"Solomon's Temple Tablet may be the most significant archaeological finding yet" in Israel
A sandstone tablet with an inscription very similar to 2 Kings 12 may be extremely significant both in biblical archaeology and Israeli religious politics.
The ten lines of Phoenician script describes King Jehoash's orders "to buy quarry stones and timber and copper and labour to carry out the duty with the faith" in repairing the First Temple.
If it's authentic, "it would be a first-of-its kind piece of physical evidence describing events in a manner that adheres to the narrative in the Bible," says the Tel Aviv newspaper Ha'aretz, which broke the story yesterday. It can also increase tension between Jerusalem's Jews and Muslims. "Muslim clerics insist, despite overwhelming archaeological evidence, that no Jewish shrine ever stood at [the Temple Mount]," the Associated Press explains. "That claim was made by Palestinian officials in failed negotiations with Israel in 2000 over who would be sovereign there." There are two mosques currently on the site.
Gold flecks burned into the tablet suggest it might actually have been part of Solomon's Temple, says Amos Bean, director of the Geological Survey of Israel. "These specks of gold are not natural material, but a sign of human activity," he told the AP. "They could be from gold-plated objects in the home of a very rich man, or a temple. … It's hard to believe that anyone would know how to do these things to make it look real."
The Geological Survey of Israel is standing firmly beside the artifact. "Our findings show that it is authentic," says Shimon Ilani, whose geological tests confirm that the writing dates to the 9th century B.C.
But the GSI was the second organization to examine the tablet. The Jerusalem collector who owns the tablet first went to the Israel Museum, but curators there couldn't rule whether it was a forgery. Museum officials have so far avoided press comment on this finding.
Gabriel Barkai, an Israeli archaeologist from Bar Ilan University's Land of Israel Studies Department, told Ha'aretz that it's too early to pass judgment. "The problem here is that circumstances of the finding are not clear," he said. "We should wait for the official scientific publication, at which time we will be able to probe this finding carefully. Right now, of course, we can't rule out any possibility. It's too bad that a matter of this sort was kept under wraps, apparently due to business concerns." But if it turns out to be what it seems, Barkai says, it could be "the most significant archaeological finding yet in Jerusalem and the Land of Israel."
Ashcroft decries anti-religious bigotry
In a Denver speech to 1,000 members of faith-based charities, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said they had been discriminated against. "Unfortunately, over the last several decades, the government has discriminated against people of faith who are striving to do good for others," he said. "Out of fear, ignorance and occasional bigotry, faith-based groups have been prohibited from competing for federal funding on a level playing field with secular groups."
But Bush's faith-based initiative is righting those wrongs, he suggested. "For the first time in a long time, our leaders in Washington understand what Americans of all religious backgrounds have long held to be true: through faith, all things are possible."
Of course, he had his detractors. "Civil rights groups, who say the administration's plan to give religious organizations government money for social services represents an illegal infringement on the separation of church and state, accused Mr. Ashcroft of distorting the historical record," reports The New York Times, which doesn't give any examples of such "distortion.". "And they questioned whether it was proper for him, as the legal officer charged with overseeing civil rights enforcement, to be lobbying on such a divisive political issue."
You've got to love a civil rights group that says the U.S. attorney general can't stand up against discrimination if it's a divisive issue. (No, really. You've got to love them. It's in the Bible.)
While most reports focus on the church-state controversy, the Rocky Mountain News digs the love. "Attorney general couches controversial proposal in 'I love you' terminology," says the article's deck. Here's what Ashcroft told the charity workers:
While government programs provide for entitlements, when one citizen reaches for another, or one organization, or a group of citizens, does so based on an overwhelming conviction within them that we are one, it says something more than "You are entitled." It says "I love you," and "I love you" is something that needs to be said more frequently in our culture.
The full text of Ashcroft's speech should be posted on the Department of Justice's website, but the page of Ascroft's speeches hasn't been updated since November.
Paper's ban on Scripture irks readers, writers
The Daily Journal of International Falls, Minnesota, like many other smalltown papers, has a column written by local clergy. "For almost nine years area clergy have submitted articles without creating any major controversy," Evangelical Covenant Church pastor Larry Connors writes this week. "But change is in the air." The paper has issued new guidelines, including one banning the quotation of Scripture.
"One of the best ways to keep from just writing down a sermon on paper is to not use Scripture, so we ask you to refrain from quoting Scripture in your columns," says a letter from the paper to the pastors. "Although Scripture is an important aspect to religion, we feel it is inappropriate for our newspaper's church column. When a writer uses a Bible or other religious text, as a resource, it seems that they are attempting more to write a sermon than a church column and they may turn off readers. Besides, if a clergy member [feels] strongly enough they can always write a letter to the editor, which is published on The Daily Journal's opinion page. In a letter to the editor, a reader may quote Scripture."
Connors says the policy makes no sense. "The Bible is not just something I use for a Sunday morning sermon, but it is at the very core and heart of my life in every aspect," he writes in what he says will be his final column. "My opinions without using the insights and principles of God's Word are just my opinions and ideas."
Other readers and writers are similarly upset. "The Daily Journal is showing its bias and anti-Christian views," writes Helen Clark, whose husband, a Baptist pastor, also received the letter. "I feel that the evangelical Christians in International Falls are being shortchanged in the local print media."
"Pastors, I would say pull your column and shake the dust from your feet," says reader Jutta Goetz in another letter to the editor.
Supreme Court rejects Columbine tile case:
- Court rejects Columbine suit | Religious tiles won't go up after justices decline to hear case (Rocky Mountain News, Denver)
- Also: U.S. high court leaves alone ruling against tiles' display (The Denver Post)
- Toobin: Columbine memorial tiles do not violate Constitution | "It's not about separation of church and state, it's about freedom of speech." (CNN)
- Scalia defends public expression of faith | Recent rulings have gone too far, Justice says during tribute to Va. gathering (The Washington Post)
- Also: Scalia complains on church-state rulings | Although the Constitution says the government cannot "establish" or promote religion, the framers did not intend for God to be stripped from public life, Scalia said Sunday at a religious ceremony (Associated Press)
- N.J. appeals court: Overtly religious people can be barred from juries | Dissenting judge says prosecutor's dismissal of potential jurors violates their right to free exercise of religion and defendant's right to equal protection (Associated Press)
- City councils ban Jesus from prayer | Officials react to a court ruling limiting invocations to the mention of God. (The Orange County Register)
- Court gives Jesus the bum's rush | If a court telling some minister he can't say the words "Jesus Christ" in a city council chamber isn't prohibiting the free exercise of religion, I don't know what is (Gordon Dillow, The Orange County Register)
- Guards try to keep preacher off plaza stage | Some call city action unconstitutional (El Paso Times)
- Also: City admits mistake, says preacher can stay in plaza | A man who was told earlier this week to limit his preaching in Downtown's San Jacinto Plaza can now preach without any harassment from the plaza's guards, city officials said Friday (El Paso Times)
- Antiabortionists ready to rumble | Wads of anti-abortion legislation, defunding of Planned Parenthood on movement's agenda (Bill Berkowitz, WorkingForChange.com)
- Reports of cloned baby overshadow subtle shift | Increasing number of ethicists support process for research (The Washington Post)
- A Bush war on women? | Do most American women see the president's efforts against abortion as a war against them? (Bonnie Erbe, Scripps Howard News Service)
- 'Partial-birth' abortions shown increasing | Tripled in the past four years (The Washington Times)
- Abortion stats lead to outreach to blacks | 13 million African-American women have had abortions since 1973 (The Tennessean)
- Earlier: Saving Black Babies | Abortion has cost 13 million African American lives (Christianity Today, Jan. 10, 2003)
- The war against women | As the 30th anniversary of the Roe decision approaches, women's right to safe, legal abortions is in dire peril (Editorial, The New York Times)
- Cloning issue again before Senate | House bill already introduced (The Washington Times)
- Clonaid, company that claims clones, still elusive | Declines to give details of the company's legal status, financial position or where it is based (Reuters)
- Church leader's cloning fears | The government has been accused of paving the way for human cloning when it permitted the first test tube baby to be born in 1978 (BBC)
- Vatican denounces cloning, abortion | "Abortion, euthanasia, human cloning, for example, risk reducing the human person to a mere object: life and death to order, as it were!" (Associated Press)
- Missing Link | Something is missing from Human Cloning and Human Dignity, the report of the President's Council on Bioethics: recognition of the harm reproductive cloning would do to the structure of the American family (Stanley Kurtz, National Review Online)
- Brownback holds off on pushing cloning bill | He says the time isn't right to make another push in a closely divided Senate that has other issues to handle (The Wichita Eagle)
Missions and ministry:
- Missionary at gunpoint | Assailant in Yemen pulled trigger; nothing happened (San Bernardino [Calif.] Sun)
- A missionary's view | 'You've got to be willing to give your life' (The Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo.)
- Rev checking out shoppers | A minister has been asked to offer spiritual guidance to stressed- out shoppers (Daily Record, Scotland)
- Earlier: Aisle 4: Milk, Bread, and God | Asda stores stock chaplains to provide community with a "one-stop shop." (Christianity Today, Aug. 8, 2002)
- Buoyed by faith, couple become medical missionaries | Jay and Donna Maxfield's first mission could have been their last (Canton [Ohio] Repository)
- Is a Graham Crusade in Utah doable? | Utah pastors are exploring the possibility of bringing a three-day Franklin Graham evangelical crusade to the state, possibly in 2004 or 2005 (The Salt Lake Tribune)
- This missionary position stinks | Hindus need Scripture materials like a hole in the head (Helen Martin, The Evening News, Edinburgh, Scotland)
Orthodox Christian again calls for suicide bombing:
- Attallah calls on Christians to carry out "martyr operations" | "They are not suicide bombers as some claim and they are not terrorists, rather, they resist occupation and we support martyrdom operations without any kind of reservations no matter what objectors and doubt-casters say about such a heroic kinds of resistance," says Orthodox priest (IslamOnline)
- Egyptian copts support Christian martyr operations | Leaders of Christian sects in Egypt as well as leading Coptic political activists welcomed Archimandrite Attallah Hanna's call on Palestinian and Arab Christians to join hands in carrying out martyr operations against the Israeli occupation forces (IslamOnline)
- Earlier: Weblog: We Support Suicide Bombing, Says Greek Orthodox 'Spokesman' (June 21, 2002)
- Earlier: Weblog: Greeks Gag Pro-Terrorism Priest (July 15, 2002)
- Earlier: Israel seizes priest in church power play (The Scotsman, Aug. 25, 2002)
- Earlier: In the name of the fathers, and of the fired | An interview with Attallah Hana (Ha'aretz, August 2002)
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