Sunday, November 29, 2009

More on the Gospel of Judas and astrology

I just read through my notes on Grant Adamson's presentation on "The Gospel of Judas as Horoscope" (which will be published soon in Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies 71). Here are the important points I took away from the presentation:

  • the Tetrabiblos of Ptolemy was the ancient source for prognostic astrology, which among other things involved calculating the length of life, which was determined by the stars at birth
  • the stars are the cause of events
  • in Gospel of Judas – the souls of the holy generation will not be subject to the stars (only their bodies)
  • they are only ruled by fate when it comes to their deaths
  • astral determinism – all is in the power of fate (according to Firmicus Maternas, another astrologer)
  • Judas (therefore) cannot join the holy generation
  • according to others (e.g., magicians), one’s fate could be changed
  • in the Eighth Book of Moses (PGM 13) – the deity would descend and tell the horoscope to the practitioner, who can then get his fate changed if he behaved correctly and had correct knowledge
  • Judas is incompetent, unlike the astrologers in PGM 13, and can’t get his fate changed
  • in Sethian Gnosticism – mockery of Plato’s Timaeus and its Demiurge, as much as of the God of Genesis
  • Ehrman, Pagels, and King have misunderstood this and ignored the astrological context
  • the Savior acts as an astrologer in this text
  • Judas asks for his fate to be changed, but the Savior refuses - hence, he doesn't join the holy generation which is saved from astral determinism



Thursday, November 26, 2009

Pager messages on 9/11

Wikileaks has put up a long list of pager messages from 9/11/01 (not saying, of course, where they got them from). I just read through quite a few and collected the ones that seem directly linked to the terrorist attacks. It's very eerie reading them. Some are from private individuals, others from the NYPD, or from what seems to be air traffic control in the New York area. I've pasted in messages below from shortly after the first plane hit at 8:46 until after the second plane hit at 9:02. I've blotted out phone numbers and full names of private individuals.

