Queries & Comments
No Cigar-Smoking Archaeologists for Her
I recently subscribed to Biblical Archaeology Review and cancelled when I received my first magazine [July/August 1987]. I was very much upset. The first thing I saw when I opened it was a picture of a man [Avraham Biran] with a cigar in his mouth (
I am sorry but this is my feeling in this matter. I don’t think it’s a good example for young people to follow.
Louise V. Shawl
Biran Revered Even Though He Smokes Cigars
How wonderful it was to read the interview with Avram Biran in the July/August issue of BAR (
I was a volunteer worker at Tel Dan from 1972–1984 and gathered all the data for my doctoral dissertation at the site and at the group’s living quarters (“Patterns of Organizational Communication Among Volunteer Workers in an Israel Archaeological Excavation”). Without his support, guidance, and superb role model of leadership, this effort would not have been the success, and even pleasure, it was.
Dr. Biran has a networking system that is unsurpassed. He provided the wit, humor, learning experiences, love and care for each volunteer that has endeared him throughout the world among all who have worked for and with him, listened to him lecture, or associated with him in all his endeavors. He has that rare ability of making everyone feel important and needed, and thus willing to give to one’s fullest potential, and more. Everywhere Avram Biran travels, his “disciples” run at every opportunity to meet and be with him. He even keeps us all posted on “the latest at Dan,” regardless of when we were with him.
Avram Biran’s influence will last long after he, characteristically humble yet enthusiastically, admits. Many short articles, novellas, and lectures have been turned out by those who played a part in Dan, and he has been the central character in all of them, either directly or as the prototype, and I have received copies of these as a “matter of loving interest.” Dr. Biran and Tel Dan attract persons of all ages, all levels of education, all professions, and all social stations in life. He even counts among his closest friends those from whom he has had to do fund-raising for his digs.
I can hardly wait for his writings, and when he is 80 I hope he will return to Tel Dan, and I, at 60, would like to be there again with him. Thanks again for the penetrating and enlightening interview!
Sondra O. Kaufman
Professor of Communication
University of Texas at Arlington
Is He Dancing or Playing Lacrosse?
I was delighted with the photo of the so-called “Dancer from Dan” which accompanied your interview of Avraham Biran in the July/August issue of BAR (
The most interesting part is the headdress. Computer enhancement or manipulation might help give a better picture. Maybe the kid is wearing a helmet or animal head or even a protective mask. Maybe the hair is just pulled up to one side. Certainly the left side of the figure’s head looks like an animal’s snout and above the figure’s left eye there may be the eye which goes with the animal snout.
To me, some kid won the little league lacrosse of Dan of 1300 B.C. and got a nice plaque medallion as a trophy.
Thank you for the good photo of this interesting artifact.
Support for Exodus Redating
Thank you for publishing the excellent article by John J. Bimson and David Livingston on “Redating the Exodus,” BAR 13:05. As a teacher of Old Testament in a Bible college (Pacific Christian College in California) for many years, I wrestled with this problem. Years ago I concluded that mid-15th century was best suited to the Exodus, both from the Biblical record and from the history of Egypt and of Canaan.
Also, the relocation of Bethel and Ai was 016long overdue. Having visited both Et Tell and Beitin, I concluded that the topography of those sites was not in agreement with the Bible narratives. This suggestion will probably be met with many objections by the “establishment,” but we can pray that the truth will finally prevail.
I do not call myself a fundamentalist, but others might. I am sure that many of those who cancelled their subscriptions because of the “idol ads” would like to read an article like this one on the Exodus. I have appreciated your open-minded policy that permits publication of articles that present differing viewpoints.
Wm. Harvey Beard
Long Beach, California
John Bimson promotes a solid case for a renewed investigation of his basic premise that both the Biblical and archaeological evidence mesh if only the dating of Middle Bronze II C is lowered slightly. After all, at this time, there is no firm historical or archaeological data to the contrary as to why the lower limits of the Middle Bronze Age cannot be so extended.
