Saturday, November 01, 2003

PROFESSOR WILLIAM G. DEVER will be lecturing in the Berkshires in November on �The Age of Solomon: Biblical Revisionism, Archaeology, and Anti-Semitism� according to (scroll down to the second half of the article).
NOAH'S CURSE OF HAM and how it has been used to justify enslavement of Africans is the subject of an article in the New York Times. It surveys the findings of a number of scholars.

From Noah's Curse to Slavery's Rationale

Published: November 1, 2003

As stories go, this one has all the elements of good soap opera: nudity, sex and dysfunctional families.

For many scholars, though, the enigmatic tale in Genesis 9 describing how Noah cursed the descendants of his son Ham with servitude remains a way to explore the complex origins of the concept of race: how and why did people begin to see themselves as racially divided?

In the biblical account, Noah and his family are not described in racial terms. But as the story echoed through the centuries and around the world, variously interpreted by Islamic, Christian and Jewish scholars, Ham came to be widely portrayed as black; blackness, servitude and the idea of racial hierarchy became inextricably linked.

By the 19th century, many historians agree, the belief that African-Americans were descendants of Ham was a primary justification for slavery among Southern Christians.

The debate about just what the story of Ham and Noah means has marched on into the 21st century. Today scholars are increasingly reading documents in the authors' original languages and going further back in time and to more places, as well as calling on disciplines like sociology and classics. Their ambitions are also bigger than just parsing Ham.

ACCESS TO THE TEMPLE MOUNT was limited by the Israelis for Muslim visitors during the first Friday of Ramadan.

Friday, October 31, 2003

I BELONG IN THE SECOND LEVEL OF HELL according to the Dante's Inferno Test (heads-up, Torrey Seland). Apparently I scored well for level five too. I'm surprised I didn't score better for level six, though. I'm a historical-critical biblical scholar, after all. Go figure.

For a long time I've hoped I could just squeak by into Limbo. At least I'm close.

Enjoy the test, but don't blame me if they keep your answers and blackmail you.

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Second Level of Hell!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Moderate
Level 2 (Lustful)High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Low
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)High
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Low
Level 7 (Violent)Low
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Very Low

Take the Dante's Inferno Test
HERE'S AN ARAB PERSPECTIVE on the Petra exhibit in New York, published in the Daily Star, Lebanon:

Petra exhibit in New York strives to alter perceptions
Most visitors viewing artifacts displayed in museum associate works with ancient history, not current Arab culture

UPDATE: And here's an account of a yoga and New Age spirituality retreat at Petra attended by Jordanians and an Iraqi, with a German teacher. Now is that multicultural or what?
HERE'S A WEBSITE on archaeological dating techniques (via Anita Cohen William's Archaeology Online blog). Includes some cool animation.

Thursday, October 30, 2003


Date: Wed, 29 Oct 2003 14:38:08 -0500
From: Ariella Brown
Subject: Statement on North American Undergraduate Study in Israeli Universities

The American Academy for Jewish Research, the Association For Jewish Studies, and the National Association Of Professors Of Hebrew have issued a statement expressing their concern over the restrictions imposed by numerous American and Canadian universities on undergraduates who wish to participate in "semester abroad" programs of study in Israel and asking university administrators to review their policies and remove impediments
to such study.

Please publicize and disseminate this statement widely.

The statement follows:

American Academy for Jewish Research
Association for Jewish Studies
National Association of Professors of Hebrew

Statement on North American Undergraduate Study in Israeli Universities

Over the past three years, the sharp decline in the number of North
American undergraduate students in "study abroad" programs at Israeli universities has had a severe and deleterious impact on academic Jewish Studies Programs in the United States and Canada. Students in such programs have been shown to benefit greatly from the language study and other subject specialization opportunities that can be found only at Israeli universities.

As presidents of the three major academic organizations of Jewish Studies faculty in North America, we wish to express our alarm at the policies of North American universities that serve to dissuade, discourage, prevent or even prohibit students who decide to study in Israel from doing so.

We recognize legitimate concerns for safety and the cautionary advice given by the State Department about travel in Israel. But we believe that, rather than cancel programs or prohibit study, universities should base the decision to award university credit for academic work done elsewhere solely on academic criteria and that no penalty should be imposed on students who have chosen freely and of their own volition to participate in such programs.