2001-09-11 08:47:46 Someone just told me there was an explosion at
2001-09-11 08:50:25 A plane crashed thru the twin towers. Real bad..BR
2001-09-11 08:50:31 An Aloha call is starting . This is for a fire at 2WT. Please call into TeleMeeting conference center at -877-913-7943 . If Morgan Stanley has not initiated the call you will hear music until they initiate the call. Dallas Data
2001-09-11 08:50:54 BOMB DETINATED IN WORLD TRADE CTR. PLS GET BACK TO MIKE Bxxxx W/A QUICK ASSESSMENT OF YOUR AREAS AND CONTACT US IF ANYTHING IS NEEDED AT 212-xxx-xxxx.
2001-09-11 08:51:24  Frm: Santini, Olivia (NBC, MSNBC) Sub: Txt: plane crash at World Trade Center in NYC-no word on details- efforting more info now
2001-09-11 08:51:37 THE WORLD TRADE CENTER HAS JUST BLOWN UP, WE SEEN THE EXPLOSION OUTSIDE OUR WINDOWS. TERESA...
2001-09-11 08:51:37 Trade Center in NYC-no word on details- efforting more info now
2001-09-11 08:51:42 THERE WAS SOME KIND OF EXPLOSION AT WORLD TRADE CTR. MAY HAVE SOME TROUBLE GETTING TO METRO TECH. - DAVID. 212-xxx-xxxx.Austin Airport Police
2001-09-11 08:51:50 Sub: Fire!!! Frm: Rick Cxxxxx Txt: World Trade Center is on FIRE!!!! No Joke. rickc
2001-09-11 08:52:27 GO TO TWIN TOWERS PLANE CRASH IMMEDIATELY WITH KEVIN. WALTER.
2001-09-11 08:52:46 Netdesk@nbc.com||Reports of a plane crash near World Trade Center - no more details at this point. WNBC's LIVE pix - Network working on coverage.
2001-09-11 08:52:57 :swingler@xxxx S:CNN (page): T:swingler@xxxx:- World trade center damaged; unconfirmed reports say a plane has crashed into tower. Details to come.
2001-09-11 08:52:58 BreakingNews@CNN.COM CNN Breaking News BREAKING NEWS from CNN.com -- World trade center damaged; unconfirmed reports say a plane has crashed into tower. Details to come. For complete coverage of this story visit: http://www.CNN.com or AOL K
2001-09-11 08:52:59 EXPLOSION AT WORLD TRADE CENTER CNN SAYS. CAN YOU MAKE CALLS FROM HOME UNTIL I GET INTO OFFICE. PAT
2001-09-11 08:53:01 World Trade Center- report of explosion and/or fire. Will update as further info is recv'd. MTAPD Comm Ctr (1/1)
2001-09-11 08:53:16 CFP NATIONAL (1) MANHATTAN, NY *BREAKING NEWS* PLANE HAS CRASHED INTO WORLD TRADE CENTER. MORE TO FOLLOW [700p]
2001-09-11 08:53:44 World Trade Center- report of explosion and/or fire. Will update as further info is recv'd.  MTAPD Comm Ctr (1/1)
2001-09-11 08:53:44 "NYPD Ops Div" <|1 PCT WORLD TRADE CENTER|--- 1 PCT - WORLD TRADE CENTER - POSSIBLE EXPLOSION WORLD TRADE CENTER BUILDING. LEVEL 3 MOBILIZATION TO CHURCH AND VESSY.
2001-09-11 08:53:44  martint: A plane has just crashed into the side of Tower One of The World Trade Center... details to follow.
2001-09-11 08:53:44 a plane has crashed into tower. Details to come. For complete co
2001-09-11 08:53:52  "NYPD Ops Div" <|1 PCT WORLD TRADE CEN
2001-09-11 08:53:52  FYI----UPPER LEVEL OF WORLD TRADE CENTER  IS ON FIRE...HEAVY  EMGENCY UNITS O/S...  AVOID ALL AREAS  .OP#12
2001-09-11 08:53:54 1 PCT - WORLD TRADE CENTER - POSSIBLE EXPLOSION WORLD TRADE CENTER BUILDING. LEVEL 3 MOBILIZATION TO CHURCH AND VESSY.
2001-09-11 08:53:55 CRASH AT WORLD TRADE CENTER. THIS IS NOT A DRIL REMCS 9
2001-09-11 08:53:55 Netdesk@nbc.com||Reports of a plane crash near World Trade Center - no more deta
2001-09-11 08:53:57 World Trade Center- report of explosion and/or fire. Will update as further info is recv'd.  MTAPD Comm Ctr (1/1)
2001-09-11 08:53:57 martint: A plane has just crashed into the side of Tower One of The World Trade Center... details to follow.
2001-09-11 08:54:05 Netdesk@nbc.com||Reports of a plane crash near World Trade Center - no more deta
2001-09-11 08:54:07 Robert Sargent|TURN ON CNN Sat channel 202 ASAP |TURN ON CNN Sat channel 202 ASAP|81 
