Saturday, December 19, 2015

Bauckham on the Kursi inscription

RICHARD BAUCKHAM has e-mailed with some reflections on the recently-discovered Aramaic inscription found on a marble tablet near the Sea of Galilee. I reproduce his message with his kind permission.
The statements attributed in the press to Michal Artzi are rather inaccurate and muddled. (Of course, we need not blame her for what she is reported as saying.)

The name Kursi is first attested unequivocally in the sixth century (in Greek as Χορσια). The first explicit evidence associating it with the miracle of the pigs is from the eighth century, but it was already a site that Christian pilgrims visited in the sixth century and so that association may well be older, but we do not know how old.

There is also one rabbinic reference to a Jewish settlement called כורסאי (y. Mo'ed. Qat. 82c), which may be the same place. (I assume this is the passage intended when it is reported that the new discovery "proves the historical accuracy of one of the Talmudic passages.")

It seems odd that, having discovered an inscription from c. 500 CE (it would be interesting to know how they date it), the archaeologists should go to the New Testament in search of evidence for the Jewish settlement there. The NT story is set in the "land of the Gerasenes/Gergesenes/Gadarenes", and refers to a city, but the city is not necessarily very near to the site of the miracle. I think it was probably Hippos. But wherever it was it was a GENTILE city (they kept pigs)!

We already knew there was a Byzantine Christian settlement, attached to a large monastery, that has been excavated. The archaeologists seem to have found evidence of a separate Jewish settlement near the harbour. This is not especially surprising. There is plenty of evidence of Jewish settlements in the Golan in that period. The lake near Kursi was one of the very best parts of the lake for fishing.

There seems to me nothing in all this that gives "significant support" (or any support at all) to the location of the miracle of pigs at this site.

Artzi is also quoted as saying "Until now we had no proof that Jewish settlements, which have disappeared over the years, actually existed during that period on the shores of the Sea of ​​Galilee, except for the town of Migdal.” Actually Magdala (Migdal) was abandoned after the earthquake of 363 CE. What about Tiberias? By 500 there was a Christian presence there, but surely still a mainly Jewish population?

I'm sure you must be right about מרמריה. "Lady Mary" would have to be מרתא מריה surely? I see the more recent press reports are saying the word most likely means "marble" - perhaps because they have read your post?
Yes, most of the reports now say that the inscription is in Aramaic, and the ones at Breitbart, Christian Today, The Blaze, Haaretz, and even the University of Haifa press release (the latter two apparently updated) give "marble" as one option for the meaning of the word. Haaretz and Haifa University correctly say that it is the more probable option. You heard it first at PaleoJudaica!


Volumes 1 through 43 of the Bulletin of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (BIOSCS) are available in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format. They are made available here with the kind assent of Eisenbrauns, which now publishes our Journal. IOSCS itself printed the first 33 volumes.

IOSCS is thankful that Eisenbrauns took over professional publication of the Bulletin and now the Journal, beginning with volume 34. Printed back issues of many volumes of BIOSCS are in stock and available from Eisenbrauns.

Beginning with volume 44, the Journal is known as the Journal of Septuagint and Cognate Studies (JSCS).

Star Wars and the Bible

CANONICAL AND NONCANONICAL: The Saga Continues. Devotees of Star Wars and the Bible have something in common: they have expanded the universes of each text through sheer creativity, even taking ownership of them along the way (David Zvi Kalman, Tablet Magazine). Excerpt:
Both the Bible and Star Wars comprise a set a interconnected and largely self-consistent stories. Both also feature a distinction between the central, authorized canon of material and a set of related but peripheral works (Star Wars’ “Legends,” Biblical apocrypha and, in different way, midrash). Forgetting for a moment that the Bible is more important by orders of magnitude—Star Wars gave us “May the Force be with you” while the Bible gave us fundamental aspects of modern English, and it wasn’t even written in English—the two share an important quality: both canons continue to expand. Both fans of Star Wars and followers of the Bible donate to these works their attention and money, but also their individual talents, their unique and best selves. These devotees can do more than just enjoy and learn from the seminal texts; they can add to them and, in doing so, claim some form of ownership, a time-share’s worth of a cultural edifice.
Some interesting reflections for those interested in midrash and biblical apocrypha and pseudepigrapha. I agree that "the Bible is more important by orders of magnitude," but I often find that younger people today know Star Wars far better than they know the Bible. Perhaps we should find their lack of faith disturbing, but that's how it is and I adapt my teaching accordingly.

