Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Review of Stuckenbruck, The Myth of the Rebellious Angels

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: The Scope and Shape of the Watchers Myth in Antiquity (Daniel Machiela). Review of Loren T. Stuckenbruck, The Myth of the Rebellious Angels: Studies in Second Temple Judaism and New Testament Texts. WUNT 335. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014.
In this volume of collected articles—most of them published previously in a variety of scholarly venues, though updated here—Loren Stuckenbruck of the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, takes the reader on a detailed exploration of the birth and early history of this legend as attested in ancient Judaism and earliest Christianity. There are few, if any, as capable of guiding this tour, and though these individual studies were not originally intended to be read as part of a comprehensive account, readers of this book will come away with a rich understanding of the myth of the fallen, rebellious angels and their offspring as understood in ancient Judaism and Christianity. They will also gain an appreciation of the breadth and scholarly acumen of Stuckenbruck’s work on this topic, which is truly remarkable. In this review, I aim to introduce readers to texts and traditions associated with the myth of the rebellious angels, touching on current scholarly discussions around them.
The publication of the book was noted here, paperback here. A related, more recent book co-edited by Professor Stuckenbruck was noted here. Earlier essays in the AJR series on the Dead Sea Scrolls (in honor of the 70th anniversary of their discovery) are noted here and links.

The Talmud and time travel

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: The Talmud’s Hot Tub Time Machine. How Moses could know how his people’s story would end before it was even written is in keeping with the spirit of ‘Daf Yomi.’
What the Gemara does not point out, but struck me as remarkable, is that the Torah portion that lays out the rule for levirate marriage comes in Deuteronomy, while the story of Zelophehad’s daughters is in Numbers, which of course precedes Deuteronomy in the Five Books of Moses. In other words, the rabbis envision Moses possessing a complete Torah while the events the Torah recounts are still taking place. While he is wandering the wilderness, in Numbers, he can consult the law code he will not actually deliver to the Israelites until years later, in Deuteronomy.
Okay, but what's with the hot tub? I thought you needed a flux capacitor.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Trump visits Western Wall

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Trump makes historic visit to Western Wall (Jeremy Diamond, CNN).
Jerusalem (CNN)President Donald Trump on Monday became the first sitting US president to visit the Western Wall, one of the holiest sites in Judaism.

[...]
On a related note, Haaretz rules on a technicality: Give Ivanka Trump a Break, She Didn’t Get the Western Wall Wrong. Twitter erupted after the first daughter described Jerusalem’s Kotel as the holiest site in Judaism; as part of the Temple Mount, that’s exactly what it is (David B. Green). Technically, the Kotel is usually called "one of the holiest sites" in Judaism, but yes, it is also part of the Temple Mount, which is the holiest site. It's interesting to note that the CNN video above also refers to Trump honoring "the holiest site in the world for Judaism, for Jews." It also refers to "Judaism's most holy site."

Review of "Salome"

THEATRE? Review: Salome. Yael Ferber's new play Salome is unforgettable, but it's not theatre, says John Nathan (The Jewish Chronicle). Two stars.
Clearly, Farber decided to reject period drama as a way of telling the story. The result feels utterly authentic but fatally ponderous. The language of the script — a mix of English, Aramaic and Arabic — demands to be intoned rather than performed.

[...]

Yet calling it theatre doesn’t seem quite right. Perhaps it would work better as an installation. But whatever it is, it’s unforgettable.
Notices of earlier reviews of Farber's production of Salome (Salomé) and related matters are collected here.

Monday, May 22, 2017

More on London's Dead Sea Scrolls

EPIGRAPY: HOW TO DECODE AN ANCIENT ROMAN’S HANDWRITING. Roger Tomlin has made a career studying bar bills, curse tablets, and other British relics that were never meant for posterity (Charlotte Higgins, The New Yorker). HT AJR.

This is an interview with the man who deciphered and has now published those wooden tablets inscribed in Latin which were found in London some years ago. The tablets have no direct bearing on ancient Judaism, but I have discussed some indirect points of comparison etc. here. This article confirms that all the London tablets are documentary and administrative rather literary texts. The process of their decipherment is fascinating and pertinent for understanding all sorts of epigraphic discoveries.

The article includes the story of the "decipherment" by Edward Nicholson of an ancient Scottish inscription engraved on lead in Latin.
There the matter rested for ninety years, until Tomlin decided to take another look at Nicholson’s photographs. As he studied them (the original artifact had, alas, disappeared), he found that Nicholson had made one disastrous error: he had read the entire inscription upside down.
Every epigrapher's nightmare.

Review of Bortolani, Magical Hymns from Roman Egypt

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Ljuba Merlina Bortolani, Magical Hymns from Roman Egypt: A Study of Greek and Egyptian Traditions of Divinity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016. Pp. xxi, 467. ISBN 9781107108387. $130.00.. Reviewed by Thomas Galoppin, LabEx HASTEC – LEM, Paris.
This interdisciplinary study provides a useful new edition of several of the hymns found in the Greek magical papyri (henceforth PGM), along with an analysis of their content and cultural background. L. M. Bortolani gives an overview of the cultural backgrounds, largely Egyptian and Greek, of 15 hymns edited from the metric sections found within the Greek text of the ritual procedures contained in the PGM.

[...]
Another recent book on the Greek Magical Papyri was noted here.

Sidnie White Crawford on that other Bible

BIBLE ODYSSEY: The "Other" Bible from Qumran (Sidnie White Crawford). Here we hear more about those alternative scriptures, including 1 Enoch, Jubilees, and Ben Sira, but in the context of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

Christian Apocrypha at ISBL 2017

APOCRYPHICITY: Christian Apocrypha at the 2017 SBL International Meeting (Tony Burke). The meeting takes place in Berlin in August.

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

Sunday, May 21, 2017

DeConick interviewed

APRIL DECONICK: Rorotoko Interview. Professor DeConick is interviewed about her book, The Gnostic New Age. My SBL review of the book is here.

Cohen, For Out of Babylonia Shall Come Torah and the Word of the Lord from Nehar Peqod

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL: For Out of Babylonia Shall Come Torah and the Word of the Lord from Nehar Peqod. The Quest for Babylonian Tannaitic Traditions. Dr. Barak S. Cohen, Bar Ilan University.
In For Out of Babylonia Shall Come Torah and the Word of the Lord from Nehar Peqod, Barak S. Cohen reevaluates the evidence in Tannaitic and Amoraic literature of an independent “Babylonian Mishnah” which originated in the proto-talmudic period. The book focuses on an analysis of the most notable halakhic corpora that have been identified by scholars as originating in the Tannaitic period or at the outset of the amoraic. If indeed such an early corpus did exist, what are its characteristics and what, if any, connection does it have with the parallel Palestinian collections? Was this Babylonian Mishnah created in order to harmonize the Palestinian Mishnah with a corpus of rabbinic teachings already existent in Babylonia?
Was this corpus one of the main contributors to the forced interpretations and resolutions found so frequently in the Bavli?

Kratz et al., Hebräisches und aramäisches Wörterbuch zu den Texten vom Toten Meer, vol. 1

NEW BOOK FROM DE GRUYTER: Hebräisches und aramäisches Wörterbuch zu den Texten vom Toten MeerBand 1: Aleph – Beth. Reinhard Gregor Kratz, Annette Steudel, and Ingo Kottsieper. 2017.
The manuscripts from Qumran and other sites offer unique insight into the Hebrew and Aramaic languages during the period of the Second Temple. For the first time, in the tradition of classical lexicology, this philological dictionary develops a non-Biblical lexicon from these sources (plus the Dead Sea scrolls and Cairo Geniza manuscripts), while also placing it in the context of the history of the Hebraic and Aramaic languages.
This German volume covers words beginning with the first two letters of the (Hebrew and Aramaic) alphabet. That's a good start!

Review of John, Der Galaterbrief im Kontext

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Felix John, Der Galaterbrief im Kontext historischer Lebenswelten im antiken Kleinasien. Forschungen zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und Neuen Testaments, 264. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016. Pp. 259. ISBN 9783525540503. €70.00. Reviewed by Søren Lund Sørensen, Freie Universität Berlin.

