Queries & Comments
Dead Sea Scrolls
In the November/December 1991 issue three supposedly new texts were published, with translations by Robert Eisenman (“Long-Secret Plates from the Unpublished Corpus,” BAR 17:06).
The text labeled “A War Prayer” was previously published as 4Q501 Lamentation by Maurice Baillet in Qumran Grotte 4, vol. 3 (4Q482–4Q520), Discoveries in the Judaean Desert VII (Oxford: Clarendon, 1982), pl. XXVIII. An English translation can be found in Geza Vermes, The Dead Sea Scrolls in English, 3rd ed. (Penguin, 1987), p. 216.
Professor Eisenman does not translate the second column of what he calls “The Testament of Kohath.” Your readers may be interested in knowing that four lines (9–12) of the second column were printed in Hebrew and translated into French by J. T. Milik in “4Q Visions de ‘Amram et une citation d’Origène,” Revue Biblique 79 (1972), p. 97. The full publication of this document has been announced by Emile Puech, “Le Testament de Qahat en araméen de la Grotte 4 (4QTQahat),” Revue de Qumran 15 (1991), forthcoming.
It is interesting that with all of the furor about the unpublished texts so few people have actually studied what has been published. Probably most people reading “A War Prayer” will not recognize that it has been published before. In some ways so much has been published that it is difficult to keep track of it all. Still, we look forward to the full publication of all the texts.
Dr Stephen A. Reed, Cataloguer
Ancient Biblical Manuscript Center
Fraud by BAR
FRAUD! In the November/December 1991 issue you claim to have published “Long-Secret Plates from the Unpublished Corpus” of Dead Sea Scrolls (“Long-Secret Plates from the Unpublished Corpus,” BAR 17:06), adding that “We planned to publish the three secret texts on this page even before the Huntington Library decided to release its photographs … However, we now expect considerably less flack from the scroll cartel for doing so.” Now get ready for the flack! It comes, however, not from the “scroll cartel” or the “former monopolists,” for I am a member of neither of these elite groups. The flack comes from a simple, run-of-the-mill Bible scholar who tries to do his work with whatever meager supply of readily available books and journals his employer provides him. The flack comes from someone who isn’t even involved—and has no reason or desire to get involved—in the present scrolls controversy. Why, therefore, am I enraged and why have I chosen to ignore the wisdom of Solomon by taking the dog by the ears and getting involved in a feud not my own? I am enraged because you are claiming to sell me and the public at large new goods while in fact, behind our back, you are proffering the Brooklyn Bridge.
The War Prayer published as “a secret text” is no such thing! It is none other than 4Q501, a text published in 1982, in the official publication by Maurice Baillet, Qumran Grotte 4, vol. 3 (4Q482–4Q520), Discoveries in the Judaean Desert VII (Oxford: Clarendon, 1982). Baillet provides a photograph, transcription, French translation and philologic commentary to the text, which is what every competent scholar is expected to do when providing an editio princeps. The scholarly world and the public did not have to wait for the text to be wrested from its captors by the Robin Hoods at BAR and the Huntington Library, nor did they have to suffer the provocative and sensationalist translation and comments so generously provided by Robert H. Eisenman. It is available to any person, male or female, Jew or gentile, black or white, straight or gay, whose scholarly abilities extend past reading the front page of the New York Times.
If Professor Eisenman wants to claim that this text is a “war prayer” and not a “lamentation” as Baillet suggests, he has every right to do so, although he will probably have difficulty making his case. If he wants to claim that the parallel with the New Testament’s Letter of James (3:5–8) is more significant than any or all of the parallels in the Hebrew Bible, he has every right to do so, although he must again prove his argument. But, if he chooses to do so he may have to do it modestly in a lower profile publication such as Revue de Qumran, Journal of Biblical Literature or Catholic Biblical Quarterly. There he will have to face the critique of editors, the review of peers and the reactions of scholars, and he won’t be 012known any more in the larger world for the effort. He has no right to present a published text to the world and claim that it has never before been seen by anyone outside the small cadre of insiders. If he has done so out of ignorance and not out of maliciousness, he has no right to portray himself as a qualified expert in Qumran studies and BAR has the responsibility of confirming the authority of its sources. At most BAR and Professor Eisenman may claim to be ignorant bystanders, not sufficiently familiar with the rules and tactics of the game being played before their eyes.
BAR has served the public and the world of scholarship well over the years by being informative, interesting and innovative. BAR has brought archaeology and archaeologists into the limelight as never before and has provided the public great, highbrow entertainment showing lively people in a fascinating profession. Numerous scholars, including myself, have made money writing for BAR and its sister publication Bible Review and as recipients of its publication awards. BAR has also made some sort of contribution to speeding up the publication of the scrolls, although its journalistic modus operandi may not have been the most endearing or the most effective way to prod scholars to do faster what they have tried to do all along on their own. For all this we may be grateful. Nonetheless, the irresponsible, sensation-seeking, self-indulgent attempt to dupe the public with secondhand wares is unforgivable.
Since I do not subscribe to BAR, I cannot threaten to cut off my subscription, nor can I offer an incentive by promising to renew it when it expires. I can only implore its editor, a man I consider a friend and benefactor, to assume for himself as a journalist some of the same scholarly standards and public responsibility he has been demanding of the academics he takes pleasure in provoking.
Dr. Victor (Avigdor) Hurowitz
Dept. of Bible and Ancient Near East
Ben Gurion University
Beer Sheba, Israel
Dr. Hurowitz, currently at the Annenberg Research Institute in Philadelphia, is the author of “When Did God Finish Creation?” BR 03:04.—Ed.
Robert Eisenman replies:
Two out of the three plates were unpublished. The third (A War Prayer) was taken from an unpublished plate, but one of the three fragments on that plate turns out to have been published.
