Saturday, August 18, 2012

Hey, a real ancient inscribed lead tablet!

AT THE LINCOLNSHIRE ARCHAEOLOGY MUSEUM: Unique Roman prayer tablet goes on display.

It's a "uterine phylactery," that is, a magical adjuration to protect a pregnant woman. It's made of lead; is tentatively dated to the fourth century C.E.; is inscribed, uniquely, in Latin; and it was excavated in 1994 at the Roman villa in West Deeping. It's not a codex, it's a tablet or scroll, and best of all it's not a fake.

Now you know what a real one looks like.

Cross-file under "Not a fake metal codex."

Friday, August 17, 2012

Marvin Meyer, R.I.P.

MARVIN MEYER, I am very sad to report, died yesterday: The Passing of Marvin Meyer. I attended his excellent 1998 conference on ancient magic at Chapman University, which led to the 2002 collection of essays Magic and Ritual in the Ancient World. Marv was a fine scholar who produced much good work, which I have consulted often, and he was a good guy. Requiescat in pace.

UPDATE: From Alin Suciu, from whom I first heard the news on Facebook: R.I.P. Marvin Meyer.

UPDATE (18 August): David Frankfurter at the PSCO Facebook page:
I hope that there will be some kind of memorial volume for Marvin Meyer, who really fired up the study of magic in antiquity and especially as a constitutive part of early Christianity. He was also one of the two best television representatives of the study of early Christianity (along with Paula Fredriksen) -- far better in front of the camera than any of us could ever hope to be. And his energy and sense of humor, coupled with a perfectly nerdy obsession with manuscripts and philology, made him one of the key scholars to shift the SBL from its old temperament to its 21st century self. He was also a terrific mentor to many of us entering the academy in the 80s and 90s. Particularly for those of us who gathered in Lawrence, KS, and Orange, CA, for two great conferences on ancient magic, our spiritual (and somewhat Bacchic) father Marvin will be deeply missed.
Indeed. And the memorial volume is a great idea.

IOQS 2013

INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR QUMRAN STUDIES—CALL FOR PAPERS: Eighth Meeting of the IOQS in München, August 4-7, 2013: The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Study of the Humanities: Method, Theory, Meaning.

Women and Daf Yomi

RENÉE LEVINE MELAMMED: Daf Yomi: His story or her story? (Jerusalem Post). Excerpt:
Women have slowly but surely been entering the world of the daf yomi. Once hooked, great efforts are made not to miss a single day.

Some women studied on their own, some studied with men and others studied in groups of women. In Israel there were at least three organized study groups of women: at the Matan Institute in Jerusalem, in Beit Shemesh and in Alon Shvut. These groups were small but serious and devoted. In Jerusalem, the size of the group ranged from eight to 15 women. One of the initiators, Yardena Cope- Yossef, remarked upon the process involved, of expanding one’s conceptual world and the gradual internalization of the pace and mindset of the Gemara.
Background on Daf Yomi is here and links.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

New Book: Meyers and Chancey, Alexander to Constantine

BIBLE PLACES BLOG: New Archaeology Book: Alexander to Constantine.
To conclude, if you are looking for a readable and up-to-date survey of the archaeological record from about 300 BC to AD 300 written by leading scholars in the field, I would start with this one.

Joan Taylor on The Mystery of the Dead Sea Scrolls

PROFESSOR JOAN TAYLOR is lecturing on the Dead Sea Scrolls in New Zealand:
The Mystery of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Thursday, 16 August 2012, 9:16 am
Press Release: University of Waikato

16 August 2012

The Mystery of the Dead Sea Scrolls

To celebrate 25 years of Religious Studies, the University of Waikato is hosting a free public lecture next week that will focus on the mystery surrounding the ancient Dead Sea Scrolls.

The seminar titled The Mystery of the Dead Sea Scrolls will be presented by former Waikato University Religious Studies and History Senior Lecturer Dr Joan Taylor, who is now a Professor of Christian Origins and the Second Temple Judaism at King’s College London.

Professor Douglas Pratt from the Religious Studies programme at Waikato is delighted that Dr Taylor will be giving a lecture to mark this 25 year milestone. “Joan’s scholarship on the Dead Sea Scrolls is second to none. She is a world-ranked scholar in this field,” he says.

Dr Taylor will present part of her forthcoming book, The Essenes, The Scrolls and the Dead Sea, which will be published later this year by Oxford University Press.

Professor Taylor is also presenting a paper on "The Herodians and the Essenes" at the annual meeting of the British New Testament Society, in London next month, in the New Testament and Second Temple Judaism Seminar, which Dr. Darrell Hannah and I chair.

Daf Yomi and liberal Judaism

JEWISH PRESS: Non-Orthodox Reaction To The Siyum HaShas. The response is found wanting.

In The Jewish Week Stewart Ain has more on the WSJ editorial by Chancellor Eisen: A ‘Daf Yomi’ For Liberal Jews?

Background on Daf Yomi is here and here and links.

Two Coptic posts at Leipzig

ALIN SUCIU: Two Research Positions in Coptic Studies (Georg Steindorff Egyptological Institute, University of Leipzig).

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Syrian antiquities plundered

ROBERT FISK: Syria's ancient treasures pulverised (The Independent). Excerpt:
To their enormous credit, Syrian archaeologists have themselves anonymously catalogued the destruction of their native country's historical sites. They include government shelling of villages that exist within ancient cities; rebels have apparently been sheltered, for example, in the small civilian township built inside the wonderful ruins of Bosra which contains one of the best-preserved Roman theatres in the world – which did not prevent several buildings from being destroyed. Similar bombardments have smashed the fabric of Byzantine-era buildings in al-Bara, Deir Sunbel and Ain Larose in northern Syria.

In the monastery of Sednaya, apparently founded by the Emperor Justinian – the people of the village still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus – shellfire has damaged the oldest section of the building, which dates back to 574. The Umayyad Mosque in Deraa, one of the oldest Islamic-era structures in Syria, built at the request of the Caliph Omar Ibn al-Khattab, has also been damaged. Dr Bassam Jamous, the government-appointed director general of antiquities in Syria, says that "terrorists" – ironically, the Western world's own nomenclature for state enemies – have targeted historic buildings in Damascus, Aleppo, Bosra, Palmyra and the Citadel of Salah al-Din (Saladin), a crusader fortress seized by the Kurdish warrior hero in 1188, the year after he recaptured Jerusalem for the Muslims from Balian of Ibelin.

Several months ago the Syrian authorities reported the theft of the golden statue of an 8th century BC Aramaic god – still unfound, although it was reported to Interpol – and admitted thefts at government museums at Deir ez-Zor, Raqqa, Maarat al-Numan and Qalaat Jaabar. Hiba Sakhel, the Syrian director of museums, has confirmed that items from the Aleppo museum have been transferred to the vaults of the central bank in Damascus for safekeeping.

"Syrian Archeological Heritage in Danger", a group of Syrian specialists who list the destruction and looting of the country's treasures on their own website, has revealed that Syria's Prime Minister, Adel Safar, wrote to fellow ministers on 11 July last year warning that "the country is threatened by armed criminal groups with hi-tech tools and specialised in the theft of manuscripts and antiquities, as well as the pillaging of museums". The archaeologists find this note "very odd" because it appears to warn of looting which had not yet occurred – and thus suggests that officials in the regime might be preparing the way for their own private theft and re-sale of the country's heritage, something which did indeed occur under President Assad's father Hafez al-Assad.

I am late to this story (the article was published on 6 August). But you can find ongoing updates at the Facebook site Le patrimoine archéologique syrien en danger الآثار السورية في خطر.

