Saturday, February 24, 2007

THE MORAL IS: Don't leave your inscribed ossuaries out in the courtyard:
Mysterious bones of Jesus, Joseph and Mary

By Tim Butcher in Jerusalem (The Telegraph)
Last Updated: 1:34am GMT 24/02/2007

In a scene worthy of a Dan Brown novel, archaeologists a quarter of a century ago unearthed a burial chamber near Jerusalem.

Inside they found ossuaries, or boxes of bones, marked with the names of Jesus, Joseph and Mary.

Then one of the ossuaries went missing. The human remains inside were destroyed before any DNA testing could be carried out.

While Middle East academics doubt that the relics belong to the Holy Family, the issue is about to be exposed to a blaze of publicity with the publication next week of a book.

Entitled The Jesus Tomb and co-written by Simcha Jacobovici and Charles Pellegrino, the book promises the inside story of "what may very well be the greatest archaeological find of all time".


The 10 ossuaries were taken initially to the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum outside the Old City of Jerusalem. Nine were catalogued and stored but the tenth was left outside in a courtyard.

That ossuary has subsequently gone missing.

I'm skeptical. Whatever the authors say about their statistics, this is rather like having a family burial plot with John and Mary Smith and their son John in it. Rather difficult to claim that they must be a particular Smith family. For more on the Talpiot Tomb, see here. Sorry about the bad links. The final link, which I'll fix when I get a chance, is here. For more on Simcha Jacobovici, see here. Too bad the DNA is gone.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Jill Gregory and Karen Tintori, The Book of Names (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2007)
An autographed copy kindly sent by the authors.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Babble Over How to Pronounce `Babel'

By DOUGLAS J. ROWE, AP Entertainment Writer

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

(02-21) 10:54 PST New York (AP) --

An Academy Award contender that no one's sure how to pronounce? "Babel" has seven Oscar nominations, meaning the name of the film will be read at least seven times Sunday night. But its pronunciation has stumped even its biggest star.

"Thank you for honoring our film `Babble.' Or `BAY-bel' or `Bah-BELL,'" Brad Pitt said after the film received an earlier award at a film festival in Palm Springs, Calif. "We're still arguing how to pronounce it."

The article doesn't answer the question (there isn't one right answer), but it does explain the origin and etymology of the name.
Responsa Project wins Israel Prize
By MATTHEW WAGNER (Jerusalem Post)

Imagine taking an obscure corpus of religious legal decisions that spans nearly two millennia, four continents and a half a million documents that is written in an ancient Semitic language, and making every single detail accessible within seconds via computer search.

And imagine doing this in the 1960s while fighting an uphill battle against an academic community that was skeptical at best, and often downright antagonistic.

That is precisely what Prof. Aviezri Fraenkel of the Weizmann Institute did. The result of his labors, the Responsa Project [Proyeht Hashut] won this year's Israel Award for the Works of Judaism category.


n 1962, MIT's Prof. Yehoshua Bar-Hillel wrote: "Any scheme of directly comparing a request formulation with a straightforward one-to-one encoding of the original document must be regarded as wholly utopian and unsubstantiated."


Today, Fraenkel's method for IR is used by Google, AltaVista, Lycos and other search engines, while the manual-index method preferred by Hebrew University is a relic of the past.

I wonder who we're laughing at right now who is working on the technological development that's going to change the face of the field in the next generation. Someone, I hope.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

ASSIMILATED TO THE BLOGOSPHERE: Dr. Leen Ritmeyer has started a new blog on biblical archaeology with special reference to the Temple Mount, his area of expertise. (Via the BiblePlaces Blog.) And also, note this new blog on the Sibylline Oracles.
DON'T FORGET to keep an eye on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Blog. Grant Macaskill and I are posting on it every weekday and the posts include online versions of our lectures for the OT Pseudepigrapha course, plus anything we notice in the news about the pseudepigrapha.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

THE COPTIC WORKS OF SHENOUTE are being published with NEH funding:
The University of Hawai'i-Manoa has received a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to translate, edit and publish the writings of an Egyptian author who chronicled the life and thought of Christians in 4th- and 5th-century Egypt.

