Q and A with the author, Zvi Koenigsberg
A. As I wrote in the book, the specific story developed out of a chance encounter with Adam Zertal. (At the time, he was working on a PHD, and after a few years became a sought-after Professor of Archaeology at Haifa University. But I was “infected” with the widespread curiosity in Israel about archaeology almost from the moment I arrived in the country. In fact, THE most important immediate attraction was the day after I arrived, when the Western Wall in Jerusalem was conquered on June 7, 1967, by Israeli paratroopers, some of whom became friends of mine after the war. A quirk of fate, or destiny, led eventually to my being mentored in all related subject materials by Professor Benjamin Mazar, who was almost immediately tasked with excavating the area surrounding the Western Wall, conducting perhaps the most significant archaeological project of all time. Early on, I realized – in light of the archaeological discoveries — that the biblical texts I was familiar with from childhood take on a new and exciting life of their own against the backdrop of the places named and described in the Bible.
Q. In three sentences or less, can you describe your book’s startling revelation?
A. I would suggest “revelations” in the plural, and please don’t count that as one of the 3 sentences. Seriously, my theories, if accepted eventually, will alter our understanding of biblical history, biblical composition, and a host of related issues, not the least of which is dating the earliest portions of the bible to about 1200 BCE. That is well before the date of the Odyssey and Iliad of Homer, making the Bible the earliest literary product of Western civilization. Please contemplate the magnitude of that statement.
Q: Do you have material evidence for your theory?
A. Enough for some very influential scholars to take it seriously. Hard to describe in a nutshell, but almost every one of the impressive scholars I consulted with contributed a unique slice of the pie, and made it into what I hope is a comprehensible whole.
Q: Why did it take three decades for this book to emerge? Is there anything significant about this moment in time?
A. It “emerged” in a confluence of circumstances that were seemingly random, much in the way it began. The primary “mover” for its emergence was my conviction that I had completed the exhausting process of getting the opinion of almost all those scholars who were able to contribute input.
Q: What kind of response has your book received?
A. I will let the endorsements on the cover speak for themselves.
Q: Have you ruffled feathers along the way?
A. Mainly my own, so far. I found it mind-boggling that I could come up with ideas that do two seemingly contradictory things: re-arrange a whole series of pre-conceived notions, and persuade some very serious scholars (some of whom teach those notions) that I may be right, or at least make a good case.
Q: Why is “The Lost Temple of Israel” relevant? Who is the ideal reader?
A. I think its relevance is directly related to how well it will be accepted…and that will be a very long process at best. I usually tell people that in about 300 years we’ll have a better idea how relevant it was. As far as the ideal reader is concerned, first and foremost is anyone who enjoys reading about an interesting – and I dare say fascinating – series of circumstances, and who will be intrigued by how well I dealt (or did not deal) with them…and how they dealt with me. Coming to the realization that I may have a key to revising ancient biblical history, by introducing the notion of additional temples that preceded the one in Jerusalem, among other things, is truly humbling.
Q: How much of the book challenges us to re-read the Bible?
A. Here I must refer the reader to a quote from my mentor, Professor Benjamin Mazar, who told me something I find unforgettable: “We must try to understand the Bible, not to prove it”. The Bible stands alone as the foundation document of Western civilization. It needs no substantiation from anyone at any level. But it does demand that we try to understand it. If my conclusions are correct, then the goal of understanding its timing and history has not yet been achieved. This is quite remarkable, since people have been trying to do so for thousands of years.
Q: Is “The Lost Temple of Israel” offensive to religious Jews?
A. There is no such category as “religious Jews”. They come in a multitude of formats and opinions. I assume that those who would find offense here are those who think that opinions on the Bible are the sole property of the learned Rabbis of their own particular persuasion, and the “other guy” has no clue, especially if he is beardless and unsanctioned.
Q: What is your hope for your book’s impact upon the public?
A. My greatest reward would be that it inspires people to actually open a Bible to take a look inside. I find it a much more rewarding experience than watching reality TV… and I hope they will too.
Q: Can your book’s message contribute to greater understanding in the Middle East? If so, how?
A. If I have a contribution to make to that understanding, it is that the yearning of the people of Israel for the land of Israel among other things, is in secrets buried in the land and in part revealed in the book. This is a yearning that they have miraculously kept alive for the past two millennia. Even more miraculous is that their yearning has actually been fulfilled, despite the greatest of obstacles and difficulties. All the rest is politics.