Queries & Comments
Grazing the Green Fields of BAR
Your article entitled “The Messiah Son of Joseph” (Israel Knohl, BAR 34:05) is nothing less than blasphemy. God forgive you.
Flat Rock, Michigan
BAR Spreads Doubt
Biblical Archaeology Review is paradoxical; it is not Biblical. Instead of edifying believers by proving the Bible through archaeology, you spread doubt into the minds of weak believers.
Sincerely concerned for your eternal welfare.
Reserve, New Mexico
Mix and Blend
BAR keeps me reading because it presents all sides of a subject, even those contentious and arousing the ire of readers. Keep stirring the pots—and the good work of educating the needy.
Bible-Thumpin’ Evangelical Speaks Out
I’m one of those! I am a Bible-thumpin’, evangelistic, born-again believer in Jesus Christ. I believe that the Bible is the literal Word of God, and if God said it, that settles it.
I’m also a subscriber to BAR. I eagerly read each issue that comes. My biggest issue with BAR is that there is too much time between issues. Since I became a born-again Christian, I’ve grown stronger and stronger; a large part of this comes from reading BAR. I learned early on that if I were to read only those with whom I agree, I couldn’t grow in my understanding of this world. I’ve gained more insight and knowledge about the world around me, and through this I have gained a deeper understanding of my God.
I take exception to editor Shanks’s advice to a new reader who wondered if BAR held “a creation view or an evolutionary view” (Q&C, “Should I Cancel My Subscription?” BAR 34:03). “You will probably be more comfortable canceling your subscription,” Shanks replied. I don’t read a magazine to be comfortable. I once had a parishioner tell me that “I don’t like to go to this church because I’m uncomfortable with the preaching.” My reply was, “You should come to this church because it makes you uncomfortable.”
I would encourage the reader whom Mr. Shanks addressed to subscribe to BAR, to read BAR, to disagree with BAR, to agree with BAR, to question BAR. Let it become a tool to make your life richer.
Desert Hills, Arizona
Neither Christian nor Jew
With respect to your First Person
Ronald M. DiSalvo
Marina del Rey, California
I was very interested in the latest article on Hezekiah’s tunnel.
There are similar tunnels at Hazor and Megiddo. It would be interesting if someone could write an article comparing these water systems.
Tipton, United Kingdom
We published it—long ago: Dan Cole, “How Water Tunnels Worked,” BAR 06:02. You can find the article online in the BAS Library at www.biblicalarchaeology.org/library.—Ed.
Our article explaining how the two teams of tunnelers, digging the sinuous path of Hezekiah’s Tunnel from opposite ends, managed to connect (“Sound Proof: How Hezekiah’s Tunnelers Met,” BAR 34:05) produced many interesting reader responses. Much of this material is too technical, scholarly and lengthy to publish in the magazine. Therefore we are putting this discussion on our Web site in the E-Features section. 008The responses to these letters are written by Aryeh Shimron, one of the scholars on whose scientific publications the BAR article is based. The discussion is well worth studying.
Among the questions raised by BAR readers: How did the tunnelers from the southern end gauge the correct elevation to meet the tunnelers digging down from the spring? Could hammerings from the surface really be heard in the tunnel? How was the tunnel vented during construction to prevent the tunnelers from suffocating?—Ed.
The Messiah Son of Joseph
I’ve read with great interest Israel Knohl’s interpretation of the “Gabriel’s Revelation” inscription in the recent BAR. I would like to offer an alternative reading of a key word, which affects Knohl’s case for the death and resurrection of a pre-Christian messiah in this text. Knohl reads a somewhat faded word in line 80 as
After examining the photos in BAR and on your Web site, I think that an equally plausible reading of this word is
In sum, “the sign” is a plausible paleographical reading of the word in question, and it perhaps better suits the context. It also suits the guideline that my teacher, Frank Moore Cross, always advocated when reading difficult inscriptions: The more banal reading is to be preferred.
