Sunday, July 29, 2007

I Belong to the King

This week on Family Radio I heard a song I had never heard before, & its lyrics really riveted my attention for some strange reason:

I belong to the King, I’m a child of His love,
I shall dwell in His palace so fair;
For He tells of its bliss in yon heaven above,
And His children in splendor [alt. "its splendors"] shall share.

I belong to the King, I’m a child of His love,
And he never forsaketh His own;
He will call me some day to His palace above,
I shall dwell by His glorified throne.

I belong to the King, and He loves me, I know,
For His mercy and kindness, so free,
Are unceasingly mine wheresoever I go,
And my Refuge unfailing is He.


I belong to the King, and His promise is sure,
That we all shall be gathered at last
In His kingdom above, by life’s waters so pure,
When this life with its trials is past.


Some sources say the song is also known as "1John 3:1".

A lady named Ida Lillard Reed/Smith (1865-1951) penned the lyrics in 1896, & Joseph Lincoln Hall (1866-1930) composed the original tune (photos available here). Both were Methodists. (Note that some publications attribute the musical arrangement to Maurice A. Clifton [a pseudonym used by Hall] or Shelly Garlock Hamilton.)

Ida was born near Moatsville, West Virginia & died in Arden not too far away; Hall was an honors graduate from the University of Pennsylvania. A cute little coincidence since I lived in Pennsylvania while attending university in West Virginia.

The song of the week should be quite obvious. I was surprised that not a single CD on Amazon contains the song, but it's just as well since I found 2 little MIDI files online that contain the basic melody of a verse & chorus:

53-second version; 1.4kb

46-second version; 3.1kb

G.M. Grena

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Deep in the TIP (p. 3)

The saga continues, I'm pleased to report! Part 1 appeared June 2006; Part 2 in December 2006. Now the June 2007 issue by The Society of Israel Philatelists contains the 3rd installment, the content of which was actually unplanned when I did the initial draft that the editor divided into 3 parts. So what was originally Part 3 will now be Part 4.

The full title is "Digging Deeper into the 1948 Festival Stamps: Part 3 Flying Scroll", & it spans pages 110-2 with 7 photos (not including the one of me). Here's a lo-res snapshot of the first 2 pages:

Section headings:
"First a Quick Update"
"Getting Out of Line!"
"Line 'em Up!"

The editor's computer made a few unauthorized changes to my draft:

1) The caption under my photo should be "Redondo Beach", not "Redondo Beanch" (my fault for not catching this in the PDF preview I was given).

2) The endnotes are numbered 1-5 in the body of the article, but should be 46-50 as they appear on p. 112.

3) The 1st sentence under the Hebrew letters on p. 112 says, "I've underlined in red the relevant letters." However, non-colorblind readers might notice that the underlines are actually in black.

Another problem that I'm to blame for is the omission of a link to Fig. 13 in the article. It should have been mentioned in parentheses after the first sentence in the last paragraph on p. 110.

But minor publication discrepancies aside, this is the first time the margin/gutter lines on these LMLK postage sheets have been formally documented.

Another important milestone in today's blog is that these are the first photos I'm publishing taken with my new camera I bought yesterday. My old camera was a 2 Megapixel; this one's a 10Mp. I'm hoping to learn to use its numerous features throughout the week & discuss it in detail the next time I blog. I also want to chronicle my photography experience over the past 5 years doing LMLK research. But as a preview, here's a full-size section of the photo shown above for the first page of this TIP article--this is right about in the center, & you should be able to see the black margin line that the tip of the red arrow is pointing to:

Song of the week: "Borderline" by Madonna (click the song title to visit Amazon; click here for a 23-second sample; 295kb).

Close runners up: "I Walk the Line" by Johnny Cash, & "Wichita Lineman" by Glen Campbell. I guess I'm just not in a C&W mood today ... although I do find it very, very easy to be true, & I know I need a small vacation!
G.M. Grena

Sunday, July 08, 2007

2007 Jerusalem Forgery Conference

The Biblical Archaeological Society (a.k.a. Hershel Shanks) recently published abstracts & a summary from a conference held earlier this year on artifacts under suspicion of having been faked in some way.

The report revealed some background on Andrew Vaughn's seal research, & how he successfully skirted ASOR's publication policy prior to becoming their executive director:

"He met with various collectors because he wanted to work on their seals. He wanted to see some of the seal impressions on their jar handles. Some of these enabled him to decipher seal impressions from Lachish, Beth Shemesh, Tell el-Nasbeh and elsewhere, inscriptions that had previously been unreadable. He wanted to publish some of his results in BASOR. To do so, he had to jump through various 'hoops.' First, he had to publish the inscriptions somewhere else. Then he could publish his larger, more comprehensive article in BASOR."

