Queries & Comments
The Temple Mount Stories
I enjoyed immensely reading the November/December BAR, particularly the articles on the excavations near the Temple Mount (“Excavating in the Shadow of the Temple Mount,” BAR 12:06, by Hershel Shanks; “Herod’s Mighty Temple Mount,” BAR 12:06, by Meir Ben-Dov; and “When the Priests Trumpeted the Onset of the Sabbath,” BAR 12:06, by Aaron Demsky). I have never really had an adequate understanding of the Temple Mount—its history and construction—until I read these articles, particularly the ones written by Hershel Shanks and Meir Ben-Dov.
I do have a question, however. You write: “The most important finds come from the Herodian period (37 B.C. to 4 A.D.). I have consulted several texts and all agree that Herod the Great reigned from 37 B.C. to 4 B.C. You have apparently extended his reign by eight years. Is this an error or are you in possession of new facts which would validate your dating?
I would also like to call your attention to what appears to be an unfortunate dropping of a line by your compositor. On page 49, third column, between the third and fourth lines from the bottom a line is obviously missing. This makes it very difficult to comprehend the author’s point. Most regrettable.
San Diego, California
We erred in the end date for Herod’s reign. As Reader Pruslin suggests, it should have been 4 B.C.
The missing sentence on page 49 should have read “From a distance the walls of the Temple Mount looked like a pyramid with its top lopped off. The meticulous attention to detail in such a monumental project is one of the factors that made the Temple Mount one of the most renowned wonders of the Roman world.”—Ed.
While the article “Excavating in the Shadow of the Temple Mount,” BAR 12:06, was interesting, it contains factual errors regarding the faith of Islam. The article states that in the Koran “every detail but one in Mohammed’s life has a specific address.”
Islam holds the Koran to be the literal word of God as given to Mohammed by the Archangel Gabriel. The fact is that there are amazingly few references to Mohammed in the Koran, and the Koran does not describe the life of Mohammed. Mohammed is merely mentioned, by God, as being “a perfect example” by which believers should live.
Geoffrey K. Wascher
Additional Bible Dictionaries
The comparative ratings on Bible dictionaries in “What Is a Good Bible Dictionary?” BAR 12:06, are of great value to us who hesitate to pull one volume of the Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible off the shelf for fear the word we want may be discussed in one of the other four.
There is an additional area, however, not touched upon by author Walter Harrelson—pronunciation. Here is where Harper’s Bible Dictionary really shines. How about the other entrants?
Congratulations on another fine edition of BAR! I would like to put in a plug for the Dictionary of the Bible by John McKenzie, S.J. (Macmillan). I have used it for years and consider it a fine dictionary written from the Catholic perspective.
St. Marys, Pennsylvania
Human Sacrifice and Circumcision
“Why King Mesha of Moab Sacrificed His Oldest Son,” BAR 12:06, graphically describes the Canaanite rite of human sacrifice when siege or pestilence threatened to exterminate a city. The text attributed to the Phoenician priest Sanchuniathon that author Baruch Margalit cites makes clear that the practice of circumcision is directly related to this rite of human sacrifice. We learn there that once, when destruction threatened his city, the god El offered his only son as a sacrifice to his father, the god Heaven; he also circumcised himself and ordered his followers to do the same. Circumcision is thus a substitute for human sacrifice, an offering of a part of the body in place of the whole. In Canaanite religion, it served as a reminder to El of the offering of his own son that he himself had performed.
In the Bible, circumcision is described as a “sign” of the covenant between Israel and its God. Nowhere, however, is a reason given for the choice of this particular rite as such a sign. The Canaanite material gives us the rationale for this practice. Israel took over from the Canaanites the conviction that, by offering this part of the body in place of the whole, the life of the individual, and of the entire community, would be preserved.
Roy A. Rosenberg
New York, New York
The brief article by Baruch Margalit purporting to explain why Mesha sacrificed his son (“Why King Mesha of Moab Sacrificed His Oldest Son,” BAR 12:06) needs a brief rejoinder. Its author has contributed widely to Ugaritic studies, always with daring and sometimes with a readiness to draw peculiar conclusions.
