The Scientific Foreknowledge of the Jewish Sages

There’s a new book out by Israeli professor of engineering at Ben Gurion University, Haim Shore, called “Coincidences in the Bible and in Biblical Hebrew” that I think I’m going to see if I can get a digital download for my reader. In it Shore examines a number of remarkable instances of ancient Jewish sages contemplating notions passed down through their scriptures and traditions that lead them to some remarkably accurate scientific conclusions. And they did it all without experimentation or even clinical observation hundreds and even thousands of years before scientific discipline caught up with them.

Author Adam Jacobs give an intriguing review of the book in the following article for The Algemeiner. You can check out Jacobs’ review at the following link…

The Scientific Foreknowledge of the Jewish Sages.

My thanks to Dr. Claude Mariottini for bringing the article to my attention.

Lot and His Daughters

Every year on the 1st of August I start a new Bible Reading plan; a schedule of prescribed readings for each day designed to keep me in the scriptures.  This year I’m using the M’Cheyne Reading Plan designed by the 19th century scholar Robert Murray M’Cheyne.  It will take me through the Old Testament once and the New Testament and Psalms twice by this time next year.  I say all this to set up the intriguing coincidence that I encountered yesterday.

The morning reading on the plan (there are 4 per day) included Genesis 19:30-38, the story of Lot and his daughters living in the cave near Zoar.  It is a controversial passage in that Lot’s daughters, possibly afraid that the destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah may not be a local phenomenon, decide to get their old man drunk and have sex with him so that the family line will continue.  The scriptures do not condemn the act, in fact no comment is made other than the fact the plan results in the Moabites and the Ammonites, two tribes of people who will play into the story of Israel time and time again.

Now I’ve read the passage before and didn’t give it much thought until later in the day when I was reading a post by Dr. Claude Mariotinni, Professor of Old Testament at Northern Baptist Seminary.  It referenced this very passage and linked to a paper that discussed the moral nature of the act in the context of the times.  Turned out to be a good read (if you’re into Biblical commentary).

My reading that particular passage yesterday and Dr. Mariotini’s article would seem to be equally random acts, and yet they tie together beautifully.  I’m always intrigued when this kind of thing happens and thought I might bring this one to your attention.

You can read the paper on Lot and his daughters here.

You’ll find Dr. Claude’s article here.


Samson in the 24th 1/2 Century?

This just in…

Variety reports that Warner Bros. is planning a futuristic retelling of the story of Samson & Delilah. The full article can be read here.

I have mentioned before that I enjoy looking at the gospel and the stories of the Bible from different perspectives because it causes you to take a fresh look at things you might be taking for granted. So in some regards this project intrigues me. It has a strong director, Francis Lawrence (I am Legend), and a good writer, Scott Silver (8 Mile, X-Men:Origins), so as a movie it likely won’t be a complete disaster. The question is; how well will the original point of the story come across? Or if you like; how much will the sub-plots created to support the Sci-Fi environment get in the way?

Biblical movies, or movies inspired by Biblical stories are usually a mixed blessing. As I said, while they can provide a fresh vision of the story allowing us to rethink some of our preconceived notions, they can also, and this happens a lot, get so caught up in the subplots design to make a “better story” out of it that the real purpose of the tale is lost in translation.

Cecil B. DeMille’sTen Commandments‘ is a good example. So much time is spent on the love triangle story involving Moses (Charlton Heston) and the Egyptian princess Nefretiri (Anne Baxter) and Rameses (Yul Brynner) that the 40 years wandering in the desert is reduced to a single line of dialog in the last moments of the film. Despite this drawback however, I must give DeMille his due. He doesn’t mess with the basic Biblical story, he either had to much respect for the Scriptures to do that or he knew he’d have the combined wrath of Christian and Jewish clergy to deal with if he did. He did however, love to embellish the story with as much extra material as he could get away with; after all, nothing sells a movie like a good love triangle.

He did the same thing seven years earlier when he made ‘Samson and Delilah‘ starring Victor Mature and Hedy Lemarr. It’s done in true DeMille style, great costumes, lavish sets, lots of special effects, and excellent casting. Though to be fair Mature was not his first choice, but Burt Lancaster and Steve Reeves both turned the part down. Even so, it still stands today as the most watched cinematic treatment of the story.

