Saturday, October 08, 2011

ISAW Research Scholar Fellowships

ISAW Now Accepting Visiting Research Scholar Applications for Fall 2012

Each year the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University, makes about 7-10 appointments of visiting research scholars. We are now accepting applications for fellowships beginning in fall 2012. ISAW's scope embraces the history, archaeology, and culture of the entire Old World from late prehistoric times to the eighth century AD, including Asia and Africa. Projects of a theoretical or comparative nature relevant to this domain are also welcome. Academic visitors at ISAW should be individuals of scholarly distinction or promise in any relevant field of ancient studies who will benefit from the stimulation of working in an environment with colleagues in other disciplines. Applicants with a history of interdisciplinary exchange are particularly welcome. They are expected to be in residence at the Institute during the academic terms for which they are appointed and to take part in the intellectual life of the community.

For details about the categories of fellows, financial support, and the application, please visit The deadline for applications is December 10, 2011. New York University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer.

Job in Coptic Studies

JOB at The American University in Cairo:
Coptic Studies

Category: Coptic Studies
Department: Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology and Egyptology
Locations: Cairo, Egypt
Posted: Sep 29, '11
Type: Full-time
Ref. No.: SAPE-1-2012

Job Description:

The Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology and Egyptology Department (SAPE) is seeking a specialist in Coptic Studies (Coptology). Candidates must be able to teach the Coptic language — in particular, the Sahidic and Bohairic dialects. Candidates must also offer at least one other specialty from among the following: Coptic monasticism, Coptic archaeology, and Coptic art and architecture. The successful candidate will be required to take the lead in working on the foundations of AUC’s new M.A. in Egyptology and Coptology, for which reason she/he will receive one course release in her/his first semester. The candidate will teach courses at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.


Rank is open. Candidates must have completed the Ph.D. degree at the time of appointment. The successful candidate will have a commitment to teaching and to an active program of research and scholarship. Priority will be given to applications received by October 20th, 2011.

Additional Information:

The appointment is tenure-track effective September 1, 2012, with renewal dependent upon institutional needs and the appointee’s performance.
Follow the link for application instructions.

(HT Alin Suciu.)

Friday, October 07, 2011

Yom Kippur

YOM KIPPUR (THE DAY OF ATONEMENT) begins this evening at sundown. A healthy fast to all observing it. The biblical precepts for Yom Kippur appear in Leviticus 16 and 23:26-32.

BAR website: "The Dead Sea Scrolls and Why They Matter"

BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY REVIEW has a new website on the Dead Sea Scrolls: The Dead Sea Scrolls and Why They Matter.

In Edinburgh at Hurtado event

I'M IN EDINBURGH TODAY at the New College seminar honoring the work of Larry Hurtado. I have pre-posted this and a couple of other things, but otherwise I don't expect to be blogging today.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Rescued Hebrew Bible manuscripts from Damascus

Bibles rescued from Syria in secret op
Holy books dating back 1,000 years, meticulously guarded by Jewish community, travel from Damascus to Israel in continent-wide, James Bond-style operation

Uri Misgav
Published: 10.05.11, 14:56 / Israel Jewish Scene (YnetNews)

It was a James Bond-style, continent-wide operation with many participants. It began in Syria, continued in the United States and ended in Israel. And yet, not a single word has been published about it – until now.

Yedioth Ahronoth has revealed the amazing rescue of some of the world's most ancient Bibles from Damascus.

The 11 holy books, some dating back 1,000 years, were written by copyist of the Scriptures around the world and arrived in the Syrian capital in different periods. The Jewish community took pride in them and guarded them meticulously, helping them survive the political upheavals that took place in the city over the years.

The Damascus books are considered the world's most ancient Bibles after the Aleppo Codex, which compared to them is torn and shabby.

That is, they may be among the oldest complete manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible. The Dead Sea Scrolls and many Greek Septuagint manuscripts are, of course, much older.

The Associated Press also has an article on the story: Bible Manuscripts From Damascus Go on Rare Display.

Report on CSUF's DSS event

A REPORT on the CSUF Dead Sea Scrolls event from the Daily Titan:
Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit alive at CSUF

By Sean Viele
Published: October 05, 2011

An exhibit at Cal State Fullerton Tuesday featuring a series of lectures on the Dead Sea Scrolls covered topics from the historical context to the politics behind the scrolls.

