Saturday, August 23, 2003

ROGUE CLASSICISM is a new blog on the Greco-Roman Classics. I quote:

1. n. an abnormal state or condition resulting from the forced migration from a lengthy Classical education into a profoundly unClassical world; 2. n. a blog about Ancient Greece and Rome compiled by one so afflicted (v. "rogueclassicist"); 3. n. a Classics blog.

This blog is part of the Atrium website" owned by David Meadows, editor of Explorator and a frequent contributor to Ioudaios-L.
I AGREE WITH GLENN REYNOLDS: BUZZ OFF. Recently a reader of one of my various websites missed out on some valuable information by doing this. (I assume he thought it was valuable or he wouldn't have asked for it.) If you want something from me, don't expect me to waste my time taking extra steps through your spam-filtration software to help keep you from getting junk mail. You are warned!

UPDATE: Glenn thinks that maybe his reaction was a little testy. Well, maybe mine was too. Sorry. I find that negative things said in Internet format often come out more harshly than intended. But his reaction struck a chord in me because it was so similar to mine when the same thing happened to me. Readers who insist on using this sort of filtering software should bear in mind that a lot of people will have the same response, so if you want a reply or a favor from someone, make sure you put their address in your "safe" file in advance.

Revealing the word (Taipei Times)

An ancient burial ground which was attracting drug dealers and criminals could be one of the most important biblical finds of recent years

Saturday, Aug 23, 2003

For centuries passers-by have thrown rocks at an ornate tomb in Jerusalem's Kidron Valley, reviled as the traditional burial place of the biblical King David's villainous son Absalom.

But in one of those strange twists unique to the Holy Land -- where tombs can post-date by a millennium those believed buried there -- an inscription found on the crypt now points to it belonging not to Absalom but rather John the Baptist's father, Zacharias, and maybe even James, who some Christians regard as the brother of Jesus.


In large letters that were once painted black so they could be seen from across the valley, the inscription reads: "This is the funerary monument of Zacharias, the martyr, the very pious priest, father of John."

[Epigrapher Emile] Puech believes it was carved by monks around a decade after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire.

During that period Christians began to set up shrines connected to Jesus, among them Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the traditional site of the crucifixion.

While no one can be certain the tomb really was Zacharias' burial place, experts say the shrines located when Christianity changed from being a persecuted religion to a powerful one tended to be the most authentic.

"In the fourth century they had at least somebody to talk to who knew something [about locations of events chronicled in the New Testament]," said [archaeologist James] Strange.

{Physical anthropologist Joe] Zias and Puech are now trying to decipher another inscription along the side of the tomb. The only word they can currently read is Simeon, who according to the Gospel of Saint Luke blessed baby Jesus as the future messiah.

Zias now hopes to find an inscription linking James the Just -- whom some Christians believe to be Jesus' brother -- to the tomb as according to Christian tradition, Zacharias, Simeon and James were buried together. Roman Catholics -- who believe Jesus' mother Mary was a virgin all her life -- say James was his cousin.

"There is room for three people [in the tomb]. There are three burial niches so it certainly fits," Zias said.

He is bitterly aware that any discoveries related to James may be greeted with skepticism by the archeological world which is still reeling from a scandal over an ossuary or burial box that purported to be that of James.


"The irony is that these guys came up with an ossuary that is a forgery and make millions of dollars," Zias said. "Here we come but with something that is authentic, unchallenged and we have to go on all fours for funding."

Indeed. This deserves more press - and more funding! - than it's been getting.

Friday, August 22, 2003

NAOMI CHANA blogs on Things to Do Once She Gets Tenure. If she gets around to the Buffy course, I want a copy of the syllabus. Or better yet, the URL of the course web page. My Holy Grail language is Ethiopic, and I regret to say that some years of tenure haven't gotten me any closer to it.

I have to get started on the office-door-decorating myself.

Best wishes for a good academic year, Naomi. By the way, I have the whole year off as research leave to finish a book. Ha ha.

