Saturday, October 04, 2008

MORE HEBREW TATTOOS. The language on these is okay, but other issues arise:
When senior Melanie Teichner walks across the University of Minnesota campus, she is hardly unusual. Yes, she sports two tattoos, but her discreet images are modest compared with many of her fellow students’ skin art.

But when she walks into the Hillel, the Jewish student center in Dinkytown, the perspective changes. It’s not the tattoos’ design or placement that make them significant. It’s that she has them in the first place.

Traditional Jewish law bans tattoos, based on Leviticus 19:28: “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord.” When they mention the law, many rabbis add the term “voluntary” or “discretionary” to such tattoos in deference to the numbers that were tattooed on Jews in Nazi concentration camps, an association that further darkens the image of the tattoo among older Jews.

But increasing numbers of younger Jews are embracing tattoos, which have shed many of their negative stereotypes — they no longer are considered the purview of bikers, convicts and drunken servicemen — and have found a foothold in the under-30 set. They have gone from being outlaw symbols to fashion statements. Young Jews, like young non-Jews, are doing what younger generations have done since the beginning of time: ignore their parents.

Background here.

Plus, Elaine Pagels is speaking at Vanderbilt.
Elaine Pagels, the Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion at Princeton University and one of the country’s leading scholars of religion, will speak at Vanderbilt University, on Thursday, Oct. 16, at Ingram Hall at the Blair School of Music. Her lecture is titled “Jesus, Mary Magdalene and Di Vinci: What We Know … and How We Know It.”

Friday, October 03, 2008

ARAMAIC WATCH - NOT: This from the AP on the new polyglot Bible that is being presented to the Pope:
New Bible includes five translations

The Associated Press
October 2, 2008

Now here's a Bible that only a multilingual pope could truly appreciate.

The Manhattan-based American Bible Society unveiled yesterday a 3,200-page Bible that features translations of the Scriptures into five languages, including Aramaic.

No, I don't think so. The Hebrew and Aramaic (brief Aramaic passages) are the original languages of the Hebrew Bible. The Greek, Latin, and Spanish would be the translations.

Also, the mystery of the Bible's prodigious weight has been solved. Someone seems to have read a period as a comma. The Zenit article now reads:
The 3,220-page deluxe edition was printed by the Brazilian Biblical Society press. It weighs 3.4 kilograms (7.5 pounds). ...
ARAMAIC WATCH: Actress Anne Bedian has taught herself Aramaic:
And you are a follower of Kabbalah. Were you born into this, from a Jewish heritage?

No, absolutely not! Kabbalah predates Judaism. Actually, it predates all religions. Judaism came out of Kabbalah. This is ancient, ancient wisdom. The major works of the Kabbalah are the books of the Zohar, which are over 4,000 years old. It's a commentary on the Old Testament. One of the things I really love about it is, because I'm such a language buff - I already have five languages down - is that Aramaic is one of the languages. It's such a powerful language, it's the language Jesus spoke. So, I taught myself to read Aramaic, so I can read the Zohar out loud.
Okay, the information about the Kabbalah and the Zohar is wildly wrong (the Zohar was written in the late thirteenth century). She appears to have picked up this nonsense from the Kabbalah Centres. But I still give her points for learning some Aramaic.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Earliest reference describes Christ as 'magician'
Bowl dated between late 2nd century B.C. and the early 1st century A.D.

By Jennifer Viegas (MSNBC)
updated 10:23 a.m. ET Oct. 1, 2008

A team of scientists led by renowned French marine archaeologist Franck Goddio recently announced that they have found a bowl, dating to between the late 2nd century B.C. and the early 1st century A.D., that is engraved with what they believe could be the world's first known reference to Christ.

If the word "Christ" refers to the Biblical Jesus Christ, as is speculated, then the discovery may provide evidence that Christianity and paganism at times intertwined in the ancient world.

The full engraving on the bowl reads, "DIA CHRSTOU O GOISTAIS," which has been interpreted by the excavation team to mean either, "by Christ the magician" or, "the magician by Christ."

"It could very well be a reference to Jesus Christ, in that he was once the primary exponent of white magic," Goddio, co-founder of the Oxford Center of Maritime Archaeology, said.

He and his colleagues found the object during an excavation of the underwater ruins of Alexandria's ancient great harbor. The Egyptian site also includes the now submerged island of Antirhodos, where Cleopatra's palace may have been located.