No plate numbers or indication that it was from a larger plate were ever given, and the rendering of it was incomprehensible. This is the problem in Qumran studies, which A Facsimile Edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls [available from BAS, see inside front cover] will hopefully go a long way toward solving.
A part of the second column of the Testament of Kohath, indeed, had been published, but defectively and incompletely as “the Testament of Amram” [sic]. We knew this, but did not wish to embarrass those who published it this way, so we chose to ignore this mistake.
Our translation and commentary of the fragment we call “A War Prayer” is superior in almost every instance to that of Baillet and Vermes, who rendered the text that they describe as a “lamentation,” so innocuous that it was ignored. In fact, we are glad we made this mistake, because if we had not, this precious text would have been completely overlooked. As it is, it illustrates how a few changes in translation can bring a text either dramatically alive or reduce it to insignificance. But this is what competition is all about.
Thanks from an Honors Class
We are members of an honors seminar in a history of world civilizations class taught by Mrs. Donna Gilboa at Sacred Heart Preparatory. We have committed ourselves to additional reading, projects, document analysis and more demanding examinations. 014One of our first assignments this year was a document analysis; however, instead of using the traditional “ancient document in translation,” Mrs. Gilboa gave us an article from the newspaper about “bootleg publication” of the Dead Sea Scrolls. She then brought in over five years of past issues of your magazine and required that we search out articles concerning the scrolls, the lengthy delays in publication and associated controversies. Each of us was to select an article or articles that reflected a significant aspect of the controversy. We discussed the conflict in our seminar and each turned in his/her own written analysis.
We would like to express our gratitude to BAR for bringing to the public’s attention (and ours) the controversy surrounding the publication of the remaining scrolls. We admire your persistence in attempting to accelerate the process. In addition, we are delighted to have been able to use BAR as a primary source for this project.
Rebecca Burton, Heather Harmon, Kim Hoakenga, Corissa Leung, Karen Lindblom, David Murphy, Mary Rahn, Margarita Woc
Sacred Heart Preparatory
Academics Worse Than Politicians
Congratulations on publishing A Facsimile Edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Now the rest of the world will know what the cabal has hidden from us for so long. I suspect, as do you, that only academic jealousy and scholarly greed has kept the texts and their fragments from us. I also suspect that none of it needed hiding.
I can’t say enough to thank you for persisting in the task. You now know what I learned years ago: Academic politics gives professional politics a bad name.
Day and Night Roman Assault
My comments concern the use of ballistae artillery at Masada (“The Last Days and Hours at Masada,” BAR 17:06).
Ehud Netzer suggests that the Zealots erected a ballista atop tower 1038 in order “to hurl stones at the Roman soldiers building the ramp.” This is historically incorrect and uncharacteristic of Roman policy toward vanquished subjects. Judean slaves were in fact building that ramp; sweating, starving, bleeding and dying under the whips of Roman soldiers. It would indeed be interesting to know whether the Zealots, in their desperation, actually hurled stones down upon the Judean slaves, some of whom were reported to be relatives and loved ones of many of the Zealots.
Netzer suggests that the Zealots constructed the wood/earth wall while working only at night, since stones from Roman ballistae “rained on them during the day.” This is not likely because one of the most effective tactics of artillery (or ballistae) is to deny an enemy his sleep and his freedom of movement—day or night! Once Roman artillerymen “had-the-range” to targets atop Masada they could launch projectiles at any time they chose. This fact alone speaks loudly of the bravery and determination of Zealot workers attempting to construct anything while under this unrelenting and continuous siege.
Netzer states that eight siege ramps ringed the fortress at Masada. This indicates that the Zealots probably endured ballista stones (day and night) coming from eight directions simultaneously. Since the Romans entirely surrounded their enemy, the Roman artillery would not have passed up an opportunity to pound the Zealots ruthlessly and continuously from all directions. (I know from personal experience that neither artillerymen nor their targets get uninterrupted sleep at night.) It is recognized that ballistae positions on the east side of Masada would necessarily have had a limitation of range and/or stone weight because of the lower terrain elevation on that side. This may have limited those eastern positions to launching smaller stones. 018Nevertheless, even a three- or five-pound stone can inflict serious injury, in addition to harassment.
Because one cannot simply crouch behind a wall to shield himself from stones which are coming from any of eight different directions, I wonder if the Zealots may have devised some clever defense against this peril which we as yet have not discovered or understood.
Despite these oversights in Mr. Netzer’s artillery expertise, his article presents graphic appreciation for the plight of the Zealot defenders at Masada. I wish that I had had his article with me when I visited Masada. It is certain that those pages will be added to the files of each tourist guide who leads treks to that tragic mount.
Robert F. Reiland
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
Masada’s Defenders Would Not Have Killed Themselves
Ehud Netzer in “The Last Days and Hours at Masada,” BAR 17:06, and Yigael Yadin, in his Masada (Random House, 1966), both republish the account of the destruction of Masada by the first-century historian Flavius Josephus.
Josephus was a turncoat who became a Roman, and was not to be believed, according to Jewish sages.
Rabbi Reuven P. Bulka writes in What You Thought You Knew About Judaism (Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1989):
“Misconception: The zealots of Masada committed suicide.
“This is a commonly held belief, reinforced by a television movie on that topic. The basis for the belief that the zealots committed suicide is primarily the historical report of Josephus.
“However, Josephus did not see the events of Masada. He only reported them, based on what he claimed he heard from a few people who said they had escaped and hid in a cave.
“One may question whether the zealots would have contemplated murder and suicide. They fought to the very end, and then, we are led to believe they did the unthinkable, namely, kill each other and themselves.
“Did the zealots murder and kill themselves, or were they killed by the Romans? Murder and suicide have never been the Jewish way and certainly are contrary to a justifiable theological approach [emphasis added].
