Saturday, February 07, 2004

ARAMAIC STUDIES 2.1 (January 2004) is now out and the table of contents and abstracts are available online. Don't pay attention to the main page, which tells you at the moment that this is volume 1. It isn't. The sidebar to the left lists the articles in 2.1 and links to the abstracts. This is the list of articles:

11QPs a and the Hebrew Vorlage of the Peshitta Psalter
Ignacio Carbajosa

Is Subtlety in Translation the Reason for the Targumic Use of Various Verbs of Fleeing?
Carol A. Dray

The Aramaic Dialect of the James Ossuary Inscription
Paul V.M. Flesher

Response to Paul Flesher, 'The Aramaic Dialect of the James Ossuary Inscription'
Margaretha Folmer

The Relationship of Aquila and Theodotion to the Old Greek of Ecclesiastes in the Marginal Notes of the Syro-Hexapla
Peter J. Gentry

The New English Annotated Translation of the Syriac Bible (NEATSB): Retrospect and Prospect
K.D. Jenner, A. Salvesen, R.B. ter Haar Romeny, W.T. van Peursen

The So-called Cuthean Words in the Samaritan Aramaic Vocabulary
Abraham Tal

Book Reviews

Bibliography of the Aramaic Bible

Friday, February 06, 2004


Hershel Shanks, editor of Biblical Archaeology Review, replied to Eric Meyers regarding the "James Ossuary" (via Bible and Interpretation News).

"Internet Rumor Proves Groundless"

Read it all, but note two especially interesting points. First, Shanks promises to unveil the identity of the anonymous archaeologist who claims to have seen the "James Ossuary" in the 1990s without the last part of the inscription ("brother of Jesus"):

Meyers has posted an article on the internet entitled, �Well-known Israeli Archaeologist Casts More Doubt on Authenticity of James Ossuary.� The Israeli archaeologist is not Meyers, who is American, but a source unnamed in the article who claims he �spotted [the ossuary] in a dealer�s shop [in the mid-1990�s] lacking the �brother of Jesus� element in the inscription,� as the subhead on Meyers� article reads. In his article, Meyers tells us that �the archaeologist [his unnamed source] is certain that the ossuary is one and the same as the one whose authenticity is being debated in the press today.� At that time, the source told Meyers, the ossuary lacked the words �brother of Jesus.� A fuller account of this supposed sighting will appear in the March/April 2004 issue of BAR, and I will say no more about it here.

Here I wish to address a second item in Meyers article. Meyers reports that �Sometime in 2001 my [unnamed] source [you will learn his name in the March/April 2004 BAR] alleges that [Oded] Golan through his lawyers offered for sale to The International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, the so-called James Ossuary, now in its revised and expanded form, for a sum of $2 million.� That is, since it was seen in the mid-1990s without �the brother of Jesus,� by 2001 it had acquired that addition.

Here's exactly what Meyers said:

�� As an interesting postscript to this story, the dealer�s shop has recently closed and the one-time owner of the ossuary has since moved to Europe. My anonymous source has also provided one other interesting datum that is pertinent to this discussion. Sometime in 2001 my source alleges that Golan through his lawyers offered for sale to The International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, the so-called James Ossuary, now in its revised and expanded form, for a sum of $2 million. This information has also been turned over to the Israeli police but, as of this writing, without any tangible result.

This second item is important because, if true, it would show that Golan knew the significance of the inscription even before epigrapher Andr� Lemaire read it for him in 2002. But Shanks replies that it isn't so:

In receipt of such damning evidence, one would think that Meyers would do a little checking before placing this kind of charge on the internet. He could have at least called the International Christian Embassy to verify an unnamed source. Admittedly, Meyers is not an experienced journalist (although he did serve as editor of ASOR�s semi-popular magazine, Biblical Archaeologist), but even a scholar would be expected to check out such a serious charge.

