Summaries and expanded discussions of Bible Secrets Revealed Episodes 1-4 available at Bible History Daily

Bible History Daily
I have provided episode summaries of History‘s documentary series “Bible Secrets Revealed” episodes 1-4 at the Bible History Daily website. I’ve also included expanded discussions of many specific issues, as well as answers to many questions posed by Biblical Archaeology Society readers.

The discussions range from the origin of Jesus’ title “Son of Man”, to the origin of the virgin conception of Jesus, to how translators of the Bible fixed the problem of who really killed Goliath.

"Bible Secrets Revealed" Title Image (Courtesy Prometheus Entertainment)

The summaries are here:

Episode 1: Lost in Translation

Episode 2: The Promised Land

Episode 3: Forbidden Scriptures

Episode 4: The Real Jesus

I shall be providing a summary for Episode 5: Mysterious Prophecies soon, and will do the same for Episode 6: Sex and the Scriptures once it airs.

I may also pull some excerpts from those discussions and repost them here on occasion in order to highlight certain points and promote discussion.

Enjoy!

The Muslim “Last Supper” (and a word on the color of Jesus)

I love this HuffPo Religion story by Yasmine Hafiz.

Any time we can bridge cross-cultural gaps using food, holidays, and classical works of art, it’s always a win.

Ali told The Huffington Post, “For this year’s photo, we wanted to do something that, in its own humble way, aimed to bridge the gap between Eastern and Western cultural and religious norms. We looked up the painting, assigned each person a character, and meticulously tried to mimic the image, while also making it our own.”

And by the way, Megyn Kelley, if you wanted to see something a little closer to what Jesus probably looked like, it’s likely a whole lot closer to this photo (with the darker faces and features) than what is commonly depicted in the “alabaster faces that are strewn across Da Vinci’s original work.”

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.

On Faith, Freedom of Expression, and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Statement in Response to the Protests in Egypt and Libya

Yesterday, Egypt’s ruling party, the Muslim Brotherhood, released a stern condemnation of a low-budget, poorly produced attempt at religious satire uploaded to YouTube by a coward hiding behind an alias. The Muslim Brotherhood also expressed disapproval of the vicious retaliatory protests that have led to the murder of four American diplomats in Libya, including the U.S. Ambassador, encouraging somewhat ambiguously:

“All Muslims to uphold and apply Quranic principles and emulate the Messenger of Allah.”

I understand the Egyptian government’s frustration. Unfortunately, the Muslim Brotherhood’s proposed solution only exacerbates the underlying problem that is quickly coming to the forefront in Egypt and around the world:

“We denounce abuse of all Messengers of God, Prophets and Apostles, and condemn this heinous crime. We further call for criminalization of assaults on the sanctities of all heavenly religions.”

The solution proposed by the Muslim Brotherhood is the prohibition of criticism (which they define as “assaults on the sanctities of all heavenly religions”) of all religions. However, categorizing criticism of any religion as “abuse” and as “heinous crimes” is not a viable solution in a free society. In fact, it would only serve to resurrect the totalitarian suppression of freedom of thought and expression that they experienced under Hosni Mubarak.

All individuals – both those who express faith in various deities and those choosing to adhere to no religion – should have the freedom to debate, criticize, and yes, joke and satirize all forms of ideology, including economic, political, and yes, religious.

The United States of America is founded upon this fundamental principle – the freedom of expression – as well as the freedom to worship or not worship any god we so choose. Freedom of expression lies at the heart of any free society. To exempt religion from this free expression, and to demand that no religious figure ever be criticized, rejected, satirized, or even questioned is little more than an attempt to exploit this horrific tragedy – the murder of American diplomats by Islamic protestors resulting from their anger over an insulting film on YouTube – to elevate Islam to a state that stands above criticism.

As a scholar and a professor of religious studies, I reject any attempt to quell the critical inquiry of any religion, including Christianity and Islam. While the parody of a religious figure may be considered an insult to some and a foolish act in poor taste to others, the solution is never, ever violence coupled with a call for the criminalization of the critique of religion.

Simply put, truly free citizens of any state should have the freedom to practice and profess the religion of their choice, but should not have the power to criminalize those who do not profess their religious faith.

The statement released by the Islamic Brotherhood further stated:

“Certainly, such attacks against sanctities do not fall under the freedom of opinion or thought. They are crimes and assaults against Muslim sanctities, and must not be tolerated by the countries where they are produced or launched, since they are also detrimental to the interests of those countries in dealings with the peoples of the Muslim world.”

