Saturday, November 15, 2008

MORE ON THE TROGODYTES (and Troglodytes and Horites) from N. T. Wrong.

Background here.
MORE ON KHIRBET QEIYAFA: reader Jerry Rosenberg forwards the following:
From: Ehud Ben Zvi
Date: Thu, Nov 13, 2008 at 4:56 PM
Subject: [Jhs-list] Nadav Na'aman, In Search of the Ancient Name of Khirbet Qeiyafa

Dear all,

I am glad to announce that the Journal of Hebrew Scriptures
( has recently published the following article:

Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 8: Article 21 (2008)

Nadav Na'aman, In Search of the Ancient Name of Khirbet Qeiyafa


This article discusses the identity of the recently excavated stronghold of Khirbet Qeiyafa, a tenth century BCE site located near the Valley of Elah, in the area where the story of the battle between David and Goliath takes place. There is also the story of a battle between Elhanan the Bethlehemite and Goliath of Gath that takes place at Gob (2 Sam 21:19). In light of a comparison of the two episodes I suggest identifying Khirbet Qeiyafa with biblical Gob. A close reading of the four anecdotes related in 2 Sam 21:15-22 clarifies the message of the early biblical tradition of four battles fought between Israelite and Philistine elite warriors that culminated in the advance of the Israelite troops to the gates of Philistine Gath.

Those who wish to access this article directly may go to

I hope to be able to send very soon an announcement concerning an
hypertext version of the journal covering volumes 1-7.


Khirbet Qeiyafa is, of course, the site where the early and still unpublished Hebrew/Canaanite inscription was recently discovered. Background here (and follow the links back), here, and here.
A CALL FOR PAPERS for the Dorushe Annual Graduate Student Conference on Syriac Studies at Yale University on 29 March 2009:
We welcome graduate student proposals for papers in all areas related to Syriac studies.Abstracts should be a maximum of 400 words. The abstracts should emphasize the main contribution of the author to the topic he/she wishes to discuss and his/her supportive evidence. Papers may be given on any topic related to Syriac studies. Please be advised that the submission of an abstract and its acceptance represent a commitment from the contributor to present it in person at the conference. ...
THE JOASH/JEHOASH INSCRIPTION'S AUTHENTICITY is being defended on geological grounds over at the recently revived Bible and Interpretation website:
Archaeometric evidence for the authenticity of the Jehoash Inscription Tablet

A gray, fine-grained arkosic sandstone tablet bearing an inscription in ancient Hebrew from the First Temple Period contains a rich assemblage of particles accumulated in the covering patina. Two types of patina cover the tablet: a thin layer of black to orange iron-oxide-rich layer, a product of micro-biogenic processes, and a light beige patina that contains feldspars, carbonate, iron oxide, subangular quartz grains, carbon ash particles and gold globules (1 to 4 micrometers [1 micrometer = 0.001 millimeter] in diameter). The patina covers the rock surface as well as the engraved lettering grooves and blankets and thus post-dates the incised inscription as well as a crack that runs across the stone and several of the engraved letters. Radiocarbon analyses of the carbon particles in the patina yield a calibrated radiocarbon age of 2340 to 2150 Cal BP. The presence of microcolonial fungi and associated pitting in the patina indicates slow growth over many years. The occurrence of pure gold globules is evidence of a thermal event in close proximity to the tablet (above 1000 degrees Celsius). This study supports the antiquity of the patina, which in turn, strengthens the contention that the inscription is authentic.

By A. Rosenfeld and S. Ilani

Geological Survey of Israel,

H. R. Feldman

The Anna Ruth and Mark Hasten School, A Division of Touro College

Division of Paleontology (Invertebrates), American Museum of Natural History,

W. E. Krumbein

Department of Geomicrobiology, ICBM, Carl von Ossietzky Universitaet,

Oldenburg, Germany

J. Kronfeld

Department of Geophysics and Planetary Sciences, Tel-Aviv University,
The arguments sound persuasive, but the area is entirely outside my field of expertise and I have no way of evaluating them. The authors look distinguished and some of them have been making related arguments for years. I note that they also have journal publications on the subject, although I know nothing about the journals. More interesting (to me), is the article by C. Cohen, which I have not yet seen but must get a copy of. My skeptical take on the philological aspects of the inscription, posted several years ago, is here and I haven't followed the discussion much since then, but it clearly has continued.

