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Canaanite Burial Ground Found in Jerusalem

8th November 2006

Israel’s Antiquities Authority announced yesterday the discovery in Jerusalem of an ancient Canaanite burial ground dating back more than 4000 years.

Here is the report from Arutz Sheva:

Archaeologists working at the site of the Holyland Park building project in Jerusalem have discovered a graveyard that is over 4,000 years old.

The graveyard formerly had a model of the Second Holy Temple on top of it. The model was recently relocated to the Israel Museum.

The graveyard, the archaeologists estimate, was used during the Bronze Age, from 2200 BCE until 1600 BCE. It is filled with amulets, weapons and work tools from that period, as well as complete pottery vessels of a high quality.

The AFP story had a bit more information in their article:

The site, uncovered at a construction site, covers more than 20 hectares (49 acres) and contains human and animal remains, as well as metal and ceramic artifacts and weapons, dating back to between 2,200 and 1,600 BC.

The dig’s director, Yanir Milevsky, said that this was not the first such site found in the Jerusalem area but that “the quantity of items and their particularly good state of conservation will allow us to enlarge our knowledge of farming villages … during the Canaanite era.”

The ancient land of Canaan covered present-day Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip, as well as adjoining coastal lands and parts of Lebanon and Syria. The Hebrew people, following their liberation from exile in Egypt recounted in the Bible, moved into the area around 1,200 BC and began to conquer it.

This looks like a pretty significant archaeological find.

UPDATE: Todd Bolen over at the Bible Places Blog posted on this discovery back in September. He has some great pictures as well: click here.

Posted in Archaeology, Discoveries, News | Comments Off

A Patristic Carnival Anyone?

8th November 2006

Phil over at hyperekperisou is proposing to start a regular Patristic Carnival. The Carnival will be patterned after the Biblical Studies Carnival but will focus on Patristics, including textual studies of a patristic writer, translations of the patristic writer, historical research on the patristic period, reflections on the connections of the Church Fathers to today, influence of patristic authors in theological writing, among other things.

Phil is proposing to host the first Patristic Carnival in December, so if you blog on Patristics and are interested in such a Carnival, I encourage you to check out his proposal here.

Posted in Carnivals, News | Comments Off

Bible Stops Bullet

8th November 2006

The Bible can save your life — literally! Associated Press reports about a man in Florida “credits two small Bibles in his shirt pocket for saving his life when they stopped a bullet.”

Wow… just think what they could have stopped if he actually had the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible as well!

UPDATE: This is a bit from Woody Allen that Michael noted in the comments that I felt should be included in the actual post.

Woody Allen: “Years ago, my mother gave me a bullet…a bullet, and I put it in my breast pocket. Two years after that, I was walking down the street, when a berserk evangelist heaved a Gideon bible out a hotel room window, hitting me in the chest. Bible would have gone through my heart if it wasn’t for the bullet” (source).

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Posted in Bible, News | 1 Comment »

Temple Treasures in Monastery?

30th October 2006

The San Francisco Chronicle has an article claiming that the treasures from the (second) Jewish Temple are sitting in a Greek Orthodox monastery near Bethlehem. Right…

The article, “Ancient Jewish treasures in monastery, book says Ancient Jewish treasures in monastery, book says Gold, silver vessels reportedly in West Bank caves” (how’s that for a concise and captivating title!), is reporting claims made by Sean Kingsley in his book, God’s Gold: The Quest for the Lost Temple Treasure of Jerusalem (2006).

Here’s an excerpt of the article:

British archaeologist Sean Kingsley said he has traced the journey of the legendary vessels from the first time they disappeared from public view more than 1,500 years ago to their current location in this walled monastery east of Bethlehem in the West Bank. He said the items include “the central icons of biblical Judaism” — a seven-branched gold candelabra, the bejeweled Table of the Divine Presence and a pair of silver trumpets.

But many people, including Israeli government officials, believe the treasures are hidden somewhere in Vatican vaults. In 1996, Israeli Religious Affairs Minister Shimon Shetreet officially asked the pope to return them.

But Kingsley contends they were taken from Rome when it was sacked by the Vandals in A.D. 455. He bases his theory on new archaeological sources and contemporary accounts by ancient historians.

In his new book, “God’s Gold: The Quest for the Lost Temple Treasure of Jerusalem,” just published in Britain this month and due in U.S. bookstores in the spring, Kingsley describes the odyssey of the priceless haul from Jerusalem to Rome and back again via Carthage and Constantinople, to its final resting-place at Mar Theodosius.

“I am the first person to prove that the temple treasure is no longer in Rome,” he said.

