Friday, April 15, 2005

Salome Danced Here

A week ago on Paleojudaica, Jim Davila noted this interesting piece from Ha'aretz (though I think Jim's link needs correcting):

Tiberias unearths very rare marble floor

The article explains that "the floor is apparently a remnant of a pavement in the palace of Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, who ruled the Galilee from 4 BCE to 38 CE". Two quick comments, first on this:
". . . .Who knows, perhaps Salome danced for the king on this very floor," Hirschfeld said, referring to the New Testament story of the daughter of Herodias, Antipas' wife, who demanded the head of John the Baptist on a platter in exchange for the dance.
What cheered me up here was the accuracy of the brief report. We often (rightly) moan in the biblioblogs when the media is sloppy, but here I rather like the way that Hirschfeld's enjoyable and playful, "Who knows, perhaps . . ." is not sensationalized by Ha'aretz but, if anything, is sobered down in the succeeding comment, even to the extent of saying (with Mark and Matthew) "the daughter of Herodias" rather than "Salome", the latter identification being one made on the basis of Josephus. Incidentally, I recall on the latter a thread on one of the e-lists some time ago to the effect that the identification of Herodias's daughter in Mark 6.14-29 with Salome was made surprisingly late on in the history of the reception of the text, surprising given the fact that now everybody thinks of the dancer as Salome.

My second comment is to ask a question about this:
The dig was cosponsored by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Israel Antiquities Authority, and was funded by the Tiberias municipality and Brown University, Rhode Island. It revealed that in the fourth century a basilica was constructed on top of the palace. It also uncovered a street from the Roman-Byzantine period, mosaics, and coins bearing the image of Jesus.
"Coins bearing the image of Jesus"? This rather intrigued me, especially as no date is given (does it imply "Roman-Byzantine period" for this detail too?), so I Googled for more and found the following story, which I must have missed at the time:

Coin of Jesus found in Ancient Tiberias Excavation
. . . . To their great surprise, a group of young people who were participating in the dig discovered a rare coin. On the front of the coin can be seen a somewhat blurred image of Jesus, while on the back, the words in Greek "Jesus the Messiah King of Kings" are engraved very clearly. This coin is one of a series of coins that were issued in Constantinople (present day Istanbul) in celebration of the First Millennium of Jesus' birth.

It is not uncommon to find this coin in neighboring countries of Israel, such as Turkey, but this is the first time that it has ever been discovered at an Israeli archaeological site.

Prof. Yizhar Hirschfeld . . . . explains that this coin was brought to Tiberias by Christian pilgrims. Tiberias and the other sites around the Sea of Galilee were the desired destination of Christian pilgrims during the time of Muslim rule in Israel from the 7th to 11th centuries CE . . . .

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