Friday, September 29, 2006

Paleo-Hebrew Script Hypothesis

Disclaimer: everything that follows stands likely to be completely baseless...

Where did the paleo-Hebrew script found in the DSS come from? What is its purpose? What does the form of the script itself communicate historically?

Contrary to what I previously imagined, the paleo-Hebrew of the DSS is not an ancient version of the Hebrew script. The pre-exilic script--specifically the script originating from Iron Age II as witnessed in numerous places such as the Siloam inscription and LMLK seals/seal impressions--is completely different. This script is referred to as Old Hebrew or Phoenician. Post-exilic Jews abandoned this script for the square Aramaic script used to this day. But at some point, despite this universal abandonment of the Old Hebrew and acceptance of the Aramaic, entire scrolls of the Hebrew bible were written in what some have called an "archaizing" script--a script that maintains attributes of the square Aramaic while reflecting the ancient forms of Old Hebrew (so-called paleo-Hebrew). Other scrolls deviated from the standard script in favor of this paleo-Hebrew only when it came to the divine name.

Why change the common script to reflect ancient forms instead of going back to Old Hebrew? What is so unique that this script should be the primary choice for the most holy name of God in documents that clearly would not otherwise care about it? What would cause a scribe to copy an entire scroll in paleo-Hebrew?

Apparently, the Greek of the NT was once considered a unique script, perhaps a holy or spiritual script, which only appeared in the NT. Now we know that it is simply a much more vulgarized form of the classical Greek (so I hear). What if the paleo-Hebrew script served a similar purpose? What if the form of the script was meant to communicate a particular world-view? What if it was meant to be a kind of holy script looking forward to or proclaiming the fulfillment of the eschatalogical hopes of some in the post-exilic period--that the exile was finally ending, that the gentiles were finally being destroyed, that Yahweh was returning to Jerusalem?

The changing of the square script to reflect the Old Hebrew could be seen as an attempt to show that the former days of Yahweh's dominion in which a similar script was used were returning or being established. The use of the script for only the divine name in several documents suggests to me that it was meant for the place of honor and royalty--even if the scribes knew the season was not immediately upon them. Reasons to change the script and thus forecast the coming kingdom of Israel's god could be found in many places, such as the book of Daniel, which told of a series of kingdoms that would precede the kingdom formed by non-human hands. Such a script need not be an official script, it could be appropriated by various sectarian groups and used toward their own eschatalogical ends. Scribes could have used it in the Hasmonean or Herodian periods to help authenticate the supremacy and divine intent of the rule, which could also be a reason for its rejection among the common populace and, thus, a relatively short lifespan.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

ILM trusts Linux

Old news, but still cool news...

When it comes to one of the greatest special effects outfits in the business, it's not Microsoft or Apple, but Linux that ILM trusts to get the job done and get it done better than anyone else. Star Wars Episode II and Episode III depended on linux computers.

"The old system is so slow that the clones firing lasers appear to be throwing javelins. We've seen about a five times speed improvement with Linux, which is appreciated! I'd say Linux is one of the most successful efforts we've had."
--Robert Weaver, sequence superviser, ILM

"Due to the speed of Linux, for the first time in my life, 15 years in the business, I'm starting to feel some RSI [repetitive strain injury]'', says Technical Director Robert Weaver. ``Usually you are working the machine, but Linux is so fast it can overwork you.'' Weaver has to remember to take breaks because with Linux he doesn't get any breaks waiting for the machine anymore.
--The Computers of ILM

Sunday, September 24, 2006

God Is Not A Man

God is not a man, that he should lie, neither a son of man, that he should repent.
--Numbers 23:19a, ASV
And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent for he is not a man that she should repent.
--1 Sam 15:29, ASV
These two verses are interesting in that they virtually reproduce the other. Unlike Samuel, Numbers clearly follows the structure of a poetic parallelism:

A1 - God is not a man
B1 - that he should lie
A2 - neither a son of man
B2 - that he should repent

Theologically, we could say that God cannot lie because to do so would be to go against his own character. But this would ignore a greater depth of meaning. Textually, the Samuel passage also parallels Numbers in terms of narrative. Like the prophet Balaam speaking to king Balak, the prophet Samuel speaks to king Saul. Both sayings are unpleasant to the hearers. Both are in context of Yahweh's promise to establish Israel in the Promised Land. In the first, Balak was trying to stand in the way of this promise by having Israel cursed. In the second, Saul was standing in the way by disobeying the commands of God.

