Posts Tagged ‘Jewish scripture’
“How do you decide which bits [of scripture] are symbolic and which bits are not?” asked Prof Dawkins at one point during the discussion.
“Very simple,” replied the Chief Rabbi.
“The rabbis in the 10th century laid down the following principle: if a biblical narrative is incompatible with established scientific fact, it is not to be read literally.”
Christians take note. The Old Testament is the scripture of Jews. Maybe the Rabbis can be expected to know it better than TV evangelicals.
Archeologists from Tel Aviv university led by professor Shlomo Bunimovitz, have declared a tiny stone seal, just 1.5 centimeters in diameter (a little more than half an inch), found while excavating Tel Beit Shemesh to have an image of the biblical Samson killing a lion on it! Really! Can this animal really be a lion? The seal has an image of an unidentifiable animal, it is so badly depicted, possibly with a rider—faint, perhaps partly erased or unfinished—being controlled by an apparently human handler with something like a rope attached to its muzzle—unless it has a long tongue! It suggests a horse rather than a lion.
The seal was discovered with other finds on the floor of an excavated house, dated by the archaeologists to the 12th century BC. Along with the seal, two structures were discovered, which were apparently used for ritual purposes during the same time period. In one of them researchers found a kind of table, resembling an altar, next to which a large number of animal bones were found. Prof Bunimovitz believes the animals may have been used for sacrifices. Or maybe they were simply the remains of feasts, or both, as feasts usually accompanied sacrifices.
The stories in Judges have no known connexion with real history, and are more likely to be myths adapted to events of a much later age, namely the period after the victory of Cyrus the Persian when the Hill country was sparsely populated by native Canaanites and a few hopeful colonists from Persia. Samson is the same word as Shemesh, a Semitic sun god, the equivalent of the Greek Herakles, and beth (“house”) ususally meant a temple when associated with a God’s name. So Beth Shemesh was the place where the sun god was worshipped.
Sun Gods from sometime in the first half of the first millennium BC at least have had twelve legends associated with them one each for each constellation they pass through during the solar year. Samson depends on his long hair for his strength, the hair representing the power of the sun’s rays. The stories about Samson may be an abridgement of the full solar cycle of myths, many possibly lost when worshipping all gods other than Yehouah was forbidden. Thus, Samson, according to the story in Judges, fought a lion on his way to marry a Philistine woman. Hercules too fought a lion in what is usually listed as his first labor. Eventually Hercules is betrayed by a woman, just as Samson was.
The idea that a single, spectacular finding can reverse the course of modern research and save the literal reading of the biblical text regarding the history of ancient Israel from critical scholarship is an old one. Its roots can be found in W F Albright’s assault on the Wellhausen School in the early 20th century, an assault that biased archaeological, biblical and historical research for decades. This trend—in different guises—has resurfaced sporadically in recent years, with archaeology serving as a weapon to quell progress in critical scholarship. Khirbet Qeiyafa is the latest case in this genre of craving a cataclysmic defeat of critical modern scholarship by a miraculous archaeological discovery.I Finkelstein and A Fantalkin
During recent archaeological excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa, a fortified city in Judah adjacent to the Valley of Elah, professor Yosef Garfinkel, the Yigal Yadin Professor of Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and colleagues, uncovered assemblages of pottery, stone and metal tools, and many art and cult objects. Three large rooms were revealed that Garfinkel says were cultic shrines corresponding in their architecture and finds to the time of King David. He adds that this discovery is extraordinary for it is the first time that shrines from the time of the first biblical kings—Saul, David and Solomon—have been uncovered, and shed light on how a cult was organized in Judah at the time of King David. These shrines pre-date the construction of Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem by 30 to 40 years.
The discovery is indeed extraordinary, about as extraordinary as finding the Bat Cave of Batman and Robin under the streets of New York City, which was, of course, called Gotham City in those days, as everyone knows from the popular myth! Saul, Solomon and Solomon’s famous temple are all myths with not a single piece of material evidence for any of them, and king David, the father of the mythical Solomon, has the equivocal testimony of an highly contentious piece of a broken inscription. So all three of the earliest kings of Judah are as real as king Arthur, Dr Faustus and William Tell… they are not!
