Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

…this is true, it could potentially constitute an extremely important find. If not, well, nothing’s changed. The BBC reports:

They could be the earliest Christian writing in existence, surviving almost 2,000 years in a Jordanian cave. They could, just possibly, change our understanding of how Jesus was crucified and resurrected, and how Christianity was born.

A group of 70 or so “books”, each with between five and 15 lead leaves bound by lead rings, was apparently discovered in a remote arid valley in northern Jordan somewhere between 2005 and 2007.

A flash flood had exposed two niches inside the cave, one of them marked with a menorah or candlestick, the ancient Jewish religious symbol.

A Jordanian Bedouin opened these plugs, and what he found inside might constitute extremely rare relics of early Christianity.

The director of the Jordan’s Department of Antiquities, Ziad al-Saad, says the books might have been made by followers of Jesus in the few decades immediately following his crucifixion.

“They will really match, and perhaps be more significant than, the Dead Sea Scrolls,” says Mr Saad.

“Maybe it will lead to further interpretation and authenticity checks of the material, but the initial information is very encouraging, and it seems that we are looking at a very important and significant discovery, maybe the most important discovery in the history of archaeology.”

Read it all. The reporting is not stellar–for instance, the article refers to the expression “I shall walk uprightly” as being in the Book of Revelation, which it isn’t–and I don’t quite get the significance of some of the stuff that is being trumpeted. For instance:

One of the few people to see the collection is David Elkington, a scholar of ancient religious archaeology who is heading a British team trying to get the lead books safely into a Jordanian museum.

Mr Elkington says the relics feature signs that early Christians would have interpreted as indicating Jesus, shown side-by-side with others they would have regarded as representing the presence of God.

“It’s talking about the coming of the messiah,” he says.

“In the upper square [of one of the book covers] we have the seven-branch menorah, which Jews were utterly forbidden to represent because it resided in the holiest place in the Temple in the presence of God.

“So we have the coming of the messiah to approach the holy of holies, in other words to get legitimacy from God.”

I’ve never heard of an association between the menorah and the Messiah, and the prohibition on depicting the menorah only came about after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD, so the issue of dating for these books becomes crucial for this claim. Anyway, we’ll all have to wait and see what the experts come up with, and especially for the books to be translated (they could contain nothing more fascinating than Mrs. Moskowitz’s recipe for latkas). But the potential for something earth-shaking is there.

(Via Stand Firm.)

Last month I started teaching chess at an elementary school in Fairfax County as a way to connect to kids and their parents in a non-traditional church setting as well as passing along love for a game I’ve played since I was six. USA Today has an article on the growing movement to teach chess to children, and the difference that can make in young lives:

SCOTCH PLAINS, N.J. — Quiet, please The second- and third-graders at McGinn Elementary School are playing chess, which means they’re concentrating, which means they shouldn’t be interrupted.

Even so, Wendi Fischer can’t resist giving a compliment. “You’re really using your brain to think instead of your mouths,” she tells students as she walks from class to class.

Fischer, executive director of America’s Foundation for Chess, has become a celebrity among the elementary school set. Kids know her as the Chess Lady, the tiara-wearing medieval queen who hosts the chess lessons they watch each week on DVD. Although chess has long been a staple of after-school programs, the foundation aspires to bring chess into more classrooms through First Move.

The foundation, based in Bellevue, Wash., aims to expand First Move nationally and beyond. Launched in the 2004-05 academic year in 11 Seattle-area schools, the program last year reached more than 50,000 students in nearly 2,000 classrooms across 27 states, mostly by word of mouth. In 2008, Idaho became the first state to encourage public schools statewide to use the game as part of their curricula in second and third grades, and Maryland’s Senate education committee this month considered a similar proposal for its public schools. First Move can be found in Antigua, Kenya, Canada and Mexico, and Fischer’s group has been in talks with the education ministries of Norway and Denmark.

While First Move doesn’t claim to improve students’ test scores, some researchers have found chess can improve academic performance. A 1993 study, for example, found that a group of students in the New York program scored significantly higher on reading tests than a control group.

Fischer is not related to Bobby Fischer (nor am I, for those of you wondering–I used to get that all the time from opponents at tournaments), but has an obvious love for the game and for kids that shows up in this video:


Have chess in your local schools? No? Then how about contacting America’s Foundation for Chess here, and see what the Chess Lady can do for you.