London Journal – Sunday, March 15, 2009

We left early today because this is the last day for the special exhibit at the British Museum on Babylon: Myth and Reality. A few tickets would be available for those who showed up early (9:00 am) and waited in line.

We got there; we waited; we got tickets for entry at 12:30 pm.

In the exhibit area photography was not allowed, but outside the entrance was this stele (stone slab) of the Code of Hammurabi, a law code created about 1760 BC in ancient Babylon and enacted by the sixth Babylonian King, Hammurabi.

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The stele is over seven feet tall, made of basalt. At the top is a bas relief of the king on the left presenting himself to a Babylonian god on the right. The king has his right hand raised to his mouth as a sign of respect. This stele is the only surviving example of the Code that survives today.

The bottom part contains the code in cuneiform. The stele is normally on display in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

In the exhibit we saw the story of the greatest capital of the ancient world, the Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar II (605-562 BC), a city of unrivaled splendor. The site of Babylon lies in modern Iraq, 75 miles south of Baghdad.

The time frame of the exhibit included the construction of the city’s most famous buildings, such as the ziggurat; the sack of Jerusalem and the deportation of the Jews; the Persian conquest under King Cyrus in 539 BC; and Babylon”s fall.

Of the things on display I will mention only a few: lions of glazed ceramic tile that were part of the long procession way that led up to the huge Ishtar Gate; several Bible quotations; a feature on Daniel and the kings; a huge painting of Belshazzar’s Feast by John Martin; voice recordings of excerpts from some of the important documents from the time of Babylon’s glory; and a video about the site of Babylon today.

In the general museum another feature of interest to me was this bust of Rameses II of Egypt.

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This Rameses erected more colossal statues of himself than any other king of Egypt did.

Leaving the museum, we went to All Souls Church for a prayer time for the Hyde Park ministry.

Then off to Speakers’ Corner, to engage in conversation with anyone who wanted to talk. A Christian named Doug and I fell into a long conversation with three atheists. One of them was especially well informed on the Bible, church history and Christian theology. One of the delights of this conversation was that we were not subjected to harangues, as sometimes happens at the Corner (and harangues were, in fact, taking place not far from us), but we had meaningful give-and-take discussions.

Others in our group listened to, and posed questions to, a Muslim man who frequently speaks at the Corner on his preferred subjects of religion and politics, but mostly politics.

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