Saturday, December 05, 2015

More on the Hezekiah seal impression

ROBERT CARGILL HAS some questions about the recent news of the discovery of a seal bearing the name of King Hezekiah in Jerusalem. This one strikes me as particularly interesting:
And if that’s what this is about (the new reading of the inscription), then what do other epigraphers say about this reading? No “ben” in between Hezekiah and Ahaz? And does it really say Ahaz? Does it fit within the border of the seal?
There have been many media stories about the announcement in the last day or so. Here are a couple:

Impression of biblical king's seal found in Jerusalem (BBC). A brief report that seems to capture the main points.

King Hezekiah in the Bible: Royal Seal of Hezekiah Comes to Light (Robin Ngo, Bible History Daily). Includes some useful historical background to the find.

The discovery of the bulla was noted here on Thursday.

Lod Mosaic in Venice

THIS MOSAIC GETS AROUND: Roman mosaic floor from Lod on view in Venice. An ancient Roman mosaic floor from Lod in Israel is currently exhibited in Venice by Fondazione Giorgio Cini in collaboration with the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Center (M.Apelblat, The Brussells Times).
The Lod Mosaic will be on view until 10 January 2016 at the exhibition centre on the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore.

This is the last European stop in an international tour which included United Kingdom, France, Germany and Russia. On its return to Israel it will be exhibited in a visitor centre to be built in Lod.

Background here with many links. Another ancient mosaic has recently been discovered at Lod as well.

On transliterating biblical names

FROM HEBREW TO GREEK: The Lost Meanings of Biblical Names. The festival of Hanukkah, which starts this weekend, should remind us that translation can sap the ancient power of religious names (AVIYA KUSHNER, WSJ).
For centuries, the Septuagint was the dominant translation in Western culture, ultimately influencing even the King James Bible. But many Jews weren’t keen on translating their holy book: One ancient source calls for a fast on the anniversary of the Septuagint’s publication, saying that when it appeared, “darkness descended on the world for three days.”

They had ample justification for worrying over distortions and omissions. Hebrew names, one of the richest parts of the Bible, were often transliterated instead of being translated into Greek. Meaning-laden names thus lost their meaning.
Well, yes, but that's why you have commentary. I do not regard this as a tragedy. Any reading of a text places the text in a new context and to some degree alters its meaning. I grant that the ancient Greek translations of the books of the Hebrew Bible have cases (e.g., the Book of Isaiah) which carry this tendency pretty far.

Barbara Thiering 1930-2015

SAD NEWS: Academic and iconoclast Barbara Thiering exemplified tumultuous 1960's ethos (Sydney Morning Herald).
Historian, feminist and iconoclast Barbara Thiering once observed that, for a woman of her temperament, she had been born at a fortunate time in Australia. She was too young for World War II, was a young adult in the prosperous 1950s, an intellectual during the 1960s and 1970s, when the world was ripe for such things, and a successful writer and academic in her later years.

She participated in a time of great growth and change when opportunities were opening up for women, which she applauded and encouraged. The combination of her high intelligence, strong will and independent free-thought created a path for her life, reflecting the changing position of women and the political and religious turbulence of the later 20th century.

Her Wikipedia profile, which as of this writing has not yet been updated to note her death, is here. Inevitably she will be remembered for her controversial work on Jesus, which no one follows. But it is also worth mentioning her work on the prosody of Qumran poetry, which remains useful today.
Barbara Thiering, "The Poetic Forms of the Hodayot," Journal of Semitic Studies 8 (1963): 189-209.
Requiescat in pace.

More on the background of Hanukkah

HISTORY: What We Know About the Truth Behind the Hanukkah Story (Ashley Ross, Time Magazine).
In 175 BCE, the land of Israel was part of the Syrian-Greek Empire led by a King named Antiochus IV, also called “Epiphanes,” meaning “the gods’ beloved.” The most commonly cited source for the history of that time is the book First Maccabees, which was written in about 100 BCE, not too long after the events it describes. But [JTS Professor David] Kraemer cautions that, like all books, ancient and modern, it’s got a perspective. According to First Maccabees, religious persecution by Antiochus Epiphanes led the rebels known as Maccabees to take back their temple from the Syrian-Greek Empire. Meanwhile, another book called Second Maccabees has a very different story. According to that version, a group of Jews had been attracted by Hellenistic ways, and it was against that Hellenized leadership that the Maccabees revolted, taking back their temple. And that’s not all.

