Archive for March, 2011

Cybele in the fables of Phaedrus

I was looking at the talk page of the Wikipedia Cybele article and a reference to Phaedrus 3:20 caught my eye.  I thought this must be the fabulist, rather than the dialogue of Plato, and so it proved. 

A translation of all the fables is at Gutenberg here.  Apparently there is some question as to how to number the first fables of book IV, or whether they are at the end of book III.   But here is what is clearly intended:

THE ASS AND THE PRIESTS OF CYBELE.

He who has been born to ill luck, not only passes an unhappy life, but even after death the cruel rigour of destiny pursues him.

The Galli, priests of Cybele, were in the habit, on their begging excursions, of leading about an Ass, to carry their burdens. When he was dead with fatigue and blows, his hide being stripped off, they made themselves tambourines therewith. Afterwards, on being asked by some one what they had done with their favourite, they answered in these words: “He fancied that after death he would rest in quiet; but see, dead as he is, fresh blows are heaped upon him.”

The notes on this are:

Priests of Cybele)—Ver. 4. During the Festival of Cybele, the Galli or eunuch-priests of the Goddess went about with an image of her seated on an ass, and beating a tambourine, for the purpose of making a collection to defray the expenses of the worship. They were called by the Greeks μητραγύρται, “Collectors for the Mother.” See the Fasti of Ovid, B. iv., l. 350, vol. i., p. 149, of Bohn’s Translation.Tambourines)—Ver. 7. “The tympana,” which were almost exactly similar to our tambourines, were covered with the skin of asses or of oxen, and were beaten with the hand or a small stick.

Not that this helps the perplexed Wikipedian, but it is a useful reference all the same.

New attacks on Christians in Britain

At Oxford the university has always had a number of colleges associated with it which train people for the Christian ministry.  This is a legacy of the days not so long ago when every college fellow was in orders.  The colleges degrees are issued by the university.

Well, apparently that’s now illegal in Britain.  At least, there are some tax-funded academics in Wales who think so, and have demanded that the Inquisition investigate this genial practice, with a view to banning it.  Christian colleges cannot be affiliated with state-funded universities.

Wales Online has the story:

Academics complain to equality commission about University of Wales

THE University of Wales could face an inquiry into an allegation it is breaching a new equality law by validating degrees at Christian fundamentalist colleges run by groups that believe homosexuality and sex outside marriage is sinful.

Note the pejorative “fundamentalist” — they mean people like me, of course.

A report written by a professor at a Welsh university, who wishes to remain anonymous …

I’ll bet he does.  Who in the world thought that tax money was funding a self-selected inquisitor?

… who wishes to remain anonymous for professional reasons, examines the University of Wales’ association with eight colleges that subscribe to a Christian fundamentalist viewpoint …

Professor Debbie Epstein, of Cardiff University, a leading expert on issues of sexual identity and one of the academics backing the formal complaint, said: “In my view, there are three reasons why it is wholly inappropriate for the University of Wales to be validating degrees offered by these colleges.

“First of all, there is the issue of having to accept the inherency of the Bible as the word of God.

“For these people, there is no debate – and that is incompatible with the fundamental basis on which universities operate. Secondly, it is not acceptable for universities to operate a policy of only accepting staff or students who subscribe to certain belief systems.

“Thirdly, and particularly after the general duty to equality becomes a legal requirement next week, it would, in my view, be unlawful for a university to condone, through its degree validating procedures, colleges that do not uphold equality.

Straightforward bigotry there: anyone I disagree with must be forced out.

The author of the report has already approached the Equality and Human Rights Commission and intends to make a formal complaint next Tuesday, when the public sector equality duty takes effect.

The commission said it would begin an inquiry, should it receive a formal complaint.

Someone who doesn’t want to be named, denouncing the Christians to an inquisitorial body, for Thinking Wrong Things… yuk!

Thanks to eChurch blog for this one.

UPDATE: The attacks are coming in thick and fast today.  There’s a story in the Daily Mail here, which is courageously cataloguing these things, how two schools have banned the Gideons from coming in and distributing bibles, as they have done for decades.  The pretext is not to upset “other faith groups”.  I wonder when the established religion became “another faith group”?

Eusebius update – the proof copy has arrived

The proof copy of the hardback of Eusebius Gospel Problems and Solutions has arrived.  And it looks great!  The cover image is exactly right.  The book as a whole looks very solid.  I’m glad about that.  I’m also glad I went with a dust-jacket.

However … I’m not happy, tho, about the typesetting of the text matter on the cover.  That has not been done correctly, in my view.  It’s hard to see why courier has been used, for instance.

