Monday, April 20, 2015

More on Sanders's Guggenheim

Guggenheim Fellowship Awarded to Trinity College's Seth Sanders (The Hartford Courant). Excerpt:
"Religious people have struggled with the Bible's contradictions since they first read it, and scholars have used them as a window into how it was created. What my project can explain is why those contradictions were put in the text in the first place," Sanders said.

"As a collection of incompatible versions of similar stories, the Torah is unlike any other major work of ancient literature," Sanders said. "Biblical scholarship still cannot agree on how this new paradigm arose. My project draws on ancient Near Eastern evidence to explain what is new about it by placing the Torah in literary history."
Background here and here, and PaleoJudaica has referred often to his work as well.

You can read a lot more about Prof. Sanders's research at his current blog, sethlsanders and his earlier blog Serving the Word.

Ben Hur and the Pope

Pope Francis blesses Ben-Hur's new Jesus at the Vatican (Ben Child, The Guardian)

Brazil’s Rodrigo Santoro, who is playing Christ in a new Ben-Hur movie, was filming in Rome when he met the pope.

The Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro, who is cast as Jesus Christ in the forthcoming biblical epic Ben-Hur, has been blessed by Pope Francis at the Vatican.


Santoro and fellow cast member Nazanin Boniadi attended a weekly papal audience event during a break from production, where they met Pope Francis. The pair also took a picture in front of the Vatican.

Background on the new film version of Ben Hur is here and links.

Herodium walkway

Herodium walkway reveals more of Jewish king's grand designs (Reuters/Israel HaYom).

Archaeologists unearth grand arched walkway in one of King Herod's major buildings • They believe he intended it to be used for his burial procession, but changed his mind and covered it over • The discovery is to open to the public in about a year.
Lots more on Herod the Great and Herodium here with many links.

Menahem Haran (1924-2015)

SAD NEWS FROM H-JUDAIC: Obituary: Prof. Menahem Haran.
H-Judaic is deeply saddened to learn of the passing, at age 91, of Professor Menahem Haran (1924-2015), Yehezkel Kaufmann Emeritus Professor of Biblical Studies at the Hebrew University and one of the towering figures of Jewish biblical scholarship. ...
May his memory be for a blessing.

Review of Fine and Koller (eds.), Talmuda de-Eretz Israel

Steven Fine, Aaron Koller (ed.), Talmuda de-Eretz Israel: Archaeology and the Rabbis in Late Antique Palestine. Studia Judaica, Bd 73. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2014. Pp. xiii, 352. ISBN 9781614514855. €119.95.

Reviewed by Joseph Geiger, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (
The present volume is a welcome collection of papers by a variety of scholars each dealing with a specific problem. None of the contributions, however, faces the crucial larger issue: do the texts indeed reflect the material realities? No well known holders of a negative view on this question contributed to the volume. The general approach is summed up in two contributions included as “Afterwords,” one by an eminent archaeologist, Eric Meyers, the other by an eminent rabbinic scholar, Daniel Sperber. Meyers remains committed to the idea that, in order to understand the world of the rabbis better, “it is imperative to be immersed in the textual material including the visual and epigraphical sources that are chronologically relevant” (305). He goes on to demonstrate this with respect to burial customs, remains of foodstuffs, stone vessels, ritual baths, synagogues and issues of gender – most of which are discussed at length by contributions in the volume. Sperber's article insists on the need for philological examination prior to the evaluation of the material finds. The piece is a bibliographic treasure-trove – though unfortunately needs editing.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

McKendrick et al. (eds.), Codex Sinaiticus

ETC: New Book on Codex Sinaiticus (Peter M. Head). The 2009 conference that produced the papers was noted here.

Review of Hadavas, Lucian, On the Death of Peregrinus

C. T. Hadavas, Lucian, On the Death of Peregrinus: An Intermediate Ancient Greek Reader. [Beloit, WI]: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014. Pp. xxviii, 154. ISBN 9781500303099. $12.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Serena Pirrotta, Berlin (
She concludes:
The compact presentation of all necessary information about Lucian and the Peregrinus in the introductory chapters, the exhaustive footnotes with suggestions for translation, and the reader-friendly layout make Havadas’ book a useful learning tool for students near the beginning of their classics curriculum.
What an interesting text to use for a student reader.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Don't let this happen to you

STEVE CARUSO: How to Know When You Shouldn’t Publish Your Own “Translation.” Also a cautionary tale about Google Image searches. Cross-file under Aramaic Watch (sort of).

