Elkington’s Claims Concerning the ‘Lead Codices’ Under Fire

If you’re following this strange sage of bogus artifacts peddled as the real deal, you must read this essay:

David Elkington, from Gloucestershire, has raised tens of thousands of pounds to support his work proving the authenticity of the Jordan Codices.  A BBC investigation found that academics have cast doubt on Mr Elkington’s claims the Codices date back to the 1st Century AD.  Mr Elkington insists the Codices are genuine and he will pay back any loans he has received. Among his backers was Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia, who funded his work and trips to the Middle East.  She now believes the Codices are not authentic and has asked for the return of her funding.

She could have saved her money had she simply asked around.  At any rate, read the whole piece.  With thanks to Danny McClellan for pointing it out on the twitter.

And in a related bit of fun-ness, just the other day Jim Aitken related on facebook-

From the Jordan Codices page. Intriguing:

It is with considerable regret that we must inform you that we will be shutting down the Jordan Codices Facebook Community page for the foreseeable future. We have appreciated your support and interest more than you can know in our earnest quest to protect these sacred artefacts against smuggling and being sold on the black market. We have done our utmost; however, we cannot go further without public support from Jordan herself. The British Team has been compromised in its efforts by the lack of an announcement revealing the nature of the scientific data. Out of respect for the Kingdom of Jordan, we are not at liberty to reveal these results ourselves. The British Team has made significant progress in both translation and scientific and historical analysis; however, we cannot continue to subject this discovery, nor its defenders, to biased media reports with hidden agendas and malicious allegations via internet and twitter trolls, whose reprehensible behaviour would see this hoard disappear into private hands or even destroyed. Again, our most sincere thanks for your support, from our large Coast-to-Coast radio followers to local support from Jordan and the Middle East – please do not give up hope.

Evidently the Lead people knew that the BBC was on their trail and they wanted to do damage control before the report aired. Too late. No one, except those with a particular financial interest in promoting the bogus pieces, will stand by them (in much the same way that certain people CONTINUE to insist the ‘James Ossuary’ is as advertised). Show me the money, and 9 times out of 10, I can show you the motive.

Is This How You Feel About Us, BBC?

The BBC and other broadcasters are dominated by a “liberal secular elite” whose “default position” is to assume that Christians are “lunatics”, a Radio 4 broadcaster warned last night.

Because if that’s how you really feel, then we all know who the real lunatics are. But it does go a long way in explaining much of your ‘religion’ programming.

In an outspoken attack, Roger Bolton, a former presenter of the station’s Sunday programme, warned that those in charge of broadcasting suffered from a “suicidal” ignorance about religion. He said the BBC was failing to meet its obligations as a public service broadcaster to improve understanding of religion. Mr Bolton, who presents Radio 4’s Feedback programme in which listeners air their views, said there was a growing view among the audience that Christians in particular were being treated unfairly in comparison with other faiths. He said it appeared to be impossible to make jokes about followers of other faiths while Christians were viewed as fair game.

There’s huge ignorance about religion in general, Christians in particular, and the Bible most particularly across the board in the media. The BBC and other British broadcasters aren’t alone in that. But that’s because, instead of consulting with actual biblical scholars, they track down the tinfoil hat wearing fringe morons and use them as talking heads. The worst offender along those lines is the Discovery network. That network is the National Enquirer of religious programming and bible related broadcasting.

Cheeky Francesca on the BBC’s ‘Big Questions’

She’s a SOTS-ian and scholar at Exeter and she’s very intelligent.  And she’s regularly featured on the BBC’s Big Questions programme (spelled that way in British).

Samira Ahmed hosts. The debates include: Should we be allowed to use any force to protect our homes? Can science and religion both be right? Are Christians being persecuted in Britain?

In case you’re wondering, here are my own concise answers:  People yes, stuff no.  Apples and Oranges.  Some are, some aren’t.

Which Olympian is Your Body Double?

I’m not kidding.  Apparently we all have an Olympian for a body double (as made known to us by the BBC).  I was shocked and frankly depressed to learn that my body double is



Height 1.78m, 5ft 10in

Weight 90kg, 14st 2lbs

Gender Female

Sport Athletics

Why??????  I clearly need to either put on weight or lose weight.  Given my present state of depression thanks to the BBC, I think I’ll choose the former.  Where’s that bag of donuts….

