Saturday, October 14, 2006

Descendants of King David to gather in Jerusalem
Friday, October 13, 2006

Ehrlich. Polak. Safrin. Roth.

Genealogists say these are a few of the 100 or so family names whose bearers are likely to be Jewish descendants of King David, often considered the greatest of the ancient kings of Israel.

More than 1,000 Jewish descendants of King David from around the world who can lay claim to such a heritage will participate in an historic reunion in Jerusalem in May that will also mark the official inauguration of the Worldwide Davidic Dynasty Genealogy Center and Museum in the Old City.

I'm afraid I'm skeptical. Granting that there was a historical David (and I do, although what we can know about him is another question), I still would say that it is exceedingly unlikely that accurate genealogies back to him have been preserved during the last 3000 years and, even if they were, there would be a negligible amount of David's genetic material in any surviving lineal descendants today.
A NEW MOVIE ABOUT ESTHER is reviewed in the Orlando Sentinel:
One Night With the King (3 stars out of 5)

Roger Moore
| Sentinel Movie Critic
Posted October 13, 2006
Oct 11, 2006

One Night With the King has lavish costumes, giggling harems, a vast ancient city, huge armies, black riders and blood feuds. But no hobbits.

It's a talky imitation DeMille -- no sex, little action, but plenty of intrigues, treachery and comeuppance.

An adequate cast and competent direction make this the most ambitious Biblical period piece since The Passion of the Christ.

It needed a better script and a Charlton Heston -- a magnetic, scenery-chewing leading man. But is has its Yul Brynner. King has charismatic villains aplenty.

For some background on FoxFaith, see here.
Hollywood took another step toward America's vast and apparently growing Christian audience on Tuesday, as 20th Century Fox unveiled a new division, FoxFaith, that will release up to a dozen religious-oriented films each year.
UPDATE (15 October): G. M. Grena has an extended review, with pictures, at the LMLK blog.
TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: The proposed new minaret receives coverage in the London Times:
Minaret that can't rise above politics

By Stephen Farrell

Plans for a 130ft tower on the holiest site of two religions will have to overcome some big problems
THE first minaret of its kind for 600 years exists only as a computer-generated model.

But soon it may rise 42 metres (130ft) above the ancient walls of Jerusalem, calling the faithful to prayer at the al-Aqsa mosque on perhaps the most disputed site in the world.

King Abdullah II of Jordan this week announced a competition to design a fifth minaret for the walls of the Haram al-Sharif-Temple Mount complex, in the Old City, imprinting his Hashemite dynasty on the third-holiest site in Islam.

Nothing much new in the article, but it does summarize some of the recent history of the site and the Jordanian Government's relation to it.

Friday, October 13, 2006

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH -- More on the proposed new minaret:
Jordan plans new Temple Mt. minaret

Israel has not objected to Jordanian plans to construct a fifth minaret on the Temple Mount, and the Hashemite Kingdom is pressing ahead with plans to do so early next year, a senior Jordanian official said Wednesday.

The minaret, which will be constructed on the eastern wall of the Temple Mount near the Golden Gate, will at 42 meters be the highest of the minarets on the Mount and the first to be built in more than 600 years, Dr. Raief Najim, vice chairman of the committee running the project, told The Jerusalem Post in a telephone interview from Amman.

However, the Israeli Prime Minister's Office says that no decision has been made yet.
To answer the easy part of this question, there is no relationship between the reference to Melchizedek in the Mass and the "Order of Melchizedek." The "Reunification Church In The Order of Melchizedek" is a religious group perhaps incorrectly associated with New Age faith traditions, which teaches that humans can have a special relationship with God, that all humans are spiritual beings and that one can gain spiritual instructions which enable one to have a spiritual lifestyle and unique relationship with God. They claim that the order of the Melchizedek priesthood has existed for 4,000 years and is the oldest priesthood in the world, and that the spiritually mature may have a profound and direct relationship with God. This group has no relationship with the Catholic Mass or hierarchy.
Gosh, the things I learn from running this blog.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

JUST WATCHED the BBC's Ancient Rome – The Rise and Fall Of An Empire: Rebellion, which tells the story of the Great Revolt against Rome in Judea in the late 60s CE. It's based on Josephus' narrative and follows it pretty uncritically. But from a dramatic perspective that was probably the best way to handle it. I don't recall the detail's of Josephus' account well enough to have caught errors. I didn't notice any, but that doesn't mean there weren't some. In any case, the program gives a one-hour overview of Josephus' version of the Great Revolt, and anyone who knew nothing about the revolt would have a fair idea of what it was all about after watching the show. The acting was good and the portrayal of Josephus was sympathetic, but it left one with realistic reservations about him.

