Saturday, June 20, 2015

SOTS Booklist 2015

Deborah W. Rook (ed.) with Holly Morse, Society for Old Testament Study Book List 2015 (London: Sage, 2015).

Jenkins on Josephus

PHILIP JENKINS IS Reading Josephus at the Anxious Bench. The beginning of a new series. The second instalment is here: The Age of Tyrants.

Review of Jenner, The Gold Leaves

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Edward Jenner, The Gold Leaves: (Being an Account and Translation from the Ancient Greek of the so-called ‘Orphic’ Gold Tablets). Pokeno: Atuanui Press, 2014. Pp. 160. ISBN 9780992245375. $35.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Miguel Herrero de Jáuregui, Universidad Complutense de Madrid (

The Orphic gold tablets have generated much bibliography in the last decade. The comprehensive recent works of Bernabé/Jiménez and Graf/Johnston, as well as the collection of studies edited by Edmonds, include thorough editions and translations of all the tablets, and tackle the main problems which they pose.1 E. Jenner’s book has little to add to this scholarship. However, on the tablets are inscribed poetic texts that, due to the lack of external references to them in ancient literature, their comparatively recent discovery, and their esoteric content, have seldom reached a wider public.2 Such is the audience targeted by this book, written by a poet and classicist whose earlier work includes translations of Ibycus and Sappho.

I've not noted these tablets before and I don't recall hearing about them. It's alway interesting to come across another inscription on metal. And, with reference to the contents of the latter post, recent developments on the fake metal codices are noted here and here.

Review of Masada Opera 2015

LITERALLY: Masada opera festival a cultural oasis in the desert: Littler.
The sheer improbability of the Israeli Opera’s annual outdoor event is breathtaking
(William Littler , Toronto Star).
And you wonder why the Israeli Opera decided to venture beyond its handsome modern theatre in Tel Aviv to a place fit for camels? Cultural tourism has been embraced by this beleaguered and divided nation as a means of generating some good news headlines and the effort seems to be paying off.

Not that the performances I witnessed of Puccini’s Tosca and Orff’s Carmina Burana as a guest of the Ministry of Tourism were entirely satisfying from a purely musical point of view. Given the physical conditions of performing in the desert, how could they be?

People come here to participate in an event, some of them staying in Dead Sea resort hotels, some taking a long drive from Jerusalem. In either case they are rewarded with full-scale productions accompanied by a large orchestra and chorus.
Background here and links.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Diamond Rose

ANOTHER SEARCH FOR THOSE TWELVE STONES: Will TV show provide enough reason to 'Dig' up Pnina Feldman's failed venture? (Colin Kruger, Syndey Morning Herald).
The gems from the High Priest's breastplate provided the source material for a locally produced thriller called Diamond Rose, produced by the sister of "Diamond" Joe Gutnick – Pnina Feldman.

Feldman was convinced that a geologist in the Pilbara had discovered one of the 12 sacred stones which – according to the Old Testament – were set in the breastplate, known as the hoshen.

She called it "pittado" and promised in the Diamond Rose prospectus that it would make the company "Australia's premier gemstone producer and exporter".

It debuted on the ASX in 1997 with Feldman – a former schoolmistress and mother of 11 children – wheeling in four of her daughters and six rabbis for the grand occasion.
Ms. Feldman herself has posted a 1997 story about the Diamond Rose company on her blog, diamonds forever.

Another recent story involving the twelve stones on the High Priest's breastpiece is here. And lots more on last season's now-canceled television series Dig is here and links.

BASOR 373 (May 2015) for free

AWOL: Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 373, May 2015 available without charge, for a limited time. Recently I linked to an article from this issue on the new Khirbet Qeiyafa inscription, but that was at The full issue contains that article and other things of interest for ancient Judaism. For you, special deal!

Antiquities arson in Israel

Israeli Police Investigate Arson at ‘Loaves and Fishes’ Church


JERUSALEM — A Catholic church at a revered site near the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel was damaged by fire early on Thursday, in what the police are treating as an arson attack and possible hate crime.

