Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A tribute to Airbear

While I fritter away the days reading and writing, Airbear accomplishes things (read the scrolling update in the middle of the page).

Haiti Update

A couple of things.

First, Fox News has been broadcasting from our orphanage! I haven't seen any wide-angle coverage of the grounds, but for those of you who haven't been there and have no idea what it's like, you should check out this link and this one (via Jon Varela and Monica Grim).

The second link has the Bennett household's new favorite reporter. British accent plus hatred of "bureaucratic red tape" equals fabulous populist critique of the US State Department. Awesome how he repeats "legally adopted."

Next, for those of you who would like to do something to help, the most important thing you can do right now is contact your senators and house representative and ask that the State Department suspend all restrictions on evacuating orphans to the United States. It's fun and easy (really, we tried it and it was great) and it is making a difference: my wife got word that some kids are already being released.

A couple of clicks on the internet and a phone call and you will directly effect the life of a Haitian orphan. Seriously, making a lasting impact on the life of "one of the least of these" has never been easier.

Lastly, our Friends Mike and Cory are in Haiti doing damage assessment right now. You can support their mission via Paypal here. Also, check out the trailer to Mike's upcoming Haiti documentary (Mike went to the Chili Palmer school of executive production):

Mike asks the questions and Pastor Pierre (the Haitian director of our orphanage) translates. It's directed by our friend Alex Laflamme.

Coming up: a post on how to think about Haiti theologically. Stay tuned!

Digging in the Dirt: 1, Experts: 0

Via Libertas et Memoria, a story on biblical origins:
Scientists have discovered the earliest known Hebrew writing - an inscription dating from the 10th century B.C., during the period of King David's reign.

The breakthrough could mean that portions of the Bible were written centuries earlier than previously thought. (The Bible's Old Testament is thought to have been first written down in an ancient form of Hebrew.)

Until now, many scholars have held that the Hebrew Bible originated in the 6th century B.C., because Hebrew writing was thought to stretch back no further. But the newly deciphered Hebrew text is about four centuries older, scientists announced this month.
If lectures from John Goldingay have taught me anything, it's that history is complicated. The reigning biblical studies paradigm dates the finalized text of the Old Testament at somewhere in the 6th Century BCE. This corresponds historically to a little vignette in 2 Kings where King Josiah finds an old copy of what sounds like the Pentateuch. The idea is that 2 Kings 22 is more or less reliably reporting an event which marks the fixing of the Pentateuch. The Pentateuch in this form survives the exile, a few new(er) histories and wisdom writings (e.g., Nehemiah, some Psalms, possibly Ecclesiastes) and finalized versions of the prophets (esp. 2nd and 3rd Isaiah, Jeremiah) are added, and, somewhere between 2nd and 1st Century BCE, a final form of Daniel is tacked on. Voila! the Old Testament.

Until now, it was conjectured that the form of the Pentateuch discovered in Josiah's court may have been written as late as the early 6th Century. So, basically, some priest writes a bunch of the Pentateuch, drops it in a closet, it gets lost for twenty or thirty years, is discovered, and is then hailed as the ancient text of Israel. Seriously. That's what they think.

On the conservative side of the debate, scholars will suggest that tightly controlled oral traditions preserve stories, poems, songs, and wisdom in original form from the 12th Century BCE until they are committed to ink at an indeterminate time, lost or forgotten during the reigns of naughty kings, and then rediscovered by Josiah's people and preserved through the exile.

Turns out, they're both wrong!

Until now, we had no evidence of biblical Hebrew being used before the 6th Century. That is, the language preserved in the Dead Sea Scrolls was thought to have developed much later than the time of David. What's cool about the text discovered by archeologists is how it shows problems in the views of both camps. Clearly, Biblical-style Hebrew was in use at least as early as the 10th Century. And even cooler is that the recovered text is not biblical, but echoes prominent biblical texts (Ps. 72:3, Ex. 23:3, and Isa. 1:17). What's likely is that oral and written traditions were in effect (as conservatives assumed), but that they were probably looser than conservatives would have liked. What eventually gets fixed in the biblical record very much preserves the language and spirit, if not the precise grammatical constructions or internal logic, of original utterances.

To the archeologists: keep digging!