Saturday, April 29, 2006

PSEUDEPIGRAPHA WATCH: The Pseudepigrapha got a little media attention in April, thanks to the Gospel of Judas. First, in "GOSPEL OF JUDAS: AUTHENTIC FRAUD," by Jon Christian Ryter (April 9, 2006,
Any well-read Christian who has done any reasonably in-depth analysis of the Pseudepigrapha, the Dead Sea Scrolls or the manuscripts commonly known as the Lost Books of the Bible knows from the text they were not reading the Word of God but that of men attempting to insert their views into the Canon of God.
Then in the Aberdeen American News, SD, on 16 Apr 2006, one Art Marmorstein, Aberdeen, billed as a professor of history at NSU, published the article "Story about old, old story an old story." In it we read:
But, old or not, none of these writings were genuine. They were, without exception, what ancient historians call pseudepigrapha: works that claim authorship by someone other than the true author.

Now quite a few pseudepigraphal works have survived from the ancient world. We've got Pseudo-Xenophon, Pseudo-Plato and Pseudo-Aristotle. But most of the surviving pseudepigraphal works tried to pass themselves off as written by one Biblical figure or another.

Many of these pseudepigraphal works try to do nothing more than fill in the gaps in the Biblical stories. One book gives us an account of Jesus' boyhood, while another elaborates on the ministry of Paul and yet another tells us about the martyrdom of the prophet Isaiah.

But pseudepigraphal works were often more than just attempts at historical fiction: Many were attempts to manufacture proof for doctrines that aren't clearly stated in the canonical scriptures.
Well, more or less. Technically, "Old Testament Pseudepigrapha" (singular "pseudepigraphon") are ancient fictional works purporting to be written by Old Testament characters or in Old Testament times. "New Testament Apocrypha" (singular, "apocryphon") are like works purporting to be written by New Testament characters or in New Testament times. Also, "Old Testament Apocrypha" are the eighteen books (plus a few added chapters to canonical books) found in the Catholic OT biblical canon, but not the Protestant or Jewish canons. But the term "pseudepigrapha" ("fictional writings") can also be used in a general sense to mean books written by someone other than the supposed author. Also, "apocrypha" is used in a colloquial sense to mean false stories or rumors.

I do take issue with some of the rest of what he says:
Is it legitimate to use such works as if they were reliable historical sources? Most of the time, the scholarly community would laugh at the thought. If my excited Christian friend had tried to use the Acts of Pilate to prove to one of his professors the validity of the Gospel story, his whole argument would have been met with no more than a patronizing smile and perhaps the advice to be a bit less credulous. And then there is the warning in the Apocalypse of Peter that those who slay unborn children will be tortured forever. Cite that as evidence of apostolic doctrine and you'll get the same patronizing smile and an immediate dismissal of your argument. And if you champion a second century forgery like the Gospel of Judas as a legitimate historical source, claim that Judas was really a good guy, and insist that Judas alone of the disciples really understood what Jesus was all about, academics will smile patronizingly and ... no, wait!

The academic world will hail you as a star. You'll get a prestigious professorship. The media will gush over your work. Your books will make the best-seller lists. National Geographic will do a special on your findings - and play it on Palm Sunday.

The healthy skepticism essential to solid academics and solid reporting? Gone in a heartbeat if there's any chance to slander the Gospel. At Christmas and Easter especially one can count on every major media outlet to feature one story or another hyping the latest "scholarly" alternative to the traditional understanding of Jesus. And a story that turns things around so much that Judas is now a hero - well, that's got to be worth at least 30 pieces of silver to somebody.
In fact, I know of no biblical scholar who takes the view that the Gospel of Judas is a legitimate historical source for the first century. If any did, the rest of us would laugh them off the stage. The Gospel of Judas is, of course, a very important new source for Gnostic legends and theology of the second century. There were some half-hearted attempts in the media (to their credit, not very many) to try to stir up worry that the Gospel of Judas somehow affected first-century history, but scholars, theologians, and lay people declined to take the bait and insisted on appreciating the text for what it is. I would expect a professor of history to be better informed.
European Parliament Meets Assyrian Politician on Assyrian Question (AINA)

