Saturday, October 03, 2009

CONGRATULATIONS TO DR. SEBASTIAN P. BROCK, who has received The Leverhulme Medal for Humanities and Social Sciences from the British Academy:
2009: Dr Sebastian Brock FBA, Emeritus Reader in Syriac Studies, University of Oxford, nd Emeritus Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford

The Aramaic language is attested over a period of some three thousand years. Already in the late pre-Christian centuries it began to develop into a number of separate dialects, some used especially by Jewish writers and others, in particular Syriac, by Christians. Sebastian Brock is the world’s leading expert in this whole vast field, although his most distinctive contribution has been in the world of the Syriac-speaking communities. In detailed and wide-ranging studies alike, he has opened up whole areas of the history of Syriac liturgy, poetry, theological writing and more. In addition, he has been at the forefront in the publication and evaluation of manuscripts in the monastery collections of Egypt, Turkey and the Levant. His deep sympathy with the traditions of these threatened and increasingly dispersed communities has helped keep these ancient forms of spirituality alive both academically and culturally on a worldwide basis.
A well deserved honor indeed. Dr. Brock's web page is here.

(Via David G. K. Taylor on the Hugoye list.)

Friday, October 02, 2009

SUKKOT (the Festival of Booths or Tabernacles) begins this evening at sundown. Best wishes to all those celebrating.
SOME BACKGROUND to the acquisition of Dead Sea Scrolls fragments by Azusa Pacific University:
Yucaipan brings scrolls to Azusa Pacific
Joy Juedes, Staff Writer
Posted: 10/01/2009 11:25:42 PM PDT


Staff Writer [RedlandsDailyFacts]

Robert Duke's road to Israel and the Dead Sea Scrolls winds through Yucaipa.

Duke, who grew up in Yucaipa, was attending a blood drive at a Yucaipa church. He had studied in Israel and was teaching at Yucaipa Christian School.

At the blood drive, he ended up next to John Malone, a Redlands resident and member of the Yucaipa Rotary Club. The two men struck up a conversation.

"He asked if I would like to go back to school, and I said yes, and he told me about Rotary's Ambassadorial Scholarship," Duke said.

Rotary paid for Duke to study in Jerusalem for a year, where he continued to fall in love with biblical history - the Dead Sea Scrolls, in particular.
Azusa Pacific University professor Robert Duke, middle, with students at the Sea of Galilee last year. (Courtesy photo)

Now, Duke has helped bring the scrolls to Azusa Pacific University.

Duke, assistant professor in the Azusa School of Theology's Division of Religion and Philosophy, spent most of the summer confirming the authenticity of the five scroll fragments the university recently acquired.

There follows some personal background on Professor Duke. Then more on the Scrolls:
Azusa acquired four of the scroll fragments from Biondi Rare Books and Manuscripts in Venice, Calif. The fifth came from Legacy Ministries International in Phoenix.

"Ninety percent are in Israel or Jordan, and then there are these fragments that are in private collections," Duke said.

Duke said it is difficult to get ancient artifacts out of their countries of origin because of international rules and a recent antiquity fraud scandal at the Getty Museum.

Azusa Pacific is the third institution of higher education in the country, besides Princeton Theological Seminary and the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, to own original Dead Sea Scroll fragments.

"That's a great group of schools to be on the list with," Duke said.

"Bobby will play a critical role (in work with the scrolls)," said Kenneth Waters, associate dean of the School of Theology's Division of Religion and Philosophy.

"He is a young scholar but has already established himself as an authoritative source of information on the Hebrew Bible and other ancient Middle Eastern documents like the Dead Sea Scrolls," Waters said.

Duke said when he first saw digital photos of the fragments, he was struck by how genuine they looked.

"I spent a few months poring over photos, going to the seller to make sure they were authentic," he said.

"Some of it is just looking at lettering - they look like what other scrolls look like that came out of Qumran or other caves," he said.

The seller also provided carbon dating information, which helps verify age, he said.

"By looking at it and comparing with other fragments it was pretty clear we were handling the real material," he said.

Azusa's special collections staff is in charge of handling, preservation, and access to the fragments. The school also checked to make sure the fragments were not illegally owned at some point.

Staff "networked with other libraries and museums in Southern California to assure that APU is storing the fragments properly," Duke wrote in an e-mail.

"The last time I saw the fragments, they were being kept between sheets of glass with no potential for oils or residues from hands to come in contact with them," he wrote.

