Saturday, 22 March 2008

seal found from first temple period in jerusalem

Building Remains From The Time Of The First Temple Were Exposed West Of The Temple Mount (March 13, 2008)

A rich layer of finds from the latter part of the First Temple period (8th-6th centuries BCE) was recently discovered in archaeological salvage excavations that are being carried out in the northwestern part of the Western Wall plaza, c. 100 meters west of the Temple Mount.

In the excavations, which the Israel Antiquties Authority has been conducting for the past two years under the direction of archaeologists Shlomit Wexler-Bdoulah and Alexander Onn, in cooperation with the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, remains of a magnificent colonnaded street from the Late Roman period (2nd century CE) were uncovered that appears on the mosaic Madaba map and is referred to by the name – the Eastern Cardo. The level of the Eastern Cardo is paved with large heavy limestone pavers that were set directly on top of the layer that dates to the end of the First Temple period. Thus the Roman road “seals” beneath it the finds from the First Temple period and has protected them from being plundered in later periods.

This is actually the first time in the history of the archaeological research of Jerusalem that building remains from the First Temple period were exposed so close to the Temple Mount – on the eastern slopes of the Upper City. The walls of the buildings are preserved to a height of more than 2 meters.

Another impressive artifact that was found in the salvage excavations is a personal Hebrew seal made of a semi-precious stone that was apparently inlaid in a ring. The scarab-like seal is elliptical and measures c. 1.1 cm x 1.4 cm. The surface of the seal is divided into three strips separated by a double line: in the upper strip is a chain decoration in which there are four pomegranates and in the two bottom strips is the name of the owner of the seal, engraved in ancient Hebrew script. It reads: לנתניהו בן יאש ([belonging] to Netanyahu ben Yaush).

The two names are known in the treasury of biblical names: the name נתניהו (Netanyahu) is mentioned a number of times in the Bible (in the Book of Jeremiah and in Chronicles) and the name יאש (Yaush) appears in the Lachish letters. The name Yaush, like the name יאשיהו (Yoshiyahu) is, in the opinion of Professor Shmuel Ahituv, derived from the root או"ש which means “he gave a present” (based on Arabic and Ugaritic). It is customary to assume that the owners of personal seals were people that held senior governmental positions.

It should nevertheless be emphasized that this combination of names - נתניהו בן יאוש (Netanyahu ben Yaush) – was unknown until now.

In addition to the personal seal, a vast amount of pottery vessels was discovered, among them three jar handles that bear LMLK stamped impressions. An inscription written in ancient Hebrew script is preserved on one these impressions and it reads: למלך חברון ([belonging] to the king of Hebron).

These finds, as well as the numerous fertility and animal figurines, are characteristic of the Kingdom of Judah in the latter part of the First Temple period – the end of the 8th century BCE to the destruction of the Temple in the year 586 BCE.

if you are still confused about the talpiot tomb

March 21, 2008, 5:00 a.m.

Not Dead Yet
The Lost of Tomb of Jesus — one year later.

By Thomas F. Madden

A year ago the Discovery Channel delivered a cheery Easter message to America’s Christians: Jesus is dead – and we found his tomb.

After much fanfare and hype, The Lost Tomb of Jesus aired on March 4, 2007 to an audience of 4.1 million viewers. The documentary, which was directed by the journalist Simcha Jacobovici (better known as the host of The Naked Archaeologist) and produced by James Cameron (better known as the director of Titanic and True Lies), revealed that the Biblical account of Jesus’ burial in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea and subsequent Resurrection was just wishful thinking. The truth, they claimed, was that the deceased Jesus was brought to his family tomb in Jerusalem, where he remained good and dead.

And Jacobovici and Cameron had the facts to prove it. For example, they revealed a stone ossuary (a repository for bones) that just possibly might have the words “Jesus, son of Joseph” on it. (The handwriting is poor, so scholars disagree on the actual inscription.) Another of the ossuaries has the name “Mary” on it. And another one is inscribed “Mariamene e Mara,” which — if you squint your eyes just right — looks like “Mariamne,” which was used by a writer more than 200 years later to refer to Mary Magdalene. Get it? That fits perfectly with the chronicle of ancient wisdom known as The Da Vinci Code, which asserts that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married! Even more startling, one of the other ossuaries bears the name “Judah, son of Jesus,” who must have been the son of Jesus and Mary (obviously born before Mary rushed off to have her daughter in Gaul, as The Da Vinci Code attests).

