Jun 20 2016

Three upcoming events on ancient and early medieval Jewish medicine (Berlin)

Courtesy of Lennart Lehmhaus:

We would like to draw your attention to and cordially invite you to THREE upcoming events on the topic of ancient and early medieval Jewish medicine.

The Berlin based research project A03 on Talmudic and Byzantine medical knowledge, run by Markham J. Geller and Philip van der Eijk (AvH-professor, Humboldt University Berlin), will host Dr. Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim as a research fellow in June (20 – 29 June 2016).

Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim (Goldsmiths, University of London) will present and discuss in various formats (workshops/lecture) her current research into the early history of a medical tradition in Hebrew (Book of Asaf/Sefer Refu’ot) and on the transfer of medical knowledge between East (China/Tibet/Central Asia) and West (Graeco-Roman/ Persian and Arabic traditions).

Tuesday, 21 June (ca. 15:00- 17:30, TOPOI library, ground floor) Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim will host a reading workshop (texts in translation) on the topic “The Hebrew Book of Asaf on Humours and Winds”.


Thursday, 23 June (16:30-18:00, TOPOI library), Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim and Lennart Lehmhaus (A03-SFB 980, FU Berlin) will discuss the issue of “Bloodletting between the Talmudim and the Hebrew Book of Asaf” from a comparative perspective (as part of the course “Medizin im Talmud”, but open to all).


Friday, 24 June (10-12), Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim will present a lecture within the framework of the SFB 980 Jour Fixe on “The Silk-Roads as a model for exploring Eurasian transmissions of medical knowledge”
(SFB-Villa, Schwendenerstr. 8, 14195 Berlin).



Everyone is welcome. Due to a limited number of seats,  please RSVP to: info@sfb-episteme.de

The fellowship is generously sponsored by the Collaborative Research Center/ SFB 980 “Episteme in Motion. Transfer of Knowledge from the Ancient World to the Early Modern Period”)

Jun 05 2015

Article: An interview with Vatican astronomer Guy Consolmagno SJ


Source: https://www.christiancentury.org/article/2015-05/considering-heavens

I occasionally link to more confessional, interesting articles that illuminate the ways in which members of different faiths view astronomy. This one, “Considering the Heavens: Astronomer Guy Consolmagno”, is simply fascinating.


We need the humility to say that we don’t understand it all. I know my science is true, but I also know it is not completely true, so I have to keep improving it. I think my faith is completely true, but I know I don’t understand all of it—my understanding is in constant need of revision.

Jul 25 2014

Fantastic Fridays: Astronomical calculations of the beginning and end of Ramadan

Source: http://gulfbusiness.com/2014/07/first-day-eid-al-fitr-expected-fall-july-28/

Source: http://gulfbusiness.com/2014/07/first-day-eid-al-fitr-expected-fall-july-28/

The following two linked articles offer glimpses into the relationship between Islamic scholarship and the determination of the precise times of both the beginning of Ramadan and the appearance of the Shawwal crescent moon marking the first day of Eid Al Fitr at the end of the month of Ramadan.

What I find fascinating given my interest in ancient Jewish astronomy are the similar debates among religious scholars in both Islam and Judaism regarding the use of observation vs. astronomical calculation to determine the times of the holy days.

In Judaism, a functioning fixed calendar eventually came to exist by the early medieval period after centuries of debate, calendrical authority struggles, and the evolution of calendrical rules. Prior to these developments in Late Antiquity, the Jewish calendar was based on observations of the first lunar crescent, called the molad. Prior to Late Antiquity, during the Second Temple period and the Persian period, other time-reckoning systems were in use, some solar and some lunar.

In Islam, my understanding (perhaps colleagues in Islamic studies can clarify this further) is that various opinions and practices exist, with some countries relying on the traditional hilal sightings of the new crescent moon (for example, to establish the beginning of Ramadan) with the naked eye, some Muslims relying upon the visual sighting of the lunar crescent in either Saudi Arabia or their own country, and others using astronomical calculations.

(There is much that unites Judaism and Islam.)

A blessed Eid to all who celebrate it!

Jul 21 2014

Article: Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno Wins Carl Sagan Medal from the AAS

Source: http://www.jesuits.org/news-detail?TN=NEWS-20140714111304

Source: http://www.jesuits.org/news-detail?TN=NEWS-20140714111304

Congratulations to Brother Guy Consolmagno, S.J., winner of the Carl Sagan Medal, awarded by the American Astronomical Society for “outstanding communication by an active planetary scientist to the general public”.

Brother Consolmagno will receive his medal at the 46th annual Division for Planetary Sciences meeting in Tucson, Arizona in November, 2014.

