Saturday, October 23, 2004

THE JEWS OF ELEPHANTINE are featured in an Al Ahram article (via Archaeologica News):
Yeb, cradle of feminism?
By Jill Kamil

Little is known of the vibrant Judaic community which already existed on the island of Elephantine when Cambyses invaded Egypt in 525 BC. What we do know, however, is that they had a Jewish temple to serve their religious needs.


This document attests that a woman could readily divorce her husband, with or without his consent. From other documents, we know that a woman could exercise this right by "standing up in congregation and merely declaring 'I divorce my husband'." Thus we learn that, at least in sixth century BC Yeb, Jewish women were not separated from their men in congregations, had property rights, and could take the initiative in and consummate a divorce simply by declaring publicly their intention. Mitbahiah must have done well in her investments, for other documents refer to the considerable fortune she lent to her father over the course of the next 13 years. In partial payment of his debt to his daughter, Masheiah deeded her a house he had acquired: "I give it to Mitbahiah, my daughter, in return for the goods which she gave me while I was an inspector of the fortress."

The extraordinarily progressive social mores of this ancient Judaic society are confirmed by subsequent documents concerning Mitbahiah. She in fact did divorce Jeremiah, and subsequently married Pi', an Egyptian official in Aswan, even temporarily adopting his religion. The Judaic community evidently disdained to recognise such a marriage, for none of the witnesses to the marriage contract had Hebrew (or Aramaic) names. The marriage lasted for what must have been little more than a honeymoon, and certainly less than 12 months, for Mitbahiah's next marriage was celebrated in the same year. Pi' paid quite a price for marrying a Jewish "princess". All of Pi's property was divided between them, but the property that was in Mitbahiah's name remained with her!


Interesting. I've wondered for some time what the divorce laws were like in Egypt generally during the fifth century B.C.E. Were the laws of the Elephantine Jews untypically liberal for women? Can anyone tell me?
British Parliamentary Meeting Calls for Assyrian Administrative Region in North Iraq (Assyrian International News Agency)
Posted 10-22-2004 13:50:07 (GMT 10-22-2004 18:50:7)

(AINA) -- The Jubilee Campaign, an interdenominational Christian human rights organisation which has worked with over 150 British parliamentarians on human rights issues worldwide, has issued the following press release:

At a meeting chaired by Stephen Pound MP in the House of Commons on October 21st, the UK branch of Iraq's leading Christian political party, the Assyrian Democratic Movement and the Christian human rights organisation, Jubilee Campaign, called for an Administrative Region for the ChaldoAssyrian Christians of Iraq, which they can administer for themselves. Article 53 (D) of Iraq's Transitional Administrative Law guarantees the ChaldoAssyrians the right to administer their own region. It states, "This law shall guarantee the administrative, cultural and political rights of the Turcomans, ChaldoAssyrians, and all other citizens."

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Still holding:
140,000 Muslims attend Ramadan prayers on Mount

Some 140,000 Muslim worshippers attended Ramadan prayers on the Temple Mount Friday afternoon.

The government decided not to place any restrictions on the number of worshippers at the site. Thousands of police officers are securing the area.


So far, so good. Keep your fingers crossed.
I was lucky, yes. I asked my teacher, Krister Stendahl, why, when he'd studied the Dead Sea Scrolls, he never wrote about them for a popular audience. Krister, a Lutheran bishop, looked at me and said, "Well, we and the clergy were afraid it would upset people if they learned that Jesus wasn't who they wanted to think he was." Krister and others thought they were being protective. But I said to him, "That's condescending -- to think that people shouldn't know." So we went to work on the Nag Hammadi manuscripts. Hundreds of people still are. "

Plus, she tells about what she wants to work on next. Should be interesting.
Syria launches program to save Aramaic language

Correspondents Report - Sunday, 24 October , 2004
(Australian Broadcasting Corp.)
Reporter: Mark Willacy

HAMISH ROBERTSON: In Syria, the government has launched a program to save one of the world's oldest and most important languages from dying out.

Aramaic is believed to have been first spoken in ancient Mesopotamia about 3000 years ago. And scholars say it was the language spoken by Jesus Christ. But it's now only spoken in three villages in central Syria and even these communities need help to pass it on to their children.

