News: Chinese Tourists Arrested in Germany after Making Hitler Salutes in Front of Reichstag

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Photo Credit: Bloomberg

Breaking News from Haaretz: “German police on Saturday arrested two Chinese tourists for making illegal “Heil Hitler” salutes in front of the historic Reichstag building that houses the German parliament.” Read more.

There are times when I am truly ashamed of the ignorance of some of my own people. They idealize and even idolize everything that has ever happened in Europe/Germany. Don’t they have any ideas of the sordidness embedded in history and culture of this continent/country? Here they are obsequiously emulating whatever the West did and do. Yes, I agree these people deserve punishments and further education.

Feel free to read my 2015 tour into Berlin’s past: “Berlin, a City That Looks Back at the Past to Reinvent Itself in the Present”

Austria: Salzburg Carnival/Salzburger Fasnacht

The European history never ceases to surprise me. Based on the information presented at the museum of Schloss Hellbrunn. I found out how some 17th century Europeans entertained themselves with their animals. During the annual Salzburg Carnival, which incorporated elements from Venice,

1. bulls and bears were hunted to death.

2. geese were beheaded. According to the following placard, “[i]n 1613, members of the Court, on the horseback and armed with sabres, tried to cut the heads off suspended geese. In 1616, servants had to strike at geese blindfolded.”

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3. pigs were beaten and slain in play. For a reconstructed scene, watch the video (attached above) at 00:36-01:20 and 02:17-02:30.

4. cats were trapped in boxes and their tails were tied to the keyboard to play the piano. To quote the placard for the following picture, “[t]his reconstruction shows a cat piano, an instrument that was used in the 1618 parade in Salzburg. There is no known pictorial representation from the 17th cnetury. Living cats were confined in boxes and their tails maltreated using a keyboard (piano) with sharp metal spikes. The ‘music’ threfore consisted of the howling of the cats.” For a reconstructed scene, watch the attached video at 02:56-03:26.

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The commentator on the audioguide reminded us that our [I think he meant “the modern European”] standard toward the animals is different from the previous standard. I wonder since when the attitude change has begun in Europe.

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Despite the aforementioned dark history, I am still impressed with the ingenious trick fountains at Schloss Hellbrunn. Human kindness and ingenuity sometimes just don’t march together, right? 😉

Anecdote: Gog on the Plane

During my previous flight to Europe, a friendly neighbour on the plane struck up a conversation with me. We exchanged some polite chitchat, then she asked me: “So what are you doing in South Africa?”

“I am a postdoctoral researcher at the university in Potchefstroom,” I answered.

“What is your field of research?” She looked curious.

“I am researching the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament at the faculty of theology.” I tried to be concise in my reply.

“That’s very interesting! I also read the Bible.” Her eyes gleamed as she exclaimed excitedly.

Encouraged by her remarks, I elaborated on my answer: “In the past, I did some research on the book of Ezekiel. You know, it’s one of the Major Prophets, coming after Isaiah and Jeremiah. It has some weird visions, but my focus was on the oracles against the foreign nations in the middle of the book. Oh, the book contains the famous Gog oracles.”

She suddenly looked at me in all seriousness and asked: “I know the oracles, ISN’T GOG RUSSIA?”

I knew this association was being made on papers and internet, and I had written an article on it, but I did not expect to encounter such an association face-to-face.

My mind had gone blank for a second or so, before I asked her why she thought so. She said she didn’t know. I asked her if she had read it somewhere. She shook her head again, but this time she gently asked for my opinion on Gog’s identity. I explained how modern biblical scholars commonly place a distance between historical contexts and modern associations. I was not sure if she agreed with me but she listened to my explanation very patiently and attentively.

Before my departure from the plane, I wrote down the link to my HTS article entitled “The Enemies Within: Gog of Magog in Ezekiel 38-39” on a tiny piece of paper and handed it to her. She thanked me and folded it carefully into her jacket’s pocket.

This random encounter touched my heart in two main ways. First, we all have uncritical assumptions, we can’t help it. But the lady on the plane makes me realize that it’s how we deal with these assumptions that counts. When she realized that she couldn’t justify her assumption about Gog,  she did not make up tall tales to give weight to her claim, she did not skip the conversation topic for the sake of convenience, and she did not direct my attention to mathematical problems (N/B: she was an accountant) where she could easily prove her intellectual superiority over mine. Instead I was simply humbled that she would ask for my opinion about Gog’s identity. She showed me her patience and respect during my explanation while reserving her final judgment. I think her attitude is something I can learn from during dissensions. Keep listening to the arguments from all sides, modify judgment when necessary. Easier said than done.

Second, it simply feels good to have written an article that can somehow be referred to during a daily conversation. #bridge the gap between academia and a wider public. 🙂

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N/B: This photo was not taken from this trip. It was from my 2008 trip to Turkey.

Last Updated: 28.07.2017

Austria: A Wonderful Summer School in Salzburg

Prof. Kristin De Troyer held a fantastic summer school on the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts of Esther at the theological faculty of the University of Salzburg between the 3rd and 7th of July, 2017. I consider myself luckly to have been selected as one of the eleven participants from around the world. A knowledgeable teacher who gave her very best in the class and friendly colleagues who treated each other as equal partners really made my learning of the biblical manuscripts overwhelmingly enjoyable!

Here are some of the memorable moments:

1. Huge smiles at the camera before the hearty dinner sponsored by the University of Salzburg (Photo courtesy of Prof. Kristin De Troyer)

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2. Stunning view from our elegant accommodation in Haus St. Benedikt

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3. Intensive learning of the critical and diplomatic editions of Masoretic Text, Old Greek, Alpha-Text of Esther. Other Jewish recensions, Dead Sea Scrolls, Josephus, and Vetus Latina were also surveyed.

