Friday, August 03, 2012

New book on Christian Apocrypha in progress

TONY BURKE blogs on writing a new book: Secret Scriptures Revealed! Thoughts on Writing for Non-Specialists, part 1.

iPad Talmud app

THE NEW IPAD TALMUD APP is reviewed in The Atlantic by Rebecca J. Rosen: eTalmud: The iPad Future of the Ancient Text. She finds it somewhat wanting:
Daf Yomi was created to bring Talmud study to more people. An edition known as the Schottenstein Talmud, published over a 14-year period from 1990 to 2004, continued that trajectory of popularization, by providing in depth English translations. Now ArtScroll, the leading Orthodox publishing imprint, has released the Schottenstein edition in a long-awaited app, and in doing so takes another step in that process of making the Talmud ever more accessible. The app costs about half as much as the printed version, though the exact price comparison depends on whether you opt for a subscription, package, or buy the volumes piecemeal. Any way you look at it, it's still not cheap. It's also not the first Talmud app, but the depth of the tools available (floating translations, pop-up commentaries, and multiple view options for different layouts and translations) set a new standard for Jewish text apps.

But here's what the app doesn't do: The app is a closed work, much like a book, and doesn't take advantage of the openness made possible with networked tablet technology. It's not repurposable (it's copyrighted); it doesn't allow for inline contributions or conversations; it's not social. It's a book made digitally navigable, but it's not a book made digitally interactive.
She also links to some comments by Shai Secunda at the Talmud Blog which take a similar line.

And on a related note, some reflections on the signficance of the Daf Yomi movement by Anshel Pfeffer in Haaretz: The curtain of Talmud: Inside the Jewish underground of daf yomi, daily Talmud study. Excerpt:
But for the first time I realized that I belonged to a club. I can make some sense of that jumble of unpunctuated syllables, formulate an argument based on the cut, thrust and parry of those ancient scholars and the layers of commentary that have been written on them in every century since. I used to be very proud of this ability which took long frustrating years to achieve, but I always felt it was just another intellectual achievement, like writing and reading in two different languages or having an appreciation of poetry and fine wines. Well, not quite the same, but I didn't feel that having a certain Talmudic fluency made me stand out from other, lesser mortals. It certainly hasn't shielded me from foreign culture (though many would argue that is my fault, not the Talmud's ).
Much background on Daf Yomi is here and links.

Bible as screenplay?

CAN'T MAKE IT UP: New Bible translation has screenplay format. A goofy contemporary production of Rewritten Scripture.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Petrie death anniversary marked

FLINDERS PETRIE: A crowd turns out to honor (most of) an archaeological giant: Locals gather at the Jerusalem grave that contains nearly all of Sir Flinders Petrie, the brilliant, eccentric pioneer of Egyptology and biblical archaeology, who died 70 years ago (Matti Friedman, Times of Israel).

His head was occupied elsewhere.

Green Collection Bible Museum in D.C.

A BIBLE MUSEUM based on the Green Collection is to be built in Washington D.C.: Bible museum closes $50 million deal for D.C. spot (Religion News Service).
“Our intent is for this museum to showcase both the Old and New Testaments, arguably the world’s most significant pieces of literature, through a non-sectarian, scholarly approach that makes the history, scholarship and impact of the Bible on virtually every facet of society accessible to everyone,” said Mark DeMoss, a member of the Bible museum's board.

The museum, which will likely open in 2016, will highlight the collection of the billionaire Green family of Oklahoma. That collection features more than 55,000 items including biblical artifacts ranging from Dead Sea Scrolls to Torah scrolls that survived the Holocaust. Museum officials expect to also showcase other prominent collections from across the globe.
Some past posts involving the Green Collection are here, here, here, here, here, and here.

July 2012 Biblical Studies Carnival

THE JULY 2012 BIBLICAL STUDIES CARNIVAL has appeared at Reading Acts.

