Monday, July 25, 2005


Dutch scholars have dated a Jewish catacomb earlier than its more famous Christian counterparts:
A Jewish catacomb in Rome predates its Christian counterparts by at least 100 years, indicating burial in the city's sprawling underground cemeteries may not have begun as a Christian practice, according to a study published Wednesday.
Scholars have long believed that early Christians were the first to bury their dead in Roman catacombs. But Dutch experts from Utrecht University who dated organic material from a Jewish catacomb in the city say it appears that early Christians inherited the practice from Jews.

But--stop the presses!--there seems to be some sort of link between Judaism and early Christianity:
The findings, published in the journal Nature, would further illustrate links between early Christian culture and Judaism....

[Leonard Victor] Rutgers said his research may provide further evidence of the influence Judaism had on early Christianity.

"The extent to which Christianity has Jewish roots is a very widespread debate today and this research adds a new element to the discussion," he said.

Well, it is interesting, but is it really that shocking?

[Thanks to lovely and talented theosebes reader Jordana for the link.]

Friday, July 22, 2005


'Till Death Do Us Part' is on its way out of many modern wedding 'vows':
Vows like "For as long as we continue to love each other," "For as long as our love shall last" and "Until our time together is over" are increasingly replacing the traditional to-the-grave vow — a switch that some call realistic and others call a recipe for failure.

"We're hearing that a lot — 'as long as our love shall last.' I personally think it's quite a statement on today's times — people know the odds of divorce," said New Jersey wedding expert Sharon Naylor (search), author of "Your Special Wedding Vows," who adds that the rephrasing is also part of a more general trend toward personalizing vows.

Not to fear, however. People are still taking their wedding They just want to save on therapy bills:
Naylor said killing the "death vow" doesn't mean that people don't take their marriage promises seriously. Quite the contrary.

"People understand that anything can happen in life, and you don't make a promise you can't keep. When people get divorced, they mourn the fact that they said ''til death do us part' — you didn't keep your word in church (if they had a church wedding). Some people are in therapy because they promised ‘til death do us part' — it is the sticking point in the healing of a broken marriage. The wording can give you a stigma of personal failure."

Oh, dear--personal failure! Well changing the wording will make all that go away.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


While surfing about looking for material for an upcoming (perhaps I should say looming) lesson on Joseph I came across these wonderful illustrations by Tamar Messer. She beautifully illustrates Ruth, Joseph and other events of the Old Testament (aka, TANAKH). Go admire and buy a print. I hope to sometime before long myself.

Sunday, July 17, 2005


NBC is now trying their hand at a religiously oriented television show. The Book of Daniel will be a mid-season replacement series this coming season, and it ain't pretty:
The NBC network, eager for new hits to reverse a ratings slump, said on Friday it has given a mid-season 2005-06 commitment to a new drama titled "The Book of Daniel," depicting Christ as a contemporary confidant to a pill-popping priest.

The series stars Aidan Quinn ("Legends of the Fall") as conflicted Episcopal minister and family man, the Rev. Daniel Webster, and Oscar-winner Ellen Burstyn as his bishop.

And what sort of character will "Jesus" be?
[NBC President Kevin] Reilly has said NBC's development of the show was inspired in part by the success of religion-themed novels like the "Left Behind" series and Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of the Christ."

"Daniel," however, is a far cry from "Passion" or the conventional Easter-season TV specials that portray Christ in a biblical context. According to NBC promotional materials, the Jesus character on "Daniel" is depicted as a "contemporary, cool" figure who appears only to the minister.
A Jesus that Hollywood thinks is "cool". And the hits just keep on coming in the wake of "The Passion," but, of course, none of them actually try to do what "The Passion" did. Mel Gibson approached the Biblical account and the Person of Jesus with respect and faithfulness to the Biblical account. The tv networks, instead, want Jesus to be "cool". It's Lot in a pirate ship all over again.

