Archive for August 27th, 2008

Israel to Display the Dead Sea Scrolls on the Internet

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

I’m looking forward to seeing this!!

JERUSALEM — In a crowded laboratory painted in gray and cooled like a cave, half a dozen specialists embarked this week on a historic undertaking: digitally photographing every one of the thousands of fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls with the aim of making the entire file — among the most sought-after and examined documents on earth — available to all on the Internet.

Equipped with high-powered cameras with resolution and clarity many times greater than those of conventional models, and with lights that emit neither heat nor ultraviolet rays, the scientists and technicians are uncovering previously illegible sections and letters of the scrolls, discoveries that could have significant scholarly impact.

The 2,000-year-old scrolls, found in the late 1940s in caves near the Dead Sea east of Jerusalem, contain the earliest known copies of every book of the Hebrew Bible (missing only the Book of Esther), as well as apocryphal texts and descriptions of rituals of a Jewish sect at the time of Jesus. The texts, most of them on parchment but some on papyrus, date from the third century B.C. to the first century A.D.

Only a handful of the scrolls exist in large pieces, with several on permanent exhibit at the Israel Museum here in its dimly lighted Shrine of the Book. Most of what was found is separated into 15,000 fragments that make up about 900 documents, fueling a longstanding debate on how to order the fragments as well as the origin and meaning of what is written on them.

The scrolls’ contemporary history has been something of a tortured one because they are among the most important sources of information on Jewish and early Christian life. After their initial discovery they were tightly held by a small circle of scholars. In the last 20 years access has improved significantly, and in 2001 they were published in their entirety. But debate over them seems only to grow.

Scholars continually ask the Israel Antiquities Authority, the custodian of the scrolls, for access to them, and museums around the world seek to display them. Next month, the Jewish Museum of New York will begin an exhibition of six of the scrolls.

The keepers of the scrolls, people like Pnina Shor, head of the conservation department of the antiquities authority, are delighted by the intense interest but say that each time a scroll is exposed to light, humidity and heat, it deteriorates. She says even without such exposure there is deterioration because of the ink used on some of the scrolls as well as the residue from the Scotch tape used by the 1950s scholars in piecing together fragments.

The entire collection was photographed only once before — in the 1950s using infrared — and those photographs are stored in a climate-controlled room because they show things already lost from some of the scrolls. The old infrared pictures will also be scanned in the new digital effort.

“The project began as a conservation necessity,” Ms. Shor explained. “We wanted to monitor the deterioration of the scrolls and realized we needed to take precise photographs to watch the process. That’s when we decided to do a comprehensive set of photos, both in color and infrared, to monitor selectively what is happening. We realized then that we could make the entire set of pictures available online to everyone, meaning that anyone will be able to see the scrolls in the kind of detail that no one has until now.”

The process will probably take one to two years — more before it is available online — and is being led by Greg Bearman, who retired from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Data collection is directed by Simon Tanner of Kings College London.

Jonathan Ben-Dov, a professor of biblical studies at the University of Haifa, is taking part in the digitalization project. Watching the technicians gingerly move a fragment into place for a photograph, he said that it had long been very difficult for senior scholars to get access.

Once this project is completed, he said with wonder, “every undergraduate will be able to have a detailed look at them from numerous angles.”

Original Link.

“The God of Absoluteness” by Jack Kinsella

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

“The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God.” (Psalms 14:1). It seems rather harsh to call someone ‘a fool’ for what at first glance appears to be ignorance.

A person who doesn’t know God is clearly ignorant, since the word “ignorance” means ‘not knowing’. Ignorance is not a pejorative, although it is often hurled as an insult.

Babies are ignorant. People are ignorant of those things they haven’t either discovered for themselves or been taught by others. But the Bible uses instead the word, ‘fool’ which means, “a person who acts unwisely or imprudently.”

The word ‘fool’ is independent of educational background or innate mental acuity. And by its application, it means ‘only the unwise and imprudent would say there is no God’.

“For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse,” Paul writes in Romans 1:20.

It is obvious to any unbiased observer that the earth is too intricately and perfectly designed not to have a Designer. It is at the minimum, ‘imprudent’ to deny the obvious.

