Saturday, November 29, 2008

TWICE USED SONGS by Terry Giles and William J. Doan is profiled by Dana Massing
Authors explore use of songs in Hebrew Bible

BY DANA MASSING [more details]

Published: November 29. 2008 12:01AM

Why do we sing the national anthem before a baseball game?

For the same reason writers worked songs into the prose of the Hebrew Bible, says one of the authors of a new book.

"To create community solidarity," Terry Giles said.

Giles, a Gannon University professor, and William J. Doan, a former Gannon professor now at Pennsylvania State University, have written "Twice Used Songs: Performance Criticism of the Songs of Ancient Israel."

In it, the authors use performance criticism to understand why biblical writers put songs in their stories.

The songs that Doan and Giles write about are considered "twice-used" because their first appearance wasn't in the Scriptures known to Christians as the Old Testament.


Friday, November 28, 2008

AN EXHIBITION in Texas on ancient Judaism:
Dec. 12, ‘The Birth of Christianity: A Jewish Story’ to open at HMNS

(Jewish Herald-Voice)

Through the display of ancient scrolls, objects and artifacts, the story of two of the world’s most influential religions unfolds in “The Birth of Christianity: A Jewish Story,” a new special exhibition opening Dec. 12 at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The exhibition will continue through April 12, 2009.

“In 2005, The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition evoked a remarkable response from tens of thousands of museum visitors,” said Joel A. Bartsch, president of the HMNS. “ ‘The Birth of Christianity: A Jewish Story’ continues the journey begun in The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition and broadens the dialogue – beyond the fascinating Qumran community that created the Scroll – and into the dawn of the Christian era,” said Bartsch. “One particularly moving part of the exhibition includes the oldest known copy of the messianic prophecies from the Book of Isaiah – one of the original Dead Sea Scrolls discovered at Qumran – displayed alongside the oldest known copy of the New Testament Book of Luke, including the earliest known version of the story of Christ’s nativity.”

There's also a video interview with Prof. Matthias Henze of Rice University.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

DEAD SEA SCROLLS are coming to Rome:
Dead Sea Scrolls to be displayed in Rome
11/27/2008 | 10:34 PM (GMANews.TV)

JERUSALEM – Italian president Giorgio Napolitano says he will open an exhibition of the famed Dead Sea Scrolls in Rome next year.

Israel's Antiquities Authority announced Thursday that parts of the scrolls will be shown in Rome early next year. Segments of the scrolls are lent out regularly to museums around the world but haven't been shown in Italy yet.

THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS EXHIBITION at the New York Jewish Museum is reviewed by Jerome A. Chanes in The Forward. Excerpt:
The Jewish Museum’s exhibition is different from other displays of the scrolls; it does not plant the flag in the soil of any one theory of the scrolls’ provenance, but concentrates on their messages. In this tiny and exquisitely curated exhibition, fragments of but six scrolls — out of the 900 found, and tens of thousands of other fragments — were chosen, each one very different from another. There is a fragment from the book of Jeremiah, one of the earliest copies of the Hebrew Bible in existence; there is an early example of Hebrew prayer, from Words of the Luminaries; there is a fragment from the Apocryphal Book of Tobit, a text not included in Hebrew Scripture but accepted into some versions of the Christian Bible; there is a text from the Aramaic Apocryphon of Daniel, and there are fragments from two books of regulations: the Community Rule, on the ordering of the affairs of the community, and the War Rule, on how a great war at the end of days should be conducted.


And this is the ultimate goal — and the nuanced message — of The Dead Sea Scrolls: Mysteries of an Ancient World. In curating the exhibition to focus on the texture of the scrolls’ language rather than on the controversies surrounding the scrolls themselves, The Jewish Museum is not just avoiding conflict. It is showing that it has a keen understanding of the difference between taste and politics when it comes to the fields of archeology, art and literature. In freeing the art from the politics, this exhibition sensitively bridges the gaps between art and politics, between questions of artistic taste and those of religious sensitivities. In the dim light of the scrolls gallery, the viewer is able, after two millennia, to converse with Jeremiah, Tobit and Daniel.
And Huliq News has a review as well. Excerpt:
The Dead Sea Scrolls: Mysteries of the Ancient World is on view at The Jewish Museum through January 4, 2009. This new exhibition features fragments of six scrolls, which have never been seen in New York City before. Three of the scrolls are being exhibited for the first time anywhere. Revered and revelatory, the Dead Sea Scrolls on display, together with over 30 artifacts discovered near the caves where the documents were found, provide new insights into the varied beliefs of ancient peoples and religious diversity today. A seven-minute film further enriches the visitor experience.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING to my American readers!

Busy day today and I'm pre-posting this. It will probably be late in the day, if at all, before I get to blogging.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I'M HOME. Got in a few hours ago and have been occupied with family things. No blogging right now. Time to try to sleep off some of this cold.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

PARDEE'S PRESENTATION on the new Zincirli inscription (now the Kuttamuwa Stele) is summarized by Douglas Mangum at the Biblia Hebraica blog. And follow the link there for a rendering of Pardee's transcription by Jim Getz.

