Saturday, July 12, 2003

THE LEGENDS OF THE JEWS, the great classic by Louis Ginzberg, can be found at the Internet Sacred Texts Archive. Ginzberg's notes do not seem to be included but you can read all the stories. (I've already cited the traditions about Ezekiel's and Baruch's tombs from this source.)

The Internet Sacred Texts Archive looks like a useful site and I'll try to profile some more of the material on it when I get a chance.
BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY REVIEW has the following new articles of interest in its online July/August issue:

Literacy in the Time of Jesus
Alan Millard


Some scholars contend, with Stephen Patterson, that �very few people could read or write [in Jesus� day].� � But such statements are no longer supported by the evidence. Not everyone could read and write. And some who could read were not necessarily able to write. But archaeological discoveries and other lines of evidence now show that writing and reading were widely practiced in the Palestine of Jesus� day. And if that is true, there is no reason to doubt that there were some eyewitness records of what Jesus said and did.

Brother of Jesus Ossuary
New Tests Bolster Case for Authenticity

Edward J. Keall

(A defense of the inscription's authenticity by a senior curator of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, where it was subjected to tests last fall.)

Why It's So Hard to Name Our Field

William Dever


The only way I see to cut the Gordion Knot is simply to adopt the current modern names of the various political entities in the region, however much we acknowledge their arbitrariness. Thus in future we should simply speak of �the archaeology of Israel�; of the �West Bank� (perhaps in time, �Palestine�); of �Jordan�; and of �Syria� (�Lebanon,� too, if conditions return to normal).

These are simply proper nouns, and they are thus accurate, useful, and non-judgmental. To be sure, there is a semantic difficulty when we use them as adjectives, especially for foreign archaeologists. For instance, I can hardly identify myself as an �Israeli archaeologist,� simply because I work in Israel.

When asked who we are and what we do, we may say something like �I am a Near Eastern archaeologist, specializing in X, Y, and Z.� If a non-specialist is interested only in the Biblical period, we can comfortably use language such as �the archaeology of Palestine in the Iron Age,� as I suggested some time ago; or simply �archaeology and the Bible.� For the later periods, perhaps, we can speak of �the archaeology of early Judaism and Christianity.�

The terminology that I am advocating here is admittedly rather prosaic, but that�s better than being explosive these days. And it can help us all to get on with the real business of archaeology in the Middle East.

And in his editorial Hershel Shanks replies that he wants to know where the "Archaeology of Israel" section is in the next meeting of ASOR. And his political battle with the Israel Antiquities Authority continues.

Satellite Microwave Radar Finds Buried Objects (via Archaeologica News)
Wed July 9, 2003 06:08 PM ET
LONDON (Reuters) - Microwave radar from satellites could be used to find buried archaeological treasures, underground buildings and even mass graves.

Scientists at Ben Gurion University in Israel have shown that such radar can see below the surface of dry ground and locate objects under tons of sand.

"Buried objects can be detected from airborne systems," Dan Blumberg, a researcher at the university, told New Scientist magazine on Wednesday.


"Blumberg hopes that as well as archaeological remains, the method will in time be used to find fossils and geological structures," the magazine said, adding that it could show underground buildings, pipes and mass graves.

Friday, July 11, 2003

HERE'S A SITE THAT LISTS HEBREW ABBREVIATIONS WITH THEIR MEANINGS (from the Library of Princeton University). It has quite a few, although there are many, many more that are not listed. I hope they continue to expand it.
THE SITE LIVIUS, which I mentioned the other day in the context of sources on ancient Iran, also has an excellent set of pages on first-century Judaism. It has lots of short essays on people, texts, and historical events, with many extracts from primary texts. I've only spot-checked it, but it looks like a great resource.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

I SHALL BE VERY, VERY BUSY TOMORROW. Blogging is likely to be light.
SHOOT THE LOOTERS! says Donny George according to MSNBC. And according to the Daily Telegraph archaeologist Elizabeth Stone concurs: helicopters should fly over sites being looted and kill some of the looters. (Both via Francis Deblauwe on the IraqCrisis list)

