Saturday, November 20, 2004

I'M HERE and blogging from an SBL computer in the book display room. Can't stay long. I got in late Thursday evening and for some reason have adjusted to Texas time with no particular jet lag. I spent Friday morning at the Alamo and then took my sister (who lives in San Antonio) to lunch, then she took me shopping. The PSCO session was Friday evening. So far today I haven't yet attended any papers, but I have had some very useful meetings and conversations. The schedulers have managed to place most of the sessions I want to go to on Sunday morning (with most of the rest directly opposite the session I'm chairing on Monday), so my being-two-places-at-once skills are to be stretched to their limits.

I have some photos to share with you, but no means to upload them here. Patience.

That's enough for now. I need to check my e-mail.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

I'M OFF TO SAN ANTONIO first thing tomorrow morning to attend the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature. On Friday evening I'm scheduled to give a short paper, "Astrology and the Descenders to the Chariot," in the PSCO session. PaleoJudaica readers can read it now by following the link. Then on Monday I'm to chair the Early Jewish and Christian Mysticism session (S22-59) that reviews Rachel Elior's new book The Three Temples: On the Emergence of Jewish Mysticism. (Unfortunately, the Online Program Book does not allow permalinks to individual sessions. I hope next year they will consider remedying that.)

Any blogging during the conference will depend on ready availability of Internet facilities, plus my whim. At the moment I feel inclined just to take a break, but we'll see. In any case I'll try to take some interesting notes and photographs. I expect to be back on Wednesday the 24th, so look for me then, if not before. Have a good week.
No Charges to Be Filed Against Rabbi Neventzal (Arutz Sheva)
The Greatest Story Ever Retold (Emediawire)

Everything God has told you is a lie...this is the Devil's story. The Devil's Apocrypha, a novel that gives a revisionist twist to the Bible and has spawned many international cults, has been acquired by Brazilian new age publisher Madras Editoria. The book will be translated from English into Portuguese and distributed worldwide.


The Devil's Apocrypha is a retelling of the Bible from Satan's point of view and has gained international attention for its controversial subject matter and revisionist themes. Written in a biblical style, the tale has many people asking whether it is fact...or fiction. Regardless of individual opinions, it has captured the attention of readers across the globe.

�I think The Devil�s Apocrypha has struck a chord because there's never been anything like it,� says author John A. De Vito.


� but let's not get carried away. This gimmick is hardly new. Back in the fourth century C.E. or earlier, the Gnostics made the serpent the hero of the story of Adam and Eve's Fall. See, for example, the Hypostasis of the Archons from the Nag Hammadi Library.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

THE CHRISTIAN ORIGINS BLOG IS BACK, although it hasn't been updated recently.
THE NEW ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF THE SEPTUAGINT series has a website with lots of information on the project. They will be posting prepublication drafts of the volumes as they are completed. Currently you can download the Genesis volume by Robert J. V. Hiebert as a PDF file. A commentary series on the Septuagint is in the works too, as is a new edition of the Hexapla. All these projects are sponsored by the IOSCS.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL EXCAVATIONS IN ISRAEL 2005: The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a list that will be added to as new information comes in.

Monday, November 15, 2004

MORE ON THE UPCOMING NOVA PROGRAM ON THE CAVE OF THE LETTERS in "Wartburg profs' work featured on NOVA" (Waterloo Ceadar-Falls Courier). The two professors in question were involved in the 2000-2001 excavation of the cave. The title of the program, incidentally, is "Ancient Refuge in the Holy Land." I hope it gets shown in Britain some day. I could almost catch it in the USA, but my flight home on the 23rd leaves too early.

UPDATE: Reader Allen Black points me to the PBS web page for the Nova program. Looks like there will be a transcript of it posted in due course. In the meantime the page has lots of interesting ancillary material.
Compare these words of Reggae singer Max Romeo:

"Take back Maccabee Version that God gave the black man
Give back King James Version, it belongs to white man"

from "Maccabee Version", his statement of rasta theology vis a vis the Biblical text. Note that "version" here probably plays on another meaning of "version" within dub reggae, where songs are produced in multiple editorial "versions," with different elements stripped out, altered or added in. Interesting that this religious self-consciousness about textual versions occurs in a lyrical genre that is extremely self-conscious about musical versions!

For the political and religious significance of this, see Barry Chevannes, Rastafari: Roots and Ideology (Syracuse, 1994).

For the song, see Max Romeo's "Holy Zion".
INTERESTING ARTICLE in the Jerusalem Post on "Priestly Paternity Tests," which reviews a book on DNA testing to establish priestly descent and a Jewish DNA profile in general. I don't know anything about the technicalities of DNA testing and I have no idea how well founded the studies are. The claim is:
Dr. Harry Ostrer, chairman of the Human Genetics Program at New York University, sums it up: "Recent work from genetics labs has validated the biblical record of a Semitic people who chose a Jewish way of life several thousand years ago. These observations are the biological equivalent to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls."

Sunday, November 14, 2004

JOSEPHUS SEMINAR: Steve Mason has kindly sent the Ioudaios-L list a brief profile of the Josephus Seminar, coming up at the annual Society of Biblical Literature conference in San Antonio. The conference starts officially on Saturday, although there are related meetings before that. More from me on the SBL meetings presently.
THE "DEAD SEA SCROLLS OF BUDDHISM" have been in the news a fair bit lately. Here's an article on them:
Wanted: Dead Sea Scrolls Of Buddhism
(Independent Online, South Africa)

November 13 2004 at 03:29PM

The Afghan government is to request the return of the Dead Sea Scrolls Of Buddhism from the British Library, amid concerns the priceless manuscripts were looted during civil war in the early 1990s.

Afghanistan's Minister of Culture will formally ask for the 2 000-year-old scrolls to be sent from London to the newly restored Kabul Museum in the next few weeks as part of a campaign to bring home stolen treasures from foreign collections.

The British Library, whose conservation experts saved the scrolls from crumbling, has admitted it has no idea how they came to London from one of Afghanistan's most famous historical sites at Hadda near the Khyber Pass.

The British Library said it had bought the scrolls in 1994 from a British dealer out of concern that they were deteriorating rapidly and needed emergency restoration work to ensure that they were not lost.

THERE'S CONFLICT AT YALE UNIVERSITY over modernizing the offerings in its wonderful (for the study of antiquity and the Middle Ages) Department of Near Eastern Languages. The Yale Herald reports:
Issues of funding and interdepartmental cooperation have long been sticking points for the NELC department. "Our requests for expansion in the area of modern Near East were systematically and routinely turned down," [Professor Benjamin] Foster said, referring to the department's expansionary efforts during the '70s. According to him, "Requests from other departments to expand in the modern Near East were honored," allowing the history and religious studies departments to add full professorships. "It was cool to do modern Middle East studies, but the only place you couldn't do it was in the Near East department," he said.

Yet departments like history and religious studies, given their broad scope, have limited openings for fully-tenured faculty who specialize in a particular region or area, meaning that most of the professors at Yale who focus on Middle East topics are employed as adjunct or visiting professors. The transient nature of these positions has inevitably hindered the creation of a coherent program at Yale. Furthermore, it can be difficult for NELC majors to get into popular courses outside of the NELC department. David Nitkin, ES '06, said that it is "nearly impossible" to get into popular history seminars as a NELC major, even if the seminar is directly related to NELC studies. NELC majors have also had trouble finding senior essay advisors.

Foster thinks the problem is ultimately tied to funding, the lack of which plagues the deparment, despite growing popularity among undergraduates. "In the struggle for resources, we are still considered a small department with small enrollments," he said. "If you want to know where all the money is being spent, take a walk up Science Hill." Given that recent expansions in the NELC department have focused on the language program, which is what the YCIAS grant specifies, it seems any changes in the department are directly tied to financial constraints. "I see less likelihood in our expanding in history and civilization than expanding in languages and literatures, which is really what we do," Foster said.

They have the difficult job of trying to be relevant to a broad range of students, especially given renewed interest in current events in the Middle East, without succumbing to trendiness and without compromising the integrity of their excellent offerings for the earlier period. I wish them well.
SPEAKING OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT, here's a review of two new books about him, a novel and a history:
Authors offer new look at Alexander the Great

By David Walton
Sunday, November 14, 2004

"The Virtues of War: A Novel of Alexander the Great," by Steven Pressfield; Doubleday, $24.95, 301 pages, and "Alexander the Great: A New Life," by Paul Cartledge; Overlook Press, $28.95, 347 pages.

