Saturday, September 17, 2011

Job in Late Hebrew Bible at U. Texas at Austin

JOB IN LATE HEBREW BIBLE at the Department of Middle Eastern Studies, University of Texas at Austin:
The Department of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin invites applications for a position of Assistant Professor (tenure-track) in the field of late Hebrew Bible. The position will begin in August 2012.

The successful applicant must have obtained his/her PhD by Sept. 1, 2010. He or she must demonstrate an established record of scholarly research and publication, as well as excellence in teaching at the college level. The scholar in this position will specialize in late Hebrew Bible (post-exilic texts) and will have expertise in one or more of the following fields: 2nd Temple archaeology and culture; the language and context of the Dead Sea Scrolls; 2nd Temple literature outside the Hebrew Bible. She or he will teach both undergraduate and graduate courses and will serve in new, demanding doctoral programs in Hebrew Bible/Ancient Near East (Dept. of Middle Eastern Studies) and Ancient Mediterranean Religions (Dept.of Religious Studies).

Scholars at the University of Texas are expected to maintain a strong record of research and publication and engage in service to the Department, the University, and the profession. The Department places a high premium on collegiality and maintaining a diverse and hospitable working environment. Preference will be given to those with methodological and theoretical interests in Religious Studies.

Applicant Instructions:

Review of applications will begin October 21, 2011, with the intention of conducting preliminary interviews at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, November 19–22, 2011.

Please submit a letter of interest, curriculum vitae, sample of research, teaching dossier, and three original letters of reference via No hard copy, please.
Follow the link for more details.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Following the Tenth Legion

Off the Beaten Track: Following the Tenth Legion

By JOE YUDIN (Jerusalem Post)
09/15/2011 15:48

Marks of Hadrian, Herod, Crusaders, Rabbi Akiva, Bar Kochba, Rashi, Mamlukes, Ottomans, Brits, Israelis and more are all over Jerusalem.
Talkbacks (2)

Joe Yudin owns Touring Israel, a company that specializes in “Lifestyle” tours of Israel.

There are ten measures of beauty in the world-nine in Jerusalem and one in the rest of the world. There are ten measures of suffering in the world-nine in Jerusalem and one in the rest of the world. There are ten measures of wisdom in the world-nine in Jerusalem and one in the rest of the world. There are ten measures of smooth talk in the world-nine in Jerusalem and one in the rest of the world. There are ten measures of Torah in the world-nine in Jerusalem and one in the rest of the world. -Avot de Rabbi Natan, B.

This late period midrash (around the 8th century CE) explains Jerusalem perfectly even until this day. There is no place on earth like Jerusalem, its beauty is unique and very special, and its history and holiness are almost immeasurable. There is also a dark side to Jerusalem: its politics, its sectarian friction, and its history of being destroyed and rebuilt over and over again.

Walking through Jaffa Gate in the Old City we pass the ramparts walk entrance and bathrooms immediately to the left, then the tourist offices and the “Tomb of the Architects.” Pass the first street on your left and then take your next left through an arched gateway next to a kiosk, seemingly entering a building but in actually it’s an alleyway. Check out the ceilings under the arches and continue to a small circular opening next to a café. You will be standing next to a lamppost, but take a closer look at the pillar holding up the lamp. There is Latin writing engraved on it. This pillar marks the spot of the headquarters for the Roman governor of Judea, “Marcus Iunius Maximus…Legate of the Tenth Legion of the Sea Straits.” The infamous Tenth Legion, previously led by Octavian Augustus which defeated both Sextus Pompei and Mark Anthony, also participated in the siege of Jerusalem and its destruction in the year 70 CE, first under the command of Vespasian and later his son Titus.

During the Titus led, Tenth Legion’s siege of the Temple Mount complex, the Temple itself caught fire and the Jewish priests threw the keys to Jerusalem and the Temple into the burning ambers of the Temple proclaiming “Master of the Universe! Since we have not been privileged to become Thy faithful ministers, let these keys been entrusted to Thy hands!” ...
The writer doesn't give a source for this legend, but presumably it is rabbinic. A similar story appears in a couple of Old Testament pseudepigrapha. According to 4 Baruch 4:1-5 and the Coptic Jeremiah Apocryphon 28, during the siege the prophet Jeremiah tossed either keys or the gold plate with God's name on it into the sun for safekeeping.

Lecture and exhibition on the Shofar

Ancient instruments and texts inspire!

09/15/2011 14:52

Don’t miss the fascinating Gone with the Wind lecture at the Bible Lands museum.