A better understanding of the shared verse then is that unlike men who fail to fulfill the words they place in contract (change their mind) or who fraudulently agree to something without any interest in keeping that agreement from the beginning (lie), Yahweh is faithful to his covenantal promises. The fact that Saul is removed and David set up in his place or that Balaam's curse is turned to blessing are evidences in time and history that validate Yahweh's claim about himself and serve as reminders that just as Yahweh was faithful to his covenant then, so we can be confident he will show himself faithful again.

Friday, September 22, 2006

New Caul Album (Free Download)

Those who love ambient, dark ambient, or neofolk can say who Caul is, but can they say who God is without putting him in a box? How can a time-bound man with his limited reason understand or describe Him Whom is timeless and infinite? Caul's latest offering, free to download from Dark Winter, is a musical expression of this apophatic theology. Here in the spiritual-sonicscape of Apophasis is no doctrinal statement, but mystery, question, awe, and worship.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Modern Bible Misprints

Even though the printing press has enabled us to copy texts much more faithfully than ancient scribes could achieve, even technology perpetrates mistakes...
Thou shalt commit adultery.
--The "Wicked" Bible, 1631

The fool hath said in his heart there is a God.
--The "Fool" Bible, 1763

Blessed are the placemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.
--The "Placemakers" Bible, Geneva Bible, 1562
For more side-splitting printing bloopers from the holy book, read this.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Daniel's Prince of Persia

Some people have said the the Prince of Persia in Daniel is the Satan. Well, if the oldest extant copy of the relevant portion of the book of Daniel is correct, then unless the Satan is several people, this interpretation is without literarary support.
The princes of the kingdom of Persia withstood me for twenty-one days; but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, so I remained there with the kingdom of Persia and came to make you understand what is to befall your pepole in the later days. For the vision is for days to come.
--Daniel 10:13-14, 4QDan(c), The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Eisenbrauns Sale

Time again for the leading publisher of scholastic biblical and ANE literature to have their end of the summer/back to school sales special. Last year at this time, I purchased $200 worth of books for half that. And, once again, prices have been cut on many titles by 50%. Peruse the list of available discounted titles here and try not to drool.

Name of God from LXX

And Moses said to God, Behold, I shall go forth to the children of Israel, and shall say to them, The God of our fathers has sent me to you; and they will ask me, What is His name? What shall I say to them? And God spoke to Moses, saying, I am THE BEING. And He said, Thus shall you say to the children of Israel, THE BEING has sent me to you.
--Exodus 3:13-14, AB

Sunday, September 17, 2006

My Ratings for Traditional Proofs of God's Existence

Cosmological Argument = A+
Ontological Argument = D -
Teleological Argument = B -
Moral Argument = A
sensus divinitatis = C -
Pascal's "Wager" = F

Bible Gets Googled

Biiible - bible search and study tool in Google design. Useful?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

By Any Other Name

We're all familiar with the conundrum, why do they call it music video television (MTV) if they don't play music videos? Here's a few more...

Why is it called The History Channel when all they play are shows on World War I, World War II, and veitnam? When was the last time the History Channel played anything unrelated to Western Wars in the last century? Shouldn't it rather be called the War Channel?

Why is it called The Outdoor Channel when all they play are hunting shows? I've never seen anything on hiking, dirt biking, rock climbing, spelunking, or any of a thousands things that could be referred to as "outdoor". All I've seen are the slaughtering of bear, deer, pig, turkey, dove, elk, lion, and moose along with inside looks at the weapons of their destruction. Shouldn't it rather be called the Hunting Channel?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Paul vs Jesus

Some observations...

In many believing environs, the Pauline Epistles seem to be the entire base of Christianity. Those letters that stand out and carry the most weight in any discussion are usually 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans. In a number of cases, I've noticed a disproportionate appeal to and use of these specific texts or the Pauline corpus as a whole compared any other Biblical text or body of texts. Despite the common notion of "interpreting scripture with scripture", theologies, viewpoints, and behaviors are often formed, argued, and defended solely on the basis of a few fragments from Paul. Has anyone else noticed this frequent imbalance?

There seems to be an unsupported presupposition among many believing communities that everything Paul said, simply because he was Paul the Apostle and wrote inspired of the Spirit, aligns perfectly with something Yeshua did or would have said. It is, therefore, not surprising that instead of referring to Christ himself and following him, Christians frequently refer to Paul and follow him. It is assumed that in doing the later, the former is done.

Conversely, there seems to be an unsupported presupposition among many unbelieving communities that Paul controverted, subverted, or otherwise authored a faith substantially different than Yeshua. Therefore, in this view, the observable, grand alignment to Paul alone proves that Christianity is based more on Paul than on Christ. It is assumed that there are many points of departure between the Jesus of history and the Paul of faith.

Not having any of these two presuppositions myself, when presented with something from Paul, I immediately wonder--where did this come from? Did Yeshua say or do anything from which this would coherently and consistently arise? Sometimes the influence of Yeshua's message and witness is obvious... Like, for instance, in Galatians when Paul speaks of sowing and reaping--either to destruction or eternal life. This immediately brings to mind the frequent use by Yeshua of the sowing metaphor in his parables and discourse, which itself was drawn from the prophets. So the question is then how did Paul understand those things and how did he use them in his epistles?

What I would really like to read is a critical-historical book (as opposed to a grammatical-historical so that, hopefully, nothing is presupposed) that shows how much Paul's writing relies on and is a direct outflowing of the works and words of the historical Jesus.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Unraveling Paradigm in OT Scholarship

Where is the arena for progress in OT scholarship? Where can thoughts and arguments go from here?

I just finished reading one of the most intelligent, lucid, and practical surveys in a long time by David Clines in Response to Rolf Rendtorff's "What Happened to the Yahwist? Reflections after Thirty Years". Rendtorff, in his essay (also hosted at the SBL site, here) assessed the dying climate of the Documentary Hypothesis over the past several decades. Many scholars had affectively abandoned the Hypothesis in argument without actually leaving the fold. Since the approach has seemed to reached its end, Rendtorff gave his plea for its open dismissal. Clines responded by evaluating how the system of the sociological and scholastic processes work. The result was a rare eye-opener, forceful in its analysis and answers.
Shocking though it may sound, I believe that the time has long gone when we can discuss questions of Pentateuchal origins as academic questions in their own right. No longer is it the truth or falsity of a particular theory that determines whether it will find favor in the guild. Bad arguments will not be driven out by good arguments. Reason will not be the arbiter.
--Clines, Response to Rolf Rendtorff's "What Happened to the Yahwist? Reflections after Thirty Years"
World-view, desire, experience, and environment trump reason in almost any discussion--whether it's a question of the existence of God, Yeshua's resurrection, evolution versus intelligent design, Bush versus Kerry, or whether we should abandon the Documentary Hypothesis. That's something Positivists won't like hearing--but it needs to be heard. Clines goes on to explain some of the criteria that make or break an argument no matter what it proves or how rational it is or isn't:

1. the power of people and their organizations
2. the power of a theory or perspective itself to convince the masses

I'm suddenly reminded of many things in Christianity bound by the same situation. Trinitarianism, for instance, is powerful not only because big names and big organizations back it up and stomp out those who disagree, but because the idea is so accessable and explicative of the data, though its flaw is clearly seen even by the common man. (The question "how can someone be 100% man and 100% God?" is either explained as being unexplainable or the diversity and oneness of the Three is/are reduced to a metaphor that only shows how far Trinitarianism is from the reality in which those metaphors exist--a crippling failure of the belief that only the blind don't see).

