Saturday, February 26, 2005

THE HISTORY CARNIVAL #3 is up. It's hosted by a different blog each time it runs. If you're not reading it, you may want to have a look. Ed Cook summarizes some of the posts. I too liked Paul Musgrave's "Linguae Non Francae." Add to that Tim Burke�s "Misrecognitions and Mythologies." It focuses on a recent Rastafarian "mass visitation" to Ethiopia, but deals generally with the difference between popular (mis)conceptions about a country and culture by outsiders vs. actual conditions in that country and culture. The rife modern popular misconceptions about the biblical world and about antiquity in general is directly comparable. He concludes:
More modestly, sometimes such images or constructed pasts simply contribute to a communicative disconnect, to a failure of potential. You can�t help but wonder if maybe the Rastafarians would learn something important if they looked for the real Selassie--perhaps in fact they would renew their faith in the Selassie they imagine by recognizing just how imaginary he is, by unshackling him from a real man who walked the Earth. Maybe you can�t find Ethiopia until you know you�re looking for something that has yet to exist, something that you have to make from nothing, something you have yet to gain rather than something you have already had and lost. Perhaps this is also not so modest a point, but instead the real source of dangerous consequences. Perhaps we should worry less about garden-variety stereotypes sprinkled through popular culture like gaudy ornaments of some barely-recalled past, and worry more about the fervid dreamers, who see a whole and coherent picture in their imagination and set out to compel the world to align itself with their vision.
THE EVANGELICAL TIMES, UK, is recycling a short article (retitled "Moses and Archaeology") on the Ketef Hinnom silver amulets which claims that the amulets prove that the five books of Moses, or at least the Priestly source, were in existence in the First Temple period. I've already pointed out the lapses in logic in an earlier post.
ISRAELI ARCHAEOLOGIST ISRAEL FINKELSTEIN is sharing a �522,000 "Dan David prize" with British archaeologist Graeme Barker. The prize has "past, present, and future time dimensions" and, of course, their share is for the "past" component.

Congratulations to both archaeologists, as well as to director Peter Brook, who won the "present" component. No word on the "future time dimension" winner.

Friday, February 25, 2005

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: More on the danger of an attack on the Temple Mount and its political implications:
'Temple Mount attack could foil pullout' (Jerusalem Post)

An attack on the Temple Mount has the potential to thwart the implementation of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Gaza Strip disengagement plan, Deputy Internal Security Minister Yaacov Edri warned Thursday.

Police, Edri said, have recently stepped up their presence on the Temple Mount out of fear that Jewish and Muslim extremists might perpetrate an attack, which, he warned, would create for Israel an unprecedented international crisis.


UPDATE (27 February): Rebecca Lesses comments.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

CULTURAL ICON WATCH: The Coptic "Gnostic" (?) text from Nag Hammadi with the title "Thunder, Perfect Mind" has been used as a short film/long commercial advertisment for the new Prada perfume at the Berlin Film Festival. Ed Cook has the story. (Ridley Scott, you may recall, directed the Alien movies.) As an aside, it seems that schoolboys in Ed's town are considerable more erudite than those in St. Andrews.

This is the New York Times article: "Scent of a Movie." Excerpt:
The Prada film, which strives to be simultaneously more and less commercial, casts the model Daria Werbowy as a beautifully accessorized bundle of contradictions. As she makes her way through the streets of Berlin, she sees herself coming and going at every turn in the faces of other women, some older, some quite a bit younger, some more wholesome and some actually Werbowy herself. In a particularly delicious moment, shot in the back of a taxi, an unseen driver ogles her in the rearview mirror, watching as she removes her winter coat only to put it back on inside out.

On a related note, I've always been struck by the similarity between "Thunder, Perfect Mind" (Ed points to this link) and Meredith Brooks's pop song "Bitch." Different messages, but perhaps tapping the same archetype.

UPDATE (25 February): Ed Cook explains "that the 'schoolboy' is one of the most brilliant beings in the world." And he has the links to prove it.

UPDATE (26 February): Mark Goodacre invokes "schoolboyish error." It's always very interesting to see which posts and which parts of those posts generate comments from other bloggers.

