The Discovery of the Skull of Goliath: Scenes from Don Verdean

DON VERDEAN: Okay, right now we’re standing in the very creek bed
where David collected his five stones. That means the Philistine army
would have camped over here and the Israelites would have camped over there… Military protocol of the day would put David and Goliath somewhere right here in the middle.

don-verdean-boaz-carol

CAROL: What is this place?

DON VERDEAN: This is the ancient village of Gath. Goliath’s birthplace. We all need to keep our eyes peeled for any natural landmarks… a… a monument of sorts.

CAROL: What about that monolith right there?

DON VERDEAN: What monolith?

CAROL: Right there.

DON VERDEAN: That’s not a bad idea.

CAROL: Well, to me, this monolith represents the physical strength of Goliath.
So, it only makes sense that they would’ve used something like this as a grave marker.

DON VERDEAN: Dang, you’re a natural…
Everyone be careful. Most Philistine graves in this region are quite shallow. That being said, let’s dig fast. Don’t want any looky-loos showin’ up.

( CLANGS )

BOAZ YOHALEM: Don. I hit something.

DON VERDEAN: Okay. Ho, ho, ho… everyone stop….  Carol, can you hand me
that brush from my kit?

CAROL: I can see a chunk of bone.

DON VERDEAN: Let’s not get carried away.

CAROL: Ooh! Is that the dome of a skull?!

DON VERDEAN: Phew. Certainly appears that way.

CAROL: Wow.

DON: Carol, would you do the honors?

CAROL: No, I’m afraid I’ll break it. You do it. All right, next time. Get that bag ready. Oh, my God. I don’t believe it. That’s… the skull of Goliath.

TOURIST: Hey! Hey! T-these guys just found the skull of Goliath!

don-verdean-goliaths-skull

DON VERDEAN: Earlier this month on a routine dig in Israel,
Miss Jensen, Mr. Yohalem and myself unearthed the remains of a very large human skull containing a river stone embedded in the frontonasal suture.
This discovery was made in Gath, the ancient birthplace of Goliath …

BOAZ YOHALEM: Tell them how we were chased by three al-Qaeda
guys on “motorcycles” …

DON VERDEAN: Uh… well, yes, as you already know word of our discovery spread quickly and not 10 minutes after we were on the road with the skull,
we were followed by three masked men on motorcycles… I immediately took evasive action and I knocked all three of them off the road…

What al-Qaeda would want with the skull of a Philistine, I have no idea.

BOAZ YOHALEM: They’re possibly cloning an army of giant al-Qaeda guys.

The (tall) Goliath Family of First-Century Jericho

In “Revising the Hebrew Dictionary (DCH). 2. The Goliath Family” (October 2015), David J.A. Clines has some interesting things to say about a first-century inscription from Jericho.

The Goliath Family Tomb, Jericho
The Goliath Family Tomb, Jericho

Clines refers to an excavation carried out in the late 1970s, in which the bones of various members of the Goliath (גלית/ΓΟΛΙΆΘ) family were found in a first-century monumental tomb in the Jewish necropolis at Jericho. As Clines summarises, “the bones of family members were contained in 22 ossuaries (and elsewhere in the tomb) and there are some 32 inscriptions on 14 of the ossuaries.” The original report on the excavation of the family tomb is found in director Rachel Hachlili’s report, “The Goliath Family in Jericho: Funerary Inscriptions from a First-Century A.D. Jewish Monumental Tomb”, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 235 (1 July 1979): 31-66.

Goliath Family Tomb inscription 9 ("Yehoezer son of Yehoezer Goliath") in Greek and Hebrew
Goliath Family Tomb inscription 9 (“Yehoezer son of Yehoezer Goliath”) in Greek and Hebrew

Why did a Jewish family take the name Goliath, the name of the famous Philistine foe? Hachlili’s suggestion was that it was a nickname, due to the great height of some of the family members. For example, the “Yehoezer Goliath” of inscription 9’s “Yehoezer son of Yehoezer Goliath” (right) – if he may be identified with Yehoezer bar Eleazar of inscription 12 – was 188.5cm (6 feet 2 inches) tall. Given the average height of Jewish males at this time of 5 feet 4 inches, Yehoezer bar Eleazar would have easily been nicknamed “Goliath” (who in the Greek Septuagint was 6 feet 9 inches).

Clines calls the explanation “intriguing rather than definitive”. Indeed.

N.T. Wright sings “When the Ship Comes In”

Freewheelin’ travelling bard N.T. Wright has taken his heartfelt folk-singing to the masses. One of his most-loved tunes – judging by his many renditions – is Bob Dylan’s “When the Ship Comes In”.

We believe it is significant that Wright has chosen a song which ends with the notable line,

… And like Goliath, they’ll be conquered

Is Wright, then, a secret gigantologist? We suspect so.

May 7, 2012, the Rabbit Room

May 12, 2012, Hearts and Minds Books

And the version that Wright remembers:

 

 

Don Verdean: A Film telling the Truth about Biblical Archaeology

Don Verdeen movie poster, with Sam Rockwell as Don Verdeen, holding the skull of Goliath he "uncovered".
Don Verdeen movie poster, with Sam Rockwell as Don Verdeen, holding the skull of Goliath he “uncovered”.