Via Yitzhaq Sapir at the Aramaic list.

Background here and here.
GOOD CONFERENCE. Hightlights included both of the Early Jewish and Christian Mysticism Group meetings, the memorial session for John Strugnell, and the Pseudepigrapha Group session on Problematizing "Pseudepigrapha." I've made some notes on the last, which amount almost to a paper proposal for next year. I may get around to posting some thoughts, but not right now.

UPDATE (1:14 pm and bits thereafter): No, not yet. I've got a cold starting up and am not feeling too energetic.

My paper presentation went well. People seemed to find it informative, they laughed in (mostly) the right places, and I even managed to slip in a Terminator joke. (It's not in the written version, but if you know the mythos you can probably guess where.)

My flight leaves this evening and I'm in the hotel lobby at the moment. I may or may not be able to blog (or feel like blogging) later at the airport. If not, look for me (briefly) Wednesday evening in St. Andrews. On Thanksgiving I will be involved in our fall graduation ceremonies, receptions, etc. from the morning until late in the evening, so you may not hear much from me.

Safe trip home to all SBL travelers.
SHARE A TAXI? If anyone at the SBL conference would like to share a taxi with me to Logan Airport around 12:00 noon today, please e-mail me asap.

UPDATE: Got someone now. Thanks!
THE MUSEUM OF TOLERANCE in Jerusalem is defended by Rabbi Marvin Hier at the Simon Wiesenthal Center website:
Letter to the Editor / Museum of Tolerance is a beacon of light, not a wall

Regarding Bradley Burston's article "Dividing Jerusalem, one wall at a time"

Bradley Burston criticizes the Museum of Tolerance project in Jerusalem claiming it would be "dividing Jerusalem one wall at a time" because it is being built atop an ancient Muslim cemetery.

What he deliberately hides from his readers is that the land was given to the Simon Wiesenthal Center by the government of Israel and the City of Jerusalem, who presented petitions to the Supreme Court in support of the Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem.

He also obscures the fact that the Simon Wiesenthal Center is not building on the nearby Mamilla cemetery, but on the adjacent site which, for nearly a half-century, served as Jerusalem's municipal car park where every day hundreds of Jews, Christians and Muslims parked their cars. Electric cable and sewer lines were laid below the ground.

During all this time, not a single Muslim group or individual, including today's most vociferous critics said a word in protest although as they argued before the Court they knew all along it was a cemetery, yet kept silent for a half-century.


It is important to note that the Sheikh initiated the proceedings before the High Court because he saw this as a land grab in the center of Jerusalem. The Court immediately ordered mediation between the parties to be conducted by former court president Meir Shamgar. Our Center was very sensitive to the issue and offered numerous compromises, but they were all rejected out-of-hand by Sheikh Salah, who refused to even meet to discuss them. He insisted that the Court rule on the matter.

Now, after over two years in the Courts, the Supreme Court has handed down a 119-page unanimous verdict in favor of the Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem. Sheikh Salah and his defenders, who eagerly sought the Court's relief, are now agitating against its decision because they lost.

It is not those who lie beneath the ground who threaten the stability of the Middle East. It is the intolerance of extremists above the ground and those with an agenda who impede any prospects for civility and respect.

Via Brad A. Greenberg at the Jewish Journal's God Blog.

Background here.

Monday, November 24, 2008


That's the Hilton on the left and the domed building is the Christian Science Center.
THE LEUVEN DATABASE OF ANCIENT BOOKS came up today in the discussion after Craig Evans's paper "A Preliminary Survey of Christian Literature Found in Oxyrhynchus." Here the About entry for the site:
The present database attempts to collect the basic information on all ancient literary texts, as opposed to documents. At present, it includes 12669 items, dating from the fourth century B.C. to A.D. 800 and incorporating authors from Homer (8th cent. B.C.) to Romanus Melodus and Gregorius the Great (6th cent. A.D.), including 3671 texts of which the author can no longer be identified (to find an empty field, type "=" (without the quotes) in the field authorname).

Text editions by classical philologists and patristic scholars are usually based upon medieval manuscripts, dating many centuries after the work in question was first written down and transmitted by copies from copies from copies. Here the user will find the oldest preserved copies of each text. At the same time he will get a view of the reception of ancient literature throughout the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine period: which author was read when, where and by whom throughout Antiquity.

