Queries & Comments
Assuming Sophisticated Readers
You have one of the best periodicals in the world. I love it. But I do not understand the faithful of any religion who read BAR expecting it to confirm their beliefs. Nor do I understand those minimalists who detest evidence possibly supporting Biblical events.
Like a good lawyer, you present evidence, facts, theories, and analysis and leave it to the (jury) readers to draw their own conclusions. And, as any good jury, the readers have a responsibility to listen to the evidence and weigh it. BAR is not a movie; it assumes a level of sophistication of its readers.
The Inevitable Next Generation!
Mr. Shanks, I can only hope and pray that you are grooming someone to fill your shoes should your availability as editor end before the magazine does. I can hardly imagine what would become of this altogether delightful creation of yours if your personality, attitudes, prejudices, wit, etc., doesn’t continue to influence the magazine for generations to come. Clone yourself, please, Mr. Shanks. Clone yourself!
I’m still a young fellow. I’m only 81 years old.—Ed.
A Subscription Cancellation
I am sorry to say that, after a number of very satisfying years, I must cancel my subscription. I am now on disability, having reduced by monthly income by 65 percent and can no longer afford it.
BAR is a wonderful asset for those like me who have spent a lifetime studying scripture, theology and the ancient lands. I will sorely miss my issues, but I must make cuts in my expenses in order to support myself.
We don’t want to lose you. So we are sending you a one-year gift subscription. Let us know if your situation improves. We hope so.—Ed.
St. Philip’s Martyrium
Thanks for all your fascinating material. I bought gift subscriptions for my grown children anticipating correctly that they would become avid BAR readers. What I did not anticipate, though, was that my grandchildren, too, would find the magazine interesting!
I did notice, however, what seems to be an error in the article about St. Philip’s martyrium (Francesco D’Andria, “Conversion, Crucifixion and Celebration: St. Philip’s Martyrium at Hierapolis Draws Thousands over the Centuries,” BAR 37:04). The author translates the Greek inscription around the rim of the bread stamp from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts that pictures the martyrium as “Holy, holy, holy, Lord of hosts, heaven and earth are full of Thy glory,” citing Isaiah 6:3. My Bible, however, in Isaiah 6:3, reads: “The earth is full of His glory,” leaving out “heaven.” I was wondering where the discrepancy arises.
Lawrence, New York
You are a careful reader. Our author precisely stated that the quotation is from the trishagion (the three holies), which is a hymn in the liturgy of many Catholic and other churches. During our editorial process, we added the notation that this is a quotation from Isaiah 6:3. While it is thought that the trishagion ultimately derives from Isaiah 6:3, the quotation is in this respect not direct. The reference to Isaiah 6:3, repeated in our caption to the photograph of the bread stamp, is our error, not the author’s.—Ed.
Why St. Philip Is Pictured with Bread
I have enjoyed reading BAR for many years, especially the controversies and heated debates, but it was a special treat to see Francesco D’Andria’s beautiful article about St. Philip’s martyrium at Hierapolis. It is a magnificent site.
I first started taking a closer interest in St. Philip when by chance I purchased an old Greek Orthodox icon of the apostle in an antiques market in London, probably from the 18th or 19th century. It’s not a great work of art. When I acquired the painting, the dealer told me that he bought it from a Greek man who identified the subject as St. Philip, which you could tell, apparently not only from the inscription, but also because the saint was holding a loaf of bread, the symbol traditionally identifying him in the Greek Orthodox world.
I thought of this as I read the BAR article, and I was excited to see that in the depiction of Philip on the remarkable sixth-century bronze bread stamp from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, showing him standing in front of the Hierapolis complex, the saint is arguably again shown holding a loaf of bread in his hands rather than the typical scriptural scroll as shown on so many icons of saints and apostles. What makes it more likely that it’s a loaf of bread rather than “The Word” is the fact that it is on a bread stamp. In the author’s words, “Apparently the pilgrims at the martyrium of St. Philip were given 011 012 loaves of bread during the rites in honor of the saint. These eulogiae stamps gave the bread a spiritual power that conferred well-being on the recipient pilgrims.”
Why did bread loom so large in celebrations of Philip’s life? The answer, of course, is in John 6:1–14 (see also Matthew 14:13–21; Mark 6:30–44; Luke 9:10–17). It was near the time of the Passover and Jesus was attracting a growing throng of people to a hillside near the Sea of Galilee. “Looking up and seeing a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread to feed these people?’ He said this to test him; Jesus himself knew what he meant to do. Philip replied, ‘We would need two hundred denarii to buy enough bread for each of them to have a little.’” Then, of course Jesus miraculously divides the loaves and fishes to feed the five thousand.
I find it strangely moving to find this “Bread of Life” connection commemorated so evocatively at the site of Philip’s martyrdom and burial, appropriately enough on a grassy hillside.
Visiting Philip’s Martyrium
Thank you for your excellent article on Philip’s martyrium at Hieropolis. Most of the tourists who visit this amazing site have no idea of the Biblical connection. Only a few years ago was the path to the martyrium even marked with a sign in English.
The Bible as a Source of Testable Hypotheses
Past Misuse of the Bible
As I understand it, the reason that archaeologists avoid using the Bible to develop hypotheses is not based either on philosophy or prejudice (First Person: “The Bible as a Source of Testable Hypotheses,” BAR 37:04). It is due to the past misuse of that source. If someone hypothesizes that city X will be in location Y, based on a Biblical reference, and digging reveals anything, anything at all at location Y, the digger sees that as proof that the hypothesis was correct.
