A d F o n t e s

(Latin: "to the sources")

Blacktop on the College Walk

College Walk

A couple of months ago Columbia University began a project to restore its “College Walk,” the main drag through the center of the campus, connecting Broadway to Amsterdam avenues via (what used to be) 116th street.

The renovation was clearly needed: the beautiful cobblestone that covered the walk was badly damaged, uneven, and many of the stones were loose or raised, and water would pool during the rain, making it difficult to cross. I always found it amusing to watch women in high heels carefully trying to negotiate the cobblestones and the enormous cracks between them, occasionally tripping or getting their heels caught. It probably took them 15 minutes to cross the campus versus 2 for the rest of us. They should know better. The College Walk renovation was to replace the cobblestone and install a drainage system so that it would look beautiful and stay dry.

See the old College Walk here.

However, I noticed something tragic on Saturday. I saw with what they replaced that beautiful cobblestone: black top.

Tacky looking blacktop. Tacky looking blacktop with beautiful granite trim, making it look even more tacky. And what’s worse, the blacktop is uneven (and anyone who’s worked w/ blacktop knows that if you want to prevent pooling, you can’t have uneven blacktop). And all last year Columbia spent oodles of money replacing the ornate red brick sidewalks that surround the street entrances to the campus. Wow, what a contrast: enter the campus via beautiful red brick only to stride on black top. Why not just add a basketball court in there while they’re at it?

I’m pretty unhappy. It looks terrible, especially in light of the dignified appearance of the rest of the campus architecture (except for Lerner hall, which is now the 2nd ugliest monstrosity on campus). I was expecting new cobblestone, or nice granite slabs, more red brick, or something else nice. Something attractive. Something that at least matches the character of the rest of the school (again, save Lerner).

UPDATE: I was wrong.

As Jared pointed out in the comments, Columbia is indeed putting in cobblestone. I walked by today and they had a good 1/3 of the College Walk laid. I’m happy to have been wrong. Very happy.


July 30, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Which Ancient Language Are You?

Here’s the Test

Ugh, this is depressing.

Your Score: Akkadian


HT: Paleojudaica

July 22, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Bigger than Da Vinci: An Earth Shattering Discovery

Whether you thought by σὺ εἶ Πέτρος …(Mt 16.18) Jesus meant the Papacy or Peter’s confession, think again.

Dan Brown, eat your heart out. You ain’t got nuthin’.

July 21, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

…Then I visited the MET’s Roman Art Exhibit


Yesterday was my wife’s day off, and we had a rare opportunity to spend the whole day hanging out (our schedules are difficult to match due to circumstances beyond our control). She had the wonderful idea of visiting the MET’s new Roman Art exhibit. I was touched by her suggestion: I’d been longing to visit it since it opened, especially since I learned I would be at Columbia’s Classics department, and she and I have…different preferences on how we enjoy museums (let’s just say I take an inordinate amount of time in them; typical of me). Thank you, Honey 🙂

It was absolutely amazing and anyone who lives on the east coast who has the opportunity should visit it. It’s truly world class. From the sculptures to funerary inscriptions to glasswares to paintings it’s amazing. It’s really hard to appreciate the kind of value Romans placed on these things until you’ve seen these exhibits. This kind of art at this kind of quality with this kind of skill simply doesn’t exist today. But despite that difference, I think it helps moderns to appreciate how much somethings remain the same; how much we’ve inherited.

I was trying to decide whether I had a favorite exhibit. I don’t think I do. I guess I tended to preserve anything that had a Greek or Latin inscription on it (I can read both and words provide context). But it was all great. So much to see; so much to learn.

And the truth is the whole MET is amazing. I love the byzantine and medieval Christian art section. I love the renaissance art section. The MET is easily one of my favorite places in the city.

July 21, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Jared on Jesus in the Talmud


I first learned of this book on Paleojudaica a couple weeks ago, and already Jared Callaway over on Antiquitopia has reviewed it. Amazing.

Resulting from my 8 or so courses in Talmud at JTS, I’ve often thought of doing a project on Jesus in the Talmudim. I’ve always felt that it would be a nearly impossible task though because although the sugyot about Jesus are all well-known, to my knowledge the ones in the earlier manuscripts aren’t. And since the many of the passages about Jesus and Christianity were edited out of the standard Talmud (the Vilna) by decree of the Papacy, finding some of those interesting lost passages in the mss would be like finding a needle in a haystack.

In any event, I’ll be interested to read Schaefer’s book.

July 5, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New Dead Sea Scrolls Conference


Jim West informs us of a new conference on the Scrolls to take place in Vienna, Feb. 11-14. According to the call for papers, the intention is to explore the following:

It is well known that the significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls is often neglected by scholars who are not directly involved with the Dead Sea Scrolls, while Dead Sea Scrolls specialists often focus narrowly on the scrolls themselves.

The papers of this conference should build a bridge between the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other fields of research, and therefore should not deal with the scrolls only.

This sounded refreshing: As one who moved from physics, to Biblical studies, to early Judaism, to Rabbinics, to (now) Classics and ancient history, the methodological and topical myopia of DSS studies has left a strong impression on me. Scholars seem to be interested in only a few topics, generally: the history of Biblical interpretation, textual criticism and the formation of the Hebrew Bible, pseudepigrapha, history of Jewish law, etc. All of that is interesting in its own right, but few scholars are actually interested the socio-economic situatedness of the Qumranites, papyrology (by which I mean situating papyrological analysis of DSS w/in the larger discipline of papyrology done by classicists), documentary studies, etc. The latter two in particular, a topic of which was my MA thesis, I’m convinced have much to offer, and I’ve been astonished to see play comparatively minor roles.

Then I read the preliminary list of contributors and contributions. There are some really interesting ones: Hannah Cotton revisits her “Rabbis and the Documents” (to which I have a paper criticizing, which should be out before long), Shaul Shaked on Iranian connections, which is a new idea (which sounds a priori improbable to me, but what do I know about Iran?). But alas, some things haven’t changed.

July 4, 2007 Posted by | Academy, Dead Sea Scrolls | 1 Comment