Queries & Comments
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and comments about our Spring 2023 issue. We appreciate your feedback. Here are a few of the letters and responses we received. Find more online at biblicalarchaeology.org/letters.
Hearing from the Experts
I find your content unique and informative. Unlike other popular publications in archaeology, BAR articles are written by actual researchers, not by people summarizing or interpreting studies carried out by others. This is invaluable. In a world where information is often manipulated to achieve the desired effect, reading the primary sources and expert interpretations is of paramount importance.
JOSE M. PAREDES
Jesus in the Synagogue
As I read Jordan Ryan’s “Jesus in the Synagogue,” it occurred to me that ancient synagogues, with their sections facing each other across an empty square, were not just for debate and discussion; perhaps a main purpose of this seating arrangement was to facilitate singing.
JORDAN RYAN RESPONDS:
I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that synagogue architecture facilitated singing. The challenge is that we do not have much evidence for singing practices in the early Roman period. We do, however, have quite a few references to congregational discussion in synagogue settings (see pp. 40–41 of the article). Architectural parallels are also important to consider, since synagogue seating plans are similar to public buildings designed for discussion in the Hellenistic world, especially the ekklesiasterion and the bouleuterion. It is then reasonable to connect the architectural form to discussion and possibly other things that went on in synagogues, including singing.
David in the Mesha Stele
Looking at the article “Set in Stone? Another Look at the Mesha Stele,” by Matthieu Richelle and Andrew Burlingame, I see something all have overlooked. The dalet that forms the first letter of dwd is there, but not the long line that Lemaire and Delorme think is its bottom piece. Instead, in Image C (p. 57), there is a triangle on its side that represents that dalet. This triangle is tilted, as the final dalet and all three letters show a consistent upward angle. While I agree the tav in the preceding word bt (“house”) is speculative, what remains is still about David. Given this context, “House of David” still makes the most sense.
ANDREW GABRIEL ROTH
RICHELLE AND BURLINGAME RESPOND:
The dark shape to the bottom right of the waw actually has the shape of a small bet and is a “ghost” letter (one that looks like it’s there but actually isn’t). It was likely created by a stain or deterioration affecting the squeeze or the stone, but it is too far beneath the line of writing to reflect an engraved sign.
I read both articles on the Mesha Stele carefully, and I have a question for Richelle and Burlingame: If the letters in question do not translate to “House of David,” how else would they translate the text?
RICHELLE AND BURLINGAME RESPOND:
The focus of our article was the epigraphic readings (i.e., what can be deciphered on the stela), not possible reconstructions and translations. Several reconstructions are possible, including “House of David,” but we argue that there is simply insufficient evidence to confirm the reading, which leaves considerable room to debate other possibilities.
Sorry, but the authors of “Set in Stone?” get it all wrong. The tav, though faintly preserved, is uncontestable. Lemaire and Delorme draw the left diagonal of the X-shape (in red) in Photo A too vertically, though it is pretty clear in Photo B (p. 57). And the dot on the left is just that: a second word divider. So I’d go with Lemaire and Delorme’s expertise—and my own eyes—to read btdwd. Long live the king!
ROY D. KOTANSKY
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
RICHELLE AND BURLINGAME RESPOND:
Images like Photo B may give the impression that a stroke is present, but this does not hold up under direct examination of the stone or the new digital images, which is why our colleagues rightly did not use the line that you see. Our arguments about the dot are available in our article, but we are happy to agree to disagree. Long live the debate!
Laura Mazow’s article on the use of bathtub-shaped ceramic containers for fulling was very interesting (“Why All Tubs Are Not Bathtubs”). But such ceramic tubs, with the same thick squarish rim, rope band decoration, and handles at both ends, were also used for coffins, as attested by finds in funerary contexts. Such tub coffins (including some in metal) are best known from Mesopotamia. Their use as burial receptacles likely spread west with the arrival of the Assyrians in the Levant in the latter part of the eighth century BCE.