The lectures and a detailed replica of the Great Isaiah Scroll attracted students and visitors from the Fullerton community.

The Comparative Religion Department began planning for the exhibit last year but were unable to secure funding until this semester, said Paul Levesque, department chair and associate professor of the Comparative Religion Department.

Levesque said the long-awaited exhibit was a success.

“We’ve had a lot of alumni here today, a lot of people from the community, so we’ve been thrilled about that,” Levesque said.

By the way, there were a lot more than seven Dead Sea Scrolls. I think the number seven must refer to the relatively complete scrolls found in Cave One.

Background to the story is here.

Another review of Hoffman, "The Dovekeepers"

Book review: Alice Hoffman’s ‘Dovekeepers’ builds on lives of Jewish heroines

By Ron Charles, Published: October 5 (Washington Post)

Alice Hoffman may be the most uneven writer in America. A trip through her enormous body of work — for adults and young people — is a jarring ride, from the loveliness of “Illumination Night” to the schlockiness of “The River King.” Hang on tight and you’ll swerve from the quiet power of her short stories in “Local Girls” to the groaning hokiness of “The Ice Queen.” In bestseller after bestseller, she explores women’s subjects and feminist themes, especially ancient and modern expressions of witchcraft. Sometimes, the results are practically magic; sometimes, they’re practically laughable.

But nothing she’s written would prepare you for the gravitas of her new book, an immersive historical novel about Masada during the Roman siege in the 1st century. “The Dovekeepers” is an enormously ambitious, multi-part story, richly decorated with the details of life 2,000 years ago. What’s more, as Anita Diamant showed so popularly with “The Red Tent,” the world of ancient Judaism provides fertile ground for exploring the challenges of women’s lives, and, fortunately, this time Hoffman treats her favorite issues without throwing up much of the fairy dust that too often clogs her work.


More on that archaeology-privatization bill

Israeli archaeologists oppose privatisation bill
Proposed amendment related to disputed excavation

By Lauren Gelfond Feldinger | Web only (The Art Newspaper)
Published online 6 Oct 11 (News)

JERUSALEM. More than 150 Israeli archaeologists and historians have petitioned the Israeli parliament to vote down an amendment to a bill that would privatise national parks, including archaeological and historic sites. The petition, delivered to the culture and environment ministers, charges that the changes to law, if passed, would fuel political interests, hurt minority communities and undermine unbiased scientific research. “We demand that the government not change the laws... and instead strengthens academic freedom and heritage without sectarian preference,” it says. The Union for Environmental Defence and The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel have also opposed the amendment.

The bill, to be voted on in October, was proposed following protests against the management of City of David, one of Israel’s most popular, albeit politically charged, archaeological parks, sponsored and managed by a private foundation.
I'm not sure that there's anything new in this article, but it sums up the state of play thoroughly.

Background here and links.

Copts as Egyptian citizens

COPTIC SOLIDARITY: "Are Christian Copts 'Dhimmis' or 'Infidels'?" That's the Question in Post-Revolutionary Egypt. The question should be, "Are they citizens with all the same rights and responsibilities as all other Egyptian citizens?" And the answer should be "Yes." Just saying.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Review of Lindbeck, "Elijah and the Rabbis"

Kristen H. Lindbeck. Elijah and the Rabbis: Story and Theology. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010. 272 pp. $82.50 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-231-13080-6; $26.50 (paper), ISBN 978-0-231-13081-3.

Reviewed by Eliezer Segal (University of Calgary)
Published on H-Judaic (October, 2011)
Commissioned by Jason Kalman

A (Deathless?) Prophet among the Talmudic Scholars

There is an understandable appeal in the image of Elijah the prophet as a figure who was exempted from the limits of mortality and continues to make appearances in the human world. The Bible provided a complex set of themes related to Elijah that could be drawn upon by later storytellers. The scriptural Elijah was at once a zealous warrior against idolatry, a wonder-worker who performed supernatural miracles for the benefit of common folk, and an eschatological herald who, according to Malachi, would be sent by God "before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord" (4:5). Medieval Jews developed their own legends and customs through which Elijah could participate in their lives, the most familiar of these being his appearances at circumcisions and at the Passover seder, or as a poor wayfarer who might test the hospitality of his hosts.