Associate religion professor Andrew Crislip will lead a team of scholars of Coptic language and literature to create a comprehensive edition of the works of Shenoute of Atripe, who headed a federation of Christian monasteries in Egypt.
U.N. anti-racism panel questions Israel over non-Jewish holy sites

By Bradley S. Klapper

11:10 a.m. February 19, 2007

GENEVA – A United Nations anti-racism panel has questioned Israel's policy on preserving holy sites, asking the country to explain whether it protects places considered sacred to religions other than Judaism.

Israel is expected to go later this week before the panel of 18 independent experts overseeing compliance with the United Nations' 38-year-old anti-racism treaty – a hearing that could fuel the debate over an Israeli construction project at Jerusalem's disputed hilltop compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. The project has prompted protests among Palestinians and others in the Muslim world.

This is an important issue and I'm glad the U.N. is staying on top of it. I look forward also to hearing them report on the policies of the Saudi authorities on the preservation of holy sites in Mecca.
After subjecting the document to batteries of extremely complicated scientific tests and eventually proving beyond doubt the antiquity of the find, Harvard's experts in ancient Coptic things began to slowly translate the Professor's amazing find.

As the text of the page was painstakingly translated by the ten strong team of Coptic scholars, it soon became clear that the page was indeed a missing page from the New testament and appeared to be the very last page of that most holy of tomes.

So far only the first paragraph has been translated into english and reads as follows, "All events and people depicted in this book are (missing word) and any similarity to events or people are purely (missing word). The author of this book claims that he is the sole author and reserves the right..."
I'll bet the next paragraph says "We apologize for the inconvenience."

Monday, February 19, 2007

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: A newly reported discovery at the Mughrabi Gate:
Israeli archaeologist says Muslim prayer room discovered in ramp near Jerusalem holy site

By Laurie Copans

12:06 p.m. February 18, 2007

JERUSALEM – An Israeli archaeologist said the site of an archaeological dig outside a disputed holy compound in Jerusalem might contain a Muslim prayer room, and the work drew renewed condemnation Sunday.

Muslim leaders and critics of the dig said the announcement of the find, three years after it was discovered, confirmed their fears that Israel is intent on hiding Muslim attachment to the site. Israeli officials denied that.

The Jerusalem Post has more:
Room at Mughrabi under examination

The Israel Antiquities Authority on Sunday denied an earlier report that the site of the Israeli archaeological dig at the Mughrabi Gate near Jerusalem's Temple Mount contained a Muslim prayer room.

An Israel Antiquities Authority spokesman told The Jerusalem Post that "we did in fact find room three years ago but we didn't have permission to dig at the site. Now that we have permission, we are going to try and identify what this room is."

Muslim leaders and critics of the work had said the announcement of the find confirmed their fears that the authority was intent on hiding Muslim attachment to the site.


Sunday, February 18, 2007

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: Is this really an improvement?

(Via Instapundit.)
LINKS BAR REPAIRED. Some readers may have noticed that the links bar to the right went dead some weeks ago. I contacted the web space provider about this and they said they were working on the problem. But nothing has happened for some time, so I have switched the files to another provider. If you have links to the page, please update them. A few of my online articles have not yet been transferred, but I'll get around to them as soon as I can. Sorry for the inconvenience.
AN APOLOGY for the Kabbalah-Big Bang memo:
Anti-Jewish memo spurs apology

Legislature: Chisum says document he passed out doesn't reflect his views

12:00 AM CST on Saturday, February 17, 2007

By ROBERT T. GARRETT / The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN – The second most powerful member of the House has apologized to the Anti-Defamation League for giving colleagues a document that contains what the league called "outrageous anti-Semitic material."

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, sent a letter Friday to the North Texas-Oklahoma office of the league, which works to eradicate hatred of Jews and other minorities.

"I certainly meant no harm or disrespect for the religious views held by any person or group and for having done so, I am truly sorry," Mr. Chisum wrote.


Mr. Chisum said "the document in question does not accurately reflect my views." He did not elaborate.

Nor did he mention the Atlanta-area Fair Education Foundation. Mr. Bridges' memo contained links to the foundation's Web site, which asserts that the universe revolves around the Earth. The site also depicts theories on evolution as a plot by "Jewish physicists" and Hollywood moguls to brainwash people.

The league had demanded that Mr. Chisum not only apologize but repudiate the material Mr. Bridges circulated.

Amen to that.

You can see the memo itself in links to this article.