Saturday, January 10, 2004

NOW THIS IS INTERESTING: You may recall the story last spring about "the Talmud they didn't find" in Iraq, which I blogged on here and here and here. The Art Newspaper has a report on "Saddam�s secret hoard of Jewish manuscripts" which follows up that story. They didn't find a Talmud but they did find a hoard of manuscripts belonging to and pertaining to the Iraqi Jewish community. Excerpts (but read it all):

In May 2003, military personnel looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and following a lead for a missing valuable Jewish Talmud, searched the headquarters of the Mukhabahrat, the Iraqi secret police, in Baghdad. Instead of bombs, they found a collection of Judaica, including rare 16th-century books printed in Venice. The cache was pulled from the water-filled basement of the Iraqi secret police building and transferred to Washington, DC where it is now being conserved by specialists at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).


In the weeks after the discovery in May, personnel from the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) retrieved printed and manuscript materials in Hebrew, Arabic, Judeo-Arabic, and English from the water, under working conditions made precarious by the presence of an unexploded bomb outside the building. Following removal, the objects were packed into sacks, partially dried, placed in metal trunks and frozen.


The collection includes Hebrew-language materials such as the �Ketubin� volume of the monumental Third Rabbinic Bible, published in Venice by Giovanni di Gara in 1568; and what appears to be Abraham Brudo�s �Birkat Avraham,� published in Venice in 1696. Hebrew prayer books, Bibles, commentaries and books published in Baghdad, Warsaw, Livorno and Venice in the late 19th to early 20th century are also part of the cache. Arabic materials include hand-written and printed items relating to the Iraqi Jewish community, including a 1966 request for names for a board of directors of the Jewish community and 1930s documents.

The article also has two photos of material from the hoard.

UPDATE: Somehow two earlier drafts of this post were posted with it. I've deleted them. Sorry for the confusion.

If I may quote something I wrote in November:

One of the concepts we ancient historians take for granted, yet have immense difficulty getting across to laypeople, is that there is a large range of "theories" that we or our subspecialties agree to be quite impossible and not worth talking about (because they are obviously grossly flawed methodologically or the evidence put forth for them is obviously wrong or for various other reasons). There are lots of other theories that are somewhere between barely possible and quite likely, and it is this latter category of the possible that we spend so much time arguing about, while we tend to ignore the impossible theories except when, say, a crank manages to get them some media attention, in which case we say that they're impossible and the crank complains about ossified mainstream scholarship which can't appreciate his or her grand breakthrough.

The context was some comments on the "James Ossuary" inscription, which some real scholars still do think may be genuine. But here's an excellent example of a "quite impossible" theory that illustrates my point:

The History and Future of Israelite America -- Author Sets Out to Prove Israelites were Real Native Americans (PrimeZone Media Network press release)

GOODING, Idaho, Jan. 9, 2004 (PRIMEZONE) -- History teaches students that Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas and Native Americans passed to North America via an ice bridge from Asia. This is all wrong, writes Walter Baucum, who believes the real natives of America are Israelites. In his new book, The History and Future of Israelite America (now available through 1stBooks), he shows readers that America was visited and settled by "lost tribes" of Israel well before American Indians.

"(I) boldly accuse America's historians and archeologists of mysteriously failing or deliberately refusing to teach these truths for centuries and point out how even our own government has bought into the farce that Asians are the 'native' Americans," Baucum says.

The History and Future of Israelite America rejects the idea that Columbus was the first European to reach America and embraces the idea of America's Israelite ancestors, from Abraham all the way to Noah's son, Shem, and Sumerians. Baucum shows "proof upon proof" that the continent was not "found by a few lost and shipwrecked seamen sailing the crosswinds and ocean currents of the world." Instead, it was a deliberate outpost for all the great empires that included trade, settlement and exploitation by countries from the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and Scandinavia for at least 3,000 years, he explains.


There's more here. Excerpt:

"Sumerians [were] a worldwide empire, with their influence found in many nations on the earth--the ancient Hebrew-Israelites were descended from Shem, from whom came the Sumerians--founders of early civilization--these Israelites carried on the Sumerian?s cultural and empire-building traditions, down through, and by right of, the Covenant Promise to Abraham, establishing empires and spreading the same culture to all corners of the globe."

"Many of the Phoenicians, Greeks, Libyans, Celtiberians, European Celts, and Scandinavian Norsemen who settled at various times in America were Israelites. That America is not only our land today, but also that we have a prior, more ancient claim to it by our Sumerian forebears, has become overwhelmingly evident by modern research."

