Saturday, June 04, 2011

Seth Sanders: Scribal Culture's Shadow Tradition

SETH SANDERS gives us some early thoughts on his upcoming SBL and ASOR papers: Scribal Culture's Shadow Tradition.

The AP on the CAD

THE COMPLETION OF THE CHICAGO ASSYRIAN DICTIONARY has come to the attention of the Associated Press: Ancient world dictionary finished _ after 90 years.

Background here.

Deir Turmanin

ARAMAIC WATCH and another ancient Syrian town profiled:
Deir Turmanin… a Longstanding Example of Architectural Art in Idleb

Jun 04, 2011

IDLEB, (SANA) – The Deir Turmanin site, located 40 kilometers northeast of Idleb city at what is known as "the old town," represents a unique example of ancient architectural arts.

The name Turmanin is believed to be Aramaic in origin, derived from "Kafr Rumanin" meaning "pomegranate farm." In Syriac, it was called Deir al-Sheikh, a name partially inspired from the nearby monastery known as Deir Saban.

The remaining landmarks in the site consist of an ancient ruin consisting of a church, an inn, a small house, a burial chamber and water reservoirs. One of the inscriptions in the site includes the date 592 AD.

"Deir al-Sheikh" is Arabic, not Syriac. I would think SANA should be able to tell the difference.

Friday, June 03, 2011

JP on Titus breaching wall of Jerusalem

JERUSALEM POST: This Week in History: Titus breaks through the J'lem wall.

More on the Chinese chef and Jewish coins

THE CHINESE CHEF who recently published a massive volume on Jewish coins is the subject of an article in the LA Times: Chinese cook obsessed with Jewish coins.

Oddly, the article never gets around to mentioning that the book is in Mandarin, which puts a certain limit on its readership.

Background here.

An Egyptian magic exhibition in Heidelberg

Egyptian magic shines in Germany

By Doaa Soliman - The Egyptian Gazette
Thursday, June 2, 2011 06:51:01 PM

HEIDELBERG - With a collection of ancient Egyptian amulets, ancient texts in various languages and magical imagery and objects, 2,000 years of Egyptian magic are being on show now in the Museum of Heidelberg University.


The idea of ‘Egyptian Magic through the Ages’ started in a class last summer about magic in ancient cultures. It took almost a year to prepare for the exhibition in which preparation eight students took part for the first time.
A decade-long-lost book of spells from ancient Egypt is the focus of the joint exhibition that’s organised by both the Institute of Papyrology and the Institute of Egyptology at the University of Heidelberg.
The valuable book that is called ‘The Magical Book of Michael’ was lost after the end of Second World War and was only returned last year, triggering the idea of this exhibition, according to Ast.


“Love and healing, protection and loss have been for thousands of years the recurring themes,” explained the director of the Institute of Papyrology, Prof. Andrea Joerdens, adding that the exhibition gathered ancient Egyptian magical symbols with ancient Near Eastern, Jewish and Christian symbols.


Maaloula in the news

Hanging out in Mountains, Ma'lula Speaks Deep History

Jun 02, 2011

DAMASCUS, (SANA)- The isolated position of Ma'lula in the mountains played a notable role in preserving the Aramaic Language and its Syriac dialect, the language of the Christ.

This immunity, however, was not that invulnerable since other languages found access to Ma'lula, being a first class tourist town known for a deep defile which is believed to have split apart making a way for St. Takla (Thecla) when she fled her powerful pagan father in 68 A.D.


In realization of the dream of Ma'lula inhabitants and that of their ancestors of keeping their language from extinction, a center for teaching the Aramaic language and the Syriac dialect was opened to be the first of its kind in the world.

Yes, "Ma'lula" is a new spelling. I hope that last paragraph means that the language center at Maaloula, which was closed awhile ago on ridiculous anti-Semitic grounds, has been reopened. The Syrian Government certainly has other battles to concern itself with right now.

Background here.

Cross-file under "Aramaic Watch."

Another review of "Sacred Trash"

The Cairo Geniza’s sacred Hebrew texts

By Elaine Margolin (

Husband and wife team Adina Hoffman and Peter Cole, authors of “Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza” (Schocken/Nextbook: $26.95), share far more than a marriage—they enjoy a similar sensibility, one that is delightfully romantic and utopian, but also serious and intellectual and intuitive. It feels as if they both carry a heavy burden upon their shoulders, a wounded empathy of sorts for all those who suffer needlessly. Reading their work sometimes feels like entering a paradise where deeper truths about our common humanity are slowly revealed while the drumbeat of tribal loyalties grows dimmer.

