Queries & Comments
Myth Article Warrants a Warning
Can you explain to me what on earth Theseus and the Minotaur myth (“Did Theseus Slay the Minotaur?” 32:06) have to do with the Bible? If there is an explanation, I will be able to rescue two recent gift subscriptions from the garbage can.
If I had known in advance that BAR would be deviating into non-Biblical areas, my own subscription would be non-existent. Another article like this and I will consider canceling. Don’t say you weren’t warned in advance.
Kenneth M. Heck
See “Set Apart from the Nations?” in “First Person”.—Ed.
Don’t Cancel Because of Pagan Theseus
I can hear the keys of the keyboards pounding away right now from the hands of all the furious BAR subscribers. It seems that, once again, BAR has violated the standard by publishing a long article on pagan myths in a Biblical periodical. And, to make matters worse, the cover of the November/December 2006 issue is adorned with pagan art. I can hear the outraged critics right now:
“I subscribed to BAR a year ago because I thought it was dedicated to Biblical archaeology. If I wanted a magazine filled with pagan art, myth and ritual, I would have spent my money elsewhere. If this pattern continues I will be canceling my subscription.”
While I do indeed understand their complaint, I am also struck by the oddity of their angst, as even the Holy Bible contains many secular stories, references and yes, even pagan quotes. Consider Paul’s journey through the Areopagus in Acts 17. He makes a very secular statement in verse 28 (“For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’”). Here is God’s most prolific apostle, and he uses pagan poetry from the Cretan poet Epimenides in his Cretica and the Cilician poet Aratus in his Phaenomena, as well as from Cleanthes in his Hymn to Zeus.
Consider also Paul’s use of secular poetry in 1 Corinthians 15:33 (“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’”). Paul’s quotation is from the Greek comedy Thais written by the Greek poet Menander. In Titus 1:12–14 (“It was one of them, their very own prophet, who said, ‘Cretans are always liars, vicious brutes, lazy gluttons.’ That testimony is true. For this reason rebuke them sharply, so that they may become sound in the faith, not paying attention to Jewish myths or to commandments of those who reject the truth.”)
It seems to me that by researching and writing articles on other/pagan religions, BAR is doing the same as the writers of Holy Scripture: enlightening readers about the understanding of the world and contrasting it with the wisdom of God. So before you finish hammering away on your word processors, hoping to rip to shreds the contributing writer and its editor, you might first want to send a nasty-gram off to God. After all, he started it. I wonder, though, that if the unsatisfied critics actually read the articles, they might come away with a greater understanding and appreciation. When their attention is directed back to Scripture, they might see how those man-made religions, doctrines, myths and rituals have been all but buried in the dirt, and only God’s word continues to weather the sands of time.
Clever Cover Design
Congratulations on placing the bar code label over the private parts of the Minotaur on your cover of the November/December 2006 issue of BAR.
I don’t think I could have withstood any more potential “cancel my subscription” letters from readers who would have found an exposed Minotaur offensive.
The entire issue was superb.
What Mary Sat On
Where Is Mary’s Stone?
I wanted to congratulate BAR for that splendid article about the Jerusalem “Kathisma” (“Where Mary Rested,” 32:06). I only wish (1) that the article had included some information about the actual stone (is there any of it left?), (2) that there was some kind of aerial photo of the site, and (3) that some info was given as to whether the site is open to visitors (at a distance, of course). I just adore that image of the date palm mosaic floor.
Thanks for informing me of something I knew nothing whatsoever of before. But then, this is what you do! The subject matter is always familiar to me, but this was quite fresh and very fascinating.
Rina Avner responds:
The stone in the center of the Kathisma church is still there, as reflected in the plan in the article. Although the site is currently closed to the public, there are plans to build a chapel and to open the site for future pilgrimage.
Why Mary Couldn’t Wait
The article “Where Mary Rested” has me thoroughly confused. How did the Protoevangelium of James express the distance between the Kathisma and Bethlehem? It surely didn’t literally say “three miles.”
Rev. John M. Sevick
The Protoevangelium of James does not explicitly say where Mary stopped to rest. However, J.K. Elliott’s English translation of the Greek text describes the episode as happening as they “drew near the third milestone,” which has been interpreted to mean about 3 miles from Bethlehem. Milestones were stone markers that Romans placed along the side of roads to mark the distance of each mile—not very different from the small signs we see along modern highways today.—Ed.
Volcano Explanations Corrected
In “The Volcano Explains Everything—Or Does It?” (32:06), Manfred Bietak mentions me as an example of an Old Testament scholar who supports “a connection between the Hyksos expulsion from Egypt and the proto-Israelites of the Biblical Exodus story”. I would like to make clear that I do not support that idea and never have. Professor Bietak also says I am on the staff of Liverpool University; in fact I lecture at Trinity College, Bristol. I have just watched the DVD of Simcha Jacobovici’s “The Exodus Decoded” (which Professor Bietak’s article was criticizing), expecting to find that it was the source of these errors, but neither of them appears there.
There is also an error on p. 63 of Professor Bietak’s article, where it is stated that radiocabon dates place the eruption of Thera “at about 1720 B.C.E.” In fact 010the radiocarbon dates cluster around 1620 B.C.E.
John J. Bimson, Trinity College
Bristol, United Kingdom
Manfred Bietak responds:
Professor Bimson proposed in his publications a date for the Exodus at the end of the Middle Bronze Age. With this in mind, I had from the snippets of his interview the impression that he supports the theory promoted in Jacobovici’s film about the association of the Exodus with the expulsion of the Hyksos. If this is not so, so much the better. John Bimson is right that the radiocarbon dates for the eruption of Thera center presently around 1620 B.C.E. (not 1720 B.C.E.—a typing error from my side, for which I am sorry).
Gratitude to BAR and the Torah Museum
Your original report about Rabbi Shaul Shimon Deutsch’s amazing collection of Biblical items found in digs in and around the Holy Land resulted in my close contact with Rabbi Deutsch. He arranged that my paintings of the small town Mir, near Minsk, where I studied Talmud from 1937 to 1938, would be exhibited. My pictures have become a popular attraction as part of the museum.
I now enjoy BAR so much that I have introduced your publication to friends in Sweden, where Manfred and I were born.
New York, New York
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