Saturday, March 30, 2013

Syriac tattoo

ARAMAIC WATCH: Here's a nice Syriac tattoo for Steve Caruso. But I bet this one doesn't have errors in it.

Other tattoos in ancient languages, some quite unfortunate, are noted here and links.

Joseph Aviram

Israel's archeological triumphs through the eyes of a man who was always there
Joseph Aviram, 97, brought Ben-Gurion one of the Dead Sea Scrolls and took Yigael Yadin up to Masada in the 1960s.

By Nir Hasson | Mar.29, 2013 | 9:59 AM (Haaretz)

In the world of Israeli archaeology, Joseph Aviram is the man who was there. He was there when Alexander Zaid [a founder of Hashomer, a Jewish defense organization] arrived on horseback to show a group of students the Beit She'arim excavations in the 1930s. He organized the first professional Jewish digs in the 1940s. He brought David Ben-Gurion one of the Dead Sea Scrolls that was found in the Judean Desert in the 1950s, and he took Yigael Yadin up to Masada in the 1960s.

Aviram, who is 97, probably holds the record for successive employment at the same place of work. For 70 years he has been with the Israel Exploration Society (previously known as the Society for the Reclamation of Antiquities ). Next month, the IES will celebrate its centenary, an achievement matched only by a handful of institutions in Israel.


Friday, March 29, 2013

Karaite and Samaritan Passover

OTHER PASSOVER TRADITIONS: Samaritans, Karaites take Passover back to its ancient roots (judy lash balint at

More on Karaite Passover here and links, and more on Samaritan Passover here and links.

Good Friday

TODAY IS GOOD FRIDAY. Best wishes to all observing it. References to the Passion of Jesus in the New Testament are gathered here (but the links have rotted). And for something different, here is the account of the Passion and Resurrection in the apocryphal Gospel of Peter.

No Israel Prize

THERE MUST BE AN INTERESTING STORY BEHIND THIS: No Israel Prize for Archeology This Year (Arutz Sheva).
The prize will not be given because the prize committee attempted to award it to two candidates, in violation of ministry rules which state that each prize may be given to only one winner.

Review of Klawans, Josephus and the Theologies of Ancient Judaism

Jonathan Klawans. Josephus and the Theologies of Ancient Judaism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. 400 pp. $74.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-19-992861-3.

Reviewed by Kenneth Atkinson (University of Northern Iowa)
Published on H-Judaic (March, 2013)
Commissioned by Jason Kalman

Rethinking Flavius Josephus as a Witness to Early Jewish Theologies

Jonathan Klawans’s monograph is a welcome addition to the increasing body of literature devoted to the works of the first-century CE Jewish-Roman historian Flavius Josephus. Well known for his work in the history of Jewish law and ritual, Klawans in this book attempts to put Josephus closer to the center of all studies of ancient Judaism. His book focuses on Josephus’s descriptions of the three major Jewish religious movements (the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes) to understand the theologies of ancient Judaism. He proposes that ancient Jewish religious disputes revolved primarily around matters of ritual law, including disagreements over the calendar, and purity practices. Through his examination of Josephus, Klawans challenges the widespread belief that Judaism was shattered by the cumulative events of 70 CE and 135 CE (First and Second Jewish Revolts). For Klawans, Josephus demonstrates that much of the vitality associated with rabbinic Judaism existed in the first century CE, and that there is no evidence that the three major Jewish movements disappeared after the 70 CE Roman destruction of the Jerusalem temple.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Rollston on the Cyrus Cylinder

CHRISTOPHER ROLLSTON: Nebuchadnezzar’s Destruction of Jerusalem, The Cyrus Cylinder, and the Building of the Second Temple.

Background here with many links.

Vermes on crucifixion

GEZA VERMES: Was Crucifixion a Jewish Penalty? (Standpoint Magazine).

The doctoral dissertation by Gunnar Samuelsson discussed in the article is noted here and links.

Tangentially related (via crucifixion—'tis the season) from Bible History Daily: The Staurogram: The earliest images of Jesus on the cross. I noted a lecture by Larry Hurtado on the subject (as well as his book) in 2007, here.

Job at University of Edinburgh

A CHANCELLOR'S FELLOWSHIP at the University of Edinburgh is available with the School of Divinity and is open to a specialty in biblical studies.

