Saturday, April 17, 2010

Aramaic concert shut down by Syrian Government

ARAMAIC WATCH: An Aramaic concert has been shut down by the Syrian Government. The openness they once showed toward Aramaic-speaking culture in Syria seems to be deteriorating.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Review: Muraoka, A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint

BOOK REVIEW (BMCR):
Takamitsu Muraoka, A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint. Louvain/Paris/Walpole, MA: Peeters, 2009. Pp. xl, 757. ISBN 9789042922488. $138.00.

Reviewed by Frank Shaw, Wright State University (Dayton, OH) (feshaw72@email.com)


At some time or other nearly every classicist has consulted, or will need to consult, the Septuagint (LXX), the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek done in the Hellenistic period (along with some additional deuterocanonical or apocryphal books). Until fairly recently for vocabulary one had to employ the often dated and curt entries in LSJ, as modern specialists had yet to produce a LXX lexicon. That situation has changed over the last two decades. In 1992 Johan Lust, Erik Eynikel, and Katrin Hauspie published the first of two volumes of their A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft); the second tome appeared in 1996. The entire work was then revised as a single volume in 2003 (henceforth LEH).1 Naturally any subsequent similar work will be partly assessed in comparison with LEH. It is not as though Muraoka's recently completed dictionary is his first endeavor in Septuagintal lexicography. This volume is the culmination of a continued effort that spans over 20 years (vii). The first installment of that research appeared in 1993 when he published a LXX lexicon of the Twelve (= Minor) Prophets, and again in 2002 with a dictionary of the Twelve Prophets and the Pentateuch (both Peeters). Thus our volume is the completed work, although reviews and use of it will surely necessitate further revision. The book contains an 11-page introduction, a 5-page abbreviations list, and a 16-page bibliography. The lexicon proper is 751 pages; at the book's end is a 5-page list of words found in the standard concordance of the LXX by Hatch and Redpath (henceforth HR)2 but missing in Muraoka's dictionary entries. Important here are most Greek transliterations of Hebrew words since classicists reading the LXX will be curious about such lexemes and likely surprised at not finding an entry for them in the lexicon proper. The lexicon does not generally cover proper names (occasional exceptions: 224, 341).

[...]
Looks like a very useful new resource.

Review of Vermes, The Story of the Scrolls

THE STORY OF THE SCROLLS, by Geza Vermes, is reviewed in the Calcutta Telegraph. Excerpt:
Geza Vermes is one of the world’s acknowledged experts on the Dead Sea Scrolls. But he was only 23 when they were first discovered. He gives a cogent and objective account of how his life has come to be inextricably linked with the scrolls. He remarks at the end, lightheartedly, that he was once introduced as the man who has written the Dead Sea Scrolls in English. Most people who are aware of Vermes’s work will agree that such a description of him is entirely justified even though it does not encompass all aspects of his phenomenal scholarship and erudition.

This book is addressed to the intelligent layman who is interested in the scrolls and in the history that emerges from them. Vermes does two things in this book. First, he tells the story of their discovery, decipherment, collation, editing and annotation. This was not a smooth operation and it took inordinately long. There were too many groups of scholars involved. As a result, there were bickerings, vested interests, clash of egos, blunders and so on — all leading to the stalling of the project. This part will be of interest to those who are interested in the academic background of the project.

The other dimension of the book concerns the significance of the scrolls: how and to what extent have they extended and altered the understanding of the period. He precedes this by providing a sketch of the state of knowledge of biblical studies before the discovery of the scrolls.
Another review is noted here.

Prague Golem goes into hiding

THE PRAGUE GOLEM - the latest:
Battle over ownership rights sends Prague Golem into hiding

15-04-2010 13:18 | Daniela Lazarov√° (Radio Prague)

Among the souvenirs that tourists bring back from a visit to Prague are little clay figures of the Golem – a giant linked to one of Prague’s best known legends. What few of them know is that there is a fierce battle underway for ownership rights, which has sent a much larger version of the clay monster into hiding.
The much larger version is a large statue that cannot now be displayed or copied because of the ownership dispute. For a photo, click on the link above. For Golem background, go here and follow the links back.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Protesting the Ashkelon graves ruling

THE ASHKELON GRAVES CONTROVERSY just keeps going:
Eda Haredit calls on public to protest Barzilai decision

By JONAH MANDEL (Jerusalem Post)
13/04/2010 23:33

Badatz follows Atra Kadisha's stance that graves might be Jewish; UTJ to convene on issue.

Members of the Eda Haredit Badatz (Court of Justice) convened on Tuesday evening for an emergency meeting in Jerusalem following Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Monday reversal of the cabinet decision to relocate the planned construction of a fortified emergency department at Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center due to the presence of ancient bones at the original site.

The meeting was also attended by Rabbi David Shmidel, head of the haredi organization Atra Kadisha, which deals with safeguarding Jewish graves. Shmidel reiterated to the participants his group’s stance on the graves, which deems them as possibly Jewish. After hearing Shmidel, members of the Badatz decided that the graves mustn’t be moved, and signed a proclamation calling upon the public to protest the planned relocation of the graves. A demonstration is to take place in Ashkelon next week.

Earlier on Tuesday, Shmidel reiterated his group’s stance to The Jerusalem Post, saying that since there was a chance some of the graves belonged to Jews, it was prohibited by Halacha to relocate them. He also noted that Atra Kadisha had proposed an alternative site for the construction, which would be pricier but would also enable more beds for the hospital.

Although an Antiquities Authority announcement determined that the graves were “unequivocally pagan,” Shmidel pointed out that some of the wording in the announcement was ambiguous. He stressed that some of the archeological evidence upon which the statement was based did not necessarily lead to the conclusion that the graves were solely pagan.

[...]
Background here. If there was an IAA press release about the graves, I can't find it online.

An Akko World Heritage Coin from UNESCO

THE CITY OF AKKO (Acre) is getting its own UNESCO coin:
City of Akko Next in UNESCO Coin Series

By World Coin News
April 14, 2010

Third in the “UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Israel” series is a coin honoring the city of Akko. Recorded in ancient Babylonian and Egyptian sources, the city of Akko, also known as Acre, is located in the western Galilee region of Israel. It has a 4,000-year-old history, one of the longest in the world.

[...]
Follow the link for a picture.

Israeli tourism advert banned in UK for showing Western Wall

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH:
UK watchdog bans Israel Western Wall tourism advert

(BBC)

A UK watchdog has banned an Israeli tourism advert showing the Western Wall, saying it is 'misleading'.

The Advertising Standards Authority said the advert implied East Jerusalem, which has been occupied since 1967, was part of the state of Israel.

The Western Wall, one of Judaism's holiest sites, is in East Jerusalem, but it is a major tourist site for most visitors to Israel.

Israel's tourism ministry said it would have been misleading to exclude it.

The ASA said they received one letter of complaint about the advert, which appeared in UK newspapers.

[...]

But the Israel's Ministry of Tourism has refused to accept the ruling.

A statement in response said the ad provides "basic, accurate information to a prospective UK visitor".

"It is entirely accurate to assert that a visitor to Israel could visit Jerusalem as part of a short visit. Had the ad omitted a reference to a visit to the city of Jerusalem, it would have been incorrect and potentially misleading."

[...]
The same issue came up a couple of years ago involving the site of Qumran. And the article refers to another case in 2009 involving West Bank sites. But anyone who visits Israel is going to want to visit the Western Wall. And anyone bothering to go would probably have a basic knowledge of the political situation. The objection is pretty pedantic, but we're dealing with British bureaucrats here.

Of course they've now given the advert much more publicity - for free - than it would have had if they'd just ignored it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Review of Pullman, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ (London Times)

PHILIP PULLMAN'S NEW JESUS NOVEL is reviewed in the London Times:
The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman
Pullman’s retelling of the life of Jesus is a poor substitute for the King James Bible


Jeanette Winterson

There is an interesting piece of New Testament apocrypha called The Acts of Thomas. Thomas, otherwise known as Didymus (from the Greek for twin), otherwise known as Judas, is the twin brother of Jesus.

The text is a Gnostic one, and Gnosticism was the seductive heresy that the evolving early Christian Church worked hard to suppress. Pre-Christian in origin, Gnosticism is a doctrine of dualism that allows for an untainted spirit and a corrupted body. Salvation is through knowledge (gnosis) of this composite self.

[...]

Philip Pullman’s retelling of the Gospels splits Jesus and Christ into a pair of hostile twins. The good man Jesus is a leader and a teacher. His brother Christ is the scoundrel motivated by expediency and posterity. While Jesus tells his followers to take no thought for the morrow, Christ is secretly writing down everything that Jesus says, with his eye on the future publishing deal.
Her verdict:
So while I can see that Pullman wants us to remember that any religious text is both a palimpsest and revisionary, his own revisionism fails to win me over, not because I am a believer but because the Bible stories are better.

