Wednesday, September 07, 2005

THE TOMB OF CYRUS THE GREAT and the ruins of Persepolis are in danger of obliteration, according to a press release from "The International Committee to Save the Archeological," a group I've never heard of. According to them, the Iranian government is planning to open a dam that threatens to submerge the area. Does anyone know of other media treatments of this? Can any specialists in Iranian archaeology verify it or tell us more?

(Via Archaeologica News.)
ARAMAIC IS BACK ON THE BIG SCREEN, this time spoken by a demon:
Exorcism of Emily Rose more like Law and Order than highbrow horror: review


(AP) - It may aspire to be a highbrow horror movie, but deep down, The Exorcism of Emily Rose is more like a two-hour, sweeps-period Law & Order episode, complete with special guest stars and a shocking story that's been ripped from the headlines.

Director Scott Derrickson, who co-wrote the script with Paul Harris Boardman (which was inspired by true events), is all business in telling the story of a Catholic priest on trial for negligent homicide following the death of a satanically possessed 19-year-old on whom he'd performed an exorcism.


That's not to say there aren't a few solid scares. Told in flashback, the possession and exorcism of Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter) can be, at times, truly startling. The college freshman experiences disturbing paranoid hallucinations, contorts her body in impossible ways and screeches and snarls in subtitled Aramaic.


Well, I guess demons must know Aramaic. Otherwise, what would be the point of all those Aramaic incantations bowls that tell them to go away?
ZOHAR -- THE MOVIE? The San Francisco Chronicle has a very interesting interview with Professor Daniel Matt, who is devoting many years of his life to translating the Aramaic Zohar into English. The third volume, up to the end of the book of Genesis, is about to be published.
Kabbalah scholar Daniel Matt takes the mysticism back to the Aramaic

Excerpt (but read it all):
How much a part of your spiritual life is the Kabbalah? It seems like it's more than just an academic interest for you.

I really try to combine an academic and a spiritual approach. I think you lose some of the richness of the Zohar if you look at it only academically -- certainly because it is a spiritual text, and it grew out of spiritual experience. The person writing it is really striving to contact the divine through Scripture, through plumbing the depths of Scripture, trying to discover the divine light hidden in the letters or hinted at by the verses of the Bible.

On the other hand, you lose something, too, I think, if you don't understand when it was written and who composed it. The person writing the Zohar is trying to present it as something ancient, but he knows what he is doing, and when he talks about hidden levels of meaning, part of the hiddenness is his own project of creating the Zohar. His own creativity is part of what's going on. It really is an experiment in fiction, a medieval experiment in fiction. And that's part of its wonder, too.


It sounds like you love what you do. So, my last question: Zohar the movie? What do you think?

I think it definitely has cinematic possibilities. The running into the donkey driver and the spectacular account of creation are pretty compelling. But I'll leave that for others.

UPDATE: I wonder if the movie would be in subtitled Aramaic. (See next post.)

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Andrew S. Jacobs, Remains of the Jews: The Holy Land and Christian Empire in Late Antiquity. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004. Pp. 264. ISBN 0-8047-4705-9. $55.00.

Reviewed by Matthew Kraus, University of Cincinnati
GRONINGEN UNIVERSITY in the Netherlands is offering a full Ph.D. scholarship:

A full four-year PhD-scholarship in Biblical Studies is available at the University of Groningen to work with either Prof. Ed Noort (OT), Dr Jacques van Ruiten (Ancient Judaism), Dr Eibert Tigchelaar (Qumran) or Dr George van Kooten (NT). Application format available at See English Pages: Research / Application format. Please send your initial application to Dr George van Kooten at before September 15th, 2005. Please notify a student or friend.

(Via the BNTC list.)
JEWISH INCANTATION BOWLS, it seems, are alive and well and are still being produced today.