“We seem to also have eyewitness accounts of the events,” Kraemer says. “It’s a hidden account, the final prophecy of the prophet Daniel, which was written at the time of the Maccabean revolt, so you’ve got some evidence about it but it’s not a direct testimony. It’s very difficult to interpret.”
Some comments. (1) "Epiphanes" means "(a god) manifest," i.e., look at me, I'm a god! The ancients thought this was as crazy as we do. (2) An account of events sixty-plus years after they happened has ample scope for distortion of historical memory. (3) In addition to the Book of Daniel, the Animal Apocalypse (1 Enoch 83-90) was written during the Maccabean revolt. It is equally difficult to interpret. (4) I'm surprised that the article does not make clear that the story about the oil lamp that miraculously burned for eight days, which it mentions, comes in the rabbinic literature, long after the sources discussed here.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Mani was an artist

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Mani’s pictures. New book: Gulácsi, Zsuzsanna. 2015. Mani’s pictures: The didactic images of the Manichaeans from Sasanian Mesopotamia to Uygur Central Asia and Tang-Ming China (Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies 90). Brill.

Mani left paintings? Who knew?

Cross-file under Manichaean (Manichean) Watch.

Greek in Hellenistic Palestine

LARRY HURTADO: Language Usage in Jewish Palestine: Epigraphic Evidence.
Walter Ameling draws upon epigraphical evidence to consider languages usage in Jewish Palestine in the Hellenistic and Roman periods in a data-rich recent essay: “Epigraphy and the Greek Language in Hellenistic Palestine,” Scripta Classica Israelica 34 (2015): 1-18. The thrust of his study is that from the Seleucid period onward Greek was widely used. As this publication won’t be readily available to some, I’ll give a few representative extracts.

Past posts on the related topic of the languages Jesus spoke are here, here, here, here, here, and links

Ancient sources for Hanukkah

A GOOD, BRIEF OVERVIEW: Chanukah: A Survey of the Ancient Sources (Mitchell First, Jewish Link).

Lim on canon

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Understanding the Emergence of the Jewish Canon (Timothy Lim). The first instalment of the AJR Forum on the biblical Canon.

Doak on the giants

The Embarrassing and Alluring Biblical Giant

Whatever interpretive paths we choose, the giant remains alluring, even if a bit embarrassing. After the Hebrew Bible had (mostly) been completed, giants lived on, prolifically, in the traditions of third–first century BCE Judaism, most notably in 1 Enoch and the Qumran Book of Giants. These early Jewish traditions cannot simply be attributed to an arcane exegetical fascination with the weirdness or ambiguity of the giant; rather, early interpreters saw in these figures deeply meaningful opportunities to speak of the persistence of evil and the meaning of empire.

See also: The Last of the Rephaim: Conquest and Cataclysm in the Heroic Ages of Ancient Israel (Ilex Series 7; Ilex Foundation and the Center for Hellenic Studies; via Harvard University Press, 2012); Consider Leviathan: Narratives of Nature and the Self in Job (Fortress Press, 2014)

By Brian R. Doak
Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies
Faculty Fellow, William Penn Honors Program
George Fox University
December 2015
There are far too many PaleoJudaica posts on giants to give as background links. I wouldn't know where to start. But if you are curious, run "book of giants" and "og the giant" through the search engine and that will bring up lots of them. Posts, not giants.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

An inscribed bulla of King Hezekiah

THE HEBREW UNIVERSITY OF JERUSALEM: Impression of King Hezekiah’s Royal Seal Discovered in Ophel Excavations South of Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
First seal impression of an Israelite or Judean king ever exposed in situ in a scientific archaeological excavation

Discovery brings to life the Biblical narratives about King Hezekiah and the activity conducted during his lifetime in Jerusalem's 1st Temple Period Royal Quarter
This is an exciting discovery, chiefly because, as it says above, this is the first seal impression mentioning Hezekiah which has been uncovered in a scientific excavation. Other Hezekiah bullae (clay seal impressions) have surfaced on the antiquities market since the 1990s, but one could always doubt their authenticity. There is no doubt that this one is authentic. It is very sad that the papyrus document it once sealed has long ago disintegrated into dust.

For more on the earlier Hezekiah bullae, including a damaged one published by Nahman Avigad in the 1980s without his recognizing the name on it, see this 2002 Biblical Archaeology Review article by Robert Deutsch: Lasting Impressions: New bullae reveal Egyptian-style emblems on Judah’s royal seals. (The latter was brought to my attention by Antonio Lombatti.)

UPDATE: It sounds as though the question of the bulla being "exposed in situ in a scientific archaeological excavation" may require some qualification. Candida Moss notes the following in her Daily Beast essay Archaeologist Says the Bible’s King Hezekiah Is Real:
But Robert Cargill, an archeologist at the University of Iowa, told me that the claims about biblical proof are overstated. “If this is a legitimate object, then it simply confirms the existence of a king named Hezekiah in Jerusalem.” That, Cargill added, is something scholars already knew from other archeological discoveries.

The story has made headlines in the British tabloids, but archeologists like Cargill are more skeptical both about the evidence itself and the potential agenda of the find. The significance of the discovery hinges on the claim that it was uncovered in its original archeological context, but the area in which it was unearthed is politically contested and archeologically compromised. The material is being sifted from piles of dirt removed as part of Palestinian construction in the area. As such, Cargill said, “there’s no reason to believe that it is a forged object. The problem lies in the compromised archeological stratigraphy at the point of discovery.”
If this is accurate, the bulla comes from the salvage archaeology of a construction site and the dirt was removed as part of the construction, rather than, apparently, by the archaeologists. As Professor Cargill says, there's no reason to think the object is forged, but this is not quite the same as it being scientifically excavated in a stratigraphically rigorous archaeological excavation.

UPDATE: Professor Cargill points me to this, which indicates that the Temple Mount Sifting Project actually found the object in 2010. It remains unclear from the current reports whether the dirt came from construction excavation or scientific, stratigraphic, archaeological excavation.

UPDATE: From the Hebrew University press release:
This bulla came to light, together with many pottery sherds and other finds such as figurines and seals, in Area A of the excavations (2009 season), supervised by Hagai Cohen-Klonymus.
But apparently the dirt was not sifted until 2010.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Yes, it was a garbage pit. What does that mean? Was it garbage from a specific period in a clear stratigraphic context? Sounds like it, in which case I would count that as excavated in a stratigraphically rigorous archaeological excavation. But I am not an archaeologist and am not going to try to comment on the fine points of stratigraphy. I assume the details will be made clear in the publications. Meanwhile, it's an interesting object whose genuineness is beyond reasonable doubt. It confirms what we already knew from the Sennacherib Prism etc., that there was a king named Hezekiah around 700 BCE. It also identifies Ahaz as his father, who is also mentioned as such in the previously published bullae. Any doubts (but I don't know of any) of the genuineness of the latter bullae seem now assuaged. Ahaz is also known in his proper time from an Assyrian inscription.

Review of Rudich, Religious Dissent in the Roman Empire

Vasily Rudich, Religious Dissent in the Roman Empire: Violence in Judaea at the Time of Nero. Routledge Monographs in Classical Studies. London; New York: Routledge, 2015. Pp. xxiv, 350. ISBN 9780415161060. $160.00.

Reviewed by William den Hollander, Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary (


The monograph under review is in more than one way a bold one. While his expertise as a Roman historian certainly provided Rudich with a valuable foundation for the present study, and his earlier examinations of dissident psychology led naturally to this analysis of violent religious dissent,1 his focus on Roman Judea necessitated a brave plunge into unfamiliar territory, a virtual quagmire of scholarly literature that he admits to having underestimated initially (xi-xii). The high degree to which he immersed himself in the ancient texts and modern scholarship is, however, a credit to his industry and a direct benefit to the depth of his contributions—although it should be noted that he closed his ‘dossier’ by the end of 2011, so that the book does not necessarily reflect the latest trends in scholarship.