An official meeting of European Parliamentarians headed by Mr A.J. Maat, representative of the European Human Rights Commission, and Ms Attiya Gamri (Dutch Provincial Parliamentarian) and other members of the European Parliament took place on 18-19 April 2006 in Europe's capital Brussels, Belgium. The meeting dealt particularly with the situation of the Assyrian (also known as Chaldean and Syriac) people in Iraq. After her visit at the beginning of April, Ms Gamri was able to highlight in detail the obstacles and oppressive circumstances that limit the freedom of the Iraqi Assyrians' ethnic and political rights. This is happening especially in northern Iraq, where there is relative peace. However, the Kurdish political parties -- by means of Kurdish soldiers and militiamen -- are manipulating the political climate very aggressively, especially in regards to the Christian Assyrians who have always been peaceful and have been seeking for political and ethnic rights without the use of violence.

The situation of Assyrians in Syria is also a matter of concern.
THE REFURBISHMENT AND REDESIGN OF THE ISRAEL MUSEUM is covered in a long article in the Jerusalem Post ("An inside job"). It's too long to excerpt properly, but here's what the architect was up against:
THE ISRAEL MUSEUM was designed nearly half a century ago by Haifa architect and Technion professor Alfred Mansfeld and interior architect Dora Gad, who won the competition for the campus back in 1959. After the museum opened, they were awarded the Israel Prize.

While the museum looks wonderful when seen from the heights of Rehavia across the Valley of the Cross, it presents no face at all when seen from its parking lot or even from most points inside the campus. The museum is many times bigger than it originally was. The additions have been made piecemeal, with the result that visitors get lost in a labyrinth and often miss key displays altogether.

Mansfeld's basic mistakes were many. He sited the main buildings up on the crown of the hill, a kilometer from the parking lot, with the uphill climb offering no protection from Jerusalem's harsh extremes of climate. The design of his modular pavilions did not work because of their square format and mushroom design, which relied on an obtrusive central supporting pillar carrying both drainage and the power supply. The roofing was connected to the walls by glass that let sunlight fall on the exhibits and, for a while, also let in rain. The windows were eventually sealed and painted black.

The museum's previous director, Dr. Martin Weyl, battled Mansfeld's resistance to change over a period of years. Mansfeld opposed the design of the Impressionist pavilion, the first major addition to successfully ignore the mushroom approach.

Mansfeld's last gasp was supervision of the construction of the Weisbord entrance pavilion designed by Danish architect Jorgen Bo. Even before it was completed, it became clear that this large building was the silliest and most impractical museum structure ever built. Hostile to the end, an ailing Mansfeld was eventually ejected. He and Gad are no longer alive.
HEROD THE GREAT'S HARBOR is now an underwater archaeological park:
Herod's harbour turns itself into bit of a dive

By Stephen Farrell The Times

Our correspondent is swept away by Caesarea's latest attraction
FLOAT out beyond the Crusader city walls, Roman aqueduct and 19th-century mosque. Then descend through a cloud of quicksilver bubbles 20ft and 2,000 years to Herod The Great’s sunken harbour.

Here, just off Caesarea port, a unique underwater archaeological park opened yesterday, showcasing 80,000sq m of a sunken harbour built by the biblical king of the Jews for Caesar Augustus.
One small correction:
He [first-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus] hailed the magnificence of Herod, who also built Jerusalem’s second Jewish Temple of biblical antiquity. “The king ordered the building of many structures of white stone. He glorified the city with palaces pleasing to the eye,” Josephus wrote. Caesarea, built by Herod between 22BC and 10BC, was the Roman capital of Judea for 600 years. It was named after Caesar Augustus, who provided the money and engineering expertise.
The second temple was built in the late sixth century BCE. Herod rebuilt it, effectively tearing it down and putting up a third, much grander temple.
THE DA VINCI CODE JUDGE'S SECRET CODE has been solved. It's not exactly an Enochian revelation.