This is a bit too bloody minded for me. How about if we just bombard them with refined putrescine? (Hey, it worked in Neal Stephenson's Zodiac.)
MORE BYZANTINE-PERIOD TRADITIONS ABOUT JOHN THE BAPTIST may survive in the excavation of the Suba "Cave," a water-installation west of Jerusalem which was reused by Christian monks in late antiquity. (Via Sam Wolff on Ioudaios-L)
THE PIRQE RABBI ELIEZER ELECTRONIC TEXT EDITING PROJECT, edited by Professor Lewis M. Barth (HUC-JIR), includes column-by-column images of three Hebrew manuscripts, articles on Pirqe R. Eliezer, and information on Hebrew text encoding. This is a pioneering project that has a great deal of promise.
THE CONTROVERSY OVER MEL GIBSON'S THE PASSION is covered in an informative and well-balanced article in the Christian Science Monitor today. An excerpt:

New Testament seen as anti-Semitic

Some Jews and Christians suggest that the New Testament itself is anti-Semitic. So concerned are some over the continuing impact of historical interpretation that an October 2001 article in the Jewish magazine, Moment, asked, "Can Christianity be purged of anti-Semitism without changing the Gospels?"

While most people dismiss that idea, some Catholic scholars say the Gospels' human origins and historical context need to be emphasized more for regular churchgoers. Others researching the historical Jesus assert that the Romans, not Jews, killed him for political reasons.

Paul Maier, professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University, suggests the pendulum has swung from one extreme to the other - from blaming all Jews to claiming no Jews were involved. "That's wrong, too," he says. The final responsibility lay in Rome's hands, but historical sources support the Gospel narrative that some Jewish leaders were involved in the prosecution.

"Flavius Josephus is one of the sources, and in fact, he reports a similar event, when Jesus' half-brother was brought before the Sanhedrin in AD 62," Dr. Maier adds. "In that case, they stoned him without waiting for the Roman governor to arrive."

The way out of interpretations that provoke anti-Semitism, he says, is to point out that "a tremendous number of Jews never turned against Jesus during Holy Week," as Luke reports.

It also helps to clarify that the Gospel use of the phrase "the Jews" referred to Jesus' Jewish opponents, not all Jews. It was a common construction of writing of the time, Maier says.

Hard labor of changing stereotypes

Jewish groups have labored for decades, however, to change negative stereotypes that persist in passion plays, showing that official church teachings haven't been thoroughly spread. They're concerned, for example, that a survey shows that American Catholics who have come from Latin America still tend to believe the charge of deicide. Prominent Protestants have voiced similar beliefs.


"I've worked with mayors, directors, and stage managers, and through consultation with religious leaders and scholars over the past 30 years, they've removed a lot of the Jewish stereotypes," says Rabbi James Rudin, senior interreligious adviser for the American Jewish Committee.

"It's not just the text," he emphasizes. "It's the staging, the music, and costumes that say right away, 'This is the bad guy.'"

In recent years, passion plays have drawn busloads in towns around the United States, such as Eureka Springs, Ark.; Lake Wales, Fla.; Union City, N.J.; and the Black Hills of S.D. And Jewish and Christian leaders have taken pains to offer guidelines via the Internet to local churches for their productions.

But a powerful dramatic film by the Hollywood megastar promises to have global impact, many feel. "Given that this is radioactive material - that's the only way I can describe it - I'm urging Mr. Gibson to follow what others have done and consult prior to release," Rabbi Rudin says.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

HERE IS THE SCHEDULE FOR THE ANTHROPOLOGY AND BIBLICAL STUDIES SYMPOSIUM, posted with the kind permission of the organizers, Dr. Lawrence (who, alas, is leaving us for a permanent post at the University of Glasgow in September) and Dr. Aguilar.

Anthropology and Biblical Studies Symposium participants

Anthropology and Biblical Studies: The Way Forward?

Symposium Itinerary

Monday 7th July

Arrival at Hamilton Hall

7.30pm Dinner at Hamilton Hall

Tuesday 8th July

All symposium papers will be given in St Mary�s College Hall, St Mary�s College, South Street.