The present volume focuses on the tales about Elijah that appear in the Babylonian Talmud--the work in the rabbinic corpus that preserves the largest number of such stories. The image of Elijah that emerges from this corpus differs in some significant respects from those of earlier and later eras; e.g., little importance is attached to his role as a messianic harbinger, and much of his activity is tightly enmeshed in the values of rabbinic scholarship. Lindbeck's treatment of the topic is thorough and thoughtful. She subjects the texts to incisive questions, classifications, and analyses, and she succeeds in eliciting interpretations that are true to the texts and their cultural contexts. As befits the topic, there are points when it is best to let the sources speak on their own terms, while it is also instructive to learn from comparisons with related phenomena in Jewish and neighboring cultures.


How To Discover Boundary Inscriptions

NEWS YOU CAN USE: How To Discover Boundary Inscriptions (BiblePlaces).

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Replica of Great Isaiah Scroll at CSUF

A REPLICA OF THE GREAT ISAIAH SCROLL is going on display at Cal State Fullerton: Religious scroll replica to be shown at CSUF (Daily Titan). There's a little information on the replica itself:
The facsimile scroll is owned by Legacy Church Orange County and is on loan from the Museum of Biblical and Sacred Writings in Irvine, where Giacumakis is director. The replica is approximately 24 feet long.
The same replica was noted here and, I suspect (unless there's a second replica) here and here as well. For other links on the Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsaa) itself, see here and here.

Monday, October 03, 2011

DSS website gets a million+ hits in a week

Virtual Dead Sea scrolls get more than a million hits in just one week
400,000 Americans visit new website launched by Israel Museum and Google.

By Nir Hasson Tags: Dead Sea scrolls Jerusalem (Haaretz)

More than a million people have visited a new website featuring high-resolution photographs of several Dead Sea Scrolls since the site was launched less than a week ago by the Israel Museum and Google Israel.


While the museum had anticipated wide interest in the website, interest has exceeded expectations. Between last Monday, when the website was launched, and Sunday morning, Google logged 1,042,104 visitors to the site, which not only provides an opportunity to see detailed images of the five scrolls, but also features an English translation.

It is the norm for Dead Sea Scrolls museum exhibitions to exceed attendance expectations. It seems the same is true for virtual exhibitions.

I noted the website here and here last week.

No BBC ban on BC and AD

BBC head of religion hits back at BC/AD ban claims
Aaqil Ahmed: story by "people seeking to make mischief" is "simply wrong"

Written By
Jack Seale (Radio Times)
9:30 AM, 02 October 2011

Aaqil Ahmed, the BBC's head of religion and ethics, has responded strongly to reports that the Corporation has banned the terms BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini). Last weekend it was claimed that BC and AD had been replaced across the BBC's output by the modern, secular terms BCE (Before Common Era) and CE (Common Era).

"The story was quite simply wrong," Ahmed wrote on the About the BBC blog. "We have issued no editorial guidelines or instructions to suggest that anyone in the BBC should change the terms they use."

This is the first I've heard of this controversy. In my technical work I always use BCE and CE as the more neutral terms, but in popular presentations, such as the radio interview a week ago, I usually say BC and AD, since a lot of people don't know what BCE and CE mean. The BBC policy as explained by Mr. Ahmed seems reasonable to me.

UPDATE (4 October): Here is the Daily Mail article that seems to have started up (or at least intensified) the controversy: BBC turns its back on year of Our Lord: 2,000 years of Christianity jettisoned for politically correct 'Common Era'.

Another review of Hoffman, "The Dovekeepers" (Masada novel)

'The Dovekeepers:' A book review

Published: Sunday, October 02, 2011, 10:39 AM
Star-Ledger Entertainment Desk By Star-Ledger Entertainment Desk

The Dovekeepers
Alice Hoffman
Scribner, 504 pp., $27.99

Reviewed by Sherryl Connelly

The ancient historian Josephus wrote that he learned the story of Masada from two women who had escaped as the Romans breached the walls of the desert stronghold in 73 CE to declare victory over the corpses of 900 Jewish men, women and children. They had committed suicide rather than submit. Recent archaeological findings appear to contradict what Josephus recorded, but Alice Hoffman embraces the account and the woman who gave it in what may be her master work, “The Dovekeepers.”

