Saturday, August 21, 2010

SBL Executive Director responds to Ron Hendel

JOHN F. KUTSKO, the Executive Director of the Society of Biblical Literature, has a thoughtful and constructive response to the concerns raised by Ron Hendel some time ago. Do go and read it.

More here.

Also, while I'm thinking about it, note the SBL's David Noel Freedman Award for Excellence and Creativity in Hebrew Bible Scholarship and Paul J. Achtemeier Award for New Testament Scholarship. The deadline for both isn't until March, 2011, but best get started now.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The queen, the gold coin, and everything

ARSINOË II, the queen on that newly excavated gold coin, is profiled by Judith Weingarten in a long post at her Zenobia: Empress of the East blog:
The Uppity Queen Arsinoë II

Who's the Woman Behind this Giant Coin?

The news that a rare Ptolemaic gold coin was found in Israel -- weighing just under one ounce (27.71 grams) of almost pure gold -- seems to have overshadowed the woman whose portrait is literally heads-up on it.* The coin -- more a medallion, really, than money meant to be spent -- is worth a cool $1,184 at today's price just for its gold (never mind a premium of $$$$ for antiquity and rarity). It commemorates Queen Arsinoë II -- one of the feistiest Hellenistic queens ever.

And, believe me, the competition for 'feistiest Hellenistic queen' was stiff.

In many ways, Arsinoë II was their role model.

The following episode in her life reminded me of a related story I'd been reading about for my new course on the Book of Daniel:
Arsinoë and son then sailed to Egypt where her younger brother, Ptolemy II had succeeded to the throne. Ptolemy II was married to Arsinoë I (I know this is confusing, but I can't help it), a daughter of Lysimachus -- presumably by a wife or two before he had married Arsinoë II. It didn't take long for Arsinoë II to get the better of Arsinoë I and boot her out: though the mother of his three children, Ptolemy II found her guilty of plotting against his majesty and exiled her to Coptos in Upper Egypt, where she vanishes from history.
To add insult to injury, Arsinoë I was the daughter of Arsinoë II's ex-husband Lysimachus, so Arsinoë I was dumped by her husband for her ex-stepmother who was also his own sister. That had to have hurt. One of those three children of the hapless Arsinoë I is mentioned in passing in Daniel 11:5-6:
5"Then the king of the south shall be strong, but one of his princes shall be stronger than he and his dominion shall be a great dominion.

6After some years they shall make an alliance, and the daughter of the king of the south shall come to the king of the north to make peace; but she shall not retain the strength of her arm, and he and his offspring shall not endure; but she shall be given up, and her attendants, her child, and he who got possession of her. (RSV)
The king of the south and the "one of his princes" in v. 5 are, respectively, the two generals of Alexander, Ptolemy I and Seleucus I, who founded large empires after Alexander's death. The king of the south in v. 6 is Ptolemy II and his daughter is one of Arsinoë I's children, Berenice. Poor Berenice shared her mother's bad luck. Perhaps she had hers coming more than her mother did, although it's not clear how much choice she had in the sad course of events summarized in this Berenice (Seleucid queen) Wikipedia entry:
Berenice, also called Berenice Syra, was the daughter of Ptolemy II Philadelphus and his first wife Arsinoe I of Egypt.

In 261 BC she married the Seleucid monarch Antiochus II Theos, who, following an agreement with Ptolemy (249 BC), had divorced his wife Laodice I and transferred the succession to Berenice's children.

In 246 BC, when Ptolemy died, Antiochus II took up again with his first wife, Laodice. The Syrian King died shortly after, many suspect from poisoning. Queen Berenice claimed the Regency for her son, Seleucus and conquered Soloia with her army, however, she and her son were both poisoned by Laodice as well. Berenice's brother, Ptolemy III Euergetes succeeded their father and set about to avenge his sister's murder by invading Syria and having Laodice killed. This is also mentioned in the Book of Daniel 11:6.

