Queries & Comments
Kudos to Cargill!
Congratulations on your appointment to the stellar editorship of BAR, Robert (Bob) Cargill!
I love the new format, which is now comparable to Harvard Magazine. What’s not to like?
One letter stated you are a Midwesterner, no doubt because of your professorship at the University of Iowa. Your roots, however, are more in line with the climate and terrain of Israel. You grew up in the San Joaquin Valley around Fresno, California, noted for table grapes, prune plums, and almonds—and to the east lay the higher plateaus and Sierra Nevada Mountains. It’s like looking east from the Jezreel Valley across vineyards and almond groves and locating the Golan Heights and the Lebanon Range. Then you moved to the Los Angeles area to complete graduate degrees—a locale more in keeping with Tel Aviv and Haifa.
Perhaps you do have Midwestern roots. Four of your Pepperdine graduate professors had doctorates from the University of Iowa: John Wilson, Royce Clark, Richard Hughes, and me. Many Iowans migrated to southern California. In the 1950s, Iowa expatriates held a Fourth of July picnic on Long Beach to which 100,000 people came.
You are charged with a great task. Carry on.
Emeritus, Chair Religion
Thank you, and many thanks for introducing me to the theology of the Hebrew Bible.—B.C.
Apt Editor Initials
How appropriate for Bob to sign off on his inaugural editorial introduction as B.C.
I was apparently born for this job.—B.C.
I have been a BAR subscriber for many years, and Jeremy Smoak’s article, “Words Unseen: The Power of Hidden Writing” (BAR, January/February 2018), stands out as one of the best I have ever read. His style and prose gave clear—and poetic—context to his subject. The facts were enlightening, and his writing was really compelling.
New York, New York
Tiny Text Techniques?
The miniature words covered in Jeremy’s Smoak’s article are interesting, but how were they inscribed? The size implies the scribe was severely nearsighted or used a magnifier. Then, there is the tool used to make the small characters. Enough with the words, what about the technology?
Jeremy Smoak’s article was amazing on many levels. The fact not addressed here is that no magnifying glasses were available at that time to facilitate the manufacturing of the tiny words. The article almost makes it seem like they appeared there by magic as the will of God.
I am an optometrist, and, in reality, an extremely nearsighted person could have done this. They would have had to hunch over the work at a distance of several inches. This focusing can’t be done by people with normal vision for more than a second or two, if at all, and not at all as people with normal vision grow older.
Even though it wasn’t necessarily good for the individual to have been nearsighted, it was good for the community to have a few people that could do these specialized tasks. They might even have been revered (or not).
Diamond Bar, California
MUSIC OF THE BIBLICAL PSALMS
In Thomas Staubli’s Archaeological Views column, “Performing Psalms in Biblical Times” (BAR, January/February 2018), he keenly observes that “The Bible does not tell us much about how psalms were originally performed.” Yet, hints of performance technique peek from references within the psalms themselves.
In particular the psalmist(s) refer to a ten-stringed instrument. Instructions for augmented performance with this instrument appear in Psalms 33, Psalms 92, and Psalms 144. We are urged to “Praise the Lord with lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings” (Psalm 33:2). While recognizing Staubli’s astute observation of subscripting, in a Song for the 010Sabbath (Psalm 92:1–3), we are “to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name … to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night, to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre.” Also to “sing a new song to you, O God, upon a ten-stringed harp” (Psalm 144:9).
The often recommended ten-stringed harp is not a solo concert instrument with a large range. Conceivably it was tuned to strum a diatonic scale with an extra accidental, an instrumental accompaniment and grounding for the singer—as modern folk singers use an autoharp. This combination of voice and small harp suggests a spiritual style (mainly Islamic) such as ghazal singing or Hindustani vocal, raga-based, khayal performance in which a short text, such as a psalm, supplies the basis for a melodic improvisation. In such vocal arts, the singer often self-accompanies on a small harp-like instrument of limited range to set the melodic background colors. Performed thus, psalms offer a pleasant challenge to the singer and audience.
Senior Curator of Cultural History
Thomas Staubli Responds: In fact, the call to praise YHWH on the ten-stringed nevel is one of the performance hints we find in the Bible itself. As the Levant has a centuries-old tradition of a musical formation with a small and a large lyre, but not a single representation of a harp, I maintain that the ten-stringed nevel is a bass lyre—not a harp. Both lyre types, kinnor and nevel, are even attested on the coins from the time of the Jewish uprising against Rome.
The reference to grounding in folk music seems accurate, helpful, and seminal. However, I do not think that the next parallels are to be found in Hindustan, but rather in the Horn of Africa, where West-Semitic music traditions have survived among the Semitic-speaking, non-Muslim population, because they escaped the Islamic transformation. Furthermore, the traditional Ethiopian music scene has among its cordophones a six-stringed lyre (kirar, probably related to Hebrew kinnor) and a ten-stringed lyre (begena), which corresponds to the Hebrew nevel.
