Saturday, April 02, 2005

Few would have predicted then that the first non-Italian Pope in 455 years would throw off the stiff trappings of the papacy, travel the globe and leave an indelible mark on history.

In over a quarter century on the world stage, he was both a champion of the downtrodden and an often contested defender of orthodoxy within his own church.

Historians say one of the Pope's most lasting legacies will be his role in the fall of communism in Eastern Europe in 1989.

"Behold the night is over, day has dawned anew," the Pope said during a triumphant visit to Czechoslovakia in 1990.

A decade after witnessing the fall of communism, he fulfilled another of his dreams. He visited the Holy Land in March 2000, and, praying at Jerusalem's Western Wall, asked forgiveness for Catholic sins against Jews over the centuries.

Requiescat in pace.
Group Protests Opponents' Plans for Rally

Friday April 1, 2005 4:01 PM

AP Photo JRL101

NUSSEIRAT, Gaza Strip (AP) - Members and supporters of the militant Islamic Hamas group demonstrated Friday against plans by Israeli opponents of the planned Gaza Strip evacuation to rally at a disputed Jerusalem holy site.

Jerusalem Police Chief Ilan Franco has said he would block the April 10 rally at the site, known to Jews as Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram as-Sharif, because the protesters posed a security risk.

... The crowd was estimated at about 10,000 people.


If Hamas is putting its energy into protest rallies rather than suicide bombings, well, that's progress.
CHALDO-ASSYRIAN WATCH: "College to study Mich. Chaldean Americans."
They're the second-largest Middle Eastern population in Michigan.

But unlike many other ethnic groups, Chaldeans as a community have not had an in-depth analysis.

So a college is embarking on a major study and survey this year of Chaldeans -- Iraqi Christians -- in Michigan.

Amar: Bnei Menashe are descendants of ancient Israelites
By Yair Sheleg (Ha'aretz)

Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar decided on Wednesday to recognize the members of India's Bnei Menashe community as descendants of the ancient Israelites.


The Bnei Menashe community consists of close to 7,000 members of the Kuki-Chin-Mizo tribe, which lives in northeast India near the border of Myanmar (formally Burma). For generations they kept Jewish traditions, claiming to be descended from the tribe of Menashe, one of the ten lost Israeli tribes that were exiled by the Assyrians in the eighth century B.C.E. and have since disappeared.


I doubt very much that the group goes back to the Assyrian exile, but it's possible that they do have a Jewish origin. At any rate, their genetic profile seems to connect them to the Middle East.

Friday, April 01, 2005

HELENANN HARTLEY has a new blog address:

Be sure and update your bookmark.
MORE ON THE GNOSTIC PRADA AD: Here's a press release from Cut + Run which interviews Jordan Scott (daughter of Ridley Scott), who was the one who suggested using Thunder, Perfect Mind in the ad. Incidentally, this Coptic text from Nag Hammadi is preserved in a fourth-century manuscript, not a first-century one. There may have been speculation that a Greek original was written as early as the first century, but this is just speculation.
MORE ON THE ALLAH GRAFFITO: Arutz Sheva has some additional details.
The word �Allah� was found yesterday carved into the eastern wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The Arabic letters are approximately a foot tall.

It is suspected that Arab workers brought in by the Waqf Islamic authority, which controls the Temple Mount, are the culprits. Police feel they used stone cutting tools to engrave the word into the stone, which is located about thirty feet off the ground.

The stone in question is located next to scaffolding brought in by Jordanian workers to prevent the collapse of the wall.

This does not answer any of the questions bibliobloggers have been raising and it does not seem to allow for the suggestions we've advanced thus far. I e-mailed Dr. Eilat Mazar about it last night and I'll report back when I hear from her.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

"THIS IS PERHAPS the most inaccurate popular article on the Dead Sea Scrolls that I have ever read, which is quite an achievement." You can read about it over at Qumranica.
DA VINCI CODE CODE: According to the Electric New Paper in Singapore, the Da Vinci Code has a quotation from the book of (1?) Enoch encoded in the introduction.
THE Doubleday hardcover edition of Dan Brown's bestselling puzzlethon contains a coded message quoted from the biblical Apocrypha's Book of Enoch.

Brown (left) has revealed that the message hints at the plot for his next book. His fans have responded with their wallets.

To see the code, open the book to the introduction on the dust jacket, and copy down every bolded letter.

