Queries & Comments
Reminding the Conquered of Rome’s Power
Re: the article on the Judea Capta coins by Robert Deutsch (January/February 2010). Although the Latin versions of the “Judea Capta” coins are more famous, Greek “Judea Capta” coins were also minted in Caesarea Maritima.
Roman coins served not only as a means of commerce but also as an effective form of political propaganda. When they circulated in Rome, they were a means of celebrating victories of the empire. However, in the provinces, such coins were a powerful (and sometimes bitter) reminder of the consequences of trying to resist Roman imperial power.
The “Judea Capta” coins minted in Caesarea Maritima put the inscription in Greek, the common language of the region. These coins were minted specifically for circulation in the country that had been conquered, thus creating an even more bitter taste for those who used them.
The photos (above) are of a coin from my collection, showing Titus on the obverse and
Urban C. von Wahlde
Professor of New Testament
Loyola University of Chicago
Egg On Shanks’s Face
Editor Shanks hires a handwriting expert to help determine if Morton Smith’s document is a forgery (Hershel Shanks, “Restoring a Dead Scholar’s Reputation,” 35:06), but he offers his own opinion before receiving what might be crucial evidence. So, if the expert supports his point of view, he is vindicated. But, what if the expert says it’s a forgery? What is Shanks to do? He has spent $6K to get some new evidence, invites readers to subsidize the handwriting expert and winds up with egg on his face. Of course, the expert will not say absolutely, and Shanks will have some wiggle room.
See Strata, Handwriting Experts Weigh In on ‘Secret Mark’,” this issue.—Ed.
You Are Biased, Not Me
As a reader of many years, please count me in as one who loves the magazine. I’ve often wanted to comment on articles, especially “First Person” commentaries; 99 percent of the time I agree with Mr. Shanks. But, like most people, I just think about writing him and don’t act. However, his column “Funders, Politics and Bias” (First Person, BAR 36:01) finally roused me to send this note.
You hit the nail right squarely on its head! We are all biased. But most of the noise is made by people who think you are biased and they are not!
“Crusade” Needs No Apology
Despite the objection of some readers (Q&C, BAR 36:01), BAR correctly used “Crusades” in its 200th issue (July/August/September/October 2009) to describe its causes over the years. The third definition of “crusade” in the American Heritage College Dictionary is “A vigorous or concerted movement for a cause or against an abuse.” This definition precisely fits the activities of BAR as enumerated in your 200th Issue, especially as concerns freeing the Dead Sea Scrolls.
For a hundred years or more, “crusade/crusader” has been used to describe journalists, union leaders, social 012workers and others engaged in effecting change, or righting a wrong, quite aside from any martial implication.
You had no need to apologize.
La Crescenta, California
The cover of your Dig Issue (January/February 2010) certainly gives the lie to the idea that archaeology is the study of old, dried-up artifacts.
Why Sodom Was Destroyed
What is the basis for concluding that the Lord destroyed Sodom for either homosexuality or violation of the hospitality code (Genesis 19) (Tal Ilan, ReViews, “The Spiritual Side of Sex,” BAR 36:01)?
It is very clear from the preceding chapter (Genesis 18:16–33) that the Lord had already decided to destroy Sodom unless he could find ten righteous men. And no reason is given other than their “grave … sin.”
I found the article about the wandering ladder at the Holy Sepulchre Church to be amusing (Danny Herman, Strata: “Who Moved the Ladder?” BAR 36:01), as well as a striking reminder of the intransigence of religious groups in the world today. Really, a simple wooden ladder that no one is allowed to move for more than 150 years because of ownership issues? How pathetic.
I can just imagine a worker, ignorant of the finer points of 200-year-old Ottoman law, casually and offhandedly moving the ladder out of the way while doing his job (whatever it was), and then hurriedly and sheepishly replacing it after getting read the riot act by someone. So, it’s back where it belongs. How many years will it sit there unmoved this time?
Howard J. Blodgett
Traverse City, Michigan
Zodiac Signs In Hebrew
Thank you for the fine article titled “Under the Influence: Hellenism in Ancient Jewish Life” (BAR 36:01). It is both helpful and instructive. But (you knew there would be a “but”!) the caption under the photo of the Beth Alpha zodiac mosaic (p. 63) ends with a serious mistake: “… the signs of the Greek zodiac were labeled not with their Greek names, but rather with the Hebrew terms for the 12 months of the year.” Actually the Hebrew terms are not the names of the months; they are simply the Hebrew names of the signs of the zodiac. This elementary error by a caption writer does a disservice to the author of the article, who merely refers to “Hebrew labels on 014the zodiac signs” (p. 67) and says nothing about month names.
Professor Emeritus of Old Testament and Hebrew
San Diego, California
Why Believer In Inerrancy Subscribes to BAR
I have subscribed to your magazine for about five years and I like it. I believe the Bible is God’s inerrant word cover to cover. BAR is written from the viewpoint of a secular historian who does not believe as I do. But I regularly find information about the history of Bible times that sheds light on passages I am already familiar with.
I must say that I regularly have to push aside some of the humanistic evaluations of the finds, to think for myself, to let archaeology inform my knowledge and inquiry into the Bible.
I am somewhat amused when I see writers saying things that betray their own surprise that a particular find has confirmed a Biblical account. I also see a lot of “it can’t possibly be ‘x’ because that would mean the Bible was right about it.”
I don’t expect your writers to necessarily share my faith, and that is why I am renewing my subscription for another two years.
San Antonio, Texas
A New Guru of Negativism?
My friend Allan Millard is not only a fine scholar and Assyriologist, but also a gentleman. In his review of Karl van der Toorn’s Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible (“Books in Ancient Israel?” BAR 36:01), he brings out the negative aspects of the book but in a polite manner. I might not have been so reserved.
Millard deals with van der Toorn’s pontifications about Hebrew writing and indicates that these are off the mark. However, let me add some observations on ancient Hebrew historiography that flatly contradict van der Toorn’s assumptions and conclusions.
First, the Mesha inscription demonstrates that there was a historiographic 079literary tradition (vocabulary, grammar, syntax, rhetorical style) in the ninth century B.C.E. available in the peripheral kingdom of Moab. The language of that text, with minor variants, corresponds amazingly well with the language and style of the Biblical Book of Kings. There is no reason not to assume that writers in Cis-jordan also knew and used the same literary tools as Mesha to record the events of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah during the First Temple period.
In fact, the Book of Kings gives a chronological sweep from the tenth century to 561 B.C.E. (when Amel-Marduk was about to assume the throne as sole ruler of Babylon) and cites a number of sources for its material. These include the Acts of David, the Acts of Solomon and the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel and the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah.
The chronology in the Book of Kings is solid and permits numerous contacts with the Assyrian and Babylonian chronologies (that are based on astronomical observations).
Van der Toorn’s pontification that “prophets, as a rule, do not write” (van der Toorn, p. 112) is total nonsense. It can hardly be reckoned as the product of serious scholarship.
It would be a tragedy if a generation of scholars in the 21st century should be led astray by Karl van der Toorn as the new Pied Piper of negativism.
Anson F. Rainey
Tel Aviv University
Reminding the Conquered of Rome’s Power