Daily Archives: 9 Apr 2012

Luther: On Spiritual Blindness

Greed and ambition prevent us from enjoying things. Many a skinflint sits in the midst of the greatest luxuries and yet can’t enjoy them with pleasure. It’s said that the ungodly won’t see the glory of God; in fact, they can’t even recognize present gifts because God overwhelms us so much with them. If they were rare, we might esteem them more highly.  — Martin Luther

James Charlesworth Wants You to Watch the ‘Jesus Discovery’…

Really James, really?  I’ve seen a lot of self-promotional stuff in my life and am usually quite unaffected by it but this bit of self promotion makes earlier bits of self promotion seem tame and sensible:

On behalf of the Foundation [on Judaism and Christian Origins], I am pleased to announce an important documentary. Please watch: “The Jesus Discovery: Latest research on the Talpiot Tombs”.

Pleased to? Or asked to by the film maker because the project has been trashed by everyone across the entire range of biblical scholars and archaeologists.

This documentary is the first robotic exploration of a tomb in Jerusalem. The door remains sealed as it was in the first century. Bone boxes were found inside. Inside the tomb were found an inscription and some drawings. The inscription seems to refer to a Jewish belief in resurrection. The meaning of the drawings will need to be debated among specialists. Did a Jew draw an amphora or a fish? If so, what did they symbolize?

Good grief. ‘Seems’ and ‘need to be debated’ and ‘or’ and ‘if’… If he were a politician we would say he was equivocating. He’s clearly leaving the door open for a quick escape when the entire project bombs because no one except Tabor and Jacobovici support the findings they’ve come up with. Heck-fire, here Charlesworth himself makes it pretty clear that he doesn’t agree with them and just can’t say so outright.

On Thursday, April 12, 2012 at 10pm EST, Discovery Channel in the U.S.A. and Vision Television in Canada will simulcast the world broadcast premier of these discoveries in the documentary “The Resurrection Tomb Mystery” (US title) and “The Jesus Discovery” (Canadian title).

Watch it if you must. I’ll be watching something more interesting. Probably Jerry Springer (thank heaven for DVR).

I [James Charlesworth] was the one who read the inscription, and am featured in this documentary.

Wow. ‘I’m featured in this documentary!!! Its conclusions are questionable and its thesis unfounded but hey, I’m still it in so it has to be brilliant right?’

How important is the discovery? Will those in media or academia twist what may be informative in our search for understanding early Jews, including some perhaps related to Jesus? Can we have a civil and sensitive discussion about a drawing that is clearly Jewish and pre-70? Is the drawing a sign or a symbol? A sign can mean one and only one thing. A symbol must be interpreted and usually has many meanings. How do we discern the intended, implied, or attributed meaning of an early Jewish drawing. If meaning resides in ambiguity, and all symbols are multivalent, then how can anyone be dogmatic about the intended meaning or perceived meaning in a symbol?

Now there’s a paragraph meant to squelch any disagreement and debate (even though he’s just said the inscription needs to be debated). Note carefully the language he uses: ‘twist’, ‘civil and sensitive’, ‘ambiguity’, ‘multivalent’. All codewords for ‘if you don’t wait to watch the special, even if you’ve read the book already and seen the evidence as presented by Tabor and company, then you’re twisting the evidence and not civil and not sensitive and really not clever enough to know ambiguity’.

The cooperation of Jews, Christians, biblical scholars, archaeologists, and imaging scientists is encouraging in a world too divided and prejudiced. Is not the method of un-intrusively exploring an ancient tomb itself groundbreaking?

Un-intrusively? Really? Because Photoshopping isn’t intrusive? And we all know that’s what has been done to the picture of the ossuary. So who’s he trying to convince? Did he even write this or did Simcha write the press release and he simply signed it.

I was moved when I looked through a camera on the end of a robotic arm into a pre-70 Jewish tomb.

How did he know it was a pre-70 Jewish tomb before it was scientifically examined? Presupposition? Was he told that’s what it was?

