Saturday, March 27, 2010

More on the Azusa Pacific exhibition of their DSS fragments

MORE ON THE AZUSA PACIFIC EXHIBITION of the Dead Sea Scrolls fragments now in their possession:
In Azusa, scholars and religious leaders unravel rare Dead Sea Scrolls fragments

By Evelyn Barge, Staff Writer (
Posted: 03/26/2010 07:17:09 PM PDT

After keeping fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls mostly under wraps for seven months, officials at Azusa Pacific University on Friday invited groups of scholars and local religious leaders to look at the ancient texts.

The 2,000-year-old fragments, tiny pieces of the earliest known text of the Hebrew scriptures, will be part of a public exhibition this spring, along with other rare biblical artifacts.


Two of the fragments contain passages from Deuteronomy, one fragment is identified as from Leviticus, and another as the book of Daniel.

The fifth fragment, previously thought to be from Exodus, remains unidentified. It contains the fewest number of visible characters.

A fragment of Deuteronomy 27, photographs of which were released to researchers by APU, is already generating scholarly debate about the location where an altar was to be built in ancient Israel. The university's fragment denotes Mount Gerizim as the location, Charlesworth said, while modern bibles indicate Mount Ebal.

If the fragment is indeed an original copy of Deuteronomy, the revelation has the potential to change the understanding - and possibly even the wording - of the modern bible, Charlesworth said.

There is some confusion here and I think Charlesworth's comments must have been misunderstood a little. I'm not sure what "an original copy of Deuteronomy" is. This is certainly not the original copy. It may be a copy of the Samaritan version of Deuteronomy and the issue is which of the two readings (and hence which location of the altar) was original. Much more on this fragment is here.

Background to Azusa Pacific University's acquisition of the fragments is here.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Fishing ban in the Sea of Galilee

THE SEA OF GALILEE is under a fishing ban for two years. There's lots of finger pointing concerning the declining stock of fish. It seems a multiplication-of-fish miracle would come in handy now.

The Daily Mail meets the Septuagint

THE SEPTUAGINT is mentioned in the Daily Mail, which is impressive, even though it predictably gets it wrong. This in a somewhat overly enthusiastic article about Alexander the Great and Alexandria.
The father of civilisation: Alexander the Great's hunger for knowledge gave us everything from the Old Testament to algebra and even robots

By Bettany Hughes

Last updated at 8:50 AM on 26th March 2010

There is not, and has never been, another city to match it. It was a glittering metropolis, home to the most sexually charismatic queen of all time, founded by a man whose megalomaniac ambitions knew no bounds.

It was a buzzing hub that boasted one of the seven wonders of the world, where intellectual geniuses from both East and West met to tussle and debate in a library containing all the knowledge on the planet.

Founded more than 2,300 years ago, and in its hey-day one of the most powerful places in the world, this is now a lost city, most of it buried beneath waves off the coast of modern Egypt.
Alexander the Great: The Greek leader made Alexandria a place of knowledge, discovery and sexual intrigues

Alexander the Great: The Greek leader made Alexandria a place of knowledge, discovery and sexual intrigues

This is the city of Alexandria. By rights, Alexandria should be a household name, as famous as Athens or Rome. Make no mistake, this was a metropolis as beautiful as Paris, as creative as London, as hip as New York and more learned than Harvard.

And yet, as I discovered while researching a new documentary, somehow this amazing urban experiment is just a footnote in history.

The mention of the Septuagint is here:
Soon after, Euclid devised the system of geometry that still torments our schoolchildren today. This was also where the Old Testament was preserved for future generations.

It was said that 72 of the best scholars who spoke both Hebrew and Greek worked for 72 days in 72 separate cells to translate the old testament texts into Greek.