Paul anticipated the evolution vs creation argument (1850 years before Darwin first articulated it) and dismissed it out of hand as ‘foolishness’:

“Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.” (Romans 1:23)

Read it in reverse order. From creeping things to four-footed beasts, to birds, to man — Darwin’s ‘Evolution of Species — the sacred text for secular humanism.

Which culminates precisely as Paul predicted, with the elevation of man to the role of supreme being.

There are five unassailable arguments that demand the existence of God, not the least of which is the ontological argument offered in Romans 1:20.

In brief, the ontological argument for God is that the existence of the idea of God can only be explained if God really exists.

In other words, it is beyond man’s intellectual ability to imagine the existence of something for which there is no frame of reference.

There are but four prime colors for example, red, yellow, green and blue. All the rest are shades and hues of these four obtained by mixing these four.

Since no fifth prime color exists, whatever color we might imagine it to be, it would actually be a mixture of the four prime colors. There is no frame of reference upon which to imagine a fifth.

For example, we can imagine pink elephants only because elephants exist and pink exists.

Human beings have no frame of reference upon which to imagine the existence of a Personal Being Who exists outside of space and time, that is all powerful, all knowing, present in every atom of the universe, yet intimately concerned with the well-being of the inhabitants of one of the billions of created planets in the universe on a personal level.

We could not have imagined Him; yet the most widely-read Book of all time is all about Him. Just look at the very word, ‘history’ – His Story.

The second unassailable argument is the one from cosmology. Cosmology is the study of the processes of the cosmos, whose fundamental operating law requires that the cosmos be in motion. And for the cosmos to be in motion, there had to be a Prime Mover.

Cosmology points to the Big Bang, but in so doing, ignores its own fundamental law. Something (or Some One) had to light the fuse that set it off, first.

The third unassailable argument is that of teleology. Teleology is the study of goals or ends and it presents the argument that the evidence of order and design in nature indicates purpose, which in turn demands a Designer.

The fourth unassailable argument is that offered by aesthetics. Aesthetics is the study of beauty and truth. It argues that there exist relative standards of beauty and truth. That is to say, some things are more beautiful than others, some truths, more absolute than others.

The aesthetical argument demands some absolute standard against which all things must ultimately be compared, or the concepts of ”beautiful’ and ‘ugly’ could not exist.

The fifth unassailable argument for the necessity of the existence of God is that of morality. Morality is also subjective, but still, some actions are considered more moral, or immoral, than are others.

For there to be a concept of morality demands an absolute standard of morality against which the relative standards can be measured.

For each of these systems to work, there is an absolute necessity for the existence of an absolute God of absolutes.

“Absolute” means, “not subject to any limitation.” God IS the ultimate Absolute. Without the existence of God, the word ‘absolute’ has no meaning.

It takes willful rejection of simple and unassailable evidence to say in one’s heart, “there is no God” because if such were true, there remains no explanation for the existence of beauty, truth, morality, science or logic.

Despite the evidence, however, if somebody’s mind is set against believing in God, all the evidence in the world won’t convince them. Faith still plays a critical role.

The Scriptures say, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

So, no matter how strong your argument, or how unassailable your evidence, no argument or combination of arguments will move the truly dedicated unbeliever to submit to God.

All we can do is offer the evidence and pray the Holy Spirit will impart the necessary faith to receive it.

To summarize the five unassailable arguments, they are:

1. Ontology: The evidence for the existence of God is that the existence of the idea of God can only be explained if God really exists.

2. Cosmology: For the cosmos to be in motion demands a Prime Mover to set it all in motion in the first place.

3. Teleology: The evidence of order and design in nature cannot be explained apart from a Designer.

4. Aesthetics: For both beauty and truth to exist, there must first exist absolute standards against which relative beauty and truth can be measured.

5. Morality: The argument from morality also demands absolute standards of morality against which relative standards can be measured and judged. As in the case of beauty and truth, morality as a concept cannot exist apart from the assumption of the existence of absolutes.

A Creator God MUST exist to explain the existence of these abstract concepts. To argue otherwise is obviously both imprudent and unwise. It is imprudent because it is a irrevocable judgment call that defies the evidence and it is unwise because any argument against the existence of God is illogical. It is illogical because one cannot KNOW there is no God.

Given all that we know, and all that we don’t know, the best an unbeliever can say is “don’t confuse me with facts. My mind is made up.”

Romans 1:22 anticipated that, too.

“Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”

Original Link.