Saturday, November 14, 2015

DSD 22.1

A NEW ISSUE OF DEAD SEA DISCOVERIES: Volume 22, Religious Experience and the Dead Sea Scrolls, 2015. Issue 1. TOC:
Editorial Note
Authors: Angela Kim Harkins and Mladen Popović
pp.: 247–248 (2)

Research Article
Embodied Techniques
Author: Judith H. Newman
pp.: 249–266 (18)

Research Article
Liturgical Progression and the Experience of Transformation in Prayers from Qumran
Author: Daniel K. Falk
pp.: 267–284 (18)

Research Article
The Emotional Re-Experiencing of the Hortatory Narratives Found in the Admonition of the Damascus Document
Author: Angela Kim Harkins
pp.: 285–307 (23)

Research Article
Religious Experience and the Discipline of Imagination
Author: Maxine L. Grossman
pp.: 308–324 (17)

Research Article
Ritual, Order and the Construction of an Audience in 1 Enoch 1–36
Author: Rodney A. Werline
pp.: 325–341 (17)

Research Article
Enoch and The Fall of the Angels
Author: Michael E. Stone
pp.: 342–357 (16)
Requires a paid personal or institutional subscription to access the articles. But you can read the abstracts for free.

On the Nabonidus Chronicle

Facts, Propaganda, or History? Shaping Political Memory in the Nabonidus Chronicle

Article from Political Memory in and after the Persian Empire (SBL Press, 2015).

By Caroline Waerzeggers
Leiden University
November 2015
Cross-file under New Book.

Nabonidus, the last king of Babylon, is a figure of interest for ancient Judaism, primarily because of the Prayer of Nabonidus. This is a fragmentary Aramaic text found among the Dead Sea Scrolls which tells what seems to be an earlier and somewhat more historical version of the story in Daniel chapter 4. It happens that I just read the Prayer of Nabonidus with my Biblical Aramaic class last week. Past posts that mention Nabonidus are here, here, here, and here.

Lim lecture on the DSS

EVENT: The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Very Short Introduction.
Everyone has heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but amidst the conspiracies, the politics, and the sensational claims, it can be difficult to separate the myths from the reality. Timothy Lim presents the true facts and the leading theories behind the cultural and historical background of the scrolls, and examines their significance for our understanding of the Old Testament and the origins of Christianity and Judaism. He also tells the fascinating story of the scrolls since their discovery, explains the science behind their deciphering and dating, and does not omit the cast of characters, scandals, and controversies that have hastened the scrolls' rise to the status of cultural icon.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015 from 13:00 to 14:00 (GMT)
The Stand - 5 York Place Edinburgh EH1 3EB GB
This is part of the program for Previously...Scotland's history festival. If you happen to be in Edinburgh this coming Wednesday, this will be very much worth attending.

Byzantine-era wine presses excavated in Netivot

SALVAGE ARCHAEOLOGY: 1,500-year-old wine presses found in southern city Netivot (Yori Yalon, Israel HaYom).
Presses were used to mass-produce wine, which was bottled in clay vessels known as 'Gaza jugs' • Archeologists date site based on cross etched into seashells used to adorn the fermenting vats • Youth from Netivot, Ashkelon volunteered on the dig.

Two wine presses that date back some 1,500 years have been discovered in the city of Netivot in the northern Negev Desert.

As part of standard preparations for the construction of a new residential neighborhood, the Israel Antiquities Authority conducted digs outside the city. Youth from Netivot and Ashkelon were encouraged to volunteer on the project along with future Israel Defense Forces recruits who are spending a year performing community service before they enlist in the army's Nahal Brigade.

The excavation unearthed the remains of a village dating back to the sixth and seventh centuries C.E., when the Byzantine period gave way to Islam. The findings included a workshop, buildings and two wine presses.

UPDATE (18 November: The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs has posted the full IAA press release: 1,500-year-old wine presses found in Netivot.

More on "Of Kings and Prophets"

TELEVISION: Of Kings and Prophets producer talks about making the Old Testament “relevant to the way we live today” (Peter T. Chattaway, FilmChat blog). As I've mentioned before, my former PhD student Ian Werrett, who now teaches at Saint Martin's University, is an advisor and translator for the series.