I haven't yet seen the new Star Wars movie, but I have a ticket for Monday. I was horrified by the second trilogy and it put me off the whole thing. But I'll try to maintain an open mind for the new one.

Dead Sea Scrolls Fail

THE BAPTIST STANDARD: Noncanonical sources still influence Christian traditions (TERRY GOODRICH / BAYLOR UNIVERSITY). This is another article on Philip Jenkins's new book, The Many Faces of Christ. I was astonished to read the following howler in it (my bold-font emphasis):
“There’s this kind of myth that all these gospels went underground around the year 400 and were destroyed or lost,” Jenkins said.

But numerous have been found since the late 1770s—perhaps most notably in 1945, when farmers found a sealed jar near caves not far from the Egyptian city of Nag Hammadi. Inside were a dozen leather-bound papyrus books—termed the Dead Sea Scrolls— containing more than 50 texts, including some quotations attributed to Jesus.
No, those Coptic codices are termed the Nag Hammadi Library. The Dead Sea Scrolls are Jewish scrolls (not bound books) from centuries earlier. A few scholars have argued that the Dead Sea Scrolls included small Greek fragments of Christian texts from the New Testament, but these texts are so fragmentary that you can reconstruct them to make them into lots of things, and the vast majority of specialists have not found their arguments convincing.

Since this is attributed to Terry Goodrich, a media contact at Baylor, I did a little digging and found, just as I expected, that the original press release by her did not contain this error:
“There’s this kind of myth that all these gospels went underground around the year 400 and were destroyed or lost,” Jenkins said. But a number of texts have been found since the late 1770s — perhaps most notably in 1945, when farmers found a sealed jar near caves not far from the Egyptian city of Nag Hammadi. Inside were a dozen leather-bound papyrus books containing more than 50 texts — some of them including quotations attributed to Jesus.
How on earth, and why, did the Baptist Standard introduce the change? Has someone been reading The Da Vinci Code?

UPDATE (21 December): The Baptist Standard has now published a correction: Letter: Nag Hammadi is not near the Dead Sea (Stephen Fox).

SBL Pseudepigrapha CFP

LIV INGEBORG LIED: Pseudepigrapha Section CFP, SBL Annual Meeting 2016. That's right. It's already time to start thinking about your paper for the November 2016 Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting in San Antonio.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Review of Rüpke (ed.), Public and Private in Ancient Mediterranean Law and Religion

Clifford Ando, Jörg Rüpke (ed.), Public and Private in Ancient Mediterranean Law and Religion. Religionsgeschichtliche Versuche und Vorarbeiten vol. 65. Berlin, Munich, Boston: De Gruyter, 2015. Pp. viii, 255. ISBN 9783110371024. €99.95.

Reviewed by Anders Klostergaard Petersen, University of Aarhus (


Most contributions in this collection of essays originate from a conference held at the Max Weber Center of Erfurt. The collection arises from the cooperation between two internationally esteemed centers for the study of antiquity: the Center for the Study of Ancient Religion at the University of Chicago and the research group “Religious Individualization in Historical Perspective” under the auspices of the Max Weber Center. It is reasonable to have great expectations to a volume edited by two prolific scholars in the field, Clifford Ando and Jörg Rüpke, all the more so since the book is targeted on truly moot questions. The papers focus on the private-public binary in the context of Mediterranean antiquity in two correspondingly contested realms: law and religion.

