Friday, August 01, 2014

Brazilan Temple completed

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH (REPLICA EDITION): It's Solomon's Temple, complete with helipad (Isabel De Bertodano, The Jewish Chronicle).
A vast replica of Solomon's Temple opened this week in Sao Paulo, with the capacity to seat 10,000 followers of the evangelical Universal Church of the Kingdom of God.

The temple, which engulfs an entire city block and cost about £176 million to build, has polarised opinion, particularly among the Jewish community from which it borrows much of its most eye-catching symbolism.

The temple was built using stone from Israel and contains a number of conspicuous menorahs and an altar imitating the Ark of the Covenant.

[...]
This project was noted earlier here. Other, less ambitious, replicas of the Temple are noted here and here and links. And a couple of related posts are here and here. Cross-file under "Cant Make It Up."

Jack Sasson honored

CONGRATULATIONS TO JACK SASSON: Jack Sasson’s scholarly efforts in Assyriology honored (Ann Marie Deer Owens, researchnews@vanderbilt).

Jack M. Sasson, the Mary Jane Werthan Professor of Jewish Studies and Hebrew Bible at Vanderbilt, has been inducted into the International Association for Assyriology’s Honorary Council. Sasson, who is also a professor of classics, is one of a dozen scholars to receive this prestigious honor in recent years. The announcement was made July 24 in Warsaw at the group’s annual meeting and during the 60th Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale, a yearly five-day conference that is open to all those who are interested in Assyriology and Near Eastern archaeology.

[...]
Besides his important scholarly work on the Mari Letters, etc., Jack keeps our inboxes full to bursting with his Agade List.

HT Joseph Lauer, whose e-mail message also points to relevant links here, here, here, and here.

Shuka Dorfman, 1950-2014

SAD NEWS: Israel Antiquities Authority Director, Shuka Dorfman, 64, z’l (The Jewish Press).
The man who has led the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) into the future of hi-tech since November 2000, Shuka Dorfman, passed away today (Thursday) at 64 after a serious illness.

He will be laid to rest Friday at 2 pm in Gedera.

[...]
The Hebrew press release by the IAA is here. May his memory be for a blessing.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Hurtado on blogging and scholarship

LARRY HURTADO: Scholarly Work and the “Blogosphere.” Excerpt:
Scholarly work intended to have an impact on the field isn’t done in blogging. The amount of data, its complexity, the analysis and argumentation involved, and the engagement with the work of other scholars that forms an essential feature of scholarly work all require more space than a few hundred words of a blog-posting, or a few paragraphs of blog-comment. So, it’s rather unrealistic (not to say bizarre) for some commenters to assume otherwise.
Via James McGrath, who has comments on Larry's post here and who is pretty much in agreement. I agree too. The blog is not a natural format for producing original scholarly work, although sometimes it can be used that way (as noted, for example, here). And this discussion indirectly supports my decision not to allow comments on my blog (although Larry and James, bless them, do allow them).

Talmudic exegesis of Esther

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: When the Talmud Offers Close Readings of Sacred Fictions. Antic embellishments, like Esther being good in bed, help Talmudic rabbis to more fully explicate the text’s divine meaning. Excerpt:
But the rabbis, it turns out, had a different and much greater kind of freedom. To them, every letter and word of the Bible was put there by God, which meant that every letter and word had a meaning. If the same word appeared in a verse in Exodus and again in a verse in Chronicles, then there must be some essential relationship between the two verses that the reader was meant to discover. And the rabbinic reader of the Bible was not even bound by the plain sense of the words: He was free to invent episodes, multiply motives, and add characters, if the result seemed to him a fuller explication of the text’s divine meaning.

This week’s Daf Yomi reading, which brought us to the end of Chapter 1 of Tractate Megilla, offered a master class in this kind of midrashic reading. Over seven pages of Gemara, the rabbis engaged in a chapter-by-chapter, sometimes line-by-line analysis of the Book of Esther, after which the tractate is named. The result is practically a rewriting of the Esther story, full of new details that seem to spring from nowhere but the minds of the rabbis themselves yet are treated as deep truths that the text must have contained from the beginning. At times euphemistic and puritanical, at times surprisingly frank, the rabbis show how they take the ambiguous story of Esther and assimilate it to their own worldview.
The catchword principle is one of the keys to understanding both rabbinic and Second Temple Jewish exegesis of scripture.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links. More posts having to do with exegesis of the Book of Esther up to the present (including Haman as barber) are here and here and links.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Translation of the Suda completed