9.30am: Introduction

Dr Louise Lawrence (University of St Andrews): �A Taste for the Other�: Thoughts on Interpreting Biblical Texts Anthropologically

10.30am: Paper 1

Prof. Philip Esler (University of St Andrews): The Context Group Project

11.30 am: Coffee (Served in Senior Common Room)

12noon: Paper 2

Prof. Douglas Davies (University of Durham): An Anthropologist�s View of Acts

1pm: Lunch (Served in Senior Common Room)

2pm: Paper 3

Dr. Nathan MacDonald (University of St Andrews): Abraham's Purchase of the Cave of Machpelah and Anthropological Theories of Exchange

3pm: Afternoon Tea (Served in Senior Common Room)

3.30pm: Paper 4

Mr Timothy Ling (Canterbury Christ Church College): Virtuoso Religion and the Judean Social Order

4.30pm: Paper 5

Mr Albert Hogetorp (University of Gottingen): Anthropology and the Community as a Temple in Paul�s Letters: The Case of Cultic Terms in 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1

7 for 7.30pm: Conference Dinner

To be held at The St Andrews Golf Hotel, The Scores, St Andrews.

As you come out of the main door of Hamilton Hall, turn right around the corner. Follow the road up the Scores and the St Andrews Golf Hotel is on your right.

Wednesday 9th July

9.30am: Paper 6

Dr Mario Aguilar (University of St Andrews): Changing Models and the Death of Culture: A Diachronic Critique of Socio-Scientific Assumptions

10.30am : Paper 7

Dr Jim Davila (University of St Andrews): Ritual in the Jewish Pseudepigrapha

11.30 am : Coffee (Served in Senior Common Room)

12noon: Paper 8

Dr Seth Sanders (University of Chicago): Textual Criticism and the Study of Ritual: Parallel Literary Editions of Joshua as Arguments about the Conquest and Cosmic Geography of Israel

1pm Lunch (Served in Senior Common Room)

2pm: Paper 9

Ms Karen Wennel (University of Glasgow): Jesus and the Land : A Comparison of Second-Temple Judaism�s view of the Land and Colonised Maori Land.

3pm: Afternoon Tea (Served in Senior Common Room)


Great conference. Thanks Mario, Louise, and all the participants!
HERE IS MY PAPER, "Ritual in the Jewish Pseudepigrapha," for the Anthropology and Biblical Studies Symposium, and here is the handout that went with it. This is the draft I presented orally this morning. A longer version with the nitty-gritty details and references for each text will go into the conference volume in due course. Comments welcome, as always.

Conference schedule and photo to be posted presently.

For translation and explanation go here.

TODAY IS A DAY OF SOLIDARITY PROTESTS FOR FREEDOM IN IRAN. Others in the Blogosphere are far more on top of the situation in Iran and are commenting on it. See the Carnival of the Liberties at Winds of Change for a roundup. For my small contribution let me point out a few websites that cover Iranian history and antiquities, in the hope that one day soon Iranian and outside scholars and archaeologists will be able to study them together in a free Iran.

This site, "Iran: History (Pars Times)," has a very large collection of links on the history of Iran from antiquity to the present. It includes links to sites on Iranian religions, mythology, archaeology, museums, and learned societies devoted to Iranian studies. Most of them seem to be of good quality. Here are a few:

Iranian Museums

A huge list with some basic information, but unfortunately there are no links to museum websites.

National Museum of Iran

The material on this site is an excellent start, although there are lots of broken and missing links.

Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London)

This site contains lots of useful information by major scholars in the area but much of it is still under construction.

Apart from Pars-Times, another information-rich site is provided by Livius, which has a collection of short articles on ancient Persia. Farsinet (a site that seems to be aimed at Christian speakes of Farsi) has a page on Iranian and Persian History with some interesting information and links. Finally, have a look at the Persepolis and Ancient Iran exhibit from the Oriental Institute Photographic Archives and these images of artifacts from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Then there's this from Day by Day.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

ABOUT THOSE APOCALYPSES: I said on Sunday that I would try to get back to examples of apocalypses that lack references to future eschatology. I mentioned 3 Enoch 1-15/16 (in Charlesworth's Old Testament Pseudepigrapha 1:255-68). Add to that 3 Baruch (OTP 2:653-79), the Apocalypse of Paul (Robinson, Nag Hammadi Library, 2nd ed., 256-59) and the Apocalypse of Adam (Robinson, 277-86). My point in the "Animal Apocalypse and Daniel" paper was that when you take works like these alongside Daniel and Revelation it is difficult to see how they are "apocalyptic" apart from simply embodying the genre "apocalypse." Apocalypses need not deal with future eschatology. They do always have divinely revealed secrets, but so do other genres such as pesharim, Sibylline oracles, and even incantations. There is no center to the term "apocalyptic" apart from as an adjective applied to apocalypses. It is true that there was much interest in ancient Judaism and early Christianity in revealed heavenly secrets and speculations about future eschatology but to call this apocalyptic is to use confusingly imprecise terminology.