Graffiti denouncing idol worship using the language of a Hebrew prayer was found spray-painted in red on an outside wall of the church, strengthening the suspicion that Jewish extremists may have been responsible for the attack.

The church, known as the Church of the Multiplication, stands on the site where many Christians believe Jesus performed one of the best-known miracles told in the Bible, feeding 5,000 people with two fish and five loaves of bread. Pilgrims have visited and prayed at the site for decades.

As usual, this is the traditional site of the feeding of the five thousand and there is no way to be sure that it is the actual location of whatever event, if any, is behind the story. And, as usual, the church is an important place of pilgrimage as well as the site of notable antiquities, and the damage to it is tragic. The mosaics in the church date back to the fifth century. They were not harmed in the fire.
Arsonists torch storerooms with 4,000-year-old artifacts
Irreparable damage inflicted to antiquities salvaged during excavation at Tel Kishon, near Galilee’s Mount Tabor

BY ILAN BEN ZION June 16, 2015, 5:15 pm 5 (Times of Israel)

Arsonists in northern Israel torched two storerooms filled with artifacts found at a nearby salvage excavation at Tel Kishon on Monday. Some of the antiquities were over 4,000 years old.

The blaze inflicted irreparable damage to the antiquities, the Israel Antiquities Authority said in a statement Tuesday morning. The authority lodged a report with the police, who opened an investigation into the incident.

I can find no indication of whom the authorities may suspect as the culprits.

UPDATE: 16 arrested, then released, in church torching. Settlers questioned in connection with attack at site where Christians believe Jesus fed 5,000 with five loaves and two fish (Stuart Winer, Times of Israel).

Two jobs in Syriac

THE HUGOYE LIST: Two jobs in Syriac. These are four-year Research Associate fellowships to work on the Syriac Galen palimpsest at the John Rylands Research Institute in Manchester.

Discounts at Magnes Press

MAGNES PRESS: Sale! 40% and "Buy 1 get 1 free" Discounts on most of our books! Some classics are included. For you, special deal!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

New DSS at the Los Angeles exhibition

PRESS RELEASE: Dead Sea Scrolls: The Exhibition" Unveils New Set of Scrolls.
Sold-out Crowds Continue At the California Science Center
Since opening on March 10, 2015, the exhibition has sold more than 120,000 tickets, frequently selling out on weekends, as guests viewed the first rotation of scrolls. This second rotation includes 10 scrolls that feature an entirely new set of fragmentary manuscripts, completely replacing the first set. The new installation, which will remain through the end of the exhibition, includes:
  • Prayer for King Jonathan (Liturgical Text)
    It is perhaps the only Dead Sea Scroll, published to date, that can be dated with almost complete certainty to the first half of the first century BCE.
  • Songs of the Sage (Liturgical Text)
    The Songs of the Sage are prayers or incantations of exorcism that were recited as protection against evil spirits. In this scroll, the act of praising God served to thwart the power of demonic beings.
  • Daily Prayers (Liturgical Text)
    This fragmentary text is a collection of prayers that, at one time, may have filled as many as thirteen columns of text. A completely different collection of prayers is written on the other side of the papyrus.
  • Some Works of the Law (Non-biblical Text)
    This text appears to have been written in the form of a letter and is unique in both its style and content. Scholars suggest that the letter includes a description of a 364-day solar calendar and a list of 20 or so laws dealing with the Temple, purity, sacrifices and festivals—several unique to the letter.
  • War Scroll (Non-biblical Text)
    This scroll is part of a text that describes the final eschatological war between good and evil or "the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness," after which a new world order will reign.
Background on the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition at the California Science Center is here and links. The exhibition has also been associated with a couple of good parties.

Those Roman footprints at Hippos-Sussita

POPULAR ARCHAEOLOGY: I Stood Here for Rome. The clear imprints of the soles of Roman soldiers' footwear leave rare personal signatures at an ancient Roman enclave.
The archaeological sites of the ancient Roman Empire constitute without rival the most prolific array of ancient architecture and artifacts that can be attributed to any single civilization or culture. Its remains pockmark the Old World landscape from North Africa and Egypt to Hadrian’s Wall in Britain. The artifacts populate museums the world over.

