Archaeologists from Tel Aviv university, who were investigating the date when camels first appeared in Israel discovered something interesting. Here is the gist:
Now Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef and Dr. Lidar Sapir-Hen of Tel Aviv University’sDepartment of Archaeology and Near Eastern Cultures have used radiocarbon dating to pinpoint the moment when domesticated camels arrived in the southern Levant, pushing the estimate from the 12th to the 9th century BCE. The findings, published recently in the journal Tel Aviv, further emphasize the disagreements between Biblical texts and verifiable history, and define a turning point in Israel’s engagement with the rest of the world.[Finding Israel’s First Camels]
This is interesting because the Genesis mentions the camels but those events in the Genesis, according to this new evidence happened before the camels arrived on the scene. For example, among the living beings that Abraham acquired, there were sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels. There are further mentions of a servant going from Northwest Mesopotamia to the town of Nahor on camels, providing water and food to the camels and an explanation of why one should not eat a camel.
If camels were not present in Israel while these events supposedly happened, then how did it appear in the text? There are two possible explanations: (1) The events happened not in an earlier period, but later after the camels appeared or (2) The events happened in the earlier period, but was written down in a much later period by scribes when camels were also present and camels were back projected to earlier events.
The New York Times had an exchange with an expert who suggested this answer
“One should be careful not to rush to the conclusion that the new archaeological findings automatically deny any historical value from the biblical stories,” Dr. Mizrahi said in an email. “Rather, they established that these traditions were indeed reformulated in relatively late periods after camels had been integrated into the Near Eastern economic system. But this does not mean that these very traditions cannot capture other details that have an older historical background.”
Moreover, for anyone who grew up with Sunday school images of the Three Wise Men from the East arriving astride camels at the manger in Bethlehem, whatever uncertainties there may be of that story, at least one thing is clear: By then the camel in the service of human life was no longer an anachronism.
There was no dissenting voice here; there was no scholar arguing against the historicity of the events. Compare that with the response in The Guardian. This also has to be contrasted with the relation between another animal and another text. The Rig Veda uses the word ashva over two hundred times, and according to some, horses arrived with the invading Aryans following the decline of the Indus-Saraswati civilization. Thus the Vedic culture could have occurred only after the arrival of the Indo-European speakers to North-West India. According to Wendy Doniger in The Hindus, “No Indus horse whinnied in the night. Knowing how important horses are in the Vedas, we may deduce that there was little or no Vedic input into the civilization of the Indus Valley or, correspondingly, that there was little input from the IVC into the civilization of the Rig Veda.”
Most of this argument has been analyzed by Michel Danino and found to be suspect. Various scholars — linguists, archaeologists and historians — are proposing a higher chronology now. That debate is one with no end in sight. But will any scholar stick out his head and say that based on the evidence from Saraswati, the Vedas were composed much earlier than we thought when ashva was not around, but it may have been altered later and the ashva was added. If you do that the Wendytva proponents will be up in arms.
In 1621, an Angolan named Antonio was captured by an enemy tribe and sold to an Arab merchant who eventually sold him to the Virginia Company. The company was chartered in 1606 by King James to grab land in Virginia and propagate Christianity and it was the Virginia Company that established the Jamestown colony. It was during the initial settlement of Jamestown that the myth of John Smith and Pocahontas was created. After the initial hiccups, where they had to resort to cannibalism, the colony had survived.
In Virginia, Antonio worked as an indentured laborer and after a period of time — after he had paid off his dues — he was freed. His wife, Mary, too was freed and as was normal for free indentured people, granted land. Thus, 20 years after he arrived in Virginia, he took the name Anthony Johnson and became the owner of a 250 acre farm with his own servants. Thus an African man becoming a landlord himself may look unusual, it was not odd because slavery was not codified during this period. Though African slaves were present in Jamestown few years at least a decade after its founding, people like Anthony Johnson could buy their freedom and become property owners.
