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Archive for August, 2006

Interesting Course on U2

8th August 2006


Tim Neufeld is one lucky chap! He gets to teach a course entitled, “Theology, Culture, and U2″ at Fresno Pacific University this fall. Go here to see a brief course description.

I sure hope he blogs about his course more!

Posted in Popular Culture, U2 | 1 Comment »

This Week in God: Left Behind Video Games

8th August 2006

While this segment is not new, YouTube now has it uploaded: The Daily Show’s Rob Corddry takes a look at the religous video game Left Behind: Eternal Forces on the show’s This Week in God segment. It’s a classic.

Posted in Left Behind, Popular Culture | 1 Comment »

Marijuana and Hashish in the Old Testament?

7th August 2006

The Eastern Arizon Courier has a letter to the editor by Chris Bennett arguing from the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible that marijuana/cannabis is “God’s gift to the rest of humanity” and that while the “laws of man” may prohibit its use, the Bible does not. In fact, based on Genesis 1:29 (“I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food”), Bennett maintains that cannabis was created by God.

I found this excerpt particularly interesting:

On the subject of cannabis, like the history of the Zoroastrian religion, the Bible may have been influenced by cannabis. . . . remember Moses and the burning bush that talked to him. According to a number of academic sources in the original Hebrew and Aramaic sources for the texts, that bush commanded Moses to make a holy anointing oil that contained cannabis, under the Hebrew name keneh bosem.

I don’t think the author meant to imply that Moses was obviously high when the bush talked to him! (Though we may suspect that if someone today made such a claim!) Rather I believe what is being referred to here is Exodus 30:23 where Moses is being given instructions for the tabernacle (not the burning bush incident). One of the spices which Moses is supposed to gather is קנה־בש×? (keneh bosem), which is variously translated as “aromatic cane” (NRSV, NJPS), “fragrant cane” (NIV, NASB, NAB), “sweet calamus” (KJV), or “sweet cane” (NLT). The LXX translates it by καλάμου εá½?ώδους, “fragrant calamus/reed.” While scholars are not sure what excatly the Hebrew word בש×? (bosem) refers to, I’m not sure how anyone can make the jump from it being used as one of the many ingredients for an anointing oil for the tent of meeting and the priests to smoking it for a buzz! Furthermore, even if this does refer to cannabis (which it doesn’t), a few verses later the following strict restrictions are placed on its use:

You shall say to the Israelites, “This shall be my holy anointing oil throughout your generations. 32 It shall not be used in any ordinary anointing of the body, and you shall make no other like it in composition; it is holy, and it shall be holy to you. 33 Whoever compounds any like it or whoever puts any of it on an unqualified person shall be cut off from the people” (Exod 30:31-33).

The rest of the letter only cites some general studies about the use of cannabis in the ancient world without getting into specifics.

Hashish and the Old Testament

There is another article floating around cyberspace that I am aware that of tries to make similar arguments for the use of hashish in the Old Testament. The 1903 article was by C. Creighton and appeared in JANUS 8 (1902 or 1903) 241-246, 297-303, under the title “On Indications of the Hachish-Vice in the Old Testament” (available online here).

Creighton appealed to other obscure Hebrew words to make a case for hashish in the Old Testament. The first passage he appeals to is Song of Songs 5:1, where the beloved says, “I eat my honeycomb with my honey” (×?כלתי יערי ×¢×?־דבש×?×™). The word in question is יער (ya’ar), which modern lexicons gloss with “honeycomb” and understand it as a homograph for יער “wood.” Creighton argues (while primarily dealing with the Latin Vulgate for some reason!) that this phrase should be rendered as “I have eaten my hemp with my honey.” This interpretation is a stretch to say the least. Creighton also appeals to 1Samuel 14:27 where Jonathan dips his rod, lit., “in the comb of the honey” (ביערת הדבש×?) as a reference to “the hemp-plant with the resinous exudation.” I find this interpretation more problematic than the previous one, since the word “honeycomb” (or “wood” if you like) is in construct with honey. If Jonathan would have went to 7/11 for some munchies after tasting the sweet treat then I would put more weight in Creighton’s interpretation! :-) Instead Jonathan ran amok amongst the Philistines — not the sort of activity I would associate with someone being high!

Creighton’s interpretations move from the fanciful to the downright silly when he tries to argue that Saul’s madness was due to him being a “hachish-eater” and “that his ‘evil spirit’ was hachish.” I don’t think this interpretation even warrants a response. The last three passages that Creighton appeals to are similarly lacking. First, he understands the “something sweet” in Samson’s riddle in Judges 14:14 as an oblique reference to hash and maintains that Samson was also a hashish-eater (that was the secret to his strength). Second, he argues that Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the tree reaching the heavens in Daniel 4 was produced by hashish-induced intoxication (and perhaps the “grass” which he ate in 4:33 was hashish). Finally, Creighton maintains that the weird and wonderful visions Ezekiel experienced are “strongly suggestive of the subjective visual perceptions of hachish.”


