Monday, December 31, 2007

Babylonian exile

Jews being carried away to the banks of the EuphratesBabylonian captivity, or Babylonian exile, is the name generally given to the deportation and exile of the Jews of the ancient Kingdom of Judah to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar II.

Historical account

Three separate occasions are mentioned (Jeremiah 52:28-30). The first was in the time of Jehoiachin in 597 BCE, when the temple of Jerusalem was partially despoiled, and a number of the leading citizens were removed.

After eleven years (in the reign of Zedekiah) a fresh rising of the Judaeans occurred; the city was razed to the ground, and a further deportation ensued.

Finally, five years later, Jeremiah records a third captivity. After the overthrow of Babylonia (see Babylon) by the Persians (see Persian Empire), Cyrus the Great gave the Jews permission to return to their native land (537 BCE), and more than forty thousand are said to have availed themselves of the privilege. (See Jehoiakim; Ezra; Nehemiah and Jews.) Previously, the northern tribes had been taken captive by Assyria and never returned; survivors of the Babylonian exile were all that remained of the Children of Israel. The Persians had a different political philosophy of managing conquered territories than the Babylonians or Assyrians. Under the Persians, local personages were put into power to govern the local populace.


Saturday, December 29, 2007


Greek Ἰησοῦς (Iēsous) can stand for both Classical Biblical Hebrew Yehoshua (top two) and Aramaic and Late Biblical Hebrew Yeshua (bottom)Yeshua, spelled יֵשׁוּעַ in Hebrew, is believed by some scholars and religious groups to be the Hebrew or Aramaic name for Jesus. It is extensively used by Messianic Jews and Hebrew Christians, as well as others, who wish to use what some believe to be the original Hebraic pronunciation of Jesus' name. This pronunciation and spelling, as with many religious and scholarly issues, remains the subject of ongoing debate.


Among the Jews of the Second Temple Period, the Biblical Aramaic/Hebrew name יֵשׁוּעַ "Yeshua`" was common: the Hebrew Bible mentions several individuals with this name. This name is a feature of biblical books written in the post-Exilic period like Ezra and Daniel and was found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Strong's Concordance identifies the name יֵשׁוּעַ Yeshua`, in the English form Jeshua (as used in multiple instances in Ezra, Nehemiah, and 1 and 2 Chronicles), with the meaning "he will save" -- Hebrew word number 3442 and the same lettering in its Aramaic form -- Heb. 3443. "The New Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers 1990). This comports with the Hebrew rendition of Matthew 1:21: "She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus [Yeshua` means "he will save"], for He will save His people from their sins" (NASB).

The name יֵשׁוּעַ "Yeshua" (translated into English Old Testament as Jeshua) is a late form of the Biblical Hebrew name יְהוֹשֻׁעַ Yehoshua (Joshua), spelled יְהוֹשׁוּעַ. The Late Biblical Hebrew spellings for earlier names often contracted the theophoric element Yeho-. Thus יהוחנן Yehochanan contracted to יוחנן Yochanan.


Friday, December 28, 2007

Messianic Judaism

The Baruch Hashem Messianic Synagogue in Dallas, TexasMessianic Judaism is a religious movement of Jews and non-Jews whose adherents believe that Jesus of Nazareth, whom they call by the Hebrew name Yeshua, is both the resurrected Jewish Messiah and their divine savior.

As of 1993 there were 160,000 adherents of Messianic Judaism in the United States and 350,000 worldwide. As of 2003, there were at least 150 Messianic synagogues in the U.S. and over 400 worldwide.

Messianic Jews practice their faith in a way they consider to be authentically Torah-observant and culturally Jewish. However, Jews of all denominations and many Christians do not consider Messianic Judaism to be a form of Judaism, but a form of Christianity.

Self identity

Although words used to identify aspects of Messianic Judaism are frequently disputed and sometimes contradictory, the term itself generally describes a belief that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah and that obedience of the Scriptures is the proper expression of faith. Adherents are described as Messianic believers or Messianics for short. Messianic Judaism is a relatively new term, coined as recently as 1895 to help separate the practices of its followers from those of common Christianity as a whole, and in order to more closely align its faith with that of biblical and historical Judaism.


Thursday, December 27, 2007


Ancient Macedon, Roman Province, Byzantine province (approximate borders), Ottoman period (approximate)The Roman province of Macedonia was officially established in 146 BC, after the Roman general Quintus Caecilius Metellus defeated Andriscus of Macedon in 148 BC, and after the four client republics established by Rome in the region were dissolved. The province incorporated Epirus Vetus, Thessaly, and parts of Illyria and Thrace.