“One does not really know for sure. The entire account is based on such questionable evidence, from a source of dubious reliability, that one doubts the authenticity of the murder and suicide version.
“There may be no definitive answers, but there are enough questions to justify the possibility that the Romans murdered the Jews. If indeed this is what happened, Masada becomes an even greater symbol of Jewish resistance and heroism.”
Harold B. Yudkin
Masada Story Embroidered
The article on Masada (Ehud Netzer, “The Last Days and Hours at Masada,” BAR 17:06) was excellent but I was surprised that no mention was made of Shaye Cohen’s discovery that a mass-suicide story occurs frequently in the literature of antiquity; he found reports of 16 similar incidents in the writings of classical authors such as Herodotus and Pliny covering the period from the sixth to the first centuries B.C.E. (see Shaye Cohen, “What Really Happened at Masada?” Moment July/August 1988, and Neil A. Silberman, Between Past and Present [Anchor Books, 1989], chapter 5).
It seems that classical writers regularly embroidered their stories in this way for the sake of effect; this casts doubt on the accuracy of the Masada suicide story.
Trevor A. Kletz
Ehud Netzer replies:
Neither my article in BAR nor Shaye Cohen’s articles in Moment and elsewhere can prove whether the Zealots at Masada committed suicide or not. However, regarding the general reliability of Josephus’ account, there is no doubt that the archaeological research at Masada has confirmed many of the details recorded by Josephus. Also, my intensive excavations at many of Herod’s building projects (the winter palaces and the unique hippodrome at Jericho, greater Herodium, Caesarea Maritima, Cypros and the Opus Reticulatum structures at Jerusalem and Banias) have convinced me of the credibility of Josephus’ site descriptions.
Although some details in Josephus are not accurate, his descriptions are still valuable and, for the most part, reliable. For example:
1. In his description of the northern palace at Masada, Josephus gives its location on the western side of the mountain, which is incorrect. Of much more importance, on the other hand, are Josephus’ statements that the northern palace was located outside the walls and below the summit and that hidden passageways connected the palace and the summit—facts that could not he assumed without a good knowledge of this palace.
2. Whether the artifacts that we discovered at Masada were burned during the last night of the siege, at one spot, as we learn from Josephus, or were burned near each family’s living site, as is more logical and as was confirmed by the archaeological finds, is a matter of detail. The main point here is that the artifacts were burned!
3. No one believes that the speech by the Zealot leader Ben-Yair—recounted by Josephus—advocating suicide rather than surrender is authentic—everyone agrees that it was written by Josephus (though some of the points could theoretically have been told to Josephus by the old women who survived the catastrophe). However, I have no doubt that a Jew such as Josephus, who lived 2, 000 years ago and who even took some part in the Jewish Revolt against the Romans, could have imagined (or reconstructed) such a speech much better than any writer today.
As for whether Josephus was accurate that the Roman army waited the whole night before breaching the site after setting fire to the wood and earth wall, I have two observations:
1. The “wood and earth wall,” would have burned for many hours and it would not have been easy to fight through this fire with Zealot warriors waiting inside.
2. The cliff around Masada limited the Roman army to movement only along the siege-ramp, a disadvantage in the dark when the fire’s light was dimmed.
In sum, if one asks whether Josephus’ account of the suicides is right or wrong, my personal feeling and intuition is that a story as crucial as this one has to be right.
Who or What Was Israel?
Anson Rainey (“Rainey’s Challenge,” BAR 17:06) has willfully chosen to ignore the fact that the article he cites co-authored by G. W. Ahlström and myself (“Merneptah’s Israel,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 44 , pp. 59–61) suggests two possible understandings of the term Israel in light of the poetical structure of the coda section of the stele in which the name Israel appears. Since neither understanding is given preference in the article, he has misled your readership by mischaracterizing our argument.
Rainey is well aware that Egyptian scribes were not always consistent in their use of determinatives after nouns to classify or categorize a given noun. Thus, Rainey’s appeal to the use of the hieroglyphic determinative for a foreign people after the term Israel is not in itself sufficient reason to conclude that the author of the stele knew that Israel was “an ethnic entity.” Rainey’s personal attack seems to have replaced reasoned analysis here. Before any conclusion about the significance of the use of the foreign-people determinative to classify Israel can be drawn, one must consider the writer’s larger purpose and probable knowledge of the population groups and political entities within the territory of Cisjordan in the closing years of the 13th century B.C.E.
The mention of Israel appears in a coda section to a longer account of a campaign Pharaoh Merneptah undertook against the Libyans in his fifth year. The coda thus summarizes an earlier campaign to Palestine sometime during the first four years of his reign. In summarizing that campaign, the Egyptian scribe appears to have used the principle of moving from the general to the specific and, additionally, to have used a ring structure, or chiasmus, consisting of the elements A-B-C-D-D’-C’-B’-A’. Beginning with the widest group, the traditional enemies/enemies-at-large (A elements), the scribe moved on more specifically to the arena of Syria-Palestine, designated by the geographical terms Hatti and Kharu (B elements), in which the campaign in question took place. Within that general territory, he then specified that the military action was confined to Canaan and Israel (Celements). Finally, he cited three specific towns that were attacked: Ashkelon, Gezer and Yano‘am (D elements).
Turning to the C elements, Canaan has the determinative for foreign land, while Israel has the determinative for foreign people. How are we to understand this contrast? Taken literally, it would seem to 072indicate that Israel was a group of people living somewhere in the land of Canaan. Yet, in Egyptian texts from earlier pharaohs, the term Canaan was sometimes used to designate the coastal plain and adjacent lowland alone, without including the central highlands, the traditional territory associated with Israel in Biblical texts. Bearing this in mind, various options become possible. The scribe may have used Canaan and Israel as two complementary terms to represent Cisjordan: the coastal plain and lowland (Canaan) and the inland highlands (Israel). In this case, the determinative has been applied loosely, or it may in fact reflect Israel’s primary existence as a unit of people that has been used loosely in a secondary geographical sense as a parallel to Canaan.
