I have decided to split blogs and move my biblical studies related work to a new site, ArchaicChristianity.com. The blog is now basically functional and I have some book reviews up. I will continue to blog technical and personal thoughts here on this blog. When my biblical studies work crosses into the world of technology, you will probably see posts in both locations. If there is anything particularly important, I may crosspost that as well. But, in general, I think it is time for me to split my work.
So around 4:00 on Tuesday my wife and I hit an exhibit showing at Fair Park here in Dallas. The exhibit is called "From Abraham To Jesus", though the Exhibit website calls it "Ancient Treasures of the Holy Land". It had materials from about 3000 BC to 30 AD.
Most of the exhibited items were real, though a few were admitted to be replicas of the real thing. Most of the earlier materials were crude pots and such, but that is to be expected. The Egyptian artifacts went back to roughly 3000 BC, though the biblical artifacts don't start till later (obviously, since Abraham wasn't till later). Artifacts came from Egypt, Canaan, Greece, Cyprus, Babylonia, Assyria, and maybe that's it.
There were a few highlights for me. The first one came when we went from the so-so quality middle-eastern pottery to the very well done Greek pottery. The contrast was obvious. Man those Greeks new what they were doing...
My second highlight was the ossuaries. Ossuaries are essentially ancient bone boxes. After someone died, they would be laid in a tomb for a while until their flesh completely rotted. Then to make room for more family members, their bones were moved to small stone boxes. These are the ossuaries. I would say that the ones they had on display (I believe there were three) were about 3 1/2 foot long, 1 1/2 foot wide, and 2 foot tall (that is guestimating).
The last ossuary was the most interesting of the three. It had writing on the top in two languages, and writing on the side in one. Before I talked to the curator about it I took a gander and recognized one of the inscriptions on the top easily. It was "ΑΛΕΧΑΝΔΡΟΥ;" (hope that unicode comes out for you). Roughly translated, that means "Of Alexander." At first I thought that meant "The Son Of Alexander", because that is exactly how you would see that written in many Greek texts. The other text on the top was clearly either Aramaic or Hebrew, but I couldn't make out much of it. The text on the side looked like uncial Greek, but I didn't make it out at first.
Then the curator chatted with us. It was his opinion that this was the ossuary of none other than the son of Simon the Cyrenian mentioned in Matt 27:32, Mark 15:21, and Luke 23:26. Mark 15:21 mentions that he had two sons, and one of their names was Alexander. I couldn't make out the Aramaic/Hebrew, but he said it was "son of Simon", and with that little bit of information it was easy to go "Oh, that text on the side is ΣΙΜΟΝ", or "Simon" (Sorry, don't have a convenient uncial unicode font:) ). I really have no clue if he is correct, but it was nice to look at it anyway. I try my best to be skeptical of these amazing finds these days since some are turning out to be wrong and/or forgeries. He named a couple familiar scholar names that supposedly agreed, so it is not too easy for me to dismiss. Regardless, I enjoyed the talk we had quite a bit.
The coolest thing there were two scraps from the one and only dead sea scrolls. I've never seen 2200 year old writings in the flesh. Have you? I own some 500 year old paper, but that doesn't really compare. On one of the fragments I could barely make out any glyphs at all. On the other I could make out quite a bit. The light was dim, so that made both of them quite difficult to look at. I was surprised at how small the writing was. Those scribes must have had good eyesight.
My only complaint about the exhibit was the audio tour. The did the audio explanations in story form, a grandfather archaeologist talking to his young granddaughter. Personally, I found it really cheezy. Kids might like it, but it irked me after a while and I just couldn't listen any longer. If you're an adult, I would recommend just reading the exhibit displays and looking at the goods.
I believe the tickets were around $16 for adults. There were discounts for students. I bet there were discounts for children. Given my interest in the subject matter, I thought it was well worth it. I expected more artifacts than they had, but I still have to give it a thumbs up.
First is online copies of material from the Foreign Service Institute for learning foreign languages. The site is apparently not run by them, but the material is said to be in the public domain. I'm trying out the modern Greek stuff. I can't comment on the textbook yet, but the audio recordings (in mp3 format) aren't bad.
The other is a site dedicated to learning foreign languages and is called how-to-learn-any-language.com. Haven't had much chance to look over it yet, but I bet it has at least some useful information.
Of course this gets me into copyright law. Interesting law, that is. I think copyright is a very good thing and is something that should be protected, but the length of the protection of works is just too outrageous. For example, it appears that a work is copyrighted in Britain until 70 years after the death of the author. This means that if a work is published early in someones life, and they end up living a long life, that work might be under copyright for well over a hundred years. The purpose of copyright is to protect the creators investment. Gotta have that. But this is just a very long time...
This becomes particularly annoying with ancient texts. Unless I am mistaken, this law would cover the reconstruction of the text of the Oxyrhynchus papri. Of course some of them were published a long time ago and are almost surely out of copyright now. The first ones to publish in the series on the Oxyrhynchus papyri were Hunt and Grenfell, the latter of which died in 1934. I'm pretty sure this means that as of 2004 all volumes edited by Hunt and Grenfell came into the public domain.
Their translations and notes are valuable, but it is their texts that are most interesting. And if I'm reading the law right, their publications up until the first couple of decades of the last century are all fair game now.
Of course maybe the Egyptian Exploration Society is open about the use of its texts. I do not know. It is definitely something I will need to look into more.
The Oxyrhynchus project has its own site. I can't stand their interface for finding images, but if you look hard enough, you can find some cool stuff.
Hints, ideas, and comments on this particular topic are very welcome. Anybody know an expert in domestic and international copyright law?
"Now a literal translation is only half a translation. It changes the vocabulary, while it leaves unchanged the syntax. but the life of a language lies rather in the syntax than in the vocabulary."