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4. Summer greenery from the summit of Festung Hohensalzburg

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5. Pleasant aequous surprises at Schloss Hellbrunn

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For me, the climax of the summer school was at the end, when my husband, who has been studying in Germany, was able to come to Austria and spent some quality time with me after six months of separation. Love him so much! ❀

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Article: The Enemies Within: Gog of Magog in Ezekiel 38-39

My article entitled “The Enemies Within: Gog of Magog in Ezekiel 38-39” is now published in the open-access journal HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies (South Africa-based)! Please feel free to check it out on their website: http://www.hts.org.za/index.php/HTS/article/view/4541

This article summarizes and builds on a section of my 2016 monograph entitled Mapping Judah’s Fate in Ezekiel’s Oracles the against Nations. Since not all of you may have the time to read through the entire book, this article can help you quickly grasp some of the most interesting arguments about the Gog oracles in Ezekiel 38-39. Moreover, this article will lead you through further samples of the reception of Gog of Magog that are not found in the monograph.

Here is the abstract of the article:

The most extensive descriptions of Gog and Magog in the Hebrew Bible appear in Ezekiel 38–39. At various stages of their political career, both Reagan and Bush have linked Gog and Magog to the bĂȘtes noires of the USA, identifying them either as the ‘communistic and atheistic’ Russia or the ‘evil’ Iraq. Biblical scholars, however, seek to contextualise Gog of Magog in the historical literary setting of the ancient Israelites. Galambush identifies Gog in Ezekiel as a cipher for Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, who acted as Judah’s oppressor in the 6th century BCE. More recently, Klein concludes that Gog, along with his companions, is ‘eine Personifikation aller Feinde, die Israel im Buch Ezechiel gegenĂŒberstehen’. Despite their differences in detail, these scholars, such as Reagan and Bush, work with a dualism that considers only the features of Judah’s enemies incorporated into Gog’s characteristics. Via an analysis of the semantic allusions, literary position and early receptions of Ezekiel 38–39, this article argues that Gog and his entourage primarily display literary attributes previously assigned to Judah’s political allies.

Enjoy your reading! 🙂

P/S: FREE download of Mapping Judah’s Fate in Ezekiel’s Oracles against the Nations is available here: https://www.sbl-site.org/publications/books_ANEmonographs.aspx. Further publications by me can be viewed and downloaded here: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Lydia_Lee22; https://nwu.academia.edu/LydiaLee.

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Lecture: How Many Books of Esther Do We Have?

My friend Szi-chieh Yu helpfully introduced me to this wonderful website called the Bible Project. It contains many beautiful animated videos that render biblical stories accessible to everyone, everywhere. The animations are simply lovely! I notice that it defines and explains the Bible from a Protestant Christian perspective. It stresses a unifying principle underlying the Protestant Bible. As one of the videos points out, it is helpful to bear in mind that today the Bible the Protestants are using is not exactly the same as the Eastern Orthodox Christians and the Catholic Christians. The Protestants are using the Jewish Tanakh as their Old Testament (with a different structural arrangement). The Jews and the Protestants, however, can interpret the scriptural texts rather differently.

The Project’s video entitled “What Is the Bible?” also highlights that the Protestant Bible has undergone a long process of compilation. Biblical scholars have continued encountering historical artefacts (e.g., Dead Sea Scrolls, Cairo Genizah, Nag Hammadi Library, etc.) and internal literary evidence (e.g., stylistic breaks, doublets, thematic tensions, etc.) that point to the fluidity and diversity of the early scriptural traditions.

If you wish to know how diverse the early literary traditions surrounding the story of Esther (one of the stories found in the Protestant Bible today) were, why don’t you pop by for the Ancient History Public Lecture tomorrow evening (19:00-20:00)? In the lecture, we will also explore how the early Jewish and Christian writers grappled with the textual fluidity and diversity. See you there! 🙂

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Alexey Somov’s New Book: Representations of the Afterlife in Luke-Acts

Dr. Alexey Somov very kindly mentions my Revue de Qumran’s article on Sheol in his new book entitled Representations of the Afterlife in Luke-Acts. This is the first time my work has been cited! 🙂

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For those of you interested in the New Testament studies and historical concepts of afterlife, you may not want to miss out this new book!

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Here is the abstract of the book:

Questions regarding the afterlife are many, and the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts pay a great deal of attention to them: why does Luke speak about several different forms of the afterlife? Why is resurrection described as a person’s transformation into an angelic being? How many abodes are appointed for the righteous and the wicked after death? Alexey Somov addresses these queries in relation to the apparent confusion and variety found in the text, and in respect of the interrelatedness of these issues, and their connection with other eschatological issues in Luke-Acts, and in relation to the wider cultural context of the Mediterranean world to which Luke belonged.

Every culture expresses its beliefs by means of special metaphors that allow it to comprehend supernatural realities in terms of everyday experience. Belief in the afterlife was part of this metaphorical system which Luke shared with the ancient eastern Mediterranean culture. Somov takes his analysis one step further by applying Cognitive Metaphor Theory to selected metaphorical aspects of the afterlife. While the inconsistencies and incoherence of the combined metaphors may seem jarring to a contemporary Western reader, Somov’s reading enables a recognition of the specific religious metaphors used, which for Luke would have been current and widely accepted.

(excerpt taken from the publisher’s website)