Add spaces where appropriate, and you will be able to read the mysterious and slightly eerie sentence.

I'm afraid I don't own a copy of the Da Vinci Code but perhaps a reader has it handy and can tell us what the Enoch verse is?

UPDATE: Carla Sulzbach, who doesn't have the book either, e-mails this link, which says that the encoded sentence is "Is there no help for the widow's son?" But this sentence isn't in 1 Enoch or in 2 Enoch (follow the links and search them yourself) and I'm quite sure it's not in 3 Enoch either. A little Googling brings up sites that connect it with Freemansonry and Mormonism. If you want to know more about that, I'll leave you to track it down yourself. But if that's the embedded sentence, the Enoch connection isn't there. It's remarkable how the Enochic attribution is just repeated without anyone bothering to go look it up in the book of Enoch. Sigh.
HOW DO WE KNOW IT'S AN OSTRICH? Professor Gary Rendsburg takes us through an item of biblical philology from Leviticus 11:16 in the Forward.
THE BEIT SHEAN VENUS on display at the Israel Museum is getting lots of attention:
The Roman-era statue was discovered in 1993 in an ancient bathhouse at an archaeological dig in Beit Shean, a small city near the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee. The Hebrew University archeologists who excavated the Venus sculpture uncovered several works that were also intended to decorate the lavish bathing area, including Dionysus, a goddess Athena, a headless emperor and a nymph.

Beit Shean seems to have been a very cosmopolitan place.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

THE LATEST on the proposed Revava protest on the Temple Mount:
Police to bar Temple Mt. gathering
By ETGAR LEFKOVITS (Jerusalem Post)

Jerusalem police chief Ilan Franco has decided to bar a massive Jewish pilgrimage to the Temple Mount by a group of ultra-nationalists opposed to the planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip following multiple intelligence warnings that such an event could prompt Palestinian violence at the bitterly contested holy site, police said Tuesday.

But organizers said that they were going ahead with the event, which is scheduled for April 10, setting the stage for a major show-down with police outside the Jerusalem site next month.


It's increasingly hard to imagine a way that this whole thing could turn out well.
'Allah' inscribed on Temple Mount Wall
By ETGAR LEFKOVITS (Jerusalem Post)

The word "Allah" in Arabic was found hewn into the eastern wall of Jerusalem's Temple Mount, in one of the worst acts of vandalism at the history-rich site in the last several years, archaeologists and eyewitnesses said Wednesday.


I can think of more offensive graffiti than the name of God, but in the context of defacing an historic site the act is very disrespectful to both Judaism and Islam.

The letters, incidentally, are half a meter high.

UPDATE: Jim West thinks the photograph is a forgery:
Maybe i'm just skeptical of any reports of inscriptions and the like but it looks like a fake photo to me. The letters are above the surface of the stone- and yet the stone is level with the stones surrounding it. Now exactly how is that possible? If the letters had been carved in such a way that the surrounding stone were removed, then you would think that there would be a noticeable difference in the surface level of that stone and those surrounding it. Further, the lines of the "inscription" are strangely perfect. In all honesty it looks to me like a photo has been doctored to look like something has been written on it. If readers are aware of how a stone can be carved in such a way that the surface is unaffected while letters are raised in the center, I would love to hear.

It does look funny. The only way I can see to carve the inscription would be to chisel away all the surrounding material on that stone, yet as Jim says, it doesn't look deeper than the surrounding stones (although it's hard to tell for sure) and I don't see chisel marks or a surface pattern that looks different from the other stones. The stone of the inscription is the right color but it looks polished -- the surface is quite different from any other stone surface visible. But it melds into the surrounding stone and the shadows are just right if the sun is shining above and to the left, which fits all the other shadows in the picture.

I can't imagine that both the Jerusalem Post and Ha'aretz would run the story or that Eilat Mazar would comment on it without checking the stone in person. Moreover, the photographer, Ariel Jerozolimski, does lots of work for the Jerusalem Post and has more than 100 Google entries.

Could it be that material (plaster?) dyed the same color as the wall has been pressed in a mold against the stone until it bonded to it?

If any reader in Jerusalem has seen the graffito or can go look at it, I would be grateful for a report.

UPDATE: Yes, the Brian connection occurred to me too.

