Daily Archives: 3 May 2019


“An injustice few others even see.” Exactly so. The fate and fortune of the adjunct is one of the great stories of willful cruelty and hypocrisy by institutions that love to flatter themselves with the phrase “social justice” – James Matthew Wilson

Ignorance or Malignancy?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell.  And sometimes it’s probably both.

Quote of the Day

Though God does not act in a bustling manner like men, or proceed with undue eagerness and haste, still he has in his power concealed methods of executing his judgments without moving a finger. — John Calvin

Jerome’s Preface to His Translation of Jeremiah

I. Love. This.

Jerome: Just Because You Have Those Man Parts Doesn’t Mean You Should Use Them…

What does our Lord mean when He instructs us in the various kinds of eunuchs. Surely the Apostle who bids us emulate his own chastity, must be asked, if we are to be consistent, Why are you like other men, Paul? Why are you distinguished from the female sex by a beard, hair, and other peculiarities of person? How is it that you have not swelling bosoms, and are not broad at the hips, narrow at the chest? Your voice is rugged, your speech rough, your eyebrows more shaggy. To no purpose you have all these manly qualities, if you forego the embraces of women.

I am compelled to say something and become a fool: but you have forced me to dare to speak. Our Lord and Saviour, Who though He was in the form of God, condescended to take the form of a servant, and became obedient to the Father even unto death, yea the death of the cross—what necessity was there for Him to be born with members which He was not going to use? He certainly was circumcised to manifest His sex. Why did he cause John the Apostle and John the Baptist to make themselves eunuchs through love of Him, after causing them to be born men? Let us then who believe in Christ follow His example.  —  Jerome, “Against Jovinianus”

Jesus didn’t use them, so why should you, yo……

Lordy….  Reading Jerome is always a grand adventure.  To say the least.

What Did Luther Do at the Wartburg?

He didn’t get a chance to surf the web, or watch cat videos.  So what did he do?

lutherFrom May 4, 1521, to March 1, 1522, Luther remained at the Wartburg. There is little of his love of nature in the letters he wrote in solitude. He confides in Melanchthon, asking the question, “Who knows, in the counsels of silence, what work God is planning on these heights?”

He who is to receive a message from God, must be alone with the Alone. …  All men who have a message to their fellows come to realize the justice of the remark Dr. Copleston addressed to Newman, once meeting him taking his lonely walk, “Nunquam minus solus quam cum solus.”

As Luther was about to leave the Wartburg in 1522 he assured his Elector that he “had received the Gospel not from man, but from heaven alone, through our Lord Jesus Christ.”   That very year in his Wyder den falsch genantten geystlichen Standt he declared his word, office, and work to be from God. He was quite certain that Christ, who was the master of his doctrine, called him to be an evangelist and regarded him as such. Under pain of eternal wrath he was forced to preach the message which God had given him in a vision.  In 1523 he was certain that he had his doctrines from heaven.

In the Wartburg his pen was not idle. He composed the booklet Von der Beicht ob der Bapst Macht habe zu gepieten, 1521, in which he thrusts aside the compulsory duty of confession. Man “is at liberty to make use of confession if, as, and where he chooses. If he does not wish you may not compel him, for no one has a right to or ought to force any man against his will. Nevertheless, absolution is a great gift from God. In the same way no man can or ought to be forced to believe, but every one should be instructed in the gospel and admonished to believe, though he is left free to obey or not to obey.

All the sacraments should be left optional to every one. Whoever does not wish to be baptized, let him be. Whoever does not wish to receive the sacrament has a right not to receive. Therefore, whoever does not wish to confess is free before God not to do so.” It is evident that he objects to constraint in the case of any of the sacraments. This dread of force is also clear in his letter to Haupold: “I will have no forcing and compelling. Faith and baptism I commend. No one, however, may be forced to accept it, but only admonished and then left free to choose.”*

Unfortunately his tolerant attitude vanished as soon as he returned to Wittenberg and the lunacy of Carlstadt.

*R.H. Murray, Erasmus & Luther: Their Attitude to Toleration (168–170).

#ICYMI – Thomas Römer (Collège de France) – The Biblical Traditions about the Ark of the Covenant

Give it a watch-

The Strange Sports Bias Against Caster Semenya

#ICYMI- The KJV Translators Had French Help

New sources prove a Frenchman was one of the translators of the King James Bible.

They probably mean newly discovered sources… but never mind-

Although the King James Bible went on to become the most popular translation throughout the English-speaking world, the circumstances surrounding its production have always been mysterious. New research has shed light on the translators who worked on the first edition, with King James commissioning a renowned French scholar, Isaac Casaubon, who was visiting London at the time, to work on the final revision of the translation.  Dr Nicholas Hardy, University of Birmingham said: ‘The sources show us that the translation was not just an English affair. Casaubon was a Frenchman who had only just arrived in London, and could barely speak or write English. ‘Instead, he corresponded and conversed with the other translators in Latin, the common language of scholars in Europe at the time.’ The King James Bible was drafted by more than forty translators, divided into ‘companies’ working on separate sections of the Bible. The companies then sent delegates to London to revise the whole translation before it was printed.

