Saturday, June 10, 2006

MORE INFORMATION on the upcoming Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition in Kansas city:
Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit here could sell out, sponsors say
By: Rick Hellman, Editor June 09, 2006 (Kansas City Jewish Chronicle)

One way or another, the Dead Sea Scrolls involve salvation.

When it was formally announced at a press conference Tuesday that some of the scrolls would be exhibited at Union Station Feb. 8-May 13, 2007, Rabbi Morris B. Margolies spoke of the ethical precepts contained in the biblical texts that make up part of the scrolls.
"Love your neighbor as yourself," said the rabbi emeritus, who will serve as the exhibit's on-site scholar-curator. "If you don't, you'll have a world of evil. If you do, you'll have a world of good."
Meanwhile, just days after announcing he would have to lay off one-fourth of Union Station's paid staff to cure a persistent budget deficit, CEO Andi Udris foresaw a blockbuster exhibition with black ink flowing to the station's bottom line.
"We're taking on our financial issues, and, at the same time, producing this internationally acclaimed exhibit," Udris said. "And this is how you do it; with exhibits like this."
I hope this helps with the museum's financial straits. Other similar exhibits have certainly been very successful.

The article includes a detailed lists of scrolls to be exhibited:
Scrolls in the exhibit

Genesis-Exodus (1st century CE)
Among the 14 copies of Genesis and Exodus that were found in the Qumran Caves, only this scroll contains both books. The fragment that will be displayed is parallel to chapters 35-39 of the Masoretic (i.e., standard Jewish) text.
Joshua (2nd century BCE)
The earliest known copy of Joshua. The fragment describes the events that took place after the Israelites' arrival in the Land of Canaan.
Psalms (1st century CE)
Fragment is parallel to Psalms 135-136, which are classified as Hymns of Praise. It extols the Lord for his greatness as creator of the world and as deliverer and redeemer of his people.
Job (1st century BCE)
Fragment corresponds to Chapter 36:7-16 and 23-33 in which Elihu describes to Job how God watches the righteous.
Isaiah commentary (1st century BCE)
Many of the Qumran manuscripts employ a unique style of biblical commentary: the pesher method. The writers quoted biblical text, and after each quote attempted to interpret how the words of the Bible had been realized in contemporary events according to the worldview of the sect. This commentary includes quotes from Isaiah Chapter 11:1-2 and their interpretation.
Community Rule (1st century BCE- 1st century CE)
Rules by which the members of the Qumran sect lived their lives. This fragment describes the need and readiness of the members to worship and praise the Lord by praying at fixed intervals.
Deuteronomy (replica of 1st century BCE scroll)
Contains Deuteronomy 8:5-10, which includes the Ten Commandments.
Aramaic Apocalypse (replica of 1st century BCE scroll)
Similar to the apocalyptic section of the biblical book of Daniel. The manuscript refers to a "Son of God" and "Son of the Most High." The interpretation of this phrase is disputed among scholars: is this a reference to a historic ruling figure or to an apocalyptic sovereign who will establish God's reign on earth?
Damascus Document (replica of 1st century BCE scroll)
The Damascus Document was discovered in the Cairo genizah, a collection of ancient Hebrew texts, in 1896. This replica deals with scale disease and its purification.
Paleo Leviticus (replica of 2nd-1st century BCE scroll)
Written in the ancient Hebrew script known as Paleo-Hebrew, this fragment comprises the last chapters of the book of Leviticus, dealing with laws of worship, of damage and of slaves, as well as the Israelite festivals, the Jewish New Year and the Day of Atonement.
There is also lecture series with a stellar cast of scholars.
THE BOOK OF LOST BOOKS, by Stuart Kelly, is excerpted and profiled by NPR ("Recovering Literature's 'Lost Books'"). The audio file should be available later today. This is a topic near and dear to my own heart and I'll have to have a look at this book.

Friday, June 09, 2006

SOME GREEK FRAGMENTS OF EXODUS from the same find that brought us the Gospel of Judas have been published in Vetus Testamentum. This according to Wieland Willker on the Textual Criticism list. He writes:
As you probably know, the Gospel of Judas book find did not consist of the Gospel of Judas alone, but also of other books, including Exodus in Greek and Colossians in Coptic.

