Saturday, June 13, 2009

I'M IN NAPLES at the Centro di Spiritualita. Just checked in. E-mail access will be sporadic but I'll do the best I can.
I'M OFF TO NAPLES for the Enoch Seminar. I'm not presenting a paper, but I'm responding to one. I'm told that there is Internet access, but I don't know the details yet. I've preposted this message, am in transit, and expect to arrive in Naples this evening. Blogging will continue in the coming week as time and convenience permit.

Friday, June 12, 2009

RAPHAEL GOLB has been indicted in a Manhattan court (AP):
He is the son of Dr. Norman Golb of the University of Chicago. Prosecutors say the defendant used Internet aliases to falsely accuse Dr. Lawrence Schiffman of New York University of plagiarizing his father's work.
Background here.
THE TALMUD is available as an iPhone app.
ODED GOLAN is interviewed by The Media Line about the Israel Forgery Trial. Excerpt:
In an exclusive interview with The Media Line at his Tel Aviv home, Golan said he was confident that new scientific research undertaken by defense experts would finally exonerate him. Prosecution scientists had accused Golan of faking patina – a thin layer of biological material covering ancient items – in order to make the inscriptions on the artifacts seem old.

“No, I never faked any antiquity,” Golan told The Media Line. “During the last several years there were several tests and examinations of those items by prominent experts from different countries in different laboratories and I think we succeeded to prove that these inscriptions could not have been inscribed in the last century. There is a thin layer of patina – it’s a thin layer of crust made actually by a micro-organism that was developed inside the grooves of the inscription and this product made by the micro-organism could not have been developed in less than a hundred years.”
Background here and follow the links.
JAMES MCGRATH of Exploring Our Matrix has published a new book:
The Only True God: Early Christian Monotheism in Its Jewish Context (University of Illinois Press)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

ARAMAIC WATCH: The new Kurdish language department at Artuklu University in Turkey is also planning on opening a Syriac language program:
First Kurdish language department to accept students in 2010

(Today's Zaman)

Artuklu University in the southeastern province of Mardin plans to start accepting students to Turkey's first Kurdish language and literature department in 2010 after all the preparations are completed, the rector of the university has said.

Speaking to the Anatolia news agency, the rector of Artuklu University, Serdar Bedii Omay, said preliminary preparations for the department have been completed and that they plan to start their education program with 20 students in 2010.

... Omay explained that they have also started preparations to create a Syriac language department and have received great support both from within Turkey and the world at large. Syriac people populate the Middle East and have lived side-by-side with Muslims in peace and prosperity in Mardin for centuries.

UPDATE: More Aramaic news: The Chaldean American Festival in Southfield Michigan.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

PETRA is the subject of yet another travel piece, this one in Ynet News:
A visit to marvelous Petra

People travel from near and far to see one of the seven wonders of the world. 'You need days to completely walk through Petra and see all of the monuments and even then there are still many caves which have yet to be excavated,' local tour guide explains

Stacey Maltin
Published: 06.09.09, 13:28 / Israel Travel

It is hard to believe that it was only two years ago that Petra in Jordan was officially named one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Constructed around 100 years B.C., and not discovered by the Western world until the 1800s, the ruins of the city that was carved out of rocks has remained largely intact, withstanding thousands of years of wind erosion.

The piece has some interesting details about tourism from Israel to Petra.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

THE ESSENES AND CHRISTIAN ORIGINS are the subject of a new essay posted on the Bible and Interpretation website:
The First One Hundred Years of Christianity in Jerusalem

One does not have to look far to see that many of these practices [Essene] were adopted by the early Christian community. They returned to that upper room after the death of Jesus. They were altogether there at Pentecost. They celebrated this according to the Essene calendar. (“Devout men “were present in Jerusalem.) They choose Matthias by lot (there is a house of Matthias mentioned in the copper scroll). Pentecost became the main feast for the early church. Baptism became the initiation rite of the new community; The Holy Spirit (not mentioned anywhere in the O.T.) is prominent in the Dead Sea Scrolls and in the literature of the early Jewish community. They celebrated a sacred meal. They practiced communal living. Both sects observed a community rule (Didache for Christians). There was a hierarchy of twelve for both. Times of prayer were the same. Healing was done by both groups. Could it all just be coincidence? We are told early on that a group of priests converted. They couldn’t have been Sadducees, who are shown as opposed to the Christian sect in the Acts. So who else? The only alternative was the Essenes.