During this period, there was not much of a difference between the White indentured servants and Africans; the difference between slavery and indentured servitude was fuzzy. The slaves and servants would revolt and run away together. Initially the colonies had more indentured servants consisting of poor English folks who were willing to risk everything for a prosperous life. Though the Africans formed less than 5% of the population in Virginia, they were more balanced in gender and age while the indentured Whites were mostly male. The Africans had families and since there was no ban on interracial marriage, free blacks even married Englishwomen. They were also able to court to settle disputes. In this early phase, Virginia was a society built by slaves and servants, but it was not a slave society.
By the 1660s, there was a demographic shift. There was a decline in servant population. The mortality rate began to drop and the White population started increasing and more African slaves were required. According to the Slave Trade voyages database, while Virginia imported a hundred slaves from Africa in the period 1628 – 1650, that number increased to 4754 in the fifty year period after that. To concentrate the powers among the landowners, only the landed were allowed to vote. In one instance, one governor even banned general elections for 15 years.
There were two events that happened which caused a dramatic shift in how the slaves and servants were viewed. The first was passing of the Enactment of Hereditary Slavery Law Virginia in 1662 and the second, the Bacon rebellion of 1676.
Under English law, a child received his or her status from the father. The new colonial law of 1662 made the child of an enslaved mother also a slave for life. Thus this race making piece of legislation ensured that reproductive capacity of the African women was used to feed into the slave system. Slavery was thus codified on the woman’s body. This also made sure that even if the father was one of the English slave owners, their child would still be a slave.
The rebellion of Nathaniel Bacon started when he wanted a commission to fight the native Americans to kill them and drive them off the land. The governor declared him a rebel, but Bacon was resourceful. He built an army with slaves and servants and plundered the region. They took control over Jamestown and burned it to the ground. The rebellion had a surprise ending when Bacon died of dysentery and the armed vessels returned regaining control. This incident showed Virginia’s elite that the slaves were a politically unstable and a dangerous force.
Soon the slave code was enforced by singling out people of African descent from the Christian white servants. Free blacks were stripped off their rights and the rights to marriage. A master had the right to “correct” a slave, and if the slave died during the “correction” process, he would be acquitted. A similar experiment was carried in the English colony of Barbados earlier and the concept of Whiteness and Blackness had been introduced. Due to similar changes, the slave category was codified into law and by the first quarter of the 18th century, Virginia had become a society of slaves.
(Based on the lectures of Prof Stephanie McCurry, University of Pennsylvania for the course History of the Slave South at Coursera)
So far it was believed that the Catholic Church was against fascism during the 20s and 30s, when Mussolini came to power in Italy. Newly revealed documents state otherwise. NPR had an interview with David Kertzer, the author of the new book The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europeand here are some interesting points from the transcript.
On the pope’s interest in allying with Mussolini
The popes had seen the Italian government as enemies, basically. They had rejected the notion of the separation of church and state, they had lost their privileged position in society, and they had always called that system illegitimate. Pius XI at least began to see the possibility that Mussolini might be the person sent by God — the man of providence — as he would later refer to him … who would reverse all of that, who would end the separation of church and state, restore many of the prerogatives of the church and at the same time, as the Pope was very worried about the rising socialist movement … saw Mussolini as the man who was the best bet, perhaps, to prevent a socialist takeover of Italy.
On what the church got out of this alliance
The church got financial benefits, considerable payments by the state to the Catholic clergy. … They got, for example, as the fascists were forming fascist youth groups, which millions of youth in Italy were a part of in those years, the church was given chaplains to all the local chapters of the fascist youth groups so that they were able to influence the youth, which was very important to them. They also got as part of the Concordat, the fascist imposition of teaching religion in elementary schools, which was one of the first things Mussolini did to ingratiate himself when he came to power — to extend that to secondary schools as well so that all the school children in Italy were taught Catholic religion in their school.
Since it is Christmas time, the celebration of two important pagan festivals appropriated by Christianity, it is interesting to read Bernard Cornwells’s article at Omnivoracious on how Christianity spread through Europe.
