Saturday, February 13, 2010

Leeds Gnostic Centre will not appeal

THE LEEDS GNOSTIC CENTRE will not appeal, but it will put in a complaint:
Gnostics rule out appeal but will complain to Charity Commission

By Paul Jump, Third Sector, 9 February 2010

Organisation says it has been "messed around" over its refused application for charitable status

The Gnostic Centre will submit a formal complaint to the Charity Commission over the way its failed application for charitable status was handled, but has ruled out making an appeal to the charity tribunal.

An internal decision review by the regulator in December upheld its decision to reject the Gnostic Centre's application because the Leeds-based organisation had not provided evidence that it promoted a "positive, beneficial, moral or ethical framework" as required by charity law.

Celia Ennis, a member of the organisation, said it had been "messed around" by the commission and would submit a formal complaint listing a number of grievances.

Background here.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Carol Newsom lectures on Genesis and 1 Enoch

Candler School of Theology's Carol Newsom to deliver Horton Lecture at Furman on Feb. 16

Submitted by Vince Moore • February 11, 2010 (

GREENVILLE, S.C.-Candler School of Theology professor Carol Newsom will be at Furman University on Tuesday, Feb. 16 to lecture on "Wings of Desire: Two Myths of Origins and Their Ethical Implications."

The lecture, at 4 p.m. in McEachern Lecture Room (Room 214 in Furman Hall), will focus on passages from the Book of Genesis (chapters 2-3) and the non-canonical Book of Enoch (also known as 1 Enoch). Newsom will show how to identify patterns of ethical thinking in different narratives of the origin of evil.


Goulder obituary in London Times

Professor Michael Goulder: biblical scholar

Michael Goulder was Professor of Biblical Studies at the University of Birmingham, well known for his creative approach to the Gospels and the Psalms and for resigning his orders as an Anglican priest not long after contributing to The Myth of God Incarnate, a celebrated collection of essays that questioned the traditional Christian doctrine of the Incarnation.
Via Mark Goodacre.

Background here.

More Museum of Tolerance coverage

MORE COVERAGE of the Museum of Tolerance debate:
A Museum of Tolerance we don't need

The Simon Wiesenthal Center should abandon its plan to build a facility on the site of a Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem.

By Saree Makdisi (LA Times)

February 12, 2010

The Simon Wiesenthal Center's plan to construct an outpost of Los Angeles' Museum of Tolerance atop the most important Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem is temporarily in disarray. This presents an opportunity to call on the center to abandon this outrageous project once and for all.

The site in question is Ma'man Allah, or the Mamilla Cemetery, which had been in continuous use for centuries until 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled or driven into flight and their private property, including Ma'man Allah, was handed over to Jewish users.

Like Muslim and Christian sites throughout Israel -- which, as a 2009 State Department report pointed out, implements protections only for Jewish holy sites -- the cemetery has long been threatened. Parts of it have been used as a roadway, parking lots, building sites and Israel's Independence Park. Among the trees in the park, Palestinian tombstones can still be seen, eerily and all too appropriately.

A proper site for a Museum of Tolerance

The Wiesenthal Center's project has been approved by the government and the courts, and will be built on property that is not a cemetery but a parking lot.

By Marvin Hier (LA Times)

February 12, 2010

Listening to the few vocal opponents of our Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem project -- among them the notorious Sheik Raed Salah, leader of the extremist Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel -- you would never know that the Israeli Supreme Court deliberated for almost three years before unanimously rejecting all their claims and authorizing the Wiesenthal Center to begin construction. Just six weeks ago, Chief Justice Dorit Beinish also rebuked those who re-petitioned the Supreme Court for an "abuse of court proceedings," ordering them to pay professional costs.

Still, our opponents would have you believe that in the name of tolerance, our bulldozers actually have invaded the adjacent Mamilla Cemetery, desecrating ancient Muslim tombstones and historic markers.