(HT Timothy Lim on Facebook.)

UPDATE (29 March): Further particulars here.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Egyptian blogger latest

EGYPTIAN BLOGGER ALAA is once again being pursued by the Egyptian authorities, this time apparently for comments left on his blog: Egyptian blogger accused of violence released (AP). The new bosses don't seem to like him much better than the old bosses. I give the AP credit for keeping a close eye on the situation.

Did I mention that the world is watching?

Background here, here, here, here, here, and here, with many links, going back to the Mubarak regime in 2005.

The Talmud Diet?

JONATHAN K. CRANE, IN The Talmud and Other Diet Books (NYT), proposes a Talmudic solution to the obesity epidemic:
Among these old arguments is the novel idea of eating less than what fills one’s belly. The Talmud teaches that people should eat enough to fill a third of their stomachs, drink enough to fill another third, and leave a third empty. (A hadith in the Islamic tradition also teaches this.) Rashi, a medieval French rabbi, interpreted the Talmud to mean that the final empty third is necessary so that the body can metabolize emotions. If one ate until one’s belly was completely full, there’d be no room left to manage one’s emotions and one would burst asunder.

However absurd this may seem to us today, it made physiological sense in the premodern world as the emotions were considered physical things that, like food and drink, were metabolized by the body. A body stuffed with food and drink is full only of biology; it leaves no room for biography, for what makes us human.
Typically, no reference is given. I trust that some alert PaleoJudaica reader can provide one.

Physiology of emotions aside, the approach, whether Talmudic or not, of pushing away from the table before you're stuffed is generally pretty effective.

That said, there may well be an element of making the best of a bad job in the Talmud's advice. Scarcity of resources, including food, was the norm in the brutal world of antiquity.

DSS Decalogue

THE QUMRAN TEXT OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS IN DEUTERONOMY is going on display at the end of the week in the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition at the Cincinnati Museum Center: EXCLUSIVE: Ancient document to go on display: Dead Sea Scroll features the Ten Commandments (
The tightly guarded Ten Commandments scroll – one of the most important of the approximately 900 ancient Dead Sea Scrolls still in existence – will be on display from Friday through April 14 at the Cincinnati Museum Center.

That will add considerable star power to the last 17 days of the blockbuster exhibit “Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Ancient Times,” which also has 10 other scroll fragments from Israel on display.


Background here and links.

Herod exhibition review

THE HEROD THE GREAT EXHIBITION is reviewed by Amotz Asa-El in the WSJ: Shards of a Reputation. Excerpt:
One Herod biographer, Hebrew University's Abraham Schalit, wrote in 1960 that the king's successors "were weaklings," and that the spiritual elite, the Pharisees, "were too introverted to appreciate all that was useful about the great king's legacy." And the university's current authority on this era, Daniel Schwartz, says Herod's "balancing act" between Rome and Judea reflected his belief that Rome was "here to stay," and that it fostered peace, tolerance and prosperity. That is why Herod built both Jerusalem and Caesarea, "in effect giving the country two capitals and positing a separation of religion from state," Mr. Schwartz said.

Yes, none of this justifies Herod's violence. But, then again, confronting Rome brought even more violence.

For its part, the Israel Museum avoids judging Herod. "Our role is merely to look at history through artifacts," says Director James Snyder. Thanks to this well-crafted exhibition, judging Herod's place in history becomes even more challenging than it already was.
More on Herod and the exhibition here and links.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Textual uniformity and diversity in the NT, Qur'an, etc.

LARRY HURTADO: Textual Criticism, the New Testament, and the Qur’an.
As to results, Small repeatedly notes that the Qur’an manuscripts exhibit a remarkable stability in the text across many centuries, from the earliest to the latest. In general terms, not much more than orthographic variants (vowel differences in the consonantal script) and other minor variants are found. There are occasional copyist mistakes, but no major differences involving whole clauses or sentences. This accords with traditional, popular Muslim beliefs/claims about the stability of the text of the Qur’an.

