Daily Archives: 25 Mar 2012

Go Ahead and Tell it in Gath!

Congratulations to Aren and the gang over at Gath!

We have received some great news! On Friday I found out that a grant proposal that Prof. Haskel Greenfield (University of Manitoba; who has been on the Safi team for 3 years now, recently mentioned here) and I applied for from the Canadian Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) was accepted and will be funded.

The proposed research, which is entitled, “Nature of early urban neighbourhoods in the southern Levant: Early Bronze Age at Tell es-Safi”, aims to study of the Early Bronze III at Tell es-Safi as a case study of what early urban neighborhoods looked like during this period, using a broad “toolkit” of macro- and micro-archaeological perspectives, along with a large team of collaborators from Israel, Canada, the US and other countries.

Now here is the really good news:
The grant from the Canadian government is to the sum of 2.7 million Canadian dollars (which is now worth more than the US$…) for seven years!!!!

That’s just simply fantastic!  Again, congrats to Aren and all those who are connected to the project.

Diarmaid MacCulloch on the Anglican Covenant

Diarmaid writes in the Guardian

Something very significant in the history of the Church of England happened on Saturday. An absolute majority of dioceses in the Church of England, debating diocese by diocese, voted down a pernicious scheme called the Anglican Covenant. This was an effort to increase the power of centralising bureaucracy throughout the worldwide Anglican communion. However much the promoters denied it, the principal aim was to discipline Anglican churches in the United States and Canada, which had the gall to think for themselves and, after much prayer and discussion, to treat gay people just like anybody else.

Diocesan synods voted against the covenant, often in the face of great pressure from the vast majority of English bishops, who frequently made sure that the case for the covenant dominated proceedings. The bishops also exerted a certain amount of emotional blackmail, suggesting that if the scheme didn’t pass, it would be very upsetting for the archbishop of Canterbury (cue for synod members to watch a podcast from said archbishop, looking sad even while commending the covenant).

Well, it didn’t work, and now those particular bishops need to consider their position, as the saying goes. Principally, they need to consider a killer statistic: as the voting has taken place in the dioceses (and there are still a few to go), the pattern has been consistent. Around 80% of the bishops have voted in favour of the covenant, but the clergy and laity votes have split around 50-50 for and against, with votes against nudging ahead among the clergy. That suggests an episcopate that is seriously out of touch, not just with the nation as a whole (we knew that already), but even with faithful Anglican churchgoers and clergy in England.

Read the rest.  I admire Prof. MacCulloch immensely.  I just happen to disagree with him on this issue (as everyone who comes here with any regularity should know).

Mauro Pesce: On Clean and Unclean Animals and the Gospels

Mauro writes, in part-

Anche per quanto riguarda il rispetto delle norme del capitolo 11 del Levitico (che distingue tra animali puri e animali impuri) non abbiamo un’informazione chiara sui primi decenni del cristianesimo. Il Vangelo di Matteo e quello di Marco hanno su questo punto una posizione molto diversa. Il Gesù di Matteo non contesta le norme bibliche che vietano di mangiare animali impuri, mentre il Gesù di Marco sembra abolirle. Matteo e Marco, infatti, tramandano in forma lievemente diversa un detto di Gesù che recita, in Marco, «non vi è nulla dal di fuori dell’uomo che entri in lui che possa contaminarlo, ma le cose che escono dall’uomo sono quelle che contaminano l’uomo» (Mc 7, 15),  mentre nella forma di Matteo:   «non ciò che entra nella bocca contamina l’uomo, ma ciò che esce dalla bocca questo contamina l’uomo» (Mt 15,11).

He then continues with a really fascinating examination of the issue here.

I Wouldn’t Pay $26 for Ten Hotdogs, Much Less for One

There are hot dogs, and then there are hot dogs. The Texas Rangers will be serving the latter this season. The “Boomstick” has a $26 price tag, reports Yahoo Sports, but there is an upside. For all that dough, you get a lot of … well, bun and meat. It’s a two-foot-long, one-pound hot dog, and it’s apparently designed to feed four. (No word on whether you’re supposed to take turns taking bites…) It comes topped with chili, cheese, and onions, and according to team president Nolan Ryan, “we’re getting some kind of exotic bread flown in from France.”

Say isn’t that George Bush’s team?  Folk who attend Rangers games must be rolling in the oil money…  Anyway, do you know what hotdogs are made of?????  Nastiness.

