So How Tall is the Staff of Ra?

Yaacov Apelbaum - 3 Amah

We were going over some Indiana Jones trivia during dinner recently and one of the questions that came up had to do with the length of an item that appeared in the Raiders of the Lost Ark called the “Head of the Staff of Ra”.  The discussion must have triggered some long lost memory because I suddenly remembered that in the movie, that object—which is a sort of a medallion—had an inscription on it.

Hoping that there was a quick way to figure out the math, I searched online for the phrase “head of the staff of Ra” and got an image of the original prop used in the movie. Sure enough, both sides had a clear and legible engraving in none other than ancient Hebrew script (also known as Paleo-Hebrew).

Yaacov Apelbaum - Headpiece to the staff of Ra

Transliterations and translations of the inscriptions are as follows:

Obverse Side

Reverse Side

vamh aht mel kds kbd yhvh vhmskn

tt amh qmtw

ואמה אחת מעל קדש כבוד ה’ והמישכן

תת אמה קומתו

And one amah above holy to honor G-d and the Tabernacle

TT amah is its height

As soon as I translated the text, I realized that it had some glaring stylistic and contextual problems. First, the writer chose the word for “add” to be מעל which usually means ‘above’ or from’ as in Kings 1:20:41:
 
וַיְמַהֵר–וַיָּסַר אֶת-הָאֲפֵר,מעל עֵינָיו; וַיַּכֵּר אֹתוֹ מֶלֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל, כִּי מֵהַנְּבִיאִים הוּא
And he hastened, and took the headband away FROM his eyes; and the king of Israel discerned him that he was of the prophets.
 
The proper form should have been a word based on the root יסף. Second, the form of קדש כבוד is never used together in reference to holy offerings. The form should have been קדש ל’ה as in Exodus28:36:
 
וְעָשִׂיתָ צִּיץ, זָהָב טָהוֹר; וּפִתַּחְתָּ עָלָיו פִּתּוּחֵי חֹתָם, קֹדֶשׁ לַ’ה
And thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and engrave upon it, like the engravings of a signet: HOLY TO THE G-D.
 
Also, from the paleography its clear that the author mixed several glyph styles when creating the inscription. As can be seen from the table below, the word “TT amah” uses letters Yaacov Apelbaum - Staff of Ra Text that are a mixture of 9th and 10th century BCE glyph styles. It should have been written using the 6th century BCE style. The reason for this is that the Temple of Salomon where the Ark of the Covenant was kept was built between 950-850 BCE and was destroyed in 586 BCE by the Babylonians. If the medallion is a record of the secret location of the Ark, it should have been written in an alphabet style from the period of the temple destruction not its construction.
 
Yaacov Apelbaum - Early Hebrew Alphabet
Paleo Hebrew alphabet styles from the 13th century BCE to 6th century BCE
 
Beyond the script issues, the inscription itself has contextual and artistic problems. For example, the candelabra (Menorah) at the top of the medallion has only six branches, instead of the seven stipulated in Exodus 25:31-40 and shown on a slew of ancient Menorah depictions on coins, lamps, jewelry, mosaics, tombstones, monuments, and inscriptions:
 
Yaacov Apelbaum -Seven branch Menorah
 
It is conceivable that the artistic team deliberately avoided the accurate portrayal of the menorah and the correct sentence structure and vocabulary on the inscription because of the prohibition in Exodus 20:7 “You shalt not take the name of the Lord thy G-d in vain” and Exodus 20:19-21 (see Avodah Zarah 43a reference at bottom of this post) to reproduce the actual menorah, but this could also have been just an oversight.
 
The other obvious problems with the inscription’s content are:
 
Problem 1 – The movie script doesn’t jibe with the text in terms of translation
Problem 2 – The staff height measurement units used are inconsistent
Problem 3 – The seared imprint on Major Toht’s right hand is the obverse side of the inscription

Problem 1

When Imam translates the text for Indy (see script below), he says: “This is a warning not to disturb the Ark of the Covenant”, yet that warning doesn’t exist in the inscription. It’s also a puzzle why Indy can’t translate it himself considering that he is a professor of archeology who graduated from the University of Chicago with a major in linguistics. Also, contrary to Imam’s claim that Indy should “…take back one kadam to honor the Hebrew G-d whose Ark this is”, the obverse inscription clearly calls for exactly the opposite: to ADD one amah to the base value.

