Saturday, May 31, 2003

THE HIPPOS (SUSSITA) EXCAVATION (Hellenistic-Roman-Byzantine city excavation) is recruiting volunteers for the summer 2003 season (link via Archaeological Fieldwork Opportunities via Anita Cohen-Williams's archaeology blog).

"Star-gazers pinpoint the hour Jesus died" (Glasgow Herald)


THEORIES on the exact date of Christ's death have been debated for centuries, but now two astronomers claim to have pinpointed it to the exact hour.

Liviu Mircea and Tiberiu Oproiu from the Astronomic Observatory Institute in Cluj, Romania, said yesterday that research carried out using a computer program checked against bible references showed that Christ died at 3pm on Friday, April 3, 33 AD, and rose again on Sunday, April 5 at 4am.

The starting point for the pair's calculations was the New Testament's noting that Jesus died on the day after the first night with a full moon following the vernal equinox.

Using data gathered on the stars between 26 and 35 AD they established that in those nine years, the first full moon after the vernal equinox was registered twice: Friday April 7, 30 AD and April 3, 33 AD.

The astronomers said they had been convinced that the date of the crucifixion had been 33 AD and not 30 AD, because records showed a solar eclipse, as depicted in the bible at the time of Jesus' crucifixion, occurred in Jerusalem in that year.


I'm not so sure that the gospels have in mind a naturalistic explanation for the darkness at the time of the crucifixion. Anyhow, it's stretching it to assume that a solar eclipse that happened in that year had anything to do with it. I have no idea how well based the other astronomical conclusions are. I blog, you decide.

Yesterday evening I hooked up our new printer, installed the softward on our eMac, and the thing actually works! And this morning my son and I assembled our new lawnmover and I spent the next few hours mowing and trimming the meadow lawn. I have a couple of things to blog on but I feel a nap coming on soon.

Friday, May 30, 2003


(bold font is my emphasis)

Qabbani says Jews praying at Al-Aqsa could start jihad (Daily Star, Lebanon)

Plans by Israel�s government to allow Jews to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem �will, if put into effect, practically trigger a holy Islamic war jihad itself until the mosque and the city are liberated from Jewish occupation,� Grand Mufti Mohammed Rashid Qabbani said Thursday. He added in a statement that claims by Jews that their ancient temple existed where the mosque is �are unfounded.�

For the record, Solomon's Temple was built in the 10th century BCE, destroyed during the Babylonian invasion in 586/7 BCE, rebuilt around 520, then destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. These are basic historical facts, supported by a vast amount of evidence, the contesting of which is on the level of Creationism or the Flat Earth Society.

The new Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority appears to have gone on record as doubting that there was a Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount, which is not a good sign.

MEMRI Special Report - No. 15
Abu Mazen: A Political Profile


Abu Mazen also rejected the Israeli claim that there had been a Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount, telling the Israeli-Arab weekly Kul Al-Arab:[51] "Anyone who wants to forget the past cannot come and claim that the [Jewish] temple is situated beneath the Haram. They demand that we forget what happened 50 years ago to the refugees � and I speak as a living, breathing refugee � while at the same time they claim that 2000 years ago they had a temple. I challenge the claim that this is so. But even if it is so, we do not accept it, because it is not logical for someone who wants peace in practice."


And related to this is a story I haven't heard much of in the last year or two, but here's a piece on it from the Bible and Interpretation website:

The Modern Destruction of the Temple Mount

There is no evidence of any kind to suggest that Moslems of Mohammed�s day recognized the Mount as anything other than a Jewish holy site.

By Richard Benkin, Ph.D.
May 2003

How are we, as concerned laypersons and scholars, to regard the current Moslem actions at Jerusalem's Temple Mount? Although a mount of evidence provides strong bases for a Jewish connection to that holy site - in fact the oldest and most storied connection, official Arab Moslem policy contends that no such connection exists. While there is nothing new or noteworthy about hyperbole coming from the Arab world, what makes this different is that Moslem leaders have been engaged in ongoing efforts to change the situation "on the ground." Ominously for our civilization, the Mount's Moslem officials (Waqf), with backing from Mecca and elsewhere in the Moslem world, are attempting to destroy an archeological and biblical heritage and subvert the historical record in the service of transitory political goals.


