The Ancient Library of Alexandria: The West’s most important repository of learning

The Ancient Library of Alexandria: The West’s most important repository of learning

The Ancient Library of Alexandria: The West’s most important repository of learning

J. Harold Ellens   •  05/01/2013

J. Harold Ellens’s article “The Ancient Library of Alexandria” originally appeared in Bible Review, along with the sidebars “Greco-Roman Philosophers,” “Whither Aristotle’s Library?” “The Perils of the Alexandria Library: Two Ancient Book-Burnings,” “How to Measure the Earth” and “Alexandria Library Redux.”  

Excerpt follows; read more at http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-sites-places/biblical-archaeology-places/the-ancient-library-of-alexandria/

When Alexander the Great died in 323 B.C.E., the Ptolemaic dynasty was given control of Egypt. Ptolemy I (c. 367–283 B.C.E.) established his capital at Alexandria and immediately began to build up the city. Ptolemy’s grandest project, begun in 306 B.C.E., was the Library of Alexandria, a research center that held one million books by the time of Jesus. Scala/Art Resource, NY

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In March of 415 C.E., on a sunny day in the holy season of Lent, Cyril of Alexandria, the most powerful Christian theologian in the world, murdered Hypatia, the most famous Greco-Roman philosopher of the time. Hypatia was slaughtered like an animal in the church of Caesarion, formerly a sanctuary of emperor worship.1 Cyril may not have been among the gang that pulled Hypatia from her chariot, tearing off her clothes and slashing her with shards of broken tiles, but her murder was surely done under his authority and with his approval.

Cyril (c. 375–444) was the archbishop of Alexandria, the dominant cultural and religious center of the Mediterranean world of the fifth century C.E. He replaced his uncle Theophilus in that lofty office in 412 and became both famous and infamous for his leadership in support of what would become known as Orthodox Christianity after the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon (451), when basic Christian doctrine was solidly established for all time.

Cyril’s fame arose mainly from his assaults on other church leaders, and his methods were often brutal and dishonest. He hated Nestorius, bishop of Constantinople, for example, because Nestorius thought Christ’s divine and human aspects were distinct from one another, whereas Cyril emphasized their unity. At the Council of Ephesus in 431, Cyril arranged for a vote condemning Nestorius to take place before Nestorius’s supporters—the bishops from the eastern churches—had time to arrive. Nor was Cyril above abusing his opponents by staging marches and inciting riots. It was such a mob, led by one of Cyril’s followers, Peter the Reader, that butchered the last great Neoplatonic philosopher, Hypatia.      ……..

One reason Cyril had Hypatia murdered, according to the English historian Edward Gibbon, was that Cyril thought Hypatia had the political ear of Alexandria’s chief magistrate, who vigorously opposed Cyril’s ambition to expel from the city those who held different religious views from his own.  Cyril was also jealous of Hypatia because scholars from all over the world crowded into her lectures in Alexandria, Athens and elsewhere. Socrates (380–450), a church historian from Constantinople, says of Hypatia:

[She] was so learned that she surpassed all contemporary philosophers. She carried on the Platonic tradition derived from Plotinus, and instructed those who desired to learn in…philosophic discipline. Wherefore all those wishing to work at philosophy streamed in from all parts of the world, collecting around her on account of her learned and courageous character. She maintained a dignified intercourse with the chief people of the city. She was not ashamed to spend time in the society of men, for all esteemed her highly, and admired her for her purity.

Hypatia’s father, Theon, was a leading professor of philosophy and science in Alexandria. He had prepared a recension of Euclid’s Elements, which remained the only known Greek text of the great mathematician’s work until an earlier version was discovered in the Vatican Library in this century.  Theon also predicted eclipses of the sun and moon that occurred in 364.

Hypatia, who was born about 355, collaborated with her father from early in her life, editing his works and preparing them for publication. According to one authority, she was “by nature more refined and talented than her father.”7 The extant texts of Ptolemy’s Almagest and Handy Tables were probably prepared for publication by her.8

Such scientific and philosophical enterprises were not new or surprising in Hypatia’s Alexandria, which already boasted a 700-year-old, international reputation for sophisticated scholarship. Founded in 331 B.C.E.9 by command of Alexander the Great, the city contained almost from its beginnings an institution that would remain of immense importance to the world for the next 2,300 years. Originally called the Mouseion, or Shrine of the Muses, this research center and library grew into “an institution that may be conceived of as a library in the modern sense—an organization with a staff headed by a librarian that acquires and arranges bibliographic material for the use of qualified readers.”   ….