The graphic designer I spoke to today can’t handle Adobe InDesign, which is the necessary format for the cover template.  This is unfortunate.  I might ask Bob the typesetter who did the interior — now looking very good indeed in the hardback form — for help with this.

Eusebius update

The cover graphic that I released into the publishing system has turned up on Amazon and … is terrible.  That settles it.  I have written to the logo designer I used earlier this year and asked him to quote to work over the cover graphics — i.e. the text — and turn it into something professional.  I’m afraid that, good as he was on image selection, the designer I was using does not have the skills necessary to finish the job.  I may still pay him to select a cover image, for the Origen book, tho.

Meanwhile Lightning Source have advised me that the proof copy has been produced and is on its way.  It will be interesting to see what the hardback quality is like.  That ought to arrive this week, I would guess.

And Amazon are saying that the book is available for pre-order.  Curious — I think differently!

The anonymous atheist

Curious Presbyterian signals an article here in Christianity today about an atheist who converted to Christianity after seeing how appalling the atheists were online.  It’s well worth reading, and any sensible person must have had the same experience.  An excerpt:

As time went on, he began to see more and more the brutality and harshness of the chats, recalling one shocking post where the site administrator had published an article about an extremist Russian prophet who tried to commit suicide when his prediction for the date of the end of the world failed to come true.

A couple of posters in response to the story regretted that the fallen prophet had failed in his attempt to put an end to his life. Stunned by the level of inhumanity, Morgan wondered how any civilized person could say they wanted to see anybody die. Writing a protestation to some form of humanity in the forums about his shock and disappointment in the members, one respected member on the site simply replied to his post with an LOL– laugh out loud.

It was then that Morgan realized he did not want to be a part of these people. “I’m not condemning all atheists,” he clarified in the interview. “I’m talking about anonymous atheists on internet discussion boards and the messages they express which are extremely negative, puerile, [and] full of hate…”

Arrian “Ars Tactica” on Cybele and Attis at Rome

N. S. Gill writes the following here:

A pine tree was made to represent the dead Attis for the day of the entrance of the tree.

The reference given is “The Cannophori and the March Festival of Magna Mater,” by Duncan Fishwick. Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, Vol. 97. (1966), pp. 193-202.  This states:

Certainly the entry of the pine tree decked out to represent the dead Attis and the startling rites that followed two days later are ceremonies of a funerary festival that ended with the washing of Cybele’s image in the Almo; cf. Arrian, Tactica 33.4 (ed. A. G. Roos): ἡ Φρυγία τιμᾶται ἐκ Πεσσινοῦντος ἐλθοῦσα, καὶ τὸ πένθος τὸ ἀμφὶ τῷ Ἄττῃ Φρύγιον ὄν ἐν Ῥώμῃ πενθεῖται, καὶ τὸ λουτρὸν δ’ ἡ Ῥέα, ἐφ̕ οὗ τοῦ πένθους λήγει, τῶν Φρυγῶν νόμῳ λοῦται.

I admit that I had not heard of this work of Arrian, which never seems to have been translated.  It was edited by Roos as part of a 2 volume collected works.  The Greek seems to say:

“The Phrygian [goddess] from Pessinus is honoured, and the mourning for the sake of Attis the Phrygian is bewailed in Rome, and” … something about washing?  What I don’t see is anything about how the pine tree represents Attis.

Origen on unnatural vice

I was reading through Origen’s Dialogue with Heracleides and came across the following interesting comment on sin:

The things that are liable to punishment, therefore, are not merely the terrible and fearful sins which should not even be named, whether sins of life or of thought, but also sins commonly thought to be of less importance.

That is why, it seems, the apostle puts side by side with acts which are abominable, infamous, and revolting (if I may so say) things which are regarded by most people as of little significance.

What does he say? “Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor adulterers, nor effeminate men, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor drunkards, nor revilers, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”

You see that together with such gross sinners as the homosexual person, the effeminate man, the adulterer, the fornicator, he enumerates the drunkard, the reviler—sins thought by all of us to be of small account, so that we may be taught that it is not for the great sins alone that we are excluded from the kingdom of God, but also for these which are commonly supposed to be of minor significance.

Therefore, let us not revile, nor be drunkards, nor extort, nor steal, nor do anything wrong, even if we are “deceived.”

From my diary

No internet access at home this morning — my broadband provider must be having a problem.  But I have to go out this morning anyway.  Today is the day my cleaning lady comes in, and, if I stay, she talks at me rather than doing her job!

So I’m sat in the local library.  Fortunately there is nothing urgent in my inbox.