We call upon the administrations of American universities to review their policies on study in Israel in order to remove obstacles created by administrative decisions that are not germane to academic standards, so as to allow students to pursue their legitimate academic goals.

Shmuel Bolozky
(University of Massachusetts, Amherst)
National Association of Professors of Hebrew
(413) 545-2550

Lawrence H. Schiffman
(New York University)
Association for Jewish Studies
(212) 998-8980

David B. Ruderman
(University of Pennsylvania)
American Academy for Jewish Research
(215) 238-1290
The statement may also be viewed on the
AJS Website at

Yours sincerely,

Aaron L. Katchen
Executive Director
Association for Jewish Studies
HERE'S A BOSTON GLOBE REVIEW by Scott Bernard Nelson of two new books by Bart D. Ehrman on early Christian noncanonical literature and traditions (via Bible and Interpretation News). Excerpts:

In "Lost Scriptures," Ehrman provides English translations -- many of them his own -- of 47 nonbiblical texts written by early Christians and later unearthed by theologians, historians, and archeologists. In each case, he provides a short explanation of when and where the writing was found and how he believes it compares and contrasts with the New Testament. Virtually all were, at various times by various Christians, considered sacred.

It can be a fascinating exercise to, say, read the "Apocalypse of Peter," considered canonical by a number of early churches and thought to be the inspiration for Dante Alighieri's "The Divine Comedy," alongside the biblical revelation of John. Or to puzzle your way through the "Gospel of Thomas," discovered in an Egyptian grave in 1945 and attributed to Didymus Judas Thomas, who some believe was Christ's brother. The text claims to record 114 direct quotes from Jesus, and some scholars have sparked controversy by saying those might be closer to what Christ actually taught than anything in the New Testament.

Perhaps most interesting, Ehrman includes five lists from early Christian writers discussing which books should and should not be counted as scripture. The variety of suggestions shows that the specifics of what we know today as the New Testament were in flux well into the fourth century. The first author to claim that the 27 books of the New Testament were, in fact, the one and true scripture was the bishop of Alexandria in AD 367 -- almost 3 1/2 centuries after Christ's crucifixion.


But who made the decisions about which books to include in the canon and which to exclude? And why? The Apostles themselves -- and anyone who knew anyone who knew the Apostles -- were long gone by the fourth century.

An analysis of these questions fills Ehrman's companion volume, "Lost Christianities." In it, he presents the major strains of early Christianity and explains how each feuded bitterly with the others. He also discusses how and why the group representing the closest thing to modern-day Christianity ultimately won out, leading to a statement of beliefs at the First Ecumenical Council in AD 325, which dictated that followers were to believe that there is one God, that he created the world, that Jesus his son is both human and divine, and that Jesus' death brought the world salvation, fulfilling Old Testament prophecies.

Read it all.
HYPOTYPOSEIS is a new blog on biblical studies (so far New Testament and patristics) by Stephen C. Carlson (via Mark Goodacre). Recently he has discussed, inter alia the Secret Gospel of Mark, scholarship and copyright law, and ancient forgeries.

Three PhD-positions at the University of Groningen
Jewish and Christian Traditions

The Faculty of Theology & Religious Studies of the University of Groningen announces a search to fill three Ph.D. positions.
The Faculty runs three research programmes, among which a programme in Jewish and Christian Traditions. Excellent and suitable candidates, who have finished a relevant MA, are encouraged to apply. The research group consists of Professor Ed Noort (OT, Archaeology & Biblical Theology), dr Jacques van Ruiten (OT & Early Judaism), Professor Florentino Garc�a Mart�nez (Early Judaism & Qumran), dr Eibert Tigchelaar (Early Judaism & Qumran), Professor Gerard Luttikhuizen (NT & Gnosticism), and dr George van Kooten (NT & Hellenism).

