Saturday, November 13, 2004

BOOK OF ENOCH MEDIA WATCH: The Book of 1 Enoch has been mentioned in the media a couple of times in the last few days. First of a letter in defense of Rastafarianism was published on Thursday in City Vision South Africa. The author comments at one point on Rasta scriptures:
Rasta uses the bible, apocrypha, book of Enoch, the hiden books of Eden, the other gospels and most, importantly, the Holy Piby (the black man's bible) - the Royal scroll of black supremacy; the promised Key; the utterances and testimony of the Binghi ancients; the epistles of Ras Marcus; The Kebra Negast; the Fetha Negast; The Egyptian and the Ethiopian book of the Living; and the Testament of the Living I, by Ras Tesfa.

You will recall that 1 Enoch (which is really a library of 5+ second temple Jewish texts) survives complete only in an Ethiopic translation, although Aramaic fragments were recovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls and translations of some of the book survive in Greek. I don't know some of the other texts, but I have mentioned the Kebra Negast here recently.

Second, a Q & A column in today's Allentown Morning Call addresses the question "Do Jews believe in hell? Where is it found in the bible?" and comments:
Hell, like paradise, was created by God. In the Apocryphal Book of Enoch and in the post-biblical work called the Talmud, more speculations were added to this rather minimal reference in the Hebrew Bible.

Some of these ideas are also found in the writings of the Persians and Greeks. In those legends, the entrance to hell in the valley near Jerusalem is considered one of three on earth; another is under the sea, a third is in the desert. The valley entrance is between two palm trees, down a hole that's always filled with smoke. The mouth of the entrance to hell is narrow and keeps the smoke from rising and revealing the exact location of the place.

Hell is huge and divided into seven different areas. In hell, a fiery river flows over the heads of sinners, and this fire is 60 times hotter than any earthly fire. There is a smell of sulfur in Gehenna. An angel-prince in charge of Gehenna � the devil, Satan. The basic belief is that sinners go directly to hell after death, while the righteous go directly to paradise olam habah, ''the world to come'').

At birth, a place is reserved for each person in both heaven and hell, and at death, after a final judgment is made by God of our life's deeds, either the space in heaven or the one in hell is given up.

Most souls after death are not sent to heaven or hell immediately, but rather remain in a place of judgment and purification (purgatory for Christians) for up to one year as they learn why they were afraid and why they were cruel. Christians have much more elaborate beliefs about the nature of purgatory.

No specific references for either 1 Enoch or the Talmud are given for these details, but the author seems to have in mind Enoch's tour of the universe in the the Book of the Watchers (the first component book of 1 Enoch) 17-36, esp. chaps. 18 and 27, and also various parts of the Epistle Enoch (= 1 Enoch 91-105). Most of the details seem to come from somewhere other than 1 Enoch. Some come from the Talmud, but I think other sources may be involved as well. There's a fair amount of speculation about hell in Jewish literature, but it never turned into a coherent doctrine, as it did in Christianity.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Low profile for German Koran challenger
Thu 11 November, 2004 12:49 (Reuters)

By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

PARIS (Reuters) - When a Muslim radical murdered the Dutch director Theo van Gogh for a film criticising Islam, Christoph Luxenberg saw his name ripple through Internet forums 1,000 times and immediately knew why.

"The safety of experts on Islam is topical again," he said -- in a surprisingly detached tone for the author of a critique of the Koran who fears it could one day spark similar anger.

Van Gogh, murdered last week for a film slamming Muslim treatment of women, set out to be provocative. But such is the apprehension among critics of Islam that even an obscure German professor of ancient Semitic languages keeps a very low profile.

"Christoph Luxenberg" is a pseudonym. The professor hides his work from his own students -- even those who recommend it to him, not knowing he is its author. He gives interviews by phone and offers little hint of who he really is or where he lives.

This has served Luxenberg well over the past four years, when his book "The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran" was only available in dense academic German. But he doesn't know what to expect when an English translation appears next year.

"I fear a strong reaction in the Islamic world," he told Reuters late on Wednesday by telephone. "My Muslim friends tell me that many people will jump on this book."


