Saturday, April 24, 2010

More on the Azusa Pacific DSS and exhibition

AZUSA PACIFIC UNIVERSITY tells the story of how they acquired those five Dead Sea Scroll fragments. And the Treasures of the Bible: The Dead Sea Scrolls and Beyond exhibition website is here.

Background here.

UPDATE (12 May): Bad link now fixed!

Progress on the Cairo Geniza Digitization Project

THE CAIRO GENIZA DIGITIZATION PROJECT has processed about 65,000 images, about 20% of the 310,000 total estimated.

Background on the project is here.

Friday, April 23, 2010

St. George's Day is today

ST. GEORGE'S DAY is today.

Lemba "Ark of the Covenant" on display in Harare

THE LEMBA "ARK OF THE COVENANT" is on display in Harare:
African 'Jewish' tribe displays its lost ark

By Moira Schneider, April 22, 2010 (Jewish Chronicle Online)

Members of an African tribe are displaying a sacred object they believe to be the Ark of the Covenant in a Harare museum.

The item is a ngoma, a sacred drum made of wood. According to oral tradition, a ngoma was carried from Israel by the Lemba, a South African tribe who believe they are descendants of Jews from the Middle East. After it burst into flame and was destroyed, another ngoma - the one currently on display - was constructed from the ruins.

DNA research has traced the Lemba's origins to the Middle East. More remarkably, a genetic marker largely found only in Cohanim, descendants of the ancient Jewish priesthood, is present in the same proportions among the Lemba's own priests, known as the Buba.

There's a good photo of the object, which has no particular resemblance to the biblical Ark. Background here and here (scroll down) and just keep following the links back.

Tobias and the Angel by Adam Elsheimer

APOCRYPHA WATCH: Tobias and the Angel (1607), painted by Adam Elsheimer, is profiled by Michael Glover in the Independent. Excerpt:
Only 34 paintings are known to exist by him, but a number of them are amongst the most exciting and innovative works of their time. Tobias and the Angel, which was probably painted three or four years before his death, is one of those tiny, innovative works which show us why he is so important. The subject itself is not uncommon – Verrocchio, Lippo Lippi and Raphael made paintings of the same title. But Elsheimer's way of dealing with the subject was quite different. If you look at the three treatments of the subject by the other masters, you will find them all to be brilliant, and almost gaudily worldly, displays of painterly excellence, bathed in the light of day – self-preeningly so, you might even add. Elsheimer turns the subject into a much more mysterious and almost hole-in-the-corner affair. What is more, the scene is mysteriously under-lit, and variously lit – another trait common to many of Elsheimer's best works.

The story is taken not from the Bible, but from the Book of Tobit in the Apocrypha, that collection of narratives which got excluded from the Bible by the Church Fathers. Tobias is the son of Tobit. A fish attacks him while he is washing beside the River Tigris. He kills it, removes its guts, and later uses them to exorcise a demon, and to cure his father of blindness. An angel guides him across the water to safety. One important matter which Elsheimer more than suggests is that Tobias, who is represented as a small, vulnerable boy stumbling his way across the waters in the half-light, does not necessarily know that his protector and guardian is an angel because Tobias is not looking at him.
The article has an enlargeable photo of the painting.

Kurt Raveh interviewed about the Jesus Boat in CT

KURT RAVEH, excavator of the "Jesus Boat" (a first-century wooden boat discovered in the Sea of Galilee in 1986 - with no actual direct connection with Jesus), is interviewed by David Neff in Christianity Today. Excerpt:
How was the Jesus Boat discovered?

It was a real surprise. After four years of drought, in 1986 the Sea of Galilee had retreated. Two brothers, Jewish fishermen, were walking on the exposed seabed and found coins, pieces of wood, and iron nails. They called us to check into it.

We started cleaning some of the boat, and suddenly we saw the mortise and tenon joints. We found a Roman oil lamp and a Roman cooking pot. It was a boat from Roman times! This is what we had been waiting for.