Alternatively, the scribe could have been using the terms Canaan and Israel less precisely as synonyms for the entire Cisjordanian region rather than as complementary subdivisions of the region. In this case, Canaan would be used in an “extensive” sense to include the hill country as well as the lowlands, as it sometimes did in Egyptian texts, expanding beyond the more narrow confines of the coast. In a similar way, Israel almost certainly would have been used in a broader sense than its original meaning. The people determinative might accurately preserve Israel’s original sense as a group of people, but need not do so. It has been used primarily to complement the geographical term Canaan to imply that the entire region of Cisjordan (i.e., Canaan) and its people (i.e., Israel) were defeated.
With this larger message in mind, the foreign-people determinative could have been chosen specifically because Israel was known to be a term relating to a group of people somewhere in Cisjordan. However, it could equally have been a geographical term that the scribe knew, but chose to designate by the foreign-people determinative to make his point about people and land together being defeated. In the latter case, he would have been using the determinative loosely. We have no firm way to know how knowledgeable the scribe was of the geography and population of Cisjordan at the end of the 13th century, so we cannot make an informed choice among the various options described above. While the Merneptah Stele provides us with our earliest knowledge of the existence of an Israel, the precise nature of this Israel remains elusive.
Since the publication of our joint article, Gösta Ahlström has independently discussed the stele more fully in his book, Who Were the Israelites? (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1986), pp. 37–48, and in the paper he gave at the 1990 Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, to which Rainey referred in his article. All the papers from that symposium have now been published in Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament 5.2 (1991). In his book, Ahlström indicated his personal preference for viewing Israel originally as a geographical term for the hill country of Cisjordan, which was used on the Merneptah Stele in a complementary sense to Canaan, the lowlands. In his more recent article, he has continued to understand Canaan and Israel to be used in a complementary way to designate the lowlands and highlands respectively, but has modified his original argument in favor of seeing Israel on the Merneptah Stele to represent both a territory and its people. He recognizes that in form, the name originally was a personal name, but concludes that this does not elucidate its meaning on the Merneptah Stele. He believes the scribe has used Israel according to an old ancient Near Eastern custom of using the same name for people and territory.
By implication, the other view offered in our joint article is mine. As I indicated in my Ph.D. dissertation and on at least two occasions to Rainey in private discussions, I prefer to see the foreign-people determinative to be an accurate reflection of Israel’s primary association with a group of people at the end of the 13th century, and secondarily with the territory they inhabited somewhere in Cisjordan. This is consistent with the term itself, which has the structure of a personal name, not the descriptive sense typical of geographical names. Since the geographical terms Ephraim and Judah are known as designations for the Cisjordanian highlands, I see no reason for a third term, Israel, to have existed as a geographical label for the same regions, which then secondarily came to designate the people within that territory. The name itself favors the opposite process, a group of people giving their name to the territory they inhabited. However, Ahlström is almost certainly correct that by the time of Merneptah, Israel already had the dual meaning of people and territory, regardless of which came first.
The obvious fact that historians cannot be experts in all languages and in all the skills necessary to evaluate the various kinds of textual and artifactual testimony and evidence that may be relevant to a given historical investigation does not preclude their ability to conduct responsible investigations. Historians frequently rely on the expertise of specialists in particular fields. In our joint and separate analyses of the Merneptah Stele, Ahlström and I consulted a veteran Egyptologist at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago about our grammatical questions and the plausibility of our proposals in the light of normal practice and usage in official writings of the 073XIXth Dynasty. We both would welcome a serious analysis of our actual positions.
Buffalo Grove, Illinois
Anson F. Rainey replies:
I was aware, of course, that in the article by Ahlström and Edelman they had hedged their bets by offering two interpretations. However, at the New Orleans symposium, those who could hear in spite of the poor audio equipment would have noted that Ahlström made it dogmatically clear that “Israel was a territory.” I presumed, since the chairperson, Diana Edelman, did not contest that statement, that she probably now concurred. Maybe I didn’t hear her.
As for the analysis of the inscription, we may now refer to a paper presented at the Kansas City SBL/ASOR session on Egyptology and the History and Culture of Ancient Israel by John R. Huddlestun. In his stimulating presentation, Huddlestun made reference to three attempts to analyze the elements in the poetical passage from the Merneptah Stele in which Israel is mentioned. One by Professor Fecht and another by Ahlström and Edelman equate Canaan and Israel. They equate Kharu with Tjehenu [Tehenu] and Khatti [Hatti] (Libya and the Hittite empire). This arrangement is clearly wrong. The correct arrangement, also cited bry Huddlestun, is that orignally given by Frank Yurco in his Egyptological presentation (Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 23 ). Even Yurco wrongly states in his reply to me (“Yurco’s Response,” BAR 17:06) that Kharu [Hurru] is Syria, but in his scholarly article he correctly equates Kharu with Canaan. The evidence as mustered by the late Alan Gardiner (Ancient Egyptian Onomastica, vol. 1, pp. 180–184) is crystal clear: the Egyptians used the term which they write H3-ru, for the territory from “Sile (at Egypt’s frontier with Sinai) to Upe (the Damascus area)” and for the entire coast from Gaza to Byblos (as seen in Wenamon’s inscription). The people called H3-ru in various lists of prisoners and the like are residents of that same geographical sphere. In no reference do we have any indication that Kharu was ever used for territory north of the ancient state of Amurru (which straddled the modern northern border of Lebanon). Now in fact this is the same geographical area that is known as Canaan (Numbers 34:1–12). In other words, for some inexplicable reason, Egyptian scribes used the term H3ru/Kharu as a synonym for Canaan as a geographical entity. What has led people to equate Kharu with Syria is the presumed equation with Khurru/Khurrians from the cuneiform sources. The latter are mainly the people of northern Syria during the period in question. One must stress, however, that the Egyptians never used the term Kharu for any area north of modern-day Lebanon. Many people of Khurrian extraction are found living in Canaan (especially in the Amarna letters), and that might have caused Egyptian scribes to adopt the term Kharu (pronounced Kharru or Khurru?) as a term for Canaan (we simply do not know the answer to that one). These Khurrians might be the Biblical Horites.
