Saturday, October 27, 2007

PROSBUL is explained in Balashon -- The Hebrew Language Detective. I believe the prosbul is also mentioned in the epigraphic texts from the Judean Desert (not the Dead Sea Scrolls).

UPDATE: More here, here, and here. I missed these first time I looked at April's RSS feed. (The word "fragments" tends to catch my eye.)
TWO JOBS IN HEBREW PHILOLOGY at the Catholic University of America:
Catholic University of America
Department of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures
Two Full-Time Tenure-Track Positions in Hebrew Philology

The Department of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures at The Catholic University of America invites applications for two full-time tenure-track positions in Hebrew philology, one senior and one junior. Candidates must be able to teach advanced graduate courses in biblical Hebrew, and have command of one or more of the following: Aramaic, Syriac, Akkadian, Ugaritic, Arabic, Northwest Semitic epigraphy, Comparative Semitics and Coptic. Expertise in linguistics is also desirable. Applicants must be able to contribute to the department’s international reputation for excellence in graduate training and research. Interest and ability in expanding undergraduate education in Near Eastern languages, history, and religion are also welcome.

A letter of application, curriculum vitae, and three letters of recommendation should be sent by November 1, 2007 to Prof. Sidney Griffith, Chair of the Department of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures, 35 Mullen Library, The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC 20064. Applicants are invited to submit a representative sample of their scholarship (ca.25 pages) which may be a work-in-progress and/or a chapter of a larger project. Questions may be addressed to Professor Griffith via email:

The Catholic University of America was founded in the name of the Catholic Church as a national university and center of research and scholarship. Regardless of their religious affiliation, all faculty are expected to respect and support the University’s mission. CUA is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer, EOE/AA/V/D/M/F.
(Via the Agade list. Note the imminent deadline!)
THE BARNARD TENURE CONTROVERSY continues to attract attention. The New York Jewish Week takes Paula Stern to task for inaccuracies in her online petition to deny tenure to Professor Nadia Abu El-Haj for her (Abu El-Haj's) book, Facts on the Ground:
Flinging Dirt In Archaeology Dispute
Some charges against Barnard professor’s tenure inaccurate; scholars divided.

by Larry Cohler-Esses
The key organizer of a campaign to deny tenure to a Barnard College professor seen by some as virulently anti-Israel acknowledged this week that her petition against the professor may not have quoted the book accurately.

Barnard alumna Paula Stern, who now lives in an Israeli settlement community on the West Bank, acknowledged Tuesday that her petition —signed now by more than 2,500 people — incorrectly quotes from Nadia Abu El-Haj’s book in charging she is grossly ignorant of Jerusalem geography.

Stern also conceded attributing to Abu El-Haj a viewpoint that Abu El-Haj does not voice as her own in her book. The petition does so by taking a quote fragment from a section in which Abu El-Haj describes others as having the opposite viewpoint.

In addition, despite Abu El-Haj’s frequent citation of Hebrew language sources and an acknowledgment on her book’s first page thanking her Hebrew tutor, Stern’s petition asserts, “Abu El Haj does not speak or read Hebrew ... We fail to understand how a scholar can pretend to study the attitudes of a people whose language she does not know.”

The charge may stem from criticism from some scholarly quarters that Abu El-Haj’s book contains mistakes in Hebrew, indicating her skills in the language are inadequate for such complex scholarship. Other experts have defended her Hebrew skills.

“It was written very quickly,” Stern said of her petition, whose signatories include many Barnard and Columbia University alumni. “But there is a clear pattern in her book of attempting to undermine the historical connection of the Jewish people to the land.”


Stern denied she had taken out of context Abu El-Haj’s quote about political fabrication.

“She denies the ancient history of the Jewish kingdoms in many ways,” Stern said in an email about Abu El-Haj, “as when she says that Jerusalem in the times of Herod was not Jewish.”

The statement in question, in Abu El-Haj’s own voice, reads, “For most of its history, including the Herodian period, Jerusalem was not a Jewish city, but rather one integrated into larger empires and inhabited, primarily, by ‘other’ communities.”


Stern's petition also lambastes Abu El-Haj for "demonstrations of her ignorance of history and archaeology." It cites her quoting of an unnamed Israeli archaeologist criticizing a dig "in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City" as "one of the worst" in terms of method and preservation. "Somewhere in there are the complexes of the Palaces of Solomon," the archaeologist frets.

Stern notes that Solomon's palaces, if they exist, would be nowhere near the Jewish Quarter. But the archaeologist quoted was not referring to a dig there but to one on the south and southwestern slopes of the Temple Mount - near the City of David.

It is a site that, in fact, later turned up artifacts from what appear to be part of the palace grounds, said Greenberg, the Tel Aviv University archaeologist.

