Ancient Book of Psalms Discovered in Ireland

SHAWN POGATCHNIK, Associated Press Writer July 31, 2006

Irish archaeologists Tuesday heralded the discovery of an ancient book of psalms by a construction worker who spotted something while driving the shovel of his backhoe into a bog.

The approximately 20-page book has been dated to the years 800-1000. Trinity College manuscripts expert Bernard Meehan said it was the first discovery of an Irish early medieval document in two centuries.

“This is really a miracle find,” said Pat Wallace, director of the National Museum of Ireland, which has the book stored in refrigeration and facing years of painstaking analysis before being put on public display.

“There’s two sets of odds that make this discovery really way out. First of all, it’s unlikely that something this fragile could survive buried in a bog at all, and then for it to be unearthed and spotted before it was destroyed is incalculably more amazing.”

He said an engineer was digging up bogland last week to create commercial potting soil somewhere in Ireland’s midlands when, “just beyond the bucket of his bulldozer, he spotted something.” Wallace would not specify where the book was found because a team of archaeologists is still exploring the site.

“The owner of the bog has had dealings with us in past and is very much in favor of archaeological discovery and reporting it,” Wallace said.

Crucially, he said, the bog owner covered up the book with damp soil. Had it been left exposed overnight, he said, “it could have dried out and just vanished, blown away.”

The book was found open to a page describing, in Latin script, Psalm 83, in which God hears complaints of other nations’ attempts to wipe out the name of Israel.

Wallace said several experts spent Tuesday analyzing only that page ” — the number of letters on each line, lines on each page, size of page —” and the book’s binding and cover, which he described as “leather velum, very thick wallet in appearance.”

It could take months of study, he said, just to identify the safest way to pry open the pages without damaging or destroying them. He ruled out the use of X-rays to investigate without moving the pages.

Ireland already has several other holy books from the early medieval period, including the ornately illustrated Book of Kells, which has been on display at Trinity College in Dublin since the 19th century.


68 thoughts on “Ancient Book of Psalms Discovered in Ireland”

  1. Dean, as an Orthodox you should understand better that what one beliefs about God has consequences in how one acts in the world. Islam reacts violently, agressively, coerceively because they believe as Missourian described. The belief she describes is common to Islam, described in the Koran, it is not an abberation.

    Pat Robertson acts as he does because he beliefs in a God that is wrathful. To that degree they are alike. Fortunately, Pat Robertson’s belief, while shared by many who profess to be Christian is not normative and is not the God described in the Gospels.

    You consistently want to operate on the level of feelings people have as if those feelings are empirical realities, not the product of a pre-existing orientation to the world, operative conditioning, and fundamental belief.

  2. Note 49. Dean writes:

    Christopher: You asked the right question. Namely, does radical Islam reflect the true intentions and agenda of the entire Muslim faith, or is it a variant? My impression is the later, yours seems to be the former.

    A better question would be: Of all Muslims, how many are radical terrorists? Then the next question would be: How many non-terrorists support the terrorists? The final question would be: Does Muslim teaching provide any avenue for moderation? If not, the rise of a moderate political class is functionally impossible.

    In terms of Jihad and the goal of Islamicizing the globe, there are no “variants” since the principles are drawn directly in the Koran. And since the Koran is the direct voice of God, moderation of the teaching of Islamic hegemony would be considered heresy. The only voices I have heard criticizing Muslim militantism are either converts to Christianity or secularized former Muslims.

    This is not to say that all Muslims are militant Jihadists but that no mechanism exists for any internal moderation.

  3. Note 51. Michael writes:

    You consistently want to operate on the level of feelings people have as if those feelings are empirical realities, not the product of a pre-existing orientation to the world, operative conditioning, and fundamental belief.

    Michael is writing to Dean, but my comments are not directed to Dean.

    Vigan Guroian has an excellent chapter in his latest book Rallying The Really Human Things: Moral Imagination In Politics Literature & Everyday Lif * on this way of thinking. He argues sentiment (that place between feeling and thinking) is how many people operate today. (Think of Oprah and how the things she says seem to make sense but on deeper reflection are empty of any real meaning.) Sentiment replaces thinking.

    Of course, ideas underlie the sentiment, but no longer recognizing the primacy of ideas in moving events, sentimentalists are blind to the ideas that move them. This leaves them vulnerable in all sorts of ways, including manipulation. (It’s one of the reasons liberals don’t believe real evil exists.)

    “We need a rally of the really human things; will which is morals, memory which is tradition, culture which is the mental thrift of the fathers.” G. K. Chesterton.