JERUSALEM DIET OR FISH TALES?
Catfish Isn’t Kosher!
The boxes with expert supplementary subject matter were pleasant additions to Yuval Gadot’s article “Jerusalem and the Holy Land(fill)” (BAR, January/February 2018). Two of those reports, however, seem to conflict with each other in part. “The Jerusalem Diet” on page 43 notes that livestock bones indicate remains from Jewish food, both in ritually pure animals and butchering methods. But “Fish Tales” on page 44 notes a small 062amount (1.4 percent of fish bones sampled) of ritually impure catfish bones (see Leviticus 11:9–10 and Deuteronomy 14:9–10).
So there were at least some remains of non-Jewish food.
Yuval Gadot Responds: It is true that the data do seem contradictory because different lines of research may sometimes conflict with one another. As evidence regarding food habits accumulates, there is renewed interest in the role and significance of food customs in ancient Israel.
A recent research project involving scholars at Tel Aviv, Lausanne, and Zurich universities reexamines the laws in Leviticus and Deuteronomy about clean animals and their relationship to the material culture of ancient Israel. Indeed, fish bones discovered in Iron Age II strata (late ninth to seventh centuries B.C.E.) in Jerusalem, Ramat Rahel, and other sites in Judah do include species defined as unclean according to the Pentateuchal legislation.
These finds illustrate how archaeology provides an important context for situating the origins, formation, growth, and implementation of the purity laws of the Pentateuch in general, and the food laws of Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 especially. The main conclusions are that the material evidence suggests a much more complex and nuanced picture, and it might be that some laws, like the prohibition against fish, appear to be much more theoretical and may even reflect later developments.
From Trash to BAR Treasure
Always interesting articles—and sometimes astounding. “Jerusalem and the Holy Land(fill)” in the January/February 2018 issue was one such time.
Thank you so, so much for “gettin’ real” about the nexus of ancient and modern life.
A NEW CHAPTER
In Robert Cargill’s First Person, “A New Chapter” (BAR, January/February, 2018), reference is made to “the Biblical world, including Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, Egypt, Cyprus, Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraq,” as if “West Bank” refers to a country like the others listed. It does not. The correct designation of this area is Judea and Samaria, although your description is also wrongly used in other media.
BAR has commendably avoided involvement in this heated and divisive issue, but as a very early devoted subscriber, I hope the correct description will be used. I wish BAR to go from strength to strength in following Hershel Shanks’s great pioneering dedication to furthering knowledge of Biblical archaeology and related fields across the globe.
BAR will maintain its independence and neutrality on issues pertaining to modern political disagreements between the State of Israel and the Palestinian National Authority. It is for this reason that when I recited this litany of geographic entities in my First Person, I did not use the word “state” or “nation,” but said, “which highlights the active excavations throughout the Biblical world, including Israel, the West Bank, Jordan,” and so on.
This was done deliberately, to avoid engaging in the very modern political debate you describe. I understand the fervor this debate foments, especially for those living within contested areas. Likewise, I understand that the State of Israel, 064especially the Israeli Civil Administration, refers to the West Bank as the Territories of Judea and Samaria. However, because the West Bank is the commonly understood international name for this geographic region, it is common practice for Biblical and ancient Near Eastern scholars to use it to identify this area.
BAR has followed and will continue to follow accepted scholarly convention and employ the terms Israel, Judea, Samaria, Palestine, Canaan, the Levant, the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan, and so on. These terms are in no way a political commentary, as my First Person is in no way a political statement; quite the opposite—they are neutral and long-accepted scholarly conventions.—B.C.
In response to Robert R. Cargill’s Digs 2018 (“Migration and Immigration in Ancient Israel,” BAR, January/February 2018), a well-documented academic counterargument is the genetics-based conclusion that the original Israelites didn’t migrate into Canaan from points further east or south. Rather they were rural natives of the same land who stayed in place and adopted a new set of theological theories. This isn’t to claim that there was no foreigner migration to the Levant. Clearly the Sea Peoples, who supposedly came from lands further west around the Mediterranean and became Philistines, were such immigrants (or at least haven’t yet been mapped genetically). This is to observe that any discussion of Israelite origins now needs to include the native-culture-change-in-place evidence.
Martin, I am aware of and agree with this theory regarding Israelite origins. In my article, I was distinguishing between pre-Israelite peoples (see “Phoenicians, Canaanites, Amorites, Israelites,” all of whom migrated and dwelled in Canaan prior to the establishment of the “Israelites” [p. 27]) and the literary record (“According to the Bible, ‘Ancient Israel’ was first a concept of a new world” [p. 24]).—B.C.
The reference to the size of a dime in “Words Unseen: The Power of Hidden Writing” (BAR, January/February 2018) is a clerical error. It should read “the standard diameter of a dime is 0.7 inches.”
Kudos to Cargill!
Congratulations on your appointment to the stellar editorship of BAR, Robert (Bob) Cargill!