Biblical Archaeology Review 19:4, July/August 1993

Let’s be Serious About the Bat Creek Stone

By P. Kyle McCarter Jr.

Let me see if I have this straight. Some 19 centuries ago there was a group of Jews, citizens of one of the Judean port cities like Caesarea or Joppa, who fled their homes to escape the violence and confusion of the First Jewish Revolt against Rome and, reluctantly forsaking their native land, embarked on a life at sea. They probably turned to piracy for a while, preying on commercial vessels in the shipping lanes of the eastern Mediterranean, like the refugees from Joppa whose shipwreck is reported by Josephus in The Jewish War.1 Eventually, though, they left everything familiar behind and sailed west, possibly in search of more vulnerable quarry farther from the patrols of the imperial fleet. In all likelihood, they plied their trade for a while in the western Mediterranean, though we have no way of knowing exactly where. Perhaps they operated off the Iberian shore for a while; perhaps they spent some time (in what was soon to become the best piratical tradition) loitering along the Barbary Coast. In any case, we can be fairly certain that they were headquartered far enough west to be able to make an occasional foray beyond the Pillars of Hercules. On one such occasion, we must suppose, they were surprised by a sudden squall and swept out into the open Atlantic.

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