Saturday, February 04, 2006

Classical Connections
After an extensive renovation, Getty Villa exhibits collection of ancient works, ties to UCLA

Destroyed by the "pyroclastic flow" from the volcano, Herculaneum and the wealthy Roman villas for which it was known was buried by a mixture of hot ash, pumice, rock fragments and volcanic gas.

Located in the Bay of Naples, Herculaneum was a seaside resort used by wealthy Romans as an escape from hectic city life. For classicists, that meant that expensive pieces of art and libraries of papyrus were most likely buried underneath the hardened lava.

What workers found in 1752 was just that: a wealthy villa with an extraordinarily large library of charred scrolls of papyrus.

Called the Villa dei Papiri, the villa housed papyrus pieces that enthused classicists who were hoping to learn more about ancient literary works. The villa's high quality of preservation also inspired lovers of antiquity.

In fact, Getty Villa is a modern replica of the Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum.


Aside from viewing the tangible items extracted from the Villa dei Papiri, Getty Villa visitors will be able to observe the Villa's influence in the architecture and layout of the actual museum.

Complete with grand garden columns and a picturesque pool, Getty Villa is not only a receptacle for ancient art, but a representation of it as well.

While much of the superstructure of the villa in Herculaneum remains unexposed, its general outlay is well-known, said Susan Downey, a UCLA classics and art history professor.

For that reason, it was a perfect model for duplication.

Thief Steals Piece Of Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit

POSTED: 2:21 pm EST February 3, 2006 (
UPDATED: 2:43 pm EST February 3, 2006

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- An international artifact exhibit is opening soon in Uptown Charlotte, but a thief has already targeted the Dead Sea scrolls exhibit at Discovery Place.

The staff at Discovery Place said they never expected the theft. They said someone stole a tall, heavy and awkward Dead Sea scroll pot at about 10:30 p.m. Thursday.


Fortunately it was a replica, but still, this isn't good.
A CRITIQUE OF EDWARD SAID, reviewed by Oliver Miles, "a former British ambassador to Libya, Luxembourg and Greece":
The fossils bite back

Oliver Miles admires Robert Irwin's defence of orientalism against the denunciation of Edward Said, For Lust of Knowing

Saturday February 4, 2006
The Guardian

For Lust of Knowing: The Orientalists and their Enemies
Robert Irwin
409pp, Allen Lane, £25

Readable, learned, enthusiastic, this is three books in one: a polemic, a catalogue and a narrative. The polemic is a counterattack against the late Edward Said's denunciation of orientalism. Said, the doyen of Arab-American intellectuals, argued that orientalism - referring to the Middle East and India and largely ignoring China and Japan - was "a political doctrine willed over the Orient because the Orient was weaker than the West". For Said, orientalism was the lackey of imperialism and racism. Irwin stands for the orthodox view that it is what it claims to be - the study, as objective as possible, of eastern languages, history, culture and so on.

I must declare an interest. I am, like Irwin, a "living fossil", having been taught Latin and Greek the old way, a way "certainly much closer to that practised in the 17th and 18th centuries than to the system which prevails in the 21st century". From these disciplines I followed a well-trodden path to oriental studies, and I was the pupil of some of the orientalists sketched in his book. I owe them everything both as teachers and as friends, "mentors" to use one classical word that has been reborn in management-speak. Like Irwin I would be flattered if anyone wanted to call me an orientalist.


I'm not familiar enough with Said's work to have a strong opinion about it, but as far as the language training goes, I guess I count as a "living fossil" too.
AN ASSYRIAN (ARAMAIC) TEXTBOOK has been published in Armenian:

YEREVAN, February 3. /ARKA/. Presentation of an academic textbook "Classical Assyrian Language" was held in Yerevan. According to the author of the book, employee of the RA MFA, teacher of Semitic languages at the Department for Oriental Studies of Yerevan State University Armen Hakobyan, the textbook is for orientalists, linguists, historians, theologians and Assyrians, living in Armenia. According to him, this is the first textbook of Assyrian language published on the territory of the former USSR.

"Armenia has become the forth language in the world by means of which Assyrian may be taught", Hakobyan said. ...


