Saturday, February 12, 2011

Bauckham lectures online

On Friday 11 Feb. 2011, Dr. Richard Bauckham delivered the Charles Coil Lectures at Heritage Christian University. The audio and handouts for these lectures are now available here.

Lecture 1: The "Individualism" of the Gospel of John: Audio, Handout

Lecture 2: Divine and Human community in the Gospel of John: Audio, Handout
Background here.

Conservanda est Carthago

PUNIC WATCH: Conservanda est Carthago.
Ben Ali's pillaging of Carthage must become a thing of the past

With the removal of Ben Ali from power, archaeologists have hopes of restoring the ancient site to the people of Tunisia

o Richard Miles
o, Wednesday 9 February 2011 12.49 GMT
o Article history

One of the most interesting consequences of the recent political upheavals in Tunisia has been that Tunisian archaeologists have at last been able to speak out against the damage inflicted on the ancient site of Carthage by the regime of the former president, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. It is a truly depressing tale of how greed and philistinism have come close to destroying large parts of one of the world's most important archaeological sites.

The site of the ancient city of Carthage has been fought over many times in its long and turbulent history – most famously in 146BC, when a Roman army captured the city and obliterated it in a shocking episode of brutal annihilation. Roman intent that their great enemy should never rise again was reinforced by the curse that the victorious Roman general Scipio placed on anyone who dared to rebuild the city. Yet Carthage did rise again. The city, with its excellent harbour, occupied far too important a strategic position to be left deserted for long. The new city went on to have a distinguished history as the capital of the new Roman province of Africa, and later as one of the great centres of ancient Christianity. In short, Carthage is an archaeological site of world historical significance. Yet once again, its very existence is under serious threat – this time not from the weapons of an invading army but the bulldozers of unscrupulous property developers.


With the removal of Ben Ali and his crooked regime from power, Ennabli and a number of like-minded professionals have once more stepped forward to lead a new campaign to safeguard Carthage. Their demands are straightforward. First, the new Tunisian government needs to urgently approve the protection and development plan for Carthage that the previous regime had been stalling on (for the nefarious reasons set out above) since its drafting in 2000. Second, all illegal building projects on the site of Carthage and its environs must be halted immediately. Lastly, it must as quickly and transparently as possible restore to the people of Tunisia the national heritage that was stolen from them. These measures are essential if the new government is to prove to a sceptical public that it really can provide a much-needed fresh start for Tunisia. If it delays for too long, the danger is that people will start taking justice into their own hands, and the consequences of that could be absolutely catastrophic.

• There is a petition to sign in support of the new campaign to save the site of Carthage here
I have tried twice to sign the petition, but both times the page just hung up until I had to close it. Perhaps you will have better luck.

Metatron, Wikipedia, and guys arguing in a pub

ARCHANGEL METATRON WATCH—with reference to Wikipedia and guys arguing in a pub:
What Wikipedia really is is an unholy admixture of the two founding principles of Guinness World Records (“the best-selling copyrighted book series of all time” – Wikipedia), started by the McWhirter brothers as a means of settling arguments in pubs. Men would be on the point of fisticuffs over where the world’s largest pipe organ was, or what the biggest snake was, and so (the idea went) another man – perhaps the landlord – would produce the Guinness Book of Records (as it was originally called) and read out the answer. Hands would be shaken, conciliatory pints pulled, and peace reign again.

Wikipedia combined the argument with the resolution into one, live, universal-access pub brawl. It’s as if there’s a second room, beyond the public bar: a room behind a green baize door marked “[Edit]”. The door is soundproofed. All the drinkers can hear is their own conversation, until voices in the corner by the dartboard are heard raised in increasing anger. The public bar falls slowly silent as it dawns on the clientele that two men are having a terrible row about the angel Metatron. Lapels are gripped. The men’s faces are no more than two centimetres apart, and red. They are shouting “Yeah?” at each other. “Yeah?” “Yeah!” “Oh yeah?” Then the landlord steps out from behind the bar. He opens the green baize door. Briefly, a scene of terrible struggle is revealed: men in Pendleton shirts, men in spectacles, men with beards and tablet computers, men with notebooks and photographs and lists; men struggling and shouting and trading blows; men rolling about on the floor shouting; here and there, the odd woman, trying to make herself heard.

Then the noise abruptly stops. The men stand up, brush themselves down, assume the lineaments of civility. The last man to speak steps forward. “Metatron?” he murmurs politely; “Primarily a medieval Judaic mystical concept, though there are occasional references in the Talmud?”