One answer is that Christianity proved more profitable. There is a telling story about King Edwin of Northumbria, a powerful pagan who ruled what is now northern England and southern Scotland in the 7th Century. He probably worshipped the Norse gods like Thor and Woden, but at some point he encountered a Christian missionary who suggested that success in war and material prosperity would follow a conversion. Edwin put that to the test and god came through with a battlefield triumph and massive amounts of plunder. The king’s chief pagan priest told Edwin that the old gods had never shown such favor and that Northumbria should therefore convert, which it duly did. The story echoes the experience of Constantine, the Roman Emperor who converted because the Christian god gave him victory over Maxentius. It is a common enough tale. In the early 10th Century a Viking named Hrolf took land in what is now Normandy and the treaty confirming his possession insisted he became a Christian. ‘Paris,’ Henry IV of France declared when he changed from Protestant to Catholic, ‘is worth a mass.’ The Duchy of Normandy (which led to the throne of England) proved well worth a mass too.[Bernard Cornwell, Author of “The Pagan Lord,” Muses on the Path to Christianity]
A week or so later, a group of cardinals will enter a secret conclave to elect the next head of the Catholic church. TV cameras will be focused on a chimney in the Vatican and the world will be forced to watch the color of smoke that appears. This time, the election is interesting because of the way Pope Benedict departed from the office and also due to the controversies such as the child sex abuse, mismanagement at the Vatican bank, the leaking of secret church documents. As the cardinals are Googling each other and meeting in private apartments and restaurant backrooms, while scandals and intrigue heat up, people are petitioning for the removal of certain cardinals from the conclave.
In 1492 CE, there was an interesting papal election; this was the time of Leonardo da Vinci and Niccolò Machiavelli. It was the year in which Christopher Columbus set off on his voyage to discover Asia and it was during this newly elected pope’s time that Vasco da Gama reached Calicut. The French-German TV series Borgia had two episodes devoted to what exactly happened inside the Sistine Chapel and the fictional depiction showed that the whole process had no sanctity and simply was a medieval version of The House of Cards played in the name of a religion. Deals were made, money was transferred, forged documents were presented and even army was summoned, all while the cardinals were holed up in a chapel after taking an oath not to communicate with the external world.
The person who desperately wanted to become the pope was Roberto Borgia (pronounced Borja), the same person who sent Madonna Damiata to investigate a murder in The Malice of Fortune. Though he was not a favorite, he was sure with that the right amount of cunning he could pull it off. During this period, when the worst insult consisted of accusing one of being a Muslim or Jew, there was no unified Italy, but it was divided into a number of warring city-states, kingdoms and duchies and the election of the pope consisted of finding the balance between those battles. Besides the local politics, the relation between Portugal, Spain and France added more spice in the election.
As Borgia enters the conclave, under an oath not to have any contact with the outside world, he he sure of six votes, but needs fourteen to win. But once the doors are closed, the cardinals start bickering over a new oath the pope elected should take. Since the church is rotten to the core and members could buy positions in the Curia, they want to limit that practice. But some members oppose; they don’t want the Vicar of Christ to take man made oaths, but instead want the oath to be non-binding. Once that is resolved, Borgia approaches the Portuguese cardinal and uses his Spanish origins to bargain. Since they both are the non-Italians in the group, he proposes that they unite.
After the first round of voting, Borgia receives just the six votes he expected. He tries to convince a cardinal who received one vote (his own) to support him, but he calls Borgia a whore. The next day, a letter in which Pope Pius rebuked Borgia for attending an orgy, surfaces. As all attention turns to him, Borgia turns the table on his accuser. The accuser had supported Borgia in his two previous attempts to become pope and on those two occasions, he did not bring up the letter. Hence this had to be a forgery. While it calms the proceedings, it reduces his supporters by one.
The next day another letter surfaces which alleges that the King of France had paid 200,000 ducats to one of the cardinals to buy off the election. It also accuses that the forged letter against Borgia was created using French money. Accusations go back with cries of “liar” and “hypocrite”. A young cardinal, who is on his first conclave, wonders why letters are being smuggled in against all rules. The vote count following all this reduces Borgia’s count to four and it looks as if he is on his way out.