But comparatively rarely does one find the preserved footprint of an ancient Roman citizen.

That is why excavators and archaeologists got excited when, while digging at the site of Hippos-Sussita (an ancient Hellenistic-Roman site just east of the Sea of Galilee in Israel), they came across what appeared to be imprints of the soles of Roman soldiers’ footwear within the remains of a Roman defensive bastion structure.

I noted this story back in 2007, but this piece has additional details about this find and about work at the site. It links to another, evidently more informative, Popular Archaeology article by the site's excavation director, but that one is behind the subscription wall.

There's lots more on Hippos-Sussita here and links.

A Canaanite coin? No.

CONFUSION: Ancient Coin Of The Canaanite Realm (Steve Lipman, The Jewish Week).
This coin probably was not worth very much when it was minted three millennia ago, but it’s priceless to contemporary historians and archaeologists.

Discovered last year at a cave near Kibbutz Lahav in southern Israel, it is a product of Egyptians who ran an administrative center there about 3,400 years ago, when Canaan was ruled by Egypt; it recently went on display at the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem.

There weren't any coins 3,400 years ago; they weren't invented for close to another millennium. This is a scarab seal, a typically ancient Egyptian artifact. If you turned it over you would see a representation of the back of a scarab beetle. Ynet News has a recent article on the Tel Halif cave discoveries here. If you scroll down to the fourth photo, you will see the same scarab on the middle right, along with other scarabs and related finds.

Frank Moore Cross and Wolfhart Peter Heinrichs

THE HARVARD CRIMSON: "MIDEAST SCHOLARS AT PEACE. Among the deceased professors recalled in Memorial Minutes read during Faculty of Arts and Sciences meetings this year, perhaps no duo echoed more resonantly than those honored on May 5: the late Frank Moore Cross, Hancock professor of Hebrew and other Oriental languages, a scholar of the Hebrew Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls; and the late Wolfhart Peter Heinrichs, Jewett professor of Arabic, a pioneering Arabic philologist and leader in Islamic studies."

Amen. Cross was my doctoral supervisor and Heinrichs taught me Qur'anic Arabic. The latter was also an expert in modern Neo-Aramaic dialects.

The NYT on the Israel Museum's 50th

ANNIVERSARY: To Celebrate 50 Years, the Israel Museum Looks Back Much Further (ISABEL KERSHNER, NYT).
JERUSALEM — A softly lit case displays a small, gnarled implement that is said to be the world’s oldest known complete sickle, dating back 9,000 years. On a wall nearby, a video installation called “Shopping Day,” made by the Israeli artist Doron Solomons and set in an immaculate supermarket, offers a wry reflection on the branding and packaging of modern consumer products.

The two pieces, representing the genesis of agriculture and its latest end products, are part of an exhibit titled “A Brief History of Humankind,” a centerpiece of the 50th-anniversary celebrations this spring at the Israel Museum.

More on the Humankind exhibition is here. More on the Israel Museum's 50th anniversary is here, here, and here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Journal for Late Antique Religion and Culture

AWOL: Open Access Journal: The Journal for Late Antique Religion and Culture. There's nothing much in the journal on ancient Judaism, but it does have a fair bit on Syriac studies and a little on Gnosticism.

Postdoc at the University of Michigan

THE ANCIENT WORLD PROJECT: Post-Doctoral Fellow in Material Culture of the Ancient Mediterranean (H-Judaic). The desired focus is "the Graeco-Roman eras, and with some knowledge of the Jewish and/or Christian realms." The one-year position begins in September 2015 and the review of applications begins on 20 June. So don't dawdle!

More on vows and sex in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Sex: Sin, Obligation, or Pursuit of Pleasure? Discussing vows, Talmudic rabbis detour into the temptations of Jewish love-making—where almost anything goes.
Last week, the Jewish blogosphere was full of stories about Natan Alexander, a young Israeli rabbi who has started a business selling sex toys to Israel’s ultra-Orthodox. Most of the articles about Alexander made this a man-bites-dog story—the Orthodox! having sex like regular people! But as Daf Yomi readers have learned over the last several years, the ethics of sexual pleasure has always been an important question in Judaism. And in last week’s reading, in Tractate Nedarim, the rabbis offered one of their most comprehensive and enlightening discussions of the subject, which ended up with a ringing endorsement of Rabbi Alexander’s view that when it comes to married sex, almost anything goes.

