Saturday, March 12, 2016

Review of "The Young Messiah"

JAMES MCGRATH: The Young Messiah.
On the whole, I found the movie enjoyable throughout and profoundly moving in key moments. And so for anyone who is able to enjoy a good movie, a good story, without having it spoiled by nitpicking of historical details, this movie is one that I can highly recommend. But I also recommend that historians and scholars do that nitpicking, so that it is clear that this is a fascinating imaginative exploration of what the childhood of Jesus might have been like, and not a historical reconstruction, much less a depiction of “what really happened.”
Sounds reasonable.

Brill Esotericism Reference Library

Brill Esotericism Reference Library

Editor in Chief: Wouter J. Hanegraaff, University of Amsterdam
Since the publication of the critically acclaimed Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism (ed. W.J. Hanegraaff) in 2005, there has been a lively debate about how best to define and demarcate the expanding field of ‘Esotericism’. The DGWE addressed the Hellenistic culture of Late Antiquity, esotericism in Christian culture, and post-Christian developments in the context of modernization, with a dominant focus on English, French, German, and Italian culture. The Brill Esotericism Reference Library builds upon those foundations while significantly expanding them as well. The series as a whole will take a global perspective, and individual volumes will feature dimensions of esotericism and gnosis that have come to the forefront in recent years. The Brill Esotericism Reference Library is the first encyclopaedic series of its kind, and strives to be the most reliable source of historical and factual information on esotericism and related fields of study.

Walsh on religious violence

DAVID WALSH: ‘Religious’ Violence in Antiquity?. A response to David Frankfurter's recent post in the religious violence series at Ancient Jew Review, using the Christianization of the mithraeum in Hawarte as a case study.


Coptic congress at Claremont

COPTIC WATCH: INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR COPTIC STUDIES (IACS) 11th International Congress of Coptic Studies Claremont Graduate University, California, USA July 25-30, 2016. The full (very full) program of papers is listed.

Attention, Ashkelon excavation veterans!

Dear James,

Over the last few months, we have heard from many of you about your experiences at Ashkelon. Thank you for sharing these memories. We did notice that while we able to reach many using email, there are an equal number of Ashkelon contributors whose current emails were unavailable to us. We would be grateful if you could help us spread the word- both the information from our last letter, and the news below- through social media. As we look forward to the final season, we want to involve as many of you as possible in the special week that we are planning.

From July 4th-July 10th, we will be having a celebration of the history of the excavation, and we invite you to join us and even to excavate with us one last time. For any former Ashkelon participants who are interested in excavating with us in the final season, we have set aside the first week of July for a week of excavation and daily tours. If you are interested, you can reserve your space at the excavation hotel by filling out the following form:

If you are in Israel during that week, but cannot join us to dig, I hope you will mark two special days on your calendars. On Thursday evening, July 7th, join us for a final ceremony and dinner with the National Parks Authority at Ashkelon. We will have a dinner in the park, a few speeches, and you will have a chance to visit the dig one final time. If you can come to this event, please RSVP to by July 1st. On Sunday evening, July 10th, we will have a celebratory gala in Jerusalem at the Rockefeller Museum. This evening will celebrate the opening of an exhibition on Ashkelon which will bring together highlights from the Leon Levy Expedition and the permanent collection of the Rockefeller Museum. We should have formal invitation for the opening later in the spring.

We look forward to seeing you in person this summer as we celebrate thirty years of the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon.


Larry Stager and Daniel Master

On Tue, Sep 29, 2015 at 2:51 PM, Daniel Master wrote:
Dear James,

Greetings from the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon. We have been searching through our records to contact everyone who has had a hand in contributing to the Ashkelon project since 1985. We have not found everyone, but, by our count, more than fourteen hundred people have participated. Nothing the excavation has done would have been possible without your support, and we thank you for digging with us.

