Saturday, July 09, 2005

EARLY DIASPORA SYNAGOGUES are the subject of a blog post by Philip Harland.
"PAUL AND QUMRAN" -- This is a 1998 essay by N. T. Wright, published originally in Bible Review and recently posted on Wright's website. Noted by Mark Goodacre and Bible and Interpretation News.
Is Human Cloning Really A New Biomedical Breakthrough?
Human cloning in the laboratory is inevitable and will bring with it disastrous consequences, according to Matthew Omaye Ajiake, author of Nephilim: The First Human Clones. Ajiake makes a case for the existence of human clones in Old Testament times i...

Distribution Source : PRWeb

Date : Thursday, July 07, 2005

(PRWEB) July 7, 2005 -- In 1996, Dolly the sheep became the first surviving mammal known to be conceived by laboratory cloning. Other animals since Dolly, including horses and cattle, have been created using this method. The biotechnology used to create a human clone is essentially the same as that used to clone animals.

Human cloning in the laboratory is inevitable and will bring with it disastrous consequences, according to Matthew Omaye Ajiake, author of Nephilim: The First Human Clones.

Ajiake makes a case for the existence of human clones in Old Testament times in the form of the Nephilim, descendants of Cain, one of the sons of Adam. The Nephilim were referred to as "giants" and "the fallen ones" � unnatural and grotesque creatures.


Well, I'm glad that's cleared up.

Friday, July 08, 2005

THE SBL FORUM for July has articles on "Bible museums, theme parks, etc., that you might (or might not) choose to visit." Note in particular the one by Ben Su on "The Ancient Biblical Manuscript Center" which definitely should be in the "choose to" category. The Forum also has obituaries for Nahum Sarna and Paul Ricoeur.

(Via Bible and Interpretation News.)
A THIRD-CENTURY C.E. MOSAIC IN PALMYRA (SYRIA) shows a scene from classical mythology that "experts" say may have served as inspiration for the legend of the slaying of the dragon by St. George, England's patron saint:
Mosaic inspired image of England's favourite saint
By Norman Hammond, Archaeology Correspondent (Times of London)

THE earliest known template for the image of St George slaying the dragon has been found in Syria, archaeologists believe.

A mosaic floor dating from approximately AD260 depicting the figure who became the patron saint of England has been found in the city of Palmyra in the Syrian desert. Experts say that the portrait is one of the finest classical mosaics yet uncovered and may even be the source of the St George legend.

George was reputedly a Roman soldier, martyred in Palestine some 1,700 years ago. The mosaic shows Bellerophon, a hero in Greek mythology, killing a chimera, and it was found in what appears to have been a dining room in Palmyra.


It's a bit of a stretch between Bellerophon slaying the chimera and St. George slaying the dragon, but the mosaic is still cool. Follow the link for a picture.

(Via Archaeologica News.)
TIME-TRAVEL WATCH: Physicist Amos Ori at the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa has proposed a model for "A New Class of Time Machine" whose "core would consist of a toroidal vacuum embedded in sphere of normal matter." This is good news, because other time machine proposals require exotic matter and other exceedingly hard-to-come-by items. Bring it on!
TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Ed Morrisey of the Captain's Quarters has an interesting story which reports that one Michael Sanders, who has an idiosyncratic theory about the location of the First Temple (that it was south of the Temple Mount in the City of David on the Gihon Spring rather than on the Temple Mount itself), e-mailed Newsweek a "Background Only" message to the effect that prominent Israeli archaeologist David Ussishkin thinks that the Jerusalem of the Solomonic period did not extend as far north as the Temple Mount, and therefore he implicitly supports Sanders's idea. Despite the clear "Background Only" subject header, a Newsweek representative e-mailed Professor Usshiskin about it and mentioned Michael Sanders as the source.

Three comments:

1. Captain Ed has a reputation for reliability and since he says that he verified the essentials of the story with Newsweek, I take it to be accurate.

2. If so, I would be cautious about telling Newsweek anything I didn't want my name attached to in public. But read also the comments to Captain Ed's post, some of which defend Newsweek and give advice on how such things should be approached. Glenn Reynolds also has advice.