His thesis doesn't sound very plausible to me, but I do intend to read the book once it's out in English. But even if he's wrong, it's sick that he has to be in fear of his life over it.
Bethsaida Project has new addition to showcase (UNO Gateway)

by J. Parker Adair
November 12, 2004

UNO's Bethsaida Excavations Project now has several stones on display from the Temple Mount of Jerusalem's King Herod the Great.

The three stones are part of a new exhibit in the Arts and Science Hall, room 343.

"This is kind of an outreach to draw attention to our archeological project at UNO," said Steve Reynolds.

Reynolds is the archivist for the Bethsaida Project, which has been going on at UNO since 1987. While this exhibit is not from the Bethsaida site, nor UNO excavations, it has great historical significance and does draw attention to what UNO is doing, while also sharing displays from other universities.


Thursday, November 11, 2004

Beit Morasha of Jerusalem - Robert M. Beren College
The Institute for the Study of Rabbinic Thought

Invites the public to attend its Seventh Annual Conference:

Controversy in Rabbinic Literature:
Its Boundaries, Logic, and Hermeneutic Status

Sunday-Tuesday, December 12-14, 2004
Beit Morasha of Jerusalem
Kiryat Moriah Campus, Talpiot, Jerusalem

Hebrew version (HTML):

For further details please contact:

Sunday, December 12
9:30-11:30 Albert Baumgarten (Bar Ilan University), Chair
Alon Goshen-Gottstein (Beit Morasha), Controversy In Rabbinic Literature: Polysemy and Complex Valuation
Eszter Fuzessy (University of Chicago), Differentiating Inter-religious from Intra-religious Polemics in Rabbinic Literature - Methodological Considerations
Rella Kushelevsky (Bar-Ilan University) The Role of Controversy in Forming the Identity of the Sage

12:00-14:00 Hanna Safrai (Shalom Hartman Institute), Chair
Yohanan Silman (Bar-Ilan University), "Both Are the Living Words of God"
Harry Fox (University of Toronto), Controversy for the Sake of Heaven or to Annul?
William Kolbrener (Bar-Ilan University), "Chiseled From All Sides": Hermeneutics and Controversy in the Rabbinic Tradition (English)

Monday, December 13
9:30-11:30 Leib Moscowitz (Beit Morasha and Bar Ilan University), Chair
Menahem Kahana (Hebrew University), The Structuring of Controversy in the Mishna and Its Goals
Meir Lichtenstein (Yeshivat Ha-Kibbutz Ha-Dati, Ein Tzurim), Amoraic Invention of Tannatic Controversies
Noam Zohar (Bar-Ilan University), The "Innovative Controversy": Revolution and Respect for Tradition Among Tannaim

12:00-14:00 Galit Hasan-Rokem, (Hebrew University), Chair
Dina Stein (University of California, Berkeley), Domestic Controversies: Everyday Hermeneutics
Nili Ben-Ari (Emek Ha-Yarden College) Rabbinic Controversy in Aggada in the Beit Midrash
Rina Lapidus (Bar-Ilan University), Halakhic and Aggadic Controversies on How To Obey Commandments

Tuesday, December 14
9:30-11:30 Shlomo Zalman Havlin (Bar-Ilan University), Chair
Yehuda Brandes (Beit Morasha), Ideological Background of Amoraic Rules for "Pesak"
Michael Chernick (Hebrew Union College, New York), Controversy in Divine and Celestial Torah
Tamas Turan (Hebrew University), The Imagined Midrashic Controversy in the Talmuds: Its Forms, Assumptions and Development

12:00-14:00 Joshua Levinson (Hebrew University), Chair
Marc Hirshman (Hebrew University), Controversy in Bereishit Rabba and Vayikra Rabba: A Reappraisal
Nachman Levine (Michigan Jewish Institute), Controversy as Metaphor in the Aggadic/Halakhic Story
Daniel Nikritin (Bar-Ilan University), "Torah Without and We're Within?": To Disagree and Belong