You can read the Stern petition here. I think it's a fair criticism that elements of it are careless. The sentence "She asserts that "the ancient Israelite kingdoms are a 'pure political fabrication'" is unfortunate. The phrase "pure political fabrication" occurs in a sentence that says that archaeologists do not regard "the modern Jewish/Israeli belief in ancient Israelite origins" to be such. That said, Abu El-Haj's syntax and argumentation are typically convoluted and roundabout in this paragraph and it takes some effort to sort out what she is trying to say. She seems to be implying that although archaeologists do not regard "the modern Jewish/Israeli belief in ancient Israelite origins" as on the same level as "Arab claims of Canaanite or other ancient tribal roots," they really ought to. This is not stated clearly (it's a good example of the argument by innuendo for which I criticized her in my review), but I don't see how else to read it in context. I have commented on the general question of Jewish vs. Palestinian cultural and genetic continuity with ancient Palestine here. Abu El-Haj's phrasing is vague enough that it's hard to be sure what she's trying to compare, but I think the most positive thing I can say is that if she means what she seems to be implying, she's wrong: they are not comparable. But I'm inclined to put the paragraph under Popper's category of being "not even wrong" -- not sufficiently clearly formulated to be evaluated critically. Still, I think Stern should have phrased her criticism more cautiously and carefully.

Blogs that comment substantively on Stern's quote, and which quote the relevant paragraph from Facts on the Ground in full, include Hit & Run (of Reason Magazine -- which is the first place I can find to raise the above criticism of Stern's petition), Greycat (in defense of Stern), and Stern's blog, Paula Says, where she responds.

I doubt that it is accurate to say that Abu El-Haj did not know Hebrew when she wrote the book. But in it she does make elementary errors that someone with a decent knowledge of the language would not have made, which raises the question whether she knew it well enough to pull off the ambitious project she undertakes in the book. Again, Stern should have put her criticism in those terms.

I don't know enough about the geography of Jerusalem (and don't have time right now to look it up) to comment on that issue.

I haven't signed either Stern's petition or the one in support of Abu El-Haj and I don't think tenure decisions should be made by petition. I wish the tenure committee the wisdom of Solomon. They're going to need it.

Friday, October 26, 2007

"Biography" of Jezebel mixes scripture, history and a vivid imagination

"Jezebel: The Untold Story
of the Bible's Harlot Queen"

by Lesley Hazleton

Doubleday, 258 pp., $24.95

With "Jezebel: The Untold Story of the Bible's Harlot Queen," Seattle author Lesley Hazleton again proves herself to be a writerly risk-taker. This former journalist — whose last book was titled "Mary: A Flesh-and-Blood Biography of the Virgin Mother" (Bloomsbury, 2004) — takes on subjects so obscured by time and contradictory religious beliefs as to make traditional biography all but impossible.

Hazleton has found a similar challenge in Jezebel, whose name, she says, is unfairly synonymous with an immoral, promiscuous female. The resulting book is one full of energetic switchbacks between history, imaginings, personal recollections of the Middle East, careful biblical translation and contemporary slang. ("Jezebel was framed, that much is certain.") Enjoyment of the book will rest squarely on the reader's comfort level with such sinuousness.

A timely release.
JIM VANDERKAM is giving a lecture on the Dead Sea Scrolls at California Lutheran University.
THE UCL ARAMAIC INCANTATION BOWLS are the subject of a long article in Science Magazine:
University Suppresses Report on Provenance of Iraqi Antiquities

Michael Balter

University College London (UCL), one of Britain's premier universities, has become embroiled in a dispute over its handling of a large collection of religious artifacts that may have been part of the illicit trade in archaeological relics from Iraq in recent years. Last year, a committee of experts UCL established to investigate the matter concluded that "on the balance of probabilities," the artifacts were illegally removed from Iraq, and in the past months Iraqi officials have taken steps to recover the relics. Their actions come after UCL agreed this summer to return the collection to its owner, a wealthy retired Norwegian businessman who had sued UCL for their recovery. As part of a settlement of that suit, UCL agreed not to publish the committee's report.

"It is shameful that a university should set up an independent inquiry and then connive with the collector whose antiquities are under scrutiny to suppress the report through the vehicle of an out-of-court settlement," says Colin Renfrew, an archaeologist at the University of Cambridge, U.K., and a longtime critic of trade in antiquities of questionable provenance. Renfrew was one of three experts appointed by UCL in early 2005 to look into allegations about the provenance of the Aramaic incantation bowls and to propose new antiquities guidelines. Neil Brodie, an archaeologist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, and former research director of Cambridge's Illicit Antiquities Research Centre--created by Renfrew in 1996--calls suppression of the report "an attack on academic freedom, because the illegal trade in antiquities is a legitimate research subject."

Salah al-Shaikhly, Iraq's ambassador to the United Kingdom, told Science last week that Iraqi authorities have asked British authorities to block the export of the bowls and that the Iraqi government hopes to go to court to recover the bowls "in a matter of weeks." The removal of the artifacts, al-Shaikhly says, is "a great loss to the Iraqi national heritage."

The affair has also caused considerable discomfort within the university's Institute of Archaeology, which has played a leading role in developing strict antiquities rules. "I deeply regret the fact that the panel's report will not be published," says UCL archaeologist Kathryn Tubb, who co-wrote the institute's guidelines. "The results of the deliberations were to have informed future policy for the whole of UCL."

UCL officials have refused to comment on the matter, and Martin Schøyen, the owner of the bowls, declined to be interviewed for this story. But a series of press statements on the Schøyen Collection's Web site ( explains that "any assertion that the bowls in the Schøyen Collection might be looted is incorrect." The Web site notes that the artifacts came from a Jordanian collection "built over many years."