3. Regarding the theory itself, I am not an archaeologist and will defer to any professional archaeologists specializing in Israel who want to comment. Evidently the claim is that Professor Ussishkin thinks something about the bounds of tenth-century BCE Jerusalem, not anything in particular about Sanders's theory about the Temple. Regarding the latter, I have to say I have a hard time imagining that a significant piece of monumental architecture like a Solomonic temple stood on the spot indicated and no one has noticed any trace of it since. And I'm not impressed with Sander's website. He gives no indication that he has any specialist training in archaeology or the history of Israel and his theory keeps some extremely wild company on the site (speculations about the locations of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Garden of Eden, and the Ark of the Covenant -- things that are not of great concern to real archaeologists, to put it mildly). I am not impressed by his critical faculties, nor am I willing to take his word for what Professor Ussishkin thinks or the implications thereof. Too bad Captain Ed doesn't report on any reply by Ussishkin to Juliet Chung. (She is perhaps taking Sanders a little too literally about Ussishkin supporting Sanders's theory. Any support seems to be indirect at best.)

I haven't seen the Biblical Archaeology Review article Sanders alludes to in his e-mail. Can someone tell me if Ussishkin in fact say this about the boundaries of Solomonic Jerusalem and, if so, whether he discuss the implications for Solomon's Temple?

NOTE (same day): I've fiddled some with this post since it was published to make sure I'm understanding and presenting the issues correctly.

(Heads up, Michael Safrin.)

Thursday, July 07, 2005

LUBAVITCHER MESSIANISM and its connections with anti-disengagement activism in Israel are explored in a long Jerusalem Post article:
The messianic temptation

'Long live our master, our rebbe, the king messiah forever," shouted hundreds of Chabad hassidim at the end of the evening prayer in the courtyard outside Beit Menachem, the main synagogue in Kfar Chabad, the town across the road from Ben-Gurion Airport, which serves as the Lubavitch movement's Israeli headquarters.

Inside the synagogue, a bulky TV perched on a cabinet showed old videos of the movement's revered sage, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who died in 1994.


Messianists, known as mashichistim, also believe that the dissemination of the idea that Schneerson is the messiah helps prepare the world for the messianic era.

"The rebbe said that learning and teaching about the days of redemption help bring it closer," says [Rabbi Yigal] Pizam. "Understanding the concept that the rebbe is mashiach helps prepare a Jew for the messianic era, which is coming any minute now. Knowing that he is the mashiach makes the idea of redemption that much more real and, therefore, brings it closer."

Yet in addition to the evening's decidedly messianic message, there was another theme: "We express our protest against the government's dangerous policies in the Holy Land," read the flyer advertising the rally.


Unlike mashichistim, mainstream Chabadniks acknowledge the death of the rebbe, although many do not rule out the possibility that he could still be the rebbe once he is resurrected. But more importantly, unlike the mashichistim, mainstream Chabadniks tend to avoid talking about Schneerson's role in end-of-days redemption unless asked directly.

Aggressive Greater Israel activism seems to go hand in hand with rigorous messianism: mashichistim tend to be the same men in black suits and hats blocking roads, passing out anti-disengagement flyers and attending demonstrations. The way they see it, strong messianic beliefs go together with taking the disengagement struggle to the streets.


(Via Bible and Interpretation News.)
Scottish police lower alert
07/07/2005 21:25 - (News 24, South Africa)

Gleneagles - Police on Thursday lowered their alert around a shopping area of the Scottish capital of Edinburgh after determining that a suspect package was harmless, police said.

Police had evacuated an area of Princes Street, a shopping district in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, after a suspect package was found on a bus, a spokesperson said.

She said a bomb disposal squad had carried out a controlled explosion and found no sign the package contained any explosives.


Oddly, although both the Scotsman and the BBC have the story, they have not yet posted anything about the package being harmless. In any case, the police are right to be taking no chances. With the British Open coming to St. Andrews next week, we need to be especially vigilant. And get on with the show.
APOCRYPHA NOW! No, not that Apocrypha. Film apocrypha. Here's a cinematic apocryphon that seems relevant:
Ben-Hur (1959)

The Legend: A stuntman was killed during the shooting of the famous chariot race sequence. The shot was left in the final cut over the protests of the stuntman's widow.

