Upcoming lectures in the Iowa City area

Jerusalem LectureI’ll be speaking giving a few talks in Iowa City over the next few weeks. All are welcome to attend.

March 28, 2014:  “Passover and the Eucharist: Investing New Meaning on the Jewish Meal” (Agudas Achim Congregation, Coralville, IA, 7:30 pm)

March 30, 2014:Passover and the Eucharist: Investing New Meaning on the Jewish Meal” (First Presbyterian Church, Iowa City, IA 11:30 am)

[The above two lectures are part of the 2014 Finn Lecture, which promotes Jewish-Christian dialogue in Iowa City.]

April 4, 2014:A Deluge of Flood Stories: Pre-canonical and Canonical Flood Stories” (Agudas Achim Congregation, Coralville, IA, 7:30 pm)

April 11, 2014:Shabbat Dinner Talk by Prof. Robert Cargill: Archaeological Dig Opportunity in Israel: University of Iowa Tel Azekah Summer Study Abroad Program” (Hillel Foundation, East Market Street, Iowa City, IA, 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm)

April 18, 2013:A Deluge of Flood Stories: Noah and the Jewish Interpretative Tradition of the Flood” (Agudas Achim Congregation, Coralville, IA, 7:30 pm)

 

Review of Aronofsky’s ‘Noah’ by Robert Cargill on ‘Friends of ASOR’ Podcast

Friends of ASORI recently reviewed Darren Aronofsky’s Noah movie for the first ever American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) “Friends of ASOR” podcast. My thanks to Andy Vaughn for hosting.

Via ASOR:

**WARNING: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS**

Listen to Dr. Robert Cargill talk about Noah (yes, the one who built an ark).  We asked him about the biblical and ancient Near Eastern descriptions of Noah, as well as his reactions to the movie (of the same name) released this past weekend.

Dr. Cargill is Assistant Professor of Classics and Religious Studies at The University of Iowa. He is a biblical studies scholar,classicist, archaeologist, author, and digital humanist. His research includes the study of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls, literary criticism of the Bible and the Pseudepigrapha, and the ancient Near East. He has appeared as an expert on numerous television documentaries and specials and is an advocate for social justice and public higher education. He previously worked and taught at UCLA. For more information on Dr. Cargill, check out his blog bio.

Stay tuned for a review of the movie Noah by Dr. Cargill.

 

 

Some Old Articles about Noah in Anticipation of the New Movie about Noah

In honor of the nationwide premier of Darren Aronofsky’s new Noah movie, I’m reposting some pieces I’ve written in the past about the subject.

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I’ll actually be providing a review of the movie for ASOR sometime in the next few weeks.

For the time being, allow me a few introductory remarks about some of the reactions we’re beginning to see about the movie.

Religious conservatives always freak out whenever anyone messes with their ancient myths. Well, allow me to clarify: as long as you retell the myth as it is preserved in the Bible, you’re praised as a good and faithful servant and an excellent producer/director/actor.

But should you explain the origins of the myth, or offer your own mythological interpretation of the ancient biblical myth, or vary it in any way, well then you’re a heretic destined for burning flames of hell and the movie is immediately dismissed as the fanciful ravings of a godless atheist.

Remember, a worldwide flood has been disproved time and again. It’s a myth preserved in the Bible, which was based upon much earlier flood myths that were incorporated into the biblical narrative.

So why can’t a modern director offer his own interpretation of the ancient myth? When Baz Luhrmann reinterprets the Descent of Orpheus myth as “Moulin Rouge!“, or the Coen brothers reinterpret Homer’s Odyssey as “O Brother, Where Art Thou?“, everyone cheers (including conservative Christians). But when Darren Aronofsky retells the biblical flood myth as “Noah”, religious conservatives weep and gnash their teeth. And why are biblical myths so sacrosanct?

Because many religious fundamentalists still believe the account of the Flood in the Bible is historical. They believe it really happened, regardless of what science says. The myth is to be believed over science, but only when the myth is preserved in the Bible. If it’s a myth of another religious tradition, then it’s OK to accept science, and even to use science to disprove the myth. But if the myth is in the Bible, science suddenly sucks.

Look, they are myths. And this is modern motion picture art reinterpreting ancient literary art. So relax and enjoy the movie. And trust me, there will be plenty of scholars pointing out the places where the movie deviates from the biblical text and takes artistic liberties. Just please don’t confuse those of us who do this with the religious fundamentalists who criticize the movie because they believe the worldwide flood actually happened.

Cheers.

Forthcoming Speaking Engagements at Agudas Achim Synagogue

I’ll be speaking on five occasions over the next two months at the Agudas Achim Congregation in Iowa City. I am thankful to Rabbi Portman for the invitations, and invite all who’d like to participate to come, listen to the lectures, and enjoy the congregation’s new facility at 401 E. Oakdale Blvd. in Coralville, IA.