UPDATE: Evidently an Aramaic incantation bowl is on display at a museum exhibition at the University of Melbourne:
Early Writing in Egypt and Mesopotamia
Reviewer Penny Webb (The Age)
September 6, 2005

The Classics and Archaeology Collection,
Ian Potter Museum of Art,
University of Melbourne, Swanston Street, Carlton,
Until February 19

Annexed to the Ian Potter Museum of the University of Melbourne is a first-floor, light-filled room with large Gothic-arched windows visible from Swanston Street. It houses an archaeological display - pots and vases, coins, manuscripts and carvings - that's just a fraction of the 2500 or so pieces in the university's Classics and Archaeology Collection.

And, for a couple of months, it's being supplemented by 18 pieces from the Australian Institute of Archaeology, Melbourne. (The institute has been without a permanent exhibition site since 1999.)

Compiled by its director Christopher Davey, these pieces illustrate different scripts and early uses of writing (the doings of kings, records of produce, official expenditure, names of troops, a land transaction, property titles) in a variety of materials (stone and ceramic tablets, linen, vellum and papyrus fragments).


But waste no time indulging in invectives against your enemies using the sand-coloured ceramic cursing bowl inscribed on its inside surface with brush-drawn Aramaic script (from Jerusalem, second century BC).


Either the museum placard on this display contained errors, or else the reporter took careless notes, because the provenance and date are clearly wrong. All ancient Aramaic incantation bowls that have a certain provenance were discovered in Iraq. And they date from the fifth to the seventh centuries CE. But the bowl sounds cool. Too bad there's no picture.

Monday, September 05, 2005

THE BRITISH NEW TESTAMENT CONFERENCE: I'm not going to try to blog the whole conference from beginning to end. Instead, I'll just note some interesting things that I heard along the way. I'm including just a few photos here that came out tolerably well.

Liverpool Hope University promised us a new dorm to stay in, and indeed it was:

As you can see, construction on the Wesley Dormitory was not quite finished when we arrived, but the rooms were generally in good working order and the construction machinery noise started late enough and was far enough from the main events that it was not a distraction.

Dr. Darrell Hannah and I chaired the NT & Second Temple Judaism seminar. The first presenter (Friday) was Dr. Grant Macaskill, who argued that, although it is possible that 2 Enoch originated as or descends from a Jewish Urtext of the first-century CE, the case has not yet been persuasively made.

In the second session Darrell and I each gave short papers. Darrell made a case that that the Similitudes of Enoch can be dated securely in the first century BCE based on references in chapter 67.

I (above) argued that the Testament of Abraham is most naturally understood as a Christian composition from the fifth century CE or earlier and that any Jewish Urtext behind the two surviving recensions, if it ever existed at all, has been so throughly reworked that it is now irrecoverable.

In the third session (Saturday morning) Dr. Todd Klutz gave a paper on the Testament of Solomon which is difficult to summarize, but he took the position that something like an original Solomonic exorcistic handbook was updated with an account of Solomon's downfall (in the genre "rewritten scripture") which aimed to undermine the authority of the Solomonic incantations. He also tied the name of one of the demonic characters in the work (Ephippas) to ancient inscribed stone amulets pertaining to Solomon.

In the second plenary session (Friday evening) Professor Christopher Rowland gave a fascinating account of William Blake's drawings and paintings with biblical subjects. I had not known that Blake had read the book of 1 Enoch, but it seems that he had and he produced engravings based on themes in this book. You can find small images of a couple on Enochic subjects at the Biblical Art on the WWW site.

I was also at the late evening whiskey event mentioned by Sean the Baptist.

The third plenary session (Saturday morning) was also given by Darrell Hannah, who is currently on a research fellowship at Oxford, where he is preparing a critical edition of the Coptic and Ethiopic versions of the Epistula Apostolorum.

Darrell argued that this work probably knew all four canonical Gospels and it was composed by 140-150 CE. I found his presentation particularly exciting because in it he alerted me to two quotations of "the prophet" in the Epistula Apostolorum which may be of lost Old Testament pseudepigrapha.