In the 3rd or 4th century, the province of Macedonia was divided into Macedonia Prima (in the south) and Macedonia Salutaris (in the north).

Macedonia Prima and Macedonia Salutaris were included in the Diocese of Macedonia, one of three dioceses which were included in the Prefecture of Illyricum, organized in 318. When the Prefecture of Illyricum was divided into a Western and Eastern Illyricum in 379, the Macedonian provinces were included in Eastern Illyricum. After the split of the Roman Empire into a Western and Eastern Empire in 395, Macedonia passed into the Byzantine Empire.

In his writings, Paul of Tarsus mentions Macedonia numerous times:


Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Oxyrhynchus (Greek: Ὀξύρρυγχος; "sharp-snouted or sharp-nosed"; ancient Egyptian Pr-Medjed; Coptic Pemdje; modern Egyptian Arabic el-Bahnasa) is a city in Upper Egypt, located about 160 km south-southwest of Cairo, in the governorate of Al Minya. It is also an archaeological site, considered one of the most important ever discovered. For the past century, the area around Oxyrhynchus has been continually excavated, yielding an enormous collection of papyrus texts dating from the time of the Ptolemaic and Roman periods of Egyptian history. Among the texts discovered at Oxyrhynchus are plays of Menander and fragments of the Gospel of Thomas, an early Christian apocryphal document with doubtful authorship.


The town was named after a species of fish of the Nile River which was important in Egyptian mythology, though it is not known exactly which species of fish this is. One possibility is a species of mormyrid, medium-sized freshwater fish that figure in various Egyptian and other artworks. Some species of mormyrid have distinctive downturned snouts or barbels, lending them the common name of elephantnoses among aquarists and ichthyologists. A figurine from Oxyrhynchus of one of these sacred fish has many attributes typical of mormyrids: a long anal fin, a small caudal fin, widely spaced pelvic and pectoral fins, and of course the downturned snout.


Monday, December 24, 2007


Wise Men visiting Jesus after his birthChristmas (literally, the Mass of Christ) is a traditional holiday commonly observed on 25 December. In most Eastern Orthodox Churches, even where the civil calendar used is the Gregorian, the event is observed according to the Julian calendar, which coincides with the predominant reckoning of 7 January. It is celebrated by most Christians to mark the birth of Jesus, which is believed to have occurred in Bethlehem in the Roman Province of Judea between 6 BC and AD 6. Christ's birth, or nativity, was said by his followers to fulfill the prophecies of Judaism that a messiah would come, from the house of David, to redeem the world from sin. Efforts to decide upon a date on which to celebrate his birth began some centuries later.

The word Christmas is a contraction of Christ's Mass, derived from the Old English Cristes mæsse.

It is sometimes abbreviated Xmas, probably because X resembles the Greek letter Χ (chi) which has often historically been used as an abbreviation for Christ (Χριστός in Greek).

The Nativity

The Nativity of Jesus refers to the Christian belief that the Messiah was born to the Virgin Mary. The story of Christmas is based on the biblical accounts given in the Gospel of Matthew, namely Matthew 1:18-Matthew 2:12 and the Gospel of Luke, specifically Luke 1:26-Luke 2:40. According to these accounts, Jesus was born to Mary, assisted by her husband Joseph, in the city of Bethlehem. According to popular tradition, the birth took place in a "stable", surrounded by farm animals, though neither the “stable” nor the animals are mentioned in the Biblical accounts. However, a "manger" is mentioned in Luke 2:7 where it states "She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." Shepherds from the fields surrounding Bethlehem were told of the birth by an angel, and were the first to see the child. Christians believe that the birth of Jesus fulfilled many prophecies made hundreds of years before his birth.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Nativity of Jesus

The infant Jesus in Adoration of the Shepherds, Gerard van HonthorstThe Nativity refers to the birth of Jesus. According to traditional telling of the birth of Jesus Christ, Jesus was born in the city of Bethlehem in a stable, surrounded by farm animals and shepherds, and Jesus was born into a manger from the Virgin Mary assisted by her husband Joseph.

Remembering or re-creating the Nativity is one of the central ways that Christians celebrate Christmas. For example, the Eastern Orthodox Church practices the Nativity Fast in anticipation of the birth of Jesus Christ, while the Roman Catholic Church celebrates Advent. In some Christian churches, children often perform plays re-creating the events of the Nativity, or sing some of the numerous Christmas carols that reference the event. Many Christians also display a small re-creation of the Nativity known as a Nativity scene in their homes, using small figurines to portray the key characters of the event. Live Nativity scenes are also re-enacted using Human actors and live animals to portray the event with more realism.

