Jarvis Lecture on Christianity & Culture Part 1

Uploaded by ECU on 31.07.2008

The title for tonight's lecture has stimulated a good bit of interest,
and some fun with people writing all kinds of clever things on the posters.
Did God have a wife or son?
Husband? Will it be photos?
[laughter] To introduce our distinguished archaeologist
who will answer all these questions, and provide photos, I give you Dr. Laura Mazow
from our anthropology faculty, an anthropologist herself
who teaches courses in our religion program.
Very valuable adjunct faculty for our program.
[applause] I have both the pleasure and honor this evening of introducing
to you tonight's speaker, William Dever.
Bill Dever earned a BA in religion from Milligan College, a BD in Hebrew and Greek
from Christian Theological Seminary, an MA in Semetics from Butler University and a PhD
in Syro Palestinian Archeology from Harvard University.
He is currently Professor Ameritus at the University of Arizona,
and distinguished visiting professor at Lycoming College in Pennsylvania.
Professor Dever has had a long and illustrious career in near Eastern and biblical archeology,
and it is much to his credit that the field
of biblical archeology can be considered a serious academic discipline
with a rigorous methodological and theoretical basis.
He has directed archaeological excavations in Israel and the West Bank for close
to five decades, and is the principle adviser to numerous excavations
and publication projects in Israel.
He has authored more than 25 books and hundreds of articles.
His most recent books include "What did the Biblican Writers Know,
and when did They Know it?", "Archeology and the Reality of Ancient Israel",
"Who were the Israelites and Where Did They Come From" and "Did God Have a Wife?
Archeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel", which is the title of tonight's talk.
So, without further ado, I am honored to turn the lectern over to Bill Dever.
[applause] Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.
It's a pleasure to be here, and I'm honored to give the 16th annual Jarvis lecture.
I'm especially honored because the invitation comes partly from Dr. Mazow,
who is one of my own 26 doctoral students.
I'm inordinately proud of all of them; particularly of Laura, she comes with a wealth
of field experience, a wonderful dissertation soon to be published,
and with vast experience in teaching.
In 27 years in Arizona, she was by far the best TA I ever had.
I know how lucky you are to have her here.
[applause] There are very few universities, only a handful in North America, who are privileged
to have on their faculty a full time professional Biblical archaeologist,
you're in that select group.
I hope you continue to support her in her burgeoning career.
Tonight I want to talk about what I shall call "Folk Religion",
sometimes called "Popular Religion" in ancient Israel, and I want to contrast
that with what we might call "Book Religion", or the orthodox version,
that we have in the Hebrew Bible as it now comes into our hands.
Now in theory, it ought to be very easy to draw a portrait of ancient Israelite religion.
You just pick up the Bible and read it, it's all about religion.
Obsessed with the subject, almost.
But if you think about it for a moment,
the Bible is not actually a very good source for these reasons.
First of all, the stories in the Bible are written sometimes long centuries
after the events they purport to describe.
Not only that, worse still, the Bible is written by a handful of elites in Jerusalem;
intellectuals who were greatly out of touch with the realities of life in ancient Israel.
The Bible is not about the beliefs and practices of ordinary people.
That's where archeology comes into the picture.
What you have in the Hebrew Bible is a highly idealistic portrait of what the religion
of Israel ought to have been like, and would have been
like were these fellows in charge, but they never were.
The Bible is in fact; as one of my theologian colleagues,
and I have some; says, a "minority report".
That's where archeology comes in.
I want to describe to you tonight what the reality of religious life was
like in ancient Israel, drawing my data largely from archaeological discoveries.
Now, some of this will be a little unsettling, I must warn you,
because archeology doesn't easily confirm the picture most of us have
of the reality of life in ancient Israel.
It gives us a different view of looking at things.
In particular, I want to raise the question
of whether most early Israelites were monotheist at all.
Whether Yahweh, the God of ancient Israel, might not have had a companion;
as the male deities generally in the ancient world did.
I want to warn you that I'm not going to make a value judgment.
