Daily Archives: 14 Nov 2010

On Studying the Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Method

I found this really interesting and wish I were in Berlin to attend the sessions.

To date, scholars have used a jig-saw-puzzle method [to ‘assemble’ the DSS], trying to match adjacent pieces by the words and style of script.  This week, Berlin scientists are to brief scholars on 21st century methods of sorting the fragments, which contain Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic writing and are kept at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. The new methods, which include shining X-rays through the parchment and papyrus, are guaranteed not to damage them. Re-analysis would not only help to resolve some fierce academic and religious disputes that have been based on differing readings of the texts, but also help reconstruct several more documents which had seemed lost for ever in the muddle of fragments. The new methods were evolved by BAM, Germany’s material-science laboratory in Berlin. ‘We’ll be able to say if any two fragments have identical material properties,’ explained BAM spokeswoman Ulrike Rockland. ‘If they do, they come from the same piece. No one could say that with certainty before.’

That sounds really quite useful.  We shall, I suppose, see if it is in due time.

Quote of the Month

Of course the doubt as to whether Jesus really existed is unfounded and not worth refutation.  No sane person can doubt that Jesus stands as founder behind the historical movement whose first distinct stage is represented by the oldest Palestinian community.  — Rudolf Karl Bultmann

How In the World is Chris Tilling Funding his SBL Excursion?

Chris Tilling

Alaska State Troopers say a thief removed a safe from a west Fairbanks home but took only a fraction of the cash inside. The safe contained $100,000 but was found in the back yard of the victim’s home with just $20,000 missing. The theft occurred Friday. Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters tells the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that the safe measured only about a cubic foot and was relatively lightweight.

Obviously this particular robber lacks the greed gene. Which is what gives Chris away… He only wants enough to pay the airfare, the hotel room, and have enough left over to buy one moderately priced Brill publication. What’s confusing is why Chris went all the way to Alaska to do it.  It’s hard to read him.

Iraqi Christians Aren’t Secure… in Sweden!

Coat of Arms of Sweden

Swedish immigration officials have been deporting Iraqi refugees to Baghdad on flights about every three weeks, declaring that some of them have no legitimate claim to political asylum in Sweden. That includes Iraqi Christians – a category that does not automatically imply a risk of persecution, according to Swedish guidelines. Of the 80,000 or so Iraqi refugees in Sweden, about 6,000 of them are Christian, according to estimates by the Syriac Orthodox Church in Stockhold. That Swedish interpretation of the main criterion for refugee status under U.N. treaties has spread widespread panic among refugees. “There are hundreds of Iraqis here who are not legal who have simply disappeared,” says an Iraqi engineer in Stockholm, a Catholic, who fled Baghdad in 2004 with his family after Islamic militants ordered them to leave their home, or be killed. “The refugees are hiding in churches or basements, working illegal jobs, trying to survive, transferring from place to place.”

I find that amazing and dreadful. Christians in Iraq are being slaughtered and their lives are under constant threat, and Sweden is sending them back? That’s – potentially – a death sentence.

Sweden has long been known as a tremendously welcoming place.  I wonder what changed.

Mega-Hypocrisy: The Tale of Jim Swilley

Jim Swilley, the pastor of a Georgia megachurch, recently revealed to his congregation that he is gay. The 52-year-old father of four said that his wife, to whom he was married for more than 20 years, encouraged him to come out years ago, but at the time, he told her: “These words will never come out of my mouth.” However, the recent spate of teen suicides, particularly that of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi, prompted him to change his mind. “For some reason his situation was kind of the tipping point with me,” Swilley told CNN’s Don Lemon this weekend. “There comes a point in your life where you say ‘How much time do we have left in our lives? Are we going to be authentic or not?'”

I’m glad he opposes the heartless and vindictive, cruel and sub-christian bullying of gays (and anyone else for that matter), but I’m sad that yet another high profile mega-egomaniac has shown the world the underbelly of Christian hypocrisy. He was gay. He was the Pastor of a large Church. He had an obligation to be honest (indeed, all do). But, to spare his job he lied. That’s mega-hypocrisy.

NPR observes

Jim Swilley — a twice-married father of four, a man who comes from a long line of evangelical preachers — revealed a secret he’d been holding onto most of his life: He’s gay. Swilley tells NPR’s Guy Raz that it was his ex-wife Debye who encouraged him to come clean. Though they’re recently divorced after 21 years of marriage, she still works and preaches alongside Swilley at Church in the Now. The pastor says he told her he was gay before they married, thinking it would be the end of their relationship. “But she said no, let’s get married, we’ll work it out. And to a degree, we did.”

