Daily Archives: 18 May 2012

The Censoring of Desiderius Erasmus

LiveScience has a pretty interesting piece on the censoring of Erasmus (with thanks to James Waddell on FB for mentioning it).

More than 400 years before modern-day governments tried shutting down blogs or blocking tweets, two people tasked with censoring a sometimes-critic of the Catholic Church in Renaissance Europe took to their duties in very different ways: one with great beauty, the other with glue and, it appears, a message. Now, two books, housed at separate libraries at the University of Toronto, illustrate two unusual approaches censors took when dealing with the same author, Erasmus. …

A newly catalogued 1541 book, written by Erasmus … has pages ripped out, text blotted out with ink and two pages glued together. This book is now in the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto. A 1538 book in which Erasmus introduces the writings of fourth-century Saint Ambrose. In it Erasmus’ work is censored but this time with great beauty, with watercolors and baroque frames; it is now at the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, also at the University of Toronto.   CREDIT: Owen Jarus (left); Pearce Carefoote (right).

The conflicts that ensued between Catholics and Protestants were fought, not just with guns and swords, but with ideas, especially the printed word. Erasmus was considered by some to be a Protestant sympathizer, and in 1559 his texts were put on a Roman index of forbidden books. Both sides tried to censor each other whenever they could, with the Catholics being somewhat more effective, at least during the 16th century.  “They had the agents to be able to do it,” said Pearce Carefoote, a librarian at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto and author of “Forbidden Fruit: Banned, Censored, and Challenged Books from Dante to Harry Potter” (Lester, Mason & Begg, 2007). ….


One book, “Adagorium,” was published in 1541 in Lyon, France, and was cataloged this month in the Thomas Fisher Library. The book contains ancient proverbs written in Latin and Greek along with commentary by Erasmus.

And then

Parts of it are blotted out with ink, a practice not unusual for the time. However, one section was treated with particular disdain, having pages ripped out, sections inked out and two of the pages actually glued together, still stuck after more than 400 years. [See Photos of the Censored Books].  “They’ve censored it, and then just to make sure they glued the page together,” Carefoote told LiveScience. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen that (the use of glue).”  If that wasn’t enough, the censor appears to have left a message on the front, written in Latin, blasting Erasmus. It reads (in translation), “O Erasmus, you were the first to write the praise of folly, indicating the foolishness of your own nature.” One of Erasmus’ works was called “The Praise of Folly.”

Enjoy the entire essay.

Why Did Nebuchadnezzar II Destroy Ashkelon in 604 BCE?

Alexander Fantalkin discusses the question (though for some reason the pdf wasn’t viewable on academia.edu whereas it downloaded in perfect condition).

The significance of the discovery of a destruction layer at Ashkelon, identified with the Babylonian assault in Kislev, 604 b.c.e, can hardly be overestimated. Beyond the obvious value of this find, which provides evidence for the policies of the Babylonian regime in the “Hatti-land,” it supplies a reliable chronological anchor for the typological sequencing and dating of groups of local and imported pottery (Stager 1996a; 1996b; Waldbaum and Magness 1997; Waldbaum 2002a; 2002b). My main intention in this article is to explore the reasons behind the Babylonian
destruction of Ashkelon.

Give it a read.

There Can Be Serious Consequences When a Church Supports Gay Marriage

Take the case of ‘Grace Community Church‘, for example:

The small stack of envelopes that arrives at Grace Community United Church of Christ in St. Paul, Minn., each day are filled with good will and small bills — ones, fives and tens mostly.  The donations lift the spirit, said Rev. Oliver White, but they likely won’t be enough to save the church.  “Technically, we should be packing,” White said.

On June 1, the church will likely default on a high-interest loan and lose its building, unless it can come up with $175,000 to buy the loan out.  As of Wednesday (May 16), Grace Community was about $170,000 short, but its plight has gained considerable attention within and without the UCC, thanks to one of several reasons the predominantly African-American church may lose its home.


In 2005, White, took a stand at the UCC’s General Synod in opposition to many of his congregants and backed support for same-sex marriage. His side won the day at the conference, with about 80 percent of the vote, but White came home to a congregation divided over his belief that gay couples deserve the UCC’s blessing. Immediately, he began to watch its numbers dwindle.

Pastors may pretend that the people will follow where they lead but anyone who has been a pastor for more than 2 days should know better.  Sometimes pastors want to lead in the wrong direction and congregations vote against that leadership with their feet.

