Daily Archives: 6 Mar 2012

Breaking News: The Colts Are Releasing Peyton Manning

Biggest mistake they’ve ever made.

The Peyton Manning Era in Indianapolis will end Wednesday, according to a report.  The Colts will release the four-time NFL MVP, opting not to pick up his $28 million roster bonus and leaving him free to sign with any team, reports ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.

Manning is the best QB in the NFL.  Whoever picks him up will gain one of the greats.  Meanwhile, the Colts will do about as well next year as they did this year.

Jacob Wright: The Cyrus Cylinder

A nice piece by Jacob in the HuffPo (one of the very few times an actual scholar has appeared in the HuffPo- usually they just get celebrities to pontificate on subjects they don’t know anything about).

In a recent TED lecture that is well on its way to becoming one of the most popular in a distinguished series, the director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, narrated the fascinating history of a 2,600-year-old clay object known as the Cyrus Cylinder. The ancient artifact is unremarkable in appearance. It resembles thousands of cuneiform-inscribed tablets and objects from Mesopotamia housed in museums all over the world.

So why is a replica of this object displayed prominently at the U.N. Headquarters in New York? Why did more than a million people come out to catch a glimpse of the Cylinder when the British Museum loaned it for a three-month exhibit last year in Tehran? And why does the Cylinder continue to arouse so much excitement in the media?

The Cyrus Cylinder

The Cyrus Cylinder (Photo credit: Averain)

MacGregor’s captivating TED lecture seeks to identify the reason. The Cylinder bears one of the “great declarations of a human aspiration,” comparable to the American Constitution and Magna Carta. Cyrus the Great and the Persian Empire he established (ca. 550-330 B.C.E.) bequeathed to history “a dream of the Middle East as a unit, and a unit where people of different faiths could live together.”

Enjoy the rest.

Netflix Doesn’t Want to Have Anything to do with Limbaugh

Boing Boing observes

how Limbaugh looks to advertisers

Joris Evers of Netflix emailed me to say:  Spotted your tweets and wanted to let you know that Netflix has not purchased and does not purchase advertising on the Rush Limbaugh show. We do buy network radio advertising and have confirmed that two Netflix spots were picked up in error as part of local news breaks during the Rush Limbaugh show. We have instructed our advertising agency to make sure that this error will not happen again.

Rush Limbaugh is to modern America what lepers were to ancient Israel.  Nobody with sense wants to have anything to do with him and the only people touching him are the ones who don’t care if they catch what he’s got.

$ign$ of the Time$ : Cargill Too Has Jumped the Shark…

Poor Robert…  he’s seeing fish on his toast (which really sounds gross if you think about it…)

Can You Help Support Real Archaeology?

A lot of people don’t have a lot of disposable income these days but some fortunate folk can spare $5 or $10 or $20 or even more to fund excavation fellowships sponsored by ASOR.

Help us raise the money to fund 53 of our 179 applicants. We already have 33 fellowships, so we need to raise funds for 20 more, or$20,000 in the next 3 weeks. Our goal during the next month is an ambitious one, some might even say mad, which is why we are calling this campaign “March Fellowship Madness!”

Your money won’t be used to ‘discover’ fishy finds but it will be used at responsible and respectable scientific excavations.  Your money won’t help ‘find’ Noah’s Ark or the Ark of the Covenant but it may help find an important ostracon or a piece of art long buried under dirt and rock.

You might not be able to fund a dig, but you can buy a trowel.  Please, help if you can.  The more real archaeology can do, the better off our field is.

