More Queries & Comments, Spring 2021



PLEASE INCREASE THE FONT and bring back the pleasure of reading the magazine.

Reducing the font size reminds me of the story of the poor man who asked his wife to make him blintzes he saw the rich man devour. Being poor, the wife left out ingredients they could not afford, ending with a tasteless dish and nothing to be jealous about.

You may be able to fit more words into your magazine, but if they are too small to read, they will just be discarded. In this case, more is less.

Relly Coleman
Westport, Connecticut

We have adjusted the font size throughout the magazine. Thank you for letting us know and for your continued loyalty.—B.C.


I UNDERSTAND THAT THE WORLDLY USE of time now is C.E. and B.C.E.; but why, of all organizations, do you feel compelled to? When you first started doing so, I cancelled my subscription. I would renew it otherwise, as I still find the subject fascinating. Am I missing something? Serious question, not a complaint. Thank you.

John Jewett

John, we allow our authors to choose between BC/AD and BCE/CE.—B.C.




OK, SO WHEN MR. GREEN attempts to locate displays for his Museum of the Bible, he’s told not to seek after “other” dealers and sources. The article doesn’t answer the question as to why such academes and advisors would tell him this and then not help him find such proper sources. NO!!! Clearly the article infers that he gained NO such assistance when money clearly was NOT the issue, but had no choice. Sure enough! He locates fraudulent and stolen merchandise. Do Mr. Green’s detractors take any responsibility? NOOO! It’s just a barrage of “I told you so.” Utterly ENRAGING!!!

Brian Lantz
Bonita, California

Responsible scholars and archaeologists don’t want private individuals purchasing any antiquities—but especially those illicitly traded on the black market. So, we all strongly advised against it, both publicly and privately. You seem to be arguing that since scholars warned Mr. Green against buying black market antiquities, BUT THEN DIDN’T HELP HIM ACQUIRE LEGAL ANTIQUIITIES, he is somehow off the hook for buying stolen goods, and we, the scholars, are all somehow also to blame??—B.C.


IN RESPONSE TO YOUR EDITORIAL “Unprovenanced Antiquities: Learning the Hard Way” (Fall 2020).

I have lived in Colorado Springs for 25 years, home of Focus on the Family ministries, and have been to the Museum of the Bible by the Hobby Lobby owner, and I have seen just how pride and greed has influenced these conservative Christians. I am not shocked to hear that he would disregard sound advice to obtain these treasured and stolen objects. When they disregard God’s commandment to “love God and your neighbor” and then promote laws to discriminate against American citizens, you are not living God’s love and as a disciple of Christ. Need I say more to his motive for this museum? For his own self-interest and ego. I’m glad it cost him millions, when they cost the state of Colorado millions of dollars with their Amendment 2 in 2013 that was found to be UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

Dorian Beth Wenzel
Colorado Springs, Colorado




BAR Summer 2020HELLO, FRIENDS at BAR! I have so enjoyed reading BAR over the years. I have been fascinated to learn much about both the how the biblical world existed as well as how archaeology is done. I have always been impressed with the care the writers and researchers take to substantiate their claims—or to admit when they cannot make a claim based on the evidence. I was thus a little disconcerted to read in Brent Nongbri’s otherwise fine article (“How Old are the Oldest Christian Manuscripts?,” Summer 2020) of his claim that the Shroud of Turin was an ideal example of how radiocarbon analysis has “proven to the satisfaction of sober observer that it [the shroud] is a product of the 13th or 14th centuries—not the first century.” As a casual but interested reader of the ongoing debate regarding the authenticity of the claims made about the Shroud, I recall an article published a year ago this summer in the online journal that substantially questions the method used to conduct the 1988 radiocarbon analysis of the Shroud and thus the conclusions drawn from the experiment as well.

A team of researchers from France and Italy has found evidence that suggests testing of the Shroud of Turin back in 1988 was flawed. In their paper published in Oxford University’s Archaeometry …

For an author who so carefully notes in his article how the National Geographic’s radiocarbon dating method of the Gospel of Judas needed to be revisited in light of the magazine’s claims but who is apparently unaware of the ongoing research and debate about the radiocarbon analysis about the shroud does the reader an unintended disservice.

