As I’ve built this blog, I’ve had difficulty finding other bloggers I can turn to for inspiration. There are tons of religion blogs which I would call devotional, that is they take religion from the heart. I can appreciate that, but it is not what I would like to build and not what I hope to learn. I’m studying from the head, rather than the heart. There is nothing I enjoy more than chasing down some obscure reference (as I did with Azazel) across a few Christian or Jewish early sources. I love the Talmud and the writings of Rashi. I love the Confessions of St. Augustine. The Dead Sea Scrolls give me goosebumps.
I’m a geek. I say so in the title.
As a geek, I also share a love of Doctor Who. The first first post made to this blog was a video of the Sixth Doctor to the tune of “Joseph’s Coat” from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. So, given my biases, I’m going to repost a link to Judy’s Research Blog. She’s doing a blog about her PhD work on the Gospel of Thomas. The specific post is about human memory and the challenge of how well you can remember the dialog in a typical episode of Doctor Who. She’s relating this to the challenge of early gospel writers being able to accurately relate the words of the speakers, particularly Jesus. (I think to be more accurate, you’d have to watch Doctor Who in Spanish and have to relate the dialog in English, assuming you knew both languages. But the idea applies.)
On the whole though, I agree. I’d be a much better person if I could just remember a bit more of the Doctor’s dialog…
In my post on the biblical origin of Yom Kippur, I stumbled on something I had never heard of: the sacrifice (of sorts) of a goat containing Israel’s sins “for Azazel” in the Day of Atonement temple service. Half of my bibles omitted or worded around this mention in Leviticus 16, usually with a tiny footnote reading “meaning of Hebrew uncertain”.
The difficulties of translation is one of my interests and when you have such variation, I just had to dig further. What I found took me through the Oxford English Dictionary, the Talmud, and finally into the Dead Sea Scrolls to answer this question “who or what is Azazel?” This isn’t a new puzzle. It might even have been an ancient typo. Whatever the answer, it has puzzled scholars for years.
One answer? Azazel was the Jewish Prometheus who came down from heaven to mate with our women, providing the tools of fire and war in return. Maybe not. Read on!
Continue reading Who or What Is Azazel?
Today was Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, probably the holiest day in Judaism. Technically Yom Kippur ended at sundown (and I’m chasing midnight with this post), but it’s difficult to keep a schedule and my fasting today turned my brain into mush. For the last several years, I have done my best to fast alongside my wife in support for her and her religion. I don’t know that it helps her, but it’s worth doing for the chance that it does.
As I mentioned in my previous post, this is the month of Tishri in the Jewish calendar (generally September or October) and it is a month with many holy days. Last week was Rosh Hashanah, this week is Yom Kippur, and we’re just a few days from Sukkot and Simchat Torah. After that, we get a break until Hanukkah. I have resolved this year to try and offer (as best I can) a biblical explanation for each of the holy days (and holidays) as they come around.
And even if you aren’t Jewish, Yom Kippur has the distinction of being the holiday that we get the term “scapegoat” from, using a real live goat. Read on!
Continue reading Yom Kippur in the Bible