14:30-16:00 Alon Goshen-Gottstein (Beit Morasha), Chair
Hemi Avneri (Beit Morasha), Urbanism as a Factor in Halakhic Homogeneity and Heterogeneity
Yitzhak Roness (Beit Morasha), Human Relations During Controversy Chayuta Deutsch (Beit Morasha), Matrona and the Rabbis: Study, Polemic or Controversy?
ARAFAT IS DEAD. According to Reuters the agreement to hold the funeral in Cairo and to bury him in Ramallah seems to be holding:
His body was to be flown to Cairo for a ceremony on Friday and then to the West Bank city of Ramallah for burial at his battered headquarters, Palestinian officials said.


Israel said on Wednesday it would permit Arafat's burial in Ramallah and allow Arab leaders, even from states with which it remains officially at war, to attend.


Also, reader Raphael Malyankar e-mails:
There is a judaica-related issue, which you surely know about but missed, in this sentence in the Haaretz report:
At the weekend, Justice Minister Yosef Lapid touched off a furor by declaring that the Temple Mount was a site "where Jewish kings are buried, and not Arab terrorists."

Jewish kings are *not* buried on the Temple Mount and would not be buried there for reasons of religious law. Other news reports quote Lapid as saying "Jerusalem is the city where Jewish kings are buried...".

I didn't notice that sentence but Malyankar is quite right. Doubtless the "Jerusalem" version of the quote is the right one.

UPDATE: Funeral details in this CNN article. The idea of a Jerusalem burial has clearly not been dropped:
Crews in Ramallah are also preparing to construct a moveable monument in which to bury the Palestinian leader -- one that could be transported to Jerusalem one day, Palestinian sources said.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

WHAT HAPPENED to the Christian Origins blog?
OF COURSE I live in a castle, Mark. Doesn't everybody in Scotland? Well, at least all academics.

Nothing elaborate, as you can see. Just a nice, down to earth, regular, unpretentious castle. Nothing special. But then again, I'm not a bishop.

What's the big deal?
MK Tibi: In the end, Arafat will be buried in Al Aqsa
By Haaretz Service

Yasser Arafat will ultimately be buried in the Al Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem, even if the step is years away, Israeli Arab MK and former Arafat advisor Ahmed Tibi said in remarks broadcast Wednesday.


At the weekend, Justice Minister Yosef Lapid touched off a furor by declaring that the Temple Mount was a site "where Jewish kings are buried, and not Arab terrorists." Arafat has also angered Jews in past statements dismissing Jewish historical claims to the compound, the site of the ancient temples.

"In the end," Tibi told Israel Radio, "if he is not buried today or tomorrow in East Jerusalem, a day will come when there is a sovereign Palestinian government, a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem, and Yasser Arafat will be buried in the mosque of Al Aqsa.

"This is definite. This will be," Tibi said.


UPDATE: An agreement may be falling into place for a funeral in Egypt and burial in Arafat's Ramallah compound:
Ramallah burial planned for Arafat
Average Palestinians appear unmoved by imminent demise

Matthew Kalman, [San Francisco] Chronicle Foreign Service

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Ramallah, West Bank -- In the West Bank, preparations began Tuesday for Yasser Arafat's funeral, even though Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath told a Paris press conference that the Palestinian leader was "very much alive" and discussion of his death was "indecent."

The Abu Ghosh printing house in Ramallah received an urgent order early Tuesday from the Palestine Liberation Organization's public affairs office to print 10,000 large posters. Above the simple script "Yasser Arafat: The president, the leader," a photo of the ailing Palestinian Authority head stared defiantly out over Ramallah for the last time.

Palestinian officials burst into tears when they announced that Arafat would be buried in Ramallah, in the half-destroyed headquarters compound where he defied the onslaught of the Israeli army and spent the last three years of his life under virtual military siege. The officials hope the burial will follow an impressive state funeral in Cairo.

Israeli security officials said Tuesday the government would not object to the Ramallah burial, the Associated Press reported. Israel's Cabinet was to take up the matter today.


I hope very much that this works. We don't need another fight over the Temple Mount.