Robert I. Vasholz, Chairman
Department of Old Testament
Covenant Theological Seminary
I have always been skeptical of anyone who tries to develop a comprehensive theory based on only one or two known facts. Only with a large number of facts that fit together well can one begin to formulate a broad theory with any degree of certainty. It appears that John J. Bimson and David Livingston [“Redating the Exodus,” BAR 13:05] have given us just such a well supported theory.
It is good to see scholars with courage to express ideas that take into account recent discoveries, especially when they will probably be severely criticized by others who cling passionately to older interpretations and who often ignore the significance of new findings that contradict their presuppositions. The fact that this new interpretation fits so well with the Bible’s own statements is satisfying to those of us who believe the Biblical record. We’ve expected all along that careful science would confirm the Bible’s historical statements.
Reece B. White, Jr.
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Wait Till You Hear the Other Side
Regarding Bimson and Livingston’s redating of the Exodus and Conquest, I am reminded of Proverbs 18:17: “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.”
I do not know if Bimson and Livingston are more right than wrong in their conclusions about Old Testament chronology, and I look forward to studying the rebuttal in BAR [see “Radical Exodus Redating Fatally Flawed,” BAR 13:06], but I can say from many years of study of this excruciating problem of ancient chronology that the conventional chronology—a legacy from Albright—is no bargain. It is based on assumptions and supposed anchor dates that are very fragile, indeed.
I find it refreshing that BAR dares to present a dissenting voice who will enrage many closed minds on the subject. More power to Bimson and his wonderful ilk.
Dr. Erich A. von Fange, Ph.D.
The Cancellation Letters Because of the Greek Magical Papyri
I just received your September/October 1987 issue and read with dismay the letters sent to you (Queries & Comments, BAR 13:05) in reaction to your review of The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation, Vol. I (Books in Brief, BAR 13:03).
As a Christian, I am also opposed to witchcraft; but I do not feel you are sinning against the teachings of the Bible just because you published some prayers that no 017devoted Christian in his right mind would repeat.
As publisher of a magazine of BAR’s very high quality, your task is to inform and instruct the people; if some of your readers (ex-readers?) were piously scandalized, I do not think it is your fault!
I am thankful for the excellent quality of your publication; you cannot please all your readers all the time. Then again, you do not write a magazine to please the readers, but to instruct them. Keep up the good work!
Dr. William Debrot, Pastor
Bethany United Methodist Church
All of the hullabaloo in the correspondence section of your September/October issue (Queries & Comments, BAR 13:05) about the review of the Greek Magical Papyri simply reveals the narrow-mindedness of those who wrote. Let truth be in the field!
Know your enemy! If occultism is the enemy, and of course it is for those believers who hold a high view of Scripture, then knowledge of it is essential for informed analysis.
I promise not to cancel my subscription.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Would You Jump Into a Fire to Understand It?
A huge uncontrollable fire is white-hot and destructive. Would you jump into its flames for a better understanding of fire? Would you live or would you die?
Are you “in the dark” regarding the evil of promoting sales of replica statuary idols, such as the bull’s head advertised in the September/October issue?
This has spoiled all the rest of the good in the publication and has sickened me to the extent that in the name of Jesus I will not subscribe to this magazine.
More on the Cancellation Letters Over the Greek Magical Papyri
Thank you for including the review of Greek Magical Papyri. It was interesting and enlightening. Magic has always been an integral part of religious practice, and therefore should be studied in order to fully understand and appreciate the role of religions in world history. I am amazed and disgusted at the narrow-mindedness of some people who condemned the review under the pretext of Christianity. BAR is an excellent magazine, and I salute the editors for the inclusion of this book review!
It is a toss-up which brings me more pleasure, the arrival of your excellent magazine, or the beginning of the National and Collegiate Football season. BAR does have the advantage of being a year-long experience whereas football is seasonal.