Borgia starts negotiating directly with potential supporters. When he promises money, one of them retorts that his opponent as promised double the amount and if they go back and forth of money, all money in Rome would be insufficient for the counter offers. Then Borgia offers him the position of Vice-Chancellor, a position he currently holds in addition to the coins. By the third day, the cardinals are offered only one whole meal a day and all of them who are used to a lavish lifestyle cannot take it. Borgia uses this opportunity to smuggle in a great meal. He also promises an abbey for one cardinal, a church for another and a harbor for the third. He even promises to banish his nephews and niece (actually his children) so that they do not become competitors to the cardinals. A cardinal from Florence was worried about the power of the Medici and Borgia promises him that if he became pope he would crush that family. In the next round of voting, his count increases to ten.
One of the losing cardinals sends a message to the king of Naples to bring his army to Rome, hoping that force would help clear the indecision. As a battle gets underway outside the, the cardinals decide that they will not suspend the conclave till the pope is chosen. The cardinal who summoned the army apologizes for his mistake and asks his supporters to vote for Borgia’s opponent as he thinks Borgia is not a Catholic, but a Spanish Jew who converted. But by the next vote, Borgia’s tally increases to 12 and his opponent to 13. The one who gets 14 wins and it becomes critical for Borgia to get there by any means for else he will have to flee to Spain.
In the final act, he negotiates directly with his competitor. He claims that he is a Roman and is concerned about reforming the church than about the politics between Milan, Naples and Florence. When that does not work, he offers the office of the Vice Chancellor. As bribery and flattery fails, Borgia takes the final weapon in his arsenal; he produces a document which alleges that the opponent’s family has Muslim blood in it. This accusation, Borgia threatens, is sufficient to put him out of business forever. The opponent succumbs and accepts the position of Vice Chancellor and the deal is closed. The next day when the votes are counted, Borgia gets 14 votes and he yells, “I am the Vicar of Christ!”
The politics of 2013 is definitely not going to involve calling armies or passing silver coins, but the Vatican thinks the leaks of certain reports have been done to influence the election of the pope. In 1492 election, theological views were never discussed, but for the coming election, it is expected that a conservative pope will be elected because Benedict has filled the positions with people who align with his conservatism. This means that the Church’s position on homosexuality and birth control will not change. What is same from 1492 is this: even though the growth of the church has been outside Europe in the past century, the electoral college is Eurocentric. We will not know what exactly happens inside the conclave, but one can follow certain blogs and get a sense of the events.
Recently Karen King of Harvard Divinity School made public a a fourth century papyrus which contains the phrase, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …’ ” followed by “she will be able to be my disciple.” This has triggered a debate on if this means Jesus was really married, on if the papyrus is fake and what not.
The provenance of the papyrus is mysterious. It came from an anonymous collector who acquired it in the 60s from Communist East Germany. The fragment itself is quite small
The fragment is some four centimeters tall and eight centimeters wide. Its rough edges suggest that it had been cut out of a larger manuscript; some dealers, keener on profit than preservation, will dice up texts for maximum return. The presence of writing on both sides convinced the scholars that it was part of a codex—or book—rather than a scroll. [The Inside Story of a Controversial New Text About Jesus]
There is one argument which goes that this is a fake because the writing seem to be similar to the ones in The Gospel of Thomas, a Gnostic gospel discovered in Nag Hammadi. There is also another argument that even though the papyrus itself could be old, the ink may not be. Harvard University journal itself says that the research is unverified.
That said, the appearance of the papyrus has produced lots of back and forth which gives us a glimpse of the Jesus movement in the early periods. For example, the wife of Jesus theory is not something new, but something which has existed in other texts as well.
But let’s keep in mind that we actually already have a text that mentions Jesus’ wife. It is the Gospel of Philip. We already know that there were some early Christians, in particular the Valentinian Gnostics, who taught that Mary Magdalene was Jesus’ consort or wife. They wrote about it in the Gospel of Philip.