UPDATE: And the Armenian language itself gets a mention in
“ARMENIAN DAY” CONGRESS IN INDIA: On January 28 a congress named “Armenian day” was organized in Kotayam city of Kerala state in India. About 150 University and religious representatives from many countries took part in the conference. The congress was organized by Research Institute after St. Yeprem and professor of Catholic University of Louven city in Belgium, a specialist of Armenian language and lecturer Andrea Schmidt. Doctor Jean Paul Deshler from Catholica Unio University in Switzerland spoke on the topic of “Armenian miniature paintings and Byzantium icons”. Those who spoke mentioned the importance of teaching ancient languages, especially Armenian.


Friday, February 03, 2006

APRIL DECONICK and her work on the Gospel of Thomas are profiled in a local Illinois newspaper.
ILLINOIS STYLE: Illinois Wesleyan professor studies apocryphal gospel
The (Bloomington) Pantagraph

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. - In the Coptic Museum in an ancient neighborhood of Cairo, Egypt, April DeConick's academic pursuit reached a zenith.

A professor at Illinois Wesleyan University, DeConick had been fascinated with the Gospel of Thomas since her undergraduate days in Michigan.

Now she was leafing through text nearly 2,000 years old - a full, early Christian text of the Thomas book, which purports to be sayings of Jesus.

It wouldn't be all that illuminating for most; the copy's Egyptian Coptic language makes it impossible reading for most people. But DeConick knows Coptic - and even teaches it at Wesleyan.


DeConick believes oral tradition led to sayings of Jesus being unintentionally altered in ways that reflected the changing spiritual thought of early Christians. The copy of Thomas found in Egypt probably was translated from Syrian Christians because it reflects on their understanding of Jesus, she said.

Among her conclusions is that a crisis emerged among Christians in Syria because the apocalypse didn't happen. They had expected an imminent, epic battle with angels and demons, followed by the Second Coming of Christ and establishment of a new, holy kingdom.

Some of the sayings begin with the posing of questions by disciples about the Second Coming. These actually represent the questions posed by Syrian Christians, she said.

The crisis is resolved by addition of sayings in Thomas that introduce mysticism - that is, the internalizing of God. The idea of a new kingdom was collapsed into the idea of an experiential spiritualism. The new kingdom already had come, and it could be found within oneself.

Late last year, DeConick's "Recovering the Original Gospel of Thomas: A History of the Gospel and its Growth" was published as a scholarly work. Other scholars have undertaken similar work with the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It causes a commotion among preachers and followers who teach that these books contain Jesus' exact words.

Generally not riots or death threats, though. (Okay, okay, I'll stop. I've made my point.)
It causes less stir when addressing the Gospel of Thomas, since Thomas isn't accepted as canonical by most churches.


Most churches? Is there a new one I haven't heard of that has added it to its canon? You never know.

Professor DeConick's book sounds very interesting. The Amazon link is here. She has also just published a new commentary and translation of the Gospel of Thomas. Both are a bit pricey for personal libraries (not that I'm in any position to criticize), but do make sure your local research library orders them.
THE RELUCTANT PARTING, a new book by Professor Julie Galambush, is reviewed by Richard Ostling of the Associated Press:
Scholar re-examines New Testament views of Jews

By: RICHARD N. OSTLING - Associated Press

Julie Galambush brings a rare background to the often delicate topic of Jewish-Christian relations and her special interest in the first-century split between the two faiths.

She was an American Baptist Churches minister and teacher at the Lutherans' St. Olaf College in Minnesota. Now a convert to Reform Judaism who belongs to a temple in Falls Church, Va., she teaches Bible at the College of William and Mary.

Galambush, naturally, doesn't believe in Jesus' divinity. But her main emphasis is that Christians misunderstand what their scriptural writers originally meant to say about Jews.

She develops that case in "The Reluctant Parting: How the New Testament's Jewish Writers Created a Christian Book" (HarperSanFrancisco). Her book originated with experimental classes on the New Testament she led at a Maryland synagogue.


Sounds interesting. And I'm happy to say that there are no reports of riots or death threats over this one.
YET ANOTHER REASON not to enable comments. And some of the comments to that post provide additional reasons, albeit of a somewhat less extreme nature.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

JAMES CHARLESWORTH will be a convocation speaker in Montana this spring:
James H. Charlesworth, Princeton�s George L. Collord Professor of New Testament Language and Literature, speaks at Rocky Mountain College's 2006 Spring Convocation. Dr. Charlesworth specializes in the Apocrypha and Pseudepigraphia of the Old and New Testaments, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Josephus, Jesus research, and the Gospel of John. As director of Princeton's Dead Sea Scrolls Project, he has worked on the computer-enhanced photographing and translating of the Qumran scrolls in order to make available for the first time both an accurate text and an English translation of these documents. At the convocation, RMC faculty and administrators march in full academic regalia. Students who have achieved top academic honors are recognized, and music is provided by the RMC music department. 11 a.m., Losekamp Hall.

