Monday, June 18, 2018

A 1 Samuel LXX manuscript in the Green Collection

AT THE VARIANT READINGS BLOG, Brent Nongbri has been following up indications that the Green Collection includes a fragmentary Greek manuscript of 1 Samuel (possibly containing nine chapters).

The Green Collection 1 Samuel Papyrus and Mummy Cartonnage. Incidentally, per Scott Carroll's quoted comment, this is not "the earliest text of 1 Samuel in the world." Among the Dead Sea Scrolls, 4QSamuelb (4Q52) is dated by Cross to c. 250 BCE and 4QSamuela (4Q51) and 4QSamuelc (4Q53) to the first century BCE. This Greek papyrus seems to be from the early third century CE (or later? - See the second post below). That is still very early. It may be the earliest surviving papyrus copy or Greek copy or both. I don't know.

1 Samuel and the Green Collection’s “Cartonnage”

There are lots of unanswered questions about this manuscript.

For the Samuel manuscripts from Cave 4 Qumran, see Frank Moore Cross et al., Qumran Cave 4 XII 1-2 Samuel. Discoveries in the Judaean Desert XVII. Oxford, Clarendon, 2005.

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The Russians may excavate Palmyra

PALMYRA WATCH: Russian archaeologists eyeing excavations in Palmyra after restoration of Tadmor. Russian experts have already submitted proposals on restoring the Temple of Baal Shamin, one of the main relics of the place.
KRASNODAR, June 9. /TASS/. Russian archaeologists hope to continue archaeological excavations in ancient Palmyra after rehabilitation of the Syrian city of Tadmor, on the territory of which the historical marvel is located, a leading Russian expert said on Friday.

Dr. Natalya Solovyova, a Deputy Director of the St. Petersburg-based Institute for the History of Material Culture said this on the sidelines of the festival titled ‘Russia’s Antique Heritage’ in the southern city of Krasnodar where she did a public presentation of the 3D model of Palmyrene monuments.

"We hope we’ll manage to do some archaeological excavations there because our Institute made an arrangement on them with the Syrian government in spring 2015, several days before the start of combat actions [in the Palmyra area]," Dr. Solovyova said. "We didn’t sign the documents then, however, because armed fighting began."

For many other past posts on Palmyra, its history, the ancient Aramaic dialect spoken there (Palmyrene), and the city's tragic reversals of fortune, now trending for the better, start here and follow the links.

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Repatriating Ethiopic manuscripts?

ETHIOPIC WATCH: British Exhibitions of Ethiopian Manuscripts Prompt Questions About Repatriation. Exhibitions at British cultural institutions have lately underscored the artistic output of Ethiopian scribes, and in the process, have also renewed questions around whether museums that have benefitted from acts of imperialism and colonialism should now return looted objects (Sarah E. Bond, Hyperallergic).
A recent display at the British Library, African Scribes: Manuscript Culture of Ethiopia put the institution’s impressive collection of Ethiopic manuscripts on display. Online, the library has also highlighted efforts to digitize these ancient works and make them accessible to the public. Exhibitions at the British Library and other cultural institutions within Britain have worked to underscore the artistic output of Ethiopian scribes and the literature connected to the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church. In the process, these special exhibitions have also renewed questions of provenance and the issue of whether museums that have benefitted from acts of imperialism and colonialism should now return looted objects — even centuries after the fact.

I don't have a view on the merits of repatriating these particular artifacts, because I don't know enough about the local situation. But my general position is that antiquities and cultural artifacts are the heritage of humanity, not just of the descendants of their culture of origin. They should be kept where they are safest.

I noted a recent article that discusses the importance of the Ethiopic Church for the transmission of the Book of 1 Enoch here. Also, back in 2004-2005, the Ethiopic manuscripts taken (i.e., looted) by Britain after the Battle of Maqdala were in the news. See here, here, and here.

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Korah and the fire-pans

REDACTION CRITICISM: Why the Fire-Pans Were Used to Plate the Altar (Dr. Rabbi David Frankel,
After the two hundred and fifty tribal leaders, led by Korah, were burnt, God tells Elazar to use the fire-pans to plate the altar to remind Israel that only priests may offer incense (Num 17:5). But is this the original reason for the plating? A redaction-critical analysis shows that the story once had a different purpose in mind.
Could be.

