Saturday, December 17, 2005

MORE ON THE MEGIDDO "CHURCH" EXCAVATION, including interviews with the prisoners who are doing the digging:
Morover / Dig they must (Haaretz)

Wednesday midday, Megiddo Prison
"I found it is all mosaic floor," Yehuda Batir says in his broken Hebrew. He is 25, born in Uzbekistan, has been in Israel only two and a half years and is already serving time in Megiddo Prison for domestic violence. Now he is working there as part of a "rescue dig" organized by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), which is uncovering what turned out to be a mosaic of perhaps the oldest church ever found anywhere, dating back to the fourth century C.E.

"First I found corner," Batir continues. "I go, dig with hoe, saw here a little, 10 centimeters, and I think to myself there is something here. There was plaster, shards, no pictures. After that I saw fish and I know it is Christian."

THE TWO ANCHORS FROM THE DEAD SEA are now on display in the Israel Museum:
Dead Sea anchors were carefully designed
By MEIR RONNEN (Jerusalem

Two remarkably well-preserved wooden anchors more than two millennia old, discovered recently on the shores of the Dead Sea, are now on view opposite the book shop at the Israel Museum, on loan from the Israel Antiquities Authority.


The first anchor, approximately 2,500 years old, was found where the Ein Gedi harbor was once located, and may have been used by the Jews of biblical Ein Gedi. The later anchor, some 2,000 years old, was constructed according to the best Roman technology and probably belonged to a large craft used by one of the rulers of Judea. As the sea recedes further, we may yet get to see the ship to which this anchor belonged.


The article has detailed information on the materials and construction of both anchors. The Madaba Map mosaic and a lot of ancient coins are on display with the anchor.

Friday, December 16, 2005

MORE JEWISH-TEMPLE DENIAL, this time from the International Press Center, Palestine. A reader alerts me to the article "Israel Funds Construction Acts beneath Al Aqsa Mosque at the Cost of NIS 68 Million." The relevant passage reads:
The construction works are planned to be financed by several ministries; phased over five-year period. These include propping up what is called as "Heshmonaem Tunnel" - a tunnel that passes under Al-Aqsa mosque - and building a befitting infrastructure for it, in addition to air-conditioning installation; restoration works of Al-Buraq wall, setting up additional arrival halls to receive the tourists who come to visit Al-Buraq square; constructing a heritage centre - dedicated to show a fabricated heritage that might will help them to deceive the foreign visitors into believing Jerusalem as a historical place of the Jews; building a police station; carrying out a marketing project to encourage the Jewish soldiers and students visit the Islamic holy square of Al-Buraq along with Al-Aqsa mosque.

Also, an Israeli government statement mentioned that Al-Buraq wall which is allegedly called by the Israelis as the "Wailing wall" would be part and parcel of the Jewish religious and historical heritage.

My emphasis. I've posted on the tunnel excavation here and here, and here. The recent attempts to change the name of the Western Wall to the "Buraq Wall" (at the same time claiming that it is a Muslim-era artifact rather than a wall of the Herodian Temple Platform) have been noted here and here. Pointing out the constant repetition of this nonsense gets monotonous, but I don't think it should be ignored.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

MORE SAD NEWS: I am sorry to note the death today of Israeli archaeologist Ruth Amiran, mentioned by Victor Avigdor Hurowitz on the ANE list.
IN THE MAIL -- my review copy of the long awaited 1-2 Samuel DJD volume has arrived:
Frank Moore Cross et al., Qumran Cave 4 XII: 1-2 Samuel (Discoveries in the Judaean Desert 17; Oxford: Clarendon, 2005)
DEFINITIONS OF "APOCALYPTIC" (WRITINGS) AND THE GENRE "APOCALYPSE" are collected by Alan S. Bandy over at Café Apocalypsis. Looks useful.
ANOTHER CELEBRATION of the 1600th anniversary of the invention of the Armenian alphabet:
Armenians Celebrate Their Letters

Published: December 13, 2005

IT'S not every day you are invited to a 1,600th birthday party, let alone one for an alphabet.

But last week, that's exactly what brought more than 200 people to a parking lot in New Milford, N.J., across the street from a CVS and a karate studio, where they huddled together in a shivering herd, clapping their mittens and whispering prayers in frosty breath to the Armenian alphabet, created in the fifth century.

The Hovnanian School, a private day school that teaches the Armenian language, held the party and celebrated the occasion by unveiling an alphabet mural. ...

Linguists say the Armenian alphabet is one of the oldest in the world that is still in use. It has proved remarkably durable, surviving a carousel of empires, vast migrations and even genocide. Armenia is a small country with a big diaspora, and its language is valued as the glue that has held the community together. Today's 38 letters vary little from the original 36, which were first brushed by an Armenian monk around A.D. 405 in order to translate the Bible.


