Version 3.21
April 18, 2004
Unofficial Guide with Hyperlinked Background Material to the Exhibit
Ancient Treasures and the Dead Sea Scrolls
Canadian Museum of Civilization
December 5, 2003- April 12, 2004
David Steinberg




I.    Note on the Exhibition’s Title

II.   Note on the Term "Israel"

III.  Themes of the Exhibit

IV. Critique of the Exhibit

V. Structure of the Exhibit

VI.  Pattern of Viewing

a. Israel and Judah in the context of the Near-East

b. Israelite-Jewish Artistic, Architectural and Literary Traditions

c. Early Extra-Biblical Evidence of Israel’s Existence 

VII. Notes on Exhibits

A. First Temple Period (c. 1000 BCE-586 BCE [i])

Part 1 - Davidic Dynasty – Rulers

Part 2 - Ritual Life in the First Temple Period

I.    Background

II.   Music

III. Sacrificial Rites

IV. Objects Reflecting Canaanite Polytheism

Part 3 - Everyday Life

I.    Eating in Jerusalem of the First Temple Period

II.  The Gentle Caress of Oil

III. Ornament

IV. Games and Toys

V.  Money, Weights, Measures and Trade

Part 4 - Literate First Temple Culture as the Matrix for the Development of Scriptures

I.    Background on the Alphabet

II.  Increased Use of Writing

III. Seals and Bullae

 Part 5 - Destruction and Exile

B. Second Temple Period (c. 520 BCE-70 CE)

Part 1 After the Exile Historical Background

Part 2 - Dead Sea Scrolls

I.    General Overview

II.  Artifacts Connected with the Scrolls

III. Sections of Three Important Dead Sea Scrolls

Part 3 - Herodian Jerusalem with its Hellenistic Influences

I.    Ossuaries

II.  Crucifixion

III. Limestone Carving in Jerusalem

IV. Menorah

C. Jewish and Christian Life in the Galilee and Golan in the Byzantine Period (fourth century to mid seventh century CE) – Emergence of Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity

I.    Background Information

II.  Jewish Symbols in the Post-Temple Period

III. Hebrew and Latin Bibles

IV. In the Synagogue - Architecture, Symbols, Mosaics etc.

D. Sepher Torah (Torah Scroll) and Reading Room - The Survival of Rabbinic Judaism and its Flourishing Transplantation to Canada




Box 1   - Why Should Israelite-Jewish History be of More Interest to People in Modern Western Culture than other Ancient Cultures?

Box 2   - Dever on Art in Ancient Israel

Box 3 - Hebrew Proper Name of the God of Israel

Box 4   - How Do We Know the Dates of First Temple Kings?

Box 5   - Victory Steles of the Enemies of Israel vs. Biblical Minimalist Claims Regarding the Early Israelite History

Box 6   - Masoretic Text

Box 7   - Canaanite Harvest Festivals to Israelite Commemorative Festivals

Box 8   - Maimonides on Sacrifices

Box 9   - Josiah's Reform According to the Book of Kings

Box 10  - Amulets in Jewish Tradition

Box 11 - Dever on Popular Religion

Box 12 - The Cult of Asherah in Ancient Israel and Judah

Box 13 - Signifier and Signified - Does Iconography Originating in Polytheism Prove Polytheistic Belief?

Box 14 - Children in Ancient Israelite Society

Box 15 - Commerce

Box 16 - Illustration of How Papyrus Documents Were Sealed

Box 17 - The Imperial Imperative of Frightfulness

Box 18 - The Destruction of Sennacherib by George Gordon, Lord Byron

Box 19 - The Assyrian Army

Box 20 - The Curse of Sennacherib

Box 21 - Mass Deportations

Box 22 - Jesus the Galilean Jew

Box 23 - Relationship Between the Scrolls and the New Testament

Box 24 - Six Most Attested Biblical Books in the Qumran Library and in the New Testament

Box 25 - The Physical Death Of Jesus Christ, Study by The Mayo Clinic

Box 26 - The Bar Kochba Rebellion (132-135 CE)

Box 27 - Jewish Galilee to Christian Galilee (324-600 CE)

Box 28 - Writing a Torah Scroll

Box 29 - Torah and Reading of the Torah

Box 30 - The Laws of the Torah and those of the Ancient Near East

Box 31 - Pentateuch - The Documentary Hypothesis

Box 32 - The Spirit of Torah

Box 33 - Are the “Historical Books” of the Hebrew Bible “History”?

Box 34 - Archaeology and the Historicity of the Hebrew Bible

Box 35 - Review of What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It? by William G. Dever

Box 36 - What Do We Know About the Historic David and Solomon?

Box 37 - How Reliable are Oral Traditions?

Box 38 - Jewish Responses to Challenges to the Historicity of Biblical History

Box 39 - A Christian Response to Challenges to Historicity of Biblical History

Box 40 - Sennacherib and Jerusalem

Box 41 - Better Texts of the Hebrew Bible Among the Scrolls?

Box 42 - Six Most Attested Biblical Books in the Qumran Library and the          Probable Reasons for their Popularity


Annex 1 - History Archaeology and the Bible – What Really Happened and How can we Know it?

Annex 2 - Complexity of Israelite-Jewish Society

Annex 3 - The Importance of the Scrolls

Annex 4 - The Congregation As Temple

Annex 5 - Dead Sea Scrolls and Christianity


Select Bibliography


I. Note on the Exhibition’s Title

"Ancient Treasures and the Dead Sea Scrolls explores more than one thousand years of early Jewish and Christian history through a collection of rare ceremonial objects, decorations, household items, and ancient texts dating from 1200 B.C.E. to 700 C.E[i]"

From Ancient Treasures and the Dead Sea Scrolls: About the Exhibition, Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation,  December 4, 2003

The title Ancient Treasures and the Dead Sea Scrolls implies a balance between the Ancient Treasures and the Dead Sea Scrolls even though exhibit includes fragments of only 3 scrolls among about 100 non-scroll exhibits. 

However, the objects, interesting as they are in themselves, are most relevant as part of the understanding of history being portrayed which could be termed the story.

Fundamentally First Temple portion of  the exhibit is a secular explanation of the nature and rise of Ancient Israel.  Specifically – the first ever religion based on a written scripture arose out of a social and political context i.e.

          the kingdom of Judah ruled by the House of David within and economic context and, towards its end, exhibiting a rapidly increasing in the use of writing;


         early Israelite religion (henotheism  tending to monolatory) based on sacrifice, prophecy and casting of lots develops via the Deuteronomic revolution into a monotheism based on scripture


II. Note on the Term "Israel"

"Israel" is used below in at least 4 meanings -

  1. The community, tracing its ancestry to Abraham, described as entering into a covenant with the God of Israel YHWH (See also Names of God) in the biblical books of Exodus and Deuteronomy;

  2. A people who appear in Canaan in the 13th-11th centuries BCE[i] and eventually form the Kingdom of Israel (often called the United Monarchy) which splits in the late 10th century BCE into (see map) the Kingdom of Judah, under the Davidic dynasty, in the south (encompassing the former tribal territories of Judah, Simeon and southern Benjamin) and the Kingdom of Israel, in the north and east (encompassing the former territories of the remaining tribes of Israel).  According to the biblical tradition (Joshua to 2 Kings), this Israel is physically and religiously the descendant of the Israel described in (a) above;

  3. A people mentioned in the Egyptian Merneptah Stele [ii] (approximately 1210 BCE) as living in Canaan.  Merneptah succeeded his father, Rameses II (about 1300-1234 B.C.) as Pharaoh (king of Egypt).  Rameses II  is usually considered the Pharaoh of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egyptian captivity (map). There is no way of knowing whether the Israel of the Merneptah Stele is the same as the Israel described in (b) above; and,

  4. The modern State of Israel.


III. Themes of the Exhibit

1. Relationship between the Bible and Archaeology – What Really Happened and How can we Know it?

2. Relationship Between Israelite-Jewish Society, Other Cultures and Foreign Powers (the evidence of this is widespread in the forms of artistic influence ( see mosaics, stone table Jewish artistic traditions), literary influence (also Josephus), conquest, exile (see Reasons for Survival of Judaism through Babylonian Exile and captivity ) etc..

3. Social Complexity, including Religious Diversity and Class Differences in All Periods

4. A Secular Alternative Explanation for the Rise of the first Religion Based on Written Scriptures (i.e. Post-Deuteronomic Reform Judaism).  The religious explanation is that a supernatural God delivered a revelation.  With this explanation archaeology can provide no more that illustrative artifacts.  However, a secular view would see both the scriptures and the religion(s) based on them as human cultural artifacts.  Thus, from this viewpoint, human culture and history are determinative.  The key point being made is that first Religion Based on Written Scriptures came out of the political, religious, commercial and social context of the First Temple Kingdom of Judah).

5. The Nature and Importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls

6. The Impact of the growing belief in the physical resurrection of the dead on Burial Patterns (Ossuaries)

7. Menorah and the Cross – the Symbols of Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity the Survivors of the Cataclysm of the Destruction of Jerusalem and their Shared Physical Culture (mosaics, lamps, chancel screen etc.) and Theological Traditions (e.g. David, Elijah, the Bible)

8. The Survival of Rabbinic Judaism and its Flourishing Transplantation to Canada (Oldest Torah Scroll in Canada)

Box 1

Why Should Israelite-Jewish History be of More Interest to People in Modern Western Culture than e.g. Ancient Cultures in South America or the Pacific?


Fundamentally, the answer is that the impact of Israelite religious thought, mediated by the Bible and Christianity was, together with Greco-Roman culture, the main source from which medieval European (Italy, France, Spain, Low Countries, German speaking areas, UK) Culture grew. In turn this developed into modern Western Civilization.

The exhibits on the everyday life of ancient Israel etc. can be seen as illustrating the context of its religious life.


Roots of Western History

Israelite Religion to Judaism: the Evolution of the Religion of Israel

The Impact of Greek Culture on Normative Judaism from the Hellenistic Period through the Middle Ages c. 330 BCE- 1250 CE


IV. Critique of the Exhibit


V. Structure of the Exhibit

Overall the Exhibit is divided into four time periods

  1. First Temple Period (approximately 1000 BCE-586 BCE[i])

  2. Second Temple Period (approximately  536 BCE-70 CE)

  3. Jewish Life in the Galilee and Elsewhere in the Early Post-second Temple period (approximately 70 CE-600 CE) – Emergence of Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity

  4. The most ancient Torah Scroll in Canada forming a symbolic link between the earlier periods and the Jewish experience in Canada


VI. Pattern of Viewing

Many people want the context before zeroing in on the exhibits.  e.g.

a. Israel and Judah in the Context of the Near-East see

 Map of the Ancient Near-East


Biblical Israel and Judah to 733 BCE[i]


The time line is on the left as you enter (see

Note the artist’s reconstruction of  Jerusalem in the time of Solomon has a curious “bee hive” structure. I assume that it is the famous "stepped structure".  "Excavations directed by the late Prof. Yigal Shiloh, uncovered a monumental 20 metre stepped structure, and dated it to the 12th-10th century BCE[i]. This could have been the foundation of the Jebusite stronghold (Zion) captured and subsequently expanded by David."

See Jerusalem History


N.B. The "Western Wall", also called "Wailing Wall" was built by Herod, over 900 years later, at a site to the west of the First Temple's outer (western) wall.  The First Temple can be seen in this artist’s reconstruction at the northern extremity of Jerusalem.


b. Israelite-Jewish Artistic, Architectural and Literary Traditions

Israelites-Jews never having had, as far as is known, unique indigenous monumental architectural, artistic or musical traditions.  Thus Solomon’s Temple was a typical Canaanite-Phoenician structure whereas the temple built by Herod was of Greco-Roman design.  Synagogues during the first to seventh centuries CE was mainly of the Roman basilical type.



Box 2

Dever on Art in Ancient Israel

'Discussing art in ancient Israel, according to most biblical scholars until recently, should be relatively easy: there was none. The attitude of most biblicists may have been unduly influenced by a naive presupposition that the Second Commandment - "You shall have no images" - should be and was taken seriously as "historical fact. "Nevertheless, the presupposition is wrong. But what does "Israelite art" consist of? And why would more conventional biblical scholars not be aware of its existence?

'In answer to the first question, Israelite art of the period of the Divided Monarchy consisted primarily of engraved seals... and carved ivory panels, mostly inlays for wooden furniture, of both Syrian and Phoenician styles...

 '...  most of the motifs of the 10th-8th-century seals are borrowed, either directly from Egypt, or more often via the medium of Phoenician art, which was characterized by a mixture of Egyptian and Mesopotamian themes. Later on, in the late 8th-6th centuries, Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian motifs predominate, as expected. Common motifs on the Phoenicianizing seals include lions, bulls, sacred trees, dung-beetles, and other themes from nature, most with known religious connotations. The later group features much more astral imagery - sun, moon, stars of the heavens - as well as specifically Mesopotamian themes.

'Here we have both convergences and divergences with the biblical texts. On the one hand, such art ought not to have existed at all in light of the Second Commandment: "You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likenes of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth" (Exod. 20:4).On the other hand, a number of the motifs are found in the biblical descriptions of the temple and its furnishings...there was always a certain ambivalence about representative art in ancient Israel. This was especially because Israel had no native artistic traditions and thus usually borrowed art from its "pagan" neighbors, which led to conflicting associations and ultimately to the religious syncretism that the later Yahwistic parties so vigorously denounced.

'However uncertain much of the picture of Israelite art may be, I find two aspects of our data on seals suggestive. (1) The early period is heavily influenced by Syrian, specifically Phoenician, art, and most of it is found in the north. That is entirely in keeping with the main biblical tradition, which condemns the north for succumbing to "foreign gods." One recalls in particular the vehement opposition of the Deuteronomists to Ahab, and especially to his Phoenician queen Jezebel,who brought with her to Samaria an entire Ba'al cult and its entourage of priests and priestesses. Of course our view of this single minded wrath must be tempered by the acknowledged Phoenician influence on the construction and furnishings of the Solomonic temple, of which the editors of Kings do not disapprove. (2) It also strikes me as significant that by the 7th-6th century the vast majority of Israelite (now really Judean) seals have no symbols or artistic motifs at all, only personal names. In short, they, like the later "official" tradition of the Deuteronomistic school, are now severely aniconic. Is this merely coincidence? I doubt it. ... There does seem to be a tendency to purge Israelite art, if it can still be called that, of foreign elements, particularly in the late 7th/early 6th century. ...

The second major class of ancient Israelite art, again strongly Phoenician in character, consists of a series of carved ivory inlays of the 9th-8th centuries. These are found mostly in the northern kingdom, at administrative centers such as Hazar, and especially at Samaria, the capital.... The carved ivory panels found in Israel all belong to an international style of art, mostly of north Syrian and Phoenician manufacture or style...

'Many of the panels are half-scenes, or one of a matching pair, and others have tabs at the top and bottom for attaching them. ...The major artistic motifs of most of the Israelite ivories known are typically Phoenician: lions, bulls, cherubs, palmettes, lilies, lotus blossoms, etc.

'As with the seals, we have here a convergence with the candid biblical notion that there was little native Israelite art, so that Solomon had to resort to Hiram, king of Tyre on the Phoenician coast, to design, build, and furnish his temple in Jerusalem. Phoenician influence also continued later, as reflected in the stories of Ahab, Jezebel, and the temple of Ba'al at Samaria.'

From What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It?: What Archaeology Can Tell Us About the Reality of Ancient Israel by William G. Dever



c. Early Extra-Biblical Evidence of Israel’s Existence 

All of these are commemorations of the conquest of Ancient israel and Judah by foreign powers.

i. Merneptah Stele [ii](photograph in exhibit) approximately 1210 BCE[i].  This is the earliest mention of the name "Israel" outside the Bible.

The problems and ambiguity of this inscription are described at

"Israel, identified by the determinative for people, is a socioethnic unity powerful enough to be mentioned along with major city-states that were also neutralized....We may perceive Israel within the context and information of the Merneptah stela to be a rural sedentary group of agriculturalists without its own urban city-state support system ....This is exactly the picture we have of Israel from the Old Testament. ...Archaeological evidence supports the fact that the Israelites were agriculturalists in the late 13th century BC. Grain storage pits were a common feature of hill country sites of this period. "


 ii. The Tel Dan Stele[ii] The Tel Dan Stele (original in exhibit) approximately 850 BCE – “The ninth line reads "House of David", and is most likely a reference David of the Bible as line eight mentions the "King of Israel". This is the earliest reference king David outside the Bible and it comes from only about 120 years after his death. Biblical minimalists have suggested that some errors in the text should call into question the stele's authenticity.  This has been widely rejected by experts.  Dr. Guy Couturier, in a lecture on February 26, 2004 pointed out that 80% of stone inscriptions from this era have errors in the inscriptions.  it was simply too difficult to make corrections. In the Tel Dan Stele, the kingdom of Judah is called "bet dawid" (House of David) Dr. Couturier pointed out that the Hebrew Bible contains 26 examples of this term.


"bet dawid" (House of David)


it appears in Tel Dan Stele

iii. Mesha Stele[ii] (photograph in exhibit) around 850 BCE and contains the first earliest mention, outside the Bible, of the God of Israel YHWH (See also Names of God).  According to a recent reconstruction, line 31 originally read "And the House of David dwelt in...." (See André Lemaire, “‘House of David’ Restored in Moabite Inscription,” Biblical Archaeological Review, May/June 1994. )


"bet dawid" (House of David)

as restored by André Lemaire

Mesha Stele line 31


Box 3

Hebrew Proper Name of the God of Israel

Paleo-Hebrew Script Dead Sea Scroll Script Modern Torah Script Approximate English Transliteration


N.b. It is highly likely that the divine name was pronounced as "yah-way" (the h in "yah" being consonantal like the h in the English word "hot") and was used in ordinary speech throughout the First Temple Period.  However, since at least the Hellenistic period (late 4th century BCE), Jews, except for priests pronouncing ancient formulaic blessings in the Temple, have been forbidden to pronounce the name out of respect for its holiness.  When reading scripture and in prayer Jews pronounce YHWH as "adonai" ("my lord" in Hebrew) and in all other contexts they substitute "hashem" ("The Name" in Hebrew).  In scholarly texts, and some Bible translations, YHWH is traditionally transliterated as Yahweh though, as note above, this is intended to represent the pronunciation "yah-way".  In many English translations of the Bible "YHWH" is translated as LORD (all capitals) i.e. really the translation of "adonai".

iv. Black Obelisk Jehu King of Israel (photograph in exhibit) approximately 825 BCE – showing Jehu King of Israel bowing in homage to the king of Assyria.  This is the only contemporary depiction of an Israelite king.

"Camels, Monkeys, and elephant and a rhinoceros, items of tribute that the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III (858-824 BCE) amassed over his long reign, are depicted on the four sides of the Black Obelisk ... a 65-foot-tall monument to the king's achievements. On the second register (below) horn the top, on the side shown here, Jehu, king of Israel, prostrates himself before Shalmaneser. Jehu paid Shalmaneser tribute in the latter's 18th regnal year, or 841 BCE.; with this date fixed, Biblical scholars can proceed to date other events described in the Bible and even some of the Biblical texts themselves."

From Eyewitness Testimony: Parts of Exodus Written Within Living memory of the Event by Baruch Halpern, Biblical Archaeology Review September-October 2003

v. Photographic Reproduction of Assyrian depiction of the destruction of Lachish (approximately 701 BCE) containing (probably see below) the only contemporary depiction of First Temple Judeans.

"(regarding) the 'Ashkelon wall' at Karnak - the 1970s Frank Yurco ... perceived connections between these reliefs and the Merneptah stela, particularly the latter's mention of Ashkelon.  A comparison of the scenes on the wall with the locations mentioned in the stela led Yurco to the conclusion that the wall provided a visual account of battles mentioned on the stela.  If Yurco is right, then there is a visual depiction of the people Israel on the Karnak depiction of  peoples and chariots... Yurco's hypothesis is rejected by other scholars..."



Box 4

How Do We Know the Dates of First Temple Kings?


"The basic political chronology of the Iron Age (1200-587 BCE) is fixed by lists of Assyrian kings and eponyms (officials appointed one per year). One such list contains a dated reference to the solar eclipse of 763 BCE, so we can project regnal lengths forward and backward from that point. This permits us to date reports of military campaigns, often to particular years. Hence, the sychronisms these lists share with kings of Israel and Judah permit the construction of a chronology based on reports of regnal lengths in the two books of Kings. For example, in the sixth regnal year of Shalmaneser III, 853 BCE, “Ahab the Israelite" participated in a battle waged by a coalition of Western kings against Assyria. And in 841 BCE, Shalmaneser's18th year, Jehu (king of Israel) paid Shalmaneser tribute. … Using these dates as a basis, synchronisms between Kings and passages concerning foreign monarchs and international events from Mesopotamian, Aramaic and Moabite sources (as well as the Tyrian annals …fit neatly into the chronological web that Assyrian (and, later, Babylonian) sources form. Thereafter, there are synchonisms for a series of Assyrian monarchs and Israelite and Judahite kings…”


From Eyewitness Testimony: Parts of Exodus Written Within Living memory of the Event by Baruch Halpern, Biblical Archaeology Review September-October 2003



Box 5

Victory Steles of the Enemies of Israel vs. Biblical Minimalist Claims Regarding the Early Israelite History


These steles establish that, even if we cannot recover much reliable information about the history of Israel and Judah before about 900 BCE, Israel and Judah did exist, Judah was ruled by a dynasty founded by David and that the national god of these kingdoms was YHWH.


"What do the minimalists believe? Although they have their disputes among themselves, all agree that there is no historical basis to any of the narratives in the Pentateuch or in the books of Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, and the first half of 1 Kings--that is, to the Bible's entire account of Israelite origins from the age of the patriarchs through the "united monarchy" of David and Solomon, traditionally dated to the 10th century B.C.E. "Biblical history," if there is such a thing at all, begins for them with the separate kingdoms of Israel and Judah in the 9th and 8th centuries, of the existence of which there is independent confirmation in Assyrian records. The text of the Bible, including its legal codes, prophetic books, and psalms, is a literary creation whose oldest parts are no older than the late-6th-century Babylonian exile.

Not all of these opinions are exclusive to the minimalists. More moderate Bible scholars nowadays share some of them, too. Their quarrel with (the minimalists) ... stems from their belief that, first, starting at least with David and Solomon, the Bible is talking about real historical figures; and second, parts of its text predate the Babylonian exile and are possibly contemporaneous with the events they describe.


"To be sure, apart from a single obscure reference to inhabitants of Canaan called "Israel" in the "Marniptah Stela" (from the late 13th-century B.C.E.), none of this material alluded to specific biblical events or individuals earlier than the 9th century. ... Nowhere was there so much as a hint of an Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or Joseph; of an enslavement in Egypt or liberation from it; of an Israelite conquest of Canaan."


Can the Bible Be Trusted? (Historic Accuracy of the Bible) by Hillel Halkin in Commentary Magazine July, 1999



Israelite Kings in Non-biblical, Non-Israelite Inscriptions

From The Minimalist Assault on Ancient Israel by BARUCH HALPERN Bible Review December 1995





United Monarchy




David (c. 1003-971 B.C.E.)

1.       Tel Dan stela (9th century BCE)

2.       Stela of Moabite king Mesha (c. 849-820 B.C.E.)

1.       House of David


2.       House of David

Northern Kingdom of Israel




Omri (c. 885-874 B.C.E.)

1.       Stela of Moabite king Mesha (c. 849-820 B.C.E.)





2.       Black Obelisk of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III (c. 858-824 B.C.E.)


3.       Annals ot the Assyrian king Tiglath Pileser III (c. 744-727 B.C.E.)


4.       Annals ot the Assyrian king Sargon II (c. 721-705 B.C.E.)



1.       “As for Omri, king of Israel, he humbled Moab many years… but I have triumphed over him and over his house, while Israel hath perished for ever.”

2.       ln the 18th year of my rule... I received the tribute of the inhabitants of Tyre, Sidon and of Jehu, son of Omri"

3.       “The land of Omri (Israel)… all its inhabitants and their possessions I led to Assyria.”

4.       “I conquered ... all of the land of Omri (lsrael)"


Ahab (c. 874-853 B.C.E.)

Kukh Monolith of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III (c. 858-824 B.C.E.)

“[Karkara] brought along to help him… 10,000 foot soldiers of Ahab the Israelite”

Jehoram (c. 852-841 B.C.E.)*


Tel Dan stela (9th century B.C.E.)



Jehu (c. 841-814 B.C.E.)


Black Obelisk of the Assyrian king

Shalmaneser III (c. 858-824 B.CE.)

"The tribute of Jehu, son of Omri; I received from him

silver, gold … tin, a staff for a king”

Joash (c. 805-790 B.C.E.)

Tell Al Rimah stela of Adad-Nirari III (c. 810-873 B.C.E.)

“Joash (Ia-‘a-su) the Samarian”

Menahem (c. 740 B.C.E.)


Annals of the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III (c. 744-727 B.C.E.)


“As for Menahem, I overwhelmed him like a snowstorm and he ... fled like a bird."

Pekah (c. 735 B.C.E.)

Annals of the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III (c. 744-727 B.C.E.)


“The Land of Omri… all its inhabitants and their possessions I led to Assyria. They overthrew their king Pekah and I placed Hoshea as king over them.”

Hoshea (c. 730-722 B.C.E.)


Annals of the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III (c. 744-727 B.C.E.)

“They overthrew their king Pekah and I placed Hoshea as king over them.”

Southern Kingdom of Judah




Ahaziah (c. 841 B.C.E.)**

Tel Dan stela (9th century B.C.E.)




Uzziah? (early 8th century B.C.E.)


Annals of the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III (c. 744-727 B.C.E.)

“I received the tribute of the kin[gs…A]ziau (Uzziah?) from Iuda (Judah).”

Ahaz (c. 740-725 B.C.E.)

Annals of the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III (c. 744-727 B.C.E.)

“I received the tribute of … Ahaz ((Ia-u-ha-zi) of Judah.”

Hezekiah (c. 725-696 B.C.E.)


1.       Taylor Prism of the Assyrian king Sennacherib (c. 704-681 B.C.E.)

2.       Bull Inscription of Sennacherib




3.       Nebi Yebus Slab of Sennacherib


1.       "As to Hezekiah, the Jew, he did not submit to my yoke. "

2.       “I laid waste the large district of Judah and made the overbearing and proud Hezekiah, its king, bow in submission.”

3.       “I put the straps of my yoke upon Hezekiah, its (Judah's) king."


Manasseh (c.696-642 B.C.E.)