In their introduction, the editors are keen to point out two a priori principles on which the book rests. First, they take the ideologically contingent nature pertaining to the private-public dualism, its definition and its salience, as an axiomatic point of departure. Second, they give emphasis to the fact that the concepts examined interact with equally charged notions of family, household, and the people as a political collective entity. These are lexemes with corollary phenomenological substantiation, an intrinsic part of the field under scrutiny, and, therefore, likely to exert influence on the manner in which the discussion is conducted at the third order level of analysis. To tackle these issues, the participants endeavor to create a historical comparative project meant to avoid the dangers of presentism. In the ancient context, the notions of public and private were, from the etic perspective, deeply ingrained, whereas in contemporary Western societies they have increasingly come to denote (semi-)autonomous realms.

Two of the essays deal with rabbinic evidence.

Oqimta 2 (2014)

H-JUDAIC: TOC: Volume 2 of Oqimta - A Journal for Rabbinic Studies.

Yes, I know that this is 2015, but the date given is 2014.

Most of the articles are in Hebrew, but with English summaries.

Hannibal at Trebia

PUNIC WATCH: On this day: Hannibal defeats the Romans at Trebia (The Scotsman).
218BC: Hannibal’s Cathaginian army defeated the Romans at the Battle of the Trebia during the second Punic War.
You can read about the details of the battle at Military History at Second Punic War: Battle of the Trebia (Kennedy Hickman).
The victory at Trebia was Hannibal's first great triumph in Italy and would be followed by others at Lake Trasimene (217 BC) and Cannae (216 BC). Despite these stunning victories, Hannibal was never able to completely defeat Rome, and was ultimately recalled to Carthage to aid in protecting the city from a Roman army. In the resulting battle at Zama (202 BC), he was beaten and Carthage was forced to make peace.

On the history of the study of the DSS

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Dead Sea Scrolls History: Looking Back on the Last 75 Years. Martin Abegg, Peter Flint and Andrew Perrin reflect on the Dead Sea Scrolls’ history (Megan Sauter).
With one of its long-term codirectors continuing on at the helm (Dr. Peter Flint) and the other (Dr. Martin Abegg) passing the baton to a new faculty member (Dr. Andrew Perrin), the leadership of the Trinity Western University Dead Sea Scrolls Institute—North America’s only research center dedicated to Qumran studies—provides a snapshot of both the perspectives of different generations of Dead Sea Scroll scholars and a view of the discipline’s past, present and future. In this exclusive Bible History Daily interview, these three colleagues reflect on some major moments in recent Qumran scholarship and pressing issues that lie ahead.

And note this in particular:
MS: We’re approaching the 75th anniversary of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. At this point, can young scholars still make a career out of Dead Sea Scrolls scholarship, or should students wishing to study the scrolls be encouraged in other directions?

Abegg: Yes, scrolls scholarship remains an ideal launching point for an academic career. The broader field of Biblical studies thrives on the collective basis of vibrant focused disciplines—just look at a program book of the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting. Yet it is hard to imagine that any of us—even the likes of Emanuel Tov or Eugene Ulrich— would be able to find a job teaching only the Dead Sea Scrolls. The scrolls, however, are ideally suited to serve any university’s Biblical, Jewish, theological and religious studies programs. Qumran scholarship requires Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic, the study of the foundational texts of Judaism and Christianity, knowledge of the early church and rabbinic Judaism, as well as familiarity with Israelite religion. Other such “niche studies” in the past (e.g., Ugaritic) cannot make the same claim. In fact—I might be so bold to say—it’s hard to imagine another research focus that would equip the early career Biblical studies scholar with such a broad preparation.
Wise words. In relation to that, see here.