Biblical narratives

Gospel of Luke

The Gospel of Luke states that Mary learned from the angel Gabriel that the Holy Spirit would cause her to be with child. Mary pointed out that she was a virgin and the angel responded that "nothing will be impossible with God". "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word," Mary responded.

At the time that Mary was due to give birth, she and her husband Joseph traveled from their home in Nazareth about 150 kilometres (90 miles) south to Joseph's ancestral home, Bethlehem, in order to register in a census ordered by Emperor Caesar Augustus, the Census of Quirinius. Having found no place for themselves in the inn, they lodged in a room where animals were kept. There Mary gave birth to Jesus.

An angel of the Lord visited the shepherds that were guarding their flocks in fields nearby and brought them the "good news of great joy" that "to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord". The angel told them they would find, "a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." A "heavenly host" joined the angel and said, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!" NRSV. The Authorized King James Version (1611) reads, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." The shepherds hurried to the manger in Bethlehem where they found Mary, Joseph and Jesus. They repeated what they were told by the angel, and then returned to their flocks.


Saturday, December 22, 2007


Joseph of Nazareth with the infant Jesus, by Guido Reni. c. 1635Epiphany (Greek: επιφάνεια, "appearance" or "manifestation") is a Christian feast intended to celebrate the "shining forth" or revelation of God to mankind in human form, in the person of Jesus. The feast is also called Twelfth Day, as it is the twelfth day after Christmas, or Three Kings Day.


The observance had its origins in the Eastern Christian churches, and was originally a general celebration of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, and included the commemoration of: his birth; the visit of the Magi, or "Wise Men", who arrived in Bethlehem; all of Jesus' childhood events, up to and including His baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist; and even the miracle at the Wedding of Cana in Galilee. However, it seems fairly clear that the Baptism was the event predominantly commemorated.

The date of the feast was very early fixed on January 6. Ancient Liturgies speak of Illuminatio, Manifestatio, Declaratio (Lighting, Manifestation, Declaration); cf. Matthew 3:13–17; Luke 3:22; and John 2:1–11; where the Baptism and the Marriage at Cana are dwelt upon. Christian Churches have traditionally emphasized the "Revelation to the Gentiles" mentioned in the Gospel of Luke, where the term Gentile means all non-Jewish peoples. The Biblical Magi represent the non-Jewish peoples of the world.


Friday, December 21, 2007


The infant Jesus in Adoration of the Shepherds, Gerard van HonthorstBethlehem (Arabic بيت لحم) "house of meat") (Greek: Βηθλεέμ) is a city in the West Bank under Palestinian Authority considered a central hub of Palestinian cultural and tourism industries.

The city has great significance for Christianity as it is believed to be the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth.

The traditional site of Rachel's tomb, which is important in Judaism, lies at the city's outskirts. Bethlehem is also home to one of largest Palestinian Christian communities in the Middle East.

It lies about 10 km (6 mi) south of Jerusalem, standing at an elevation of about 765 m (2 510 ft) above the sea, thus 30 m (100 ft) higher than Jerusalem. The Bethlehem agglomeration includes the small towns of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour, the latter also having biblical significance.

The Church of the Nativity (see also Nativity of Jesus), built by Constantine the Great (330 AD), stands in the centre of Bethlehem over a grotto or cave called the Holy Crypt, which according to Christian tradition is the place where Jesus was born. This is perhaps the oldest existing Christian church in the world.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Gospel of Matthew

Saint Matthew, from the 9th-century Ebbo Gospels.The Gospel of Matthew (literally, "according to Matthew"; Greek, Κατά Μαθθαίον or Κατά Ματθαίον, Kata Maththaion or Kata Matthaion) is one of the four Gospel accounts of the New Testament. It narrates an account of the life and ministry of Jesus, from his genealogy to his post-resurrection commissioning of his Apostles to "go and make disciples of all nations." Bibles traditionally print Matthew as the first gospel, followed in order by Mark, and . The Christian community traditionally ascribes authorship to Matthew the Evangelist, one of Jesus's twelve apostles, while secular scholarship generally agrees it was written by an anonymous non-eyewitness to Jesus's ministry.