There in the darkness below my feet was an ancient tomb with bone boxes (ossuaries) clearly made before the massive revolt against Rome in 66 CE. As the camera turned, I saw a door that sealed the tomb in antiquity. Then the camera moved silently past ossuaries. A shout was heard by colleagues near me as an inscription came into view. Then, not much later the robotic arm moved again, being directed by a scientist. None of us could believe our eyes. We were all riveted to a drawing that ostensibly broke the second commandment. What was it? What was depicted? What did the early Jew intend to symbolize?

What is going on here? That’s the real question. Who is this, and what have they done to James Charlesworth, noble scholar and excellent student of Scripture and the Jewish milieu which saw the birth of the New Testament? Because the writer of the sentences above can’t be him.

Leading archaeologists and biblical specialists first thought the drawing depicted a boat. Was it? They unanimously changed their minds when the full image came into view. You will see it as if you were standing just behind me.

No thanks. I’ve already seen it. It isn’t a boat. It isn’t a fish. It isn’t a goat or a cow or a chicken or a guy with a knit cap or a chap with a beard or anything of the sort. And I don’t want to stand behind you. I don’t even know who you are anymore.

Via Jack Sasson.

Perhaps G.M. Grena Would Like to Buy This Treasure…

Or if he doesn’t I’m sure another collector will…  Antonio has news of a fragment of Solomon’s mines that’s for sale!

Next week- a piece of Solomon’s poo!  Save your shekelim!

The Worst ‘Share This if You Love Jesus’ on Facebook Manipultion Yet!

If you’re like me you’re tired of those Facebook photos which declare that if you really love Jesus you’ll share this photo of (insert whatever wretchedly manipulative slogan you wish).  Here’s a gem that cropped up today…

The worst of them all.  So far…

I Don’t Buy It: Kersal is Right and Grena is Wrong

That is, I don’t buy Grena’s reasons for supporting antiquities buying and selling as he sets forth those reasons in a new essay at the ASOR Blog.  Kersal is in the right and on the mark in what she asserts and Grena has a vested interest in the purchase and sale of antiquities as he makes clear on his website.

Furthermore, he fails to distinguish between something being legal (the export and purchase of antiquities) and something being moral. Just because it’s legal to export and buy antique items doesn’t mean that it’s right.  Right is allowing the heirs of cultural heritage the privilege of seeing that heritage in a museum.

Not right, not moral, not just, not proper is the squirreling away of material remains in private holdings where they can be petted and fondled by Gollum-like-creatures who purr the phrase ‘MYYYYY  PRECIOUSSSSSSSS’ each time they clutch them.

The difference between fraud, forgers, fakes, and antiquities looters and honest archaeology is easily described:  Frauds, forgers, fakes, and looters buy and sell on the private market and honest archaeologists see to it that their finds are cataloged scientifically, placed in secure environments, and made available in due course to the entire public.

This looks to be a fine journal.

Eric Cline: Award Winning Teacher

Eric was awarded a prestigious prize a couple of weeks ago and now his University has written up a very, very nice article about it.

Eric Cline chairs the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the George Washington University, but his job goes far beyond that.

He is an associate professor of classics, anthropology and history. He is involved with the Judaic Studies Program and is the director of the Capitol Archaeological Institute. And Dr. Cline also finds time for off-campus research, co-directing two archaeological excavations in Israel.

“The reason I like it here so much, the reason I took this job, is because I do anthropology, archaeology, classics, ancient history, art history – I wanted to find a job where they would let me teach all of that,” he said. “In most places, if you’re hired in anthropology, for instance, you can only teach anthropology and can’t even think about history or art history. I wanted to be in a place where I could teach all different things, and they let me do that here.”

Dr. Cline’s passion for teaching recently helped earn him the 2012 Oscar and Shoshana Trachtenberg Prize for teaching.