The column is mostly about vows, but it comes back to sex toward the end. Consent figures in the discussion as well.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Report on the Tyre Day Symposium

PHOENICIAN WATCH: Tyre on the Potomac…. (Joe David, Hollywood on the Potomac).
A Recap of Phoenician History: Washington came alive last week. Dignitaries, scholars, historians, and other prominent world leaders from Europe, Asia and America met in the U.S. Capital with a singular purpose – to draw attention to Tyre, the UNESCO World Heritage site in Lebanon. The week-long activities began officially with a private reception for over 70 dignitaries, celebrities, socialites, and Friends of Tyre at the elegant Washington residence of The Lebanese Ambassador to the United States, The Honorable Antoine Chedid.

“I am so proud to welcome you to my home,” the Ambassador said to Dr.Maha el-Khalil Chalabi, founder of the League of Canaanite, Phoenician and Punic Cities and of the Tyre Foundation. “You have done so much for preserving this important and ancient Phoenician site. Thanks to you and your many friends around the world Tyre has survived the test of time. You, Dr. Chabali, are truly a woman of boundless energy and vision. Welcome to my home!”

More on the League of Canaanite, Phoenician, and Punic Cities, founded in 2009, is here. Background on the Tyre Day Symposium is here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

"This is how I lost my faith"

SHULEM DEEN: This is how I lost my faith: Science helped, yes — but finally I accepted the holy texts were written by man. I thought religion and sacred texts held absolute truth handed down from God. I was so powerfully wrong (Salon).
Among people who lose faith, I would later learn, many point to scientific knowledge as the catalyst for their changed worldviews. I, too, found much of what I learned troubling. Wherever I turned, I discovered that ideas I had once taken for granted, trusting in rabbis and sacred texts to convey absolute truths, were dubious at best. The universe was not six thousand years old but closer to 14 billion. Humans shared a common ancestor with apes—and all living things, for that matter— and were not the exalted species created by God’s hand out of clay of the earth on the sixth day of Creation. The sages of the Talmud, by our traditions infallible, were demonstrably wrong in their understanding of the natural world.

Two great balls of fire descended from heaven, and their names were Abaya and Rava, said the old rebbe of ruzhin. The two great masters of the Talmud, their names occurring at least once every three pages, were not humans but chunks of divinity. Balls of fire. Reading the Talmud anew, however, I discovered that the sages were as flawed as could be expected of any ancient people. They were mired in superstition and misogyny and xenophobia, which did not necessarily mark them as villains but offered troubling indications of ordinary humanness.

Nothing, however, had a more shattering impact on my faith than the realization that, stripped of religious exegesis, our primary religious text, the Hebrew Bible, had the markings of human rather than divine authorship; it was beautiful, intricate, layered in poetry and metaphor and heart-stopping drama, but human nonetheless.

Just because I go after and condemn Talmud libel, it doesn't mean I don't sympathize with people who struggle with the implications of historical criticism for what they have been taught about the scriptures in their faith tradition. It is one thing to read scriptures sympathetically and to find historical and moral problems in them from our intellectual and moral perspective in the twenty-first century. It is quite another to twist them out of context and disseminate outright lies about them to promote anti-semitism. This essay is an honest and heartfelt account of the author's encounter with historical criticism and how it affected his faith.

Maaloula rediviva

MODERN ARAMAIC WATCH: Virgin Mary Statue Rebuilt in Ancient Syrian Christian Town. Maalula, one of oldest Christian towns in world where Aramaic still spoken, celebrates as statue of Mary destroyed in fighting rebuilt (Arutz Sheva).
The historic Christian Syrian town of Maalula celebrated Saturday as a new statue of Mary, worshiped in Christianity as the mother of Jesus, was erected in its center, replacing the figure destroyed in rebel attacks in 2013.