2001-09-11 08:54:07 amaged; unconfirmed reports say a plane has crashed into tower. Details to come. For complete coverage of this story visit: http://www.C
2001-09-11 08:54:10 World Trade Center- report of explosion and/or fire. Will update as further info
2001-09-11 08:54:12 Sent: Tuesday, September 11, 2001 8:53:27 AM > To: ABCTV DL BREAKING NEWS > Subject: WTC > Auto forwarded by a Rule > Plane into the World Trade Center. Video on RS 024 in
2001-09-11 08:54:27 LARRY, CALL BRIAN 516-xxx-xxxx. WANT TO KNOW IF OUR MEN ARE OKAY, SAW A PLANE HIT BLDG.
2001-09-11 08:54:29 PLANE CRASHES INTO WORLD TRADE CTR. -ROSE
2001-09-11 08:54:29 ED-PEOPLE VISITING AIRPORT MIGHT WANT TO USE ALTERNATE ROUTES
2001-09-11 08:54:33 WE NEED TO HAVE YOU HEAD TO WORLD TRADE CTR. PLEASE CALL LAURA EXT 6121.
2001-09-11 08:54:33 CNN World trade center damaged; unconfirmed reports say a plane hascrashed into tower. Details to co
2001-09-11 08:54:35 SCONFIRMED PLANE CRASH INTO THE WORLD TRADE CENTER MULTI UNITS RESPONDING
01-09-11 08:54:46 NYPD and emergency units at World Trade center, RE; airplane crash. Small Jet.
2001-09-11 08:54:48 A/E: DISPATCHERS THAT ARE AVAIL PLZ ADVISE ON A/E. [700p]
2001-09-11 08:55:31 MAJOR FIRE AT THE WORLD TRADE CENTER. JEFF Dxxxxxx AT 609-xxx-xxxx
2001-09-11 08:55:33 EXPLOSION AT WORLD TRADE CENTER. STAY AWAY. CALL JOE Q AT 908-xxx-xxxx
2001-09-11 08:55:33 CALL HOME CONCERNING WTC EXPLOSION.
2001-09-11 08:55:35 if you don't have radio on, small plane has hit world trade center. -- andy
2001-09-11 08:55:35 EMERGENCY. CALL HOME NOW.
2001-09-11 08:55:37 AN AIRCRAFT OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN HAS HIT THE WORLD TRADE CENTER IN NY...CNN HAS LIVE PICTURES...JOE T/OCC
2001-09-11 08:55:42 A SMALL PLANE CRASHED INTO THE WORLD TRADE CTR IN N.Y. JUST NOW. CALL ME, LOVE YOUR WIFE.
2001-09-11 08:55:46 THERE WAS AN EXPLOSION AT THE WORLD TRADE CTR. CALL HOME FOR DETAILS
2001-09-11 08:55:46 (1/1) FIRE AT TRADE CENTER TOWER #2 POSSIBLE AIRCRAFT CRASH AS THE CAUSE. INFO TO FOLLOW AS OBTAINED. - JERRY EWR Ops x6025
2001-09-11 08:55:55 THEY SAY THAT A PLANE JUST HIT THE TWIN TOWERS IN NY. IT'S ON 11 NOW
2001-09-11 08:55:55 PLANE HIT NORTH TOWER. KEV.
2001-09-11 08:56:12 ALAN REISS IS AT THE POLICE DESK. THE TOP OF THE WORLD TRADE BLDG HAS BEEN DESTROYED. (MESSAGE NOT VERIFIED. CALL DISCONNECTED).
2001-09-11 08:56:22 Frm: janderson@xxxxx Txt: per WTOP, an airplane just crashed into the World Trade Center in NYC... -Jack
2001-09-11 08:56:24 PAGE UPDATE NEWS BULLETIN: NEW YORK: A COMMERCIAL PLANE CRASHES INTO THE WORLD TRADE CENTER TOWER.
2001-09-11 08:56:33 Dave, just an update. A plane has crashed into the World Trade Center. We have no further info. Ben Strong-National US&R Program (82
2001-09-11 08:56:35 it was a plane – lou
2001-09-11 08:56:37 From: Gxxxx, Kate (Exchange)- holy shit! a plane just hit the top of the world trade center!
2001-09-11 08:56:46 Trade Center has had a plane fly into the top floors. Live film footage on TV. FYI only
2001-09-11 08:56:54 FSOEWR@emc.fedex.com|Plane crash|Just a FYI...A plane crashed into the World Trade Center right Now... No details but it is on the NEWS...Thanks/Joyce
2001-09-11 08:56:59 "Aida Davidson" |tragedy|A plane has crashed into the world trade center in NY City. Huge mess and
2001-09-11 08:57:25 Frm: 2013295709@xxxxxx Txt: There are reports of a plane crash or some type of explosion at the World Trade Center , fire and smoke on many floors. Not sure how this will affect paging. Maria Ritz..
2001-09-11 08:57:33 World Trade Center...some type of explosion just moments ago. I am listening to CNN, could have been an aircraft. Keep you posted. me
2001-09-11 08:57:35 CALL ME AND LET ME KNOW YOU ARE SAFE. xxx-xxxx
2001-09-11 08:57:39 All - Plane crashed into WTC, our staff at 5 WTC is presently recorded safe details to follow. ?s call 1000