UPDATE: Well, I have earned it: I've been teaching full time for fifteen years, during which I've had a total of one semester of leave.
ARCHAEOLOGY MAGAZINE has a new issue online (56.5). Unfortunately, it includes only abstracts of the major articles - no full texts. But one of these, "Faking Biblical History", sounds interesting if you want to go find the paper copy at your local library. Also, the editorial by President Jane C. Waldbaum, "Basement Archaeology," is given in full and is definitely worth a read. I've generally been sympathetic to the idea of selling run-of-the-mill finds like potsherds and common coins after an excavation has been published, but she presents some good arguments against that view, based on her work on Greek artifacts found at sites in Israel. Maybe one solution, increasingly made practical by the cheapness of electronic publishing, would be to publish at least good photographs of all recovered artifacts, no matter how common or trivial. Of course, the problem would remain that any sold artifacts would no longer be available for new types of physical analysis, which are likely to become rife in coming decades with the development of molecular technologies.

Thursday, August 21, 2003


Harvard Student Campaign - MoralityNotMoney - Forces UAE Ruler to Close Down 'Hate Center' in Abu Dhabi; (Yahoo News)
Wednesday August 20, 10:38 am ET
Activists Call Zayed Centre Closing a Model for Fighting Hatred

BOSTON, Aug. 20 /PRNewswire/ -- Three months after students at Harvard Divinity School called for the return of his $2.5 million gift, the president of the United Arab Emirates has shut down a controversial research center bearing his name that was a source of anti-American and anti-Semitic hate speech.

"We don't yet know all the facts about the closing of the Zayed Centre, but it seems we made a breakthrough," noted Rachel Fish, the Harvard student who spearheaded the campaign with appearances on CBS, NPR, and MSNBC.


"In only three months, we created an international storm of condemnation. Hatred is the world's most potent weapon of mass destruction." Fish said, "It shouldn't take a group of Divinity School students to point this out. American leaders and human rights groups should be on the forefront of this battle."

"It is true," Fish said, "that the Centre -- or some easily crafted substitute -- can be re-opened by the Arab League. But now they have to worry. Our victory sends a signal and is a model for action against hate. It should inspire students to stand up."


Nevertheless, according to the Gulf News the Arab League has vowed to defend the Zayed Centre. But the Centre's website is still down.

The way we were (Jerusalem Post)

Nazareth Village aims to recreate an ancient site and reproduce the harmony of the times

Two thousand years ago, farmers didn't use herbicides to get rid of pesky weeds. But what did they do? That's the kind of question Mike Hostetler asks himself as he walks through the Nazareth Village, a re-creation of an ancient Jewish settlement in the Galilee. Everything in the village is as authentic as possible, but Hostetler continues to seek answers to posers like the one above.


It wasn't easy to find the right setting, for he and his team wanted the ancient village to be in Nazareth, where Jesus grew up, studied scriptures, and taught. But noisy, crowded Nazareth doesn't look in the least like a sleepy Second Temple-period village.

Nevertheless, Hostetler managed to find a piece of land in the city. He then enlisted the help of top-notch archeologists, scholars, historians, and designers, both local and foreign. They studied the source materials to learn as much as they could about the Galilee's Jewish population during the Roman era, and the rules by which they lived. Not surprisingly, while surveying the land before construction began, the experts discovered a Second Temple-period wine press, stone quarry, terraces, and shomera - a watchtower of the type described in the Old Testament.

The shomera is across the road from the village, but all the other antiquities have been incorporated into the reconstruction. The result is so credible that when I walked through the working farm watching men in tunics hitching donkeys to a plow, it was easy to ignore the modern-day houses outside the village.


The article has many more details. An interesting project.
THE TEMPLE MOUNT has been reopened to non-Muslim visitors:

Temple Mount is reopened to non-Muslims for two hours a day (Ha'aretz)
By Jonathan Lis and Arnon Regular

About 350 Jewish and Christian local and foreign tourists yesterday spent two hours on the Temple Mount from 9-11 A.M., after Israeli police and the Waqf reached an informal agreement allowing non-Muslims to visit the site in the heart of the Old City.

