Saturday, October 20, 2007

MANUSCRIPTS GALORE! At the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog, Peter Head points to reports of new manuscript discoveries.

At Parchment and Pen, Dan Wallace reports on photographic projects at Patmos and "an Eastern European country":
As many of you know, the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts ( sent out two teams on expeditions this past summer—one to Patmos and one to an eastern European country. The expeditions accomplished far more than we thought they would: 25,000 images shot with high-resolution digital cameras, more than sixty manuscripts photographed altogether. Not only that, but we discovered several manuscripts that are up till now unknown to western scholarship. We’re not sure exactly what we have found in all instances so far because with thousands of images to go through it takes time to determine exactly what each manuscript contains. But we’ve been working through the images and documenting what we have found.

In addition to the new discoveries, CSNTM also ‘rediscovered’ several manuscripts that had been presumed lost decades ago. To put all this in perspective, those manuscripts that go missing almost never show up. And certainly they don’t show up in batches. This time, they did. More importantly, we photographed them as well as the newly discovered manuscripts.
In Archaeology Magazine, Marco Merola reports on thousands of recently excavated inscribed papyrus fragments and potsherds at Tebtunis in Egypt. This part of the online abstract caught my eye especially:
Gallazzi puts on a pair of white gloves to remove a piece of papyrus from the ground with very thin tweezers. Since 1998, the Italian-French mission has found 7,000 papyri and many inscribed potsherds. This is one of the very few places in Egypt where archaeologists are still unearthing papyrus fragments. And the finds here are startlingly diverse, written in Arabic, Coptic, Greek, Aramaic, and Egyptian demotic, a simplified, cursive form of hieratic writing.

"Many are concerned with administrative procedures, but also include contracts, receipts, inventories, letters, and school exercises, as well as copies of literary works by Homer, Menander, and Euripides," says Gallazzi, who seems to be able to read ancient papyri the way you're reading this article.
As always when I hear of such manuscript discoveries, I want to ask whether there are any Old Testament Pseudepigrapha among them. I suspect that projects like this will provide fodder for a future More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project in decades to come.

By the way, the current MOTP project is going well. Entries are starting to come in and we expect to be doing much of the editing of the volumes in 2008. Thanks to those who have already turned in their entries, and we look forward to receiving the rest in the coming months.

Friday, October 19, 2007

INTERNET ACCESS at home is still erratic. I'll post over the weekend if I'm able to.
WILLIAM DEVER'S LECTURE AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY is reported on in The Forward. A very direct connection is made to the controversy over tenure for Nadia Abu El-Haj:
Archaeologists Challenge Barnard Professor’s Claims

Marissa Brostoff | Wed. Oct 17, 2007

Amid charges of mud-slinging, a group of archaeologists turned to dirt-digging — literally — in their fight against a controversial fellow academic.

On Monday night, Columbia University’s pro-Israel student group played host to the latest installment in a lecture series aimed, at least partially, at rebutting Nadia Abu El-Haj, whose work has been critical of the traditional narratives of Israeli archeology.


On Monday night, the featured speaker was William Dever, a retired professor of Near Eastern archaeology at the University of Arizona who is a critic of Abu El-Haj. Although he never referred explicitly to Abu El-Haj in his lecture, Dever challenged notions advanced by some academics about archaeology’s inherent biases.

“Archaeology has never been edited,” he said. “When we dig these things up, they are pristine.”

Judith Jacobson, a member of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, made the opening remarks at Dever’s lecture. She said that the lecture series, titled “Underground: What Archaeology Tells Us about Ancient Israel,” was conceived partly to remind the community that good Israel archaeology exists in abundance. Asked if she thought the series served a political purpose, Jacobson answered carefully.

“Only to inform the community,” she said. “It’s all we can do.”

(Via Joseph I. Lauer's list.)

UPDATE (20 October): Ralph Harrington at the Greycat blog offers a trenchant criticism of the quotation attributed to Dever.

UPDATE (27 October): More here
Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit lives on

By: GARY WARTH - Staff Writer
Part 2 of collection opens, contains portion of Ten Commandments

It's not quite as exciting as discovering the Ark of the Covenant, but a 2,000-year-old scroll depicting the Ten Commandments is the highlight of an already landmark exhibit at the San Diego Natural History Museum.

