Solomon’s Treasures and the Ark of the Covenant … Really?

Several readers have sent me articles about the new “discovery” about the hiding of the ark of the covenant and other treasures from Solomon’s temple. Here are some samples:

King Solomon’s treasures revealed: Newly translated Hebrew text lists legendary riches – including the Ark of the Covenant

Fate of the ark of the Covenant Revealed in Hebrew Text

This is no big deal, and even the archae-porn peddlers have been reasonably restrained.  But if you’re interested in Old Testament pseudepigrapha, which I am, it’s pretty cool. It’s also old news, at least for those of us in the guild. Back in November at the Society of Biblical Literature meeting, the Eerdmans table was proudly displaying copies of a new compilation that included the text these articles speak of:

Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, ed. James Davila, Richard Bauckham, and Alexander Panayotov, with James H. Charlesworth.

The second article linked to above is from the Live Science site. It includes comments from an interview with James Davila, one of the editors of the new volume.

The ancient Hebrew text that is the source of the excitement is, to quote Davila, “just a collection of legends.” In other words, this is not a smoking gun source from the Solomonic era that would provide factual information on where the ark was put.

Aside from editorial duties, Davila is the scholar responsible for the translation and discussion (pp. 393-409) of this text in the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures. Some web articles refer to the Hebrew text as Emek Halachah. More accurately, that term is the title to a book in which is found the oldest confirmed example of the Hebrew text that Davila calls “The Treatise of the Vessels” (Massakhet Kelim).

According to Davila’s discussion, books containing versions of the Hebrew manuscript range in date from 1602-1876. The book was first published in 1648. As to the Hebrew text itself, Davila notes that the date and provenance of the text “are very uncertain” (p. 396). He continues:

“[The text] shows awareness in a general way of Talmudic and earlier traditions but I have not been able to identify clear knowledge of any sources later than the Talmud. . . . Given our current knowledge, we can say nothing more than that the Treatise of the Vessels must have been composed sometime between late antiquity and the seventeenth century” (pp. 396-397).

That’s obviously quote a span of time. But the important point is that the earliest guess is about 1500 years after biblical chronology has Solomon, and roughly 1000 years after the temple’s destruction.

So don’t get too excited.

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Scholarly Online Bibliographies for the Study of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia

One word for this site: wow.

The above link leads to a gateway site for online bibliographies related to the study of the ancient Near East. It’s an amazing resource.

You’re welcome!

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Faith and Fetishism

This sort of thing bugs me. I find it macabre and more than a little ghoulish.

The Vatican announced a couple days ago that it would be putting the bones of St. Peter on display for the first time in history.

Big deal. I’d ask if the bones could actually be verified with respect to the identity, but I don’t care.

What does this sort of thing prove? How is it faith-enhancing? Does anyone doubt Peter existed? It’s ironic that the apostle who, when people bowed to him, said “Arise, I myself am also a man” (Acts 10:26) is now being put on display as a fetish. Something tells me Peter would tell people to go do something really faith-based instead. Honestly, it reminds me of the bizarre behavior of people who gathered to watch Simeon the Stylite sit on his fifty-foot pole for forty years to worship the worms that dropped from his body. What a work for God.

 

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Dropa Dopiness Debunked

Back in March I had blogged about the Dropa Stones, another insipid argument for ancient astronauts. Supposedly these stones, discovered on the Tibet/China border, contained “etchings” that told the sad tale of marooned extraterrestrials. That earlier post directed readers to a worthwhile discussion of the stones on the Bad Archaeology website.

Frank Johnson of the Ancient Aliens Debunked blog recently produced another worthwhile debunking of these alleged ancient alien artifacts. Johnson’s post references the Bad Archaeology post but goes beyond its rebuttal with respect to several aspects of the tale.

Truth be told, the Dropa Stone story is a contrivance across the board, one full of unverifiable details, like studies performed on the stones, museums supposedly involved, etc. It’s hearsay on steroids.