At that moment, there appeared a beautiful double rainbow. It was like a blessing. We danced there like Indians from happiness.

Then the problems started. The wood was completely waterlogged so it was like wet cardboard. Our boss at the Department of Antiquities didn't have equipment. Our group was just two archaeologists, two fishermen, and two others. We had only three buckets and two shovels. An expedition like this normally brings with it a million dollars, a year of preparation, laboratories, and a 40-person professional crew.
The same issue of CT also has a review of the book The Jesus Boat: Living Proof of a Modern-Day Miracle in Galilee by Christian Stillman.

I noted the Jesus Boat story a few years ago here.

Obituary for Hanan Eshel (Jewish Ideas Daily)

What the Archaeologist Knew

The ghosts of Qumran have conjured up two distinct communities of modern scholars: the archaeologists who dig in the caves and discover the libraries, and the textual scholars who read and interpret the Dead Sea Scrolls in cavernous libraries of their own. Not many have been able to move with assurance among both. One of them was Hanan Eshel, who died earlier this month at age fifty-two.

Earlier tributes here.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Bible Museum in Amsterdam

THERE'S A BIBLE MUSEUM in Amsterdam, built in the 1660s, with models of the Temple Mount and the Tabernacle.

Qumran scholar comes to Brite Divinity School

BRITE DIVINITY SCHOOL at Texas Christian University has a new director of its Jewish Studies program who is a specialist in the Dead Sea Scrolls:
Jewish studies gets new director

Kayla Mezzell
Issue date: 4/22/10 Section: News (Daily Skiff)

Brite Divinity School officials found a new director of the Jewish Studies Program last week.

Nancy Ramsay, Brite Divinity School dean, said Ariel Feldman, a current Newton Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of Manchester in England, accepted the position early last week and would join the staff as the Rosalyn and Manny Rosenthal Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies and director of the Jewish Studies Program in fall 2011. Both posts are currently vacant.

Ramsay said Feldman could not relocate to the U.S. to begin teaching until he has completed the prestigious Newton fellowship. The classes traditionally taught by the director will not be taught again until Feldman arrives in 2011.

According to the Newton International fellowships website, the Newton fellowship is a post-doctoral research fellowship for international scholars. The program is administered by The British Academy, The Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society.

When he comes to campus, Feldman, a graduate of the University of Haifa in Israel, will be required to teach three graduate-level courses and one undergraduate-level course in the religion department, Ramsay said.

Ramsay said Feldman will teach the same undergraduate class as his predecessor, David Nelson, who resigned from the post in May 2009 to pursue other interests.

Because of the specialized nature of the program Feldman will be entering, Ramsay said, the position has been vacant with special lectures augmenting attention to the area in the meantime.

Feldman has specialized in the Qumran Scrolls, better known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, Ramsay said. According to the Library of Congress website, the Dead Sea Scrolls were the oldest Hebrew scripture manuscript still in existence when they were discovered in 1947.

Congratulations to Dr. Feldman and to Brite Divinity School.

Ten minutes with ... James Charlesworth

TEN MINUTES WITH ... JAMES CHARLESWORTH, who tells us that in antiquity the serpert was a symbol of good sex. This and other things from his new book, The Good & Evil Serpent: How a Universal Symbol Became Christianized.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Philip Pullman interviewed in the Guardian

PHILIP PULLMAN is interviewed in the Guardian about his new book, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, and other things. Excerpt on Gnosticism:
But in truth he had for some while been thinking about Jesus. "Reading around the subject," he says. "I love late antiquity because it's a time of immense competition among religions. The old gods, the Greek and Roman gods, were gradually being replaced by rather fearsome or demanding new gods, such as the one that the Christians were bringing from the region we call Palestine. At the same time, Greek thought had combined with religious feelings from a little further east and produced something then known as gnosticism . . . "

It is at moments like this, that one sees the remnants of Pullman the teacher. "It's the idea that this world is a false creation of an evil demiurge," he continues, voice calm and dry, "and not the real place created by the real God, and that all of us have inside us a sort of spark of divinity that was stolen from the real God and that explains what our task is — we have to escape and get back to the real source." He smiles faintly. "Now that's a hell of a good story because it accounts for so many things: it accounts for why there's evil and suffering and sickness and so on; it accounts for why those who think deeply don't feel at home in the world; and it gives us something to do. It's one of the best stories of all time. But it's not true." He adds a polite qualification: "I don't think."

