Another case of ‘Biblical Archaeology’ jumping the gun. When will they learn that archaeology is not about proving the Bible true, it is “The scientific excavation and study of ancient human material remains.” Nothing more, nothing less. And what those remains tell us is important, not what we tenuously pretend they tell us.

Zwinglius Redivivus

George Athas convincingly argues that the bulla newly discovered which the IAA says proves the existence of Bethlehem does no such thing at all.

Once again, however, it seems that we have an Israeli archaeologist jumping to inordinate conclusions that simply do not reflect the actual evidence, all so that they can make a sensational political statement about Israel or Judah in antiquity. There are a number of issues with Shukron’s proposal:

And then George shows why Shukron is wrong.  He concludes

It seems we need to wait for some more reliable and unsensational epigraphic analysis to be done on this bulla. Unless I’m very much mistaken(1), it seems fairly clear from the published photo that this bulla does NOT refer to Bethlehem. I lean towards seeing this as the seal of a prominent woman, though ultimately I can’t even be sure of that. Could a decent epigrapher please go…

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3 Responses

  1. The inscription is of a fiscal bulla: 1) Date, 2) City name, 3) the term LMLK (belonging or to the kink).

    The Ayin it visible, no problem at all, it has a triangular shape and the lower part of the Taw is also visible. Therefore the bulla is dated to the seventh (year).
    Also in the second line the Het is very clear. Yet there was a small error in the reading by Shukrun. The name of the town has to be restored as: [B]YT LHM, which is indeed the town Beit-Lehem.

    Robert Deutsch

  2. Where I’m not completely *opposed* to בית לחם I don’t think that any conclusions can be made about it reading בית לחם.

    The ayin could certainly be there, and I do see the lower part of the taw (as you do, Robert).

    However when it comes to the place name, all we have to go by is תלח, and in this script I would have expected a delineating dot between the ת and the ל. Unless, of course בית לחם was combined as a place name ביתלחם already (which I’m not sure would be likely, given the period). Also I’m not sure that the right-most character on the second line is a yod either.

    I must admit I’m rather ambivalent about this reading. It’s not clear cut enough to convince me, but it’s not completely out of the question.


  3. The word dividing dot is not necessary, especially in a small seal like this. In any case, it’s not unusual for a place name with בית in it not to have a dividing dot. That, for example, is just ONE of the arguments for seeing ביתדוד in the Tel Dan Inscription as a toponym (equivalent to ‘City of David’) rather than a dynastic label (‘House of David’).

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