Jots & Tittles
Books of the liturgy used by priests and monks in Christian religious services—especially during the Middle Ages—contained more than rituals and texts. They are famed for their splendid illuminations, which include some of the most stunning paintings from that period (readers will be familiar with many examples used in our pages).
Ritual Splendor: Illuminated Liturgical Manuscripts, an exhibit at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California, explores the liturgy of the Middle Ages through 17 beautiful books. Manuscripts are grouped by theme, such as church activities, biblical stories and holy days. Books of liturgy emphasized religious experience for the faithful, illustrating in brilliant colors and shining gold the rituals worshipers shared and the stories they knew. Elizabeth Teviotdale, associate curator of manuscripts at the Getty Museum, notes, “These books … contributed to the visual splendor of religious rituals.”
Pictured above is the elevation of the Host, a key moment in Mass, taken from a late-14th-century work. The inset, which shows the Nativity, is from the Stammheim Missal, created in a German monastery in the late 12th century. In addition to images from Bible stories and liturgy, some manuscripts included miniatures to introduce feast days or to honor saints.
The manuscripts are on display until the beginning of May. For more information, visit www.getty.edu or call 310–440-7360.
Evolution Makes a Comeback in Kansas
The Kansas Board of Education voted 7 to 3 in February to reinstate evolution in statewide science standards, the guidelines for what public school students are taught and are tested on. The vote reverses a 6-to-4 decision by the board in August 1999 that left the teaching of evolution to the discretion of local school boards.
The 1999 vote focused national attention on Kansas (see Ronald S. Hendel, “Teaching Creation in Kansas,” BR 16:01). While that vote did not ban the teaching of evolution in the state’s public schools, as was widely reported, many worried that local school boards would avoid the subject for fear of offending conservative Christians. Also dropped from the science standards in 1999 were the big bang theory of the origin of the universe and the age of the universe.
The February reversal came about as a result of changes in the makeup of the school board. Two of the six members who had voted to remove evolution from the science standards failed to get reelected last fall, and a third resigned, leaving the antievolution bloc with only three members.
The new standards state, “Students will understand the major concepts of biological evolution.” A footnote adds, “‘Understand’ does not mandate ‘belief.’ While students may be required to understand some concepts that researchers use to conduct research and solve practical problems, they may accept or reject the scientific concepts 011presented. This applies particularly where students’ and/or parents’ religion is at odds with current scientific theories or concepts.”
The new standards also state, “Students will develop an understanding of the organization of the universe and its development” and go on to refer to the big bang theory and to the universe as billions of years old. The 1999 science standards, in contrast, had said, “The origin of the universe remains one of the greatest questions in science. Studies of data regarding fossils, geologic tables, [and] cosmological information are encouraged. But standards regarding origins are not mandated.”
Tests to be given this spring to fourth, seventh and tenth graders in Kansas public schools will be based on the new standards.
Though evolution has won a battle in Kansas, the war is not over. Similar debates over how evolution should be taught are currently raging in Pennsylvania and Alabama.
We Three Kings of Newark Are
Actually hailing from Puerto Rico, the wooden sculpture of the three wise men (below) probably looks familiar to BR readers: A very similar statue graced our
The sculpture shown here is featured—with nearly 45 other works—in an exhibit of Puerto Rican santos (as the sacred images are known) opening April 18 at the Newark Museum in New Jersey. Most of the sculptures in the exhibit, on loan from El Museo del Barrio in New York, were created by santeros—many of whom remain anonymous—in rural Puerto Rico.
And Speaking of Great Web Sites…
Forbes magazine has named the Biblical Archaeology Society’s Web site (www.bib-arch.org or www.biblereview.org) to its “Best of the Web” listing. The site serves as the digital home of BR and our sister magazines, Biblical Archaeology Review and Archaeology Odyssey. You can find selected articles from each of our publications on the site, together with numerous links to other sites of interest plus a Keep Reading section where you can learn more about the subjects covered in our articles.
Forbes selected several top sites in 33 categories. It singled out as the best feature of our site “Well-written and evocative articles, like Bible Review’s ‘King David, Serial Murderer,’” which appeared in our December 2000 issue.
Top 10 Religious Sites
No, they’re not pilgrimage sites, but they’ll still appeal to visitors of many faiths: These religious Web sites have received the highest praise from the Internet directory Galaxy. Galaxy rated the sites based on the depth of coverage, uniqueness of content, quality of writing, attractiveness, loading speed and navigability.
The Baha’i World www.bahai.org
Catholic Online www.catholic.org
The Hindu Universe www.hindunet.org
Medea’s Chariot—The Opinionated Pagan Research Center www.nexus.mnic.net/~rajchd
The Bible in the News
The Book of Ecclesiastes
In George W. Bush’s inaugural address, he quoted Ecclesiastes 9:11: “We know the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong.” What would the Preacher (a common, if imprecise, rendering of the Hebrew title, Qoheleth, “Assembler”) think of all this? As an experienced politician and astute observer of the world, he probably would not be surprised.
Nor should we be. Over the past decade or so, Ecclesiastes has earned an honorable place in the public rhetoric of the United States and beyond. The particular phrase Bush intoned has been deemed most appropriate for lofty occasions, such as an inauguration, or sad ones, such as the funerals of Pamela Harriman, the American ambassador to France, in February 1997, and Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown, in April 1996.
But this is not the most popular passage uttered by Qoheleth. That honor undoubtedly belongs to the poetic section in chapter three, introduced by the words, “For everything there is a season” (Ecclesiastes 3:1–8). So, for example, in January 1991, when President George Bush wanted to buttress his moral arguments in support of the Persian Gulf War, he declared to the National Religious Broadcasters Association: “We did not want war, but you all know the verse from Ecclesiastes: ‘There is a time for peace, a time for war.’” In August 1991 Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev quoted a neighboring verse while bidding goodbye to President Bush at the Kremlin: “To everything there is a season…a time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones together” (Ecclesiastes 3:5).
By far the most memorable—and moving—quotation of Ecclesiastes came during Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s address at the September 1993 signing of the Israel-PLO peace pact. He concluded his remarks by quoting Ecclesiastes 3:8: “A time to love, and a time to hate, a time of war and a time of peace.” He then declared, “Ladies and gentleman, the time for peace has come.”