For more than thirty years, we have had the privilege of working at one of the great sites in the Eastern Mediterranean and uncovering history from the Chalcolithic period through the Crusades. As many of you may know, 2016 will mark the end of active fieldwork for the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon. In light of this milestone, we hope to make 2016 a year of reminiscence and celebration for all that the excavation has accomplished in the past thirty years, and we welcome your participation.

Your histories at Ashkelon are an important part of the history of the excavation, and we invite you share your memories. We would love to hear about the finds that you discovered, the people who influenced you, and the way Ashkelon shaped the years that followed. We plan to compile these memories so that your story can join the archive of the excavation. Text and photographs can be sent to where Tracy [Alsberg] Hoffman and Heather Campbell will curate your submissions. Tracy will be blogging this year at the excavation website ( with more images from past seasons.

In July of 2016, the dig will be hosting a week of festivities marking the final season. As always, you are invited to return to Ashkelon, either as part of the 2016 excavation team or as a visitor during our celebratory week. We will send more information about these events in the coming months, but, whether or not you are able to join us in Israel, we hope that Ashkelon will be on your mind in the upcoming year. We look forward to celebrating your contributions to thirty years of the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon.


Larry Stager and Daniel Master
I was an assistant square supervisor at the Ashkelon excavation in 1987-88. There are many past PaleoJudaica posts on the Ashkelon excavation and on the archaeology of Ashkelon in general. A few recent ones are here and links.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Video: Boyarin on Metatron

ARCHANGEL METATRON WATCH: Daniel Boyarin: Enoch or Jesus? The Quest of the Historical Metatron (Biblical Studies online).
Professor Daniel Boyarin (University of California, Berkeley) presents the 2016 Shaffer Lecture in Theology, at Yale Divinity School, in three parts, on March 8, 9, and 10. The topic of his series is “Enoch or Jesus? The Quest of the Historical Metatron”.

In the series, Professor Boyarin furthers his defence of the ancient roots of a greater and subordinate second god within Judaism, the “two powers in heaven”. In the lectures, he lays out the development of a complex binitarian theology in both early Judaism and early Christianity. He also disagrees with Peter Schäfer.
There are links to videos of three recent lectures by Professor Boyarin. Background on his published work on this subject and on Peter Schäfer's response to it is here and links.


Judith mosaics

OLD TESTAMENT APOCRYPHA WATCH: A tough woman from the 2nd Century BCE (Douglas Todd, The Vancouver Sun).
Metro Vancouver residents still have a couple of weeks to view a fresh feminist perspective on one of the more frequently depicted events of Biblical lore.

The art exhibit, Heroine of a Thousand Pieces: The Judith Mosaics of Lilian Broca, runs until March 31 at the Italian Cultural Centre, 3075 Slocan Street, Vancouver. Following that it will show from May 5 – July 4, 2016 at Columbus Centre in Toronto.

In the exhibit Broca employs glass mosaic to depict scenes related to accounts of Judith’s beheading of the Assyrian general Holofernes, a story found in the apocryphal Book of Judith, probably written about 150 BCE. It’s been the subject of many paintings and sculptures from the Renaissance and Baroque periods.

In the story, Judith, a beautiful Hebrew widow, is able to enter the tent of Holofernes because of his desire for her. Holofernes was about to destroy Judith’s home, the city of Bethulia. Overcome with drink, he passes out and is decapitated by Judith; his head is taken away in a basket.

Cross file under Decorative Art.

Punic War anniversary

PUNIC WATCH: Today in History: Momentous Roman victory over Carthage (241 BC) (JOHN ROBSON, TheRebel). With video and some counterfactual history inspired by G. K. Chesterton. The first Punic War ended on 10 March 214 BCE. But that didn't mean it was over ...


NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH SARAH: It’s biblical! This week: Serah (rabbi Daniel Epstein, Jewish News).
THIS WEEK: Serah I’m PRIVILEGED to be inaugurating this new series of Biblical biographies, so thought I’d venture into a lesser-known but perhaps the most intriguing of all of the personalities in the Hebrew Bible. Our forefather Jacob had a grand-daughter called Serah (pronounced “Serach”); daughter of Asher.

We know of her because in the Torah’s listing of Jacob’s 54 grandchildren, 53 are male and she is the only woman. A woman of significant importance, no doubt, but who is she?

She is first mentioned in the book of Genesis 46:17, in a listing of the 70 who journeyed to Egypt with Jacob, “And the sons of Asher…and Serah their sister…”, and again in the book of Bamidbar (Numbers 26:46) as one of the family of Asher who escaped Egypt after 210 years of slavery.

She also figures in Targum and Midrash.

Nasrallah on Bia

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: What Violence Does: Representing Bia in Antiquity (Laura Nasrallah).

Earlier essays in the series are noted here and links.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Schmid, Schriftgelehrte Traditionsliteratur

Schriftgelehrte Traditionsliteratur
Fallstudien zur innerbiblischen Schriftauslegung im Alten Testament

[Scribal Exegesis: Case Studies in the Inner-Biblical Interpretation of the Old Testament. Student Edition.]
2011; Unveränd. Studienausg. 2016. VIII, 339 pages.
Forschungen zum Alten Testament 77

39,00 €
ISBN 978-3-16-154364-7

Published in German.
Recent research has shown that the Old Testament books largely consist of both text and commentary in one. The composition of the Old Testament as a written text can be interpreted as the differentiated process of scriptural exegesis within the Bible, a process which repeatedly updated traditional texts in order to apply them to new historical situations. It was not until the texts became canonical that the texts and commentaries were separated permanently. The various studies by Konrad Schmid in this volume investigates the culture of writing and the composition of literary works in ancient Israel, presents several case studies of inner-biblical exegesis in the Old Testament and reflects on the resulting theological significance. The image of the Old Testament as traditional scribal literature as portrayed by recent Old Testament studies lays the foundation for a historically differentiated and theologically dynamic view of the Bible.
Originally published in 2011, but I did not note it then, so this is a good opportunity to do so.


YONA SABAR: Hebrew word of the week: Kasher/kosher. With a nod not only to kosher food, but to both the Israeli gym and the upcoming holiday of Purim.

Channeling Metatron

ARCHANGEL METATRON WATCH: Dede Hart Energy - Energy Clearing Just in Time for Spring (Deerfield Review, Chicago Tribune). As always with PaleoJudaica, my linking to a site does not necessarily count as an endorsement of that site. Here my interest is sociological: the Archangel Metatron is alive and well in the New Age realm.
Dede primarily works with the vibrational frequency of the arch angelic realm. The session is one hour of verbal discussion while the energy works its way through the body and auric field.
"After the session, many people are returned to their natural rhythms, bringing vibrant health and well-being."

As she sums it up perfectly, "Energy in action."

"I am currently working on completing a book of channelled sessions with Archangel Metatron called Spark: Igniting the Human Heart. I live in the Chicago area, and counsel clients in person and by phone."

More on ancient music

ANCIENT AUDIO: What does the oldest human music in the world sound like? Songs and melodies transcend time in a way no other language can. (STARRE VARTAN, Mother Nature Network). This is obviously a New Age site and should be used with caution, but Hurrian Hymn 6 and the Seikilos Epitaph are both real things. You can read more about the former here, on a page by retired UCLA Assyriologist Giorgio Buccellati.

All this further to yesterday's post "Ancient Jewish music?" I am very far from being a paleo-musicologist and I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the audio reconstructions of the Hurrian and Greek melodies. Nor can I say if they in any way illuminate our understanding of ancient Jewish music. I doubt it. But the songs are nice. Enjoy.

Heilig, Hidden Criticism?

Hidden Criticism?
The Methodology and Plausibility of the Search for a Counter-Imperial Subtext in Paul

[Versteckte Kritik? Die Methodologie und Plausibilität der Suche nach einem anti-imperialen Subtext in den Paulusbriefen.]

2015. XIII, 199 pages.
Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2. Reihe 392
69,00 €
sewn paper
ISBN 978-3-16-153795-0

Published in English.
Paul has been regarded as being uncritical of the Roman Empire for a long time, not least because of his apparent call to obey the state in Rom 13:1–7. However, recent scholarship has questioned this assumption by pointing to “hidden criticism” in the letters of the apostle. But how can we decide, in a methodologically sound way, whether such a counter-imperial message lies beneath the surface of the text? On the basis of insights from the philosophy of science, Christoph Heilig suggests several analytical steps for examining this paradigm. He concludes that the hypothesis that we can identify critical “echoes” of the Roman Empire in Paul's letters needs to be modified for it to be maintained. In particular, concern over the danger of overt criticism and subsequent persecution do not sufficiently justify this interpretative hypothesis. Nevertheless, Heilig concludes that the search for a counter-imperial subtext in Paul could turn out to be heuristically fruitful so long as the limitations of the approach are heeded. Hence, a re-evaluation of Pauline passages in light of Paul's engagement with ideas from his Roman environment is encouraged.
There's a little side story to this one. Before he started his PhD program in Göttingen, Dr Heilig received a Master's degree from the Divinity School of the University of St. Andrews. He just wrote to tell me that the excellent paper he wrote for my Second Temple Judaism class has now been published as the opening chapter of this book. Good to hear.

I don't have a copy of the book handy, but the title of the essay was "Veiled Critique of the Roman Empire in De Somniis 2?"

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Report on the 2015 Bethsaida excavation

The Consortium for the Bethsaida Excavation Project: Report on the 2015 Excavation Season

By Rami Arav, Carl Savage, Nicolae Roddy,Gregory C. Jenks, Vanessa Workman, Kenneth M. Bensimon
University of Nebraska, Omaha
Bethsaida Excavation
March 2016
There's more on the Bethsaida excavation here and here and links.

Women archaeologists at the City of David dig

IN HONOR OF INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY (YESTERDAY): In David’s Ancient City, Women Are Uncovering Amazing Things (Ariella Mendlowitz, Breaking Israel News).

MK Berko and Palestine: a clarification

PHOENICIAN OR PHILISTINE? Regular readers will recall the recent episode in which a speech by the Israeli MK Anat Berko was represented by many of the media to assert something that she did not in fact say. The issue arose because her comments touched on the origin and history of the word "Palestine," a subject that has been of interest to PaleoJudaica.

I also noted a later article in which she too set the record straight. In it she was quoted as saying, "The word 'Palestina' was taken from the biblical Pheonician [sic] people." This is obviously erroneous: the word comes from "Philistine." I corrected the error without commenting on who might responsible for it. Now reader Yoel writes with additional information that shows that she was not the one who made the mistake.
In your post you quoted the English version of Berko's interview where she supposedly says "The word 'Palestina' was taken from the biblical Pheonician people." This is an error by the translator since in the original Hebrew version she says "The word 'Palestina' was taken from the biblical Philistine people (המילה 'פלשתינה' לקוחה מהעם התנ"כי פלשתים)". So she was right after all.

And here's a video of her full speech with English subtitles.
So the media got that one wrong too. I am grateful for the clarification.

Please do watch the whole speech and decide for yourself whether MK Berko's comments deserved the teapot-tempest that the media created from them. The quoted comments begin at 5:17. And notice the sentence that was left out of the quotation in the New York Times: "But there is a Palestinian entity beside us, we don't deny it, we reach our our hands for peace, but nevertheless peace means ..." Then she was interrupted and didn't finish. And contrast this with the headline of the Times's article: "No ‘P’ in Arabic Means No Palestine, Israeli Lawmaker Says." And the article itself asserts that "Anat Berko, a conservative lawmaker from the governing Likud Party, said in Parliament that there could be no such place as Palestine because there is no P in Arabic." To be fair, Newsweek does quote the first clause of the sentence, but most of the other articles also ignore it.