Winners of this award, one of the university’s most prestigious, are chosen based on nominations from the undergraduate students that they teach. Dr. Cline, a former recipient of the Trachtenberg Prize for scholarship, received glowing letters of recommendation from his students. Even students who were not part of the nomination process were enthusiastic about his teaching style and attitude in the classroom.

“He definitely deserves it,” said Julianna Hul, a freshman who intends to major in archaeology and has taken two of Dr. Cline’s courses. “Dr. Cline is engaging, quick to joke or lend a helping hand, kind, and the most wonderful professor I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.”

Take a look at the rest.  And again, to Eric, a guy I’m proud to call my friend, congratulations!!!!!

In Sheffield: A Celebration and a Conference- The Bible, Zionism and Palestine

From the goodly Viv Rowett-

Here are the details of forthcoming events in the Department of Biblical Studies at the University of Sheffield, organised to celebrate the Department’s 65th Anniversary.

1) The first is a public lecture series, which will open with Emeritus Professor John Rogerson’s lecture ‘New Horizons in Biblical Studies: How Sheffield Helped to Change Things in the 1970s and 1980s’. The lecture will be held in the Jessop West Exhibition Space at 6.30pm on 25 April 2012. All are welcome and it’s free entry. A link to the webpage, which includes a 65th Anniversary Programme of Events is here http://www.shef.ac.uk/biblicalstudies/news/65years

2) Another of the anniversary celebration events is a conference on ‘Bible, Zionism and Palestine’, which will run from 24-26 May 2012. Information about the conference is included below, including a weblink to the booking form

The Bible, Zionism and Palestine
Department of Biblical Studies, University of Sheffield, 24-26th May

An inter-disciplinary conference to explore the role of the Bible in theology and politics in Israel and Palestine today With 4 keynote speakers: Rev Dr Naim Ateek, Prof Ilan Pappé, Prof Nur Masalha, and Rabbi Prof Dan Cohn-Sherbok 2 plenary panel discussions: ‘Is the Bible Responsible for the conflict in Palestine/Israel?’ (Rev Dr Naim Ateek, Prof Philip Davies, Rabbi Prof Dan Cohn-Sherbok) and ‘The Bible in Peace-Building in Palestine/Israel’ (Prof Mary Grey, Prof James Crossley, Rabbi Charles Wallach, Rabbi Warren Elf)

And 8 sessions of short papers, covering: ‘Bible and Land’, ‘Jesus and Contested Space’, ‘Zionism and the British Isles’, ‘Zionism, Philosemtisim and Politics’, ‘Ethnicity, Ideology and Early Christianity’, ‘Hebrew Bible: Land and Theology’, ‘Bible, Literature and Visions of Peace’, and ‘Bible, Nationalism and Governance’

The Bible has played a fundamental role in the creation and existence of the modern state of Israel, and, some say, in the continued suffering of the Palestinian people. Today, the Hebrew Bible is used as an authoritative text to justify the placement of Israel’s borders, and to legitimise and even encourage the expulsion of Palestinians from the land. The New Testament has also been utilised by Christian Zionists who argue that the establishment of the state of Israel is God-ordained, and that its existence is necessary for enabling the second coming of Jesus.

Despite the fact that the Bible has played a significant role in the plight of the Palestinians, some Christians insist that it ultimately promises not oppression but liberation for the Palestinian people. At the same time, an increasing number of Christians and Jews are questioning Zionist theology and its implications for the indigenous population in Palestine. The conference will deal with these issues and also with broader matters surrounding Israel and Palestine, such as the persistence of anti-Jewish assumptions which have permeated biblical scholarship and infiltrated the Christian church, and the rise of post-holocaust philosemitism, which, for some, has resulted in a paralysing fear of passing negative judgement on any of Israel’s actions. Book online at: www.thebiblezionismandpalestine.co.uk/registration (£70 full/£30 student for 3 days) – tea, coffee, and lunch provided

Injustice in America: The Prosecutor Won’t Present the Trayvon Martin Case to the Grand Jury

At least not yet, because it’s still being investigated, according to the AP and their latest tweeting-

BREAKING: Special prosecutor: Won’t take Trayvon Martin death to grand jury, still investigating.

