Saturday, June 26, 2004

History unearthed

An archeological discovery sheds light on the Second Temple-period water system

Earlier this month archeologists explored an area of the City of David that had lain untouched for more than 2,000 years.

What is thought to be the Pool of Siloam, discovered when archeologists decided to check the site before the municipality launched infrastructure work in the area, dates back to the Second Temple period.

"One of the supporting walls of the pool was the southernmost wall of the city," says Jerusalem regional archeologist John Seligman, who is working on the excavation. "The wall acted as both a dam and a fortification. The pool was actually a reservoir where the waters of the Gihon Spring were collected for the city. It is a very important find because it helps form our understanding of the water system of Jerusalem in ancient times."

Seligman works alongside archeologist Eli Shukrun of the Israel Antiquities Authority who, together with Prof. Ronny Reich of Haifa University, has been exploring the area since 1995. Pursuing a gut feeling that there was an interesting discovery to be made, Shukrun and his colleagues set to work brushing away the dirt for several hours, until Shukrun discovered they were working on a step.

"We knew that the Siloam Pool from the Second Temple period was located in this area, we just didn't know where it was exactly," he says, pointing to a map in Dan Bar's Jerusalem Encyclopedia that shows the City of David with the supposed area of the Siloam Pool. Although the shape of the pool in the drawing is different from that of the actual discovery, the general area of the location correlates.

Until now, another pool from the Byzantine era (adjacent to the Byzantine Church), discovered by archeologist Blis Vediki at the end of the 19th century, was known as the Siloam Pool.

Shukrun claims his recent discovery is the Second Temple-era Pool of Siloam, mentioned twice in the Torah, both in Nehemia 3:15 ("Pool of Shelah") and in Isaiah 8:6 ("waters of Shiloah"). It is also referred to in the New Testament, in John 9:7 ("Pool of Siloam"). By comparing Nehemiah 3:15 and 12:37, it is clear that the "Pool of Shelah," the stairs that descend from the City of David at the southern part of the Temple Mount, and the king's garden were all near each other. Judeo-Roman historian Josephus Flavius also makes frequent mention of Siloam in The Jewish Wars.


UPDATE (16 August): Archeologist Blis Vediki? I'm afraid not. Todd Bolen unpacks this mystery name, which is really an interesting textual corruption:
Actually he is two people, and the phrase was something the journalist apparently copied down in haste without bothering to check himself. Ve is "and" in Hebrew - it's Blis AND Diki, or more correctly, Bliss and Dickie. Frederick Jones Bliss and Archibald Campbell Dickie.
THE VIRTUAL TEMPLE PROJECT is the subject of an article in the Jerusalem Post:
Maverick visionary or eccentric academic?

Yitzhak Hayut-Man, a cyber-architect with outlandish ideas, is gaining followers

The imaginings of Dr. Yitzhak Hayut-Man (B Arch, MSc, PhD) undermine the very axioms of the mainstream academic and religious establishments that shun him.

The Hebrew media has ignored his maverick proposals for a floating hologram of the Third Temple and multiple-player interactive computer games "set in the Old City of Jerusalem and its celestial counterpart, the Heavenly Jerusalem that will enable multitudes to conduct a spiritual pilgrimage."


"Six potential investors wrote to say that they'd like to help, and I consulted with my existing team developing the game system. After we demanded that they sign a confidentiality agreement to protect our intellectual property, the interest petered out."

Hayut-Man heads the self-styled Academy of Jerusalem, a think-tank association of 20 "multidisciplinary visionaries. My main mission is to design the games, to show a truth about Jerusalem that nobody seems to notice: The [Third] Temple already exists. It's straight in front of our eyes, in the most conspicuous place. Depicted as a temple of wisdom and womb for the three religions, it can breed interfaith understanding."

He envisages a hovering holographic temple, projected by an array of high-powered, water-cooled lasers fired into a smoke-filled transparent polyurethane cube with a lightweight metal frame suspended beneath a blimp. The ephemeral, flickering image in the three-dimensional projection screen will fulfill an ancient Jewish prophecy that the Temple will descend from the heavens as a manifestation of light, he explains.


I have to say that his interpretation of the Dome of the Rock doesn't sound very likely to me:
"The Dome of the Rock, he explains, was conceptualized as an observatory into the fifth dimension. It was built as a 3-D model of a 4-D cube.

I don't think the mathematics to conceptualize this were in place in the seventh century.