The Gospel of Matthew is written in Greek, not in Aramaic. That is to say, no copy of an Aramaic original has yet to be found. The Greek of the gospel of Matthew cannot easily be translated back to Aramiac. This is very suggestive that Matthew is not a Greek translation of an Aramiac original. It is also generally agreed that the Gospel of Mark is actually the earliest of the four gospels and that the author of Matthew substantially used the gospel of Mark in writing this gospel.


For convenience, the book can be divided into its four structurally distinct sections: Two introductory sections; the main section, which can be further broken into five sections, each with a narrative component followed by a long discourse of Jesus; and finally, the Passion and Resurrection section.

  1. Containing the genealogy, the birth, and the infancy of Jesus (Matthew 1; Matthew 2). The discourses and actions of John the Baptist preparatory to Christ's public ministry (Matthew 3; Matthew 4:11).
  2. The discourses and actions of Christ in Galilee (4:12–26:1).
    1. The Sermon on the Mount, concerning morality (Matthew 5–7)
    2. The Missionary Discourse, concerning the mission Jesus gave his Twelve Apostles. (Matthew 10–11:1)
    3. The Parable Discourse, stories that teach about the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 13).
    4. The "Church Order" Discourse, concerning relationships among Christians (Matthew 18–19:1).
    5. The Eschatological Discourse, which includes the Olivet Discourse and Judgement of the Nations, concerning his Second Coming and the Signs of the End of the Age (Matthew 24–25).
  3. The sufferings, death and Resurrection of Jesus, the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16–20).


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Herod the Great

The taking of Jerusalem by Herod the Great, 36 BC, by Jean FouquetHordos הוֹרְדוֹס, also known as Herod I or Herod the Great, was a Roman client-king of Judaea (c. 74 BC - c. 5, 4 or 1 BC in Jerusalem). The details of his biography can best be gleaned from the works of the 1st century AD Jewish historiographer Josephus. To the majority of non-specialist Christians Herod is best known from the Gospel according to Matthew that gives in chapter 2 an account of the events leading up to and including what subsequently has come to be referred to by Christians as the Massacre of the Innocents, of which however no mention in other contemporary sources has come down to us.

Herod the Great arose from a wealthy, influential Idumaean family. The Idumaeans, successors to the Edomites of the Hebrew Bible, settled in Idumea, formerly known as Edom, in southern Judea.

When the Maccabean John Hyrcanus conquered Idumea in 130-140 BC, he required all Idumaeans to obey Jewish law or to leave; most Idumaeans thus converted to Judaism.

According to some, archaeological evidence suggests that Herod identified himself as Jewish, although according to the Mosaic Law he was not. For he was the second son of Antipater the Idumaean, founder of the Herodian dynasty, and his wife Cypros, a princess from Petra in Nabatea (now part of Jordan). The family rubbed shoulders with the great in Rome, such as Pompey, Cassius, and in 47 BC his father was appointed Procurator over Judea, who then appointed his son governor of Galilee at the age of 25.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Nazareth on the map of IsraelNazareth (Arabic الناصرة) is an ancient town in the North District in Israel. In the New Testament, it is described as the childhood home of Jesus, and is a center of Christian pilgrimage, with many shrines commemorating biblical associations.


The etymology of Nazareth from as early as Eusebius up until the 20th century has been said to derive from netser, a "shoot" or "sprout", while the apocryphal Gospel of Phillip derives the name from Nazara meaning "truth". "Nazarene," meaning "of the village of Nazareth," should not be confused with "Nazirite," meaning a "separated" Jew.

Geography and Population

Modern-day Nazareth is nestled in a hollow plateau some 1,200 feet (350m) above sea level, located between 1,600 foot high hills that form the most southerly points of the Lebanon mountain range. It is about 25 km from the Sea of Galilee and about 9 km west from Mount Tabor. The modern city lies lower down upon the hill than did the ancient one. The main road for traffic between Egypt and the interior of Asia passes by Nazareth near the foot of Tabor, and thence northward to Damascus.

Nazareth has an estimated population of 60,000. The majority of residents are Israeli Arabs, about 35-40% of whom are Christians and the rest Muslims.


Monday, December 17, 2007

The Magi

The Journey of the Magi by James TissotThe Magi (singular Magus, from Latin, via Greek μάγος ; Old English: Mage; from Old Persian maguš) was a tribe from ancient Media, who - prior to the absorption of the Medes into the Persian Empire in 550 BC - were responsible for religious and funerary practices. Later they accepted the Zoroastrian religion (Zoroastrianism), however, not without changing the original message of its founder, Zarathustra (Zoroaster), to what is today known as "Zurvanism", which would become the predominant form of Zoroastrianism during the Sassanid era (AD 226–650). No traces of Zurvanism exist beyond the 10th century.