1.       Prism B of the Assyrian king Esarhaddon (c.680-669 B.C.E.)


2.       Rassam Cylinder of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal (c. 668-633 B.C.E.)

1.       “I called up the kings… on the other side of the Euphrates… Manasseh, king of Judah.”

2.       “Manasseh, king of Judah.”

Jehoiachin (c. 597-560 B.C.E.)


Ration documents of the Babylonian king

Nebuchadnezzar (c. 605-562 B.C.E.)

"10.(sila of oil) to Jehoiachin ([Ia]-kin), king of Judah (Ia[...])."

* The Jehoram referred to in the Tel Dan stela may have been the Judahite king of the same name, who ruled c.846-843 B.C.E.

** The Ahaziah referred to in the Tel Dan stela may have been the king of the northern kingdom who bore the same name and ruled c.852-851 B.C.E.


VII. Notes on Exhibits

A. First Temple Period (approximately 1000 BCE-586 BCE[i])

Biblical History Resources,%20The%20First%20Temple:


Map 12 tribes


Map Divided Kingdoms


Jerusalem in the First Temple Period (1006-586 BCE)  and


The Two Kingdoms (approximately 920-597 BC)


Inside Solomon's Temple by Victor Hurowitz, Bible Review April 1994


First Temple Period - Part 1- Davidic Dynasty of the First Temple Kingdom of Judah – Rulers

David, son of Jesse of Bethlehem

"You shall shepherd my people Israel; you shall be ruler of Israel."

2 Samuel 5:2

According to the Bible, David's reign was the golden age of the Kingdom of Israel, conquering surrounding territories (map). Yet no archaeological trace of this supposedly glorious period remains, and neither the kingdom of David nor that of his son Solomon is mentioned in any contemporary sources other than the Bible.

Did David really exist? The stele discovered at Tel Dan and shown here provides substantial evidence for those who argue that there was a real King David though it is still impossible to judge the historicity of the stories of David and Solomon as recorded in the Bible.

The Tel Dan Stele[ii] c. 850 BCE ( which mentions “the House of David ”.  This is balanced by one of the final exhibits which is a Byzantine Period (4th Century CE-Sixth Century CE) mosaic floor thought to portray David in Roman dress.  David has a special place in both the Jewish and Christian traditions.  For the latter see Matthew, chapter 1 vs1 “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham”.  The Montreal catalogue states

“In 1993, archaeologists… discovered this stele telling of the stunning victory of Hazael, King of the Aramaeans, over ’70 kings’ including the king of the House of David.  This was a major find dating from 150 years after David took the throne, it is the oldest reference outside the Bible to the Davidic dynasty.  The Bible confirms these events (2Kings 9), although its version differs from the stele on certain points.”

Recent Edition of the Hebrew Bible opened at Psalms, many of which are ascribed to David in their superscriptions and all of which are ascribed to David in Jewish tradition. Modern scholarship indicates their origin within an ancient Canaanite literary tradition and their composition over an extended period (see

Note the difference between this text provided with vowel signs by the medieval Masoretes and the unpointed Dead Sea Scrolls and modern Sefer Torah which have only a minority of their vowels marked by the use of the letters – waw, yod, heh and sometimes ‘aleph. See

This Bible is based on the Masoretic text.

Box 6

Masoretic Text


The term  Masoretic text refers to the

“…traditional Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible, meticulously assembled and codified, and supplied with diacritical marks to enable correct pronunciation. This monumental work was begun around the 6th century AD and completed in the 10th by scholars at Talmudic academies in Babylonia and Palestine, in an effort to reproduce, as far as possible, the original text of the Hebrew Old Testament. Their intention was not to interpret the meaning of the Scriptures but to transmit to future generations the authentic Word of God. To this end they gathered manuscripts and whatever oral traditions were available to them.

"The Masoretic text that resulted from their work shows that every word and every letter was checked with care. In Hebrew or Aramaic, they called attention to strange spellings and unusual grammar and noted discrepancies in various texts. Since texts traditionally omitted vowels in writing, the Masoretes introduced vowel signs to guarantee correct pronunciation. Among the various systems of vocalization that were invented, the one fashioned in the city of Tiberias, Galilee, eventually gained ascendancy. In addition, signs for stress and pause were added to the text to facilitate public reading of the Scriptures in the synagogue. 

"When the final codification of each section was complete, the Masoretes not only counted and noted down the total number of verses, words, and letters in the text but further indicated which verse, which word, and which letter marked the centre of the text. In this way any future emendation could be detected. The rigorous care given the Masoretic text in its preparation is credited for the remarkable consistency found in Old Testament Hebrew texts since that time. The Masoretic work enjoyed an absolute monopoly for 600 years, and experts have been astonished at the fidelity of the earliest printed version (late 15th century) to the earliest surviving codices (late 9th century). The Masoretic text is universally accepted as the authentic Hebrew Bible." Quoted from Encyclopedia Britannica 2003

The most important masoretic manuscripts are the Aleppo and Leningrad codexes.



Epitaph of Uzziah king of Judah (of the dynasty of David) - The epitaph once marked the place, now unknown, where the bones of King Uzziah were re-interred many centuries after his death in the eighth century BCE[i]. It is written in Aramaic, a language spoken in Israel during the Second Temple period (as were Hebrew and Greek) and in style of script that dates it to the latter part of the Second Temple period. To quote the Montreal catalogue “When king Uzziah died of leprosy, he was buried outside of Jerusalem, despite his royal status. Seven centuries later, his remains were shifted when the city was expanded.” See also


Window Balustrade found at Ramat Rahel  Phoenician style (Late 8th century - early 7th century BCE) built by a late First Temple Davidic king of Judah.  Inside the fortifications, a window balustrade survived, with several capitals bear palmettes in the style of Phoenician craftsmen-a style popular with the Israelites. See


Woman at the Window -- a frequent motif in the ancient Near East

'Out of the window she peered, the mother of Sisera gazed through the lattice: 'Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why tarry the hoof beats of his chariots?"'

Judges 5:28

First Temple Period - Part 2 - Ritual Life in the First Temple Period Tension Between Popular Religion Anchored in Canaanite Polytheism and the New Yahwism of the Deuteronomic Movement 

"Solomon, King David's son, built the First Temple in Jerusalem in the tenth century B.C.E., about 3,000 years ago. This section of the exhibition presents archaeological discoveries from the First Temple period. They include a tiny ivory pomegranate believed to be from the First Temple, figurines representing religious deities, and ceremonial objects."

From Ancient Treasures and the Dead Sea Scrolls: About the Exhibition, Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation,  December 4, 2003

I. Background

For popular religion see Under Every Green Tree: Popular Religion in Sixth-Century Judah (Harvard Semitic Monographs, 46) by Susan Ackerman

  1. The cultic terminology, and probably much of the ceremonial, remained from, or were taken over from,  Canaanite polytheism known from Ugaritic, Phoenician and Punic texts.  eg. khn = priest in Hebrew, Ugaritic and Phoenician; zbH = sacrifice/slaughter in Hebrew and its cognate in Ugaritic; ndr = religious vow in Hebrew, Ugaritic and Phoenician; mnHa = (meal) offering in Hebrew, Ugaritic and Phoenician; mqdsh = sanctuary in Hebrew, Ugaritic and Phoenician; mzbH = altar in Hebrew and Phoenician as does its cognate in Ugaritic; 'lh = (among its meanings) to offer sacrifice in Hebrew and Phoenician; kll = whole offering in Hebrew, Ugaritic and Phoenician; Ht' = sin in Hebrew and Ugaritic. 

"The basic sacrificial types appear to reflect a need to feed and to care for the divinities and to establish a form of communion with them. The sacrifice, for example, appears to reflect a cultic meal in which the offerer partook of the same meal as was offered to the divinity. This last term, cognate with Hebrew conventionally translated "peace offerings," opens a window on the interconnections between these West Semites of Northwest Syria and the better-known inhabitants of Canaan, the birthplace of the Jewish and Christian religions. Space does not permit a discussion here. Suffice it to say that there are long lists of both similarities and differences between Hebrew and Ugaritic religion and cult"

It is probable that agriculturally related pilgrim festivals - Passover, Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Booths were Canaanite in origin.

Box 7

Canaanite Harvest Festivals to Israelite Commemorative Festivals

Festival Original Agricultural Significance Historicized Meaning in Jewish Tradition
Passover (Hebrew Pesach) Beginning of barley harvest (March-April) Exodus from Egypt
Feast of Weeks (Hebrew Shavu'ot) End of wheat Harvest & beginning of fruit harvest (50 days after Passover) Giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai
Feast of Booths (Hebrew Sukkot) End of fruit harvest (6 lunar months after Passover) memory of Israelites living in tents in the wilderness after the Exodus


Box 8


Maimonides on Sacrifices

Moses Maimonides was one of the greatest rabbis, and the greatest philosopher produced by the Jewish people.  Concerning sacrifices he wrote -

"... a sudden transition from one opposite to another is impossible. And therefore man, according to his nature, is not capable of abandoning suddenly all to which he was accustomed. As ... at that time the way of life generally accepted and customary in the whole world and the universal service upon which we were brought up consisted in offering various species of living beings in the temples in which images were set up, in worshiping the latter, and in burning incense before them-the pious ones and the ascetics being at that time, as we have explained, the people who were devoted to the service of the temples consecrated to the stars: His wisdom, may He be exalted, and His gracious ruse, which is manifest in regard to all His creatures, did not require that He give us a Law prescribing the rejection, abandonment, and abolition of all these kinds of worship. For one could not then conceive the acceptance of (such a Law), considering the nature of man, which always likes that to which it is accustomed. At that time this would have been similar to the appearance of a prophet in these times who, calling upon the people to worship God, would say: "God has given you a Law forbidding you to pray to Him, to fast, to call upon Him for help in misfortune. Your worship should consist solely in meditation without any works at all" Therefore He, may He be exalted, suffered the above-mentioned kinds of worship to remain, but transferred them from created or imaginary and unreal things to His own name, may He be exalted, commanding us to practice them with regard to Him, may He be exalted. Thus He commanded us to build a Temple for Him: "And let them make Me a Sanctuary" (Ex. 25: 8); to have an altar for His name: "An altar of earth you shall make to Me" (ibid. 20: 24); to have the sacrifice offered up to Him: "When any man of you brings an offering to the Lord" (Lev. 1:2); to bow down in worship before Him; and to burn incense before Him. And He forbade the performance of any of these actions with a view to someone else: "He that sacrifices to the gods shall be utterly destroyed" (Ex. 22: 19), and so on; "For you shall bow down to no other god" (ibid. 34:14). And He singled out priests for the service of the Sanctuary, saying: "That they may minister to Me in the priest's office" (ibid. 28: 14). And because of their employment in the Temple and the sacrifices in it, it was necessary to fix for them dues that would be sufficient for them; namely, the dues of the Levites and the priests. Through this divine ruse it came about that the memory of idolatry was effaced and that the grandest and true foundation of our belief-namely, the existence and oneness of the Deity-was firmly established, while at the same time the souls had no feeling of repugnance and were not repelled because of the abolition of modes of worship to which they were accustomed and than which no other mode of worship was known at that time."

"Maimonides Guide of the Perplexed Part 3 Chapter 32 quoted from A Maimonides Reader by I Twersky

  1. Hereditary Priesthood (in Hebrew "priest" translates kohen plural kohanim - n.b. the priesthood was hereditary) Including High Priest

  2. Jerusalem Temple ("First Temple") - 1 Kings chapts. 6-7 describes the Jerusalem temple attributed to Solomon.  No trace has been found of this temple probably due to the site clearance preparatory to the rebuilding of the Second Temple by Herod. The biblical tradition links Solomon's Temple to earlier Israelite tradition by stating that the Ark of the Covenant was placed in its Holy of Holies.

For further information on the First Temple see;;

Clay Model of Temple from Trans-Jordan

II. Music

"Meanwhile, David and all the House of Israel danced before the LORD to the sound of all kinds of cypress wood instruments with lyres, harps, timbrels, sistrums, and cymbals."

2 Samuel 6

Music was always a part of religious ceremonies as well as the ordinary life of the people.


Musical Instruments in the Bible


From Mesopotamia


Clay Cult Stand with Figurines of Musicians (Ashdod; Late 11th century - early 10th century BCE; Pottery; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection) see

Five musicians emerge from openings around this cup, each one playing an instrument: cymbals, a double pipe, a stringed instrument (probably a lyre) and a drum.

Figurine Playing a Double Pipe (Achziv; 8th- 7th century BCE; Pottery; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

The instrument may be similar to that referred to in Exodus chapter 15

"Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. 21And Miriam sang to them: ‘Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea."

Figurine Playing the Drum (Provenance unknown; 8th- 7th century BCE; Pottery; Israel Museum Collection)

Rattle (Provenance unknown; 8th century BCE; Pottery; Israel Museum Collection)

A rattle like this one, filled with pebbles or bits of clay, makes a noise when shaken. Many such rattles have been found in the remains of places of worship. They may have been used as musical instruments in the time of the First Temple.

III. Sacrificial Rites

Various offerings of the gods, in the form of libations (wine, oil, milk), bread or animal sacrifices, were made at places of worship. On the site of the town of Megiddo, continuously occupied for 5,000 years, a temple from the early 3rd millennium BCE and several Canaanite temples or altars from later periods have been unearthed.

Model Shrine (Mount Nebo; 9th- 7th century BCE; Pottery; Israel Museum Collection)

The facade is similar to the entrance to Solomon's temple, which the Bible says was also flanked by two columns, named Jachin and Boaz.

Ceremonial Stand (Megiddo;12th century BCE; Bronze; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

This is probably a scaled-down version of full-sized stands that served as supports for pottery or metal vessels used in cultic ceremonies for purification or burning incense.

Horned Altar for Incense (Megiddo; 10th century BCE; Stone; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

This would have been similar to the horned altar in Jerusalem at the commencement of Solomon's reign which figures in the following accounts.

1Kings chapter 1

' Solomon was informed, "Adonijah is afraid of King Solomon; see, he has laid hold of the horns of the altar, saying, 'Let King Solomon swear to me first that he will not kill his servant with the sword.'"  So Solomon responded, "If he proves to be a worthy man, not one of his hairs shall fall to the ground; but if wickedness is found in him, he shall die."  Then King Solomon sent to have him brought down from the altar. He came to do obeisance Solomon; and Solomon said to him, "Go home." '

1Kings chapter 2:28-34

 ' When the news came to Joab--for Joab had supported Adonijah though he had not supported Absalom--Joab fled to the tent of the LORD and grasped the horns of the altar.  When it was told King Solomon, "Joab has fled to the tent of the LORD and now is beside the altar," Solomon sent Benaiah son of Jehoiada, saying, "Go, strike him down."  So Benaiah came to the tent of the LORD and said to him, "The king commands, 'Come out.'" But he said, "No, I will die here." Then Benaiah brought the king word again, saying, "Thus said Joab, and thus he answered me."  The king replied to him, "Do as he has said, strike him down and bury him; and thus take away from me and from my father's house the guilt for the blood that Joab shed without cause.  The LORD will bring back his bloody deeds on his own head, because, without the knowledge of my father David, he attacked and killed with the sword two men more righteous and better than himself, Abner son of Ner, commander of the army of Israel, and Amasa son of Jether, commander of the army of Judah. So shall their blood come back on the head of Joab and on the head of his descendants forever; but to David, and to his descendants, and to his house, and to his throne, there shall be peace from the LORD forevermore."  Then Benaiah son of Jehoiada went up and struck him down and killed him; and he was buried at his own house near the wilderness.'


Incense Alters?

"A CULTIC GATHERING. About 40 small stone altars dating from the tenth to seventh centuries B.C.E. have been discovered in Israel, including this assemblage from Ekon. Measuring from 6 inches to 26 inches high, most of the excavated altars from these sites are made of limestone and have four horns projecting from the comers of their square platforms.

Scholars commonly identify the small stands as incense altars based on their similarity to the biblical altar that stood before the Holy of Holies in the desert Tabernacle: "One cubit long [about 18 inches] and a cubit wide-it shall be square-and two cubits high, its horns of one piece with it On it Aaron shall burn aromatic incense" (Exodus 30:2,7).

But traces of fire appear on only a handful of these purported incense altars. Archaeologists have discovered altars from some sites outdoors, where people would have been unlikely to expend rare, costly incense. Weighing the archaeological evidence, author Menahem Haran suggests that a less expensive offering would have been more appropriate for these small altars, and that incense burning in Israel was largely confined to the Royal Temple of Jerusalem....

UNLEAVENED CAKES, one of the simplest offerings recorded in the Hebrew Bible, may once have been offered on this homed altar discovered at Israelite Megiddo. While bread offerings played a crucial role in elaborate Temple sacrifices along with meat and wine, argues author Haran, inexpensive grain offerings could also have been offered independently on the small homed altars discovered outside Jerusalem. Grain-offerings were not always burned, he notes, which would explain why so few of the excavated altars display signs of fire....

The Bible also mentions that the Judahite king Manasseh "bowed down to all the host of heaven... and he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the House of the Lord" (2 Kings 21:3-5). Manasseh's altars must have been fairly small if several of them were set up in the Temple courts, Haran notes, concluding that the small horned altars excavated in Israel once may have held the honey-sweetened cakes and other grain-offerings presented to the Queen of Heaven. Significantly, most of the altars date to the seventh century B.C.E., a period of Assyrian hegemony in Judah. The only similar horned altar discovered outside Israel was found in Nineveh-in Assyria."

From Altar-ed States:Incense Theory Goes Up in Smoke by MENAHEM HARAN, BIBLE REVIEW VOLUME XI NUMBER 1 FEBRUARY 1995


Cult stand from Megiddo (10th C BCE)


In the First Temple period, people throughout the ancient Near East prayed to a great variety of gods and goddesses. Baal, for instance, was the god of storms and war, while Astarte was the goddess of love and fertility. These polytheistic practices were common among the early Israelites themselves-and were vehemently denounced by the prophets, as recounted in the Bible and evidenced by the many cultic figurines that were apparently deliberately destroyed. It was not until the religious reform under King Josiah, in the 7th century BCE, that the worship of a the one God of Israel began to be enforced.

Ostracon from Arad  (Late 8th century BCE)

(Ostracon - plural ostraca - refers to an inscription on a fragment of pottery) with name Pashhur found in various books of the Hebrew Bible e.g.. Jeremiah, chapter 20 vss. 1-3:

“Now Pashhur the priest, the son of Immer, who was chief officer in the house of the LORD, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things. Then Pashhur beat Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the upper Benjamin Gate of the house of the LORD. On the morrow, when Pashhur released Jeremiah from the stocks, Jeremiah said to him, "The LORD does not call your name Pashhur, but Terror on every side.”

N.b. Ostracon refers to an inscription on a fragment of pottery.

Ostracon from Arad  (Late 8th century BCE) with name Meremot (see books of Ezra and Nehemiah e.g. Ezra, chapter 8:33 “On the fourth day, within the house of our God, the silver and the gold and the vessels were weighed into the hands of Meremoth the priest, son of Uriah…” ). See also (Arad: Israelite Temple overview

 Bowl with Sacred Inscription (Arad; Late 8th century BCE; Pottery; Collection Israel Antiquities Authority)

This bowl, found near the sacrificial altar in the temple of Arad, is marked with the word "holy"

Inscribed Ivory Pomegranate from the "House of the Lord"

See also The Temple Inscription of  The House of Yahweh

It is not known where, or in what context, this object was found.  It has been argued that it has some connection with the First Temple in Jerusalem.  This is possible bearing in mind the following:

  • the text of the inscription (BYT YHWH = House of Yahweh = "House of the Lord") clearly relates to an Israelite or Judean temple/shrine;

  • the writing style indicates a date of the mid-eighth century BCE;

  • at that time there were probably hundreds of Israelite and Judean shrines for sacrifice (referred to as "high places" (Hebrew bamah (singular) bamot (plural))  throughout the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah

    • " Every village, or group of villages, had its bamah where sacrifice could be offered and sacred meals take place (e.g. 1 Samuel 9:12 ff.)  It seems likely that pre-Deuteronomic Israelite tradition seems to have required that all slaughter for food be in the form of a sacrifice.

    •  Many bamot had priests (Hebrew kohen plural kohanim) who claimed Aaronic, Mosaic (at Dan see Judges 18:30), Levitical or other lineage. It is likely that traditions of Israel's relationship to God, Israelite origins, and the etiology of the bamah itself would have been maintained by the kohanim or singers of the bamah.  During the Deuteronomic Reform (see below) the kohanim of the bamot of Judah were put on the staff of the Jerusalem temple.  It is probably through this means that some of the traditions preserved at the bamot entered the Torah (mainly Genesis e.g.. the stories in Genesis associating Abraham with locations in the south of Judah such as Beer Sheba) and the Deuteronomic History (Joshua-2 Kings). Traditions from the former Kingdom of Israel (e.g. associating Jacob with Beth-El and Shechem in the territory of the Joseph tribes or with Mahanaim in Gilead) may well have entered the Torah via the E and D traditions which are considered to have originated there"

          From Israelite Religion to Judaism: the Evolution of the Religion of Israel

  • During the Deuteronomic Reform about 621 BCE) the priests from the Judean bamot were brought to Jerusalem (see below).  Hence, if the artifact was found in Jerusalem, it is at least as likely that it was brought to Jerusalem by a priest originally from a Judean bamah outside Jerusalem as that it was originally associated with the Jerusalem Temple.


Box 9

Josiah's Reform According to the Book of Kings


'Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign.

The high priest Hilkiah said ... "I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD." ... "….When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his clothes. Then the king commanded ... saying, "Go, inquire of the LORD for me, for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our ancestors did not obey the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us." …

Then the king directed that all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem should be gathered to him. The king went up to the house of the LORD, and with him went all the people of Judah, all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the priests, the prophets, and all the people, both small and great; he read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant that had been found in the house of the LORD. The king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the LORD, to follow the LORD, keeping his commandments, his decrees, and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. All the people joined in the covenant.

'The king commanded the high priest Hilkiah, the priests of the second order, and the guardians of the threshold, to bring out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven; he burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron, and carried their ashes to Bethel. He deposed the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to make offerings in the high places at the cities of Judah and around Jerusalem; those also who made offerings to Baal, to the sun, the moon, the constellations, and all the host of the heavens. He brought out the image of Asherah from the house of the LORD, outside Jerusalem, to the Wadi Kidron, burned it at the Wadi Kidron, beat it to dust and threw the dust of it upon the graves of the common people. He broke down the houses of the male temple prostitutes that were in the house of the LORD, where the women did weaving for Asherah.

He brought all the priests out of the towns of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had made offerings, from Geba to Beer-sheba…. The priests of the high places, however, did not come up to the altar of the LORD in Jerusalem, but ate unleavened bread among their kindred.

He defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of Ben-hinnom, so that no one would make a son or a daughter pass through fire as an offering to Molech. .. Moreover, Josiah removed all the shrines of the high places that were in the towns of Samaria, which kings of Israel had made.. Moreover Josiah put away the mediums, wizards, teraphim, idols, and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, so that he established the words of the law that were written in the book that the priest Hilkiah had found in the house of the LORD."

From 2 Kings 22-23

See The Destruction of the Local Bamot Throughout Judah and the Neighboring Areas of the Former Kingdom of Israel


Israel accuses 4 of forging trove of biblical artifacts
Sophisticated fakes were hailed as important archeological discoveries

The Associated Press

Updated: 2:11 p.m. ET Dec. 29, 2004


JERUSALEM - Israeli police indicted four antique dealers and collectors Wednesday for allegedly running a sophisticated forgery ring that created a trove of fake biblical artifacts, including some hailed as among the most important archaeological objects ever uncovered in the region.

The forged items include an ivory pomegranate touted by scholars as the only relic from Solomon’s Temple, an ossuary that reputedly held the bones of James, Jesus’ brother, and a stone tablet with inscriptions on how to maintain the Jewish Temple, officials said.

“During the last 20 years, many archaeological items were sold, or an attempt was made to sell them, in Israel and in the world, that were not actually antiques,” the indictment said. “These items, many of them of great scientific, religious, sentimental, political and economic value were created specifically with intent to defraud.”

The 27-page indictment charges Israeli collector Oded Golan, along with three antiquities dealers, Robert Deutsch, Shlomo Cohen and Faiz al-Amaleh, on 18 counts including forgery, receiving fraudulent goods and damaging antiquities. Deutsch is an inscriptions expert who teaches at Haifa University.

Collector denies charges
Golan denied the accusations as a campaign of lies spread by Israel’s archaeological authorities to destroy the local antiquities trade.

“There is not one grain of truth in the fantastic allegations related to me,” Golan said in a statement, adding that he believed he would be cleared in court.


According to the document, the members of the ring took genuine artifacts and added inscriptions to them, falsely increasing their importance and greatly inflating their value. After forging the inscriptions, they would paint the items with a coating designed to emulate the patina that would accumulate on the object over thousands of years, the indictment said.

The work was so sophisticated, it fooled top antiquities experts, and some of the fake artifacts sold for huge amounts of money, authorities said.

“We only discovered the tip of the iceberg. This spans the globe. It generated millions of dollars,” said Shuka Dorfman, head of Israel Antiquities Authority.

Chief investigator Shaul Naim said police believe that there are many more forgeries that have not yet been discovered.

“We have reason to believe that many more forged antiquities which we haven’t been uncovered yet are being held by private collectors in Israel and abroad, and in museums in Israel and abroad,” he said.

The indictments came five days after the Israel Museum announced that the ivory pomegranate, one of its most prized possessions, was a forgery.

Pomegranate purchased for $550,000
The museum bought the pomegranate from an anonymous collector for $550,000 in the 1980s, with the money deposited into a secret Swiss bank account at the time.

Among the other objects the police tagged as forgeries were two of Golan’s possessions, the James ossuary and the “Yoash inscription,” a shoebox-sized tablet from about the ninth century B.C., inscribed with 15 lines of ancient Hebrew with instructions for maintaining the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.

The ossuary, with the words “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus,” was touted as a major archaeological discovery — the oldest physical link between the modern world and Jesus. But last year, Israeli experts said that while the ossuary, a 2,000-year-old limestone box, was indeed ancient, parts of the inscription were added recently.

The forgeries also include clay tablets with descriptions of biblical events, a stone menorah said to belong to the priests in the second temple, Judaism’s holiest site which was destroyed by Romans in 70 A.D., and a stone seal said to belong to Menashe, king of Judah.

