Friday, September 22, 2017

Retrospective on Himmelfarb's "Ascent to Heaven in Jewish and Christian Apocalypses"

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Retrospective | Martha Himmelfarb.
Thanks to the editors of Ancient Jew Review for the opportunity to reflect on my work on heavenly ascent in Jewish and Christian apocalypses. It’s now almost a quarter of a century since the publication of Ascent to Heaven in Jewish and Christian Apocalypses (1993), which I believe was the first book to treat the entire corpus of eight ascent apocalypses from the end of the third century BCE to the second century CE. ...
This book is a classic. I still have it in my stack of frequenlty-consulted books next to my desk.

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Interview with Philip Jenkins

RELIGION NEWS SERVICE: Where Satan came from, and other things that happened from the Old Testament to the New (Jana Riess).
Philip Jenkins rivals Karen Armstrong as a writer who can take some of the most complex topics of religious history and make them accessible without dumbing them down.

Adding to his line of smart, informative books is the new Crucible of Faith: The Ancient Revolution That Made Our Modern Religious World. I interviewed the Baylor historian about the new book. — JKR
I noted the publication of The Crucible of Faith here. Besides being a prolific writer of scholarly books, Professor Jenkins is a contributor to the Anxious Bench Blog. PaleoJudaica cites his posts there frequently.

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Dates on ancient Jewish inscriptions

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: How Ancient Jews Dated Years (Biblical Archaeology Society Staff). The content is less broad than the title. The essay deals focuses on dates on coins during and after the two Jewish revolts against Rome. But its particular interest is a recently discovered documentary text that dates itself from the end of the Bar Kokhba Revolt: “Year 4 of the Destruction of the House of Israel.”

This essay was published originally in 2013, but I missed it then.

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A midrash on transmitting the Torah

PROF. STEVEN D. FRAADE: A Precariously Fragile Torah (TheTorah.com).
Moses and R. Judah HaNasi implore: “I would be most grateful if you would maintain the Torah after me.”
That is, they do so in Sifre Deuteronomy.

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Gnosticism, Kabbalah, and "mother!"

CINEMA: A number of reviewers have concluded that Darren Aronofsky's new and controversial film, mother!, is an allegorical retelling of something like a Gnostic creation myth. (Readers may recall that Aronofsky also was the director of Noah a few years ago.)

I'll give you two reviews of mother!, one with a more or less Gnostic reading and one with a more or less Kabbalistic one. As you will see, they overlap considerably. Both contain spoilers, so read no further if that matters to you. Really, stop now.

The Gnostic reading: Jennifer Lawrence’s New Movie is, Basically, the Bible, Only Freakier. If you’ve paid attention at Sunday school, Darren Aronofsky’s ‘mother!’ will feel mightily familiar, but still completely crazy (Sophie Aroesty, Tablet Magazine).
mother! is a retelling of the bible, from creation in the Torah, through the New Testament, all the way to present day. mother is Mother Earth, the embodied spirit of the actual earth, the house. Him is God. man is Adam, woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) is Eve (and maybe part snake). After you get that, it’s not too hard to piece everything together. When man is throwing up in the toilet, with a bad scar under his shoulder? That’s when God takes Adam’s rib to create Eve. When man and woman destroy Him’s precious crystal? That was Adam and Eve eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. When the funeral guests destroy the sink and waterlog the house? That’s the great flood. And the realizations goes on and on and on, to the creation of the New Testament, the birth and death of Jesus, and Christianity’s followers eating the body and blood of Christ. Literally. All of these moments that at the time feel like, what the hell? later make total sense. “Later” just might be, you know, a couple days later.
It's a nice cosmic synchronicity that the reviewer's name is Sophie.

The Kabbalistic reading: The Heretical Gnosticism Of Darren Aronofsky’s Most Daring Film (Jay Michaelson, The Forward).
... As I subsequently read, Aronofsky intends “mother!” to be a parable touching on radical environmentalism (mother as in Mother Earth, the sentient Gaia being systematically destroyed by humankind) and Jewish and Christian myths of the sacred feminine. So let’s walk through the film on those terms — the results are quite remarkable.

