Saturday, April 16, 2005

PALEOJUDAICA is ranked #4 by Blogshares in the Ancient History Industry and its shares are currently worth $1,992.96. If only it were real money.

David Meadows's Rogue Classicism is #1, which is fair, but how authoritative can such a ranking be when it doesn't include Mark Goodacre's New Testament Gateway blog?

UPDATE: It seems Mark's blog is listed under "Bible Study," far too low in the ranking. Mark and Jim West comment further. Mark also notes that none of us make it into "Blog Heaven." Well, fie on Beliefnet. But as I've said before, if I can just make it into Limbo, I'll consider myself fortunate.
"THE PASSION OF ARAMAIC." Well, yeah. The Jerusalem Post has a long, interesting article on the Aramaic language. It opens:
Trying to unravel the mysteries of Aramaic is like embarking on an odyssey across the deserts, mountains and valleys of the Middle East and onwards to Europe and North America.

It is an intellectual adventure that leads to an array of secular scholars, devout clergy and laymen - Jewish and Christian - who are experts in the history of these Semitic languages, which in some places still survive.

They tell of Israeli rock groups that sing modern Aramaic songs, of popular radio and TV programs in Aramaic or Syriac broadcast in Canada, the US and Scandinavia and of remote villages in Syria and Iraq, where Aramaic, rather than Arabic, is the local vernacular.

Regular readers of PaleoJudaica are, of course, already well acquainted with most of this, but even they will find some new facts about Aramaic in this article. It tells of Aramaic-speaking Kurds, Christians in Nazareth who use Aramaic, Syrian villages whose traditional language is Aramaic, the origins and history of the language, Aramaic weddings by Jews in the Caucusus, how Aramaic saved a good bit of ancient Western literature for posterity, and Aramaic popular music.

Then there's this:
Outside of prestigious universities like Cambridge and Tel Aviv University, there are few, if any, schools where Aramaic or Syriac is taught as a language to read, write and speak.

All too true. I am happy to say, however, that at least biblical Aramaic is offered at the University of St. Andrews and I am scheduled to teach it here next year. I keep hoping to offer Syriac some day, but it hasn't happened yet.

On a related note, it is now possible to hear football (soccer) commentary in Aramaic. Really.

UPDATE: The following paragraph from the Jerusalem Post article is attributed to "a Christian scholar based in Jerusalem" who wished to remain anonymous:
The pervasiveness of Aramaic was such that it virtually replaced Hebrew as the preferred language of the Holy Land's Jews, a declining number of whom were familiar with the biblical tongue. This was also true of their coreligionists in Babylon and the surrounding regions of Mesopotamia - so much so, this scholar noted, that the Book of Daniel, which emerged from that milieu, "is more than 80 percent Aramaic."

This requires some correction and nuancing. First, most of chapter 2 and all of chapters 3-7 of Daniel are in Aramaic. That leaves chapters 1, a bit of 2, and 8-12 in Hebrew. I haven't done a verse count, but it's more like a 50-50 split. Second, the book of Daniel was written in the second century B.C.E. (granted, likely incorporating some older legends) and shows important Palestinian Jewish concerns (such as a preoccupation with the Maccabean revolt). In other words the indicators are that it's a Palestinian Jewish book, not a Mesopotamian one. As for the decline of Hebrew, certainly the epigraphic evidence (especially the Bar Kokhba correspondence) indicates that Hebrew was still very much in use as a living language into the second century C.E.

You would think that the Jerusalem Post could have found a biblical scholar somewhere in Jerusalem who was willing to be quoted by name with accurate information on the book of Daniel.
PROFESSOR MARVIN MEYER will be speaking next week in Billings, Montana, (which is a happening place for biblical scholarship) on the Coptic Gnostic library from Nag Hammadi.

Friday, April 15, 2005

CODEX SINAITICUS WATCH: The Art Newspaper has a long and detailed article on the current conservation and digitalization project as well as the controversy over ownership:
Sinai monks in historic agreement with British Library
Ownership dispute has been set aside for joint study and digitisation of the world�s oldest bible

One quibble:
The Codex Sinaiticus was one of the original 50 Bibles copied in Greek at the order of Emperor Constantine, or a direct copy of the period. It dates from the mid-fourth century and it is likely to have arrived at St Catherine�s in Sinai when the monastery�s church was erected in the mid-sixth century.

