Saturday, March 17, 2012

Rollston Epigraphy posts

CHRISTOPHER ROLLSTON has put up some timely posts at Rollston Epigraphy.

Regarding the Jesus Discovery/Talpiot (Talpiyot) Tombs discussions:

The Four-Line Ossuary Inscription from Talpiyot Tomb B (1981): Summary and Restatement


Background here and here and links

Inspired by the Israel forgery trial verdict:


Background here and here and links


AWOL has collected links for online versions of the volumes of Patrologia Graeca and Patrologia Latina, plus other resources that will be useful for working with them.

Migne's Patrologia Graeca at Google Books and IA

Migne's Patrologia Latina at Google Books and IA

Friday, March 16, 2012

Another McGrath roundup

JAMES MCGRATH continues to provide useful roundups of discussion of important stories in the biblioblogosphere Round-Up: Talpiot Tomb and James Ossuary Latest.

Goodacre on Sanders on "uniqueness"

ARTICLE NOTE from Mark Goodacre: The Question of Uniqueness in the Teaching of Jesus (E. P. Sanders).

"Uniqueness" is a seductive concept that has done a lot of damage to the study of antiquity, including but not limited to Historical Jesus studies. I have commented on in in another context here. I'm glad to see that Sanders has gone after it so effectively.

Hurtado on Jewish Believers in Jesus

BOOK NOTE from Larry Hurtado: Oskar Skarsaune & Reidar Hvalvik (eds.), Jewish Believers in Jesus: The Early Centuries (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2007).

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Green Collection

Archeologist Assembling World's Largest Biblical Artifacts Museum

By Stoyan Zaimov , Christian Post Reporter
March 14, 2012|2:28 pm
A collector deemed "the Indiana Jones of biblical archaeology" has helped amass the world's biggest private collection of biblical texts and artifacts, which are on a worldwide traveling tour and will be on display one day at a nonsectarian Bible museum.

Dr. Scott Carroll has personally inspected, studied and bought nearly 50,000 ancient biblical papyri, texts, and artifacts since Nov. 2009, when he was hired by the Green Collection, named after the Green family, founders and leaders of Hobby Lobby, the world's largest privately owned arts and crafts retailer, the reported.

Among the highlights of the Green Collection are one of the largest private collections of Dead Sea Scrolls; 4,000 Jewish Torahs; rare illuminated manuscripts; early tracts and Bibles belonging to Martin Luther; and the Western Hemisphere's largest collection of cuneiform tablets, an early form of writing.

This month, the Green Collection is showing off its exhibit to the Vatican, featuring 152 artifacts displayed contextually in settings ranging from re-creations of the Qumran caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered to a monastic scriptorium and an excavation of a Roman garbage city in Egypt.

Read it all. So far the Green Collection does seem to be doing a good job of making the artifacts available for scholars to study.

More on that Vatican exhibition here. More on the 2009 auction mentioned in the article here and links. The Green Collection has also been associated with the reports of some very early New Testament manuscripts, although I don't think the connection has been officially confirmed.

Reflections on Israel Forgery Trial verdict

ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS (really this time): Oded Golan is not guilty of forgery. So is the ‘James ossuary’ for real? (Matti Friedman, The Times of Israel). Excerpt:
[The judge's] decision to clear Golan of forging the inscription on the James ossuary, he wrote, “does not mean that the inscription on the ossuary is authentic or that it was written 2,000 years ago. This will continue to be studied by scientists and archaeologists, and time will tell.

“Moreover,” he wrote, “it was not proven in any way that the words ‘the brother of Jesus’ necessarily refer to the ‘Jesus’ who appears in Christian writings.”

This applies to all of the artifacts in question, he added several hundred pages later in the lengthy text of his decision: “All that has been established is that the tools and the science currently at the disposal of the experts who testified were not sufficient to prove the alleged forgeries beyond a reasonable doubt as is required by criminal law.”

In short, the case’s conclusion does not establish whether or not the James ossuary, the Jehoash tablet, or any of the artifacts in questions are historic discoveries or slick fakes. The only clear conclusion to be drawn from the trial, perhaps, is a frustrating one: Where ancient artifacts are concerned, that distinction is nearly impossible to make.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to identify fakes, which is one reason to treat unprovenanced artifacts with skepticism, especially if they seem to have a direct connection to biblical people or stories. My own view, on philological grounds, is that the Jehoash tablet is a fake. The James Ossuary is a genuine ancient ossuary and the first part of the inscription may be genuine as well. The real question is whether the second part, "the brother of Jesus" is genuinely ancient and, if so, as ancient as the first century. I don't have a strong view myself, except that on principle I am very skeptical.

Background on the trial is here and on the James Ossuary is here, and just keep following those links back to 2003.

UPDATE: James McGrath comments on the story and collects reactions from the biblioblogosphere: Verdict in the James Ossuary Trial: Not Guilty on All Counts.