Norma and Sam Dabby Professor of Hebrew Bible and Jewish Studies
University of California
Israel Knohl responds:
I have rejected the reading suggested by Professor Hendel for the third word on line 80 for two reasons:
(1) The last letter in this word cannot be tav. Nowhere in the text of the Gabriel Revelation is the letter tav written in this form (see the table in Yardeni and Elizur’s article in Cathedra 123, p. 164). However, we can point to several cases where the letter heh is written in similar form to the shape of last letter of the third word of line 80: See the shape of the letter heh in the word “elohim” in line 11 and the form of the heh in the word “haot” in line 17.
(2) The syntax of the sentence suggested by Hendel “lishloshet yamin haot” is very difficult: We should expect to find a verb before the word “haot.” However, the sentence which is formed with my reading, “lishloshet yamin haye,” is fluent and is very similar to the form of the sentence “lishloshet yamin teda” in line 19.
An article by Professor M. Bar Asher, president of the academy of Hebrew, will be published in the upcoming Römisch Quartalschrift für Christliche Altertumskunde und Kirschengeschichte. He supports the plausibility of my reading.
Yardeni Supports Knohl Reading
Since there has been some confusion in the media reports regarding my view of Israel Knohl’s reading of the critical line of Hazon Gabriel (the Gabriel Revelation), I would like to make the following statement: After reviewing the document, I came to the conclusion that the reading suggested by Professor Knohl for the third word of line 80—haye, “live”—seems to be the only plausible reading of that word. Thus, the first five words of this line should be translated as: “In three days live, I Gabriel.”
Dr. Yardeni, together with Binyamin Elizur, originally published this inscription in Hebrew. See Ada Yardeni, “A New Dead Sea Scroll in Stone?” BAR 34:01.—Ed.
Fearful of Effect on New Christians
As some of your readers have mentioned in your queries and comments, I am a conservative Christian, holding to the inspiration, inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture. I am very uncomfortable with some articles that appear in your magazine. I am particularly upset by the recent entry “The Messiah Son of Joseph.” I consider this article as dishonoring to the Lord Jesus Christ and dangerous should it fall into the hands of a new Christian. So I am asking you to cancel my subscription.
Jesus, Scion of David
Israel Knohl’s fascinating article on “The Messiah Son of Joseph” is spot-on when he describes the Messiah as a Suffering Servant. However, he completely misses the mark in his discussion of Christ as the son of David. He writes “Jesus himself never refers to the Messiah as ‘Son of David,’ and he does not mention having any link with the Davidic line.” This simply is not true. In Mark 10:46–52 we read: “When he [the blind Bartimaeus] heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth he began to shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.’ ” The crowds rebuked him but “he shouted all the more ‘Son of David, have mercy on me.’ ” Bartimaeus is then brought to Jesus and he asks Jesus to heal him. Jesus’ reaction is important. He does not say “Bartimaeus, you are not only physically blind, but you are also spiritually blind. You see, I am not David’s son.” No, Jesus heals Bartimaeus, and thus confirms by this miracle that he, Jesus, is in fact the son of David.
In the very next chapter, Mark 11, the crowds shout “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David.” In Matthew the 010account is even more direct: “Hosanna to the Son of David.”
Israel Knohl responds:
Jesus is of course called “the Son of David” by others, including the blind man. However, as I wrote in my article, he himself never claimed to have any connection with the Davidic line.
The inscription featured on the cover of our September/October issue and discussed in Israel Knohl’s “Messiah Son of Joseph” is from the collection of David Jeselsohn of Zurich and Jerusalem, who has supported Israeli archaeology in so many ways. We continue to be grateful to collectors who allow their artifacts and inscriptions to be studied by scholars and shared with the public, especially when, like this one, they are helpful in understanding our common past.—Ed.
In addition to the letters printed above, “The Messiah Son of Joseph” by Israel Knohl (BAR 34:05) has elicited some scholarly philological discussion, which will be available on our Web site in the E-Features section.—Ed.
The Pomegranate Inscription is Not a Forgery
I have much in common with Professor Schoville (Keith N. Schoville, Archaeological Views, “The Necessary Partnership of the Bible and Archaeology,” BAR 34:05). My first trip to the Levant, like his, was in 1965. Like him, “David Ussishkin and Gabi Barkay were my mentors in the excavations at Tel Lachish.”
