The Politics of Dentistry

A story from the Associated Press on NPR this week announced the discovery of some teeth. No ordinary teeth, these perhaps belonged to Homo sapiens at 400,000 BP (“Before Present,” no apologies to gas-guzzlers). And they were found in Israel. Archaeologists from Tel Aviv University are quoted as stating this could rewrite the story of human evolution, suggesting that modern humans emerged some 200,000 years earlier than thought, and in Israel instead of in Africa. Now those are some ambitious choppers! Coincidentally, the discovery was announced the day I was discussing the earliest human occupation of the Levant in my Winter Term class. Of course. One of my students pointed the article out to me.

One of the endlessly fascinating aspects of archaeology and paleontology is the constant surprise of discovery. Often I have to remind myself that the past only exists in reconstruction. Once the moment is over it is lost forever, only to be rebuilt by specialists in documents and artifacts. Reconstruction, however, often comes with a political price tag. Anyone who follows the claims based on archaeological finds knows the folly of discovery. In disputed territories the work of archaeologists is used to stake claims to modern land ownership. Who in the world would not want to own the first location where modern humans emerged on the planet? What staggering claims could be made!

I have always sensed a comfort when thinking of human origins in Africa. Far from the (modern) industrialized mayhem of “civilization,” early hominids took their first tentative steps in Africa. Cut off from the rest of the post-Pangean continents except via the narrow passage of the Sinai, Africa harbored our pre-sapiens ancestors. Once they reached Asia and Europe, they interacted with Neanderthals, as genetics now demonstrate. Interaction led inevitably to extinction, so politics had to have been involved. To find the pre-political Garden of Eden, we need to cast our eyes on Africa. Anthropologists are even now disputing whether the teeth are of Homo sapiens or not. I find, when I’m in the dentist’s chair, it is best to leave politics out of the discussion.

From the Associated Press

Dating Daniel

Last semester one of my students had an encounter with a literalist. This is not uncommon, but the issue raised ran counter to what we were covering in class, namely, the book of Daniel. Apocalyptically minded literalists use Daniel and Revelation as a two-tiered roadmap to the future, supposing that these books are predictions of the end of time. Scholars who’ve studied apocalyptic literature, however, know that such interpretations misrepresent a fascinating genre of ancient writing that says more about its own time than some unforeseen future (our time). Nevertheless, the myth of Daniel’s foresight persists.

Long ago biblical scholars noted that although set in the period of the Babylonian Empire, the book of Daniel makes several basic errors about that time period. On the other hand, Daniel knows the period of the Seleucid Empire (when it was actually written) in relatively precise detail. We think nothing of it when an author today sets a story in the past, but somehow this is dirty pool in the composition of an evangelical Bible. Apocalyptic was intended to provide encouragement to those under persecution, not to give them a Google-mapped future. It is in the nature of apocalyptic to present the author as a seer, but the future age is a Zoroastrian contribution that gives books like Daniel and Revelation their edge.

Misunderstanding genre is a large concern among literary scholars. A document like the Bible, which contains several distinct genres, must be handled carefully if it isn’t to be misrepresented. I used to point out that if the passages intended to be read ironically were understood literally many Bible-quoters would be in trouble. After all, doesn’t Amos declare, “Go to Bethel and sin; go to Gilgal and sin yet more” (4.4)? Learning to place biblical genres within their proper context makes a world of difference. Instead of Daniel telling us to hold tight because the end is near, he is found to be encouraging those who were suffering in his own day. We have no biblical roadmaps for the end times because the end of the story has not yet been written.

Daniel tells the lions a story about the future

Ipse Dixit Dragon

Confession time: I have little patience for scholars who have already made up their minds before examining the evidence. Anyone who has put themselves through the ordeal of reading my academic publications will know that I do not advocate sloppy research or slipshod thinking. Nevertheless, if we are to be honest about our world, we must follow the evidence. It is for this reason that I sometimes read unconventional material. I am well aware that untrained amateurs sometimes misinterpret what they see (so do trained professionals), but when evidence exists, why deny it? I just finished reading Archie Eschborn’s The Dragon in the Lake. Chalk this up to my having lived for many years in southern Wisconsin, and maybe a touch of nostalgia. I first learned of Eschborn’s book while teaching for a year in the Anthropology and Religion Department at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh. The chair of the Anthropology Department had me in his office one day and showed me this book by a “crackpot” amateur underwater explorer who really believed the claims that Rock Lake – between Madison and Milwaukee – actually housed underwater Native American structures.