2001-09-11 08:58:05 PAGE FROM auyeuj: Ben, An American Airline plane crashed into one of the World Trade Tower. It is now stuck in the building and also over 100 people are estimated to have perished. There is smoked around one of the tower.
2001-09-11 08:58:05 Arch World Trade Center- report of explosion and/or fire. Will update as further info is recv'd. MTAPD Comm Ctr (1/1)
2001-09-11 08:58:13 showing 10 stories from top of bldg...news helo says plane may have gone all the way through –Jack
2001-09-11 08:58:16 World Trade Center- report of explosion and/or fire. Will update as further info is recv'd. MTAPD Comm Ctr (1/1)
2001-09-11 08:58:31 flashnet@intelcenter.com|FlashNet Event|NYC, US: Plane crashes into World Trade Center Tower
2001-09-11 08:58:33 1968237@skytel.c|Mike Doug here. r u watching breaking news about plane crashing into wtc ny?
2001-09-11 08:58:33 PLS GIVE ME A CALL AS SOON AS YOU COME OUT OF THE TRAIN. -PRITI AT xxx-xxxx. URGENT.
2001-09-11 08:58:33 HUSBAND-THEY BELIEVE A PLANE HIT THE TOP OF THE WORLD TRADE CENTER IN NEW YORK. IT'S REALLY BAD. LOV
2001-09-11 08:58:33 Initial reports indictate that AAL11, B767, after initial hijacking on flight from BOS-LAX, has crashed into the side of the World Trade Center in NY. ATCSCC/bl
2001-09-11 08:58:38 AGTTEAST@emc.fedex.com||A 737 AIRCRAFT JUST HIT A TOWER OF THE WORLD TRADE CENTER...GARY 212-xxx-xxxx
2001-09-11 08:58:42 A PLANE JUST HIT 1 WORLD TRADE CTR. OSCAR
2001-09-11 08:58:42 Hi Jim there was a plane that crashed into the world trade center this morning!
2001-09-11 08:58:42 A PLANE CRASHED INTO THE WORLD TRADE CTR. GET TO A TV SO YOU CAN SEE THIS OR CALL ME. JULIE.
2001-09-11 08:58:44 MIKE, A PLANE IN JUST CRASHED INTO THE WORLD TRADE CENTER.
2001-09-11 08:58:48 Skytel call Mark as soon as possible this is an emergency DO NOT GET ON THE PATH TRAIN...THE WORLD TRADE CENTER IS ON FIRE
2001-09-11 08:58:53 HEADS UP. PLANE CRASHED INTO WORLD TRADE CENTER. -ALLISON.
2001-09-11 08:59:03 bschork@xxxxx ||FYI: A plane crashed into the World Trade Center and the building is on fire.
2001-09-11 08:59:37  (1 of 2) BROADCAST: A plane has crashed into the World Trade Center. Be prepared
2001-09-11 08:59:38 BREAKING NEWS, PLANE CRASHED INTO WORLD TRADE CENTER, CALL ME LATER. LOVE NANCY.
2001-09-11 08:59:40 A plane just crashed into the side of the World Trade Center on the 80th floor & it's still inside! I just saw live photos o
2001-09-11 08:59:42 a plane crashed into the WTC avoid the area if possible...stay safe...most important...I will take care of anything for you...just don't take chances. mw
2001-09-11 08:59:50 9/11/01 7:58:21 AM A plane has crashed into the WTC.. Looks like 2WTC not sure at this time.. We're monitoring TCAM, etc... Riep Dallas Data Center Operations
2001-09-11 08:59:59 OVER SOD POSSIBLE PLANE CRASH IN THE WORLD TRADE CENTER LEVEL 3 MOBILIZATION IN MANHATTAN. NFI 8:57:14 AM
2001-09-11 08:59:59 (1/1) CONFIRMED PLANE CRASH AT 2 WORLD TRADE CENTER. EMRP, 38ST, HAZMAT RESPONDING. // CC 595-6777
2001-09-11 09:00:05 9/11/2001 9:00:08 AM 0849 HRS. PLANE CRASHED INTO THE WORLD TRADE CENTER TRAINS ARE BY PASSING THE STATION 'N' 'R'
2001-09-11 09:00:05 (1/1) CONFIRMED PLANE CRASH AT 2 WORLD TRADE CENTER. EMRP, 38ST, HAZMAT RESPONDING. // CC 595-6777
2001-09-11 09:00:10 22-TURN ON THE NEW YORK RADIO STATION. A PLANE CRASHED INTO THE WORLD TRADE CTR. CALL SANDY AT WORK LATER.
2001-09-11 09:00:25 From: Ayanlar, Orhan (Exchange)- 737 crashes into world trade center.
2001-09-11 09:00:39 fyi..top of world trade center hit by plane...major damage and fire on upper floors.
2001-09-11 09:00:39 HI IT'S NANCY CALL ME 646 xxx-xxxx I WANT TO KNOW IF YOU'RE OK BECAUSE OF THE PLANE THAT HIT THE TWIN TOWERS. CALL ME PLEASE.