Friday, June 25, 2004

THE JORDAN CHURCH MYSTERY has been solved by observant reader Stephen Goranson. Xinhuanet picked up the story from Tuesday's Jordan Times, not noticing that it was from the daily "25 Years Ago" column. It appears that the preliminary early dating was not upheld. Goranson also notes that Jerash is north of Amman, not south.
HERE IS AN OBITUARY of Ya'akov Meshorer, who, as reported here yesterday, died on Wednesday:
Pioneer numismatist Ya'acov Meshorer dies (Jerusalem Post)

Prof. Ya'acov Meshorer, the country's pioneer numismatist, died in Jerusalem Wednesday and was buried there Wednesday evening. He was 69. He leaves a wife and three children.

Meshorer established the Numismatic Department of the Israel Museum in 1969 and headed it for 25 years. He was born in Jerusalem and was wounded participating in the battle for the city in 1967.


(Via Bible and Interpretation News.)
SOME HEBREW, SOME ARABIC, BUT . . . "No Sex with Buildings." Philologos reviews Hypnerotomachia Poliphili in the Forward. Excerpts from this week's part one:
I had never heard of an Italian Renaissance book entitled "Hypnerotomachia Poliphili,"a Greco-Latin title rendered into English by the its recent translator, Joscelyn Godwin, as "Poliphilo's Strife of Love in a Dream," until I read a front-page article about it in the New York Times. Published in Venice in 1499, the Times said, the "Hypnerotomachia" has been called, because of its fine woodcuts and convoluted text, "the most beautiful book in the world and the most unreadable"; it has a hero who has "sex with buildings"; and it is "written in many languages, including Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Arabic, Chaldean [and] Italian." It was on the newspaper's front page because it is the inspiration of Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason's new novel, "The Rule of Four," which was number two on the Times's June 13 best-seller list, right behind "The Da Vinci Code" (to which I devoted a column several weeks ago).

The Times' description piqued my interest not only because of its reference to misbehaving architecture, but also because of
its mention of Hebrew, Arabic and "Chaldean" (an archaic word for Aramaic), and so I obtained a copy of the Hypnerotomachia and had a look at it. Although, disappointingly, I found no sex with buildings, there was a bit of Hebrew and Arabic.


The Hypnerotomachia is a story in which a semi-deified woman, such as Dante's Beatrice or Petrarch's Laura, leads a love-struck mortal through the perils of existence to a higher life. Facing the three portals, Poliphilo is confronted by two temptations that he must reject. . . . .

The Greek inscriptions above the three portals mean the same as the Latin, with the slight difference that Erototrophos means not "mother of love," but "nourisher of love."

The Hebrew and Arabic inscriptions, however, are more divergent. As brief as they are, they give us some clues as to how much of these languages the author of the Hypnerotomachia or his research assistant knew, which in turn tells us something about their status in Renaissance Italy.

[To be continued.]

Thursday, June 24, 2004

THE VILNA EDITION of the Babylonian Talmud is available here in .gif format (via Rebecca Lesses at Mystical Politics).
TOM HARPUR'S bogus Egyptology and other problems with his latest book, which claims Jesus is a mythical figure who never actually lived, are exposed by W. Ward Gasque of Regent College in "Comment: Was Christ's life based on pagan myths?" ( Excerpts:
Harper does not quote any contemporary Egyptologist or recognized academic authority on world religions, nor does he appeal to any of the standard reference books, such as the magisterial three volume Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt (2001) or any primary sources. Rather, he is entirely dependent on the work of [Alvin Boyd] Kuhn [(1880-1963)], who he describes as "the most erudite, most eloquent, and most convincing . . . of any modern writer on religion I have encountered in a lifetime dedicated to such matters.


As it turns out, Kuhn was a high school language teacher who earned a PhD from Columbia University by writing a dissertation on Theosophy. A prodigious author and lecturer, he had difficulty finding a publisher for his works; most of them were self-published. His only link with an institution of higher learning was a short stint as the secretary to the president of a small college.

I sent an email to 20 of the world's leading Egyptologists, outlining the following claims put forth by Kuhn (and hence Harpur):

* That the name of Jesus was derived from the Egyptian "Iusa," which means "the coming divine Son who heals or saves".

* That the god Horus is "an Egyptian Christos, or Christ.... He and his mother, Isis, were the forerunners of the Christian Madonna and Child, and together they constituted a leading image in Egyptian religion for millennia prior to the Gospels."

* That Horus also "had a virgin birth, and that in one of his roles, he was 'a fisher of men with twelve followers.'"

* That "the letters KRST appear on Egyptian mummy coffins many centuries BCE, and . . . this word, when the vowels are filled in, is really Karast or Krist, signifying Christ."