The articles are always enjoyable and thought-provoking. But I reckon the “Queries & Comments” section is, just barely, the best part of each issue.
It never ceases to amaze me when subscribers cancel their subscriptions because of some new information imparted in BAR. The latest “furor” over the book review of Greek Magical Papyri is a case in point. Many writers took issue with the concept of magic, or spells. Yet, pray tell, what is “prayer” but a beseeching of a deity to render aid and/or comfort to the beseecher?
Archaeological evidence seems to indicate that from an early point in man’s history he has realized that “something” or “someone” is above him. Sites throughout the world testify to man’s attempt to placate the Deity, or Deities. Digs from pre-historic times, plus later written history, testify to the fact that countless millions of human beings have perished because they did not worship in the way someone else thought they should.
Mankind was given the gift of thought, of reason. The human mind was not meant to stagnate, to accept only one idea and to forever reject other ideas, other concepts. BAR successfully challenges the intellect. Keep up the good work!
For Some It Works; For Some It Doesn’t
First let this obese family physician from rural Oregon thank you for publishing the only magazine that I read cover to cover long before picking up a medical journal. BAR is my all-time favorite magazine.
Second, thank you from my impotent patients, several of whom I allowed to read the magic spells for producing an erection. These guys are desperate and will try anything. Some have reported success of Biblical proportions and now I am considering a possible change in my practice to 064spells and incantations. To quote Macbeth, “Throw physic to the dogs, I’ll none of it.”
Steven K. Bidleman, M.D
Klamath Falls, Oregon
I have been a subscriber to BAR for about 13 years. I enjoy your magazine a lot. I particularly enjoy the letters which denounce you for not being a Christian magazine. Some of our Christian brethern can get so much abuse into their invective when they are denouncing you for sinful writing. You can just see them grinding their teeth to think that anyone would use the word Biblical and talk about such nasty things.
Your September/October issue contained a series of cancellations because of something pornographic that was written in the May/June issue. The letters were so despairing of your souls I had to go back to the May/June issue to review what you had said. I then remembered that when I read the sidebar dealing with magical formulas and spells (
This time I read all the Formulas and Spells. Last night I tried the formula on how to get an erection whenever you want. It didn’t work.
William F. Millner, Ph.D.
Idaho State University
Adult Book Stores Aren’t Their Thing
As Bible scholars we were enjoying the photos and other things in your magazine. However when you stooped to the level of printing that filth in your May/June issue we felt we’d had enough. We didn’t subscribe to get a workshop on sexual practices. Adult bookshops aren’t our thing.
It boggles my mind how you could print such explicit diatribe—and then in the next issue instead of facing the facts and apologizing you loudly proceeded as though that was all we should have expected anyway. Please cancel our subscription.
Frank and Jean Sandford
P.S. If you print our letter, could you grant us the courtesy of sending us a copy of that issue?
O.K. How does it look?—Ed.
BAR’s Poor Judgment
I agree with many of your readers that someone used poor judgment in including the last two examples given in “Various Aids” in the review of Greek Magical Papyri. I could not disagree more that “Christians”—or those of any other faith—should be sheltered from thoughts and ideas that may differ from their own. How can we truly understand our own religion—and its origins—without some knowledge of other beliefs and practices prevailing in its infancy and during its growth?
Thank you for a fine magazine and for your courage. Please continue my subscription.
As I read the cancellation letters because of your review of Greek Magical Papyri, I roared with laughter at the ex-subscribers’ tunnel vision. They remind me of self-righteous individuals who believe their interpretation of a specific English translation of the Bible is the all encompassing Word of God and Law of the Universe. This mentality is probably what fueled the witch burnings of centuries past.
Please continue my subscription at all costs.
