Saturday, September 15, 2012

New book: Berquist & Hunt (eds), Focusing Biblical Studies

Jon L. Berquist and Alice Hunt (eds.), Focusing Biblical Studies: The Crucial Nature of the Persian and Hellenistic Periods: Essays in Honor of Douglas A. Knight (Library Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies; T&T Clark, 2012)

This volume makes a positive intervention into maximalist/minimalist debates about Israelite historiography by pointing to the events that happened during the Persian and Hellenistic periods. During this historical epoch, traditions about Israel and Judah's founding became fixed as markers of ethnic identity, and much of the canonical Hebrew Bible came into its present form. Concentrating on these events, a clearer historical picture emerges.

The entire volume is set within the context of Doug Knight's contributions, which have encouraged a rigorous social-scientific and tradition-historical approach to the Hebrew Bible and ancient Israel in general. Many scholars have pursued how the social scientific method, first used to analyze early monarchic Israel, can shape the understanding of these later historical periods. Knight's methods, teachings, writings, and scholarly interventions have pointed the contributors of this volume to fresh considerations of the Persian and Hellenistic periods. The concluding essay will examine the future directions in which such sociological and historical investigation can go forward.
Via Christopher Rollston on Facebook.

Friday, September 14, 2012

New book: Schuele, An Introduction to Biblical Aramaic

An Introduction to Biblical Aramaic
Author: Andreas Schuele
More by author(s)
Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press
Pages: 158
Format: 6 x 9
Publication Date: 8/23/2012
Retail Price: $30.00


The study of biblical Aramaic, an ancient Semitic language from which the Hebrew alphabet was derived, is necessary for understanding texts written during certain periods of early Jewish and Christian history and is especially important for the study of the books of Daniel and Ezra. This new textbook is a thorough guide to learning to read and translate biblical Aramaic and includes an introduction to the language, examples of texts for practice translations, and helpful comparison charts.
Via Carla Sulzbach on Facebook.

Coin auction update

THE SECOND AUCTION OF THE SHOSHANA COLLECTION of ancient Judean and related coins has been held. ArtDaily has a report:
Bookmark and Share Ancient Roman gold brings $203,150, five times estimate, to lead $1.5+ million Heritage Auctions event

BEVERLY HILLS, CA.- A magnificent gold Aureus of the Roman Emperor Macrinus, dated to 218 AD – and pedigreed to the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art Collection – shattered pre-auction expectations on Sept. 5 at the Long Beach Convention Center, selling for $203,150 against a $40,000 estimate as a part of Heritage’s auction of the Shoshana Collection of Judaean Coins, Part 2. The entire offering brought just more than $1.5 million and was held in conjunction with the Long Beach Coin and Collectibles Expo. All prices include a 19.5% Buyer’s Premium.

“Though not strictly speaking a Judaean-related coin, the brief reign of Macrinus took place entirely in the neighboring province of Syria,” said David Michaels, Director of Ancient Coins at Heritage Auctions. “Macrinus assumed power after arranging for the murder of the hated previous emperor, Caracalla. His reign was brief, lasting slightly more than a year before he lost the support of the military and was executed.”

Gold coins of Macrinus are exceedingly rare, and this is a magnificent example, struck in high relief from dies of fine style and fully lustrous, grading choice extremely fine.

Follow the link for details about the other coins sold.

Background here and links.

Review of Friedman, The Aleppo Codex

MATTI FRIEDMAN'S THE ALEPPO CODEX is reviewed by Alex Joffe in Jewish Ideas Daily: The Aleppo Codex and the Ownership of Tradition. Excerpt:
The Aleppo Codex is a marvelously written international thriller, but the issues it raises are profound and current. Who is the legitimate heir to the property of dispersed or extinguished Jewish communities? Israel’s assuming this role even before a community is gone was initially characterized by obsessive self-interestedness, dismissiveness towards fellow Jews, and outright theft; its treatment of Holocaust survivors and their property was not dissimilar. Can Israel, or any state, be fully trusted with cultural property?

But cultural properties cannot simply be left in place. For example, the so-called Iraqi Jewish Archive, a disparate collection of letters, books, and other documents of an extinguished Jewish community, was found in the basement of a flooded secret police building in 2003 and removed to the United States for conservation. Since then, Iraq has angrily demanded their return. Perpetrators of dispersal and death rarely have the good taste to refrain from insisting on their right to cultural properties that will enable them to boast of a “multicultural society” they themselves destroyed.