Their efforts - named then and today 'the Septuagint' - were not wasted. The Old Testament only survives into the 21st-century thanks to the men of Alexandria in the 2nd-century BC.
This basic story is found in the Letter to Aristeas. Aristeas is itself legendary, but the business about the 72 different cells is a still later improvement of the story. See here for more. The Pentateuch does seem to have been translated in Alexandria in the third (not second) century BCE, with the translation of the other books of the Hebrew Bible coming over the next couple of centuries, with revisions continuing after that.

The business about the Old Testament surviving only "thanks to the men of Alexandria" is, of course, nonsense. The Hebrew text was transmitted quite independently of them.

As for this:
From the death of Hypatia onwards, rival factions battled for control of the city. In 641 AD, as Arab forces swept along the coast, what was left of Alexandria's great libraries were burnt in a whirlwind of battle fires.
The story that Muslim fanatics burned down the Library of Alexandria keeps getting repeated, but the sources for it are late and unreliable. See here and follow the link at the end.

I'm looking forward to seeing Rachel Weisz as Hypatia.

Looting in Lebanon

PHOENICIAN WATCH: Looting in Lebanon. Not good.

Review: Carthage Must Be Destroyed

CARTHAGE MUST BE DESTROYED, by Richard Miles, is reviewed in The Economist. Excerpt:
Hannibal was a heroic figure and a superb tactician. But he was ultimately overcome by Scipio Africanus, an equally brilliant commander, who learned much of tactics and propaganda from his opponent and whose nation possessed a unique determination and resilience. Mr Miles has skilfully fused the works of ancient historians such as Polybius and Livy, a wide range of modern studies and recent archaeological research to create a convincing and enthralling narrative.
Earlier review here.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Controversy over the archaeology of Jerusalem

THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF JERUSALEM and the controversies surrounding it are treated by Reuters:
Researchers Dig up Controversy in Jerusalem

By Erika Solomon
March 24, 2010

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Archaeologists in Jerusalem are competing to unearth artifacts pointing to the ancient city's Jewish past, which are used to justify Israel's claim to all of it as the indivisible capital of the modern Jewish state.

But critics say some of "finds" are really just bending science to prove a "Biblical heritage" that is open to dispute.

"Archaeologists have given up many of their best practices in order to answer the continuing demands of mainly political actors," says Raphael Greenberg, an Israeli archaeologist from Tel Aviv University, who has worked in Jerusalem.

Some of the major players are interviewed to give their side.

Ashkelon gravesite: "Relocation of ER will kill patients"

'Relocation of ER will kill patients'

Resigning Health Ministry director-general says medical professional must sit on committee reassessing cabinet's controversial decision to relocate Barzilai emergency room. Medical Association chairman to MKs: Why are discussing graves?

Meital Yasur Beit-Or (
Latest Update: 03.24.10, 12:07 / Israel News

Dr. Eitan Hai-Am, who recently resigned from his post as Health Ministry director-general over the cabinet's controversial decision to relocate the emergency room at Ashkelon's Barzilai Medical Center because of ancient graves found on the site, said the task force appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to review the issue is not professional enough.

"I have a problem with the inquiry commission. If we want good results then a medical professional must sit on the committee," Hai-Am told a meeting of the Knesset's State Control Committee on Wednesday.

Israel Medical Association chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman said during the committee's meeting, "You've been discussing graves for the past two hours. Patients will die as a result of this decision and you are talking about (graves)."

"Building an emergency room far from the hospital's main building means killing patients. You do not realize that," he said.

Background here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Happy 7th Blogiversary to PaleoJudaica!

HAPPY SEVENTH BLOGIVERSARY TO PALEOJUDAICA! Last year's anniversary post, with links to earlier ones, is here. Below is a collection of some of the most interesting (in my view) posts in the last year. In some cases I have linked to the most recent post of a series, so do follow the background links to anything that interests you.