To the question about his association with people like me who collect antiquities, Vaughn was vague:

"It depends on each case. ... As scholars, we cannot say that it's not our job to ask ethical and moral questions. We do have to make ethical and moral choices. We're scholars. To separate ourselves from these moral obligations I feel is wrong."

He's dreaming! All scholars don't have the same ethical & moral standards. Some are Christians, some are Jews, some are Catholics, some are Atheists, some are Humanists, some change from one to the other over the course of their career, some make rules up as they go along, etc. According to mainstream science, there is no God. Ethics & morals are abstract philosophical concepts irrelevant to the scientific method. The universe has evolved from nothing & does so with no guidance/purpose. No one is ultimately accountable for their behavior. We're all just animals, an unusual arrangement of molecular material & nothing more. Why should Niels Peter Lemche--a university professor who not only doesn't believe God exists, but doesn't even believe Moses existed--be expected to make any ethical or moral choice? How would someone like Andrew Vaughn or an organization like ASOR enforce such a policy?

I suspect they would do it selectively & modify it over time (as is the case with Evolution science; if all you have are coelacanth fossils confined to particular strata dated to millions of years ago, they became extinct millions of years ago & never lived on Earth with humans ... until someone catches one off the east coast of Africa in 1938), in which case there really is no standard.

What good would such a policy be if it only applied to American Christians & not Copenhagen Minimalists? How would the policy apply to Jews who want to explore their cultural heritage by conducting a scientific excavation on the Temple Mount? How would the policy be enforced when presented with evidence of Muslims destroying artifacts on the Temple Mount?

Vaughn already anticipated such a response by admitting, "The problem is not black and white ... Most of our choices ... will be in the gray area."

With any system of law, there's a gray area. That's why the best social system--the only good one--is one ruled by 1 good king. Only then would such a policy make sense.

"Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, & a King shall reign & prosper, & shall execute judgment & justice on Earth."--Jeremiah 23:5

That will be a fun time to conduct archeological excavations!

Vaughn also quoted Robert Deutsch, who has stated in his books of bullae, "It is simply impossible to fake them. ... All have small cracks and surface corrosion, and under a microscope we see small crystals in the cracks and on damaged edges and surfaces. None of this can be duplicated."

I've noted elsewhere that it's strange that Deutsch has not published photos showing these phenomena with each of the bullae, like I've done for the one I own made by a servant of King Hezekiah.

Again, Vaughn's reaction to Deutsch was ambivalence:

"I have problems when people say it is impossible ... Why couldn’t someone fake these features if the incentives were high enough ... On the other hand, Deutsch is correct that it would be difficult to fake a bulla."

Andy did surprise me though by taking a definitive stand & claiming in outline bullet IV.c.i, "in BAR 28:2 (2002)" [actually 28:4; this entire report published by BAS/HS contained numerous typos, which is editorially disgraceful considering 5+ months have elapsed since the conference] "Robert Deutsch published numerous bullae from the time of Hezekiah ... at least several of these bullae are likely forgeries because of palaeographic inconsistencies with bullae of known provenance and those of unknown provenance."

Then somewhat reiterated in outline bullet IV.c.iii.4, "Several of these bullae exhibit the later forms of the he and the waw. ... These conclusions (if I am correct) indicate that several of these bullae are probable forgeries. These conclusions do not indicate that all of the bullae from the article are forgeries (it is possible, but the known data do not allow me to comment)."

Well, since the abstract doesn't state which ones he believes are fake, I certainly can't comment either beyond wondering how Dr. Vaughn knows these "[fake] bullae exhibit the later forms" rather than being legitimate early specimens of them. I respect both Andrew Vaughn's & Robert Deutsch's expertise, & hope that one or the other will provide details to me, which I'll discuss at that time in another blog entry. My initial reaction is that Andy has a tough sell since he believes the 21 known LMLK seals date to a span of <3 decades, & they contain significant paleographic variations that prompted earlier scholars to date them to a range of nearly 2 centuries (e.g., 750-590 BC by the illustrious W.F. Albright)!

David Noel Freedman, editor of "The Anchor Bible Dictionary", also attended the conference, & I can't resist pointing out a minor disagreement I have with one of his remarks:

"Jacob, Joseph and Jesus are three of the most important figures in the New Testament..."

Few people read this blog, but if more did, it would be interesting to take a poll to see which 3 are really considered the most important. My own list would obviously have Jesus as King of the hill, with Paul the equally obvious choice for 2nd place (Jesus chose him to record the Good News since none of the other apostles had the literary competency to do so in a quality manner), & 3rd place would be Luke (for his role in supporting Paul & recording Acts & the most comprehensive of the 4 Gospels). 4th place would be a tie between John & Peter, equally important but definitely beneath Luke. 5th place would go to the likes of John the Baptist or Mark or Matthew, 6th place would go to Judas (the betrayer) or James (a.k.a., Jacob).

