Saturday, July 22, 2006

DAVID MEADOWS reveals some "trade secrets" over at Rogue Classicism.
BOTH SIDES in the Israel-Lebanon/Hezbollah conflict are being called upon to honor the Hague Convention (NYT):
Appeal for Safety of Cultural Sites in Mideast

Concerned about the effects of the hostilities in Israel and Lebanon, two American archaeological groups urged combatants there to honor the 1954 Hague Convention, which calls for parties in armed conflict to minimize damage to cultural sites. In a statement yesterday, the American Schools of Oriental Research and the Archaeological Institute of America identified World Heritage sites in both countries that are endangered by the fighting. Among them are the biblical sites of Megiddo and Hazor and the Crusader city at Acre in northern Israel, and in Lebanon, the Roman cities of Baalbek and Tyre, the Phoenician site of Byblos and the Umayyad city of Anjar. Israel and Lebanon are parties to the Hague Convention, and though some of the combatants are not nation-states, the archaeologists urged them “to work within the terms of the Hague Convention and customary international law to minimize damage and destruction of these cultural sites, which are of great value to all of humankind.”
More here.
Base metal? Just the opposite
By Danny Rubinstein

"Hatzad hashelishi shel hamatbe'a" ("The Third Side of the Coin") by Yaakov Meshorer, edited by Hannah Amit-Kochavi, Yad Ben-Zvi, 190 pages, NIS 150

In the interest of proper disclosure, I admit that Yaakov Meshorer, who passed away two years ago, was a childhood friend. Born and raised in Jerusalem, he was an archaeology professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and chief curator of the Israel Museum's archaeology department. A major authority on ancient Palestinian coins, Meshorer influenced me to dabble in collecting old coins.

A short while before his death, he completed "Hatzad hashelishi shel hamatbe'a" ("The Third Side of the Coin"). Published in the format of an album, it is a treasury of beautiful pictures and fascinating stories. Meshorer spent most of his time on scholarly publications, which earned him esteem and prestige in the eyes of his colleagues. However, in the context of his work, he amassed considerable material on treasures, collectors, forgeries and other matters not directly connected with academic research. He has gathered all this material in the book under review, and readers are invited to join him on an entertaining visit to the world of ancient coins.

RICHARD FREUND is still excavating at Bethsaida -- for now.
"[We've seen] rockets overhead. We just went into the bomb shelters at noon. Tiberias and Haifa have been rocket attacked, and over 1,000 of these Katyushas have hit in the north," Freund said. "The great virtue is, we are not in a major city and are located in a very isolated area. We are north of Tiberias, we are not on the Golan Heights. We are not really a target. But if we hear the sirens go off we head right to the bomb shelters."
His American student volunteers are gradually being evacuated, as circumstances permit.

UPDATE: Here's a letter from volunteer Ken Stammerman at Hippos Sussita, also in the north:
GA letter from a Louisvillian at an Israeli archaeological dig
'I have no intention of leaving before this season ends'

The American volunteers on the archaeological dig I am participating in near a northern Israeli kibbutz would normally expect hazards like the occasional scorpion sting or bruises and twisted ankles from our boulder-strewn worksite -- not this year's incoming Katyusha rockets from Hezbollah positions in nearby south Lebanon.

Twice in the past four days, our afternoons at Kibbutz Ein Gev on the Sea of Galilee have been disrupted by the loud bangs and shaking windows resulting from nearby rocket blasts. The closest so far was at Ramot, an Israeli town a few kilometers up the road, though the sirens and sounds of numerous hits at Tiberias, the largest Israeli town in the area, a scant five miles across the sea, have also rattled nerves and walls at the kibbutz.

The foreign student volunteers from this site have been evacuated.

The Tel-es-Safi/Gath excavation, which is in much farther south, also continues.