Earlier review noted here.

Syriac Referenc Portal at the University of Alabama

A SYRIAC REFERENCE PORTAL is being created at the University of Alabama. (Via AINA.)

September 2011 Biblical Studies Carnival

THE SEPTEMBER 2011 BIBLICAL STUDIES CARNIVAL has been posted at ths Scotteriology blog. Or maybe it's the October one. I'm confused.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

"The Phoenicians" wins another award

The Phoenicians wins bronze award in Austria

Article published on 29 September 2011 (Malta Independent)

The documentary The Phoenicians, produced by Chris and Maurice Micallef, was awarded the Bronze Award in the Golden Diana International Film Festival held in Austria last month.

The article says it has won thirteen international awards, some of which have already been noted here.

A new novel on the fall of Masada

A NEW NOVEL on the fall of Masada:
Alice Hoffman weaves ancient history into mesmerizing tale

by AMANDA ST. AMAND • | Posted: Sunday, October 2, 2011 12:00 am | No Comments Posted (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

'The Dovekeepers'

A novel by Alice Hoffman

Published by Scribner, 504 pages, $27

On sale Tuesday

If a world of strong women and their complex relationships with one another doesn't draw you into Alice Hoffman's brilliant new novel, "The Dovekeepers," read it for Hoffman's fine sense of narrative, history and detail as she shares the story of four women who come by various paths to Masada.


Earliest Christian inscription?

World's earliest surviving Christian inscription identified

By Owen Jarus (CBS News)

Researchers have identified what is believed to be the world's earliest surviving Christian inscription, shedding light on an ancient sect that followed the teachings of a second-century philosopher named Valentinus.

Officially called NCE 156, the inscription is written in Greek and is dated to the latter half of the second century, a time when the Roman Empire was at the height of its power.

An inscription is an artifact containing writing that is carved on stone. The only other written Christian remains that survive from that time period are fragments of papyri that quote part of the gospels and are written in ink. Stone inscriptions are more durable than papyri and are easier to display. NCE 156 also doesn't quote the gospels directly, instead its inscription alludes to Christian beliefs.

"If it is in fact a second-century inscription, as I think it probably is, it is about the earliest Christian material object that we possess," study researcher Gregory Snyder, of Davidson College in North Carolina, told LiveScience. (See Images of Early Christian Inscriptions and Artifacts)

Snyder, who detailed the finding in the most recent issue of the Journal of Early Christian Studies, believes it to be a funeral epigram, incorporating both Christian and pagan elements. His work caps 50 years of research done by multiple scholars, much of it in Italian. The inscription is in the collection of the Capitoline Museums in Rome.

"Assuming that Professor Snyder is right, it's clearly the earliest identifiable Christian inscription," said Paul McKechnie, a professor of ancient history at Macquarie University in Australia, who has also studied the inscription.

As translated by Snyder, the inscription reads:

To my bath, the brothers of the bridal chamber carry the torches,
[here] in our halls, they hunger for the [true] banquets,
even while praising the Father and glorifying the Son.
There [with the Father and the Son] is the only spring and source of truth.

Details on the provenance of the inscription are sketchy. It was first published in 1953 by Luigi Moretti in the "Bullettino della commissione archeologica comunale di Roma," an Italian archaeological journal published annually.

The only reference to where it was found is a note scribbled on a squeeze (a paper impression) of the inscription, Snyder said. According to that note, it was found in the suburbs of Rome near Tor Fiscale, a medieval tower. In ancient times, the location of the tower would have been near mile four of a roadway called the Via Latina.

The argument for the date is primarily paleographic (that is, based on the shapes of the letters) and I defer to the judgment of those who specialize in Greek paleography of the period. I would be happier if there were clearer data about the provenance. Was the inscription excavated or found by someone and turned in? But for now it seems to be regarded as genuine and quite possibly of an early date. As it notes at the beginning, the article points out parallels with contemporary Valentinian Gnostic literature, so the earliest (or at least a very early) Christian inscription may be of the Gnostic variety rather than the orthodox.

Read it all.

(HT Annette Yoshiko Reed.)