Some of the Exodus fragments have now been published:

"Seven papyrus fragments of a Greek manuscript of Exodus"
Desilva, David A.; Adams, Marcus P.
Vetus Testamentum 56 (2006) 143-170

The article is available online here (but requires a paid personal or institutional subscription to access).

Weiland has links to info on other fragments as well, so read his whole message.
iBOOK UPDATE: I've not received any e-mail notification, but the repair-status webpage now indicates that the repair is complete and reads "Product return pending (09-Jun-2006)." I suppose that's a good sign.
NEIL ALTMAN, the self-appointed and bogus Dead Sea Scrolls scholar, is at it again. He has some articles in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette which promote his notion that the Scrolls are medieval, have Chinese symbols in them, etc. The links are subscription-only, and I somehow managed to access one, briefly, but couldn't get it back. Thus I haven't commented on the pieces. But now the Union, Trueheart, and Courtesy blog, run by Donna Bowman, has a post on the pieces with alternate, accesible links to two of them, along with relevant other links and trenchant commentary. Excerpt:
Well, thanks to our newspaper's decision to give him an unopposed forum for his Da Vinci Code-esque theories, a bunch of Arkansans who don't know squat about the Dead Sea Scrolls are going to think they come from 1200 and provide no information at all about first century Judaism, Gnosticism, and Christian sectarianism. Anybody who tells them otherwise is going to be dismissed as a puppet of the anti-Christian academic conspiracy. Sigh.

*Link to the stories uses the identical Northwest Arkansas News web version; Dem-Gaz website is subscription only. And this story appears nowhere else in the media. Apparently only Arkansas is interested/gullible enough to print it.
Unfortunately, other newspapers in the United States, Britain, and Canada have served their readers equally ill by publishing Altman's nonsense. Their continued irresponsibility and gullibility is breathtaking.

On the question of red ink in the Isaiah Scroll, last week James Trever, son of the late John C. Tever who took the photos, e-mailed me the following:
Something you might want to note regarding some of Neil's theories is that he points out red dots a various places on the photos in the 1972 "Scrolls from Qumran Cave I". I have the proofs Dad marked up for the printing of the 1972 color volume and he points all those out as something that should be removed, as they do not exist on the original transparencies. So they show up, somehow, from the process that the publisher used to print the color images. Dad was not successful in completely eliminating them, as the editor probably did not think it consequential. Unfortunately, controversy makes money and that is all these guys like Altman are doing.
Altman and his sometime collaborator David Crowder were informed of this, but they seem not to have accepted it.

I have commented at length on articles on the Scrolls by Altman and Crowder here, here, here, and here. And on a different topic here. Note especially that they cannot be trusted to report accurately the opinions of scholars they interview.

UPDATE: Perhaps it's worth reflecting a little on why it is that Altman's scholarship is bogus. We're told he has "done graduate work" at various places and that he has a Master's degree in Old Testament, but not that he has any training in the Dead Sea Scrolls. (Or, one might note, in Chinese!) A Master's degree will orient someone to some of the basic primary and secondary literature in a field and introduce them to some basic methodology, but does not prepare them to do original research in that field, nor is it meant to. (A minority do end up doing original work in a Master's thesis, but this is the exception.) The difference between Master's level work and the Ph.D. is that the Ph.D. is specifically designed to teach someone to do original research in a field and actually guides them through the production of a substantial project that makes an independent contribution to the field. They are guided by one or more specialists in the field who themselves publish original research in peer-review journals, monographs, and specialist conferences.

Having a Master's degree does not qualify one as a specialist in any field, let alone one different from the topic of the degree. Altman is not professionally qualified to do original research in the Dead Sea Scrolls, yet he not only thinks that he can make original contributions to the field, he thinks that all actual specialists in it are wrong in their central understanding of the data and that he can completely overturn the major conclusions of that field. This is the sort of gall displayed by someone who really doesn't understand what he is taking on.

Moreover, look closely at how he is making this supposed contribution. It is not by publishing articles in specialist journals or monographs in specialist series or presenting papers at specialist conferences. Instead he goes to the popular media and presents them with his notions (they don't deserve to be called theories) as though they were real research on the Scrolls. He also validates these notions by misconstruing conversations he had with actual specialists.

