Has Kingsley crossed over, then, from quest to obsession? Perhaps. He is absolutely obsessive about knowing the objects of his search, although this is just excellent methodology. Part forensics investigator and part profiler, Kingsley is adamant that the key to any search is the understanding of both the material and psychological properties of the missing objects. It is not enough to know what the Temple treasures were made of, and their design; it is just as important to know their significance to Second-Temple Jews, and to the Romans and Vandals after them. It is Kingsley's hypothesis that the icons survived not because of their monetary value, but because they could be used to support the founding myths of all those who held them, an ultimate source of via fide - street cred - in a world breaking free from Roman rule.I started this book a while ago, but got distracted with other things. I hope to get back to it this fall, because it is of interest for my work on Massekhet Kelim>, The Treatise of the Vessels," for the More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project.
An expert in the archaeology of the Holy Land, Kingsley has the credentials that make his quest more than quixotic. He also has a writing style that successfully mixes arcane archaeological details with set-piece depictions of historical events. His account of the Triumph of Vespasian and Titus, as the Jewish treasures are marched through the various pagan and political sites of bustling Rome, is itself a triumph of re-creation.
I will admit that Kingsley's approach is occasionally manipulative in its cinematic style. He is certainly not averse to playing up the inevitable Indiana Jones angle. But the power flows from the icons themselves, and Kingsley's quest to understand their essence.
Earlier posts on Kingsley's book are here, here, here, and here,