Carly Silver on Dura Europos and her Jewish heritage

CARLY SILVER meditates in New Voices on Dura Europos and her Jewish heritage. Excerpt:
When I did research for Archaeology, a different image presented itself. The hustle and bustle of a mid-size Syrian town called Dura-Europos glimmered distantly in the heat haze of time, thousands of years removed, but still tangible through its well-preserved ruins. It contained one of the earliest synagogues ever found outside of Israel. Its paintings were largely intact, showing images that must have reminded each patron that walked through its doors of the richly decorated temple. Bright colors of the wall paintings shone softly in the dim light, the reds and golds of a biblical narrative in one shining off a young man’s close-cropped dark hair. The familiar melodies came to mind as the service began, sweetly melancholy notes floating like specks of gold dust on the air from one mouth to another.

These images are part projection of my imagination—especially the ancient ones—part second-hand remembrance from years gone by from a loved one. Both jobs mentally took me places I’d never been before—from my great-grandparents’ wedding, infused with the hope of the newlyweds to an ancient synagogue, breathing in the warm desert air while murmuring prayers taught to us by our fathers. No matter what job I take, my Jewish heritage, fictional imagery or not, will be with me.
Background here.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

New twist in Jerusalem Museum of Tolerance controversy

A NEW TWIST in the controversy over the Jerusalem Museum of Tolerance and its siting at the Muslim Mamilla Cemetery:
Muslims planned Mamilla project in '45

BY ABE SELIG (Jerusalem Post)
02/17/2010 03:54

Wiesenthal Center accuses Museum of Tolerance opponents of hypocrisy.
Talkbacks (14)

The Simon Wiesenthal Center on Tuesday accused opponents of its plans to build a museum near a historic Muslim cemetery in central Jerusalem of “sheer hypocrisy” after the center obtained information showing that the Supreme Muslim Council of British Mandate Palestine had planned to build a large commercial center directly on top of the cemetery in 1945.


However, a November 22, 1945 article from The Palestine Post (the pre-state name of The Jerusalem Post), which was forwarded to the Wiesenthal Center on Monday after being posted on a blog, reports Muslim plans to build directly over the cemetery.

The report states, “An area of over 450 dunams in the heart of Jerusalem, now forming the Mamilla Cemetery, is to be converted into a business centre.

“The town-plan is being completed under the supervision of the Supreme Moslem Council in conjunction with the Government Town Planning Adviser,” the article continues.

“A six-storeyed building to house the Supreme Moslem Council and other offices, a four-storeyed hotel, a bank and other buildings suitable for it, a college, a club and a factory are to be the main structures. There will also be a park to be called the Salah ed Din Park, after the Moslem warrior of Crusader times.”

The 1945 article also describes plans by the council to transfer remains buried in the cemetery to a separate, “walled reserve” and cites rulings from prominent Muslim clerics at the time allowing for the building plans to progress.

“In an interview with Al-Wih-da, the Jerusalem weekly,” the Palestine Post article continues, “a member of the Supreme Moslem Council stated that the use of Moslem cemeteries in the public interest had many precedents both in Palestine and elsewhere.

“The member added that the Supreme Moslem Council intended to publish a statement containing dispensations by Egyptian, Hijazi and Demascene clerics sanctioning the building programme. He pointed out that the work would be carried out in stages and by public tender. Several companies had already been formed in anticipation, and funds were plentiful.”

The dean and founder of the Wiesenthal Center, Rabbi Marvin Hier, told the Post on Tuesday that the discovery of the article showed the “sheer hypocrisy” of opponents to the planned museum, which Hier stressed was “not even being built on the cemetery itself.”

There's more at the Museum of Tolerance website.

The statement that the museum is “not even being built on the cemetery itself” may be technically correct (I've lost track of the exact details) but the point seems a little disingenuous given that quite a few graves have been excavated in preparation for building it. That said, this new report and those of fake grave planting on the site are rapidly eroding the moral high ground of the opponents of the museum.

Via Joseph I. Lauer.

Armenian studies at the Hebrew University

A PROFILE OF ARMENIAN STUDIES at the Hebrew University:

from Arthur Hagopian (

Jerusalem, Aug 18 - The language of the Armenian people and their culture, literature and history have always provided a fascinating field of study among "odar" (foreigner) scholars.

Chief among the center of such scholarship
in this part of the world stands the Hebrew University of Jerusalem with its Armenian Studies department.

Besides the ongoing course of lectures and seminars it pursues, the department also supports the publication of a wide range of books on Armeniana.
The studies program, which had been suspended for a year in the wake of the departure of Dr. Sergio La Porta, is now resuming with Prof Jasmine Dum-Tragut of Salzburg, in place.

The Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem is one of the program's chief supporters and beneficiaries: it has seen several members of its priestly Brotherhood of St James, achieve distinction at the university, the latest Father Pakrad Bourjekian, who has been awarded a Masters Degree.


Angelic amulet advert banned by ASA

TRUTH IN ADVERTISING now applies to magical amulets:
Amulet advert banned over claim of 'divine protection'
An advert for an amulet which promised 'divine protection' has been banned by advertising bosses because the firm behind it could not prove that angels will protect those who wear it.

Published: 7:00AM BST 18 Aug 2010 (The Telegraph)

The magazine advert, placed by The Circle of Raphael (CoR), promised that the 'seven angels amulet' would bring its owner 'angelic blessings, guidance and peace' - and bring them luck at 'games of chance' at the casino.

The talisman - the size of a 10p piece and which features an array of mystic symbols - is available in silver for £29 or nine carat gold for £120.

The advert promises the wearer they would be 'blessed with the gift of Angelic good fortune, guidance and divine protection from all real danger, both physical and spiritual'

It continued: "This incredible Angelic item has proved it can create fantastic results for its owners instantly.

"From the moment you receive it, you will have seven Angelic friends watching over and protecting your life."

It stated that by wearing the talisman 'numerous doors to opportunities and good fortune' will be 'flung open like magic' and the holder will be given the gift of 'inner peace and happiness' by 'lucky in love', have 'financial security', be protected from 'all acts of violence' and it would bestow 'good fortune in games of chance'

One reader challenged the claims and said he wanted proof that the amulet worked.

A spokesman for the The Circle of Raphael - a 'small group adepts' who 'feel ancient wisdoms' - said the talisman was from a 'Hebrew religious viewpoint' and said they had sold thousands without ever receiving a complaint.

They claimed to have testimonies from wearers saying the amulet had 'done exactly what was claimed in the advert', but that customers could get their money back if not happy with the purchase within 60 days of buying it. But the ASA ruled that the advert should not be used again, stating that it had breached honesty, truthfulness and substantiation clauses of the advertising code.

A spokesman for the ASA said: "The ASA noted CoR did not send evidence that showed the efficacy of the talisman.

This seems a bit harsh, considering all the unverifiable promises made by mainstream religions. (Robert Heinlein once commented that the world's religions have been making promises about the afterlife for thousands of years without ever producing even one satisfied customer.) I guess the Circle of Raphael mis-stepped first by making such concrete this-worldly claims and second by charging a fee rather than asking for a "donation." Still, I would have thought the 60-day money-back guarantee would have covered them.

The amulet's claims are quite similar to some of the promises made by the Merkavah mystics for their praxes, although the texts say nothing about charging for them.
He who repeats this great mystery--his face is sallow, his stature is fine, awe of him is imposed on (all) creatures, and his good name goes into all the places of Israel. His dreams are easy to him, his Torah is preserved in him, and he does not forget the words of Torah all his days. It is good for him in this world and restful for him in the world to come. Even the iniquities of his youth are remitted him for the coming future. The evil inclination has no authority over him, and he is saved from spirits and demons and robbers and from all injurious animals and from snake and scorpion and from all harmful demons.
(Merkavah Rabba §705)

IAA Director harrassed by haredi?

MORE CONFLICT reported between the IAA and the Ultra-Orthodox:
Haredi suspected of harassing Antiquities Authority director

Published: 08.18.10, 11:07 / Israel News (Ynet News)

A 23-year-old ultra-Orthodox man from Jerusalem has been arrested on suspicion of harassing Israel Antiquities Authority Director-General Shuka Dorfman.

The issue was reportedly "'desecration' of ancient graves."

Background here.

Jerusalem Syndrome becoming less common

JERUSALEM SYNDROME is becoming less common according to Emunah Magazine:
Speaking in a recent interview with the Lutheran Press Service, Israeli psychologist Gregory Katz from the Kfar Shaul Medical Center in Jerusalem says the syndrome is becoming less common as the years go by. “The majority of patients that come into the psychiatric clinic with religious delusions were already suffering from psychological problems before they arrived in the holy city.” He says that those most susceptible these days are extremely religious persons who are ninety-eight percent Christian. They normally come from remote rural areas and in most cases and are traveling abroad for the first time in their lives.