Peace settles. The green baize door is closed but as the latch clicks shut, a momentary surge of resuming battle is heard?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Khirbet Midras church to be covered over

KHIRBET MIDRAS (Hirbet Madras), the excavation of the ancient church where it is speculated the tomb of a prophet Zechariah may be, is being covered over again due to lack of funding. Jerusalem Post:
Unfortunately, no inscriptions were recovered, and so the cultural and religious context of the church is not completely clear. Behind the apse, an empty crypt was discovered, which may have been used for burial or related to the veneration of relics.

Some scholars suggested the church was related to the memorial of Zacharia, but with the lack of an inscription, this possibility remains as an educated guess.

An agonizing issue, says [archaeologist] Danny [Herman], is that with the lack of budget to prepare the site for visits and tourism, next week the Israel Antiquities Authority plans to cover the whole building, in order to protect its remains.

Therefore, this weekend is probably the last chance to see the church, including its extraordinary mosaic floors, before they are concealed.
Background here.

Colloquium: The Dead Sea Scrolls and Pauline Literature

QUMRAN COLLOQUIUM: Les manuscrits de la mer Morte et la littérature paulinienne – The Dead Sea Scrolls and Pauline Literature, to be held in Metz, France, on 14-16 June 2011.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

National Geographic: Egypt Antiquities Restoration Under Way

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC: Egypt Antiquities Restoration Under Way.

With Letters of Light

With Letters of Light: Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Early Jewish Apocalypticism, Magic, and Mysticism in Honor of Rachel Elior (Edited by Daphna Arbel and Andrei Orlov; Ekstasis: Religious Experience from Antiquity to the Middle Ages, 2; Berlin: De Gruyter, 2011; ISBN 978-3-11-022201-2; US$ 182.00).

This collection of essays is a tribute to Rachel Elior’s decades of teaching, scholarship and mentoring. If a Festschrift reflects the individuality of the honoree, then this volume offers insights into the scope of Rachel Elior’s interests and scholarly achievements in the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jewish apocalypticism, magic, and mysticism from the Second Temple period to the later rabbinic and Hekhalot developments. The majority of articles included in the volume deal with Jewish and Christian apocalyptic and mystical texts constituting the core of experiential dimension of these religious traditions.

Contents of the volume:

Daphna Arbel and Andrei Orlov
Rachel Elior – An Appreciation from her Colleagues and
Students - 1-5

Frances Flannery
The Consideration of Religious Experience in the Work of
Rachel Elior - 6-10

I. Exegesis

Kelley Coblentz Bautch
Peter and the Patriarch: A Confluence of Traditions? - 13-27

Silviu N. Bunta
In Heaven or on Earth: A Misplaced Temple Question about
Ezekiel’s Visions - 28-44

James R. Davila
Scriptural Exegesis in the Treatise of the Vessels, a Legendary
Account of the Hiding of the Temple Treasures - 45-61

Dan Merkur
Cultivating Visions through Exegetical Meditations - 62-91

Sergey Minov
“Serpentine” Eve in Syriac Christian Literature of Late
Antiquity - 92-114

Annette Yoshiko Reed
From “Pre-Emptive Exegesis” to “Pre-Emptive Speculation”?
Ma‘aseh Bereshit in Genesis Rabbah and Pirqei deRabbi Eliezer - 115-132

Mark Verman
Earthly and Heavenly Jerusalem in Philo and Paul:
A Tale of Two Cities - 133-156

II. Ritual

Crispin Fletcher-Louis
The Book of Watchers and the Cycle of New Year Festivals - 159-168

Yuval Harari
A Different Spirituality or ‘Other’ Agents?: On the Study of
Magic in Rabbinic Literature - 169-195

Rebecca Lesses
“They Revealed Secrets to Their Wives”: The Transmission of
Magical Knowledge in 1 Enoch - 196-222

Jodi Magness
The Impurity of Oil and Spit among the Qumran Sectarians 223-231

Andrei Orlov
“The Likeness of Heaven”: The Kavod of Azazel in the
Apocalypse of Abraham - 232-253

Pieter W. van der Horst
Mystical Motifs in a Greek Synagogal Prayer? - 254-264

III. Transformation

Daphna Arbel
“A Chariot of Light Borne by Four Bright Eagles”:
Eve’s Vision of the Chariot in the Greek Life of Adam and Eve - 267-284

