Saturday, September 26, 2009

COPTIC SCROLLS is an indy film currently casting in Kansas City:
Stinson McClendon, a local filmmaker, is holding auditions this weekend for his feature-length murder mystery, “Coptic Scrolls.”

McClendon, producer and director for Baby E Films, will hold the auditions from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and from 1:30 to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Southeast Community Center in Swope Park, 4201 E. 63rd St.

“Coptic Scrolls” will be controversial. The film questions the ethnicity of Jesus Christ and will examine how the revelation of Jesus’ background could stir the foundation of Christianity.

McClendon said: “My intention is not to give a history lesson. I’m a filmmaker, and my main objective is to tell an exciting and moving story.”
Sounds like fun, although the part about not giving a history lesson is ominous. In any case, I hope someone has told him that this sort of thing has been done before.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR BURYING THE GENIZA from Ask the Expert at the Jewish Telegraph. Excerpt:
Answer: It sounds like you're talking about burying the contents of a genizah, Linda. Genizah means "reserved" or "hidden" in Hebrew, and is traditionally a place where Jews store sacred documents when they fall out of use.

The Talmud (Shabbat 115a) stipulates that all sacred writings (scrolls of Torah, Prophets, and Writings), should be preserved in a place where they cannot be destroyed. Though this idea originally was closely tied to a prohibition from ever erasing God's name, Maimonides ruled that holy books, such as the Talmud and midrash, should be retired to the genizah as well, even though they do not contain God's name (Mishneh Torah, Hilhot Yesodei HaTorah 6:8).

For a long time, Jewish communities set aside a room in each synagogue exclusively for this purpose and called that space the genizah. Anything from a worn-out siddur to a contract written in Hebrew would be put in the genizah when it was no longer useful, and often ritual objects such as a tallit or a lulav were added as well.

Most synagogues now have a closet or a box where they collect used papers and ritual objects that are considered sacred. The general rule is that anything dealing with sacred subjects should be placed in a genizah rather than thrown out. An Israeli newspaper, though written in Hebrew, would not need to go in a genizah, but a Megillah that had been damaged would.

Most synagogues clean out their genizot every few years by burying the contents in a Jewish cemetery as a sign of reverence and respect. Some communities even have cemetery plots that have been donated expressly for the purpose of burying the genizah. It is considered a great sign of respect to bury a Torah scroll or other sacred work near a prestigious Torah scholar. However, you are welcome to bury your household genizah in your backyard, as long as it is done respectfully.
Fortunately, the keepers of the Cairo Geniza paid no attention to any of these instructions.
THAT ANGLO-SAXON GOLD HOARD whose discovery in Staffordshire, England, was announced yesterday contains a Latin inscription that quotes from the Vulgate Old Testament:
Huge Anglo-Saxon gold hoard found


The UK's largest haul of Anglo-Saxon treasure has been discovered buried in a field in Staffordshire.

Experts say the collection of 1,500 gold and silver pieces, which may date to the 7th Century, is unparalleled in size and worth "a seven-figure sum".

It has been declared treasure by South Staffordshire coroner Andrew Haigh, meaning it belongs to the Crown.

Terry Herbert, who found it on farmland using a metal detector, said it "was what metal detectorists dream of".

It could take more than a year for it to be valued.

The Staffordshire hoard contains about 5kg of gold and 2.5kg of silver, making it far bigger than the Sutton Hoo discovery in 1939 when 1.5kg of Anglo-Saxon gold was found near Woodbridge in Suffolk.

Leslie Webster, former keeper at the British Museum's Department of Prehistory and Europe, said: "This is going to alter our perceptions of Anglo-Saxon England as radically, if not more so, as the Sutton Hoo discoveries.

"(It is) absolutely the equivalent of finding a new Lindisfarne Gospels or Book of Kells."

The Book of Kells and Lindisfarne Gospels are intricately illuminated manuscripts of the four New Testament Gospels dating from the 9th and 8th Centuries.

The piece with the inscription is pictured in the article with the caption:
Anglo Saxon Gold
This gold strip carries the Latin inscription: "Rise up O Lord, and may thy enemies be dispersed and those who hate thee be driven from thy face." It has two sources, the Book of Numbers or Psalm 67, taken from the Vulgate, the Bible used by the Saxons.
A somewhat related item (the Irish bog Psalter) is discussed here.

Friday, September 25, 2009

JUNK HISTORY DAY! Haaretz rounds up recent daft notions about the Ark of the Covenant:
Dreamers of the lost ark
By Uzi Dann

Tags: Israel news, Ark, Bible

About three months ago, Abune (Father) Paulos, patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, announced that the time had come for him to reveal the answer to one of the greatest mysteries in the history of civilization: the whereabouts of the biblical Ark of the Covenant, ostensibly guarded for millennia in a church in Axum, Ethiopia. Prior to his visit to Rome and his audience with Pope Benedict XVI, the patriarch decided to announce, at a press conference with the head of the Roman Catholic Church, the public unveiling of the ark.

In any other century in human history, this would have been a cosmic event. However, at that time, the world was focused on the death of pop star Michael Jackson.

The fact that Paulos changed his mind 24 hours later - even someone who was sentenced to prison and exiled under the Derg military regime cannot always withstand the Church's pressure - destroyed, at least temporarily, any chances of discovering what happened to said ark, or of crossing off another theory regarding its location.
I first became acquainted with Ethiopian beliefs and their connection to the Ark of the Covenant during a course in the late 1980s given by Dr. Steven Kaplan, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's department of African studies (which was since closed; there's no budget for frivolities). The course fired my imagination, and I vowed to learn more about the matter. Furthermore, I was troubled by what I learned in elementary school about the gross injustice suffered by naive Uzzah, who tried to prevent the ark from touching the ground and was immediately annihilated by God.

The Ethiopian Church is convinced that Ethiopia's kings are part of the Solomonic dynasty - i.e., descendants of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. The queen's visit to Solomon's bedroom resulted in Menelik, who later returned as a prince to visit his father in Jerusalem, whereupon he craftily "borrowed" the ark and its two tablets. According to Ethiopian tradition, it has been in Axum for the past 3,000 years.
For the Kebra Negast and notions about the Ark in Ethiopia, see here and keep following the links back
Steven Spielberg's "Raiders of the Lost Ark" is based on the theory that the Pharaoh Shishak, who captured Palestine in the 10th century B.C.E., took the ark back to Egypt, where it was buried with the pharaohs.
Raiders is the most tolerable of the lot, in that it doesn't pretend to be anything other than entertaining fiction. The Kebra Negast is pretty innocuous too. It's the modern ones that claim to be real which irritate me.
If we can believe the "Kebra Nagast," the chronicle of Ethiopia's kings written in 1210, or a story floated in a Hollywood movie with no historical basis - why not also give some credence to the biblical narrative?