They don't want you to know the real facts. The museum is not being built on what can rightfully be called the Mamilla Cemetery, but on a three-acre site in the heart of West Jerusalem that, for more than half a century, served as the city's municipal car park. Each day, hundreds of people of all faiths parked in the three-level underground structure without any protest from Muslim religious or academic leaders or interest groups. Additionally, telephone and electrical cables and sewer lines were laid deep below ground in the early 1960s, again without any protest.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Charlesworth Pseudepigrapha now in paperback!

THE OLD TESTAMENT PSEUDEPIGRAPHA, edited by James Charlesworth, is now, at last, available in paperback (from Hendricksen). Woo hoo!

Via Mike Potemra at The Corner at National Review, who writes, You Don't Have to Wait for the Apocalypse. It almost seemed like it, though.

Update on Gaza silver coin hoard

MORE ON THE SILVER COIN HOARD recently found in Gaza. This article has new information embedded in some political editorializing.
Silver clue to Gaza’s rich history

Omar Karmi, Foreign Correspondent (The National)

* Last Updated: February 10. 2010 10:57PM UAE / February 10. 2010 6:57PM GMT

GAZA CITY // It was perhaps fitting that when workmen came across a haul of 1,400 ancient Greek silver coins, some 2,500 years old, they should do so in Rafah, Gaza’s southern border town.


The 1,400 coins discovered here last month were sealed in a pottery container that was shattered upon discovery by the workmen. The site at Tel al Zuroub where they were discovered has been closed to construction and taken over by Gaza’s ministry of antiquities for further excavation.

“The site was discovered by workers by coincidence, so we came and put our grip on it because it’s considered an ancient ruins site,” said Assad Ashour, a ministry official, at the time, adding that, “it still requires a lot of hard work and exploration”.

Mr Ashour said the site contained a “narrow passage located underground, which is built in a sort of descending stairs” and included discoveries of black basalt rock, pottery shards, as well as rock inscriptions. The site is closed to the public for the time being.

Archaeologist Father Jean-Baptiste Humbert is also quoted.

Background here.

Dead Sea Scrolls grand prize awarded

Dead Sea Scrolls contest grand prize awarded
Written by -- [Sic]
Wednesday, 10 February 2010 (Jewish Tribune)

Toronto – The Israel Government Tourist Office-Canada (IGTO) in partnership with Tour East Holidays, EL AL Israel Airlines and Royal Ontario Museum Membership Department recently awarded Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) member Mr. John Pavey of Toronto the grand prize trip for two to Israel for the recently concluded Dead Sea Scrolls contest.

The contest was run as a value-added benefit exclusive to Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) members and donors. The contest concluded in conjunction with the closing of Dead Sea Scrolls: Words that Changed the World exhibit at the ROM. ...
First I can remember hearing of it. Congratulations to Mr. Pavey.

Background to the ROM exhibition is here.

Museum of Tolerance protest petition

THE MUSEUM OF TOLERANCE PROJECT in Jerusalem is suddenly getting a lot of press again. Here's a sampling.
Row over plan to build Jewish museum of tolerance on site of Muslim cemetery

• Islamic groups say site contains thousands of graves
• Petition challenges court's decision to back project

* Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem
*, Wednesday 10 February 2010 17.21 GMT

A group of Palestinians descended from 15 of Jerusalem's oldest Arab families lodged a protest with the UN today in a fresh effort to prevent the construction of a "Museum of Tolerance" on the site of an ancient Muslim cemetery.


Some 60 Palestinians have signed a petition which was lodged today in Geneva with several UN bodies, including the high commissioner for human rights, the special rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief and Unesco, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. "This construction project has resulted in the undignified disinterment and disposal of several hundred graves and human remains, the exact amount and whereabouts of which are currently unknown and threatens to erect a monument to 'Human Dignity' and 'Tolerance' atop thousands more graves," the petition says.

Museum Creates New Jerusalem Divide

Published: February 10, 2010

JERUSALEM — In a dispute that reflects the religious and political divides in this contested city, representatives of long-established Palestinian families petitioned the United Nations on Wednesday for help in trying to stop Israel and the Simon Wiesenthal Center from constructing a museum on part of a centuries-old Muslim cemetery.


