Saturday, February 11, 2006

ENOCHIAN MAGIC figures in the season finale (link has spoilers) of Sea of Souls, a British television series about parapsychologists at a University in Glasgow. I just watched the episode. Enochian magic is only mentioned once, but it's presented as the centerpiece of the occult theme of the show. Paul McGann (who played the eighth Doctor Who in the 1996 movie) appears as a suitably intimidating Enochian magician.

I know very little about the modern occult and alchemical traditions, so I don't know if the presentation was accurate. On general principles I rather doubt it, and certainly a lot of other stuff was mixed in. But, that said, the mentions of Fulcanelli sounded correct, and the final interpretation of the sacrifice did seem to capture a central value of the system(s) as I understand it. A couple of years ago I posted some links on Enochian magic here. Please note the warning label if you are squeamish about such things.

The episode was credulous for my taste, but it made for an entertaining story.
TOLDOT: BIBLE AND HISTORY LIST COMMENTS is a new blog by Yitzhak Sapir. He gives its purpose as "To collect various notes and comments of mine regarding list posts on various Bible and Ancient Near East related lists." His first substantive post is on the odd spelling of a word in the Siloam Inscription, in which he interacts with some of what I've written on the same subject.

(Via Dr. Cathey's Blog.)

UPDATE (12 February): Bad link fixed and name corrected!
THE INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR JEWISH GENEALOGY has opened in Jerusalem and has an ambitious agenda:
Tracing the Jewish nation's family tree
By Amiram Barkat (Haaretz)

Is it possible to trace the family tree of the entire Jewish nation? The task of the world's first academic institute for studying Jewish genealogy will to try and answer this question.

The goals of the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy (IIJG), inaugurated in Jerusalem last month, include academic research into Jewish family names and granting masters degrees to genealogy researchers. The institute also hopes to expand the data base about Sephardi Jews.


Friday, February 10, 2006

THE BBC GETS IT. This is very encouraging:
Bloggers: an army of irregulars
By Paul Reynolds
World Affairs correspondent, BBC News website

For many in the "mainstream media", as bloggers call us, weblogs are at best a nuisance and at worst dangerous.

They are seen as the rantings and ravings either of the unbalanced or the tedious.

My experience over the past few months has led me to an opposite conclusion.

I regard the blogosphere as a source of criticism that must be listened to and as a source of information that can be used.

The mainstream media (MSM in the jargon) has to sit up and take notice and develop some policies to meet this challenge.


This bit in particular hits the nail on the head:
It is when the criticism is detailed and pointed that it can hit home.

And with the growth of blogs, such detailed criticism is being made more and more often as the sniper fire from the bloggers targets individual stories and interpretations.

If the MSM does not respond, it will suffer. The same is even truer of businesses, whose products can be disastrously damaged by web-based attacks.

If the criticism is fair it must be answered, directly to those making it. Remote, computer-generated responses are counter-productive.

And mistakes must be quickly corrected. If the criticism is unfair, then the MSM has to know about it early on and develop defensive tactics.

Definitely read it all. You might want to look also at my article "Assimilated to the Blogosphere," where I make some similar points. This confirms other indications I've had that the BBC is taking note of blogs.
CHARLOTTE is anticipating lots of visitors for the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition:
Scrolls should boost local economy
2/9/2006 8:34 PM
By: Adam Shub, News 14 Carolina

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Some of the Dead Sea Scrolls will be displayed at Discovery Place next week, and the uptown museum has already sold 35,000 tickets for the exhibit.

The ancient manuscripts, the oldest-surviving writings from the Old Testament, will be showcased from Feb. 17 to May 29.

"We just put a very strong concerted effort out so that we could land it here in Charlotte,� said Joanie Philips, the museum�s director of major projects.

The effort should pay off.

Last year, the Scrolls brought 205,661 visitors to Mobile, Ala. -- 70 percent from out of town. The bottom line was an overall economic impact of $13.5 million.

