Sunday, November 18, 2012

Research Reveals Ancient Struggle over Holy Land Supremacy

By Matthias Schulz

The Jews had significant competition in antiquity when it came to worshipping Yahweh. Archeologists have discovered a second great temple not far from Jerusalem that predates its better known cousin. It belonged to the Samaritans, and may have been edited out of the Bible once the rivalry had been decided.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Samaritan Letter to Artaxerxes the King

According to the fourth chapter of the Book of Ezra Zerubbabel, the leader of the Jews, has refused the Samaritan’s help in rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem. Offended, the Samaritans began to interfere with the Jews in rebuilding the temple and seduce the king's officials to stop construction of the temple. Later, they wrote a letter to the Persian king Artaxerxes with denunciation of the Jews. In it Samaritans warned the king that if rebuilding of the temple and the city of Jerusalem would complete the Jews will raise revolt and stop paying tribute. In support of his words the senders of the letter asked the king of search in the royal archives of old documents from which it can verify the rebellious nature of the Jews. After receiving and reading the letter King Artaxerxes has raised the old documents and saw that message senders were right. In response Artaxerxes ordered a prohibition rebuild Jerusalem and its temple. As a result the construction of the temple has been stopped all the reign of Artaxerxes until the next reign of Darius king of Persia. This storyline draws us to the fourth chapter of the Book of Ezra.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Qumran Excavations 1993-2004. Preliminary report. Summary

Yitzhak Magen and Yuval Peleg
Jerusalem 2007

Much has been written about Qumran, and endless theories have been proposed, some of which have attained the status of fact upon which archaeological research has built over the past fifty years. Here, we wish to clearly distinguish between various hypotheses concerning the site and the archaeological evidence that we have exposed in our excavations.

The first settlement at Qumran was established in the Iron Age. When the site was again inhabited in the Hasmonean period it was built in exactly the same place. This fact itself, together with an analysis of the topography and of the water regime of the area, provide clear evidence that this was the optimal—and perhaps the only—location on the upper plateau of the marl terraces next to the fault scarp in which a settlement would not be swept away by floods and would be able to collect flowing water and potters' clay. The claim that the location was chosen because of its isolation, for the purpose of establishing a first Jewish monastery or a community center for the Judean Desert sect, is groundless.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Samaritan Version of Deuteronomy and the Origin of Deuteronomy

Prof. Dr. Stefan Schorch
Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

Since 1953, when Albrecht Alt’s famous essay “Die Heimat des Deuteronomiums” was published, the question about the historical origin of Deuteronomy became an important issue in the research on the Hebrew Bible. Pointing especially to conceptual parallels between Deuteronomy and the Book of Hosea, Alt argued that Deuteronomy was not composed in Judah or in Jerusalem, but in the North. Although this suggestion has been followed by important experts of Deuteronomy, Alt’s theory is today far from being generally accepted among Old Testament scholars. One of the main reasons for this situation seems to be one weak point: Alt’s study offers no explanation for how the idea of cult centralization, which is so prominently expressed in Deuteronomy (especially in chapters 12, 14, and 16), fits in the geographical context of Israel. Therefore, this issue seems to be worth reconsideration, and this will be the main focus of the following article.

The idea of cult centralization appears for the first time in Deut 12:5:

You shall seek the place that the LORD your God will choose out of all your tribes (םכיטבש לכמ םכיהלא הוהי רחבי רשא םוקמה) as his habitation to put his name there. You shall go there…

This or similar formulae appear in the Book of Deuteronomy no less than 22 times. From the perspective of the received Masoretic text as a whole, the chosen place is clearly identified within the so-called Deuteronomistic history. Accordingly, the chosen place is Jerusalem, as expressed in the extant narrative for the first time in 1 Kgs 8:16 (LXX//2 Chr 6:5‒6):

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Composition of the Pentateuch in Recent Research: A Teaching and Study Resource

John E. Anderson

I.  Introduction
a.  A lack of consensus in the last 30 years of scholarship
b.  Both diachronic and synchronic approaches, documentarian and supplementarian approaches
c.  To understand where we are, it is important—briefly—to look at from where we have come

