Barry Taylor, purveyor of all things culture and cultural, has a great post on the the film Traitor. Here's the money quote from his post:
Samir Horn (Don Cheadle) is a Sudanese born,
American special forces operative so deep undercover that even the FBI
knows nothing of his existence. "Seems like every religion has more
than one face," is a line that comes fairly early in the film from the
mouth of terrorist expert Roy Clayton (Guy Pearce), who thinks he is
hot on the trail of an international terrorist. Is he or isn't he? Is a
central question in this cat and mouse chase that races around the
world paralleling the world of a committed group of radical extremists
and their pursuants.
The title of the film is intentionally ambiguous, and Cheadle as the
conflicted Horn, keeps us guessing until the very end. Ultimately this
film asks the question of whether or not it is possible to be a 'good'
Muslim in this complex world of international politics and terror, and
even more asks what a good Muslim looks like. To most religious people
the answer would probably be a resounding 'yes' but events in
globo-religion since 9/11 have constantly challenged the possibility.
Horn is a deeply religious man, whose faith is tested by both politics
and terrorism in the name of god, his desire to live a life pleasing to
good stands in tension with everything else in his life and the weight
of that is effectively carried by Cheadle.
Yeah, sounds like a must see. To read more of Barry's thoughts on the film, go here.
There are not too many words you can use to describe an evening with Radiohead. It was perhaps the best live show I have ever seen. The entire evening was visually and aurally stunning. There were moments of near Zen-like transcendence during the evening - from the hypnotic All I Need to the emotional crescendo of Lucky. Pure sonic brilliance.
Yeah, it was that good. In fact, it was simply mesmerizing... The evening definitely showed why Radiohead has long been seen as one of the best live bands ever.
Here's the set list from the evening:
1. 15 Step 2. There There 3. Morning Bell 4. All I Need 5. Pyramid Song 6. Nude 7. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi 8. The Gloaming 9. The National Anthem 10. A Wolf at the Door 11. Faust Arp 12. Exit Music (for a Film) 13. Jigsaw Falling Into Place 14. Idioteque 15. Climbing Up the Walls 16. Bodysnatchers 17. How to Disappear Completely
18. Videotape 19. Paranoid Android 20. Dollars and Cents 21. Street Spirit (Fade Out) 22. Reckoner
23. House of Cards 24. Lucky 25. Everything In Its Right Place
I'll post a few videos from the evening when they come available. Ben Wener, local entertainment writer has a great review of the evening here. I also have to agree with him on one thing - the set list, while strong, was curiously missing a few classics, which I was really looking forward to hearing from them. My take was this: they obviously wanted to do everything off In Rainbows, which left a limited number of slots in the set list for the rest of their catalog [which could fill a night on its own].
As the lights came on and we were leaving with the thousands of other people, my buddy Adam turns to me as says, "Hey, that guy over there... isn't that Tom Morello?" Sure enough, there was Tom Morello, taking in an evening with Radiohead. Sweet...
Just in case you missed it, Don Miller was invite to offer a benediction at the Democratic National Convention this evening. I was quite impressed with the substance of his prayer, which was for unity and the seeking to be an expression of the kingdom here on earth.
If you missed it, here's what Miller had to say about the invite and the text of his prayer, posted on www.donaldmillerwords.com:
I was honored to deliver the closing prayer at the DNC on Monday
night. Evangelical voices have been scarce within this party, perhaps
since the Carter administration. But as strides are being made on key
issues of sanctity of life and social justice, as well as peaceful
solutions to world conflicts, more and more evangelicals are taking a
closer look at options certain members of the Democratic Party are
beginning to deliver. There is a long way to go, but sending a message
to Washington that no single party has the Christian community in their
pocket, thus causing each party to carefully consider the issues most
important to us, is, in my opinion, a positive evolution. I am glad
that, for the most part, the dialogue has been constructive and
positive. Will you join me in keeping the conversation thoughtful and
That said, I was honored to speak to, and especially pray with and for, the DNC. Here is the full text of the prayer:
This week, as the world looks on, help the leaders in this room create a civil dialogue about our future.
