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Milton & Shirley Salasky Lecture: "Where are David and Solomon Buried?"

On November 15, 2022, Judaic Studies presented the Milton and Shirley Salasky Lecture. The talk, entitled “Where are David and Solomon Buried?” was given by Dr. James H. Charlesworth, a renowned scholar of biblical studies. Charlesworth is currently the George L. Collord Professor of New Testament Language & Literature Emeritus at Princeton Theological Seminary. Prior to jumping into the content of the lecture, Charlesworth delighted in sharing that he had served as Professor Michael Daise’s doctoral advisor and spoke in admiration of his academic and personal attributes.

Interwoven throughout the lecture were pieces of advice on scholarship, but one in particular guided and structured the talk. Following a debriefing of biblical history, Charlesworth addressed the audience and emphasized that “You are here to learn how to ask questions.” The logic behind this, he explained, is that in order to avoid arriving at dogmatic conclusions one must always be asking questions. This philosophy of questioning was empowering for Charlesworth in his own and other scholars’ search for the location of Solomon and David’s tombs.

Tour guides, Charlesworth explained, will often direct visitors to the site of the Abbey of the Dormition as the site of David’s burial. Consulting archaeological maps, biblical portions of Nehemiah, and ancient Israelite funerary customs, Charlesworth explained the logic for locating the site for the two kings’ tombs. Attention to the differing chisel marks on the tombs revealed which burial spot would have likely belonged to which king.

As the evening drew to a close, Dr. Charlesworth announced that he would be donating a 2000-year-old glass bottle to William & Mary’s Special Collections. The bottle was likely a bottle of funerary perfume used as a means of covering the odors of decaying bodies. He also shared with the audience a similarly aged, but more ornate, patina glass bottle potentially functioning as a woman’s perfume.