This is the first episode of the series I've watched, but next week's is on Constantine and I'll probably watch it too.
OUR AWAY DAY, as it turned out, was in this hotel:
Ulster faces its 'one-off' chance in St Andrews

By Elsa McLaren, and David Sharrock of The Times at St Andrews

British and Irish leaders urged Northern Ireland’s divided parties to seize a “one-off” chance to revive self-government, as they arrived at St Andrews for three days of talks about the troubled province.

Security was tight at the wet and blustery Scottish golf resort as Ulster's politicians spoke ahead of the talks that will be hosted by Tony Blair and the Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern.

Both leaders have vowed that they will not back down over a November deadline for reaching a self-rule deal, but face a tough task convincing Reverend Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionists to share government with Sinn Fein, and to persuade Sinn Fein to accept the new Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

Arriving at the talks, both Mr Paisley and the leader of Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams, said they expected to reach agreement by November 24 but suggested that it was up to the other side to give ground.

No, I didn't see any of the principals, but I hope they do reach an agreement. Security was tight, with many hundreds of police etc. present, and their operations center seemed to be the same outbuilding my room was in.

Anyhow, I'm home. More from me later.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I'M OFF to an administrators' "away day" this evening and most of tomorrow. Blogging tomorrow, if any, will be late. If you've e-mailed me lately about blog-related matters, I've been very busy and probably haven't replied and am not likely to be able to any time soon. Apologies.
TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: First, a minaret, and now a synagogue?
Synagogue Planned For Temple Mount, Hashemites to Add Minaret
20:30 Oct 10, '06 / 18 Tishrei 5767
by Ezra HaLevi (Arutz Sheva)

MK Uri Ariel (National Union) is drawing up plans to construct a synagogue on the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site. Jordan's King plans to build a fifth minaret on the site as well.

The synagogue would be build upon the Temple Mount, but in an area that is indisputably not within the areas that require immersion and other preparations, according to Jewish law.

Ariel says that the synagogue would not change the Muslim status quo on the mount, which is home to the Al-Aksa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.

“This is not a new idea,” Ariel stressed, “it has been brought up and considered countless times since the [1967] Six Day War [during which the Temple Mount was liberated from Jordanian occupation –ed.].”

The plan will be submitted to the Jerusalem municipality and the Committee for Design and Construction for approval. Ariel says that every aspect of the plan will be submitted to leading Torah scholars for approval.

I've expressed my view about any new construction on the Temple Mount here.
BIRGER PEARSON will be lecturing this Friday on "Discoveries in Early Christianity: Gnostic Manuscripts and the Gospel of Judas" in the History Forum at California State University, Bakersfield.
A PANEL DISCUSSION ON THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS is being held tomorrow at the Pacific Science Center in association with the Seattle Scrolls exhibition. One of the panelists, Ian Werrett, is a former doctoral student of mine.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

THE SBL FORUM FOR OCTOBER has lots of goodies. Some highlights (but have a look yourself):

Stefan C. Reif has a piece on "A Fresh Set of Genizah Texts." This is a nice summary of the contents of the Cairo Geniza in general, with special reference to biblical studies. But it also surveys the contents of the recently discovered Cairo Geniza material in Geneva. Excerpt:
What then has been added to all this wealth of data by the new finds in Geneva, recently described for us by Professor Rosenthal? Apparently, these 350 items constitute a microcosm of Genizah material, since all the topics that are already represented in existing Genizah collections around the world are also to be found among the Geneva texts. Here too the Hebrew Bible has a place of honor, and there is a sixth century palimpsest containing a Greek Bible translation as well as fragments of text, translation, and Masoretic comment. There are also remnants of Sa'adya Gaon's translation of the Pentateuch into Arabic and also of the translation and commentary he prepared for the book of Daniel. As often in Genizah collections, the work of that tenth century head of the Sura academy in Iraq appears and reappears among the Geneva manuscripts, sometimes in the form of previously unknown comments and compositions. These will undoubtedly attract the attention of Bible scholars, Hebraists, and philologists, and one hopes that the texts are being conserved quickly and will soon be digitized so that they can be widely accessible.