Many thanks to Ursula Leahy and Kenneth Newport for organizing and running the conference, a much larger job than it appears. The food and drink were good, the accommodations were new (at least for those of us in Wesley), and there was an excellent program with lots of intellectual stimulation. Moreover, Ken kindly rescued my conference pack for me when I carelessly left it in the locked-up Chaplaincy (which had been converted to an impromptu donation-only bar). And on very short notice Ursula recruited her colleague David Torevell to drive Helen Bond, Louise Lawrence, and me to the rail station when our taxi failed to show (or got snapped up by someone else). Bless them all.

Michael Pahl has collected the other accounts by bloggers of this year's BNTC.
JOB AND THE QUR'AN: The Bible and Interpretation website has posted a new essay:

The Image of Ayyub (Job) in the Qur'an and Later Islam

In Mohammed’s view, Job is to be numbered among the best of human beings to receive Allah’s revelation.

By Stephen Vicchio
Professor of Philosophy
College of Notre Dame
Baltimore, Maryland
August 2005

It's interesting that Islamic tradition seems to be aware of the Testament of Job.
MICHAEL HOMAN, I am happy to note, has made his escape from New Orleans with his family and is now in Omaha.
THE ASSYRIAN DEMOCRATIC ORGANIZATION has rejected the Iraqi draft constitution:
(AINA) -- The Assyrian Democratic Organization (ADO), founded in Syria in 1957 and the largest Assyrian organization in Syria and Europe, has rejected the Iraqi draft constitution. In a strongly worded statement, the ADO objected to the language in the constitution which artificially divides the Assyrians into two groups, "Chaldeans" and "Assyrians".

The full ADO statement follows:

On August 25, Iraq's draft constitution was submitted. The draft will be voted on in a general referendum and ratified by the general assembly on October 15. The submission of the draft constitution was a great disappointment and blow to the ambitions of the Chaldean Assyrian Syriac people.

The preamble of the draft constitution intentionally ignored the historical reality of the indigenous people of Iraq (known as Assyrians or Chaldeans or Syriacs). It does not mention the Assyrians as being one of the components of the Iraqi people, alongside Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen, nor does it mention Christianity, Sabaeanism and Yezidism as religions that existed and preceded Islam in Iraq. Article 135 of the draft constitution divides the Assyrians by inserting the dividing conjunction AND between the designations "Chaldeans" AND "Assyrians", aiming at showing them as two separate independent and different ethnicities. In fact, this article comes to falsify non-negotiable historical truth and reality about the unity of the Assyrians as one nation historically, culturally and linguistically, in spite of the fact, that the three known designations Chaldean, Assyrian and Syriac have been used interchangeably during the course of Assyrian history.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU is campaigning for leadership of the Likud party. One of his campaign promises is to make the archaeological sites at Beit She'an into a "tourist Mecca."
'Beit She’an will be tourist Mecca'

Benjamin Netanyahu hits campaign trail in ancient town, pledges to bring millions of tourists to archeological sites in eastern Israel; mayor says town 'behind' Netanyahu, predicts former fianance minister will be next prime minister. During talk with students in local school, Netanyahu slams Sharon for acting undemocratically

THE MACCA BEE: From the Department of You Couldn't Make This Up:
(PRWEB) September 5, 2005 -- Finally a unique, fascinating Hanukah toy for Jewish children, Jewish adults and mixed Jewish marriages. A Hanukah toy for those who seek to identify with their Jewish roots during the Hanukah season. If you always wanted to learn the Hanukah prayers and songs while lighting the menorah candles, then the Macca Bee is for you. The menorah has eight candles and the Macca Bee sings the Hanukah prayers and eight songs: 2 in English; 2 in Yiddish and 6 songs in Hebrew. All the songs are orchestrated and the quality is excellent. The stuffed animal yellow-and-black-striped Macca Bee comes with a full songbook so you can sing along or accompany the music with your own instruments. A dreidle is also available for the popular game.