Our Middle East correspondent Mark Willacy compiled this report in the village of Ma'aloula in central Syria.


Well good. Even totalitarian states get it right sometimes.

Also, I am impressed with ABC's time-traveling capabilities.

Friday, October 22, 2004

MEDIA HOWLER ALERT: Something called "Elkhart Truth" announces the following lecture series associated with the From the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Bible in America exhibition in its Local Digest section:
Elkhart: Leading scholar will lecture at exhibit

ELKHART -- The world's leading scholar on ancient Hebrew, Frank Seekins, will present hourly lectures on the Paleo-Hebrew language at the exhibit "The Dead Sea Scrolls to the Bible in America" at Concord Mall.

Today through Oct. 31 and Nov. 5-7, Seekins will lecture hourly at the traveling collection of ancient biblical manuscripts, which includes fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The popular exhibit, initially scheduled to run until the end of the month, has been held over until Nov. 7.

My first reaction was, who the heck is Frank Seekins? I've never heard of him. A Google search produced a few things. He has written a popular book entitled Hebrew Word Pictures and some other popular books on Hebrew. The premise of the first one looks quite dubious to me and in any case is not aimed at a scholarly audience. There is nothing about him publishing specialist research on ancient Hebrew or holding an academic position, which I suspect is why I hadn't heard of him. If the article had said something like "a scholar of ancient Hebrew," I wouldn't have blinked. I don't know every specialist in Hebrew in the world. But the world's leading scholar? I would be hard pressed to say who that is. Some names do come to mind, but I imagine we could debate about the top half-dozen or so and agree to disagree on first place. The point is that, whatever good Dr. Seekins has done (and I do appreciate the value of popular lectures), the top Hebrew scholar would be well known in the academic world for a large body of cutting-edge published research.

Indeed, anyone prominent in ancient Hebrew studies would be embarrassed to be characterized as "the world's leading scholar on ancient Hebrew," simply because there are so many brilliant people in the field. Now I'm not blaming Frank Seekins for the announcement; I don't doubt that someone else came up with this on his behalf. He probably is mortified, if he's seen it. The thing that bothers me is that the media outlet obviously hasn't a clue what constitutes world-class scholarship or a clue whom to ask about it and they have made themselves and the whole exhibition look pretty silly. I don't mean to be petty, and I realize that this is a very local news source. Still, that doesn't excuse this sort of carelessness, which serves their local audience ill. And especially if they're going to post on the Internet in front of an international audience, they need to put more effort into getting their facts straight and putting them in proper perspective.

I've revised this post a little to make clear that my quarrel is with eTruth, not Frank Seekins. Which is not to say that I endorse his ideas.
I'M ALSO WAY BEHIND ON THE JOURNAL REVUE BIBLIQUE which has published three issues of volume 111 (2004) since I last noted it. Here are some interesting articles in these three issues (only the abstracts are available online):
RB 2004 T.111-2 (pp. 161-192)


�cole Cath�drale
75004 PARIS
Mo�se, "conseiller de salut" en Sg 16,6? Une question de critique textuelle

Should one turn one's regard to a sign(sumboulon) which no longer saves, or rather listen to the ever actual voice of a salutary advisor (sumboulon) who guides the people. The difference between important manuscripts at Wis 16,6 provides the opportunity to revisit some exegetical debates raised by the book of Wisdom, notably the concept of mediation and the figure of Moses.

RB 2004 T.111-2 (pp. 193-208)


Department of Comparative Religion
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Mount Scopus 91905
"Love your enemy" Precept in the Sermon on the Mount in the context of early Jewish exegesis : a new perspective

The article shows that the love-your-enemy precept from the Sermon on the Mount shares a characteristic feature with some other trends in early Jewish exegesis. In order to promulgate the dramatic widening of the scope of the Lev 19:18 love-your-neighbor dictum to include enemies a variety of unharmonized motifs is employed. It is suggested that in addition to the motifs highlighted by previous research a further exegetical undercurrent may be discerned in the Sermon, one connected with a new perception of reward and the double love command pattern of thought both of which were prominent in the late Second Temple period.