Responding to the latest protests, Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said in a statement: “The Museum of Tolerance project is not being built on the Mamilla Cemetery. It is being built on Jerusalem’s former municipal car park, where every day for nearly half a century, thousands of Muslims, Christians and Jews parked their cars without any protest whatsoever from the Muslim community.”

Rabbi Hier added that Israel’s Antiquities Authority had determined that there were no longer any bones or remains on the site, where infrastructure work was under way. The remains found there have been interred in a nearby Muslim cemetery, he said.

In 2008, after three years of deliberations and noting that no objections had been filed when the parking lot was originally built, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the museum project could go ahead. The case against it was brought by a Muslim group backed by Sheik Raed Salah, the leader of the fiery northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel.

Background to the controversy is here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Main road of Byzantine-era Jerusalem being excavated

THE MAIN ROAD of Byzantine-Era Jerusalem is being uncovered due to necessary road works:
Main road of Jerusalem from the Byzantine era exposed
10 Feb 2010

Archaeological excavation in the heart of the Old City confirms the description on the Madaba Map and reveals Jerusalem's main road from the Byzantine period for the first time.

(Communicated by the IAA Spokesperson)

The Madaba Map – an ancient mosaic map in a church in Jordan from the sixth-seventh century CE, which depicted the Land of Israel in the Byzantine period, explicitly showed: the entrance to Jerusalem from the west was via a very large gate that led to a single, central thoroughfare on that side of the city.

Various evidence of the important buildings in Jerusalem that appear on the map has been uncovered over the years or has survived to this day – for example the Church of the Holy Sepulcher – but the large bustling street from the period when Jerusalem became a Christian city has not been discovered until now. The reason for this is that no archaeological excavations took place in the region due to the inconvenience it would cause in stopping traffic in such a busy central location.

Now, because of the need for a thorough treatment of the infrastructure in the region, the Jerusalem Development Authority has initiated rehabilitation work and is renewing the infrastructure in this area in general, and next to the entrance to David Street (known to tourists as the stepped-street with the shops) in particular. Thus it is possible for both archaeologists and the public to catch a rare glimpse of what is going on beneath the flagstone pavement that is so familiar to us all.


(Brought to my attention by reader Carla Sulzbach.)
A NEW LIST: TOP 50 BIBLICAL HISTORY BLOGS. The list is organized by category rather than ranking. PaleoJudaica is one of them.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Paleography chair being axed at KCL

THE LAST PALAEOGRAPHY (PALEOGRAPHY) CHAIR IN THE UK is being eliminated by Kings College London, and all hell is starting to break loose. As it should.
Writing off the UK's last palaeographer

o John Crace
o The Guardian, Tuesday 9 February 2010

The decision by a London university to axe the UK's only chair in palaeography has been met by outrage from the world's most eminent classicists. John Crace on why the study of ancient writings matters – and why history will be lost without it

Dry, dusty and shortly to be dead. Palaeographers are used to making sense of fragments of ancient manuscripts, but King's College London couldn't have been plainer when it announced recently that it was to close the UK's only chair of palaeography. From ­September, the current holder of the chair, Professor David Ganz, will be out of a job, and the subject will no longer exist as a separate academic discipline in British universities. Its survival will now depend entirely on the whim of classicists and medievalists studying in other fields.

The decision took everyone by ­surprise. "It was only recently that Rick Trainor [the principal of King's] was calling the humanities department [to which palaeography is attached] the jewel in the university's crown," says Dr Mary Beard, professor of ­classics at Cambridge University. "There had been a complete overhaul of ­minority disciplines in the mid-1990s, so there was consensus that everything had been pared down to the bare minimum."

How things change. With Lord Mandelson – in his incarnation as secretary of state for business, industry and skills – now imposing a minimum 10% cut in spending throughout higher education, universities are looking to slash and burn departments. And esoteric subjects such as palaeography are easy targets; they attract comparatively few students and, most importantly, comparatively little in the way of research grants – the only way the past few governments have measured a subject's worth.

