Category Archives: Article Abstracts

Review of Avigad, Nahman. “An Inscribed Pomegranate from the ‘House of the Lord.’”

Avigad, Nahman.  “An Inscribed Pomegranate from the ‘House of the Lord.’” The Biblical Archaeologist 53 (September 1990): 157-66. [Israel/Solomon/Furnishings/Symbolism]

In 1988 the Israel Museum with the help of an anonymous donor purchased a small “thumb-sized” pomegranate carved in ivory bearing a partial ancient Hebrew inscription.  The inscription was translated by the first publisher as “Belonging to the Temple of the Lord Yahweh, holy to the priests.”  If genuine, it purports to be the only archaeological find known to that time associated with Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem.  Because of its questionable provenance, some questioned its authenticity. Continue reading

Review of Sweeney, Marvin A. “Habakkuk.”

Sweeney, Marvin A.  “Habakkuk.”  In The Anchor Bible Dictionary, edited by David Noel Freedman. 6 vols. New York: Doubleday, 1992. 3:2-5. [Israel/Solomon/Liturgy]

This article discusses at some length the issues of Habakkuk’s origin, background, the text and versions, literary genre, and the message. Sweeney concludes that there is little scholarly consensus on any of these matters.  He does speak of the book in relationship to the temple on three matters, again debated and tenuous.  “Many scholars” argue that Habakkuk was a temple “cult prophet.”  They do so on the basis of “liturgical forms found in the book.”  Jeremias notes parallels between the Habakkuk’s watch station in 2:1 and “those of the postexilic Levites and priests in the Temple in Nehemiah 13:30; 2 Chronicles 7:6; 8:14; 35:2 and Isaiah 21:8.  Second, “a number of scholars see the book as a liturgical or cultic composition … or a prophetic imitation of a cultic liturgy.”  This is particularly true in chapter 3 sometimes known as the prayer or “psalm” of Habakkuk, where some see it as a “cultic song of lament sung as part of the temple liturgy while others see it as a song of victory and triumph over the forces of cosmic chaos.  Finally, some scholars find the cult as the unifying theme of the book.  “This argument is based on the correspondence of the vocabulary of Habakkuk 1, 2 and 3 with cultic psalms or the association of the genres of lament/complaint and response in Habakkuk 1-2 with the liturgical character of Habakkuk 3.”

Review of Gibson, Shimon., and David M. Jacobson. “The Oldest Datable Chambers on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.”

Gibson, Shimon., and David M. Jacobson.  “The Oldest Datable Chambers on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.”  The Biblical Archaeologist 57 (September 1994):150-60. [Israel/Second Temple/Herod/Construction]

Students of the Temple and its history have long been aware of the existence of a number of subterranean features scattered over the area enclosed by the walls of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.  Scholars have had difficulty examining these features because the Muslims controlling the Temple Mount deny access to them.  However in the late 19th century a number of British explorers worked in Israel and some of them gained access.  One in particular, Conrad Schick was a German-born architect who measured and recorded several of the forty-five underground chambers recorded.  The papers of several of these explorers, including Schick, are in the archives of the Palestine Exploration Fund in London.

Gibson and Jacobson found that some of Shicks work has not been published.  Mining his papers they discovered detailed measurements and drawings for what the authors argue are the oldest subterranean structures on the Temple Mount.   The authors established a typology for cisterns in the Holy Land and found these two fit the pattern of Hellenistic cisterns at Maresha and Beit Givrin and date to between the third and second centuries B.C.

