Saturday, November 17, 2007

Peres seeks to borrow Siloam Inscription for Israel’s anniversary
Israeli President Shimon Peres has asked President Abdullah Gül to send the Siloam Inscription, a 2,700-year-old tablet exhibited at İstanbul’s Archaeology Museum, to Jerusalem for Israel’s 60th anniversary.

At their meeting in Ankara on Tuesday Peres repeated Israel’s request to receive the biblical tablet. Gül said, “We will do what we can.”

A Turkish official said if conditions are met for the international transfer of archeological artifacts, the government is warm to the idea of displaying the tablet in Jerusalem.
Once again, the seemingly obligatory howler is included:
The Siloam Inscription was found in 1880, when Jerusalem was under Ottoman rule, in what is known today as Hezekiah’s Tunnel. Engraved on the stone is a description of the meeting in A.D. 703 of two groups of hewers who were digging from opposite ends as they sought to provide a reliable water source for Jerusalem’s residents in biblical times.
That should be (more or less) 703 B.C.E., not A.D.

Background here.
TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: The Turkish report on the Mughrabi Gate excavation has reportedly been leaked to a Turkish publication and is highly critical.
Turkish archaeologists harshly criticised Israeli excavation: report

ANKARA (AFP) — A team of Turkish experts harshly criticised a controversial archaeological dig in Jerusalem undertaken by Israel, according to a report published Friday in the Turkish daily Today's Zaman.

Turkish experts visited the site because the Ayyubid, Mameluke and Ottoman dynasties ruled in the area successively between the 12th century and the beginning of the 20th century.

According to the Turkish team, "the ongoing activities give the impression that they are a planned and systematically implemented effort which aims to destroy the values associated with cultural assets and the sources of information of these cultures," the English-language daily said, citing the actual report.

Background here.

UPDATE: Here's the Today's Zaman article, which is long and detailed:
Report: Israeli work risks destroying Jerusalem’s Islamic assets
A Turkish technical mission sent to Jerusalem to inspect Israeli archaeological work near the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque has criticized the excavations and called on Israel to consult with Palestinian and international authorities on a final plan, the mission's report, obtained by Today's Zaman, revealed.

The Turkish mission visited Jerusalem in March to inspect the archeological work being carried out by the Israeli authorities at the Mughrabi ramp, which climbs to the southwestern gate of the Haram al-Sharif complex, amid international concerns over the excavations. Its report, which was completed in the summer but not released to the public, observed that the excavations are unacceptable by legal and scientific standards and suggested that the excavation goes beyond scientific purposes. It said even if there is no actual excavation at Haram Al-Sharif, there are enough indications to give the impression that it is only a matter of time.

"The archaeological excavation at the Mughrabi pathway, which involves various traces of the Umayyad, Ayyubid, Mameluke and Ottoman periods, must be discontinued immediately," the report said, echoing an earlier report by UNESCO in March. For future reconstruction efforts in the area, the report recommended a competition open to Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian architects and the joint work of Israeli and Palestinian experts supervised by organizations such as UNESCO and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).


"The tunneling and excavation work and the large amount of soil extraction shown to our mission along the Wailing Wall give the impression that this is an intervention of great scale and depth and that this intervention goes beyond scientific purpose, even if there is no excavation toward Haram al-Sharif," it said.

While not openly adopting the Palestinian position labeling Israeli archeology as a mode of the "Judaization" or "Israelization" of Jerusalem, the report observed that the ongoing activities are a part of a planned and systematically implemented effort to destroy values associated with cultural assets of the Ayyubid, Mameluke and Ottoman periods.


It identified "distortion of Jerusalem's history by means of highlighting the Judaic aspect or identifying with being of Arab origin" as the source of current problems and emphasized Jerusalem was a city where Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Armenian communities constituted a "heterogeneous population" living in peace.

Then there's this:
A special section in the report was dedicated to the Wailing Wall. It claimed that the importance of the area for the Jews is a fairly new phenomenon as it had no religious connotations in the period of King Herod (first century B.C.), when the courtyard was a market, and that it had no religious importance until the end of the Mameluke period (early 16th century). ...
If this is what the report actually says, and not some misunderstanding, it is disturbingly tendentious. The Wailing Wall or Western Wall is part of the Platform of the Temple Mount. Although it was not part of the Temple itself, the Temple stood on the Platform and the whole area was considered sacred. It is simply not true that "it had no religious connotations in the period of King Herod." I have discussed the Herodian Temple Mount Platform in greater detail here.
The Dead Sea Scrolls...made in St John’s Wood
16/11/2007 (Jewish Chronicle, UK)
By Simon Rocker
The thrill of recognition is instant. You need not be a Hebrew scholar to make out a few familiar words among the clear black letters first formed by a scribe more than 2,000 years ago.

Unwound before me is a 23ft-long scroll of the Book of Isaiah. It could be the one that was found 60 years ago in a cave in Qumran by the Dead Sea.

But this scroll is different: it originates in St John’s Wood, North-West London, is bound for Korea and was conceived by a man who runs a salmon-fishing business in Alaska.

Enter Weston Fields, executive director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation. His organisation funds publication of the 900 or so documents and fragments that comprise the Dead Sea Scrolls and also helps with preservation and exhibitions.


“I had the idea of making facsimiles of the three scrolls that were originally found — they are the best preserved,” he said. “The Koreans were willing to underwrite the cost — it’s terribly expensive.”

To help, he turned to some old friends, Linda and Michael Falter of St John’s Wood. As Facsimile Editions, the couple have a worldwide reputation for producing high-class replicas of illustrated religious manuscripts, so meticulously executed that they are hard to tell from the original. “When Weston rang and said could you advise me how to make a copy of the Dead Sea Scrolls,” Michael Falter said, “I replied, ‘I’d rather not advise you, I’d rather do it’.”


Three copies each have been created of the original three scrolls: Isaiah, a commentary on the Book of Habakkuk, and the Manual of Discipline. “We wanted to produce them exactly as they are, we didn’t want to enhance or prettify them,” Michael said. “When we showed them to Weston, he said they were as legible as the original. The only thing we haven’t got is the clay pots in which they were found.”

Roman street uncovered in Western Wall tunnels
By ETGAR LEFKOVITS (Jerusalem Post)

The remains of an ancient terraced street that dates back to the Roman period have been uncovered in the Western Wall tunnels, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Wednesday.
[The remains of a Roman road...]

The remains of a Roman road discovered in the Western Wall tunnels.
Photo: Western Wall Heritage Fund

The street, which likely led to the nearby Temple Mount itself, dates back nearly 2,000 years when the city was called Aelia Capitolina during the second-fourth centuries.

Aelia Capitolina was a pagan city built over the site of Jerusalem by the Emperor Hadrian after the Bar Kokhba revolt of 132-135 CE.

UPDATE: There's a longer Reuters article that covers the same ground and also mentions the discovery of a Roman bath house.
Roman road, bath unearthed near Jewish temple site
Thu Nov 15, 2007 3:22pm GMT

By Rebecca Harrison

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli archaeologists have unearthed the remains of a second century terraced street and bath house which provide vital clues about the layout of Roman Jerusalem.

The Israel Antiquities Authority said the 30-metre (90-foot) alley was used by the Romans to link the central Cardo thoroughfare with a bath house and with a bridge to the Temple Mount, once the site of Jerusalem's ancient Jewish temple.

"We find bits of Roman road all the time but this discovery helped us piece together a picture of Roman Jerusalem," Jon Seligman, Jerusalem regional archaeologist, told Reuters at the site. "It was a real Eureka moment."

I'M AT THE HOTEL and, as you can see from the timestamp, am still on Mid-Atlantic time. I spent yesterday catching up with family and friends. The gym doesn't open until 6:00 am, so here's my chance to catch up on blogging.

Friday, November 16, 2007

I'M HERE and waiting for my luggage at the San Diego Airport, which has free Wi-Fi. Most civilized.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I'M OFF TO SAN DIEGO first thing tomorrow morning for the annual Society of Biblical Literature conference. I'm presenting a paper on "Counterfactual History and Other New Methodologies." I'm not going to post a copy, since much of it recycles material that is about to be published. But you can get the idea of the issues I will be covering by reading this paper from a few years ago (yes, I know I'm getting a lot of mileage out of it) and this review of Maxine Grossman's monograph Reading for History in the Damascus Document. (The latter requires a paid personal or institutional subscription to Dead Sea Discoveries. Sorry.)

I expect to arrive in San Diego late on Thursday evening and will be staying at my mother's house until Friday afternoon and after the conference through Thanksgiving. I have to set up her new computer once I get there, and may not have the time or energy on Friday, so blogging may not resume until Friday evening or Saturday morning at the hotel (where I'll be staying through Tuesday morning).

Safe travel to all those heading out for the conference in the next couple of days.
ARAMAIC WATCH: Good news for Aramaic, slightly bad news for biblical Hebrew.
Against the backdrop of increasing government support for language programs post-September 11, the MLA, which has conducted its survey periodically (every four years, of late) since 1958, found gains in all of the 15 most widely taught languages save Biblical Hebrew, down 0.3 percent from 2002 to 2006. Enrollments in the less commonly taught languages also increased by 31.2 percent from 2002, fueled largely by a 55.9 percent growth in Middle Eastern and African languages (the most popular being Aramaic, Swahili and Persian). In all, 204 of the less commonly taught languages were in fact taught in 2006, an increase of 42 languages over 2002.
Modern Hebrew, ancient Greek, and Latin are doing well too, and Arabic is doing very well indeed.
April D. DeConick, The Thirteenth Apostle: What the Gospel of Judas Really Says (New York/London: Continuum, 2007)
A copy from the publisher for review on PaleoJudaica. Watch this space.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

LOGOS TOO! The Accordance module of biblical Dead Sea Scrolls for the Mac has its parallel in the Qumran Biblical Dead Sea Scrolls Database for the PC by Logos Bible Software.
Logos is pleased to announce another first in the history of scholarly databases for biblical studies: the development of a database for the biblical Dead Sea Scrolls. This new database marks the first time that the Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible have been made available to the public in electronic form for the PC.

The achievement of this database is the result of years of painstaking work on the part of Dr. Stephen Pfann. Dr. Pfann is President of the Board of Directors of the University of the Holy Land, as well as Chair of the University’s Department of Qumran Studies. Pfann holds an M.A. from the Graduate Theological Union and a Ph.D. from the Department of Ancient Semitic Languages at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Dr. Pfann’s dissertation was supervised by Prof. Michael Stone. His areas of academic expertise are Qumran studies, ancient languages, paleography, and cultural geography. Dr. Pfann is the author of many scholarly articles related to his research, and has contributed to or co-edited several important works on the Dead Sea Scrolls, including: The Dead Sea Scrolls on Microfiche (with Emanuel Tov); and several volumes in the Discoveries in the Judaean Desert (DJD) series, the official publication series of the Dead Sea Scrolls (vol. XXV, Qumran Cave 4: Sapiential Texts, Pt. 1; vol. XXVI, Qumran Cave 4: Miscellaneous Texts from Qumran, Cryptic Texts and Miscellanea, Pt. 1; vol. XXXV, Qumran Cave 4: Halakhic Texts). Dr. Pfann lives in Jerusalem. His direct access to both the original scrolls and state-of-the-art imaging and viewing technology allowed him to review and revise the transcriptions of each biblical scroll.

The Logos Qumran Biblical Dead Sea Scrolls Database includes morphological tagging, prepared by Dr. Michael S. Heiser, Academic Editor at Logos.
THE TOMB OF EZEKIEL in Kifl, Iraq, was mentioned on PaleoJudaica here several years ago. I doubt that it's Ezekiel's actual tomb, but it is a real building (unlike Lara Croft's Tomb of Ezekiel -- see here). Anyhow, my former student Sam Giere has e-mailed to point out that a couple of photographs of the Tomb of Ezekiel in Iraq are posted on a website belonging to the Oberlin Art Department. This one shows the building from the outside. Cool, eh? And this one shows part of a Hebrew inscription on the inside. The first part of the inscription is outside the frame, but the rest reads הנביא בן בוזי הכהן זכותו ינן עלינו ועל כל ישראל אמן, "... the prophet, son of Buzi, the priest. May his merit increase upon us and upon all Israel. Amen." The prophet in question is, of course, Ezekiel, who was a priest and whose father's name was indeed Buzi (Ezekiel 1:3).

Monday, November 12, 2007

THE CONTROVERSY OVER NADIA ABU-EL HAJ'S TENURING AT BARNARD contines to generate discussion. Here are some online pieces going back to late October:
Larry Cohler-Esses, "The New McCarthyism" (The Nation)

Martin Solomon, "The New 'New McCarthyism': Are Left-Wing Academics Being Persecuted?" (Pajamas Media)

Ralph Harrington, "Was Nadia Abu El Haj Treated Fairly?" (History News Network)
Background here.

UPDATE (1 December): More here.
THE LIFE OF BRIAN is being re-released as a DVD, with a deleted scene re-inserted:
Monty Python's Life of Brian continues to inspire an almost religious devotion among fans: at least three times this century it has been voted the funniest film ever made. But the controversy refuses to go away, and earlier this year - three decades after the film's release - there were headlines when a vicar in Newcastle screened it in his church.

In an age when the Hammer horror Dracula is downgraded from its original, blood-curdling X certificate to an anaemic, kid-friendly 12A, it is extraordinary how Life of Brian - the first and only Biblical comedy - retains its power to shock. Yet it came perilously close to being much more offensive to many more people.

A new DVD edition of the film includes the deleted "Otto" scene, which features a radical, first-century Jewish revolutionary who has the same dreams as the young Adolf Hitler. Otto sports a toothbrush moustache, and, in case we still haven't got the message, his disciples all wear a symbol that combines the Star of David with a swastika. These are "Nazi Jews".

Jones insists he didn't make the cut to avoid giving offence.

"It was a very funny scene," he says, "but it wasn't relevant; it wasn't part of the story. When I took it out, the film just flowed so much better."

He regretted having to cut the scene at the time and regrets it even more so now.

"I think what it addressed is extremely relevant today," he says, "with what's going on in Israel. Eric [who wrote the scene] put his finger on something; it was quite prophetic."
This Telegraph article also reports a lot of background to the making of the film, and is worth a read.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS BIBLICAL MANUSCRIPTS is a new Accordance Bible Software module that will be available at the SBL meetings in San Diego next week.
OakTree Software is pleased to announce the release of the Dead Sea Scrolls Biblical Manuscripts for use with Accordance Bible Software

These important new Accordance modules (DSSB-C and DSSB-M) represent the entire Hebrew and Aramaic corpus of the biblical scrolls found in the Judean Desert between 1947 and today. They include not only Qumran, but also Masada, Nahal Hever, Murabba’at, etc. The transcription and format faithfully follow the text of the official publication series, The Discoveries in the Judaean Desert (Oxford, 1955—) and other related publications.

Over three years in preparation, the DSSB-C presents every manuscript in canonical order, so that every witness to each verse can be compared at once and with any other version such as the Masoretic or Samaritan text, or the English translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls Bible. The DSSB-M presents the texts in manuscript order and can be used in parallel with the Qumran Index module. Both modules include complete lexical and morphological analysis, and English glosses, facilitating searches for different forms of words, and for grammatical constructions. They are completely integrated into Accordance and hypertext to the Hebrew and Aramaic lexicons, and to any other available Accordance resources. Advanced search and analysis capabilities allow the user to create and customize graphic and textual presentations of the search results.
My work on Genesis and Exodus from DJD 12 is included.

UPDATE (13 November): Accordance does software for Apple systems. There is a parallel database of biblical Dead Sea Scrolls for PCs from Logos Bible Software.
Dead Sea Scrolls
View them and other texts at a one-of-a-kind exhibit in San Diego
By Krista Neis
Special to the Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 11.11.2007

There's a world-class, thought-provoking, sensory-stimulating exhibit available to you through December, and the best part is that you don't have to travel across the globe to experience it.
It is an exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and it's just a short trip away in San Diego. The exhibit ends its six-month run at the Museum of Natural History in Balboa Park on Dec. 31.
Part breathtaking visual tour, part balanced geopolitical review, part mystery, and steeped in religious, scientific and historic nuance, it's an exhibit that appeals to all ages — a moving experience well worth the hour plane ride from Tucson.

AD INFINITUM: A Biography of Latin, by Nicholas Ostler, is reviewed in the Philadelphia Inquirer by John Timpane. Excerpt:
Today, we speak of Latin as a "dead" language. If it is dead, Ostler argues, the seeds of its demise may have lain within what gave it life: the very institutions (Rome, Christianity, scholastic learning, humanism) that disseminated it so wide and fierce.

But Ostler wonders aloud: Is it really dead? True, only one country (the Vatican) lists it as an official language, and no babies grow up speaking it as their first language at home. Latin, though, is everywhere: in scientific nomenclature, in 60 percent of the vocabulary of English - arguably the Latin of our time - and in the words we use to describe and manipulate the primary engine of our age, technology.

Literature in Latin is hardly dead. Catullus, Cicero, Horace and Virgil still are read and enjoyed in the original by hundreds of thousands. Translation is nice, but it's no substitute. Latin, as written by the best, is still vibrant in the minds and hearts of many who speak many languages. Ostler reports millions of Web pages in Latin (there's even a Latin version of Wikipedia). Can a language enjoying such an afterlife really be dead?

Before reading this book, I would have said yes. I dearly love Latin and still open Horace and Virgil with pleasure (I was never very good at it, let it be said) - but I do so as a self-conscious scholar. After reading Ad Infinitum, I have to say Ostler has persuaded me. A language is alive if it lives. And Latin lives. So do Greek, Hebrew, Sanskrit, classical Arabic, in much the same role, as the mothers and fathers of our minds. Once a language of farmers and soldiers, Latin now is a language for readers and thinkers. That's life.