Saturday, April 05, 2008

THE TORAH: A WOMEN'S COMMENTARY is featured in the London Times:
Spare-rib scholars unearth scripture bias
Sheera Frenkel in Jerusalem

In the days when Moses dictated the law of the land, the five daughters of Zelophephad took issue with the rules of inheritance. The Book of Numbers xxvii recounts how the sisters sought counsel with Moses in front of the congregation of travelling Israelites to demand that the laws be altered to accommodate female succession.

This bit of biblical history is often brushed over, as are other feminist aspects of the Old Testament, because for thousands of years men alone have interpreted the Hebrew Scriptures, according to a feminist revision of the text.

The Torah: A Women's Commentary re-evaluates the Torah's feminine side and offers the first comprehensive analysis of text from a female point of view. “With this commentary we will continue as sisters to empower the women - and men - who come after us for generations to come,” said its chief editor, Tamara Eskenazi, a professor of Bible studies at Hebrew Union College.

The Torah - also known as the Pentateuch or five books of Moses - is the foundational text of Judaism. While scholars have begun to examine women's role in the biblical period, A Women's Commentary is being hailed as a seminal text in religious studies owing to the depth of its analysis and wide spectrum of its contributors - which include several hundred women from the four main branches of Jewish movements - Orthodox, Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist. Those women re-evaluated the text from page one - taking the story of Creation to task for its rendering of Eve as a secondary creation to God's original Adam.


Friday, April 04, 2008

BIBLICAL STUDIES CARNIVAL XXVIII has been posted by Chris Weimer at Thoughts on Antiquity.
MARTIN GOODMAN will be giving a lecture at Binghamton University:
Annual Romano Lecture to focus on Rome, Jerusalem

Martin Goodman, professor of Jewish studies at Oxford University, will deliver the annual Mario and Antoinette Romano Lecture at noon Friday, April 11, in the Anderson Center Reception Room.

Goodman has divided his intellectual life between the Roman and Jewish worlds. He has edited both the Journal of Roman Studies and the Journal of Jewish Studies. His most recent book, Rome and Jerusalem: the Clash of Ancient Civilizations, was published in 2007.

In 70 CE, after a war that had flared sporadically for four years, three Roman legions surrounded, laid siege to and eventually devastated the city of Jerusalem, destroying the Temple that had been rebuilt by Herod less than a century before.

Goodman’s lecture, titled “Rome and Jerusalem,” will investigate what brought about this conflict and why, contrary to normal practice and against the reasonable expectations of the Jews, the Roman state would not allow the Jerusalem Temple to be rebuilt, with momentous consequences for the future of the Jews and Judaism.

A reception will follow the lecture, which is sponsored by the Mario and Antoinette Romano Endowment and the Harpur College Dean’s Office. For reservations, call Diane Horvath at 777-4278 or e-mail her at
ARAMAIC WATCH: Aramaic used in an exorcism scam?
Priest allegedly staged fake exorcisms

Published: April 3, 2008 at 4:37 PM

FLORENCE, Italy, April 3 (UPI) -- Prosecutors in Florence, Italy, accuse a Roman Catholic priest in the city of committing fraud by collecting $6 million through staging phony exorcisms.


Prosecutors said associates of Bazzoffi would "pretend to be possessed by demons" and the priest would use ancient and obscure rites to perform fake exorcisms on them. The events regularly drew crowds in excess of 400 people.

"During mass, the priest spoke in Aramaic, and strange things happened," a witness told police. "I do not know if it was group hysteria or our suggestibility but I remember one old woman screaming in a man's voice while five big guys held her down."

THE SHRINE OF THE BOOK has an exhibition on the Qumran Isaiah Scroll (IQIsaa) starting next month (scroll down):

Swords into Plowshares
The Isaiah Scroll and Its Message of Peace

May 13 – August 15, 2008
The Shrine of the Book

On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel, the Israel Museum presents the longest, best preserved, and most complete Dead Sea Scroll document ever found, in a special installation in the Shrine of the Book. Never before shown in an extended public display, this 2.60 meter-long section of the Isaiah Scroll comprises the first twenty-eight chapters of the Book of Isaiah, including Isaiah’s celebrated message of peace: "They shall beat their swords into plowshares…" (Is. 2:4). In order to illustrate this important message, iron tools from the days of the prophet Isaiah (8th century BCE) will be displayed alongside the Scroll. A Hellenistic seal depicting a dove carrying an olive branch, newly excavated and never before displayed, will also be on view. The exhibition is curated by Adolfo Roitman, Head of the Shrine of the Book and Curator of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Michal Dayagi-Mendels, Chief Curator of Archaeology. An international conference on Dead Sea Scrolls research will be held July 6-8, 2008, and is scheduled to coincide with the exhibition.
FINDADIG 2008 is now online at the BAS website.
IL FANTASTICO. A very appropriate nickname.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

AND WHILE WE'RE AT IT, Happy 325th birthday to Brill publishers!

(Via the Agade list.)
HAPPY TENTH BIRTHDAY to the Hugoye list and to Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies!
A CAPSULE BIOGRAPHY of Dame Kathleen Kenyon was presented in a lecture by Dr. Miriam Davis at Baylor University. Excerpt:
"Why was Kathleen Kenyon worth a biography?" Davis said, to open her speech on Kenyon. "She became an archeologist quite by accident."

Kenyon was the daughter of Sir Frederic Kenyon, the director of the British Museum.

Many people thought that her upbringing made her predisposed to become an archeologist.

Kenyon graduated with a third-class degree from Oxford, which is low. Davis said Kenyon spent more time playing lacrosse and tennis than she did studying.

After graduating, Kenyon joined her first expedition to Great Zimbabwe, an ancient stone ruin in present-day Zimbabwe, with Gertrude Caton-Thompson, another important female archeologist.

It was there that Kenyon "fell in love with field archeology and became interested in methodology," Davis said.

On her second excavation, she worked with Sir Mortimer Wheeler, who developed a new method of digging that emphasized precision in order to gather more data about the artifacts that were discovered.

Kenyon followed his method that she later developed into her own method at her digs in Jerusalem.

She excavated in Jericho for seven field seasons.

"The discoveries she made were breath-taking," Davis said.

UPDATE (8 April): More on the biography (the book) here.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Archaeologist Yuval Baruch tells the inside story about how those Iron Age II artifacts were recovered last October from the Waqf's excavation.
Archeologist finds artifacts from time of Solomon’s Temple
By RHONDA SPIVAK, Special to The CJN [Canadian Jewish News]
Thursday, 03 April 2008
WINNIPEG — Yuval Baruch, left, made archeological history in October 2007 when he uncovered pottery artifacts on the site of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. They are considered to be the first physical evidence of human activity during the time of King Solomon’s Temple (the First Jewish Temple).

Baruch, who is Jerusalem’s district archeologist at the Israel Antiquities Authority, speaking at the Berney Theatre here, outlined his world-famous discovery as part of a lecture series put on by the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University.


“The Muslim Waqf [the Muslim religious authority that controls the internal administration of the Temple Mount] does not allow Israeli archeologists to conduct any excavations on the site. But I got access to a small tunnel where electrical cables run under the site when there was an electrical shortage and the Waqf had to get the electricity fixed…

“I was not supposed to be left there alone, as the Waqf always has someone present when Israeli archeologists are on the site. It was in the evening after 8 p.m., and by chance the Arab electrical workers left me and a member of my staff for about 15 minutes while they went to pray. When I was alone in that brief time, I found the pottery shards among dust near the bedrock level,” he says.

The tunnel to which Baruch got access, was a sealed archeological level – “about 400 metres long,” he says – that was exposed during the inspection in the area close to the southeastern corner of the raised platform surrounding the Dome of the Rock.

Baruch’s findings include animal bones; ceramic bowl rims, bases and body shards; the base of a juglet used to pour oil; the handle of a small juglet; and the rim of a storage jar. In addition, a piece of a whitewashed, handmade object was found. It may have been used to decorate a larger object or may have been the leg of an animal figurine. The finds are dated from eight-to six-century BCE.

Background here and here.
BRUCE CHILTON reassesses The Gnostic Gospels, by Elaine Pagels, for the New York Sun and he isn't happy with what he finds. Excerpt:
Dealing with each topic in her book, Ms. Pagels does not mention crucial evidence concerning Gnostics and Catholics, and distorts what she does mention. She falsely maintains that Catholics insisted upon a physical view of resurrection (as compared to the Gnostics), when a spiritual view is clearly represented from Paul in the first century until Origen in the third century. She asserts that Gnostics did not concern themselves with authority, when in fact they often branded those who disagreed with them as corrupt materialists who were constitutionally incapable of understanding the world of spirit. Attempting to say that the Gnostics were feminists, she ignores texts from Nag Hammadi, as well as Gnostic sources that had been known for centuries before the library's discovery, that portray "Wisdom" (Sophia), the feminine counterpart of the true, masculine God, as literally hysterical — jealous of divine power, but unable to create life on her own, and therefore vindictive. Martyrdom was a common threat to Gnostics and Catholics, and not at all a fate that the Fathers of the Church wanted Christians generally to seek; Gnostics could be as ferocious as Catholics in claiming unique insight, and the knowledge that transcends this world was every bit as much a Catholic as a Gnostic quest.

Appearing in a book as well written as Ms. Pagels's, her anachronisms have undermined public understanding of early Christianity. Gnosticism proved to be the most powerful philosophical and religious movement of its time because it insisted without compromise that the only truth that matterstranscendsthiscorruptworld. Gnostics often denigrated women as creatures of corruption, condemned any disagreement with their teaching as materialist fantasy, and denied that sexuality had any place in the realm of spirit. Trying to turn this orientation into existentialism, or feminism, or an embrace of the world's physicality, will only work with an extremely selective handling of the evidence, and deploys a laundered view of its subject.

Ms. Pagels is too wise to pretend that the Gnosticism of the historical sources supports the Neo-Gnostic fashions of our time that have thrived in New Age circles. Yet in "The Gnostic Gospels," she does compare the texts to what existentialists, feminists, and environmentalists have to say. Her habit might be seen as part of the historian's function, to use today's language to help explain yesterday's events and movements. But by impact if not by intent, her book has promoted the view that Gnosticism is a liberal version of Christianity, when in fact liberalism and Gnosticism are radically different phenomena.

By softening the hard edges of the texts she herself had a hand in translating, Ms. Pagels has robbed many of her readers of an appreciation of the real force of the Gnostic Gospels. The fact is that Gnosticism, even after Constantine, was not successfully repressed. Many of its books were indeed destroyed or hidden away; it seems plausible that the Nag Hammadi library was sealed in a jar and buried to protect the writings from overzealous orthodox monks during the fourth century. But even as the books went underground, the power of gnosis remained.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

THE GRONINGEN QUMRAN INSTITUTE has a new website. And note that it has more on the April Symposium in honor of Florentino García Martínez.
The Temple of Jerusalem: From Moses to the Messiah
(Via the Agade list.)
DEAD SEA DISCOVERIES has a new issue (15.1) online. Table of contents:
A Tribute to James C. VanderKam
pp. 1-4(4)
Author: Ulrich, Eugene

Whose Scripture? Whose Community? Reflections on the Dead Sea Scrolls Then and Now, By Way of Aramaic Levi
pp. 5-23(19)
Author: Kugler, Robert A.

What Has Happened to the Laws? The Treatment of Legal Material in 4QReworked Pentateuch
pp. 24-49(26)
Author: Bernstein, Moshe J.

Geography as an Evaluative Tool in the Genesis Apocryphon
pp. 50-66(17)
Author: Machiela, Daniel A.

The Unfinished Scroll: A Reconsideration of the End of the Temple Scroll
pp. 67-78(12)
Author: Schiffman, Lawrence H.