Western Wall museum approved

Controversial Plan for Museum at Western Wall Gets Final Zoning Approval. Planning board rejects most objections to Western Wall Heritage Foundation building, but limits its area; opponents considering petitioning High Court (Nir Hasson, Haaretz).
An appeals subcommittee of the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee has given its final approval for a plan to construct a center called “Beit Ha-Liba” (House of Core Values) in the Western Wall Plaza in the Old City of Jerusalem. The center was conceived of and promoted by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation and the Western Wall’s rabbi, and will include offices, a museum and an educational center.

Background here, from back in 2010. This story has been quiet for a while.

UPDATE (4 December): Dead link now fixed!

Byzantine-era olive press in Shiloh

EXCAVATION: 1,300-year-old olive press uncovered at Ancient Shiloh (Efrat Forsher, Israel HaYom).
The large size of the press and its proximity to a similar one found in 2011 provide proof that aside from being the capital of Israel for 369 years and housing the Ark of the Covenant, Shiloh was also the region's main manufacturer of olive oil.
I don't seem to have noted the discovery of that other olive press in 2011. Reports of the excavation of some other ancient olive presses in recent years are here, here, and here.

Iraqi Jewish archive exhibition in Florida

IRAQI JEWISH ARCHIVE WATCH: Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU presents Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage.
Just in time for Art Basel Miami Beach, the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU (JMOF-FIU) unveils the Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage exhibit on December 3, 2015. The exhibition, which runs through February 14, 2016, details the dramatic recovery of historic materials relating to the Jewish community in Iraq from a flooded basement in Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters, and the National Archives’ ongoing work in support of U.S. Government efforts to preserve these materials.

In both English and Arabic, the 2,000 square foot exhibition features 23 recovered items and a “behind the scenes” video of the fascinating yet painstaking preservation process. The entire collection includes more than 2,700 Jewish books and tens of thousands of documents in Hebrew, Arabic, Judeo-Arabic and English, dating from 1524 to the 1970s. A special website makes these historic materials freely available to all online: This work was made possible through generous support from the U.S. Department of State.

The National Endowment for the Humanities in partnership with the Center for Jewish History were very helpful in providing key start-up support for the project.

With a video on the conservation efforts for the exhibition. Background on the Iraqi Jewish archive is here, with links going all the way back to the first report of the archive's discovery in 2003.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Giants in the Biblio-Blogosphere

THE BOOK OF GIANTS receives attention in some recent blog posts:

Philip Jenkins at The Anxious Bench:
The Book of the Giants;
Mani and the Giants.

Deane Galbraith adds some comments at Remnant of Giants:
The Book of Giants: Ancient Jewish Literary Creativity beyond the Bible.

Both refer to my online page on The Book of Giants.

Yoram Tsafrir z'l'

SAD NEWS: Prominent Israeli Archaeologist Yoram Tsafrir Dies. In addition to his archaeological exploits, Tsafrir was noted for his strong opposition to the politicization of archaeology (Nir Hasson, Haaretz).
Prof. Yoram Tsafrir, one of the most important archaeologists in Israel, passed away Monday [23 November] in a Jerusalem hospital. For years, Tsafrir excavated the old city in Beit Shean, researched Jerusalem and the Land of Israel in the Roman and Byzantine periods and was frequently at the forefront of battles against damaging archaeological sites. Last year he was awarded the EMET prize for Art, Science and Culture.

A new book co-authored by Professor Tsafrir has just come out and I noted it last weekend. Other past posts mentioning him are here, here, and links. May his memory be for a blessing.

ZooMS peptide mass fingerprinting of parchment

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: Getting Under the Skin of Medieval Bible Mystery (University of York/Breaking Israel News).
A simple PVC eraser has helped an international team of scientists led by bioarchaeologists at the University of York to resolve the mystery surrounding the tissue-thin parchment used by medieval scribes to produce the first pocket Bibles.

Thousands of the Bibles were made in the 13th century, principally in France but also in England, Italy and Spain. But the origin of the parchment — often called ‘uterine vellum’ — has been a source of longstanding controversy.

Use of the Latin term abortivum in many sources has led some scholars to suggest that the skin of fetal calves was used to produce the vellum. Others have discounted that theory, arguing that it would not have been possible to sustain livestock herds if so much vellum was produced from fetal skins. Older scholarship even argued that unexpected alternatives such as rabbit or squirrel may have been used, while some medieval sources suggest that hides must have been split by hand through use of a lost technology.

A multi-disciplinary team of researchers, led by Dr Sarah Fiddyment and Professor Matthew Collins of the BioArCh research facility in the Department of Archaeology at York, developed a simple and objective technique using standard conservation treatments to identify the animal origin of parchment.

The non-invasive method is a variant on ZooMS (ZooArchaeology by Mass Spectrometry) peptide mass fingerprinting but extracts protein from the parchment surface simply by using electrostatic charge generated by gentle rubbing of a PVC eraser on the membrane surface.

And yes, they were able to answer the question. Again and again, non-invasive and non-destructive technologies are the way of the future in archaeology and history. Recent more-or-less related stories are noted here, here, and here.

AJR Forum on the biblical "canon"


The Carmel Forest terraces

ARCHAEOLOGY BY FIRE: 2,000-year-old terraces restored 5 years after Carmel Forest fire (SHARON UDASIN , Jerusalem Post).
Uncovering the terraces has been a part of a much larger process of rehabilitating both the Carmel Forest and creating buffer zones to protect nearby communities from future fires.

Five years after the Carmel fire tragedy that killed 44 people and burned some 2,550 hectares of land, a series of 2,000-year-old terraces have been exposed and restored in the region.

While the fire proved disastrous to both the people and wildlife in the Carmel area, the burning of the thick forest revealed the ancient agricultural terraces, which were then restored by Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund.


Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Review of Litwa, Iesus Deus

LARRY HURTADO: “Jewish” and “Hellenistic” in Recent Scholarship on Christian Origins.
In some recent studies of early expressions of Jesus-devotion, there are some issues that need clarification. One of these recent studies is Iesus Deus: The Early Christian Depiction of Jesus as a Mediterranean God, by M. David Litwa (Fortress Press, 2014).


The Talmud and ... bestiality?

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Does the Talmud Condone Bestiality? Literal interpretations of misogynistic and gossipy fidelity laws leads to a surprising logical conclusion. The short answer to the question is no.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Jordanian Lead Books Centre website

FAKE METAL CODICES WATCH: Last March I noted the report of the founding of a Centre for the Study of the Jordanian Lead Books, chaired by Margaret Barker. The Centre now has a website here.

As I said in March, I think it is a positive development to have a group of serious scholars evaluating the Jordan codices. I still think the objects are modern productions, but how, why, and exactly when and where they were made remain potentially interesting questions for someone (other than me) to follow up. I certainly have no objection to people studying them, if they want to. And, as I have said often already, if anyone still wants to argue that some of the codices are genuine artifacts from antiquity, the case should be made in the peer-review scholarly literature. That has not happened — I think because there is no such case to be made. But if someone wants to prove me wrong, that is the place to do it.

PaleoJudaica posts pertaining to the Jordan codices published after the announcement in March are here, here, here, and here.

P134 at SBL

SBL 2015 REPORT: New Papyrus (P134) of John: A Report from SBL (Tommy Wasserman, ETC Blog).

Background here and here.

Textual criticism at the SBL

SBL 2015 REPORT: SBL 2015 - Part 1, SBL 2015 - Part 2 at OTTC: A Blog for Old Testament Textual Criticism (Drew Longacre).

Monday, November 30, 2015

The GJW is back in the news

I'M STILL SKEPTICAL: Is ‘The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife’ a revelation or a hoax? (Lisa Wangsness, Boston Globe). This is a good summary of the current state of the question, with a couple of pieces of new information. There are already blog posts noting the article and commenting on it:

Mark Goodacre The Gospel of Jesus' Wife Latest: Boston Globe Update;

Peter J. Gurrey: ETC Blog and GJW in the Boston Globe.