Lawrence’s character – named in the credits as Her – is a blend of the Shechinah, the Virgin Mary, Mother Earth, and the universal “feminine” principle of nurturing, incubating, caring, and giving. (I scarequote ‘feminine’ here because all of these gendered myths can be essentialist and oppressive. Women are not necessarily ‘feminine’ in this sense; nor are men ‘masculine.’ These are categories that are at once symbolically fruitful and politically perilous.)
For my part, I think the movie sounds horrific and I do not intend to see it. But now you have some information and you can decide whether it is for you or not.

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Still more from Novenson on The Grammar of Messianism

THE ASOR BLOG: The Grammar of Messianism (Matthew V. Novenson).
My title, The Grammar of Messianism, is not a promise of a survey of terrain, but rather a thesis statement with a suppressed verb. That is to say, my goal in this book is not to map exhaustively the rules of ancient messiah discourse (to do so would be painfully tedious, even if it were possible), but to show that the relevant primary texts do amount to such a discourse, that messianism is effectively a grammar. To this end, each chapter of the book takes up a classic problem in the modern study of ancient messianism—for example, the messianic vacuum hypothesis (i.e., that there are certain conspicuous gaps in the history of messianism), the quest for the first messiah, and the Jewish messiah–Christian messiah distinction, among others—and shows how the problem dissolves when viewed from the revisionist angle advocated here. The book thus takes the form of a proof, by means of a series of related studies, that in antiquity the messiah was not an article of faith but a manner of speaking.
For more on the book, see here, here, and here.

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Rosh HaShanah and God's memory

PROF. MARK ZVI BRETTLER: Zichronot: Asking an Omniscient God to Remember (TheTorah.com).
Do we really want God to remember all that we did?
Spoiler: the answer is no.

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Review of Norelli and Cameron, Markion und der biblische Kanon

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Enrico Norelli, Averil Cameron, Markion und der biblische Kanon; Christian literature and Christian History. Hans-Lietzmann-Vorlesungen, 11; 15. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2016. Pp. xiv, 53. ISBN 9783110374056. $28.00 (pb). Reviewed by Joshua Yoder, Bryn Mawr, PA (jyoder4@alumni.nd.edu).
The Hans-Lietzmann-Vorlesungen honor the man who succeeded Adolf von Harnack as Chair of New Testament, Church History and Christian Archaeology at the Humboldt-Universitӓt Berlin (1924) and as editor of the series “Griechische Christliche Schriftsteller” from 1930 until his death in 1942. This volume contains two of these lectures, given in 2009 and 2013 by Enrico Norelli of the University of Geneva and Averil Cameron, emerita of Oxford.

[...]
Past posts on a couple of other recent books on Marcion are here and here and links.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Rosh HaShanah 2017

HAPPY NEW YEAR (ROSH HASHANAH - Jewish New Year 5778) to all those celebrating. The New Year begins tonight at sundown. For biblical and historical background, see the links here.

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Where did the Temple menorah go?

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Where Did the Temple Menorah Go? Did it go back to Jerusalem? (Marek Dospěl).
To commemorate this Roman triumph and to honor the victorious general (and later emperor), Titus, Emperor Domitian built an honorific monument—the Arch of Titus, which stands on the main processional street of ancient Rome (Via Sacra) to this day. The relief panels of the Arch of Titus in Rome chronicle the triumphal episodes following the fall of Jerusalem, capturing prominently the triumphal procession. One of the scenes confirms that the Temple Menorah was carried on litters in the parade that took place in the summer of 71 C.E. But what happened to the seven-branched candelabrum after that? The possibilities are explored in detail in the article “Did the Temple Menorah Come Back to Jerusalem?” in the September/October 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, where Fredric Brandfon unravels the Menorah’s intricate story.
The BAR article is behind the subscription wall, but this BHD piece gives some idea of what is in it.

As for the question, PaleoJudaica has been exploring answers for a long time. So far, none of them are particularly convincing. Start here and here and follow the links. And for the Arch of Titus, and for ancient menorahs and representations of menorahs in general, see here and follow the many links.

