Queries & Comments
From the Sacred
AXIOS! AXIOS!! AXIOS!!! [“Worthy!”] We stand in respect and honor for your 200th issue (BAR, July/August 2009, September/October 2009) and all those that have gone before it.
BAR is indispensable and complementary to serious Biblical study; and, we thank God for all you do to make Scripture come alive. May God bless you and keep you in his care, as you labor in his vineyard.
This missive comes with the Blessing of His Eminence, Metropolitan Ephraem of New Jersey: Exarch of America.
Very Reverend Archimandrite Spyridon, Heguman
Monastery of Saint Barbara
Middletown, New Jersey
From the Secular
I love your magazine. It informs, inspires, rattles and sometimes angers. As a secular scientific publication looking at the historical context of a still-revered ancient religious text, how could it be anything else? And rightly so.
In your 200th issue, you say that “sacred truth is for each man or woman to find in his or her own way” (First Person: “Renewing Our Vows”). That may be in the spirit of our generally affirmed redefinition of tolerance (that is, “intolerance will not be tolerated!”), but it nevertheless hints of scientific elitism—where science is the one and only means and measure of what is true and everything else is relative, personal or in flux.
Religions are worldviews. And worldviews contain both implicit and explicit truth claims. While many religious leaders today recognize that there are “many ways,” that is not what the classical, historical understanding of their own religions tell us.
Truth, by its very nature, is exclusive. I am happy to testify that BAR is an intelligent, nonrelativistic, systematic pursuit of truth. I only wish you had affirmed that serious religious endeavor is too.
Charlotte, North Carolina
Your 200th issue just leaves me breathless. As I read it and look at the pictures, I have to lay it down and just reflect on who we are as people on this earth, where we have been and where we are going.
Thanks to all of you at the magazine and those in the field for your wonderful endeavors.
We have received many congratulatory letters like those printed above. These, however, will have to represent them all. To all of you who have written: Thank you.—Ed.
It was a distinct honor and pleasure to have my photograph of Jerusalem selected for the cover of your 200th issue. I must, however, take issue with your caption writer, on two counts. First, to describe the distant uplands as “auburn” does them a disservice: They are tinted a delicate yet striking shade of purplish-pink in the late afternoon sun. More importantly, they are decidedly not the “hills of the Judean Desert” but rather the Biblical Mountains of Moab, on the other side of the Dead Sea in modern-day Jordan. The mountains as backdrop were the product of an unusually clear November day. Finally, my thanks to Todd Bolen of BiblePlaces.com for his expert assistance in fine-tuning the image and making it available via his collection.
The author is a Jerusalem-based researcher-writer, volunteer and guide, and a past contributor to BAR.
I have been a subscriber for 30 years and have found each issue enjoyable and educational.
However, although the articles under the title “
Marshall G. London
You are right. But the mistake was not intentional.—Ed.
Jesus Would Have Repudiated the Crusades
I am not a religious man, but I suspect that Jesus would have repudiated the Crusades, done in the name of the cross and medieval mentality.
To adopt this infamous name, your “Crusades” in the 200th issue, was a mistake.
Priestly Blessing Spans Religions
It was with great astonishment that I read of the discovery of the Hebrew prayer wrested from two silver scrolls uncovered in the excavation of Ketef Hinnom (Gabriel Barkay, “The Riches of Ketef Hinnom,” 200th issue).
This same prayer marked the close of Sunday service at the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) in Chicago, Illinois, which I attended six decades ago. I had no idea of the blessing’s origin.
As I read your article, I realized I could still recite the words from memory. A connection, a link to an ancient Hebraic past that all the scuffed tourist paths through churches and ruins and all the glass cases in museums could not convey.
After many translations and rewritings, our version was recited as follows:
May the Lord bless and keep you
May He make His face to shine upon you
And be gracious unto you
May the Lord lift up His countenance
Upon you and give you peace.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
This text is used in many Christian contexts, in Jewish synagogue prayers and by Jewish parents who bless their children with this on Friday night.—Ed.
I was surprised to see in your 200th issue a picture of a group of young people lying on the ground (Gabriel Barkay, “The Riches of Ketef Hinnom”). Many of them had bare knees. On top of that, very few of them were wearing socks!
I would think that in the future, in 012order to promote the dignity of archaeology, such a group of young persons would be shown wearing clean blue jeans, work boots and socks, and of course, white shirts and ties.
Canon Gary Turner
San Jacinto, California
In case you didn’t guess, he’s kidding.—Ed.
