Saturday, October 30, 2004

THE FIRST MEDIA MENTION OF THE PSEUDEPIGRAPHA IN 2004 comes in, of all places, Al Jazeerah, in an article by Andrew J. Waskey entitled "Who Wrote the Bible?" It is long and thorough and, although I could quibble about a fair number of details, accurate overall. It deals with the Bible (Hebrew Bible, New Testament, and Old Testament Apocrypha), the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, the New Testament Apocrypha, and it touches on Gnosticism and Patristics. I don't know Dr. Andrew J. Waskey, but he teaches courses in philosophy, political science, and religion at Dalton State College in Decatur, Georgia. Follow the link for his web page.

I commend Dr. Waskey for providing this useful summary about the current understanding of the Bible to a predominantly Arab audience that doesn't know much about it. More please!
IN HONOR OF HALLOWEEN, here's a roundup of the "best-known" references to Satan in the Bible. Curiously, it alludes in passing to the mention of him in 1 Chronicles 21 and Zechariah 3, but does not give the references or discuss them.

Friday, October 29, 2004

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Yasser Arafat's failing (or at least poor) health has revived the controversy over his wish to be buried on the Temple mount.
Israel won't allow Arafat burial on Mount

"It will never happen," diplomatic officials said Thursday regarding the possibility that ailing Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat will ask to be buried on the Temple Mount.

"We are not dealing with this issue right now but one thing is for sure; Arafat will not be buried on the Temple Mount," the officials said.

Wakf officials, who oversee the holy Muslim sites on the Temple Mount, rejected Israel's right to decide on the matter.

"Nobody will tell us where to bury him and the final decision lies in the hands of the Palestinian people," Wakf director Adnan Husseini told The Jerusalem Post Thursday. ...

Read on. There is a real danger of the situation erupting into chaos when Arafat dies.
Offshore find dates to King David's time
Archaeologist hopes 3,000-year-old wood is from ancient ship

Matthew Kalman, [San Francisco] Chronicle Foreign Service

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Hof Dor, Israel -- An archaeologist's dog may have discovered the first ship ever found from the period of King David and his son, Solomon, who ruled the holy land 3, 000 ago.

The remains, which have been carbon-dated to the ninth century B.C., include a huge stone anchor believed to be the largest ever unearthed. The wreckage is lying under a few inches of sand off the Mediterranean coast in shallow waters, and has yet to be examined extensively.

If the remains are indeed 3,000 years old, it would be the first archaeological artifact ever found from the era of the first kings of Israel, with the possible exception of several huge stones at the base of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

The discovery was made by a dog, according to marine archaeologist Kurt Raveh.

JERUSALEM'S MILITARY HISTORY is explored at the National Geographic News website:

Jerusalem Strife Echoes Ancient History

Stefan Lovgren
for National Geographic News
October 28, 2004

It may be called the City of Peace, but no other city has been more bitterly fought over than Jerusalem. In the past 4,000 years, it has seen at least 118 conflicts. Jerusalem has been razed at least twice, besieged 23 times, and has had at least five separate periods of violent terrorist attacks in the past century. Eric Cline is a historian and archaeologist at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and the author of the new book Jerusalem Besieged: From Ancient Canaan to Modern Israel. National Geographic News spoke with Cline about the holy city's turbulent history.
DR. RICHARD FREUND is interviewed in the Connecticut Jewish Ledger about his excavation in the Cave of the Letters near the Dead Sea. Excerpt:
Q: What were your findings in the Cave of the Letters?
A: Unlike Yadin who held that this was a cave used exclusively by the Bar Kochba Rebellion as a final refuge in their tragic battle against the Romans in the second century CE. I proved that the cave was in use during the most critical time in all Jewish history, the first century rebellion against the Romans that resulted in the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem and the exile of the Jews from Jerusalem. The Cave of Letters was the refuge that the priests and zealots came to as they escaped Jerusalem with the greatest treasures of the Jewish people -- the treasures of the Temple and holy books of Jerusalem� The "secrets" we discovered included new techniques, new coins, pottery that could be identified down to the location of its clay, and that Yadin had only discovered a small part of the story of this cave. Hall C, the final cave opening, (the size of a large auditorium) was where all of the secular documents of Bar Kochba and a woman named Babatha from the Bar Kochba rebellion were discovered. In Hall A, Yadin discovered ritual objects (that I think he misidentified) and a small scrap of a Psalm from the book of Psalms. Since 1961, 30 Psalm manuscripts were identified as coming from that area (and misidentified for 40 years!), making the Hall A, the large entrance hall to the Cave of Letters, a place where religious people from the first century zealot and priestly groups probably gathered. We rediscovered the Niche of Skulls that included 17 people and many of the bones were still perfectly preserved there. Today, we did a DNA study and Carbon 14 dated the bones to discover they were from two different time periods.

