Second Challenge–A Fool’s Paradise

baruch bulla

Follow the link to the article below and read it, then come back and answer a few questions.  (Hint, if you right-click, you can get options such as “Open in new tab” or “Open in new window.”  Either way will let you read the link without exiting this page.)

http://www.sbl-site.org/publications/article.aspx?articleId=374

1.  Which site do you think is more authoritative–the Society of Biblical Literature or Wikipedia?

2.  What is the Baruch Ben Neriyah Bulla?

3.  Who was Baruch Ben Neriah (or Neriyahu)?

4.  Explain how this article is an example of critical thinking.

5.  Notice that the article has footnotes.  If you wanted to follow up on the Baruch Bulla, what articles might you read?  (Note, they may be print articles and not available online?)

6.  Who is Chris Rollston, and where is he employed?

7.  If you are interested in one or more of the objects mentioned in the article, are you willing to accept the conclusions of the author, or should you investigate further?

8.  One thing I learned in graduate school is that sometimes people are important resources.  I asked a question of my professor, and he phoned an expert in another state.  It’s a lot quicker than looking things up in books!  (Not that there’s anything wrong with books!).  So, you could phone an expert and ask a question. . . .

9.  One problem I have in evaluating the article is the lack of an adequate scientific background.  But I have a friend who is an analytic chemist.  I think I will email him and ask what he knows about analyzing patina.

10.  Or, if you happen to be married to a biblical archaeologist, you could ask him (or her) to examine the article and give you a professional opinion.

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16 Responses

  1. As far as I can tell, Baruch Ben Neriyah is the same “Baruch” that we read about in Jeremiah, chapter 36. Some people believe that this Baruch also wrote 1 Baruch, among others, that were written around the time of 1 Maccabees which really does nothing except place it in the correct timeframe. Wikipedia ascribes to the writing of Josephus, “he was a Jewish aristocrat, a son of Neriah and brother of Seraiah ben Neriah, chamberlain of King Zedekiah of Judah.”

    A “bulla” is described as being a clay seal impression by the suggested article. Dictionary.com defines it as a seal attached to an official document, as a papal bull. It sounds like if someone would have a seal stamp made up into your likeness, then that someone would tend to think you are pretty important—or you think you are pretty important—and rich enough to have a stamp made! I’ve only seen them used to personalize a document—to assure someone that a document is legitimate—or to seal an envelope. Again, I would think to use this kind of seal would allow you to be seen as a person of influence, which it sounds like Baruch and his family were. Since scribes were seen as important people because of their education, this level of importance would fit into how Baruch is being used by Jeremiah as a scribe.

    As an old car nut, a term being used a lot these days in old car circles is that of “patina”. Thousands of dollars are often spent to custom paint old cars to make then shine like new again—or even better than new. But a new trend is to find a “barn car”—a car that may have been sitting for years (decades) in a barn and then modernize its drive train but leave the old “patina”. This could run the gamut from faded paint to surface rust to old signs painted on the doors in the case of old commercial vehicles. Some folks even go so far as to take new paint on a car and then “weather” it to make it look old. Given the subject matter of this referred-to article, the making of patina is nothing new!

    Randy

  2. How good would you have to be to put a patina on a bulla and make it look 2600 years old–and fool the experts at the Israel museum?

    Good answers. Do you think the Baruch Bulla is authentic?

    • I suspect it is probably fake, given the documentation in the article-patina or otherwise. I mean, of all the items that might be of historical significance, why would one save an impression in clay? For that matter, clay would become brittle and break over the “centuries”.

      I would think someone would have to be–or know–an expert (artist) who would be able to completely fool the authorities at the museum. However, it sounds like the motive is profit and in that case, all you have to do is fool the guy with the money!

  3. Dr. Christopher Rollston is Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Studies at Emmanuel School of Religion in Johnson City, TN. He works primarily in the filed of Northwest Semitic Epigraphy, including and especially the following ancient languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, Phoenician, Moabite, Ammonite, Ugaritic
    http://www.esr.edu/Faculty/rollston.html

    The James Ossuary was one that was put aside by many due to the publicity that occurred with the Discovery Channel exposure. It is interesting to note in the article the volleying back and forth with the experts. Upon further footnote exploration, Ben Whiherington, a New Testament scholar, from the footnotes proposes the box to likely be authentic. His criticism of the findings as being “too good to be true” quite possibly hint of political influence even in the field of Biblical archaeology.