AN ARMY OF TRANSLATORS: Suda On Line: Byzantine Lexicography. From the Overview page:
Certain fundamental sources for the study of the ancient world are currently accessible only to a few specially trained researchers because they have never been provided with a sufficiently convenient interpretive apparatus or, in some cases, even translated into modern languages. The Suda On Line project attacks that inaccessibility by engaging the efforts of scholars world-wide in the translation and annotation of a substantial text that is being made available exclusively through the internet. We have chosen to begin with the Byzantine encyclopedia known as the Suda, a 10th century CE compilation of material on ancient literature, history, and biography. A massive work of about 30,000 entries, and written in sometimes dense Byzantine Greek prose, the Suda is an invaluable source for many details that would otherwise be unknown to us about Greek and Roman antiquity, as well as an important text for the study of Byzantine intellectual history.
The project has recently been completed, in the sense that all the entries have been translated, but the work will continue to be revised and developed. From the The History of the Suda On Line page:
At present (July 2014), the family of active and emerita/us SOL contributors comprises over 200 individuals from five continents and more than 20 countries, but geography is not the only aspect that makes this group diverse and eclectic. In addition to research-active university faculty, our roster has included retired professors, scholars in countries where the internet provides an invaluable supplement to meager local resources, and talented classicists who for one reason or another have ended up in careers other than higher education. One of the great benefits of SOL is the opportunity the project gives to such scholars to make a valuable contribution to the field. SOL has also been used to good effect in the classroom. Instructors at several colleges and universities have assigned entries to graduate and advanced undergraduate students for supervised translating and annotating, and hundreds of their contributions are now a permanent part of the database and can be listed as published scholarly works on the students’ CV's. One of our most prolific contributors, Jennifer Benedict (over 4500 translations), did most of her work on the SOL as an undergraduate at William & Mary. Several scholars, including Peter Green, Malcolm Heath and John Melville-Jones, donated translations of entries that they had done previously for other purposes.

A translation of the last of the Suda’s 31000+ entries was submitted to the database on July 21, 2014 and vetted the next day. This milestone is very gratifying, but the work of the project is far from over. As mentioned above, one of the founding principles of the project is that the process of improving and annotating our translations will go on indefinitely. Much important work remains to be done. We are also constantly thinking of ways to improve SOL's infrastructure and to add new tools and features. If you are interested in helping us with the continuing betterment of SOL, please read about how you can register as an editor and/or contact the managing editors.
This is a Byzantine-era work, but many of the entries are potentially of interest to ancient Judaism and its reception. For example, see the many results when you run the search term "Hebrew" through the translation search engine.

(Via AWOL.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

(Modern) Phoenician metal sculpture

PHOENICIAN WATCH: In ancient Byblos, metal sculptures add a modern touch (Nohad Topalian, Al-Shorfa.com).
Lebanese artist Sami Khoury is lighting up the ancient walls of UNESCO's International Centre for Human Sciences in Byblos with 34 plaques sculpted out of aged metal which portray three-dimensional Phoenician figures.

The exhibition, titled "Ahiram: Metal and Light" after the Phoenician king of Byblos, will remain on display through August 20th.

Khoury, a well-known choreographer who is trying his hand at sculpture for the first time, spoke with Al-Shorfa about his new project.

[...]
Ahiram, King of Byblos c. 1000 BCE, and his inscribed sarcophagus are well known, at least to Northwest Semitic epigraphers.

Snowpiercer

GNOSTICISM WATCH: How an Obscure 2nd Century Christian Heresy Influenced Snowpiercer (Michael M. Hughes, io9).
Wilford, the creator of the eponymous Snowpiercer in Bong Joon-ho's visionary science fiction epic, has fabricated our world in microcosm. It's an enormous, interconnected ecosystem that — because of its function as an ark for the all that remains of humanity —truly is their only world (young Timmy calls it "the whole wide train"). Snowpiercer flips the Gnostic model of the cosmos sideways, however, and instead of moving vertically from the lower material world to the higher, more exalted spiritual realm, the tail-enders' quest takes them horizontally from the Dickensian hell of the caboose to the rarified heaven of the eternal engine.
Sounds like an interesting movie.

More on Gnosticism's influence on films and in other modern contexts here, here, and here, and links

Crowdfunding campaign for Third Temple

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Online Campaign Aims to Build Third Temple. The Temple Institute launches an indiegogo campaign to build the Third Temple, under the title: 'Don't make history, make the future' (Arutz Sheva). I say it again: no building or excavation on the Temple Mount unless and until it can be done using non-invasive and non-destructive scanning technologies.