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DSS in Denver

EXHIBITION: Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition coming to Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Exhibit, which has traversed the world, opens in March (Kieran Nicholson, Denver Post).
The Dead Sea Scrolls, among the oldest known Biblical documents dating back over 2,000 years, and hundreds of artifacts from the Holy Land will be on display at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science early next year.

“The Dead Sea Scrolls” exhibition, which has been presented around the world, opens in Denver on March 16.

[...]
This exhibition has traveled around a lot. I lost track of it after it left Los Angeles in 2015 (see here and here and links). I don't know if it has shown elsewhere since then.

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Review of Rezakhani, ReOrienting the Sasanians

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Rezakhani, ReOrienting the Sasanians: East Iran in Late Antiquity (Simcha Gross).
Khodadad Rezakhani. Reorienting the Sasanians: Eastern Iran in Late Antiquity. Edinburgh University Press, 2017.
Excerpt:
The book is divided into an introduction and nine relatively short and manageable chapters, along with a conclusion and brief epilogue. Rezakhani notes that this region has suffered from the confluence of a few trends. First, the Sasanian Empire has been conceptualized as a Western leaning Empire, mostly invested in Iraq and Khuzistan, less of a reflection of the actual history of the empire than the western-centrism of scholars. Second, as a result of the lack of Sasanian or more local contemporary historical or literary works concerning East Iran, the various barriers to accessing this material and the general disinterest in this area by related fields, most of the studies that have appeared are philologically focused, and do not attempt to provide a larger historical narrative of this region. Rezakhani therefore sets out to fill this desiderata by providing a narrative history of East Iran.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A new Phoenician archive

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: The Phoenician Alphabet in Archaeology. What did the Phoenicians record with their innovative script? (Josephine Quinn). The essay begins with some basics about the Phoenician alphabet, but then goes on to report something more exciting:
Now, however, excavations at the inland city of Idalion on Cyprus by Dr. Maria Hadjicosti of the Department of Antiquities have finally brought to light a large archive of Phoenician texts, preserved because they were written not on perishable materials but on fragments of marble, stone, and pottery. These texts are now being studied in Nicosia by Professor Maria Giulia Amadasi Guzzo of the Sapienza University of Rome and Dr. José Ángel Zamora López of the Spanish National Research Agency, who have published their preliminary findings in Italian in the latest issue of the journal Semitica et Classica.
Read on for more on the contents of the archive. It consists of administrative texts and personal documents. There are no literary texts so far.

This is an exciting discovery, which is new to me. I look forward to hearing more about it.

Cross-file under Phoenician Watch and Epigraphy.

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Anti-Semitic use of the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: The Anti-Semite Can Cite Talmud for His Purpose. Taken out of context, ancient Rabbinic laws—such as those on capital punishment discussed in this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ study—can attract the attention of those who hate us.

Two comments on the discussion of the death penalty in b. Sanhedrin. First, as I have said repeatedly before, the ancients lived in a world whose casual cruelty and brutality is hard for us to imagine. Second, the Talmud's horrific discussions of the merits of various forms of execution are all theoretical and often purely exegetical. I don't doubt that such executions were common in the larger world, but Jewish courts did not have the authority to impose the death penalty in this period.

The use of the Talmud by anti-Semites has come up from time to time at PaleoJudaica. Often such works also make liberal use of fake Talmudic quotes from non-existent tractates. Some discussion is here and links.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Jenkins, The Crucible of Faith

NEW BOOK FROM BASIC BOOKS: Crucible of Faith: The Ancient Revolution That Made Our Modern Religious World by Philip Jenkins. It is released today.
In The Crucible of Faith, Philip Jenkins argues that much of the Judeo-Christian tradition we know today was born between 250-50 BCE, during a turbulent "Crucible Era." It was during these years that Judaism grappled with Hellenizing forces and produced new religious ideas that reflected and responded to their changing world. By the time of the fall of the Temple in 70 CE, concepts that might once have seemed bizarre became normalized-and thus passed on to Christianity and later Islam. Drawing widely on contemporary sources from outside the canonical Old and New Testaments, Jenkins reveals an era of political violence and social upheaval that ultimately gave birth to entirely new ideas about religion, the afterlife, Creation and the Fall, and the nature of God and Satan.
Professor Jenkins has some comments on it at the Anxious Bench Blog here and here.