Friday, November 13, 2015

PhD supervision

IT'S THE TIME OF YEAR FOR PROSPECTIVE DOCTORAL STUDENTS TO BE APPLYING FOR PHD PROGRAMS. With that in mind, I have updated the About PaleoJudaica page with a note on my own availability for supervising PhD research. It reads:
I welcome inquiries for supervision of PhD research involving ancient Judaism, especially in the following areas: Second Temple Jewish literature, particularly the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha; Second Temple Jewish literature in dialogue with and as background to the New Testament; Jewish Merkavah Mysticism (Hekhalot literature); anthropological approaches (especially involving the shamanic complex or ritual studies) to all of the above texts; and the interpretation of scripture in all of the above.
If you are thinking of doctoral research on something related to ancient Judaism, do consider applying to work with me at the Divinity School of the University of St. Andrews. Feel free to drop me a note. I will also be at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in Atlanta from Friday, 20 November, through Tuesday morning, the 24th, and I would be happy to arrange to meet with you. Or you are welcome to drop by the Scottish Universities Reception on the evening of Sunday the 22nd and to catch me there. I look forward to hearing from you.
Scottish Universities Reception
9:00 PM to 11:30 PM
: Augusta 1-3 (Level 7) - Westin

Review of Orlov, Divine Scapegoats

Andrei A. Orlov. Divine Scapegoats: Demonic Mimesis in Early Jewish Mysticism. New York: SUNY Press, 2015. 352 pp. $95.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-4384-5583-9.

Reviewed by Vadim Putzu (Missouri State University)
Published on H-Judaic (November, 2015)
Commissioned by Matthew A. Kraus

The Missing (Slavonic) Link in the Chain of Kabbalah?

Serving as Professor of Judaism and Christianity in Antiquity at Marquette University, Andrei A. Orlov specializes in Jewish apocalypticism and early mysticism, Old Testament pseudepigrapha, and Second Temple literature in general. An impressively productive scholar, Orlov is widely regarded as one of the foremost experts in the so-called Slavonic pseudepigrapha, a group of Jewish apocalyptic texts from the Second Temple Period whose origins and transmission history is especially obscure. Divine Scapegoats: Demonic Mimesis in Early Jewish Mysticism demonstrates once more Orlov’s mastery of these texts, as it continues the investigation initiated in Dark Mirrors: Azazel and Satanael in Early Jewish Demonology (2011). While the previous volume explored the parallels between divine and demonic realities by focusing on two central antagonists (Azazel and Satanael) whose features and prerogatives—Orlov argues—mirror those of angels and the Deity, Divine Scapegoats concentrates on “sacerdotal, messianic, and creational aspects” (p. 3) of the heavenly/demonic symmetry found in the Apocalypse of Abraham and 2 Enoch. The choice to focus on these two specific texts within the corpus of Slavonic pseudepigrapha is central to Orlov’s argument that, inasmuch as they exhibit a unique language and a “highly developed mystical imagery” (p. 3), these two works bridge “the matrix of early Jewish apocalypticism as it was manifested in the early Enochic circle with the matrix of early Jewish mysticism as it became manifest in rabbinic Merkabah and Hekhalot materials.

I noted the book here when it was published last spring.

Hebrew manuscript and book auction

BY SOTHEBY'S: ‘Pristine’ first printing of the Talmud to be auctioned. Sacred text sat in Westminster Abbey for 450 years; London diamond dealer selling it as part of huge private collection of Hebrew books, manuscripts. Also on auction, Hebrew Bible from 1189, only such manuscript from before Jews expelled from England in 1290. (VERENA DOBNIK, AP).

As the article notes, this collection (the Valmadonna Library), was displayed by Sotheby's in 2009 for sale as a unit, but it didn't sell. Now some of the most valuable objects are going up for auction, with the rest to be sold next year. Background here, here, here, here, and here.

As always, I hope that, if the manuscripts and books must be sold, a philanthrophist (or philanthropists) will buy them and donate them to a library or museum. Failing that, I hope the buyer(s) will make sure to keep them available for scholars to study.

Job in NWS languages and HB

JOB: Northwest Semitic Languages and Hebrew Bible (Wisconsin-Madison). A full-time, tenure-track position. "To ensure full consideration, applications must be received by December 15, 2015." I'm not sure if it's too late to apply in time to be considered for SBL interviews, but apply as soon as you can in any case.

