) The facilities for public performances were situated on the perimeter of the city, not in the city center as incorrectly described in the caption. Only the pagan temple was situated in the center of the city (and probably the Forum, which has not yet been found). (2) The wall with semi-circular towers in front of the theater (which the caption calls “Byzantine-period”) as well as the wall behind it (top right) belong to an early Islamic-period fortress (called fortezza by the Italian excavation team). (3) The semicircular space behind the theater’s stage is a piazza that, contrary to the implications of the caption, was not connected to the theater. (4) Nautical combat did not take place in the Imperial theater (contrary to the suggestion made by the Italian expedition to Caesarea).
Page 26—the city plan: The wall marked “Islamic” should have been labeled “Crusader.” This Crusader city wall was constructed under the French king Louis IX in 1251–1252 C.E.
Page 26—the text: The distance from Tel Aviv to Caesarea is about 35 miles, not 25 as you wrote here.
Page 27—the text: You wrote Tiberias (the city named to honor Tiberius) when you meant Tiberius (the emperor).
Page 29—the text: (1) The carceres (starting gates) in Herod’s Circus were excavated by the Combined Caesarea Expeditions team, not jointly with the Israel Antiquities Authority. (2) The dugout separated Herod’s Circus from the surrounding area, not the arena from the seating area.
Pages 28–29—the photo and caption: (1) The photo shows less than a quarter of the city, mainly the southwestern zone of the city, so it is not, as the caption asserts, a photo of Caesarea. (2) Personally, I do not accept the idea that Herod’s Palace at Caesarea was ever constructed on the promontory. We have evidence that the governor’s palace was erected on the promontory in the Roman period (and later shifted), but the existence of Herod’s palace there is a guess. (3) The southern third of Herod’s Circus was later converted into an amphitheater, not into another circus.
Page 30—the caption: 1. I wrote that Merismos, mentioned on the inscription, was a charioteer who apparently won the race, not that he was “presumably the man responsible for the shrine,” as the caption says. (2) Herod’s Circus was replaced by the Eastern Circus in about the middle of the second century C.E., not “in the beginning of the fourth century,” as the caption says. (3) The second-third century amphitheater took up the southern third (or less) of the arena in Herod’s Circus (as shown in the plan), so the “southern half” was not closed off.
Page 30—the text. The Greek word amphitheater has two meanings: a circular theater and a double theater. You give only the latter definition.
Page 31—the plan: (1) You added “obelisk” on the plan of Herod’s Circus, which is incorrect. There is no evidence for obelisks in Roman circuses outside Rome before the second century C.E. (2) The artist’s drawing on the same page which I supplied represents a second-fourth century C.E. circus like the Eastern Circus, while Herod’s Circus was less decorated and did not contain an obelisk.
Page 34—the text: (1) The odeon/theater is not located near the sea (see the plan on page 26). It is over 800 feet from the sea.
Page 35—the text: (1) The final sentence of the article says that Caesarea was the cultural center of the country for nearly eight centuries. If arithmetic has not changed since my days in school, the span between 6 C.E. and 640 C.E. is 634 years, not nearly eight centuries. (2) Regarding endnote 2, the wide fortress wall incorporated thin earlier walls. At a certain point, the foundation trench of the wide fortress wall runs over the drain channel of the Byzantine latrine.
Yosef Porath’s informative article on Caesarea (“Vegas on the Med,” BAR 30:05) refers several times to a small covered theater or an “odium.” The name of the structure, surely, should be odeum, Latin for “concert hall,” which is derived in turn from the Greek odeon, rather than “odium,” which means “hatred.”
James R. Edwards
Professor of Religion
Kudos to Holum
Just a note to thank you for publishing Ken Holum’s “Building Power” (BAR 30:05). He is an excellent researcher and very readable writer, as the article shows. We need more of his work published!
North Potomac, Maryland
Does not the rabbis’ hostile reference to Caesarea as the “daughter of Edom,” as noted by Ken Holum, also refer to Herod’s ethnic background as an Idamean?
New Cumberland, Pennsylvania
Kenneth Holum responds:
When they read “daughter of Edom,” some might have thought of the Idumean Herod, but Herod was far in the past when the expression was used. More likely, Edom, the Biblical enemy of Israel, was a code word for Rome, the current enemy, and Caesarea was Rome’s “daughter.”