This book on Paul's Letter to the Galatians in the New Testament is reviewed in BMCR because it contains much of interest to a "classical readership." But the review also indicates that the book has relevance for the study of ancient Judaism.

Hurtado on the "thorny crown"

LARRY HURTADO: The “Thorny Crown.” Was the idea of the "thorny crown" placed on the head of Jesus according to the Gospels meant as a jeering representation an imperial "radiate" (spikey) crown?"

That idea might provide a better explanation of numismatic evidence pointed to in this story. If so, the thorny crown referred to in the Gospels was a satirical reference to the crown some rulers are shown wearing on ancient coins. That doesn't mean that any of the people depicted in those coins were Jesus.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

There was a forgery of the Palestinian Talmud

FAKE TALMUD: The Forged Yerushalmi: A 20th-Century Controversy. Revel’s 80th Anniversary Lecture Series Features Discussion of Famous Talmudic Forgery (Yeshiva University News). The lecture was by "historian Rabbi Boruch Oberlander, head of the Budapest Orthodox Beis Din and a long-time leader in the Hungarian Jewish community."
The discussion revolved around one of the most famous recent forgeries of a sacred Judaic text. In January 1907, Shlomo Yehuda Algazi-Friedländer published in Hungary what he claimed were the long-lost tractates of Seder Kodashim of the Jerusalem Talmud, garnering praise in rabbinic circles for bringing this material to light.
I didn't know about this one. The forgery was detected and within months and thoroughly debunked by 1913, so it doesn't seem to have been very good.

Pachoumi, The Concepts of the Divine in the Greek Magical Papyri

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: ELENI PACHOUMI, The Concepts of the Divine in the Greek Magical Papyri. 2017. XVI, 258 pages. Studies and Texts in Antiquity and Christianity 102. In English.
Eleni Pachoumi looks at the concepts of the divine in the Greek magical papyri by way of a careful and detailed analysis of ritual practices and spells. Her aim is to uncover the underlying religious, philosophical and mystical parallelisms and influences on the Greek magical papyri. The author starts by examining the religious and philosophical concept of the personal daimon and the union of the individual with his personal daimon through the magico-theurgic ritual of systasis. She then goes on to analyze the religious concept of paredros as the divine “assistant” and the various relationships between paredros, the divine and the individual. To round off, she studies the concept of the divine through the manifold religious and philosophical assimilations mainly between Greek, Egyptian, Hellenized gods and divine abstract concepts of Jewish origins.

Kanarakis (ed.), The Legacy of the Greek Language

NEW BOOK: The Legacy of the Greek Language. Dean Kalimniou reviews Professor George Kanarakis' The Legacy of the Greek Language - a must-have book for all Greek Australian households (Neos Kosmos). The book includes chapters on the influence of Greek on Coptic, Slavonic languages, Arabic, Hebrew, etc., but — the reviewer laments — not on Syriac/Aramaic. The book was published by CSU Print in 2017. Neos Kosmos announced its publication last month.

Häberl and McGrath, The Mandaean Book of John

RELIGION PROF: The Mandaean Book of John: Critical Edition, Translation, and Commentary. It is good to hear that this new edition by Charles D. Häberl and James McGrath is coming out with De Gruyter in 2017.

Cross-file under Mandean Watch (Mandaean Watch) and New Book.

Cohen-Matlofsky on the Qumran caves

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION: Qumran and Vicinity: The Caves as a Key to the Enigma (By Claude Cohen-Matlofsky, Institut Universitaire d’Études Juives (IUEJ), Elie Wiesel, Paris. Co-director “Séminaire Qumrân de Paris” Sorbonne-EPHE).

It is clear that there was some connection between the inhabitants of the site of Qumran and the scrolls found in the nearby caves. But the exact connection remains much debated. Most scholars think that the Dead Sea Scrolls were deposited in the caves around the time of the Great Revolt against Rome c. 68 CE. But Dr. Cohen-Matlofsky thinks they were placed in the caves over a period of centuries.

For some more-or-less related PaleoJudaica posts, start here and follow the links.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Old Testament Pseudepigrapha a century and more ago

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: Alternative Scriptures: Which Old Testament? Philip Jenkins continues his blog series on the discovery of "alternative scriptures" a century and more ago. This time he focuses on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. He has a good review of literature, with many works by R. H. Charles mentioned. He also notes the important work of M. R. James, on whom more here, here, here, and here.

Interest in alternative scriptures actually goes back much more than a century. Johann Albert Fabricius published the first scholarly edition of Old Testament Pseudepigrapha in 1713, exactly two centuries before Charles published his famous two-volume collection of Old Testament Apocrypha and Old Testament Pseudepigrapha.

The twenty-first century is looking pretty good for alternative scriptures as well. The two-volume edition of Old Testament Pseudepigrapha edited by James Charlesworth in the 1980s was a massive contribution to the field. Then the first volume of texts for the More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project (Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, volume 1, Eerdmans, ed. Bauckham, Davila, and Panayotov) was published in 2013, exactly three centuries after the edition of Fabricius and exactly a century after Charles's edition.

And we're not done! Volume 2 is in the works.

Report on the Lead Books Centre's AGM

UPDATE: Scholars begin to unlock mystery of lead books ( Paul Handley and Madeleine Davies, Church Times). This is mostly a rehash of the Church Times article noted a few days ago, but it does include some updates on what went on in the AGM of the Centre, which I excerpt:
A summary statement read out at a press conference on Tuesday, answered in the affirmative [that the lead codices are worthy of further study].

[...]

Dr Barker said on Tuesday that she hoped to find a university home for the work in order to engage young scholars, and also to involve experts from a wider range of fields, including astronomy. She would like to see conferences held in Jerusalem and Jordan, and involve people working in the region.

... Dr Barker showed an example of her interpretative process on Tuesday, arguing that the vocabulary emerging referred to passages in Isaiah and Revelation, and Johannine writings.

Dr Barker said on Tuesday that she believed that the books would result in a “paradigm shift” in the understanding of the Second Temple period, as the Dead Sea Scrolls had done.

“The significance for Christians is that we can no longer think that the founders of the Christian faith were humble fisherman in Galilee,” she said. “They were very learned heirs to the Temple tradition.” She referred to Acts 6.7 (“a large number of priests became obedient to the faith”).

The scholars have made several films of their discoveries, which they showed at a press briefing at St Ethelburga’s, London, on Tuesday, and can soon be viewed on www.leadbookcentre.com.
Those are big claims. They require substantial verification.

Beyond that, I refrain from repeating myself. I stand by my detailed statement a couple months ago: The Jordan Department of Antiquities disavows the lead codices. Follow the links there for many, many past posts. And I added a few other thoughts here.

Cross-file under Fake Metal Codices Watch. I acknowledge that various elements of the current discussion may point to some of the codices being something other than fake, but I remain to be convinced. And in any case, I continue to include this cross-file rubric so that all my posts on the subject can be accessed together.

Trump and the Third Temple?

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH? Jewish Mystics Hope Trump’s Israel Visit Might ‘Raise The Temple.’ (Sam Kestenbaum, The Forward). Third Temple activists are hoping that President Trump will visit the Temple Mount and endorse their project. I agree with the article that neither is likely. He seems to be planning to visit the Western Wall, but that is as far as it will go.

Again and again and again: I oppose all efforts to rebuild the Temple on the Temple Mount. No excavation or construction on the Temple Mount! Not even archaeology, until we have non-invasive and non-destructive technologies to do the work.

Heat or helicopter?

TOO GOOD TO FACT CHECK: Donald Trump cancels visit to ancient Israel fortress because ‘he cannot land his helicopter’ on site. US President's aides reportedly refuse to go up hilltop site with cable car (Chloe Farand, The Independent). This rumor was started by Israel's Channel 2. The other explanation, also based on "reports," was that the cancellation was due to the desert heat.

Background here and links.