UPDATE: Bible History Daily: Oded Golan Speaks Out on Forgery Trial Verdict and Robert Deutsch to Sue IAA.

Jesus Discovery/Talpiot tombs latest

DAVID MEADOWS has a clear, concise, and links-rich post up at Rogue Classicism which summarizes the discussion and the current state of play regarding the Talpiot (Talpiyot) Tombs controversy: Talpiyot B / Patio Tomb Roundup ~ The Final Nails in the Ossuary(ies).

Background here and links.

UPDATE: Christopher Rollston at the ASOR Blog: THE FOUR-LINE GREEK INSCRIPTION FROM A TALPIYOT TOMB: EPIGRAPHIC NOTES AND HISTORICAL DISCUSSIONS, with a new and very interesting interpretation of the inscription.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Israel Forgery Trial verdict

Antiquities collector acquitted of forgery charges in ‘James ossuary’ case

matthew kalman
Jerusalem— Special to Globe and Mail Update
Published Wednesday, Mar. 14, 2012 7:30AM EDT

A Roman-era burial box inscribed “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” was reprieved from the scrapheap of history on Wednesday when a Jerusalem judge completely exonerated an Israeli antiquities collector who had been accused of forging it.

The verdict, delivered by Judge Aharon Farkash in a tiny, crowded courtroom in the Jerusalem District Courthouse, ended a seven-year ordeal for the accused, Oded Golan, 60, but it will do little to extinguish the decade-long scientific controversy over the authenticity of the limestone box which has raged since it was first displayed to the public at the Royal Ontario Museum in 2002.

If genuine, the burial box, or ossuary, is the first physical artifact yet discovered that might be connected with the family of the historical Jesus Christ.

Mr. Golan had been accused of adding the second half of the inscription linking it to Jesus, and then fabricating the patina, the bio-organic coating that adheres to ancient objects, to pass it off as genuine.

But Judge Farkash said the prosecution had failed to prove any of the serious charges against Mr. Golan and acquitted him on all but three minor charges of illegal antiquities dealing and possession of stolen antiquities. Robert Deutsch, a co-defendant, was acquitted on all charges.

The judge wisely emphasized that this was not a ruling on the authenticity or interpretation of the James Ossuary inscription, issues that can only be determined, if at all, by specialists.

So even after all these years of effort and all the expense, the existence of the "monster forgery machine" remains to be established. Nevertheless, I think we are still right to be very wary of unprovenanced artifacts. My comments in 2009 here still seem to hold up (cf. Schiffman's too-perfect principle). See also this post from September 2011.

UPDATE: Incorrect link now fixed. And actually it's Eisenman who used the phrase "too perfect," but it is applicable to Schiffman's formulation "The most exciting things are the things most likely to be forged."

UPDATE: Israel Antiquities Authority press release: Response of the IAA to the Verdict by the Jerusalem District Court in the Matter of the Forgeries. Excerpt:
According to the Israel Antiquities Authority, the benefits of placing the issue on today’s agenda were immense and have led to a dramatic change in the conduct of archaeological research in Israel and abroad: there has been an almost complete cessation of publishing finds that come from the antiquities market without first knowing their exact place of discovery; the trade in written documents and seals derived from illicit antiquities excavations has almost been entirely halted also. This in turn has led to a dramatic reduction in the scope of antiquities robbery occurring at biblical sites in Israel. In addition, ethical practices concerning research have changed and rules have been formulated regarding the “dos and don’ts” of the publication of finds. Furthermore, new methods have been developed for checking archaeological finds, which rely on research methods drawn from the natural sciences, and many collectors have made their collections available to the State for examination and registration.

The Israel Antiquities Authority will continue in its battle against the robbers and forgers of antiquities in order to ensure that the historical truth of the three religions will be preserved for future generations.
The press release includes a high-resolution photo of the Jehoash Inscription, on which more here.

Todd Bolen comments on the verdict and the IAA press release here.

(Via Joseph I. Lauer.)

BHQ Judges

NEW BOOK: ETC: BHQ Judges is out.

Jesus Discovery/Talpiot tombs latest

ANOTHER JESUS DISCOVERY/TALPIOT (TALPIYOT) TOMBS ROUNDUP from James McGrath, also with pre-commentary collected on the imminent Israel Forgery Trial verdict, which is promised today: The Talpiot Mysteries: Featuring the Biblioblog Detectives and the Case of the Ichthyomorphic Ossuary Unguentaria/Amphora.

IAA Chair speaks up about Temple Mount

Antiquities Authority Rips Netanyahu over Temple Mount
"Prime ministers and ministers know" about Muslim damage to Temple Mount, Knesset is told.

By Gil Ronen (Arutz Sheva)
First Publish: 3/13/2012, 6:19 PM

The Knesset's Education Committee discussed Tuesday the ongoing damage to the Temple Mount caused by Muslims.