UPDATE:  Hold on.  My despair drove me to enter the data again and this time:

You are most like:

Liam Phillips

Team GB

Height 1.78m, 5ft 10in

Weight 83kg, 13st 1lbs

Gender Male

Sport Cycling – BMX

Competing in

  1. Men’s BMX

Ok I can live with that. BMX. That makes a lot more sense than the woman discus tosser. I suggest that you enter your own data several times, until you come up with a suitable double.

Anonymous Web Trolls, You’ve Been Warned

From the BBC

Please do not feed the Trolls

Please do not feed the Trolls

Websites will soon be forced to identify people who have posted defamatory messages online. New government proposals say victims have a right to know who is behind malicious messages without the need for costly legal battles. The powers will be balanced by measures to prevent false claims in order to get material removed. But privacy advocates are worried websites might end up divulging user details in a wider range of cases.

This is good news for everyone. Honest people don’t hide and hiding people, barring some sort of situation in which they would be persecuted for being truthful, aren’t honest.

By the way- you can do your part in the war against trolls and it’s something simple:  moderate comments on your own site.  If someone doesn’t give their name or you don’t know who they are, don’t approve their remarks.   They’ll soon tire of their exercise in futility.  I know.  I’ve sent many blathering imbeciles off dissatisfied that their ramblings didn’t get airtime.  They usually land on the angry atheist blogs where they’re perfectly at home with the other dimwits.

Must See TV: How God Made the English

The first in a three-part series in which Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of Church History at Oxford University and presenter of the award-winning BBC series A History of Christianity, explores both what it means to be English and what has shaped English identity, from the Dark Ages, through the Reformation to modern times. Professor MacCulloch identifies three broad traits commonly associated with the English: the idea that the English think they’re better than others; the idea that they are a specially tolerant people; and the idea that to be English, quintessentially is to be white, Anglo-Saxon and Church of England Christian. He investigates whether these stereotypes are accurate and looks at what forces have shaped English identity – secular or religious?

In this first episode, Professor MacCulloch chronicles the roots of the idea that the English think themselves better than others and duty-bound to play a leading role in world affairs. He argues that the roots of this attitude lie in a tangle of religious motives. He traces its origins to the notion of a ‘chosen people’ – a Biblical idea which the monk and historian, the Venerable Bede, took lock, stock and barrel from the Jewish scriptures and applied to the early English.

If you’re in Britain you must watch this Saturday at 8 PM.  You must.

An Interview with Francesca Stavrakopoulou

Francesca Stavrakopoulou is Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Religion at Exeter and her work is focused on ancient Israelite and Judahite religions, and portrayals of the religious past in the Hebrew Bible. She’s particularly interested in cultural, social and religious responses to the dead. Other research interests include kingship in ancient West Asia/Near East; history and ideology in the Hebrew Bible; methods of historical reconstruction; constructs of ‘popular’ and ‘official’ religion; and ‘secular’ approaches to teaching and learning in biblical studies.

She’s probably the best known ‘face’ of Biblical studies in Britain given that she’s regularly on TV discussing and debating the subject.  I thought it might be a good idea to introduce her to folk outside of the United Kingdom and she was gracious and agreed to subject herself to an interview.  So, Francesca, thanks very much for agreeing to answer a few questions.

JW– First off, how did you come to be interested in biblical studies?

FS– Ever since I was a child I’ve been interested in ancient religion – mainly because of my Greek heritage. When I was little, I spent a lot of time learning about the gods and goddesses of Olympus, and this gradually extended to an interest in other ancient deities, and from there, the Bible. I first decided to study Theology at university because I wanted to understand why Jesus was held to be so different from the semi-divine heroes of ancient Greece.

JW– The dead seem a special concern (if I can use that word). Why the dead?

FS– You can learn so much from the dead! Looking at the ways the living deal with the material remains of the dead, and examining the ways the living reconfigure their relationships with the deceased individual, can tell you so much about the social dynamics, values and worldviews of communities. And that’s what really interests me.

