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My Colleague’s Archaeological Find!

You have probably noticed that almost every time an archaeological find makes its way into the major newspapers (or even the minor ones) it is a “discovery” that is very iffy, dicey, dubious, questionable and, to make a long story short, generally rejected by the real experts in the field. That’s probably because real archaeologists are very careful, methodical, and, well, not all that interesting for the mass media. But they do the real work, and sometimes they come up with something really terrific. Their work may not make the front page of the NY Times, but it’s the real thing, done by real, solid, labor, by real archaeologists.

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Creation in 4004 BCE?
Q & A with Ben Witherington: Part 10 (and last!)



  1. Avatar
    dawny229  July 5, 2012

    Wow, that is very cool. The style of it kind of reminds of a cartoon one would see in modern newspapers. Without being told where it came from, I never would have guessed. I find it very interesting to see stuff like that.

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    Phillipsna  July 5, 2012

    What is Jodi Magness religious beliefs? Sorry if that’s a personal question, and if it can’t be answered I understand!

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  July 7, 2012

      Well, I’m not sure. I *think* she is a secular Jew, but we’ve never talked about it.

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    Jim Joyner  July 6, 2012

    Aw, c’mon. Isn’t Jodi’s discovery from the Byzantine period (or late Roman)? As best I can remember (at 4:30 am) all human faces in synagogue art showed up after the 1st century. For example, the recently discovered 1st century synagogue in Migdal (as in Mary Magdalene) had no human faces among its beautiful frescoed walls or mosaic floor. The same for the 1st century synagogue at Gamla. I will check on Zippori (near Nazareth), too. If memory serves, I don’t think a human face appeared in Uzi Leibner’s excavation of the 2nd century synagogue at Wadi Hammam. I cannot imagine Jodi is claiming that human faces appeared in synagogue art during the 1st century.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  July 7, 2012

      Yes, that’s right, it is not first century and does not claim to be. Why is that a problem?

      • Avatar
        Jim Joyner  July 23, 2012

        Dr. Ehrman, you wrote this sweeping statement: “Among other things, it shows — yet again — that the widespread idea that Jews in antiquity refused to use pictorial art — even of humans — in their places of worship is completely wrong.”

        Jodi’s discovery of a Byzantine period synagogue with depictions of humans does not support your statement except for later periods, and only for some Jews. The Migdal synagogue, excavated by Dina Avshalom-Gorny (someone Jodi holds in high esteem), has no human art forms and no animal art forms. There are gorgeous frescoed walls, with coloration like the walls of the (proposed, by Ehud Netzer) Jericho synagogue at Herod’s palace (which colors were tested for origination and turned out to be imports from Spain) and the colors of the wealthy house discovered by Motti Aviam at Yodefat. Expensive frescoed decorations in a wealthy house and synagogues, yet without animal or human images! And there’s the first century synagogue at Gamla, and other to-be-published Galilean synagogues (I have seen them) that depict no animal or human images.

        So, I am suggesting that your statement does not really find support in Jodi’s discovery … in fact here probably were ancient Jews, in certain important times and various places, disapproving of pictorial art. I suggest the magnificence of Jodi’s discovery is that we can observe diverse and changing religious attitudes.

        Please understand I am not disputing your celebration of Jodi’s magnificent discovery, only taking (friendly) issue with your sweeping statement.

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  July 24, 2012

          Sorry — as someone else has pointed out, I should have said Late Antiquity.

          On the issue in later times, see the fascinating book by Kalman Bland, The Artless Jew.

      • Avatar
        Jim Joyner  July 24, 2012

        Follow up thought … maybe your statement could be made clearer if you added “late” (antiquity)??

  4. Avatar
    SidneyFinehirsh  September 9, 2013

    The link in this post leads to a “Error 404 – Not Found”. Is it still possible to correct it?

    BTW: Professor Magness’s work is also featured in this month’s Online BAS with an interesting article by Ms. Magness on the discovery of another mosaic image of Samson at the site of the Huqoq synagogue in Galilee. Also interesting is that she points out that Samson is never described as a giant in the Hebrew Bible.

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