I want to take up two separate issues: (1) his handling of the Biblical texts and (2) his handling of the Ugaritic text.
First, I want to applaud Margalit’s taking up the cause of Mesha; indeed, the poor Moabites seldom get a good press from the Hebrews. However, Margalit’s reasoning is faulty. It is faulty on the issue of moral judgment and it is faulty in assessing the true implication of the Mesha incident. I take up each point separately:
A. The Moral Issue. In a sordid sort of way, people have always found the subject of human sacrifice especially fascinating. Books and articles are repeatedly written on the topic. We do, indeed, find references 014from all over the Mediterranean world (Rome, Greece, Hittites, etc.) to the fact that during wartime—as opposed to normal times—captured enemies were sacrificed. However, reliable testimony to the sacrifice of one’s own kin even during wartime is lacking. The largest body of reference to this ritual in the ancient Near East has always come from the Bible. But its testimony, much like the classical examples quoted by Margalit, cannot really be trusted because, not being eyewitness accounts, they are either speaking of times past folkloristically or mean to libel their enemies. Sensational claims notwithstanding, archaeology cannot provide an answer to the question either. Even at Carthagea poignant explanations may be given; for the children buried there may actually reflect ceremonial entombment of loved ones, prematurely departed, not sacrificed.
We are free to give credence to the occurrence of human sacrifice in ancient times, but if we deem ourselves scholars of the past, we ought simply to classify the available examples in order to find patterns worthy of comparative studies. If we do decide that these activities are so excessive or gross that they warrant condemnation, it is fine to do so, as long as we make it clear to our audience what we are doing. Once we take that path, however, we ought to be pretty consistent: If Mesha is involved in child sacrifice and if we judge this activity despicable, no amount of parallelism ought to matter in how the condemn it. Does the discovery of many parallels make the sacrifice of a child more cogently defensible? Is it better justified when we argue that the potential safety of a population is at stake?
B. The Biblical Viewpoint. I believe that Margalit’s most glaring difficulty, however, is not properly distinguishing between how we assess a specific institution and how the ancients evaluated it; and this takes me back to the Biblical text at issue. What we need to explain here is how the Hebrew narrator came to regard Mesha’s child sacrifice as effective. The background to the incident is important: Mesha rebels against Israel. When the kings of Israel, Judah and Edom consult Elisha on a prognosis for a campaign against Moab, Elisha not only declares God to be on their side, but provides them with a miracle—pools of water that looked like blood to the Moabites—the allies had been fighting among themselves and had killed each other. When the Moabites entered the Israelite camp, they were forced to flee from the Israelites’ counterattack (2 Kings 3). The Israelites apparently continued to be successful against the Moabites, briefly appearing at the walls of the sole remaining Moabite stronghold—the Moabite capital. There Mesha offered his heir as a sacrifice.
Traditional commentators from the Hellenistic period on have credited Mesha’s survival to Israel’s compassion (or the like) for the Moabites’ plight. This is very nice and noble, but, as with Margalit’s understanding of what transpires, it is philologically indefensible.
Margalit ascribes a meaning to one word, qes
Because Elisha had assured the allies of victory against Moab, what we need to know, then, is what went wrong? Who stymied the allies as they besieged Kirhareset? And how does Mesha’s barbaric act 015negate God’s promise of victory?
Some scholars have wondered whether the Hebrews meant to ascribe this miraculous intervention to Chemosh, Moab’s god. If we accept this thesis, our concern will no longer be about the ritual itself, bloody and unpleasant though it may be, but about the readiness of the ancient Hebrews to grant Chemosh enough power to repulse the allies, God’s assurances notwithstanding! The discussion, therefore, need no longer be concerned with the problem of human sacrifice in the ancient Near East; rather, it will shift to whether Israel’s thinkers were monotheistic or monolatrous when this particular passage in Kings was edited. If the latter, then we could make sense of the passage by having the Hebrews think that just as God could guarantee victory within his own domain, Chemosh could do the same in his: Upon accepting Mesha’s sacrifice, Chemosh defeats the allies.