I visited Rock Lake during my years in Wisconsin, along with the nearby prehistoric site of Aztalan State Park. There is no doubt that Aztalan was a major settlement of Native American mound builders. The structures there, while not quite rivaling Cahokia in southern Illinois, are quite impressive. Aztalan is three miles east of Rock Lake. Rumors of “pyramids” in Rock Lake have circulated for many, many years. The lake, however, is clouded with marine growth and sediment, and although there are undoubtedly underwater features the official line is that they are glacial artifacts rather than human constructions. Eschborn’s book is an attempt to demonstrate the artificial nature of these features. At his own expense and effort, the author built up a small research society, purchased a boat, and spent several early springs and late falls (when the water is clearest) sending divers and sonar scanners into the water to document what is there. While the book was self-published (and could have used some professional editorial attention) it nevertheless lays out solid evidence that Rock Lake does house a mystery worthy of exploration.

While I can’t accept all of Eschborn’s conclusions, I would insist that his evidence demands the attention of those who deny it is even worth investigation. This is less a struggle of evidence versus absence of evidence than it is a struggle against academic arrogance: professionals know better and need not be bothered with evidence. I have personally witnessed this in my own field many, many times. It is what Eschborn calls “ipsi dicit” [sic]; ipse dixit, “he himself said it,” is the assumption that a well-respected authority may be accepted as uttering the truth in principle, based on reputation. Many professionals in this country make their living based on this faulty premise. Eschborn died prematurely shortly after his book was published, before he could launch the next phase of his investigations. While his interpretation of the data may reach too far, the world suffers for the loss of a truly open mind, and the establishment ruling, as usual, still stands.

Build-A-Bible

Winter Term is underway, and one of the first aspects of the Bible I discuss with students is the fact that the Bible was a book that was compiled instead of written. In our society we are used to the concept of the Bible as a document that is unified by divine authorship, often forgetting (or ignoring) that none of the authors was intending to write a book with the tremendous authority the Bible now enjoys. Students ask how the Bible came to be; it was a process of gathering material widely utilized in Judaism. No one knows the actual composition history of the Torah, but after the Pentateuch got the process rolling, scrolls were gathered in collections and added to the Bible en masse. By the end of the first century of the Common Era, we had a Hebrew Bible.

Sometimes this historical reconstruction is a hard-sell to members of a society where a divinely written book is accepted alongside sub-atomic particles and super novas. Despite the technological sophistication that accompanies growing up in our engineered world, students are often ill-equipped to accept the Bible as a product of human exploration. The writers, whoever they were, traveled this same path of discovery that we continue to tread. They wrote down their hypotheses, based on their experience, just like modern people continue to do. The difference is they did this a very long time ago.

Those books that were selected for inclusion in the Bible became the defining documents of western civilization. Even though there is now an international space station orbiting out of sight above our heads, and even though quarks, leptons, and bosons fly out of cyclotrons large enough to encircle most small towns, God still holds a quill pen. The fixation just after the age of cuneiform is a curious one. If only God had held out for the invention of the Internet, the compilation of the Bible would have taken a very different course, I suspect. Instead of beginning its title with the word “Holy” it would more likely have commenced with “Wiki.”

Virtual Religion

Rabbi and author A. James Rudin, in an op-ed piece in Sunday’s New Jersey Star-Ledger, tolls the warning bells for traditional brick-and-mortar religion in the western world. We live in a virtual world where nearly any need may be met through the Internet. You may satisfy your hunger by ordering out online, and consult a virtual nurse online later when you don’t feel so good. Holiday shopping is a breeze without having to do anything more than tap out a wishlist on your keyboard and then click your mouse. Why should spirituality be any different? Rudin points out that many classics of western religion used to be confined in research libraries, but are now freely available online. Any number of self-appointed doyens of spirituality offer the truth in electronic form. What need have the faithful of starting the car on a cold morning, facing bitter winds and blowing snow, to march into a half-deserted house of worship when God is only a few keystrokes away?

There can be no doubt that the Internet has changed views of religion. Exposure to exotic or unfamiliar practices and beliefs is common. American religion has often been compared to a marketplace, and the best place for comparison shopping is online. This is not, however, cause for alarm. Ancient religions, including the early Judaism that will give birth to Christianity, accommodated other belief systems they encountered. There is no pristine form of religion that preserves the exact original recipe. The change took place more slowly in ancient times, but take place it did. Judaism, for example, moved from a basic, colorless Sheol to a fully populated Hell in Christianity, complete with lakes of burning sulfur and trident-wielding demons. These views were not indigenous to Judaism, but after rubbing shoulders with the Magi, such ideas eventually worked their way in.

