Queries & Comments

More Queries & Comments, Fall 2020

 

Good and Bad Archaeology

AS SOMEONE WHO SPENT A CAREER in the physical sciences (physics and geophysics), I would gently point out that while archaeology is a science, it is generally considered to be one of the social sciences that is an active user of many other technologies taken from the hard sciences. The difference being that archaeology, which uses the scientific method to classify and analyze the data it collects, does not have the capability (or need) of predictive analysis — something that is confined to the mathematically based sciences. This is not good or bad, it simply is a reminder that the word “science” is a very broad term, and, for example, the link between archaeology and current work in particle physics is in the concept that with science, the repeatability of results is the primary mark of “good” science, but the types of science are extremely different. With that in mind, if two different archaeologists look at the same data and have different interpretations, the underlying “science” is what we hope will eventually prevail.

In that regard, while you defend “good,” methodologically sound archaeology and express concern over non-methodologically sound archaeology, it appears, at least to this old physicist, that archaeology will always have the issues that all social sciences have—and that is their constraints to whatever current societal thoughts are in fashion. After all, the very title of BAR reflects a view that the Bible (both the Jewish texts and the New Testament) defines a specific geographical and time period for data gathered from the practice of archaeology.

It was the desire on the part of many in the 18th century (and earlier) to find the locations of events that were described in the Jewish Bible and the New Testament. That led to the current activities in this area. There is nothing wrong with that desire, and the advances in archaeological methodology over the centuries have dramatically improved the quality and quantity of the data collected, but as even you note in the preface paragraph to Q&C in the Spring 2020 issue, there are societal, emotional, and even political implications to the very words that archaeology uses. Not to belabor the point, but the concepts of calculus as developed by Leibniz a few hundred years ago, are still valid regardless of whatever thoughts he might have had about any aspect of life during his time. The same cannot be said for archaeology as a social science, and the political and social views of the schools of archaeology over the years do affect where data is collected, how it is collected, why it is collected, and how it is analyzed and disseminated. Interpretations change, but the data does not. The data may increase, but it does not change. The views of the people engaged in biblical archaeology do change and are affected by their personal views.

So I would ask that you might be more gentle in responding to Mr. Simon (Q&C: “Too Harsh,” BAR, Spring 2020)—his personal views and perhaps those in the ASB represent a specific view of the archaeology presented in BAR. And given the history of archaeology over the past 200 years, we would be well served to think that in another century, there might be another complete change in our views of the field as society changes, but the past remains the same.

Matthew Coleman
Talking Rock, Georgia

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Women and Essenes

DEAR SIRS, THANK YOU for your evenhanded and thoughtful article on women and Essenes.

I can’t help noticing one grave omission, though. You treat the nine female burials as established fact. This is something practitioners in the humanities often find difficult (I hold a minor teaching assignment in archaeology from the University of Cologne). It is one more example of an imperfect test for a rare condition, better known from tests for AIDS or for breast cancer in young women. If the determination of sex from interred remains is 90 percent precise—which, from all I’ve read, is an optimistic assumption—then nine burials wrongly determined as female out of 93 exclusively male burials is exactly what you would expect from chance alone. In the normal case, where burials are about evenly divided between male and female and everything less than 40 percent or more than 60 percent counts as a skewed sample, an error rate of 10 percent doesn’t matter much, but in an extreme case, like here, it does.

Axel Berger

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Adobe of Old

DEAR EDITOR, I recently opened an eight-week Sunday School lesson on the Holy Land by reviewing the impact of the great civilizations of Egypt, Greece, and Rome in order to establish their contribution to the elements necessary for the rise of Christianity. In making the point, I cited the variety of ways these cultures impact us even today and, in describing the abiding influence of the Egyptians, I used the example of their mud construction, which David A. Falk describes in “Brick By Brick” (BAR, Spring 2020).

