New Testament scholar Ben Witherington reports on the discovery of an 11,500 year old temple complex being excavated in Eastern Turkey. The complex predates the pyramids by 7,000 years and Stonehenge by 6,000 years. In addition,
This temple lies west of the Biblical plain called Haran and is only 20 miles from the Syrian border. . . . This is the world not only of Genesis, but of the great Anatolian civilization of the Hittites (yes those Hittites as in Uriah the Hittite — husband of Bathsheba). In short, if you are wondering if this is important to understand the OT, wonder no longer. It is.
Klaus Schmidt is heading up the dig, and Newsweek describes his views on the site:
Schmidt’s thesis is simple and bold: it was the urge to worship that brought mankind together in the very first urban conglomerations. The need to build and maintain this temple, he says, drove the builders to seek stable food sources, like grains and animals that could be domesticated, and then to settle down to guard their new way of life. The temple begat the city.
Witherington describes the relevance of the findings for both Christian theology and ancient history.
The importance of this find for Biblical thinking is this — the Bible says that from the outset, human beings were created in God’s image. Human beings were religious creatures from Day One. Archaeologists and sociologists have long dismissed this theory saying organized religion comes much later in the game than the beginning of civilization and city building. As Ian Holder director of Stanford’s prestigious archaeology program says — this is a game changer. Indeed, it changes everything experts in the Neolithic era have been thinking. Schmidt is saying that religion is the cause of civilization, not the result of it. Towns were built to be near the Temple complex. Agriculture was undertaken to feed those living there and supply the temple complex, and so on. The first instincts of humans were to put religion first. Maybe there is more to that Genesis story than some have been willing to think or admit. Maybe human beings are inherently homo religiosis.
Matt at Broadcast Depth has a nice collection of interviews he’s done with Christian scholars, and continues to add to the list. Among those whose interviews you can read are Richard Bauckham, Darrell Bock, David Garland, Thomas Schreiner, and Craig Keener.
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I received this sad news today from the Society of Christian Philosophers.
Bill Alston, 87, died earlier today, September 13, 2009, at his home in Jamesville, NY.
A key figure in the founding of the Society of Christian Philosophers, Bill was a past president of both SCP and the Central APA and made significant contributions in the fields of epistemology and philosophy of religion. His work, leadership, and exemplary model of Christian philosophy has inspired many.
Please remember his widow, Valerie, and the rest of his family in your prayers, giving thanks for Bill’s many gifts.
The following is from his faculty page at Syracuse University.
William P. Alston is a past President of the Central Division of the American Philosophical Association, of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology, and of the Society of Christian Philosophers. Perhaps best known for his work in the philosophy of language, epistemology, and the philosophy of religion, his impact is also felt in such areas as philosophical psychology and the history of philosophy. He was a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford in 1965-66 and Distinguished Visiting Professor of Philosophy at the Center for Advanced Study in Theoretical Psychology at the University of Alberta in 1975. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and he received the Syracuse University’s Chancellor’s Citation for Exceptional Academic Achievement. He conducted NEH summer seminars in 1978 and 1979, and directed an NEH Institute on Philosophy of Religion in 1986. He is founding editor of the journals Philosophy Research Archives (now The Journal of Philosophical Research) and Faith and Philosophy. In October, 1987 he led a delegation of eight American philosophers in epistemology and philosophy of mind for a week of discussions with Soviet philosophers in Moscow and Leningrad. In September, 1991 he participated in a conference at Castel Gandolfo, Italy on theology and physical cosmology sponsored by the Vatican Observatory.
His publications include several anthologies; Philosophy of Language (Prentice-Hall, 1964); more than one hundred and fifty journal articles, many anthologized; eighteen articles in the Encyclopedia of Philosophy (ed. Paul Edwards, MacMillan, 1967); and numerous reviews. Two collections of his essays have been published by Cornell University Press (1989): Epistemic Justification: Essays in Epistemology and Divine Nature and Human Language: Essays in Philosophical Theology. His most recent books are Perceiving God: A Study in the Epistemology of Religious Experience, (Cornell, 1991), The Reliability of Sense Perception, (Cornell, 1993), A Realist Conception of Truth (Cornell, 1995), and Illocutionary Acts and Sentence Meaning (Cornell, 2000).
Great advice here by Mark Goodacre at the NT Blog on attending SBL on a budget – which also applies to the ETS/EPS annual meeting. The most disheartening but ultimately true caveat,
Don’t visit the book exhibit. If you do, you will probably end up buying books. You know you can’t afford them, and you run the risk of weighing down your bags so much that you have to pay extra at the airport for the journey home.
Here are numbers 1 – 3. Wise words, although he should give grits a second chance. : )
1. Find a cheap flight. This has to begin pretty early, like a month or so ago. It’s a good idea to use an aggregator site like Kayak and to watch the prices daily. I have managed to find a $216 flight from Raleigh to New Orleans after having watched the site for the last few weeks, and I am feeling quite chuffed about it.
2. Room-share. The SBL hotels are all pretty posh and pretty expensive. The only way to stay in one of those hotels and keep the price down is to room-share. Of course you need to have a person or people that you can cope with for several days, but the lucky ones among us will actually enjoy the SBL a great deal more because of the company they keep.
3. Breakfast trough-out. The cost of food is a big problem, and four days of conference-attending can put the strain on your budget. What I suggest is to get to one of those great American breakfast buffets every morning and eat to your heart’s content. Don’t be put off by earnest looking professor types who only visit the buffet once. Keep going for as long as you can. Eat so much that you won’t want lunch. You can then make it through to the evening when you’ll be just peckish enough to enjoy something else.
Birmingham never gave me enough to travel, and so troughing my face at breakfast was my standard survival strategy. The American breakfast buffets are great, though for Brits it can be a little off-putting to see Americans putting their fruit on the same plate as their sausage and bacon, or worse, putting corn syrup on their scrambled egg. So Brits abroad may need to avert their eyes. There is also an unappetizing pastey coloured concoction called “grits”, which is to be avoided.
Wikipedia has this brief explanation of the Gifford Lectures:
The Gifford Lectures were established by the will of Adam Lord Gifford (died 1887). They were established to “promote and diffuse the study of Natural Theology in the widest sense of the term — in other words, the knowledge of God.” The term natural theology as used by Gifford means theology supported by science and not dependent on the miraculous. The lectures are given at the Scottish universities: University of St Andrews, University of Glasgow, University of Aberdeen and University of Edinburgh.
A Gifford lectures appointment is one of the most prestigious honors in Scottish academia. They are normally presented as a series over an academic year and given with the intent that the edited content be published in book form. A number of these works have become classics in the fields of theology or philosophy and their relationship to science.
Much obliged to Nick Norelli for passing on this fine resource.
I just came across The Gifford Lectures online. I don’t know how it is that I’ve not come across this resource before but I’m glad to have discovered it now! Here’s a brief description from the website:
“The online Gifford Lectures database presents a comprehensive collection of books derived from the Gifford Lectures. In addition to the books, the Web site contains a biography of each lecturer and a summary of the lecture or book. The Web site also contains a biography of Adam Lord Gifford, a copy of his will bequeathing money to the four major Scottish universities to hold the lectures, a brief description of natural theology, an introduction to each of the four universities and news about forthcoming Gifford-related events.”
There’s over 100 years of material on this site and a quick browse through the books turned up plenty of notable works like:
Unfortunately not all of the lectures are currently available online (e.g., Henry Chadwick and Jarislov Pelikan’s) but there’s more than enough there to keep you reading for a good while.