Jason Exposes Tabor and Jacobovici’s Contradictory Notions

Jason Staples that is.  Amidst the current discussion and complete repudiation of Tabor/Simcha, he writes,

…  one thing I haven’t yet seen anyone point out is the fundamental contradiction between Tabor’s and Jacobovici’s interpretation of the Patio Tomb and their interpretation of the so-called “Jesus Tomb.” On the one hand, they claim to have found the tomb of Jesus and his family, where Jesus’ body was moved from its temporary grave after the crucifixion. But on the other hand, they claim the Patio Tomb, all of 45m away (in a tomb they speculate may have been on the property of Joseph of Arimathea), “represent[s] archeological evidence related to faith in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead—presumably by his contemporary 1st century followers.” So let me get this straight: Jesus’ contemporary 1st century followers who were buried next to Jesus’ dead body believed in the resurrection of Jesus? How exactly does that work?

It doesn’t at all.  So nicely spotted.   And then

If nothing else shows just how far Tabor and Jacobovici’s publicity-baiting will go, this outright contradiction makes it very clear: apparently they want us to believe the earliest Christian disciples believed that the Jesus whose body was decaying in a well-marked tomb a stone’s throw away had been raised from the dead. It would take more faith to buy that story than to believe Jesus was resurrected in the first place.

Publicity-baiting.  It’s the perfect phrase.  With thanks to Bob Cargill on FB for drawing Jason’s post to our attention.

A ‘Secular’ Translation of the New Testament? Nonsensical in the Extreme

In a new essay at Bible and Interpretation Zeba Crook ‘imagines’ a secular translation of the New Testament.

What if one were to translate the Bible according to the same principles as we translate Homer, Aristotle, and Freud? What if we were to translate the Bible regardless of the faith of its potential readership, regardless of any investment in the question of whether the texts are right or wrong, and regardless of how the texts might be used to address contemporary faith? This paper does not seek to answer this question in full, but only to initiate a conversation on the matter.

I’m not sure what renditions of the NT Crook reads but surely he can’t think that translators are being so unfaithful to the Greek text that they are masking theological bias and misrepresenting the text itself. In fact, with his wish for a secular edition he is wishing to do exactly what he seems to be suggesting biblical scholars do- provide a translation based purely on ideology.  Except his ideology is the religion of secularism.

Further, a ‘secular translation of the bible’ is a grand contradiction.  The bible is a collection of theological texts.  They can no more be ‘secularized’ (for what else would a secular translation be but an attempt to secularize) than a leopard can become a toad.  Theological texts remain theological texts no matter which language they are rendered into.  The DNA of the Bible is theology.  DNA can’t be changed without changing the thing itself.

A ‘secular’ translation of the New Testament makes as much sense as a pig with wings.  And it’s just as real.

Is Jesus Really Kosher?

Larry Schiffman’s longer review of Kosher Jesus titled ‘Is Jesus Really Kosher’ begins on page 8 of the Long Island Jewish World Magazine and you should give it a look.  A shorter version appeared earlier and was noted here.

with thanks to Prof. Schiffman for telling me about it

Oded Golan, And Todd Bolen, and the Misrepresentation of Rahmani’s Reading of the ‘James Ossuary’ Inscription

Antonio Lombatti writes

I asked L.Y. Rahmani’s opinion (via Joe Zias) on the inscription on the James ossuary, considering that the verdict will be issued next week. I did it, because I found out yesterday that he supported in court the authenticity of the inscription. This at least what a certain Todd Bolen wrote, and he quoted a letter by Oded Golan. But this is false. Rahmani had said in court that the ossuary was authentic but not the inscription. I’d also like to check the other scholars mentioned by Golan… One more thing: why didn’t Tabor et al. ask the world leading authority on Jewish ossuaries about the so called “Jonah and fish” iconography?

What won’t people do to appear right?  Rahmani says the ossuary is real and the inscription is fake.  Who benefits from claiming he said otherwise besides Golan, who has more than a little to worry about in the matter?

Antonio illustrates why it’s important to ask scholars their own opinions instead of asking people with a financial interest in a matter what some scholar did or didn’t say.  Ad fontes!   It’s not just important for biblical interpretation.