Friday, April 28, 2006

THE APOCRYPHA AND PSEUDEPIGRAPHA are getting a lot of attention in July's International SBL meeting in Edinburgh. Here's the program:
Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha

8:45 AM to 12:30 PM
Seminar 10 - William Robertson

Theme: Second Temple Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha

James Davila, University of St. Andrews-Scotland, Presiding
Michael Tait, Pontificio Istituto Biblico
Glorious and Resplendent? The Resurrection and the Resurrection Body in the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha (30 min)
David A. Fiensy, Kentucky Christian University
Sacred Space in the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha (30 min)
Ida Frohlich, Pázmány Péter Catholic University
The Temple as a Theme in the Book of Tobit (30 min)
Break (45 min)
Pierre Johan Jordaan, North-West University
Text, Ideology and Body in the Additions to Esther (30 min)
Jacques van Ruiten, University of Groningen
Chronological and Spatial Symmetry in the Book of Jubilees (30 min)
Jamal-Dominique Hopkins, Azusa Pacific University
The Description of Sacrificial Worship in the Book of Jubilees: Its Interpretation by and Authoritative Status for the Dead Sea Scrolls Movement (30 min)

Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha

2:00 PM to 5:45 PM
Seminar 10 - William Robertson

Theme: More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha

Pierluigi Piovanelli, University of Ottawa, Presiding
Archie T. Wright, Regent University
Philo and the Book of Watchers (30 min)
Markus H. McDowell, Westmont College
Jael in Pseudo-Philo’s Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum: A Comparative and Intertextual Approach (30 min)
J.R.C. Cousland, University of British Columbia
When, Where, and Why: Space and Time in the “Books of Adam and Eve” (30 min)
Break (45 min)
James R. Davila, University of St. Andrews-Scotland
More Jewish Pseudepigrapha (30 min)
Kristian Heal, Brigham Young University
Ps. Basil's History of Joseph: A Key to the Early Syriac Tradition (30 min)

Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha

2:00 PM to 5:15 PM
Lecture Theatre - William Robertson

Bradley J. Embry, International College and Graduate School
A Story of Love? Use of Song of Songs in the Odes of Solomon (30 min)
Rivka Nir, Open University of Israel
The Conversion of Aseneth in a Christian Context (30 min)
Edna Isreali, Tel Aviv University
Who Is "Taxo"? Re-thinking the Origins of the Assumption of Moses (30 min)
Break (45 min)
Pierluigi Piovanelli, University of Ottawa
Christian Apocryphal Texts for the New Millennium: Achievements, Prospects, and Challenges (30 min)
Istvan Czachesz, University of Groningen
Cognitive Constructs of the Divine in Apocryphal Literature (30 min)

Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha

2:00 PM to 5:45 PM
Lecture Theatre - William Robertson

Petri Luomanen, University of Helsinki
Jewish-Christian Gospels: A New Reconstruction (30 min)
Bas van Os, University of Groningen
The Date and Provenance of the Gospel of Philip (30 min)
Johanna Brankaer, Université Catholique de Louvain
Myth as Demonstration: The Program of On the Origin of the World (NHC II, 5; XIII, 2) (30 min)
Break (45 min)
Vahan Hovhanessian, St. Nersess Armenian Seminary
The Apocryphal Acts of Thomas: A Glance at a Lost Original or an Orthodox Revision? (30 min)
Jon Ma Asgeirsson, University of Iceland
Between the God of the Hebrews and the God of the Sun: Building the Kingdom of Heaven in the Latin Passio-Version of the Acts of Thomas (30 min)
Paul G. Schneider, University of South Florida
The Johannine Origins and Purpose of the Lord's Secret Sacrament in the Acts of John (30 min)
Abstracts are available for each paper, but I don't have time to put in the links. To get them, go to this page and enter "pseudepigrapha" as a keyword.
IN THE MAIL -- my review copy of:
Philip Alexander, Mystical Texts: Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice And Related Manuscripts (Companion to the Qumran Scrolls 7; London: Clark, 2006)
SOME ODD PSEUDO-HISTORY appears in an essay by Genevieve Cora Fraser entitled "Kerry Sponsors Collective Punishment of Palestinians on Behalf of Israel." It appears in a number of places but seems to have originated with AMIN. I have nothing to say about the main thesis of the piece, but this bit caught my eye during my usual Google searches:
To set the record straight, Jesus was a Palestinian but not a Jew. He was of Arabic origin, though religiously a Hebrew, and spoke Aramaic. This also means that the Jews could not possibly have been responsible for the drama that led to the crucifixion, despite some nasty Christian accusations and scape-goating. The word Jew was coined in the 10th century to describe the European converts.
Where does one start with something like this?