All that the Internet has done is speed up the process. Without the web, people took longer to encounter and learn about different religions. Some of us took university degrees to figure out as much as we could. Now it requires little effort and minimal time. Like most e-commerce, if you don’t like what you’ve bought somebody else is offering something similar just a server away. What web-culture has done is to hold up a mirror to our bizarre shopping attitude towards religion. We can see in fast-forward what appeared smooth and organic in real-time. Religions change and the methods of selecting religions change as well. My observation is that clergy who take courses in web-casting will be at the front of the class until the next technological revolution comes along.

Understudy Angels

Since moving to New Jersey my family has attempted to sample as much of the vibrant arts scene as we can on our modest income. At times it feels like being a starving man locked in a fine restaurant. So we scrimp, save, and buy the cheap seats when we can. Thus it was on Christmas Eve we found ourselves in the audience for Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker ballet. I’ve been on this planet for nearly five decades and I’ve never before seen a ballet. I knew the basic story of the Nutcracker: weird uncle gives niece an odd toy, jealous brothers soon break the toy, and the niece has a bizarre, if exceptionally graceful, dream where the toy becomes her escort. Beyond that I didn’t know what to expect. When I looked through the program, I was interested to see that there were angels, snowflakes, clowns, and mice. And there were understudy angels.

Students sometimes ask me what became of the ancient gods. In the cultures surrounding Israel, as well as in early Israel itself, polytheism reigned. Once the Exile had conceived monotheism what happened to the other gods? Did they all get absorbed, Borg-like, into Yahweh? It seems not. Many of these ancient gods continued to eek out their existence as supernatural, yet strictly sub-divinity, beings. We recognize such beings as angels today, and every holiday season they are ubiquitous in store windows and church lawns. It should come as no surprise that with so many angels a few understudies must be necessary.

In popular imagination – (dare I say it?) Christian mythology – angels derive from dead Christians. Many children are taught that if they are good, when they die they become angels wafting through the heavens. This popular doctrine does not match the official teachings of any major branch of Christianity. Angels are different in substance, essence, or whatever else a theologian might care to call it, from humans. You don’t evolve into an angel. Either you’re born one or you’re not. And so it seems we are earth-bound in our existence. No cause to mourn, however; even the gods had to learn how to be angels. We can only hope they had the benefit of many understudies to carry on the tradition.

Battling Billboards

CNN’s Belief Blog carries the beleaguered story of the Lincoln Tunnel billboard battles. Last month a billboard proclaiming that the Christmas story is a myth had been sponsored by American Atheists to try to raise awareness that not all commuters are Christian. In response, the billboard has now been rented by the Times Square Church and newly proclaims “God is” with a number of devotional qualifiers. ‘Tis the season of wearing one’s passions on one’s red sleeves with white trim. Since this is America, it must be writ large.

The recriminations fly like childhood accusations: “but s/he started it!” Can’t mature adults agree to disagree? In a world constantly filled with inequality and strife, religion is used as a cudgel to enforce uniformity. The holiday season is much more than various religions marking their territories. The symbolism of the return of light after a long descent into darkness is archetypical, no matter whether it is the finding of oil to light lamps, the birth of Jesus, or the triumph of Sol Invictus or any of a plethora of other celebrations. It should be something that all people are able to share.

It is the “other” that is feared: the groups who do not share our religious outlooks. “He who is not for us is against us.” It is much safer to slap the other with a billboard barrage than to have to look into the eyes of another human being and say, “I respectfully differ.” Instead of welcoming in the light, we dig further into darkness. The Manichean sensibilities are undiminished after all these centuries. Some would argue that all must be brought into conformity for peace to prevail. To them I say, “I respectfully differ.”

Multiverse of Angles

Alternate realities. The concept fits well with astrophysical views of the multiverse that posit undiscovered dimensions and all their implications. Last night my family finished its group reading of Philip Pullman’s The Subtle Knife, as alternate a reality as might be imagined. Plucking Lyra from the uncertain ending of The Golden Compass, Pullman draws his readers into alternate worlds where everything is tied together by the consequences of “the fall” in Eden and where a new battle against the divine is about to take place. In an ambitious attempt to shift perspectives, we are told that the forces against God are, in fact, good. The magisterium, as its uncompromising strength in Lyra’s world demonstrates, will always seek to rule the world. It is an unsettling picture that Pullman paints, a reality where what we thought was Ormazd turns out to be Ahriman.

