Since 2011, Professor Jodi Magness has been directing excavations in the ancient village of Huqoq in Israel’s Galilee. The excavations have brought to light the remains of a monumental Late Roman (fifth century) synagogue building paved with stunning and unique mosaics, including biblical scenes and the first non-biblical story ever discovered decorating an ancient synagogue. In this slide-illustrated lecture, Professor Magness describes these exciting finds, including the discoveries made in last summer’s season. For more information visit www.huqoq.org.
About the Lecturer: Jodi Magness (www.JodiMagness.org) is the Kenan Distinguished Professor for Teaching Excellence in the Department of Religious Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and Past President of the Archaeological Institute of America. Magness’ research interests, which focus on Palestine in the Roman, Byzantine, and early Islamic periods, and Diaspora Judaism in the Roman world, include ancient pottery, ancient synagogues, Jerusalem, Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Roman army in the East.
FUNDRAISER FOR THE ROBERT MILLER GRADUATE STUDENT EXCELLENCE FUND
The person who makes the largest gift will receive a free signed copy of Jodi Magness’ 2019 book, Masada: From Jewish Revolt to Modern Myth (Princeton: Princeton University Press).
To make a gift to the Robert Miller Graduate Student Excellence Fund, please go to: https://give.unc.edu/donate?f=105550&p=asrs The Robert Miller Graduate Student Excellence Fund honors an exceptional academic editor and provides support for our graduate students to present their research in scholarly venues and conferences across the country and around the world.
Last Thursday, February 16, the Religious Studies department hosted a trivia night with food and prizes. It was an opportunity for undergraduates (majors, minors, and others interested in religious studies) to get together for a social evening with faculty and graduate students.
Overview of the course: Creation stories—which recount the origins of the universe, the earth, and humanity—show us how ancient cultures made sense of the human condition. In this course, you’ll explore great creation texts such as the Babylonian Creation Epic, the Egyptian Memphite Theology, the Hittite Kumarbi Cycle, the Greek Theogony of Hesiod, the two contrasting accounts of creation in the biblical Genesis, and more.
Joseph Lam is an Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He holds a PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago. He is the author of Patterns of Sin in the Hebrew Bible: Metaphor, Culture, and the Making of a Religious Concept, as well as a number of scholarly articles in the fields of Hebrew Bible and Ugaritic studies. He teaches ancient languages beyond Hebrew, such as Akkadian, Aramaic/Syriac, and Ugaritic.
The Bart Ehrman Blog raised just over $500,000 last year for charity. The membership-based blog donates all monies it receives to combatting hunger and homelessness and to supporting health and literacy. In 2022, it benefitted five organizations: three that focus on local communities and two that work internationally. See more at https://ehrmanblog.org/
3D imaging project brings Nepali sacred site to life
Religious studies scholar Lauren Leve partnered with a computer science class last semester to further her ongoing work to create an annotated 3D model of Swayambhunath, an ancient holy site in Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley.
Lauren Leve, an expert in Himalayan Buddhism, was conducting research in Nepal in 2015 when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit, demolishing many cultural and religious monuments.
In all, about 9,000 people were killed as a result of the severe earthquake, and more than 600,000 structures in Kathmandu and nearby towns were damaged or destroyed.
“Architects and engineers were trying to reconstruct these monuments, and they didn’t have the information to do that at the precision that was needed,” said Leve, a UNC associate professor of religious studies who has been conducting research in Nepal for over 30 years. “Cultural preservationists were also concerned that knowledge about the monuments would be lost forever.”
Images of modern refugees often invoke images of the infant Christ and the historical circumstances of the holy family’s flight to Egypt in the face of persecution. But rather than leaving this association at the merely symbolic level, Jesus the Refugee explores Jesus’s flight through modern legal conventions on refugee status in the United States and the European Union. Would Jesus and his parents be protected from refoulement? Would they receive rights to employment and civic engagement? Would they be turned away? Is the holy family a refugee family?
Jesus the Refugee argues that the holy family has a limited set of legal options for protection, but under current law is unlikely to receive any. This shocking claim stands or falls on legal details like the ability to demonstrate reasonable fear of persecution, or whether fleeing Palestine (but not the Roman Empire) affords protection for internally displaced migrants.
Besides introducing the basics of modern refugee law and processes, Jesus the Refugee aims to raise ethical challenges to our current refugee system by highlighting Jesus as one of the “least of these,” indicting our moral failures and challenging us to make amends.
Ehrman follows up his masterly history of concepts of the afterlife with one about narratives in which a living soul—like Dante led by Virgil—is given a tour of what awaits us after death. Focussing on pre-Christian and early-Christian literature, Ehrman shows how Homer’s egalitarian afterlife, where all meet the same fate, gave way to Virgil’s version, where an elect few enjoy eternal rewards while the rest suffer torments. Early Christians imagined Hell as a punishment for nonbelievers, but it was gradually cast as an elaborate realm that terrorized even the faithful. As Ehrman notes, in every era, such tales aimed to teach readers “how to live in the here and now.”