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Sunday, June 17, 2018

More on the supposed lost Jobar Synagogue scrolls

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jewish artifacts disappear from Damascus in fog of Syria war. Jewish artifacts, including ancient parchment torahs from one of the world's oldest synagogues, have gone missing from the Syrian capital amid the tumult of ongoing civil war (AP). That synagogue is, of course, the synagogue of Jobar. Earlier this year I noted reports that ancient artifacts, notably Torah scrolls, had been removed from the Jobar Synagogue during the war. The posts are here and here. Some of the reports claimed the removals were connected with "terrorist groups" and/or Israeli and Turkish intelligence and/or (indirectly) the Syrian Army. None of the reports seemed especially credible, although they could not be disproved either.

Now this AP report weighs in with much more detail from "activist sources." The artifacts were taken by rebels for safe keeping, but some artifacts (notably Torah scrolls written on gazelle hides) have since disappeared. Some of the missing artifacts may have surfaced in Turkey. Some of the missing artifacts, it is claimed, may themselves have been fakes. Again, an Israeli connection is hinted at.

This is a convoluted story that is very short of verification. I emphasize that I take no position on whether any of it is true. But I am keeping an eye on it to see if anything develops from it.

For what it's worth, there have been many reports over the years of artifacts being seized by the authorities in Turkey. Some of these artifacts have turned out to be obvious fakes or relatively recent objects that were not as important as the initial reports claimed. I collected links to these stories in this post last October. There was a report on December of a 700-year-old Torah scroll being seized in Turkey, but this turned out to be bogus.

Perhaps of more interest is a report from April of 2017 that Turkish authorities seized a "gold-plated" Torah scroll written on gazelle skin. This Torah (I think it was the same one) was also reported to be 1,500 years old. I explained my reasons for some skepticism of the stories at the links.

The Jobar scrolls were supposed to be on gazelle skins too and some of them seem to stored in a silver receptacle at some point. But those are very tenuous possible links to the scroll in Turkey.

In short, right now we have a bunch of unverified stories. Maybe some of them are real and, if so, maybe some of the real ones are connected. We'll just have to see if any verification turns up. Watch this space.

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Unsifted dirt disturbed on the Temple Mount

THE TEMPLE MOUNT SIFTING PROJECT BLOG: More Archaeological Destruction on the Temple Mount and Damage to Dirt Mounds that Should be Sifted.
Now, under the auspices of the last days of the month of Ramadan, when the Temple Mount is closed to none-Muslim visitors and the police presence is limited, over than a thousand people carried out excavation work, stone clearance and the creation of terraces in these piles of earth!

This is a clear violation of the High Court’s order and shows – this constitutes decade’s worth of regression in the level of enforcement of the antiquities law on the Temple Mount.
This blog is run by credible archaeologists and I would take the report seriously. It doesn't sound good.

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Index of online books on Classics and ancient Judaism

THE AWOL BLOG: CLASSICSINDEX: Links to Online Books (Google Books,, etc.) FOR THE STUDY OF GREEK AND ROMAN CLASSICS, EARLY JUDAISM, AND CHRISTIANITY. There are lots of good things here. Note in particular the section on "JUDAISM [2ND TEMPLE : RABBINIC]."

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Who Wrote the Torah?

ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS (REALLY): Who Wrote the Torah? Textual, Historical, Sociological, and Ideological Cornerstones of the Formation of the Pentateuch (Konrad Schmidt, Institute for Advanced Study).
Who wrote the Torah? In light of more than two hundred years of scholarship and of the ongoing disputes on that question,[1] the most precise answer to this question still is: We don’t know. The tradition claims it was Moses, but the Torah itself says otherwise. Only small portions within the Torah are traced back to him, but not nearly the whole Torah: Exodus 17:14 (Battle against Amalek); 24:4 (Covenant Code); 34:28 (Ten Commandments); Numbers 33:2 (Wandering Stations); Deuteronomy 31:9 (Deuteronomic Law); and 31:22 (Song of Moses). Despite all disagreement in current scholarship, however, the situation in Pentateuchal research is far from desperate, and there are indeed some basic statements that can be made regarding the formation of the Torah. This is what this contribution is about. It is structured in the following three parts: the textual evidence of the Pentateuch; the socio-historical conditions for the development of the Pentateuch, and “Ideologies” or “Theologies” of the Pentateuch in their historical contexts.