Problem 2
Imam further states that the base height of the staff is six kadam and according the Salah’s calculation, this is about 72” (it’s actually 69”). The problem with this calculation is that we don’t know where Imam is getting the 6 kadam figure from. The inscription uses the term amah on both sides of the medallion. Interestingly, Egypt abandoned the use of the kadam in favor of the metric system in 1891, 45 years before the timeframe of the scene in the movie. Technically, then, Imam should not even be using the term.

Assuming that the reverse side of the medallion is the form found in Kings 1:6:2 and it is following the formula ‘amount x cubit’:

וְהַבַּיִת, אֲשֶׁר בָּנָה הַמֶּלֶךְ שְׁלֹמֹה לַ’ה–שִׁשִּׁים-אַמָּה אָרְכּוֹ, וְעֶשְׂרִים רָחְבּוֹ; וּשְׁלֹשִׁים אַמָּה, קוֹמָתוֹ
”And the house which king Solomon built for G-d, the length thereof was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof twenty cubits, and the height thereof thirty cubits.”

than the height for the staff should be indicated in the first two letters of the word  HeMemAlephTawTaw(Hebrew is read from right to left). In Hebrew, each letter of the alphabet has an associated numeric value and the value of X (or ת value in post sixth century BCE Hebrew typography) is 400. So XX could be read as 400+400=800 amah or 472 feet. Even if we read the first two letters XX as the spelling of the letter Teth Teth which equals 9, it would make the staff about 13 feet. This doesn’t make any sense as we can see clearly from the movie that the staff is about 7 foot tall.

Length Measurements Used
Amah [aka cubit) = 48 cm. (18 in.)
Kadam = 29 cm. (11.5 in.)

So in the case of problem 2, either there is a special way to read the XX value as 69” or the value in the inscription is wrong and should have been written as HeMemAlephDaleth, i.e. 4 amah.

Problem 3
The seared imprint on Major Toht’s right hand is actually the obverse side of the inscription. This means that contrary to Indy’s statement, Belloq had no way of getting the base staff height because the reference is located on the reverse side. On the other hand, if Belloq managed to get the base height somehow, he than had all of the missing information to construct the right height staff and in fact his staff was not too long.

Yaacov Apelbaum Major Arnold Ernst Toht-

So how long is the staff or Ra? It’s impossible to tell using the inscription. One thing is for sure, just like in anything else in life, G-d is in the details. Creating a plausible fiction that relies on an actual ancient language, epigraphy, biblical scholarship, historical facts, and math, and then wrapping the whole thing up in a dramatic screenplay seems to be just too complex of an undertaking. To paraphrase Mark Twain “It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense”.

Movie Script
Imam: Come, come, look. Look here… look. Sit down. Come, sit down.
Indy:   What is it?
Imam: This is a warning not to disturb the Ark of the Covenant.
Indy: What about the height of the staff, though? Did Belloq get it off of here?
Imam: Yes. It is here. This was the old way,
this mean six kadam high.
Sallah: About 72 inches.
Imam: Wait! And take back one kadam to honor the Hebrew God whose Ark this is
.
Indy: You said their headpiece only had markings on one side. Are you absolutely sure?
Indy: Belloq’s staff is too long. They’re digging in the wrong place.
Indy and Sallah: They’re digging in the wrong place!!

Yaacov Apelbaum - ROLA Script

Sources and References
Avodah Zarah 43a

כדתניא לא יעשה אדם בית תבנית היכל אכסדרה תבנית אולם חצר תבנית עזרה שולחן תבנית שולחן מנורה תבנית מנורה אבל הוא עושה של ה’ ושל ו’ ושל ח’ ושל ז’ לא יעשה אפילו של שאר מיני מתכות

As it is taught in a baraita: A person may not construct a house in the exact image of the Sanctuary, nor a portico in the exact image of the Entrance Hall of the Sanctuary, nor a courtyard corresponding to the Temple courtyard, nor a table corresponding to the Table in the Temple, nor a candelabrum corresponding to the Candelabrum in the Temple. But one may fashion a candelabrum of five or of six or of eight lamps. And one may not fashion a candelabrum of seven lamps even if he constructs it from other kinds of metal rather than gold, as in extenuating circumstances the Candelabrum in the Temple may be fashioned from other metals.