How Greek Magical Papyri Reaffirmed One Reader’s Christian Faith
Unlike the people who wrote complaining about the review of Greek Magical Papyri and the advertisements for false gods, I was pleased to have this information. How can anyone make a valid comparison between Christianity and ancient religions if no one dares to print specific data? How can one be a scholar if areas of history remain unavailable for study? As far as I’m concerned, the people who complained are not scholars, but narrow-minded watch dogs. They are unable to absorb the scope of this magazine, not because they are stupid, but because they have already decided what archaeology must say about the Bible.
I hope you aren’t cowed by these small minds. If people like that are allowed to dictate what sources are used to expand education, understanding and enlightenment, the scholars may as well close their books, teachers stop teaching and archaeologists hang up their shovels.
In fact, the article on magic helped me see how much more logical Christianity is, how much firmer the foundation I have to build on, and how much loftier the aim is. How strange to depend on spells to clear up a problem, and not on God.
How Greek Magical Papyri Assisted Current Research
The cancellation letters in the September/October BAR reflect incredible confusion—confusing the difference between scientific/historical research and religious declaration.
The mentality of persons offended by the objectively stated findings of historical research that is entirely unaccompanied by any intention to be religiously or ideologically persuasive reminds me of the type of mentality that had no scruples to destroy the Alexandrian library.
I found the article about the Greek Magical Papyri objective and insightful from an historical point of view; indeed, it helped me in my current research project.
I remain confident that neither literary benightedness nor religious narrow-mindedness will ever intimidate editorial policy of your fine and informative publication.
You may be assured that I shall continue to recommend BAR to my students and colleagues.
Hans Sebald, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology
Arizona State University
A Bad Pun on BAR Editor’s Name
Hershel’s shanks have been switched enough already! “Some Magical Formulas and Spells” belongs in the “Aw, C’mon” Dept., good for a couple of laughs, the best way to dispel any latent satanic focus or intent. At most it was in bad taste.
Margaret M. Parkhurst
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Calling Israel the Holy Land
I enjoy BAR but I am getting profoundly weary of the extensive use of the description Holy Land. It is as if writers are reluctant to use the name Israel.
On flights to Israel I often ask leaders of the religious groups inevitably aboard, as well as their members, what their destination is. The response is always the Holy Land. When I ask where in the Holy Land they are going, they mention an assortment of sites in Israel. In reading BAR, as well as letters, again the mention of Israel seems to be anathema on their lips and in their pens.
The Holy Land happens to be essentially in one country. Why not identify that country in BAR and in discussions?
North Hollywood, California
Ancient Chorazin Is Still Dead
It has amazed me time after time when people have written in to cancel their subscription to your magazine. I have enjoyed many of its articles and the issues raised by it, and I thank you for doggedly pursuing the evidence of Scripture. I do not always agree with the point of view presented or the conclusions drawn. However, neither am I so naive as to think that Biblical means Christian, nor does Christian mean Evangelical or Christ-centered.
It does not surprise me that distasteful things, or even forbidden things would appear in Biblical Archaeology Review. What does trouble me is Ze’ev Yeivin’s statement that Chorazin has come back to life, when what happened is that dedicated archaeologists have discovered and reconstructed what life was like in ancient Chorazin. Mr. Yeivin’s implication in “Ancient Chorazin Comes Back to Life,” BAR 13:05, is that even though Jesus condemned this “medium sized town,” it went on living and now is living again. Need I point out 066that archaeological evidence that is beautiful and well preserved is still a pile of lifeless rocks.
Reverend Richard Wise
South Hills Church of the Nazarene
Bethel Park, Pennsylvania
The criticism should be directed to the editor who choose the title, not to Mr. Yeivin. We did not mean to imply that the city of Chorazin today contradicts Jesus’ condemnation of the town.—Ed.