On the Location of the ‘Jesus Discovery’ and the Claim to a Connection with Joseph of Arimathea…

A while back the ‘excavators’ of Talpiot ‘found’ their Jonah and the Whale ossuary by sending a camera down a hole in an apartment.  The apartment was mysteriously ‘connected’ to Joseph of Arimathea by the addition of a name-plate on the entryway…  yes, you’ve guessed it- inscribed ‘Arimathea’!

Even if you can’t read Hebrew you can see the shiny new green name plate which stands out from all the rest.  It was added at the direction of the apartment manager (who was connected to the ‘excavators’).

Photos courtesy Joanna Wail:

click to enlarge

What’s so amazing is that the connection between Arimathea and the location of the ‘tomb’ underneath the apartment and only accessible through a small stove-pipe size opening is a pure fabrication.  There is no more evidence that the purported ‘fish ossuary’ belongs to the family of Joseph of Arimathea than there is that there are little green men on Mars.

According to the source of this information and materials, the apartment owner was asked to add the Arimathea nameplate and the building was promised that if he did so Christian folk would buy the place and turn it into a religious attraction.

Draw your own conclusions.

Eerdmans- On How Archaeology is Supposed to Be Done

Eerdmans blog has weighed in on the Talpiot issue with a post offering four good sane alternatives to bad archaeology.  And since I’ve mentioned Jodi’s before and Dever’s just the other day, I’m glad they’ve done so.  Speaking of Dever’s

The Lives of Ordinary People in Ancient Israel

In this book William Dever — who has spent more than thirty years conducting archaeological excavations in the Near East – addresses the question that must guide every good historian of ancient Israel: What was life really like in those days?

Dever presents his answers in a book that is far from a run-of-the-mill “history of Israel.” Writing as an expert archaeologist who is also a secular humanist, Dever relies on archaeological data, over and above the Hebrew Bible, for primary source material. He focuses on the lives of ordinary people in the eighth century B.C.E. — not kings, priests, or prophets — people who left behind rich troves of archaeological information but who are practically invisible in “typical” histories of ancient Israel. Illustrated by photos, maps, charts, site plans, and specially commissioned drawings, Dever’s work brings vividly to life a world long buried beneath dusty texts and stony landscapes.

The Lives of Ordinary People in Ancient Israel is set for release next month but is available for preorder now.

The volumes that Eerdmans mentions are all great antidotes to nonsense.

If Islam Teaches Forgiveness, Why Are So Many Muslims So Violent?

First, setting the stage

Five Americans and one Afghan were responsible for the recent burning of literature which, along with quotes from the Qur’an, included actual copies of the Qur’an. In response, protests took place where Muslims inadvertently killed more than 30 other Muslims in anger. Apologies were issued by the president of America himself; the religious authorities in Afghanistan (the Ulema council) have stated that these actions “could not be forgiven and an apology is not enough. The criminals of this action should be openly prosecuted and punished as soon as possible”.

I’m speechless.

Caliph Uthman, one of the four “rightly guided caliphs”, ordered that all copies of the Qur’anic text that were different to the dialect of theQuraysh be burned. From the earliest days of Islam to the modern era, burning texts with the name of God, Allah, and/or whole copies of the Qur’an have been an accepted form of disposal.

And then the point-

At worst, the actions in Bagram were intentional, to insult Muslims, but how could this be when an Afghan man – presumably a Muslim – was among them?

At best, it was a simply a bad decision, irrespective of general Muslim ignorance of their own faith: that burning texts with Qur’anic script is permissible. Whatever the case, Islam teaches us the importance of forgiveness. The prophet Muhammad, when facing ignorance and abuse, once spoke: “O Allah, guide these people, as they did not know what they were doing.” And the Qur’an is full of verses speaking on the subject of forgiveness, such as, “Show forgiveness, encourage what is good, and do not punish the foolish” (7:199).

The Qur’an has become, to so many, nothing more than a text which is recited beautifully, echoing the prophet Muhammad’s own sentiment, that a time will come when it will not pass beyond the people’s throat.

