Saturday, July 21, 2012

Oxford Centre Workshop on Reception of Josephus

Date: Fri, 20 Jul 2012 07:56:06 -0400
From: "Mendelsohn, Adam D"
Subject: Workshop on the Reception of Josephus by Jews and Christians from Late Antiquity to 1750, Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies

Applications are invited to participate in this workshop to be held at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies on January 7-8 2013. Bursaries to cover travel expenses and accommodation will be available for selected participants.
The workshop will be the first in a series as part of a project on the reception of Josephus in Jewish culture from the 18th century to the present.

Please submit your application in English, with a short CV and an abstract (not more than 500 words) of a research paper to be discussed in the workshop to the Academic Registrar of the OCHJS by Friday 14 September 2012.

Academic Registrar
Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies
Yarnton Manor, Yarnton
Visit the website at

Friday, July 20, 2012

More on John Dee and OT Pseudepigrapha

HETERODOXOLOGY: On Enoch reception and Dee reception. Egil Asprem discusses (with reference to his recent book) the degree to which John Dee (and, implicitly, Edward Kelley) knew the ancient Enochian traditions. The answer is, not much.
A full answer requires more careful source study, but it is clear enough that this is a phenomenon belonging to the reception of Dee’s work. One could say that it is the convergence of “Enoch reception” and “Dee reception”.
This is correct, although Dee himself was certainly interested in ancient Enochiana. I discuss this question in the introduction to Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures vol. 1. Here is the paragraph:
In the early 1580s the English scholar and magus John Dee undertook an experiment with his "scryer," who went by the name of Edward Kelley, to try to acquire otherwise inaccessible knowledge by means of invoking and interrogating angels. Kelley, by peering into his "seer stone," mediated numerous conversations between these angels and Dee, and Dee left detailed transcripts of these encounters. He was told that the lost books of Esdras were still in the hands of the Jews. He was also told that he would be shown the lost books of Enoch quoted by Jude, but there is no record of this happening. Instead, the angels dictated a lengthy revelatory book called Liber Loagaeth, which was to restore all the lost holy books. Unfortunately, it is written in an "angelic" language (called "Enochian" by later followers of Dee) and, apart from a word or two here and there, no translation was ever forthcoming.
As far as I can tell, the only ancient Enochic text that Dee knew was the quotation in Jude 14-15. He also, by the way, knew the Latin book of 2 Esdras (= 4-6 Ezra) and quoted it from time to time. My SBL paper this year discusses some phenomenological parallels between the angelic séances of Dee and Kelley and the visionary events described in 4 Ezra 14.

I may already have mentioned that Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures vol. 1 is forthcoming in the next few months.

On a related note, I got the following in the mail this week:
Aaron Leitch, The Angelical Language, Volume I: The Complete History and Mythos of the Tongue of Angels and Volume II: An Encyclopedic Lexicon of the Tongue of Angels (Llewellyn, 2010)
An interesting review and compendium by a modern practitioner.

Orlov and Boccaccini, New Perspectives on 2 Enoch

MYSTICAL POLITICS: Mystical interpolations into 2 Enoch. Rebecca Lesses discusses some chapters from New Perspectives on 2 Enoch: No Longer Slavonic Only, edited by Andrei Orlov and Gabrielle Boccaccini (Brill, 2012). More on the Enoch Seminar that generated the book here.

A translation of the Coptic fragments of 2 Enoch by their discoverer Joost Hagen is slated to be published in volume 2 of the texts edited for the More Old Testament Pseudepigraph Project.

Have I mentioned that Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures vol. 1, the first volume of texts edited for the project, is coming out this autumn?

Online Bibliography of Semitic Linguistics

AWOL: Online Bibliography of Semitic Linguistics. Updated!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A new Mikraot Gedolot

Reconstructing the Bible
Project to correct thousands of biblical mistakes discovered over the years nears completion.

By Nir Hasson | Jul.18, 2012 | 3:09 AM | 1 (Haaretz)

Prof. Menachem Cohen of the Bible department at Bar-Ilan University has no doubt that all Hebrew Bibles sitting on bookshelves in Jewish homes around the world contain errors. Sometimes scores of errors can be found in a Bible, sometimes they number in the hundreds. For the most part these are not dramatic mistakes: perhaps the absence of the letter yod, an incorrect diacritical mark, a mistaken cantillation note, and other such small inaccuracies.

