2010-09-06

Oh dear! What half a million books thrown on the floor by an earthquake look like . . .

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by Neil Godfrey

Christchurch, New Zealand, recently experienced a 7+ earthquake. A friend who works in the University of Canterbury library sent me this link to show what half a million books look like when thrown on the floor – – – http://www.canterbury.ac.nz/photos.shtml

One illustration of many in the above link:

 

The problem was that the building was deliberately designed to sway in an earthquake. Now whoever thought of that idea obviously hated librarians and/or libraries.

(I’ve never been able to understand why anyone opts to live and work in an earthquake zone!)

I’m a librarian, but I never see or touch a book. I work in a field that seeks to deliver electronic or digital resources to users online. Is it too idealistic to suggest that it might be more economical in the long term that all those scattered books should simply be picked up and scanned to be available electronically now? Stuff the reshelving by going crosseyed trying to put them all back until the next quake.

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Josiah’s reforms: Where is the archaeological evidence?

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by Neil Godfrey

I’ve seen many positive responses to The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman, but my own feeling after reading the book was disappointment at the lack of archaeological evidence they cited for their main theme: the Great Reformation of Josiah and his reign as “the climax of Israel’s monarchic history.” These authors dub this period “A Sudden Coming of Age” for the Kingdom of Judah that produced “The Birth of a New National Religion.”

It was during King Josiah’s reign that Finkelstein and Silberman argue that the “defining and motivating text” of the biblical books was composed. The stories of David and others were supposedly modeled on their authors’ propaganda vision of Josiah himself.

This literary “renaissance” coincided with “a new political and territorial agenda: the unification of all Israel.”

After the fall of the northern Kingdom of Israel to the Assyrians, the southern kingdom of Judah was “transformed”. “Traditional tales of wandering patriarchs and of a great national liberation from Egypt” were viewed from a new perspective and came to serve “the cause of religious innovation — the emergence of monotheistic ideas — within the newly crystallized Judahite state.”

But when one looks for the primary evidence they draw on in support of this hypothesis, it strikes me as being so tenuous as to be virtually nonexistent. I see no reason to accept the biblical story as historical, and several reasons to interpret it as fiction. Continue reading “Josiah’s reforms: Where is the archaeological evidence?”


2010-09-05

Vietnam National Day Military Concert

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by Neil Godfrey

It’s not ballet, not rap, not aerobics, not quite marching, maybe a little of each, but it is certainly martial stirring stuff for the audience of Vietnamese military. It took place in the centre of Ho Chi Minh City so the public was also able to share the experience. Unfortunately I could not capture all of the matching film footage behind the singers/”dancers”(?) showing dramatic snippets of army training action, Ho Chi Minh, and other captivating visuals of Vietnam’s historical and moments of special public display moments.

The show concludes with the “Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh” song.

Excuse the wobbly bit about a minute into the video when I was attempting to find a better filming position.

Several Vietnamese I met were keen to know what I thought of their country. I had to reply that, like Cambodia which I have also seen a little of, it is clear they had been cruelly ruined and are still struggling to recover from thirty-five years of war for liberation against one occupying power after another. They have a right to feel proud. Met some wonderful people there. After having been robbed in the street on my first night there, it took me a little effort to open up to the friendship and smiles of most of the locals I met. One hawker who makes his living walking the streets with a bamboo pole over his shoulder to carry his wares (cocoanuts) even came up to me to give me a free one as a gesture of good-will. A visitor needs a gesture like that after a very unlucky start.

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2010-09-02

Gospels and Kings

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by Neil Godfrey

Reading James Linville’s Israel in the Book of Kings (introduced in my previous post) I can’t help but notice resonances with the methodologies and assumptions largely taken for granted by New Testament scholars. The same issues of assumptions of historicity and lack of evidence bedevil (or at least did much more so in 1998 when the book was published) the questions of the historical nature of the narratives. Continue reading “Gospels and Kings”


2010-09-01

Good King Josiah: Why did he have to die like that? (Like Moses? Like Jesus?)

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by Neil Godfrey

English: King Josiah by Julius Schnoor von Car...
English: King Josiah by Julius Schnoor von Carolsfeld (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The King Josiah story near the end of 2 Kings has always struck me as quite odd. It presents a good king just prior to Judah’s exile into Babylonia who does all the right things such as keeping the Passover and ridding the land of idols. But then he goes and gets himself killed in battle and his kingdom is taken off into captivity anyway. So what was the point of all his goodness?

I agree with Philip R. Davies’ reasons for reading the reforms of Josiah and the discovery of the Book of Deuteronomy in the Temple as ‘just so’ tale invented to strengthen the claims of a newly introduced Book of Deuteronomy as an authoritative document. (See ‘event 2’ discussed here. See also my reasons for not being persuaded by Finkelstein’s and Silberman’s account of a Josiah-led renaissance.) But this seems only to add to the difficulties of explaining why an author would allow God to let him die prematurely in battle.

Today I’ve begun catching up with James Richard Linville’s Israel in the Book of Kings: The Past as a Project of Social Identity, and one of the first sections to attract my attention was his discussion of the significance of the King Josiah story.

Linville sets both Josiah’s reforms and death in an intelligible literary and theological context. Continue reading “Good King Josiah: Why did he have to die like that? (Like Moses? Like Jesus?)”