Friday, June 29, 2007

Vicki Leon's book on Slavery in Rome, "Working IX to V"

NPR this morning had a wonderful interview with Vicki Leon about her new book, "Working IX to V" (Walker & Co, New York, 2007). Nota Bene, all those who want to take "family values" in the ancient world seriously.

Here's their excerpt:-

Slave Roundup

Running with scissors & other plum jobs


In the unfree workplace, there were certain positions that most slaves would fight to get.

The dream job for a female house slave was that of sandaligerula, a post that took more time to spell than to do. High-born Romans and Greeks engaged in shoe rituals with rigid standards as to where they could be worn. A man who wore a toga with sandals, for instance, would be laughed out of the Senate.

To guarantee that her mistress was properly shod at all times, the sandaligerula accompanied her mistress to dinner parties. Once there, the sandal-slave took off her owner's street shoes and replaced them with party slippers. Removing one's own footgear was so declassé that even the humblest guest brought along a sandal-slave. After the partygoers went in to dinner, the shoe-schleppers enjoyed a little downtime until the event broke up. At deluxe events, guests got their feet bathed as they reposed on dining couches; this job, however, was carried out by the host's special toe-cleaning, oil-'em-down slaves.

Another fab position that younger slaves lobbied for was flabellifer. Open to males or females, it involved carrying a fan for the mistress, flapping it on command. During the dog days of August, slaves might be in for some marathon fanning; most of the time, however, flabellifers were there for show, and knew it.

Seasoned slaves with good memories and diction became salutigeruli. They spent their days carrying complimentary messages from their owners to friends, acquaintances, and those on the "need to be flattered" list.

Musically inclined slaves nabbed the coveted fistulator positions, available only to those whose owners were public speakers. Fistulators carried a reed pitchpipe. To start, the fistulator gave a subtle tootle or two so that the great man could proceed to orate at just the correct pitch. Gracchus, famed orator in republican times, was said to have been the first to flaunt a fistulator.

Upper-class foodies had a problem: how to dine with elegance while lolling on a couch? Then some bright guy invented a labor-saving device called the scissors, a word that meant both the cutting instrument and a slave of the same name. Any household of consequence assigned a scissors slave to attend each dinner guest. A fellow of steady hands and good hygiene, the human scissors used his bronze instrument to cut up his guest's meat and other messy items.

Most slaves could only fantasize about working part-time. The flashiest part-time gig? Triumph slave. Whenever a victorious Roman general killed five thousand of the enemy in a single battle, he earned a triumph, a massive musical celebration with oxen sacrifices, booty distributions, and a huge parade, complete with cringing losers in golden chains.

The slave stood behind the triumphant general in his chariot, holding a heavy, jewel-laden gold crown over the man's head. His other task was much trickier. As the procession moved along amid cheers, the slave whispered wet blanket remarks into the general's ear: "You're not that great. Look around you and remember you're only a man."

When it came to averting bad luck—or military megalomania—the Romans thought of everything.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

"Die Welt" on Paul

In an article "Paulus, Frauenfeind oder Gruender des Christentums?" ("Paul, Misogynist or Founder of Christianity?" in Die Welt posted yesterday, Gernot Facius announces that on Thursday Pope Benedict will declare a year of Paul celebrating the 2000th anniversary of the apostle's birth.

I translate some of the article here to see what view of Paul obtains in a widely circulating German publication. Note here arguments about the Jewish and inclusive Paul.