When did he decide it wasn't true? "Well I went through a very gnostic phase in my 20s," he recalls. "I read a lot of stuff about it and tried to feel the sort of angst appropriate to someone who's a prisoner of a material world. But I don't do angst very well. As the man who wanted to be a philosopher said to Dr Johnson, 'Cheerfulness keeps breaking through.' Heh-HA!" He has a linty sort of laugh, not hearty or loud, but something quickly brushed off.

"And so I came to realise that this world was actually rather a good place, which is full of things that make you laugh and things that make you happy and things that make you feel good physically, and so I gradually abandoned the idea of the evil demiurges who had created this ghastly world, and realised actually that this is our home, it's where we belong, and there ain't no elsewhere." He pauses. "So that's where I am now, spiritually speaking. Which I never do, because I don't like that word." What word would he use? "Um . . ." he ponders. "Philosophically speaking. Intellectually speaking. Emotionally speaking."
(Yeah, I can relate. I have a go at angst sometimes, but I tend to lose momentum pretty soon and start being happy again. But these days, for those so minded, the Simulation Argument can provide a form of Gnosticism in which the angst is optional.)

On his new book:
The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ was recently reviewed in the Guardian by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, a great supporter of Pullman. "I think he was generous," Pullman says. "Much more generous than might have been expected, but he is a good and kindly man. And predictably, but correctly, in effect he said, 'This wasn't as good as the Bible.'" Several critics have made a similar observation. "I know," he says, a little tetchy. "But I wasn't trying to write an alternative Gospel. What I was trying to do was tell the story of Jesus in a different kind of way. And make a fable out of it." He hopes in fact that his book will lead people back to the Bible itself. "Because then they will see how many contradictions and inconsistencies there are between the gospels," he explains, "instead of this single monolithic story."
There's much more and it's worth a read.

Earlier Pullman coverage here.

Emanuel Tov lectures at St Andrews

PROFESSOR EMANUEL TOV, Editor-in-Chief of the Dead Sea Scrolls, lectured in St. Andrews last Thursday. My doctoral student, David Larsen, has posted his notes on the lecture. Many thanks to Professor Tov for coming to us and for Professor Kristin De Troyer for arranging his visit.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Phoenicia has arrived at St Helena

THE GOOD SHIP PHOENICIA has completed another leg of her journey. (Note that this article is a week old.)
Dorset adventurer's ship Phoenicia arrives at St Helena

1:00pm Tuesday 13th April 2010 (Dorset Echo)

AFTER 17 days and nights at sea, a replica 600BC Phoenician ship has completed its latest passage on an expedition around Africa.

Phoenicia arrived at St Helena after a 1,693-mile voyage from Cape Town, South Africa on Wednesday morning.

Led by Dorset adventurer Philip Beale, the team of 11 international sailors are one step closer to their objective – recreating the first circumnavigation of Africa.

Having already made a successful navigation of the Cape of Good Hope the crew are delighted to have arrived at St Helena where they will spend a few days on dry land restocking with fresh provisions and taking a short break from life at sea.

They will also invite a local school, who have been tracking their progress online, to visit the ship and learn about the project.

The next leg of the expedition is expected to be a challenge as they sail towards the Ascension Islands and the Azores.

Background here.

UPDATE: Judith Weingarten e-mails to remind me of the expedition website here and notes that the Phoenicia has arrived at the Ascension Islands.