With so much evidence to support their case, no sane person could deny that these filmmakers had made a monumental archaeological discovery. One wonders what real archaeologists do all day! The documentary further backed up its case with plenty of dramatic reenactments, high-tech graphics, and even a statistical study that put the odds against its being wrong at more than 600-to-1.

Having presented their discovery, Jacobovici and Cameron sat back and waited for the accolades of the scholarly community to roll in. They’re still waiting. You see, as it turns out, the “Lost Tomb of Jesus” wasn’t lost at all. It wasn’t the tomb of Jesus either. Instead, it was the Talpiot Tomb, discovered by archaeologists – real ones — more than 25 years earlier. It had long since been analyzed, and the results published in a scholarly journal. The conclusion of the experts was that it was a fairly standard cave tomb of a wealthy Jewish family of the first century. The names on the ossuaries, including “Jesus,” which is a form of “Joshua”, were very common at that time. Heck, one in five women were named “Mary”! There was no more reason to believe that the Jesus of this tomb was Jesus of Nazareth than there is to believe that James Cameron is actually James Dean.

Even before The Lost Tomb of Jesus aired, there arose a firestorm of scholarly objection to it. First Prof. Amos Kloner, the lead archaeologist and original author of the report of the Talpiot Tomb, declared that the whole documentary was “nonsense.” Then a swarm of other archaeologists and historians around the world (including myself) joined in, explaining why there was no good reason to believe that the tomb had anything to do with the Jesus of the New Testament. For example:

Jesus and his family were not from Jerusalem, the location of the Talpiot Tomb. If we imagine that Joseph was not a carpenter but, say, a prosperous camel merchant, then he might have been able to afford a nice family tomb like this­ — but wouldn’t he have put it where he actually had a family? Like Bethlehem or Nazareth? Certainly he would. Of course, Joseph was a carpenter, which means that he couldn’t have afforded the tomb in the first place.

If Jesus did have a family tomb in Jerusalem, why does the New Testament insist that he was laid to rest in the new tomb of Joseph of Arimathea? And why no mention of that Judah kid?

There is absolutely no historical testimony to corroborate any of the claims of the documentary. Indeed, all of the ancient sources, from the Pauline letters to the Gospels to early Christian tracts to Eusebius, contradict its conclusions.

The much touted 600-to-1 odds were based on assumptions for which there is no evidence – such as that the people of the tomb were of one generation, that Mary Magdalene and Jesus were married, and that Jesus’ family was from Jerusalem. The consulting statistician, Andrey Feuerverger of the University of Toronto, subsequently distanced himself from the documentary, saying that he was only working with the assumptions given to him.

At some point the people at the Discovery Channel seem to have realized that they had purchased the archaeological equivalent of “cold fusion.” As more and more scholars denounced the show, they made an unusual move: They called Ted Koppel and gave the hard-boiled newsman a few days to put together a post-documentary program in which Jacobovici could defend himself face-to-face against the academic naysayers. But before turning Jacobovici over to the professors, Koppel presented some research of his own: Written responses from experts used in the documentary who claimed that their remarks had been mischaracterized or falsified. Jacobovici strongly denied this, then spent the rest of the show dodging arguments lobbed at him by exasperated scholars itching for a fight. It was good TV.

After a few days, though, the buzz died down, and The Lost Tomb of Jesus seemed as old as last week’s TV Guide. Having cashed his checks, James Cameron went back to making movies. Simcha Jacobovici, on the other hand, continued to maintain that there was a strong possibility he was right. Meanwhile he went back to his regular show, The Naked Archaeologist, in which he is neither naked nor an archaeologist.

