by Nicolae Roddy
As a follow-up to my recent article “Where are the Orthodox Biblical Archaeologists?” it seems timely to present the fascinating story of the single greatest exception to the rule: Vassilios Tzaferis, the Greek Orthodox monk-turned-archaeologist who discovered the material remains of the only crucified man ever found.
Tzaferis was born to a rural peasant family on April 1, 1936, on the island of Samos, Greece. His childhood coincided with the Axis occupation during WWII, followed by the Greek civil war. In 1950, encouraged by his father and the village priest, fourteen-year old Vassilios traveled to the East Jerusalem to study theology at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. He was ordained a deacon six years later, in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and assigned to the Greek Orthodox community of Nazareth, in the newly established state of Israel.
Two years later, Tzaferis was ordained a priest, but his thirst for learning compelled him to seek permission to study in Athens. His request was denied, but he decided to go anyway. Unwilling to lose such a gifted young priest, Patriarch Benedictos persuaded him to stay, permitting him to enroll in a degree program in history and archaeology at Hebrew University. In a 2010 newspaper interview, Tzaferis mused how students stared in wonder at his monastic garb, a sight so out of the ordinary that even David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s foremost founder and its first prime minister, asked to see the monk who was studying archaeology (Haaretz, Oct. 29, 2010). Continue reading
by Rev. Dr. Cristofor Panaitescu
After struggling for years longing for the ultimate way of understanding the Bible, I finally concluded that my struggling would have no end. I understood also that there was no ultimate way, but just a way.
Watching television testimonies today often means hearing how people feel in different situations of life. Breaking news about a catastrophe is basically a report about what and how someone felt at the moment of that tragedy. And frequently, it is about what and how they felt in the aftermath of the event. Usually, the reporter tries to be empathetic regarding the subjects of his or her story. Actually, the simple fact of being at that place, on that spot, involves empathy. The same applies to happy events like sport, shows, or documentaries involving victory, accomplishment, celebration or astonishment.
The question “how did you feel?” is the verbal outcome of an everyday experience studied and described by psychologists as being the basis of life at its first undeveloped and uncomplicated emotional level. Once this question of feelings is addressed, the newsperson invites people to develop their story or their version of the event. As for the one watching TV at home, that person sees the whole thing throughout his or her feelings, and the simple fact of watching implies emotional involvement. I’ve had the opportunity to compare this media pattern in different countries on different continents while watching TV, and it is always the same.
This question is of paramount importance with respect to the study of the Bible. Continue reading
by Nicolae Roddy
An unshakable question has been clinging to the bottom of my shoe for all of twenty years now. As co-director and area supervisor for the Bethsaida Archaeology Project I have been actively involved in overseeing excavations and writing reports at the site generally accepted as the ancient Galilean village where Jesus of Nazareth called his first disciples; however, as an Orthodox Christian I am at a loss to explain why over the span of two decades, almost without exception I have encountered no Orthodox Christian archaeologists working in Palestine. As Jon Seligman of the Israel Antiquities Authority confirms, “Indeed, the involvement of Orthodox Christians in the archaeology of the Holy Land has been limited.”
It should be clear that I am not talking about ecclesiastical oversight of pilgrimage and touristic sites on the part of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, or the Russian Orthodox Church’s Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society. I am also not discounting the work of Orthodox biblical scholars who incorporate archaeological findings in their scholarship. I am referring to dedicated professionals and institutions who not only dig in the field, but publish archaeological reports and deliver their findings at professional conferences. Moreover, having led volunteers from Mexico, Germany, Austria, France, and Poland, apart from sponsoring two Romanian Orthodox volunteers from an archaeology class I teach at the University of Bucharest, I have never had a volunteer from an Orthodox-majority nation (although I realize that economic factors may be at play). It appears that Orthodox Christians worldwide exhibit significantly less interest in the material culture of the biblical world than western Christians. Having queried Orthodox clergy and laity on the topic, I find attitudes toward biblical archaeology to be largely positive or at least neutral, their collective response summed up along the lines of “generally interested, but not terribly so.” Continue reading
by David Bentley Hart
I should not take exception, I suppose, if critics occasionally question my choice to render all Greek present tense verbs as English present tense verbs in my recent translation of the New Testament. The same choice was made, as it happens, by Tyndale and by his successors on the committee of scholars who produced the King James Version, but most modern readers are so distracted by the older, non-sibilant form of third person singular constructions that they generally fail to notice that when “Jesus saith” something or “goeth” somewhere he is doing so in a kind of temporally abstract narrative now. As far as I am concerned, this is the only way in which the texts should be rendered. Even so, while I am convinced that those who think otherwise are quite mistaken, I have to admit that they have at least come by their prejudice honestly, since they have been systematically misinformed on the issue all through the years of their theological education. For better than half a century, seminarians and divinity school students and teachers of the New Testament, all of whom typically began their study of Greek some time in their twenties (and then only the Greek of the New Testament texts, as filtered through defective traditions of translation and interpretation), have been indoctrinated with a remarkable quantity of nonsense regarding the use of tenses in Greek historical narratives from late antiquity. Continue reading