The new gospel fragment supports this Valentinian picture. If it turns out to be an authentic gospel fragment from antiquity, it likely came from a page of yet another Valentinian gospel that contained sayings of Jesus. Valentinian Christians were very prolific and they preserved an entire sayings tradition of counter-memories that supported their creative metaphysical outlook and Gnostic spirituality [Did Jesus have a wife?]
Smithsonian has a long backstory of the papyrus. From that:
Though King makes no claims for the value of the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” as, well, a marriage certificate, she says it “puts into greater question the assumption that Jesus wasn’t married, which has equally no evidence,” she told me. It casts doubt “on the whole Catholic claim of a celibate priesthood based on Jesus’ celibacy. They always say, ‘This is the tradition, this is the tradition.’ Now we see that this alternative tradition has been silenced.”
“What this shows,” she continued, “is that there were early Christians for whom that was simply not the case, who could understand indeed that sexual union in marriage could be an imitation of God’s creativity and generativity and it could be spiritually proper and appropriate.”
In her paper, King speculates that the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” may have been tossed on the garbage heap not because the papyrus was worn or damaged, but “because the ideas it contained flowed so strongly against the ascetic currents of the tides in which Christian practices and understandings of marriage and sexual intercourse were surging.”[The Inside Story of a Controversial New Text About Jesus]
(Credits: Image via Wikipedia)
Isabella was not being magnanimous by partially financing Columbus’ first voyage. She had no other option. The wars against the Moors had bankrupt the empire and they had to find new lands to plunder. In the movie, Isabella comes across as this wise motherly figure which she was not. One important event, which happened few months before Columbus’ voyage and not shown in the movie is Isabella’s expulsion of Jews from Spain by the Alhambra Decree and the forced conversion of the Muslims of Granada.[1492: Conquest of Paradise]
By torturing and expelling people of other faiths, Isabella was simply acting on the guidelines set by Pope Gregory, who had sanctioned the Inquisition as a valid form of religious conversion technique. Now a new book God’s Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World looks at the various Inquisitions that happened in history. Fresh Air had an interview with the author.
In the 13th century, after seeing that people were believing what they liked and not what was being preached, the Pope decided to act. Recognizing that this disobedience had political significance as well, Dominicans were asked to go out and use what Dick Cheney would have called “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques”, first on Cathars who lived in the South of France.
The use of torture was approved by the Pope in 1252 CE and the torturers believed that they were saving souls. Funeral pyres were lit and the heretics were asked to confess. If they did not comply, they were burned. If they confessed, they were still burned, because the soul would still go to heaven. If you have suffered through the first fifteen minutes of Season of the Witch, you can see how this works
Manuals were written and it compares with the modern army manuals. As people were tortured, their responses were recorded verbatim. And that was just the first Inquisition. By the time of the second Inquisition started by Isabella and Ferdinand, the victims included Jews and Muslims. Elaborate public spectacles were planned; diplomatic core and nobility were invited in the 15th century version of the Taliban football stadium.
The interview ends by talking about the third Inquisition which was conducted against the Protestants. By then the printing was common and book banning, burning and censhorship was added to the list. I have not read the book yet, but in the interview there was no mention of the Goan Inquisition (see Guardian of the Dawn).
As new nations form, an important issue is that of the heritage sites. This is especially important in Israel-Palestine area where everyone except people of Indic religions seem to have a stake.
“In any political arrangement, one side will have control of equities of the other,” Seidemann emphasised. “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not only a conflict of territory but of identity and narratives, with archaeology and cultural heritage the physical embodiments of the narratives. Addressing these issues is critical for the stability of Israelis and Palestinians.” [Israel and Palestine: who owns what?]
As the vote for Palestinian statehood is coming up in September, there is lot of activity in the ground in West Bank.
Israeli officials have argued that heritage sites with Jewish historical connection must remain under Israeli sovereignty. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated that position last year, after Unesco ruled that, despite being venerated by Jews, Christians and Muslims, heritage sites in Bethlehem and Hebron are Palestinian (The Art Newspaper, December 2010, p25). He denounced the decision as “absurd”, calling it “an attempt to disconnect the nation of Israel from its heritage.”
