Monday, September 26, 2011

Dead Sea Scrolls are Available Online

Today is the great day for all the history lovers and those who are interesting in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and multiple congregations and sects, basing their religious beliefs on the concepts of Monotheism. In a joint effort by Israel's national museum and Google, the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea scrolls, previously only available to a small group of scholars, have been made available online.

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Five of the most important Dead Sea Scrolls will now be available to the digital public: the biblical Book of Isaiah, the manuscript known as the Temple Scroll, and three others. Visitors are also able to search the ancient texts at the Digital Dead Sea Scrolls website.

The scrolls offer critical insight into customs and religion of ancient Israelis, including information on the birth of Christianity. The sacred texts include the oldest written record of the Old Testament ever found.

The Scrolls are for the most part, written in Hebrew, but there are many written in Aramaic. Aramaic was the common language of the Jews of Palestine for the last two centuries B.C. and of the first two centuries A.D. The discovery of the Scrolls has greatly enhanced our knowledge of these two languages. In addition, there are a few texts written in Greek. The scrolls are most commonly made of animal skins, but also papyrus and one of copper. They are written with a carbon-based ink, from right to left, using no punctuation except for an occasional paragraph indentation. In fact, in some cases, there are not even spaces between the words.

Written between the third and first centuries BCE, the Dead Sea Scrolls include the oldest known biblical manuscripts in existence, according to Google's press release. They were hidden in 11 caves in the Judean desert on the shores of the Dead Sea, around 68 BCE. The owners of the texts apparently wanted to protect the scrolls from approaching Roman armies.

"This partnership with The Israel Museum, Jerusalem is part of our larger effort to bring important cultural and historical collections online," Google's spokesperson wrote in the press release. "We are thrilled to have been able to help this project through hosting on Google Storage and App Engine, helping design the web experience and making it searchable and accessible to the world."

How they were found?

In the spring of 1947 Bedouin goat-herds, searching the cliffs along the Dead Sea for a lost goat (or for treasure, depending on who is telling the story), came upon a cave containing jars filled with manuscripts. That find caused a sensation when it was released to the world, and continues to fascinate the scholarly community and the public to this day. 

The first discoveries came to the attention of scholars in 1948, when seven of the scrolls were sold by the Bedouin to a cobbler and antiquities dealer called Kando. He in turn sold three of the scrolls to Eleazar L. Sukenik of Hebrew University, and four to Metropolitan Mar Athanasius Yeshue Samuel of the Syrian Orthodox monastery of St. Mark. Mar Athanasius in turn brought his four to the American School of Oriental Research, where they came to the attention of American and European scholars.

It was not until 1949 that the site of the find was identified as the cave now known as Qumran Cave 1. It was that identification that led to further explorations and excavations of the area of Khirbet Qumran. Further search of Cave 1 revealed archaeological finds of pottery, cloth and wood, as well as a number of additional manuscript fragments. It was these discoveries that proved decisively that the scrolls were indeed ancient and authentic.

Between 1949 and 1956, in what became a race between the Bedouin and the archaeologists, ten additional caves were found in the hills around Qumran, caves that yielded several more scrolls, as well as thousands of fragments of scrolls: the remnants of more than 15,000 Dead Sea Scrolls, written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek between 150 BC and 70 AD. They are between 800-1,000 years older than previously known manuscripts.

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The scrolls include the oldest known biblical manuscripts in existence, religious manuscripts not included in the Bible and documents that describe daily Jewish life in the land of Israel during the time of the Second Temple Period, and the birth of Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism.

The manuscripts span a time when the Holy Land was under Greek rule and then the Roman, whose soldiers destroyed the Jews' Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. to quash a rebellion. All that remains of the temple today is the Western Wall.