Because the Documentary Hypothesis is so grand a theory and framework, it is better called a world-view or paradigm. People base everything they think and do on world-views or paradigms, which makes them so hard to abandon even if they know it's horribly flawed.
Inevitably, we must expect to be stuck with that old paradigm for a long time; for a paradigm, says Kuhn, is declared invalid only if an alternative candidate is available to take its place.
--Clines, ibid
This is the reason people are coming to the end of the Documentary Hypothesis and still holding on--because there's no grand, unifying theory yet to best it. The current theory may be horribly flawed, but paradigm shifts don't happen when there's nothing to shift into. Even though I can see the holes in Trinitarianism like I'm looking at Swiss cheese, because I haven't yet seen or developed a major, unifying perspective to replace it, all I'm left with are the tired old alternatives or *heresies* from past Christian history that were, perhaps, just as flawed, if not more so.

Therein lies the road of progress in OT scholarship--the way out of the mess and forward into what we can only hope is less of one. Of course, such a way is more dangerous...but there are ways to balance the power.
The physicist Max Planck said: "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."
--Clines, ibid

Friday, September 08, 2006

Laughing at the Housing Bubble

There's a term for those who purchased homes in the last several years while the market was accelerating to its historically unrivaled peak...they're called FBs, Fucked Buyers (or Borrowers). And this is why... Prices were so high, the FBs were forced to borrow substantially more than they could reasonably afford without an exceptionally hot market to sustain it. Now, with the reality of home prices deflating substantially every year for the next two to five years, newer owners will be unable to sell their homes to cover the cost of their mortgage. They are likely to hold out for awhile, especially in those areas that have been the most volatile (like here in Los Angeles) trying to get out from the fall without a substantial loss. A few suckers will bite on the sudden price drop and become FBs themselves, but many of the current FBs will lose their homes outright, which then, of course, will saturate the market, driving prices further down.

I'm laughing...and I just can't stop. Not because of the poor FBs out there, but because I watched it the whole way up, patiently sacrificing the quality of my living situation, patiently saving the most I could afford, patiently investing what I saved, so that when prices finally started dropping and dropping hard, I would have accumulated a sizable downpayment. In the next two to three years, I'll reach the point where my downpayment will be 10%-20% of peak prices. A conservative estimation of a drop of 20% in house prices in the next two to three years will thus give me a downpayment of 30-40%. Unlike the FBs, I won't need PMI, I will be able to live--and live reasonably--with my mortgage payments every month, and when I sell at the next bubble growth, I'll make a substantial profit.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Thoughts on Christian Folklore

When I speak of folklore, I do not necessarily speak, as some might suppose, of fiction, myth, superstition, or the like--although these can definitely become part of it. Here I will follow the definition of folklore described by R.M. Dorson in Folklore and the Old Testament by J.R. Porter: "the study of traditional culture, or the unofficial culture, or the folk culture, as opposed to the elite culture." Folklore, therefore, is popular as opposed to official. It is a living thing that changes according to the specific culture, group, or environment in which it is found and the time in which it takes place. This is to be distinguished from that which is orthodox--although it can be influenced by, perpetrate, or become folklore in its own right. It is especially distinguished from that which is professional or scholastic. Folklore will usually have far less in common with the professional or scholastic as it will with the orthodox.

When a Christian sits in a pew, he/she is preparing themself mentally, emotionally, and spiritually for folkloric instruction and initiation. To be part of a church involves taking on and supporting folkloric behavior and thought processes to the same extent that getting one's Master and PhD involves taking on and supporting the professional or scholastic behavior and thought processes. In both situations, when someone approaches a subject according to the agreed behavior pattern or thought system, such a thing is praised and modeled, which reinforces that community. Deviations are corrected or coerced toward standard compliance.