Palestinians counter that location, not religious identification, determines sovereignty of a site. “Palestinians are proud to host a diversity of cultural heritage which is also important to the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths. It is Palestinian policy to respect and apply international laws concerning cultural property and heritage using a professional approach to preserve and protect the sites based on geographic location,” said Gabriel Fahel, the legal adviser on archaeology to the PLO’s Negotiations Support Unit (which closed last month). He also charged Israel with violating international treaties it has signed by excavating in the West Bank and removing Palestinian cultural property.[Israel and Palestine: who owns what?]
Since none of these groups give up easily, this is going to be an interesting debate.
On October 30, 1938, Orson Welles made his famous War of the Worlds broadcast. Since it was presented as a series of news bulletins, listeners thought that an actual alien invasion was in progress. People panicked. According to Annie Jacobsen, author of the new book Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base, this panic was observed with amusement by Stalin and Hitler.
Ms. JACOBSEN: When the Orson Welles radio broadcast “The War of the Worlds” aired in 1938, people on the East Coast actually took actions based on their belief that Martians had landed in New Jersey and were attacking. And this fascinated the American military – I source all this in my book – and led to a lot of behind-the-scenes thinking about what it meant that American citizens could be so moved by something that was fictional – that was science fiction. And across the pond, Hitler also paid attention to “The War of the Worlds.” He referenced it in a speech. And according to my source, Stalin also paid attention to “The War of the Worlds” and was fascinated by American susceptibility toward science fiction. And so his plan, according to my source, was to create panic in the United States with this belief that a UFO had landed with aliens inside of it.[Transcript: Area 51 ‘Uncensored’: Was It UFOs Or The USSR?]
Replace Science Fiction with religion and things are no different in 2011. Some nut job in Oakland, CA announced that today would be the end of the world and there are thousands who are taking it seriously. A
biblical event 19th century invention known as rapture, when Jesus Christ returns to take his saints and leave us bloggers and idolators to live peacefully on earth, was to happen, but apparently did not. But in United States –
Thousands of people around the country have spent the last few days taking to the streets and saying final goodbyes before Saturday, Judgment Day, when they expect to be absorbed into heaven in a process known as the rapture. Nonbelievers, they hold, will be left behind to perish along with the world over the next five months. With their doomsday T-shirts, placards and leaflets, followers — often clutching Bibles — are typically viewed as harmless proselytizers from outside mainstream religion. But their convictions have frequently created the most tension within their own families, particularly with relatives whose main concern about the weekend is whether it will rain.[Make My Bed? But You Say the World’s Ending]
So who started this hoax, which is the top news on Google right now?
Ms. Douglas and other believers subscribe to the prophecy of Harold Camping, a civil engineer turned self-taught biblical scholar whose doomsday scenario — broadcast on his Family Radio network — predicts a May 21, 2011, Judgment Day. On that day, arrived at through a series of Bible-based calculations that assume the world will end exactly 7,000 years after Noah’s flood, believers are to be transported up to heaven as a worldwide earthquake strikes. Nonbelievers will endure five months of plagues, quakes, wars, famine and general torment before the planet’s total destruction in October[Make My Bed? But You Say the World’s Ending]
Even Oprah was using the term in her final speech
Oprah gave her “ugly-cry” face and said “I’ve never experienced anything like this and I say once again thank you for taking me to a place that’s beyond joyous. I’m going to have to process it and look at it on tape to see what actually happened here. It feels like the rapture, so thank you all for that!”[Everybody Was at the Final Taping of Oprah]
Is this the first time such rapture craziness has happened? No, apparently rapture was supposed to happen in 1831, 1844, 1914, 1918, 1925, 1942, 1981, 1988, 1989, 1992, 1993, 1994, and now finally 2011. Now lets say for some reason, like for example, I don’t know, there is no movie called Return of Jesus Christ, rapture does not happen today, it can happen in 2060. The 2060 date cannot be absolutely, postively wrong because it was calculated by none other than Sir Isaac Newton based on the book of Daniel.