Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ancient Contribution Jars

[Foreword: The title of this blog should be, "How I spent my year-end vacation week when I had ten-million other things to do." But it's been fun, & there are still 3 whole days left to take care of all the other stuff. ("Blessed be the LORD, who daily loadeth us..."--Psalm 68:19) This work will undoubtedly (I hope) comprise a new page in LMLK vol. 2, so someday it will have been worthwhile. Note also that at this time, Maeir has a related article in press, which I will probably review separately next year. I have no intention of changing the content below, since it documents the original version of the Plus-mark map on the LMLK Research site.]

In JAOS 130.1, Aren Maeir made the most comprehensive presentation of incised-handle cooking pots (IHCPs) to date. Though a variety of symbols appear on Israelite jars, pre- and post-fired, by far the most numerous are of an "X" or "+" shape, identical in construction with the last letter of the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet, Tau (variously transliterated as Tav, Taw, or Tawv, which evolved into the familiar Tau in the Greek language, equivalent with our English "T" or "t"). Some archeological reports refer to it as a "cross".

Maeir focuses on the pre-fired cooking-pot Taus, and provides Albright's 1932 publication as an early reference, but the landmark 1902 work by Bliss and Macalister provided examples from the Shephelah as well, describing them as "nail marks". Here is a photo of a rare, intact, but unprovenanced IHCP from the antiquities market (presently unknown location):

Maeir also illustrates the first known map showing 10 sites in Israel where they have been found. When announcing his JAOS article on his Gath blog, Maeir mentioned a new specimen found this year at Gath/Safi (where he directs excavations), which adds to the Bliss/Macalister handles found at Tell es-Safi and Tell Zakariya.

I thought it was odd to see Gibeon and Tell en-Nasbeh absent from his map, considering that a tremendous quantity of other marked jar handles had been excavated there, so I searched the excavation reports, and indeed found specimens not just there, but at several other sites doubling the 10 listed by Maeir. Since my time and resources are limited, I decided to make a new map for the LMLK Research website where it can be updated as new discoveries are reported (the one shown here is intentionally lo-res to simply preserve the general appearance of my original version).

Numerous other handles throughout Israel contain Plus-mark incisions made after the jar had been fired, so I thought it would be helpful to show them on the same map, and distinguish them (AFPM = after-firing Plus mark) from the pre-fired ones on Judean cooking pots. Nor do they always appear on handles, but sometimes on the jar's body, or the underside of a dish, or on a tool; but I decided to restrict my presentation to those appearing on visible regions of jars, since those were obviously intended to convey important meaning.

While studying the Gibeah publications, I noticed an AFPM on the same handle as a Rosette stamp (type III.A.12). In my LMLK vol. 1 book (Grena 2004 pp. 99-100), I defined these as "Plus marks", citing several specimens. On the Rosette handle, the mark is located a few inches away from the stamp, but on each of the LMLK handles, it overlaps the stamp. There's a possibility that these facts bear some significance, but there are still too few to speculate with confidence.

During my research this past week, I was shocked to see how many of the so-called "thumbprint" handles have been excavated at various sites. Yosef Garfinkel shared some photos of the prodigious assortment excavated at Khirbet Qeiyafa, & personally, I believe they were impressed with a device (as part of a cultic bureaucratic ritual involving a wand or scepter such as the well-known type that bear pomegranates), not with fingers, but I've never examined any of them in person, so I'll defer to Hoo-Goo Kang at The Hebrew University (of Jerusalem) who will be publishing a landmark article on these handles.

I struggled with developing a typology by which to formally classify all these marks:

A (after/post fired)
B (before/pre fired)

B (body)
H (handle)
R (rim)
U (underside)

S (sharp-gouge blade)
W (wide-gouge chisel)

B (bowl)
C (cup)
D (dish)
J (juglet or jar w/ 1 handle)
P (pot, cooking)
S (storage jar w/ >1 handle)
T (tool or implement)

# (checkerboard)
^ (Gimel or Gamma)
| (stroke)
+ (plus)
8 (double-axe or hourglass)
k (3-branch Kaf)
O (thumbprint or round device)
w (Shin)

But due to lack of details in the published reports, & lack of time on my part, I decided to just lump them into the 2 aforementioned groups (the specific ones Maeir studied [IHCPs], & all the other jars & handles bearing post-fired incisions [AFPMs]). Besides, some of the incisions are so strange & inconsistent that they would defy any standardized classification.

Maeir made a keen observation that when the IHCPs are found on intact vessels, they almost always appear on only 1 of the 2 handles; the notable exception being one where the jar also bore an incised name. Had this specimen appeared on the antiquities market instead of being from a scientific excavation, it would've raised suspicions, so we should all be grateful for the timely work archeologists do in the field. I did not see any additional specimens of this unusual configuration in any of the other ones I found.

The JAOS article's bibliography lists 182 publications (!) because Maeir doesn't simply list the handles, but delves into their meaning, & the various interpretations made by scholars over the past century. My own bibliography below provides additional sources for handles found at other sites. Note that I did not visit any libraries for this research; the info I gleaned came from snippets of publications I obtained specifically for my LMLK research. So even though I expanded Maeir's findings, please don't interpret my results as being conclusive or exhaustive. There are many more to be found, & not just at the 4 high-probability sites shown on my map (Ekron, Hazor, Kedesh, & Megiddo).

To give you a feel for how these artifacts have been reported in the archeological publications, I'd like to quote from some of them as I document the places & quantities shown on the new map:

Azekah & Gath via Bliss 1902: I only have their plate 56.54 (unknown quantity found at Zakariya & Safi), & 56.57 & 56.61 (unknown quantity found only at Zakariya), not their text (if there was any).

Beit Mirsim via Albright 1932: "Cooking pots of EI II found in our site often have a cross (tau) incised on one of the handles. This incised tau is found in approximately one-fourth of the cooking pots, either entire or in sherds, and perhaps was the factory mark of a town which manufactured them.[p. 81] ... In fig. 15 are collected specimens of incised potters' marks and potters' stamps. The former consist of a pentagram, a double-axe, an archaic teth (or a wheel), and a tau. The first three are all rare; the fourth is extremely common on the handles of cooking pots. The other stamps are in part well-known from the mounds of the Shephelah. It may be possible some day to apportion these potters' marks among the various places attached to the potters' guilds. ... One wonders whether there may not have been two rival groups of potters' guilds, one employing variations on the rosette theme, the other variations on the tau and samek themes.[p. 88]"

Maeir 2010: "Although the IHCP is quite common in the archaeological assemblages from late Iron Age Judah, Albright's claim that these markings appear on approximately one-quarter of the cooking pots is exaggerated, based on the number of published examples of marked and unmarked sundry late Iron Age cooking pots from various Judahite sites (note, e.g., Shoham [2000: 110], who publishes 163 such cooking pot handles among the hundreds of cooking pots from Shiloh’s excavation in the City of David).[p. 46]" (Note: Some of my present quantities shown on my corpus are bare minimums since I have not studied all the published reports, particularly for Jerusalem where the actual total may already be way into the hundreds, as Maeir alludes.)

Beth Shemesh via Grant 1929, p. 206: "No. 3 Mar. 12. Jar Handle. With mark; dark gray, scratched after firing; surf. x. E." The crude AFPM drawing is on p. 213, labeled as City Debris. AASOR 38 references "AS IV, Pl. LXIV:27.", which I do not have a copy of, but I'm assuming it's an IHCP since that was the discussion context of AASOR 38. (Grant also reports a "cross scratched on [bowl] base" on pp. 131, 135.)

Beth Zur via Sellers 1968 p. 67: "The tau handle example illustrated, Fig. 19:9 (Stratum III, Reg. No. II.3.14 500, Pl. 32a:11, reddish brown, few grits, fairly coarse levigation, brittle), is from a mixed context, but one example was found in Stratum III and all marked handles belonged to the rilled rim type. Since comparable tau handles were found at Tell Beit Mirsim and 'Ain Shems, this could have been the factory mark of the town where they were manufactured, as Albright suggested in 1931. The factory was probably in southern Palestine, perhaps at one of these three sites." See also Pl. 32a.11 (500), 32a.12 (736).

Chephirah via Vriezen 1975, which is in German: "Auf zwei Henkeln, einem von einem Krug und einem von einem Kochtopf, ist eine Topfermarke in den noch feuchten Ton eingeritzt worden; auBerdem wurden auf zwei Scherben eingeritzte Linien gefunden.[pp. 143 & 146]" My rough translation is, "On 2 handles, one of a jug, & one of a cooking-pot, a potter's mark was scratched in the still-wet clay; also 2 incised-line fragments were found." Tafel 15D shows a single IHCP handle, so this is the only one I'm listing on my map & corpus. I'll seek clarification from Dr. Vriezen on the other specimens. If there is a pre-fired plus on a large storage-jar handle, it would be unique as far as I know.

Ein Gev via Mazar et al. 1964 shows 2 distinct, non-overlapping plus marks on the side of a 2-handled jar with painted bands in Fig. 7:8 (Pl. 9F not so clearly), "Jar, pink clay, white and grey, large and small grits, two potters marks, Reg. No. 76/1, No. 8 Locus 11, Stratum III."

Ekron via Gittlen 1985, which is a limited-edition (150 copies) typeset pre-publication signed by the VIP excavators, Seymour Gitin & Trude Dothan. As such, it contains no pottery illustrations, but 2 interesting entries: "MC No. 22, Bucket No. IIISE.29.5, Locus 29001, 7/10/84, Obj. No. 190, potter's marked handle [pp. 214 & 225]. MC No. 91, Bucket No. IIISE.16.64, Locus 16010, 7/30/84, Obj. No. 237, handle with potter's mark. [pp. 208 & 222]" Naveh 1958 Plate 23.C (cf. p. 98) shows some pre- & post-fired incised handles, but no IHCPs or AFPMs per se. One resembles a plus due to the handle's formation, intersected by a pre-fired incision, but it doesn't appear to be a "+" incision. Maybe the other pre-fired Chephirah handle is like this too.

