Queries & Comments
Water as Metaphor
Congratulations to Mark Fairchild on his spectacular photos of Laodicea and to the Turkish excavators who are doing an amazing job of restoration (“Laodicea’s ‘Lukewarm’ Legacy: Conflicts of Prosperity in an Ancient Christian City,” BAR, March/April 2017). However, I was surprised he did not fully explore the metaphor of “lukewarm” Laodicea. With five nymphaea and four Roman baths, clearly water was both a source of pride and expense.
Laodicea was dependent on outside sources for its water, brought in by aqueduct. Nearby Hierapolis was famous for its hot springs, which you can still enjoy today in the ruins of a Roman bath. There were cold springs in Colossae, also nearby. So whichever the source, by the time the water got to Laodicea it would be lukewarm (even in the church).
Learning About Laodicea
Congratulations to Mark Fairchild for his outstanding article on Laodicea. I suspect I’m not alone in wanting to learn the historical story behind the many places, people and practices mentioned in the Bible. This article is a fabulous example of revealing just such historical detail and context. Kudos!
San Diego, California
KING SOLOMON’S TEMPLE
A Symbol to Freemasonry
Your writers Joseph Patrich and Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah describe Charles Warren’s giving the name Free Masons Hall “for some unknown reason” to an “impressive hall about 400 feet from the Temple” (“Old, New Banquet Hall by the Temple Mount,” BAR, March/April 2017).
However, if it should happen that Charles Warren was a Freemason of the 19th century, the reason would not be far to seek. Masonic rituals of both the three basic degrees and many of the added degrees are built around teaching stories purporting to relate to the building of Solomon’s Temple. That the stories are allegories, not history, should be plain from the fact that the first thing a new Mason is taught is that “Freemasonry is a system of morality,” rather than an assertion that it preserves history. However, in the 19th century, much more than today, there were many Masons who took quite literally that their modern Masonic order was descended from the rituals of those masons who built Solomon’s Temple.
Sir Charles Warren was initiated into Freemasonry in 1859 and was involved in various lodges throughout the British Empire.—Ed.
DEPICTING THE MESSIAH’S MOTHER
The Virgin Mary Comes to Light
What a very fine piece of writing by Mary Joan Winn Leith (“Earliest Depictions of the Virgin Mary,” BAR, March/April 2017). I now have a new appreciation for the place and person of Mary in Christian history and tradition. Leith gently lifts Mary, the mother of God, as a singular and unique lady out of centuries of pious themes and remembrances with archaeological support.
DISRESPECT OR DIALOGUE?
The Misuse of “Misogyny”
Hershel Shanks attempts to prove that the Bible has contempt for women (First Person: “Misogyny in the Bible,” BAR, March/April 2017). He uses the article by Christopher Rollston that gives several examples in the Bible to make that point. What Shanks doesn’t mention, and he should know better, is the context of the cultures in which the Biblical texts were written.
Archaeology is supposed to be the study of those cultures. The world in general did not treat women as they should. The Bible made laws to protect women in those difficult times, even giving a woman who was raped the opportunity to be married and have someone take care of her. Tamar never married because of this very reason but was taken care of by the family of King David.
The books of Ruth and Esther honor great women of old; there is Hannah who by her faith gave birth to the great prophet Samuel, etc. In the New Testament, Jesus surrounded himself with women, many of whom the world had cast off, like Mary Magdalene, who was the first person Jesus appeared to after his resurrection. Hershel and Christopher 056should not be celebrating but weeping for what they have done. This is one more reason I let my subscription expire.
BAR Builds Respectful Dialogue
For years now when my frosty-covered Alaskan mailbox delivers my BAR magazine, I become lost to the people I know as I devour every article, test myself against Strata answers and enjoy my hand-held paper media device. My brain enjoys where you take me. Yet this time you moved me emotionally. Hershel Shanks’s “Misogyny in the Bible” was more than an essay on sexism.
More so now than since the McCarthy blacklisting of the 1950s, our world is partitioning itself and building barriers, dividing on tribal DNA, political thought and economic fear—growing hate and anger. We need to see hope and examples. Showing the friendship and respect that Mr. Shanks and Dr. Rollston hold for each other—despite where they live, their religious backgrounds and their professional thoughts—was wonderful. They are what true scientific exploration and debate is about.
Yes, BAR has brought up controversial issues in the past. Great! We need to see the issues as readers. Yet in debate, BAR always respects the thought process and the scholar.
GRATITUDE BEHIND BARS
A Heartfelt Thanks to BAR Readers
I want to thank not only all of you at BAR, but all the people who responded to the letter of mine that you printed in the magazine (Queries & Comments: “Bible Questions from Behind Bars,” BAR, July/August 2016). I want them to know I’m grateful for the mail. And I’ve learned a lot from their letters!