The Facts: No stuntmen died during the filming of the 1959 version of Ben-Hur. One stuntman was injured in a spectacular mishap during the chariot race, and that shot was left in the film, to the protestations of no one. This legend may have originated in rumors that surrounded the shooting of Fred Niblo's earlier 1926 version of Ben-Hur, during which at least one stuntman was indeed killed in an accident.

I had only heard the "legend" version of this story.
"INTEREST" OR "USURY"? How should the biblical terms be translated? Also in the Forward, Philologos has the story.
THE LOGIC OF IMPURITY: In the Forward, Professor David Kraemer has some interesting reflections on the theory behind the biblical system of ritual impurity. I'm not sure whether I buy his interpretation or not.
CYBER-ARCHAEOLOGY: I would have noticed the news much earlier today, but it chanced I took the day off and spent the morning at home helping my son and his friend dissect an old MacIntoshPlus computer excavated from our garage. They marveled at the primitive technology used by the ancients.

This is the first photo I've posted using Blogger's new image-uploading facility. I'm impressed: it's easy to use and they provide 300 megabytes of free space. Well done.

EXPLOSIONS IN LONDON: There have been seven explosions, six in the the London Underground and one on a bus. Happened about three and a half hours ago. According to the BBC (to which I'm listening at the moment) at least 95 casualties reported in the Royal Hospital, some serious and critical. Two confirmed dead. Rescue operations in progress, many more casualties likely. They're saying the attacks are not on the same scale as Bali or Madrid and were designed to shut down London transportation. I have no idea whether that evaluation will bear up. Looks like a coordinated terrorist attack timed alongside the G8 meetings. Early claims of Al Qaeda responsibility, but BBC saying we should keep an open mind for now on who did it. The Prime Minister just addressed the nation, but had little info. Ongoing updates on the TV networks and the Command Post. My heart goes out to the victims.

UPDATE: The police seem to be revising the number of explosions down to four. I'm not going to continue blogging this; you all have access to better sources for this than me. In the spirit of not permitting terrorist scum to disrupt our lives, blogging on ancient Judaism etc. will continue now as normally.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

DAF YOMI BLOGGING: Over at Mystical Politics, Rebecca Lesses points to three blogs that follow and comment on the Daf Yomi cycle.
"CYRUS-THE-GREAT" FILMMAKER in detention in Iraq:
U.S. Holds Filmmaker in Iraq
* Family drafts suit to free L.A. man working on a Cyrus the Great project. Pentagon plans hearing to determine if director is a security threat.

By Henry Weinstein, [Los Angeles] Times Staff Writer

Cyrus Kar's family says he left his Los Feliz apartment for Iraq to make a documentary film about a Persian king who wrote the world's first charter of human rights. But now they fear he may never get home.

On May 17, Kar was stopped at a Baghdad checkpoint in a taxi allegedly packed with a common component for improvised explosive devices, according to a Defense Department spokesman. Since then, he has been in U.S. military detention outside Baghdad.


About three years ago, Kar became interested in the history of ancient Persia, particularly the story of King Cyrus the Great, founder of Persia. He went to Iraq, over his family's objections, to film near Baghdad. He also filmed in Iran, Tajikistan, Turkey and Afghanistan and consulted with scholars.

David Stronach, professor of Near Eastern archeology at UC Berkeley, has signed a sworn declaration to be filed with the [family's federal] lawsuit, stating that he has known Kar for more than two years and has "assisted him in making his documentary" about Cyrus the Great, whom he described as "one of history's most extraordinary figures."

Stronach said Cyrus "is mentioned many times in the Bible, not least because he liberated the captive Jewish community in Babylon � an event that allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem, rebuild the temple, and arguably, provide the conditions that permitted the birth of Christianity.

"It is impossible to tell the story of Cyrus without bringing in the subject of Babylon, his latest and greatest conquest, and one which had quite exceptional consequences. It is therefore unsurprising to me that Cyrus Kar thought it essential to go to Babylon � in present-day Iraq � to finish filming his documentary."


It's always difficult to judge such situations without access to all the information. But this one doesn't sound good.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

ED COOK reports a recent telephone conversation with Hershel Shanks, editor of Biblical Archaeology Review, about the problem of unprovenanced antiquities. Me, I still can't suggest any solution better than the one Joe Zias came up with on the ANE list in January (sorry, all the ANE links seem to have gone dead): flood the market with first-rate fakes so that no dealer or collector will trust the genuineness of any unprovenanced artifact and looters will give up and turn to more profitable lines of work. If you have a better idea, speak up!