רבי יוסי בר יהודה אומר אף של עץ לא יעשה כדרך שעשו בית חשמונאי

The baraita continues: Rabbi Yosei bar Yehuda says: One may not fashion a candelabrum of wood either, in the manner that the kings of the Hasmonean monarchy fashioned it. When they first purified the Temple they had to fashion the Candelabrum out of wood as no other material was available. Since a wooden candelabrum is fit for the Temple, it is prohibited to fashion one of this kind for oneself.

*** [Update March 7, 2018] ***
I got a question from a reader about the possibility that part of the language of the inscription describing the height was in Ugaritic and that the tt amh qmtw should be read as a cardinal 6.  This is a problematic explanation because:

  1. There would be no apparent reason to mix Ugaritic with Hebrew. By the sixth century when this inscription was supposedly written the Ugaritic alphabet (which resembles proto Canaanite) was out of circulation for almost 700 years. Ugaritic also had a designation for numerals and fractions and tt was not one of them.
  2. Even if we somehow manage to read tt amh qmtw as 6 and add one Amah (18 in.) or one Kadam (11.5 in.) to it, we are still left with a staff height of less than the apparent 7’-3 to 7’-6”.

© Copyright 2017 Yaacov Apelbaum, All Rights Reserved.

25 thoughts on “So How Tall is the Staff of Ra?

  1. Dear Yaakov,

    You’ve assembled an extraordinary body of work here, and it is disappointing that it has not received more widespread dissemination and recognition.

    May I reference and point back to parts of this in my own research (and assembly of research) into the affair that has come to be known as Spygate? I cannot promise great exposure, just great appreciation from me at minimum.

    I’ve been hospitalized for quite some time, so my website is far from current. But I’ve been gathering info and trying to keep track of the players, events, and backgrounds — and your work here on the Steele dossier is astoundingly thorough.

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

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  2. It’s very extensive work and a lot of it quite good. The information processing and web searches including images is impressive to someone like me unfamiliar with this type of analysis.

    Few crits:

    *Still not clear to me how the 5 people with Mary at the White House are connected. They are not deep in the network that you show for the dossier. Some of the associations (Clinton campaign) are awfully general too. It seems possible to me that multiple projects were discussed and that most the group was non dossier.

    *The redaction $$ length just constrains the maximum amount. It does not guarantee 5 figures (consider…would you say all the blacked out names were also equal length?).

    *I don’t see the dossier work as that extensive that it needed 12-25 man years of work. Look how much content you generated here.

    Question: how did you get the various emails? Shared with you by recipients?

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    • Comments in-line

      *Still not clear to me how the 5 people with Mary at the White House are connected. They are not deep in the network that you show for the dossier. Some of the associations (Clinton campaign) are awfully general too. It seems possible to me that multiple projects were discussed and that most the group was non-dossier.
      (YA:1) There are many types of linkages that could be investigated including the relationships between the visitors and the projects each was working on. Due to time constraints the already overwhelming amount of detail, my objective was just answering the question of “was Jacoby’s visit to the WH that day for business or pleasure?”

      I also think that it is reasonable to conclude that this was some form of a task force meeting.

      *The redaction $$ length just constrains the maximum amount. It does not guarantee 5 figures (consider…would you say all the blacked out names were also equal length?).
      (YA:1) It does because the reduction length seems to be governed by the longest string of digits (including the decimals). So we can say for certain that at least one of the three payments (records 86, 87, 88) was at least 5 digits long.

      *I don’t see the dossier work as that extensive that it needed 12-25 man years of work. Look how much content you generated here.
      (YA:1) We know from Glen Simpson’s testimony that the project took about 9 months to complete. We also know that it was active well into 2017. So this gives us about 12 months of rev up, research, collection, analysis, publication, distribution, PR, activity. As far as the headcount, here is a list of participants/contributors. This list doesn’t include the second level directs (researchers, staff, etc.) working for Fusion GPS and Orbis in the US and UK, or legions of the dossier pimps/madams in the MSM.