Essay based on Jesus and the First Century of Christianity in Jerusalem (NJ: Paulist Press, 2008).

By Elizabeth McNamer
Assistant Professor of Religious Studies
Department of Philosophy and Religion
Rocky Mountain College
Billings, Montana, USA
June 2009
I haven't read the book, so my comments are based entirely on this essay and are correspondingly provisional. The core of the argument is in the excerpt above. There may indeed be some influence from the Qumran community/Essenes on the early Jesus movement, but I don't find these particular arguments compelling. There is a pattern of parallels, which is promising, but many of the parallels themselves are very general or debatable. Casting lots and healing are hardly distinctive. The name Matthias was common and appears in quite different contexts here. The immersion rites of the Qumran sect are quite different from Christian baptism, as are the two so-called community rules. The hierarchy of twelve comes from the twelve tribes of Israel. Pentacost was a Jewish festival tied to the covenant with God and it's not surprising that both sects took an interest in it. The Holy Spirit is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible (Psalm 51:11; Isaiah 63:10-11) - not often, but in books both sects especially liked. Times of prayer and calendar are complicated issues and I'm not prepared to generalize as freely as above. The communal living aspect is interesting, but the Jewish Therapeutae did this in Egypt as well (and I am not prepared to identify them with the Essenes), so we don't really know how widespread it was.

As for the Sadducees, converts come from the most unexpected places and it proves nothing that the Sadducean group as a whole was hostile to the early Jesus movement. It would not surprise me to find that both Sadducees (i.e., priests who served in the Jerusalem Temple) and Qumran sectarians/Essenes (who evidently did not) were among the converts to that movement. It is entirely possible that there was some influence from both priestly groups, but a lot of this could, indeed, just be coincidence.
ARCHANGEL METATRON WATCH: First, Metatron has started a new Internet business:
Metatron Inc. Commences Trading

By: Marketwire .
Jun. 8, 2009 04:01 PM

REDONDO BEACH, CA -- (Marketwire) -- 06/08/09 -- Metatron Inc. (PINKSHEETS: MRNJ), a diversified internet holding company focusing on Web 2.0 properties, is pleased to announce that the Company's common shares recently commenced trading on the Over-The-Counter Pink Sheet exchange.

Metatron Inc. operates diversified internet and related businesses, services and properties through partnership relationships. Its mission is to harness the power of today's online and wireless consumer interactivity to make daily life easier, more productive and more entertaining for people all over the world.

Second, here's a letter from the good Archangel which appears to include every New Age trope that's ever been thought of. The Archangels Michael and Melchizedek appear as well.

Monday, June 08, 2009

THE CHICAGO MAROON has an interview with Norman Golb:
Dead Sea Scrolls Scandal
An academic scandal erupted in early March, and professor Norman Golb found himself at its center. As newspapers rapidly seized on the tale, a narrative emerged about Golb’s son Raphael, 49, who allegedly used false e-mail accounts to impersonate and undermine his father’s scholarly critics. Arrested in New York City, Raphael, with his family’s support, denies the charges. But the scandal overlays an already contentious debate about the Dead Sea Scrolls, adding another argument where many say the evidence disfavors Norman Golb.

By Sara Jerome
Published: June 1st, 2009
There's not much new in the article, but it does summarize the current state of the question regarding his work. Excerpt:
Though dispassionately argued, Golb’s claims of academic bias have gained as little traction as his Scrolls theory. As Gregory Sterling, dean of Notre Dame’s Graduate School and a professor who has written on the Scrolls, put it, “I’ve had proposals turned down and I’ve had proposals accepted—it’s part of the world of scholarship. My own view is that personal bias doesn’t play much of a role in this. Most people make the effort to be fair. They do make mistakes.”