These concepts are not particularly difficult, but present evidence seems to indicate that they are beyond a number of newspaper editors. What is so hard about identifying a real specialist or two and vetting Altmanesque ideas with them? What is so difficult about contacting the specialists Altman quotes and asking them if he is reporting their views correctly? There was a day when I assumed that this was how newspapers operated. Long before I started this blog I had learned better, but maintaining PaleoJudaica for the last three years has really opened my eyes to how slapdash and irresponsible the media often are in my areas of expertise. And it is only reasonable to extrapolate that they are just as often equally careless and ill-informed when they report on things I don't know about. Altman is culpable for presenting himself as an expert when he is not, but these newspapers are doubly culpable for being unable to identify a real expert, mainly because they can't be bothered to undertake the most basic verification.
ANOTHER OBITUARY FOR LOU H. SILBERMAN, this one on the Vanderbilt University website:
Jewish studies scholar Lou H. Silberman dead at 91; Played role in James Lawson saga at Vanderbilt 6-7-2006

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Lou H. Silberman, an internationally recognized scholar of the Hebrew Bible and Judaic studies and longtime campus leader at Vanderbilt University, died June 6 in Tucson, Ariz. He was 91.

Silberman taught at Vanderbilt from 1952 to 1980, and was named Hillel Professor of Jewish Literature in 1955. He was chair of the Undergraduate Department of Religious Studies from 1970 to 1976.

BABATHA is Neri Livneh's heroine:
My heroine, at last
By Neri Livneh

For years I've been looking for her, the heroine of my life. Whenever I conjure up the moment when some journalistic figure asks me to name my role model, the one who has done the most to get me to my present stage (on the somewhat unlikely assumption that there will one day be such a "stage" upon which I can sit myself, complacent and floral-wreathed, and look back with satisfaction, panoramically surveying the list of people who influenced my life), I discover, to my feminist chagrin, a couple of regrettable facts: it is difficult to find any necessary circumstantial connection between the people I have admired and the person I became - and far worse, the list contains more men than women.


In the course of a symposium on "The Myth of Beauty," which was held at the Mishkenot Sha'ananim center in Jerusalem, a discussion on "The History of the Myth of Beauty" took place between Dr. Yael Renan, a lecturer in literature, translator and researcher of myths, and Debby Hershman, an anthropologist, archaeologist and curator at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. The question they were discussing concerned the earliest evidence for the centrality of the cultivation of beauty.

Hershman related the story of Bavta Bat Shimon, who lived in the second century CE and was a successful merchant - in other words, she was a strong and successful woman, even in the terms of our time - and the daughter of a rich man who left her a large inheritance. This was the period of the Maccabean revolt and a million and a half inhabitants of the country had already been put to the sword by the Romans. Bavta's life was also in danger, and she decided to flee, as a refugee, together with another group of people who were going to hide in caves in the Dead Sea area. Like any refugee, she decided to take along only the most essential items for her survival. A whole collection of letters and documents, which would become a treasure for archaeologists who study the inheritance laws and customs of the period, commercial contracts and coins - but also those things for which she was ready to die, literally, rather than be caught without them; and in the end she in fact died and left them behind in the cave.

What were these things that Bavta took as she was fleeing for her life? A mirror, "perhaps the most beautiful one I have seen," Hershman said, set in a round decorated frame and housed in a polished metal box, a comb, an array of cosmetics and a small bottle of persimmon perfume, which was very expensive in those days. "That is what I mean by preserving one's human image," Renan said and added that she imagines she herself would not flee without lipstick.

So it was that without further ado, I at last found the heroine of my youth in the form of Bavta, the woman who preferred to leave behind, like Sheila Levine (the protagonist of the book "Sheila Levine Is Dead and Living in New York"), a handsome body.

That's certainly a new perspective. But not an unfitting one.

UPDATE(11 June): Reader Stuart Bornstein has e-mailed to point out that the "Maccabean revolt" in the article should be the Bar Kokhba revolt. Thanks, I should have caught that.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

iBOOK BLUES: Please excuse a personal grumble. If you're not in the mood for one, skip to the last paragraph.

Regular readers will recall my travails with my new iBook in February. I lost a week of access to it, but the defective unit was promptly replaced and I had no real complaint. Well, the story continues, and becomes less happy.