Breed on canon

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Canon: Process, Not Product? (Brennan Breed). The third and final instalment of the AJR Forum on the biblical Canon. The first, by Timothy Lim, was noted here. The second, by Eva Mroczek, was noted here.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Killebrew and Faßbeck (eds.), Viewing Ancient Jewish Art and Archaeology

Viewing Ancient Jewish Art and Archaeology
VeHinnei Rachel - Essays in Honor of Rachel Hachlili

Edited by Ann E. Killebrew, Pennsylvania State University and Gabriele Faßbeck, University of Alabama
In honor of eminent archaeologist and historian of ancient Jewish art, Rachel Hachlili, friends and colleagues offer contributions in this festschrift which span the world of ancient Judaism both in Palestine and the Diaspora. Hachlili's distinctive research interests: synagogues, burial sites, and Jewish iconography receive particular attention in the volume. Archaeologists and historians present new material evidence from Galilee, Jerusalem, and Transjordan, contributing to the honoree’s fields of scholarly study. Fresh analyses of ancient Jewish art, essays on architecture, historical geography, and research history complete the volume and make it an enticing kaleidoscope of the vibrant field of scholarship that owes so much to Rachel.

Review of Gager, Who Made Early Christianity?

Kok on Gager, 'Who Made Early Christianity?: The Jewish Lives of the Apostle Paul'

John G. Gager
Reviewer: Michael Kok

John G. Gager. Who Made Early Christianity?: The Jewish Lives of the Apostle Paul. New York: Columbia University Press, 2015. 208 pp. $30.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-231-53937-1.

Reviewed by Michael Kok (The King's University)
Published on H-Judaic (December, 2015)
Commissioned by Matthew A. Kraus

The Jewish Reception of the Apostle Paul

Together with Lloyd Gaston and Stanley K. Stowers, John G. Gager developed the Sonderweg reading of the Pauline Epistles.[1] According to this model, Paul understood Christ to have opened up a “special path” to salvation for non-Jews distinct from the provision of salvation that was already available to Israel through the Sinai covenant. Despite its title, this book covers far more ground than ancient and modern Jewish interpretations of the Pauline corpus. It also explores the active participation of Diaspora Jewish populations in the civic life of Mediterranean societies and the range of Jewish and Christian social interactions in antiquity.

Past posts on the book are here and here.

Inscribed tablet found near Sea of Galilee

EPIGRAPHY: Discovery suggests Jews lived in Galilee 1,500 years ago. An ancient tablet featuring Hebrew letters has been excavated and is the best proof yet of a former Jewish town at the site (Itay Blumenthal, YNet News).
An archeological discovery near the Sea of Galilee may prove the presence of a Jewish settlement at the site 1,500 years ago.

The existence of an ancient settlement in the northeast Sea of Galilee became known to researchers by the early 1960s, when fragments of a large pier from the Byzantine period were found underwater. Researchers from Haifa University returned to the site last week following a drop in the water level and found a 1,500-year-old marble tablet bearing Hebrew letters – potential evidence for an ancient Jewish presence.

"This discovery bolsters the belief, which was until now considered folklore, that this is the settlement of Kursi, which Jesus visited and where he performed 'the Miracle of the Swine,'" said Professor Michal Artzy, who directed excavations at the site.

The compound in which the rare artifact was found has in recent years yielded evidence of a Christian city from the fifth century AD.

Two words have been identified on the tablet, which measures 150 by 70 centimeters: "amen" and "marmaria", a word that suggests a connection to the Virgin Mary.

This is a very important discovery for the history of Judaism in the Galilee in late antiquity. The potential connection with a site associated with a story about Jesus is also interesting, although let's keep in mind that the story is set several hundred years earlier than this inscription.

The last quoted sentence sounds a bit dubious to me. The word "marmaria" looks an awful lot like a word known from the Targumim (מרמירא) which is just a transliteration of the Greek word for "marble" (μάρμαρος). The specific spelling of the word in the inscription in Hebrew letters is not given, so I can't be certain, but, given that the object is a marble plaque, that interpretation sounds far more likely to me than any connection with Mary.