Using the work of Hans Kung, the article argues that it is unhistorical to propose that Paul was the founder of Christianity since before the conversion of Saul to Paul, there were Jewish followers of Jesus. However, through Paul the small Jewish sect became a world religion. Paul translated the message of Jesus into specific religious contexts. Paul became the first Christian theologian by means of the Jerusalem Council of the Apostles held around 48 CE in which he facilitated the access of pagans to the universal God Of Israel without taking over circumscision, purity, food and Sabbath regulations. Paul is however Jewish. Anselm Gruen, one of the most widely read spiritual writers of today, calls „a paradox of history “ the fact that Paul, who belonged as a Pharisee to the strictest interpretation of Judaism, dissociated himself in his preaching so radically from the rejudaising tendencies of the early church. Schalom Ben Chorin also opines: „In his argumentation, in his theology and in particular also in his Christology, and theory of the Messiah, Paul remains within Jewish theology.“

As fas as Paul's alleged misogyny goes, exegetes today agree that the command to silence doesn't come from Paul but a redactor of Pauline letters around 100 CE. Was it adjustment to the social environment? Were there time-bound statements like those about the power of the state which comes „from God “and to which everyone has to bear obedience“? The catholic theologian Hans Josef Klauck comes close to such a thesis: „As time progresses, Christian life consolidates. In intensified measures one falls back on patriarchal behavior patterns from the environment. It might also be that the Christians were anxious not to be disqualified in a Roman context with its rigid behavior patterns, if they would continue to grant liberty to women, which they had at the beginning of the church.“ But Klauck thinks that Paul still grants women equal rights within the community.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Speaking of hospitality: Have you read Horace Griffin's "Their Own Receive Them Not?"

The Rev. Dr. Horace Griffin, my friend and GTS colleague, summarizes the argument of his important new book, Their Own Receive Them Not: African American Lesbians and Gays in Black Churches. It is courageous and timely.

Even with the presence of gay Christians in their families and churches and the strong and faithful witness of revered black gay Christians like George Washington Carver, James Cleveland and Barbara Jordan, African Americans continue to resist viewing homosexuality as anything but sin, a negative "lifestyle" and a white aberration. Although there is opportunistic tolerance of gays in black churches, black gays -- like other gays -- often are dismissed as irrelevant to moral black people.

As a gay African-American pastoral theologian in the liberation tradition, I find this black church practice to be an ironic tragedy, antithetical to a black liberation theology and gospel of Jesus that offers justice for all people. Historically, black church leaders opposed oppressive actions against humans and played an active role to end slavery, mobilize African Americans in the political process, organize educational institutions and provide places of worship, recreation and training for black people. Many black church leaders protested social and religious injustice toward African Americans. As a result of the African-American experience, black church leaders and members developed a theological perspective of justice and liberation taken from the Exodus story and the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Despite this historical perspective, most black ministers have failed in their application of this theology toward women and gay-identified men. Black heterosexual Christian men's objection to racial hierarchical practice, by and large, had to do with their resistance to being dominated by white men. In general, they did not object to, but rather supported, the domination of women and later gay men. Their use of Scripture to support this domination is similar to that of conservative white Christians who converted, enslaved and dominated black men.

Peter Brooks of the Times (UK) on the new PM

Why Do We Discuss Hospitality?

I'm just going to link to my post on Episcopal Cafe today on hospitality.
Simply put, westerners like myself discuss hospitality because we don't regard it as a norm in the way ancient and modern non western cultures do.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Natural World and Imago Dei: Common Sense Philosophy Updated

Today's NY Times discusses Science of the Soul (possibly in a continuum with the essay by Republican Presidential Candidate Senator Sam Brownback, "What I think about evolution" in which he said earlier this year:-

Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.)

Today's article challenges Senator Brownback's argument:

As evolutionary biologists and cognitive neuroscientists peer ever deeper into the brain, they are discovering more and more genes, brain structures and other physical correlates to feelings like empathy, disgust and joy. That is, they are discovering physical bases for the feelings from which moral sense emerges — not just in people but in other animals as well.

It cites theologians:-
“Evolutionary biology shows the transition from animal to human to be too gradual to make sense of the idea that we humans have souls while animals do not,” wrote Dr. Murphy, an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren. “All the human capacities once attributed to the mind or soul are now being fruitfully studied as brain processes — or, more accurately, I should say, processes involving the brain, the rest of the nervous system and other bodily systems, all interacting with the socio-cultural world.”