From mid-February to the end of April, thinks seemed to go fine, and I got a lot of use out the machine, including on a long trip abroad. But at the end of April, everything changed. The iBook broke down twice in rapid succession and had to be sent to a repair center for two distinct, mysterious hardware problems. I had it back and working for a week in May, but otherwise it has been either broken, in transit, or at the service center. Most recently it arrived at the service center on May 24th, two weeks ago yesterday. On that day I got the message "On hold - Part on order (24-May-2006)." And there it has remained for the last fortnight. On Monday morning of this week I called the support number and they promised me they would give my case high priority status and said the part should be in within 24 hours. That was almost three days ago. The message "On hold - Part on order (24-May-2006)" remains on my Mail-in Repair Status page and no one has contacted me to tell me what is going on.

To put this in context, I have been using Apple computers for almost 21 years. They have generally been reliable and trouble free. The move from the Apple operating system to the Unix-based System X a few years ago was a bit rocky, but nearly all the problems have been ironed out with version 10.4. I have had an eMac desktop machine for more than three years and, apart from a stretch where it had slowness problems that eventually were resolved, it has been reliable and I have been happy with it. And I can add to the plus side that the technical people I have talked to in the last several months have been helpful and polite and reasonably knowledgeable. Also, Apple has shipped the computer back and forth to the repair center without charge.

There's the plus side. But the minus side is that this my second iBook unit in less than four months; I've had this one in working order only for about a week since the beginning of May because it has had critical hardware breakdowns twice; and the second time appears to be nowhere near resolution even after the machine has been at the service center for more than two weeks. I bought the thing to take with me to conferences and I have one today to which I intended to take it. I can't. The most charitable face I can put on this is that Apple's repair centers must be seriously understaffed. And it's hard not to worry that an employee who was working on my computer has quit or been fired and it is sitting on a shelf or in a box somewhere and no one remembers it.

I want to cut Apple all the slack I can, but I'm getting really fed up. Until now I would have recommended Apple computers without hesitation because of their stability and reliability. Now I'm not so sure. Stability and reliability are not what I've been seeing lately.

By the way, is my recent experience with Apple unusual? I would be interested in hearing from Apple-using readers whether their experience in the last year or so has been good or bad. Please let me know if it has been either. It's possible that I have just had bad luck and this case is not representative. I hope so.

To make it all perfect, Blogger suddenly went belly up and was "Down for Maintenance" all yesterday evening "due to an unexpected problem." This post was written then, but I'm just putting it up this morning before I run to catch a train.

I'll keep you posted on what happens with the iBook.

I'll be in Edinburgh all day today at the Scottish Universities' day-conference for postgraduates in Divinity and Theology. I won't have a portable computer with me (grrr...) so additional blogging, if any, will have to wait until this evening.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

LOU H. SILBERMAN - 1914-2006. I am very sorry to note that Professor Lou H. Silberman died yesterday, two and a half weeks before his 92nd birthday. There is an obituary here. May his memory be for a blessing.

(Via the Agade list.)
A SECOND TEMPLE ERA SITE has reportedly been located in modern Bethel (Khirbet Kafr Mer). Yitzak Sapir translates a Hebrew article from Arutz Sheva on his Hebrew Bible and ANE History Lists Commentary blog.

(Via the Agade list.)
AN OBITUARY FOR SIMON PARKER has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, although it seems to have been published previously in the Boston Globe:
Dr. Simon Parker -- professor of Hebrew Bible

Gloria Negri, Boston Globe

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

For 25 years, Simon Parker taught Hebrew Bible and Scripture at Boston University's School of Theology, using his vast knowledge, his wit and his talent for storytelling to make scholarly ancient subjects come alive to graduate and doctoral students.

"Professor Parker taught us that some of the most fascinating nuggets of information (in the Bible) were those things that are mentioned in passing," said Dorie Mansen, of Hudson, N.H., one of his doctoral students. "The most interesting thing he taught us was how to use the text as a lens through which to learn about human history."

"BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY," it seems, is not dead yet. Not by a good bit.
Bar Ilan promotes biblical archeology
By ETGAR LEFKOVITS (Jerusalem Post)

Bar-Ilan University on Monday launched a campaign to build a new Institute of Biblical Archeology, in an effort to put the field back on center stage and serve as a counterweight to revisionist historians who are skeptical of connections between archeology and the Bible.

Thse $50 million institute, which is expected to be constructed in the coming years, will be part of the university's Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archeology.