Israelis won't stop dig at Muslim cemetery
2/8/2006, 9:53 p.m. CT
The Associated Press

JERUSALEM (AP) — A dispute over the fate of an ancient Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem threatened Wednesday to ignite tensions in Holy City as workers removed skeletons from the site despite Muslim pleas for the work to end.

Israeli developers and archaeologists are removing the tombs to make room for the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center to build a multi-million-dollar Museum of Tolerance, dedicated in part to promoting understanding among different religions. Muslims are incensed.

Mufti Ikrema Sabri, the senior Islamic cleric in Jerusalem, on Wednesday demanded that the dig stop at the site which until 1948 served as the main Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem.

I've been following this story for a while, but haven't posted it, since I couldn't figure what "ancient" meant in this context. To the press, it seems often to mean anything more than a couple hundred years old. But this comment puts it as far back as the time of Muhammad:
"There should be a complete cessation of work on the cemetery because it is sacred for the Muslims," Sabri told The Associated Press. The Waqf, the Muslim council in Jerusalem that Sabri oversees, was not consulted on the dig, he said. The cemetery was in use for 15 decades and friends of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad are buried there, Sabri said.

UPDATE: Archaeologist David Stacey e-mails to reproach me:
Jim, You really should not be so blase about the destruction of the Muslim cemetery in gan ha-azmaut (independence park) which was in use until 1948. The graves, around one corner of the Mamilla Pool, are reasonably well preserved, many with engraved inscriptions, and include a number from the Mameluk and Ottoman periods, in particular a mausoleum dated 1289 CE. These can be seen at

The park also includes several second-temple Jewish cave-tombs, generally in poor condition (I helped excavate one many years ago [David adds in a second message: "the tomb I excavated was not, now that I think about it, in Independence Park itself but in the garden further south behind the King David Hotel. However there are second temple tombs in the Park"]). Imagine the furore that would break out if a well-preserved and previously unknown Jewish tomb complete with skeletons was discovered during construction work!

Fair enough, and thanks for the additional info. I had meant to add a request for more information to the end of the post and forgot to put it in. I didn't mean to imply that the site was only important if it was ancient in the technical sense; just that I try to keep my comments focused mostly on the archaeology of that period. There are lots of stories I am concerned about that don't end up on PaleoJudaica.

But I should have said more than I did. Bear with me: you may have noticed that posting has been light this week. It's the first week of classes and a very busy administrative time. And, to top it off, in the last few days I've had a massive hay fever attack (in February!) along with unpleasant side effects as I try new medications. (While I was writing this update, someone stopped by my office to show me another one to try.) In short, I've been struggling to post at all.

As to how responsibly this cemetery is being treated, there seems to be controversy, and I can't say I'm ready to take sides. There's plenty of salvage archaeology of Jewish sites too, and necessarily so. Is this site so important that the museum should be moved elsewhere? Maybe. Would someone like to e-mail me to argue that? But whatever the merits of the case, I will say that the decision to continue the excavations while waiting for the Supreme Court ruling doesn't seem to me to be good opening publicity for this museum.

UPDATE: David replies:
The cemetery was in use until 1948! The graves are perfectly visible although they show signs of lack of upkeep. It's not as if they weren't known about and only showed up after construction work began.

Well, okay, but some of the media reports make it sound more complicated. A Chicago Tribune article says:
he 3-acre construction site is on part of what was once the sprawling Mamilla Cemetery, the largest Muslim graveyard in Jerusalem. In continuous use from the 12th Century until 1927, the cemetery contained hundreds of graves, including the tombs of scores of eminent Muslims: scholars, judges, fighters and holy men.

But after burials were stopped at the cemetery, it fell into disuse, and large parts of it were used for other purposes.

In the late 1920s, the Palestinian leader and mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, sanctioned the relocation of bones found during construction of a hotel built by the Supreme Muslim Council on former cemetery grounds.