Sunday, September 04, 2005

THE LENGTH OF THE ANCIENT CUBIT could be a factor in determining the location of the Jewish Temples on the Temple Mount, according to this AP article. Asher Selig Kaufman has een proposing relocation of the Temple for the last couple of decades. His proposal was first published in Biblical Archaeology Review in 1983 and the genesis of the current article seems to be another BAR piece. I'm not sure how seriously actual archaeologists are taking this discussion. (Kaufman was trained as a physicist originally.) Do any archaeologists want to comment?
PHILOLOGOS discusses the history of Tefillin.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

I'M HOME. Got in about 8:30 pm. I see Mark Goodacre has already fulsomely blogged the entire conference. You won't get as much or as soon from me, but I do have a few photos. I'll get to it as soon as I can, but I expect to be pretty busy this weekend. Meanwhile, here's an important e-mail I've only just opened. It's a firsthand account of the situation in New Orleans as of 31 August, forwarded by reader Dr. Risa Levitt Kohn of San Diego State University. It's from a colleague of hers who was and perhaps still is stranded in New Orleans. Sorry for not getting it to you sooner.
Thanks to all of you who have sent your notes of concern and your prayers. I am writing this note on Tuesday at 2 p.m.. I wanted to update all of you as to the situation here. I don't know how much information you are getting but I am certain it is more than we are getting. Be advised that almost everything I am telling you is from direct observation or rumor from reasonable sources. They are allowing limited internet access, so I hope to send this dispatch today.

Personally, my family and I are fine. My family is safe in Jackson, Miss., and I am now a temporary resident of the Ritz Carleton Hotel in New Orleans. I figured if it was my time to go, I wanted to go in a place with a good wine list. In addition, this hotel is in a very old building on Canal Street that could and did sustain little damage. Many of the other hotels sustained significant loss of windows, and we expect that many of the guests may be evacuated here.

Things were obviously bad yesterday, but they are much worse today. Overnight the water arrived. Now Canal Street (true to its origins) is indeed a canal. The first floor of all downtown buildings is underwater. I have heard that Charity Hospital and Tulane are limited in their ability to care for patients because of water. Ochsner is the only hospital that remains fully functional. However, I spoke with them today and they too are on generator and losing food and water fast.

The city now has no clean water, no sewerage system, no electricity, and no real communications. Bodies are still being recovered floating in the floods. We are worried about a cholera epidemic. Even the police are without effective communications. We have a group of armed police here with us at the hotel that is admirably trying to exert some local law enforcement. This is tough because looting is now rampant. Most of it is not malicious looting. These are poor and desperate people with no housing and no medical care and no food or water trying to take care of themselves and their families. Unfortunately, the people are armed and dangerous. We hear gunshots frequently. Most of Canal street is occupied by armed looters who have a low threshold for discharging their weapons. We hear gunshots frequently. The looters are using makeshift boats made of pieces of styrofoam to access. We are still waiting for a significant national guard presence.

The health care situation here has dramatically worsened overnight. Many people in the hotel are elderly and small children. Many other guests have unusual diseases. ... There are (Infectious Disease) physicians in at this hotel attending an HIV confection. We have commandeered the world famous French Quarter Bar to turn into a makeshift clinic. There is a team of about seven doctors and PAs and pharmacists. We anticipate that this will be the major medical facility in the central business district and French Quarter.

Our biggest adventure today was raiding the Walgreen's on Canal under police escort. The pharmacy was dark and full of water. We basically scooped the entire drug sets into garbage bags and removed them. All under police escort. The looters had to be held back at gunpoint. After a dose of prophylactic Cipro I hope to be fine.

In all we are faring well. We have set up a hospital in the the French Quarter bar in the hotel, and will start admitting patients today. Many will be from the hotel, but many will not. We are anticipating dealing with multiple medical problems, medications and and acute injuries. Infection and perhaps even cholera are anticipated major problems. Food and water shortages are imminent.

The biggest question to all of us is where is the National Guard? We hear jet fighters and helicopters, but no real armed presence, and hence the rampant looting. There is no Red Cross and no Salvation Army.