The best known Magi are the "Wise Men from the East" in the Bible, whose graves Marco Polo claimed to have seen in what is today the district of Saveh, in Tehran, Iran. In English, the term may refer to a shaman, sorcerer, or wizard; it is the origin of the English words magic and magician.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.
-Matthew 2:1-3


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Joseph of Nazareth

St Joseph with the Infant Jesus, Guido Reni (c. 1635), The Hermitage, St. Petersburg Joseph of Nazareth, also called Joseph the Betrothed and Saint Joseph, was the legal father of Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 1:16; Luke 3:23) and the husband of Mary. However, according to the bible, he is not the biological father of Jesus. According to Christian tradition Mary conceived of Jesus through divine means and not through human effort. Not much is known of Joseph except that he was "of the House of David" and lived in the town of Nazareth. His date of death is unknown, though he was still living when Jesus was 12 years old. In the Roman Catholic tradition, he is the patron saint of workers and has several feast days.

Spiritual Significance of Luke 3:23

The spitirtual significance of the comment in Luke 3:23 "as was supposed" (in some translations "so it was thought") (of Joseph's fatherhood) is in the fact that God is letting us know that Jewish society did NOT understand the real paternity of Jesus...that of the Holy Spirit... thus was incapable of understanding His ministry... as was certainly exhibited by the actions and attitudes of the scribes, Pharisees, lawyers, etc. to whom parentage and ancestry had become a cumbersome and burdensome legalism that blighted New Testament Judaism. They completely missed the Messianic note in the lists of both Matthew and Luke... except for a very small minority like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, eventually...or Simeon or Anna of Luke 2.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Kingdom of Judah

Map of the southern Levant, c.830s BCE.The Kingdom of Judah (Hebrew מַלְכוּת יְהוּדָה) in the times of the Hebrew Bible, was the nation formed from the territories of the tribes of Judah, Simeon, and Benjamin after the Kingdom of Israel was divided, and was named after Judah, son of Jacob (Israel, see sons of Jacob). The name Judah itself means "Praise of God." (see: Kings of Judah).

Judah is often referred to as the Southern Kingdom to distinguish it from the Northern Kingdom (being the Kingdom of Israel) after the division of the Kingdom. Its capital was Jerusalem. See History of ancient Israel.

When the disruption took place at Shechem, at first only the tribe of Judah followed the house of David. But very soon after the tribe of Benjamin joined the tribe of Judah, and Jerusalem became the capital of the new kingdom (Joshua 18:28), which was called the kingdom of Judah.

For the first sixty years the kings of Judah aimed at re-establishing their authority over the kingdom of the other ten tribes, so that there was a state of perpetual war between them. For the following eighty years there was no open war between them. For the most part they were in friendly alliance, co-operating against their common enemies, especially against Damascus. After the destrution of Israel, Judah continued to exist for about a century and a half until its final overthrow in (586 BC) by Nebuzar-adan, who was captain of Nebuchadnezzar's body-guard (2 Kings 25:8-21), an event which also saw the destruction of the First Temple.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Augustinian hypothesis

the evangelist Matthew inspired by an angelThe Augustinian hypothesis is a solution to the synoptic problem, which concerns the origin of the Gospels of the New Testament. The hypothesis holds that Matthew was written first, by Matthew the Evangelist, a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth. Mark the Evangelist, a disciple of the apostle Simon Peter, wrote the Gospel of Mark second, and used Matthew and the preaching of Peter as sources. Luke the Evangelist, a disciple of Paul of Tarsus, wrote the Gospel of Luke, and was aware of the two Gospels that preceded him. Unlike some competing hypotheses, this hypothesis does not rely on, nor does it argue for, the existence of any document that is not explicitly mentioned in historical testimony. Instead, the hypothesis draws primarily upon historical testimony, rather than textual criticism, as the central line of evidence. The foundation of evidence for the hypothesis is the writings of the Church Fathers: historical sources dating back to as early as the first half of the 2nd century, which have been held as authoritative by most Christians for nearly 2 millennia. Finally, adherents to the Augustinian hypothesis view it as a simple, coherent solution to the synoptic problem.