Gibeah via Sinclair 1960: "Do these 'marks' on the handles of the jars have any particular significance? I. Mendelsohn says that 'the various forms of rosette, pentagram, wheel, cross and the letter tau cannot be regarded as ownership marks . . . , but these potter's marks are trade marks, each design belonging to a particular guild of potters.' However, the rosette design which, on the basis of the Gibeah evidence is contemporary with the third class of royal stamps, appears to 'have had royal significance in Judah at this time, as it undoubtedly had possessed in Hittite Asia Minor about 1300 B.C.' and 'it originally seems to have symbolized the Hittite belief that the great king was the incarnation of the sun-god.'[p. 33; he's quoting Mendelsohn & Albright from BASOR 80 p. 21]" Plate 16:B.3,5 are IHCPs; 16:B.9 is the aforementioned AFPM Rosette handle. Lapp 1981 shows "Period 3 Cooking Pots from Silo 36" in Plate 41.1-10, though I could only identify full IHCP Plus marks in 1-3, 5, 8-9. #4 is a small fragment showing only part of a single stroke; #6 & #7 aren't clear enough to discern, though #7 appears to contain a thumbprint depression, possibly along with a Plus mark, so that one definitely deserves further scrutiny, as it could be another rare, unique exception to the rule.

Gibeon via Pritchard 1963: AFPMs on the handle of 1-handled jug (Fig. 26.19; "Field No. P1576, Jug, imitation base-ring ware; buff ware; rim damaged"), & on a 1-handled dipper juglet below the handle where it joins the jar's body (Fig. 41.26; "Plan No. 17, Field No. P3070, Buff ware with cream slip; potter's mark on shoulder. (Class B.1.a. = Piriform Juglet B. Vestigial Ring Base, 1. Marked Shoulder, a. Single Handle"). Though Pritchard 1964 doesn't describe the firing, Fig. 47: 8, 9 clearly show the IHCP style: "Iron Age Houses in Area 17. The pottery from both loci [118 & 121] was uniformly Iron II. Cooking pots (Fig. 47: 8, 9) are of the deep type and have a potter's mark incised on the handle; both probably had a second handle. However, Fig. 47: 14 is definitely a type with one handle [pp. 50-1]. Pottery and Stone Jar from Houses in Area 17, Fig. 47.8, Field No. P1011, Loc. 118, Portion of rim, neck and body of cooking pot; dark brown ware, gray core, white and crystalline grits. Fig. 47.9, Field No. P1015, Loc. 118, Portion of rim, neck and body of cooking pot; reddish-brown ware, light gray core, with white and crystalline grits." And yours truly, Grena 2004, illustrated the extremely rare AFPM on a G2T handle (Fig. 57, described on pp. 99-100; note that I was not given permission to publish its photo online until after I had begun working on my book).

Hazor via Stern 1978 footnote 20: "Hazor II, Pl. LXXVI:1-6; Hazor III-IV, Pls. CLXXXVII:14-18; CLXXXIX:27; CCXXIV:16-9; CCCLXI:3-4, 8-15" See my Mevorakh notes for context. Since I don't have those volumes here, someone else will have to check on their relevance.

Ira IHCPs via Maeir, 2 AFPM via Aharoni 1958 Pl. 16, which also shows 3 smaller handles, but they are too fragmentary & fuzzy to classify. Two of them might be redundant to the ones referenced by Maeir (via Freud 1999 figs. 6.66:7; 6.74:14).

Jerusalem IHCPs via Maeir (I'm adding 2 from the unpublished excavations mentioned in his footnote #2), along with 5 AFPMs from Nadelman 1989 photos 184-8, which are handle fragments, & 1 more from a 2-handled storage jar in pl. 5:1. Also Wilson 1871 for the first Plus mark ever published, which included this remark by Chester, "Another vase-handle, found in the same place, and apparently of the same ware, bears as a potter's mark a cross within a semicircular mark. This cross, it is needless to remark, has no relation to the sign of salvation.[p. 474]" (Note that the same AFPM drawing appears on pp. 152 & 474 of the London edition, & pp. 118 & 369 of the New York edition.) And the 2nd ever (I think) AFPM published by Clermont-Ganneau 1899, "A great number of thick amphora handles, some of them with various marks engraved upon them, both before and after baking, and several bottoms of terra-cotta vases, some bearing cruciform marks. [p. 292 fig. B]" Note that figs. C, D, & E on p. 293 are the bottom of a cup, a tile fragment, & a flat-bottom vase fragment (none of which are being counted as an AFPM).

Kedesh via Stern 1978 footnote 20: "Qudeis, p. 111, Fig. 11:2-3, 5-9; Pl. 3:8-12" See my Mevorakh notes for context. Since I don't have that publication here, someone else will have to check on their relevance.

Lachish IHCPs via Maeir (via Zimhoni 2004), along with AFPMs on 1 of a 4-handled jar fragment (fig. 26.10:3), 1 of a 2-handled jar fragment (fig. 26.9:9), & 2 handle fragments from Aharoni 1975 (Pls. 35:6, 35:8, 45:8, 46:13; cf. p. 17; note that the 4 plates are redundant drawings of the same 2 handles), the famous H4L handle from Ussishkin 1983 (fig. 28:2; pl. 43:1), & an undescribed but clear AFPM on the side of the jar used to illustrate Type 487 by Tufnell 1953 (pl. 95:487).

Megiddo via Stern 1978 footnote 20: "Megiddo I, Pls. 41-42" See my Mevorakh notes for context. Since I don't have that publication here, someone else will have to check on their relevance. (No, these redundant remarks are not a copy/paste error; I'm just being scientific!)

Mesad Hashavyahu via Fantalkin 2001: "On the lower portion of a Samian amphora handle, here Type SA 2, near the place where it is joined to the body, a (+) mark was incised when the vessel's clay was leather hard (Figs. 33:3*; 42:10).[p. 112]"

Mevorakh via Stern 1978: "Potters' marks were quite common on jar handles of stratum VII. They appear to be of two types: incisions in the form of a cross (Pl. 36:5-8) or simply thumb prints (Pl. 36:1-4). Similar potters' marks on jar handles or on the surface of jars and even on clay stoppers are often found in strata from the whole of the Iron age. Here again, for some reason, they are more numerous in the northern sites, where they appear in a great number of variations [footnote 20] (and see above the discussion of incised [Shin] marks on cooking pots).[pp. 51-2]" I've already mentioned the importance of footnote 20 in the descriptions above for Hazor, Kedesh, & Megiddo, but it also referenced Qasile, which I had a copy of; it proved to be fruitful in that instance, so that's why I'm optimistic about the other 3 sites! For Mevorakh, 2 AFPMs appear on handle fragments (Fig. 16:13-4; Pl. 36:5-6), but there may be 2 others; one on a handle (Fig. 16:12, Pl. 36:7), & another on the upper joint between the handle & body (Pl. 36:8).

Nasbeh via McCown 1947: "Marks scratched on pottery, which appear in great variety especially on handles, must have served as signs of ownership. Their forms are partially illustrated in the accompanying figure (no. 64). It has seemed to various archaeologists that they should have some chronological value, but at TN, in any case, no evidence appears which would serve to apportion any to definite chronological periods.[pp. 252-3]" At least 4 IHCPs appear in fig. 64:1-4, possibly 2 others in 5-6, though each of those seems to include an additional stroke immediately adjacent ("+/" & "X|") so I'm not counting those since these are not-entirely reliable drawings. I can't cross-reference those to pl. 48:1017 & 48:1028 in Wampler 1947 ("Handles also were frequently marked, finger impressions and crosses being most common.[p. 31]"), so in lieu of counting 5-6, I'm adding these 2 into the Nasbeh total since they're definitely IHCPs. Here are the lengthy descriptions of each: "Plate 48:1017, AC15X, x17. Med hard; med orange, core med red brown; only an occ. very fine scintillating particle; wet-smoothed; incised cross on handle; out. slightly smoke blackened. D. ca. 195 mm. Rim and handle: X-1; I-6. Rim X-1. Plate 48:1028, R. 440, AF19, I, x18. Med hard; lt brown orange, core med brown; an occ. very fine white grit; wet-smoothed; smoke blackened; handle bears crudely incised cross. D. ca. 200 mm. Rim and handle: I-1.[p. 160]" Again, note that each description says they bear an incised cross, but none are shown on the pot drawings.

Qasile via Maisler 1950-51 (p. 203; Fig. 12F), & Ortiz 2006 (p. 605; Fig. 9:4), each showing an AFPM on 1 handle of a 2-handled storage jar.

Rabud via Kochavi 1974: "The Israelite Period, Trench B, Stratum B2, Fig. 8:4) Jug handle with potter's mark, Reg. No. 48/1, Locus 103, Reddish-brown clay, grey core, well fired, white small grits. Fig. 8:5) Jug handle with potter's mark, Reg. No. 26/1, Locus 107, Brown clay, well fired, white small grits.[pp. 16-7]"

Ramat Rahel via Maeir, along with 2 AFPMs in Aharoni 1964: one on a Byzantine storage-jar body below the handle (fig. 24:7), & another on a Byzantine handle fragment (fig. 8:13).

Timnah via Maeir; no additions by me.

