Tuesday, February 07, 2006

MARY MAGDALENE is the subject of a substantial article in the current issue of the New Yorker. The article has been published online in full:
The two-thousand-year obsession with Mary Magdalene.
Issue of 2006-02-13 and 20
Posted 2006-02-06

The Catholic Church presumably has enough on its hands right now without worrying about popular fiction, but the Holy See cannot have failed to notice that Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code,” a novel claiming that Jesus was married, has been on the Times best-seller list for almost three years. (Its message will soon spread more widely: the paperback is due out next month, and the movie version will be released in May.) Brown is by no means the first to have suggested that Christ had a sex life—Martin Luther said it—but the most notorious recent statement of the theory was a 1982 book, “Holy Blood, Holy Grail,” by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln. “Holy Blood,” which was one of the main sources for “The Da Vinci Code,” proposes that after the Crucifixion Jesus’ wife, with at least one of their children, escaped to France, where their descendants married into the Merovingian dynasty and are still around today. Nobody knows this, though, because, according to the authors’ scenario, the truth has been kept under wraps for a thousand years by a secret society called the Priory of Sion. The book offers a fantastically elaborated conspiracy theory—involving Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton, Victor Hugo, and Jean Cocteau (all “grand masters” of the Priory of Sion), plus Emma CalvĂ© and various others—that cannot be briefly summarized, but the upshot is that the Priory may now be ready to go public with its story. The authors warn that the organization may intend to set up a theocratic United States of Europe, with a descendant of Jesus as its priest-king but with the actual business of government being handled by some other party—the Priory of Sion, for example.

And who is the woman who caused all this trouble? Who married Jesus and bore his offspring and thereby laid the foundation for the overthrow of post-Enlightenment culture? Mary Magdalene.


I don't have time to read it all right now, but there it is. I dare say Lesa Bellevie will be commenting on it over at the Magdalene Review blog.
1 ENOCH IN THE NEWS: Agony uncle Roger Schlueter of the Belleville News-Democrat replies to a reader's query about the Book of Enoch.
Book of Enoch is a juicy story about evil

Book of Enoch

is a juicy story

about evil

Q. I saw a TV program that mentioned a lost book of the Bible called "Enoch." I sent away for the lost books of the Bible, and it wasn't among them. It's supposed to be about life on Earth before the Flood.

-- Robert Rainbolt of Fairview Heights

A. If you want to get the tongues of biblical conspiracy theorists wagging, just mention the Book of Enoch. In no time, you'll get a juicy story that makes Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" look almost tame by comparison.


Conspiracy theorists allege that the thought of angels mating with humans eventually appalled religious leaders, and they tried desperately to destroy every trace of the book. Because of that, the spirits of the dead Nephilim continue to haunt the Earth, and, without reading Enoch, mankind lacks the knowledge to resist them. At least one Web site (www.alienresistance.org) even drew parallels to "The X-Files" plot line.

Of course, mainstream religious leaders will tell you that while it may be an interesting piece of literature, the Book of Enoch was left out of the Bible because it was not divinely inspired. Either way, the book was pretty much forgotten until 1773, when Scottish explorer James Bruce discovered the book in Ethiopia, where it apparently is revered in the Ethiopic church. Copies also turned up among the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1940s.

You should have no problem finding a copy. It's all over the Internet; just tell Google to search for the Book of Enoch. Or, head to Borders; they have a number of translations and histories, including those by R.H. Charles, Richard Laurence and Indus Khamit Cush.

If you're looking for a translation of 1 Enoch, there's a new one out which supersedes all others. Get it.
George W. E. Nickelsburg and James C. Vanderkam, 1 Enoch: A New Translation (Minneapolis, Minn: Fortress, 2004)

Monday, February 06, 2006

ASSIMLATED TO THE BLOGOSPHERE: The Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project, the source of the not-quite-Goliath inscriptions, has a new blog. It's called:
The Official and Unofficial Weblog of the Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project

(Via the Agade list.)
JOE CATHEY has published a very full research bibliography for the Tel Dan Inscription. It looks extremely useful, and the comments to the post have some supplements. This is a follow-up to his earlier post on The Top Five Archaeological Finds - For Hebrew Bible. Regarding the latter, I would rank the Dead Sea Scrolls as the most important archaeological find for the Hebrew Bible, since it gives us the earliest and some of the best manuscripts of the texts. But if we limit ourselves only to Iron Age finds, I think I would replace the Merneptah Inscription with the Lachish Ostraca and I would really like to fit the Arad Ostraca in there somewhere. But in any case, they all belong in the top ten.