"Our people came to this land as rulers, exploiters, and colonizers before Columbus. And they continued to come after Columbus as so-called New World colonists. America is our land by right of the Covenant Promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob [Israel]. This is our past, as mapped out by both Biblical and secular history. It is our destiny as one of the two "Birthright" nations to preserve this ?original? knowledge."

"The aim of all learning should be to arrive at the truth, but once a paradigm has been established and bought into, such as "Columbus discovered America," the students can do little or nothing but agree with what their professors tell them. Thus the error is perpetuated with each successive generation."

"America is Israelite land, as proved by history, archaeology, serology, Amerindian tribal tradition, epigraphy, and, most of all, by inheritance and settlement. That the English-speaking people are Israelites seems evident in light of much research. We are the modern heirs of this land."

This is a weird amalgam of bits of history, theology, politics, and imagination, with an especially heavy dose of the last. The author has no training in the history, archaeology, languages, linguistics, and epigraphy of the numerous cultures he writes about, yet he thinks he can overturn centuries of work by serious scholars in many fields. It's hard to know where to begin: The Sumerians did not have a worldwide empire, Sumerian is unrelated to Hebrew, and both are unrelated to the European languages. None of these are related to the Native American languages. The use of the Bible is uncritical (Shem = Sumerians). As for children being taught that Columbus discovered America, if I recall correctly, I was taught that the first verified Europeans to reach North America were the Vikings, who arrived in the year 1000 and called it Vinland and that Amerigo Vespucci may have gotten there before Columbus too and that, in any case, at least he had some idea of what he'd found. Surely school children today are being taught the same thing. Archaeologists and epigraphers in various fields would have massive objections to this book too. But enough: you get the picture.
MORE ON THE SAMARITANS from the Dallas Baptist Standard. Excerpt:

In early November, Samaritan Benyamim Tsedaka, chancellor to the Samaritans' high priest Shalom Ben Amran, made his annual diplomatic visit to the United States, meeting with government officials, lobbyists and charitable organizations and sharing updates about the Samaritans.

His goal was to garner support for a Samaritan-run international peace center he would like to build on the sacred Mount Gerizim, near Nablus, where many of the remaining 672 Samaritans live.

The Samaritans, who live mainly in Israel and Palestine, have special, close relationships with their neighboring communities. Tsedaka said these friendships are unique in the fiercely divided Middle East.

The Samaritans' friendly relationships with two of the warring nations in the world and their modern-day policy of non-violence after millennia of conflict make them ideal candidates to build a peace center in the Middle East, he said.

Friday, January 09, 2004


Announcing a new list


We are pleased to announce the availability of a new mailing list that will serve to inform the public of developments at ETANA: Electronic Tools and Ancient Near Eastern Archives, and of additions to Abzu, ETANA's guide to the ancient Near East on-line. Instructions for adding your address to the list can be found at:

The ETANA project seeks to serve as a model of how a discipline-specific content site in ancient Near Eastern Studies can be constructed to become the dominant site for that discipline. ETANA will take a leadership role in developing standards specific to this discipline, test altruistic funding models, utilize OpenArchive metadata standards and create discipline-specific harvest engines to work with these metadata. ETANA will create a structure whereby scholarship can be accessible from data capture to finished scholarship on a single site. It will host data capture and access, core texts and born-digital publications in an environment of rights management, appropriate levels of peer review, and archival permanence. ETANA encompasses the primary portal in ancient Near Eastern Studies: Abzu, and the multiple rich image databases being created in the discipline.

Scholarship is enhanced by technological innovations that facilitate communication and expedite the efficient sharing of research and ideas. No less than other disciplines, the study of the ancient Near East promises to be enriched significantly by the development of a singular, far-reaching resource for research that will be widely accessible to professionals and amateurs alike. To that end, ETANA brings together a consortium of universities and academic societies in order to develop and maintain a comprehensive, unified Internet site for the study of the ancient Near East.

ETANA is a cooperative project of:

American Oriental Society | American Schools of Oriental Research | Case Western Reserve University | Cobb Institute of Archaeology at Mississippi State | Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago | Society of Biblical Literature | Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University | Vanderbilt University | Virginia Polytechnic and State University

Support for ETANA has been provided by funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (8/00 to 2/02, 6/01 to 8/02) and the National Science Foundation (Continuing grant IIS-0325579).

Please forward this announcement wherever it may be useful.

