kudos to smithsonian channel for putting “gospel of jesus’ wife” documentary on hold

Smithsonian ChannelWord from the Smithsonian Channel is that they’ve decided to shelve a new documentary on the so-called “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” due, in part, to a high degree of scholarly criticism ranging from claims that the fragment is an outright fake to claims that it appears to be a cut-and-paste job of verses taken from the Gospel of Thomas.

This is a good thing! Kudos to Smithsonian for listening to the facts, weighing the evidence, and evaluating the scholarly critique instead of rushing to air a sensationalized documentary that may turn out to be nothing but an hour of strained speculation sold to a cable channel in the hopes of making quick money, archaeology be damned.

I applaud Smithsonian Channel. And I applaud Harvard Divinity School’s Dr. Karen King. Dr. King released this fragment the way it should be released in this new digital era of immediate feedback: first to a group of scholars for review, and then to a professional conference of her peers for review, and only then to the public.

And, when the scholarly experts began to raise doubts and voice their concerns about the authenticity of the object and its interpretation, the planned documentary was put on hold to preserve the credibility of the network and of the scholar making the claim, despite the fact that there was quick money to be made. There is no highly speculative, popular book to recall because Dr. King went through the academy first. And now that the scholarly community has voiced its desire for more research, Dr. King (who has repeatedly expressed her own doubts about the fragment’s authenticity) appears all the more professional and the Smithsonian Channel looks all the more responsible.

It’s a shame that other networks can’t follow Smithsonian’s lead and cancel other documentaries they believe to be highly problematic, factually challenged, speculative, and mere attempts to make a quick buck on potentially pseudoarchaeological claims.


[N.B.: We have yet to hear if the documentary’s producer has decided to sue Joe Zias for millions of dollars because a growing majority of the scholarly community has questioned the validity of the documentary’s claims, causing it to be shelved and potentially canceled. Because obviously, any documentary related to the Bible and archaeology that is shelved due to a growing critique of the sensational claims by a number of scholars must be Joe’s fault alone. ;-)]

Yom Kippur Begins at Sundown

ShofarYom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement and the holiest day of the year for Jews, begins today at sundown.

I wish an easy fast and a solemn day of reflection for all who observe.

Services in Iowa City are hosted by Rabbi Jeff Portman and the Agudas Achim Congregation, who are holding their High Holiday services this evening at the Englert Theatre.

Tuesday, September 25
Kol Nidre Englert Theatre
6:30 pm Cello and piano renditon of Bloch’s Kol Nidre
6:40 pm Services

Wednesday, September 26
8:30 am Hillel (Conservative)
10:00 am Unitarian Universalist Society, 10 S. Gilbert Iowa City (Reform)*
3:00 pm Children’s Service Hillel
4:45 pm Yizkor Hillel
5:30 pm Michah Hillel
6:45 pm Neilah Hillel
7:37 pm Shofar Hillel

for all who observe,

Dr. Paul Dilley on the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” Announcement

The so-called "Gospel of Jesus' Wife"

The so-called “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife”

Here’s a blog post from my University of Iowa Classics and Religious Studies colleague, Paul Dilley, who was at the Coptic conference in Rome when the big announcement was made.

He writes:

Professor Karen King of Harvard presented a tiny, poorly-written portion of a manuscript page, owned by a private collector, which features a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples in which he mentions “my wife.”  King, working with Professor AnneMarie Luijendijk of Princeton, has made a draft of their editio princeps, English translation, and study of this “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife”, forthcoming in Harvard Theological Review, available for download:

http://www.hds.harvard.edu/faculty-research/research-projects/the-gospel-of-jesuss-wife

They suggest that the text was written in the second century, citing denials that Jesus was married by Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian of Carthage, as well as parallels with other apocryphal texts usually dated to this era; this is certainly a plausible hypothesis.  But regardless of the original date of composition, it seems to me that Jesus’s marital status would have been an even more poignant topic for debate among Christians in Late Antiquity, after the rise of the ascetic/monastic movement, with controversies about the relative value of celibacy and marriage occupying center stage.

It will be interesting to see the case made for the authenticity of the fragment and translation of the text, as well as whether the fact that the manuscript is unprovenanced, was acquired from an antiquities dealer, and that the present owner wants to sell the document to Harvard adversely affects the credibility of the discovery.

And check out Dr. Dilley’s blog, Hieroi Logoi: Digital Resources for Religion in Late Antiquity, when you get a chance and add his valuable blog to your blogroll.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TALI!

Talitha is a teenager today. Happy birthday T. I am so proud of you!!!

Tali and Mac

Tali and Mac

Tali in Chicago

Tali in Chicago

Tali in Chicago

Tali in Chicago

Mitt Romney on the Israel-Palestine Peace Process (and my response)

There’s really not much to say. This election is over.

Here are two videos. The first is Republican Candidate Mitt Romney attempting to “delve into” the Israel-Palestine situation. He can’t even articulate the right-wing Israeli argument properly. But he is attempting to regurgitate what he’s been fed.

The second is my response.

It’s over Mr. Romney. Stop talking.

Salman Rushdie on Religious Extremists (and the terms they use to silence opponents)

Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses, recently gave an interview to BBC News. In it he made a profound point about the use of charges of “blasphemy”, “heresy”, “insult”, and “offense” as an excuse to attack those who think differently, especially about issues of religion.

“If you look at the way in which free expression is being attacked by religious extremism, it’s happening in all these countries, and the things of which these people are being accused is always the same: it’s always blasphemy, heresy, apostasy, insult, offense – this kind of medieval vocabulary being used at the turn of the second millennium [is happening now].”
– Salman Rushdie

I also enjoyed Rushdie’s response to the interviewer when he was asked, “What’s the solution”?

Rushdie responded, “Be braver”.

Those of us who enjoy freedom of expression, freedom of thought, and engage in the academic discipline of critical inquiry cannot and should not be intimidated into silencing our examination, research, and yes, our critique of religion simply because many vocal (and a few violent) religious fundamentalists don’t like it, regardless of the religion under examination and regardless of the nationality of the protestor.

Whether it takes place in the streets of Cairo, the airwaves of talk radio, or on the stage of the Republican National Convention, scholars should never back down from critiquing the virtues and vices of any ideology, be it politics, economics, or religion.

שנה טובה – Happy New Year!

!!שנה טובה Happy New Year!! May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year!

Ros and I had a wonderful summer in Israel, and we hope “everything the best” to our friends, our family, and those we’ve yet to meet.

Roslyn outside of the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem

Roslyn outside of the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem

At the Golan Heights Winery

At the Golan Heights Winery

Cheers!

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