Since Meyers did not think to do this, I placed the call myself. Malcolm Hedding, the executive director of the International Christian Embassy, checked his records and found that he had been visited at 11:00 in the morning on November 28, 2002 [not 2001] by a man named Uri Ovnat, whose business card identified him, not as a lawyer, but as director of the International Marketing Development Enterprises, Ltd. in Ramat haSharon, Israel. The remainder of Hedding�s file consisted only of Lemaire�s article in BAR.

In other words, the visit occurred not in 2001, before Lemaire had seen the ossuary, but after Lemaire�s BAR article appeared in late October 2002.

Ovnat confirms the visit but he and Hedding disagree on whether a price was mentioned.

If what Shanks reports checks out, it would seem to knock a hole in one part of the story of the anonymous archaeologist. It will be interesting to see how Meyers and his source respond. As I've said before in my two previous postings on this (here and here), the whole story needs to come out in full, with all names named, before we can evaluate it properly.
TU B'SHEVAT begins tonight at sundown. This is the "new year for trees," i.e., the date on which one reckons a tree to be a year older for the purpose of determining when it has reached its fifth year and its fruit may be eaten, as per Leviticus 19:23-25:

23: "When you come into the land and plant all kinds of trees for food, then you shall count their fruit as forbidden; three years it shall be forbidden to you, it must not be eaten.
24: And in the fourth year all their fruit shall be holy, an offering of praise to the LORD.
25: But in the fifth year you may eat of their fruit, that they may yield more richly for you: I am the LORD your God. (RSV)

In honor of the day, the Jerusalem Post has the following articles:
"A Tu Bishvat compendium"
"Tempted by the 'etrog'"
PROFESSOR TIKVA FRYMER-KENSKY (University of Chicago Divinity School) has received the Jewish Book Council's Barbara Dobkin Award in Women�s Studies for her book Reading the Women of the Bible: A New Interpretation of Their Stories.
"A TALE OF TWO TABLETS": Professor Yair Hoffman of Tel Aviv University and Seminar Hakibuzim College, reviews:

"Milhemet Haluhot: Hahagana Alhamikra Bame'a Hatesha Esrei Upulmoos Bavel Vehatenakh" ("The War of the Tablets: The Defense of the Bible in the 19th Century and the Babel-Bible Controversy") by Yaacov Shavit and Mordechai Eran, Am Oved, 305 pages, NIS 84

(In Ha'aretz, heads up, Jim West.)

This is a remarkable review of what sounds like a remarkable book that deals with the politics of biblical scholarship, Jewish identity, and anti-Semitism from the 19th century to the present. The review is very long, but worth the read. The book sounds fascinating but it also clearly has some flaws, which the reviewer comments on in the final section. The review is hard to excerpt, but here are a few extracts and comments:

This book by Yaacov Shavit and Mordechai Eran transports us to the late 19th and early 20th centuries and presents us with yet another of the many biblical debates - an internal Jewish, internal Christian and, in some respects, a Jewish-Christian debate. At the center stands, Friedrich Delitzsch (1850-1922), one of the most renowned Assyriologists of his time. In the appendix to their book, the authors state that the scholarly research "on works dealing with the reaction of Germany's Jews to modern anti-Semitism and on works about the intellectual history of Germany's Jews" treats this debate as "nothing more than a footnote." The very creation of "The War of the Tablets: The Defense of the Bible in the 19th Century and the Babel-Bible Controversy" challenges the justification behind this assumed marginality and redeems the Delitzsch debate from the oblivion of history's abyss.


Delitzsch delivered two lectures in Berlin, on January 13, 1902 and April 17, 1903, before large audiences of distinguished individuals. The lectures were given under the auspices of the German Oriental Society and under the patronage of Kaiser Wilhelm II, who granted the events the status of something approaching "an official declaration from the Kaiser and the State." The lectures, under the rubric "Bible and Babel," "aroused a storm of controversy ... appeared in several editions and were published in tens of thousands of copies. They were also translated into many languages. Delitzsch estimated that by 1904 he had received responses in 1,350 short articles" and hundreds of other publications in Germany and elsewhere.


However, underlying his scholarly observations was the undisguised current of anti-Jewish and anti-biblical polemics. He argued that the source of both the biblical perspective and biblical law was Babylon - not Mount Sinai, which was what Moses wrongly claimed, and not the original creative spirit of the Jewish people. Therefore, the source of the cultural influence on Christianity was not Judaism, but "Babel" (for example, the Code of Hammurabi), the code name for the ancient Mesopotamian cultures. As the authors write: "The only element of `racist' ideas in the first lecture was the allusion to the Assyrians' Aryan origin."


This motif, evident in his book entitled "The Great Deception," which appeared in 1920, developed into the argument that there is a similarity between the Samaritans (who were not Semites) and the Germans. Delitzsch's lectures sparked a wave of protests and the book in question here surveys, in a matter- of-fact way and from a sociological viewpoint, which groups mounted the attack against Delitzsch, who wanted to replace the tablets of the Ten Commandments with the clay tablets of Mesopotamian culture.

A note here: the Samaritans were not Jews, but they were certainly "Semites." They were descended from ancient Israel and spoke Hebrew (and still are and still do).

The authors see the "War of the Tablets" as a central theme from the chronological standpoint, in terms of both the cultural background and the reactions that this war aroused. (It is curious that the book makes no mention of another Friedrich - Nietzsche - who made a crucial contribution to the "neo-paganic" thinking in Germany in his day, to which Shavit and Eran frequently refer.) The focus on this "war" makes eminent sense: The intellectual background to it - the highly respected standing that biblical criticism was starting to acquire and the bitter opposition to its conclusions, primarily from Jewish groups (not necessarily Orthodox) - provided the soil in which the Delitzsch polemical debate sprouted and, without knowledge of that background, it is difficult to understand the debate. The reactions to the debate and its later reverberations prove the authors' argument concerning its importance in the cultural history of both Germany and the Jewish world.


A second fascinating aspect of the Delitzsch debate is the following question: To what extent do arguments denying the antiquity of the Jewish people, as opposed to the Bible's cultural and religious "primacy" (not necessarily superiority), conceal anti-Semitic sentiments? Granted, these motives can be seen in the words of Appius, who clearly expresses anti-Jewish views; however, even here, we must exercise caution. Today, no biblical scholar - whether "Jewish," "Israeli" or even "Zionist" - would hesitate to point out that foreign cultures influenced the ancient Israelites and their culture, or would feel that stating such a view undermines the primacy of Israelite culture. Nevertheless, we would be burying our heads in the sand if we were to deny that some scholars use biblical criticism to serve a political agenda that may reflect elements of an anti-Israeli and/or anti-Zionist attitude, which, as we know, is sometimes a camouflage for anti-Semitism.

I am referring here to people like Thomas L. Thompson, Niels Peter Lemche, Michael Prior (note, for example, the title of a book written by Keith W. Whitelam that appeared in 1996: "The Invention of Ancient Israel: The Silencing of Palestinian History"). In an obvious attempt to deny the primordial nature of the Bible, they date its composition as late as the Hellenistic period and hint that important archaeological finds supporting the historiography's antiquity (for example, the Mesha stele and the Tel Dan inscription) are forgeries. Similarly, they present hollow arguments not backed by any empirical evidence.

I haven't read Whitelam's book. I'm aware that some people have argues that the Tel Dan inscription is a forgery, but has any scholar seriously argued this about the Mesha Stele? That strikes me as a view that would be extremely hard to defend.

Anyhow, there's lots more. Do read it all.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

WHILE I'M AT IT, the annual meeting of the International Organization for Targumic Studies (IOTS) is on 29-30 July; that for the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (IOSCS) is on 30-31 July; and that for the International Organization for Masoretic Studies (IOMS) is on 2 August. All three are also in Leiden. (I can't find a web page for the IOMS, but see the IOSOT link in the previous entry for the date and venue of the meeting.)

