Saturday, June 18, 2005

STEVEN FINE'S NEW BOOK, Art and Judaism in the Greco-Roman World, is noted by Rebecca Lesses over at Mystical Politics. She also tells us a little about her current research on the Aramaic incantation bowls.
ALEXANDER THE GREAT AND THE CANAANITES: In Rogue Classicism, David Meadows notes an Arutz Sheva article about this story in the Babylonian Talmud.
GIANTS, ALIENS, AND JOSEPHUS: A press release announces a new novel about the Nephilim and UFOs, published by Zondervan.
Zondervan Releases �The Revealing,� the Final Book in the �Nephilim Trilogy� by Christian UFO Cult Expert Dr. L.A. Marzulli

Zondervan has released �The Revealing,� the stirring conclusion to the science fiction series of books entitled �Nephilim Trilogy� by Dr. L.A. Marzulli, a Christian UFO cult expert. Although the books are fiction, they include history, biblical prophecy, and the author�s own shocking research on Nephilim, giant biblical creatures that are the offspring of fallen angels and human women. Dr. Marzulli�s personal theory is at the trilogy�s core�that fallen angels are reemerging on the world scene disguised as aliens, are abducting human women for a sinister breeding program, and initiating a great demonic deception that will culminate with the Antichrist and the Apocalypse.

Here's the Josephus part:
Opening with the chilling discovery of a giant skeleton under the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Marzulli�s trilogy is based on the premise that ancient giant beings called �Nephilim,� who are the unholy offspring sired by fallen angels and born of abducted human women, are reemerging to unleash terror into the modern world scene. The historic origins of this giant hybrid race of Nephilim can be traced to Chapter 6 in Genesis in the Bible before the Flood, and to the �Book of Enoch,� a book discovered with the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Jewish historian Josephus confirms the existence of the creatures, and that the bones of a Nephilim were on display in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus.

The Nephilim (plural; the singular, if it were attested, would be something like "Naphal"), which the Greek Septuagint takes to be "giants," are found in Genesis 6:1-4. The story is told at much greater length (probably, in my opinion, telling a version of the full story that Genesis grudgingly summarizes) in 1 Enoch, particularly the Book of the Watchers. There was also a Book of Giants in antiquity which is partially preserved in Aramaic at Qumran and in later Manichean versions.

As for Josephus, here's what he says about the giants in Antiquities 5.125 (5.2.3)
For which reason they removed their camp to Hebron; and when they had taken it, they slew all the inhabitants. There were till then left the race of giants, who had bodies so large, and countenances so entirely different from other men, that they were surprising to the sight, and terrible to the hearing. The bones of these men are still shown to this very day, unlike to any credible relations of other men.

I can't find any mention of the bones being on "display in Jerusalem." And let's face it, Josephus' comment doesn't prove very much. Maybe people just pointed out big funny rocks or dinosaur fossils or some such in his time and said they were giants' bones.

But the premise of the story doesn't sound too bad. I love ancient legends, I'm a voracious reader of science fiction, and I like some epic fantasy. I can handle Nephilim and UFOs in a novel, if the concept is done well. (Whether it's done well here is a very open question, but I haven't read it.)

But this is another matter:
Marzulli is an evangelical Christian who has done in-depth research on UFO cults and the giant Nephilim. In writing the Nephilim Trilogy, he drew heavily on his own research as well as his past personal involvement in the occult and New Age. Although the trilogy is a work of fiction, Marzulli�s research has convinced him that his books� basic premise about the identity of aliens and their purpose on earth is true.

�I believe serious spiritual deception is going on,� says Marzulli. �I wrote the Nephilim Trilogy to help people understand the spiritual dimensions of the whole alien and UFO phenomenon, which I believe are part of the prophesies about the end of the world in the Book of Daniel, the Book of Revelation, and elsewhere in the Bible.