The museum this week began displaying the second of its two-part series of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the largest collection of the artifacts ever displayed in the United States. The 24-scroll exhibit, which runs until Dec. 31, is in two parts because the Israel Antiquities Authority allows only 12 scrolls to leave the country at a time.

Curator Risa Levitt Kohn, director of San Diego State University's Jewish Studies Program and an associate professor of Hebrew Bible and Judaism in the Religious Studies Department, said the scrolls demonstrate how consistent the Bible has been over 2,000 years.


The Ten Commandments portion is said to be significant because it is the oldest and best-preserved of all the Deuteronomy manuscripts that were discovered in the find. Deuteronomy is one of the Old Testament books of the Bible.

The Ten Commandments text is longer than traditional translations of the Commandments, according to the exhibit's literature, and it includes the two biblical versions of the Sabbath commandment, Exodus 20:11 and Deuteronomy 5:11. Still, its content is easily recognized.

The text reads in part: "You shall not make for yourself a sculptured image, and any likeness of what is in the heavens above, or on the earth below, or in the waters below the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am an impassioned god."

Olmert to OU: Jerusalem Not On Table

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised Orthodox Jewish leaders that Jerusalem is not up for discussion in forthcoming negotiations with the Palestinians.

In response to a letter from the Orthodox Union (OU) insisting that Olmert not cede portions of Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority, Rachael Risby-Raz, Olmert's diaspora affairs adviser, said the prime minister would keep the city united. The OU wrote to Olmert following a speech Monday in which he appeared to suggest he was willing to consider ceding parts of the city to the Palestinians.

"The issue of Jerusalem is currently not under negotiations with the Palestinians," Risby-Raz wrote. "We assure you, however, that in any future settlement, the prime minister will strengthen the Jewish character of Jerusalem, enhance its Jewish majority, and keep Jerusalem as the eternal, united and internationally recognized capital of the Jewish people and the State of Israel."

Despite the reassurance, the OU still found Olmert's commitment unsatisfactory, noting that in light of his comments "and in light of the unparalleled significance to all Jews of the fate of the holy city, we must ask Prime Minister Olmert to be more explicit about his intentions and commitment to keep Jerusalem as the 'eternal and indivisible capital of the Jewish People,'" a statement from President Stephen Savitsky said.

On Monday, Olmert questioned the inclusion of certain Arab areas within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem -- a remark the Israeli media construed as signaling his willingness to part with certain parts of the city.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

From David Marcus
Announcement, October 17, 2007


The editors of JANES are very pleased to announce that, thanks to the assistance of the Library and the Dean of Academic Affairs, all of JANES articles have been scanned and are available for viewing, searching, and downloading in PDF format on the Web site of the Jewish Theological Seminary at the following link:

JANES, the Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern Society, was founded in 1968 at Columbia University, and has been housed at the Jewish Theological Seminary since 1982. Over these approximately forty years 30 volumes have been published under the editorship of JTS professors Ed Greenstein and David Marcus.

The volumes include approximately three hundred and fifty articles written by over two hundred scholars and students from all over the world. The impressive array of scholars that have contributed articles to these volumes includes well-known names such as G. R. Driver, H. L. Ginsberg, Jonas Greenfield, William Hallo, Thorkild Jacobsen, Jacob Milgrom, A. L. Oppenheim, to mention but a few. Over the years there have been five special issues celebrating JTS and Columbia scholars Elias Bickermann, Meir Bravmann, Theodor Gaster, Moshe Held, and Yohanan Muffs.

Articles have been written on all aspects of the Bible and Ancient Near East covering areas such as art history, archaeology, anthropology, language, linguistics, philology, and religion. There are articles on Assyriology, Ugaritic, Phoenician, Hittite, and all areas of Hebrew and Aramaic and on almost every book of the Bible.