At this stage, candidates should only send their curriculum vitae, a title of proposed research, a brief research proposal including a presentation and definition of the principal questions and problems, a brief general outline of the prospective table of contents, and a specification of referents, altogether certainly not exceeding two pages. Please send your application to Professor Ed Noort, Email, before November 10th, 2003. After initial screening, the most suitable candidates will be invited to submit a full-scale proposal. For further enquiries, contact Professor Noort, Telephone 0031-50-363 55 67 (office); 0031-598-35 07 54 (home), or Email

The PhD appointments entail a 4-year fixed term contract, pay award rising over the years from EURO 1,683 to 2,258 per month. After one year an assessment takes places.

The University of Groningen is a strong, interdisciplinary university in the Netherlands. There is a direct connection between London Stansted and Groningen Airport (Ryanair).

(Via Mark Goodacre on the British New Testament Society information list.)
HERE'S MORE on the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Forbidden Book Exhibit in Dallas.
PHILOLOGOS discusses the Hebrew word Metsiya, which means both a good find and a rip-off, and is part of the title of a Talmudic tractate.

UPDATE: Edward Cook e-mails:

Good link on metsiya. The Hebrew word and Aramaic words are different though -- the Heb. is from mem-tsade-alef "to find" and the Aramaic (as in Baba Metsiya) is from mem-tsade-ayin "middle". The linked article doesn't really bring this out clearly.
A NEW PATRIARCH OF BABYLON OF THE CHALDEANS is being elected. The liturgical language of the Chaldean Church is Aramaic.
ANCIENT JEWISH NOVELS: AN ANTHOLOGY, by Lawrence M. Wills, is reviewed by Mark Jay Mirsky in the Forward. The book deals with Joseph and Aseneth, Judith, the Testament of Job, the additions to Esther, etc.
BLOGGER HAS BEEN DOWN this morning for scheduled maintenance. The Blogosphere reels.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

ERICH VON DÄNIKEN has opened a "Chariots of the Gods" theme park in Switzerland (via Archaeology Magazine News). You just can't make this stuff up.

Despite the fact that he's a nut, I have a soft spot in my heart for von Däniken: at an impressionable age I read his books and they got me interested in ancient history and archaeology. So in a roundabout way you have him to thank (or blame) for this blog.

From Sarah Bunin Benor: We are pleased to announce the completion of the Jewish Language Research Website:

This website is designed to be a resource for Linguists, Jewish Studies Scholars, and the general public to learn about the speech and writing of Jews throughout history and around the world. It provides information about 14 Jewish languages: Hebrew, Jewish Aramaic, Jewish English, Jewish Malayalam,Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-French, Judeo-Greek, Judeo-Iranian, Judeo-Italian, Judeo-Persian, Judeo-Portuguese, Judeo-Proven�al, Judeo-Spanish/Judezmo/Ladino, and Yiddish

The site presents short descriptions and bibliographies of these
languages, written by top researchers, and it provides contact information for over 50 scholars from 10 countries. It also provides information on computing in Hebrew and Jewish languages, as well as links to several other resources.

Please contact the editor, Sarah Bunin Benor , if you have suggestions or questions.

(From the H-JUDAIC list.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

THE JOURNAL OF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES has a new issue out (62.4). Not only that, it appears that I failed to note the previous issue in July (62.3). There are no articles of direct paleojudaic interest in either issue (well, maybe JOHN C. POIRIER. "Generational Reckoning in Hesiod and in the Pentateuch" in 62.3) but there are many relevant book reviews (you have to download the complete PDF file of reviews for each issue in order to access any one review).

In issue 62.3 see the following reviews:

FLORENTINO GARC�A MART�NEZ and EIBERT TIGCHELAAR, The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition. Vol. 1. 1Q1�4Q273. Vol. 2. 4Q274�11Q31 (Michael O. Wise)

ROBERT A. KUGLER and EILEEN M. SCHULLER, The Dead Sea Scrolls at Fifty: Proceedings of the 1997 Society of Biblical Literature Qumran Section Meetings and LAWRENCE H. SCHIFFMAN, EMANUEL TOV, and JAMES C. VANDERKAM, The Dead Sea Scrolls: Fifty Years after Their Discovery: Proceedings of the Jerusalem Congress, July 20�25, 1997 (Michael O. Wise)