And on the subject of the language of the inscription, this report is careful to specify that it is written in "Hebrew letters" and not to claim that it is written in the Hebrew language. Other reports are less cautious, for example: 1,500 Year Old Hebrew Inscription Discovered on East Coast of Sea of Galilee (The Jewish Press); Israeli archaeologists find Hebrew inscriptions on ancient slab of marble near Lake Kinneret (Jerusalem Post). Caution is warranted because, from what I can see of the published photo, it looks to me as though it could well be written in Aramaic. The word "amen," of course, is used in both Hebrew and Aramaic. That word for "marble" above is found in the Aramaic Targumim (see Jastrow, 844b). And on the photo on line 1, I see what could be יקר or יקרה, which means "glory" or "honor" in Aramaic (but it also appears more rarely in Hebrew meaning "precious" or "valuable"). On line 4, I see אתרה, which means "the place" or "the synagogue" in Aramaic and סייע, which is a root in both Aramaic and Hebrew meaning "to aid or support." On line 5, I see the word יברך, which could be "he shall bless" in either Hebrew and Aramaic. I don't have any more time to puzzle out the inscription, but what I see is adding up to Aramaic more than Hebrew.

Cross-file under "Aramaic Watch?"

UPDATE: I see from the original Hebrew version of this article that the word "marmaria" is spelled מרמריה. [I'm revising an earlier comment here, since after a closer look, I see that the spelling is very similar (and there is even some variation of the spelling in the Targumim), but it is not quite the same. I still think the word in the inscription is far more likely to mean "marble" than to have anything to do with the Virgin Mary.]

Yale postdoc in Ancient Judaism/Jewish History

H-JUDAIC: JOB: Yale University Postdoc in Ancient Judaism/Jewish History.
Yale University, Program in Judaic Studies, Postdoctoral Associate in
Ancient Judaism/Jewish History, 2016-2018
Follow the link for details. The application deadline is 8 February 2016.


YONA SABAR: Hebrew word of the week: Yeshu/Jesus. 'Tis the Season.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Smelik on the Targum

AJS PERSPECTIVES: The Translation as a Bilingual Text: The Curious Case of the Targum (Willem F. Smelik).
A targum (an Aramaic translation of Scripture) is a translation that does not come alone: hardly ever is it left unattended by its parent text, the Hebrew Bible. While it may play, it is always supervised, its game subject to specific rules. A targum is not supposed to ever leave home and strike out on its own. The reasons for this peculiar and probably unique conception of translation as one part of a bilingual text are to be sought in contemporary rabbinic views on how to read and translate the Hebrew Bible.


Kister et al. (eds.), Tradition, Transmission, and Transformation

Tradition, Transmission, and Transformation from Second Temple Literature through Judaism and Christianity in Late Antiquity
Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Symposium of the Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Associated Literature, Jointly Sponsored by the Hebrew University Center for the Study of Christianity, 22–24 February, 2011

Edited by Menahem Kister, Hillel I. Newman, Michael Segal, and Ruth A. Clements
Many types of tradition and interpretation found in later Jewish and Christian writings trace their origins to the Second Temple period, but their transmission and transformation followed different paths within the two religious communities. For example, while Christians often translated and transmitted discrete Second Temple texts, rabbinic Judaism generally preserved earlier traditions integrated into new literary frameworks. In both cases, ancient traditions were often transformed to serve new purposes but continued to bear witness to their ancient roots. Later compositions may even provide the key to clarifying obscurities in earlier texts. The contributions in this volume explore the dynamics by which earlier texts and traditions were transmitted and transformed in these later bodies of literature and their attendant cultural contexts.

Unearthing the World of Jesus

SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE: Unearthing the World of Jesus. Surprising archaeological finds are breaking new ground in our understanding of Jesus’s time—and the revolution he launched 2,000 years ago (Ariel Sabar). This article focuses on the Galilee in the first-century. Magdala gets a lot of space, but other sites such as Bethsaida receive some attention too. Excerpt:
What archaeologists have begun to recover is Jesus’s world—the beat of everyday life in the fishing villages where he is said to have planted the seeds of a movement. The deepest insights have come from millions of “small finds” gathered over decades of painstaking excavation: pottery shards, coins, glassware, animal bones, fishing hooks, cobbled streets, courtyard houses and other simple structures.