Ugh. I suppose ‘husband of one wife’ should now be adjusted, for the sake of our cultural perspective, to ‘the husband of two or more wives and as many men as he wants’ (and isn’t it funny that the people who complain about conservative adherence to cultural norms are the very people who want to impose cultural norms on others- i.e., as long as they are postmodern and counter-cultural / anti-traditional. I find that more than a little ironic).

I’m sure he will be embraced and lauded and applauded for his ‘courage’ and his ‘honesty’ except it isn’t courageous to behave immorally and it isn’t honesty to pretend you’re one thing for your entire life while behind the scenes and under the sheets you were something else completely.

If his church doesn’t require his departure it illustrates the victory of theological accommodationism and anti-biblical cultural mores over biblical ethics.

It’s Sunday: Where Did Bloggers Worship Today?

Drunk Driver Slaughters Five and Injures Six More

It is slaughter.

The California Highway Patrol says a man who struck a pack of motorcyclists — causing a crash that killed five people and injured six — has been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.  CHP Officer Deann Goudie said Sunday that 36-year-old Carlos Ramirez Bobadilla of Mexicali, Mexico, was arrested because his breath smelled of alcohol. Results of a blood test are pending.  Ramirez is recovering from hand fractures at a San Diego hospital. A woman in his car was among the five killed.

He’s a serial killer- by means of his vehicle and his alcohol.  He should spend the rest of his life in prison for murder.  Drunk drivers are killers.  They are murderers.  They have no regard for human life.  And they shouldn’t be allowed to walk freely among us.

Dilettante du Jour

Thanks to James ‘Chewbakka’ McGrath on FB for pointing out this bizarre tale

A man dressed as Jesus was kicked out of a St. Louis area church [on October 31st]. Police were even called to get in the middle of the spiritual showdown. “We’re called to be ambassadors for Jesus Christ, ambassadors should represent, and that’s what I do. I try to represent my Lord and savior Jesus Christ,” said Neal Thompson Monday night, wearing the same white robe and cross, and carrying the same staff he’s been using every Sunday for 22 years. He dresses up like Jesus every week, going to a new church every week, he says, to spread his Christian message.

First, being an ambassador has nothing to do with dressing like you think a first century Jew dressed. Second if it’s ‘his’ Christian message he’s a heretic besides a dilettante. If he has his own version of the Gospel (which seems to be – dress like you think Jesus did, carry some stuff, and show up to disrupt worship and draw attention to yourself) then he obviously has not a clue. But most tellingly, he’s ignorant utterly of the message of the Gospels:

“He said ‘Take up your cross, your breastplate, and your staff and follow in Jesus Christ’s footsteps and wear a white robe to show your sincerity,'” he said. “That’s my job, to spread the word.”

Anyone care to point out the verse where Jesus tells anyone anywhere to ‘take up a breastplate and follow in Jesus Christ’s footsteps and wear a robe to show your sincerity’? No, the dilettante and theological ignoramus has substituted his own idiocy for the New Testament. He’s obviously just interested in causing disturbances and somehow, in a twisted mind, thinks he’s doing God’s work.  Taking up the cross means dying to self- not boasting of oneself.

Finally, Some Sciency News I Can Use


Me, in Atlanta for ASOR. Say Hi if you see me!

20 tips to kick your sugar addiction.  Yup, this is useful stuff.  Well – except this one- it’s a no go-


Don’t substitute artificial sweeteners for sugar. This will do little to alter your desire for sweets. If you do need a sweetener, try tevia, it’s the healthiest.

Whatever.  I love my Equal.  And I’m not giving it up for that nasty and overpriced Tevia.

I Wish I Could Have Been at the Exorcism Conference This Weekend

But I wasn’t invited- and it was by invitation only… as the New York Times reported the other day-

American bishops are holding a conference on Friday and Saturday to prepare more priests and bishops to respond to the demand. The purpose is not necessarily to revive the practice, the organizers say, but to help Catholic clergy members learn how to distinguish who really needs an exorcism from who really needs a psychiatrist, or perhaps some pastoral care.

“Not everyone who thinks they need an exorcism actually does need one,” said Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., who organized the conference. “It’s only used in those cases where the Devil is involved in an extraordinary sort of way in terms of actually being in possession of the person.