Dozens of families gathered alongside government officials and religious dignitaries in the main square, which was adorned with government flags and a giant portrait of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Located north of Damascus, Maalula is one of the world's oldest Christian settlements, and its inhabitants still speak Aramaic, a language spoken by Jews in Israel at the time Jesus was said to have lived.

Background on Maaloula (Ma'aloula, Malula) is here and here and links.

More on the new Khirbet Qeiyafah inscription

EPIGRAPHY: Inscription bearing name from Davidic era found at ancient site. Ishba’al son of Beda, found on 10th century BCE jar, likely not the same as a rival to King David with the same name, but discovery confirms popularity of moniker 3,000 years ago (Ilan Ben Zion, Times of Israel).
A new ancient Canaanite inscription including the same name as a character mentioned in the Bible as a rival to King David was found by archaeologists on a pot unearthed at a site in the Elah Valley, west of Jerusalem, researchers said Tuesday.

The inscription on a large clay storage jar found at Khirbet Qeiyafa dates to the Iron Age, from around 1020–980 BCE, and bears the name of Ishba’al son of Beda, researchers said in an article published in May’s edition of the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research.

As usual, PaleoJudaica readers were already well aware of this story. Background here.

Ancient menorah graffito

Gladiator Fights Revealed in Ancient Graffiti (Owen Jarus, Live Science).
Hundreds of graffiti messages engraved into stone in the ancient city of Aphrodisias, in modern-day Turkey, have been discovered and deciphered, revealing what life was like there over 1,500 years ago, researchers say.

The graffiti touches on many aspects of the city's life, including gladiator combat, chariot racing, religious fighting and sex. The markings date to a time when the Roman and Byzantine empires ruled over the city.


Aphrodisias also boasted a sizable Jewish population. Many Jewish traders set up shop in an abandoned temple complex known as the Sebasteion.

Among the graffiti found there is a depiction of a Hanukkah menorah, a nine-candle lamp that would be lit during the Jewish festival. "This may be one of the earliest representations of a Hanukkah menorah that we know from ancient times," said Chaniotis.

Jarus's parallel article, In Photos: Ancient Graffiti Discovered in Aphrodisias, has a photo of the graffito (fourth photo down).

More on ancient depictions of menorahs is here and here and links.

There are still people who want to burn the Talmud

BOOK BURNERS: Extremists plan to destroy Israeli flags and burn Talmud at Golders Green rally (Marcus Dysch, The Jewish Chronicle).
Neo-Nazis plan to destroy Israeli flags during a protest at the heart of the Jewish community next month.

Organisers of the July 4 demonstration in Golders Green, north-west London, have also urged supporters to attend a secret burning of the Talmud ahead of the event.

Joshua Bonehill-Paine, a white supremacist activist, wrote on his website on Monday that a “private ceremony” would be held to burn the religious texts “in recognition of its racist anti-white teachings”.

Book burning. Where have we seen that before?

I don't know what, if any, specific claims Mr Bonehill-Paine is making about the Talmud, and I have no inclination to go and look at his website. But I do know that false claims about the Talmud have been circulating in recent years and that they have done a good bit of harm. See here and links.

UPDATE (6 July): More here.

Monday, June 15, 2015

British Library Conference on Rare Book Trafficking

ON 26 JUNE: British Library Conference on Rare Book Trafficking (REBECCA REGO BARRY, Fine Books Magazine).
On June 26, the British Library will host “The Written Heritage of Mankind in Peril: Theft, Retrieval, Sale and Restitution of rare books, maps and manuscripts,” a conference focused on the illegal trading of priceless cultural materials. The full-day seminar, open to dealers, librarians, collectors, auction house staff, security experts, and interested others, may be a response in part to the Girolamini Library thefts that rocked the rare book world in 2014 and more recent suggestions that Middle Eastern regimes are profiting from plundered books and antiquities. (A report last week claims that ISIS is selling ancient Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts online.)

For the claims about ISIS selling Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts see the link in the article and also here.

