Saturday, October 24, 2009

HAPPY FIFTIETH BIRTHDAY this year to the Leiden Peshitta Project.
IN THE MAIL - waiting for me when I arrived:
Accordance Bible Software Library Scholar's 8 Premier Level
I've only just gotten around to buying this, although I've had the Dead Sea Scrolls module for some time.

UPDATE (25 October): Oops! Had the wrong collection above. The right one is the Original Language Texts and Tools version, of course.

Friday, October 23, 2009

'Dig improving Temple Mount stability'
By ABE SELIG (Jerusalem Post)

Despite recent accusations to the contrary, the chief site engineer for the Western Wall tunnels declared on Thursday that Israeli archeological excavations were not being done under the Temple Mount, were in no way detrimental to the structural stability of the mount or its surroundings, and were actually improving such stability "tenfold."

"There's been a lot of talk about instability [based on ongoing archeological excavations in the area], and let me reassure you, we have improved the structural stability here tenfold over the last few years and have actually strengthened areas where there was danger of further collapse," the chief engineer, Ofer Cohen, said during a Government Press Office-sponsored tour of the tunnels on Thursday afternoon.

Standing in a section of the tunnels known as the "Hall of Ages" - so named because the archeological and subsequent reinforcement work there spans from the First Temple period until today - Cohen and the tour's participants were dwarfed by a series of huge steel beams that had been set up to prevent the walls from caving in.

The same story is covered by Ynetnew: "PR tour brings foreign journalists to Western Wall tunnels."

There's also this Arutz Sheva news brief:
Israel Plans Major Excavation at Western Wall

Reported: 11:00 AM - Oct/23/09

( Israel is planning a major archaeological dig under the Western Wall (Kotel) plaza, opposite the Temple Mount, officials announced Thursday. The excavations will create an archaeological park directly underneath the area where worshippers currently stand while praying at the Kotel.

The current prayer area will remain open, supported by pillars, while a new area will be added underneath, at the level at which worshippers at the ancient Temple stood in the past.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

FINALISTS for the official Hebrew names of the planets Uranus and Neptune have resonances with ancient Greek and Jewish mythology:
Some planets need Hebrew names, and you can help

By Ofri Ilani (Haaretz)

Tags: Israel News, Hebrew Language

For more than 1,000 years, when Hebrew speakers looked at the sky, they saw five planets - Hama (Mercury), Noga (Venus), Maadim (Mars), Tsedek (Jupiter) and Shabtai (Saturn). The five planets closest to earth all have ancient Hebrew names, some of them dating back to the time of the Talmud.

On the other hand, the two planets that are further away - Uranus and Neptune - were not known in ancient times, and are therefore referred to by these names in Hebrew, too. Now the Hebrew Language Academy is inviting the public to help choose Hebrew names for the solar system's farthest flung planets.


In the end, the jury chose the two names, "Oron" and "Shahak," for Uranus. The first was chosen because it sounds similar to Uranus, and means "little light" - a reference to the planet's pale light when viewed from Earth.

Since the god Uranus, in Greek mythology, represents the sky, the name "Shahak" was proposed because it comes from "shehakim," a synonym for "shamayim" (sky).

Neptune's candidates are "Rahav" and "Tarshish."

Since the foreign names were taken from Classical mythology, many of the participants suggested the planet be named after a god from Hebrew mythology. However, since Judaism is monotheistic, there are merely hints of early gods in the Bible. One is Rahav - a name that is associated with the sea, as is the Roman name Neptune.

The second proposed name, Tarshish, is the name of a stone worn by the High Priest on his breast-plate. The sages consider it a synonym for the sea, which is similar in color to Neptune.
What about Pluto? "Sheol," maybe?
A SUPREME COURT RULING in relation to the City of David excavation:
Court rules against residents near archaeological dig
Written by --
Tuesday, 20 October 2009 (Jewish Tribune)
JERUSALEM-TORONTO – The Archaeological Research currently taking place in the ‘Walls Around the Old City’ national park at the City of David in Jerusalem is in the public’s best interests, according to an Israeli Supreme Court decision regarding two recent petitions against the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

The petitions were submitted by residents living near the excavation site. According to a press release issued by Yaen Vered, the IAA representative in Canada, it is the IAA’s opinion that “these residents are being incited by other factors whose considerations are political and improbable.”

In a telephone conversation with the Jewish Tribune, Jon Seligman, Jerusalem regional archaeologist for the IAA, explained that the objections being raised in the petitions would not ordinarily be of interest to a resident.

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS SCROLL that was on display at the Royal Ontario Museum exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls was, according to the Jewish Tribune, the Nash Papyrus:
ROM ‘very gratified by response’ to Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit
Written by Atara Beck
Tuesday, 20 October 2009
TORONTO – Since the June 27 opening of the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit, more than 160,000 visitors have gone to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) to view the display, which is “about ideas and values as much as artifacts and ideology,” said William Thorsell, the ROM’s CEO.

A week ago Saturday, the exhibit’s eight scrolls were replaced by eight others, on loan with 200 artifacts from the Israel Antiquities Authority. The exhibit, titled Dead Sea Scrolls: Words that Changed the World – complemented by full interpretations, translations and background information – includes items from the ROM’s own collections as well.

Also on display until Oct. 18 was the oldest known text of the Ten Commandments. The Nash Papyrus, discovered in Egypt, is in Hebrew and dates back to 150-100 BCE. Followed by the famous Hebrew Shema Yisrael prayer, many experts believe it may have been a piece used for prayer rather than a part of Deuteronomy. I

That's news to me, and it contradicts this earlier report, which says the Scroll was discovered "at a cave near the Dead Sea in 1952" and dates it to the Herodian period. The Nash Papyrus is not a Dead Sea Scroll: it was discovered long before them and in Egypt. There seems to be some confusion on whether the fragment on display is the Nash Papyrus or a Deuteronomy fragment from Qumran, which was on display in the San Diego exhibition two years ago.