This essay is a very good account of the state of the question by a prominent specialist in the area. It moves from first principles to cautious and circumscribed conclusions. Nevertheless, some of it would be disputed by other specialists. It touches here and there on the traditional JEDP sources, mostly in the notes. But its main interests are elsewhere. That's all to the good.

This is the first time I have seen anyone claim that the Ketef Hinnom silver amulets (containing the text of the priestly blessing in Numbers 6:24-26) could be from as late as the second century B.C.E.

For some more thoughts on the origins of the Pentateuch, see here and links, and here, here, and here.

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Saturday, June 16, 2018

Hebrew acronyms

PHILOLOGOS: Where Do Hebrew Acronyms Come From? Medieval and modern Hebrew are unusually rich in abbreviations, but in a manner that is the reverse of English (Mosaic Magazine).
Clearly, then, acronyms were first developed by ancient Greek and Latin stenographers and, though known to the rabbis of the Talmud, adopted by Hebrew only in a subsequent age. The fact that they are found in abundance in ancient midrashic texts like Genesis Rabbah, whose composition is contemporaneous with the Talmud’s, does not prove otherwise. ...
Acronyms are one of the banes of working with medieval Hebrew manuscripts. And it scarcely helps when the text of the manuscript is also full of copyist errors. It can be hard to tell whether you're dealing with a corrupt and meaningless word, an obscure technical term, or an acronym.

Incidentally, the best source I have found for deciphering Hebrew acronyms is Dalman's old German dictionary of Rabbinic Hebrew and Aramaic. The full reference is Gustav H. Dalman, Aramäisch-Neuhebräisches Handwörterbuch zu Targum, Talmud und Midrasch. The original publication was in Göttingen in 1938. The reprint edition I have on my bookshelf is by Olms in 1987. At the end it has a 120-page lexicon of abbreviations. You will find pretty much everything there.

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Arabic amulet excavated near Temple Mount

APOTROPAIC ARTIFACT: 1,000 Year Old Clay Amulet with Arabic Blessing Discovered in City of David (JNi.Media).
The tiny amulet constitutes direct testimony of the everyday life in Jerusalem during the early Islamic period. At this time, it is unclear whether it was intentionally placed underneath the flooring during construction or whether the tiny object was carried by a man named Kareem and lost. It seems that it was an amulet whose inscription – praising God, was supposed to bring blessing to its bearer.
This is from a little later that PaleoJudaica's usual period of interest. But it is too cool not to mention.

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Bibliographia Manichaica Selecta

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Bibliographia Manichaica Selecta: Selected Works for Manichaean Studies. Notice of a new book: Šokrī-Fūmešī, Moḥammad. 1397 [2018]. ketābšenāsī-ye moṭāleʿāt-e mānavī: šenāḫt-e możuʿī-ye manabeʿ-o maʾāḫeẕ [Bibliographia Manichaica Selecta. Selected Works for Manichaean Studies]. Teheran: Ṭahūrī.

It looks as though it is in both Persian and English.

Cross-file under Manichean (Manichaean) Watch.

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Report on DSS at 70 conference

The field of Dead Sea Scrolls is never without important new developments. At the recent conference, “The Dead Sea Scrolls at Seventy: Clear a Path in the Wilderness,” there was exciting news about the ongoing development of technological tools for reading and identifying the remaining small scraps or wads (several layers of fragments stuck together) that did not find their place in the amazing jigsaw puzzle that had to be assembled to decipher the scrolls.