UPDATE (27 February): Tim Bulkeley at Sansblogue offers additional nuance to the schoolboy meme.

UPDATE (28 February): More from Mark Lieberman at the Language Log.
TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: The security around the Temple Mount has been increased in response to danger of either Jewish or Arab attacks. The Jerusalem Post article doesn't say if the police have gotten their extra NIS 61 million of funding (see previous post).

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Police want NIS 61 million to counter Temple Mount threats
By Zvi Zrahiya, Haaretz Correspondent

The police is demanding an additional NIS 61 million to counter increasingly grave threats of an attack on the Temple Mount.


UPDATE (24 February): According to this A.P. article, that comes out to US $14 million, which also is what I get for today's rate from an online currency converter. That comes out to about �7,345,000 at the current rate.
THE PULSA DE-NURA CURSING RITE is in the news again:
Woman held for sending pulsa denura to Shaul Mofaz (Ha'aretz)
By Roni Singer

A Bat Yam woman known to have harassed media figures and politicians was also behind a letter that suggested a religious edict of execution against Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, police have discovered.

The letter implied that religious authorities had issued a pulsa denura, a ruling allowing Jews to assassinate Mofaz over his support of the disengagement plan.


UPDATE: Reader Joshua Waxman e-mails:
the haaretz article excerpt you recently posted contains a glaring inaccuracy. the pulsa denura is NOT "a ruling allowing Jews to assassinate..." The ceremony, for those who believe in it, is a curse and a call for *God* to cause the untimely death of the person.

It is not a ruling allowing people to assasinate an individual. Perhaps the author confused this with din rodef, which is something else entirely. In other articles, they write that the pulsa denura was assosiated with the assassination of Rabin, so perhaps this is where the author gets the misconception.

True, although after the assassination of Rabin, some evidently took his murder to have resulted from the rite. Legally, enacting it against someone may count as incitement to murder. So the implications of the ritual are open to a range of interpretation. (Follow the first link above for more information.)

UPDATE: Bad link fixed.
A "SHARP RISE in thefts of antiquities in 2004" in Israel according to Ha'aretz:
According to [director of the robbery prevention unit, Amir] Ganor, the phenomenon of antiquities theft has taken on gold rush dimensions, with an antiquities site plundered every day on average.

The Antiquities Authority claims that a lenient punitive policy by the courts presents incentive for antiquities thieves. The Knesset recently increased the maximum punishment for damaging an antiquities site from three to five years, but Ganor says that the punishments meted out in the courts today rarely exceed a year in prison.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: As noted previously, the newly established "monarchist" Sanhedrin has recently been showing an interest in the Temple Mount. In tongue-in-cheek response to my post, Dr. Andrew Jackson comments: "Hal Lindsey must be thrilled."

Well, he is. Now I'm not impressed by Hal Lindsey's biblical exegesis or his track record at predicting the future. But give him this: at least his third-temple scenario doesn't involve tearing down the mosques on the Temple Mount. Could be worse.

As I've said before, the Temple Mount is a terribly important archaeological site that is a crucial part of humanity's cultural heritage. I don't have a theological agenda for it, but I sure do have a historical and archaeological one. The damage the WAQF has already done to it is bad enough. There should be no more construction there of any kind. The only alteration to the site, if any at all, should be scientifically controlled archaeological excavation. Otherwise, leave the place as it is until we have the technology to do sophisticated non-intrusive and/or nondestructive scans to get at what's there.
BOOK REVIEW in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review:
Judith M. Lieu, Christian Identity in the Jewish and Graeco-Roman World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. Pp. x, 370. ISBN 0-19-926289-6. $99.00.

Reviewed by Tom Robinson, Religious Studies, The University of Lethbridge (

Word count: 2066 words

Judith Lieu is one of the leading scholars in the field of Jewish and Christian identity in the Greco-Roman period, and this book is her latest contribution to the discussion. Those familiar with her work have come to expect a cautious, thorough and balanced analysis of the ancient literature and a firm grasp of the varied modern discussions of identity. That quality of scholarship marks the present work too. Although the primary focus is on Christian identity in the first two centuries, as suggested by the title, considerable attention is given to Jewish, as well as Greek and Roman perceptions of identity. The book will, without a doubt, become a key one in the discussion of early Christian identity, but its rich exploration into Jewish identity makes it a serious contribution to that field as well.