Officially, the Waqf denied it had reached any agreement with the police, calling it a unilateral move by the police. But Israeli and Palestinian sources said that the agreement was worked out over the past few days and was the culmination of a much longer process that included Jordanian and Palestinian Authority pressure on the Waqf to allow tourists back onto the site.


Wednesday, August 20, 2003


Professor: 'Once-in-a-lifetime find' (Press Herald, Maine)


[Professor David] Trobisch [of Bangor Theological Seminary] and colleague Matthias Klinghardt, professor of New Testament at the University of Dresden, went to a Dresden library to examine the famed Codex Boernerianus. Written during the ninth century, it is one of four existing copies of that particular edition of the Christian New Testament.

He says he found the first eight Psalms, with a few words missing because of small holes in the paper or other slight damage, in a folder of discarded sheets. The manuscript ends abruptly at the end of the eighth Psalm.

Trobisch said he immediately recognized the papers as pages from a Christian Bible because of the lines drawn over words used to designate holy names in Greek texts.

By carefully examining the letters and artwork, Trobisch, with the help of other scholars, was able to determine that it was copied in the 14th century, almost certainly in Greece and perhaps on the island of Crete.


THE EXCAVATION AT PTORA, NEAR KIRYAT GAT, has uncovered an 8000-year-old village and "the remains of a first century C.E. farmhouse, apparently abandoned by its Jewish occupants during the bloody revolt against Roman occupation in the year 70 C.E. . . . The building had an open court yard used as a kitchen, and two baths" (Ha'aretz, via Archaeology Magazine News).
THE ZAYED CENTRE FOR COORDINATION AND FOLLOW-UP, home of junk archaeology and other nonsense, may be closing. (Via Mystical Politics - scroll down.)

Arab League: Zayed Center closure would be 'great loss' (Jerusalem Post)
DUBAI, United Arab Emirate

The Arab League was awaiting official word from the United Arab Emirates of plans to close a league-affiliated think thank that Western critics accuse of promoting anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism.

On Sunday an official in the Gulf state told The Associated Press that the Emirates was closing down and cutting off funding of the Emirates-based Zayed International Center for Coordination and Follow-Up � named in honor of the Emirates' president. The Emirates has funded and hosted the center, which is officially sponsored by the Arab League, since it opened in 1999.


Their website is down.

There's more in the Boston Globe, including a discussion of a call for the Harvard Divinity School to return a $2.5 millon donation from Sheikh Zayed. The student who initiated the call, Rachel Fish, has a website on the issue here. As a Harvard alumnus (Ph.D., NELC, '88), I strongly encourage them to return the money. An elementary school in California finds itself in a similar position (USA Today). The Arabic News has articles here and here. The Gulf News reports that "Arab journalists and intellectuals flooded the Zayed International Centre for Coordination and Follow-up (ZICCF) with letters yesterday to express solidarity against a mounting Israeli campaign against the institution." Israeli campaign? Huh?
ACCORDING TO MY BRAVENET COUNTER, when I checked it this morning, I'd had 30 first-time visitors and -30 returning visitors today for a grand total of zero. One returning visitor has shown up meanwhile, bringing the returning total to -29 and the grand total to 1. Can anyone explain this to me?
LILITH IS A SCARY LADY. Read about her at Alan Humm's Lilith Page.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

THE DOWDIFIED QUOTE OF MEL GIBSON is used in an article printed today in the following Australian newspapers: the Daily Telegraph (where the article originated), the Mercury,, and the Melbourne Herald Sun. Even though the transcript of the O'Reilly interview is easily available on the web (see first link), it obviously wasn't consulted by the writer of the article. Nor has it occurred to anyone at any of these papers to double check the ellipsis points in the quote to see what's missing and if it might affect the sense. So much for journalistic fact-checking.
"THE JESUS SEMINAR AND THE PUBLIC: ANOTHER TAKE," by Darrell L. Bock (Bible and Interpretation News). Excerpts:

