Saturday, August 25, 2007

THE SOCIETY OF BIBLICAL LITERATURE PROGRAM BOOK for November's meeting in San Diego is now available online, as a number of other bloggers have already noted. I have a paper in the Qumran section:

4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Betsy A - GH

Theme: Methods and Theories in the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Martin G. Abegg, Trinity Western University, Presiding
James R. Davila, University of St. Andrews-Scotland
Counterfactual History and Other New Methodologies (25 min)
Jonathan Klawans, Boston University
The Study of Qumran Doctrines: Methodological Reflections (25 min)
Maxine L. Grossman, University of Maryland College Park
Gendered Sectarians: Some Methodological Thoughts on Gender and the Dead Sea Scrolls (25 min)
Eyal Regev, Bar-Ilan University
Sectarianism In Qumran: A Comparative Approach (25 min)
Ross Kraemer, Brown University, Respondent (15 min)
Discussion (35 min)
There are three other Qumran sections lined up:

1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Betsy C - GH

Theme: Qumran Texts and Contexts
Lawrence H. Schiffman, New York University, Presiding
Steve Delamarter, George Fox University
Refining Sociological Models for Understanding Scribal Practices in the Biblical Dead Sea Scrolls (30 min)
Eibert Tigchelaar, Florida State University
Reading the Wiles of the Wicked Woman (4Q184 1) in Its Manuscript Context (30 min)
Alison Schofield, University of Denver
“From the Wilderness to a Door of Hope”: Thematic (Re)conceptualization of the Wilderness in Liturgical Texts (4QBarkiNapshi and 4QWords of the Luminaries) (30 min)
Steven D. Fraade, Yale University
Qumran Yahad and Rabbinc Havurah: A Comparison Reconsidered (30 min)
Vered Noam, Tel Aviv University
Ancient Halakhic Homilies in the Writings of the Qumran Sect and of the Tannaim (30 min)


4:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Salon A - MM

Theme: The Dead Sea Scrolls at Sixty: The San Diego Natural History Museum Exhibition

Esther Chazon, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Presiding (15 min)
Moshe J. Bernstein, Yeshiva University
Three Ways of Interpreting the Bible at Qumran (35 min)
James C. VanderKam, University of Notre Dame
In Those Days (35 min)
Carol Newsom, Emory University
Communion with the Angels at Qumran (35 min)


9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Ford C - GH

Eileen Schuller, McMaster University, Presiding
Armin Lange, University of Vienna
In the Second Degree (30 min)
Bennie H. Reynolds III, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
4QApocryphon of Jeremiah C and the Problem of Genre (30 min)
Albert Hogeterp, Catholic University of Leuven
Resurrection and Biblical Tradition: The Relation between the Pseudo-Ezekiel Fragments and Ezekiel 37 Reconsidered (30 min)
Hanne von Weissenberg, University of Manchester
The Centrality of the Temple in 4QMMT (30 min)
Stephane Saulnier, University of Notre Dame
X and Duqah in Some Calendrical Scrolls: Are We any Closer to an Identification? (30 min)
Plus there's this thematic Matthew session:

9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Emma BC - GH

Theme: Matthew and the Dead Sea Scrolls: Celebrating 60 years of Research

Lidija Novakovic, Bethel University, Presiding
James H. Charlesworth, Princeton Theological Seminary
How Important are the Dead Sea Scrolls for Understanding Matthew? (15 min)
Anthony Le Donne, Durham University
Messianic Duality in Matthew and the Dead Sea Scrolls (15 min)
George J. Brooke, University of Manchester
Matthew’s Use of Scripture in the Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls (15 min)
Craig A. Evans, Acadia Divinity College
Fulfilling the Law and Seeking Righteousness in Matthew and the Dead Sea Scrolls (15 min)
John Kampen, Methodist Theological School in Ohio
Jesus, Wisdom, and Matthew’s Place Within Judaism (15 min)
Break (5 min)
Panel Response
Discussion (70 min)
And, of course, the Dead Sea Scrolls figure in many papers in many other sessions as well.

I'll post the schedules for some other sections of interest as I find the time and the inclination.