* That the doctrine of the incarnation "is in fact the oldest, most universal mythos known to religion. It was current in the Osirian religion in Egypt at least four thousand years BCE."

Only one of the 10 experts who responded to my questions had ever heard of Kuhn, Higgins or Massey! Professor Kenneth A. Kitchen of the University of Liverpool pointed out that not one of these men is mentioned in M. L. Bierbrier's Who Was Who in Egyptology (1995), nor are any of their works listed in Ida B. Pratt's very extensive bibliography on Ancient Egypt (1925/1942). Since he died in 1834, Kitchen noted, "nothing by Higgins could be of any value whatsoever, because decipherment of the Egyptian hieroglyphs was still being finalized, very few texts were translated, and certainly not the vast mass of first-hand religious data."

Another distinguished Egyptologist wrote: "Egyptology has the unenviable distinction of being one of those disciplines that almost anyone can lay claim to, and the unfortunate distinction of being probably the one most beleaguered by false prophets." He goes on to refer to Kuhn's "fringe nonsense."

There's more. Read it all if you if you were ever tempted to take Harpur's book seriously.
YA'AKOV MESHORER, the Israeli numismatist, passed away yesterday according to Nikos Kokkinos on Ioudaios-L. May his memory be for a blessing.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

I'VE ADDED TWO LONG UPDATES to today's earlier post on Lubavitcher messianism. Do scroll down and have a look.
MY ATOMZ SEARCH ENGINE WILL BE OFFLINE for neccessary maintenance on Thursday, 24 June, from 9:00 pm to Friday 1:00 am, Pacific Time. We apologize for the inconvenience.
THE INSTITUTUM JUDAICUM DELITZSCHIANUM in M�nster, Germany, has a website with pages on some important projects involving Josephus and Philo, as well as other interesting material.
Oldest Christian church possibly discovered in Jordan: report (via Archaeologica News) 2004-06-22 15:08:03

AMMAN, June 22 (Xinhuanet) -- The earliest known Christian church in Jordan was discovered, if the preliminary dating of the remains as first to second century A.D. proves correct, the local newspaperJordan Times reported Tuesday.

Director of Jordanian Department of Antiquities, Adnan Hadidi, told the newspaper that the church was found during the third season of excavations at Artemis Temple and its vicinity in Jerash,about 50 km south of Amman.

The excavations have been carried out by the department in cooperation with the Italian Archaeological Center of Oriental Research in Turin within a bilateral agreement between Italy and Jordan to carry out photogrammatic surveys, the report said.

The surveys were made in preparation for reconstruction work to be undertaken this year, it added.

I have to say I'm skeptical about this one. If it's true, it's qute important and I can't understand why the major media haven't picked it up. The article doesn't make clear whether this is supposed to be the earliest church found anywhere, as the headline implies, or the earliest church in Jordan. But either way, there can't be many first-to-early-second-century churches around, so it would be a big deal. But I wonder if something has been lost (or gained) in translations between Italian, Arabic, Chinese, and English. If anyone has more information, please let me know.

UPDATE (25 June): Mystery solved. I was right to be skeptical.
MORE ON LUBAVITCHER MESSIANISM: This KTLA article, "Judaism's Thriving Concern," (via Bible and Interpretation News) has a long and thoughtful discussion of the recent messianic faction in the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. Here are a couple of excerpts, but it's worth reading in full:
Messianism � the belief that God will choose a person to redeem the world � has been a central element of Jewish belief for 2,500 years. Among many liberal Jews today, the idea has become muted or transformed into the belief that Jews collectively should work to repair the world's ills. But among traditional believers, the imminent coming of the Messiah remains a powerful hope.

From time to time through the centuries, groups of Jews have fastened those hopes on an individual. Two millenniums ago, the followers of Jesus of Nazareth founded the Christian church based on that belief.

When Schneerson died, many expected the whispers that he was "the one" would dissipate: Traditional Judaism holds that the Messiah would be a living person.

Though the belief has waned since the rebbe's death, some believers in Schneerson adopted an idea associated with Jesus: resurrection.

On the streets around Chabad's headquarters, signs of belief in Schneerson's resurrection are highly visible � to the chagrin of many Lubavitch leaders.

Signs on storefronts proclaim Schneerson as moshiach. A small blimp flying above a Sunday neighborhood parade recently featured a picture of Schneerson with the words "Moshiach is ready, are you?"

Lubavitchers ride New York subways with posters under their arms proclaiming the rebbe as king. Some attribute miracles to him.


Many Chabad leaders who worked with Schneerson acknowledge that they once believed he had the potential to be a Messiah, but that hope ended with his death.