Indeed, the Alexandria Library was much more. It “stimulated an intensive editorial program that spawned the development of critical editions, textual exegesis and such basic research tools as dictionaries, concordances and encyclopedias.”11 The library in fact developed into a huge research institution comparable to a modern university—containing a center for the collection of books, a museum for the preservation of scientific artifacts, residences and workrooms for scholars, lecture halls and a refectory. In building this magnificent institution, one modern writer has noted, the Alexandrian scholars “started from scratch”; their gift to civilization is that we never had to start from scratch again.

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Notes

a. The best-known book collected from a non-Greek culture and translated into Greek at the library was the Hebrew Bible, known in its Greek form as the Septuagint (LXX). It seems to have reached the state of a largely completed and official Greek text between 150 and 50 B.C.E. Philo Judaeus (30 B.C.E.–50 C.E.) obviously knew and worked with a Greek version of the Hebrew Bible.

1. Maria Dzielska, Hypatia of Alexandria, trans. F. Lyra (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1995), p. 93. Cf. J. Harold Ellens, The Ancient Library of Alexandria and Early Christian Theological Development, Occasional Papers 27, Institute for Antiquity and Christianity (Claremont: Claremont Graduate School, 1993), pp. 44–51.

See also Edward A. Parsons, The Alexandrian Library, Glory of the Hellenic World: Its Rise, Antiquities, and Destructions (London: Cleaver-Hume, 1952), p. 356.

++++++  Much more at http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-sites-places/biblical-archaeology-places/the-ancient-library-of-alexandria/

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Fake “Experts”

Fake “Experts”

While most people might ask, “Who?” – followed quickly by “Who cares?” – regarding the author of yet another pseudo-“scholarly” book about Jesus, evidently the latest installment in the long and undistinguished line of pulp fiction benefited from an virally inept cable-TV interview. As new-media commentator Joe Carter points out, the REAL missed story here is not what is known about Jesus, but that author’s own self-promotional misrepresentation of his credentials.

My, my – where are all the “investigative journalists” when you really need them? And why does the news media – of all stripes and flavors – insist on putting people on air who make fake claims to be “scholars” when they have no real expertise in the areas they write about? Excerpts:

Snickering at FoxNews while getting duped by ‘Zealot’ author

July 29, 2013 By Joe Carter

…  critics are right about the interview — it is a mess. But while New Media journalists were snickering at FoxNews.com, they failed to notice that the person being interviewed was pulling one over on them by getting away with misrepresenting his credentials.

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The first question by host Lauren Green on why a Muslim would want to write about Jesus isn’t as out of line as the Fox critics seem to think. It’s a fair question — a softball question — that allows the interviewee to explain away any apparent bias. But Green should have moved on after asking it and not made Aslan’s religious background the primary focus of the interview. More importantly, if she had been better prepared she could have called Aslan out for at least one blatant and seemingly undeniable untruth.

After being asked the first question by Green, Aslan responds:

 “…So it’s not that I’m just some Muslim writing about Jesus I am an expert with a PhD in the history of religions.” Later in the video he says it’s his job as a “professor of religion including the New Testament. That’s what I do for a living, actually.” And to make sure we get the point, he later adds, “I am a historian. I am a PhD in the history of religions.

At this point, Green should have stopped him and asked him to clarify since he appears to be misrepresenting his credentials.

For starters, he does not have a PhD in the history of religions. Aslan has four degrees: a Bachelors of Religious Studies from Santa Clara University; a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School; a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Iowa; and a PhD in sociology of religions from the University of California, Santa Barbara (his dissertation was on “Global Jihadism: a transnational social movement”).

Why would Aslan claim he has a PhD in history when his degree is in sociology? Does he not understand the difference between the two fields of study?