Dr. Guy Stiebel from Hebrew University will be discussing wind instruments in the land of Israel during the classical period. The talk is free with museum admission.

While you’re at the museum, check out the related exhibition on the ancient wind instrument, the shofar. The exhibition, Sound the Shofar - a Witness to History, traces the history of the shofar from animal horn to icon. On display are shofarot from around the world, each with a story to tell and together they tell the story of the Jewish people. A viewing of the exhibition will enrich and redefine your shofar-blowing experience during the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services.
UPATE: Todd Bolen notes More Sounds of the Shofar.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Why Jesus was a giant

REMNANT OF GIANTS: Why Jesus was a Giant: The Messianic Interpretation of Psalm 18(19) in Gosp. Peter 10.38-42. Quite an interesting argument.

Fake metal codices: recent blog posts

FAKE METAL CODICES WATCH: Some interesting blog posts have come out in the last day or so.

Tom Verenna: Jordan Lead Codices: Another Stamp Found.

Steve Caruso: Jordan Codices: More About the Altered Metallurgical Report .

And David Meadows links to Tom's post and has a roundup of his own coverage: Those Lead Codices Just Get Faker By the Day.

Background here and links.

Metatron, Black Metal, and the Holocaust

ARCHANGEL METATRON WATCH—Metatron, Black Metal, and the Holocaust:
THE MEADS OF ASPHODEL Begins Work On New Album - Sep. 14, 2011


Vocalist Metatron of the English progressive black metal band THE MEADS OF ASPHODEL will go to Krakow, Poland in November to research Auschwitz for the band's new album, to be titled "Sonderkommando". The concept behind the release is to see the Holocaust from the eyes of the Jewish Sonderkommando (these were the unfortunate workers who removed the corpses from the gas chambers, and after removing teeth/hair and valuables, cremated them). From their words the album will lament on the burning death pits, Block 11, the crematoriums, the daily arrival of the trains and their human freight destined to the jaws of murder and to be stacked like logs in a factory of death.

Metatron will record narratives and parts of the album on site in Auschwitz to capture some of the horror of a unique chapter in history.

This is pretty horrific and I'm not sure what to think about it, but I'll let Metatron speak for himself:
Commented Metatron: "Maybe some things are best forgotten, maybe unspoken. Then again, maybe they should never be forgotten, and if spoken of, maybe the world will be a better place by remembering."
I could have sworn that I've blogged on this band before, but I can't find a link now.

UPDATE (18 September): Ezra Glinter comments at The Forward's Arty Semite blog:
It’s hard to know what to make of such a project. Is it serious? Well intentioned? Exploitative? Metatron frames it in the pious language of Holocaust remembrance: “Maybe some things are best forgotten, maybe unspoken. Then again, maybe they should never be forgotten, and if spoken of, maybe the world will be a better place by remembering.”

What he doesn’t acknowledge is the possibility — or probability — that attempting to interpret the most horrific of Holocaust horrors through the lens of contemporary black metal will cheapen the raw force of the facts themselves. As Primo Levi wrote, the creation of the Sonderkommandos was among the Nazis’ most heinous acts, because by forcing their victims to carry out their own destruction, they made them complicit in their crimes. Can Metatron and The Meads of Asphodel do justice to such a thing?
He thinks not. Read it all.

A new course on Zoharic Aramaic at U. Manitoba

Aramaic getting new life

Written by Rebeca Kuropatwa (Jewish Tribune)
Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Winnipeg – This fall, the University of Manitoba’s Judaic Studies program will be offering, not only Hebrew and Yiddish language classes, but also Arabic – and, for the first time, Aramaic.
In ancient times, Aramaic was the common language spoken by many Jews in Israel and Babylonia. The Talmud is mainly in Aramaic, as is one of the most widely known Jewish prayers, Kaddish.

Justin Jaron Lewis, assistant professor in the Judaic Studies program, moved to Winnipeg in July 2008. He will be teaching the Aramaic course, The Aramaic of The Zohar.

“The idea of teaching a beginner’s course on the Aramaic of the Zohar has been with me for years,” said Lewis, who has been studying The Zohar for about 25 years and is the author of an online Zohar course zohar/map.html.

“Like many other people, I’m fascinated by The Zohar – not only because it’s the cornerstone of Kabbalah, a rich spiritual tradition, but also because it’s a unique work of imaginative literature.”