1. Our central source for information about Jesus is the New Testament. All four Gospels present Jesus as a Jew. Matthew 1 and Luke 3 give genealogies. He is explicitly called a Jew (by the Samaritan woman) in John 4:9. The Roman soldiers sarcastically call him "King of the Jews" in Mark 15:18 and Pilate puts a placard with the same title on the cross in 15:26. And in general, Jesus' entire environment is Jewish through and through.

2. It is difficult to figure out what Fraser means by "Palestinian." Her usage is an anachronism for Jesus' time. There were Jews (Yehudiyyim or Ioudaioi) who had been native to the area for many centuries. In Jesus' time there likely were some indigenous non-Jews like the Syrophoenician woman from the region of Tyre and Sidon mentioned in Mark 7:24-30. (Matthew calls her a "Canaanite" in 15:22.) But Jesus clearly considered her an outsider and helped her only reluctantly.

Modern Palestinians likely have some genetic connection with people like her (with lots of Arab and Crusader genes mixed in), but culturally they have virtually nothing in common with them. They speak a very different language and follow monotheistic religions (Islam and Christianity) rather than West-Semitic polytheism. I don't know of positive evidence for "Canaanites" actually in Judea in the first century (drop me a note if you do), but it's likely enough there were some. Galilee was on the border of late-"Canaanite" (Phoenician) cities and I don't doubt that a fair number lived in Galilee as well, although current evidence points to it being predominantly Jewish.

Modern Palestinians certainly have a long connection with the land, and any national identity is necessarily a cultural construct, but to call anyone in the first century a "Palestinian" in the modern sense is a big leap of logic. It is a much greater leap than calling Ioudaioi and Yehudiyyim (Yehudayyin) in the first century "Jews," since besides the long geographic presence and the genetic connection, there is a cultural and linguistic continuity and even a continuity in the use of the name (see next point). In any case, Jesus was not a "Palestinian" except in the sense that he lived in a region that was called "Palestine" (deriving and generalizing from "Philistia") quite a lot since about the second century CE.

3. The word "Jew comes" from the Hebrew word יהודי (member of the tribe of Judah) which is found in the Hebrew Bible and, once or twice, in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The earliest extrabiblical appearance of which I am aware is the Aramaic form יהודיא in the fifth century BCE Elephantine papyri (more here). The Greek Ioudaios, very common in literature of Jesus' time, including the New Testament, comes from the Hebrew. By the first century it clearly had an ethnic-religious sense over and beyond any geographical sense. The Latin Iudaeus is the source of our word "Jew."

4. I agree with Ms. Fraser that, whatever the circumstances of Jesus' death (and in my opinion we don't have much reliable information about those circumstances), Christian scapegoating of Jews over it is both wicked and idiotic. But how Jesus supposedly actually being an Arab would bear on the whole issue isn't very clear to me.

As always with these things, when I find tendentious errors in an article or book which could have been corrected with the most basic research, it doesn't make me trust the author about other things I don't know about.

UPDATE: I've added a third paragraph to #2 to clarify what I was trying to say there.
JEWISH SHAMANS? They should read my book. (Not the one up in the right corner, one of the others.)

Thursday, April 27, 2006

DEATH MIASMA is posing a threat to the newly expanded Knesset:
Burial caves raise controversy

By ETGAR LEFKOVITS (Jerusalem Post

First, Jews of the priestly class were instructed to veer left after a cave housing centuries-old ancient graves was uncovered underneath the city's main north-south road.

Next, work on Jerusalem's Museum of Tolerance was abruptly stopped after an ancient Muslim cemetery was found on the site, and Islamic leaders petitioned the High Court of Justice against the construction.