Publication of the Azusa Pacific DSS fragments

PRESS RELEASE: Publication of Azusa Pacific Universitys Dead Sea Scrolls to Enhance Biblical Scholarship.
... The highly anticipated official publication of these rare and fragile antiquities will appear as a volume in the prestigious Princeton Theological Seminary Dead Sea Scrolls Project series in 2017.

The publication was prepared in collaboration with an editorial team at Princeton Theological Seminary headed by James H. Charlesworth, Ph.D., George Collord Professor of New Testament. This volume will join other recently published volumes of Dead Sea Scroll fragments in the Schøyen and Museum of the Bible collections.
On the contents of the fragments:
Among the five ancient fragments are portions from the book of Leviticus, the book of Deuteronomy, and the book of Daniel, inscribed at about the time of Christ or within a century earlier. It is possible that the Daniel fragment owned by APU is the world’s oldest existing manuscript of Daniel 5:13-16.

Of the significant findings, „The university’s Deuteronomy 27 fragment features a unique reading in verse 4 that agrees with the Samaritan Torah. This will give scholars new insights into the relationship between Judaism and Samaritanism in antiquity,” said Karen Winslow, Ph.D., professor and chair, biblical and theological studies in the Azusa Pacific Seminary.
Past posts on the Dead Sea Scrolls fragments held by Azusa Pacific University are here and links. The fragments will be on public display next week.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Dirk Smilde Scholarship 2018

OTTC BLOG: Ph.D. and Postdoc Scholarship at the University of Groningen (Drew Longacre). The Dirk Smilde Scholarship 2018 is open for applications.

The advert also announces that Professor George J. Brooke, who recently retired from the University of Manchester, will be at the University of Groningen as the 2018 Dirk Smilde Fellow from January to June 2018. Congratulations to Professor Brooke and to Groningen!

Review of Trzaskoma et al. (eds.) Anthology of Classical Myth

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Stephen M. Trzaskoma, R. Scott Smith, Stephen Brunet (ed.), Anthology of Classical Myth: Primary Sources in Translation. Second edition. Indianapolis; Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, 2016. Pp. lvii, 548. ISBN 9781624664977. $22.00 (pb). ISBN 9781624664984. $57.00 (hb). Reviewed by Christina A. Salowey, Hollins University.

Classical texts taken from 52 Greek and Roman sources; appendices on Linear B, inscriptions, and papyri; and a new (in the second edition) appendix of ancient Near Eastern myths. The latter include the Gilgamesh and Atrahasis versions of the Flood story, material from the Enuma Elish, a Hittite myth, and Genesis 1-9. Good stuff.

Review of Novenson, The Grammar of Messianism

THE JESUS CREED BLOG: Loosening the Messiah (Scot McKnight). A review of Matthew Novenson new book, The Grammar of Messianism: An Ancient Jewish Political Idiom and Its Users (OUP 2017). Excerpt:
Second, his approach is to go to the texts and particularize, contextualize, individualize the messianic texts — those that actually mention “messiah” — and so connect each messianic text to its social setting. The result is not a messianic idea that is a synthesis of all the messianic texts, which is more or less what happens many times when people construct a messianic idea, but instead a term — messiah — that has very little meaning apart from the particular context in which it occurs.
Dr. Novenson is Senior Lecturer in New Testament and Christian Origins at the University of Edinburgh (New College). A review of his first book, Christ Among the Messiahs, was noted here. He was also a plenary speaker at the St. Andrews Symposium on Divine Sonship last June.

New director for the Oriental Institute

PRESS RELEASE: Christopher Woods appointed director of the Oriental Institute Professor Woods is a Sumerologist. The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago shows up frequently in PaleoJudaica posts. Professor Woods replaces archaeologist Gil Stein, who has been director since 2002. Congratulations to Professor Woods and to the Oriental Institute.

Gematria meets American politics

PHILOLOGOS: The Gematria of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Fun with Hebrew numbers (Mosaic Magazine). Despite the clickbait title and provocative opening, this is a nice introduction to the ancient art of "gematria." This art is based on the fact that each letter in the Hebrew alphabet also has a numeric value. Gematria involves adding up the total numeric value of all the letters of a word or phrase, finding another word or phrase with the same value, and drawing conclusions about the first in light of the second.

Philologos notes that gematria goes back at least to the Talmud. It may be much older. In the late first century CE, the author of the Book of Revelation was adding up the value of a name and using that as a secret code. This isn't precisely gematria, but it is playing with the same ideas.

Many years ago Philologos had another column on gematria in The Forward, but the link to that one has rotted. Other past PaleoJudaica posts on the subject are here and here.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Review of Ulrich, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Developmental Composition of the Bible

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: The Developmental Composition of the Bible in View of Qumran. A review by David Sigrist of Ulrich, Eugene, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Developmental Composition of the Bible, VTSup 169 (Leiden: Brill, 2015). The biblical scrolls from Qumran show that textual criticism bleeds into redactional criticism and even source criticism. Each is its own discipline, but they are on a continuum. Septuagint studies are relevant for all three as well and complementary to Qumran studies.

This sounds like a fascinating and useful book.

Earlier essays in the AJR series on the Dead Sea Scrolls (in honor of the 70th anniversary of their discovery) are noted here and here and links.

Forum on Cynthia Baker's "Jew"

MARGINALIA REVIEW OF BOOKS: Introduction: Forum on Cynthia Baker, Jew. Shaul Magid and Annette Yoshiko Reed introduce Marginalia’s newest forum. This is in some ways a follow-up to the 2014 forum on the terminology debate over "Jew" vs. "Judean." I noted the latter here and here, and weighed in on that topic myself here.

The current forum promises numerous essays on the book. The first, by Daniel Boyarin, is already published: Yeah Jew!

Cynthia Baker's book Jew was published in 2017 by Rutgers University Press. I only just learned that it is out. But I noted back in 2010 that it was underway.


The monks who saved the O. T. Pseudepigrapha

OLD TESTAMENT PSEUDEPIGRAPHA WATCH: The Christian Monks Who Saved Jewish History (Malka Z. Simkovich, Lehrhaus). HT Mosaic Magazine. This article deals with St. Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai and Mount Athos Monastery in Greece. Scribal monks did indeed save much ancient Jewish literature from oblivion.

That said, the examples given are mostly problematical. It is debatable whether Joseph and Aseneth is a Jewish work. The Greek Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, including the Testament of Levi, draw on some Jewish texts, but are Christian compositions. It is correct, however, that the Testament of Levi manuscript from Mount Athos contains (in Greek translation) some verbatim material that is otherwise only known from Aramaic Levi.

The Testament of Solomon is a Christian composition. The Testament of Adam probably is as well. It is not clear whether the Testament of Job is a Christian or Jewish composition.

There are undoubtedly Jewish texts that survive in Greek and were transmitted only by Christians. These include Greek translations of the Book of Watchers and of the Epistle of Enoch (both from 1 Enoch), the Letter of Aristeas, 3-4 Maccabees, and, as the article does mention, the works of Philo and Josephus. But I'm not sure how many of these, if any, survive in manuscripts specifically from these two monasteries.

My caveats aside, it is always good to see the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha getting some attention. Hopefully a more nuanced understanding will filter out into popular coverage in due course. And, as I said, the main point of this article does stand. For some bibliography on the topic of the provenance of such texts (by me) see the list here.

For much more on St. Catherine's Monastery and its manuscripts, start here and follow the many links. And for more on Mount Athos Monastery (and its cats!), see here.

Josephus, Masada, and archaeology

MASADA REVISIONISM: Did the Jews Kill Themselves at Masada Rather Than Fall Into Roman Hands? The tradition of mass suicide at the ancient desert fortress as described by Josephus has little archaeological support (Elizabeth Sloane, Haaretz). Yes, that's about the size of it.

One of my students did a seminar paper on this topic in that aforementioned (in the preceding post) Ancient Jewish Literature course this semester. The class was persuaded that the archaeological evidence did not support Josephus's account of a mass suicide. His account is incoherent in other ways as well. He claims that it was only the men who were present at Eleazar ben Yair's final speeches, and they are specifically addressed to the men only, yet supposedly a surviving woman gave a full account of them. And it makes no sense that the Romans succeeded in burning down the last defensive wall and then went back to their camp to sleep until morning. Meanwhile the rebels all quietly committed suicide and no Roman watchmen noticed. And so on.