A city park was built over much of the land in the 1960s, as well as schools and a hotel. In the 1980s a municipal parking lot was built in the area where the new museum is supposed to go up.

In its petition to the Israeli Supreme Court, the Al Aqsa Foundation, linked to the Islamic Movement, argues that under religious law, the sanctity of a Muslim cemetery is immutable and that it is forbidden to remove human remains or build on the area.

But expert opinions solicited by the Wiesenthal Center cite rulings by some prominent Muslim scholars permitting the use of abandoned cemetery land for farming or construction after the remains of the dead have decomposed, a period of more than 30 years.

Such a ruling obtained in 1964 enabled the construction of the park on most of the area of the Mamilla Cemetery, and similar rulings in 2001 allowed the clearing of cemeteries in Egypt for the construction of a ring road around Cairo, according to Shmuel Berkovitz, an Israeli attorney and expert on holy sites who submitted an opinion to the court.

And an Arutz Sheva article says the following:
The land for the project, which was purchased by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, was a parking lot at the time of the sale, and according to Center spokesperson Hagai Elias, was not a cemetery. Muslim leaders maintain that the parking lot itself was built above the remnants of the cemetery.

I am not qualified to evaluate these claims. I blog, you decide.

David also reports that the site was a well-known cruising spot where gay Jews and Arabs could meet each other, which I suppose would not make the political situation any less complicated.

UPDATE: David replies:
Its a while since I was in J'lem and it wd appear from the articles you quote that the building site is somewhat to the north of the main cruising ground. However if the 'parking lot' is the one I think it must be I seem to remember some graves still visible next to it.
No Jewish cememtery still in use in the 20th century would ever be built on. And when development was going on near Gan Sacher for a yehiva (on ?Sderot Ben Zvi?) which required clearing a rock face at least one second temple tomb which was found was left incongruously intact between two buildings set back into the rock face on either side of it.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

"THE HOUSES OF ANCIENT ISRAEL," an exhibit at the Harvard Semitic Museum, is in the news:
Harvard museum exhibit shows "The Houses of Ancient Israel"
By Nancy Rabinowitz
Thursday, February 9, 2006 (Daily News Transcript)

CAMBRIDGE -- The hands of time have been turned back to biblical days at Harvard University’s Semitic Museum, where curators have put together a replica of a house showing what life was like in ancient Israel.
"Even if you know nothing about ancient Israel, nothing about archaeology, nothing about the Bible, you walk in and you say ’oh, yeah, that’s a house,"’ said Joseph A. Greene, the museum’s assistant director.
"What’s different is how people live their lives -- what they eat, how they dress, where they sleep, what they do in the house," Greene said.

The exhibit, "The Houses of Ancient Israel: Domestic, Royal, Divine," focuses on everyday life around the year 700 B.C.

The exhibit has been showing since November of 2003.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A SEVENTH-CENTURY SYNAGOGUE appears to have been discovered by looters in Ramallah:
Mosaic thought to be from ancient West Bank synagogue confiscated from Palestinians

By LAURIE COPANS (Associated Press Writer)
Associated Press

JERUSALEM - A mosaic seized from Palestinian antiquities thieves appears to have been cut from the floor of a previously unknown synagogue that dates back to the 7th century, an archaeologist said Tuesday.

If the ruins of the synagogue do exist, it would be a significant find because archaeologists know of few such Jewish sanctuaries from the period, when Muslims ruled the area, said Amir Ganor, an archaeologist who also serves as an investigator for an authority that prevents antiquities thefts.

The work of art has Jewish insignia, including the words in Hebrew for "Peace Unto Israel," part of a Jewish candelabra and palm branches, Ganor said. Tests have proven almost without a doubt that the mosaic is authentic and dates back to the 7th century, he said. Only a few more tests are needed to confirm its authenticity, Ganor said.

"This is a very significant find, because we know of only one synagogue from this period, in (the West Bank town of) Jericho," Ganor said.


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 ( 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.