The range of topics is extremely varied and suits a variety of tastes. For example there are articles on:

Rhetorical Features in Sumerian, Akkadian and Biblical Literature

Lions on Assyrian Wall Reliefs

The Worlds First Museums

Assyrian carpets

The Invention of Chess and Backgammon

Animal Domestication

Humor and Cuneiform Literature

Breast-feeding Practices in Biblical Israel

The Urim and Thummim

Juvenile Delinquency in the Bible and the Ancient Near East

Illustrative of the scope of JANES is the contents of the current issue (volume 30):

Pierre Auffret, Dijon France, "C`est l`homme droit que regardera sa face: Etude structurelle du Psaume 11"

Walter R. Bodine, Yale University, "YBC 6996: A Name List from a Mesopotamian School"

John A. Cook, Winona Lake, IN, "The Finite Verbal Forms in Biblical Hebrew Do Express Aspect"

Wayne Horowitz, Hebrew University, "A Late Babylonian Tablet with Concentric Circles from the University Museum (CBS 1766)"

Yigal Levin, The College of Judea and Samaria and Bar-Ilan University, "Numbers 34:2-12, The Boundaries of the Land of Canaan, and the Empire of Necho"

T. Oshima, University of Bucharest, "Marduk, the Canal Digger"

Diane M. Sharon, New York, "Echoes of Gideon`s Ephod: An Intertextual Reading"

Nili Shupak, University of Haifa, "A Fresh Look at the Dreams of the Officials and of Pharaoh in the Story of Joseph (Genesis 40-41) in the Light of Egyptian Dreams."

Information about subscribing to the print version of JANES may also be found at:
Lots of free good stuff. Excellent!
WE'RE THE MESOPOTAMIANS! Brought to you by They Might Be Giants.

Buy the t-shirt here.

(From Francis Deblaue via the Agade list.)
From: "Sharon Haitovsky"
Subject: RE: Jewish Studies Search at Stanford University
Sent: Wednesday, October 17, 2007 7:34 PM

Stanford University is seeking to appoint a distinguished scholar in pre-modern Judaism at the tenured Associate or Full Professor rank.
We are particularly interested in candidates specializing in the Hebrew Bible, Second Temple period, Midrash, Late Antiquity, or Medieval Judaism, but we encourage all candidates working on any aspect of pre-modern Jewish thought and culture to apply. The successful candidate will be housed in the relevant departments of his or her discipline.

Please send a letter of application and a current CV by November 30, 2007.

Stanford University is an equal opportunity employer and is committed to increasing the diversity of its faculty. It welcomes nominations of and applicants from women and minority groups, as well as others who would bring additional dimensions to the university's research and teaching missions.
Contact Info:
The Jewish Studies Search Committee
Taube Center for Jewish Studies
450 Serra Mall, Stanford University
Bldg 360, Room 362H
Stanford, CA 94305-2190

(From the H-JUDAIC list.)
Turkey denies approving Jerusalem holy site project
Published: 10/17/2007 (

ANKARA - Turkey said Wednesday that a team of Turkish experts who had inspected renovation work by Israel near Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound disapproved of the controversial project.

"The technical delegation has definitely not approved the project," said a statement from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's office, contradicting remarks by Israeli Immigrant Absorption Minister Yaacov Edri Sunday that Turkish experts who had investigated the site in March had okayed the work.

The most recent update on this story that I can find is here. I've not heard anything about the report since.
FROM DEAD SEA SCROLLS TO DEAD BODIES. Me, I'll stick to scrolls, thanks.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

CYRUS THE GREAT'S TOMB in danger from humidity damage arising from a new dam?
Iran dam sparks row about ancient Persian relic

By Fredrik Dahl and Reza Derakhshi-Salmasi Wed Oct 3, 8:29 AM ET

PASARGADAE, Iran (Reuters) - For the people protesting against it, a new dam near these sun-drenched ruins may be more than an environmental upheaval: in it they scent an affront to the country's pre-Islamic identity.

For 2,500 years, the tomb of Cyrus the Great has stood on the plain at Pasargadae in southern Iran, a simple but dignified monument to a king revered as the founder of the mighty Persian empire. But some fear the dam and reservoir pose a threat to the ancient structure.

They say the project may increase humidity in the arid area near the city of Shiraz, which they believe could damage the limestone mausoleum.