The mud brick material was known as ADB (Ah’ job). In time, this descriptive word and the construction techniques of North Africa were taken north by invaders. For example, when Spain was conquered by the Moors, many new words were added that today color the Spanish language. Subsequently, Spaniards conquered the new world and brought their hybridized language, culture, and construction techniques to North America. Although real mud may not be used in most of today’s Southwestern facades, Mission style does capture the color and texture of what we call adobe.

Jack O’Brien
The Villages, Florida

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Which Is the True Bethsaida?

I VERY MUCH ENJOYED reading the opposing “briefs” for el-Araj and et-Tell in the Spring 2020 issue. I found Mr. Notley and Mr. Aviam’s argument “the City must have been located on the lakeshore for the reinforcements to arrive by boat” not convincing at all. It has always been efficient to ferry troops on water, and I see this as feasible even if Bethsaida was a mile inland at the et-Tell site. Mr. Notley and Mr. Aviam claim el-Araj “certainly was not 13 feet under the lake” as “previously contended” by proponents of et-Tell. This point is belied by Mr. Arav’s current assertion that a severe draught in the mid-first century C.E. dropped the level of the Sea of Galilee to “unprecedented levels.” While there is no conclusive proof either way, I have no trouble with the village, and later polis, being a mile inland. I vote for et-Tell!

Michael Stepper
New York, New York

 

MY 60 YEARS AS A HYDROLOGIST, dealing with flood hydraulics and water storage, leads me to question the recent article about the location of Bethsaida as et-Tell. I have never been to the Sea of Galilee nor do I have access to topographical information of the region other than what I can see on Google Earth. Based on the size of the Sea of Galilee, inflow and outflow to/from the Sea during a changing climate, and the geometry of the Jordan River, I tend to support the el-Araj location. I found no information on the internet about the river slide during the 363 C.E. earthquake, but such an event could have filled the river and lagoons and denied boat access to et-Tell.

Steve Johnson
Houston, Texas

 

WHAT IS THE LOCATION OF CAPERNAUM with respect to Bethsaida and el-Araj?

I visited Capernaum and neighboring places in 1983 and again in 1993. Archaeologists had uncovered “Peter’s House” there on the seashore and a synagogue nearby to it. The synagogue was probably dated after Peter’s time. Another very memorable site nearby was the “Mountain of the Beatitudes.” The southern slide of the mountain sloping gently southerly toward the Sea of Galilee could very well have been the site of this memorable event for Christians.

Hector Bossé

 

Bethsaida (both rival sites) are on the north eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, east of Capernaum.—B.C.

 

DEAR BAR, I DEFINITELY ENJOYED reading your feature article concerning the location of the site of ancient Bethsaida, as each location seems to have bona fide credentials for being the correct place. In the older and larger site known as et- Tell, for instance, several old coins were found with the words “Philip the Tetrarch, the founder” inscribed on them and with one of the coins having the word “Julius” written on it. It would be hard to argue that this had not been the original town of Bethsaida that later got rebuilt and was enlarged upon and renamed “Julius” by Herod Philip, around 30 C.E. On the other hand, in the newer and smaller site known as el-Araj, there have been found the remains of a presumably Christian church built during the Byzantine era that verifies the account of an early pilgrim who had traveled there and claimed that it was erected over what had been the remains of the house of the disciples Andrew and Peter. It also better matches the geographical location described by Josephus in his writings, although fishing equipment was found in recent excavations at both sites. So, what does one make of this conundrum?

The answer is that ever since the late 19th century it has been postulated that there were two separate towns named Bethsaida in close proximity of each other that had been in existence at the beginning of the Common Era, and recent excavations at both those sites tend to confirm that view. There was one notable discovery, however, made at the larger site that would negate the likelihood this was the town in which the two disciples had lived—the remains of a temple located at the summit of the site that honored the Phoenician goddess Astarte, but which at the time of its rebuilding was converted to a Roman temple. It is a well known fact that, throughout his brief ministry, Jesus only visited towns that were predominantly Jewish. A Galilean town that featured a temple dedicated to the pagan goddess Astarte was simply not the type of town that he would care to have visited. For that reason, I believe that the site located right next to the Jordan River is in fact the place where the two disciples (Andrew and Peter) had lived and which Jesus himself visited on several occasions when recruiting disciples during the time of his ministry.

