Saturday, November 08, 2008

PSEUDEPIGRAPHA WATCH: Erich von Däniken, bless his muddled heart, is still giving lectures and has recently abused some Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. Florian Freistetter reports in a guest post at the Aardvarchaeology blog:
The next topic in Dänikens chain of "evidence" is an analysis of the biblical apocrypha. These are Christian texts that were not included in the final version of the Bible. The Book of Enoch tells how Enoch was taken to Heaven by angels and brought before the throne of God. For Däniken of course, the angels were aliens and Heaven was the interior of a space ship.

Another example that Däniken discussed at some length was the "Apocrypha of Abraham". Here Abraham apparently tells the tale of how he was abducted by aliens and brought to their space ship. Re-telling the story, by his way of speaking Däniken often suggests that he is quoting directly from the text. And those quotations really sound impressive! Abraham saw beings "who did not have the breath of a man": they were wearing spacesuits with helmets, as Däniken explains. Abraham wished "to fall back down to the Earth": so if he wants to fall "back down" he has to be in space! And there were many more of those quotations that really sounded strange and did not fit into an old Christian text. What does this mean? Even Däniken couldn't be so bold and just invent such a story?

Of course, he again stated that he is not inventing anything. He told the audience, that everybody can just get a copy of the text and read the story for itself. So of course I tried to do that!
And, of course, the text turns out to be the Slavonic Apocalypse of Abraham and the interpretation turns out to be, well, creative.

Naturally, Ezekiel gets the treatment too:
In a talk by Däniken, the famous story of the space ship of Ezekiel cannot be missed. Däniken talks for almost half an hour about this particular piece of exegesis. Again, a biblical prophet is taken away in an alien space ship. This time he is brought to a space port which he is supposed to measure, then to report the results to later generations. At least, that is Däniken's opinion.

He tells the audience that 30 years ago he gave a "secret talk" to NASA and there meet an engineer named Joseph Blumrich. Blumrich, impressed by Däniken's tale of the biblical space ship, tried to "reconstruct" the ship, based on the text of the Book of Ezekiel. Däniken stresses, that "not a centimeter was omitted or added" - everything is based strictly on the Bible.
Oh goody. Solomon's Temple turns out to be a space port for the ship too.

Earlier post on Erich von Däniken here. I wonder how his theme park is doing.
THE FIRE GOSPEL, by Michel Faber, is reviewed by Hephzibah Anderson in The National Newspaper (UAE). Excerpt:
Faber is best known for his novel The Crimson Petal and the White, a hefty slab of candied Victoriana, but his slimmer works are unified by a corrosive misanthropy that runs rampant here. In the farce that ensues, the classical parallels get lost. Ultimately, the novel is a bleak satire on the publishing industry and a world in which the intellectual advancement that Prometheus stood for has been cheapened to who-cares-what, so long as it captures a share of the Da Vinci Code’s market.
Row over Jerusalem Muslim cemetery

By Wyre Davies
BBC News, Jerusalem

Religious leaders in Jerusalem are warning of dangerous consequences after a decision by Israel's Supreme Court to allow the destruction of part of an ancient Muslim cemetery.

The graveyard has not been used for more than 50 years, but contains the bodies of some important Islamic figures.

Many of those bodies will now be disturbed to make way for a new Jewish "Museum of Tolerance".

Earlier this week hundreds of Muslims - young and old - marched through the centre of Jerusalem towards the city's Mamilla cemetery.

Background here.

Friday, November 07, 2008

KINKY DREAMS in the Talmud:
The contrast is of course startling: Every possible crime is attributed to the apparently innocuous dreams of the heretic, while the inappropriate dreams of the student of Torah are understood to herald an increase in knowledge, wisdom and understanding. Is the Talmud merely providing excuses for inappropriate dreams of our rabbinic heroes?

Perhaps the central message of the Talmud is that each dream is taken from the content world of the dreamer: If your world is a world of Torah, even dreams that appear erotic are a reflection of your content world.
Palestinians protest planned Jerusalem Tolerance Museum

20 hours ago

JERUSALEM (AFP) — Hundreds of Palestinians and Arab-Israelis demonstrated on Thursday in Jerusalem against the planned construction of a Museum of Tolerance on the site of an ancient Muslim graveyard.