Over all Demille did a great job of telling the stories of the Bible in ways that captured peoples imaginations and, more often than not, respected the integrity of the Biblical narrative. And I think that is why they succeeded as well as they did. Yes, all star casts and lots of pomp and slendor helped, but respect for the story itself I think is the most important aspect of his approach. When you look at his additions to the narrative most of them are completely in keeping with the times and do not contradict the biblical narrative. Just because the Bible doesn’t mention a romantic connect for Moses in Egypt doesn’t mean he was celebate, it just means it didn’t affect the story God wanted in the scriptures.

There is one other movie version of the story from the book of Judges that I know about but haven’t seen as of yet. Part of a late 1990s Bible Movie Collection produced in Germany (which also contains films about Moses, Abraham and Jeremiah) it starred Eric Thall and Elizabeth Hurley as Samson and Delilah (respectively – wouldn’t want any confusion. lol). From the reviews I’ve read it appears to do a more than reasonable job of presenting the Biblical story with culturally accurate additions to fill out the three hours of film. I’m told it takes a few shortcuts on the special effects, but I guess they didn’t have DeMille’s budget. It sounds like one I’d like to see and add to my collection. On a purely movie fan note, another reason I want to see this film is it also contains performances by Dennis Hopper and Diana Rigg.

A sci-fi version of the Samson story could indeed provide some insights, especially if Lawrence and Silver protect the integrity of the Biblical narrative. And this doesn’t mean that Samson has to spout dialog straight from the book of Judges, I’ll be happy if he acknowledges the source of his power is God, or at least a higher power outside of himself. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

In the meantime, if any of you know of other worthwhile examples of how to do a biblical movie right I’d love to hear about it. Drop me a line in the comments section. Likewise ,if you know of a classic example of just how bad it can get drop me a line in the comments about that as well.

Until next time… Shalom.

And pass the popcorn.


Torah is Life

One of the blogs I enjoy following is that of Dr. Claude Mariottini, Professor of Old Testament at Northern Baptist Seminary. He provides a well educated commentary on a wide range of subjects. This morning he drew my attention to this video and so I present it to you.

It was interesting to me to hear people discussing Torah the same way Christians talk about the New Testament. What struck me about it is that when they talk about Torah they are referring to the first five books of the Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy – what Christian scholars call the Pentateuch. For many Christians however, the Old Testament is considered dry and uninspiring, and so they focus mostly on the New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs. And yet here we have people discussing Leviticus in the same manner we talk about say, the gospel of John. I would suggest there are two things (at least) that we can learn from this observation.

First, the fact that two culturally diverse peoples can gain the same wisdom and learning from both the Old and New Testaments speaks to the universality of God. He is indeed the same yesterday, today and forever. He does not change and those who seek Him will find Him, no matter where they look. Or rather, if I may be so bold, those who seek Him will be found by Him, for He seeks us more fervently than we seek Him.

Second, we need to make sure we don’t neglect the Old Testament in our study of scripture. Many Christians do read the Old Testament, but as a background to the New Testament not necessarily as a guide to living in itself. This is often because there are many who perceive the teachings of Jesus as a replacement for the Old Testament. But this was never the case. Jesus said himself that he had not come to replace the law but to fulfill it. (Matt. 5:17)

So how then can we do this? I have a suggestion. Much Jewish study of the scriptures takes place in conjunction with the Talmud. The Talmud is not a different scripture as many non-Jews assume, rather it is a collection of commentaries that have been made by various rabbis of note down through the centuries. And so it is customary to read the Torah with the aid of these commentaries. Not unlike what Christians do in their Bible studies.

Here’s my suggestion then. Read the Torah, Genesis through Deuteronomy, using the teachings of Jesus, the gospels, as a commentary. That is, as you read the Old Testament, cross reference the teachings of Jesus as they pertain to each passage of scripture. Most good study Bibles will provide the cross references for you. As you read ask yourself these questions: How does Jesus’ teaching shape your reading of the Old Testament passage? How does the Torah passage retain it’s meaning in the light of Jesus’ teaching?

It’s not that profound an idea, I’ll admit, but this video caused me to wonder – we are quick to read the Bible with the aid of a modern teacher’s commentary, but how many of us have read it following the commentary of the greatest teacher of all time?

Until next time…