Friday, June 21, 2013

Midsummer 2013

HAPPY SUMMER SOLSTICE to all those celebrating. For example, here.


ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: Are Gnostics world-haters? (With the now obligatory Matrix and Inception references.)

Well, the Pope seems to think so. Me, I suppose it depends on what you mean by the world and by Gnosticism.

Related thoughts here and links.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

BNTC 2013 reminder

REGISTRATION FOR THE 2013 MEETING OF THE BRITISH NEW TESTAMENT CONFERENCE in St. Andrews (29-31 August) is still open and you can book online here.

Early-bird registration is open only until 30 June. After that the price goes up substantially, so why not register now? For you, special deal!

Magdalene opera performed

WORLD PREMIER: San Francisco's 'biblical CNN opera'. That is, The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, which was performed for the first time last night in San Francisco. From the review it seems that it draws both on biblical traditions and Gnostic traditions, both heavily and anachronistically updated to be palatable to a twenty-first century audience. I love it that the composer's name is Adamo.

Background here.

UPDATE (21 June): A review in the NYT: The Woman at Jesus’ Side, and in His Bed. Mark Adamo’s Opera Makes a Wife of Mary Magdalene. Excerpt:
That this new opera is such a disappointment is unfortunate because many elements of the project are admirable. ... Mr. Adamo was immersed in the project for more than six years. His reading of varying accounts of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, especially the Gnostic Gospels, led him to envision a kind of truth-based fantasia in which Mary Magdalene is not the reformed prostitute of disputed readings, but a sensual, independent and keenly intelligent woman. This Mary helps Jesus to understand the role of Eros in a godly life, as Mr. Adamo has explained in recent interviews.

He wrote his own libretto, an 86-page text that reads at times like a theological compendium complete with about 100 footnotes. Yet despite passages of affecting dialogue and poetic quotations from Gospels and Psalms, the libretto is long and wordy and sounds even more so in Mr. Adamo’s often ponderous musical setting.
Also, this is interesting:
“The Gospel of Mary Magdalene” has the misfortune of arriving on the heels of the John Adams’s oratorio “The Gospel According to the Other Mary,” which was given its premiere last year by the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.
Another Magdalene musical composition by another Adam. Cosmic.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Hebrew class to study a DSS

COOL: OCU Hebrew students to study Dead Sea Scrolls (
OKLA. CITY — Students in a Biblical Hebrew class at Oklahoma City University will get a chance to study one of the Dead Sea Scrolls during the fall 2013 semester.


The students who will study the Dead Sea Scroll artifact previously have taken Biblical Hebrew I and II with Professor Wolfe. As a class, they will work to determine what part of the Bible is represented in a particular item and investigate what other known scrolls might be closely related to it. They will visit the scroll in person, and then later use special photographic records in class to do their work.


In praise of Carey Newman

BAYLOR: Carey Newman: How to Rescue a University Press.
When Carey Newman became director of Baylor University Press in 2003 it was teetering on the edge of extinction, as many university presses have in recent years. “I told the university it would take twenty-five years to build up the press,” says Newman. “Ten years to get one-third up the mountain and set up base camp. Ten years to get to the summit and five more to assault it.” A decade later, with net revenues “up 1,500%,” he is happy to state, “We are ahead of schedule.”

Dr. Newman was also a mover and shaker in the SBL Divine Mediator Figures in Antiquity Group in the 1990s and he and I organized and held an international conference at St. Andrews on the origins of the worship of Jesus in 1998.

Review of Ben-Yehuda, The Myth of Masada

BLAST FROM THE PAST: For some reason Bing has been reviving some old items, including one from a decade ago by Alex Joffe, a review of Nachman Ben-Yehuda, The Masada Myth: Collective Memory and Mythmaking in Israel: Sacrificing Truth: Archaeology and the Myth of Masada (The Middle East Quarterly). Excerpt:
If Ben-Yehuda is too severe in his standards, he does offer an important contribution to Israeli history. His detailed investigative approach, a vital contribution to developing the proper relationship between archaeology and society, should be emulated.
Somehow I missed that review at the time, but I noted others here.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Attention, volunteers from the Masada excavation!

Jim - With the 50th anniversary approaching, Eretz magazine - a popular though serious English Language Israeli journal dedicated to the history, archaeology and geography of Israel - is going to produce a Masada 50th special edition. I have been asked to contribute an article from the volunteers perspective - I was there for all but the first fortnight of the second season. I am having great difficulty locating surviving international volunteers particularly those who did not continue in archaeology. Should there be any ex Masada volunteers reading your blog, who would like to share their anecdotes, I would be grateful if they would contact me
Background here.

The ocean of Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: How the Talmud Maps Behavior by Exploring Definitions, Not Listing Rules: Daf Yomi: The rabbis examined practical dimensions of deep questions, including those raised around saliva, urine, and sex.
This week’s Daf Yomi reading was a wonderful example of the range of the Talmud’s concerns, and the twisting paths that connect them. What starts out as a discussion of the laws of tefillin becomes an examination of the biology of urination and spitting, which is really a debate on the definition of substances and objects. Finally the rabbis turn to questions of sex, marriage, and the status of women, in which the notion of original sin and its punishment is refined in very unexpected ways. Chapter 10 of Tractate Eruvin is all by itself a good argument for the idea that the Talmud is not just a book but an ocean.
UPDATE: Almost forgot, earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

SOTS Booklist 2013

Deborah W. Rook (ed.) with Holly Morse, Society for Old Testament Study Book List 2013 (London: Sage, 2013)

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Other Old Testament

OLD TESTAMENT PSEUDEPIGRAPHA WATCH: The Other Old Testament (Philip Jenkins). Excerpt:
Although Barnabas is notionally quoting the Exodus story, his citation has precious little in common with the original. He has moreover added a whole eschatological and messianic dimension that absolutely is not in the original. Although he might be inventing these words himself, it is also likely that he is transmitting a whole tradition of Christian midrash on the original Biblical texts.

Christians also drew on the pseudepigrapha, the works attributed to great figures of the Old Testament, to Abraham, Moses or Ezra. Many such works had originated from Second Temple Judaism, but Christian editors soon revised them to their own purposes.
And they wrote a few themselves, very likely more than are immediately obvious.

Reflections on Tisha B’Av

AMBIVALENCE: Tisha B’Av in the 21st century (Binyamin Kagedan, Excerpt:
How could Tisha B’av, traditionally one of the most intense and salient religious experiences of the year, be wholly foreign to a large portion of American Jewry? Surely it cannot simply come down to the fact that most people are averse to fasting—if that were the case, how could we explain the ongoing popularity of Yom Kippur?

The actual answer revolves around the traditional thematic elements of the fast. The narrative of Tisha B’Av centers on the destruction of the holy temple in Jerusalem, a national calamity that marked the end of Jewish sovereignty in ancient Israel and the official onset of the long Jewish diaspora. The day’s liturgy mourns the disappearance of high priests and animal sacrifices, and woven into its eulogizing is the wish for a return to these original forms or worship.

Masada announcement anniversary

JUNE 15, 1954: Remains of King Herod’s Palace Discovered in Israel.