Rick Keller-Scholz
Tacoma, Washington

For a response, please refer to our Q&C in the Winter 2020 issue.—Ed.




I HAVE ENJOYED THE CORRESPONDENCE on this subject in the latest issue of BAR. Although I have had a role as a preacher, I’m afraid that I would never describe myself as a biblical scholar. When (very much) younger, I would have taken the stories of Adam and Eve literally, but as I have become (slightly?) more knowledgeable, my view has become that the story is allegorical—either with the intent of describing the reasons for leaving the Great Rift Valley and the abundant life there (was the angel with the flaming sword a volcanic eruption?) or else to justify why men were always to be seen as superior to women.

Genesis 1 seems (based on modern scientific views on the development of planet earth) a pretty accurate, if brief, description of creation (if I can use that term these days in scientific circles!).

Genesis 2, on the other hand, seems to be couched in terms of a priestly view of “creation” rather than a historical/scientific one. So are we actually seeing the “post-Exilic” version of events in Chapter 2 of Genesis and therefore why some biblical scholars hold that one of the reasons there was enmity between the Samaritans and the Jews after the Exile was that the version of the Bible that came back from the Exile had changed from the “original” version that the Samaritans had kept all the time?

Keep up the good work!!

Robin Rowles
Dorchester, Dorset UK



THANKS FOR THE ARTICLE ABOUT BEES (Biblical Bestiary: “Bee,” Fall 2020). It’s interesting that the apiary dating from around 900 B.C.E. was discovered at Tel Rehov, located in the northern part of the Jordan Valley.

Although a land flowing with milk and honey indicates fertility and abundance, I’ve read that “honey” may refer to the north with its many blossoms of every sort. And “milk” may refer to the rocky grazing land for milk producing goats in the south. Biblical references to “honey” from dates may moderate the north-south understanding of the expression although the apiary at Tel Rehov lends some strength to the description of the land flowing with milk and honey.

Tom Zurcher, CSC
Laredo, Texas


YOU HAVE UNLEASHED A DETECTIVE THRILLER indeed (Whence-a-Word: Apple of His Eye, Spring 2020, and following) on the origin of the expression, “apple of his eye.” English bibles that preceded the Genova Bible (1560), like the Matthew’s Bible of John Rogers (1537) and the Coverdale Bible (1537) are all entangled with the earlier Tyndale Bible, and we read that Coverdale, whose fingerprints are all over the place, consulted German sources, knowing no Latin or Greek. Ron Javorsky’s letter (Q&C, Winter 2020) mentions a possible source in Luther’s German Bible.

So, we follow a trail of clues. It is those “German sources” that make me wonder. Perhaps the Wenceslas Bible, an earlier German translation of the 1390’s, should be consulted to find in “Augapfel” is used. Luther may have had an accomplice. And, of course, what did Wyclif say? Any online source I can find for a Wycliffe Bible has a suspiciously modern “apple” in the text, leading me to think that the evidence is contaminated. As with some good thrillers, what we need is a scholar of Middle English poring over a dusty original manuscript.

Neil Young
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada


NICHOLAUS PUMPHREY’S “SUPERHEROES AND THE BIBLE” (Fall 2020) was very informative and needed today. It reminded me of the book “The Gospel According to Superman,” by John T. Galloway Jr. (Holman, 1973). When I was a kid, I loved the reruns of the Superman 1950s television series. Little did I know that before Superman appeared in 1938 there was another superhero from 1933 named “Doc Savage.” Doc Savage was “the Man of Bronze”; Superman was “the Man of Steel.” Doc Savage had an arctic hideout called “the Fortress of Solitude”; so did Superman. In his online article “Mind Your Business: Superman Stole the Fortress of Solitude,” artist Mark Simon asked, “How about Doc Savage’s real name, Clark Savage, Jr.? Clark Savage…written by Lester Dent…Clark Dent…get it?” In 1934 ads, Doc Savage was called a “superman.” I suppose if Nietzsche had been alive, he could have sued both Savage and Superman for stealing his “Übermensch.” We’ll just have to be satisfied that Superman fought for “Truth, Justice, and Plagiarism…the American Way.”

Thank you!