[...]

All of Jesus’s miracles in the Gospels are an affront to literalness — the dead are raised, the blind see — and an invitation towards energy, creativity and the possibility of a different order.

Pullman doesn’t want to understand this, and that may be why he has chosen to use a flat language, which makes me long for the rich and problematic language of the King James Bible, where the words themselves move us away from too much literalness towards an opening in the mind. Pullman’s text is instruction-manual English. It reads like The Good News Bible, but for atheists.

[...]
Pullman himself more or less ratifies this conclusion in an interview in the Toronto Star:
Q. What has the response been?

A. There has been a lot of coverage and a number of nice reviews. The general tendency has been to say that it’s not as good as the Bible, but it sort of works.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Iraqi cleric defends Tomb of Ezekiel

THE TOMB OF EZEKIEL (traditional) in Al-Kifl, Iraq, has a new defender:
Iraq cleric slams plan to turn Jewish tomb into mosque

By Jessica Elgot, April 12, 2010 (Jewish Chronicle)

One of Iraq’s leading clerics, Ayatollah Shaykh Ayad al-Rikabi, has denounced the proposed conversion of the ancient tomb of the Prophet Ezekiel into an Islamic site.

Iraq’s Department of Antiquities and the Iraqi Shi’i “waqf”, which controls religious heritage sites in the country, has stated that the historic tomb does not belong to Iraq’s dwindling Jewish community.

It asserted that since Ezekiel is described in the Koran as a Muslim, the tomb should be declared an Islamic site. Plans are now under way to turn the site into a mosque.

Ayatollah al-Rikabi, whose own tribe came from the area close to the tomb, has written to the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s foremost religious Shi’a leader, to request that the plans be overturned and that the tomb be kept as a Jewish holy site.

[...]
Good for him. I hope that the Grand Ayatollah listens.

Background here.

Barzilai ER to be built on originally planned site

THE ASHKELON GRAVES will not prevent the building of the Barzilai Medical Center's ER on the originally planned site:
PM U-turns, approves Barzilai ER at original site

By HERB KEINON (Jerusalem Post)
13/04/2010 01:38

Litzman says despite announcement he has not changed his position against moving graves.

In a dramatic about-face, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday reversed last month’s cabinet decision to relocate the Barzilai Medical Center’s planned fortified emergency department in Ashkelon due to the existence of ancient bones at the original site.

The Prime Minister’s Office released a statement saying that Netanyahu, who is also formally the country’s health minister, directed the Health Ministry’s professional staff to prepare for the construction of the emergency room at its original location.

The decision comes a day after the cabinet empowered Netanyahu to decide the issue.

The original decision to relocate the emergency room so ancient graves would not have to be disturbed, spearheaded by Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman (United Torah Judaism), created a public uproar for a number of reasons, including the cost involved and the additional time it would take to build the facility.

The Prime Minister’s Office said Netanyahu’s decision came following recommendations made by a professional committee empowered by the cabinet ruling last month to look into the matter and return with proposals within a month.

[...]
But a hardline Haredi group is reportedly threatening violent protests.

Background here.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Conference: Judaic and Christian Visions of the Social Order

CONFERENCE PROGRAM from Jacob Neusner:
THE INSTITUTE OF ADVANCED THEOLOGY
BARD COLLEGE

PROGRAM

JUDAIC AND CHRISTIAN VISIONS OF THE SOCIAL ORDER.
DESCRIBING, ANALYZING AND COMPARING SYSTEMS OF THE FORMATIVE AGE


APRIL 27-29 2010


CHAIRED BY
JACOB NEUSNER AND BRUCE D. CHILTON
BARD COLLEGE


This conference is made possible by a grant from the Tammy and Carey Wolchok and Ahavas Tzedek, the Wolchok Family Foundation. The Foundation notes that Carey Robinson Wolchok is a former student of Professor Neusner’s.


THIS EVENT TAKES PLACE AT
MULTI-PURPOSE ROOM (MPR)
AT THE BERTELSMANN CAMPUS CENTER

1:00-1:15 P.M. APRIL 27 2010 WELCOMING REMARKS

Bard College Dean of Faculty and Academic Vice President Michele Dominy

KEYNOTE ADDRESS

1:15 P.M.-2:15 P M APRIL 27 2010 HOW DOES RELIGION IMAGINE SOCIETY?