Decoration, Destruction and Debauchery: Reflections on 1 Enoch 8 in Light of 4QEnb
pp. 79-95(17)
Author: Coblentz Bautch, Kelley

Rereading S: A New Model of Textual Development in Light of the Cave 4 Serekh Copies
pp. 96-120(25)
Author: Schofield, Alison

The Community Hymns Classification: A Proposal for Further Differentiation
pp. 121-154(34)
Author: Kim Harkins, Angela

'Riddled' with Guilt: The Mysteries of Transgression, the Sealed Vision, and the Art of Interpretation in 4Q300 and Related Texts
pp. 155-171(17)
Author: Thomas, Samuel I.

Qumran Self-Identity: "Israel" or "Judah"?
pp. 172-189(18)
Author: Bergsma, John S.
Requires a paid personal or institutional subscription to access.

(Heads up, Stephen Goranson.)
The World's Greatest Treasure Hunt
Chris Mitchell
CBN News Mideast Bureau Chief
April 1, 2008 - In 1981, Indiana Jones made his big-screen debut re-igniting world-wide interest in history's most hunted relic: the Ark of the Covenant.

That same year, two real-life raiders went on their own search for the Ark. There were no Nazis and no snake pits - like the movie.

Just two renegade Rabbis on a mission. Their search came to an end in Jerusalem.

"God signed, like with a pen, the location where the Ark of the Covenant was located. You can see it today even, on the rock," said Gershon Salomon, Founder of Temple Mount Faithful.

Except, you see, they didn't actually find the Ark.
Archaeologists exposed parts of the wall that had been buried for 2000 years. Not all of the digging was done legally. In 1981, two of Israel's highest-ranking Rabbis, Shlomo Goren and Yehuda Getz picked up their pick-axes and started chiseling their way under the Temple Mount.

"And he knew that at the end of the gate he will come to the secret room where the ark of covenant is located," said Salomon, who was also one of the paratroopers who liberated the Western Wall in 1967.

Salomon was there 14 years later the night Rabbi Getz opened a secret passage in the Wall and remembers their conversation.

"It was after midnight. And he called me and said to me, Gershon, come immediately, don't wait, your dream is going to be fulfilled. 'What happened?,' I told him. 'The Messiah came?' And he told me, 'He is coming almost.'"

What came next was a subterranean slugftest according to Salomon.

"Arab demonstrations, you know? The Israelis are coming to build their temple underneath the dome of the rock."

At the end of the day, the passage to the Temple Mount was permanently sealed by Israeli Police.

"No doubt, I tell you. No doubt, we needed just two days more to come to the place where the ark of the covenant is located," Salomon explained.

"The work was done without archaeological supervision and when I was the official archaeologist of Jerusalem, I decided to stop the work," said Archaeologist Dan Bahat, who directed the excavation of the Western Wall tunnels.

According to him, the search for the Ark stops with Jeremiah 3:16.

"Prophet Jeremiah says, there will come a day when the ark of the covenant will not be seen, nor will it be visited which means that somehow, he sees the days when it will not be there. In other words, this was a hint from God. Don't look for the Ark of the Covenant!"

Jeremiah 3:16 reads:
And when you have multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, says the LORD, they shall no more say, "The ark of the covenant of the LORD." It shall not come to mind, or be remembered, or missed; it shall not be made again. (RSV)
I agree with Gabriel Barkay; it was probably melted down for its gold by the Babylonians. Jeremiah says that it won't be remembered and it won't be made again, which implies that it no longer existed when this oracle was written.

Monday, March 31, 2008

A BURIAL CEREMONY for worn-out sacred texts:
At synagogue, old texts are laid to rest
Forks congregation gives worn-out prayer books a proper burial.

By Marion Callahan | Of The Morning Call
March 31, 2008

Sheila Goldberg carefully maneuvered around the mounds of dirt at the rear corner of Bnai Abraham Synagogue's cemetery, approaching an open grave cradling a prayer book she treasured for nearly 70 years.

Using a traditional Jewish prayer shawl, she wrapped the book, its pages yellowed and its edges frayed, and asked: ''Do I just drop it in?'' A man beside her smiled and nodded.