Harvard University held a conference in honor of the anniversary in October.
THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS are coming to Seattle in 2006:
Pacific Science Center to Present Dead Sea Scrolls

SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Dec. 14, 2005--Pacific Science Center today announced the upcoming West Coast premiere of Discovering the Dead Sea Scrolls, opening September 23, 2006.

This major new exhibition will feature 10 of the Dead Sea scrolls, including four scrolls never before seen by the public. Also included is a collection of artifacts from the ancient settlement of Qumran near the Dead Sea, along with interactive exhibits on the science behind the excavation, conservation, and interpretation of the scrolls.


And the Seattle Post Intelligencer has more:
Tickets go on sale today for the first show of Dead Sea Scrolls in the Northwest, which will open Sept. 23 at the Pacific Science Center. Bryce Seidl, the center's president and chief executive officer, said at a news conference Wednesday he hoped 250,000 people would attend during the 105-day run.

The exhibit will feature 10 scrolls and scroll fragments. Some are biblical in nature and others are what is being called "sectarian." The biblical scrolls and fragments, which represent the earliest versions of the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, concern the books of Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Psalms. A handful of facsimiles on various subjects, including the book of Deuteronomy, will also be shown.

In addition, the show will include a collection of artifacts -- mostly pottery, wooden bowls and coins -- from Qumran, the area of the Judean desert where the scrolls were found, as well as displays of the technology involved in the discovery of the scrolls, their preservation and interpretation.

And there's still more from the Seattle Times:
Among the 10 scrolls or scroll fragments to be shown in Seattle is a text that relates the fourth to sixth days of the biblical creation story, with God dividing the light from darkness and creating humankind. Another parchment describes God speaking to Moses through a burning bush. Neither scroll has been exhibited before.

The exhibit also will include manuscripts that describe life in the Middle East shortly before the birth of Jesus Christ. One is a list of rules that spell out behavior and customs among a sect that inhabited the Judean desert where the scrolls were found in 1947. Spitting on the floor was frowned upon, latrines were supposed to be a certain distance from houses, and men were exhorted to use only their left hands when urinating.

This article also tells how the exhibition was arranged.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

THIS IS KIND OF FREUDIAN, but I guess the Shrine of the Book does look like one. And it was for a good cause.
ROBERT ISRAEL AUMANN, recent winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, has also published on game theory and the Talmud. See his articles "On the Matter of the Man with Three Wives" [PDF file] (Paper 46, updated and revised [I think from a 1985 original - JRD] for the Rabbinic public), Moriah 22, 3-4, Tevet 5759 (January 1999): 98-107 (in Hebrew) and "Risk Aversion in The Talmud," Economic Theory 21 (2003): 233-239. (From his full list of publications here.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

FEMALE SCRIBES aren't any easier to find than female bibliobloggers, but Aviel Barclay-Rothschild is one (a scribe, that is), and she also has a blog: Netivat Sofrut: diary of a Soferet. I have no idea if she would want to be known as a biblioblogger, but she certainly talks about the Bible and also posts samples of her own biblical scrolls. She has a post on medieval female scribes here.

(Via Manuscript Boy, who has more on female scribes at Hagahot. He also has some good thoughts on the limits of the contribution of manuscripts to scholarship. Read the comments too.)
M. R. JAMES was a remarkably prolific and varied writer. He was a major contributor to the field of biblical apocrypha and pseudepigrapha in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He also wrote and published good ghost stories. Now Rick Brannan has run across another James work that is new to me:
Old Testament Legends: Being Stories Out of Some of the Less-Known Apocryphal Books of the Old Testament

This is republished online in Project Gutenburg's "plain vanilla text" format. The book appears to be a collection of stories from various Old Testament pseudepigrapha retold for children. Here's the table of contents:


There's also a zip file with the full text of the book, page by page (the image quality is not great), and all of the illustrations. Here, for example, is "EPHIPPAS AND THE DEMON OF THE RED SEA BRING THE GREAT PLLLAR TO SOLOMON," a scene from the Testament of Solomon chapter 24:

Cool stuff. You can also read James's ghost stories online (again, through Project Gutenburg) here and here. And another seminal work of his is also online: The Lost Apocrypha of the Old Testament (noted here on PaleoJudaica a while ago). And see the first link in this post for still more. Plus Ed Cook has more yet in this Ralph post from some time ago.