He is mixing giants mythology with alien abductions and trying to tell us that it's all real. (His website has more silliness along these lines.) Here we enter into Dan Brown territory and indeed, go well beyond it into Erich von Daniken territory and maybe even beyond that. Why is it that otherwise competent fiction writers do a little "research" on the Bible and then conclude that all of us who spend our lives working on such things got it all wrong and, luckily, they have found the truth and are now putting it their novel? But give Brown credit; at least he doesn't drag in UFOs. And even von Daniken doesn't drag in the "spiritual dimensions" on top of the UFOs.


Friday, June 17, 2005

Jewellery find puzzles Russians (BBC)

Archaeologists in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad have uncovered 16th century jewellery which they say is unlike any found in the area before.

They were found in a 10cm round box during an excavation at the site of a medieval castle in the city.

It contained 11 items made of gold, silver, tin and hematite, covered with hieroglyphs and inscriptions in Hebrew, ancient Greek and Latin.


Archaeologists think the rings and amulets might have belonged to a counsellor of Albrecht, Duke of Prussia, who had an interest both in astrology and black magic.


I know the artifacts aren't ancient, but they were excavated and are inscribed with Hebrew, ancient Greek, and Latin esoterica; so, close enough. The article has a picture of one of the rings, but the face is angled away from the camera so that any inscription on it is unreadable.

UPDATE: Wieland Willker e-mails a link to an article in Spiegel which has photos of two of the artifacts. They can be enlarged by clicking on them. The second has the Latin word Deus and the angelic name "Rabiel" on it, along with other words in Roman letters and a lot of alchemical-looking symbols that I can't identify.

UPDATE: Joe Cathey e-mails:
While reading this post I couldn�t but help notice that the rings might be possibly left over from the Third Age. It could be a vicious trick by none other then Melkor himself to trick us into falling for his trap. We are not told actually how the nine ringwraiths fell from their perches of power. As you can tell I just again finished �Fellowship of the Ring + Hobbit + Similarion.�

Hmmm ... better not try any of those rings on.
The Passion, to a Latin beat
Friday, June 17, 2005
DAVID STABLER (The Oregonian)

"Revolutionary." "A breakthrough work." "A work of genius."

When "La Pasion Segun San Marcos" ("The Passion According to St. Mark") exploded onto the stage five years ago with its exuberant mix of tango, drumming, dance, orchestral and choral music in Latin, Spanish and Aramaic, audiences and critics raved.


Thursday, June 16, 2005

LET ME ADD MY CONGRATULATIONS to Catherine Smith, Mark Goodacre's doctoral student, who has just passed her viva.

So Catherine, what's happening with the Open Text Project? The link is dead.

UPDATE (17 June): Catherine Smith e-mails: is alive and doing really well.The site is back up now - it had experienced a bit of a server problem before. Work has been progressing really well. The basic clause level annotation was recently completed for the whole of the New Testament. There are some examples up on the site and we are currently working on getting all of the texts available for viewing and basic searches which will hopefully be available very soon.

Good news. Thanks Cat.
ALAN SEGAL'S BOOK, Life After Death : A History of the Afterlife in Western Religion is reviewed by Scot McKnight in Christianity Today.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

THE ROMAN SIEGE OF JERUSALEM during the first Jewish revolt against Rome (66-70 CE) is the subject of an article by J.E. Lendon reprinted on the HistoryNet website:
Roman Siege of Jerusalem
The prosecution of one of the greatest sieges in ancient history offers a chance to assess the nature of Rome's military discipline and its importance to the success of the imperial army.

I don't have time to read it all, but it looks interesting. Here's more on the piece and the author:
This article was written by J.E. Lendon and originally published in the Summer 2005 edition of MHQ [i.e., MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History -- JRD]. J.E. Lendon is an associate professor of history at the University of Virginia. This article is excerpted from his book Soldiers and Ghosts: A History of Battle in Classical Antiquity, to be published in May 2005 by Yale University Press. Copyright �2005 by Yale University. Reprinted by permission.

