Saturday, September 13, 2003

HANAN ESHEL reports that he may have found a Qumran text that tells a different version of the Aqedah (Genesis 22, the binding of Isaac), one in which God did not order Isaac to be sacrificed. Jim West on Ioudaios-L points to this Star Telegram article on the Dallas "Dead Sea Scrolls to the Forbidden Book" exhibit. The relevant passage reads:

The center has designed one gallery room to look like a cave. The tiny, darkened fragments hang in frames above infrared photographs that reveal their original text. Noted archaeologist and scholar Hanan Eshel of Bar-Ilan University in Israel studied these fragments of the books of Genesis and Isaiah that are on display.

In one fragment, Eshel believes he may have discovered an ancient commentary on Chapter 22 of Genesis that contradicts the traditional interpretation of God ordering Abraham to sacrifice his son Issac. In other words, Eshel said, he now believes that God may not have asked Abraham to sacrifice his son.

"God called Isaac 'My son,' not 'your son,' " Eshel said. "This is the first time we have found this distinction."

The passage sounds interesting, but without seeing it all in context it's hard to tell how likely the proposed interpretation is. (It's interesting, isn't it, that the echo of Gen 22:2 in Mark 1:11 also has God saying "my beloved son," although in this case the change in possessive pronoun seems to come from the influence of Psalm 2:7.) The article has more information on the exhibit and several photos of ancient manuscripts.

Also, here's an article from 5 September in the North Texas Daily about another lecture by Eshel in Texas, this one about his archaeological work on the Bar Kokhba era. Excerpt:

Eshel began his work in 1986, the same time that the Israeli Cave Research Center was founded. A small comb was found in a cave north of Jericho, spurring further research into the caves. To date, Eshel's discoveries include 19 Greek and Aramaic economical documents, several coins and skeletal remains.

Eshel primarily studies areas of Israel associated with the Bar Kokhba Revolt in A.D. 135. Jewish rebels fled from Roman armies and into desert caves, only to die of starvation or at Roman hands. "Although I'm dealing with a catastrophe that happened more than 1,900 years ago, the struggles of the 20th century make me feel connected to struggles in the past," Eshel said.

Past excavations focused on religious artifacts, and Eshel said he believes what he found sheds even more light on the lives of the people that lived at that time. "We will never know exactly what happened from [A.D.] 132 to 135, but you can still learn history from economical documents," Eshel said.

The most recent excavation took place late 2002 in Ein Gedi, Israel. Eshel and his team found several coins, arrows, pots and two Greek documents.

Eshel said he has no immediate plans for another excavation, but there is still more work to be done. "There are still illegal excavations, and I'm always afraid of looters." He has a license to survey Ein Gedi and keeps a close eye on possible discoveries.

By the way, Jim West's web page, which sends me a lot of traffic, has changed its address. The new address is
TWO NEW SCIENCE FICTION BOOKS reviewed in the Guardian have ancient classical themes. One, Roma Eterna, by Robert Silverberg, explores an alternate history in which the Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt is delayed until the 28th century C.E., the Roman empire doesn't fall, and Christianity and Islam fail to become world religions. As I've mentioned before, the book I'm currently writing uses alternate history as a tool to analyze the transmission of the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, so I'm interested in keeping track of such things. I think I read the chapter on Muhammad a few years ago when it was published as a short story. Robert Silverberg . . . well . . . Robert Silverberg rules.

Friday, September 12, 2003

ANDERS BELL at Phluzein asks whether the LarkNews website, which currently has this article on the "discovery" of Proverbs chapter 32 is a (Christian) humor site and if it is credible. If he really isn't sure, the answers are yes and no, respectively. Look at the disclaimer in red caps at the bottom of the page. I've cited it before here.
THE SIEGFRIED H. HORN ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM at Andrews University in Michigan (not to be confused with the University of St. Andrews in Scotland) is moving quarters and tripling its size. Looks like they have some cool stuff.
A CATHOLIC SCHOLAR will lecture in a synagogue on Mel Gibson's The Passion. Whatever the movie's problems, it's good that it's generating this kind of dialogue.
KABBALAH FOR KIDS from the Material Girl: The English Roses. Excerpts from the NY Daily News article:

The book, inspired by the kabala, the ancient Jewish mystical system of which Madonna is a devotee, tries to communicate "the importance of sharing," she says, "and the desire to enlighten others" through the story of five little girls, a pumpernickel-fancying fairy godmother and some MTV-ish dance moves.