The expedition to Khirbet Qeiyafa has excavated the site for six weeks each summer since 2007, with co-director Saar Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority. Located approximately 30km southwest of Jerusalem in the valley of Elah, Khirbet Qeiyafa was a border city of the Kingdom of Judah opposite the Philistine city of Gath. The city, which was dated by 10 radiometric measurements (14C) done at Oxford University on burned olive pits, existed for a short period of time between ca. 1020 to 980 BCE, and was violently destroyed. The revolutionary results of five years of work are presented in a new book, Footsteps of King David in the Valley of Elah, published by Yedioth Ahronoth.
The architecture found at Khirbet Qeiyafa at this date is quite refined, and is interpreted by Garfinkel as evidence of royal activities, and therefore of state formation. An elite social level and urbanism existed in the region eleventh century Judah. Garfinckel seems convinced that it strengthens the historicity of the Jewish scriptures, and that their description of the architecture of the palace and Temple of Solomon is authentic:
This is the first time that archaeologists uncovered a fortified city in Judah from the time of King David. Even in Jerusalem we do not have a clear fortified city from his period. Thus, various suggestions that completely deny the biblical tradition regarding King David and argue that he was a mythological figure, or just a leader of a small tribe, are now shown to be wrong.
The Jewish bible relates how the people of Israel had a cult different from all other nations of the ancient Near East, being monotheistic and aniconic—free of human and animal figures—and having an aversion to pork. Garfinkel continued;
Over the years, thousands of animal bones were found, including sheep, goats and cattle, but no pigs. Now we uncovered three cultic rooms, with various cultic paraphernalia, but not even one human or animal figurine was found.
No human or animal figurines were found, suggesting the people of Khirbet Qeiyafa observed the biblical ban on graven images.
It suggests that the population of Khirbet Qeiyafa observed two biblical bans—on pork and on graven images—and thus practiced a different cult from that of the Canaanites or the Philistines.
However, the Hebrew Univerity press release is clear that no one is sure when these aniconic and monotheistic practices began, during the Israelite and Judahite monarchies (10-6th centuries BC), or only later, in the Persian or Hellenistic eras. The claim that images of humans or animals were absent in the three shrines is, on the face of it, evidence that worshipers here differed from the Canaanites and the Philistines, who made images of their gods.
The three rooms, part of larger building complexes, are supposed to have been separate shrines. In this respect they are different from Canaanite or Philistine cults, which were practiced in temples—separate buildings dedicated only to rituals. Garfinkel supposes that because the bible speaks of the portable ark being stored in private houses (2 Samuel 6) that it was worshiped in private houses. Yet there was only one such ark at a time, so it could hardly have been worshiped in three separate rooms. Indeed, three separate shrines in one larger building suggests polytheism, the different rooms being devoted to different objects of worship. Indeed cult objects found include five standing stones (Masseboth), two basalt altars, two pottery libation vessels and two portable shrines. Canaanites commonly worshiped masseboth, stones, and even the bible suggests the Judahites and Israelites did, though they were not supposed to according to Moses. It is deeply entrenched. Jews today still worship stones!
Two portable shrines or “shrine models” were found, one made of pottery, c 20cm high, and the other, 35 cm high, of stone. These are boxes shaped like miniature temples, which could be closed. The stone shrine is made of soft limestone and painted red. Its façade is decorated by two elements—seven groups of roof beams, three planks in each. This architectural element, the “triglyph”, is known in Greek classical temples, like the Parthenon in Athens. Its appearance at Khirbet Qeiyafa is the earliest known example carved in stone. The second decorative element is the recessed door. This type of door or window is known in the architecture of temples, palaces and royal graves in the ancient Near East. It was a typical symbol of divinity and royalty at the time.
Similar triglyphs and recessed doors can be found in the description of Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 6:5;31-33) and in the description of a temple in Ezekiel 41:6. These biblical texts are replete with obscure technical terms that have lost their original meaning over the millennia.