RB 2004 T.111-2 (pp. 238-254)


I. R. H. T.
40 avenue d�I�na
F-75116 PARIS
Pr�ceptes �ternels et loi mosa�que dans le Dialogue avec Tryphon de Justin Martyr

Several passages of the Dialogue with Tryphon appear to classify the precepts of the Law according to their date (stages of revelation) or their function. These passages, and others which have not been given adequate attention in previous studies, are here examined anew in the light of data acquired in the process of producing a new edition of the Dialogue. At first sight Justin appears to be inconsistent. The seeming contradictions, however, disappear when attention is paid to the precise function and organisation of his text with respect to its intended audiences. In no way does Justin propose an exhaustive classification of the precepts of the Law. What we are given are various interpretative grids which change with the context. For Justin the relationship between �eternal� precepts (intended for all humanity) and precepts of the Law (restricted to Israel) is inclusive. They stem from the same God and serve the same salvific function.

RB 2004 T.111-2 (pp. 255-261)

Ulrich H�BNER

Vorsitzender des DPV
Theologische Fakult�t - Universit�t Kiel
Leibnizstr. 4
D-24098 KIEL
Der Deutsche Verein zur Erforschung Pal�stinas ein �berblick �ber seine 125-j�hrige Geschichte (1877-2002)

An overview of the history of the Deutsche Verein zur Erforschung Pal�stinas (German Society for the Exploration of Palestine) on the occasion of its 125th anniversary, 1877-2002.

RB 2004 T.111-3 (pp. 321-344)

W. Randal GARR

Dept. of Religious Studies
University of California
SANTA BARBARA, CA 93106-3130
United States

"hen" is a simple clitic which marks its utterance as an affirmation.

RB 2004 T.111-3 (pp. 345-361)


Department of Jewish History
Tel Aviv University
"From Geba to Beersheba" : a Further Consideration

This article considers Mazar�s theory that Geba, mentioned in the account of Josiah�s reform (2 Kgs. 23:8) should be identified as Kh. et-Tell on mount Ephraim. This theory enjoyed wide support, mainly among Israeli scholars, and some have suggested that this Geba on mount Ephraim also figures in the list of cities of Benjamin (Josh. 18:24). By contrast, in this article I would like to show that at no time throughout the history of the first Temple did Judah's northern border extend beyond the environs of Bethel. Such was the case in the Persian period too. No biblical evidence whatsoever is found for the existence of a settlement called Geba on mount Ephraim, and great historical and geographical logic lies in restoring to Geba in Benjamin region the honor it deserves.

RB 2004 T.111-3 (pp. 362-376)

Marie-Fran�oise BASLEZ

Universit� de Paris XII, ENS
Pol�mologie et histoire dans le livre de Judith

The art of warfare which is displayed in the Book of Judith can help to retrieve the context and circumstances in which this fictious text, commonly dated between 160 and 60 BC, was composed. The description of the weaponry, which emphasizes the value of light units, and, principally, the description of the goals and strategy of the "war in montainous regions" refers to the Seleucid campaigns of the second century, more precisely, and probably, to the battle of Beth Zacharias, lost by Judas Maccabee in 162. It could be a work of counterpropoaganda, from a nationalistic movement of opposition, personified by Judith, which is different from the Hasmonean movement, and that, by some clues, could be linked to the high priest Alcimus.

RB 2004 T.111-3 (pp. 387-408)


19 rue de l�Aqueduc
Paul, Jacques, F�lix, Festus et les autres : pour une r�vision de la chronologie des derniers procurateurs de Palestine, Ire partie

Part One :
Although largely accepted, the chronology of the last Procurators of Palestine, established more than one century ago by Emil Sch�rer, display many obscurities, among them the length of the terms of Felix and Festus. This article aims at a new study of the question, bringing up some new published research. After a short reminder of the basis for the classic chronology, and a point about the precise date of the death of King Agrippa I, we should see, in this First Part, the terms of the two Procurators who followed him, the duration of the term of Cumanus and the date of beginning of Felix, building on the foundations one can find in Josephus, Tacitus and in the Acts of the Apostles..