      1. Neil King Jr.
      2. Shailagh Murray
      3. homas Catan
      4. Chris Steele
      5. Chris Burrows
      6. Sir Andrew Wood
      7. Luke Harding
      8. Sir Richard Dearlove
      9. Stefan Halper
      10. Jonathan Clarke
      11. Edward Baumgartner
      12. Nellie Hauke Ohr
      13. Bruce Genesoke Ohr
      14. Jonathan Winer
      15. Robert Otto
      16. David Kramer
      17. Strobe Talbott
      18. Cody Shearer
      19. Sidney Blumenthal
      20. Victoria Nuland
      21. Alexandra Chalupa
      22. Natalia Budaeva
      23. Melanne Verveer
      24. Iryna Mazur
      25. Ilya Zaslavskiy
      26. the team at Perkns-Coie

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  3. Just saw the movie with my kids. I happened to have recently taken a trip to Israel and just happened to brush up on ancient Hebrew script about a year ago. (reading “uncovering yirmiyahu”, fantastic book by yehuda landy). In any case, I immediately realized that the inscription was hebrew, so I paused it and we got a pen and paper, for a fun analysis with my kids. It took us about two seconds to realize that the guy was translating the wrong side.(we saw the “achas me’al kodosh kovod hashem” part and put two and two together.)
    Anyway, your article was thorough. Super job! I would only like to add a theory about “tat” amah koimosoi. Obviously tof tof is meaningless. But shin shin is not. The prop guy just made a mistake. Shin is right near tof on the chart, and instead of writing “sheish amah” (6 amah) he wrote “tat amah”

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    • Thank you for your kinds words and feedback Avrumi.

      I like your ‘Shin substitution’ argument, it would certainly bring the height down to a more manageable value. But the problem with using Shin=6 for the multiplier is that it still yields the following:

      1. Using Amah as the unit of measure: 6 x 48 (+ 48) = 336 cm
      2. Using Kadam as the unit of measure: 6 x 29 (+29) = 203

      Both of these values are still over/under the height of the staff that is depicted in the scene. If we use Indiana Jone’s 6′-1″ height as a reference, than the staff should be somewhere around 7′-3 to 7′-8″.

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      • If we are willing to overlook that they immediately say 6 kadam “is about 72 inches” (maybe they researched it later) and we use the amah = 48 cm / 18.8 inches, then “6 amos LESS 1 amah in honor of the Hebrew G-d whose ark this is” (in other words 5 Amos) is 18.8 inches x 5= 94 inches, which is 7.8 feet. Not terribly off.

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      • Hi AVrumi,

        Good argument, but unfortunately, the obverse says “vamh aht mel kds kbd yhvh vhmskn” So unless you have some creative way of reading ‘mel’ as ‘mitahat’, you are supposed to add one amah, not subtract it.

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      • It is clear from their conversation that they interpret it as minusing one amah (“wait! And take BACK one kadam to honor the hebrew God who’s ark this is” also “Beloc’s staff is too long”). The literal interpretation would be as follows. “and the single upper/topmost amah, is consecrated/ forbiden/ designated (“kodesh/ kadesh/ kudash”) in honor of G-d. What do you think?

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      • You can make the special consecrated value argument, but you will have to back it up with some text or a tradition. We don’t have any evidence that the measurements of holy objects in the temple such as the molten sea, the Ark, the tabernacle, the two pillars, the alter, or even the temple used spacial consecrative values. For example, when 2 Chronicles 4:2 gives us the dimensions for the molten sea, the diameter is expressed as π (diameter/radius).

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      • Wow. You are really putting me through the ringer here. I think you might be overthinking my explanation. I can’t find a source for “spacial consecrative values” because, admittedly, I have no idea what that means.
        There happens to be an interesting related biblical problem on regarding the true definition of “kds” קדֵשׁ typically translated as “holy”? The problem arises because the Torah uses the term ” קְדֵשָׁ֖ה” in a decidedly un”holy” context. Specifically in Deuteronomy 23:18, where it is referring to a “prostitute”:

        לֹא־תִהְיֶ֥ה קְדֵשָׁ֖ה מִבְּנ֣וֹת יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וְלֹֽא־יִהְיֶ֥ה קָדֵ֖שׁ מִבְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵל׃
        No Israelite woman shall be a cult prostitute, nor shall any Israelite man be a cult prostitute.
        A similar term is used in Genisis (38:21-22) in the story of Tamar, in the same context.

        וַיָּ֙שָׁב֙ אֶל־יְהוּדָ֔ה וַיֹּ֖אמֶר לֹ֣א מְצָאתִ֑יהָ וְגַ֨ם אַנְשֵׁ֤י הַמָּקוֹם֙ אָֽמְר֔וּ לֹא־הָיְתָ֥ה בָזֶ֖ה קְדֵשָֽׁה׃
        So he returned to Judah and said, “I could not find her; moreover, the townspeople said: There has been no prostitute here.”