(I've updated this post to include the IOSCS.)
THE INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR THE STUDY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT (IOSOT) will be holding its annual conference in Leiden on 1-6 August. (Via the Jewish Studies Newsletter.)
HUGOYE: JOURNAL OF SYRIAC STUDIES has a new issue out (7.1). Goodies include the following:

The Reception of the Book of Daniel in Aphrahat's Fifth Demonstration, "On Wars".
Craig E. Morrison, Pontifical Biblical Institute

Recent Books on Syriac Topics.
Sebastian P. Brock, Oxford University

Review of Gillian Greenberg, Translation Technique in the Peshitta to Jeremiah. Monographs of the Peshitta Institute 13.
Craig E. Morrison, Pontifical Biblical Institute

Appeal: The Syriac Digital Library Project

There are also obituaries, more articles, conference reports, announcements, and advertisements for Syriac matters, so if you're interested in Syriac, have a look.
NEW TECHNOLOGY WATCH: "Muons May Unlock Secrets of Teotihuacan" (Physics Today, via Archaeology Magazine News). This isn't about ancient Judaism, but the technology, detecting surplus muons to find otherwise undetectable open spaces in large structures, could have archaeological applications anywhere. Excerpts:

Does the Pyramid of the Sun harbor any tombs? What might such tombs reveal about the society that two millennia ago built one of Mesoamerica's largest pyramids? In an experiment � la Luis Alvarez, who in the late 1960s concluded that there are no tombs in Egypt's Chephren pyramid, a collaboration of physicists and archaeologists hopes to glean answers to these questions by monitoring the passage of muons through the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan, 50 kilometers northeast of Mexico City.


This spring, a detector in the tunnel will begin a year of muon counting. Created when cosmic protons hit the atmosphere, muons rain down uniformly and are absorbed when they interact with matter. In hunting for a tomb, the researchers are looking for a surplus of the charged particles. "If you find more muons than you expect, the difference is an indication that in that particular direction you have less matter," says Menchaca. "That is the secret of the technique." (See Physics Today, May 2003, page 19.) [The link requires a subscription to access.]


But teasing answers out of the data may be tricky. "What you can tell is where there is less density than you expect," says Menchaca. Such a spot might indeed be a tomb or other empty chamber. But it could be that the soil in the pyramid has settled over time to create caves. Or stone walls might surround a cave, canceling out any muon effect. Or a tomb's contents may have been stolen. "Another possibility," Menchaca says, "is a stone-filled tomb, which seems likely based on the recent findings in the Pyramid of the Moon. That would show up as a region with fewer muons than expected, rather than more. If we do find a compact localized region with more--or less--muons, we will perceive it as the end of work for my group. Once we understand the topology, we will pass things on to the archaeologists."

"If the Pyramid of the Sun has a void, a chamber, we will detect it with the muon experiment," says Manzanilla. "Then we will excavate."

I hope they find something.
"IN THE BEGINNING": In the Forward, Biblical historian Baruch Halperin reviews an archeologist's attempt to find the origins of ancient Israel:

Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From?
By William G. Dever
Eerdmans, 280 pages, $25.


All of this has since changed, and there is now an eagerness in some scholarly circles to be liberated from dependence on the Hebrew Bible, to assign primacy to the archeological record and other sorts of external evidence. Such approaches are not entirely new, but they have come to the fore during the last several decades, as open rebellion has broken out against the "biblio-centric" mentality that had long prevailed. There is, however, a major problem in attempting to use archeological evidence alone to reconstruct Israelite history, and it is the paucity of inscriptional material uncovered through archeological activity in biblical lands. Only written remains would allow us to identify with certainty the ethno-cultural identity of the builders, owners and manufacturers of the many artifacts and edifices that have been uncovered in various regions of the Holy Land, and such sources unfortunately are scarce. Even if we assume that changes in architectural and artistic style point to the introduction of a new population in Canaan, we cannot identify precisely that new population as Israelite. Furthermore, archaeologists are no longer sure that there was major population change in Canaan at the time the Israelites were supposed to have arrived there.


In the present study, Dever, who has excavated at numerous major biblical sites, attempts to come to terms with this recent upsurge of interest in Israelite origins and identity, seeking middle ground in the process. He begins with a chapter titled "The Crisis in Understanding the Origins of Early Israel," and proceeds to take up pivotal issues in the reconstruction of early Israelite history. These include the historicity of the exodus and conquest narratives, covering both Transjordan and Canaan west of the Jordan. He analyzes the very limited epigraphy unearthed in archeological excavations, and summarizes the evidence provided by surveys and excavations, including assemblages of pottery. All the while, Dever provides reliable information on the various social models and research methods being used at the present time, and offers a reasoned critique of them. His style is perhaps too colloquial at times, and he pays a disproportionate amount of attention to theories that even he regards as highly unlikely, diverting attention from his own methodology and argumentation. He partially makes up for this in an appended section entitled "Some Basic Sources," where he provides what amounts to a classified bibliography of recent works that is extremely helpful in directing the reader to the relevant literature.

It is not until chapters 11 and 12 that Dever begins to clearly formulate his own conclusions. He is fairly confident in identifying at least one large group of inhabitants of Canaan during the early Iron Age (circa 1200-1000 BCE) as "proto-Israelites," the direct antecedents of the Israelites of the Hebrew Bible. He bases his findings on what he calls "convergences" between text and artifact ? namely, areas in which the biblical and archaeological evidence point in the same direction and seem to corroborate one another. In this spirit, his concluding chapter is titled "Salvaging the Biblical Tradition," and indeed, he successfully "salvages" a good deal of it. In essence, Dever accepts the historicity of the ancient Israelites as a people, and the reality of their religious, social and political experience in Canaan. His discussion of the House of Joseph traditions is particularly enlightening for tracing the emergence of the early Israelites, as is his treatment of the victory stele of Pharaoh Merneptah, a remarkable text from the late 13th century BCE attesting to the early presence of a group called "Israel" in central Canaan.

On the other hand, Dever finds no evidence on the ground (or beneath it) to indicate that the Israelites arrived from elsewhere to invade Canaan, or that they migrated to the land. Hence, he considers the exodus saga to be more mythic than real, a metaphor of liberation.

Halperin also raises the theory that "The Israelites may have been one of those groups who migrated southward from Syria following the fall of the Neo-Hittite Empire and the kingdom of Amurru, much like the contemporaneous Amorites of whom the Bible speaks." This is one I haven't heard before, although I haven't made much effort to keep up with such things for some years.

UPDATE: Then there's Kenneth Kitchen, who makes Dever look like a minimalist.
ALEXANDER PANAYOTOV, my doctoral student, is publishing a volume that collects the ancient Jewish inscriptions from the Balkans (his dissertation) in a new series with Mohr-Siebeck. Here is information on the series and his volume:

David Noy /Alexander Panayotov /Hanswulf Bloedhorn
Inscriptiones Judaicae Orientis
Volume I: Eastern Europe

2004. Ca. 400 Seiten (Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism).
ISBN 3-16-148189-5
Leinen ca. 90 Euro; erscheint im M�rz

The Inscriptiones Judaicae Orientis collect all known Jewish inscriptions from the Graeco-Roman period (up to c. 700 CE), in all languages (Greek, Latin, Aramaic, Hebrew, Palmyrene, Middle Persian, Parthian) in Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, Syria, and Cyprus. It provides the texts of the inscriptions with English translations together with full bibliographies, discussions and indexes. The previous collection, Corpus Inscriptionum Judaicarum, published 1936�50, has been superseded by the discovery of more inscriptions, and over half the inscriptions included in this new collection were not in CIJ. They include epitaphs, inscriptions from synagogues, records of the manumission of slaves, amulets and graffiti. Inscriptions mentioning Samaritans are also included. Volume I covers the regions Pannonia, Dalmatia, Moesia, Thrace, Macedonia, Achaea (Thessaly, Attica, Mainland Greece, and Aegean Islands), Crete, and the North Coast of the Black Sea. It includes appendices on inscriptions considered medieval and inscriptions not considered Jewish as well as a bibliography, a concordance with CIJ,
indexes and maps.

Additional volumes include:

Walter Ameling
Inscriptiones Judaicae Orientis
Volume II: Asia Minor

2004. XVIII, 650 Seiten (Texts and
Studies in Ancient Judaism 99).
ISBN 3-16-148196-8
Leinen 119 Euro; erscheint im Februar

Walter Ameling collects all known Jewish inscriptions from the Graeco-Roman period (up to c. 700 CE) in Asia Minor. The book provides the mainly Greek texts of the inscriptions with German translations together with full bibliographies, discussions
and indexes.

David Noy / Hanswulf Bloedhorn
Inscriptiones Judaicae Orientis
Volume III: Syria and Cyprus

2004. Ca. 300 Seiten (Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism).
ISBN 3-16-148188-7
Leinen ca. 80 Euro; erscheint im M�rz

Volume III of the Inscriptiones collects all known Jewish inscriptions from the Graeco-Roman period (up to c. 700 CE), in all languages (Greek, Latin, Aramaic, Hebrew, Palmyrene, Middle Persian, Parthian) in Syria and Cyprus. It provides the texts of the inscriptions with English translations together with full bibliographies, discussions and indexes. It covers the regions Phoenicia, Southern Syria, Northern Syria and Osrhoene, Dura-Europos, and Cyprus. It includes appendices on Jewish inscriptions in Palmyrene, Jewish inscriptions not related to Syria and inscriptions not considered Jewish, as well as a bibliography, a concordance with CIJ and Roth-Gerson (2001), indexes and a map.

Ordering information can be found at the Mohr-Siebeck website.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

MORE ON THE TEMPLE MOUNT: This AP article from (via Archaeologica News) has some additional details, notably a denial from the WAQF:

The charges were denied Tuesday by the Islamic Trust, or Waqf, which administers the holy site. "This is about politics and nothing else because of the sensitivity of Jerusalem," said Waqf director Adnan Al-Husseini.

Israel's Antiquities Authority declined comment on the archaeologist's claims.


The Islamic Trust director denied the contention. "(Our) work was simply to consolidate the prayer area, to strengthen it," said Husseini. "There are no stones there from the Temple Mount."

A spokeswoman for the official Israel Antiquities Authority declined comment until she viewed the pictures.
THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF ANCIENT MOAB is featured in "Bright past for ancient Moab, brighter future for Jordan" in the Daily Star Lebanon. It discusses the history of Moab and the history of its modern study. Excerpt:

Scholars want to clarify issues like the nature of Moab's social structure, economy, and religious practices. Understanding these will help answer a larger question: Should we characterize Moab as a "state," akin to what is found in Mesopotamia and elsewhere? Some scholars have hesitated to apply this label, arguing that Moab remained a "tribal kingdom" consisting of groups who, other than cooperating to defend their territory, did not organize themselves into a unified political group. Counter to this argument are scholars who insist King Mesha was a driving force in establishing a politically and economically organized "state" that persisted for several centuries. They cite the large cities and the specialized economy that are often hallmarks of increasing political and social complexity. This discussion is one of many that Bruce Routledge of the University of Liverpool reviews in his upcoming book, Making Moab in the Iron Age, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press.

Discussions like these suggest a bright future for Moabite studies. Currently, the Jordanian government and scholars are working together to develop Moab's archaeological resources for domestic and foreign tourism and education. One such project is currently under way at ancient Lehun, directed by Professor Denyse Homes-Fredericq, a site spanning the Early Bronze Age (around 3000 BC) to the recent Ottoman Period. The project has been a cooperative effort between the Jordanian Department of Antiquities and the Belgium Committee of Excavations in Jordan with the sponsorship of the EU. Undertaking projects such as these, it is hoped, will invigorate the local economy, as the development of archaeological resources elsewhere in Jordan already has proven successful. Working closely with the Jordanian government as well as local communities, scholars are hoping they can help make Jordan's future as bright as the light they are shedding on Moab's past.