2 Enoch in Coptic!
Pompeii photos
2 Enoch: All your base are belong to us
Stephen R. Donaldson gets honorary degree at St. Andrews
Bishop Tom Wright gets honorary degree at St. Andrews
Mt. Zion stone cup inscription
Aramaic and Hebrew on the Shroud of Turin?
Lost books mentioned in the Bible
Junk History Day! Coins of Joseph
Junk History Day! Palestinian Temple Denial
Junk History Day! Ark of the Covenant
Congressional tribute to Geza Vermes
SBL etc. papers on the More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project
Sunrise in St. Andrews
Ralphies 2009
The decipherment (??) of the Khirbet Qeiyafa inscription
Ezekiel's Tomb is going down the Islamist memory hole
No relations, I assure you
The politics of the Cyrus Cylinder
The Raphael Golb case

The counter stands at 688,196 total individual hits (and 991,331 total page views). That's 94,901 unique hits in the last year.

Welcome to all of you, thanks for visiting, and do keep coming back!

Google decides not to be evil after all

GOOGLE has decided not to be evil after all and has stopped censoring its results for the Chinese government. Took them long enough. But, that said, they've done the right thing and they deserve praise for it. So, well done Google, and I'll start clicking on those sponsored links again.

Capsule history of the Shroud of Turin

A CAPSULE HISTORY of the Shroud of Turin and the past and present controversies about it has been published in the Independent in advance of the upcoming exhibition of the Shroud in April and May:
Cloth of gold: The glittering return of the Turin Shroud

The Turin Shroud captivates the faithful, intrigues even the sceptical – and earns the Catholic Church a fortune. What is it about this ancient relic that makes it so special? Michael Day reports from Italy on this spring's real blockbuster exhibition

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Its authenticity might be in doubt, but it's hard to deny the Turin Shroud's near-miraculous powers of longevity as the Catholic Church prepares once again to roll out the world's most famous relic – and to cash in on the unique mixture of devotion, speculation and ridicule that it generates.

This spring the millions of visitors shuffling up the aisle of Turin cathedral will gaze on what is purportedly the burial cloth of Jesus through a secure, climate-controlled case.

Background here and just keep following those links back.

Lost sentence from the Jerusalem Talmud recovered

A LOST SENTENCE from the Jerusalem Talmud has been recovered in a Cairo Geniza manuscript in Geneva:
Lost segment of Jerusalem Talmud unearthed in Geneva

Researchers find whole missing Talmud sentence in collection of Cairo Genizah manuscripts which renders part of Tractate Bikkurim intelligible

Tzofia Hirshfeld (
Published: 03.23.10, 14:55 / Israel Jewish Scene

Manuscripts from the Cairo Genizah, a collection of ancient Jewish writings stored in an Egyptian synagogue, which were recently examined reveal new segments of the Talmud, Mishnah (oral Jewish laws) and rabbinic literature.

Among the scriptures was a whole sentence off the Jerusalem Talmud's Tractate Bikkurim which had been missing until now. The incorporation of the phrase in the Gemara renders the tractate chapter intelligible.

The manuscripts, which include 350 pages from the Cairo Genizah were stored for some 100 years in a tin can in the Geneva University, that no one knew existed. Greek papyrus experts recently discovered the tin can and employed the services of Hebrew Univesity's Prof. David Rosenthal of the Talmud Department.

Bit by bit, a letter at a time, whatever it takes. Until we're done.

Some earlier posts on the Cairo Geniza are collected here, here, and here. And note in particular this post, which also deals with Prof. Rosenthal's work.