But deeming Israel the repository for all Jewish objects, knowledge, and culture has its own problem—namely, that the country has a large target painted on it. Like returning all Jews to Zion, putting all the Jewish people’s cultural eggs in one basket seems ill-advised. It was precisely the dispersal of Jewish knowledge among countless communities that preserved the whole even as individuals faltered or fell; today, the task is made easier by digital technology.
For earlier reviews etc. of The Aleppo Codex, see here and links. Background on the Iraqi Jewish Archive is here and here and links

Thursday, September 13, 2012

National Library of Israel Digitized Hebrew Manuscripts Catalogue

GILUY MILTA B'ALMA: Digitized Hebrew Manuscripts Catalogue.
We are delighted to announce that the National Library of Israel's online catalogue now includes more than 4000 linked records to freely available digitized Hebrew manuscripts online (post-dating the Dead Sea Scrolls) from institutions around the world, including 1000 on the NLI website itself. These represent many more Judaica records than are currently available through either the Digital Scriptorium or the Catalogue of Digitized Medieval Manuscripts or similar digitized manuscript aggregators. As we continue to add links, we aim to serve as the global access portal for Hebrew digitized manuscripts.
For numerous other manuscript digitization projects see here and links.

Peter conference in Edinburgh

LARRY HURTADO: Edinburgh Conference on the Apostle Peter, July 2013

As Larry notes, the annual meeting of the International Society of Biblical Literature will be taking place here at the University of St. Andrews a couple of days later.

Regev on Qumran archaeology

QUMRAN AND THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS MONTH: Sectarianism and the Archaeology of Qumran (Eyal Regev, ASOR Blog).
The spatial characteristics of Kh. Qumran correspond to sectarian social organization and ideology as defined by sociologists of religion and documented in studies of different sects, and are typical of the spatial organization of several modern sects, especially the Shakers. These general characteristics are also typical of the Yahad sect of the Community Rule (1QS). They may relate to a certain social correspondence between the inhabitants of the site and the Yahad.
Background here and links.

Charlesworth on 1QHa col. 16

QUMRAN AND THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS MONTH: The Eternal Planting, the Eden of Glory (James H. Charlesworth, ASOR Blog).

A taste of his forthcoming translation of the Hodayot.

Background here.

World's biggest Talmud test

DAF YOMI LATEST: 15,000 Take Largest Talmud Test in History
Last Friday more than 15,000 Torah scholars joined together around the world for the largest Talmud test in history
(Arutz Sheva).

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Larry Hurtado and "binitarianism"

LARRY HURTADO, in response to a recent BNTC paper by Anthony Thistelton, has clarified his current views on divine recipients of cultic devotion vs. God-discourse in the New Testament: “Binitarian,” “Dyadic,” “Triadic”: Early Christian God-talk and Devotion.
So, those interested primarily in the beliefs and religious outlook of earliest Christianity will perhaps find useful this more recent book, God in New Testament Theology. In any case, I offer two concluding observations: (1) The NT reflects a dyadic devotional pattern, in which God and Jesus feature as the programmatic recipients of devotion, especially corporate worship-devotion; but (2) there is a clear triadic shape to the God-discourse reflected in the NT. In short, I am not an exponent of “binitarianism” (whatever that is), nor have I primarily been concerned to offer a theological evaluation of the evidence of earliest Christian belief and/or devotional practice. My aims have been primarily to analyze these matters and describe them accurately.

The Jesus Blog

ASSIMILIATED TO THE BLOGOSPHERE: Many people have been noting the new blog by Anthony Le Donne and Chris Keith: The Jesus Blog "...a weblog dedicated to historical Jesus research brought to you by a hillbilly and a treehugger."

Greek to Georgian

NEWS YOU CAN USE: Translations from Greek into Georgian (Roger Pearse).

Some bits and pieces of Old Testament pseudepigrapha survive in Georgian.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Useful Aramaic vocabulary

ARAMAIC WATCH: In case you were wondering:
The 500 Most Common Nouns in Galilean Aramaic (in progress - Aramaic blog)

A list of some ethnic stereotypes in Syriac (hmmlorientalia)

Aramaic hacking

IT'S COME TO THIS: The Mandaean Book of John – Hacked!