I'm not going to tell you which of you is right; what is actually orthodox,
what you should believe and practice.
I'm trying to describe the reality, only that.
So bear with us, be patient, we're going to look at a lot of material in a short time.
I want to move generally from North to South, and from earlier periods to later periods.
Bear in mind that if I use the word "Palestinian" to describe ancient things,
I have no modern context for it, so just put that out of your mind for the moment.
So hold on, here we go.
Let's have the first slide, please.
If you have questions and want to hold them to the end,
we'll try to allow some time for a discussion.
I'm sorry not to use PowerPoint, I know that that's the modern thing
to do, but I am not a modern person.
[laughter] We always say archaeologists love only old things; so marry an archaeologist,
he'll love you more as you get older.
We're going to look at ancient Israel, that is primarily the territory of the modern state
of Israel plus the West Bank, seen here in a typical photograph from a biblical atlas.
Let's begin in Tel Dan, on the northern border of Israel, which between the tenth
and ninth centuries BC was the cultural capital, at least, of the northern kingdom.
Here you see the reconstructed city wall of about the ninth century BC.
Next. Here is the plan of the city gate, a typical triple entryway city gate
of the iron age, or the Israelite period.
In the ancient towns, life revolved around the city gate.
People came and went there, commerce was carried on, the village tribunal met there.
Let's look for a moment at what the gate area of Tel Dan can tell us about religious life.
Next. In the outer court of the gate, you find a low stone altar
with five small standing stones behind it.
Now, the standing stones are what the Hebrew Bible call Tamat Semut.
These are stones set up to commemorate the appearance of a deity.
Of course altars are mentioned everywhere in the Hebrew Bible, so we would not be surprised
to find a gate shrine at a northern Israelite site.
Except for the fact that in the Hebrew Bible all worship, ideally, is centralized in Jerusalem
under the administration of the official priests.
So what is this doing here?
It shouldn't be here.
I want, from the very beginning, to show you the disconnect between some of the artifacts we have
and the official story of things in the Hebrew Bible.
This is kosher, in a way, but it shouldn't be here outside of Jerusalem.
Next. As we move into the main part of the town, we find some other artifacts.
Here's a small four horned altar.
Now horned altars are described in the Hebrew Bible,
but they're monumental things, perhaps six feet square.
In the cities of refuge, you can go in and hold onto the horns of the altar for refuge.
But, these are little things.
Somebody could pick you up, altar and all, and carry you away.
Here is not the kind of altar the biblical writers are talking about;
another kind of disconnect.
These were used for incense.
Incense is OK, but again only in the official cult in Jerusalem.
Next. Now here is a large horn of an altar, the rest of it is not present.
That seems to be what the Bible is talking about.
Interestingly enough, we've only found two of these; one at Dan, and one at Bersheba.
In the Bible, those are the northern and southern borders of Israel.
So, here we do have something that fits the biblical description.
Next. Here you see the one at Bersheba, and you can see something of the size.
So, already from the beginning, we see that part of what we find does fit
in with the biblical portrait of Israelite religion, but part of it doesn't,
and it's the difference we have to look at.
Next. Here at Dan there is a large outdoor installation approached by a flight of steps.
It looks like the foundation, perhaps, and the steps of an ancient temple;
but it's something rather different.
Next. Here's an artist's reconstruction of it.
This is what the Hebrew Bible calls a Bamah, or a high place.
Now, these are always condemned, because they're connected with Canaanite religion.
These are probably the very ones mentioned in the Book of Kings.
Which is, of course, condemned by the biblical writers because Canaanite rites
and sacrifice went on here that were repugnant to the writers of the Bible.
One could argue this is Canaanite, but it's not.
It belongs to the ninth century when Tel Dan was a part of the northern kingdom of Israel.
Next. Among the other things found at Tel Dan was a small three roomed building adjacent
to the bamah the high place we just saw and here you see that building.
Next. The three rooms are reminiscent of the Jerusalem temple.
It was also a three roomed structure.
This dates from just after the time of Solomon, probably to the ninth century or so.