© 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Silver Amulet with a form of the Priestly Blessing (Jerusalem, Hinnom Valley; 7th century BCE; Silver; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection According to G Barkay, the publisher of the inscription (Tel Aviv 19:2 1992) the silver amulets “… constitute the sole text that shows affinity with the biblical text, which predates the canonization of the Pentateuch.” .  Most recently see The Challenges of Ketef Hinnom: Using Advanced Technologies to Reclaim the Earliest Biblical Texts and Their Contexts by Gabriel Barkay, Marilyn J. Lundberg, Andrew G. Vaughn, Bruce Zuckerman and Kenneth Zuckerman


The Priestly Blessing, as it appears in the Bible is -

"The LORD bless you and keep you;

the LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;

the LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace."

Numbers 6:24-26


Box 10

Amulets in Jewish Tradition

 the term "amulet" refers to an object worn on the body, generally hung from the neck, as a remedy or preservative against evil influences. Some later amulets with biblical themes.

“From earliest times, man has tried to protect himself from misfortune by the use of objects which he considered holy or otherwise (e.g., magically) potent. One of the ways of doing this was to keep the object close to his person, frequently wearing it as an article of clothing, or as an ornament. It was felt that the evil spirits which cause misfortune would not dare to attack one so protected. It has been suggested that this desire for protection is the source of man's habit to adorn himself with jewelry and other ornamentation; the female being weaker—and consequently in greater danger—has the greater need for protection. The custom developed for people to have on their persons pieces of paper, parchment, or metal discs inscribed with various formulae which would protect the bearer from sickness, the "evil eye," and other troubles. The use of inscription as a means to ward off evil spirits stemmed from a belief in early times in the holiness and in the power of words. Such artifacts are known as amulets (for other types of charms and protective items, see Magic). … Traditional Judaism does not consider tefillin and mezuzah—whatever their original antecedents may have been—to be amulets. The purpose of tefillin is stated to be "for a sign upon thy hand" (Deut, 6:8) and from the immediate proximity of the verse regarding mezuzah it would seem that its purpose is the same. While one biblical rite involving the doorposts (Ex. 11:7, 13) had an apotropaic function and the current translation for tefillin ("phylacteries") suggests the same purpose, the traditional interpretation of the "sign" was that of a reminder of God's commandments and of the duty of the Jew to bear witness to his God.

“Amulets are frequently mentioned in talmudic literature. … Unfortunately, there is no record in the Talmud of the inscriptions in the amulets …. Later amulets were inscribed with quotations relevant to their specific purpose. The text of the Priestly Blessing (Num. 6:24–26) was considered effective against the "evil eye…

“The Talmud … states that it is forbidden to recite verses of the Torah for the purpose of curing an existing illness but it is permitted "to guard" against possible future sickness …. This distinction was equally applied to amulets. “

From Encyclopedia Judaica


IV. Objects Reflecting "Canaanite Polytheism" – see


Box 11

Dever on Popular Religion

'...nearly all commentators on ancient Israelite religion have based themselves on what we may call texts of the "Great Tradition." In this case, the evidence comes from the official, or canonical, texts of the Hebrew Bible, which as we have shown are thoroughly elitist. That version of the religion of ancient Israel - the "orthodox" one - may have been the one intended by the final editors of the Hebrew Bible. Certainly it has been the one congenial to most of the theologians and clerics who have commented on the biblical text over the centuries. But such a portrait is artificial, even arbitrary; and it scarcely does justice to the rich variety and vitality of the actual religious practices of the majority in ancient Israel. It is only recent archaeological discoveries that have enabled us to balance this portrait, by giving attention to "folk" or "popular religion;' usually not directly reflected in the written sources....

'One way to define popular religion would be to look not only at the archaeological evidence, which may differ radically from official texts, but also to look closely at the condemnation of religious practices in the texts of the Hebrew Bible. In doing so we are making a practical and legitimate assumption, namely that prophets, priests, and reformers "knew what they were talking about." That is, the religious situation about which they complained was real, not invented by them as a foil for their revisionist message. The irony is that in condemning popular religious practices, the biblical writers have unwittingly preserved chance descriptions of such practices, of which formerly the "archaeological revolution" constituted our only witness. (That is not to say, however, that the same writers and editors in their zeal for orthodoxy did not deliberately suppress much information about popular religion that we should like to have.) Fortunately, archaeology has supplied not only much supplementary information, but in doing so it has given us some valuable clues as to how to "read between the lines" in the biblical texts.

'As examples of how we might read the textual and the archaeological records together, each illuminating the other on popular religion, I would suggest the following. In Jer.7:18 there is a telling description of what must have been a common family ritual, although one decried by the prophet: "The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the Queen of Heaven." The latter is either Asherah or her counterpart 'Astarte; the two often coalesced in the Iron Age. An even fuller example of what was really going on in Judean times is the lengthy description in 2 Kgs. 23 of King Josiah's reform measures in the late 7th century. Most biblical scholars have taken this famous passage largely as a piece of "Deuteronomistic propaganda;' not an accurate historical account. But apart from the question of whether the supposed "reform" was successful, there is the question of whether the purported need for such a reform is based on an eye-witness, realistic appraisal of the actual religious situation. It appears that it was; indeed, as I have shown recently, every single religious object and/or practice that is proscribed in 2 Kgs.23 can readily be illustrated by archaeological discoveries. The terminology of the text is not at all "enigmatic;' as has usually been supposed by textual scholars, but is a clear reflection of the religious reality in monarchical times.

'I would argue that all of the following features are now well known archaeologically and give us an accurate picture of what may be called "popular religion." Popular religion is an alternate, nonorthodox, nonconformist mode of religious expression. It is largely non centralized, noninstitutional, lying outside state priests or state sponsorship. Because it is nonauthoritarian, popular religion is inclusive rather than exclusive; it appeals especially to minorities and to the disenfranchised (in the case of ancient Israel, most women); in both belief and practice it tends to be eclectic and syncretistic. Popular religion focuses more on individual piety and informal practice than on elaborate public ritual, more on cult than on intellectual formulations (i.e., theology). By definition, popular religion is less literate (not by that token any less complex or sophisticated) and thus may be inclined to leave behind more traces in the archaeological record than in the literary record, more ostraca and graffiti than classical texts, more cult and other symbolic paraphernalia than Scripture. Nevertheless, despite these apparent dichotomies, popular religion overlaps significantly with official religion, if only by sheer force of numbers of practitioners; it often sees itself as equally legitimate; and it attempts to secure the same benefits as all religion, i.e., the individual's sense of integration with nature and society, of health and prosperity, and of ultimate well-being.

'The major elements of popular religion in ancient Israel, as we can gather both from substrata of the biblical text and archaeology, probably included:  frequenting bamot and other local shrines; the making of images; veneration of 'aserim (whether sacred-trees or iconographic images) and the worship of Asherah the Great Lady herself; rituals having to do with childbirth and children; pilgrimages and saints' festivals; planting and harvest festivals of many kinds; marzeaH feasts (sacred banquets); various funerary rites, such as libations for the dead; baking cakes for the "Queen of Heaven" (probably 'Astarte); wailing over Tammuz; various aspects of solar and astral worship; divination and sorcery; and perhaps child sacrifice. These and other elements of "folk" religion are often assumed to have characterized the religion of "hearth and home;' and thus to have been almost the exclusive province of women. That assumption, typically made by male scholars, inevitably carries with it a note of condescension. After all, women in ancient Israel were largely illiterate and marginalized; they played an insignificant role in the socio-political processes that shaped Israelite life and institutions, Nevertheless, I think that family religion in ancient Israel involved many men as well, especially in rural areas far from the influence of elite circles in Jerusalem. Asherah, who brought life, could be the patroness of men as well as women....

'Why has the role of popular religion and the cult of the Mother Goddess in ancient Israel been neglected, misunderstood, or downplayed by the majority of biblical scholars? There are many reasons, including the male, Establishment, elitist bias of most students of the subject, agreeing (not coincidentally) with the biases of the biblical writers themselves; the typical preference of the Protestant scholars, who have dominated the study, for theology rather than cult (i.e., religious practice) in any form; and the notion that texts alone can inform us adequately on religious matters – that  philology, rather than archaeology or the study of material remains, should prevail. Yet archaeology is literally forcing us to revise our basic notion of what ancient Israelite religion was. In particular, we now know that the old Mother Goddess Asherah - virtually expunged from the texts of the Hebrew Bible, and all but forgotten by rabbinical times - never died out, but enjoyed a vigorous life throughout the Monarchy.

'This is not really surprising, since most biblical scholars now agree that true monotheism (i.e., not merely "henotheism") arose only in the period of the Exile and beyond.

'There are even later reflexes of the cult of the Great Mother: the personification of divine Wisdom (Hokmah) in later Judaism; and the conception of the Shekinah, or effective divine presence in the world, sometimes called the Matronit or even the Bride of God, in medieval texts of the Kabbalist sect of Judaism.

'In the Christian Church, parallel doctrines that may go back to a primitive memory of feminine manifestations of the deity may be seen in the development of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, a more immanent, nurturing aspect of the transcendent God. Especially relevant in this connection is the later elevation of Mary to the position of Mother of God, a feminine intermediary through whom many Christians pray, rather than directly to God himself.

'Mainstream, more orthodox clergy, both Jewish and Christian, have always resisted these "pagan" influences in what are ostensibly rigorously monotheistic religions. In popular religion, however, the old cults die hard. But when they do, archaeology sometimes rescues them and thus writes a better balanced history of religion.

'The point of all the foregoing resume is simply that the biblical writers and editors were once again not so much "wrong" in many of the facts of their history of Israel's religious development as they were one-sided in their interpretation of the facts. Yet despite their own partisan, rigorously orthodox outlook, they nevertheless give us many clues as to what the "real" religions of ancient Israel were. Perhaps they do this unwittingly; but nevertheless by their very condemnation of pagan beliefs and rites they confirm their widespread existence. Otherwise, there would have been no point to the repeated condemnations by prophets and reformers like the Deuteronomists. Here is where we might agree with the new literary critics and revisionists and do a little deconstruction of our own. It is by reading many of the biblical texts "against the grain;' or despite their idealistic pretensions, that we may best get at the truth about ancient Israelite religions. This may not be the religious "truth" that the biblical writers had in mind, but it is historical truth, and that is our proper goal as archaeologists and historians. Even without the archaeological evidence sketched here (and there is much more) we might, however, have grasped this truth long ago, were it not for the fact that too many of us, Jews and Christians, have sided perhaps unconsciously with one particular biblical worldview, that of the late Deuteronomists and reformist prophets. Yet there were many other worldviews that were once part of Israel's Yahwistic religion, however unorthodox they came to be seen in time. How the recognition of the actual diversity and vitality of religion in ancient Israel may contribute to our own religious thinking is a topic that we will explore further in the final chapter.'

From What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It?: What Archaeology Can Tell Us About the Reality of Ancient Israel by William G. Dever



Box 12

The Cult of Asherah in Ancient Israel and Judah

'From the verbs used in connection with asherah, it has been noted that asherah usually denotes some sort of wooden object, which is humanly made. This may be a wooden image of the goddess Asherah, or it may be a stylized tree. However, some verses appear to indicate the goddess. After a close examination of the use of the definite article with asherah, I have come to the conclusion that the wooden object gradually lost its previous association with the goddess. If Israel therefore 'lost' its fertility deity, then some sort of compensation must have been made. It maybe that Yahweh personally was forced to take on some of Asherah's fertility attributes. In that case, the asherah may have become a hypostasis or symbol of Yahweh's fertility aspects (see below). If so, the object could still have been in the form of the goddess or else a stylized tree. By the time of the Chronicler, the term 'asherah' had ceased to have any remembrance of the goddess, and the later versions also consider it to be merely a tree. This is the opposite interpretation to some scholars… who believe that the Asherah began as a Yahwistic cult object, and then developed into being understood as the consort of Yahweh.

'Furthermore, there is no substantial evidence in the Hebrew Bible (and, indeed, in the Ugaritic literature) that Asherah was intimately connected with Baal. It is of course possible that altars dedicated to Baal sometimes had an asherah next to them as a female fertility symbol, but it is not likely that they represented the goddess per se. The pairing of Asherah and Baal in the Old Testament is best explained as part of the attempt of the deuteronomists to discredit her cult and worship, which held a legitimate place in the official Yahwistic cult….

'(An) eighth-century inscription (Khirbct el-Qom) mentions Yahweh and 'his asherah', and is similar to the Kuntillet 'Ajrud inscriptions. Since the possessive suffix is not attested on a personal name in Hebrew, it is unlikely that 'asherah' in this case refers directly to the goddess …However, it shows that this cultic symbol was part of Yahwistic worship, It may be that at this time Yahweh was absorbing this symbol into his cult, and so the object would represent his nurturing, protective aspects. This would be a possible interpretation, given the text which we have. Alternatively, it is possible that the goddess was still known and worshipped at this time, and so the inscription would then indicate a blessing by Yahweh and the representation of his consort which stood in the temple… In the ninth/eighth centuries BCE, Yahweh was worshipped with his special cultic object, known as asherah, which may still have some connection to the goddess of the same name….

'The stands from Taanach portray the clearest picture so far discovered of the worship of both Yahweh and Asherah together. If Taylor is right in his belief that the deity associated with the first and third tiers is Yahweh, then we have here proof that in the tenth century BCE Yahweh and Asherah were worshipped together…. Finally, in the biblical record, we can begin to trace how her name 'Asherah' gradually evolved into a designation of merely her cultic pole, as the editors of the text attempted to eliminate the evidence of her former worship among the Israelites.'

From The Cult of Asherah in Ancient Israel and Judah: Evidence for a Hebrew Goddess by Judith M. Hadley Cambridge: University Press, 2000

Hypostasis - key concept.  The point being made, is that the figurine might just have stood for the nurturing aspect of Yahweh much like the kabbalistic Shekhina or the virgin Mary.  A Christian theologian stated "Our teaching is that God is one Being, existing eternally in three hypostases: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."



Jeremiah, whose introduction addresses the entire "house of Israel," both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah, warns the Israelite nation against following the “false" ways of other nations…. In Mesopotamia-the area that includes both Assyria and Babylonia-an idol was not merely a representation, nor was it completely identified with a deity. True, the gods were depicted anthropomorphically. But the same gods could be depicted in many other ways, indicating that the images were not meant to portray the appearances of gods, but to convey their functions and attributes. As one scholar has put it, 'These designs were probably pictograms, not portraits.' Images of gods were variously cast in bronze, hewn of stone or modeled in clay. .. In the words of A. L Oppenheim, "the deity was present in its image if it showed certain specific features and paraphernalia and was cared for in the appropriate manner. Those who came to venerate the statues did not, in fact, worship the image itself, but rather the god they believed was present in the image. The paradox of the identity and non-identity of the god with the statue is somewhat confusing to Western habits of thought, but apparently made sense to the Assyrians and Babylonians. A mystic unity was thought to exist between the god and the image, whereby the statue became what it represented. As Thorkild Jacobsen explained it, 'The god is and at the same time is not the cult statue. The spirit of the deity dwelt within the idol. The material image was, to use Jacobsen's word, "transubstantiated" into the god it represented. The god was made present in the image through a ceremony of consecration known as "opening" or "washing the mouth." This rite transformed the image into a living entity. The presence of the deity in the statue was sustained through proper care and offerings…. Did the Hebrew prophets identify the Mesopotamian gods with the idols representing them, or were they aware of how the Assyrians and Babylonians understood the cult images? In either case the biblical polemics against the worship of idols, such as Jeremiah's, make it clear that the prophets denied the reality of these statuary gods.”


From Jeremiah-Polemic Against Idols-What Archaeology Can Teach Us by PHILIP J. KING, BIBLE REVIEW VOLUME X NUMBER 6 DECEMBER 1994


Box 13

Signifier and Signified - Does Iconography Originating in Polytheism Prove Polytheistic Belief?


Fertility figurines , with exaggerated breasts, originally symbolizing a Canaanite goddess are found in the ruins of many Israelite homes of the First Temple Period.  How are we to understand what these statuettes meant to the (likely) women who cherished these objects?  There are three obvious choices:

  1. They may have been a hypostasis (see box above) representing the nurturing aspect of Yahweh

  2. They symbolized Canaanite Goddess Astarte or Anat or Asherah.  In support of this option is the abundant evidence that a pole-like object, called the “Asherah” (Deuteronomy 16:21, Judges 6:26, 1 Kings 16:33, Isaiah 17:8 ) was an integral element of religious life in ancient Israel prior to the Deuteronomic Reform introduced by King Josiah about 621 BCE (see Israelite Religion to Judaism: the Evolution of the Religion of Israel); or,

  3. They may have gradually come to be thought of as nothing more than an amulet to ward off  barrenness or death in childbirth.  The fact that the halos around saints’ heads, or the iconography of the virgin Mary, originated in pagan iconography does not necessarily indicate that medieval Christian artists were “thinking polytheism” when they painted their icons.


'The superstitious use of "good luck charms" is common in all conditions of stress regardless of how scientific, or even monotheistic, the general outlook of those involved.

"Superstition is defined as a pragmatic belief - inconsistent with the available scientific evidence - that an item or ritual will bring a good outcome or prevent a bad one. Talk to any servic emember who's been to war, and you'll find that superstition is as common on the battlefield as foxholes and shell casings.

'"Superstitions are a way of reducing anxiety in [servicemembers]," explains Stuart Vyse, associate professor of psychology at Connecticut College in New London, Conn., and author of Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition (Oxford University Press, 1997). "War is a situation in which you do everything possible to avoid being killed or your buddies being hurt, but so many things are out of your control," Vyse says. "You don't know where the enemy is a lot of the time, you don't know when a bomb will fall or when you'll trip a land mine. Superstition gives service members the feeling that they are doing something that might have an effect - that they are taking some action to control a situation that is by definition uncontrollable. And that gives them comfort." ... When suddenly faced with a loss of control, many service members understandably turn to superstition - even if they are not superstitious by nature....

'"Once you got there and realized how bad it was, you grabbed for anything that would help you get through it," says Grant, now a writer. "So you learned quickly how to survive, and superstition was a part of that. Whatever it took, that's what you did."

'...Superstition also continues to play an important role in many social subcultures, including sports, the dramatic arts, and some occupations such as fishing. Baseball players, for example, consider it bad luck to mention a no-hitter in progress for fear of jinxing the pitcher. New York Yankees hurler Don Larsen, who pitched a perfect in the 1956 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers, said afterward that he never felt more lonely than over the course of that ' nine innings because none of his teammates would speak to him.

'The military also is a subculture steeped in history and ritual. And while it may not consciously promote superstition the way baseball does, it almost certainly does so unconsciously through its strong adherence to tradition, with many superstitions being handed down from generation to generation of service members. ...

'Logically, superstitious belief should disappear in the light of rational thought. But, as many soldiers will acknowledge, rationality can give way quickly to mystical belief when one is faced with possible death. In researching this article, I received numerous accounts of superstitious belief from veterans of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. All the veterans acknowledged the irrationality of their beliefs but readily credited their superstitions with helping them to survive often-extraordinary circumstances.

'The most common type of superstition among American service members is belief in a lucky charm, usually a coin, medal, or family heirloom that's often of a religious nature. In Vietnam, many American service members carried small Buddhas with them because the locals considered them good luck.

'... Maj. Hammond Salley, USA-Ret., of Anaheim, Calif., also carried a good luck charm - a wallet card containing the 91st Psalm, which supposedly brings good luck to service members, given to him by his mother. " I came away from two tours in Vietnam without a scratch... I was very lucky but would prefer to think the card had something to do with it."...

The psychological benefits - and problems - of superstition

Superstitious belief among service members at war may appear to be little more than irrationality born of fear and desperation, but psychologically it actually can make a soldier a better fighter. "The stakes are high during war - literally life and death," explains Stuart Vyse, a psychology professor at Connecticut College, New London, Conn. "There's also a randomness to warfare that can make soldiers feel as though living or dying is just a roll of the dice. But superstitious belief can provide psychological comfort and help reduce anxiety, thus improving a soldier's performance on the battlefield."


'Rituals are also a common superstition among service members, most notably pilots. Recalls World War II veteran Lt. Col. Robert Brulle of Fort Myers, Fla.: "I flew 70 combat missions in Europe as a P-47 Thunderbolt pilot. Our flying equipment was kept in a box on the flight line. Before every mission I would take out my parachute and helmet, close the [lid], and knock on it for luck. I once forgot to do this because it was a rush mission, and it bothered me the whole flight." Indeed, pilots tend to be a highly superstitious lot. ...

'"One morning I had a take-off scheduled for dark time. I went to the flight line, did a [complete] check on my plane, got in, and taxied out to runway No. 1 for takeoff. About the time I got the green light from the tower, I reached up to touch the silver dollar in the zippered left-breast pocket of my flight suit - only to find that it wasn't there! I had no choice. I called the tower and requested return to our operations, which we did. I left the right engine running with the engineer in the plane while I exited, climbed in the ops jeep, and drove the three minutes to my quarters. My dollar was lying where I thought it would be: right in the middle of my cot where I had been reading. I grabbed it, raced back to ops, climbed back into my bird, and was airborne within five minutes....."'


Statuette of a Bull  (Dothan 12th century BCE; Bronze ASJOS Collection) probably related to cult of El This Canaanite-style statuette may have been given as an offering in a place of worship.

The bull symbol was widespread in the Near East.

Nb.1 Kings12

'Then Jeroboam said to himself, "Now the kingdom may well revert to the house of David. If this people continues to go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, the heart of this people will turn again to their master, King Rehoboam of Judah; they will kill me and return Rehoboam of Judah." So the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold. He said to the people, "You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt." He set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. And this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one at Bethel and before the other as far as Dan.'

"The narrative of the golden calf cannot be understood without relating it to the erection of two golden calves in the temples of Beth-El and Dan by Jeroboam I of Israel (I Kings 12:26ff.). Not only are the general features of the story similar in both accounts, but the explanatory formula in Exodus 32:4b, 8b—"These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt"—is virtually identical to the one in I Kings 12:28b. Scholars are divided on the question of the chronological relationship of the two accounts. The traditional view is that the Jeroboam incident is dependent on the Exodus story (see Cassuto, loc. cit.). Other scholars, however, hold the view that Exodus 32 presupposes I Kings 12.

"The bull had an important role in the art and religious texts of the ancient Near East. The storm-god Hadad is frequently represented standing on a bull. Taking these facts into account it is generally assumed (after H. Th. Obbrick) that Jeroboam's calves corresponded to the cherubim of Solomon's Temple, i.e., they were regarded as seats or pedestals upon which the Lord was thought to stand invisible to human eyes. M. Haran remarks that if Jeroboam's calves were considered pedestals, then they were not meant to be an exact replica of cherubim connected with the Ark of the Covenant because the Ark and its cherubim were kept in the publicly inaccessible Holy of Holies while the calves were placed in the courts of the Temple, where the people could see and kiss them (cf. Hos. 13:2). It is also possible that the calves were, from the beginning, meant to represent the Lord like the images in the sanctuaries of Micah and Dan (Judg. 17:4; 18:14, 15–31; cf. M. Haran, in B. Zvieli (ed.), Sihot ba-Mikra, 1 (1968), 214; idem, in: Biblica, 50 (1969), 264).

"In any case Jeroboam's initiative must have had some basis in an old tradition, otherwise he could not have succeeded in his enterprise. Jeroboam's bulls, contrary to the Ark symbolism, were meant to be accessible to worshipers in the temples (cf. I Kings 12:27); and thus they developed from symbols of the Lord to es in their own right (cf. e.g., II Kings 17:16; Hos. 8:5–6; 10:5; 13:2)."

Encyclopedia Judaica

Horse and Rider (Provenance unknown; 7th-6th century BCE; Pottery; Israel Museum Collection, Jerusalem) - Figurines of riders became popular between the 7th and 5th centuries BCE as horses became more common in the region. According to the Bible (2 Kings 23:11) "sun chariots" were associated with one of the foreign cults destroyed by King Josiah.

Pillar Figurine” of the Canaanite Goddess Astarte or Anat or Asherah (Provenance unknown; Iron Age II (900-586 BCE); Israel Museum Collection)

"The meaning of this figurine is probably closely related to the function of stimulating fertility or fruitfulness in expecting or would be mothers. "  “In Canaanite and Syrian mythology, a goddess of sexual passion (equivalent to the Babylonian and Assyrian goddess Ishtar). As goddess of maternity and fertility, she was associated with Tammuz or Adonis, who represented the passage of the seasons. She was also a warrior goddess.

Her main centre of worship was in Phoenicia, where biblical reference names her as the goddess of the Sidonians, but she was also worshipped throughout Canaan as the consort of the local Baals (chief male gods), and her image in the form of a wooden totem called the Asherah stands in each of the sanctuaries.”

"A common religious object, not confined to sacred places, is the "Astarte" figurine, depicting a , often with exaggerated breasts and genitalia, and sometimes holding a child. This was perhaps a representing the mother goddess and used to stimulate conception, childbirth, or lactation."

The Phoenician Temple



' By far the most intriguing cultic artifacts that archaeologists have recovered are the 2000 or more mold-made terra-cotta female figurines, found in all sorts of contexts. They depict a nude female enface, the earlier examples often clutching a tambourine (or bread-mold) or occasionally an infant to the upper body, the later Judean ones prominently emphasizing the breasts. In contrast to the typical LB plaques depicting the Mother Goddess with large hips and exaggerated pubic triangle, the Israelite figurines usually show the lower body stylistically,the body only a pillar possibly representing the tree symbolism often connected with Asherah (giving them the name "pillar-base" figurines). These comparatively "chaste" portrayals may indicate that Asherah/'Anat, the old consort of the male deity in Canaan, with her more blatantly sexual characteristics, has now been supplanted by a concept of the female deity principally as Mother and patroness of mothers. …Ziony Zevit has aptly termed the female figurines "prayers in clay" - in this case, invocations to Asherah.

'… To me …their cultic connotations are obvious. I would argue that in ancient Israel most women, excluded from public life and the conduct of "official" political and religious functions, necessarily occupied themselves with domestic concerns. Predominant among these concerns were those connected specifically with reproduction - conception, childbirth, lactation - but also those connected with rites of passage, such as marriages, funerals, and all the other practical matters that insured the maintenance and survival of the family. To be sure, men were probably involved in some of these domestic activities as well, but "the religion of hearth and home" fell mainly to women in Israel, as it did everywhere in the ancient world. It would not be surprising if Yahweh portrayed almost exclusively as a male deity, involved in the "political history" of the nation - seemed remote, unconcerned with women's needs, or even hostile. Thus one-half of the population of ancient Israel, women, may have felt closer to a female deity, identified more easily with her. In this case, it would have been Asherah, who was still widely venerated in many guises in the Levantine Iron Age (and even much later). To this and other aspects of popular religion we now turn.'

