Saturday, May 04, 2013

Moss blog


Interesting Q&A format.

More on Professor Moss here and links.

Friday, May 03, 2013

A second Gabriel stone?

THAT SCHOLAR BEING ISRAEL KNOHL: Second 'Gabriel Stone' may exist, says scholar: A second Gabriel Stone, the controversial tablet discovered 13 years ago which raises the prospect of a messiah-like figure that predated Jesus, may exist, according to a world-renowned Israeli scholar (Daniel Easterman, THe Telegraph).
"It is very much possible that the text was written on two stones, especially since the language includes references to a New Testament or Covenant", said Prof Knohl. "It could be that it was made in tablet form to imitate the idea of the two tablets of the Ten Commandments given to Moses at Mount Sinai."

According to Prof Knohl, the telltale sign of an additional piece lies in the fact that there is a clear break in the upper-right corner of the stone.

"We simply don't know if the text on the Gabriel stone we have now is the full composition", he said.

Prof Knohl said he was so certain of his theory that he led an extended archaeological trip himself to Jordan to try to find the second piece, but ultimately was unsuccessful.
In the first place, this is pretty wild speculation. The analogy with the two tablets of the Ten Commandments is possible, but not compelling, and the break only means that we don't know if the text began at the top of the surviving stone or not. It is not evidence that the text did begin on an earlier stone. In the second place, even if there was a second inscribed stone, it may well have been destroyed in the last two thousand years. Most such things were.

I hope he's right and that there is another stone and we find it, but I am not optimistic.

I wholeheartedly agree with this:
He says he remains hopeful that in the future archaeologists or technology experts in the field of high-definition photography will be able to make additional breakthroughs.

"If anyone can think of a new technology or an idea to improve our readings please come and tell us", he said. "This would be a great contribution to the study of both Judaism and Christianity."
I don't doubt that such technology will be developed in due course and that it will be possible to use it on the stone as long as the stone has been carefully preserved in its current condition. This, of course, assuming the inscription is not a forgery. The stone is, after all, an unprovenanced artifact. So far all indications are that it is genuine, but it is not impossible that future technologies will give us a surprise about that as well.

It is also worth repeating that Professor Knohl's reading of the text which finds a dying and rising messiah in it has not been found widely convincing.

Background on the Gabriel Revelation/Vision of Gabriel is here and links.

More on Irish NT apocrypha

But it is in the realm of gospels that Ireland produces the most surprising findings. Throughout the Middle Ages, scholars across Western Europe make startling references to gospels otherwise thought lost, often presented under the guise of a Jewish-Christian gospel. We can debate at length what exactly they might have been referring to, but often, we can track their citations back either to the influence of Ireland, or to Irish monasteries founded in Western Europe. Irish clergy used some very strange texts, and even treated them as canonical.
Earlier posts in this series are noted here and here and links


BUT OF COURSE: Dos Equis' "Most Interesting Man in the World" speaks no less than seven languages including a few that are not spoken today such as Latin and Aramaic.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Catchword tag and turbulent waters in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN by Adam Kirsch in Tablet
The Talmud’s Absolute Value
Through reasoning, the rabbis brought all of natural creation under the rule of law

By Adam Kirsch|April 30, 2013 12:00 AM|

One of the recurring patterns I have noticed in my reading of the Talmud is the way the text puts off explaining its key terms. From the beginning of Tractate Eruvin, for instance, it has been axiomatic that on Shabbat it is permitted to move only within a 2,000-amot techum or boundary. But why is the boundary 2,000 amot in the first place? If the Talmud were a textbook, this would be explained on the first page. But the compilers of the Talmud clearly did not envision it being read the way I, and many others doing Daf Yomi, read it—that is, in isolation.

Rather, the Talmud is a product of and commentary on a living tradition, whose principles have been passed on from generation to generation, in word and action. Presumably, in the fifth century CE, every Jewish child would have known about the 2,000-amot boundary from the time he or she began to walk. It was a rule handed down for centuries—ostensibly, since Moses received the Oral Law on Sinai—and it didn’t need to be explained or justified.

In this week’s reading, however, the rabbis finally did explain where the 2,000-amot figure comes from—and the explanation raises as many questions as it answers. ...

Biblical Studies Carnival

THE APRIL 2013 BIBLICAL STUDIES CARNIVAL has been published at the ἐνθύμησις blog.

