Saturday, January 06, 2007

TEDDY KOLLEK'S CONTRIBUTION to the founding of the Israel Museum is described in a Jerusalem Post article:
Teddy's museum

Back in the Fifties, Teddy Kollek was director-general of the Prime Minister's Office when he realized that Jerusalem and the nation needed a national museum of art and archeology located in the Capital. It was obvious that the tiny Bezalel Museum established by Boris Schatz in what is now the Jerusalem Artists House would not do.

Teddy sat down with leading archeologist Yigal Yadin and the two submitted a proposal to the government that would enable a two-wing museum to be built on a rocky hillside overlooking the little Jerusalem suburb of Neve Sha'anan.

Yadin had other fish to fry and the project became the baby of Teddy. Early in the Sixties, well before the museum was built, he told this writer that as there were no funds for acquisitions of art and artifacts, these would have to come from private Jewish collectors and/or their estates. He explained to me that collectors thought of their collections as their children; and that "every Jewish family wants their children to have a good home."

MORE CONTROVERSIES, personal ones, about the publication of the Gospel of Judas:
Was it virtue or betrayal?
By Louis Sahagun, [Los Angeles] Times Staff Writer
January 6, 2007

THE National Geographic Society hailed it as one of the most significant archeological discoveries of our time, a 1,700-year-old text that portrayed Judas Iscariot as a hero, not a villain, for betraying Jesus.

The portrayal of Judas as a favored apostle who handed Jesus over to the Romans at his master's request made National Geographic's publication of "The Gospel of Judas" — and the companion TV documentary — a worldwide media event.

When the gospel was released last spring, another book appeared, "The Secrets of Judas," which sneered at the notion that the new gospel was revolutionary or that it revealed anything new about Jesus. Author James M. Robinson, a giant in the world of early Christian studies, also accused National Geographic of sensationalizing the gospel "in order to make as large a profit as possible."

Robinson, who had long railed against scholars who tried to restrict access to biblical texts, was especially dismayed that the Judas project was conducted largely in secret with the help of Marvin Meyer, Robinson's friend and former student at Claremont Graduate University.

Without directly invoking the payment Judas received from the Romans, Robinson made his point: National Geographic and its team of translators had received their 30 pieces of silver.

In the months to come, the specialized field of Coptic translation dissolved into public bickering and dark whispers by scholars who spoke of the jealous graybeard with a tender ego or the younger, irresponsible grandstander seduced by the prospect of celebrity.

The article is mostly about the regrettable personal conflict between Robinson and Meyer, but it also touches on the question of the interpretation of the Gospel of Judas:
But some others, including Gnostic scholar John D. Turner, have come to believe that "the prospects of increasing his fame and notoriety got the best of Marvin."

Turner also says he has discovered numerous errors in National Geographic's English translation of the Judas Gospel. He argues the mistakes could have been avoided if the translation team had included a wider variety of experts.

Meyer, an elder at a Santa Ana Presbyterian church who conducts courses on peacemaking, acknowledged that scholars "bring personal issues and presuppositions to the table."

"A question I often ask myself," he said, "is this: Do we gravitate to self-fulfilling prophecies? In this case, is a man of peace such as myself painting Judas as a nice guy? Have we found a Judas in our own image?"
Oddly, Louis Painchaud's challenge to this interpretation (now apparently supported by Craig Evans) is not mentioned.
WALNUTS in the Midrash and the Kabbalah.

Friday, January 05, 2007

THE REAL CYRUS CYLINDER ONLINE: Jona Lendering, the editor of the Livius website on ancient history, has e-mailed the following to Jack Sasson's Agade list:
Until now, there was no edition of the Cyrus Cylinder available on the internet; the only thing that was available, was a falsified translation -possibly created by followers of the late Shah- in which Cyrus is presented as saying that he will respect foreign customs and decreeing religious freedom.

This falsification is not recognized as such, and several well-meaning scholars who sought to explain that -whatever his virtues- Cyrus was not the author of the first charter of human rights, have received highly offensive messages.

Propaganda needs to be countered by quoting the full texts of original documents, so here it is:

I like to thank dr. H. Schaudig for allowing me to use his edition, and prof.dr. R.J. van der Spek for translating and proofreading the text.

I invite webmasters, if they think this is important, to link to these pages, to make sure that they will be picked up by google and will be read by people who would otherwise find the falsified translation.
I was not aware of the fake version of the Cyrus Cylinder, but I have countered the over use of the real one as a human rights precedent here and here. No one has bothered to send me any highly offensive messages in response, which makes me feel a bit neglected.

