An intellectual feast - A Conference in honour of Prof Samuel N.C.Lieu on his Retirement-Don't read if you don't like ideas

by fulltimestudent 13 Replies latest jw friends

  • fulltimestudent
    Half banana: FTS, enjoy your conference. Hearing the serious thinkers in the field of late classical knowledge is a joy. I heard a lecture last week from the academic Karen Armstrong, (she is extremely well informed and assiduous in presenting an accurate picture but still, I believe, leans towards a deist interpretation).
    Thnx for your good wishes! Many of the academics that I have come to know reasonably well, are believers. But their beliefs may not conform to orthodoxy.
    Perhaps there are more books about YHWH/Jesus than any other topic, but (aside from the true believers) there are many,many differing views about the development of belief in this deity.
    HB: I agree heartily on the matter of JW mistrust of proper disinterested scholars, they are the ones at the coal-face of reality not "Bible scholars" who have only one object in mind.

    I wasn't thinking only of Jws. Perhaps most 'true believers' distrust scholarship, and will accept biblical statements as 'truth' as evidence of their 'faith.'

    HB: To understand the true birth of christianity demands a knowledge of contemporary life and thought which involves knowledge of the many sects and pagan beliefs. Manicheanism was an important ingredient as was the big cover-up you mentioned once Roman Christianity had gained ascendancy.

    I agree.

    HB: Have you early textual references for this ?

    I suggest to you that its a matter of the starting point and the evidence for that starting point.

    If you see Judaism, the context for early Christianity as a unified, structured, coherent organisation (like a modern church organisation) - then you will likely also believe that early Christianity was a similar highly structured and organised social group.

    But were they? More, were the predecessors of the Judaism of early Christianity, also coherent organisations? Did everybody that lived in first temple Israel believe the same things?

    Did the peasant farmers have the same beliefs as the elites? Did the political elite (Military and its organisation and the King and his court administration) have the same beliefs as the religious elite (the priests who may have been factionalised) at lest on occasion?

    During the so-called Babylonian captivity, did the peasants etc, that stayed behind have the same beliefs as the elites who were taken to Babylon?

    We find some evidence that during the exile, the Jews absorbed some Zoroastrian beliefs like 'dualism' and that likely the Jews who remained behind in Babylon and never returned to second temple Judaism (in Jerusalem) moved on a somewhat different doctrinal trajectory to those who did return.

    If you start to question some of the 'accepted' views of the development of second temple Judaism, you may easily understand why Josephus could argue for three somewhat different (but related) religious groups (doctrinally) in saying that they were the Sadducees, Pharisees and Essenes. A close reading of the translated Dead Sea Scrolls indicates quite distinct differences when compared to the Pharisees, who were distinct again from the Sadducees. Were there still other groups? We dont know for sure, but can suspect that there were. It's often that Jews in Jesus time were expecting the Messiah. Who were these people? Were they organised? Were did they live? Did they talk to each other? If so, how? Did they meet in little groups? Were they connected in some way, outside of a shared belief?

    And in regard to these Messiah expectant Jews, did they all accept Jesus as the Messiah? What about those who had heard about the Messiah figure described in the Books of Enoch? And how did all these interact with the Essenes and any other group?

    Similarly, what about the early Christians? The WTS pictures them as a united organisation, but they may not have been so united, but rather existed as distinct groups but sharing a common (but not neccesarily identical) belief in Jesus. We can trace differences between Paul's group and James' group. How distinctly were they organised? Some scholars suggest that the people addressed in the John letters were another distinct group. Since the various books of the NT were not united into one canon for a few hundred years, there is really little evidence that all these groups of believers in Jesus shared more than a common belief in Jesus.

    Why not start somewhere there and using google scholar ( a search engine that focuses on scholarly research, see what you can find. If you live near a university you may be able to access the library for a fee. (Sydney uni charges $40 for 6 months). You are likely able to download for free many scholarly essays on topics of interest.

    Hoping that helps you on your way.

  • fulltimestudent
    styng: Do you think you could provide me with more info about what happened, including the program of the second day as I would be really interested to hear more.
    OK- here goes!
    Friday 27 November
    10.00-10.30 LYNDON ARDEN-WONG (Macquarie University)
    Manichaean architecture and the Eastern Uighur
    Chair: Gunner Mikkelsen
    Lyndon is interested in the archaeology of the Steppe people and in this paper looked at certain sites and what we can learn from the remains of certain sites that he has been visiting and has worked on. These remains tell us who may have been the main influences via the architectural details that have been found. To generalise, I think that the influences may have been mixed. As you would expect, the further east you go, the more likely to find Chinese influence and so on.
    10.30-11.15 ROSS BURNS (Macquarie University)
    The Lost Monuments of Syria—The path of destruction
    at Palmyra and Aleppo
    Chair: Peter Edwell
    I intend to post later on Professor Burn's talk.
    11.15-12.00 BRONWEN NEIL (Australian Catholic University)
    Studying dream interpretation from early Christianity to
    early Islam
    Chair: Paul McKechnie.
    Bronwen spoke about the use of dream manuals which offered some common definitions to explain dreams and their use in both early Christianity and early Islam. and later medieval dream literature. Interesting topic from the viewpoint that the dreams/visions of certain people are still considered by some to be authorative.