        The question is, how on earth can we use the term used for “holy” in the context of prostitution?
        The commentaries explain that in this context the root “קְדֵשָׁ֖” connotes “Set apart” (in this case, “designated/set apart for z’nus/illicit relations”). According to some, this is the true translation of the Jewish wedding vows, “haray aht m’KUDESHES li btaba’as zu” – ” you are hereby SET APART for ME with this ring.” (i.e. now you are forbidden to everyone else – interestingly, the polar opposite of one “set apart for illicit relations.”)

        I highly doubt that the Paramount Prop Guy, who clearly doesn’t know the difference between a Tof and a Shin, was privy to this colorful and engaging discussion. So.. I propose we dumb it down a bit and put ourselves in his shoes. The guy wants to write the following sentence: “and donate/consecrate/set apart one amah off the top in honor of G-d and his tabernacle.” I don’t think its a far stretch to squeeze in into the Hebrew words he used:
        “vamh aht” =and one Amah
        “mel”= from above/the top
        “kds”= is holy/donated/consecrated/set apart
        “kbd h’ vhmskn”= [in] honor of G-d and his Tabernacle.

        I believe i’ve got it. I will defend this opinion valiantly until the day I die.. or perhaps am being a wee bit dramatic.
        (PS: thanks for taking my last name off most of them, but I think you may you missed the one on my first comment.)
        (PPS: How do you have time for this?! Don’t you have 53 transcripts to read today?!)

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      • See comments in-line

        Wow. You are really putting me through the ringer here. I think you might be overthinking my explanation. I can’t find a source for “spacial consecrative values” because, admittedly, I have no idea what that means.

        YA: You suggest “mel” to be a subtraction, I read it as an addition. So my comment is that there should be some tradition to back up the claim up.

        There happens to be an interesting related biblical problem on regarding the true definition of “kds” קדֵשׁ typically translated as “holy”? The problem arises because the Torah uses the term ” קְדֵשָׁ֖ה” in a decidedly un”holy” context. Specifically in Deuteronomy 23:18, where it is referring to a “prostitute”:

        לֹא־תִהְיֶ֥ה קְדֵשָׁ֖ה מִבְּנ֣וֹת יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וְלֹֽא־יִהְיֶ֥ה קָדֵ֖שׁ מִבְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵל׃
        No Israelite woman shall be a cult prostitute, nor shall any Israelite man be a cult prostitute.
        A similar term is used in Genisis (38:21-22) in the story of Tamar, in the same context.
        וַיָּ֙שָׁב֙ אֶל־יְהוּדָ֔ה וַיֹּ֖אמֶר לֹ֣א מְצָאתִ֑יהָ וְגַ֨ם אַנְשֵׁ֤י הַמָּקוֹם֙ אָֽמְר֔וּ לֹא־הָיְתָ֥ה בָזֶ֖ה קְדֵשָֽׁה׃

        So he returned to Judah and said, “I could not find her; moreover, the townspeople said: There has been no prostitute here.”

        The question is, how on earth can we use the term used for “holy” in the context of prostitution?

        YA: Both of the references you provided to קְדֵשָׁ֖ה are to ‘holly prostitution’. Both of these references to קְדֵשָׁ֖ה is derogatory. The etymology for the term is either the same literary technique we use today when we say that someone is ‘swearing’ when they are cursing. Or, it echoes the ancient Canaanite ‘holy’ practice which was commonly known as ‘Znot Kedosha’. In which case Genesis is being sarcastic. Holy prostitution was a common practice and part of the wide spread Ashtoreth ritual, which the prophets worked hard to uproot. Herodotus, in his Histories provides a detailed description of the practice in Babylon, but it was likely similar in Canaan as well.