Randy Rector
Coffeyville, Kansas



GENTLEMEN, DR. PIERCE NEEDED a better editor for her article “Tomb of Kings Now Open!” (Site-Seeing, Summer 2020). I BAR Summer 2020assume that original measurements were provided in metric since the site is French. Measurements of 27 and 25 meters are both converted to 89 feet. 89 feet is correct for 27 meters. Later, 250 sq m is converted to 820 square feet. 250 meters is about 820 feet. 250 square meters converts to about 2691 square feet.

Roger S. Rutter
Owego, New York

Thank you for the correction.—Ed.


I TRIED TO POST THIS in the comment section after the story about Unwinding Soup (Test Kitchen, “Unwinding with the Ancient Babylonians,” Fall 2020), but the website would not let me.

There was something familiar about this recipe, so I looked in the 1975 edition of the Joy of Cooking that I inherited and found this recipe:


Cook slowly until soft but not brown:

1 cup finely chopped celery, leeks, or onions, in 1 tbsp butter.

Cover and add:

2 cups hot water or milk
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups diced fresh or dry bread

Stir well and let the mixture boil. Then simmer 1/2 hour. Beat it well until smooth with a wire whisk or in a blender. Combine:

1 cup light cream
1 egg

Stir this slowly into the hot soup. Heat until the egg thickens but do not let the soup boil. Serve with chopped parsley, freshly grated nutmeg.

Wiktionary defines “panade” as: “A soup boiled in water from bread, butter, sometimes also egg yolk and milk. A paste, typically made of milk and bread. (figuratively) A state or experience of misery, poverty.”

Like many aspects of what we think of as gourmet French cooking, panades were considered a food of poverty, born of having to extend the meat or the soup so there would be enough to go around. I think panades with milk and egg would be considered a “fancy” version of a very frugal meal, whether in Europe or Babylonia.

Clare Feinson
Washington, District of Columbia


DEAR EDITOR, “MONKS AT WORK,” by Dr. Dana Robinson (Fall 2020), taught me more about Egyptian monasticism and St. Shenoute in particular. I learned of the Life of St. Antony of Egypt (c. 251–356) by St. Athanasius while reading in the Confessions of St. Augustine. In Book VIII, chapter 6, Augustine mentions the impact it was having in his day in the West; and it still has. I became a monk in 1957. Young Antony responded literally to the invitation of Jesus in Matthew 19:21. From the ground up, monasticism is sourced in the Bible. The primary work of a monk or nun is to worship God. St. Benedict (480–547) called this the Work of God (Opus Dei). Tedious manual tasks allow the mind to pray. Jesus and St. Paul urge us to “Pray always.” The early monks prayed the entire Psalter daily; some knew the Bible by heart. The monastic community was intended to be an extension of the early Christian community as described in the Acts of the Apostles—a community of worship, of ownership, and mutual aid—similar to the ideal of the Israeli kibbutz. A visit to the ancient Coptic monasteries in the Thebaid and the Wadi el-Natrun in Egypt, where it all began in the fourth century, is an overpowering experience.

Greetings and thank you all!

(Fr.) Augustine H. Serafini
Community of Our Lady Monastery
Oshkosh, Wisconsin


ON PAGE 17 of the Summer 2020 issue, you correctly list White Castle as the first fast food restaurant, but it was not the oldest hamburger chain. That honor should go to Menches Restaurants, who invented the hamburger at a Fair in Buffalo in 1885.

Stan Wallace
Green, Ohio




I READ WITH INTEREST THE RECENT ARTICLE by Dr. Sarah E. Rollens on the “Social Conflict in Ancient Galilee” (Fall 2020). She speaks of potential strata between the elite and the peasants. However, she neglects to mention whether any artifacts were found that would have shown the presence of wine makers, bakers, or cooks that would have been required to support the “mansion.”

David Stahl
Las Vegas, Nevada



THE INTRODUCTION BOX of the “Digging Deeper at Tel Hadid” article (Summer 2020) mentioned how a specialized discipline of archaeology includes how some “even reconstruct the site in virtual reality.” What if BAR made arrangements with some of those digs for us to pay a modest fee and go through the BAR website and see some of those? I don’t have much income to spend, but I like BAR and would probably visit the website with electronic access if there were virtual reconstructions of the dig sites.