The Augustinian hypothesis addresses certain fundamental points of contention surrounding the synoptic problem, such as how reliable the early Christian tradition is, which gospel was written first, whether there were other unknown sources behind the gospels, to what extent, if any, the gospels were redacted, and to what extent the gospels were altered between the time they were originally written and the time the first surviving manuscripts appear. These and other matters are raised and alternate resolutions proposed by proponents of competing hypotheses, such as the Two-source hypothesis, its related Q hypothesis, the Farrer hypothesis, and others.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

historical Jesus

The infant Jesus in Adoration of the Shepherds, Gerard van HonthorstThis article is about Jesus the man, based upon historical methods to reconstruct a biography of his life and times. For disputes about the existence of Jesus and reliability of ancient texts relating to him, see historicity of Jesus. For theological perspectives, see Jesus, chronology of Jesus, genealogy of Jesus, etc.

The historical Jesus is Jesus of Nazareth as reconstructed by historians (i.e. not necessarily and usually not Christian historians) using historical methods. These historical methods use critical analysis of gospel texts as the primary source for the biography of Jesus, along with non-biblical sources to reconstruct the historical context of first-century Judea. These methods do not include theological or religious axioms, such as biblical inerrancy. Though the reconstructions vary, they generally agree on these basic points: Jesus was a Jewish teacher who attracted a small following of Galileans and, after a period of ministry, was crucified by the Romans in the Iudaea Province during the governorship of Pontius Pilate. The quest for the historical Jesus began with the work of Hermann Samuel Reimarus. Eusebius of Caesarea (~275–339) is an example of an early Christian historian and Flavius Josephus is an example of a 1st-century Jewish historian.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Ruins of Roman-era CarthageThe term Carthage (Greek: Καρχηδών, Arabic: قرطاج also قرطاجة, Latin: Carthago) refers both to an ancient city in North Africa located in modern day Tunis and to the civilization that developed within the city's sphere of influence. The city of Carthage was located on the eastern side of Lake Tunis across from the center of modern Tunis in Tunisia.


Originally a settlement of Phoenician colonists, Carthage grew into a vast economic and political power throughout the Mediterranean Sea, accumulating wealth and influence through its economic (trading) prowess. Carthage was a superpower, contemporaneously with the Roman Republic of the 2nd and 3rd Century BC, and was its rival for dominance of the western Mediterranean. Eventually this rivalry led to a series of three wars known as the Punic Wars, each of which Carthage lost. These losses led to a decline in Carthage's political and economic strength, mostly due to the harsh penalties imposed on Carthage by Rome as conditions of the cessation of hostilities.

The Third Punic War ended with the complete destruction of the city of Carthage and the annexation of the last remnants of Carthaginian territory by Rome. Although a distinct Carthaginian civilization ceased to exist, remnants of it contributed to later Mediterranean cultures. The name Carthage is derived by way of Greek and Latin dialects from the Phoenician (QRT HDST) meaning "new city." More than one Phoenician settlement originally bore this name, although only one city has the distinction of being the Carthage of the ancient world.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Irreducible complexity

Flagellum of Gram-negative BacteriaIrreducible complexity (IC) is the argument that certain biological systems are too complex to have evolved from simpler, or "less complete" predecessors, and are at the same time too complex to have arisen naturally through chance mutations. An "irreducibly complex" system is defined by the term's originator, biochemistry professor Michael J. Behe, as one "composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning". These examples are said to demonstrate that modern biological forms could not have evolved naturally. The argument is used in a broader context to support the idea that an intelligent designer was involved, at some point, in the creation of life, against the theory of evolution which argues no designer is required. In a manner of speaking, the IC argument is a definition of the "designer", or at least "what was designed", a definition that has proven elusive in the past. The most common examples used in argument are the complexity of the eye, the Blood clotting cascade, or the motor in a cell's flagellum.

The flagella of certain bacteria constitute a molecular motor requiring the interaction of about 40 complex protein parts, and the absence of any one of these proteins causes the flagella to fail to function. Behe holds that the flagellum "engine" is irreducibly complex because if we try to reduce its complexity by positing an earlier and simpler stage of its evolutionary development, we get an organism which functions improperly.

There are many examples of molecular machines, such as the bacterial flagellum, that are composed of numerous elements. Behe rightly points out that such machines are irreducibly complex in that if any one part were removed, the function in question would be instantly lost. How then could such a machine be built up gradually if it will not work to any selectable degree until all its parts are present in their proper order?

