Queries & Comments
I have enjoyed reading your magazine now for about 20 years. I wanted to let you know what a pleasure it has been. You get enough letters, it seems, of people canceling their subscriptions. I hope you get letters also from people who appreciate what you do.
Dirk E. Huttenbach
Wow! Two in a Row
I just finished reading the May/June 2007 issue of BAR
featuring the Dead Sea Scrolls. I believe it is the best issue ever. Every article was well written and interesting. I can hardly wait until the next issues when you continue the series on the scrolls.
Leif C. Hatlen
Dead Sea Scrolls Online?
Is there available the opportunity to view some of the Dead Sea Scrolls manuscripts online?
Images of many of the Dead Sea Scrolls are available on our Web site at www.biblicalarchaeology.org/DeadSeaScrolls. We also recommend that you visit www.biblical archaeology.org/IsaiahScroll to view the new high-resolution, interactive image of the Great Isaiah Scroll. You can even zoom in on individual letters.—Ed.
Overlooked Scroll Discoveries
I have read with great interest Hershel Shanks’s three articles, as well as those of Emanuel Tov, Sidnie White Crawford and Martin Abegg, celebrating 60 years’ study of the Dead Sea Scrolls (“Sixty Years with the Dead Sea Scrolls,” May/June 2007).They are basically well done and timely at this moment of amazingly resurgent interest in the scrolls.
This issue, however, has overlooked some important aspects of the Scroll discoveries. First and foremost, I see nothing about Dominique Barthélemy’s work on the Nahal Hever Greek Minor Prophets Scroll (Les Devanciers d’Aquila
), which chief scroll editor Emanuel Tov has said “revolutionized Biblical scholarship.”a
Few American scholars, not just Shanks, have given Barthélemy’s work the attention it deserves. Textual critics in Europe and Israel have taken it far more seriously.Even Tov did not indicate much interest in the first edition of his “Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible” (see my comments in Textus 18 ). He did so, however, in the second.
This situation is being corrected by the gradual publication of Biblia Hebraica Quinta
, which follows the principles for textual criticism established by Barthélemy and the United Bible Societies’ Hebrew Old Testament Text Project, of which we both were members.And it will be more directly corrected by the forthcoming English translation of the introductions to the first three volumes of Critique textuelle de l’Ancien Testament
(1982–1992) authored by Barthélemy, for which I have penned the preface.Tov has called them “an almost complete introduction to the textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible.”b
How did you cover the surprising but serious questions for understanding the Bible that the large Psalms Scroll from Cave 11 raised and are still being discussed, or that its editor published it only four years after unrolling it in 1961 (J.A. Sanders, Discoveries in the Judaean Desert IV, [Clarendon, 1965])?One would think that that would have deserved honorable mention against the long laments about how slow publishing the scrolls was before 1991.
I might add that the films of the scrolls taken in Jerusalem in 1980 by a photographic team sent by the Ancient Biblical Manuscript Center (AMBC) and deposited in the Huntington Library in Pasadena have long since been returned to their rightful place in the vault of the ABMC
in Claremont, California. It is worth noting also that the ABMC
compiled and published The Dead Sea Scrolls Catalogue
, 1994) being used by scholars the world over.
James A. Sanders
Professor emeritus, Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Graduate University, and President emeritus, Ancient Biblical Manuscript Center
I’ve been a reader of BAR
for about a year now and have generally enjoyed many of the articles, whether I agree with their interpretations or not. I certainly applaud the fact that a range of voices are given room to discuss the field. As an archaeologist working principally on northern-European early-medieval material, it’s always interesting to see how others approach the issues regarding the integration of archaeology and text.
However, Khirbet en-Nahas is a site of great interest that is proving to be somewhat more controversial than the publications in BAR
suggest (Levy and Najjar, “Edom and Copper
,” July/August 2006, and Hershel Shanks, “Another View
,” January/February 2007). Khirbet en-Nahas has much to tell us about Iron Age copper production, exchange and state formation. Levy and Najjar’s article paints a picture of an early site away from the perceived Edomite heartland (in the highlands). They give an earlier date for major exploitation of copper ore than would be expected for that area. From this, they argue that it provides evidence for an Edomite state about a century earlier than the archaeology of the highlands suggests and that it is more in keeping with Biblical sources.
In “Another View,” the BAR
editor critiques Israel Finkelstein’s response in the journal Tel Aviv
to Levy and Najjar in which Finkelstein tries to place the Edomite fortress more within his low chronology.
It appears that Levy and Najjar have a strong case, especially given the radiocarbon dating, to interpret the site within an early Iron Age culture. However, it is these radiocarbon dates that have themselves proven to be controversial, and this has yet to be discussed in BAR
Levy and Najjar’s BAR
article is based on their scientific paper.c
Presenting their radiocarbon dates based on the calibrated dates (where the calculated dates are fitted against a curve that provides a more accurate date), they use these calibrated dates plus a range of other information (stratigraphic, pottery, textual, etc.) in a package called BCal to further modify the dating sequence, using Bayesian statistics. The dates thus produced are the ones used by Levy and Najjar in their BAR
article and are, on average, around a century earlier than the normal calibrated radiocarbon dates. This is where the controversy begins.