IOQS 9th meeting

Announcement of the Ninth Meeting of the
International Organization for Qumran Studies (IOQS)
July 17-20, 2016 in Leuven
(Joint meeting of the EABS and IOQS)

The ninth meeting of the International Organization for Qumran Studies will take place in Leuven (Belgium) together with the meeting of European Association of Biblical Studies, on July 17-20, 2016. The sessions of the IOQS will be scheduled on July 18-20.

The secretary and steering committee of the IOQS have selected as special topic for this meeting:

Halakhic Texts and Rule Texts

We are inviting papers on halakhic and rule texts such as the Temple Scroll, MMT, the Damascus Document, the Serekh ha-Yahad, etc. We solicit papers on any aspect of those texts, or on halakha and rules related to the scrolls. We encourage papers that correlate such texts to conceptualizations or constructions of a Yahad community, to contemporaneous Jewish or non-Jewish rules, to rabbinic halakhah, or that otherwise address larger issues.

As usual, paper proposals on any topic relating to Dead Sea Scrolls are welcome, but preference may be given to papers related to the special topic. Paper proposals can be submitted to the secretary of the IOQS, Eibert Tigchelaar.

Full details on the joint EABS-IOQS meeting, on registration, deadlines, and other practical matters will follow.

Eibert Tigchelaar
Secretary IOQS

Fixed-term post in Second Temple archaeology

JOB: Term position in Second Temple Archaeology ( Wheaton College). A one-year post. The application deadline is 1 December 2015, so don't dawdle.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Review of Collar, Religious Networks in the Roman Empire

LARRY HURTADO: Margaret Williams on Collar’s Recent Book. Review of Anna Collar, Religious Networks in the Roman Empire: The Spread of New Ideas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013).

Latest on the Herculaneum library

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: The Invisible Library. Can digital technology make the Herculaneum scrolls legible after two thousand years? (JOHN SEABROOK, The New Yorker). This is the longest and most thorough article on the Herculaneum scrolls I have ever seen. It describes their background, their discovery, the major events and personalities dealing with them since, and the current state of the question. Find some time to sit down and read it all. I will just quote a bit toward the end:
Brent Seales, denied the scientific glory of being the first to see inside the rolled scrolls, has been focussing on the software side of the problem. If large portions of wrapped scrolls are ever going to be read virtually, the process will have to be automated. You’d need a scroll reader that skims along the surface of each successive fold, looking for characteristic shapes and densities of letters. Seales has been designing a prototype for such software, and he showed it to Delattre recently. “Impressive” was the Frenchman’s opinion. Janko thinks that “clearly the way forward from here is to combine the work Seales is doing with Mocella’s data.”

Such a convergence seemed poised to occur this spring, when Seales, Delattre, and Mocella were set to meet in Grenoble, for another synchrotron session: the software engineer, the papyrologist, the physicist, and a whole week of beam time. (Seales still wasn’t part of the team, but he was coming anyway, to present his virtual-unwrapping software.) At the last minute, though, the team didn’t get the scroll. Only days before the experiment was set to begin, the Institut de France indicated that it could not grant Mocella’s request. No official reason was offered, but the recent publicity about the virtual unwrapping was thought to have caused the institute to reëvaluate the scrolls in terms of intellectual property. Controlling access to the scrolls has always been a form of power.

The institute’s decision was a blow to Delattre. When I saw him not long afterward, in the institute’s library, he still seemed shaken.
This brings the story up to date since this post from January. And see also more recently here and here. Follow the links for many posts going back years and years.

The Maccabees Project

BOSTON COLLEGE CHRONICLE: BC Theologian Co-leading Project on the Legacy of Ancient Judaism (Yonder Gillihan).
Bible and Second Temple Judaism scholar Yonder Gillihan – an associate professor of theology at Boston College – is a founding member of the Maccabees Project, a new multi-disciplinary collaboration of international and Boston-area scholars dedicated to research and public education on ancient Judaism and its legacy. Gillihan co-directs the Maccabees Project Dialogues, a series of public lectures and seminars that debuts later this month.

Headquartered at the Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies at Boston University, the Maccabees Project (MP) was formed to improve access to all evidence and research on Judea and Judean culture in the “Maccabean century” (c. 170-63 B.C.E.), create opportunities for scholars from different disciplines to share knowledge and test ideas, and spread new knowledge to the public.


