Tag Archives: academics

I Support Christopher Rollston

If you’ve been following the news, Christopher Rollston (one of the world’s foremost epigraphers and paleographers) is facing losing his job because he wrote an op-ed in the Huffington Post about the marginalization of women in the  culture and context of the Bible.

As countless academics have stepped forward and said, this piece was nothing revolutionary, or even controversial (it is widely accepted that during the era the Bible, there were different values in comparison to the modern day when it came to women and their place in society). It was also written for a popular publication in the appropriate tone for a popular publication, not for scholars or in a manner presented to the field.

However, regardless of this, Emmanuel Seminary is proceeding with disciplinary action against Rollston, who is tenured, as one of their “six figure” donors is apparently withholding their financial support because Rollston’s article offended them, and the Seminary is (apparently) hoping to use the exception for religious institutions to terminate employees in certain positions who do not adhere to the spirit of the institution’s confession of faith.

I find this troublesome on many levels.

First, I do agree that a religious institution, under the law, has the right for certain members of its ranks to keep to a particular confession. This is the same mechanism that allows Christian, Jewish, Muslim, etc. organizations to hire only Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc. as leaders and religious staff without being sued for religious discrimination. This protection, quite reasonably, does not extend to other staff like janitors, workmen, contracted companies, etc. as it is not essential for the mission of such an organization.

However, the problem here was not that Chris went against a particular confession of faith, which he did not. He was simply stating the consensus on the sociological issue for his field in a manner suitable for laymen via a popular magazine. What this appears to be, with less and less doubt as more details come to the forefront, an inter-personal dispute between him and fellow colleagues, and unnamed donors, which is one of the very things that tenure (as an academic institution) is supposed to protect against.

This all said, I support Christopher Rollston.


(h/t to Joel Watts for the image.)

New Aramaic Class: The Aramaic Lord’s Prayer

A number of people have expressed their interest in the Aramaic classes that are offered over at Aramaic Designs, but that the price (in this economy) has been prohibitive.

Because of this a new class is in development that should be ready in the next couple of months that will be on the topic of the Aramaic Lord’s Prayer. The basic information at this time is as follows:

ARC010: The Aramaic Lord’s Prayer
Duration: 8 weeks (~2 months)
Enrollment: Rolling (you can enroll at any time)
Price: $50

Current Syllabus: (subject to change, but probably close to this)

  1. What’s So Special About The Lord’s Prayer?
    – Context & History
    – The Prayer in Greek
  2. A (Brief) History of Aramaic & the Language of Jesus
    – An Introduction to Aramaic & its Alphabet
    – The Aramaic of Jesus
  3. The Syriac Peshitta Lord’s Prayer
    – An Introduction to the Peshitta
    – The Peshitta Lord’s Prayer
  4. Other Syriac Lord’s Prayer Traditions
    – The Other Syriac Traditions and Their Relation to Each Other
    – Old Syriac, Harklean, etc.
  5. Scholarly Reconstructions of the Lord’s Prayer
    – Reconstructing the Words of Jesus
    – The Jesus Seminar
    – Individual Scholarly Reconstructions (Jeremias’, Fitzmeyer, Chilton, Brock, etc.)
  6. Modern Aramaic Traditions of the Lord’s Prayer
    – The Plight of Neo-Aramaic
    – Neo-Aramaic Examples (Neo-Assyrian, Ma`loula, etc.)
  7. Odd Translations of the Lord’s Prayer
    – An “Aramaic” Imagination
    – Notable Odd Translations (Ouseley, Lamsa/Errico, Douglas-Klotz, etc.)
  8. Conclusions, Thoughts & Final Paper
    – Aramaic and Prayer
    – Greater Historical Context
    – Final essay on any topic covered in the class, or other topic subject to professor approval (~500-1000 words).

All who are interested or wish to have more information, please email in to Information@AramaicDesigns.com.


Syriac studies coming to Artuklu University

Feb 12 2009 – Mardin’s Artuklu University is preparing to become only the second university in the world to host a Syriac language department.

The university is planning to create a department that will focus on the language and literature of the Syriac people, who populate the Middle East and who have lived side-by-side with Muslims in peace and prosperity in Mardin for centuries. Artuklu University Rector Serdar Bedii Omay said a Syriac department was in the works and that university officials have met with leaders from the local Syriac community to achieve this goal. Present at the meeting were Deyrulzafaran Monastery Metropolitan Salibe Özmen, Archbishop Gabriyel Akyüz of Kırklar Church and other members of the Syriac community.

[read the rest here]

“Ancient” Syriac Bible found in Cyprus?

(A picture of the manuscript.)

Fri Feb 6, 2009 7:57am EST

NICOSIA (Reuters Life!) – Authorities in northern Cyprus believe they have found an ancient version of the Bible written in Syriac, a dialect of the native language of Jesus.

The manuscript was found in a police raid on suspected antiquity smugglers. Turkish Cypriot police testified in a court hearing they believe the manuscript could be about 2,000 years old.

When I saw images of this relic, they reminded me of something that happened a back in July of last year where I was approached by an individual, who claimed to come from Turkey, trying to sell me a forgery (click the link for pictures). Naturally, such an experience has made me skeptical when I heard about a “manuscript [carrying] excerpts of the Bible written in gold lettering on vellum and loosely strung together” and written in “eastern script.”

(A picture of the manuscript forgery I was offered.)

Given what I have seen of the manuscript thusfar, I’m going to have to tentatively concur with JF Coakley on his analysis. Unless other hard evidence surfaces to the contrary (carbon dating or thorough textual analysis), this is probably either a work no earlier than the 15th century, or a modern forgery.

UPDATE & NOTE (Feb 11th): It seems that I was a bit ambiguous above as to the identity of the manuscript in question. I do not believe the manuscript the police found to be -the- document I was offered, but more that it fits a consistent pattern of forgeries that are showing up in Turkey. All of the defining characteristics look like they match (which both manuscripts seem to share):

  • “Golden letters”
  • Written on leather rather than actual vellum
  • Bound together haphazardly.
  • “Synopses” of New Testament stories rather than full text.
  • Written in Pseudosyriac or modern Syriac.
  • Written in Eastern script.
  • Very characteristic illustrations.
  • Etc.