If you want to read the Mesha stele, there's an old English translation of it here.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

I MENTIONED THE NEH SUMMER SEMINAR ON ARAMAIC last October. Here is an NEH web page with additional information about the Summer Seminars (via the Jewish Studies Newsletter).
TEMPLE MOUNT NEWS: Archaeologist Eilat Mazar is claiming that the WAQF is carrying out illicit excavations on the Temple Mount which are damaging precious remains of the second temple period. Her evidence is a video and some photographs taken by an Israeli journalist which show engraved stones from this period. This from Ha'aretz:

Archeologist charges waqf endangering Temple remains

By The Associated Press and Haaretz Service

An Israeli archaeologist has charged that Muslim authorities are excavating a hotly disputed holy site in Jerusalem in a way that endangers the remains of the biblical Jewish Temples.

An Israeli photographer took the photos, released on Tuesday, showing stone blocks with a unique design linked to the Second Temple, destroyed in A.D. 70. Hebrew University archaeologist Eilat Mazar charged that their presence in the middle of a Muslim construction project shows that the Wakf, or Islamic Trust, is ignoring the Jewish history of the site.


In recent years Muslim clerics and Palestinian leaders have rejected the Jewish belief - backed by archaeological findings - that the ancient Jewish Temples stood on the same spot.


The pictures were taken two weeks ago by Yossi Milshtin, an Israeli journalist who sneaked into the site, masquerading as a Palestinian. Jews are banned from visiting the Muslim shrines.

Milshtin said he had been alerted by Mazar about the presence of the stone blocks and took a camera and video recorder with him to record their images.

Mazar said the images showed large stones endowed with architectural elements unique to the Second Temple period. "(They show) beautiful grape vines," she said. "There is no doubt that these are motifs from the Second Temple period. It is the different elements of the decoration that show this, combined with the style of the artistic work.


The story is also covered by the Jerusalem Post. According to that article, the Israel Antiquities Authority says it knows nothing of any work going on at the Temple Mount, but archeological inspectors have not been there for three years.

Monday, February 02, 2004

ARCHAEOLOGIST DAN BAHAT and others have presented a series of seminars in New Mexico on the archaeology of Israel.

Over 200 Converge on Albuquerque and Santa Fe for Seminar Focused on New Archaeological Findings in Israel (Yahoo News press release)
Friday January 30, 9:01 pm ET
Israel Finds Warm Reception at New Mexico Seminar: Mayor of Santa Fe Declares January 30, 2004 New Mexico-Israel Friendship Day

ALBUQUERQUE and SANTA FE, N.M., Jan. 30 /PRNewswire/ -- A series of seminars, sponsored by the Israel Government Tourist Office (IGTO), designed to shed light on new findings and archeological discoveries, were presented to clergy members, the New Mexico Legislature, four Santa Fe City Council representatives and County Manager Gerald Gonzales, today. Citing the historical importance of the State of Israel to the roots of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, Mayor Delgado went on to proclaim January 30, 2004 Santa Fe, New Mexico-Israel Friendship Day.

The aim of the seminars was to awaken interest among Americans, to show their solidarity with the State of Israel by traveling to the country. Attendees were encouraged to share their experience with their congregation as a show of their support to the only democratic state in the Middle East.

A key presenter of the series on Israel and the lead archeologist on many significant "digs," Dr. Dan Bahat, emphasized the excitement of recent archeological finds and their implications to religious believers. Bahat offered the more than 200 participants a multimedia presentation on findings unearthed in Jerusalem's Western Wall Tunnel of the Temple Mount, specifically, the wealth of artifacts and information directly tied to writings in the Bible. The series is the first time the famed archaeologist has presented this information in North America.


deClaisse-Walford, Nancy L.
Biblical Hebrew: An Introductory Textbook
Reviewed by David Jackson

Dotan, Aron ed.
Biblia Hebraica Leningradensia: Prepared according to the Vocalization, Accents, and Masora of Aaron ben Moses ben Asher in the Leningrad Codex
Reviewed by Marjo Korpel

