Saturday, May 13, 2006

AN EXHIBITION ON SOME ANCIENT EGYPTIAN CITIES is opening in Berlin. Dr. Gabriele Faßbeck e-mails the following:
Today I would like to draw your attention to an exhibition that will open tomorrow [i.e., today, Saturday] for the public in Berlin´s Martin-Gropius-Bau ... The exhibition features rather spectacular finds from the ancient Egyptian cities of Alexandria, Thonis-Heraklion and Kanopus, dating from 700 BCE to 800 CE. Possibly this is an event worth mentioning onthe Palaeojudaica blog?
Indeed it is.
A PUBLICATION OF CHARLES CLERMONT-GANNEAU, Victorian explorer and Northwest Semitic epigrapher, has been digitized and placed online by David Q. Hall. Stephen C. Carlson reports. It's a book chapter on ancient ossuaries from Jerusalem.
MORE ON THE MAJOR GRANT received by the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Collection for the cataloguing and online release of the Cairo Geniza manuscripts. The Cambridge Evening News has a nice article:
Medieval documents get £475,000 grant

PRECIOUS documents which offer a window on the world of the 10th-13th Centuries have received a major grant towards their upkeep.

The Taylor-Schechter Genizah Collection is regarded as the largest and most important collection of medieval Jewish, Hebrew and Arabic documents in the world, and was entrusted to Cambridge University more than 100 years ago by the Chief Rabbi of the 1,000-year-old Ben Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo.

Now the 140,000 fragments, housed at Cambridge University Library, will be described, catalogued and digitized, making them accessible worldwide, thanks to a £475,000 grant from the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Prof Stefan Reif, founder director of the collection, said the collection was at least equal in importance to the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Bring on the army of philologists!
APRIL DECONICK responds to my bleg for Coptologists's comments on the supposed mistranslation of the Gospel of Judas. She writes that someone
showed me your posting this morning, about a Canadian professor who was quoted saying that the line from the Gospel of Judas "you will sacrifice the man that clothes me" is wrong because of an incorrect future tense. I checked the Coptic transcription and I'm not sure what the professor was referring to, or maybe the reporter got it wrong. The line in Coptic is very straightforward with a simple future. The word that Kasser-Meyer translate "clothes" is a Greek idiom (phoreo), which means "to bear" or "carry" or "wear." So as it is transliterated, it can be read very woodenly: "For the man who carries (or: clothes) me, you will sacrifice him."

Now I haven't been able to check the photographs (none of us have), so the transliteration has not been confirmed. It should be noted that we do not have a critical edition yet, nor has the critical edition been reviewed. Just from my cursory reading of the translation compared to the transcription, there are interpretative problems. Does Judas really have a "spirit" (as Kasser-Meyer translate it) or a "demon" (as I would translate line 44:21, "daimon")?

I guess what I'm saying is that until the photographs are released, none of us can confirm the transliteration and offer alternative translations and solutions to the problems. It is a frustrating position to be in because the popular book is being treated by the media as academically definitive, when in fact this couldn't be further from the truth.
The media's lack of perspective in such matters is a challenge we frequently face.

UPDATE (14 May): And their lack of comprehension too! Professor Gagné corrects the record here.

Friday, May 12, 2006

LANE'S ARABIC LEXICON -- all eight volumes of it -- can be downloaded as single-volume PDF files here. (Via the What's New in Abzu blog.)
[Professor André] Gagné, both an expert on ancient Christian writings and the Coptic language, offered his interpretation of the controversial Gnostic text written in ancient Coptic.

Armed with a laser pointer, he highlighted the Coptic text projected on the screen, “This line says ‘…for you (Judas) will sacrifice the man that bears me.’ It’s saying Judas already had in his mind to sacrifice Jesus, and Jesus is aware of this. He (Jesus) is just prophesizing what Judas is going to do and had already stated. This reflects the Gnostic view of Christianity.”

National Geographic, which has rights to publish the gospel, has reported the Judas gospel says Jesus asked Judas to betray him.

Gagné disputes this and maintains this is not a matter of semantics but one of grammar.

“They’ve mistranslated the tense. It was done too quickly. It lacks the accuracy necessary for interpretation in my opinion.”
Any thoughts about this one from Coptologist readers?