This is correct, strictly speaking, but could be phrased a little more clearly. It is possible that Sinaiticus is one of the Bibles commissioned by Constantine (I don't know exactly what "original" means here"), but that's only an educated guess. We don't know for sure where the manuscript came from and an Egyptian provenance has also been proposed, which apparently is what the first sentence means by "or a direct copy of the period." Again, I don't know what "direct" means here. What would an "indirect" copy be?
TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: The Jerusalem Post has an article on the salvage operation, headed by archaeologist Gabriel Barkay, which is stifting the rubble from the depredations of the WAQF on the Temple Mount.
Temple Mount relics saved from garbage

On the grounds of a Jerusalem national park with a view of the Temple Mount, a small group of Israeli archaeologists and volunteers sifting through piles of rubble discarded by Islamic Wakf officials from the Temple Mount into a city garbage dump have recently uncovered a series of history-rich artifacts dating back to the First and Second Temple periods.

The five-month old privately-funded project underway at the site, which is being directed by Bar Ilan University archeology professor Dr. Gabriel Barkay, is being called virtually unprecedented since archaeological excavation has never been permitted on the Temple Mount itself.

Some important finds from the second temple period and earlier are noted:
The first coin recovered from the rubble was from the period of the First Revolt against the Romans that preceded the destruction of the Second Temple, he added.

The coin bore the phrase "For the Freedom of Zion," and was particularly meaningful as the Temple Mount was one of the epicenters of the fight against the Romans.

Other finds include a spout of a Hasmonean lamp, an assortment of arrowheads, an ivory comb, a ceramic flask, various first temple figurines, and numerous pottery oil lamps.

And this is a matter for concern:
The historical project underway is now in danger of going unfinished due to a lack of financial support, with the project director saying that the project will abruptly end in one week unless organizers receive urgent financial backing needed to complete the work.

If you know any millionaires looking for a tax break, now's the time to speak up.

It is a great pity that this has to be done by volunteers with private funds. The Israeli government needs to start making serious efforts to protect the archaeology of the site and to recover what can be recovered from the rubble of what has already been bulldozed and dumped.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The remarkable thing is not that Tori Amos got Gnostic on the gospels, but that it took until now. The daughter of a Methodist minister father and Eastern Cherokee bibliophile mother, with a dose of Scottish and Southern blood mixed in for good measure, Amos has just released her ninth album The Beekeeper, a cycle of songs framed by a concept constructed from suppressed Magdalene texts applied to the ancient art of shamanic beekeeping. Britney it ain't.

Nag Hammadi makes another inroad into popular culture.
THE BYZANTINE-ERA SYNAGOGUE IN JERICHO has recently been visited by Jews, according to Arutz Sheva:
Jews Return to Ancient Jericho Synagogue
22:28 Apr 13, '05 / 4 Nisan 5765

For the first time in four and a half years, a group of Jews was allowed to visit and pray in the ancient Shalom al Yisrael synagogue in Jericho Tuesday.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

I JUST SENT IN my contract to write some articles for the New Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, including "Enoch, Third Book of" and "Merkavah Mysticism." The field of Hekhalot studies has come a long way since the original (1962) IDB or the (1976) supplementary volume, neither of which included either topic.
A TUG OF WAR seems to be starting over the Codex Sinaiticus.
Britain may have to give up oldest known Bible

By Dalya Alberge, Arts Correspondent (London Times)

THE British Library is facing the possible loss of one of its most important manuscripts, the world�s oldest Bible, to a Middle Eastern monastery.

The fear is raised weeks after the institution was told by a government advisory panel that a 12th-century manuscript in its collection was looted from a cathedral near Naples during the Second World War and must be returned.

The backing last month by the Spoliation Advisory Panel of a 27-year campaign by the city of Benevento to be reunited with a jewel of Italy�s heritage will have given renewed hope to St Catherine�s, a desert monastery on the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, of being reunited with a manuscript that it is believed to have owned from the 6th century, if not earlier.


