Dating Israel’s first Camels

Radio-carbon dating of camel bones discovered in the Arava Valley has challenged Biblical accuracy, that is, according to reports based on an article published in Tel Aviv the journal of Tel Aviv University‘s  Department of Archaeology and Near Eastern Cultures. In recent weeks, this has, as might be expected, attracted media attention.

 Arabian camels

The claim is also made that this anachronism is direct proof that the texts were compiled perhaps centuries after the events described..

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Did the Ancient Carthaginians sacrifice their new-born children?

Contary to some revisionist historians and Bible critics, but just as ancient Greek and Roman writers insisted, and incidentally supporting Biblical descriptions of Canaanite practices, the Carthaginians did kill their own infant children, burying them with sacrificed animals and ritual inscriptions in special cemeteries to give thanks for favours from their gods, according to a new study.

Part of the Carthaginian infant cemetery (Tophet)
Part of the Carthaginian infant cemetery (Tophet)

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Samson’s sweet riddle

One of Britain’s iconic foodstuffs is Lyle’s Golden Syrup. Everyone knows the century-old design: a round tin can with a lid you prise off with a knife; racing green bodywork with the golden words arching over a central picture of a dried dead lion, and emanating from its stomach is a swarm of bees. A strange image for a foodstuff?

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Peter Williams (1723- 1796)

It is often said that any persons who cannot accept the Trinity doctrine, common to Catholicism, Orthodox and most denominations, are not Christian. Since even before Nicea (325AD) however, there have always been outspoken individuals who rejected it as unscriptural, and often suffered for it. In the eighteenth century, a time of ferment in the history of Welsh faith, such a man was Peter Williams.

In addition, Peter Williams knew that Bibles were financially beyond the reach of most families and that, in any event, Welsh Bibles were virtually unobtainable. He was also aware that his own fervor for spiritual knowledge was shared by increasing numbers of the ordinary people of Wales, but that the copyright for publication of the Bible was held by the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, which made accessibility even more difficult..

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The Mystery of the Copper Scroll of Qumran

The Mystery of the Copper Scroll of Qumran: The Essene Record of the Treasure of Akhenaten (2003) by Robert Feather
Rating: ★★★★★

The Mystery of the Copper Scroll of Qumran: The Essene Record of... Cover Art

Robert Feather’s background and training as a Metallurgist and Chartered Engineer has given him a unique insight into the intricacies of ‘The Copper Scroll’, one of the most enigmatic of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Qumran lies close to the Dead Sea at its northern end, some 40 km east of Jerusalem. Here, in an incredibly dry and sun-bleached area there is, strangely enough, no need for protective sun blocker, or life-guards. Lying some 1200 feet below sea level at the lowest point on earth, the damaging rays of the sun are screened out by the extra layer of atmosphere, and the concentration of salts in the Dead Sea is so high that anyone falling in immediately rises to the surface and like a cork, cannot sink.

But why is Qumran so important in historical and biblical terms?

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The Basque Shepherd and Psalm 23

This article is a much loved classic published by Reader’s Digest and related to the 23rd Psalm. It was written by James K. Wallace. If you love Psalm 23, you are sure to find this article informative and uplifting. Enjoy!

(The most requested reprint on the 40th anniversary of the Reader’s Digest in Canada. Condensed from “The National Wool Grower” by James K. Wallace, Dec.1949)

Old Ferando D’Alphonso is a Basque shepherd employed by one of the big Nevada sheep ranches. He is rated as one of the best sheep rangers in the state, and he should be; for he is descended from at least 20 generations of Iberian shepherds. But D’Alfonso is more than a shepherd; he is a patriarch of his guild, the traditions and secrets of which have been handed down from generation to generation. Despite a 30-year absence from his homeland he is still full of the legends, the mysteries, the religious fervour of his native hills. I sat with him one night under the clear,starry skies, his sheep bedded down beside a pool of sparkling water. As we were preparing to curl up in our blankets, he began to quote the                     23rd Psalm.

There, in the desert, I learned the shepherd’s literal interpretation of this beautiful poem. “David and his ancestors”, said D’Alphonso, “knew sheep and their ways, and David has translated a sheep’s musing into simple words. The daily repetition of this Psalm fills the shepherd with reverence for his calling…

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The truth about Ghosts

In The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia , Samuel Johnson has the philosopher Imlac say: ‘That the dead are seen no more I will not undertake to maintain against the concurrent and unvaried testimony of all ages and of all nations. There is no people, rude or learned, among whom apparitions of the dead are not related and believed’. Johnson suggests universal experience alone has made belief in ghosts credible, and for every hoax there may be cited an instance not so easily dismissed.

The occult, the supernatural and the paranormal are as prevalent as ever, with people from all walks of life prepared to pay to consult with mediums, seers, astrologers, psychics, spiritualists and other self-proclaimed visionaries. Literally millions of pounds are also spent on magazines, films, books, tarot cards and other paraphernalia that deal with subjects that range “from astrology to witchcraft.” Millions of readers regularly consult newspaper horoscopes, with wide interest shown in conventions, lectures and fairs that deal with psychic matters. Why such interest in the supernatural? Among the reasons given are: “Fear of death, personal experience with premonitions and widespread treatment of the topic in books and films.” Many people are also drawn in by the “entertainment value” of the occult, often from childhood, or are “sincere people for whom the paranormal amounts to a religion or a body of knowledge that to them is or will prove to be scientifically valid.”