UPDATE (13 May): A Coptologist responds.

UPDATE (14 May): Professor Gagné corrects the record here.
Monica Bellucci launches the new Dior lipstick

Sultry Italian actress and model Monica Bellucci, who topped AskMen's 100 Most Beautiful Women in 2004, is the new muse for Dior's lipstick Rouge Dior. She appeared at the Place Vendome in Paris on Tuesday, May 10, 2006 for the launch of the new product.

Monica who can speak Italian, French, English and Aramaic fluently, made a notable appearance in The Passion of the Christ as Magdalen. ...
I like Monica, but I don't believe that she speaks fluent Aramaic.
ALAA has sent a message from prison. There is also now an online Free Alaa petition that is very easy to sign. And today the New York Times has published an article on the mistreatment of protesters in Egypt: "Police Beat Crowds Backing Egypt's Judges."
THE SOURCES CRÉTIENNES commentary series is going on sale at half price for each volume in honor of the publication of the 500th volume of the series. Roger Pearse posted details last weekend on the Textual Criticism list. Despite the title, the series also includes volumes (original text, translation, commentary) of important Jewish pseudepigrapha such as 2 Baruch, Pseudo-Philo, and ancient Jewish sermons on Jonah and Samson preserved in Armenian.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A NEW EDITION OF THE SAMARITAN LITURGY is in the works at Tel Aviv University. Shai Heijmans has the details over at the Hebrew and Aramaic Philology blog. He also has the Aramaic text of a sample poem, complete with with an audio-file recitation.
SHORING UP MASADA -- I noted this story a couple of years ago, but the Jerusalem Post now has a new, long article on it:
Could Masada fall again?

Masada is one of the most renowned symbols of Jewish endurance.

Rising 230 meters above the Dead Sea valley, the site of a mass suicide of Jewish Zealots in 73 CE, it is, next to Jerusalem, Israel's most popular tourist site. Elite units of the Israel Defense Forces hold ceremonies atop its heights, pledging, "Masada shall not fall again."

But it might.

Not today, not tomorrow, but one day. Seismic tremors, climatic change and, inevitably, gravity continue to threaten the stability of the historic remains and the mountain that supports them.

Engineering professors from Beersheba's Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the University of California-Berkeley have teamed up to make sure that doesn't happen.

Using state-of-the-art monitoring devices and advanced computer modeling techniques, and armed with a four-year grant from the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation, Beersheba's Yossi Hatzor and Berkeley's Steven Glaser are breaking new ground in geological engineering.

Masada is their test case.

Graphic novels drawing the young to faith
The Orlando Sentinel

For more than 2,500 years, Jews have been telling their faith's sacred stories, in written words on parchment and the page, and through the oral tradition of rabbinical debate.

Now they're trying something new: a graphic novel.

The Jewish Publication Society, a venerable group that is the closest thing to an official press for all the religion's denominations, is turning to a very modern way to reach young Jews. "Megillat Esther" is a graphic novel - an extended, black-and-white comic book - based on the holiday of Purim, and probably rated PG-13 for a few borderline racy drawings.

Peter Flint will talk at 7 p.m. Monday in Jubilee Hall at Myers Park United Methodist Church. Flint will speak on "The Dead Sea Scrolls, Jesus and the Da Vinci Code." The church is at 1501 Queens Road.
A LECTURE ON THE GOSPEL OF JUDAS at Stanford is reported on in the Stanford Daily:
Judas’ gospel reconsidered

By Rahul Kanakia
Opinions Columnist
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
last updated May 10, 2006 2:17 AM

Two religious studies professors painted a fantastic picture of the Gospel of Judas and the early Christians who wrote it — now labeled heretics by some — at the Stanford Humanities Center last night. Using examples from the text itself, they outlined some of the Gospel’s more outrageous claims; including the notion that Judas is destined to ascend to the kingdom of heaven and return one day to rule the Earth.

The heavily attended talk was conducted by Emeritus Religious Studies Prof. Robert Greggand and Wabash College Prof. Robert Royalty, who was a professor of religion at Stanford from 1993 to 1999.