This one has some interesting information about the two authors.

Earlier reviews and related works are noted here and follow the links back.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Rachel Hallote on repatriation of antiquities

Archaeological Views: A Case Against the Repatriation of Archaeological Artifacts

By Rachel Hallote (BAR)

When I proposed a column to BAR editor Hershel Shanks on the issue of repatriation of artifacts to the country of origin, he said it was not something that engaged him. It didn’t matter to him, he said, where an artifact was located as long as it was available to scholars to examine and study, and was available to the public to see and appreciate. But Hershel is wrong. There is more to it than this. The real problem with repatriating artifacts is the sacrifice of one country’s history for the sake of another.

I maintain my default position that ancient artifacts are the treasures of humanity and should be kept where they are safest and best cared for. Nationalist considerations are secondary, but at that secondary level Dr. Hallote raises some interesting points.

Related (evidently in more ways than one) post here.

Ben Witherington: How Long Were Ancient Manuscripts Used?

BEN WITHERINGTON: How Long Were Ancient Manuscripts Used?

Philologos on Sabbath and Shavuot

PHILOLOGOS, true to name, provides a good dose of philology for Sabbath and impending Shavuot:
Shabbat by Way of Babylon
On Language

By Philologos (The Forward)
Published June 01, 2011, issue of June 10, 2011.

The holiday of Shavuot has arrived — and with it, a d’var Torah, a commentary on a biblical passage, customarily delivered by a rabbi or member of a congregation, from Edward Reingold of Michiana, Mich. For his subject, Mr. Reingold has chosen the verses in Leviticus 23 that tell us when Shavuot is to be celebrated — that is, seven weeks plus a day, or 50 days, from the commencement of the Omer, the “sheaf-offering” of the barley harvest that begins during the week of Passover. (This is why the holiday is called ḥag ha-shavu’ot, “the feast of weeks,” in Hebrew, and Pentecost, from Greek pentekoste, “fiftieth,” in English.) Leviticus 23:10-11 reads, in the Jewish Publication Society translation: “When you enter the land that I am giving you and you reap its [barley] harvest, you shall bring the first sheaf of your harvest to the priest. He shall elevate the sheaf before the Lord for acceptance in your behalf; the priest shall elevate it on the day after the Sabbath.”

“The day after the Sabbath” is a straightforward translation of biblical Hebrew’s mi-moḥarat ha-shabbat — and yet, as Mr. Reingold observes in his d’var Torah, the meaning of these words is anything but straightforward. Within the context of the week of Passover, what “Sabbath” is the Bible talking about? And how, unless we know, can we start counting the 50 days that determine the date of Shavuot?

It's complicated.

May Biblioblogging Carnival

THE BIBLIOBLOGGING CARNIVAL for May is now posted by Joel Watts at his Unsettled Christianity.

Golem and Dybbuk in Pittsburgh

THE GOLEM is playing in Pittsburgh:
The Golem' adds black magic to Jewish music festival
Thursday, June 02, 2011
By Andrew Druckenbrod, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pittsburgh has a thing for zombies, but the living dead might be spooked by the Pittsburgh Jewish Music Festival's offering this summer. The annual concert series will open with a screening of "The Golem," the 1920 silent film about how a rabbi invokes black magic to create a fearsome creature out of clay to defend the Jews of Prague in the Middle Ages. It's part of three concerts for the festival that seeks to both celebrate Jewish culture and connect it to the greater Pittsburgh community.

And there's more:
Festival turns to non-corporeal horror in "Jacob and Rachel" and "The Dybbuk."

The former is a suite for instruments and actors from a seminal production of "Jacob and Rachael" that the "Ohel Theater" premiered in Tel Aviv in 1928. This company was founded by Russian Jew Moshe Halevi "determined to prove, through theater, the right of the Jews to live in their Holy Land," says Sam Zerin, who has translated the Hebrew play archived at the Jewish Theological Seminary. The Jewish biblical drama is a re-enactment of God's promise to Jacob that his descendants would receive Israel. The composer, Solomon Rosowsky, arranged the texts to weave in and out of the movements in an artistic fashion, using the actors as an extension of the musicians," says Mr. Zelkowicz.

"The Dybbuk" is also presented as a suite, with music from the original musical by composer Joel Engel from 1922. Russian-Jewish playwright An-ski adapted his play from the Hassidic fable of a bride who becomes possessed on her wedding night by the tortured soul, or dybbuk, of another man.
For numerous past Golem posts, see here and links. And there's more on the dybbuk legend here.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Zombies in Matthew?