William Scott Green and John T. Fitzgerald
University of Miami

ANCIENT ISRAE
L
2:15-3:15 P.M. APRIL 27 2010 FROM THE REPERTOIRE OF THE HEBREW BIBLE: VISIONS OF THE SOCIAL ORDER

Baruch A. Levine
New York University

3:15-3:30 P. M. Coffee Break

JUDAISM

3:30 P.M.- 4:30 P. M. APRIL 27 2010 Visions of the Social Order: the Qumran Library

James C. VanderKam
University of Notre Dame

4:30 - 5:30 P. M. APRIL 27 2010 1 ENOCH’S VAGUE VISIONS OF A FUTURE SOCIAL ORDER; FOILS TO ITS VIVID PORTRAYALS OF THE PRESENT CHAOS

George W. E. Nickelsburg
The University of Iowa

5:30-6:30 p. m. APRIL 27 2010 The Mishnah and Concepts of the Social Order

Alan J. Avery-Peck
College of the Holy Cross


6:30-8:00 P. M.
SUPPER, FACULTY DINING ROOM
KLINE REFECTORY


THE NEXT EVENT TAKES PLACE AT
MULTI-PURPOSE ROOM (MPR)
AT THE BERTELSMANN CAMPUS CENTER

8:00-9:00 P M April 27 2010 2010 Six People You Meet in the Synagogue: Visions of Social Order in Early Rabbinic Prayer

Tzvee Zahavy
The Jewish Theological Seminary of America

. APRIL 28 2010

9:00-10:00 A.M. APRIL 28 2010 The Social Vision of Rabbinic Judaism

Jacob Neusner
Bard College

10:00 – 10:30 A.M Coffee break

CHRISTIANITY

10:30 – 12 Noon A.M. APRIL 28 Jesus and the Kingdom of God

Bruce D. Chilton
Bard College

12:00-1:00 P M
BUFFET LUNCH


THE NEXT EVENT TAKES PLACE AT
MULTI-PURPOSE ROOM (MPR)
AT THE BERTELSMANN CAMPUS CENTER

1:00 – 2:15 P.M. APRIL 28 2010 Paul’s theory of the social order

Bruce D. Chilton
Bard College

2:15 – 3:30 P M April 28 2010 Early Christian Martyrdom, Scripture, and the Social Order

Frederick W. Weidmann
Auburn Theological Seminary

Coffee break 3:30 – 4:00 p.m.

4:00 p. m. – 5:00 P M APRIL 28 2010 Origen’s Social Vision of Christian Life

Petra Heldt
Hebrew University

THE NEXT EVENT WILL TAKE PLACE IN
BITO AUDITORIUM ROOM 103 IN THE
REEM - KAYDEN CENTER


5:00 P M - 6:30 p m APRIL 28 2010 Irenaeus of Lyons (130-200) Re-Imagining the Cosmos From the Perspective of the Oppressed

J.A. McGuckin
Columbia University

6:30-7:45 P M
SUPPER, FACULTY DINING ROOM
KLINE REFECTORY


THE NEXT EVENT WILL TAKE PLACE IN
BITO AUDITORIUM ROOM 103 IN THE
REEM-KAYDEN CENTER


8:00 – 9:15 p. m. April 28 2010 Eusebius’s (and Constantine’s) theory of the political order

Bruce D. Chilton
Bard College

THE NEXT EVENT TAKES PLACE AT
MULTI-PURPOSE ROOM (MPR)
AT THE BERTELSMANN CAMPUS CENTER


9:00 – 10:15 A.M. April 29 2010 Augustine’s theory of world order

J. A. McGuckin
Columbia University

10:15 – 10:30 P.M. coffee break

10:30A.M. – Noon April 29 2010 Concluding discussion: JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY: ANSWERING THE QUESTONS OF THE SOCIAL ORDER

William Scott Green and John T. Fitzgerald
University of Miami

12:00-1:15 P M
BOX LUNCH
MULTI PURPOSE ROOM



The Institute of Advanced Theology of Bard College presents this conference. Admission is free, but reservations are advised. To reserve a place write to Theresa Desmond, Institute of Advanced Theology, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, N. Y. 12504 5000 or via e mail at desmond@bard.edu.