  4. To put it another way, most people today confuse cause and effect. Feelings are not the cause of anything, they are an effect.

    Oppression is not the cause of anything.

    Poverty is not the cause of anything.

    All of these are the result of people denying both our own true humanity (a person in the image of God, steward and microcosom of the creation, made to be in loving communion with God), and the humanity of others. We are made to exercise dominion in obediance to the Will of God. Since God is not capricious, neither should be our dominion. The earthly trinity of morals, tradition/wisdom, and culture reflect both the nature of our belief and the fullness of our communion with Him who made us, sustains us and saves us.

    Feelings, emotions and sentiment are Turkish Delight like that which Edmond ate in Narnia–they have no lasting substance and if eaten instead of real food, bind us to the tryanny of our passions.

  5. Note 54.

    To put it another way, most people today confuse cause and effect. Feelings are not the cause of anything, they are an effect.

    Yes, but this is almost incomprehensible to most people, so inculcated there are with the ideas of the therapeutic culture. People think feelings are the ground of self- identity — “I feel, therefore I am.”

  6. Dean,

    Note 49: to build upon what Fr. Jacobse and Michael are saying, the problem as I see it with:

    “I feel that something like that is going on in Islam today. Feelings of economic and cultural inferiority to the West and humiliation and defeat at the hands of Israel and the US are driving many Muslims to compensate by seeking an identity rooted in a more militant and fundamentalist expression of their faith. Tragically and ironically, the actions of Americans and Israeli in Iraq and Lebanon have only served to heighten the Muslim’s sense of being under assault from the West – and this is just as Osama Bin Ladin would have wanted it.”

    Is does not account for why billions of human beings have lived in the past and currently under “feelings” of economic and cultural inferiority and do not resort to terrorism or aggressive aspects of their religion . Why do not the Chinese have a history of bloody borders, or the Indians, or the Africans? I think you are right to point to their faith as the unique cause of their aggression, but wrong to blame American and Israel. Instead of putting the burden on them, you place the burden on us to “walk on egg shells” as it were, and to carefully control what we do and say to avoid any impression whatsoever that theirs is not a negative situation. You seem to be saying as long as they are fat, happy, and stupid they will not follow the “militant and fundamentalist” aspects of their faith. The problem with that analysis as I see it is that the bloody borders of Islam is not an expression of the “militant and fundamentalist” aspects of their faith, rather its an expression of the main body of their faith. If the “bloody borders” phenomena had been the exception rather than the rule through history, you might have a point. Again, while you are recognizing Islam, I don’t think you are giving it enough credit. Also, you are placing too much emphasis on “feelings of oppression” side of the equation. I think China, India, and Africa all show the problem with that idea…

  7. A couple of months ago I ended up in an informal debate with the local expert on the Muslim religion, held at a private school in Naples. His apologetic for terrorism appealed to all the left wing rationalizations: oppression, rage, imperialism, etc. I pointed out that terrorists come largely from the middle classes and are often educated, and that terrorism is pure and simple a tactic of war. Further, Muslims use the same tactic in places where the rationale cannot apply such as Sudan, Ethiopia, Indonesia, etc.

    His argument caught the left leaning participants off guard. They simply could not reply without examining some of their fundamental presuppositions; an examination that would take a lot longer than the two hours scheduled for the lecture. Many had a visceral repulsion towards terrorism, but they lacked the ideas to challenge it in any meaningful way. Generally they believed America somehow created the situation that spawned terrorism and fostered its continual use. For all practical purposes, they were defenseless in the face of this subtle but powerful assault on their values.

    Reaction was mixed as I knew it would be and reflected the cultural divide. To half the audience I was a hero. To the other half I was despised since I wasn’t exhibiting enough cultural sensitivity. (In fact they were angry because by my challenge of the Islamic representative, they could not win his approval of their good intentions and thereby prove themselves innocent of his charges. They exhibited the debilitating crisis of courage that afflicts so many on the left, although events sometimes shakes some out of the malaise, see: Red State Jews.)

    Islamic backwardness is not the fault of Western Civilization. Glen wrote a good article about this several years ago Examining the “Golden Age of Islamic Civilization”. Having said that, Islamic rage is real. We would do better I think in trying to understand their shame based culture (including how Islamic religion shapes personality and culture) in our dealings with them. There is no concept of original sin in Islamic religion and so the whole notion of law works differently. The psychological distance between man and God that is necessary for repentance to take place (a repentance that occurs only through the mercy of God), does not seem to exist. The law and the person are one. Stir some ferver into the mix and the results can be deadly.