The term "books" is used in the same wide sense as in the catalogues of Mertens-Pack and Van Haelst, for "texts that were intended to reach the eyes of a reading public or at least possessed a more than ephemeral interest or usefulness". Therefore we have excluded documents quoting some line of Homer (e.g. Pack2 399, 471, Van Haelst 1191), but also oracle questions (e.g. Pack2 2492-2493, Van Haelst 954, 958) and horoscopes, which we consider documentary texts. As we are interested in books, we do not include references to inscriptions (e.g. Pack 2960, 2490; Van Haelst 53, 111, 792-818). Magical texts on gold, lead, bronze etc. (e.g. Van Haelst 184-191) are not incorporated, because their aim is purely practical. But magical texts based on handbooks will be found, even though the dividing line is often subjective.

Our interest being in books, not in the study of literature, we have grouped multiple texts on a single roll if they were intended as parts of one book . This is especially the case for anthologies, which are split up in Pack among the different authors (e.g. Pack2 0031 + 0401 + 1319 + 1320 are grouped as LDAB 1048). We keep two entries, however, when a literary papyrus is reused for another literary text, and also in the case of composite codices, when the different works were originally written on individual quires (LDAB 107760, 17904, 107905).
Looks very useful.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

THE BABYLON EXHIBITION at the British Museum is reviewed by Boyd Tonkin in the Independent. Excerpt:
Thanks to a soundtrack, sometimes the tablets speak to us of kings, dreams and battles. This mid-sized exhibition never claims blockbuster status. So the great intellectual adventures that led to our detailed knowledge of life in Babylon – the excavations by Robert Koldewey in the 1900s, or the decipherment of cuneiform by Henry Rawlinson – get slightly short shrift in these displays. Frustrated visitors might want to invest in the superb book, edited by Irving Finkel and Michael Seymour. It fills in the gaps.

Sin and doom hogs the limelight. Whether this works depends on the standard of "legacy" material. We get drippy Victorian paintings of the Jewish exile, while Rembrandt's Belshazzar's Feast has not made it up the road from the National Gallery. A collection of music inspired by Babylon, from Verdi's Nabucco through the inevitable Bob Marley and down to Boney M, looks like the fruit of a Google trawl. Modern art prompted by images of the Tower of Babel – especially by Pieter Bruegel's crumbling helter-skelter – shines brighter, in the eerie digital city of Julee Holcombe's Babel Revisited or MC Escher's never-to-be-finished skyscraper.

Again, I wanted a show that invites analogies between ancient and modern to go the whole Babylonian hog. Burning and collapsing towers, a panic-stricken city, rumours of a vile oriental despot: this show's processional way leads the mind inexorably back to Saddam and Bush.
Background here.
RESURRECTING HEBREW (Nextbook. 219 pp. $21) by Ilan Stavans is reviewed in the Washington Post by Yehudah Mirsky. The review opens with a nice example:
In the Bible, the Book of Ezekiel begins with the heavens opening to reveal a stunning vision of God. Above the angels, astride a throne, like a fire encased in a frame, the prophet sees a kind of "hashmal."

This word is unique to Ezekiel's vision; in the entire Hebrew scriptures, it appears only there. Its exact meaning is uncertain, but the Talmud -- the vast compilation of Jewish law, lore and interpretation from the first centuries of the Common Era -- offers a powerful etymology: It comes from the phrase "Creatures of fire . . . keep their silence [Hebrew: HASHot] and murmur [u-meMALelot]." Thus, tradition holds that the mysterious hashmal is the aura surrounding the heavenly throne, woven from the breaths of angels, so sacred as scarcely to be audible, even to God.

Yet on the streets of Israel today, hashmal is everywhere. As any child can tell you, it means "electricity."
More on the Hashmal here.
THE FIRE GOSPEL by Michel Faber is reviewed by Ed Lake in the Independent. Excerpt:
You'll have guessed by now that this is satire of the broadest sort. Faber's signature preoccupation with extreme grottiness, established in The Crimson Petal and the White (think Jane Eyre rewritten by William Vollmann) remains intact: The Fire Gospel's brief duration is fit to burst with seedy dwellings, open wounds and post-coital slumps. But alas, The Crimson Petal's imaginative suppleness and care haven't fared nearly so well.

Indeed, the present novel feels like hack work, dashed off. Its title notwithstanding, a parade of religious weirdos and some rote digs at the publishing industry do not an inspired text make. Nothing – except perhaps the Amazon pastiche, cheap shot though it is – feels closely observed or passionately invested. And, as it happens, the piece was commissioned as part of Canongate's otherwise surprisingly decent Myths series, so perhaps Faber didn't feel he had quite the free hand he would have liked.
Background here.
Albert Pietersma and Benjamin G. Wright, A New English Translation of the Septuagint (OUP, 2008)
I picked up a copy of this yesterday. This new publication makes the Septuagint available in an accurate, readable translation to a wide audience. Those who have no Greek can now find out what it says, and even those who know Greek well will find it helpful to be able to read long stretches of the text in English to get a ready feel for a book or an extended passage. Thanks to this translation it's now much easier to treat the Septuagint not just as a translation of the Hebrew Bible, but also as a collection of literary works from Second Temple times. Well done!

Background here.