The new definition of "religious persecution".

The new definition of “religious persecution”.

Evidently, the Muslim Brotherhood differentiates between freedom of thought and opinion regarding politics, economics, and perhaps where to eat dinner, and the freedom to critique, satirize, and even denounce certain religious beliefs and practices. This assumed privileged status of religion in Islamic countries is similar to the misguided assumption made by Christians in the United States. We must remember that there is a distinct difference between “religious persecution” and the challenging of the privileged status a particular religion enjoys in a given country, be it Christianity in the U.S. or Islam in Egypt.

The critique, ridicule, or rejection of a religious belief or ideology is no different than the critique, ridicule, or rejection of an economic or political belief or ideology: all involve the freedom to accept or reject in thought, word, or practice any position held within them. Religion cannot possess a privileged status above other forms of expression simply because someone else might find it offensive. Likewise, one religion should not enjoy exemption from critique over another religion in any country.

"Religious offense" is apparently a relative designation.

“Religious offense” is apparently a relative designation.

Freedom of expression must be preserved regardless of the subject matter, and regardless of the (over)sensitivity of those who might disagree with the expressed speech. This is especially true in nations that engage in vilifying other religious groups. It is patently hypocritical for the leaders of a government to insist that their religion be respected at all times, while arguing that the consistent denigration of another government with different religious beliefs (let’s say Israel for example) is perfectly legitimate. Perhaps this rational disconnect explains the puzzling, yet carefully worded portion of the Muslim Brotherhood’s statement that read:

The West has passed and imposed laws that punish those who deny or express dissident views on the Holocaust or question the number of Jews killed by Hitler, a topic which is purely historical, not a sacred doctrine.

One either believes in the freedom of thought, speech, and expression of political and religious beliefs, or one does not. One cannot argue that Islam (or Christianity or Judaism for that matter) are somehow uniquely exempt from another individual’s freedom to express thoughts and speech against them. Despite the fact that the creator of this low budget, miserable attempt at religious parody was cowardly enough to hide behind a pseudonym, his right to express his speech on YouTube – however foolish – must be protected. (However, if he forged, criminally impersonated, or stole the identity of another individual, or engaged in internet activity after being convicted of a crime and ordered not to do so, then obviously this is a criminal act. However, none of this has been alleged against the man hiding behind the alias ‘Sam Bacile’.)

The Muslim Brotherhood tepidly implied that Muslims should restrain their outrage at sleights against Islam to “peaceful and legal” means:

“The peoples and governments of the Muslim world have every right to condemn, with all peaceful and legal means, this new violation and heinous attack, and to take appropriate action to deter repeats of such acts of barbaric aggression.”

Any believer in the freedom of speech must understand the misguided nature of this statement, as it characterizes the production of a low budget film as a “heinous attack” and equates it with “acts of barbaric aggression”. The murder of diplomats is a “heinous attack” and an “act of barbaric aggression”. On the contrary, the production of a film is the exercise of one’s freedom to create an admittedly dreadful attempt at a Mel Brooks style, comically offensive parody and call it art. No one was killed in the production of this sloppily-made internet movie. The fact that the Muslim Brotherhood, as the representative leaders of Egypt, are even paying attention to this film as the impetus for anything other than the desperate need for acting lessons and courses in video and sound production demonstrates their inability to grasp the fundamental aspects of freedom of expression.

The Muslim Brotherhood concluded their statement with the following:

“While we reject and condemn the bloodshed and violent response to that abuse and the incredible tolerance certain countries show towards it, we cannot ignore the fact that these countries never made a move regarding the abuse until after the strong reaction seen across the Muslim world.”

They continue:

“Those who insult the sanctities wish to poison budding relations between the peoples, to disrupt the efforts to build bridges between civilizations, and to sow discord between the peoples.”

Again, if the Muslim Brotherhood continues to equate the verbal or acted criticism via parody of a deeply held belief as an “act of aggression”, then we should not hold out much hope for a truly democratic, truly free Egypt under the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood. If insulting the tenets of a religious faith can somehow be construed as a legitimate reason for bloodshed – whether officially endorsed by the government or not – then we cannot consider any person, group, or government adhering to such an unbalanced system of justice in any way “free”.