Morgan Paris
San Francisco, California

 

I SUSPECT THAT BOTH SITES featured in the last issue were Bethsaida, just as there was more than one location for Jericho, because it was rebuilt several times. The et-Tell article suggested that the city was moved when the water level changed long-term; that seems very plausible and would be the simplest solution to the dilemma.

Stephen Zimmerman

 

WE LIVE IN A SMALL RURAL COMMUNITY in Alabama that was founded by a crossroads and railway depot. Over time, isolated homesteads became small communities in their own right due to population growth, environmental changes, and economical considerations—all are located one to two miles from the original settlement. Should these population centers be unique or considered an extension of the original? Lastly, quoting Josephus as an “exact” historical reference is a dubious exercise due to an inaccurate understanding on our part of what was reported. Thank you for the wonderful and informative article!

David Mulkey
Limrock, Alabama

 

DEAR COLLEAGUE PROF. CARGILL! Congratulation on the last, most interesting issue of BAR about Bethsaida! Perhaps you know through Hershel that I was a close friend to Father Bargil Pixner, OSB, who contributed two important articles to BAR. In the 1970s and 1980s, Bargil was an important person in the search for Bethsaida. I was also close to Mendel Nun, who always pleaded for el-Araj. Let me answer to your invitation (in the editorial) for a feedback on the two contesting propositions. All the best for your work in not-so-easy times!

Biblical Archaeology Review has done a great service in documenting the main arguments in favor of the both contenders for biblical Bethsaida. Indeed, in the late 19th century, Gottlieb Schumacher described the site of el-Araj and defended it as Bethsaida when he conducted a thorough archaeological survey of the Golan, exploring a route for the railway from Haifa to Damascus. However, it is not quite exact to say that Schumacher was an “American civil engineer and architect” (“The Case for El-Araj”). Although he was born in Ohio, Schumacher belonged to the protestant-pietistic group of Templars who left Germany to create some progressive settlements in Turkish Palestine.

The Benedictine monk Bargil Pixner (1921–2002) is often called the father of et-Tell/Bethsaida, but he always pleaded for a double identity: the Roman city of Julias at et-Tell and the Jewish fishing village of Bethsaida at el-Araj (see Paths of the Messiah, San Francisco 2010, p. 139f.). Already in 1983, Pixner and the Jewish fisher-scholar Mendel Nun (1918–2010) discovered remains of a public building like a heart-shaped lime-stone column and a basalt architrave at el-Araj. After the settlement gap of the third and fourth century, could the Byzantines have known that el-Araj is the New Testament Bethsaida when they built their church there in the fifth century? According to Talmudic sources, there were still Judaeo-Christians living in nearby Capernaum (Qohelet Rabba 1:8; 7:26) in the fourth century who could have transmitted their local knowledge to the arriving Byzantines. Also, is there an explanation why Bethsaida is called a “village” (Greek: kōmē) in Mark 8:26 but a “city” (Greek: polis) in John 1:44? The Gospel of Mark was written before 70 C.E. and it contains much older traditions, going back to the immediate disciples of Jesus, who died in 30 C.E. Mark may describe the situation before 29/30, when Bethsaida was elevated to the rank of the city of Julias by Tetrarch Philippus, whereas the much later Gospel of John could presuppose the later situation.

If el-Araj is Bethsaida—as I believe—some of Jesus’s closest disciples would have lived in contact with a developing urban environment. It is interesting that both Andrew and Philippus bore Greek names, and even Peter could have borne as a double name the Hebrew Shimon and the Greek Simon. His origin from Bethsaida makes it very probable that Peter knew more than mere Pidgin-Greek. This is of relevance for the transmission of the early Jesus tradition.

Rainer Riesner
Formerly Professor of New Testament at the Institut für Evangelische Theologie of the University of Dortmund, Germany.

