Tales from the Organ Trade: A New Documentary via Simcha Jacobovici

Among my colleagues in the field of Biblical Studies Simcha Jacobovici is seen as one who does documentaries on the Bible, archaeology, and the history of ancient Judaism and early Christianity. In fact his company, Associated Producers, has produced a wide variety of films with many prestigious awards including three Emmy’s for “Best Documentary.” The latest, which is making its way around the festivals and will air later on HBO, is titled “Tales from the Organ Trade.”

It is controversial and a bit difficult to watch. You can read more about the controversy here, and watch the trailer below. On second thought this has everything to do with “all things Biblical,” the theme of my blog, see the refrain through the Hebrew Prophets about “crushing the heads of the poor” and the repeated calls for justice and righteousness (Isaiah 3:15; Amos 8:3).



May/June Issue of Biblical Archaeology Review–Don’t Miss It!

As the leafy trees outside become green and lush, the May/June 2013 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review is ripe with stories that deal with some much older, drier trees. As a result of earthquakes, Al-Aqsa Mosque on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount had to be dismantled and reconstructed in the 1930s and 1940s. Massive Cedar of Lebanon and cypress beams were reused, and others were simply removed. Some of these beams are significantly older than the mosque itself. Peretz Reuven asks in “Wooden Beams from Herod’s Temple Mount: Do They Still Exist?: Were these timbers from Al-Aqsa once part of Herod’s Temple Mount architecture?”

There is also a fascinating article about Pella by Stephen Bourke dealing with the question of whether the tradition that the early Christians fled to that area before the 70 CE Jewish Roman revolt has any historical validity. I have dealt with this topic on my blog here.

Read more about the fascinating May/June issue here. You can pick up a copy at any good newsstand or better yet, sign up for either a print or digital subscription, or better yet, sign up for the Biblical Archaeology Society Library and get access to everything–past and present. No, I don’t work for BAR nor am I paid to endorse them, I just think there is no value like this anywhere for those interested in this wide range of materials.[1]

  1. Browse or search over 6,600 articles from 35 years of Biblical Archaeology Review (1975 to present), 20 years of Bible Review (1985 to 2005 complete) and 8 years of Archaeology Odyssey (1998 to 2006 complete). []

Adolf Hitler and his Paintings: The Making of a Tyrant

Adolf Hitler lived in Vienna from 1908-1913, basically homeless and poor. He fancied himself a painter and his ambition was to be accepted into the Vienna Academy of Art for which he was turned down twice. Since he had dropped out of secondary school he was judged unqualified for entrance. He sold his paintings on the street, lived in a cheap boarding house, and almost froze to death in the winter.  After being rejected by the school he went into a depression, deciding that the Jews were running everything and thus would not accept him. Here are some of his paintings, showing he had a fair amount of talent, though some would find them “soulless,” with a sense of light, color, and form but little emotion or individual expression. One can only wonder how different would have been the history of the 20th century had he been accepted into the Art Academy, but one never knows. I highly recommend Ron Rosenbaum’s book, Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil (Harper Collins, 1998), in which he deals with this very question–the “making of a tyrant,” and how various historians have striven somehow to explain Hitler the person and what he became. For more on this formative period of Hitler’s life, and thus of the history of our modern era, see also Brigitte Hamann, Hitler’s Wein: Lehrjahre Eines Diktators (Piper, 1998).

Click on individual images to enlarge:

Happy Valentine’s Day–and Who Was that Saint Again?

Valentine if he existed was a third century martyr who died on the date associated with his feast on the Via Flamina outside Rome.  Because the Church exaggerated both the number and the style of martyr-deaths, his name was removed from the official calendar of the Roman church in 1969, but his feast is still kept as a regional festival.

St. Valentine’s Day and some thoughts on “Charity” from the Apostle Paul via Joseph Hoffmann…


Don’t Miss My University Web Site: “The Jewish Roman World of Jesus”

My university Web site called “The Jewish Roman World of Jesus” contains a world of resources, mostly primary texts, that I use in my various classes on Christian origins, both graduate and undergraduate. One of my more ambitious students printed out the entire web site and I think it ended up running over 500 pages! Various professors, colleagues, and students have linked to it in their courses and it has a very high traffic volume. I think we quit counting after a million visitors some years ago.

This is the kind of site you can browse endlessly and I invite my blog readers to dip in as you wish and link as you will. Any of these materials can be freely used so long as proper credit is given. Thanks to Michael McKinney of Century One Bookstore, who designed this site for me nearly two decades ago. And while I am on this subject, be sure and browse the Century One site for a well chosen selection of biblical and archaeological resources at discount prices.