In a response to Levy and Najjar’s scientific paper, another group of scholars expressed their concerns about these dates.d
The debate can be followed on both the project Web site and online,e
and includes responses from Levy and Najjar to the critiques.
In a review article,f
Charlotte Whiting criticizes Levy et al.’s paper on Khirbet en-Nahas for its lack of clarity over contextual information for where the radiocarbon samples came from, and so it is unclear quite how secure these contexts were (i.e., whether they could have been contaminated by material of a different date).
None of this, of course, means that the early dates or interpretations for Khirbet en-Nahas are necessarily wrong, but there needs to be a great deal more persuasion and transparency of Levy et al.’s methodology before they are accepted by many scholars.
It seems likely to be a discussion that has some way to run yet, and all the better for it!
All archaeology requires interpretation, including results provided by “hard” science. At the very least, BAR
readers deserve to know that the dating sequence for Khirbet en-Nahas is controversial.
Dr. John Naylor
For the last six years, I’ve played the role of King Herod the Great in an interactive murder mystery play at David’s Tower Museum in Jerusalem. Learning the role required learning in depth about King Herod and the period in which he lived. In the play, I refer to the frescoes in the northern palace of Masada, so when I read that many had been restored, I took the first opportunity to see them. It seemed necessary that my stage character should visit “his” restored frescoes.
I wasn’t disappointed. They make you feel what it must have been like back then in that beautiful palace, perched on the edge of Masada.
Mr. Negin’s picture of Herod’s restored frescoes appeared in our July/August 2007 issue.—Ed.
I just purchased your magazine at a local newspaper stand here in Prince George, British Columbia, Canada. I am really enjoying it.
However, I am wondering why, in your May/June issue, there is an ad for “The Lost Tomb of Jesus,” if your organization doesn’t agree with it. I went to your Web site and found information on why this DVD is not correct.
Prince George, British Columbia
We strongly believe in free speech. We accept ads for lots of things we don’t agree with. Indeed, we don’t vet ads, so mostly we don’t know whether we agree or not. The truth arises from a variety of views. Our readers are quite mature enough to make their own judgments.—Ed.
The brief report on “Biblical Archaeology Dying at Oxford University” in the March/April 2007 issue is seriously misguided and misleading.
The “Levantine Archaeology Laboratory,” to which you refer, is more or less nonexistent. It was the brainchild of our good friend Professor Tom Levy when he was a visiting fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies a few years ago. It was thought that it might help attract funding to enable his association with Oxford to continue, but it never got further than that. Under its auspices a successful conference on carbon-14 dating was held (and was reported in BAR
, “Radiocarbon Dating
,” January/February 2005). For various reasons, that whole project has evaporated, but nothing significant has been lost thereby.
The implication of the report that this is somehow connected to the future of the subject at Oxford University is quite wrong. Dame Kathleen Kenyon was, of course, a huge figure in our field, but her presence in Oxford was a coincidence. Her university teaching post was in London, and later she came as the head of a college to Oxford, a position that is open to any distinguished person. In one sense, therefore, it was a matter of chance that she happened to be an archaeologist.
Roger Moorey, to whom you refer, was also a towering figure in the field, and his loss so early was a heavy blow. He is irreplaceable as an individual, but not institutionally. The position he held at the university’s Ashmolean Museum has just been filled (albeit initially at a lower level) by Dr. Jack Green, who works at the heart of our field.
So, there never has been a university lecturer in this particular subject area. Andrew Sherratt, who is also mentioned in the report, was certainly an important figure in archaeology, and his premature death was another sad loss. With the best will in the world, however, one could hardly say that he was central to this particular subject area. His ideas have had influence on this field, but he did not personally devote himself to it.
There is, however, the Wainwright Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Near Eastern Archaeology, and it so happens that the current holder of the fellowship is a specialist in Levantine archaeology, Dr. Linda Hulin. Indeed, next year she will be putting on a course of lectures precisely on “The Archaeology of the Levant,” something which has never happened before in my time in Oxford. We are arguably better off now in terms of basic instruction than we have ever been. Moreover, Dr. Garth Gilmour (a former student of Roger Moorey) works in a different capacity at the Hebrew Centre, but maintains a busy schedule of research and public lecturing in Palestinian archaeology.
In addition, I might point out that there continues to be an optional paper in theology called “Archaeology and the Bible.” Professor John Day lectures on this every other year, and additional teaching is provided by colleagues such as Dr. Stephanie Dalley and others. In addition, I give an introductory course on Biblical history each year, which is attended by undergraduates and graduate students in Ancient Near Eastern, Hebrew and Jewish studies as well as Biblical studies. This includes a good deal of archaeology based on my own field experience as well as wider reading.
While it is true, therefore, that we miss the greats who were among us until recently, it would be misleading to give the impression that the subject is dead in Oxford.
Many of us would love to see more done, especially in the research area, but funding is tight these days. Meanwhile, we continue to do what we can with the resources available and have no intention of allowing the subject to die.
Hugh G.M. Williamson, FBA
Regius Professor of Hebrew
University of Oxford