Therefore, it is perfectly fitting to use Kharu as a poetic balance for Canaan. Yurco’s arrangement of the geographical and ethnic terms in the Merneptah poem can thus he cited with confidence that it represents the original intention of the Egyptian author:
“The great ones are prostrate, saying “Peace” (sa-la-ma).
Not one raises his head among the Nine Bows.
Plundered is Tjehenu (Libya), Khatti is at peace,
Canaan is plundered with every evil,
Ashkelon is conquered,
Gezer is seized,
Yano‘am is made nonexistent.
Israel is laid waste, his seed is no more,
Kharu has become a widow because of Egypt,
All lands together are at peace,
Any who roamed have been subdued.”
All of the geographical entities in this passage, Tjehenu, Khatti, Canaan, Ashkelon, Gezer, Yano‘am and Kharu are denoted by the same determinative, namely the three mountains and the shepherd’s crook:
Only Israel has the people determinative, namely:
Now I submit that this could hardly be an accident. The scribe is not vacillating. He knows perfectly well what he is doing. He is distinguishing Israel from all the other entities in the poem.
Huddlestun, in his paper, tried to show that scribes of this period were not very consistent. Admittedly, they had some leeway in representing the various foreign entities, especially mobile groups. With regard to Tjehenu, especially in the earlier part of the Merneptah Stele, it is mentioned with a combination of 60th the two determinatives, for a people and for a foreign land. However, this is consistent with the sociological situation of the Libyan people. They had come off the Libyan desert but were well on the way to becoming politically stabilized. In fact, groups of Tjehenu were constantly coming into the western Egyptian Delta. Eventually, they managed to take over the region and, finally, to found a dynasty of their own, the XXIInd Egyptian Dynasty of which Shishak was the most famous pharaoh. Nothing in the XIXth Dynasty inscriptions can counter the clear context of the Israel victory poem.
That Israel is explicitly pointed out as an ethnic group, unlike the city-states with which it is listed, is perfectly obvious. In fact, if there is any geographical order in the list: Ashkelon, Gezer, Yano‘am, Israel, then (as pointed out by N. Na’aman) Israel may have been encountered in Transjordan since Yano‘am is most likely somewhere in the Bashan area (according to its appearance in the Amarna letters). Personally, I am unsure of this idea, but it certainly is a distinct possibility.
Grasping the details concerning the text of the Merneptah poem and its determinatives is the sort of thing that requires considerable experience in reading Egyptian texts at firsthand. Historians who do not read Egyptian, even if they confer with a responsible Egyptologist, are hardly justified in making the statements which characterized Professor Ahlström’s dogmatic assertions in the New Orleans symposium. I still stand by all my criticisms expressed in my BAR article.
Israel is certainly an ethnic group contrasted with three city-states of Canaan/Kharu. On the relief analyzed by Yurco, I think that the most logical assumption is that Israel is included in the many Shasu/Shosu captives.
Note: Shosu may be determined by either of the two above or simply by:
This latter is by far the most common determinative for Shosu. That the Israelites might have “acquired a few chariots” (Yurco) seems to me to require too much stretching of the imagination. The status of the chariot warrior and the maintenance of chariot forces, not to mention the need for training and logistics to support a chariot force, were hardly commensurate with Israelite social structure until the age of the monarchy.
Adam Zertal used the word “sincline” incorrectly in his article “Israel Enters Canaan,” BAR 17:05.
First, the correct spelling is “syncline.”
Second, “syncline” is a structural geology term used to describe a sequence of folded rocks where the fold is concave upward.
“Anticline” is a similar term used where the fold is concave downward.
Robert A Navias
Honeoye Falls, New York
Was Elohim the God of the Sea?
My friends Trude and Moshe Dothan have sent me to you and your readers with the following question: Am I the only person who has ever stumbled upon the observation that the name Elohim (
I am fully aware that the Biblical text—that is, the contexts in which the name Elohim appears—does not support my aberrant readings. Yet, it is sometimes quite tempting to try on El ha-Yam—as in ruach el-hayam merakhefet al pnei hamayim (the spirit of El ha-Yam hovers above the waters [see Genesis 1:2]). Is it possible that there is some etymological connection between the two names?
None of the experts I have approached in Jerusalem is aware of anyone else who has noticed what I have. But none of them has laughed in my face, either.
Prof. Elihu Katz, Scientific Director
Israel Institute of Applied Social Research
Professor Baruch Margalit of the University of Haifa replies:
If none of Professor Katz’s colleagues to whom he broached his idea laughed in his face, it is because either (1) they have no competence in the area, or (2) they are polite!
The word Elohim (
Sacred Trees and Pillars in Japan
I was fascinated with the article by Ruth Hestrin on “Understanding Asherah—Exploring Semitic Iconography,” BAR 17:05. I well remember studying Hebrew in seminary 50 years ago and coming across “Asherah, Asherim and Mazzebah” in the Hebrew Bible. This made no sense to me at the time, but as a young man I went to Japan (in 1948) on mission work and these categories all came alive for me. The countryside of Japan is replete with sacred trees called go-shimboku (Honorable god tree) and sekichu (stone pillars). Many of the sacred trees are gnarled oaks and are believed to be the dwelling places of unnamed and unidentified Shinto gods. A shimenawa, or sacred rope, is tied around the tree and from the rope are hung Shinto prayer papers called norito. Beans or rice are offered to the god(s) in the tree. I presume that this represents a kind of “cosmic tree” symbolizing fertility.