NEAS Inerrancy Oath
Thank you for your congratulatory words concerning the Exodus Symposium recently held in Memphis, Tennessee, under the auspices of the Memphis Area Chapter of the Near East Archaeological Society [
You said: “From a scientific viewpoint, the sponsorship of the colloquium was suspect. As a condition of membership, NEAS requires execution of an oath or affirmation of faith that ‘the Bible alone and the Bible in its entirety is the Word of God written and therefore inerrant in the Autographs.’”
This sole doctrinal affirmation of the NEAS speaks to the nature of the Biblical autographs; it does not address the matter of hermeneutics. Indeed, differing viewpoints were held by NEAS members on the program. You are correct when you say that there is more than one view within NEAS.
James E. Powell, President
Memphis Area Chapter
Near East Archaeological Society
Why Dr. Hadidi Failed to Appear
I read with interest and appreciation your critical analysis of the NEAS Exodus Symposium in
Of course, I, as well as the Memphis Chapter, have conveyed our apologies. The statement that Adnan Hadidi “failed to show up” leaves a false impression. I would appreciate it, if you could put a note of explanation in a soon to be published issue of BAR.
W. Harold Mare
President, Near East Archaeological Society and Professor of New Testament
Covenant Theological Seminary
St. Louis, Missouri
Questions About Solomon’s Temple Remain
I greatly enjoyed the article “What Can Archaeology Tell Us About Solomon’s Temple,” BAR 13:04, by Volkmar Fritz. Having wrestled with the Biblical texts for a number of years and attempted to produce an authentic model, I am thankful for the light now shed by archaeology so well described in this article.
But why omit the details of the side chambers? The text here is very detailed and sound. I wonder if any archaeological discoveries have similar side chambers?
The height of Jachin and Boaz, the pillars in the portico, presents a problem. In 1 Kings 7:15, each pillar is 18 cubits high but in 2 Chronicles 3:15, each is 35 cubits high! Is there any evidence elsewhere of similar decorative pillars?
Upper chambers are mentioned in 2 Chronicles 3:9. Were these above the Most Holy Place? Have similar upper chambers been suggested elsewhere?
There do not appear to be steps into or inside Solomon’s Temple. Is this significant, common or unique?
Thanks again for such a stimulating and informative article—as usual well presented.
Doesn’t Read What He Doesn’t Like, But Likes What He Reads
Your article in the September/October 1987 issue of BAR dealing with the bullae from the time of Jeremiah (“Jeremiah’s Scribe and Confidant Speaks from a Hoard of Clay Bullae,” BAR 13:05) is of immense interest to me. It was exciting to read and fascinating to contemplate what kinds of documents they may have sealed.
Keep up the good work you are doing. BAR is a great enjoyment to me. Like many people, I don’t agree with some things, but then I don’t have to read them, do I?
Edward A. Johnson
Daniel Fragments Ready for Press
Professor Frank Moore Cross, Jr., has a fragment of Daniel from Cave 4, which is reputed to have considerable paleographical significance. (See Cross’s book, The Ancient Library of Qumran, rev. ed. [Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1961], p. 43.) Has this fragment been photographed? What are his plans for publishing it?
Frank W. Hardy
Frank Moore Cross replies:
The Daniel fragments are being edited by Eugene Ulrich, to whom I assigned them. His edition is ready for press.
Critique of BAR’s Turkey Tour
Your readers might be interested in my critique of the Biblical Archaeology Society’s 067Turkey tour, three weeks, September 1987. From the very beginning the tour was absolutely outstanding. Janice Krause was courteous and helpful at all stages. It was a pleasure doing business with her.
Sevin, the Turkish tour representative, was delightful. She was cheerful, and very, very efficient. She really could not have been more thoughtful and cooperative in all phases of the tour. A few members of the tour made what, to me, were unnecessary picayunish comments about the food, but even so Sevin made mid-course corrections and satisfied even those demands. From an administrative standpoint, she made the tour comfortable, she smoothed out what would otherwise have been the rough edges, and she represented both the Society and the Turkish people in an exemplary fashion.