(Via Michael Pahl and others.)

All I can say is that I hope all parties involved have the welfare of the manuscript foremost on their agendas. It is very fragile and moving it should be done only with the utmost care and only for excellent reasons. It also needs to be kept in a place where it can be conserved properly. It would be a tragedy if political factors led to the neglect of these concerns.
UNICORNS IN THE BIBLE: Charles Hedrick has the story.
The Christians who wrote the New Testament did not use the Hebrew Old Testament, but rather its Greek translation, as sacred Scripture. In the Greek Old Testament eight passages describe an animal having only one horn (monokeros) as a translation for the Hebrew word re'em.

In the late fourth century, the Old Testament was translated into Latin (the Vulgate) using both the Greek and Hebrew. In some of the passages above the Vulgate translates the Hebrew re'em as "rhinoceros" and others as "unicorn." All Christians used the Vulgate until the 16th century, at which time Martin Luther translated the Bible into German � the first time the Bible was ever translated into a modern European language. Luther used only the Hebrew, for the Old Testament. Nevertheless, he still translated re'em as unicorn.

Hmmm ... Unicorns and Hobbits. I wonder if there are Elves too?
JACOB NEUSNER is profiled in the New York Times:
Scholar of Judaism, Professional Provocateur

Published: April 13, 2005

Jacob Neusner, a mild-seeming, grandfatherly man relaxing in his easy chair, might have published more books than anyone alive. "As of this morning, 905," he said recently. It was 4 p.m. The count was still good.

Hold it! Mr. Neusner, 72, a professor of theology at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., has just called to say there are 924. This year alone there have been 22 books, most in his field, ancient Judaism. And no, he doesn't count revisions or translations.

Mr. Neusner studies rabbinical writings of the first 600 years A.D., when rabbinic Judaism evolved. He has translated both the Palestinian Talmud (35 volumes) and the Babylonian, twice (second translation, 46 volumes). In fact, he has translated most of the ancient rabbinic literature. The Chronicle of Higher Education has called him probably the most prolific scholar in the nation.

STILL THERE. According to this Jerusalem Post article, the name "Allah," which was inscribed (or something) on a stone in a wall of the Temple Mount, is still there after two weeks. None of the questions bloggers, including myself, have asked about this are answered in this article (and if Eilat Mazar replied to my e-mail, it never reached me). The piece does add one bit of new, if depressingly true to form, bit of information -- the response of the director of the WAQF to the vandalism:
After the vandalism was uncovered, Wakf director Adnan Husseini said that he saw nothing wrong with the 'Allah inscription' on the Temple Mount wall. "What's the problem with that? It's the name of God," he said.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

CONGRATULATIONS to my former teacher, Professor John Huehnergard, who has been awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship. I am delighted to hear that his long-awaited historical grammar of Hebrew has such support. Well done, John.
MARATHON MAN DELAYED: It developed that one of the seminars had to be canceled, so my five-hour teaching marathon is tentatively rescheduled for next Tuesday. That left the 3:00-4:00 pm hour open today, but instead of blogging (or doing some work), I retired with some of the Dead Sea Scrolls students to the pub across the street to continue the seminar. Sort of. My last lecture of the day is in World Religions in a few minutes.
JEWISH-TEMPLE DENIAL WATCH: Okay, I'm busy, but I can't resist noting this one. CAMERA has pointed out two incidents of pandering to the Jewish-temple deniers in major media outlets in recent days. In both quotes below, I have added the bold emphasis.

Reuters, 7 April, article by Jonathan Saul:

Non-Muslims Banned from Flashpoint Jerusalem Shrine

The ancient mosque compound is Islam's third holiest site. It is Judaism's most sacred site, the place where Jews say a biblical Jewish temple was razed by the Romans in 70 A.D.


The New York Times, 10 April, article by Steven Erlanger:

Israeli Troops Kill 3 Teenagers in Buffer Zone at Gaza Border

In Jerusalem, thousands of police officers fanned out in and around the Old City to prevent the threatened march on Al Aksa mosque. Jews believe that the site, also known as the Temple Mount, housed the second temple, which was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70.