Worth reading in full. There's also a nice photo of one of the bowls. For background to the story, see here and follow the links back.

I hope everyone involved in this dispute keeps it clear that the paramount concern is the safety and welfare of the bowls.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: The former Mufti of Jerusalem is spouting Jewish-Temple denial.
Western Wall was never part of temple'

The former mufti of Jerusalem, Ikrema Sabri, has made the claim that there never was a Jewish temple on the Temple Mount, and the Western Wall was really part of a mosque.

"There was never a Jewish temple on Al-Aksa [the mosque compound] and there is no proof that there was ever a temple," he told The Jerusalem Post via a translator. "Because Allah is fair, he would not agree to make Al-Aksa if there were a temple there for others beforehand."

Sabri rejected Judaism's claim to the Western Wall as part of the outer wall of the Second Temple.

"The wall is not part of the Jewish temple. It is just the western wall of the mosque," he said. "There is not a single stone with any relation at all to the history of the Hebrews."

For similar thoughts from Ikrema Sabri see here and here. It seems that the recent discovery of both Iron Age IIB remains on the Temple Mount -- thanks to the irresponsible digging of the Waqf -- and the quarry where the Temple stones were excavated is bringing the Temple deniers out of the woodwork.
MARTIN GOODMAN'S BOOK, ROME AND JERUSALEM is reviewed by Adam Kirsch in the New York Sun. Excerpt:
Mr. Goodman's analysis of the causes of the Jewish War is necessarily speculative: It is impossible, at such a distance and with such meager evidence, to say exactly why Jews or Romans behaved as they did, or whether things might have turned out differently. But he usefully reminds us of the frightening power of chance in human history. If Eleazar had launched his rebellion a few years earlier or later, if Vitellius had prevailed over Vespasian, the Temple might still be standing today — and the history of the Jews, and the world, would be inconceivably different. It takes a book as magnificently learned as "Rome and Jerusalem" to make such alternative destinies come alive.
NORMAN GOLB argues in The Forward that the recently discovered escape tunnel in Jerusalem may have been used to evacuate Dead Sea Scrolls. Excerpt:
Putting the various statements of the archaeologists and of Josephus together, we have the following picture:

The archaeologists have discovered a Jerusalem tunnel that could accommodate many individuals and which led, at the least, from the Temple Mount to the Siloam Pool situated in the southern extremity of the ancient city. The pool, in turn, led directly to the Nahal Qidron, which, as the news reports indicate, led eastward down to the Dead Sea.

While no description in Josephus’s “Jewish War” actually makes mention of a particular locus, he does indeed state that various inhabitants of Jerusalem hid in the city’s underground passages (plural), and at one point he describes an important group of rebels whom he calls “the tyrants” as having secured temporary refuge in “the ravine below Siloam,” by which he undoubtedly means the opening gorges of the Nahal Qidron. It is thus a fair inference or assumption on the part of the archaeologists that the tunnel they uncovered was one of those used by Jerusalem’s inhabitants to hide and flee from the Romans. However, if we follow Josephus, not only one but several escape routes could be and were used by the refugees. No available indications appear to confirm the archaeologists’ suggestion that the drain-tunnel discovered by them is a particular one uniquely referred to by Josephus.

Tunnels of this type, moreover, were discovered by explorers of Jerusalem’s past in the 19th-century; see particularly the accounts given by Charles Warren in his 1876 “Underground Jerusalem” and the four illustrations reproduced in reduced form here.

Warren’s findings, together with the discovery of Reich and Shukron described in the recent news reports, fully support Josephus’s statements relating to the tunnels beneath Jerusalem and the use to which they were put during the Roman siege of 70 A.D. These underground passages enabled many inhabitants of Jerusalem to exit the city and flee both south to Masada and, via Nahal Qidron and other wadis heading from Jerusalem eastward toward the Dead Sea, to the Machaerus fort lying just east of that sea, and which was actually closer to Jerusalem than was Masada. (Josephus describes the large number of refugees who gathered at Machaerus.)

The circumstances as now known leave little doubt that, quite likely beginning even before the siege had begun, groups engaged in hiding the Temple treasures, the books and other items listed in the Copper Scroll — as well as those ancient writings of the Palestinian Jews known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were found centuries later in caves near the wadis leading out of Jerusalem.
Interesting idea, which builds on Golb's theory that the Dead Sea Scrolls were literary archives from Jerusalem rather than a sectarian library. (See here, here, and here.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

HEBREW BIBLE PROFESSOR: I am very happy to report that our position in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible has been filled.
St Mary’s College is pleased to announce the appointment of Kristin De Troyer as Professor of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible with effect on 1 June 2008.

Prof. De Troyer comes originally from Belgium and studied at the Catholic University of Leuven in the 1980s. In 1990 she founded the Kok Pharos Publishing House in Kampen, the Netherlands. She completed her doctoral work at the University of Leiden on the Alpha Text of Esther (published in Dutch in 1997 and in English in 2000). In 1998 she was appointed to a teaching post in Hebrew Bible at the Claremont School of Theology where she is currently Professor of Hebrew Bible and also Professor of Religion at the Claremont Graduate University.

Prof. De Troyer’s research specialisms are in the areas of Second Temple history and literature, and textual criticism, especially the Septuagint (LXX) and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Her publications include: Rewriting the Sacred Text: What the Old Greek Texts Tell Us about the Literary Development of the Bible (Atlanta: SBL, 2003); The End of the Alpha Text of Esther: Translation and Narrative Technique in MT 8:1-17, LXX 8:1-17, and AT 7:14-41 (Atlanta: SBL, 2000); (with E. Beate, A. Lange and H. Lichtenbeger) Minor Prophets (Biblia Qumranica, 3B; Leiden: Brill, 2004). In addition she has edited a number of scholarly books and published numerous articles in academic journals.

Prof. De Troyer is the Program Chair for the International Society of Biblical Literature, co-director of the Biblia Qumranica Project, editor of Contributions to Biblical Exegesis and Theology (Louvain: Peeters), a board member of Journal for the Study of the Old Testament and Catholic Biblical Quarterly, and a member of the executive committee of the International Organization of Septuagint and Cognate Studies.
NEW SBL PUBLICATIONS - e-mailed from the SBL:
New Titles from SBL Publications

The Quest for the Historical Israel: Debating Archaeology and the History of Early Israel

Israel Finkelstein and Amihai Mazar
Edited by Brian B. Schmidt

Three decades of dialogue, discussion, and debate within the interrelated disciplines of Syro-Palestinian archaeology, ancient Israelite history, and Hebrew Bible over the question of the relevance of the biblical account for reconstructing early Israel’s history have created the need for a balanced articulation of the issues and their prospective resolutions. This book brings together for the first time and under one cover, a currently emerging “centrist” paradigm as articulated by two leading figures in the fields of early Israelite archaeology and history. Although Finkelstein and Mazar advocate distinct views of early Israel’s history, they nevertheless share the position that the material cultural data, the biblical traditions, and the ancient Near Eastern written sources are all significantly relevant to the historical quest for Iron Age Israel. The results of their research are featured in accessible, parallel syntheses of the historical reconstruction of early Israel that facilitate comparison and contrast of their respective interpretations. The historical essays presented here are based on invited lectures delivered in October of 2005 at the Sixth Biennial Colloquium of the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism in Detroit, Michigan.

Paper $24.95 — ISBN 9781589832770 — 232 pages — Archaeology and Biblical Studies 17 — Hardback edition

Seeking the Favor of God, Volume 2: The Development of Penitential Prayer in Second Temple Judaism

Mark J. Boda, Daniel K. Falk, and Rodney A. Werline, editors

The essays collected in this volume investigate the development of prayers of penitence within Jewish literature of the Hellenistic and Roman periods. The book provides a critical overview of the present state of research on these prayers, and leading experts in the field use a variety of methodologies to investigate afresh various texts from the Hebrew Bible, apocryphal (deuterocanonical) and pseudepigraphical works, and the Qumran corpus in order to provide new insights into this prayer tradition. Contributors include Russell C. D. Arnold, Esther G. Chazon, Daniel K. Falk, LeAnn Snow Flesher, Michael H. Floyd, Judith H. Newman, Bilhah Nitzan, Eileen Schuller, Pieter M. Venter, and Rodney A. Werline.

Paper $39.95 — ISBN 9781589832787 — 300 pages — Early Judaism and Its Literature 22 — Hardback edition

The "We" Passages in the Acts of the Apostles: The Narrator as Narrative Character

William Sanger Campbell

This book explores the narrative significance of the “we” passages in Acts within the boundaries of acceptable ancient grammatical practice. It contends that the occasional first-person plural narrator represents a character whose entrance at crucial moments in Paul’s career parallels the role of Barnabas, the apostle’s earlier companion. Although consistent with the grammatical practice of ancient writers, the use of the “we” style in Acts nonetheless represents a variation of those conventions because the author of Acts wrote anonymously and never claimed personal participation in the events narrated. In analyzing the function of the narrator as narrative character, the book presents narrative literary strategy as a fruitful approach to these enigmatic texts whose narrative possibilities have in the past been subordinated to their historical potential.

Paper $19.95 — ISBN 9781589832053— 164 pages — Studies in Biblical Literature 14 — Hardback edition

Peter in the Gospel of John: The Making of an Authentic Disciple

Bradford B. Blaine Jr.

In this narrative-critical study Bradford B. Blaine Jr. argues, against conventional scholarship, that John’s Gospel presents Peter and the Beloved Disciple not as competitors but as colleagues who together serve as composite halves of the ideal Johannine Christian, with Peter representing praxis and John representing faith. Not only does Peter carry out activities fundamental to Johannine discipleship during Jesus’ earthly ministry, which include believing in Jesus, following him, and publicly confessing him, but he also demonstrates post-Easter missionary skills and is invested by the risen Jesus with pastoral responsibilities. Finally, in dying a martyr’s death, Peter glorifies God. Peter, in fact, is depicted in this Gospel as an inspirational founding member of the Johannine community.

Paper $29.95 — ISBN 9781589832725— 240 pages — Academia Biblica 27 — Hardback edition

Studia Philonica Annual XIX, 2007

David T. Runia and Gregory E. Sterling, editors

The Studia Philonica Annual is a scholarly journal devoted to furthering the study of Hellenistic Judaism, and in particular the writings and thought of the Hellenistic-Jewish writer Philo of Alexandria (circa 15 B.C.E. to circa 50 C.E.).