-Chuck Jones- for the ETANA team

(Via the Ioudaios-L list.)
"FOUND OBJECTS: What archaeologists can gain from markets, or lose by ignoring them" is an article by Jeremy Lott in Reason online. Lott begins by going over what happened last year to the Baghdad Museum during the war and what has happened to antiquities in Iraq since. His account looks to me to be substantially accurate, although I'm not sure of every detail. (You can see my understanding the situation from this post and this one in June, both of which I still stand by.) More important, he outlines the current situation regarding Iraqi (and other) antiquities and archaeological sites and proposes some solutions:

Yet looted material from museums was only a small part of the overall trade. One of the few forms of ready cash during the years of the debilitating, decade-long sanctions regime against Iraq came from artifact sales. In defiance of the Ba�athist government, which occasionally executed looters, and of U.N. Security Council resolutions, an extensive black market in Iraqi antiquities was in place before the recent scandal. The Iraqi antiquities that ended up for sale on eBay were likely from this earlier period. By 1997, enough antiquities had been seized at the Iraq-Jordan border to have their own exhibit at the National.

Nor are Iraq�s looting problems unique. In the last dozen or so years, museums in Afghanistan, Somalia, and Kuwait have been sacked. Site looting is the order of the day anywhere poor people find themselves sitting on land that is less valuable than what is underneath the soil. In an interview, Hershel Shanks described a conversation with an Italian museum curator to illustrate the point: "I said to him, in certain places in Italy they�ve been looting tombs for three generations. He said, �No. Four.�" For Shanks, the exchange embodies a certain bitter truth: To archaeologists, site looting is more damaging than sacking museums. At least in the case of the latter, the items have been excavated using methods that allow scholars to compare notes. The information can survive the loss or the destruction of the object, but haphazard, undocumented looting deprives future generations of important tools for reconstructing the past.

The modern archaeological establishment has responded to the threat of markets by lobbying governments to disrupt the flow of antiquities across borders, and to crack down on collectors and dealers. They may have occasional legislative successes -- Switzerland recently tightened its notoriously loose antiquities laws, for example -- but the most likely result will be a slight reduction in trade volume, and even that much is uncertain. Historically, governments have not proven to be very good at preservation.

Reducing the flow of illicit goods would do precious little to fix some of the other problems that plague professional archaeology, including a chronic lack of funding for digs, and of the time and money needed to service large collections of artifacts. One of the reasons the details from the National Museum are still so sketchy is that thousands of items were still awaiting documentation. As with many museums, the National had (and continues to have) thousands of items deteriorating in storage in the hope that someone might someday pull them out and catalog them before sticking them back on the shelf. At any given time, Iraq�s premier cultural institution could showcase perhaps 8,000 items from its 170,000-piece collection. Practically, this means that most items will never see the light of archivists� flashbulbs.

Shanks argues that from the point of view of archaeology, collectors can be either "good" or "bad," and that a lot of the collectors� actions depend on what archaeologists choose to do as a profession. That means that both law and the field of archaeology should carve out a place where collectors and potential looters can funnel their energies. There are many possible ways to structure such an arrangement. Shanks, for example, has suggested giving responsibility for major sites to private companies that would ensure the sites� security in exchange for an opportunity to trade in duplicate finds.

Potential looters should be hired and supervised by archaeologists (a perfectly common arrangement in archaeology�s past), who could pay for the digs by getting collectors to sponsor them or by selling many of the items afterwards, after they�ve been studied and cataloged. Emmerich argues, and Shanks concurs, that many duplicate pots and artifacts currently sitting in museum storage should be sold to private collectors, who would be more likely to properly maintain and display them, and who might keep their own property safe in a time of looting.

A less antagonistic arrangement would be ideal for archaeologists, for collectors, and for the nations that are so rich with physical evidence of ancient cultures. Archaeology is more interested in the information that the artifacts provide than in the artifacts themselves. By controlling the excavations and thoroughly documenting finds, archaeologists could get all the necessary information. Collectors could get access to artifacts that interest them, especially duplicate objects that are otherwise sent into eternal storage, without risking forgeries, lawsuits, or public denunciation. Countries of origin could require that a minimum percentage of the antiquities found (including all unique objects) be donated to their museums, which would both enrich their collections and boost their reputations. The possibility of continuous employment -- along with the occasional payout for important finds and no risk of being shot or hanged -- might persuade the locals to go along with an ordered excavation instead of looting.

These proposals are neither new nor untested. Shanks likes to point out that the Dead Sea Scrolls were found and dug out by people we�d now consider looters. Archaeologists responded by buying the scrolls from antiquities dealers, then hiring the Bedouins to help them further excavate the fragments of this ancient library. Many museums in the U.S. and other countries have Iraqi antiquities today because they agreed to finance digs with the understanding that they could keep half the artifacts.