JW– Your interests are wide ranging even within the field of biblical studies. Where did you study and what was the topic of your dissertation?

FS– I did all my studies at Oxford University: first was an undergraduate degree in Theology, which gave me the Hebrew Bible bug, so I stayed on at Oxford and did a Masters degree in ‘Old Testament’ (as it’s called at Oxford!), and then I did my doctorate there, too. My doctoral thesis looked at the biblical distortion of the religious past – so I focused on King Manasseh as the most ‘sinful’ individual in the Hebrew Bible, and child sacrifice as the most abhorrent religious practice, and argued that neither were as deviant as the biblical writers make out!

JW– How did you come to end up at Exeter?

FS– Having finished my doctorate, I had a fixed-term post-doctoral fellowship in Oxford, and a permanent post at Exeter came up. It was a bit of a gamble to apply, because I didn’t know the university or the area at all, but I decided to go for it, and was lucky enough to be appointed. It’s a great department and we just keep going from strength to strength.

JW– You’re an atheist, but not the angry sort. By that I mean that you don’t seem to be on a crusade to ‘destroy’ faith. Do you see value in faith?

FS– For those who have faith, yes, I can see there’s a value for them. But I don’t think those without faith are missing out on anything valuable.

JW– You’re always so very cordial and patient when describing your approach. To what do you attribute that patience?

FS– My mother! She’s brought me up to be decent to people, and to treat everyone with respect. And I try to keep in mind her advice: if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all! I think that’s key when it comes to debates about religion. There’s no point in my shouting at people who disagree with me, or accusing them of being stupid, just because I don’t agree with their views about God, or the Bible, or whatever. Some atheists in the public eye don’t do us any favours by behaving like that.

JW– You’ve recently been appointed to a Professorship at Exeter. Congratulations! What are your primary responsibilities?

FS– I’m continuing to do all the things I’ve been doing since I arrived in Exeter – teaching, supervising research students, publishing, sitting in endless meetings, etc. But I’m expected to take a more prominent role in shaping the direction of the Department within the context of the university and UK higher education. It should be fun … !

JW– Turning in a different direction: you are very, very well known in Britain for your several appearances on BBC television programs about the bible. How did they find you? By that I mean, how did it happen?

FS– The BBC were looking work with various sorts of scholars, and in particular wanted to develop some programme ideas on religious and biblical topics. I was recommended to them by various people. So the BBC got in touch, and after lots of discussions and meetings, we started working up ideas for a documentary series.

JW– Have you ever been asked to do a program you refused to do because the direction it wanted to go was inaccurate or inappropriate or misleading?

FS– Yes! I’ve turned down various projects because they didn’t suit my academic preferences or interests. And I’ve also turned down TV projects because they were more interested in my being a woman than being a scholar.

JW– Do you see value in twitter or facebook or other social media for the promulgation of biblical scholarship?

FS– Definitely. I think biblical scholarship has generally been pretty bad at communicating its ideas beyond the bounds of the academy. And there’s too much gate-keeping in academia as it is. So Twitter and Facebook can be great ways of sparking a broader interest in the sorts of stuff we do – and in fostering an interest in academic study. It’s students that keep Biblical Studies alive in universities, and we can attract more students by keeping up public interest in our field. Social media is a great way to do this.

JW– Have you ever considered blogging?

FS– Briefly. I’d want to blog about the underbelly of academia, though, and I think that would get me in too much trouble!

JW– Do you read any of the biblioblogs (besides mine of course, everyone reads it) 😉

FS– Sometimes – when I have time. I usually get sent links to particular posts, so I keep up with the most interesting stuff that way. I stay away from the conservative Christian blogs – especially if I’ve recently been on the telly!

JW– Are you currently working on any writing projects? Do you have a manuscript in the pipeline that we should keep our eyes open for?

FS– Yep, I’m working on two books at the moment. One’s about corpses (of course), and the other’s about the delightful Baal and Asherah.

JW– Thanks so much, again, and I hope to see you at SOTS again next Winter at Cambridge (or perhaps at SBL in Chicago). Speaking of SOTS and SBL, what do you like about conferences and which of the two do you prefer?