More on this story here and here.

Jan 16 2014

4000 year old calendrical tablet unearthed

Currently being displayed at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem, this 4000 year old silt cuneiform tablet, inscribed in Akkadian, contains a schedule listing activities taking place during a week in the month of Shevat, highlighting its Babylonian antecedents. Are any readers of this blog planning to visit the exhibit? If so, I’d enjoy reading your comments.

Sep 12 2013

Astronomy and Belief

Category: Christianity,Religion news,Science and Religionalobel @ 7:39 pm
Vatican Observatory Telescope on the roof of the Ponticial Palace in Castel Gandolfo (Wikimedia Commons)

Vatican Observatory Telescope on the roof of the Ponticial Palace in Castel Gandolfo (Wikimedia Commons)

This online article, an edited version of a talk by Vatican astronomer Guy Consolmagno SJ, is well worth reading. Here, he addresses his encounters with God while observing the heavens.

Jul 20 2009

Upcoming solar eclipse (July 22, 2009) — of science and superstition

Solar and lunar eclipses have captured both the popular and religious imagination through the millennia. Eclipse records — and myths inspired by eclipses — date back to the earliest historical epochs. These include a multitude of cuneiform tablet eclipse calculations from Mesopotamia, where total solar eclipses served not merely as awe-inspiring events, but as vital religious omens as well.

Today, eclipses are well understood from a scientific standpoint. However, folk traditions surrounding eclipses remain a part of many cultures around the world, as the following articles in the Globe and Mail (Canada) and The New York times attest. In India, for example, one belief is that pregnant women should remain indoors during an eclipse, so as to avoid any harmful effects upon the fetus.

This week’s solar eclipse will begin on July 22nd at 00:51:17 (Universal Time) off the Indian coast, and is notable due to its extremely long maximum totality period of 6 minutes and 39 seconds. That won’t happen again for nearly 150 years.

Those interested in following the eclipse path may be interested in the following sites:




Mar 10 2009

News item — Is there anybody out there? (BBC)

Category: Life beyond Earth,Religion news,Science and Religionalobel @ 12:15 pm


Camilla Kesterton, ‘Census Hopeful’, Oil and metal leaf on MDF and wood, 40 x 30cm, 2007
See more at: http://www.newcontemporaries.org.uk/artists/camilla-kesterton#sthash.3anxx5GP.dpuf

On a note related to my posting of March 3rd, here is a recent article on the BBC News site related to one of the Big Questions that touches upon the realms of theology, cosmogony, and astronomy. Among the respondents is Brother Guy Consolmagno of the Vatican observatory.

Mar 03 2009

Cardinal Lajolo Visits University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory

Category: Christianity,Religion news,Science and Religionalobel @ 1:29 pm


Both scientific conceptions of the universe and the views of the Roman Catholic church have, of course, changed immensely since the time of Copernicus. The Church has, in fact, come to take special interest in happenings astronomical. In this article, published by the University of Arizona News, we read of Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo’s recent visit to the Steward Observatory to meet with Vatican and UA astronomers. As the article reveals, “the cardinal reports about the Vatican Observatory directly to Pope Benedict XVI.”

On a related note, my thanks to reader Rebecca Kelley for sending along a link to a recent posting to the Uncertain Believer blog. The posting is entitled How Will the Church Respond to Discoveries About the Universe?

[Edited to add: I thought I’d read some rather enlightened comments from the Chief Vatican astronomer Reverend José Gabriel Funes on the question of possible intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, and indeed, here is one article in which he discusses the matter, as well as a quote within it exemplifying his views:

“Just as there is a multiplicity of creatures on earth, there can be other beings, even intelligent, created by God. This is not in contrast with our faith because we can’t put limits on God’s creative freedom,” he said. [. . .] “Why can’t we speak of a ‘brother extraterrestrial’? It would still be part of creation.”]

Feb 26 2009

News item — Ramadan In Space


Fourteenth century Islamic astrolabe, Whipple Museum

This video item from ABC (Australia), complete with transcript, features Dr. Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, the first Muslim astronaut to travel into space during Ramadan. This led to the need for Muslim scholars to carefully determine the rules that would apply to prayer in outer space, not to mention the ubiquitous question “Which way is Mecca?”

I was especially interested in the reference to Islam’s “golden age” (circa 8th-16th centuries CE) during which Muslim scientists made various vital contributions to the world in the areas of mathematics and astronomy. This, of course, includes the invention of such devices as the astrolabe, pictured above.

For more information on Dr. Shukor, Wired published an earlier story about his career as an astronaut.

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