Friday, June 22, 2007

THE HOLY GRAIL is in the news. Science Daily has the following:
Archeologist says Holy Grail is in Rome

ROME, June 21 (UPI) -- An Italian archeologist says the Holy Grail -- a cup used by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper -- is buried beneath a church in Rome.

Alfredo Barbagallo said ancient records show the cup is buried in a chamber beneath the Basilica of San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura, one of the seven churches Christian pilgrims used to visit when they came to Rome, The (London) Telegraph said Thursday.

I'm in a hurry and and can't locate the Telegraph article right now. As for the Grail, I'll believe it when I see it.

For earlier PaleoJudaica coverage of Holy Grail news, see here and here.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

THE JERUSALEM FORGERY CONFERENCE, convened by the Biblical Archaeology Society in January of this year, is the subject of a special report on the BAS website. There's also an audio file of the paper by Gabriel Barkay.

(Via Joseph I. Lauer's list.)
HAPPY SUMMER SOLSTICE to all those celebrating.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

AN EGYPTIAN JEWISH MUSEUM? An outfit I don't know called "AME Info" has the following interesting brief item:
Egypt resisting Jewish museum

Talks between Egypt and Israel to open a Jewish museum in Cairo are making minimal progress, according to eTN. The Jewish Community Council in Cairo believes there are enough Jewish monuments and artifacts in Egypt to build a museum. But many Egyptian archaeologists dispute the country's Jewish history, and claim that only indigenous Egyptian artifacts have been found in areas that Jewish scholars claim have Hebrew history.
It's heartening that the idea of a Jewish museum seems at least to be under discussion. Certainly there would be ample material. There is the Ben Ezra Synagogue and attached Cairo Geniza; the excavated ruins at Elephantine and the Jewish Aramaic papyri discovered there (some of which are currently in the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities); many Jewish and biblical texts among the Oxyrhynchus papyri; legends about the translation of the Septuagint in association with the Library of Alexandria; lots of Jewish traditions associated with Alexandria, notably the works of the philosopher Philo. And so on and so on. (See also the material collected in this TourEgypt! article by one Jimmy Dunn [not the Durham NT scholar of the same name!].)

I hope this concept of an Egyptian Jewish Museum gains some traction, although I don't doubt it will be resisted.

On a related note, in the last few days I've been meaning to point out that Egypt Today had an article celbrating Egypt's rich religious heritage, but unfortunately the article would lead us to believe that these consist only of Islamic and Christian sites. The closest we come to Jewish sites is this, listed under Christian sites:
If hiking’s your cup of tea, head to the Sinai and trek up Mount Sinai to watch the sunrise from the spot where it is believed the prophet Moses received the Ten Commandments from God. St. Catherine’s Monastery below shelters the Burning Bush of Old Testament fame, and an impressive collection of icons and jeweled crosses.
It's also odd that the TourEgypt! website entry for Elephantine Island makes no mention of the Jewish garrison and Jewish papyri excavated there, although the other TourEgypt! piece cited above does mention them.

Monday, June 18, 2007

THIS WEEK I have to attend seven graduation ceremonies (plus a rehearsal), four lunches, and two dinners as Principal of St. Mary's College and Dean of the School of Divinity. Blogging, if any, is likely to be light!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

THE MODERN HISTORY OF THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS, with special reference to the controvery about access to them up to 1991, is surveyed in an article in the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. Surprisingly, it says nothing about the role of the Huntington Library in the controversy when it released its Scrolls microfilms in 1991.

I think the piece is a little hard on the original Christian team, who did put a lot of effort into placing the Scrolls into their Jewish context, although they also were understandably quite interested in their Christian background and they did neglect (through lack of specialist knowledge) connections with Rabbinic literature. And I don't think that any of the team members argued that the "sectarians were proto-Christians," in the sense of their having some clear genetic connection with Christianity. That the form of Judaism represented by the Scrolls had some interesting overlaps with Christianity is hardly under debate.

The article could also have mentioned that the original team spent ten years piecing together the bits of manuscripts that came from Cave Four. The Scrolls did not land in our hands in anything like complete manuscripts. I like to say that their reconstruction was like taking a thousand jigsaw puzzles, mixing them all together, throwing away most of the boxes, discarding 80-90% of the mixed pieces, then trying to reconstruct the puzzles. However much you want to criticize the original team for their policies on access, the collating of the scattered fragments into what was left of the individual manuscripts was a heroic piece of work that took up a large chunk of their careers and for which they rarely receive explicit credit. This article is a case in point.

(Full disclosure: I was one of the postgraduates in the 1980s who received Scrolls from team members to publish in our doctoral dissertations. For the record, I did not turn down any requests from scholars to see the material I was working on, and as far as I know, none of those other postgrads did either.)
A DEAD SEA SCROLL and some other ancient manuscripts are on display next week at ACTS Bible College in Minnesota:
A manuscript fragment in Hebrew on brown leather, the beginning of a scroll with characters in a Herodian Hebrew book script, dating from the late first century A.D.
There's a photo of the scroll as well (click on it to enlarge).
SOME OF NEWTON'S THEOLOGICAL AND APOCALYPTIC WRITINGS are on display at the Hebrew University's National Library:
Father of modern science calculated: World to end in 2060
By Ofri Ilani (Haaretz)

At the top of the ancient, densely written English manuscript a verse in Hebrew stands out: "Blessed is the name of His glorious kingdom for ever." Other pages contain sketches of the Temple and calculations of the end of the world, based on verses from the Book of Daniel. The author of these mysterious ruminations was not a sorcerer nor a religious fanatic but none other than Isaac Newton, the 17th-century mathematician and physicist considered the most influential scientist of all time.

Newton's original theological and mystical writings will be on display in a special exhibition entitled "Newton's Secrets," opening today at the National Library at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. This is the first time the manuscripts, in Israel since 1969, have been presented to the public. A digital version of some of the letters can be seen on the National Library's site: at

One of the most intersting manuscripts is a letter from 1704, in which Newton calculates that the world will end in 2060, based on a phrase from Daniel 12:7 "for a time, times, and a half." Newton interpreted this phrase as meaning 1,260 years would pass from the establishment of the Holy Roman Empire by Charlemagne in 800, until the End of Days.