Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Conference on Temple Mount at Providence College

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Marking the Sacred: ​The Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem (Providence College, June 5-7, 2017) (International Catacomb Society).
An international conference bringing together experts on the history and archaeology of Jerusalem's Temple Mount/Haram, sacred to Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions. Exhibition of photographs from the École Biblique et Archéologique Française de Jérusalem and contemporary artist, Assaf Evron.
Follow the link for the conference program. Looks like an impressive lineup.

Second-Temple-era pilgrimage pools in Jerusalem

ANCIENT ARCHITECTURE: Study: Jerusalem reservoirs used by pilgrims 2,000 years ago (Yori Yalon, Israel HaYom).
Gigantic ancient pools found in Old City -- more than in any other Mediterranean city -- provided water for masses making pilgrimage to the Temple, expert says • University of Haifa, Harvard University launched soon-to-be-published study.
The study is to be published in the Palestine Exploration Quarterly.

Temple Mount Sifting Project finds Six-Day-War artifacts

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: New Six Day War artifacts hint at a battle on the Temple Mount. Bullets, shell casings discovered in rubble and examined by the Temple Mount Sifting Project raise questions about fight for Judaism’s holiest site during the 1967 war (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
Among the half a million artifacts discovered during the sifting are dozens of articles — among them machine gun magazines, bullets, Jordanian coins, and uniform badges, which, the project claims, “may be related to the IDF’s arrival at the Temple Mount during the Six Day War.”

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, the Temple Mount Sifting Project is presenting a temporary display of some of the findings connected to the Six Day War, ancient ammunition, as well as some of the reconstructed floor patterns from Herod’s Temple courts, in the Old City’s Jewish Quarter’s central square (near the Moriah jewelry store).
Past PaleoJudaica posts about the Temple Mount Sifting Project are here, here, here, and here, and follow the many, many links. They have made a lot of announcements lately, not least because they are trying to secure funding to continue.

Past posts on the floor tiles mentioned in the excerpt above are here and here and links. Usually I link to the Project's news about ancient artifacts, but the current announcement is timely.

No director yet for Israel Museum

STILL CHANGING: Trump brings spotlight to Israel Museum mired in hunt for leader. For more than a year, institution unable to fill shoes of longtime director James Snyder, who oversaw ‘a huge revolution.’ I noted the announcement of the appointment of Eran Neuman as director back in January, but he departed after only three months and the position has not yet been filled.

You can read the full text of President Trump's address yesterday at the Israel Museum here. It includes condolences to the people of Manchester regarding Monday's vile terrorist attack.

Methuselah is twelve

MASADA DATE PALM UPDATE: KETURA, ISRAEL: Judean Date Palm Methuselah. This tree was extinct for a thousand years before sprouting again from a 2,000-year-old seed (Atlas Obscura).
One soon sprouted into a sapling. Twelve years later, it is more than 10 feet tall. A male of its species, it was nicknamed Methuselah after the longest-lived person in the Bible. It is the oldest known germination of a seed in the world.

At first, the leaves were plagued with white blotches, suggesting insufficient nutrients, but eventually the plant thrived. It first flowered in 2011 and it produces pollen, which enables it to reproduce with modern date palms, as it did in 2015. It is predicted it will generate fruit by 2022.
I hope so.

Background here and here and links. I noted the story originally, back in 2005, here.

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.