Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lead Tablets? Come on.

I was so hoping that I could avoid posting on the Jordanian Lead Tablet discovery. But, I keep getting people sending me links and asking me about what I think. So here it goes.

Sensationalism? It is the right time of year. It is nearing Easter, so what else should we expect from the media?

The minute I saw the first posts about it, my eyebrows raised. Lead tablets? We have examples of copper tablets, bronze tablets, and gold tablets from the period of early Christianity, but I don't know about lead tablets. This seems fishy to me.

"70 or so" books? That also is fishy, especially when I discovered through a little internet research that the original news release said 20. Is it 70 or 20? How many books are in this horde?

What else am I skeptical about? Where do they come from? The original news release says these books were in the family for 100 years. "The objects belong to Hassan Saeda, a Bedouin farmer in Galilee who says they have been in his family's possession since his great-grandfather found them in a cave in Jordan, a century ago." The latest news story claims that they were found five years ago. I might note that this five-year window was simultaneous with the James ossuary trial. Coincidence? Or not?

They were written in a code? This is feeling more and more like popular fiction (or forgery?).

The lead scholar is David Elkington? Check out this website for his book In the Name of the Gods: "Everything that exists does so because of vibration." Is this really a summary of his book? And what is this about a book he published last year called The Lead Codices? Then I discovered that he has a literary agent and a book on these lead tablets already in production. Read all about it HERE. These are Elkington's credentials that I found on the website announcing his book In the Name of the Gods:

David Elkington was born in England in 1962 but spent his formative years travelling and exploring the Southern Hemisphere with his parents. His childhood in Australia was supplemented by sojourns in Polynesia, New Zealand and Indonesia. It was in these places that he first developed an interest in Sacred Sites and ancient traditions.

He trained as an artist at the Bath Academy of Art where an interest in the relationship between Christian myth and sacred sites was fuelled. Research for 'In the Name of the Gods' began in earnest in the early 1980s when he walked through Europe and the Middle East on a quest to understand and appreciate the mind of Ancient Man and his relationship with particular sites upon the Earth. For 20 years David has been led on a revelatory trail through world mythology, linguistics and philology into geophysics, architecture, acoustics, music, neuro-physiology, theology and still further into the all-encompassing, resonant atmosphere of the planet. As his research continued, surprising results emerged. For several years, David has been working with Dr Keith Hearne, the 'father of lucid dream research', on a new area of psychology - Geolinguistics - which sees the development of language as a direct result of the Earth's physical environment.

David began to introduce his work to the public in 1996 when he presented a major lecture on 'Acoustic Resonance, Life and Consciousness' at the Quest for Knowledge Conference in London. He lectures in England and Europe, has co-hosted a tour of the major ancient sites of Egypt and is a member of the Egypt Exploration Society and Palestine Exploration Fund. He has been a consultant to the government of Sierra Leone, to the BBC, ITV, and to NASA.

These are all red flags for me. There is a lot of explaining that needs to be done before we can determine what these books are. At this point in the analysis we certainly shouldn't be claiming that they are going to revolutionize our understanding of early Christianity. Come on. No one has even been able to read them yet!

Other posts and opinions on the subject:

Photo from BBC release HERE.

UPDATE: Jim Davila has posted an excellent analysis of one of the Tablets, figured out by Peter Throneman. This is very strong evidence that these are forgeries and we need to be very cautious.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Book Note: David Halperin has just published a novel

It is called The Journal of a UFO Investigator. An intriguing title for a novel written by a professor of Jewish Mysticism. Does the merkavah come into play? I have to read the book to find out.

What's it about? According to Jonathan Fullmer, "Religion scholar Halperin’s rollicking first novel set amid the turbulent 1960s recounts the story of Danny Shapiro, an imaginative teenage loner and self-proclaimed UFO investigator from a small town near Philadelphia. While his ailing Jewish mother and bitter Baptist father struggle to get along, Danny’s got his own problems. He and his best friend love the same girl, and while Danny continues to believe in the unexplained, his friends have become increasingly skeptical. But when someone breaks into the Shapiro house and steals Danny’s book about his encounter with the Three Men in Black, his fantastical world becomes very real. His investigations lead him to a small group of paranormal researchers, including fanatical Julian and lovely but dangerous Rochelle, and an exciting world where everyone, whether his good friends or the airport security guards, become dubious. A thrilling romp through the domain of aliens and spacecraft, Halperin’s highly entertaining coming-of-age tale poses questions about the real and the imagined and suggests that fusing the two might be the only way to survive adolescence." From Amazon.

Stuart Schoffman begins his review:

“I sat swaying over the book, poring over its words. I could make out nearly all that the Gypsies had written if I stuck with it long enough. The meaning was something else again. But that’s the way of a scripture: it’s often not meant to be understood.” So writes Danny Shapiro, the narrator-protagonist of David Halperin’s startling first novel.

“Journal of a UFO Investigator” is intricate and subversive, a book not easily understood. On the manifest level — peshat, in the Jewish interpretative tradition — it is a touching and engrossing coming-of-age novel composed in a simple style, a voyage of discovery starring an unhappy teenager named Danny Shapiro who finds refuge in UFO research and flights of fantasy: sightings, abductions, conspiracies, the whole generic megillah. (His mantra is a line from “The Book of the Damned,” a classic American study of paranormal phenomena: “Science is a turtle that says that its own shell encloses all things.”) Danny’s mother is an invalid with a heart condition. His father seethes with quiet anger, often directed at Danny, his only child. The book is set in a Philadelphia suburb between 1963 and 1966 — the “distant days,” as the author reveals in his acknowledgments, “when I was myself a teenage UFO investigator.”

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A warm welcome to Mark Turner

Professor Mark Turner from Case Western Reserve is with us today. Turner is a cognitive scientist who works on the problem of how we think. He argues that even though we are constrained by our biological evolution, our mind works in such a way that allows for new emergent structures to arise and culture to form. This can occur because humans have evolved in such a way that we are capable of double-scope blending, taking two known metaphoric structures and blending them in a new way.

It is a fascinating concept for someone like me who is interested in tracking the creation and recreation of t/Traditions that support cultures. I am looking forward to our seminar this morning and to Turner's lecture this noon: How to Have an Afterlife. If you are in town and would like to attend the lecture, it will be in HUMA 226 at noon.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Forging ahead: Leaving the Middle of Nowhere

It seems to me that we need a new introduction to biblical methodology that reflects what we have learned from postmodern philosophy. I envision chapters dedicated to complete revisions of our old tools, explaining where and why they went wrong, and then rebuilding the method from the ground up. I also envision chapters dedicated to newer methods that have entered our toolbox in the last twenty years. This would be an edited volume, written by various scholars dedicated to the project of revisioning our field and the way in which we approach the materials. It would not be a postmodern handbook which conceives of itself as "critical" and everything else as "non-critical". It would be a handbook that considers our field in the wake of postmodern critique in order to move us out of the Middle of Nowhere.

Leaving the Middle of Nowhere
A New Vision of Biblical Methods in the Wake of Postmodernity