Sweet Assyriology Resources Online

The Ancient World Online (AWOL) blog recently posted about updates made to the CDLI (Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative) wiki site, now hosted at the University of Oxford.

The CDLI wiki is a terrific website for Assyriology. By way of examples, you can find helpful content and reference material links, such as “Recent Publications in Assyriology“; “Bibliography of Sumerian Literature“; and “writing systems.” Check it out — it’s better than reading Sitchin!

Shroud of Turin Double-Take: Yep, It’s Easter

This headline caught my eye today: “Turin shroud makes rare appearance on TV amid claims that it is not a forgery.” Why, you ask?  Because last year at precisely this time — Easter — basically the same sort of story ran. I blogged it here under the title, “Is ‘Jesus Archaeology’ Becoming Like Professional Wrestling?

Answer: Yes, but without the steroids.

So, for your reading entertainment, we have in one corner, Simcha Jacobovici’s latest attention-grabbing claim of a couple days ago, the “Templar Terror.” In the other corner, hailing from parts unknown, the “Turin Titan.” Maybe next year the History Channel can take some time off from its commitment to ancient aliens to have Hulk Hogan narrate a special on Jesus archaeology. He could tear up some manuscripts instead of T-shirts. Or head-butt some archaeologists.

Welcome to ringside.

 

Templar and Talpiot Twaddle: It Must be Easter

Ah, it’s that time of year again.

Readers will be thrilled to know that Simcha Jacobovici is keeping his “just so you know that Easter is really about me and my ideas” streak alive. In the past, Simcha has partnered with James Tabor to bunny hop all over the Christian holy day. James is along for the ride again, but keeping a bit of distance. A good idea, since Simcha’s newest academic resource is Scott Wolter, a researcher with a reputation for shell-game research and less-than-coherent thinking about ancient America and masonic conspiracies.1

This time Simcha and James want the world to know that Scott has made an amazing discovery that validates their earlier interpretation of the “Jesus Family Tomb” of East Talpiot: a “Knights Templar” coin that pictures Jesus emerging from a tomb — and it must be the Talpiot tomb, since the coin bears a Chevron symbol.

talpiotentrance

Setting aside the fact that Simcha and James deny that Jesus emerged from the Talpiot tomb — which would slightly mar the new analogy just a bit — there are problems with Wolter’s idea.

Jason Colavito has put together a worthwhile essay addressing this claim. As Jason so succinctly puts it, “The longer you look the less there is to see.” Indeed. Any leap from the first century to the high Middle Ages is problematic. But for so many who want to connect dots no matter where in space and time that they are, a non-sequitur is a bridge to understanding.2

  1. Jason Colavito has documented Wolter’s flawed material and its presentation in a number of posts on his blog.
  2. And think about this case: “That shape on a medieval coin looks like that shape on a first century tomb — they must be related.” Pretty stunning. I’m glad we don’t have people who think like this working on the space shuttle or doing internal medicine. I’m happy to keep them in Washington, DC and the History Channel.

Shape-Shifting Jesus: On the Sins of Marketers and Media

[Addendum; 3/24 – some have noted that another passage in the article linked below other than the one I note does have Jesus shape-shifting. It doesn’t. Change of appearance is not shape-shifting as those religious traditions who talk of such things have in mind – e.g., changing into animals. It’s the wrong description, and is designed, in my view, only to generate traffic. In short, it’s misleading. Maybe I’m just over-sensitized by all the weird stuff I read in alternative religions and stuff for this blog. MSH]

I’ve had a lot of people over the past couple of days send me links to articles such as this one: “1,200-year-old Egyptian text describes a shape-shifting Jesus.” Readers kind enough to send me the news thought it a good candidate for this blog. It is and isn’t.

On the one hand, the story (not the text) bears the marks of archaeo-porn we’ve come to love: sensationalism (“shape-shifting”) and timing (Easter is right around the corner – will Simcha Jacobovici find something to sell in time?). But on the other hand, the text is a genuine item and published by a respected scholar by a notable (and expensive) academic press, E. J. Brill. (Brill publishes wonderful stuff in biblical and ancient Near Eastern studies, but their prices force you to sell body parts.)

Let’s dispense with the silliness first. The text doesn’t describe Jesus changing shape, like some CGI morphing scene out of Twilight. Rather, the text says: “Pilate, then, looked at Jesus and, behold, he became incorporeal: He did not see him for a long time …” In other words, Jesus disappeared. Zowie Batman  . . . you mean just like the New Testament has him doing in Luke 24:30-31 (the ending of the “Road to Emmaus” story)? Yep. The point? This isn’t new, and so it isn’t revelatory. But how how would the story have ranked on Google? How much talk would have been generated with a headline like “Recently deciphered text has Jesus disappearing like he did in the New Testament”? Ah, marketers and media.

While the text is newly-published, it has been known for some time. At least the article doesn’t obscure that:

About 1,200 years ago the New York text was in the library of the Monastery of St. Michael in the Egyptian desert near present-day al-Hamuli in the western part of the Faiyum. The text says, in translation, that it was a gift from “archpriest Father Paul,” who, “has provided for this book by his own labors.”

The monastery appears to have ceased operations around the early 10th century, and the text was rediscovered in the spring of 1910. In December 1911, it was purchased, along with other texts, by American financier J.P. Morgan. His collections would later be given to the public and are part of the present-day Morgan Library and Museum in New York City.