If on the other hand, we regard the Hebrew thinker as a monotheist, then we will remain in a deep quandary, and no amount of parallelism, even if extracted from downtown Ugarit, will come to solve the problem. This is why Siegfried Horn in his original article (“Why the Moabite Stone Was Blown to Pieces,” BAR 12:03) could offer many explanations and yet admit that “no one has been able to give a satisfactory answer” to the way the episode ends; this is why Margalit’s Ugaritic parallel is irrelevant; and this is why his explanation is, in fact, no answer at all.
But Margalit may not be correct even in his reference to the supposed Ugaritic parallel. His analysis of the Ugaritic text is dependent on too many conjectures.b In offering objections to them, I refer to Margalit’s original translation in BAR: “A firstborn, Baal, we shall sacrifice, a child we shall fulfill [as votive pledge].” To balance “firstborn” with “child,” Margalit finds it necessary to emend the last consonant of h
What Margalit quotes in his BAR article is but a portion of a fuller document describing various offerings to be made before Ugaritic deities, most notably Baal. Unlike the segments that precede it, however, this portion does not seem to be a product of an administrative or bureaucratic mind. It is fully poetic, with an Introduction and Conclusion (as Margalit properly divides it). When we set the Introduction and Conclusion aside, we are left with the central portion of the text which is likewise poetic and likewise divisible into three segments: Baal’s invitation to defend the walls from attack (A) is itself balanced by the defenders, display of gratitude (C); (A) and (C) bracket a middle section (B), which now becomes the focus of the whole.
The middle section (B) itself divides into two parts which Margalit obviously believes to be in sequence. However—and here I beg for your attention—it is just as probable that the two segments are parallel; and this is especially likely since the Ugaritic verbs (“we shall consecrate/we shall fulfill a vow”) are themselves in parallel. This would mean that we can paraphrase (B) as follows:
a) We shall sacrifice a bull // b) We shall fulfill a pledge
a’) We shall sacrifice a [?]kr // b’)We shall fulfill a h
c) We shall (therefore/furthermore) pay a tithe.
If we balance these two statements, we may find it much more reasonable to imagine the Ugaritians as offering animals (ibr/[?]kr) and fulfillment of vows (md
Jack M. Sasson, Professor of Religious Studies
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Further Evidence for Infant Sacrifice in the Ancient Near East
In “Why King Mesha of Moab Sacrificed His Oldest Son,” BAR 12:06, Baruch Margalit argues that the sacrifice by King Mesha of Moab of his eldest son caused the Israelites to withdraw and end their siege of Mesha’s capital. Margalit connects Mesha’s burnt offering of this prince with a Ugaritic text that describes this ritual, and then suggests that this act had a psychologically damaging effect on Israel, which led to its withdrawal. There can be little doubt that this is a correct correlation of the Ugaritic and Biblical material. However, to the archaeological and literary sources from Israel and Canaan can be added Egyptian artistic representations that depict the very ritual described in 2 Kings 3:27.
During the Egyptian 19th and 20th Dynasties, the Pharaohs Seti I, Ramses II, Merneptah and Ramses III (1300–1180) engaged in military campaigns against some of the kingdoms of western Asia. Egyptian temples of this period abound with scenes of Asian cities under siege by the Pharaoh and his troops. Some of these reliefs show a number of Asian supplicants standing on the city wall, with hands upraised praying for divine intervention, while women can be seen kneeling. A supplicant is usually shown holding a burning censer. On some occasions, a child is shown dangling over the wall (or, as in the case of the siege of Ashkelon, two infants are shown—see illustration).
Anthony Spalinger made a very thorough study of these scenes in 1978.1 He has concluded that the scenes in question are pictorial representations which correspond to the ritual sacrifice ascribed to Mesha of Moab.