UPDATE (13 January): Over at samarkeolog, Sam Hardy corrects one of my above-cited earlier posts on one point: the abolition of slavery was raised as a possibility by some in antiquity.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

THE BOG PSALTER is being compared to the Book of Kells in the Times of London:
Treasure emerges from the mud of history
Dalya Alberg, Arts Correspondent

To the untutored eye, it looks like a lump of mud, but experts say that an 8th-century psalter found in an Irish peat bog is exceptionally significant.

Even though the vellum pages of the early Book of Psalms are a crumpled mass, they are likening it to the Book of Kells, one of the world’s most beautiful illuminated manuscripts.

As the find is thought to date from the late 8th century, the illuminators of both books would have been contemporaries, within ten or twenty years of each other. The two books — among few survivals of an age of outstanding manuscript production — are comparable in their large-format size.


Specialists from the museum and Trinity College Dublin — which was given the Book of Kells in the 17th century — are collaborating with international experts on an ambitious project to separate the more than 100 leaves, each measuring 32.4cm by 22cm (12.7in by 8.6in) and with about 30 lines to a page. Decoration on the first page includes an interlaced border and the figure of an eagle.

The psalter, written in Latin, is still in its original binding and is, said Mr Read, of “a very high standard”. Such lavish books would have been produced in scriptoria attached to important monasteries. There were once six such monasteries within about 15km (9 miles) of Faddan More. The nearest was Birr, 7km away.

THE ONLINE RESPONSA PROJECT is now available from Bar Ilan University:
The Online Responsa Project The Wisdom of the Ages - The Technology of the 21st Century

The Global Jewish Database (the Responsa Project) contains the world's largest electronic collection of Jewish texts in Hebrew ever recorded, which embody thousands of years of Jewish learning. The database includes numerous works from the Responsa Literature - rabbinic case-law rulings which represent the historical-sociological milieu of real-life situations. In addition, the database includes the Bible, the Talmud and their principal commentaries; works about Jewish law and customs; major the codes of Jewish law, such as Maimonides' Mishneh Torah and the Shulchan Aruch with its principal commentaries; midrashim, Zohar, etc…

This internet version of the Responsa Project includes a variety of tools and capabilities in its various features of search, navigation of texts, and hypertext links between books in different databases.
(Via Arutz Sheva.)
LECTURES ON JUDAISM to be given at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill:
Curator to hold talk on gallery

CHAPEL HILL -- John Coffey of the N.C. Museum of Art will discuss the museum's Judaic Art Gallery on Jan. 31 at UNC.

His talk will be the first of five free, public speeches in the spring 2007 lecture series of the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies.

All lectures will be at 7:30 p.m. in the theater of UNC's Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History on South Road.

Coffey, curator of American and modern art and deputy director for art at the Raleigh museum, will discuss the history, mission and collection of the Judaic gallery. He is a UNC graduate and Raleigh native. Other series events include:

-- Feb. 15: "Ancient Judaism and the Prism of Orthodoxy." Michael Stone, professor of religious studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, will consider challenges facing Jewish and Christian scholars of Judaism in the ancient world.

-- Feb. 28: "New Light on the Phoenicians and the Maccabees: Excavations at Tel Kedesh, Israel." Andrea Berlin, associate professor in the department of classical and near Eastern studies at the University of Minnesota, will discuss how recent discoveries provide new evidence of political and social interactions among Jews, Phoenicians and Greeks in second century B.C. Palestine.

-- March 20: "Mysticism, Magic and Rabin's Murder: The Pulsa DeNura Ritual." Zion Zohar, director and chair of the program for the study of Sephardic and Oriental Jewry at Florida International University, will discuss a controversial death curse/ritual performed by rabbis who influenced the assassin of Yitzhak Rabin.

-- April 16: "Kurt Weill's Kol Nidre and Jewish Memory." Tamara Levitz, associate professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, will explore the composer's use of the melody of the Kol Nidre -- a Jewish prayer recited on Yom Kippur -- in three of his works.
BIBLICAL STUDIES CARNIVAL XIII has been posted by Tyler Williams at his Codex blog. It is very thorough, with more than 70 entries. And he will also be posting a Best of 2006 edition soon. Well done!
FINDADIG.COM is now available from the Biblical Archaeology Society:
More than two dozen archaeological digs throughout Europe and the Middle East are looking for volunteers this summer to help them excavate history. Whether you’re interested in the worlds of Kings David and Solomon, want to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and the apostles, or search for the heroes of the Trojan War, we’ve got a dig for you.