 

HOW MAGIC AND MIRACLES Spread Christianity” by Robert Knapp (BAR, January/February 2020) provided a refreshing and thought-provoking perspective in considering how this new movement would have convinced many everyday people of its validity and benefits—somewhat pragmatically, through demonstration of miracles. Knapp makes a key point that “… conversions did not come about on the basis of Christianity’s supposedly superior morality or philosophical treatments of life’s issues,” a bias that those of us looking back on this part of history from later Judeo-Christian-Islamic monotheistic worlds can hardly escape.

In effect, Christianity had to work for its new adherents from among the Jewish population (followers of the Laws of Moses) and the Greco-Roman population, for whom worship of the traditional pantheon of gods was viewed as piety. “Show me the miracle,” as Knapp puts it. He states that by the end of the third century, 10 percent or less held some form of Christianity, and it would likely have continued attracting converts more modestly among other popular religions, had it not been for Constantine’s establishment of Christianity as the imperial religion of Rome—a move initiated with the miracle of the Chi-Rho vision and ensuing military victory at the Milvian Bridge.

This thread resonates with those of us interested in that juncture in which Jews and Christians parted ways, reshaping their later identities. By the fourth century, Greco-Roman Christians outnumbered Jewish Christians, and the theology and doctrine were already clearly Hellenized. Now Christianity was made officially Roman, “top down”, and the miracles worked in the service of the Roman Empire, in contrast to those of the Gospels that centered around ordinary folks. The First Council of Nicaea, just 13 years later, officially and purposefully separated a newly re-minted Christianity from Judaism. Rome had fought three significant rebellions by the Jews and viewed them as difficult, fanatical. The Temple had been levelled, Jerusalem’s inhabitants massacred, slaves and plunder paraded through Rome.

Christianity was going to be done the Roman way and not as an offshoot of the Judaism of its founders. It would be a “tough sell” for those of the Jews who were followers of the Way, or may have been open to it, to throw in with Constantine. Perhaps instead they thought they could retain their ancient heritage as people of the Torah while continuing to believe in Jesus as they privately saw fit. Evidently, any middle path disappeared, arguably excepting the very modern re-emergence of the Judeo-Christian Messianic movement. Christian identity coalesced into Greco-Roman identity, and Jewish identity consolidated around what was transforming into the Rabbinic Judaism of those who were not apparently won over by the more recent miracles.

In their intertwined trajectories, it’s evident by Byzantine times how these two groups of people exchanged, even partially swapped, mentalities: the stalwart followers of Yahweh’s revelations transforming into the philosophers of Talmudic Judaism while the reason-bound Greeks and pragmatic Romans became followers of miracle and revelation, guardians of the Faith.

Jesse Brumberger
Tehachapi, California

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Protesting Palestine

THE FIRST REFERENCE TO PALESTINE I could find in Herodotus was in 3:91, where he writes “All of Phoenicia, Syria (the one called Palestinian), and Cyprus lie within this province.” That is, the fifth provincial district, which began in the city of Poseidon and stretched about half-way down the Mediterranean east coast.

Ken Portnoy
Chicago, Illinois

And let’s not forget Herodotus (fourth century B.C.E.) Histories 1.105: “and when they were in the part of Syria called Palestine”; Pausanias (second century C.E.) Description of Greece 1.14: “and the Phoenicians who live at Ascalon in Palestine”; and, of course, Josephus (late first century C.E.), who wrote in Antiquities 1.136: “for the Greeks call part of that country Palestine,” and in Against Apion 1.171 he wrote: “This, therefore, is what Herodotus, says, that ‘the Syrians that are in Palestine are circumcised.’ But there are no inhabitants of Palestine that are circumcised excepting the Jews; and therefore it must be his knowledge of them that enabled him to speak so much concerning them,” and again in Antiquities 8.262 wrote: “no other of the Syrians that live in Palestine, besides us [Jews] alone, are circumcised.” Thus, we see that even the Jewish historian Josephus invokes a knowledge of Herodotus and his reference to the region—and specifically to the Jews of the region—as Palestine. He even refers to himself (i.e., “us”) as living in Palestine. So, although Palestine may not have been his designation of choice for his homeland, he openly and repeatedly recognizes that others called the region Palestine, and had done so since at least the fourth century B.C.E.—B.C.