Therefore, she writes, it is “faulty” reasoning to want to distinguish people from the rest of creation. She cites the ideas of Thomas Aquinas, the 13th-century philosopher and theologian who, Dr. Haught said, “spoke of a vegetative and animal soul along with the human soul.”

Side Bar: I'm not sure the NY Times is right about Descartes' statement "I think therefore I am" being an argument for the unique existence of the human soul. Wasn't Descartes simply establishing grounds for human existence?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Clerical Abuse in Italy (report from NPR)

Sylvia Poggioli reports (yesterday) from the Vatican that the lid is just beginning to lift on cases of clergy and religious sexual abuse of children in Italy.

Her report mentions a symposium in which participants gathered to hear from victims in cases of clergy sexual abuse. She continues:-

The story of Paul Cultrera, who kept silent for 30 years, resonated with the participants in the symposium.

Marco Marchese, a 26-year-old from Agrigento in Sicily, says he was absued by a priest for four years, starting when he was 12.

He says the American story is "the story of all of us."

"At first we think we're the guilty ones," he says. "It takes years, and only if you're lucky enough to find someone who believes you, can you heal. I just wanted to stop this man from hurting others and hoped the church would embrace me, but that embrace never came."


Believing the victims is the central issue.

The report mentions "Hand of God" directed by Joe Cultrera shown on PBS in January 2005. In case you haven't seen it, here are some press reactions. You can watch the entire movie on the PBS Frontline link. It is riveting.

A discussion of Common Sense Philosophy

This week, In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg discusses Common Sense Philosophy. Is common sense innate as Plato and the Stoics argued, or must it be learned? The later Cambridge Platonists argued against the materialists that our knowledge of God and morality is innate and given by God.

In 1690 John Locke challenges this in the essay on human understanding arguing that diversity of beliefs and senses in the history of thought opposes it and makes us lazy. In the 17th and 18th Century, Descartes wanted to found science on a reliable foundation and argued the proposition based on human existence which cannot be doubted: cogito ergo sum. Locke argued that there are properties of things which give us direct access to things outside our heads. Hume says there is no way of proving the validity of inductive reasoning. Can rationalist philosophy provide proofs? Our human nature provides evidence of the existence of the external world but not proofs.

Thomas Reed in Aberdeen, a minister of the Kirk, and his circle receive Hume's ideas well although the Aberdonians were not skeptics. He argues there are common sense principles: we exist and have a mind, and we can trust our senses generally along with the testimony of others e.g. on evidence for miracles and faith in general. There should be a unity between life in the real world and your philosophy. We have direct access to the real world.

Subsequently Immanuel Kant argues in the Critique of Pure Reason that events represented in the mind are orderly and it is through them that we know the world indirectly.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Ziggy, granddaughter of Pale Male, recovers after a night (or two) on the town


The recent drama of Ziggy is detailed for us on the new City Room blog of the NY Times. Those interested in "family values" will be pleased to hear that Ziggy's parents are now identified as Charlotte and Pale Male Jr. The picture (from NY Daily News) shows her at the ball field in Central Park about to take off after her recovery.

Gay Marriage Debate in the NY State Assembly

The NY Times reports on a personal and intense debate. Amongst the highlights:-

Teresa R. Sayward did not hesitate when she rose from her seat on Tuesday night to address her colleagues in the State Assembly. An observant Catholic from a small, conservative upstate town, she had rarely shared the story of her son, Glenn, 42, and his struggle to come to terms with his gay identity decades ago.

But she said the occasion — a chance to make New York the second state in the country to pass a bill legalizing same-sex marriage — called for a highly personal approach.

“We would spend long nights crying together and talking,” she told a full house of hushed lawmakers. “And one night I said to him, ‘You have to be what you are; you can’t be what people think you should be.’ ”

Ms. Sayward received resounding applause, and the bill later passed, 85-61. But in the Senate, where Joseph L. Bruno, the majority leader, opposes the bill, it is not expected to come to the floor.