According to the MP scholars, the story of the Maccabees is a heroic account of Jewish rebels’ triumphant conquest of Judea, rise of the Hasmonean dynasty, and strengthening of national identity and traditions. While the ancient authors presented their versions as narrations of actual events, a growing body of research casts significant doubt on numerous aspects of these accounts. The scholars behind the MP are working together across the fields of biblical studies, ancient history, archaeology and the history of religion to get at the realities behind the stories, and to study their effects from antiquity until the present day.

Read it all. Sounds like an exciting project.

Forum on Judaism and Christianity at the Origins of Islam

MIZAN PROJECT: FORUM: Conflict and Convergence in Late Antiquity. Judaism and Christianity at the Origins of Islam (Part 1) (Michael Pregill).
In many ways, the relationship of the Qur’an and the early Islamic community to late antique Judaism and Christianity is absolutely central to the problems that lie at the heart of this research. It is increasingly clear that the relationships between the Qur’an and formative Islam on the one hand and the other religious traditions of the pre-Islamic and early Islamic era on the other must be framed as a tripartite conversation between Jews, Christians, and the community of believers (muʾminūn) who eventually came to call themselves Muslims. Scholars now widely recognize the numerous continuities between the religion, culture, politics, and society of Late Antiquity and that of early Islam.
A recent thread (on the Birmingham Qur'an fragment) which relates to this important question is here and follow the links. Other relevant past posts are here and here.

Still more on Tut's tomb

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: Infrared thermography study suggests other chambers exist inside Tutankhamun's tomb. Infrared thermography could support Nicholas Reeves' theory suggesting the existence of another burial chamber inside King Tutankhamun’s tomb that could belong to Queen Nefertiti (Nevine El-Aref, Ahram Online).
Twenty-four hours after beginning the first experiment using infrared thermography to scan the walls of Tutankhamun's tomb, preliminary result from the northern wall of the chamber show the presence of temperature differentials that could indicate the existence of additional hidden chambers, Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty told Ahram Online.

I am unqualified to evaluate the usefulness of the various technologies currently being applied to the question of hidden chambers in Tut's tomb, and I have no opinion about the question. Time and further testing will tell. I am following the reports to highlight that we're not at the point where technology allows us to have the conversation at all.

Background here and links.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

"Gods and Scholars"

EXHIBITION: 'Gods and Scholars' brings religious artifacts to light (Melanie Lefkowitz, Cornell Chronicle).
Just because Cornell University is nonsectarian doesn’t mean its founders objected to the discussion, practice or study of religion.

In fact, Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White both recognized religion’s importance, and White was an avid collector of religious texts, from 15th-century prayer books to a first edition of the Book of Mormon. Their once-controversial views inspired the latest exhibition at Cornell University Library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, “Gods and Scholars: Studying Religion at a Secular University.”


To illustrate the relationship between religion and academics, the exhibition is organized not by faith or geographic region but by subject.

For example, a display on architecture includes a Burmese manuscript with illustrations of Buddhist temples; a Buddhist text containing a manual on building pagodas; and a photograph from White’s collection of the Temple of Bel in Palmyra, Syria, which was destroyed this summer by members of ISIS. Within the subject of language are Aramaic incantation bowls, believed to help catch demons when buried upside-down, that are inscribed with prayers or, for illiterate buyers, fragments from the “Book of the Dead,” dating to 1000 B.C.; and a 1685 bible printed in Algonquin.

That last sentence is quite a run-on and it looks like something is missing. The Babylonian Aramaic incantation bowls (background here and links) are inscribed with incantations that include prayers. Some of them, evidently for illiterate practitioners and clients, just bear letter-like squiggles. The fragments from the Book of the Dead are entirely unrelated.

Happy birthday to AJR

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: What is Ancient Judaism? Anniversary Post.

Review of "Salomé"

THEATRE: At Long-Last, Giving Salomé a Voice (Lauren Landau, The Forward).
Water runs over the curves of Salomé’s bare skin. Alone together in an underground prison, John the Baptist baptizes the Judean princess.

Instruct someone to imagine Salomé in the nude, and this is probably not the scene that comes to mind. But South African playwright and director Yaël Farber’s take on the biblical story doesn’t follow the typical version of events.