Before such discoveries, a long line of (mostly Christian) theologians had sought to reinterpret the New Testament in a way that stripped Jesus of his Judaism. Depending on the writer, Jesus was either a man who, though nominally Jewish, wandered freely among pagans; or he was a secular gadfly inspired less by the Hebrews than by the Greek Cynics, shaggy-haired loners who roamed the countryside irritating the powers that be with biting one-liners.

Archaeology showed once and for all that the people and places closest to Jesus were deeply Jewish. To judge by the bone finds, Galileans didn’t eat pig. To judge by the limestone jugs, they stored liquids in vessels that complied with the strictest Jewish purity laws. Their coins lacked likenesses of humans or animals, in keeping with the Second Commandment against graven images.

Hanukkah at the Arch of Titus

YU NEWS: Hanukkah at the Arch of Titus. Professor Steven Fine Reflects on Jewish View of Menorah Depicted on the Arch of Titus Through the Ages.
Where the miracle and hope of Hanukkah celebrates the ascending lights of the menorah, a new lamp set ablaze each night (a process that is paralleled in the heavens as the days begin to lengthen with the winter solstice, roughly during Hanukkah), the Arch of Titus menorah is dark, carried by reveling heathen soldiers in a triumphal parade and into a triumphal museum built by Titus’ father, the emperor Vespasian. In truly Orwellian language, this museum was called the “Temple of Peace.”

Yet looking up at the menorah of the Arch of Titus, our ancestors have often conjured a far more positive image, one that bears a positive lesson for us today.
Lots more on the Arch of Titus here and just keep following those links.

García Martínez, Revelación, Autoridad y Canon en Qumrán

NEW ARTICLE: García Martínez, Florentino, "Revelación, Autoridad y Canon en Qumrân." Published in Revelación, Escritura, Interpretación. Estudios en honor del Prof. D. Gonzalo Aranda Pérez pages:87-108. Via Masora digital.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Brooke and Hempel (eds.), The T&T Clark Companion to the Dead Sea Scrolls

FORTHCOMING BOOK: The T&T Clark Companion to the Dead Sea Scrolls, Table of Contents of this Volume forthcoming (

The decline of piety according to the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Your Bubbe Was Not More Jewish Than You Are. The Talmud debunks the myth of declining Jewish piety.
Reading Daf Yomi, one of the things that has most interested me is the Talmud’s picture of the Jewish society of its day. It’s easy to assume that, because the rabbis who assembled the Mishna and the Gemara were exceptionally learned and pious, the Jewish world they lived in was itself extremely devout. Surely the Jews of Palestine and Babylonia in the 1st centuries C.E. would put American Jews to shame with their Jewish knowledge and practice! Yet that is certainly not the way the rabbis of the Talmud understood their world. On the contrary, the impression they give is of a Jewish community divided between a very pious elite—the people the Talmud calls chaverim, “friends,” who took care to scrupulously follow the law—and an ignorant, unreliable mass of ordinary Jews, the am ha’aretz. What’s more, as we saw in this week’s Daf Yomi reading, the rabbis were convinced that they stood at the end of a long, irreversible decline in Jewish piety. If we think that Jews who lived centuries ago were better Jews than we are today, the Jews of centuries ago thought exactly the same thing.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Review of Jenkins, The Many Faces of Christ

NEW TESTAMENT APOCRYPHA WATCH: Book review: 'Many Faces of Christ' discusses evolution of church (Michael L. Ramsey, The Roanoke Times).
We know Christ from the paintings and writings of Europeans. We also know him from the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the Pauline letters and other books in the New Testament. After the Church allied itself with the Roman Empire in A.D. 336, many other gospels were removed from the canon of Christianity and were lost — or were they?

Philip Jenkins, distinguished professor of history at Baylor University, presents in his new work “The Many Faces of Christ” stories of how the lost gospels were not lost at all. The subtitle, “The Thousand Year Story of the Survival and Influence of the Lost Gospels,” answers the question of whether theses writings were lost or just excluded from readings approved by councils of the established church.