As Spalinger observes, in all the scenes of this genre, the Asian supplicants direct their prayers toward heaven and not to Pharaoh, who is usually depicted off to one side of the city. In one such scene (Ramses II’s Beit el-Wali scene) is a text that contains an invocation to Baal. Further, since the battle is clearly raging on all fronts, it can be inferred that the ritual takes place at a rather desperate moment in the war.
The supplication scenes show no uniformity in how the child (or children) is depicted. Spalinger has isolated three different positions: 1. the child is shown alive being dangled over the city wall (compare the child on the left in the illustration); 2. the child is dead (compare the child on the right—the limp form indicates the child is dead; the man dangling 061the child may actually be cutting the throat!); 3. the child is being thrown over the wall.
One wonders if these depictions represent a sequence of events. A child is shown to the besiegers, it is slain in full view, and then the corpse is thrown down for the enemy to see. If this scenario is correct, then Margalit’s thesis, that the sacrifice of Mesha’s eldest son had a psychologically damaging effect on Israel, finds further support.
James K. Hoffmeir
Associate Professor of Archaeology
Attacks Prometheus Books “Misleading” Letter
In the last several issues I have followed the “flap” concerning BAR’s advertising policy. In general, I side with those who would not impose censorship on advertising. After all, each individual does have the liberty not to patronize a particular publishing company, and the ads do help keep BAR’s subscription rate at a price I can afford.
I would have been content to remain silent if it had not been for the letter of Paul Kurtz, Editor-in-Chief of Prometheus Books (Queries & Comments, BAR 12:06). I believe his letter exhibited a complete lack of candor.
Paul Kurtz, who had been the editor of The Humanist, stated that his books “represent a fairly liberal viewpoint.” This is a misleading statement. Prometheus’s books are not just somewhat or moderately liberal. 062They are antireligious. A sample of some of the Prometheus books are: The Atheist Debater’s Handbook; Atheism: The Case Against God; Against the Faith; Sexual Practices and the Medieval Church and S & M: Studies in Sadomasochism. If BAR readers are interested in the above books, they are free to patronize Prometheus Books. However, they should do so with their eyes open. Prometheus does not simply represent a more liberal, less literal approach to Biblical studies. Prometheus’s books are intent on destroying all religious belief.
Scott J. Klemm
Still More on the Shroud of Turin
I find your publication generally informative and interesting, and I appreciate it very much.
However, I feel that it is inappropriate that you should devote so much space and attention to the letters from readers concerning “The Shroud of Turin” in Queries & Comments, BAR 12:06.
Whether that piece of cloth is ever proven to be a fake or actually once used to surround the body of Jesus Christ our Savior, its existence is of no importance now. Some people are hoping to make it an object of worship, rather than centering their attention on the One who discarded it and rose from the dead clothed in a spiritual robe of righteousness.
Roland D. Coffman
I was very pleasantly surprised to read so many comments on the Shroud of Turin in Queries & Comments, BAR 12:06.
When the rulers of Byzantium (Constantinople) wanted relics of apostles and martyrs for the churches they were building in the city, they were given three and one half (3 ½) skulls of St. John the Baptist, every item properly authenticated, and certified by the concerned ecclesiastical authority. Of course, no one paid any attention to “How could the Baptist have 3 ½ heads?”
The Gospel of Matthew tells us that wise men (Magi) came to Jerusalem “from the East” looking for the King of the Jews. We do not know who they were, how many they were, and which part of the “East” the Gospel writer meant. But Christian tradition has taken care of all that. They were kings; there were three of them; their names were Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. At present their relics are venerated in the Cathedral at Cologne (Germany). These relics also have their authenticating certification from the proper ecclesiastical authorities.
The Shroud of Turin belongs in the same category. And for good measure, we have the True Cross, the Crown of Thorns, the Nails, the Lance, etc., etc.
Let the scientists try their best. The fact is this type of material is beyond their area of competency.