Right… (PaleoJudaica has commented on the temple treasures a number of times)

(HT archaeologica news)

Posted in Archaeology, News | 3 Comments »

Smithsonian Bible Exhibit in the News

29th October 2006

The Hamilton Spectator has an interesting article from Washington Post reporter Allan Cooperman on the Bible exhibit underway at the Smithsonian. The article, “A True Testament to Change: How Much was Altered in the Bible’s Evolution?“, highlights some of the manuscripts on display in the exhibition, “In the Beginning: Bibles Before the Year 1000.”

This exhibition includes a whole host of fascinating finds, including fragments of a Dead Sea Scroll, Cheaster Beatty papyri, some leaves from Codex Sinaiticus, among other manuscripts. I am looking forward to viewing the exhibit in person when I am at SBL.

In regards to the news article, there are some choice quotes from Bart Ehrman about the implications of the transmission history of the Bible and certain views of the Scripture’s authority. Here’s an excerpt:

These are documents with the proven power to shake faith. That’s what happened to Bart Ehrman, author of the 2005 bestseller, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed The Bible And Why.

Ehrman was a born-again Christian from Kansas when he entered Chicago’s Moody Bible Institute at age 18. After three decades of comparing ancient manuscripts in their original languages to try to determine the earliest, most authentic text of the New Testament, he is now an agnostic.

“I thought God had inspired the words inerrantly. But when I examined the historical texts, I realized the words had not been preserved inerrantly, and it would have been no greater miracle to preserve them than to inspire them in the first place,” said Ehrman, now chairman of religious studies at the University of North Carolina.

I think that Ehrman raises an interesting question about the relationship of the transmission of the biblical text to some particular views of the inspiration of the original text. The article continues:

But if these fading papyrus leaves and purple parchments inscribed with silver ink can shake faith, that does not mean they must [italics added].

Brown, who pulled the exhibition together in association with Oxford University’s Bodleian Library, sits on the governing board of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. “That’s a pretty good tip-off,” she said, that she is a member in good standing of the Church of England.

“There’s nothing here that’s going to shape or challenge people’s beliefs, except on one point,” she said. “It will challenge the belief that the Bible originated in the form we have today, rather than being the result of the very complex process of a lot of people of faith using scriptures to help them live God-focused lives.”

“We didn’t start out with this,” she said, producing a red Gideon’s Bible from her Washington hotel room.

All in all it looks like a great exhibit.

UPDATE: Stephen Carlson has a list of all the manuscripts showing at the exhibit (well, almost all, he neglects to list some of the Hebrew manuscripts — but what can you expect from a NT scholar! :-) ).  His list makes me even more eager for the exhibit!

Posted in Bible, Manuscript, News | Comments Off

Two Hobbit Films Planned… Sweet!

27th October 2006

This is great news… at least if you are a Tolkien fan. It appears MGM is planning to produce two (not one) films based on The Hobbit, and that their first choice for director is none other than Peter Jackson. Read the story here.

While I don’t like some of the liberties that Jackson took with LOTR (especially the Ents!), I think he would be a natural choice for the project. While they could probably make due with one film, I won’t complain.

(HT The Busybody)

Posted in Faith & Film, Film, News | 4 Comments »

Bible Movies Galore

26th October 2006

I have been getting behind in my coverage of Bible films. I have watched quite a few recently, but just haven’t found the time to blog about them. Such is life.

There are a number of intriguing Bible films that have just been released or are coming out in the next little while — unfortunately, in most cases no Canadian release dates have been set, so I am not sure when I will have a chance to actually view them.

one_night_king.jpgIn the “just released” category falls Michael O. Sajbel’s One Night With the King (2006; IMDb; Official website). This movie about the biblical Esther has opened to favourable (not amazing) reviews. Make sure to check out the thorough review by Matt Page over at Bible Films Blog, as well as his scene analysis. While no Canadian release date has yet been set, it will be released on DVD on 23 January 2007. You can pre-order it from or

Sticking to the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, I should note the DVD release of the made-for-TV film The Ten Commandments (Robert Dornhelm; 2006; IMDb; Official website). This two-part film was released in April 2006 on ABC to less than spectacular results (see this review). The movie is OK. I was glad to see that it departed from previous films covering the same topic by including a bunch of stuff after the Hebrews cross the red/reed sea — and it even finds space for Aaron as Moses’ sidekick! If I have time I will post a more thorough review in the future. It is available for purchase from and

On the New Testament side of things (you know, that other testament, the small one :-) ), there are two noteworthy films being released this fall.

