Ark of the Covenant to be Revealed in Ethiopia — Really?

So says this news report from World Net Daily.

My opinion?  Prepare for disappointment.

Now, I’m not saying that the “Ethiopian view” of what happened to the ark of the covenant is complete PaleoBabble. It actually has some circumstantial evidentiary power (key word there being “circumstantial”). And the case for it certainly isn’t as compelling as Graham Hancock tries to make it in his book, The Sign and the Seal.  Those familiar with Hancock who perhaps may not have read that book should know what to expect from that work: breathless “this can only mean that” rhetoric, leaving many critical details poorly addressed or avoided, and dispensing with logic where necessary. I addressed Hancock’s illogic and self-serving use of evidence in a paper way back in 1994 delivered to the Near East Archaeological Society (my first conference paper).  Here it is for the curious. As an example of the disingenuous nature of Hancock’s research, see the image below. Hancock quotes the 13th century AD traveler Abu Salih, who reports that he saw the ark during his trip to Ethiopia (Abyssinia). Hancock only gives a few lines from the quotation in his book (the ones that help his case).  I copied the image below from the scholarly book, Ethiopia and the Bible, by Edward Ullendorff, 1968. It has the whole quotation:

You’ll note that this ark has been modified — crosses and jewels added. Do you really think the Ethiopian Jews (Falashas) would touch, much less alter, the real ark? If you do, maybe you’re investing in GM right about now.

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Mayan PaleoBabble (The 2012 Hoax)

Well, sort of. This is more the fault of modern people than the Mayans.

I’m talking about the 2012 nonsense of course. Here’s a wonderful link that very thoroughly, and painstakingly, debunks all the Mayan 2012 calendrical predictive paleobabble.  It’s long, but worth the time, at least if you care about “white and nerdy” astronomy and calendrical science.

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Bruce Metzger on Parallels Between Pagan Mystery Religions and Christianity

Readers who spend much time on the internet know there is a lot written on the popular level on this topic; namely, that Jesus / Christianity was just the newest manifestation of standard paganism. I know of only one “real” academic (Tom Harpur) who defends this idea, which should tell you how idiosyncratic it is. There are no doubt others, but that handful against thousands (again) tells you that there must be reasons why the vast majority of scholars of all persuasions don’t buy the idea.

The problem is basically a methodological one. This 1955 (and so somewhat dated) Harvard Theological Review article by Bruce Metzger would give readers some insight into the methodological problems and errors involved in the “pagan Christ” view. Some of it requires knowledge of Greek, but not much.  You’ll see the logical disconnects. Metzger, for those who don’t know the name, was for many years a professor of New Testament at Princeton. His specialty was textual criticism, and his name is nearly synonymous with the field. He died a couple years ago.

Lastly, a couple of recent books deflate much of what’s written on the popular Jesus = a pagan god front. I recommend The Jesus Legend, by Boyd and Eddy, and a more dense work, written for scholars, called The Riddle of the Resurrection; Dying and Rising Gods of the Ancient Near East.  This book takes on Frazer’s work (Golden Bough) on dying and rising gods in the ancient Near East and finds the thesis considerably wanting.1

  1. I had an extra copy of this $60 book to give away to the first person who emailed me for it. It’s gone now!

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Seriously: The Dogon and Sirius?

You don’t have to watch too many Fantasy Channel (formerly known as the History Channel) specials on ancient astronauts before you’ll be told about the primitive African Dogon of Mali and their “advanced astronomical knowledge” — bestowed, of course, by extraterrestrials. This amazing proof of ancient ET visitation is the subject of a popular ancient astronaut book, The Sirius Mystery, by Robert Temple.

Unfortunately, the belief that ETs gave the Dogon advanced astronomical knowledge is bunk, er . . . paleobabble. How do we know? Well, there are the weakness (read: selective and somewhat manipulative presentation of the data) sketched here.  And then there are these two articles on the Dogon and Sirius B (one, two) from Blacks in Science: Ancient & Modern (1983). They discuss a Peruvian dictionary compiled by a Dominican monk, Domingo de San Tomas, in 1560, that contains a description of a Quilpi, an optical instrument for looking into the distance. The abstract of the second article notes:

“With an instrument only as powerful as binoculars, Sirius B should be visible, except that it would be flooded by light from Sirius A. Perhaps they had a more powerful telescope, but even without one more powerful than binoculars, information on Sirius B could be obtained.”

No need for ETs; just some very smart people for their time.

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Presidential PaleoBabble

The subject matter may not extend too far back into antiquity in some cases, but historians and scholars of Islam are starting to weigh in on President Obama’s speech in Cairo last week. If you heard it you know that Muslims were credited with a range of accomplishments in an attempt to show that the world owes more to Islam than the desire to subjugate the world. For sure, Islamic culture has indeed made significant contributions, but as Post 2 (below) especially shows, the claims in his speech were exaggerated and erroneous (i.e., he picked bad examples and went overboard in his attempt to kiss up to Islamic wahabists, something previous administrations [notably the Bushes] ought to have avoided as well).

Here are some examples: post1 and post2.

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Book of Enoch in Electronic Form at Logos (Where Mike Works)

I just wanted to let everyone know that we are producing the 2006 reprint of R.H. Charles classic translation of the Book of Enoch (1 Enoch).  The link to see the pre-publication (“pre-pub”) sale is here.  For how the pre-pub system works, when a new product is put into the pipeline, we offer a you’ll never see this price again” offer online.  Buying a book at pre-pub is simply ordering it before it’s done, but at a cut rate.  When the product is done, your card is charged and you get the download (not before).

Even if you don’t have the Logos / Libronix software system, you can get this (the engine and interface comes with the book).

I don’t work in sales, so I get no commission from any sale.

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Was Jesus’ Father a Roman Soldier?

In case you haven’t heard of the “Pantera/Panthera” tradition of Jesus’ lineage, here’s a moderately lengthy but readable discussion of it on Ben Witherington’s blog. The post is a couple years old and was originally posted in response to James Tabor’s book, The Jesus Dynasty. As Prof. Witherington details, there ain’t much evidence for this.

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I’m Now on FaceBook

No, I’m not trying to get PaleoBabble delivered to me (. . . maybe that’s not a bad idea). Actually, my wife’s been bugging me for weeks to start a Facebook account. I’ve been a bit suspicious of the wisdom of doing this for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I really don’t have time to actually check it. But last nightI decided to give in.