Cloth $39.95 — ISBN: 9781589832954 — 260 pages

To order, go to the SBL Store or click on one of the links above.

Society of Biblical Literature — P.O. Box 2243 — Williston, VT 05495-2243 USA
Phone: 877-725-3334 (North America); 802-864-6185 (elsewhere) — Fax: 802-864-7626
THE PULSA DE NURA CURSING RITE is back in the news (Haaretz), apparently due to the recent publication of a scholarly article on it:
Texts describing the ritual describe 10 sages who gather at midnight, following a three-day fast. As they blow on a shofar, they extinguish black candles. Those invoking the curse are required to name the guardian angel entrusted with safeguarding the condemned. The process of invoking the pulsa denura carries the danger of transforming it into a blessing, or even worse; of causing the curse to be turned back onto themselves.
And that means the cursers are covered no matter what happens, which is a closed-thought system typical for magic. Presumably the instance aimed at Teddy Kollek belongs to the transformed-into-a-blessing variety.
The hype around the pulsa denura, and its strangeness, led some researchers to question its origins, and its place within Judaism. Dr. Zion Zohar, of Florida International University's religious studies department, claims to have discovered that the ceremony in its current form 'is not of Jewish origins.'

According to Zohar, who published his findings recently in the periodical Modern Judaism, the ceremony took shape in Israel in the first years after the state's founding. It had its beginnings in disputes within the ultra-Orthodox community.

Zohar says he sees no evidence of the pulsa denura having been performed prior to 1948. The first instance ever recorded, he says, was in the 1950s, when members of Jerusalem's tiny anti-Zionist Neturei Karta sect cast the curse on a burial society undertaker who had agreed to relocate graves from the site that later became the government complex at Givat Ram, in the capital.

"It was a political tool, which the extreme right later adopted for its own purposes," Zohar says. Although the term 'pulsa denura' does appear in the Zohar, the Florida researcher says that its original meaning was the opposite of its modern understanding. "Pulsa denura appears there as a divine force that protects from evil," Zohar says
Background here and here.
AN ARMY OF ASSYRIOLOGISTS. (Via the Agade list.)

Similar story here.

From the National Geographic Society:
Solomon's Temple Artifacts Found by Muslim Workers

Mati Milstein in Tel Aviv, Israel
for National Geographic News
October 23, 2007

Muslim workers have unearthed artifacts on Jerusalem's Temple Mount, says an Israeli agency.

The artifacts, which date to the First Jewish Temple period—the eighth to sixth centuries B.C.—were found by Waqf Muslims doing maintenance work, the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) reported.

It sounds now as though the IAA archaeologists merely examined material from the Waqf excavation and did not undertake any controlled, scientific excavation themselves. I think.

From Arutz Sheva:
Dr. Mazar: PM's Office Complicit in Temple Mount Destruction

by Nissan Ratzlav-Katz

( Well-known archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar of Hebrew University told Arutz Sheva Radio that she sees the recent revelation of First Temple artifacts on the Temple Mount as further proof of what she called the Antiquities Authority's "criminal behavior." The
The destruction on the Temple Mount continues... due to "a direct order from the Prime Minister's Office."
destruction on the Temple Mount continues, she charged, due to "a direct order from the Prime Minister's Office" to ignore the Islamic Waqf's violations of antiquities preservation laws.

Asked why the Prime Minister would issue such a directive, Dr. Mazar said, "I am an archaeologist, not a politician. However, it is clear that the Prime Minister must not avert his eyes from the destruction of antiquities on the Temple Mount. Not even at the cost of tranquility. These are artifacts that have been permanently ruined and we will never be able to restore them."

Plus, the Waqf dispenses more Jewish-Temple denial:
Waqf Denies Existence of First Temple Artifacts
The director of the Waqf for holy sites in Jerusalem told a Lebanese newspaper that Israeli reports of archaeological finds from the First Temple period are baseless. Azzam Al-Hatib charged that Israel timed the reports to try to prove a Jewish link to the site at the same time the Palestinian Authority has demanded control of the Old City.

Muslims have been conducting a campaign that has escalated in the past two years to convince the world that there is no Jewish connection with the Old City of Jerusalem. They argue that the Western Wall (Kotel) was a hitching post for a mythical horse ridden by Islam's founder, Muhammad. Historically, the 7th-century Arabian leader never set foot in Jerusalem.
And more on the Waqf from YNetNews:
Waqf boycotts Knesset committee

Head of Muslim body in charge of Temple Mount refuses to attend Knesset committee meeting on excavations at site. 'We don't recognize Israel's sovereignty in Jerusalem,' he explains

Amnon Meranda
Published: 10.22.07, 22:33 / Israel News

The Knesset State Control Committee decided Monday to ask the state comptroller to compile a report on the archeological digs carried out by the Muslim Waqf at the Temple Mount.

The decision came after a representative of the Muslim administrative body in charge of the holy site refused to attend the committee's meeting, stating that he did not recognize Israel's sovereignty at the Temple Mount or the Knesset's authority to make decisions on the matter.