The announcement was made by Pnina Shor, curator of the Dead Sea Scrolls for the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), at a public session conducted in Hebrew at which I had the honor of being a speaker. The conference was organized by the Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls of the Hebrew University, the IAA, the Israel Museum, New York University, and the University of Vienna — all major players in scrolls research.
This is the opening of Professor Schiffman's recent article in the Jewish Tribune. Follow the link for a full reprint.

I noted the story of the newly deciphered Dead Sea Scrolls fragments announced at this conference here and here

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Friday, June 15, 2018

More on the Oklahoma bullae exhibition

STILL MORE: Why the world premiere of precious biblical artifacts is in quiet Oklahoma. Through August 19, a select few in the middle of America's vast Bible Belt can see rare First Temple objects -- that most may only ever see online (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel). This is a wide-ranging and informative article. The most interesting part to me was the background on the relationship of Armstrong College with the Mazar family and their archaeological work in Jerusalem. Excerpt:
An unlikely 50-year partnership

Mazar takes the podium at the posh King David Hotel on Sunday evening, addressing a crowd well beyond its walls.

“This is a celebration day for all our friends and especially for the lovers of Israel and the Bible,” she says, before quickly outlining the greatest hits of the 5,000 years of Jerusalem’s history. She touches on a clear record of the name of “Yerushalem” on Egyptian papyrus from 4,000 years ago and King Herod’s renovation and expansion of Solomon’s Temple 2,000 years ago.

And then she turns to another historic event: The decades-old partnership between the Mazar family and this group of Sabbath-observant Christians.

“Exactly 50 years, right after the unification of Jerusalem, in February 1968, Prof. Benjamin Mazar, my grandfather, started archaeological excavations on behalf of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem right at the foot of the walls of that 2,000-year-old Temple Mount compound. At the end of that year, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong, the founder of the Ambassador Cultural Foundation, became the most significant financial supporter of the excavations,” said Mazar.
And please permit me one niggle:
“We teach the Bible, from Genesis to Revelations,” says [Gerald] Flurry, “and a lot comes from the Hebrew Bible.”
I am absolutely certain that Mr. Flurry said "Revelation," not "Revelations." That is not a mistake he would have made. Amanda, you do great work, but you and your fellow journalists need to make an effort to get this detail right. It matters to many of your readers who share your interests.

For background on the Armstrong College exhibition, as well as on the bullae of Hezekiah and Isaiah, start here and follow the links.

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Bridegroom of blood

THAT'S IN THE BIBLE: The Bible Says What? God tried to kill Moses. Rabbi Aaron Goldstein reflects on a controversial subject in the Torah (Jewish News/Times of Israel). You'd be surprised what's in the Bible.

The reference is to Exodus 4:24-26. No one knows what it means. It's not even clear who is doing what. Did YHWH try to kill Moses or his son? Did Zipporah touch Moses or her son or YHWH with the foreskin? And the big question for what everyone does is: Why?

The interpretation in this essay has the merit of being original.

For more on Zipporah, see here (immediately preceding post).

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Moses' Kushite wife

DR. ELAD FILLER: Moses and the Kushite Woman: Classic Interpretations and Philo’s Allegory (
Ancient interpreters debated the identify of Moses’ Kushite wife and the nature of Miriam and Aaron’s complaint. Philo allegorizes her as an eye’s perfect focus, reflecting Moses’ direct perception of God. Reading this together with Philo’s allegorical understanding of Zipporah as a “bird” with direct access to heaven highlights the greatness of Moses’ wife as the fourth matriarch of Israel.

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More on the Hezekiah-Isaiah bullae exhibition

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: On View: Seals of Isaiah and King Hezekiah Discovered. Bible and archaeology news (Robin Ngo). More on the Armstrong College exhibition in Edmond, Oklahoma. More on that here and links

For some archaeological background on the reign of King Hezekiah, see this other recent BHD essay: Hezekiah’s Religious Reform—In the Bible and Archaeology. What was King Hezekiah’s reform like on the ground? (David Rafael Moulis).
Despite what the Bible says in 2 Kings 23, cultic changes during Hezekiah’s reign were absolute and left nothing to be centralized by King Josiah at the end of the seventh century. Indeed, only one phase of Judahite religious reform is visible in archaeological record, and that one is Hezekiah’s.