“This adaptation of “Salomé” is the redefining of a story that we think we know, from the Christian scriptures and from Oscar Wilde’s stage play and Richard Strauss’ opera, and many other versions of her story,” says Farber. “It is about putting a woman at the center of her own narrative once again and taking political agency in a situation [where] she has been described as a supporter [in] her own story.”

A bit further down, Farber (if she is quoted correctly) offers this historical howler:
“It’s a revisionist version,” she says, “but I’m not sure that anything isn’t a revisionist version. When historical events have been recorded 300 years, at least, after the events have occurred, we’re talking revisionist on some level.”
Three hundred years, at least? The Gospel of Mark was written no more that about 40 years after the events, and the accounts in the other Synoptic Gospels and by Josephus were written within a generation of Mark. This is still ample time for distortion, but let's stick to the actual chronology.

Also, the use of Arabic in the production was noted in the earlier review, but it is spelled out and evaluated more fully here:
Most of the play is performed in English, but Iokanaan speaks only Arabic. In truth, John the Baptist would have spoken neither. The choice sets Iokanaan apart as an outsider, but nestled against an already modern lingual backdrop, the use of Arabic stands out, and not in a good way.

“My original hope was that we could include Aramaic in the text,” Farber says. Confronted with a “massive time constraint,” she thought better of it. “But it also seemed a very beautiful way to just bring in the polyglot of the culture that was Jerusalem, and in fact, there are several cast members who speak French, and I would love to in future versions include those languages too.”

Breaking free from linguistic reality creates a filter, Farber says, that allows people to better understand and relate to their own stories. While a lovely sentiment, the intention seems half-baked. Utilizing a tongue familiar to contemporary ears is a distracting choice that has been used more successfully in Farber’s past.
The earlier review was noted here.

Christian Apocrypha at the SBL


Cross-file under New Testament Apocrypha Watch.

Coptic post with the DDGLC

ALIN SUCIU: Coptic Job in Berlin. Not "Job" as in the biblical "Book of Job," which is how I first read the post title. Rather, "job" as in employment. It's a half-time post on the project Database and Dictionary of Greek Loanwords in Coptic (DDGLC).

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Museum exhibitions related to the Shrine of the Book

ARCHITECTURE: MoMA Spotlights Jewish Architect of the 'Endless House.' The 50th anniversary of the death of architect Frederick Kiesler is cause for celebrating his legacy, but the New York show contains no mention of the Israel Museum's enigmatic Shrine of the Book, which he designed. (Esther Zandberg, Haaretz).
NEW YORK – The Shrine of the Book in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem is the only architectural work of Frederick Kiesler (1890-1965), an American Jew of Austro-Hungarian origin, a designer, artist and theoretician. In the enigmatic and unusual structure Kiesler implemented, but only partially, the idea of the Endless House – a concept which he conceived and developed for decades by means of manifestos, sketches and models.

Kiesler's thought and his work have been enjoying a renewal in recent years, providing materials for studies and interpretations and quite a number of exhibitions. The latest as of now is “The Endless House: Between Art and Architecture,” a tribute at the Museum of Modern Art in New York to mark the 50th anniversary of Kiesler’s death on December 27.


The Shrine of the Book, the only attempt to implement the impossible, is glaringly absent from the exhibition. Perhaps because it constitutes uncontestable proof that embodying the concept of Endless House would mark its finiteness.

But wait! There's more:
Meanwhile, in Jerusalem

On the other side of the world, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem is presently showing the mini-exhibition “The Architecture of the Shrine of the Book,” to mark the jubilee of the dedication of the museum and the construction of the shrine, where the Dead Sea Scrolls are on display. Kiesler designed the structure with Armand Bartos, a Jewish American architect of Hungarian origin who was born in 1910; December 29 will mark the 10th anniversary of Bartos' death.

In the architectural equation here, Kiesler was the avant-garde theoretician and Bartos was the pragmatist with his feet on the ground. Apparently only such a partnership enabled the construction of the shrine, which may not be endless, but is open to endless interpretations.