Perhaps the most telling (and certainly most discouraging) comment came at the heart of the statement, as the Muslim Brotherhood attempted to, in a sense, excuse, or at least defend the response of the riotous Egyptian crowds:

“Thus hurting the feelings of one and a half billion Muslims cannot be tolerated…”

The fact is, they must. Hurt feelings must be tolerated if the ideal of the freedom of expression in a free, democratically elected state is going to survive. All peoples – including Christians in the United States and Muslims in Arab nations – must learn that insults are one of the unfortunate byproducts of the freedom of expression. Those who have chosen to live in free nations simply cannot afford to be overly sensitive to perceived sleights – especially to their religion – as others have the right to freely express their disapproval of beliefs held by others.

Unfortunately, in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, there are often those who seek out occasions to respond aggressively to simple words spoken against their religion. They seek out opportunities to take offense at religious criticism with the hopes of gaining a political advantage over those with whom they happen to disagree. And while no one wants to live in a world full of insults and negativity, we cannot discard our fundamental freedom of expression simply to preserve the overly-sensitive, politically opportunistic few who seek to elevate their religious beliefs above others’ freedom to express disapproval.

The newly elected leadership in Egypt has a profound decision to make. Does it retreat to the fascist, totalitarian dictates of the Mubarak regime, which suppressed the voices of millions who simply wanted their protests to be heard without fear of reprisal, or does it embrace the democratic freedoms that allowed Egypt to elect its first democratically elected president, even though it may mean having to tolerate dissenting opinions, critiques, parodies, and yes, even insults in the process of preserving the freedom of ideological, economic, and religious expression that are the hallmarks of great societies?

We must watch how the Muslim Brotherhood responds to criticism – both of their authority and of Islam. Should they choose to ignore petty insults made by anonymous cowards on the internet and focus upon leading a great nation with dignity and honor and fairness toward all peoples, then they will be lauded now and throughout history as evidence that democratically elected Islamic political parties can successfully lead a modern, secular state. But, should they continue to incite violence and condemn any and all who would critique their rule, their economic policies, or their religion, then they will simply be remembered as one more failed Islamic regime that was more concerned with defending the honor of their religion than they were with conducting the official business of the state and overseeing the benevolent government of its people.

The choice is theirs. And the American government’s response should depend upon this choice. Should the Muslim Brotherhood choose to defend the freedom of expression, then Egypt should continue to enjoy the privilege of strong U.S. support as true allies, and the financial support that comes with it. But should the Muslim Brotherhood choose Islamic fundamentalism and to defend a religion against petty insults at the expense of freedom of expression and fundamental rules of diplomacy, then the U.S. must consider treating Egypt as any other totalitarian religious regime and withdraw its political, military, and financial support.


Dr. Robert R. Cargill is Assistant Professor of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Iowa. He earned his Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at UCLA. He presently teaches a course on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and also teaches courses on the History of Jerusalem and Mythology of Otherworldly Journeys.

Pat Robertson Has Lost His Mind: Jokes About Beating Women

Seriously. Pat’s been a moronic fool for years, but his senile ass has officially lost his mind.

Seriously. Even for the fundamentalists at CBN, Pat has become an absolute legal liability. He needs to be retired from the air.

Not only is he mocking Muslims by misrepresenting them (because good fundamentalist Christians never beat their wives), but now he’s taken to joking about beating women and TELLING PEOPLE TO BEAT THEIR WIVES!!!! Really??

Here’s the transcript of what Pat Robertson said:

“I don’t think we condone wife beating THESE DAYS(!!!!!), but something’s got to be done to make her…”

These days???!!!!!!!!!!!! “But something’s got to be done????

And there’s more:

“She’s rebellious, and chances are she was rebellious with her father and mother. She’s a rebellious child and she doesn’t want to submit to any authority. And she probably had temper tantrums when she was a kid, and you know…you know the little girl, ‘I hate you. I hate you,’ and she wants to slap her father. Well that’s the same kind of thing. She’s just…she’s transferred the father, now, she might…eeh…oh, I hate to say everything’s got to be some psychological counseling, but…”

“But that’s the problem. She does not understand authority. When she was growing up nobody made her behave. And now, you’ve got a 13-year old in a 30-year old woman’s body and she is acting like a child. Now, what do you do with that? You can’t divorce her according to the Scripture, so I say ‘MOVE TO SAUDI ARABIA’.”

[Laughter]

Did Pat ever consider that her husband Michael is a douche? Did anyone even bother to check to see if there is something that the husband perhaps did wrong? Could there possibly be any fault with him? We don’t know, but it doesn’t matter: to Pat, it’s the insubordinate, non-submissive woman who is to blame. That’s it. So his solution it so “move to Saudi Arabia” so you can “beat her” legally.