Yesterday I went to Cambridge to check whether there was in fact an English translation of letter 100 from the Collectio Avellana.  It turns out that there is not.  I also acquired a photocopy of a most interesting study of how accurate is the translation of Rufinus of Origen’s Commentary on Romans, using the Tura papyrus.  I’ve not had a chance to read it yet.

I also realised that I still need to do something about the fragments of Porphyry Against the Christians

And I looked at the Buytaert edition of the Latin homilies of Eusebius of Emesa.  It’s easy to see why these remain untranslated — the titles do not inspire interest.  But something should be done with them.

Someone wrote to me this morning asking about the Ecclesiastical History of Gelasius of Cyzicus.  It ought to exist in English, I agree.

So many projects, so few translators!

Scrolls and lead codices?

According to the BBC website,

A group of 70 or so “books”, each with between five and 15 lead leaves bound by lead rings, was apparently discovered in a remote arid valley in northern Jordan somewhere between 2005 and 2007. A flash flood had exposed two niches inside the cave, one of them marked with a menorah or candlestick, the ancient Jewish religious symbol. A Jordanian Bedouin opened these plugs, … the Jordanian government … claims they were smuggled into Israel by another Bedouin. The Israeli Bedouin who currently holds the books … 

The books, or “codices”, were apparently cast in lead, before being bound by lead rings. Their leaves – which are mostly about the size of a credit card – contain text in Ancient Hebrew, most of which is in code. …

One of the few people to see the collection is David Elkington, a scholar of ancient religious archaeology who is heading a British team trying to get the lead books safely into a Jordanian museum.

Elkington, however, may not be a reputable scholar, at least according to blogger Clayboy here.

Another blogger has more details here.

The owner of the cache is a Bedouin named Hassan Saeda who lives in the village of Um-al-Ghanam in the north of Israel,according to the Sunday Times. He is believed to have obtained them after they were discovered in northern Jordan.

Two samples were sent to a laboratory in England where they were examined by Peter Northover, head of the materials science-based archaeology group. The verdict was inconclusive without more tests, but he said the composition was ‘consistent with a range of ancient lead.’

Larry Hurtado comments here.

The writing is reported as some kind of Hebrew but coded.  Until the items are competently read, we don’t even know what their contents are.   The items are miniature codices, of a size that suggests private usage, and, so far as I know, suggests a date much later than the first century (there seems to have been an upswing in the production of miniature codices from ca. 3rd century CE onward). 

Finally, the incidence of the forgery of artefacts is so great that any responsible scholar must express profound hesitation about making any judgement on such items until they have been properly analysed.  Especially in light of the “Jesus bone-box” drama, we might all take a few deep breaths and simply call for the items to be put into the public domain for competent study before more rash and pointless claims are proffered.

What we need, clearly, is a team of reputable scholars to examine the things.  There is real money being demanded, apparently, as in all such cases.  We all know that Israel is the centre of a great deal of forgery, doubtless because of the combination of an excellent system of education, ready access to the best references, and a large population of groups like bedouin who are not especially noted for high moral standards towards non-members of the group.

Let us hope the find is genuine.  Let us hope, further, that it is significant.  Like Larry, I suspect it is not Christian but Jewish, and, if genuine, somewhat later in date than is suggested.

A forgotten poet and the limits of the internet

This evening I was reading an atheist forum.  Most of them were insane, chattering how Jesus never existed, never walked on earth, and — so often had they told themselves the lie — that there was no evidence whatever that he had.  One, however, much reviled by the rest, continued to protest that this was nonsense, that no sensible person doubted that Jesus had walked the earth, and that to affirm otherwise was to bring atheism into disrepute.  His reward was a hail of mockery.  Today he stands — but for how long?

I found myself murmuring an adage from somewhere:

Bad company is a disease;
He who lies with dogs, shall rise with fleas.

And then naturally I wondered who said it.  It was obviously old, but I was not sure that I had remembered it correctly. 

A Google search promptly attributed it to someone called Benjamin Franklin, some early American.  But this could not right, I felt sure.  It had a Restoration tang to it, I thought.

And so it does.  It turns out to be the work of a poet named Rowland Watkyns, who in 1662 published a volume of verse under the title Flamma sine fumo.   After much difficulty I found a copy here, in strange format.  I had not misremembered too badly:

Bad Company is a disease;
Who lies with Dogs,  shall rise with fleas .

Watkyns, I think, was a Welsh clergyman (1616-1664), dispossessed under Cromwell but restored by Charles II.  It is remarkably hard to discover much about him using Google.  It is a reminder, perhaps, of what is NOT online.  Eventually I found this brief biography.