In a sort of cliche way, this is an edifying experience. One is rapidly focused away from the transient and material to the bare necessities of life. It has been challenging to me to learn how to be a primary care physician. We are under martial law so return to our homes is impossible. I don't know how long it will be and this is my greatest fear. Despite it all, this is a soul-edifying experience. The greatest pain is to think about the loss. And how long the rebuild will take. And the horror of so many dead people .

PLEASE SEND THIS DISPATCH TO ALL YOU THING MAY BE INTERESTED IN A DISPATCH from the front. I will send more according to your interest. Hopefully their collective prayers will be answered. By the way, suture packs, sterile gloves and stethoscopes will be needed as the Ritz turns into a MASH.

UPDATE (4 September): On reading more closely, I see that this is actually from Tuesday the 29th, so it's fairly ancient history now. But it's an illuminating insider report from the immediate aftermath of Katrina.

On another note, I'm having a great deal of difficulty with Blogger. For some reason the toolbar above the "create" a new post page now takes many minutes to appear with when I use dial-up access. I'm also having other troubles getting the photograph facility to work. So I'll probably wait until tomorrow to post on the conference, so I can use my office computer.

Friday, September 02, 2005

A MASONIC ARTIFACT from the Temple Mount rubble?

(Via Joseph I. Lauer on the ANE list.)

Now, about that nap ...
I'M HERE! Liverpool, that is. The conference is about half over and we've had two seminar meetings so far, with good discussions. I feel a nap coming on, so I'm not going to do any heavy-duty conference blogging right now, but I am taking photos to share with you later. Meanwhile, have a look at the Carnival of Bad History at the Dodecahedron blog, which has PaleoJudaica in the first entry (exposing bad history, I hasten to say, not producing it). And don't miss the update to the "More Lost Books" post below, which has some additional information from Ken Penner.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

I'M OFF in a few minutes to the British New Testament Conference in Liverpool, where I will be co-chairing and presenting a paper in the NT & Second Temple Judaism Seminar. Grant Macaskill, also from St. Andrews, is presenting a paper in the same seminar. Normally I post the oral text of my paper just before I leave for a conference, but this time there is an unusual situation: my paper, "Is the Testament of Abraham Really a Jewish Work?" is an extract from chapter 4 of my book, which I'm expecting to be out before long. I've already placed lots of material from the book online, so I'm not going to post this particular paper. Sorry. If you want to read it, make sure you've ordered my book for your library.

My home dial-up access has been glacial this morning, so I haven't looked at Google, and if there is anything really interesting in the news it will have to wait. As far as I know, there won't be any opportunities to blog during the conference, but if one arises, I'll try to seize it. Otherwise, I expect to be back Saturday evening, so look for me then or on Sunday. And, meanwhile, don't miss the latest History Carnival, which is to be posted later today on the ClioWeb blog.
MORE LOST BOOKS: As I promised a while ago, I am listing below some additional ancient lost Old Testament pseudepigrapha that I have run across in various places. Some are books that are completely lost apart from their title and perhaps a brief comment on their contents; others are books that are no longer extant, but fragments, quotations, or summaries of them do survive.

A number are listed in the Coptic Nag Hammadi treatise On the Origin of the World (NHC ii, 5 and XIII, 2; fourth century CE or earlier). Some small indication of contents is usually given. It is possible that these are just names made up for effect, but they may well have been real books.
  • The Archangelic (Book) of the Prophet Moses (NHC II, 102.8-9)
  • The First Book of Noraia (NHC, II 102.10, 24-25)
  • The First Account of Oraia (NHC, II 102. 24-25 -- same book as above?)
  • The Book of Solomon (NHC II 107.3)
  • The Configurations of the Fate of Heaven That Is Beneath the Twelve (NHC II 107.16-17)
  • The Seventh Universe of the Prophet Hieralias (NHC II, 112.23-24)

Hippolytus, in The Refutation of All Heresies (second-third centuries CE), mentions the following:
  • The Paraphrase of Seth (5.18.1) (Contains "Sethian doctrines," but evidently is not the same work as the Nag Hammadi Paraphrase of Shem.)
  • The Book of Baruch (5.20-22; 10.11) (Baruch is the angel of the tree of life, not Jeremiah's scribe in the Bible. This retelling of the biblical narrative by Justin the Gnostic starts with the cosmogony and moves through the Old Testament period up to Jesus. Summarized by Hippolytus.)