Mac Miller
El Campo, Texas


AFTER SCRUTINIZING THE MALE CLAY FIGURINE HEADS (Y. Garfinkel, “The Face of Yahweh?Fall 2020), looking at my cookie jar, and asking my grandchildren for their objective opinion, I have concluded, as well as they, that the heads resemble a mouse, a creature, as we know, with prominent ears, eyes, and nose. If so, could the holes then be for whiskers? Incantations to a mouse god/goddess for protection against mice invasions would be particularly likely in agrarian areas. First Samuel 6:5 sheds light on mice as a scourge, as the Philistine priests and diviners advised the people to return the ark with five golden likenesses of tumors and five golden likenesses of mice, “that ravage the land.” The Mesopotamians had a mouse god/goddess named Ninkilim. Although written in the early part of the last century, the following article provides an informative insight into other rodent gods: Powell, J. U. (1929). “Rodent-gods in ancient and modern times,” Folklore 40(2): 173–79.

Thanks to everyone at BAR for your excellent educational, thought-provoking articles.

Pat Dowdey
Thousand Oaks, California


FIRST, I LOVE YOUR TEST KITCHEN feature “Unwinding with the Babylonians” (Fall 2020) The latest seems a precursor to French Onion Soup (minus any added cheese of course).

But your “The Face of Yahweh?” article raises questions. First, the figurines are extremely crude. Neighbors like Egypt did much better work. Surely a child could do better. Why was this ugly, crude work acceptable?

Second, two of the figurines have lines of holes. Why? The holes at the beard line were doubtless to add a beard. Then what do we make of the line of holes at headdress level. What is their purpose? Maybe to frame a hat bill or halo? But they form a very crude line. Again, a child could do better.

Third, why do the authors identify the Qeiyafa figure as a male god? Too ugly to be female? I think not. I suggest the figure is female and the irregular head holes were anchors for long hair. Is that impossible?

John A. Cramer
Professor of Physics Emeritus
Oglethorpe University
Atlanta, Georgia



THE WINTER 2020 ISSUE includes an article on p.52, “Gluttony and Drunkenness in Ancient Israel,” which asserts that “a delinquent son is sentenced to death….”

Chief Rabbi Dr. J. H. Hertz comments on this passage in Pentateuch & Haftorahs, p.842, “The Rabbis tell us that this law was never once carried out; and, by the regulations with which the infliction of the death-penalty was in this case surrounded, it could not be carried out (see also on XXII, 22). Its presence in the Torah was merely to serve as a warning, and bring out with the strongest possible emphasis the heinous crime of disobedience to parents.”


The Rev’d Dr. R. H. Fickley
Crozet, Virginia


GLUTTONY AND DRUNKENNESS IN THE BIBLE” in your Winter 2020 issue contained some strange conclusions:

The author states that the Bible does not condemn gluttony or drunkenness per se. This is false, at least as for drunkenness. See the story of Lot (Genesis 9), Proverbs 21:1 and 23, Hosea 4:11, many places in Isaiah, among others.

As for gluttony, the condemnation is not as strong, but see Proverbs 23 again.

The author states that beer was used as a libation on the Temple altar. Rabbinic law which considers beer a leavened product forbids this (Leviticus 2:11), but even disregarding that, the verses the author quotes (Leviticus 28:9-10, 14) do not mention beer at all.

Some verses referring to sacrifices on the altar specifically mention wine libations, and in other verses wine seems implicit. To infer that when wine is not mentioned, a beer libation would have been permitted is a stretch.

The author states that the terms usually translated as “a glutton and drunkard” in Deuteronomy 21 are not easily translated, yet other places using the same word roots seem clearly to contradict her (see Proverbs 23:21, where drunkenness and gluttony make sense as translations, not some putative “deviant” eating and drinking.

I’ve subscribed since the 1970s. Keep it up.

David Dubin
Teaneck, New Jersey



IT WAS VERY ENLIGHTENING to read the article “Jesus the Magician? Why Jesus Holds a Wand in Early Christian Art,” by Lee M. Jefferson (Fall 2020). There may be another reason for the appearance of the rod in the hand of Jesus: it may serve as what artists term a “callout.” A callout is usually a short string of text connected by a line, arrow, or similar graphic to a feature of an illustration giving information about that feature. In our case, it would be used much as a “preposition” in a sentence—something functioning to express a relationship between the actor or agent (Jesus) and the object. Without such a marker, how would the uninformed observer understand the scene? A case in point might be the Santa Sabina doors, where Jesus stands beside the multiplied loaves and the water-turned-into-wine—the rod in each case connects, or associates Jesus as the agent responsible for the outcome.