Meanwhile, Rosenthal has enlightened us about those items that are of special interest to himself and his colleagues. There are fragments with precise dates, always a welcome discovery for paleographers, since it assists with the process of assigning dates to the vast majority of items that remain undated. The Mishnah is well represented in versions from the Jewish homeland, mostly with Tiberian pointing but in one case with the Babylonian variety, and sometimes reflecting a different order of the tractates. There are folios from the Babylonian and Palestinian Talmuds and it is especially exciting to hear that some of these belong to a single codex, the original parts of which are today scattered among libraries in Cambridge, Oxford, and New York. The poems include one that eulogizes a bridegroom who died before his wedding day and another by Dunash ibn Labrat that confirms a textual restoration suggested thirty years ago by the late Professor Ezra Fleischer. There is also additional evidence for the recovery of the liturgical rite of the land of Israel in pre-Crusader times, a lengthy astrological treatise, and medical recipes.

Among what may be dubbed the more "historical" items is a bifolium on vellum that recounts in Hebrew the journeys of Alexander of Macedon. This will be of special interest to those who see a growing interest in history and chronology on the part of some Jewish communities of the early medieval period. There are also documents and letters that provide additional information about personalities, particularly from the eleventh and twelfth centuries, who are already known to us from other Genizah collections. Some of these were distinguished rabbis, but there are also more ordinary folk and in one case a somewhat disreputable figure, at least in the eyes of the religious establishment of the day. Wuhsha was a wealthy woman banker who lived with a Muslim and bore him a child. This so distressed the rabbis that she was ejected from the synagogue on Yom Kippur. This did not discourage her from leaving money to Jewish communal institutions in her last will, and this undoubtedly gave her the last word in the controversy.
Read it all.

Stephen C. Carlson has identified another manuscript forgery of Mark. This guy just doesn't let up. "'Archaic Mark' (MS 2427) and the Finding of a Manuscript Fake."

Carl Kinbar writes on "Open Access and the SBL." Much of the material he cites as examples has to do with ancient Judaism.
TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: More on the planned fifth minaret to be added to the Al Aqsa Mosque:
Design sought for new minaret for Al Aqsa mosque

October 9, 2006

AMMAN -- Jordan's King Abdullah II Monday announced the launch of a competition to design a fifth minaret for Jerusalem's Al Aqsa mosque - Islam's third holiest shrine.

"Jordan will build a fifth minaret at the blessed Al Aqsa mosque," King Abdullah II said at a meeting of the state committee that has continued to oversee the maintenance of the shrine since Jordan's 1948-67 administration of East Jerusalem.

He announced the launch of a "competition for the design of a fifth minaret at Al Aqsa Mosque that reflects the Islamic significance and sanctity of the mosque."

For past coverage see here and here.
A NEW EDITION of Encyclopaedia Judaica is coming soon:
Second edition of Encyclopaedia Judaica launched in Frankfurt
By Oliver Bradley Updated: 09/Oct/2006 22:18

FRANKFURT (EJP)--- The December release of the second edition of the Encyclopaedia Judaica was announced at this week’s Frankfurt Book Fair. More than thirty years after first publishing the Encyclopaedia Judaica, Thomson Gale, part of the Thomson Corporation and Keter Publishing House have renewed their partnership to prepare a second, completely revised edition.


The Encyclopaedia Judaica, Second Edition will incorporate more than three decades of changes and the latest scholarship - such as new archaeological sites, theories and analytical methodologies.

It will feature original works by top scholars representing all major universities and centres of research in Jewish studies which will expand the scope and relevance of the first edition. According to Flynn, even more clarity and substance has been added through the substantial reworking of about 12,000 entries.