Verdi is coming to Masada

VERDI is coming to Masada:
Verdi opera event in Masada to attract 3,000 tourists

Travel agency marketing event abroad reports ever growing waiting list for two shows of 'Nabucco' to be held in south Israel in June

Published: 03.24.10, 08:21 / Israel Travel

The Eshet Tours travel agency reported Monday that more than 3,000 tourists from 14 countries are scheduled to visit Israel in June in order to see Verdi's opera "Nabucco" in the ancient site of Masada, produced by the Israeli Opera.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Review: Carthage Must Be Destroyed

Carthage Must Be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilisation by Richard Miles
Rome tried hard to eradicate its sworn enemy Carthage, but Richard Miles wants to resurrect the city and its culture

The Sunday Times review by Christopher Hart

Carthage holds an almost mythical place in the western imagination. A powerful city state on the north African coast in what is now Tunisia, it looked during the 4th and 3rd centuries before Christ just as likely as Rome to become the dominant Mediterranean empire. A clash of the titans was inevitable, and when it came, grim Roman determination proved superior to Carthaginian military brilliance, led by Hannibal and his elephants.

To justify their final destruction of Carthage, the victors were obliged to depict the city and its civilisation as decadent, cruel and oriental, the “moral antitype to Rome”, their own ­triumph being decreed by Providence. It is this myth-making as much as the narrative history that fascinates Cambridge classicist Richard Miles, who now seeks to offer us an alternative, de-Romanised and more nuanced view of this lost civilisation.

Hart is somewhat skeptical of Miles's effort to rehabilitate Carthage.

Related item here.

UCLA lecture on quest for historic(al) Queen of Sheba

UCLA LECTURE on the quest for the historic(al) Queen of Sheba and her world:
But if archaeology so far has not uncovered the historic Sheba, it has made considerable headway in understanding the 3,000-year-old empire that archaeologists call the Kingdom of Saba — the Arabic name for "Sheba" — whose location and era are consistent with biblical accounts of the queen.

On Saturday, April 3, the Cotsen Institute will present a talk at which Harrower and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory principal scientist Ronald Blom will discuss these findings. The free event, which is open to the public, begins at 2 p.m. in the Lenart Auditorium of the Fowler Museum at UCLA, on the Westwood campus. Parking is available in Lot 4 for $10.

Showcasing the latest advancements in satellite imagery and computer mapping, "The Ancient Universe of the Queen of Sheba" will explore a 200,000-square-mile-area, stretching east from Ethiopia across the Red Sea into Yemen and Oman on the southern Arabian Peninsula. Topics will include the Kingdom of Saba's impressive irrigation system, its coveted reserves of frankincense and its long-distance trade routes to the Mediterranean.
For earlier posts on the Queen of Sheba, go here and follow the many links.

Ashkelon graves update

Panel to ‘reconsider’ Barzilai decision
By GIL HOFFMAN (Jerusalem Post)
23/03/2010 02:02

Kadima on Netanyahu’s move: Origami prime minister has folded again.

In a move seen as caving in to public pressure, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday instructed his director-general, Eyal Gabai, to head a task force that would reevaluate Sunday’s cabinet decision to relocate the proposed reinforced emergency room for Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center.

The cabinet had approved by a narrow margin Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman’s proposal to build the emergency room at a more distant site because ancient bones were found at the original site. Critics say that revising the plans would cost an extra NIS 136 million, delay the project for two years and put the facility too far from the hospital’s main building.

Netanyahu made the decision after meeting with close aides following his arrival in Washington. After he was briefed about the public outcry, he called Litzman and said the decision had to be changed.

“The new task force will determine, together with all the relevant authorities, the possibility of erecting the secure emergency room at Barzilai Hospital in a way in which lives will not be endangered,” a Prime Minister’s Office press release said. “The task force’s conclusions will be presented immediately after Pessah. Until then there will not be any work done on the facility.”

Background here.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Lecture: Bringing the DSS to Milwaukee

Museum has its own story of how scroll exhibit came together

Posted: March 21, 2010 |(Journal-Sentinel)

The tale is part archaeology, part diplomacy, with a bit of intrigue thrown in the mix.

The free public lecture "Bringing the Dead Sea Scrolls to Milwaukee" by Carter Lupton gives a rare behind-the-scenes description of how Milwaukee Public Museum staffers pulled together the largest show the museum has ever produced.

