Tuesday, January 12, 2010

More on Khirbet Qeiyafa

The seething cauldron of opinions on the Khirbet Qeiyafa inscription has slowed from a roiling boil to a light trickle, but I keep stumbling across additional reactions around the blogosphere. Today John Hobbins has pointed us to a post by Neil Silberman from several days ago offering his take on the inscription and all the ensuing hoopla. This was my favorite part (emphasis added).
Professor Gershon Galil of the University of Haifa suggests that the “contents of the text express social sensitivity to the fragile position of weaker members of society. The inscription testifies to the presence of strangers within the Israeli society as far back as this ancient period, and calls to provide support for these strangers. It appeals to care for the widows and orphans and that the king – who at that time had the responsibility of curbing social inequality – be involved. This inscription is similar in its content to biblical scriptures (Isaiah 1:17, Psalms 72:3, Exodus 23:3, and others), but it is clear that it is not copied from any biblical text.”    
These are all notable sentiments, no doubt, but their identification on an ancient pottery sherd is all a fantasy of wishful thinking that will thrill the faithful yet demonstrate little more than Galil’s clever crossword puzzle skill.
Silberman's right. The text is difficult and the reconstruction is tenuous. I hate gratuitous reconstructions of fragmentary inscriptions! It seems so disingenuous as a scholar to massage your evidence to support your conclusions. I'm not just thinking of Galil here.

In other news, the official website for the Qeiyafa ostracon has been updated with many additional photos and line drawings of the inscription including the following (via Agade):
1. Colored photo of the ostracon by Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority. 2. Infrared photo of the ostracon by Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority. 3. Drawing of the ostracon by Haggai Misgav. 4. Drawing of the ostracon by Ada Yardeni. 5. The upper left corner of the ostracon by CRI laboratory. 6. The ostracon in full flattened contrast by Megavision laboratory. 7. The heavily reconstructed interpretation of Gershon Galil with his drawing.
Update: Seconds after first publishing this post, I received an email on the Agade mailing list with another, most authoritative blog reaction from Christopher Rollston. He provides a summary of what we know and explains where the sensational conclusions are going well beyond the evidence.

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