Katz distinguishes two types of illness: One where seemingly normal people arrive in the city and undergo a sort of religious conversion, whereby they actually become a biblical figure. Most of these persons are Pentecostals from rural regions in the USA and Scandinavia. One one occasion, Katz says, he had three Virgins Mary at once sharing a single room. Then there is the more worrisome version, where genuinely disturbed persons flock to the city to act out their preexisting complexes. Even when visitors do succumb to the former phenomenon, treatment is relatively easy. A few days of sedatives and talk therapy usually do the trick. The best thing, of course, is to get the person away from the city and back to their normal environment.

The syndrome used to be as common as measles and was particularly visible during Jewish and Christian holidays. Between 1980 and 1993, the clinic treated some 1,200 patients suffering from some form of the disorder. In the mid-90s, the clinic’s director, Dr. Yair Bar El, studied the records of the 470 visitors from all over the world who ended up being hospitalized. He discovered that 66 percent were Jews, 33 percent were Christians, and one percent were without any religious affiliation.

“Today we usually only get patients with the Jerusalem Syndrome once a year,” Katz said. “Before the new millennium started, we would get two or three patients annually.” What explains this precipitous drop? Katz believes it has to do with the declining religiosity among tourists, coupled with their greater sophistication. With the spread of electronic communications technology and low-cost air travel, people are simply much better informed and better traveled than before. They also draw a clearer distinction between fantasy and reality. While society at one time saw religious visions and cases of possession as being within the bounds of “normality,” Katz says, “we have now become so rational that we regard people with religious visions as being ill.”
I'm glad to hear that fewer people are suffering from this, but I can't say that I've noticed people becoming much better at distinguishing fantasy from reality. In any case, the "reality" of a vision is frequently closely related to its social construction in a community. Maybe it's better to say that people are becoming more sophisticated in contextualizing their religious experiences outside of mainstream religious settings.

More on Jerusalem Syndrome here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Canaanite" bracelet modern?

Rare Bronze Horned-Bracelet, Not Ancient

The fact is the excavators found a modern 20th-century Bedouin bracelet and not a Canaanite bracelet

By Robert Deutsch (Bible and Interpretation)
Tel Aviv
August 2010
If this is correct, it's a bit embarrassing. It will be interesting to see how other archaeologists react. It reminds me of an unfortunate practical joke involving a plastic toy dinosaur which I once witnessed at an archaeological excavation. (I was not the perpetrator.)

Background here.

Prof. Tom Wright - public lecture

PROFESSOR TOM WRIGHT will be giving a public lecture at the University of St. Andrews in September:
University of St Andrews
School of Divinity

Bible and the Contemporary World - Public Lecture

Prof. N. T. (Tom) Wright - 'Kingdom, Power and Truth: God and Caesar Then and Now'

Tuesday 14th September 2010
Buchanan Building, Union Street
University of St Andrews

Admission Free

Monday, August 16, 2010

Why we need Akkadian (and the humanities!)

WHY WE NEED AKKADIAN is explained in a book review in The Forward:
Why We Need Akkadian
How One Semitic Language Sheds Light on Another

By Jerome A. Chanes
Published August 11, 2010, issue of August 20, 2010.

An Akkadian Lexical Companion for Biblical Hebrew: Etymological- Semantic and Idiomatic Equivalents With Supplements on Biblical Aramaic
By Hayim ben Yosef Tawil
KTAV Publishing House, 456 pages, $125

Reading the Tanach, the Hebrew Bible, is tough. For one thing, it’s very, very old, and not refracting the text through our 21st-century prism is difficult. For another, it’s written in two odd languages, Hebrew and Aramaic, in such a way that even those familiar — even fluent — in these tongues find that the simplest passages beg analysis.

“What’s the p’shat?” — the basic meaning of the text — is the toughest question of all.

Where does Akkadian fit into this question? What indeed is Akkadian? The word itself comes from the place name “Akkad,” which is found in the Bible and is a reference to an ancient city of Mesopotamia and also to a third-millennium BCE Mesopotamian dynasty. Akkadian, written in cuneiform — Mesopotamian wedge writing — left to right, on clay tablets, is actually a generic term for the languages spoken by the Babylonians and the Assyrians. These two peoples dominated the Tigris-Euphrates region of Mesopotamia, and far beyond, for centuries, and developed a vast literature. The narrative portions of the Tanach contain many references to Assyrians and Babylonians, mostly as enemies, and almost always in terms of wars, conquests and exiles.