Lecture on Neo-Punic Zita

(NEO-)PUNIC WATCH: AAG lecture highlights Carthaginian & Roman Empires (Greenwich Post).
“Empire, Prayer, and Industry at the Roman and Neo-Punic Urban Mound of Zita, Tunisia” will be the subject of Professor Brett Kaufman, Thursday, Nov. 19, at 8 p.m., at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich [Connecticut].

Sponsored by the Archaeological Associates of Greenwich (the AAG), the lecture is free to AAG, Bruce Museum members, students with ID and $15 to the public.

Dr. Kaufman is the principal investigator and founding Co-Director of the Zita Project in Southern Tunisia. These excavations and survey are the first to be undertaken by the U.S.-Tunisian archaeological collaboration since the Arab Spring. The site reveals an occupation spanning roughly 800 years (500 BC-300 AD). Zita, meaning Olive City in Punic, was incorporated into the Roman Empire following the destruction of Carthage in 146 BC. Over three seasons (2013-2015), Professor Kaufman’s team from the Tunisian Institute National du Patrimoine, UCLA and Brown have worked to provide a picture of the cultural changes that occurred at Zita over many centuries before its abrupt abandonment around 300 AD.

It's good to see that archaeology is continuing in Tunisia, despite recent events. That's the spirit!

Incidentally, I include posts on Punic and Phoenician as a matter of course, and some readers may wonder why. Phoenician is a Canaanite language that was spoken by various city-states on the coast of what is now modern Lebanon and Syria, Israel's neighbors to the the north. It is closely related to Hebrew and was probably more or less mutually comprehensible with it. The Phoenicians would have been among those peoples the Israelites thought of as Canaanites, although Israelites and Phoenicians didn't have any significant land disputes and so got along with each other more often than not. The Greeks got their alphabet from the Phoenicians. The Phoenicians has a major colony in North Africa (modern Tunisia) called "Carthage" ("New City") and they spoke the Phoenician language, which the Romans called "Punic." "Neo-Punic" is the name for the same language (and culture) after the defeat of Carthage by the Romans in 146 B.C.E. So I keep track of developments concerning ancient Phoenicia and Carthage because they were culturally and linguistically closely related to the ancient Israelites and ancient Judaism.

Open Theology and the Manichees

OPEN THEOLOGY, the new open access online journal, has a new issued edited by John C. Reeves on "Manichaeism - New Historical and Philological Studies." TOC:
Introductory Remarks to the topical issue “Manichaeism - New Historical and Philological Studies”, Reeves, John C.

Many Faced Gods: Triadic (Proto-)Structure and Divine Androgyny in Early Manichaean Cosmogony, Pettipiece, Timothy

The Manichaean Attitude to Natural Phenomena as Reflected in the Berlin Kephalaia, Kósa, Gábor

The Epitaph of Mar Solomon, Bishop of South China, Administrator of Manicheans and Nestorians, Franzmann, Majella

New Developments in the History of East Uighur Manichaeism, Moriyasu, Takao

Further Textual Evidence Pertaining to the Enigmatic ‛Mani-Citations’ of Severus of Antioch, Reeves, John C.

On the Date of the Ritual Manual for the Celebration of the Birthday of the Ancestor of Promoting Well-being from Xiapu, Ma, Xiaohe
A few earlier articles in the journal are also of interest:
Aspects of rendering the sacred Tetragrammaton in Greek, Vasileiadis, Pavlos D.

Understanding the Text of the Bible 65 Years after the Discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Tov, Emanuel

The Violence of Nonviolence in the Revelation of John, De Villiers, Pieter G. R.

Lemche on Ancient Israel reissued

Ancient Israel: A New History of Israel (Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2015).

Thoughts about a reissue

By Niels Peter Lemche
University of Copenhagen
November 2015

Monday, November 09, 2015

Applying academic research in the synagogue

COLLABORATION: Rabbis, Academics In New Partnership. In a first, Clal and UPenn Judaic studies research center team up to disseminate ideas from cutting-edge scholarship (Robert Goldblum, The Jewish Week).
The ivory tower and the synagogue near you could hardly be more different.

In one, solitary postdoctoral fellows pore over ancient texts in search of often arcane, though potentially transformative, knowledge; for instance, the “emotional, embodied experience of prayer” in the Qumran community, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.