A few years ago I heard him give a paper at the SBL annual meeting which argued that the Cave of the Letters is mentioned in the Copper Scroll. I'm looking forward to reading his new book.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

HAVE I REALLY MISSED a year of the Journal for the Study of Judaism? That doesn't seem possible, but I can't find mention of the last four issue in the archive. Well, just in case, here they are, with tables of contents for articles (but note the book reviews and reviews of articles also):
34.4, 2003
The Impact of Household Slaves on the Jewish Family in Roman Palestine
Catherine Hezser

The Dream of Alexander in Josephus ANT. 11.325-39
Tae Hun Kim

Die Drei J�dischen Schulrichtungen Nach Josephus Und Hippolyt Von Rom: Zu den Paralleltexten Josephus, B.J. 2,119-166 und Hippolyt, Haer. IX 18,2-29,4
Roland Bergmeier

Gender and Divine Relativity in Philo of Alexandria
Colleen Conway

35.1, 2004
Purity Ideology in Ezra-Nehemiah as a Tool to Reconstitute the Community
Saul M. Olyan

Disjunction of Heavenly and Earthly Times in the Ascension of Isaiah
Robert G. Hall

Joseph and Aseneth: Rewritten Bible or Narrative Expansion?
Susan Docherty

Der Mensch im Tod nach der Apokalypse des Mose Eine fr�hj�dische Anthropologie in der Zeit des Paulus
Stefan Schreiber

Pseudo-Phocylides on the Afterlife: A Rejoinder to John J. Collins
Pieter W. van der Horst

35.2, 2004
Annette Yoshiko Reed

Stephen Catto

Gary Gilbert

Mark Roncace

35.3, 2004
Helge S. Kvanvig

Claudia Bergmann

Ren� Bloch

Requires paid personal or institutional subscription to access.

UPDATE: Wieland Willker e-mails:
1 Esdras 5:38
... KAI OUC hEUREQHSAN hUIOI hOBBIA ... [i.e., "and the sons of Hobbia were not found"]

I knew they were in there somewhere.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

MORE ON ALTER'S NEW TORAH TRANSLATION: Slate has a roundup of online reviews (scroll down to the bottom item).
NEW TESTAMENT STUDIES, 50.4, October 2004, has some articles of interest:
"Jesus als j�discher Gleichnisdichter"


Die Gleichnisse Jesu und der Rabbinen sch�pfen unabh�ngig voneinander aus dem gleichen Repertoire j�discher Bilder und Erz�hlmuster. Da die rabbinischen Gleichnisse der Schriftauslegung dienen, sind sie oft durch eine Straffheit der Gedankenf�hrung und eine Konzentration auf die wesentlichen Z�ge der Handlung gekennzeichnet. Ihre neutestamentlichen Gegenst�cke spiegeln die soziale Wirklichkeit lebendiger wider und weisen eine ausgepr�gtere Erz�hlstruktur auf, um f�r die Gottesherrschaft zu werben. Dabei wird das Geschick der S�nder im Gegen�ber zum Geschick der Gerechten thematisiert und die Integration von Randgruppen Israels in die Gottesherrschaft verteidigt. Diese unverwechselbaren Z�ge der Gleichnisse Jesu berechtigen nicht zur Abwertung der rabbinischen Gleichnisse.

"A Q Community in Galilee?"


It is often assumed, especially in North American scholarship, that the Q source used by Matthew and Luke reflects a special community different from those reflected in other writings of the NT. This community is located in Galilee, where the �Q gospel� is supposed to have been composed. In this article it is argued that current theories regarding the composition and location of Q are untenable. It is also concluded that there was no significant difference in terms of beliefs and practices between Jesus-believing Jews in Galilee and in Jerusalem.

"Adam and Eve in Romans 1.18�25 and the Greek Life of Adam and Eve"


This study identifies several dimensions of the Greek Life of Adam and Eve that provide fresh points of entry to Paul's thought in Rom 1.18�25. Principal among these are the suppression of truth, the advent of divine anger, the onset of death, and, most notably, two related exchanges � God's glory for mortality and natural dominion for unnatural subservience to animals. While such features do not specifically characterize Gen 1�3, they belong to a shared conception of the drama of human sin that characterizes and unites both Rom 1 and the Greek Life of Adam and Eve.