Now, the discovery of Second Temple period graves during a three-year expansion project at the Knesset has set off a ruckus among religious cohenimMKs concerned with violating ancient Jewish law.

THE DA VINCI CODE JUDGE gets in on the act:
Judge joins Da Vinci fun with a code of his own

By Ian Evans and Steve Bird (The Times

Can you break the code? Read the judgment in full and send your ideas to our weblog

IT HAS provided global intrigue and controversy but the enigma that is The Da Vinci Code is not over yet.

In another twist to the publishing phenomenon, it was disclosed yesterday that the judge in the recent plagiarism court case included a coded message in his written judgment.

You just can't make this stuff up. Read the rest and see if you can solve the code.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A NEW ISSUE OF THE JOURNAL OF SEMITIC STUDIES (51.1, Spring 2006) is out. Here's the table of contents:
Holger Gzella
Die Entstehung Des Artikels Im Semitischen: Eine ‘Phönizische’ Perspektive
J Semitic Studies 2006 51: 1-18; doi:10.1093/jss/fgi080

Ilsung Andrew Yun
A Case of Linguistic Transition: The Nerab Inscriptions
J Semitic Studies 2006 51: 19-43; doi:10.1093/jss/fgi081

Rivka Shemesh
Direct Discourse Markers in Mishnaic Hebrew
J Semitic Studies 2006 51: 45-58; doi:10.1093/jss/fgi082

Matthew P. Anstey
The Grammatical-Lexical Cline in Tiberian Hebrew
J Semitic Studies 2006 51: 59-84; doi:10.1093/jss/fgi083

Adam H. Becker
The Discourse on Priesthood (Bl Add 18295, ff. 137b–140b): An Anti-Jewish text on the abrogation of the Israelite Priesthood
J Semitic Studies 2006 51: 85-115; doi:10.1093/jss/fgi084

Mark S. Wagner
Arabic Influence on Sabazian Poetry in Yemen
J Semitic Studies 2006 51: 117-136; doi:10.1093/jss/fgi085

Leigh N. Chipman and Efraim Lev
Syrups from the Apothecary's Shop: a Genizah Fragment Containing one of the Earliest Manuscripts of Minhaj Al-Dukkan
J Semitic Studies 2006 51: 137-168; doi:10.1093/jss/fgi086
Plus lots of interesting book reviews.

Requires a paid personal or institutional subscription to access. But you can read the abstracts for free.
MARY MAGDALENE AS A FALLEN ANGEL AND VAMPIRE. Not surprisingly, the Gospel of Judas is involved. (Or a Gospel of Judas, anyway.) One for Joss Whedon?
THE GREAT POINTING CRISIS: Peter Williams alerts us to one of the great challenges of our generation. But there is hope.
"SO YOU WANT TO BE AN ARCHAEOLOGIST?" Brian Fagan has some advice in the current issue (May-June 2006) of Archaeology Magazine. And AIA President Jane Waldbaum comments in "A Hidden Discipline." Also, there's an excerpt from the outrageously funny Zombie Survival Guide on the history of zombie outbreaks: "Archaeology of the Undead."
TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH -- The BBC has an article that surveys the archaeology of the Temple Mount and its attendant political complications:
Jerusalem's volatile archaeology

By Malcolm Billings
Presenter, Trench Warfare: The Politics of Archaeology

One of the most visited archaeological sites in Jerusalem is also charged with emotion that has erupted in riot and bloodshed.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

MIQRA is a new discussion group on the Hebrew Bible sponsored by the Society of Biblical Literature. Here is the description:
Miqra is an online site for scholarly dialogue about literary, linguistic, archaeological, social, political, historical, and ideological issues in studying the Hebrew Bible. It is not for discussion of contemporary religious interpretations of texts or (above all!) confessional/doctrinal matters. The assumption is that contributors will have the necessary expertise in Hebrew and cognate languages; knowledge of ANE history, literature, and culture; familiarity with the ever-expanding reading strategies ("methods") used in biblical studies; and an interest in collegial discussion – all of which should be hallmarks of our discipline. This is a moderated list, which means that your comments will be screened to make certain posts conform to the above standards. My interest is not in limiting debate but promoting scholarly discussion free of ad hominem attacks and other types of heavy-handed rhetoric.
REFUTING THE DA VINCI CODE is shooting fish in a barrel, but these fish do keep on coming back. Inspired by the imminent release of the film, the Associated Press has a new rebuttal article that quotes lots of big names and makes the usual points.
As film arrives, ‘Da Vinci Code’ debate renews
Churches, scholars at issue with many of the novel’s central themes