Even for Catholics & others who believe their own efforts will pay their admission into Heaven, James/Jacob might be in the top 3 (he barely makes my Top 10), but certainly not Joseph. He was virtually a nobody in the NT. I sincerely doubt that Prof. Freedman would be able to defend Joseph's inclusion. I wonder if I'll have the guts to ask him about it if I'm fortunate enough to meet him in San Diego at the annual conference in November...

I do agree for the most part with his closing remark, however, in which he refers to both the James ossuary & the Joash tablet:

"We would say that if the inscriptions are fakes, then the information provided hardly adds anything new or striking and nothing that would mislead scholars in the future. If authentic, they would not add much to the knowledge we already have. So in the end, whether real or fake, they don't seem to make much difference."

From the outset, I've never really understood why there's such a big deal over the ossuary. It's just like any other ossuary & doesn't add anything new to the Biblical record. It's impossible to know if it belonged to the NT James, so at best if a Catholic believes it once contained his bones, it might have a Relic Factor (Protestants are supposed to be beyond that stage of their theological maturity process). But archeologically speaking & historically speaking, it adds nothing. James was a jackass (like all of us at times) & didn't make any positive contribution to the proclamation of the Good News, though he did serve as a useful verbal punching bag for Paul so that the true Good News would be better illuminated through an object lesson on how not to relate to Jesus Christ.

The Joash tablet would be somewhat interesting, though, if it were genuine since it uses wording that's significantly different from what scholars would expect for that period (& one of the reasons they suspect it's fake). I already gave my own reasons for dismissing its authenticity back in March of 2005.

The funniest remark preserved in the report came from Alan Millard, who suggested that the Joash/Yehoash tablet/stone should be dubbed, "Ye Hoax Stone"!

Another giggle came from Gabriel Barkay in true Barkay-the-consummate-entertainer fashion while making the point, "no committee and no court can establish the authenticity of an inscription. ... Committees I think are good for communist regimes."

Later, though I don't think it was intended to be a joke, I got a good laugh out of this surprising remark concerning the renowned epigraphy expert, Joseph Naveh: "Naveh sits at home and waits for inscriptions to land from heaven upon his desk..." I'm guessing that Dr. Barkay won't be invited over to the Naveh residence for tea any time soon!

On a more serious note, I saw a fascinating parallel in Dr. Barkay's Point #9:

"I think the scholarly community should agree that everyone of the members of the scholarly community is an honest person unless otherwise proven. ... To penetrate a cultural milieu as an outsider from our times, this requires much knowledge. It requires depth in scholarship. The assumption is that today it could be done only by a team. It has to be teamwork. The assumption should be that if it is a teamwork, there has to be some leak. It is very difficult to organize a group of people, one an expert on Biblical text or Biblical history or Biblical language, the other one an expert on paleography, and the third one as expert on geology and engraving in stone. ... I don’t think that there is such a person who could forge such an inscription like the [James] ossuary inscription. If the same person is responsible for the forgery of the Yehoash inscription and the ossuary inscription, he has to be a superman..."

I can't help but wonder if Dr. Barkay & other non-Christian scholars in attendance who agreed with him on this point, have applied that same reasoning to the writings of Paul, whose Scriptural scholarship was 2nd to no one in his day, & he claimed to the death to be an eyewitness of a resurrected/glorified Jesus Christ (Acts 9:5, 1Cor 15:8; 2Tim 4:6-7). If the writings of Paul were pseudepigrapha by 2nd-4th-century teamwork, they'd qualify as Barkay's "superman"; otherwise, the only viable candidate was the Person Paul wrote about.

Song of the week: "Conspiracy" by Ernest Gold (click the song title to visit Amazon; click here for a 28-second sample; 360kb).
G.M. Grena

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Bereaving Brevard

This past weekend I had the pleasure of meeting the anonymous owner of the Boston collection of LMLK handles. I wanted to share some of the things related to my research & hobby, so along with samples of my antiquities & postage stamps, I brought a handful of autographs by famous LMLK scholars. This included these 6 books formerly in the personal library of paleography/epigraphy scholar extraordinaire, & Harvard Divinity School professor emeritus, Frank Moore Cross, Jr.:

"Von der Steinzeit zum Christentum" (1949 German edition of "From the Stone Age to Christianity") by William Foxwell Albright, signed simply "W.F Albright" on the title page, but the front endpaper reveals a presentation inscription: "Frank M. Cross in aufrichtiper freundschaft von Frank J. Neuberg" (Note that Dr. Neuberg earned his PhD. under Albright at Johns Hopkins University, & served as president of The Evangelical Theological Society in 1953. Also note that Prof. Cross penciled in some additions to the bibliography section.)