UPDATE (11 November): More here, including a correction to the Lapid quote above.
NO GOLDEN GLOBE BEST DRAMA AWARD for Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ:
"Passion," meanwhile, cannot compete for best drama because the organization's rules limit that prize for movies in English � while the dialogue of "Passion" is mostly in Aramaic.

"Yes, we know Aramaic is not a spoken language and, yes, we know the film doesn't have a country of origin," said HFPA president Lorenzo Soria.

"But our bylaws state that when a film is in a language that is preponderantly non-English, it's a foreign-language film."

"Passion" can compete in all other categories, including best foreign film and a possible best actor nod for Jim Caviezel as Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

ACCORDING TO A RABBI'S WORLD, "Paleojudaica is a funky look into the harrowing world of archeology and academia and Jews who dig."

Maybe I should put that in my masthead.
Ruins of Manichean center discovered in West Azerbaijan (via Archaeologica News)

Tehran Times Culture Desk
TEHRAN (MNA) �- The ruins of what is believed to be the center of Mani (216-276 C.E.), the founder of Manicheanism, was discovered during the seventh stage of excavations at the ancient site of Qalaychi Hill in West Azerbaijan Province which began last month.

Experts used to believe that Hasanlu Mound was the major early Manichean center, but the recent excavation seems to prove otherwise.

An inscription found at Qalaychi Hill last year showed that Qalaychi Hill, not Hasanlu Mound, was probably Mani�s early center.

BLOGGERS BEWARE! So far today, Blogger has eaten two of my posts and I had to reconstruct them. Copy your posts before you press the Publish Post button!
Construction pit and rain threaten to destroy 1,700-year-old burial cave (Ha'aretz)
By Yuval Azulay

A 1,700-year-old burial cave near the beach in Ashkelon is at risk of imminent collapse. Its decorations form quite a collection: Greek goddesses; a naked boy pruning grape vines and picking grapes, which are gathered in a basket; birds pecking at a vine; a boy playing the flute; palm fronds and the implements of war, such as a lance and a shield.

The cave, which served Roman nobles in the third century C.E., was discovered in 1936 near the Ashkelon coastline by an Arab farmer tending his vineyard. Experts describe the site as a particularly valuable archaeological asset and source of information about religion, faith and burial practices during that era. This asset now faces the risk of imminent collapse, ironically, because of earthworks intended to ensure the cave's future by placing it at the center of a new tourism project.

A NOVA PROGRAM is to feature the theories of Richard Freund regarding the Cave of the Letters. Excerpt from the Jerusalem Post article:
In the hour-long NOVA documentary, airing on PBS stations on November 23, Richard Freund, director of the Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Hartford in Conneticut, challenges some of the groundbreaking ideas of famed soldier and archeologist Yigael Yadin.

Freund's most controversial conclusion is that ritual bronze vessels, found by Yadin in the so-called Cave of Letters, were used in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and may be its only surviving items. Yadin, who had discovered them in 1960, believed that the vessels, decorated with a sea goddess and other Roman mythological figures, had been stolen from the Romans.
Acre dig finds proof that site wasn't Jewish graveyard (Ha'aretz)
By David Ratner

A day after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon intervened in a crisis over the archaeological dig near the train junction in Acre, another monument was discovered at the scene proving the area was a Roman graveyard without the presence of any Jewish graves whatsoever.


Last Friday an unusual marble monument find was uncovered, and yesterday - a day after Sharon's intervention at the request of ultra-Orthodox who were convinced that the bones being uncovered belonged to Jews - the monument was cleaned and discovered to be the tomb of Legionnaire Olfius Martinos, of the Seventh Claudian Legion.

A source in the Antiquities Authority said yesterday that what was amusing about the monument is that ultra-Orthodox Jews and their political allies are fighting against archaeological investigations of legionnaires who oppressed the Bar Kochba rebellion and killed tens of thousands of Jews.