Friday, November 14, 2008

THE JEWISH PUBLICATION SOCIETY is celebrating its one hundred and twentieth anniversary:
As It Celebrates, JPS Steps Into the Future
November 13, 2008 - Aaron Passman (Jewish Exponent)

It's an old saying in Judaism: "May you live as long as Moses." Now that the Jewish Publication Society has reached the age of the great Jewish sage and leader, 120 years, it's setting out to do something he was unable to do -- ensure its survival well beyond that.

This august occasion serves as what CEO and Editor in Chief Ellen Frankel called "a culmination and a new beginning" for the organization, as it reflects upon its accomplishments thus far and prepares for the numerous challenges that lie ahead in the world of publishing.

"Our core mission remains the same -- to provide Jewish books in English, but we're moving into the digital age," said Frankel.

One person who certainly recognizes the significance of the milestone is Philadelphia native and Brandeis University professor Jonathan Sarna, who literally wrote the book on JPS -- the historian penned the group's history 20 years ago when it celebrated its centenary. He noted that the organization's longevity was particularly notable, since two early incarnations (in the 1840s and 1870s, respectively) had failed. He said that, among other accomplishments, JPS had helped to create a market for Jewish books in America and helped shape the country as a major center for Jewish culture and learning away from Europe.

Among their current projects is this particularly interesting one,:
Another major project on the horizon is The Lost Bible, planned for publication shortly after the turn of the decade. Comprised of translations left out of the Jewish Bible, including texts in Latin, Slavonic and Aramaic, Frankel called it "the lost library of second-temple Judaism."

More commonly known as the Apocrypha, the texts that will be included in The Lost Bible will be some of those which were left out of the Five Books of Moses -- known to Christians as The Old Testament -- when it was codified.

Frankel said the trio of editors behind the project has assembled 75 scholars on six continents, who are "either translating or modernizing translations of about 100 texts, and providing a commentary that restores these ancient Jewish texts to their Jewish setting."
The description is a little garbled: the Apocrypha are included but the corpus as a whole is not the Apocrypha. This project has some overlap with the More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project, but less than you might think. MOTP does not include things like the Old Testament Apocrypha, the works of Philo of Alexandria, and most of the pseudepigrapha in the Charlesworth edition, while it does include quite a few Christian and pagan texts. I don't know for sure how many Jewish texts will overlap.
RECONSTRUCTING the facial appearance of Second Temple Jews:
How white were the Israelites? Facial reconstruction may be surprising
By Ofri Ilani, Haaretz Correspondent
Tags: Jewish World, Bible

No one knows how the Israelites and the Judeans looked or which people they would most closely resemble today. Bible stories and historical essays from the Second Temple Period offer a relatively few descriptions of the Israelites' physical appearance. Whatever descriptions do exist can be interpreted in countless ways. The skeletons uncovered at archaeological digs throughout Israel provide only partial information regarding the appearance of early Land of Israel residents.

The accepted assumption has been that early Hebrews resembled the people now living in the Middle East or the Mediterranean Basin. However, an Israeli anthropologist researching the question has now made a surprising claim: the subjects of the Kingdom of Judea in the Second Temple Period looked more like black Africans. This theory arose after Prof. Yair Ben David of Tel-Aviv University conducted the first-ever facial reconstruction of its kind.

UPDATE (18 January 2009): More here.
HEBREW STUDIES are in decline at Israeli universities according to Haaretz:
At all the country's universities, Hebrew studies are in decline. "The humanities are in a bad way," says Prof. Chaim Cohen, head of the Hebrew Language Department at Ben-Gurion University, "and the departments of Bible studies and Hebrew language are at the top of the list." But it's the same at all the country's universities. These departments are rapidly shrinking, with enrollment standing at less than 1 percent of all humanities students, at most, as in Haifa. They are surviving as best they can.