In 2 Chronicles, we read how more than 300 years after Solomon and Shishak, King Josiah returns the ark to the Temple in Jerusalem. The Bible sadly reports that when the First Temple was destroyed, Nebuchadnezzar's soldiers demolished the ark, perhaps even melting it down and reusing its gold.
Predictably, no passage is cited. And understandably, in that there is no such passage in the Bible. (Not that I doubt that that's what happened to the Ark.) In the Bible we last hear of the Ark in an enigmatic passage in the book of Jeremiah, discussed here.
However, quasi-biblical works contain more uplifting narratives. In the Book of Maccabees, included in the Apocrypha ("external writings") for political reasons, we learn that after the Temple's destruction, God commanded Jeremiah to bury the ark in a secret cave on Mount Nebo. The exact location of this cave, the site of Moses' grave, is unknown. Undoubtedly, Mount Nebo's inclusion in the Hashemite kingdom is part of the divine plan. Had it been in Israel, the mountain would have been privatized, a franchise would have been issued for excavations and a scandalous entrance fee would be charged - probably a two-for-the-price-of-one deal.
The reference is 2 Maccabees 2:4-8.
According to another narrative, the ark was removed from Jerusalem before the city was destroyed, and ended up in the Jewish community on Elephantine Island in Aswan (some Ethiopians argue it was thereafter transported to Axum). Some people believe the Temple's priests buried the ark before Jerusalem's destruction, which would mean it's under the Dome of the Rock (as if we need more headaches!).
I've not heard of a connection with Elephantine (on which, see here, here and here) before.
Wendell Jones, who believes he was the inspiration for the character of Indiana Jones, is an American archaeologist who excavated Qumran with Israel's leading archaeologists. A few years ago, he claimed he had found the ark in that site, near the Dead Sea, and he promised to reveal it on Tisha B'Av, the Jewish fast day commemorating the destruction of both temples. Only Arutz Sheva (a radio station primarily serving West Bank settlers) took his declaration seriously. Meanwhile, there are some eccentric Europeans who believe that when the Crusaders returned from the Holy Land, they hid the ark somewhere on their grandmother's estate.
On Vendyl Jones, see here. To be fair, he didn't quite say this. I don't know anything about those Europeans.
The most captivating explanation also comes from Africa: The Lemba tribe, who believe they are descendants of Jews, tell stories of a holy box called the Ngoma Lungundu (literally, the voice of God), which came with their ancestors from Yemen to the Great Empire of Zimbabwe. Prof. Tudor Parfitt of the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies discovered that the box's size and shape match the ark's description, that it was not supposed to touch the ground, and that the Lemba tribe brought it to the battlefield, where it usually changed the course of war. A large clan within the tribe, the Buba clan, has a gene characteristic of the Kohanim (descendants of Aaron).

Lemba tradition holds that the ark self-destructed when the Great Zimbabwe kingdom collapsed, and a wooden copy of it was made. The copy was discovered in a cave in 1940 and is now in a museum in Harare.

Food for thought.

Years after my class at Hebrew University, I traveled to Axum to visit the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion, which is actually a complex of buildings, some of which are open only to men, and one of which, Chapel of the Tablet, is open only to priests. A monk guards the ark in the chapel's sanctum sanctorum - it's a lifetime job. No one but this monk can see the ark. Most people who try to sneak a glimpse are stopped at the gate by guards bearing large sticks and rocks to fend off troublesome children and curious foreigners. You can try getting past them, but then you will confront a soldier with a loaded Kalashnikov. Like the others, I could not get past him.
For Tudor Parfitt, the Lemba, and the Ark, see here and follow the background link.
For those who believe in the New Testament and the Gospel of John, God will miraculously return the ark to the Temple when Jesus' Second Coming occurs. However, under the safe assumption that this will not happen, the mystery remains intact. Meanwhile, one can make do with the twice-weekly, early-morning procession in Axum, when priests bring out a copy of the ark and thousands of believers, wearing white and bearing candles, march after it around the church's massive complex. A truly spiritual experience.
Once again no passage in the NT/Gospel of John is cited, and once again, this is because there is no such passage. It really is quite easy to find a Bible these days and check what it actually says. It's remarkable that so many journalists find this concept difficult.

UPDATE (28 September): More on the Ark here.
JUNK HISTORY DAY! The Wall Street Journal has an editorial about Palestinian denial of the Jewish Temple and the Jewish connection with Jerusalem:
Palestinian Leaders Deny Jerusalem's Past


Jews have no history in the city of Jerusalem: They have never lived there, the Temple never existed, and Israeli archaeologists have admitted as much. Those who deny this are simply liars. Or so says Sheik Tayseer Rajab Tamimi, chief Islamic judge of the Palestinian Authority.

His claims, made last month, would be laughable if they weren't so common among Palestinians. Sheik Tamimi is only the latest to insist that, in his words, Jerusalem is solely "an Arab and Islamic city and it has always been so." His comments come on the heels of those by Shamekh Alawneh, a lecturer in modern history at Al Quds University. On an Aug. 11 PA television program, "Jerusalem—History and Culture," Mr. Alawneh argued that the Jews invented their connection to Jerusalem. "It has no historical roots," he said, adding that the Jews are engaging in "an attack on history, theft of culture, falsification of facts, erasure of the truth, and Judaization of the place."

As President Barack Obama and his foreign-policy team gear up to propose yet another plan for Israeli-Arab peace, they would do well to focus less on important but secondary issues like settlement growth, and instead notice that top Palestinian intellectual and political leaders deny basic truths about the region's most important city.