UPDATE (7 February): Christopher Heard comments on Joe's post here and here. I should also have noted the Ugaritic texts (which I would put in second place, after the Dead Sea Scrolls) and the Ketef Hinnom silver amulet, which certainly belongs in the top ten as well. And add to them the Balaam Inscription from Deir 'Alla. I think that makes more than ten. Oh well.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

THE SECOND BIBLICAL STUDIES CARNIVAL has been posted by Tyler F. Williams on his Codex blog. Lots of good stuff.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Classical Connections
After an extensive renovation, Getty Villa exhibits collection of ancient works, ties to UCLA

Destroyed by the "pyroclastic flow" from the volcano, Herculaneum and the wealthy Roman villas for which it was known was buried by a mixture of hot ash, pumice, rock fragments and volcanic gas.

Located in the Bay of Naples, Herculaneum was a seaside resort used by wealthy Romans as an escape from hectic city life. For classicists, that meant that expensive pieces of art and libraries of papyrus were most likely buried underneath the hardened lava.

What workers found in 1752 was just that: a wealthy villa with an extraordinarily large library of charred scrolls of papyrus.

Called the Villa dei Papiri, the villa housed papyrus pieces that enthused classicists who were hoping to learn more about ancient literary works. The villa's high quality of preservation also inspired lovers of antiquity.

In fact, Getty Villa is a modern replica of the Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum.


Aside from viewing the tangible items extracted from the Villa dei Papiri, Getty Villa visitors will be able to observe the Villa's influence in the architecture and layout of the actual museum.

Complete with grand garden columns and a picturesque pool, Getty Villa is not only a receptacle for ancient art, but a representation of it as well.

While much of the superstructure of the villa in Herculaneum remains unexposed, its general outlay is well-known, said Susan Downey, a UCLA classics and art history professor.

For that reason, it was a perfect model for duplication.

Thief Steals Piece Of Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit

POSTED: 2:21 pm EST February 3, 2006 (WSOCTV.com)
UPDATED: 2:43 pm EST February 3, 2006

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- An international artifact exhibit is opening soon in Uptown Charlotte, but a thief has already targeted the Dead Sea scrolls exhibit at Discovery Place.

The staff at Discovery Place said they never expected the theft. They said someone stole a tall, heavy and awkward Dead Sea scroll pot at about 10:30 p.m. Thursday.


Fortunately it was a replica, but still, this isn't good.
A CRITIQUE OF EDWARD SAID, reviewed by Oliver Miles, "a former British ambassador to Libya, Luxembourg and Greece":
The fossils bite back

Oliver Miles admires Robert Irwin's defence of orientalism against the denunciation of Edward Said, For Lust of Knowing

Saturday February 4, 2006
The Guardian

For Lust of Knowing: The Orientalists and their Enemies
Robert Irwin
409pp, Allen Lane, £25

Readable, learned, enthusiastic, this is three books in one: a polemic, a catalogue and a narrative. The polemic is a counterattack against the late Edward Said's denunciation of orientalism. Said, the doyen of Arab-American intellectuals, argued that orientalism - referring to the Middle East and India and largely ignoring China and Japan - was "a political doctrine willed over the Orient because the Orient was weaker than the West". For Said, orientalism was the lackey of imperialism and racism. Irwin stands for the orthodox view that it is what it claims to be - the study, as objective as possible, of eastern languages, history, culture and so on.

I must declare an interest. I am, like Irwin, a "living fossil", having been taught Latin and Greek the old way, a way "certainly much closer to that practised in the 17th and 18th centuries than to the system which prevails in the 21st century". From these disciplines I followed a well-trodden path to oriental studies, and I was the pupil of some of the orientalists sketched in his book. I owe them everything both as teachers and as friends, "mentors" to use one classical word that has been reborn in management-speak. Like Irwin I would be flattered if anyone wanted to call me an orientalist.


I'm not familiar enough with Said's work to have a strong opinion about it, but as far as the language training goes, I guess I count as a "living fossil" too.
AN ASSYRIAN (ARAMAIC) TEXTBOOK has been published in Armenian:

YEREVAN, February 3. /ARKA/. Presentation of an academic textbook "Classical Assyrian Language" was held in Yerevan. According to the author of the book, employee of the RA MFA, teacher of Semitic languages at the Department for Oriental Studies of Yerevan State University Armen Hakobyan, the textbook is for orientalists, linguists, historians, theologians and Assyrians, living in Armenia. According to him, this is the first textbook of Assyrian language published on the territory of the former USSR.

"Armenia has become the forth language in the world by means of which Assyrian may be taught", Hakobyan said. ...


UPDATE: And the Armenian language itself gets a mention in ArmeniaNow.com:
“ARMENIAN DAY” CONGRESS IN INDIA: On January 28 a congress named “Armenian day” was organized in Kotayam city of Kerala state in India. About 150 University and religious representatives from many countries took part in the conference. The congress was organized by Research Institute after St. Yeprem and professor of Catholic University of Louven city in Belgium, a specialist of Armenian language and lecturer Andrea Schmidt. Doctor Jean Paul Deshler from Catholica Unio University in Switzerland spoke on the topic of “Armenian miniature paintings and Byzantium icons”. Those who spoke mentioned the importance of teaching ancient languages, especially Armenian.


Friday, February 03, 2006

APRIL DECONICK and her work on the Gospel of Thomas are profiled in a local Illinois newspaper.
ILLINOIS STYLE: Illinois Wesleyan professor studies apocryphal gospel
The (Bloomington) Pantagraph

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. - In the Coptic Museum in an ancient neighborhood of Cairo, Egypt, April DeConick's academic pursuit reached a zenith.

A professor at Illinois Wesleyan University, DeConick had been fascinated with the Gospel of Thomas since her undergraduate days in Michigan.

Now she was leafing through text nearly 2,000 years old - a full, early Christian text of the Thomas book, which purports to be sayings of Jesus.

It wouldn't be all that illuminating for most; the copy's Egyptian Coptic language makes it impossible reading for most people. But DeConick knows Coptic - and even teaches it at Wesleyan.


DeConick believes oral tradition led to sayings of Jesus being unintentionally altered in ways that reflected the changing spiritual thought of early Christians. The copy of Thomas found in Egypt probably was translated from Syrian Christians because it reflects on their understanding of Jesus, she said.

Among her conclusions is that a crisis emerged among Christians in Syria because the apocalypse didn't happen. They had expected an imminent, epic battle with angels and demons, followed by the Second Coming of Christ and establishment of a new, holy kingdom.

Some of the sayings begin with the posing of questions by disciples about the Second Coming. These actually represent the questions posed by Syrian Christians, she said.

The crisis is resolved by addition of sayings in Thomas that introduce mysticism - that is, the internalizing of God. The idea of a new kingdom was collapsed into the idea of an experiential spiritualism. The new kingdom already had come, and it could be found within oneself.

Late last year, DeConick's "Recovering the Original Gospel of Thomas: A History of the Gospel and its Growth" was published as a scholarly work. Other scholars have undertaken similar work with the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It causes a commotion among preachers and followers who teach that these books contain Jesus' exact words.

Generally not riots or death threats, though. (Okay, okay, I'll stop. I've made my point.)
It causes less stir when addressing the Gospel of Thomas, since Thomas isn't accepted as canonical by most churches.


Most churches? Is there a new one I haven't heard of that has added it to its canon? You never know.

Professor DeConick's book sounds very interesting. The Amazon link is here. She has also just published a new commentary and translation of the Gospel of Thomas. Both are a bit pricey for personal libraries (not that I'm in any position to criticize), but do make sure your local research library orders them.
THE RELUCTANT PARTING, a new book by Professor Julie Galambush, is reviewed by Richard Ostling of the Associated Press:
Scholar re-examines New Testament views of Jews

By: RICHARD N. OSTLING - Associated Press

Julie Galambush brings a rare background to the often delicate topic of Jewish-Christian relations and her special interest in the first-century split between the two faiths.