Bob Kraft e-mails:
Yes, it's a bit confusing. We have a PSCO meeting coming up this Thursday, 11 November, here at UPenn -- Jodi Magness on zodiac floors -- then the very next week, at the SBL/AAR conferences in San Antonio, the following program on Friday night (please cross-post as appropriate):

in its 42nd year
an Interdisciplinary Humanities Seminar
under the auspices of the
Department of Religious Studies
201 Logan Hall
with support from
the Penn Humanities Forum

TOPIC FOR 2004-2005: The Impact of Astrological (and Related) Traditions on Early
Jewish and Christian Perspective

While astrology today is relegated to dubious status in the back pages of newspapers, in the ancient world there was no question as to the impact of the stars on human beings. The power gained through knowledge of astrology was at times troubling and terrifying, but rarely, if ever, discounted. Astrological ideas are reflected in all manner of Greco-Roman, Jewish, and Christian traditions, from the vivid Jewish synagogue floor mosaics to the Star of Bethlehem and the attendant arrival of the Magi to Paul's use of technical terminology drawn from astrology and beyond. Given the widespread impact of astrology, then, it is surprising that these traditions have received relatively little scholarly attention. It is our hope to use this year of PSCO to generate an ongoing conversation involving scholars of early Christianity, scholars of early Judaism, and other students of late antiquity in an examination of the role of astrological traditions in the Greco-Roman world, and especially in early Judaism and Christianity.

Todd C. Krulak (University of Pennsylvania)
Sarah L. Schwarz (Haverford College/University of Pennsylvania)
Harry Tolley (Univ of Pennsylvania)

Jay C. Treat (University of Pennsylvania)

THE THIRD MEETING OF THE 2004-05 YEAR WILL BE HELD on Friday 19 November, in San Antonio just before the AAR/SBL annual meetings. We are scheduled for Conference Room 8 in the San Antonio Marriott Rivercenter, from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm (presumably we can stay later if we wish). There will be two brief presentations to help spur discussion:

James Davila (St.Andrews University),
"Astrology and the Descenders to the Chariot."

Participants might want to look at chapter 3 of my Descenders to the Chariot: The People Behind the Hekhalot Literature (JSJSup 70; Leiden: Brill, 2001). There is a precis of that chapter in the section "Becoming a Shaman" of my article "The Hekhalot Literature and Shamanism," SBLSP 33 (1994), 767-89, also available online at:

Annette Yoshiko Reed (McMaster University),
"Astrology in the Rhetoric of Jewish and Christian Chosenness"

Some examples (Josephus and a couple of later sources such as Justin Martyr and Talmud) of Jewish and Christian sources that use astrology as a foil for describing through comparison/contrast what they see as true "religion" -- all the more interesting a rhetorical twist, since astrology was widely practiced among Jews and Christians no less than "pagans."

If someone would like to organize a pre-seminar group meal, or would like to be included in such, please let me know.

Bob Kraft, coordinator

Robert A. Kraft, Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania
227 Logan Hall (Philadelphia PA 19104-6304); tel. 215 898-5827

Monday, November 08, 2004

EGYPTOLOGY NEWS is a blog on, well, Egyptology news, by someone named Andie. I just noticed it in this week's Explorator.
Israel takes over Arafat burial plan (London Times)
From David Sharrock in Jerusalem

ISRAEL announced yesterday that it had completed preparations for Yassir Arafat�s funeral to be held in the Gaza Strip, not, as he had hoped, in Jerusalem.

The decision appears to rule out the 75-year-old Palestinian leader�s own wish to be buried in Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem � known to Jews as the Temple Mount.


Saeb Erekat, the Palestinians� chief negotiator, said the Israeli announcement was inappropriate. �I think it�s not for the Israelis to decide and I would urge them to show some sensitivity,� he said.