The Talmud doesn't approve much of vows

LAST WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Why Taking Vows Is a Wicked Act. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ the Talmud explores why oaths are not for the virtuous, except in the rarest of cases.
What kind of Jew makes vows to God? You might think that it would be an especially devout and God-fearing person; vows, after all, are promises to go above and beyond the already demanding laws of Judaism, to make a personal sacrifice in the name of God. For instance, one might vow to God not to eat certain food, or drink wine, or do business with a certain person. But the treatment of vows in Tractate Nedarim, the section of the Talmud devoted to the subject, leaves no doubt that the rabbis did not think vowing made you a better Jew. On the contrary. In Nedarim 9b, Rabbi Meir quotes a line from Ecclesiastes, “Better that you should not vow, than that you should vow and not pay,” and takes it a step further: “Better than both this and that is one who does not take a vow at all.”

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

The twelve stones and lots of gold

Temple Mount Activists Find Billions of Dollars in Gold on Mount Eilat [VIDEO].
A treasure-trove of raw gold worth billions of dollars is believed to be sitting under Mount Eilat in southern Israel, Breaking Israel News has learned.

In an exclusive interview, Rabbi Yehuda Glick, the Executive Director of The Temple Mount Heritage Foundation in Jerusalem, revealed the news, which had been kept under wraps for the last several years.

Actually, in the video Rabbi Glick says "more than a billion," not "billions." But anyway, that would still be a lot of gold. But even if there is that much gold there, one still has to weigh the cost of getting it out, and he says it's a hundred meters down, which sounds pretty expensive. The point is raised, but not really addressed in the article:
Explaining the discovery, Glick said that everything began with Friedman, a researcher for The Temple Institute, who had been studying each of the 12 unique stones set on the breastplate of the High Priest as described in the Bible. Each stone represents one of the 12 tribes of Israel.

During his studies, Friedman realized that without a geology background he could not properly appreciate the depths and meanings behind each of these stones. This led to his discovery that in 2007 gold had been found in the mountains of Eilat by an Australian research team, who later abandoned the dig because the value of gold at the time was not worth their efforts.
The real value of the gold is based on how much it is worth intrinsically, minus the cost of excavating it.

Be that as it may, what really caught my eye was the business of the twelve stones of the high priest's breastplate being associated with a vast treasure of gold. Where have we heard that before? Oh yes, The Treatise of the Vessels:
(XI) And the treasuries of gold and silver from the days of David and until Zedekiah and until when Israel were exiled to Babylon: a myriad myriads of shields of gold and of silver beyond measure and at Tel Baruq underneath the great willow that is in Babylon on whose (branches) they used to hang their lyres (cf. Ps 137:2); and from the House of the Forest of Lebanon they took gold to the measure of 1,009 thousand kors. And all the prophets and the sages and the scribes could not calculate the wealth and the glory that used to be in Jerusalem.

(XII) And in addition twelve fine stones were transmitted by the hand of Heleq son of Shimmur the Levite, by his hand to preserve them and to return them to the tribes, those on which the names of the tribes were engraved, which used to shine over the heads of the tribes, increasingly outstanding and precious in their value, vying with one another. And no king or prophet or man knew in which place these were hidden, except Heleq son of Shimmur the Levite.
In this case the gold is from the Jerusalem Temple and is hidden in Babylon, but the juxtaposition with the twelve stones is still noteworthy and it makes me wonder if Rabbi Glick is acquainted with other similar legends about ancient treasures connected to the temple artifacts.

One more comment: both the article and Rabbi Glick in the video quote Genesis 2:12 in support of their project: “The gold of that land is good; the bdellium and the onyx stone are there.” But the quotation refers to "the land of Havila" around which the river Pishon flows. It's not very clear where this is, if it is a place and not another legendary El Dorado. South Arabia has been suggested, but the southern Negev does not seem to be a promising candidate.

As for the gold, we'll see. Watch this space.

The Treatise of the Vessels also came up recently with reference to the televisions series Dig: see here and here. And also cf. here.