Seow, C. L.
Reviewed by Stephen L. Cook

Sunday, February 01, 2004

THE POWER OF DEAD SEA MUD: Loolwa Khazzoom reports in the Jerusalem Post on how treatment with Dead Sea mud helped her bad back ("Cleopatra's beauty secret"). She includes a brief historical survey toward the end:

Thousands of years before modern science proved the beneficial aspects of the Dead Sea waters, the city of Jericho was established nearby, and numerous inhabitants made their living from producing and selling Dead Sea products - including highly sought-after perfumes and beauty treatments. King David as well as King Solomon built bathing palaces on the shores of the Dead Sea, and when the Queen of Sheba visited the area sometime around 1000 BCE, King Solomon presented her with a coveted gift of Dead Sea salts.

Dead Sea products were deemed so valuable that numerous wars were fought for possession of the region. Queen Cleopatra, reputedly the most beautiful woman in the world in her day, was an ardent user of Dead Sea beauty formulations. Upon her request, Mark Antony conquered the entire area surrounding the Dead Sea for her. The last battle between the Romans and the people of Israel took place just off the western side of the Dead Sea, on Masada. Following the Roman conquest, historian Josephus Flavius noted that Roman travelers took back home as much Dead Sea salts as they could.

The Dead Sea health and cosmetics industry went into decline shortly after Roman rule, and did not make a comeback until the 20th century. In 1959, dermatologists from Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital set up a pilot project to test the effects of Dead Sea water on patients suffering form arthritis and psoriasis, with great success. Within decades, hotels, resorts, and spas began sprouting up throughout the area; many still stand today, along with new additions. The area also has numerous dermatology clinics, including the International Psoriasis Treatment Center.

At the turn of the century, prior to modern interest in the Dead Sea, my grandfather made several pilgrimages from Baghdad to Jerusalem. Whenever he returned home, he brought back bottles of Dead Sea water. When I go to the Dead Sea to help my ailing back, I continue a long tradition.

It would have been helpful to have a few references here. I don't recall the biblical accounts of David and Solomon saying that they built bathing palaces on the shore of the Dead Sea. And the Bible definitely doesn't say that Solomon gave the Queen of Sheba any Dead Sea salts. (See 1 Kings 10 and 2 Chronicles 9, both of which just say that he gave her whatever she asked.) Maybe this is part of the cycle of legends about the queen, but that's not quite the same thing. The Josephus reference would be nice to have too. I would like to know where she got her information. Is that so much to ask for in a newspaper article?

UPDATE (2 February): David Meadows discusses Cleopatra's beauty secrets and tells us he finds it possible to imagine her in a milk bath. Well, works for me.

While I'm on such matters, let me return to the Queen of Sheba. The Alphabet of Ben Sira (discussed recently by Rebecca Lesses and Josh Yuter) 21b = Yassif A/B 217-18 describes a depilatory Solomon made, for the Queen's legendary hairy legs, out of ground lime and arsenic. I swear I'm not making up that it was called "'miracle-with-lime' hair-remover" (NS BSYD TGLXT). (This is from Christopher Morray-Jones, A Transparent Illusion [Brill, 2002], which has an appendix on the Queen of Sheba legend.) The scary thing is that it appears to have been a real recipe.
MORE ON THE ALLEGED TAMPERING WITH THE "JAMES OSSUARY" INSCRIPTION: Paul Flesher tells the Casper Star Tribune ("Scholar calls Jesus box a fake") about the still-anonymous Israeli archaeologist who says he saw the ossuary in the 1990s, when it was in the hands of an antiquities dealer, and it lacked the last part of the inscription, "brother of Jesus." The conclusion: the end of the inscription is fake. (Note to Paul: does that mean the first part of the inscription is genuine? Isn't the modern patina on the whole inscription?)

This is a very interesting account, which a number of people have heard from the archaeologist in question, and they vouch for his reliability. My understanding is that in due course his testimony will come out in court and it will be at that point that we all can put it into full context and decide exactly what to make of it. Watch this space.