Lupton, the museum's curator of ancient history, was instrumental in creating the museum's "Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible" show, now running at the museum.

Background here.

More on Ashkelon graves

Decision to move rocket-resistant Ashkelon ER may be illegal

By Dan Even and Mazal Mualem (Haaretz)
Tags: Ashkelon, Israel health

By a single vote, the cabinet approved Sunday the demand of Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) to move the planned bomb-proof emergency room of Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, after ancient burial grounds were discovered in the original site.

Building the emergency room elsewhere in the hospital complex will cost an extra NIS 120 million and delay completion by two years. In response to the decision, Dr. Eitan Hai-Am, director general of the Health Ministry, resigned, saying that the decision "is likely to place lives at risk."

The decision was heavily criticized and the Prime Minister's Office issued a statement saying that professional evaluations of the burial grounds will take place over the coming month, "and if it emerges that the graves do not belong to Jews, the matter will be returned to the cabinet for more discussions."

Critics of the decision noted that in addition to the extra cost, the delay in the construction of a bomb-proof medical ward when security considerations in the area near the Gaza Strip remain high, will create logistical problems in case of emergencies.

Moreover, the critics argued, the government was motivated in its decision by keeping the coalition together, and not the security and health of the citizens of the country.

The article covers recent events thoroughly, although I can find nothing in it that explicitly addresses or justifies the headline.

Then there's the halakhic question:
Bar-Ilan professor: No halachic ban on moving remains

22/03/2010 02:23

According to Dr. Jeffrey Woolf, Halacha includes procedures for transporting human remains.

There is no halachic reason to change the site for the fortified emergency room at Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center due to the presence of ancient bones there, even if they are Jewish, an expert on Jewish law at Bar-Ilan University told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

Earlier in the day, the cabinet decided that the bones would not be moved, and that the emergency room would be built at a different site.

According to Dr. Jeffrey Woolf, a senior lecturer in the university’s Talmud department and director of the school’s institute for the study of post-Talmudic Jewish law, Halacha includes procedures for transporting human remains and does not contain an absolute prohibition on such transport.

Background here.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A page-turner at the Milwaukee DSS exhibit

TURNING A PAGE in the Masoretic Bible at the Milwaukee Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition is a complicated procedure:
A real page-turner, literally for scrolls

By Jackie Loohauis-Bennett
of the Journal Sentinel

Posted: March 20, 2010

The Milwaukee Public Museum is turning the page on its "Dead Sea Scrolls" exhibit. And an expert is traveling 8,000 miles to make the turn.

The pages of the Masoretic Bible, the oldest existing version of the Hebrew Bible, will be carefully turned on Friday to put a new section of the text on public view at the museum. Comprising the Torah - the first five books traditionally attributed to Moses - the beautifully bound Bible dates to the 10th century. Its pages are the earliest known biblical writings after the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls themselves.

The Masoretic Bible is on loan from the British Library, and on Friday, Robert Davies, the library's registrar, will travel from Britain to carefully turn the Bible's ancient pages. The procedure will be closed to the public and take place after museum hours.

An individual page can be exposed to light safely for only a limited time.

Background to the exhibit is here, and keep following the links.

An Akkadian-Arabic dictionary

ADACH announces publication of Akkadian-Arabic dictionary

Mar 21, 2010 - 11:00 -

WAM Abu Dhabi, March 21st, 2010 (WAM) -- The National Library at the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH) has announced publishing an Akkadian-Arabic dictionary, in a bid to fill the gap of information in that department.

The dictionary, whose compiling was part of ADACH's strategy to promote heritage and support cultural initiatives, is prepared by Dr. Ali Yassin Al Jubouri.

In its introduction, the dictionary addresses issues such as the history of writing Akkadian dictionaries, the language's phonology, and the process of using of Latin script following the deciphering of cuneiform writing in the middle of the nineteenth century.