Gepost door: Paul | augustus 4, 2007

Pas op de plaats

Dit blog is voorbij geschoten aan haar oorspronkelijke doel. Dat doel was om mezelf aan te moedigen om af en toe een stukje te schrijven. Ik viel in een van mijn valkuilen: perfectionisme.

Van nederlandstalig naar engelstalig.

Van algemene essays naar scriptie-hoofdstukken.

En dus van stimulans naar obstakel.

Ik zal proberen het schip vlot te trekken. Dat zal ten koste gaan van de kwaliteit van wat ik schrijf. Maar ja, wie heeft er wat aan één overgespecialiseerd stukje per half jaar? Hopelijk zal er tussen de vele korte stukjes die hier met enig wishful thinking binnenkort zullen verschijnen, héél af en toe een pareltje verschijnen.

En als dat niet gebeurt, dan heb ik in ieder geval m’n perfectionisme overwonnen 😉

Gepost door: Paul | mei 6, 2007

Burying the Patriarch

As promised a while ago, I will post today on the necropolis of Beth She’arim in Galilee, which, as Fergus Millar observed, is “the most significant archaJezreel Valley. Unfortunately I didn't visit Beth She'arim...eological and documentary side-light on the rabbinic period”.[1] I will discuss the popular notion that Beth She’arim derived its popularity from the idea that an important patriarch, Rabbi Judah, was interred here. Let me first give a brief introduction of the necropolis, before I argue that there is no reason to expect that patriarch Judah was really buried there, let alone that his burial caused the blossoming of Beth She’arim.

Read on!

Gepost door: Paul | april 2, 2007

From Curaçao to Beth She’arim

It has been a long time since I posted. After my holiday on Curaçao I moved to Delft, then came the holidays. Well, by then I had been putting of posting for such a long time, that my “blogging habit” had passed. Maybe the disappearance of the Roman “epigraphical habit” in the 3rd century is comparable: so much happened in the middle of that century, that nobody had the time or the energy to make public inscriptions. By the time that the worst troubles were over, the epigraphical fever had passed. As the archaeological records show, the new generations never again publicized inscriptions on an even remotely comparable scale…

So much for pseudo-history. To bring this blog back on track, I will try to link my last post with next month’s post on the necropolis of Beth She’arim with a short series of pictures.

1. The old cemetery of the Sephardic Community in Curaçao. Note Willemstad’s massive oil refinery in the background!


read on!

Gepost door: Paul | november 9, 2006


I’ll be back on the 20th of November!

Gepost door: Paul | november 7, 2006

“Iudaea capta” as public transcript

Iudaea CaptaAs I wrote last week, according to Seth Schwartz “for most Jews [in Late Empire Palestine], Judaism may have been little more than a vestigial identity, bits and pieces of which they were happy to incorporate into a religious and cultural system that was essentially Greco-Roman and pagan” (Imperialism and Jewish Society). One might say that the formula IUDEA CAPTA of some 1st century coins (image source) became valid beyond its technical sense. However, I don’t believe that this process of Greco/Romanization is the whole story. I will today present the first, weak steps of the counter argument I’m trying to develop.

Read on…

Gepost door: Paul | november 5, 2006

Egypt’s worst enemy

The Danish PR-crisis sparked by Jyllands-Posten’s Mohammed cartoons is still lingering: according to an Egyptian government poll “Denmark is [considered] one of Egypt’s worst enemies, second only after Israel.” (source: BBC) Sixty percent of the respondents agreed that Denmark is hostile to Egypt.

The protests against the caricatures were not only aroused by the cartoon’s supposed disrespect towards Mohammed, Islam, or Muslims, but also by the strong tradition of aniconism in some branches of Islam. Especially in Sunni Islam, the representation of living beings and particularly of Mohammed is considered not-done.

That in the history of Islam representing Mohammed hasn’t always been prohibited, is admirably shown by Dorothy King in her series “Today’s Image of Mohammed”(NB the link refers to all Dorothy’s posts labelled Mohammed; as such the net is cast a little too wide!). Most of the images are from manuscripts illuminated in the sixteenth century in Tabriz, in present-day Iran, but she also shows images from other ages and places. All images are accompanied by some remarks on the depicted scene, techniques used, origins, and artistic influences. Both the images and the commentary are very tasteful – something one cannot say of the cartoons!

On the image I present here “not only is Mohammed’s face fully depicted, but the Kaaba, which he is re-dedicating, is also shown” (quote and image: PhDiva).