Due to the particularly literary dialect that The Zohar’s Aramaic is written in, it encompasses a minimal vocabulary. That is why Lewis thinks it will be possible to teach it to beginner students, noting that “studying Aramaic in this fairly simple form can be an introduction to Semitic languages for students who don’t know Hebrew or Arabic. When I mentioned it to some students here at the U of M, they were very interested and I decided to actually try it out.”

I am mind-blown at the thought of teaching Zoharic Aramaic as an introductory Aramaic course to students who don't even have Hebrew. But I hope the course is very successful and I also hope there is a follow-up report on it later on.

If you happen to be interested in trying out some Zoharic Aramaic, the critical text behind Daniel Matt's (still in-progress) translation of the Zohar can be downloaded from The Zohar: Pritzker Edition web page from Stanford University Press. Click on the Aramaic Texts link for the PDF files. More on Matt's translation of the Zohar here and links.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Greek Professors: Do They Know Greek?

DANIEL STREETT: Greek Professors: Do They Know Greek?

(Read the post at the link and, if you are so minded, take the quiz. Do this before you read my comments below, or the hints I give may inflate your score.)

The highest score of the Greek professors was two out of eleven. I'm a Hebrew professor and I got four and a bit. (I got "hello" in the bonus question.) He's right, reading widely outside the New Testament does help. Besides Jewish Hellenistic literature and some Septuagint, I've read a lot of Plato, Aristotle, and Neoplatonist texts. I don't think I would have gotten "nine" if it hadn't been for Plotinus. Plus, I have to give credit to the goofy textbook Let's Study Greek, which I used as a teenager and which teaches New Testament Greek in a conversational way that includes words like "yes," "hi!," and "chair." (The other word I got was "nose" and I'm annoyed with myself for not getting "red." "Red Sea," anyone?)

Via James McGrath, who doesn't say what his score was.

UPDATE: Yitz Landes has a tangentially related post at the Talmud Blog: Essential Languages for the Study of Rabbinic Literature. His list sounds right to me and it makes me wish I knew Middle Persian. For Medieval languages, I would spell out* that "Arabic" includes "Judeo-Arabic" (Arabic written in the Hebrew alphabet).

*No pun intended.

UPDATE (15 September): Daniel comments.

Ancient anchors discovered at Bat Yam beach

Byzantine-era anchor found in Israel might shed light on ancient sailing 2011-09-13 21:36:32 FeedbackPrintRSS

JERUSALEM, Sept. 13 (Xinhua) -- The recent discovery by Israeli lifeguards of three ancient iron anchors might help archaeologists understand more about ancient sailing and lead to the discovery of an unknown anchorage site.

Lifeguards at a Bat Yam city beach, south of Tel Aviv, came across the first 300 kg, two-meter-tall anchor after spotting it submerged in shallow waters, 30 meters offshore.

Though the lifeguards initially thought it to be a modern artifact, they contacted the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) after suspecting that it might, in fact, be an archaeological find.

An IAA marine archaeologist confirmed that the find was about 1, 700-1,400 years old, belonging to the Byzantine era.

The anchor's surprisingly well preserved state was due to it's having been buried for centuries in the seabed and only being recently uncovered, an IAA statement read.

Two other anchor were found in the same area.

Anchors aweigh, aarrr!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Beth Mardutho website and Hugoye journal

THE BETH MARDUTHO SYRIAC STUDIES WEBSITE ( has been renovated and reformatted and is looking spiffy. Also, the associated (free!) online journal, Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies, has just published a new issue (14.2). TOC:
Volume 14 Number 2 (Summer 2011)


A Light from "The Dark Centuries": Isḥaq Shbadnaya's Life and Works
Thomas Carlson, Princeton University

A Note on Jacob of Sarug's Memre on Joseph
Kristian S. Heal, Brigham Young University

'Cast out Hagar and Ismael Her Son from Me': Text and Intertext in Eutychius of Alexandria's Annals
Juan Pedro Monferrer-Sala, University of Cordoba

Interpreting the Ninevites' Repentance: Jewish and Christian Exegetes in Late Antique Mesopotamia
Christine Shepardson, University of Tennessee-Knoxville

Book Reviews

Ignacio Carbajosa, The Character of the Syriac Version of the Psalms: A Study of Psalms 90-150 in the Peshitta
Richard A. Taylor, Dallas Theological Seminary

Daniel M. Gurtner, Introduction to Syriac: Key to Exercises & English-Syriac Vocabulary
Kristian S. Heal, Brigham Young University

Naomi Koltun-Fromm, Hermeneutics of Holiness: Ancient Jewish and Christian Notions of Sexuality and Religious Community
Yifat Monnickendam, Johns Hopkins University