The five little girls' names are Charlotte, Nicole, Amy, Grace and Binah (which means "wisdom" in Hebrew).

Because the proceeds are supposed to go to charity, "I was liberated," Madonna says in her interview, "and my creativity was not motivated by ego or greed for the first time in my life."

I don't remember any dance moves in the Zohar, but I haven't read it all.

UPDATE (13 September): it occurred to me during the night that the Hekhalot Rabbati (a pre-Kabbalistic Merkavah mystical text) does have some dance moves in it. I quote my translation of �189 in Descenders to the Chariot:

Every single day, when the afternoon prayer arrives, the adorned King sits enthroned and exalts the living creatures. The word does not finish coming from His mouth before the holy living creatures go forth from under the throne of glory. From their mouths chanting is fulfilled, with their wings rejoicing is fulfilled, their hands make music, and their feet dance. They go around and surround their King; one on His right, one on His left, one before Him, and one behind Him. They embrace and kiss Him and uncover their faces. They uncover and the King of glory covers His face, and the Arabot firmament is split like a sieve before the King.

MTV-ish? Well, maybe. I'm afraid I'm even less up on MTV than I am on the Zohar.

Incidentally, the peekaboo moves are there to keep the angels from looking straight into God's uncovered face, which would be fatal even for them.
PREMIERE MAGAZINE reviews The Order and isn't much impressed. Excerpts:

Now, these aren't your average priests. Fathers Alex (Heath Ledger) and Thomas (Mark Addy) know Latin and Aramaic, but favor four-letter expletives. They subscribe to the old ways, but conceal cell phones in their cassocks. And when they're not delivering mass or praying the Rosary, they're perfectly comfortable fighting demons . . . which is convenient, since Rome seems to be full of them this time of year.


Writer-director Brian Helgeland has fashioned a dark and creepy enough supernatural yarn to entice the kind of suckers who fell for Stigmata and The Ninth Gate. But all this doomsaying is just too silly to take so seriously...

THEY'RE SERIOUS! The proposed Egyptian lawsuit against the Jews for reparations for the plunder they took during the Exodus is "under study by a group of lawyers in Egypt and Europe" according to a Reuters interview with Nabil Hilmi, dean of the law faculty at Egypt's al-Zaqaziq University. The Yahoo article quotes him as saying "This is serious, and should not be misread as being political against any race. We are just investigating if a debt is owed."


Luckily, Alan Dershowitz is willing to act as defense attorney for the Jews.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

"THE ORDER OF NAZOREAN ESSENES, a Buddhist Branch of Original Christianity" is a modern Gnostic group with a large website. Despite the name, they seem more influenced by the Nag Hammadi Library, the Mandeans, Mani, and other things than by the Dead Sea Scrolls (although I have not gone through the site exhaustively). In any case, their approach is highly eclectic. They give summary data on their group here. This site was drawn to my attention by a neighbor who is interested in such things.
FUN FACTS about the Ten Commandments, mainly things people think they know which aren't so. This stuff probably isn't news to most PaleoJudaica readers, but I suppose it is to lots of other people. The article should have added that to "bear false witness" means to perjure yourself in court under oath, not just to lie. The Ten Commandments have no problem with lying per se.
JIM WEST replies to Bruce Chilton on the "James Ossuary" in Bible and Interpretation News.
DAVID NISHIMURA at Cronaca comments on the BBC's coverage of the new evidence for dating Hezekiah's Tunnel. The findings are being covered in lots of places now. Here's a good article in the Washington Post.


