Daily Archives: 30 Mar 2012

Total Depravity: The Human Sacrifice Edition

Down in Mexico

Eight people have been arrested for allegedly killing two 10-year-old boys and a 55-year-old woman in ritual sacrifices by the cult of La Santa Muerte, or Saint Death, prosecutors in northern Mexico said Friday.  Jose Larrinaga, spokesman for Sonora state prosecutors, said the victims’ blood was poured around an altar to the saint, which is depicted as a skeleton holding a scythe and clothed in flowing robes.

Barbarism.  Mexico.

What’s The Latest from George Zimmerman’s Defenders? The Trayvon Martin Smear Campaign

It was inevitable that the media blitz on the killing of Treyvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, would breed skepticism in some circles. No story that seems so open-and-shut—that seems like such a textbook example of criminalized walking-while-black—can, or should, pass without scrutiny.

Much of that scrutiny, though, involves finding implausible excuses for the incident, or digging up completely irrelevant dirt on Mr. Martin.

On the implausible-excuse end of the spectrum we have:

  • Fox’s Geraldo Rivera saying Mr. Martin’s hoodie was as much to blame for his untimely death as his killer, George Zimmerman.
  • Mr. Zimmerman’s friend, Joe Oliver, suggesting that Mr. Martin could have defused the situation by simply explaining that he was in the gated community because he was staying with his parents.

As for the irrelevant dirt:

  • The Daily Caller, a conservative website, posted Mr. Martin’s tweets. The site provided no explanation for why it considered these communications newsworthy, but it’s pretty clear that the point was to highlight Mr. Martin’s unsavory (or just juvenile, depending on how you look at it) Twitter handle.
  • The Sanford Police leaked information (where do they get off?) that Mr. Martin was caught carrying an empty baggie with marijuana residue at school and was suspended as a result.
  • The Daily Mail (among other sources) pointed out that he was also suspended on two other occasions: Once for skipping school, and another time for allegedly being caught with a “burglary tool” and a bag full of women’s jewelry. The Daily Mail says these allegations “paint a different picture of a teenager who frequently found himself in trouble with authorities.”
  • A photo composite has made the rounds showing a grinning George Zimmerman in a suit and tie next to a young, shirtless black man flipping off the camera. We’re supposed to think that the teen is Mr. Martin, and to conclude that he’s a punk. But actually it’s a picture of a completely different person.

Michelle Goldberg of The Daily Beast compared “the way people talk about Martin and the way they talk about rape victims, whose clothes and histories are often subject to scrutiny no matter how cut-and-dried the case seems.” That’s exactly right.

There’s much more that you should read.

Quote of the Day

But is it not true that of this [i.e., Christian suffering] there is very little to be seen among us? Why? Quite simply because we still take much too lightly our service to Christ. If a farmer stays at home, then he can keep his hands fine and his skin white; if we Christians make it comfortable for ourselves to be Christians, hesitate and are afraid to bear witness to our Lord, squeeze around drawing the conclusions of our Christian faith, then we can escape suffering. But only so. By that every one of us may prove how faithfully he walks or does not walk behind his Lord.  — Emil Brunner

[Via Doug on FB with thanks for the reminder of this gem from the inestimably brilliant Brunner]

If America Supports Gay Marriage, Why is Obama Afraid to Push It?

President Barack Obama could be caught in an election-year bind on gay marriage, wedged between the pressure of supporters who want him to back same-sex marriage and the political perils of igniting an explosive social issue in the midst of the campaign.

If he supports it he should say so and make it an issue he’s unwilling to evade.  If he isn’t in support of it he should say so.  If he equivocates (the thing politicians constantly do because they’re more interested in votes than facts) then it says rather a lot about his character.

But chiefly, if America supports marriage equality (and we’re constantly told that more and more Americans do) then what’s the President got to fear?  If the majority were for it, he would say he was for it (like he does when he mentions his support of the troops- because everyone supports the troops [if not the policies which send the troops overseas]).