From Abraham (an erstwhile resident of Ur in Mesopotamia) onward, Ashur and Bavel are a constant trope in the Hebrew Scriptures, and Akkadian, as a Semitic contemporary of biblical Hebrew and Aramaic, is a truly invaluable — and underused — resource in the understanding of biblical words, expressions, usages and concepts. Now Hayim ben Yosef Tawil’s “Akkadian Lexical Companion,” directly compares the Akkadian and biblical Hebrew in an effort to explicate difficult words, idioms, phrases and whole verses in the Bible. And the book succeeds. The paradoxical fact is that Akkadian lexicography is further advanced than that of biblical Hebrew, and Tawil exploits this discrepancy for our benefit.

As Joseph I. Lauer observes on his list, this review serves indirectly as a buttress to a recent Haaretz piece by Miri Eliav-Feldon, Nanotechnology 1, Assyrian 0 , which decries today's current anti-intellectual cost-cutting atmosphere in which "Assyrian" has apparently become a byword in some circles Israel for an irrelevant esoteric field that contributes nothing to society. Excerpt:
The processes that Grafton, Nussbaum and Thomas warn of have been affecting Israeli academia for about a decade, and much has been written about them. Cutbacks resulting from government policy and the economic crisis have led to the dismissal of hundreds of lecturers, to a brain drain and to shrinking (indeed, almost closure ) of important areas of research in local universities.

In such an atmosphere, and with a prevailing anti-intellectual mood here, the first victims have been liberal arts fields, since it is impossible to measure their contribution and difficult to see their practical, material and immediate benefits. It is easy to consider them luxuries that ought to be discarded at times of austerity.

Should resources, and particularly public funding, be invested in researching cultures and languages that died out thousands of years ago, such as the Assyrian language? For some reason, Assyrian, the northern dialect of Akkadian, has become the most common example of an esoteric field that engages local researchers in the faculties of humanities. Those who ridicule it usually know nothing about the importance of the Semitic language in the development of cultures of the ancient East, or in that of the modern Hebrew language. Moreover, critics say, who needs to deal with the culture, history and thoughts of dead white European men (known popularly in America as DWEMs )? How does such a pursuit contribute to the gross national product? At the most, it is nothing more than a hobby.

Such criticism is leveled at us, lecturers and researchers in the faculties of humanities, by the public - not just by "the man in the street," but even by our friends and colleagues, including engineers and accountants. Indeed, they say, it is nice sometimes to enter the world of culture, to hear a lecture about Amos Oz's latest book or the findings in the archaeological digs in Beit She'an, especially when they are accompanied by slide-show presentations. Indeed, it is important that our children learn a bit of the Bible and Jewish history in school, but such pleasures do not justify paying salaries to hundreds of researchers and scholars in such fields, in the universities and colleges of our small and poor country.

Similar claims are made, more and more frequently, by people who are actually involved in higher education in Israel: Finance Ministry officials, heads of the Council for Higher Education, the committee that determines budgets for colleges and university, and even some of their rectors. "What can we do," they sigh. "If there is no kemah there is no torah."

There are indeed disciplines that are critical to producing knowledge or other things that help sustain our lives: engineering, computer and applied sciences, economics. But when the budgetary pie shrinks, there is no alternative but to give up the "luxuries." Nanotechnology instead of Assyrian, people declare - as if the speakers even have a clue about nanotechnology. Or Assyrian. Business administration instead of philosophy, computers rather than literature.
Britain comes in deservedly for strong criticism as well, and the United States also has its share, and perhaps more, of such sentiments.

I'll say at the outset that the humanities to some degree have this type of scrutiny coming, because significant sectors of it have bought in overly much to intentionally obscurantist and, frankly, lazy postmodern approaches. Regular readers will be well aware of my sympathy toward poststructuralism, which I sometimes fine helpful in my own work, and my willingness occasionally to go out on a limb with related methods if I think there's a payoff. Still, it's undeniable that the reputation for the piling up of impenetrable and meaningless prose in humanities publications is not entirely undeserved, and the demand of governments and funding bodies for more accountability is not entirely unreasonable. But these problems have nothing to do with Assyriology.