2001-09-11 09:00:46 tefarber@att.com|MAJOR OUTAGE|World trade center damaged; unconfirmed reports say a plane has crashed into tower. MARSH AND NYMEX IMPACTED
2001-09-11 09:00:54 CALL THE OFFICE OR COME DOWN TO THE OFFICE ASAP. WORLD TRADE CENTER ON FIRE. MESSAGE AS PER JEFF Sxxxx. SCOTT Kxxxxxx
2001-09-11 09:00:55 Airplane just crashed into the side of the World Trade Center -
2001-09-11 09:00:59 800-214-4071 Airplane Crashed into WTC1 pleasde call MRO
2001-09-11 09:01:01 Frm: Netdesk Sub: Txt: Black smoke pours from the top flours of NYC's World Trade Center tower. Initial reports that a plane crashed into the tower.
2001-09-11 09:01:31 HEY GIRL BEFORE YOU LEAVE TURN ON YOUR TV OR RADI0 FOR UPDATE REGUARDING A PLANE CRASHING INTO THE WORLD TRADE CENTER IN NEW YORK CYA WHEN YOU GET HERE MARKUS
2001-09-11 09:01:44 MR Rosenblut just called. He said there was and airplane crash at World Trade Center. It might affect us. He called
2001-09-11 09:01:44 800-214-4071 Airplane Crashed into WTC1 pleasde call MRO (16
2001-09-11 09:01:53 Plane crash into World Trade Center. All MTA PD midnight units being held over. MTAPD Comm Ctr (1/1)
2001-09-11 09:01:53 FYI: Avoid downtown - a plane just ran into one of the World Trade towers!!! It
2001-09-11 09:02:03 [NFC] [09/11/01-09:01:29] FYI - World Trade Center is in on fire, It appears
2001-09-11 09:02:31  Netdesk@nbc.com||NYC FIRE DEPARTMENT CONFIRMS A SMALL PLANE CRASHED INTO THE WORLD TRADE CENTER THIS MORNING. BLACK SMOKE CONTINUES TO POUR FROM THE BUILDING. This is the north tower(with the antenna).
2001-09-11 09:02:31 BREAKING NEWS: PER OPB, IT APPEARS AA 757 HIJACKED AND RUN INTO THE WORLD TRADE CENTER. THIS IS NOT A JOKE AND JUST BREAKING NEWS> RICK-Rick
2001-09-11 09:02:40 small plane crashed into the world trade center towers no request has been made for NJ EMS response DO NOT CALL REMCS unless emergency. From: REMCS Supv.
2001-09-11 09:03:03 From: HICKLEE - Info - An airplane just crashed into the top of the World Trade Center. Wonder what their DR plan is ?
2001-09-11 09:03:12 Frm: Mazzocchi Robert - GPB Sub: A 737 just hit the Txt: World Trade Center
2001-09-11 09:03:31 A commuter airplane has crashed into 85th floor of World Trade Center..Alicia
2001-09-11 09:03:46 PLEASE GIVE ARIEL A CALL 212-xxx-xxxx RE: CASUALTIES AT THE WORLD TRADR CTR AIRPLANE CRASH.
2001-09-11 09:04:01 AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL HAS NOT GIVEN US ANY CONCRETE INFO.....INDICATED PSBL HI-JACK COM ACFT. JOE TURNER OCC DUTY DIRECTOR / 5-0000
2001-09-11 09:04:03 Netdesk@nbc.com||HUGE explosion just rocked the World Trade Center....the second tower is now on fire.
2001-09-11 09:04:20 another explosion in wtc!!!
2001-09-11 09:04:20 PLS CALL THE DESK ASAP. NEED YOU TO GO DOWN TO THE TRADE CENTER. CALL LAURA BEFORE YOU MOVE, 4114
2001-09-11 09:04:25 GPMS page from (bouvery): (Plane Crash) Finance Desk are contacting brokers (we deal with) at WTC for further confirmation of impact - support are on standy for increased calls - Danny
2001-09-11 09:04:25 :NASDGW1 is down, all internet users affected. Case Number:19501874
2001-09-11 09:04:25 martint: The fuselage of the plane at 1WTC has just caused a second explosion.
2001-09-11 09:04:37  Jennifer.Cxx@xxxxx||Small plane has crashed into top floors of one of WTC towers. A second plane has just hit the other tower.
2001-09-11 09:04:37 patty.txxxx@xxxx|Did you hear about the world trade center?|
2001-09-11 09:04:37 acaesar@xxxxxx||Hi. 2 planes have crashed into the World Trade Center NYC. (
2001-09-11 09:04:39 YOUR SISTER JOE SAW THE NEWS AND WANT TO KNOW IF YOU ARE OKAY. PLEASE CALL ME AT WORK AND LEAVE A MESSAGE IF I AM NOT AT MY DESK. 1 800 xxx xxxx EXTENSION 6184
2001-09-11 09:04:55 There may be two planes that crashed into them (sabatoge!!)JAN