Requires a paid personal or institutional subscription to access.
Jordan starts major restoration of Al-Aqsa Mosque

By Agence France Presse (AFP)

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

AMMAN: As custodian of Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jordan has begun the first major restoration in four centuries of the ancient walls of Al-Aqsa, the third holiest site in Islam.

The head of the project, Raef Najm, dismisses Israeli warnings that parts of the walls could collapse and says the work that started last week is part of a long-term program, with funds from Unesco.

"What we are undertaking now is the first real restoration of the walls of the mosque since the work done under the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century," says Najm. "This is a historic mission aimed at preserving a humanitarian civilization ... which belongs not only to Muslims but to the entire world."


A spokeswoman for Israel's antiquities authorities, Onat Guez, says the Jordanian work at Al-Aqsa is being carried out in coordination with Israeli police.

But she insists that the eastern wall of the Temple Mount, some 100 meters from the mosque, was in danger of collapsing and needed urgent preservation work.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

How the Bible Became a Book
(Cambridge University Press, 2004)

Writing was an extension of the urbanization of the Judean state in the late eighth century. The evidence of archaeology and inscriptions suggests a spread of writing through all classes of society by the seventh century BCE in Judah.

William M. Schniedewind
Bible and Interpretation

According to archaeologists (e.g., Carter, 1999), the province of Yehud was largely depopulated and impoverished in the Persian period. These were dark times for Jerusalem and the Persian province of Yehud. In past scholarship, it was "dark" simply because we knew so little about this period of history. Increasingly, archaeology has filled in the void but painted a bleak picture of a depopulated and impoverished region. This hardly makes it a good environment in which great literary accomplishments could flourish. It is also noteworthy that the Aramaic language overtakes Hebrew as the primary Jewish language in the Persian period.

William Schneidewind is Professor of Biblical Studies and Northwest Semitic Languages at UCLA's Department of Near Eastern Languages. Here's more on the book that is summarized in this essay.

Monday, October 25, 2004

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: The fifth minaret is confirmed.
Jordan to build 5th minaret on Temple Mount (Ha'aretz)
By Arnon Regular

A Jordanian group intends to complete plans for building a fifth minaret on the Temple Mount by the end of the year and begin construction in 2005, said Raef Nijem, deputy chairman of the Committee to Renovate the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, over the weekend.

LOT'S DAUGHTERS SLEPT HERE. WITH LOT. At least that's how the story goes. The Lebanon Daily Star describes the excavation of the Sanctuary of Agios ("Saint") Lot near Ghor al-Safi in Jordan. Excerpts:
Within a year of the discovery and identification of Deir Ain Abata ("Monastery of the Abbot's Spring") an international team of archaeologists was assembled to excavate and study the site. After more than 10 years of excavations and research, the final report is about to be published.

The site is located on a steep mountain slope 3 kilometers southeast of the Dead Sea. At its archaeological center (and historic religious focus) is a cave, discovered in the north aisle of the basilica later erected on the site. Early Christians - drawing on Genesis chapter 19 of the Old Testament - believed Lot and his two daughters lived here after their flight from sinful Sodom and their brief stop at Zoar.


When the entrance to the cave was revealed, it was preserved to its original height, but had no signs of door fittings. The sandstone pilaster capitals on either side are carved with eight-cornered (Maltese-type) crosses and bore traces of red paint. The lintel had a similarly engraved cross in the center and was flanked by two rosettes, also with traces of red paint. On the south side of the entrance the plastered wall had a number of scratched designs, crosses and graffiti. One such Greek graffito named a local Christian woman as Nestasia Zenobius. Another, in Kufic Arabic, is an Islamic invocation.

Further excavation of the cave revealed a series of steps leading into a 2 by 2.5-meter room, paved with fine white marble slabs, a simple room where early Byzantine Christians evidently believed Lot and his daughters took refuge. As to why the Byzantines venerated this specific cave - there are several in the vicinity - it is assumed it has something to do with ancient oral tradition.