More on the book is here and links

I. Howard Marshall, 1934-2015

SAD NEWS: This weekend brought the sad news of the death of Emeritus Professor I. Howard Marshall, retired from Aberdeen University. I quote the notice by Paul Middleton to the British New Testament Society List:
Colleagues will be saddened to learn of the death of Prof. Ian Howard Marshall at the weekend, aged 81.

Prof. Marshall was Emeritus Professor of New Testament Exegesis at the University of Aberdeen. He took his MA, BD, and PhD from Aberdeen and began teaching there in 1964, becoming Professor in 1979.

He was the author of dozens of volumes, including commentaries on Luke (NIGTC, 1978), the Epistles of John (NICNT, 1978), Acts (TNTC, 1980), 1 and 2 Thessalonians (NCB, 1983), 1 Peter (IVP, 1991), Philippians (Epworth, 1992), and the Pastoral Epistles (ICC, 1999). He also published many significant books on New Testament Theology and Interpretation, including New Testament Theology: Many Witnesses, One Gospel (IVP, 2004).

Prof. Marshall was a former President of the British New Testament Society, and will be sadly missed.

Dr Paul Middleton
Secretary, The British New Testament Society
Howard was a prolific and massively influential scholar and a very nice guy. I know I have seen him in recent years at the annual British New Testament Conference in September, although I cannot remember if he was there this year in Edinburgh. Other notices of his death: by James McGrath here and by Michael Bird here. Requiescat in pace.

UPDATE: A notice by Mark Goodacre is here, and he links to others.

Does the Magdala Stone explain Jesus' execution?

CANDIDA MOSS: Is This Stone the Clue to Why Jesus Was Killed? A stone found in Israel with carvings of a chariot may be the key to understanding the charge of blasphemy leveled at Jesus Christ (The Daily Beast).

The stone is the Magdala Stone, on which more here. I have posted a photo of it here.

Even if we grant that the Magdala Stone showed a chariot in the holy of holies in the Jerusalem Temple, any connection with the execution of Jesus seems to me far-fetched. First, the idea that the heavenly Temple had chariots within it is very ancient, going back at least to the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice in the Dead Sea Scrolls. And the Chronicler explicitly states (more or less - the text is difficult) that King David put a "golden chariot (of) the cherubim" in the holy of holies of the earthly Temple and that their wings were spread over the ark of the covenant (1 Chronicles 28:18). So the idea is hardly new.

Second, I see no reference to the divine chariot in Mark 14:62. Jesus is quoted as alluding to the enthronement of the Davidic King alongside God in Psalm 110:1 and the coming of the son of man on the clouds of heaven in Daniel 7:13. I grant that claiming to be the heavenly Davidic King and the Danielic one like a son of man is not blasphemous by first-century Jewish standards, although it would have been considered megalomaniacal and quite possibly (especially by the Romans) seditious. But it is not at all easy to read the divine chariot into what Jesus is presented as saying, so I don't see that the Magdala Stone, interesting though it is, is very helpful for that issue. But, as always, such matter should be argued in the peer-review literature.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Was Isaiah's Rabshakeh an exiled Israelite?

How Did Rabshakeh Know the Language of Judah?

Article from Marbeh Ḥokmah: Studies in the Bible and the Ancient Near East in Loving Memory of Victor Avigdor Hurowitz (Winona Lake, Indiana : Eisenbrauns, 2015).

By Yigal Levin
Bar-Ilan University
December 2015
Interesting and not-implausible proposal.

That Coptic magical handbook

COPTIC WATCH: Thousand-year-old ‘Egyptian Handbook of Ritual Power’ deciphered (Nina Awad, StepFeed).
Researchers at the Macquarie universities in New South Wales, Australia, gave deciphered a 1,300-year-old Egyptian manuscript believed to be a manual on how to use and create magical spells.

The manuscript, which has been dubbed the “Egyptian Handbook of Ritual Power” by scientific researchers and scholars, was first found by a merchant in the late ’70s and though numerous attempts were made to decode the contexts of the ancient document, all attempts seemed fruitless.