Supporters of the bill had no illusions about its ultimate fate. But the Assembly chamber, usually abuzz with the white noise of Statehouse gossip and last-minute deal-making, stood silent on Tuesday night as members embarked on a three-hour debate that included tearful tales of family struggles and a gay-marriage proposal via cellphone.

New EU Constitution

This is a major achievement for Angela Merkel.

Der Spiegel reports that the 50-article charter contains an exhaustive list of well-established rights, such as freedom of speech and religion, and will now be legally binding in the other 26 member states.

However, the BBC reports that Britain has been allowed to opt out of a 50-article charter containing an exhaustive list of well-established rights - from freedom of speech and religion to the right to shelter, education and fair working conditions.

The UK was concerned at the charter's impact on business and its legal system.

Moreover, the charter will not become part of the treaty - it will just be referred to.

On the question of the religious implications for the inclusion of Turkey in the EU, see the recent work of Benoit Challand, a speaker at the recent LSE conference (June 16) on Religion and Politics in the Construction of the EU.

Belfast Telegraph Interview with First Minister Ian Paisley

The Belfast Telegraph conducts an (exclusive) interview with First Minister Ian Paisley. It is a good indication of where he is from a new position of power. Helpful comments about recognizing the RUC, working with Martin McGuinness, consulting with his wife, daily bible study, all provide a good overview in case this is new material.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Bethany Seminary calls Ruthann Knechel Johansen as President

News about the appointment of Ruthann Knechel Johansen as President of Bethany Seminary is encouraging.

She is the author of several books and publications, including "Listening in the Silence, Seeing in the Dark: Reconstructing Life after Brain Injury," "The Narrative Secret of Flannery O'Connor: The Trickster as Interpreter," "Coming Together: Male and Female in a Renamed Garden," "Peacemaking and Global Justice," "Our Babel: What Shall We Do with the Language," and "Turning from Underneath: On Oppression and Power." She has written for "Brethren Life and Thought," the Church of the Brethren curriculum series "Guide to Biblical Studies," and the "Messenger" magazine of the Church of the Brethren.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

H. M. S. Bounty in Boothbay Harbor, Maine.

Gay Pride March in Jerusalem (today) and NYC (Sunday)

Get ready for news of the Gay Pride March in Jerusalem today. Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of Beth Simchat Torah who has been involved in the planning in previous years, is leading the NYC Gay Pride March as Co-Pride Marshal this Sunday. You can view it online for a small fee here.

Update: is a report of the event from AlJazeera.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Rev. Dr. Ann Holmes Redding

A recent article on the religious practice and faith of The Rev. Dr. Ann Holmes Redding gives the reader plenty to think about. She's a good New Testament scholar who is going to be teaching NT this fall at Seattle University, someone I know, and a graduate of GTS, I think.

According to the article:-

Her Muslim journey actually began at St. Mark's when in fall 2005 an Islamic leader gave a talk then prayed. Redding was moved as the imam seemed to surrender his whole body to God.

The next spring, another Muslim leader taught a chanted prayer in an interfaith class, which she began saying daily.

Her mother died at that time, the Seattle paper said, and "I was in a situation that I could not handle by any other means, other than a total surrender to God."

She can't explain why that led her to become a Muslim, but says "when God gives you an invitation, you don't turn it down."

She read up on Islam and made her profession of faith – the shahada – in March 2006, testifying there is only one god, Allah, and that Mohammad is his messenger.

The Muslim requirement of praying five times daily has given her the deep connection to God she yearned for, she says.

When she prays on other occasions, her prayers are neither uniquely Islamic nor Christian but private talks with Allah or God, names she uses interchangeably.

"It's the same person, praying to the same God," she contends.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Pileated Woodpecker



Here in Maine for the summer, a good bit of time is spent observing birds. This photo was taken on a walk earlier this Spring.
A caring pensioner who washes the feet of homeless people has been awarded an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list.

Salvation Army member Mary Randell, 64, has carried out the service for years for the homeless in Bournemouth, and said today they queued up to have their feet washed.

"Years and years ago, Jesus knelt at the disciples and washed their feet. He was showing them that he was a servant as well as a king.