A Voice From the Past
It is evident from the “Letters We Loved” segment of your 200th anniversary issue that Mr. Shanks’s prurient inclinations have not abated with the years. [In our 200th anniversary issue, we republished Rev. Perron’s letter from the May/June 1990 BAR registering his “disgust” at our photo featuring a volunteer in a T-shirt and shorts.—Ed.]
Freud calls this “fixation,” but the Scriptures deal with it in Jeremiah 13:23–26.
The Most. Rev. Bruce C. Perron
The Apostolic Catholic Church
Jeremiah 13:23–26 reads as follows:
“Can Ethiopians change their skin or leopards their spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil. I will scatter you like chaff driven by the wind from the desert. This is your lot, the portion I have measured out to you, says the Lord, because you have forgotten me and trusted in lies. I myself will lift up your skirts over your face, and your shame will be seen.”
Dear Rev. Perron,
If you come to Washington, I’ll buy you lunch.—Hershel
BAR Is a Tightly Knit School
I love letters like “Is Shanks Sick?” (Q&C, 200th issue), which comments on Hershel Shanks’s change of form in a recent Another View article (“Do Josephus’s Writings Support the ‘Essene Hypothesis’?” BAR 35:02). I, too, noted in that article Shanks’s out-of-character, well-thought-out deliverance of pros and cons for both sides of the debate over who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, with no display of sarcasm, insults, bickering or “venom,” as Dean Hupp, who wrote the letter, put it.
While I often get tired of all the “carrying on” that Hershel likes to keep going between the different sides of the various debates, I will miss his usual energy if he changes his style.
Despite the fact that I’m a comparatively “new” subscriber (since July/August 2007), I feel like I’m a student in a tightly knit school. I don’t know how else to say it. Many of the archaeologists and other scientists whose work is covered in BAR, I have also seen on TV programs about similar stories; and I get other magazines that occasionally carry similar or the same stories by different writers. But it’s not just that BAR articles cover their work [better]; these scholars are quoted, referred to and occasionally they write their own letters to BAR. Between all the above and the personal comments about these 080people by the writers of the articles and Hershel’s reports on how these people are handling his sarcasm, insults, goading, etc., a person begins to realize that the name, and sometimes the face, has a real personality. Knowing the personalities give the debates another dimension.
I’m not a professional in the field of archaeology, but I do have a B.A. I love to learn and every issue of BAR enthralls me. I have never enjoyed a magazine more than I enjoy this one. After reading the First Person in your special 200th issue, I know why I enjoy it so much. Thank you.
Sylvia M. Hertel
Lead, South Dakota
BAR’s Vision Being Realized
Congratulations on your milestone of a 200th issue. I hope BAR continues its trajectory of growth and development. I also want to thank BAR for its years of vocal support in attempts to restore the archaeological remains at Tel Gezer (“
Also, the site was declared a national park by the Knesset in 2005. Since then, the National Parks Authority has invested considerable time and resources at the site. Paths were created to lead tourists to the highlights on the tell. Major overlooks were built to allow tourists to view the surrounding landscape as well as the ruins. A graded parking lot was created at the western part of the mound. Signage has been posted throughout the site, including a replica of the famous Gezer calendar. The tell is designed as an “open” site. It will not be fenced, nor will there be kiosks or entrance fees. The residents of neighboring Kibbutz Gezer and Karmei Yosef serve as unofficial guardians of the tell.
As in other digs in Israel, Sam and I are required by license to conserve and restore key features in our excavation fields. Each season a team of student volunteers has assisted a conservator from the IAA in maintaining the casemate wall system that has been re-exposed by our project.
While BAR’s crusade to restore Gezer never produced results, BAR should celebrate that its vision is now being realized through the new excavations and the efforts of the National Parks Authority, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and the Tel Gezer consortium members.
Steven M. Ortiz
Associate Professor of Archaeology and Biblical Backgrounds
Director of the Tandy Institute of Archaeology
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Fort Worth, Texas
Would He Have Done Something Else with His Life?
I am in prison, and reading BAR not only helps pass time, but it does so in a positive and productive manner. It broadens my world and my outlook upon it. Makes me wonder what else I might have done with my life.
Pleasant Valley State Prison
Model For “Archaeological Editor”
On page 104 of your 200th issue, you describe an interesting concept called an “archaeology editor” that would help scholars to write archaeological reports. That sounds very close to the discipline we call “Technical Writer” in the engineering field. People can get degrees in this major/discipline at several different colleges throughout the United States. A good friend of mine graduated with such a specialty and has done well for himself. We often employ technical writers in engineering firms.
It would seem that if a college wanted to have a model to use for setting up a degree as “archaeology editor,” a good pattern to start with might be to look at the requirements for a Technical Writing degree.