Much of what happens in the next few years will depend on the actions of the archaeological establishment. Right now, an anti-collector, anti-market bias remains pervasive. That may be a majority position, or it could be that, as pro-market archaeology types would have it, a loud minority only makes it sound that way. In either event, the utility of this attitude is far from clear. If used properly, markets could help preserve artifacts, reduce looting, and expand the number of digs. It�s a virtuous circle waiting to happen.

So his solution is to privatize excavations, exchanging the right to profit from the sale of duplicates for privately arranged security of the site. He also wants to hire potential looters to help with excavating. The latter is certainly a good idea, when there happens to be a well funded excavation handy, which is almost universally not the case in Iraq or in many other parts of the world where archaeological looting is rampant. (See now the article "London and Paris markets flooded with looted Iranian antiquities" from the Art Newspaper via Archaeologica News.) The privatization idea is more problematic, and I myself go back and forth about it. The positive side is that it would provide short-term security and funding to a grossly underfunded and unprotected field. The negative side is that these would be bought at the price of losing the future information that could come from the "duplicates" through improved technology and the asking of questions that haven't occured to us yet. (I put "duplicates" in scare quotes because in reality there is no such thing: each piece is unique in some way and as we learn more, we will be better able to extract that precious unique information.) On the one hand, I'm generally wary of sacrificing a long-term future gain for a short-term present one. But on the other, I'm also wary of being high minded to the point of rejecting a lesser evil on principle when the result is to let a far greater evil happen by inaction. We have desperate problems in the present that are doing dreadful damage to future excavations and future study, arguably far more damage than the potential loss of information from selling "duplicates."

I have discussed this problem in earlier posts here and here.

No easy answers on this one.
THE ARTSCROLL BIBLE is trashed in a rambling article by Michael Fox in Ha'aretz. In "Musings / Roll up this scroll" he tells us that the Hebrew Bible is a better literary work than the King James translation, although the latter is still a "literary masterpiece." No such kind word for the Artscroll translation:

In stamping out heresy, the Artscroll in its translations is not above tampering with the text. Contrast with the standard translations its treatment of the Song of Songs, a powerfully erotic set of poems with no apparent religious content. The book was admitted into the canon of the Bible as an allegory and perhaps, one would like to think, for its literary quality.

At any rate Rabbi Akiva called it the holiest of all books and the liturgy of the Hasidim calls for it to be read every Sabbath eve. By means of marginal notes the King James translators present the book as an extended metaphor of the love of Christ for the Church. The line "a bundle of myrrh is my beloved unto me, he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts" is annotated "The Church and Christ congratulate each other," but the translation itself is literal; the translators, though clerics, seldom resort to euphemism in their translations.

Avian abominations

Artscroll, however, is not content to leave to its commentary an allegorical interpretation. Religious correctness has compelled it to ignore the literal meaning of the book entirely. See where Artscroll has placed that bundle of myrrh: "But my Beloved responded with a bundle of myrrh ... the fragrant atonement of erecting a Tabernacle where His Presence would dwell amid the Holy Ark's staves."

Sometimes the demands of orthodoxy make the Artscroll translators give up in despair. Chapter XI of Leviticus contains a list of 20 birds that may not be eaten. The King James Version speaks of eagles, ospreys, vultures, owls, hawks, cuckoos, cormorants and kites. Subsequent versions have altered some of these translations in the light of later scholarship. But Artscroll's house ornithologist must have been on leave when the avian abominations were listed as: "the nesher, the peres, the ozniah; the daah and the ayah according to its kind; every orev according to its kind; the bas hayaanah, the tachmos, the shachaf, and the netz according to its kind; the kos, the shalach, and the yanshuf; the tinshemes, the kaas, and the racham; the chasidah, according to its kind, the duchifas, the anafah according to its kind and the atalef."

Well, thank you for "and" and "the."

I haven't seen the translation myself, but the examples he gives, not all of which are quoted above, don't sound very encouraging.

UPDATE: Reader Dan Rabinowitz e-mails:
I was supremely disappointed at the "trashing" that the artscroll bible got. First of all it has been out for a couple of years now, and to subject it to that minor of a review is rather pathetic. It is not as if the reviewer did not have time?! Further, the Shir HaSHirim critique, Artscroll many years ago, I don't know exactly when published a in a single volume the Shir HaShirim, this current translation just reuses that one, so no big news there.