Here you see the plan of the building.
So it looks like a miniature of the Jerusalem temple.
But there was only one legitimate temple, and that was the one in Jerusalem.
Next. Next to the building, in fact in one of the rooms is a low altar, a stone altar.
Then a broken storage jar set into the dirt floor.
And of course animal sacrifices would be offered here.
And then shovels, which are described in the bible as part of the temple furnishings,
would be used to clean away the altar.
Next. The shovels were also found here.
So again, this fits the biblical description but it's
in the wrong place and under the wrong supervision.
Next. In the temple precinct at Dan was found also an olive pressing installation.
You might wonder what that was for, but of course olive oil was used to anoint the beard.
It was used in various cultic activities, in ritual activities.
But, we must suppose that the priests here at Tel Dan were not legitimate priests.
They were not part of the Aaronite priesthood in Jerusalem.
So, we have a full fledged temple with all of its furnishings and paraphernalia
at an Israelite site that flies in the face of everything that the biblical writers recommend.
Next. Now, we also know there was a copper
or bronze working installation in the temple precincts.
Here is a small bronze scepter that was probably on a wooden shaft,
carried by some priest at the site.
Once again, there should not be any such priest here.
Next. Now, let's look at figurines.
According to the first and second commandments there is only one God.
A male deity, and you're not to make any representation of Him whatsoever.
So Israelite religion is supposed to be aniconic, it does not have any icons.
Here however we have a female figure and this is not an ordinary person
but probably a female deity.
So, keep in mind the question of what these figurines mean,
because we're going to come back to them.
Now, you might say well it would be all right to make a portrait of some female deity,
but surely not the male deity Yahweh.
You would never find images of a male deity at an Israelite site.
Next. Oh yes you would.
And furthermore this one is Phoenician in style.
Now remember in the Hebrew bible, the kings of the north,
every single one of them are condemned by their southern writers
of the bible because they're Phoenician.
Ahab being the worst villain of course.
So, you could say that much of this cult
in the north is really Phoenician, but it's not, it's Israelite.
It borrows from Canaanite and Phoenician motifs.
So here we have male figurines, but I will say they're very rare.
We have hundreds, perhaps thousands of female figurines, very few male figurines.
Next. Now I want to say beyond, before we move on, if you look at second Kings 23
and the description of the reforms of the Josiah.
What Josiah tried to do in Judah at least was to get rid of all this pagan stuff.
Throw it out.
But the fact is it really did exist.
So, it's not so surprising to find things of which the biblical writers disapprove.
In fact I'm going to say something now that will shock you.
Much of the real religion of ancient Israel consisted
of exactly all those things the bible prohibits.
Why prohibit it?
Because that's what people were doing.
In other words, the prophets and the reformers knew what they were talking about.
It was bad out there.
So keep in mind that archaeology provides a real life context for the late reformers
and their attempts to purge the cult of all these so called pagan influences.
Next. Here is the three entryway gate at another site in the north,
Tel Fara which is probably biblical Tirtza.
The first actual capital of the northern kingdom after the death of Solomon
and the civil war that divided the country.
So we have another gate shrine at another Israelite shrine of the tenth ninth century.
The French excavators published these figurines.
Look at the one at the top in the center, number two.
A half nude female figure clutching something to the left breast,
which many scholars think is a tambourine or a frame drum.
I don't think so.
I think it's a molded cake.
Now, in Jeremiah you have a wonderful description of popular religion, folk religion.
Jeremiah complains that the children gather kindling and the men build fires
and the women bake cakes for the queen of heaven.
Who is the queen of heaven?
And what are Israelite and Judean women doing worshiping her?
Well, we have molds for making these cakes,
and I suspect that what we have are cakes made for the queen of heaven.
So keep in mind who is she?
You might notice the other figurines are typically also a female figure,
sometimes pregnant, sometimes nursing.
As the one in the lower left.
These are often called fertility figurines because it's assumed they have something to do
with magic rites to ensure conception and safe childbirth.