The leaders said they did not name a new rebbe because no candidate appeared to match Schneerson's magnetism and depth. The movement is now headed by a council.

Critics see another possibility: A new rebbe would undermine the messianic attachment to Schneerson.

"This is the dominant aspiration," said Jacob Neusner, a professor and senior fellow at Bard College's Institute of Advanced Theology in New York.

Some critics say the movement's success has caused thousands of Jews who support Chabad or attend its programs to unwittingly donate money and energy to an effort that is akin to a dangerous cult.

The belief in a resurrected Messiah could distort Judaism "profoundly and perhaps permanently," said Berger, the Orthodox rabbi and history professor.


UPDATE: Cynthia Edenburg e-mails:
A comment on the latest article you posted on this topic: from what I understand, the messianic Lubavitch hassidim aren't talking about a "resurrection" of the rebbe, because they don't seem to accept that he indeed died. Instead they talk about his "disappearance" in line with Enoch and Elijah.

So, he supplies you with a classic divine mediator figure!

Perhaps. All I know about the movement comes from the articles I've linked to in PaleoJudaica. But if they are portraying the beliefs correctly (always a big "if" with the media), the movement seems to have a range of theologies, all of which lead to the rebbe being the messiah. For example, the New York Times article from last September has the following:
The messianists are clearly straying from Jewish norms with their belief in a resurrected messiah. And yet, they are also reclaiming an abandoned element of the religion; Judaism, after all, was the original Western messianic faith. . . .

Though he'd been sick for years, the rebbe's death came as a shock to the community. Some Lubavitchers, like Lieberman, started the process of accepting the reality that their messiah in waiting was gone. ''Sure I felt disappointment, but you have to move on,'' Lieberman says. ''What can one say other than that life is not always what you want it to be?'' But many clung stubbornly to their faith, insisting that the rebbe never really died or that the process of redemption was under way and that the rebbe would soon return and be revealed as the messiah. ''Exactly how this is going to come about we really don't know,'' Rabbi Cohen says. ''What we do know is that if you open your eyes, you can see that bit by bit it's coming to pass.''


Max Kohanzad was a teenager in the Lubavitch yeshivas during those critical years. He and his classmates spent four hours a day poring over the rebbe's messianic discourses. In the aftermath of the rebbe's death, he was among the jubilant messianic Lubavitchers whose behavior so appalled Lieberman. ''I spent the entire day with the other yeshiva students singing Yechi and anticipating the actual redemption,'' says Kohanzad. ''What was understood was that this was the day utopia was going to begin.''

Unfazed when it didn't, Kohanzad and his fellow messianists soon started putting out their first underground publications, contending that the rebbe's death didn't diminish his legitimacy as messiah and pointing to Jewish sources that allow for a second coming.

Again, if the views are being represented with precision, the article seems to be saying that some believe, as Cynthia said, that the rebbe never died and is now in occultation; but others think that he did die but will soon return, apparently in resurrected form. If anyone who is more familiar with the movement can clarify what the beliefs are, please drop me a note.

UPDATE: Joe Slater e-mails:
As it happens I'm studying the subject right now. There is certainly a spectrum of messianic belief within the movement and there seems to be a great deal of reluctance to rule any position out.

Here's a link to the Rabbi Shmuel Butman's position from 1995 where he argues in favor of resurrection:

Here's a link to a recent email from Rabbi Yess who believes that the Rebbe is still alive in a physical body:

Note that Rabbi Yess is not a rabbi in the technical sense of having received smicha. He also has the very worst designed website in the world.

It's hard to get firm doctrinal statements from most Chabad representatives but an article available off this site (be quick! I can't find a permanent link!) indicates that the Lubavitch representative in France believes in "the eternal physical existence" of the late Rebbe.

I don't know if this is just an unfortunate turn of phrase, or if it's an attempt to stamp out Docetism and the Arian heresy.

The full text of the last is:
The Chabad community in Paris is preparing for Gimmel Tammuz, when its members will participate in a day of inspiration and hiskashrus to the Rebbe Melech Hamoshiach. It will include a series of activities, mivtzoyim and farbrengens called "24 Hours with the Rebbe." The program will be conducted within the spirit of the belief in the eternal physical existence of the leader of the generation, in accordance with the rulings of Rabbi Hillel Pevzner and it will not include anything that is not in accordance with this belief. The programs will take place in the Sinai educational campus. Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Pevzner, director of the educational institutions in Sinai, Heichal Menachem and Kitov, is the driving force behind the programs.