Tumuli via Amiran 1958, which shows AFPMs on 2 handle fragments from Tumulus #5 (Fig. 14:10 & 14:12), & an IHCP handle fragment from #6 (Fig. 15:19; Pl. 40F): "Potter's marks on the handles of cooking pots--such as in Pl. 40F; Fig. 15:19--have been described by Albright as characteristic of level A2 at Tell Beit Mirsim."

So there you have it, as it stands for now pending further research.

Maeir's main point is that these particular marks on these particular jars at this particular time (the mid-late Judean monarchy) denoted Teruma, or Heave Offering in "...a vessel type whose use was restricted to carrying cooked foods as an offering...[p. 50]" (though he cautiously adds that the Teruma "can also have a non-cultic character as well, such as for taxation.[p. 48, reiterated in footnote 24]"

Stern's 1978 comment, however, about the incisions being more numerous in the northern sites stands in complete contrast to the impression given to casual readers by Maeir, who primarily focused on IHCPs, which are indeed a Judean phenomenon (Maeir remarks briefly on QDS ["holy"] inscriptions on p. 52, describing them as rare & few). Nonetheless, you have to wonder if the Plus mark had the same heave-offering significance on all jars. After all, Levites were stationed throughout Israel (Joshua 21), not just in Jerusalem, not even just in Judah, to receive offerings (Numbers 18). Furthermore, we already know that Hezekiah didn't reign over the northern tribes, yet significant quantities of LMLK handles have been found at several sites way north of Judah.

So I would like to be among the first to agree with Maeir. For several years I've leaned against the consensus opinions that LMLKs represented either short-term military supplies during a few years prior to the Assyrian attack on Judah, or that they represented a government taxation over a longer period at the beginning of Hezekiah's reign, diminishing during Manasseh's co-regency. In both cases, the referenced "king" is interpreted as a human governor, or the human government.

Now I prefer to believe that these IHCP jars indicated a more specific offering (primarily cooked/delivered to the place of worship), while LMLKs with reference to God as the divine King of kings (as I've stated elsewhere ad nauseam; e.g., Grena 2004 pp. 347-86) stored the main tithes mostly of uncooked commodities that accumulated throughout the year. Of course, we may never find evidence of markings on animals; some perishable system must have been employed. The AFPMs might have been used less stringently for special occasions (vows or holy/consecrated/dedicated things). So this scheme seems to fit Maeir's title text:

"They brought in the contribution (TRUME=IHCPs?), & the tithe (MOSR=LMLKs?), & the holy things (QDSYM=AFPMs?) faithfully..."--2Chronicles 31:12

Maeir also mentions several vessels from Kuntillet 'Ajrud with 1- or 2-letter inscriptions (pp. 52-3) that have been interpreted as abbreviations for sacrifice ("QR" for QRBN) & tithe ("Y" for the Hebrew number 10). In footnote 32, he offers an interpretation of a third abbreviation as "high quality" (following Z. Zevit) with "A" for the first Hebrew letter or number 1, or an Aramaic measurement (following G. Driver), ARDB. However, another important offering mentioned in 2Chronicles 31:5 is the firstfruits (RASYT), & if the letter Yod could indicate "tenth", then maybe the letter Alef could indicate "first[fruit]".

On pp. 53-4, Maeir explains the IHCPs as "cultural artifacts", external data supporting the belief that Priestly & Holiness Code texts in the Old Testament may have pre-exilic, Iron Age origins (a belief that runs counter to many critical, mainstream scholars who see this portion of the Bible as an imaginative, post-exilic composition, instead of being based on information written by Moses). I agree emphatically, & up to this point I would have liked to have been the author of Maeir's article so that I could take credit for the painstaking research he did, & for all his keen insight elsewhere.

In footnote 35, however, Maeir emphasizes that "well-dated archaeological and extrabiblical historical correlates are to be preferred to internal biblical literary considerations. Attempts to date texts that derive from secure archaeological contexts, such as the Ketef Hinnom amulets, based on biblical criteria fly in the face of sound reasoning. ... [E]pigraphic materials from secure and well-dated archaeological contexts are the paramount foundation for dating epigraphic materials in general; similarly, firmly dated archaeological materials are nulli secundus for the dating of biblical materials."

I certainly would not have made such a statement about "sound reasoning". Like a ship drifting helplessly on a sea of data, it is absurd to ignore the Bible when interpreting artifacts or history. Without the Judeo-Christian Bible's presentation of the Creation & Flood, you have no chronological anchor.

Maeir overlooks the numerous assumptions undergirding his phrases "well-dated" & "firmly dated" used repetitively. Sound reasoning must be entirely consistent, & such is not the case with conventional chronology, which views the universe appearing from nothing billions of years ago, to life on Earth appearing spontaneously, unguided, then slowly evolving randomly over more billions of years, leading to apelike animals, then humans wandering aimlessly for millions of years, & then suddenly beginning to record historical events only several thousand years ago. Such beliefs are illogical, "fly[ing] in the face" of demonstrable scientific laws.

Sound reasoning begins with a belief in the creation of the universe recorded in Genesis 1:1, which was initially a "very good" world (1:31), was corrupted by the first humans (Gen. 3) only several thousand years ago (Gen. 5 & 11), who were restored spiritually by a Savior (as foretold in Isaiah 53:5, & fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ in John 19:34). Sound reasoning is impossible apart from a belief that the same God who made the eons upholds all things, as recorded in Hebrews 1:2-3. To deny this revelation is to be either dishonest or unscientific, neither of which is sound reasoning. No other religion (atheistic evolutionism nor theistic evolutionism) or worldview philosophy can withstand rational scrutiny as can the message preserved in the Judeo-Christian Bible.

So we can believe with confidence that during Hezekiah's reign, the Israelites brought in the contribution, & the tithe, & the holy things faithfully (i.e., according to God's instructions given to, & recorded by, Moses), even though we don't have any way of knowing yet if those particular containers were marked (or possibly during a new system instituted after the events described in 2Chronicles 31, the first year of his reign); however, the aforementioned marks certainly complement the text.

As the late, well-respected archeologist Avraham Biran said once in a radio interview (with Helga Abraham in 1993; TBTS #408), "...I never doubted the story in the Bible, & we do not need archeological investigation or archeological research to confirm what is written in the Bible. It so happens you have a historical record in the Bible. Now you have a historical record in archeology. I put the 2 together. ... [Archeology] complements the story of the Biblical account."

G.M. Grena


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Pritchard, James B. 1963. The Bronze Age Cemetery at Gibeon. Philadelphia: The University Museum, The University of Pennsylvania.

Pritchard, James B. 1964. Winery, Defenses, and Soundings at Gibeon. Philadelphia: The University Museum, The University of Pennsylvania.

Sellers, Ovid R., Robert W. Funk, John L. McKenzie, Paul and Nancy Lapp. 1968. The 1957 Excavation at Beth-Zur in The Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research vol. XXXVIII. Cambridge: The American Schools of Oriental Research.

Shoham, Y. 2000. Incised Handles. In Inscriptions: Excavations at the City of David 1978–1985, vol. 6, ed. D. Ariel. Pp. 109–36. Jerusalem: Institute of Archaeology.

Sinclair, Lawrence A. 1960. An Archaeological Study of Gibeah (Tell el-Ful) in The Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research vols. XXXIV-XXXV for 1954-1956. New Haven: The American Schools of Oriental Research.

Stern, Ephraim. 1978. Excavations at Tel Mevorakh (1973-1976) Part One: From the Iron Age to the Roman Period in Qedem 9. Jerusalem: The Institute of Archaeology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Tufnell, Olga. 1953. Lachish III (Tell ed-Duweir) The Iron Age. London: University Press

Ussishkin, David. 1983. Excavations at Tel Lachish 1978-1983: Second Preliminary Report. Tel Aviv: Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University vol. 10 #2.

Vriezen, Karel J. H. 1975. Hirbet Kefire - eine Oberflachenuntersuchung. Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palastina-Vereins band 91, heft 1.

Wampler, Joseph Carson. 1947. Tell En-Nasbeh II, The Pottery. Berkeley & New Haven: The Palestine Institute of Pacific School of Religion, and The American Schools of Oriental Research.

Wilson, Capt., Capt. Warren, and Greville J. Chester. 1871. The Recovery of Jerusalem. London: Richard Bentley

Zimhoni, O. 2004. The Pottery of Levels III and II. In The Renewed Archaeological Excavations at Lachish (1973–1994), vol. 4, ed. D. Ussishkin. Pp. 1789–1906. Tel Aviv: Emery and Claire Yass Publications in Archaeology.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Book Rules

Today while thumbing through some books in my LMLK library, a note on an old checkout card made me giggle, so I thought I'd share it here. It's in a 1906 copy of "Bible Side-Lights from the Mound of Gezer" by R.A. Stewart Macalister, formerly in General Theological Library, formerly located in Boston, now in Portland:

Book Rules

Old books are loaned for 3 weeks, new books for 2 weeks. Three-week books may be renewed for 3 weeks, two-week books for 1 week, upon application in person or by postal card.

Two days allowed on books sent to a distance.

Assessment for delay, two cents a day each book.

Books returned by mail must have THICK and secure wrappings.

Times have changed a little, but not much as it turns out. Here's the current version on their website:

Borrowing By Mail
Members of the former General Theological Library may borrow up to four books per request by mail. Although the Library pays postage to the borrower, contributions to offset the Library's postage costs are welcome. The borrower pays for the return postage. The regular loan period is five weeks. Books for which there is no waiting list may be renewed upon request by telephone or mail. Some reference books are kept in the Library for reference use and hence are not available for loan.

