Dr. Bruce Wells on “Sex Crimes in the Laws of the Hebrew Bible” – ASOR Podcast

cast_outListen to the excellent Friends of ASOR Podcast interview with Dr. Bruce Wells, Professor of Hebrew Bible in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, who recently authored the article, “Sex Crimes in the Laws of the Hebrew Bible” in Near Eastern Archaeology.

 

Earliest Known Alphabet Chart Deciphered

Limestone ostracon with Egyptian hieratic script dating to the 15th C. BCE, initially discovered in Luxor, Egypt. 3.54 in. high, 3.34 in. wide, 0.9 in. thick. Photo: Nigel Strudwick/Cambridge Theban Mission.

Limestone ostracon with Egyptian hieratic script dating to the 15th C. BCE, initially discovered in Luxor, Egypt. 3.54 in. high, 3.34 in. wide, 0.9 in. thick. Photo: Nigel Strudwick/Cambridge Theban Mission.

This is a fascinating discovery!

The latest issue of Archaeology magazine highlights the deciphering of the oldest known alphabet table. Egyptologist Ben Haring (University of Leiden) discovered a 15th C. BCE abecedary or abjad (a written alphabet table used by scribes to learn and practice letters similar to the alphabet charts above elementary school chalk boards) that predates the previous earliest known abecedaries by two centuries. The undeciphered ostracon was initially found in a tomb at Luxor by Nigel Strudwick and his team from the Cambridge Theban Mission.

The initial press release from Leiden can be read here.

To read more about the origins of the alphabet, see pgs. 18-21 in my book, THE CITIES THAT BUILT THE BIBLE. Note especially note #5 for Chap. 1 on pgs. 269-70. I am also posting my chart from the top of page 20 here, so you can see the development of the alphabet.

The chart above demonstrates how the Phoenician alphabet provided the foundational shapes of the letters that would become the Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin, and ultimately English alphabets. From pg. 20 of "The Cities that Built the Bible" by Robert R. Cargill (HarperOne). © 2016 Robert R. Cargill

The chart above demonstrates how the Phoenician alphabet provided the foundational shapes of the letters that would become the Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin, and ultimately English alphabets. From pg. 20 of “The Cities that Built the Bible” by Robert R. Cargill (HarperOne). © 2016 Robert R. Cargill

Robert Cargill to speak at Smithsonian tonight

I shall be lecturing on the “Cities of the Bible” for the Smithsonian Associates in Washington, DC on Wednesday, March 9, 2016 at 6:45 p.m. There will be a book signing to follow.

Speaker: Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D., University of Iowa Dept. of Classics and Religious Studies
Lecture: “Cities of the Bible”
Location: S. Dillon Ripley Center, 1100 Jefferson Dr SW, Washington DC (Metro: Smithsonian – Mall exit) Enter in the copper domed kiosk on Jefferson Drive between the “Castle” and the Freer Gallery of Art.
Date: Wednesday, March 9, 2016
Time: 6:45 pm
Cover of The Cities that Built the Bible by Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D.Lecture Description:

From Athens to Jerusalem to Babylon, understanding the Bible means understanding the cities and cultures that produced it. The story of these centers—their history, their archaeology, their mysteries, and the people who inhabited and later excavated them—is also the story of the Bible itself.

Weaving together biblical archaeology, history, and personal experience, Robert Cargill, assistant professor of classics and religious studies at the University of Iowa, shares a host of surprising facts. For example there is no archaeological evidence for the biblical Exodus or the existence of Jesus—and no authentic literary evidence from the first century outside of the Bible that mentions Jesus.

Cargill leads a fascinating tour through cities in the Holy Land and beyond, including Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Qumran, Babylon, Athens, Alexandria, and Rome to reveal how their stories shed new light on the Bible. Cargill’s book The Cities that Built the Bible (HarperOne) is available for sale and signing.

If you are in the Washington, DC area, you can find ticket and lecture information here.

And be sure to preorder my book, The Cities that Built the Bible, today.

UPDATE: Apparently the event has sold out, but you can still contact (202) 633-3030 to get on the Wait List. Additional tickets may become available.

