Comment About Lead Codices and Media

Someone commented on my blog today about the status of the codices.  I want to highlight this post because I’m sure many laypeople out there are just as confused about the status of these codices as this commenter was.  This is the comment:

On the face of it an extraordinary find – the more reason we should approach with scepticism and ensure only when all possible forensic and academic tests have been satisfied should the lead `codices’ be proclaimed and published as genuine Christian relics.
If genuine they certainly contain extremely controversial content with the possibility of producing profound repercussions throughout Christianity

My response is thus.

  • First, what do you mean by “genuine”? “Genuine” in regards to what, exactly? Compared to which extant artifacts?
  • Second, what “controversial content”? The tablets are in “code” (in reality, they are simply random letters from ancient coins and sections of ancient text taken off tombstones in museums in Amman) and haven’t yet been deciphered into any coherent content whatsoever, so I am not sure to what content you refer.
  • Third, what profound repercussions exactly? There is nothing known about the content of the tablets yet (if there is anything at all to be found); the only repercussions these tablets will produce is to show how easily the media, and the dilettante, fall prey to fake artifacts and conmen looking to make a quick buck off of people’s gullibility and ignorance.

Were the Lead Codices Just Sold to an Israeli Antiquities Dealer?

According to this source (I am uncertain about the accuracy of the account; it’s as of now unconfirmed–h/t to Dave Meadows for the link) the lead codices might have been sold to an Israeli antiquities dealer.

Jordanian Official: Ancient Manuscripts Discovered In Jordan Sold On Black Market To Israel Dealer

Dr. Ziyad Al-Sa’d, director-general of Jordan’s antiquities authority, yesterday told a press conference that the Jordanian government had information that first-century BC manuscripts discovered in a cave in the north of the country were several years ago sold on the black market to an Israeli antiquities dealer.

The Israeli then showed them to a British archeologist from Cambridge, who notified the Jordanian antiquity authorities.

Al-Sa’d noted that the manuscripts were vitally important, and could shed new light on the source of Christianity and the New Testament. He added that the Jordanian antiquities authority would take all steps to regain its stolen property.

Source: Factjo,com, April 3, 2011; Al-Dustour, Jordan, April 4, 2011

via The MEMRI Blog – Full Blog Entry.

Wife of God: Was Asherah Edited Out of the Bible?

This is old hat as far as scholars go, but I’m glad it is getting wider distribution.  TIME posted the follow article (snippet version):

Some scholars say early versions of the Bible featured Asherah, a powerful fertility goddess who may have been God’s wife.

Research by Francesca Stavrakopoulou, a senior lecturer in the department of Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter, unearthed clues to her identity, but good luck finding mention of her in the Bible. If Stavrakopoulou is right, heavy-handed male editors of the text all but removed her from the sacred book.

What remains of God’s purported other half are clues in ancient texts, amulets and figurines unearthed primarily in an ancient Canaanite coastal city, now in modern-day Syria. Inscriptions on pottery found in the Sinai desert also show Yahweh and Asherah were worshipped as a pair, and a passage in the Book of Kings mentions the goddess as being housed in the temple of Yahweh.

J. Edward Wright, president of The Arizona Center for Judaic Studies and The Albright Institute for Archaeological Research, backs Stavrakopoulou’s findings, saying several Hebrew inscriptions mention “Yahweh and his Asherah.” He adds Asherah was not entirely edited out of the Bible by its male editors.

via Fertility Goddess Asherah: Was ‘God’s Wife’ Edited Out of the Bible? – TIME NewsFeed.

Read on for the full article.  There are some problematic things with article (for one, the ‘Bible’ did not yet exist at the time when Asherah would have (a) been included in the books referenced and (b) when the redactors would have removed her, so the title is misleading).  Overall it is a decent public expression of the facts, and a lot of it is acceptable.  But while TIME is just posting this now, the concept behind this article had been expressed years ago, perhaps best noted by “maximalist” William Dever (we minimalists sometimes give Bill a free pass) in *gasp* BAR (I know, sacrilege!) in 2008:

The small house shrine published here for the first time provides significant support for the contention that the Israelite God, Yahweh, did indeed have a consort. At least this was true in the minds of many ordinary ancient Israelites, in contrast to the priestly elite.1 In what I call folk religion, or “popular religion,” Yahweh’s consort is best identified as “Asherah,” the old Canaanite mother goddess.2

Some of the most powerful evidence for this contention is in the Bible itself. The fact that the Bible condemns the cult of Asherah (and other “pagan” deities) demonstrates that such cults existed and were perceived as a threat to Israelite monotheism. Based on the Biblical texts alone, we can conclude that many ancient Israelites, perhaps even the majority, worshiped Asherah, Astarte, the “Queen of Heaven” and perhaps other female deities. Their sanctuaries (ba¯môt, or “high places”), we are told, were “on every hill and under every green tree.” (The phrase recurs numerous times in Kings and the Prophets.)

Some of the clearest physical evidence for the existence of a cult of Asherah is the growing collection of small house shrines. The technical name is naos (plural, naoi), a Greek word that means “temple” or “inner sanctum.”

(Reproduced here but for a small fee(!) you can get it on BAR)

And the great  scholar, the late G. W. Ahlström, in his book The History of Ancient Palestine (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1994) discusses the subject to some degree and earlier still, in 1963, in his book Aspects of Syncretism in Israelite Religion (C.W.K. Gleerup).

Also Mark S. Smith deals with this subject extensively in his many works on the origins of Biblical monotheism (The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002], The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel’s Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts [Oxford: OUP, 2003], God in Translation: Deities in Cross-Cultural Discourse in the Biblical World [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010]) and the contextual “religious” aspects of the ancient world.

Of course this list isn’t comprehensive, but it does express a very large gap in time between what scholarship discusses and when the public learns about it.  This is a problem that hopefully the internet will continue to solve, though for those interested, above are reliable resources for the study of the subject matter.

The US Should Cease Giving Aid to Israel

I completely agree with Jim West.  Read the post:

The time has come for the US to stop giving $3,000,000,000 a year in military aid to Israel.   And I’m not the only one who thinks so.

That’s right- America is underwriting an illegal occupation.  Giving aid to Israel in order for Israel to continue to oppress the Palestinians is immoral.  Your tax dollars are being used for an immoral and unethical program and purpose.  You should say something about it to your Congressman and let the voice of justice and equality and fairness be heard just as loudly as the voice of Christian Zionists and their Congressional lackeys.

The US Should Cease Giving Aid to Israel.

Charles G. Cogan: Whose Jerusalem Is It?

An interesting article over at the Huffington Post.  Charles G. Coogan writes on the subject of identity in his article “Whose Jerusalem Is It?”  Here is a selection from article:

“God Wills It,” cried the French Pope Urban II at the synod of Clermont, in south-central France, in 1095, as he exhorted battle-thirsty Frankish and Lombard nobles to go forth and capture Jerusalem for Christianity, as had been requested of him by the Byzantine Emperor. It was one of a number of mistaken Christian ventures into Islamic lands, on down to our day.
As the nobles made their way, along their route they acquired more adherents – German nobles and various commoners. It was a long voyage. At one rest-stop along the route, Ratisbonne (now Regensburg, in Bavaria) they encountered a community of Jews and proceeded to massacre them. This was a pattern that would repeat itself in subsequent crusades. The crusaders finally took over Jerusalem in 1099 and engaged again in massacres.

via: Dr. Charles G. Cogan: Whose Jerusalem Is It?.  Read on.

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