Saturday, August 28, 2010

Reasons to study theology and religion

101 REASONS TO STUDY THEOLOGY AND RELIGION: The Call for Comments. Helen Ingram has an important blog post up at The Geek Muse. As you can see, I have added my two minas' worth in the comments.

More ancient bling

Syrian Archaeologists: Bronze Bracelets, Golden Earrings Unearthed in Sweida

By R. Raslan (Global Arab Network)
Friday, 27 August 2010 14:05

Syria (Sweida) – Syrian excavation expedition working at different archaeological sites in Sweida province (south of the country) unearthed a number of archaeological finds dating back to Hellenistic, Byzantine, Nabatean and Roman ages.

Archaeological discoveries at al-Najma Palace included pottery finds, rings, beads, lanterns, coins, jars, bronze bracelets and golden earrings, Director of Sweida Antiquities Department Wasim al-Shaarani said.

Via Joseph I. Lauer.

Is it just me, or were ancient women kind of careless with their gold earrings?

For earlier ancient bling posts, go here.

PSCO 2010-11 news

48th Philadelphia Seminar on Christian Origins, 2010-2011

"Beyond Scare Quotes: Rethinking Words and Things in the Study of Ancient 'Judaism' and 'Christianity'"

Co-chairs: Phillip Fackler and Phillip Webster (Penn) / Coordinator: Annette Yoshiko Reed (Penn)

Scare quotes are everywhere in the study of "Judaism" and "Christianity" in antiquity. The ideological import of these terms - along with other words previously thought neutral and descriptive, such as "orthodoxy" and "heresy" - has been exposed. We as scholars can no longer blithely assume a direct correspondence between the categories our sources use and social reality; the words themselves shape reality. Although this insight is not new, it has recently come to dominate discussion in the field, concurrent with the newfound interest in the construction of "Judaism" and "Christianity" as distinct, mutually exclusive "religions." Arguably, however, the time has come to theorize beyond scare quotes. If the words we use do not correspond simply or directly to things, what actually are the objects of study for students of ancient "Judaism" and "Christianity"? Could the appellations "Judaism" and "Christianity" most helpfully be thought of as referring to specific discourses? As ideologies? And what exactly would either of those options mean? Would more attention to group theory help? Identity theory? Could a re-thinking of how the relationship between words and things, and the limits of the heurism of categories and taxonomy, help to re-theorize the relationship between belief and practice? With the recent advent of a near revolution in thinking about the relationship between Jews, Christians, and others in the ancient Mediterranean and Near East, the time may be ripe for an extended discussion regarding of some of the most basic questions in the field: what exactly are the objects of our study when we say we are studying "Judaism" and "Christianity"? And how do we study them?

Schedule [unless otherwise noted, all meetings will be held at 7pm in the Second Floor Lounge of Cohen (Logan) Hall at the University of Pennsylvania]

23 September 2010 - Dale Martin (Yale), "Purity of Language"

21 October 2010 - Seth Schwartz (Columbia), "How Many Judaisms Were There? A Critique of Mason and Boyarin on Categorization"

17 November 2010 - Ra'anan S. Boustan (UCLA), topic TBA [please note that this meeting falls on a Wednesday, rather than the usual Thursday]

January 2010 - TBA

17 February 2010 - Virginia Burrus (Drew), topic TBA

30 March 2010 - Elizabeth Castelli (Barnard), topic TBA

April 2010 - Graduate Student Conference, details soon to come!

For further information about PSCO please see our website,
Good topic. And don't even get me started on "apocrypha" and "pseudepigrapha."

Friday, August 27, 2010

Inscriptions of Qasr ibrim

THE INSCRIPTIONS OF QASR IBRIM are being published in a new book:
Qasr Ibrim: The Greek and Coptic Inscriptions Published on Behalf of the Egypt Exploration Society

by Adam Lajtar and Jacques van der Vliet

This book contains the publication of the Greek and Coptic inscriptions that were brought to light during archaeological work on the site of Qasr Ibrim (Egyptian Nubia) carried out by the Egypt Exploration Society from 1963 onwards. 330p, c.90 figs (Journal of Juristic Papyrology 2010)
ISBN-13: 978-83-925919-2-4
ISBN-10: 83-925919-2-5
Hardback. Not yet published - advance orders taken. Price GB £75.00
Regular readers will recall that numerous manuscript fragments were also excavated at Qasr Ibrim, among them the Coptic fragments of 2 Enoch.

Jack Sasson quotes some further information on the book, which I have not been able to find on the website:
The natural citadel of Qasr Ibrim in Northern Nubia occupied for thousands of years a strategic position between Egypt and the Middle Nile region (the present-day Sudan). In Late Antiquity, it was the political centre of an independent kingdom, Nobadia. Following the Christianization of the region in the sixth century, it became the see of a bishop, for whom a magnificent stone-built cathedral was erected. Towards the year 700, Nobadia became politically integrated into the southern kingdom of Makouria, which had its capital in Old Dongola, but Qasr Ibrim remained the residence of a ‘viceroy’, the eparch of Nobadia, who played a pivotal role in the contacts between Christian Nubia and Islamic Egypt. The capture of Qasr Ibrim by Shams ad-Dawla, Saladin's brother, in 1173, was a dramatic event that inaugurated the decline of the Christian kingdoms of Nubia.

This book brings together the Greek and Coptic inscriptions found at Qasr Ibrim during the excavations of the British Egypt Exploration Society, undertaken between 1963 and 2008. It contains over 90 inscriptions from the period between the sixth and the twelfth centuries, a majority of which are stone monuments that are edited here for the first time. Each inscription is reproduced, translated and provided with a full commentary; extensive indices enhance the accessibility of the material. Most of the inscriptions are of a funerary nature (tombstones), including a series of epitaphs
commemorating bishops, whereas others include building inscriptions and apotropaic texts. Together they present a vivid picture of the mainly clerical élite of this Christian centre at a crossroads between Africa and the Mediterranean, revealing patterns of commemoration and in-group status maintenance.

A new fragment of Ezekiel's Exagoge

I just returned from the Papyrology Congress in Geneva, and you will be interested in the paper by Dirk Obbink (Oxford), "A New Fragment of Ezekiel's Exagoge from Oxyrhynchus." According to the abstract, this "newly identified papyrus ... preserves the earliest textual witness to the Hellenistic tragedy Exagoge by Ezekiel. ... The new papyrus attests the widespread circulation of this work and affords a unique opportunity to view its textual paradosis and graphic presentation in literary circles in Roman Oxyrhynchus." The handout provided a critical edition of the text and comparison with other witnesses.
This text is a retelling of the Exodus story in the form of a Greek verse drama by the Hellenistic author Ezekiel the Tragedian. (We covered this in my Old Testament Pseudepigrapha course some years ago. And for much more, see here and here.) Apart from this manuscript, it survives only in quotations (and quotations of quotations) by later writers. Assuming, that is, that this is a manuscript of the Exagoge and not one of the later embedded quotes. Still, an actual manuscript of the work of Alexander Polyhistor would be pretty cool too.

The website for the 26th International Congress of Papyrology is here.

UPDATE (6 September): Jona Lendering and Bill Thayer comment at the Lacus Curtius and Livius blog. (Via Dorothy the PhDiva).

Thursday, August 26, 2010

BU's ASOR archive opened to public

THE ASOR ARCHIVE at BU is being opened to the public:
Near East Archaeological Archive Opened

American Schools of Oriental Research headquartered at BU

By Rich Barlow (BU Today)

Good news for the Indiana Jones set: since 1900, the American Schools of Oriental Research has played a pivotal role in archaeological discoveries. Now the BU-headquartered nonprofit, which is dedicated to the archaeology of the Near East, is opening its archive to the public for the first time. Included in its collections are diaries of archaeologists; rare photos of various excavations, including Qumran in the West Bank, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered; and miscellanea, like a reproduction of an 1873 sultan’s permit for a dig in Palestine.


Coptic Studies Conference

A COPTIC STUDIES CONFERENCE is being held in Alexandria on 21-23 September. Details at Howard Middleton-Jones's Coptic News and Archive blog (which is new to me) and the conference website.

Also via Abu 'l-Rayhan Al-Biruni on FB.

The Literature of Pre-Islamic Iran

Ronald E. Emmerich (1937-2001) and Maria Macuch (eds.), The Literature of Pre-Islamic Iran - Companion Volume I: v. 1: Companion

Hardback | In Stock | £59.50 (I.B.Tauris & Co Ltd)

Persian literature is the jewel in the crown of Persian culture. It has profoundly influenced the literatures of Ottoman Turkey, Muslim India and Turkic Central Asia and been a source of inspiration for Goethe, Emerson, Matthew Arnold and Jorge Luis Borges among others. Yet Persian literature has never received the attention it truly deserves."A History of Persian Literature" answers this need and offers a new, comprehensive and detailed history of its subject. This 18-volume, authoritative survey reflects the stature and significance of Persian literature as the single most important accomplishment of the Iranian experience.The main object of this companion volume is to provide an overview of the most important extant literary sources in Old and Middle Iranian languages - the languages of the Achaemenid, Parthian and Sasanian periods culminating in the rich resource of Pahlavi Persian which fed so directly into the language of the later great Persian poets. It will be an indispensable source for the literary traditions of pre-Islamic Iran and an invaluable guide to the subject.
Via Abu 'l-Rayhan Al-Biruni on FB.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hannah Cotton lecturing on conception of Jesus

ISRAELI CLASSICS PROFESSOR HANNAH COTTON is giving a lecture at the University of Melbourne on "The Conception of Jesus and the Documents from the Judean Desert."

Aramaic Watch: Turkey

ARAMAIC WATCH: In Turkey, good news and bad news for the Arameans. From the Guardian:
Turkey: an ancient faith rebuilds its roots in Tur Abdin, the 'mountains of the worshippers'

Christian Syriacs who were expelled after a crackdown on the Kurds have returned from Europe to resettle their hilltop village

From Today's Zaman:
‘Back to the drawing board for the monastery’

The Syriac Universal Alliance (SUA), the recognized United Nations NGO representing Aramean (Syriac) people worldwide, reports that the Supreme Court of Appeals in Ankara handed down its long-awaited decision regarding St. Gabriel Monastery’s battle over land boundaries with the neighboring villages of Yayvantepe (Qartmin) and Eğlence (Zinol) in southeastern Turkey.

“In a shocking verdict, the Ankara court has decided against the monastery, resulting in its earlier victory on May 22, 2009 becoming null and void,” the statement from the SUA said.

Background to the latter story here and here.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Pompeii's destruction as divine retribution - again

POMPEII'S DESTRUCTION as divine retribution is explored by the Jerusalem Post. The article is mainly just a summary of Hershel Shanks's BAR piece from July. As the article notes, the disaster took place 1931 years ago today. It also interviews Shanks briefly, but, disappointingly, it does not consult any scholars to get their comments on Shanks's arguments. That would have been interesting.

Follow the second link for some background on the Pompeii disaster. The fresco depicting Solomon is noted here.

UPDATE: Joseph I. Lauer points to a blog post by David Meadows at Rogue Classicism commenting on the original article. David raises a very good point, although it is addressed in passing in the Solomon link above.

UPDATE (25 August): Ah yes, it was also the 1600th anniversary of the sack of Rome.

More protesting at Barzilai Hospital

STILL AT IT: Haredim protest construction at Barzilai Hospital.

Background here.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Herod's tomb again

HEROD'S TOMB and his building projects are discussed in an article in Jewish Ideas Daily:
Digging King Herod
By Aryeh Tepper

King Herod was a Jew of doubtful origin who ruled Israel in the years 40-4 B.C.E. During this same period, the Roman republic was being replaced by the Roman Empire with its vast expansionist aims. Relying on Roman support for his power, Herod was, in effect, Israel's little Roman emperor. And he played the part, bringing administrative order and economic prosperity to the country and creating hugely ambitious architectural projects. In the Roman way, he was also cruel, paranoid, and thorough, killing his wife, three sons, and an assortment of other relatives and confidants.

The extent of Herod's failure came to light in 2007 thanks to one of the most electrifying archeological finds in recent times: the discovery of his tomb at Herodion.

Last I'd heard, there was still uncertainty whether this tomb at Herodion was actually Herod's.

From the conclusion:
... The figure with whom today's Israeli Jews can identify is the other side of Herod: the visionary builder. While his moral life remains repulsive, not to say incomprehensible, the mini-emperor can be invoked as a standard against whom to measure the achievements of other, modern builders in the land of Israel.

Two-thousand years after his death, it appears that Herod is finally earning the acceptance he so deeply craved, finding a home in a reborn Jewish state that is working its way through the ancient question of what Rome has to do with Jerusalem.
For more some thoughts on Herod and his background, see here.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Petra cave paintings

PETRA has been in the news lately for more than Travel pieces, which is a nice development. The latest:
Discovery of ancient cave paintings in Petra stuns art scholars

Exquisite artworks hidden under 2,000 years of soot and grime in a Jordanian cave have been restored by experts from the Courtauld Institute in London

* Dalya Alberge
* The Observer, Sunday 22 August 2010

Spectacular 2,000-year-old Hellenistic-style wall paintings have been revealed at the world heritage site of Petra through the expertise of British conservation specialists. The paintings, in a cave complex, had been obscured by centuries of black soot, smoke and greasy substances, as well as graffiti.

Experts from the Courtauld Institute in London have now removed the black grime, uncovering paintings whose "exceptional" artistic quality and sheer beauty are said to be superior even to some of the better Roman paintings at Herculaneum that were inspired by Hellenistic art.

Virtually no Hellenistic paintings survive today, and fragments only hint at antiquity's lost masterpieces, while revealing little about their colours and composition, so the revelation of these wall paintings in Jordan is all the more significant. They were created by the Nabataeans, who traded extensively with the Greek, Roman and Egyptian empires and whose dominion once stretched from Damascus to the Red Sea, and from Sinai to the Arabian desert.

Such is the naturalistic intricacy of these paintings that the actual species of flowers, birds and insects bursting with life can be identified. They were probably painted in the first century, but may go back further. Professor David Park, an eminent wall paintings expert at the Courtauld, said that the paintings "should make jaws drop".

Via Dorothy King on Facebook.

Other recent news on Petra here. I've been linking to Travel stories on Petra since 2003. There's a fairly recent one here. For some other cool ancient paintings, see these recent articles on Dura Europos.