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Thursday, June 14, 2018

More on formerly "first-century Mark" and related matters

VARIANT READINGS: “First Century” Mark and “Second Century” Romans and “Second Century” Hebrews and “Second Century” 1 Corinthians. Brent Nongbri collects and discusses what we currently know about the background of the early Mark fragment from Oxyrhynchus and also about some other supposedly early New Testament fragments in the Green Collection. Dr. Nongbri links to an ETC post by Elijah Hixton. And James McGrath has a recent roundup post here.

The story is becoming complicated and I can't say I have the details in my head clearly. But the main question at present seems to be, was the Mark fragment ever for sale, and if so, by whom? Dr. Nongbri has another questions about the other fragments:
So, now a question for the people associated with the Green Collection and the Museum of the Bible: Do we have any provenance information on these pieces? They have a similar character to the Oxyrhynchus Mark fragment, and they seem to have become a part of the Green Collection at about the same time as the Oxyrhynchus Mark fragment was alleged to have been for sale. It would be most illuminating if the Green Collection or the Museum of the Bible would provide detailed acquisition information about these pieces.
Background on the Mark fragment is here and links. A post on the announcement about the Romans fragment is here. And a related post on supposedly early New Testament fragments is here.

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Review of the Museum of the Bible

THE LATEST: Museum of the Bible finds big audience in bustling D.C. (The Washington Times). It's bee a while since we've seen a review. Here's a new one.
Thousands of people have come from far and wide — sometimes two by two — to visit the red-brick, ark-shaped building in Southwest.

The Museum of the Bible, on the 400 block of 4th Street SW, has received nearly 603,000 visitors (about 100,000 a month) since its 2-ton, 40-foot-tall bronze doors opened in November.

I will flag a couple of new details. First, an upcoming exhibition:
Next month, the museum will open new exhibits, including one focuses on women’s roles in artifact collecting.

Women comprise the majority of the museum’s visitors, and the “Noblewomen and the Bible” exhibit will tell the story of women from Germany’s House of Stolberg who amassed a collection of manuscripts and books, many of which were stolen by the Soviets during World War II. Some stolen artifacts have since been recovered.
Second, survey results:
According to post-visit surveys, more than 90 percent of the Museum of the Bible’s visitors have rated their experience as excellent or good, and most would recommend the experience to a friend or family member.
They seem to be pleasing their target audience.

Past PaleoJudaica posts on the Museum of the Bible and the controversies around it are here and links. And past posts on the repatriation of those improperly acquired (by Hobby Lobby, not the Museum of the Bible) looted cuneiform tablets are here and links.

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Review of Chrubasik and King (eds.), Hellenism and the Local Communities of the Eastern Mediterranean

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Boris Chrubasik, Daniel King (ed.), Hellenism and the Local Communities of the Eastern Mediterranean. 400 BCE—250 CE. Oxford; London: Oxford University Press, 2017. Pp. xxii, 232. ISBN 9780198805663. $85.00. Reviewed by Peter Talloen, University of Leuven (
As stated in the introduction by Chrubasik and King, the book focusses on the ways in which the relationship between local communities and Greek culture was negotiated in key areas of the Hellenistic world: Asia Minor, the Levant, Egypt, and Mesopotamia. The center stage is held by the non-Greek communities of those areas who refashioned and reshaped what they deemed to be Greek cultural forms to suit their own needs and interests. By studying different regions with different local interpretations of Greek culture, the volume aims to sketch a more nuanced cultural history of the Eastern Mediterranean. According to the editors, this focus on local interpretations of Greek cultural forms should also raise the question whether the historiographical terms Hellenism and Hellenization to describe these processes are still useful labels for the cultural processes at play in this time period—similar to questions raised about the usefulness of the term ‘Romanization’.5 The volume not only has a broad geographical scope but also a wide chronological one. The editors do not adhere to the traditional chronological boundaries of the Hellenistic period, 323—31 BCE, as they consider the interaction between Greek and non-Greek cultures not restricted to this period. The overview starts in 400 BCE, the beginning of a period of intensification of non-Greek engagement with Greek cultural forms especially in Asia Minor, as demonstrated by several contributions. Similarly, the editors rightly argue that engagement with Greek culture did not cease with the battle of Actium. Yet, why 250 CE was chosen as the end date is not clarified. Surely, Greek cultural influence did not come to an end in the middle of the 3rd century CE.
Ancient Judaism receives plenty of attention in the book. There is also coverage of Palmyra, Dura-Europos, Babylon, Egypt, and Asia Minor.