RB 2004 T.111-4 (pp. 481-497)

Christophe LEMARDEL�

F-75000 PARIS
Le verbe p�l� et la pratique des v�ux

The translation of the verb p�l�, in a votive context, is problematic in modern versions like in ancient versions. Three possibilities exist : �to accomplish/fulfil a vow�, �to make an explicit vow� and �to make a special vow�. If we retain the meaning of pl�, it�s the third solution that we have to choose because the vow contains the idea of miracle like this root. We add that the verb appears in the context of the formulation of a vow and not in the context of fulfilment. �To make a special vow� because of the importance of those vows : they are costly. There were many sacrifices which accompanied the Nazirite vow, and the votive offerings of Lev 27 were not common. Moreover, it was used for a sacrifice offered during the pronunciation.

RB 2004 T.111-4 (pp. 499-515)


G.L. Collord Professor of N.T. Language and Literature
Princeton Theological Seminary
Phenomenology, Symbology, and Lexicography, the Amazingly Rich Vocabulary for "Serpent" in Ancient Greek

Virtually unknown to Greek philologists is the fact that there are 41 nouns employed by the ancient Greeks to denote a snake and the various species. The following research is part of the fruit of six-years of research into one question: "What did the serpent symbolize in antiquity? For the first time a list is provided of the 41 nouns employed by the ancient Greeks to signify a reptile that was a type of snake. The list assists translators and exegetes to be more precise and re-present the phenomenological sophistication reflected by Hellenic and Hellenistic Greek, the Greek found in the Septuagint; the Greek Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, the greek N.T. (witch should not simply be branded as Koine), and Patristics. Philologians, historians and N.T. scholars have been ignorant of iconography, symbology, and the numeruos negative and positive meanings of serpent symbolism by the end of the first century CE.

RB 2004 T.111-4 (pp. 516-530)


1100 N. Main St.,
FRANKLIN, Ohio 45005
United States
Jewish and Christian Tradition in the Transfiguration

The Transfiguration account in the synoptic gospels is a terrific example of a pericope that has been shaped by Jewish and Christian exegetical complexes. Unfortunately, a proper recognition of these precise complexes has been confuted by the universal belief that the Transfiguration is first and foremost an echo of the Sinai theophanies in Exodus. A close reading reveals that the points of contact between the Transfiguration and the Sinai theophanies are merely generic aspects of theophanies in general. A more efficient account of the nongeneric aspects of the Transfiguration can be found in an exegetical complex preserved in Midrash Tehillim, while the distinctively Christian component of the Transfiguration is best understood in the light of the two witnesses tradition in Revelation 11.

RB 2004 T.111-4 (pp. 531-562)


19 rue de l�Aqueduc
Paul, Jacques, F�lix, Festus et les autres : pour une r�vision de la chronologie des derniers procurateurs de Palestine, IIe partie

This second part investigates the proposed arguments in favour of varied datings to substitute Felix for Festus (between 54 and 61 exclusively). The article calls into question the date of 62, universally accepted as that of the martyrdom of James. To clarify the last unreliability, this article checks the chronology of Paul�s last journey to Jerusalem, inquiring into the precise duration of his captivity at Caesarea. A bundle of convergent probabilities allows us to conclude in favour of the date of 56 for the start of Festus�s rule as procurator, which amounts to Paul�s arriving at Rome in 57.

RB 2004 T.111-4 (pp. 563-577)

�mile PUECH (pp.563-577)

�cole Biblique et Arch�ologique Fran�aise,
and Joe ZIAS
Science and Archaeology Group
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Le tombeau de Sim�on et Zacharie dans la vall�e de Josaphat

The squeeze of the other inscription noticed during the decipherment of the inscription of Zachariah in this tomb has confirmed the Old Simeon's burial in this monument in the Josaphat Valley according to local byzantine traditions. The author of the inscription clearly knew Lk 2,25 of the Koin� tradition. But since no testimony of the James'burial has been found there, we must look for their common burial place in, the byzantine chapel in front of the monolith nowadays called "Tomb of Zachariah", location confirmed by the discovery of a graffito.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

MORE DEBATE ON THE QUMRAN EXCAVATIONS over at the Bible and Interpretation website:
The Enigma of Qumran

Qumran was not a place of learning and solitude: one can hardly be expected to find the quietude needed to study in the middle of a busy, loud, and dirty factory.

Yaron Ben-Ami
Bible and Interpretation
October 2004

This piece surveys the views of the archaeologists who recently completed ten years of excavation at Qumran and touches on views of other archaeologists. I am surprised to hear that the idea that Qumran was a military fortress is still on the table. I thought all the archaeologists rejected that because of the site's unprotected water supply. The factory proposal is new to me too. I'm not an archaeologist and I don't feel qualified to comment on the merits of the various positions. I'm just noting what the archaeologists say and watching the fur fly. But I do have a comment on the last paragraph of the article:
Dr. Itzhak Magen [one of the excavators] comments on how the scrolls got there: "They were brought here by everybody, including fugitives running away from the Romans. Some of them would have taken a scroll with them, but when they ran away from the Judean hills eastwards, they had to cross the water, which is something they didn�t want to do with a scroll." So the fugitives, Magen claims, tucked the scrolls away in the caves around the recently deserted Qumran. Therefore, these are not sectarian writings, either priestly or Essene. "This is the literature of Second Temple era Judaism. This belonged to everybody," he says, expressing a hope that this realization would throw new light on the scrolls� research.

This is something I do know about and have put quite a lot of thought into. If Dr. Magen's views are being quoted correctly, he's wrong. The Qumran library is a sectarian ("Essene" if you insist) library, it was not "brought here by everybody." There are lots of sectarian texts, often in different versions, and most or all of the rest of the library is compatible with their views. If this were a randomly collected library of Judean literature, we would expect a much wider range of views to be represented (e.g., copies of 1 Maccabees, the Psalms of Solomon, the Letter of Aristeas, and maybe even some early stuff from followers of Jesus). Gabriele Boccaccini has dealt in detail with what's missing in the Qumran library, and what it means, in his book Beyond the Essene Hypothesis. I don't agree with him at every point, but the sectarian nature of the Qumran library is clear.

That said, I don't think that Magen is entirely off base about the library. My own working hypothesis is that sectarians from all over Judea collected their smaller libraries and consolidated them to hide them at Qumran during the war, perhaps because Qumran was a major retreat center or the like for the sect (or perhaps not . . .). That would explain both the sectarian nature of the library and the multiple recensions of the sectarian and biblical texts in the library. More on that here.
THE UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA AT OMAHA is hold a conference on biblical archaeology:
Biblical Archaeology Conference at UNO (RedNova)

Author and archaeologist James Strange will be the keynote speaker at the sixth annual Batchelder Biblical Archaeology Conference in Omaha.

The conference will be held Oct. 28 through 30 at the W.H. Thompson Alumni Center on the University of Nebraska at Omaha campus.

People must register for other conference events using an online form at (click on site index and go to Bethsaida Excavations Project). The fee is $65.


Or follow this link for the conference web page, which includes the program and a registration form.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

VANDERKAM ON THE HIGH PRIESTS: Mark Goodacre has already reproduced this Fortress Press press release, so I'll just link to his posting.
Dig reveals more of ancient Albanian shul

Excavations at an ancient synagogue in Albania have uncovered additional sections of the impressive structure.

The dig, now in its second season, is being conducted under the auspices of the Hebrew University and the Albanian Academy of Sciences at a synagogue that dates from the 5th or 6th century CE and is located in the coastal city of Saranda, opposite the Greek island of Corfu.


The archeologists have concentrated on revealing additional rooms adjoining the elongated hall whose mosaic floors depict such Jewish symbols as a seven-branched candelabrum (menora) flanked by a citron (etrog) and a ram's horn (shofar). The newly exposed rooms � which in fact were an extension of the hall � contain more of the decorative mosaic paving, including representations of fish, a popular theme in the ancient world.

The joint Albanian-Israeli delegation intends to return soon to the site to continue uncovering the basilica section of the synagogue, which today lies under a main street in Saranda. ...

