Renowned scholar on Jesus, scrolls dies

LONDON - Geza Vermes, a translator of the Dead Sea Scrolls and renowned for books exploring the Jewish background of Jesus, has died at 88.

He died on Wednesday, David Ariel, president of the Oxford Center for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, said Saturday.

Vermes had an early interest in the Dead Sea Scrolls, a cache of documents written between 200 B.C. and A.D. 200 that were discovered in caves at Qumran, near Jericho, between 1947 and 1956. Vermes published the first English translation of the scrolls in 1962.

The scrolls gave an insight to Jewish practices and thought at the time Jesus was preaching, and they informed a series of books by Vermes on the historical Jesus.

The first, "Jesus the Jew," was published in 1973, followed by "The Authentic Gospel of Jesus" (2003), a commentary on all of the sayings attributed to Jesus in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.

His last book, "Christian Beginnings: From Nazareth to Nicaea, AD 30-325," published last year, was Vermes' account of the development of Christian doctrine up to the formulation of the Nicene Creed.


Teacher to stay jailed in blasphemy case

LUXOR - Egyptian prosecutors extended the detention Saturday of a Coptic Christian teacher held over accusations of blasphemy of Islam and proselytizing Christianity, security officials said.

In another southern Egyptian city, security officials said a Coptic man stabbed his wife for converting to Islam and for trying to see their son afterward.

The country's Christian minority has long complained of discrimination.

Officials say 24-year-old teacher Dimiana Abdel-Nour will be held for another 15 days in a southern village near the famed city of Luxor where she taught history and geography. The defendant, who has denied the charges, went on hunger strike earlier this week and was sent to a local hospital.


Cyclone bearing down on populated area

YANGON - Myanmar's government warned Saturday that a new cyclone barreling north into the Bay of Bengal could threaten the country's western coast next week, raising fears the storm could swamp low-lying camps housing tens of thousands of embattled Rohingya Muslims who fled sectarian violence last year.

The brunt of the cyclone is currently heading toward Chittagong, Bangladesh. But its direction could still shift northeast and hit Myanmar's Rakhine state when it makes landfall at midweek, Myanmar's Meteorology Department and humanitarian aid officials monitoring the situation said.

The storm is predicted to hit late Wednesday or Thursday morning, and heavy rains and strong winds are expected to batter Rakhine state regardless. About 140,000 people - mostly Rohingya - are living in flimsy tents and makeshift shelters in the region after two outbreaks of Buddhist-Muslim violence there last year, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.


Thousands march against ritual killings

LIBREVILLE - Thousands of Gabonese people marched to protest ritual killings, in which people are murdered so their body parts can be used in amulets to bring good luck. Sylvia Bongo Ondimba, Gabon's first lady, led the event Saturday along with Christian and Muslim religious leaders.

The president of the Association for the Fight against Ritual Crimes, Elvis Ebang Ondo, estimates that Gabon has 20 mutilation killings a year. He said there are more such killings in election years, as some people seek amulets to win government positions.

The Associated Press