I guess when a man admits to shooting someone down in Florida and there are suspicious circumstances that isn’t enough…  What an absurd place Florida is.

UPDATE: CNN has just emailed-

State Attorney Angela Corey, appointed as a special prosecutor in the February shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, has decided against sending the case to a grand jury, her office said Monday. “The decision should not be considered a factor in the final determination of the case,” Corey’s office said in a statement. “At this time, the investigation continues and there will be no further comment from this office,” the statement said.

I reiterate, what an absurd place Florida is.  It’s a ‘kill em if ya wanna’ state.

What Motivates People to Forge Antiquities?

In a word- money.  But of course there’s more to it than that and Chris Rollston has an in depth examination much worth reading.

Forgeries have been produced for many centuries (Metzger 1997, 125-139; Rollston 2003; 2004; 2005; 2012; Ehrman 2011) and it would not be prudent to believe that the future shall be different from the past in this regard.  After all, there are timeless, discernible motives for the production of forgeries, and these motives can be detected on the basis of actual forgeries from Antiquity, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the Modern Period.  (1) Of course, venality is certainly a motivation for the production of forgeries.  During the modern period, for example, non-provenanced inscriptions (i.e., from the antiquities market) routinely sell for four, five, and even six figures.  Some recent non-provenanced inscriptions have been valued at seven figures.  Prior to the modern period, forgeries also garnered substantial amounts of money as well (cf. Metzger 1997, 125-126).  (2) Some forgeries are arguably the result of “sour grapes” (e.g., a student purged in the modern period from an epigraphy program) or professional rivalry, with the forger hoping to “dupe” or “correct” the “offender.”  (3) Similarly, sometimes a forgery can be a prank, a Witz of some sort (e.g., Coleman-Norton’s “Agraphon”).  (4)  Moreover, there is a certain amount of prestige associated with being the person who “collects,” “vets,” or “finds” a significant “ancient epigraph” from the market.  Indeed, the public (and even scholars within the field) can sometimes lionize such people because of “sensational” non-provenanced epigraphs (e.g., William Shapira; cf. Silberman 1990, esp. 132-140).  For this reason, it is my position that forgers throughout history sometimes produced (i.e., forged) inscriptions so as to be lauded as the one who “found” “vetted,” or “owned” a sensational epigraph.  (5) Religio-Politico matters are sometimes strong motives for the production of a forgery (e.g., the Comma Johanneum of 1 John 5:7-8; cf. Metzger 1968, 101; the Shapira Fragments, the Jehoash Inscription).  (6) Ultimately, forgers are arguably motivated by a combination of such factors, and, of course, with each success, hubris is fostered.  The main point is that forgers have now, and always have had, substantial “motive.”  At this juncture, I shall turn to a brief consideration of some of the most interesting forgeries of the past.

And that’s just the first paragraph.  Enjoy it all.

Long awaited and much anticipated.

Just A Note: Concerning Tim Tebow, Celebrity-Christians, and Idolatry

Mr Tebow drew a huge crowd of over 15,000 yesterday at a ‘worship service’ in, yes of course, Texas.   Remarkably, from a theological point of view, the ‘worship leader’ of the Church seemed more interested in Tebow the celebrity than in Christ the risen Lord-

Tim Tebow drew a crowd of about 15,000 to an outdoor Easter church service Sunday, telling the gathering it’s important to be outspoken about faith while admonishing athletes about not being better role models.

‘Tim Tebow drew a crowd’…  Which means that Tim Tebow was the reason the hoards turned out.  They didn’t really seem interested in Jesus so much as in seeing a celebrity.

“In Christianity, it’s the Pope and Tebow right now,” Celebration Church pastor Joe Champion he said. “We didn’t have enough room to handle the Pope.”