Review of Jason Olsen, “The Red Heifer in Israeli Judaism”

Jason Olsen, “The Red Heifer in Israeli Judaism,” paper available online at:

This was a paper read at an Association for Israel Studies (AIS) conference in 2010.  It seems somewhat amateurish, with a number of redundancies which could have been eliminated with some proofreading and polishing.  It is an assessment of the philosophies of contemporary Jewish factions about rebuilding the temple (The Third Temple) on the temple mount in Jerusalem and the necessity to cleanse the site and the people who would build it from ritual uncleanness through the ashes of a burned red heifer as specified in Numbers 19.  Active fundamentalists believe they should bring about these events by producing a red heifer and eliminating the Muslim presence on the Mount and purifying priests to rebuild the temple.  Others, more passive, believe that the third temple will come when the Messiah comes; some even believe an already built temple will descend with him.  This all began with the Israeli conquest of Jerusalem in the 1967 war, and was enhanced with the 1993 Oslo Accords, which threatened to discontinue Israeli settlement in the Occupied Territories.  The specific points of difference in the positions of the two groups regarding the rebuilding of the temple and the role of the red heifer are distilled at the conclusion of the paper.

Review of Gaskill, Alonzo L., and Seth G. Soha. “The Woman at the Veil.”

Gaskill, Alonzo L., and Seth G. Soha.  “The Woman at the Veil.”  In An Eye of Faith: Essays in Honor of Richard O. Cowan, edited by Kenneth L. Alford and Richard E. Bennett, 91-111.  Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, 2015. [Mormon/Salt Lake/Furnishings/Symbolism]

This essay in honor of Richard O. Cowan, investigates the origin and meaning of a six-foot statue of a woman flanked by two cherubs in the Celestial Room above the veil of the Salt Lake Temple.  Much “folklore and misinformation” surrounds this interesting decoration.  Various interpretations include the statue depicts the Virgin Mary, the Roman goddess Venus or the Greek goddess Aphrodite, Heavenly Mother, and even an “effeminate Jesus.”  The true origins stem back to Joseph Don Carlos Young, the architect of the Salt Lake Temple, after the death of Truman O. Angell in 1887.  His great contribution to the temple was a redesign of the interior plan, which included the original interior furnishings.  While in Boston at the advice of his father Brigham, Don Carlos, as he was called, saw a statue made by a young sculptor.  Fascinated by it, he purchased it and busts of two cherubs.  Dubbed the “Angel of Peace,” probably by its sculptor, Young had it enlarged to a full-size, six-foot statue.  The original had wings, because it supposedly represented a female “heavenly being.”  Young took the wings from his original and apparently directed that the copy be made without wings as well.  It is not certain, but the authors believe Cyrus Dallin, the sculptor of the Angel Moroni on the Salt Lake Temple was likely the sculptor of this piece too.  In the absence of a detailed explanation of the symbolism by Young, the authors make the case for it being a symbol of the “woman” whom John describes in Revelation.  It is certain, however, that it does not represent Mary, Venus, or Aphrodite.

Review of Chadwick, Jeffrey R. “The Jerusalem Temple, the Sadducees, and the Opposition to Jesus.”

Chadwick, Jeffrey R.  “The Jerusalem Temple, the Sadducees, and the Opposition to Jesus.”  In The Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ, Volume One: From Bethlehem Through the Sermon on the Mount, edited by Richard Neitzel Holzafel and Thomas A. Wayment, 48-88.  Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2005. [Israel/Herod/Christian]

Two items stand out as the most important contributions of this article.  1) It provides a good discussion of the Sadducees and their relationship to the temple.  2) Chadwick lists the eight times Jesus visited the temple that are mentioned in the Gospels, mostly in the book of John.  He points out that the opposition Jesus encountered in the temple was not from the Pharisees, and John does not refer to the Sadducees by name in his book, but the “Jews” he refers to were probably Sadducees.  The article provides little else new or by way of depth on the visits of Jesus to the temple, but it is a convenient reference.

Review of Schweitzer, Steven J. “Zerubbabel.”