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Pig bones and archaeology

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: You Are What You Eat: The Israelite Diet and Archaeology. Pig bones as an ethnic marker? (Marek Dospěl). Apparently it's complicated. Welcome to trying to integrate archaeology with texts.

As usual, this essay (itself informative) is a teaser for a BAR article that is behind the subscription wall: Lidar Sapir-Hen, “Pigs as an Ethnic Marker? You Are What You Eat,” November/December 2016.

Cross-file under Osteology.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Penn Report on the Scribes of the Cairo Geniza Project

AN ARMY OF PALEOGRAPHERS: Reclaiming a fragmented history. Digital humanities scholars are orchestrating an epic crowdsourcing effort to sort and transcribe handwriting on thousands of documents discarded hundreds of years ago, known as the Cairo Geniza (Penn Today).
Known as the Cairo Geniza, the 350,000 fragments of paper and parchment can be anything from the most holy religious manuscripts to the most mundane legal forms, holding endless opportunities to learn about medieval life in the Middle East.

Penn Libraries, which holds about 650 of the fragments, is coordinating with universities and other institutions in the public crowdsourced project, Scribes of the Cairo Geniza.
Progress so far:
The first phase, launched on August 8, 2017, was designed to sort a first batch of digitized fragments as either Hebrew or Arabic, or in some cases both, as well as to determine whether the scripts were written in an informal or formal style. It included more than 30,000 fragments from the Jewish Theological Seminary through the Princeton Geniza Project and the 650-plus from the Penn Libraries collection.

That first phase ended May 19, and the more than 30,000 fragments that were successfully sorted are now the foundation for the second phase.

The second phase, which begins later this month, invites the public to participate in deciphering and transcribing the sorted fragments.

“Luckily for us the research community in first classification were incredible,” Blickhan says. “The results of the first phase are impressive.”

While there is some skepticism in the academic community about the public contributing to such a scholarly pursuit, Allen and Eckstein say that the work by the public so far has exceeded their expectations. The public has consistently agreed whether texts were Arabic or Hebrew, formal or informal.
For past PaleoJudaica posts on the Scribes of the Cairo Geniza Project, see here and links. This is the most detailed report I have seen on it. The combination of crowdsourcing and digitization looks to be very powerful.

For many other past posts on the Cairo Geniza, see here, here, here, and here, and follow the links.

Past "An Army of" posts are here and links, and here, here, and here.

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Review of Capone (ed.), Cristiani, Ebrei e pagani

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Alessandro Capone (ed.), Cristiani, Ebrei e pagani: il dibattito sulla Sacra Scrittura tra III e VI secolo = Christians, Jews and Heathens: The Debate on the Holy Scripture between the Third and Sixth Century. Judaïsme ancien et origines du christianisme, 12​. Turnhout: Brepols, 2017. Pp. 276. ISBN 9782503575568. €90,00 (pb). Reviewed by Geert Lernout, University of Antwerp (
Like so many volumes these days, this book is one of the outputs of a large collaborative project, this time on pagan-Jewish-Christian polemics and homiletics in the Latin fourth to sixth centuries.1 The topic is timely in the context of the renewed interest in Late Antiquity in general and in pagan-Christian polemics in particular.

For some past PaleoJudaica post on Porphyry, see here and links.

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Syriac workshop at Frankfurt

SYRIAC WATCH: Workshop: Textual Criticism and Scholarly Editing of Syriac Sources (James McGrath, Religion Prof Blog).
The Forschungsstelle für Aramäische Studien at Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main and its director, Prof. Dr Dorothea Weltecke, are glad to announce the upcoming seminar “Textual Criticism and Scholarly Editing of Syriac Sources: Ongoing Projects, Current Issues and Methods in Practice”, an international workshop on ecdotical methods and approaches in textual criticism of Syriac and Garshuni texts organized by Dr Simone Isacco Maria Pratelli and funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.