From What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It?: What Archaeology Can Tell Us About the Reality of Ancient Israel by William G. Dever

See also E. STERN, Religion in Palestine in the Assyrian and Persian Periods in THE CRISIS OF ISRAELITE RELIGION edited by BOB BECKING AND MARJO C.A. KARPEL, Brill 1999


First Temple Period - Part 3- Everyday Life in First Temple Period – Ordinary People (objects as a window into the social life of the common people)

"Jewelry, coins, cooking bowls and oil lamps exhibited in this zone tell us about daily life in ancient Israel. Fascinating objects on display include toys used by children and possibly adults"

From Ancient Treasures and the Dead Sea Scrolls: About the Exhibition, Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation,  December 4, 2003

General reference Life in Biblical Israel (Library of Ancient Israel)  by Philip J. King and Lawrence E Stager , John Knox 2001 Topics covered include medicine, crafts, agriculture, trade, household, warfare, clothing, jewelry, music, religious practices and burial customs

First Temple Period Costume

I. Eating in Jerusalem of the First Temple Period

Mortar and Pestle for Grinding Grain (Ein Gedi; 7th century BCE; Basalt; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

Cooking Pots (Ein Gedi; 7th century BCE; Pottery; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

Cooking containers were probably stored on large benches, as many of them were found along the walls. Sometimes the pots were placed on the floor, on straw mats.

Juglet (Provenance unknown; 8th - 7th century BCE; Pottery; Israel Museum Collection, Jerusalem)

... used to draw wine or oil from a large jar.

Bowl (Provenance unknown; 8th - 7th century BCE; Pottery Israel Museum Collection, Jerusalem)

Oil Lamp (Provenance unknown; 9th - 7th century BCE; Pottery; Israel Museum Collection)

Footbath (Lachish; 8th century BCE; Pottery; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

"Owing to the general use of sandals in Eastern countries the washing of the feet was almost everywhere recognized from the earliest times as a duty of courtesy to be shown to guests (Gen., xviii, 4, xix, 2; Luke, vii, 44, etc.)"  For Jewish customs see  

Bowl (Provenance unknown; 8th - 7th century BCE; Pottery; Israel Museum Collection)

Jar (Gath; 8th century BCE; Pottery; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

This large jar would have been used for storing wine, olive oil or grain, common foodstuffs.

Decanter (Provenance unknown; 8th - 7th century BCE; Pottery; Israel Museum Collection)

Jar (Arad; 8th..century BCE; Pottery; Collection Israel Antiquities Authority)

Such storage jars held grain used for baking bread or preparing beer. This human-shaped flask contained perfumed oil, for anointing the body.

II. The Gentle Caress of Oil

Israelites bathed regularly and rubbed oil, often perfumed, on their bodies, to protect themselves from the hot, dry climate. Aside from strict hygienic requirements, the Torah encouraged people to purify themselves with water, especially after illness.

III Ornament

"I adorned you with ornaments: I put bracelets on your arms, a chain on your neck"

Ezekiel 16:11

Mirror (Yafit: 5th century BCE; Bronze; ASJOS Collection)

A bronze mirror was not only a luxury, but a sign of a women's wealth.

Seal of Jezebel (Provenance unknown; 9th - 8th century BCE; Grey opal; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

This Phoenician seal, inscribed with the name "Jezebel", probably belonged to a noblewoman. Although the name is the same, there is nothing to associate it definitely with the wife of the Israelite King Ahab.

Pair of Earrings (Jerusalem, Hinnom Valley; 5th century BCE; Gold; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

Pair of Earrings  (Provenance unknown; 7th - 6th century BCE; Silver; Israel Museum Collection,)

Signet Ring (Jerusalem, Hinnom valley; Iron Age II (900-585 BCE); Silver; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

Beads (Provenance unknown; Iron Age II (900-585 BCE); Silver, carnelian, glass; Israel Museum Collection)

Bracelets (Lahav; 10th - 9th century BCE; Bronze; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

Necklace with 38 beads (Jerusalem, Hinnom Valley; 7th- 6thcentury BCE; Glass, carnelian; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

IV. Games and Toys

Ancient peoples loved to play games. In Egypt, Greece, Rome and the Near East, as well, many game boards have been found, with pieces of bone or clay. Archaeologists have also found educational games.

Box 14

Children in Ancient Israelite Society

The Hebrews regarded the presence of children in the family as a mark of Divine favor and greatly to be desired (Genesis 15:2; 30:1; 1 Samuel 1:11,20; Psalms 127:3; Luke 1:7,28). The birth of a male child was especially a cause for rejoicing (Psalms 128:3, Hebrew); more men, more defenders for the tribe. If there were no sons born to a household, that family or branch became lost. If the wife proved childless, other wife or wives might be added to the family (Genesis 16). Further, each Jewish mother, at least in later times, hoped that her son might prove to be the Messiah. The custom of Levirate marriage, which was not limited to the Hebrew people, rested on the principle that if a man died childless his brother should marry his widow, the children of such union being considered as belonging to the brother whose name and line were thus preserved from extinction (Deuteronomy 25:5; Genesis 38:26; Matthew 22:24).

Children were sometimes dedicated to God, even before their birth (1 Samuel 1:11). Names often were significant:

Moses (Exodus 2:10); Samuel (1 Samuel 1:20); Ichabod (1 Samuel 4:21; compare Genesis 30) (see PROPER NAMES). The firstborn son belonged to God (Numbers 3:44). The ceremony of redeeming the firstborn occurred on the thirtieth day. Friends of the family were invited to a feast, the rabbi also being present. The child was placed in the hands of the priest. The father carried some gold or silver in a cup or vessel. The priest asked the mother whether this was her firstborn, and, on being answered in the affirmative, claimed the child as Yahweh's. The father offered the redemption money, which was accepted in exchange for the child (compare 1 Peter 1:18). See FIRSTBORN. Other stages in the life of the child were celebrated with fitting ceremonies. In the  fourth year, in Palestine, on the second day of the Passover occurred the ceremony of the first cutting of the boy's hair, the friends sharing the privilege. Sometimes, as in the case of the wealthy, the weight of the child in currency was given as a donation to the poor. In common with the custom of other eastern peoples, male children were circumcised (Genesis 17:12), the rite being performed on the eighth day.

Early education was cared for in the home, the children growing up more or less with the mother (Proverbs 6:20; 31:1; 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14,15), and the girl continuing with her mother until her marriage. In wealthier families tutors were employed (1 Chronicles 27:32). Schools for children are first mentioned by Josephus (Ant., XV, x, 5). According to the Talmud the first school for children was established about 100 BC, but in the time of Jesus such schools were common. Children were taught to read and to write even in families of moderate means, these arts being widely diffused as early as 600 BC, if not earlier (Isaiah 8:1; 10:19). Great stress was laid on the Torah, i.e. the law of Moses. Boys were trained also in farming, the tending of cattle, and in the trades. The religious training of the boy began in his fourth year, as soon as he could speak distinctly. The religious life of the girl also began early. In later times at least children took part in the Sabbath and Passover festivals and boys attended synagogue and school regularly.

Children were subject to the father (Nehemiah 5:5 marks the extreme), who in turn was bound to protect them, though he himself had the power of life and death (Leviticus 18:21; 20:2). Respect for and obedience to parents were stoutly upheld by public opinion (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16; compare Proverbs 6:20; Micah 7:6; Deuteronomy 21:18-21; Exodus 21:15).

Both the Old Testament and New Testament afford abundant evidence of the strength of the bond that bound the Hebrew family together (Genesis 21:16; 2 Samuel 18:33; 1 Kings 3:23; 2 Kings 4:19; Isaiah 8:4; Job 29:5; Matthew 19:13; 20:20; Mark 9:24; Luke 2:48; John 4:47; Hebrews 2:13; 11:23). The gift of a son from Yahweh was the height of joy; the loss of a child marked the depth of woe. A hint occurs in the custom of naming a man as the father of his firstborn son (Hastings Dictionary of the Bible, I, 382), or even the use of the father's name as a surname (Bar-Jonah, Bartimeus) and such continues in Syria at the present day. This idea is further instanced in the use, in both Old Testament and New Testament, of the terms to express the relation between God and men (Exodus 4:22; Deuteronomy 14:1; 32:6; Jeremiah 3:4; Zechariah 12:10; Malachi 1:6).


Ani and his wife Tutu Playing Senet, an Egyptian form of Checkers (Excerpt from the Book of the Dead, from the tomb of Ani; British Museum)

Pull Toy in the Shape of a Ram (Provenance unknown; Iron Age (1150-586 BCE); Pottery; Israel Museum Collection)

Pull Toy in the Shape of an Otter (Beth Shemesh; 12th - 10thcenturyBCE; Pottery; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

Pull Toy in the Shape of a Bear (Beth Shemesh; 7th century BCE; Limestone; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

Game Board (Hazor; 9th century BCE; Limestone; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

Game Pieces (Provenance unknown; Iron Age (1150-586 BCE); Bone, faience)


V. Money, Weights, Measures and Trade

Cooking Pot Containing Silver Hoard (En-Gedi; Late 8th century - 7th century BCE; Pottery and silver; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

In the First Temple Period silver weighed in shekels was widely used as the medium of exchange. "The first coins were used in the Lydian kingdom, in the area of eastern Turkey, and soon spread to other parts of the Greek world, then beyond to other cultures and realms." Coins only appeared in Judea during the Second Temple period.  After the invention of coins, the word "silver", in Hebrew "kesef" came to refer both to coinage and the metal as in French.

‘The basic unit of currency in the Hebrew Bible is the sheqel, the Hebrew term deriving from a root meaning "to weigh;' that is, to pay by weighing out silver. Sheqel units are mentioned in many biblical passages…. The larger sheqel weights are dome-shaped, carved usually in soft limestone, and inscribed with both a symbol that obviously denotes "sheqel" (resembling a small pouch, in which silver was carried) and Egyptian hieratic symbols for numbers. At present, we have examples of inscribed stone sheqel weights in denominations that we can distinguish as 1,2,4,8,12,16,24, and 40….  It is by weighing and comparing the hundreds of weights now known that scholars have been able to work out how the system once functioned. The… deviation of the more common 1 to 8 sheqel weights is a mere 0.5 percent - an astonishing uniformity, indicating almost certainly royal supervision of the system. … it cannot be a mere coincidence that a standardized system of weights based on a "royal sheqel" emerges exclusively in Judah, precisely in the long reign of Hezekiah (715-686), then peaks in the reign of Josiah (640-609). These are the two "reform" kings of whom the prophets and the Deuteronomistic writers approve… is it not likely that basic to any reform measures would have been the attempt to eliminate corrupt business practices by standardizing weights and measures under royal administration?

'Certainly that is what prophetic protests such as those of Hosea, Amos, and Micah are all about - all of them reformist figures who were active in the 8th-7th centuries. Micah, a Judean prophet who lived during the reign of Hezekiah and probably advised the king on religious matters, thundered (6:11): "Shall I acquit the man with wicked scales, and with a bag of deceitful weights?"'

From What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It?: What Archaeology Can Tell Us About the Reality of Ancient Israel by William G. Dever

Scales - i.e. beam that is supported freely in the center and has two pans of equal weight suspended from its ends (Hebron district; Iron Age (1150-586 BCE); Bronze; Israel Museum collection)

Four and Eight Shekel Weights (En-Gedi; 7th century BCE;Stone; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection). (Shekel was a unit of weight equal to about a half ounce.)

"Just balances, just weights (literally “just stones”), a just ephah (dry measure about one bushel or 35 liters), and a just hin (liquid equal to about five liters), shall ye have: I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt."  Leviticus 19:36

"You shall not have in your bag two kinds of weights (the Hebrew word for weight literally is “stone”), a large and a small.  You shall not have in your house two kinds of measures, a large and a small.  A full and just weight you shall have, a full and just measure you shall have; that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you." Deuteronomy, chapter 25:13-15

“And if you sell to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor, you shall not wrong one another.”

Leviticus, chapter 25:14

Cosmetics trade

2 Kings 9, verse 30
30: When Jehu came to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it; she painted her eyes, and adorned her head, and looked out of the window.

Jeremiah 4, verse 30
30: And you, O desolate one, what do you mean that you dress in crimson, that you deck yourself with ornaments of gold, that you enlarge your eyes with paint? In vain you beautify yourself. Your lovers despise you; they seek your life.

Ezekiel 23, verse 40
40: "Furthermore, they have even sent for men who come from afar, to whom a messenger was sent; and lo, they came--for whom you bathed, painted your eyes and decorated yourselves with ornaments;

Cosmetic Palettes (Provenance unknown; 8th - 7th centuryBCE; Stone; Israel Museum Collection)

Like Egyptians and other peoples of the Near East, Israelites lined their eyes with kohl and applied colour to their cheeks.

Cosmetic Bowl (Megiddo; 8th - 7th century BCE; Stone; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

Cosmetic Bowl (Ein Gev; 9th century BCE; Stone; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

Cosmetic Goblet (Hazor; Iron Age II (900-585 BCE); Stone; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

Pilgrim Flask with Rim Widening into a Bowl (Hazor; 11th century BCE; Pottery; Israel Museum Collection)

This human-shaped flask contained perfumed oil, for anointing the body.

Pomegranate-shaped Bottle (Provenance unknown; 9th - 8th century BCE; Pottery; Israel Museum Collection)

Flask (Beth Shean; 6th century BCE; Glass; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

Warehouse – we sometimes lose sight of the fact, clear from the Bible, that Solomon’s legendary wealth was based on commerce and on taxing commerce – horses, spices (some from Sheba) etc.

Box 15


1. Early Overland Commerce:

There were forces in early Hebrew life not favorable to the development of commerce. with foreigners was not encouraged by Israel's social and religious customs. From the days of the appearance of the Hebrews in Canaan, however, some commercial contact with the peoples around was inevitable. There were ancient trade routes between the East and the West, as well as between Egypt and the Mesopotamian valley. Palestine lay as a bridge between these objective points. There were doubtless traveling merchants from very remote times, interchanging commodities of other lands for those of Palestine Some of the Hebrew words for "trading" and "merchant" indicate this (compare cachar, "to travel," rakhal, "to go about"). In the nomadic period, the people were necessarily dependent upon overland commerce for at least a part of their food supply, such as grain, and doubtless for articles of clothing, too. Frequent local famines would stimulate such trade. Companies or caravans carrying on this overland commerce are seen in Genesis 37:25,28, "Ishmaelites" and "Midianites, merchantmen," on their way to Egypt, with spices, balm and myrrh. Jacob caused his sons to take certain products to Egypt as a present with money to Joseph in return for grain:

balsam, spices, honey, myrrh, nuts, almonds (Genesis 43:11). The presence of a "Bab mantle" among the spoils of Ai (Joshua 7:21) indicates commerce between Canaan and the East.

2. Sea Traffic:

While there are slight indications of a possible sea trade as early as the days of the Judges (Judges 5:17; compare Genesis 49:13), we must wait till the days of the monarchy of David and especially Solomon for the commerce of ships. Land traffic was of course continued and expanded (1 Kings 10:15,28,29; 2 Chronicles 1:16). Sea trade at this time made large strides forward. The Philistines were earlier in possession of the coast. Friendship with Hiram king of Tyre gave Solomon additional advantages seaward (1 Kings 5; 9:26; 10:19-29; 2 Chronicles 8:17; 9:14), since the Phoenicians were pre-eminently the Mediterranean traders among all the people of Palestine Later, commerce declined, but Jehoshaphat attempted to revive it (1 Kings 22:48; 2 Chronicles 20:36), but without success. Tyre and Sidon as great commercial centers, however, long impressed the life of Israel (Isaiah 23; Ezekiel 26-27). Later, in the Maccabean period, Simon acquired Joppa as a Jewish port (1 Macc 14:5), and so extended Mediterranean commerce.

3. Land Traffic in the Time of the Kings:

During the peaceful reign of Solomon, there came, with internal improvements and foreign friendships, a stimulus to traffic with Egypt and the Far East over the ancient trade routes as well as with Phoenicia on the northwest. He greatly added to his wealth through tariffs levied upon merchantmen (1 Kings 10:15). Trade with Syria in the days of Omri and Ahab is indicated by the permission Benhadad gave to Israelites to open streets, or trading quarters, in Damascus, as Syrians had in Samaria (1 Kings 20:34). The prophets disclose repeatedly the results of foreign commerce upon the people in the days of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, and of Jeroboam II, under whom great material prosperity was attained, followed by simple luxury (Isaiah 2:6,7,16; Hosea 12:1,7,8; Amos 6:3-6). The people in their greed of gain could not observe Sabbaths and feast days (Amos 8:5); compare Sabbath trading and its punishment in the days of the restoration (Nehemiah 13:15-22). "Canaanite" became the nickname for traffickers (Zechariah 14:21; compare Isaiah 23:8).

New Testament Times

After the conquests of Alexander 333 BC, trade between East and West was greatly stimulated. Colonies of Jews for trade purposes had been established in Egypt and elsewhere. The dispersion of the Jews throughout the Greek and Roman world added to their interest in commerce. The Mediterranean Sea, as a great Roman lake, under Roman protection, became alive with commercial fleets. The Sea of Galilee with its enormous fish industry became the center of a large trading interest to all parts. The toll collected in Galilee must have been considerable. Matthew was called from his collectorship to discipleship (Matthew 9:9); Zaccheus and other publicans became rich collecting taxes from large commercial interests like that of balsam. Jesus frequently used the commerce of the day as illustration (Matthew 13:45; 25:14-30). Along the Palestinian coast there were several ports where ships touched:

Lydda, Joppa, Caesarea; and further north Ptolemais, Tyre, Sidon and Antioch (port Seleucia).

The apostle Paul made use of ships touching at points on the coast of Asia Minor, and the islands along the coast, and also doing coast trade with Greece, Italy and Spain, to carry on his missionary enterprises (Acts 13:4-13; 16:11; 18:18; 20:13-16; 21:1-8; 27:1-44; 28:1-14). The rapidity with which the gospel spread throughout the Roman world in the 1st century was due no little to the use of the great Roman highways, built partly as trade routes; as well as to the constant going to and fro of tradesmen of all sorts; some of whom like Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:2,18,26), Lydia, (Acts 16:14,40) and Paul himself (who was a traveling tent-maker) were active in disseminating the new faith among the Gentiles. In James 4:13 we have a good representation of the life of a large number of Jews of this period, who would "go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain" (the King James Version).”  see also 


First Temple Period - Part 4 - Literate First Temple Culture as the Matrix for the Development of Scriptures


I Background on the Alphabet  

The phonetic alphabet was only invented once, by the Canaanites, and has since diffused to most of the world (See Family Tree of the Alphabets).

"The evolution of the alphabet involved two important achievements. The first was the step taken by a group of Semitic-speaking people, perhaps the Phoenicians, on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean between 1700 and 1500 BC. This was the invention of a consonantal writing system known as North Semitic. The second was the invention, by the Greeks, of characters for representing vowels. This step occurred between 800 and 700 BC."

Encyclopedia Britannica 2003

  1. The original Canaanite alphabet (Proto-Sinaitic script) was developed from Egyptian writing approximately 1900 BCE to 1100 BCE;

  2. North Semitic alphabet was developed from the Proto-Sinaitic script about 1100 BCE. The Phoenician, Paleo-Hebrew and early Aramaic alphabets (used in the Tel Dan Stele),  are all minor variants of the North Semitic script.

  3. Phoenician script had two major offshoots:

    • The Aramaic script which was the ancestor of:

      • the Modern Hebrew script which is very similar to its ancestral Aramaic alphabet;

      • the Arabic alphabet (used also for Urdu, Farsi et.) changed beyond recognition from its ancestral Aramaic alphabet;

      • the Brahmi script, the ancestor of all Indian scripts. The transmission probably took place in the 7th century BCE changed beyond recognition from its ancestral Aramaic alphabet.

    • The Greek alphabet which was ancestor to the Roman alphabet used for English and French.


Paleo-Hebrew (called “middle” in this chart) and Square Hebrew (early Jewish development of the Aramaic script) of the Scroll period (called “late” in this chart) and Modern Hebrew alphabets with English transliterations see also

"The square script belongs to the Aramaic branch of Semitic writing. In the Babylonian-Assyrian and Persian empires the Aramaic language and its alphabet became the official language and script of the administration, They were also adopted by the Jews in Babylonia and elsewhere, and later penetrated Palestine. When the new script was officially adopted for the writing of Torah scrolls the change-over from the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet was complete although the old script was twice revived, centuries later, for legends on the coins under the Hasmoneans and under Bar Kokhba."

Encyclopedia Judaica

Paleographers can date manuscripts, to within a few decades, on the basis of their script.  Carbon 14 tests on the parchment offer an objective way to establish the dates of scrolls. Generally the results of these two, totally independent, dating methods have been compatible.


II. Increased Use of Writing

It seems that there was a rise in Judah in the use of writing in the 7th-8th centuries BCE

  • Our only two caches of military letters (the Lachish and Arad Ostraca) are from this period.

  • Two key works from this period - (a) Deuteronomy requires the king to write a Sefer Torah, and to continuously read it, and (b) the prophet Jeremiah was instructed to have his prophecies written in a book.  There is no known biblical precedent for either of these demands;

“When he has taken the throne of his kingdom, he shall have a copy of this law written for him in the presence of the levitical priests. It shall remain with him and he shall read in it all the days of his life, so that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, diligently observing all the words of this law and these statutes, neither exalting himself above other members of the community nor turning aside from the commandment, either to the right or to the left, so that he and his descendants may reign long over his kingdom in Israel.” Deuteronomy 17:18-19

“Take a scroll and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel and Judah and all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, from the days of Josiah until today… Then Jeremiah called Baruch son of Neriah, and Baruch wrote on a scroll at Jeremiah's dictation all the words of the LORD that he had spoken to him. And Jeremiah ordered Baruch, saying, "I am prevented from entering the house of the LORD; so you go yourself, and on a fast day in the hearing of the people in the Lord's house you shall read the words of the LORD from the scroll that you have written at my dictation.” Jeremiah 36:2-6

  • For the first time we read of Israelites looking in a book, rather than to priest or prophet, for guidance regarding God's expectations.

See  Israelite Religion to Judaism: the Evolution of the Religion of Israel


Ostracon with text of a military letter (Arad; Late 8th century BCE; Pottery; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

Close to 100 ostraca written in ancient Hebrew have been found in the citadel of Arad, south Jerusalem. They include orders for wine, flour and oil.

Jug with Inscription (City of David, Jerusalem; 7th century BCE; Pottery; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

Fragment of a monumental inscription (City of David, Jerusalem; 7th century BCE; Stone; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)


III. Seals and Bullae (seal impression on clay)

Box 16

Illustration of How Papyrus Documents Were Sealed

With messages on the Internet today, we are concerned to establish: that the sender is who he claims to be; that no one has examined the text in transit; and, that he text has not been tampered with.  These functions, in biblical times, were performed by carefully tying and sealing documents, with the sender's personal seal, in such a way that it would be obvious if the document had been tampered with. Such documents were generally made of animal skins or papyrus and were closed by scrolling them up and tying them with something like twine. A small clump of wet clay was then placed on the twine over where the knot was located and the King would then push his signet ring down into the clay leaving his official seal impressed on the document.


Seal of Shaphat (Provenance unknown; 8th century BCE; Amazonite on gold; Israel Museum Collection)

Once a scribe had finished writing on papyrus, he would roll and tie it up and place a piece of clay on it, stamping it with a seal generally marked with the names of the scroll's owner and owner's father. "Shaphat," is a diminutive for such common Biblical names as Joshaphat or Shephatiah.

Seal Impression on Clay: "[belonging] to Gemariah son of Shaphan" (City of David, Jerusalem; 7th century BCE; Clay; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

This seal can be dated with certainty, since the stratum where it was found along with about fifty others was buried when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonian conquerors. The seal bearing the mark of Gemariah, and another one, associated with the scribe Baruch, are two of the very few seals that can plausibly be connected with biblical figures.

In about 604 BCE, the family of Gemariah hid the prophet Jeremiah to protect him from King Jehoiakim 's wrath.

“And Baruch the son of Neriah did all that Jeremiah the prophet ordered him about reading from the scroll the words of the LORD in the LORD's house. In the fifth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, in the ninth month, all the people in Jerusalem and all the people who came from the cities of Judah to Jerusalem proclaimed a fast before the LORD. Then, in the hearing of all the people, Baruch read the words of Jeremiah from the scroll, in the house of the LORD, in the chamber of Gemariah the son of Shaphan the secretary, which was in the upper court, at the entry of the New Gate of the LORD's house.”


First Temple Period - Part 5- Destruction and Exile


Box 17

The Imperial Imperative of Frightfulness

"... Roman taxes were low as a proportion of probable gross product... the actual rate of taxation was significantly less than 10%, probably less than 5% of gross

product. Of course, the tax burden was probably not evenly distributed, and taxes transmitted to

the central government were probably less than the total of taxes exacted by greedy and corrupt

tax-collectors. When I say that taxes were low, I do not mean to imply that Roman peasants, paying

for benefits they could not see, typically experienced them as low.... And even by the second century

CE, there was only one Roman elite administrator for every 400,000 inhabitants of empire.

Roman administrators levied their taxes and by and large provided only peace in return.


  •  The level of general poverty, the dispersed nature of production and administrative weakness resulted in all ancient empires suffering from (see my discussion of the Roman situation) an extreme insufficiency of finances and a consequent:

Insufficiency of Administrative Capacity; and,

Insufficiency of Military Power.

  • A stable empire thus required, for each province or region, a reliable native elite which could ensure good behavior and the payment of tribute. The viability of such an elite depended on the belief that there was overwhelming imperial force and the prospect of its ruthless employment constantly in the background.
  • Some imperial provinces were valuable for their grain production (e.g. Egypt) or minerals (island of Cyprus for Copper) or raising of horses (e.g. parts of Anatolia).  However, the importance of Palestine to an ancient empire lay in its strategic position:
    1. on the border of Egypt.  Thus to the Assyrians it was the defensive border against Egypt and the base for their eventual conquest of Egypt.  For the Babylonians  it was the defensive border against Egypt while for the Persians and Romans it lay on their lines of communication between Syria-Phoenicia and Egypt their most valuable province; and,
    2. on the overland trade routes:
      1. between the incense producing areas of South Arabia and the Egyptian market; and,
      2. between Egypt and Syria-Phoenicia, Mesopotamia, Anatolia and, ultimately, India
  • All the empires tried to establish a cooperative and effective subordinate government in Israel (the Assyrians), Judah (the Assyrians and then Babylonians after the conquests of 597 and 586 BCE) and Judea (the Romans) as it was in their best interests to have a peaceful and tax paying Palestine.  However, due to the high cost of war, and the scarcity of military resources, if they could not have a peaceful tax paying province, it was more in the empire's interest to have a depopulated Palestine, garrisoned by imperial troops, than a chronically rebellious one.
  • The Israelite-Jews were chronically rebellious against the Assyrians, Babylonians and Romans (67-70 CE; 132-135 CE, shortly after 135 CE; 351 CE etc.)