I would like to reply to “Academic Debate Crosses the Line” (BAR 30:05), regarding my article in the Journal for the Study of the Old Testament (vol. 27, 2002, pp. 169–187) entitled “The Bible, Archaeology and Politics: The Empty Land Revisited.” My article made the by-no-means sensational or original point that, since its beginnings with the Jewish Palestine Exploration Society and the Israel Exploration Society, archaeology in Palestine/Israel has always been under pressure to support and ethnic and nationalist agenda. Regular readers of BAR will be familiar with several examples, such as the excavation of Masada by Yigael Yadin in 1963–1965 and the recent discussions about the skeletal remains found in loci 8 and 2001–2002. [See the “Questioning Masada” section in BAR 24:06—Ed.] (They can learn more about it by reading Sacrificing Truth: Archaeology and the Myth of Masada, a fully documented account by Nachman Ben Yehuda, dean of the faculty of social sciences at Hebrew University.) My article was critical of the thesis that, as a result of the Babylonian conquest (588–586 B.C.E), Judah was devastated and depopulated to the extent that, when descendants of the deportees returned in the early Persian period, they returned to an empty land and therefore did not have the inconvenience of having to share the land with others. This “myth of empty land” has been much discussed in recent years. I took my cue from an article of Doron Mendels, who argued that the myth of the occupation of an empty land at the beginning of Israelite history, first attested in the Hellenistic period and represented in rabbinic writings to which I referred, is a retrojection from the ideology of the “return to Zion” in the early Persian period according to which the new immigrants returned to an empty, or almost empty, land.
This is where my criticism of Professor Stern’s survey of the period in his Archaeology of the Land of Israel Volume II (2001) comes in. The basic question is about continuity or discontinuity in material culture. Professor Stern maintains that the destruction inflicted on Judah and neighboring provinces by the Babylonian punitive campaign of 588–586 B.C.E. was so complete that there remains a gap in the archaeological record up to the early Persian period, when the deportees returned from the Babylonian diaspora. This, he argues, contrasts with the situation following on the punitive campaign of the Assyrians in 701 B.C.E., which left behind considerable Assyrian-period remains.
What is missing here is a consideration of the time factor. Well over a century elapsed between Sennacherib’s invasion and the fall of Jerusalem, whereas the Neo-Babylonian empire came to an end less than half a century after the fall of Jerusalem (586–539 B.C.E.). This is a very brief time slot for developing a specifically Neo-Babylonian material culture. The point is in fact conceded by Professor Stern: “It is almost impossible to determine if a certain artifact with Babylonian parallels should be dated to the late Assyrian period, to the Babylonian period, or even to the early Persian period” (p. 308). The Neo-Babylonian empire didn’t last long enough to develop either its own administrative structures or cultural styles. And, in general, cultural and administrative continuity is the norm. For further details readers might consult the papers read at a conference at the university of Tel Aviv in 2001 organized by Oded Lipschits and me and published by Eisenbrauns under the title Judah and the Judeans in the Neo-Babylonian Period (2003).
Due to limitations of space, my JSOT article dealt only with the issue of destruction sites in Judah and neighboring provinces following on the Babylonian punitive expedition of 588–586 B.C.E. In no instance did I pit my own opinion against that of Professor Stern except in cases of obvious factual error, such as the claim that the Babylonians captured and destroyed Tyre after the 13-year siege (p. 315). Hence his charge that since I am not a professional archaeologist I cannot evaluate his conclusions is beside the point. I simply pointed out that in many instances Professor Stern’s claim for destruction by the Babylonians was at odds with the view of other archaeologists, in several cases the ones who excavated the site in question. According to alternative professional opinion, either evidence for destruction is absent or ambiguous, or the stratigraphy and therefore the date of the destruction is disputed, or the site lay within the expanding area of Edomite control and, if destroyed, would probably have been destroyed by Edomites.
It was Professor Stern’s insistence on “the complete destruction of all the settlements and fortified towns by Nebuchadnezzar II’s armies” (p. 323) and his failure to mention contrary opinions that led me to suspect that at some level, conscious or unconscious, the political myth of the empty land was the subtext for his survey.