It looks to me like a lot of Muslims are as ignorant of what their own sacred text teaches as Christians are of what the Bible teaches.  No wonder the world is a sty.

There is No Connection Between Joseph of Arimathea and Talpiot

Christopher Rollston observes

The known inscriptions in Talpiyot Tomb B are (1) a four line inscription which has no reference to someone named “Joseph,” and certainly no reference to someone named “Joseph of Arimathea,” and (2) an inscription consisting of a single word, namely, “Mara” which they consider to be a reference to a woman, not a man (Tabor and Jacobovici, 127). They suggest that there is “circumstantial evidence,” namely, they suggest that “Arimathea” means “high” and Talpiyot is a “high” place. Of course, I would suggest that just being a “high” place is pretty circumstantial evidence indeed! Moreover, I would note that “Arimathea” is called a polis (Luke 23:51), that is, a “city,” rather than just a “high” place. Thus, I would suggest that most scholars will not consider the evidence to which Tabor and Jacobovici refer to be considered sufficient for their claim.

I would propose that for a historian to make a credible argument that this is the land, tomb, and ossuary of Joseph of Arimathea there must be solid evidence, such as the name “Joseph of Arimathea” inscribed on the ossuary. But, since these words are not there, it is really not convincing to posit that this is the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.

But even more than this, the ‘evidence’ for the connection is, to be charitable, recently placed…  A name plate recently put on a door in an apartment where the ‘dig’ took place and the robot ‘found’ the tomb with the fishy ossuary on it is scarcely responsible or legitimate evidence.

Today in Church History

The author of the Heidelberg Catechism, Zacharias Ursinus, died on this date in 1583.

A reforming theologian, Ursinus was born Breslau in 1534 and studied at Wittenberg from 1550 to 1557. He then moved to Geneva for further study and from there took a teaching post in his native city of Breslau. His doctrine of the Lord’s Supper led to his dismissal from Breslau in 1559. But in 1561, thanks to his mentor Peter Martyr Vermigli, received an invitation from Elector Frederick III to come to Heidelberg as director of the theological academy.

It was at Heidelberg that with Caspar Olevianus he made his )most notable contribution to church life by drafting the Heidelberg Catechism (1563). He also undertook the defense of the Catechism against Lutheran objections.

From 1562 he added the professorship of dogmatics to his administrative duties and also prepared a new liturgy. Zanchius relieved him the burden of teaching in 1568, but Ursinus became involved in a difficult struggle to bring in a new discipline on the Genevan model (1570). The death of the electtor in 1577 opened the way for Lutheran influences. Ursinus, with Zanchius, move to Neustadt in 1578 and spent his last year there. In addition to his work on the Catechism, he also wrote an important treatise on the Lutheran Book of Concord and did much to promote Peter Martyr’s Loci.

With thanks to Refo500 for tweeting the fact.

Super Tuesday!

This year it’s the day when Republicans in numbers will choose delegates for their Presidential candidate- the man who will inevitably lose to Obama.

Santorum?  Let’s face it, not a chance.  Gingrich?  Oh please, as if.  Paul?  Nope, not a prayer.  Romney?  Sorry.

The day will be super for the Dems, because no matter who comes out on top, he will lose.  And the Repubs have only themselves to blame for putting the D team on the field.

More Ministerial Misconduct: The Child Molesting Deacon

A 65-year-old church deacon is behind bars tonight charged with the sexual assault of a child.  Thomas C. McConnell was arrested yesterday and charged with the aggravated sexual battery of a 5-year-old child.  We’re told the incident happened at 200 Manufacturers Road, which is near Renaissance Park in Chattanooga.  A statement issued late Monday from the Diocese of Knoxville said, “The Diocese of Knoxville became aware of the arrest of Deacon Thomas McConnell from Chattanooga, TN, who has been accused of committing aggravated sexual battery against a minor.