Joseph Dan
“Messianic Movements in the Period of the Crusades” - 285-298

April D. DeConick
Jesus Revealed: The Dynamics of Early Christian Mysticism - 299-324

Celia Deutsch
Aseneth: Ascetical Practice, Vision, and Transformation - 325-348

Naomi Janowitz
“You Are Gods”: Multiple Divine Beings in Late Antique
Jewish Theology - 349-364

Alan F. Segal
Transcribing Experience - 365-382
UPDATE: April De Conick has more on the book at her Forbidden Gospels blog.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Richard Bauckham on lecture tour in USA

RICHARD BAUCKHAM is on a lecture tour in the United States through early March. Mark Goodacre notes his upcoming lectures at Duke here. Also, Ed Gallagher, who pointed out the lecture website to me, asks that I mention the two lectures at Heritage Christian University, in Florence, Alabama, on "Identity and Community in the Gospel of John" on Friday, 11 Feb. (9:30am and 1:00pm).

Eerdmans now has a blog


Colloquium on Secret Mark at York University

A COLLOQUIUM ON THE SECRET GOSPEL OF MARK is being held at York University in April. Phil Harland e-mails:
Tony Burke and I (Phil Harland) have been busy arranging a special colloquium on the Secret Gospel of Mark at York University (to be held Friday, April 29, 2011). We would like to invite scholars and students who are interested to attend. The public is also invited to the evening session.

For information and registration, go to:

Here is the information for the conference:

“Ancient Gospel or Modern Forgery? The Secret Gospel of Mark in Debate”

April 29, 2011, York University (Vanier College)
Scholarly Discussion (9 am-5 pm) and Public Debate (7-9 pm)

Featuring: Scott Brown, University of Toronto; Tony Burke, York University; Bruce Chilton, Bard College; Craig Evans, Acadia Divinity College; Phil Harland, York University; Charles Hedrick, Missouri State U.; Peter Jeffery, U. of Notre Dame; Marvin Meyer, Chapman University; Allan Pantuck, U. of California; Pierluigi Piovanelli, U. of Ottawa; Hershel Shanks, Editor ofBiblical Archaeology Review
From the website:
Scope and Objectives

In 1958, American Biblical scholar Morton Smith made an astounding discovery in the Mar Saba monastery in Jerusalem. Copied into the back of a 17th century book was a lost letter by Clement of Alexandria (ca. 150-215 CE) containing excerpts from a longer version of the Gospel of Mark. This Secret Gospel of Mark, as it became known, is now one of the most debated texts of the Christian Apocrypha. More than fifty years after its discovery, there is still no consensus on the issues of its authenticity. Was the letter truly written by Clement of Alexandria? Or by a medieval or even modern forger? Was the forger Morton Smith himself? The debate has heated up in recent years with the publication of Stephen Carlson’s The Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith’s Invention of Secret Mark (Waco, TX: Baylor, 2005) and several criticisms of Carlson’s work by other scholars. Unfortunately, there has been no effective venue for these scholars to share their views on the text and arrive closer to a resolution of the issue of its authenticity. It is hoped that some progress can be made by bringing these scholars together to present their latest work on the gospel to each other, to an audience of interested scholars, to a curious public, and ultimately to an even wider audience with the publication of the papers and summaries of the discussion that arises from their gathering.

Review of Halperin, Journal of a UFO Investigator

DAVID HALPERIN'S JOURNAL OF A UFO INVESTIGATOR is reviewed by Adam Sobsey in Excerpt:
Those with knowledge of Jewish mysticism will probably find more resonances than the lay reader, for whom the book is less an allegory than a frantic phantasmagoria, scary and bewildering, full of unwanted transformations and disappearances and suffering, without a light at the end of what Danny calls a “tunnel that leads from death into life”—that is, adulthood, where the terrain is “jagged rocks.” Danny doesn’t want to stay trapped in the tunnel, of course, but nor does he want to emerge, plunge and be dashed on the rocks below. Welcome to adolescence.
Background here.

James Kugel on cancer and religious belief

BIBLICAL SCHOLAR JAMES KUGEL has written a book on his experience with cancer and what he learned about human beliefs:
After cancer, biblical scholar James Kugel considers religious belief

By Sue Fishkoff · February 7, 2011

PASADENA, Calif. (JTA) -- When Jewish biblical scholar James Kugel was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of cancer in 2000, he didn’t find religion.

The world-renowned academic and author of numerous books, including the acclaimed “How to Read the Bible,” already was a practicing Orthodox Jew.