"I would not be any good being posh and doing fancy things but I can wash feet and I can listen to people's stories, and I can tell them that someone cares," she said.

Archbishop Tutu: God is weeping

'I can't imagine the Lord that I worship concurring with persecution'

Among many celebrity contributors to the Africa issue of 'Vanity Fair', guest edited by Bono, Brad Pitt interviewed Archbishop Desmond Tutu, about Christianity and homosexuality. "I could not for any part of me be able to keep quiet, because people were being penalised, ostracised, treated as if they were less than human, because of something they could do nothing to change: their sexual orientation. I can't imagine the Lord I worship, this Jesus Christ, actually concurring with the persecution of a minority. I think God is weeping. He is weeping that we should be spending so much energy, time, resources on this subject when the world is aching."

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Per Petterson receives the Impac Dublin Award

Per Petterson received the Impac Dublin Award this week for his book Our Stealing Horses. It was marvellous hearing him read an excerpt from it this spring at the Pen International Writers Festival at 192 Books in Chelsea just around the corner from the seminary. When he opened his mouth and began to read, a world opened up.

The Guardian comments on the award:-

The Irish poet and judge Gerald Dawe said that it "pipped past the post" of the strong shortlist because it is "a wonderfully subtle book. In the background, shadowing it with an almost ghostly narrative, there is the history of how war impacts on families in very different ways."

While Petterson has namechecked Norway's 1920 Nobel laureate Knut Hamsun as a particular inspiration for the novel, the subtlety of Out Stealing Horses, with its focus on character and relationships rather than plot owes much to the influence of the American writer Raymond Carver.

Homosexuality and the Church (Commonweal, June 15, 2007)

The essay by Luke Timothy Johnson, "Scripture and Experience" is a particularly good example of Roman Catholic NT scholarship using his personal example to shed light on the interraction of scripture and experience. At the same time, its an outsider perspective. It makes all the difference in the world when gay and lesbian people are not the object of investigation but interrogators of the text.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Rome Reborn or Dr Who Visits Rome

10 years in the making, experts have recreated Rome. According to a BBC report, users enter the city at the time of Constantine and see inside buildings.

The simulation takes place in AD320, which is said to be the city's peak, when it had grown to a million inhabitants.

"We can take people under the Colosseum and show them how the elevators worked to bring the animals up from underground chambers for the animal hunts they held," said Bernard Frischer, the project's leader who heads Virginia's Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities.

The simulation reconstructs the interior of about 30 buildings - including the Senate, the Colosseum and the basilica built by the emperor Maxentius - complete with frescoes and decorations.

The project brought together experts from the University of Virginia and the Los Angeles branch of the University of California, as well research institutes in Italy, Germany and the UK.

Bernard Frischer, of Virginia's Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities calls it a "virtual time machine."

Summer Projects



How does your day begin? Water? Tea? Coffee? In the best of all worlds, mine begins with a latte not quite as fancy as this (Artwork on latte courtesy of people at Grumpys in Chelsea).

Summer writing projects include an essay on Jack Bauer as a Jesus figure in "24" for a collection of essays on the series "24." I'm enjoying the challenge of thinking obliquely about religious imagery.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Laqueur on Fritz Stern in the LRB

Thomas Laqueur reviews Fritz Stern's memoir, Five Germanys I Have Known (FSG 2006) in the current London Review of Books. Is there an academic who does not resonate with the following paragraph?

The book’s form may have a certain prophylactic motive. Stern craves approval and fears exposure, and his rhetoric works to keep readers at bay by mediating experience and recounting success. In Sweden Stern got to talk – ‘again’ – with Olof Palme; in Iran David Rockefeller arranged for him to meet the shah; in Egypt he met Boutros Boutros-Ghali. And in India, Italy, Poland, China and other places he met scores of ambassadors and important intellectuals. He confesses that he seeks out the company and approval of those he calls his betters. When he is inducted into a select academy he writes that he delights in being ‘able to admire’ his famous new colleagues: ‘a pleasure balanced, I think, by the pain of well-developed self-doubt – I rejoiced in being among their company.’ But there isn’t much reflection on this feeling, an all too common one among academics.