But Cohen says he and his colleagues have produced the most accurate version of the Old Testament published in at least the past 1,000 years, or maybe, ever. Cohen has been working on this Bible for the past 40 years, as the director of the Mikraot Gedolot-HaKeter project. He hopes it will become the agreed-upon standard version of the Scripture that will usher the ancient text from the "age of books" into the digital age.

The last man to take upon himself a similar task was a Spanish Jew named Jacob ben Hayyim who lived in Venice circa the early 16th century, less than 100 years after the Gutenberg Bible was first printed. Like Cohen, ben Hayyim lived in an era of a technological revolution with regard to texts. Handwritten scrolls were being replaced by modern printed and bound volumes. Thus, ben Hayyim thought it necessary to preserve the ancient text.


The first volume of the Bar-Ilan "Mikraot Gedolot-HaKeter" came out 20 years ago. To date, 16 volumes have been published in all; only four volumes remain to be completed.

There is also a lot about the Aleppo Codex, which forms the basis for the new edition.

This is an important project, but it should be clarified that its goal is to reconstruct the Masoretic Text, which is not necessarily the same thing as the original text of the Hebrew Bible. The MT is a vocalized edition produced in the early Middle Ages. It is based on a generally very good text that probably goes back to one or a very few manuscripts from around the first century. But the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Septuagint show us that the textual basis of the Hebrew Bible was far wider than the manuscript(s) behind the MT, and these other resources must be used if we want to get closer to the original text of the individual books. How close we can get depends on how corrupt the text of the original book remains after we apply textual criticism to it using all our manuscript resources.

Background on the Aleppo Codex is here and here with many links.

UPDATE: Dead link at top now fixed. Sorry about that!

Review of Koren Talmud, Berakhot

A different kind of Talmud

By Rabbi Jack Riemer (Sun-Sentinel Jewish Journal)
11:43 a.m. EDT, July 18, 2012

THE KOREN TALMUD BAVLI: BERAKHOT, COMMENTARY BY Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz, Editor in Chief Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, Koren Publishing Co. Jerusalem, Israel, 2012, $49.95.

It may seem presumptuous to review a volume of the Talmud because the Talmud is the central book of Jewish studies, and so who would dare to pass judgment on it? But the Koren edition of the Steinsaltz Talmud is a breathtaking achievement, both in form and in content, and so it must be called to the attention of readers.

You know that this is a different kind of a Talmud the moment you look at the cover. Every other edition of the Talmud that you have ever seen has the title of the volume on the cover, and not much else. This one has a bold picture, in bright colors, of two fruits and a plate full of pieces of fruit. Why? Because Berakhot is the first volume of the order of Zeraim — which means seeds. The cover tells you immediately that you have entered into a different kind of a volume of Talmud, one that has been designed with imagination and with skill by master typographers and book producers.

When you open the book you find more delightful surprises. The book opens from two sides. One side contains the traditional Vilna Edition of the Talmud, but now punctuated, and with vowels. The other side has the translation, which is clear, crisp and comprehensible. What makes it different from other translations is that this side also contains a thoughtful introduction to each chapter, thorough historical notes that explain the social and economic background of the text, biographical sketches of the Sages, brief summaries of the halakhic decisions that stem from the Talmudic discussions, and — most surprising of all — photographs, charts, maps and diagrams that illuminate the text.

There are other technological features that are impressive. This is the first edition of the Talmud ever to be available on an IPad app. Now, instead of schlepping a heavy volume with you, you can download the page you need and you are off to your daf yomi! And it is surely the first edition of the Talmud in Jewish history to have women involved as translators, editors, proofreaders, language consultants and designers.

The rest of the review goes over the first page of the volume. The conclusion:
Koren promises to have this entire English edition finished in just four more years, and it promises that it will contain the whole Talmud, with both its classic commentaries and these new insights, in just forty one volumes.

We wish it very well — for its sake and for ours.
Background here.

Archaeology-inspired looting

ARUTZ SHEVA: Increase in Southern Archaeological Dig Theft Attempts. The new looting appears to be inspired by a recent Crusader-era discovery that I haven't yet mentioned: Archeologists unearth massive Crusader coin cache: After 3-year-long excavation, TAU, Nature Parks Authorities archeologists discover 108 gold coins valued at over $100,000 (JPost).

