Queries & Comments
Inscription Is Authentic
A 50–50 Chance
Awesome article by Hershel Shanks (“ ‘Brother of Jesus’ Inscription Is Authentic!” BAR 38:04) on many levels: scientific, dramatic and statistical. I especially enjoyed the statistical analysis as I used to teach the subject.
However, I think you could have made a stronger conclusion: Assuming that James, Joseph and Jesus are one family, then there is at most only one other similarly named family since the total expected number is 1.7—a better than 50–50 chance that this belonged to the holy family.
Sensation Before Authentication
My comment on your article “ ‘Brother of Jesus’ Inscription Is Authentic!” and the argument based on hoopla: The hoopla does not provide authentication or its opposite, but it does raise questions about a possible rush to judgment and failure to check sources related to this unprovenanced ossuary. Didn’t this come from the same hands as brought forth the Jehoash Inscription? Two sensational discoveries from a single source and both unprovenanced! So, the splashy way in which this was first presented to the world suggests that sensationalism was foremost. While that doesn’t prove or disprove, it certainly raises questions.
The story of the James Ossuary and the subsequent trial relating to its authenticity has been fascinating to follow over the years. Thank you for the very comprehensive article printed in the July/August issue. Archaeologists are detectives at heart and just love a good old mystery to solve. This one did not disappoint.
Townsville, North Queensland
Corbelling the Floor
Pull It; Don’t Push It
In your letters to the editor section (“Queries & Comments,” BAR 38:04), you ask readers how the person who is corbelling the floor is managing not to leave any footprints … easily done! Instead of pushing the floor roller, he is pulling it!
Back Out for Best Results
How to roll a roof and not leave footprints on the newly rolled surface? Same way you paint a floor and don’t step on the wet paint. Start in the corner and back out toward the edge of the roof.
Spreading Plaster Requires Skill
Plaster is quite different from cement. I work with both in my remodeling business. Cement is wet when poured and takes hours or days to harden.
Plaster on the other hand is almost dry before one is done working with it and it expands when it hardens. The man in the picture is probably working with a small batch, perhaps the size of a bushel basket dumped in front of him and has just enough time to spread and level it before it is solid. That is one reason why plaster is not used in buildings today: It requires great skill to spread and level before it sets.
Hygroscopicity Is Key
Regarding rolling wet plaster: The plaster was not wet but was in fact laid down and rolled out as a dry mix.
Plaster, composed of calcium sulfate, is gypsum. Gypsum is a common mineral found in desert regions and is highly hygroscopic—it attracts moisture from the atmosphere—and over time, “sets up.” The “set” of a dry mix used for flooring could also be accelerated by sprinkling water over the floor from a bowl.
East-West Burial Orientation
In “Queries & Comments” (“Burial Directions in the Bible?” BAR 38:04), 009 010 Professor Adela Yarbro Collins responds with reference to the east-west orientation of Christian graves near the Dead Sea, “There is no explicit Biblical source for this practice.”
While this is true, might some have been influenced by Jesus’ statement, “For just as the lightning comes from the east, and flashes even to the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:27)? An eastward-facing orientation might express confidence in the resurrection to occur at the Second Coming, perhaps thought to appear from the east.
Church of Christ
Piscataway, New Jersey
I Didn’t Agree
I have read Professor Philip Davies’s letter to the editor (“A Welshman Called an Englishman; Garfinkel’s Claims ‘False and Stupid,’ ” BAR 38:04), regarding his dispute with Professor Yosef Garfinkel concerning the latter’s interpretation of the results of his excavation at Khirbet Qeiyafa (“The Birth and Death of Biblical Minimalism,” BAR 37:03). In his letter to BAR, Professor Davies states that “most Israeli scholars seem to agree with me [Davies], including A. Mazar …”
I wonder why Professor Davies mentions my name. Until the moment I read Professor Davies’s letter, I did not even know of his response to Professor Garfinkel’s paper that Professor Davies found so objectionable. I could thus not express agreement or disagreement with Professor Davies’s views.
As for my views on the interpretation of the finds from Khirbet Qeiyafa, I will express my view at a later date when we know more from the excavation.
Institute of Archaeology
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Siegfried Horn’s Internment
Six Years in India
In your First Person (“LaBianca’s Four Different Kinds of ‘Past,’ BAR 38:04), you mention Dr. Siegfried Horn. I would like to make a correction and some further comments.
I first knew Siegfried shortly after the war when he came to Walla Walla College to complete a B.A. degree. He received that degree in 1947. My wife and I were both students at Walla Walla College at the time.
Siegfried was a German citizen and early in his ministry went to Holland to learn the Dutch language in order to go as a missionary to the Dutch East Indies. While there, the war in Europe began, and because he was a German citizen, the Dutch interned him and his wife. The Dutch then turned him over to the British and he was taken to India, and it was in India that he was interned for about six 011 012 years. His wife remained in the Dutch East Indies during the Japanese occupation and they did not see each other again until they were reunited after the war at Walla Walla.
I enjoy reading BAR and look forward to receiving every issue. Thank you for what you are doing.
Baghdad Design Stands in Arizona
It Looks Like a Tent
Re: Strata, “Frank Lloyd Wright Designs Archaeological Museum for Baghdad” (BAR 38:04): Not all those plans were lost. The intended Opera House was constructed instead in Tempe, Arizona, on the campus of Arizona State University as a performing arts center. It is now known as Grady Gammage Auditorium. It has a “tent-like” appearance that was intended for a site some 10,000 miles away.
Critical Bible Scholars Have Presuppositions Too
Ronald S. Hendel asserts that if you begin with doubt, you end up with reliable knowledge about the Bible (“Critical Biblical Scholarship—What’s the Use?” BAR 38:04). He doesn’t give any reasons for this. He just asserts it. But how do you know when it’s safe to stop doubting and start accepting something as certain?
Hendel would like us to accept as fact that only evangelical Bible scholars and readers have presuppositions. But critical Bible scholars also have presuppositions. Hendel says, “A critical scholar is one who is able to make distinctions based on careful study of the evidence [Who would disagree about that?] and by appeal to reasonable arguments and criteria.” Well what are those criteria and arguments? Whatever they are, those are his presuppositions.
Professor of French and Logic
Summit Christian Academy
Blinded by Our Biases
Ronald Hendel states: “One of the key strategies of critical scholarship is methodological doubt.” I grant that critical scholarship is based on doubt, but one does not doubt everything. Everyone starts somewhere, with some assumptions, some “faith.”
Christians have traditionally started not by doubting the text, but by doubting themselves and their own understanding. It is a research bias based on a certain view of reality.
No research is free of bias, not even Hendel’s. Often our own biases make us 068 blind to the biases of others, which leads to questions like Hendel’s.
The gold bell (First Person, “Relics vs. ‘Real’ Archaeology,” BAR 38:03), the engraved menorah (Strata, BAR 38:03) and the “Bethlehem” bulla (Strata, BAR 38:04) were all found in excavations (Permits No. A-5851/2010 and A-6131/2011) directed by Eli Shukron on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Inscription Is Authentic