It would have helped enormously if Professor Stern had documented his statements and provided sources, the usual practice in a work of this kind. Another problem is that Professor Stern appears to believe that archaeology is an esoteric discipline. Only archaeologists can evaluate the work of archaeologists and therefore criticize their conclusions. It doesn’t help even if one has spent several summers over several decades on digs in Israel, as I have. And when all else fails, the critic can always be silenced with the threat of unpublished material.
A final point. I consider it regrettable that the editor uses his editorial privilege to attach anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist labels to people with whose views he disagrees. This, it seems to me, is always counterproductive and often slanderous.
This is my last contribution to this discussion. If the editor, or Professor Stern, or anyone else, wants the last word, bevaqasha, be my guest!
Professor Emeritus, Notre Dame University
South Bend, Indiana
We are pleased Professor Blenkinsopp now recognizes that the Zionist bias that he “suspect[s]” infects Professor Stern’s interpretation of the archaeological evidence might be “unconscious” Zionist bias rather than “conscious” Zionist bias.—Ed.
Another Zionist Stooge?
I can’t believe it! I dug with Ephraim Stern at Dor for 15 years and never realized that I was merely a Zionist tool (September/October 2004)!! Moreover, I failed to see that he was being doubly duplicitous, since he always maintained that at Dor we don’t have a “Babylonian gap” (see his Dor: Ruler of the Seas, pp. 147–48)—presumably because Israelite rule ceased with the Assyrian conquest of 733 B.C.E. and thenceforth the site’s population was largely Phoenician. To admit a “Phoenician gap” at Dor would only have muddied the ideological purity of Stern’s crypto-Zionist thesis, I suppose.
Now for a reality check. There’s a gap at Dor, too, and at other nearby coastal sites. Our current mantra is that “we’ve 061got no sixth century at Dor.” After the architectural bonanza of the ninth and eighth centuries, there’s no architecture at all: nothing datable after the seventh century B.C.E. (and precious little after 700 B.C.E. except for our Assyrian gate, if it’s that late), and a significant change of orientation and construction methods when building resumes around 500 B.C.E. There’s no clearly sixth-century local pottery. Imported Greek ware is represented by a single, golf-ball-sized Corinthian aryballos that—since it’s a perfume vessel, very sturdy, and rather badly worn—could have been in circulation for decades. And there are no other finds that are datable before the last 10 or 20 years of the century.
So our present focus, for which we recently received a generous $233,000 Getty grant, is on what happened around 500 B.C.E. Why, after a century or so of Rip van Winkle somnolence, does the coast suddenly bounce back to life again? Why does trade with the west suddenly explode, in the form of masses of Athenian and “East Greek” imported pottery? What’s the meaning of this sudden Phoenician love affair with things Greek? That’s our problem—and it has nothing to do with any Zionist agenda.
By the way, to declare my own biases, I’m an English-born and educated American citizen of Scots descent, whose main interests are in Greco-Roman archaeology. Professor Blenkinsopp is welcome to visit us next season; we’ll be working hard at Dor from late June through early August, trying to explain that gap.
Chancellor’s Professor of Ancient Mediterranean Art and Archaeology
Department of History of Art
University of California at Berkeley
Well, well. So according to Blenkinsopp, those pesky Jews were up to no good as far back as the Hellenistic period. Perhaps they learned from the Greeks. After all didn’t the Greeks fabricate the Iliad out of whole cloth to further their claim to Anatolia?
Was Schliemann a covert Hellenist? Everyone knew the Trojan wars were a fairy tale, but that did not stop Schliemann from digging based on something from an ancient text. Worse, Schliemann was out to prove Homer’s story contained some truth.
I suspect Schliemann was covertly working for the Olympiasts, who believe that Greeks have the right to live in Greece. Isn’t it suspicious that Greek archaeologists are finding evidence that corroborates Greek “historical” traditions? You be the judge!
Bob de Forest
Update—Finds or Fakes?