Saturday, July 16, 2005


Yeah, probably so. But he's doing a good job of keeping the pot stirred in view of the Da Vinci Code's movie release next year, so maybe he's just crazy like a fox. It seems Brown is standing by his claimthat Jesus was married with children:
AUTHOR Dan Brown is set to reignite controversy over his besteller The Da Vinci Code today, by defending claims he makes in the book that Jesus Christ married and had a child.
In a rare television interview to be broadcast tonight on the National Geographic Channel, Brown reaffirms his “belief” in book’s key theory – that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and their French-born child started a blood line stretching to the present day. Critics have denounced the new claims as “bonkers”.

The Da Vinci Code, first published in 2003, has sparked worldwide religious debate. The quasi-historical thriller claims Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting The Last Supper holds the key to the Holy Grail. According to the book, the Grail is not a chalice, as traditionally believed, but Mary Magdalene.

It alleges Jesus and Mary married and had a child and that their bloodline survives to this day – a secret kept by the Catholic Church.

And how are those claims being substantiated?
Film makers tried to find the sources from which Brown said he gleaned the information to compile his theory. However, they noted that some of the claims were not supported by historians, theologians or in academic works.

Huh. How about that?


Dead Sea Scrolls watch out! Two Leviticus scroll fragments have come to light after being purchased by a scholar from a Bedouin:
A secretive encounter with a Bedouin in a desert valley led to the discovery of two fragments from a nearly 2,000-year-old parchment scroll - the first such finding in decades, an Israeli archaeologist said Friday.
The finding has given rise to hope that the Judean Desert may yield more treasures, said Professor Chanan Eshel, an archaeologist from Tel Aviv's Bar Ilan University.

The two small pieces of brown animal skin, inscribed in Hebrew with verses from the Book of Leviticus, are from "refugee" caves in Nachal Arugot, a canyon near the Dead Sea where Jews hid from the Romans in the second century, Eshel said in an interview with the Associated Press.

Tests are being conducted to verify authenticity, and you can be sure that the search is on for more of them.

Saturday, July 09, 2005


A cardinal viewed as an ally of evolutionary theory appears to be backing off:
An influential cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church, which has long been regarded as an ally of the theory of evolution, is now suggesting that belief in evolution as accepted by science today may be incompatible with Catholic faith.

The cardinal, Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, a theologian who is close to Pope Benedict XVI, staked out his position in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times on Thursday, writing, "Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not."

In a telephone interview from a monastery in Austria, where he was on retreat, the cardinal said that his essay had not been approved by the Vatican, but that two or three weeks before Pope Benedict XVI's election in April, he spoke with the pope, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, about the church's position on evolution. "I said I would like to have a more explicit statement about that, and he encouraged me to go on," said Cardinal Schönborn.

He said that he had been "angry" for years about writers and theologians, many Catholics, who he said had "misrepresented" the church's position as endorsing the idea of evolution as a random process.

Of course, no one who holds to a Biblical understanding of Creation could in any way endorse a theory that proposes "an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection". If man was created in the image of God, he could not have been so created randomly. To imagine that God rolled the dice with His fingers crossed that man might turn out to reflect His nature is ludicrous on its face.

Of course, the random nature of evolution is a key tenent of the theory. Once you remove that one begins to question what the need for Darwinism is in the first place. Then it is realized that Darwinian evolution is not a scientific choice, but rather a philosophical one. And that's what has the evolutionists nervous.

Friday, July 08, 2005


Don't miss Bible class in Australia:
THE brutal beating left her with deep purple bruises all over her body but a priest and two Bible studies teachers claim they were just trying to "help" the girl realise she should go to church.

Chi Yeong Yun, 37, a priest at Chatswood's Open Door Church, and Bible studies teachers James Kang, 21, and Tom Chae-Young Lee, 22, pleaded guilty in the NSW District Court yesterday to assaulting Angela Kim on July 8 last year.

The court heard the three men beat Ms Kim, who was 19 at the time of the attack, for a "lengthy" period of time at a Bobbin Head park after dark.

Giving evidence with the aid of an interpreter, church elder Ken An said he has realised that beating as a form of "discipline" was wrong in Australia.

"I did not know how different the law was here and in Korea. I know know that it was wrong," he said.

Hmmm. Somehow it doesn't seem like what Jesus would do.

Thursday, July 07, 2005


On this day in history in 1456 Joan of Arc was acquitted of heresy. Of course, she had been executed on May 30, 1431.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


The United Church of Christ has voted overwhelmingly to endorse same-sex 'marriage'.