MATTHEAN ZOMBIES? (Brought to you by the braaiiins of Ashleigh and Jeremiah.) It would be interesting to see the case made, but unfortunately the post does not follow up the title.

Matthew 27:52-53 also makes me think of H. P. Lovecraft's The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.
The essential Saltes of Animals may be so prepared and preserved, that an ingenious Man may have the whole Ark of Noah in his own Studie, and raise the fine Shape of an Animal out of its Ashes at his Pleasure; and by the lyke Method from the essential Saltes of humane Dust, a Philosopher may, without any criminal Necromancy, call up the Shape of any dead Ancestour from the Dust whereinto his Bodie has been incinerated.' - Borellus

Jerusalem excavations and politics.

THE SUBTERRANEAN EXCAVATIONS IN JERUSALEM receive coverage by the AP: Beneath Jerusalem, an undergound city takes shape.

Background here and here and links.

And to makes sure things stay interesting, there's this: Israeli PM: Jerusalem will never be divided (also AP). In his comments Mr. Netanyahu invokes the archaeological evidence for an ancient Jewish presence in Jerusalem.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

BMCR review of "The Landmark Arrian"

James Romm, Pamela Mensch (ed.), The Landmark Arrian: The Campaigns of Alexander (a new translation by Pamela Mensch). New York: Pantheon Books, 2010. Pp. l, 503. ISBN 9780375423468. $40.00.

Reviewed by Bogdan Burliga, Gdańsk University (

Table of Contents

[The reviewer apologizes for lateness of this review.]

Waiting for the final volume of A. B. Bosworth’s A Historical Commentary on Arrian’s History of Alexander,1 scholars interested in Alexander the Great and his best (as it is commonly assumed) historian, have been given a new publication which certainly will win the favor of the experts and obtain the status of a ‘classic’.

It is the fourth volume published by Pantheon Books in the Landmark series. It was preceded by the editions of Thucydides in 1996, Herodotus (2007), and Xenophon’s Hellenika in 2009. The idea initiated by the Series Editor, Robert B. Strassler, has proved to be a great success. The same can be said of this edition – the new translation by Pamela Mensch deserves high praise and there is no doubt that for students interested in Alexander’s expedition, The Landmark Arrian will become an indispensable tool. The great merit of the book lies in a successful reconciling of two goals: while addressed to the general reader, it remains simultaneously interesting for specialists, as it touches upon several detailed topics (e.g. the mystery of Alexander’ death – Appendices O, pp. 404-406; and P, pp. 407-410).

An earlier review of this book is noted here.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Reminder: Sixth North American Syriac Symposium

REMINDER: The Sixth North American Syriac Symposium happens at Duke University in June.
The Sixth North American Syriac Symposium will be held at Duke University on June 26-29, 2011.

Held every four years since 1991, the North American Syriac Symposium brings together university professors, graduate students, and scholars from the United States and Canada as well as from Europe, the Middle East, and India, in particular from the State of Kerala. The Symposium offers a unique opportunity for exchange and discussion on a wide variety of topics related to the language, literature, and cultural history of Syriac Christianity -- which chronologically spans from the first centuries CE to the present day and geographically extends from Syriac Christianity's homeland in the Middle East to South India, China, and the worldwide Diaspora.

While adopting the general template of previous symposia, the Duke Symposium will at the same time be organized in such a way that it aptly reflects current trends in Syriac studies. A special feature of the North American Syriac Symposium has always been the significant contribution of graduate students. It is to be expected that a large proportion of the papers will be by graduate students. Graduate students will also play an important role in the organization of the Symposium.
The papers are all set, but you can still register to attend.

Select Syriac eResources

SELECT SYRIAC eRESOURCES have been collected by Kristian Heal.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Zahi Hawass corrects BBC report on new pyramids

ZAHI HAWASS corrects that earlier BBC story about the discovery of seventeen new pyramids etc. via satellite imagery:
Although satellite imaging is useful for discovering new sites and monuments, interpretation of the images is not straightforward. No one can say with certainty that the features displayed under the sand are actually pyramids. Such anomalies could be houses, tombs, temples, pyramids, buried cities or even geological features. The only way we can definitely identify what is there is by excavating it - by investigating it physically. This was not made clear in the article.

Zenobia on chemical warfare at Dura Europos.

THE DEATH OF DURA EUROPOS is discussed by Judith Weingarten over at Zenobia. She is skeptical of the theory that chemical warfare was involved.

For much more on Dura Europos, see here. For the chemical warfare theory, see here.