Jones on the ancient papyrus market

ASOR BLOG: Ancient Papyri Online and for Sale (Brice C. Jones).
Over the last decade, we have witnessed a growing fascination with ancient papyri from Egypt. By now, most people have heard of the Gospel of Judas, published in 2006, the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife, which made headlines in 2014, or, most recently, the controversial fragment of the Gospel of Mark that is reputed to have been extracted from Egyptian mummy cartonnage. What all of these manuscripts have in common is the material upon which their texts were inscribed: papyrus. What is this material? And where are all these manuscripts coming from?

More on and from Dr. Brice C. Jones is here and links. More on the Gospel of Jesus' Wife is also there and links. Ditto for the Gospel of Judas (also here and links) and the supposedly first-century manuscript of the Gospel of Mark (also here and links).

The oldest Hebrew Cairo Geniza fragment in Cambridge?

GENIZA FRAGMENT OF THE MONTH (NOVEMBER 2010): The oldest Hebrew fragment in the Collection? T-S NS 3.21.
... The scroll, of which two parts have been found in the T-S Collection, T-S NS 3.21 and a small piece T-S NS 4.3, contains only the book of Genesis, so it may have been a Genesis scroll rather than the whole Torah. Colette Sirat estimated that if it had contained the whole Torah, then it would have measured 40m long. The script is highly distinctive, when compared with that of most Bible fragments in the Collection, with an acutely-angled serif and what Ada Yardeni believes are some of the earliest regular examples of tagin, the ornamental 'crowns' that appear only in Torah scrolls (with a few exceptions). The hand is similar to that of the (very few) Hebrew and Aramaic papyri of the Byzantine period (300–700 CE).

Sirat also detects differences from the Masoretic Text (MT) in the division of paragraphs (paraša petuḥa and paraša setuma), though these are minor, and one consonantal difference from the MT at Genesis 17:1, where the scroll has שנה for the MT's plural שנים.
Genesis 17:1, showing the singular where MT has the plural

According to Sirat, the scroll is early, pre-Islamic, and dates from the fifth or sixth century. Although this is centuries earlier than the great majority of Genizah fragments, it would make it contemporaneous with some of the underscripts of the palimpsests in the Collection and its survival in the Genizah is therefore not at all impossible. Nothing is straightforward in dealing with undated manuscripts, however, and Ada Yardeni prefers to date it later, to the eighth or ninth century, still early, but not as spectacularly so. There appear to be sufficient grounds, however, to believe that an earlier dating is more likely, given the clear differences in hand, in particular, from most other Bible manuscripts found in the Genizah, and it is thrilling to think that this scroll may have been in use in synagogue services hundreds of years before being consigned to the Ben Ezra Genizah.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Tennesse and the pseudepigrapha

THE RECENT BILL BY THE TENNESEE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES which would make "the Holy Bible" the state book has been getting flack from a lot of people. Joel Hoffman has a HuffPo piece asking What Has Tennessee Done and What Holy Bible Have They Chosen? in which he invokes various deutero- and non-canoncial books related to the Old and New Testaments:
The mysterious Book of Enoch --- and its claim that God's world has gone awry -- is part of the Ethiopian Bible, but everyone else puts it in the category of books that fell to the Old Testament's cutting room floor in antiquity. Technically called the "pseudepigrapha," these books number in the hundreds, and include the second half of the Adam and Eve story, Abraham's early life, and much more.

Then there are the runners up to the New Testament, such as the Gnostic Gospels. Like most of the pseudepigrapha, these aren't in anyone's Bible.