Instead, Kugel used his own very sudden confrontation with mortality to explore the roots of religious belief in general.

The result, “In the Valley of the Shadow,” published this month by Free Press, is an examination of what happened to Kugel after his diagnosis and how it helped him understand why people believe what they do.

Now cancer-free, Kugel retired in 2003 after 20 years as the Harry M. Starr Professor of Classical and Modern Hebrew Literature at Harvard University. He lives with his wife in Jerusalem, and he serves as chair of the Institute for the History of the Jewish Bible at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan.

In his book, Kugel explains his theory of the “small self” versus the “big self.” The small self, a concept that has existed throughout most of human history, posits the individual as a finite piece of the network of the universe. By contrast, the big self, a concept common among Western people today, refers to those who view the world through the prism of their own all-encompassing presence.

The article includes an interview with him about the book. I studied with Professor Kugel at Harvard University in the 1980s.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

The church in Laodicea?

Ancient church discovered in western Turkey

Monday, January 31, 2011
ISTANBUL - [Hürriyet] Daily News with wires

An ancient church mentioned in the Bible has been discovered in western Turkey, according to the head of the excavation.

Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay visited the ancient city of Laodicea on Sunday in Denizli province and was briefed by Professor Celal Şimşek, head of the excavation team. The professor said they have discovered the Laodicea Church, one of the seven mentioned in the Bible. Şimşek said the church from the fourth century A.D. was found by underground radar search, a system they have tried this year for the first time. “The major part of the church, which is built on an area of 2,000 square meters, has kept its original [status].”

The biblical references to a church in Laodicea are Colossians 4:15-16 and Revelation 3:14-22 (note: not "Revelations"). Also, the second-century heretical Christian leader Marcion evidently knew a manuscript tradition that made the NT letter of Paul(?) to the Ephesians a letter "to the saints who are in Laodicea." (The letter may have been a circular sent to multiple churches.)

Two problems here. First, the excavated church is from the fourth century but these New Testament books were written in the first century. Is there any reason to think this building goes back that far? Second, the references in Colossians and Revelation are to a "church" (ekklesia) in the sense of a community of believers in Laodicea, not a building. We are actully told in Colossians 4:15 that this church met in the house of someone named Nympha.

It is, of course, of great archaeological and historical interest that a fourth-century church building has been found in the ruins of ancient Laodicea, but so far nothing about it seems significant for first-century Christianity or the New Testament.

Larry Hurtado: Happy (400th) Birthday KJV!

LARRY HURTADO: Happy (400th) Birthday KJV!

Happy International Septuagint Day!


Monday, February 07, 2011

Arutz Sheva: More Waqf digging on the Temple Mount

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: More Waqf digging on the Temple Mount, according to Arutz Sheva. They have photos.
Digging on Temple Mount 'to Erase Traces of Jewish Altar'

by Gil Ronen

Muslim religious authorities are concluding a clandestine eight-month dig on the Temple Mount that is intended to erase traces of the Jewish Temple's Altar, Temple activists charge.

The digs have been taking place under the Dome of the Chain, believed to have been built over 1300 years ago. For eight months, the dome - which has a diameter of 14 meters - has been surrounded by a metal fence and black cloth, which hide whatever activity has been going on there from outside inspection. The Muslim Waqf religious authority has claimed the activity is simply a refurbishing of the structure, but refuses adamantly to let Jews or tourists near.

UPDATE (8 February): Todd Bolen is not buying the headline.

First day of classes

FIRST DAY OF CLASSES. May find time to do some blogging this evening.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Review of Halperin, Journal of a UFO Investigator

DAVID HALPERIN'S JOURNAL OF A UFO INVESTIGATOR receives a fairly negative review by Adam Mansbach in the Boston Globe. It also includes some important spoilers, so read at your own risk.

More on the book here.

Update from Zahi Hawass

ZAHI HAWASS has another update on Egyptian antiquities: The Sphinx is Sad. He says that the two mummies reportedly damaged in the Egyptian Museum were actually unidentified skulls that were stolen and then recovered without further damage. He also reports that the antiquities at Memphis and Saqqara, as well as various other sites are unharmed. His report on Saqqara is confirmed by a National Geographic article here, mostly based on the reporter's eyewitness testimony.

(HT Dorothy Lobel King on Facebook.)

UPDATE: Lee Rosenbaum has an anonymous report from a French Egyptologist which claims that Saqqara did suffer damage. (Via the Egyptology Blog, entry from 17:36 on Saturday.)