Very interesting, especially given that for a change the bowl has a provenance established by excavation. But, as the article notes, other interpretations are possible. The spelling of "Christ" is not standard (the transliteration should be CHRESTOU, i.e., χρηστου) – we would expect "CHRISTOU" (χριστου). But this alternate spelling is not unknown; Suetonius may use it (in Latin) in reference to Jesus.

They think the bowl may have been used to induce trances:
According to Fabre, the bowl is also very similar to one depicted in two early Egyptian earthenware statuettes that are thought to show a soothsaying ritual.

"It has been known in Mesopotamia probably since the 3rd millennium B.C.," Fabre said. "The soothsayer interprets the forms taken by the oil poured into a cup of water in an interpretation guided by manuals."

He added that the individual, or "medium," then goes into a hallucinatory trance when studying the oil in the cup.

"They therefore see the divinities, or supernatural beings appear that they call to answer their questions with regard to the future," he said.
Bowls used for this purpose are also known from the Greek Magical Papyri

(Via the Agade list.)

UPDATE (3 October): This one's getting lots of attention. Douglas Mangum has a roundup at the Biblia Hebraica blog. April DeConick thinks it could be Sethian Gnostic. Dorothy King thinks it could be a fake. Nobody seems to think it refers to Jesus Christ. Like Ed Cook, I don't know what GOISTAIS means. I wanted to try to look it up yesterday, but didn't get a chance. Jared Calaway has thoughts on possible meanings at Antiquitopia.
UPDATE ALERT: to last Friday's post on "Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls?"

No, it's not that kind of Apocrypha, but it's cool.
JOHN'S BAPTISERS: MANDAEANS IN AUSTRALIA is a radio program that is scheduled to air on ABC Radio National on Sunday October 5 at 7.10am. It will also be available online.
This week's Encounter program looks at an ancient Gnostic sect which honours John the Baptist. They have fled persecution in the Middle East and found sanctuary in Australia. The Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran bring with them a pacifist belief structure and ancient rituals based on fresh flowing water.

The program shows how they are grappling with their past but also the challenges of life in Australia.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

School of Divinity

Lectureship in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible

Salary - £34,793 - £42,791 pa

We are seeking applicants committed to excellence in teaching and research in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible. You will contribute to the School's existing strengths in philological and historical scholarship. Specialism within the canon of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible is open, although the Second Temple period is already well represented by existing staff. In addition a research interest in the interface between biblical studies and Christian theology and/or the history of interpretation is highly desirable. You will teach both Old Testament/Hebrew Bible content and Hebrew language to students from undergraduate to doctoral level.

While applications to the Lectureship are welcome from junior scholars, you will be expected to hold a PhD when you take up the position and you will need to demonstrate a capacity and commitment to research and publication as well as teaching.

This position will be available from 1 September 2009, or as soon as possible thereafter. This is a standard contract similar to an assistant professorship in North America.

Informal enquiries to Professor Jim Davila (Tel. +44-1334-462834; email:

Please quote ref: SK053/08
Closing date: 1 December 2008

Application forms and further particulars are available from Human Resources, University of St Andrews, College Gate, North Street, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9AJ, (tel: 01334 462571, by fax 01334 462570 or by e-mail The advertisement, further particulars and a downloadable application form can be found at

The University is committed to equality of opportunity.

The University of St Andrews is a charity registered in Scotland (No SC013532)

The further particulars and application form can be downloaded here.

This post is a replacement for Dr. Nathan MacDonald, who is departing temporarily next year with a prestigious Sofja Kovalevskaja Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. He will be chairing a project on Uniformity and Diversity in Early Jewish Monotheism at the University of Göttingen. Dr. MacDonald's secondment to Göttingen is for five years, but this new post is a standard (i.e., tenure-track equivalent) contract, not a fixed-term one.
BIBLICAL STUDIES CARNIVAL XXXIV (an acrostic this time!) has been posted at MetaCatholic. Lots of good stuff, as usual. And I think I neglected last month to link to no. XXXIII at Pisteuomen.
Belfast Bible College invites applications for the full-time post of Lecturer in Old Testament (commencing Autumn 2009). PhD in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament required. Belfast Bible College, Ireland's largest evangelical interdenominational college, offers a range of certificate and diploma courses, as well as undergraduate (BD, BTh) and postgraduate (MTh, MPhil, PhD) degrees as a theological college of Queen's University Belfast. To learn more about the College, this position and how to apply, please visit: Applications close October 31, 2008.
From the SOTS list.
(AZG Armenian Daily)

The old collection of Hebrew manuscripts kept in Matenadaran includes the manuscripts brought from Etchmiatsin in 1940. The new one consists of more than 100 parchment scrolls of the 19th century brought form Ukraine in 1980s. The old collection was enriched in 1920-50s; overall, 21 manuscripts are registered. Yosif Amusin, Dr. of Institute of Oriental Studies of Russia’s Academy of Sciences, studied 13 of these manuscripts in 1969.

