Friday, January 25, 2013

Lecture on Hekhalot translation

I'M OFF TO EDINBURGH TODAY to give a lecture at a New College seminar on "Translating the Hekhalot Literature." Dr. Matthew Novenson has kindly advertised the event here. The lecture summarizes material from the introduction to my forthcoming translation and discusses some specific passages. I am not going to prepost the whole lecture, but the lecture handout is copied below:

1. The Hekhalot Literature

2. The Texts
Hekhalot Rabbati (§§81-121, 152-73, 189-277), "The Greater (Book of the Heavenly) Palaces"
Sar Torah (§§281-306), the "Prince of Torah"
Hekhalot Zutarti (approximately §§335-75, 407-26), "The Lesser (Book of the Heavenly) Palaces"
Maʻaseh Merkavah (§§544-96), "The Working of the Chariot"
Merkavah Rabba (§§655-708), "The Greater (Book of the) Chariot"
Sefer Hekhalot (§§1-79), "The Book of the Palaces," 3 Enoch*
Shiʻur Qomah, "The Measure of the Stature"*
Massekhet Hekhalot, "The Treatise of the Palaces"*
• Shorter macroforms and fragments: The Chapter of R. Nehuniah ben HaQanah (§§307-14); the incantation prayers in The Great Seal-Fearsome Crown (§§318-21//§§651-54); a brief account of The Ascent of Elisha ben Avuyah (§597); Sar Panim or "The Prince of the Presence" (§§623-39), The Youth (hanaʻar)
• Geniza fragments
"The Ozhayah Fragment" (G8); "The Unicum (i.e., "unique") Fragment" (G22); The fragment of a Metatron adjuration also involving Moses (G19).
Fragments of the Hekhalot Rabbati (G1-G6), the Hekhalot Zutarti (G7, G16, G18), an otherwise unknown recension of the beginning of 3 Enoch (G12), the Sar Panim (G1), and Shiʻur Qomah traditions* (G4, G8, G9, G10, G11).
*Not included in this translation
3. Key Issues in Research on the Hekhalot Literature
• Heavenly ascents and Sar Torah adjurations
• Exegesis, experience, and praxis
• Origins of the Hekhalot traditions
• Authorship, provenance, and social context

4. This Translation
• The manuscripts
• N - MS New York, Jewish Theological Seminary 828/8128. An Ashkenanzic manuscript dating probably to the end of the fifteenth or the beginning of the sixteenth century, heavily interpolated with magical, liturgical, and even apocalyptic materials.
• O - MS Oxford, Bodleian Library, Michael 9 (Neugebauer 1531). An Ashkenazic manuscript dating to around 1300.
• M40 - MS Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cod. hebr. 40. An Italian manuscript written by multiple scribes. The section containing the Hekhalot texts translated here is dated to the end of the fifteenth century.
• M22 - MS Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cod. hebr. 22. This Italian manuscript was also written by multiple scribes, but the section containing the Hekhalot texts translated here is dated to the middle of the sixteenth century.
• D - MS Dropsie, Philadelphia, Dropsie University 436. A Sephardic manuscript dated to the fifteenth century.
• V - MS Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica, Vaticana, Vat. ebr. 228. A Byzantine manuscript dated to the fifteenth century.
• B - MS Budapest, Rabbinic Seminary, Kaufman 238. An Italian manuscript dated to the fifteenth century.
• F - Florence Laurenziana Plut. 44/13. An Italian manuscript dating to the fourteenth century.
• L - Leiden Or. 4730, an Italian manuscript that may date to the sixteenth or seventeenth century.
• The nature of this translation

5. Some sample passages
Hekhalot Rabbati §81, §253, §233
GO56 (Oxford Heb. d. 56, fol. 125a 11-5) = Hekhalot Rabbati §§221-23 and cf. §229-30

Selected Bibliography
Davila, James R. The Hekhalot Literature in Translation: Major Texts of Merkavah Mysticism. SJJTP. Leiden: Brill, forthcoming 2013.
Davila, James R. "Prolegomena to a Critical Edition of the Hekhalot Rabbati." JJS 45 (1994): 208-26.
Schäfer, Peter, et al. Synopse zur Hekhalot-Literatur. TSAJ 2. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1981.
Schäfer, Peter. Geniza-Fragmente zur Hekhalot-Literatur. TSAJ 6. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1984.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A text-critical principle

NEWS YOU CAN USE: Agreement in error can point to common origin (Dirk Jongkind, ETC).

Patai Folklore and Ethnology Prize

Awarded for best unpublished essay on Jewish folklore and ethnology
completed by a student between January 2012-June 2013.
The prize is offered by the Jewish Folklore and Ethnology Section of the American Folklore Society and the Committee on the Anthropology of Jews and Judaism of the American Anthropological Association. The deadline is 1 July 2013. Follow the link for details.

UPDATE: Although the H-JUDAIC post gives the deadline as 1 July, the web page of the Jewish Folklore and Ethnology Section of the American Folklore Society says 15 June.

Destructive anger on the Sabbath

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI by Adam Kirsch in Tablet: Things Broken and Repaired: In this week’s page of Talmud, the rabbis show their skill at making distinctions between obligation and acting out.
The Mishnah bans any kind of constructive or positive activity on Shabbat; but this raises a question to which the Talmud will return in the following chapter, in Shabbat 105b. What if you perform an action that involves some real expense of energy but its effect is purely destructive?
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here, here and links.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Happy 11th to the AKMA blog

HAPPY ELEVENTH BLOGIVERSARY to A.K.M. Adam's blog AKMA's Random Thoughts, which is arguably the oldest "biblioblog." (PaleoJudaica is the other contender for oldest, but neither of us is particularly invested in claiming the title.)