II.  Precursors to the Documentary Hypothesis: Working Towards JEDP (emergent source-criticism)
a.  Spinoza (1670): “it is thus clearer than the sun at noonday that the Pentateuch was not written by Moses, but by someone who lived longer after Moses” (also Hobbes)
b.  Jean Astruc (1753): isolates in Genesis an E and J source, with other independent material (yet did not challenge Mosaic authorship; Moses as redactor)
c.  Wilhelm Martin Leberecht de Wette (1780-1849) – decisive new phase in Pentateuchal investigations.
i.  Saw religious institutions in Chronicles as retrojection from time of writing in late Persian / early Hellenistic period
1.  thus reasonable that Pentateuchal legal material dates from time after monarchy
2.  Pentateuchal narrative traditions cannot be used as historical source material
ii.  1805 – identified law book discovered by Josiah as early version of Deuteronomy (dates to 7th century)
d.  H. Hupfeld (1853): in Genesis, identifies earlier E strand (corresponding to P) and later one; also an even later J document
e.  K.H. Graf (1860s): Hupfeld’s E1 = Priestly and is latest, not earliest source (also Reuss prior and Kuenen after re-dating)
f.  Julius Wellhausen (Prolegomena to the History of Israel)
i.  J & E = earliest sources; not always clearly distinguishable by use of divine names
1.  combined by a Jahwistic editor
ii.  Q (quattuor, four covenants) provides basic chronological structure for P material fitted in
iii.  P
1.  ritual law in Holiness Code (Leviticus 17-26), which is dependent on Ezekiel
2.  thus P is the latest stage in editorial history of 5x/6x, save for some late Deuteronomic retouchings
iv.  Deuteronomy
1.  comes into existence independent of other sources
2.  622 with Josiah = first edition
3.  familiar with JE but not P, so combined with JE prior to P ® JEDP
4.  end result = publication of Pentateuch in final form at the time of Ezra (5th century)
v.  Reveals an evolutionary view of Israelite religion (sees Moses as at end rather than beginning of historical process)
1.  JE = nature religion, spontaneous worship arising in daily life and festivals tethered to agrarian calendar
2.  D = centralization of worship, ends spontaneity, seals prophecy with emphasis on written law
3.  P = denatured religion dominated by clerical caste that remade past in own image
vi.  This view of sources dominated largely for nearly a century

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Origin of the Samaritans

By Magnar Kartveit

Many Bible readers will think that chapter 17 of the second book of Kings refers to the origin of the Samaritans. According to the Authorized Version we read about “the Samaritans” in verse 29, and a number of translations reveal the same understanding. On closer inspection, however, it turns out that 2Kgs 17:29 does not refer to the Samaritans, but to the “people of Samaria,” whose relation to the Samaritans is not immediately clear.

The understanding of 2Kgs 17 as dealing with the Samaritans has its earliest attestation in the works of Josephus. He offers a story where he describes them as “Chouthaioi,” a group which was brought by the Assyrian king Salmanasser from “Chouthas” in Persia into Samaria after the occupation and subsequent depopulation of that area, Ant. 9.278f., 288–291.This version takes us back to the eighth century B.C.E., and it has led scholars and lay people to believe that the Samaritans were deportees from the East, brought into Samaria in this early period; in Samaria they remained through the ages, and perhaps they mixed with the local population—a situation which most likely resulted in syncretism. The story resembles 2Kgs 17 and this has led to reading the chapter as referring to the origin of the Samaritans.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Laying the Foundations of Jerusalem Temple by Zerubbabel

Third chapter of Ezra book tells us how after the return from Babylon the Jews led by Zerubbabel and Joshua built an altar and restored the sacrifice to God Yahweh. After celebration of religious holidays they began to rebuild the temple.

First, they brought wood from Lebanon according to the order of King Cyrus. The priests began construction of the temple and laid its foundations. After laying the foundations the priests and Levites with trumpets and cymbals began to praise the Lord and to thank him for establishing the foundations of the temple. There were also the people who have seen the previous temple of Solomon by their own eyes. They wept for joy and someone just loudly rejoiced. This noise has been heard by Samaritans who wanted to participate in the reconstruction of the temple. But Zerubbabel refused them. Consequently, Samaritans began to interfere with the Jews to build the temple and its rebuilding has been delayed from the reign of King Cyrus until the reign of King Darius.