Major Discoveries

We will just mention 12 amazing facts that make this amazing discovery a breakthrough point for historians and religious scholars:
  1. The Scrolls can be divided into two categories—biblical and non-biblical. Fragments of every book of the Hebrew canon (Old Testament) have been discovered except for the book of Esther.
  2. There are now identified among the scrolls, 19 copies of the Book of Isaiah, 25 copies of Deuteronomy and 30 copies of the Psalms.
  3. Prophecies by Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Daniel not found in the Bible are written in the Scrolls.
  4. The Isaiah Scroll, found relatively intact, is 1000 years older than any previously known copy of Isaiah. In fact, the scrolls are the oldest group of Old Testament manuscripts ever found.
  5. In the Scrolls are found never before seen psalms attributed to King David and Joshua.
  6. There are non-biblical writings along the order of commentaries on the OT, paraphrases that expand on the Law, rule books of the community, war conduct, thanksgiving psalms, hymnic compositions, benedictions, liturgical texts, and sapiential (wisdom) writings.
  7. The Scrolls appear to be the library of a Jewish sect - Essenes. The library was hidden away in caves around the outbreak of the First Jewish Revolt (A.D. 66-70) as the Roman army advanced against the rebel Jews. The Essenes are mentioned by Josephus and in a few other sources, but not in the New Testament. The Essenes were a strict Torah observant, Messianic, apocalyptic, baptist, wilderness, new covenant Jewish sect. They were led by a priest they called the "Teacher of Righteousness," who was opposed and possibly killed by the establishment priesthood in Jerusalem. The enemies of the Qumran community were called the "Sons of Darkness"; they called themselves the "Sons of Light," "the poor," and members of "the Way." They thought of themselves as "the holy ones," who lived in "the house of holiness," because "the Holy Spirit" dwelt with them.
  8. The last words of Joseph, Judah, Levi, Naphtali, and Amram (the father of Moses) are written down in the Scrolls. 
  9. One of the most curious scrolls is the Copper Scroll. Discovered in Cave 3, this scroll records a list of 64 underground hiding places throughout the land of Israel. The deposits are to contain certain amounts of gold, silver, aromatics, and manuscripts. These are believed to be treasures from the Temple at Jerusalem, that were hidden away for safekeeping.
  10. The scrolls contain previously unknown stories about biblical figures such as Enoch, Abraham, and Noah. The story of Abraham includes an explanation why God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac.
  11. The Scrolls have revolutionized textual criticism of the Old Testament. Interestingly, now with manuscripts predating the medieval period, we find these texts in substantial agreement with the Masoretic text as well as widely variant forms. 
  12.  The Dead Sea Scrolls enhance our knowledge of both Judaism and Christianity. They represent a non-rabbinic form of Judaism and provide a wealth of comparative material for New Testament scholars, including many important parallels to the Jesus movement. They show Christianity to be rooted in Judaism and have been called the evolutionary link between the two. 

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Monday, September 5, 2011

Ludwig Van Beethoven Love Letter: Immortal Beloved

This post is a follow-up to the previous publication on some interesting facts from Ludwig Van Beethoven life. One of the reader of this blog sent inquiry related to the noted mysterious fact from the Beethoven biography, related to his love letter written to unknown addressee, Immortal Beloved. While there is no definite answer from historians, who this woman was, I would like to give some insights on the topic.

Immortal Beloved Letters

The Immortal Beloved (German Unsterbliche Geliebte) is the mysterious addressee of a love letter which composer Ludwig van Beethoven wrote on 6-7 July, 1812 in Teplitz. The apparently unsent letter was in found in the composer's estate after his death, after which it remained in the hands of Anton Schindler until his death, was subsequently willed to his sister, and was sold by her in 1880 to the Berlin State Library, where it remains today. The letter is written in pencil and consists of three parts.

The sole documentary evidence for the "Immortal Beloved" is a soul-searching and impassioned letter Beethoven wrote in the Bohemian spa of Teplitz on 6/7 July 1812 (though the year and place are not given) addressed to an unnamed woman whom he must have met on 3 July 1812 in Prague. The wording of the letter suggests an existing love relationship of long standing. Since Beethoven did not specify a year, nor a location, an exact dating of the letter and identification of the addressee was speculative until the 1950's, when an analysis of the paper's watermark yielded the year, and by extension the place. Scholars have since this time been divided on the intended recipient of the Immortal Beloved letter. The two candidates favored most by contemporary scholars are Antonie Brentano and Josephine Brunsvik. Other candidates who have been conjectured, with various degrees of mainstream scholarly support, are Julie ("Giulietta") Guicciardi, Thérèse von Brunswick, Anna-Marie Erdödy, and Bettina Brentano, among several others.