Tel Aviv University, for example, rescued the Hebrew Language Department from its death throes by making it into a section within the Department of Hebrew Culture Studies, together with Bible, Semitic linguistics, Talmud and ancient literature - all former departments from which students had been staying away in droves. At first, the university's senior faculty objected to the forced merger. But four years later, some faculty members are beginning to see the light.

"Even if it comes out of necessity, the result is better," says Dr. Tamar Sovran, the head of the Hebrew language section. "It led to interdisciplinary enrichment for both students and faculty."

The situation in Jerusalem is equally gloomy. In recent years, enrollment in the Hebrew Language Department has been 12 to 20 students. This year, just before studies began, the university announced cuts in the humanities, "and our department was hurt," says Prof. Steven (Shmuel) Fassberg, the head of the department. "We had to cut back on electives." The reason for this development, Prof. Fassberg says, is the mushrooming of colleges and the general disdain for humanities in Israeli society. "People who once took humanities because they were not admitted to law or business administration are now taking those subjects in the colleges and forsaking humanities completely," he says. It's a process that occurred in the United States and reached us late. The difference is that medicine or law are graduate studies there, and people have to take something to get an undergraduate degree, so quite a few take English literature, for example, in order to improve their ability to express themselves verbally and in writing."

A society without humanities is a society void of content, Prof. Ben-Artzi says. "Every civilized society has grasped that. Germany prepared special task forces and opened hundreds of new units in the humanities. New York University established a whole organization to engage in brainstorming and reached the conclusion that a society loses its essence without the humanities, so they created hundreds of new positions."

Ben-Gurion University this year recorded a slight increase in undergraduate enrollment in Hebrew-language studies. Of the 30 new students, half are Bedouin. Prof. Cohen is aware that no insurance company will sell him a policy against closure of the department. "For the time being, I have an explicit promise from the dean, Prof. Moshe Justman - we pray together every Shabbat in the same synagogue - that closure is not in the offing. But if things get worse, there is no knowing what will happen."
But the number of Arab and Druze students studying Hebrew has been going up for purely practical reasons.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

THE FIRE GOSPEL, by Michel Faber, is reviewed by Kath Lockett in the Australian Independent Weekly. Her verdict: "This book is like a mini-me home porn video – an interesting idea, but too short and it fails to deliver."

Can't wait to see what search engine referrals that brings in.

Background here and here.
THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS EXHIBITION at the Royal Ontario Museum is getting some Golb-related flack:
ROM's Dead Sea Scrolls: 2,000 years old, always controversial
Posted: November 12, 2008, 4:20 PM by Adam McDowell
Art and Culture (National Post)

The Royal Ontario Museum could find itself unearthing old controversies when it opens its $3-million, would-be blockbuster Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition next June. A U.S. history professor has accused an earlier, related project in San Diego of deliberate bias, scholarly incompetence and suggestions that its curator, who is also assembling the ROM exhibition, was unqualified for the job.

Last October, University of Chicago Jewish history Norman Golb attacked the San Diego show by circulating a 24-page critique of the exhibition catalogue highlighting what he called “a great many factual errors and unprovable assertions presented as truths.

Though the upcoming Toronto exhibition will showcase a different set of 16 partially decayed fragments of paper, it will be curated by the same person, Risa Levitt Kohn, who organized a Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition at the San Diego Natural History Museum from June, 2007, until last January.

Background here and here.

Be that as it may, this is interesting:
There is already one firm indication that Kohn and the ROM intend to present multiple points of view. Steve Mason, a professor at Toronto’s York University and an expert on first-century AD Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, said Kohn approached him to give a talk during the Toronto Scrolls project despite his doubts about the Qumran-Essene theory.