Gabriel Revelation inscription in Israel

THE GABRIEL REVELATION STONE is now on display at the Israel Museum: Conversations with Gabriel (Jerusalem Post). It is part of an exhibition on the archangel Gabriel:
These writings trace the development of the figure of the Angel Gabriel in early rabbinic Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The works include the “War Scroll” – a fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered at Qumran in 1947, the Book of Daniel from the 13th-century Damascus Codex of the Hebrew Bible, the Gospel of Luke from a rare 10th-century Latin manuscript of the Four Gospels from France and a Koran from Iran from either the 15th or the 16thcentury.

Also on display are prayer books from the three monotheistic religions that contain illustrations of the Angel Gabriel.
Also, despite the lurid headline, this Daily Mail article is pretty good: Does this mysterious Hebrew stone reveal a messiah BEFORE Jesus? Controversial 'Gabriel stone' tablet goes on show in Jerusalem. The answer to the headline question is probably not.

Background on the Gabriel Revelation/Vision of Gabriel inscription is here and just keep following those links back.

As for me, I am back in St. Andrews. I got home yesterday evening and am back in the office this morning.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Another Syriac manuscript in Turkey

HERE WE GO AGAIN: Priceless 300-year-old religious manuscript in Syriac discovered in eastern province (Hurriyet Daily News).

What is it with Turkey and "priceless" smuggled manuscripts? There is a photo of this one, but the resolution is too poor to make out the contents. It is a codex written in red and black ink, with a lot of deterioration around the edges and what looks like considerable water damage. I don't know how the estimate of the date was arrived at or how accurate it is, but 300-year-old Syriac manuscripts are not particularly hard to come by and I doubt that one would be "priceless" unless its contents were very unusual.

Again, it's good to see that the Turkish authorities are being vigilant about manuscript smuggling, but I suspect that nothing much will come of the extraordinary claims about this one, any more that the claims about an ancient Gospel of Barnabas manuscript that turned out to be an early modern copy of the Gospel of Matthew or that supposed nineteen-hundred-year-old Torah manuscript.

UPDATE (5 May): More here.

Manichaean texts from Turfan

AT HIEROI LOGOI: Manichaean Texts at the Digitales Turfan-Archiv and TITUS. These Manichaean (Manichean) manuscripts from Turfan include important fragments of a Turkic translation of the Book of Giants which are being translated by Peter Zieme (along with fragments in Aramaic and Manichaean Iranian being translated by others) for volume 2 of the More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project.

Monday, April 29, 2013


NOW IN OXFORD and enjoying the hospitality of Wolfson College. Aside from my missing my first train by five seconds, the trip was uneventful, and I spent most of it reading page proofs.

Lag B'Omer update

R. SHIMON BAR YOCHAI: Tsunami of prayers at Rashbi’s tomb: Hundreds of thousands of people gather in northern town of Meron to celebrate mystic Jewish holiday.

Background here and links.

Cairo Geniza presentation

THIS HANDOUT summarizes a presentation recently made by two St. Andrews biblical-studies doctoral students in one of our postgraduate seminars: Cairo Geniza Presentation Interactive Handout by Garrick Allen and Adam Harger.

Incidentally, Garrick produced the indices for my translation of the Hekhalot literature mentioned in the previous post.

Hekhalot literature lecture at Oxford University

I'M OFF TO OXFORD to give a presentation at their Qumran Forum postgraduate seminar. The subject matter of the seminar is wider than the title implies, and I will be speaking on "Translating the Hekhalot Literature." This is a slightly revised and updated version of the paper I gave in Edinburgh in January, the handout for which is posted at the link. The handout for the one I am giving tomorrow in Oxford is pretty much the same.

As for the translation itself, I am currently going through the second and final page proofs for the volume and it should be out this summer.

I shall be very busy in the next few days, but I will blog as much as time and internet access permit. In any case, I have pre-posted something for each day, so do keep coming back as usual. I expect to be home on Wednesday evening.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

On Jesus the exorcist

Spirit Possession, Exorcism and the Historical Jesus

Thus, Jesus’ experience as portrayed in Mark closely resembles those of healers across cultures, whose careers often begin with a period of illness or spirit possession, followed by a period of trials or testing, during which the healers learn to control their spirits. Once this has been achieved, they are able to control the spirits of others. In other words, they become healers and exorcists themselves.

See Also: Jesus, the Galilean Exorcist. (Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2012)

By Amanda Witmer
Department of Religious Studies
Conrad Grebel University College, University of Waterloo
Waterloo, ON Canada
March 2013