Laqueur explains form this way:- "There is a joke about a crowd of Germans pouring out of a tourist bus that has stopped in front of the Pearly Gates. They see two signs. One points to the left: ‘Heaven.’ The other points right: ‘Lectures about Heaven.’ The Germans all head to the right. And so does Stern."

He adds:-
By writing about lectures and their reception, rather than about things in themselves, about life, Stern can avoid revealing what he now thinks and feels about various matters. Instead we learn what he thought or said in a succession of pasts. Meta-observation supplants observation; life outside the lecture – and outside the highest circles of academia, politics and the media – seems not to exist, or is taken up with preparing for the next engagement; time is frozen in texts and précis of talks past; important questions both about the paradigmatic figure of Stern himself, and about his world, go unasked and unanswered. The failure of rhetoric is thus a failure to come to terms with the great questions of the age that German history raises.

There is much in this review to ponder: the symbiosis between an ambitious academic who craves recognition in the land of his birth and a post-war Germany anxious to be visited and recognised; academic avoidance of self-reflection; the Columbia University History Department; and so on. I confess that I am unlikely to read the 560pp. book but I am glad to have read the review.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Friday 7pm at the Norwich Spiritual Cinema House

This Friday at 7pm I am at the Norwich Spiritual Cinema House promoting "Secrets of Mary Magdalene" in a discussion with my friend and colleague Arne DeKeijzer who co-edited the book. There is another screening on Saturday.

Religious Booksellers Trade Exhibit May 30-June 2

PW has two reports on the recent meeting of the Religious Booksellers Trade Exhibit in Ilinois one by Lynn Garrett and Joanna Riess. We lowly authors published by religious presses need to have an eye to such events. My favorite paragraph was at the end:-

Ave Maria Press author Sr. Anne Bryan Smollin (Live, Laugh and Be Blessed, Mar.) was a big hit at the Thursday luncheon, where she wowed the crowd with a hilarious stand-up comedy routine. Sr. Helen Prejean (Dead Man Walking, The Death of Innocents) delivered the keynote address at the Thursday evening banquet on the somber topic of opposing the death penalty. But afterwards she could be seen in the hotel's karaoke bar, enjoying a pint and leafing through the songbook in search of the right Beatles number. Also at her table was Sr. Joan Chittister (The Friendship of Women, RBL Q&A May 3), who joined Orbis Books marketing director Patti Byrns in singing a fist-pumping rendition of "I Am Woman," to the delight of RBTE-goers and the befuddlement of Smith Barney conventioneers also in the bar that night.

The second article reported that:
The show was buzzing about Davis Perkins's surprising jump from Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, where has worked for the past 18 years, to Church Publishing, the publishing arm of the Episcopal Church. As president and publisher at PPC since 1994, Perkins is credited with bringing financial stability and some high-profile authors to Westminster John Knox Press, its trade imprint. Both publishing houses were tight-lipped about the reasons for the change, with Perkins explaining in a press statement only that he feels "the need for a change."

For God's Sake, George (Bush)

The Independent newspaper (UK) published a one page advertisment on June 4th looking like this. Ekklesia noted it yesterday but could not find out much about the source. They did however, provide an exegesis. It appears that the advertisment is aimed at the presence of President Bush at the G8 summit this week in Berlin. The gist of the statement is clear:-

“George, it took Me 7 days of hard work to create this planet, Please don’t ruin it for me.”

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Roman Baths at Bath (Aquae Sulis)




The terrace is where the tour begins. Here's the official website. The Romans built a temple on the site of a sacred spring and dedicated the edifice to the goddess Sulis Minerva.
The conduit system still conveys the water to this day!

Here is a stone head of a Roman matron dating from the first century CE unearthed in found in Walcot, about 2 kilometres (1 1/4 miles) north of the centre of Bath in 1714-15(indicating contrasting ancient and modern styles from the young to the old). Is there any evidence that women actually visited and used the baths in Roman times? Does Martial's epigram apply here?