(Via Bible and Interpretation.)
THE JOURNAL OF NORTHWEST SEMITIC LANGUAGES has published tables of contents for two volumes since I last checked. Here are the articles listed therein:

Issue 29.1 (2003)
John van Seters, The Redactor in Biblical Studies: a Nineteenth Century Anachronism

Jim Pohlig, Cognition and Biblical Documents: Towards Overcoming Theoretical and Methodological Obstacles to Recovering Cultural Worldviews

Francisco Javier del Barco del Barco, Syntactic Structures of Parallelism: a Case Study in Biblical Prophecy

Michal Ephratt, Hebrew Morphology by Itself 55-65

Hans Rechenmacher, al and /ya in Nominal Clauses 67-85

Reinoud Oosting, Appearing in Zion: the Role of Zion in Psalm 84: From a Linguistic Point of View

Jan H Kroeze, The Semantic Functions of Embedded Constructions in Biblical Hebrew

Vincent DeCaen, Moveable Nun and Intrusive Nun: The Nature and Distribution of Verbal Nunation in Joel and Job

Issue 29.2 (2003)
Claudia V Camp, Over Her Dead Body: The Estranged Woman and the Price of the Promised Land

Jacobus A Naud�, The Consonantal Root in Semitic Languages

Dominic Rudman, A Note on Zechariah 1:5 33-39

Yehoshua Gitay, Rhetoric and Its Limitiations: Job the Dissident X

Nachman Levine, Vertical Poetics: Interlinear Phonological Parallelism in Psalms

Steve A Wiggins, Pidray, Tallay and Arsay in the Baal Cycle 83-101

Hermann-Josef Stipp, Bemerkungen zum griechischen Michabuch aus Anlass des deutschen LXX�bersetzungsprojekts

Paul A Kruger, Ahab�s �Slowly� Walking About: Another Look at 1 Kings 21:27Bb

Issue 30.1 (2004)
Homage to Siegfried Mittmann i

Selected Academic Publications of Siegfried Mittmann iii

Johann Cook, Exegesis in the Septuagint 1-19

Sakkie Cornelius, A Preliminary Typology for the Female Plaque Figurines and Their Value for the Religion of Ancient Palestine and Jordan

Dirk J Human, Yahweh, the Israelite High God, Bends Down to Uplift the Downtrodden: Perspectives on the Incomparability of Yahweh in Psalm 113

Louis C Jonker, Another Look at the Psalm Headings: Observations on the Musical Terminology

Jacobus A Naud�, A Perspective on the Chronological Framework of Biblical Hebrew

Philip J Nel, Psalm 19: the Unbearable Lightness of Perfection

Christo H J van der Merwe, Towards a Principled Working Model for Biblical Hebrew Lexicology

Harry F van Rooy, A New Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible

Daan N Pienaar, Some Observations on Conquest Reports in the Book of Joshua
Issue 30.2 (2004)
John van Seters, The Formula leshakken shemo sham and the Centralisation of Worship in Deuteronomy and DH

Florentino Garc�a Mart�nez, Sammael in Pseudo-Jonathan and the Origin of Evil

Hans Rechenmacher, Kognitive Linguistik und althebr�ische Lexikographie

Jessie Rogers, Wisdom in Sirach 61-79

L�nart J de Regt, Signs of Redactional Development in Some Old Testament Texts and the Translator

Jan H Kroeze, Towards a Multidimensional Linguistic Database of Biblical Hebrew
JEWISH-TEMPLE DENIAL appears to be featured in a new association of Jordanian Islamic scholars. Monsters and Critics reports the following (my emphasis):
At the conclusion of the symposium on championing the Holy Koran and defending Al-Aqsa, Dr Ibrahim Zayd al-Kilani announced the formation of an association for Muslim scholars in Jordan. The establishment of this association came in response to the demands by numerous religious scholars. They proposed the establishment of such an association to unite religious scholars in Jordan, to confront the Western onslaught targeting the morals and values of the Jordanian people, and to raise the awareness of the Jordanian people and safeguard their religious values.

