Monday, April 24, 2017

Yom Shoah uMeshoah in Zephaniah

PROF. EHUD BEN ZVI: Memories Evoked by Yom Shoah uMeshoah (TheTorah.com).
Reading the Book of Zephaniah and remembering a day of desolation and devastation in association with a utopian day to come.
In Israel (etc.) Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, was yesterday (27 Nisan).

The Rephaim as ancient ghosts?

REMNANT OF GIANTS IS BACK after a long spell behind a subscription wall. A new post flags some new information that may be relevant to our understanding of the biblical Rephaim: JoAnn Scurlock: Evidence from Babylon that “Rephaim” refers to the long dead?
I spotted an interesting observation about Rephaim from JoAnn Scurlock, in “Mortal and Immortal Souls, Ghosts and the (Restless) Dead in Ancient Mesopotamia”, Religion Compass 10, no. 4 (2016): 77–82 (79). She is discussing how Ancient Mesopotamians treated the dead.

[...]
Past PaleoJudaica posts pertaining to the Rephaim are here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Jack on the resurrection, history, and myth

CSCO EASTER SERIES: The Resurrection: History and Myth (PT. 3).
In this final video of our “Resurrection” series, Dr. Alison Jack discusses the important differences between history and “myth” as it relates to the resurrection.
The earlier videos in the series were noted here and here.

Zealots and Sicarii

READING ACTS: Roots of the Rebellion: Zealots and Sicarii.

A couple of thematically related PaleoJudaica posts are here and here. Past posts in Phil Long's series on the Second Temple Period are noted here and links (cf. here).

Gold-plated Torah worth millions seized in Turkey!!!!!!

HERE WE GO AGAIN: Gold-plated ancient Torah seized by Turkish security forces in anti-smuggling drive (Daily Sabah).
An ancient Torah, estimated to be worth at least $3 million, was recovered in an anti-smuggling drive in southern Turkey's Adana last week, the Interior Ministry announced Monday.

Alongside the gold-plated Torah, which is written on gazelle skin, an ancient decree was also seized in the operation, the ministry said in a statement.

Authorities, however, did not elaborate on the details of the operation or whether they were questioning any of the suspects.

The Torah's place of origin could not be initially determined and it will now be examined by experts to find out when it was actually written.
Yes, yet another supposedly priceless biblical manuscript has turned up in Turkey. It's pretty hard to fathom how the Torah could be both "gold-plated" and "written on gazelle skin." My guess is that "gold plated" is a dodgy translation of some Turkish phrase that refers to gold leaf or gold lettering. If so, the manuscript is probably something like this one. But without a photo, it's hard to tell. Count me skeptical about the gold plating and the reported valuation.

I commend the Turkish police for keeping the pressure up on smugglers, but I wish that the Turkish media would hold back on these breathless announcements. They can at least wait until these supposedly priceless manuscripts are actually examined by the abovementioned experts.
Previously in 2012, police in Adana had confiscated a 1,900-year-old Torah, which was smuggled in from Syria.
Yes, I noted this story here when it came out and there is more on it here. The accounts are very far-fetched and the manuscript has never been authenticated.
Another Torah, believed to be 600-years-old, was confiscated in Istanbul in April 2016, when a suspect tried to sell it to undercover police officers.
I don't recall this story, but I may just have decided that it wasn't interesting enough to mention.

We regularly encounter reports of supposedly ancient and priceless biblical manuscripts being apprehended in Turkey. In addition to the above two stories, see here, here, and here. In each case follow the links for the full story. None of these manuscripts has so far lived up to the extravagant claims made in the announcements.

VR apps for ancient Jerusalem

LEEN RITMYER: Virtual Jerusalem. I have already noted the Lithodomos app here and links. The BYU app is new to me.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Did Jesus use weed?

READING ACTS: Jesus and Cannabis? You will probably not be surprised to hear that the evidence for a connection is extremely weak. And by extremely weak I mean there isn't any. Likewise for Moses and cannabis. But the relationship of the Archangel Metatron to weed is another matter.

Navi'

YONA SABAR: Hebrew Word of the Week: navi’ “prophet.” Another important biblical word.

Where did boy Jesus hang out with the sages?

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH? Twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple at Passover (Leen Ritmyer).
This Temple Court was separated by the Nicanor Gate from the Court of Women, which lay to the east of the Temple. Buildings, called gates, surrounded this complex. In front of the gates was a terrace (ḥel – pronounced chel with the “ch” sounding guttural as in the Scottish “loch”) of 10 cubits wide, which was reached by a flight of steps of half a cubit high and deep. This terrace bounded the wall of the gate buildings on their southern, western and northern sides.

It is on this ḥel that we get our first glimpse of Jesus after the birth narratives in the Gospels. Scripture is silent about his youth although it is clear from the observations of nature and Biblical history later attributed to him by the Gospel writers that he absorbed every spiritual and historical lesson that was provided by his upbringing in the countryside around Nazareth.
Although there is no doubt that there was an historical Jesus, I do not insist that this particular event actually happened in his life. There is no way to know. The point of the story in Luke 2:41-52 is that even when Jesus was not yet an adult (at age 13), he showed precocious learning and wisdom that impressed even the sages of Jerusalem. But Luke or his source may well have had this spot in mind as the location of the story.

Wilke, Farewell to Shulamit

NEW OPEN-ACCESS BOOK FROM DE GRUYTER:
Wilke, Carsten L.

Farewell to Shulamit
Spatial and Social Diversity in the Song of Songs


Series: Jewish Thought, Philosophy, and Religion 2

OPEN ACCESS


Aims and Scope
The Song of Songs, a lyric cycle of love scenes without a narrative plot, has often been considered as the Bible’s most beautiful and enigmatic book. The present study questions the still dominant exegetical convention that merges all of the Song’s voices into the dialogue of a single couple, its composite heroine Shulamit being a projection screen for norms of womanhood. An alternative socio-spatial reading, starting with the Hebrew text’s strophic patterns and its references to historical realia, explores the poem’s artful alternation between courtly, urban, rural, and pastoral scenes with their distinct characters. The literary construction of social difference juxtaposes class-specific patterns of consumption, mobility, emotion, power structures, and gender relations. This new image of the cycle as a detailed poetic frieze of ancient society eventually leads to a precise hypothesis concerning its literary and religious context in the Hellenistic age, as well as its geographical origins in the multiethnic borderland east of the Jordan. In a Jewish echo of anthropological skepticism, the poem emphasizes the plurality and relativity of the human condition while praising the communicative powers of pleasure, fantasy, and multifarious Eros.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Was Jesus a real person?

A HISTORICAL JESUS? What is the historical evidence that Jesus Christ lived and died? Today some claim that Jesus is just an idea, rather than a real historical figure, but there is a good deal of written evidence for his existence 2,000 years ago (Simon Gathercole, The Guardian).
How confident can we be that Jesus Christ actually lived?
The historical evidence for Jesus of Nazareth is both long-established and widespread. Within a few decades of his supposed lifetime, he is mentioned by Jewish and Roman historians, as well as by dozens of Christian writings. Compare that with, for example, King Arthur, who supposedly lived around AD500. The major historical source for events of that time does not even mention Arthur, and he is first referred to 300 or 400 years after he is supposed to have lived. The evidence for Jesus is not limited to later folklore, as are accounts of Arthur.

[...]
This article came out for Easter and I'm just now getting to it. It has a good overview of the early historical evidence that Jesus was a real person. This is not in any way controversial. No specialist doubts the existence of Jesus. The historical evidence is ample.

A more controversial question is who the historical Jesus was. What did he do, what did he teach, and what kind of religious practitioner was he? For my thoughts on the matter, see here and links.

False messiahs

READING ACTS: Roots of the Rebellion: False Messiahs.
In addition to Jesus, there were several false messiahs appeared in the first century. Each of this examples are from humble origins (shepherds, etc.), sought to set themselves up as kings, and developed a peasant following.

[...]
Chronology, even fairly recent chronology, was difficult to get right in antiquity. I think it is more likely that Luke was a little mixed up on the date of the rebellion of Theudas than that there were two Theudases rebelling within a decade or so of each other. But anything is possible.

Crowd numbers are very difficult to verify even now, so it is no surprise that Josephus and Luke give different estimates of the size of the crowd that was following the Egyptian.

Past posts in Phil Long's series on the Second Temple Period are noted here and links.

Review of Amihai, Theory and Practice in Essene Law

READING RELIGION BLOG: Theory and Practice in Essene Law (reviewed by Matthew Goldstone).
Aryeh Amihay
London, England: Oxford University Press , November 2016. 240 pages.
$99.00. Hardcover. ISBN 9780190631017.

In his Theory and Practice in Essene Law, Aryeh Amihay challenges us to synthesize the insights of legal theory and sociology in order to observe the gap between law and its application within the Judean Desert Scrolls. Offering us a new framework for thinking about the legal texts from this Jewish community, Amihay emphasizes the universality of tensions preserved within these sources while simultaneously highlighting their particularities. By exposing the discrepancy between theory and practice, Amihay animates the authors of these works and draws us into the lived world of these ancient sectarians.

[...]
I noted the publication of the book here.

Unicorns in the Bible

ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: You Can Find Unicorns in Frappuccinos, but What About in the Bible? Scripture mentions strange visions of nameless single-horned beasts. But what did the ancient word translated as 'unicorn' really mean? (Ilan Gilad, Haaretz).
With Starbucks’s release of its new “Unicorn Frappuccino” Wednesday, the latest in a growing trend of bright multi-colored foods, we thought it an opportune moment to answer the question on everyone’s minds: are there unicorns in the Bible?

Only one creature is explicitly described in the Bible as having a single horn, and can thus be said to be a unicorn. It is nameless and is a figment of the Prophet Daniel’s imagination: “And as I was considering, behold, an he goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes” (Daniel 8:5). Later in the chapter this goat-unicorn fights a ram, beats it, and then things really get crazy.

This goat-unicorn was not a real unicorn, though. It was just something Daniel possibly hallucinated. But are there any real unicorns in the Bible?

[...]
I never thought of the beast in Daniel as a unicorn, but I suppose that could work. Incidentally, in Daniel's vision the one-horned he-goat from the west represents Alexander the Great.

In what follows the article gives good coverage of the usual suspects: the re'em (via the Septuagint, the Latin Vulgate, and the King James Bible) and the takhash, along with some Talmudic traditions about both. The latter are worth quoting:
According to [Rabbah bar bar Hana of Babylonia] this strangest of Talmudic rabbis, the re’em is a mountain-sized creature, of which only two exist in the world at any given period, a male and a female, each at an opposite side of the world. Every 70 years, the two meet, mate, and then the female kills the male. After an 11-year pregnancy, two re’emim are born, a male and a female. The mother re’em dies, and the two offspring go to opposite sides of the world, where they bide their time for their incestuous rendezvous 70 years later. The rabbi doesn’t say whether or not they have a single horn.

[...]

According to Rabbi Meir, a takhash was a unicorn that appeared during the time of Moses, who killed it, skinned it, and used its hide to build the Tabernacle, the mobile Temple of the Israelites during their travels from Egypt to the Land of Canaan. So if Rabbi Meir is correct, there was one unicorn in the Bible and Moses killed it.
Modern biblical scholars have rather different understandings of the two animals.

Also, before this I didn't know what takhash meant in Modern Hebrew.

Past posts on unicorns in the Bible are here, here (although more on unicorns in Montana), here, here (briefly mentioned), here, and here.

More on that ancient Jewish pyramid

ARCHAEOLOGY: Archaeologists to probe ancient pyramid in Judean Hills. Summer excavation at Khirbet Midras will try to determine who resettled town after ruin in Bar Kochba revolt (Ilan Ben Zion, Times of Israel).
An enigmatic and little-known pyramid southwest of Jerusalem will be excavated for the first time this summer in an effort to determine who built it and when.

Hebrew University archaeologists will start digging at the pyramid at Khirbet Midras, in the Judean Hills south of Beit Shemesh, for the first time in July. This summer’s dig is the second season of excavations at Khirbet Midras, but the first in which scientists attempt to find out more about the massive structure.

The Khirbet Midras pyramid is believed to be the largest and best preserved of a handful of pyramid-topped mortuary complexes in Israel dating back to the Second Temple and Roman eras. The structure was first documented by former Israel Antiquities Authority director Levi Yitzhak Rahmani during a survey of the site in the 1950s.

[...]
As the article notes, we know of other Jewish pyramids from antiquity:
While their great Egyptian counterparts are larger and better known, Judeans apparently began building pyramid-topped tombs during the end of the First Temple periods and through the Second Temple period. The book of 1 Maccabees describes how Simon Maccabee erected a monument near Modiin with “seven pyramids facing one another for his father and his mother and his four brothers” slain in the uprising against the Seleucid Greeks.
. Background to this article is here. More on those elusive tombs of the Maccabees is here and links.


Friday, April 21, 2017

Interview with Jutta Jokiranta

CSST BLOG: RITUALS ARE EXCITING! AN INTERVIEW WITH JUTTA JOKIRANTA.
What is your research about, in general terms?
My research is about the Second Temple period and processes of creating Judean/Jewish identities, especially in light of the Dead Sea Scrolls (or Qumran texts). It’s also about imagining what texts mean during this time when they are written in scrolls, and about the impact of rituals in humans’ lives and perceptions.

[...]

CFP: The Impact of Learning Greek, Hebrew, and 'Oriental' Languages ...

SOCIETY FOR CLASSICAL STUDIES: Call for Papers: The Impact of Learning Greek, Hebrew, and 'Oriental' Languages.
THE IMPACT OF LEARNING GREEK, HEBREW, AND ‘ORIENTAL’ LANGUAGES ON SCHOLARSHIP, SCIENCE, AND SOCIETY IN THE MIDDLE AGES AND THE RENAISSANCE

LECTIO INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE
13-15 December 2017
UNIVERSITY OF LEUVEN (BELGIUM)
The full CFP is long, so go to the link to read it all and find information on proposing a paper. The deadline for paper proposals is 30 April, so don't dawdle. Here's an excerpt:
This year’s LECTIO conference will seize the 500th anniversary of the foundation of the Leuven Collegium Trilingue as an incentive both to examine the general context in which such polyglot institutes emerged and—more generally—to assess the overall impact of Greek and Hebrew education. Our focus is not exclusively on the 16th century, as we also welcome papers dealing with the status and functions accorded to Greek, Hebrew, and other ‘Oriental’ languages in the (later) Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period up to 1750. Special attention will be directed to the learning and teaching practices and to the general impact the study of these languages exerted on scholarship, science and society. We therefore look forward to receiving abstracts offering answers to the following questions, inter multa alia: ...

Potsherds and the Bible

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
What Do Old, Dirty, Broken Pieces Of Pottery Have To Do With The Bible?

Robbing tombs is illegal. Most of the “museum pieces” found in Israel are rather homely and plain. Yes, you will dig up hundreds of potsherds if you do an excavation (along with bones, metal objects, and perhaps glass, among other things). And if you find “anything good,” you will not get to take it home.

See Also: Insights from Archaeology (Reading the Bible in the Twenty-First Century: Insights) (Fortress Press, 2017).


By David A. Fiensy
Dean, Graduate School
Kentucky Christian University
April 2017
Excerpt:
Yet archaeology can be exciting if the excitement is about the people whose lives we come to know through the remains. If you expect to see your picture in the New York Times standing with a serious and scholarly expression on your face, surrounded by smiling “locals,” while you modestly point toward your sensational discovery under the screaming headlines: “HOW I FOUND THE ARK OF THE COVENANT!”—you may want to explore another career or at least another venue for your career. That will almost never happen in Israel.
Yes, anything like this almost never happens.

This recent post begins with some thoughts related to the topic of this essay.

Social banditry

READING ACTS: Roots of the Rebellion: Social Banditry.
Social bandits portray themselves as robbing the rich and giving to the poor, “righting wrongs” and other social evils, and providing justice for the oppressed lower classes. This is something like Robin Hood, or the American “gangster” of the depression era (Pretty Boy Floyd, Jesse James, etc.) The social banditry described by Josephus took place during the reign of Herod the Great, but it continued throughout the period of the New Testament, culminating on the rebellion against Rome in A.D. 66.
Past posts in Phil Long's series on the Second Temple Period are noted here and links.

Adler on the origins of ritual immersion

DR. YONATAN ADLER: On the Origins of Tevilah (Ritual Immersion) (TheTorah.com).
When and why washing became immersion: between traditional-rabbinic and scientific-critical approaches to the origin of immersion and the mikveh.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Renovation of Caesarea Harbor

ANNOUNCEMENT: Plans to Renovate Ancient Harbor at Caesarea (Hana Levi Julian, The Jewish Press).
The Caesarea Rothschild Foundations and the Caesarea Edmond de Rothschild Corporation are investing more than NIS 100 million on a new project, Israeli officials have announced.

Archaeologists are working to renovate the ancient harbor at Caesarea, and now plan to continue the excavation in the Caesarea National Park as well.
More details are promised next week.

Some recent past posts on the archaeology of ancient Caesarea are here, here, here, and here.

Hurtado on "the form of God" in Philo and Paul

LARRY HURTADO: “The Form of God”: Philo and Paul.
An interesting passage in Philo of Alexandria, Embassy to Gaius (110-14) casts possible light on Paul’s reference to Christ as “being in the form of God/a god” (ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων; Philippians 2:6).

[...]

ISIS attack near Saint Catherine's Monastery?

ANOTHER ATTACK IN EGYPT: Egypt says its forces killed Sinai monastery shooter. Suspect behind attack near St. Catherine’s in which one policeman killed and 3 injured dies after shootout with cops (AFP).

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, but then again they would. It may be a while before exactly what happened becomes clear. It is possible that a terrorist attack on the Monastery was thwarted. Its security has been a matter of concern for some time. For recent work on the manuscripts at St. Catherine's, see here.

Economic unreality in a parable of Jesus

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Economic Knowledge in the Parables (Michelle Christian).
A number of parables in the Jesus tradition appear to draw on the everyday details of ancient economic life. However, I consider a case for which there are no realistic comparanda: the so-called Parable of the Entrusted Money. The story is significant, I argue, precisely for the economic unreality it portrays. What is more, the Entrusted Money gives access to the kind of economic knowledge that informed it and other parables, particularly those found in the gospels attributed to Matthew and Luke as well as in their common source Q.

[...]
Credo quia absurdum?

Digital biblical studies

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Biblical Studies in the Digital Age. How digital archaeology has revolutionized Biblical studies (Marek Dospěl).
Writing for Biblical Archaeology Review, digital archaeologist Todd R. Hanneken of St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, provides an expert overview of innovative technologies his team uses in studying an erased parchment manuscript (called a palimpsest) of the Book of Jubilees, an extra-Biblical Jewish religious work composed in mid-second century B.C.E.

Studies of badly preserved inscriptions and erased manuscripts, explains Hanneken, benefit most from advanced digital photography, namely from the so-called multispectral imaging and reflectance transformation imaging.
Cross-file under Technology Watch. For more on the Jubilees Palimpsest Project, see here and here. And for more on reflectance transformation imaging (RTI), see here and here.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Shalom

YONA SABAR: Hebrew Word of the Week: shalom "peace, well-being, greetings, good health. Used with many nuances from the Bible to the present.

The coins of the first Jewish revolt

NUMISMATICS: CoinWeek Ancient Coin Series: Coinage of the Jewish War (Mike Markowitz). A chronicle of the first Jewish revolt (the Great Revolt, 66-70 CE) keyed to the coins associated with it. Some were produced by the revolutionaries during the revolt and some by the Romans after it.

Some past PaleoJudaica posts on coins of the first Jewish revolt are here, here, here, here, here, here, and follow those links!

Another Copper Scroll seeker

SO MUCH TREASURE: Scuba Diver Aaron Guetterman Sets His Eyes on Six Legendary Sunken Treasures (Digital Journal).
Scuba diver Aaron Guetterman has had a single dream ever since he was a child and that is to search for treasure. His parents used to give him treasure maps to find his Christmas and birthday presents, and he started scuba diving from a young age in the hopes of finding something amazing. He has now been all over the world, diving in some of the most remote places in the world, focusing particularly on sunken wrecks. He has now revealed that he has set his eyes on six legendary sunken treasures.

Aaron Guetterman says, "There's a little adventurer in every one of us, and a big one in me. I know treasures exist, and they're just waiting to be found. I want to be the one that finds them. I know it's not going to be easy, and maybe I will come back with nothing at all, but a fantastic adventure awaits me this year. I have planned a full year to search for six different treasures, and I'm just buzzing with excitement!"

[...]
PaleoJudaica readers will be familiar with one of the treasures in his sights:
His next stop will be Israel, where he aims to follow the clues left in the Dead Sea scrolls. He says, "The Dead Sea Scrolls contain 64 different spots in Israel that are supposed to be caches of silver and gold, and I aim to find at least one."
The Dead Sea Scroll in question is the Copper Scroll, on which much more here, here, and here and many links.

For my part, I'm not getting excited about this project just yet. There is plenty of time for that should Mr. Guetterman actually find any of these lost treasures. But in the meantime I wish him well and I hope he has a good year.

The hope for the return of the Diaspora

READING ACTS: Gathering Israel to Their Inheritance.
As N. T. Wright has said many times, Jews living in the first century knew the prophecy of Daniel 9 was nearing an end and they were fervently looking forward to the gathering of Jews living in the Diaspora to return to Zion and worship in Jerusalem once again. Even in Sirach (who was no wide-eyed apocalypticist), there is a hope for this gathering of all the tribes to the land of their inheritance. Closer to the first century, The Psalms of Solomon give evidence of this belief as well.
Past posts in Phil Long's series on the Second Temple Period are noted here and links.

The Bible and taxes

IN HONOR OF THE AMERICAL FEDERAL TAX DEADLINE (18 April this year - Paul Revere call your office), a couple of articles on biblical taxation have shown up in my searches:

From JSTOR Daily: HOW PEOPLE PAID THEIR TAXES IN BIBLICAL TIMES (LIVIA GERSHON).

This one flags a 1998 article from The Accounting Historians Journal. It's just a very literal and unsophisticated survey of traditions in the Hebrew Bible about taxation. One comment:
But Jose and Moore note that accounting must have remained a problem for the ancient Israelites, who spelled out large numbers in Hebrew rather than using numerals. As they note: “It is unfathomable how the administration of any tax system would have been possible under such conditions.”
We know from Iron Age II epigraphic discoveries that Hebrew-writing scribes used the Egyptian hieratic system to write numbers. This has been known since at least the 1960s.

From The Forward: The Secret Jewish History of Tax Day (Seth Rogovoy). This one includes some references from the Talmud and other rabbinic sources, but it could give fuller references.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Dimant on Aramaic Tobit

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Aramaic Tobit at Qumran (Devorah Dimant).
Tobit before Qumran

For a long time, the book of Tobit has been studied as a one-of-a-kind composition, with other so-called “novels,” such as Esther and the book of Judith. However, the presence of Aramaic copies of Tobit among the Qumran scrolls, together with other Aramaic texts, revealed its background and context and taught us much about the language and cultural setting of the composition. Most particularly, Tobit shows affinity to the Aramaic stories about the biblical patriarchs and to the Aramaic court-tales. Despite the fact that this corpus is the closest to Tobit in time and place, little has been done to utilize the Qumran Aramaic literature as a key to interpreting Tobit. This may be due partly to the well-anchored opinion, still maintained by numerous scholars, that Tobit was composed in the “Eastern Diaspora.” The Tobit copies found among the Dead Sea Scrolls and the numerous links Tobit displays to the Aramaic texts discovered there, suggest that the origin and setting of the book is in the land of Israel.

Here, only four topics from Tobit are examined and compared with their parallels in various Aramaic texts: endogamy (i.e., the practice of marrying only within a specific ethnic, class or social group), demonology, burial practices, and halakhic items reflected in sectarian literature.

[...]

Millard responds to Petrovich

THE ASOR BLOG: A Response to Douglas Petrovich’s “Hebrew as the Language behind the World’s First Alphabet?” (Alan Millard).
In his piece for ANE Today, Douglas Petrovich claims some of the thirty or so inscriptions engraved on stone monuments around the Egyptian turquoise mines at Serâbîṭ el-Khâdim in western Sinai mention biblical figures. The following comments refer only to what he has written there.

In 1916 the Egyptologist Alan Gardiner deduced the signs belonged to an early form of the alphabet. The letters, he said, were ‘clearly modeled on Egyptian hieroglyphs’ (not ‘consisted of a number of middle Egyptian hieroglyphs’), each used acrophonically, as Petrovich explains. It is essential to be aware that almost every one of these Proto-Sinaitic inscriptions is broken or damaged, making the identification of signs and any attempt at translation tentative at best.

The summary Petrovich gives of his work offers little that can support his assertions. He declares that he came to believe that Hebrew is the language ‘behind the proto-consonantal script ... by weighing the options systematically and allowing the context of various inscriptions to determine which option is correct’, without further explanation.

[...]
Background here, with comments and links.

An ancient Jewish pyramid at Hirbet Madras

ARCHAEOLOGY: The Jewish pyramid of Adullam. Archaeologists are beginning to study and excavate an ancient Jewish pyramid believed to be related to a burial structure near Hirbet Madras; pyramid is believed to be a vestige of Hellenistic influence in the area (Assaf Kamar, Ynet News).
According to archaeologist and Prof. Boaz Zissu of Bar-Ilan University, after the establishment of the empire of Alexander the Great, which conquered and unified the region geographically and culturally, Second Temple era Jews were influenced by the dominant Hellenistic culture.

"Ancient Egyptian culture had an influence on the Hellenistic culture that ruled the Land of Israel, and Hellenistic culture in turn influenced the Jews living in its territory. The pyramid was built on the border between Jewish communities and Edomite communities and it is assumed that the Jews took the geometry of the pyramid rather than the religious ideas," said Prof. Zissu.

In ancient Jewish sources, the monument above the burial cave is called "Nefesh," and it symbolizes the location of the cave. In Israel, there are other pyramids such as those in the Jerusalem area like the Tomb of Zechariah in the Kidron Valley.

[...]
Past posts on the site of Hirbet Madras and its ancient architecture are here, here, here, and here.

Long on messianic hopes and the Great Revolt

READING ACTS: Messianic Hopes and the Jewish Revolt.
E. P. Sanders contended Judaism in the Second Temple period was not a religion of individual salvation (278). God made a covenant with the people of Israel and it is the people who will be preserved. The eschatology of Israel is a national eschatology rather than personal. What “future hopes” are found in the first century, they are hopes which concern the people of Israel as a whole rather than individuals.

It is likely most Jews longed for freedom from Rome. ...
Past posts in Phil Long's series on the Second Temple Period are noted here and links, with a side turn toward Greco-Roman religion here and links.

The Bladon murder

HANNAH BLADON, the young British woman murdered in Jerusalem on Good Friday, was a religion and archaeology student at the University of Birmingham who was on an exchange semester at the Hebrew University: Hannah Bladon murder: Israeli leaders say attack is an act of 'terrorism' (RobbieGordon, Derby Telegraph).
Israeli leaders have condemned the murder of a 20-year-old Derby County fan in Jerusalem, claiming it was an act of "terrorism".

Hannah Bladon, from Burton, was attacked on a tram on Good Friday. She was stabbed several times in the chest and died in hospital.

[...]

Ms Bladon had been studying religion, theology and archaeology at the University of Birmingham since 2015. As part of her studies, she had begun an exchange semester at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in January.

She was returning from an archaeological dig when she was killed by a man wielding a kitchen knife on the tram, which was busy as Christians marked Good Friday and Jews celebrated Passover.

[...]
I join many others in extending my condolences to her family and friends for this terrible loss.