UPDATE (6 July): No one has pointed out the main objection to Joe's proposal -- that it would be illegal. Let me clarify that I mean that if there is any campaign of forgeries to undermine the antiquities market, it should be coordinated with the authorities (IAA, police, etc.). It would, after all, save them a lot of trouble in the long run.
VIGILIAE CHRISTIANAE has a recent issue (59.2, 2005) with an article of interest:
"Content Divine Infinity in Gregory of Nyssa and Philo of Alexandria"
pp. 152-177
Author: Geljon, Albert-Kees

Requires a paid personal or institutional subscription to access.
JEWISH STUDIES, AN INTERNET JOURNAL (JSIJ) has published several articles in this year's volume 4. For some reason these are listed on the page for forthcoming articles rather than the page for current articles. I haven't been keeping up as they've been posted, so here are abstracts of three that are of interest:
Judith Hauptman, "The Tosefta as a Commentary on an Early Mishnah" (English)

Recent scholarship has demonstrated that much of the Tosefta precedes the Mishnah and serves as its basis. However, this raises a fundamental question: how could the Tosefta have been a source of the Mishnah, if the Tosefta is essentially a wide-ranging commentary on and supplement to the Mishnah, as evidenced by the fact that numerous passages in the Tosefta make no sense on their own, and can only be understood when read together with the text on which they comment?

The author suggests that while the Tosefta often comments on a Mishnah, this was not *our* Mishnah, but rather some other, organized, older collection of tannaitic teachings. Numerous examples are adduced to prove this point, thereby providing evidence for the existence of a version of the Mishnah which preceded our Mishnah, which was used and modified by the redactor of our Mishnah.

Amram Tropper,"Yohanan ben Zakkai, Amicus Caesaris: A Jewish Hero in Rabbinic Eyes" (English)

In the foundation myth of Yavneh, Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai flees besieged Jerusalem, surrenders to the Romans, predicts Vespasian�s promotion to emperor and is subsequently granted Yavneh as a new center for the rabbinic movement. This rabbinic story risks portraying Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai as a deserter, perhaps even as a traitor and it is puzzling that the rabbis would have depicted one of the most important sages of the formative period in rabbinic Judaism in such a potentially damaging fashion. Indeed, the nationalistic atmosphere that reigned in Judea during the late first and early second centuries would probably have discouraged contemporary rabbis from portraying a rabbinic hero in this manner, and accordingly, there is not even a hint of the escape story in tannaitic literature. I suggest, however, that later rabbis were comfortable depicting Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai in this potentially unflattering manner because of the precedent set by Jeremiah. Jeremiah�s experiences during the destruction of the First Temple, as narrated in the Bible, resemble those of Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai at the end of the Second Temple period, and it seems that the rabbis typologically depicted Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai as the Jeremiah of the Second Temple.

Ronit Shoshany, "Rabbi Elazar ben Shimeon and the Thieves�A Story of Sin and Atonement" (Hebrew)

The story of R. Elazar and the thieves consists of two parts. The first part describes R. Elazar�s service under Roman rule as a thief-catcher (Bavli, Bava Metzi�a 83b). The story is interrupted by a sequence of short stories, concluding with the story of R. Yohanan and Resh Lakish (84a). This interruption is apparently an intentional editorial one, aimed at encouraging the reader to compare the stories of R. Elazar and R. Yohanan. There are several similar motifs, but there is an important difference between the two stories: R. Yohanan mourns for the dead Resh Lakish, but does not repent for having caused his death by his cruel behavior, whereas R. Elazar deeply repents of his misconduct. This repentance and self-punishment is described in the second part of the story (84b). In this article, I present a close reading of the two parts of the story of R. Elazar, and a detailed comparison between this story and that of R. Yohanan. I argue that the main theme of R. Elazar�s story is his sincere repentance and atonement, which eventually enables acknowledgment of his righteousness by readers of the story.

The full texts can be downloaded in Word or PDF format.