The ability to nurse a child and raise it.
And so we're dealing perhaps with the mother goddess, the ancient mother goddess.
But again, this is an Israelite site, despite these figurines of Canaanite style.
Next. Now, one of the finds at Tel Fara was a small terracotta model temple called a naos.
Somebody here already had the current issue of the BAR which has an article
which I've written there on these shrines.
Biblical scholars haven't paid much attention to them
until very recently, but they are really houses.
Now in all the west Semitic languages, the word for house and temple is the same.
A temple is just the house of the deity.
She's not at home today, but she has been.
Notice the trees that form the columns.
Notice you don't have too many palm trees here.
I didn't see many, but in Tucson we have lots, and these are palm trees.
Take my word for it.
Now look at the top.
You have the crescent moon and you have the stars of the Pleiades.
These are symbols of these heavenly deities,
particularly the old Canaanite mother goddess Asherah.
Keep her name in mind because you're going to meet her again and again.
So, we connect these house shrines with the goddess Asherah.
The question is, of course, what are these customs still doing surviving in ancient Israel?
Next. Here is one of these naoi or shrines
and here again you see the palm trees with the double volutes.
Then notice at the top is a dove perched on the lentil.
The dove is the symbol of the Phoenician goddess Tanite
who is a later version of Canaanite Israelite Asherah.
So the mother goddess persisted for centuries and centuries
and centuries in the ancient world.
It should not surprise us that she was sometimes venerated in ancient Israel too
as the consort of the male deity.
Next. Here is one just recently published.
In fact it's the one in the BAR article, and if you notice in the back there is a seat.
But it's a double throne, so there must have been a pair of deities at one time.
Now, remember everywhere else in the ancient world deities were paired,
male and a female deity.
I'm going to suggest that was also the conception in Israel of many ordinary people.
So already we suspect that there was more than one god.
Remember the Hebrew bible talks about Baal or Baal everywhere?
There are 40 references at least to Asherah, the old Canaanite mother goddess.
And there are shadowy references even to other deities.
Remember, when it says you shall have no other gods before me,
it means you could have, but don't.
Don't do it.
Don't put them in my face, that's sort of what the Hebrew text says.
Don't throw them up to me.
They exist but they're not real, they're not powerful.
So, the writers of the bible are already aware of the possibility
of other gods existing alongside the god they prefer.
Next. Here is a very important naos, temple shrine, from Edali in the site in Cypress
where my wife directs excavations.
This is now in the Louvre.
Notice again the tree columns.
The clerestory windows at the top.
And if you notice here, the lady is at home.
She's standing in the doorway quite naked.
In case you miss her there, which is kind of hard, she's looking out the window.
A slow Friday night, she's drumming up a little business, "Come into my house and let's talk."
So the goddess is at home very often.
Her absence in the doorway of the earlier shrines doesn't mean anything,
because these shrines are connected with Asherah.
When we find them at an Israelite site, we have to think of Asherah.
Next. Now here's one from Cypress also and notice the goddess.
She has a kind of bouffant wig.
Where ever you see her in that wig, she represents Hathor,
the Egyptian version of Canaanite Asherah.
So we know who she is, and then just in case you don't get the point,
she's wearing a naos on her head like a hat.
If you look in the doorway of the one up there, there she is again.
So she's everywhere.
She's everywhere.
Next. Now, let's turn to a third site in the south.
Panah, the sister site of Magido, in the southern reaches of the Jesuria valley.
And we shall not be surprised to find another monumental oil press here.
Next. Not very far away there was found a small village shrine.
Now I want suggest that for most people in ancient Israel,
this focus of religious life was not the temple in Jerusalem.
They had never been there in their whole lifetime.
A difficult and dangerous journey, and when you got there you could not get
in the temple anyway.
It was a royal chapel more or less.
Even parts of it weren't open to the priests.
So, we're talking about the religion of hearth and home.
And I suspect the principle religious official in Israel was not the priest in Jerusalem,
but the woman who headed the family.
We're talking about family religion and family observances.