Photo by Dr Nicholas Hardy, courtesy of the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford


Lying to God is a Bad Idea…

“There was also a man called Ananias. He and his wife, Sapphira, agreed to sell a property; but with his wife’s connivance he kept back part of the price and brought the rest and presented it to the apostles. Peter said, ‘Ananias, how can Satan have so possessed you that you should lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land? While you still owned the land, wasn’t it yours to keep, and after you had sold it wasn’t the money yours to do with as you liked? What put this scheme into your mind? You have been lying not to men, but to God.’ When he heard this Ananias fell down dead. And a great fear came upon everyone present. The younger men got up, wrapped up the body, carried it out and buried it. About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had taken place. Peter challenged her, ‘Tell me, was this the price you sold the land for?’ ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘that was the price.’ Peter then said, ‘Why did you and your husband agree to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Listen! At the door are the footsteps of those who have buried your husband; they will carry you out, too.’ Instantly she dropped dead at his feet. When the young men came in they found she was dead, and they carried her out and buried her by the side of her husband. And a great fear came upon the whole church and on all who heard it.” (Acts 5:1-11)

More on Mesha: Langlois On the Case

With thanks to Joseph Lauer for the heads up about the Times of Israel piece-

Since the early 1990s, scholars have pointed to a barely readable bit of text on a nearly 3,000-year-old stone as possibly the first extra-biblical historical proof of the Davidic Monarchy. The reading, based upon decades of educated guesses, is notable for what can’t be fully discerned in the Moabite script almost as much as what can.

A pair of dueling papers, one of which was released on Thursday, again puts the tiny bit of inscription, as well as primitive copies of it, under a microscope, offering divergent views on what the 9th-century Mesha Stele arguably offers.

In a paper published in the Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University Thursday, a trio of scholars dismisses a decades-old hypothesis that line 31 of the stele refers to Beit David, the biblical House of David. However, using a combination of high-tech imaging methods, another researcher shores up the Davidic reading in an upcoming article in the Collège de France’s Semitica journal.

While the battle over a few ancient letters in the Moabite alphabet may seem purely academic, it is only one of several dramas attached to this ancient monument inscribed with battles and the spoils of war.

Today the Mesha Stele is housed in the Louvre. Back in 1868, the block of basalt was unveiled to the western world in a scene straight out of Hollywood. Found by Bedouins in the rubble of Jordan’s biblical Divon, it was initially offered for sale to French missionary, F. A. Klein. Realizing its worth, he agreed to pay a handsome sum but was later outbid by a competing collector.

After a tangled web of political intrigue, extortion and defiance against the ruling Ottoman Empire, however, the enraged Bedouin smashed the 1.15-meter-high, 60-68-centimeters-wide tablet to pieces. These were distributed among their tribesmen and many are yet to be recovered.

Slowly, painstakingly, the majority of the tablet was purchased piecemeal by some of the period’s archaeological luminaries — the French Charles Clermont-Ganneau and British Captain Charles Warren. But Humpty Dumpty couldn’t exactly be put back together again; only some 700 of its circa 1,000 Moabite script letters were in hand.

Amazingly, before it was smashed, an emissary of Clermont-Ganneau named Ya‘qub Karavaca had made a visit to see the tablet lying in the rubble of Dhiban (biblical Divon), and made a “squeeze,” or paper impression, of the monument. To make a squeeze, researchers wet paper and press it into every nook and cranny of carved stone.

But even while the paper was still wet, a violent fight erupted among the Bedouin: Karavaca’s colleague Sheikh Jamil snatched up the drying squeeze from the rock — ripping it into seven pieces in the process — and took off on horseback, according to a 1994 Biblical Archaeology Review article on the stele and its House of David hypothesis.

“This squeeze remains the only evidence of the inscription in its original condition,” writes scholar André Lemaire in the article.

Betting on Beit

Due to the wear on the stone, a break down the middle, and lack of pieces, only a few of the Moabite letters are clear enough for confirmation and could arguably be read as — a bet, a gap, and then a waw and a daled.

In 1992, Lemaire, a French philologist and epigrapher, built on the work of decades of proposed readings of the mysterious line 31, and proposed a controversial combination of his own: Beit David, or the House of David.

There is precedence in the Bible for the compound syntactic structure Beit David. Likewise, other examples of dynasties are similarly named in inscriptions after kings, such as Beit Omri.

But, even if the letters did all add up to spell Beit David, the meaning of the word could range from a place name — such as Beit-El — or a proper name. Likewise, there is some thinking that “David” could be a title, such as “Beloved,” or even the name of an ancient, little-known god, epigrapher and historian Michael Langlois told The Times of Israel.