Novelist Steven Pressfield says he "looted shamelessly" writers ancient and recent for "The Virtues of War," his fictional re-creation of the military career of Alexander the Great.

Surprisingly, new information continues to turn up about Alexander, who fought and died three centuries before the birth of Christ, Caesar and the Roman Empire. Satellite photography and computer technology have made possible detailed reconstructions of battlefields, weaponry and battle tactics, confirming and correcting ancient legend and historiography. These past 20 years have been an exciting time for classical archaeology -- a subject almost nobody is interested in anymore.

Pressfield's device is to let Alexander tell his own story. "I have always been a soldier," he begins . . .

In the string of excellent new histories over the last decade, the most readable and engrossing is Paul Cartledge's "Alexander the Great: A New Life," just published. Cartledge, the world's leading historian on Sparta and ancient Greece, adapted his book from his Cambridge University lectures over the past 20 years. His approach is immediate, discursive, insightful, and highly engaging, aimed at the audience for the BBC-PBS series on the Spartans and Greek civilization that Cartledge has written and advised.

Cartledge looks at Alexander's "extraordinary achievement" not only for what he accomplished in his own time, but for its "subsequent impact" -- which continues to this day, when Alexander is still prayed in aid by fishermen in Greece, cursed as a thief in Iran, and worshipped as a saint in the Coptic Church of Egypt.

MORE ON DHUL QARNAYN (and Moses' horns make a cameo appearance):
WORD FOR WORD: Zulqarnain � Alexander or Cyrus? �Khaled Ahmed (Pakistan Daily Times)

Alexander is a curious word. The �ander� part in it means �man� and comes from �aner� through a grammatical change. We know that �nar� in Persian and Sanskrit means �man�. Name Andrew means �manly�. Alexander means �he who saves men�. Alex is a negative of �leg� meaning �to join�. Root �lg� appears in �lex� (law) and �religion�

We all believe that there was once a good king called Zulqarnain whom Allah made powerful on earth. The Quran says (18:83-94) he travelled to where he sun set in a muddy well, after which he went east where the sun rises. He then went north where he built a wall to protect the world against Yajuj-Majuj or Gog and Magog.

Zulqarnian is another transliteration of Arabic dhul qarnayn. They are the same phrase, which means "one (masc. sing.) who possesses two horns".

Zulqarnain means man with two horns. Although old tradition says Moses had two horns, Muslims have largely identified him with Alexander the Great. In Rome, the statue of Moses has two horns.


Archaeological discovery showed that Cyrus was the great king who rescued the Jews from their exile in Babylon. The king with two horns is mentioned by prophet Daniel. He wore the two horns to indicate his control of two countries: Pars and Medea.

But Alexander was the "he-goat from the west" in this vision. I take it that Khaled Ahmed is proposing that the Qur'an means Cyrus here, which I suppose is possible. I don't know whether there is any precedent for this idea in the early Muslim commentators. The "ram with two horns" is interpreted in Daniel 8:20 as follows: "As for the ram which you saw with the two horns, these are the kings of Media and Persia," so the original meaning is clearly the Persian Empire rather than a specific king.

A bit later we read:
The �qrn� root is curious. It appears in Greek as �kr� and in Latin as �krn�, which makes me think that it is one and the same thing. The origin of the word must be Syriac from where many words have radiated to the Semitic and Indo-European group of languages.

Greek �kr� became �sr� since Latin had no �k� sound. So we have rhinoceros meaning horn on the nose. The mythical horse unicorn has one horn because corn here means horn. (Note the transformation of Latin corn into horn in English.)

This is a little confused. The Greek word for horn is keras and rhinoceros is a Greek derivative meaning "horned-nose." What Ahmed means to say, I think, is that the Greek word was adopted into Latin (whose "c" was pronounced as "k" in antiquity), but the Latin "c" is generally pronounces as "s" in English. Hence the pronunciation "rhinoseros" rather than "rhinokeros." [Note: I have corrected the Greek word for "horn," for which I gave the wrong form originally.]