More on the Temple Institute is here and links.

Destruction in Mosul

MODERN ARAMAIC WATCH: Does Jonah's tomb signal the death of Christianity in Iraq? (Joel S. Baden and Candida Moss, CNN). (The (traditional) Tomb of Jonah in Mosul was reportedly destroyed by ISIS last week. I have refrained from commenting until now to see if the story held up, but current indications are that it is true.) Excerpt:
Last week, ISIS reportedly issued an ultimatum to Christians that they must convert to Islam, flee or face the sword. Earlier this month ISIS had allowed Christians to pay a non-Muslim tax known as jizya. On July 17, Christians were notified that jizya was no longer an option. They must now convert, flee or die.

Among the last Christians to leave the city were monks – residents of the ancient Mar Behnam Monastery – who left behind them 1,400 years of rich Christian tradition, as ISIS refused to let the monks take any of their precious relics with them.

Despite its antiquity and rich tradition, Christianity in Iraq is on the brink of eradication.

The heirs to those who first discovered the tomb of Jonah, and those who helped to keep Greek philosophy alive in the medieval period, are being ejected from their homes and from a land they have held sacred for centuries. This is the face and reality of Christian persecution.

Jonah was one of the earliest symbols of the resurrection for Christians. Will Christianity ever rise again in Iraq?
Related: Trampled in Abraham’s dust: The destruction of Near Eastern Christianity (Franck Salameh, Jerusalem Post).

Background here and links.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Review of Marks, First Came Marriage

H-JUDAIC REVIEW:
Susan Marks. First Came Marriage: The Rabbinic Appropriation of Early Jewish Wedding Ritual. Judaism in Context Series. Piscataway: Gorgias Press, 2013. ix + 261 pp. $183.04 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-59333-585-4.

Reviewed by Jane Kanarek (Hebrew College)
Published on H-Judaic (July, 2014)
Commissioned by Jason Kalman

Ancient Jewish Weddings between Ritual and History

With the goal of uncovering practices that have heretofore been unnoticed in ancient Jewish weddings, Susan Marks sets her methodological task as negotiating between the poles of ritual and history. She contends that approaching the study of Jewish weddings from the perspective of ritual theory alone misleads, but so too does the sole perspective of history. ...

Review of Outside the Bible

THE SEFORIM BLOG: Review of Outside the Bible: Ancient Jewish Writings Related to Scripture by Shaye J.D. Cohen. Excerpt:
The canonization of the Hebrew Bible was an enormous goad to Jewish creativity. Across genres, styles, and languages, the Jews of the second temple period reacted to, interacted with, interpreted and re-interpreted, the words of the Bible, especially the Torah, in an extraordinary variety of ways with an extraordinary variety of results. The words of the Bible, especially the Torah, seem to have consumed the Jews to such an extent that they produced little literature that did not somehow engage the Bible and its concerns. Outside the Bible is a good entry point for the study not just of ancient Bible interpretation but also of ancient Judaism as a whole.
There is also a favorable mention of Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, vol. 1.

For more on Outside the Bible see here and links.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Review of Swartz, The Ancient Jews from Alexander to Muhammad

KRISTA DALTON: Who Exactly Were The Ancient Jews? At least according to Seth Schwartz. Excerpt:
In a more condensed and perhaps more self-reflective form of his earlier chronology in Imperialism and Jewish Society, 200 BCE to 640 CE, Schwartz produces a succinct minimalist historical narrative, heavily nuanced by archeological evidence and Neusnarian skepticism.
Via Antquitopia. The Ancient Jews from Alexander to Muhammad was noted last month as forthcoming here. It's now out and already reviewed. Things move fast in the Blogosphere!