It's true: there is scant archaeological evidence of the First Temple. But not so for the Second Temple, which is accepted as historical fact by most archaeologists. From the Herodian period, aside from dozens of Jewish ritual baths surrounding the temple that have been uncovered, one retaining wall of the temple, the Western Wall, still stands.

Regarding the last paragraph, that would be "all archaeologists," not "most."

For the historical evidence for the existence of the second and first Temples on the Temple Mount, see here and here. This is of interest as well. For Shamekh Alawneh, see here. For the 1924 Waqf pamphlet, see here.
THE JUNK HISTORY FILE gets a new entry, once again from Egypt. MEMRI reports:
Leading Egyptian Daily 'Al-Ahram' Reports: Coins from Era of Biblical Joseph Found in Egypt

According to a report in the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram, by Wajih Al-Saqqar, archeologists have discovered ancient Egyptian coins bearing the name and image of the Biblical Joseph.

Following are excerpts from the article: [1]

"Koranic Verses Indicate Clearly That Coins Were Used in Egypt in the Time of Joseph"

"In an unprecedented find, a group of Egyptian researchers and archeologists has discovered a cache of coins from the time of the Pharaohs. Its importance lies in the fact that it provides decisive scientific evidence disproving the claim by some historians that the ancient Egyptians were unfamiliar with coins and conducted their trade through barter.

"The researchers discovered the coins when they sifted through thousands of small archeological artifacts stored in [the vaults of] the Museum of Egypt. [Initially] they took them for charms, but a thorough examination revealed that the coins bore the year in which they were minted and their value, or effigies of the pharaohs [who ruled] at the time of their minting. Some of the coins are from the time when Joseph lived in Egypt, and bear his name and portrait.

"There used to be a misconception that trade [in Ancient Egypt] was conducted through barter, and that Egyptian wheat, for example, was traded for other goods. But surprisingly, Koranic verses indicate clearly that coins were used in Egypt in the time of Joseph.

"Research team head Dr. Sa'id Muhammad Thabet said that during his archeological research on the Prophet Joseph, he had discovered in the vaults of the [Egyptian] Antiquities Authority and of the National Museum many charms from various eras before and after the period of Joseph, including one that bore his effigy as the minister of the treasury in the Egyptian pharaoh's court…

"Dr. Sa'id Thabet added that he had examined the sarcophagi of many pharaohs in search of coins used as charms or ornaments, and that he had indeed found such ancient Egyptian coins. This [find] prompted researchers to seek and find Koranic verses that speak of coins used in ancient Egypt, [such as]: 'And they sold him [i.e. Joseph] for a low price, a number of silver coins; and they attached no value to him. [Koran 12:20].' [Also,] Qarun [2] says about his money: 'This has been given to me because of a certain knowledge which I have [Koran 28: 78].'"

I'll skip over the middle part, which has more of the same, and excerpt the best part at the end:
"One Coin... [Had] an Image of a Cow Symbolizing Pharaoh's Dream about the Seven Fat Cows and Seven Lean Cows"

"The researcher identified coins from many different periods, including coins that bore special markings identifying them as being from the era of Joseph. Among these, there was one coin that had an inscription on it, and an image of a cow symbolizing Pharaoh's dream about the seven fat cows and seven lean cows, and the seven green stalks of grain and seven dry stalks of grain. It was found that the inscriptions of this early period were usually simple, since writing was still in its early stages, and consequently there was difficulty in deciphering the writing on these coins. But the research team [managed to] translate [the writing on the coin] by comparing it to the earliest known hieroglyphic texts…

"Joseph's name appears twice on this coin, written in hieroglyphs: once the original name, Joseph, and once his Egyptian name, Saba Sabani, which was given to him by Pharaoh when he became treasurer. There is also an image of Joseph, who was part of the Egyptian administration at the time.