But their decision to support gay marriage isn’t the only contributing factor for their problems:

In hindsight, White said, signing the loan was a terrible mistake, and buying it out is the key to the church’s survival. White is asking 200,000 people to donate $1 each, working his church networks and with rally.com, an online fundraising tool that has gleaned more than $700 for Grace Community.  If the goal isn’t met, according to the church’s statement on rally.com, the pastor’s “decision to take a stand in favor of gay marriage rights will have cost him and his small congregation their spiritual home.”  But Grace Community had serious fiscal needs even before White took his stand. And even White acknowledges that the church could have done a better job of managing its money.

Bad decisions theological sometimes are tied to bad decisions fiscal and vice versa.

Study Questions for the Book of Ruth

From Christian Brady.

Naomi entreating Ruth and Orpah to return to t...

I … really do love this book and I hope others enjoy studying it. I have posted a few things I have been working/thinking on over the last two years with regards to Ruth. I would suspect you are more than fully qualified yourself at teaching Ruth, but here are a few things I often pull out of the text in a lay context.

I should first point out that I do not say a lot about the dating of Ruth to a church or synagogue group because it is rarely fruitful. (However, I will dip into the question of Ezra’s divorce decree [Ezra 9-10] with reference to Ruth as a Moabite, as you will see.)
  • The book is only 4 chapters. How would you characterize each chapter?
  • What might this reveal about the structure of the book, its message, and its characters?

And the rest. Pretty good stuff.

On The Deuterocanonicals: An Observation

This photo is caught from a video film that ha...

I’m diligently working on the latest commentary in my little series (published by the Quartz Hill Publishing House), 1-2 Maccabees.  I have to confess that I am not a fan.  The ‘Taliban-esque’ nature of Judas’s actions are more than a little disconcerting- especially given the fact that he’s happy to kill fellow Jews who disagree with his interpretation of Torah.

Anyway, here’s the point:  I suspect I feel towards the Deuterocanonicals the same way secularists feel towards the Bible.  I guess my work on the Apocrypha is as close as I’ll ever get to understanding secularists.

Now That’s An Interesting Question: Why DID Amos go to Samaria?

Samaria from the Minaret of Mosque

Samaria – (Photo credit: OSU Special Collections & Archives)

A new contribution at Bible and Interpretation asks and then strives to answer it.

The bottom line:

The Book of Amos presents Amos as an emissary from the south occasionally prophesying in Samaria and Bethel, as if he represented Zion and Jerusalem, but with a self-understanding of being divinely called to attack the social politics of the northern kingdom and its illegitimate cult in Bethel.

See if you agree that his conclusion is correct.

The Lesbians Who Cried Wolf

Hate crimes are despicable.  The people who perpetrate hate crimes deserve hard jail time.  The victims of hate crimes deserve compassion and support.  But the people who fake being the victims of hate crimes deserve nothing but disdain.

Police in Douglas County, Colorado are saying that two women who claimed to be victims of a hate crime last year are faking it.  Aimee Whitchurch, 37 and Christel Conklin, 29, reported in October of 2011 that the words “Kill the Gay” were spray-painted in red on their Parker condominium’s garage door. The next day police were called back to the house after the women claimed someone left a noose to their front door handle.  But after working on the case with the FBI because of the hate crime element to the incidents, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office has determined that the incidents were false, according to 9News.  Both Whitchurch and Conklin, who are reportedly a lesbian couple, were issued arrest warrants Thursday and charged with criminal mischief and false reporting.

I doubt that their own crime will be punished severely enough; so instead they should be obliged to repay the money that was spent investigating their pretend victimization.  Meanwhile, people who really were the victims of crime couldn’t have their investigations furthered because resources were tied up in pursuit of an imaginary criminal.

False reports are evil reports and false report-ers are evil-doers.  I guess they’ve had their 15 minutes.  I don’t think it was worth it.

Anything For a Pound, Right Mr Hof?

The Nevada brothel owner who became famous as the star of an HBO reality show says he wants to start a new and fully legal brothel in London during the upcoming summer Olympics — not just because he could make “a couple million pounds,” he says, but because legal brothels would stop human trafficking by international criminal gangs.

Dennis Hof, the 65-year-old owner of the Moonlite Bunny Ranch and star of “Cathouse,” promoted legal prostitution during a Thursday night debate at the Oxford Union, and told ABC News that while he’s in the U.K. he’s on a mission to sell London authorities on legal brothels.