Here's the best example we have of a village shrine, which probably served several families.
It dates to the 10th century, they very time the temple was being built
in Jerusalem, the age of Solomon.
Now, several things were found in this shrine.
First of all, a bowl full of several dozen polished astragoly,
or sheep and goat knuckle bones.
What in the world would bones be used for?
And used so much they developed a patina?
Casting lots, divination, sorcery.
Exactly what's forbidden in the Hebrew bible.
But people were doing it in the popular cults.
Not only that, there were other things found here as well.
Next. Here is a modern cast made from a mold found in this little shrine.
And she's holding at the breast that same sort of object.
She doesn't look to happy about it.
But the point is, these figurines were so cheap you could mass produce them.
Everybody had them, both men and women.
They're everywhere.
But, here's the interesting thing.
You can go through the Bible and sort out all the Hebrew terms
for image or idol or that sort of thing.
These are nowhere mentioned.
We have maybe 3000 of them and the biblical writers never mentioned them once.
Why? Because they don't want you to know about them.
But I'm going to tell you anyway.
Here they are.
Who is she?
Who is she.
These, you see, are votives.
What is a votive?
A votive is something that votes for you when you can't be there.
So when you can't always be in church you buy a candle
and you leave the candle burning to pray for you, right?
And that's what many scholars think these are.
You couldn't always be in the presence of the Goddess, but you could buy a little image
of her and leave it to represent you.
But whatever we are going to say, these female figurines clearly do have something to do
with conception and with childbirth and with lactation.
Next. Now, in this same village shrine was found the most remarkable piece
of Israelite art ever discovered.
This is a terra cotta coal stand about three feet high, and it's obviously exotic.
I'm not going to comment on all the scenes in the upper registers except
to say you see various kinds of things, particularly in the third register down a pair
of winged lions, the biblical cherubim.
I want you to look at the bottom register.
Look closely and then we'll see a close up of this scene.
Next. Well, well, well, who do we have here?
A naked female holding two lions by the ears.
It's a charming scene.
But we have to ask, who is the lion lady?
Who is the lion lady?
You can assume that some artist was having fun, but I don't think so.
These symbols are extremely powerful and we have to try to understand what they mean.
So let's ask, who is the lion lady?
Again the date, 10th century, the age of Solomon.
The very time that a temple is flourishing in Jerusalem
under the aegis of the official priesthood.
Next. Now here is a bronze arrowhead found not very far from Jerusalem near Bethlehem,
belonging to the period of the judges, about the 11th century BC.
Now you all read paleo Hebrew.
So lets read together now at the top.
[laughter] Jarvis: [reads in Hebrew].
The servant of the lioness, or the lion lady.
And then we turn the arrow over and on the other size, you have the man's name: Ben Anat.
Now in the old Canaanite pantheon, the three lady goddesses are Asherah, Anat and Astarte.
So the importance of this is, is here was a professional probably a mercenary
who has the name of the goddess.
He is the son of Anat, the mother goddess, and he is the servant of the lion lady.
In other words, the patroness of this Israelite archer in the period
of the judges is the Canaanite mother goddess Asherah.
And here we have inscriptional evidence, which is hard to argue with.
Next. Now, let's come briefly to Jerusalem, and you'll be surprised at how briefly,
because I've just said it wasn't terribly important for most people.
This is a good artist's notion of what Jerusalem would have looked like in the age of Solomon.
You see the lower city to the left, and up above that the Temple Mount.
But remember, the temple itself was not a very large building.
The city itself was not large, perhaps 2000 people or more.
So, the center of Israelite religion in the Bible is always Jerusalem and the temple.
And the monarch on the throne, Yahweh's own son in some cases.
But for most cases, the temple in Jerusalem was not a part of their life.
It represented them about as much as Washington inside the Beltway represents you.
Next. [laughter] Jarvis: Here's one artist's notion
of what the temple looked like, but that's another lecture.
Next. Now, one of the finds in Jerusalem made by Dame Kathleen Kenyon,
the great British archaeologist, was a horde of objects, more than 400,
found not a hundred yards from the Temple Mount.