  8. In comments 45-49 Missourian argues that the West that is threatened by a violent Jihadist agenda of that lies at the very core of the Islamic faith. In the Islamic world, however they say the exact opposite, that Muslims are a peace-loving people forced to take up arms against the predatory designs of Crusader/Zionist forces.

    In a climate of mutual fear and misunderstanding, where each side ascribes the worst motives to the actions of the other, the potential for either side to over-react is heightened. Over-reactions then lend credence to the most fearful pronouncements of those on the other side. Arguments are made with rising urgency that failure to act to check the other amounts to “appeasement”. Tensions rise until relations are like dry brush and tinder in a forest that hasn’t seen rain in months, where the slightest spark can begin a massive conflagration.

    All weekend I thought about the very dangerous potential for an escalation into violent and destructive conflict resulting a climate of mutual fear and misunderstanding. However before I could more fiully form my thoughts into words someone at the LA Times did for me.

    Caleb Carr is a visiting professor of military studies at Bard College and the author of “The Lessons of Terror: A History of Warfare Against Civilians”, writes:

    IS THERE AN alternative to this pattern of mistakes and countermistakes? There is, but it involves a quality that neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians have ever come close to mastering: tactical restraint in order to achieve strategic advantage. Simply put, this involves looking past immediate and all-out retaliation as the best method of countering threat. It is not a call for turning the other cheek; rather, it suggests that savagely swinging back every time one’s cheek is dealt so much as a brushing blow does not amount to effective boxing, much less enlightened belligerent behavior.

    Imagine, for example, that either Israel (in the case of the initial Palestinian and Hezbollah attacks) or the Palestinians and Hezbollah (in the case of the original Israeli reprisals) had decided: “Patience; we will absorb this assault, and wait to focus our attacks until we can strike at what we know to be — and can prove to the rest of the world are — the enemy military or paramilitary units responsible. That will get us our principal objective: the certain backing of global public opinion. We will refuse throughout to engage in disproportionate assaults on indiscriminate targets, and if for a period we risk suffering more losses than our opponent, we will nonetheless profit in the long run. When we have netted the world’s sympathy, we will receive more backing, even as our enemies’ support dwindles, and what had seemed to be tactical peril will in fact prove to be strategic advantage.”

    This notion — absorbing smaller blows in order to deliver decisive later strikes — has important historical precedents. It forms a central tenet of the philosophy of ancient China’s Sun Tzu, arguably the world’s greatest military thinker. But even during modern American history, we can find the idea at work: For it decisively influenced the pre-World War II steps taken by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

    ..Unlike FDR, however, the current Palestinian, Hezbollah and Israeli leaderships have been unable to embody anything like military or diplomatic restraint. They have instead displayed ever-increasing and more self-defeating impatience, a wholehearted willingness to bail each other out of their respective worst mistakes and a mutually callous attitude toward civilian death.

    Nearly identical mistakes and miscues, interlocked in a sickeningly seamless and seemingly unstoppable pattern: In this as in so many things, these enemies have displayed what Freud called “the narcissism of small differences.” Those differences seem far less small, however, when one realizes that the narcissism extends to the belief that their causes are worth not only the lives of the most innocent on both sides of every border, but the risk of a regional — or even a global — conflagration.

    A War of Escalating Errors: Israelis and their foes are swinging wildly — and missing their targets.

  9. Refusing to believe the enemy when he describes himself

    In comments 45-49 Missourian argues that the West that is threatened by a violent Jihadist agenda of that lies at the very core of the Islamic faith. In the Islamic world, however they say the exact opposite, that Muslims are a peace-loving people forced to take up arms against the predatory designs of Crusader/Zionist forces.

    The fact that two speakers contradict each other does not mean that an intelligent observer must throw up their hands and declare the matter unresolvable. The task becomes to evaluate the strength and credibility of each speaker. What is the source? What is the motivation, if any, to distort? What is the broader context? Given enough information an intelligent observer can evaluate the assertions.

    Jihad, regardless of the reams of pages that I write and the supporting documentation that I provide Dean seems incapable of accepting the idea that that Islam was both a religious and political entity until the end of the Ottoman Empire. It functioned in the real world as many other political entites have in history. If a person can declare that Hitler was an imperialist, or Britain was an imperial power, why is it so hard to believe that Islam might also be an imperial power?

    Again, I refer Dean and any other reader to the Bukhari Hadith. It is on line, all sixth volumes of it. Search for “jihad” and read the many, many paragraphs of instruction from Mohammed to fight for Allah and to specifically expand the borders of the Ummah until the entire world is subdued. This is not “taken out of context” or “restricted to the Mohammed’s time.”