Background here.
ROBERT R. CARGILL wants Christians to give up the BC/AD dating terminology at Bible and Interpretation:
Why Christians Should Adopt the BCE/CE Dating System

By Robert R. Cargill
Center for the Digital Humanities,
Qumran Visualization Project


September 2009

I have heard every argument. I have read every justification. And I have spent far too much time on Wikipedia changing BCs and ADs back to BCEs and CEs. It is a centuries-old argument that some maintain is integral to one’s identity as a Christian. Despite the rise of science, Christians have used—and many times have insisted upon—the continued use of the labels “AD” and “BC” to designate calendrical years, and thereby portray human history as directly relative to the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. But in our modern world of scientific reason and religious plurality, the battle over whether or not to use the increasingly accepted international scientific standard of BCE (“Before Common Era”) and CE (“Common Era”) has not waned, but rather has intensified. However, it is time for this battle to end; Christians should leave behind the BC/AD labels and adopt the BCE/CE dating system for all calendrical references.

I can't say I've encountered anyone lately who defends the AD/BC system anymore, but presumably I don't move in the right circles. I completely agree with Robert, although I doubt that anyone who doesn't will be persuaded by his arguments.

Some other random thoughts. First, the objection to Xmas for Christmas (which I have heard) is particularly pathetic in that the X stands for the Greek letter Chi, which is the first letter of "Christ" in Greek and is just a convenient abbreviation. Second, the argument that Jesus must have been born by 4 BCE at the latest depends, as Robert notes, on the assumption that Matthew's story that connects Herod the Great with Jesus is historical, an assumption that warrants considerable skepticism. In fact, all we know is that Jesus was an adult around 30 CE. Luke says he was about 30 when he began his ministry (3:23). But John has Jesus' opponents say to him that "you are not yet fifty years old" (8:57), which strikes me as a little odd to say to a man in his early thirties and which may imply that John thought he was older. We just don't know when Jesus was born. Third, despite EU directives and the like, I'm not particularly sympathetic to the position that the decimal Metric system should be compulsory for all uses. It's much better than the Imperial system for scientific and engineering purposes, but the duodecimal Imperial system is better for other purposes such as cooking and sewing, which require thirds and quarters and such.

The main argument for the use of BCE/CE is that it gives us all a convenient secular system to use for secular historical purposes. But even this is a Eurocentric argument, in that it is still a convention based on an event important for Christians and requires, for example, Muslims to recalculate completely the dates in their own system. But it's an improvement over BC/AD.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

NEW SCROLLS FOR OLD: The Dead Sea Scrolls on exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum will be swapped on 10 October for eight other scrolls, one of which includes the Ten Commandments.

Background to the exhibition is here.
Next year's "Use of the Old Testemant in the New" seminar will take place at St Deiniol's Library, Hawarden, N.Wales from Thurs 18 March to Sat 20th. The all inclusive cost will be around £140. Offers of papers (45 min or 30 min) to Steve Moyise ( by Dec 15th.
From the British New Testament Society list.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A GOLEM COIN? Actually it's a coin in honor of Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague, but the Golem is on it:
Czech Coin Honors Saintly Rabbi

by Hillel Fendel

( Yet another Czech commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the death of the prominent Jewish scholar Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague: a silver 200 Kc coin.

Known as the Maharal of Prague, Rabbi Judah died on the 18th day of the Hebrew month of Elul in 1609, corresponding to Sept. 7. The Czech government jumped the gun by issuing the commemorative coin nearly three months earlier. One face features a composition of four Stars of David of various sizes on which are written years in which pogroms occurred against the Jewish population in the Czech lands.

... The Maharal is possibly best known for the story of the Golem – a clay man that he is said to have turned into a living being.

Unique Design: Reversed Texts
The new coin, 3.1 cm in diameter, features a very unique design on its reverse side: a silhouette of the Golem, in between Hebrew passages of Talmudic texts – printed backwards, the official Czech numismatics site explains, in order to express a “look back through history generally and the history of the Jewish community in the Czech lands in particular.”

Golem background is here.
THE MILWAUKEE PUBLIC MUSEUM is hosting a Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition next year which will include the Vision of Gabriel inscription:
Dead Sea Scrolls at last coming to Milwaukee Public Museum

By Jackie Loohauis-Bennett of the Journal Sentinel

Posted: Sept. 30, 2009

After years of international negotiations, the Milwaukee Public Museum has announced that its exhibit of the legendary Dead Sea Scrolls will open on Jan. 22.

"Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible: Ancient Artifacts, Timeless Treasures" is the largest temporary exhibit ever produced by the museum, with more than 200 artifacts.

The show pulls together authentic Dead Sea Scroll fragments, illustrated manuscripts and archaeological findings from Israel, Jordan, France, England, Switzerland and the United States. The scroll segments and other texts in the Milwaukee exhibit have shed new light on the history of two religions: Judaism and Christianity.

"These are the greatest treasures of humankind," said Milwaukee Public Museum president Dan Finley. "You can't put a value on these words. These words changed the world."

The scroll fragments coming here contain parts of the earliest known texts of the Hebrew Bible - the Christian Old Testament - and some texts in the exhibit contain tantalizing references to a Messiah figure.

The exhibit also features pages from the oldest existing version of the Hebrew Masoretic text, as well as pages from hand-copied medieval Bibles and early printed Bibles, including the Gutenberg Bible.

Exhibit highlights include:

•  A fragment of the Copper Scroll, a one-of-a-kind scroll written on deteriorating metal that took scholars more than four years to cut open and translate.

•  A fragment of a version of the book of Daniel dating from between 50 B.C. and A.D. 50. This is its first display in any exhibit of Dead Sea Scrolls.

• A fragment from Ecclesiastes dating from the second century B.C.

•  The recently discovered Jeselsohn Stone with a late first century B.C. text called "Gabriel's Revelation," an apocalyptic prophecy attributed to the Angel Gabriel. The text speaks of a Messiah called Simon who will rise from the dead after three days. An exhibit label reads that this text is "interpreted by some that the story of Jesus' death and resurrection was not unique but part of a recognized Jewish tradition at the time. However, the translation 'after three days' is uncertain."

Earlier brief notes of the exhibition are here and (presumably) here. Background to the Vision of Gabriel is here and here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dear all,

I am glad to announce the publication of the following article in the Journal of Hebrew Scriptures (

Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 9: Article 22 (2009)

Karolien Vermeulen,To See or Not To See. The Polysemy of the Word עין in the Isaac Narratives (Gen 17-35)


This article discusses the polysemy of the word עין in the Isaac narratives (Gen 17-35). The word’s given ambivalent nature is exploited on every level. It fits the major themes in the Isaac story as well as the small nuances in individual sentences. As such it illustrates the potential power of polysemy and its multiple, so to say polysemous, role in biblical narrative.

Those who wish to access this article directly may go to

Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 9: Article 21 (2009)

Aron Pinker

Intrusion of Ptolemaic Reality on Cultic Practices in Qoh 4:17


A new interpretation is offered for Qoh 4:17 that highlights the Sitz im Leben of the Ptolemaic regime. Qoh 4:17, though couched in cultic terms and with a Temple setting, contains allusions to the Ptolemaic reality of spies and informers who helped the Ptolemaic administration exact heavy taxes. It is shown that this dual level (cultic and non-cultic) meaning persists in the unit Qoh 4:17-5:6.

Those who wish to access this article directly may go to

Review Article:

Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 9 (2009) - Review Article

Jeremy M Hutton, Deuteronomistic History or Histories?: New Approaches to Deuteronomy-Kings. A review article of: Markus Witte, Konrad Schmid, Doris Prechel and Jan Christian Gertz, eds., with assistance from Johannes F. Diehl. Die deuteronomistischen Geschichtswerke: Redaktions- und religionsgeschichtliche Perspektiven zur “Deuteronomismus”-Diskussion in Tora und Vorderen Propheten.

To access this review article directly please go to


Becking, Bob and Dirk Human, eds, Exile and Suffering: A Selection of Papers Read at the 50th Anniversary Meeting of the Old Testament Society of South Africa OTWSA/OTSSA, Pretoria, August 2007 (Oudtestamentische Studiën 50; Leiden: Brill, 2009). (Reviewed by Adam Oliver Stokes).

Römer Thomas (ed.), The Books of Leviticus and Numbers (BETL 215; Leuven: Peeters, 2008). (Reviewed by Viktor Golinets)

To access reviews (and review articles) please go to

Note: Readers will notice the new visual version of the reviews. We think that the new version is not only "easier in the eyes" but also far more print-friendly. All the reviews in vol. 9 are now in the new visual format. Any comments you may have about this new version are welcome. Please send them to m. I wish to thank Ms. Melanie Marvin who made the shift to the new version possible and who worked tireless in this project. Thank you, Melanie.