Welcome to Dead Sea Scrolls 3204

By Ken Ronnan | Published Mon, Apr 19 2010 10:42 am (

Professor Alex Jassen's students have a unique opportunity this year to combine classroom learning with a field visit to the same 2000-year-old document they are studying. Jassen has been teaching Dead Sea Scrolls 3204 at the University of Minnesota for several semesters, and this year served as an academic adviser to the Science Museum of Minnesota in its current exhibit of the actual scrolls. The course studies, in-depth, the impact these scrolls have had on the study of religion, mainly Judaism and Christianity.
There's video too.

I am currently teaching my Dead Sea Scrolls class DI4712/13. (Yes, I know, the website is getting out of date.)

Monday, April 19, 2010

More on the Granite Bay, Ca, DSS exhibition

Glimpse of holy scrolls at Sacramento area church
Parts of Dead Sea discovery on loan in Granite Bay

By Sue Nowicki (Modesto Bee)

GRANITE BAY -- Want to see a piece of 2,000-year-old history as well as centuries of historic Jewish and Christian writings?

Check out "From the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Bible in America" at Bayside Church in this Sacramento-area community. Eleven fragments of the famous scrolls -- about the size of a thumbnail -- are on display for the first time in Northern California. The show runs daily through May 15.

On loan from Azusa Pacific University, only three of the exhibit's fragments have been deciphered. They are from Deuteronomy and Daniel and include this verse:
Danny Poplin Jr. is scheduled to be sentenced today

Deuteronomy 8:3 "So he humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord."

The article also has a photo of the fragment of Deuteronomy 27:4b-6, on which, more here and follow the links. Background to the exhibition is here.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Metatron in the theater

ARCHANGEL METATRON WATCH: Metatron in the theatre:
Tiny Kushner 5 one-act plays at Tricycle from 1 Sep


The Guthrie Theater/Berkeley Repertory Theatre production of Tiny Kushner, a collection of five one-act plays by Tony Kushner, at Tricycle, in Kilburn, north London, from 1 to 25 Sep 2010.

It is directed by Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s Artistic Director Tony Taccone. Designed by Annie Smart, lighting by Alexander V. Nichols, sound by Victor Zupanc
Number four is:
DR. ARNOLD A. HUTSCHNECKER IN PARADISE: Metatron, a Recording Angel with a million eyes, is holding a supervisory session with Dr. Hutschneker in an upscale office in heaven. The two discuss how Hutschneker’s pains and his denial of mortality could quite possibly be related to his sessions with his own patient, Richard Milhous Nixon, with whom he frequently meets in the afterlife.

Review of Vermes books

ANOTHER VERMES REVIEW, this one of two of his books in the London Times:
Searching for the Real Jesus: Jesus, the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Religious Themes by Geza Vermes/The Story of the Scrolls: The Miraculous Discovery and True Significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls by Geza Vermes

The Sunday Times review by Christopher Hart

Geza Vermes, arguably the greatest “Jesus” scholar of the 20th century, was born into an assimilated Hungarian Jewish family in 1924. At the age of seven he was baptised into the Roman Catholic Church. He lost both his parents in the Holocaust, joined the order of Notre Dame de Sion, and for six years was a Catholic priest. But in middle age, “without a spiritual storm”, he left the Church and found himself “back at my Jewish roots”, though not a practising Jew.

The author’s biography is relevant, in this case, since it has been Vermes’s bifocal vision, Christian and Jewish, which has given us such a startlingly vivid image of the historical Jesus. Searching for the Real Jesus is a welcome collection of 29 essays, lectures and newspaper articles, in which he offers portraits of Jesus the Jew from a number of angles, although all are derived from a method of extraordinary simplicity: reading the New Testament closely and without prejudice. As well as bringing Jesus powerfully to life, this also throws up some rather overlooked details, such as that Simon Peter (the first Pope, traditionally) was married.

The focus is on the Jesus book; the DSS book only gets part of a paragraph at the end.

Earlier Vermes review here.