All this makes me think of the famous quotation by the late novelist Michael Crichton about the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect:
“Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray's case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the "wet streets cause rain" stories. Paper's full of them.
In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.”
Nope, the media isn't more accurate about Palestine than they were about that baloney they wrote about your area of expertise. And this story is not just a matter of media error, although that is present. It also involves selective quotation and headlines/summaries slanted to present a narrative at odds with what the quoted person actually said. So let's turn this around. The next time you see something in the media about, oh, anything, especially anything controversial, remember MK Berko and the New York Times and the other media who helped propagate the narrative. Don't believe it until you check out the details for yourself.

Ancient Jewish music?

I DOUBT IT: Is this the sound of worship during Jesus’ time? (Dan Williams, Reuters).
The sacred chants of the ancient Jewish temples in Jerusalem are a long-lost art. But some musicologists believe the 2,000-year-old notes can be reconstructed by drawing on traditional prayer songs heard in synagogues today, extrapolating from the sounds of biblical instruments like the harp and observing medieval church incantation that has common roots in the Holy Land.

"Some musicologists" is not very helpful, nor is "some scholars" in the audio. Which scholars or musicologists think that ancient music can be reconstructed from these sources? All the specific specialists interviewed in the audio file are skeptical, and I share their skepticism. Predictably, I suppose, I want to see the case made in the peer-review literature before I take it seriously. This whole story seems to come out of efforts by Third-Temple enthusiasts to try to recreate Temple institutions and I can see no connection with real scholarly work on ancient history. As often with such matters, the media do not seem to be able to tell the difference.

The golem and the arts

GOLEM WATCH: Adelaide Festival review 2016: Golem (Tim Lloyd, The Advertiser). First, the performing arts:

Dunstan Playhouse, until March 13

GOLEM is a technical marvel above all else. Modern projectors that can put high intensity colour and resolution on a backdrop have evolved so rapidly that it seems as though the magic lantern shows have become young again.

In this 1927 theatre company production, animation and superb tromp l’oeil effects are put brilliantly together with live stage performances, transporting the show to a new realm of entertainment.

Golem is about that ancient figure of Hebrew culture, the being made of clay and brought to life to do the bidding of man.

Here, the man is the terminally pathetic figure of Robert, the natural born loser and nerd working in a geeky shop where everyone jokes in binary code. His only bright spot is his sister, Annie, who is in full flight raging against the system. He joins her in her punk protest band, Annie of the Underground, which has so far only played in the family cellar.


Everything changes when he is provided with a Golem by his friend Phil. The claymation Golem does his bidding, but rapidly turns into a nightmare of consumerism, full of short media bites and technicolour ideas that become more brazen until even Golem is superseded by his next, faster, brighter, model. Never has technology been used so well to question technology.

Then, under cartoon illustration: The Golem VS The Hulk (Rabbi Levi Welton, HuffPo). The writings of the Talmud, of course, were composed long after the second century. But the cartoon is entertaining.

For lots more on the Golem legend and its many modern incarnations, see here and follow the links.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

On Nephilim and rock giants


Who Are the Nephilim?The mysterious beings of Genesis 6 (Ellen White). This one came out in 2014, evidently to go with the Noah movie, and is republished now in updated form. Somehow I missed it at the time.
The Nephilim, the product of the sons of god mingling with the daughters of Adam, the great Biblical giants, “the fallen ones,” the Rephaim, “the dead ones”—these descriptions are all applied to one group of characters found within the Hebrew Bible. Who are the Nephilim? From where do the “heroes of old, the men of renown” come?

Can the Book of Enoch shed light on Noah the movie?(Megan Sauter). I have already noted this one here, but this is an updated version.
Who—or what—are the rock giants in Noah the movie?