Images of the Nash Papyrus are here (Wikimedia Commons). I saw it in Cambridge in 2003. More background to the ROM exhibition here.

UPDATE (1 November): A reader reports that the scroll on display was 4QDeutn.
The Exegetical Encounter between Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity
Edited by E. Grypeou & H. Spurling

Series: Jewish and Christian Perspectives Series, 18 [Brill]
ISBN-13 (i): 978 90 04 17727 7
ISBN-10: 90 04 17727 2

Cover: Hardback
Number of pages:

List price: € 104.00 / US$ 154.00

Table of contents
About the author(s)

The ‘Exegetical Encounter between Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity’ is a collection of essays examining the relationship between Jewish and Christian biblical commentators.

The contributions focus on analysis of interpretations of the book of Genesis, a text which has considerable importance in both Christian and Jewish tradition. The essays cover a wide range of Jewish and Christian literature, including primarily rabbinic and patristic sources, but also apocrypha, pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus and Gnostic texts.

In bringing together the studies of a variety of eminent scholars on the topic of ‘Exegetical Encounter’, the book presents the latest research on the topic and illuminates a variety of original approaches to analysis of exegetical contacts between the two sets of religious groups. The volume is significant for the light it sheds on the history of relations between Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

CONGRATULATIONS to Dr James Bowley, who has received a teaching award:
JFP Person of the Day: Dr. James Bowley

by Ronni Mott (Jackson Free Press)
October 19, 2009

"I love my job!" proclaims Dr. James E. Bowley on his Web site. Bowley, an associate professor in the Millsaps College department of religious studies, teaches courses on the Bible and related religious traditions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity. "What's not to like about spending the day with great colleagues and students thinking and conversing and researching about religious traditions, reading beautiful or even shocking texts, and investigating intriguing religious practices?" he writes.

In addition to teaching, Bowley as spent years studying fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered around 1950 in several caves surrounding the Dead Sea in Israel. He is considered one of the leading experts on the scrolls, which consist of roughly 900 documents dating from 200 BCE to 50 CE, written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.

The Mississippi Humanities Council has named Bowley a Humanities Teacher of the Year for 2009, an award that goes to one humanities scholar in each of Mississippi's colleges and universities every year.


As part of the award, Bowley will present a free public lecture on Wednesday, titled "Living by Fragments."

"Looking at the fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls has made me think about the way we look at life by fragments today," Bowley said in a release. "The lecture is not so much about the scrolls but about giving people something interesting and enjoyable to think about."


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

JUST ARRIVED in San Diego. Sleep now. More blogging later.
I'M OFF TO SAN DIEGO AGAIN. I will be in transit all day today and expect to get there late in the evening. I should have full internet access and blogging should continue more or less as normally after today.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Will preservation of ancient Roman road destroy the Western Wall?
By Nir Hasson (Haaretz)
Tags: israel antiquities authority

One of the country's leading archaeologists has publicly condemned the Israel Antiquities Authority's failure to object to a plan to construct a building over a site in the Western Wall plaza where a well-preserved ancient Roman road was recently excavated.

"I would like to take advantage of this forum to raise the bothersome, and even despair-inducing, question of what will happen to these wonderful finds after the excavation is complete," Yoram Tsafrir, a former archaeology professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, told his colleagues at an archaeology conference Thursday.


The [Western Wall Heritage ] [F]oundation is also planning to build a 4,800-square meter, three-story museum and educational institute that would display the Roman road on the ground floor, where visitors could see it.

But the plans to integrate the ancient road into the building do not mitigate the potential harm, Tsafrir said.

"Even the most amazing architect will not be able to avoid damaging the find," he said, adding that visitors will not be able to grasp the full extent of the road by seeing a segment in the museum.

The Antiquities Authority, which serves as an observer on the planning committees that approved the construction, said the area in question has been designated for religious purposes since Israel took control of the Western Wall in 1967.

"Yoram is my teacher, but in this case I think he's mistaken," said Uzi Dahari, the deputy director of the Antiquities Authority. "I don't see anything improper in the structure."


Sunday, October 18, 2009

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS are getting more attention than they usually get these days:
Big lines as the Ten Commandments come to Toronto

Updated: Sat Oct. 17 2009 10:18:00 PM

Some people who were hoping to get a close up view of the Ten Commandments at the Royal Ontario Museum were left out in the cold because of huge crowds.

The Ten Commandments were unveiled earlier this month for a two-week run as part of the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit, which opened at the museum at the end of June.

Background here and here.
A REPLICA OF THE ISAIAH SCROLL is on display in Orange County, Ca.:
Scroll replica gets home in O.C.
The copy is based on remastered photographs of Dead Sea scrolls taken in 1948.
The Orange County Register
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A new Orange County museum is bringing antiquity to the modern world with a $60,000 piece of paper.

The Museum of Biblical and Sacred Writings unveiled its replica of the Great Isaiah Scroll, the longest and most complete of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Saturday night at Hangar 244 at Orange County Great Park. The museum, still working to build a permanent home for its collection and programs, will announce a temporary exhibit site for the 23-foot long scroll soon, said Ken Kremp, co-director of the museum.

The replica is based on digitally remastered photographs of the 2,000-year-old scrolls taken in 1948, only one year after their discovery in caves near the Dead Sea. A local church donated it to the museum.

"Our facsimile is actually easier and more clear than the originals," said Kremp, adding the originals now show 60 years of wear and tear not on the replica.

For last year's exhibition of the original Isaiah Scroll (IQIsaa) see here, here, here, here, and here. And the Isaiah Scroll can be viewed in its entirety online here.