OUT. OF. HIS. MIND!

The end has come. Watch for CBN to announce Pat’s retirement from on-air segments soon, because he’s destroying whatever is left of CBN. And while this is a wonderful thing, he’s advocating crime in the process.

commentary by ahmed souaiaia on the role of the military in egypt

Dr. Ahmed Souaiaia, Associate Professor of Islamic Studies, The University of Iowa

Dr. Ahmed Souaiaia, Associate Professor of Islamic Studies, The University of Iowa

My University of Iowa colleague, Dr. Ahmed Souaiaia, has an interesting commentary on the role of the military in Egypt entitled, “Military is trickle-feeding democracy to change-hungry Egyptians.”

He fears that “the military is not interested in a swift handing of power to civilians.” In fact, the military may find a way to remain in power:

All the restrictive measures and lack of action on issues important for civil liberties and citizens’ rights are widening the gap between the people and the military generals. Most telling was the loss of trust between the youth and the military leader, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi. For example, when Tantawi was seen (over the weekend) shaking hands with people in the streets while wearing civilian clothes, many Egyptians reacted with cynicism arguing that he might be polishing his image before he announces his candidacy for president. Although a military spokesperson denied that Tantawi is interested in running, many Egyptians remained fearful of the military role in the future of Egyptian politics.

Give it a read.

Sad News: The Passing of Dr. Hossein Ziai

Dr. Hossein Ziai, Professor of Islamic and Iranian Studies, Inaugural holder of the Jahangir and Eleanor Amuzegar Chair in Iranian Studies, and Director of Iranian Studies at UCLA

Dr. Hossein Ziai, Professor of Islamic and Iranian Studies, Inaugural holder of the Jahangir and Eleanor Amuzegar Chair in Iranian Studies, and Director of Iranian Studies at UCLA

Sad news from the UCLA Iranian Student Group:

We regret to inform the friends, family, students and colleagues of Dr. Hossein Ziai of his passing on August 24, 2011.

Dr. Ziai was professor of Islamic and Iranian Studies, Inaugural holder of the Jahangir and Eleanor Amuzegar Chair in Iranian Studies and the director of Iranian Studies at UCLA, where he had taught since 1988.

He received his Ph.D. in Islamic Philosophy from Harvard University in 1976.

Prior to his position at UCLA, Dr. Ziai taught at Tehran University, Sharif University, Harvard University, Brown University, and Oberlin College.

Dr. Ziai’s numerous publications cover Islamic philosophy, the Iranian Illuminationist School of philosophy and “Persian Poetic Wisdom” defined in relation to the epistemology of knowledge by presence.

Dr. Ziai is survived by his wife Mahasti, his son Dadali, his daughter-in-law Stephanie and his grand-daughters Malia and Acacia.

An important member of the Iranian community has passed away, and ISG extends our condolences to anyone who has been touched by him and his wisdom.

ISG

UCLA Iranian Student Group

You can read more about Professor Ziai at his website.

You will be missed, Professor Ziai.

of course hamas condemns the killing of bin laden

Ismail Haniyeh

Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip

Of course Hamas condemns the killing of Bin Laden: birds of a feather.

According to Reuters:

Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip, called bin Laden a martyr.

“We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior,” Haniyeh told reporters. “We regard this as a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood.”

I shake my head.

on egyptian muslim solidarity with coptic christians

I made a few comments on the recent demonstration of Muslim solidarity with Coptic Christians in Egypt in my “Jerusalem, the Holy City” course at UCLA. The the report on the terrorist suicide bombing here. I previously wrote on the Egyptian Muslim demonstration of solidarity here, and about the Coptic candlelight peace vigil here.

video from the 1-11-11 coptic prayer vigil in westwood village, ca

I have uploaded a short video from last night’s Coptic candlelight prayer vigil in Westwood Village, CA (corner of Wilshire and Veteran) near UCLA on Jan. 11, 2011. The vigil was to commemorate those Coptic Christians slain at a New Year’s Eve mass in Alexandria, Egypt.

Read the report on the terrorist suicide bombing here.

You should also read about the wonderful expression of solidarity and social justice exhibited by the Egyptian Muslim community, who gave themselves as human shields so that their Coptic Christian brothers and sisters could worship in peace.

It is essential that we promote expressions of support for all those who are victims of religious oppression, regardless of faith tradition. Likewise, it is imperative that we promote nonviolent expressions of resistance to all forms of religious and intellectual intolerance.

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