Really?  Because as far as I’m concerned it isn’t Tebow or the Pope- it’s God.  That the event was ‘Tebow-centric’ rather than Christ centered can be demonstrated by two facts:  1- people actually wore Tebow jerseys to ‘worship’ and 2-

Some at the “Easter on the Hill” morning service under sunny skies about 20 miles north of Austin drove more 100 miles to hear Tebow speak. The service took on the feel of a rock concert with more than a 100 school buses shuttling people to the sprawling mega-church campus from local shopping centers and the nearby college.

They drove that far ‘to hear Tebow speak’.  That means they didn’t do it to worship Christ.

The service was peppered with lively Christian rock songs and Tebow took the large stage to cheers from those who could see him while others toward the back watched on massive video screens. He sat for a 20-minute interview with Champion to talk about his faith and its role in his public life.

How exactly is an interview with a celebrity considered worship?  It isn’t.  Not in any respect.  It’s entertainment focused on a celebrity.  It’s celebri-olotry.

The whole episode is exceedingly sad and demonstrates again, as though we needed any demonstration, that too many self professed Christians don’t know what worship is and are more concerned to ‘see a star’ than they are in humbly worshiping their Lord.  Debbie Sandoval is a prime example-

Debbie Sandoval and her husband and two sons arrived before sunrise. They wore Tebow’s Jets jerseys and set up camp close the large soundstage with a row of chairs.  “I love that boy. … He’s like my third son,” said Sandoval, who is not a regular member of the church but wasn’t going to miss a chance to hear Tebow speak.

Indeed- because for her it isn’t Christ who mattered.  It’s Tim.  And for the mob that’s all that mattered, because as soon as the Tebow interview was over, most of the crowd left.  Before the main worship service even began….

America loves its celebrities more than it loves Christ.  And that’s idolatry.

The Trouble Starts: The Delegation from the Bishop of Constance

Over the course of three days, April 7-9, 1522,  The Bishop of Constance’s delegation to Zurich sent to investigate the breach of the Lenten Fast held discussions with the clerics of the city concerning the matter.  As Philip Schaff puts it

During Lent, 1522, Zwingli preached a sermon in which he showed that the prohibition of meat in Lent had no foundation in Scripture. Several of his friends, including his publisher, Froschauer, made practical use of their liberty.

This brought on an open rupture. The bishop of Constance sent a strong deputation to Zurich, and urged the observance of the customary fasts. The magistracy prohibited the violation, and threatened to punish the offenders (April 9, 1522). Zwingli defended himself in a tract on the free use of meats (April 16). It is his first printed book. He essentially takes the position of Paul, that, in things indifferent, Christians have liberty to use or to abstain, and that the Church authorities have no right to forbid this liberty. He appeals to such passages as 1 Cor. 8:8; 10:25; Col. 2:16; 1 Tim. 4:1; Rom. 14:1–3; 15:1, 2.

The bishop of Constance issued a mandate to the civil authorities (May 24), exhorting them to protect the ordinances of the Holy Church. He admonished the canons, without naming Zwingli, to prevent the spread of heretical doctrines. He also sought and obtained the aid of the Swiss Diet, then sitting at Lucerne.

Zwingli was in a dangerous position. He was repeatedly threatened with assassination. But he kept his courage, and felt sure of ultimate victory. He replied in the Archeteles (“the Beginning and the End”), hoping that this first answer would be the last. He protested that he had done no wrong, but endeavored to lead men to God and to his Son Jesus Christ in plain language, such as the common people could understand. He warned the hierarchy of the approaching collapse of the Romish ceremonies, and advised them to follow the example of Julius Caesar, who folded his garments around him that he might fall with dignity. The significance of this book consists in the strong statement of the authority of the Scriptures against the authority of the Church. Erasmus was much displeased with it.

That, in sum, is how it all began. Zwingli held to Scripture and the Bishop of Constance insisted on the primacy of tradition.  The discussions held between the Delegation from Constance and the Zurichers has been preserved and you can read them here.