True, the review could have been more thorough. As I said, I haven't seen the translation.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Professor Berel Lang writes from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.:

"Perhaps you would give a couple of paragraphs to the misconception (and the mistranslation) of the Sixth Commandment [in Exodus 20:13], 'You shall not murder,' as 'You shall not kill.' The original Hebrew, lo tirtsah., is very clear, since the verb ratsah. means 'murder,' not 'kill.' If the commandment proscribed killing as such, it would position Judaism against capital punishment and make it pacifist even in wartime. These may be defensible or admirable views, but they're certainly not biblical."


Traditionally, Christian translations of Exodus 20:13 have favored � as does the King James Version in English � "Thou shalt not kill." Martin Luther's German Bible has Du sollst nicht t�ten rather than du sollst nicht m�rdern, the French Louis II Bible has tu ne tueras point and not tu meurtrieras or assassineras point, and so on. This has led Jewish commentators, going back to medieval rabbis like Samuel Ben Meir and Joseph Bekhor-Shor, to accuse Christian translators of distorting the Sixth Commandment so as to make it conform to the Christian principle � honored by Christianity, alas, almost entirely in the breach � of turning the other cheek. Whereas, such polemicists have maintained, pointing to the Christian translation of lo tirtsah., Christianity preaches the impossible goal of loving one's enemies, Judaism realistically teaches, in the words of the rabbinic maxim, that "he who comes to kill you, kill him first."


In the final analysis, I would agree with Segal's conclusion that "the translation 'Thou shalt not kill' was not the result of simple ignorance on the side of Jerome or the King James' English translators. Rather, it reflects their legitimate determination to [translate] accurately the broader range of meanings of the Hebrew root." This is not to say that "Thou shalt not kill" is the better or more accurate translation. It is simply to say that, first of all, not all languages make an absolutely clear distinction between killing and murdering, and secondly, that, as is often true of translation, one's interpretation depends on prior attitudes. To an opponent of capital punishment, killing a murderer is murder too; to a proponent of abortion, killing a fetus is not. It is not the meaning of the Sixth Commandment that will in most cases determine how we think about such things. It is how we think about them that will determine what we make of the Sixth Commandment.

Concepts in one language often cannot be mapped directly onto the vocabulary of another language and this is a good example. There is no word in ancient Hebrew which corresponds exactly to the English word "murder." As Philologos notes, in Numbers 35, ras.ah. (or ratsach - the root is resh-tsade-het) is used of someone who kills someone accidentally (e.g. v. 11), our "manslaughter," and of the execution of a murderer by the victim's next-of-kin both outside and within a judicial setting (vv. 27, 30). As near as I can tell, ras.ah. means "to kill in cold blood" or "to kill without immediately preceding provocation." Much of the time it applies to murder but it also applies to manslaughter, where it's an accident but still without immediate provocation, and execution or revenge killing, where the provocation is not an immediate threat to the avenger but the earlier unlawful killing of the avenger's relative. In Israelite law, execution and revenge killing were legal and proper. So the best translation in context of the sixth commandment is indeed "you shall not murder," but the exact nuances of the Hebrew word are more complicated and can't be expressed in a single word.
THE TESTAMENT OF ABRAHAM as a bedtime story? Now that's a thought. I'll have to try it.

If you don't have a modern translation handy, here's one online. It appears to be old � I suspect it's from the Ante-Nicene Fathers series but the site doesn't say � and I make no promises about its accuracy. But it should do for bedtime story material.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

QUESTIONS FOR PAUL (via Hypotyposeis): On the Corpus Paulinum list Jeffrey Gibson has asked the list:

Imagine if you will (please forgive me, Rod Serling) that

(a) we had the mid 60's CE Paul before us for an hour or two and that

(b) we were able to make ourselves understood by him, and that

(c) he had agreed to answer anything about himself, his career, his
beliefs, and his writings about which we might be inclined to inquire,.

what questions would you put to him?

Let's limit this to your top five.
In another message he clarifies:

OK, once again, I see I have not made the scenario clear enough. What I intended to be part of the "let's imagine" is the premise that we **go back to** Paul's time, and to that point in his time just before Paul met his end. The scenario is not that Paul is brought into ours, let alone that he's been schooled in all that's happened since his time.
I'm not on the Corpus Paulinum list (and I'm not a Paul specialist), but for your amusement, here are the questions I would ask Paul:

1. Have you ever asked Jesus' brother James or his disciples Peter and John to tell you about Jesus and, if so, what did they say?

2. Here are a bunch of letters people claim you wrote. (I brought them with me in my time machine.) Please look them over and tell me which ones you did write and whether the text I have of them presents accurately what you actually said.

3. There's going to be a guy they call "Luke" who will write some stuff about you. Do you know him? Here's his book, which I've also brought in my time machine. What do you think of the parts about you?