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John Milton 1608- 1674

John Milton was arguably one of the greatest writers in the English language. He also was a noted historian, scholar, pamphleteer, and civil servant.

Milton ranks along with William Shakespeare among English poets; his writings and his influence are an important part of the history of English literature, culture, and thought. He is best known for Paradise Lost, which is generally regarded, as he intended, the greatest epic poem in the English language. Milton’s prose works, however, deserve their place in modern histories of political and religious thought.

According to one biographer, Milton “was loved by many, hated by some, but ignored by few.” How did John Milton come to have such influence? What made his last work—On Christian Doctrine—so controversial that it remained unpublished for 150 years? (John Milton: A Biography)

John Milton was born into a financially secure London family in 1608. “My father destined me in early childhood for the study of literature, for which I had so keen an appetite that from my twelfth year scarcely ever did I leave my studies for my bed before the hour of midnight,” Milton recalled. He excelled scholastically and received a master’s degree at Cambridge in 1632. Thereafter, he continued to read history and classical literature. By his own account, his early enthusiasm for the sensual poetry of Ovid and other Roman writers gave way to an appreciation of the idealism of Dante, Petrarch, and Edmund Spenser. He then moved on to Platonic philosophy and finally came to hold the biblical Book of Revelation in the highest esteem. Milton’s scholarly and literary gifts had from childhood marked him out in the minds of his family and teachers for the ministry, however  Milton wanted to be a poet. England in his day was in the throes of revolution. Parliament, led by Oliver Cromwell, appointed a court that had King Charles I executed in 1649. Using persuasive prose, Milton defended this action and became a spokesman for the Cromwell government. In fact, before attaining fame as a poet, John Milton was already well-known for his tracts on politics and morals..

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Galileo Galilei 1564– 1642

Born in Pisa in 1564, Galileo studied medicine at the university there. Showing little interest in that discipline, he abandoned it for the study of physics and mathematics. In 1585 he settled in Florence without obtaining any academic qualification. Yet, he gained the esteem of the greatest mathematicians of his day, credited with the discovery of certain principles of inertia, and winning the post of mathematics lecturer at the University of Pisa. After his father’s death, economic difficulties forced Galileo to move to Padua, where he was appointed to a more lucrative position, the chair of mathematics in that city’s university.

During his 18 years in Padua, three children were born to Galileo by his mistress, a young Venetian woman. In 1610 he returned to Florence, where he obtained a better economic situation enabling him to dedicate more time to research—but at the expense of the freedom he had enjoyed in the territory of the powerful Venetian Republic.  (The Library of Original Sources, Vol. VI, 1915)

A step leading to the confrontation between Galileo and the church occurred back in the 13th century, and involved Catholic authority Thomas Aquinas (1225-74). Aquinas had a profound respect for Aristotle, whom he referred to as The Philosopher. Aquinas struggled for five years to fuse Aristotle’s philosophy with church teaching. By the time of Galileo, says Wade Rowland in his book Galileo’s Mistake: A New Look at the Epic Confrontation Between Galileo and the Church, “the hybridized Aristotle in the theology of Aquinas had become bedrock dogma of the Church of Rome.” In those days there was no scientific community as such. Education was largely in the hands of the church. The authority on religion and science was often one and the same.

The next step became the confrontation between the church and Galileo. Even before his involvement with astronomy, Galileo had written a treatise on motion. It challenged many assumptions made by the revered Aristotle. However, it was Galileo’s steadfast promotion of the heliocentric concept and his assertion that it harmonizes with Scripture that led to his trial by the Inquisition in 1633.

In his defence, Galileo affirmed his strong faith in the Bible as the inspired Word of God. He also argued that the Scriptures were written for ordinary people and that Biblical references to the apparent movement of the sun were not to be interpreted literally. His arguments were futile. Because Galileo rejected an interpretation of Scripture based on Greek philosophy, he stood condemned! Not until 1992 did the Catholic Church officially admit to error in its judgment of Galileo.

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The Obedience of a Christian Man (1528) by William Tyndale

This is a Guest blog by Mr Roy Elliot. My thanks to him for permission to reproduce it here.

Rating: ★★★★★

The Obedience of a Christian Man (Penguin Classics)

Influential remarkable book written almost 500 years ago

This remarkable book needs to be set in context. It was written almost 500 years ago, during the brutal persecution of those who believed the simple Gospel and in the absolute authority of “Scripture alone”.

William Tyndale, a gifted scholar educated at Oxford and ordained a priest, saw at first hand the widespread corruption within the Roman Catholic Church.

Rome believed that it could not err and it held ultimate power even over the king and government. A core belief was, and still is, that “Church Tradition” holds equal, or even more authority than the Bible. The Church went to extreme lengths to prevent the ordinary folk from having any independent understanding of the Bible, particularly in what it said regarding  purgatory, confessing sins to a priest, the selling of indulgences, praying to Mary, praying to Saints, salvation by works and money payments, etc…

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