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

More great SBL sessions on mysticism

I've really been enjoying the SBL this year. Yesterday and today the Early Jewish and Christian Mysticism section had excellent sessions with lots of lively discussion. Yesterday, at the Second-Century Christian Mysticism and Gnosticism session, April DeConick spoke on "Star Gates and Heavenly Places: What Were the Gnostics Doing?" She discussed a Gnostic group called the Paratics (whom I had never heard of), who were mentioned by Hippolytus. (See this selection from G.R.S. Mead, Fragments of a Faith Forgotten, for his discussion of Hippolytus' account of the Paratics). Her discussion focused on the very complex picture of reality formulated by the Paratics and their beliefs about how the Gnostics will be saved upon death by traveling through the regions under the Moon, then into a region where they will encounter the hostile archons, and how they finally will be saved by traveling through the constellation Draco into the upper realm of the heavenly Father. Much of their worldview is based on ancient astrology.

The next paper was by Grant Adamson - "Fate Indelible: The Gospel of Judas as Horoscope." His abstract captures the important points of his paper:
By observing and calculating the position of the stars, ancient astrologers concerned themselves not only with predicting but also explaining ex post facto the time and manner of a native's death. Cases of violent death were of particular interest. Those astrologers who were more magically inclined sought to cheat death by calling down a god to cast their horoscope for them and erase their foul fate. Writing in the second century CE, the author of the Gospel of Judas drew on these traditions and practices in order to explain the fate of the already infamous betrayer who had facilitated the crucifixion and died violently himself. Jesus speaks as an astrologer in the Gospel of Judas, using technical astrological terms, and his predictions for Judas are grim. Judas asks Jesus for salvation, but the god explains that his fate is indelible.
Grant's paper confirmed the observations of April in her book on the Gospel of Judas (The Thirteenth Apostle: What the Gospel of Judas Really Says), namely that the book does not depict the victory of Judas over his fate, but rather his condemnation by the Savior to be the thirteenth daimon.

This is an interpretation opposed by Bart Ehrman, Elaine Pagels, and Karen King in their books on the Gospel of Judas. For an example of this line of interpretation, see Bart Ehrman in The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot (p. 98):
Judas, even more than Jesus, is the hero of this acount. To be sure, Jesus is the divine revealer who alone knows the mysterious truths that can lead to salvation. But the Gospel is about Judas: how he received these revelations; his superiority to all the other disciples, who continued to worship the false god(s) who created this material world; and how he would ultimately transcend this world, as at the end of his life he would enter into that 'luminous cloud,' in which dwells the ultimate and true God himself."
In the second edition of the National Geographic publication of the Gospel of Judas, see pages 18-22 for a survey of the conflicting opinions.

The third paper in the session was "The Tower as Divine Body: Visions and Theurgy in the Shepherd of Hermas," presented by Franklin Trammell. The abstract of his paper reads:
Behind some of the visions and teachings in the Shepherd of Hermas lies the notion of a direct correspondence between the heart of the righteous and the androgynous divine body. This body is presented by Hermas as a sevenfold Tower that is in the process of being (re)built by (re)incorporating the feminine Ecclesia. Members of the Ecclesia, who are pure of heart, are clothed with twelve virgins and receive the seal of the Son of God, representing the female and male aspects of the body. They then affect the reintegration of this female aspect, being built into the eschatological Tower as a part of her. Hermas’ law of purity therefore plays an incredibly important theurgic role. In identifying the Tower with the Ecclesia, itself implicitly assimilated in the text to Sophia, the author portrays those who do not sin after baptism as participating in the (re)unification of pre-existent Wisdom. It is this process along with elements related to it that shares affinities with later Jewish mystical sources.
I found this talk fascinating, especially since I've never read the Shepherd of Hermas. I found particularly interesting the possible connections to Sefer ha-Bahir that he mentioned.