Moreover, I agree with the nuances of Professor’s Schoville’s position about Biblical archaeology: The Bible is one “major source of historical information on the Biblical era.”
There is one point, however, on which I completely disagree with him. Professor Schoville claims that the inscription on the ivory pomegranate “is now deemed a forgery,” against the previous authentication by Nahman Avigad.
As an epigrapher of ancient Hebrew, I have myself dealt extensively with this inscription from the time in 1979 when it first appeared on the market until now. I have read critically all that has been written about it. None of the arguments that question its authenticity is convincing.1
Moreover, I personally checked the inscription again on May 3, 2007, in the presence of Shmuel Ahituv, Aaron Demsky and Yuval Goren (all members of the Israel Antiquities Authority/Israel Museum committee that declared it a forgery), as well as Michal Dayagi-Mendels and Hershel Shanks. As a result of this new examination under a binocular microscope, I can state that not only did some of the objections against the 011inscription’s authenticity disappear completely, but I could also give a precise paleographical answer to the other supposed indications of forgery.2 Moreover, I must emphasize: The hypothesis that the inscription is a forgery cannot explain the ancient patina in the letter he. Thus far, I have not heard an answer: How can the inscription be a forgery in the face of this ancient patina in one of the letters?
I should be pleased to hear from Professor Schoville if he disagrees with me about the paleography or the existence of the ancient patina. I agree with him that in some cases “the consensus view [in this case, that the pomegranate inscription is authentic] may not remain unchanged.” But then the change should be supported with sound argument and not because it is now the “fashion” or because something is repeated in the mass media.
Directeur d’études of Hebrew and Aramaic Philology and Epigraphy
Ecole Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris-Sorbonne
Keith Schoville responds:
I appreciate André Lemaire’s comments concerning the status of the ivory pomegranate, which I mentioned in my BAR observations. He has earned a first-rate reputation as an epigrapher, and he has helped bring to light significant inscriptions with his expertise and careful analysis. In terms of the ivory pomegranate, his recent examination of it in the company of well-known Israeli scholars, who had decided the inscription on the artifact was a forgery, may very well convince everyone that it is indeed authentic, as Professor Nahman Avigad (of blessed memory) believed. I certainly would be pleased with that outcome. In the meantime, while the cloud of suspicion over its authenticity may be dissipating, it has not completely disappeared. In light of his observations, I would modify what I had written to say “a number of scholars still deem it a forgery.” As I also indicated, “the consensus view [of experts] may not remain unchanged.”
Solomon, Socrates and Aristotle
I was surprised and excited to read that the earliest known Biblical painting includes representations of ancient Greek philosophers (Theodore Feder, “Solomon, Socrates and Aristotle,” BAR 34:05). Certainly Theodore Feder has identified Socrates correctly. I do not think, however, that the figure to the right of Socrates is Aristotle.
The figure to the right of Socrates just doesn’t look like any surviving ancient busts of Aristotle. The hair is far too bushy, and I do not buy Feder’s argument about Aristotelian posture.
There is another ancient Greek philosopher who would be a more likely match for the identity of the figure in the painting.
Plato lived during Socrates’ time and 068was his student. Plato generally accepted Socrates’ metaphysical world view and taught a slightly modified version of Socratic dialectic in his own school. And Plato’s hair is usually represented on ancient busts as longer and wavier than Aristotle’s.
Regardless of whom Socrates is speaking to, these images are an important discovery, and I thank Dr. Feder for bringing the painting to the attention of BAR readers.
Professor of English
University of Alabama
At Sixes and Sevens
I’m the mad linguist who wrote a caption to the hilarious cartoon showing Moses with the two tablets numbered in Roman numerals (see Strata). It cracked me up. Here’s Moses fresh from speaking with the Almighty in the form of the Burning Bush and jotting down the most important document for all humankind—and in stone, no less—but he’s gone and put Roman numerals on his rocks, of all the silly things. Of course the Romans hadn’t even been thought of yet, much less started writing numerals.