At the same time, I have caved in and begun reading The Watchmen. Not a great fan of graphic novels, I have been faced with a mounting curiosity after watching the movie a few times. In this alternate reality, God is simply irrelevant. Doctor Manhattan elaborates on the nature of a universe without a deity more fully in the novel than audience forbearance would allow on the big screen. This is a world perpetually on the brink of self-destruction, where God is absent and human ambition becomes the driving force behind a petty, short-sighted reality. Despite the comic-book feel, the story is profound and the concepts disturbing. Alan Moore’s dark vision of other worlds allows unrestrained human desire free reign with no divine restraints.

Such alternate realities underscore just how much of our reality is structured by religious beliefs. They resemble our world in significant ways, but their lack of divinity forces a nascent nobility from human characters who are only too aware of their own weaknesses. Flawed people try to create a better world. Some theoretical physicists suggest that all imaginable realities likely exist in the infinitude of universes that crowd in on our limited view of the way the world actually is. The ideas are mind-bending since even the worlds imagined on our own limited universe have both created and destroyed concepts of God. What might God’s role be, should the multiverse (or even a Stephensonian metaverse) turn out to be the true reality?

Dispelling Myths

According to the Los Angeles Times yesterday, Danish scientists have debunked the folk-wisdom that a person can become drunk by soaking his or her feet in alcohol. In the spirit of science, three scientists submerged their feet for three hours in a washtub of vodka (I am very curious what the university requisition form must have looked like). At the end of three hours, the stone-cold sober scientists with pickled feet had dispelled “the myth.” Myth remains one of those loosely defined concepts that can be good and evil, in turns. If a falsehood is being disproved, the myth is misguided and wrong. If a deity is being described and worshiped, the myth is the ultimate truth. Perhaps we need a larger vocabulary.

A semester chock-full of mythology is drawing to an end for me. I taught on ancient Near Eastern myths, classical Greek myths, and biblical myths. Placing these religious stories side-by-side brings things into a sharp focus. No matter how funny or strange their results may seem to us, mythographers were people attempting to make sense of their world. Seldom do they get the scientific facts right, but that is not what they seek. In modern minds where the fine-tuning between truth and factual statements has been effaced, a conflict is inevitable. Especially since some fields of inquiry make lots of money (so much that professors can have happy feet) while others scrape by with the dregs of university funding. Aren’t we all climbing the same mountain?

One of the more disturbing aspects of teaching mythology is seeing undergraduates continually confusing mythology and history. This is not fine-tuning, the dial has broken off completely. I am astonished to learn that Heracles and Theseus really rescued (and sometimes violated) damsels in distress. Yet, on the first day of class, before the roster has been read aloud I could smell the alcohol in the air. A semester of dispelling myths lay ahead. “Kristensen [the Danish scientist] said it was important that the myth undergo scientific scrutiny to prevent students wasting their time experimenting with this activity,” according to Thomas Maugh. I wonder if it might not be best to keep the “mythology” alive – undergrads might well benefit from pouring the alcohol into their shoes rather than into their mouths.

A book undergrads might actually read

Astronomical Chances

I am sure that I am not alone in the sense of relief that the solstice has finally arrived. Light will gradually begin to increase as the northern hemisphere slowly wobbles back toward the sun. And if I didn’t have another final exam to administer a little later this morning I would’ve stayed up to see the total lunar eclipse last night. Conditions were perfect, if cold, for viewing the event in New Jersey. NASA states that the last time a full lunar eclipse occurred on the winter solstice was in 1638. Those of us who survived to see last night’s events, whether with our eyes on the skies or on the Internet, have witnessed a rare astronomical coincidence. So rare, I’m sure, that some people have taken it as a sign.

This is the season for signs in the sky. The Gospel of Matthew narrates how Zoroastrian astrologers followed a star to Bethlehem. Over the years many astronomers have puzzled over what this anomaly might have been. (They might benefit from reading a little mythology now and again.) While still in Wisconsin my family went to see a University of Wisconsin planetarium show on the subject, and these family-fun science-and-religion public-relations events are anything but rare. It is in the spirit of the season.