UPDATE: Alex Joffe asks an important question: Are we willing to die to save the past?
But is the past worth killing and dying for, especially if these are the only means of saving it? Bamiyan has shown that willingness to destroy antiquities, in the name of ideology or profit, foreshadows a willingness to destroy people for the same reasons. But any intervention in Mali, even on behalf of its people, will be likened to imperialism and inevitably accused of being (another) ‘war against Islam’. Military intervention is obviously inconceivable in a place like Egypt. What leverage remains? Economic sanctions that starve an already desperate population? Political sanctions on Islamist leaders who regard themselves as divinely guided?

The Arab Spring has brought another phase of a twenty-first-century mass archaeological extinction event that is transforming the Old World. But once we go beyond the level of self-satisfying outrage, the choices for action to preserve the past are far from clear. Salvaging fragments in the future may be the only practical and moral options.
The West could supply the anti-Islamist and anti-Baathist resistance movements with weapons, which might help in the short term with these current crises. For all I know, maybe we already are. I wouldn't like to guess whether pouring more weapons into Mali and Syria would make for more stability in the long run. If Egyptian Islamists actually takes steps to destroy the Pyramids, that just might provoke the West into waking-the-sleeping-giant territory, which has not turned out well for the provokers in the past.

UPDATE: Alex replies on Facebook, quoted here with his permission:
The West is already supplying weapons to various 'rebels,' which will guarantee that the slaughter will be multilateral and protracted rather than one sided and of short duration. And if there are any Western-style liberal rebels, they will be pushed out or murdered by Islamist rebels in the end. The West will then rationalize, equivocate, and try to reach an arrangement based on the deep, unstated belief that human rights really don't apply in some places, as well as the instinct to pay danegeld. Any intervention to save people will, after approximately five minutes, unite all rebels against the imperialists. When pyramids are torn down, or whatever, there will be howls and laments only. Besides, the the UN is correct that Egypt's population will reach 123 million by 2100, then there won't be a single square inch that hasn't already been ground into dust.
I wish I could say he's wrong, but I'm not all that optimistic myself. In any case, I'm glad I've already been to the Pyramids.

The Talmud and demons

ADAM KIRSCH has a new Daf Yomi column in Tablet Magazine: The Talmud’s Many Demons: Sages in a superstitious age accepted the existence of invisible devils and the use of magic to render them visible.
If you went to a Reform or Conservative synagogue, as I did, you were probably taught early on that Judaism doesn’t believe in demons and devils. The God of monotheism is a transcendent God, who leaves no room in the universe for other supernatural powers. And it went without saying that God was incorporeal, that he could not be imagined as having a human body. Both of these ways of thinking about the divine, we often hear, mark Judaism’s advance on paganism, with its pantheon of anthropomorphic spirits.

Reading the Talmud this week was a vivid reminder that this way of thinking about Judaism is in fact a modern invention. You can never pronounce on “what Judaism says” without specifying what Judaism you are talking about: post-Enlightenment, post-Reform Judaism may say one thing, where the Judaism of the Talmud says something entirely different. It becomes clear in Berachot 6a, for instance, that the sages of the Talmud not only believed in demons and folk magic, but that they never imagined such things could be theologically controversial.

The column also explores the theological problem of God wearing tefillin.

This column dovetails nicely with yesterday's post on Maggie Anton's new novel series Rav Hisda’s Daughter.

Larry Hurtado on the Mythicists

LARRY HURTADO takes on the Mythicists, wearily: The Jesus-Discussion: Let’s Move On.

I have no wish to get into this discussion myself, but I'll note that my website on Divine Mediator Figures in the Biblical World has some relevant information on both legendary mediator figures and historical ones roughly contemporary with Jesus.

New Book: Colafemmina, The Jews in Calabria

NEW BOOK from Brill:
The Jews in Calabria
Cesare Colafemmina, Bari University

This volume of the Documentary History of the Jews in Italy illustrates the history of the Jews in Calabria from the end of the fourth century, where the first archaeological evidence of their presence appears, to 1541. Between the fourth and tenth centuries, there is a gap in the evidence while the first documentary records appear in the eleventh century, dating from Norman times. The Normans were succeeded by the Hohenstaufen, who were subsequently replaced by the Angevins and, in 1438, by the Aragonese. Under the Aragonese the Jewish community grew and flourished, reinforced by refugees from the Iberian Peninsula and Sicily. It was at that point that the Jewish population of Calabria reached its maximum expansion and there was a Jewish presence in most townships and many villages until their expulsion by Emperor Charles V in 1540.