And she let it go.

In a ceremony that dates back thousands of years, members of Bnai Abraham Synagogue in Wilson gathered Sunday at the Forks Township cemetery, to bury worn-out sacred texts, an ancient tradition that Rabbi Mark Shrager said ''bestows respect on the words that spread God's message.''

Related post here.
ARAMAIC WATCH: Enema instructions in ancient Aramaic?
Historical Use of Enemas

The use of therapeutic coffee enemas began during WWI; however, water enemas have been used for detoxification throughout the ages. In fact, the Vatican holds a third-century Aramaic manuscript in which enema directions are graphically transcribed. In the book The Gerson Therapy by Charlotte Gerson, daughter of famed cancer specialist Max Gerson M.D., and Morton Walker, D.P.M., these ancient instructions for detoxification are recorded:

I tell you truly, the angel of water shall cast out of your body all uncleanness which defiled it without and within. And all unclean and evil-smelling things shall flow out of you... I tell you truly, holy is the angel of water who cleanses all that is unclean and makes all evil-smelling things of a sweet odor...

Think not that it is sufficient that the angel of water embrace you outwards only. I tell you truly, the uncleanness within is greater by much than the uncleanness without. And he who cleanses himself without, but within remains unclean, is like to tombs that outwards are painted fair, but are within full of all manner of horrible uncleanness and abominations...

Seek, therefore, a large trailing gourd, having a stalk the length of a man; take out its inwards and fill it with water from the river which the sun has warmed. Hang it upon the branch of a tree, and kneel upon the ground before the angel of water, and suffer the end of the stalk of the trailing gourd to enter your hinder parts, that the water may flow through all your bowels. Afterwards rest kneeling on the ground...and pray to the angel of water that he will free your body from every uncleanness and disease. Then let the water run out from your body, that it may carry away from within it all the unclean and evil-smelling things... And you shall see with your eyes and smell with your nose all the abominations and uncleanness which defiled the temple of your body... tormenting you with all manner of pains. I tell you truly, baptism with water frees you from all of these. Renew your baptizing with water on every day of your fast, till the day when you see that the water which flows out of you is as pure as the river’s foam...

1. Gerson, C. and Walker, M.: The Gerson Therapy. NY, NY: Kensington Publishing Corp., pp. 156 - 172, 2001
I don't think this is real The second sentence of the middle paragraph looks like it's based on Matthew 23:27, only reapplied to colonic irrigation. And "the temple of your body" has a New Testament ring as well (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:19). And overall it just doesn't sound right. Does anyone know what the source is?

UPDATE: Stephen Goranson e-mails:
This text appears to be based on Edmond Bordeaux Szekely's "Essene Gospel of Peace," which he claimed was a translation from ancient Aramaic, Hebrew, and Old Slavonic texts, but which is instead a twentieth-century fabrication. Another book with a similar text, The Holy Movement, Matters of the Colon by Debora Lee Meehan (2000, according to Google Books, which sometimes gets the dates wrong), oddly attributes (p. 50) the translation to "Edmund Waldo Schecklee" and introduces it with "Following is s condensed citation of the Essene gospel of peace." Perhaps in modified (condensed here should read paraphrased or altered) form to avoid copyright disputes? Even though the Szekely text is fiction. I am reminded that Morton Smith in 1958 claimed copyright on "Manuscript Material from the Monastery of Mar Saba, Discovered, Transcribed and Translated by Morton Smith."
Szekely's Essene Gospel of Peace is online here. The passage quoted above is in Book 1.
SUMERIAN BLING. And some in Rashi script too. There's video!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

DANIEL J. HARRINGTON reviews some scholarly books for America: The National Catholic Weekly. Included are James L. Kugel's How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now and Birger Pearson's Ancient Gnosticism: Traditions and Literature.
IN THE MAIL, late last week:

My new MacBook: 2.4 gigahertz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2 gigabytes of RAM, 160 gigabyte hard drive, with a larger screen and keyboard than my old iBook G4, but weighing less. Beautiful.