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

I SEEM TO HAVE FALLEN BEHIND in keeping track of the journal Dead Sea Discoveries. Here are the two most recent issues:

Volume 11 Number 1 2004
The use of Secondary Biblical Sources in Pesher Nahum
Shani L. Berrin

Practical Wisdom in 4QInstruction
Joshua Ezra Burns

From Separatism to Urbanism: The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Origins of the Rabbinic Eruv
Charlotte Elisheva Fonrobert

Free Orthography in a Strict Society: Reconsidering Tov's "Qumran Orthography"
Dong-Hyuk Kim

Last Testaments in the Book Of Jubilees
David Lambert

Volume 11 Number 2 2004
The Dead Sea Scrolls, The Sciences and New Technologies
Magen Broshi

Redating the Radiocarbon Dating of The Dead Sea Scrolls
Joseph Atwill; Steve Braunheim; Robert Eisenman

The Royal Conscience According to 4QSAM
Keith Bodner

Women At Qumran: Introducing the Essays
Rob Kugler; Esther Chazon

Requires a paid personal or institutional subscription to access.
VIGILIAE CHRISTIANAE has a new issue out (58.3, 2004). Here's an article of interest:
David T. Runia, "Clement of Alexandria and the Philonic Doctrine of the Divine Power(s)," pp. 256-76

Abstract: The present paper offers a comprehensive examination of how Clement appropriates the Philonic doctrine of the divine powers. It first examines the biblical basis of the doctrine, in which Pauline influence is superimposed on Genesis. It then successively treats the subject in the areas of theology, cosmology and the doctrine of creation, including the creation of humanity. For Clement experience of the divine power (usually in the singular) leads to knowledge of God (to the extent possible) and intimacy with him through the Son. Clement's Philonic heritage has enabled him to develop a positive and above all a dynamic theology.

Requires a paid personal or institutional subscription to access.
INTERNET EXPLORER IS HISTORY and so is Netscape � at least on my computers. I've converted to Firefox and pulled the other two browsers from the dock on both my office iMac and my eMac at home. Firefox is more stable, has fewer glitches, and so far hasn't introduced any new problems of its own. Maybe a lot of you already knew all that (I'm often behind the curve on such things), but my counter statistics tend to indicate that many readers are still crippling along with IE or Netscape. If you're not as happy with them as you could be, do give Firefox a try. My thanks to former St. Andrews student and perennial rabble-rouser Alex Singleton for the tip.

Monday, October 18, 2004

REGARDING THE NEW ENOCH PAPYRUS FRAGMENT, Stephen Goranson asked on the g-Megillot list, "In any of the descriptions of the photos of perhaps an Enoch scroll said to be seen by John Strugnell, did he describe it as skin or papyrus?" Matthew Hamilton of Moore Theological College Library in Australia sent Goranson and me this e-mail in response:
My few references to Strugnells' Enoch MSS don't mention if on skin or papyrus, but there may be other references out there that I am not aware of.

P. Ross in Scientific American, vol.263 no 5 (Nov. 1990) refers to "a nearly compete scroll", but doesn't state if it is of Enoch or another book
A. Katzman in Biblical Archeology Review, vol.XVII no.1 (Jan.-Feb. 1991), p.64,70 mentions a "complete copy of the Book of Enoch"
H. Shanks interviewing Strugnell in Biblical Archaeology Review, vol.20 no.4 (July-Aug. 1994), p.46-47 mentions "the complete book of Enoch" on microfilm and in a rather mixed up conversation also mentions Cave 11.
N. Silberman in The Hidden Scrolls: Christianity, Judaism & the War for the Dead Sea Scrolls (New York: Putnam and Sons, 1994), p.162 mentions "a complete manuscript of the book of Enoch"
Pfann in a web article, The Visions of Yeshua Ben Padiah Scroll, (1999) mentions a "rather well preserved scroll ... resembling the book of Enoch". It is not clear if this is the same MS as the other Enoch MS which is mentioned by Shanks as being seen by Strugnell on microfilm, rather than the actual MS.

If the above is representative of Strugnell's Enoch scroll, it is unlikely to be the same as the papyrus fragment of Enoch to be published by the Eshels, as Strugnell's Enoch is complete or nearly compete. [However --- what if the photograph provided to the Eshel's is just a sample, perhaps provided by a seller/vendor to test the market or create anticipation so as to inflate the market? This is of course, just my speculation.].

Prior to seeing the post in PaleoJudaica, I had not heard of this papyrus fragment.

It was new to me too.