From March of this year, Matenadaran’s new scientific worker Ruzan Poghosian, specialized in Hebrew language at Jerusalem Jewish University in 2000, started the study of all the 21 manuscripts.

The collection seems to include biblical excerpts, some magical texts, and commentary material on the Bible and the Talmud.
THE POPE is getting a very nice present:
Polyglot Bible to Be Given to Pope

Initiative Marks October's Synod on Word of God

By Miriam Díez i Bosch

ROME, SEPT. 30, 2008 ( A multilingual Bible will be given to Benedict XVI in honor of the October synod of bishops on the word of God.

The "Polyglot Bible," illustrated by Cláudio Pastro, will be given to the Holy Father on Oct. 7, in a special white deluxe edition. Red copies will also be given to the members of the synod.

The Bible's Old Testament is in five languages: Hebrew-Aramaic, Greek, Latin, English and Spanish, while the New Testament is in four languages: Greek, Latin, English and Spanish. The Bible is designed for liturgical, academic and exegetical usages.

The 3,220-page deluxe edition was printed by the Brazilian Biblical Society press. It weighs 3,440 kilograms (7,583 pounds). The final presentation of this special edition of the "Polyglot Bible" was endorsed by the American Bible Society and the Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

That means it weighs more than a kilogram per page. That doesn't sound right.

UPDATE (3 October): Mystery solved!
ARAMAIC WATCH: A rubbing of the Chinese Nestorian (Syriac) tablet has been donated to the California State University, Stanislaus:
Assyrian artifact finds a new home at CSU Stanislaus

Staff Reporter

For over 40 years a rubbing reproduction of an eighth century Assyrian monument hung in Samuel Ayoubkhani's home as a treasure that only friends and family saw.

Now, the artifact of two cultures is on display for all to see through Ayoubkhani's donation to California State University, Stanislaus.

The rubbing reproduction of the Nestorian Monument was unveiled Friday night to an overflow crowd at the university's library and there it will hang for all to enjoy.


The discovery of the rubbing reproduction of the ancient Assyrian artifact was itself a monumental moment for Ayoubkhani.

It was 1965 and he was a post-graduate student at Manchester University in the United Kingdom. His landlords would often invite him over for visits and conversation. One day, the chat turned to Ayoubkhani's ancestry and language. As Ayoubkhani described the Aramaic language and how it is written right to left, a twinge of remembrance came up in the man's eye. He shuffled off and a few moments came back with the rubbing.

"I was amazed the first time I saw it," Ayoubkhani said. "I knew it was about my ancestors."

Ayoubkhani bought the rubbing for 500 pounds, paid for in three installments.

Cool. For more on the Chinese Nestorian tablet see here.
EILAT MAZAR AND GABRIEL BARKAY comment on recent epigraphic discoveries in Jerusalem:
Clay seal connects to Bible
Archaeological find in Jerusalem bears name in Scripture

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

AMOS BEN GERSHOM/SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES Archaeological workers collect rubble from the site that has been identified as King David's palace, the first of two clay bullae bearing the names of biblical figures was discovered.

It is the most remarkable find since excavations in the heart of this 3,000-year-old capital of ancient Israel began 140 years ago: a tiny clay seal impression also known as a bulla or stamp, discovered near the ruins of what has been identified as King David's palace and bearing the name of an influential courtier mentioned in the Hebrew Bible.

"It is not very often that archaeologists have surprises that bring them so close to the reality of the biblical text," said Eilat Mazar, whose pinpoint dig in a relatively small site this summer led her to a clay bulla whose ancient Hebrew script identifies its owner as Gedalyahu ben Pashhur.

Speaking to an enthusiastic audience of 1,500 Israelis who converged on the Palestinian-Arab Silwan quarter, known as Kfar Hashiloah, or Siloam in the Bible, Mrs. Mazar said, "One could not have asked anything more than this."

