Saturday, August 20, 2005

A TRIP TO THE LIBRARY OF ALEXANDRIA -- the ancient one, that is. Scot McKnight takes us there. Part II is here, part III here, part IV here, and the conclusion here. I do kind of wish that he hadn't gotten so bogged down with the canonical gospels and he had taken some time to look up some biblical apocrypha and pseudepigrapha. But that's just me.

(Via Torrey Seland.)
A NEW COMMENTARY SERIES ON THE LXX: Torrey Seland has details. This is a very exciting project and another sign that the Septuagint is now being taken seriously as an important ancient document in its own right.

Friday, August 19, 2005

THE JOURNAL OF GRECO-ROMAN CHRISTIANITY AND JUDAISM has a new volume (volume 2) out at long last. Mark Goodacre has details. And, as an aside, I'm delighted to hear that Mark will be able to join us in Liverpool in a couple of weeks for the British New Testament Conference. Mark, you must get Duke to send you back every year; it would not do to let those important British academic connections wither away!
IRAQI JEWISH ARCHIVE UPDATE: A few days ago I noted this article in the Jerusalem Post on the Museum of Babylonian Jewry, but I missed this paragraph:
A new wing of the museum is nearing completion, which will expand the educational and archival space. In the new library, a display panel explains how US troops discovered a treasure trove of Jewish artifacts when they overran Saddam Hussein's intelligence headquarters in Baghdad in 2003. Much of the material was damaged by fire and water during the battle for the Mukhbarat building, but the Americans salvaged what they could, dried it onsite, and sent everything to Washington, DC, for professional restoration. The museum would like to house and display the recovered books and community records, but so far American authorities have given no indication of their intentions regarding the legacy of the last Jews of Iraq.

Chuck Jones pointed it out on the IraqCrisis list. I agree with Lamia Al Gailani Werr, whom he quotes, that the texts need to be returned to Iraq after conservation. In any case, that seems to have been the agreement when they were taken out.
THE TIBERIAS EXCAVATIONS also get a brief article in Israel Today.
THE BAR KOKHBA-ERA WEIGHT that was narrowly saved from being smuggled out of Israel some time ago is the subject of a brief article in Israel Today. There's a photo, but the inscription is illegible.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

A SECOND BIBLICAL STUDIES CARNIVAL is to be hosted by Peter Kirby at the Christian Origins blog.
LEE BIONDI e-mailed a couple of weeks ago to ask me to link to his defense on the Biblioblog Blog against allegations in a Dutch article about his involvement with the new Dead Sea Scrolls fragments. I been preoccupied with other things and haven't been following this, and I take no position on it, but I recall that Ed Cook wasn't happy with the article either. I link, you decide.
CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS: The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition at the Gulf Coast Exploreum brought in more than 205,000 visitors -- 45,000 more than its target -- and $13.5 million to the local economy. Well done!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

THE MASADA DATE SPROUT is now a 14-inch tall sapling. It's grown more than two inches since the last report.
VIGILIAE CHRISTIANAE has a new issue out (59.3, 2005) with some interesting articles:
Ophite Gnosticism, Sethianism and the Nag Hammadi Library
pp. 235-263(29)
Author: Rasimus, Tuomas

Hilary of Poitiers, Judeo-christianity, and the Origins of the LXX: A Translation of Tractatus Super Psalmos 2.2-3 with Introduction and Commentary
pp. 264-285(22)
Author: Kamesar, Adam

Anonyma Testimonia Adversus Iudaeos Critical Edition of an Antijudaic Treatise
pp. 315-336(22)
Author: de Groote, Marc

Again, requires a paid personal or institutional subscription to access the articles.
THE JOURNAL FOR THE STUDY OF THE PSEUDEPIGRAPHA has a new issue out (15.1, September 2005). Here's the table of contents:
James R. Davila
(How) Can We Tell if a Greek Apocryphon or Pseudepigraphon has been Translated from Hebrew or Aramaic?
Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 2005 15: 3-61.

Daniel C. Olson
Historical Chronology after the Exile according to 1 Enoch 89-90
Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 2005 15: 63-74.

Howard Jacobson
Eusebius, Polyhistor and Ezekiel
Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 2005 15: 75-77.

You can access the abstracts for free, but you need a paid personal or institutional subscription to download the articles as PDF files.

UPDATE (18 August): But you can sign up for free access until 15 September here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

THE HAFTARAH TRADITION, and how it has been negatively influenced by Christianity (but is nonetheless illuminated by the New Testament), is the subject of an article in Ha'aretz. It seems to be based on research presented in the 14th World Congress of Jewish Studies last week.
What happened to Jesus' haftarah?