That may seem far-fetched -- officials dismiss it -- but the row highlights deep cultural faultlines in attitudes to the Islamic Republic's wealth of pre-Islamic relics.

I have no idea what the merits of this particular case are, but I'm glad there are people in Iran who worry about such things.

(Via the BAS Breaking News page.)
TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: I don't have time to follow all the ins and outs and spinoff discussions connected to the upcoming Annapolis summit, but I'll note relevant things as they happen to catch my eye.
'Likud could allow Muslim country to run Temple Mount'
By GIL HOFFMAN (Jerusalem Post)

The head of the Likud's foreign relations department, former ambassador to the US Zalman Shoval, joined calls Tuesday for compromises on Jerusalem when he told a meeting of the Foreign Press Association that his party could allow an Arab or Muslim country to administer the Temple Mount.


"The question of Israel's sovereignty in Jerusalem, and first and foremost the Temple Mount, is not negotiable," Shoval said. "That said, it is not in Israel's interest to be in any way in charge of the holy places other than [those of] the Jewish faith, and I believe that there are ways - actually there have been plans for a long time - to adopt suitable formulae to this end. Arab and Muslim countries, Jordan for instance, could play a leading role in this."

Shoval told The Jerusalem Post after the event that Israel could maintain sovereignty on the Temple Mount while allowing a country such as Jordan to administer the area. He said he would not rule out the Palestinian Authority running the Temple Mount if there were real peace.

New Mughrabi Bridge plan gets initial OK
By ETGAR LEFKOVITS (Jerusalem Post)

A plan to construct a small new bridge to the Mughrabi Gate which has won city approval has been transferred to the Interior Ministry planning committee for final approval, the Interior Ministry announced late Tuesday.

The archaeological excavation site at the Mughrabi Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem.

The proposal, which calls for the construction of a 95-meter-long bridge to the Mughrabi Gate, comes months after earlier, controversial plans to build a much larger new bridge to the site directly through an archaeological garden were nixed.

The proposed route of the new bridge, which is pending final approval, will follow the existing route of the ramp leading up to the Mughrabi Gate and will be significantly shorter than the previously planned bridge.

A salvage excavation which began at the site earlier this year and then was stopped as the new plans were drawn up could resume shortly, officials said.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A LECTURE BY DANIEL BOYARIN at Columbia University does not seem to have gone well. A student reports in the Columbia Spectator:
Take a Seat
By Miriam Krule

On Oct. 12, most of the Columbia College class of 2010, or at least those who were able to get out of bed, attended the Fall 2007 Contemporary Civilization’s course-wide lecture. The lecture, “Dethroning the Son of Man: Daniel and the Antiquity of Christianity,” was given by Daniel Boyarin, a Columbia alum and celebrated professor of Talmud at UC Berkeley. While this was a required event for all students enrolled in CC, by the end of the lecture less than 100 people remained in the auditorium, a majority of whom were CC professors.

I have never encountered such blatant disrespect. Not only were students talking and sleeping during the lecture, but many students left with no concern for how much noise they made on their way out. No one expected everyone to stay in their seats, or at least I did not, but for groups of students to walk out mid-lecture is inappropriate. What is the value of a liberal arts education, and classes like CC that discuss justice and moral values, if we do not appreciate the ideas and try to uphold them?

Many students—including myself—voiced the opinion that this lecture was an inappropriate choice for a CC-wide event. It is hard to deny that the lecturer was very knowledgeable on the subject, and anyone who stayed long enough to ask questions or hear answers saw the breadth of his knowledge. Yet his use of Hebrew and Aramaic phrases throughout his speech, without sufficient explanation of the sources and characters that he was citing, made it hard for anyone without his background to follow. Even more than that, it was unclear what his academic analysis of the concept “son of man” and how it relates to Judaism had to do with a discussion of law in the Hebrew Bible or the New Testament.