“My response was one of surprise, and I cautioned that I might speak on the problems of the Dead Sea Scrolls-Essene hypothesis,” Mason wrote in an email to the Post. “She [Kohn] seemed to think that was fine, though she also welcomed a talk on other issues, such as the Judaean War.

“I didn’t notice the narrowness of vision that others have charged the [San Diego] exhibit with,” he continued, “I only know that she has invited me, and I’ve happily accepted.”
Steve Mason's work is superb and I'm sure he will give an excellent lecture.
JUDAH THE MACCABEE meets shadow puppetry:
Playing Dreidel with Judah Maccabee at The Looking Glass Theatre NY
(All About Jewish Theatre)

Playing Dreidel with Judah Maccabee, an original Hannukah play in which a contemporary boy meets the historical Judah Maccabee, will have its world premiere on December 7. The play features shadow puppets and live cello music among its storytelling techniques.

The play is told in eight scenes, corresponding to the eight days of Hannukah. Judah and the boy find each other in an abandoned room that exists in both the ancient temple in Jerusalem and the boy’s modern day temple, and the boy explains to Judah the odd modern practices that commemorate the ancient battles. At first Judah is horrified, but then he comes to learn why the boy needs those traditions.

THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE may be safe after all:
Dispute over risk to Christian shrine

Mediators dismiss reports that crumbling Ethiopian monastery is a threat

Lauren Gelfond Feldinger | 12.11.08 | Issue 196 (The Art Newspaper)

JERUSALEM. Officials are disputing recent reports that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of Christianity’s holiest shrines, is at risk because of a crumbling Ethiopian Orthodox monastery on its roof.

Franciscan monk Father Athanasius Macora of the Custody of the Holy Land told The Art Newspaper that headlines across Israel and Europe in recent weeks making these charges were “erroneous” and “exaggerated”.

“The huts on Deir el-Sultan where the Ethiopian monks live are in very bad shape,” Father Athanasius said. “But the idea that the huts could knock down the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is absurd.”

Background here.

It would be a relief to know that none of those monastic brawls will bring the place down.
A SHORT BIBLICAL HISTORY from school pupils:
God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on Mount Montezuma. Jacob, son of Isaac, stole his brother's birthmark. One of Jacob's sons gave refuse to the Israelites.

"Moses went up on Mount Cyanide to get the Ten Commandments.

"David was a Hebrew king skilled at playing the liar. Solomon, one of David's sons, had 500 wives and 500 porcupines.
From "Richard Lederer's (condensed) 'history' of the world. Lederer used to teach English at St. Paul's School in Concord, N.H., and derived the history from certifiably genuine student bloopers" via Edward M. Gilbreth at

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

HEBREW SEAL: the recent discovery in Jerusalem of a seal bearing a Hebrew name has been making the rounds. Here's the IAA press release:
A Rare Hebrew Seal from the First Temple Period was Discovered in Archaeological Excavations in the Western Wall Plaza (10/30/08)

In archaeological excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is carrying out at the behest of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, in the northwestern part of the Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem, a rare and impressive Hebrew seal was discovered that dates to the latter part of the First Temple period. The seal was found in a building that is currently being uncovered, which dates to the seventh century BCE – to the time when the kings Manasseh and Josiah reigned.


According to the excavation director, archaeologist Shlomit Wexler-Bdolah of the IAA, “The seal, which apparently belonged to a private individual, is made of black stone, is elliptical in shape and measures 1.2 x 1.4 cm. It is adorned with an engraved decoration of an archer shooting a bow and arrow. The name of the archer is engraved in ancient Hebrew script next to him and reads LHGB (meaning: for Hagab). The name Hagab is mentioned in the Bible in Ezra 2:46, as well as in the Lachish Letters, which also date to the time of the First Temple”.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

PhD Studentship in Biblical Studies: the Use of the Old Testament in the New

Newman University College is offering a fully-funded PhD studentship in Biblical Studies, available from January 2009 for three years. The successful candidate will be required to study on a full-time basis and preferably to be willing to live within reasonable travelling distance of the College.