The documents in this volume describe the political, economic, and social aspects of Jewish life in Calabria primarily between 1438 and 1540. The documents are preceded by an introduction, outlining the history of the Jews in Calabria and have been furnished with summaries and references, providing a useful tool for further research. In addition a bibliography, list of sources, abbreviations, and indices are included.
At least the first part overlaps with PaleoJudaica's interests.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

New novel: Anton, Rav Hisda’s Daughter: Book 1, Apprentice

THE AUTHOR OF RASHI'S DAUGHTERS, Maggie Anton, has a new novel out:
Novelist Explores Love, Sorcery And The Talmud

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen
(The Forward)

With her new book, “Rav Hisda’s Daughter: Book 1, Apprentice,” Maggie Anton, author of the “Rashi’s Daughters” trilogy, unearths a different chapter of Jewish history, giving readers a peek into what life may have been like for a Jewish woman in 3rd century Babylonia. Weaving together research on the religious life and culture, the sociology and even the statecraft of the era, the book follows the youngest child of famed Rav Hisda (or Chisda), who is one of the Talmud’s central rabbinic characters.

Anton’s curiosity was piqued early on in her own study of Talmud, which began in 1992, when she discovered the young daughter of Rav Hisda, who in Bava Batra 12b is described as sitting on her father’s lap. Two of his students, Rava and Rami bar Hama, stand in front of them, and Rav Hisda asks which of the boys she wants to marry. She replies “both,” and according to the Talmud, the fact that Rava said he wants to be the last she marries (which is indeed what happens) is evidence of children possessing the gift of prophecy.

Quick thinking, dude.

The Aramaic Babylonian incantation bowls (see here, here, here, and links) provided important background for the book as well.

Background on the Rashi's Daughters trilogy is here and links.

Monday, August 13, 2012

New SBL books

SOME NEW BOOKS from the Society of Biblical Literature:
The Hodayot (Thanksgiving Psalms): A Study Edition of 1QHa

Eileen M. Schuller, Carol A. Newsom

ISBN 1589836928
Status Available
Price: $19.95
Binding Paperback
Publication Date July, 2012

1QHodayot is recognized as one of the most important of the Dead Sea Scrolls and key to understanding the specific worldview and piety of its author(s). It contains a collection of psalms giving thanks for deliverance, salvation, knowledge, and divine mercy. This volume contains the text of 1QHodayot published in the definitive Discoveries in the Judaean Desert volume 40 and the English translation from that volume, lightly revised. It provides the most up-to-date, accessible, and inexpensive access to the text, translation, and official numbering of the columns and lines of 1QH.

Eileen M. Schuller is Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at McMaster University. She is co-editor of 1QHodayota and other documents from the Dead Sea Scrolls, the author of The Dead Sea Scrolls: What Have We Learned? (Westminster John Knox, 2006), and the co-editor of The Dead Sea Scrolls: Transmission of Traditions, Production of Texts (Brill, 2010).
Carol A. Newsom is Charles Howard Candler Professor of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. She is the editor of the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice and other documents from the Dead Sea Scrolls and the author of The Book of Job: A Contest of Moral Imaginations (Oxford University Press, 2003) and Angelic Liturgy: Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice (Mohr Siebeck, 1999).