The cave, which is the focal point of the entire monastic complex, had a long sequence of occupation suggesting long-standing use as a refuge. Excavations below the Byzantine-Abbasid floor level in the cave revealed ceramic and glass oil lamps dating from the earlier Byzantine period - circa the 4th-6th centuries. Beneath this were fine Late Hellenistic-Nabataean vessels from the 1st century B.C. to the 1st century A.D. Digging deeper, the team came across a fine ceramic chalice and a copper duck-bill axe-head, belonging to the Middle Bronze Age II period (c. 1900-1550 B.C.).

There are also some Middle Bronze Age tombs, some late antique Greek inscriptions mentioning Lot, and a seventh-century triple-apsed basilica church in the vicinity.
ROBERT ALTER'S NEW TORAH TRANSLATION is reviewed by John Updike in the New Yorker. Excerpt:
He sees Biblical Hebrew as a �conventionally delimited language, roughly analogous in this respect to the French of the neoclassical theatre� and significantly though indeterminately distinct from the vanished vernacular of three thousand years ago. (The vernacular vocabulary, according to the Spanish Hebrew scholar Angel S�enz-Badillos, must have exceeded the Bible�s�a lexicon �so restricted that it is hard to believe it could have served all the purposes of quotidian existence in a highly developed society.�) Alter has set himself to create a corresponding English��stylized, decorous, dignified, and readily identified by its audiences as a language of literature,� with a �slight strangeness,� �beautiful rhythms,� and other qualities (suppleness, precision, concreteness) that �by and large have been given short shrift by translators with their eyes on other goals.� Why should not Alter�s version, its program so richly contemplated and persuasively outlined, become the definitive one, replacing not only the King James but the plethora of its revised, uninspired, and �accessible� versions on the shelf?

Several reasons why not, in the course of my reading through this massive tome (sold sturdily boxed, as if to support its weight), emerged. The sheer amount of accompanying commentary and philological footnotes is one of them. The fifty-four churchmen and scholars empowered at a conference at Hampton Court in January of 1604 to provide an authoritative English Bible had a clear charge: to supply English readers with a self-explanatory text. When they encountered a crux, they took their best guess and worked on; many of the guesses can be improved upon now, but no suggestion of an unclear and imperfect original was allowed to trouble the Word of God. Alter�s more academic and literary commission allows him to luxuriate in the forked possibilities of the Hebrew text, in its oldest forms written entirely in consonants, and without punctuation.

Updike spends most of the second half of the review telling us why he thinks the Pentateuch has a strong start, but it deteriorates into a weak finish, which seems to me to be neither here nor there in terms of Alter's translation.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

THE JOURNAL FOR THE STUDY OF THE PSEUDEPIGRAPHA has a new issue out (14.1, 2004). Here's the table of contents of articles:
Celestial Choirmaster: The Liturgical Role of Enoch-Metatron in 2 Enoch and the Merkabah Tradition
Andrei A. Orlov

Philo�s Therapeutai: Philosopher�s Dream or Utopian Construction?
Mary Ann Beavis

On Women and Honor in the Testament of Job
Robert A. Kugler and Richard L. Rohrbaugh

I Set a Table before You: The Jewish Eschatological Character of Aseneth�s Conversion Meal
Andrea Lieber

The website includes only abstracts. According to it, the JSP will now be published three issues per year. Good for them. I hope they can keep to that schedule.
JEWS IN BULGARIA: The Sofia Echo has a rundown:
Notes from History - Ancient roots, modern legacy

Part one of a series on the history of Jewish people in Bulgaria
Clive Leviev-Sawyer

THE best-known episode in the epic of Jewish people in Bulgarian history is the escape from the Nazi genocide machine in World War 2.

As important as this part of the story is within the context of the greater whole, it is that greater whole that must be re-discovered, to illustrate for just how long Jewish people have been part of the fabric that has woven itself into today's Bulgaria.

Evidence suggests that Jewish people had settled within the Balkans at least by the 2nd century CE, and perhaps before.

Among this evidence is an inscription on a tombstone near the town of Nikopol on the Danube. These Jews were, according to most historians, known as Romagnotes, (alternatively spelled Romaniots) perhaps displaced during Roman campaigns in the Middle East.

Other historians have written that there was a Jewish settlement in Macedonia in the time of the Roman emperor Caligula, who is believed to have reigned from 37 to 41 CE.

Persecution followed the communities. A fourth century CE decree by emperor Theodosius refers to such persecution, including the destruction of synagogues.

Persecution by Byzantine emperor Leo III (718 to 741) is believed to have prompted an exodus to the territory that is today's Bulgaria.


They really should have interviewed my former student Alexander Panayotov on this subject.