New books on Christian Apocrypha from Tony Burke

AT APOCRYPHICITY Tony Burke has posted some information on his brand new book and his book-in-progress: Secret Mark Symposium Papers Now Available (title: Ancient Gospel or Modern Forgery? The Secret Gospel of Mark in Debate; background here and links) and Secret Scriptures Revealed! Thoughts on Writing for Non-Specialists, part 3 (background here and link).

Review of Hillar, From Logos to Trinity

Marian Hillar, From Logos to Trinity: The Evolution of Religious Beliefs from Pythagoras to Tertullian. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Pp. xi, 320. ISBN 9781107013308. £60.00.

Reviewed by Joe McCoy, The University of Nevada, Reno (


There are three distinct levels of concern in Marian Hillar’s From Logos to Trinity: The Evolution of Religious Beliefs from Pythagoras to Tertullian. The first is that the doctrine of the Trinity—that the Divinity comprises three persons in a single nature—is a creed alien to the authentic Christianity of the Apostolic generation. Second, Hillar proposes the excision of this doctrine from Christian theology as a necessary condition for the reunification of Christianity as well as for a broader rapprochement among the great monotheistic religions. Third, Hillar presents an historical account of how the seeds of this doctrine were implanted and grew in the early Church. Hillar’s thesis is that the Jewish wisdom and Messianic traditions were misappropriated by early Christian thinkers and conflated with metaphysical notions, which were current in the early Roman Empire. The result is a basic incoherence in the heart of Christian theology that compromised its teachings over the course of the following two millennia.

The reviewer is not persuaded about the parts that involve Judaism.

Gorgias Book Grant

IT'S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN: Welcome to the Gorgias Book Grant Program.
In its efforts to promote education, Gorgias Press offers annually the Gorgias Book Grant. This program offers outstanding graduate students grants in the form of Gorgias Press publications. Grants consist of Gorgias Press books in the value of $500.00 per grant. Each year, two grants are distributed.
Details at the link. The application deadline is 29 March.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Rollston reviews CIIP 2

CHRISTOPHER ROLLSTON: Review of Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae, Volume II: Caesarea and the Middle Coast, 1121-2160.
It is a peerless addition to the resources available for the ancient epigraphic realia.
More on the volume and the series here and links.

Lesses on Orlov, The Enoch-Metatron Tradition

REBECCA LESSES has posted her 2005 SBL review of Andrei Orlov's book, The Enoch-Metatron Tradition. My review of the same book has been noted here.

Apotropaic bling

NEVER OUT OF STYLE: ALEF BET Jewelry : Protective Bling.
It’s a brand new year, and we’re all trying to be optimistic. Casting an eye over the headlines makes this a difficult process. Even the sunniest souls among us can’t help but feel that the world is, at least, occasionally, a random, scary, dangerous place.

My advice: pile on the apotropaic jewelry. My favorite source: Alef Bet jewelry (, created by a Los Angeles-based mother-daughter design team which produces deliciously wearable, modern interpretations of ancient protective amulets.
Additional posts on modern use of ancient magical traditions are here and here.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sad News: Victor Avigdor Hurowitz


From Jack Sasson at the Agade list:
Dispatches from Israel are conveying the incredibly sad news that Victor Avigdor Hurowitz died today, after a series of complications arising from struggles with a long term illness.

He was just too young and did not live to receive a Festschrift currently being prepared in his honor. His website is at
As yet, I have not information about funeral arrangements.
May his memory be for a blessing.

UPDATE: Again, from Jack Sasson:
From Mayer Gruber []:

Funeral services for Victor Avigdor Hurowitz will take place today at
4:00 PM at Beit Ha-'Almin He-Hadash, Be-Derech Le-Hatzerim.

Shivah will be at his home, Mish'ol Ha-'Aqrabim 33, Shechunah Heh, Beer Sheva

Ann's cellular phone number for his wife Ann is [redacted, but if you really need it, drop me a note - JRD]

May his memory be for a blessing.
UPDATE: Once more from Jack. He reports that it was to have been officially launched yesterday:
Mikra leyisrael - A Scientific Commentary on the Bible

Series Mikra LeIsrael - Scientific Commentary on the Bible
By Avigdor Hurvitz Edited By Shmuel Ahituv
Publisher: The Hebrew University Magnes Press Ltd.

Colloquium on The Life of Adam and Eve

OLD TESTAMENT PSEUDEPIGRAPHA WATCH: International Colloquium on The Life of Adam and Eve (Apocryphicity). The colloquium is in January of 2014.

Seeing the God is coming

JARED CALLAWAY notes the forthcoming Gorgias Press book Seeing the God: Ways of Envisioning the Divine in Ancient Mediterranean Religion (ed. Jeffrey Pettis), to which he is a contributor. The publisher's description:
Seeing the God: Ways of Envisioning the Divine in Ancient Mediterranean Religion is a collection of scholarly essays exploring the concept of how the ancients “envisioned” the deities within various religious traditions, including Judaism, Gnosticism, Syriac Christianity, Byzantium, and Classical Greco-Roman religion and philosophy.

In this book, specific attention is given to phenomena such as dreams, day or night-time visions, and initiation rites perceived as mediums of divine encounter. The work derives from an idea of Robin Lane Fox, who, in his Pagans and Christians writes, “When people prayed, they expected their gods to come, from the age of Homer to the last Platonists in the fifth century A.D.”

Translation of the Coptic Apocalypse of Elijah

OLD TESTAMENT PSEUDEPIGRAPHA WATCH: Guest Post: Anthony Alcock – The Apocalypse of Elijah. English translation made from the text in Georg Steindorff Die Apokalypse des Elias (1899) (Alin Suciu).