Over the past year, the scholarly consensus on the tomb has become virtually unanimous. As Dr. Jodi Magness of the Archaeological Institute of America wrote, the documentary’s claim is “inconsistent with all of the available information - historical and archaeological — about how Jews in the time of Jesus buried their dead, and specifically the evidence we have about poor, non-Judean families like that of Jesus. It is a sensationalistic claim without any scientific basis or support.”

So that’s that?

Well, not quite. On January 13-16, 2008, the Princeton Theological Seminary hosted a symposium in Jerusalem that brought together leading scholars and archaeologists, including Kloner and Joe Zias, the former curator of the Israel Antiquities Authority. Jacobovici attended as well, as did plenty of news cameras and journalists. When it was all over, Time reported that the symposium’s experts were “deeply divided” on the question of whether this was the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth or not. Jacobovici described himself as “vindicated.” And there was even a bombshell: The widow of Joseph Gat, one of the original archaeologists of the tomb, claimed that her husband had always believed it was the tomb of Jesus but had remained silent because he feared a backlash of anti-Semitism. Time and CNN left the impression that the stuffy scholarly community was finally coming around.

When the symposium’s scholars returned home and picked up their copy of Time or switched on CNN, they got quite a shock. Deeply divided? That wasn’t the symposium that they had attended. Aside from that Naked Archaeologist sitting in the corner, they couldn’t remember much of anyone arguing that the Talpiot Tomb belonged to Jesus of Nazareth. Why did CNN give all that air time to Jacobovici and none at all to the fifty-some experts taking part in the symposium? They were upset, to say the least.

And so the experts revolted. Geza Vermes, a fellow of the British Academy and professor emeritus of Jewish Studies at Oxford University, wrote that the arguments of Jacobovici and the documentary were “not just unconvincing but insignificant” and “most of the fifty or so participants shared this opinion.” A long list of distinguished symposium attendees wrote their own letter decrying the press reports: “Nothing further from the truth can be deduced from the discussion and presentations.” They noted that the deceased Mr. Gat, whatever he may or may not have said, “lacked the expertise to read the inscriptions” on the ossuaries. “To conclude, we wish to protest the misrepresentation of the conference proceedings in the media, and make it clear that the majority of scholars in attendance — including all of the archaeologists and epigraphers who presented papers relating to the tomb — either reject the identification of the Talpiot tomb as belonging to Jesus’ family or find this claim highly speculative.”

If the scholars were expecting an apology from Time or CNN, they were sorely disappointed. Neither one seems to have even noticed their protest. Both organizations still have the stories posted on their websites. After all, archaeologists are such spoilsports. There’s no sense in letting them ruin a perfectly good story.

The scholarly case on the tomb may be essentially closed, but the sensationalist fantasies are alive and well. After all, Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, can’t make all the money, can he? It’s frustrating, though — particularly for scholars who have spent their careers trying to uncover and disseminate the truth. One cheesy documentary, it seems, is worth a thousand good books and journal articles.

In time, though, the Lost Tomb of Jesus and its parent, The Da Vinci Code, will fade away, joining the long parade of past pseudo-history fads like Erich Von Daniken’s Chariot of the Gods? and Immanuel Velikovsky’s Worlds in Collision.

Christians will just have to make due with the Empty Tomb.

—Thomas F. Madden is Professor of History and Director of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Saint Louis University. His newest book, Empires of Trust: How Rome Built — And America is Building — A New World (Dutton), will be released in July.

— Thomas F. Madden, the author of A Concise History of the Crusades and coauthor of The Fourth Crusade, is associate professor and chair of the Department of History at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

ancient neo-babylonian city unearthed

Ancient Babylonian city unearthed in Diwaniya

Diwaniya - Voices of Iraq
Tuesday , 18 /03 /2008 Time 7:29:59

Diwaniya, Mar 18, (VOI) – An ancient archeological city dating back to the neo-Babylonian era was unearthed in Diwaniya, the province's museum curator revealed, noting the ancient wide city comprised buildings of an advanced architectural nature.