Monday, April 24, 2006

BLOGGER IS JAMMED. This is the third message I've tried to post today. The first two are listed as published on my Edit Posts page, but when I tried to publish them, they publish cycle went into an infinite loop until it timed out and neither ever showed up on the blog. I can't find anything about planned outages, so I don't know what the problem is -- perhaps another system failure. I'm assuming the posts will appear eventually. Sorry -- on behalf of Blogger -- for the delay.

UPDATE (9:18 pm): Okay, Blogger is back. I had to republish all the posts, but here they are now.
HAROLD BLOOM'S BOOK Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine is reviewed by James Wood in The New Republic (requires free registration to access):
The review is entertaining, if purple ("This being Bloom, everything must be worn three or four times at a stretch, like a waif's underwear ..."), and concludes that Bloom is a closet theologian and a Gnostic:
But of course theology has not altogether disappeared. There is a covert, unconfessed theology behind Bloom's theology of aesthetics. For there is indeed a sense in which he simply does not believe in Christ as he believes in Yahweh. He would murmur that he does not believe in Christ "as a literary creation"; that his disbelief has not been suspended by the Gospels as Genesis and Exodus suspends it. But I suspect that this is not just a literary belief. How is it different, really, from the beliefs of thousands of quite un-Bloomian Jews? Like them, Bloom rightly prefers Yahweh to Christ. For him, Yahweh is God and Jesus is only a man pretending to be God: standard fare. What else can it mean to say that the New Testament is not as successful as the Torah because the Torah "is God" whereas the New Testament merely argues that "a man has replaced Scripture"? Isn't this just a way of saying that Jesus is not the Messiah?

Bloom will not admit to this kind of actually theological belief, because he is wedded to the sole theology of art, to pondering the Bible only as what he calls "high literature." A theological belief would need theological argument, but Bloom prefers a belief beyond argument, a belief about which one cannot ever say that so-and-so is "mistaken" to hold it: "If Smith was mistaken, then so were they, but I hardly know just what it could mean to say that the Kabbalists or Joseph Smith were mistaken." Instead, Bloom prefers the pictures and branching hypotheses of Gnosticism, a system he never seems to think of as theological, doubtless because it seems to him so boldly fictive or poetic.

Yet the most powerful part of Jesus and Yahweh, the moment when the book really comes alive, is when, ironically enough, Bloom is being theological. Near the end, he gives a brief summary of his cherished Gnostic and Kabbalistic beliefs, and then launches a series of anguished laments. Generally, Bloom's Gnosticism has been inert, theologically speaking--he seems to have so little interest in its fundamental raison d'être, which is to explain the large questions of theodicy; but at the end of his book Bloom gives voice to a kind of plangent Gnostic complaint, whereby he asks Yahweh, in effect, why he has abandoned us--and more particularly, why he has abandoned the Jews. Where did God go? Bloom wonders if Yahweh is off in space, nursing his lovelessness. Or perhaps, following Jack Miles, God has deserted us because he has withdrawn into the contradictions of his own character?
Sounds kind of depressing. But I haven't read the book.
Material witness
By Joshua Schwartz

"Tarbut Khomrit Be'eretz Yisrael Beyemai Hatalmud" ("Material Culture in Eretz-Israel in the Talmudic Period") by Daniel Sperber, Yad Yitzhak Ben Zvi and Bar-Ilan University, Volume II, 185 pages

"We (yeshiva students) want to know what Abaye and Rava said, while they (academic researchers) want to know what they wore," goes a wry comment attributed to the yeshiva world. No one denies that the essence of Talmud study is the discussion of the text itself and not the historical, social or literary background of the issue or its linguistic and philological features. However, it is impossible to properly understand halahka (Jewish law) and aggadah (homiletics) without familiarity with the lifestyle of the Mishnah and Talmud periods, which requires broad cultural knowledge and a solid grounding in ancient languages, archeology and history.