THE SAINT JOHN'S BIBLE IS "NEARLY COMPLETE" and selections are on display in Phoenix:
Phoenix Art Museum Hosts Monumental Gathering of Old and New Illuminated Manuscripts
Posted : Tue, 23 Oct 2007 18:12:11 GMT
Author : Phoenix Art Museum

PHOENIX, AZ -- 10/23/07 -- Phoenix Art Museum will present one of its most divine exhibitions from December 11, 2007 - March 9, 2008, focusing on handmade Bibles and religious manuscripts from throughout history. Bringing together the old and new, three unique exhibitions will collectively span the more than 1300 years of history represented through this ancient art form. Highlighting this exhibition will be one of the most remarkable artistic endeavors undertaken this millennium as the museum plays host to "Illuminating the Word: The Saint John's Bible" -- the only handwritten and illuminated Bible commissioned since the advent of the printing press more than 500 years ago.

Concurrent with "The Saint John's Bible," Phoenix Art Museum will host "The Early History of the Bible" from the world-class collection of sacred manuscripts at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, and "Selections from the James Melikian Collection" from a private collection in Phoenix representing more than 20 ancient Christian and Jewish texts and manuscripts from these two important collections.

"We are extremely proud to host this rare gathering of artwork celebrating the expansive history of the book as an art form," said James K. Ballinger, director of Phoenix Art Museum. "These three exhibitions provide an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view some of the rarest books and manuscripts from throughout history, and to experience the incomparable 'The Saint John's Bible' masterpiece."

A richly ornamented masterwork, hand-illustrated with gold leaf on oversized vellum, "The Saint John's Bible" (which includes both the Old and New Testaments) is an unprecedented undertaking in contemporary book arts and a major cultural endeavor. Selections from the nearly-complete Bible are traveling the country as part of a national tour sponsored by Target; and for the first time it will be exhibited alongside ancient examples of the book arts.


For Phoenix Art Museum, "Illuminating the Word: The Saint John's Bible" features 49 two-page openings from the nearly-complete Bible, with selections from Gospels and Acts, Pentateuch (the first five books of Jewish and Christian scripture), and Psalms. Among the pages on view at Phoenix Art Museum are: The Seven Days of Creation, Genesis, The Garden of Eden, Jacob's Ladder, The Ten Commandments, The Parable of the Loaves and Fishes, The Sermon on the Mount, The Parable of the Sower and the Seed, The Birth of Christ, Dinner at the Pharisee's House, The Woman Accused of Adultery, The Raising of Lazarus, The Death of Moses, The Crucifixion.

The exhibition includes some other interesting items:
Comprised from the extensive, world-class collection of sacred manuscripts and ancient Biblical works of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, "The Early History of the Bible" is a collection of illuminated and handwritten works ranging from an 8th century Biblical manuscript fragment from Egypt to a 16th century Hebrew Esther scroll, and features Bibles from the early age of printing, including a page from the Gutenberg Bible and a first edition of Martin Luther's New Testament.


One of the foremost private collections of ancient illuminated texts, the James Melikian Collection features several rare objects of note. "The Khabouris Codex" is one of only two Assyrian New Testament manuscripts from the 11th/12th centuries, written in Aramaic, and still in existence in the Western Hemisphere (the other is housed in the Library of Congress).

The Melikian Collection also features a variety of English printed Bibles, ranging from the Bishops' Bible to various editions of the King James translation, all from the 1500s and 1600s (including the tallest printed Bible, printed in 1680). These Bibles showcase the intense activity that first brought the Bible into the English language.

Additionally, the collection features three Armenian "Four Gospels," notable for their beauty and rarity to the Western region, the earliest of which dates back to 1350. Written in Aramaic on rice paper, each manuscript begins with a series of full-page illustrations of the life and ministry of Jesus. One of the "Four Gospels" on display, dated 1651, was made by an ethnic-Armenian team in Istanbul and used through a three-decade career of the priest-monk (vardapet) Minas of Kona. Minas, in turn, commissioned a deluxe silver cover for the volume in 1675, just before donating the book to the parish he served throughout his life. Several other silver Bible covers, many from the 1800s, will also be on display.

Background here, here, and here.
MORE ON THE JEZEBEL SEAL from the Jerusalem Post:
Dutch scholar claims ancient seal was Queen Jezebel's

An ancient seal that surfaced in Israel more than four decades ago belonged to the biblical Queen Jezebel, according to a new study released on Tuesday by a Dutch university.


But the study by Utrecht University Old Testament scholar and Protestant minister Dr. Marjo Korpel, 48, concludes that the seal must have belonged to Jezebel, based on the symbols that appear on it.

The seal, which was donated to the Israel Department of Antiquities in the early 1960s by the private Voss-Hahn collection, not only bears symbols that indicate a female owner but also "well-worked" symbols that designate that owner as royalty, Korpel said.

Moreover, the seal is exceptionally large compared to those commonly possessed by ordinary citizens, she added.

Korpel, who is not an archeologist, suggested that the upper edge of the seal, which is chipped off, must have originally included two broken-off letters that would have correctly spelled Jezebel's name.

Korpel conceded that her thesis was "a real hypothesis" that remained uncorroborated by any archeological bodies, including the Israel Antiquities Authority, and that it had been reached by a process of elimination.

It seems that Korpel's work is being published in a specialist journal:
The Utrecht study, which has been published in the the Journal for Semitics, indicates that Jezebel possessed her own seal, enabling her to operate independently of Ahab.
This is a South African journal about which I know little.