"Dr. Sa'id Thabet called on Egypt's Antiquities Council and on the Minister of Culture to intensify efforts in the fields of Ancient Egyptian history and archeology, and to [promote] the research of these coins that bear the name of Egyptian pharaohs and gods. This, he said, would enable the correction of prevalent misconceptions regarding the history of Ancient Egypt."
Where does one start with this sort of thing? Coins weren't invented until something like the seventh-to-sixth century BCE in Asia Minor. The Joseph story, if it has any historical basis at all, is perhaps a vague memory of events of the Hyksos era or perhaps even later. There is no archaeological evidence for the existence of Joseph as a real person and any such find would receive immediate, enthusiastic, international attention. I don't know anything about the so-called researchers cited, but I will be very interested to see if Dr. Zahi Hawass has any comments. Meanwhile, are there any Egyptologists or numismatists out there who can enlighten us as what artifacts are being discussed here and what they really are?

Via Joseph I. Lauer, who asks, "was September 22, 2009, the date of the article underlying the following report, the Egyptian April Fools Day?!"

UPDATE: No replies from Egyptologists or numismatists but reader Daniel O. McClellan e-mails to note that photos of the two bigger scarabs at the bottom of the article's photo are found here and here. And reader Larry Rabinovich e-mails to note an online review by Morris Silver, whom I don't know but whom Larry says " I believe to be a respected economic historian" and "who takes issue with the consensus that coins did not exist until the 7th century BCE or so. He feels that some of the items described in the sources qualify as coinage." Fair enough, but as usual with such things, when I'm not an expert I am going with the (apparently very strong in this case) consensus until I see peer-review articles or monographs by experts (in this case numismatists) which argue otherwise. And the business about Joseph being named and pictured on one of these "coins" is nonsensically described (the period Joseph is supposed to have lived in is much later that that of the earliest hierogylphs) and is not to be taken seriously.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

MORE ON THE GENETIC RESEARCH on the Jewish priesthood:
Study of Jewish lineages reveals genetic 'heirloom'
By Tom Beal
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 09.24.2009

Genetic researchers have revised an earlier hypothesis that members of the Jewish priestly caste, the Cohanim, can trace their paternal lineage to a single progenitor, perhaps the biblical Aaron, brother of Moses.
Jewish men who report such family lineage still share a remarkable set of similarities in the genetic makeup of their Y chromosomes, but further study by UA population geneticist Michael Hammer and a group of Israeli colleagues has now traced several lineages of the priestly caste to several unrelated men in the Near East more than 3,000 years ago.
"I think it's still sort of amazing that there is a genetic marker," said Rabbi Sam Cohon of Temple Emanu-El in Tucson.
"The question of whether it was one progenitor or was it four or five, it doesn't damage my faith in any way," Cohon said.
"The original idea was to test the idea of a single male lineage," said Hammer, director of the UA's Human Origins Genotyping Lab.
Hammer said the new research, while revising the initial conclusion, actually offers more evidence than before for the direct line of descent from a core of early priests who lived in the Near East in the time between the Exodus from Egypt and the dispersion of the Jews.
Hammer describes the Cohanim tradition as "a family heirloom passed from father to son."

Background here.
FAROUK HOSNI, the Egyptian Cultural Minister, did not get the director-generalship of UNESCO after all:
Egypt bitter about UNESCO vote
Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni, who has been accused of making anti-Semitic remarks, says 'there was a conspiracy against me' after losing a bid to lead the U.N. cultural organization. (Los Angeles Times)

Reporting from Cairo - Conspiracy theories hummed through Egypt's media and political elite Wednesday as Culture Minister Farouk Hosni returned home from Paris after facing accusations of anti-Semitism and losing a bitter fight to become the first Arab to lead the United Nations' cultural organization.

The 71-year-old abstract painter and ally of President Hosni Mubarak had carried the hopes of an Arab world seeking cultural prominence and closer ties with the West. But Hosni's bid to become director-general of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization unraveled in part because of comments he made in 2008 in which he told parliament he would personally burn any Israeli books in Egypt's Alexandria library.

A hurried public relations campaign by Hosni and the Egyptian government muted some criticism, and when the 58-member UNESCO board met last week, Hosni led in the first round of voting. But in subsequent rounds his early supporters abandoned him as the United States and key European countries backed Bulgarian candidate Irina Bokova, who won the post in Tuesday's fifth round by a vote of 31 to 27.

