Saturday, March 17, 2007

Looking Back at BAR, Brown, & Brad

The Nov/Dec 2006 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) reported the donation of Donald Brown's firsthand antiquities to the Living Torah Museum. The article, which spanned pp. 12-3, stated:

"96-year-old Brown is also the last living excavator who was in Egypt when King Tut's tomb was discovered in 1926."

In December of 2006, a reader raised a question about this since the famous discovery of the tomb actually occurred in 1922. Brown was born in 1910, & would have been only 12 years of age at the time of the actual discovery. BAR's web editor, Steven Feldman, asked museum curator Rabbi Deutsch about this, who in turn asked me since I had done a little research into the LMLK handle that Brown had preserved from his excavation work at Lachish.

Since my response was not printed in the current issue of BAR or in the overflow section of their website, I'm publishing it here:

True, King Tut's tomb (KV 62) was discovered in November of 1922, but according to the Theban Mapping Project, full-scale excavations continued from 1923 through 1932.

During this period, Brown would've been about 12-22 (although I have no way of knowing how old Donald Brown actually is). According to Rabbi Deutsch & the current issue of BAR, Brown's main work in Egypt was with Herbert Winlock, who dug at Deir el Bahari from 1911-1931 (according to Egyptology's website).

I can safely conjecture that Donald Brown was old enough to have surveyed KV 62 as a young adult (16-21), though I can't vouch for the 1926 date; 1928 would be more believable, but 1931 more likely. In any event, he's still the last living excavator who was in Egypt while Tut's tomb was being excavated (even though he probably wasn't there in 1922 when it was discovered).

Excavations at Lachish were directed by James Leslie Starkey from 1932-8, which dovetails nicely from the 1931 terminus of Bahari. Due to Starkey's murder, formal publication was delayed for a couple of decades, but Donald Brown's name first appeared in Charles Marston's popular book, "The Bible Comes Alive":

This is from the 1940 New York edition & should suffice skeptics' questioning of Brown's tale. When the book was first published in 1937, the excavation was still ongoing, & Starkey had not yet been murdered. His name also appears in the scholarly work, "Lachish III Text" (1953) & "Lachish IV Text" (1958); p. 9 in both books says "Donald Brown 1932-1935".

Those with access to BAR backissues should check the Classified section of the May/Jun 1981 issue, p. 19:

"LACHISH ANTIQUITIES FOR SALE: lamps, jugs, stamped jar handle acquired in 1930's. Donald Brown, Palermo, ME 04354."

On behalf of Rabbi Deutsch, I can safely conjecture that they are no longer for sale! Anyone interested in the stamped jar handle mentioned in this ad (same as the LMLK Sokoh handle mentioned in the current issue), I published it on the LMLK Research website back in January, 2005.

Another interesting tidbit not mentioned in BAR (relayed to me by Rabbi Deutsch), is that during World War II Brown's entire battalion was wiped out, & he was the only one who survived! It should come as no surprise that he has also survived the aforementioned challenge from a BAR reader 6 decades later!

After I wrote the response above, Rabbi Deutsch wrote this:

MR. Grena your guess was right it was 1930. I just received the following email from Dr. Donald Brown. I attached his email response below.

Dear Rabbi; I did indeed read the new article in BAR and was pleased at the recognition you gave me. Thank you. I am so pleased that your museum is flourishing. As to the King Tut episode it was only a day or two that I was loaned to Mr. Carter. The year must have been 1930. It was a long time ago! I am having my 97th birthday on October 30. ... With respect from Donald Brown

This week seemed appropriate to celebrate the long life God has granted to Donald Brown, because the rock 'n roll world suffered a tragic loss by suicide of Brad Delp, the 55-year-old singer for the very popular 1970s band, Boston. It seems so ridiculous.

According to friends & family members (as reported in the Boston Herald newspaper), for years he was very caring & giving, & didn't want to hurt anyone, going out of his way to help resolve a long-running feud between band members. In the end, he decided it was better to hurt everyone in the worst way possible. Go figure. Exactly the type of mentally ill person I was referring to on p. 147 of "Evolution Science".

Here was a guy with a singing ability that nearly every young vocalist would love to have, plus the practically instant fame Boston achieved with their best-selling 1976 debut album featuring the hits "More Than a Feeling", "Long Time", & "Peace of Mind". Though he didn't write the lyrics, how ironic that the songs he sang featured thoughtful statements such as:

"When I'm tired & thinkin' cold, I hide in my music, forget the day..."