Wednesday, September 10, 2003

ST. ANDREWS AND ANCIENT TIBERIAS are not the only places with a problem with corpse impurity. But in Israel today, a solution is demanded, no matter how expensive:

The impure corpses cost NIS 4 million (Ha'aretz, again via Bible and Interpretation News)
By Dalia Shehori

The expansion of Kibbutz Galuyot Street, along the stretch between Schocken Street and Herzl Street in south Tel Aviv, was recently completed at a cost of NIS 12 million. A "floating bridge" - raising the surface of the road above ground - was built there for the new traffic lanes. Without this bridge, the project would have cost just NIS
8 million.

This section of the road was considered especially jammed, and widening it was necessary to allow a smooth flow of traffic; but building the bridge, so it turns out, was not a result of transportation necessities, but of religious dictates.

A Jewish cemetery dating from the period of the Second Temple and found at the site was what obliged the Netivei Ayalon company to find a creative halakhic solution - the floating bridge - to create a space between the ground and the road that would allow the impurity to escape.


The rest of the article also describes Haredi interference with the excavation of the burial site of a fifth-century nunnery (denied by the IAA) and the incorporation of a late Roman era burial cave into a new Knesset wing, facing the fitness room.

David Meadows at Rogue Classicism has a roundup of blogs having to do with the ancient world, a number of which I mean to put in my weblogs etc. links section as soon as I get the time.

First, a new essay (via Bible and Interpretation News), which I find irritating not so much for what it says as for its supercilious tone that implies criticism of the current state of affairs without explaining what's wrong with them or how the author would fix them.

A Quite Contrary Mary (Beliefnet)
Like Jesus, Mary Magdalene is now the subject of a cultural makeover. What agenda do feminist scholars have in mind?
By Kenneth L. Woodward

Some excerpts, with my comments interspersed:

When it comes to Biblical figures, it is not enough to say that every generation entertains notions already imagined and discarded by previous generations. In the case of Mary Magdalene, the news is not what is being said about her, but the new context in which she is being placed--and who is doing the placing and why. In other words, Mary Magdalene has become a project for a certain kind of ideologically committed feminist scholarship. That's the real news.

True enough, and an interesting sociological observation. Woodward discusses these scholars at length in paragraphs that I'm not going to excerpt, but which make a thought-provoking read.

But is not hard to guess what is going on now. For several years I have kept an anthology of selections from the various world religions that on the cover invites the reader to choose from them those that they find appealing and thereby "create your own scriptures." That anyone would package this material, I thought, was indicative of one wind blowing in the mixed weather pattern of contemporary American religion. The operative assumption is that all sacred texts are of equal value and the reader is free to make sacred those that provide personal appeal. (Karen Armstrong, who calls herself a �serial monotheist,� does much the same thing.) It is the ultimate in consumer-oriented religion, of course, and has the added advantage of bypassing the authority of any community as to which texts count as sacred and which do not.

Well yeah. This is a problem? It should be replaced with what exactly? We live in a free market of religions in which they all have to compete for adherents. People can join whatever they want or make up whatever they want. I like it that way, thanks.

And the next step? That is already upon us in the form of a new book from Harvard's Karen King, "What Is Gnosticism?" which aims at showing the great diversity among Gnostics�true and pluralizing Gnosticism --fair enough--but also at divesting Gnostics of their opposition to orthodox Christianity, thereby dissolving the very category of heresy. In short, if there is no error, then anything can be true. How very American. How inclusive and nonjudgmental. And in this age of postmodernism, so Now. In this kind of environment, even the figure of Mary Magdalene can be prostituted for polemical purposes.

Heresy only makes sense in the context of a specific faith community and the boundaries it chooses to draw around itself. And given the history of heresiology and the policing of heretics, I think the category profits from some serious watering down. I hardly think it will be "dissolved" for those to whom it matters, but I'm thankful that they don't run things anymore - at least around here. There's no danger of any inclusive, nonjudgmental, dissolving of the category of heresy in, say, Iran right now, is there?