Ancient civilizations bestowed upon us the gift of looking for signs in the sky. In antiquity’s three-tiered universe, the gods literally lived “up there,” so portentous occurrences above our heads were a bellwether of divine intention. Religious specialists had to be able to interpret the omens in the air. That fascination has remained with humanity ever since, no matter how rational we’ve become. While driving home in the relatively developed region of New Brunswick a few weeks ago, I saw a meteor. This was remarkable because the light pollution of multiple streetlights along with the volume of raging traffic headlights was intense. My eyes were glued to the taillights before me when it fell. It felt like an epiphany – it was the brightest meteor I’d ever seen, and over the years I suppose I’ve seen my fair share. It left me with the feeling that something momentous had occurred, an emotion that persisted for a few days. No wonder ancient astronomers found the night sky so impressive. The only negative aspect of the lengthening of the days is the corresponding shortening of the nights.

Ouroboros

The Science Channel’s program, Through the Wormhole, hosted by Morgan Freeman, has a noble goal: help educate non-scientists with cutting-edge ideas. The series opens with an episode on God: “Is There a Creator?” Interestingly, in our society there are those who turn the question around. Religious folks ask the question: does science really have the answers? It is the classic ouroboros, the snake swallowing its own tail. Perhaps the best way to consider this entrenched issue is to consider its history. Gods emerged as explanatory figures. In the days when the Bible was the oldest known book, it was believable that God had dictated it and therefore the idea of God required no explanation: the ultimate tautology. When extra-biblical material predating the Bible was discovered, a warning bell rang. Most established religions in the western world simply pretended not to hear.

Snake, dragon, whatever.

Neuroscientist Michael Persinger of Laurentian University features in this Wormhole episode, demonstrating his “God helmet.” The principle is that stimulating the specific part of the right hemisphere of the brain that corresponds to the left hemisphere’s region of “selfhood,” a brain will fabricate a presence. While the experiment has promising results, it can’t fully explain God. Other neuroscientists are working on the issue as well. Historically we know that Yahweh was one among a polytheistic entourage of deities. With the stresses and mysteries of exilic existence, monotheism was born. Only one of those many gods survived. By studying the character of Yahweh’s departed compatriots, however, we can learn of the origins of gods as well.

Science entered the picture much later. By the time of truly empirical observation, God was an assumption as certain as ether. When science offered an alternative explanation, religion countered. “I see your Big Bang and raise you one Prime Mover.” And thus it will always go. With no witnesses, alas, no intelligence even yet evolved, our universe began. We can ask the physicist or we can ask the priest. Even if God is discovered and described in the laboratory, with or without a helmet, those standing outside will always believe, with Anselm, that there is an even bigger one somewhere out there.

Pleasant Points of Prayer

Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey, is a fine place to meet the ocean. On the first day my wife and I were scouting out apartments in the state, my brother drove us to Point Pleasant Beach after dark that October evening. The rollers were thundering on the deserted beach as we raced down to dip our fingers in the Atlantic. We went back on sunnier days to enjoy the miles of delightful beach for which the state is justly famous. Point Pleasant has an old-fashioned boardwalk, hearkening back to more innocent days when entertainment was carnival style and the only electronics involved were the blinking, colorful lights. As a borough, however, Point Pleasant Beach has been opening its council meetings with the Lord’s Prayer for six decades. A judge has called that practice to a halt, according to Saturday’s New Jersey Star Ledger.

Perhaps the greatest challenge to all religions is globalism. Historically, the religions of antiquity developed when pockets of human habitation were relatively isolated from one another. Yes, people traveled, but not with the ease or frequency borne by steam or gasoline engines. Religions evolved slowly and took on the local character of the only people most believers were likely to ever meet. The ancient religions of trading centers already show the traces of syncretism that religious purists so abhor. When the sea-farers of antiquity met new people it was only polite, politic, and profitable to share their religions. Monotheisms, however, demand complete adherence to doctrine. They don’t mix well. In today’s world where travel is easy (if accompanied by strangers groping your privates, if you choose to fly) and lifestyles and religions become connubial, civil meetings have to take their new clientele into account.

The Lord’s Prayer is about as inoffensive piece of Christianity that may be muttered. Nevertheless, it makes assumptions about the religious make-up of the community. New Jersey is startlingly diverse in constitution. It is a fascinating experiment in people from all over the world learning to live together. In the past sixty years the ethnic make-up has shifted and no longer can boroughs assume that all members are Christian. The prayer does affirm the wish that the kingdom of the patriarchal Christian God should establish itself on earth. And as much as tradition is to be valued, so much is religious government, on any level, to be feared.