I have had the privilege of venerating the “feather” from the wings of Saint Michael the Archangel in Saint George’s Church, Edapalli, in the state of Kerala in India, as well as a piece of “lace” from the wedding gown of the Blessed Virgin Mary venerated in a church in Pittsburgh, PA. Is there need for anything more?
Fr. Joseph Kunju
It is reassuring to find others who are also concerned about that missing front-to-back skull dimension in the Shroud of Turin.
That the Shroud is not genuine is irrefutably evidenced by the doming of the head in both front and back views on the cloth. This proves that the imaging, however applied, is in portrait style, incorporating perspective and foreshortening but totally omitting the absolutely essential front to back wrap-around dimension across the top of the skull. No wrap-around dimension; no wrap-around shroud!
Roy S. Farmer
Los Angeles, California
“Queries & Comments” is one of the most interesting sections of BAR. It is a vivid testimony to the practice of the freedom of speech and thought we enjoy in the United States.
Whether we are right, wrong, inquisitive, or adding or challenging knowledge, we readers can speak—and, very frequently, reveal our underlying biases and impulsiveness in the process.
The ongoing discussion on the Shroud of Turin is a dramatic, and at times, humorous example.
Though questions still remain to be answered, the accumulated evidence in favor of its being the genuine article far outweighs that against. Nevertheless, I’ll withhold my personal firm commitment to one side or the other until, if ever, all the evidence is in. Professionals, and other thinking people are not claiming positively that it is genuine or otherwise, because there is no absolute evidence either way.
Rather than cast verbal stones at those that support or those that oppose the various interpretations of the Shroud of Turin, wouldn’t it be nicer to appreciate the fact that it exists, if for no other reason than because of the intense discussion and interest it has brought about concerning the death and resurrection of Jesus.
I thank the personnel of BAR very much for a beautiful important magazine, and for their free and open attitude which admits the fact that even those things anchored in granite are not so firm that they deny diverse interpretation, question, discussion and learning.
Frederick Brown, President
Rambyte Computer Institute
The putative mechanism formulated in “New Evidence May Explain Image on Shroud of Turin,” BAR 12:04, for explaining the formation of the image on the Turin Shroud is really quite untenable, relying as it does on a completely erroneous statement of the chemical behavior of linen.
First, mercerization requires a treatment with highly concentrated alkali; it just does not occur in “a slightly alkaline solution” at a pH below 8.5. Second, mercerization occurs at low temperatures near freezing point: The conversion would be stopped by heat, certainly not “speeded up.” Third, the “acid-alkaline reaction” of acetic acid solution (or acidic sweat or blood) with limestone would necessarily neutralize its already meager alkalinity, thereby leaving no reagent at all for a putative mercerization. Thus, the “explanation” is unfortunately merely a sham. I wonder who was the textile chemist consulted by the authors.
Dr. I. Irving Ziderman
Israel Fiber Institute
Ministry of Industry and Trade
The article, “New Evidence May Explain the Image on the Shroud of Turin,” BAR 12:04, by Joseph Kohlbeck and Eugenia Nitowski introduces an interesting concept that requires comment.
The validity of the hypothesis presented by Kohlbeck and Nitowski depends on a high skin temperature from heat stroke and the presence of an acidified sweat for the calcium carbonate to exert its effect in the mercerization process.