(Bold-font emphasis in the original; italics mine.)
THE "CEDARS OF LEBANON," mentioned in the Bible and the Epic of Gilgamesh, are not entirely gone and may be making a comeback:
Lebanon's world-renowned forests enchant visitors
Cedars draw tourists from around the globe

The government, the private sector and non-governmental organizations have taken steps to preserve the prized trees
By Linda Dahdah
[Lebanon] Daily Star staff
Wednesday, June 23, 2004

BCHARRE, North Lebanon: Whether on its flag, in its legends, books or simply in its people's hearts, the cedar has always been inscribed in Lebanon's history and image around the world.

Containing the oldest cedar trees in Lebanon, Bcharre's Cedar Forest has been witnessing the passing of time for more than 1,000 years.

Situated in the heart of North Lebanon's mountains, in the qaza of Bcharre, it often disappoints many tourists who expect to behold an endless landscape of cedars spreading out before their eyes.

"I heard so much about this forest, I imagined a huge one that would be so overwhelming. No doubt that it gathers the oldest cedars ever, but it is really a little drop of vegetation in a dry landscape," said Amal Mnassa, who has been living in Australia all her life and for whom a long-time ambition has been to see the protected site.

However, despite its small seven hectares, the forest, called Arz al-Rab - Cedar Forest of the Lord - did not lose its power to enchant. Very much believed to be sacred, it has been and still is today a site of international pilgrimage.


For centuries before the advent of these legends, however, the precious wood was coveted by all from the East to the West of the planet.

Cited in the Epic of Gilgamesh (5,000 BC), the Lebanese cedar, Cedrus Libani, has been the highest valued tree through history, and it has always been a symbol of strength and power.

Used as winter firewood to warm local mountain families, who also used it to build their houses and their horse-drawn carriages, cedar wood was also the standard building material for the boats of the famous ancient seafaring nation known as the Phoenicians.

Even the Pharaohs sent their ships to collect the venerable material that served as pillars in many of the temples of Egypt.

Assyrians, Romans, Babylonians and Turks were among the other consumers of cedar wood.

And the last - but not the least - legend-violating "blasphemy" was that during World War I the wood from these "divine" trees was used for railroad fuel.


Trying to save as much as they can of this natural splendor, many organizations have been active since the mid-1980s.

The protection and maintenance of the forest has been in the hands of the Friends of the Cedar Forest Committee, created in 1985. Besides curing the trees from various diseases and keeping the forest clean, this organization has created a different path through the forest, thus making it accessible to visitors.

Another internationally active organization, Protection of the Lebanese Cedar, has been fighting to raise awareness of the fragility of cedar trees and the threats facing them.

With varying sources of financial support, many reforesting initiatives are under way and young saplings are slowly re-covering the landscape.

And the trend seems to be continuing. With a plan to plant 10,452 trees (Lebanon's surface in square kilometers) the army, which protects the forest, has already planted around 3,000 saplings. For its part, the Environment Ministry has planted 12,000 saplings in addition to 10,000 that have been planted by the Friends of the Cedar Forest Committee.

The latest initiative came recently from Casino du Liban, in which 1,000 two-year-old saplings were voluntarily planted by the Bcharre Environment Protection Committee.


It's very good news that so much effort is being made to conserve and expand the forest.

It's also disconcerting that the historical review in this article is so careful to avoid any mention of the cedars of Lebanon in the Bible or their use by ancient Israel, especially Solomon in his palace and the temple (see, e.g., 1 Kings 5 and following).

(This post reconstructed after the browser crashed yet again just as I was finishing it. Thank you, new Blogger.)
ARAMAIC SPEAKING Assyrian Christians in Iraq are being subjected to an increasing number of Islamist terrorist attacks and many are leaving the country.
For the Assyrians, liberation has not brought the level of security they had hoped for. Instead, it shifted the politically motivated losses caused by the Saddam Regime to the more dangerous religiously motivated crimes. (AINA report). Of special concern to Assyrians and their community leaders is the nature of these attacks, the overwhelming majority of which have been religiously motivated. Often these attacks are accompanied by notes demanding that the Christian Assyrians follow the rules Islam or face the consequences. This has created an atmosphere of fear in the Assyrian community, not so different, ironically, from the fear they felt under Saddam's regime, though the nature of it is different. Saddam Hussein ruthlessly suppressed any expression of national or ethnic identity, and by and large did not concern himself with religious issues. With the removal of Saddam, Assyrians -- whose population in Iraq out-numbers the national individual populations of Kuwait, Qatar, Cyprus, and UAE -- have finally succeeded in asserting their unique ethnic and cultural identity, and have been active participants in the political process, yet, in an ironic flip-flop, now they find their religious institution under attack by Islamists.
THIS IS ARCHAEOLOGY OF VERY RECENT HISTORY, but worth a mention nonetheless:|
Jewish relics uncovered near Auschwitz (CNN)

Tuesday, June 22, 2004 Posted: 3:00 PM EDT (1900 GMT)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- Archeologists searching for Jewish religious relics at the site of a synagogue near the former Auschwitz death camp have found a treasure trove of menorahs and candelabra lost since the Nazis burned down the building in 1939, officials said Tuesday.