In the other, a community of worshippers gathers (with less and less frequency these days), and while prayer is surely on the agenda, the more mundane pressures of modern life impinge: bar/bat mitzvah schedules, the building-fund campaign, how to integrate intermarried congregants; all of it can compromise the spiritual and meaning-making project of synagogue life.

In a potentially bold stroke, Rabbis Irwin Kula and Brad Hirschfield of Clal – the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, think they have a way to unite academia and the wider Jewish community. The goal: to bring the ideas uncovered by those postdoc fellows to Jews in the pews, and those beyond the synagogue. And in that way to “reimagine Judaism on the ground,” according to Rabbi Kula.

In what is believed to be a first-of-its-kind program, Clal is teaming up with the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania to train a cohort of multi-denominational rabbis to be “translators,” as Rabbi Kula calls them.


Two scholars at the Katz Center, Eva Mroczek and Rachel Werczberger, spoke about their research into “experiments in community building and prayer practice,” as Rabbi Hirschfield put it, one ancient and the other contemporary. Mroczek focused on the nature of prayer in the Qumran community, and Werczberger on the idea of “Jewish authenticity” as it applied to several Renewal/New Age-type communities in Israel that flourished in the early 2000s but eventually collapsed.


Was Jesus a real person?

CHURCH SURVEY: Jesus 'not a real person' many believe. Forty percent of people in England do not believe Jesus was a real person, a Church of England survey suggests. (BBC).

It is difficult to know quite what this means without seeing the actual survey questions, which may not have been formulated very clearly. The BBC's own evaluation of the situation could be clearer as well:
Many scholars agree that Jesus was a real man, who lived in Galilee more than 2,000 years ago, although many details surrounding his life are still debated.
I know of no specialists (i.e., people with academic training who publish in peer-review venues) who think that Jesus did not actually exist. But, yes, there is a great deal of debate on what and how much we can know about him from our very limited sources. Some relevant posts are collected here.

And perhaps it's just me, but this article made me think of this Onion classic: Historians Admit To Inventing Ancient Greeks.

Papyrus conservation seminar

WHAT'S NEW IN PAPYROLOGY: Seminar in Papyrus Conservation by Papyrology Collection of the University of Michigan Library. In June of 2016.

Brakke on the Gospel of Judas

THE BENNINGTON BANNER: Panels and lectures at Williams College.

David Brakke, Croghan Bicentennial Visiting Professor in Biblical and Early Christian Studies at Williams College, will present a lecture titled "The Gospel of Judas: Gnostic Truth and Apostolic Heresy in Early Christianity." The event will take place on Nov. 11, at 5:30 p.m. It will be held in Griffin Hall, room 7, and is free and open to the public.

Brakke's work involves the history and literature of ancient Christianity from its origins through the 5th century. In particular, he studies asceticism, monasticism, "Gnosticism," biblical interpretation, and Egyptian Christianity. He has written several books on these subjects, including The Gnostics: Myth, Ritual, and Diversity in Early Christianity, which argues for a social and cultural approach to the definition of "Gnosticism." In 2011, it was named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title.

Brakke is the Joe R. Engle Chair in the History of Christianity at Ohio State University. Previously, he taught at Indiana University. He holds a B.A. from the University of Virginia, a M.Div. from Harvard University, and a Ph.D. in religious studies from Yale University. Currently, Brakke is a member of an international team of scholars that is producing the first unified critical edition and translation of the works of Shenoute of Atripe, the leader of a monastic community in Upper Egypt. He serves as the president-elect of the International Association for Coptic Studies and on the Board of Consultants of the Journal of Religion.

The Croghan Bicentennial Professorship in Biblical and Early Christian Studies was established by John and Rosemary Croghan for a visiting professor to teach one course in Christianity and/or Judaism as well as to give public lectures. Brakke is one of two professors to hold the position this academic year.

The lecture is sponsored by the Croghan Fund, the Department of Religion, and the Dean of the Faculty Office.
David Brakke was one of the students in the second-year Biblical Hebrew course I taught about thirty years ago when I was a doctoral student at Harvard. That was a great class, out of which came a number of fine scholars. Past posts on Professor Brakke's work are here, here, and here. Also, I have many past posts on the Gospel of Judas. Start here and follow the links.

