Who Is The 2,000-Year-Old Jewish Seal Ring Deity?
A 2,000-year-old jasper seal ring has been discovered in the foundations of Jerusalem's Western Wall during the Tzurim Valley National Park sifting project at the Biblical City of David. The ancient Jewish seal ring measures just 13 mm long and 11 mm wide (0.51 inches long and 0.43 inches wide). Engraved with the profile of a god, researchers think the deity is the non-Jewish Greek god Apollo. According to a report in the Jewish News Syndicate, the wearer saw the ring as a symbol of “light, purity, health and success.” But, is this the correct interpretation of the image etched onto this stunning Jewish seal ring?
Mysterious Jewish Seal Ring: A Treasure from the Holiest Site on Earth
Originally used as a personal stamp for sealing contracts and letters, the team who studied the precious stone seal say it bears the engraving of the Greek god Apollo, although he was not worshiped in the Jewish religion. With long hair, a large nose, thick lips and strong square pro chin, the researchers have explained that it is “rare to find in image of another god in Jerusalem.” It has also been suggested that the wearer “might have” regarded Apollo as representing “light, purity, health and success.”
The Jewish seal ring was discovered beside the famous Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, where God's divine presence is said to manifest more than in any other place on Earth. According to the Jewish News Syndicate, archaeologist Eli Shukron says the rare artifact was crafted from precious jasper stone with yellow-golden, brown and white layers throughout.
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The jasper stone Jewish seal ring was unearthed at the sifting site located in Emek Tzurim. (Yael Heitan / City of David)
Laying Out the Evidence: Does the Seal Represent Apollo?
Shukron says it is rare to find seal remains bearing the image of the god Apollo at sites identified with the Jewish population. When they found the Jewish seal ring, the archaeologists asked themselves “what is Apollo doing in Jerusalem?” And, “why would a Jew wear a ring with the portrait of a foreign god.” Nevertheless, they concluded that the owner of the ring wore it “not as a ritual act that expresses religious belief, but as a means of making use of the impact that Apollo's figure represents: light, purity, health, and success.”
Apollo was one of the most revered gods of the time in eastern Mediterranean regions. Considering this, it seems deeply-blasphemous that a god from an ancient Greek pantheon would have been taken anywhere near the most sacred site in the Jewish world. Doesn’t it? Nevertheless, Shua Amorai-Stark, an engraved gem specialist, told the Jewish News Syndicate that Apollo’s association with sun and light, logic, reason, prophecy and healing fascinated some Jews because “the idea of light versus darkness was prominently present in Jewish worldview in those days.”
Archaeologists and researchers claim that the Jewish seal ring depicts the Greek god Apollo. But does it really? (Eliyahu Yanai / City of David)
Exploring Alternative Deities
But, what if all of the uncertainty and speculation as to why Apollo was featured on a Jewish seal ring only exists because isn’t actually Apollo? Who, or what, might the profiled deity represent if not the Greek lord of Mount Olympus?
The ancient Jewish Bahir, known as the “Book of Illumination,” is an ancient mystical work created by Nehunya ben HaKanah, a 1st-century rabbinic sage. Medieval Kabbalists said the Bahir came to them in fragmentary scrolls and booklets and in the opening pages a concept called Kether (כֶּתֶר) meaning the “Crown” of God is discussed. Kether is the topmost sephirot (emanation) of the Jewish Tree of Life and is described as “the most hidden of all hidden things” and “completely incomprehensible to man.”
And now for the kicker folks. Brace yourselves! In mystical Judaism Kether is represented as the “profile of an ancient king”. Kether’s “incomprehensibility” was represented by a king half facing us and half facing away from us, just like the image we see on the newly discovered Jewish seal ring in Jerusalem.
Kether, the Other Side of Us
The concept of Kether was developed and expanded upon by 16th century Jewish mystics and alchemists. In later Hermetic Qabalah, the symbol of the “profiled Jewish king” represented the other side of “us,” in the chaos of the absolute, beyond the conceptual “Veils of Negative Existence,” in a “No-Thing-Ness” before God himself formed.
While these last few exploratory paragraphs looking at Kether are no more than pure speculation, so to are the conclusions of the researchers studying the rare jasper ring. It is on you, the reader, to decide whether this 2,000-year-old Jewish seal ring, discovered in Jerusalem, represents Kether, a 2,000-year-old mystical Jewish concept of God, or Apollo, from Greek religion and mythology?
Top image: The Jewish seal ring was found during excavations in the foundations of the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Source: Eliyahu Yanai / City of David
By Ashley Cowie