The Dead Sea Scrolls at Discovery Times Square: more on the “Christian Holy Land” claim
As I have explained in two other pieces, the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute website recently published an important article by historian Norman Golb.
Part of Golb’s purpose is to refute a variety of misleading claims about Judaism and the origins of Christianity that are being presented to enthusiastic visitors at the Discovery Times Square showroom in New York City, in an exhibit that is being publicized with naive enthusiasm by reporters from the New York Times, the AP, and countless other media sources.
In this new entry in my mini-series, I focus on Dr. Golb’s discussion of the claim, presented by the exhibitors on a large panel entitled “The Sign of the Cross,” that
When Constantine became a Christian and legalized the practice of Christianity in the Roman Empire, Israel became the “Holy Land,” the place of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection.
Golb indicates that this claim is “not true,” and explains:
As early as in the sixth century B.C., the Judaean prophet Zechariah used the term “Holy Land” (Admat Haqodesh) to designate Israel, and an early rabbinic passage speaks of the Land of Israel as having the highest of the “ten degrees of holiness (qedushah).” (See Zechariah 2:16; Mishnah Kelim 1:6-9.)
As for the use of the term by early Christians, Golb asserts:
The early Church Father Justin Martyr apparently used the same term, but there is no proof early Christianity as a whole ever considered Palestine a “holy land” as such; rather, Christians considered sites related to Jesus to be holy.
Golb also explains that “the Arabic term meaning ‘the Holy Land’ is … used several times in the Koran (see, e.g., Sura 5:21),” and that “by the Middle Ages, it had become popular among Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike.” And he concludes:
The simple reality is that both Christians and Muslims adopted an ancient Jewish concept and applied it to their own purposes — a fact distorted by the exhibitors’ statement that Palestine “became” the Holy Land after Constantine’s conversion.
All of this (see also my previous pieces) leads to two simple questions:
1) Will the directors of Discovery Times Square take steps to correct the false statements that appear in their exhibit?
2) Will New York’s prestigious cultural establishment and academic community, many of whose members are Jewish, quietly stand by, without a word of protest, as the public is entertained at a popular, religiously oriented museum exhibit that offers a perspective on ancient Jewish history and culture that is demeaning, in more than one respect, to Jews?
I believe the answer to the first question is: “no, Discovery Times Square will do nothing to correct the false statements.”
And I believe the answer to the second questions is: “yes, not a single culturally informed person in New York will step forward and say anything about this exhibit.”
I hope to shed some light on the reasons for this state of affairs when I turn to examining the academic “politics” that led to the creation of this exhibit (and which, as I have said before, are quite sordid).
Meanwhile, it seems clear that the ongoing media campaign on behalf of Discovery Times Square has already revealed a broad lack of serious concern with the historical accuracy of religiously driven claims about ancient Judaism and Christianity.
Finally, one more point comes to mind: the popular assumption that the insidious claims being made are true because they are being presented with a show of pomp and authority at Times Square, raises obvious questions about the relation between money, education, and religion in America. Clearly, the academics who created this exhibit knew exactly what they were doing, and at 25 dollars per person, it’s safe to assume that the result will add up to a nice little profit…
Tags: Discovery Times Square , New York , NYC , Norman Golb , Holy Land , Judaism , Christianity , Religion , Exhibitions , Controversy
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