Monday, December 12, 2005

I'VE UPDATED Saturday's Paul Mirecki post yesterday and this morning, and will continue to do so for a while as the situation develops.
ASSIMILATED TO THE BLOGOSPHERE: Here's a fairly new Brazilian blog, Observatório Bíblico, run by Professor Airton José da Silva. Welcome!
RABBINICS CONFERENCE: The Institute for the Study of Rabbinic Thought at Robert M. Beren College, Beit Morasha of Jerusalem, is holding its Eighth International Conference on Rabbinic Thought on Monday – Thursday, December 26-29, 2005. It will take place at the Kiryat Moriah Campus, 3 Ha'Askan, Jerusalem. Email:; website: The program is as follows:
Monday, December 26th

9:30 Chaim Milikowsky (Bar-Ilan U.), Chair

Prof. Benjamin Ish-Shalom (Rector, Beit Morasha), Greetings

Prof. Moshe D. Herr (Hebrew U.), A Hundred Years of the Study of Rabbinic Thought: Problems, Achievements, Challenges

Prof. Rabbi David Weiss-Halivni (Columbia U.), Talmudic Research and the Breaking of the Vessels

12:00 Prof. Shlomo Naeh (Hebrew U.), Chair

Prof. Menahem Kahana (Hebrew U.), Numerological Consideration in the Study of Rabbinic Literature

Rabbi Dr. Benjamin Lau (Beit Morasha), On the Possibility of Biographical Study of Rabbinic Literature

14:00 Prof. Leib Moscowitz (Bar-Ilan U.), Chair

Rabbi Prof. Daniel Sperber (Bar-Ilan U.), Fundamental Ethical Values in Halakha

Dr. Cana Werman (Ben-Gurion U.), Contemplations on the development of Halakha

Rabbi Dr. Yehuda Brandes (Beit Morasha), Aggadic and Halakhic Representations of Levirate Marriage

Tuesday, December 27th

10:00 Prof. Jonah Frankel (Hebrew U.), Chair

Dr. Alon Goshen-Gottstein (Beit Morasha), The Two-Powers Polemic: The Textual Evidence

Prof. Yaakov Elman (Yeshiva U.), Theological Dialogue in Amoraic Babylonia

Prof. Steven Fine (Yeshiva U.), Jewish and Samaritan Houses of Study and Synagogues in Late Antiquity


Prof. Aharon Shemesh (Bar-Ilan U.), Punishment in Qumran and the Beginnings of Midrash

Ms. Avital C. Hochstein and Prof. Hanna Safrai (Hartman Inst.), Inclusion and Exclusion of Women in Halakhic Midrash of the Type “Ein Li Ela”

Dr. Noam Zohar (Bar-Ilan U.), From the Biblical Mishpatim to Mishnah Tractate Nezikin: Two conceptual Schemes -- One Adopted, One Rejected


Gala Evening in honor of Rabbi Dr. Yehuda Brandes's book, Applied Aggada

At Heikhal Shlomo, 58 King George St., Jerusalem

Wednesday, December 28th


Prof. Avigdor Shinnan (Hebrew U.), The Sources of Rabbi Akiba’s Wealth in the Aggada

Dr. Joshua Levinson (Hebrew U.), Stories of Confrontation Stories between Rabbis and Witches

Dr. Reuven Kipperwasser, “A King who Invited Guests” Parables


Prof. Menahem Fish (Tel-Aviv U.), Religious Polemics and the Prayer Controversy

Dr. Uri Erlich (Ben-Gurion U.), Prayer in Rabbinic Literature: A Developing Database

Prof. Shamma Friedman (Bar-Ilan U.), Innovation and Progress of The Saul Lieberman Institute’s Database of Textual Witnesses: Images of Fragments

Thursday, December 29th

10:00 Prof. Albert Baumgarten (Bar-Ilan U.), Chair

Prof. Marc Hirshman (Hebrew U.), Concepts of the Election of Israel in Rabbinic Thought

Ms. Yifat Monnickendam (Bar-Ilan U.), The Polemic over Resurrection of the Dead in Rabbinic Thought and the Church Fathers

Prof. Harry Fox (U. of Toronto), Socio-Linguistics as Identification of Status in Rabbinic Thought


Prof. Yair Lorberboim (Bar-Ilan U.), Holiness and Imitatio Dei in Tanaitic Thought

Rabbi Dr. Oded Yisraeli (Ben-Gurion U.), The Zohar of the Aggada

Sunday, December 11, 2005

I AM VERY SORRY TO NOTE the death today of Professor Hayim Tadmor, reported on the ANE list by Victor Avigdor Hurowitz. May his memory be for a blessing.
EILAT MAZAR has published an article on her monumental building in Jerusalem in Biblical Archaeology Review. It is available online, downloadable as a PDF file:
Did I Find King David's Palace?

(Via Explorator 8.33.)
ANTIQUITIES AS ASSESTS TO BE SEIZED? American victims of a Hamas terrorist attack in Israel are trying to seize Iranian antiquities in American museums to pay for the judgment they won against Iran. I don't object to the principle these people are trying to establish (i.e., seizing external assets of states that support terrorism in order to compensate the victims), but I think antiquities should be off limits.