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ancient port in Acre

2,000-year old port discovered in Acre
Archaeologists believe warships docked there in the 2nd century B.C.E.

By Jack Khoury | Jul.18, 2012 | 1:09 AM (Haaretz)

Remnants of an ancient port where warships may have docked 2,300 years ago have been uncovered in Acre, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced.

The port installations date back to the Hellenistic period - the 2nd and 3rd centuries B.C.E.

In digs being conducted at the foot of the city's southern seawall, not far from the current port, and extending to the area known as Horses Beach, archaeologists have found a quay and other evidence of the port, which was probably the most important port in ancient Palestine during the Hellenistic era, they say.

The article says that they first began finding evidence of a quay in 2009, but this is the first report I've seen of it.

(HT reader Yehoshua Rabinowitz.)

UPDATE: Here is the IAA press release (HT Joseph Lauer): Akko’s Magnificent Harbor from 2,300 Years Ago is Exposed on the Seabed (July 2012).

Metatron latest

ARCHANGEL METATRON WATCH: "Metatron" Star Fighter.

Latest on new Origen Psalm homilies

ALIN SUCIU: Lorenzo Perrone’s Lecture on Origen’s Homilies on the Psalms. Video!

Background here and links.

Rabbinics at ISBL

THE TALMUD BLOG: Rabbinics in the International Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Edward Peck on the Iraqi Jewish Archive

PRESS TV (IRAN) interviews Edward Peck, "former US chief of the mission in Iraq" (in the Carter Administration), about the Iraqi Jewish Archive: US should send back Iraqi antique and historical treasures: Analyst.
Iraq says it wants back all the archeological treasures, stolen by US forces in 2003, but Washington has offered to return only half.

Iraq rejected the offer made by the United States to bring back half of the Iraqi Jewish Archive, previously transferred from Baghdad to the United States during the US-led invasion of the country, insisting that Baghdad had to restore the whole archive.

The archive includes centuries-old Torah scrolls and plenty of other documents in Hebrew, Arabic, and English.

Last month Iraqi media reported that America has transferred Iraqi antiquities to Israel.

The latest reports I have seen on the archive were noted here, here, and here. None of them say anything about an offer to return half the archive or about Iraqi antiquities having been transferred from the US to Israel. Neither point is raised in the Peck interview and I am skeptical about both until I see verification.

As for Mr. Peck, his answers are rambling, nonlinear, and even somewhat evasive, and he also gets in some subtle digs at both the current Iraqi Government and the US. He does in the end come down firmly in favor of the archive being safe in Iraqi hands if it is returned, although he does not quite say he himself is in favor of doing this. I hope he is right. The very confusing saga of the traditional Tomb of Ezekiel (start here and follow the many links back; see also here) raises some cause for concern whether Jewish antiquities would be treated with the same care as others. Last I heard, everything has turned out fine with the Tomb of Ezekiel. But were it not for the national and international uproar by Jews, Muslims, and Christians over reports of the tomb's mistreatment, I am not entirely confident that it would have. I hope my concerns are unfounded. See also my comments in the background links, especially the last paragraph in this post and the links therein. As always, I think the major issue is where the artifacts would be safest and best cared for as part of the heritage of humanity.

Daf Yomi again

31 JULY: World of Talmud study prepares to party hard.

Background here and links.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Noah, the movie

A FILM ON NOAH based on an ongoing graphic novel series is in the works, according to Just How Much of a Fantasy is Aronofsky's 'Noah'?

The author of the piece, one Peter Hall, seems to think that Darren Aronofsky is making up everything that is not in the canonical story in Genesis. It's more complicated than that, as anyone who is familiar with the Book of 1 Enoch, the Genesis Apocryphon, and the Book of Giants will realize. Hall evidently is not, so he does not realize that the Watchers come from the ancient non-canonical traditions. Perhaps Noah's consultation with Methuselah is also inspired by Methuselah's visit to Enoch at the ends of the earth in the ancient texts and Noah's dreams may be likewise inspired by the dreams of the giants. Hall also does not understand the distinction between Watchers (fallen angels) and giants (their offspring with mortal women).

True, Aronofsky seems to have made some of the story up; e.g., Noah as a "Mad Max" figure; the drought; Noah's attempt to recruit the giants; and six arms on the Watchers. But why retell this good of a story without making some more stuff up for it?