Please note that all sessions but the one on Wednesday evening are held at the Multi-Purpose Room of the Bertelsmann Campus Center. The session Wednesday evening is at Bito Auditorium Room 103 in the Reem and Kayden Center

Meals: lunches are served in the Multi-Purpose Room, suppers are at the Faculty Dining Room of the Kline refectory. Vegetarian service is available. Kosher meals may be ordered in advance through the office of Theresa Desmond, Institute of Advanced Theology, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, N. Y. 12504 5000 or via e mail at desmond@bard.edu.

New issue of Hugoye

HUGOYE: JOURNAL OF SYRIAC STUDIES has just published a new issue (13.1, Winter 2010) devoted to Philoxenus of Mabbug.

Note also the upcoming First Hugoye Symposium on Libraries in the Syriac Tradition (20 May).

Conference: The Gift in Antiquity (Brown University)

THE GIFT IN ANTIQUITY: A conference at Brown University, Department of Judaic Studies, 2-4 May.

Ashkelon graves - the latest

ASHKELON GRAVES - the latest:
Netanyahu gets go-ahead to decide on Barzilai ER

By Barak Ravid and Dan Even (Haaretz)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received cabinet authorization yesterday to decide whether the construction of a contentious bomb-proof emergency ward at Barzilai Hospital will proceed as planned.

The approval was given on the prime minister's request, and due to his role as acting health minister.

This decision cancels a previous one to relocate the building because ancient graves were found at the site. A final decision on the matter is expected soon.

The cabinet decided unanimously, despite reservations expressed by Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman of United Torah Judaism, who has no vote.

In a statement, Litzman's office reiterated the ultra-Orthodox minister's dissatisfaction, stating he "is determined that the graves discovered at the Barzilai complex not be moved, and following a decision on the issue he will hold a [UTJ] faction meeting on future steps."

Litzman had said he would resign if a decision was made to move the graves and continue with construction at the original site. However, his associates have said that in light of the public protest over the cost and delay inherent in relocation, his faction's spiritual leaders may change their minds - letting Litzman stay in his post.

[...]
Background here.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Azusa Pacific DSS fragments to go on display in local church

THE AZUSA PACIFIC DEAD SEA SCROLL FRAGMENTS will reportedly be on display at an exhibition at a local church in Granite Bay, California. This in association with an exhibition called From the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Bible in America, which was on tour some years ago in association with Lee Biondi.
Dead Sea Scrolls on display in Granite Bay

Sena Christian, The Press Tribune

Bayside Church’s exhibit includes five fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

When a pastor at a local church saw fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls in person, he knew he had to bring this archaeological treasure to Granite Bay.

So he did.

Bayside Church is hosting the fragments as part of an exhibit called “From the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Bible in America.” These earliest-known manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible are considered one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the 20th century — or for Pastor Ray Johnston and many other Christians, of all time. The texts date back to around 150 B.C.

“When I saw (the scrolls) for the first time, I got chills,” Johnston said. “I’m inches away from the real deal.”

Now, exhibit visitors can also get close to the Dead Sea Scrolls. The exhibit will feature five scroll fragments and dozens of other biblical items, including parts of the oldest Greek New Testament papyri, a 17th century Hebrew Sefer Torah scroll, a 5,000-year-old cuneiform tablet, an original King James Bible from 1611 to 1640, the Eliot Indian Bible and the Bible that flew to the moon aboard Apollo 14 in 1971.

A Gutenberg Bible leaf will also be on display. This was the first major book printed with movable type printing, making the Bible available to the mass population. Several other displayed artifacts highlight life in the region during the period when the scrolls were written.

[...]

Bayside Church renovated a building at its complex on Sierra College Boulevard to serve as a temporary museum. Visitors wander through a darkened cave-like setting, which depicts the caves of the northwest rim of the Dead Sea near Qumran, where a Bedouin shepherd boy found the scrolls in 1947. As shepherd boys looked for a lost sheep, one threw a stone into a cave and heard a clinking sound, soon discovering the artifacts.

[...]

Bayside Church is hosting the exhibit in conjunction with Azusa Pacific University, which acquired the artifacts in August 2009. Johnston serves on the university’s board of trustees. During a board meeting following the acquisition of the scrolls, Johnston had a chance to see the manuscripts. He said the experience left him profoundly moved. At first, he didn’t think he could actually bring the fragments to his church.

“I never thought it could happen,” Johnson said. “But that doesn’t stop us.”

[...]
Background to the Azusa Pacific fragments is here.