Procedures for Mailing Books
A return mailing label is provided with each book sent out. Borrowers can mail a book back in the same mailer in which it was received if the package was not damaged, and they are entitled to use LIBRARY RATE, which is cheaper than BOOK RATE.

I didn't even know there was such a thing as a Library Rate, but there is!

G.M. Grena

Sunday, October 03, 2010

LiLo & Lance

Dear Ms. Lohan,

You seem to be digging a hole to bury yourself in, with your use of drugs (illegal & legal), plus reckless driving. About a week ago, you ended up in jail again, & people all over the place continue making fun of you for being a typical dumb, beautiful young woman. Look at these result counts from

"lindsay lohan" jokes OR humor: 3,050,000

"lindsay lohan" dumb: 1,320,000

"lindsay lohan" dumb beautiful: 289,000

You should be ashamed of yourself, but let's look on the bright side: at least you're not a scholar, scientist, or academician. There are thousands of those who are equally irresponsible in their own way. Most of your flings only hurt you. On rare occasions, like when you're driving, you greatly endanger others, but even then, it would only be a few people involved. However, when the aforementioned class of people say or do something stupid, they can hurt others intellectually. That's because less-educated/less-informed people tend to rely on what those "smart" people teach them. And they often end up being just as stupid. Garbage in, garbage out.

Last month I exposed the logical fallacies of Dr. Robert Cargill, a highly educated & well-respected man among his peers, who not only doesn't believe there ever was a global flood on Earth, but felt compelled earlier this year to attempt to prove it. His failure reminded me of your recent drug-test failure! I thought, "Surely he can't believe he's going to get away with those flimsy arguments; surely she can't believe she can do drugs & pass her drug test."

This month, in a roundabout way while researching the ancient site of Gezer, I saw another example of someone-who-should-know-better doing something flagrantly stupid.

H. Darrell Lance, currently Professor Emeritus of Old Testament Interpretation at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, has authored several prominent articles on a subject I study, LMLK jar-handle stamps. In Biblical Archaeologist vol. 30 #2 (May 1967) he wrote:

"Now from the biblical and archaeological evidence we know that Gezer was part of the kingdom of Israel and later part of the Assyrian Empire. What then are these handles doing at Gezer? There is at least a partial explanation. We know that in the latter part of the 7th century which saw the collapse of Assyrian power, King Josiah of Judah took control of much of what had been the northern kingdom of Israel, including Gezer and its surrounding territory."

[Note: The final reference to Gezer in the Bible occurs in 1Kings 9:17 during the reign of Solomon, a couple of centuries prior to Josiah's reign. Gezer was a city assigned to the Levites (Joshua 21:21 & 1Chronicles 6:67), so it's no big surprise to find copious quantities of LMLK handles there, if, as I believe, they were tithe-containers.]

Lance's best-known contribution was "Royal Stamps & the Kingdom of Josiah" in The Harvard Theological Review vol. 64 #2-3 (April-July 1971). Here are some excerpts:

"[T]he script of the class 3 [LMLK] stamps, although basically a conservative lapidary, shows at more than one point a development beyond the Siloam script. The late-seventh-century date traditionally ascribed to these forms is fully justified. ... With the hardness of heart peculiar to archaeologists, we may say that we are most fortunate that [Lachish] Level III was violently destroyed. ... Anyone who wishes to date Level III to 701 B.C. must push the entire lmlk series before that date, an alternative which is clearly unacceptable. ... Clearly, then, the presence of the lmlk stamps at Gezer cannot be explained if they are dated in the early seventh century. ... [A.D. TUSHINGHAM's] interpretation of the meaning of the stamps as proclaiming the reunited monarchy is not possible, it seems to me, in view of the total absence of the impressions from the north."

Less than a decade later, he was proven wrong on several counts, first by renewed excavations at Lachish. He was correct in believing both types of icons (all 3 of Diringer's classes) dated to the same period; he was simply wrong on the period (Josiah's instead of Hezekiah's). What he eloquently argued as being "clearly unacceptable" in 1971, has now been accepted by all mainstream scholars in this field (including Lance himself in the prestigious 1992 Anchor Bible Dictionary vol. 6 under "Stamps, Royal Jar Handle")!

Furthermore, it is easy to explain all classes of LMLK seals at Gezer in light of King Hezekiah's worship reformation, coupled with Sennacherib's failure to conquer Jerusalem, thereby allowing Judeans to resettle Shephelah sites like Gezer.

Last but not least, as of today more than 12 handles have been found at 4 sites in northern Israel (with more on the way that haven't been published yet). A reunited monarchy, for at least a brief period of time in a limited way (worship), is possible!

Don't get me wrong, Ms. Lohan; I don't fault Dr. Lance for any of these premature speculations, but you'd think that as years went by, he would've become less rigid in his opinion, & more thorough in his research. Not so! Last week I found an MP3 of a "Christian Faith and the LGBT Experience" lecture he delivered earlier this year (2010-3-14) demonstrating the contrary. Several flaws in logic leaped out at me. He relied on a book by Daniel A. Helminiak, but I'm holding him responsible for his lecture, speaking as an authority figure to people seeking (as Dennis Prager would say) "clarity".

According to the promotional abstract for his lecture, "Dr. Lance skillfully provided an overview of homosexuality, setting the context; then proceeded to debunk the 'clobber text' [sic] from the Old and New Testaments. Dr. Lance reviewed the forty or so years of scholarship with these text [sic]; thus providing those gathered with a clear understanding of the use and abuse of the Bible to limit the voice and leadership of LGBT person [sic] in society and faith community."

Clear understanding? We'll see about that. It's disturbing to find so many grammatical problems on an educational institution's website in a single paragraph, but not nearly as disturbing as the lecture itself! The MP3 spans 85:28, but the first 8 minutes contain the introduction, & the last 12 include the closing plus background noise (someone forgot to turn the recording off). His lecture lasted about 57 minutes, with another 9 minutes of Q&A. My quotations below will show the approximate point in minutes:seconds relative to the MP3's beginning.

During the introduction, John Wilkinson, the pastor of
3rd Presbyterian Church
, said that the needs of the Church & our community are different now than they were decades ago. So right away you can see that the lecture's context is how we should interpret the Bible to accommodate ourselves, rather than to learn about God & God's ways.

Perspective makes a big difference.

For you, Ms. Lohan, an analogy would be, "What can these drugs & parties do for me?" rather than "What can I do to use my popular influence to help people, lead them to a better relationship with God, & make society better overall?" Our judicial system is probably going to point you in that direction with community service, but it can never force you to want to (as Laura Schlessinger would say) "do the right thing."

True change-for-the-better must come from within, & Jesus Christ is the only way to a permanent solution. All other routes will be short-term, & ultimately fail. But a rational defense of that declaration may be a bit much for you to absorb at this point, so let's move on to Lance's lecture since sexuality is a subject you have extensive experience with.

[11:55] "What does the Bible say about Homosexuality? Well, a strong case can be made for the argument that it says nothing at all. ... Because the concept of sexual orientation as a distinctive part of a person's inner identity, is a modern discovery. There is no word in Greek or Hebrew that meant what we mean by the word 'homosexuality'. [It] was invented in the late 19th century..."

I'm going to accept his point that we know of no Hebrew or Greek equivalents in ancient literature for "homosexuality", & also bypass his later discussion of the words "malakoi" & "arsenokoitai" in Paul's New Testament epistles. I can safely do that because Lance's main argument rests on logical fallacies.

First he demonstrates one known as a strawman argument. His subject concerns what the Bible says about Homosexuality, & instead of focusing exclusively on the act between 2 persons of the same gender, he parses the meaning to a modern psychological definition, so he can figuratively tear down this weak "man of straw" with ease.

[12:40] "The ideas of Heterosexual & Homosexual didn't exist before then, much less in Biblical times. In ancient times the distinction was not between Homosexual & Heterosexual, but between those who penetrate (the male), & who is penetrated (usually, but not always, the female)."

Then he explained 4 aspects of sexuality that operate independently:

  1. Sexual Identity: What am I, a male or a female?

  2. Sexual Roles: As a male or female, what do I do?

  3. Sexual Orientation: To whom am I physically attracted, a male or a female?

  4. Sexual Behavior: With whom do I copulate, a male or a female?

[19:45] "The best medical science says [Orientation] is determined very early, & is something over which we have no control. ... It's not a choice, it's not a preference, any more than being right- or left-handed is a choice."

I understand his point that we are born with innate orientations, but anybody with 2 functional hands can choose to use either one despite their orientation or natural disposition. This is known as self-control, a concept foreign to many wealthy, good-looking, spoiled brats who were not properly disciplined by their parents during their developmental years.

Bad parenting notwithstanding, you, Ms. Lohan, are still fully accountable to the judge in your case. If you did not have self-control, you would never have been able to obtain a driver's license. Likewise, Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/TransWhatever people are fully accountable to God for their behavior irrespective of their biological orientation, just as Heterosexual people are. It's known as "choosing to act wisely". God gave us the right to live, but not the right to an obstacle-free life.

Adam & Eve had no biological obstacles & lived in a place full of pleasure, but they listened to bad advice, did something stupid, & forfeited their VIP status. Now we, their direct descendants, have genetic mutations & live in a dangerous world. Kind of like what would happen if you were no longer beautiful & wealthy; you'd have a tough time getting into exclusive clubs that cater to the beautiful & wealthy. The people you think are friends would no longer want to share their booze & cocaine with you. I know it's hard for you to imagine, but that's analogous to the world most of us are living in compared to the one Adam & Eve originally had.

[23:10] "Now the point of all of this is that the Bible never speaks to the issue of sexual orientation, only to sexual behavior."