Palmyra in 1926

PALMYRA WATCH: From the archive, 12 June 1926: A trip to Palmyra in Syria. An archaeological congress in Syria takes our correspondent to Palmyra, ‘the skeleton of an ancient magnificence’ (The Guardian).
The first tombstones of Palmyra began some twenty miles farther on; and soon we entered, by a starlit but moonless night, a dead valley overshadowed by ghostly hills, in the middle of which lay the entrance to a white and sleeping city. Or so it seemed; but as we approached we saw the scattered and gleaming bones of this skeleton of an ancient magnificence.
Background here and links.

Cultural contributions of the ancient Assyrians

ARAMAIC WATCH: Op-Ed: The Assyrians and ISIS: Part I. A most timely account of the ancient Assyrians, on the surface similar to ISIS, but distinguished by their achievements in addition to war and carnage. Their savagery is all that ISIS mimics. (Joe David, Arutz Sheva). An interesting mixture of correct history and dubious assertions. A few comments:
Much of what they [the Assyrians of the ancient Assyrian empire] accomplished proved to be of value and survived the test of time. Refined by future civilizations, these achievements included a postal system, libraries, magnifying glasses, paved roads, locks and keys, a method for telling time, plumbing with flushing toilets, Hammurabi’s Law (which is generally known for its “eye-for-an-eye” punishment), a system for managing vast land holdings (by using governors to oversee territories), and a useful knowledge of astronomy (acquired, not just for scientific purposes, but to assist superstitious rulers make decisions).

For the purpose of this article, one of their most important contributions was their devotion to one god, not the Jewish Patriarch Abraham's monotheism, but related. Although the Ancient Assyrians had many gods, representing different aspects of nature, those other gods were all an extension of their primary God, Ashur. He was their king of all gods, their omnipresent, omnipotent, and universal Creator. By spreading this idea of one God, rather than a multitude of gods, common among some primitive societies, they were able to lay the foundation for what would follow: the birth of one-god religions like Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.
The first paragraph is correct, but I am very skeptical of the second. Yes, Ashur was the chief god of the Assyrians. Many ancient peoples had a chief god who was highest among the gods, but at least by the time of Second Isaiah, Israelite monotheism took an additional step and regarded their god YHWH as qualitatively uniquely divine and not just quantitatively the most powerful of many gods. The Assyrians did not take that additional step to what we would today regard as real monotheism and I can see nothing about ancient Assyrian religion that influenced that step for ancient Israel.
It took about 600 hundred years for the Assyrians to rise from their ashes. In 33 AD they built another empire. This time it was a Christian empire, the very first Christian empire in the world, based on the teachings of Jesus.

Their transition to Christianity didn’t occur immediately. Their loyalty to Ashur continued until about 256 AD. But in 33 AD Ashurism began to fade in importance, when the Assyrians converted to Christianity through the teachings of three apostles – Saints Thomas, Bartholomew, and Thaddeus. These three apostles, after founding the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East in Edessa, Turkey (in the upper Mesopotamia area), were responsible for providing the direction for what would follow thereafter, the spread of Christianity across Asia.
Well, sort of. The Eastern church included Aramaic-speaking descendants of the Assyrians who eventually converted to Christianity. But Assyrians did not found a "Christian empire" in 33 AD. The originally Jewish Jesus movement spread all over the known world in the first century, including the East, but the Greek-speaking (and eventually Latin-speaking) Gentile church had a couple of pretty good Christian empires going as well in due course.

The city of Edessa (in Anatolia - modern-day Turkey) was indeed a key center of early Eastern Christianity and the Aramaic dialect spoken in that city in the second century was the basis for Syriac, the language of the ancient Eastern church.
Unfortunately, the Assyrian Christians are rarely given much attention in history books. When most people think of the Assyrians, they often think of the Ancient Assyrians, not the Assyrian Christians, despite their significant intellectual and spiritual contributions to civilization. As a result, many of their achievements have been carelessly attributed to other groups. Here are a few of their many accomplishments:

Between the fourth and sixth centuries, they revived the knowledge accumulated by the Greeks and translated it into Syriac and later from Syriac to Arabic. This included many religious works as well as the works of important thinkers like Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates.
This is pretty much right, although this translation process continued for centuries up to Abbasid Baghdad. The rest of the essay moves beyond my areas of expertise, but I don't see anything obviously incorrect in it.