Ginzei-Qedem 8

H-JUDAIC: TOC: Ginzei-Qedem 8 (2012)
Ginzei Qedem is an annual publication devoted to Genizah texts and studies, in the broadest possible sense of the phrase, including the publication of fragments of literary works and documents from genizot in Cairo and elsewhere, as well as new studies based on such fragments.

Its purpose is to provide a specialized venue for the field of Genizah research, in the hope that research on and publication of Genizah texts will, in time, enrich both traditional and academic Jewish studies, as well as Islamic ones, in a variety of areas, including Biblical studies and exegesis, Talmud, halakha, theology, philosophy, liturgy, history, linguistics, science, medicine, magic, and more.
Follow the link for the TOC.

New book: Stein, Textual Mirrors

Textual Mirrors
Reflexivity, Midrash, and the Rabbinic Self

Dina Stein

248 pages | 6 x 9
Cloth Aug 2012 | ISBN 978-0-8122-4436-6 | $79.95s | £52.00 |

Textual Mirrors draws on literary theory, folklore studies, and semiotics to examine stories in which self-reflexivity operates particularly strongly to constitute rabbinic identity through the voices of Simon the Just and a handsome shepherd, the daughter of Asher, the Queen of Sheba, and an unnamed maidservant. In Stein's readings, these self-reflexive stories allow us to go through the looking glass: where the text comments upon itself, it both compromises the unity of its underlying principles—textual, religious, and ideological—and confirms it.
Via the Talmud Blog on Facebook.

Daf Yomi column and news

ADAM KIRSCH at Tablet Magazine: Talmudic Rebbe-llion: A coup at the rabbinic academy deposes Gamliel and unleashes a torrent of questions.

Also: Siyum HaShas inspiring newcomers to daily Talmud study (Neil Rubin, JTA).
Two of Linden's congregants also have started the Daf Yomi, and Linden has launched an invitation-only Facebook page called Unorthodox Daf Yomi that now has more than 120 members.

The members are just some of the many Jews who say they were motivated by the publicity surrounding the Aug. 1 completion of the Shas -- the 2,711 pages of the Talmud -- to make daily Talmud study a part of their lives.

Monday, September 10, 2012

H-JUDAIC book reviews

Joseph L. Angel. Otherworldly and Eschatological Priesthood in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Leiden: Brill, 2010. xiii + 380 pp. $179.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-90-04-18145-8.

Reviewed by
James Bowley (Millsaps College)
Published on H-Judaic (September, 2012)
Commissioned by Jason Kalman

Priests in Heaven, the Eschaton, and Qumran

This study began as Joseph L. Angel’s 2008 dissertation at New York University, under the tutelage of Lawrence Schiffman. Angel takes up interesting issues of priesthood within Dead Sea Scrolls that have not received a full-scale systematic inquiry heretofore, namely, the frequently encountered images of an angelic (or “otherworldly”) priesthood and an eschatological priesthood. His turn toward these nonhistorical priestly imaginings of the ancient scroll writers is motivated not just by curiosity but also by his awareness of the thorniness of trying to derive any secure data about historical and social priestly realities of the authors’ community or communities. He writes that “the present study therefore largely abandons such historical inquiry in favor of investigation of the imagined constructs of priesthood in the Scrolls corpus” (p. 15). Acknowledgement of uncertainties is always commendable, and in chapter 1 Angel notes that the varied explanations of the religious and social origins of the authors of the scrolls have “highlighted the gaps in our knowledge regarding the variety of groups in Second Temple period Judaism” and “underscored the need to broaden our perspective regarding Qumran origins beyond the confining borders of the Essene hypothesis” (p. 8). As the book proceeds, it is clear that the study does not depend on or promote a certain viewpoint of these matters.

I have not read this book but, judging by the reviewer's summary, I would probably agree with many of its conclusions.
Ada Rapoport-Albert. Women and the Messianic Heresy of Sabbatai Zevi, 1666-1816. Translated by Deborah Greniman. Oxford: Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2011. xvi + 386 pp. $64.50 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-904113-84-3.

Reviewed by Michael Galas (Jagiellonian University)
Published on H-Judaic (September, 2012)
Commissioned by Jason Kalman

Female Messiahs in Judaism

In recent years, the study of Sabbatianism and its final phase, Frankism, has experienced a renaissance. The movement was first studied on a large scale by Gershom Scholem; currently many books and articles are being published which seek to undermine his "authority" on the subjects but these rarely offer new approaches or interpretations. Ada Rapoport-Albert's book is a breakthrough in this field, interpreting previously known sources in a way that sets up new research areas that had been overlooked or ignored.