But Small also notes that the other evidence (especially palimpsests and reports from early centuries) suggest strongly that there was, in the earliest period, a considerably greater diversity in the text of the Qur’an than is reflected in the extant manuscripts studied. Moreover, as is widely accepted, in the late 7th century, disturbed by the diversity in the text of the Qur’an, the Caliph Uthman organized a standardization of the consontantal text (early Arabic, like ancient Hebrew, was a consonantal aphabet with no written vowels), suppressing variant versions.
The development of the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible is similar: the surviving manuscripts show a remarkable textual uniformity, but earlier, pre-Masoretic evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Septuagint shows that an earlier textual diversity had to be suppressed to achieve the uniformity of the MT. This appears to be a fairly common pattern as texts achieve a greater or lesser level of canonicity or authority. In my work on the Hekhalot Literature it has become clear that the later manuscripts of the complete major texts (albeit themselves often highly corrupt) come from a tradition edited into uniformity by the Haside Ashkenaz in the thirteenth century. The earlier fragments of these texts from the Cairo Geniza show considerably more textual diversity.

As Hurtado notes, the New Testament also reached a high level of textual uniformity in time, but no one seems to have had any interest in suppressing the earlier manuscripts that preserved a greater diversity.

Yannai and Passover

THE TALMUD BLOG: Some Notes on Yannai and Pesach: Between Exegesis and Received Traditions (Yitz Landes).

Talmud app upgrade

ARTSCROLL APP: The Talmud Gets (Another) Facelift (The Jewish Press).

Background here and here.

Totally infinitive absolute

ED COOK: Totally Modally.

Metatron coming to Supernatural

ARCHANGEL METATRON WATCH: ‘Supernatural’ Season 8 Spoilers: What Famous Angel Is on Its Way?
SpoilerTV reports that ‘Supernatural’s’ producers have begun casting the role of one of the most famed angels of all, that of the “Metatron,” to appear in the final three episodes of the season, and potentially recur into the ninth. The character is described as an older angel, the scribe of God and one present before the time of Adam and Eve. To Dean’s would-be delight no doubt, Metatron is seen as a cross between Obi-Wan Kenobi and ‘The Usual Suspect’ character Verbal Kint/Keyser Söze.

Temple Mount on Passover

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Temple Activists Detained, Lamb Seized: Several Temple Movement activists tried to make the Pesach sacrifice on the Temple Mount. (Arutz Sheva).

Monday, March 25, 2013

Groningen scholarship

THE UNIVERSITY OF GRONINGEN, Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, has just announced a new scholarship: Qumran Institute presents the Florentino García Martínez Research Master Scholarship.

(HT Mladen Popovic.)


PASSOVER begins this evening at sundown. Best wishes to all those observing it.

The links have rotted, but some biblical references are listed here.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Tenth anniversary


I began this blog on Monday, 24 March, 2003. The first two posts are here and here.

Most years (last year I was busy and couldn't be bothered), I have put up a retrospective anniversary post. You can find links to all of them in the eighth anniversary post.

For the history and significance of "Biblioblogging" over the last decade, see my 2005 SBL Forum article Assimilated to the Blogosphere: Blogging Ancient Judaism (Blogger reformatting has killed most of the links. Thanks, Blogger!); my 2005 SBL paper, Enter the Bibliobloggers; and my 2010 SBL paper, What Just Happened.

Here are a few of my favorite posts over the last couple of years.

2012-13 (year 10)
2011-12 (year 9) It's been fun so far, and I have no plans to stop. Thanks to the many loyal readers who keep coming back year after year, and welcome, always, to new readers.

Obama at Petra

PRESIDENTIAL TOUR: Barack Obama tours ancient 'lost' city of Petra (The Telegraph).

No sign of the Holy Grail.

The New New Testament

GOOFY HEADLINE OF THE WEEK: Dead Sea Scrolls part of pastor's 'New New Testament' (Deseret News).

Er, no. The Dead Sea Scrolls don't contain any New Testament texts, even noncanonical ones. What the article is trying to say is that this book includes translations of Coptic Gnostic Christian scriptures from the Nag Hammadi Library (in Egypt) among the canonical New Testament books. These are definitely not Jewish Hebrew and Aramaic scriptures etc. from the Dead Sea region. The Amazon page for the book has more information on the book and the project. It seems a little gimmicky to me, but I'm always happy to see the noncanonical scriptures get more attention.