Monday, December 29, 2008

T'Ain't The Season...

Some bad news from our former home. First, before the fighting started and while the "truce" was still in effect:

Steep increase in rocket fire despite 'truce'

According to the security establishment's data, 2008 saw an increase of over a thousand rockets and mortars from the previous year.
More like "A truce for me, but not for thee".

In Ashkelon, officials must decide: emergency or business as usual?
"If you cancel something, you send a message of instability, which increases the residents' distress," Greenfeld, the security head, said. "At the same time, it's important you know that after such incidents, some people report unwelcome feelings like sadness, a depressed mood, a lack of interest in things that interested them beforehand, nightmares, difficulties sleeping, and recurring images and thoughts about the incident."

"These are to be expected in the days following a difficult incident. Therefore, they should not arouse unusual worry. We know that most of these feelings disappear after a number of days or weeks,"
Or years. Or never.

'30,000 kids unprotected in Ashkelon'
"Not to mention thousands of unprotected residents," he [the mayor] continued.
Oh yeah, them too.

This was the talk before last week about Ashdod, a good 10 minute drive north from Ashkelon (away from Gaza):
Ashdod residents under missile threat
The move was launched for fear that terror organizations in the Gaza Strip have managed to significantly increase their rocket launching range, to up to 30 kilometers (18.6 miles).
New article, but this is actually three year old news.

And now:
Rockets land east of Ashdod
This was the most northern point hit by rockets fired from Gaza so far - more than 40 kilometers (25 miles) away from the Strip. An air raid siren was sounded in the Ashkelon and Ashdod area at around 9:30 am, followed explosions heard in the area. A siren also sounded in the Yavne area in central Israel.
It gets worse.

One killed, at least eleven wounded as Grad hits Ashkelon
One person was killed Monday morning and eleven were wounded when a Grad type missile hit a construction site in the city center of Ashkelon on Monday morning. ... Most of the people at the site were Arab construction workers from Rahat and the Manda village in the Galilee.

The "Da Vinci Code" Meets the Koran? Part 2

Following up one of my more frequently visited posts (usually as a result of searches on Google), here is another article on the claims of the Koran and research:

According to this [Islamic] account, the Koran represents the uncorrupted word of God, "constant, immaculate, unalterable and inimitable." It was transmitted to man through Muhammad, a prosperous Meccan merchant who received it via the angel Gabriel as a series of verse revelations between 610 and his death in 632. Uneducated and illiterate, Muhammad committed these revelations to memory before reciting them to his followers, who memorized them verbatim in turn. The killing of hundreds of these "memorizers" in the battle of Yamama in 633 alerted his successor as Muslim leader, the first caliph, Abu Bakr, to the danger that the revelations could be lost. He therefore gathered all available sources into a loose compilation called the suhuf which was then used by the third caliph, Uthman, to produce in the mid-650s a standardized text of the Koran. Copies were sent to Islamic communities with orders that all other versions be destroyed. Muslims believe this Uthmanic recension is the Koran as we have it today.
Note to self: Don't rely exclusively on memorizers.
But according to the New Historians, there is no evidence that the Koran was compiled by Muhammad or canonized under Uthman; in fact, there is no proof it existed in any form before the end of the seventh century, and the first signs of a standardized codex date from the early 800s, 150 years after Uthman's death. ...

The fact that it is "strikingly lacking in overall structure, frequently obscure and inconsequential in both language and content... and given to the repetition of whole passages in variant versions" is evidence, he argued, that it "is not the carefully executed project of one or many men, but rather the product of an organic development from originally independent traditions during a long period of transmission."
If you ever read the Koran yourself and tried to make sense of it, this explanation sounds perfectly reasonable. Read it (the article) and see what you think.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

What's In a Name?

Ever wondered about Jesus' name? There is an article making its rounds this Christmas season that discusses the origins of the name. Apparently, 2000 years ago Jesus' Hebrew name, Yeshua, was a fairly common name in Israel.

Many people shared the name. Christ's given name, commonly Romanized as Yeshua, was quite common in first-century Galilee. ... Archaeologists have unearthed the tombs of 71 Yeshuas from the period of Jesus' death.
Makes you wonder about those who find 2000 year-old ossuaries and claim they prove they found Jesus' final resting place. Nevertheless, the name Yeshua wasn't actually "Romanized", but more likely "Aramaic-ized" during the Babylonian captivity.
The name also appears 30 times in the Old Testament in reference to four separate characters—including a descendent of Aaron who helped to distribute offerings of grain (2 Chronicles 31:15) and a man who accompanied former captives of Nebuchadnezzar back to Jerusalem (Ezra 2:2).
And since both books were completed after the Babylonian captivity (free from later Roman influence), the change occured within the Semitic languages.
The long version of the name, Yehoshua, appears another few hundred times, referring most notably to the legendary conqueror of Jericho (and the second most famous bearer of the name). So why do we call the Hebrew hero of Jericho Joshua and the Christian Messiah Jesus?
You can read the explanation, if you are into that sort of thing, which is really just a linguistic exercise that occurs between languages. Fun stuff. The only problem is that some people put an inordinate and unreasonable importance on the actual pronunciation of the Biblical names. In fact, ancient Hebrew as a spoken language died out for a short time before efforts to recover it were made, so how some words were pronounced back in king David's time is by no means certain. As long as the meaning is not affected, who cares?

Well, for some, it DOES matter. I don't want to link to any of those people because they are on the rather nutty side. In general, if you come across people or groups who insist on pronouncing Biblical names a certain way, avoid them. No, run away.