What Did Ancient Jewish Priests Look Like?

Dec. 16 2014

Although the Bible contains extensive descriptions of the ritual garments worn by Temple priests, artistic renderings are virtually nonexistent. But the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, uses words that suggest how the clothing might have looked. The Greek text also informed Roman artists, helping them create a stereotypical “look” that signified Jewishness. Joan E. Taylor writes (free registration required):

The Septuagint’s Greek words link priestly dress with Persian attire. Persians . . . were known to wear pants and waist-tied tunics, with capes clasped with a brooch, along with floppy “Phrygian” caps, as can be seen in the Arch of Septimius Severus in Rome. So what the Septuagint indicates is that priestly dress was quite Persian/Parthian-looking. Importantly, [1st-century Jewish historian] Josephus—himself a priest—described in detail what he knew priests to wear in his own day. . . .

If in Greek texts Jewish priestly attire is presented as being rather Persian or Parthian in appearance, this might also explain a puzzling image on Roman coins commemorating victory over the Judean revolt. The coin type has Titus on the obverse and a Judean kneeling under a Roman trophy on the reverse.

It is usually assumed that the Romans simply depicted the Judean here as a Parthian, as a kind of one-size-fits-all “conquered rebel” type. Clearly, the figure looks like a subjugated (enslaved) Parthian as found in the statues of the public Gardens of Sallust. However, . . . viewers are supposed to “get” that this man on the coin is a Judean, [even though] there is no date palm (symbol of Judea) to identify him, or the words IUDAEA CAPTA (for the literate), as we find on other coinage.

Read more at ASOR

More about: Ancient Israel, Ancient Rome, Priesthood, Second Temple, Septuagint, Temple

Why President Biden Needs Prime Minister Netanyahu as Much as Netanyahu Needs Biden

Sept. 28 2023

Last Wednesday, Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu met for the first time since the former’s inauguration. Since then, Haim Katz, Israel’s tourism minister, became the first Israeli cabinet member to visit Saudi Arabia publicly, and Washington announced that it will include the Jewish state in its visa-waiver program. Richard Kemp, writing shortly after last week’s meeting, comments:

Finally, a full nine months into Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest government, President Joe Biden deigned to allow him into his presence. Historically, American presidents have invited newly installed Israeli prime ministers to the White House shortly after taking office. Even this meeting on Wednesday, however, was not in Washington but in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Such pointed lack of respect is not the way to treat one of America’s most valuable allies, and perhaps the staunchest of them all. It is all about petty political point-scoring and interfering in Israel’s internal democratic processes. But despite his short-sighted rebuke to the state of Israel and its prime minister, Biden actually needs at least as much from Netanyahu as Netanyahu needs from him. With the 2024 election looming, Biden is desperate for a foreign-policy success among a sea of abject failures.

In his meeting with Netanyahu, Biden no doubt played the Palestinian issue up as some kind of Saudi red line and the White House has probably been pushing [Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman] in that direction. But while the Saudis would no doubt want some kind of pro-forma undertaking by Israel for the sake of appearances, [a nuclear program and military support] are what they really want. The Saudis’ under-the-table backing for the original Abraham Accords in the face of stiff Palestinian rejection shows us where its priorities lie.

Israel remains alone in countering Iran’s nuclear threat, albeit with Saudi and other Arab countries cheering behind the scenes. This meeting won’t have changed that. We must hope, however, that Netanyahu has been able to persuade Biden of the electoral benefit to him of settling for a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia rather than holding out for the unobtainable jackpot of a two-state solution.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship