Friday, September 21, 2012

Jesus' Sister/Wife? Ben Witherington on the Jesus' Wife Papyrus

Ben Witherington has produced a short video on the so-called Gospel of Jesus' Wife. I think he does a good job of explaining it, although I am not so sure about the sister/wife theory.

The Jesus Wife Papyrus: Real or Fake?

It has been a busy few days since I first posted about the so-called Jesus' Wife fragment. The newspapers, television and blogosphere have been full of stories and opinions about the existence of the recently announced papyrus. I was surprised that even my small hometown newspaper had a short article about the discovery. And the story is moving fast.

As I said in the original post, it is important for us to be patient and see what the community of scholars has to say about this. Now that the papyrus has been published, it is time for the experts to examine it and weigh in.

But there has been no end of people chatting about this online. Some are well-respected scholars who, for the most part, are applauding the discovery but are also cautioning that there is a lot we still don't know. And then of course there are the usual suspects who are already making sensational claims about Jesus having a wife and are wondering where they should send a gift to the happy couple.

So here is a round up of some of the better links.

Larry Hurtado is cautious but does point out that calling the fragment the "Gospel of Jesus' Wife" is a bit premature.

Simon Gathercole notes that while the fragment has been judged to be authentic by two experts, there are some reasons to be skeptical.

Dan Wallace offers us a reality check of what we know and can say about the fragment.

Mark Goodacre provides a good round up of the story and offers a short article from Francis Watson in which Watson suggests that the fragment is a fake. For a response to Watson's article see James McGrath who thinks that there is still reason to doubt it is a modern forgery.

April Deconick does think Jesus was married, but doesn't think that this fragment proves it.

Tom Verenna has two good posts concerning the authenticity of the fragment. In the first he lays out four reasons why the fragment's authenticity should be questioned. In the second post he revisits those questions with answers from Richard Carrier. But Tom is still somewhat skeptical.

And now for those who plan to attend the Jesus nuptials.

I was disappointed to learn that the Smithsonian Channel was producing a special on the fragment. I had thought this was being handled the right way without the usual media circus. But since the special will air on September 30th, it now looks like this whole story will be sensationalized anyway.

And then of course there is Simcha Jacobovici. This is the man known for supposedly finding Jesus' family tomb and that of Joseph of Arimathea. Simcha is now sure that his theories have been vindicated.

Probably the best assessment of the situation so far is not from a biblical scholar but Jon Stewart. I offer you his slightly irreverent but humorously insightful take on the story.

And then for a slightly more irreverent but humorous take there is the Colbert report.

What if you could put God on trial?

Today's entry is a re-post from September 2010. I was writing something today that made me think of the post and I decided to re-post it.

What if you could put God on trial? What if you could question God in a court of law about your suffering? You could put God in the dock and finally get answers for all of the bad stuff that you have experienced in your life or seen in the world. And when you had exhausted the evidence and turned to a verdict, what would it be? Could you find God guilty of breach of contract? Is God guilty of not being faithful or not holding up the deity's side of the bargain?

This was the premise of a film Lori and I watched recently. It is called God on Trial and is set in the barracks of Auschwitz. The story is based on a legend that a group of Jewish concentration camp prisoners held a mock trial to determine whether or not God was guilty of the suffering in the world. In the movie the actors are from all walks of life, a doctor, a rabbi, a glove maker, a professor and a criminal, to name a few. The prisoners have been selected for extermination in the gas chambers the next day. As they try to make sense of all that has happened to them, they also wonder where God is in all of this. Some are afraid to question God. Others are ready to curse God.

As the trial proceeds various witnesses are called forth to testify for or against God. The current situation of European Jewry and Israel's long history as an oppressed people is recalled. Some testify that God is working out a purifying mystery in the Jewish people. Others claim that God has broken the covenant and is no longer interested in the Jewish people. In the end, the men in the barracks find God guilty of breach of contract. He has not taken care of them as promised in the Bible. As they enter the gas chambers one of them asks another "What do we do now that we found God guilty?" His friend answers: "Now we pray."

The film is thought provoking. It examines both sides of the question of suffering and does not offer any clear answers. The fact that God is found guilty comes as a surprise since we are use to finding comfort in our suffering with a Bible verse or theological statement. None of that happens here. In light of their circumstances it is clear to them that God is guilty.

But the closing scene also provides an answer. As the gas seeps into the chamber the men who found God guilty pray. In the end they are left with nothing else but a realization of their need for God in spite of their guilty verdict of God. It is the mystery of their faith and it is a very Jewish ending.

Jews are a lot better at dealing with theological tension. Christians are accustomed to tying everything together at the end so that everything is in its place and the promises of the Bible work out exactly as we had hoped. But this is not life nor is it reality. There have been people across history who died wondering if God had abandon them. And they died without knowing the answer.

Elie Wiesel relates a particularly haunting story in Night. A young boy had been caught stealing bread. The camp guards hung the little boy in front of everyone in the camp. Wiesel remembers hearing one man cry out "Where is God now?" And Wiesel heard a voice within himself answer "Where is he? Here he is. He is hanging on this gallows" (p. 62). For Wiesel, the God he knew as a child was dead. How else could God exist and allow such an atrocity to happen to a little boy?

And yet the men at the end of the movie pray. What did they pray as they were about to die? What did they say to a God they had just found guilty of unfaithfulness? We never learn. But I think the scene says something to us about faith. It is not based on what we see God do or think God should do. It is in those moments when we lack complete understanding. When everything we had hoped, expected, and believed about God turns up wanting. It is then that we need God most. Especially when there are no answers.

What about you? Could you put God on trail?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

What Eschatology Does and Does Not Tell Us

Today I continue with my look at 1 Thessalonians by posting some thoughts on Paul’s eschatological language in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11.

1 Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

The eschatological language in 5:1-11 and in the previous section of 4:13-18 can be very strange and “other worldly” to us today. On the one hand it can encourage us to dig deeper to discover what Paul was trying to say. On the other hand, if it is not handled carefully, it can lead to some unintended results. This is not the place to enter into a discussion of methodology for interpreting apocalyptic and eschatological language and symbolism in the New Testament. But we can outline some things that eschatology does not tell us and what it does tell us.

Of first importance, eschatology is not intended to help us create a timeline to the end of the world as we know it. Recent history is full of examples of people who tried to set a date for the return of Jesus or the rapture. William Miller predicted that Jesus would return on March 21, 1844. The day came and went and his followers were left standing in a field in upstate New York. Edgar Whisenant proclaimed 88 reasons why the rapture would happen September 11 to 13, 1988.  When the prediction proved incorrect he focused on 1989 as the year. In 1992 a group of Korean Christians looked for the rapture to happen in October of that year. As they waited they ran up their credit cards and quit their jobs only to discover that it didn’t happen. Just a little over a year ago another prominent Christian leader proclaimed that the rapture would happen on May 21st, and we are still here. The problem with this sort of date setting is that it not only can make Christianity look foolish, it leads to behavior that is in some cases unchristian. Furthermore, it encourages an escapist mentality that often has believers showing little regard for those around them who are potentially about to be “left behind.” If we read the context of what Paul has to say in 1 Thessalonians 4 and 5 that is the exact opposite attitude he encourages.

Another thing that we need to keep in mind is that eschatology is not intended as a threat.  Preachers and teachers will sometimes be tempted to adopt, adjust and expand upon apocalyptic language to undergird a warning of what will happen if the people do not repent. Warnings of being “left behind” are used to urge right behavior and to frighten them into compliance. But such an approach is the farthest thing from what Paul intended here. Paul doesn’t want what he says to be used as a club to beat people into submission, but to encourage one another. Paul ends both 4:13-18 and 5:1-11 with the same statement “therefore encourage one another.” Paul encourages the Thessalonians to live in a certain way because they are followers of Jesus, not so that they will become followers. Believers in Jesus are different because of Jesus and the language of eschatology is a reminder, not a threat, to be different and reassured about the future.

In many ways the purpose of eschatological language is to serve as a reminder to the believer. As we read 5:1-11 Paul’s language reminds the Thessalonians and us that things are not always as they seem. There is a world that we see all around us which at times seems very broken and even perhaps abandon by God. But Paul’s eschatological language reminds us that there is more to the world than what we see and sense. It is a gentle if not firm reminder that no matter what we might observe, God is still in control. This is especially helpful as we begin to feel the despair of the world around us and wonder if God really does care or if the deists have it right; God wound the world up, set it spinning and is no longer involved. But Paul is pulling back the curtain, even if just a little bit, to reassure the Thessalonians and us that God is still in control even when we can’t always perceive it.

Related to the reminder that God is still in control is the reminder that God doesn’t work on our time. God has a watch with no hands. Once we realize this we can recognize the irony of the Thessalonians (or anyone else) asking for or attempting to set the “time and date” of Jesus’ return. Paul never answers the Thessalonians and he doesn’t even say “only God knows.” Rather than set dates and make predictions, Paul instead reminds them of who they are and why, therefore, the future day of the Lord should not concern them. God works in his own time. In the mean time, we are to do the things we have been called to do.

That leads to a third thing that eschatology reminds us of: we are different. Most of Paul’s attention in 5:1-11 is not on the situation of the unbelievers at the day of the Lord, but on the current situation of believers as they wait for the day of the Lord. Paul has twice as much to say about why the Thessalonians are different and should act differently than “the others” (5:6). And the reason for that difference is because the focus of our hope is not on people or governments but on the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ. Underling all of this is the death and resurrection of Jesus with the promise that he will come again and we will live together with him (4:17; 5:10).

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

So what if Jesus did have a wife?

Da Vinci's Last Supper
The blogosphere lit up yesterday with the news that a papyrus fragment from the fourth century CE may have a line from Jesus that reads “my wife.” As I noted yesterday, Karen King, the scholar who has been studying the fragment, is not saying that this fragment is proof that Jesus was married. All that it tells us is that there were some in history that did believe Jesus was married.

As the new was spreading I was drawn into a facebook conversation with someone who asked what it would mean for salvation if Jesus did have a wife. My answer is nothing. It doesn’t change a thing. The faith and hope of Christianity rests not on whether Jesus was single or married. It is based on his death and resurrection.

This was a big question a few years back when the Da Vinci Code was popular and Dan Brown was raking in millions by suggesting that Jesus had married Mary Magdalene and ran off to France to live a life as a family man.  I remember people got all exercised over whether Jesus was married and perhaps had children. The real historical and theological problem with Brown’s plot, however, was whether or not Jesus had died and rose from the dead. That is the problem with Brown’s novel and for Christian theology.

Nonetheless, there were people wringing their hands at the thought that there might be little Jesus’ running around somewhere in the south of France. This inevitably made some wonder if these children would therefore be divine. I suggested to them that divinity is not like pixy dust that can be accidently dropped on someone or passed on through conception. In many ways these people’s theology was being influenced by J. K. Rowling and her Harry Potter books. One major concern in the books was over who was a “muggle” who was a “squib” and who had pure “magical blood.”  But Christian belief in Jesus’ divinity is based on who Jesus “is” not on what he may or may not have inherited from his parents.

But if Jesus did have a wife it would raise some interesting questions about male dominated aspects of theology and ministry. As Michael D’Antonio pointed out today:

The implications of professor King's discovery are profound. If Jesus was married, the main spiritual argument for male-only clergy and the celibacy of Roman Catholic priests falls into question. (Priests wouldn't need to abandon sex in order to imitate him.) But more importantly, if Jesus was a family man, then the claim to special status made by Catholic clergy, who regard themselves as supernaturally closer to God, loses much of its power.

Beyond internal Catholic Church politics, a married Jesus invites a reconsideration of orthodox teachings about gender and sex. If Jesus had a wife, then there is nothing extra Christian about male privilege, nothing spiritually dangerous about the sexuality of women, and no reason for anyone to deny himself or herself a sexual identity. In fact, one could argue that in their obsessive self denial -- of sexual pleasure, intimate relationships, and family - celibates reject the fullness of Jesus' example.

Yet, there is no evidence that Jesus was married. Granted some people thought he might have been, as the papyrus fragment suggests. But it takes some significant hermeneutical gymnastics to find Jesus a wife in the New Testament.

So while the fragment is interesting and, if it is ultimately proven to be authentic, it has no real bearing on the Christian faith. It doesn’t “prove” Jesus was married and it doesn’t undermine Christian theology. What it does tell us is that people have been saying all sorts of things about Jesus for hundreds of years. We are not the first to encounter these claims. We just happen to have the technology to broadcast these claims more widely.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Papyrus Fragment Refers to Jesus' Wife

Pic from Boston Globe
My colleague here at Ashland Seminary, Dr. Mitzi Smith, alerted me to this article.

The New York Times is reporting that a fragment of papyrus has been discovered in which Jesus is said to refer to “my wife.” Karen King of Harvard University made the announcement today in Rome. Here is some of what the New York Times is reporting thus far.

A historian of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School has identified a scrap of papyrus that she says was written in Coptic in the fourth century and contains a phrase never seen in any piece of Scripture: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …'”

The faded papyrus fragment is smaller than a business card, with eight lines on one side, in black ink legible under a magnifying glass. Just below the line about Jesus having a wife, the papyrus includes a second provocative clause that purportedly says, “she will be able to be my disciple.”

The finding is being made public in Rome on Tuesday at an international meeting of Coptic scholars by the historian Karen L. King, who has published several books about new Gospel discoveries and is the first woman to hold the nation’s oldest endowed chair, the Hollis professor of divinity.

The provenance of the papyrus fragment is a mystery, and its owner has asked to remain anonymous. Until Tuesday, Dr. King had shown the fragment to only a small circle of experts in papyrology and Coptic linguistics, who concluded that it is most likely not a forgery. But she and her collaborators say they are eager for more scholars to weigh in and perhaps upend their conclusions.

Dr. King gave an interview and showed the papyrus fragment, encased in glass, to reporters from The New York Times, The Boston Globe and Harvard Magazine in her garret office in the tower at Harvard Divinity School last Thursday. She left the next day for Rome to deliver her paper on the find on Tuesday at the International Congress of Coptic Studies.

She repeatedly cautioned that this fragment should not be taken as proof that Jesus, the historical person, was actually married. The text was probably written centuries after Jesus lived, and all other early, historically reliable Christian literature is silent on the question, she said.

But the discovery is exciting, Dr. King said, because it is the first known statement from antiquity that refers to Jesus speaking of a wife. It provides further evidence that there was an active discussion among early Christians about whether Jesus was celibate or married, and which path his followers should choose.

This is very exciting and I am happy to see that, unlike previous announcements about papyri and other artifacts related to the Bible, it is being handled responsibly. Rather than hold a press conference and spin some yarn about how this "proves" Jesus had a wife, Dr. King has proceeded in the best manner by presenting her findings to her peers in the field for analysis and inviting them to comment and criticize. This is the way scholarship is supposed to work.

Of course, in spite of all of Dr. King’s efforts to do things correctly there will be no end of those who attack her findings. There will be some who suggest that she trying to undermine the Bible and there will be those who suggest she is not pushing her findings far enough. In the mean time, I look forward to following her work on this fragment and hearing what others have to say as well.

To see King's translation go here.

Here is a link to her upcoming article in Harvard Theological Review.

Do go to the New York Times site. They have a picture of the fragment that you can zoom in on.

Here is a helpful video in which Dr King talks about the fragment.

To read what I think about whether it matters if Jesus had a wife go here.

a Greco-Roman Letter of Recommendation and Paul's Letter to Philemon

Letter of recommendation written in Latin
 P.Ryl. 608 John Rylands Library

When one goes for a job it is common to be asked to provide a few letters of reference or recommendation. We do this to have someone vouch for our character and skills as a potential employee. In the Greco-Roman period similar letters were used, but not just for employment purposes. Often times they were also letters of introduction.

The letter of recommendation provided an opportunity for one person, to make an introduction to another, on behalf of a third party.  The purpose of the letter was to provide the one being recommended with credentials or to request a favor of the recipient.  Often the person being recommended was the carrier of the letter so that the writer created a fictional face to face introduction between himself and the recipient.