The seminar paper also evaluated Josephus's account of the fall of Gamla in light of archaeology, and came to similarly skeptical conclusions about the its reliability.

I have collected past posts on a variety of topics related to Masada here. Past posts that deal specifically with problems with Josephus's account of its fall are collected here.

On another note, this article alerted me to the fact that President Trump's speech planned for Masada has been canceled "due to the heavy heat." The speech will be given at the Israel Museum instead. More on the trip's itinerary is in this Reuters article: Trump to visit Jewish, Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.

The Talmud on scriptural exegesis

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Taking a ‘Sharp Knife’ to the Talmud. Daf Yomi: Interpreters of ancient Jewish law ‘often give the impression of doing whatever needs to be done to make the Bible mean what they want it to mean.’ The title (for which I imagine Mr. Kirsch is not responsible) is a little off. The issue in the essay is how the Talmudic sages "take a sharp knife" to the scriptures.

Scriptural interpretation in Second Temple Jewish texts and the Talmud sometimes gives the appearance of arbitrary eisegesis. Nevertheless, these exegetes worked with a clear set of rules that made perfect sense to them. They belived that all scripture was revealed by prophetic inspiration. Therefore every word was meaningful and nothing was accidental. And any scriptural passage could potentially be used to interpret an obscurity in any other passage. A favorite way of doing this was to take a difficult word in one passage and interpret it in light of how it is used in another passage (the "catchword" principle.

Some of their conclusions seem ill-founded from our historical-critical perspective today, but they believed that they were being logical and rigorous in their exegesis.

We spent quite a bit of time looking at the exegesis of scripture in my course on Ancient Jewish Literature from 1 Enoch to the Mishnah this semester.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Magdala Stone on display in Rome

VATICAN MENORAH EXHIBITION: Magdala Stone, known as Jewish-Christian ‘crossroads,’ gets its public debut (Sean Savage, JNS.org). The Magdala Stone is an extraordinarily significant, if perhaps sometimes over-interpreted, item of ancient Jewish iconography.

Past PaleoJudaica posts on the Magdala Stone are here, here (with a photo), here, and follow the links. Past posts on the “Menorah: Cult, History and Myth” exhibition by the Vatican and the Jewish Museum of Rome, which opened yesterday, are here and here.

Tunisian PM visits Djerba

DIPLOMACY: Tunisian PM in Djerba for Jewish pilgrimage to Ghriba. Over 2,500 Jews and 12,000 visitors every year (ANSAmed). The Ghriba Synagogue is an ancient synagogue site on the island of Djerba. It is an annual site of Jewish pilgrimage on Lag B'Omer. The visit of the Tunisian Prime Minister is an important political statement, not least in connection with the recent proposal to make the island a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Background here and links.

Bar Kokhba caves opened for Lag B'Omer

TOURISM AND ARCHAEOLOGY: JNF opens ancient caves from era of Bar Kokhba revolt (Dan Lavie,Israel HaYom). The complex of caves used during the Bar Kokhba Revolt at Khirbet Burgin at the Adullam Grove Nature Reserve was opened to the public over the weekend (and beyond?). This seems to have been in honor of Lag B'Omer, although this article doesn't specify this. The Bar Kokhba-era caves at the Adullam Grove Nature Reserve have been known for some time. See the posts from 2004 here and here. The area was also in the news recently for its ancient Jewish pyramid.

An article by Yisrael Katzover in Hamodia seems to think that new caves from the period have just been discovered: Caves Uncovered from Bar Kochva Period. But that doesn't seem to be the understanding of the Israel HaYom article. Such caves have been excavated recently at at Ramat Bet Shemesh. Adullam Park is nearby, but I have not seen reports of any new caves there.

The Lead Books Centre's AGM is in London today

MORE ON THOSE LEAD CODICES: Scholars begin to unlock mystery of Jordanian lead books, and say they are genuine (Paul Handley, Church Times). The main news in this article is that The Centre for the Study of the Jordanian Lead Books is holding its annual general meeting in London today. The article summarizes the current state of the discussion pretty well. Most of the content is already familiar to regular PaleoJudaica readers. As I have noted before, what "genuine" means here is not very clear. The meeting will include films on the codices which will also be posted on the Centre's website.

Films are well and good, but any real advance on the state of the question needs to come from publications in peer-review venues. As I have said before, the evidence I have seen so far makes me think the codices are clumsy modern productions. I published a detailed statement on them a couple of months ago: The Jordan Department of Antiquities disavows the lead codices. At present I have nothing to add. Follow the links there for many past posts on the subject.

As always, I will have a look at what the Lead Books Centre has to say, but I encourage the members to move the discussion into the realm of real scholarly publications.

Cross-file under Fake Metal Codices Watch. I acknowledge that various elements of the current discussion may point to some of the codices being something other than fake, but I remain to be convinced. And in any case, I continue to include this cross-file rubric so that all my posts on the subject can be accessed together.

Will Trump become the first sitting President to visit the Western Wall?

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Trump set to become first sitting US president to visit Western Wall. As candidates, many US politicians stop by the Jerusalem holy site, but once in the White House, they’ve all stayed away (Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel). The official itinerary, however, has not yet been released. But "sources" say that the Western Wall will be included, for whatever that is worth.

While we're on the subject of "sources," a diplomatic tempest over the Western Wall seems now to have been resolved: White House Clarifies Western Wall Position with JewishPress.com (Hana Levi Julian). Whoever told Israeli officials that the Western Wall "is not in your territory" was not giving "the position of this administration."

Monday, May 15, 2017

Opening of the Vatican menorah exhibition

NO. NEXT QUESTION: Can Vatican display shed light on the fate of the Menorah? Starting Monday, a co-hosted exhibit about sacred Temple relic sets a new precedent for cooperation between the Holy See and Rome’s Jewish community (ROSSELLA TERCATIN, Times of Israel). Despite the clickbait headline (for which I do not hold the author responsible), this is a good article on the “Menorah: Cult, History and Myth” exhibition by the Vatican and the Jewish Museum of Rome, which opens today.

Background on the exhibition is here. A few other recent posts on the lost Temple menorah are here, here, and here. Follow the links in those posts for much more on the Temple menorah and on ancient menorahs in general.

UPDATE: Incorrect link now fixed!

Just to be clear, my comments above were directed at the claim that the Vatican knows something it isn't telling about the fate of the golden menorah looted by the Romans from the Jerusalem Temple. There is no reason to think the Vatican has the menorah or any special information about it. Follow the background links above for details.

The exhibition sounds very informative about the history of the menorah in general.

Early misunderstandings of the Damascus Document

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: Alternative Scriptures: From Qumran to Christ. Philip Jenkins has dug up (heh) some early twentieth century scholarship on the Qumran sect. The sect was already known from the Cairo Geniza manuscript of the Damascus Document. Some quite reputable scholars were publishing unwarranted speculation about a direct Christian connection with the sect.

It goes to show how easy it is to take exciting new sources and draw inferences from them which go beyond the evidence. There has still been plenty of that after the discovery and publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Past posts in Professor Jenkins's series on "Alternative Scriptures" have been noted here and here.

Were the kosher laws originally only for priests?

HISTORY OF RELIGION: Can We Eat Bacon Now? Leviticus Was Written for Priests, Not You, Say Scholars. The Book of Leviticus is thought to lay down rules for all Jews, but some biblical scholars think the laws were originally meant for a more select group. There seems to be some room for debate about the history of these rules. But by the time of the rabbinic literature there was no doubt that they applied to all Jews.

Relevant, but not mentioned, is Jacob Neusner's proposal about the Pharisees. He argued that they made it a condition of their group that lay people follow the Priestly laws as though they were priests serving in the Temple. Their perspective formed the foundation of rabbinic Judaism.