From Aren: An Excellent argument for the inauthenticity of the “Jehoash Inscription”

Aren writes

… a new article by my colleague Ed Greenstein quite clearly demonstrates that from an analysis of the language of the inscription it is quite clearly a modern forgery, in which most of the text is taken from the biblical text, with some additions from some other, bona fide inscriptions, along with several misuses of biblical Hebrew terms according to modern Hebrew usages.  He quite clearly takes apart V. Sasson’s and C. Cohen’s claims that linguistically it is ancient.

Sounds fun.

Quote of the Day

It is foolish to attempt to prove to infidels that the Scripture is the Word of God. This it cannot be known to be, except by faith. Justly, therefore, does Augustine remind us, that every man who would have any understanding in such high matters must previously possess piety and mental peace. — John Calvin

What Israelis and Iranians Really Want

Mana Neyestani

The Weekly Schedule for the Azekah Dig

Posted by Oded Lipschits on the dig’s Facebook page is the weekly schedule for the dig.  It looks to be filled with joy.

Nina Burleigh on the Trial of the Century: Golan, Shanks, A Smear Campaign and Money

Nina, who famously wrote a book on the trial, has an op-ed in the LA Times this morning.  She observes

Israeli prosecutors were badly underfunded (the nation has its eye on bigger problems than relic forgery), and its investigators never mounted the kind of international, follow-the-money detective work that would have bolstered their case by showing a pattern of criminality involving a number of lesser-known objects that were also part of the case — allegedly ancient lamps and Old Testament-era royal seal impressions that scientists said were fakes.

Prosecutors relied on a parade of archaeologists and other scholars. These men and women were accustomed to addressing respectful colleagues and students. They had no experience defending their conclusions against the highest-paid lawyers in Tel Aviv.

Like scholars and scientists everywhere, their work doesn’t reach a level of precision that can withstand legal cross-examination. They acknowledge doubts. Their opinions don’t always agree in the particulars, even when they arrive at a consensus.

And while the scientists for the state conducted their investigations and testified for free, the defense paid for-hire scientists, who were willing to say the objects at issue were entirely authentic.

And of course she’s on the money too when she observes

Supporters of the ossuary and the other objects that had been discredited by the state’s investigation hailed the acquittal as a legal stamp of approval.

The ossuary’s loudest supporter is American lawyer and publisher Hershel Shanks, whose magazine Biblical Archaeology Review first revealed the object. Shanks has spent the last seven years attacking the “pack of scholars” at the Israel Antiquities Authority and one in particular, an archaeologist named Yuval Goren who found modern silicone glue in the carved ossuary inscription.

Goren, a vice dean of the faculty of humanities at Tel Aviv University, is a mild-mannered expert in materials that ancient craftsmen used to make pottery and art. He testified that a simulated patina had been applied over the inscription, a substance containing powdered calcite and limestone, charcoal and corroded bronze particles and adhered with modern glue he dubbed “James Bond.” That testimony was discredited partly because the test Goren carried out removed the substance from the surface of the box.

Goren’s findings were hardly the only evidence against Golan. Eventually an Israeli police officer tracked down an Egyptian who admitted having worked for Golan, creating objects that were meant to look ancient.

And brilliantly

Despite widespread knowledge of that stunning transcript and the damning workroom evidence reported by police, Golan’s supporters made Goren a whipping boy at the courthouse and in biblical archaeology websites. Because he dared to cast doubt on the ossuary — and therefore on the literal truth of the Bible — his professionalism was trashed and he was variously called a religion-hating atheist, a hater of Israel and a self-hating Jew.

Attacking scientists is increasingly common as religious and ideological zealots flatly reject data that offend their creeds. Recently a pro-mining consortium threatened legal action against academic journals about to publish studies linking mining-related air pollution and lung cancer. Climate scientists whose work indicates that global warming is caused by humans’ burning of fossil fuels now routinely receive hate mail and have had their emails systematically hacked by those who disagree, mostly on faith.

The methods used to discredit the best archaeologists in Israel — by seizing on minor data points or a minority of dissenters who deviate from the consensus — is exactly what happens in the debate about climate science. The non-expert public is then forced to choose which view makes the most sense.

For those who seek to prove that the Bible is literally true, the particulars of science matter little. They want tangible artifacts, and the details be damned. Israel Finkelstein, dean of archaeology at Tel Aviv University (whose work in Solomonic-era archaeology does not fit with Bible stories about Solomon) told me that if the state lost the ossuary case, we should expect a bumper crop of shady Bible-proving finds: “Inscriptions from the time of Solomon, from the time of David, the T-shirt of Moses, the crown of King Solomon, the sandals of Abraham. That’s the future, if there is an acquittal.”

Indeed.  So read her whole essay. She’s right.

Golan and his team bought acquittal the same way OJ did.  Make no mistake about it.