A Critical Respond to: “A Unique Miqveh in Upper Galilee” (by Eldad Keynan) – A Guest Post by Mordechai Aviam
A Critical Response to: “A Unique Miqveh in Upper Galilee” by Eldad Keynan
Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archaeology
Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee
It is very sad to see a baseless article, published in a distinguished Web-site (www.bibleinterp.com) which purports to publish new archaeological discoveries concerning the Biblical world. Keynan’s article is based on a very shallow research and presents poor academic standards, with very little archaeological knowledge and full of mistakes of different types!
One can just walk in the field, take some photos of archaeological finds and then “write” an article. But this is not Archaeology! The field of archaeology, like any other field of research, demands much more.
Writing an article in 2015 concerning Miqva’ot without referring to Reich’s book on this type of installation (Reich R. 2013. Miqwa’ot (Jewish Ritual Baths), in the Second Temple Mishnaic and Talmudic Period. Jerusalem) is complete ignorance, and then stating that “Dozens has have been found in Israel”, making it even worse. Reich gives us the numbers: 459 from the Second Temple Period and 74 from later periods; all together 533 miqva’ot which are much more than ‘dozens’.
Kenyan’s description of the “miqveh” at Horvat Amudim as having “…a small pit in the floor corner…” makes every archaeologist immediately understand that this installation is actually a collecting vat of a wine press. This small depression was cut to collect the last drops of wine from the vat’s floor and it is totally absent in any real miqveh! If Keynan would open Reich’s book and he could see hundreds of plans and sections of miqva’ot all of which lack this feature.
The same happened when Keynan recently mis-identified a “miqveh” at Horvat Makhoz, in the Upper Galilee. He saw the collecting vat, identified it as a miqveh but failed to recognize the threshing floor right above it, and without any support from any archaeological evidence he dated it to the 1st century BC! He based this observation on what he called similarities to the miqveh at Keren Naftali. The Keren Naftali installation is indeed a real miqveh, characterized by one large step and one narrow step, typical of early miqva’ot, and of course no small cup in its floor. The pottery collected in the survey I conducted at Horvat Makhoz, was comprised of 70% Byzantine sherds, 29% Mamluk sherds and only 1% from the Roman period.
But the worst comes when Keynan states that he discovered a miqveh with a cross in Western Upper Galilee, without mentioning the site name or its location. Based on this “discovery” Keynan has compiled an imaginative theory about the site which was initially a Jewish village and following Christianization of its inhabitants, a cross was engraved on the wall of its miqveh….
This site was surveyed by me many years ago and was named by the neighboring Christian villagers from Fassutah, Bir Abu Faur. I identified there a small monastery (e.g., Aviam M. 1999. Christian Galilee in the Byzantine Period. In E. Meyrs (ed.) Galilee through the Centuries. Winona Lake. Pp. 281–300, map on page 282, Bir Faur is #26. A photo of this collecting vat with the cross was also published in Aviam M. 2004. Jews Pagan and Christians in the Galilee. Rochester. P. 172, photo 16.3). At the bottom of the collecting vat there is a small depression in the corner. Above it there clearly is a threshing floor with some large mosaic tesserae which once covered it. There were handsome pottery sherds dated to the Hellenistic period and all the rest are from the Byzantine period. Keynan concludes his article with these words: “Still, the entire area is unstudied and thus unexcavated…”, which is far from the truth.
It is not the first time that Keynan “Discovers fantastic and unique” discoveries, in areas which he believes were “never studied before.” Unfortunately, his research abilities are so poorly utilized that he is neither aware of – or ignores – published studies, nor consults archaeologists who have been working in the field for many years.
I believe that the editors of the Bibleinterp Web-site have access to sufficient resources for checking the facts before publishing articles like Keynan’s, as they have many thousands of readers and in this case, given non-scientific and wrong information.
Distant Views of the Holy Land
by Felicity Cobbing and David Jacobson
The Holy Land has been an enduring magnet for visitors seeking to retrace the footsteps of biblical prophets, kings and saints and to glimpse the setting of events recorded in the Scriptures. This book offers a selection of over 350 early photographs, paintings, and drawings of the length and breadth of the Holy Land from the rich repository of images in the archives of the Palestine Exploration Fund. As these images were produced before modern development impacted on these landscapes they are an invaluable resource. The pictures are accompanied by 7 maps and plans showing the locations depicted and a commentary describing the biblical context, informed by up-to-date scholarship. The book is divided into five chapters; an introduction which includes a brief account of pilgrimage to the Holy Land through the ages, followed by a series of geographical ‘tours’ through Galilee, Samaria, and Judea and Philistia, before culminating with a focus on the two main sites of interest for the traveller: Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
While often very beautiful in their own right, the pictures also reflect the interest and sensibilities of the photographers and those who collected them, and capture the opposing undercurrents of scientific enquiry and piety characteristic of 19th Century European society. In the case of the photographers engaged by the PEF, a striving for objectivity is strikingly evident in their work.
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If your church is so large that the pastor doesn’t know your name, your church is too large. It’s time to start a new work. The church exists to glorify God, minister to his community, and share the gospel with the world; it does NOT exist to feed the pastor’s ego.
Churches used to grow till they were fairly large and then they would start new work in other communities. Members would go there as seeds and invite new people to the new work. New churches were planted and born all across the country that way. Now egomaniacal pastors teach unlearned congregations that they need to become super large in order to minister. That’s hogwash. It’s all done to stroke the pastor’s ego. Nothing more. It is the grossest form of utlitarianism the church has ever known.
Those who defend large churches do it because 1) they like going somewhere that they don’t have to be involved (spectator christians) and 2) they are clergy who enjoy the ‘prestige’ of large congregations (where they don’t know a fragment of the people personally) and the ‘prestige’ of multi-staff organizations. And of course the very large paychecks very large churches offer.