The objects were found Monday in Oswiecim, in southern Poland, after more than three weeks of excavation work.

Among the finding were candelabra decorated with symbolic eagles of Poland and the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, which controlled the area until World War I, an indication that the objects could date from the 19th century, said Tomasz Kuncewicz, director of the Auschwitz Jewish Center.

The relics are rusted, but still intact, and researchers won't know their value until they have more time to study them.


Objects hidden from the Nazis in 1939 -- including a Torah scroll not yet uncovered -- will probably never be found, [archaeologist Adam] Druks said.

"I think the Nazis must have destroyed them," Druks said.


Tuesday, June 22, 2004

TODAY WAS GRADUATION DAY for the St. Andrews Divinity School. Three of my doctoral students got their degrees this year, although only one was able to make it to the ceremony. Congratulations to Deborah, Bankole, and Alex. The photo below is of Alex (Panayotov) and me at our School garden party this afternoon.

ARCHAEOLOGIST DAVID STACEY challenges some archaeological orthodoxies about the site of Qumran, particularly in Jody Magness's recent book, The Archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Stacey's essay, "Some Notes on the Archaeological Context of Qumran in the Light of Recent Publications," is on the Bible and Interpretation website. Excerpt, with some of my comments interspersed:
The necessity for a garrison at Qumran was of fairly short duration. Even during the lifetime of Jannaeus, the moat he had dug in Jericho became a convenient refuse dump (Netzer 2001: 145), indicating a reduction in the threat of attack from the east. Following his death (76 B.C.E.), the "Twin Palaces" (Netzer 2001: 5) were constructed, in part, over a section of the moat that had already gone out of use and completely filled in (Netzer 2001: 146). In Qumran, the garrison may have been withdrawn as early as c. 80 B.C.E, with the buildings becoming largely surplus to requirements.

For me the most startling part of this essay is Stacey's support of Golb's proposal the ruins at Qumran, at least in the later period, represent a military garrison. Of course Stacey also thinks that the sectarians moved onto the site after the garrison, whereas Golb thought it was a garrison up to its destruction. Still, I always understood that archaeologists rejected the post-Iron-age garrison interpretation because the water supply was too open and could not be protected.
At the same time that there is a reduction in the strategic importance of Qumran, there are signs that there were new occupants. A profusion of miqva�ot gradually surrounded and encroached into the earlier structure,10 and unusual gatherings of animal bones were deposited. The new arrivals also brought with them the changed funerary practices11 revealed in the cemetery. There is no evidence for a break in occupation and any incomers must have arrived with the encouragement of the Hasmonean royal estate. Pottery production continued and was still important. Some of the over 700 bowls found in Locus 89, "the pantry," were probably produced for trade and, as they strongly resemble vessels found in late Hasmonean and early Herodian Jericho (Bar-Nathan 2002: 89), it seems that there were still close economic ties between the two sites. In all likelihood, Qumran also supplied some pottery to such nearby sites as Rujm el-Bahr, Qasr el-Yahud and, perhaps, Ein Gedi and Masada.

Who were these newcomers? By now the greatly increased area under cultivation in Jericho would have required a further influx of labor, some of it, particularly at harvest time, seasonal. Josephus described the Essenes as men "of the highest character, devoting themselves solely to agricultural labour" (Antiquities XVIII: 19) and, as such, would have been welcomed by the Hasmoneans. A considerable proportion of the population of Qumran probably worked (and slept) during the week on the royal estate, particularly in that area opened up south of Wadi Qelt12 closest to Qumran, which would have been only two or three hours walk away. This would help account for the noticeable shortage of living space at Qumran, which has led some to conclude that "some of this habitation could have been seasonal�that is, perhaps some of the members lived at Qumran on a temporary basis" (Magness 2002: 69-71). On the eve of the Sabbath, they would return to Qumran where, being beyond the boundaries of the estate, they were separated from what, if they were indeed Essenes, they would have considered the impurities of the world and could conduct themselves according to their ascetic ideals.