But if Trainor was hoping palaeography would do the decent thing, he badly misjudged the situation. Professor Ganz – the fourth person to have held the chair since it was endowed in 1949 – didn't roll over and die quietly. "On the assumption that this means the end of the chair of palaeography, I am having to fight for my subject," he says, "and I have been deeply moved by the level of support from friends, many of whom I have never met."

That's pretty much all Ganz is saying for now – but, having initially raised a very restrained, academic form of hell, others are now doing the talking for him. A Facebook page to save the chair has more than 4,000 members, and many of the world's most distinguished classicists have petitioned King's to ­reconsider its position. Even his ­students are stepping in to defend him. "Without a palaeography professor such as David Ganz, not only will King's be sorely deprived of a basis on which to teach almost every other university discipline," says Alexandra Maccarini, "but the study of humanities everywhere will suffer from the absence of a devoted specialist in the subject."

If you are on Facebook, please go and join the Facebook page, which is here. I have. And whether you are on Facebook or not, you can sign the petition (currently has almost 5500 signatures, including mine) here.

The article is quite sympathetic and offers a robust defense of palaeography. A couple of excerpts:
Either way, the point is much the same. It's not just that we wouldn't have a clue what the Dead Sea Scrolls or the Cyrus Cylinder (over which the British Museum and the Iranian government are currently locking horns) actually mean without palaeography; we wouldn't know how to evaluate their historical importance. Multiply this by every fragment and every hand-written folio, and the history of the world begins to be up for grabs.

Giving up on palaeography is like giving up on art, history and culture. It's like deciding we know all we want to know about the past, so we're not going to bother to find out any more: "It's not as if we can come back to it in 15 years' time if we then decide there's enough money," says Beard. "Palaeography can't be taught in an online tutorial; it's a skill handed down from one academic to another. If King's does go through with its decision, it's the end of the subject in this country."
One criticism of the piece though; it shouldn't assume that subjects like paleography can't bring in research grant money. The research councils and other funding sources recognize the value of such things and are quite willing to fund projects on them if they are well thought out. My own (comparably arcane) research on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha depends heavily on palaeographic work (my own and that of many others) and I have raised more than £100,000 in research grants for it in the last five years.

I hope the Principal of KCL reconsiders this action and does the right thing.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Ph.D. scholarship on Second Temple Judaism at Groningen

NOTE THE PH.D. SCHOLARSHIP on Second Temple Judaism at the University of Groningen, on which I posted this weekend.

Row over Cyrus Cylinder takes a new twist

THE ROW OVER THE CYRUS CYLINDER has taken a new twist:
Iran cuts cultural links with British Museum over Cyrus Cylinder

Lucy Bannerman (London Times)

Iran has severed all cultural ties with the British Museum over the institution’s failure to hand over an ancient Persian treasure.

At the centre of the diplomatic row is a 2,500-year-old cuneiform tablet, known as the Cyrus Cylinder, which most historians regard as the world’s first declaration of human rights.

Curators had been due to lend the artefact to Tehran last month, but announced that the handover would be delayed after the discovery of new tablets that they believe could help its research. The delay has provoked the anger of Iranian officials, who announced an end to dialogue yesterday in protest at a decision that they believe is politically motivated.

Given the shaky prospects of the current Iranian regime, it may be just as well if the artifacts don't go there anytime soon. Background and related thoughts are here.

50th anniversary

February 8, 1960: Tel Aviv, Israel — Archaeologists hoped today they may have uncovered another cache of 'Dead Sea Scrolls' in an obscure cave once used as a hideout by rebels against the Romans. They reported finding fragments of parchment scrolls, believed to have been written about the same time as the Dead Sea scrolls. The new scrolls are the first found on the Israel side of the Dead Sea.
This must be referring to Yigael Yadin's excavations of the Bar Kokhba caves, which did produce some impressive epigraphic discoveries in 1960, including battle communiques dictated by Bar Kokhba himself.

Temple Mount Watch: Mughrabi Gate bridge

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Jordan is still resisting renovations to the Mughrabi (Mugrabi) Gate bridge:
BJordanian Pressure Preventing Western Wall Walkway Construction

by Gil Ronen

( Jordanian pressure is preventing the completion of a walkway to the Temple Mount next to the Western Wall (Kotel), according to Nadav Shragai, senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.


The plan for renovating the walkway to the Rambam Gate has been approved, Shragai said, but the government is delaying its implementation. “At first they wanted the bridge to be suspended from support columns,” the veteran former journalist explained, “but environmental groups objected. In the end it was decided that the bridge would be placed on what remains of the [dirt] ramp, in order to avoid damage to houses in the Mughrabim neighborhood. This plan currently has the necessary approvals and all that is needed is a construction permit from the Kotel Heritage Fund which answers to the Prime Minister's Office. For some reason, because of pressure from the Jordanian government, the government is not granting this permit.”

Background here.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

James Tabor lecture: What kind of Jew was Jesus?

JAMES TABOR is lecturing on "What Kind of Jew was Jesus?"
How would Jesus worship? Scholar to address Jewishness of Jesus at UNCA

By Arnold Wengrow • February 7, 2010 (Citizen-Times)

ASHEVILLE — Should Jews who are committed to their faith be interested in Jesus? Would Christians who believe in the divinity of Christ want to know about Jesus the Jew?

James Tabor, a scholar of early Christianity, says he will pose these “deliberately provocative” questions in his talk “What Kind of Jew Was Jesus?” at 7 p.m. Thursday at UNC Asheville's Reuter Center.

“Next to Moses, Jesus was the most famous Jew on the planet,” Tabor said in a telephone interview from his office at UNC Charlotte, where he chairs the religious studies department. “If he was a faithful Jew in his own world,” he said, “there's a sense, as (Jewish philosopher) Martin Buber said, that Jews can reclaim him. Not as what the church made him, but as he was.”

Christians should be interested in the Jewishness of Jesus, Tabor said, because “whatever their theology might be, history must be brought in. Even the Catholic Church is interested.”

Tabor, the author of “The Jesus Dynasty,” a book about the historical Jesus and his family, noted that the current pope, Benedict XVI, is writing a two-volume book that discusses both the history and the theology of Jesus' life.

For the "Jesus Family Tomb" or Talpiot Tomb, see here and follow the links.

Essay on names in Genesis 1-11

AN ESSAY ON NAMES IN GENESIS 1-11 has been published at Bible and Interpretation:
Names in Genesis 1-11

The names are often overlooked by modern readers, but not by the ancient Israelites, who understood Hebrew.

See Richard S. Hess, Studies in the Personal Names of Genesis 1-11 (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2009)

By Richard S. Hess
Earl S. Kalland Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages
Denver Seminary
February 2010
One of his conclusions is that some of these names are very old indeed.

By the way, the name Japheth is surely related to the name of the Greek Titan Iapetus.

Essay on the Archangel Gabriel

THE ARCHANGEL GABRIEL is the subject of an essay at Bible and Interpretation:
Gabriel Blow Your Horn! - A Short History of Gabriel within Jewish Literature

From the ancient to the modern world, angels have been the subject of fascination and wonder. Perhaps only second to Michael in fame, the angel Gabriel has enjoyed a long and celebrated history among Jews and Christians alike.

By David L. Everson
Classics Department
Xavier University (Cincinnati, OH)
December 2009
An interesting discussion of early references to Gabriel. I'm not clear why the book of Daniel is segregated from "Second Temple Literature," especially inasmuch as most scholars think the Book of the Watchers (1 Enoch 1-36) is earlier than Daniel. Gabriel is also mentioned in the Qumran War Scroll and also, of course, in the recently published Vision of Gabriel inscription (see here and here and follow the links). The latter really ought to have been noted.