Leaving Out the Bible Can Lead to Incorrect Results
Archaeology does itself a major disservice when it limits the tools it uses in the field. When viewing the Bible from a strictly historical perspective, one will find that it’s often an invaluable source of accurate historical data. For the archeologist to reject the Bible as a tool, simply because one disagrees with its spiritual 066 component, is to condemn oneself to often incomplete or incorrect results.
Legitimate Scientific Method
As a scientist, I know that when forming a hypothesis, one may use prior knowledge, observation, other people’s input and even hunches. All are fair and legitimate.
A Believer in Zeus
Using Homer’s Iliad, Troy was found. Would it make a difference if the discoverer had been a believer in Zeus? I think not.
Chevy Chase, Maryland
Digging Up Grandparents—or Ancestors
How many years have to pass before it becomes acceptable to dig up human remains for scientific study?
This question comes to mind because of Professor Patricia Smith’s very informative article about how much can be learned from the study of human skeletons from ancient times (Archaeological Views: “Uncovering the Secrets of the Dead,” BAR 37:04). But she doesn’t touch on this key question. How far back does respect for the dead go? I assume bio-anthropologists wouldn’t want to dig up their own grandparents to study their bones. But at what point does that hesitation stop?
The question is compounded by the recent decision of Italian archaeologists to dig up La Giocanda—that is, the woman who posed for Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.” She’s been buried for 500 years. The reason for digging her up, according to the archaeologists, is curiosity. If they can recreate her face from her skull, they’ll be able to see how closely she resembles the painting.
So the question remains: How many years, or how many generations, or how many centuries, have to pass before respect for the dead stops being relevant and human remains become legitimate targets for exhumation and research by scholars?
West Hempstead, New York
Patricia Smith responds:
Religious, cultural and political beliefs, as well as fashion, all dictate burial practices. Thus laws governing the treatment of human burials differ among countries and states. In a democratic society these are assumed to reflect the society’s moral codes and are defined by law.
Throughout the world, there are four main circumstances when permission to exhume human burials is granted: for forensic purposes; for industrial or domestic land development; when unmarked graves are accidentally uncovered in the course of such work or for archaeological research on ancient periods.
The value of forensic examinations to verify identification or to establish the cause of death is, I assume, clear to all; it confers respect on the dead as well as providing answers for the living. I would argue that the examination of ancient bones, once they have been excavated, serves the same purpose. It enables us to identify the people who lived before us, in many instances to understand how or why they died, and offers insight into human adaptation in the face of change. And studies of infectious diseases 067 068 and genetic mutations based on ancient DNA analyses of past populations have the potential to benefit all of humankind. Therefore, the ethical issues involved in the study of ancient human remains extend beyond specific religious or cultural mores, and need to be evaluated in this light.
Not Really Looting
In answer to the question, “What percentage of the Hebrew seals listed in the comprehensive Corpus of West Semitic Stamp Seals was professionally excavated by archaeologists?”(Strata: “How Many?” BAR 37:04) you say “over 90 percent were looted.” That seems to me to be too strong a statement. It is important to realize that seals, coins and other small antiquities may be washed out of tells or eroded from burials and picked up by sharp-eyed locals who may then sell them. This is not really looting. It is not deliberately pillaging a site to seek treasure. Neither is the discovery of antiquities when digging a well, or foundations for a house, or laying a road.
Few countries offer the finders in such circumstances a good price for their finds (Great Britain is one of them. See the description of the British system in Andrew S. Selkirk, “Sharing the Wealth: Spoils of Christian Kings Enrich British Metal Detectorist and Landowner,” BAR 37:03) so it is not surprising if they turn to the antiquities market.
Emeritus Rankin Professor of Hebrew & Ancient Semitic Languages
The University of Liverpool
Frank Cross’s Thoughts
I read your greeting to Harvard professor Frank Moore Cross in the July/August issue (Strata: “Happy Birthday, Frank Cross” BAR 37:04).
I recently purchased some used Bible commentaries including the International Critical Commentary on Deuteronomy and Amos and Hosea. When I opened them, to my surprise they are stamped inside as previously owned by Frank M. Cross—he must have sold them to the used book dealer. It is very enjoyable to peruse the books and read and enjoy all the notes he put in the margins of the books. It is an honor to be able to see his thoughts.
Bible in the News
Here’s an item for your “Bible In the News” columnist Leonard Greenspoon: A major Los Angeles freeway had to be completely shut down recently for some bridge work. Predicting major traffic snarls and bumper-to-bumper traffic, the media dubbed the prediction carmageddon.
San Dimas, California
Who Deciphered Hieroglyphics?
On page 42 (Sidebar, “Out of Egypt: The Big Six”) of your May/June 2011 issue you picture the Rosetta Stone and state that “Jean-Francois Champollion became the first to crack the code of hieroglyphic.” In fact, the British physician/polymath Thomas Young was the first to decipher the hieroglyphic characters as given in his article “Egypt” in the Encyclopaedia Britannica for 1819. See the book by Andrew Robinson, The Last Man Who Knew Everything (New York: Pi Press, 2006). Young did not pursue the matter in view of his wide interests, and it was left to Champollion to produce an alphabet of phonetic hieroglyphic characters. This is one of the instances of British-French rivalry in the 19th century.
Emeritus professor, The Hebrew University
Racah Institute of Physics (Retired)
Assuming Sophisticated Readers