(Cross file under "Pseudepigrapha Watch"; this is the third media mention in 2006.)
TEN DEAD SEA SCROLLS are coming to Discovery Place, in Charlotte, and the museum is gearing up. Here are some interesting details about the preparation:
"We quickly found out that we would have to build the whole exhibition from the ground up, every panel," said Joanie Philips, the museum's director of major projects.

The exhibit hall will be 11,000 square feet. It must be exactly the right climate so that the scrolls don't dry out.

"We had to redo all of our heating and air conditioning systems because we have to maintain a two-point difference in our humidity and temperature," Philips said Wednesday.

Ten authentic scrolls will be showcased in Charlotte. The cases that hold them will have the same lighting system that is used for the Declaration of Independence. Fiber-optic rays will minimize exposure.

"Every 30 seconds, those lights will cycle off for seven seconds to give a rest," Philips said. "You have to be very careful about showing those."
THE VIRTUAL TALMUD BLOG is a new addition to the Beliefnet website.
About Virtual Talmud:
In the spirit of the rabbinic tradition, Beliefnet has asked three rabbis to create a virtual Talmud, blogging on Judaism and the world today. Unlike the talmudic arguments of old, the interactivity of Virtual Talmud makes it possible for any member of our community to talk back to the learned teachers and to each other.

Meet our bloggers:
Rabbi Susan Grossman, a Conservative rabbi, is the rabbi of Beth Shalom Congregation in Columbia, Maryland. Rabbi Eliyahu Stern, an Orthodox rabbi, received rabbinic ordination and an M.A. in Talmud from Yeshiva University. Rabbi Joshua Waxman, a Reconstructionist rabbi, is the spiritual leader of Or Hadash: A Reconstructionist Congregation, located in Fort Washington, PA.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

THE "TREE OF PARADISE: JEWISH MOSAICS FROM THE ROMAN EMPIRE" exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in New York is covered in a Christian Science Monitor article:
Jewish life, portrayed in stone

By Christopher Andreae

This mosaic is from a group of floor mosaics unexpectedly discovered in 1883 in Tunisia. A French army captain, Ernest de Prudhomme, ordered his soldiers to make a garden in his backyard in Naro, the town now called Hammam Lif. Instead they unearthed what proved to be the remains of an ancient Jewish synagogue.

In 1905, some of the mosaics from this building were acquired by the Brooklyn Museum in New York. They are currently on display at the museum until June 4 in the exhibition, "Tree of Paradise: Jewish Mosaics From the Roman Empire." Their meaning is discussed in a new book by Edward Bleiberg, the museum's curator of Egyptian, classical, and ancient Middle Eastern art.

Shock double defeat for Government

Ministers were examining how they suffered a shock double defeat over plans to combat religious hatred.

Tony Blair was dealt his second and third Commons defeats since coming to power as MPs backed House of Lords objections to the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill.

And in a further embarrassment for the Prime Minister, it emerged he did not vote in the second division - which the Government lost by just one vote.


Peers had inflicted a series of defeats on the Bill in a bid to safeguard freedom of speech with an amendment restricting the new offence of inciting religious hatred to threatening words and behaviour rather than a wider definition also covering insults and abuse.

They also required the offence to be intentional, and specified that criticism, insult, abuse and ridicule of religion, belief or religious practice would not be an offence.

Ministers urged the Commons to reject the Lords' amendments and back a Government compromise instead. Home Office Minister Paul Goggins insisted that only those intending to "stir up hatred" would be caught under the Government's plans.


Home Secretary Charles Clarke quickly announced that the Government was bowing to the Commons' will, and that the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill would go for Royal Assent to become law as it stood.

I think the bill as it stands is unnecessary: direct threats and incitements to criminal acts (not thoughts!) are already illegal. It's probably also still subject to abuse by the Government once it becomes law. But it's a vast improvement over the original, on which I have commented in detail here.

UPDATE: On a not unrelated note, buy Danish! (Background here.) I like Carlsberg beer!