Mr. Woodward doesn't seem to get that there is a position between anarchy, where anything and everything can be true, and dogmatic imposition of orthodoxy: letting people use their own critical faculties to decide for themselves what they think is true and what they want to treat as sacred.

I don't always agree with the feminist scholars he is talking about and he makes some legitimate criticisms of them, but I think that last sentence is a cheap and tacky shot.

Second, Karen King replies to some of Woodward's substantive criticisms in "Letting Mary Magdalene Speak" (also in Beliefnet and also via Bible and Intepretation News). Two excerpts:

Early Christians intensely debated such basic issues as the content and meaning of Jesus� teachings, the nature of salvation, the value of prophetic authority, the roles of women and slaves, and competing visions of ideal community. After all, these first Christians had no New Testament, no Nicene Creed or Apostles Creed, no commonly established church order or chain of authority, no church buildings, and indeed no single understanding of Jesus. All of the elements we might consider essential to define Christianity did not yet exist. Far from being starting points, the Nicene Creed and the New Testament were the end products of these debates and disputes. They represent the distillation of experience and experimentation�and not a small amount of strife and struggle.

One consequence of these struggles is that the winners were able to write the history of this period from their perspective. The viewpoints of the losers were largely lost since their ideas survived only in documents denouncing them. Until now. The recent discoveries provide a wealth of primary works that illustrate the plural character of early Christianity and offer alternative voices. They also help us to understand the winners better because their ideas and practices were shaped in the crucible of these early Christian debates. The Nicene Creed, for example, was never intended to be the full statement of Christian faith�after all, it does not ask Christians to affirm anything in the teachings of Jesus even though they were of fundamental importance to faith and practice. Instead every article of the Creed was formulated as a hedge against views that were considered to be wrong.


Far from suggesting that religious claims are always true and can offer no errors, this perspective insists that communities of believers need to engage critically with their tradition and be held responsible for how they appropriate it. Although nothing can guarantee that people will live wisely and morally, an account that includes all the historical resources of tradition might create a surer basis upon which theological judgments are made. An accurate historical account will not ensure that the figure of Mary Magdalene won�t continue to be prostituted for polemical purposes as she has been for centuries�but it does restore some dignity to this important woman disciple of Jesus.

Finally, on a lighter note, Monica Belluci, who plays Mary Magdalene in Mel Gibson's The Passion, has recently been quoted as saying that the movie is very . . . um . . . well . . . Oh heck, go and read it yourself. I have not been able to verify the quote in the Mail On Sunday. As if Mel didn't have enough controversy on his hands.
NEW CONFIRMATION of the dating of Hezekiah's Tunnel and the Siloam Inscription which, surprisingly, is covered by the press only (so far) in the Arab Times:

Bible's tunnel vision gets scientific backing

PARIS, (AFP) - Modern science has thrown its weight behind Biblical historians, backing their account of an Old Testament king who drove a tunnel under Jerusalem to ensure water supplies for his besieged subjects. The underwater aqueduct is known as the Siloam Tunnel or "Hezekiah's Tunnel" in honour of the embattled Hebrew king reputed to have ordered its construction in order to bring water from Gihon Spring, outside the city, to Siloam Pool in Jerusalem's ancient heart. Historians have long contended that this event is described in two Old Testament texts, 2 Kings 20:20 and 2 Chronicles 32:3,4. These recount how Hezekiah (727-698 BC) had to grapple with denying water to the besieging Assyrian king Sennacherib, yet also provide water for the besieged:

. . . "It was Hezekiah who stopped up the spring of water of Upper Gihon, leading it downward west of the City of David." The historical record, however, was only indirect, and no evidence has ever been found that directly links the tunnel to Hezekiah.

Now, however, science has provided powerful backing, thanks to forensic evidence found buried in the tunnel's walls and the latest tools in chemical analysis. Israeli scientists took samples from a layer of ancient lime plaster that the tunnellers used to line the aqueduct to prevent the precious water from draining back into the Earth. They found the plaster -- since covered with other protective smotherings over the years -- included tiny pieces of bone, rare charcoal and ash to bind it, as well as chips of wood and "extraordinarily well-preserved" plant fragments.