Bloomsbury books

THREE NEW BOOKS FROM BLOOMSBURY:
'I Lifted My Eyes and Saw'
Reading Dream and Vision Reports in the Hebrew Bible


Editor(s): Elizabeth R. Hayes, Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer

Published: 31-07-2014
Format: Hardback
Edition: 1st
Extent: 272
ISBN: 9780567605665
Imprint: Bloomsbury T&T Clark
Series: The Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies
Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm
RRP: £70.00
Online price: £63.00
Save £7.00 (10%)

About 'I Lifted My Eyes and Saw'

This volume addresses the rhetorical function and impact of vision and dream accounts in the Hebrew Bible. The contributors explore the exegetical, rhetorical, and structural aspects of the vision and dream accounts in the Hebrew Bible, focusing on prophetic vision reports. Several contributors employ a diachronic approach as they explore the textual relationship between the vision reports and the oracular material. Others focus on the rhetorical aspects of the vision reports in their final form and discuss why vision reporting may be used to convey a message. Another approach employed looks at reception history and investigates how this type of text has been understood by past exegetes. A few chapters consider the inter-textual relationship of the various vision reports in the Hebrew Bible, focusing on shared themes and motifs. There are also papers that deal with the ways in which select texts in the Hebrew Bible portray dream/vision interpreters andtheir activities.


Imagining the Other and Constructing Israelite Identity in the Early Second Temple Period

Editor(s): Ehud Ben Zvi, Diana Vikander Edelman

Published: 25-09-2014
Format: Hardback
Edition: 1st
Extent: 400
ISBN: 9780567248725
Imprint: Bloomsbury T&T Clark
Series: The Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies
Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm
RRP: £70.00
Online price: £63.00
Save £7.00 (10%)

About Imagining the Other and Constructing Israelite Identity in the Early Second Temple Period

This volume sheds light on how particular constructions of the 'Other'contributed to an ongoing process of defining what 'Israel' or an 'Israelite'was or was supposed to be in literature taken to be authoritative in the latePersian and Early Hellenistic periods. It asks, who is an insider and who anoutsider? Are boundaries permeable? Are there different ideas expressed withinindividual books? What about constructions of the (partial) 'Other' frominside, e.g., women, people whose body did not fit social constructions ofnormalness? It includes chapters dealing with theoretical issues and casestudies, and addresses similar issues from the perspective of groups in thelate Second Temple period so as to shed light on processes of continuity anddiscontinuity on these matters. Preliminary forms of five of the contributions werepresented in Thessaloniki in 2011 in the research programme, 'Production andReception of Authoritative Books in the Persian and Hellenistic Period,' at theAnnual Meeting of European Association of Biblical Studies (EABS).


Reading Ecclesiastes Intertextually

Editor(s): Katharine Dell, Will Kynes

Published: 25-09-2014
Format: Hardback
Edition: 1st
Extent: 344
ISBN: 9780567331250
Imprint: Bloomsbury T&T Clark
Series: The Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies
Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm
RRP: £70.00
Online price: £63.00
Save £7.00 (10%)

About Reading Ecclesiastes Intertextually

This volume continues the study of intertextuality in the ‘Wisdom Literature’ initiated in Reading Job Intertextually (Dell and Kynes, T&T Clark, 2012). Like that book, Reading Ecclesiastes Intertextually provides the first comprehensive treatment of intertextuality in this wisdom text. Articles address intertextual resonances between Ecclesiastes and texts across the Hebrew canon, along with texts throughout history, from Greek classical literature to the New Testament, Jewish and Christian interpretation, and existential and Modern philosophy.

As a multi-authored volume that gathers together scholars with expertise on this diverse array of texts, this collection provides exegetical insight that exceeds any similar attempt by a single author. The contributors have been encouraged to pursue the intertextual approach that best suits their topic, thereby offering readers a valuable collection of intertextual case studies addressing a single text.
Follow the links for TOCs and ordering information.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The ANE and psychotropic drugs

ASOR BLOG: Psychedelics and the Ancient Near East (Diana L. Stein).
As courts today debate whether to legalize or regulate the use of drugs like cannabis, it is interesting to look at the history of man’s relationship with mind-altering substances.Several books, exhibits and catalogues have recently explored the topic. Yet, despite the consensus that “every society on earth is a high society,” the Ancient Near East is omitted from these surveys. Is it too remote? Do we know so little? Was it unique? The evidence suggests otherwise.

[...]

The Coinage of Carthage

PUNIC WATCH: The Coinage of Carthage (Mike Markowitz, CoinWeek).
Most of what we know about Carthaginians was written by their enemies–first the Greeks, then the Romans. They are described as greedy, treacherous and brutal. Yet even Cicero, a Roman politician born 40 years after Carthage was wiped out, grudgingly admitted that “Carthage would never have held an empire for six hundred years had it not been governed with wisdom and statesmanship.”

None of its literature, and very little of its art, architecture or material culture survives.

But we have the coins.

[...]
The article puts the coinage into a nice capsule history of Carthage.