Many Christians move into the professional or scholastic world insofar as orthodoxy extends into it. Orthodoxy provides the means to remain fixed in the folkloric world, while extending oneself out into the professional one when it is comfortable, agreeable, or beneficial to the folkloric one. Rarely, if ever, is the professional or scholastic position the basis of one's behavior pattern or thought system. Rather, one sits securely in the guarded domains of either folklore or orthodoxy.

What happens when one abandons the folkloric base in favor of the scholastic and only the orthodox insofar as it is supported by the scholastic? This is the situation I find myself in. I no longer fit into the folkloric world because I don't operate accordingly and there is little that the folkloric world can do to benefit me since any good it brings would be shaped by its own base and try to incorporate that into my own. If I attended a church service, the pastor would likely teach on some subject related to scripture. The scripture would be interpreted in light of the folklore. Ultimately, the sermon would give information and help only useful to those within a folkloric Christianity. It therefore falls apart and becomes pointless to me. I have found my community or want of it shifting drastically from the folkloric to professional. I crave the food that is fed to the professional. The food fed to the folkloric is almost inedible. Perhaps this is a bit extreme, but it is also deep, serious, and empowering instead of superficial, naive, or dependant.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Gemariah's Seal

Imagine if you were a professional archaeologist legally excavating a site on the grounds of Jerusalem itself and as you dug and sifted, you pulled up from deep inside the ground, in a layer already dated to the fall of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, physical evidence engraved in clay of a person mentioned until that time only in the Bible. Now imagine if that person lived, according to the Bible, at the time of Jerusalem's fall and who, again according to the Bible, was located in that very location where the physical evidence of this very name was found. A pipe dream? More than likely. However, in this case, far from it.

In 1983 while excavating Area G, Stratum 10 of the City of David, Yigal Shiloh found a cache of bulla. Virtually every single name was an unknown historical personage, except for one...Gemariah, the son of Shaphan.
At that time Baruch went into the temple of the Lord. He stood in the entrance of the room of Gemariah the son of Shaphan who had been the royal secretary. That room was in the upper court near the entrance of the New Gate. There, where all the people could hear him, he read from the scroll what Jeremiah had said. Micaiah, who was the son of Gemariah and the grandson of Shaphan, heard Baruch read from the scroll everything the Lord had said.
--Jeremiah 36:10-11
And here he is, straight from his own seal ("belonging to Gemaryahu, son of Shaphan"):

Sunday, September 03, 2006


From teaching myself Hebrew, I'm learning to recognize root words, the three foundational consonants. One root I've become familiar with is M-L-K, which variously translated means king, kingdom, etc. But something curious I stumbled on is the wording of "Angel of the Lord" in the OT. Angel, here, is actually "malak". King is "melek." Both "king" and "angel" share the same root word MLK. So, it seems, based on this relationship, "Angel of the Lord" can be understood to also mean "King Yahweh".

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Comparisons of Yeshua to David - Exorcisms

Exorcism was a major characteristic of Yeshua's kingdom-praxis.

just as...

David and the son of David (Solomon) were known for exorcising demons (1 Samuel 16:14-23; Josephus' Antiquities, Book VIII, 2:5; see also the Exorcism Psalms of 11QPsAp: On Expelling Demons, Trusting the Lord for Protection, The Lord Has Power to Strike Down Demons, Psalm 91).

Friday, September 01, 2006

Comparisons of Yeshua to David - The Three

Yeshua chose three disciples to be his closest confidants, receive special instruction, and exercise his authority and power: Simon Peter, James, and John

just as...

David chose three warriors to be his closest confidants, receive special instruction, and exercise his authority and power: Josheb Basshebeth, Eleazar, and Shammah. (2 Samuel 23:8-11)