Applicants must have a good first degree (1st or 2i), preferably in Biblical Studies. Those with a good first degree in Theology will also be considered, if they can demonstrate that their undergraduate course included a substantial element of Biblical Studies. It is desirable that applicants also have an MA or MTh in Biblical Studies, or a closely related area, and a working knowledge of New Testament Greek. It is important to demonstrate in the application evidence of the skills necessary to undertake independent research (e.g. details of research methods modules undertaken and/or successful dissertations completed.)

The studentship will require exploration of some area within the general field of the Use of the Old Testament in the New. Candidates will be free to choose which book(s) of the New Testament to study in depth, and which aspect of the field to focus on (e.g. direct OT citations; OT allusions; the exegetical techniques of a NT author; the representation in a NT book of an OT narrative or characters; Septuagintal text-form; parallels in the Qumran texts, other ancient Jewish commentaries or Hellenistic literature; the contribution to this field of rhetorical or narrative criticism; theological intentions of a NT author). Candidates will be invited to state on their application form the aspect(s) of New Testament study in which they are particularly interested, and to outline a draft research topic/proposal. Those called for interview will also be asked to supply samples of their previous work.

The Supervisory team will be:
Dr. Martin O’Kane, Visiting Professor of Biblical Studies at Newman University College and Senior Lecturer in Biblical Studies at the University of Wales, Lampeter (areas of expertise: Hebrew Bible, literary and inter-disciplinary approaches to the text); and Dr. Susan Docherty (areas of expertise: Use of the OT in the NT, Septuagint, Second Temple Judaism).
For further information please contact:
Dr. Susan Docherty;; 0121 476 1181 ext. 2231. Informal enquires/discussions from interested candidates are welcome.
From the BNTS list.
DARRELL L. BOCK replies in the SBL Forum to Tony Burke's charges about the use of the Christian Apocrypha by conservative scholars: Vetting the Claims about Heresy Hunting. Excerpt:
This is a conversation I would love to continue, as I am sure others who hold my view also would. And, in fact, I have had direct discussions with some on the other side, even fascinating ones. I have learned much from these interactions, although it has not significantly impacted my views on the relationships of these materials for reasons I argued a text and a theme at a time. I think my bibliography did reflect the state of current discussion on multiple continents. So I reject the suggestion that the field was not adequately surveyed. However, in a similar spirit to his closing, I thank Tony for raising the topic and for the opportunity to continue the discussion. I close with a summary point. There was no heresy hunting in my book (or in that of many others he has surveyed). I do not recall ever using that word as a charge. There was only a historical quest to trace the contentious relationship between these two important sets of texts. I argued there were good historical reasons for this contention, reasons that are obscured by the current presentation of some. This debate and the recent finds that have legitimately invigorated the recent discussion continue to fascinate scholars. The texts and the issues they raise about the history of religious ideas have been the subject of much lively discussion over about the last sixty years. I suspect that discussion will continue, but let us not confuse historical work with heresy hunting, just because someone comes to a different conclusion about the origins of and relationships between these materials.
Via Michael Bird at Euangelion. Michael has his own reply to Tony's article here.

Background here.
Archaeologist Shimon Gibson, who was not involved in the dig, said the find was truly amazing, less because of its Roman origins than for its precious nature.

"Jewelry is hardly preserved in archaeological context in Jerusalem," he said, because precious metals were often sold or melted down during the many historic takeovers of the city.

"It adds to the visual history of Jerusalem," Gibson added, saying it brings attention to the life of women in antiquity.


Though Gibson dates the piece slightly later than the antiquities authority, to sometime between the second and fourth centuries A.D., he said its quality and beauty were impressive.
The article also has more details on its discovery, including a shout of "Eureka!"

Meanwhile, the London Times asks, now where's the other one?

The lady who lost that earring must have been upset.

Background here.