Friday, July 21, 2006

BEN WITHERINGTON is in St. Andrews for the Hebrews Conference and has some nice things to say about the place. Also, be sure to check out the short papers page for the conference. It has the full text of a number of good and interesting papers on topics related to ancient Judaism.
MORE INFO ON THE MANUSCRIPTS found with the Coptic Gospel of Judas has been published on the rather wild website of Michael van Rijn. (Scroll down to "The Ferrini Files"; van Rijn doesn't seem to do permalinks.) I have no way of verifying this information myself. Roger Pearse notes the post on the Textual Criticism list and he has also published the relevant documents on his own Tertullian Project website. In his TC message he summarizes:
The others are a Greek Exodus, which now seems to have been chopped up and scattered; a Sahidic letters of Paul (now revealed to also contain parts of Galatians), the whereabouts of which are almost completely unknown; and a Greek mathematical treatise cut up into at least chunks (and probably more: we now know of at least 5 pages unaccounted for).
If all this is accurate, it is a sad fate indeed for these manuscripts.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Is this woman the living 'Code'?
Updated 7/18/2006 3:47 PM ET

By Carol Memmott, USA TODAY
Is the world ready for a book and an author more controversial than Dan Brown and The Da Vinci Code?

Meet Kathleen McGowan, novelist and self-proclaimed descendant of a union between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. McGowan, who says she is from the "sacred bloodline" Brown made famous in his mega-selling novel, says she's ready to cope with people who think she's crazy or a heretic.

Much of the evidence for her claim seems to involve some visions she had.

Bart Ehrman was interviewed for this article and comments:
"People didn't keep genealogies like that in the ancient world. There are no records. We have no account of Mary Magdalene even going to France until the Middle Ages, and the legend about her going to France sprang up because there was a cult to Mary Magdalene in southern France and they used the story about her going there as a way to explain the origins of the cult."
One could add that if her notions (I refuse to say "theories") were true -- and they aren't -- at this late stage many millions of people would be descended from Jesus and Mary Magdalene and a great many people would have as much or more of the tiny fraction of genetic material she would have inherited from them.

Ehrman sums it up well: "It's completely bogus."

UPDATE: Look again at the Copper Scroll post immediately below for an update noting more errors.

Also, if you have tried to reach me recently via the e-mail address in the masthead, it has been having problems. I think they are resolved now, but it may take another 12 hours (from 10:30 am British time) before it's working properly.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

NY Times Best Selling Author Joel Rosenberg Special Guest on “Jay Sekulow Live!” Wednesday, July 19th

2006-07-18 -- Media Advisory (USA Religious News)

(WASHINGTON, DC) Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel with the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), announced that communications strategist and New York Times Best Selling Author “Joel Rosenberg” will be his special guest on the July 19th edition of the nationally syndicated radio program “Jay Sekulow Live!” airing at 12:00 Noon EST.

Rosenberg is the author of several New York Times bestselling books, including “The Last Jihad” and “The Ezekiel Option.” His most recent novel is “The Copper Scroll,” slated for national release August 6th.

And here is the press release for the book:

New York Times broke story of The Copper Scroll in 1956; Thriller by Joel C. Rosenberg to be released Aug. 1, 2006.

(Washington, D.C.) – In the summer of 1956, the New York Times broke a story that captured the imagination of the world. Another Dead Sea Scroll had been found, unlike any before it, describing unimaginable treasures worth untold billions buried in the hills east of Jerusalem and under the Holy City itself.

In a major front-page article, the Times reported that “the document tells of hoards of fabulous value….two hundred tons of gold and silver” and “sounds like something that might have been written in blood in the dark of the moon by a character in Treasure Island.”
Sounds reasonably accurate so far, but then there's this:
In the years that followed, a growing number of scholars came to believe that the Copper Scroll could be history’s greatest treasure map, one that could not only lead to the treasures of the First and Second Jewish Temples in Jerusalem but also pave the to the way to build the Third Jewish Temple – a move that would be highly controversial. Some have even speculated the Copper Scroll could lead to the famed Ark of the Covenant and the actual Ten Commandments, priceless religious relics that have been sought for centuries but whose whereabouts are still unknown.
Many scholars do think the Copper Scroll represents a real treasure. I think so myself. But none of them are talking about it "paving the way" for any Third Temple. Nor do they think that the Copper Scroll leads to the Ark of the Covenant (which in real life was presumably melted down by the Babylonians for its gold) or any of the Ark's legendary contents. I don't doubt that there are people who have raised such wild, preposterous speculations, but they aren't specialists in Qumran studies.
But the Copper Scroll’s code has never been broken. The treasure remains hidden. And experts on all sides warn that any effort by Israel to rebuild the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem would unleash a war of biblical proportions.