The last talk, by Jonathan Knight, was on the Ascension of Isaiah.
"The use of Jewish and other Mystical Traditions in the Ascension of Isaiah." The Ascension of Isaiah is an important text because it is our earliest non-canonical Christian apocalypse. I date in the decade 110-120 CE, so that its author potentially knows earlier Christian literature, although he continues to rely on the oral tradition that surfaces also in Matthew's Gospel. The text sheds light on the development of early Christian mysticism in the period roughly between the last of the New Testament documents and the rise of the Gnostic literature.

I'm fading at the moment, so I'll have to leave today's panel for now, and hope to get back to it tomorrow or the next day.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Mysticism at the SBL

I'm attending the SBL (Society of Biblical Literature) Annual Meeting right now, which is being held in New Orleans.

I arrived in New Orleans very late Thursday night (my plane from Newark was delayed because of all the air traffic and weather problems) and then got up bright and early on Friday morning to go to the New Testament Mysticism Project session. This is the first time I've managed to get to one of these sessions, and it was really worthwhile. The presenters spoke mostly on the Gospel of John, giving very detailed exegeses of short passages. I found it very interesting and thought-provoking.

Last night an independent supporter of biblical studies who lives in Jerusalem, Jay Pomrenze, organized a delicious Shabbat dinner for any of the wandering Jews at the conference. He is a most generous soul and the atmosphere was very heimish. I think a majority of the celebrants were from Israel (mostly from Bar Ilan University). There was apparently a nice davening, which I missed because I had to take a nap before Shabbat.

Today I got up late and then went to the book display - finding several (expensive) books touching on early Jewish mysticism - Peter SchÀfer's new book on the origins of early Jewish mysticism, a new synoptic edition of Sefer ha-Razim, and Christopher Rowland's and Christopher Morray-Jones' new volume, the Mystery of God, which is on early Jewish mysticism and the New Testament.

This afternoon I attended the first meeting of the Early Jewish and Christian Mysticism section, which included a review of the Mystery of God, done by three scholars - Charles Gieschen, Jim Davila, and Alan Segal. Alan couldn't make the meeting, so I read his contribution. After the three reviews, Chris Rowland's response was read by another participant, and Chris Morray-Jones replied in person. Overall, it was a very interesting discussing and I look forward to reading the book when it arrives.

I'm heading off right now for the annual dinner with the other members of the Early Jewish and Mysticism section, and anticipate a delicious dinner and fascinating discussion.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Is Gilo an Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem?

While I am usually opposed to building Jewish settlements in the West Bank, I think that the White House (White House: Israeli housing plans dismaying) is foolish to try to prevent Israel from building more apartments in Gilo - a Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem that is, in fact, over the Green Line, but which in any realistic plan to make peace with the Palestinians will never be part of a Palestinian state. The Washington Post calls Gilo part of "East Jerusalem," but in fact it is in southern Jerusalem, north of the Palestinian town of Beit Jalla, which is just north of Bethlehem. It would be important to know exactly where these new apartments would be built and whether any Palestinian land would be expropriated for them. I would certainly be opposed to expropriation, but not necessarily to building more Gilo apartments on land that doesn't belong to Palestinians.

Saeb Erakat, the Palestinian negotiator, of course opposes Israeli building in Gilo (which doesn't surprise me, nor do I blame him), on the grounds that this belongs to the part of Jerusalem Palestinians want for their capital. This reason I do find surprising - I've never heard the Palestinians say that Gilo should be part of the Palestinian capital, I've always understand that other neighborhoods in the east and north of the city should be part of the Palestinian capital (the Arab parts of the Old City, the built-up area of east Jerusalem near the Damascus Gate - Sultan Suleiman St., Salah al-Din St., Harun al-Rashid St., Sheikh Jarrah, Ras al-Amud, Abu Dis).

Haaretz reports on the substance of the plan:
The plan - named "Gilo's western slopes" - will account for a significant expansion of the neighborhood. The planned 900 housing unites will be built in the form of 4-5 bedroom apartments, in an effort to lure relatively well-off residents.

The plan was initiated by the Israel Land Administration, and has received an initial green light, but on Tuesday the authorization was finalized.