  4. Good answer. He is also something of an expert on forged antiquities. ESR is not too far from KCU, is it?

  5. 1. My thoughts as to the dependability of the websites would have to go with the Society of Biblical Literature. The wide reaching involvement of a diverse membership involving students, teachers, religious leaders would lend one to rely upon the scholarship found. It has various affiliations with other groups that would demand accountability. It has a statement of core values which must be adhered to by each member also would command respect for reliabilty. Wikipedia does not list its authors and allows anyone to edit content without regard to any particular expertise in the subject. I attended Lincoln Christian Seminary for some time and Dr. Kurka taught a class entitled, “Shaping the Mind of a Leader,” and he cautioned our use or reliance upon Wikipedia as an authoritative source for those very reasons. He did not say never to peruse its pages but not to use it in any reference where sources may need to be checked.

    2. First of all a bulla was a clay seal of a papyrus put upon a string and the signet ring was stamped on the clay of the writer or owner of the document. This Baruch bulla is a reference to the scribe of Jeremiah. This has been used as a material reference to the scribe mentioned in the book of Jeremiah. SPL says it is the only material reference to date. Apparently after examination the bulla appears to be a fake. But I would probably like to follow some of the footnotes and even check their citations and try to come to some sort of conclusion based upon a few more sources.

    3. Baruch is found in the book of Jeremiah and is the son of Neriah (36:4). He is the scribe that is mentioned as writing what Jeremiah had told him 36:32). He read the prophecies to the people. (36;14-15). Following the sack of Jerusalem it is said he resided with Jeremiah at Masphatha or Mizpah according to Josephus. There is some thought that he and Jeremiah went to Egypt where they died but Josephus reports they were carried into captivity into
    Babylon after Nebudchadnezzar invaded Egypt. Josephus also reports he was of noble lineage. He is also credited with writing “The Book of Baruch” and “The Apocalypse of Baruch.”

    4. Obviously there are some considerations as to the authorship of Jeremiah and how it was compiled. One might consider a position or another based upon the historicity of Baruch and who he was. If he could be tied in some fashion to Jeremiah and his movements etc. there might be a better idea of what involvement Baruch had in the writing of the book of Jeremiah.

    5. I did try to find them and being 400 miles away from Kentucky Christian I was unable to access them as I was answering these questions. I typed in the titles and learned both were on file at the campus and I have not had the opportunity to try at Southern Illinois University.

    6. Chris Rollston is a professor at the Emmanuel School of Religion. He was educated as a historian and philologist of the ancietn Near east and he focused on the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament. He is professor of Old Testament and Semitic Studies.

    7. You just have to check sources. That is the reason that Dr. Kurka questioned Wikipedia, sources.

    8-10. The problem with Biblical Archeology is you just can’t go to the nearest town and walk into an archeology shop and ask questions. I know my son was interested in archeology and he attended the University of Illinois but when he arrived what freshman advisor today is going to recommend a degree in archeology thereby what type of networking do you have to call upon people you know in the field to give you that type of info? It can be done but for someone like me in the middle of cornfields and pastureland the opportunities to get acquainted with an archeologist is rather limited. We had a large Indian mound on a farm just south of us when I was a young man and they farmed it. That is what I have to deal with here in southern Illinois.

  6. I submitted a reply and it says it is waiting moderation on a computer that I submitted it on. what does that mean.

    • I found out what waiting for moderation meant. Also I apologize for my lame attempt at humor on answers 8-10. after I submitted the answers I realized it seemed a bit sarcastic and humor was the intention. I guess I should just stick to answering the questions. You can find experts but sometimes in some fields in some areas of the country it may be a bit hard to find one. thank you for your patience with me.

  7. Nothing wrong with a little sarcasm, as long as it’s not mean-spirited. Sometimes I say or write things intended as humorous or ironic–but then find that it is taken as sarcasm. Point #10 above was meant to be a humorous reference for Cathy (see her introduction).

  8. 1. I would say that the SBL is more authoritative than Wikipedia because anyone can get on Wikipedia and share their opinions and explanations.
    2-3. The Baruch Ben Neriyah Bulla is a clay seal depicting the seal of the scribe Baruch who was the scribe for Jeremiah.
    4. This article is an example of critical thinking because it forces the readers to try to decide whether the things and artifacts they describe in this article are true or if they are just their opinions.
    5. The articles that we could use to find more information are “Fingerprint of Jeremiah’s Scribe” by Shanks and “Corpus of West Semitic Stamp Seals” by N. Avigad and B. Sass.
    6. Chris Rollston is a paleographer and he was the one who said that the pomegranate shaped bone had writing on it that was probably forged and created much later than the pomegranate itself.
    7. It is definitely something that we need to figure out ourselves because we cannot just accept the opinions. I think there is a time in which we can accept the opinion but I don’t think we should just take the first one that we come across.