Also, regular readers will have no doubt about my sympathy toward – indeed, enthusiasm for – nanotechnology and related edge-of-the-edge technologies. There is simply no conflict between investing in such things and investing (by comparison a trivial amount) also in the humanities.

One argument in defense of Akkadian, as Joe quite rightly points out, is that it helps us better understand the Bible, a foundational text for Western Civilzation. But I think we can mount a more robust defense. Consider that a couple of centuries ago the entire history of the ancient Near East – Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Anatolia, the Levant – was entirely lost apart from some very limited references and legends in the Hebrew Bible and some very garbled half-memories in Herodotus and a few other classical authors. With the decipherment of Egyptian, Akkadian, Sumerian, Hittite, etc., thousands of years of human history involving crucial developments in our civilization have now been recovered and are known in astonishing detail. If the bean-counting, superficially practical mentality that now threatens our educational system had been operating over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, this whole history would still be lost to us – and that would be a tragedy. We owe it to ourselves and to future generations to build on that foundation and to keep learning more about those civilizations to which we owe so much. (As an aside, I had a good chuckle over the notion (above) of ancient Near Eastern civilizations being the product of those much maligned dead white European men.)

It is certainly true that investment in science and technology has consistently produced more immediate, direct, and quantifiable payoffs than investment in the humanities. But the massive cultural contributions of the humanities like those outlined in the previous paragraph (and I didn't even get to the Dead Sea Scrolls!) mustn't be taken for granted, and it has to be remembered that the price tag of this contribution is miniscule compared to the costs of scientific research. There is always some crisis, financial or otherwise, which tempts us to think of serious research in the humanities as a luxury we can forgo. Think of the procession of wars and financial downturns over the last two centuries that could have tempted our predecessors to close shop on the humanities, and be thankful that they resisted the temptation. Our society must do the same if it is not to be remembered as a decadent dark age.

We in the humanities, of course, have a duty to keep explaining our work to governments and the public and to make sure they are aware of the good reasons for maintaining their support for us. That's one of the reasons I spend some time on this blog nearly every day.

UPDATE: Peter Bekins comments at Balshanut.

UPDATE (17 August): Roger Pearse comments and Duane Smith comments at Abnormal Interests.

Dura Europos profiled in Archaeology Magazine

THE SITE OF DURA EUROPOS and its history are profiled in Archaeology Magazine:
Dura-Europos: Crossroad of Cultures

August 11, 2010
by Carly Silver

A Lost Civilization of the Ancient Middle East

In 1920, British soldiers digging trenches near the Euphrates River came across ancient wall paintings. In the sands of eastern Syria, they uncovered the remains of the ancient town of Dura-Europos. Located on the Euphrates River, the long-buried settlement was ruled successively by the Macedonians, Parthians, and Romans until its destruction in A.D. 256. Today, the site is known for its buildings, including the world’s oldest church, one of the earliest synagogues ever found, and numerous Greco-Roman temples.

Covering about 180 acres, Dura-Europos was founded around 300 B.C. Scholars like Lisa Brody, associate curator for ancient art at the Yale University Art Gallery, which houses many artifacts from the site, affectionately call it by its original name of “Dura.” The town was built by Nicanor, a general of Seleucus I, one of Alexander the Great’s successors who took power in this region after the Macedonian king’s death. In his Parthian Stations, the geographer Isidore of Charax, who probably lived under the early Roman emperors, calls it “the city of Dura Nicanoris, founded by the Macedonians, also called by the Greeks ‘Europus.’”

For much more on Dura, go here and follow the links.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Eisenbrauns - Back-to-School Sale: Aramaic & Syriac

FOR YOU, SPECIAL DEAL: Eisenbrauns - Back-to-School Sale: Aramaic & Syriac.

More on supposed John the Baptist burial in Bulgaria

CHRISTOPHER ROLLSTON looks at the case for a John the Baptist burial in Bulgaria and finds it wanting: "Ultimately, I would contend that for someone to suggest that these bones could be those of John the Baptist, a figure of 1st century CE Palestine, is tenuous in the extreme."

More here.