And among the things she found were dozens and dozens of these same things,
we call them Judean pillar base figurines.
Notice the lower body is not represented, only the breasts.
The heads are broken off of almost all of them.
The date of this horde is about 600 BC,
the end of the Judean monarchy, in the era of King Josiah.
It's tempting to think that when Josiah cleansed the temple and threw out all
of this stuff, he threw this stuff out too.
That's not impossible.
It's not impossible.
So, now we have a whole series of female figurines,
including the one at the top with the large object.
But the more typical ones that we'll come back to later, are the ones at the bottom.
Now, William Foxwell Albright, the great mentor of us all,
once called these deinutrix figurines.
In other words he thought these were talismans used by women for good luck.
Remember how hazardous childbirth was in the ancient world.
Literally a matter of life and death for child and mother.
So he supposed, and many scholars had, that women used these for good luck
in the process for bearing children.
To the mother goddess was the patroness of pregnant and nursing women.
Next. We have no actual finds from the temple in Jerusalem.
This little ivory pomegranate, about the size of your thumb,
was purchased by the Israel Museum some time ago.
It's wonderful; it even has a Hebrew inscription around the bottom which reads: "Set apart"
or "Sacred for the priest of the temple of...."
And the name of the deity is broken.
But there's even worse to say.
We now think the inscriptions is a modern forgery.
The pomegranate is genuine, but some clever fellow inscribed it and thereby made $600,000.
So, I don't think it's a relic of the temple at Jerusalem and we have to move on.
Next. Here you see the reading.
The reading is certain, but I must say that the forger was very clever indeed.
I once heard someone say, "Well, only your professor, Frank Cross at Harvard,
could actually have done this, and he said he didn't do it."
[laughter] Jarvis: So we don't know who did, but he'll soon be in jail.
Next. Another find from Jerusalem we might mention in passing was made in a tomb
in the garden of the St. Andrews Scots Presbyterian Church in Jerusalem.
And here you see a typical tomb of about 600 BC.
The last days of the Judean Monarchy.
Next. One of the most spectacular finds in the tomb was a pair of rolled up silver amulets.
They were so brittle they couldn't be unrolled for a very long time.
But eventually they were unrolled in the laboratory, and here you see one
of these silver amulets that the right, and then the Hebrew inscription to the left.
Several things were important.
First of all, this is the oldest surviving scrap of scripture.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are not older than 200 BC, this is 600 BC.
Why do I say scripture?
Because it's the famous priestly blessing in number six: "May the Lord bless you.
May his face shine upon you, give you peace."
But it's a slightly different version, which means there were several versions
of this ancient prayer circulating besides the one we have in the Bible.
Now, the other thing I think is important is nobody was reading this.
It was rolled up and probably worn around somebody's neck.
Either a man or a woman was wearing it.
And you could imagine the priest would have said,
"You're supposed to read the Bible, not wear it."
But, this is the same thing you have in the custom of the mezuzah.
You have a little bit of scripture that's rolled up.
You're not actually reading it, but you place it on the door
and you touch it as you go in and out.
It's called a mezuzah, and it's supposed to bring good luck.
My wife put a mezuzah on the town post of our Lincoln car,
but it didn't help, she totaled it anyway.
Next. [laughter] So here again, you have the use already of scripture as magic.
Something that would have been highly unorthodox.
Now let's move to the south.
This is the site of Arod, east of Be'er Sheva or Beersheba,
excavated by archaeologists in the '60s and '70s.
Here we have another full fledged temple, in fact, of the Israelite Judean period.
Next. Here's a plan.
It's a Judean fortress of a type that's well known to us.
You see the corner towers, the double walls.
And then, look up the top; you'll see another three rooms to building next.
Now, here in the outer court is an altar.
This is culture.
According to the Bible, altar should be built with unhoned stones, and here is what we have.
So, that's all right; accept again, it shouldn't be here, it shouldn't be here
at this site far away from Jerusalem.