A thoughtful review about what sounds like an important book.

(Via Rogue Classicism.)

Monday, February 21, 2005

HANNIBAL, THE MOVIE, is coming, according to
THE DEAL WITH DIESEL�S �HANNIBAL�: Budget problems plague actor�s labor of love.

The director, Vin Diesel, is very proud of himself for cutting the budget down to $50 million.

Diesel, in theaters on March 4 with the family comedy �The Pacifier,� has also made the recent decision to direct as well as star in Hannibal as the young man from the ruling clans of the city of Carthage in North Africa who makes an oath of vengeance against Rome when they kill his father. Making the revenge his life�s goal, Hannibal becomes a general by the time he's in his mid-20s, and with an army of 100,000 who have his back, he sets out to bring Rome down, first by conquering Spain, and then by launching a surprise (and famous) attack on Italy by way of the Alps, with an array of forces that included war-trained elephants.

When I read the rest, I started to think that the whole article must be a satire. But a little Googling confirmed that director Vin Diesel is planning to make a Hannibal movie. And does not appear to be a satire site. Could Diesel be serious in what follows?
�To make things even more exciting, I�m going to make it a non-English, multi-lingual film that represents the many languages that Hannibal employed in his army,� enthuses Diesel. And the point being, Hannibal united people of no common culture, language, or religion and proved that united, they can defy tyranny. Very interesting point of where we are in our world.�

Diesel said Gibson had given him advice on the use of multiple languages, which helped to illustrate �The Passion of the Christ.�

�He�s always been a role model of mine in this industry,� said the action star. It�ll be Aramaic for Rome, Iberian for Spain, it�ll be some, you know, Maltese version. And it will represent all these different languages. So that�s what�s happening with �Hannibal.��

If he thinks the language of Rome was Aramaic, he could do with some better advice. Still, the prospect of a movie with dialogue in Punic is pretty interesting. Some Northwest Semitist out there could make a bundle as a consultant.
FORGERY SCANDAL UPDATE: The Washington Post has an article ("Find or Forgery, Burial Box Is Open to Debate") this morning that recaps the story, instigated evidently by Hershel Shanks's latest comments in BAR. The trial begins on 17 May.

Heads-up Stephen Goranson on the ANE list.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

THE TEL DAN INSCRIPTION has been discussed a good bit lately on the ANE list and in the biblioblogosphere. I've been following the discussion but haven't had anything to add, since I've never done any serious work on this text. But if you're interested, Stephen Carlson has a summary post. Add to it Ed Cook's latest as well.
ON PUBLISHING UNPROVENANCED FINDS: Eric M. Meyers has an important essay on the Bible and Interpretation website.
Should Scholars Authenticate and Publish
Unprovenanced Finds?

Paper Presented in San Antonio, 2004

Today we know for certain that in addition to promoting illicit trade in antiquities the publishing of unauthenticated and unprovenanced material also has promoted an entire industry, namely the forgery business.

By Eric M. Meyers
Bernice and Morton Lerner Professor
Director of the Graduate Program in Religion
Duke University
February 2005

He concludes:
I believe what I have suggested, following ASOR�s original policy, adopted in 1992, is a step in the right direction. Let us put pressure where it belongs: on the departments and authorities that are in charge of protecting their national heritage. Let us at the same time push toward repatriation of the cuneiform record along the lines I have suggested. We all have to fight looting in every way possible, and we must prevent unethical dealers and collectors from taking advantage through legal loopholes to promote their own collections and the value of individual artifacts, thereby significantly enhancing their net worth. We should not take any steps, however, that will allow important and properly authenticated artifacts and inscribed materials from seeing the light of scholarly publication, albeit with the provisos I have noted. Surely any policy that impedes true enlightenment of the past through careful publication is one in need of some adjustments, either legal or ethical.

This seems to be the full text of the presentation I summarized in my report on the SBL forgery crisis session in November. It also seems to have been revised since the original presentation, but I'm not sure how much.

(Via Biblical Theology.)