"The Babylonian city was discovered in the district of al-Shamiya, (33 km) west of Diwaniya, where 341 archeological pieces were found during the first stage of excavations that lasted for the month of February," Muhammad Yahya Radi told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI).

"The unearthed city is about eight donums (the Iraqi donum equals 2,000 square meters). The artifacts found included weights used by the ancient Babylonians. One of the weighing units was 30 kg, different from previously found granite duck-shaped units that did not exceed 10 kg," said Radi.

He said the archeological finds also included earthenware slabs and numbers of the neo-Babylonian era that experts failed to decipher.

"Most of the specialists have emigrated Iraq due to the deteriorating security conditions in the country, which causes a problem as to detect a very important epoch of the country's ancient history," explained Radi.
He said that also the remains of four persons laid in pottery vessels were found, noting those four were apparently executed.

"We found out about that because one of the bodies had its half buried in a wall and the other in a funerary urn. The other three bodies had iron nails driven into their hands, legs and necks, which indicates that there were strict laws used to be applied in that city," he indicated.

"Among the finds were Babylonian seals, a sign of a coherent ancient Babylonian civilization and its administrative affiliation to the archeological city of Babylonia," which flourished under Hammurabi and Nebuchadnezzar II but declined after 562 B.C. and fell to the Persians in 539, he said.

Radi added that the museum's archeological mission also discovered statues representing religious practices during that period, in addition to a network to discharge rainwater and waste water designed magnificently and could be compared to the current developed discharging tunnels.

Diwaniya lies 180 km south of the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

post-election blues and the root of bitterness

the malaysian elections 2008 has thrown up a lot of surprises. one that tickles me is the outburst of the out-going mentri besar [state minister] of perlis state (gone by now!) shahidan who insisted that he was the legitimate MB appointed by the prime minister. his outburst is marked in bold in the newspaper report below. note the language used - rather strong language, all for the price of retaining the post of mentri besar of the smallest state in malaysia.

now that mohd sabu has been sworn in as the new MB by the raja of perlis (and the prime minister did a 180 degrees turn around to support the raja's stand!), where is shahidan? he did not turn up at the swearing in of the new MB (sore loser!) although he did make a remark that he will support the new MB whoever he will be blah blah. by not turning up, not only did he not pay respects to the new MB, he threw his tantrum in the face of the raja of perlis! what will be the repercussions for him? only time will reveal.

i will be preaching a sermon in 2 week's time at canaan baptist church bukit jalil on the topic 'the root of bitterness' based on hebrews 12:15. i will definitely be quoting the example of shahidan to illustrate how bitterness is like a root that grows deep into our lives, feeding and nourishing itself on our grudges, pented-up emotions and frustrations, and eventually surfacing in the form of anger and outbursts.


PERLIS MB SAGA: Shahidan insists he has PM's mandate to be MB, rebukes successor
By : Hamidah Atan and Deborah Loh


Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim has insisted he had been given the mandate by Barisan Nasional chairman and Umno president Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to continue becoming the Perlis Mentri Besar.

Shahidan claimed the "letter of mandate" given to him by the prime minister requested the Raja of Perlis to appoint him to lead the state.

"I have the letter but if Tuanku does not want to appoint me because the Ruler has confidence in other people and there are laws allowing him to do so, well, that is his prerogative and right. I have 120 days and who ever is sworn in apart from me, he can be regarded as going against the PM's order and an opposition. We will see what to do next as it is the people who has chosen the BN to lead the state, not individual.

"BN wins in Perlis, so BN will lead the state. And if that person accepts to be sworn in, that means he does not support me and also the prime minister. He is an opposition."
Shahidan was responding to met after performing his Friday prayer at the Putra Mosque here. Deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Putrajaya MP Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor also performed their Friday prayers there.

Earlier, about 90 Umno supporters, wearing Umno Perlis t-shirts, were seen arriving at the mosque in two buses about 11am. An hour later, four more buses with about 200 Putra Umno members, arrived. Police managed to control the crowd.

Putra Umno secretariat head, Mohd Farid Hassan, who led the group, said they came to express their undivided support for the prime minister.