11th Conference of Syriac Heritage to Opens in Aleppo
Wednesday, May 10, 2006 - 02:50 PM


The 11th Conference for Syriac Heritage titled " Mar Ephraim the Syriac- a Poet of Our Days" is due to open in the northern city of Aleppo on Thursday.

The Conference is dedicated to commemorate the 1700th anniversary of the birth of the Poet Mar Ephraim the Syriac.

APRIL DECONICK is publishing away on the Gospel of Thomas:
Touching the past

By ARLENE MANNLEIN, Staff Writer (Journal Gazette and Times-Courier, IL)

April DeConick held in her hands something few people in the world will ever touch, let alone read.

“When I held the papyrus in my hand (encased in glass), it was overwhelming, the feeling of a pilgrim touching gently a relic,” said the associate professor of religion at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington. She was explaining her feelings about her opportunity to read the Gospel of Thomas.

DeConick continued, “There is a power in the antiquity of the document alone, but also in its ‘hiddenness.’

“For almost 2,000 years, it was buried beneath the sands of Egypt. The knowledge that I am one of only a few people in history who have touched and read the original pages of this sacred book was staggering, a moment of reverence for sure.”

She has published a recent monograph on the Gospel of Thomas and she has a new translation and a popular book on it in the works. She also takes apart The Da Vinci Code in this interview.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

THE DA VINCI CODE MOVIE is not listed to be shown in Egypt, and the Sandmonkey smells a rat. (Although one of the commenters to the post thinks it's just a distribution issue. I hope so.) The Arabic translation of the book is reportedly banned there as well. Once again, I find myself willy-nilly on Dan Brown's side. The book is entertaining rubbish and the movie will doubtless be the same only more so. But governments have no business messing with people's access to books or movies, rubbish or not. We can make up our own minds, thank you, whatever country we live in.
THE JOURNAL OF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES has a new issue out (65.2, 2006). It has an article on late-antique Egypt which looks timely, given all the recent Gospel of Judas etc. hype:
CAROLINE T. SCHROEDER. Prophecy and Porneia in Shenoute's Letters: The Rhetoric of Sexuality in a Late Antique Egyptian Monastery
It can be downloaded in PDF format. Requires a paid personal or institutional subscription to access. The issue also has some relevant book reviews.
THE SITE OF JERUSALEM had a Middle Paleolithic settlement:
Prehistoric site found in Jerusalem

By ETGAR LEFKOVITS (Jerusalem Post)

Jerusalem, it appears, was a popular place even during prehistoric times.

Israeli archaeologists have uncovered a large concentration of stone utensils on the southeastern rim of the city which were used by prehistoric man hundreds of thousands of years ago, Israel's Antiquities Authority announced Tuesday.

FREE ALAA is a new blog by the Sandmonkey dedicated to securing the release of Alaa and the other 47 protesters detained in Egypt.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

THE JOURNAL OF HEBREW SCRIPTURES is in the process of publishing volume 6, 2006. Here is what is available so far:
Ronald Benun, Evil and the Disruption of Order: A Structural Analysis of the Acrostics in the First Book of Psalms

David M. Carr (ed.), The State of the Field of Hebrew Bible Study: In Conversation with John J. Collins, The Bible After Babel: Historical Criticism in a Postmodern Age (Eerdmans, 2005)

Yung Suk Kim, Lex Talionis in Exod 21:22‑25: Its Origin and Context

Gary N., Knoppers (ed.), Chronicles and the Chronicler: A Response to I. Kalimi, An Ancient Israelite Historian: Studies in the Chronicler, his Time, Place and Writing

Aron Pinker, The Core Story in the Prologue-Epilogue of the Book of Job
There are also lots of book reviews. Articles can be accessed as web pages ("optimized for IE" -- bah! -- but they look okay on my Mac Firefox 1.503) or downloaded as PDF files. Reviews are available only as web pages.
RALLIES TO FREE ALAA and his detained fellow-protesters will be taking place in major U.S. cities today. No word so far on rallies in Britain.
THE JOURNAL OF GRECO-ROMAN JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY is in the process of publishing volume 3, 2006. Two articles are posted so far:
3.1 Craig Evans Messianic Hopes and Messianic Figures in Late Antiquity
3.2 Richard Van Egmond The Messianic ‘Son of David’ in Matthew
They can be downloaded as PDF files.