The fact is, though, and the President knows it- most Americans are NOT in favor of marriage equality as is proven whenever the issue is put to the populace.  So Mr Obama wants to support gay marriage but he is afraid to.  Afraid to.  Afraid to.  Because he wants folk to vote for him.  After all, he is a politician.  Better to stick one’s finger in the wind to catch the public movement than actually believe in a cause and support it.

Come on Mr Obama, say it.  Say the words ‘My aim is to see to it that gay marriage becomes a reality in America’.  Then those who vote for you won’t be left unsure of where you stand, or how you stand.

But he won’t say it.   At least not until after the election.  Because he knows that while gay folk are more willing to support him than any of the other candidates, he also knows that most Americans don’t see it as he does.  So he’s in a pretty good place.  The folk pushing marriage equality can either vote for him or Romney or Santorum…  Which do you think is more likely.  Or, they can stay home.  And since they are a tiny minority of the population it won’t matter if they do.

I suppose, given the political reality of the situation, the President is just being prudent (if simultaneously altogether disingenuous).

Real Evidence From Real Archaeology

Matti Friedman’s latest contribution to his continuing series on objects in the Israel Museum is grand!

The heel bone and nail from the ossuary of Yehohanan. (photo credit: Courtesy the Israel Museum, photographer: Ilan Shtulman)

In Jerusalem around 2,000 years ago a Jew named Yehohanan, who was in his mid-twenties, committed a crime against Roman authority. The nature of his transgression has been lost to time, but his punishment is known — he was crucified.

Convicts were executed by crucifixion in the Roman Empire as a matter of course, and histories of the time regularly describe the practice, which was designed to make death prolonged, painful and public. After the famous slave uprising led by Spartacus was crushed in 71 BCE, for example, an estimated 6,000 rebels were crucified along a highway leading to the capital as an illustration of Roman power.

It is therefore an odd fact that archaeological evidence of this punishment — crosses, for example, or perforated skeletons — has never been found anywhere in the world, with one exception: the stone box containing Yehohanan’s remains.

After Yehohanan’s body was removed from the cross, it would have been laid out in a burial cave. After the flesh had decomposed a year or so later, leaving only the skeleton, his bones were gathered in a simple stone box, an ossuary, in keeping with the Jewish practice of that time. Today, the box is displayed in a gallery at the Israel Museum alongside other artifacts from the period of Roman rule in Judea.

His name is inscribed in simple letters on one side: Yehohanan, son of Hagakol. (Some scholars, interpreting the letters differently, believe the second name is Hezkil.)

Inside the box, archaeologists found a heel bone with an iron stake driven through it, indicating that the occupant of the ossuary had been nailed to a cross.

Read it all!

Buy the Book, Watch the Movie, Suit Yourself: But Know the Truth Before you Do

On April 12th (just at the Easter Season passes) the Discovery Channel will air a program called ‘The Jesus Discovery’.  Watch it if you must.  Buy the book if you must.  But before you do there’s something you need to know: it is a load of nonsense.

To be sure, the tiny cohort of promoters and fame seekers and folk with dollar signs in their eyes behind it will insist that it’s all 100% pure science.  Don’t be fooled.  Here’s a listing of what actual scholars think of the absurd claims made by the project-

Mark Goodacre made a short but important observation here and a bit of a longer one on the whole ‘Jonah’ issue here.

Bob Cargill completely denuded Tabor’s claims of legitimacy for the ‘find’ here and delivered what can only be described as the coup de grace here, when he shows that the images used by Tabor et al have been manipulated (and amusingly, shortly after he posted his piece, the photos Cargill questioned were removed from Tabor’s page).  He also offers a handy chart if you’re trying to keep up with the constant mutations of Tabor’s theory.  Think of it as a program guide.  And above all, don’t miss Bob’s post here, exposing the logical failings of the Tabor theory.