Brent Landau, Revelation of the Magi: The Lost Tale of the Wise Men's Journey to Bethlehem
Kristian S. Heal, Brigham Young University

Serge Ruzer and Aryeh Kofsky, Syriac Idiosyncracies: Theology and Hermeneutics in Early Syriac Literature
J.W. Childers, Abilene Christian University

Bas Snelders, Identity and Christian-Muslim Interaction: Medieval Art of the Syrian Orthodox from the Mosul Area
Emma Loosley, University of Manchester


An Early Aramaic (Syriac) Word Processor under DOS
Sunil Sivanand and Daniel Benjamin

Baptists, El Shaddai, and 1 Enoch

EL SHADDAI: ASCENSION OF THE METATRON is getting Baptists to take a second look at the book of 1 Enoch, which is all to the good as far as I'm concerned.
Lauren’s Lab: Biblical story makes rare appearance in video game

Posted by admin

By LAUREN SCHOENEMANN (The Houston Baptist University Collegian)

It’s good versus evil, taken to new levels.

“El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron” took inspiration from a source rarely consulted within the video game industry – the Bible.

The game is loosely based on the legend of Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah who, according to the book of Genesis, never died but was taken by God directly into heaven. It draws more heavily from the Ethiopic Bible’s Books of Enoch, according to which Enoch becomes chief of the archangels and protector of heaven’s treasures.

Whether the game assumes a ministerial role or simply serves to entertain, players may feel challenged to look beyond the anime-themed action-adventure elements to discover the original scripture that inspired the plot of “El Shaddai” instead of merely playing a game that encourages no further investigation into its origins. They could even become more enthusiastic about playing it after learning more about the story.

Background here.

Cross file under "Archangel Metatron Watch" and "Pseudepigrapha Watch."

Mel Gibson interviewed about Maccabean movie

MEL GIBSON is interviewed by Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic about Mel's Maccabean movie project: "Mel Gibson on Judah Maccabee, Christopher Hitchens, and Circumcision." Excerpt:
Let me dispense first with the famous anti-Semitic blow-up. I asked him why it happened, and he answered me directly: "I was loaded, and some stupid shit can come out of your mouth when you're loaded."

But from what dark corner of his soul did this terrible accusation -- that Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world -- emanate? He said, "That day they were marching into Lebanon. It was one of those things. It was on the news."

The "they" in question is the Israel Defense Forces. I found this answer to be proof, of course, of Gibson's anti-Semitic tendencies. Most drunk people, when stopped by the police, don't launch into tirades against Jews. He was obviously preoccupied with the putative sins of Jewish people, which raised the obvious question, why would he seek to make a film about one of the great Jewish heroes of history? Money, he said, was not a motivator.

"If you're looking to make money out of this, forget it," he said, citing the costs of staging period spectaculars. "Even Braveheart didn't make much money."

His interest stemmed, he said, from the simple fact that the Book of Maccabees (I and II, he said) are "ripping good reads."

"I just read it when I was teenager, and it's amazing. It's almost like" -- here, he grabbed my digital recorder, held it to his mouth, and spoke in a portentous movie-announcer voice -- "They profaned his Temple. They killed his father. They... all kinds of stuff. In the face of great odds for something he believed in" -- here he switched out of movie-announcer voice -- "Oh, my God, the odds they faced. The armies they faced had elephants! How cinematic is this! Even Judah's dad -- what's his name? Mattathias? -- you kind of get this guy who more or less is trying to avoid the whole thing, but he just gets to a place where had enough, and he just snapped!"

In other words, Judah Maccabee, his father, and his brothers, are like the heroes of every Mel Gibson movie.
Worth reading in full, but if you are fainthearted, be warned that there is strong language as well as a discussion of epispasm that may involve too much information.

Via Cinema Blend. Background here.

Monday, September 12, 2011

More from Tom Verenna on the fake metal codices

FAKE METAL CODICES WATCH: Thomas Verenna has posted an update on the current state of play at the Bible and Interpretation website: Brief Update on the Lead Codices.

Background here and links.

Blogcritics article on Metatron

ARCHANGEL METATRON WATCH: Blogcritics has a "culture" post up on Metatron:
Kabbalah: Archangel Metatron - Divine Ruler of Evil

Part of: Kabbalistic Offshoots and Mystical Bends

Author: michal Schwartz — Published: Sep 09, 2011 at 3:42 pm 1 comment
BC Culture Premium

“Every Angel is terrifying.”
Rilke, Duino Elegies

Metatron is the highest angel in Jewish angelic lore, second to God only. This position has made him an ambivalent figure; is he God’s servant or rival?

