Sunday, April 09, 2017

Where is the Temple menorah?

CANDIDA MOSS: What Happened to the Jerusalem Temple’s Menorah? Every year, the Vatican receives hundreds of requests to return the menorah of the destroyed Jerusalem Temple. The only problem? They don’t have it. (The Daily Beast).
If the menorah isn’t in the Vatican being used as a reading lamp for secret books in a nefarious underground basement (it’s not—the only obstructions for scholars trying to enter the Vatican libraries are administrative), then where is it?

According to the first-century Jewish historian Josephus, the menorah was placed in Vespasian’s newly built Temple of Peace, not far from the Arch. It seems to have resided there at least until the third century, if not until the Ostrogoth Sack of Rome in the fifth. The suggestion that it was thrown into the Tiber during a time of chaos is implausible. As Fine told me, ancient artifacts frequently go missing, but gold artifacts do not. They get recycled, often being minted as coins. It’s possible that the Vandals melted down the menorah after they sacked the city in 455 C.E.

Even if the menorah was rediscovered today it might not be an unambiguous good. Beyond questions of authenticity, there might be calls to place the menorah in the Temple rather than a museum. [Professor Steven] Fine said, “My guess is that the messianic Pandora’s box that would be opened might cause right-minded and pious people to wish it had never been found.”
All that sounds right to me.

PaleoJudaica has been following the story of the Temple menorah for a long time and there are many posts on the various theories about what happened to it, as well as on the Arch of Titus, on Professor Fine's recent book The Menorah, and on the groundless conspiracy theory about it being held by the Vatican. Start here and follow the links.