Background here.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


Columbia University:
Jewish Studies: Columbia University Department of Religion seeks to appoint a senior professor of Classical Jewish Civilization with a specialization in rabbinical and/or early medieval texts and cultures, with the ability to teach broadly both undergraduate and graduate courses in the study of religion.
Further information here. You need to enable cookies to access the site.

Leo Baeck College:
Leo Baeck College, founded in 1956, is seeking a full-time Lecturer in Rabbinic Literature, beginning 1 September 2009. Initial appointment 3 years with possibility of continuation.

The successful candidate will teach courses in the joint MA Programme in Jewish Studies of LBC and Kings College London as well as courses at the BA level. Most students will be pursuing the MA in the context of the programme leading to ordination as rabbis for the Reform, Liberal and Masorti Movements in the UK, Europe and the FSU.

Candidates should have a PhD (or completed all requirements by 1 September 2009) in an area of Rabbinic literature (Talmud, Midrash, Jewish law). Experience teaching rabbinic texts at the intermediate and advanced level is desirable.

Salary and benefits will be comparable to appointments at this level at London Universities.

Applicants should send a full CV, a letter explaining their background and interest in the lectureship, examples of writing, and the names of three referees (at least two of them academic) to Rhona Lesner, Head of HR & Support Services, Leo Baeck College, 80 East End Road, London N3 2SY, UK; email: e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it . The Search Committee plans to begin reviewing applications by 15 January 2009, and will continue the process until an appointment has been made.
The full advert, with more information, is here.

The University of Pittsburg:
THE UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH, DEPARMENT OF RELIGIOUS STUDIES invites applications for a Lecturer in Classical Judaism supported by the Perlow Fund. This position is outside the tenure stream and would begin with the Fall Term 2009, pending budgetary approval. The initial appointment will be made for a term of three years, and will be renewable. We are searching for someone whose range of research and teaching interests will enable them to explore the development of Jewish life and thought from the Biblical period through the Ninth Century C.E. Preference will be given to those candidates who have completed all requirements for the Ph.D. and have already had experience teaching in an American university setting. The incumbent will be called on to teach six courses over a two-semester period commencing September 1, 2009. Applicants should submit a letter of interest, curriculum vitae, the names of three scholarly references, and copies of syllabi for courses that the applicant is prepared to teach in the 2009-10 academic year. These materials should be sent to Professor Alexander Orbach, Jewish Studies Program, 2604 Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Review of applications will begin November 15, 2008 and will continue until the position is filled. The University of Pittsburgh is an Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity Employer. Women and member of minority groups under-represented in academia are especially encouraged to apply.
(All three via the H-Judaic list - here, here, and here.)
AT CAMBRIDGE, a job in Hebrew, OT, and Second Temple Studies:
University Lecturer in Hebrew, Old Testament and Second Temple Studies
Faculty of Divinity
Applications are invited for a University Lectureship (Grade 9, £36,532-£46,278) in Hebrew, Old Testament and Second Temple Studies in the Faculty of Divinity. The successful candidate should have expertise in the field of Hebrew, Old Testament and Second Temple Studies and be able to deliver high quality lectures. He/she will be expected to produce high quality research and contribute to the teaching of Hebrew, Old Testament and Second Temple Studies at undergraduate and postgraduate level.

Candidates should be able to take up the post on 1 October 2009 or as soon as possible thereafter. The appointment will be subject to five years’ probation.
Further particulars and an application form (PD 18) are available from the Administrative Officer in the Faculty of Divinity, tel: (01223) 763002; e-mail: to whom applications should be sent by 5 December 2008. Additional information on the Faculty is available at:
From the SOTS list.
UNHAPPY ARCHAEOLOGISTS in Tiberias (from Haaretz):
The park, called "The Tiberias Archaeological Park" and named for deceased Tiberias community leader Ozer "Berko" Berkowitz, is also raising the ire of archaeologists. They say that the park was established in order to make the town's archaeological antiquities accessible to the public, but it has been built over the remains of the very archaeological findings that have yet to be excavated. "They have buried national assets here," said Aharon Amitai, the archaeologist who headed the last season of excavations at the site. "Tiberias was the capital of Jewish culture, and the Mishnah and Talmud were written there. Tiberias was also the last seat of the Sanhedrin, and during the period of the sages the Tiberias Hebrew vowel marks were decided upon," he added.