UPDATE (26 August): More here (Pseudepigrapha-related sessions). Also, I've added the session numbers to the session listings above.

UPDATE (27 August): More here (Hellenistic Judaism).
ARAMAIC WATCH: The Village Voice astrology column delves into Kabbalah and Aramaic etymology.
CANCER (June 21-July 22): According to the Haggadah, an ancient Jewish text, the first thing God made, before anything else, was the Torah. This book was "written with black fire on white fire." The 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet became the raw materials out of which the Divine One forged heaven and earth. Now you, Cancerian, have a chance to get firsthand evidence of the power that language has to shape experience. In the coming days, I suggest that you formulate what you say with great precision. The words you use will have the power of the ancient magical incantation, abracadabra, which is derived from the Aramaic word meaning "I create as I speak."
"Haggadah (Aggada) is a genre of rabbinic texts (lore or legend rather than law), not a specific text. This material sounds as though it comes from the early Kabbalistic text Sefer Yetzirah (Sefer Yesira, "The Book of Creation"; online translation of uncertain value here; old introductory article here, authoritative 2005 edition by A. P. Hayman here), although it may be that Aggadic texts present some of the same ideas.

As for Abracadabra, the suggested Aramaic phrase is a plausible etymology, although others are possible as well. The history of the incantation and the various proposed etymologies are summed up in this article by Michael Quinion and this Wikipedia article. They, incidentally, provide additional evidence for the influence of Jewish lore on Harry Potter. On that, Quinon is a little imprecise:
Fans of the Harry Potter books will know the killing curse, Avada Kedavra, in which J K Rowling seems to have combined the supposed Aramaic source of abracadabra with the Latin cadaver, a dead body.
Wikipedia is more precise:
The "Killing Curse" in the Harry Potter stories may have been taken by J. K. Rowling from an Aramaic form "avada kedavra" or similar, which roughly means "what I speak is destroyed," influenced by the Latin word cadaver, meaning "corpse". This form differs from the "I create as I speak" form ("Avara Kedavra") by a single letter in the English transliteration; it is one of the few spells in Harry Potter not derived entirely from Latin.
THE SAN DIEGO DEAD SEA SCROLLS EXHIBITION is reviewed by the Navy Compass. They liked it.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Celebrating Abraham Joshua Heschel at 100
Jerusalem, 25-27/12/2007

The Tenth Annual Conference of
The Institute for the Study of Rabbinic Thought
Robert M. Beren College, Beit Morasha of Jerusalem

Call for Papers:
Heavenly Torah: The Book and its Themes through the Prism of a Generation

This year we celebrate Abraham Joshua Heschel’s 100’th birthday. One of his most important works, published originally in Hebrew, with the English title “Theology of Ancient Judaism”, recently appeared in English translation as “Heavenly Torah as Refracted through the Generations”. The tenth annual conference of the Institute for the Study of Rabbinic Thought will be dedicated to a reexamination of this work, its importance, its theological innovation, and a critique of it. Themes and issues that are seminal to the work will be discussed in their own light and in light of Heschel’s work. We herewith invite presentations, in Hebrew and in English, that address a broad range of subjects that grow out of Heschel’s work. These include:

General and specific assessment and critique of Heschel’s work in “Heavenly Torah.”

Understanding “Heavenly Torah” in the context of Heschel’s theological oeuvre.

Methodological issues in the study of rabbinic thought and Jewish theology that arise from the work; making the study of the rabbis’ thought systematic; types of theological creativity and the role of historical theology.

Retrieving the thought of individual rabbis and of constitutive “machlokot”.

Agadda and theology.

The rabbis between prophecy and apocalypse.

Specific theological issues: God, anthropomorphism, suffering, etc.

The schools of R. Akiva and R. Ishmael - halachic, hermeneutic and philosophical perspectives.

Rationalism and mysticism in rabbinic thought.

Torah from Heaven, revelation and role of human creativity in making the Torah.

Please send proposals for the conference to Alon Goshen-Gottstein,, by 20.9.07.