Well, I wouldn't say no to an extensive lapidary royal inscription from the First Temple period, but I take her point.

For the Passhur seal and the Yehukhal/Jehucal seal, see here. For Professor Barkay's project of sifting the Temple Mount material illictly excavated by the Waqf, see here.
MORE ON THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS EXHIBITION coming to the Royal Ontario Museum:
It’s offical — Dead Sea Scrolls coming to ROM
By SHERI SHEFA, Staff Reporter (Canadian Jewish News)
Thursday, 02 October 2008
TORONTO — With Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s recent announcement, it’s now official – the Royal Ontario Museum will present the largest exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls outside of Israel next summer.

I don't think we've heard a lot yet about the lecture series:
McGuinty thanked the co-chairs of the Dead Sea Scrolls community advisory panel – Mohammad Al Zaibak, co-founder, president and CEO of Canadian Development and Market-ing Corporation; Tony Gagliano, CEO of St. Joseph’s Media; and Jonas Prince, chairman of Realstar Group – for their dedication in fostering dialogue between diverse communities and faiths.
“I’m grateful as well to the Tanenbaum family for sponsoring the Anne Tanenbaum lecture series, a series of lectures that will help us better understand the significance of the scrolls and their significance to all of us today,” McGuinty said.
ROM director and CEO William Thorsell, who led the press conference, said he hopes the exhibit will be more than just a display, but also an educational experience.
“We hope to generate one of the great conversations in the history of Ontario and beyond about these foundation documents that are shared among great traditions, the Jewish tradition, the Christian tradition and the Islamic tradition that sees these as divinely inspired documents,” Thorsell said.
The Distinguished Lecturer Series, to be presented in conjunction with the exhibit, will feature scroll and Second Temple period scholars, including Emanuel Tov, a Hebrew Univer-sity professor and the editor-in-chief of the Dead Sea Scrolls Publication Project; Yuval Peleg, an IAA archeologist, and Dan Bahat, a Bar Ilan University professor and a former chief archeologist of the city of Jerusalem.
THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS at the Jewish Museum get a glowing review at
Dead Sea Scrolls Tell Spine-Tingling Tales of Salvation: Review

Review by Carly Berwick

Oct. 1 (Bloomberg) -- How will we know salvation when we see it? And how should you blow a trumpet when the apocalypse comes? Answers to these questions -- and more -- lie on a few dimly lit scraps of parchment.


This is the first time three of the scrolls have ever been shown: the Book of Jeremiah, which consecrates the Sabbath and concurs with contemporary versions nearly verbatim; the Words of the Luminaries, a hymn; and the Book of Tobit, a tale of piety's reward that was rejected from the Hebrew canon but picked up in some versions of the Christian Bible.

Together, the scrolls provide a spine-tingling narrative of fractious religious tribes jostling for truth, much like various Christian and Jewish factions today.

The ``War Rule'' scroll describes an imminent great and final battle, with priests taking positions among foot soldiers and blowing trumpets to rally the troops, while the ``Community Rule'' scroll lays down strict standards for sect membership.

Then there's the Aramaic Apocryphon of Daniel, dating to the first century B.C. It's of particular interest to devout Christians, since it prophesizes the coming of the son of God.

The exhibition also includes artifacts excavated at the site of Qumran and its vicinity, conjure the lives of the people who saved the scrolls in clay jars.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Phoenix, AZ (PRWEB) September 29, 2008 -- Ancient history comes alive when the mythical Masada stones are proven to be real. Soon terrorists try to use them in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine in E.W. Bonadio's "The Masada Stones: A Novel" (ISBN 059527566, iUniverse 2008).

Professor Aaron Skorsky has spent his life searching for the truth. Since college, he has been intrigued by the myth of the Masada stones and how they were used during the last days of the Hebrews' rebellion against the Romans. When Skorsky leads a student dig to Masada, he desperately searches for the stones near the excavations of a Roman camp. With the help of a student, Illona, he discovers a set of scrolls written by Jewish historian Josephus Flavius. Once translated, the scrolls reveal the secret existence of a deadly alchemy used against the Hebrew zealots. The myth of the Masada stones and their power are myth no more!
Sounds like fun.
New book preserves and teaches the Chaldean story

By David Wallace
C & G Staff Writer

WEST BLOOMFIELD — “The Chaldeans,” a new book produced through the Chaldean Cultural Center at Shenandoah Country Club, strives to honor those who paved the way for Chaldeans to thrive while teaching younger generations and others about Chaldean history, culture and accomplishments.