Is it obligated to? Does it matter whether a murderer enjoys killing his/her victim? Does it matter whether the murderer hates the victim? Well, in our modern judicial system, it may affect the sentence, but it should not dictate the verdict.

Did the judge in your case, Ms. Lohan, care about whether you felt you needed the alcohol or cocaine? It didn't matter, did it? So let's see what the Bible records as God's opinion of homosexual behavior:

"Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination."--Leviticus 18:22

"If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination."--Leviticus 20:13

In case you're on drugs again as you're reading this, I'll clarify the translation: Males shall not lie on a bed [i.e., for the purpose of copulating] as they do with women. God detests it!

Now obviously one doesn't have to "lie on a bed" to have sex, but that was the general phrase to convey the general meaning of the commandment to reasonably intelligent men, who were then responsible to communicate it to everyone in their community. Likewise, people will not be able to argue that they did not violate 18:22/20:13 if they commit the act in a bathroom or kitchen or in a standing or seated position, something other than lying on a bed! And it makes no difference whether they were physically attracted to the person or not!

Analogy: Stabbing someone doesn't necessarily kill them; they die from a loss of blood several seconds or minutes later. But you would not be able to argue in a modern court (& certainly not in God's court) that you didn't actually murder somebody if you indeed stabbed them. It's sufficient to say, "Thou shalt not murder" one time, & it's a done deal. Rational people know what that commandment means.

Leviticus 18:22/20:13 records God's perspective, not mine, not yours, not some 19th-century psychologist's! Dr. Lance trivializes God's perspective, which probably springs from an erroneous belief that 18:22/20:13 was a commandment written by men for men, instead of being the word of God spoken to & recorded by Moses, so that all of God's people might learn God's ways.

[23:10] "The Bible never speaks to the issue of sexual orientation, only to sexual behavior, in other words, what they observed in the culture of their time. ... So a fair response to the question, 'What does the Bible say about Homosexuality?' would be, 'It says nothing.' So it's better, thus, to ask 'What does the Bible say about same-sex behavior?' And it does talk about that."

I highlighted his remark about what the Israelites observed. My version would be: The Bible speaks to the issue of sexual behavior because God's law teaches us God's commandments, irrespective of our biological/psychological orientation. In short, IT DOESN'T MATTER what your orientation is! This is God's world; it doesn't revolve around you!

Doesn't this make sense? How would a judge be able to rule on what a defendant's emotions were at the time of the alleged crime? Imagine what that would be like...

  • Thou shalt not murder, unless she like totally bothers you.

  • Thou shalt not commit adultery, unless it would be way cool to brag about at a party.

  • Thou shalt not steal, unless it makes you feel so hot ... you are the bomb!

  • Thou shalt not speak deceitfully, unless you're all like, honing your acting skills or whatever.

That sort of legal system would produce more chaos than justice, right? If you have problems comprehending such an outcome, Ms. Lohan, simply imagine the victim being somebody you deeply care about, including yourself ... or maybe your stupid friends who provide you with drugs. You wouldn't want to see them become the victims of injustice, would you?

Speaking of chaos, Dr. Lance gave a strange explanation of a well-known incident recorded in Genesis 19:

[31:05] "So Sodom & Gomorrah is about violent aggression by, what we would call, heterosexual males against the guests of Lot. ... The story has no bearing on the modern discussion of a loving, mutual relationship between 2 people of the same sex who are homosexually oriented."

How could he possibly know what their sexual orientation was?!?! This is the same man who on one hand argues that the Bible "says nothing" about sexual orientation, then the first time he references a specific Bible text, he defends his position by acting as though he knows the sexual orientation of the people! That's another logical fallacy known as begging the question. In other words, his remark begs us to question how he could possibly know that, since he hasn't offered any proof.

If the residents of Sodom & Gomorrah engaged in sins God considered exceptionally great (Genesis 18:20 & 19:13), including but not limited to homosexual behavior, it has significant bearing on whether modern people should engage in similar acts, or be proud of it, or pass laws to accommodate it. Whether those people have a loving, mutual relationship, or a carefree one-night-stand is irrelevant.

Next he looks at Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13, which he relegates to a mere cultural purity code rather than a commandment of God. How could he do that? Simple: he ignored the context because he presumed the Bible was written by men who didn't know the 4 aspects of sexuality. Here's the opening & closing of chapter 18 that he omitted from his lecture:

"Ye shall do my judgments, and keep my ordinances, to walk therein; I am the LORD your God. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments, which if a man do, he shall live in them; I am the LORD."--Leviticus 18:4-5

"Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you, & the land is defiled; therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, & the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you (for all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled); that the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you. For whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the souls that commit them shall be cut off from among their people. Therefore shall ye keep mine ordinance, that ye commit not any one of these abominable customs, which were committed before you, and that ye defile not yourselves therein; I am the LORD your God."--Leviticus 18:24-30

Even if you don't believe those words came from God, they're in the Bible, & the purpose of the lecture was to examine the Bible's perspective on the subject. If those verses seemed rather long & repetitious, contrast them with this terse statement by Dr. Lance:

[24:20] "[Same-sex behavior] is not a burning issue as far as the Bible is concerned."

What a shame! I can't imagine a better qualification for being "a burning issue" than prompting God to rain fire & brimstone from Heaven upon those cities! But as incredible as his remark seems, he embarrasses himself even further:

[39:05] "It's never mentioned in the Gospels."

There were probably people in the audience who've never studied the Bible in depth, & Dr. Lance actually stood before them in a position of authority, & either lied to them deliberately, or unwittingly misled them (I don't know if he's "attracted" to deceitfulness, or if it's just his "behavior"). True, Jesus never mentioned homosexuality explicitly, but you're obligated to use your brain & rationally infer His position from statements He made about heterosexuality:

"Have ye not read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female..."--Matthew 19:4

"But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female."--Mark 10:6

Both verses record the same conversation about Genesis 1:27, with the context being Divorce granted by Moses:

"When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes ... then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife. And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife..."--Deuteronomy 24:1-4

Notice how unambiguous this passage is on marriage involving one man & one woman at a time. There is not the slightest hint of it involving 2 men or 2 women, because it follows God's earlier commandment against homosexual behavior in Leviticus, & the even-earlier commandment in Genesis 1:28 for us to "[b]e fruitful, & multiply", which is impossible to fulfill through homosexual behavior. Jesus emphasizes God's opinion by referencing Genesis 2:24 & elaborating on it:

"'For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his [one] wife; & they two shall be one flesh.' So then they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."--Matthew 19:5-6; Mark 10:6-9

And if that's not enough, Jesus mentions Sodom 6 times (on at least 2 occasions) in the Gospels. The context emphasizes that those citizens are going to be in big trouble on Judgment Day, though not necessarily the biggest trouble: people who reject Jesus.

If Jesus were indifferent toward sexual behavior, He had ample opportunity to say, "Oh, it doesn't matter if a man divorces his wife, or if a man marries a man, or a woman marries a donkey. It's not a burning issue. Just be nice, pretend you're a Christian & do whatever you want. You're all just a bunch of evolved apelike animals anyway!"

Isn't it amazing how Dr. Lance can know that the men of Sodom were heterosexuals, but ignore Jesus explicitly defending heterosexuality as God-ordained behavior, & using Sodomites as an example of people in serious trouble with God?

I'd expect that kind of lecture from a drugged-up actress, but not from a professor emeritus.

Homosexuality is absolutely bad. No exceptions. It's impossible to justify doing what God detests. But I can't conclude this letter to you, Ms. Lohan, leaving the impression that homosexuals (in behavior or orientation) are bad, sinful people, while heterosexuals are good, sinless people. We're all sinners, & all deserve eternal punishment for a multitude of offenses against God. If you get nothing else out of this message, please know that the Bible records God being against things like homosexuality & adultery, but forgiving repentant homosexuals & adulterers.

Christianity is about mercy & grace: not getting something we do deserve (eternal damnation), & getting something we don't deserve (eternal life). Those are gifts from Jesus Christ to us in exchange for our voluntary faithfulness to Him. God wants that really bad, because it's the one thing that God can't create.

You have a golden opportunity to use your fame, acting talent, & popularity for better or for worse. There will never be another Lindsay Dee Lohan (biologically & spiritually). The next time one of your false friends invites you to a party, please think on these things. I'm not going to advise you to avoid parties; actually, I'm going to encourage you to go, have a great time, & set a standard for people to admire by thinking on these things from the Bible, talking about them, & acting on them.

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. ... Wisdom crieth aloud; she uttereth her voice in the streets: ... '[W]hoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be secure from fear of evil.'"--Proverbs 1:7,20,33

"For the LORD shall rise up ... and bring to pass His act, His strange act. Now therefore be ye not mockers..."--Isaiah 28:21-22

G.M. Grena

Saturday, September 25, 2010

2 Bargains in 2 Weeks

Several years ago, I obtained a copy of John Malcolm Russell's book,
"The Final Sack of Nineveh"
; it had been referenced by someone writing about an Assyrian relief possibly depicting King Hezekiah standing "like a bird in a cage" in an otherwise-vacated Jerusalem. I don't recall what I paid for it, but it was probably ~$30 (because like most people, I simply can't buy everything I'd like to have). Current prices run from about $50-$100.

Along the way, I discovered that Russell had written 2 other books of interest to my own research, largely due to his firsthand excavation work at
"Sennacherib's 'Palace without Rival' at Nineveh"
; in fact, that's the title of one of them (which I still don't have, but will eventually). Again, it runs from about $50-$100, as does the one I obtained last week, "Writing on the Wall".