The Rediscovery of Jewish Christianity: From Toland to Baur

F. Stanley Jones

ISBN 1589836464
Status Available
Price: $33.95
Binding Paperback
Publication Date July, 2012

This focused collection of essays by international scholars first uncovers the roots of the study of ancient Jewish Christianity in the Enlightenment in early eighteenth-century England, then explores why and how this rediscovery of Jewish Christianity set off the entire modern historical debate over Christian origins. Finally, it examines in detail how this critical impulse made its way to Germany, eventually to flourish in the nineteenth century under F. C. Baur and the Tübingen School. Included is a facsimile reproduction of John Toland’s seminal Nazarenus (1718), which launched the modern study of Jewish Christianity. The contributors are F. Stanley Jones, David Lincicum, Pierre Lurbe, Matt Jackson-McCabe, and Matti Myllykoski.

F. Stanley Jones is Professor in the Department of Religious Studies and Director of the Institute for the Study of Judaeo-Christian Origins at California State University, Long Beach. He has published widely on the subject of Jewish Christianity, including An Ancient Jewish Christian Source on the History of Christianity: Pseudo-Clementine "Recognitions" 1.27–71 (Scholars Press/Society of Biblical Literature) and Pseudoclementina Elchasaiticaque inter Judaeochristiana: Collected Studies (Peeters).

Editing the Bible: Assessing the Task Past and Present

John S. Kloppenborg, Judith H. Newman

ISBN 1589836480
Status Available
Price: $32.95
Binding Paperback
Publication Date June, 2012

The Bible is likely the most-edited book in history, yet the task of editing the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts of the Bible is fraught with difficulties. The dearth of Hebrew manuscripts of the Jewish Scriptures and the substantial differences among those witnesses creates difficulties in determining which text ought to be printed as the text of the Jewish Scriptures. For the New Testament, it is not the dearth of manuscripts but the overwhelming number of manuscripts—almost six thousand Greek manuscripts and many more in other languages—that presents challenges for sorting and analyzing such a large, multivariant data set. This volume, representing experts in the editing of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, discusses both current achievements and future challenges in creating modern editions of the biblical texts in their original languages. The contributors are Kristin De Troyer, Michael W. Holmes, John S. Kloppenborg, Sarianna Metso, Judith H. Newman, Holger Strutwolf, Eibert Tigchelaar, David Trobisch, Eugene Ulrich, John Van Seters, Klaus Wachtel, and Ryan Wettlaufer.

John S. Kloppenborg
is Professor in the Department for the Study of Religion at the University of Toronto. He is the author most recently of Q: The Earliest Gospel (Westminster John Knox), The Tenants in the Vineyard: Ideology, Economics, and Agrarian Conflict in Jewish Palestine (Mohr Siebeck), and the co-editor of Reading James with New Eyes (T&T Clark).

Judith H. Newman
is Associate Professor of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible at Emmanuel College and holds joint appointments with the Department for the Study of Religion and the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto. She is the author of Praying by the Book: The Scripturalization of Prayer in Second Temple Judaism (Scholars Press), the co-author of Early Jewish Prayers in Greek (de Gruyter), and the co-editor of The Idea of Biblical Interpretation: Essays in Honor of James L. Kugel (Brill). She has served as the editor of the SBL series Early Judaism and Its Literature.

Social Theory and the Study of Israelite Religion: Essays in Retrospect and Prospect

Saul M. Olyan

ISBN 158983688X
Status Available
Price: $29.95
Binding Paperback
Publication Date July, 2012

This volume assesses past, theoretically engaged work on Israelite religion and presents new approaches to particular problems and larger interpretive and methodological questions. It gathers previously unpublished research by senior scholars well known in social theory and Israelite religion and by junior scholars whose writing is just beginning to have a serious impact. The volume begins with a critical introduction by the editor. Essay themes include gender, violence, social change, the festivals, the dynamics of shame and honor, and the relationship of text to ritual. The contributors engage theory from social and cultural anthropology, sociology, postcolonial studies, and ritual studies. Theoretical models are evaluated in light of the primary data, and some authors modify or adapt theory to increase its utility for biblical studies.