4. Do you believe that everybody is "saved" in the end or not?

5. What do you mean by the "wrath of God" in your letter to the Romans? Is this some kind of eternal damnation or is it something else (see previous question)?
Jeffrey doesn't say if we're allowed to bring things in our time machine, but he doesn't say we can't either, so I'm not sure whether I can get away with questions 2 and 3 as written. If he didn't mean we could, they would have to be revised. And they also might take more than an hour or two to discuss!

This exercise reminds me of a midterm question I used to ask my undergraduates back when I taught Introduction to the New Testament at another institution:

Imagine a meeting between a leader of the Q people, the Apostle Paul, and an Essene leader from Qumran in the year C.E. 58. Write your essay from the perspective of the Q person and explain how and where you (the Q person) agree and disagree with the other two leaders on observance of Torah law, proper religious lifestyle, relations with the gentiles (including proselytizing), the correct celebration of the communal meal, and the end of the world.
UPDATE (9 January): Q-heretic Mark Goodacre comments regarding my midterm question:
Nice idea; I'd be interested to hear a conversation between John Kloppenborg, Paul and a Qumran person!
Good one Mark!

If Mark can teach the undergraduates in his Intro to the NT course about the Q theory and why it's wrong, and get them to take it all in, well, my hat's off to him. Me, I'm a Q-agnostic, although I'm happy enough to assume the two-source theory as the current most widely accepted reconstruction when I need to think about such things.

UPDATE (11 March 2014): Just noticed a misstatement ("Paul" for "Peter") and a typo in this one. Now corrected.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

WHICH TESTAMENT AGAIN? Reader "Hershel" refers me to this New York Times column by William Safire on Howard Dean's comments on the Book of Job:

As he heads into what H. L. Mencken called the "Bible Belt," the candidate moved to plug an apparent hole in his r�sum� about an interest in religion. After hearing Dean's observation beginning "If you know much about the Bible � which I do," a reporter asked about his favorite New Testament book. Dean named Job, adding, "But I don't like the way it ends . . . in some of the books of the New Testament, the ending of the Book of Job is different . . . there's one book where there's a more optimistic ending, which we believe was tacked on later."

The candidate returned an hour later to confess error: Job was in the Old Testament, not the New. Beyond that slip, his recollection of "one book where there's a more optimistic ending" is muddled; the Book of Job in the Old Testament has an upbeat ending, with God doubling Job's former wealth and giving him new children for having sustained his piety through all his trials.

"Many people believe that the original version of Job is the version where . . . Job ends up completely destitute and ruined," said Dean in his correction. That's accurate, though there's no other Job book in Scripture with an optimistic ending other than the familiar one. I think he means that some scholars believe that the Old Testament Book of Job that we know was amended by later rabbis fearful of portraying God as unjust.

Many people believe," concluded Dean, presumably among them, "that the original ending was about the power of God, and the power of God was almighty and all knowing, and it wasn't necessary that everybody was going to be redeemed."

Let's not be too hard on Dean; we all make mistakes and people like him have to live with their mistakes being trumpeted across the world at the speed of light. And I do give him credit for fessing up promptly and offering an - admittedly incomplete - correction. Safire's further corrections are essentially right, although the final form of the Job was set centuries before there were any rabbis.

Bruce Zuckerman has a very interesting book on the historical development and redaction of the Book of Job: Job the Silent: A Study in Historical Counterpoint. He argues that the poetic dialogues (with the downbeat ending) are a satire of the story in the prose prologue and epilogue (which have the upbeat ending). So he thinks the downbeat version is a theological correction by someone who didn't like the original all-better-now happy ending.

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) � Talk about your electronic global village.

TV Orient, a television channel in Southfield that locally produces programming aimed at Arab-American viewers, has been added to Comcast Digital on Channel 667.

Once available three hours a day and only by satellite dish, the 18-year-old channel has expanded its programming to 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It is now available to an estimated half-million viewers of Middle Eastern descent in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw and Genesee counties.


Programming is broadcast in English, Arabic and the ancient language Aramaic. Aramaic still is spoken by Chaldeans who are Iraqi Roman Catholics.

"EYES ON MESOPOTAMIAN GLORY." The New York Times reports that the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago has opened a new display hall of Mesopotamian artifacts and the University of Pennsylvania has assembled a traveling exhibit about Mesopotamia.

Note that the URL the article gives for the Oriental Institute Iraq Database has an errant space in it, which makes it unusable. The correct URL is Note to the New York Times: it's always a good idea to double-check your links to make sure they work!