 

Read a chapter of “The Cities that Built the Bible” for free

Robert Cargill with Yuval Peleg (ז״ל) at Qumran in July, 2013.

Robert Cargill with Yuval Peleg (ז״ל) at Qumran in July, 2013.

My new book, The Cities that Built the Bible, won’t be released until March 15, 2016, but you can read an excerpt for free online today. In fact, you can read the complete text of Chapter 9: Qumran, including the end notes.

Click here to read part of the Introduction and Chapter 9: Qumran.

The book argues that we wouldn’t have the Bible we have today without these cities, which I explore in the book, and that a knowledge of the history and archaeology of these cities helps us better understand the text of the Bible.

Chapter 9 specifically looks at Khirbet Qumran, a city that is important because of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls–a discovery that sent shock waves through the academic and religious communities. I’ll explain what impact this discovery had, and along the way, highlight the fascinating backstory including the multiple legends, outlandish stories, eccentric characters, and a first-person account of the unbelievable cybercrime legal saga surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls.

So help yourself to a free excerpt of The Cities that Built the Bible. And remember that you can preorder the book today at citiesthatbuiltthebible.com.

Cover of The Cities that Built the Bible by Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D.

Why I Wrote ‘The Cities that Built the Bible’

The Roman Forum

The Roman Forum

On March 15, 2016, HarperCollins will be releasing my latest book, The Cities that Built the Bible. You can read more about the book and preorder your copy today at http://citiesthatbuiltthebible.com.

In a nutshell, I wrote the book because Nicole Kidman once asked me where the Bible came from, and I didn’t have a ready answer. So I spent the next decade researching the question. But instead of asking who wrote it, or how it became the holy word of God to believers, I wanted to demonstrate how various ancient political entities and international events–each represented by a particular city–contributed to the composition of the Bible.

I also wanted to look at the Israelite, Judahite, Jewish, and Christian responses to these events, as these reflections upon the successes and tragedies experienced by those who believed in the Hebrew God became some of the very texts preserved in the Bible.

Cover of The Cities that Built the Bible by Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D.So join me as we travel through these ancient cities and we’ll explore their history, their archaeology, and how each of them drove the building of the Bible.

For both the religious and the non-religious, understanding the forces that shaped this most influential of books is possible on a guided tour through The Cities that Built the Bible.

Preorder today at http://citiesthatbuiltthebible.com.

 

 

Khirbet et-Tannur: A New Approach

Be sure to check out the fascinating work being done by Cale Staley, a graduate student in Religious Studies at the University of Iowa working in Digital Humanities research. He digs at Tel Azekah in Israel and is doing much of the modeling on Iowa’s Digi-Tel Azekah archaeological model.

Above, he has modeled the Nabataean temple at Khirbet et-Tannur, located in Wadi Hasa built atop Jebel Tannur, about 70km north of Petra.

Larry Hurtado Provides an Excellent Summary of the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” Results in Harvard Theological Review

The so-called

The so-called “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife”, a Coptic papyrus fragment whose authenticity is in dispute. Harvard Theological Review has recently dedicated an entire issue to the issue of the fragment’s authenticity.

Please make note of Dr. Larry Hurtado’s post, entitled, “Jesus’ Wife” Articles in HTR: Initial Thoughts“, which provides an excellent summary of the recent tests published in Harvard Theological Review.

Do read his post. I’ll provide a few snippets from his post here, specifically those concerning the scientific results, and one summarizing what this all means.

On the scientific tests:

As for the scientific tests, those on the ink produced results consistent with the item being old, not modern.  The two radio-carbon tests, however, are both a bit puzzling and interesting.  The proposed dates of the two tests are out from each other by several hundred years.  The one report (by Hodgins) notes the curious date-result (405-350 BCE and/or 307-209 BCE), about a thousand years earlier than the date from the other carbon-dating test (659-969 CE), and Hodgins suggests some kind of contamination of the sample.  But I’d assume that a contamination would come from something later than the ancient setting, and so skew the date later, not earlier.