Talmudic literature is full of references to everyday life that are important for understanding the text even on the simplest level. For those reading or studying this material many generations later, the physical reality of those days is not always comprehensible, and this creates an obstacle to "real learning." Daniel Sperber's book, which presents the reader with various features of life in Talmudic times and illuminates aspects of the material culture in those days, demonstrates how essential critical scientific research is for understanding the Talmudic issues.

(Via the Agade list.)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

MY E-MAIL ADDRESS above in the masthead (blogger at paleojudaica dot com) is now working again. I seem to have done something to glitch it when I was following the impenetrable geekese instructions for renewing the domain name. But it's up and running again now. Sorry for any inconvenience.
SPEAKING OF ST. GEORGE, here's a conference announcement from the Hugoye list:
Subject: ARAM Forthcoming Conference

Dear Colleague,
I am writing again to update you on the progress of the ARAM Twenty Second International Conference on "Iconography and Mythology of Prophet Elijah, St. George and al-Khodor in the Syrian Orient", to be held at Oxford University, 4-6 July 2006.
The conference will start on Tuesday 4 July at 9am, finishing on Thursday 6 July at 5pm. Each speaker's paper is limited to 30 minutes, with an additional 10 minutes for discussion.
I would like to thank those who have already answered our first announcement of the ARAM conference, and they will receive soon the list of the speakers with the programme of the conference.
I would like also to inform you that we can still accept another five speakers, but we need their names before mid-May 2006.
If you know of academic colleagues who might like to contribute to the conference, please forward this message to them or send us their names and email addresses.
All papers given at the conference will be considered for publication in a
future edition of the ARAM periodical, subject to editorial review.
I am also writing to remind you of our ARAM new website
(, which aims to update our colleagues and friends on ARAM academic activities. ARAM has also its own new email address:
However, you can still use our current email address at Oxford University:
Both email addresses can reach our ARAM Society.

Thank you very much for your interest in our ARAM Society.
Yours sincerely,

Shafiq Abouzayd (Dr.)
ARAM Society
The Oriental Institute
Oxford University
Pusey Lane
Oxford OX1 2LE, UK.
Tel: ++44-1865-514041 Fax: ++44-1865-516824
THE SECRETS OF JUDAS, by James M. Robinson is reviewed in "The redemption of Judas" (Waterloo Record) by William Klassen. He starts with an third-century ivory carving that he thinks may have been made by the same group that produced the Gospel of Judas. He also defends the National Geographic Society and their consultants on the project, of whom he is one. Excerpt:
For all its strengths, Robinson's book also has some serious flaws. He offers an extremely biased account of the events and negotiations which led to the publishing of the Judas manuscript and its public release by the National Geographic Society. He makes serious accusations against the museum in Geneva which owns the codex and National Geographic.

Some of the accusations are patently based on rumour and are, to my mind, totally false. For example, he indicates that the people whom National Geographic brought in as consultants and swore to six months of secrecy, were paid handsomely. As he puts it, they "have been bought off (no doubt with considerably more than 30 pieces of silver) and sworn to silence on a stack of Bibles -- or on a stack of papyrus leaves." As one of those consultants, I can assure Robinson that not a penny was paid to me, let alone any pieces of silver.

Robinson criticizes the National Geographic for resorting to sensationalism, but on several occasions offers his own bits of sensationalism. The discovery of the Gospel of Judas is a sensational event. Moreover, the way in which the 1,700-year-old manuscript survived a group of camel drivers drawing lots for it, to say nothing of the conniving of antiquity dealers and 15 years of disintegration in a safety deposit box, is nothing short of a miracle.
HAPPY EASTER to those celebrating in the Orthodox tradition.

UPDATE: The Department of Cosmic Synchronicities reports that today is also St. George's Day and both the birth and the death date of William Shakespeare.