We need you, God, as individuals and also as a nation.
We need you to protect us from our enemies, but also from ourselves, because we are easily tempted toward apathy.
Give us a passion to advance opportunities for the least of these,
for widows and orphans, for single moms and children whose fathers have
Give us the eyes to see them, and the ears to hear them, and hands willing to serve them.
Help us serve people, not just causes. And stand up to specific injustices rather than vague notions.
Give those in this room who have power, along with those who will
meet next week, the courage to work together to finally provide health
care to those who don’t have any, and a living wage so families can
thrive rather than struggle.
Help us figure out how to pay teachers what they deserve and give children an equal opportunity to get a college education.
Help us figure out the balance between economic opportunity and corporate gluttony.
We have tried to solve these problems ourselves but they are still there. We need your help.
Father, will you restore our moral standing in the world.
A lot of people don’t like us but that’s because they don’t know the heart of the average American.
Will you give us favor and forgiveness, along with our allies around the world.
Help us be an example of humility and strength once again.
Lastly, father, unify us.
Even in our diversity help us see how much we have in common.
And unify us not just in our ideas and in our sentiments—but in our
actions, as we look around and figure out something we can do to help
create an America even greater than the one we have come to cherish.
God we know that you are good.
Thank you for blessing us in so many ways as Americans.
I make these requests in the name of your son, Jesus, who gave his own life against the forces of injustice.
Professor Israel Knohl, who has been at the center of the discussion regarding the tablet known as "Gabriel's Revelation," has written an article in the latest edition of BAR on the find, which is posted here. April DeConick, in a piece posted today, hits the nail on the head:
How can we tell if the expectation of the suffering messiah in these
late sources is pre- or post-Christian? One way to solve this dilemma
is to notice HOW MUCH of the early Christian literature is devoted to
apology for the fact that the Messiah Jesus suffered and died, and how
this was a "stumbling block" to the conversion of Jews. Why would the
Christians have so much explaining to do if there existed a common
Jewish expectation of a suffering messiah prior to Jesus? This is a
question that is absolutely necessary for us to face, and it suggests
that IF the expectation already existed, it was not well-known or
well-liked. Or the expectation grew as a result of Christians
explaining the historical experience of their crucified Messiah Jesus.
So nothing is as "sure" as Knohl's argument suggests.
As it has already been stated by many, I think it bears repeating again. We need to exercise caution in not jumping to premature conclusions and connections based upon this find, until it's authenticity can be determined. Then I think we can approach an exploration of the meaning and impact of this new apocalypse.
IF this find can indeed be authenticated, I think at best what we might be able to say is that there was a certain stain of Judaism that had a concept of a dying and rising messiah. What needs to be kept in mind is that during the Second Temple period what we are dealing with is not a unified, monolithic "Judaism," but rather a series of "Judaisms" with certain common characteristics, but also exhibiting various distinctives all their own. My hunch is that even if this find can be authenticated, it most likely tells us more about a particular "Judaism" in the midst of "Judaisms."
This Sunday night at the Hollywood Bowl, I'll be basking in the aural beauty that is Radiohead. So for the past few weeks I've been immersing myself in all things Radiohead. I know the point can definitely be argued, but I wonder if there has been a more influential band in the past 15 years or so...
The IAA has recently posted a seven minute video on the history and preservation of the Dead Sea Scrolls. It's a good introduction which lays out the basics of the consensus theories of the texts and the archaeology of the Qumran site. Well worth the seven minutes...
The Biblical account, in its final form, is the product of various traditions transmitted through the tribes and "woven into a complete all-encompassing tapestry, combining early memories together with folktales and images from later periods."
[Ze'ev Meshel from the article "Wilderness Wanderings" in the latest issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, p. 39. The quote he refers to is from Benjamin Mazar.]
So I'm still in the process of finishing my Master's thesis paper... which feels like it has taken forever. I seem to be finding more roadblocks than opportunities when it comes to time and focus... I just need to get this thing finished. I've often joked with Jamie that writing has some interesting correlations with pregnancy. In the beginning you are filled with joy and passion for what lies ahead. By the end you are so tired of the whole thing, you just want to be done.