Now, exactly 50 years after the Copper Scroll was revealed to the world, New York Times best-selling author Joel C. Rosenberg has written a novel, The Copper Scroll (Tyndale/Aug 06), that takes readers on a hunt for what he calls “the world’s greatest treasure in the world’s most dangerous region.”

“The Copper Scroll as a novel is fiction, but it’s based on a real treasure, described in a real Dead Sea scroll, buried in a real country, with real – and explosive – religious, historic and political implications,” said Rosenberg, who traveled to Amman, Jordan, in June 2004 to see the real Copper Scroll for himself.

“The treasure is believed to be buried under Jerusalem and in the hills of the West Bank,” added Rosenberg “But, obviously, this is a highly-contested city and highly-contested territory, fought over for thousands of years. Hunting for the treasure described in the Copper Scroll could spark a war. Finding the treasure could spark a war. Preventing others from finding the treasure could spark a war. Yet I have to admit: I suspect someday, someone will find it and when they do it will be biggest archaeological discovery of all time.”
The treasures of the Copper Scroll, assuming they're real, were left in relatively small caches around this area. It's possible that some are still there and will be discovered (Richard Freund thinks he has found one, but this is controversial), but most likely most of them were found long ago and are lost to us. In any case, they would have to be tracked down one by one on the basis of very much less than lucid directions. There's plenty of war-sparking going on in the area, but the Copper Scroll is not to blame, nor is it likely to be.

Maybe Rosenberg's book is a good thriller. But the advance publicity doesn't give me much hope that he has dealt with the historical issues in a responsible way. Sigh.

UPDATE (20 July): I didn't look up the details of the original NYT announcement etc., but it seems I should have. Stephen Goranson e-mails:
The Qumran Cave 3 Copper Scroll was not found in 1956, but found by archaeologists on March 20, 1952. The New York Times reported the find in a story from Jerusalem dated March 31 and printed April 1, 1952, page 13, col. 6: "Ancient Scrolls Found: Copper Sheets Left by Essenes are Dug Up in Judea."

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS AND CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY CONFERENCE is taking place at the University of St. Andrews from 18 to 22 July. Follow the link for full program details. Some of the papers bear on ancient Judaism more or less directly.

Monday, July 17, 2006

TWO NEW BOOKS ON THE GOSPEL OF JUDAS are reviewed in the Des Moines Register. Both just arrived in our library as well.
A NEW DEAD SEA SCROLLS CENTER is being opened at the Israel Museum underneath the scale-model of Second Temple Jerusalem:
BIG>Jerusalem of old
By SARINA ROSENBERG (Jerusalem Post)

A unique blend of contemporary and ancient, miniature and magnificent sets the scene at the Israel Museum's newest exhibit featuring the Second Temple Era model of Jerusalem it acquired from the Holyland Hotel.

From the site of the Old City replica, now nestled atop Jerusalem's Hill of Tranquility, pristine views of the Knesset, the National Library and Hebrew University's Givat Ram campus form a vivid background to the birds-eye perspective of the ancient Jerusalem depicted in the model.

Yet according to museum officials, it is what is underneath the model's new site that truly brings the Second Temple model to life.

Accompanying the inauguration of the model last week, the Israel Museum opened the multi-building Dorot Foundation Dead Sea Scrolls Information and Study Center, an underground complex and auditorium linking the new acquisition with the museum's Shrine of the Book housing the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Dr. Adolfo Roitman, head of the Shrine of the Book, said the museum designed the study center to connect the Shrine of the Book and the Jerusalem model both physically and conceptually - subterranean study space linking the two exhibits and the ancient communities they represent.