"I've gotta keep on chasin' that dream, though I may never find it..."

"Now you're climbin' to the top of the company ladder, hope it doesn't take too long. Can't ya see there'll come a day when it won't matter, come a day when you'll be gone!"

"Everything in my life was leading me on, but I can be strong, I finally see the dawn arrivin', I see beyond the road I'm drivin'..."

I remember how exciting it was in 1976 to hear that Boston had become so popular so quickly, that they still set up their own equipment on stage each night, not having time to hire roadies yet. I only attended one of their concerts near the end of their 1979 "Don't Look Back" tour at West Virginia University. It was incredible! So many great songs one right after the other for a band with such a young career. It is simply sad how their career went downhill immediately thereafter. They forgot how to keep on chasing their dreams & see beyond the road they're driving. They forgot how to forget the bad days.

Song of the week: "Don't Look Back" by Boston (click the song title to visit Amazon; click here for a 29-second sample; 360kb).
G.M. Grena

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Snakes in the News

Every blog related to Biblical archeology that I read this past week has commented on the new film about some ossuaries naming Joseph, Mary, Jesus, Mary Magdalene, & Judah Jesusson (to make a up a word).

What's amazing is that nearly all writers/scholars have trashed the possibility that these people were the ones written about in the Gospels. So I'd like to emphasize 2 notable exceptions.

In an article by The Jerusalem Post, Shimon Gibson (who was involved in the original excavation of the artifacts in question), stated:

"I'm willing to accept the possibility," he allowed. "I'm not going to deny there's an interesting set of variables."

I met Dr. Gibson in November of 2005 & enjoyed his lecture, & his work on Avraham Negev's "Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land", but I respect him even more now. But he's a scholar, & I expect as much.

The other notable exception to the crowd of Christian crybabies was the "News to Note" editorial at Answers in Genesis (AiG):

"Apart from the Bible, there is nothing to prove the tomb isn’t that of Christ, just as it is impossible to prove the tomb is that of Christ."

I can understand why most Christians (aside from AiG) are anxious to condemn this interpretation of the ossuaries (I believe it's because their faith lacks a firm, historical foundation), but why is this so hard for most objective scholars to admit (Gibson excepted)?

Someone asked me for my opinion, & they commented that it was "fascinating", so I'll share it here:

"I believe it is possible, & am amused by the vehement denials I've read by all scholars--Christians, Jews, & atheists. Many of these same people believe in evolution, the fundamental tenet of which is, "It is possible, therefore it must've happened..." The odds of evolution occurring through random chance arrangements of molecules into orderly information found in living organisms is beyond astronomical (see p. 166 of "Evolution Science" for realistic estimates), yet these filmmakers claim the odds of the ossuaries being linked to the Biblical family are something on the order of 1 to several hundred (I think the figure I read was 1:600, but tens of thousands of people had these names). I have no interest in watching this movie, & can't anyway because I don't subscribe to cable TV. My faith in a resurrected Jesus is extremely strong based on the overwhelming majority of ancient writings handed down from those who claim to be eyewitnesses. I believe them because of their content, but readily admit that it's possible He never existed, or that these ossuaries contained His family & His own remains."

Regarding the content of the witnesses, I posted a sample on the blog of Scott Adams (published March 03, 2007 at 08:26 AM), who writes the Dilbert cartoon series (I already posted my favorite cartoon of his back in December).

Also new this week is an article in the Mar/Apr 2007 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (vol. 33 #2, pp. 58-63) by editor Hershel Shanks, "The Mystery of the Nechushtan". It includes the same M2U photo by Zev Radovan (ID# 448-1) that was first published in BAR vol. 23 #2, p. 46 (& again in #5, p. 51).

On p. 62, Shanks says that "More than 2,000 of these handles have been found in excavations in Israel." If he had checked the latest statistics available on the Corpus page of the LMLK Research website, he'd see that the current total is still only 1,427. I expect it'll be some decades before the figure exceeds 2k. That's clue #1 that he didn't do his homework for this article.

A more unforgivable mistake in the Internet Age was for him to ignore my letter (presented to him in 3 flavors) refuting Gabriel Barkay's 1993 speculation that Ramat Rahel = MMST (see also LMLK vol. 1 pp. 57, 278, & 309, another publication by me that Hershel Shanks chose to ignore; & yes, he owns a copy). Mr. Shanks cites his recent publication of Gabriel Barkay's article reiterating this speculation back in the Sep/Oct 2006 issue of BAR.