In other news, the sun rose in the east this morning...

In what apparently passes for insightful religious commentary, Allan Sloan (who studied the Bible in Hebrew) isn't sure how many commandmentsthere are:
You may think that the Supreme Court ruled last week that the state of Texas could continue to display a Ten Commandments monolith on its capitol grounds in Austin. But you'd be wrong. Look at the monolith—you can find it at—and you'll notice that it doesn't contain 10 commandments. It has 11. And if you count "I am the Lord thy God" as a commandment, which Jews do but Christians don't, the Supreme Court has approved a Twelve Commandments monolith, rather than the traditional Decalogue.

This monolith, sponsored by the Fraternal Order of Eagles, was part of a PR campaign for "The Ten Commandments," Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 Biblical epic starring Charlton Heston. Yes, the Supreme Court was ruling on the legality of a Hollywood promotion. The Eagles' grand secretary, Bob Wahls, explained to me last week that the text is a compromise drawn up by Jewish and Christian clergy to respect everyone's beliefs. So rather than bearing Ten Commandments that are the Word of God, the monolith bears 11 or 12 commandments that are the Word of a Committee.

Now this, really, could be the basis for at least an amusing column. But no, the good Mr. Sloan (who studied the Bible in Hebrew) sees it as Meaningful:
But while it's one thing to be in favor of ethics and morality in public life, it's a whole different thing to think—as I suspect most Americans do—that there is one single Decalogue. The complex textual history of the Commandments suggests that the more you study the Bible, the less certain you become of your ability to divine the precise Word of God. That's a useful lesson in this divided time.

Actually, I imagine just the opposite is the case. Throw a Bible at a complete novice and it's likely he'll have an understandably difficult time figuring out a Biblical timeline, understanding many of the cultural settings and grasping the symbolism. But I also think that the big picture can be grasped pretty quickly.

At any rate, the column all hinges on the fact that--you see--there really are (you may not have known this) two Decalogues in the Old Testament:
Most public displays of the Ten Commandments, including the ones in Texas and Kentucky that the Supreme Court dealt with, are based on Exodus 20, verses 2-14, where God speaks directly to the Israelites. But if you grew up as I did, studying the Bible in its original Hebrew, you know that there's a second, equally valid version in Deuteronomy 5:6-18. And the two versions differ. In Exodus, God says to remember the Sabbath because he created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. In Deuteronomy, Moses recounts that God told the Israelites to observe the Sabbath because the Lord liberated them from Egyptian bondage. So which is it? The traditional Jewish answer is that God uttered both versions simultaneously, but fallible human ears heard it two separate ways. So how can you post one version or the other and declare it the Ineffable Word of God? You can't.[Bold added, nac, italics are Mr. Sloan's]

This is what passes for penetrating Biblical insight these days? You may have noticed that Mr. Sloan studied the Bible in Hebrew, which apparently gives one the ability to count to two. In every copy and version of the Old Testament I have the Ten Commandments is listed in both places. I've been able to count them every time. And if the use of "remember" one place and "observe" in another is a crisis of faith for Mr. Sloane then I have some insight into why he's having a hard time "divin[ing] the precise Word of God."

Saturday, July 02, 2005


Make sure you bring your laptop next time you go to services in Cardiff, Wales, which now has wi-fi for parishioners:
Last rites administered via e-mail? Donations to the collection plate made through PayPal? It doesn't sound that far-fetched when you consider what's happening at St. John's Church in Cardiff, Wales.

The church has installed wireless Internet access so worshippers can surf the Web and check their e-mail while singing praises to the Almighty.

The Rev. Keith Kimber, a computer buff, said he hopes the high-speed connection will encourage more business types to join his flock and to linger in the peace of the sanctuary.

He said people inside the church had been unable to access the city's wireless services because of its 4-foot-thick walls.

Kimber said that turning high-tech is a natural reaction to changing times.

"Why is this more interesting than a church having electricity or a telephone or sewers?" he asked. "It's another piece of infrastructure appropriate and useful to the times we live in."

You'll keep 'em with what you draw 'em with.