Robert Miller�s piece on the Jesus Seminar is a revealing glimpse of how someone from inside the Seminar sees the Seminar�s work. Two goals of the Seminar are primary for him: (1) to find out what critical historiography can say about the historical Jesus, and (2) to communicate responsibly the results of our scholarly work to the public. He says that the Seminar�s commitment to "full public disclosure" set, in effect, a new standard for candor among scholars addressing these issues in a public forum. My essay will assess whether such candor actually helps us get to the historical Jesus and whether the effort of the Seminar can be regarded as a meaningful contribution to the debate about what Jesus did and said. I will say this much for the Seminar. They were very "up front" about their goals and desires. But such aims in themselves do not mean that a significant contribution to scholarly discussion has taken place, no matter how honest or sincere the effort has been in aiming at its target.


Miller�s list of "negative findings" include some categories where one would be hard pressed to find historical evidence even if such events happened today. For example, "There is no historical evidence that Jesus had no human father." How could one give concrete evidence for this? Others obscure the debate that does go on in New Testament studies. So, for example, another claim Miller notes, "There is no historical evidence that Jesus� corpse came back to life." Actually this is a complicated claim. How does one find traceable, ancient evidence that a corpse has come back to life? One could appeal to evidence of an empty tomb or to the fact others saw him after his death, or that their views about their understanding of themselves or their mission or their doctrine changed. All of these effects are what the gospels claim. They are historical evidence, but it is evidence that needs interpreting. What is debated is what such claims indicate. Most scholars in fact do hold that the disciples believed that Jesus was raised from the dead�and that their behavior changed radically as a result. The key question is what caused them to form that belief, including a belief in a doctrine that had no real precedent in Judaism or pagan religion, an immediate, bodily resurrection outside of the time of the judgment at the end. For a long monograph defending the rich, historical ground for the resurrection and making this point about precedent, see N. T. Wright�s recent The Resurrection of the Son of God. His work represents where many critical New Testament scholars are on such questions.

However, here is more that Miller did not tell you about the Seminar�s substantive conclusions. The Seminar did argue that Jesus did not make a claim to be the anointed one and did not form a group of disciples (I have in mind the Twelve here), although such claims and acts with such implications Jesus are multiply attested in the gospels. (Multiple attestation is one of the critical criteria for authenticity). Something drove the disciples to place Jesus in such a category and make them willing to risk their lives to proclaim it. The Seminar argued that Judas� betrayal and Peter�s denials were fiction, despite the embarrassment such stories would carry with them. They also argued that Jesus was an itinerant sage, but it is not so clear what Jesus taught about the kingdom of God beyond it was already present but unrecognized in a way that challenged apocalyptic and nationalistic expectations. Such hesitation on Jesus� basic teaching about the kingdom is despite the fact that most Jesus scholars regard this expression as his most comprehensive theme.

In sum, the Seminar has a rather minimal Jesus that many critics do not see as a genuine reflection of the historical Jesus. This is why the Seminar did not catch on with many scholars in historical Jesus studies. This is something the public also needs to know about the Seminar.


Getty-Sullivan, Mary Ann
Women in the New Testament

Harstine, Stan
Moses as a Character in the Fourth Gospel: A Study of Ancient Reading

Borodowski, Alfredo Fabio
Isaac Abravanel, on Miracles, Creation, Prophecy, and Evil: The Tension Between Medieval Jewish Philosophy and Biblical Commentary

Davila, James R.
Liturgical Works

Feldman, Louis H., Translator
Judean Antiquities Books 1-4

Hengel, Martin, Peter Sch�fer, Hans-J�rgen Becker and Frowald Gil
Andreas Lehnardt, translator
�bersetzung des Talmud Yerushalmi. Reihe 2: Seder Mo'ed (Festzeit), Band 8: Besa (Ei)