JEFFREY R. ZORN
ADJUNCT ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR
ITHACA, NEW YORK
LAURA MAZOW RESPONDS:
Funerary contexts probably represent secondary uses of these vessels, similar to the way storage jars were often reused for burials. Bath-shaped vessels appear together with a wide variety of other burial practices in both the southern Levant and Mesopotamia. Of the vessels I examined, an almost equal number were found in burial and non-burial contexts. Significantly, at sites that have these vessels in both contexts, non-burial examples typically predate those found in burials. Additionally, the Mesopotamian non-burial ones, just like those in the southern Levant, are often found with weaving tools.
Similarly, although it is assumed that metal vessels were considered too valuable to have a technological use, observations of early 20th-century village life suggest that copper tubs were used in laundry, fulling, and tanning, and that metal tubs may have been preferable.
Paul and Prostitutes
BARBETTE STANLEY SPAETH, in her article “Paul, Prostitutes, and the Cult of Aphrodite in Corinth,” states that Paul in 1 Corinthians 6 would more likely have been talking about consorting with prostitutes rather than women associated with Aphrodite’s cult, who, Spaeth argues, likely were not involved in sexualized ritual activities. However, the term “prostitu-tion, fornication” (porneia) is often used as a metaphor for idol worship, even when this porneia did not involve sex. The Book of Ezekiel uses many sexual metaphors in this way, while “adultery” is also often used to imply idol worship. Revelation 17:15 states that the kings of the earth committed fornication (porneia) with Rome. Surely these kings weren’t having sex with Rome. Perhaps, then, Paul was talking about some kind of idolatrous behavior.
BARBETTE STANLEY SPAETH RESPONDS:
Since there was no sacred prostitution in Corinth, I suggested that when Paul referred to porneia, he meant common prostitution. Although the Septuagint and New Testament may sometimes use porneia to mean “fornication” or even “idol wor-ship,” the Corinthians without a Jewish background would have understood the term in its original meaning as prostitution. When Paul notes the Corinthian Christians had been “bought for a price,” he makes a comparison between the prostitute’s body and the Christian’s, which only makes sense if we take the terms literally: The prostitute’s body is sold for an immoral sexual purpose; the Christian’s body is bought through Jesus’s suffering for the purpose of salvation.
The Horns of Moses
In his article “The Horns of Moses,” Lee M. Jefferson cites the earliest visual representation of Moses with horns in the 11th-century Old English Illustrated Hexateuch. In my book, Moses the Egyptian in the Illustrated Old English Hexateuch (2017), I proposed that a likely source for Jerome’s Latin translation of the Hebrew text of Exodus 34:29 as “cornuta esset facies sua,” and its association with radiance and light, was his familiarity with the image of the Roman god Pan described in Servius’s fourth-century commentary on Virgil’s Second Eclogue, where Servius says of Pan that “his horns are like the rays of the sun and the horns of the moon.” Servius, like Jerome, had been a student of Virgil’s commentator, Donatus, and thus Jerome would likely have been familiar with this metaphoric equation of horns with light, a widespread visual attribute of ancient Near Eastern deities, Egyptian gods and pharaohs, and Hellenistic kings such as Alexander the Great.
HERBERT R. BRODERICK
BRONX, NEW YORK
LEE M. JEFFERSON RESPONDS:
Although the Pan connection is interesting, I prefer to think that Jerome was less influenced by polytheistic connections and more by the larger history of textual interpretation through his training in Hebrew and study of the Alexandrian interpretive tradition of the Septuagint.
For more on the origins of the “horns of Moses,” see Gary A. Rendsburg’s article.—ED.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and comments about our Spring 2023 issue. We appreciate your feedback. Here are a few of the letters and responses we received. Find more online at biblicalarchaeology.org/letters. Hearing from the Experts I find your content unique and informative. Unlike other popular publications in archaeology, BAR articles are written by actual researchers, not by people summarizing or interpreting studies carried out by others. This is invaluable. In a world where information is often manipulated to achieve the desired effect, reading the primary sources and expert interpretations is of paramount importance. JOSE M. PAREDES FLOSSMOOR, ILLINOIS […]