The absolute crowning achievement of the Society was in procuring the services of Avner Goren, our Israeli archaeologist. In the course of my travels, I have met, conversed with and been instructed by some fine guides. But Avner is by far the finest.
Avner’s unfailing good humor and patience endeared him to all of us on the tour. His subject matter knowledge, experience and expertise were simply outstanding. Despite cultural and religious complexities, Avner’s sensitivity and thorough understanding were incredibly complete in the preparation and presentation.
Prior to this tour, I had travelled rather extensively in southwestern Turkey and had done a good deal of reading on its history—as had several other members of the tour. As a result, I was starting the tour relatively well-informed. Avner’s wonderful contribution to all of this was to flesh out my thinking and to bring together a great many confused and seemingly disparate facts and concepts. He sensitively addressed the artistic, cultural and ethical considerations, commencing with the Neolithic and early Hittite cultures, carrying them right through to late Ottoman times; he left us with an integrated, cohesive and coherent sequence of events and cultures—a fascinating picture for which I had unsuccessfully groped for several years.
For my money, Avner Goren is the greatest.
William A. Lucking, Jr.
Law Offices of Lucking, Bertelsen, Bysshe & Kuttler
How a Tourist Guide Should Relate to a Pilgrim
This letter is not written in defence of Mr. I. Martin’s booklet Six New Testament Walks in Jerusalem, which is, in my opinion also, superficial and suffers from inexcusable mistakes [see review in Books in Brief, BAR 13:05].
What raises my doubts about Murphy-O’Connor’s review—whose book The Holy Land is a welcome help in my guiding—is his concept of a guide’s task. He writes “The purpose of a pilgrimage … is to root faith in history”; he continues “It is really quite easy to tell them the truth.”
Is it? I agree that a guide certainly should not tell “half-truths, sheer fantasy and downright falsehood”—he should tell the full truth. But what can a simple guide do, when even Christian historians, archaeologists and theologians deeply disagree? Consider, for example, the route of the Via Dolorosa, the Way of the Cross. What shall I, a simple guide, do when not all scientists find the evidence of Herod’s Palace as the starting point for the Via Dolorosa as overwhelming as Murphy-O’Connor does? What shall I say when the Franciscan monks lead a spectacular procession every Friday afternoon along “their” Via Dolorosa? Is everything really as clear and unequivocally proven as Murphy-O’Connor wants us to believe? Is Jesus’ mother buried in the Kidron Valley outside Jerusalem or in Ephesus in Turkey?
No, Fr. Murphy-O’Connor, things are not as simple for a guide as they appear to you. A guide should tell the truth, but the truth is very different even in different Christian eyes. I believe the guide should tell his guests about proposed alternatives.
My own experience with different groups of pilgrims has taught me that it is not up to me to take sides in scientific and theological disputes or to “root faith in history,” as you demand. If my guiding assists this process, that is a welcome by-product.
The average pilgrim comes to the Holy Land because he wants his faith embedded in the emotional experience of the atmosphere, the landscape, the surroundings, where the substance of his belief probably took place. To help the pilgrim realize a strong feeling of participation is much more important than the question of the time of the origin of a tradition.
A guide should stick scrupulously to the truth; but certainly not only to the truth—or not only to the truth as it can be proven. He should make the pilgrim feel part of history by relating significant traditions, stressing that they are traditions only and characteristic anecdotes. That is what the average pilgrim expects and what will stick in the mind when done properly. That makes the great expense of the long journey—for which the pilgrim has saved for so long—worthwhile.
Perez F. Harburger
Solomon’s Pillow Talk with His Egyptian Wife
In your May/June 1987 issue [
What do you suppose their pillow talk was? Like other royal daughters, she read and wrote and likely brought with her the latest scrolls including love poetry and wisdom literature. Do you suppose she shared her literary treasures with her husband? Of course!
No Cigar-Smoking Archaeologists for Her