Note that in Gregory Hodgins‘ report, the AMS radiocarbon results read:

Accelerated Mass Spectrometry Radiocarbon Determination of Papyrus Samples
Gregory Hodgins,
NSF Arizona AMS Laboratory, University of Arizona

AA-101793
Sample Gospel of John  (for comparison purposes)
δ13C −9.2‰
Fraction of modern carbon: 0.8568±0.0033
Uncalibrated Radiocarbon Age: 1242±31 14C yrs BP
95.4% Calibrated age ranges: 681 cal c.e. to 877 cal c.e.

AA-101794
Gospel of Jesus’s Wife
δ13C −14.3‰
Fraction of modern carbon: 0.7526±0.0035
Uncalibrated Radiocarbon Age: 2283±37 14C yrs BP (before present) 2 sigma,
95.4% Calibrated age ranges: 405 cal b.c.e. to 350 cal b.c.e., OR
95.4% Calibrated age ranges: 307 cal b.c.e. to 209 cal b.c.e.

Thus, the calibrated AND uncalibrated ranges place the sample to 400-200 yrs BCE.

Note that Dr. Hurtado also points out Dr. King’s note on the later, less ancient dating of the fragment.

To come to Prof. King’s article (the main piece in the issue), I think she takes a careful line, seeking to defend her view that the item on balance seems authentic, but trying to take account of data that require some modification of her earlier judgements, and granting in the end that complete certainty is not possible.  Prominent in the modifications of her earlier view is the intriguing statement in the appended note at the end of the article that the carbon-dating (taking the dating by Tuross) now seems to demand a date sometime in the 8th century CE (not the 4th/5th century CE dating in her earlier paper).  As she notes, this takes us well into the Islamic period of Egypt, and so raises the question of whether, in fact, the fragment might reflect in some way the influence of Islamic ideas about Jesus.

And what does this all mean? Hurtado states:

Certainly, as Prof. King has rather consistently emphasized all along, whatever the date and provenance of the item, it has absolutely no significance whatsoever for “historical Jesus” studiesContrary to some of the sensationalized news stories, that is, the fragment has no import for the question of whether Jesus was married.

I’d also draw your attention to Dr. Leo Depuydt’s rebuttal, which was first outlined at Dr. Mark Goodacre’s blog here.

The fact is, the results of the scientific tests are highly inconclusive, and even if the ink and the papyrus are “ancient”, the dates on the scientific tests range from a period from centuries before the time of Christ, written by a poorly trained scribe with a bad hand, all the way to a period “well into the Islamic period of Egypt”, raising “the question of whether, in fact, the fragment might reflect in some way the influence of Islamic ideas about Jesus.”

Add this to the possibility that a forger scraped ink from an ancient inkwell (these things exist – see the final paragraphs of Dr. Jim Davila’s post here) and rehydrated the ink, and wrote it on an ancient fragment of papyrus from a different period, copying onto it text from a pdf of the Gospel of Thomas available online, which preserved errors present in the pdf. (See Francis Watson’s article on Dr. Goodacre’s site.)

See also Dr. Chris Rollston’s post about this process, especially where he states:

Also, it is also possible for someone to scrape off (e.g., from a papyrus) ancient ink from the words of some mundane ancient inscription….and then add a little water to the dried ink which had been scrapped off and then resuse the ink. Some people (including some scholars) assume that modern forgers are not all that bright (and thus would not be that clever in forging something). In contrast, I believe that modern forgers (at least from the final quarter of the 20th century and on) are quite sharp…..and for good reason they try to be very clever: after all, there is much money to be made and modern forgers knows this….so, as for this piece, I remain very suspicious of its authenticity. Perhaps it’s ancient….but I doubt it.

So expect to hear those heavily invested in the authenticity of the fragment (e.g., those who really want Jesus to have been married to Mary Mags for various, often financial reasons) to declare victory and that the fragment was proved “authentic”, and those who have no skin in the game to remain highly skeptical about the highly inconclusive results and the persistent problems with the text.

Happy Easter.

 

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