Cum faciem laudo, cum miror crura manusque,
dicere, Galla, soles “Nuda placebo magis”,
et semper uitas communia balnea nobis.
Numquid, Galla, times ne tibi non placeam?

When I praise your appearance, when I admire your legs and hands,
Galla, you always say “You’ll like me better nude,”
And yet you always avoid going to the bath with me.
Is it that you’re worried you won’t like me nude?

Finally, here is an inscription dedicated to the goddess. At the Bath site, hundreds of tin, pewter and lead curse tablets were found in the spring. Obviously people bathing had their clothes, jewelrey and other items stolen, and sought redress by writing curses on these sheets of metal, rolling them up and tossing them in the spring for the goddess’s attention. For example:

Docilianus…to the most holy goddess Sulis. I curse him who has stolen my hooded cloak, whether man or woman, whether slave or free, that…the goddess Sulis inflict death upon…and not allow him sleep or children now and in the future, until he has brought my hooded cloak to the temple of her divinity.

Words are rarely separated and without punctuation. Letters could be written in mirror-image form or the order of letters in a word, of words in a line, or of lines in a text might be reversed. The writer might also change the direction in which words or letters were written in alternating lines (‘boustrophedon’ ­ a Greek term named after the movement of an ox-team ploughing a field).

Royal Crescent, Bath



Nicholas Cage bought an apartment here recently for 4.1 million pounds!

Trinity Sunday at St Michael and All Angels, Bedford Park

Went to church yesterday for Trinity Sunday at St. Michael and All Angels at Bedford Park with celebrant Father Kevin Morris and sermon by Sue Lenton on the Trinity as a mobius strip. The church was packed and the service included a baptism. The whole thing was spectacular! (There seem to be various applications of the mobius strip to Christian themes).

Dead Sea Scrolls not Jewish

Risa Levitt Kohn, San Diego University, and curator of an exhibit on the Dead Sea Scrolls in San Diego until December 2007 had some interesting things to say recently about Christian and Jewish origins in light of the scrolls:-

Is there any evidence within the scrolls themselves that this community was influenced by Jesus Christ?

There are no New Testament names, people mentioned in the scrolls and there are no New Testament texts in the scrolls, and I think that's another common misunderstanding.

A lot of people confuse the Dead Sea Scrolls with the Nag Hammadi texts, the Gnostic gospels (writings about the teachings of Jesus that are not accepted as part of the standard biblical canon). While they were found about the same time in the 1940s, they're completely different. [The Nag Hammadi texts] were found in Egypt and have a lot to do with Christianity, and [the Dead Sea Scrolls], not so much. So, the answer is no.

The truth is, I wouldn't classify these as Jewish texts, either. Because I would say Judaism, the way we tend to think about it, even early Judaism, is not yet fully crystallized in this period, in the same way that Christianity isn't either. So what we see, and why the scrolls are so interesting, is that we see a period just before Judaism and Christianity, where there are a lot of different ideas floating around -- some of which make their way into Judaism, some of which make their way into Christianity -- but you couldn't call these scrolls one or the other yet. Now, people would probably dispute that with me, but that's what I think.

Savile Row, Bath



This little street is at the back of the Costume Museum in Bath. The museum had a display of pockets wherein the rhyme "Lucy Locket lost her pocket" becomes clear since pockets were originally independent pieces of cloth attached to clothing by strips of material. Men's pocket's seem to have evolved independently as part of their jackets or waistcoats.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Promoting Jesus' Family Values in the UK



We've been in the UK this past week. Yesterday we were in and around London for the whole day twice at St Ethelburga's Center for Reconciliation and Peace once to talk about Jesus' Family Values and in the evening for a discussion on hospitality. I did an interview with Premier Christian Radio which will be broadcast sometime next week. The wonderful Simon Barrow arranged it all.

Over the past few days we've been in Bath. It is a fascinating city.