With 20 pages deciphered, researchers believe that due to the way it was written, the handbook most likely came from some place in Upper Egypt and was probably created by a member of the Sethians, a minority group that worshiped Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve.

The publication of the manuscript was noted here in November, but this article has additional information.

Sanders on early Jewish myths

PHIADELPHIA SEMINAR ON CHRISTIAN ORIGINS: PSCO Presentation: 3 December 2015:) "Where Did Early Judaism Get Its Myths? Enoch and the Making of a Modern Academic Tradition" Seth Sanders (UC Davis) (Audio file.)

Metatron Gets Pumped, Crashes Horribly

ARCHANGEL METATRON WATCH: Metatron Inc (OTCMKTS:MRNJ) Gets Pumped, Crashes Horribly (Georgi Kamburov, Hot Stocked).

Not the first time this has happened to an archangel.

Bibliographia Iranica

AWOL: Bibliographia Iranica. Regular readers of PaleoJudaica are well familiar with this site, but it's good to see it getting more publicity.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Roman Calendar in Rabbinic Sources

LECTURE: ‘A Matter of Time: The Roman Calendar in Rabbinic Sources’ at YINR (ELLIN HEILMAN, The Jewish Link).
Sarit Kattan Gribetz, assistant professor of historical theology at Fordham University, will be speaking on “A Matter of Time: The Roman Calendar in Rabbinic Sources.” This lecture, part of the continuing series presented by WIJS (Women’s Initiative for Jewish Studies) will be presented on Tuesday evening, January 12, 7:45 p.m. at the Young Israel of New Rochelle (1149 North Avenue, New Rochelle, N.Y.).


Review of Quack and Luft (eds.), Erscheinungsformen und Handhabungen Heiliger Schriften

Joachim Friedrich Quack, Daniela Luft (ed.), Erscheinungsformen und Handhabungen Heiliger Schriften. Materiale Textkulturen, Bd 5. Berlin; München; Boston: De Gruyter, 2014. Pp. vii, 349. ISBN 9783110371246. €89.95.

Reviewed by Geert Lernout, University of Antwerp (


This collection of studies is the fifth volume in De Gruyter’s series on “material text cultures” and is based on papers given at a conference in Heidelberg in 2011. Most of the material texts dealt with in the volume are “sacred texts”; an introductory chapter by the second editor attempts to define this term, which is not easy given the wide diversity of cultures involved—from ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia to China and contemporary Bali.

Jewish and Christian texts receive attention as well.

Peter Head has noted the review over at ETC: The physical appearance and handling of sacred texts in terms of material text culture.

Resources on the Cultural Crisis in the Near East

ASOR BLOG: Resources on the Cultural Crisis in the Near East.
The scale of the human crisis in Syria has expanded and now involves Europe. Damage to archaeological and heritage sites also continues at an alarming rate. We present here a series of new and important links discussing the ongoing cultural disaster.
Grim but important reading.

Related PaleoJudaica posts are here and here and many links.

Nordic excursion to Ethiopia

LIV INGEBORG LIED: NNJCI excursion/seminar to Ethiopia.
The Nordic Network for the Study of Judaism, Christianity and Islam in the First Millennium (NNJCI) is proud to present its new seminar on Ethiopian Christianity and its contacts with Jewish and Islamic traditions. This is a unique opportunity to visit Ethiopia, its several awe-inspiring places (such as the stone hewn churches in Lalibela, the ancient Aksum and several monasteries) in the guidance of both local and Nordic experts.

The duration of the seminar is two weeks (October 23 to November 6, 2016). It will include preparatory readings and short presentations of each participants which equals 5 ECTS. The seminar is primarily intended for PhD-students, but it will also be open for advanced master’s students and postdoctoral researchers.
Follow the link for further particulars.

Coptic database

AWOL: Banque de données des textes coptes documentaires - Brussels Coptic Database.
Welcome to the site of the database of the Coptic documentary texts of the "Centre de Papyrologie et d'Épigraphie Grecque" of the Université Libre de Bruxelles.

Another Coptic database is always a good thing.