Dr. Alon Goshen-Gottstein
The Institute for the Study of Rabbinic Thought
Bet Morasha of Jerusalem

Thursday, August 23, 2007

ARTICLES ON THE JUDEAN DESERT TEXTS (especially the Babatha archive) from the Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik are now available online. Menachem Mendel has details.
MY RECENT BOOK, THE PROVENANCE OF THE PSEUDEPIGRAPHA (see sidebar on the right), gets a second review in the Review of Biblical Literature. (The first, by Sabrina Inowlocki, is noted here.) The new one, by Johann Cook, is here. Key conclusion:
One thing is certain: this book will force scholars to rethink their methodological positions.
If it accomplishes that, I am content.
THE SITE OF UGARIT figures in the new novel ABC by David Plante:
Gerard soon will find a concrete expression for his grief, for the letters on the scrap of paper are Sanskrit, oldest of the classical Indo-European languages to which our tongue belongs. The more Gerard studies the scrap retrieved from the ruined house, the "more its incomprehensibility took hold of him, and the more the incomprehensibility took hold of him the more he believed it must have a meaning."

Soon, he has left his wife and teaching post behind to join a similarly obsessed band of grieving parents, who are convinced that, in the mystery of the alphabet's origins -- in other words, in the very mechanism by which we set down the stories by which we live -- there is a hidden, transcendent and, perhaps, consoling meaning. Together this little band -- which includes a mother who has lost a daughter to a drug overdose, parents of a child killed by terrorists and a grief-stricken Chechen mother -- moves from Oxford to Greece, to the site of ancient Ugarit, near Latikia on the Syrian coast.

That city occupies a special place in the archaeological study of languages because it has given up not simply vast palaces and temple libraries, but also the first private manuscript collections ever found in the ancient world. Inscribed on clay tablets, the Ugarit texts comprise a polyphony of ancient Near Eastern languages -- Sumerian, Hurrian, Akkadian and Ugarit written in seven different scripts, ranging from Egyptian hieroglyphics to Cypro-Minoan to the Ugarites' own cuneiform. The latter is thought to be the most direct antecedent of our own phonetic alphabet.

Throughout this quest, the ghosts of the phonetic pilgrims' lost loved ones hover around and it is one of the strengths of Plante's beautifully controlled prose that the reality and unreality of these specters is altogether unresolved. It once was said of James Joyce that he had rejected everything about the Scholastic Catholicism in which he was raised, except its basic principles. Plante is one of those Catholic unbelievers who has abandoned everything about his faith except that sense of the sacred to be found in its mysteries and contradictions.

The arc of "ABC's" narrative evokes deeply -- though it is unspoken -- the ancient mysticism drawn from one of the most ancient of cabalistic texts, the first century "Sefer Yetzirah," which held that The Infinite ("En Sof") was accessible through contemplation of the Hebrew alphabet itself. Meditation upon the divine through the mechanism of autonomic writing and assigning of transcendent meaning to individual letters entered the mysticism of Plante's Catholic tradition through contact with the writings of the great medieval Spanish cabalist, Abraham Abulafia.
Actually the Ugaritic alphabet, based on the cuneiform (wedge) system, was a dead end and died out. It's the Phoenician alphabet that is antecedent to ours. Still, sounds like an interesting book.

UPDATE (24 August): Duane Smith comments at Abnormal Interests.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

SCOTT MCKNIGHT is interviewed on Beliefnet regarding his recent book:
What Jesus Believed
New Testament scholar Scott McKnight wants Christians to say 'the Jesus Creed' and recommit to love.
Interview by Paul O'Donnell

Amid the continuing debate over who Jesus was, New Testament scholar Scott McKnight asks what Jesus did to revolutionize religious thought. Placing Jesus firmly in the Jewish tradition, McKnight identifies Jesus' key innovation as his modification of the Shema: to the ancient Jewish commandment to "you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might," Jesus appended a relatively obscure dictate from Leviticus: "Love your neighbor as yourself." In a new book, McKnight argues that Christians must reexamine their commitment to love, and offers "the Jesus Creed" as an essential guide to spiritual formation. We spoke to him recently about Jesus the Jewish prophet and revolutionary Christian.
A NEW MANDAEAN (MANDEAN) BLOG: April DeConick gives some details.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A CONFERENCE ON THE CAIRO GENIZA begins today began yesterday in Cambridge.
THE CONTROVERSY OVER TENURE for Nadia Abu El-Haj at Barnard College continues. Here are blog posts from the Chronicle of Higher Education and the Huffington Post. The latter notes a counter-petition in favor of tenure. And the Chronicle also has an article that is available only to subscribers.
TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Christiane Amapour has a new CNN documentary, "God's Warriors," in which the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem reportedly indulges in more Jewish-Temple denial:
On the line with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour

By Perry Gil S. Mallari (Manila Times)

WHAT happens when manmade laws collide with God’s law? This is but one of the questions that the new CNN documentary God’s Warriors will try to answer. Hosted by CNN international chief correspondent Christiane Amanpour, the documentary is an in-depth look at the so-called God’s Warriors of Judaism, Islam and Christianity, an army of religious zealots who see contemporary society as corrupt and in need of purging.


... In contrast, another character featured in God’s Warriors, Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, the Grand Mufti (Islamic scholar) of Jerusalem pertaining to the same topic said, “The temple [the Jewish Temple] only exists in the illusion of people who speaks of it.” ...

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Gospel according to Czechs
With Bible translation, Alexandr Flek seeks to restore 'cultural literacy'

By Paul Voosen
Staff Writer, The Prague Post
August 15th, 2007

Sixteen years ago, Alexandr Flek lay upon the floor of the church where he worshipped, and he was in agony.
It had been four years since he converted to Christianity and became a preacher, and two years since the Velvet Revolution. And still, there was no project under way to translate the Bible into Czech. In the past 400 years, there had been only two Czech translations—one archaic if revered, and the other denuded of its figurative force by the taint of communism.
“On the carpet, this groaning and travailing overwhelmed me,” says Flek of that day. “I was desperate. The years were passing. There was no Bible.”
There lay Flek’s passion, harkening back to the Protestant Reformation, hundreds of years earlier: That people read the Bible firsthand, in language current and powerful.
But there was no new translation. The country’s scholars — perhaps removed from the glowing evangelism that enfolds Flek’s late arrival to religion — were mired in translating apocrypha.

I'm glad the Czechs are getting a new translation of the Bible, but I wouldn't knock translating apocrypha. I hope those scholars are still at it.
Chuao Chocolatier Partners with the San Diego Natural History Museum's Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibition

Chuao Chocolatier has partnered with San Diego Natural History Museum to create an exclusive chocolate assortment inspired by the Museum's highly anticipated exhibition, Dead Sea Scrolls.

San Diego (PRWEB) August 20, 2007 -- Chuao Chocolatier ( has partnered with San Diego Natural History Museum to create an exclusive chocolate assortment inspired by the Museum's highly anticipated exhibition, Dead Sea Scrolls.

Chuao Chocolatier's Chef Michael Antonorsi, blended his signature Venezuelan chocolate with popular Middle Eastern spices to create bonbons that are unlike anything most chocolate lovers have ever tasted. The assortment is called "Flavors of the Region," the region being the Middle East where the scrolls were discovered.

Each box contains nine bonbons in three unique flavors.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

MESSAGES TO THE DEMIURGE can be left here. Seriously.

UPDATE (4 September): Winning entries noted here.
JUNIOR ACADEMIC POSITIONS IN RABBINICS are being advertised by the Open University and the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

(Via the H-Judaic list.)
HERSHEL SHANKS is defending the authenticity of the Ivory Pomegranate. He has photographs.

(Via Jack Sasson's Agade list.)

Background here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

UPDATE (21 August): I meant to say "the Ivory Pomegranate inscription." Everyone agrees that the object itself is an ancient artifact; it's the inscription that is argued to be a forgery.
THE BBC IS HAVING MORE TROUBLE with comments on its website, according to the tabloid Daily Mail:
BBC forced to removed 'bastard' slur about Jesus from its website

By JASON LEWIS - More by this author » Last updated at 22:17pm on 18th August 2007

The BBC has been forced to remove statements from its website referring to Jesus as a 'bastard'.

It is the latest in a string of offensive comments that BBC editors have allowed members of the public to post.

