Friday, December 30, 2011

The Biblical World's Top Posts of 2011

Well this year is all but over. I have been blogging now for seventeen months. It all started as an experiment. I wasn't sure if I would enjoy it or not. To be honest, I find it a bit addictive. And I think the statistics help keep me going. I average about 24,000 visitors a month. But even more important than the statistics are the comments and emails. From time to time I wonder if this is project that is eating up too much of my time. Then I get a comment thanking me for a post. Or I receive an email telling me how much they enjoy my blog or how a post was inspiring to them. And so I continue.

What is funny, however, is the posts that seem to generate the most traffic are not the ones I would expect. And sometimes they are the ones that required the least amount of thought and effort. And so here they are, the top five posts of 2011.

  1. The number one post of 2011 was actually written on December 2, 2010. But the attention it received was concentrated in the first 5 months of the year. The world watched as the end of the world was predicted to end on May 21st, 2011. And the date passed, and we are still here. But my post on the topic received 13,987 hits.
  2. The second most popular post was about the supposed discovery of the Ark of the Covenant in Greece. This was short piece that I posted mostly because I thought it was silly. But several "prophecy" web sites picked up on it and it received 8,350 hits.
  3. The third is also rapture related. I posted a video about the invention of the rapture, which not only generated 4,642 hits, but also made a number of people upset with me.
  4. In fourth place is a post I did in June about questioning the historicity of the Adam and Eve story.
  5. Finally, in fifth place is a post I did on Urban Legends of the Bible. Actually, I got the idea from Trevin Wax who listed the items first.  I made the post on April 28th and received some good responses. But then about a month ago a Polish web site picked up on it and re-posted it . That drove the hit count up to 3,967. 

While the top five certainly generated some traffic, here are some of my personal favorites from this year.

  1. Resurrection: The Hope of Easter explained why I still have hope.
  2. What we need to do after the rapture doesn't happen was my attempt to encourage people not to laugh at those who thought May 21 was the end of the world. Instead I suggested that they would need some to minister to them.
  3. Between Fear and Faith was my thinking out loud about what happens when the faith you were raised on goes under radical change.
  4. The Myth of the Church's Golden Age was me ranting about how everyone wants to go back to the good old days of the New Testament church. I suggested that no such golden age ever existed.
  5. Finally, a more recent post was When the Manger is Empty: Childless at Christmas. This was an attempt at expressing the emotional and theological dissonance felt by infertile couples at this time of the year. I had no idea so many people would find it helpful. 

There are many more I could mention, but these are the ones that stand out in my mind. And the responses to them encourage me to keep blogging. So to all my readers, wherever you are, I wish you a happy and prosperous new year. And I look forward to hearing from you in 2012.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Noah's Ark and the Persian Gulf.

The story of Noah's Ark is well-known. And that there has been a lot of discussion about the story. It is true? Is it a myth? Was it a worldwide flood or only localized? Have explorers in Turkey discovered Noah's Ark? Did the flood create the Persian Gulf?

National Geographic is airing a program on January 5th in which Jeff Rose will suggest that the flood created the Persian Gulf.

Most people are familiar with the biblical story of a worldwide flood, where God destroyed all life on earth except the family of Noah and the animals that they boarded on an ark. Scholars of ancient writings from Mesopotamia (now Iraq) point to texts written thousands of years before the bible that describe a flood and say that the bible story comes from those stories. Others like archaeologist Jeff Rose say these pre-biblical stories have merit because the destructive forces of water in a once tropical region in Iraq, considered by some to have been the Garden of Eden, might have inspired the biblical story of Noah's Ark and the great flood. Dr. Rose believes that a massive flood once swallowed a landmass as big as Great Britain, created the Persian Gulf and sent tribes of Neolithic people into constant retreat from the ever-rising waters. The documentary, Diving Into Noah's Flood, will air January 5, at 8 PM EST, on the National Geographic Channel.

Here is a short clip from the forth coming show.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Star of Wonder, Star of Night

The story of the Bethlehem star is well known. Every church nativity has a six year old dressed as a star and many Christmas trees are topped with one. And the star has been cast in many a Christmas movie. It's not uncommon for the protagonist to look up into the night sky and see a star. Although no explanation is given, it is understood that some connection between the present situation and that of the babe in Bethlehem is being alluded to.

The story is so well known that there have been a number of attempts by astronomers and others to determine what star the magi from the East saw and how it was that a star could move.  There are couple of articles on the topic of the star that I ran across this week.

At the Washington Times, Amanda Read provides a theological explanation of the star and what it meant.

At National Geographic Robert J. Vanderbei of Princeton University looks at the story of the Bethlehem Star and suggests that it was created by a convergence of Jupiter and Venus on June 17 in 2 BC.

At MSNBC Joe Rao asks if it was a star or a comet.

Finally, Kelly Oconnell at the Canada Free Press adds a perspective that combines faith and science.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Rare Second Temple Coin and Seal

The Israel antiquities announced on Sunday, Christmas day, the discovery of some rare artifacts. Here is what they had to say:

The Israel Antiquities Authority held a special press conference in Jerusalem's City of David on Sunday to unveil a rare coin from the Second Temple era. 
The cartouche – or seal – never seen by the public before, is the size of the modern New Israeli Shekel coin and bears the Aramaic inscriptions “it is pure” and a two-letter abbreviation for the name of God.It was discovered near the Robinson’s Arch at the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount. Archeologists say the soil layer above the Herodian road where the seal was found was dated to the first century BCE. 
Archaeologist Eli Shukron of the Antiquities Authority, and Professor Ronny Reich of Haifa University, who oversaw the excavation, explained to reporters the significance of the coin."This is the first time an object of this kind has been found. It is direct archaeological evidence of Jewish activity on the Temple Mount during the Second Temple era," they said."Products being brought to the temple had to be stamped pure – which is what this seal was used for," they added. 
Such seals are mentioned in the Mishna and discussed in the Talmud – but the cartouche unveiled today does not match any of the four inscriptions included in extant texts."What we know is brought down from the surviving literature," the archeologists said. "Here archeology has brought us something new." Minister of Culture Limor Livnat and Minister of Education Gideon Saar joined dozens of students for the unveiling. Saar said, "The seal shows the deep connection of Israel to the City of David. It is important excavations like these that demonstrate our bond to Jerusalem. Everything uncovered here strengthens us." 
In addition to the seal other artifacts were discovered dating to Second Temple period, and some to the days of the Hasmoneans – such as oil lamps, cooking pots made of clay, a jug containing oils and perfumes, as well as coins of the Hasmonean kings such as Alexander Jannaeus and John Hyrcanus.

You can read the article here.