But an unnamed Palestinian official quoted by Reuters from the West Bank said: �He has liver failure. His condition is not improving.� He added: �One option being considered is moving him to Cairo.�


UPDATE: This story just keeps getting stranger. First, according to CNSNews, "'They're Trying to Bury My Husband Alive' Suha Arafat Says," in response to the plan of Palestinian leaders to come to France to visit his bedside. Aside from everything that arises from that title, this article is full of interesting gossip about the legal situation for keeping Arafat on life support (if that's what's happening) and about what his illness might be. Note also the following historical tidbit:
Before Suha's outburst, analysts here had speculated that Arafat would be allowed to die on Tuesday, which is Lailat al-Kader, the 27th day and most holy night in the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

It is known as the Night of Power, when Muslims believe that Allah revealed the Koran to Mohammed. Arafat's death on that day would take on added significance.

Then, in response to Suha Arafat, one Palestinian official is reported (by Xinhuanet) to be promising that "the ailing President will reject his wife's claims that the visit by Palestinian leaders was to 'bury him alive.'" All I can say to that is, I'll believe it when I see it.

UPDATE: Hmmm... Maybe that last quote was a hasty mistranslation of the Arabic. The Washington Post gives what seems to be the same quote as follows (my bold-font emphasis):
Her accusations infuriated officials already frustrated that Arafat's wife has refused to divulge details of their seriously ailing leader's condition.

"They are angry with Suha and don't want to go," Tayeb Abdel Rahim, a senior Arafat aide told reporters at a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah. "What came from Suha doesn't represent our people. If the president were to hear that, he would reject it completely."

This makes more sense.
Academy of Nasramit Language & Culture established in Tennessee
(Kentucky Lake Times)
Benton County, TN - The Nasrani Church of the East (world headquarters in Tennessee) announced Sunday evening their plans to open an educational institute known as the Academy of Nasramit Language & Culture for the education of the church's members in the church's liturgical language and to promote awareness of the diverse cultural aspects of the denomination.

Nasramit (referred to as "Nasarani" and "Nazarani" in some regions) is spoken by the majority of Nasrani Church of the East members (St. Thomas Christians) in India, Goa, Portugal, Spain and Southeast Asia with some individuals within North America.

Nasramit is a dialect of Aramaic resembling ancient Biblical Hebrew. In the United States of America and some other countries the language is written with the characters of the English alphabet.


I'm afraid I've never heard of Nasramit before this. You can find more about the Nasrani Church of the East in America by following the link.
THE VANDALIZED ACRE EXCAVATION has been temporarily suspended:
Sharon defends move to suspend Acre dig (Jerusalem Post)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon defended his decision Sunday to call a temporary halt to an underpass project in Acre after hearing that a 100,000-person protest was planned for Sunday because haredim believe the project is disturbing an ancient Jewish burial site.

A Covenant to the People, A Light to the Nations:
Universalism, Exceptionalism, and the Problem of Chosenness in Jewish

Sponsored by Canada Research Chair in Modern Jewish Thought, Department of Religious Studies, McMaster University

Convened by Dana Hollander (
and Annette Yoshiko Reed (

COLLOQUIUM - May 18-20, 2005

The Colloquium will consider the ongoing reflection about the concept of Israel as a "light to the nations" (Isa 42:6; 49:6) in ancient, medieval, and modern Jewish thought, together with its relevance for Christianity and contemporary philosophy and theory. This and other biblical attempts to reconcile the election of Israel with the universality of Israel's God will serve as a starting point for exploring the range of ways in which Jews past and present have negotiated the nature and boundaries of their collective identities (ethnic, religious, cultural, political) in relation to other nations and peoples. Inquiries into the historical development of concepts such as chosenness, Jewish exceptionalism, and Jewishness, and the history of their reinterpretation in different socio-cultural contexts, will be combined with philosophical and theoretical explorations of their continued contemporary relevance.

Speakers include Idit Dobbs-Weinstein (Vanderbilt), Willi Goetschel (U of Toronto), Dana Hollander (McMaster), Andrew Jacobs (UC Riverside), Joel Kaminsky (Smith College), David Novak (U of Toronto), Gesine Palmer (FESt, Heidelberg), Randi Rashkover (York College of Pennsylvania), Annette Yoshiko Reed (McMaster), Kenneth Reinhard (UCLA), Peter Sch�fer (Princeton/Berlin), Yossef Schwartz (Tel Aviv University), and Susan Shapiro (U of Massachusetts, Amherst)

In the coming months, further information (e.g., paper titles, abstracts, schedule) will be posted at


This special daylong Seminar, geared toward graduate students in Jewish Studies, Philosophy, Religious Studies, and related fields, will involve intensive discussion of key texts on the theme of chosenness, including classical works such as the Hebrew Bible and Rabbinic literature and works by modern and contemporary authors. Sessions will be led by Dana Hollander, Joel Kaminsky, David Novak, and Annette Yoshiko Reed.