The Samaritan Arabic Pentateuch

ADAM MCCOLLUM at hmmlorientalia: The Samaritan Arabic Pentateuch.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Daf Yomi cycle concludes and begins

TIME TO PARTY: The Daf Yomi cycle concluded yesterday and starts again today.

An overview of the Babylonian Talmud in this context at the Talmud Blog: Doing Daf Yomi- Guest Post by Yaakov Elman.

Partying in Israel: Jews Celebrate end of 7-year Talmud study cycle: Climactic denouement of the Daf Yomi study cycle of the Talmud staged in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem; tens of thousands attend. (Jeremy Sharon, Jerusalem Post).
The rabbis were welcomed into the stadium like rock-stars, with all 11,000 spectators rising to their feet, singing the line from Psalms: “Increase the days of the king so his years continue for generations.”
In New Jersey: New Jersey NFL Stadium to Host 90,000+ to Celebrate Completion of 71/2 Year Cycle of Jewish Talmud Studies, Announces Agudath Israel of America (Business Wire press release).

In Los Angeles: Jewish “Super Bowl:” The Los Angeles Celebration of the Conclusion of the Daf Yomi Cycle (Beverly Hills Courier)
As traditional Jews around the world gather to mark the conclusion of a grueling seven and a half year study cycle of the Talmud, several thousand members of the Los Angeles Orthodox Jewish community will join them at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at 5:15PM, Wednesday August 1st.
In London: An Olympic marathon of their own: London's Haredim celebrate completion of Talmud cycle: In the midst of the Olympic Games, London's ultra-Orthodox Jews mark the completion of the twelfth cycle of Talmud study; rabbi: We have the real Olympic torch. (Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz).

In Toronto: Thousands of Jews celebrate completion of Talmud study (Jacques Gallant, Toronto Star).

Orthodox women are celebrating too: Orthodox women dreaming in Aramaic: Taboo-breaking group of women celebrates completion of 2,711 pages of Talmud study (Yair Ettinger, Haaretz).

And now it begins again:
Talmud: starting all over again

Tuesday, July 31, 2012, Mark Mietkiewicz (The Canadian Jewish News)

The cycle has begun again. The cycle is known as daf yomi, in which a double-sided page of the Talmud is studied daily until this classic work is completed in 7-1/2 years. Whether you are a beginner and want to learn more about the Talmud or an advanced student looking for online resources, read on.

Congratulations to all those celebrating and best wishes for all those beginning.

UPDATE (2 August): Many more articles on the celebrations have appeared. Here are a few:

Exclusive Interview: Rav Adin Steinsalz: Special interview with rabbi whose commentary project enabled many to enter the Daf Yomi learning cycle (video, Arutz Sheva).

Ultra-Orthodox Jews Mark Talmudic Rites (photo gallery, Time Magazine).

Seven years of Talmud study (photo gallery, Reuters).

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Samson or Cujo?

A NEW SEAL from Tel Beit Shemesh portrays a scene that is being compared to Samson's fight with the lion:
Seal found by Israeli archeologists may give substance to Samson legend
Scholars say the scene shown on the artifact recalls the story in Judges of Samson fighting a lion.

By Nir Hasson | Jul.30, 2012 | 12:51 AM | 4 (Haaretz)

A small stone seal found recently in the excavations of Tel Beit Shemesh could be the first archaeological evidence of the story of the biblical Samson.

The seal, measuring 1.5 centimeters, depicts a large animal next to a human figure. The seal was found in a level of excavation that dates to the 11th century B.C.E. That was prior to the establishment of the Judean kingdom and is considered to be the period of the biblical judges - including Samson. Scholars say the scene shown on the artifact recalls the story in Judges of Samson fighting a lion.

But excavation directors Prof. Shlomo Bunimovitz and Dr. Zvi Lederman of Tel Aviv University say they do not suggest that the human figure on the seal is the biblical Samson. Rather, the geographical proximity to the area where Samson lived, and the time period of the seal, show that a story was being told at the time of a hero who fought a lion, and that the story eventually found its way into the biblical text and onto the seal.

