What the Temple Menorah Looked Like ...

There is lots of evidence from the Second Temple and post-destruction periods to show what the seven-branched Temple Menorah looked like. I gathered it here and it clearly shows that the branched of the TM were higher than they were wide (ie a curved bottom of the branch, which they rose vertically).

I've ignored the Lead Codices which David Elkington - aka Paul Elkington - claims to have illegally smuggled out of Jordan because ... well, I figured that anyone with half a brain could tell they were bad fakes, and plenty of others who know more about early Judaism and Christianity have had plenty of fun de-bunking them already.

They may have been made of recycled ancient lead, but they ain't kosher by any stretch of the imagination. First they were marketed as ancient Jewish, then they became 'important' to early Christianity (there's probably more money in the latter).

But I thought I'd make the obvious archaeological comment that the menorah on this 'codex' (from their official Facebook group) is clearly wrong:

The lead whatever it is menorah copied the one from the Arch of Titus in Rome, with semi-circular branches:

Actually the Fake Codex menorah has branches which are wider than they are high, taking the mistake on the Arch of Titus a step further in it's development ....

Most solid, genuine ancient evidence for the Temple Menorah shows the branches as vertical, as here:

So, these are really badly researched fakes ... for more genuine images of the Temple Menorah, see my earlier post here - the "wide" menorah with branches that were semi-circles was a Byzantine creation, but I don't know of any genuine image where the branches were wider than they were high ...

UPDATE - looking at the photo used by the Daily Mail in their article about the codices, which is better, I realised it's not even the Temple Menorah with seven branches but possible one with nine branches, if you include the large ones lower down ...

Ummm ... sorry to be a killjoy, but these did not start to be used until after the destruction of the Temple by Titus in AD 70 ... and even then we're not quite sure when, as for many Jews using oil lamps was an acceptable alternative. The first certain nine-branched Hannukah Menorah is now in the Musee Cluny in Paris: it comes from either Italy or Alexandria, and dates to the AD 220s. I couldn't find an image of it online, but the publication is here and there are very few others for a long time after (and many, particularly Sephardi Jews, continued to use oil lamps for Hanukkah rather than candlesticks).

Oh dear, now that I've bothered to look at the Lead Codices smuggled out of Jordan, they are turning into laugh out laud bad fakes ...This one is a 7-branched but again very wide in relation to the height of the branches - source:

Now I'm feeling a bit guilty, as mocking the fakes is as easy as stealing sweeties off a child ... but that's not going to stop me adding this image from a Lead Codex which was for sale on eBay, and which David Meadows kindly pointed us to ... (alas, too late to snap it up for a bargain $13,000). It too has a seven branched Temple Menorah which looks identical to the one in the photo immeditately above (same mould?):


  1. I always assumed that the Roman artisans actually had the Menorah and that the depiction on the Arch of Titus accurate depiction. Not so?

  2. I did too but it seems not ...

  3. One of the interesting things seen on the Arch of Titus is that the Jewish prisoners depicted there all have short hair. Unless one was a 'Nazerite', Jewish males in antiquity all had short hair. Film makers take note as we see just the opposite in film after film. Perhaps the worst example of this is the famous American depiction of Jesus of Nazareth with blue eyes, long blonde hair as if he was a Swede with a sun tan. We tried with the BBC to correct this image a few years ago and they later sold the cast of the average Jewish male from the Holy Land to CNN. When they saw the image someone remarked 'he looks like a NYC cab driver and needs a 'makeover. Our intention was just to show the public from a forensic point of view what Jewish males looked like in antiquity and the marketing people, against all agreements made the cast of the common man into Jesus. When CNN finished the 'makeover' I went on line to see the artist responsible and lo and behold, the new "Jesus' made the image to look like himself.

  4. True - but the descriptions also suggest that some had red hair, and some were pale ... and looked like me ... I find it frustrating when people pull the "but you don't look Jewish" line on me, when I am the spitting image of my grand-mother, who was as Jewish as could be.

    Mind you, there is little point in trying to be accurate with TV people, and that's why I avoid TV like the plague.


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