  • Quotation of a "scripture" or "prophetic word" with OT content in 1 Clement 23:3-4 and 2 Clement 11:2-4.
  • A very fragmentary Oxyrhynchus manuscript that seems to involve a vision of heaven and which mentions the Law and the Red Sea. Oxyrhynchus Papyri 17.6-8 (#2069).
  • A summary of a passage supposedly from a Hebrew noncanonical book pertaining to the prophet Zechariah and King Joash. Found in the fifth-century Historia Ecclesiastica (9.17) of Salaminius Hermias Sozomenus (PG 67.1269b).
  • "The Rich Man and the Precious Stone," a story told by Georgius Monachus Hamartolos (9th century) in Chron 4.11 (PG 121.228). The passage is supposedly quoted from a book called the Wisdom of Solomon. The quotation was made after 600, so it is perhaps too late for the MOTP Project (but not for its comprehesive list of OT pseudepigrapha).

These were located through the Accordance Software list of Greek Old Testament Pseudepigrapha.

And more:
  • Cyprian (some manuscripts only) quotes an otherwise unknown passage "in Baruch" (presumably the scribe this time) in Testimonia 3.29 (third century CE).
  • An apocalyptic fragment attributed to "the prophet" by Clement of Alexandria (late second-early third century CE) in Protrepticus (Exhoration to the Heathen) 8, end.
  • A fragment about the Antichrist attributed to "another prophet" (besides Jeremiah) by Hippolytus in On Christ and Antichrist 15

Noted by M. R. James in The Lost Apocrypha of the Old Testament, pp. 77-78, 90, and 92, respectively.

UPDATE (2 September): Ken Penner e-mails some additional information:
You might mention in your blog entry that Denis includes several of the texts you mentioned, in his Introduction, in his Fragmenta, and in his Concordance, e.g., the fragment from 1 Clement 23:3-4 and 2 Clement 11:2-4, the Zechariah fragment, the Fable of the Precious Stone, the fragment from Clement of Alexandria, and the fragment on the Antichrist.

P. Oxy. 2069 is now known to be from 1Enoch.

The Antichrist fragment is also in de Antichristo 54.

The Clement of Alexandria reference in Protrepticus is 10, 98, 1, not 8.

Georgius Cedrenus also has the Fable of the Precious Stone (after the story of Tobit, before king Hezekiah); see I. Bekker, Georgius Cedrenus Ioannis Scylitzae (2 vols.; Corpus scriptorum historiae Byzantinae; Bonn: Weber), 1:193-194.
IRAQI JEWISH ARCHIVE UPDATE: Chuck Jones reports on the IraqCrisis list that the National Endowment for the Humanities has given $98,500 for its cataloguing and initial conservation steps.
Center for Jewish History
[Recovering Iraq’s Past (special initiative)] $98,536
Project Director: Robert Sink
Project Title: The Iraqi Jewish Archive
Description: The creation of an item-level collection assessment and inventory database of books and documents in Hebrew, Judeo-Arabic, and Arabic that provide evidence of the history and culture of the Jewish community in Iraq since 762 B.C.E. A sample of the variety of paper-based materials in the archives would be conserved as a testbed for a future phase of the project.
NEW ORLEANS is a beautiful, exciting city, and the tragedy that has happened to it is almost beyond belief. I had my first teaching job there (at Tulane University) and got married there. We still have friends there. New Orleanian readers, you and your city are in my thoughts and prayers.