Aslan also claims that he has a degree in the New Testament. But is this true? Santa Clara doesn’t offer a degree in the New Testament so he can’t be talking about his Bachelors. Perhaps he is referring to the Master’s of Theological Studies degree he earned from Harvard Divinity School in 1999. That school does offer an “area of focus” in “New Testament and Early Christianity.” Is Aslan claiming this was his degree’s area of focus at Harvard? (If so, this would make his claim about having a “degree in New Testament” misleading, at best.)

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When exactly has Aslan taught classes on the New Testament? And as a scholar, has he published peer-reviewed academic articles on Jesus?

Aslan’s book should not be dismissed because it was written by a Muslim. But in making untrue claims about his credentials he raises questions about his credibility. It also raises the question of how often so-called experts and authorities with no real expertise or authority on a subject are presented by New Media outlets as representative “scholars.”

Maybe if these journalists spent less time mocking the gaffes of their competitors and more time vetting the so-called “experts” we wouldn’t have to listen to people snicker about the credibility of online media.

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Read more at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/getreligion/2013/07/snickering-at-foxnews-while-getting-duped-by-zealot-author/#more-108675

A HYMN FOR TODAY – The Master Has Come

A HYMN FOR TODAY

The Master has come, and He calls us to follow
The track of the footprints He leaves on our way;
Far over the mountain and through the deep hollow,
The path leads us on to the mansions of day.

The Master has called us, the children who fear Him,
Who march ‘neath Christ’s banner, His own little band;
We love Him and seek Him, we long to be near Him,
And rest in the light of His beautiful land.

The Master has called us, in life’s early morning,
With spirits as fresh as the dew on the sod;
We turn from the world, with its smiles and its scorning,
To cast in our lot with the people of God.

The Master has called us, His sons and His daughters;
We plead for His blessing and trust in His love;
And through the green pastures, beside the still waters,
He’ll lead us at last to His kingdom above.

12.11.12.11.D – Sarah Doudney, 1871

Tune: ASH GROVE – Jones’ Bardic Museum, 1802

arr. Katherine K. Davis – 1939

#637 in Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, 2012

Archaeology 101

Trent and Rebekah

When we decided awhile back to go into the field of archaeology, we were on the receiving end of many questions. Number 1 was, “You’re going WHERE for six months?!” But there were other, more pertinant questions, such as “What exactly is archaeology?” and “What do you do at a dig?”

Archaeology is the study of the material remains of humanity (as opposed to paleontology). This is the study of artifacts. For a Biblical scholar, archaeology reveals the culture and practices behind the Bible narrative. Before your eyes, the Philistines transform from the wicked, Samson-hating enemies of Israel to a sophisticated and powerful people–who were also Israel’s enemies.

But how do we get to those awesome artifacts that prove the Philistines weren’t just a bunch of hair-chopping savages? First, one must find the right spot. In this case, we’re at Ashkelon, which has maintained its identity through the ages. Archaeologists will divide…

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Issue of Christian History Magazine on Stone-Campbell Movement forthcoming

Christian History Magazine

eScriptorium

Christian History Magazine will release in September an issue devoted to the Stone-Campbell Movement.  Doug Foster and Richard Hughes collaborated as guest editors to assemble the first issue of CHM dedicated to the Restoration Movement.  About 20 years ago Barton Stone and Cane Ridge made an appearance in issue 45 on Camp Meetings & Circuit Riders…which you can download for free as a PDF here.  Judging from past issues, this installment will be a richly illustrated and accessible overview for the average reader who has some knowledge of and a keen interest in Christian history.  If you plan to teach Restoration history, consider ordering a bundle for distribution to your class; see CHM_BulkPricing for details.  An image from this blog and a small contribution from me even made their way into the issue!

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The Atlantic: When Is a Royal Baby a Fetus?

The Atlantic: When Is a Royal Baby a Fetus?

When Is a Royal Baby a Fetus?

Technically, right up until the moment he’s born. And yet we’ve called him a baby the whole time. What media coverage of the recent pregnancy and birth has to do with abortion politics.
by  — JULY 24 2013, 9:12 AM ET

An excerpt:


Lefteris Pitarakis/AP Images

Moral philosopher James Q. Wilson wrote that humanity “has a moral sense.” Whether that moral sense is grounded in evolution, the image of God, or some other foundation, it sometimes leads us to act better than we speak. There are surprising moments, in other words, when our pre-conscious emotional and moral wiring responds to a situation in a way our more studied judgments would not permit.  A usually callous employee comforts a just-fired coworker in genuine sympathy. A man who hasn’t acted chivalrously in all his days instinctively holds a door open for a pregnant woman. A teenager roaming in one of those teenage-mall herds apologizes to a passer-by whom her friends have just mocked.