Kenneth Miller, a well-known evolutionary biologist from Brown University, points out that certain subsystems of the bacterial flagellum would still be in working order if other parts were removed. The overall flagellar motility system requires around 50 different types of proteins (and underlying genes to code for them). However, it is quite interesting to note that 10 of these genes and the resulting structure within the flagellar motility system also code for what is known as a type III secretory system (TTSS). The TTSS is used as a toxin injector by some especially nasty bacteria that attack both animals and plants. Therefore, Kenneth Miller argues that it is mistaken to use the flagellar system as an example of a truly irreducibly complex machine since around 40 different parts could be removed from the machine without a complete loss of function. Miller also points out that the majority of the protein parts of the flagellar system have other functions as parts of other systems within bacteria.


Saturday, December 08, 2007

watchmaker analogy

A small orrery showing earth and the inner planetsThe watchmaker analogy, or watchmaker argument, is a teleological argument for the existence of God. By way of an analogy the argument states that design implies a designer. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the analogy was used (by Descartes and Boyle, for instance) as a device for explaining the structure of the universe and God's relationship to it. Later, the analogy played a prominent role in natural theology and the "argument from design," where it was used to support arguments for the existence of God and for the intelligent design of the universe.

The most famous statement of the teleological argument using the watchmaker analogy was given by William Paley in 1802. Paley's argument was seriously challenged by Charles Darwin's formulation of the theory of natural selection, and how it combines with mutation to improve survivability of a species, even a new species. In the United States, starting in the 1980s, the concepts of evolution and natural selection (usually referred to as "Darwinism") became the subject of a concerted attack by Christian creationists. This attack included a renewed interest in, and defense of, the watchmaker argument by the intelligent design movement.

The Watchmaker argument

The watchmaker analogy consists of the comparison of some natural phenomenon to a watch. Typically, the analogy is presented as a prelude to the teleological argument and is generally presented as:
  1. If you look at a watch, you can easily tell that it was designed and built by an intelligent watchmaker.
  2. Similarly, if you look at some natural phenomenon X (a particular organ or organism, the structure of the solar system, life, the entire universe) you can easily tell that it was designed and built by an intelligent creator/designer.


Thursday, December 06, 2007


Within Christianity, the doctrine of the Trinity states that God is a single "Being" who exists, simultaneously and eternally, as a communion of three persons (personae, prosopa): Father (the Source, the Eternal Majesty); the Son (the eternal Logos or Word, incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth); and the Holy Spirit. Since the 4th Century AD, in both Eastern and Western Christianity, this doctrine has been stated as "One God in Three Persons," all three of whom, as distinct and co-eternal "persons" or "hypostases," share a single Divine essence, being, or nature.

The word Trinity comes from the Latin noun Trinitas, meaning the state or condition of being three, or a group of three persons or things. The first recorded application of this Latin word to Father, Son and Holy Spirit was by Tertullian in about 200 where he probably combined Latin words for three and one. Although the word Trinity is not found in Scripture, the principle is:

19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19)
The Greek term with the same meaning, Τρίας, has given the English word triad. The Sanskrit word, Trimurti, has a similar meaning.

In view of what is stated about Tertullian, it would be vain to look for the word "Τρίας" (Trinity) in the New Testament, which only speaks of God (often called "the Father"), of Jesus Christ (often called "the Son"), and of the Holy Spirit, and of the relationships between these.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Hippolytus of Rome

The Martyrdom of Saint Hippolytus (Martyre de saint Hippolyte) Paris, 14th century Hippolytus of Rome also known as Saint Hippolytus (sometimes Ypolitus; (Italian) Ippolito; in Middle English, Ippolitt; (German) Pilt; (Spanish) Ipolito) was one of the most prolific writers of the early Church. Hippolytus must have been born in the second half of the 2nd century, probably in Rome. Photius describes him in his Bibliotheca (cod. 121) as a disciple of Irenaeus, who was said to be a disciple of Polycarp, who in turn was a disciple of John the Apostle, and from the context of this passage it is supposed that we may conclude that Hippolytus himself so styled himself. He came into conflict with the Popes of his time and for some time headed a separate congregation. Therefore he is sometimes considered the first Antipope. However he died in 235 reconciled to the Church as a martyr, so now he is honored as a saint.


As a presbyter of the church at Rome under Bishop Zephyrinus (199-217), Hippolytus was distinguished for his learning and eloquence. It was at this time that Origen, then a young man, heard him preach.