Paul constructed a letter to Philemon that is similar in structure, phraseology, and purpose to that of the Greek letter of recommendation.  Because Paul's intention was not to introduce Onesimus to Philemon, but restore a damaged relationship between them, the letter is best classified as a letter of mediation.  Paul's approach to the letter was done in an eclectic manner drawing from recognized techniques that were combined with the common features of Christian epistles.

Over at the John Rylands Library blog a letter of a papyrus fragment of a letter of recommendation has been posted. I thought I would bring it readers’ attention since, like Paul’s letter to Philemon, it is written on behalf of a slave. It is interesting that the slave, like Onesimus, is said to be dear to the letter writer. It is also interesting that anything that the recipient does for the slave will make the writer happy. 

Here is a translation of the letter.

…ius Celer to his Hermeros, greetings.
Allow me, sir, to commend to your notice …on, a slave of our lord the emperor, a member of my household and dear to me. He is most deserving of advancement and of your favour, and I do not disguise that any service you can render him in his career will be most welcome to me.

(Address on the verso)
To Tiberius Claudius Hermeros imperial procuratorGiven in Panopolis by Celer the architect

You can see read the full post here

Monday, September 17, 2012

Learn to Control Your Body: Thoughts on Sexual Immorality and the Church

I continue with previews of the application section of the commentary section on Thessalonians I am writing. I am glad to hear that so many are enjoying it. Today I am looking at 1 Thessalonains 4:3-8. I apologize that this one is a bit on the longish side. 

 3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8 Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.

We live in a society that exudes sexuality. And it’s not something one has to go looking for. It’s on TV, in movies, the pages of magazines, and billboards. We stumble across it on the internet and see it on the computer screen sidebar asking us if we “want to meet men/women in your area?” At one time I thought that this was evidence of how bad things had gotten over the last two millennia if the not the last century. Blatant sexuality was not celebrated in the 1940s and 50s like it is today. In the Victorian era some people considered it imprudent to say “leg” in mixed company and table and piano legs were covered as a sign of modesty. But then my wife and I travelled to Pompeii. I was taken aback by the Frescos in that first century Roman city. Sexuality was blatant and celebrated. Not only did the frescos in the public brothels feature people naked and in various sexual acts, so did the walls of the dining rooms in some of the finest homes. As I became more acquainted with the ancient world I began to realize that in many ways our society was beginning to look like the one the apostle Paul knew. Not only is it a world of multiple faiths, it is also a world where Christian standards of sexuality are not the norm.
One could not be faulted for thinking that Paul was a bit preoccupied with other people’s sexuality. It seems to surface in just about every one of his letters. In fact, he has more to say about it than Jesus. But this is symptomatic of Paul’s realization of just how powerful of a force sexuality can be and how quickly it can destroy the life of individuals and communities when it is not controlled. Paul’s language in 4:3-8 might seem somewhat coercive in the way that he tries to propel them towards proper sexual conduct.  But it also underlines how important it is to him and the life of the community that he has worked so hard to foster in Thessalonica. And sexual sin in particular effects the community on at least two levels.

First, it is a sin against the believer’s body, which may be why Paul emphasizes that they get control of their body (cf. 1 Cor 6:19). Paul contrasts the type of control he expects believers to exert over their bodies with the “passionate lusts” of “those who don’t know God” (1:4-5). This is one of the things that made the believers distinctive as they sought to walk out their call to live holy lives. If, however, it is allowed to continue, their identity as a holy, separate people breaks down.

Second, sexual immorality has the potential for destroying a community. When this kind of behavior is practiced and/or tolerated it undermines what makes the Christian community different. Paul has worked hard to create a new family out of this group. The Thessalonian believers constitute a new family based on God’s love and choice of them. They had been given a new identity and sense of belonging at a time when previous social and family ties were probably dissolving because of the gospel. If members are acting in ways that are less than holy and honorable, if they are taking advantage of other members of the community, then the family structure is in danger of collapsing.