Some of the Qumran community were potters; others were, perhaps, acolytes hoping to join the Essene sect. During their three year "apprenticeship," they could support themselves and their community with laboor on the Jericho estate. Once accepted into the sect, some may have remained in Qumran, but others would have moved to Essene communities elsewhere. Over a thousand people are buried in the Qumran cemetery, too many for them all to have lived and died there. The marl into which they are dug offered an easier and cheaper burial option than the bed-rock of Jerusalem, and it is probable that many of the corpses were carried down from communities in the hill country, perhaps accompanied by superannuated documents belonging to the same communities.

There is no reason to assume that the scrolls found in Qumran were all hidden in haste at a time of conflict. It is far more likely that the caves served as genizot for other communities in Jerusalem and elsewhere. Over the years, torn and damaged scrolls and documents that had become "old-fashioned" because they contained outmoded philosophies or rules that had been surpassed were brought down from the hill country and quietly deposited in the safety of the caves. Some scrolls may have been as much of a curiosity to those who deposited them as a book of Victorian sermons would be to us.

I can't comment on the archaeological aspects of his interpretation, but the last paragraph seems to me to be a possible reading of the evidence. My own working hypothesis is that various sectarian groups under the broad "Essene" umbrella sent their religious libraries to Qumran, probably because there was an Essene settlement or retreat center there, for safe-keeping during the war.

It's interesting to have such preliminary essays posted on the Internet and discussed on e-mail lists, but actual advances in the field are going to come from scholarly monographs, reviews of them in the journals, and articles in peer-review journals. I think that point is worth keeping in mind and perhaps belaboring.

Also, while finding the Amazon entry for Magness's book above, I also ran across the following by her, which evidently is soon to be published: Debating Qumran: Collected Essays on Its Archaeology (Interdisciplinary Studies in Ancient Culture and Religion
Ancient Rabbi Becomes a Modern Israeli Matchmaker (New York Times)

Published: June 22, 2004

MUKA, Israel, June 15 � In these days of and television's "Bachelorette," there are thousands of men and women in this country who look for love in a decidedly old-fashioned way: they pray at the tomb of a rabbi who has been dead for 2,000 years.

The rabbi, Yonatan ben Uziel, was a disciple of Hillel, the revered Talmudic sage of the first century B.C. Rabbi Yonatan was said to study Torah with such burning passion that any bird flying overhead would instantly be incinerated.

Like too many people fanatical about their work, he died a bachelor, or so the folk legend has it. Yet there has evolved around him an unshakable belief that he can intercede for those desperate to find love.

That is why every year, on the yahrzeit or anniversary of his death in the Hebrew calendar, thousands of pilgrims in buses and cars � young Hasidic men with peach-fuzz cheeks, women in tight jeans and aviator glasses, grizzled parents frantic to find a spouse for sons and daughters who have reached the ripe age of 25 � descend on this gorge of cedars and olive trees in the northern Galilee to recite Psalms at Rabbi Yonatan's grave.


Yoram Bilu, a professor of anthropology and psychology at Hebrew University, said there was a growing veneration of saints in Judaism, paralleling that in Christianity and Islam, as demonstrated by the growing populist reverence for the Talmudic sages whose putative graves are sprinkled throughout Galilee.

He said forces like the turmoil set off by the Palestinian uprising and disillusionment with once popular movements like socialism had led many ordinary Israelis to latch on to a folk mysticism and New Age spirituality.


Monday, June 21, 2004


Bordreuil, Pierre and Fran�oise Briquel-Chatonnet
Le temps de la Bible
Reviewed by Dennis Stoutenburg

Campbell, Anthony F.
1 Samuel
Reviewed by Mark Wade Hamilton

Deutsch, Robert
Shlomo: Studies in Epigraphy, Iconography, History and Archaeology in Honor of Shlomo Moussaieff
Reviewed by Christopher A. Rollston

Feder, Frank
Biblia Sahidica: Ieremias, Lamentationes (Threni), Epistula Ieremiae et Baruch
Reviewed by Robert Paul Seesengood

Hess, Richard S. and M. Daniel Carroll R., eds.
Israel's Messiah in the Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls
Reviewed by Rami Arav

Kaiser, Walter C.
Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament: A Guide for the Church
Reviewed by William Blackburn

Lindenberger, James
Kent Harold Richards, ed.
Ancient Aramaic and Hebrew Letters
Reviewed by Frederick E. Greenspahn

Richard, Suzanne, ed.
Near Eastern Archaeology: A Reader
Reviewed by Diana Edelman

Rof�, Alexander
Deuteronomy: Issues and Interpretation
Reviewed by Thomas C. Romer