Joan Taylor too chimed in with some very wise comments and so did many others including James McGrath, Chris Rollston (as well as here and here), Jodi Magness, and Eric Meyers.  You can find all of them right here on the ASOR Blog along with others.

This project certainly isn’t archaeology; as Joel is unafraid to say, it’s about the $.  And Deane G. isn’t afraid to be himself in his scathing denunciation of the claim.

Meanwhile Tom Verenna offers a roundup of the Talpiot joyfulness – including rejections of Simcha’s patently absurd claim that no one has proven he and Tabor wrong!

Why even the place where the ossuary found is steeped in farce.  Only two people on the planet believe Tabor and Jacobovici.  Tabor and Jacobovici (and perhaps people who wear aluminum foil hats or who are employed by the Discovery Channel and are charged with promoting the thing heedless of scholarship contrary to the wishes of the filmmakers).

Others, too, weigh in in an attempt to inform the often all too gullible and sensation-craving public.

Jason Staples exposes the absurdity and contradictory nature of Tabor’s claims.  This is why I suggested above that only Tabor and Jacobovici believe what they’re selling.

If the world were a scroll and the sea filled with ink, there wouldn’t be sufficient space or time to list every single well stated (and not so well stated) denunciation of this unfortunate example of pseudo-archaeology.

So, watch the special, read the book.  Just do it in the same frame of mind as you would if you were watching something on the SyFy channel.

Happy Birthday Biblical Theology

You may not know this, but today’s an important day in the history of Biblical scholarship.  It’s the ‘birthday’ of Biblical Theology.  Yes, it was on the 30th of March, 1787, that Gabler delivered his epoch making speech „De iusto discrimine theologiae biblicae et dogmaticae regundisque recte utriusque finibus“!

De iusto discrimine theologiae biblicae et dogmaticae regundisque recte utriusque finibus“ („Von der rechten Unterscheidung der biblischen und der dogmatischen Theologie und der rechten Bestimmung ihrer beider Ziele“; lat. Text und deutsche Übersetzung bei Niebuhr / Böttrich 2003, 15-41; Letztere aus Merk 1972, 273-284; engl. Übersetzung bei Sandys-Wunsch / Eldredge 1980, 134-144). Darin beschrieb er die Biblische Theologie als eine von der Dogmatik unabhängige, aber zugleich auf diese ausgerichtete Wissenschaftsdisziplin. Ihre Aufgabe als eine historisch orientierte Wissenschaft sei es, die normativen Grundwahrheiten oder allgemeinen Vorstellungen (notiones universae; notiones purae) der Bibel von ihren zeitbedingten Einkleidungen abhzuheben. Dagegen müsse die Dogmatik die christliche Glaubenslehre in eine sich immerzu wandelnde Gesellschaft hinein vermitteln.

The central theme of the lecture-

„Die biblische Theologie besitzt historischen Charakter, überliefernd, was die heiligen Schriftsteller über die göttlichen Dinge gedacht haben; die dogmatische Theologie dagegen besitzt didaktischen Charakter, lehrend, was jeder Theologe kraft seiner Fähigkeit oder gemäß dem Zeitumstand, dem Zeitalter, dem Orte, der Sekte, der Schule und anderen ähnlichen Dingen dieser Art über die göttlichen Dinge philosophierte. … und [dass wir] nach Ausscheidung von dem, was in den heiligen Schriften allernächst an jene Zeiten und jene Menschen gerichtet ist, nur diese reinen Vorstellungen unserer philosophischen Betrachtung über die Religion zugrundelegen, welche die göttliche Vorsehung für alle Orte und Zeiten gelten lassen wollte“.

It’s virtually impossible to underestimate the importance of this lecture or its aftermath.  It changed the way biblical studies was done as no other single event has.

So, happy birthday Biblical Theology!

