Saturday, November 24, 2012

Brooke et al., The Significance of Sinai

The Significance of Sinai
Traditions about Sinai and Divine Revelation in Judaism and Christianity

Edited by: George J. Brooke, Hindy Najman, Loren T. Stuckenbruck. Editorial Assistance: Eva Mroczek, Brauna Doidge and Nathalie Lacoste

This volume of essays is concerned with ancient and modern Jewish and Christian views of the revelation at Sinai. The theme is highlighted in studies on the Dead Sea Scrolls, Paul, Josephus, rabbinic literature, art and philosophy. The contributions demonstrate that Sinai, as the location of the revelation, soon became less significant than the narratives that developed about what happened there. Those narratives were themselves transformed, not least to explain problems regarding the text's plain sense. Miraculous theophany, anthropomorphisms, the role of Moses, and the response of Israel were all handled with exegetical skills mustered by each new generation of readers. Furthermore, the content of the revelation, especially the covenant, was rethought in philosophical, political, and theological ways. This collection of studies is especially useful in showing something of the complexity of how scriptural traditions remain authoritative and lively for those who appeal to them from very different contexts.
This is not a new book (2008), but the Brill Facebook page highlighted it recently and I haven't mentioned it before, so here it is.

Friday, November 23, 2012

More digitization

OTTOMAN-ERA CORRESPONDENCE about important archaeological finds in Palestine is being digitized: Preserving Israel's recent and ancient pasts using 21st-century technology: Some 40,000 documents will be scanned and in a few weeks will be uploaded to a searchable website. (Nir Hasson, Haaretz). The Siloam Inscription is one of the artifacts mentioned.

Other recent digitization projects are noted here with many links.

Latest on Cincinnati DSS

THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS encountered a gala cocktail-dress reception and just missed a nearly naked mile in Cincinnati. The sectarians would have been mortified, but I am amused.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


HAPPY THANKSGIVING to my American readers and to all others celebrating with us. As usual, I shall have to work all day in a fog of post-SBL jet lag, but I will try to be thankful nonetheless.

Corpses and the Sabbath in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI column by Adam Kirsch in Tablet:
Eggs and Babies

This week’s Talmud study reveals legal debates that refine the limits and nature of inherently abstract concepts

By Adam Kirsch|November 19, 2012 7:00 AM|

This week’s Talmud reading was largely devoted to the legal concept of muktzeh, a category of items that may not be moved or used on Shabbat. It is a fairly technical discussion, but in the course of it, in Shabbat 43b, the Talmud comes up with a bizarre image that makes all the abstractions immediately memorable: a baby or a loaf of bread placed deliberately on top of a dead body. This is Rav’s solution to one of the difficult Shabbat-related cases the rabbis consider: What can you do on Shabbat with a corpse that is decomposing in the sun? “One should place a loaf of bread or an infant on the corpse and then move it,” Rav says.

What strikes me about this passage is that this sort of thing came up often enough to be an issue. It is hard for us to image what a brutal world the ancients lived in.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Review of Sabar, My Father's Paradise

A BELATED REVIEW of Ariel Sabar, My Father's Paradise by Moris Farhi in the Jewish Chronicle: Nostalgic and Aramaic: Professor Yona Sabar is one of a small remnant of native Aramaic speakers. His son explores his roots.

For earlier reviews etc. see here with many links.

Ancient Hebrew cosmology

JAMES MCGRATH has a post on Ancient Hebrew Cosmology which interacts with a diagram from Logos Bible Software. The diagram is accurate as far as it goes, but incomplete and to a large degree it misses the point. For the ancient Israelites (and ancient Near Eastern peoples in general), the physical universe was God's (or the high god's) temple. The firmament/dome of the heavens was the floor of the temple and formed its vestibule (entryway) and nave (main room). The heaven of heavens contained the holy of holies, God's throne room, where he sat enthroned. The earth was below all the action and was merely God's footstool. The earthly temple is the microcosmic representation of the macrocosmic reality. This layout is implicit in the architecture and decoration of the Jerusalem temple and is explained in detail by Philo of Alexandria (Spec. Leg. 1:66-67, 82-96; Moses 2:74-76, 88, 98, 101-5, 109-33). It forms the basis of the theology and celestial cosmography of mystical texts such as the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice and the Hekhalot literature.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


I'M BACK IN ST. ANDREWS. More later, or maybe tomorrow.

Binder on Tertullian and Avodah Zarah

Tertullian, On Idolatry and Mishnah Avodah Zarah
Questioning the Parting of the Ways between Christians and Jews

Stéphanie E. Binder, Bar-Ilan University
This work studies and compares systematically the text of Tertullian, an African Church Father of the third century CE, on idolatry with the rabbinic Mishnah Avodah Zarah, on the same subject, dating roughly from the same period. Similarities and differences between the Jewish and Christian approaches to idolatry are examined and accounted for. The research is inscribed in the wider framework of discussions on the “parting of the ways” between Jews and Christians. It also addresses related questions such as the role of the rabbis in second and third century Judaism in the Land of Israel and in the Diaspora; relations between Jews living in those places; interactions between Jews and pagans, Christians and pagans, Jews and Christians.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


GOOD SBL CONFERENCE. I was quite pleased with the reception of my paper and I got some good feedback. There is one more round of sessions and then I leave this afternoon, but my internet time in my room is almost up, so this is probably my last post before I go.

Cincinnati DSS exhibit

THE LATEST on the new Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition at the Cincinnati Museum Center:

A review: History comes alive: A walk through the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit (jgelfand,

HUC part of Scrolls' mystery
Cincinnati connections go back to the scrolls' discovery in 1947

11:38 PM, Nov. 15, 2012 |

Written by
Steven Rosen
Enquirer contributor

For decades, Cincinnati’s Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion has been an unsung hero in the long, dramatic struggle to save and understand the ancient Dead Sea Scrolls.