He adds with a laugh,“The people who’ve turned me down made a mistake. We all feel that way.”

Sterling interprets Golb’s arguments about academic bias as potentially indicative of desperation, an attempt to shift the argument because he is unable to advance his claims about the Scrolls themselves. Notre Dame professor and Scrolls editorial committee member James VanderKam echoes this notion: “I doni’t think his viewpoint has been unfairly excluded. I think people have been unconvinced working with the evidence.”

But despite academic disagreements, and perhaps as a testament to Golb’s scholarly decorum, peers in Golb’s field still greatly respect the man himself, along with much of his work. His arguments outside the Scrolls debate have gained much greater support, and have often been ground-breaking. Sterling called him a “gentleman” and Ulrich noted he is a “great scholar,” who does not take to theories that are “sensational.”
The piece also confirms that both Golb and his son Raphael deny the widely reported criminal charges of impersonating another scholar online which Raphael is facing.

Background here.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

BIBLICAL "LEPROSY" is discussed briefly in the Jerusalem Post:
Over the many decades since 1887, [the Hansen Government Hospital in Jerusalem] has housed and treated many thousands of victims of Hansen's disease, named for Norwegian researcher Dr. Gerhard Henrik Armeur Hansen after he discovered in 1883 that leprosy is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium leprae. This pathogen is closely related to the rod-shaped bacillus that causes tuberculosis but is much less infectious. In fact, Hansen attempted to infect himself with it but failed.


THE LEPROSY (tzara'at in Hebrew) mentioned 55 times in the Bible that has terrified humanity since ancient times gave Hansen's disease a bad rap. Dermatologists say the condition that struck Miriam for speaking against her brother Moses (for marrying a Cushite woman), Naaman (in Kings II) and King Uziah (in Chronicles II) was a disease that turned their skin (and even hair) white; this symptom is connected to vitiligo - an autoimmune condition in which skin pigments are destroyed. In the Bible, this illness was regarded as divine punishment for "evil talk" and other sins. It is also described as afflicting the walls of buildings, leather garments and other clothing.

But the great Jewish sage and physician Maimonides presciently wrote during the Middle Ages that there was no connection between the biblical disease and what later became known as Hansen's. The word "leper" is a metaphor, a symbol of stigma. For many centuries, "leprosy" was considered a curse of God, often associated with sin. It did not kill, but neither did it seem to end. Instead, it lingered for years, causing the tissues to degenerate and deforming the body. Most people don't believe it still exists. Leprosy is unfortunately the name still used in the US, Brazil and India for the bacterial disease, and the disease is still a major health problem in many parts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

But Hansen's does not turn the skin white. To blame for the confusion - which condemned endless victims of Hansen's to abandonment by their families and confinement in institutions so as not to "spread" it, was the Third Century BCE Greek Septuagint mistranslation of the Hebrew text. For the word tzara'at, the translators erroneously used the word leprosum, the adjectival form of the Greek word lepra, according to Ruth Wexler, a religious nurse who has been working with Hansen's patients at the Rehov Marcus hospital since 1988.
A little more background is here.
SAMARITAN NEWS, CONTINUED: Tom Heneghan has another article on the Samaritans, this one in the Independent. Seems to cover pretty much the same material as in the Reuters piece.
The Good (but endangered) Samaritans

Famous for helping others, the Israelite sect has so few members that they are embracing internet dating and marrying out to survive

By Tom Heneghan

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Whatever happened to the original Samaritans? At the time of the late Roman Empire, there were more than a million of them, but, by the last century, they were down to just 146 members. And so now, these guardians of an ancient faith with a famous cameo role in the Bible are using surprisingly modern methods to keep their tiny community alive.

Background here.