Did Oded Golan know about James, the brother of Jesus, before meeting scholar André Lemaire? The excerpts from his talk (“Who Is Oded Golan?” BAR 30:04) indicate that he wouldn’t have. Golan states that “the history of Christianity was completely outside [his] knowledge.” Isn’t that painfully obvious when he says, “It actually sounded very strange to me that Jesus had siblings because I was familiar with the story of his Immaculate Conception.” Anyone who is familiar with Christian history should know that the Immaculate Conception relates to Mary, not Jesus. The Immaculate Conception is the Roman Catholic dogma that the Virgin Mary was free from original sin from the first instant of her conception. By attributing the Immaculate Conception incorrectly to Jesus, Golan clearly demonstrates his admitted lack of knowledge of Christianity. To assume he would know about James the Just, when so many Christians don’t, seems to stretch credibility.
Is Golan Right?
I was incredulous when I read Oded Golan’s statement: “The history of Christianity was completely outside my knowledge (as it is to most Jewish Israelis; the history of Christianity is not studied in Israeli schools at all).”
Is it possible that the citizens of the modern state of Israel in the 21st century can grow up with such an isolated, insular education and worldview, essentially ignorant of important aspects of the larger world around them? Do they also refrain from studying the history of Islam as well as Christianity? How can they ever hope to be good informed citizens, and live in peace with their neighbors and with the world at large, if they know nothing about world history, especially the history of major world religions? Whether we may like it or not, or whether we may be believers or not, the fact remains that religion has been one of the most important forces in the shaping of world history. Surely Oded Golan must be wrong?
A Man of Courage
After reading Oded Golan’s article defending his decision to allow the James ossuary inscription to be published in BAR, it made me think that he is not only a very honorable and intelligent man, but also a very courageous one. It is most unfortunate that his contributions to society, his love of antiquities and his life’s devotion has been largely made in a field of study that appears to be tainted by too many jealous cynics.
The position Golan has taken, in terms of doing things at his own pace, in the way he deems right, is not only praiseworthy, but also principled.
Most of us can only imagine what it feels like to face the personal attacks experienced by honorable men such as Mr. Golan for following their life’s calling and passion for work that would be subject to such immense scrutiny by the scientific community. Given the nature of his field, it is understandable that there is an expectation of accountability and demands for answers to questions about the authenticity of what is considered the most important discovery in the history of New Testament archaeology. However, this has also been a find that has taken thousands of years to be revealed to society. So what is the rush to judgement on this man’s character about? The most negative reflection, in my opinion, is on the individuals who have put such great effort in discrediting and attempting to dismantle the career and life of a man who didn’t have to share anything with anyone.
I commend BAR for sharing excerpts from Golan’s talk at Cornerstone University. It gives the appearance that your magazine is balanced and fair. I was actually considering letting my subscription end without renewal because I was growing tired of reading such negative personal attacks.
The James ossuary is getting very old. I realize that you are taking a lot of heat from the Israel Antiquities Authority and have a strong personal involvement, but have you considered that about seven pages—more than a tenth of the September/October 2004 issue—is confined to the subject? Surely, in over two years you have made your case. Brief notes on further developments would be of interest. I have to tell you that your continued focus on this issue is not what I subscribe for and that continued overemphasis on the subject is no incentive for renewal. Aren’t there other developments in the field that are worth reporting?
Rev. William H. Hunter
Kingston, New York
What Else Lies Underwater?
Regarding “Fruits of the Sea” (BAR 30:05), I was at Kibbutz Ma’agen Mikhael in the summer of 1998 as a volunteer on the nearby dig at Tanninim. Along with other volunteers, I had an opportunity on several occasions to share a meal with Elisha Linder in the kibbutz dining hall and learn the fascinating story of “our boat” up to that point. As I think back to that rugged stretch of shoreline on the north coast of Israel, I wonder what other potential finds are rolling about in the surf waiting to come ashore. Thank you for the update.
Thera Eruption Seen in Egypt
I read with considerable interest the review by Ziony Zevit of the BBC television documentary Moses and the Exodus (ReViews, BAR 30:05). I wish to point out that one of Zevit’s statements is incorrect and may seriously mislead your readers and scholars interested in the topic of natural events that affected Egypt in ancient time. Writing of one of the natural events, Zevit posits that “it is highly unlikely that the Thera cloud ever reached Egypt—given the counter-clockwise direction of winds around the Mediterranean—and that anyone in Egypt would have been able to see the ash cloud hundreds of miles away no matter how high (the earth is round).”