“But it’s rare, it’s extraordinary, so the use of exorcism is also rare and extraordinary,” he said. “But we have to be prepared.”

The closed-door conference is being held in Baltimore before the annual fall meeting of the nation’s bishops. Some Catholic commentators said they were puzzled why the bishops would bother with exorcisms in a year when they are facing a full plate of crises — from parish and school closings, to polls showing the loss of one of every three white baptized members, to the sexual abuse scandal flaring up again.

Perhaps the best way to get the public eye off priestly misconduct is precisely to shine attention on the demonic (which naturally then reminds one and all of demonically inspired priests- so I’m not so sure it was a smart diversionary effort).

Anyway, wish I could have gone. I could have used some tips to drive the demons out of Tilling and Stevens (who are possessed by that wickedest of all evil spirits- NT Wright).

Mark Stevens

Chris Tilling

More Ministerial Misconduct

It’s not a Catholic Priest this time, it’s a Church of Christ Youth pastor.

Oconee County officials are taking their time in the investigation of a Monroe youth pastor charged with sex crimes. Brian Richard Gray was being detained without bond at week’s end in the Oconee County jail. He was arrested Wednesday in Notasulga, Ala., and charged with one count each of child molestation, statutory rape and burglary. Gray, 32, of 1421 Langdon Park Court, Winder, is the youth minister at Monroe Church of Christ. Oconee County sheriff’s investigators last month learned of allegations Gray was involved in a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl between December 2009 and September. The teenager and her family attend the church on North Broad Street. Church leaders have not returned calls for comment and no one was at the church when the story broke last week.

Our over-sexualized society is a breeding ground for this kind of behavior.  So here’s another wolf disguised as a shepherd.

And if that isn’t annoying enough, how about the ‘evangelist’ who assaulted an 11 year old girl – a girl whose mother dropped her off at the hotel where the ‘evangelist’ was staying and left her with him…

Rev. Walter Donald Bradshaw, 61, was arrested Tuesday at his home in Lexington, N.C., and was being held at the Davidson County jail in lieu of $150,000 bail pending extradition to Pennsylvania. Police said the 51-year-old mother of the victim was taken into custody at the home Thursday and also was being held at the jail.


Facebook Email? No Thanks

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

I have a primary email address and I have a secondary Yahoo address and I really don’t think I need a Facebook email address even if Facebook does start offering email service to its 500,000,000 users.  How many spam emails does one person need to get in a day?

Facebook may be on the verge of offering e-mail to the 500 million members of its social-networking site, making it the largest e-mail service on the planet. More significantly, the offering could lead to a fundamental transformation of e-mail. Yahoo, Google and Microsoft are already scrambling to retool their e-mail services to build them more around people’s social connections. Facebook would have a tremendous advantage because it owns a vast trove of data about people’s relationships and would find it easier to graft e-mail onto its existing social services such as photo-sharing. Facebook has invited the media to what appears to be a significant announcement in San Francisco on Monday morning, adding a prominent hint that the news could involve a new e-mail service — a press invitation bears a message icon. However, while tech blogs hummed Friday with speculation that Facebook will release “a Gmail killer,” the Palo Alto-based company declined to confirm or deny those rumors, and a source with knowledge of the social network’s plans said at least part of the speculation was incorrect — adding even more uncertainty.

Nah. I’ve no use for it.

You Really Must Question Everything the Government Says and Does

Treblinka Concentration Camp sign at Yad Vashem

Because government is not to be trusted.  It embraces enemies and ruins citizens.  Take, for example, this fascinating revelation:

A secret history of the United States government’s Nazi-hunting operation concludes that American intelligence officials created a “safe haven” in the United States for Nazis and their collaborators after World War II, and it details decades of clashes, often hidden, with other nations over war criminals here and abroad.

That’s reprehensible. And more evidence of the government’s unworthiness of trust.

The 600-page report, which the Justice Department has tried to keep secret for four years, provides new evidence about more than two dozen of the most notorious Nazi cases of the last three decades. It describes the government’s posthumous pursuit of Dr. Josef Mengele, the so-called Angel of Death at Auschwitz, part of whose scalp was kept in a Justice Department official’s drawer; the vigilante killing of a former Waffen SS soldier in New Jersey; and the government’s mistaken identification of the Treblinka concentration camp guard known as Ivan the Terrible.

Government of, for, and by the people? Not here in the United States.  With thanks to Barnea Levi Selevan for pointing it out.