��� The Waqf has proceeded on two fronts: one to de-Judaize the Mount and another to Islamicize it, although their actions often aim toward both at once. In a conscious attempt to make the Mount more hospitable to greater numbers of Moslem worshippers, the Waqf, in 1996, converted two Second Temple era structures into a new 1.5-acre mosque. The first was the Eastern Hulda Gate. This was one of the passageways used by ancient worshippers to access the Temple. The other structure is known as Solomon�s Stables. Located under the Mount�s current surface, it was used by ancient Temple priests to store vestments and other items. It also encompasses the area known as Jesus� Cradle, the site where the 40-day-old Jesus was presented in the Temple. This small room, only 32.5 square feet in area, is now used for Moslem prayer. In 1997, the Waqf built a second new mosque, destroying another ancient passageway, the Western Hulda, to do so. There is no accurate record of all the artifacts lost during the conversions, but we do know that the material removed for them dated back as far as the First Temple Period (1006-586 BCE).6 By the autumn of 1999, however, Waqf actions finally caused extensive concern and then protest action by many prominent Israeli archeologists and others. Over three days and nights in November, using heavy machinery to cut through the ancient Temple Mount wall, the Waqf opened a gaping hole, 18,000 square feet in area and 36 feet deep, for an �emergency exit� from the new mosques. In January, another hole, 1250 square meters in area and twelve meters deep, appeared north of Solomon�s Stables. And the destructive construction continued.

��� Without any archeological supervision, the Waqf used bulldozers and tractors on an ancient site never built to accommodate anything more than foot traffic. It removed and then paved over approximately 6,000 square meters of the ancient Temple Mount surface. Mount police also reported observing a Second Temple (516 BCE to 70 CE) era arched water channel being dismantled during this period. Temple artifacts were ripped from the Mount and, at first secretly, dumped in several places throughout Jerusalem, most prominently in the Kidron Valley just east of the city walls but also in El Azaria and the municipal city dump.

��� The material often was mixed intentionally with modern-day garbage in an attempt to cover up these actions. It sometimes made archeological examination difficult, if not impossible. Volunteers, however, from students to some of Israel�s most renowned archeologists, were able to recover many ancient artifacts that the Waqf sought to destroy. Moreover, they were able to identify the Mount�s distinguishable dusty gray soil, containing a variety of stones, from different ancient periods mixed with contemporary material.


Obviously, all these stories as well as the ones I cited a while ago under the rubric "junk archaeology" have a common basis in the current political debate about whether Jews (and others) should be allowed on the Temple Mount again. I'm not going to get into the political issues here; my interest is in the archaeology. (Today Ha'aretz has an article on the politics of the Temple Mount - again, via the Bible and Interpretation website.) As for Waqf's actions on the Temple Mount, I have had no involvement in this situation, don't know any of the principals, and can't vouch for the accuracy of any stories on it. But the basic facts do not seem to be contested. This website on The Temple Mount Archaeological Destruction collects some information on the Committee for the Prevention of Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount. If anyone can point me to more documentation or more recent treatments, I'd be grateful.

Also, it doesn't seem out of place to point out that, given the � fully justified! � concern with the looting of antiquities in Iraq, this situation also merits some attention from the larger community of archaeologists and ancient historians.

UPDATE: The 16 May article from the Lebanon Daily Star (which I quoted in full) appears not to have been archived. But you can find the same quote from Grand Mufti Mohammed Rashid Qabbani here on the website of the Islamic Resistance Support Association.