The excavation directors are properly cautious. That said, I am not an iconographer, and it may just be because I read Cujo last week, but it looks to me as though the seal depicts a large animal (not obviously a lion) menacing and getting the better of the human figure. The small human figure seems to be leaning back or falling. The image doesn't remind me very much of Samson.

(The article was sent to me by a number of people.)

UPDATE (1 August): The headlines have started over-reaching. The Daily Mail gives the window header title as "Israeli scholars claim to have uncovered archaeological evidence of Samson." The headline of the article goes one better: Does this coin found near Jerusalem prove that Samson lived... and that he did fight the lion? Er, no, it doesn't. And it's not a coin, not by quite a few centuries. It's a seal.

Not to be outdone, the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a press release with the title Stone seal may prove story of Samson. At present I can't get the page to open.

Also, at the God and the Machine blog, Thomas L. MacDonald has some good observations that overlap with mine above:
... The team simultaneously dismisses the notion of any Samson who is more than a folktale while also seeing “Samson” in a stone bulla. I’m not even sure how they got from “creature with four legs” to “lion” so quickly. It may well be in keeping with contemporaneous depictions of lions on other artifacts, but that’s hardly a settled issue, and the minuscule size of the bulla makes it hard to determine. Maybe it’s a donkey. Or a liger. (I know the picture is pretty low-res, and I may just be imagining this, but doesn’t it look like there may be a human figure on the “lion’s” back? The ancient Hebrews were pretty awesome, but I don’t recall them being so badass as to ride around on lions.)
It does look as though there may be something on the back of the big animal.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Daf Yomi yet again

DAF YOMI DAY IS AUGUST 1ST: 'Doing the daf,' a Jewish marathon:
Thousands of scholars are about to finish a study of the Talmud, one page per day — a challenge that takes more than seven years
(Yitzchok Adlerstein, LA Times).

Background here and links.

Victims of Roman slaughter on Temple Mount found?

Have the skeletons of the Temple Mount massacre been found?

Veteran journalist Benny Liss releases movie he filmed of underground cave on Temple Mount where he found a mass grave • He believes the skeletons are the remains of Jews massacred by the Romans when they destroyed the Temple Mount, but urges the authorities to properly examine the area.
The short answer to the question is maybe. There's been no lack of slaughter around the Temple Mount throughout history. We need to be cautious about assigning any masses of human skeletons found there to a particular period or event before they have been properly examined. Which in this case is not likely to happen any time soon.

Once again, via DLK on FB.

Review of Friedman, The Aleppo Codex

MATTI FRIEDMAN'S THE ALEPPO CODEX receives a massive review in the NYT:
A High Holy Whodunit

Published: July 25, 2012 55 Comments

One day this spring, on the condition that I not reveal any details of its location nor the stringent security measures in place to protect its contents, I entered a hidden vault at the Israel Museum and gazed upon the Aleppo Codex — the oldest, most complete, most accurate text of the Hebrew Bible. The story of how it arrived here, in Jerusalem, is a tale of ancient fears and modern prejudices, one that touches on one of the rawest nerves in Israeli society: the clash of cultures between Jews from Arab countries and the European Jews, or Ashkenazim, who controlled the country during its formative years. And the story of how some 200 pages of the codex went missing — and to this day remain the object of searches carried out around the globe by biblical scholars, private investigators, shadowy businessmen and the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency — is one of the great mysteries in Jewish history.

Almost impossible to excerpt, but here are a couple of tidbits:
“The official version of the story, the one I knew at the outset, states that the Aleppo Codex was given willingly to the State of Israel,” Friedman told me. “But that never happened. It was taken. The state authorities believed they were representatives of the entire Jewish people and that they were thus the book’s rightful owners, and also, perhaps, that they could care for it better. But those considerations don’t change the mechanics of the true story — government officials engineered a sophisticated, international maneuver in which the codex was seized from the Jews of Aleppo, and then arranged a remarkably successful cover-up of the fascinating and unpleasant details of the affair.”