First of all, exhaustive studies in my laboratory revealed that the crucified died of traumatic and hypovolemic shock beginning with the brutal scourging and increasing in intensity with each subsequent event, such as the crowning of thorns, nailing the feet and hands, suffering on the cross, etc. (F. T. Zugibe, “Death by Crucifixion,” Canadian Society of Forensic Science 17 , pp. 1–13). One of the main signs of shock is a reduction in temperature characterized by “cool, pale, moist skin”.c
Their hypothesis is also untenable because the skin in heat stroke is not sweaty but extremely dry and hot with an absence of sweating because there is a dysfunction in the heat-regulating mechanism.d The authors attempt to support their theory a priori by quoting from Barbet’s book regarding observations made at Dachau concentration camp, “This sweat was especially abundant, indeed to an extraordinary extent, during the last few minutes before death”; and by quoting from my crucifixion studies where I indicated that a “marked sweating reaction became manifest in most individuals” (The Cross and the Shroud [Garnerville, NY: Angelus Books, 1982], p. 108). This was entirely true, but temperatures taken during the sweating episodes on numerous volunteers varied between 96–99° C. Neither of these quotes, however, support their hypothesis of heat stroke since this condition is manifested by high fevers and cessation of sweating with a dry skin.e
Another fact that militates against their hypothesis is the fact that heat stroke is characterized by a loss of consciousness.f According to Biblical accounts, Jesus never lost consciousness to the end: “Jesus, crying with a loud voice said, ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit!’ And having said this he breathed his last” (Luke 23:46).
A caution of utmost importance is that heat stroke must not be confused with heat exhaustion which is due to marked dehydration, and is characterized by normal or slightly elevated temperatures, weakness, profuse sweating and intense thirst.g It is of interest that the features exhibited during the crucifixion of Jesus appear to fit more appropriately into heat exhaustion. The feature of thirst was strikingly manifested by Jesus at the end of his ordeal when he said, “I thirst” (John 19:28). They immediately gave him vinegar to drink, after which he died.
Another point that needs clarification regards the terms postmortem caloricity or postmortem fever. I have been a full-time forensic pathologist-medical examiner for many years, yet I am totally unaware of these terms. I checked all of the forensic texts in my library, initiated a 20-year 065computer search and consulted with several of my colleagues, all to no avail.h Moreover, of the thousands of cases we investigate, we regularly do internal temperatures; yet I have never observed or even heard of a single case where the skin temperature was elevated 5 or 6 degrees above that maintained at death, as indicated by the authors. It is a known fact in forensic pathology that the decedent’s exterior (skin) reaches environmental temperature much more rapidly than does his interior. Also, the smaller the body mass, the cooler the environmental temperature and the less clothes wrapping the body, the more rapid the cooling time.i
Frederick T. Zugibe, M.D.
Garnerville, New York
As a casual observer of the Shroud of Turin saga, I found Kohlbeck and Nitowski’s article interesting. At least three things are suspect, however.
1. The article states that “the human body is 98% water.” Most average-build living adults I know are about 50–60% water.
2. The idea of “postmortem fever” is suggested as adding to the purported heat-induced changes in the shroud. This is a new concept to me. Having studied and practiced medical pathology for 13 years, I have never encountered that term. A computer search of pathology and autopsy literature failed to find reference to it. I would like to know more about it, if it exists.
The idea that areas of the body that “retained heat the longest, namely the chest and back,” form a denser image is a curious premise. If that is true, then why does the shroud have such prominent images of the beard, mustache, eyebrows and long scalp hair? Hair is not a heat reservoir.
3. Red particles from the “lance-wound” area were stated to be “organic rather than inorganic” based on color changes and appearance of “nuclei” after heating and storing in oil. Today, chemists do more than store things in oil to identify their chemical nature. The rationale for the conclusion that the material is organic is unclear. Further, normal red blood cells in a human adult have no nuclei.
If red blood cells can survive the desert heat in the autolyzing intestinal tissues of a working class body in an Egyptian mortuary,j then surely the shroud’s relatively drier extracorporeal environment would preserve them all the better. Medical microbiologists, for example, routinely use heat and desiccation as a fixative (preservative) when examining organisms microscopically. The particles depicted in BAR show none of the uniformity that would be expected in heated, desiccated red blood cells.
Normal red blood cells are about 8 microns across. Heating and drying would remove water from the interstices of the cells, but would probably not reduce them to 13–25% of their former diameter, like the 066one- or two-micron particles on the shroud fibers.
The authors should be commended for using cautious phrasing. Evidently, even more caution is in order when offering interpretations of the shroud.