Djerba to be proposed as UNESCO World Heritage Site

EXCELLENT IDEA: North Africa's oldest synagogue to become a world heritage site? Tunisia seeks UNESCO World Heritage status for Djerba Island, "isle of kohanim" and site of 2,500 years old Ghriba synagogue (AFP via Arutz Sheva). I haven't been able to find out exactly how old this synagogue site is, but it does seem to be old.

As as aside, it looks as though the Lag B'Omer celebrations in Djerba went safely, despite the recent terrorism alert. That is good news.

Background on the Ghriba Synagogue on the island of Djerba in Tunisia is here and links.

Lag B'Omer celebrations

AGAIN THIS YEAR: Hundreds of thousands flock to Galilee mountain for Lag B’Omer festival. Huge crowds defy state rabbinate’s delay of holiday to celebrate the ancient sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai near his tomb on Mount Meron (Times of Israel). I hadn't heard about the decision to delay the celebration by one day (so that people wouldn't be traveling on the Sabbath to get to the celebrations). It sounds as though that did not go over very well.

Background here and links.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Review of Weiss, Pious Irreverence

H-JUDAIC BOOK REVIEW:
Dov Weiss. Pious Irreverence: Confronting God in Rabbinic Judaism. Divinations: Rereading Late Ancient Religion Series. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016. xii + 291 pp. $69.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8122-4835-7.

Reviewed by Joseph Tabory (Bar-Ilan University)
Published on H-Judaic (May, 2017)
Commissioned by Katja Vehlow
In what sense is confrontation with God "protest" in the Hebrew Bible and the Rabbinic literature? And to what degree does this protest "humanize" God? Tabory's review is positive.

Another review of Prochnik, Stranger in a Strange Land

BOOK REVIEW: Book World: Looking for the man who took the Kabbalah mainstream. Stranger in a Strange Land: Searching for Gershom Scholem and Jerusalem (Randy Rosenthal, Washington Post, rpt. Edwardsville Intelligencer). The earlier review by Alan Newhouse (noted here) concentrated more on Prochnik, the biographer. This one concentrates more on the subject of the biography, Gershom Scholem, and on Scholem's friend Walter Benjamin. The essays of Benjamin led Prochnik to Scholem's writings.

So many Herods!

IS THAT IN THE BIBLE? (BLOG): Know Your Herods: A Guide to the Rulers of Palestine in the New Testament (Paul Davidson). Cross-file under News You Can Use.

For past posts on Herod the Great, start here and follow the links. Posts on Herod Agrippa I are here, here, and here. A post on Herod Antipas is here. Past posts on Salome, daughter of Herodias, are collected here. And for possible "composite Herods" in Luke-Acts, see here.

Timshel

THAT'S NOT IN THE BIBLE: How Did John Steinbeck And An Obama Staffer Get The Bible So Wrong? (Aviya Kushner, The Forward). Thanks to Steinbeck's East of Eden, timshel seems to have become an honorary Hebrew word.

Kharoshti

PALAEOGRAPHY: Kharoshti: Story of the ancient scripts (Iqbal Ahmad, Kashmir Images). (An article mostly based on the Wikipedia article on the same subject.) This gives a brief account of the story of Kharoshti, an ancient Indian script based on the Aramaic alphabet. It was used to write texts in Sanskrit and related dialects. A cache of Buddhist manuscripts written in the Kharoshti script (the Gandhāran Buddhist texts) was discovered in Pakistan and was given to the British Library in 1994. The manuscripts date to the first century CE, around the same time as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Cross-file under Aramaic Watch.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Lag B'Omer 2017

LAG B'OMER: THE COUNTING OF THE OMER begins tonight at sundown. Best wishes to all observing it.

The biblical background of the holiday is Leviticus 23:15, which mandates the counting of seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot (Weeks). Lag B'Omer just means the 33rd day of this count (the 18th of Iyar). The festival commemorates, among other things, the traditional date of the death of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Yohai).

Last year's Lag B'Omer post is here with links, and see also here and here. More recent posts are here, here, here, and here, with links.

Schiffman remembers Feldman

PROF. LAWRENCE H. SCHIFFMAN: REMEMBERING LOUIS H. FELDMAN: RENOWNED EXPERT ON FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS. This obituary by Professor Schiffman in Ami Magazine remembers the late Professor Feldman and recounts the latter's many scholarly contributions, especially to the study of Josephus.

Background here and here.

The Investiture of the Archangel Gabriel

ALIN SUCIU: Guest Post: Lance Jenott – The Investiture of the Archangel Gabriel. An English translation of this little-known text written in the little-known genre of (apocryphal) "apostolic memoirs." Cross-file under New Testament Apocrypha Watch and Coptic Watch.

The Epic of Gilgamesh

HERITAGE DAILY: Guide to the classics: the Epic of Gilgamesh. (Louise Pryke). This is a nice summary of the story of Gilgamesh in the Epic, other related stories about Gilgamesh, and a brief account of the importance of the Gilgamesh traditions, the history of the rediscovery of Gilgamesh, and the current state of our knowledge of the text of the Epic.

One detail: my understanding of the Epic (and I did read much of it in Akkadian with William Moran, many years ago) is that Gilgamesh received the secret of extended life, not eternal life. Utnapishtim (or whatever they think the correct form of the name is now) gave him a plant that would make him young again, but there is no indication that the youth would be permanent. In any case, Gilgamesh carelessly lost the plant, so we will never know.

Regular readers will be aware that Gilgamesh is a character in ancient Jewish literature. He appears as one of the giants in the Book of Giants.

I have collected many past posts on Gilgamesh here. There you can read about him in the Book of Giants, and even in a later Syriac text, and also about most of the other issues mentioned above. And I have some additional posts involving Gilgamesh here, here, here, and here.

Chabad on noncanonical scriptures

ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: Is the Apocrypha Kosher? What Is the Jewish View? (Yehuda Shurpin, Chabad.org). Chabad.org is a religious site and this essay is written from a particular religious perspective, which is fine. I am always interested when noncanonical scriptures receive some attention. This essay discusses Ben Sira, 1 Enoch, 1-2 Maccabees, etc. And it mentions several other works.

Cross-file under Old Testament Apocrypha Watch and Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Bar Kokhba letters anniversary

ON THIS DAY IN 1960, Yigael Yadin made his famous announcement of the discovery of a cache of documents from the time of the Bar Kokhba Revolt. The anniversary was noted by Haaretz in 2015, but I cant find any notice of it in the media this year. The announcement was one of the most dramatic moments in the history of Israeli archaeology. You can read about it here.

This year's anniversary almost counts as a cosmic synchronicity, because it comes the day before Lag B'Omer. This holiday has become, among other things, an annual commemoration of the Bar Kokhba Revolt.

A couple of years ago I collected past PaleoJudaica posts on the Bar Kokhba Revolt, including ones on its connections with Lag B'Omer. I also linked to posts on the site of Betar (Battir), the central site of the revolt, on which more here and in yesterday's post. Yesterday's post also collected recent posts on Philip Esler's new book on the Babatha archive.

Since the roundup two years ago, there have been posts on the archaeology of the revolt (more or less) here, here, here, here, here, and here. Posts on last year's archaeological expedition to re-explore the the Cave of Skulls are here, here, here, and links. Recent posts on coins of the Bar Kokhba Revolt are here and here. Other posts on the Bar Kokhba Revolt from the last couple of years are here, here, here, here, and here.

The first Dead Sea Scroll was from Cairo

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: Alternative Scriptures: The First Discovery of Qumran. Philip Jenkins reviews the discovery of the Cairo Geniza in the late 19th century. Solomon Schechter found portions of the Damascus Document in the Geniza. Fragments of the Damascus Document were found much later among the Dead Sea Scrolls and it turned out that it was a Qumran sectarian document.

Schechter drew many correct inferences from his medieval copy of the Damascus Document about the Qumran sectarians, although he got some things wrong too.

The first post in Professor Jenkins's Alternative Scriptures series was noted here. Schechter's centennial yahrzeit (death anniversary) was in 2015. See here and here. For past PaleoJudaica posts on the Cairo Geniza, see here and many links.