Let me explain why I was so keen on those numbers. I had just been doing research on number words around the Mediterranean in the Bronze Age. It seems rather astonishing that the words for “six” and “seven” are so similar, not only in Semitic languages (like Hebrew, Akkadian and Assyrian) but also in Indo-European languages (like Latin, Greek, Hittite and Luwian). This is especially strange because none of the other number words are anything alike. Even Etruscan, which isn’t related to anything else, seems to share those two words.
Just think about it: Six and seven in Hebrew are shisha and shiva; Akkadian, shishshu and sebe; Assyrian, shishshu and siba; Latin, sex and septum; Greek, hex and hepta; Sanskrit, shash and sapta. Even in Etruscan seven is semph, and six is either sa or huth (I vote for sa).
Very odd, isn’t it? I think this is no coincidence. I think somebody borrowed from somebody. I believe it was because all those Sea Peoples, like the Philistines, were wandering around at the end of the Bronze Age (c. 1200 B.C.).
Does anyone out there have a better explanation?—Ed.
Tribute to Indexer and Librarian
Hats off to Philip J. King for his glowing review of the new volume The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, Supplementary Volume (ReViews, BAR 34:05), especially the deserved praise he gives to Mrs. Nira Naveh, the retired chief librarian of the Institute of Archaeology Library at the Hebrew University, for her “comprehensive bibliography,” a “Herculean effort” indeed. When she retired, the library lost one librarian but the equivalent of three workers. Professor King’s accolades are long overdue to this little lady who has contributed so much to the study of archaeology over the years.
Tsvi (Harvey) Schneider
Nira Naveh’s Assistant Librarian For 28 Years
Contrary to what is said in the very informative article regarding Rehov (Amihai Mazar and Nava Panitz-Cohen, “To What God?” BAR 34:04), I believe that there are Biblical references to Rehov:
“So they went up, and spied out the land from the wilderness of Zin to Rehov, near the entrance of Hamath” (Numbers 13:21).
Charles F. Weaver
Amihai Mazar responds:
Rehov appears in the Hebrew Bible several times as the name of different cities or states. It is a generic name, meaning “city piaza” or street.
Rehov is a city in the territory of Asher in the Western Galilee (Joshua 19:28, 21:31) and the name of an Aramean state in Syria (2 Samuel 10:6; Numbers 13:21 probably also refers to this state). However, none of the Biblical references to Rehov seems to mention the city in the Beth Shean valley that we are excavating.
E.D. in BAR
In “A Taboo Plague” in 1908, the Ladies’ Home Journal’s editor-in-chief Edward W. Bok editorialized about a “frightful condition.” Though he didn’t refer to syphilis by name, about 75,000 outraged readers canceled their subscriptions (Ladies’ Home Journal 125th Anniversary edition, October 2008).
What would they have done with your discussion of E.D. (Aren Maeir, “Did Captured Ark Afflict Philistines with E.D.?” BAR 34:03)?
Gig Harbor, Washington
I am relieved that I am not the only one who thought it was weird that the Philistines made golden hemorrhoids. Aren Maeir’s article makes sense.
I lead tours in Israel and love getting background material on the sites we visit. And by the way, as a Christian, though I would love it if everyone believed the way I do, I still live on this planet and love reading articles by people with different points of view. So, though I would prefer we all stuck to the B.C./A.D. format, my faith is big enough to look beyond that. Where else are we going to get this kind of info? My only problem is having enough time to read it all. Thanks again!
In “The Shattered Crown” by Yosef Ofer (BAR 34:05), we incorrectly identified the orientation of the small courtyard, which is on the east.
The caption under the photo on page 41 switches the identities of Shaul Baghdadi (father) and Asher (son) as they are correctly identified in the text on pages 39–40.
In “Sound Proof” (BAR 34:05), the diagram scale should be 150 feet for slightly less that 50 meters and the inset diagram should be 15 feet
In the November/December 2008 issue, we incorrectly identified Joan Taylor’s affiliation (Q&C, response to “Other Relevant Ossuaries”). She teaches at the University of Waikato, New Zealand.
Grazing the Green Fields of BAR