Thursday, May 29, 2003


Here's an introductory essay by Michael E. Stone on The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha (June 2001, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

To my vast regret, I wasn't feeling well a couple of weeks ago and I had to miss our annual St. Mary's College end-of-the-year dinner for staff and students. A staff roast is traditional and the roaster this year was our lovely, talented, and erudite colleague Dr. Louise Lawrence, who presented a retelling of the Harry Potter story with the teaching staff of St. Mary's as characters and with yours truly cast as Harry Potter. Here's a quotation from her epic poem:
Harry Davila Potter went to Hogwart's School
and tried to earnestly follow every rule
No matter e'er written in Hebrew or Greek
Potter would chant it week by week
Along with his friends, though at times lost and vexed
He persevered with the prophets and read lots of old texts

I'd better not quote any more, so as not to immortalize the, uh, libel of colleagues. But it's a great work of art, all about the noble crusade of Harry to save those old texts from oblivion. Thanks Louise!

Harry Davila Potter and the Dead Sea Scrolls

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

THE WEBSITE FOR THE COMPREHENSIVE ARAMAIC LEXICON, a multivolume lexicon intended to include all Aramaic dialects from antiquity to the present, along with various scholarly spin-off projects, includes a CAL searchable database for both Aramaic and English words. It also has newsletters, bibliography, etc., but those sections seem not to have been updated for some years.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003


The following has just been e-mailed to my now defunct Old Testament Pseudepigrapha list, so I'll take the liberty of posting it here.



Annual Professorship: $30,000 award.
The stipend is $14,200 plus $15,800 for room and half-board for appointee and spouse at the Institute. Open to post-doctoral scholars in Near Eastern archaeology, geography, history, and Biblical studies. U.S. citizens are eligible for entire award. Non-U.S. citizens may apply but, by U.S. law, are only eligible for non-governmental funds (totalling $15,000). Residence at the Institute is required. Appointment: 10 months. The professorship period should be continuous, without frequent trips outside the country. Application deadline: October 17, 2003.

National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships: $40,000 award for 12 months ($60,000 to be available -- 1 & 1/2 awards) Open to scholars in the fields of ancient Near Eastern studies including archaeology, anthropology, geography, history, philology, epigraphy, Biblical studies, Islamic studies, religion, art history, literature, philosophy or related disciplines holding a Ph.D. (or equivalent) as of January 1, 2004, who are U.S. citizens (or alien residents residing in the United States for the last three years). Research project must have a clear humanities focus. Research period: four to twelve months (stipend varies with the duration of the fellowship -- maximum stipend is $40,000 for 12 months). Residence at the Institute is preferred. The research period should be continuous, without frequent trips outside the country. Application deadline: October 17, 2003.

Ernest S. Frerichs Fellow and Program Coordinator: $19,000 award. The stipend is $10,900; remainder ($8,100) is for room and half-board at the Institute. Open to pre-doctoral students and post-doctoral scholars specializing in Near Eastern archaeology, geography, history and biblical studies. Recipient is expected to assist the Albright's Director in planning and implementing the Ernest S. Frerichs Program for Albright Fellows. Residence at the Institute is required. Research period: 10 months. The research period should be continuous, without frequent trips outside the country. Application deadline: October 17, 2003.

George A. Barton Fellowship: $7,000 award. The stipend is $2,950; remainder ($4,050) is for room and half-board at the Institute. Open to seminarians, pre-doctoral students and recent Ph.D. recipients specializing in Near Eastern archaeology, geography, history, and biblical studies. Research period: 5 months. The research period should be continuous, without frequent trips outside the country. Application deadline: October 17, 2003.

Samuel H. Kress Fellowship: $16,500 award. The stipend is $8,400; remainder ($8,100) is for room and half-board at the Institute. Dissertation research fellowship for students specializing in architecture, art history and archaeology. Applicants must be U.S. citizens, or North American citizens studying at U.S. universities. Residence at the Albright Institute is required. Research Period: 10 months. Research project must have a clear focus on art history or architecture. The research period should be continuous, without frequent trips outside the country. Application deadline: October 17, 2003.