Monday, May 08, 2006

THE OLD TESTAMENT PSEUDEPIGRAPHA -- AN ONLINE COURSE: I am happy to report that Dr. Grant Macaskill and I will be teaching an honours (i.e., upper division undergraduate) course on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha in the spring semester of next year (commencing in February of 2007). We and the students will be running a blog alongside the course, similar to the Qumranica blog of last year. Here is the course description:
DI 4716
Dr. J. R. Davila
Dr. G. Macaskill

Prerequisite: 11 or better in DI2001 or DI2003

A two-hour weekly seminar

This module explores the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, a loose collection of ancient quasi-Biblical writings fictionally attributed to biblical characters or set in the Old Testament period but rejected from the mainstream scriptural canons of both Judaism and Christianity. We shall study the orthodox and heretical interests and concerns of these documents; the reasons for their exclusion from the major canons; the problem of sorting out who wrote and edited them, when, and why; and the influence of these works after antiquity. The focus this year will be on texts preserved in exotic ancient church languages (e.g., Coptic, Ethiopic, Slavonic, Syriac), but all texts will be read in English translation and no knowledge of any ancient languages is required or assumed.

The lecturers and students will also contribute to a blog associated with the module.

1. A seminar paper of 4000-5000 words on a topic to be arranged. The essay will be discussed in a seminar and the student will then have the opportunity to rewrite it in light of feedback received. The final rewrite of the essay will count for 50% of the marks for the module and will be due by the last day of teaching in the semester.
2. A 3-hour final examination on the entire module, which will count for 50% of the marks for the module.

Charlesworth, James H. (ed.). The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha,
vol. 1, Apocalyptic Literature and Testaments;
vol. 2, Expansions of the "Old Testament" and Legends, Wisdom and Philosophical Literature, Prayers, Psalms, and Odes, Fragments of Lost Judeo-Hellenistic Works. Garden City, N. Y. Doubleday, 1983, 1985.

Davila, James R. "The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha as Background to the New Testament." Expository Times 117 (2005): 2:53-57.

The St. Andrews Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Website:
To take the course for credit, you have to be a registered, on-site St. Andrews student. But anyone will be welcome to follow the course through reading the blog.
ANOTHER EGYPTIAN BLOGGER HAS BEEN ARRESTED. Alaa of Manal and Alaa’s Bit Bucket was detained yesterday by Egyptian police, along with about ten other people, for participating in "a protest to support the Judiciary's branch fight for independence" (quote from the Sandmonkey). I've mentioned Manal and Alaa before in connection the arrest and subsequent release of blogger Abdolkarim Nabil Seliman. They won an award last November from Reporters Without Borders. The Sandmonkey has details here about the current situation and has more in a recent post that I take the liberty of quoting in full:
It’s War

As you can read here Alaa has been arrested , and the situation is turning bleaker by the minute. Given what the egyptian police is like , and how they wanted to hurt Alaa for quite a while now, I don't think it's wise to wait until they decide what THEY want to do with him. The fight should start immedietly.

The contact information for the Egyptian embassy is below:
The Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt
3521 International Ct. NW
Washington DC 20008
Phone (202) 895 5400
Fax (202) 244 5131
(202) 244 4319

E-mail them, send them letters, harrass them. The last time you did that we got Abdel Karim released. I am not joking when I tell you that I had information from a source inside that this is the only reason they released him. Too much pressure by the average american and european. The egyptian government is cowardly, they will sucumb to pressure. Tell them that you find his detainment and arrest unacceptable. That you will not set foot in this country, and will tell every friend of yours never to visit Egypt, unless Alaa and the other detainees are released immedietly. That a government that throws people in jail for freedom of speech is not one that will get your money. Tell everyone you know and spread the word. In the words of Tigerhawk: Release the Hounds.
The overall situation that let to the demonstrations is discussed in the 28-April Guardian blog post "Fighting terror, Egyptian style" by Brian Witaker.

I have sent the following e-mail to the Egyptian Embassy in London ( I urge you to take a few minutes to write to the Egyptian Embassy in your area as well. Use any of my wording you find useful. You might also want to look at comment 4 to the post quoted above, which gives a good generic template for American readers.