Recent PaleoJudaica posts on the GJW are here and here, and follow the links for lots more. I note one peculiarity of the new article: Mark Goodacre cites the title as "The Case of the Gospel of Jesus' Wife Still Isn't Closed" and that title remains in the URL, but the title in the article has been changed to the one given above. Either title seems to reflect the content of the article, so I'm not sure of the reason for the change.

Another current Boston Globe article also deals with the debate over the GJW: Five questions about ‘The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife’. It too has an earlier title remaining in the URL: "Is the Gospel of Jesus's Wife a Fake?" Again, no explanation is given for the change in title.

Beyond that, I see no reason at present to add to the comments I've made in my recent posts linked to above. We are still waiting for the publication of some tests on the ink and I doubt that the discussion will make much progress before they are published.

Online tour of Petra

AWOL: Petra, the Rose-Red City: Google Streetview Tour.

Jenkins on the Gospel of Barnabas

PHILIP JENKINS: The “Secret” Gospels that Have Been Hiding in Plain Sight (History News Network). Did the Gospel of Barnabas know ancient Gnostic sources? Professor Jenkins seems to think so.

Some past PaleoJudaica posts on the Gospel of Barnabas are here, here, and here. More on Jenkins's recent book on the apocryphal gospels, The Many Faces of Christ, is here and here.

New oracles of Metatron

ARCHANGEL METATRON WATCH: Happy Birthday Curtis Armstrong: Best Metatron quotes from Supernatural (Mangala Dilip, International Business Times).
You have been around since scaly things crawled out of the muck, would it have killed you to read a book?
Background here and links.

More vintage resurrection

WINE MAKING: Israel Aims to Recreate Wine That Jesus and King David Drank (JODI RUDOREN, NYT).
HEFER VALLEY, Israel — The new crisp, acidic and mineral white from a high-end Israeli winery was aged for eight months — or, depending on how you look at it, at least 1,800 years.

The wine, called marawi and released last month by Recanati Winery, is the first commercially produced by Israel’s growing modern industry from indigenous grapes. It grew out of a groundbreaking project at Ariel University in the occupied West Bank that aims to use DNA testing to identify — and recreate — ancient wines drunk by the likes of King David and Jesus Christ.

Eliyashiv Drori, the Ariel oenologist who heads the research, traces marawi (also called hamdani) and jandali grapes to A.D. 220 based on a reference in the Babylonian Talmud.

“All our scriptures are full with wine and with grapes — before the French were even thinking about making wine, we were exporting wine,” he said. “We have a very ancient identity, and for me, reconstructing this identity is very important. For me, it’s a matter of national pride.”

As usual with anything to do with Israel and the West Bank, the politics are complicated. Potentially related stories are noted here, here, here, and links.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Review of Spiró, Captivity

BOOK REVIEW: (Adam Kirsch, Tablet).
Captivity, the newly translated novel by the Hungarian writer György Spiró, offers a good reminder not to judge a book by its cover. When I first saw this particular cover, with its black background, stark white typography, and surreally floating sculptured bust, the imagery—combined with the book’s Central European provenance, gloomy title, and Jewish focus—made me think that this would be a brooding modernist enigma of a book, perhaps along the lines of Imre Kertész’s Holocaust fictions. In fact, Captivity turns out to be just the opposite—a sprawling (more than 800 pages), picturesque, old-fashioned historical novel about the Roman Empire, in the showy tradition of Ben Hur and I, Claudius. In fact, both Jesus and Claudius, the main characters of those books, make cameo appearances in Captivity, as do other boldface names of the 1st century CE, including Caligula, Pontius Pilate, and Philo of Alexandria. What sets Captivity apart is that it makes the rare attempt to view all these historical phenomena—from the rise of Christianity to the flamboyant vices of the emperors—through a distinctively Jewish lens.

Another recent review was noted here.