Jewish angelology has ascribed him many titles like: Prince of the World, the lesser YHWH, Prince of the Countenance.

The article is mostly on Kabbalistic traditions, which are outside my expertise, and I can't speak for its accuracy on these. The comments on the Hekhalot and magical texts are more or less correct, although the texts are from much later than the first century and they don't confuse Metatron with God. They do give the former a very exalted place and they do tell the Talmudic story of Elisha Ben Abuyah's confusion over the matter (I have translated the version in 3 Enoch here).

Talmud Blog: new books and web synopsis

NEW BOOKS are noted by Yitz Landes at the Talmud Blog:

Shaul Shaked, J.N. Ford, and Siam Bhayro, Aramaic Bowl Spells: Jewish Babylonian Aramaic Bowls Volume One (EIsenbrauns). The post has many useful links. Unfortunately, Eisenbrauns seems to have adjusted the URLs to both of the actual books and the links are dead at the moment. The page for this book is here.
The corpus of Aramaic incantation bowls from Sasanian Mesopotamia is perhaps the most important source we have for studying the everyday beliefs and practices of the Jewish, Christian, Mandaean, Manichaean, Zoroastrian and Pagan communities on the eve of the Islamic conquests. The bowls are from the Schøyen Collection, which has some 650 texts in different varieties of Aramaic: Jewish Aramaic, Mandaic and Syriac, and forms the largest collection of its kind anywhere in the world. This volume presents editions of sixty-three Jewish Aramaic incantation bowls, with accompanying introductions, translations, philological notes, photographs and indices. The themes covered include the magical divorce and the accounts of the wonder-working sages Hanina ben Dosa and Joshua bar Perahia. It is the first of a multi-volume project that aims to publish the entire Schøyen Collection of Aramaic incantation bowls.

Emanuel Tov, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible (3rd ed., Eisenbrauns). Again, the post has some good links. The link to the Eisenbrauns page is here.
Since its initial publication, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible has established itself as the indispensable authoritative textbook and reference on the subject. In this thoroughly revised third edition, Emanuel Tov has incorporated the insights of the last ten years of scholarship, including new perspectives on the biblical texts among the Dead Sea Scrolls, all of which have now been published. Here are expanded discussions of the contribution of textual criticism to biblical exegesis and of the role of scribes in the transmission of the text. The introduction and references throughout the book have been thoroughly revised with the beginning student of textual criticism in mind.
Yitz Landes has also posted news of a new synopsis of Midrash Qohelet Rabbah.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11th

BMCR review of Cotton et al., "Corpus inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae. Volume 1: Jerusalem, Part 1"

Hannah M. Cotton (ed.), Corpus inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae. Volume 1: Jerusalem, Part 1: 1 - 704. Corpus inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palestinae. A multi-lingual corpus of the inscriptions from Alexander to Muhammad. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2010. Pp. xxiv, 694. ISBN 9783110222197. $182.00.

Additional editors: Leah Di Segni, Werner Eck, Benjamin Isaac, Alla Kushnir-Stein, Haggai Misgav, Jonathan Price, Israel Roll and Ada Yardeni.

Reviewed by Hagith Sivan (


This is the first volume in a projected series of nine volumes dedicated to the classical epigraphy of Israel, a modern state with somewhat fluctuating borders that do not, however, correspond to either ancient Judaea or to Roman Palestine. The corpus's uniqueness, according to the brief introduction, resides in its multi-lingual aspect. Its chronological spectrum embraces nearly a millennium (c. 300 BCE to c. 640 CE), and the editors ought to be commended for attempting to break away from the traditional chronologies that have dominated the field of Jewish studies. Thus, instead of "Second Temple" and the "Mishnah" and "Talmud" eras (c. 450 BCE to 70 CE; c. 70 to c. 200 CE; and c. 200 to 400/600 CE, respectively), the editors have adopted the conventional classical boundaries of the "Hellenistic" period (which they do, however, terminate with the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE); the "Roman Period" (from 70 to Constantine), and "Late Antiquity" (from Constantine to the Arab Conquest). The inscriptions themselves do not appear to lend support to these temporal divisions, at least not in part 1 of volume 1 which, according to page 39, solely covers "inscriptions from the Hellenistic period up to the destruction of the Second Temple." Perhaps, for the sake of clarification, this important piece of information should have been placed on the title page.

Mentioned earlier here. Another project to collect ancient Jewish inscriptions from outside Palestine was noted here some years ago.