    Two reliable sources to begin with Jihad by Robert Bostom and Karsh, Islamic Imperialism.

    In additional to classical sources such as the Bukhari Hadith, the Reliance of the Traveler and the current published words of the scholars at the leading Sunni school of theology in Cairo, Al-Hazar, jihad is a continuing duty.

    Lastly, the jihadis have openly and repeatedly stated that jihad is their reason, their motive, their goal. Dean simply cannot bring himself to listen to what these people are openly saying.

    I don’t think I have ever encountered such an obdurate and adamantine refusal to take facts into account as I have in this particular case.

    Last comment. Dean repeats without qualification or reflection the old “crusader/zionist” epithet. I would like to remind the reader that prior to the military campaign of Mohammed the Middle East was Christian. Egypt was Christian until it was military conquered by Islam. Muslims see this as all well and good, the spread of Islam is their goal. Christians whose country was conquered, whose places of worship were destroyed and who were reduced to second class citizenship in the Ummah, did not see the spread of Islam as benign.

    Before the Crusades there was jihad. The Koran and the Hadith show that jihad is the duty of all Muslims. Muslims do not believe in interpretation of the these sacred texts, they are fixed and immutable.

    Osama Ben Laden told us exactly what he wanted, he wants the return of the Caliphate and the return of Al-Andalus (Spain) to the Ummah. Why don’t people believe him?

  10. Missiourian –

    And which member of the administration’s foreign policy team seems to believe what you just wrote?

    Elsewhere on this site is an ‘unrepetent’ neo-con who still says that we should be exporting democracy.

    As you make plain in your post, exporting democracy only enables the Jihad to proceed. While we dither about elections, we import more jihadis as immigrants and refugees.

    When you find someone who is interested in addressing these issues, then please point them out. Right now, all I see on either side is PC garbage.

  11. Glen, Point taken, what can I say?

    I don’t object to the concept of dealing with the Muslim world. I just want us to deal with it intelligently and based on the reality of Islam as a culture.

    The idea that we could take a culture like Iraq’s and transform it into a Western style democracy was ludricrous. To accomplish that we would have had to occupied the country for at least one entire generation (waiting for the existing adults to pass on) and start with a new generation. We would have had to exert extremely tight control over the country. Iraq has never operated on self-governance, it has always been tightly controlled by a dictator of one variety or another.

    As to the Bush administration, the fairly recent trip by Karen Hughes was a cringing embarrassment. She may be an effective domestic political operator but internationally she is clueless.

    Madeliene Halfbright has now written a set of memories in which she admits that she completely failed to take the force of religion into account in international affairs. Well, at least she is honest about her incompetence.

  12. Playing defense when you are geographically surrounded with enemies.

    It seems to me that our Army is relegated to playing defense inside a territory with hostile nations on all its borders.

    It seems to me that the locals laugh at the U.S. sense we have allowed Al Sadr to operate with impunity. At Sadr is known by all to have murdered his political opponents without even trying very hard to cover it up. Yet, he is not jailed and his militia grows by the minute.

    Iran openly uses Hizb Allah (Army of the Islamic God) as its proxy army. Iran has the best of both worlds. No responsibility for any Hizb Allah failures and gains from Hizb Allah successes. Iran openly direct Hizb Allah and Syria still controls Lebanon YET the world acts as if these were not facts on the ground.
    Slap foreheard. Repeat. Slap forehead.

    Probably the most revolting thing I can think of is that in Dearborn there are open demonstrations in favor of Hizb Allah and yet the MSM doesn’t cover it.
    Most people in the U.S. have no idea of the inroad radical islam has made in Dearborn and other places. Sleep on, America, sleep on.

  13. Dean, here is what the Muslims world is openly declaring “they will bury us”

    by Anthony Browne: The Guardian, January 27, 2005

    Take Dr. Al-Qaradawi, the controversial Egyptian imam who was recently fawned over by the Mayor of London even though he promotes the execution of homosexuals, the right of men to indulge in domestic violence, and the murder of innocent Jews. During the brouhaha it went unnoticed that he also wants to conquer Europe. Don’t take my word for it, just listen to him on his popular al-Jazeera TV show, Sharia and Life.

    “Islam will return to Europe. The conquest need not necessarily be by the sword. Perhaps we will conquer these lands without armies. We want an army of preachers and teachers who will present Islam in all languages in all dialects’ he broadcast in 1999, according to Middle East Media Researdch Institute, which translate his programmes. One another programme he declared “Europe will see that it suffers from a materialist culture, and it will seek a way out, it w ill seek of lifeboat. It will seek no lifesaver but the message of Islam.”