Easter Evidence from Tyndale House


And finally

Enjoy all three. Show them to your church or church group. Or even, if you’re the bold and brave sort, your classes!

How Atheists and Cats are Similar

The Headline Led Me To Think It Was a Story about Oded Golan

From the AP‘s twitter feed this gem-

April Fools’ Day exhibit puts prolific forger’s works on display at Cincinnati museum

So naturally I thought it was a story about Oded Golan. Alas, no. But oh well. Could have been and one day probably will be.

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Konrad Schmid- The Old Testament: A Literary History

This volume arrived for review from the good folk at Fortress and the entire multi-part examination is linked to below.

Renowned Hebrew Bible scholar Konrad Schmid here provides a comprehensive discussion of the task, history, and conditions of the history of Old Testament literature. He carefully considers the dynamics of language, orality, literacy, and the range of social and political conditions that shaped Israel’s writing at each period of the people’s history and explores the significance of the transformation of various writings into “Scripture” and a biblical canon.

You can read the preface, table of contents, and chapter one here.

Part A. Purpose, History, and Problems of a Literary History of the Old Testament

Part B. The Beginnings of Ancient Israel’s Literature among the Syro-Palestinian City-States before the Advent of the Assyrians (Tenth–Eighth Centuries B.C.E.)

Part C. The Literature of the Assyrian Period (Eighth–Seventh Centuries B.C.E.)

Part D. The Literature of the Babylonian Period (Sixth Century B.C.E.)

Part E. The Literature of the Persian Period (Fifth–Fourth Centuries B.C.E.)

Part F. The Literature of the Ptolemaic Period (Third Century B.C.E.)

Part G. The Literature of the Seleucid Period

Part H. Scripture in Becoming and the Genesis of the Canon

It’s Nice to Know Some Places Have Standards

A Philippine Catholic school is witholding the diplomas of six high school boys who uploaded Facebook photos that appear to show them kissing one another, an education official said Friday.

A day earlier, a Philippine court rejected another Catholic school’s decision to bar five girls from graduation ceremonies because they had posed in bikinis for photos posted on Facebook. The cases test the limits of privacy in a conservative Catholic nation that is also among the world’s most prolific users of social networking sites.

Standards of behavior… haven’t heard of it have you?  That’s because you’re probably an American, Canadian, or European.

What’s Ronnie Reich’s Connection to Elad?

via Ha'areta

Archaeologist Ronny Reich has spent years excavating the City of David in East Jerusalem, and has found evidence that threatens the historical reputations of Herod and Hezekiah. He says politics and religion have never interested him, so what’s his connection with the right-wing Elad association, which operates the site?

So asks Ha’aretz.

Reich has written a book,

… which describes the history of excavations at City of David from the 19th century through the present, Reich avoids addressing the political and ideological questions aroused by the excavations there. At the same time, however, he doesn’t hesitate to settle a few professional and political scores with colleagues in the world of archaeology.

For instance

Reich generally seeks to avoid confrontation with political rivals, preferring to focus on archaeology. The exception is Prof. Rafi Greenberg of Tel Aviv University. Greenberg heads a group of critical archaeologists called Emek Shaveh, which has frequently taken Elad and Reich to task for exploiting archaeology for political ends. Reich retorts that Greenberg’s activity has caused the dismissal of the Palestinian laborers working at the dig. On this subject, he concurs with Elad’s view that until the leftists came to Silwan, peaceful coexistence prevailed there.

“All through the years I’ve made one demand of Elad, and that is that the workers be from Silwan,” says Reich. “I believe that whoever has the misfortune to live in an antiquities site ought to be able to profit from it. But when they ‏[Emek Shaveh‏] started up, there was pressure through the mukhtar, through Hamas. The only thing I want to know is if he [Greenberg‏] gave them ‏[the workers‏] a good explanation. I think they deserve it.”

Prof. Greenberg declined to comment.

It’s a very long article but one very much worth reading fully.