This week, as the U.K.’s Prince William and Kate Middleton were expecting their child at any moment, the impending birth received a galaxy’s worth of media coverage. That the child would be heir to the throne was a motivating factor in all this attention, to be sure. I was interested not only for this reason but for a less-noticed one: Countless media reports bore news about the “royal baby.”

Why was this noteworthy? Because this term, to get exegetical for a moment, was not used to describe the future state of the child—once born and outside of the womb, that is. No, the American media used this phrase “royal baby” to describe the pre-born infant. It’s not strange for leading pro-life thinkers like Eric Metaxas and Denny Burk to refer to a fetus as a “baby.” It’s not strange, either, for people to refer to a child they’re expecting as a “baby,” regardless of where they stand on the issue of abortion. It is strange, though, for outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post and Boston Globe–which purport to be neutral on the issue–to use this seemingly explosive phrase without so much as a qualification. And why is this strange? Because it codes a pro-life position into their description of the unborn child.

I am a Christian who believes deeply in the sanctity of life, so for me, this language choice is revealing. The two most common arguments made today by thoughtful pro-choicers  are as follows: a) the being in the womb has no distinct personhood when in the mother’s body, as it is only a fetus and not yet a person (as seen in this ruling of a 2004 Houston court), or b) the fetus has some hard-to-define measure of personhood, yes, but a sufficient degree less personhood than the mother such that the mother may conscionably, though sometimes painfully terminate it (as in this New York Times essay). The linchpin of both of these arguments is location, closely related todependence. If the fetus is born, it is outside the womb and relatively independent of the mother. If the fetus is unborn, it is inside the womb, part of the mother’s body, and therefore dependent on the mother and subject to her decisions.

These arguments—which really are basically one and the same—have persuaded many people. The result, virtually enshrined into media law, is this: Pre-born beings are to be called fetuses, and post-birth beings are to be called babies. Here’s the New York Times referring to aborted babies as fetuses in the Kermit Gosnell trial, for example; NPR follows the same logicas does CNN. Fetuses, it seems, are essentially subhuman. Outside of the mainstream media, the rhetoric builds from this impersonal foundation. Not only are pre-born children subhuman; they are considered “clumps of cells,” in fact, or pre-human “seeds.” In both the mainstream media and the pro-abortion movement, fetuses are future humans being knit together in a woman’s body. They are not humans while in the womb. To kill them is not to kill a human, but something not-yet human.

How strange was it, then, that leading news sources referred to the fetus of William and Kate as the “royal baby.” There were no pre-birth headlines from serious journalistic sources like “Royal Clump of Cells Eagerly Anticipated” or “Imperial Seed Soon to Sprout.” None of the web’s traffic-hoarding empires ran “Subhuman Royal Fetus Soon to Become Human!” No, over and over again, one after another, from the top of the media food chain to the bottom, Kate’s “fetus” was called, simply and pre-committedly, a baby. Why was this? Because, as I see it, the royal baby was a baby before birth. The media was right; gloriously, happily right.

Like all babies-in-womb, in the months before Kate gave birth, the royal heir was spinning around, jabbing mom at inopportune moments, reacting in sheer physical bliss to the soothing sounds of dad’s voice, getting hungry, becoming sad and even agitated when voices were raised in marital conflict, sleeping, sucking its thumb, enjoying certain kinds of music, waking mom up in the night in order to do more spinning around/kicking, and eating hungrily what mom ate.

Thoughts for Both Sides of the Abortion Debate

How, if at all, does this “royal baby” phenomenon impact the current cultural debate over abortion? Here are a few thoughts for both sides of the abortion debate, pro-life and pro-choice alike.