For each dig, we provide an in-depth description including location, historical and Biblical significance and what you’ll be doing while on the dig. You can also learn all about the dig directors and professors who will lead your summer adventure.
BLOG WATCH: Jim Darlack e-mails to report that his James the Just blog now has a new location and a new title. You can find it as the Old in the New blog. The masthead says:
This blog houses resources and research on early Jewish and Christian literature - particularly how this literature appropriated "Scripture." Formerly this blog was known as "James the Just." Though now called "Old in the New," the blog will still host resources for studying the Epistle of James, James the Just, and other related topics.
ABADDON makes an appearance on Torchwood in the season finale, which aired in Britain on Sunday and Wednesday. Pete Phillips comments in detail at the postmodernbible blog. And it looks as though Captain Jack got his wish at the end of the episode, doesn't it?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

TEDDY KOLLEK, former longtime mayor of Jerusalem, has died at the age of 95. He had a long and illustrious political career that started long before he became mayor in 1965. He was involved in the purchase of the Dead Sea Scrolls and was a major force behind the building of the Israel Museum. He was called the greatest builder of Jerusalem since Herod the Great. The Jerusalem Post has a long biographical article here.

Watch for imbeciles to claim that he was finally done in by their pulsa de-nura curse, which they put on him more than twenty-five years ago.

May his memory be for a blessing.
Ancient latrine fuels debate at Qumran
Posted 1/2/2007 11:54 PM ET

By Matti Friedman, Associated Press
QUMRAN, West Bank — Researchers say their discovery of a 2,000-year-old toilet at one of the world's most important archaeological sites sheds new light on whether the ancient Essene community was home to the authors of many of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

In a new study, three researchers say they have discovered the outdoor latrine used by the ancient residents of Qumran, on the barren banks of the Dead Sea. They say the find proves the people living here two millennia ago were Essenes, an ascetic Jewish sect that left Jerusalem to seek proximity to God in the desert.

The article looks good and accurate and is worth a read. This bit in particular caught my eye:
Still, there is no way to date the fecal parasites, which could have been left by Bedouin who are known to have inhabited the area. To counter this, the paper quotes a Bedouin scholar as saying the nomadic tribespeople do not bury their feces.

Another problem is that archaeologists have already identified a toilet at Qumran — inside the settlement. But Zias believes it was for emergencies: In some cases, divine commandments notwithstanding, nine minutes outside the camp was too far to go.
Also, reactions from Norman Golb and Stephen Pfann are quoted. Not surprisingly, Golb is very skeptical of the Essenes connection. In any case, the question of the date of the latrine needs to be addressed.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY sent out the old year with a bout of Jewish-Temple denial, according to Israel Insider:
From the Arab Press
Sunday, December 31, 2006
‘Western Wall Is not Jewish’
A Palestinian Authority Television program featured Hassan Khader, founder of the Al-Quds [Jerusalem] Encyclopedia, denied any Jewish historical connection to the Western Wall and Temple Mount.

The true name of the Western Wall of the Temple, according to the PA academic, is the Al Buraq Wall, named after Mohammed’s winged horse which ostensibly flew him to Jerusalem.

“We did not invent this place,” Khader said. “This is the place where Al-Buraq landed and the Prophet tied him [to the wall]”
I have noted this claim already up here and here (and compare here). The story of Buraq is found in the Hadith, the post-Qur'anic traditions about the life of Muhammad. Based on Surah 17.1, it reports that Muhammad was miraculously transported to Jerusalem, where he encountered Buraq and rode the beast (who was half horse and half mule) through the seven heavens. Whatever one believes about the Buraq story, it has no bearing whatever on the historical origins of the Western Wall, which is part of the platform of the Herodian Temple (on which see here).
If there was any doubt about whether there would be freedom of worship if the Palestinians achieve their aim of establishing Jerusalem as their capital, Khader made it clear: There would be no Jewish or Christian worship in the city or at any of its sites.

Khader not only praised Arab efforts to prevent Jewish access to the Western Wall in the 20th century, he condoned terrorist attacks against the Jews if they continued to claim the Wall as their holy site.

The bottom line, he said, is that “the Jewish connection to this site is fabricated.”
Obscene politics to go with bogus history.

Monday, January 01, 2007

SADDAM'S OBITUARY in the Times of London mentions his obsession with Nebuchadnezzar and some of its effects:
Saddam Hussein
April 28, 1937 - December 30, 2006
Iraqi dictator whose brutal and reckless rule brought untold miseries on his people and encompassed their utter ruin

Saddam Hussein was a tyrant whose actions brought down unimaginable catastrophe on Iraq and its peoples. From an early age, he had enjoyed inflicting suffering on those around him and, when he came to positions of political power, those whom he could not force or corrupt into submitting to his will, he maimed, murdered or made to flee.