In order to apply Paul’s sexual ethics to our modern setting it is important to underline the importance of a theological framework for sex in the life of the Christian. It’s not unusual for the church to have a discussion of what is and is not sexually moral. And these are important discussions. But too often they focus on symptoms rather than the cause. We can’t talk about sex if we are not asking the very thing that Paul is encouraging the Thessalonians to do in this chapter; to live to please God (4:1). We need to start by asking ourselves: What is pleasing to God? Certainly the discussion will and should move to particular ways in which we act out and express our sexuality. But first we need to determine what does it mean to live out our sexuality in “holiness” and “honor”? And our understanding of what the means will develop out of our realization that God has called us; called us to be his people; called us to be different.
The Bible has a lot to say about sex and it is mostly about why those who are called by God are to be different. And if the Bible makes anything clear, God’s ultimate reason for giving us the gift of sex is so that it could be enjoyed within marriage. From Genesis 1:28 where God blesses humanity and tells them to be fruitful and multiply, to the Song of Solomon where we discover that God wants us to express our sexuality to our spouses, to 1 Corinthians 7:3-7 where Paul exhorts us not to deprive our spouses of physical intimacy, we see that God wants us to have sex, to enjoy it, on a regular basis, but within the confines of marriage. This means, as they sometimes say in marriage vows, “forsaking all others, keeping only unto him/her for as long as you both shall live.” This is a principle in scripture that encompasses all of sexuality. In Gen 2:23 the first couple is introduced and we are told that they become “one flesh.” In Ex. 20:14 the seventh commandment is “you shall not commit adultery.” Jesus later affirms the seventh commandment (Matt 5:27) and connects the prohibitions against divorce and adultery based on Gen 2:23. As I suggested above, it seems that Paul’s admonition that “no one take advantage of a brother or sister” in 4:6 is taking aim at a possible case of adultery in the church. The witness of scripture, therefore, is consistently that God’s gift of sex was meant to be enjoyed in the context of marriage.
But there is another aspect that should be touched on here even if Paul doesn’t specifically highlight it. Not all forms of adultery are acts that are physically consummated with another person. There are those that are nurtured and hidden within the heart and mind. Jesus highlights this in the Sermon on the Mount.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Not an easy thing to hear and if we are honest most, if not all, are guilty of adultery. I remember when Jimmy Carter was honest about it. In a 1976 interview with Playboy Magazine, the then presidential candidate had this to say.

The Bible says, "Thou shalt not commit adultery." Christ said, I tell you that anyone who looks on a woman with lust has in his heart already committed adultery. I've looked on a lot of women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times . . . This is something that God recognizes, that I will do and have done, and God forgives me for it.

Some people derided Carter for saying this, but he has it right. The irony of giving an interview to Playboy Magazine in which he admitted to committing adultery in his heart was not lost on Jimmy Carter and he later said that, in retrospect, if he could do it over he would not give the interview. 

But this leads to an important aspect of this discussion, the problem of pornography. With the debut of cable television and the internet pornography has become more and more visible in our society and more acceptable. It is easy for men and women to commit adultery in their hearts in the privacy of their home. This is not the place to outline all of the destructive elements in the modern day porn epidemic. But we must keep in mind Jesus and Paul’s warnings. It is not harmless “fanaticizing” that hurts no one. It is an activity that stands in direct contrast to God’s will for us connected to his call on our life to live pure, holy and honorable in order to please him. If we are ever in doubt about any sexual activity we should ask ourselves: is this pleasing to God?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Rosh Hashana 5773

Happy New Year to my Jewish friends. This evening at sundown marks the beginning of the Jewish year 5773.

While much of the world has adapted to the western calendar, more properly known as the Gregorian calendar, other cultures and religions also celebrate their own new year. Muslims, Jews, and the Chinese are among the most notable of those who celebrate two new years, the western one and their own.

Rosh Hashana is Hebrew for "Head of the Year". The holiday is established in Leviticus 23:24 and is declared to be a day of rest. It will often be celebrated with "round" food items intended to resemble the "head". People will greet one with the Hebrew greeting of Shana Tova "Good Year" or Shana Tova Umetkah "A happy and Sweet Year."

Rosh Hashana also signals the beginning of the Jewish Holiday season. Next week (Sept 25-Oct 7) Jews will celebrate Yom Kippur and after that Sukkot.

Shana Tova to my Jewish friends and readers.