Shahidan said the supporters came to express their support to the prime minister, and not him. "They are here to visit Putrajaya and not to support me but Pak Lah."

Shahidan admitted that until yesterday, he had not received anything from the palace.

"Until now, there is nothing forthcoming (from the palace) but as I have said earlier, I have been given the mandate by the BN chairman to lead Perlis. If there are other people who agree to be appointed to the (MB) post, they are not BN."

Shahidan also said he was in the dark as to when the swearing-in ceremony would be held. He, however, said there were "dalang" (masterminds), whom he described as `munafik', who had poisoned the palace.

"Don't ever get near to these people because the Al-Mighty Allah will throw them into the hell."

Asked whether he would meet Abdullah, Shahidan said he did not know. However, less than an hour after saying so, he was seen entering the Prime Minister's Department in his BMW with plate number RG12.

for other stories, see below links:

theological reflection and analysis on the Bible, crisis and catastrophe

An invitation from WCC's new Global Platform for theological reflection and analysis

The 2008 theme for the WCC Global Platform on theological reflection and analysis is theological reflection on The Bible, Crisis and Catastrophe. We invite your participation in the process and ask you to put us in contact with those already involved in doing theological reflection relating to the theme.

Theological reflection on The Bible, Crisis and Catastrophe was chosen by the Global Platform Core Group for a variety of reasons. One of the things we learnt from the 2007 Global Platform process was that simply adding Biblical texts to social/political/economic analysis was not an adequate way of doing theological reflection on the issue. However, the main motivation was the recognition that in diverse issues such as Christian Zionism, climate change and HIV/AIDS, the Bible has been used by some Christians to deepen or deny problems. At the same time, Christians who are working for peace and justice in the Middle East and for changes in individual and collective attitudes and behaviour in response to climate change and HIV/AIDS may also be selective and partial in the use of the Bible.

The sharp focus of the Global Platform will be theological reflection on the use of the Bible. The three presenting issues - Christian Zionism, climate change and HIV/AIDS – each raise this concern in different ways. The WCC is or will be undertaking programmatic work in each of these areas so the Global Platform theme will be complementary and interactive with this ongoing work.

The process of the 2008 Global Platform will build on our experience in 2007. We have set up a space for sharing insights and entering into discussion.

We will be inviting a representative group to reflect on their own experience of theological reflection around the theme and on what has been shared through the web space, 29 September – 1 October 2008.

The Global Platform process will draw on work already undertaken through the WCC. In particular, the Faith and Order text A Treasure in Earthen Vessels: An Instrument for an Ecumenical Reflection on Hermeneutics offers us some hermeneutical foundations. It can be found here.

In order for the Global Platform to work, we need your participation through sharing theological reflections on the theme or putting us in touch with others. If you can help us, please use the discussion space or contact We look forward to your involvement.

Simon Oxley
Programme Executive
World Council of Churches

Visit the Global Platform for Theology and Analysis webpage:

Monday, 17 March 2008

here we go again

Kedah official papers missing
Posted by Raja Petra
Monday, 17 March 2008

All documents from the offices of the Mentri Besar and executive councillors in Kedah have gone missing.

The PAS-led government which took office after 12th general election on March 8 will lodge a police report based on the findings of an internal investigation.

Mentri Besar Azizan Abdul Razak has appointed state executive councillor Phahrolrazi Zawawi to investigate the case of the missing documents.

“Phahrolrazi will investigate what happened.

“I do not want to accuse people without proof,” said Azizan who found that the Mentri Besar’s office was void of documents after the swearing-in ceremony last Sunday.

The newly appointed executive councillors, who were sworn in on Wednesday, found out the next day that their offices were also empty.

“There is not a single paper left in all the offices. We view this very seriously because the documents belong to the executive council, not to any individual,” said Phahrolrazi.

He said most of the documents were classified.

“We are questioning the government officers on duty. No one has a right to transfer the documents without permission,” he said.

Phahrolrazi said the former executive councillors did not have the right to enter the offices without permission.

“We need the minutes of the meetings to check the progress of projects and other matters that were discussed at the executive council meetings,” he said. - THE STAR