The workshop takes place on 8-9 July 2018. Follow the link for further particulars.

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13th Mainz Colloquium on ancient Hebrew

AIA ANNOUNCEMENT: MICAH 13th Mainz International Colloquium on Ancient Hebrew (& Cognate Languages).
Friday, November 2, 2018 to Sunday, November 4, 2018



"The 13th Mainz International Colloquium on Ancient Hebrew (MICAH) 2018 will meet November 2–4. (Friday-Sunday) at Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Germany.

As always, topics of the MICAH meeting cover grammar and linguistics of Ancient and Classical Hebrew (Epigraphic and Biblical Hebrew, Qumran and related Hebrew, and Ben Sira) as well as studies of older or contemporary adjacent Semitic languages and epigraphy, as for instance Ugaritic, Phoenician-Punic, Old and Imperial Aramaic and Early Syriac, or Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite and the like in phonetics, lexic, morphology and syntax. Topics on non-Semitic but contact languages (e.g. Philistine, Luwian) and general linguistics in connection with these languages will also considered welcome.

For some reason this only just came up in my search regime. The call for papers came to an end on 31 May, but it should still be possible to attend without a presentation. Follow the links for details.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

More on the Tiberias cave-tomb

ARCHAEOLOGY: Builders Accidentally Discover Roman-era Catacomb of Rich Jewish Family in Northern Israel. The names on the ossuaries found in the 2000-year-old Tiberian catacomb are in Greek but all that proves is that the Jews in Galilee were multicultural, archaeologists say (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz). I noted this story yesterday, but this article has new information.

First, the burials were in ossuaries, which points to it being a Jewish tomb.

Second is the matter of the names on the ossuaries:
More information will have to await proper excavation, which has not begun yet, Alexandre stresses. But meanwhile it can be said that the archaeologists also found the names of the dead, carved onto the ossuaries in Greek.

The multicultural Jews of Tiberias

Jewish names in Greek on graves in the Holy Land? Absolutely. It was very much the practice. Half the graves in ancient Jerusalem from the same era are also inscribed in Greek, Aviam says. Other inscriptions found in Tiberias itself, linked to Jews from the 3rd century, were in Greek too.

“It just means that the people buried in the cave had been people who knew Greek. It doesn’t speak to their Judaism but to their internationality, their multiculturalism,” Aviam explains. “They would have had cultural ties with Greek-speaking people. Jews could keep their mitzvot and write on their graves in Greek.”
Third is this anomaly:
But if the Jewish burial cave in Tiberias dates to the 1st or even the early 2nd century, there’s a snag. At least according to the Jewish-Roman historian Josephus, Tiberias wasn’t supposed to have Jews yet.
See the article for discussion.

Background here.

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The Talmud visualizing the Temple

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Mapping the Temple. Daf Yomi: Talmudic rabbis, as distant from the original animal sacrifices as we are from the Civil War, try to piece together a layout that matches the Torah.
So it is strange to reflect that, by the time the Mishna was compiled around the year 200 C.E., no living person had witnessed a Temple sacrifice. Yehuda HaNasi was roughly as distant from the destruction of the Temple as we are from the American Civil War; and the amoraim, the rabbis of the Gemara, lived hundreds of years later. They were all trying to mentally reconstruct a series of long-vanished rituals that they knew about only from the Torah and from some scraps of oral tradition. Crucially, they had no diagrams, which would have helped enormously in figuring out the exact dimensions and placement of the altar, the courtyard, and the other parts of the Temple complex.
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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The Hebrew University Bible Project

THE AWOL BLOG: Hebrew University Bible Project (HUBP) מפעל המקרא Publications Online. I have mentioned this project and its journal, Textus, from time to time. This AWOL post gives a good, comprehensive collection of links.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Syriac Menander

READING ACTS: The Sentences of the Syriac Menander. Another installment in Phil Long's current summer series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. Past posts in the series have been noted here and links.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.