Monday, October 15, 2007

SPEAKING OF THE TENURE CONTROVERSY surrounding Nadia Abu El-Haj at Barnard, the History News Network has two essays on the story, one pro-tenure and one anti-:
Daniel Martin Varisco, "Nadia Abu El-Haj: Whatever her opinions her methods are not shoddy, as alleged, says scholar" (pro)

Richard L. Cravatts, "Archeology and the Propaganda War Against Israel" (anti)
UPDATE (19 October): More here.
A SERIES OF LECTURES on "What Archaeology Tells Us About Ancient Israel" begins today at Columbia University:
By • Judith R. Jacobson
October 9, 2007

William Dever, U of Arizona, on "Did God Have a Wife? Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel" on October 15 and Aren Maeir, Bar-Ilan University, "The Archaeology of the Philistines: Findings Relevant to Ancient Israel and the Development of Biblical Text" on November 19 and Jodi Magness, Duke University, on Jerusalem in the Time of Herod February 4, 2008

The Columbia chapter of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East and LionPAC, a Columbia student organization, present the second in the Underground Lecture Series: What Archaeology Tells Us About Ancient Israel

At Columbia University.

I think we can assume this is not unrelated to the current tenure controvery concerning Nadia Abu El-Haj.

UPDATE: On the latter, more here (one post up).

UPDATE (19 October): For a brief report on Dever's lecture, see here.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS COME TO SAN DIEGO as the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition there undegoes a rotation:
Ten Commandments fragment already on display at museum
By Sandi Dolbee

October 12, 2007

BALBOA PARK – Visitors to the San Diego Natural History Museum's Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition got a surprise treat this week: the oldest known copy of the Ten Commandments.

“I am just in awe,” said Mildred Hill, 81, of Carlsbad, as she stood beside the exhibit yesterday morning. Under glass was a 2,000-year-old fragment written in Hebrew from the biblical book of Deuteronomy.

“I knew they were coming, but I didn't know if we were going to get lucky – and we were,” Hill said.

Billboards advertise the second set of scroll fragments that include the Ten Commandments as going on display next week at the Balboa Park museum. But the items from Israel were swapped a week ago.

Mugrabi excavations delayed due to appeal by Arab minister
By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondent

The decision to renew excavations at the Mugrabi Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem was postponed on Sunday after Sports, Science and Culture Minister Ghaleb Majadele appealed a ministerial committee vote and requested that debate on the matter be brought before the cabinet plenum.

Government regulations stipulate that when a decision is appealed by a minister, it is delayed pending further government discussion.

In a letter to Cabinet Secretary Oved Yehezkel, the Israeli Arab minister warned that the committee's decision to renew the excavations could spark riots and exacerbate tensions with neighboring countries ahead of next month's planned Annapolis peace summit.

Majadele asked that the appropriate authorities involved, namely the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and UNESCO, be given a chance to express their opinions on the matter before a final decision is made.

The excavations - which are to prepare for the construction of a new bridge to the Mugrabi Gate, between the Western Wall and the Temple Mount - were stopped in June after they sparked protests from the Palestinian Authority and Arab countries. However, the Ministerial Committee on Jerusalem approved their renewal about two weeks ago and digging was set to begin in the coming days.

Some background is here.

Israel to Resume Dig Near Temple Mount

By MATTI FRIEDMAN – 15 hours ago

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel will resume archaeological excavations near a Jerusalem holy site that has often been a flashpoint for violence, Israeli officials said Sunday. The decision drew Palestinian charges that Israel is trying to scuttle next month's U.S.-sponsored peace conference.

Fearing an outbreak of violence, an Israeli Cabinet minister said he stalled construction for at least two weeks. But officials said they remained determined to push forward with the project.

The dig is located outside the Old City compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, and is home to the gold-capped Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque.

Dead Sea Scrolls scholars meet for first time at international conference

VANCOUVER - They're awe-inspiring ancient manuscripts shrouded in mystery for both historians and religious scholars wanting a glimpse inside an old Jewish community's customs and the origins of the Hebrew Bible, or the Christian Old Testament.

For the first time this week, Canadian scholars who study the Dead Sea Scrolls have met at an international conference to mark the 60th anniversary since the treasured manuscripts were discovered near Jerusalem.

Peter Flint, co-director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Institute at Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C., said Friday that 12 Canadian experts research the scrolls, which were found in a cave by a goat herder near the shores of the Dead Sea in 1947.

SORRY FOR THE LONG SILENCE. My home Internet connection has been down again and I didn't have time to stop in the office over the weekend.