        The commentaries explain that in this context the root “קְדֵשָׁ֖” connotes “Set apart” (in this case, “designated/set apart for z’nus/illicit relations”). According to some, this is the true translation of the Jewish wedding vows, “haray aht m’KUDESHES li btaba’as zu” – ” you are hereby SET APART for ME with this ring.” (i.e. now you are forbidden to everyone else – interestingly, the polar opposite of one “set apart for illicit relations.”)
        I highly doubt that the Paramount Prop Guy, who clearly doesn’t know the difference between a Tof and a Shin, was privy to this colorful and engaging discussion. So.. I propose we dumb it down a bit and put ourselves in his shoes. The guy wants to write the following sentence: “and donate/consecrate/set apart one amah off the top in honor of G-d and his tabernacle.” I don’t think its a far stretch to squeeze in into the Hebrew words he used:

        “vamh aht” =and one Amah
        “mel”= from above/the top
        “kds”= is holy/donated/consecrated/set apart
        “kbd h’ vhmskn”= [in] honor of G-d and his Tabernacle.

        I believe i’ve got it. I will defend this opinion valiantly until the day I die. or perhaps am being a wee bit dramatic.

        YA: It’s a plausible. But if that was the case, they should have used a root like “חסר” or “נכה ” instead of “מעל”. There can also be a simpler explanation to the discrepancy. A mistake in the inscription or the movie script (the number of branches of the menorah are also an issue). The only way to know for sure would be to talk to whoever designed the inscription or the script writer.

        (PPS: How do you have time for this?! Don’t you have 53 transcripts to read today?!)

        YA: The AI does all the heavy lifting, I keep myself busy doing other stuff :-)

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  4. I see the point of confusion. Let me clarify, I’m not suggesting that “מעל” means “subtraction” or “subtract.”
    I’m saying “KDS / קְדֵשָׁ֖” means “designate” or “set apart.” THAT is the “subtraction” instruction.
    The “מעל” part is simply describing the location of the amah that is being set apart. The word literally means “from above” or “from the top” which I am interpreting as “the topmost amah [of the six amah staff]” THAT AMAH should henceforth be set apart or consecrated or donated – (however you translate ” (קְדֵשָׁ֖”).
    BTW, perhaps I should explain that when I see the term “consecrated,” from a Talmudic perspective, the term connotes a literal “transfer of ownership” to heaven. It literally means “GIVEN AWAY to G-d.” This transaction occurs by verbalizing “yiyeh kodesh” which cause an immediate transfer of domain. (in Talmudic terms, “דקיימא לן אמירה לגבוה כמסירה להדיוט” , “we have established that “spoken word” [giving] to heaven, is equivalent to a physical transfer to an ordinary man.”
    I take your point about the “cult prostitutes,” yet i am basing my opinion on the commentaries that interpret the root קְדֵשָׁ֖ as “meyuchad l’znus”(i,e. set apart for illicit relations) see Rashi Deuteronomy 23:18.
    I prefer this as more plausible a definition vs claiming that scripture giving prostitution a veneer of holiness, even sarcastically.

    Have a great shabbos!

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    • You are operating under the assumption that the medallion in the movie is an authentic historical artifact. It’s not! It was made by a team that tried to simulate the look and feel of the 1st Temple sixth century BCE holy object and a fictitious mystic message. Beyond the faulty inscription content, there is a ton of other problems with it. The epigraphy is wrong, the iconography (menorah and bird) is wrong. the grammar is wrong, the math doesn’t work out, the units of measurements are wrong, etc.

      As far as the scripture not ‘veneering’ holy prostitution argument. I’m not suggesting that at all. When Elijah says in (1 Kings 18:27):

      וַיְהִי בַצָּהֳרַיִם וַיְהַתֵּל בָּהֶם אֵלִיָּהוּ, וַיֹּאמֶר קִרְאוּ בְקוֹל-גָּדוֹל כִּי-אֱלֹהִים הוּא–כִּי שִׂיחַ וְכִי-שִׂיג לוֹ, וְכִי-דֶרֶךְ לוֹ; אוּלַי יָשֵׁן הוּא, וְיִקָץ

      He isn’t legitimizing baal, he mucks him and his priests. The same applies to the concept of Molech and Kadosh/Kedosha in the context of prostitution. You should read the whole post again carefully and factor the other counter arguments as well. This may help with the bigger picture of why the inscription doesn’t make sense. Or as Judah said to Israel: כִּי, לוּלֵא הִתְמַהְמָהְנוּ–כִּי-עַתָּה שַׁבְנוּ, זֶה פַעֲמָיִם ;-)

      We can take this off-line. Ping me via Apelbaum {@} msn.com

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  5. …And this is why I love the Internet because where else will you find a detailed discussion on the headpiece for the Staff of Ra?