As for the last reference, follow the link for Stephen Pfann's website on the Ben Padiah (Angel) Scroll. Five years after the partial transcript surfaced, this document - if it exists at all - has not been published or, as far as I know, even shown to a specialist. The mention of the rumor about an Enoch scroll is near the beginning of the "Background" section of the web page.

UPDATE (19 October): Seth Sanders reminds me that he e-mailed the following a few days ago, referring to the same text:
I assume you recall the excitement over the last "other Qumran manuscript of Enoch" the so-called "Angel Scroll" story of 1999. Like this putative Enoch fragment, it was not presented to scholars to examine. Of course, in that case it was even more dubious because there was not even a photograph.

See here for Stephen Pfann's assessment:

We have not heard anything further about this text.

The problem, as you know, is that you or I or any other linguistically trained scholar of Second Temple Judaism could produce such a scroll, given enough Chutzpah and the help of a competent manuscript forger.

It could certainly be proven to be genuine (and I hope it is!), but I think the burden of proof is on those arguing for its authenticity.

I blog, you decide. As usual with these things, the authenticity question really needs to be sorted out in the peer-review journals.

As for forging a scroll fragment like this, it would not be easy to come up with something that would stand up to C-14 dating. But perhaps it could be done.
MORE ON THE PETRA EXHIBITION, which is currently in Cincinnati. Ed Cook e-mails:
You mentioned the Petra exhibit slated for Grand Rapids next spring. I wanted to encourage your readers, if they are able, to catch the exhibit in Cincinnati, where it will be till January 30, 2005. It is truly a magnificent exhibition, with many impressive objects and all the inscriptional material that language specialists could want, including a nifty Greek-Aramaic bilingual inscription and one of the carbonized Petra scrolls from the Byzantine era church. The display is worth seeing here because the Cincinnati Art Museum already has a considerable collection of Nabatean antiquities -- many discovered by Nelson Glueck at Khirbet et-Tannur -- which are displayed with the objects from Jordan. Anyone within traveling distance should definitely check it out.

He also forwards a link to an article on the Cincinnati exhibition.
HEBREW MANUSCRIPTS FOR SALE: I thought I had already noted the following from the Forward, but a check in my search engine indicates not.
Manuscripts Worth Millions
September 24, 2004

If you're struggling to find a gift for that person who has everything and you've got a few hundred thousand dollars to spend, then Sotheby's New York has the right auction for you.

On October 27 and 28, the Montefiore Endowment at Ramsgate, England, will auction off a wide array of rare Hebrew manuscripts that Marcia Malinowski, senior vice president of books and manuscripts at Sotheby's New York, touts as "the most significant collection to appear on the market in decades."


Culled from works across Europe and North Africa, the bulk of the offerings were acquired around 1900 by Moses Gaster, a Romanian scholar who served as principal for the college founded by Victorian gaslighting tycoon, banker and philanthropist Sir Moses Montefiore.

Gaster acquired the manuscripts from Leopold Zunz, a founder of the Science of Judaism, and book collector Solomon Hayyim Halberstam. Most were donated to Jews' College in London, where they spent the last century.

Today, the Jerusalem Post notes the same sale:
Montefiore manuscripts


The collection is especially rich in biblical, legal and historical texts. In addition, the liturgical manuscripts, kabbalist works, philosophical and literary texts are unusually diverse. The collection is estimated to sell for $8m./$11m. and the proceeds will be used to fund scholarships and education.

The lots include Bibles, biblical commentaries, sermons, halachic works, talmudic commentaries, responsa literature and prayer books, as well as treatises on kabbala, philosophy, astronomy, and medicine; and volumes of poetry, drama and music.

The manuscripts originate from Spain, Germany, Italy, France, Greece, North Africa, Yemen, and other locations and reflect the traditions and cultures of each geographic area over the course of eight centuries.


I know nothing about the circumstances behind the sale and it may well be that financial straits are compelling the institution to sell them. But I'm surprised that nobody has remarked on what a pity it is that Gaster's precious manuscript collection is being broken up and scattered like this. It certainly won't make study of the manuscripts any easier.
PROFESSOR BRUCE ZUCKERMAN is profiled the Daily Trojan the student newspaper of the University of Southern California, where he has taught for many years:
Unlocking artifacts of antiquity
Bruce Zuckerman uses the latest photo technology to study ancient texts, providing new findings on the date of their creation.
By Nathan Go
Published: Monday, October 18, 2004

For almost 20 years now, Bruce Zuckerman, professor of Semitic languages, has held the key to some of the world's oldest civilizations in his hands.

