Thursday, June 24, 2010

I Have Decided to Edit My Second Article on the Throne of St. Mark Online [Part Two]

Now that we have established what inscription appeared on the front of the throne in a later period, let us go back to those two Samaritan (Paleo-Hebrew) letters which we have argued pre-date the rest. The reader is encouraged to see the letters on the extreme left as different by the way they are carved. They are more regular, more ornate, and are cut deeper. The Alef actually stands out like a beacon, written in an elaborate uncial bookhand with five strokes, suitable for a heading in a manuscript but hard to carve. Compare for instance this letter with the fourth letters of the whole inscription (see figure 1). These are both supposed to represent mirror mems written by the same hand in mirror writing but notice the obvious different (figure 2). There can be no doubt that the second mem (the first letter of the second word 'Mark') is a poor copy of the first letter, which as we noted is really an aleph written the write way around but now reinterpreted as a mem in mirror writing.

There can be no doubt that the shin aleph were written together before all the other letters of the inscription and signify 'year one' of Christianity in Alexandria.  Compare for instance the use of Paleo-Hebrew in a coin from the first year of the Jewish revolt of 66 CE. We see a depiction of a chalice with pearled rim (7 dots). The base is raised by projections on ends. Above the chalice is the date Hebrew letters ( שא = year one). Around the chalice is the inscription – half a shekel.

There are numerous examples of this time of coin, all featuring the two letter acronym 'year one' in Paleo-Hebrew exactly like the original inscription on the throne.  What makes this so interesting is it is impossible not to notice that in both the Jewish coinage and the throne of St. Mark the concept of 'year one' is also linked with the concept of the Jubilee.

Goodblatt referencing the coins from the Bar Kochba revolt notes that "coins of the first year bear the inscription 'year one of the redemption (גאולה) of Israel.'" [p.130] In other coins we see the phrase 'the redemption of Zion' where the genitive case reading means that the redemption of Zion was something which had been achieved. Yet as DeWeese notes, in this period גאולה was applied to the general release from debt and the full recovery of rights and inheritance in the year of Jubilee" (cf. Lev 25.26,29,31,32).

Yet it is not only גאולה that reinforces the concept of the Jubilee. The Jubilee is itself a 'year one' as Bergsma points out "year one of a jubilee cycle is also year fifty of the previous cycle, and therefore year one is always a jubilee year." [p. 253] With regards to the throne of St. Mark we have the same reference to 'year one' in Paleo-Hebrew with many of the features of the throne naturally suggests both the concept of the Jubilee year, and the central Samaritan theological concept of the renewed Time of Favour [Hebrew רצון Rāṣon, Aramaic Rūūta, Arabic Riḍwân]. (The spelling with Alef instead of He as is normal in Samaritan mss. does not matter here). In each of the two corners above the Seraph with the human face, there is an angel with one pair of wings blowing a shofar. The one on the right has an eagle’s face. The one on the left has a lion’s face. The two are a reminder of Mark. Presumably they are both the heavenly equivalent of Mark blowing the shofar to announce the Jubilee.  

It should also readily apparent that another parallel which emerges from the parallel employment of the Paleo-Hebrew acronym 'year one'  in connection with the Jubilee in both Jewish coinage and the original inscription on the throne of St. Mark is an underlying context of a messianic revelation.  In the case of the failed Jewish revolts both were led by failed messianic pretenders.  Yet as Philipson notes "the Julian date of 132/33, when the Bar Kochba rebellion commenced, happened to have been both a sabbatical and a jubilee year; which may have been an additional factor in the rise of the pitch of messianic fervor." [p.217] In the case of the first revolt, the connection was undoubtedly made with Daniel's prophesy of the seventy weeks, a concept related to the Jubilee.

Yet in the case of the throne of St. Mark the connection to the concept of Jubilee seems less clear. Why would the enthronement of St. Mark be linked to the cycle of sabbatical years?

More to follow ...

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