She was an American Baptist Churches minister and teacher at the Lutherans' St. Olaf College in Minnesota. Now a convert to Reform Judaism who belongs to a temple in Falls Church, Va., she teaches Bible at the College of William and Mary.

Galambush, naturally, doesn't believe in Jesus' divinity. But her main emphasis is that Christians misunderstand what their scriptural writers originally meant to say about Jews.

She develops that case in "The Reluctant Parting: How the New Testament's Jewish Writers Created a Christian Book" (HarperSanFrancisco). Her book originated with experimental classes on the New Testament she led at a Maryland synagogue.


Sounds interesting. And I'm happy to say that there are no reports of riots or death threats over this one.
YET ANOTHER REASON not to enable comments. And some of the comments to that post provide additional reasons, albeit of a somewhat less extreme nature.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

JAMES CHARLESWORTH will be a convocation speaker in Montana this spring:
James H. Charlesworth, Princeton�s George L. Collord Professor of New Testament Language and Literature, speaks at Rocky Mountain College's 2006 Spring Convocation. Dr. Charlesworth specializes in the Apocrypha and Pseudepigraphia of the Old and New Testaments, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Josephus, Jesus research, and the Gospel of John. As director of Princeton's Dead Sea Scrolls Project, he has worked on the computer-enhanced photographing and translating of the Qumran scrolls in order to make available for the first time both an accurate text and an English translation of these documents. At the convocation, RMC faculty and administrators march in full academic regalia. Students who have achieved top academic honors are recognized, and music is provided by the RMC music department. 11 a.m., Losekamp Hall.

(Cross file under "Pseudepigrapha Watch"; this is the third media mention in 2006.)
TEN DEAD SEA SCROLLS are coming to Discovery Place, in Charlotte, and the museum is gearing up. Here are some interesting details about the preparation:
"We quickly found out that we would have to build the whole exhibition from the ground up, every panel," said Joanie Philips, the museum's director of major projects.

The exhibit hall will be 11,000 square feet. It must be exactly the right climate so that the scrolls don't dry out.

"We had to redo all of our heating and air conditioning systems because we have to maintain a two-point difference in our humidity and temperature," Philips said Wednesday.

Ten authentic scrolls will be showcased in Charlotte. The cases that hold them will have the same lighting system that is used for the Declaration of Independence. Fiber-optic rays will minimize exposure.

"Every 30 seconds, those lights will cycle off for seven seconds to give a rest," Philips said. "You have to be very careful about showing those."
THE VIRTUAL TALMUD BLOG is a new addition to the Beliefnet website.
About Virtual Talmud:
In the spirit of the rabbinic tradition, Beliefnet has asked three rabbis to create a virtual Talmud, blogging on Judaism and the world today. Unlike the talmudic arguments of old, the interactivity of Virtual Talmud makes it possible for any member of our community to talk back to the learned teachers and to each other.

Meet our bloggers:
Rabbi Susan Grossman, a Conservative rabbi, is the rabbi of Beth Shalom Congregation in Columbia, Maryland. Rabbi Eliyahu Stern, an Orthodox rabbi, received rabbinic ordination and an M.A. in Talmud from Yeshiva University. Rabbi Joshua Waxman, a Reconstructionist rabbi, is the spiritual leader of Or Hadash: A Reconstructionist Congregation, located in Fort Washington, PA.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

THE "TREE OF PARADISE: JEWISH MOSAICS FROM THE ROMAN EMPIRE" exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in New York is covered in a Christian Science Monitor article:
Jewish life, portrayed in stone

By Christopher Andreae

This mosaic is from a group of floor mosaics unexpectedly discovered in 1883 in Tunisia. A French army captain, Ernest de Prudhomme, ordered his soldiers to make a garden in his backyard in Naro, the town now called Hammam Lif. Instead they unearthed what proved to be the remains of an ancient Jewish synagogue.