What’s actually noteworthy about the text is that it has a scene where Pilate offers to swap his own son in Jesus’ place on the cross. And sorry, this isn’t some “lost” portion of the “real” story. The text is attributed to Cyril of Jerusalem, who lived in the 4th century AD. As the publishing scholar notes (in the book the sensationalist article is hawking), these and other homilies (sermons) attributed to Cyril show no indication they were really authored by Cyril.”1 The text dates to roughly 800-900 AD, or nearly a millennium after the actual time of Jesus (note the “1200 year-old” part of the article title and do the math). That means that these texts are not like the Gnostic gospels, which are within a couple centuries (and perhaps earlier) of the NT era.

In short, this isn’t a Christianity-shattering find. And the publishing scholar never claims anything of the sort. In fact, if you want the professor’s own description of the material and his book (with a nice photograph of the manuscript), you can read this brief essay. I recommend it over the MSNBC piece.

  1. Roelef van den Broek, Pseudo-Cyril of Jerusalem on the Life and the Passion of Christ (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2013), p. 72. No, I don’t have the book (I need the kidney I still have) — a lot of it is available for viewing on Google Books.

Barney the Dinosaur is the Antichrist, not President Obama

Many readers will recall my debunking of the ridiculous and hopelessly uninformed evangelical YouTube mythology about the Bible revealing how President Obama is the Antichrist. Now I have irrefutable proof that I was right – using math! (I’ll wait a second while you become mesmerized . . . okay).

Here it is — proof that Barney the purple dinosaur is the Antichrist, Satan incarnated, not President Obama.

barneysatan

No word yet on whether or not World Net Daily will carry this.

Hey, it’s the same logic — and method — that is behind Bible codes.

Thanks to Scotteriology for this valuable research.

 

 

Los Lunas Lunacy

At times I am asked about the evidence for ancient (Jewish) visitation to the Americas. Part of what prompts the question is inscriptional “evidence” like the Los Lunas stone. (Other parts are British Israelite and Mormon apologetic leanings). While I’m not one who rules out an ancient sea crossing by someone before Europeans, the Los Lunas stone can be safely assigned to forgery. No modern epigrapher of ancient Hebrew alive today would defend the authenticity of the inscription.

Here’s a recent (Feb 2013) lengthy article on the stone that tries hard to be even-handed. But even this essay contains damning evidence of the stone’s fabricated nature. For instance, when commenting on the thoughts of David Atlee Phillips, curator of Archeology at the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology and professor of anthropology at the University of New Mexico, the author of the piece notes:

loslunascaret

“The smoking gun for Phillips is the “caret,” symbolizing a correction, a modern symbol. “I infer that the person who inscribed the words was not fluent in the language, but was working off a photograph or drawing and temporarily overlooked part of the inscription.”1 Furthermore, Phillips writes, “when you stand and look at the inscription, a glance downward will show the possible signature of the creators. There in the bedrock is inscribed ‘Eva and Hobe 3-13-30.’ There is an oral tradition at UNM that Eva and Hobe were anthropology majors who prepared the inscription as a hoax, and who were found out. They were told that if they ever did something like that again, their careers in the field would be over.”

Professor Phillips is quoted elsewhere in the article as confirming something I’ve already learned many times over about people who want to believe in things like the Los Lunas stone:

“As every con man knows, the essence of a good fraud is allowing the victim to believe what that victim wishes to believe. The ‘true believers’ I have encountered vis a vis the Los Lunas inscription fall into two categories. First, individuals for whom an ancient Old World inscription in the New World would validate their particular religious beliefs. Second, individuals who are looking to make the Next Great Scientific Discovery. Some humans are able to resist the temptation of the more self-serving path, but others are not—and once they are on that path, they use their certainty to determine which potential facts are correct and which are not. In my experience, once people have started down that path, they are quite impervious to whatever information I provide them.”

Impervious is the right word for it. Just read through the comments to posts on this blog and you’ll understand.

At any rate, for those who want to become familiar with the Los Lunas inscription, this article is a very good place to start.

  1. A better explanation for this may be that the forgers were looking at a transcription or hand drawing of some Old World material and copied the caret straight out of the transcription, not realizing it wasn’t part of the inscription, but an item placed there by the transcriber. -MSH.

Exposing the Burrows Cave Myth

Here’s a welcome post on the (in)famous Burrows cave from the Ohio Archaeology blog (HT: Jason Colavito on Twitter). I’ve gotten a number of inquiries over the years about its “ancient inscriptions” and other items that allegedly prove the Phoenicians (or Lost Tribes of Israel) came to America in antiquity.

The author of the post is Brad Lepper, the curator of archaeology at the Ohio Historical Society. Lepper links from this post to another article of his in the Columbus Dispatch for good measure. Check out both if Burrows is new to you or you’ve heard about it before and had only one side of the story presented.

The post ends with links to learn more about the Burrows’ Cave chicanery.

Falling Into Burrows Cave

Burrows Cave: a modern hoax

2009 Burrows Cave Update

Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses: Database and Bibliography Project

For all those interested in ancient Mesopotamian religion, I recommend the Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses Project website. It’s being produced by one of my alma maters, the University of Pennsylvania.

The project describes itself as a “website [that] offers information about the fifty most important gods and goddesses and provides starting points for further research.”

Here’s the link to the Anunna/Anunnaki page. Nicely done with bibliography links. (Sorry, Sitchin didn’t make the cut – this is real primary text research, not fantasy land).