Sabar coming to Göttingen re GJW

ALIN SUCIU: Ariel Sabar in Göttingen. Mr. Sabar will be at Georg-August-Universität on 23 May to discuss the Gospel of Jesus' Wife forgery.

Background on the story of the GJW is here with oh so many links.

Springsteen and the Bible

LYRICS, DUDE! Into the Fire: A Jewish studies prof. searches for The Bible in the lyrics of The Boss. Azzan Yadin-Israel maps theological parallels in the songs of Bruce Springsteen, finding Sodom and Gomorrah, the Exodus, and much more from Testaments Old and Ne (CATHRYN J. PRINCE, Times of Israel). A postmodern project from a specialist in ancient Judaism. I'm not convinced that all of the scriptural allusions proposed in this article are really in Springsteen's lyrics, but a lot of them are.

Tamimi charged with murdering Hannah Bladon

UPDATE: Israel charges Palestinian man with murdering British student on Jerusalem tram (Raf Sanchez, The Telegraph). Ms. Bladon was a biblical studies student at the University of Birmingham. She was on an exchange semester at the Rothberg International School in Jerusalem. The man charged with killing her, Jamil Tamimi, had a long history of mental illness and had just been released from a psychiatric hospital the day before. He has been found competent to stand trial.

Background here.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Was the Qumran community celibate?

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: First Person: Was the Dead Sea Scroll Community Celibate? Biblical Archaeology Review editor Hershel Shanks comments on an article on the Qumran community by Devorah Dimant in the current issue of BAR.

Yes, this is a good question, the answer to which is not at all clear to me. And yes, research on the Qumran sectarians is "unsettled." I think we know less about them now than scholars thought they did a generation or two ago. Paradoxically, I also think that is progress.

I have collected some past posts on the subject of the Qumran sectarians here.

On the Bar Kokhba Revolt

TIMES OF ISRAEL BLOG: Bar Kokhba: When (rabbinic) leadership fails (Aaron Koller). This essay gives a good summary of what we know about the Bar Kokhba Revolt. It also offers some plausible speculation about why the Tanaaitic literature (the Rabbinic literature up to the third century) says virtually nothing about it.

Incidentally, I have found one, and only one, reference to the Bar Kokhba Revolt in the Tannaitic literature. In Mishnah Tannaith 4.6 there is a brief list of bad things that happened on the 9th of the month Av in the Jewish calendar. These were very bad things, including the destruction of the Temples by the Babylonians and the Romans. One of the items in the list is "and Betar was captured." The city Betar, we learn from later Rabbinic traditions, was the center of the Bar Kokhba Revolt. Bar Kokhba himself supposedly died there when it fell to the Romans. The Mishnah assumes that the reader knows the full story and this is all it has to say.

There are many past PaleoJudaica posts on the Bar Kokhba Revolt. I will have more to say about that tomorrow. Recent posts on the Babatha archive are here, here, and here.

UPDATE (12 May): the post promised above is now here.

More on Trump's visit to Israel

ITINERARY: TRUMP’S ISRAEL VISIT SAID TO INCLUDE STOPS AT MASADA, WESTERN WALL. A partial schedule for US President Donald Trump's much-expected visit to Israel has been released; Masada, the Western Wall and Yad Vashem are some of the highlights in his two-day stop (JTA via the Jerusalem Post). There have been conflicting reports on whether a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum will be included. As far as I can work out, though, the issue being negotiated is the length of the visit rather than whether it takes place.

Meanwhile, PARKS AUTHORITY PREPARES MASADA FOR POTENTIAL TRUMP VISIT (Sharon Udasin, Jerusalem Post).

Background here and here.

"Salomé" in London

THEATRE REVIEW: Review: Salomé (National Theatre).Yaël Farber revists the myth of the woman who demanded the head of John the Baptist (Matt Trueman). Mr. Trueman hated this production: "The South African director's own version of the biblical myth – a feminist reclamation – is so confounding that it might as well be written entirely in Aramaic." That sounds okay to me, but I can see it wouldn't work for everyone.

For more positive takes on the Farber production of Wilde's Salomé, see here and here. Past posts on the historical Salome are here and here. For more on Salome and the arts, see here.

Looting arrest near Hebron

APPREHENDED: Stolen Antique Coins, Jewelry, Seized in Arab Village (JNi.Media). This bust took place in the West Bank town of Beit Ula. There was another one in the town of Hawara (Huwara) last week. See here for that and other recent apprehensions in Israel and the West Bank.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Talmud on measurements in real-estate deals

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Terms of Service. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ why the law is in the details. In particular, the details about what percentage of sold land can be unusable for agriculture, how precisely the areas of the sold land has to be specified, etc.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Interview with Michael Stone

AUDIO: I fell in love with Armenian. Interview with Professor Michael Stone. Professor Stone has dedicated his life to Armenian studies and founded and directed for many years the Program of Armenian Studies at Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Vahe Kateb, SBS). Seen on Facebook.

I have noted reviews of a few recent books by Professor Stone here, here, here, and links. His work on Second Temple Judaism and on Armenian literature is renowned.

Some past posts on the Armenian language and alphabet are collected here.

"The words of Job are ended." Or something.

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
Job’s Colophon and Its Contradictions

As a paratext, the colophon’s functions can be summarily and quickly described. It marks the ending of a text. In the era before printing this was a necessity, so that later copyists would know that they had a complete text before them to reproduce. This is the case with many Egyptian and Akkadkian colophons. As such, a colophon is an assertion of authority. In marking the end of a text it pronounces that text to be in some way, “finished,” whole or complete. It also protects the text from any supplementation by its very visual presence, because any additional text would be clearly marked as literally and figuratively outside the bounds of the normative text.

By Thomas M. Bolin
Professor of Theology and Religious Studies
St. Norbert College
May 2017

"Holocaust of Giants"

REMNANT OF GIANTS: New True Legends ‘Documentary’: Holocaust of Giants (Deane Galbraith). Don't miss the video. What would we do if we didn't have Deane to, uh, dig these things up for us?

Reports of the finding of giant skeletons go back at least to Josephus and show no sign of abating. Some relevant posts are collected here. And then there is this and this.

On R. Shimon bar Yochai

FOR LAG B'OMER: The Life of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. A glimpse into the greatness of this towering scholar whose yahrzeit is commemorated on Lag B’Omer (Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld, Aish.com).

This essay is a nice compilation of (legendary) traditions about Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Yohai), also known as the Rashbi. The stories come mostly from the Talmud. R. Shimon is also the traditional (but pseudepigraphic) author of the Zohar, the largest and most influential Jewish mystical work. For more on him, start here and follow the links.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

The Levitical line in Qumran Aramaic texts

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: The Compositions Relating to the Levitical Line in the Qumran Aramaic Scrolls (Liora Goldman). These texts raise some fascinating questions. If, in their mythology, Levi was already a priest, what did their authors think of the elevation of the line of Aaron to the priesthood in the Mosaic Torah? That resulted in the tribe of Levi being made into attendants to the Tabernacle (Temple) and servants to the Aaronid (Zadokite) priests. That sounds like a demotion from the perspective of the Qumran Aramaic texts. Do these texts preserve memories of a non-Zadokite Levitical priesthood? Did such a priesthood survive into Second Temple times?

Last year I discussed some of these issues briefly in my summing-up post on the "John the Jew" Enoch Seminar at Camaldoli. But I have many more questions than answers.

The Polish army's archaeological collection

RECENTLY REDISCOVERED: Biblical Artifacts Collected by anti-Nazi Polish Soldiers Found in Israel. The thousands of items in the archaeological treasure trove, which sat for decades in Jerusalem's Old City, span from the second century B.C.E. to the early 20th century (Nir Hasson, Haaretz). The, uh, collected artifacts were kept in a basement in the Polish Embassy. The IAA gave permission for most of them to be taken to Poland to be exhibited there. International law required that the two cuneiform tablets and a fresco fragment not be moved abroad.

Yes, the artifacts were looted, but no one seems inclined to make a big issue of that now. These guys were fighting Nazis, after all. Sort of like Indy, only in real life.

Yerushalayim

YONA SABAR: Hebrew Word of the Week: yerushalayim "Jerusalem." Timely.