Monday, January 05, 2004

REBECCA LESSES is in Israel and has visited the Temple Mount.
THE JOURNAL OF SEMITIC STUDIES also has a new issue out (48.2). There are three articles of interest:


S.P. Harrison

University of Western Australia

Semiticists recognize that pre-modern Northwest Semitic languages had vowel quantity distinctions, but disagree regarding whether quantity was lexical or was predictable from factors like stress or syllable structure. These discussions fail to recognise that quantity cannot be a function of syllable structure and stress if those parameters are themselves quantity-sensitive. In this paper the author proposes a metrical account of main stress in Jewish Literary Aramaic (JLA) under which stress and vowel reduction are governed by an end-right quantity-sensitive (moraic) trochaic foot. It follows that vowel quantity must be lexically specified in JLA for at least some vowels positions, and also that some JLA final vowels generally regarded as long were in fact short. This last conclusion heralds later developments in other Aramaic dialects. Finally, the author argues for some cases of final CV metathesis in JLA.


David Talshir

Ben-Gurion University, Beer-Sheva, Israel

In different languages, or dialects of the same language spoken in different regions, words originally meaning 'above/upper' as opposed to 'below/lower' serve as terms for different cardinal directions, depending on the topographical character of the region (highland versus lowland). Thus, in the Akkadian of Nuzi el[emacr]nu (literally 'above') indicates 'East', while in the Aramaic of the Mandaeans mulia 'upper' means 'North'. Considering the topography of Egypt and Syria and the broad context in which the terms occur, two conclusions follow: (1) In Egyptian Aramaic 'lyh (literally 'upper') indicates 'South', and th&05B4;tyh (literally 'lower') indicates 'North'. (2) 'ly 'rm = ��&05F4;���� �?��ɜ��� = Southern Syria (Lebanon Mountains), and th&05B4;t 'rm = ɻ��&05F3;ɗ [Sorry, I don't have the right fonts installed to make the Greek and Hebrew work properly.]


Stefan Schorch


The work on this study has been made possible by a valuable grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft Bonn, Germany. It forms part of a more comprehensive project carried out by the present author, which is devoted to the significance of the Samaritan reading tradition for the textual criticism of the Torah.

The use of the Hebrew article underwent changes throughout the history of Biblical Hebrew. Some of these changes are documented by the differences between the consonantal framework and the Masoretic vocalization. A comparative view of these materials and the respective variants in the Samaritan Pentateuch including its reading tradition provides further insights. With regard to the use of the article, the consonantal framework of the Masoretic text preserves the oldest stratum, while the Masoretic vocalization represents the youngest. The Samaritan tradition, on the other hand, is uniform in both its parts - consonantal framework and reading tradition - and holds a middle position between the two Masoretic strata from a historical point of view. However, both parts of the Masoretic tradition share at least one common feature, which set it as a whole apart from the Samaritan tradition: the generic use of the article.

There are also many book reviews relevant to ancient Judaism, but I haven't time to put in links to them right now. Go have a look yourself. (Note to the editors of JSS: It would be a lot easier to skim the review titles if they were all on the same page, instead of each hidden behind its own link. This would also save bother in composing the web page.)

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REVUE BIBLIQUE has a new issue out (111.1). It contains five articles, all having to do with the Hebrew Bible or ancient Judaism. Note in particular the following:

RB 2004 T.111-1 (pp. 28-30)


11519 Monticello Ave.
Silver Spring
United States

The Targum on Hab 2:2

RB 2003 [sic - should be 2004] T.111-1 (pp. 31-60)

Gershon HEPNER

1561 Reeves Street
United States
The Begettings Of Terah and the Structure of Genesis and the Tetrateuch: A Zadokite Polemic

An analysis of the formula we'eleh t�led�t, "these are the begettings", which appears 11 times in Genesis suggests that the pivotal patriarch in Genesis is Terah, the ancestor not only of Abraham but of all the four matriarchs, since the sixth time the formula appears is in association with his begettings. The formula appears a twelfth time in Num. 3:1 where it denotes the begettings of Aaron and Moses. The fact that the first and last time the formula appears in Genesis links the begettings of the heavens and earth to those of Jacob highlights the importance of the Israelites. However, the fact that there is a twelfth citation of the formula in Num 3:1 implies that the redactor of the Tetrateuch considered that the Aaaronites who follow the Mosaic law facilitate the union of the heavens and earth implied by the first citation of the formula at the beginning of Genesis. Analysis of the use of the formula suggests that the Tetrateuch reflects the ascendancy of the Zadokites after the Babylonian exile and their adoption of Deuteronomic law excluding Canaanites.