For relevant commentary, see my post some time ago regarding Time Magazine, and this post as well.

Most irritating.
MARATHON MAN: Today I have five hours of teaching: two lectures and three hours of seminars (including the rescheduled Temple Scroll seminar). I believe this is a one-day record for me, one that I hope never to exceed or even equal again. Blogging is likely to be limited. But do keep an eye on Qumranica, where I plan to be posting new material throughout the week.

Monday, April 11, 2005

JAROSLAV PELIKAN is interviewed by NPR about his new book Whose Bible Is It? You can access the audio file here.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

OVERDRIVE: Due to a confluence of team-teaching commitments, combined with (welcome!) unexpectedly high enrollments in two courses, my teaching load for the next several weeks is going to be very high and I expect to be extremely busy. Blogging is refreshing for me, so I hope to be able to keep it up more or less as usual, but it will be a low priority and may slow down. Bear with me.
ASSIMILATED TO THE BLOGOSPHERE: Last week Tyler F. Williams, of Taylor University College in Edmonton, Alberta, e-mailed to alert me to his new blog, Codex. His first entry reads:
Welcome to my blogspot! I hope that my blog will be worthy of your attention. I hope to post my musings on Biblical Studies, Biblical Hebrew, Dead Sea Scrolls, Septuagint, Popular Culture, and pretty much anything else that interests me! I will also let you know about site updates and special academic events in the Edmonton area, among other things.

Welcome to the Blogosphere, Tyler!

The blog is one element of a website that contains lots of resources on biblical studies and related subjects.

UPDATE: Michael Turton notes further assimilation: a new blog called KAIMOI by University of Birmingham doctoral student Ken Olson, who is working on the Testimonium Flavianum (the mention of Jesus by Josephus). If this parody post (I hope it's a parody!) on the Infancy Gospel of Thomas is any indication, we should be seeing some good blogging from him.
ARAMAIC WATCH: Even at the Pope's funeral?
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals led the funeral ceremony with great tenderness and craft. It was conducted mainly in Latin and Italian but also included several passages in languages used throughout the Catholic world such as Spanish, Swahili, Polish, Filipino, French and English. Arguably, the most spellbinding part was the prayer sung in Greek and, I think, Aramaic by members of the Eastern Churches in an emotional swirl of bejewelled robes, incense and eastern mystery.

It probably was Aramaic, most likely Syriac.

Also, David Nishimura's comments over at Cronaca on the coverage of the funeral by the New York Times are worth reading.

UPDATE: The Syriac Orthodox Church and the Assyrian Church were represented at the funeral, as was the Iraqi Syriac Catholic Church.
TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: The planned Revava protest seems to have fizzled:
Low Turnout at Right-Wing Jewish March
Sun Apr 10, 2005 02:16 AM ET

By Corinne Heller

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Palestinian militants threatened to abandon a de facto cease-fire with Israel if right-wing Jews went ahead with a planned march to a flashpoint holy site in Jerusalem on Sunday.

"If the Zionists defile al-Aqsa mosque, they will be planting the seeds of the third uprising," said Nizar Rayyan of the Islamic militant group Hamas.

But with Israeli police out in force at the site revered by Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) and by Jews as the Temple Mount, only a handful of would-be marchers turned up for the 7:30 a.m. (0430 GMT) rendezvous.

Three of them were arrested, Army Radio said.


UPDATE: The BBC has posted a brief guide to Jerusalem's Holy Sites.

UPDATE: David Ha'ivri and others have been arrested. And anti-disengagement protesters disrupted a Tel Aviv freeway this morning.

UPDATE (9:40 pm GMT): Yep, it fizzled. I have to say I'm relieved.
Small Turnout for Extremist Jewish Rally at Holy Site (the Scotsman)

A rally by Gaza withdrawal opponents at a contested Jerusalem holy site today ended in a fizzle, with only a few dozen protesters showing up, but it mobilised thousands of police in full riot gear.

Police arrested 31 extremist Jews who planned to demonstrate in the Old City of Jerusalem, along with a West Bank Hamas leader who spoke at the holy site, but the mass demonstration of 10,000 pledged by organisers did not materialise.