The additional housing units are only part of the planned expansion of Gilo. In fact, the majority of apartments slated to be built in Jerusalem in the coming years will be located in Gilo. Other building plans in various stages of approval include some 4,000 new housing units in Gilo and adjacent areas.

According to sources in the planning committee, extensive building plans stem from the scrapping of the Safdie plan, which would have seen the city expand westward. The Safdie plan, named after architect Moshe Safdie, included over 20,000 housing units on open areas covering 26,600 dunams (some 6,600 acres) west of the city on natural and planted forests near Ramot. The plan had come under attack by environmental groups, and was later discarded.

According to the sources, this created a need for new land for construction, which can be found in the southern parts of the city and beyond the Green Line.
I'm not sure that this is a battle that the White House should be having with Israel. Israeli building in other parts of Jerusalem appears to me to be much more crucial to oppose (for example, in Sheikh Jarrah or in Silwan), because it breaks up cohesive Palestinian neighborhoods and makes it much more difficult for them to be included in a future Palestinian state. As far as I know, this is not true of Gilo.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Ft. Hood Shooting

I'm watching Lou Dobbs now (I know, probably not a good idea for my mental health, but I was hoping to hear the latest information about the shooting), and the thing that's infuriating me about his discussion of the shooting is the assumption that the shooter (Major Nadal Malik Hasan) acted because of combat stress/PTSD. As far as I can tell, he hadn't yet been deployed at all, although he was about to be sent to Iraq.

He was a psychiatrist who had trained for his medical degree in the military, and before he went to Ft. Hood, he had worked at the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress at the Bethesda Naval Facility and had been a Fellow, Disaster and Preventive Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. He had also worked at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for six years before being transferred to the Texas base in July.





On various websites I've read a variety of disgusting reactions, based upon the political leanings of the commenter - some are anti-Muslim (on the basis of his name), others are simply anti-military with the assumption that all soldiers are bloodthirsty murderers or potential murderers.

Since we don't know anything about his motive for the shootings, I think it's useless at this point to speculate on them.

Update - from press conference right now with General Robert Cone (9:20 p.m.) - apparently the shooter is not dead. He was shot, but did not die, and is in stable condition.

Further Update (Washington Post):
Nidal M. Hasan, the Army major suspected of shooting dozens at Fort Hood in Texas on Wednesday, was a devout Muslim and Virginia native born to two Jordanian immigrants. His family moved to Roanoke, where he attended high school, afterward enlisting in the Army.
The 39-year-old received a bachelor's degree in biochemistry from Virginia Tech in 1997, followed by advanced degrees in psychiatry and public health from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda.

Starting in June 2003, Hasan was an intern at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, later becoming a resident and then a fellow at the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress.

During his time in the D.C. area, Hasan attended the Muslim Community Center in Silver Spring and was "very devout," according to Faizul Khan, a former imam at the center. Khan said Hasan attended prayers at least once a day, seven days a week, often in his Army fatigues.

Khan also said Hasan applied to an annual matrimonial seminar that matches Muslims looking for spouses. "I don't think he ever had a match, because he had too many conditions," Khan said. On his application, Hasan described his personality and character: "I am quiet and reserved until more familiar with person. Funny, caring and personable."

This year, he was promoted to major and then transferred to Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood and was set to be deployed to Iraq.
Some more interesting details from the New York Times:
Born and reared in Virginia, the son of immigrant parents from a small town near Jerusalem, he joined the Army right out of high school, against his parents’ wishes. The Army, in turn, put him through college and then medical school, where he trained to be a psychiatrist.

But Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the 39-year-old man accused of Thursday’s mass shooting at Fort Hood, Tex., started having second thoughts about his military career a few years ago after other soldiers harassed him for being a Muslim, he told relatives in Virginia.

He had also more recently expressed deep concerns about being sent to Iraq or Afghanistan. Having counseled scores of returning soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder, first at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and more recently at Fort Hood, he knew all too well the terrifying realities of war, said a cousin, Nader Hasan....
Major Hasan was not married and had two brothers, one living in Virginia and another in Jerusalem, his cousin said. The family, by and large, had prospered in the United States, with various members working in law, banking and medicine, Mr. Hasan said.

The Associated Press, quoted federal law enforcement officials saying Major Hasan had come to their attention at least six months ago because of Internet postings that mentioned suicide bombings and other threats.