EUGENE ULRICH, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Origins of the Bible (Michael O. Wise)

ZIPORA TALSHIR, I Esdras: From Origin to Translation (Ralph W. Klein)

M. P. WEITZMAN, The Syriac Version of the Old Testament: An Introduction (Tawny L. Holm)

ZE'EV BEN-HAYYIM and ABRAHAM TAL, A Grammar of Samaritan Hebrew: Based on the Recitation of the Law in Comparison with the Tiberian and Other Jewish Traditions. Rev. ed (Joseph Malone)

And in issue 62.4 see:

SAMUEL KOTTEK and MANFRED HORSTMANSHOFF, From Athens to Jerusalem: Medicine in Hellenized Jewish Lore and in Early Christian Literature: Papers of the Symposium in Jerusalem, 9�11 September 1996 (Robert D. Biggs)

GEOFFREY H. PARKE-TAYLOR, The Formation of the Book of Jeremiah: Doublets and Recurring Phrases (Christopher A. Rollston)

JOHN F. KUTSKO, Between Heaven and Earth: Divine Presence and Absence in the Book of Ezekiel (Christopher A. Rollston)

ANDREW G. VAUGHN, Theology, History, and Archaeology in the Chronicler's Account of Hezekiah (Christopher A. Rollston)
HERE ARE MORE DETAILS ABOUT THE FAKE LOST-TEN-TRIBES ARTIFACTS, which are to go on display in the Michigan museum to which they were donated. The forger seems to have made quite a cottage industry of the fakes in the late nineteenth century.
BRYN MAWR COLLEGE is hosting a forum on November 6-7 entitled "Jews and Christians Reading the Bible," which will be webcast live with participation from readers online. For more information follow the link. (Heads-up, Bob Kraft on the PSCO list.)

Monday, October 27, 2003

PROFESSOR JOHN RUSSELL has e-mailed Francis Deblauwe with some updates on the situation with antiquities sites in Iraq.
OUT FOR THE COUNT: My Bravenet counter has vanished! Their website won't open my account either. I'm not aware of having done anything to my blog's template, so I assume the problem is with Bravenet and not with me.

UPDATE: It's back now.
ANDRE LEMAIRE critiques the IAA's report on the" James ossuary" for Biblical Archaeology Review. The current issue of BAR also has snippets on biblical archaeological items currently in the news (Hezekiah's Tunnel, "James ossuary," Absaloms Tomb & Zacharias inscription," etc.) here and some thoughts and information on the upcoming Society of Biblical Literature conference in Atlanta here.
HERE'S A PRELIMINARY REPORT on the fourth season of excavations at Hippos Sussita, near the Sea of Galilee (Bible and Interpretation News).
A WARNING SHOT? Jim Caviezel, who plays Jesus in Mel Gibson's The Passion of Christ, has been struck by lightning during the filming. Fortunately, he and assistant director Jan Michelini (who was struck for the second time in this incident) were not seriously injured.

The film is scheduled to be released in the U.S.A. by Newmarket Films on 25 February (Ash Wednesday). (Thanks to Jim West for this reference.) Gibson's own Icon Productions will distribute it in Australia and the U.K.

Not taking into account, of course, any further acts of God.
TOBIT DELETED: Here's a New York Times article on an etching of "Tobias and the Angel" by Hercules Segers which Rembrant reworked into an image of "The Flight Into Egypt."
SOME FAKE ARTIFACTS, produced in the late nineteenth century as proof of presence of the lost ten tribes in Michigan, have been donated by the Mormon Church to the Michigan Historical Museum.
A BATHHOUSE FROM THE TIME OF JESUS IN NAZARETH? By now you've probably heard of this one, but here's the article about it in The Guardian.

UPDATE: Christine at notes this Ananova article from last December which cites an archaeologist and a biblical scholar who argue that the bathhouse should be dated to a millennium later than the time of Jesus. David Meadows of Rogue Classicism has been following the story since the beginning and also has comments (via Mark Goodacre).
I'M BACK IN ST. ANDREWS and, thanks to the time change, with only seven hours of jet lag instead of the normal eight. I'm not feeling particularly alert, but I'm here in my office, and I'll see presently what I can blog up.