Di Segni et al., The Onomasticon of Iudaea

The Onomasticon of Iudaea · Palaestina and Arabia in the Greek and Latin Sources
Volume I: Introduction, Sources, Major Texts

Leah Di Segni
Yoram Tsafrir
Judith Green
Date of publication: 2015
Division: Humanities
Subject/s: Archaeology
Mediaeval Languages and Literatures
General Humanities
Classical Studies
Ancient Languages and Literatures

Series: Publications in the Humanities
Language: English ISBN 978-965-208-201-5
Price: NIS 240.00

The Onomasticon, a monumental endeavor begun in the 1960s by the late Prof. Michael Avi-Yonah, collates all the known Greek and Latin literary and documentary sources mentioning geographical and ethnic names attested in Iudaea, under the Hasmonaean and Herodian dynasties, and in the Roman and Byzantine provinces of Palaestina and Arabia - an area today spread over Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Sinai and southern Syria.
The source texts, dating from the fourth century BCE to the seventh century CE, are culled from over 1,300 texts by more than 750 separate authors, and from papyri, inscriptions and coins. The individual place names are arranged in alphabetical entries, each presenting a comprehensive collection of excerpts from the texts in which that place is mentioned. Where possible, the places are identified and described on the basis of up-to-date archaeological and bibliographical research.
Volume I contains an annotated bibliography of the primary source texts, a collection of major texts from which many of the sources in the alphabetical entries are excerpted, and a listing of all the place names covered in the series. Volume II, in two parts, will contain the entries for geographical names beginning with the letter A, including the massive entry for Arabia.

456 pp., two foldout maps. 18 × 27 cm. Hardback (Cloth).

Zfatman, Jewish Exorcism in Early Modern Ashkenaz

Jewish Exorcism in Early Modern Ashkenaz

By Sara Zfatman

Printed book $ 46.00 $ 41.40
Online book & Download $ 34.50
Publisher: The Hebrew University Magnes Press
Folklore, Yiddish, Jewish Studies
Publish date: November 2015
Language: Hebrew
Danacode: 45-341100
ISBN: 978-965-493-804-4
Cover: Hardcover
Pages: 597
Weight: 1400 gr.

An exorcism which took place in 1696 in Nikolsburg, Moravia (today Mikulov, Czech Republic) is the focus of this book. The description of this grandiose magic event reached us in two different versions: one well-known, in Hebrew became a model for this folk-genre in the 18th century; the other in Yiddish, remained unknown until now and is published here in full for the first time .The analysis includes a thorough comparison between these two competing descriptions, the identification of the participants – with special emphasis on their Sabbatean background and connections, as well as an identification of the specific ‘manual for exorcism’ used in this event (also published here in full, along other esoteric manuals of its kind).

Through a thorough examination of the paradigmatic exorcism which took place in Moravia in 1696 and of its deep influence on the exorcism tales of the following generations, this book sheds new light on the central role magic in general and exorcism in particular played in the rich and multi-faceted cultural life of Ashkenazic Jews in the early modern period.
Exorcism traditions in Judaism go back to David and Saul, are well-known from the Second Temple period (mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls and by Josephus and the New Testament), come up in the rabbinic literature, and extend to modernity.

Review of Cumont, Les mystères de Mithra

Franz Cumont, Les mystères de Mithra (volume édité par Nicole Belayche & Attilio Mastrocinque avec la collaboration de Daniela Bonanno). Bibliotheca Cumontiana. Scripta maiora, 3. Savigliano: Nino Aragno Editore, 2013. Pp. xc, 258. ISBN 9788884196101. €70.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Matthew M. McCarty, University of British Columbia (


An era when even the whisper of terms like “doctrine” or “belief” sends historians of Roman religion scurrying may seem like a strange time to re-issue Franz Cumont’s turn-of-the-twentieth-century synthesis of Mithraism. After all, it was Cumont who forged disparate textual and visual remains related to Mithras into a coherent system of ideas and spiritual content, into something that resembled a nineteenth-century, Protestant-looking “World Religion.” Yet this volume, with its rich historiographic introductory essays and inclusion of Cumont’s previously unpublished essay on the spread of Mithraism, offers much to those interested in the historiography of Classical and religious studies, as well as a chance to reflect critically on the method and practice of ancient history.


Smith's Jerusalem online

OLD BUT STILL USEFUL: George Adam Smith’s “Jerusalem” (2 Vols) online (Biblical Archaeology Blog).