UPDATE: From various sources, I see that Professor Aren Maeir has a blog post up in which he indicates that he is misquoted in this article. It is demoralizing to realize just how often this happens.
HEROD'S HARBOR is now open to scuba-diving visitors:
Diving into history in King Herod's harbor
Tue Jun 6, 2006 8:29am ET6

By Corinne Heller

CAESAREA, Israel (Reuters) - Above the glistening waves off the shores of the Israeli city of Caesarea, a group of scuba divers suit up to begin their descent into history.

As they slowly sink underwater, the light disperses to reveal remnants of what experts say was one of the biggest and most sophisticated sea ports of the Roman Empire.

After around 2,000 years, the ancient harbor is again open for business. The tourism business, that is.

Israeli and North American archeologists discovered the ruins some 40 years ago and, since last year, have worked to preserve the remnants, some of which once rested above the surface, to create Israel's first underwater archeological museum.

Metal poles with numbered signs mark 36 exhibits lying about 20 feet below the Mediterranean's surface over an area of 783,000 square feet.

Among the artifacts are remains of a sunken Roman vessel, giant anchors, loading piers, marble and granite columns and an ancient breakwater.


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A look at sacred pages from the past
The scrolls’ importance in archaeology, history and religion will be emphasized.

The Kansas City Star

The Dead Sea Scrolls are coming to Kansas City — their only Midwest stop on the current tour — and Union Station is going to make the most of it.

The Israel Antiquities Authority will allow Union Station to display parts of six of the scrolls, which date back more than two millennia and resound with the words of the Old Testament books of Genesis, Exodus, Joshua, Job and Psalms.


Union Station will formally announce the exhibit at 2:30 p.m. today in the H&R Block City Stage Theater. In addition to pieces of six original scrolls, there will be replicas of four others, and more than 100 scroll-related artifacts such as pottery and coins.


Monday, June 05, 2006

Feedelix Wireless Inc last week announced the release of FeedelSMS, its first mobile software product for Ethiopic languages. Feedelix provides the first and only existing solution in the market to serve its millions of Ethiopic language users around the world.
'Da Vinci Code' is banned in Pakistan
Sunday, June 04, 2006
Associated Press

Islamabad, Pakistan - Pakistan on Saturday banned cinemas from showing "The Da Vinci Code" because it contained what officials called blasphemous material about Jesus.

The film has not been screened in any theater in mostly Muslim Pakistan, but authorities decided to ban it out of respect for the feelings of the country's minority Christians.

Earlier last week, Christians staged protests in two Pakistani cities against the movie, demanding a global ban. Christians make up about 3 percent of Pakistan's 150 million people.

My previous commentary applies here too.
CATCHY HEADLINE for a truly absurd topic:
Apocalypse tomorrow? 666 arrives

By Seth Borenstein
June 5, 2006

Is tomorrow's date -- 6-6-6 -- merely a curious number, or could it mean our number is up?
There's a devilishly odd nexus of theology, mathematics and commercialism on the sixth day of the sixth month of the sixth year. OK, it's just the sixth year of this millennium, but insisting on calling it 2006 takes the devil-may-care fun out of calendar-gazing.

What will people think of next?

David Meadows has pointed out that if we go with the manuscript variant "616" in Revelation 13:18, the big day ought to have been on June 1st. And that's just in the American system. In Britain it ought to have been January 6th. [British date now corrected, thanks to a note from Mark Goodacre.]

Sunday, June 04, 2006

I GUESS IT'S NOT OFFICIAL -- YET. A few days ago I reported that the Egyptian Government had officially banned the Da Vinci Code movie. It seems I misread the article. The movie has not been released, but there is not yet an official decision to ban it. Sorry for the error.
Egyptian police seize 2,000 pirated 'Da Vinci Code' DVDs, Christians want film banned

By Omar Sinan

12:53 p.m. June 3, 2006

CAIRO, Egypt – Police seized 2,000 pirated DVDs of “The Da Vinci Code” on Saturday, and the Egyptian Coptic Christian church demanded the film be banned in Egypt.

The film has not been shown here and the government has not yet decided whether to permit it.


The head of Egypt's censorship bureau, Ali Abu Shadi said the film hasn't been banned because it has not arrived in Egypt.

“We have to see it first, and according to our rules, we will decide whether to bar the movie or to cut some scenes,” Abu Shadi told the AP.