  9. This article involves critical thinking in that it challenges held assumptions and invites the reader to examine additional, relevant evidence. That being said, in order to “critically” examine the article itself, we need to ask a few questions: first of all, who do we accept as authorities? I agree that Wikipedia should probably not be our final authority on matters of scholarship, this article lists scholars from important schools on both sides of most of these issues. For instance, Chris Rollston of ESR and Frank Moore Cross of Harvard are frequently cited as experts, while the scholarly opinions of “renowned Semitic epigrapher” Prof. Andre Lemaire of the prestigious Sorbonne are repeatedly dismissed. The author (Yuval Goren) also repeatedly cites himself as an expert, without ever questioning his own motives or the possibility of minor psychosis in his own case, as he does with others. He has, however, cited his article sufficiently for those who want to look into the matter further and evaluate his analysis of the situation.

  10. Here a few comments I wanted to add:

    4. The article is an example of “critical thinking” because it presents certain claims and then examines the truth of the claims. The author does not merely accept the discussed artifacts on their face value. He presents different research studies that test the authenticity of the artifacts. As the article explains, just because certain museums, experts, and periodicals accept the authenticity of an artifact, does not mean that they have conducted the proper research. Unfortunately, like those who experience the “Jerusalem Syndrome,” some Christians will accept alleged claims and ideas without proper investigation. For example, I have heard numerous erroneous sermon/lesson illustrations that claim to be historically true. I think that Christians should use historical evidence to back up their faith, but they should make sure that their evidence is authentic.

    6. As already mentioned, Dr. Christopher A Rollston is the Toyozo W. Nakarai Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Studies at Emmanuel School of Religion (Johnson City, TN). He is a well-respected historian and philologist of the ancient Near East. He maintains a professional web site at http://www.rollstonepigraphy.com. Some may find this website of interest.

    8. I definitely agree with the statement: “One thing I learned in graduate school is that sometimes people are important resources.” When conducting my research for my Thesis in a previous graduate program, I contacted and interviewed many historians and scholars. Some of the people I talked with were able to point me in the right direction of credible resources, offer clearer explanations than some printed resources, and help me improve my research methods. I used to be well acquainted with Dr. Gerald Mattingly of Johnson Bible College (where I did my undergraduate studies). Dr. Mattingly is well known for his archaeological work in Jordan. He is also the Coordinator of the Karak Resources Project. I figured he might be a good person to talk with concerning some of the Old Testament issues we will encounter.

  11. 1. Which site do you think is more authoritative–the Society of Biblical Literature or Wikipedia?
    Since Wikipedia’s slogan is “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit”, and the Society of Biblical Literature was founded in 1880 to “foster biblical scholarship” . . . I’ll go with the Society of Biblical Literature.
    2. What is the Baruch Ben Neriyah Bulla?
    This is allegedly a seal (or impression of the seal) belonging to Baruch Ben Neriah.
    3. Who was Baruch Ben Neriah (or Neriyahu)?
    He was the scribe for Jeremiah.
    4. Explain how this article is an example of critical thinking.
    An artifact of potentially historical and biblical significance is “discovered”. Many people, in their desire for biblical proof and justification, readily accept its authenticity. However, upon additional scrutiny, the item turns out to be, in all probability, a fake. By applying scientific methods accepted by biblical and non-biblical scholars alike, a conclusion can be reached which may or me not be in line with a person’s original opinions or hopes.
    5. Notice that the article has footnotes. If you wanted to follow up on the Baruch Bulla, what articles might you read? (Note, they may be print articles and not available online?)
    The following articles should provide additional information:
    Deutsch, R. and M. Heltzer. 1994. Forty New Ancient West Semitic Inscriptions. Tel Aviv.

    Shanks, H. 1996. Fingerprint of Jeremiah’s Scribe. Biblical Archaeology Review 22:36-38.

    Avigad, N. and B. Sass. 1997. Corpus of West Semitic Stamp Seals, pp. 12-13, 175-6.
    6. Who is Chris Rollston, and where is he employed?
    According to the article, he is a paleographer. According to the website of Emmanuel School of Religion, where he is employed, he is a professor with expertise in philology and epigraphy.
    7. If you are interested in one or more of the objects mentioned in the article, are you willing to accept the conclusions of the author, or should you investigate further?
    If something is of interest, further investigation would be necessary. Accepting the conclusions of one author limits you to his/her conclusions and/or opinions.

  12. 1. Well, when it comes to pop-culture, biology, math, English history or other things like that, I would look to Wikipedia first. For things regarding the Bible, I would trust SBL more than Wikipedia.

    2. It was supposibly the seal of Baruch, the scribe who took Jeremiah’s dictation. Inspection revealed it to be a fraud. I imagine it was used as proof that the Bible is true, and then when shown to be false, there would have been some back-pedaling, some arguments… the kind of stuff we’ve always seen with this sort of thing.