I rest my case. Off now to the Symposium.
NO, I WASN'T POSTING AT 7:51 AM. Blogger has reset itself to GMT with no Daylight Savings Time again. I've now told it that I'm in Algiers, so the time of the postings should be correct henceforth.

RAMBI (Index to Articles on Jewish Studies) is an incredibly useful resource that I've been meaning to mention for some time. It indexes a huge collection of articles pertaining to Jewish studies going back to the 1960s and includes their bibliographic data in a searchable database. Indispensable!

Israel renews tours to flashpoint Jerusalem shrine (MSNBC)

By Allyn Fisher-Ilan
JERUSALEM, July 7 � Seated on an embroidered red rug outside Jerusalem's flashpoint al-Aqsa mosque, Muslim worshippers glared on Monday at the wide-eyed Jewish visitors who walked by with an Israeli police escort.


Three years after a Palestinian uprising for statehood erupted following a visit to the compound by Ariel Sharon, then opposition leader and now Israel's prime minister, police are allowing local and foreign tourists back on to the site.


Police shut the area to tourists immediately after the Palestinian revolt began in September 2000. The compound, where biblical Jewish temples stood, is Islam's third holiest site.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has criticised the tours as ''provocative.'' President Yasser Arafat accused Israel of letting in extremists under ''the pretext of tourism.''


''We are not doing this for religious reasons, but to bring Jerusalem back to normalcy and ensure that all the holy sites are accessible to visitors of all faiths,'' Gil Kleiman, an Israeli police spokesman, said about the tours.
Kleiman said dozens of Israeli, Jewish and Christian tour groups have participated in the visits, which run up to an hour. Police allow only a handful of visitors into the compound at a time, in an apparent bid to maintain a low profile.
Police cut short one impromptu visit arranged on Monday to only 20 minutes, to make sure the Jewish tourists would be out before noon prayers began at al-Aqsa.
Shuki Haas, a religious Jew on the tour, pointed at the golden-topped Dome of the Rock. He remarked that this is where Jews believe their two ancient temples once stood.
''And that, please God, is where the temple shall rise again,'' he said.

Although I strongly support the right of people of all religious faiths (or none) to visit the Temple Mount, I don't find that last quotation very encouraging.

Monday, July 07, 2003

30%-60% OF THE BAGHDAD NATIONAL LIBRARY IS SAFE according to library employees. This according to a preliminary report, dated 30 June, by a team of scholars who visited Baghdad for eight days. A longer report is promised by 10 July. Via the IraqCrisis list.
I'M FINISHING MY PAPER for the Anthropology and the Bible Symposium, which starts tomorrow, and while doing some Google research I ran across this page, which extracts lists of the scriptural canon from early Christian writers. The site has its own agenda, which you can take or leave as you please, but the collection of primary passages is useful.

The symposium takes place here at St. Mary's College on Tuesday and Wednesday. Blogging will be light, but on Wednesday I'll give you some treats on Iranian antiquities in honor of the Blogosphere's Iranian Freedom Day. At some point I will also post a draft of my symposium paper.
IT APPEARS THAT SOME E-MAIL WAS LOST from my account while I was away. If you sent me anything, you should assume I didn't get it and resend.
AN INSCRIPTION ON "ABSALOM'S TOMB" in the Kidron Valley refers to John the Baptist's father, Zechariah (Luke 1). But . . . it's an inscription from the Byzantine period.

Tomb References John the Baptist's Father (The Guardian)

Monday July 7, 2003 12:29 AM


Associated Press Writer

JERUSALEM (AP) - The discovery was a stroke of luck: the light of the setting sun hit an ancient tomb at just the right angle and revealed hints of a worn inscription, unnoticed for centuries, commemorating the father of John the Baptist.