Saul M. Olyan
is Samuel Ungerleider Jr. Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of Religious Studies at Brown University. He is the author most recently of Social Inequality in the World of the Text: The Significance of Ritual and Social Distinctions in the Hebrew Bible (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht), Disability in the Hebrew Bible: Interpreting Mental and Physical Differences (Cambridge University Press), and Biblical Mourning: Ritual and Social Dimensions (Oxford University Press).

Proposal to permit non-Muslim prayer on Temple Mount

Israeli lawmaker’s proposal to divide al-Asqa Mosque worship stirs uproar

Sunday, 12 August 2012 (Al Arabiya)
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By Al Arbabiya

A bill drafted last week by a right-wing Israeli lawmaker to schedule separate prayer hours for Jews and Muslims at al-Aqsa Mosque has caused an uproar, regional media has reported.

Palestinian news agency WAFA said the proposed situation would be similar to the arrangement at the Ibrahimi Mosque (Cave of the Patriarchs) in Hebron, but had “already drawn wide condemnation from Muslim and Arab leaders who fear any change in the status of al-Aqsa Mosque could trigger serious violence in the region.”
These "leaders" ought to be supporting this entirely reasonable proposal and doing everything they can to discourage any such irrational violence. I have some related comments here.
The Middle East Monitor reported that Sheikh Ikrama Sabri, a senior Imam at al-Aqsa Mosque, denounced the decision by Israel’s legislature to discuss the proposal to split worship times at the third holiest site in the Islamic world, calling it an “an aggressive, advanced step" and saying that it "confirms Jewish designs on al-Aqsa Mosque at all levels.”

In a statement to local media, the Sheikh, who is also the president of the Supreme Islamic Council in Jerusalem, reportedly said al-Aqsa Mosque “is not subject to negotiation, and it's the duty of Muslim rulers and citizens to defend and protect.”

"The Jews," he reportedly added, "have nothing to do with al-Aqsa Mosque."

MK Aryeh Eldad, National Union member, drafted the proposed law Wednesday after a United States government report criticized Israel for preventing non-Muslim prayer at the site, better known to Jews and Christians as the Temple Mount.

More on Sheikh Ikrama (Ekrima, Ikrema) Sabri here and links. His reaction was predictable.

That U.S. State Department International Religious Freedom Report for 2011 is here. The relevant passage from the section on Israel and the occupied territories says:
A government policy since 1967, repeatedly upheld by the Supreme Court and routinely enforced by the police citing security concerns, denies all non-Muslims opportunities to worship at the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. While the government ensured limited access to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif to everyone regardless of religious beliefs, only Muslims are allowed to pray at the site, although their access has been occasionally restricted due to security concerns. Police regulated traffic in and out of the compound and removed non-Muslim visitors if they appeared to be praying. Since 2000 the Jordanian Waqf that manages the site has restricted non-Muslims from entering the Dome of the Rock shrine and Al-Aqsa Mosque. Non-Muslim religious symbols are not allowed to be worn on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif.
Cross-file under Jewish-Temple denial.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

New Book: Orlov, Boccaccini, et al, New Perspectives on 2 Enoch

New Perspectives on 2 Enoch
No Longer Slavonic Only

Edited by Andrei Orlov, Marquette University and Gabriele Boccaccini, University of Michigan. Associate Editor Jason Zurawski, University of Michigan

New Perspectives on 2 Enoch: No Longer Slavonic Only presents a collection of papers from the fifth conference of the Enoch Seminar. The conference re-examines 2 Enoch, an early Jewish apocalyptic text previously known to scholars only in its Slavonic translation, in light of recently identified Coptic fragments. This approach helps to advance the understanding of many key issues of this enigmatic and less explored Enochic text. One of the important methodological lessons of the current volume lies in the recognition that the Adamic and Melchizedek traditions, the mediatorial currents which play an important role in the apocalypse, are central for understanding the symbolic universe of the text. The volume also contains the recently identified Coptic fragments of 2 Enoch, introduced to scholars for the first time during the conference.
I know I have already mentioned this book here with lots of background links. But now you have the publisher link too.