    3. Baruch was the son of Neriah and a disciple (combination friend and student) of Jeremiah. He also became the prophet’s secretary and scribe.

    4. Rather than simply accept that the bulla really belonged to Baruch, it was studied and authenticated (or de-authenticated?). Another way that this is an example of critical thinking is that everyone had to decide how to respond first to the existence of such a bulla, and later to its fraudulence.

    5. I might read “Shanks, H. 1996. Fingerprint of Jeremiah’s Scribe. Biblical Archaeology Review 22:36-38” or “Avigad, N. and B. Sass. 1997. Corpus of West Semitic Stamp Seals, pp. 12-13, 175-6. Jerusalem.”

    6. Chris Rollston was a paleographer. I’m not sure where he was “employed”, but he wrote for Biblical Archaeology Review. Possibly, he worked in Israel studying these things.

    7. If I’m interested, I always investigate further! It’s simply philological!

  13. 1. Personally, I think the Bible is more authoritative than both of these websites. However, in terms of knowledgeable and reliable, I would have to say that I would trust SBL over Wikipedia, when it comes to things pertaining to the Bible.

    2. Basically, it sounds very much like what a King would use for sealing any of his documents, only in this case it is the seal supposedly of the scribe Baruch connected with the prophet Jeremiah. Interestingly enough, it turned out to be a modern day fake, however it is an intriguing possibility, that Baruch potentially had a seal.

    3. He is referred to as the “personal scribe of the biblical prophet Jeremiah.”

    4. It is an example of critical thinking, in that people did not just accept this bulla as it was and not do any further investigation into it. The bulla was actually studied, scientific testing done on it and ultimately proven to be a modern day forgery. However, it still caused people to wrestle with the fact that initially this was proof that Baruch existed, and afterwards with the idea that regardless of physical proof in the minds of Christians Baruch existed.

    5. Shanks, H. 1996. Fingerprint of Jeremiah’s Scribe. Biblical Archaeology Review 22:36-38.
    Avigad, N. and B. Sass. 1997. Corpus of West Semitic Stamp Seals, pp. 12-13, 175-6. Jerusalem.

    6. Chris Rollston is a paleographer, who I think is employed by the Israel Museum.

    7. Anytime I am interested in something, I do not just take the word of that author but rather investigate further on my own and come to my own conclusions on the matter.

  14. 1. Which site do you think is more authoritative–the Society of Biblical Literature or Wikipedia? SBL is probably more authoritative, because its material is peer-reviewed.

    2. What is the Baruch Ben Neriyah Bulla? A bulla (an inscribed seal) purported to be stamped with the name of Baruch Ben Neriyah, the scribe of Jeremiah.

    3. Who was Baruch Ben Neriah (or Neriyahu)? The scribe of Jeremiah (Jer 45:1).

    4. Explain how this article is an example of critical thinking. The article is describing the persistant desire to ascribe authenticity and biblical relevance to artifacts that may be fakes, i.e. the “Jerusalem Syndrome,” a play on the “Stockholm Syndrome.” Yuval Goren tries to approach each of these artifacts objectively, laying aside the prejudices that may come from the “Jerusalem Syndrome.” He suspects that many of them may be fakes.

    5. Notice that the article has footnotes. If you wanted to follow up on the Baruch Bulla, what articles might you read? (Note, they may be print articles and not available online?) One could read the article by Hershel Shanks, entitled “Fingerprint of Jeremiah’s Scribe” (Biblical Archaeology Review 22 [1996]: 36-38), as well as Nahman Avigad and Benjamin Sass’s volume on Corpus of West Semitic Stamp Seals (1997), especially pages 12-13 and 175-6.

    6. Who is Chris Rollston, and where is he employed? Dr. Rollston is an epigrapher who teaches at Emmanuel.

    7. If you are interested in one or more of the objects mentioned in the article, are you willing to accept the conclusions of the author, or should you investigate further? Further reading is always a good idea. In this case, Yuval Goren is on the faculty of Tel Aviv University, and has a reputation as something of a minimalist. He has been known to hastily reach negative conclusions when artifacts have a biblical connection.

    8. One thing I learned in graduate school is that sometimes people are important resources. I asked a question of my professor, and he phoned an expert in another state. It’s a lot quicker than looking things up in books! (Not that there’s anything wrong with books!). So, you could phone an expert and ask a question. . . .

    9. One problem I have in evaluating the article is the lack of an adequate scientific background. But I have a friend who is an analytic chemist. I think I will email him and ask what he knows about analyzing patina.

    10. Or, if you happen to be married to a biblical archaeologist, you could ask him (or her) to examine the article and give you a professional opinion.

    As I am married to a very smart biblical archaeologist, I had fantastic help on this assignment and have 100% confidence in my expert’s conclusions!!!

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