"We want to synchronize these two stories - the story of Jerusalem and the story of the Dead Sea Scrolls," Roitman told a group of reporters touring the exhibit. "In a way, we are closing the circle opened in the 1950s [with the discovery of the Scrolls]."


Sunday, July 16, 2006

METATRON WATCH -- Now the archangel Metatron has diversified into milk-monitoring technology:
The new parlour is fitted with P21 Metatron milk meters and yields and a range of other cow data is monitored through Westfalia’s Dairyplan herd management programme with feeds adjusted accordingly.
Plus, you can find the website for his band here.
APOCRYPHA WATCH: A musical based on the books of the Maccabees is playing in Kansas City.
Maccabeat, music by Harvey Shield, lyrics by Richard Jarboe and Chayim Ben Za'ayev, book by Ben Za'ayev, from a story by M. Edelman based on portions of the 1st Book of Maccabees (Apocrypha). Directed by Steven Eubank, music directed by Chris Leavy. 2 & 8 PM July 15 at Just Off Broadway Theater in Penn Valley Park.

"A pop rock musical take on the Biblical story of Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights. Judah Maccabee and his brothers sing doo wop, chase girls and try to remain true to their faith and traditions in a world where it's cool to be Greek. When Judah and the lovely Allura, a 'heathen,' fall for each other, two very different cultures are forced to confront — and learn from — one another. With Allura's help, Judah and his brothers outwit the bad guys and strike the blow against tyranny that made the Chanukah celebration possible. It may not have happened quite this way, but hey — you never know."
Loosely based on the books of the Maccabees.

The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle has more details:
As source material for a musical romp, Edelman said, the Book(s) of Maccabees are somewhat problematic.
"The Book of Maccabees is interesting for a couple of reasons," he said. "Number one, there is no cruse of oil that miraculously burned for eight days in it. That didn't happen. And number two, it's about fighting - mostly the Syrian Greeks, but also against the assimilated Jews ... and how do you celebrate that?
"But there is all this space in between the stories for their day-to-day lives. What might have happened to them? These are Jews living in their Holy Land several hundred years after they made a deal with Alexander the Great to keep their religion. But now after Alexander died, these bad guys took over and started to impose their will on them. Still, you're talking about great minds and ideas like Aristotle and Plato and the Olympics. ...
"So what if Judah had been this Fabio-looking hunk, and what if he had assimilated friends who wore clothes that were cool, and what if he attracted the attention of the sister of Antiochus' general, Appolonius, and what if he tried out for the Olympics?"
Like the Talmudic rabbis who invented the "miracle of the oil," Edelman and Krausz, et al, had to find a way to "resolve the arc of that story."
All the characters, except for Judah's "heathen" temptress, Allura, are taken from the Books of Maccabees.
"It's a natural attraction between the characters, but she is interested in his world, too," Edelman said. "She tells her father, 'They have a rich history; we could learn from them.' And Judah does the same about the Greeks. And in each case, the older generation says '... Nah! Stay with your own kind.'
"Allura learns to blow the shofar, and Judah learns about Greek things, but ultimately, they are from two different worlds and can't bridge the gap."
Very loosely based on the books of the Maccabees.
OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS of working with the Dead Sea Scrolls, Part 2:
All that hardware in his suitcase? And vodka, too?


July 15, 2006

Israeli airport security guards grew suspicious when they opened the suitcase of Michael Hager, head of the San Diego Natural History Museum. The bottom was loaded with straps, strips of metal, gels, putty, glue and other hardware.

For two hours, Hager tried to convince inspectors that he was bringing an earthquake safety kit to the Israeli Antiquities Authority to secure its priceless historic heirlooms.

In preparation for next year's Natural History Museum exhibit on the Dead Sea Scrolls, Hager had earlier visited the authority's museum in earthquake-prone East Jerusalem and discovered 10,000-year-old artifacts unsecured and vulnerable.

He did get on the plane eventually, and they even let him keep his bottle of vodka.