FS– For a quality academic experience, SOTS is the best. You get to hear papers on topics you’d never ordinarily have the time to be interested in. Things can be a bit hit and miss at SBL! But for me, the best thing about conferences is getting to spend time with friends and colleagues I don’t often get to see. The best academic conversations I’ve ever had have always taken place in a bar or a restaurant. For that reason, it’s hard to choose between SBL and SOTS.

JW–  I agree with you completely on that!  SOTS has quality papers and good friends and SBL has fantastic book exhibits and loads of people to see.  The paper’s generally, aren’t all that spectacular (though every now and then Bob Cargill or Christian Brady or James Crossley do one and they’re brilliant).

One final question: would you mind telling us something about yourself that may be surprising? For instance, do you work as a lumberjack on weekends or are you an opera singer in Munich or do you make cakes and take them to students or their birthdays?

FS– I’m older than I look.

JW–   What?  You’re 25?

Again, thank you, Professor, for your time and thoughtful answers. I look forward, as do we all, to seeing you at meetings and on the BBC.

Promiscuity Reigns

Mark Easton of the BBC tweets

17% men & 24% women say they’ve had only one sexual partner. 27% men and 13% women say over ten. Average bloke has 9.3 NHS survey finds.

That means that of the people surveyed, 83% of males are promiscuous (having more than one partner) and 76% of women are as well.  Worse still, the promiscuous behavior of many isn’t restricted to two partners.  Alas, the average male has more than 9 different sexual partners.

That’s unfortunate.  No wonder these girls don’t know who the baby-daddy is.  Sadder still the fact that people have reduced themselves to nothing more than depositors and receptacles.  They’ve turned the gift of sex into a mere biological function like urination or defecation.  Which is why they’re able to treat other people like crap.

Content Manipulation?? On Wikipedia??? Tell it not in Gath!

Wikipedia has suspended at least 10 accounts linked to the public relations firm Bell Pottinger as it investigates allegations of content manipulation.

If they cared about content manipulation they’d suspend more than 10 accounts.

The online encyclopaedia’s founder Jimmy Wales told the BBC the lobbyists had “embarrassed their clients”. He said a team of volunteers was looking at possible breaches of conflict of interest guidelines.

What? Wikipedia has guidelines? Wow.

Bell Pottinger admitted to editing entries, but said it had “never done anything illegal”. Mr Wales said he was “highly critical of their ethics”.

Oh my……. Unethical behavior by persons wishing to skew facts on the public toilet of intellectual content Wikipedia? Tell it not in Gath!

Britain’s Got Europe’s Biggest Women

Don’t be mad at me, be mad at the BBC

A new study finds that the UK has more overweight women than any country across Europe, the BBC reports. The survey of 19 countries found that 23.9% of UK women are obese, which led the fat-pack, ahead of Malta (21.1%), Latvia (20.9%), and Hungary (21.4%). The study also says 22% of British men are fatties, second only to Malta.

You’re catching up to America!

I’m With the BBC on the BCE/CE v. BC/AD Debate

And I can’t understand for a second why the Vatican calls use of BCE/CE ‘hypocrisy‘.  That’s crazy talk, Rome.  Crazy talk.  Dating conventions aren’t sacred!

The row erupted last month after the guidance emerged on the religion pages of the BBC website, which stated: “As the BBC is committed to impartiality it is appropriate that we use terms that do not offend or alienate non-Christians.  “In line with modern practice, BCE/CE (Before Common Era/Common Era) are used as a religiously neutral alternative to BC/AD.”

Come on, Vatican, pick up a piece of scholarship published in the past decade and you’ll see that biblical scholars have been using BCE/CE for longer than that!  Get a grip.  Again, dating conventions aren’t sacred!   Guess what, the Bible doesn’t even contain BC and AD!!!

[Silly Rome, picking senseless and pointless battles to fight when there are bigger issues to tackle].

British Schools are Breaking the Law, by Shunning Daily Christian Assemblies

Bet you didn’t know Christian assemblies were the law in British schools did you? Neither, apparently, do most British schools…

The vast majority of schools are flouting the law by failing to stage a daily Christian assembly, research suggests.

