Saturday, April 14, 2007

Thursday, April 12, 2007

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: The Turkish delegation's report on the Mughrabi Gate excavation should be out in a few days, according to Today's Zaman.
Al-Aqsa report to be presented to PM Erdoğan within days
A report that is being drawn up by a group of technical experts, following an April visit to Jerusalem where they surveyed archeological work near the revered al-Aqsa Mosque, is expected to be finished and introduced to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a few days, Foreign Ministry spokesman Levent Bilman said Wednesday.

The Israeli archeological dig near the Muslim holy site sparked widespread protests amid fears that the work could damage the site. The Turkish delegation’s visit to Jerusalem, inspection of the site and eventual preparation of a report are all the result of an agreement reached in early February between Erdoğan and his Israeli counterpart Ehud Olmert, during the latter’s visit to the Turkish capital.

ARCHAEOLOGIST JODI MAGNESS is profiled by UNC Chapel Hill's Daily Tar Heel:
Students enraptured by Magness' teaching style
By: Deborah Neffa, Staff Writer

While some people have a hard time memorizing a five-minute speech, professor Jodi Magness can talk passionately about religious studies for more than an hour - without using so much as a note card.

About 200 students, some of whom resorted to sitting on the floor of Murphey 116, listened intently Tuesday as Magness narrated a tale about the Roman siege of Masada, a site of ancient palaces in Israel.

And although many typically consider history lectures dry and trite, Magness' unique teaching style of using vivid anecdotes kept students on the edge of their seats.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

TALPIOT TOMB WATCH: The Jerusalem Post notes changes on the Discovery Channel's website.
Jesus tomb film scholars backtrack

Several prominent scholars who were interviewed in a bitterly contested documentary that suggests that Jesus and his family members were buried in a nondescript ancient Jerusalem burial cave have now revised their conclusions, including the statistician who claimed that the odds were 600:1 in favor of the tomb being the family burial cave of Jesus of Nazareth, a new study on the fallout from the popular documentary shows.


Pfann's paper reported that a statement on the Discovery Channel's Web site, which previously read "a statistical study commissioned by the broadcasters...concludes that the probability factor is 600 to 1 in favor of this being the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth and his family," in keeping with Feuerverger's statement, has been altered and now reads, "a statistical study commissioned by the broadcasters... concludes that the probability factor is in the order of 600 to 1 that an equally 'surprising' cluster of names would arise purely by chance under given assumptions."

Another sentence on the same Web site stating that Feuerverger had concluded it was highly probable that the tomb, located in the southeastern residential Jerusalem neighborhood of Talpiot, was the Jesus family tomb - the central point of the film - has also been changed. It now reads: "It is unlikely that an equally surprising cluster of names would have arisen by chance under purely random sampling."

Readers of Mark Goodacre's New Testament Gateway blog will have known about this since the middle of March. Once again the mainstream media comes trailing in behind the Blogosphere.
Samson, the Jewish suicide bomber
By israelinsider staff April 10, 2007

This April the Canadian Victoria Philharmonic Choir is performing Handel's Samson, but with a different spin, thanks to Artistic Director Simon Capet. The Irishman managed to transform the biblical story of the Samson into the story of a Jewish suicide bomber in pre-state Palestine.

According to the biblical story, Samson has superhuman strength, but fails to follow God's instructions. After being captured and blinded by his enemy, the Philistines, he prays and repents to God and is able to bring down a Philistine temple, thus killing everyone inside, including himself.

Musically, Capet left Handel's work unchanged. However, in the climactic scene in Capet's version, there is no trace of the Philistine temple. Instead, Samson's mother unbuttons her coat, removes the explosives belt she had concealed, and attaches it to Samson's beaten body. She then helps him put on a shirt and he is led offstage. Moments later there is the blast of an explosion and a burst of light offstage.

The Samson story is morally repugnant in any number of ways, but it's a big stretch to transform him into a suicide bomber. Besides the fact that, as the article notes, there have not been any Jewish suicide bombers. This sounds to me like one of those artsy modernizing adaptations that regularly ruin Shakespeare and the like.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

MORE JEWISH-TEMPLE DENIAL, this time from the Chief Palestinian Justice, according to the Palestine News Network:
Dozens of settlers enter grounds of Al Aqsa Mosque
(Jerusalem) Palestine News Network
Sunday, 08 April 2007

After the Chief Palestinian Justice warned of an impending attempt by Jewish fundamentalists to storm Al Aqsa Mosque on Sunday, dozens did.

Sheikh Taysir Al Tamimi said that the support that the Israeli government gives not only to political, but religious extremists, is an illustration of its own fundamentalism. The military did not try to stop the settlers, but instead provided them protection.

“This provocation, for which the military provides full support and protection, directly wrongs the religious feelings of Muslims."

He continued, "It is sinful to desecrate the sanctity of the Mosque and is a flagrant abuse of the role of worship.”

The Sheikh pointed out the political folly of claims that an ancient Jewish temple exists in the area. He said, “The claims of the alleged temple are pure fabrications which fact, archaeologists and history prove wrong. The work of the extremists is contrary to heavenly and divine laws, and also to international law.”

My emphasis. I'm not sure what the "storming" of the site by religious extremists is about, but whatever happened seems not to have attracted any attention by the major media outlets.
RICHARD FREUND is lecturing on the Cave of the Letters at Washington University in St. Louis:
Dead Sea cave archaeology is focus of Richard Freund lecture, April 20

By Gerry Everding

April 9, 2007 -- Richard Freund, director of the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Hartford, will discuss "Temple Treasures in the Dead Sea Caves: New Insights from Archaeology" at 11 a.m. April 20 in Room 301, Lab Sciences Building, Danforth Campus.


Monday, April 09, 2007

TOO BUSY TO BLOG right now and the news seems to be quiet anyhow. But you might want to have a look at posts on blogging and tenure by Mark Goodacre and April DeConick. Also, happy second blogiversary to Tyler Williams's Codex blog. And Pete Williams is blogging on Sogdian and Middle Persian Psalters.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

ST. VERONICA has been deleted from the Via Dolorosa by the Vatican because she comes from apocryphal traditions. Tony Chartand-Burke takes exception.

I have no theological stake in this issue, but, for what it's worth, the New Testament quotes from lost and not-so-lost apocrypha and pseudepigrapha from time to time (see, e.g., 2 Timothy 3:8 and Jude 9 and 14-15). So in purely historical terms the biblical corpus cannot be sharply separated from noncanonical texts.
ANNIE JAUBERT'S THEORY that Jesus celebrated the Last Supper according to the Qumran solar calendar seems to have been mentioned recently by the Pope. The theory, first published half a century ago in French, is being "hailed as radical" by the press.
ANOTHER 60TH-ANNIVERSARY ROUNDUP on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Looks like an accurate and well done summary of the mainstream scholarly views on the Scrolls.
Dead Sea Scrolls fuel imagination

Found 60 years ago, they remain iconic

By Craig Nelson
Cox News Service
April 8, 2007

KIBBUTZ KALIA, Israel -- Whenever fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls are put on exhibition anywhere in the world, throngs of religious believers crowd in front of display cases.

The fragments are faded, some even black, with age and the effects of the amino acids in the animal skins on which they were written. Most are illegible.

Still, the ancient scrolls, discovered 60 years ago this year, have an enduring grip on the imagination and offer important insights of life in ancient Israel at the dawn of Christianity.

HAPPY EASTER to all those celebrating. More on Easter here.