Rev. Thomas W. Grubbs
San Mateo, California
The Root Supports the Branches
I was appalled but not surprised at the number of letters published in the latest issues of BAR (Queries & Comments, BAR 17:05 and Queries & Comments, BAR 17:06) expressing a “genteel” but very real anti-Jewishness. They love Jews (the sinner) but not Judaism (the sin) and dutifully regret that if not converted to Christ, their Jewish friends are damned. For all of their quotes from Paul to justify their position, they all have missed others, such as “Do not boast against the branches [Jews]. But if you boast, remember that you do not support the root [Judaism], but that the root [Judaism] supports you” (Romans 11:18). Jesus did not reject Judaism, but affirmed it (Matthew 5:17–19 affirms the Tanakh and Mark 12:28–30 affirms the Shema). From two millennia of hindsight, it is clear that Judaism is the relationship of Jews to God within the Sinai covenant, and authentic Christianity is the extension of that covenant to all gentile nations and peoples in a New Covenant that will bring the entire earth into the Messianic kingdom.
Joseph M. Stallings, M.A. (ApTh)
San Jose, California
Spreading the Good News Will Create Some Bad Feelings
Much of the debate about whether Christian proselytizing is anti-Semitic, anti-Judaic or anti-anything misses the point that many Christians have within themselves a tension about this very issue. Living in the global village we are aware of many 078different religious traditions. Many of us want to be tolerant of other points of view. We have no desire to be the only ones who are right.
But we are constrained by the fact that we follow and believe a leader who made some pretty absolute claims (“no one comes to the Father, but by me” [John 14:6]) and who gave these claims universal significance (“go … and make disciples of all nations” [Matthew 28:19]).
This is the issue that the Christian must come to terms with. Either the claims of Jesus were false, in which case he was a fraud and not worth following. Or he never said these things as they are reported in the Gospels, in which case Christianity is based on fraud and not worth identifying with. Or he said these things, and they are true.
As a Christian who has made a commitment to follow Jesus, I have staked my life on believing that what he is reported to have said is indeed the truth. This leaves me with the challenge of being true to his commands to love and to be humble, while at the same time seeking the spiritual wellbeing of others by telling them the story of Jesus and hoping they accept it.
The fact that people under the banner of Christianity have often been self-righteous and destructive of the dignity and life of others is one of the supreme tragedies of history. Jesus did not call us to despise others or to think ourselves superior.
Nevertheless, it is probably not possible to share the good news about Jesus without creating tension or giving offense to the viewpoints of others. That is not something we particularly enjoy. But how can we avoid it? It goes with being a follower of a leader who makes radical claims about his own universal significance.
Christian C. Spoor
Hating One Another?
I’m sorry, but I can’t take it anymore. Please cancel my subscription immediately. The writers, editors and comments to your magazine attack me, my beliefs and my wonderful God. When I first subscribed I thought you meant “Biblical” as an apologetic to the Holy Bible. Your magazine is quite the opposite. The archaeological portion is excellent, but the opinionated and stereotyping portions are unnecessary, unprofessional and very offensive to either side of the controversy. I can no longer read an issue of BAR without becoming emotional, outraged and aghast that human beings continue to hate each other and destroy one another. I do not hate anyone. Whether you intended it or not, BAR has stated that I am anti-Jew simply because I am a Christian. That is so untrue. I feel for those who 082can only survive by stereotyping people and living on hate.
Philip A. Cressey, Jr, Pastor
Center Effingham Baptist Church
Center Ossipee, New Hampshire
It’s Not Anti-Semitism to Point Out Jews’ Role in Crucifixion
It was interesting to read the outpouring from Jews (Queries & Comments, BAR 17:06) relative to Christian efforts to evangelize all the world, including Jews. This seems to always bring forth cries of “anti-Semitism,” as does any criticism of modern Israel or any reference to the part played by the Jews in the crucifixion of Jesus. This has led to emphatic efforts to rewrite the various Passion Plays (including that performed regularly at Eureka Springs, Arkansas) to delete any reference to the Jews as having any blame in the crucifixion. Some have succumbed to this pressure; others (including Eureka Springs) have not. Anti-Semitism? Hardly. It is simply a matter of historic record. After all, the Gospels are the only historic accounts we have of the crucifixion of the Lord, and every Gospel writer (three of whom were Jews) attests to the fact of the Jews’ active participation in His trial and in the demands that He be crucified. So does Peter (a Jew) in Acts 2:36 and other places, and Paul (also a Jew) in Acts 13:26–29 and other places. This is no more anti-Semitism than it is anti-Japanese to say they were responsible for Pearl Harbor, or anti-German to say they were responsible for the Holocaust. Those of us who recognize the historicity of the Jews’ part in the crucifixion would no more ascribe that deed to present-day Jews than we would deem present-day Japanese to be plotting another Pearl Harbor, or present-day Germans to be plotting another Holocaust. There is no doubt that there are many in the world who are anti-Semitic—Heaven knows there are many in the world who are anti-Christian. But it ill behooves any of us to wear our feelings on our sleeves and see personal prejudice in everything, even historic fact.
Loyd R. Brents, Minister
Church of Christ
A Smoldering Powder Keg
Great articles! Great photos! Great publication! But nothing can surpass the letters discovered within the pages of Queries & Comments.
A woman writes to complain about a doll depicting an Egyptian queen with alabaster-colored skin and suddenly men and women bearing titles before their names, and a host of initials after their names, rise in an academic debate meant not so much to determine the truth but rather to defend the greatness of their respective races.