RB 2004 T.111-1 (pp. 79-89)


�cole Biblique
P.O.B. 19053

Where was the Antonia Fortress?

The hypothesis that the present Haram esh-Sharif/Temple Mount was once the Antonia fortress cannot be sustained. It does not conform to what we know of the Antonia from Josephus, and it does not account for the archaeological remains in the western section of the north wall.

The website only contains the abstracts.
LOS ANGELES TIMES READERS respond to David Klinghoffer's recent article on Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.
BACK TO WORK! The holidays are over and I'm back in my office. I managed to get some rest; spend some time with my family; build a space ship out of cardboard boxes with my son; blog; nearly finish Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver; and read and make extensive notes on about forty articles, most pertaining to a particular section in Chapter One. The last would feel like more of an accomplishment if I hadn't located, cited in the ones I read, some forty or so other articles I need to track down and read too. But that goes on the back burner for now. Just before the break I'd completed a detailed outline of Chapter Two, so now it's time to finish it. Full speed ahead!

Sunday, January 04, 2004

PIGS, ISRAEL, AND JUDAISM: in a long article titled The Secret Life of Pigs" (Jerusalem Post) Lauren Gelfond tells us all about it. Here are a couple of excerpts which discuss pigs and ancient Judaism:

Anti-Semitism comes in many pig forms. One of the most famous and early anti-Jewish pig legends, says Friedman, is found in the Talmud.

"When the Romans seized Jerusalem, it says, the Jews sacrificed an animal every day. As part of an ancient war agreement, the Romans would give the Jews a pure animal every day to be part of this sacrifice. Then one day suddenly the Romans offered a pig. Eretz Israel was shocked, it understood the act was an effort to humiliate. The Talmud is full of [such] pig legends."

All periods of Jewish persecution, from the Roman Era to the Crusades and World War II, he says, are full of stories where pig names or actual pigs were used to humiliate Jews.

"It is fascinating how the pig [as opposed to another non-kosher animal] became a symbol for being anti-Jewish," says Friedman.

As the only mammal to have cloven hoofs without chewing its cud, a midrash argues that this puts the pig in a special category beyond treif, where the pig serves as a metaphor for deception and manipulation, as it sticks its foot out and masquerades as "part kosher" when there is no such concept in Judaism.


It's a confusing subject, causing many Jews to avoid all things piggy. But when it comes down to Jewish law, not all things pig are actually forbidden, says Rabbi Ya'akov Weiner, dean of the Jerusalem Center for Research, Medicine, and Halacha.


Indeed, says Weiner, there is nothing strange about using pigs in Jewish medicine.

"The Talmud was even aware of the similarity of pig physiology to humans. In Tractate Ta'anit 21b regarding if there was a plague in the animal world, the fear was that there would be a plague in pigs - not because they might transfer the plague to humans, but because of the similarity of the organs, that whatever attacked the pigs might also attack the humans."

Though there is a biblical prohibition against touching a pig's carcass, Weiner says that it refers only to priests and the Temple: "You [priests] couldn't enter [the Temple] without a mikveh [ritual bath]."

As for modern Jews, he says, it's even okay halachicly to touch a pig's carcass.

Evidently pigs are also used in traditional Jewish magic. The article opens:

Avi Ben-David is a butcher with a secret. Owner of the Ivo Delicatessen in downtown Jerusalem, he knows which former prime minister favors pork, but he won't tell. He also keeps mum the who's who list of VIPs who likewise indulge.


On a recent breezy afternoon, customers wander in and out of Ivo's Deli, joking around with Ben-David. Since its opening in 1988, the store is thriving, serving all kinds of unexpected clientele, he says. In addition to the regulars: Knesset members, judges, doctors, athletes, journalists, diplomats, and regular folk, he claims some eyebrow-raising requests.

"Sorry, this store is not kosher," he recalls with a wave of his arm, imitating his warning to the haredi man with a black hat and sidecurls, who strolled in with his modestly-clad wife.

But the couple shyly remained, he says - in search of pig bones.

"Their rabbi had told them to make an amulet with pig bones, and if the wife wore it, it would help her have children."

Rabbis do make all kinds of halachic [Jewish legal] exceptions, permitting the use of pig parts in surgery, in some medicines, and on rare occasions in mystic treatments, such as amulets. But more often, religious neighbors pop in to curse Ben-David and his non-kosher wares.

"Still, it's a good thing that pig bones could be found," says Ben-David, twisting his face in disbelief about the wife's atypical prescription. "I wish I knew whatever happened to her, if it worked."