What did Faham know that would cause such a worldwide scandal? Most likely it was that the codex had arrived in Israel nearly whole. Yet only after its arrival did nearly 200 pages disappear. And perhaps it was this secret that led the codex, the most important Jewish book in existence, to not be restored and put on careful display but instead be stored in an iron case in the offices of the Ben-Zvi Institute at Hebrew University.

A remarkable tale of intrigue, clandestine negotiations, double-crossing, a mickle curse, and perhaps even murder. It's long, but read it all; it's worth it.

Background here and links. HT Dorothy Lobel King on FB.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Talmud Yerushalmi Institute

THIS IS EXCITING: Talmud Yerushalmi Institute.
A large part of the difficulty in studying the Talmud Yerushalmi lies in its imperfect redaction. The great Academies in which the composition of the Talmud Yerushalmi took place were disrupted and dispersed by persecution before the Sages of the Era were able to comprehensively review, edit and redact its contents.

The Institute’s primary academic goal is to research the Talmud Yerushalmi’s redaction – including but not limited to its literary composition and its relationship to other rabbinic texts such as Tosefta, midrashic collections and the Bavli. The Institute’s work will shed light on hitherto unresolved questions on how the teachings of the Land of Israel developed throughout history and were finally brought together and codified into the literary and legal work which became known as the Talmud Yerushalmi.

Towards these goals the Institute has already scoured the Talmud Yerushalmi and accumulated a database able to automatically produce references on phenomena related to its study – a resource which will prove to be essential to anyone researching the Talmud Yerushalmi or related subjects.
(Via the Talmud Blog on FB.)

Judaism or Judaisms?

RABBI MICAH PELTZ: The Dead Sea Scrolls and Jewish pluralism. These 2,000-year-old artifacts remind us that it is impossible to speak of ‘ancient Judaism.’ Rather, we should speak of ‘ancient Judaisms.’ (Haaretz). This is the Neusner line and there is quite a bit of mileage in it. But I prefer Jonathan Z. Smith's "polythetic" approach to the issue.

For much more on the Franklin Institute exhibition of Dead Sea Scrolls in Philadelphia, see here and links.

UPDATE: New Dead Sea Scrolls manuscripts have come to the Franklin Institute exhibition.
Dead Sea Scroll exhibit at Franklin Institute gets update

By Jan Feigner
Journal Register News Service
Posted: 07/29/12 12:01 am

The second installation of 10 Dead Sea Scrolls in The Franklin Institute’s excellent, exhibition, “Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Ancient Times,” which opened in May and continues through Oct. 14 at TFI’s Mandell Center, will be available for viewing by Friday, Aug. 3. The current show will not be closing for the upcoming installation according to Stefanie Santos, TFI’s Communications Manager, who stated that the new additions were placed after hours beginning Thursday.


“Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Ancient Times” originally displayed 10 scrolls from the Hebrew Bible (also known as the Old Testament, or Torah), including the oldest-known handwritten section of Genesis ever to visit the United States. Written mostly in Hebrew, but also Aramaic and Greek, and dated to around 50 Common Era (CE), the fragile pieces offer some of the Bible’s most memorable and inspirational words like these: “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.”
The second equally fascinating set entails passages from Isaiah, Deuteronomy and Psalms. It also showcases non-biblical writings such as the “Community Rule,” also known as the “Manual of Discipline,” a set of rules or the constitution by which the community conducted their lives, and the “War Rule,” a six-line fragment commonly referred to as the “Pierced Messiah” text that refers to a Messiah from the Branch of David, to a judgment, and to a killing.
The "Pierced Messiah" text probably doesn't actually refer to a pierced Messiah.

Also related: Dead Sea Scrolls - Part 1: Paul Calvert spoke with archaeologist Stephen Pfann (Cross Rhythms).

Learning Latin, Greek and Hebrew in Rome

WHERE BETTER? Learning Latin, Greek and Hebrew in Rome. Now what about Aramaic?

Back home

I'M BACK IN ST. ANDREWS after an excellent CBL conference. Got in late last night.