In this one, Russell analyzes the differences in royal Assyrian palaces, specifically the location & types of inscriptions of these Assyrian kings:

Assurnasirpal II
Shalmaneser III
Adad-Nirari III
Tiglath-Pileser III
Sargon II

Table 10.1 lists specimens found on Thresholds, Wall-Relief Text Registers, Colossi, Wall-Relief Epigraphs, & Slab Backs. He found a general evolution from the first 3 to the last 2. The only one Sennacherib's palace does not have are the Wall-Relief Text Registers. I was not aware that any of the wall reliefs had writing on the backs, so those were interesting to see. Russell provides excellent photos of the inscriptions, photos of the excavation sites, & transliterations+transcriptions. Russell's efforts result in an admirable, not-too-overly-technical book that I recommend highly.

Listed at $64.50, Eisenbrauns offers it for only $58.05, but a batch of them was recently listed by Powell's Bookstores, Chicago for a meager $9 (+$4 shipping in the USA)! More are still available, so get one while you can if Assyrian palace-inscriptions interest you. It arrived shrink-wrapped, in pristine condition. That, my friends, is a genuine bargain, rarely seen.

But it's not a rare book. Nor is "Gezer I", edited by William G. Dever, H. Darrell Lance, & G. Ernest Wright, still available from Eisenbrauns at the bargain price of $18 (plus shipping). What is truly rare though, is to find a copy of this important work for only $20 ... signed by all 3 primary authors!!! And all 13 large fold-out Plans & Sections are still in excellent condition too.

I'm planning to get the other Gezer excavation books to see if I can find any clues pertaining to the unpublished H2D & M2D hypothetically "late" handles found there, that were checked into the IAA inventory back in 1974 along with the published H4L at the conclusion of that excavation phase. I'm guessing that they were found in a disturbed context, but I'd like to be sure. The notes I obtained from the IAA provide some other minor clues that I did not have time to dig into while writing my recent BibleInterp article.

I was disappointed to discover the geographical glitch noted by Todd Bolen in a comment to the article, but it turns out to work in my favor (not Lipschits et al.'s) since it's one more indicator of Judah's economy recovering & resettling (albeit to a limited extent) in the devastated Shephelah.

Another minor typo I discovered is my parenthetical description of the type-classes:

IIb (2-winged icon, divided bottom-register inscription)
IIa (2-winged icon, undivided inscriptions)

It should've been:

IIb (2-winged icon, divided inscriptions)
IIa (2-winged icon, undivided bottom-register inscription)

D'oh! Still not nearly as embarrassing as Robert Cargill's fallacious Flood article (& BibleInterp itself for publishing it unchecked). My own rebuttal remains safe on top of the Rock. The One Who gladly gave His good life for my bad one...

G.M. Grena

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Cargill SmackDown

My biggest disappointment with my first book ("LMLK vol. 1"; Lv1) remains the numerous stupid typos I made. What a shock when they were first pointed out to me! My second disappointment, which I knew would be a bummer as soon as I decided to write the book, was that it was 100% guaranteed to eventually be outdated or superseded on certain things, & it definitely has been.

Despite this, I wrote my 2nd book ("Evolution Science") expecting it would only be valid for a year, & the odds of it containing numerous typos vastly exceeded that of Lv1. To my complete amazement, several years have elapsed, & not a single piece of content has been outdated or superseded, & I did not even notice any typos until this past month as I was preparing to layeth the smacketh down on Robert Cargill.

On p. 268 I misquoted a Genesis verse:

"8:5 Waters continued to subside until the chief mountains were visible (10th month, 10th day)."

The actual text is:

"And the waters decreased continually until the tenth month: in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, were the tops of the mountains seen.

I can see how I made the mistake, quickly viewing both appearances of "10th month", & missing the "first day" part.

I'm one of those people who has to think logically & determine a reason for everything. It's not enough to simply correct a typo; I have to learn why I made it, & do my best to prevent it from happening again.

I suppose that's why it bothers me when I see other people making the same poor interpretations of the Holy Bible, & I feel obligated to make an effort to help them understand the faults in their own position. Life ain't worth livin', if you ain't standing on THE ROCK.

If there's a mote in my eye, I hope someone else will be kind enough to remove it for me, even if I smack them around a little in the process.

Word of caution: Please be prepared to explain to me that the mote is in my eye, & the scientific reason why it needs to be removed!

If you want me to believe there was no worldwide flood...

Don't just appeal to authority!

Don't just appeal to common belief!

Don't just appeal to ridicule!

IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT YOU THINK! Dig up some evidence, & then ... JUST ... BRING ... IT ... ON!!!

G.M. Grena

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Offering Jars--Fact or Fiction?

A few weeks ago, I checked my Amazon page for LMLK vol. 1, & noticed an intriguing recommendation in the auto-generated "Books on Related Topics" section:

"The Jar of David" by Katherine Sanborn

Published by Xulon Press in 2009, it's a 60-page children's story told by an 8-year-old boy named David living in Hebron during Solomon's reign. His uncle & friend's father are both potters, & we follow David on an adventure as his family travels to Jerusalem during the annual Festival of Booths.

I don't remember now which I discovered first, this book or the Potters of Hebron video (the subject of my previous blog entry), but it's like the stars were aligned or something! What an amazing coincidence!

The back-cover teaser floored me when I read it:

"Broken jar handle?" I asked, "How did you know it was a handle?"

Uncle answered, "There were impressions. These impressions were the kind they make on jars made especially for the Great Temple."

That's from Chapter 5, p. 38, as David's father recalls an unusual event he & "Uncle Dan" witnessed. Two robbers bumped into them, fleeing from a crime scene, causing them to drop a jar of loot--a very special offering jar from Solomon's Temple. The main plot focuses on David doing some interesting detective work, involving a princess visiting from a foreign land (1Kings 4:34), who lost a special gold ring.

Other outstanding snippets I enjoyed:

"I reached into the oven and pulled out the still warm jars, placing them on the shelf. ... Each had specific writing on the handles. I asked Joseph if he knew what it said. He rubbed his fingers on the inscription and exclaimed, ..." (p. 26)

"Do you still have the handle pieces?" (p. 39)

"We pushed more dirt aside to reveal a handle...with the same impression." (p. 44)

"Nervously, he took the broken jar handle pieces from his pocket, the ones he saved for so long." (p. 49)

"My father allowed me to carry one of the offering jars of grain." (p. 55)

The first 19 pages, where David introduces us to his family & friends, are available to read on the Google books website. Here's an alphabetical list:

Auntie Lydia
Ben (David's friend)
Beth (David's sister, age 3; Rebecca's twin)
Dad/Jonathan (David's father)
David (storyteller, age 8)
Jacob (Joseph's friend)
Joseph (David's older brother, age 12)
Mom/Miriam (David's mother)
Penny (David's pet goat)
Rebecca (David's sister, age 3; Beth's twin)
Ruben (Ben's father, a potter)
Ruthie (David's younger sister, age 6)
Uncle Dan (potter)

On pp. 52-3, Dan helps David make a 2-handled jar:

"Now..." Uncle bent down to get some more fresh clay, "The handles!" ... Together, we pushed them onto the sides of the jar. "One more thing, before we set it into the oven," he continued, "You want to make an impression, don't you?"


The back cover provides a brief bio of Mrs. Sanborn. You can imagine what a pleasant surprise it was for me to learn that she teaches a Sunday School class at a church only a few miles from where I live (Crenshaw Baptist Church)! I arranged to meet her today, & attend the morning service as her guest.

For me, this was the equivalent of David's adventure--getting to learn about the process that led to the book! In fact I even got to meet the boy whom she based the character of David on, her grandson (David is a pseudonym)!

As it turns out, she wasn't familiar with LMLK seals, which wasn't much of a shock since she didn't mention them explicitly in the book. And the jar photo on the cover is not a Type 484, but one provided by the publisher. I wonder if they smashed one just for this project?!?!

The idea for the book began several years ago when she lamented over the lack of decent Christian fiction books available for children. She decided to base the story around one of the annual Hebrew festivals, & learned about the seal impressions while reading books on ceramics, that mentioned Jewish artifacts.

One of the theories I emphasized in my book was that the seals marked 10% of the storage jars as part of a tithe-accounting system, but during Hezekiah's reign, not Solomon's. So I had to ask her how she happened to take the information from the ceramics book, & connect the jars to offerings brought to the Temple. She replied simply, "It's fiction!"

Chalk up another amazing coincidence!

But that wasn't the only one. During the worship service, led by Senior Pastor Kevin Leathers, when we came to the song just before the offering, Mrs. Sanborn leaned over & whispered with a surprised voice, "The song is The Potter's Hand! How about that!"

I'm running out of chalk!

G.M. Grena

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Potters of Hebron

About a week ago I discovered a film, originally produced back in 1976, now marketed by The Phoenix Learning Group, Inc.. They sell 2 versions of it, a short one (30 minutes), & a full-length one (advertised on their website & on the box as 53 minutes, but actually 43:10). Their website links to a 1:50 preview clip on YouTube. Here's their synopsis:

"A visual portrait of a Mediterranean pottery workshop, nestled in the Hebron Hills southeast of Jerusalem. Potters of Hebron focuses on the craft processes within the workshop where potters fashion the earthenware water jars, called zirs, that have been used since antiquity. Step by step we are led through the process until the craftsmen’s work is complete. The documentation of these contemporary and yet traditional craft techniques not only serves as a record of man’s artistic achievement, but also as evidence of a rapidly disappearing pre-industrial technology. Produced and directed by Robert Haber. Grade Levels: 7 to Adult"

This amazed me on several levels:

1) Of all the places in the world where they could've filmed a primitive pottery operation, they chose Hebron!

2) Of all the vessels they could've chosen for a demo, they showed the various stages of a zir, similar in overall shape to LMLK jars!