Box 18

The Destruction of Sennacherib

by George Gordon, Lord Byron

  The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,

And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;

And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,

When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.


  Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,

That host with their banners at sunset were seen:

Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,

That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.


  For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,

And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;

And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,

And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!


  And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,

But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;

And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,

And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.


  And there lay the rider distorted and pale,

With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail:

And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,

The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.


  And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,

And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;

And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,

Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!


                          Box 19

The Assyrian Army

"Tiglath-Pileser III (king of Assyria) established the most efficient military, financial, and administrative system the world had yet seen. The army was its heart. He abolished the militia organization and built the state around a standing regular army. The principal business of the nation became war; its wealth and prosperity were sustained by booty and by supervision of trade and finance. A semi-military bureaucracy carried out the functions of government at home and in the conquered regions, setting the first pattern of centralized imperia³ control over far-flung provincial territories....

"This was the first truly military society of history. No effort was spared which would contribute to the efficiency of the army, or which would assure continued Assyrian supremacy over all possible foes. The Assyrians were the first to recognize fully the advantage of iron over bronze. As early as 1000 B.C. their militia armies had been completely equipped with weapons, chariots, and armor made of iron. Tiglath-Pileser saw to it that this technical superiority was maintained by constant and systematic improvement of weapons, and by the careful training of the soldiers in the use of their arms.

"The bulk of the army was comprised of large masses of spearmen, slow-moving and cumbersome, but relatively more maneuverable than similar infantry formations of other peoples of the time. Their irresistible advance was the culminating phase of a typical Assyrian battle plan.

"In the Assyrian Army the archers were more highly organized than their counterparts elsewhere and evidently had stronger bows, from which they fired iron-tipped arrows with deadly accuracy. They created confusion in the enemy ranks in preparation for a closely coordinated chariot and cavalry charge.

The main striking force of the Assyrian Army was the corps of horse-drawn, two-wheeled chariots. Their mission was to smash their way through the ranks of enemy infantry. Like their contemporaries, the Assyrians used chariots in simple, brute force, but employed them in larger numbers, with more determination, and in closer coordination with archers, spearmen, and cavalry.

"The cavalry was the smallest element of the army, but probably the best trained and equipped. The noble horsemen fought with a combination of discipline, skill, and ingenuity not possible in the other elements of the army. Only the cavalry could be employed in the occasional maneuvers attempted in battle.

"The art of fortification had been well developed in the Middle East before 1000 B.C. The great walls of the large cities were almost invulnerable to the means of attack available within the limited technology of the times.

"The Assyrians greatly improved the techniques of siege craft and attack of fortifications. Accompanying their armies were siege trains and various forms of specialized equipment, including materials for building large movable wooden towers (protected from the flaming arrows of defenders by dampened leather hides) and heavy battering rams....

"From the tops of the wooden towers, skilled archers would sweep the walls of the defenders, to prevent interference with the work of demolition, while nearby other archers, sheltered by the shields of spearmen, would fire arrows—some of them flaming in a high trajectory over the walls, to harass the defenders and to terrify the population. ...

"Terror was another factor contributing greatly to Assyrian success. Their exceptional cruelty and ferocity were possibly reflections of callousness developed over centuries of defense of their homeland against savage enemies. But theirs was also a calculated policy of terror—possibly the earliest example of organized psychological warfare. It was not unusual for them to kill every man, woman, and child in captured cities. Sometimes they would carry away entire populations into captivity. "

See also Assyrian Cavalry


Photographic Reproduction of Assyrian depiction of the destruction of Lachish (approximately 701 BCE).  This includes the only known contemporary depiction of Judeans


Siege of Lachich (Judah)
Neo-Assyrian; Siege of Lachich (Judah): Assyrian army attacking the walls with a siege-engine, relief from SW. Palace of Sennacherib at Nineveh (Kuyunjik). ca. 701 B.C. From AICT: Art Images for College Teaching.

Siege of Lachich (Judah) 5
Neo-Assyrian; Siege of Lachich (Judah): Assyrian sappers undermine the city walls, detail [L.] relief from SW. Palace of Sennacherib at Nineveh (Kuyunjik). ca. 701 B.C. From AICT: Art Images for College Teaching.

Siege of Lachich (Judah) 6
Neo-Assyrian; Siege of Lachich (Judah): Captives led away from the city; [R.] the Assyrian assault on the city walls, relief from SW. Palace of Sennacherib at Nineveh (Kuyunjik). ca. 701 B.C. From AICT: Art Images for College Teaching.

Siege of Lachich (Judah) 7
Neo-Assyrian; Siege of Lachich (Judah): a city defender falls to his death from the battlements, detail [R.] relief from SW. Palace of Sennacherib at Nineveh (Kuyunjik). ca. 701 B.C. From AICT: Art Images for College Teaching.

Siege of Lachich (Judah) 8
Neo-Assyrian; Siege of Lachich (Judah): amphibious troops use inflated animals skins to cross a river teeming with fish, detail [R.] relief from SW. Palace of Sennacherib at Nineveh (Kuyunjik). ca. 701 B.C. From AICT: Art Images for College Teaching.

Siege of Lachich (Judah) 9
Neo-Assyrian; Siege of Lachich (Judah): captive musicians sing praises to the conqueror, detail of relief from SW. Palace of Sennacherib at Nineveh (Kuyunjik). ca. 701 B.C. From AICT: Art Images for College Teaching.

Siege of Lachich (Judah) Close Neo-Assyrian; Siege of Lachich (Judah): Assyrian army attacking the walls with a siege-engine, relief from SW. Palace of Sennacherib at Nineveh (Kuyunjik). ca. 701 B.C. From AICT: Art Images for College Teaching.


Box 20

The Curse of Sennacherib

The fact that the Assyrian king Sennacherib did not capture Jerusalem had a perversely catastrophic effect on the future of Judah.  It gave rise to a belief that God would always protect Jerusalem thus encouraging the Judeans to launch the rebellion against the Babylonians which resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple and the exile of the population to Babylon (southern Iraq)


There is no surviving pictorial record of the later (586 BCE) Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and the accompanying exile of most of the population, ends the First Temple period.

Map of Neo-Babylonian Empire

Box 21

Mass Deportations


"Another of Tiglath-Pileser's initiatives was the practice of mass-deportation. He must have thought that the best way of preventing revolts was to uproot what we would now call 'national feeling' -the fidelity to local gods and traditions-by mixing together the populations of the empire. Whole towns and districts were emptied of their inhabitants, who were settled in distant regions and replaced by people brought by force from other countries. In 742 and 741 B.C.,for instance, 30,000 Syrians from the region of Hama were sent to the Zagros mountains, while 18,000 Aramaeans from the left bank of the Tigris were transferred to northern Syria. In Iran in 744 B.C. 65,000 persons were displaced in one single campaign, and another year the exodus affected no less than 154,000 people in southern Mesopotamia. Such pitiful scenes are occasionally (e.g. in the relief of the conquest of Lachish under discussion here DS) depicted on Assyrian bas-reliefs: carrying little bags on their shoulders and holding their emaciated children by the hand, long files of men walk with the troops, while their wives follow in carts. Many must have died on the endless, sun-scorched tracks. Those who survived were not badly treated; they found a home in the ruins of burnt-down villages or in fortresses founded by the king, a field to plough and a reason to live; but their spirit of resistance - so their masters liked to believe was broken for ever. This cruel policy was followed by Tiglath-Pileser's successors, but failed to bring the results expected: it did not prevent rebellions from breaking out with increasing frequency and, together with the devastations of war, contributed to the dislike of the Assyrians general in the ancient Near East. As a Babylonian civil servant from Nippur once dared write Esarhaddon: 'The king knows that all lands hate us on account of Assyria.'

Ancient Iraq by Georges Roux

See for details, Mass deportations and deportees in the Neo-Assyrian Empire by Oded Bustenay (Wiesbaden : Reichert, 1979)


B. Second Temple Period (about 520 BCE-70 CE[i])

"In 587 B.C.E., King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia conquered Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple and exiled the Hebrew people to Babylon. Fifty years later, the Jews returned and built the Second Temple on the site of the first. The Dead Sea Scrolls on display here were written in the later years of the Second Temple period. They reveal a society in political and religious ferment just prior to the birth of Christianity. Two of the three scrolls in the exhibition have never been outside Israel. The third has not left Israel since it was purchased from an American collector 50 years ago."

From Ancient Treasures and the Dead Sea Scrolls: About the Exhibition, Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation,  December 4, 2003

Second Temple Period - Part 1 After the Exile Historical Background


The Temple

Yoseph ben Matityahu (37-100 CE) was born in Jerusalem and taken captive after leading the great Jewish revolt against the Romans. He became a Roman citizen, known as Flavius Josephus, and a historian under the patronage of the Flavian Emperors. In his Jewish War, he described the Second Temple of Jerusalem after it had been enlarged and embellished by King Herod.

"The exterior of the building wanted nothing that could astound either mind or eye. For, being covered on all sides with massive plates of gold, the sun was no sooner up than it radiated so fiery a flash that persons straining to look at it were compelled to avert their eyes, as from the solar rays. To approaching strangers it appeared from a distance like a snow-clad mountain; for all that was not overlaid with gold was of purest white."

Book Five, Chapter 5/222-223

The western retaining wall is one of the few elements of Herod's Temple mount still standing today. Known as the Wailing Wall, it is a place where Jews gather for contemplation and prayer.

See also;

The Finalization, Promulgation and Acceptance of the Torah as THE word of God and Basis of Israel's Relationship with God


Israel at time of Jesus

Palestine in the Time of Jesus: Social Structures and Social Conflicts

Map of Hellenistic and Herodian Cities


Second Temple Period - Part 2 Dead Sea Scrolls (approximately 200 BCE-70 CE)


I General Overview

See Fact Sheet - About the Dead Sea Scrolls

“The scrolls and scroll fragments recovered in the Qumran environs represent a voluminous body of Jewish documents, a veritable "library", dating from the third century B.C.E. to 68 C.E. Unquestionably, the "library," which is the greatest manuscript find of the twentieth century, demonstrates the rich literary activity of Second Temple Period Jewry and sheds insight into centuries pivotal to both Judaism and Christianity. The library contains some books or works in a large number of copies, yet others are represented only fragmentarily by mere scraps of parchment. There are tens of thousands of scroll fragments. The number of different compositions represented is almost one thousand, and they are written in three different languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.

There is less agreement on the specifics of what the Qumran library contains. According to many scholars, the chief categories represented among the Dead Sea Scrolls are:


those works contained in the Hebrew Bible. All of the books of the Bible are represented in the Dead Sea Scroll collection except Esther.

Apocryphal or pseudepigraphical:

those works which are omitted from various canons of the Bible and included in others.


those scrolls related to a pietistic commune and include ordinances, biblical commentaries, apocalyptic visions, and liturgical works.

'While the group producing the sectarian scrolls is believed by many to be the Essenes, there are other scholars who state that there is too little evidence to support the view that one sect produced all of the sectarian material. Also, there are scholars who believe there is a fourth category of scroll materials which is neither biblical, apocryphal, nor "sectarian." In their view, such scrolls, which may include "Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice" …, should be designated simply as contemporary Jewish writing.

"Until the discovery of the Judaean Desert scrolls, the only pre-medieval fragment of the Hebrew Bible known to scholars was the Nash Papyrus c. 150 BCE (see ) from Egypt containing the Decalogue and Deuteronomy. Now, however, fragments of about 180 different manuscripts of biblical books are available. Their dates vary between the 3rd century BCE and the 2nd century CE, and all but 10 stem from the caves of Qumran. All are written on either leather or papyrus in columns and on one side only.

"The most important manuscripts from what is now identified as Cave 1 of Qumran are a practically complete Isaiah scroll (1QIsaa), dated c. 100–75 BCE, and another very fragmentary manuscript (1QIsab) of the same book. The first contains many variants from the Masoretic text in both orthography and text; the second is very close to the Masoretic type and contains few genuine variants. The richest hoard comes from Cave 4 and includes fragments of five copies of Genesis, eight of Exodus, one of Leviticus, 14 of Deuteronomy, two of Joshua, three of Samuel, 12 of Isaiah, four of Jeremiah, eight of the Minor Prophets, one of Proverbs, and three of Daniel. Cave 11 yielded a Psalter containing the last third of the book in a form different from that of the Masoretic text, as well as a manuscript of Leviticus.

"The importance of the Qumran scrolls cannot be exaggerated. Their great antiquity brings them close to the Old Testament period itself—from as early as 250–200 BCE. For the first time, Hebrew variant texts are extant and all known major text types are present. Some are close to the Septuagint, others to the Samaritan. On the other hand, many of the scrolls are practically identical with the Masoretic text, which thus takes this recension back in history to pre-Christian times. Several texts in the paleo-Hebrew script show that this script continued to be used side by side with the Aramaic script for a long time.... No biblical manuscripts have survived from the six centuries that separate the latest of the Judaean Desert scrolls from the earliest of the Masoretic period." Encyclopedia Britannica 2003

See also

Annex 3 - The Importance of the Scrolls

How Were the Scrolls Created?

Calendars of the Dead-Sea-Scroll Sect

Re. dating the scrolls


II. Artifacts Connected with the Scrolls

Inkwell - For Jewish traditions on ink see


Scroll Storage Jar  with Lid from Cave 1 (Qumran; 1st century BCE- 1st century CE; Pottery; The Shrine of the Book (owned by the Hebrew University, Jerusalem)

The first seven Qumran scrolls were found in jars like this one, a type unknown elsewhere. They were in much better condition than other scrolls that lay directly on the ground. These large containers were found in the caves, but also in the ruins of the sect's settlement, pointing to a plausible link between the two.

Further reading The Archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls by Jodi Magness (Paperback - July 2003)

III. Sections of Three Important Dead Sea Scrolls

Isaiah b chapts. 41-43 (Qumran; Late 1st century BCE - early 1st century CE; parchment; The Shrine of the Book (The Hebrew University, Jerusalem)

The Book of Isaiah is among the most revered and influential works found in Qumran. It is a prophetic text of great moral weight in Jewish religious practice. It has also played a key role in early Christian writings, according to which Isaiah prophesied the coming of the Messiah.

"1QIsb 1QIsaiahb ß

E. L. Sukenik, 'Osar ham-megillôt hag-genûzôt she-bîdê ha-'ûnibersitah ha-cibrit (Bialik Foundation-The Hebrew University [The Magnes Press-The Hebrew University, Jerusalem 1955]); pls. 1-15. Another long and fragmented copy of Isaiah. One of the original group of seven manuscripts retrieved by the Tacâmireh. 1QIsb is one of the three acquired by Prof. E. L. Sukenik in 1947 for the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. All seven of the original manuscripts eventually ended up in the special museum built for them in Jerusalem: The Shrine of the Book."



The full text (NRSV) of those chapters of the Book of Isaiah is -

"Isaiah 41

Listen to me in silence, O coastlands; let the peoples renew their strength; let them approach, then let them speak; let us together draw near for judgment. 2 Who has roused a victor from the east, summoned him to his service? He delivers up nations to him, and tramples kings under foot; he makes them like dust with his sword, like driven stubble with his bow. 3 He pursues them and passes on safely, scarcely touching the path with his feet. 4 Who has performed and done this, calling the generations from the beginning? I, the LORD, am first, and will be with the last. 5 The coastlands have seen and are afraid, the ends of the earth tremble; they have drawn near and come. 6 Each one helps the other, saying to one another, "Take courage!" 7 The artisan encourages the goldsmith, and the one who smooths with the hammer encourages the one who strikes the anvil, saying of the soldering, "It is good"; and they fasten it with nails so that it cannot be moved. 8 But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; 9 you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, "You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off";

10 do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. 11 Yes, all who are incensed against you shall be ashamed and disgraced; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish. 12 You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all. 13 For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, "Do not fear, I will help you." 14 Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you insect Israel! I will help you, says the LORD; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. 15 Now, I will make of you a threshing sledge, sharp, new, and having teeth; you shall thresh the mountains and crush them, and you shall make the hills like chaff. 16 You shall winnow them and the wind shall carry them away, and the tempest shall scatter them. Then you shall rejoice in the LORD; in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory. 17 When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the LORD will answer them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. 18 I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. 19 I will put in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive; I will set in the desert the cypress, the plane and the pine together, 20 so that all may see and know, all may consider and understand, that the hand of the LORD has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.

21 Set forth your case, says the LORD; bring your proofs, says the King of Jacob. 22 Let them bring them, and tell us what is to happen. Tell us the former things, what they are, so that we may consider them, and that we may know their outcome; or declare to us the things to come. 23 Tell us what is to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods; do good, or do harm, that we may be afraid and terrified. 24 You, indeed, are nothing and your work is nothing at all; whoever chooses you is an abomination. 25 I stirred up one from the north, and he has come, from the rising of the sun he was summoned by name. He shall trample on rulers as on mortar, as the potter treads clay. 26 Who declared it from the beginning, so that we might know, and beforehand, so that we might say, "He is right"? There was no one who declared it, none who proclaimed, none who heard your words. 27 I first have declared it to Zion, and I give to Jerusalem a herald of good tidings. 28 But when I look there is no one; among these there is no counselor who, when I ask, gives an answer. 29 No, they are all a delusion; their works are nothing; their images are empty wind.

Isaiah 42

Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. 2 He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; 3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. 4 He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

5 Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: 6 I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, 7 to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. 8 I am the LORD, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols. 9 See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them. 10 Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise from the end of the earth! Let the sea roar and all that fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants. 11 Let the desert and its towns lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar inhabits; let the inhabitants of Sela sing for joy, let them shout from the tops of the mountains. 12Let them give glory to the LORD, and declare his praise in the coastlands.

13 The LORD goes forth like a soldier, like a warrior he stirs up his fury; he cries out, he shouts aloud, he shows himself mighty against his foes. 14 For a long time I have held my peace, I have kept still and restrained myself; now I will cry out like a woman in labor, I will gasp and pant. 15 I will lay waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their herbage; I will turn the rivers into islands, and dry up the pools. 16 I will lead the blind by a road they do not know, by paths they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I will do, and I will not forsake them. 17 They shall be turned back and utterly put to shame-- those who trust in carved images, who say to cast images, "You are our gods."

18 Listen, you that are deaf; and you that are blind, look up and see! 19 Who is blind but my servant, or deaf like my messenger whom I send? Who is blind like my dedicated one, or blind like the servant of the LORD? 20 He sees many things, but does not observe them; his ears are open, but he does not hear. 21 The LORD was pleased, for the sake of his righteousness, to magnify his teaching and make it glorious. 22 But this is a people robbed and plundered, all of them are trapped in holes and hidden in prisons; they have become a prey with no one to rescue, a spoil with no one to say, "Restore!" 23 Who among you will give heed to this, who will attend and listen for the time to come? 24Who gave up Jacob to the spoiler, and Israel to the robbers? Was it not the LORD, against whom we have sinned, in whose ways they would not walk, and whose law they would not obey? 25 So he poured upon him the heat of his anger and the fury of war; it set him on fire all around, but he did not understand; it burned him, but he did not take it to heart.

 Isaiah 43

But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you. 4Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you, I give people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life. 5Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you; 6I will say to the north, "Give them up," and to the south, "Do not withhold; bring my sons from far away and my daughters from the end of the earth-- 7everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made."

8 Bring forth the people who are blind, yet have eyes, who are deaf, yet have ears! 9Let all the nations gather together, and let the peoples assemble. Who among them declared this, and foretold to us the former things? Let them bring their witnesses to justify them, and let them hear and say, "It is true." 10You are my witnesses, says the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. 11I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior. 12I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses, says the LORD. 13I am God, and also henceforth I am He; there is no one who can deliver from my hand; I work and who can hinder it?

14 Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: For your sake I will send to Babylon and break down all the bars, and the shouting of the Chaldeans will be turned to lamentation. 15I am the LORD, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King. 16Thus says the LORD, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, 17who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick: 18Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. 19I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. 20The wild animals will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, 21the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.

22 Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob; but you have been weary of me, O Israel! 23You have not brought me your sheep for burnt offerings, or honored me with your sacrifices. I have not burdened you with offerings, or wearied you with frankincense. 24You have not bought me sweet cane with money, or satisfied me with the fat of your sacrifices. But you have burdened me with your sins; you have wearied me with your iniquities. 25I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. 26Accuse me, let us go to trial; set forth your case, so that you may be proved right. 27Your first ancestor sinned, and your interpreters transgressed against me. 28Therefore I profaned the princes of the sanctuary, I delivered Jacob to utter destruction, and Israel to reviling.


Community Rule cols. 1-7 (Qumran; 1st century BCE - 1st century CE; Parchment; State of Israel)

The Community Rule is the code of behavior of the Dead Sea Sect. It discusses topics related to the sectarians' way of life, such as the acceptance of new members, rules of conduct at communal meals and at meetings, and punishments. The Community Rule helps us to understand some aspects of ancient Jewish society and also the early Christian community.

War Scroll cols. 11-15 (Qumran; 1st century BCE - 1st century CE; parchment; The Shrine of the Book (The Hebrew University, Jerusalem)

The War Scroll, also known as The War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness, discusses events that will take place at the end of times. It describes a series of battles which will occur between the Godly powers and the army of Belial (this name refers to Satan in the sect's writings). This book belongs to the class of works commonly named "apocalyptic," as containing visions and revelations of the future, frequently in symbolical form.

There are similarities between this text and the New Testament Book of Revelation. However, there is a basic difference between the two. According to the War Scroll, the sole purpose of the war was to enable the sectarians to return to the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem and renew the practice of the holy sacrifices. By contrast, the Book of Revelation discusses the building of a Heavenly Jerusalem, and not a new Temple at the end of times.

IV. Relationship of the Scrolls and Qumran Community to Christianity


Box 22

Jesus the Galilean Jew


"Throughout the existence of Israelite sanctuaries in early biblical times-starting in the tenth century B.C. with temples in various cities and ending with a single one in Jerusalem after the reform of King Josiah in the late seventh century B.C.-the Jewish religion was practiced on two levels. Its official form was in the hands of the priests who in addition to conducting the sacrificial worship acted as judges and teachers. But parallel to it, and often away from the centers, a popular version of Judaism existed. It was not presided over by an established caste of leaders but by persons believed to be directly chosen by heaven. The "man of God" ... was the medium through which the ordinary Israelite could come into contact with God. ...The "men of God" were seen as endowed with ... a mystic divine gift, enabling them to speak and act on behalf of the deity. Prophets and seers belonged to this category, but the field of action of the "men of God" extended far beyond verbal communication. They were revered, especially the prophets Elijah and Elisha, as workers of miracles. "When he was angry [the man of God] could summon fire from heaven" (2 Kings 1:9-10). He could make iron float on the water (2 Kings 6:6). In times of famine he brought about the return of food in plenty. The poor wife of a member of the prophets' guild was saved from her creditors by the flowing oil (2 Kings 4:1-7). A small quantity of grain would suffice to feed, and feed generously, a hundred men (2 Kings 4:42-44). The "man of God" made poisonous food fit to eat (2 Kings 4:38-41). So, too, Elisha not only healed the great Naaman from leprosy, but restored from death a small child ....

"Our panoramic survey of Galilee, its history, society, culture, and popular religion has already made our case and has allowed, however vaguely and sketchily, the face of the real Jesus to emerge. His image, drawn by the primitive church in the Acts of the Apostles, and the portrait of the living Jesus contained in the earliest layers of the Synoptic Gospels, largely overlap. They point to a prophet-like holy man, mighty in deed and word, a charismatic healer and exorcist, and to a teacher whose eyes were fixed on the present task envisaged from a practical existential rather than an abstract and philosophical viewpoint.

"Jewish, and perhaps in particular Galilean, popular religiosity tended to develop along the path followed by Honi, Hilkiah, Hanan, Jesus, and Ha . passionate, caring, and loving, they were all celebrated as deliverers of the Jews from famine, sickness, and the dominion of the forces of darkness, and some of them at least as teachers of religion and morality. Indirectly they could even be seen as benefactors of the whole of mankind, since the salutary effects of rain and control over demons reached beyond the boundaries of Jewry. The Jesus of the New Testament fits into this picture, which in turn confers on his image validity and credibility: for there is no denying that a figure not dissimilar to the Honis and Haninas of Palestinian Judaism lurks beneath the Gospels. So in one sense anything additional to what has already been said would only labor the case....

"Beyond the basic similarity between these charismatic individuals, some features displayed in sources outside the New Testament enable us to bring the Gospel portrait of Jesus into sharper focus. Thus Jesus' harsh utterances and almost uncouth outbursts against non-Jews, which would be hardly appropriate to one whom later Christianity liked to identify as the teacher of the religion of pure love, become understandable when ascribed to the chauvinism of a hot-blooded Galilean. In a way he resembled his impulsive Galilean disciples, James and John, who were keen to bring down fire from heaven on the Samaritan village which refused to receive them (Luke 9:54)....

"We have seen that the way of life adopted by Jesus as an itinerant preacher is paralleled by the Hasidic style of existence as far as poverty was concerned. The men of God were more concerned with providing for others than with their own well-being. By contrast, Jesus' celibacy which is implied but nowhere positively stated-has no formal Hasidic counterpart....

"Needless to say, as healer and exorcist Jesus is perfectly at home in Hasidic company. His modus operandi may have differed from that of Hanina-Jesus usually cured by touch, Hanina by miraculously efficient prayer-but their method of healing from a distance coincided. A further common feature is their link with the prophet Elijah, patently the model of the miracle-working charismatic. Elijah has been associated with John the Baptist, Jesus, Honi, Hanina, and concludes Pinhas ben Yair's list of virtues and their rewards. A further common theme is supplied by the snake story in the Hanina saga. The Hasid's immunity due to his total trust in God provides a real context for Jesus' certainty that a man of faith could safely step on, or pick up, serpents without being harmed (Luke 10:19; Mark 16:17). Furthermore-and surprisingly- Jesus and Hanina exhibit a similar responsiveness to pleas voiced by submissive demons. Jesus allowed the Gergesene devils to take possession of the local herd of (unclean) pigs (Mark 5:12-13), while Hanina gave permission to demons to visit towns and villages two nights a week, no doubt to keep the inhabitants on their toes.

"Beyond helping to perceive Jesus as a man of flesh and blood firmly set in the Jewish world of his age, comparison between him and the ancient Hasidim affords an insight into the process of his rise on the theological ladder. I restrict a list of examples to the three most significant.