For the first time in history we have actual objects from the time of David, which can be related to monuments described in the Bible.
Now, the stone model helps us to understand these obscure technical terms in the description of Solomon’s palace as described in 1 Kings 7:1-6. The text uses the term “Slaoth”, which were mistakenly understood as pillars and can now be understood as triglyphs. The text also uses the term “Sequfim”, which was usually understood as nine windows in the palace, and can now be understood as triple recessed doorway.
Most of these injudicious claims of Garfunkel’s have been severely criticized as biblicist nonsense, even by biblicists! I Finkelstein and A Fantalkin have slated the interpretations and the amateurish methodology of the excavation. Thomas Verenna commented on this reporting of Garfinkel’s excesses:
“Will these finds settle the debate over the historical David? Garfinkel would like to think so. ‘Various suggestions that completely deny the biblical tradition regarding King David and argue that he was a mythological figure, or just a leader of a small tribe, are now shown to be wrong’.”MSNBC coverage on Qeiyafa
Really? Because you found a couple of regional house shrines in a fortified city? Because you have an ostracon with some writing on it? What hubris this is, when someone can so blatantly claim that certain scholars are wrong because you’ve found common ancient Near Eastern artifacts (which have been misidentified) at a dig in the Near East. if anything this only shows the lengths that certain individuals will go to try to prove their presuppositions. They are willing to fabricate whole cultural contexts that never existed so long as in the end they can say they’ve found the facts behind their biblical truth. It is both tragic and disgusting: tragic because most people will never question the validity of the article or the claims therein, and disgusting because it is permitted to happen.
A research abstract at PhysOrg.com tells us:
Researchers have long been fascinated by the secrets of Ramet Rahel, located on a hilltop above modern-day Jerusalem. The site of the only known palace dating back to the kingdom of Biblical Judah, digs have also revealed a luxurious ancient garden with an advanced irrigation system.
The rest of the review shows that this summary statement is wrong. The garden and palace are not from the time of the “biblical kingdom of Judah”, which ended with the Babylonian conquest in 586 BC, but from the Persian period which must have been at least fifty years later, and was more likely 200 years later in the fourth century BC.
The evidence is provided by the nature of the irrigation systems which were like those the Persians were noted for constructing, the exotic plants in the garden which came from Persia and further east, and C14 dating will have left little room for doubt. When it comes to the bible, there is no such thing as lying.
The truth is that the biblical kingdom of Judah is largely fictitious. Little of its scriptural history has ever been found confirmed in the ground, and much of what has, like the claim here, is false or misreported. The evidence as opposed to the myth suggests the kingdom of Judah existed just 150 years—from about 730 BC to 586 BC—as a rump of the previous kingdom of Israel, and a puppet of the Assyrians. It was left poor and uncolonized by the Babylonians, and was not resettled as soon as the Persians took control, as the myth makes out, but much later probably in response to a rebellion in the fifth century that required a Persian punitive expedition to Jerusalem. It is after this that the palace and garden described in this work flourished.
How Darius II founded Judaism is explained in detail at the main askwhy website.
Philip Jenkins writes (The Jesus Wars):
The Church organized public exhibitions to show how the Pagan priests had contrived some of the miraculous tricks by which they overawed the simple.
This sentence should give pause to the faithful but gullible readers of the bible, for some of the Old Testament miracles might have been priestly magic on just the lines the Christians here were debunking. The ancient Greeks arranged for water to turn to wine on a grand scale by clever plumbing. They could do “Open Sesame” types of miracles by having immense stone doors that would open at a touch. The ancient Persians had batteries of iron and copper rods dipped into wine or citrus juices, with which they must have been able to make sparks, and might have been able to use to light barrels of oil instantly. Perhaps the Greeks used the same trick for instant illumination at Eleusis.
So the rumblings and pyrotechnics on Mount Zion described in the bible could have been a show put on for the faithful believers, especially as we read they could only be observed by the people from a distance, so they had no idea what was really going on.