R. E. Cook
Eugenia Nitowski replies:
During my study of the effects of death on the body I have been surprised at the different ways in which forensic pathologists and morticians view those changes. These differences are due, probably, to the way in which each discipline must treat the body to gain information from it. The forensic pathologist is concerned with cause and time of death, while the mortician immediately involves himself with stabilizing the body for the sake of preservation. The term postmortem caloricity or postmortem fever is a common one among morticians and is well documented in the standard textbook by Clarence G. Strub, L.E., and L. G. Frederick, L.E., LF.D., The Principles and Practice of Embalming (4th ed., Dallas, 1967). Forensic pathologists seem to have no term for this condition, but it is noted by Francis Camps et al. in Gradwohl’s Legal Medicine (Chicago, 1976), and has recently been discussed by Grover M. Hutchins, M.D., of the Johns Hopkins Department of Pathology in “Body Temperature Is Elevated in the Early Postmortem Period,” Human Pathology 16/6 (1985), pp. 560–561, where he recognizes the same cause of this condition as do the morticians.
Heatstroke, on the other hand, is comprehensively discussed in the article we quoted by S. Shibolet et al., “Heatstroke: Its Clinical Picture and Mechanism in 36 Cases,” Quarterly Journal of Medicine, New Series 36, No. 144 (October, 1967), pp. 525–547, where it is stated that their ten-year study is an attempt to “highlight the fallacy of some preconceived ideas regarding its mechanism” and especially in the case of profuse sweating which they found in all cases except one. They state, “this point is of great diagnostic importance, for dry skin is commonly regarded as one of the cardinal features of heatstroke and the presence of sweating has led to misdiagnosis of typical cases.” Body temperatures were found to exceed 42° C (108° F) at the moment of collapse. This seemed to support Barbel’s observations and did not disagree with Zugibe, since his volunteers were never brought to the limit, because no experiment in the laboratory could be taken to that extreme.
The use of the figure “98% water” was an amount gained from general sources and was used only to illustrate that water would be the medium which held temperature most like that of a human body.
The phrase about areas of the body that “retained heat the longest, namely the chest and back,” was clearly written as having reference to the manikin. In the human body, hair is not a heat reservoir. But the head is, unless it belongs to a three-foot-tall manikin which because of size and structural support will not retain heat.
The fibers containing red particles from the lance wound area were not stored in oil to identify their chemical nature. As stated, the samples were mounted in two different kinds of immersion media for the sake of obtaining greater clarity in photography. The samples were then simply put away until further use was required. Later examination showed the red particles had turned black with a yellow exudate. An inorganic substance, claimed by some in this instance to be iron oxide, would not exhibit such a change; an organic substance would however.
While heat and desiccation may be used in the laboratory as a fixative, dehydration as viewed in the red particles, in the fibers themselves and other materials found on the shroud does not follow standard uniformity due both to the age of the cloth and the deteriorative process.k The cathedral fire of 0671532 would have a further effect, since the silver of the case holding the shroud reached the molten state. Further, we said that the particles “appeared to have nuclei,” a simple comparison to describe what was viewed in the microscope.
Samaritan Leader Disputes Altar Interpretation
I followed with great interest the argument between Professor Aharon Kempinski of the University of Tel Aviv and Mr. Adam Zertal of the University of Haifa with respect to the identity of the site unearthed by Zertal on the northeastern slope of Mt. Ebal (“Joshua’s Altar—An Iron Age I Watchtower,” BAR 12:01, Aharon Kempinski, and “How Can Kempinski Be So Wrong!” BAR 12:01, Adam Zertal; Queries & Comments, BAR 12:04, letters from Kempinski, Anson Rainey and Michael P. Thompson; Queries & Comments, BAR 12:05, letter from Zertal replying to Anson Rainey). Kempinski concludes that the site is nothing but an agricultural watchtower, as against the excavator of the site (Zertal), who is convinced that he discovered an altar dating from the settlement period, which is related to the Israelites’ entry to the Land of Canaan headed by Joshua ben-Nun.