"5 Essays on the Bible" (papers read at the 1960 Annual Meeting of the American Council of Learned Societies) by Erwin R. Goodenough, Roland H. Bainton, Morton S. Enslin, Howard Mumford Jones, & Nelson Glueck; signed on the front endpaper: "to Frank M. Cross, Jr. from Nelson Glueck" (Note that Rabbi Glueck's paper was titled "The Bible & Archaeology".)

"The Ben Sira Scroll from Masada" by Yigael Yadin, 1965, Hebrew & English; signed on the inside coverboard of the English section: "Frank M. Cross Jr., Harvard University.", & on the front endpaper opposite: "To Frank with best wishes, Yigael, 20-9-65" (Note that the Shrine of the Book, which houses many of the Dead Sea Scrolls, opened on April 20, 1965. Also note that Prof. Cross made several margin notes & corrections to Yadin's translations in the English half of the book using red ink.)

"Isaiah & the Assyrian Crisis" by Brevard S. Childs, 1967, signed on the title page: "to Frank with kind regards, Bard"

"Canaan & Israel: Historical Essays" by Benjamin Mazar, 1974; Hebrew book, but signed on the English title page: "To a dear friend--Frank M. Cross with appreciation, Benjamin"

"Arad Inscriptions" by Yohanan Aharoni, original 1975 Hebrew edition (which doesn't include the LMLK chapter by Miriam Aharoni & Anson Rainey later published in the 1981 English edition), signed on the front endpaper: "Dear Frank, It took some time but here it is, Yours, Yohanan"

As of today, 2 other books from this library were still available from Windows Booksellers (no affiliation, thank God, with Microsoft):

"Dead Sea Scrolls & the Bible" by Roland E. Murphy for $6.

"The Rule Scroll: A Scroll from the Wilderness of Judaea IQS, IQSa, IQSb. Text, Introduction, & Commentary" by Jacob Licht for $16.

Neither has any strong connection to the LMLK phenomenon, which is why I did not acquire them. The reason I decided to document this list today was in honor of the passing last week of Prof. Childs. I've not yet read his book in its entirety because a cursory preview revealed no LMLK content, but I hope to some day digest it carefully. It's hard to top the compliment by Christopher Seitz that Childs was "an Isaiah figure". For today, the best tribute I can offer is to quote some intriguing remarks from his Preface, dated February 24, 1967:

"This monograph grew out of a seminar on the message of Isaiah. It soon became evident to me that the events which climaxed in the Assyrian invasion of 701 were of decisive importance, & that one's whole image of the prophet depended on how one judged his relation to this crisis. Yet the historical problems connected with Sennacherib's attack seemed hopelessly locked in a scholarly impasse. As a result, various sets of categories have been employed--historical, literary, theological, & psychological--by which to organize the material & explain the prophet's message. Often these lacked exegetical control & were rooted more in the interpreter than in the texts being interpreted.

This study approaches the problem from a different vantage point. An attempt is made, first of all, to trace the various levels within the history of the Isaianic tradition before attacking the historical problems as such. By analysing the various ways in which Israel reacted to her traditions a new perspective is opened into the historical & theological message of the prophet which is sensitive to the tension, interaction, & resolution of elements which together constitute the full biblical witness."

Chapter 1, The Nature of the Problem, begins thus:

"Few problems within the Old Testament have evoked such a steady stream of monographs & articles as has the account of the Assyrian invasion of Palestine in 701 BC. It has become a classic issue on which each new generation of biblical scholars seems constrained to test its mettle. The reasons why this problem has not been allowed to rest, but continues to offer its challenge are not difficult to discover. ... The perennial problem lies in establishing the relation between the Assyrian sources & the various biblical accounts. The question is particularly intriguing to the historian because seldom is a biblical story augmented by such a detailed source which is not only contemporary to the event, but which also reflects a point of view outside of the Hebrew community. ... In spite of this concentrated scholarly activity, a definite impasse appears to have been reached. No consensus has developed regarding the historical problems of the invasion; in fact, opinion continues to diverge as much as ever. The historical evidence which is needed to understand the actual historical sequence of events appears to be unavailable. As a result, every hypothetical reconstruction rests upon enough unproven assumptions to prevent the degree of historical probability needed to form a consensus."

And that was nearly a decade before the majority of scholars began confining all LMLK seals to the reign of Hezekiah, & nearly 4 decades before someone suggested a direct relationship between Isaiah & the LMLK seals.

Song of the week: "Crossing the Celestial River" by Phil Thornton (click here for a 27-second sample; 360kb).
G.M. Grena