The 1994 film Immortal Beloved has a fictional plot centered on the mystery of who the letter was addressed to, ultimately declaring Beethoven's lover to be his sister-in-law Johanna van Beethoven.

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Text of the Letter

Part 1

July 6th, in the morning
My angel, my all, my very self. - Only a few words today, and, what is more, written in pencil (and with your pencil)-I shan't be certain of my rooms here until tomorrow; what an unnecessary waste of time is all this--Why this profound sorrow, when necessity speaks--can our love endure without sacrifices, without our demanding everything from one another, can you alter the fact that you are not wholly mine, that I am not wholly yours?--Dear God, look at Nature in all her beauty and set your heart at rest about what must be--Love demands all, and rightly so, and thus it is for me with you, for you with me-- but you forget so easily that I must live for me and for you; if we were completely united, you would fee this painful necessity just as little as I do--My journey was dreadful and I did not arrive here until yesterday at four o'clock in the morning. As there were few horses the mail coach chose another route, but what a dreadful road it was; at the last state but one I was warned not to travel by night; attempts were made to frighten me about a forest, but all this only spurred me on to proceed--and it was wrong of me to do so.. The coach broke down, of course, owing to the dreadful road which had not been made up and was nothing but a country track. If we hadn't had those two postillions I should have been left stranded on the way--On the other ordinary road Esterhazy with eight horses met with the same fate as I did with four--Yet I felt to a certain extent that pleasure I always feel when I have overcome some difficulty successfully--Well, let me turn quickly from outer to inner experiences. No doubt we shall meet soon; and today also time fails me to tell you of the thoughts which during these last few days I have been revolving about my life--If our hearts were always closely united, I would certainly entertain no such thoughts. My hear overflows with a longing to tell you so many things--Oh--there are moments when I find that speech is quite inadequate--Be cheerful-- and be for ever my faithful, my only sweetheart, my all, as I am yours. The gods must send us everything else, whatever must and shall be our fate--
Your faithful Ludwig

Part 2

Monday evening, July 6th
You are suffering, you, my most precious one--I have noticed the very moment that letters have to be handed in very early, on Monday--or on Thursday--the only days when the mail coach goes from here to K[arlsbad].--You are suffering--Oh, where I am, you are with me--I will see to it that you and I, that I can live with you. What a life!!!! as it is now!!!! without you--pursued by the kindness of people here and there, a kindness that I think-that I wish to deserve just as little as I deserve it--man's homage to man--that pains me--and when I consider myself in the setting of the universe, what I am and what is the man--whom one calls the greatest of me--and yet--on the other hand therein lies the divine element in man==I weep when I think that probably you will not receive the first news of me until Saturday--However much you love me--good night--Since I am taking the baths I must get off to sleep--Dear God--so near! so far! Is not our love truly founded in heaven--and, what is more, as strongly cemented as the firmament of Heaven?—

Part 3

Good morning, on July 7th
Even when I am in bed my thoughts rush to you, my eternally beloved, now and then joyfully, then again sadly, waiting to know whether Fate will hear our prayer--To face life I must live altogether with you or never see you. Yes, I am resolved to be a wanderer abroad until I can fly to your arms and say that I have found my true home with you and enfolded in your arms can let my soul be wafted to the realm on blessed spirits--alas, unfortunately it must be so--You will become composed, the more so as you know that I am faithful to you; no other woman can ever possess my heart--never--never--Oh God, why must one be separated from her who is so dear. Yet my life in V[ienna] at present is a miserable life--Your love has made me both the happiest and the unhappiest of mortals--At my age I now need stability and regularity in my life--can this coexist with our relationship?--Angel, I have just heard that the post goes every day--and therefore I must close, so that you may receive the letter immediately--Be calm; for only by calmly considering our lives can we achieve our purpose to live together--Be calm--love me--Today--yesterday--what tearful longing for you--for you--you--my life--my all--all good wishes to you--Oh, do continue to love me--never misjudge your lover's most faithful heart.
ever yours
ever mine
ever ours

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Antonie Brentano (von Birkenstock)

Antonie Brentano was the daughter of Johann-Melchior von Birkenstock. She was born in Vienna on May 28, 1780, thus 10 years younger than Beethoven. She underwent education with the Ursuline order in Pressburg.
On July 23, 1798 she married the Frankfurt merchant Franz Brentano, 15 years her senior. Her first child was born in 1799 but died a year later. She then had four surviving children. Maynard Solomon states in his research that her marriage was seemingly unhappy one.