Samuel H. Kress Joint Athens-Jerusalem Fellowship: $15,000 award. A joint fellowship for research at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens and at the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem. The stipend is $7,250; remainder ($7,750) is for room and half-board at the two institutions. Pre-doctoral research fellowship for students specializing in art history, architecture, or archaeology who are U.S. citizens, or North American citizens studying at U.S. universities. Residence at the Albright Institute is required. Research period: 10 months (5 months in Athens, 5 months in Jerusalem). The research period should be continuous, without frequent trips outside Greece and Israel. Application deadline: October 24, 2003.

Educational and Cultural Affairs Fellowships (ECA):*
a. Junior Research Fellowships: $48,000 for three awards -- $16,000 each. The stipend is $7,900; remainder ($8,100) is for room and half-board at the Institute. Open to pre doctoral students and recent Ph.D. recipients in Near Eastern Studies who are U.S. citizens. Residence at the Institute is required. Research period: 10 or 5 months (stipend varies with the duration of the fellowship -- maximum stipend is $16,000 for 10 months) The research period should be continuous, without frequent trips outside the country. Application deadline: October 17, 2003.
b. Associate Fellowships: Six senior and seven junior fellowship administrative fee awards Application deadline: April 16, 2004.

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowships: $34,500 for three awards ($11,500 each). The fellowships are open to Bulgarian, Czech, Estonian, Hungarian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Romanian, and Slovak scholars. Candidates should not be permanently resident outside the six countries concerned, and should have obtained a doctorate by the time the fellowship is awarded. Candidates must be reasonably fluent in English. Fellows are expected to reside at the Albright if room is available. Each fellowship is for three months, during one of the following periods: September 1, 2004 - November 30, 2004; December 1, 2004 - February 29, 2005; and March 1, 2005 - May 31, 2005. The research period should be continuous, without frequent trips outside the country. Application deadline: April 2, 2004.

W.F. Albright Associate Fellowships: No stipend.
Open to senior, post-doctoral, and pre-doctoral researchers. Administrative fee required. Application deadline: April 16, 2004.

Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC) Fellowships for Advanced Multi-country Research:* Eight awards of up to $6,000 each, with an additional $3,000 for travel. Open to scholars pursuing research on broad questions of multi-country significance in the fields of humanities, social sciences, and related natural sciences in countries in the Near and Middle East and South Asia. Doctoral candidates and established scholars with US citizenship are eligible to apply as individuals or in teams. Preference will be given to candidates examining comparative and/or cross-regional questions requiring research in two or more countries. Application deadline: December 31, 2003. For information and application, write to: The Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC), P.O. Box 37012, NHB-East Court CE-123, MRC 178, Washington D.C., 20013-7012. (tel: 202-842-8636; E-mail:; Web: http:/ /

*Award subject to availability of funds.

For further information and application forms visit the Albright's web site at:

or contact
Dr. Jodi Magness
Department of Religious Studies
CB #3225
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3225, USA
Phone: (919) 962-3928
Fax: (919) 962-1567
THE LATEST ISSUE OF BIBLICA ONLINE has the following articles and notes of interest:

John Sietze BERGSMA, �The Jubilee: A Post-Exilic Priestly Attempt to Reclaim Lands?�, Vol. 84(2003) 225-246.

Abstract: The article examines the hypothesis that the jubilee legislation of Lev 25 was a post-exilic attempt on the part of returning Judean exiles - particularly the priests - to provide legal justification for the reclamation of their former lands. This hypothesis is found to be dubious because (1) the jubilee did not serve the interests of the socio-economic classes that were exiled, and (2) Lev 25 does not show signs of having been redacted with the post-exilic situation in mind. A comparison with Ezekiel's vision of restoration points out the differences between Lev 25 and actual priestly land legislation for the post-exilic period.