An article, a review article and several reviews will be published soon. We anticipate that the hypertext version of the entire vol 8 (2008) be ready in about month time.

We anticipate to have an hypertext version of vol. 8 (2008) by November 2009. The printed publication of volume 8 (2008) will (hopefully) be ready by November as well. For information on the printed version published by Gorgias of vol. 7 (2007) please go to

At that page you will find also links to the printed versions of vols 1-6 of the Journal.

For information about the Logos version of the Journal (vols. 1-7), please go to



Ehud Ben Zvi
History and Classics
University of Alberta
2-28 HM Tory Building
Edmonton AB Canada T6G 2H4

** This communication is intended for the use of the recipient to whom it is addressed, and may contain confidential, personal, and/or privileged information. Please contact me immediately if you are not the intended recipient of this communication, and do not copy, distribute, or take action relying on it. Any communication received in error, or subsequent reply, should be deleted or destroyed.**

Jhs-list mailing list

Monday, September 28, 2009

BARUCH HALPERN is interviewed about the Ark of the Covenant by
Probing Question: Is the Ark of the Covenant real?
September 24th, 2009 By Solmaz Barazesh

When you hear the words "Ark of the Covenant" what comes to mind? For some, Steven Spielberg’s film "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark" provides the most vivid pop-culture reference to this mysterious sacred object.

The quest to find the real Ark has inspired generations of adventurers and Hollywood directors, but the trail has always gone cold.

"Different people will give you different answers to that question," said Baruch Halpern, Penn State professor of ancient history, classics and ancient Mediterranean studies, and religious studies. "The Ark is a regular feature in the Old Testament, making several appearances in the first five books of the Bible. There are many consistent references to the Ark, and when you add it all up, it seems like the Ark was a real article."

It seems plausible enough that some such object was in the first Temple. Similar cherub throne iconography survives from Phoenician contexts (e.g., here; actual miniature cherub thrones, presumably meant to seat an image of the god, survive as well).

Halpern does a good job of gently tamping down the more wild speculations on the Ark. His conclusion is good:
In some ways, the story of the Ark is similar to other Judeo-Christian religious relics such as the Shroud of Turin and Noah’s Ark, Halpern said. "You have to remember why this scripture was written in the first place, and see the Ark’s symbolic power to people as a sacred object. If you try to over-explain it, you lose the power of the story."
For the Ark of the Covenant, see here. There's more on Professor Halpern here and here.

UPDATE (29 September): Dead link fixed. Sorry!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

YOM KIPPUR (the Day of Atonement) begins this evening at sundown. A healthy fast to all observing it.
MORE DEBATE about the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum: Hebrew Bible scholar John Van Seters and Scrolls specialist Larry Schiffman are quoted in a review of the exhibition in The Record.
In April, the Palestinian Authority officials sent a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper asking that the exhibition be cancelled.

They challenge the Israel Antiquities Authority’s right to display materials removed from Palestinian territories, alleging at least four international conventions and protocols addressing the treatment of cultural goods, agreements to which Israel and Canada are signatories, are being violated.

The controversy sparked at least two protests in front of the museum calling for a boycott of Israeli institutions in light of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

John Van Seters, a distinguished biblical scholar and professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina who is now living in Waterloo, said the protesters’ concerns must be taken seriously.

Van Seters doesn’t dispute the authenticity or importance of the scrolls. But some scholars, Van Seters included, believe such exhibitions shouldn’t be patronized.

“If they were taken, as the allegations suggest, from the . . . Palestine archeological museum in East Jerusalem, then they should be returned and they should not be sent out by Israel around the world to be put on display as being on loan from them,” he said.

“By accepting them and putting them on display, one only legitimizes and confirms the ownership of these materials that have been confiscated from their rightful owner.”

The Israel Antiquities Authority argues it is the custodian of the scrolls and has the right to display them.

And in response to the protests, the museum has posted a statement on its website indicating that the Israel Antiquities Authority has lent the scrolls to numerous libraries, galleries and museums, including the Vatican, during the past 20 years.

Lawrence Schiffman, a Dead Sea Scrolls scholar and professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University, said protesters are using the scrolls to advance a political argument.

The scrolls are a cultural treasure that should be shared, he added.

In past years people were in an uproar because those who controlled them didn’t share them.

“Now it has been published. And it’s being exhibited. And the world is being allowed to benefit from this important part of our culture,” Schiffman said.
Background here and keep following the links back.