In sum, evidence for the use of cannabis and hashish in ancient Israel is not very strong. While I grant there may be ambiguity in some of the passages appealed to, the arguments are pretty weak. Moreover, even if cannabis and/or hashish was used in ancient Israel (which anthropologically may be entirely plausible), that doesn’t in any way suggest that it is therefore OK for it to be used today.

Posted in Bible, Hermeneutics, News, Popular Culture | 8 Comments »

King David: Fact or Fiction?

5th August 2006

I saw this a couple days ago, but didn’t have time to post: Richard Ostiling of the Associated Press (via has a brief report on Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman’s (somewhat) new book, David and Solomon: In Search of the Bible’s Sacred Kings and the Roots of the Western Tradition (Free Press, 2006; Buy from | Buy from The news article, “Was King David legend or fiction?” raises a number of questions surrounding Finkelstein and Silberman’s views.

Here are some excerpts:

Some scholars are busily debunking the Bible’s account of the great King David, asking: Was he really all that great? Was he largely legendary, Judaism’s version of Britain’s legendary King Arthur, or totally fictional?

These matters are crucial not only for Jews but for Christians, since Jesus’ biblical identity as the messiah stems from David’s family line.

Though some scholars claimed David never existed, in 1993 archaeologists discovered a stone inscription from 835 B.C. that mentions “the house of David.” The authors say that established the existence of a dynastic founder named David and that shortly after his 10th-century era a line of kings “traced their legitimacy back to David.”

However, Finkelstein considers the Bible seriously distorted propaganda. He treats David as a minor bandit chieftain and Jerusalem as a hamlet, not an imperial capital. Supposedly, biblical authors concocted the grander David centuries afterward.

Finkelstein notes that archaeologists haven’t found monumental buildings from David’s era in Jerusalem. He dismisses links of David and Solomon with buildings unearthed at biblical Megiddo and Hazor. Ordinary readers might not grasp that this depends upon a disputed “low chronology” which would shift dates a century, just after these kings.

In the July-August issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Michael Coogan of Stonehill College, editor of The New Oxford Annotated Bible, contends that Finkelstein and Silberman “move from the hypothetical to the improbable to the absurd.”

Finkelstein’s revised chronology is “not accepted by the majority of archaeologists and biblical scholars,” Coogan asserts, citing four scholarly anthologies from the past three years.

Coogan also thinks “David and Solomon” downplays the significance of the Amarna tablets, which include correspondence to Egypt’s pharaoh from a 14th-century Jerusalem king. Even if archaeological remains at Jerusalem are lacking, he writes, the tablets indicate that long before David, Jerusalem was the region’s chief city-state, with a court and sophisticated scribes.

Discovery of ancient remains in Jerusalem is problematic, due to the repeated reconstruction throughout the centuries and the modern inaccessibility of many sites.

Nonetheless, perhaps David’s palace has been found. So claims Israeli archaeologist Eilat Mazar. Finkelstein denies this, claiming Mazar inaccurately dated pottery from the site.

“Here, for the time being, matters rest,” summarizes Hillel Halkin in the July-August Commentary magazine.

I tend to agree more with Coogan than with Finkelstein and Silberman, though I wouldn’t go as far to say the biblical account has no embellishments since I also think that all historiography has fictive elements. One of the more significant points the article raises, IMHO, is the fact that archaeological excavation of Jerusalem is problematic for so many reasons. That is why digs such as Mazar‘s are so important.

Posted in Archaeology, City of David, Historiography, History of Ancient Israel, News | 4 Comments »


4th August 2006

Potentially Offensive Alert! A student was nice enough to send me this picture (he automatically thought of my “going potty” series when he saw it).

Believe it or not, for a mere $18 USD, you can buy a T-shirt with this on it from a place (appropriately) called T-Shirt Hell.

Posted in Humour, Jesus Junk & Christian Kitsch, Popular Culture | 3 Comments »

Going Potty in Ancient Gath?! (GPAT 3.3)

2nd August 2006

The season at Tell es-Safi (ancient Gath) has almost come to a close. We have been able to follow the progress of the dig through their excellent blog here. On their July 31st update, they had an interesting discussion of Area F. What caught my eye was the object which they identified as a stone weight — I prefer to see it as an ancient potty!

This is the fourth in a series of semi-serious posts on “Going Potty in the Ancient World.� My other posts include:

All posts in this series may be viewed here.

While the identification of the object as a stone weight is possible, I’m not sure how they missed the clear indications that this object is indeed a toilet. The toilet paper and the fallen sign are clear giveaways to this amateur archaeologist!


This is exciting news… perhaps this is even the toilet that Goliath used before being killed by David! We have already found Goliath’s cereal bowl, and now this! All I can say is “Wow!” :-)

(I sure hope Prof. Aren M. Maeir has a sense of humour!)

Posted in Ancient Potties, Archaeology, Emergent, Humour, Series, Tell es-Safi | 3 Comments »