Strawn, Brent A. and Nancy R. Bowen, eds.
A God So Near: Essays on Old Testament Theology in Honor of Patrick D. Miller
Reviewed by Won Woo Lee

Suh, Myung Soo
The Tabernacle in the Narrative History of Israel from the Exodus to the Conquest
Reviewed by Thomas Hieke

Cignelli, L. and R. Pierri
Sintassi di greco biblico (LXX e NT): Quaderno 1.A: Le Concordanze
Reviewed by Dirk Jongkind

Park, Eung Chun
Either Jew or Gentile: Paul's Unfolding Theology of Inclusivity
Reviewed by James Miller

Anderson, Robert T. and Terry Giles
The Keepers: An Introduction to the History and Culture of the Samaritans
Reviewed by Juergen Zangenberg

Philostratus, Flavius
Translated by Jennifer Maclean and Ellen Aitken
On Heroes
Reviewed by Timothy Pettipiece
ANCIENT PALMYRA (TADMOR) in northern Syria is being excavated by a French expedition. According to the Syrian Arab News Agency (via Archaeologica News), "The French archeological team working in defensive walls in Palmyra on Saturday discovered a traditional sacrifice alter on which inscribed a text in Palmyran Language expressing a sacrifice deriving God Malkabl�s blessing." The Palmyrene language was a dialect of ancient Aramaic.
THE LUBAVITCHER REBBE Menachem Mendel Schneerson died ten years ago today. The community will be commemorating him in two very different ways.
Remembering the Lubavitcher rebbe (Ha'aretz)
By Daniel Ben Simon

The memorial ceremonies surrounding the 10th anniversary of the passing of the Lubavitcher rebbe are overshadowed by controversy: Is Menachem Mendel Schneerson dead or still alive?

Members of the Hasidic sect Chabad have been preparing for months for this event, which will take place this evening when thousands crowd into the Yad Eliyahu stadium in Tel Aviv.

But a giant pall hangs over these celebrations. It turns out that other Hassidim from the Chabad clan intend to hold a separate event in the Rebbe's honor, with thousands convening at the large amphitheater in Bat Yam. The latter will celebrate without making any reference to the rabbi's death, as though he were still alive and continuing to shower his love on the movement that viewed him as the messiah.

A note of sadness, not to say gloom, has therefore crept into the central celebration. What was supposed to be the biggest event of the decade is about to expose the deep rift within the extended Chabad family. The thousands at Yad Eliyahu will participate in a memorial service, while their competitors in Bat Yam will take part in a colorful and merry celebration. While participants in Tel Aviv will hear sermons and speeches and Torah wisdom delivered by great contemporary rabbis in memory of the rebbe, the Hassidim in Bat Yam will dance and sing in the rebbe's honor.

It is already clear that most Hassidim will rush to Yad Eliyahu, because most have come to terms with the rebbe's death and have turned over a new leaf in the history of the Hasidic movement.

Bat Yam meanwhile will host Chabad youths and others who refuse to accept the rebbe's departure. Despite having heard of his burial plot, and despite not having seen him since his death, they are convinced that his body and spirit still hover above, undetectable by the human eye.


For more on the controversy and its historical context, go here.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

THE GENOA MANDYLION, an alledged miraculously imprinted image of the face of Christ, has been dated to the thirteenth century by radiocarbon dating:
Unknotting a tangled tale of towels (The Art Newspaper)
Scientific tests have established that an icon, revered as an imprint of Christ�s face, is 13th century

By Martin Bailey

Tests on a painting, called the Mandylion, revered as a miraculous imprinted image of Christ, have revealed it to have been made in the 13th century. There are several early versions of the image, but the one in Genoa is the first to have been subjected to a thorough scientific examination. The results are being presented at an exhibition (until 18 July) in the city�s Museo Diocesano as part of the European Capital of Culture celebrations. Appropriately, the show is presented as a journey, both spiritual and scientific�since the venerated icon has links with Syria, Turkey, Sinai and Armenia.

The Mandylion is traditionally believed to be a representation of the face of Jesus miraculously transferred to a towel (from the Arabic word mandil, �small cloth�), but is not to be confused with the cloth, which also bears His likeness, with which Veronica wiped Christ�s face as He went to Calvary.


The church recently agreed to a small sample of wood being removed from the poplar panel, for carbon dating at the University of Lecce. The results show that there is a 90% probability that the panel on which the painted linen image is fixed dates from between 1240-90.

Other objects associated with the Genoa Mandylion were also examined. Most important is the magnificent gilded silver frame, which was made in Constantinople in the mid-14th century. Enclosing the original frame are two later cases made in Italy, one in 1601 and the other in 1702.