Seminar participants will be selected through application and will be granted stipends to cover the costs of travel, meals, and accommodations during both the Seminar and the Colloquium. Interested students should submit a CV and a letter detailing their relevant academic background and research interests to Dr. Hollander ( by DECEMBER 15, 2004. The Seminar is geared towards graduate students but open to post-docs and other interested scholars.


These events are the first in a series to be sponsored by the recently established Canada Research Chair in Modern Jewish Thought at McMaster University. McMaster's Department of Religious Studies has been distinguished by a long tradition of studying Judaism and Christianity in concert, as equally significant yet intertwined religions, and in conjunction with philosophy and political thought. Building on this scholarly profile, the conference aims to promote a vision of the study of Jewish thought traditions as engaged in an ongoing conversation with philosophy and theory, political thought, and the study of Christianity, both classical and contemporary.

For more information about the Seminar and Colloquium, please contact Alisha Pomazon ( or see our website:
The Sculptural Environment of the Roman Near East: Reflections on Culture, Ideology, and Power

An International Conference
November 7-10, 2004
At the University of Michigan
and the Toledo Museum of Art

Given its topic, this conference has a surprising number of papers on ancient Judaism.

(Heads-up, Justin Winger.)

Sunday, November 07, 2004

THE TERRORIST WHO MURDERED DUTCH FILM DIRECTOR THEO VAN GOGH left a five-page letter fixed to Van Gogh's corpse with one of the murder weapons. The letter includes Talmud libels, the like of which we have encountered before. The translation below is from the Dutch blog Zacht Ei. The relevant passage, addressed to (former Muslim) Dutch M.P. Ayaan Hirshi Ali, reads:
I would like to ask you the following questions:

How do you feel about the fact that Van Aartsen (leader of the VVD) subscribes to an ideology where non-Jews are considered as non-humans?

Baba Mezie 114a-114b: Only Jews are people ("Only you are called people"). Also see Kerlthoth 6b under subtitle ("Oil of anointing") and Barakath 56a, where gentile (non-Jews) females are called animals ("female-donkeys")

Yebamoth 92a: All Gentile children are animals.

How do you feel about the fact that a mayor is leading Amsterdam, whom subscribes to an ideology where Jews can lie to non-Jews?

Baba Kamma 113a: Jews may lie ("listen") to mislead a Gentile.

How do you feel about the fact that you are part of a government that supports the state with an ideology that proposes genocide?

Sofarim 15, line 10 (Minor Tarcctates): These are the words by rabbi Simom ben Yohai: Tod shebe goyyim herog ("Even the best of the Gentiles should be killed").

Since you are a fighter for equal rights, you will probably (after learning this knowledge) ask with your Jewish masters in chambers to reject the teachings of the Talmud. You will also probably make work of asking the Jewish community in Holland to reject it.

I'm familiar with most of these accusations and proof-texts; you can find the same claims on various anti-Semitic websites. I noted similar and partly overlapping material last year in an Al Jazeerah article. Obviously the murderer had been steeped in such sources. These Talmudic etc. passages are taken out of context � often grossly so � or otherwise twisted to get these bizarre results. For example, sometimes the passage is rejecting the quoted view and other times the quoted phrases are scriptural allusions in detailed halakhic discussions that have very different points than implied here. You can find full analysis of all these passages at David Maddison's website and "Gil Student"'s Real Truth about the Talmud page.

If you're ever tempted to think that ancient history isn't "relevant," think again. These lies about ancient Judaism are being put to the very modern, practical use of inciting Islamist terrorists to murder people in Western Europe.