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Read more at: http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/07/when-is-a-royal-baby-a-fetus/278056/

Truth IS Stranger Than Fiction

Truth IS Stranger Than Fiction

Reblogging an interesting item sent to me by a friend who may prefer to remain anonymous.  Straight from the annals of “truth is stranger than fiction,” ponder this satirical take on WWII, cleverly deriding pretentious post-modern views of “reality,”  particularly the modern refusal to acknowledge real evil — since “everyone knows”  that any notion of plots to obliterate the family by redefining marriage, to destroy western and Christian culture by secularization and/or by demographic and militaristic growth of Islamist philosophy, etc. are just too far-fetched for even a TV series, much less real life!  (NB: blog excerpts omit language which some readers might find offensive).

“….the worst offender here is the History Channel and all their programs on the so-called ‘World War II.’  Let’s start with the bad guys. Battalions of stormtroopers dressed in all black, check. Secret police, check. Determination to brutally kill everyone who doesn’t look like them, check. Leader with a tiny villain mustache and a tendency to go into apopleptic rage when he doesn’t get his way, check. All this from a country that was ordinary, believable, and dare I say it sometimes even sympathetic in previous seasons.

I wouldn’t even mind the lack of originality if they weren’t so heavy-handed about it. Apparently we’re supposed to believe that in the middle of the war the Germans attacked their allies the Russians, starting an unwinnable conflict on two fronts, just to show how sneaky and untrustworthy they could be? And that they diverted all their resources to use in making ever bigger and scarier death camps, even in the middle of a huge war? Real people just aren’t that evil. And that’s not even counting the part where as soon as the plot requires it, they instantly forget about all the racism nonsense and become best buddies with the definitely non-Aryan Japanese.

Not that the good guys are much better…. It’s pretty standard “shining amazing good guys who can do no wrong” versus “evil legions of darkness bent on torture and genocide” stuff, totally ignoring the nuances and realities of politics. The actual strategy of the war is barely any better…. one example: in the Battle of the Bulge, a vastly larger force of Germans surround a small Allied battalion and demand they surrender or be killed. The Allied general sends back a single-word reply: “Nuts!”. The Germans attack, and, miraculously, the tiny Allied force holds them off long enough for reinforcements to arrive and turn the tide of battle. Whoever wrote this episode obviously had never been within a thousand miles of an actual military.

Probably the worst part was the ending. The British/German story arc gets boring, so they tie it up quickly, have the villain kill himself (on Walpurgisnacht of all days, not exactly subtle) and then totally switch gears to a battle between the Americans and the Japanese in the Pacific. Pretty much the same dichotomy – the Japanese kill, torture, perform medical experiments on prisoners, … and the Americans are led by a kindly old man in a wheelchair.

Anyway, they spend the whole season building up how the Japanese home islands are a fortress, and the Japanese will never surrender, and there’s no way to take the Japanese home islands because they’re invincible…and then they realize they totally can’t have the Americans take the Japanese home islands so they have no way to wrap up the season.

So they invent a completely implausible superweapon that they’ve never mentioned until now. Apparently the Americans got some scientists together to invent it, only we never heard anything about it because it was “classified.”  In two years, the scientists manage to invent a weapon a thousand times more powerful than anything anyone’s ever seen before.  Then they use the superweapon, blow up several Japanese cities easily, and the Japanese surrender. Convenient, isn’t it?

…and then, in the entire rest of the show, over five or six different big wars, they never use the superweapon again. Seriously. They have this whole thing about a war in Vietnam that lasts decades and kills tens of thousands of people, and they never wonder if maybe they should consider using the unstoppable mystical superweapon that they won the last war with. At this point, you’re starting to wonder if any of the show’s writers have even watched the episodes the other writers made.

I’m not even going to get into the whole subplot about breaking a secret code (cleverly named “Enigma”, because the writers couldn’t spend more than two seconds thinking up a name for an enigmatic code), the giant superintelligent computer called Colossus (despite this being years before the transistor was even invented), the Soviet strongman whose name means “Man of Steel” in Russian (seriously, between calling the strongman “Man of Steel” and the Frenchman “de Gaulle”, whoever came up with the names for this thing ought to be shot).

So yeah. Stay away from the History Channel. Unlike most of the other networks, they don’t even try to make their stuff believable.”

Entire entry at http://squid314.livejournal.com/275614.html