UPDATE (heads up, Joe Lauer): Adrian Murdoch replies, Have you tried looking behind the sofa?

Better feel behind the cushions too.

Monday, November 10, 2008

THE BABYLON EXHIBITION at the British Museum is reviewed in the Telegraph. Excerpt:
Babylon, subject of a new exhibition at the British Museum, was then capital of an empire that stretched from Gaza in the west to the Persian Gulf in the east, from Armenia in the north to the Arabian desert in the south. Variously known as Babel, Babil and Babilu, to its inhabitants it was the "Sacred City" - site of dozens of shrines and temples, and location of the great ziggurat of Etemenanki - "the foundation platform of heaven and earth". The latter, rebuilt and beatified by Nebuchadnezzar, climbed 70 metres above the flat plain of the lower Euphrates, its top decorated with glazed blue bricks, flashing in the sun.

Babylon's misfortune was that its historical reputation was largely created by the captive labour force who constructed that great ziggurat and the other monuments of Nebuchadnezzar's city: the Jewish craftsmen and workers taken captive from Jerusalem in 587BC and 598BC. For them, Babylon was a place of imprisonment. "By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept, when we remembered thee, O Zion." In the Bible, Babylon became the emblematic location of vainglory and injustice: the archetypal sinful city. The sacred ziggurat of Etemenanki was transformed into the Tower of Babel. Babylon was where Daniel was thrust into the lion's den, and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego into Fiery Furnace. Babylon was where Belshazzar - like Nebuchadnezzar, a historical person - saw the writing on the wall. As a punishment for his pride, Nebuchadnezzar was sent mad and ate grass like a cow, his hair grown like the "feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird".
Background here.
BRAWLING MONKS in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are getting lots of media attention. From the AP:
The brawling began during a procession of Armenian clergymen commemorating the 4th-century discovery of the cross believed to have been used to crucify Jesus.

The Greeks objected to the march without one of their monks present, fearing that otherwise, the procession would subvert their own claim to the Edicule — the ancient structure built on what is believed to be the tomb of Jesus — and give the Armenians a claim to the site.

The Armenians refused, and when they tried to march the Greek Orthodox monks blocked their way, sparking the brawl.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police were forced to intervene after fighting was reported. They arrested two monks, one from each side, he said.

Related stories here (and follow the links back) .
Ancient Chic Uncovered in Jerusalem's City of David

by Hana Levi Julian

( A stunningly beautiful 2,000-year-old gold earring inlaid with pearls and precious gems is the latest discovery in Jerusalem's archaeological treasure trove, the City of David.


The stylish earring itself meets top fashion standards, ancient or otherwise.

The main part of the earring is made of a coiled gold hoop encircling a large inlaid pearl nestled in its center. Dangling from the bottom of the hoop are two identical gold pendants, each of which is adorned with a small chain whose links are comprised of one emerald and pearl, held in place by golden fastenings.

It is true that the emeralds' sparkle is dulled by having been buried in centuries of rubble, but their fine color shines through nonetheless. And nothing has managed to diminish the breathtaking glow of the pearls, which truly are fit for the collection of any princess.

They date it between the first century BCE and fourth century CE. There's a photo too. Nice piece.

More ancient bling here.
A SEMITIC PHILOLOGIST of the eighteenth century:
Kennett resident publishes book
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Joshua Payne

Daily Dunklin Democrat

A local man has written a historical book about a very influential individual of the 18th century, Dr. David Caldwell.


Dr. David Caldwell was born in 1725 in Lancaster County, according to Finis. The parents of David Caldwell were Andrew and Martha Caldwell a couple of swine farmers. Until the age of 25, Caldwell's father apprenticed him to be a carpenter. Turning 25, Caldwell determined that he was called to become a gospel preacher and made arrangements with his three younger brothers to obtain money for college. To receive the money, Caldwell gave away all rights to his parents inheritance money, said Finis.

Dr. David Caldwell attended the college of New Jersey, which later became Princeton, in 1761. At the age of 27, Princeton called Caldwell to teach in the classical language department. Caldwell taught the languages of Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic, along with possibly teaching Sanskrit and Arcadian, according to Finis. The teaching lasted for about a year, and as payment for services, the university awarded Dr. Caldwell with a Master of Arts Degree.

I don't know what "Arcadian" is. True, it was an ancient Greek dialect, but that doesn't quite fit here. Perhaps it is intended to be Akkadian, but Akkadian was not deciphered until well into the nineteenth century.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

CLEOPATRA knew Hebrew and Aramaic? So Dr. Binoy Barman in a book review in the Lebanon Daily Star:
Cleopatra was accomplished and had an attractive personality. She had command over several languages, including Egyptian, Hebrew, Aramaic, Parthian, Median, Syriac, Theopian and Trogodite (many of them are extinct now), besides Latin and Greek. ...
Aramaic, quite possibly. Hebrew, I doubt very much. Syriac, certainly not: it was the Aramaic dialect of Edessa long after Cleopatra's lifetime. I've never heard of "Trogodite" or "Theopian."

UPDATE: reader William J. Hamblin e-mails:
Barman's "Trogodite" may be a garbling of Troglodyte, Greek "cave-dwellers" sometimes used with reference to the nomadic Berber peoples of North Africa, probably meaning in an Egyptian context, the language of the inhabitants of the Western Desert.
That seems to be right. See below.

Reader Carla Sulzbach e-mails:
As to Cleopatra being a polyglot (including "Trogodite" and "Theopian" the latter no doubt being a typo for "Ethiopian"), see:

Trogodytica: The Red Sea Littoral in Ptolemaic Times Author(s): G. W. Murray and E. H. Warmington Source: The Geographical Journal, Vol. 133, No. 1 (Mar., 1967), pp. 24-33 Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of The Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)

(It's online but requires a paid or institutional subscription though)

P. 32 gives the specific info. Apparently this info comes from Plutarch, who is quoted: "to most [of her subjects] she conversed herself; to Ethiopians, Trogodytes, Hebrews, Arabs and many more, whose languages she had learned. This was the more surprising in that most of the Kings, her predecessors, hardly gave themselves the trouble to master the Egyptian tongue" (Plutarch, 'Antony', xxvii, 3-4).
How interesting! I stand corrected.

Incidentally, the Penguin translation by Ian Scott-Kilvert of Plutarch's Life of Antony refers to "Troglodytes" and it also mentions "Syrians," which would account for the Aramaic and presumably the erroneous Syriac mentioned above.

UPDATE (15 November): More on the Trogodytes etc. here.
Israel demolishes homes for 'City of David' heritage site

By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem (The Independent)
Friday, 7 November 2008

Israel has been accused of demolishing Palestinian houses in Arab East Jerusalem while international attention was focused on the election of Barack Obama.

Palestinian leaders and Israeli human rights organisations have said Israeli authorities displaced more than 20 people – mostly children – by demolishing three homes in the Silwan district of Jerusalem to make way for an archaeological park. ...

Israeli authorities say the houses earmarked for demolition did not have the required permits, and the area was zoned as national park in 1974. Residents however say the deeds of many of the houses pre-date that decision, and some date from the British Mandate.

Background here, here, here, here, here, and here.
APOCRYPHA WATCH - More on the Croatian Judith performance in Kansas City:
'Judith' features strong lead, exotic accompaniment
Special to The Star

Let's hear it for strong women: Hillary, Sarah, Nancy, and oh yes, don't forget Judith, who seduced and beheaded a general who threatened her people.

Part of the Early Music Series presented by the Friends of Chamber Music, "Judith" fused early music and literature with modern creativity. The result was a gripping musical epic about the biblical character on Saturday at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral.

At the center of the production was Katarina Livljanic, an admirably strong woman herself. A musicologist and performer, Livljanic combined centuries old texts from her native Croatia with ancient liturgical chants to create a modern monodrama with the flavor of a medieval epic.

Background here.