All of this raises the question: What has Tennessee made into its state book? The Jewish Bible? The Catholic one? Greek Orthodox? Protestant? Ethiopian?
Even when we include all the fragments and titles of lost pseudepigrapha, I don't think we are quite up to "hundreds" of them, but I hope future discoveries change that. Beyond that, I'm not getting involved in this discussion, except to say that I'm always pleased to see the apocryphal and pseudepigraphic books get some media attention. As they say, all publicity is good publicity.

Cross-file under Old Testament Apocrypha Watch, New Testament Apocrypha Watch, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch, and Politics.

Barkay to lecture in Kentucky

GABRIEL BARKAY: Biblical archaeologist to speak about Temple Mount Excavation.
Dr. Gabriel Barkay is one of the world’s most famous and leading archaeologists and is credited with the discovery of what are now called the silver scrolls. The silver scrolls are the oldest still-surviving text from the Old Testament dating to approximately 600 B.C. Today, Dr. Barkay is the archaeologist in charge of the Temple Mount Sifting Project where volunteers sift through earth excavated from Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.
The lecture will be on 30 April at the University of Pikeville in Kentucky. More on the Ketef Hinnom silver amulets is here and more on the Temple Mount Sifting Project is here, both with many links

Labour on Hebrew

BRITISH POLITICS: Labour pledge to safeguard Hebrew qualifications (Jewish News).
Hebrew would remain a part of the GCSE and A-Level curriculum under a Labour government, the party’s education spokesman Tristram Hunt has said.

The pledge comes amid uncertainty over the future of qualifications in modern and ancient Hebrew, which, along with several other languages including Polish, Bengali, Portugese and Turkish, are set to be axed by exam boards in 2017.

AQA will no longer offer Modern Hebrew at A-Level, and OCR is to discontinue its A-Level in Biblical Hebrew.

Good for Labour. I hope the idea catches on. And I'm pleased to see that Tristram Hunt and I do agree on something.

Septuagint studies prize

COMPETITION: The John William Wevers Prize in Septuagint Studies.
The International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (IOSCS) offers an annual prize of $350 to be awarded to an outstanding paper in the field of Septuagint studies. The prize has been named in memory of John William Wevers to honor his many contributions to Septuagint studies.

The field of Septuagint studies is construed broadly, and a paper may focus on any aspect of the study of the Greek translation of the Jewish Scriptures. The IOSCS wants to encourage the study of these translations by younger scholars, and eligibility is thus limited to advanced graduate students or recent Ph.D. recipients (4 years or less after receiving the degree).
Follow the link for further particulars. The deadline for submission this year is 15 August.

HT Jim West.

Mathematical angels in the DSS

ASOR BLOG: Zodiac Calendars and Angelic Teaching in the Dead Sea Scrolls (Helen R. Jacobus).
Nothing in these manuscripts indicates they are part of mythological books. When reconstructed it can be seen that they contain real astronomical calendars, and actual mathematical material. But angels are at the forefront.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Vermes lecture on the DSS

JAMES MCGRATH: Geza Vermes Lecture on the Dead Sea Scrolls. During his visit to Louisiana in 2009.

Schiffman on Pesah and the Second Temple

LAWRENCE H. SCHIFFMAN: Pesach and the Second Temple. With a link to his popular article in Ami Magazine.

Religion in the Roman Empire (RRE)

Religion in the Roman Empire (RRE)

Managing Editor: Jörg Rüpke (Erfurt)

Editors: Reinhard Feldmeier (Göttingen), Karen L. King (Harvard, MA), Rubina Raja (Aarhus), Annette Yoshiko Reed (Philadelphia, PA), Christoph Riedweg (Zürich), Jörg Rüpke (Erfurt), Seth Schwartz (New York, NY), Christopher Smith (Rome), Markus Vinzent (London)

Associate Editors: Nicole Belayche (Paris), Kimberly Bowes (Rome), Richard Gordon (Erfurt), Gesine Manuwald (London), Volker Menze (Budapest), Maren Niehoff (Jerusalem), George H. van Kooten (Groningen), Moulie Vidas (Princeton, NJ), Greg Woolf (St Andrews)

Religion in the Roman Empire (RRE) is bold in the sense that it intends to further and document new and integrative perspectives on religion in the Ancient World combining multidisciplinary methodologies. Starting from the notion of "lived religion" it will offer a space to take up recent, but still incipient, research to modify and cross the disciplinary boundaries of History of Religion, Archaeology, Anthropology, Classics, Ancient History, Jewish History, Rabbinics, New Testament, Early Christianity, Patristics, Coptic Studies, Gnostic and Manichean Studies, Late Antiquity and Oriental Languages. We hope to stimulate the development of new approaches that can encompass the local and global trajectories of the multidimensional pluralistic religions of antiquity.