 

DEAR BOB CARGILL, I am so relieved to see you stand your ground about the fictional history that some of the commentators argue (Daniel Simon). Thank you for correcting the argument about how long the name Palestine existed in the historical record. You correctly refer to Herodotus, but please allow me to add some more references to Palestine in the archaeological record:

  1. A basalt statue of an Egyptian Pa-di-Eset, the son of Apy (about 945–924 B.C.E.) inscribed that he was “Envoy of the Canaan and of Palestine.”
  2. The name Palestine appears often on Assyrian records. A stone slab discovered in Calah, said to be that of Adad-Nirari III (810–783 B.C.E.) describes the king’s expedition to Palestine (Pa-la-as-tu).
  3. An Assyrian inscription dated to Tiglath-pileser III (744–727 B.C.E.) describes the campaign of the governor of Kalha against Palestine (Pi-lis-ta).
  4. The same king had an inscription on Sab’a Stela that his Assyrian army campaigned against Palestine (Pa-la-as-tu).
  5. Sargon II (721–705 B.C.E.), on the Prism of Assur, wrote about his campaign against Palestine (Pi-lis-te).
  6. Flavius Josephus mentioned in Jewish Antiquities 8.260 that he was a resident of Palestine: “… no other of the Syrians that live in Palestine, besides us alone, are circumcised…”

Most of the above instances are documented in my books and can be found in James Pritchard’s Ancient Near Eastern Texts relating to the Old Testament.

Margaret S. King

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Chaucer’s Astrolabe

THE SPRING 2020 ISSUE of BAR has a wonderful picture of an astrolabe (Strata: Worldwide). Illustrative of the instrument’s importance is that in 1391 Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a prose instruction manual for his little son Lewis titled Treatise on the Astrolabe.

Bernard Witlieb
White Plains, New York

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More than meets the eye

BOB CARGILL’S ARTICLE about the phrase “apple of his eye” explains that the modern phrase follows an error in KJV. It does not, however, address how that error came to be.

Understanding that the translators of KJV were not ignorant, did they have reason to think that Hebrew ishon meant “apple”? First guess would be that Septuagint or Vulgate might have an ambiguous term that led them in that direction—but the Septuagint has kore, and the Vulgate, pupillus—both of which designate the “pupil of the eye,” and I see nothing connecting those terms to apple.

Another possibility, which I am harder pressed to check, is that in the English of the time the pupil of the eye might have been designated its apple (or its core?).

What do we know about why the translators landed on apple as their translation?

Avram Reisner

 

IN YOUR RECENT ISSUE, I was interested to read the piece titled “Whence-A-Word?: Apple of His Eye” (Epistles, BAR, Spring 2020), especially regarding Zechariah 2:8 (2:12 in the Hebrew Bible). The third-person suffix in the MT is in the category of the tiqqune sopherim, “scribal emendations,” which has characteristically been emended from first person (“my eye”) to third person (“his eye”) to avoid an apparently uncomfortable anthropomorphic reference to God (see my book The Fourth Gospel and the Scriptures [Leiden: Brill, 2012], 78–79). The extant witness to the verse in 4QXIIe presents a textual difficulty precisely at the point of the pronominal suffix. Editors indicate that the purported pronominal suffix in the text is a damaged letter that cannot be safely identified (see Ego et al., eds., Biblia Qumranica 3B: Minor Prophets, xvi, 175). Russell Fuller agrees that the reading of the waw is not entirely secure, and a yod is possible (see his “The Minor Prophets Manuscripts from Qumran, Cave IV,” Harvard PhD dissertation, 1988, 129). So, what the KJV translators had in mind, I cannot say. However, the DSS are inconclusive on this difficult verse from Zechariah. The reading may have been “my eye.”

Thanks for your consideration,

Wm. Randolph Bynum, PhD
Pastor and Professor

 

DEAR SIRS, in the “Whence-A-Word? Apple of His Eye” piece, it reads that “the specific type of tempting fruit on the Tree of Life is never identified.” This should read “the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.”

