Professor Buccellati denies any concern by Syria or by Ebla scholars over Biblical connections revealed in tablets.

“Hogwash”, said UCLA’s Giorgio Buccellati to the suggestion that scholars working on Ebla materials might suppress Biblical connections for political reasons.

“Anyone making such a suggestion is either showing his gross ignorance or is guilty of bad faith”, the noted Assyriologist stated. Buccellati is the only American-based scholar on the 10-man committee assigned to study and publish the Ebla materials.

“I can assure you the Syrians are not concerned with any Biblical connections that the Ebla materials might reveal” he said. “Places like Ugarit and Mari are in Syria and have been extremely important in Biblical studies, but the Syrians have never expressed concern over this. Any scholar suggesting a political element in the interpretation of Ebla materials is tilting at windmills. First, they make wild Biblical connections, and then they suggest that the Biblical connections cannot be shown to exist because of political reasons. To make such a suggestion is offensive to good American scholarship.” Buccellati emphasized the word American, suggesting that responsible American scholars should not be making the charge.

Buccellati himself has been digging for years at Tell Terqa in central Syria. This site has numerous Biblical connections, he said, but no concern has ever been expressed by the Syrians over this; and he himself has not been the least apprehensive.

Professor Buccellati confirmed the finding at Ebla of a seal impression of Pepi I (ca. 2280 B.C.) and a cartouche of Khafre (26th century B.C.) on an alabaster bowl lid, as previously reported in BAR. On archaeological grounds, the stratum would be dated by the latest find, not the earliest, said Professor Buccellati. Nevertheless, on paleographic evidence, Professor Buccellati agrees with Giovanni Pettinato’s earlier dating of the tablets.

The 10-man committee that will work on the tablets is headed by Paolo Matthiae; the committee met last January, first in Rome and then in Damascus. Assignments were made to the committee members and publication policies were decided upon.

The materials will be published in two series simultaneously—one of texts, to be known as ARET (Archivi Reali di Ebla, Testi); and the other of studies, to be known as ARES (Archivi Reali di Ebla, Studi). Both series will be under the direction of Matthiae. A new journal to be called Annali di Ebla will also be under Matthiae’s direction.

Matthiae assigned 10 volumes of texts to various members of the committee. Pettinato was assigned the publication of four volumes. The first volume by Pettinato, on the tablets discovered in 1974, is scheduled to appear at the end of this year.

Secondary studies were also assigned. These include the preparation of a syllabary of Eblaite signs, a study of the phonology and linguistic aspects of Eblaite, a study of the Semitic personal names in the tablets (assigned to Professor Buccellati), and a historical study.

The committee plans to meet once a year.

For Professor Buccellati, the connection between Ebla and the Bible exists principally if not exclusively on a linguistic level. The language of Ebla should illuminate the way we understand the language of the Bible. Professor Buccellati made clear that for him the connections are not historical.