I hope that the London authorities aren’t as stupid as the people of Nevada.

“These illegal brothels are disgusting,” said Hof.

He’s partly right. He need merely drop the word-fragment ‘il’.

“The girls are not tested for diseases and they’re trafficked and forced into it. I’m saying it’s not always like that and it doesn’t have to be like that. We can provide the client with a clean, safe and fun experience.”

Because all that matters is the fulfillment of the man-whore’s – oh oops, I mean ‘client’s’ – ‘needs’.

Mr Hof wishes to make sex a mere biological function, like urinating or defecating or vomiting. And I suppose that, given his morals, that’s exactly what sex is for him and for his ‘customers’.

But to those of us who understand the real value and meaning of sex, it’s so very much more than that. And to cheapen it into nothing but the spewing of seminal fluid into a paid receptacle (with or without ‘protection’) is to grossly and profoundly misunderstand it.

Mr Hof and his ilk ought to read something on the meaning of sex. I suggest Emil Brunner’s brilliant and engaging ‘The Divine Imperative’. Then perhaps he would comprehend that human sex is more than just the act of a beast.

Scholars You Should Know: David Beadle

David is a PhD student at the University of Exeter whose supervisor is the beloved Francesca Stra… well you know how to spell it and pronounce it, no need for me to go into that…

He’s doing work in the Hebrew Bible which he describes specifically as

… using literary-critical analysis, anthropological and linguistic philosophy, along with works emerging from contemporary debates on cultural memory, to identify and discuss ritual motifs of royal descent, rescue and ascent in the Hebrew Bible.  I am also asking if these motifs can, in any way, be understood by reference to the context of the Judahite royal cult.  I contend that the Hebrew Bible reflects persistant and powerful memories of royal women as integrally involved in these rituals, even though detailed reconstructions of the historic royal cult of Judah are found to be impossible.  These memories are reflected in royal psalms, in parodies of royal ritual in prophetic and “historical” texts and in the destruction of Jerusalem in Lamentations.  On the basis of this discussion, I will argue that violent and sexualised biblical descriptions of the downfall of feminised cities (or “polis pornography”) can to some extent be understood as emerging from a context whereby powerful feminine figures (particularly certain royal women) are characterised by a certain cosmic liminality and gender ambiguity.  I will further contend that royal women in the Hebrew Bible, like kings, have a high status but are also especially susceptible to scapegoating.  These ideologies are played out in the tensions between biblical memories of the idealised and failed monarchy.

Scholars you should know: David Beadle.

Scholars You Should Know: A New Series

Beginning today and from time to time I’m going to post a series titled ‘Scholars You Should Know’.   These are folk who are doing what I think is very useful, very meaningful, and very interesting work.

Some of them will be scholars in their own right known to small circles of students and colleagues, and others will be well known (to most).  Still others will be grad students that I think will be worth ‘keeping an eye on’.

Their fields will be biblical studies, archaeology, and linguistics along, of course, with Church History.  I hope that this series will introduce folk to one another and that those engaged in our beloved disciplines will perhaps discover someone with which to dialogue.  Because that, really, is what it’s all about.

Tweet of the Day

From Robert Reich-

Starting in 70s, US economy shifted from goods to services. In 90s from services to ideas. With FB’s IPO, from ideas to smoke & mirrors.

Word.  America used to make things.  Now it makes almost nothing and money is made for no real reason.

How Can You Tell the Difference Between the State and the Citizen?

via Ron Kubsch on FB

An Evening in Honor of W.G. Lambert

Photo by me of Prof. Lambert at SOTS Winter Meeting, 2009

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
The Faculty of Humanities
The Institute of Archaeology

Invite you to: An Evening in Memory of W.G. Lambert z”l, Professor of Assyriology, University of Birmingham

Monday, June 4th 2012, 18:00-20:00 at The Institute of Archaeology, Hebrew University, Mount Scopus


Wayne Horowitz, Hebrew University, Jerusalem- W.G. Lambert, A Student’s Perspective

Avigdor Hurowitz, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva- From Creation to Apocalypse: Reading the Bible with Wilfred G. Lambert

Alasdair Livingstone, University of Birmingham- Dangerous Days and Timely Tricks

The Program will be in English. For further information: whorowitz@mscc.huji.ac.il