Background here.

UPDATE: Reuters also has an article on Korpel's theory here.

UPDATE: Amihai Matzar is skeptical. (Via the Agade list.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

JESUS AND ARCHAEOLOGY, edited by James Charlesworth, is reviewed by Gary M. Burge in Christianity Today.
At the turn of the millennium, a Jerusalem conference hosted an international gathering of scholars who summarized the achievements in New Testament archaeology over the last few decades. This volume contains 30 papers from the conference, skillfully edited for publication.
MKs want to probe Wakf for Mount dig
By DAN IZENBERG (Jerusalem Post)

The Knesset State Control Committee on Monday decided to ask the State Comptroller's Office to investigate procedures for allowing the Wakf Islamic trust to excavate on the Temple Mount, amid claims by archeologists that the laying of electric cables there in August endangered ancient artifacts.


The committee accused the Antiquities Authority and its director-general, Shmuel Dorfman, of violating government regulations required for granting permission to the Wakf to carry out work that might harm archeological artifacts.

Dorfman acknowledged that he had not asked for permission from a ministerial committee established to oversee Temple Mount excavations, as required by the regulations. However, he and the Jerusalem District architect, Yuval Baruch, told the panel, "There was no damage to the remains of buildings or artifacts." Dorfman also said he had been more lenient regarding the terms of the excavation because it was the only way he could be sure the authority would be able to supervise the excavation.

Dorfman strongly denied allegations by a member of the archeologists' committee, Yisrael Caspi, that he had been ordered by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to give the Wakf permission to dig the trench.

"The prime minister did not speak to me," he told the State Control Committee. "No one spoke to me and no one forced me to agree."


Monday, October 22, 2007

Stephen R. Donaldson, Fatal Revenant (The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant) (New York: Putnam, 2007)
Woo hoo! Book reviews will have to wait. No academic reading for me for the next week or two.
HUMAN SACRIFICE AND THE PHOENICIANS: At Rogue Classicism, David Meadows notes the following:
Interesting item from ADNKronos claiming evidence from Sicily suggests the Phoenicians did practice the sacrifice of newborns, but not in large numbers and only in response to specific events[.]
Oh. Well, that's all right then.

UPDATE: For a discussion of similar claims about Carthage, see here.
A FESTSCHRIFT FOR SY GITTEN has just come out. Congratulations, Sy!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced that the Israeli Antiquities Authority has recently undertaken an investigation "over maintenance works of the Waqf" (presumably associated with the recent Waqf excavations by bulldozer) and have found, suprise! surprise!, a "sealed archaeological level" containing artifacts from the First Temple Period (Iron IIB, eighth- to sixth-centuries B.C.E.):
Yuval Baruch of the IAA, Prof. Sy Gitin, Director of the William F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem, Prof. Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University and Prof. Ronny Reich of Haifa University examined the finds and the archaeological data and reached the conclusion that the characteristics and location of the finds may aid scholars in reconstructing the dimensions and boundaries of the Temple Mount during the First Temple Period.

The finds include fragments of bowls, including rims, bases and body sherds; the base of a juglet used for the ladling of oil; the handle of a small juglet and the rim of a storage jar. The bowl sherds were decorated with wheel burnishing lines characteristic of the First Temple Period. In addition, a piece of a white washed handmade object was found. It may have been used to decorate a larger object or may have been part of a figurine.
Joseph I. Lauer comments:
Well Glory Be! The IAA finally got off its duff and sent someone to look at the Temple Mount platform and found objects from the First Temple Period. Now, perhaps, they'll finally do a real inspection (and excavation) of the area being destroyed by the Waqf.
Ouch! By their inaction I guess the IAA has earned some criticism, although it's hard to tell how much their hands have been tied by the Government. In any case, I'm glad that at least they are doing something now. I don't know whether the Waqf is still digging, but if so, this information ought to be enough to make the Israeli Government put it to a end. But then, Barkay's sifting of earlier Waqf excavations has already provided ample data along these lines, so I can't say I'm optimistic.

As I've said any number of times (e.g., here), I would rather there be no digging on the Temple Mount by anyone until we have the technology to do it by nonintrusive and nondestructive means. But if there's going to be digging I want it to be by trained archaeologists, not workmen with a bulldozer.

As I was about to publish this post, an APF article on the finds came in on Lauer's list. It looks to be based on the MFA release, with nothing new.

Then, as I wrote the above sentence, Lauer sent out an Arutz Sheva piece that does have additional information, much of it wrong:
Finds on Temple Mount from First Temple

by Hillel Fendel

( The unauthorized dig of a trench this past summer by the Moslem Waqf on the Temple Mount, in the course of which it was assumed that precious findings were destroyed, apparently had a thin silver lining. Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) personnel monitoring the trench-digging have, for the first time, found traces of the First Temple.

The IAA studied an archaeological level dating to the First Temple Period, exposed in the area close to the south-eastern corner of the raised platform surrounding the Dome of the Rock.

Archaeological examination of a small section of this level, led by Jerusalem District Archaeologist Yuval Baruch, uncovered fragments of ceramic table wares, animal bones, and more. The finds date from the 8th to 6th centuries BCE; the First Temple existed between the 9th and 5th centuries BCE, having been built by King Solomon in 832 and destroyed in 422.