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Frustration with the Museum of the Bible and eBay

ROBERTA MAZZA HAD A FRUSTRATING WEEK.

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Monday, September 18, 2017

More on the proposed application of ancient Jewish law to Israeli law

POLITICS AND LAW: ISRAELI PROPOSAL TO MAKE LEGAL JUDGMENTS FROM THE BIBLE STIRS CONTROVERSY. Knesset Constitution Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky's proposal calls for courts to draw on “principles of Hebrew law” in instances that are not covered by existing law (Ben Lynfield, Jerusalem Post).
A two-pronged legislative initiative by Knesset Constitution Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky to make “Hebrew law” a basis for court judgments is under fire from Arab MKs and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which warn that such a move could heighten discrimination against Arabs.

[...]
Related posts are here and here.

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Review of Harris (ed.), Popular Medicine in Graeco-Roman Antiquity: Explorations

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: W. V. Harris (ed.), Popular Medicine in Graeco-Roman Antiquity: Explorations. Columbia studies in the classical tradition, 42. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2016. Pp. xv, 319. ISBN 9789004325586. $138.00. Reviewed by Kai Brodersen, Universität Erfurt​ (kai.brodersen@uni-erfurt.de).
This collection combines a substantial introduction by the editor and twelve essays of varying length and depth by experts in ancient medicine who were invited to a conference in Columbia University in 2014. The book focuses on popular medicine which the editor defines as “those practices aimed at averting or remedying illness that are followed by people who do not claim expertise in learned medicine (Gk. iatrike) and do not surrender their entire physical health to professional physicians (Gk. iatroi).” The book argues that our knowledge about ancient healthcare is “severely unbalanced” as there are “large bodies of evidence that concern elite/learned/rationalistic medicine on the one hand and temple medicine on the other”, while “the evidence about popular medicine ... is scattered, refractory and elusive” (vii). The book aims to redress the balance, and certainly succeeds in making classicists and ancient historians more aware of the evidence, and the models used to interpret it, and thus to further our understanding of classical medicine in a wider sense.
Note in particular, Catherine Hezser: "Representations of the Physician in Jewish Literature from Hellenistic and Roman Times."

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More on the announced return of the Iraqi Jewish archive to Iraq

RESPONSES: 'Jewish documents should be given to Israel, not Iraq.' US government plans to return ancient Jewish documents to Iraq, Israeli forum asks they be transferred to Israel instead (Itamar Tzur, JTA via Arutz Sheva).
Rodriguez was asked how appropriate treatment of the archive will be ensured.

"When the IJA is returned, the State Department will urge the Iraqi government to take the proper steps necessary to preserve the archive, and to make it available to members of the public to enjoy," he said in the statement.

The archive is set to be exhibited at the Jewish Museum of Maryland Oct. 15-Jan. 15. The exhibit page says the items include a Hebrew Bible with commentaries from 1568, a Babylonian Talmud from 1793 and an 1815 version of the Zohar, a Jewish mystical text.

"At this point, we have no new information for you about additional venues," Miriam Kleiman, program director for public affairs at the National Archives, told JTA in an email on Friday.

Groups representing Jews from Iraq decried the return date.

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More on Kurshan, If All the Seas Were Ink

TALMUD WATCH: Bringing ‘Daf Yomi’ to Life. And Vice Versa. In her new memoir ‘If All the Seas Were Ink,’ Ilana Kurshan recounts her time in Israel—one page of Talmud at a time (Beth Kissileff, Tablet Magazine).
If All the Seas Were Ink started as a series of blog posts that Kurshan wrote about her studies, beginning with limericks on the text of the day. Kurshan has always learned by writing poems; in high school, she wrote poetry about math that was published in magazines for math teachers. “Things resonate in an uncanny way, in light of the Gemara,” she told me. For her, the pages of the Talmud “mark milestones in my kids’ lives,” she said. The first birthday of her twin daughters fell at the time she began writing the book, for instance. When one of her twins got teeth before her sister and would bite her repeatedly, Kurshan said, “I was in the midst of the Talmud’s discussion of the shor muad, the ox which is known to have gored at least three times, and which the rabbis of the Talmud invoke to refer to one of four general categories of damages.” This understated sense of humor, comparing a 1-year-old biter with a goring ox, is typical of Kurshan’s oeuvre.
I noted a review of the book here.

