Friday, 16 November 2007

60th anniversary of the Dead Sea Scrolls

ever since i saw some of the dead sea scrolls on display in the shrine of the book museum in jerusalem in 2005, i always wish to spend more time with this fascinating find. someone called it the monumental find of the OT in the 20th century. this year, 2007, is the sixty anniversary of their discoveries in the judean desert. here is an article from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) about a conference in jerusalem to mark this anniversary.


Sixty Years Since the Discovery of the Dead Seas Scrolls

In honor of the sixtieth anniversary of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Israel Antiquities Authority is convening an international committee of experts to offer advice on the Digitization of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is regarded as one of the most significant archaeological finds of the 20th century. These ancient Hebrew scrolls were accidentally discovered by a Bedouin shepherd in November 1947, having been hidden for almost 2000 years in remote caves in the Judean Desert.

The Dead Sea Scrolls reveal a wealth of information about the history of the Second Temple period, a time of crucial developments in the crystallization of the monotheistic religions. Some of the scrolls, biblical and sectarian, were written as early as the end of the third century BCE but most of them date to the first century BCE and the first century CE. They contain fragments of all of the books of the Bible (with the exception of the Book of Esther) as well as a complete text of Isaiah. Especially significant are the fragments of the Apocrypha, previously known only in Greek and Latin. The scrolls preserve the original Hebrew and Aramaic versions. The sectarian texts reflect the beliefs and apocalyptic expectations of the community that wrote them.

During the first forty years since their discovery only a very small number of the c. 900 texts known to us today were published. In the beginning of the 1990’s, shortly after the founding of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), the Authority initiated the establishment of a committee of scholars for the advancement of the publication of the scrolls and appointed Professor Emmanuel Tov of the Hebrew University to head it. The publication project, which included dozens of scholars from all over the world, was completed in 2001 and was celebrated in a festive ceremony that took place at the residence of the President of Israel.

The conservation and preservation of the Dead Sea Scrolls have concerned both scholars and conservators since their discovery. Conservation measures to preserve the scrolls were first taken by researchers during the early 1950’s. In the ensuing years it has become clear the scrolls suffered extensive damage due to inappropriate conservation measures that stemmed primarily from a lack of knowledge. Therefore, concurrent with the establishment of the committee of scholars, the IAA set up a unique conservation laboratory dedicated solely to the preservation of the scrolls. The laboratory’s treatments are accompanied by constant research and professional consultation with experts from all over the world. The conservation work is ongoing; the task is extremely complicated and time consuming. However, in light of past experience the IAA is collaborating through the Italian Ministry of Culture with Italian experts in conservation and preservation of ancient manuscripts to re-examine the current methods of treatment and to research conservation problems that have yet to be solved.

In addition, since many of the thousands of fragments of scrolls were only photographed once, close to the time of their discovery in the 1950’s, the IAA has decided to convene an international committee of experts to evaluate innovative techniques and methods of documentation. The committee will assist the Authority in selecting the most appropriate means of digitizing the scrolls for publication, research and conservation purposes. Invited experts will include, among others: Prof. Yaacov Choueka - The Friedberg Genizah Project; Dr. Greg Bearman - JPL - NASA; Prof. Ferruccio Petrucci - Image Spectroscopy, Uni. of Ferrara; Simon Tanner - King's Digital Consultancy Services, London; Orly Simon - Head IT Department, JNUL. All together we will have ten experts from various fields of photographic technologies and managing of digital projects databases.

The conference will take place in Jerusalem from November 4 -7, 2007.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

the golden compass - to ban or not to ban? Part 2

so, the debate continues on - to ban or not to ban the movie? why ban the movie when the books on which the movie is based are not banned? if the movie is deemed 'offensive', so are the books. the books have achieved a huge fan following, with one critic comparing the trilogy to the Lord of the Rings and the Narnia Chronicles. one even called pullman the 'last of the great fictional writers of the 20th century'. concenring his style and writing, i would definitely agree.

as i mentioned in my earlier post, if christians are offended by the movie (or by the books), they can always practise self-censorship (just as they did with the harry potter series). let us not be like Garfield (one of my favourite cartoons) who when he couldn't sleep at night woke up poor Jon and said, 'If I can't sleep, neither can you!'

in my opinion a better way to respond is to talk with our children about the form of 'atheism' found in the book (as charged by many Christians). actually, it is not even 'atheism' in the trilogy. if pullman was pushing his atheistic agenda, why bother to talk about God, the church etc? he could have abandoned them completely and write his triology purely on a materialistic or secularist level. the fact that he still uses these themes can bring another debate - was pullman trying to discredit the institutional church and her beliefs in God? i prefer the latter view, as i think pullmann was trying to put across his reaction. ok, maybe he had a bad childhood epxerience with the church or something happened that caused him to look down upon the church. that's his view, we can accept that. it is true that the institutional church through the ages has committed many 'gross abuses'.

so, let us talk about pullmann's 'reaction' with our children. they are never too young to understand important topics like these. my 2 children are 'critics' of the church in their own right - they know when a pastor on the pulpit is not 'preaching the word' or 'when the action of a local church is not a christian one' etc. after all, they are PKs (pastor's kids) all their life. they can tell me when pullmann is trying to pull a fast one on the church in his trilogy. when they cannot understand some other things like the meaning of the Oblation Board, here is an opportunity to explain to them the meaning of the word 'oblation' and how pullmann is trying to connect it with the hideous experiments on the children in the artic.

even if our children are too young to understand all these things, we can always tell them that the triology is basically fiction (although based on many actual facts. i find pullmann's description of oxford city in lyra's universe a very accurate description of Oxford as it really is, having spent a considerable amount of time living there in the last 6 years. the description of the part of the city called jericho and the river isis brings back memories since the place where i studied called OCMS is near jericho). the triology may be based on the idea of a multiverse or parallel universes which co-exist with one another, things which we cannot 'prove' anyway. ideas like travelling through diferent universes still remain on the fiction level. or the fanciful idea that our daemons can be outside us and talk with us and change shape at will!

Sunday, 11 November 2007

BERSIH peoples' protest in kuala lumpur 10th nov 2007

by now, most of you will have read about the BERSIH people's gathering in kuala lumpur. my friend bob has written extensively on his blog, so that there is no need for me to repeat. go to his blog here:

and steven's blog:

jack said

the national newspapers, star and new straits times, reported only a turnout of '4,000' people. do you believe that? see nat's blog for the actual real pictures:

nat's blog

and also from this blog: