Rollston Responds to Shanks

Scholars Debate “Jezebel” Seal

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I read with great disappointment the polemical and condescending statements of Hershel Shanks about my research in general. Here are the facts:

(1) Both Frank Cross and Joseph Naveh have sent me approving notes regarding my Maarav (2003) article on forgeries. Indeed, Naveh told me at the time that it was the best article on forgeries published to date.

(2) I have every reason to believe that Kyle McCarter regards my work very highly. I earned my Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins and have a close relationship with Kyle.

(3) I did testify in the forgery trial and my testimony is a matter of public record. I am entirely confident that the pieces I testified about (the two famous Moussaieff Ostraca and the Jehoash Inscription) are modern forgeries. Naveh and Cross also believe all three of these pieces to be forgeries (see IEJ for some of their articles on the subject of the Moussaieff Ostraca and the Jehoash Inscription, respectively).

(4) I do not believe that the Gezer Calendar (or the Zayit Abecedary) is (are) written in the distinctive Old Hebrew script. Naveh has said the same thing (History of the Alphabet, 1987). I believe that the Gezer Calendar (and the Tel Zayit Abecedary) are written in the Phoenician scriptÉ it was, after all, the prestige script of this period and so this comes as no surprise. I have an article that will be published in a volume on Tel Zayit (co-edited by Kyle McCarter) in which I discuss this issue. It is also something that I discuss in a forthcoming article in the Cross Fest. In any case, there is room for scholarly disagreement on this subject.

(5) Regarding the Yzbl seal. (a) There is no patronymic. (b) There is no title. (c) Korpel restores a letter to get the reading she wants…in spite of the fact that there are other good options (see my article at (d) I would not be inclined to date the script to the 9th century. (e) I am aware of no epigraphic Old Hebrew seal or bulla from a scientific expedition that was found in a 9th century context. See the comments of A. Mazar at in this connection as well. In addition, I have talked with Helene Sader and she has stated that she is not aware of any epigraphic Phoenician seal or bulla that has been found in a 9th century context in Lebanon. The earliest provenanced Aramaic epigraphic glyptics are arguably the Hamat materials (so Alan Millard, and I concur). (f) The Shema Seal from Megiddo has normally been considered 8th century, rather than 9th. See Sass-Avigad for a discussion of the literature.

The most disappointing aspect of Hershel’s statements were the condescending components of it, which were many. I am not surprised, of course. He has done the same thing to many people, including my dear friend Yuval Goren. It is regrettable that a non-academic such as Hershel uses his magazine for such purposes. Surely the standard should be higher than he sets it.

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