Archaeology and the Six-Day War

ARCHAEOLOGY AND POLITICS: Six-Day War Catapults Archaeology in Jerusalem to New Heights (Chris Mitchell, Christian Broadcasting Network News). Israeli Archaeologists Eilat Mazar and Gabriel Barkay (Barkai) tell CBN how the Six-Day War and the reunification of Jerusalem fundamentally changed the discipline of archaeology in the State of Israel and how their own careers were affected.

Archaeological garden opens at Davidson Center

ARCHAEOLOGY AND POLITICS: ISRAEL UNVEILS ARCHAEOLOGICAL GARDEN IN JERUSALEM’S OLD CITY. “Everything we are doing in Jerusalem is in order to reassure and confirm our existence here.” (Daniel K. Eisenbud, Jerusalem Post). The opening of the archaeological gardent was timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem at the end of the Six-Day War.

The Davidson Center Archaeological Park and its connection with Elad have been somewhat controversial, even to the point of litigation. Background here and links.

Some past PaleoJudaica posts on other archaeological gardens in Israel are here and links.

Monday, May 08, 2017

A saint's tomb at Hippos-Sussita?

ARCHAEOLOGY: Tomb of Unknown Saint Found in Israel, Archaeologists Deduce. Clustered churches in Hippos-Sussita in sixth century C.E. indicate mutual tolerance among early Christian sects, which was not to last (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz). The saint, or whoever she was, was a woman in her fifties buried in one of the five Christian churches in Hippos-Sussita in the sixth century.

This article has a long and detailed discussion of the late antique Christian remains recovered at this site.

For past posts on the excavations at the site of Hippos-Sussita, start here and follow the links. Many of the earlier posts dealt with pagan remains from the Roman period and late antiquity.

The Lod Mosaic is back in Israel

EXHIBITION: The Lod Mosaic // This Exquisite Israeli Mosaic Has Been Seen Across the World but Never in Israel. Discovered in central Israel 21 years ago, this beautiful artwork has toured the world but still has no home in Israel. It’s worth taking a trip to see a small part of the masterpiece in Haifa (Moshe Gilad, Haaretz).
Now, though, a small part of the mosaic is on display at the Israel National Maritime Museum in Haifa (until April 2018). The section on show is covered with fish, sea monsters and ships. It is incredible and is undoubtedly worth the trip. The big question now is why we have to journey to Haifa to see it, and not its home city of Lod in central Israel?
Mr. Gilad is impatient about this matter:
Three institutions are partners in preserving and displaying the “Lod Mosaic”: the IAA is the professional body in charge; the Leon Levy Foundation and Shelby White are supposed to fund the IAA’s activities; and Lod City Hall is the host. The three provided answers to questions from Haaretz last week, all basically saying, “What’s the rush? Patience!” Sure, because it has only been 21 years and the mosaic has yet to be fully shown in Israel.
This is a long, detailed article about this beautiful ancient mosaic. It's worth reading in full - soon, before it goes behind the subscription wall.

The Lod Mosaic was on an international display tour for some years, and PaleoJudaica kept regular track of its peregrinations. Start here and follow the links. The same trail of links will lead you to information on a second ancient mosaic discovered recently in Lod.

Copper Scroll gender mystery

AND THEN HE WAS A SHE: Patrice Mince Sets Her Eyes on Six Legendary Sunken Treasures (Digital Journal). Regular readers who click through the link and read this press release will find it familiar and yet somewhat different. I noted the same press release here a few weeks ago, only the name of the intrepid explorer was Aaron Guetterman and he was a he. The same press release is still there. The six legendary treasures are the same, including those of the Copper Scroll, and the wording of the press releases are exactly the same apart from the name of the explorer and the gender of the pronouns.

I could speculate on the reasons for for the differences. But instead I simply pass the story on to my readers as yet another unexplained Copper Scroll mystery.

There might have been a Miss Universe pageant at Masada

VENUE PROPOSAL: When Donald Trump wanted to hold Miss Universe pageant at Masada. US president reportedly believed that having a beauty contest at palace built by Judean king Herod would be a good PR opportunity (Ben Sales, JTA via Times of Israel). For whom the PR would have been good was not specified. The 2011 pageant was held in São Paulo, Brazil, instead.

Background here. There have been operas at Masada but, as far as I know, no beauty contests.

The Newark Stones as emancipationist forgeries?

NOT ANCIENT NEW WORLD ARTIFACTS, ANYWAY: Archaeology: Newark ‘Holy Stones’ are 19th century fake news (Brad Lepper, The Columbus Dispatch). The Newark stones are Hebrew-inscribed objects found in found near Newark, Ohio, in 1860. They have been argued to be ancient, but no one remains convinced today.

Dr. Lepper and his colleague Jeff Gill at the Ohio History Connection are making the case that the objects were forged in the nineteenth century by the Rev. Charles McIlvaine. They were intended as a compelling argument for the abolition of slavery in the U.S.A. The case sounds indirect to me, but Dr. Lepper really doesn't have the space to make it fully in this brief essay. I look forward to hearing more.

Everyone agrees that the Newark Stones are not genuine ancient New World artifacts, although Rochelle Altman argued some years ago in a Bible and Intepretation essay that they are medieval Jewish artifacts that were placed secondarily in the locations where they were found. But if this theory was every published in a peer-review journal, I haven't seen it.

Some past posts on the Newark Stones and other dubious New World Hebrew inscriptions are here, here, here, here, and here. Dr. Lepper and his theory come up in a couple of these posts.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

On the Oriental Institute

THE FORWARD: Fact-Checking The Bible—In Chicago’s Oriental Institute (Aimee Levitt). This is a dreadful, clickbait title, but the article isn't bad. It surveys the work of the Oriental Institute via an interview with postgraduate Joey Cross. There is particular attention to connections between the Hebrew Bible and ancient cuneiform inscriptions such as the Sennacherib prism.

Some past PaleoJudaica posts involving Sennacherib and his invasion of Judah are here, here (sort of), here, and here.

Frankel Institute Fellows 2017-18

AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN: Announcing the 2017-18 Frankel Institute Fellows Led by Head Fellow Rachel Neis, our new fellows will explore the theme of "Jews and the Material in Antiquity."
This fall, the Frankel Institute for Advanced Judaic Studies will host a prestigious group of scholars who will gather around the theme "Jews and the Material in Antiquity." They will be led by Head Fellow Rachel Neis.

The 2017–18 Frankel fellows and their fields of research are: ...

I noted the fellowship as upcoming and accepting applications last year here and here. Looks like they have come up with an excellent lineup.

Who is a "neighbor" according to the Bible?

PROF. RICHARD ELLIOTT FRIEDMAN: The Exodus, the Alien, and the Neighbor (TheTorah.com). If I were told I could only take one chapter of the Bible to a desert island, I think I would skip it and worry about other packing. But Professor Friedman's answer leads to an interesting essay.

Been there before, mostly

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: Alternative Scriptures and Necessary Amnesia. Philip Jenkins says there is nothing new under the sun or in biblical scholarship. And within the parameters he sets - groundbreaking overarching theories - he has a point. His post is the first of a new series.

Grabbe on 1-2 Kings

THE ASOR BLOG: Why 1 and 2 Kings? (Lester Grabbe). An introduction to Professor Grabbe's new study guide on 1-2 Kings: 1 & 2 Kings: An Introduction and Study Guide (Bloomsbury, 2016).

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Video on conserving the Cairo Geniza collections

GENIZA EXHIBITION: A BRUSH WITH HISTORY: Conserving the Geniza Collections. A fascinating video on the nuts and bolts of conserving the manuscript fragments of the Cairo Geniza. Produced in association with the Discarded History exhibition at Cambridge University, on which more here and links. Start there also for links to the many, many past PaleoJudaica posts on the Cairo Geniza.

HT Peter Gurry at the ETC Blog.