Sincerely yours,

Ionel S.

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Eve in Profile

PROFESSOR AMANDA W. BENCKHUYSEN’S BIBLICAL PROFILE, “The Gospel According to Eve” (BAR, Spring 2020) is excellent but misses the work of two important female commentators of our time, Professor Nechama Leibowitz and her student Professor Judy Klitsner. Leibowitz notes that Eve took of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, “the tree was desired to make one wise” and thus introduces knowledge and wisdom into our world—a highly praiseworthy action for which Eve is ultimately rewarded. As wisdom and knowledge increase, human heads enlarge, including those of fetuses, and thus, causes pain in childbirth!

Eve’s reward? The reward for all her female descendants? Klitsner teaches about Adam: by “the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” Adam, all men, die! Where is the death of women described? It is not! Women don’t die! They have children!

(Rabbi) Merrill Shapiro
Palm Coast, Florida

BAR-JA17-md

A painted limestone figurine of a human-ram deity from Canaanite Sidon appears on the cover of the July/August 2017 issue of BAR. Photo: Courtesy of Claude Doumet-Serhal.

AMANDA W. BENCKHUYSEN notes Adam and Eve’s “sin.” While most biblical scholars believe Adam and Eve to have committed the first sin, there is a minority who believe otherwise. For instance, Dr. John Byron in his article “Biblical Views: Who Sinned First—Adam or Cain?” (BAR, July/August 2017) wrote: “In Genesis, Adam and Eve disobey God, but their actions are never described as sin.” Dr. Bryon goes on to name Cain as the first sinner. Any thoughts on this issue from the editors of BAR?

Joseph P. Lavelle
Moscow, Pennsylvania

Neither Adam’s or Eve’s or Cain’s act is described with the Hebrew word חטא (“to sin”) in the Bible. However, Genesis 3:11 makes it very clear that Adam and Eve disobeyed God. Not only did they realize they had done so because they realized they were naked (v. 7) and hid themselves from God (v. 8), but God clearly asks them if they had done something he commanded them not to do (v. 11). Based on the punishments God doles out in 3:14–19, it is clear that some form of sin has occurred. Likewise, based on the actions and punishments described in Genesis 4, it is clear that a sin has occurred here as well, even though the word is never used. So if we’re going to debate the theological concept of “sin” as disobedience to the deity, I’d say Adam and Eve are the first.—B.C.

 

I THOROUGHLY ENJOYED your recent article on “The Gospel According to Eve”.

I have long felt that she got a bum rap. I have also never quite accepted that “original sin” thing. It seemed rather petty of an omnipotent, loving God to hold a grudge for all eternity for something so small. I have long thought that the story was not about sin and the “fall” but about SEX. A coming of age; a loss of innocence.

The Tree of Life, good and evil: All those choices in our lives as well as their good or bad consequences. The Snake: A phallic symbol and an ancient symbol of wisdom. Not an evil tempter, but one who imparts knowledge. Eve is not forced. Adam does not rape her. She chooses him. When she offers him her “fruit,” he partakes and delights in her.

In Genesis 2:18b the phrase כְּנֶגְדּוֹis used, meaning “like his match.” They “match” both physically and in life.

In vv. 22–23, when God drives them from the Garden of “delight,” it is not because of sin, but because they are now grow-up. They can never return to the “delight” of childhood.

And lastly, one lesson we always seem to miss: When God drives them from the Garden, he does not just slam the door in their faces. He goes with them!

Susan Northrop
Norfolk, Virginia

 

DEAR BAR, AWESOME ARTICLE that helps fill in the historical blanks on this important figure in biblical and Christian history. Now I get that how Pilate attempted a balancing act and walk that tight rope to maintain peace and not look like a tyrant while actually being a Roman tyrant.

I re-read the gospel accounts with a new perspective on this event of the trial and death of Jesus.