I am thoroughly intrigued by The Color of the Cross (Jean-Claude La Marre; 2006; IMDb; Official website), which is being released in the United States today. This film is the first historical Jesus film to cast a black actor to play Jesus — which has provided some free publicity for the film (see the Associated Press report). I personally think it will be refreshing considering how many blond, blue-eyed Saviours have been filmed. There is an article on the film in the Chicago Tribune that is worthy of a read and includes interviews with the director as well as Canadian biblical studies scholar Adele Reinhartz (HT Mark Goodacre).

Finally, the birth of Jesus will be the subject of the film The Nativity Story (Catherine Hardwicke; 2006; IMDb; Official website), which is slated for a December 1st release. Matt Page has a convenient summary page for this film here.

For a complete listing of films based on the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible see my Old Testament on Film pages. An excellent place to visit for news and reviews of Bible films is Matt Page’s Bible Films Blog.

Posted in Bible & Film, Faith & Film, Film, Jesus Films, News, OT Film Epics | 1 Comment »

Microsoft Drops the Hebrew F-Bomb

20th October 2006

It appears that Microsoft has committed a marketing faux pas with the name of their iPod competitor Zune — at least for Hebrew speakers. An ITWorld news article, “Microsoft Zune: Doesn’t sound sweet to everyone,” reports that the word “Zune” sounds like the modern Hebrew word for “f*ck.”

The word in question is זִיֵּן, ziyyen, which originally meant something like “to arm,” while the related noun is זַיִן, zayin, “weapon.” In Hebrew slang this word became used to refer to intercourse, i.e., “to slip someone your weapon,” with “weapon” being slang for penis. The nominal related to the verb which in vulgar Hebrew is equivalent to the F-word is זִיּוּן, ziyyun.
Here is an excerpt from the article:

Hebrew linguists are divided over Zune. Tsila Ratner, the head of Hebrew courses in the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at University College London, says Zune is an unsuitable name for a product. However, Haggit Inbar-Littas, a 30-year veteran Hebrew teacher with the London Jewish Cultural Center, says while the name is “ridiculous” and close to the bad word, it’s unlikely to be mistaken.

Microsoft breaks the controversy down to pronunciation. “While we do acknowledge the similarity in pronunciation to Hebrew zi-yun, that is not the intended meaning of the name Zune,” according to a Microsoft statement. Bloggers have picked up on the difference — one humorously writing that if you say Zune to rhyme with iTunes, out pops the profanity.

I’m not so sure that the words really sound much alike, though I am not a native Hebrew speaker. I would be curious what my readers who do speak modern Hebrew think.

(HT Matthew Barker)

Posted in Hebrew, Humour, News, Popular Culture | 1 Comment »

Turkey Archaeological Dig Linked to Garden of Eden

18th October 2006

The First Post has an article on the archaeological dig at Gobekli Tepe in Turkey which links it to the garden of Eden story in the book Genesis. Interesting read.

Posted in Archaeology, Genesis, News | Comments Off

James Barr Dead At 82

18th October 2006

jamesbarr.jpgDr. James Barr, an amazing biblical scholar, theologian, and linguist, died October 14 in Claremont, California. Students of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament will be familiar with his works (if not, they should be!). Here is an excerpt from the Vanderbilt press release:

James Barr, an influential Bible scholar and linguist who challenged the latitude taken by many translators of Scripture, died Oct. 14 in Claremont, Calif. He was 82.

Barr, a native of Scotland, taught at Vanderbilt Divinity School from 1989 until his retirement in 1998 from his post as Distinguished Professor of Hebrew Bible. Upon his retirement, he was awarded the status of professor emeritus.

“Professor James Barr ranks as one of the most influential biblical scholars and Semitists of the second half of the 20th century,� said Doug Knight, professor of Hebrew Bible and director of Vanderbilt’s Center for the Study of Religion and Culture.

There is also an obituary in Wednesday’s The Times Online, which notes that Dr. Barr “was one of the most significant Hebrew and Old Testament scholars in Britain in the past century” (HT James Aitken).

Dr. Barr has published numerous scholarly works throughout his career, including the following:

His works on semantics and text criticism have been quite influential on my own thinking (The Semantics of Biblical Language is still a must read for any biblical scholar), as well as his biblical theological works (The Concept of Biblical Theology and The Garden of Eden and the Hope of Immortality). I have also enjoyed reading his works on fundamentalism and Scripture, though I differ with some of his conclusions.

Dr. Barr’s contributions to the field will be a lasting testimony to his scholarship. Rest in peace.

Jim West also has an announcement, as does Chris Heard.

Posted in James Barr, Lingusitics, News, Old Testament, Scholars | Comments Off