``This is the tomb of Zachariah, martyr, very pious priest, father of John,'' the inscription of 47 Greek letters reads.

The inscription probably does not mean that the father of the biblical figure is actually buried in the 60-foot-high funerary monument at the foot of the Mount of Olives, say the text's discoverers. But it does give new insight into the local lore surrounding the early figures of the Christian Church.

Scholars say the words were probably written several hundred years after Zachariah's death - and after the tomb's construction - by Byzantine Christians.


There's more writing on the monument and it may include a reference to the Simeon who blessed Jesus in the Temple according to Luke 2:25-35. The discoverers, osteologist Joseph Zias and epigrapher Emile Puech (Emile was at the Enoch Seminar last week), promise an article publishing the inscription in the next issue of Revue Biblique. This inscription gives us some interesting information about Byzantine Christian traditions but everyone recognizes that it doesn't necessarily follow at all that those traditions preserve accurate data from the early first century.

Sunday, July 06, 2003


"Biblia Hebraica (Biblical Hebrew � Home)"
"Found on this site are notes from a graduate Biblical Hebrew Level I class taught by Dr. David Wallace."

Biblical and Modern Hebrew (DaaT)

The first lesson of each is free but there is a charge for all the rest.

Welcome to Basics of Biblical Hebrew Online. (by Gary Pratico and Miles V. Van Pelt)

"This site has been established to support and complement this recently published grammar, workbook and CD (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001). Basics of Biblical Hebrew is a beginner's grammar which constitutes a one year course at the undergraduate and graduate level. It is designed to prepare students to read most passages of the Hebrew Bible."

The Destruction of the Great Library at Alexandria (Archaeological Odyssey)

This article is by J. Harold Ellens, one of the organizers of the Enoch Seminar. There has also recently been a conference on the Alexandrian poet Callimachus, who catalogued the Library of Alexandria.

Ancient wine press unearthed in Jaffa dig (Ha'aaretz)

Hi-tech imaging could reveal lost texts (BBC)

Deals mainly with carbonized medieval texts but the multispectral imagining technology has already been used on the Herculaneum library. I assume it must be being used on the Petra Papyri too, although I don't know.
I'M BACK. We got in after 11:30 last night. Venice was glorious � I grew up in San Diego and anywhere with warm weather immediately feels like home to me. Venice a fascinating city and I wish I had had more time to explore it. But duty called and much of the time was spent (as one conference spouse commented) in a small room with sixty other people discussing a guy who died five thousand years ago � or maybe he didn't. I had hoped that my comments on apocalyptic (see below, "The Animal Apocalypse and Daniel") would goad people into explaining in more detail what they meant by the term, but mostly they continued using it without comment. John Collins did disagree with me in his response to the papers of the first session, but when we discussed it later it developed that we actually pretty much agreed after all and the misunderstanding arose over my insufficiently informative abstract of the paper, which was all he had seen before the session. He also pointed out that the Book of the Watchers did not work well as an example, since in fact it is fairly interested in eschatology. This is a fair point, so replace it with the core of 3 Enoch (1-15/16, which appears in a separate unit in some MSS). I think some of the Nag Hammadi apocalypses work too; I'll try to dig up another example or two later. Anyway, it was an excellent conference and many thanks to Gabriele Boccaccini, Harold Ellens, and the others who made it all happen.

Lots more came up in the Seminar and if I think of other interesting bits I'll post them. I haven't been able to bring myself to look at the backlog of e-mail in my account yet. I've also been away from the news all week, but I'll try to catch up on everything today. Meanwhile, I'll just note that the Baghdad Museum is still a dangerous place:

British journalist killed in Baghdad (USA Today)

BAGHDAD (AP) � A British journalist was shot and killed outside the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad on Saturday, witnesses said.

The identity of the journalist, a freelance television producer, was not immediately known. Fellow journalists, asking that their names not be used, said the male journalist was outside museum when he was shot.

Britain's ITN television news said it believed the man previously had worked as a researcher for the network but was not employed by them when he was shot.


Ambushes, shootings and other attacks, blamed on loyalists of Saddam Hussein, have plagued American soldiers in Iraq in recent weeks � but so far there has been no sign of journalists being explicitly targeted. An American soldier guarding the museum was shot and killed by a sniper on Thursday.


More presently.