Usually Joe is the first to send me new archaeology finds, but this time my daughter Heidi beat him by a few minutes.  They both sent me a report that yesterday archaeologists in Israel reported finding the oldest Hebrew inscription to date, in the valley of Elah where David met Goliath.  (Click on the tab for “JOE’S FINDS” for the link.)

Before yesterday, the oldest Hebrew inscription was believed to be the Gezer Calendar (Uriah Yaniv’s Gallery has a photo).

The inscription in Elah is on a piece of ostraca.  Ostraca (the plural of ostracon) are broken pieces of pottery used for writing.  Ancient people practiced recycling!  Ostraca was a common material for writing letters.  I can imagine a Hebrew family at the dinner table and mom saying,

We need to write a letter to grandma, but we are out of ostraca.  Would one of you kids mind knocking a pitcher off the table?

One of the most interesting collections of ostraca from Israel is the Lachish Letters (See Bible History online).

Lachish Letters
Lachish Letters

In one of the letters a commander complains about a troublesome prophet:

The words of the prophet are not good.  He weakens the hands of the people in the city (more here).

The prophet sounds a whole lot like Jeremiah.  In the 6th century BC, Jerusalem was surrounded by the Babylonian army.  Jeremiah had been preaching to the people of Jerusalem that their only hope was to turn from their sins of injustice and idolatry and trust in the Lord to save them.  Many people thought that since the Lord had chosen Jerusalem as the site of his temple–the place where he made his presence known–the city and the temple could never be harmed.  God would bless and protect his city.

Jeremiah preached a famous sermon in the temple.  He said you can’t rob, cheat, steal, commit adultery, and then come to the sacred place and say “The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!” and expect to be blessed and saved.

Jeremiah’s message was unpopular.  He was considered unpatriotic.  He “weakened the hands” of the people, an idiom meaning he lowered their morale, undermined there resolve to fight.  The people and leaders wanted him to say, “God will bless his holy temple, God will bless this city.”  Jeremiah said, “No, God will curse this city–unless you repent.”

The Romans had a use for broken pottery.  When they wanted to vote someone “off the island” or out of a club or association, they would have the members write on a piece of ostraca the name of the one they wanted to banish.  Such a person was said to be ostracized.

Jeremiah of Jerusalem was ostracized more than once.  They threw him down into a mud pit once and left him to die, but friends eventually rescued him.  Jeremiah may very well be the prophet mentioned on the piece of ostraca from Lachish.

You Don’t Have to Call Me Doktor, Doktor . . .

Dave Black

David Allen Coe

I stumbled onto a blog called Daveblackonline this week–or maybe he stumbled onto mine first. He had noticed my “Theological German” site. I looked at his site and at first he seemed to be a southern preacher, a simple, honest straight shooter. I was somewhat surprised that he had an interest in German, until I looked further.

This is David Allen Black, the famous expert on the Greek Language and a New Testament Scholar. When I started teaching intermediate Greek, the students had been broken in on his grammar. They all knew the rule about neuter plural nouns–the famous page 36 rule, from page 36 in his textbook.

I remember at the time thinking of the similarity of his name to the country singer David Allen Coe, but for all I knew David Allen Black was Scottish or Irish. It turns out that he is a Southern gentleman, who lives on a working farm in Virginia. He is a patriot who has some firm political convictions. For example, he believes the United States began a slide toward socialism when Abraham Lincoln began his “unconstitutional war” of aggression against the southern states in their bid for independence.

He also has more recently written a book entitled Why I Stopped Listening to Rush: Confessions of a Recovering Neocon (here) in which he also describes how he lost faith in George W. Bush.  He is now supporting Ron Paul.

Looking back over his past career, professor Black remembered receiving his doctorate in theology in 1983 from the University of Basel (that explains the German!) He said he had to pledge (in Latin) loyalty to the Swiss principles of democracy. Evidently he is still trying to keep that vow. (See his post on “The Barmen Declaration.”)

Still thinking about the country singer, I went on a search for the lyrics to his song, “You Don’t Have to Call Me Darlin’, Darlin. You Never Even Call Me by My Name.” I think it is very clever, and is in fact the world’s greatest country song. I think the gentleman farmer/professor would have enough sense of humor to appreciate it if I changed the lyrics just a bit to “You Don’t Have to Call Me Doktor, Doktor.”

David Allen Coe is a real country outlaw, having done several years of hard time in prison (not just a few nights in a county jail like Johnny Cash did). I was deeply disappointed to find that he had recorded a couple of awful, vicious “racist and misogynist” songs in the 1980s. I now have a dilemma, because back in the 90s I vowed I would never listen to any music by Marshal Mather because of his racist and misogynist lyrics; so I guess if I’m consistent I can’t even listen to Coe singing “Child of God.”

According to Wikipedia Coe states that the songs in question “are not his works” and he refuses to acknowledge or perform them in concert. He also maintains that he is not a racist, (and for all I know he even admits that some of his closest relatives are women). I don’t know, Konashould I take his word for it?

Professor Black wasn’t always a southern gentleman. He was born in Hawaii, and loves to surf and drink 100% Kona coffee. So I have another thing in common with him. Before she went to work for Mother Earth News, our older daughter served an apprenticeship on an organic coffee farm in Hawaii.

I plan to keep up with professor Black’s blog, and if I ever get the chance to meet him, I’ll hang around as long as he will let me . . .