Steve Shaffer
Tallahassee, Florida

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Some Suggestions

MR. CARGILL, THANK YOU for your recent contributions to the high quality of BAR, which I have been receiving since 1995. Please consider the following suggestions for the magazine.

It is a nice idea to show measuring sticks in some photographs, but often I have no idea what the scale is. Please include the dimensions of the sticks in the captions for such photos.

I am aware of the license taken by movie makers with Roman clothing and armor, and I suspect the same is true for first-century C.E. Judea. Please commission articles discussing and illustrating the following.

  1. A) The conventions of Eastern Christian iconography and Western art regarding the depiction of the people in the Christian scriptures. I suspect that they are all more colorful and draped than the reality would have been.
  2. B) A description of how Jews of the first century dressed, wore their hair and beards, including carpenters, fishermen, shepherds, tax collectors, priests, teachers (e.g., Pharisees and Sadducees), even temple police/guards. How would the Marys have dressed?

I was very pleased some years ago with the BAR cover story about how Jesus might have appeared in person, and the above requests are encouraged by that publication as well as a desire to have a more realistic rather than artistic image of the people of first century Judea and Galilee.

Tom Poelker
St. Louis, Missouri

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History of Aberration

DEAR BOB CARGILL, it would be a pleasure and a spiritual adventure to know the interaction between your team of biblical enthusiasts and the work of Marija Gimbutas—her presentation of the sacredness as growing from “Mother Earth” as the primary reality for all of us. Perhaps the “masculinist revolution” with its grim and fantastic cruelties, its kings and wars, and priestly politics, is an aberration? Her assertion that the last 3,500 years’ panorama of plundering are not the normal human context can be truly comforting.

Nick Lindsny
Edisto Island, South Carolina

Nick, while reserving judgment on whether I believe her to be correct, I will say that I discuss Harvard and UCLA Professor Marija Gimbutas, her Kurgan Theory, and the idea that a woman-centered Old European system was supplanted by a patriarchal Bronze Age Indo-European culture that came to dominate Europe every year in my classes.—B.C.

 

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Cancel My Subscription

DEAR BAR, I AM SORRY to say I did not choose to renew my subscription to Biblical Archaeology Review. The Spring 2020 issue will be my last.

Your change in editorial approach, combined with the reduction to a quarterly magazine, is too far of a drop in quality to justify continuing my subscription. It’s too bad, because it did not have to be that way.

Why not change the name of your magazine to Levantine Archaeology Review? It would be more honest, and it would more accurately reflect your new focus.

Good luck on your new direction.

Mark R. Shipley
Silverdale, Washington

I’m sorry to see you go. Our Publisher made the decision to move to a quarterly. The reason that we call the magazine Biblical Archaeology Review is because we deal with archaeology as it pertains to the land of the Bible and the claims made therein. This does not mean that the archaeology being conducted in the Eastern Mediterranean supports every claim made in the Bible, but we report what the Bible says, what the archaeology says, and what that means for people invested in both.—B.C.

 

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Jan Feb 2020 Special Dig Issue

January/February 2020 Special Dig Issue

Photos Idea

I ENJOY EACH ISSUE OF BAR. Can you include in the photos a ruler or a quarter to show the relative size of the objects shown? Or perhaps a size description in the caption?

The photo of the juglet in the person’s hands (BAR, January/February 2020, p. 26) gives the relative size. Some photos show people holding artifacts in their bare hands. Shouldn’t excavators use gloves to avoid contaminating artifacts with skin oil? Perhaps you could have an article on the proper handling techniques for archaeological digs.

Glen W. Spielbauer
Dallas, Texas

Glen, we publish the images that the archaeologists and authors send us. What we cannot do is add or fundamentally alter the images by adding to or taking away from what was photographed. We, too, prefer images with centimeter scales, direction arrows, and locus plaques, but we cannot add them to images after the fact.

As for wearing gloves, not all objects react to moisture from the hands, so you will often see photos of volunteers holding pieces of stone and pottery without gloves. However, with organic materials and objects made from more reactive and absorbent substances, yes, gloves should be worn.—B.C.


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