The remarks have been allowed to remain for weeks, despite complaints from religious groups.


The debate had descended into an argument about the merits of Christians, Jews and Muslims when a writer, known as 'colonelartist', posted: "Are you a christian? You do know that jesus had to hide all his short life he lived in those promised land because his tribesmen used to call him fatherless, ridiculed him for being a B-A-S-T-A-R-D...'

He added: "Jesus...was also persecuted because the jews would never accept as their Messiah a person whose father was missing...'

The comments were allowed to remain for a week despite complaints. But after The Mail on Sunday contacted senior BBC officials, they were deleted.


One website user wanted to see if BBC editors were allowing these offensive remarks to remain while blocking others. He wrote: "No one can surpass the Muslims for denial of their role in Terrorism and Suicide bombing." The remarks were almost immediately deleted.

The BBC has also been criticised for allowing allegedly anti-Semitic posts from a contributor called "Iron Naz'.

In a message left on the site for more than a month, Iron Naz says: "Zionism is a racist ideology where jews are given supremacy over all other races and faiths. This is found in the Talmud...which allows jews to lie as long as its to non-jews."

The remarks brought complaints from the Board of Deputies, the organisation that represents Britain's Jews and its Community Security Trust. They say the post draws on a discredited 19th Century text, the Talmud Unmasked, which is still distributed by neo-Nazi booksellers.

However, the BBC said the remarks did not merit removal.

There's more on the latter episode here.

Stories like these reinforce my decision not to enable comments on this site.
For love of Lilith
Hebrew goddess helped an angry artist see the light

By DANIELLE FURFARO, Staff writer (Albany Times Union)
Click byline for more stories by writer.
First published: Sunday, August 19, 2007

COLONIE -- Richard Callner sits in a wheelchair in his sprawling, multilevel home, staring lovingly at a Gobelin-style tapestry he made in Ein Hood, Israel, more than 30 years ago. The tapestry is rich with swirling colors and figures. It features his favorite goddess: Lilith.

Even though advanced Parkinson's disease has reduced Callner's voice to a scarcely audible whisper, he happily points out the details of the piece. With the help of his daughter, Joanne, he describes how he chose the colors of the tapestry from thousands of spools of yarn the Israeli weavers offered him.

"It works because of the complexity," he breathed.

Of the three tapestries he made on that long-ago trip, two of them hang in his home. The one in the dining room shows a side silhouette of the ancient goddess, who is regarded in Hebrew folklore as the first wife of Adam. She appears to be exhaling a menagerie of birds and flowers. The one hanging in a hallway shows Lilith in a variety of poses in the garden of Eden. She is lying on her back ... flying with birds ... becoming a bird.


After returning from war, he began formally studying art. Callner's style is culled from a variety of Euopean modernists. While in Paris, he studied with Cubist painter Fernand Leger. He received his MFA from Columbia University in 1952 and began teaching.

Callner spent these years painting angry, grotesque figures in muted colors.

In 1963, while teaching at Olivet College in Michigan, he became obsessed with Lilith. His discovery of the Hebrew goddess precipitated a change, not only in his art, but also in his outlook on life. Suddenly, his work embraced elements of humor, whismy and independence. Since then, most of his paintings have been soaked in vibrant colors and wild textures and abstractions. He began to use the image of Lilith repeatedly. Sometimes she would take the form of a woman, sometimes of a bird, sometimes of color.

Sounds like she's been a good influence.

Unfortunately, there's no photo of any of these paintings.
Excavation planned for Phoenician city

SANTA GIUSTA, Italy, Aug. 18 (UPI) -- A Phoenician settlement on the Italian island of Sardinia may soon yield some of its secrets to archaeologists.

The port of Othoca is believed to lie at the bottom of a lake separated from the Mediterranean by a narrow spit of land, the Italian news agency Ansa reported. The modern town of Santa Giusta also occupies some of the ancient city.

Carlo del Vais of Cagliari University plans to dig in a small section of the lake, an area where about 100 amphorae -- or large clay jars -- appear to rest on a wooden platform. The Phoenician layers are covered by a thick layer of mud.