Daily Archives: 23 Sep 2012

Some People Need Specific Instructions….

Who knows why.  Via Wil Wheaton on G+

Conference Announcement: Ancient Greece and Ancient Israel: Interactions and Parallels (10th-4th Centuries BCE)

October 28-30, 2012

Room 496, Gilman Building, Tel Aviv University: Collaboration between the European Network for the Study of Ancient Greek History and Tel Aviv University.

Conference Organizers: Irad Malkin, History Department, Tel Aviv University and a member of the European Network (malkin.irad@gmail.com); Alexander Fantalkin, Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures, Tel Aviv University (fantalk@post.tau.ac.il)

The world of the Hebrew Bible, or the Old Testament, has often been studied against the background of Near Eastern civilizations. Yet, aside from the enormous hinterlands of the Near East, the ancient land of Israel also neighbored the Mediterranean. As a collaborative conference between the European Network for the Study of Ancient Greek History and Tel Aviv University, we wish to concentrate on interactions and parallels between the ancient Greek world and the Eastern Mediterranean, with an emphasis on the period before the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

How do we, at the start of the third millennium CE, perceive and interpret the almost simultaneous arrival of the two cultures whose self-definitions still mark out the meaning of western civilization? We wish to discuss the key concepts of “parallels, similarities, and influences” in the context of the Eastern Mediterranean. Are they due to general human reaction to comparable historical situations or do they depend on actual contacts and influences, directly or via third parties? Drawing on specific case-studies we will discuss the usefulness of these key terms and analyze the likely contexts for interaction and/or the evidence of actual contacts.

The question of what is comparable as such and what is owed to actual influence is often debated. Whereas former approaches tended to regard the issue of influence literally, “in-fluence,” “flowing into,” as if cultural contacts are necessarily uni-directional; their “source,” therefore, needed to be identified and located in a hierarchy that is either temporal (“who was first?”) or spatial (“first from where?”). Such approaches may indeed be valid at times. Today the cutting edge of the discourse of civilizational parallels and contacts seems rather to consist in a multi-directional, non-hierarchical perspective, which may hopefully find its expression in the conference.

You can download the full program and further details here (in PDF, and 8.3MB).  Via Alexander Fantalkin.

UPDATE:  Abstracts of the papers to be presented at the conference along with brief bios of the presenters and other vital information are now available here.

America: Morally Bankrupt

Only a place where morality is dead would imagine something like this to be acceptable:

New York City is handing out birth control including the morning-after pill to students at some of its schools under the auspices of a burgeoning health initiative called Connecting Adolescents To Comprehensive Health. The, er, catch? Students don’t have to tell parents, notes the New York Post, unless parents have previously opted out of the program, which is aimed at stemming the tide of teenage pregnancy. While schools in the Big Apple have long made condoms available, it’s the first time hormonal birth control is being offered in any school nationwide.

In addition to Plan B and Reclipsen, students will also have access to the quarterly birth control injection Depo-Provera this fall. The program predictably has critics, with one school staffer complaining, “We can’t give out a Tylenol without a doctor’s order. Why should we give out hormonal preparations with far more serious possible side effects?” But some, though not all, students welcome the option. Says one freshman: “I don’t want to be a young kid who gets pregnant and can’t find a job.”

Well, precious, if you don’t want to be a kid with a kid, don’t act promiscuously, like a dog.  Act instead like a dignified, self respecting human being and abstain from sex until you’re old enough to get married and assume the financial responsibility of a child.

A Cautionary Tale: NEVER Loan Out Your iPad. Ever. Ever.

Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase

All 6-year-old Will Smith wanted to do was reach Level 26 in a video game called “Tiny Monsters.” Unfortunately, getting there cost $3,244 of his grandfather’s money.  Smith, from North Yorkshire, UK, unwittingly racked up the massive credit card bill while playing the popular children’s game on his grandfather Barry Slatter’s iPad, the Daily Mirror reported. Downloading the app was free, but virtual food and coins can cost up to $113.54 a pop.  Smith began his free-spending adventure by using Slatter’s iTunes password, which gave him the ability to make in-app purchases, his grandfather explained to the Daily Mail.

I hope grandpa learned a lesson.  NEVER loan out your iPad.  Not even, and not especially, to small children.

Gospel Writing, by Francis Watson

A volume that I think many will be interested in has come to my attention due to the good graces of its author titled Gospel Writing.

That there are four canonical versions of the one gospel story is often seen as a problem for Christian faith: for, where gospels multiply, so too do apparent tensions and contradictions that may seem to undermine their truth claims.

In Gospel Writing, Francis Watson argues that differences and tensions between canonical gospels represent opportunities for theological reflection, not problems for apologetics. In exploring this claim, he proposes nothing less than a new paradigm for gospel studies — one that engages fully with the available noncanonical gospel material so as to illuminate the historical and theological significance of the canonical.

Given recent events, this book seems VERY timely indeed.

Lawrence Schiffman on ‘The Jesus Wife’ Fragment

One of the reasons I like Larry so much is his ability to say in a few words what some can’t say in a book. He does it again here in an interview in Moment Magazine.

“There is zero evidence that he [Jesus] was married,” says Lawrence Schiffman, a Dead Sea scroll expert who has also studied early Christianity extensively. “This text just shows that some people in the fourth century believed he was married.” Mary Magdalene is often believed to be Jesus’ wife and in the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, there are even references to a “close relationship” between the two. “One text refers to a kiss on the lips but just because they kissed on the mouth doesn’t mean they were married. If she was his wife, why wouldn’t the texts have said so? This was nothing to be embarrassed about in ancient Israel, when most men were married.” Schiffman, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at Yeshiva University and formerly Chair of New York University’s Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, says that the text is important in showing that some early Christians wanted a Jesus narrative in which women play a more prominent role. “Mary Magdalene is a tantalizing figure. She’s mysterious and Jesus’ early followers want to know what’s going on.” The text, he adds, points to a dynamic religious tradition that changed over time. “Just like Judaism, Christianity isn’t a one-shot creation. There are developments over time and new ideas expressed every century.”

There’s a bit more but that’s the gist of it.  Larry isn’t buying the hype.

Lutheran Satire…


Quick on the Trigger

A police officer in Houston shot and killed a wheelchair-bound man on Saturday; the double amputee only had one arm and one leg. Police say that the man threatened the officer with a metal object that turned out to be a pen. A spokesman explained that Matthew Jacob Marin discharged his weapon after the man cornered him. Police did not release the name of the man who was killed, but the owner of the group home where he lived said that the man had a history of mental illness. Marin also fatally shot a suspect in 2009.

It’s the last sentence that’s telling. Also telling is the fact that the shooting happened in a group home.

Israelis Team Up With Hamas…

But not for a good purpose as one would somehow hope.  No, they didn’t team up to march against cancer or anything noble.  Rather, they joined hands to kidnap African migrants because nothing brings people together quite like shared hatred.

Three Israeli men from Netanya have been accused of aiding Hamas in kidnapping African migrants, it was revealed Sunday after a gag order was lifted on the case.  Ya’akov Grad, Eliran Mahfoud and Victor Siboni, who were charged with kidnapping for the sake of murder or extortion by the Jerusalem District Court, are suspected of serving as money couriers for the past few months to transfer funds to Hamas organizations in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

How perverse.  I guess a sworn enemy is only that until an African comes along.