Upon his return to Cairo on Wednesday, Hosni told reporters at the airport:

"It was clear by the end of the competition that there was a conspiracy against me. There are a group of the world's Jews who had a major influence in the elections who were a serious threat to Egypt taking this position."

Somehow I don't think that comment will do anything to assuage the doubts of his critics.
In recent weeks, Hosni apologized for his book-burning remark and his ministry announced that it would translate into Arabic novels by Israeli authors Amos Oz and David Grossman. The ministry also began restoration of the neglected Maimonides synagogue in Cairo's ancient Jewish quarter. By late August, it appeared that Hosni would win the UNESCO post.

Background here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A RITUAL BATH from the Second Temple period has been excavated in Jerusalem. The IAA press release (temporary URL):
A large and Magnificent 2,000 Year Old Miqve was Exposed in the Western Wall Tunnels

A large and impressive ritual bath (miqve) from the end of the Second Temple period was recently uncovered in archaeological excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is carrying out in the Western Wall tunnels, in cooperation with the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.

The miqve was discovered inside the western hall of a splendid structure that is located just c. 20 meters from the Western Wall. Parts of the building were discovered in the past and the Israel Antiquities Authority is currently exposing another one of the three halls inside it. It is one of the most magnificent structures from the Second Temple period ever to be uncovered.

The edifice is built of very delicately dressed ashlar stones and the architectural decoration in it is of the highest quality. From an architectural and artistic standpoint there are similarities between this structure and the three magnificent compounds that King Herod built on the Temple Mount, in the Cave of the Patriarchs and at Allonei Mamre, and from which we can conclude the great significance that this building had in the Second Temple period.

In his book The War of the Jews, Josephus Flavius writes there was a government administrative center that was situated at the foot of the Temple. Among the buildings he points out in this region were the council house and the “Xistus”- the ashlar bureau. According to the Talmud it was in this bureau that the Sanhedrin – the Jewish high court at the time of the Second Temple – would convene. It may be that the superb structure the Israel Antiquities Authority is presently uncovering belonged to one of these two buildings.

According to archaeologist Alexander Onn, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “It is interesting to see that in the middle of the first century CE they began making changes in this magnificent structure – at that time it was no longer used as a government administrative building and a large miqve was installed inside its western hall where there were c. 11 steps that descend to the immersion pool. It seems that the city of Jerusalem grew in this period and it became necessary to provide for the increased ritual bathing needs of the pilgrims who came to the Temple in large numbers, especially during the three pilgrimage festivals (Shlosha Regalim). Immersing oneself in the miqve and maintaining ritual purity were an inseparable part of the Jewish way of life in this period, and miqve’ot were absolutely essential, especially in the region of the Temple.”

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation acts to uncover the Jewish people’s past at the Western Wall, and the miqve is further evidence of the deep ties the Jewish people have with Jerusalem and the Temple.

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi in charge of the Western Wall and the holy places, pointed out the cooperation between the Western Wall Heritage Foundation and the Israel Antiquities Authority which have joined together in order to discover the rich history of Jerusalem there, while strictly ensuring that no excavations approach the Temple Mount compound, contact with which is forbidden by Halachic law.
Photo (zip-)files can be downloaded here.

UPDATE (24 September): Bad link fixed. Sorry about that!
AN EXHIBITION ON EARLY WRITING at the University of Arizona has just opened: Writings Out of Time: The University of Arizona’s Cuneiform Collection. The lecture series includes lectured by Ronald S. Hendel and William Schniedewind on ancient Northwest Semitic and Israelite writing.
MARK GOODACRE is Celebrating the use of Internet Resources at Bible and Interpretation. As well he should.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

International Organization for Qumran Studies

Seventh Meeting


AUGUST 2–4, 2010

Call for Papers

The Scrolls and Biblical Traditions

For the special topic of this seventh meeting of the IOQS, we invite papers that discuss any aspect of the transmission, use, or interpretation of biblical traditions in the Scrolls from the Judean Desert.