"If the Hasid addresses his prayers to his Father in heaven ... it is normal to expect that reciprocally God refers to him as his son. Honi alluded to himself as a son of the divine household, and Simeon ben Shetah unenthusiastically had to admit that not only was Honi the heavenly Father's spoiled child, but a biblical saying appropriately shortened, "Let your Father. . . be glad" (Prov. 23:23) found its realization in him (Mishnah Taanit 3:8). Elsewhere the Sanhedrin is said to have proclaimed Honi the man in whom was fulfilled Job 22:28, "Whatever you command will come to pass and light will shine on your path."...

"So far I have dealt with similarities between the Gospel picture of the prophet from Nazareth and the portrayal of the charismatic Hasidim. The aim was to enable the real Jesus to become in the true sense incarnate, a genuine, measurable, palpable, Jewish, Galilean ish ha-Elohim, a man of God of the first century A.D....

"Throughout this book numerous individual points of contact between the New Testament and the Dead Sea Scrolls have been noted, and this is perhaps a suitable moment to summarize the similarities and differences between Jesus and the Qumran community. Both Jesus and the Essene teachers used the religious ideas and imagery of their times and shared the conviction that the end of the present era was at hand. Both Jesus and the Qumran Teacher of Righteousness sought to hand over to their followers the last divine message. Both the primitive church and the Dead Sea community believed that the scriptural prophecies announcing the events of the last times were being fulfilled before their eyes and in the persons and events associated with them. Both Jesus and the Qumran sectaries emphasized the necessity of inward religion combined with the straightforward observance of the Law.

"The principal difference between them consisted in their overall outlook and distinctive emphasis on the Torah. The priestly Essenes, while insisting on inward conversion, laid particular stress on the rigorous performance of the minutiae of the biblical commandments, such as the purity, dietary, and cultic regulations. Though asserting the permanent validity of the Torah, Jesus, the Galilean popular preacher, in the footsteps of the prophets gave definite priority to the innermost aspects of Mosaic piety. Whereas the religious system of Qumran was exclusive, keeping out outsiders, Jesus was keen to convey his spiritual insights to all and sundry who honestly approached him inspired by faith. The publicans and sinners, the friends and table-fellows of Jesus, would have received curt treatment from the leaders of the Dead Sea communities.

"So quite apart from the improbability of contact between Jesus and the Essenes in Galilee where the presence of this sect is nowhere attested, the profound diversity of their respective religious perspectives renders unlikely that in his public career Jesus had anything to do with the Qumran movement. The only possible link between the Essenes and Christianity at its earliest stage must be connected with John the Baptist. This ascetic prophet, who called the Jews to repentance in the wilderness close to the Jordan, may have been associated with the Qumran Essenes. However, the fact that the Baptist, like Jesus after him, appealed to the entire Jewish people, to Pharisees, Sadducees, tax collectors, and soldiers, and not just to a select minority, would suggest that if he ever belonged to the Essenes, by the time of his appearance in the Gospels he was no longer a member of the secretive Dead Sea sect."

The Changing Faces of Jesus by Geza Vermes, Viking 2000

Jesus as Rabbi

"The master of Torah, whether disciple or teacher, would demonstrate his mastery not merely through what he said in the discussion of legal traditions or what he did in court. He would do so by how he sat at the table, by what ritual formulas he recited before eating one or another kind of fruit or vegetable, by how he washed his hands. ... He ardently "spread Torah" among the Jews at large. He believed he had to, because Torah was revealed to all Israel at Sinai and required of all Israel afterward. If he was right that Moses was "our rabbi" and even God kept the commandments as he did, then he had to ask of everyone what he demanded of himself: conformity to the halakhah, the way of Torah. His task was facilitated by the widespread belief that Moses had indeed revealed the Torah and that some sort of interpretation quite naturally was required to apply it to everyday affairs. The written part of Torah generally shaped the life of ordinary pious folk. What the rabbi had to accomplish was to persuade the outsider that the written part of the Torah was .partial and incomplete, requiring further elaboration through the oral traditions he alone possessed and embodied.

"The central human relationship in the schools was between the disciple and the master. Long ago it was taught that the master took the place of the father. The father brought the son into this world: the master would lead him into the world to some. Whatever honor was due the father was all the more so owing to the master. But the master did not merely replace the father. He also required the veneration and reverence owing to the Torah. The extreme-forms of respect which evolved over the centuries constitute the most striking rituals attached to "being a rabbi." If study was an act of piety, then the master was partly its object. That is not to suggest that the master, though a saint, was regarded as in any sense divine. But the forms of respect reserved for the divinity or for the Torah were not too different… from those owing to the master.

"The forms of respect for the master constituted part of the ritual of being a rabbi. The service of the disciples of the sages separated the true sage from the merely learned man. It had earlier been taught that if one had studied Scripture and Mishnah (rabbinic Oral Torah) but did not attend upon disciples of the sages, he was regarded as a boor, an 'am ha' aretz"

From The Way of Torah: An Introduction to Judaism by Jacob Neusner, Dickenson,Encino, California, and Belmont, California 1974



Box 23

Relationship Between the Scrolls and the New Testament


"Turning to the real relationship between the Scrolls and the New Testament, this can be presented under a threefold heading. (I) We note (a) fundamental similarities of language (both in the Scrolls and in the New Testament the faithful are called 'sons of light'); (b) ideology (both communities considered themselves as the true Israel, governed by twelve leaders, and expected the imminent arrival of the Kingdom of God); (c) attitude to the Bible (both considered their own history as a fulfillment of the words of the Prophets). However, all correspondences such as these may be due to the Palestinian religious atmosphere of the epoch, without entailing any direct influence. (2) More specific features, such as monarchic administration (i.e. single leaders, overseers at Qumran, bishops in Christian communities) and the practice of religious communism in the strict discipline of the sect and at least in the early days in the Jerusalem church (cf. Acts ii, 44-5), would suggest a direct causal connection. If so, it is likely that the young and inexperienced church modeled itself on the by then well-tried Essene society. (3) In the study of the historical Jesus, the charismatic-eschatological aspects of the Scrolls have provided the richest gleanings for comparison. For example, the Prayer of Nabonidus ... provides the most telling parallel to the Gospel account of the healing of a paralytic in Capernaum whose sins Jesus declared forgiven.

The second example is the so-called Resurrection fragment (4QS2I). In this poem, the age of the eschatological kingdom is characterized, with the help of Psalm cxlvi, 7-8 and Isaiah lxi, I, by the liberation of captives, the curing of the blind, the straightening of the bent, the healing of the wounded, the raising of the dead and the proclamation of the good news to the poor."

The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English by Geza Vermes, Penguin 1997


See also What Jesus Learned from the Essenes: The Blessing of Poverty, the Bane of Divorce by Magen Broshi BAR Jan/Feb. 2004



Box 24

Six Most Attested Biblical Books in the Qumran Library and in the New Testament

Qumran Library New Testament
Books of Hebrew Bible Number of Qumran Manuscripts Books of Hebrew Bible

Quotes & Allusions


Psalms 36 (approx.18% of biblical manuscripts at Qumran)



Deuteronomy 30 (approx.15% of biblical manuscripts at Qumran)



Genesis 20 (approx.10% of biblical manuscripts at Qumran)



Isaiah 21 (approx.10.5% of biblical manuscripts at Qumran)



Exodus 17 (approx.8.5% of biblical manuscripts at Qumran)



Leviticus 15 (approx.7.5% of biblical manuscripts at Qumran)





Christianity in its Relationship to Judaism


Second Temple Period - Part 3 Herodian Jerusalem with its Hellenistic Influences

The Greek Influence on Judaism from the Hellenistic Period Through the Middle Ages


I Ossuaries

“During the Herodian period in Jerusalem (37 BCE - 70 CE), there had been a growing belief in the coming of a Messiah and the associated idea of resurrection of the dead, as advanced by the Pharisees. It was important to keep an individual’s bones together, while allowing the flesh (which carries a person’s sins) to decay. Also, cemetery space in the rocky landscape of Jerusalem was scarce and there was the rule of "same-day" burial. To this end, it became common practice to place a corpse in a crypt for a year or so, to allow the flesh to disintegrate. The bones were then gathered and transferred to a stone box (ossuary) inside the family crypt to make way for the more recently dead.”

Maimonides on Resurrection

Ossuary of Joseph son of Caiaphas (Jerusalem; Second Temple period, 1st century CE; Limestone; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

The name of the deceased was often inscribed on the ossuary after it was decorated. In most cases, it was done by the family members and not by a professional engraver. This explains the poor quality of the inscription as compared with the decoration.

On the ossuary displayed here, the name Joseph, son of Caiaphas, was engraved twice, once on the side of the ossuary and once on its back. It is quite likely that this is indeed the ossuary of Joseph Caiaphas, the high priest from the Second Temple, known to us from the Christian Gospels as the man who arrested Jesus and handed him over to the Roman authorities.


Decorated Ossuary (Jerusalem; Second Temple period, 1st century CE; Limestone; Israel Museum Collection)

Thousands of ossuaries have been found around Jerusalem. They were carved in soft limestone quarried in the mountains around the city. The one displayed here is elaborately decorated with the common Jewish motifs of the period: rosettes, vines, geometric designs and lilies.


Ossuary of Yehohanan ben Hagkol (Jerusalem; 1st century CE; Stone; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

II. Crucifixion

Replica of the Heel Bone a Crucified Jew (Jerusalem; 1st century CE; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection) the only evidence of crucifixion found to date. (Nb this is the only replica in this exhibition).

In a burial cave excavated in Northern Jerusalem, an ossuary (burial chest) was found inscribed with the name of the deceased: Yehohanan ben Hagkol. Examination of the bones revealed that he had been executed by crucifixion.

After he died, Yehohanan's body was taken down from the cross, presumably by family members, for burial in the family tomb. The nail attaching his right foot to the post had been bent, making it impossible to remove without damaging the body. As was customary at that time, Yehohanan's bones were gathered a year later and deposited in an ossuary on which his name was incised.

Yehohanan was 24 to 28 years old at the time of his death. We know nothing about his life or the crime that led to his crucifixion.

Box 25

The Physical Death Of Jesus Christ

Study by The Mayo Clinic


"The Romans did not invent crucifixion as a method of execution, though it seems that they perfected it. .... They considered it to be the most shameful, the most painful, and the most abhorrent of all executions. The Roman statesman Cicero called it "the most cruel and disgusting penalty" (Verrem 2:5.165) and "the most extreme penalty" (Verrem 2:5.168). The Jewish historian Josephus, who certainly witnessed enough crucifixions himself, called it "the most wretched of deaths." The Roman jurist Julius Paulus listed crucifixion in first place as the worst of all capital punishments, listing it ahead of death by burning, death by beheading, or death by the wild beasts. And from Seneca we have this quotation, which is one of the most unique descriptions of a crucifixion in non-Biblical literature:

Can anyone be found who would prefer wasting away in pain dying limb by limb, or letting out his life drop by drop, rather than expiring once for all? Can any man by found willing to be fastened to the accursed tree, long sickly, already deformed, swelling with ugly wounds on shoulders and chest, and drawing the breath of life amid long drawn-out agony? He would have many excuses for dying even before mounting the cross (Dialogue 3:2.2)."The ancients considered death by crucifixion to be not just any execution, but the most obscene, the most disgraceful, the most horrific execution known to man.

"How common was crucifixion in the ancient world? Quite common, at least among the Romans. Though Roman law usually spared Roman citizens from being crucified, they used crucifixion especially against rebellious foreigners, military enemies, violent criminals, robbers, and slaves. In fact slaves were so routinely crucified that crucifixion become known as the "slaves' punishment" (servile supplicium; see Valerius Maximus 2:7.12). Appian tells us that when the slave rebellion of Spartacus was crushed, the Roman general Crassus had six thousand of the slave prisoners crucified along a stretch of the Appian Way, the main road leading into Rome
(Bella Civilia 1:120). As an example of crucifying rebellious foreigners, Josephus tells us that when the Romans were besieging Jerusalem in 70 A.D. the Roman general Titus, at one point, crucified five hundred or more Jews a day. In fact, so many Jews were crucified outside of the walls that "there was not enough room for the crosses and not enough crosses for the bodies" (Wars of the Jews 5:11.1).

"How was crucifixion actually carried out? The first thing we learn from the sources is that there was great variety in the way crucifixions were done. The main thing was to expose the victim to the utmost indignity. The Romans appear to have followed the same procedure in most cases, but even they departed from this at times. Seneca points to this reality when he writes in one place, "I see crosses there, not just of one kind but made in many different ways: some have their victims with head down to the ground; some impale their private parts; others stretch out their arms on the gibbet"
(Dialogue 6:20.3).

"So what form did a more normal crucifixion take? First came the flogging or scourging. The flogging usually was done by two soldiers using a short whip (flagrum, flagellum) that had several leather thongs of different lengths. Tied to these leather thongs were small iron balls or sharp pieces of sheep bones. The victim was stripped of his clothing and his hands were tied above him to a post. The back, legs and buttocks would then be flogged until the person collapsed. With the back and legs thus torn open there would be extensive blood loss. This blood loss from the flogging often determined how long it took the crucified person to die on the cross. The fact that Jesus was not able to carry his cross all the way, and the fact that he died in six hours, indicates that this flogging must have been especially severe. The ancient sources tell us that many some people died just from the flogging.

"Next the condemned man was made to carry his own cross to the place of crucifixion outside the city walls. This was not the whole cross, however, which probably would have weighed well over 300 pounds. The condemned man typically carried the crossbeam (patibulum) across his shoulders, shoulders that had just been ripped open by the flogging. This crossbeam would have weighed from 75-125 pounds. This procession to the site of crucifixion was ordinarily led by a complete military guard, headed by a centurion. A sign (titulus) which told what the condemned man was guilty of, was sometimes carried by a soldier and sometimes put around the condemned man's neck. Later this sign would be attached to the top of the cross.

"There is some evidence in the sources that certain cities in the Roman Empire had places of execution set up outside the walls of the city. The Roman historian Tacitus records that there was such a place in Rome on the Campus Esqulinus
(Annals 2:32.2; 15:60.1). Golgotha, outside the walls of Jerusalem, also appears to have been such a set place of execution. At these places of execution would have been permanently located the upright beam of the cross (stipes) onto which the crossbeam piece which the condemned man carried would be attached.

"When the victim reached the place of execution, by law, he was given a drink of wine mixed with myrrh (gall). This was intended to be mild narcotic that would deaden the pain. It is significant that Jesus refused this drink. The criminal was then stripped naked, thrown to the ground on his back  with his arms outstretched along the crossbeam. The hands then would either be tied or nailed to the crossbeam, but the sources clearly indicate that nailing was the Romans' preferred method. Then the victim, now nailed to the crossbeam, would be hoisted up so that the crossbeam was attached to the upright beam. Finally the feet were nailed, one on top of the other, to the upright beam with another iron spike. Jutting out from the upright beam was a small block or plank (sedile) which the crucified would straddle, thus absorbing some of the weight of the body.

"From the sources we know that there was a high cross and a short cross. The short cross was the more common and was no more than seven feet high. The fact that a soldier put a sponge on a hyssop plant to give Jesus a drink, suggests that he was crucified on a seven foot cross, since the hyssop stalk was typically 20 inches long.

"Was Jesus nailed to the cross or tied with ropes? For many years, some Christian scholars denied that Jesus had been nailed to the cross for they claimed that no evidence could be found in the ancient sources that showed that crucified victims were nailed. They held to this belief, even though the New Testament makes it clear that Jesus was nailed
(Luke 24:39; John 20:20, 24-29). Since that time, many examples of nailing have been found in the ancient sources. In addition to this, an archeological breakthrough occurred in June, 1968. For the first time ever, the remains of a crucified man were found in an ancient burial chamber in the northern portion of Jerusalem. The remains were from the time of Jesus, the first century A.D. The name of the crucified man was scratched onto the ossuary. His name was Jehohanan ben Hagqol. The nail driven through his feet was still in place in the feet. It was about 7 inches long and made of iron. Chemical examination of this nail revealed that the cross which the nail had been driven into had been made out of olive wood. Further evidence revealed that the nails had been driven, not through his palms, but through his wrists, between the radius and cubitus. The ancients considered the wrist to be part of the hand. This great archeological find clearly demonstrated once and for all that nails were used in crucifixion.

"The pain of crucifixion is not difficult to imagine. In addition to the excruciating pain from the nails, the position of the crucified on the cross led to marked interference with normal respiration, especially exhalation. Earlier I had quoted from Seneca who had described the crucified victim as "drawing the breath of life amid long drawn-out agony." The crucified person could not exhale properly and this eventually would lead to painful muscle cramps. Furthermore, adequate exhaling required the crucified to lift his body by pushing up on the feet and rotating his elbows. This, of course, resulted in searing pain in both feet and hands. Lifting of the body to properly exhale would also painfully scrape the scourged back against the rough wooden cross, probably reopening wounds and causing more bleeding. On the cross every breath would be an agonizing affair and finally in combination with exhaustion would lead to asphyxia. This also explains why the legs of the crucified were often broken, as was the case with the two robbers who were crucified with Jesus
(John 19:31-33;). The legs of the crucified were broken often out of "mercy." Without the support of their legs, the crucified were unable to raise up their bodies, which in turn made it impossible for them to exhale properly thus greatly speeding up death, often within minutes. All of this means that the seven sayings of Jesus were uttered with great difficulty, for speaking takes place during exhalation. It was hard enough for Jesus to exhale, let alone speak. But speak He did nonetheless.

"Death by crucifixion at times came quickly, but sometimes didn't come to the crucified for several days. There the crucified would hang, naked, the object of jeering and ridicule, insects landing in their mouth, eyes, and open wounds, and unable to remove them, exposed to the elements, unable to eat or drink. Crucifixion in the ancient world, as the ancients themselves tell us, was the most disgraceful and agonizing execution known to man."



See also


III. Limestone Carving in Jerusalem

Stone Table and Vessels made in JerusalemStone was used because, unlike pottery, it was not susceptible to ritual pollution under ancient Jewish laws of purity.

See ;;;


Stone Table (Jerusalem; 1st century CE; Stone; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

This type of table is made in the Roman style (monopodia), with a rectangular top resting on a central support in the form of a column. The front side of the tabletop is adorned with a carved decoration of a leaf motif.

Nb. The table, made of stone for Jewish theological reasons, was of Roman type supported by a typical Greco-Roman column.

Carved Mug (Jerusalem; Second Temple period, 1st century CE; Stone; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

Mugs were some of the most common stone items made in Jerusalem. They came in different sizes, usually of the same shape, which is why they have been dubbed "measuring cups." The large quantities found suggest, however, that they were intended for daily use rather than for measuring. They were carved with a chisel, probably imitating the shape of a wooden vessel common at the time.

Bowl (Massada; Second Temple period, 1st century CE; Stone; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

Most stone vessels were simple and relatively cheap, meant for everyday purposes. This is also true of this chiseled shaped bowl, found in Massada in the Judean desert. It was probably manufactured in Jerusalem and taken to Massada by the Jews who fled there during their revolt against the Romans.

Oil Lamp (Jerusalem; Second Temple period, 1st century CE; Stone; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

The only example made of stone, this lamp is similar to a popular pottery style from the 1st century CE. It was turned on a lathe which was a common method for vessels made of this soft limestone.

Stone Jar (Jerusalem; Second Temple period, 1st century CE; Stone; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

Such large jars have been found almost exclusively in Jerusalem. They illustrate the skills of craftsmen of the time. They were turned on an especially large lathe of a type used even today in the Bethlehem region. This jar may have been used to contain water for purification rituals like the ones mentioned in the tale of the marriage at Cana: Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.

"On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine"

John 2:1-9

IV. Menorah

Menorah Engraving

Representation of the Menorah (Jerusalem; Second Temple period, 1st century BCE; Plaster; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

This piece of incised plaster bears the oldest known representation of the menorah, the seven-branched candelabrum that stood in the Second Temple in King Herod's day. It was found during archaeological digs in what is now the Jewish quarter of the old city of Jerusalem. This image was actually made when the menorah was still in the Temple-and thus by someone who had seen the menorah-perhaps one of the priests.

"On one branch there shall be three cups shaped like almond blossoms, each with calyx and petals, and on the next branch there shall be three cups shaped like almond blossoms, each with calyx and petals."
Exodus 25:33

"Make its seven lamps - the lamps shall be so mounted as to give the light on its front side."
Exodus 25:37


C. Jewish and Christian Life in the Galilee and Golan in the Byzantine Period (fourth century to mid seventh century CE[i]) – Coexistence of Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity

"Decorated amulets, oil lamps and mosaics dating from the fourth to eight century C.E. show the spread of powerful Jewish symbols: the menorah, the shofar (ram's horn), the lulav (palm branch) and etrog (citron). The followers of the new religion of Christianity also developed their own symbols during this period, seen on objects such as oil lamps and pendants adorned with the cross."

From Ancient Treasures and the Dead Sea Scrolls: About the Exhibition, Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation,  December 4, 2003

I. Background information - Destruction of the Second Temple until the Arab Conquest (70–640 C.E.)

The First Jewish Revolt against Rome (67-70 CE) resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem, the temple and of much property and many lives.  However, when the situation stabilized, Judea and Galilee remained predominantly Jewish in population.  Pharaisaic/Rabbinic Judaism, Christianity and Samaritanism continued to develop while other Second Temple sects (Sadducees and Essenes) disappeared. 

The war increased the hostility of the soldiers and the authorities toward the Jews. The Romans attempted to find and kill all Jews claiming descent from the house of David as a means of reducing the chance of further revolt. In place of the half shekel which, under Torah law, each Jew had contributed to the Temple in Jerusalem, the Romans imposed a tax of two drachmas to be paid annually into the imperial treasury for Jupiter Capitolinus whose temple was on the Capitol in Rome.

As Judea was not located on the border of the Empire, prior to the First Jewish Revolt (67-70 CE), the Romans, following their usual practice, stationed no legionary troops there.  After the suppression of the revolt, the Romans permanently stationed in Judea the tenth legion which had helped suppress the revolt.

In the wake of the war, Johanan ben Zakkai reestablished the Sanhedrin in Jabneh which became the central organ of Rabbinic leadership until the fifth century.  The country made a rapid economic and demographic recovery in the decades following the war.

 The accession of Hadrian (117) brought with it a policy of Hellenization which included  the passing of laws against oriental usages which, among other practices, prohibited circumcision.  As circumcision was required for all Jewish and Samaritan boys this was a major blow against these communities.

A major cause for Jewish distress was Hadrian’s refounding Jerusalem as a pagan city named of Aelia Capitolina

According to the Encyclopedia Judaica

“AELIA CAPITOLINA, the name given in 135 C.E. to the rebuilt city of Jerusalem, after the emperor Hadrian (Aelius Hadrianus) and the god Jupiter Capitolinus. Most scholars agree that its construction began before the Bar Kokhba War, this being one of the causes for the revolt. Yet the main work was done after and as a result of the war. Hadrian sought to deprive Jews of their rights in Jerusalem, to obliterate the Jewish character of the holy city (the name Aelia Capitolina was now used in all official edicts), and to build up a large foreign population there. He erected a sanctuary in honor of Jupiter on the Temple Mount, threatened all Jews with death if they entered the city (though an exception seems to have been made on the Ninth of Av), and set up statues of pagan deities.“


Box 26

 Bar Kochba Rebellion (132-135 CE)

"Hadrian seemed to have planned a great temple to Zeus in a newly founded city, Aelia Capitolina, on the ruined site of Jerusalem.  Such a intrusion could not have pleased the Jews. Moreover, some ancient evidence indicates that Hadrian had recently outlawed circumcision.  Josephus now fails us, and we can no longer understand clearly internal developments in Palestine, nor can we follow the military developments.   Nevertheless, it does seem that these Romanizing acts of the government, easily construed as hostile to the Jews and added to latent nationalism and messianism, ignited the second great revolt of the Jews against Rome, the Bar Cochba Revolt of 132 to 135, led by Simon ben Kosiba.  Once again the Romans raised an enormous army to put down an internal revolt. Hadrian personally led the Roman attack on the rebels and brought to fruition the foundation of Aelia Capitolina, but at tremendous loss of life and property.

"In the aftermath of the Bar Cochba Revolt, the Romans excluded Jews from a large area around Aelia Capitolina, which Gentiles only inhabited.   The province now hosted two legions and many auxiliary units, two colonies, and--to complete the disassociation with Judaea--a new name, Syria Palaestina.  The center of Jewish settlement moved northward to Galilee and Gaulanitis.  The number of Jewish communities elsewhere declined, and many once-Jewish towns became Gentile or received large numbers of Gentile inhabitants.... After 135 the Jews no longer had political, urban, or territorial institutions that could support another revolt, but they managed to maintain national identity as a result of the growth of rabbinical institutions and the patriarchate in the Galilee" 

From which also includes photos and maps

After the Bar Kochba rebellion the Roman army drove almost all the remaining Jews out of Judea.  The Romans renamed the province Palestine and refounded Jerusalem as a Greek pagan city named Aelia Capitolina in which Jews were not permitted to live.


An additional legion, the Sexta Ferrata, was stationed at the entrance to the Valley of Jezreel.

It is estimated that the Bar Kokhba War resulted in the elimination of about two-thirds of the Jewish population of Judea. By 135 BCE, within the historic Land of Israel, the Jews had become a minority in all regions except the Galilee in which area the Jewish proportion of the population would continue to slowly decline from about 80 percent Jewish (about half Greek-speaking and half Aramaic-speaking) and 20 percent others.  These others would be mostly Greek-speaking pagans but would have included some Greek or Aramaic speaking Samaritans and Christians. By the late Byzantine period the Galilean population would have been about 80 percent Christian with most of the remaining 20 percent being Jews.  However,  it would have also probably included some Samaritan communities.  The temple cult had been destroyed and no trace was left of Jewish sovereignty.  In this context, Rabbinic Judaism would build up a "virtual Israel" of adhering Jews wherever they might be living and whoever might be the rulers of their places.  They had become what Toynbee called an "internal proletariat" which felt itself in but not of the society, and which received its inspiration from the Torah and the ancient traditions of Israel.


Hellenistic Culture as the Rabbis Experienced it Under the Pagan Roman Empire (First to Fourth Centuries CE)

Eating in the Byzantine period.