Mason, Steve, ed.
Life of Josephus: Translation and Commmentary

Monday, August 18, 2003

I'VE BEEN BUSY WITH FAMILY THINGS TODAY, but if you want something interesting to look at, go to Annette Yoshiko Reed's website. In the past few months I've already profiled some of the things she links to in her Judaism page, but there's lots more there and in her other pages on biblical studies, early Christianity, Classics, computers, etc.
THE GOSPEL OF JOHN is a new movie premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival in early September. The relevant section of the Globe and Mail article reads:

Toronto � The three-hour film, The Gospel of John, will have its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, it was announced Thursday.

Directed by Philip Saville, the epic, which takes a contemporary approach to the biblical story, is among the films to be shown at the festival's Special Presentation feature.

Christopher Plummer narrates and Henry Ian Cusick plays Jesus. The film features 75 principal actors from the Canadian and British stage, as well as more than 2,000 extras.

It opens in North America on 26 September. Today is the first I've heard of it.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

DEAD SEA DISCOVERIES has a new issue out online. Here's the table of contents:

Volume 10 Number 2 2003


The Mystery of Creation in 4QInstruction 163
Matthew J. Goff

Rhetorical Devices in 4QMMT 187
Jesper H�genhaven

The Cult of Artemis and the Essenes in Syro-Palestine 205
John Kampen

The Endtime Return of Elijah and Moses at Qumran 221
John C. Poirier

Abominated Temple and a Holy Community: The Formation of the Notions of Purity and Impurity in Qumran 243
Eyal Regev

Book Reviews 279

Requires personal or institutional subscription to access.
THAT MEL GIBSON QUOTATION AGAIN: Terry Lawson, Free Press Movie Writer, discusses The Passion in the Detroit Free Press and uses the dowdified quotation in even briefer form:

He [Gibson] also says that "The Passion" is not anti-Semitic in its depiction of why Jesus was crucified, but that "anybody who transgresses has to look at their own part or look at their own culpability."

As before, quoting the whole sentence would have nuanced Gibson's statement considerably. Describing it in the context of both of O'Reilly's two immediately preceding questions would have nuanced it further. I have e-mailed Mr. Lawson to alert him to my post of 5 August on the subject. He's on vacation too, until 25 August, but we'll see what comes of it.

Again, I am not defending The Passion, which is likely enough to score as high on the bogosity index as any Hollywood movie. But I'll wait to formulate an opinion until I see the whole movie. Meanwhile, I do think the discussion should represent accurately what all parties are saying.
MORE ON LEVITICUS AND THE GAY BISHOP. A perspective from Liberal Judaism, "which for at least a decade has been ordaining openly gay and lesbian rabbis," by Rabbi Jonathan Kendall (TCPalm). Excerpt:

For thousands of years, from the priests in the Temple to the rabbis of the Talmud and onward into the last century, Jewish clergy had always been male. The role of women was secondary, even tertiary when it came to ritual, ceremony and officiation.

In 1972, the Reform Movement ordained the first woman rabbi. Today, more than half the students at the four campuses of our seminary are women.

And if this was so for women, what about gays and lesbians?

For us, the selective reading of Scripture is a dangerous exercise. Yes, the Torah tells us that homosexuality is an abomination. It also tells us that if the priest has a defect in his vision, he cannot serve in the sacrificial cult. Does this mean that every rabbi who wears glasses is disqualified from service? The Torah teaches that if one has a son who is uncontrollable, gluttonous and a drunkard, he is to be stoned to death. How would that play in Stuart or Port St. Lucie?

There is text and there is context; there is the letter of the law and there is its spirit.

We opt to read the text through two lenses. The first is clearly attached to our past. We are, as Elie Wiesel says, "Not just a people, but a people with a history." The other is bound to our sense of fairness, decency, love and compassion. It would be the height of arrogance to suggest that others follow our lead, but our path is clear and unshakable. It proclaims who we are and the ideals we embrace.