New at the Box Office (December 11, 2015) is Don Verdean, a film satirizing the world of biblical archaeology. It’s a hard job trying to satirize the field of biblical archaeology – which regularly makes outrageous statements about finds which allegedly support this or that thing in the Bible which themselves seem to be satirical. And what Yosef Garfinkel pronounces about Gath or what Eilat Mazar says about the City of David is often sidesplittingly hilarious – even if unintentionally so.

Yet Don Verdean looks like an entertaining watch for those who see the funny side of biblical archaeology and evangelical culture:

The problem is, as The Atlantic comments, many of those who will get the main joke in Don Verdean have problems laughing at themselves:

Can American Christians take a joke? The question will be tested by the new film Don Verdean, a satire about a Christian archeologist who tours churches showcasing the “biblical” artifacts he has unearthed—from the shears used to cut Samson’s hair to the Goliath’s skull…

Don Verdean probably never had a chance. It’s a satire set in American church culture, which means it will offend those Christians who don’t find that funny,” writes Alissa Wilkinson, chief film critic at Christianity Today. “And a lot of its humor relies on the audience’s insider knowledge of the obsessions and verbal tics of a subculture to which many of them don’t belong.”

The line between a giggle and a groan is often thin, and much religious comedy is just ridicule offered in bad taste. But when done right, religious humor in film, television, literature, and stand-up can be a gateway to important conversations and even instill listeners with humility. So Christians need to learn to laugh at themselves.

I’ll be keen to see it, anyway. But I do like to laugh at biblical archaeology.

The Slacktivist on the Different versions of David & Goliath

Fred Clark (The Slacktivist)
Fred Clark (The Slacktivist)

The Slacktivist (Fred Clark) continues to examine Goliath.

In his latest post, Fred examines the various versions of the David and Goliath story – not only its various modern film versions, children’s books, Sunday School lessons, etc, but also the different versions which exist within the Bible.

Have a read of his post here.

Also have a look at some earlier posts on this topic on Remnant of Giants.

On the different versions within the Bible:

Illustrating The Benefits of Pentateuchal Literary Criticism: The David and Goliath Story

Scott Derrickson’s Goliath: Respecting the Original

A Beginner’s Guide to Biblical Scholarship – by Jennifer Bird

On modern versions:

A David and Goliath Musical for Children on DVD

The David and Goliath Segment of The History Channel’s The Bible

Q Magazine’s comics reviewer Colin Smith reviews Tom Gauld’s Goliath

Bollywood does David and Goliath

When Goliath was in Ireland: “Dáithí agus Goliath”

David and Goliath as lovers in Caravaggio, Paul Cadmus, Charlie White, Matthew Stone, and David Dalla Venezia

Black Goliath – Bigger than The Brown Hornet

Nobody will ever make an Elhanan and Goliath film

Miles Sloman as David
Miles Sloman (David)
Makenna Guyler as Michal
Makenna Guyler (Michal)

Slacktivist Fred Clark wonders what happened to the $50M David and Goliath film written and directed by Timothy A. Chey and released into US theatres in April 2015.

The answer, in short: it bombed.

The Slacktivist also discusses the account in 2 Samuel 21:18-21, in which Goliath is killed – not by David – but by Elhanan. This alternative account has inspired his delightful film poster spoof:

elhanan-and-goliath-film-poster

Alas, Timothy Chey did not include even a single mention of Elhanan in his David and Goliath – despite the fact that he claimed it was “biblically correct” compared to recent Hollywood Bible films:

I’m not only a director, but also an evangelist. So obviously, I’m not going to make a film that’s biblically not correct or does not give honor to the Lord
Timothy Chey

I can’t wait to see this on DVD. I’ll place an order right this minute, at my local Christian bookshop.

david-and-goliath

 

 

 

A Beginner’s Guide to Biblical Scholarship – by Jennifer Bird

permission-grantedJennifer Bird has written a very readable book which introduces the academic study of the Bible. It is called Permission Granted: Take the Bible into Your Own Hands (Westminster John Knox, 2015).

The book is aimed at people who might never have encountered biblical scholarship, but who are curious to learn something about it. And the style of writing very much has this audience in mind. Its range of topics is drawn from throughout the Christian Bible, such as the Creation stories, the various things which the Bible has to say about sex, the spectre of violence within the Bible, the virgin birth, the historical Jesus, and Paul. The topics are introduced and presented in a way that is non-confrontational, yet which does not shy away from the critical issues which scholars raise about them.

Bird’s aim is to get confessional readers of the Bible to read it with different questions in mind. This might even, she suggests, enhance their reading.

One of the examples she discusses is the narrative of David and Goliath, in 1 Samuel 17. Bird notes that there are two other narratives in the Bible which suggest, contrary to 1 Samuel 17, that somebody other than David was responsible for killing Goliath. David was later given credit for killing Goliath, explains Bird, in an attempt to bolster his reputation. Understanding what the story in 1 Samuel 17 is trying to accomplish should, she contends, deepen our appreciation of the Bible.

bird-goliath

Should the fact that Goliath appears to be killed by other people, in other versions of the story, rock one’s faith? No, says Bird:

On the contrary, it can enrich one’s faith to read passages in the Bible in a way that respects the purposes for which they were written.

Check it out: Permission Granted website.