Box 27

Jewish Galilee to Christian Galilee (324-600 CE)

In 324 CE the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and became the first Christian ruler of the Holy Land

 “The possibility that 'the empire shall fall into ‘heresy' appeared to the authors of the Mishnah as one of the disasters which would announce the coming of the Messiah, but never as something which could really occur at any given moment. …the pagan religions were by their nature ready to accept the faith of Israel as one more national religion among many. In this way a modus vivendi was achieved in practice….Things were different when Judaism and Christianity confronted each other. The new faith took from Judaism one element, monotheism, and another-internationalism-from the pagan world. As a result there arose a new kind of religion, which attempted to dominate all nations because of its universal aspect, and at the same time denied the validity of any other faith, because its God was a 'jealous God' who admitted no other. The … Christians were convinced that 'the City of God' was infinitely more important than happiness on earth. As eternal happiness was reserved only for Christian believers, it was the duty of the State to save the souls of its citizens whether they wished it or not. The State might use the law, or even physical force, to bring about this happy result. … As a result of a combination of religious and political calculations the Roman state took the church as a partner, and abandoned its tolerant attitude towards the Jews; this was part of the price paid by the emperors for the alliance with the ecclesiastical authorities. The Jews now lost the freedom of choice, the basis of their political possibilities. They were forced into a position without issue. They were accounted henceforward natural enemies of the State, as people whom it did not pay to appease and as permanent allies of every enemy of Rome….

“With the rise of Christianity Palestine became the Holy Land of two faiths. According to the Christian view, the church represented the true Israel, and all the heritage of the Patriarchs, including the land of Canaan, was rightly theirs. The appearance of this second claimant changed entirely the moral status of the country. It now became an object of controversy between Judaism and Christianity, and remained thus for several centuries. …

“When the first anti-Jewish laws were passed in the time of Constantine, all Jewry was seized with trepidation… The Christian state did but little to endanger the material existence of the Jews. … The assault on Judaism, to be distinguished from that on individual Jews, developed in two directions. This was in conformity with the two forms in which the life of the nation expressed itself. One was an attack on the local Jewish communities, which were concentrated around their synagogues. The other was directed against the patriarchate as the central institution of Judaism. …

“The synagogues were the main field of dispute between the church and the Jews. From 388 there begins a period of concentrated mob attacks on Jewish places of worship, usually instigated by zealous Christian preachers. At first the government reacted with vigour. The Christian leaders were ordered to restore the buildings at their own expense. The attacks did not however cease. Ten separate edicts had to be published in the years 393-426 which were intended to protect the synagogues and the right of the Jews to pray in them. The unceasing efforts of the ecclesiastical leaders, however, in the end wore down government resistance. …

“An important change occurred in Palestine…the majority of the population now became Christian. …(At) the time of the accession of Constantine the adherents of the new religion were still relatively few.  The efforts of the first two Christian emperors to change this situation remained largely without effect…..In the fifth century, however, there was a rapid increase… The monks were called upon to carry out the missionary task. … In 428 the monk Euthymius founded the first monastery in the Judaean desert, and monasticism became endemic in the country. Christianity in Palestine derived strength also from another source. Disasters had befallen the western half of the empire in the beginning of the fifth century, such as the German and the Hun invasions…. The refugees strengthened the Christian element in Palestine with their numbers, their wealth and their social position, all of which influenced the local officials. (Thus) a Christian majority was thus being created in Palestine….”

The Jews of Palestine: A Political History from the Bar Kokhba War to the Arab Conquest by M. Avi-Yonah,

Basil Blackwell,  Oxford 1976


See also Jacob Neusner on Genesis Rabbah


As noted above, after, 135 CE the major concentration of Jewish population in the land was in the Galilee with a secondary center in the Golan which had been known in the First Temple Period as Bashan. The mixed Jewish, Christian, Samaritan, and pagan population shared the same languages (Greek and Aramaic) and the same material culture.

II. Jewish Symbols in the Post-Temple Period

Menorah - I would recommend  the book The Tabernacle Menorah: A Synthetic Study of a Symbol from the Biblical Cult by Carol L. Meyers

Citron (Hebrew Etrog (also pronounces ethrog or esrog)).  This is a citrus fruit that is similar in appearance to a lemon.  It is used, together with the lulav, in celebrating the Feast of Booths (Hebrew Sukkot).  Picture of ethrog.


Lulav - a palm branch bound together with short twigs from the myrtle and willow trees.   It is used, together with the citron, in celebrating the Feast of Booths. Ancient mosaic of lulav and ethrog. The four species used in celebrating the Feast of Booths.


Ya'eh - "a small shovel like those used in connection with modern fireplaces for cleaning away the ashes ... or for carrying live coals to start a new fire." (from). This is a symbol of the destroyed temple.  You can see it on the mosaic floor on the left of the entrance to the reading room which contains the modern Sefer Torah

Shofar - ram's horn

Gold Glass Base with Jewish Symbols  (Rome?; 4th century CE; Glass, gold leaf; Israel Museum Collection, Jerusalem)

This is the base of a bowl or goblet, decorated with several Jewish symbols. The upper register has two lions flanking the Torah Ark of a synagogue, while the lower register shows two menorahs (7-branched candelabra which burned oil in cups at the end of each branch), a shofar , a lulav, an etrog and two amphorae (clay jars used to store oil and wine). The inscription reads

"Drink, live, Elares."

Many similar pieces have been found in the plaster walls of the Roman catacombs, probably placed there to identify the buried remains. Of the hundreds found, most have Christian motifs biblical scenes, animals or a portrait of the deceased. Only about a dozen bear Jewish motifs.

Hexagonal Flask (Provenance unknown; 6th-7th century CE; Glass; Israel Museum Collection, Jerusalem)

Starting in the 4th century CE, glass containers and jewellery featuring religious symbols, appeared in Syria-Palestine. There were Christian symbols, such as crosses, or Jewish symbols such as the menorah on this flask. This type of container might have been used by pilgrims to carry water or oil from holy places.

Amuletic Pendant with Menorah (Provenance unknown; 4th-5th century CE; Glass; Israel Museum Collection, Jerusalem)

Worn as a pendant, the menorah was often thought to protect its owner and bring luck.

Plaque with Menorah (Rome; 4th-5th century CE; Glass; Israel Museum Collection, Jerusalem)

The motif impressed on this glass disk is the menorah within a wreath. This disk, probably of Egyptian origin, adorned a glass vessel.

Amuletic Pendant with Menorah (Provenance unknown; 4th-5th century CE; Bronze; The Reifenberg collection, Israel Museum)

The obverse of the amulet is adorned with the menorah, a shofar and a lulav. The Greek inscription on the reverse reads: "For the welfare of lady Matrona".

Oil Lamp with Menorah and Shofar (Provenance unknown; 3rd - 4th century CE; Pottery; Israel Museum Collection)

This lamp is decorated with two Jewish motifs. The elaborate menorah has flames at the tip of its branches while the shofar is executed in a schematic style.

Oil Lamp with Menorah (Nazareth, Galilee; 4th-5th century CE; Pottery; The Reifenberg collection, Israel Museum,)

The handle of this oil lamp is decorated with menorah. The spout is adorned with the Basket of first fruits - brought as an offering to the Temple.

"When you have come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, "Today I declare to the LORD your God that I have come into the land that the LORD swore to our ancestors to give us." When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the LORD your God, you shall make this response before the LORD your God: "A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous"

Deuteronomy 26:1-5

Amuletic Cross Pendant (Galilee, el-Makr; 6th- 7th century CE; Bronze; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

Oil Lamp with Cross (Provenance unknown; Byzantine Period (326-636 CE); Pottery; The Israel Museum Collection)

Oil Lamp with Cross (Beth Shean; 5th-6th century CE; Bronze; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

Carved Menorah (Synagogue of Hammat by Tiberias, Galilee; 4th-5th century CE; Stone; Israel Museum Collection)

At the tip of each branch, this high-relief menorah has a hollow to hold an oil lamp, probably a small glass beaker. It is the only one of its kind ever found. The alternating pomegranate and flower design is inspired by the biblical description of the menorah: "On one branch there shall be three cups shaped like almond-blossoms, each with calyx and petals." (Exodus 25:33).

Fragment of a Synagogue Screen (Ashkelon, southern coast; 6th-7th century CE; Marble; Collection of the Deutsches Evangelisches Institut furAltertumswissenschaft des Heiligen Landes, Jerusalem)

Screens were used in both synagogues and churches of the time. This fragment was the upper part of such a screen. It comes from a synagogue and is decorated with Jewish symbols: a menorah, a lulav (palm branch), an etrog and a shofar . All these objects played important roles during ceremonies in the Temple and are still part of Jewish religious practice.


III. Hebrew and Latin Bibles

16th-century Hebrew Rabbinic Bible. Former Prophets (In Hebrew Mikra 'at Gedolot. Nevi'im Rishonim) (Printed by Daniel Bomberg in Venice, 1524-1525; Jacob M. Lowy Collection, National Library of Canada)

In the Hebrew Bible, the story of David is told in Samuel 2 and concludes with David's old age at the beginning of Kings. Supplied with Aramaic translation, Masoretic annotations to preserve the accuracy of the text, and rabbinic commentaries. This second edition of the Venetian Mikra 'ot Gedolot remained the standard Masoretic Hebrew text into the twentieth century. The commentators on these pages are the great French medieval scholars Rashi (R. Shelomo Yitshaki, 1040-1105), Radak (R. David Kimhi, ca. 1160-ca. 1235) and Ralbag (R. Levi ben Gershom, 1288-1344).

Latin Bible. Book of Kings (Jacob M.Lowy Collection, National Library of Canada)

Completed by the printer Anton Koberger in Nuremberg on August 6, 1479.

Jerome's Latin translation of the Bible was completed in 405 CE. HE was living in Palestine and had studied Hebrew with a rabbi. The Books of Samuel and Kings were the first of the Hebrew Bible to be rendered into Latin from the original, in 390 CE.

From the 13th century on, Jerome's translation was known as the Vulgate, the standard authoritative Bible of the Roman church. Printer Anton Koberger's version is noteworthy among the earliest printed Vulgate editions for its textual accuracy. The story of David is recounted in Kings 1-3, printed magisterially with Gothic typeface, and delicately decorated in colour by hand.


IV. In the Synagogue - Architecture, Symbols, Mosaics etc.

Although traditional Jewish law prohibits the use of figurative art, the interiors of many synagogues were decorated with mosaics bearing human figures, scenes from the Bible, or even the zodiac.

a. Architecture

i. Synagogue Architecture

"Synagogues constructed between the 1st through 4th centuries resembled temples and secular buildings in the eastern Roman Empire. It also appears that they had uniformity in their plan and style. Discoveries of synagogue remains in rural areas from Galilee to the Golan Heights support this design uniformity. The decorations of urban synagogues were clearly influenced by classical traditions (Foerster 198: 139). Their architectural “concept” is very similar to assembly places, audience halls, and various religious buildings of the Graeco-Roman World." Art and Architecture of Synagogues of Late Antiquity

Presumably the synagogue Chancel Screen separated the end of the building housing the Sefer Torah Ark from the remainder in which the congregation prayed.


ii. Church Architecture

"The earliest or first Christians were Jews well aware of the practices of the Temple in Jerusalem and of the synagogues in the diaspora, which separated the officiating priesthood from the believers through use of veils and/or other barriers. The first Christians had no churches in the form of separate buildings dedicated to public worship, but met on the first day of the week in the houses of the faithful to celebrate the Eucharist and to enjoy the agape meal which followed. Roman Emperor Constantine's Edict of Milan in 313 freed the Church from sporatic persecution and established it as beneficiary of the favor and support of the Roman state. The old domicilial church yielded to the expectations and needs of the new age in accommodating large numbers of converts as well as the new role of the Church in society. The Emperor insisted that the churches of the new order resemble in dignity and splendor the best of public buildings of that age. Toward that end, Christians began to appropriate for their use the only architectural design suitable for accommodating large numbers of worshipers, namely the basilica, a style of construction used in the Empire for functions of state. temples, which housed idols, had no need to accommodate large numbers of devotees. Accordingly it provided no model for Christian uses. The basilica, on the contrary, was eminently suited for public worship. In the early 4th century, the basilica consisted of a long, timber roofed hall which terminated at one end in a apse elevated above the rest of the interior for the accommodation of public magistrates serving in their official capacities. Such a structure created sufficient interior space to meet the needs of the Church of that time and consequently it became the design of choice for many centuries.

4th Century Basilica

"The basilica was easily adapted to the purposes of the new religion. It could be divided into three functional areas - 1) the narthex or entrance area in which the baptisms took place, 2) the main part of the basilica, called the nave, for the accommodation of large numbers of worshipers, and 3) at the raised apse end the holy place or sanctuary, also called bema or chancel, for the celebration of the Holy Mysteries. ...

Byzantine Chancel Screen
Byzantine Chancel Screen

"In the ancient Byzantine churches and for several centuries thereafter the clergy and the people representing respectively heaven and earth were separated by a low wall about four feet high called a chancel screen. This was not a solid barrier ... but a low parapet set between taller, free-standing columns which carried an architrave at a higher level resting on top of the columns. At no time was there any attempt through use of this structure to exclude the faithful from a full view of the clergy celebrating the Holy Mysteries. On the contrary, the visual access through the chancel screen was actually improved by the elevated platform of the sanctuary which provided the faithful with a good view of the sacerdotal proceedings behind the screen."

Similar Christian and Jewish Chancel Screens from the Byzantine Period

The architecture and furnishings of early Jewish synagogues and Christian churches have many resemblances. The two communities called on the same craftspeople, and used the same materials and sometimes even similar ornamentation.

These two chancel screens have a laurel wreath in the centre. Only the main Jewish and Christian symbols indicate which one comes from a synagogue and which one from a church. The sites in which they were found are more than 300 km distant from each other.

Synagogue Chancel Screen (Hammat Gader, the Golan; 5th century CE; Stone; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

This Jewish screen bears a menorah in its wreath. The ribbons end in ivy leaves.

Church Chancel Screen (Massuot Yizhaq, the Negev; 6th century CE; Marble; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

This Christian screen bears a cross with lilies in its wreath, flaked by two more crosses. The ribbons end in ivy leaves.

b. Mosaics

The major institutions of Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity were the synagogue and church respectively. “Jews and Christians assimilated into their lives the art forms of the Byzantine culture. We find mosaics showing people, animals, menorahs, zodiacs, and Biblical characters.”

Mosaic Floor with Jewish Symbols (Hulda; 5th century CE; Stone; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

This section of a floor comes from a Jewish public building and bears the Jewish symbols common at the time: a menorah, in the middle, an incense shovel, a lulav (palm branch), a shofar (ram's horn) and an etrog (citron). In the middle is a blessing in Greek: "Blessing to the People".

Mosaic floors were typical of the Byzantine period and decorated both synagogues and churches-buildings whose rather sober exteriors frequently concealed sumptuous interiors. It is unusual to find such religious symbols in a secular building, however.

Byzantine Mosaic Representing David (Synagogue of Merot, Upper Galilee; 5th century CE; Stone; Israel Antiquities Authority Collection)

The young warrior wearing a Roman tunic is surrounded by a sword, shield and helmet. He is commonly identified as the young David with Goliath's battle gear. Mosaics of biblical scenes frequently adorned synagogue floors of the Byzantine period. This one is probably related to the story of David's victory over the giant Goliath, recounted at length in the 1st Book of Samuel, chapter 17, a story that has inspired many artists.

The Aramaic inscription reads "Shimon son of Yudan Mani," probably the name of the man who donated the floor to the synagogue.

For additional information on mosaics see

Interpreting an Ancient Mosaic

Tsippori - the Roman Capital of Galilee (stunning mosaics)


Superb Mosaic Showing Sefer Torah Ark, Etrog, Lulav and Ya'eh


c. Astrology and Zodiacs


D. Sepher Torah (Torah Scroll) and Reading Room - The Survival of Rabbinic Judaism and its Flourishing Transplantation to Canada

"The exhibition ends with a magnificent seventeenth-century Sepher Torah - a parchment scroll containing the five books of Moses, belonging to Canada's first Jewish community - and a Latin Bible from 1479, loaned by the Library and Archives of Canada from the Jacob M. Lowy Collection, the country's national collection of rare Hebraica and Judaica."

From Ancient Treasures and the Dead Sea Scrolls: About the Exhibition, Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation,  December 4, 2003

Sepher Torah - Late 17th - early 18th century

National Archives of Canada

Gift of the Spanish and Portuguese Shearith Israel Corporation of Montreal

"When he takes the throne of his kingdom,

he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law

[ ... ] It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life..."

Deuteronomy 17: 18-19

This very old Sefer Torah, almost 44 metres long, was written on tanned leather, probably goatskin or sheepskin, perhaps in North Africa. It belonged to Canada's first Jewish congregation, founded in Montreal in 1768. It was given to them in 1779 by an older congregation of Jews originally from Spain and Portugal, established in London.

The Sefer Torah comprises the first five book of the Hebrew Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy (known as the Pentateuch in Christian Tradition). The Pentateuch describes the background, nature and rules of the covenant between the God of Israel and the People of Israel.  It remains the only major biblical text read publicly in synagogue.  It is stored in a Sefer Torah Ark. The complete scroll is read on a one year cycle. To be valid (kosher in Hebrew) for reading in synagogue it must be copied by hand onto tanned leather or parchment scrolls according to the ancient scribal regulations.  The earliest known compendium of these regulations is in the Talmudic Minor Tractate Sofrim.


"Discover the Art of the Scribe

February 29, March 7, March 14,

March 21 – 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.,

1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Artist and scribe Rabbi Elie Benzaquen

demonstrates the ancient arts of writing

and repairing Torah scrolls."


Box 28

Writing a Torah Scroll


 "The scrolls are written on parchment prepared from the hair side of the skin, while tefillin have been found written on parchment prepared from the flesh side of the skin. Whereas the ink is almost invariably carbonic, ink of metallic origin was used for one scroll (the Genesis Apocryphon), which is consequently in a poor state of preservation, the ink having eaten into the parchment. In some scrolls a layer of rot covers the writing, which is legible only in infrared photography."

Encyclopedia Judaica Article on the Dead Sea Scrolls


"The Torah is written on parchment manufactured from specified sections of the hide of a kosher animal. The hide consists of three layers, but only the flesh side of the inner layer and the outer side of the hairy layer may be used for Torah parchment (Shab. 79b). The method of cleaning and softening the hide, which must be of the best quality, has changed throughout the centuries. During talmudic times, salt and barley flour were sprinkled on the skins which were then soaked in the juice of gallnuts (Meg. 19a). There is, however, a reference to the use of dogs' dung for this purpose (Yal. Ex. 187). Nowadays the skins are softened by soaking them in clear water for two days after which the hair is removed by soaking the hides in limewater for nine days. Finally, the skins are rinsed and dried and the creases ironed out with presses. The processor must make a verbal declaration when soaking the skins that his action is being performed for the holiness of the Sefer Torah. Whereas reeds were used as pens in the days of the Talmud, quills are used today, the quill of the turkey feather, which is sturdy and long lasting, being preferred. The sofer cuts the point of the feather to give it a flat surface, which is desirable for forming the square letters, and then slits it lengthwise.

"The ink must be black, durable, but not indelible. During talmudic times a viscous ink was made by heating a vessel with the flame of olive oil, and the soot thus produced on the sides of the vessel was scraped off and mixed with oil, honey, and gallnuts (Shab. 23a). Ink is now made by boiling a mixture of gallnuts, gum arabic, and copper sulfate crystals. Some scribes also add vinegar and alcohol. To ensure that the letters will be straight and the lines equally spaced, 43 thin lines are drawn across the width of the parchment with a stylus and ruler. Two additional longitudinal lines are drawn at the end of the page to ensure that all the lines end equally. To enhance the appearance of the printing on the parchment a four inch margin is left at the bottom, a three inch margin at the top, and a two inch margin between the columns.

"Although there is no law regulating the number of pages or columns a Torah must have, from the beginning of the 19th century a standard pattern of 248 columns of 42 lines each was established. Each column is about five inches wide since by tradition there must be space enough to write the word MhyTHeQml (Gen. 8:19), the longest occurring in the Torah, three times.

"Before the sofer begins his daily work, he performs ritual ablution in a mikveh. To avoid mistakes talmudic soferim copied from another scroll, and according to one tradition there was a copy of the Torah kept in the Temple which scribes used as the standard (Rashi to MK 3:4, TJ, Shek. 4:3, 48a). Before commencing, the scribe tests the feather and ink by writing the name "Amalek" and crossing it out (cf. Deut. 25:19). He then makes the declaration, "I am writing the Torah in the name of its sanctity and the name of God in its sanctity." The scribe then looks into the tikkun, reads the sentence aloud, and proceeds to write it. Before writing the name of God the sofer repeats, "I am writing the name of God for the holiness of His name."

"The Torah is written in the square script known as Ketav Ashuri, of which there are two different types: the Ashkenazi, which resembles the script described in the Talmud (Shab. 104a), and the Sephardi, which is identical with the printed letters of the Hebrew alphabet currently used in sacred texts. The thickness of the letters vary and it is often necessary for the sofer to make several strokes to form a letter. The scribe holds the feather sideways to make thin lines, and flat, so that the entire point writes, to make thick lines. Particular care must be given to those letters that are similar in appearance (e.g., dalet and resh) so that they can be easily distinguished. Each letter must be complete, with the exception of the "split vav" in the word shalom in Numbers 25:12. Although Hebrew is read from right to left, each individual letter in the Sefer Torah is written from left to right. Six letters are written particularly small (e.g., the alef in the first word of Lev. 1:1) and 11 letters are written very large (e.g., the bet in the first word of Gen. 1:1). There must be a space between the letters, a greater space between the words, and a nine letter gap between the portions. A four line separation is made between each of the Five Books of Moses.

"Seven of the 22 letters of the alphabet have special designs on the upper left hand corner of the letter called tagin. Shaped somewhat like the letter zayin, three such tagin are placed above the letter, touching it lightly. The center tag is slightly higher than the two on the ends. The Torah contains no vowels or punctuation marks. However, there are a number of dots over several words (e.g., Deut. 29:28; see Tikkun Soferim). There are two shirot or songs in the Torah which are written in unique fashion. Shirat ha-Yam (Ex. 15:1–19) has a nine letter gap in the middle of each sentence, and these gaps are so spaced that they appear like "half bricks set over whole bricks" (Meg. 16b; Shab. 103b). Shirat Ha'azinu (Deut. 32:1–43) also contains a nine letter separation in the middle of each sentence, but these blank spaces form a single space down the center of the entire column.

"After the copying of the Torah has been completed, the sheets of parchment are sewn together with giddin, a special thread made of tendon tissue taken from the foot muscles of a kosher animal. Every four pages are sewn together to form a section or yeri'ah. These sections of parchment are sewn on the outer side of the parchment, with one inch left unsewn both at the very top and bottom. To reinforce the giddin, thin strips of parchment are pasted on the top and bottom of the page. After connecting the sheets the ends are tied to wooden rollers, called azei hayyim, by inserting the giddin in holes in the rollers. The ez hayyim consists of a center pole, with handles of wood and flat circular rollers to support the rolled-up scroll. Besides serving as a means of rolling the scroll, the azei hayyim also prevent people from touching the holy parchment with their hands. In oriental and some Sephardi communities, the flat rollers are not employed since the Torah scrolls are kept in an ornamental wooden or metal case (tik)."

Encyclopedia Judaica Article on the Dead Sea Scrolls


Box 29

Torah and Reading of the Torah

 The word Torah has various meaning. While in the narrowest sense it refers to the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, it can also designate Jewish religious tradition in its entirety.  Orthodox Jews believe that both the Written Torah (the Pentateuch) and Oral Torah (the tradition of how to interpret the written Torah) are the immutable and eternal word of God given to Moses at Mount Sinai.

Modern critical scholars consider that the Pentateuch was gradually developed, from earlier written and oral traditions, commencing sometime between the ninth and seventh centuries BCE and reaching its final form sometime before the Hellenistic period i.e. between the late sixth and early fourth centuries BCE.

The Book of Deuteronomy calls for a public reading of the Torah once in seven years

'Then Moses wrote down this law, and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel. Moses commanded them: "Every seventh year, in the scheduled year of remission, during the festival of booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people--men, women, and children, as well as the aliens residing in your towns--so that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God and to observe diligently all the words of this law, and so that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as you live in the land that you are crossing over the Jordan to possess."'

Deuteronomy 31:9-13

The first resort to, and public reading of, a book of the law (usually assumed to be an early form of the Book of Deuteronomy) was in the context of the Deuteronomic Reform in the late 7th century BCE.

'Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign. The high priest Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, "I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD." ….When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his clothes. Then the king commanded ... "Go, inquire of the LORD for me, for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our ancestors did not obey the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us." …Then the king directed that all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem should be gathered to him. The king went up to the house of the LORD, and with him went all the people of Judah, all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the priests, the prophets, and all the people, both small and great; he read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant that had been found in the house of the LORD. The king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the LORD, to follow the LORD, keeping his commandments, his decrees, and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. All the people joined in the covenant."

From 2 Kings 22

Jewish tradition credits Ezra with establishing public readings of the Torah.  In fact, the incident recorded (see immediately below) in the Book of Nehemiah, probably in the mid 5th century BCE, may mark the finalization of the Torah and its formal acceptance as the basis of Judaism.

"All the people gathered together into the square before the Water Gate. They told the scribe Ezra to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had given to Israel. Accordingly, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding. This was on the first day of the seventh month. He read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law."

Nehemiah 8:1-3


"The destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. produced a crisis of faith, because ordinary folk supposed that the god of the conquerors had conquered the God of Israel. Israelite prophets saw matters otherwise. Israel had been punished for her sins, and it was God who had carried out the punishment. God was not conquered but vindicated. The pagans were merely his instruments. God could, moreover, be served anywhere, not only in the holy and promised land of Israel. Israel in Babylonian exile continued the cult of the Lord through worship, psalms, and festivals; the synagogue, a place where God was worshipped without sacrifice, took shape. The Sabbath became Israel's sanctuary, the seventh day of rest and santification for God. When, for political reasons, the Persians chose to restore Jewry to Palestine, and many returned (ca. 500 B.C.), the Jews were not surprised, for they had been led by prophecy to expect that with the expiation of sin through suffering and atonement, God would once more show mercy and bring them homeward. The prophets' message was authenticated by historical events.

"In the early years of the Second Temple (ca. 450 B.C.), Ezra, the priest-scribe, came from Babylonia to Palestine and brought with him the Torah-book, the collection of ancient scrolls of law, prophecy, and narrative. Jews resolved to make the Torah the basis of national life. The Torah was publicly read on New Year's Day in 444 B.C., and those assembled pledged to keep it. Along with the canonical Scriptures, oral traditions, explanations, instructions on how to keep the law, and exegeses of Scripture were needed to apply the law to changing conditions of everyday life. A period of creative interpretation of the written Torah began, one which has yet to come to conclusion in the history of Judaism. From that time forward the history of Judaism became the history of the interpretation of Torah and its message for each successive age."