UPDATE (31 March): Stephen Carlson has a theory too.
Rabbi who cursed Rabin targets Sharon
By YAAKOV KATZ (Jerusalem Post)

Yosef Dayan, who enacted a pulsa denura � Aramaic for "lashes of fire" � death curse against Yitzhak Rabin shortly before his assassination, has received a green light from kabbalistic rabbis to place the same curse on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in the next few days.


This could lead to him being investigated by the police for incitement. In any case, it's in poor taste.
NEWS ON THE GOSPEL OF JUDAS: Middle East Online reports:
Gospel of Judas back in spotlight after 20 centuries

Swiss foundation seeks to shed light on controversial Christian text named after apostle said to have betrayed Jesus.

By Patrick Baert - GENEVA

About 2,000 years after the Gospel according to Judas sowed discord among early Christians, a Swiss foundation says it is translating for the first time the controversial text named after the apostle said to have betrayed Jesus Christ.

The 62-page papyrus manuscript of the text was uncovered in Egypt during the 1950s or 1960s, but its owners did not fully comprehend its significance until recently, according to the Maecenas Foundation in Basel.

The manuscript written in the ancient dialect of Egypt's Coptic Christian community will be translated into English, French and German in about a year, the foundation specialising in antique culture said on Tuesday.


After the manuscript is restored, the text is due to be translated and analysed by a team of specialists in Coptic history led by a former professor at the University of Geneva, Rudolf Kasser.


Of course, PaleoJudaica readers have known this since last July. It's good to see the media catching up with the Blogosphere.

The article (which has been picked up by the Agence France-Presse) does have some new information: the publication date has been moved back a bit (which is normal for this sort of thing) and there's a carbon-dating result (3rd-4th century C.E.).

UPDATE: Stephen Carlson comments on some dodgy elements in the article. Trust the media to get it wrong when they finally do get it. Sigh.
I'M BACK. The Scottish weather was typically gloomy and wet, but it was nice to get away for a bit anyhow and we did at least get to see Dunfermline Abbey. And I managed to get through Neal Stephensons' In the Beginning...Was the Command Line (which is still extremely informative despite being on computers and six years old) and to make progress on his The System of the World. I only got around to starting the latter a week or so ago. The density of infodumps on early eighteenth century culture is a little high even for Stephenson, and he can get away with a lot. But it's a page turner: it succeeds because the various protagonists are the best at what they do and don't miss much, so the conflicts are played out at a high strategic level, and because most of the players are highly sympathetic, so you find yourself rooting enthusiastically for both sides.

Monday, March 28, 2005

WE'RE OFF on a family holiday for a couple of days. I don't intend to get anywhere near a computer and if I'm confronted with one I'll probably run. I expect to be back sometime on Wednesday, so look for more blogging then.

(And thanks, by the way, to all those who blogged or e-mailed congratulations on PaleoJudaica's second anniversary.)
Lo, there came oilmen from the West
By Ian MacKinnon (The London Times)

Biblical prophecies led an evangelical American to start drilling in northern Israel

WHEN oilmen go prospecting they usually put their faith in geologists to help their risky ventures. John Brown prefers to trust God and the Bible to make him and the State of Israel rich.

Later this week his company, Zion Oil, will begin drilling in a patch of dusty earth of northern Israel pinpointed by ancient biblical prophecies.

Unfortunately, this seems to be the biblical prophecy:
Tracts from the Old Testament books of Genesis and Deuteronomy foretold wealth in the ancient lands of the tribes of Joseph�s sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, and Jacob�s son, Asher. Moses says in Deuteronomy xxxiii, 24: �Most blessed of sons be Asher. Let him be favoured by his brothers and let him dip his foot in oil.�

The catch is that the word "oil" in this verse (Hebrew shemen) refers to fat products or organic oil, especially olive oil, but never a petroleum product. The only biblical Hebrew words I can think of for a petroleum product are h.emar and zephet, both of which mean "asphalt" or "pitch" (e.g., Genesis 14:10 for the first and Exod 2:3 for both). If the verse said Asher should dip his foot in pitch, Mr. Brown might have more of an exegetical case.

Still, I wish him luck.
Ezra: �Police Won�t Let Thousands of Jews Ascend Temple Mount at One Time�
12:14 Mar 27, '05 / 16 Adar 5765 (Arutz Sheva)

( Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra said the police will stop a large number of Jews from ascending the Temple Mount on April 10, as they requested. ...
PELIKAN'S WHOSE BIBLE IS IT? is reviewed by Harvey Cox in the Boston Globe.

Sunday, March 27, 2005