He started two international wars — one against Iran, the second as a result of aggression against Kuwait — which cost an estimated one million lives. He instituted genocidal campaigns against the Kurds in the north of Iraq and the Marsh Arabs in the south. Ruling through the Sunni minority of which he was a member, he ignored the claims of the country’s majority Shia population.

The third war in the region, which brought him and his regime down, was not directly begun by him, but by apparent American — and British — fears of a perceived threat his weapons posed to international security. This time Saddam misjudged the event — and certainly the American mood. Having been let off the hook after his defeat over his Kuwait adventure, he clearly felt that the international community did not have the stomach for a fight. He may have been right in that. But a new American president, George W. Bush, determined to find a scapegoat for the terrorist attacks on the US on September 11, 2001, was in no mood to abide by the niceties of international law. In the determination of President Bush and his advisers, Saddam at length met his match, though the internecine aftermath of the campaign that overthrew him gave his conquerors little enough satisfaction.


A fervent admirer of Hitler on account of the latter’s boldness and hatred of Jews, he told his official biographer in 1980 that he wanted Iraqis to think of Nebuchadnezzar every day. “We could march into Palestine and bring all those Jews here in Babylon with their hands tied behind their backs once more”, he said.


Motivated by the prospect of humiliating “the ancient Persian enemy” and increasing his chances of becoming the overall leader of the Arab world, Saddam declared the agreement he had signed with the Shah in 1975 invalid, saying that he had signed it when Iraq was militarily weak. On September 22, 1980, Iraqi tanks rolled into Iran and attempted to cut the southern oilfields of Khuzistan from the rest of the country. It proved to be a costly mistake. ...
My emphasis. One of the first PaleoJudaica posts was on Saddam and Nebuchadnezzar. Alas, all the links in it have rotted, but the overall content stands. See also here for the same quote as in today's obituary, and here and here for Saddam's own brick inscriptions in Babylon and Hatra.

UPDATE: The American Thinker and Arutz Sheva are drawing an additional parallel between the legendary Nebuchadnezzar of Daniel 4:30 (English version 4:33) and Saddam in his spider hole. And perhaps its worth being reminded by Robert Windrem on the MSNBC Blog of the other person who served as a major inspiration for Saddam:
Publicly, he liked to be compared to the great Mesopotamian leaders who had created the earliest cultures: Hammurabi and Nebuchadnezzar. But privately, he kept a portrait of the equally paranoid Stalin, the low-born Georgian thug he so resembled. If he had studied Soviet history closely though, he would have seen that arrogant miscalculation had almost undone Stalin. And in fact, it was such miscalculation that did undo Saddam: the Iran-Iraq War that killed almost a million Iranians and Iraqis, the invasion of Kuwait that led to the Gulf War and his belief that the US would never invade Iraq.
AMY-JILL LEVINE'S BOOK, The Misunderstood Jew, is reviewed by Julie Galambush in the New York Times:
Interfaith Approach to Forgiving Trespass

Published: January 1, 2007

As a child Amy-Jill Levine insisted on attending catechism class at a Catholic church. She faithfully administered Holy Communion to her Barbie doll. This, despite being, then as now, an observant Jew. A professor of New Testament studies at Vanderbilt Divinity School, Ms. Levine has spent a lifetime exploring the profound connections and equally profound divisions between Christianity and Judaism — and, perhaps more important, between Christians and Jews.

The premise of “The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus” is simple: Jews and Christians need to understand one another. The implicit corollary: Despite years of trying, and to their mutual harm, they do not.

In a book intended for Jews and Christians alike (but mostly addressed to Christians) Ms. Levine offers both critique and corrective on topics as seemingly disparate as the Jewish content of the Lord’s Prayer and Christian responses to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But that is Ms. Levine’s point: to show how frequently and disastrously inaccurate beliefs about Jesus and early Judaism produce distorted relationships in the present.


Jewish-Christian dialogue, having come into its own in the aftermath of the Holocaust, has seemed less compelling in recent decades. Ms. Levine’s chilling tales of casual anti-Judaism among scholars who should know better rekindles the urgency of the task. She covers a vast canvas and of necessity does so in broad strokes, some more effective than others. But it is a book whose strengths far outweigh its flaws, and whose flaws count only because its subject matters so deeply.
HAPPY NEW YEAR! For your New Year's present, I've updated the PaleoJudaica links page, which you can access by clicking on the link or by going to the links bar on the right. I've added memorable PaleoJudaica posts through 2006; updated the blogger roll; and added all of my online publications to the present. I've also purged all the dead links I could find and corrected some but not all of the bad links that need correction. Have a good 2007!