The book traces Chaldean history from ancient Iraq — the cover features the famous Ishtar Gate from Babylon — to the present day. It includes the migration to the United States and Detroit in particular during the 20th century.

We want to pay tribute to the pioneers, those Chaldeans who at the turn of the century came to America — leaving villages in northern Iraq, not knowing the language and coming to America, trying to make a better life for themselves and for their families,” said Mary Romaya, executive director of the Chaldean Cultural Center.


That heritage poses a challenge.

“Their challenge is to live up to and walk in the shoes of their predecessors,” said Bryon Perry, the book’s author.

And besides the book’s personal meaning for Chaldeans, the center hopes it reaches and educates the general public.

“We want them to know that the Chaldeans are a very hard-working, entrepreneurial, close-knit group of people. That we are Aramaic speaking, which is the language used by Christ and before him back to the Hebrews and ancient Babylonian times,” said Romaya.

ARIEL SABAR writes about his father Yona in Christianity Today:
When a Professor of Aramaic Meets Hollywood
You get asked some pretty strange things when you speak the language of Jesus.
Ariel Sabar | posted 9/29/2008 07:26AM

The calls come to my father's office at UCLA several times a year, often around Christmas or Easter.

"Professor Yona Sabar?" they ask, after identifying themselves as a priest or a minister or just a curious layperson.


"May I ask, is it true you speak the language of our Lord?"

The article also tells about how he acted as consultant for the movie Oh God! and for The X Files.

Somewhat related thoughts here and here.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Nikos Kokkinos (ed.), The World of the Herods. Volume 1 of the International Conference The World of the Herods and the Nabataeans held at the British Museum, 17-19 April 2001. Oriens et Occidens, 14. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2007. Pp. 327. ISBN 978-3-515-08817-6. €62.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Allen Kerkeslager, Saint Joseph's University (

Word count: 1532 words

As the full title indicates, the first volume of The World of the Herods is a collection of papers presented at an international conference held in 2001 that was built around the perceptive decision to bring together some of the foremost specialists on the closely related kingdoms of the Herods and the Nabateans. The editor, Nikos Kokkinos, is already well known for his groundbreaking work on the Herods and related historical issues.1 The publication of a similar collection that he jointly edited is imminent.2 The present book is both highly focused and representative of the cutting-edge of research. Many of the papers it collects even have been updated to as late as 2007. Yet in contrast to most such collections, this book accomplishes the rare feat of being comprehensive and readable enough that it could serve as an undergraduate textbook or introduction for the advanced general reader.

Dorothy King has commentary.
ROSH HASHANAH, the Jewish New Year, begins tonight at sundown. Happy New Year 5769 to all those celebrating.

More background here.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Braganza takes a complex route to developing his designs, rethinking the body through unprecedented proportions, a recurring rectangular motif, and his now emblematic panelling. The muted grey, pale pink, and white are anchored by the ever-present black, which reaches new depths of texture with the most luxurious jacquard to silk satin to moiré, neoprene and leather. A splash of colour arrives in the print, where a Metatron’s cube emerges from a collapsing nebula in fuchsia. More geometry appears in the form of lazercuts in a wave pattern.

A Metatron's cube? I didn't know what that is either, but apparently there's one here:

Instructions for building one here. (Related concept here?) Use at your own risk. Remember that child and the Hashmal.

Anyway, interesting collection ...
Judith Price, founder and president of the National Jewelry Institute, provides stunning examples of the more sophisticated spoils of such civilizations as Mesopotamia, Persia, Phoenecia and Byzantium in her illuminating book ...
Other ancient bling posts here and here.
THE AP DISCOVERS the Aleppo Codex. And good for them.
Scholars hunt missing pages of ancient Bible

By MATTI FRIEDMAN – 21 hours ago

JERUSALEM (AP) — A quest is under way on four continents to find the missing pages of one of the world's most important holy texts, the 1,000-year-old Hebrew Bible known as the Crown of Aleppo.

Crusaders held it for ransom, fire almost destroyed it and it was reputedly smuggled across Mideast borders hidden in a washing machine. But in 1958, when it finally reached Israel, 196 pages were missing — about 40 percent of the total — and for some Old Testament scholars they have become a kind of holy grail.

Researchers representing the manuscript's custodian in Jerusalem now say they have leads on some of the missing pages and are nearer their goal of making the manuscript whole again.

Background here.