UPDATE (2 February): You can see the offending cartoons for yourself here. If such things bother you, don't click on the link. They're not much to my taste, and some are downright tasteless, but I object to them being censored. (Via the Penkill Papers.)
NEW ENOCHIANA -- Gabriele Boccaccini e-mails the follow to the Enoch Seminar:
The year 2005 has been a good year for Enochic Studies:


(a) Four new Enoch books have been published:

Siam Bhayro
The Shemihazah and Asael Narrative in 1 Enoch 6-11: Introduction, Text, Translation and Commentary with Reference to Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical Antecedents
Munster: Ugaritic-Verlag, 2005

Gabriele Boccaccini, ed.
Enoch and Qumran Origins: New Light on a Forgotten Connection
Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005

Andrei Orlov
The Enoch-Metatron Tradition
Tubingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 2005

Annette Yoshiro Reed
Fallen Angels and the History of Judaism and Christianity: The Reception of Enochic Literature
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005

(b) Two volumes have been reissued:

Margaret Barker
The Lost Prophet: The Book of Enoch and Its Influence on Christianity 1988; repr. Sheffield: Phoenix, 2005

David Suter
Tradition and Composition in the Parables of Enoch
1979; Atlanta: Scholars, 2005

(c) Charles‚ book on Enoch has been translated into Spanish:

R. H. Charles
El libro de Enoc, el Profeta
Madrid: Edaf, 2005
HUGOYE: JOURNAL OF SYRIAC STUDIES has published a new issue (9.1; January 2006). Here's the table of contents:

A Sixteenth-Century Batrashil in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Jennifer L. Ball

Ecclesiastics and Ascetics: Finding Spiritual Authority in Fifth- and Sixth-Century Palestine.
Jennifer L. Hevelone-Harper, Gordon College

Possible historical traces in the Doctrina Addai.
Ilaria Ramelli, Catholic University of Milan

Publications and Book Reviews

Recent Books on Syriac Topics.
Sebastian P. Brock, Oxford University

Eugene F. Rogers, Jr., After the Spirit: A Constructive Pneumatology from Resources outside the Modern West.
Robert A. Kitchen, Knox-Metropolitan United Church

Joanna Weinberg, Azariah de' Rossi's Observations on the Syriac New Testament: A Critique of the Vulgate by a Sixteenth-century Jew.
P.J. Williams, University of Aberdeen


Dorushe Graduate Student Conference for Syriac Studies at CUA, February 3-5, 2006.


Journal of Aramaic Studies

Beth Mardutho Amazon Associates

Journal of the Canadian Society of Syriac Studies

Gorgias Press

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Boys find Second Temple burial cave near Beit Shemesh
By ETGAR LEFKOVITS (Jerusalem Post

In a scene out of the Hollywood Indiana Jones, three Israeli children stumbled upon an ancient Second Temple cave in the Beit Shemesh area filled with skeletons and ossuaries, Israel's Antiquities Authority announced Monday.

The boys, ages 11-13, who discovered the heretofore unknown cave during a scout's cave-hunt, were awarded a certificate of recognition for reporting their finds to the Antiquities Authority.


It sounds as though the cave may have been undisturbed since antiquity, which would make it an especialy important find. Well done, guys!
2,000-Year-Old Judean Date Seed Growing Successfully
18:07 Jan 30, '06 / 1 Shevat 5766
By Ezra HaLevi

A 2,000 year old date seed planted last Tu B’Shvat has sprouted and is over a foot tall. Being grown at Kibbutz Ketura in the Negev, it is the oldest seed to ever produce a viable young sapling.


As this year’s Tu B’Shvat (The 15th of the Jewish month of Shvat, the Jewish new year for trees) approaches, the young tree that sprouted from one of the three seeds now has five leaves (one was removed for scientific testing) and is 14 inches tall. [the cultivator Elain] Solowey has named it Metushelah (Methusaleh), after the 969-year-old grandfather of Noah, the oldest human being recorded in the Torah.


I say "reportedly" because something seems dodgy with this Arutz Sheva article. The most recent report before it, which I noted in November of 2005, said the sprout was nearly three feet tall (80 centimeters) and had already sprouted nine leaves. The information in yesterday's article thus seems out of date. But if there were any problems with the sprout, I imagine we would have heard of them, so I assume it's still okay.
HOW TO READ THE BIBLE, a new book by Marc Zvi Brettler, is covered in an NPR article that includes a long excerpt from the first chapter:
'How to Read the Bible' Through History

(Heads up, Ian Werrett.)