Schweitzer, Steven J.  “Zerubbabel.” In The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism, edited by John J. Collins and Daniel C. Harlow, 1359-60.  Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010. [Israel/Second Temple/Zerubbabel]

This article points out that information concerning Zerubbabel in the Bible comes from the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Chronicles.  The author appears to be more interested in Zerubbabel’s origin than his leadership of returning exiles from Babylon or his work on the temple.  He points out that 1 Chronicles 3:19 identifies Zerubbabel as a Davidide, but the other books declare him to be the “son of Shealtiel.”  Though there may be some reasons found in Zech. 6:9-14 to support Chronicles, Schweitzer does not believe one can be dogmatic about it.  Other references suggest Zerubbabel was the primary leader of the community of returnees from Babylon and the construction of the temple, but our author does little with this.  He points out that there is an “unparalleled account” about Zerubbabel in 1 Esdras, and by this he means there are no other sources with a parallel story.  The only references to Zerubbabel in the New Testament are his appearance in the genealogies of Christ found in Matthew and Luke.  Schweitzer concludes that this unexpected appearance “is the only commonality occurring between David and Joseph, which serves only to complicate the relationship of these two lists, which are otherwise independent.” (p. 1360)

Review of Albright, William F. “The Place of the Temple of Solomon in the History of Israelite Religion.”

Albright, William F.  “The Place of the Temple of Solomon in the History of Israelite Religion.”   In Archaeology and the Religion of Israel, 138-50.  5th ed.  Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1969. [Israel/Solomon/Furnishings]

This work was originally published in 1942, so it is dated, but nonetheless important because Albright was one of the brightest lights of archaeology during the 20th Century. In this brief treatment he brings to bear insights about Solomon’s temple from contemporary archaeology.  At the time most scholars found parallels to Israelite temples primarily in Greece, but he points out that discoveries in 1937 have shown that the structure and form were in Syria too. Other discoveries also threw great light on the interior decoration of the temple.  He spends considerable space (pp. 140-144) on the pillars Jachin and Boaz that were on the porch in front of the temple.  Various theories about their purpose and symbolism are reviewed then Albright argues at length  that they served as large cressets or fire-altars (p. 140).  Along with the large brazen or copper sea and the sacrificial altar the pillars had “cosmic significance” to the ancients.  The copper sea was a symbol of fecundity (p. 148), and the altar was the mountain of God or the gods.  In 2 Chron. 6:12-13 the account of the priest praying on a box-like structure has been confirmed in ancient Near East texts.  It symbolically covered the entrance to the underworld.  Many elements had “cosmic significance” for the ancients but were lost, and therefore were hitherto unrecognized and misunderstood. (p. 149)  But it was God’s house and he was the sole ruler of the cosmos.  The temple symbolized the permanence of the Davidic dynasty.

Review of Platt, Elizabeth E. “The Signet.”

Platt, Elizabeth E.  “The Signet.”  In The Anchor Bible Dictionary, edited by David Noel Freedman, 3:829-30.  New York: Doubleday, 1992. [Israel/Kingship/Priesthood]

This is an informative article about the development of the signet ring.  It is not particularly well written as an article for a dictionary because she moves around and interjects seemingly extraneous information occasionally.  She explains that the signet ring probably came from Egypt as a scarab signet ring which gradually evolved over time.  The article also contains a list of the most prominent mentions of a signet ring in the Old Testament with brief but helpful comments about each one.  Interestingly, each one was in a position of considerable power.

Review of Ricks, Stephen D. “Psalm 105: Chiasmus, Credo, Covenant, and Temple.”

Ricks, Stephen D.  “Psalm 105: Chiasmus, Credo, Covenant, and Temple.”  In Temple Insights: Proceedings of the Interpreter Matthew B. Brown Memorial Conference “The Temple on Mount Zion” 22 September 2012, edited by William J. Hamblin and David Rolph Seely, 157-69.  Temple on Mount Zion Series 2.  Orem and Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation / Eborn Books, 2014. [Israel/Ritual/Liturgy/Worship/Covenant]

This is a puzzling and enigmatic essay by one of BYU’s longstanding and reputed Biblical scholars.  His argument begins with the premise that important literary and theological themes such as chiasmus, the historical credo and the covenant dominate Psalm 105, and the temple looms in the background.  Ricks says in the first paragraph of this essay that he is going to discuss each of the elements but will “focus on the covenant in this psalm.”  Continue reading