Premature celebration

In the plot line of this story about laying the foundations of the temple there is a confusing thing. For what did the Jews celebrate so joyfully with trumpets and cymbals? For what did they so grateful to God? What did the elders compare with the previous Solomon Temple? According to the storyline of Ezra book, they merely laid the foundation but rejoiced as if the temple has already been built.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Did God Have a Wife? Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel (pdf)

This is a book about ordinary people in ancient Israel and their everyday religious lives, not about the extraordinary few who wrote and edited the Hebrew Bible. It is also a book for ordinary people today who know instinctively that "religion" is about experience, not about the doctrines of scholars, theologians, and clerics who study religion dispassionately and claim authority. My concern in this book is popular religion, or, better, "folk religion" in all its variety and vitality.

This is a book that, although it hopes to be true to the facts we know, does not attempt objectivity; for that is impossible and perhaps even undesirable. One can understand religion only from within, or at least from a sympathetic viewpoint. As an archaeologist, I shall try to describe the religions of ancient Israel — not theoretically, from the top down, as it were, but practically, "from the bottom up," from the evidence on the ground.

This is a book mostly about the practice of religion, not about belief, much less theology. It is concerned with what religion actually does, not with what religionists past or present think that it should do. Beliefs matter, for they are the wellspring of action; and theological formulations may be helpful or even necessary for some. But archaeologists are more at home with the things that past peoples made, used, and discarded or reused, and what these artifacts reveal about their behavior, than they are with speculations about what these people thought that they were doing. As Lewis Binford reminds us, "archaeologists are poorly equipped to be paleo-psychologists."

The Bible Unearthed. Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts (pdf)

Prologue. In the Days of King Josiah

The world in which the Bible was created was not a mythic realm of great cities and saintly heroes, but a tiny, down-to-earth kingdom where people struggled for their future against the all-too-human fears of war, poverty, injustice, disease, famine, and drought. The historical saga contained in the Bible—from Abraham's encounter with God and his journey to Canaan, to Moses' deliverance of the children of Israel from bondage, to the rise and fall of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah—-was not a miraculous revelation, but a brilliant product of the human imagination. It was first conceived—as recent archaeological findings suggest—during the span of two or three generations, about twenty-six hundred years ago. Its birthplace was the kingdom of Judah, a sparsely settled region of shepherds and farmers, ruled from an out-of-the-way royal city precariously perched in the heart of the hill country on a narrow ridge between steep, rocky ravines.

During a few extraordinary decades of spiritual ferment and political agitation toward the end of the seventh century ВСЕ, an unlikely coalition of Judahite court officials, scribes, priests, peasants, and prophets came together to create a new movement. At its core was a sacred scripture of unparalleled literary and spiritual genius. It was an epic saga woven together from an astonishingly rich collection of historical writings, memories, legends, folk tales, anecdotes, royal propaganda, prophecy, and ancient poetry. Partly an original composition, partly adapted from earlier versions and sources, that literary masterpiece would undergo further editing and elaboration to become a spiritual anchor not only for the descendants of the people of Judah but for communities all over the world.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Story of Zerubbabel (Origin of the Guards Story)

One of the main characters of the biblical Book of Ezra is Zerubbabel. He heads the list of exiles that returned from the Babylonian captivity. After returning core group of exiles in the reign of the Persian king Cyrus Zerubbabel led the process of rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem, he built an altar and laid the foundations of the temple. Despite the various obstacles Zerubbabel along with other exiles finished building the temple in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the King.

However, the book didn't disclose the figure of Zerubbabel absolutely. Who was he? How did he become the leader of Jews? For what achievements? What is its fate?

Zerubbabel in the Book of Haggai

The book of Haggai gives us some information about this hero. But this information is largely contrary to the events of the book of Ezra. The book of Haggai tells us that Zerubbabel was governor of Judea at the time of king Darius. In those days people lived in Judea, but their life was uncomfortable. The land gave poor yields. Then God Yahweh through the prophet Haggai addressed the Jews and explained them that the reason of calamity is that the people of Judah didn’t rebuild the temple of God in Jerusalem. If they would rebuild it God will bless the land and it will give generous yields. Then residents of Judea led by the governor Zerubbabel began to build the temple and a few weeks they resumed it in the second year of the reign of king Darius.