    12.00-13.00 Lunch
    13.00-14.00 ROGER SCOTT (University of Melbourne)
    Malalas and Justinian’s New Age
    Chair: Danijel Dzino
    14.00-15.00 JANE CHAPMAN (University of Lincoln)
    Continuities in Anzac tradition from Gallipoli to 1931:
    the ‘Aussie’
    Chair: Martina Möllering
    Jane Chapman's contribution can hardly be called Ancient History. But one of Sam Lieu's interests was the archaeology of Gallipoli and the failed invasion of what is now Turkey by Allied forces during WW1. Jane discussed the war-time (and post-war) influence of so-called 'trench' newspapers. These often had what you could call a 'morale' building function during the war.
    15.00 Concluding words
    Jane Chapman's contribution can hardly be called Ancient History. But one of Sam Lieu's interests was the archaeology of Gallipoli and the failed invasion of what is now Turkey by Allied forces during WW1. Jane discussed the war-time (and post-war) influence of so-called 'trench' newspapers. These often had what you could call a 'morale' building function during the war.
  • Florence

    I just stumbled across this post on google. How fascinating!

    The Uighurs Empire was the only polity to pursue Manichaeaism as a state sponsored religion. Regarding Arden-Wong's paper, would you know if he gave any specifics in relation to Manichaean architecture? As far as I'm aware, there have been no confirmed discoveries of explicit Manichaean architecture (unladen from later Buddhist development). A quick look at his page shows that he had been working with the DAI on their excavations of Karabalgasun - the capital of the Uighur Empire. Arden-Wong's insights and experience on this matter could be illuminating. Unfortunately he hasn't uploaded his paper on Manichaean architecture yet.

    Your observation that the further east one travels the more Chinese the architecture becomes makes perfect sense, although it is well-known that the Sogdians played a significant part in the development of the Uighur Empire (and other Turkic states). Moreover, the Uighurs held sway over large tracts of Central Asia at certain periods. Arden-Wong's other papers overwhelmingly point to the clear use of Chinese architecture, but also indicate the use of a hybrid-Central Asian method. I trust Arden-Wong would have given a reasonable explanation for the tendency of the Uighurs to employ Chinese-style architecture? I know it was some time ago, but would you happen to remember his reasoning?

  • fulltimestudent

    Hi Florence,

    First, the remark, "that the further east one travels, the more Chinese the architecture becomes...etc," was not miy comment, but part of Gunner Mikkelsen's introduction to Lyndon's talk.

    Second, in my recollections (possibly influenced by other conversations with Lyndon) he was focused on what was actually recovered at any site. From that perspective, his conclusions would have been 'evidence based.'

    Thirdly, regarding the extent of Chinese cultural influence (including building techniques), Chinese cultural influence extended to areas outside Chinese political influence (e.g. Japan, Korea, and Vietnam and the so-called Northern dynasties). A similar process occurs in the contemporary world, where the cultural influence of the USA (for better or worse) extends far beyond the political boundaries of the USA. (With American troops based in some 75 other nations and 900 odd overseas bases it has become somewhat difficult to define even political boundaries.) The cultural influences can be observed everywhere.

    Finally, I've always found Lyndon approachable. While he's likely a busy guy (family (new), work, sport (cricket) and archaeologically) I'm sure he would at least offer brief comments on your questions.

    I might add that Gunner Mikkelson has a deep interest and knowledge concerning Manicheanism. He is still on MU staff and you will find his email address in MU's A.H. staff list.

    For myself, I retain A.H.interests, mainly centred on the Asian interconnection of knowledge, and when I graduate will have (by accident) a major in A.H. and a minor in Japanese studies. But my academic interests lie more in contemporary events in Asia, focusing on the amazing re-organisation of The People's Republic of China. Historians seldom live through the reality of such a sea change in political power.


    Other Points.

    1. Are you aware of what is sometimes described as the 'last' Manichean temple in the world, located in the city of Quanzhou, Fujian Province, PRC. I've tried twice to visit it, but there were floods in the south, so I did not try. The building has been renovated, and I believe it is in an ornate Chinese style. That work was done quite a while ago and I think indicates some official's viewpoint. Contemporary Chinese archaeologists are now very professional, so I have hope that one day the city will renovate in a much more historically sympathetic style. The building is currently used by Buddhists (or so I understand).

    Quanzhou also has a good Maritime museum as Quanzhou was once a busy trading port.

    Macquarie U, staff have visited the temple and you can read of it at:

    There is also a good academic book (2011) on the remains, a review can be found at:

    I think overall, we can see the Manicheans (despite some weird ideas) as a rather dynamic group that "filled the world" with their preaching, and gave more orthodox Christians a run for their money (grin).

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