Monday, January 30, 2006

MORE ON THE LOS LUNAS INSCRIPTION: A reader informs me that this stone has been the subject of controversy for a while. You can read a page from the New Mexico State Land Office here which notes some entertainingly daft speculation. But it seems that Cyrus Gordon accepted this inscription as ancient, but he thought it was Samaritan and from the Byzantine era. (More on the inscription here.) (You may recall that Gordon also accepted a supposedly Phoenician inscription from Brazil as genuine, although it was rejected as a forgery by Phoenician specialist J. Friedrich and renowned epigrapher Frank Moore Cross Jr.)

Also, Professor James Tabor of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte has written that he is "tentatively convinced" that the Los Lunas inscription is ancient as well. I don't know of any Northwest Semitic epigraphers who agree, or of any peer-review publications supporting its genuineness. Count me as extremely skeptical, but it's not something I've put any time into, nor do I intend to.

If you're interested, here is the reference to Gordon's article. Our library doesn't carry this journal and I am not inclined to burn an interlibrary loan point for the piece.
Cyrus H. Gordon, "Diffusion of Near East Culture in Antiquity and in Byzantine Times," Orient 30-31 (1995): 69-81

Here is the bibliography on the Parahyba inscription from Brazil (all of it that I'm aware of, anyway). All but the last reference are from the journal Orientalia, vol. 37 (1968).
  • Cyrus H. Gordon, "The Authenticity of the Phoenician Text from Parahyba," pp 75-80
  • Gordon, "The Canaanite Text from Brazil," pp. 425-36
  • Gordon, "Reply to Professor Cross," pp. 461-63
  • J. Freidrich, "Die Unechtheit de phönizischen Inscrift aus Parhyba," pp. 421-24
  • Frank Moore Cross Jr., "The Phoenician Inscription from Brazil. A Nineteenth-Century Forgery," pp. 437-60
  • Cross, "Phoenicians in Brazil?" Biblical Archaeology Review, Jan/Feb 1979, pp. 36-43

UPDATE: Reader Duane Smith e-mails that Gordon also has a more popular treatment of the Parahyba inscription in Before Columbus, Links Between the Old World and Ancient America, 1971, pp. 120-126, which I have not seen.
IN THE MAIL: Well, actually, delivered by hand. Philip Esler is up from Bristol and today he gave me a copy of:
Philip F. Esler (ed)., Ancient Israel: The Old Testament In It's Social Context (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005)

This is a volume of essays from this 2004 conference at St. Mary's College.

Another book from the St. Andrews School of Divinity. What can I say?
THE TARGUM LAMENTATIONS DOCTORAL THESIS by Christian Brady is now available online as a PDF document. Chris has info over at Targuman.
CAESAREA LAND DEVELOPERS are being challenged on archaeological grounds. (No pun intended.)
Caesarea residents prefer archeology to expansion
A local NPO objects to selling land in the area, which it says includes important archeological excavations.

Dalia Tal 29 Jan 06 12:08 (Globes, Israel)
A non-profit organization of 750 residents of Caesarea objects to the Caesarea Development Corporation’s plan to market land for building more houses in the town.

The residents claims that the Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting archeological excavations on the land that Caesarea Development plans to sell. These excavations have discovered a mosaic, an ancient cemetery, and ancient roads, among other things.


Sunday, January 29, 2006

HERE'S THE IAA RECOMMENDATION to move the Megiddo prison, in a press release on the IAA website:

Scientific Summary of the Authority's excavation at the Megiddo Prison and its recommendation for moving the prison.

The archaeological site at the Megiddo Police hill is identified as the Jewish village Kfar Othnai, mentioned in written sources. The camp of the Roman Legion VI Ferrata and a city named Maximianopolis, mentioned in historical sources, were erected next to it.

The Roman Period site represents a rare cultural grouping of Village-Camp-City in a limited geographical space, which is located near the biblical Tel Megiddo that is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.


The Antiquities Authority recommends moving the prison and places utmost importance on preservation of the archeological assemblage uncovered in the excavations. This preference stems from the magnitude of these finds and their significance for culture and heritage not only of Israel, but for the whole world, and will enable the preservation and display of the site and the mosaic floor, in their original context, integrated with their environs.

(Via this week's Explorator [not yet posted]).
THE SAINT JOHN'S BIBLE, a modern illuminated Bible manuscript commissioned by St. John’s Abbey and St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, is scheduled to be finished in the summer of 2007. Pages are on display at the Joslyn Art Museum. It was also noted on PaleoJudaica (as "St. John's Bible") back in June of 2004.