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The Pillars of the First Temple (1 Kgs 7,15-22).
A Study in Ancient Near Eastern, Biblical, Archaeological and Iconographic Perspective

Mod.: R.P. Peter Dubovský, S.J.

The columns referred to as Jachin and Boaz are certainly one of the most controversial features of the First Temple of Jerusalem. Their structure, dimensions, placement, elaborate ornamentation and enigmatic names, as well as various kinds of archaeological data have added to the range and complexity of the scholarly discussion.

Until now there have not been any monographs dedicated exclusively to the study of the twin pillars. Furthermore, the extrabiblical descriptions of the columns have not been used to attain a better understanding of their descriptions in the biblical texts. The Hebrew and Greek textual witnesses have not yet been compared comprehensively and systematically, and the rich iconographic evidence has not been fully employed in the quest for the meaning of the columns. Thus, there is considerable room for an innovative study in this field.

The body of this dissertation is divided into four parts (Chapters 2–5). Chapter 2 investigates the epigraphic evidence from Egypt, Mesopotamia and Syria-Palestine. This part will provide a useful background for the study, since it will highlight how pillars in those regions were described. It will help to answer the question of the historicity of biblical descriptions: do they have something in common with extrabiblical texts or are they merely “verbal icons”?

Since there are six different descriptions of the twin pillars in the Hebrew Bible, it is necessary to establish the relationship between them. This will be the scope of Chapter 3. By comparing the biblical accounts, it will be argued that 1 Kgs 7,15-22 should be considered as the primary source which describes the twin pillars. A question that arises here is whether the text is preexilic or postexilic, and this dissertation will argue in favor of its preexilic date. The next methodological step will be to compare the most important textual witnesses of 1 Kgs 7,15-22. This comparison will contribute much insight into the narrative development and transmission history of the texts. The study will move both backwards and forwards in time – backwards to the earliest inferable text, and forwards to the plethora of changes and interpretations that occurred throughout the textual life of the Hebrew Bible (Chapter 4). Then a solution as to the possible architectural development of the twin pillars will be proposed (synthesis in section 4.4). The dissertation will also take into account a number of different facts, namely: that the columns were frequently rebuilt (cf. KAI 10); that certain details in the descriptions are hardly compatible with each other; and that some verses containing additional building details were added later to the text.

The final (and most complicated) step of this study will concern the symbolic meaning of the pillars (Chapter 5). How were the columns flanking the entrance to the First Temple understood? This question will be studied via iconographic exegesis. Material culture remains will immerse us in the cultural milieu from which the description emerged, offering a unique way to achieve a better understanding of the material, dimensions, names, location and decoration of the pillars.