3) Although they skipped some steps in the process, they showed the pulling of handles, which look nearly identical to LMLK handles!

I particularly enjoyed the way they described the zir-process verbally, showed line-drawings of the cross-section of the various construction-stages, then showed the potter actually doing it! I will be tailoring these drawings for a chapter in my LMLK vol. 2 book, but for now I thought it would be fun to quote some narration snippets, & show a few screenshots for reference (since my book is still years away from publication).

Zir Making--A Ceramic Tradition

"The geographical situation & mild climate of the Hebron hills produce vegetables & fruits of a high standard. For centuries, grapes from this area have been prized throughout the Middle East. ... Out of the 8 pottery workshops in the valley, all the potters, with one exception, are members of a single clan (or 'hamula'), & have the same last name: Al-Fakhouri, which means 'potter'."

Note: Throughout the film, the narrator refers to the workers by their name, but in my abbreviated transcription below, I'm editing them into generic nouns & pronouns [in brackets] since I'm not sure how to spell them.

"Two types of clay are collected locally, & brought to the workshops: a red clay ('samaka'), which is high in iron, & a white clay ('kalaba'), which has a low mineral content. Each clay has its own unique properties, but when mixed together, these 2 clays make a good, even-textured material, suitable for the particular needs of these potters. 20 baskets of red clay, & 15 baskets of white clay, are thrown into the mixing tank."

"Two hours after the clay has soaked, it's become soft enough for [the potter] to mix the clay with his feet. At the same time, he feels for stones & other foreign debris, which must be removed. While churning the mixture with his feet, a scum forms on the surface. By the sense of touch alone, [he] is able to clear these impurities from the tank. [He] mixes the water vigorously so that the water is totally saturated with fine particles of clay. Grit & gravel, too heavy to mix with water, remain at the bottom."

"The clay-saturated water is then bucketed from the mixing tank into the settling tank, where the clay particles begin to settle out. When most of the mixture has been transferred into the settling tank, a passage is opened, which lets water back into the mixing tank, where the entire process is repeated. [He] can complete this process in about 2 hours. While he pauses for lunch, the mixing tank will be cleaned & refilled, so that he can repeat the process in the afternoon. It takes 7 days to fill the settling tank with fine-particled clay."

Note: One can't help but see the similarity between the process taking place in these tanks, & the remarkable pools excavated by Shimon Gibson at Kibbutz Tzuba (where he also discovered a cave he associates with John the Baptist).

"When the settling tank has been filled, approximately 50 baskets of sifted sand are added. The sand comes from Gaza on the Mediterranean coast. It serves 3 purposes:"

"First, it acts as filler to give body to the clay."

"Second, it inhibits excess shrinkage upon drying."

"And third, it serves to make the ware porous, which allows slow evaporation through the vessel wall, & keeps the contents cool."

Note: The synopsis described zirs as water bottles, but actually, it wouldn't make sense to build a porous vessel for storing water, though it would make sense if they're intended to store grains & vegetables. There's evidence that some LMLK jars were constructed to prevent such evaporation, while others did not.

"The sand is also spread on the floor of a 3rd tank, the drying tank. It acts as a separator between the wet clay, & the bottom of the tank, & allows easy removal of the clay after it's dried."

"When all the sand has been added, [they] bucket the mixture into the drying tank. During the hot summer season, it takes about 5 days for the water to evaporate, leaving a malleable clay. It's then brought inside the workshop."

"Before the clay can be used for making pots, it has to be prepared for a process called "wedging". The clay is first piled in a heap on the floor of the pottery. [He] spreads sand around the base of the pile so the clay can be easily removed after working. The purpose of wedging is to make a homogenous clay body, which is uniform in texture throughout. Midway through the process, 9-10 pounds of salt are added. The salt dissolves in the moist clay, so that after a pot has been fashioned, & as it dries, the salt is carried by the evaporating water to the surfaces. In the firing, this salt forms a fine, non-vitreous white layer. The final wedging, which prepares the clay for throwing, is done by machine. It's the only mechanical device employed in this pottery. This final wedging assures the homogeneity of each piece of clay, & removes any trapped air, which could cause the pot to explode during firing."

"The zir is made in 3 stages over a 5-day period."

"On the first day, a basic form of the zir is constructed, bottom up. The process takes about 3 minutes."

"After waiting one complete day for drying, the vessel is turned over, & placed on a support. The walls of the zir are now strong enough to allow further construction. This unique construction method is believed to be effective, & to take maximum advantage of the structural limitations of the clay. A ring of clay is separated from the thick base, now the top. It's turned over, & opened out into a flat plate, which is put on the side. The remainder of the clay is pulled up, & the walls are shaped. Next, the plate is inverted, & joined onto the top. It's again left to dry."

"On the 5th day, a piece of clay is shaped that will become the neck. By now, the walls of the pot are strong enough to take the weight of the neck. By a method known as "hatting", a roughly thrown bowl is inverted over the mouth of the pot, & carefully formed into the neck. After completion, handles are added to either side of the vessel."

Note: This was interesting to see that instead of merely fashioning the handle from a lump of clay, the potter cuts it from the top of a lump fashioned on the wheel:

Then he cuts it, straightens it, then "pulls" it:

From this long strip, he pinches off small sections for each handle, which he forms, then places in a neatly arranged pile:

An assistant attaches the handle to the jar, in the exact same manner seen on LMLK handles (by fingerprints):

"After slowly drying for a week inside the workshop, the completed zirs are brought outside. They're then stacked in the sun with other unfired pottery. The following day, they'll be loaded into the kiln."

"When zirs are being fired, they're the first vessels to be stacked into the kiln. They're carefully placed bottom-up with smaller wares stacked in between."

Firing begins in the morning, & lasts 6-7 hours. The film concludes on a low note:

"But the encroaching world of technology, & the attraction of young people away from such a rural environment, are leading to the decline of this deeply rooted industry. This film is a record of the creative tradition. But sadly, the signs are, that the making of hand-pottery in Hebron is a dying craft."

translations by Celine Dwek & Vartoug Basmadjia
sound by Avi Cohen
music by courtesy of Folkways & Baren Reiter
graphics by Moira Mackenzie
commentary by Frank Gillard
camera by Ilan Rosenberg
assistant camera by Mickey Benyiameny
edited by Roger Guertin
produced & directed by Robert Haber
copyright by Robert Haber, 1976

encroaching-technology blog by G.M. Grena

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Fake LMLK Book!

I've been building up a huge backlog of material to add to the LMLK Research site, as well as material to blog about, not the least of which involves 2 books published this year with my photos of LMLK handles, one is even on the book's cover. A third book by a European scholar with my seal drawings is expected to be published later this year.

While vol. 2 of my LMLK series remains years away, last night I happened to browse for "LMLK", just because it's a thrill to see my own book pop up in the listing, yet lo & behold, another LMLK book popped up!

"LMLK seal: Jerusalem, In situ, Sennacherib, Stamp seal, List of artifacts significant to the Bible, Phoenician alphabet"

Publisher: Alphascript Publishing (January 12, 2010)

Frederic P. Miller (Editor), Agnes F. Vandome (Editor), John McBrewster (Editor)

WTF? (Who's That Frederic?)

I've never heard of these people! "In Situ"? What kind of sub-title is that? And why did they use a modern stamp seal with a wooden handle for the cover image?

As the initial shock lessened, 3 quick clicks on the names of the editors reveals that they've been quite busy, apparently writing 39,792 such books!

It became clear when I zoomed in on a little bubble on the cover that nobody actually "wrote" or "edited" this book, but rather a software robot harvested text from Wikipedia articles:

"High Quality Content by WIKIPEDIA articles!"

Wow! You mean for only $49 + shipping I can receive an 80-page paperback printout of a web page that can be downloaded for free in less than 8 seconds? What a bargain!

G.M. Grena

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Another Bond to the King

There are no details on when this particular specimen was discovered; it could be from a previous excavation, or from the new clean-up effort. In any event, it's one of the best H2U stamps I've ever seen:

Coincidentally, a couple of weeks ago I became an honorary citizen of Hebron (via a small financial donation). I had planned to blog about it, but have been busy, plus the certificate they sent to me had my name misspelled.

The accompanying letters stated (among other things):

"Hebron, in Hebrew, is derived from the word meaning 'to bond,' and we are surely bonded together. However, we are also collectively linked in a chain, connecting us to generations past, while at the same time, preparing the future for generations to come. ... More than any other place, Hebron embodies the Jewish roots of the Land and State of Israel. We must all reinforce our religious, historical and personal connection to Hebron, lest we undermine the very foundations of our existence in any part of Eretz Yisrael."

G.M. Grena

Monday, March 29, 2010

Sun Of Righteousness

Today's "Days of Praise" article from ICR was originally published on Aug 18, 1998 by its founder, Dr. Henry Morris. Here's a direct link to it on their website, but I'd like to cite interesting portions of it here:

[Malachi 4:2] is the very last of the numerous Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament. ... The Sun of righteousness clearly refers to the coming Savior, for He will come "with healing in His wings." The sun does not have wings, of course, so many commentators think this word refers to the rays of the sun, with their life-sustaining energy. However, the Hebrew word means "wings," and nothing else. It is as though the sun is rising rapidly on great wings, dispelling the world’s darkness with its light, dispensing healing to its sin-sick soul. The Sun of righteousness, of course, can be none other than God Himself...

The 2-winged icon on LMLK seals easily resolves this dispute since it has both wings AND rays!

G.M. Grena

Friday, March 19, 2010

Mr. 484

On this day in history (actually as of yesterday, March 18th, 2010), my post office box number is "484", my social security number contains "484", & now my eBay feedback rating is (temporarily) "484"!