Amitai added that Prof. Yizhar Hirschfeld of the Hebrew University, who was in charge of the dig at the site until his death two years ago, called the park project "a cultural crime." Hirschfeld's name was not mentioned yesterday at the ceremony, to the displeasure of his archaeological colleagues. "They spoke about archaeology but they forgot the archaeologists," one of them said angrily.

The Israel Antiquities Authority, which supported the project, responded: "Prof Hirschfeld did indeed express opposition to developing the area in the beginning. However, as time went on, he saw the contribution that would be made following the development [of the park] to archaeology and tourism in Tiberias."

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A PRESS RELEASE on the Khirbet Qeiyafa inscription from the Hebrew University:
Earliest Known Hebrew Text in Proto-Canaanite Script Discovered November 02 2008

The earliest known Hebrew text written in a Proto-Canaanite script has been discovered by Hebrew University archaeologists in an ancient city in the area where David slew Goliath – the earliest Judean city found to date. The 3,000 year old finding is thought to be the most significant archaeological discovery in Israel since the Dead Sea Scrolls – predating them by 1,000 years.

As Iron Age epigraphic finds go, it is certainly quite important because of its date. The content sounds somewhat important too, although to evaluate that it would be helpful to know exactly what the content is!

The most signficant discovery in Israel since the Dead Sea Scrolls? Maybe. Do we include the Bar Kokhba-era papyri and scrolls and the Masada scrolls as Dead Sea Scrolls? Are we talking only about scientifically excavated finds (which would rule out many of the DSS)?

If the Vision of Gabriel inscription is genuine, it would be at least as significant as the Khirbet Qeiyafa inscription, if not more so.

(Via Joseph I. Lauer's list.)
UNHOLY BUSINESS, by Nina Burleigh, is reviewed by Stuart Laidlaw in the Toronto Star. Excerpt:
Often, genuinely old objects are given new inscriptions, with the fake patina put into the inscriptions to make it seem that the wording also dates to ancient times. Sophisticated forgers, Burleigh says, might even incorporate old scratches into the new inscriptions, since the scratches would already contain old patina.

The next stage is to get experts to authenticate it, a process Burleigh says requires as much skill and art as the patina. Here, the trick is to find experts on whose emotions the forger can play, perhaps a Biblical scholar keen to prove its stories true, or a patriotic Israeli excited to find proof of a fabled Jewish temple.

"They get so excited, they can't resist," Burleigh says.

Later, when doubts are raised, the fight becomes one of conflicting science, with experts on both sides lined up to argue for or against an object's authenticity.

Add in the egos of those involved and the often subjective nature of the science itself, Burleigh says, and a conclusive decision as to whether something's a fraud seems almost impossible.

And that, she says, is where the Golan trial over the alleged forgery of the tablet and ossuary sits today. Burleigh leaves little doubt she believes he is guilty, but says Golan might still elude conviction amid confusion over the conflicting scientific testimony at his trial.

"They are putting the science (of archeology) on trial, and the subjective underbelly of the science is being exposed here, big time."
Background here.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION WEBSITE is back after a hiatus of nearly three years. Good to see them up and running again.
HERSHEL SHANKS comes down hard on the IAA in a press release:
The Reputation of the Israel Antiquities Authority is in Shambles

NewswireToday - /newswire/ - Washington, DC, United States, 11/03/2008 - The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has charged the owner of the James Ossuary, Oded Golan, with forging the inscription that reads "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus" on the ancient bone box.