So pronounced has HUC’s role been – going back to the 1947 discovery of the first of the scrolls that are 2,000-plus years old – that a special section will be devoted to it when the traveling exhibition Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Ancient Times opens at Cincinnati Museum Center today.

It’s a story that, in different chapters, involves high intrigue in helping purchase and protect priceless scrolls put up for sale, storing a secret “security negative” on the University Heights campus in case war destroyed the originals in Israel, and a professor’s defiant publication of an unauthorized transcription of scroll text to force authorities to finally make the scrolls public.


Jason Kalman, an HUC professor of classical Hebrew text and interpretation, has studied his school’s complex involvement with the scrolls and just published a book about it, “Hebrew Union College and the Dead Sea Scrolls.”

Background here.

Tov interview

OUP BLOG: An interview with Emanuel Tov.
From 1990 to 2010, Professor Emanuel Tov (Professor Emeritus, Hebrew University of Jerusalem) served as the Editor in Chief of the Dead Sea Scrolls Publication Project, producing over thirty volumes from the famed 1947 discovery near Qumran. The scrolls — written between 250 B.C.E. and 70 C.E. by a Jewish monastic community (most likely the Essenes) — have had an enormous impact on Biblical studies scholarship over the last 65 years, calling into question, among many other things, the origin and influence of certain practices and beliefs. The volumes that Tov helped to produce during his tenure can now be found in the Discoveries in the Judaean Desert series, the foundational point of reference for students of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Kim, Early Biblical Hebrew, Late Biblical Hebrew, and Linguistic Variability

Early Biblical Hebrew, Late Biblical Hebrew, and Linguistic Variability
A Sociolinguistic Evaluation of the Linguistic Dating of Biblical Texts

By Dong-Hyuk Kim
In Early Biblical Hebrew, Late Biblical Hebrew, and Linguistic Variability, Dong-Hyuk Kim attempts to adjudicate between the two seemingly irreconcilable views over the linguistic dating of biblical texts. Whereas the traditional opinion, represented by Avi Hurvitz, believes that Late Biblical Hebrew was distinct from Early Biblical Hebrew and thus one can date biblical texts on linguistic grounds, the more recent view argues that Early and Late Biblical Hebrew were merely stylistic choices through the entire biblical period. Using the variationist approach of (historical) sociolinguistics and on the basis of the sociolinguistic concepts of linguistic variation and different types of language change, Kim convincingly argues that there is a third way of looking at the issue.

Monday, November 19, 2012

New JHS articles and reviews

THE ONLINE JOURNAL OF HEBREW SCRIPTURES has published a couple of new articles and some reviews. Christophe Nihan e-mails:
I am glad to announce the publication of two new articles in the Journal of Hebrew Scriptures (

Elie ASSIS, "The Structure of Zechariah 8 and its

Abstract: This article claims that the collection of ten short oracles in Zechariah 8 is ordered in a well planned structure, and is meant to be read a meaningful sequence,
even though each one is an independent entity. The article demonstrates a sophisticated structure of these oracles, and reveals the meaning of the structure.

To access the article directly please go to

Michael AVIOZ, "The 'Spring of the Year' (2 Chronicles
36:10) and the Chronicler's Sources."

Abstract: This article offers a detailed discussion of 2 Chronicles 36:10 and the differences with the parallel account in 2 Kings 24, focusing on the expression "the
spring of the year," which is present in Chronicles but absent from Kings. It argues that the differences between Chronicles and Kings cannot be explained either as
representing exegetical changes or as reflecting a different Vorlage. Rather, as in this instance, such differences point to the fact that the Chronicler had access to sources that were not available to the authors of Kings.

To access the article directly please go to

Also, I am glad to announce the publication of several new
reviews in JHS:

Carr, David M., The Formation of the Hebrew Bible: A New
Reconstruction (Oxford and New York: Oxford University
Press, 2011). (Reviewed by Timothy J. Stone).

Hays, Christopher B., Death in the Iron Age II and in First
Isaiah (FAT, 79; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011). (Reviewed
by Konrad Schmid).

Lee, Kyong-Jin, The Authority and Authorization of Torah in
the Persian Period (Contributions to Biblical Exegesis &
Theology, 64; Leuven, Peeters, 2011). (Reviewed by James W.

To access the reviews directly please go to

Please note that JHS is now offering hypertext/ hyperlinked
versions of all articles and reviews published from 1996 to
2009 (inclusive of 2009). We are currently working to
include versions of the 2010/2011 articles and reviews.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Lewis, Cosmology and Fate in Gnosticism and Graeco-Roman Antiquity

NEW BOOK with Brill by Nicola Denzey Lewis:
Cosmology and Fate in Gnosticism and Graeco-Roman Antiquity
Under Pitiless Skies

Nicola Denzey Lewis, Brown University
In Cosmology and Fate in Gnosticism and Graeco-Roman Antiquity, Nicola Denzey Lewis dismisses Hans Jonas' mischaracterization of second-century Gnosticism as a philosophically-oriented religious movement built on the perception of the cosmos as negative or enslaving. A focused study on the concept of astrological fate in “Gnostic” writings including the Apocryphon of John, the recently-discovered Gospel of Judas, Trimorphic Protennoia, and the Pistis Sophia, this book reexamines their language of “enslavement to fate (Gk: heimarmene)” from its origins in Greek Stoicism, its deployment by the apostle Paul, to its later use by a variety of second-century intellectuals (both Christian and non-Christian). Denzey Lewis thus offers an informed and revisionist conceptual map of the ancient cosmos, its influence, and all those who claimed to be free of its potentially pernicious effects.
She's on a roll this year.