Antonie's husband, Frankfurt banker Franz Brentano, became a close friend of Beethoven during the family's short stay in Vienna, and his half-sister, Bettina von Arnim née Brentano, may have introduced them in 1810. After moving with her husband to Frankfurt (after their wedding in 1798), Antonie had returned to Vienna to minister to her dying father and remained for two years afterwards to settle his estate, during which time the Brentanos' friendship with Beethoven was established.

The Brentano's remained in Vienna until late in 1812 - she didn't like Frankfurt much and was ill most of the time. During her illnesses Beethoven would often play the piano for her. The Immortal Beloved letters were written at a time when it was evident that she would be leaving Vienna. After her departure at the end of 1812 she and Beethoven never met again. Antonie Brentano died in 1869 at the age of 89.

Maynard Solomon suggested that Antonie Brentano might have been the "Immortal Beloved" in his research:
She must be a woman well known to Beethoven in Vienna; she must have been in Prague in the first week of July 1812; and she must have been in the Bohemian spa town of Karlsbad in the weeks following.

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There is an indirect fact, supporting the Somolon’s theory of Antonie Brentano been the woman, Beethoven addressed these love letter. There is a diary entry in 1812 on the subject: “Submission, the most devout submission to your fate, only this can give you the (self-) sacrifice -- for your obligation.  O hard struggle!...  You must not be a man, not for yourself, only for others.  For you there is no more happiness except in yourself, in your art. -- O God, give me the strength to conquer myself; nothing must chain me to life.  In this way with A. everything goes to ruin.”  Whether the “A.” is indeed Antonie (it is not clearly an “A’), the important thing here is that Beethoven is feeling rueful after another relationship, perhaps his most intense yet, has gone adrift, but he is rationalizing this as the price he has to pay for his composing.  Some years later, he would dedicate the Diabelli Variations (opus 120) to Antonie. There is evidence he intended dedicating his two final Piano Sonatas Opp 110 & 111 to her. There is also a possibility that he wrote his song cycle, An die ferne Geliebte [To the Distant Beloved], with her in mind.

On learning of Beethoven's death, Antonie began noting down the names of her friends who had died. By the end of her long life the list ran to many pages. The first entry read: "Beethoven, 26 March 1827".

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Thursday, September 1, 2011

23 Interesting Facts about Beethoven

Many Google searches came for Beethoven today, bringing this search string to the prominent top-ten list. I hope, that most of the people were looking for reference to the famous classical composer, rather than to the cute dog, named on his honor.

Ludwig van Beethoven definitely deserves the public interest, as he was among the most influential, creative and powerful musicians in the history has ever known. This German composer and pianist has produced some classical pieces of work in the field of music, which includes many symphonies, an opera, concerti, piano sonatas, etc. Beethoven was a legend recognized for his great music, also as his temper!  In this post, I would like to bring to your attention some interesting and not widely known facts of his life and career. As any genius, he was also a human being with his feelings, fears, desires, and love stories.

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1.       Born in Germany on December 16th, 1770, Beethoven was the eldest of 7 siblings, 4 of whom passed away during childhood.
2.       Beethoven’s earliest music instructions were the piano lessons his father started to give him when he was four or five years old. Some researchers claim that Beethoven suffered substantial abuse by her father to practice music to the extreme. Some also believe he was the victim of sexual abuse. There are opinions that his music expresses anger later in life at the mistreatment suffered by the victim.
3.       His first public performance came at the age of seven on 26th March 1778. Interestingly, 26th March was the same date when Beethoven died. While delivering his first performance in Cologne, Beethoven’s father announced him to be six years old. It was due to this declaration that he always thought himself to be 1½ years younger than his real age. It was only years later when he received his baptism certificate did he learn about his real age. He assumed it to be his elder brother’s certificate, who died in childhood.
4.       It is rumored that as a young man, another very famous musician—Mozart, heard Beethoven’s playing. He made a comment about the young man, and that Beethoven’s career should be watched for his genius. Mozart seemingly passed on the torch for being the most famous musicians in the world to the young Beethoven, and their meeting may have very well inspired Beethoven to work hard to achieve greatness.
5.       Beethoven was lucky to learn music under the guidance of well-known musicians, like Gottlob Neefe, Joseph Haydn, Albrechtsberger, Salieri and the celebrated Mozart.
6.       It was in 1782 at the young age of 12 when Beethoven published his first composition. It was a set of keyboard variations that eventually declared him as one of the popular piano players in history.

