Monday, May 22, 2006

Thoughts on the Judas gospel

As an archaeologist, people seem to think that I must have some strong feelings about the Gospel of Judas, which was recently published in part by National Geographic. At first I pointed out that I'm not a biblical scholar and the gospel was not excavated so I really don't have much to say about it. But having been asked numerous times now, I suppose I have to take a position. But it's not so easy as some may think. There is the whole ethical question.

What ethical question?

The gospel has a very questionable past and it smacks of black-market antiquities deals which archaeologists abhor. We make our livelihood by excavating things in situ and the black-market is the biggest threat to our jobs, let alone the destruction of sites eradicates the usefulness of most artifacts.

But note that I say "most" artifacts.

Yes, I may be an archaeologist, but I'd like to think that I'm also a realist. There are some things that are still useful even without archaeological context and texts are one of those things. The gospel can be dated without statigraphy and what is written is more important that the pottery that may have gone with it. GASP!

So do I think that the AIA and ASOR are correct in refusing to publish all unproven artifacts? Er. Lets not get into that right now, you were asking about the Gospel of Judas.

Is it is real? Yes. But, and it is a big BUT, it is not the actual writings of Judas Iscariot. Honestly people, when was he supposed to write a gospel? The man purportedly hung himself after Jesus was arrested, I doubt he stopped to dictate his memoirs. What we have here is a gnostic gospel written by an observant gnostic Christian in the spirit of Judas. What? you say. Yes, it has happened before - well obviously since the thing is over a thousand years old. The gnostics were an interesting group of Christians that felt that you could, in fact, not only understand God, but all of the characters involved in the Bible, through prayer and possibly several other mystical and now lost practices.

If you are curious, read E. Pagels "The Gnostic Gospels" available through Amazon and wherever such books are sold.

This of course raises a curious question, are any of the accepted gospels other "in-the-spirit-of-the-disciple X"? But that is another discussion all together and one for biblical scholars to debate. I am just a lowly archaeologist, digging in the dirt for her provenienced artifacts.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The 10 day forcast

I swear I may have to rethink this whole "living in the north by the sea" concept. The 10 day forcast for my little corner of Denmark is rain. Ten days of nothing but rain. And the temp will not get above 60`F, it will hover, instead, at about 57`. Ugh. I am starting to think longingly about the American southwest. Maybe a compromise, I'll go live in southern california where it is sunny and warm and I can finally get some decent Mexican food.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Spring arrives

Well its finally here - Spring! It hasn't snowed in a while, in fact, most of the snow has gone away. I say only "most" though because there are still patches lurcking by the motorway. Crocuses have been seen, and in Aarhus the purple and white ones have errupted and formed a beautiful display (carefully planted at some point they have been hiding the entire time I've been in Denmark, so it was quite a surprise to find them). The sun has been getting up earlier and staying up later. Which we'd all go bask in if it wasn't so cold and if it didn't rain too much. Yes, spring in Denmark is wet. And warm in the sense that you can finally go outside without long-underwear and not die. When its sunny it's actually quite pleasant and you can take off the knit cap. But "warm"? Not really. And the trees are not fooled because not a single one has produced buds. So it may snow a bit more, but that's typical of Danish spring, or so I'm told.

Hope the weather is pleasant wherever you happen to be!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

An American in Denmark

Whew, where do I begin with Denmark? First you must understand that with the creation of the EU, Danes have become increasingly worried that they will lose their national identity. People already think that Denmark is the capital of Sweden and Germany has invaded it at least once almost every 50 years (and for some reason, after each war, including WWI, Germany ended up with MORE Danish land rather than less). Danes have become increasingly protective of their "danishness". So during the past 25 years or so the surge in refuges from arab countries have made Danes increasingly nervous because these immigrants have often not seamlessly integrated into Danish society. Not that Danes make it easy, they will fight to the death to insure that you have the same rights as the next person, but if you break tradition, beware! But for many arabs who came to Denmark for political or religious freedom, the idea of conforming seems contrary to that goal. They will happily learn Danish, get whatever job they can, and be a productive member of society, but they won't give up their religion or dress. And this bothers many Danes, who view this as a rejection of their hospitality. So just as in France, there has been rising resentment on both sides. A political party has been formed whose sole purpose is to prevent the building of any mosques in Denmark. They have been remarkably successful. Honestly, the way California treats Mexican migrant laborers is better than Denmark's current attitude toward arab immigrants. There is a contract you have to sign when you apply for residency (residency! not citizenship!) where you promise to raise your child according to Danish standards, in Danish schools, with Danish as a primary language. Because Denmark is concerned about your child's well-being, your child's name must be on the state approved list of baby names UNLESS you can prove that the name you are giving your child is a common name from your homeland. Oh yes, and the current slang term for Danish-Arab is "Mohammedane".

Now, add to this the declining number of people who read Jyllands-Posten (the newspaper in question) and you may begin to see what happened.

The JP wanted to start a lively debate regarding the current Islamaphobia, so they asked all the famous cartoonists to draw Mohammed. And then they published them in September or October. (We don't get that newspaper because it's... well, it's the Washington Post to the New York Times, most of the time, it's full of crap.) Apparently it takes a while for people to get upset around here. Anyway, in Denmark at least there was a lot of discussion about the cartoons. At the time both my boyfriend and I thought, well, that's a dumb thing to do, but there didn't seem to be a lot of outcry from Danish muslims. And suddenly there is.

The newspaper has apologized for the fuss, but stands by it's right to freedom of speech (which is a very strong freedom in Denmark, you can say just about anything to anyone at any time). The point that has been made by a lot of Danish arab journalists is that the countries who are fussing the most are the ones who do not have freedom of speech and have a government controlled press. The government of Denmark can do nothing to the newspaper. The company that has been boycotted all over the arab world can do nothing to the newspaper. The publication of politically incorrect cartoons in a newspaper read by MAYBE 300,000 has gotten a reaction way out of proportion to the incident.

As a person who comes from a country whose flag gets torched all the time and who constantly finds herself having to explain America's foreign policy to everyone I meet, I find myself surprised at how upset Danes are getting over the reaction of the middle-east. But I'm used to being universally disliked and mistrusted for being an American, Danes are used to everyone loving them. Or not even realizing they are a country. For them it is a shock and they have no idea how to solve this problem. Like the JP should fire the culture editor, or he should resign or retire. The prime minister and the queen could keep talking about how disappointed they are with the newspaper to print such blatantly inflammatory cartoons. The parliament could lift the ban on mosque building and finally let muslims build an adequate mosque in Copenhagen (hey, maybe they could have two!). But I don't think they will. Danes are very stubborn people, and when they feel their rights are threatened they will not give in; currently they are viewing this as a show down on freedom of press. So expect very little.

But if I could reach out to all the Danes who are currently worried about how much the world hates them, I would tell them, "fear not, my friends, next week we Americans will do something far worse to take the burden of infamy from your shoulders!" At least we can count of that!

And on a related note: how ironic it is that Syria, Libya, et. al are calling for a UN resolution regarding freedom and respect for religion? I say we pass the damn thing just for the look on their faces when we slap them with a whateverthehellyoucallthem for statements made against Judaism. Heh heh heh.

Ah, and for continuing coverage including some very well written opinion pieces, check out the International Hearld Tribune.