The symposium championing the Holy Koran and defending Al-Aqsa was held last Saturday at the headquarters of the Islamic Action Front [IAF] party in Tila al-Ali. It was attended by a large number of religious scholars and lasted for about five hours during which the participants debated two working papers. The first working paper was on championing the Holy Koran and the second was entitled "The Falsehood of the Temple [Mount], one of the most serious perils threatening Al-Aqsa".

Clearly "scholar" here means "cleric" rather than "historian."

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

BOOK NOTE: I recently read Richard A. Freund, Secrets of the Cave of Letters: Rediscovering a Dead Sea Mystery (Amherst, N.Y.: Humanity Books, 2004). This is an exciting book that describes the recent re-excavation of the so-called Cave of the Letters in the Nahal Hever. Freund's archaeological team used some new technologies to locate and get at material that was unreachable when Aharoni and Yadin excavated the cave in the 1950s and 1960s, respectively. Some of the newly located artifacts remain inaccessible until still-better technologies allow us to recover them. The book also makes the case that the cave was used not just by refugees during the Bar Kokhba Revolt in the early 130s CE, but also by others after the first Jewish Revolt in 66-70 CE. Most controversial of all, Freund argues that the Cave of the Letters is mentioned in treasure #25 of the Copper Scroll, that that treasure was unknowingly excavated by Yadin, and that it included implements that came from the Jerusalem Temple.

The main weakness of the book is its very popular style, which does not allow it to make a detailed case for any of the above which would be satisfying to an archaeologist or textual scholar. For that we must wait for forthcoming scholarly volumes. On the basis of the Nova program last year, Ed Cook raised some doubts about the proposed identification of the Cave of the Letters with the Cave of the Column in Copper Scroll treasure #25. One of his objections, that the weight of the Copper Scroll treasure is too great, is debatable. The scroll refers to 42 kk (??). This has widely been taken as an abbreviation for kkr (???), "talent" (about 75 pounds) which would indeed be far too much. But if Judah K. Lefkovits is right in taking kk as standing for keseph karsh/karshin (??? ???/?????), "silver karsh" (a Persian measurement equaling 10 shekels or about 71 grams), the amount listed is at least within the same order of magnitude as the weight of the bronze implements in the Cave of the Letters. (See Lefkovits, The Copper Scroll: 3Q15: A Reevaluation [STDJ 25 Leiden: Brill, 2000], 481-82 and Freund, 175-77.) I don't know whether this new interpretation of ?? will stand up, but it certainly makes the hitherto implausibly enormous amounts of precious metal in the Copper Scroll sound more believable.

Ed's second objection was to the identifying of the small limestone vessel found in the Cave of the Letters with the qalal(???)-vessel mentioned in the Copper Scroll. In the book Freund states confidently that this vessel "is usually a ritual limestone vessel well known in Jerusalem during the time of the Temple, but apparently in use by pious Jews elsewhere as well" (p. 171). I can find no evidence for it ever being a limestone vessel. I've checked most of his rabbinic references and this is not stated in any of the ones I checked. Rashi, who is very late, says there was such a copper vessel (see Lefkovits, p. 207), but I wonder if this isn't just a guess based on its graphic similarity to the Hebrew word that means "burnished" (also ???). Otherwise, there is no indication that we are dealing with anything but a ceramic vessel. Indeed, the Mishnah, our earliest evidence apart from the Copper Scroll, makes it clear that it was not a stone vessel. Ed mentions Parah 3.3, but Parah 10.3-4 and Eduyyot 7.5, the only other Mishnaic passages that mention the vessel, are quite important as well. These passages discuss the circumstances under which a qalal-vessel can become ritually impure. Stone vessels are not susceptible to ritual impurity, so the qalal-vessels of the Mishnah must have been ceramic. True, the word could have referred to a limestone vessel in the first century -- we just don't know -- but I can't find any positive evidence for such a meaning ever at any period, and if it's there, it should be front and center in Freund's presentation, popular though it may be.