Simpler times on a New Jersey beach?

Didymus Haunting

Now that winter is nearly here, the season of reading the autumn books is nearing its end. Each year, in my scant free-time, I seek the perfect book to capture the essence of the dying of the trees, the chill in the air, and the growing length of night. Autumn generates an emotion that is difficult to replicate or even describe. Many people respond by watching spooky movies and those of us old enough to appreciate printed literature turn toward moody books. One of my choices this year was Audrey Niffenegger’s Her Fearful Symmetry. At the constant urging of one of my former Gorgias Press colleagues, I’d read Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife this summer. It was well crafted and left me with enough sadness to want to see if this New York Times bestseller might capture the feeling of the season. I was drawn into the book by reviews that mentioned it centered on Highgate Cemetery in London, the scene of a real-life vampire fracas back in the 1970s.

No vampires graced this novel, but ghosts abound. Often Niffenegger’s characters are either wealthy or have managed to obtain fulfilling jobs, features that make them inaccessible to me. Nevertheless, she is able to draw in the supernatural in a way that makes it seem normal and believable. By tingeing her novels with romance she is able to tap into an inexplicably huge readership, but her story development is intriguing even to those who read books with a paranormal slant. It took me a couple hundred pages to really feel much sympathy for many of the characters, but the ghosts eventually take over the story and it becomes very creepy indeed.

For those who’ve ever wondered about the secret lives of twins, Her Fearful Symmetry will provide hours of fascination. The title may be drawn from Blake, but the story is older than Esau and Jacob. The struggle of twins ranges far back in literature and raises questions of what a soul might actually be. Is it possible to share one? What happens when one twin predeceases another? What is the nature of individual identity? Even the Gospels take pains to inform us that Thomas is a twin. I finished the story last night feeling a twinge of autumn, but still hungry. Perhaps it is good that I completed this bedtime reading just in time to get ready for the more Dickensian ghosts of Christmas.

Resurrection From the Crab

My daughter loves cats. We have, however, lived in apartments since having been forced from our four-bedroom house at Nashotah. That means we’ve been at the mercy of various landlords for our choice of allowable animal comfort. Most landlords disallow cats and dogs, so we’ve gone the route of caged or terrarium pets. Birds, reptiles, and arthropods are fascinating but hardly cuddly. All three taxes share the phenomenon of molting, and once out of their artificial environments they are also all difficult to get back in. Our current non-embraceable companions are hermit crabs.

If early Christians had known of hermit crabs, I am sure they would have used them as symbols of the resurrection. (They could have used Baal as well, but that was a non-starter I’m afraid.) Our adventure began in a mall. The salesman told us, in broken English, that they would live two or three years, with proper care. We purchased one and were chagrined when it died shortly after, just when my daughter was hosting her cousin for a week-long visit during the summer. Shocked and tear-stained, we went back to the mall for a replacement crab. Later that week, crab number one (Sparky by name) suddenly reappeared. What we assumed was the corpse of Sparky was only his (or her – I have no idea how to tell) molted exoskeleton. It hung limply out of the shell like a deflated crab, but inside a new incarnation was preparing its epiphany.

This drama has enacted itself many times. This past week Sparky’s companion really died. Since the crabs are not the center of attention during the holiday season, I was the only one with this esoteric knowledge. The pile of legs and vacant shell were a little gruesome, but tucked into the corner of an out-of-the-way aquarium, they attracted no other attention. I resolved to bury the little guy. Today as I prepared to take care of his crustacean cadaver, I was astounded to find him (or her) alive and well and inhabiting a different shell. Resurrection. Our crabs have outlasted their projected livelihoods and are into their sixth year with us. Every time one dies, he (or she) comes back. If they couldn’t use Baal or Adonis, early Christians might well have caught on to the symbolism of the humble hermit crab.

I was dead, but now I am alive

Whence Moses?

Podcast 21 follows on from podcast 19 concerning Moses. Specifically, the question addressed in this podcast is the origin of Moses. While not historically attested, Moses is nonetheless an important figure in both Judaism and Christianity. How do we explain Moses if he is not historical? This podcast attempts to suggest one plausible origin for Moses while admitting that we simply do not know where he really emerges in the religious imagination of antiquity.