It was probably not long before questions of theology and church discipline brought him into direct conflict with Zephyrinus, or at any rate with his successor Calixtus I. He accused the bishop of favouring the Christological heresies of the Monarchians, and, further, of subverting the discipline of the Church by his lax action in receiving back into the Church those guilty of gross offences. The result was a schism, and for perhaps over ten years Hippolytus stood at the head of a separate congregation.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Book of Kells

This page (folio 292r) contains the lavishly decorated text that opens the Gospel of JohnThe Book of Kells (Dublin, Trinity College Library, MS A. I. (58), less widely known as the Book of Columba) is an ornately illustrated manuscript, produced by Celtic monks around AD 800 in the style known as Insular art. It is one of the more lavishly illuminated manuscripts to survive from the Middle Ages and has been described as the zenith of Western calligraphy and illumination. It contains the four gospels of the Bible in Latin, along with prefatory and explanatory matter decorated with numerous colourful illustrations and illuminations. Today it is on permanent display at the Trinity College Library in Dublin, Ireland.



The Book of Kells is the high point of a group of manuscripts in what is known as the Insular style produced from the late 6th through the early 9th centuries in monasteries in Ireland, Scotland and northern England and in continental monasteries with Irish or English foundations.

These manuscripts include the Cathach of St. Columba, the Ambrosiana Orosius, a fragmentary gospel in the Durham cathedral library (all from the early 7th century), and the Book of Durrow (from the second half of the 7th century). From the early 8th century come the Durham Gospels, the Echternach Gospels, the Lindisfarne Gospels (see illustration at right), and the Lichfield Gospels. The St. Gall Gospel Book and the Macregal Gospels come from the late 8th century. The Book of Armagh (dated to 807–809), the Turin Gospel Book Fragment, the Leiden Priscian, the St. Gall Priscian and the Macdurnan Gospel all date from the early 9th century. Scholars place these manuscripts together based on similarities in artistic style, script, and textual traditions. The fully developed style of the ornamentation of the Book of Kells places it late in this series, either from the late eighth or early ninth century. The Book of Kells follows many of the iconographic and stylistic traditions found in these earlier manuscripts. For example, the form of the decorated letters found in the incipit pages for the Gospels is surprisingly consistent in Insular Gospels. Compare, for example, the incipit pages of the Gospel of Matthew in the Lindisfarne Gospels and in the Book of Kells both of which feature intricate decorative knotwork inside the outlines formed by the enlarged initial letters of the text. (For a more complete list of related manuscripts see: List of Hiberno-Saxon illustrated manuscripts.)


Monday, December 03, 2007

Aramaic of Jesus

Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani --which means, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?Most scholars believe that Jesus spoke Aramaic with some Hebrew, and possibly Greek. Generally, scholars believe that the towns of Nazareth and Capernaum where Jesus lived were Aramaic-speaking communities, that he was knowledgeable enough in Hebrew to discuss the Hebrew Bible, and that he might have known some Greek through commerce as a carpenter in nearby Sepphoris (see Tzippori). Accordingly, Jesus is believed to have addressed primarily Aramaic-speaking audiences.
This article explores Aramaic reconstructions of phrases in the New Testament as attributed to Jesus (Hebrew-Aramaic ישוע Yeshua, meaning "YHVH is salvation") and New Testament figures

Cultural and linguistic background

It is generally accepted that Jesus was born a Jew, and grew up in a Jewish family in Roman-controlled Palestine. For over a half-millennium, the colloquial language for Palestinian Jews was Aramaic, stemming from the Babylonian captivity and invading Assyrian empire. For some Jews Hebrew remained a colloquial language, until the end of the 3rd century AD. Nearly all of the Jewish scriptures were written in Hebrew, making it likely that a Jew who knew the Jewish scriptures also knew at least some Hebrew (especially as Hebrew and Aramaic are fairly cognate).


Saturday, December 01, 2007

The AIDS Crisis

Prevalence of HIV among adults per country at the end of 2005Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS or Aids) is a collection of symptoms and infections in humans resulting from the specific damage to the immune system caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The late stage of the condition leaves individuals prone to opportunistic infections and tumors. Although treatments for AIDS and HIV exist to slow the virus's progression, there is no known cure.

HIV is transmitted through direct contact of a mucous membrane or the bloodstream with a bodily fluid containing HIV, such as blood, semen, vaginal fluid, preseminal fluid, and breast milk.

This transmission can come in the form of anal, vaginal or oral sex, blood transfusion, contaminated hypodermic needles, exchange between mother and baby during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding, or other exposure to one of the above bodily fluids.

Most researchers believe that HIV originated in sub-Saharan Africa during the twentieth century; it is now a pandemic, with an estimated 38.6 million people now living with the disease worldwide.





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