Radiocarbon-dating at a laboratory at Oxford University put the age of the wood sample at between 822-796 BC, and that of two plant samples at 790-760 BC and 690-540 BC respectively. That gave a ballpark date of 700 BC which also tallied with a radioisotope estimate of an ancient stalactite found in the tunnel's ceiling."Our dating agrees well... with the date commonly assigned to King Hezekiah," the authors say. "The three independent lines of evidence -- radiometric dating, palaeography and the historical record -- all converge on about 700 BC, rendering the Siloam Tunnel the best-dated Iron-Age biblical structure so far."


This is a summary of a study by Israeli and British scholars which is scheduled to appear tomorrow in the journal Nature.
�����NEW EVIDENCE FOR CALIGULA'S "GOD COMPLEX,": excavations this summer indicate he may have connected his palace to a temple of Castor and Pollux. Also discussed earlier on PaleoJudaica here.
"HEBREW AND KONKANI": a linguistic sideline to the current closer relationship between Israel and India. This article compares the history of Hebrew with the history of Konkani, a language in India which I confess I've never heard of before. The parallels aren't all that close, but it's an interesting article. (You can read more about Konkani on the website.)

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

KFAR KEDEM - another living history project. I've already blogged on Nazareth Village. Kfar Kedem (which means roughly, "village of long ago") is a similar project, one where tourists can get some hands-on life experience of ancient village life in the Galilee. This is no doubt fun as long as you can still get antiseptic if you cut yourself and you can take a hot shower at the end of the day and drive to a nice restaurant, then e-mail home about your experience. (Despite my love of ancient history, I wouldn't want to live there, thank you.) I'm currently writing a chapter section on to what degree we can speak of ancient Galilean culture as something distinct from Jewish culture, and I ran across this site during a Google search.
MORE LARA CROFT DISSING, this time from the Chinese Government, which has banned Tomb Raider II for being culturally insensitive. (Via Archaeology Magazine News).

I guess this just goes to show that no movie is so stupid that it won't be taken seriously by somebody.
THE QUEEN OF SHEBA may not have existed, according to archaeologist Ricardo Eichmann (son of Adolph Eichmann - and I'm not making that up). He can't find any evidence that there was such a person. No matter: ancient Judaism and early Islam produced a rich cycle of legends about the Queen. To read some of them, go to the Solomon chapter of Ginzberg's Legends of the Jews and scroll down until you get to "The Queen of Sheba."

Monday, September 08, 2003


Johann Cook, ed., Bible and Computer: The Stellenbosch AIBI-6 Conference: Proceedings of the Association Internationale Bible et Informatique "From Alpha to Byte," University of Stellenbosch 17-21 July, 2000.
(Thomas Hieke, reviewer)

David J. A. Clines, The Dictionary of Classical Hebrew, vol. 5: m-n
(Johan Lust, reviewer)

David L. Washburn, A Catalog of Biblical Passages in the Dead Sea Scrolls
(Robert F. Shedinger, reviewer)
BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION NEWS has published three new essays:

"Thoughts on the James Ossuary"
By Craig Evans

"Scholars, Journalists and the Ossuary"
By Bruce Chilton

"Conservative Scholarship-Critical Scholarship"
By Niels Peter Lemche

HERE'S MORE ON THE ORDER, another movie with Aramaic in it. Follow this link for The Order's website. You can view the trailer there and, if you have Flash installed, can waste lots more time looking at photos, clips, etc. The trailer claims to show a bit of Aramaic ("the language of Christ"), but it doesn't look much like Aramaic to me, and "blood in, blood out" is not a phrase that would be easy to say in Aramaic, which doesn't allow dangling prepositions. (They would need direct objects: "blood in something, blood out of something.") Oh well.

UPDATE: reviews The Order and trashes it.