In 1905, some of the mosaics from this building were acquired by the Brooklyn Museum in New York. They are currently on display at the museum until June 4 in the exhibition, "Tree of Paradise: Jewish Mosaics From the Roman Empire." Their meaning is discussed in a new book by Edward Bleiberg, the museum's curator of Egyptian, classical, and ancient Middle Eastern art.

Shock double defeat for Government

Ministers were examining how they suffered a shock double defeat over plans to combat religious hatred.

Tony Blair was dealt his second and third Commons defeats since coming to power as MPs backed House of Lords objections to the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill.

And in a further embarrassment for the Prime Minister, it emerged he did not vote in the second division - which the Government lost by just one vote.


Peers had inflicted a series of defeats on the Bill in a bid to safeguard freedom of speech with an amendment restricting the new offence of inciting religious hatred to threatening words and behaviour rather than a wider definition also covering insults and abuse.

They also required the offence to be intentional, and specified that criticism, insult, abuse and ridicule of religion, belief or religious practice would not be an offence.

Ministers urged the Commons to reject the Lords' amendments and back a Government compromise instead. Home Office Minister Paul Goggins insisted that only those intending to "stir up hatred" would be caught under the Government's plans.


Home Secretary Charles Clarke quickly announced that the Government was bowing to the Commons' will, and that the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill would go for Royal Assent to become law as it stood.

I think the bill as it stands is unnecessary: direct threats and incitements to criminal acts (not thoughts!) are already illegal. It's probably also still subject to abuse by the Government once it becomes law. But it's a vast improvement over the original, on which I have commented in detail here.

UPDATE: On a not unrelated note, buy Danish! (Background here.) I like Carlsberg beer!

UPDATE (2 February): You can see the offending cartoons for yourself here. If such things bother you, don't click on the link. They're not much to my taste, and some are downright tasteless, but I object to them being censored. (Via the Penkill Papers.)
NEW ENOCHIANA -- Gabriele Boccaccini e-mails the follow to the Enoch Seminar:
The year 2005 has been a good year for Enochic Studies:


(a) Four new Enoch books have been published:

Siam Bhayro
The Shemihazah and Asael Narrative in 1 Enoch 6-11: Introduction, Text, Translation and Commentary with Reference to Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical Antecedents
Munster: Ugaritic-Verlag, 2005

Gabriele Boccaccini, ed.
Enoch and Qumran Origins: New Light on a Forgotten Connection
Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005

Andrei Orlov
The Enoch-Metatron Tradition
Tubingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 2005

Annette Yoshiro Reed
Fallen Angels and the History of Judaism and Christianity: The Reception of Enochic Literature
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005

(b) Two volumes have been reissued:

Margaret Barker
The Lost Prophet: The Book of Enoch and Its Influence on Christianity 1988; repr. Sheffield: Phoenix, 2005

David Suter
Tradition and Composition in the Parables of Enoch
1979; Atlanta: Scholars, 2005

(c) Charles‚ book on Enoch has been translated into Spanish:

R. H. Charles
El libro de Enoc, el Profeta
Madrid: Edaf, 2005
HUGOYE: JOURNAL OF SYRIAC STUDIES has published a new issue (9.1; January 2006). Here's the table of contents:

A Sixteenth-Century Batrashil in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Jennifer L. Ball

Ecclesiastics and Ascetics: Finding Spiritual Authority in Fifth- and Sixth-Century Palestine.
Jennifer L. Hevelone-Harper, Gordon College

Possible historical traces in the Doctrina Addai.
Ilaria Ramelli, Catholic University of Milan

Publications and Book Reviews

Recent Books on Syriac Topics.
Sebastian P. Brock, Oxford University

Eugene F. Rogers, Jr., After the Spirit: A Constructive Pneumatology from Resources outside the Modern West.
Robert A. Kitchen, Knox-Metropolitan United Church

Joanna Weinberg, Azariah de' Rossi's Observations on the Syriac New Testament: A Critique of the Vulgate by a Sixteenth-century Jew.
P.J. Williams, University of Aberdeen


Dorushe Graduate Student Conference for Syriac Studies at CUA, February 3-5, 2006.


Journal of Aramaic Studies

Beth Mardutho Amazon Associates

Journal of the Canadian Society of Syriac Studies

Gorgias Press