A minister pens a letter expressing what he perceives as simple truth (and truth is always subjective) and Jews and Christians begin spewing venom at one another.
One might assume from the name of your magazine that the readership would be comprised of individuals interested in either religious studies or history or both. Such people would be assumed to be intelligent, curious, sensitive individuals who might view themselves as being above average. If such is the case then this country is a smoldering powder keg of hatred from coast to coast and border to border.
These letters indicate that prejudice, discrimination, hatred and mistrust are not confined to the uninformed, the illiterate or the unenlightened.
We are on the brink of the 21st century and we carry with us the concepts of medieval man. When will we rid ourselves of these burdens?
Walter Del Pelegrino
Keansburg, New Jersey
The True Face of Anti-Semitism
When I went into the army in 1943 I 084received a lecture from my Dad. He believed I was going to fight for the Jews in the world so that they could make more money. As any young boy I believed him—until Buchenwald. I’ll never forget the sight through my periscope as I stopped the tank in front of a main gate. Later, inside we found out the bodies in the ditches were Jewish; wheelbarrows of gold teeth, eyeglasses, hair had come from Jews. Then weeks later we liberated another camp—Dachau. The first never prepared me for the second.
If we fought for the Jews, I had to ask Dad what they were doing in piles all over Eastern Europe. But first I checked at the library to see if I could see any Jewish names in the top echelon of management of companies that supplied our weapons. I found none I could state were Jewish. In fact very few Catholics! All seemed to be WASP. I am one, too! Thank God. I couldn’t stand what we dish out to others. But I am ashamed of our past—and we even seem to have screwed up the future.
I loved my Dad and respected him—I still do, but somewhere in his youth his mind was force-fed this unfounded hate.
Robert L. Blew
More Pronunciation Help, Please
I suggest that you begin giving a pronunciation guide for the names of authors, scholars and other noted persons. Some of these names are unusual and a guide would be most helpful. I’ve wondered, for example, how Professor Yadin’s name should be pronounced; should it be Yee-GALE, Yee-ga-ELL, or something else? Should it be Yah-DEEN, or YAH-din? You see the problem.
Nolen L. Brunson
Travelers Rest, South Carolina
Yee-ga-ELL Yah-DEEN. Your point is well taken.—Ed.
A BAR for Everyone
As a fairly recent subscriber, I read with amazement the flood of cancellation letters that seem to accompany each new issue. The latest flap seems to be over the idiotic wave of mainstream Protestants, Catholics and Jews cancelling over ads appealing to fundamentalists.
I’ve got the perfect solution: multiple editions of your magazine. For example, BAR for Fundamentalists and Biblical Inerrantists Who Toeth the Line; BAR for Mainstream Protestants, Catholics and Jews; BAR for Agnostics and Atheists; and BAR for New Age Twinkies Who Like to Read About Non-Judeo-Christian Stuff.
A magazine that doesn’t lose readers from time to time is too wishy-washy to be worth reading. Keep up the good work.
William F. Ingogly
Eisenman Corrects Us
On “Go-Slow” Policies, The Role of Paul and Carbon-14 Dating
In response to your discussion of my ideas in your article “Is the Vatican Suppressing the Dead Sea Scrolls?” BAR 17:06 (Hershel Shanks), I have never subscribed to the “conspiracy” theory, which, with “suppression,” I consider an unfortunate choice of words. “Policy” might be a better word, as there was a demonstrable “go-slow” policy in effect on the part of the International Committee from the mid-1950s to the present.
There were, in fact, two stages to this policy, the first in the early years and the second in the mid-1980s. Nor were those involved in the second necessarily aware of what had originally brought the first into being. You have correctly identified the motivating factors behind the second phase only. Certainly scholars such as Eugene Ulrich and Emanuel Tov would not be and were not consciously part of the decision behind the initial slowdown and information blackout. I accept their protestations about having no knowledge of such a thing. Nor would Joseph Fitzmyer, himself a victim of this policy, know anything about it, though you seem to consider this decisive in arguing against it.
John Strugnell is another matter, but as John Allegro observed, Strugnell was completely in Roland de Vaux’s hands and willing to do anything he wished, because apparently his financing was dependent on de Vaux. Allegro and Claus-Hunno Hunzinger were both chased from the original committee because they fell afoul of de Vaux on the issue of secrecy and the speed of publication of the texts. Frank Cross, of course, is a peculiar case. Why he cooperated with the committee has always been a puzzle. And yet this is easily understood in terms of Harvard being given almost complete control over the Biblical texts, which “the École crowd” was not much interested in. Vice versa, he was not much interested in the sectarian ones, which were in any event outside his specialization.
Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh in their book The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception (London: Jonathan Cape, 1991) have correctly appreciated some of the motivating factors behind the go-slow policy that resulted in the cabal or monopoly. In the beginning, anyhow, this was not scholarly sloth or empire-building, as you would have it, but rather sheer institutional and doctrinal fear, particularly after the article by Edmund Wilson appeared in 1955—all the more threatening because of his Marxist/Communist associations—and the discovery of the Copper Scroll around the same time. They back this up with firsthand accounts from Allegro’s own letters, which give vivid testimony to what can only be considered a process of vetting, but your readers will have to decide for themselves.
There is also another point, which your cavalier dismissal of their ideas (on the basis of knowing someone like Fitzmyer personally) overlooks and which Baigent and Leigh only hint at. There is a difference between Dominicans like de Vaux, Pierre Benoit, Jean Starcky and intimates of theirs like Jozef Milik and Emile Puech, on the one hand, and Jesuits like Fitzmyer and Robert North, on the other. The Dominicans, always more conservative, and in the Middle Ages perhaps aptly characterized as “the hounds of the Inquisition,” were on the inside; the Jesuits on the out even within the church.