Each volume will consist of three issues a year, each of approximately 130 pages in length. It will include an editorial, five to seven main articles, and book reviews. All articles and contributions that exceed 8 pages in length will be double-blind peer-reviewed. All articles and contributions will be in English.

The first issues will deal with "Lived Religion: Appropriations of Religion and Meanings in Situations," "Understanding Objects in Religious Contexts" and with "Practices and Groups," bringing together studies on textual and archaeological material from all areas of the Mediterranean.
The first issue is available at the link for free. For you, special deal!

Samaritan Pentateuch in Arabic

GENIZA FRAGMENT OF THE MONTH (NOVEMBER 2007): An Arabic Translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch (T-S Ar.1a.136).
Among the 192,844 folios of the Taylor-Schechter Collection, only three Samaritan texts written in Samaritan or Arabic script have been discovered so far. This is not surprising since the Genizah was part of the Ben-Ezra synagogue which belonged to the rabbanite Jewish community. Since both communities had their own synagogues and lived their lives separately from each other, Samaritan documents in the Genizah are somewhat an exotic discovery.

The fragment T-S Ar.1a.136 comprises the Arabic translation of Genesis 4:4–15. The text is carefully written in a beautiful Arabic script with sporadic vocalisation. The text of Genesis 4:9a (line 9 recto) is written in Samaritan square script.

Looking at the "Fragment of the Month" column of the Cambridge University Library's Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit, I realized that there are a few interesting ones from past years which I have never highlighted on PaleoJudaica. I will post these as I get around to it.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The manuscripts of the Mar Behnam Monastery

ADAM MCCOLLUM: Notes on some manuscripts of the Mar Behnam Monastery. Regular readers will recall the very bad news of the recently reported destruction of the Mar Behnam Monastery in Iraq. At the time of the report I wrote, "Does that mean that the manuscripts themselves are now lost? I hope not." At the hmmlorientalia blog, Adam McCollum reports the good news that the 500+ manuscripts were digitized by the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library and the CNMO (Centre numérique des manuscrits orientaux). There is no word on what happened to the manuscripts themselves, and we should probably fear the worst, but at least we do have a photographic record of them.

And on another note, I sometimes wonder aloud whether such ancient monastic libraries include manuscripts of Old Testament pseudepigrapha in their collections. Sometimes I find out that they do. And so it is in this case. Adam has highlighted some manuscripts in this collection and among them I see two of Zosimus and the Story of the Rechabites in Garshuni. And there are also some New Testament Apocrypha and a manuscript of Susanna.

DSS lecture at Penn State

LECTURE TOMORROW: April 16 Research Unplugged to focus on Dead Sea Scrolls.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Daniel Falk, professor of classics and ancient Mediterranean studies and Chaiken Family Chair in Jewish studies, will present "Excavating the Bible: What the Dead Sea Scrolls Reveal About Biblical Stories" at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, April 16, at Schlow Centre Region Library as part of the Research Unplugged lecture series.


Persecution of Aramaic-speaking Christians in the Middle East

MODERN ARAMAIC WATCH: Christians who speak the language of Jesus being uprooted by Islamic State (Hugh Naylor, Washington Post). Excerpt:
Over the last decade, Assyrians have joined waves of Christians who have fled Syria and Iraq because of war and persecution by extremist Muslims. But the latest attacks have added to concerns that this unique Mesopotamian people are in danger of disappearing from the region.

Assyrians in Iraq and Syria belong to the last communities of significant size to speak the language of Jesus — Aramaic. Many of them are being forced to move outside the Middle East, where it becomes less likely the tongue will be maintained, said Eden Naby, a Middle East historian and expert on Assyrian culture.