“The Holocaust segment alone features more than 50 entirely new articles,” Flynn said. In addition, all bibliographies were brought up-to-date.

“Nothing has been compromised for this second edition,” [publisher Jay] Flynn said. He told EJP that the Encyclopaedia will feature more than 22,000 signed entries on Jewish life, culture, history and religion, including 2,500 brand-new entries and some 11,000 updated entries across all topics. It will provide an exhaustive and organized overview of Jewish life and knowledge from the Second Temple period to the contemporary State of Israel, from Rabbinic to modern Yiddish literature. Kabbalah, Zionism, Jewish contributions to world cultures, gender issues and New World geographic areas of the United States, Canada and Latin America are dealt with in-depth.


Monday, October 09, 2006


Adios, Og, and the camel you rode in on!

(Via the Agade list.)
KING DAVID'S SPA? Well, maybe.
Has King David's spa been uncovered?
Jerusalem digs reveal a tunnel possibly leading to the king's pool

Ofer Petersburg (Ynet News)
Published: 10.07.06, 16:07

There's a buzz of excitement among archeologists. In recent days, archeological digs in Jerusalem revealed a tunnel that, according to a number of estimates, leads to a pool used by King David.

If this is as important as it sounds, I'm surprised it hasn't gotten more coverage.

(Via Archaeologica News.)

UPDATE: Christopher Heard comments at Higgaion.
SEAN KINGSLEY'S theory about the fate of the Temple treasures is covered in Arutz Sheva:
British Historian Claims to Have Found the Temple Treasures
16:42 Oct 08, '06 / 16 Tishrei 5767
by Gil Zohar

What happened to the 50 tons of gold, silver and sacred treasures looted from Herod's Temple following the Roman legionnaires' sack of Jerusalem on Tisha b'Av in the year 70 CE?

The Arch of Titus in Rome, erected shortly after the death of Titus who reigned as emperor from 79 to 81, clearly depicts Roman soldiers bearing on their shoulders the golden candelabrum, silver trumpets and bejewelled Table of the Divine Presence which the Roman emperor Vespasian and his son Titus carted back to Rome as trophies of war. Between 75 CE and the early 5th century, the treasure remained on public display in the Temple of Peace in Rome's Forum. Many Jews believe – almost as an article of faith – that the Temple artifacts remain there in Rome, secreted away in vaults beneath the Vatican.

But in a newly published book, British historian Sean Kingsley, basing himself on untapped historical texts and new archaeological sources, argues that the treasures were removed from Rome after the Vandal invasion of 455 CE.

EUGENE ULRICH is giving a lecture and seminar on the Dead Sea Scrolls in Missoula, Montana.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

BART EHRMAN is interviewed by the Charlotte Observer about his new book on The Gospel of Judas:
Who was Judas?
UNC professor's book explores provocative gospel's message about apostle, Jesus

Special to the Observer

The National Geographic Society caused an international stir in April by publishing an English version of the Gospel of Judas, a mid-3rd- to early 4th-century Coptic translation of a Greek manuscript dating from about A.D. 150. The controversy centered on the text's perspective of the apostle Judas Iscariot's betrayal of Jesus.

Dr. Bart Ehrman, James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at UNC Chapel Hill, was one of a handful of scholars National Geographic asked to authenticate the manuscript.

This week marked the release of his book, "The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot: A New Look at Betrayer and Betrayed" (Oxford University Press, 224 pages, $22). Ehrman spoke with Observer special correspondent Jeanette Leardi about what the gospel contains and what it might mean to Christians today.

What is important about the discovery of the Gospel of Judas?

It's the first gospel we have that tells the story of Judas' betrayal from his own perspective. Rather than being portrayed as the villain of the story, it turns out that he's the hero. I would say it's the most important discovery of a Christian text in the last 60 years.

This interpretation has now been challenged by Professor Louis Painchaud of Laval University, as noted here. The interpretation of poorly preserved ancient texts is frequently very difficult and the meaning of The Gospel of Judas and Judas' place in it will have to fought out in the specialist journals and monographs. But I certainly agree with Ehrman that it is an extremely important discovery -- for the history of second-century Gnosticism rather than for first-century Christian origins.