Rapoport-Albert examines the role of women in Sabbatianism by incorporating a number of innovative studies on women in Hasidism. She begins with the theme of women in Sabbatianism by arguing that women are the factor that distinguishes this mystical-messianic movement from others: "One of Sabbatianism's most distinctive and persistent features was the high visibility of women within its ranks. They were among the movement's earliest and most ardent supporters--championing the messianic cause, proclaiming its gospel, and from time to time emerging as its chief protagonists" (pp. 11-12). She then adds that if one wants to look for the roots of "feminism" in the premodern period it can be found precisely in Sabbatianism, not Hasidism. It is this statement that she tries to prove within the pages of her book.

For lots more on Shabbetai Zvi and Sabbateanism, see here and links.

Boyarin and Schäfer on Jesus

The Gospel According to Feuding Academics
No Winner in Debate About Jewish Origins of Christianity

By Jay Michaelson
Published September 05, 2012, issue of September 07, 2012.

The Jewish Gospels
By Daniel Boyarin
The New Press, 224 pages, $21.95
The Jewish Jesus: How Judaism and Christianity Shaped Each Other
By Peter Schäfer
Princeton University Press, 370 pages, $35

As someone who writes in the academic world and the worlds of journalism, activism and the popular press, I’ve been painfully aware of some differences among them. Good scholarship complicates, good activism simplifies. Good academic work is generally specific and obscure, but good popular work requires the general, the relatable.

These tensions are all at play in the recent bumper crop of books on Jesus and Judaism (this is the Forward’s fourth review of such books in this calendar year). Some have been scholarly and dense, others popular and outright ridiculous in the claims they have made.

And some, like Daniel Boyarin’s “The Jewish Gospels” and Peter Schäfer’s “The Jewish Jesus,” seem caught in between. Both books are by esteemed scholars whose work is deservedly well known, and whom I myself have studied for 20 years (Boyarin, in fact, was my master’s advisor at Hebrew University many years ago). Yet both appear to make a misguided case for a wider readership. Their provocative titles are ultimately misleading: Boyarin’s book barely touches on the Gospels, and Schäfer’s is not about Jesus. Furthermore, while their introductions purport to appeal to a large audience, the body of each book is actually standard academic fare: detailed, attentive, a bit dry and highly intellectual. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

The two scholars are also locked in the kind of intellectual death match that goes on all the time in the academy but probably looks like a catfight from the outside. In a scalding takedown of Boyarin’s book in The New Republic, Schäfer wrote that “Boyarin’s book leaves the reader irritated and sad. It has very little that is new to offer — and what appears to be new is wildly speculative and highly idiosyncratic.”

But Michaelson's main complaint is that neither scholar properly popularizes the important ideas on which they agree:
Midway through “The Jewish Jesus,” Schäfer complains of a “tendency in modern scholarship to mix texts and ideas into one big meat loaf just because of some real or imaginary resemblance. After the ingredients are baked — or only half-baked — they all taste the same.” This is an apt, sharp and mildly hilarious observation, although it actually applies more to popular writing than to scholarship. And therein lies the challenge these two books fail to meet. Schäfer gets worked up about the misdating of the apocryphal book of 3 Enoch, because he is a scholar and that’s what scholars do. But out here in the nonacademic world, people like meat loaf.
You can find a link to Schäfer's review of Boyarin's book here.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Rabbinic dissertations and theses

THE TALMUD BLOG: Recent Dissertations and Theses.

Iron Age Cistern and Phoenician Psalms

I'M BACK IN ST. ANDREWS. Got in late yesterday evening. Looks like it's been a quiet few days in the media, but the following can be filed under "Temple Mount Watch":
Cistern dated to First Temple period found in Jerusalem
Discovery of large man-made reservoir next to the Temple Mount shows city did not solely rely on the Gihon Spring for its water 2,500 years ago
(Matti Friedman, The Times of Israel)
Joseph Lauer notes a link to the IAA press release and a temporary link that leads to high-resolution photos.

Also, to be filed under "Phoenician Watch: Not," I first saw "Royal Psalms" in this headline: Iron Chef participant Lee Hillson goes from Royal Palms to Phoenician.

Cross-file under "Don't believe my lying eyes."

UPDATE (10 September): Joseph Lauer e-mails a permanent link to the photo files, which is here.