Claude LICHTERT, �R�cit et noms de Dieu dans le livre de Jonas�, Vol. 84(2003) 247-251.

Abstract: The problem of the different names of God in the book of Jonah is regulary discussed by researchers. There have been attempts to resolve this question through diachronic hypotheses (as part of literary criticism), as well as by synchronic hypotheses which attribute the choice of different names for God to semantic associations or to the structure of the story as a whole. This study offers an interpretation which considers the changes in the name for God as a function of the narrative. Thus, the very act of naming God comes from the story itself and through the interaction of its characters. The analysis offered here, after a brief study of each chapter of the book, shows that the double divine name ("YHWH God") is the term that brings out the positive or negative twists and turns in the narrative. In brief, Jonah makes his way through the story with different names for God, each indicating how God's relation with others is positivie or not.

Joseph A. FITZMYER, �And Lead Us Not into Temptation�, Vol. 84(2003) 259-278.

Abstract: The sixth petition of the "Our Father" has been translated in various ways across the centuries. This article discusses its literal meaning and the permissive paraphrases of it, explaining the sense of "temptation" and God's activity in "leading" into it, as well as the various subterfuges adopted to avoid the obvious meaning of the Greek formulation, including its supposed Aramaic substratum. It concludes with a pastoral explanation of the petition.

Monday, May 26, 2003


I'm marking exams right now and I can feel my brain melting and starting to drip out my ears. So, for a distraction, I've been poking around on the British Museum's website. Here are some paleojudaic coins (photos and commentary) therein:

Bronze coin of Herod I 'the Great', king of Judaea

Bronze coin of Pontius Pilate, Procurator of Judaea

Silver shekel of the First Jewish Revolt from Rome

Silver shekel of the Second Jewish Revolt from Rome
IRAQI ANTIQUITIES WATCH: I haven't been blogging on Iraq lately, not because the antiquities problems have been resolved, nor because I am particularly pleased with the current situation, but because I've been busy and it hasn�t seemed worthwhile to spend time collecting news on it when other people are devoting whole sites to the issue. But I've now added a link to several such sites in the new links section to the right. I subscribe to the IraqCrisis list and have found it very helpful. The most comprehensive website is that of Francis Deblauwe, which is worth frequent visits. At present it appears that somewhere between thousands and tens-of-thousands of Iraqi antiquities were destroyed, damaged, or stolen during the war, but this is still a very rough guess. Even more worrying, there are reports that archaeological sites are being systematically looted by armed diggers (NYT via IraqCrisis list). But from now on, unless something really strikes my eye, I will leave it to these other sites to keep you informed about Iraq's antiquities.

Baltzer, Klaus
Peter Machinist, Editor
Margaret Kohl, Translator
Deutero-Isaiah: A Commentary on Isaiah 40-55

Barton, John
Joel and Obadiah: A Commentary

Briant, Pierre
Peter T. Daniels, Translator
From Cyrus to Alexander: A History of the Persian Empire

Kohl, Margaret
Annette Steudel, Editor
Die Texte aus Qumran II: Hebr�isch / Aram�isch und Deutsch mit Masoretischer Punktation �bersetzung, Einf�hrung und Anmerkungen

Sunday, May 25, 2003


Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible
Professor: Daniel Falk
University of Oregon

The Intertestamental Period (NT/OT/CH 711) (PDF file)
Dr. David A. deSilva
Ashland Theological Seminary

Shaye J.D. Cohen
Harvard University

Yesterday was a productive day.

I completely redid the links section to the right, breaking them down into categories and adding many, many new links. I intend to keep adding to them gradually as I find time and new material (for example, I've collected lots more course syllabi, which I'll post in small lots on the blog and add to the links in time).

Do have a look.

Also, thanks to some helpful advice from Glenn Reynolds, I have the archive up and running again. For now.

Plus my neighbor and I managed to get our broken microwave oven working again for the price of an 85 p. fuse rather than a �50 new oven.

All in all, a day of technological triumphs.