Beyond Measure Astonished

[T]he more He charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it; & were beyond measure astonished, saying, ‘He hath done all things well.’“–Mark 7:36-7

So saddened to hear of Dr. Amnon Rosenfeld being killed in a car crash (as reported a few days ago on Bible & Interpretation). He initiated correspondence with me following the publication of my ASOR Blog article in April 2012. He graciously included me on his private mailing list whenever he published a new article, & the last personal message he sent was in response to my own mailing list in January (this year, 2014).

As much as I would enjoy sharing his remarks, as well as those of the late LMLK VIP, Anson Rainey, I will honor their memory by keeping them private. I’ll take this opportunity to say that the reason I express so many of my eccentric beliefs in my books & public forums such as this blog, other blogs, my mailing list, more recently my YouTube channel, is that decades or centuries from now, I don’t want anybody guessing about how I really felt about a subject or person or organization.

Along those lines, about a week ago Dr. Raz Kletter informed me of his new article published in IEJ (v64, #1, pp. 22-37), “Vessels and Measures: The Biblical Liquid Capacity System”. Kletter has become an authority on the weight system of the kingdom of Judah since the publication of his aptly titled 1998 book, “Economic Keystones: The Weight System of the Kingdom of Judah”.

In his new IEJ article, Kletter joins the growing list of scholars praising the brilliant, world-class scholarship of Dr. Oded Lipschits.  Here’s the article’s abstract:

This paper criticises recent studies concerning the bath and other biblical liquid capacity measures, which call for their ‘deconstruction’. Fundamental issues of metrology are addressed: Were there exact measures in antiquity? How was capacity measured? Were lmlk jars ‘measured’? What are the differences between dry and liquid, ‘approximate’ and ‘exact’ measures? Why are measures ‘just’ or ‘honest’? Did temples employ completely different measures from those of the society as a whole? What is the relation between ‘measures’ and ‘vessels’

Okay, I lied … for pure entertainment purposes. Kletter drags Lipschits across some fiery academic coals, & extinguishes the proposals of him & his co-authors (i.e., Ido Koch, Arie Shaus, & Shlomo Guil, “The Enigma of the Biblical Bath and the System of Liquid Volume Measurement During the First Temple Period” in Ugarit-Forschungen 42, pp. 453-78). Here are some choice quotations:

Page 23: “With regard to measures, notably bath, which do appear in early biblical sources (Isa. 5:10; 1 Kings 7), Lipschits et al. acknowledge that ‘in the administration and economy of First Temple Judah the only known measurement for liquid volume was the bath’, but contradict this by suggesting that ‘the bath was not a fixed measurement for liquid volume but rather the name of a specific jar — the Judahite storage jar’ (2012:458). (Footnote #2: I wonder what the difference between ‘known measurement’ and ‘fixed measurement’ is.)

Page 24: “Lipschits et al. (2012) create an imaginary dichotomy between two sorts of biblical sources: ‘early’ (reliable, Iron Age administration/daily life) and ‘late’ (postexilic cult/utopia).

Page 25, f/n #4: “It should be noted that in their discussion of Albright’s view, Lipschits et al. (2012) present an incorrect history of research. … Presenting these authors in the wrong order creates the impression that Inge refuted Albright, while the opposite is true.

Page 26, f/n #5: “Lipschits et al. (2012) claimed that Albright was wrong, since they re-measured the rim of the bt lmlk jar as 7.3, not 8.15, cm. Hence, they claim, Albright should have reached a bath of c. 14 litres. Unfortunately, Lipschits et al. (2012) forgot to amend the second measure in the equation—that of the lmlk jar rim. They measured many ‘Judaean’ jars and state that their rim diameters vary between 8.2–9.4 cm and are ‘smaller than Albright’s assumed typical lmlk jar’ (from Sergi et al. [2012], one can see that their ‘Judaean’ or ‘oval’ jars include lmlk, proto-lmlk, rosette jars, etc.). Yet Lipschits et al. (2012) used the same ‘wrong’ measure (10.8 cm) for lmlk jars used by Albright.

Page 27: “If bath was the name of a jar, as suggested by Lipschits et al. (2012), it would be redundant to write ‘1 bath’ on this jar. Do we write ‘1 spoon’ on spoons or ‘1 jug’ on jugs?

Page 28: “Consequently, the statement [by Lipschits et al. (2012)] that the log, hin, or bath were vessels and not measures is meaningless, since they were, in fact, both. … Lipschits et al. (2012) also confuse ‘fixed’ and ‘approximated’ measures.

Page 32 (concluding sentence): “The ‘liquidation’ of the biblical liquid measures does not hold water.

Okay, Raz, now tell us how you really feel! Ha! Ha! I admire people who avoid ambiguity!

After hearing about Yuval Peleg’s tragic death last month, I imagined how I would feel about my recent criticisms of Lipschits, Finkelstein, & Collins if one of those 3 prominent men were to meet the same untimely end. I revisited those thoughts when I heard about what happened to Rosenfeld, & reached the same conclusion: Each of us is accountable to God for what we do during the life God has given to us. Although I’ve made many mistakes in my life & would prefer to CTRL-Z some of them (i.e., undo them with a keystroke), I believe it’s important that if we know somebody has done something wrong, we should not keep silent while we still have the opportunity to say something.

I think it’s wonderful that Dr. Rosenfeld’s professional career ended with an unambiguous point about the study & publication of antiquities.

G.M. Grena

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