I’ll be speaking on the following:

Date Time Title
Sept. 20 8:30pm “Seeing Double: Twins in the Bible”
(Annual Finn Lecture)
Genesis 25:20-26
Oct.   4 8:30pm “The Flood Tradition after the Rise of Science”
(Noah)
Genesis 6:9-11:32
Oct. 11 8:30pm “Go Forth from Here to Iowa, and I Shall Bless Thee with Tenure”
(Lech-Lecha – Abraham leaving)
Genesis 12:1-17:27
Oct. 18 8:30pm “Looking Back: Scholarly Problems with Sodom and Gomorrah”
(Vayera – Sodom and Gomorrah, Akedah)
Genesis 18:1-22:24
Oct. 26 8:30pm “What is ‘Biblical Marriage’?”
(Chayi Sarah – Wife for Isaac)
Genesis 23:1-25:18

For more information, contact the synagogue at (319) 337-3813.

On Genesis 6:6-7 and Political Claims that God is “Pro-life”

Verse of the Day: Genesis 6:6-7:

Gen. 6:6 And the LORD regretted that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.

Gen. 6:7 So the LORD said, “I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created—people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

The Hebrew word מחה translated as “blot out” above means “to wipe out, annihilate, destroy”. Thus, according to the passage above, God regretted that he had created humans, contemplated it, grieved about it, and then after considering the matter thoughtfully with his divine omniscience, came to the decision to annihilate humans (save, of course, for Noah and his family and some animals). He regretted that he had made them. He was sorry that he had created humans because they wouldn’t obey him.

THAT IS IN THE BIBLE! THAT IS SCRIPTURE!

According to Genesis 6:6-7, God admits that he deliberately drowned every human on earth. He INTENTIONALLY KILLED EVERY PERSON ON EARTH (except Noah and his family). He killed children, and babies, and even the unborn. According to his own claim, he killed them all - because he said they were 'evil'. Unborn children and 6-month old babies DELIBERATELY DROWNED because they were 'evil' (according to the Bible).

According to Genesis 6:6-7, God admits that he deliberately drowned every human on earth. He INTENTIONALLY KILLED EVERY PERSON ON EARTH (except Noah and his family). He killed children, and babies, and even the unborn. According to his own claim, he killed them all – because he said they were ‘only evil every day’ (רק רע כל-היום). Unborn children and 6-month old babies DELIBERATELY DROWNED because they were ‘evil’ (according to the Bible).

So here’s my question – and let’s set aside the question of whether mass genocide is ever the answer to disobedience or not being praised enough. (Remember: it doesn’t get more “inhuman” than committing mass genocide and drowning all humans.)

But again, here’s my question:

I’m wondering whether God considered all of the unborn children being carried in their mothers’ wombs when he decided to murder all humans.

I’m wondering how some can claim that God is “pro life”, when God not only committed mass genocide – by his own admission AND after careful consideration of the matter – but when he also destroyed all of those unborn children that necessarily would have been carried around by their mothers as a natural part of daily life on earth.

Again, this is not what some atheist claims about God; this is what God claims about himself. He admits he did this.


People of faith must put their faith – and the claims made about their faith – in a real, modern context. Rather than rushing to regurgitate some worn out apologetic claiming, “God cannot tolerate evil,” or “It’s not genocide if God does it,” people of faith must consider that the one they consider to be the “objective moral foundation” for all things ethical at one point in history killed everyone on earth because he regretted creating them! Imagine this same death sentence on the world’s population today. It is nothing less than genocide.

Likewise, people of faith must THINK about the political claims they are making when they attempt to invoke God for their political causes. How can one claim that God is “pro-life” when he admits that he is personally responsible for the destruction of untold thousands of unborn children…because he regretted he had made them (כי נחמתי כי עשׂיתם)! There is no airbrushing this. This is what he claims he did after thoughtful consideration. God regretted that he had conceived and created life, so he destroyed it! And yet some claim that God is “pro life”??

BY ALL MEANS, let’s have the debate about abortion. Let’s talk about how no one wants abortion, how we should be making every effort to reduce the number of abortions that take place each year, and let’s consider a number of different solutions that will place children in the homes of those who want them.

But for the love of all that is and will be – PLEASE STOP INVOKING THE GOD OF THE BIBLE IN THIS ARGUMENT.

God is NOT the one you want to hold up as an example of a “pro life” advocate when his documented solution to regretting the creation of human life was to destroy itboth the born and the unborn.

We can have a sensible discussion and debate about reducing the number of abortions in this country and around the world without making it a religious argument.

Let’s celebrate life. Let’s talk about health of both mother and child. Let’s talk about birth control and adoption. Let’s talk about sex education and the merits of promoting healthy relationships, rather than the continued sensationalization of sex and continued commercial sexual exploitation of both boys and girls in adolescent culture.

But let’s have this conversation without introducing religious claims into the mix. On both sides of this issue, religious claims only muddy the waters and get in the way of actual progress and real solutions.

nami is back, this time with a movie

Nami Movie 2NAMI is back, and this time they are armed with a movie (so you KNOW it’s real)!