Aramaic is the oldest continuously written and spoken language in the Middle East, she said. It was once also used by some other religious communities, including Jews. Now, “Assyrians remain the last Aramaic-speaking of people of the world. So the disappearance and displacement of these people pretty much spells the closing chapter of Aramaic use in the world,” Naby said.

Assyrians, also referred to as Chaldeans or Syriacs, consider themselves ethnically distinct from Arabs and Kurds, tracing back their roots in the region 6,500 years. They speak a modern dialect of what was the lingua franca of the Assyrian Empire.
Persian Empire, not Assyrian. But that aside, the danger is real and is part of ISIS's sustained and systematic assault on the past. In the words of "Habib Afram, head of the Syriac League in Lebanon, which represents regional Assyrian issues":
They don't want to just take your land or kick you out of your villages — they want to erase your past, your heritage,” he said.
Background on ISIS is here and many links. More on the persecution of Aramaic-speaking Christians in the Middle East is here, here, here, here, and many links.

Minister protests Waqf's new Temple Mount excavation

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Construction minister: Stop unauthorized Temple Mount excavations (Yori Yalon, Israel HaYom).
Minister Uri Ariel warns that ongoing renovations at the Dome of the Rock, atop the ruins of the Second Temple, may inflict irreparable harm to Judaism's holiest site • Ariel says crews flouting the prohibition on operating heavy machinery in the area.
HT Joseph Lauer. Background here.

Emek Shaveh vs. Elad again

POLITICS: Biblical Jewish Ties to Jerusalem Under Attack by European-Backed NGO (Ahuva Balofsky, Breaking Israel News). The article — which is about Emek Shaveh's legal petition to have the management of the Western Wall Tunnel taken from Elad and taken over by the State — is not as hostile as the headline, although neither is particularly sympathetic to Emek Shaveh.

Background here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The British Library's Greek manuscripts online

ETC: British Library: More manuscripts online (Peter M. Head).
The British Library Medieval Manuscripts blog reports that seventy-five more manuscripts are on-line. These seem to be the last group in the current project (hopefully they will get more funding to keep up the good progress). In this batch are a mountain of patristic and ecclesiastical manuscripts including homilies and such, and the following biblical ones. ...
Septuagint, New Testament, and related manuscripts.

Also, over at hmmlorientalia, Adam McCollum collects the British Library's Medieval Manuscripts Blog's posts on their online Greek manuscripts: Posts on the digitized BL Greek manuscripts.

A couple of related PaleoJudaica posts are here and here.

Journals, blogs, and YouTube comments

JAMES MCGRATH: Don’t Diss the Blog! Well no.

More Waqf excavation at Temple Mount?

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Once Again: Waqf Illegally Digging Up Temple Mount. Jordanian Waqf digs up stone floor under mosque built on top of the sacred areas of the Holy Temples, says it's 'replacing carpets' (Hillel Fendel, Arutz Sheva).

Don't do that.

Marriage and sex in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: How Often Should Married Jewish Couples Have Sex? And other matters of conjugal bliss in this week’s Talmud study, including a woman’s right to sexual fulfillment.
How should a good Jew treat a waiter? At what age does an infant recognize its mother? How often should a married couple have sex? These are just a few of the practical and ethical questions that the rabbis addressed in chapter 5 of Tractate Ketubot, which Daf Yomi readers finished over the last two weeks. The subject of Ketubot is literally the marriage contract, and the first chapters were dedicated to various issues that arise when that contract is voided or dissolved—whether that means infidelity prior to marriage, or rape, or incest, or a financial dispute between bride and groom. But once the rabbis leave the obstacles to marriage behind and begin talking about marriage itself—what the parties owe each other, not just in terms of money but in affection and respect—the picture becomes a much happier one. In particular, the rabbis show that women do not only have obligations in marriage; they have rights as well.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Passover reading from AJR

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Passover Reading.
“We didn’t want to let this holiday season “passover” without providing a list of some important works on Passover, Easter, and the comparison and connections between the two. Happy holidays and happy reading!”

— AJR Editors
Posted at the end of Passover last week, but I've only gotten around to linking to it now. But you can get started early on your Passover reading for next year.