December 13, 2011

Twenty Questions for Leen Ritmeyer

or for anyone else at the big Boca Raton conference this weekend, on Jesus and the Temple... or for any other scholarly expert on the Temple of Jerusalem, for that matter.  If you're going, and if you get a chance to ask any of these questions*, I'd genuinely love to hear back about how Leen or anyone else answers them.

Without further ado:

1) Was the Temple in Jesus' day basically the same shape and size in all aspects as it was when Josephus described it?  If so, how do we know?  If not, which features or structures were different?

2) For instance, was the Temple courtyard in Jesus' day paved, or was it mostly dirt? How do we know?

3) If the Temple in Jesus' day was more or less structurally complete, then what if anything did the workmen of Agrippa II actually contribute to the "finishing" of that great complex?  What do you suppose was the very last element of construction they might have been working on?  Why?

4) Do you accept the suggestion that recently found coins may indicate the Western (retaining) Wall had not yet been built at the death of King Herod the Great? If not, why not, and what do you think they do indicate?

5) If the Western Wall had not yet been constructed by 4 BC, what other parts of the grand structure Josephus describes might possibly NOT have been finished by that date, either?

6) Would it be logical to assume that the Western Wall must have been finished before the temple court could be leveled, and that the leveling would be necessary before the court (the entire outer court) could be paved?

7) Would it be logical to assume that the courtyard was unlevel before the retaining wall(s)* went up, and that the courtyard would therefore have been unpaved before the courtyard was leveled?

8) Would it be possible for the outer court to have boundaries before the plateau had been fully leveled? Would those boundaries therefore have been necessarily smaller than they were later on? Is it possible that such an expansion of the courtyard could have happened at any given time between 20 BC and 63* AD?

9) What other developmental sequencing (or 'phases') of construction would have necessarily regarded the full retaining wall boundary (and leveling) as a prerequisite construction? Does the recent coin find therefore potentially change how we view the "Colonnade of Herod", or could it then push back the date at which it might have been completed?

10) Does a later wall construction affect the veracity of Josephus' account of the Battle of Pentecost, 4 BC, where rebel assailants are said to have hurled great stones down upon Roman legionaries [as from a great height directly above them]?

11) Do you believe the account of that passage that "[those noble structures were burned completely to the ground]"* at the end of that battle? If Josephus exaggerates, how extensive do you suppose the real damage actually was? Can you specifiy which structures are most likely to have gone down at that time, or to not have gone down, and why so? Can you speak to the physics of temperature and fire on limestone and marble(?*)? And on the bonding agents between them? (Or any other materials involved?*)?

12) If some significant portion of Herod's complex did burn down in the year 4 BC, how long did it take to rebuild? Who funded that rebuilding? With Archelaus partying hard for a decade and the Procurators coming in after that, was reconstruction funding therefore left to Jerusalem? Should we then expect they most likely applied a much smaller reconstruction budget, as compared to King Herod's original budget, and if so, again, how many years might it have taken for the rebuilding after that fire?

13) Is it possible that Jerusalem's Temple, in Jesus' day, was far from being the same structure that burned in 4 BC?

14) Is it possible that Jerusalem's Temple, in Jesus' day, was far from being the same structure Josephus had known from his Judean life in the 40's to 60's AD.

15) To what extent have archaeologist's reconstructions considered such questions of chronological development over the 'lifetime' of Herod's ongoing Temple project, from 20 BC until 63* AD?

16) To what extent might the following research scenario qualify as irresponsible misrepresentation:  If someone reads Josephus' description of the Temple and then works out convenient arguments as to why that same location, in Jesus' ministry phase, would have supposedly looked quite exactly the same?  To what extent has your research and writing attempted to avoid such a tactic?  What do you personally find most difficult about that particular challenge?

17) To what extent does the lack of developmental aspect in typical discussions of Herod's Temple Complex possibly enable the not-too-uncommon-in-print generality that "[Herod's Temple was under construction for around 80 years]"?  To what extent does this generality contradict the surface claims of the typical scholarly view?

18) What other aspects of New Testament research, or any other field within christian study, might also be suffering from a slight lack in developmental awareness?

19) Do you think we owe people a four-dimensional view of the past?  Does that include archaeology?  Does that include reconstruction?  Why, or why not?

20) Lastly, how many of these questions have you pondered before?  I'm just curious.

Thanks so much for your time...

* To the reader - Please forgive my lack of thorough fact checking tonight.  This is purely from memory, and the conference starts soon.

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