It was an interesting week in blog-land. After posting a rather tongue-in-cheek account of my visit to a Christmas event at the Mormon Temple in Washington, D.C., I got more heated comments than I’ve seen since 2000, when I endorsed the South Carolina senate’s vote to remove the Confederate flag from the state capitol grounds, and got flamed by zealous and angry members of the Sons of the Confederacy.
The Mormons were much nicer than the Sons of the Confederacy, I must say, though I doubt any of them regularly read my blog. News clipping services can pick up most anything published on a given subject, and apparently a number of Mormons like to keep up with what others say about them. Given the apparent level of sensitivity to my benign observations, I’m surprised that busloads of Mormons haven’t launched major street protests in New York City, where the hit musical The Book of Mormon demonstrates just how obscene, sacreligious, and disrespectful of a religion one can be.
Of course, Baptist journalists are accustomed to criticism, and I appreciated the responses, most of which sought to correct perceived misunderstandings. At least none of them pronounced a curse on me, as some anonymous person did about 1,700 years ago, after taking offense at a certain vegetable salesman.
The curse, written on a thin lead tablet that was discovered in the 1930s but only recently translated, was published in Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik. Not that I take that journal, you understand. But the online publication LiveScience.com offered a brief summary of the curse, which calls on “Iao” (the Greek spelling of “Yahweh,” a personal name for God revealed in the Book of Exodus) to curse a certain Babylas, who is identified as a greengrocer.
The curse calls on imagery of the Exodus, which may or may not indicate that the person who recorded the curse and then dropped it in a well was Jewish. In part, it reads:
“O thunder-and-lightning-hurling Iao, strike, bind, bind together Babylas the greengrocer.”
“As you struck the chariot of Pharaoh, so strike his [Babylas’] offensiveness.”
Another line gets even more serious: “O thunder—and-lightning-hurling Iao, as you cut down the firstborn of Egypt, cut down his [livestock?] as much as…”
What follows is broken, so we don’t know the full extent of the curse, or whether it proved effective in cutting down either Babylas or his business.
Thankfully, it’s not the season for curses, though I suspect some will be uttered by parents trying to assemble particularly tricky children’s toys over the next few days. It’s not the season of curses, but of Christmas, and I wish all our readers a joyful and meaningful holiday season.
[Image from LiveScience.com]
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.