While agreeing that the earth is indeed quite round, it must be added that volcanic ash from the Thera volcano about 500 miles northwest of the Nile Delta in Egypt was found in four out of five sediment cores we recovered for scientific study along the margins of the Manzala lagoon in the northeastern delta. This lagoon is the largest of the four in the delta, and our study area is located between the Damietta Branch of the Nile and Port Said. We detailed the attributes of the volcanic glass ash shards in the four cores, including index of refraction and compositional attributes determined by microprobe analysis at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Provenance of this material from the Thera volcano is firmly established.
Readers interested in the details and results of the investigation are directed to the article entitled “Volcanic shards from Santorini (Upper Minoan ash) in the Nile Delta, Egypt,” by D. Stanley and H. Sheng, and published in the British science journal Nature (1986, vol. 320, no. 6064, pages 733–735). The article presents scanning electron microscope (SEM) photomicrographs that illustrate the vesicular nature of the silt-size volcanic glass, location of where the ash was collected, and information on the age of the material. Our radiocarbon data indicate that the Thera ash settled in the delta about 3,500 years ago.
As a scientist, I am trained to observe, describe and, where possible, interpret what I see. In this case, I leave to others the proving (or disproving) of any relation of this documented material and event with the Biblical Exodus and/or other associated natural episodes. However, as useful background, BAR readers should know that this Thera volcanic eruption released one of the largest recorded volume of volcanic material in human history. Moreover, prevailing winds in northern Egypt are directed to the southeast, that is, quite directly from Thera to the Nile Delta. At the very least, important clouds of volcanic ash from this eruption would indeed have been seen, and perhaps felt, by those living at that time in Egypt’s Nile Delta.
Senior Scientist and Director
National Museum of Natural History Smithsonian Institution
Washington, D.C. 20560
Ziony Zevit responds:
Along with other BAR readers, I appreciate Dr. Stanley’s letter. It directs scholars and (documentary producers) to new data that serious historians and bibliologists must consider when guessing at the types of events which may have influenced the formation of the plague-Exodus narratives. Biblicists are thankful when specialists in fields with in which we usually do not read draw such information to our attention.
Although the new information does indeed indicate that the debris cloud from Thera may have been seen in the Nile Delta, where materials from it have been identified by researchers from the Smithsonian—contrary to what I wrote in the review—it does not improve the case for the historicity of the darkness plague and the splitting of the sea as advanced in the BBC documentary.
In this case, good science remains enlightening, but a middling documentary leaves the old problem shrouded in darkness.
Let It Be
Yehuda Berger (Queries & Comments, BAR 30:04) is correct about the numerous attestations of the word tequ in the Babylonian Talmud to refer to an issue that cannot be decided. But he repeats an old canard when he claims that the word is an acronym for Tishbi yetaretz qushiyot ve-ba’ayot, “the Tishbite (Elijah) will settle [all such] difficulties and problems.” This is the way that later Jews understood the word, but this is not its proper etymology. In fact the word is a perfectly good Aramaic word, derived from the root qwm “stand, arise” (which occurs commonly in Hebrew also). The specific form tequ means “let it stand” in the sense of “let (the matter) remain (unresolved)” (see M. Sokoloff, A Dictionary of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic , p. 993). At some point, Jews unfamiliar with the workings of Aramaic grammar no longer understood the form, and thus they created the notion that the word was an acronym.
Gary A. Rendsburg
New Brunswick, New Jersey
More of Petra
I noted an error in your “Strata” section on the Petra Exhibit featured on page 18 of the Sept/Oct 2004 issue. You state that the exhibit “will return to Jordan after January, 2005.” However, after its run in Cincinnati, it is coming to Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, from April 4 through August 15, 2005. After that, the exhibit will be traveling to two sites in Canada.
The editors of one of the works cited in the first footnote of the “Healing Waters” article (BAR 30:04) have asked us to publish the names of all the contributrors to that volume. They are: Felice C. Jaffé, Esti Dvorjetski, Dove Levitte, Rober Massarwich and Ali Swarieh, “Geothermal Energy Utilisation in the Jordan Valley between Lake Kinneret and the Dead Sea: A View from Antiquity,” in R. Cataldi, S.F. Hodgeson and J.W. Lund, eds., Stories for a Heated Earth—Our Geothermal Heritage (Davis, California: Resources Council and the International Geothermal Association, 1999), pp. 34–49.
Enjoys the Controversies