Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dead Sea Scrolls & SOTU Prediction

I just went to see the Dead Sea Scrolls yesterday. Quite interesting. Mostly, it's the same sort of dramatic music and wind-sound effects that the Milwaukee Public Museum has done for its Titanic and Pharaohs exhibits of the past. There's lots of Greek, Roman, and Israeli coins, together with assorted bric-a-brac like oil lamps and alabaster flasks. An impressive small-scale model of the old city of Jerusalem is something to behold. But the real attraction, of course, is the scrolls. Mostly, they are exact facsimiles, which are so perfect in their reproduction that they must be marked with a special stamp on the back so as to prevent them from being mistaken for the real thing!

As an aside, this in and of itself should give us pause, because if our technology can so exactly reproduce these genuine manuscripts, think of the other things that it could produce to fabricate evidence of not-so-genuine manuscripts. There are already, I've heard, reproductions of famous paintings which also require an identification stamp so as not to be mistaken for the genuine article. Not far off in the future, creationists may finally be able to fabricate a fossilized human in the jaws of a T-Rex! Or moon-landing-hoax progenitors will be able to falsify some government document suggesting a cover-up. So if there were ever a time for science to win out over pseudoscience and superstition, it's now!

Anyway, there are, amidst the reproductions, some fragments of the actual scrolls themselves, along with one hemi-cylinder of the two copper scrolls. There is also the controversial Jeselsohn Stone, which some claim portends to Jesus and the resurrection. There's also a Milwaukee connection in the form of a tribute to James Trevor, who was born in Milwaukee, and was the very man who photographed the scrolls for posterity. But it's mostly a bone thrown to a largely Christian audience. It features pages from ancient codexes of the New Testament: A page from Matthew, a page from Luke, a papyrus page from one of Paul's epistles, and a sizeable collection of Bibles, including a Gutenberg Bible, a Luther Bible, and an original King James.

What's impressive about all this is just how much sway these little scraps of parchment and papyrus have had throughout the years. They eventually persuaded enough people to allow one key Roman emperor to establish Christianity as the official religion, and that watershed event pretty much led to religion as we know it today. It also meant that other scraps of parchment documentation, such as ones describing the religion of Mithras, will never be seen in a museum, because they were consigned to the book-burning pile. On second thought, perhaps it isn't si amazing how much power these little scraps of paper have had -- we only get to see the scraps of paper preserved by the victors.

But what really altered my perception of the scrolls is just how tiny the letters are. Often, when I've studied the Bible, and seen how large the book of Isaiah is, for example, I've often wondered how you could fit such a huge book into a mere pair of 27-foot scrolls. Now I know: these letters were tiny! So tiny, in fact, that they rival our modern-day print! It must have taken master-scribes years just to copy one book! Each letter painstakingly reduced to the smallest size, each word carefully spaced to ruler-line perfection, and the teeniest little mistake meant you had to start all over again! I have a new respect for the scholarly pursuits of the ancients. Considering that most people were illiterate, they really put a lot of effort into preserving what few, if any, would ever appreciate!

So if you get a chance, go see the Dead Sea Scrolls at the MPM. You won't be disappointed.

And now for something completely different...

I've heard that our Trophy President is set to announce a 3-year spending freeze in his first State of the Union address.


What could he be thinking? Less government spending during a recession? When an intelligent person does something which seems to make no sense, it always makes me think that there's a deeper agenda of some sort. After all, people of high IQ don't make boneheaded moves unless it means they're sacrificing a metaphorical chess queen for a checkmate. So this has set the wheels of my mind to turning, and I knew I'd need to blog about this today, before our President speaks, just to make sure I've documented this well beforehand. You see, I'm about to state what I think is going on, and make a prediction at the same time:

The health care reform bill is basically every bit as stuck in quicksand as the Mars rover, Spirit. And while Dems have said that the "reform" will save costs, Republicans have claimed that it will increase the deficit. Frankly, I don't know which side is right, but I do think that Obama thinks the former rather than the latter. So, I think what our president is about to say is that the spending freeze is something he has no choice but to enact because the health care bill may fail. He's setting the stage for the Republicans to be blamed for a forced stoppage of all but the most necessary of government spending as a direct result of their obstructionist tactics.

Will it work? Who knows! Certainly the only thing predictable about politics these days is that its unpredictable, especially in Massachusetts. But if I'm right in this prediction, it could be a pretty smart move. The President will basically have said, in the tone of a scolding father-figure, "Look, either you pass health care reform, or I'll have no choice but to take away your allowance money." That might, just might, persuade a few Republicans to get off their fat asses and vote for what is basically an all-but-Republican bill anyway. It will also boost the value of the dollar, as it will let foreign investors know that the U.S. is firmly committed to remaining solvent.

Well, if congress acts like children, I guess they should be treated like children. We'll see if I'm right in this prediction this very evening!


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