From The Way of Torah: An Introduction to Judaism by Jacob Neusner, Dickenson,Encino, California, and Belmont, California 1974


Box 30

The Laws of the Torah and those of the Ancient Near East


 "If, as the (Jewish) Sages frequently stated, God employed the everyday language of human beings to communicate His will, then there is no section of the Torah in which this principle is more patently manifest than in the collections of legal ordinances. Extant corpora of laws, records of court proceeding, and judicial decisions provide ample evidence to prove that in its external form-in legal draftsmanship, in its terminology and phraseology-the Torah followed long-established, widespread, standardized patterns of Mesopotamian law....

"The affinities and analogues that abound berween the Israelite and the other Near Eastern law collections tend to obscure the fundamental distinctions that exist between the two.... First and foremost is the essential fact that biblical law is the expression of the covenant between God and Israel. Several important consequences flow from this. The legal sections of the Torah cohere with the Exodus narratives and cannot be separated from them without losing their integrity and identity. Their sole source and sanction is divine will, not the wisdom and power of a human monarch. As imperatives of a transcendent, sovereign God who freely entered into a covenanted relationship with His people, the laws are eternally binding on both the individual and society as a whole. Hence the public nature of the law. There can be no monopoly on the knowledge of the law, and the study of it is a religious obligation. Further, there can be no differentiation between the branches of public and private law and between both of them and religion and morality. All topics that fall under any of these rubrics are equally binding. Law is not severed from morality and religion.

"As to the laws substance, the Torah forbids vicarious punishments and multiple penalties. Apart from the special category of the slave, it demands equal justice for all, irrespective of social status. Finally, whereas the Near Eastern laws place great stress on the importance of property, the Torah's value system favors the paramount sacredness of human life."

Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Law by Nahum Sarna in Etz Hayim: Torah and Commentary. thae Rabbinical Assembly-United Synagogue of conservative Judaism, Jewish Publication Society 2001


"Between the Code and the Law of Moses, especially in the so-called Book of the Covenant (Exodus 20:22-23:33), there are indeed extraordinary parallels. We might mention here the following examples:

Exodus 21:2:

"If thou buy a Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing." Similarly, Code of Hammurabi, section 117: "If a man become involved in debt, and give his wife, his son or his daughter for silver or for labor, they shall serve three years in the house of their purchaser or bondmaster: in the fourth year they shall regain their freedom."

Exodus 21:15:

"And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death." Compare Code of Hammurabi, section 195: "If a son strike his father, his hand shall be cut off."

Exodus 21:18 f:

"And if men contend, and one smite the other with a stone, or with his fist, and he die not, but keep his bed; if he rise again, and walk abroad upon his staff, then shall he that smote him be quit: only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed." Compare Code of Hammurabi, section 206: "If a man strike another man in a noisy dispute and wound him, that man shall swear, `I did not strike him knowingly'; and he shall pay for the physician."

Exodus 21:22:

"If men strive together, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart, and yet no harm follow; he shall surely be fined, according as the woman's husband shall lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine." Compare Code of Hammurabi, section 209: "If a man strike a free woman and cause her fruit to depart, he shall pay ten shekels of silver for her fruit."

Exodus 21:24:

"Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot." Compare Code of Hammurabi, section 196: "If a man destroy the eye of a free man, his eye shall be destroyed." section 197: "If he break the bone of a free man, his bone shall be broken." section 200: "If a man knock out the teeth of a man of the same rank, his teeth shall be knocked out."

Exodus 21:28-32:

"If an ox gore a man or a woman to death, the ox shall be surely stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be quit. But if the ox was wont to gore in time past, and it hath been testified to its owner, and he hath not kept it in, but it hath killed a man or a woman; the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death. .... If the ox gore a man-servant or a maid-servant, there shall be given unto their master 30 shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned." Compare Code of Hammurabi, sections 250: "If an ox, while going along the street, gore a man and cause his death, no claims of any kind can be made. If a man's ox be addicted to goring and have manifested to him his failing, that it is addicted to goring, and, nevertheless, he have neither blunted his horns, nor fastened up his ox; then if his ox gore a free man and cause his death, he shall give 30 shekels of silver. If it be a man's slave, he shall give 20 shekels of silver."

Exodus 22:7 reminds one of Code of Hammurabi, sections 124; Exodus 22:10 of Code of Hammurabi, sections 244 and 266 f.

The resemblances between the other parts of the Pentateuch and the Code are not so striking as those between the Code and the. Book of the Covenant; nevertheless one may compare Leviticus 19:35 f with Code of Hammurabi, section 5; Leviticus 20:10 with Code of Hammurabi, section 129; Leviticus 24:19 f with Code of Hammurabi, sections 196; Leviticus 25:39 with Code of Hammurabi, section 117; Deuteronomy 19:16 with Code of Hammurabi, sections 3; Deuteronomy 22:22 with Code of Hammurabi, section 129; Deuteronomy 24:1 with Code of Hammurabi, sections 137 and sections 148; Deuteronomy 24:7 with Code of Hammurabi, section 14; especially Deuteronomy 21:15,18, with Code of Hammurabi, sections 167, 168, where, in both cases, there is a transition from regulations concerning the property left by a man, married several times, to provisions referring to the punishment of a disobedient son, certainly a remarkable agreement in sequence.

One can hardly assert that the parallels quoted are accidental, but just as little could one say that they are directly taken from the Code; for they bear quite a definite impression due to the Israelite culture, and numerous marked divergences also exist. ... Under no circumstances may one suppose here direct quotation. Single parts of the Laws of Moses, especially the Decalogue (Exodus 20), with its particularly pointed conciseness, have no parallel in Code of Hammurabi."



Box 31

Pentateuch - The Documentary Hypothesis

"The Torah, or Pentateuch (Five Scrolls), traditionally the most revered portion of the Hebrew canon, comprises a series of narratives, interspersed with law codes, providing an account of events from the beginning of the world to the death of Moses. Modern critical scholarship tends to hold that there were originally four books (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers) resulting from the division into manageable scrolls—a so-called Tetrateuch—to which later was added a fifth scroll, or book, Deuteronomy....

"The traditional Jewish and Christian view has been that Moses was the author of the five books...

"...modern literary analysis and criticism of the texts has pointed up significant differences in style, vocabulary, and content, apparently indicating a variety of original sources for the first four books, as well as an independent origin for Deuteronomy. According to this view, the Tetrateuch is a redaction primarily of three documents: the Yahwist, or J (after the German spelling of Yahweh); the Elohist, or E; and the Priestly code, or P.... According to this hypothesis, these documents—along with Deuteronomy (labelled D)—constituted the original sources of the Pentateuch. On the basis of internal evidence, it has been inferred that J and E are the oldest sources (perhaps going as far back as the 10th century BCE), probably in that order, and D and P the more recent ones (to about the 5th century BCE). Genesis, Exodus, and Numbers are considered compilations of J, E, and P, with Leviticus assigned to P and Deuteronomy to D.... It is inferred from certain internal evidence that E was produced in the northern kingdom (Israel) in the 8th century BCE and was later combined with J.... The third major document of the Tetrateuch, the Priestly code, or P, is very different from the other two. Its narrative is frequently interrupted by detailed ritual instructions, by bodies of standing laws of a ritual character, and by dry and exhaustive genealogical lists of the generations. According to one theory, the main author of P seems to have worked in the 7th century and to have been the editor who combined the J and E narratives; for his own part, he is content to add some brief, drab records—with frequent dates—of births, marriages, and migrations. The P material is to be found not merely in Leviticus but throughout the Tetrateuch, including the early chapters of Genesis and one of the creation accounts and ranging from the primeval history (Adam to Noah) to the Mosaic era. Like the Elohist, P uses the term Elohim for God until the self-naming of God to Moses (Exodus, chapter 3, in the P strand) and shows a non-anthropomorphic transcendent stress.

"The Deuteronomist, or D, has a distinctive hortatory style and vocabulary, calling for Israel's conformity with YHWH's covenant laws and stressing his election of Israel as his special people (for a detailed consideration of D, see below Deuteronomy: Introductory discourse). To the Deuteronomist or the Deuteronomic school is also attributed the authorship of the Former Prophets (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings), which scholars call the “Deuteronomic history
Encyclopedia Britannica 2003

Further see Who Wrote the Bible? by Richard E. Friedman (Paperback )



Box 32

The Spirit of Torah

"For ever after, in every generation everyman must think of himself as having gone forth trom Egypt (from the Haggadah – Passover seder liturgy)"

"As elsewhere, so here we read words that come to one generation after another as if addressed particularly to its own time and place. What is remarkable about the mythic life of the Judaic tradition is the capacity of historic events to produce recurrent, consistent responses, indeed to evoke a single response from varied and unrelated people in all sorts of places."

"Israel was born in historical time. Historians, biblical scholars, archaeologists have much to say about that event.  But to the classical Jew, their findings, while interesting, have little bearing on the meaning of reality. The redemptive promise that stood by the forefathers and stands by us is not a mundane historical event, but a mythic interpretation of historical, natural events:. Oppression, homelessness, extermination, like salvation, homecoming, renaissance-these are this worldly and profane, supplying headlines for newspapers. The myth that a man must think of himself as having gone forth from Egypt (or as we shall see, from Auschwitz) and as being redeemed by God renders ordinary experience into a moment of celebration. If "we, too, the living, have been redeemed," then the observer no longer witnesses only historical men in historical time, but an eternal return to sacred time."

"The mythic structure, built upon the themes of creation, revelation, and redemption, finds expression not only in synagogue liturgy, but especially in concrete, everyday actions, or action-symbols, deeds that embody and express the fundamental mythic life of the classical Judaic tradition. These action-symbols are set forth in halakhah. This word is normally translated as "law," for the halakhah is full of normative, prescriptive rules about what one must do and refrain from doing in every situation of life, at every moment of the day. But halakhah derives from the root halakh, which means "go," and a better translation would be "way." The halakhah is "the way": the way man lives his life, the way man shapes his daily routine into a pattern of sanctity, the way man follows the revelation of the Torah and attains redemption....

"For the Judaic tradition, this way is absolutely central. Belief without the expression of belief in the workaday world is of limited consequence. The purpose of revelation is to create a kingdom of priests and a holy people. The foundation of that kingdom, or sovereignty, is the rule of God over the lives of men.  For the Judaic tradition, God rules, much as men do, by guiding men on the path of life, not by removing them from the land of living.  Creation lies behind, redemption in the future; Torah is for here and now. To the classical Jew, Torah means revealed law, commandment, accepted by Israel and obeyed from Sinai to the end of days."

"The spirit of the Jewish way, halakhah, is conveyed in many modes, for law is not divorced from values, but rather concretizes man's beliefs and ideals."

"Rava's (a famous talmudic rabbi) interpretation of the Scripture "and there shall be faith in thy times, strength, salvation, wisdom and knowledge" (Isaiah 33:6) provides one glimpse into the life of the classical Jew who followed the way of Torah. The first consideration is ethical: Did the man conduct himself faithfully? The second is study of Torah, not at random but everyday, systematically, as a discipline of life. Third comes the raising of a family, for celibacy and abstinence from sexual life were regarded as sinful, but the full use of man's creative powers for the procreation of life was a commandment. Nothing God made was evil. Wholesome conjugal life was a blessing. But, fourth, merely living day-by-day according to an upright ethic was not sufficient. It is true that man must live by a holy discipline, but the discipline itself was only a means. The end was salvation. Hence the pious man was asked to look forward to salvation, aiming his deeds, directing his heart, toward a higher goal. Wisdom and insight-these complete the list, for without them, the way of Torah was a life of mere routine, rather than a constant search for deeper understanding....

 From The Way of Torah: An Introduction to Judaism by Jacob Neusner, Dickenson,Encino, California, and Belmont, California 1974



Annex 1

History Archaeology and the Bible – What Really Happened and How can we Know it?


Annex 2

Complexity of Israelite-Jewish Society

First Temple Period – The complexity of Israelite society is brought out by both literary evidence and the very different life styles of the rich and poor.  Tensions between rich and poor, powerful and weak, the court and the priestly elites could be quite severe (see Isaiah and Amos in the Bible).  Mixed in with this were repeated attempts to “purify” the religion by banning ancient practices, shifting from a priestly cum prophecy based religion to one based on a sacred text and centralizing all sacrifice in Jerusalem.

Second Temple Period – the complexity and disunity in this period is well portrayed by the first century CE Jewish historian Flavius Josephus.  It is also illustrated by the unique worldview and life style of the Qumranites and by Jesus seen as a religious reformer with a strong interest (as was the case with First Temple prophets) in the poor and downtrodden.

“In 168 B.C.E., the Maccabees (or Hasmoneans), led by Judah Maccabee, wrested Judea from the rule of the Seleucids--Syrian rulers who supported the spread of Greek religion and culture. The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah commemorates the recapture of Jerusalem by the Maccabees and the consecration of the Temple in 164 B.C.E. The Maccabees ruled Judea until Herod took power in 37 B.C.E.

Josephus divided Judeans into three main groups (see chapt 8):


The Sadducees were priestly and aristocratic families who interpreted the law more literally than the Pharisees. They dominated the Temple worship and its rites, including the sacrificial cult. The Sadducees only recognized precepts derived directly from the Torah as binding. They, therefore, denied the concept of the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body, and the existence of angels. The Sadducees were unpopular with the common people.


The Pharisees, unlike the Sadducees, maintained the validity of the oral as well as the written law. They were flexible in their interpretations and willing to adapt the law to changing circumstances. They believed in an afterlife and in the resurrection of the dead. By the first century C.E., the Pharisees came to represent the beliefs and practices of the majority of Palestinian Jewry.


The Essenes were a separatist group, some of whom formed an ascetic monastic community and retreated to the wilderness of Judea. They shared material possessions and occupied themselves with disciplined study, worship, and work. They practiced ritual immersion and ate their meals communally. One branch did not marry.

In 6 C.E., Rome formed Judea, Samaria, and Idumea into one province governed by procurators. A Judean revolt against Rome in 66 C.E. was quickly put down. Qumran fell to the Roman legions in ca. 68 C.E., the Temple in 70 C.E., and Masada in 73 C.E.”

See also


Annex 3

The Importance of the Scrolls

From Encyclopedia Britannica

“The importance of the discovery is very great; the scrolls of books of the Old Testament caused a new evaluation of the history of the text of the Hebrew Bible; fragments of the Apocrypha (Sirach and Tobit) and of already known and unknown Pseudepigrapha enlarge knowledge about Jewish literature of the inter-testamental period, and the properly sectarian scrolls are important witnesses about an ancient sect that influenced, in some points, the origins of Christianity.”

Brief description of the importance of Dead Sea Scrolls on the understanding of the textual history of the Hebrew Bible  see Frank Moore Cross’ overview

“The Qumran evidence suggests that there was no unified biblical text until 68 AD when Qumran was destroyed. Commentaries were found on different versions of the Hebrew text. This suggests that the texts were regarded as authoritative although they differed. It is not known how exactly the text stabilized. The method of Bible Interpretation - developed in the Midrash in the second century AD - seems to presuppose that there is only one fixed form of biblical text. Second century texts discovered in Wadi Murrabba'at and elsewhere evidence texts that are very close to our Masoretic Text. The Hebrew Text must have been stabilized by the second century”

From The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible by Christoph Lameter

see also


The Nash Papyrus from Egypt which was written about a century before the time of Christ, and which consists of a single leaf containing the Ten Commandments. Its form is not identical with neither the Exodus nor the Deuteronomy versions. The Nash Papyrus contains also the Shema.


"The four papyrus fragments that make up the Nash Papyrus were acquired in Egypt by W. L. Nash and first described by Stanley A. Cook in 1903. The fragments were the oldest Hebrew fragments known at that time which contained a portion of the biblical text, specifically, the Decalogue and the Shema. Though dated by Cook to the second century C.E., subsequent reappraisals by Albright and others have pushed the date back to the second century B.C.E. The text of the Decalogue present in the papyrus is sometimes closer to the Masoretic version of Exodus, sometimes closer to Deuteronomy. Most of the agreements with Deuteronomy, however, are also reflected in the Septuagint version of Exodus. Furthermore, the papyrus shows other affinities with the Septuagint, particularly in regard to the order of the sixth through eighth commandments (adultery-murder-theft)--agreeing with several Septuagint manuscripts, Philo, and some instances in the New Testament--and in containing the introductory phrase to the Shema. It also exhibits a few unique readings. The papyrus was probably copied from a liturgical work; the practice of reading the Decalogue before the Shema is attested in both Talmuds. However, its textual affinities with the Septuagint and Philo, as well as the provenance of its discovery, bear testimony to a form of the Hebrew text current in Egypt that differed significantly from the text later preserved by the Masoretes."

Albright, William F. "A Biblical Fragment from the Maccabean Age: The Nash Papyrus." Journal of Biblical Literature 56 (1937): 145-176.

Cook, Stanley A. "A Pre-Masoretic Biblical Papyrus." Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology 25 (1903): 34-56.

see Aims of OT Textual Criticism Bruce K. Waltke

We should note the vast differences in the numbers of copies of different biblical books. 


Box 41

Better Texts of the Hebrew Bible Among the Scrolls?


Starting with the publication of the Complete Isaiah Scroll, it became obvious that the traditional Masoretic Hebrew Bible text was in most cases superior to the variety of text types found in the Qumran Scrolls.  This was a very important discovery increasing the level of confidence in the Masoretic text.  However, there were some Scroll readings which appear superior to those in the Masoretic text.  As a Qumran Scroll scholar said recently - the Scrolls increase our confidence in 99 percent of the Masoretic text and provide some help with recovering a text, closer to the original, of parts of the remaining one percent.


The following is an example of where a Qumran fragment probably preserves a bit of the original biblical text lost through a scribal error at some point in the long history of the Masoretic text.


Quoted from I SAMUEL A New Translation with Introduction,Notes & Commentary by P. Kyle McCarter, Jr., Anchor Bible,  Doubleday, Garden City 1980


Judges 10-11

"27b Now Nahash, the king of the Ammonites, had been oppressing the Gadites and the Reubenites grievously, gouging out the right eye of each of them and allowing Israel no deliverer. No men of the Israelites who were across the Jordan remained whose right eye Nahash, king of the Ammonites, had not gouged out. But seven thousand men had escaped from the Ammonites and entered into Jabesh-gilead. About a month later …

"We read the text of a long passage that is unique to 4QSam.a among the surviving witnesses, though it was present also in the Greek text used by Josephus (see Ant. 6.68-71). It cannot be regarded as secondary, for it introduces completely new material with no ... apologetic motive."





Box 42

Six Most Attested Biblical Books in the Qumran Library and the Probable Reasons for their Popularity

Biblical Book Number of Qumran Manuscripts Probable Reason for Popularity
Psalms 36 (approx.18% of biblical manuscripts at Qumran) Importance in liturgy
Deuteronomy 30 (approx.15% of biblical manuscripts at Qumran) Legal material
Genesis 20 (approx.10% of biblical manuscripts at Qumran) Fundamental to who Israel is
Isaiah 21 (approx.10.5% of biblical manuscripts at Qumran) Apocalyptic interest and generally prophet of hope
Exodus 17 (approx.8.5% of biblical manuscripts at Qumran) Fundamental to who Israel is and legal material
Leviticus 15 (approx.7.5% of biblical manuscripts at Qumran) Legal material particularly concern re priestly issues and ritual purity


"Among the previously unknown Pseudepigrapha were large parts of an Aramaic scroll, the Genesis Apocryphon (see also, which retells stories from Genesis in the manner of a number of apocryphal books. The chapters that are preserved are concerned with Lamech, his grandfather Enoch, Noah, and Abraham, and the narrators in the scroll are the respective biblical heroes. There is a close affinity between this scroll and the Book of Jubilees and Book of Enoch, fragments of these books having been also found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. Another pseudepigraphon that resembles the Dead Sea sect in spirit is the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs; fragments of two of its sources, namely, the Aramaic “Testament of Levi” and a Hebrew “Testament of Naphtali,” are extant in the Qumran library. All these books were composed in an apocalyptic movement in Judaism, in the midst of which the Dead Sea sect originated. It is sometimes difficult to ascertain if a work was written within the sect itself or if it represents the broader movement. The largest scroll, the Temple Scroll … describes—by the mouth of God himself and in Hebrew—not the Temple of the last days but the Temple as it should have been built. There are strong ties between the Temple Scroll and the Book of Jubilees and the prescriptions in it fit the conceptions of the sect; the work was composed by the sectarians themselves.”

Genesis Apocryphon, and the Peshers join the Septuagint (Old Greek translation of the Bible) Josephus as our only windows into pre-Rabbinic and pre- New Testament Biblical exegesis. Fundamental difference with the rabbis. See

Sectarian Literature

This literature was produced by and for the sectarians e.g. 2 of the scrolls here.  Saw themselves as the only true remnant of Israel. Two of the scrolls in this exhibit (the Community Rule and the War Scroll) fall under this category.

“The Sectarian literature at Qumran is a fascinating collection of manuscripts that describes the foundation of teachings and rules of a specific group of Jews who, most scholars believe, lived at Qumran. Included in these are rules of membership in the community, a War Scroll that foretold of a great apocalyptic battle and of a new age to come, and a Temple Scroll containing the blueprints for a majestic temple to be built in Jerusalem.”

The Peshers are of particular importance.  A Pesher is a kind of commentary on the Bible that was common in the community that wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls. This kind of commentary is not an attempt to explain what the Bible meant when it was originally written, but rather what it means in the day and age of the commentator, particularly for his own community. In the Isaiah Pesher, or commentary on the Book of Isaiah, a verse or verses from Isaiah are quoted. Then the commentary begins, often introduced by the word "pesher," or "the interpretation of the word..." If we were to write a commentary in this way today we might quote a bible verse and then say, "and the meaning of the verse is..." and go on to show the significance of the verse for our own church, synagogue, or society. See also



Annex 4

The Congregation As Temple

A Shared Concept of the Qumranites, Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity

(Summarized from a talk by Dr Roitman)


The Qumran sect left the physical Jerusalem Temple, the leadership of which they considered illegitimate and corrupt, and replaced the physical temple with their community which can be considered a spiritual temple. This concept became prominent in both the church and in Rabbinic Judaism.  Starting in Byzantine times the rabbis sometimes referred to the synagogue as “mikdash me’at” (literally little temple or sanctuary). 

1Peter 2:4 “Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and 5like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

This sharing of a major development does not suggest direct influence.  Rather it is a case of 3 groups emerging from the rich and diverse ferment of Second Temple Judaism and eventually diverging radically.


Annex 5

Dead Sea Scrolls and Christianity 

 “The Dead Sea Scrolls include a range of contemporary documents that serve as a window on a turbulent and critical period in the history of Judaism. In addition to the three groups identified by Josephus (Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes), Judaism was further divided into numerous religious sects and political parties. With the destruction of the Temple and the commonwealth in 70 C.E., all that came to an end. Only the Judaism of the Pharisees--Rabbinic Judaism--survived. Reflected in Qumran literature is a Judaism in transition: moving from the religion of Israel as described in the Bible to the Judaism of the rabbis as expounded in the Mishnah (a third-century compilation of Jewish laws and customs which forms the basis of modern Jewish practice).

The Dead Sea Scrolls, which date back to the events described in the New Testament, have added to our understanding of the Jewish background of Christianity. Scholars have pointed to similarities between beliefs and practices outlined in the Qumran literature and those of early Christians. These parallels include comparable rituals of baptism, communal meals, and property. Most interesting is the parallel organizational structures: the sectarians divided themselves into twelve tribes led by twelve chiefs, similar to the structure of the early Church, with twelve apostles who, according to Jesus, would to sit on twelve thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. Many scholars believe that both the literature of Qumran and the early Christian teachings stem from a common stream within Judaism and do not reflect a direct link between the Qumran community and the early Christians.

“Although no Christian documents were found in Qumran, these Jewish documents are significant to us for two primary reasons. First, the biblical manuscripts from Qumran provide important data for our study of Old Testament textual criticism (i.e., the history of the transmission of the Hebrew text) and Old Testament interpretation. In most cases, the copies of biblical manuscripts affirm the careful accuracy of the transmission process that resulted in the oldest complete manuscript of the Old Testament that is dated to A.D. 1008 and serves as the basis of modern scholarly editions of the Hebrew Bible. Most of the Qumran manuscripts that are not copies of Old Testament books give us evidence of how the Old Testament was being interpreted and applied. For example, several texts show that the Qumran community understood that they were living in the latter days foreseen by the Old Testament prophets. Furthermore, interpretation techniques of these Jews at Qumran led them to derive additional laws from the Old Testament that they understood as hidden beneath the revealed words.

A second reason these manuscripts are significant for Christians is that they give primary source evidence about the theology and practices of a group of Jews, probably Essenes, who continued to exist in the first century as Christianity began. This evidence helps us to understand the diverse teaching that existed within Judaism when Jesus, a Jew from Nazareth, began His ministry that was later continued by His apostles. Therefore, it is helpful both to compare and contrast the theology and practices of this group with that of Jesus and early Christians in order to see their common Jewish roots, as well as the distinctiveness of Christianity. For example, Jesus states in Matthew 5:43 that someone has commanded others "to hate your enemies." There is no such command in the Old Testament of the teaching of rabbis (i.e., rabbinic literature). The Rule of the Community from Qumran, however, contains several commands to "hate" the children of darkness. Although Jesus may not have specifically had these Qumran community commands in mind when He made this statement, nevertheless they give us solid historical evidence of a first-century Jewish group that issued such a command.”

See also

Nascent Christianity was one of several apocalyptic Jewish sects active during the Second Temple period. By Lawrence H. Schiffman

A Brief Outline of Differences Between the Essenes and Christianity

The Library of Qumran: On the Essenes, Qumran, John the Baptist, and Jesus

Christian History Corner: Asking the Wrong Questions


Dead Sea Scrolls and Christianity Written by Robert Jones

What Jesus Learned from the Essenes: The Blessing of Poverty, the Bane of Divorce by Magen Broshi

Was Jesus a member of the Essenes? by Graeme J. Davidson

Nazarenes Qumran and the Essenes


“The Gospel of John is at home in Palestinian Judaism, as shown by the numerous conceptual parallels to Qumran sectarian writings.” See for citations etc.. and

Select Bibliography


1. Archaeological Background

2. Bible


3. Translations of the Scrolls


4. Introductions to the Scrolls


since November 15, 2004

[i] When dating objects and events, biblical scholars commonly use the international terms B.C.E. (Before the Common Era) and C.E. (Common Era) rather than B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini) respectively.

[ii]stele, also spelled stela, is a usually carved or inscribed stone slab or pillar used for commemorative purposes