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

The afterlife of Deuteronomy's command to read the Torah in public

PROF. AARON DEMSKY: Historical Hakhel Ceremonies and the Origin of Public Torah Reading (TheTorah.com).
Deuteronomy’s mitzvah of publicly reading the Torah on Sukkot every seven years appears in various forms in stories about King Josiah, King Agrippa, and Ezra the Scribe. The latter’s innovative ceremony served as the model for what became synagogue Torah-reading.

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The whereabouts of the libraries of NT textual critics

THE ETC BLOG: Where are they now? New Testament text-critics’ libraries (Peter Gurry). In case you were wondering.

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Hurtado on the crucifixion gem

LARRY HURTADO: Gemstone Crucifixion Image: A Recent Study.
In a recent article, Roy Kotansky provides a fresh analysis of an ancient gemstone that that is regarded as giving one of the earliest visual depictions of the crucified Jesus: Roy Kotansky, “The Magic ‘Crucifixion Gem’ in the British Museum,” Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 57.3 (2017): 631-59 (the article available here). (There is an online image of the gemstone in question here.)

[...]
(Note: the last link is not working, at least at the moment.) Professor Hurtado likes the article, but offers some corrections.

I have posted on the crucifixion gem here and (noting Dr. Kotansky's article) here.

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On reading Josephus in Greek

THE LOGOS ACADEMIC BLOG: How to read Josephus in Greek like a boss (Daniel Stevens). There's lots of good advice in this post.

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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Septuagint Studies Supervision (1)

WILLIAM ROSS: SUPERVISORS & PROGRAMS FOR SEPTUAGINT STUDIES – PART I. I am not a specialist in Septuagint studies but, like some on this list, I could (and would be happy to) supervise PhD students on related matters such as textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible.

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Women in 1 Cor 11:2-16

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
Women and Worship in Paul’s Churches: Apostles, Prophets, and Teachers

I have now lost count of the number of times that I have read the work of a scholar on the topic of women in Paul’s churches who tells me that they find it easy or hard to ‘imagine’ a particular scenario in the early church and thus to reconstruct a scenario that seems to the writer to be the most ‘plausible’ based on the evidence before us. I imagine that they are assuming that I too will find these scenarios easy to ‘imagine’ as well, but this is not always the case.

See Also: Women and Worship at Corinth (Cascade Books, 2015).

By Lucy Peppiatt
Principal
Westminster Theological Centre
Past posts dealing with 1 Corinthians 11, coming at the subject from a somewhat different angle, are here and here.

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Hurtado on Kirk on memory and the Historical Jesus

LARRY HURTADO: Review/Critique of Ehrman, Bauckham and Bird on Memory and Jesus.
A newly-published article gives an incisive discussion of recent publications by Bart Ehrman, Richard Bauckham, and Michael Bird on memory, tradition and the historical Jesus: Alan Kirk, “Ehrman, Bauckham and Bird on Memory and the Jesus Tradition,” Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 15.1 (2017): 88-114.

[...]
A PaleoJudaica post that involves Richard Bauckham's Jesus and the Eyewitnesses is here.

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Dabir 04

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: "Issue 04 of DABIR (Digital Archive of Brief notes & Iran Review).Issue 04 of Dabir, an open access on-line journal for Iranian Studies, is out now. Dabir is published by the Jordan Center for Persian Studies."

As usual, there is nothing specific about ancient Judaism in this issue, but there are articles of background interest on matters such as Sogdian, Avestan, and the history of the Achamenid empire.

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