CNN has a nice video giving an insider’s look at the Muslim Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. As non-Muslims are not allowed to enter Mecca, this is as close as most of us will ever get. I found it quite interesting. You can watch the video here.
Some scholars claim that the tales of David and Solomon are completely mythic and that there was no such powerful central authority in Jerusalem in the 10th century BC. A recent discovery of a strong wall dating from the time of Solomon sheds new light on the subject. You can read about here.
My book Finding a New Land: From Canaan to the Resurrection is now available on Amazon. This was my M.A. thesis that I have revised for publication. In this book I tackle the issues of a lack of interest in the Old Testament in the afterlife and a lack of interest in the New Testament in the land. What I argue is that there is a gradual shift in sources of hope. In the earliest traditions, the hope is completely on the land with little interest in the afterlife. As control over the land begins to be less certain, there is an increasing interest in the resurrection. In the intertestamental period, both images inform each other and there is interest in both areas. By the time of the New Testament, resurrection has replaced the land as a source of hope, although land images are used to illustrate the afterlife. If you are interested in the development in the Bible of the doctrines of the Promised Land and/or the resurrection, you will enjoy this book.
I finally got around to reading Homer’s Iliad after years of reading little segments here and there. It is an interesting story about the war between the Greek city-states and Troy over the abduction of Helen. The Greeks attempt in vain to get Achilles to join the fight. Meanwhile Zeus shows his favor to the Trojans and allows Hector to wreak havoc on the Greeks. Finally Achilles joins the battle and eventually kills the great Hector. It is filled with action and gore. This is the book that the movie Troy was based on (with all the supernatural aspects removed).
Apart from being an interesting story, this book is important for other reasons. N.T. Wright calls Homer the “Old Testament of the Greeks.” Homer’s epic was incredibly influential on how the ancients understood the gods. Ironically, these epics also contained the seeds of their own demise. Later Greeks saw the gods in their violence, rape and deception as being unworthy of worship. Still, these books are worth reading to help us understand the worldview of the ancient Greeks.
I especially enjoyed the Loeb edition of this book. It was nice to have the Greek provided to check the translations. While classical Greek is somewhat different from the koine Greek that I know, it was still helpful.