(I and several others have reported on NAMI’s nonsense in the past.)

The movie is being screened at the Fire Church, part of the Fire School of Ministry. The Fire School of Ministry is the product of Dr. Michael Brown, who expounds upon difficult subjects like “Can You Be Gay and a Saved Christian?” (I kid you not: I am not making this up!)

Let me save you the trouble and tell you exactly what the movie will conclude (this is just my guess): “The evidence may be inconclusive (read: it’s NOT Noah’s Ark), but the journey and the expedition has brought many closer to faith in Jesus Christ, so the deception was worth it.” Or something to the effect.

Watch the preview. It really is bad.

no, no it isn’t noah’s winery: how the media screw up archaeology to sell copies

From BAR: Discovery of the earliest known wine-making operation in an Armenian cave near the southern border with Iran. Courtesy Gregory Areshian.

There was no worldwide flood. The human genome does not bottleneck at Noah. And while a legitimate archaeological expedition may have found evidence of wine production in the Areni-1 cave complex, located near the village of Areni in the Vayots Dzor province of Armenia (map), it certainly is not evidence of “Noah’s winery.”

Unfortunately, most people outside of the archaeological field won’t pay much attention to a respected archaeologist like UCLA’s Dr. Hans Barnard arguing for “Chemical Evidence for Wine Production Around 4000 B.C.E. in the Late Chalcolithic Near Eastern Highlands,” in a respected, peer-reviewed journal like the Journal of Archaeological Science (Volume 38, Issue 5, May 2011, Pages 977-984). It is also important to point out that at no time in the stellar article are “Noah” or a “flood” ever mentioned. In fact, the article’s conclusion is rather methodologically compelling to archaeologists:

With an improved method to determine the presence of malvidin we obtained positive results, indicating the possible former presence of grape products, for two Late Chalcolithic (around 4000 BCE) potsherds found in the cave complex Areni-1 in present-day Armenia. It is important to note again that the presence of malvidin, the anthocyanin that gives pomegranates, grapes and wine their red color, is not necessarily associated with the former presence of wine, but only indicates the remains of grapes, pomegranates, or both. Fermentation, although likely, can only be assumed and other products (such as defrutum) should not be excluded. The fact that in Armenia the ceramic samples were collected from a context resembling a grape pressing installation with the preserved remains (seeds, stems, skins) of crushed or pressed grapes supports the interpretation that this part of the cave was a site where wine was produced. Another potsherd from Late Akkadian (around 2200 BCE) deposits in an elite context in Tell Mozan in Syria preserved a red interior, initially interpreted as the remnants of red wine, but proved negative for malvidin. Our research thus produced an improved method to identify malvidin in archaeological materials that can, however, only provide supplementary arguments for or against the presence of wine in specific vessels. Like any other scientific technique, biochemical research alone can never create conclusive evidence concerning anthropological issues (Barnard et al., 2007), much like archaeological research alone cannot irrefutably prove wine production. Instead, both should be part of a larger research program, aimed at addressing a specific anthropological or archaeological research question (McGovern, 1995). As the interests, sample materials and experience of analytical chemists and other scientists will always be different from those of archaeologists, a substantial amount of method development should be expected before a viable protocol will be available. We hope to have illustrated this and to have at the same time added to the discussion regarding the presence or absence of wine in the archaeological record. (html of pdf)

That is, there may be evidence for wine making (or at least storage vessels for grape products) in present day Armenia from around 4000 BCE. That is fascinating research brought about by a well-detailed methodology that suggests, “a better chemical indicator for the former presence of red wine is malvidin, the anthocyanin that gives grapes and wines their red color.” This research adds evidence to previous research which concludes that wine making in the Near East may be much older than we previously thought, and we have improved means by which to detect it.

This is excellent archaeology!

Unfortunately, many newspapers and magazines can’t sell copies reporting on improved techniques for indicating the former presence of red wine. So, they take the credible research and attempt to use it to supply evidence for an incredible claim: that the biblical Noah existed and that we can know this because an archaeologist found evidence of ‘his’ winery. Never mind that no such claim was ever made by the researcher. Just mentioning the possibility of Noah and merely asking the question about his biblical winery (Gen. 9:20) will get your story certain media attention and thereby allow the publisher to sell a far greater number of copies than he/she would had Noah’s name not been invoked. And, because publishers can then use this unverifiable, sensational suggestion to sell said newspapers and magazine copies to folks who will actually spend cash on such a speculation, “Is this Noah’s winery?” translates into cash for publishers.

It’s a technique that has been used for decades to make money: use sound archaeology to make unintended, ridiculous claims, and sell it to the public, which wants to believe it and reinforce their preexisting beliefs. It is an example of good archaeology being used by money-hungry publishers to create bad science in the name of faith, and it’s wrong.

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