The reputation of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) is in shambles. After a nearly four-year trial (and still counting), 75 witnesses and more than 5,000 pages of testimony, what has been billed as the "forgery trial of the century" is about to collapse. The Israeli judge who will decide the case has advised the prosecution in open court to consider dropping the case. The evidence isn't there.

Background here.
JERUSALEM AND JEWS according to ancient pagan authors:
"Jerusalem: Capital of the Jews":
The Jewish Identity of Jerusalem in Greek and Roman Sources*

Rivkah Fishman-Duker

Jewish Political Studies Review 20:1-2 (Spring 2008)

For ancient Greek and Roman pagan authors, Jerusalem definitely was a Jewish city. This article draws on references to Jerusalem from nearly twenty different sources, dating from the third century BCE to the third century CE, which are included in the late Professor Menahem Stern's comprehensive anthology, Greek and Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism. An examination of these texts indicates the unanimous agreement that Jerusalem was Jewish by virtue of the fact that its inhabitants were Jews, it was founded by Jews and the Temple, located in Jerusalem, was the center of the Jewish religion. In these sources, Jerusalem appears in several contexts: foundation narratives, descriptions of and links to the Temple, historical events, usually relating to invasions and captures of the city, physical descriptions, and the derogatory use of the term "Solyma" by Roman writers after its destruction by Titus in 70 CE. It is noteworthy that despite the negative views of Jews and Judaism expressed by authors such as Manetho, Apion, Tacitus and Juvenal, the Jewish identity of Jerusalem is always clear and never a subject of dispute. These ancient texts, therefore, disprove recent attempts by Muslims and others to deny the historic connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem and the location of the Temple in Jerusalem through fabrications and lies.

Monday, November 03, 2008

THE FIRE GOSPEL, by Michel Faber, gets a brief review from Publisher's Weekly (scroll about a quarter of the way down the page). It concludes: "The end product is less than the sum of its could-be interesting parts."

Background here.
THE FORGERY TRIAL is being reevaluated by the Israeli Justice Ministry:
Justice Ministry to decide on 'Jesus ossuary'
By ETGAR LEFKOVITS (Jerusalem Post)

The Justice Ministry has been given six months to decide how to proceed in the trial of an antiquities dealer suspected of forging a purported reference to Jesus on an ancient burial box and a stone tablet with biblical passages.

Background here.
THE INK AND BLOOD EXHIBITION may be coming to the Hardin Center in Gadsden, Alabama - if they can raise the money in time:
Center needs funds to land Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit

By Cyndi Nelson
[Gadsden] Times Assistant Managing Editor

Published: Monday, November 3, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, November 2, 2008 at 9:34 p.m.

With the Big Read, a tribute to air conditioning, a Faberge and Vivian Alexander exhibit and the annual Festival of Trees already scheduled for 2009, the Hardin Center's cup runneth over.

Now, the center's board is faced with a unique opportunity, a challenging funding issue and a short deadline. The opportunity is to bring portions of the Dead Sea Scrolls to Gadsden. The funding issue is a $50,000 price tag. And the deadline is $30,000 of that in hand in just more than two weeks.

According to its Web site, "`Ink & Blood: Dead Sea Scrolls to Gutenburg' is the largest collection ever assembled chronicling Western civilization as seen through one of its most prominent and carefully preserved objets d'art - the Hebrew, Latin and English Bible. The collection includes authentic Dead Sea Scrolls, 5,000-year-old clay tablets, Hebrew Torahs, ancient Greek texts, Medieval Latin manuscripts, pages from Gutenberg's Bible and rare English printed Bibles. In addition to the more than 100 authentic artifacts, the exhibition includes a working replica of Gutenberg's printing press featuring live demonstrations of incunabular printing."

If they want the exhibition because of the promised Dead Sea Scrolls, they should have a look at them before they commit themselves: the scroll fragments reportedly look like burnt cornflakes. Plus the Marzeah papyrus may be a forgery (see same link).
AN ONLINE ARAMAIC CURRICULUM is being developed by Steve Caruso at the Aramaic Designs website.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

A GIRL IN EVERY PORT? It seems that those Phoenician sailors got around:
Phoenicians Left Deep Genetic Mark, Study Shows

Published: October 30, 2008

The Phoenicians, enigmatic people from the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, stamped their mark on maritime history, and now research has revealed that they also left a lasting genetic imprint.