    Allow me to comment on this from the perspective of movie production. When you are working on a movie, you are under constant deadline. Things are always changing. Lines of dialog are changing. Scenes are changing. For instance, it’s well known by now that Indiana Jones was supposed to fight the master swordsman instead of just shooting him (to great and humorous effect).

    A prop has to be made and it has to be made now. While it’s possible that more than one headpiece was made (a “stunt” headpiece for use in action scenes and far away shots and a “hero” headpiece for close-up shots), I’m guessing that only one headpiece was made. If only one prop was made, it was probably made early on in production. Things change in scripts all of the time and ad-libs are thrown in and scenes are thrown out.

    Given that the inscription is not just gibberish but contains a fairly legible translation, I’m guessing that someone gave detailed enough instruction so that the inscription was fairly close to what the director / scriptwriter wanted at one point. You’re not going to want to screw over the director with a shoddy product; That’s an one-way ticket to pumping gas for a career. Even in the early 1980s, you had people pouring over details and making observations… Just not with the Internet.

    In the end, my guess is that the inscription was accurate at one point but then the script changed and everyone thought, “It’s written in an obscure foreign language and exactly 99.999999% of the audience will not care. We don’t have time to make a new one. Looks good enough. Put it in the scene.”

    Also, I noticed six tail feathers on the bird in the medallion. 6 kadams. 6 tail feathers. Coincidence? You tell me.

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    • Thank your for your comment MovieGuy.

      You are probably right about the permutation and changes to the script and props as it evolved. I’m not sure about the 6 feathers vs. reading it as 6 kadams. I couldn’t find any indication in the text that the tail or wing feathers have a special significance.

      As far as the source of the error in the inscription, It doesn’t look like this can be attributed to an attempt to avoid the use of sanctified text in commercial product, as the medallion clearly shows the explicit name of G-D on the obverse side. This could be just a production error in the letter transcription from the original intended symbol to the one that ended up in to the casting. Years ago, you could find these types of mistakes on a lot of dreidels, menorahs, and mezuzahs that came from India or China.

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      • I decided to do some research on this topic because nothing is more important in this world than arguing about some trivial aspect of a nearly 40-year old movie. Isn’t that right, Internet?

        Turns out that I was completely wrong and that there really was a “hero” & “stunt” version of the headpiece for the Staff of Ra made for this movie. This happens a lot in movies where you need a prop that’s durable for action sequences but also detailed enough for close-up scenes; They just make two (or more) versions of the thing. The “hero” version is the one shown here on this website but the “stunt” version looks a bit different and if you want a go at translating that one, here’s a link to the auction for it:

        Knowing what I know now, though, raises a lot more questions than it answers (funny how that always happens):

        1). First and foremost, if they made a “hero” headpiece, why the heck did they botch up the translation so badly? Who knows. The hero headpiece was supposedly made an outside jeweler so that it looked fancy. Therefore, maybe the jeweler didn’t give a darn or maybe it would’ve cost more for the translation or, since it was made by the jeweler and it would take a lot of time, things changed in the script, so, who knows?

        2). Stunt props meant to replicate hero props are always made shoddy and quick. If a translation is even possible on the stunt, would be interesting to know what the difference is. It looks like there is writing on the outside but, of course, it’s a stunt prop and the history of making stunt props is that they need it now and there’s no budget for anything fancy and you better make sure that it’s durable because, short of it accidentally getting run over by a bulldozer, it has to last for the entire shoot.

        Anyway, thought that you guys would like to know about this because now I’m morbidly fascinated by this topic as well. I bet if we E-Mailed Steven Spielberg, he’d reveal that he sometimes wakes up in a cold sweat over this as well. I wouldn’t blame him since it is only the Ark of the Covenant and any army that possesses it is unstoppable but, if that’s the case, what the heck happened in Korea and Vietnam? Did we accidentally sell the thing at one of those government surplus auctions by accident? That would be embarrassing…

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      • Hi MovieGuy,

        The problem with these pieces is not translation, it’s the fact that the riting style doesn’t match any contemporary biblical text, that they use a mixture of different period alphabets, that they use the wrong references to the obverse and reverse texts, and that they use inconsistent units of measurements. All this is without even getting into the arithmetic of staff height problem…

        As I stated in the end of the post, its not easy to create/forge an artifact like the James Ossuary, especially, if its based on multiple disciplines.

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