I wish to thank Professor Kempinski for using my writings on the subject as supporting evidence. It is noteworthy that Kempinski is not alone in his opinion that the site is a watchtower, or that it is certainly not an altar.
I think that the time has come to tell the truth unequivocally and unambiguously: Identifying the site discovered by Zertal with “Joshua ben-Nun’s altar” is nothing but a gimmick adopted by a political organization, which intends to develop the site and turn it into a tourist attraction. What could be more successful and profitable as a gimmick than to identify Zertal’s site with Joshua’s altar, which according to the Samaritan version of the Torah was constructed on Mt. Gerizim (not Mt. Ebal) and according to the Jewish Torah on Mt. Ebal. Apart from the interest and amusement I find in this matter, I can only feel sorry that my friend Zertal was carried away by this gimmick.
However, let us get to the point. In my humble opinion, the site discovered by Zertal may be a watchtower (as most researchers believe), altar (as a minority believe) or anything else, other than “Joshua ben-Nun’s altar.” The possibility that Zertal discovered “Joshua’s altar,” the altar which the Israelites were commanded to erect when they entered the Land of 068Israel, is irreconcilable with the following points: These points were presented to Zertal by myself personally and in the Israeli press, but so far, for understandable reasons, Zertal has not responded to them.
1. The main witness against identifying the site as “Joshua ben-Nun’s altar” is its location. The site discovered by Zertal is remote and inaccessible, on the northeastern slope of Mt. Ebal. From the site, it is not possible to view Mt. Gerizim, the mountain situated opposite Mt. Ebal, and certainly not Shechem. These facts irreconcilably contradict the Biblical description linking the erection of the altar with the “Blessing and Curse” Ceremony performed on Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal on sites opposite each other and overlooking Shechem (Joshua 8). The description in Joshua 8 notes the location of the ceremony as the valley between the two mountains.
2. In the Bible (Deuteronomy 11) the site of the Blessing and Curse Ceremony is described as “by the way where the sun goeth down,” whereas the site discovered by Zertal overlooks the way where the sun goeth down (the road rising from Wadi Faraha to Shechem).
3. How could it be that an altar erected at the command of the Lord to signify the commencement of the settlement by the Israelites of their land, an altar upon which “all the words of this Law” were written and which, according to the Jewish version of the Torah, was constructed on Mt. Ebal, has left no trace or mention in other later Biblical traditions, or in the traditions of the Samaritan Israelites who have been living in the area for over a hundred generations?
A final word. In early 1984, I tended to be persuaded by my friend Zertal that he had indeed unearthed at least an Israelite altar, as part of a chain of Israelite altars at Gilgal, Mitzpah, Shiloh and other places, which may have been the fashion during the period of settlement of the Israelites of their land. However, one item discovered by Zertal in excavating the site led me to doubt gravely the Israelite identity of the site. Zertal discovered animal bones, as well as rabbit or hare bones. These animals were defined as unclean and unfit for consumption in the Bible, on the same level as pigs and camels (Deuteronomy 14:7–8). There was no Israelite altar or watchtower there. Maybe Canaanites; but the Israelites have never been there.
Benyamim Tsedaka, Director
Institute of Samaritan Studies
(The writer is the editor and author of the articles “Samaritans” in the Encyclopedia Judaica, the Hebrew Encyclopedia, the Youth Encyclopedia Brittanica and the Encyclopedia for the History of Eretz-Israel.)
Adam Zertal does not claim that the structure he excavated is Joshua’s altar, only that it is an Israelite altar.—Ed.
Humor in BAR
I greatly enjoyed your scholarly yet intelligibly written magazine, and even the not-so-scholarly ads by various eschatalogical kooks. These add an appreciated touch of humor.
Richard L. Tierney, President
Unitarian Fellowship of North Central Iowa
Mason City, Iowa
Archaeologists at the White Throne
After reading your magazine for two years, I imagine that there will be many archaeologists at the White Throne of Judgment (Revelation 20:11–15) trying to convince God that His Word is in error.
The Temple Mount Stories