Anyway, the following is the conclusion for a paper I wrote for a class I took on Scripture and Canon. The paper is providing the basis for the more expanded paper I'm doing for my Master's thesis. The original paper explored the writings of the Enochic community [1 Enoch] and the community at Qumran [1QpHab] to gain insight on how they perceived their received texts, as well as the ones they produced. Since we've talked a bit here about the issue of "scripture," I thought this might be interesting as a conversation starter.
If you're interested in reading the entire paper, including footnotes, here it is...
We began this survey of specific Enochic and Qumranic literature by asking questions of content and category. How did these two communities understand the texts that they had received from previous generations? How did they use these received texts in the development of their own particular writings? What was the relationship between the received texts and the texts developed within these communities? And of resulting import, how did they view their own writings? Were they considered in the category of scripture for the community? By way of bringing clarity to these questions, we must first consider a few thoughts on the nature and category of scripture.
Martin S. Jaffee offers an essential definition of “scripture” as “a writing preserved by a community as an authoritative source of teaching, reflection, or worship.” He goes on to rightly argue therefore that scriptures should not be understood as being authored, but as being “received.” They are seen as having divine origin [as Eugene Ulrich explains as “having God as its ultimate author”] and being passed down from the communal ancestors. Scripture, therefore, in its clearest sense is a category of function. Received texts are preserved and transmitted from generation to generation as scripture, because they function, or are accepted as “an authoritative source of teaching, reflection, or worship” [as per Jaffee] or “as determinative for its belief and practice” [as per Ulrich]. Essential for bringing clarity to our survey is Jaffee’s summary observation:
Texts normally do not become scripture simply because the latest composer claims to have received it. Rather, writings become scripture only because human communities have at some point placed agreed to place them at the center of the common life. Any text regarded as scripture came to be so because a community, formally or informally, gave it central place in the pattern of community life.
Following from these insights into the definition of scripture, it is clear that both the Enochic and the Qumranic community regarded the received texts as authoritative, and thus scriptural. Both communities, by both possessing the received texts as well as placing them at or near the center of their own particular writings, gave them a functionally authoritative position within the community. What separated them from other streams of “Judaisms” is to be found in how they utilized these received texts within their own writings.
Which brings us to the issue of the category of the particular writings of each community. The writings of both the Enochic community and the sectarian Qumran community can find a home within Jaffee and Ulrich’s definition of “scripture,” precisely because the texts functioned authoritatively within their respective communities, providing a guiding principle for community life and belief. How they understood the authority of their own particular texts, as well as how they utilized received scriptural texts is where the two slightly differentiate themselves from one another.
For the Enochic community, they saw their writings as an elaboration, or clarification upon the authoritatively received texts, as seen in the relationship between Genesis 6.1-4 and 1 Enoch 6-11, where 1 Enoch 6-11 functions both etiologically and symbolically of the concerns of the community. They further found authority for these elaborations in the fact that God himself had originally transmitted these texts directly to the patriarch Enoch [Genesis 5.24]. These elaborations upon the authoritative received texts functioned as the basis for their community life and belief. It is this sense that the literature of the Enochic community was equally as authoritative for community as the received texts themselves.
For the Qumran community, their understanding of the scriptural status of their texts, specifically that of the pehsarim writings, is slightly different. As the Community of the Elect, they felt that the true meaning of the authorized received texts was fully and finally directed towards them and their time. The message of these texts was hidden from the prophetic authors, only to be fully and finally revealed in the inspired interpretation of the Teacher of Righteousness. They believed that it as to the Teacher of Righteousness and him alone, that the mysteries of the prophetic messages were given. Therefore, the inspired interpretations of the pesharim were just as scriptural as the authoritative base texts upon which they were developed, perhaps even more so because by nature they were the true meaning and fulfillment of these prophetic base texts. Much in the same vein as the literature of the Enochic community, the Qumran community found an added measure of authority for the pesharim due to the belief that the interpretive insight found in the pesharim came to the Teacher of Righteousness directly from God.