Scientists reported Thursday that as many as 1 in 17 men living today on the coasts of North Africa and southern Europe may have a Phoenician direct male-line ancestor.

I've noted this story before here, but this much-reported recycling focuses more on how widespread the "Phoenician gene" is. Another report (see bottom of post linked in this paragraph) claimed that Jews share the gene, but this NYT article seems to say otherwise:
From the research emerged a distinctive Phoenician genetic signature, in contrast to genetic traces spread by other migrations, like those of late Stone-Age farmers, Greek colonists and the Jewish Diaspora. The scientists thus concluded that, for example, one boy in each school class from Cyprus to Tunis may be a descendant of Phoenician traders.
THE FIRE GOSPEL, by Michel Faber, is reviewed in the Scotsman. Excerpt:
Although there is much to admire in The Fire Gospel, as a whole it doesn't quite ignite. Faber makes some of the Malchus material appropriately shocking (such as Jesus's last words actually being "please finish me"). The level of hysteria around the book seems a little overdone – theologians have wrestled with the lack of any mention of the resurrection in Josephus, or the meaning of the Alexamenos Graffito, or the Dead Sea Scrolls for decades, and come up with surprisingly inventive explanations without a pandemic of atheism shaking the world.

If Faber had chosen to make Theo a fraudulent memoirist, an evangelical atheist à la Dawkins, or even the author of a popular series of conservative stories about wizards, then the hype would be comprehensible. Likewise, if he'd really gone into the mental acrobatics of Christian apologists, the weirdness of Gospel narratives or the challenges of literalism, this jeu d'esprit might have been equal to his merits as a writer.

As it is, the elements of satire and provocation, superficiality and profundity pull in oddly differing directions. One minute the text is similar to Mel Gibson's The Passion, all gruesome precision of torture; then it's more akin to Life Of Brian, with Jesus loosing control of his bladder over the new disciple's face. As for Theo, who has sought popular recognition over peer-reviewed respect – by the end, his vanity is so overweening that even a comeuppance can't redeem him.
Background here.
HEZBOLLAH is not happy with recent developments concerning the Jerusalem Museum of Tolerance:
BEIRUT (AFP) — Lebanon's Hezbollah militant group slammed Israel for allowing the construction of a Museum of Tolerance on the site of a Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem, in a statement received by AFP on Sunday.

Background here.
THE EPHIPHANY PROJECT - a fusion of music and ancient philology:
The Sounds of Scripture
by Sharon Nichols, October 28, 2008 (Chronogram Magazine)

The Epiphany Project is back, both physically and musically. John Hodian and Bet Williams moved from their Woodstock home a few years ago to live in New York City, before hopping on over to Europe to expand their work even more. What better for these masters of world music than to spend a few years tooling around Poland, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Armenia? It was in the latter country where their newest masterpiece was born, the haunting, breathtaking Hin Dagh (Epiphany Records, 2008). On November 19, Williams and Hodian, who haven’t played in the US in five years, will have a homecoming of sorts at the Colony Café in Woodstock.

Hodian is Armenian-American and had been working with struggling Armenian composers while living there. Yet he didn’t set out to consciously record an Armenian album. “We were traveling with a filmmaker friend who was doing documentaries on dying cultures in the area,” he says. “There are still tiny pockets of Zoroastrians and Avestans who have ancient practices and pre-Christian belief systems. Coming in contact with some of their customs, languages, and rituals was really inspiring.”

The album title itself means “old words,” and many of the songs are in dead languages, orchestrated with indigenous instruments from Armenia and the surrounding areas. Vocalist Williams, who has always been fascinated with language, started experimenting with new sounds on the group’s 2000 self-titled debut CD, using ancient Aramaic on one track. But this time Williams delves into Avestan, Armenian, Aramaic, Hindustani, ancient Welsh, Sanskrit, Swahili, and Coptic Greek. ...
Not sure what "Coptic Greek" is. Coptic and Greek?