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Stone Spheres of Costa Rica: No Aliens Needed

Stone_sphereMany PaleoBabble readers have no doubt heard of the stone spheres of Costa Rica. In addition to the debunking of the “Nuremberg UFO” engraving I posted about a few days ago, Frank Johnson of the Ancient Aliens Debunked blog also has a worthwhile piece on these stone spheres. Hope you’re sitting down: aliens didn’t make them.

As Johnson notes in his post, ancient alien theorists not only don’t have a firm grasp of the obvious (like hammer marks still visible on the stones – thanks for that advanced technology, ET), they’re just plain irritated that he would dare dispute amazing “proof” like this for ancient alien contact. I’m sure they’ll soon realize that’s a poor strategy. Why not just film another Ancient Aliens episode and make up different evidence? I’m just saying.

As is so often the case, mainstream scholars are not curled up in the fetal position, rendered dumbstruck by the shocking evidence for alien causation offered by the likes of Erich “I’m the reincarnation of P.T. Barnum” von Daniken. Johnson introduces readers to anthropology Professor John Hoopes. As Johnson notes, “Hoopes has not only examined the Costa Rican giant stone balls, he has a Website explaining them and the errors in many of the claims.”

At any rate, if you haven’t read a thoughtful treatment of the stones spheres, the post is recommended.

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Discoveries of Giants and Giant Human Remains – Stretching the Truth or Just Tall Tales?

Jason Colavito has written some recent pieces on presumed discoveries of giant human specimens. Often such reports are simply not what they claim to be – evidence is misunderstood or even fabricated, or reports get garbled and transformed in transmission. Here are two illustrations courtesy of Jason’s work:

Did Diego de Ordaz Find the Body of a Giant in Mexico?

Did Alvarez de Pineda Find Giants in Texas in 1519?

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Lengthy Series on Vallee and Aubeck’s Evidence for UFOs in Antiquity

Jason Colavito recently produced a series of posts exposing the poor use of data (and perhaps deliberate deception in that regard) on the part of Jacques Vallee and Chris Aubeck in their book, Wonders in the Sky: Unexplained Aerial Objects from Antiquity to Modern Times. PaleoBabble readers will find the series useful and interesting:

Jacques Vallee’s Deceptive Evidence for Ancient UFOs (Part 1)

Jacques Vallee’s Deceptive Evidence for Ancient UFOs (Part 2)

Jacques Vallee’s Deceptive Evidence for Ancient UFOs (Part 3)

Even More of Vallee’s Ancient UFO Deception

Back in 2011 on my UFO Religions blog I also wrote a lengthy review of this book, which Jason aptly calls Jacques Vallee’s version of an ancient astronaut book. I agree with Jason that much (all?) of the evidence drawing on ancient texts is the result of misinterpretation or wishful thinking. The criteria of the authors for weeding out certain accounts is poorly applied to material they elsewhere embrace.

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Why Conspiratrial Thinking Is So Often Utterly Incoherent

I just blogged this over at UFO Religions, but it’s equally applicable here given the sort of pablum that I deal with so often in the world of paleobabble.

You just HAVE to watch the video below (7:00). It’s clear and to the point, and you’ll no doubt have a laugh or two – a video on how Luke Skywalker’s destruction of the Death Star was *really* an inside job. It’s very well done and has almost two million views on YouTube.

The value of the video should be obvious. Every fact presented in it is indeed a fact from the movie. And every connection drawn is “reasonable” in the context of the narrative created. But the conclusions are absolutely wrong. This is precisely how so much conspiratorial thinking works … and fails horribly. Conspiracy is all about narrative interpretation, not “facts”.  Once one part of the narrative fails, the whole thing crumbles. The beauty of the video is that the viewer already knows the narrative is wrong, but can see how that bogus narrative is created using nothing but factual data.

In short, it’s not about the data dots; it’s about how the dots are connected — and that usually (nearly always) happens in the theater of the imagination when it comes to conspiracy theory.

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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.

 

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