Bellia, Giuseppe and Angelo Passaro, eds.
Il libro del Qohelet: Tradizione, Redazione, Teologia

Sunday, September 07, 2003


'John' tells Gospel truth, word for word ( - Erie Times News)

Carter Lumber

Associated Press

TORONTO � Mel Gibson take note: There's another new film about the life of Jesus that also depicts Jews' involvement in the events leading to the Crucifixion. But this one has several Jewish producers and has attracted much less controversy.

While Gibson's "The Passion" won't be released for months, Jewish and Christian commentators already are debating whether its gory treatment of Jesus' death will rouse anti-Semitism. By contrast, there's no advance acrimony surrounding "The Gospel of John," which premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival on a symbolically chosen Sept. 11.

"John" is a Canadian-British production made for $15 million, roughly half the cost of Gibson's film. It opens in four U.S. markets Sept. 26, then 75 others through the autumn, mostly in cinemas across the southeastern Bible Belt.

Gibson's movie, which he funded, co-wrote, produced and directed, puts all the dialogue into the ancient Aramaic and Latin languages. "John" has a different oddity. The script is in English but consists entirely of John's Gospel, word for word.


Garth Drabinsky, the Canadian producer who heavily shaped "John," is Jewish. He thinks John's Gospel, which most scholars believe was written around the end of the first century, is an inspirational masterpiece in which one of the themes is the conflict over Jesus among Jews.


In making the film, Drabinsky hired University of Toronto retiree Peter Richardson to enlist an advisory board of scholars consisting of five Protestants of varying views, a Roman Catholic sister and two Jews.

One of the Jewish scholars, Alan Segal of Barnard College, told a Toronto media preview that "it's a stunning and illuminating film." But Segal also acknowledged that, of the four Gospels, John is "the most Jewish in its subject matter, and the most anti-Jewish in its perception."


There's lots more; read it all.
BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY REVIEW has a new issue online. Hershel Shanks responds to the summary of the IAA report on the "James Ossuary." I don�t have time to read it all right now, but here it is. And he has an editorial on the subject here. (And I thought I was sarcastic!) There are also articles on the Exodus and two reviews of a book that claims to locate one of the lost ten tribes.
GARY LEUPP has e-mailed a reply to my comments on his Counterpunch essay on Mel Gibson and The Passion. He writes:
Jim Davila posted my Counterpunch on the controversy surrounding �The Passion� on this site, generally praising it (thanks, Jim) but indicating that he had �serious problems� with three points in particular. I�d like to briefly respond to those below, at his invitation.
8. Mel Gibson is a devout, if dissident, Catholic. Anti-abortion, pro-death penalty, and accused of hostility to feminists and gays, Gibson is no model of tolerance.

Davila found this unfair, and on reflection I basically accept the criticism. Being anti-abortion or pro-death penalty is not to lack tolerance but merely to have an opinion. And I don�t know how Gibson relates to feminists and gays in his personal life. Feminists and gays have criticized aspects of some of his films (for example, the depiction of the homosexual relationship between the prince and his lover/advisor in Braveheart, and its impact on his princess-bride, although I personally have no problem with it). What I wanted to say is that Gibson is associated with conservative views that are in fact held by many anti-Semites, and for the ADL or anyone else to be concerned about his intentions in his film is thus especially understandable.

11. Objective historians consider the "real" history underlying the Passion storyline unclear. Most concede (although some scholars contest this) that there was a Jewish man living in the Roman province of Judea in the early first century CE who, killed ca. 30, became an object of worship of the Christian faith.

Davila says he knows �of no living, serious scholar in historical Jesus studies (and by �serious� I mean people who publish in the major peer-review journals and present papers at the major conferences) who holds the view that Jesus never existed�. If Professor Leupp has specific people in mind, I'd be interested in hearing names and references.�

First of all, my piece, appearing on a political website, was not intended as a thoroughly scholarly discussion, which I (as a Japan historian) am not best-qualified to produce. My point was to encourage a dispassionate approach to the question of Jesus and his representation by people holding different points of view. In that context, I think it was reasonable to include the parenthetical note that not all scholars concede Jesus� historicity. I did not specify that I referred to contemporary, peer-reviewed scholars. But Albert Schweitzer was surely a �scholar,� and he wrote that the Jesus who said he was the Messiah and preached the kingdom of heaven upon earth �never had any existence.� G. A. Wells (who is, whatever else, surely a scholar) in several works challenges the thesis that a Jesus remotely similar to the figure in the Gospels ever existed. One may dispute their scholarship, and it isn�t my point to uphold it. (My own view is more along the lines of Crossan�s.) But the alternative to expressing myself as I did would be to say, �All scholars agree that there was a Jesus such as is depicted in the Gospels.�
32. This concept of a god undergoing a horrible death, descending to the netherworld, the rising from the dead, offering salvation to humankind (or to select believers), is not unique to Christianity but occurs in other religions once popular in the Middle East. The Babylonian god Tammuz (earlier, the Sumerian god Dimmuzi) rises from the dead, due to the actions of the goddess Ishtar, on the third day.

Davila says the Sumerian god was not the object of a resurrection cult. But it�s my understanding that his cult led to that of Tammuz, who was dead & resurrected. A scholar of classical Egypt wrote me in response to that piece that �one might make the case that� the dead-god-rising �is the standard pattern,� listing also the cults of Adonis and Antinous. I happily leave the details to specialists. My modest point (which I think Christians in particular need to hear) is that the death and resurrection drama is not unique to their faith and that the latter may have borrowed from pre-Christian cults.

I�m glad these issues are being debated on this site. Gary Leupp

I am grateful to Professor Leupp for taking the time to write this response. I concur that it is very much a mainstream view, although certainly not a universal one, that the historical Jesus wasn't remotely similar to the Christ of faith in the Gospels. My understanding is that it has also been called into question whether the Tammuz and Adonis cults involved resurrection (see Jonathan Smith's article in my previous post). But I am assured in an e-mail by someone who knows about such things that the dying and rising god category is still of some use as an interpretive construct. I should mention also that some people think that the ancient Davidic king may have engaged in a cultic drama of dying and rising at the annual enthronement festival (and I think this is a real possibility, although not one that can be proved with the current data). Since elements of the early Jesus movement used the Davidic royal tradition as a template for understanding Jesus, one could make a similar argument using it.

Thanks again, Gary.
I'M BACK. The conference was excellent and I want to thank Mark Goodacre, the University of Birmingham, and Mark's postgraduate assistants Catherine Smith, Helen Ingram, Kuyseok Han, and Richard Goode, who not only made everything run incredibly smoothly, but also made it look effortless. Having held a couple of conferences myself at St. Andrews, I know just how much hard work goes on behind the scenes to make one successful. Mark and team, your efforts are much appreciated.

I'm in a hurry this morning and I'm not going to try to blog the conference in any detail. But I do want to mention two things. First is the Mingana Collection, a collection of hundreds of Syriac and thousands of Arabic manuscripts (with a few in Ethiopic, Coptic, Greek, Persian, cuneiform, etc.) at the University of Birmingham. Some of us were given a tour of it and there's a great deal of fascinating material in it. We were shown codices of the Acts of Thomas in Garshuni (Arabic written in Syriac script) and Syriac, among many other things. Alphonse Mingana was an Iraqi Chaldean Christian who gathered the collection in the 1920s. See the web page for lots more information.

Second is Friday evening's presentation by an international team of scholars on "Digital Editing: A New Generation of Greek New Testaments." This team is currently producing an incredibly ambitious new edition of the Greek Gospel of John, eventually to be expanded to include the whole Greek New Testament. Spin-off projects include an edition of the Old Latin Gospel of John and an edition of the Byzantine text of the New Testament for Orthodox scholars and lay people. You can read about their work at the Institut f�r neutestamentliche Textforschung INTF website. The site is mostly in German, but a number of very interesting pages are in English. These people are the Special Forces of New Testament textual criticism and anyone interested in the subject should keep a close eye on their work. It promises to change the face of the field in years to come.

UPDATE: Mark Goodacre is blogging the conference at length. Start at the link and just keep scrolling up.