According to the Deuteronomistic Historian (in 1 Kings) Solomon's Temple was built in the tenth century (the 900s) BCE It was destroyed by the Babylonians in the early sixth century BCE (586/7 BCE). Sigh.

On Surah 17.1 and related traditions, see here and here.

And Lauer is on a roll! I can't even hit the publish button before he sends in something new. Here's one from Haaretz on the discoveries.
Archaeologists find link to 1st temple in controversial J'lem dig
By Nadav Shragai, Haaretz Correspondent and The Associated Press

Israeli archaeologists overseeing a contested dig at Jerusalem's holiest site for Muslims and Jews stumbled upon a sealed archaeological level dating back to the era of the first biblical Jewish temple, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Sunday.

And this one does have some additional and somewhat disquieting news:
Jon Seligman, Jerusalem regional archaeologist for the Antiquities Authority, said the find was significant since it could help scholars in reconstructing the dimensions and boundaries of the Temple Mount during the first temple period.

"The layer is a closed, sealed archaeological layer that has been undisturbed since the 8th century B.C.," he said.

But the Public Committee Against the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount, a group of Israeli archaeologists, downplayed the findings, saying the dig was conducted in an unprofessional manner without proper documentation. The group previously condemned the maintenance works, which included using a tractor to dig a trench, charging that digging at such a sensitive site could damage Bible-era relics and erase evidence of the presence of the biblical structures.

"I think it is a smoke screen for the ruining of antiquities," said Eilat Mazar, a member of the committee.

Seligman said the maintenance work was necessary to accommodate the thousands of worshippers who flock daily to the site. He said no damage was caused to the site and added that the discovery was merely a pleasant surprise.

It's difficult to know what is going on here without more information.

UPDATE (22 October): And this from the A.P. in the International Herald Tribune:
Israeli archaeologists overseeing contested Jerusalem dig find link to first Jewish Temple
The Associated Press
Published: October 21, 2007

JERUSALEM: Israeli archaeologists overseeing a contested dig at Jerusalem's holiest site for Muslims and Jews stumbled upon a sealed archaeological level dating back to the era of the first biblical Jewish temple, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Sunday.

Islamic authorities responsible for the Old City compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, said the dig was part of infrastructure work at the site to replace 40-year-old electrical cables. But the Islamic Trust denied that any discovery was made, or that any Israeli archaeologists were supervising the work.


UPDATE: Reader Carla Sulzbach e-mails:
The article from Arutz 7 in which the phrase "The finds date from the 8th to 6th centuries BCE; the First Temple existed between the 9th and 5th centuries BCE, having been built by King Solomon in 832 and destroyed in 422" is found is not "wrong" in the sense that they used some random dates. They use the rabbinic chronography Seder Olam Rabbah. This work is the source of the Anno Mundi calculation and compresses the Persian Period to a mere 52 years and reduces the reign of ten kings to three. Earlier dates, as you can see from the article, are also dramatically off in comparison to the conventional chronology. Indeed, it is worrysome to see this creep into news articles - bad enough that certain publishing houses such as ArtScroll use it as fact.
THE JERUSALEM QUARRY is the subject of a press release from the Israel Antiquities Authority:
For the First Time a Quarry has been Exposed that Supplied Enormous Stones for the Construction of the Temple Mount

In salvage excavations the Antiquities Authority conducted in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood in Jerusalem, an ancient quarry was revealed that extended across an area of at least 5 dunams. The excavation was carried out as part of a project initiated by the Jerusalem Municipality for the purpose of building an elementary school for the children of the neighborhood. From this quarry huge stones were extracted that were used in the national construction projects in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period. This construction most likely also included the walls of the Temple Mount and other monumental buildings. Upon the discovery of the antiquities Mayor Rabbi Uri Lupolianski instructed that the work be halted and allocated 350,000 NIS for salvage excavations.

Background here and here. But somehow I doubt that this is relevant.

(Via Joseph I. Lauer's list.)

Plus a quiz!

Plus this on the Qumran copy now on display in San Diego:
At the Natural History Museum in Balboa Park, the fragmented copy of the commandments is a hit so far. Last Saturday, a near-capacity crowd of 3,900 visitors showed up to see the exhibition after word got out that this piece of Deuteronomy was on display ahead of schedule.

“This is simply the blockbuster of the exhibition,” said curator Risa Levitt Kohn at the official kickoff Monday.

The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition began three months ago with the first sampling of biblical texts, religious commentaries and other writings discovered in the Judean desert and dating back roughly 2,000 years. For preservation purposes, 12 scroll fragments on loan from Israel were on display the first three months and then another 12 are being shown these final three months (three on loan from Jordan are here all six months). The exhibition ends Dec. 31.

Included in this second set are fragments from Leviticus, Psalms and Samuel, a commentary on Genesis and an apocalyptic prediction about the coming of a messiah. The Deuteronomy fragment of the Ten Commandments is a long, narrow scrap of parchment that dates back to about 30 B.C.

There is debate as to whether this text is the oldest known copy of the Ten Commandments, with some scholars saying that distinction belongs to the Nash Papyrus fragments acquired in Egypt about a century ago.
For more on the Nash Papyrus, see here.