G.M. Grena

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Royal Riddle

I can't resist posting this "inside joke" for those of you who know about the big, king-related event in my life this week:

"well some thirty one well
it has a kind of question that recently by concerning the
on Friday he fears that Al sabah said
Susan contributions to candidates running for the house of lords
we've had enough to eat with plenty left over
the lord is thy people and is required is not over
it has a kind of an agenda the rules of the house of lords think you have
the holy father and the contributions and heights
and the consecrated things
and I I I mean that was the officer in charge
and his brothers in the US senate"

There are no typos in that paragraph! If you can guess the riddle, you're really knowledgeable about state-of-the-art web services!

G.M. Grena

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Dennis Prager in Redondo Beach, 2010

I've listened to snippets of Dennis Prager's nationally syndicated radio program whenever I've had the rare occasion to be in my car during his time slot over the past couple of decades. It's been a few years since I've heard him, but it doesn't bother me that I can't listen more frequently because he's the type of guy I mostly agree with. I find myself saying, "Yeah ... yes ... right ... I feel the same way ...", etc. My admiration of him almost bores me!

This week I had the pleasure of finally getting to attend one of his public lectures at a nearby Jewish Community Center, Chabad of the Beach Cities. And when I say "nearby", I mean walking distance, which was a real treat because of the mild weather we've had for a few days.

For anyone who hasn't heard him before, this is a great 5:13 introductory speech by him on YouTube discussing the 3 pillars of American values (E Pluribus Unum, In God We Trust, & Liberty).

And for anyone who happens to discover this blog for the first time through this review, my normal theme is matters focusing on the King of kings, but in Mr. Prager's lecture, he only mentioned kings in a brief, negative context; nonetheless, it's king-related, so here goes...

The event began at 6pm for people who paid $125 to enjoy dinner with Dennis. I would've liked to have done this, but I think I would've been somewhat out-of-place for a variety of reasons, so I opted simply for the $25 lecture ticket, which began at 7:30pm.

When I arrived at 7:15pm, they were still having dinner (he was visible from the sidewalk as I was entering), & the event didn't formally begin till about 7:45. As we were waiting, a very nice lady distributed flyers encouraging attendees (about 300 people by my rough visual estimation) to sign a petition to get The Citizen Legislature Act added to a future ballot. She did a real cute little dance, so I thought the least I could do was link to the website here, where California voters can download the petition.

We were informed by a rabbi that we'd be treated to a brief musical concert by a "world renowned" violinist named "Andre" (later I found his name online, which is actually Endre Balogh). He played 4 songs solo, opening & closing with works by Bach. In between, he played the Irish anthem, "Londonderry Air", & a Spanish tango. Ironically, I haven't heard such a beautiful set of solo music since I attended a concert by another "Andre", the even-more renowned guitar-maestro, Andres Segovia in Pittsburgh PA back in the early 1980s (he was in his 90s at the time). Balogh's rendition of the Bach tunes sounded like an entire orchestra ... simply breathtaking. Unfortunately, I could not find any videos of him online. In my mind, he will reign as the king of violinists!

Dennis began shortly after 8pm, with a lecture entitled "America: What would our founding fathers say today?" The rabbi introduced him with a funny remark, saying that he originally had notes about Dennis on the lectern, but now all he had was this (he held up a bumper sticker with a photo of our current president, & the words: "YOU LIE!").

I had not planned on taking copious notes, but I did jot down a few of the main points on the back of my petition flyer, & issues I'd like to preserve for posterity.

Ideals vs. Practices. Dennis analyzed the argument about whether it mattered what America's founders would think. Is it bad if someone states that "all men are created equal", while simultaneously owning another man as a slave? No. Why not? Because we're all hypocrites at times. We all have ideals but fall short in actual practice.

Example: Good parents teach their children not to lie, but every parent has told a lie at some point in his/her life. What's important is that the founders formed a nation ... the first nation ... that would eventually abolish slavery. Why? Because their beliefs were rooted in the Bible, & they knew that true liberty can only come from God, our creator. Note that Leviticus 25:10 is on our Liberty Bell. So much for separation of church & state!

He dismissed the notion that the founders thought slaves were only 3/5ths human, because the real reason their vote was diminished to a value of 3/5 was to prevent the southern states from having an unfair majority in an election.

He explained that people who consider the original intent of the Constitution to be Republicans, & those who view the Constitution as a living/evolving document to be Liberals. Example: Liberals interpret the "right to privacy" as the "right to commit an abortion". Dennis emphasized the absurdity of this by imagining a murderer saying to a judge, "But I killed him in private, so what's the big deal? Nobody saw it..."

Throughout this review, I'm paraphrasing Dennis, but one sentence I captured in full that made a lasting impression on me was, "I believe values are eternal." That's an extremely powerful statement, part of a coherent philosophy. He asked rhetorically whether "change" really means "progress".

He concluded this introductory section by stating that he does care what our founding fathers would say today, if they could experience America now. Thus, he presented the following 6 speculations.

1) They'd be shocked by how poor our education system has become.

He asked if we had read letters/diaries written by Civil War soldiers, & noted their "elevated language" despite their elementary-level education. Rarely did any get past 8th grade, but their grammar exceeds that of modern high school graduates. The founders would be shaken by the lack of wisdom taught in our schools.

Schools are not supposed to just teach facts, but impart wisdom to children. Example: It's wise to dress well. Clothing matters. People say that God doesn't care what people wear; God only cares about what's inside a person. Not true! God cares how a person acts. Celebrities dress their absolute best when attending the Academy Awards. It's a statement, a behavior, a gesture of respect. People invited to the White House don't dress casual. School is no longer considered important & a place of respect.

On foul language... We have laws abolishing firsthand smoke in public, but not cursing. For liberals, health is a supreme value, not the soul. He interjected a humorous anecdote about a photo he has of himself & some congressman smoking cigars in the Capitol, where it's still permissible to smoke.

Universities used to be founded for the purpose of studying the knowledge of God. They wanted to produce clergymen. Now they want nothing to do with God, as if it's a bad thing.

2) They'd be shocked by the government's intrusion into people's lives.

Europe "loves" the concept of big states with kings. That's not what our founders wanted. Our founders were raised in a world of responsibilities, not rights. The Torah speaks of commandments & obligations, not rights. Europeans don't have the freedom to fail. We should not take our job or our spouse for granted. If failure is acceptable, we lose our motivation to be our best. Why do leftists embrace such character-destroying notions?

Here he recounted a story about attending Brooklyn College in the 1960s, & how proud he was of his fellow students when they ran a leftist off campus, after the same leftist had gained fame at Columbia University for shutting down the campus to protest the Vietnam War.

3) They'd be shocked by the low class of language in our society.

It decays society. It's okay, not hypocritical or falsely righteous to use foul language in private. Proof: There's nothing wrong with urinating in private. Not so in public.

He mentioned humorously that he's a hockey fan, & belongs to a minority club: Jews for Hockey. He's disappointed & uncomfortable when the crowd chants "[X] sucks" to opposing players.

Then he related a very funny story about himself when he was in 8th grade. A lady who had attended school with him, recently contacted him & reminded him that when she sat in the seat in front of him in school, he (as a little boy) told her:

"Lady of Spain, let me adore you,
Pull down your pants, & let me explore you.

He said there was a chair in his principal's office with his name on it!

4) They'd be shocked by our present government's level of taxation.

"And the harder you work, the more they take!"

The founders intended only excise taxes & tariffs. What's worse is that those who pay nothing, still get to vote on how much taxpayers should pay. This is outrageous! Nowhere else in America would any club allow a non-payer (non-member) vote on how much real members should have to pay.

"How to make an unhappy, bitter nation: Give people things for free."

Parents should teach their children to earn things. In the Torah, "parent" & "teacher" are homonymous with "Torah".

5) They'd be shocked by how secular the nation has become.

America was founded to have a secular government & religious society.

People misrepresent 18th-century Deism. They think Jefferson believed in some generic creator disinterested in the creation. I regret that I was not able to capture Mr. Prager's exact words here, but he was basically describing a modern theistic evolutionist, whereas Jefferson was "preoccupied with the Bible". Yes, he performed a copy/paste job on the New Testament because he didn't believe Jesus was divine or could work miracles; but he believed in the God of the Bible & Old Testament. (Earlier in the lecture, Dennis informed us how much he likes the word "Old" in "Old Testament", & likes it more each year!)

George Washington instituted taking an oath on a Bible ("So help me God"), & the 4 rare presidential exceptions have been out of respect for the Bible. The Bible was the central text of American life.

Only a tiny fraction of atrocities & genocides have resulted from religious ideologies as opposed to secular ones (Mao, Stalin, Hitler); yet schools teach the Crusades & Inquisition as if the converse were true. Proof: Compare "Convert or die" to "Die".

6) They'd be proud of America's global leadership in charity.

Haitian disaster relief, fighting Nazism, etc.

He summarized his presentation by saying, "My friend is Clarity." Are there such things as American values? Is America a group of people, a territory, or an idea? It's an idea. Small government; big individuals.


It was an hour long speech, followed by a half-hour of questions from 9 attendees. The most memorable one was by a gentleman who challenged the dichotomy Dennis had mentioned, regarding our source of liberty being from God or government, no other possibility. The man suggested his own heart as a source of his liberty. Dennis flatly rejected this possibility as logical "anarchy". Each person cannot invent his/her own standard & expect a harmonious society. A "transcendent source" is mandatory.

One other question prompted an interesting statement from Mr. Prager, that there are not only too many laws in our country (which inspire too many lawsuits), but there are also "too many laws even in my religion!"

G.M. Grena

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