Renaming the Blog?

Upon a suggestion by Jona Lendering, I’m thinking of renaming the blog “Dodelijk commentaar van Jim West”.   It’s strangely suitable.

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Bullae and Bull

clay-sealsImpressions from ancient clay seals found at a small site in Israel east of Gaza are signs of government in an area thought to be entirely rural during the 10th century B.C., says Mississippi State University archaeologist James W. Hardin. This could indicate that Biblical accounts of David and his son Solomon described real kings rather than the backwater chieftains considered more likely by some archaeologists, said Hardin, an associate professor in the department of anthropology and Middle Eastern cultures.

Really? How so?

The six fragments of clay, once used to seal documents or expensive goods, are described in a brief article in the December issue of Near East Archaeology. “They’re little bitty mud balls but they’re really important because of what they suggest about what’s going on,” Hardin, the lead author, said in a telephone interview from the university in Starkville.


hardin-clay-sealsThe artifacts are important, said Israel Finkelstein, an archaeology professor at Tel Aviv University. They “probably hint at” a city-state other than that of Gath on the southern coastal plain during the period, he wrote in an email to The Associated Press. Gath was a major Philistine city-state when it was destroyed in the 9th century, according to archaeologists. According to the Bible, it was the home town of Goliath, the giant whom young David laid flat with stone and sling.

But Finkelstein, co-author of a book arguing that “tenth-century Jerusalem was a small highland village that controlled a sparsely settled hinterland” rather than the great kingdom the Bible describes David and his son Solomon as ruling, was unconvinced by Hardin’s broader conclusion. It’s too far from Jerusalem — about 70 miles — to make connections, he said, and radiocarbon dating for the part of the Iron Age described could be anywhere from mid-10th century to 800 B.C.

“There is no reason to start rewriting history books that come from modern critical research,” wrote Finkelstein, who wrote “David and Solomon: In Search of the Bible’s Sacred Kings and the Roots of the Western Tradition” with journalist and archaeology historian Neil Asher Silberman.

I just don’t understand why these exaggerations are deemed reputable.  They’re bullae.  When bullae are used to suggest that the Bible must be describing things exactly as they were in the ancient world the faith of those thus reassured must be quite shaky indeed.

Here’s what bullae prove: they prove the existence of luxury goods which the owner wished to send or receive in good order.  To turn that into a kingdom, whatever the intention, is to find a button and from it describe the exact size and color of a suit.

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Pfarrer Ernst Sieber, was ist eigentlich die Botschaft von Weihnachten?

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‘Exodus’ Eviscerated

Ellen White writes

My mother always taught me that if I don’t have anything nice to say, I should say nothing at all. If I were to follow her policy, this review of Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014) would end now.

I should say I am not a purist. I understand that Biblical material needs to be added to in order to make a motion picture. After all, very rarely does the Bible give a physical description of a character. I also understand that changes might need to be made for technical reasons or to make the story flow—though Scott’s explanation for the racial make-up of his casting falls flat. Heck, I even like Dan Brown books. Sure, I notice the inaccuracies, but the man tells good stories. So why am I annoyed that Exodus: Gods and Kings bears almost no resemblance to the Biblical narrative? Because it pretends to be something that it is not.

It is beyond me to understand why one of the most action-packed, intense Biblical narratives needed such dramatic altering by writers Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, Jeffrey Caine and Steven Zaillian. Their story was so different that if they didn’t use the Biblical names and released the same movie with a different title, I might not have even recognized it—especially with all the Arthurian mythology woven in—though the caricature and stereotypes that ran through the film shoved the viewer in that direction.

Rubbish is what Hollywood does best.

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Magic Spells in Antiquity: Today’s De Gruyter Advent Calendar

Read here:

Trouble with officialdom? Bother with the neighbours? Or with the publishing house? Dare we say it, even with Santa Claus? How about trying a spell? Take a thin lead tablet and inscribe some magical formulae onto it, such as: “Bind and nail … to the depths. Spend the force from his limbs, sinews, heart, spirit and mind …”, followed by some magical words such as badetophoth, phthosisiro. Then send the tablet to the one who is causing you trouble. That, at least, is how it was done in antiquity.

It’s worth noting that some early Christians were big on spells and such charms.  It’s hard to break from paganism when you don’t have a very good theology.

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Conference Announcement: Lutheran Confessional Cultures in Early Modern Germany and Scandinavia

Call for papers for the international conference “Lutheran Confessional Cultures in Early Modern Germany and Scandinavia” at Aarhus University, Denmark, 21-22 January 2016.

Read the full description here.

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