Biblical costumes

EXHIBITION: Museum welcomes new Bible exhibit. Costumes and props from taping of ‘A.D. The Bible Continues’ television series go on display (Martha Garcia,
Unique and rich in history, Santa Clarita’s Passages museum exhibit has delighted many visitors with its more than 400 biblical artifacts and texts since opening in April.

Passages, hosted by Museum of the Bible, includes Dead Sea Scrolls, replicas of the Gutenberg press, and a microfiche copy of the Bible carried aboard Apollo 14 on its mission to the moon.

The artifacts and exhibits presented at Passages on Bouquet Canyon Road will be offered until February 2016. Those interested in learning more about the Bible’s history and influence on the world can visit the museum and its newest exhibit, “A.D. The Bible Continues.”

“A.D. The Bible Continues,” which opened Nov. 3, is curated in collaboration with 20th Century Fox to celebrate the release of the series on DVD and Blu-ray. The exhibit depicts costumes worn by cast members in the hit television series which aired on NBC earlier this year. It includes costumes for the characters of Jesus, Caiaphas, Pilate and Herodias.


Sunday, November 08, 2015

More on Joseph and the Pyramids

JASON COLAVITO: The Long, Strange History of the Pyramids as the Granaries of Joseph. It turns out that the notion goes back to late antiquity. Background here. HT reader Roberto Lanbati.

Davies returns to ancient Israel

A Guide For The Perplexed

What makes me a disciple of von Rad is that for me too the stories count for more than the “facts”. I have no commitment to “scripture”, but if I want to understand “ancient Israelites” or any other human groups or individuals from the past, I will do so better by coming to terms with what they thought about the past than what had actually transpired. If, as I think was most often the case, the writers of these biblical stories did not actually know what had happened, then the actual events have a restricted relevance to them: it would have made no difference to these writers whether what they narrated had happened or not.

See Also: The History of Ancient Israel: A Guide for the Perplexed (Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2015).

In Search of "Ancient Israel": A Study in Biblical Origins (Bloomsbury T&T Clark; 2 edition, 1992).

By Philip R Davies
Chair, Palestine Exploration Fund
Emeritus, University of Sheffield, England
November 2015
Davies is usually controversial and always interesting.

An Ancient Mikveh in Gush Etzion

PHOTO OF THE DAY (JEWISH PRESS): An Ancient Mikveh in Gush Etzion.

Report: ISIS advances on Syriac Christianity

MODERN ARAMAIC WATCH: Thousands of Syrian Christians Are Fleeing ISIS Assault (Oliver Maksan, Aid to the Church in Need via AINA).
NEW YORK -- Thousands of Syrian Christians are fleeing after fierce attacks by ISIS on the town of Sadad and its surroundings, reported Syrian Orthodox Archbishop Selwanos Boutros Alnemeh of Homs. Sadad is some 35 miles south of Homs and 65 miles north east of the Syrian capital of Damascus. The region has been under attack by ISIS since late last month.

The prelate told international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that Maheen, a town just four miles from Sadad, has already fallen to the jihadists. He also said that the inhabitants of Sadad and Al-Hafar had fled out of fear that ISIS would advance even further and to escape the heavy fire.


The town of Sadad, Father Luka [Awad, assistant of the archbishop] explained, is an important Christian center. The priest continued: "The people there still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus. Moreover, we have important churches there. It is really a center of our Christian heritage. Its loss doesn't bear contemplating. We truly are fearing for our cultural heritage. We beg the international community to put an end to this war. My people already experienced a genocide one hundred years ago, in 1915. Now, in the 21st century, we don't need another."

Background on the assault of ISIS on the past and its caretakers is here and here and links, and, with special reference to Aramaic-speaking Christians, here and links.

More Jewish-Temple denial in a Al-Aqsa sermon

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Al-Aqsa preacher: Israel 'lying' about Temple Mount. Preacher at the Al-Aqsa Mosque claims the Temple Mount belongs solely to Muslims and no one else. (Dalit Halevi, Arutz Sheva).
A preacher at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday accused Israel of “lying” when it says the Temple Mount is holy to Jews.

The preacher, Mohammed Salim, declared that the compound belongs solely to Muslims, claiming that the proof is in its name “Al-Aqsa” (lit. the extreme). In light of this “fact”, claimed Salim, the question is “how the Jews are lying about their sovereignty and claim that the Temple stood on this mountain?”

This just keeps happening. Related posts here and links.