The issue of Paul’s involvement with the Roman authorities is a very sensitive one, and should be treated more carefully than either Baigent, Leigh or you have done. I have examined the matter in some detail in James the Just in the Habakkuk Pesher (Leiden: Brill, 1986) and in a paper, “Paul as Herodian,” given at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in 1984. The point is that no one has seriously looked into the compromising elements in Paul’s career: his Roman citizenship; the influential position of his family in Jerusalem; the claim in Acts that he was of the tribe of Benjamin (which I, incidentally, identify as a Herodian claim); his easygoing relationship with Roman officialdom in Acts, the final chapters of which put him on intimate terms with some of the most despised and, at least from the messianic/nationalist point of view, bloodthirsty people in Palestine—Felix, Festus, Drusilla, Agrippa II and the archvillain, Berenice, mistress of Titus (the destroyer of Jerusalem) and previously reputed to have been her brother’s consort; not to mention Paul’s own allusion to his Herodian origins when he refers to “Herodion” or “Little Herod” as his “kinsman” in Romans 16:11.
I am aware that these are difficult ideas to swallow, but as Baigent and Leigh explain, I was led to them by the clear implication of a “conspiracy” behind the removal of the Righteous Teacher on the part of the Wicked Priest and others in the Establishment class in the Habakkuk Pesher. That Pesher states that “they conspired to destroy him” (italics mine).
I never refer to James as “the brother of Jesus.” To do this implies recognition of the Gospel accounts as historical. But I do not see them in this way. The proposition of the historical Jesus is complex and difficult of proof: I do, however, accept the propositions of the historical James and the historical Paul. These are more amenable of proof. That is what my ideas are all about.
I do not place James at Qumran, but rather—like Norman Golb of the University of Chicago—in Jerusalem, tying the last stages of the movement represented by the literature found at Qumran to James’ Jerusalem Community, or the “Jerusalem Church of James the Just.”
The only difference between Golb’s ideas and my own is that I consider the literature at Qumran on the whole homogeneous and sectarian, i.e., the literature of a movement—not just random libraries—and I call this movement the Messianic Movement in Palestine. It should be stressed that Qumran has a long history of development and I see the Jerusalem Community as only representative of its last stages. This is the implication of the title of my first book, Maccabees, Zadokites, Christians and Qumran: A New Theory of Qumran Origins (Leiden: Brill, 1 983).
Finally, what you say about one of the Vatican Presses publishing my book proving how openminded and nonmanipulative such institutions are, is just plain naive or silly. The Vatican Press you refer to did not publish my book because they had read it; nor, I am sure, did they know what was in it. The book was part of a series, Studi e Recerche, published by Marra Editore Cosenza for the University of Calabria—the Tipografia Gregoriana was only the agency of print, nothing more. That was the joke of it. Baigent and Leigh at least have a sense of humor and understand irony such as this.
I would also like to correct some inaccuracies and misimpressions in your treatment of my views regarding the carbon-14 tests on some Dead Sea Scroll documents (“Carbon-14 Tests Substantiate Scroll Dates,” BAR 17:06).
1. You say I “demanded” to be included in the process; rather Philip Davies of the University of Sheffield and myself have all along been pointing out that “opposition scholars” should be included in the process to guarantee objectivity and ensure relevance.
In our original letter of May 2, 1989, when we initially made the proposal to General Amir Drori [director of the Israel Antiquities Authority] that carbon-14 tests be conducted, we urged that “opposition scholars” be included. As it was, we were ignored and the texts that were tested were not on the whole chronologically significant ones.
2. Normally, as with the Turin Shroud, double—even triple—blinds are used and more than one lab is called upon to do the testing. Again these constraints were ignored. Rather parties to the debate did the testing and controlled the process—even the reporting.
3. Not only were these parties not disinterested, but seemingly for 30 years they had not felt the need for such tests. By all reports, they conducted the tests grudgingly, that is until they got results they were looking for. Then, they could scarcely conceal their delight in representing these results as “proving” their theories and disproving their opponents’, when in fact they proved nothing. The tests that were done were neither extensive nor secure enough for that.
4. We were aware when we suggested these tests that carbon-14 tests were not as secure as they are now making them out to be. The whole process needs to be calibrated via dendrochronology or reference to known dating samples, and the margins of error are of an order much higher than those being suggested in your report, though these, it is claimed, can be reduced by repeated testing on the same sample.
Preliminary tests were also done at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel, the results of which were never revealed. These were rather termed “inconclusive.” All such results are relevant and need to be published. It is a matter for the scientific community as a whole to determine matters such as inconclusiveness.
5. The only incontestably sectarian scroll that was tested was the Temple Scroll, and the results that were achieved for this do not conflict with my ideas. I have always considered it early Herodian. In any event, I did not use the Temple Scroll to develop any of my theories and so it is irrelevant to them.
What is interesting, however, is that in every case where the tests were done on documents of known date, the results were consistently at the upper limit or later date of the margin of error provided, sometimes even beyond. This tells us that the tests tend to make the samples seem older than they are. Paleographic estimates too were consistently early, except for Kohath, which threw all the tests askew.
You say I demand retesting. This is not true. I only demand a properly scientific procedure with double and triple blinds by more than one laboratory and with material conveyed under objective conditions by disinterested parties.
6. You say that the Testament of Kohath is intrinsic to my theories. This again is completely untrue. I didn’t even know of Kohath’s existence at the time I first developed my theory. In fact, I translated it for the first time in the November/December 1991 BAR (
Robert Eisenman, Chair
Department of Religious Studies
California State University, Long Beach
Long Beach, California
Dead Sea Scrolls
In the November/December 1991 issue three supposedly new texts were published, with translations by Robert Eisenman (“Long-Secret Plates from the Unpublished Corpus,” BAR 17:06).