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7.       He moved to Vienna in 1792 where he met the prominent Austrian composer Joseph Haydn and studied piano under him. This earned him the reputation of a virtuoso pianist in no time.
8.       Beethoven is known for composing 9 symphonies, 7 concertos, 17 string quartets, 32 piano sonatas, and 10 violin sonatas, 5 cello sonatas, a sonata for French horn.
9.       Beethoven was one of the first musicians to be given annual grant of 4000 florins, just because the people didn't want him to leave Vienna.
10.    Beethoven wrote three love letters to an “Immortal Beloved”, the mystery of which remains unsolved till date. Since he fell in love with many women, biographers are unable to figure out the woman behind this entire eccentric puzzle. Some researchers believe her to be one of three different women. Each of the three women went on to marry other men, but they are believed to have been loved and lost by Beethoven.
11.    Beethoven did not have any children, but he formed an attachment to one of his nephews, and he even won custody of him after his brother’s death. The nephew did not grow up to be a musician like his uncle, and he seemed to have been spoiled by his famous uncle.
12.    During his entire lifetime, Beethoven wrote just one opera titled Fidelio which is still considered to be one of the classical and prominent pieces of art.
13.    His musical life was divided into three major periods. It was during the second period, popularly known as the “Heroic” period, when he struggled a lot and attained heroism. Even his renowned Fifth Symphony was one of the masterpieces composed during this period.
14.    Around 1796, Beethoven started having hearing problems. What started as an annoying ringing sensation worsened and transformed into a severe ailment called tinnitus. And by 1816, he had completely lost his hearing and became deaf.
15.    Despite losing his hearing powers, Beethoven continued to compose, conduct, and perform. He used a special rod on his piano sound board which he used to bite as it helped him determine the sound through the vibrations that traveled from the piano to his jaw. He also sawed off the legs of his piano. This has allowed him to compose music by feeling the vibrations from the floor.
16.    Strangely, Beethoven poured lots of ice water on his head whenever he sat down to compose music.
17.    Beethoven constantly put 60 coffee beans in his cup of coffee. No wonder where he got all that energy from!
18.    Beethoven was also known for his poor temper. The truth is, he would stop performing to his audiences if he felt that they were talking too much or not giving him proper attention. It is also known that Beethoven once threw a plate full of food at a waiter because he wasn’t happy with his service.
19.    Beethoven spent most of his time composing music. At one occasion, he was arrested by the police as his clothes and hair were so messy that the police thought he was some homeless tramp.

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20.    Beethoven’s final masterpiece is an ironic one. He suffered at the hands of his violently alcoholic father while growing up, and then his progressive and eventually complete deafness cut his spirits in his adult life. And yet, he was able to compose the Ninth Symphony and its “Ode to Joy,” arguably one of the most beautiful compositions in history.
21.    Unlike Mozart, who was buried in a common grave (as was the custom at the time), 20,000 Viennese citizens lined the streets at Beethoven’s funeral on 29 March 1827. The funeral procession was one of the most impressive Vienna had. Franz Schubert, a great Beethoven admirer, was one of the grave bearers and died in the following year. He was buried next to Beethoven.

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22.    In August 1845, Beethoven's monument at Bonn was unveiled, which also happened to be the first monument of a composer that was created in Germany.
23.    Beethoven is acknowledged as one of the giants of classical music; occasionally he is referred to as one of the "three Bs" (along with Bach and Brahms) who epitomize that tradition. However,
many musicians and music critics – including Beethoven’s one-time teacher, Joseph Haydn—actually feared Beethoven’s work at the time because it relied so much on passion rather than the mathematically precise nature consistent with the Classical style of the age.

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