The earliest source we have on that custom is the New Testament. According to the narrative in Luke (4:16-21), Jesus returns to his hometown, Nazareth and, on the Sabbath, he goes to the synagogue where he reads from the Torah. He is then given the Book of Isaiah. Jesus opens the book and reads the passage that begins "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me" (Isaiah 61:1). Following the haftarah, he delivers a sermon in which he argues that in that reading, the verse was fulfilled in the ears of the congregants in other words, the prophet's words about a mortal anointed by God are realized in the person of Jesus.

It is unclear from this Christian source why the book is opened at this particular passage: Does Jesus open it at that specific point or does the hazan (cantor), who was in charge at the synagogue, deliberately open it at this chapter? Devout Christians are of course free to interpret this incident as a miracle whereas scholars interested in the Jewish tradition of haftarot will conclude that the reading of a passage from the Prophets after the Torah portion on the Sabbath was an accepted custom in Nazareth several decades before the destruction of the Second Temple, and that it's thus possible that the custom also existed elsewhere. Similar evidence can be found in Acts (13:15) where the narrative refers to a Jewish community in Asia Minor (in the vicinity of Antalya in Turkey).

The evidence in Luke is interesting, but we should be cautious about drawing very many conclusions based on a text written between forty and eighty years after the event by a gentile with his own agenda. The passage doesn't appear in any of the other gospels and we have no idea what its historical basis was, if any, or whether Luke got the praxis right.

The article has lots of other interesting material and is worth a read.
Ancient riddle eludes archeologists

University of Haifa archeologists digging in the ancient city of Hippos-Sussita have uncovered more than what they expected this season. One of their surprises was the discovery of a lintel from a structure built during the Byzantine era with Jewish symbols, which was originally thought to be a synagogue, but now believed to be a church.


The ruins of ancient buildings can sometimes be very difficult to make sense of. The article also describes a cool amulet.
THE MUSEUM OF BABYLONIAN JEWRY, near Tel Aviv, is reviewed in the Jerusalem Post.
THE BOOK is now being advertised on the Brill website. I can't find a permalink, but you'll find it if you search for the keywords "provenance" and "pseudepigrapha." [Permalink now added.]

The Provenance of the Pseudepigrapha
Jewish, Christian, or Other?
James R. Davila

Not yet published. Expected
ISBN 90 04 13752 1
Cloth with dustjacket (270 pp.)
List price: EUR 99.- / US$ 142.-
Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism, 105

This product is part of:
Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism

The Old Testament pseudepigrapha are ancient quasi-biblical texts inspired by the Hebrew Bible. Although frequently mined as Jewish background by New Testament specialists, they were transmitted almost entirely in Christian circles, often only in translation. Christian authors wrote some pseudepigrapha and did not necessarily always mention explicitly Christian topics. This book challenges the assumption that pseudepigrapha are Jewish compositions until proven otherwise. It proposes a methodology for understanding them first in the social context of their earliest manuscripts, inferring still earlier origins only as required by positive evidence while considering the full range of possible authors (Jews, Christians, "God-fearers," Samaritans, etc.). It analyzes a substantial corpus of pseudepigrapha, distinguishing those that are probably Jewish from those of more doubtful origins.

Readership: All those interested in Old Testament pseudepigrapha and apocrypha; Judaism in the Hellenistic period and late antiquity; the Jewish background of the New Testament; early Christianity; and early Jewish–Christian relations.

James R. Davila, Ph.D., Harvard University, is Lecturer in Early Jewish Studies at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, and the author of Liturgical Works (Eerdmans, 2000) and Descenders to the Chariot: The People behind the Hekhalot Literature (Brill, 2003).

Please do order it for your library.
TENTH ANNIVERSARY: We moved to Scotland ten years ago, arriving on this day. A very good move.

As for today, I'm back in my office. I'm not quite ready to fight dragons yet, but I'm here.

Monday, August 15, 2005

STILL HOME TODAY. Gosh, it's been quite a while since I've been this sick. I'm considerably better, but still not well. Later on I want to try to catch up on some work correspondence, and only then, if at all, will I think about devoting scarce energy to blogging. No promises.

In any case, I see that while I've been out of commission no one found the Holy Grail, and that biblioblogging has continued apace. Normal blogging levels here will probably take some time to resume. Meanwhile, have a look at the latest History Carnival (#14), where you will see that Michael Pahl's Lost Books Wishlist meme continues to propagate. Hypotyposes also makes an appearance.