A lucky find came on the heels of Lemaire’s proposal: a second inscription, almost exactly the spelling of his hypothesized House of David, on a stone from the same period found at Tel Dan.

Plan B

But this reading of the Mesha stele still rests on assumption that the missing letters would fill in the rest of the word to spell out House of David.

Now, however, based on new interpretations of high-resolution images of the paper squeeze, two Tel Aviv University professors — archaeologist Israel Finkelstein and Jewish historian Nadav Na’aman — and Collège de France biblical scholar Thomas Römer are proposing that the hypothesized documentation of a Davidic dynasty should be dismissed.

In “Restoring Line 31 in the Mesha Stele: The ‘House of David’ or Biblical Balak?” the trio describes an important “vertical stroke” that, according to the authors, “marks a transition between two sentences.”

“In most cases, it is followed by a word starting with a waw, as is the case here. This stroke can be seen in the squeeze and the upper part of it can also possibly be detected in the small original part of the stele that was inserted into the plaster restoration; this, in turn, may explain the full restoration of a dividing line in the plaster-restored section,” the authors write.

Rather than the missing letters spelling out the end of Beit and the beginning of the word David, the scholars say the waw letter previously assumed to be the middle letter of “David” is actually the start of a new word.

What that means is that rather than “Beit,” the letter “bet” is the start of a name.

In interpreting the new images, the renowned scholars (none of whom are trained epigraphers) cautiously propose that perhaps the name of the biblical Moabite King Balak is recorded there instead.

In the Bible, Balak predates David by hundreds of years. In one of the stranger episodes recorded in the Pentateuch, Balak attempts to have the then-wandering Jews nearing his land cursed by the prophet Balaam. Instead, aided by his talking donkey, Balaam blesses the Hebrews with the famous epitaph “How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob.”

A new picture, an old reading

Not all scholars are convinced by the Balak theory. As Ronald Hendel, a professor of the Hebrew Bible and Jewish studies at the University of California, Berkeley, told told LiveScience, “We can read one letter, b, which they’re guessing may be filled out as Balak, even though the following letters are missing… It’s just a guess. It could be Bilbo or Barack, for all we know.”

Contacted by the Times of Israel this week, Langlois was similarly dismissive of the Balak hypothesis.

Puzzled, he said, “there is no such divider on the picture — including on the picture they used.” Rather, the line break comes below it on the subsequent line 32.

Langlois has spent years poring over these lines of text and will soon publish a groundbreaking paper that employs a mix of high-tech imaging to confirm the House of David as the most likely reading of the line being looked at.

There are many ways in which the faint letters can be read, said the Sorbonne-trained Langlois, but the House of David interpretation definitely cannot be ruled out — quite the contrary. Likewise, in terms of the other researchers’ paper’s claim that there isn’t enough space to write House of David, Langlois said, “The space is exactly perfect — no more, and no less.”

With a background in formal sciences, including mathematics, computer science, physics and chemistry, a few years ago Langlois decided to take on a long-term project in which he would utilize computer algorithms to perform Polynomial Texture Mapping (PTM) of the stele.

The result would be a much more detailed, 3-D image, utilizing photographs of the stone itself as well as the paper squeeze rescued by Sheikh Jamil on horseback and others made later by Clermont-Ganneau on the already broken stone.

Using Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) — essentially taking pictures of the artifact from a variety of angles and light sources — in 2015 Langlois and a team of scientists photographed the stele and its original squeeze at the Louvre, as well as additional squeezes in the Academy of Inscriptions and Fine Letters. Additionally, in 2018, the Louvre with the help of a professional photographer created a high-resolution backlit image of the squeeze, which also indicates depth of engraving.

After layering the images together, in a startling discovery, Langlois found a previously overlooked dot, which indicates a break between words throughout the entire tablet, as was customary among scribes at the time. The word-breaking dot, which is very clear under the new imaging, comes exactly after the area interpreted to read “House of David” and indicates a space after the final daled of David.

That rules out the Tel Aviv University paper’s proposed “vertical stroke,” said Langlois. No new sentence could start before the vav, since there are no Moabite words that are spelled only with a vav and final daled.

Langlois repeatedly stated to The Times of Israel that he is not trying to “prove the Bible.” However, he said, “from a purely historical standpoint, the most obvious solution is that there was a kingdom of David.”

“In my paper I’m not trying to discuss whether King David exists, just trying to read the stone, and my conclusion for line 31 is that the most likely reading is Beit David, which takes into account the traces of letters and the combination of them,” said Langlois. To read any other way, he said, is basically stating a refusal to believe in the possibility of a biblical King David.

“The new imaging technology that we have confirms the reading of Beit David,” said Langlois, adding, “It’s a good thing when science can confirm a hypothesis.”

Problems Only Bibliophiles Understand

Via Jenny Han on the twitter-