We therefore welcome papers ranging from studies of the biblical scrolls proper, on the relationship between scrolls and the versions, or on light shed by the scrolls on issues of scripture, authoritativeness, or canon, up to the use or interpretation, explicitly or implicitly, of biblical traditions in the so-called non-biblical scrolls.

Following the tradition of former IOQS meetings, proposals can be submitted by any scholar who is working on the topic, and papers that are directly related to the topic of the meeting are eligible for publication in a corresponding volume of the STDJ series. In addition, scholars working on other topics in the field of Qumran studies are encouraged as well to submit papers on their own particular research.

The seventh meeting of the IOQS will be held from August 2–4, 2010 in conjunction with the 20th Congress of IOSOT, the International Organization for the Study of the Old Testament, and other specialized congresses (IOTS, IOSCS, IOMS), to be held from August 1–6, 2010 in Helsinki. All information on these congresses, registration, accommodation, etc. can be found on For the IOQS meeting click the Joint Congress Timetable at the right side of the page.

On Tuesday morning, August 3, a joint program of the IOSOT and IOQS is scheduled, including papers by Eileen Schuller, Sidnie White-Crawford, and Anneli Aejmelaeus.

If you are interested in participating and presenting a paper, please submit your proposal containing your name, name of academic institution, title of your proposed paper, and an abstract of no more than 250 words. For details on abstracts you may consult the guidelines for abstracts for the IOSOT.

Proposals should be submitted by email before February 14, 2010 to the secretary of the IOQS, Prof. Dr. Eibert Tigchelaar,

Eibert Tigchelaar
Research Professor Faculty of Theology
Editor Dead Sea Discoveries
Secretary Journal for the Study of Judaism

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Sint-Michielsstraat 6
B-3000 Leuven

Monday, September 21, 2009

A FIRST-CENTURY C.E. AMPHITHEATER has been excavated near Tiberias:
The late Professor Izhar Hirschfeld and Yossi Stepansky, the archaeologists heading the excavation, initially stated the structure was from the 2nd or 3rd century C.E., but later quickly realized that they go all the way back to the beginning of the 1st century C.E., closer to the founding of Tiberias.

"The most interesting thing about the amphitheater is its Jewish context," said Hirshfeld at the time of the initial discovery. "Unlike Tzipori, which was a multicultural city, Tiberias was a Jewish city under Roman rule. The findings demonstrate the city's pluralistic nature and cultural openness, something uncommon in those days."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

THE FINDER OF THE ALEXANDER GEMSTONE is profiled in the Annapolis Capital:
Annapolis native finds rare gemstone portrait of Alexander the Great
By HEATHER ROTH Staff Writer
Published 09/19/09

Megan Webb was looking for some extra credit and a way to learn more about ceramics when she signed up with the University of Washington Field School's excavation program at Tel Dor on the Mediterranean coast of Israel.

But during her five weeks as an amateur archaeologist, the Annapolis native made what may be the "find of the year."

"It's incredibly lucky apparently - beginner's luck," Webb laughed.

Sifting through the dirt and sand in a tight passage framed by three ancient walls, Webb found a small gemstone with the portrait of Alexander the Great painstakingly carved into it.

Well done, Megan!

Background here.
THE ROCK-A-BILLY MUSEUM in Jackson, Mississippi, has an exhibition on musical instruments in the Bible:
Rock-A-Billy Museum will host exhibit on Biblical instruments beginning Monday

• September 19, 2009

Trumpets, harps, horns and drums all are modern-day instruments found in most orchestras. They also were found in ancient civilizations, including ancient Israel and the Roman Empire.

Instruments and music have been an important part of the Bible since the book of Genesis, said Henry Harrison, director of the International Rock-A-Billy Hall of Fame Museum in downtown Jackson.

The museum has a collection of religious instruments on display for two weeks. The first tours begin at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Monday. The next stop for the exhibit is First United Methodist Church, also downtown, he said.

Harrison consulted many resources, including the Harvard Dictionary of Music, a Biblical concordance and various Web sites.

The collection sounds a bit ad hoc, in that it's based on English translations of terms we don't necessarily understand well, but interesting nonetheless.