The Chairman of the Antiquities Authority, Shuka Dorfman, told the committee that "the Temple Mount is an antiquities site that is not supervised by me like the other antiquities sites are. There are limitations on the supervision. We work in cooperation with the police. We know what goes on there even without being there – I am not pleased with what goes on in the Temple Mount."

"The authority to approve or prevent [excavation] work [on the Mount] is in our hands and I have received criticism for it. I do not want to criticize, bit prime ministers and ministers know what is going on atop the Temple Mount," Dorfman said, hinting at Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Preach it, brother.

More on that coin auction

THAT AUCTION OF JUDEAN COINS is covered in more detail by Three Ancient Judaean Coins Realize Nearly $3M at Heritage Auctions. There's a photo of the top three, an account of other coins that sold in the tens-to-hundreds of thousands of dollars range, and a notice that much of the Shoshana Collection has yet to be auctioned.

Background here and links.

Monday, March 12, 2012

SBL paper accepted

I'VE RECEIVED THE GOOD NEWS that my paper proposal for the 2012 Society of Biblical Literature meeting has been accepted by the Esotericism and Mysticism in Antiquity Section. Here's the abstract:
The 94 Books of Ezra and the Angelic Revelations of John Dee

The legend narrated in 4 Ezra 14:19-48 reports that Ezra, at God's command, assembled five scribes and then, having imbibed a fiery spiritual drink, he dictated a series of revelations over a period of forty days. The scribes wrote in characters they themselves did not know and at the end of this period had produced ninety-four lost books. Various ancient parallels to this story have been adduced in the commentaries. In this paper I analyse a remarkable parallel from the sixteenth century in the detailed records of the angelic séances held by the English Renaissance polymath and magus John Dee. In the 1580s Dee worked with a "scryer," named Edward Kelley who purported to receive revelations from angels while gazing into a crystal. In a three-month period between April and July 1584, a complex system of ceremonial magic was revealed to Kelley in the form of a table of letters (the so-called Great Table) containing two sets of names—one of angels and one of aetheric realms—with one system superimposed on the other, and nineteen "Calls" or incantations to be used to invoke these angels. The text of the Calls was dictated by Kelley, sometimes letter-by-letter, backwards, in a language which is otherwise unknown, and written down by Dee. An otherwise unknown script was also revealed in which to write them. English translations of the Calls were provided at odd intervals, demonstrating Enochian to be a reasonably coherent language and the Calls themselves to be interesting compositions with some literary merit. Although the story in 4 Ezra is clearly legendary, central elements of it that appear highly implausible are paralleled in the well-documented reception of the Enochian Great Table and Calls by Dee and Kelley, supporting the possibility, intimated by scholars such as Michael Stone, that the Ezra narrative may be based on actual revelatory praxis in ancient Judaism.
Past posts involving John Dee are here, here, and here. As you can see, that back-burner project mentioned in the third post has been moved closer to the front. A couple of earlier posts also involve the Dee-Kelley system of "Enochian" magic (here and here). This system is unrelated to the ancient apocryphal "Enochic" literature.

UPDATE: Incorrect dates in abstract now corrected.

McGrath on the Talpiot Tombs

JAMES MCGRATH is still keeping track of the Jesus Discovery/Talpiot (Talpiyot) Tombs controversy: Talpiot Tombs Latest Round-Up (with fish handles).

Footnote again

Movie Review: Footnote (Ron Banks, The West Australian): "In the end, Footnote is a subtle rendering of the dissatisfactions of academic life and a sobering reflection that one's career may not always turn out as one would have hoped."

Footnote’ Review: Father & Son Battle Their Wits in Darkly Funny Oscar Nominee (Alonso Duralde, The Wrap). "One of the most interesting aspects of “Footnote” is that this material could, with just a few edits, be a serious and downbeat drama. But it’s Cedar’s knowing satire of academic politics (aided greatly by the sprightly and circus-like score by Amit Poznansky) that keeps the proceedings pungently bubbly."
Earlier reviews etc. here and links.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Revelations reviewed again

REVELATIONS is reviewed in Salon by Laura Miller: “Revelations”: The Bible’s scariest book. Don't worry, the title in quotation marks is Pagels's book, not John's. Excerpt:
Pagels’ sympathies clearly lie with the small religious communities that had sprung up throughout the region (though particularly in Egypt) in Athanasius’ time. These are the inward-looking, simple-living mystics who incorporated into their Christian worship spiritual ideas and practices from all over the ancient world and who preserved the gnostic texts found at Nag Hammadi. Some of those texts are as weird and visionary as the Book of Revelation, and some are far more beautiful, egalitarian and inspiring to many modern eyes. But they were not politically useful, and the Book of Revelation was. So it ended up in the New Testament and they did not. And there it remains, at the end of the Bible, providing fodder for bad Demi Moore movies and disastrously misconceived Mideast policies to this very day.
John would have hated to be blamed for bad Demi Moore movies.

Background here and links.