In short, as I said, the book is exciting. But where I can test its claims, they are overstated. I remain to be convinced and will be watching with interest for publication of the scholarly defenses of Freund's theories.

UPDATE: Obviously, I still don't get this Unicode font thing. Sorry for all the question marks above. The Hebrew worked fine when I was typing up the post, but it's been lost in the posting for reasons unknown to me.

UPDATE (15 June): Ed Cook e-mails to ask if karsh is attested after the Persian period. The answer is possibly, but possibly not. It's used in the fifth-century BCE Aramaic Elephantine papyri. A Phoenician inscription from Lapethos, Cyprus uses the abbreviation kr for a measure of weight. This may well be for karsh. And Murabba'at document 9:3 (early second century CE?) uses the abbreviation k, which could be for keseph ("silver") or karsh. (Lefkovits, pp. 479-80.)

UPDATE (4 July): Hebrew fonts fixed.

Monday, June 13, 2005

"THEN, GO AND UNCOVER HIS FEET AND LIE DOWN" (Ruth 3:4). If you've ever wondered what that was all about, then read this. (Hint: "feet" is a euphemism.)
UPCOMING DEAD SEA SCROLLS EXHIBITS in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Lexington, Kentucky, are noted, respectively, in the Charlotte Observer and the Lexington Herald-Leader.
THE GERMINATING-DATE-FROM-MASADA STORY has been picked up by the Associated Press and other news sources. My favorite headline is from a Sydney Morning Herald reprint of the New York Time story: "Nurturing a date with destiny."

Sunday, June 12, 2005

THE FESTIVAL OF SHAVUOT begins tonight at sundown. (Best wishes to all those celebrating.) But if the Sadducees had had their way, it would have started last night. (Apparently this is in the Talmud, but as usual no reference is given.)

UPDATE: Manuscript Boy e-mails the following:
Menahot 65a, which is a quote from the scholion of Meggilat Ta'anit. See Vered Noam's new edition of the Megillah, p. 59 (Nissan 8 until the end of the Moed).

Carla Sulzbach sends the same reference. That's the Babylonian Talmud.
THE COPTIC GOSPEL OF JUDAS is the subject of a press release by the Coptic Museum in Cairo. It includes an update on the manuscript's whereabouts, current study of it, and plans for its publication in 2006. There's also a tiny photograph of the codex and several pages of the transcribed Coptic with Charles Hedrick's translation.

UPDATE: Stephen Goranson comments on the press release on the Textual Criticism list. He is unsure whether the codex photo is of the Gospel of Judas. Anybody know?

UPDATE (20 June): Goranson emails to confirm that the book is not the Gospel of Judas. It is "The Book of the Four Gospels. It contains a golden portrait of John the Evangelist. It is taken from Abu Sefeen Church (623 H/ 1220 AD)" and is pictured here.
AN ANCIENT DATE SEED FROM MASADA has been coaxed into growing:
After a 2,000-Year Rest, a Seed Sprouts in Jerusalem

Published: June 12, 2005

JERUSALEM, June 11 - Israeli doctors and scientists have succeeded in germinating a date seed nearly 2,000 years old.


The plant is now 11.8 inches tall and has produced seven leaves, one of which was removed for DNA testing. Radiocarbon dating in Switzerland on a snip of the seed showed it to be 1,990 years old, plus or minus 50 years. So the date seed dates from 35 B.C. to A.D. 65, just before the famed Roman siege.

Three date seeds were taken from Level 34 of the Masada dig. They were found in a storeroom, and are presumably from dates eaten by the defenders, Dr. [Sarah] Sallon says.