This new article turns out to be his regurgitation of an article in the July 2002 issue of Catholic Biblical Quarterly (vol. 64 #3, pp. 460-9), written by Kristin Swanson (discovered by me too late to be included in LMLKv1).

The basic premise is that the x2x & x4x symbols seen on LMLK seals are Egyptian symbols, & so are images of snakes. Therefore, when King Hezekiah destroyed the serpent-pole made by Moses, he was demonstrating his loyalty to Assyria after having been defeated by Sennacherib. Likewise, when Judah succumbed to Assyria, they discarded the x2x symbol & switched to the rosette.

My initial reaction was how odd of them to associate the x2x symbol exclusively with Egypt, considering that it has been found in excavations all over the ancient Near East; so much so that some scholars have viewed its presence in Judah as an indication of Assyrian submission--the complete opposite of what Shanks & Swanson assert--back when LMLK x2x handles were dated to Manasseh & Josiah's reigns. For example:

"...the similarity between the two-winged symbol and the Assyrian royal emblem cannot be accidental. The change of symbol may therefore be connected with the submission to Assyria in the later days of Hezekiah..."--Yohanan Aharoni in "Excavations at Ramat Rahel: Seasons 1959 & 1960" (LMLKv1 p. 192)

In true, unbiased, scholarly fashion, these people view the Bible as an unreliable record that needs help from them. It bothers them not in the least that 2Kings 18:4 says he destroyed the serpent-pole as part of his religious reformation at the beginning of his reign (18:1-3). That would also coincide with the earliest appearance of LMLK seals with their "Egyptian" symbols. 2Chronicles provides additional details about the reformation, & it's not mentioned a single time by Shanks or Swanson. Scholarship indeed.

This clear attempt to switch black for white came as no surprise to me when I saw Swanson quote from fiction-writer-cum-prize-winning-historian Nadav Na'aman (p. 463):

"Na'aman concluded that the Dtr composed the account of the reform in 2 Kgs 18:4 by combining the Deuteronomic laws reflected in Deut 7:5 and 12:3 with an archival note of the removal of Nehushtan."

Like any political speech by a liberal Democrat, I've found that a good rule of thumb when reading a conclusion by Na'aman is to take the opposite as the truth. Two quick examples are his assertion that the cities built by King Rehoboam in 2Chronicles 11:5-12 were actually built by King Hezekiah (BASOR 261, pp. 5-21; LMLKv1 pp. 259-61); & his more recent assertion in public lectures that Hezekiah's father, King Ahaz, built up Judah, & Hezekiah was responsible for its downfall.

But getting back to the other snake, Shanks & Swanson seem confident that the serpent-pole reflected an Egyptian icon like the uraeus seen on the headdresses of pharaohs to protect them.

Actually, the serpent-pole made by Moses never protected anyone--the act of seeking/looking at it healed them after the damage was already done. Many keen & faithful Christian scholars have recognized this serpent-pole as a type of Jesus Christ in His role as our sin-bearer during His crucifixion. Our recognition of His sacrifice allows us to claim physical healing in faith (2Peter 2:24). In Heaven, that faith will be our legal tender (Hebrews 11:6), but I digress...

King Hezekiah destroyed the serpent-pole in response to people who had taken their eyes off the Creator, & had switched to worshipping the creature (see Romans 1:25 for history repeating itself). His actions reminded me of Moses smashing the most incredible artifact that antiquities collectors & autograph collectors could ever hope to find--the 2 tables of stone that God had written the 10 Commandments upon.

I expressed this same anger/frustration on the cover of "Evolution Science" in reaction to what scientists (& scholars) by & large have done to The Holy Bible: persuading people to switch their faith to naturalistic theories & call it alone "science/knowledge".

In chapter 29 (pp. 288-91) I show that at least one seal icon dating to Hezekiah's reign may have had nothing to do with Egyptian symbols, but simply with flying snakes alive & well at the time like other icons depicting normal animals like horses, lions, & roosters.

In the end, none of this is new. Genesis 3 records a snake switching the plain words of God for something slightly different, & we're still faced with a choice. Why are so many scholars afraid to let people make that choice?

Song of the week: "Switch 625" by Def Leppard (click the song title to visit Amazon; click here for a 29-second sample; 360kb).
G.M. Grena