The casting of Anthony Hopkins as Methuselah just seems inspired to me. I'm looking forward to the movie.

And how could I not bring up Bill Cosby's Noah again in this post?

(HT Michael A. Lyons via my colleague William Tooman.)

Waqf construction on Temple mount for last 6 years

Police Admit Permitting Arab Construction at Temple’s Foundation Stone for Six Years

By: Jewish Press Staff
Published: July 12th, 2012


Two weeks ago, a complaint was filed with the Israel Police Commissioner by a group of Temple organizations, regarding revelations about Waqf work at the Dome of the Rock, which includes laying scaffolding, tools and debris on top of the sacred Foundation Stone.

The police responded that “the work performed by the Waqf at the Dome of the Rock have begun more than six years ago. They are being performed with the approval of the Israel Antiquities Authority and under its supervision.” The police argued that the work has not caused any damage to the foundation stone.

But the IAA denies completely the approval and supervision of works on the Mount, according to the Temple organizations’ attorney Aviad Visoly, who accused the police commissioner of outrageous, appalling, and deceitful behavior.

Background here at the bottom of the post.

"Renewed" Israel Museum

A BELATED REPORT ON THE "RENEWED" ISRAEL MUSEUM, by Edward Rothstein in the New York Times: A Haven National and Universal: The Israel Museum in Jerusalem, Renewed. Excerpt:
... The tension between the universal and the particular that you can find here may even be distinctive to Jewish modernity. There are not many other nations that so readily submerge self-celebration in homage to the universal or are so wary of the particular; it is difficult to imagine the Louvre or the British Museum taking on a comparably self-questioning perspective.

This is a subtle issue, and balances shift in different places, and, surely, among different visitors. I found that in some ways the museum leaned too heavily away from the particular.

In the immensely rich archaeological narrative, for example, we never really grasp the evolution of the Israelite religion or its transformations after exile. There is a scrupulous sensitivity to the public’s varied religions, but also a careful avoidance of seeming too national. But why should it be wary? In a way, the museum makes a compromise; it lets the Land replace the people or nation; the Land seems particular, but we are told it isn’t.

Emphasizing the point, in one gallery examples of the region’s pre-eighth-century synagogues, Byzantine-era churches, and the beginnings of Islamic mosques are displayed: we are meant to see the remarkable similarities more than the differences.

So there are ways in which the museum is making an argument in its historical survey, and evidence too of debates about just what the balance between the universal and the particular should be. That may be the way the institution reflects one aspect of the national debates now taking place in Israel.
The renovations were completed a couple of years ago. Background here and links.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

ARAM meeting in Malta

Syriac and Christian Arabic Studies scholars to meet in Malta
Article published on 11 July 2012

The Committee of the Syriac and Arab Christian Symposiums, the Aram Society for Syro-Mesopotamian Studies at the Oriental Institute (University of Oxford), the Department of Oriental Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of Malta, in collaboration with the Faculty of Theology, University of Malta are holding the Eleventh Syriac Symposium between 16-18 July. Syriac is a variety of the Aramaic language.

Looks good, wish I could go. Click on the link for more on the lineup and also on the immediately following conference on Christian Arabic Studies at the same venue.

New JSIJ article

JEWISH STUDIES: AN INTERNET JOURNAL has published a new article. You can download it as a PDF file by clicking on the link below:
Joshua Schwartz and Peter J. Tomson, "When Rabbi Eliezer Was Arrested for Heresy"

Talmudic Literature contains three stories about the arrest of Rabbi Eliezer and the accusation of minut leveled against him (Tosefta Hullin 2:24; Bavli Avodah Zarah 16b-17a; Kohelet Rabbah 1:8 [3]). The three versions of the story represent different historical, social and religious realities. In the earliest version, which is found in the Tosefta, Jews and Christians are entangled with one another, as well as with the realities of Roman policy toward both Jews and Christians. The Rabbis strove to unravel the entanglement, but it is difficult to know to what extent they succeeded. By the time the story reached the Bavli and Kohelet Rabbah, the Jews and Christians had parted ways and developed distinct identities, but the Christians had now become entangled with the Romans. Old boundaries were no longer relevant, new ones were drawn and the traditions developed and were changed accordingly.