These officials don't seem to learn from their mistakes very readily, but they do respond to public pressure, as we saw last time around.

Swarm them.

Dear Sir,

I write regarding the reports that Egyptian blogger Alaa Abd El-Fatah, was arrested at a demonstration in Cairo on May 7th, 2006. He and other protesters were demonstrating peacefully to support the Judiciary's struggle for independence and to protest the arrest of numerous other demonstrators over the last two weeks.

These reports are extremely disturbing. I am a lecturer at a British university and my research specialties involve Gnosticism and ancient biblical apocrypha and pseudepigrapha some of which were discovered in Egypt and written in the ancient Coptic language. I have visited Egypt in the past and from time to time I might have occasion to travel there again for research or conferences. But while arrests of this sort are going on, I will certainly not visit and in addition I will warn my colleagues, students, friends, and blog-readers to stay away. I myself have criticized the Egyptian Government on my own weblog, and in light of this report I would fear for my personal safety in Egypt.

Is this really the sort of publicity you want for your country? I urge you to release Alaa Abd El-Fatah immediately, along with the other activists arrested with him and during the last fortnight, drop all charges against them, and henceforth respect their human right to criticize their own government.

Sincerely yours,

James R. Davila

UPDATE: More from the Sandmonkey. It's not looking good.

Volume 37, Number 2, 2006

Josephus' Rewriting of the Babel Narrative (Gen 11:1-9)
pp. 169-191(23)
Author: Inowlocki, Sabrina

Die Sünden Israels und der Heiden Beobachtungen zu L.A.B. 25:9-13
pp. 192-211(20)
Author: Tilly, Michael

The Dated Coins of Herod the Great: Towards a New Chronology
pp. 212-240(29)
Author: Marshak, Adam Kolman

Early Christian Authors on Samaritans and Samaritanism: A Review Article
pp. 241-259(19)
Author: Di Segni, Leah

Review of Articles

Review of Articles
pp. 260-298(39)
Volume 37, Number 1, 2006

The Special Purim and the Reception of the Book of Esther in the Hellenistic and Early Roman Eras
pp. 1-34(34)
Author: Burns, Joshua Ezra

NoyΣ in der Septuaginta des Hiobbuches. Zur Frage nach der Rezeption der Homerepik im hellenistischen Judentum
pp. 35-54(20)
Author: Dafni, Evangelia G.

The Likeness of the Image: Adamic Motifs and Anthropoly in Rabbinic Traditions about Jacob's Image Enthroned in Heaven
pp. 55-84(30)
Author: Bunta, Silviu

Review of Books

Review of Books
pp. 85-167(83)

Sunday, May 07, 2006

THE APOCRYPHON OF JOHN, another important Gnostic document attributed pseudepigraphically to an apostle, is getting some press thanks to a new book by Karen King. David Meadows notes an Ottawa Citizen article on it over at Rogue Classicism. Like the Gospel of Judas, a Greek version of the Apocryphon of John was condemned in the second century by the church father Irenaeus, but the work now survives only in translation into Coptic. But the Gospel of Judas is preserved only in the one manuscript, whereas there are four manuscripts containing three versions and two different translations of the Apocryphon of John.
She's still hot stuff
Mary Magdalene has been a tantalizing and enigmatic figure since Christianity's earliest years
Thanks to The Da Vinci Code, she continues to be the focus of much scholarly and popular interest

May 6, 2006. 01:00 AM

Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman can expect to draw a few interested souls when he gives a public lecture on the Apostle Peter or the Apostle Paul. When he lectures on Mary Magdalene, people flock to listen.

Mary Magdalene is the hot topic on the lecture circuit, says Ehrman, author of the recently released Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene (Oxford University Press).

Compared to the voluptuous temptress of stage, screen, literature and legend, Peter and Paul seem old and tired by comparison.

I'm sure Monica Bellucci did nothing to lessen her reputation. On the question of whether Jesus was married to her (or to anyone else), see here. And don't forget to keep an eye on bibliobabe Lesa Bellevie's Magdalene Review blog, for daily tracking of Mary Magdalene in the media.