Monday, July 04, 2005

FONT MACBLEG: Can anyone out there explain to me -- as usual, in simple terms suitable for an idiot -- how to configure a blogspot blog to display Hebrew and Greek fonts? I can view them fine on other blogs, but haven't figured out how to embed them in blog posts myself. Perhaps the problem is that I'm using a Macintosh system (OS X 10.3.5 if it matters). I have already configured the International Input Menu to include Hebrew and Greek fonts and I can type these fonts with TextEdit. Any help would be much appreciated.

UPDATE: ?????? ??? ????? ?? ????? ??? ????

Problem solved. My thanks to Tyler F. Williams for sending me the solution. In case you're interested, this is his e-mail:
One thing I noticed about your blog is that you do not have a meta tag indicating what character set you want your page to be displayed in (so I imagine it is assuming ASCII or something like that).

Try including the following meta tag in the <*head> section of your blog template:

<*meta http-equiv="content-type" content="text/html;charset=utf-8">

This will set your page to be able to display Unicode fonts (that is what the utf-8 indicates)

I have added an asterisk at the beginning of both tags so they show up. I have no idea why that meta tag wasn't there. Does everybody else just know to add these things?

The Hebrew font used above is from David Instone-Brewer's Tyndale Unicode Font Kit for Macs, available from the Tyndale House Fonts for Biblical Studies page.

UPDATE (5 July): Oh oh ... publishing a new post seems to have wiped the Hebrew from this one. Does anyone have any suggestions on what to do now?

UPDATE (6 July): I may have figured out the problem. Let's see if the Hebrew stays this time.
THE CITY OF ASHDOD is profiled in the Jerusalem Post. It was rebuilt on its current site only in 1957, but it goes back to the biblical period and even was home to some of our friends the giants.
HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY to American readers!

UPDATE: I finally broke down and turned on the space heater in my office. Think of me today while you're sunning on the beach, attending your picnic, and enjoying your Fourth of July barbecue.

UPDATE: Cold enough to turn on the heat in the morning, warm enough for a hay fever attack -- this is just wrong!

Sunday, July 03, 2005

WATERSTONE'S UPDATE: Regular readers will recall my fulminations in January about Waterstone's bookstore's firing of Joe Gordon in Edinburgh for blog posts that criticized the company. I hadn't heard the result of his appeal until a short time ago and only yesterday did I have time to track down the details. In case you haven't heard, Joe's situation was resolved satisfactorily for all concerned. The publicity caught the attention of the Forbidden Planet book chain, they liked what they heard about Joe, and in February they hired him as a manager and the maintainer of their new blog. Meanwhile, the wheels of the appeal ground slowly until, in April, the case was resolved in Joe's favor. He was offered reinstatement, but since he now had a better and better-paying job elsewhere, "an amicable settlement was achieved in place of reinstatement" (which I take to mean that Waterstone's coughed up some monetary compensation). I haven't been in the vicinity of a Waterstone's for quite some time, but when I am again I will no longer be avoiding it (although between Amazon and the newish St. Andrews Ottakars, my book needs are pretty well served).


For bloggers: don't criticize your employer on your blog unless you have a durn good reason and you understand that you may have to deal with the consequences. There may be rare cases in which such criticism is justified, but a blog is not the place for grumbling about the pointy-haired boss.

For employers: if an employee says something intemperate on a blog, try to solve the problem with a private word to the blogger. Most people have sense enough to take down an unreasonable post if it's pointed out to them (Joe would have). And don't even think of firing the employee unless you can show that all reasonable steps short of that have been taken first.

Belated congratulations to both Joe Gordon and Waterstone's for coming to terms on this and getting it behind them.
BLOG WATCH: Jim West blogs on a seal inscription mentioning a Hananel whom Giovanni Garbini thinks was an Ammonite king of Jerusalem in the 7th century BCE. News to me. [LATER: More here.] Joe Cathey blogs on a new edition of Von Rad's The Problem of the Hexateuch and Other Essays, editied by K. C. Hanson. And Phil Harland picks up on my post "Giants, Aliens, and Josephus" from last month and discusses "Aliens, Fallen Angels, and Heaven's Gate."

UPDATE: Note also Michael Homan's entries on his archaeological work this season at Zeitah in Israel. Start here and keep moving forward. Note this one in particular. (I think there may be one or two earlier relevant posts, but I can't get Michael's archive to work.) Ron Tappy and I dug at the same time at Ashkelon when we were both lowly postgraduates, and I have fond memories of the Ashkelon beach.