Review of Sanders, Paul

EUANGELION BLOG: E.P. Sanders on Paul’s Life, Letters, and Thought (Michael F. Bird).
E.P. Sanders
Paul: The Apostle’s Life, Letters, and Thought
Minneapolis: Fortress, 2015.
Available at Amazon.com

E.P. Sanders, surely one of the most significant NT interpreters since the late 70s, has published his life and thought of Paul. It is not quite a Pauline biography but certainly not a Pauline theology either. More of an extended sketch of Paul’s life and thought as known from his letters. Despite the impression that the typesetting and binding were done on the cheap in a Bangladeshi print shop, it is quite an enjoyable read. There is nothing groundbreaking and no bold new claims from Sanders, but it gives Sanders’s overview of Paul, and what I enjoyed most of all is that something of Sanders’s own personality shines through- you feel like you are getting to know him.

Some things I noticed were: ...

Museum of the Bible opening soon

IN NOVEMBER: Museum of the Bible prepares for DC opening (Jennifer G. Hickey, Fox News). The $500m museum opens in the autumn and seems to be on a publicity campaign. It and the associated Green Collection have not been without controversy. Background on both is here and many links.

New books on the LXX and the transmission of the HB

OTTC BLOG: Book Notices on Editing the Bible and the Legacy of Barthélemy (Drew Longacre). The post notes two new books from Helsinki:
Insights into Editing in the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East
What Does Documented Evidence Tell Us about the Transmission of Authoritative Texts?
edited by R. Müller and J. Pakkala

The Legacy of Barthélemy
50 Years after Les Devanciers d'Aquila
edited by Anneli Aejmelaeus and Tuukka Kauhanen
Thus bringing our Septuagint bibliography into 2017. Go to the post for descriptions and links.

Septuagint studies published in 2016

NEWS YOU CAN USE: Jim Aitken’s Reading List for LXX Studies (Jim West). Because you should know these things.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Four mikvaot excavated at Magdala

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Discoveries in Mary Magdalene’s Hometown. Four ritual baths unearthed in the Magdala excavations (Marek Dospěl). The bulk of this essay is on Mary Magdalene and her home town Magdala, which may or may not be the site called Magdala that is now being excavated. Be that as it may, the site has produced some wonderful things. Not least among these is the "Magdala Stone" on which more here and links. And follow the links there for stories on the site of Magdala in general.

The end of the BHD essay finally gets to its real news: the recent discovery of the four mikvaot (mikva'ot). To read more about them you need a subscription to Biblical Archaeology Review.

Some past PaleoJudaica posts involving ancient mikvaot in Israel are here, here, here, here, and links.

P the poet?

DR. JASON M. H. GAINES: Poetic Laws (TheTorah.com).
A fresh look at the legislation in Parashat Kedoshim: Are we reading the legal details wrong?
Poetry in Leviticus? Who knew?

On looting in the West Bank

MOTIVATIONS: How Jews and Arabs Collaborate on Antiquities Theft in the West Bank. Thousands of artifacts are being stolen every year and making their way into Jewish hands, yet the Israeli division responsible for theft prevention has just one inspector to cover 2,600 sites (Yotam Berger, Haaretz). Interesting article. It infers quite a bit from the law of supply and demand, but perhaps not implausibly. It also introduces the claim, which is new to me, that the looters have an ideological motive to destroy any Jewish connection to archaeological sites. I don't know what to make of that one.

Again, read the article now before it goes behind the subscription wall. Or you can read a limited number of premium Haaretz articles every month with a free registration.

Some recent PaleoJudaica posts on antiquities looting in Israel and the West Bank are collected here.

Donald Trump to speak at Masada

POLITICS: Why Does Trump Want to Address Israel at Masada? The famous fortress is about pageantry, and specifically the pageantry of the underdog (Sigal Samuel, The Atlantic). The article speculates about President Trump's motivations for choosing this venue for the main speech of his upcoming visit to Israel. But it also gives some background on Masada and the importance of the story of its fall in Israeli culture.

Some of the many, many past PaleoJudaica posts on Masada are collected here.

Review of Prochnik, Stranger in a Strange Land

BOOK REVIEW: A Writer Embraces the Scholar Who Introduced the Kabbalah to Secular Society. Alana Newhouse reviews:
STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND
Searching for Gershom Scholem and Jerusalem

By George Prochnik
Illustrated. 522 pp. Other Press. $27.95
It sounds like an oddly autobiographical biography. Nevertheless, it is at least nominally about Gershom Scholem, who nearly singlehandedly established Jewish mysticism as a scholarly discipline in the first half of the twentieth century. So PaleoJudaica takes note. One brief excerpt:
If you’re interested in experiencing the complex mix of thoughts and emotions I felt in that moment — challenged and stymied, satisfied and frustrated, amused, annoyed, tingling with a sensation so unnerving you might even call it hope — then pick up “Stranger in a Strange Land: Searching for Gershom Scholem and Jerusalem,” a new book by George Prochnik. To describe it as part biography and part memoir is to miss the point; it is instead a hunt through the crevices of one life in search of clues that might unlock the mysteries — intellectual, religious, political and psychological — of another.
One has to wonder if the title of the book is meant to evoke Valentine Michael Smith as well as the biblical Gershom.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

A scribe at ancient Persepolis

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Treasury Secretary at Persepolis. Notice of an article posted on Academia.edu: Stolper, Matthew W. 2017. “From the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project, 6 The Dossier of Šarbaladda, Treasury Secretary at Persepolis.” ARTA: Achaemenid Research on Texts and Archaeology, no. 001 (2017): 1–33.

This article is a collection of material concerning a single clerk working in ancient Persepolis. Despite its narrow scope, it is of some interest in that he seems to have been a sepīru, a scribe who wrote in Aramaic primarily on leather. We know of such scribes, but the humid climate in Iraq and Persia has obliterated all (as far as I know, without exception) of the ancient parchment documents they produced. Any details we can learn about them are welcome.

By contrast, we have endless thousands of cuneiform tablets from the same region, because baked clay lasts for many thousands of years. Technically cuneiform tablets were produced by tupsharru (tablet) scribes, although it is hard to tell how much overlap there was between the two types of scribe. Learning to write Aramaic script was easy, whereas learning to write documents in cuneiform was difficult and took years to master.

More on ancient Babylonian scribes here. Cross-file under Aramaic Watch.

Hurtado on two recent books on coins

LARRY HURTADO: Two Recent Books on Coins. The two books are: Coins and the Bible, eds. Richard Abdy & Amelia Dowler (London: Spink, 2013) and Judaea and Rome in Coins 65 BCE – 135 CE, eds. David M. Jacobson and Nikos Kokkinos (London: Spink, 2012).

The conference that led to the publication of the second volume was noted here and here. And there was a day-conference on Coins and the Bible at the University of Edinburgh last weekend.

Regular readers of PaleoJudaica will be aware of the importance of ancient coins for our knowledge of ancient Judaism. Cross-file under Numismatics.

Four different accounts of Moses

ANCIENT ORIGINS: 4 Completely Different Versions of the Story of Moses (Mark Oliver). And all four are quite different from the stories in the Bible. These are the accounts of Moses by Manetho, Strabo, Artapanus (n.b., not Atrapanus), and Tacitus.

Mithras temple uncovered in southeast Turkey?

ARCHAEOLOGY: 1,700-year-old temple reveals ancient religion in east Anatolia (Daily Sabah). The report is that a 4th century CE temple of Mithras has been uncovered. There isn't a lot of detail about how they reached that conclusion. Mithraism was an ancient mystery religion that was in some competition with Christianity in the early centuries CE.

There is another report in Hurriyet Daily News: Underground Mithras temple discovered in Diyarbakır. This one has more details, but also some obvious errors. It can't decide whether the temple is 1700 years old or 700. The proper term for a temple of Mithras is a Mithraeum, not a "Mithraea." And Mithras was a god, not a goddess. So be cautious with the information in the article.

The discovery of this new Mithraeum is at the Zerzevan Castle in the Diyarbakır province in southeast Turkey. The discovery of an ancient Christian chapel there, which had Aramaic inscriptions on its walls, was reported back in 2015. Background here.

Past PaleoJudaica posts involving Mithras and Mithraism are here, here, here, here, and here.