Gepost door: Paul | oktober 30, 2006

Social Interaction in Syria Palaestina

In der Beschränkung zeigt sich erst der Meister

When I presented the rough outlines of my plans for MA Thesis on social (and/or cultural) interaction between Rome and Jews in 2nd and 3rd Century Syria Palaestina at my department’s ‘Thesis Seminar’, both teachers and pupils tried to lure me into extending the project: I got proposals ranging from “what about the Diaspora?” via “of course the Essenes will be of interest for your research” and “you should take the Christian Empire into the equation” up to “I believe under Antioch IV the Jews fought against a statue of a god in the temple in Jerusalem.” All very interesting indeed, and the thought of investigating all those landscapes of interaction is extremely alluring to me. But I am warned by the tercet preceding Goethe’s famous quote:

So ist’s mit aller Bildung auch beschaffen:
Vergebens werden ungebundne Geister
Nach der Vollendung reiner Hoehe streben.

(source: Goethe, “Das Sonnett”, as quoted by the Humanist Discussion Group)

Having seen quite some fellow students stumble over much to extensive thesis plans, I will try to bind my Geist. Here I will propose some boundaries.

Read on…

Gepost door: Paul | oktober 27, 2006


My apologies for this silent month – blogwise, that is. In real life this has been – and still is – an extremely busy month, marked by a much too short oral exam on Martyrdom in Christianity and Judaism, my first steps on the real estate market, and some exciting developments on the personal front. I promise improvement: for the next weeks I have some posts in mind on Martyrdom, on Domination and Resistance, and on Rabbinic Judaism.

An empty promise? We’ll see…

Gepost door: Paul | oktober 3, 2006

Aravis and Agnes; or, the question of noble death

‘My name is Aravis Tarkheena and I am the only daughter of Kidrash Tarkaan, the son of Rishti Tarkaan, the son of Kidrash Tarkaan, the son of Ilsombreh Tisroc, the son of Ardeeb Tisroc who was descended in a right line from the god Tash.’

The Horse and his Boy - coverThus Aravis begins, ‘in the grand Calormene manner,’ the story of how she tries to escape from an arranged marriage with a sixty year old humpbacked, ape-faced lord, first by an abortive attempt at killing herself, then by a cunning flight. This episode in The Horse and his Boy, my favorite C.S. Lewis book, deeply impressed me when I first read it as an eight or nine year-old.

I can still recall vividly the climactic scene where Aravis decides to leave this life, but is saved by her horse Hwin:

‘… I dismounted from Hwin my mare and took out [my brother’s] dagger. Then I parted my clothes where I thought the readiest way lay to my heart and I prayed to all the gods that as soon as I was dead I might find myself with my brother. After that I shut my eyes and my teeth and prepared to drive the dagger into my heart. But before I had done so, this mare spoke with the voice of one of the daughters of men and said, “O my mistress, do not by any means destroy yourself, for if you live you may yet have good fortune but all the dead are dead alike.” (…) When I heard the language of men uttered by my mare, I said to myself, the fear of death has disordered my reason and subjected me to delusions. And I became full of shame for non of my lineage ought to fear death more than the biting of a gnat. Therefore I addressed myself a second time to the stabbing, but Hwin came near to me and put her head in between me and the dagger and discoursed to me most excellent reasons and rebuked me as a mother rebukes her daughter.’

I was strangely disappointed by Hwin’s intervention. Aravis’ heroism and determination struck a cord in me, and I felt the dagger was a brave and honourable choice, especially as she would be reunited with her deceased brother. C.S. Lewis probably wouldn’t agree with me, not in this case anyway. The Calormene (Muslim? Oriental?) tradition is presented by him as colourful, but Wrong in Essence. Although the Chronicles of Narnia abound in instances of self-sacrifice, a virgin suicide to preserve honour and autonomy isn’t considered an option in Lewis’ Anglican moral scheme. When I was eight, in my moral scheme it was.
Read on…

Gepost door: Paul | september 27, 2006

Mission Muziris (1)

The work of an intellectual is not to shape other’s political will; it is, through the analysis that he carries out in his field, to question over and over again what is postulated as self-evident, to disturb people’s mental habits, the way they do and think things, to dissipate what is familiar and accepted, to reexamine rules and institutions and on the basis of this re-problematization (in which he carries out his specific task as an intellectual) to participate in the formation of a political will (in which he has his role as a citizen to play).

I must confess I shamelessly copied this citation of Michel Foucault (1988, 265) from Daniel Boyarin’s 2003 article ‘Semantic Differences; or, “Judaism”/”Christianity” ‘, without even looking up the reference, let alone having read Foucault’s book. Still, In all humility think the citation aptly covers the attitude I wish to present in Muziris: an attitude of asking questions, disturbing mental habits, dissipate what is familiar. As this is my tenth post, I believe I should write a little on my thoughts about this blog, to give my anonymous reader an idea of what this is al about.

Read on…

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