It’s just more of the victory of secularism over Christianity in Britain:

Almost two-thirds of parents responding to a survey said their children did not take part in collective worship at school every day, it was revealed. Secondary schools are far more likely to shun the traditional requirement which has been compulsory in the state system since the Second World War. The disclosure – in research commissioned by the BBC – will add weight to growing calls to drop the legislation. It comes after a delegation of teachers, secularists and religious leaders wrote to Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, last year insisting children should not be “coerced” into religion in schools. Under the 1944 Education Act, schools must provide “broadly Christian worship” every day. Parents have the right to pull children out of religious assemblies but the power is not extended to pupils themselves.

Interesting stuff you have to admit.  And there’s more…

Plastic Surgery Plumbs New Depths

The BBC headline says it all: Designer vagina NHS operations unwarranted.

GPs should not refer women who are well but worried for female genital cosmetic surgery on the NHS, say experts. Specialists at a Central London teaching hospital say they received 30 such referrals, mainly from family doctors, over the past three years. This included eight schoolgirls – one as young as 11 – the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology reports.

It’s absolute madness. Just utter insanity.

The BBC’s Video of the Utoeya Camp

This is quite amazing footage.

Norway’s prime minister has said his country’s way of life has been abused and attacked, and the violence is “beyond comprehension”.  More than 90 people, many of them teenagers, are now known to have died in Friday’s twin attacks.  Police have arrested a 32-year-old Norwegian man and searches are still taking place for more victims.  The BBC’s Europe Editor Gavin Hewitt reports.

Do give it a watch.

Walking Dead TV Listing Fail (via Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion)

For American readers, just so you know ‘The Walking Dead’ is NOT a documentary….

It seems that Simcha (and his penchant for calling trash tv documentary) has some colleagues at the BBC…

At least, I sincerely hope so. From the current Radio Times: The undead are also apparently working as copy-editors for the BBC. … Read More

via Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion

Francesca’s Conclusions are Colorful…

The Telegraph has a feature on your friend and mine, Francesca Stavrakopoulou, which begins

She first appeared on television last year in Channel 4’s The Bible: A History, suggesting that Moses did not exist. Her interviewer, devout Catholic Ann Widdecombe, appeared unimpressed.  The Bible’s Buried Secrets, which begins on BBC Two next week, is her first prime time series.  Dr Stavrakopoulou gained a doctorate in theology from the University of Oxford and was a junior research fellow at Worcester College before joining the theology department at the university of Exeter, where she is currently a senior lecturer.  Although she was brought up “in no particular religion” by an English mother and Greek father, she became fascinated by theology as a schoolgirl.

The Swiss Reformed news outlets have picked up the story and observe

Die öffentlich-rechtliche Rundfunkanstalt BBC hat eine bekennende Atheistin mit der Produktion einer Bibelsendung beauftragt. Francesca Stavrakopoulou, eine Theologin der Universität in Exeter, wird die Sendereihe «The Bible’s Buried Secrets» (Die vergessenen Geheimnisse der Bibel) präsentieren.  Laut einem Bericht der Tageszeitung «Daily Telegraph» (8. März) bezeichnet sich Stavrakopoulou als Atheistin mit «grossem Respekt vor Religion«. «Als Bibelwissenschaftlerin sehe ich mein Fach als akademische Disziplin an, als einen Zweig der Geschichtswissenschaften. Und als Akademiker lässt man seine religiösen Überzeugungen aussen vor.» Sie sei sich bewusst, dass das Interesse einer Atheistin an der Bibel für manche schwer verständlich sei. «Die Bibel ist eine Sammlung religiöser und sozialer Schriften, die einen grossen Einfluss auf die westliche Kultur hatten.»  In der Sendereihe will Stavrakopoulou auf die Rolle Evas eingehen, die vor allem in der christlichen Tradition unfairerweise als lästige Ehefrau dargestellt werde, die an der Vertreibung aus dem Paradies schuld sei. «Man darf nicht vergessen, dass die Evangelisten männlich waren und in einer sehr männlich dominierten Welt lebten. Frauen wurden als Eigentum und zweitrangig angesehen.»

Francesca is a regular fixture at SOTS and a remarkably intelligent and friendly person.  I wish we got BBC here (and not just BBC lite- BBC America).  I’d love to watch the show (or get the dvd).