Four Words

History is made of up “his story”. Indeed, what we leave to future generations is only our stories. These stories are made up of our words. Recently, an inscription of only 4 words discovered near the Jerusalem Convention Center has caused a fury in the archaeological world and caused speculation about the story behind them.

The 4 words in Hebrew or Aramaic translate into English as: “Hananya, son of Daedelus, from Jerusalem”

hananya inscriptionThese words were found carved into a column segment which was being used (in secondary usage) to support a floor from the late Roman period. Archaeologists have dated the column itself to the time of Herod the Great in the 1st century B.C.E. “Jerusalem” appears written in Hebrew as we write it today (fully) and not as it occurs in the vast majority of biblical appearances (shortened).

Many want to make Hananya out to be an important artist. They write stories about his life from these 4 words. But I prefer him like this:

Once upon a time, at the end of the Second Temple period, lived a Jew called Hananya, just like hundreds of other Hananyas in Judah. He lived on the fringes of history – apparently, he didn’t kill anyone; he didn’t revolt against anyone; he didn’t give public speeches; and he didn’t teach or judge or sin. It is reasonable to suppose that he worked for his daily bread; maybe he was a potter in the old industrial area to the west of the city, maybe he was another kind of artisan. Maybe his father was named Daedelus using a Greek name, as many Jews did of his time including Judah Maccabeus, the hero of the Hanukkah story. And maybe Hananya called himself by this Greek nickname, as a way of describing himself as a skilled craftsman. He came from Jerusalem and was apparently proud of it, and so he carved it on a column segment in the place of his residence in the potters’ village. The name of his city he wrote as he pronounced it – Yerushalayim – and not as it was customarily written by the scribes – Yerushalem.

Evil days came to the city. The rebels, and the speakers, and the teachers, and the murderers ruled the simple man’s life, and the city was destroyed by the hands of other fighters and murderers who came from far off and spoke differently and dressed differently and sacrificed differently. Hundreds of thousands of people, workers and rebels, righteous and murderers, found their deaths in violence, and passed from this world. The conquerors erected a new town on the potters’ village and continued to make vessels for their needs, they even used the building materials that they found there, including the column segment of Hananya. They also passed from this world in blood and fire, and also their conquerors, and the conquerors of their conquerors.

Last week, Hananya, son of Daedelus – the artisan from Jerusalem – declared his victory over the rebels and the other conquerors, over the kings and the priests, the murderous and the wise, and over the murderous and wise conquerors of those conquerors. He raised his head after 2000 years, and was pleased: Look at the people working here! Excavating, and paving and building and traveling. Simply living. Everything is good.

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2 thoughts on “Four Words

  1. “Oh, take your time, don’t live too fast
    Troubles will come and they will pass
    You’ll find a woman and you’ll find love
    And don’t forget, son, there is someone up above
    And be a simple kind of man
    Oh, be something you love and understand
    Baby be a simple kind of man
    Oh, won’t you do this for me, son, if you can”

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