Leslie Train
Toronto, Ontario, Canada



READING “JESUS THE MAGICIAN” in the recent BAR issue (Fall 2020), a practical reason for showing Jesus with a staff occurred to me. As a former graphic designer and illustrator, I am aware of the challenge of depicting miraculous events in static mediums. Such illustrations would demand visual conventions to clue in the viewer about what they were seeing. Comic book artists and filmmakers have developed an extensive visual language for portraying everything from energy blasts to super speed. I could see the staff playing a similar function. Differentiating Zeus sitting on a throne from a human king comes down to props: the thunder bolt is a dead giveaway as to the divine identity. Is this a plausible explanation for the images depicting Jesus’s miracles?

In the article’s frontispiece, the wand singles Jesus out, directing the viewer’s attention toward Lazarus and indicating the other-than-normal scene being depicted. This same pattern holds for the other photographic examples in the article. Remove the staff (or other visual cues) and the clarity of the image decreases significantly.

Whatever symbolic utility the “wand” may have, consideration of the practical, visual problem-solving options available to the artist may be an overlooked rationale for its inclusion.

Nathan Baird
Livermore, California


LEE JEFFERSON’S FALL 2020 ARTICLE attempts to discern whether the stick wielded by Jesus in performing miracles in early Christian art is a magic wand or a staff like that of Moses. This begs the question: is the concept of a magic wand in later European literature itself a development from biblical Moses’s miracle working staff?

Now the Iliad depicts acts of magic by the gods performed through a wand-like implement, and that is presumably not influenced by the Bible.

What, then, do we know about similar wonder-working scepters, staffs, or wands in ancient Mesopotamian, Egyptian, or Minoan cultures that could have served as precursors?

Avram Israel Reisner
Baltimore, MD


THE FALL 2020 ISSUE OF BAR includes an article “Jesus the Magician?” that includes on p. 46 a fourth-century image representing Moses crossing the Red Sea. At the bottom of his robe is a swastika, an ancient and widespread symbol possibly derived from a Greek cross. We assume that Moses lived long before the advent of the symbol, and also recognize that fourth-century Christians may have known it. Its ancient uses were a positive image of good fortune or similar connotation. How do the art experts on your staff account for this image with Moses—other than artistic license?

Thank you for considering this slightly frivolous question from a long-time, regular BAR reader.

Ray Reeder
Albuquerque, New Mexico


PROFESSOR JEFFERSON IN HIS ARTICLE “Jesus the Magician?” equates the wand wielded by Jesus in catacomb and other early images with the staff of Moses. I see problems with this. A reliance on the intellectualized early Christian authors such as Origen for proof that “early Christians greatly maligned magic” leads astray. In fact, the vary images themselves indicate a desire to show magic as polytheists imagined it, be it with Moses’s staff or with a polytheist’s wand. Polytheists and Christians lived in the same world and often thought of miracles/magic in the same way—proof of access to supernatural power. That is why Jesus’ and the apostles’ miracles/magic worked in a polytheist environment. Finding a difference between magic-hating Christians and magic-loving polytheists creates a distinction without a difference except in theology probably foreign to many if not most adherents. The author also seriously underestimates the importance of the wand or staff as an accoutrement to spell binding or divine action in ancient Egyptian magic (see illustrations in magical papyri) and in Greco-Roman magic from Circe’s wand on. Moses himself learned Egyptian magic (Acts 7:22) and his competition with Pharaoh’s magicians (Exodus 7:8-13) was a straightforward exercise in competing Egyptian-trained magicians. There is no reason why some might not have imagined the polytheists’ wand as Moses’ staff, but it is unnecessary to argue that early Christians saw just that staff, not the more culturally expectable wand/staff of ancient Egyptian divinities, Egyptian magic and classical material prevalent in the culture of the time.


Robert Knapp
Oakland, California

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