    [Notice the assumption that Islam is spread by the sword, no discomfort there my friends]

    In the most sacred mosque in Islam, Sheikh Abd Al-Rahman Al-Sudais of the Grand Mosque in Mecca uses his sermons to call for New to be “annihilated” and to urge the overthrow of Western civilization. “The most noble civilization ever known to mankind is our Islamic civilization. today, Western civilization is nothing more than the product of its encounter with our Islamic civilization in Anduslia. The reason for [Western civilization’s] bankruptcy is it reliance on the materialistic approach, and its detachment from religion and values. [This approach] has been one reason for the misery of the human race, for the proliferaiton of suicide, mental problems and for moral perversion. Only one nation is capable of resuscitating global civilization, and tha is the nation of [Islam.]

    Al-Sudais is the highest imam appointed by our Saudi ally, and her semons are widely listened to across the Middle East. When he came to the UK in June of 20025 to open the London Islamic Center, thousands of British Muslims flocked to see him, our so-called race relations minister Fiona Mactaggart shared the platform, and Prince Charles sent a video message. He is probably the closest thing in Islam to the Pope, but I haven’t recently heard the Pope call for the overthrow of all other faiths.

  14. Note 62.

    It seems to me that our Army is relegated to playing defense inside a territory with hostile nations on all its borders.

    Buckley floats the idea to partition Iraq.

  15. Post 64 – A partition gives us the opportunity to create a Sunni and Kurdish states (and may be a Christian one as well) that will be hostile to the Shia. That will prevent Iran from consolidating its hold on Iraq.

    I like that approach.

    I completely understand the desire to confront Islam, but it has to be done in a smart fashion.

    Israel had a chance to really crush Hezbollah, but instead got caught up in a stupid airwar that created a backlash which protected the terrorists.

    It’s not enough to do something. We have to do the right thing!

  16. Glen, posture regarding Islam

    I am not sure what the best overall strategy should be for the United States and for the West but whatever policy is adopted should be based on a realistic understanding of the Islamic culture. If confrontation is not wise, then confrontation should be avoided. Bush unknowingly confronted Islam by trying to sell democracy. He misunderstood the most basic fact about Islam, that being, it purports to be ruled by God rather than rule by man and as such, it is categorically and constitutionally incompatible with democracy.

    Unfortunately, many elites in the United States are deeply commited to the idea that any critique of Islam is a product of bigotry hence the immense resistence of so many of them to face facts.

    We actually need to reign in “religious accommodation.” There is a limit to how far a society can tolerate individual religious practices (note distinction between beliefs and practices here). In order for Americans to stay in control of our own country we have to insist that those coming here obey our laws. We have to minimize the extent to which the larger society is forced to accommodate religious practices of various sects. Too much accomodation and the country becomes divided into religious enclaves and tribes and the stage is set for dissolution.

    Perhaps a strong policy of containment would have been the a approach than that of Bush, however, the United States would have to confront the “international law” bureaucrats of the United Nations. Those people are working for Islamist goals against Western culture. They need to be stopped and delegitimized and dismantled entirely. The United Nations is too corrupt to continue. Time to start on a fresh page and build a new set of alliance among democracies. The United States should never surrender sovreignty to a set of non-democratic states.

  17. Note 60:

    Would that be me? I am probably much more “Machiavellian” towards Iraq and it’s place in the war on terror that (or at least, that is how some would put it). I am being persuaded by the partitioning idea as well.

    Also, this “cease-fire” appears to be a mistake. I expected more follow through from Israel in the ground situation, which is something I just assumed would be on a timescale of several months at least. Apparently, this is something the Israeli public has come to understand as well…

  18. Christopher writes: “Also, this “cease-fire” appears to be a mistake. I expected more follow through from Israel in the ground situation, which is something I just assumed would be on a timescale of several months at least.”

    If you’ve noticed, Hezbollah wasn’t doing too badly. A few days ago Israel lost 24 soldiers vs. their report of 40 Hezbollah killed. Not quite one-to-one, but not far off either. And that’s with air superiority and armored vehicles. With perhaps 10- to 12 thousand Hezbollah in Lebanon, do the math.

    I still say that what has happened in many parts of the Middle East is that the “terrorists” or “barbarians” as you call them have achieved a state of weaponry and strategy that makes any ground assault very costly and difficult. Air war doesn’t work. Ground war might not work very well either.

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