Sunday, December 31, 2006

"THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH: Clinical Practice Guidelines for Post-Deployment Health Evaluation and Management" -- brought to you by the VA/DoD. As David Meadows says in this week's Explorator, this application of the Epic is "somewhat strange."
RALPHIES 2006. Ed Cook (here, here, and here) and Mark Goodacre have posted their annual best-of the-year Ralphie awards, so I suppose I may as well post mine as well.

MUSIC: Sorry, I didn't listen to any new music this year.

MOVIES: Didn't go to the cinema either, except to take my son to two or three children's blockbusters, all of which were forgettable. Of the pre-2006 movies I saw outside the cinema and for the first time this year, my favorite was the eerie Donnie Darko (a mentally disturbed teenager is led to save the universe by a spirit guide who takes the shape of a giant rabbit). I liked the quasi-shamanic wounded-healer theme that drives it. I saw the Director's Cut, which, from what I can tell, makes more sense than the original version. See also the helpful Wikipedia FAQ, which, however, contains many spoilers.

BOOKS: I managed to read a number of technical monographs, mostly to review them. All of them were good and some were excellent, but none really stands out as best of the year. But I'll just mention one of the excellent ones that is likely to be of some general interest to regular PaleoJudaica readers:
Philip Alexander, The Mystical Texts: Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice and Related Manuscripts (Library of Second Temple Studies, 61, Companion to the Qumran Scrolls, 7; London and New York: T & T Clark International, 2006), pp. x + 171. £65. ISBN 0-567-04082-8.
Surveys the Dead Sea Scrolls that have mystical content and places them in the larger context of the mystical tradition in Judaism.

I read a fair number of novels this year, mostly science fiction. Again, many were good and some were excellent, but the best was unquestionably:
Charles Stross, Accelerando (London: Orbit, 2005 [but paperback 2006])
Traces a future history of the Singularity, starting from the second decade of this century. Bizarre enough to be plausible.

TELEVISION: British television had a number of very good new series this year. My favorite was Life on Mars. (A man in 2006 is trapped in his own comatose body after a car accident and subjected to the persistent and fully realistic hallucination that he has been transported to 1973 - or has he actually somehow been astrally projected there? - while his doctors at first think he's brain dead and then begin to resort to risky experimental measures to try to reawaken him before his weakening body gives out. To conclude in season two in 2007.) The 2006 season of Doctor Who, with David Tennant as the new Doctor, and Torchwood (a Doctor Who spinoff featuring Captain Jack Harkness as an alien hunter in Cardiff) come in neck and neck for a close second place. Spooks (the adventures of MI5 agents) deserves honorable mention as well. My favorite new children's series was ITV's Prehistoric Park (nature presenter Nigel Marven travels back in time to rescue extinct species from oblivion). My favorite television moment of 2006 was Nigel coaxing two baby T-Rexes through the Time Portal with a ham sandwich while, in the background, the fireball from the dinosaur-destroying meteorite blasts toward them at two hundred times the speed of sound.

UPDATE: More Ralphies from Chris Brady and Tyler Williams.
COLLOQUIUM ON REVELATION IN ANTIQUITY -- Moulie Vidas e-mails the following:
Revelation, Literature and Community in Antiquity, Colloquium at Princeton University

On 14-16 January, 2007, Princeton University will host a three-day colloquium which sets to explore the connection between revelation and literary and social configurations, focusing on texts written between the hellenistic period and the rise of Islam. Seventeen papers will be presented by faculty members and graduate students from Princeton University as well as guest speakers from other institutions. For full details, see our website: Please e-mail if you wish to attend.
The program includes quite a lot on ancient Judaism, and also deals with Manicheism, Platonism, Hermeticism, early Christianity, the Qur'an, etc. I wish I could go.
A BRIEF REVIEW of books on The Gospel of Judas:
New books respond to Gospel of Judas

By Jean Peerenboom

The Gospel of Judas made a big splash when it was revealed to the world in April, and naturally, it spawned several books analyzing, discrediting or praising it.

Noted theologian N.T. Wright, bishop of Durham in the Church of England put together a short treatise that essentially dismisses the new gospel as shedding any true light on early Christianity or presenting a challenge to the Christian church. He offers an orthodox Christian response in "Judas and the Gospel of Jesus: Have We Missed the Truth about Christianity?" (Baker Books, $18.99).


A second look at the gospel of Judas comes from religious studies professor Bart D. Ehrman in "The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot: A New Look at Betrayer and Betrayed" (Oxford University Press, $22). Written for a more general audience, it talks about what the gospel teaches and how it relates to the other gospel texts — those in the New Testament and those not included in the Bible.