From deserts to war-torn areas, Zuckerman has pursued and taken hundreds of thousands of images of ancient inscriptions using the latest technology in photography - usually revealing new, striking information.

Zuckerman's findings last summer on an artifact believed to bear the earliest biblical passage might end the controversy surrounding the date of its existence.

While some scholars question the artifact's age, Zuckerman's high-resolution photographs show that the text is a distinct style of an early Hebrew script. The script was used from the period just before the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C., thus confirming its antiquity.

The images Zuckerman took provide the clearest analysis of the inscriptions ever taken so far, and he hopes they will finally dispel the cloud of doubt hanging over the artifact.

"Until then, most people were just relying on drawings," Zuckerman said.

Most scholars would rank the artifact, which was originally found in 1979, as the second most important archaeological find in Israel, just next to a stone inscription mentioning the House of David, Zuckerman said.

I'm a little confused by this comment and I wonder if the interviewer has gotten it completely right. I think everyone would agree that the most important archaeological find in Israel is the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Judean Desert scroll discoveries in general. Nothing is even a close second. But perhaps Zuckerman was referring to inscriptions recovered in controlled excavations, which would exclude most of the scroll finds. In any case, these silver amulets from Ketef Hinnom (which are the artifact the article is talking about) are the oldest fragments of a text found in the Bible and are extraordinarily important.

But put aside the nit-picking. This is really exciting:
However, Zuckerman emphasized that the findings on the Priestly Benediction artifact is just one of the many items he has photographed, and people often miss the bigger picture of what is being achieved.

The more important thing to ask, he said, is how such tremendously valuable and yet delicate artifacts can be preserved.

To this end, Zuckerman has created an online database system called InscriptiFact. In essence, InscriptiFact is a technological solution that takes the most important texts of the near-Eastern ancient world and preserves them in digital format.

The images can then be distributed worldwide for free, virtually guaranteeing that the artifacts are going to last forever.

"It's a kind of immortality," Zuckerman said. "A lot of times we have to rescue the artifacts before it's too late."

The article concludes with a quote from Lynn Swartz Dodd, curator of USC's Archaeological Research Center:
"Ultimately," she said, "he did for biblical inscriptions what Google did for the Internet."

That sounds about right. Quite a legacy. And he isn't done yet.

I think I've mentioned before that I was the first research assistant to the West Semitic Research Project back when I was a callow Master's student at UCLA in the early 1980s. You can find the InscriptiFact web page by following the link. Oddly, there's no link to it in the Daily Trojan article.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

MORE ON THE QUEEN OF SHEBA EXHIBITION at the Bowers Museum in California:
Queen of Sheba Opens at Bowers Museum (Art Daily)

SANTA ANA, CALIFORNIA.- The myth, mystery and majesty of the Queen of Sheba is the focus of a new and exciting landmark exhibition at the Bowers Museum. Organized by The British Museum exclusively for the Bowers, Queen of Sheba: Legend and Reality opens October 17, 2004 and runs through March 13, 2005. This is the first time the celebrated Queen of Sheba exhibition has come to the United States.


Queen of Sheba: Legend and Reality will feature more than 100 spectacular treasures chosen from the breathtaking collections of the 250-year-old British Museum. These treasures, some from the 1st century, will bring to life the history of Queen of Sheba�s fascinating ancient civilization still mostly unfamiliar to a Western audience. In addition to magnificent treasures from the acclaimed British Museum collection, one of the marquee treasures in Queen of Sheba: Legend and Reality is a bronze head of a male that was lent by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The exhibition will begin with the Queen of Sheba as a legend in art through Renaissance and modern representations. Queen of Sheba is viewed as a figure of beauty and seduction who sent a camel train of gold and ivory to King Solomon. According to legend, Solomon married the Queen around 950 BC after she became enthralled by the magnificence and majesty of his palace.