Genesis 6 makes no mention of rock giants—or fallen angels—helping Noah build the ark. Where then did the rock giants in Noah the movie come from? Are they merely an invention by Hollywood scriptwriters?

There are many past PaleoJudaica posts on the Nephilim. A few recent ones are here, here, and here. A couple of recent posts on the giants are here and here. For the idea of watchers made of stone, see here.

More on the two new inscribed seals from Jerusalem

CHRISTOPHER ROLLSTON: A Woman’s Seal and a Man’s Seal from First Temple Jerusalem Excavations.
In sum, these two seals are Old Hebrew. They are both well done, the work of a well-trained seal maker. The palaeographic date that I would assign to them is that of the chronological horizon that spans from the late 8th century to the early 7th century BCE. The Yahwistic theophorics are predictable, but still important. The fact that one of these seals is that of a woman demonstrates that she was a very prominent woman indeed, someone who must have engaged in business and legal activities that necessitated her owning a seal. This is most impressive and certainly the most important component of these new finds.
An interesting and informative analysis of the new discovery, as we have come to expect from Professor Rollston's blog. Background here.

Another review of "Of Kings and Prophets"

TELEVISION: Review ABC's 'Of Kings and Prophets' amps up the sex and violence of a familiar biblical tale (Mary McNamara, L. A. Times).
ABC's new drama "Of Kings and Prophets" attempts to treat the Bible as just another historical document. Since it is a television show, this means two things: It opens with a horrific battle scene, and it is peppered with steaming/scheming sex.

Hmm ... I sense a consensus building.

An earlier review with background links is here. The first episode premiers today.

Impossible divorce conditions in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: The Talmud’s Inhumane View of Women Puts Unhappy Wives in Impossible Positions. This week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ reiterates a basic inequality in Jewish law: A man can divorce his wife, but a woman can’t divorce her husband.
Last week, Daf Yomi readers learned that, under Jewish law, divorces can be given conditionally. For instance, a man can write a get, a bill of divorce, saying that his wife is divorced provided that she pays him a certain sum of money, or agrees to continue nursing his children. But what happens, the rabbis wondered in this week’s Daf Yomi reading, if the husband deliberately writes an impossible or illegal condition into the get? Can such conditions be enforced, and if not, what happens to the get that includes them?

As noted in a post from years ago, the inequality concerning who can initiate a divorce did not apply in all ancient Jewish communities. The Judeans at Elephantine in Egypt in the fifth century BCE permitted both men and women to initiate a divorce. And there's more on Mibtahiah here and here.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Another review of "Risen"

CINEMA: Risen the Movie: a scholarly review and comparison (Greg Carey, OUPblog).
The film Risen retells the story of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension through the fictional Roman tribune Clavius, who supervises both Jesus’ crucifixion and the investigation into what happened to his missing body. Clavius’ encounter with the crucified Jesus, his interviews with enthusiastic disciples and other witnesses, and finally his encounters with the risen Jesus lead him to embrace faith.

Risen has ancient precedents. Early Christians created fictions of their own, testifying to Jesus through the perspective of Pontius Pilate. The Acts of Pilate and the Epistles of Pilate show a Roman prefect deeply troubled by Jesus, whom he sends to the cross. In the Acts of Pilate, Roman standards bow when Jesus enters the room, attesting to his holy identity. The Epistles of Pilate even portray him as a Christian convert. Risen, like its ancient predecessors, proclaims the gospel through the eyes of the Romans who killed Jesus.

Earlier reviews are noted here and links.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Two new Iron Age-II inscribed seals

EPIGRAPHY: Meet Elihana Bat Gael, First Temple Era Woman of Valor (JNi.Media).
Who were Elihana bat Gael and Sa‘aryahu ben Shabenyahu? Two seals bearing these Hebrew names were uncovered in a large building dating to the First Temple period in excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is carrying out in the Giv’ati parking lot at the City of David, in the Jerusalem Walls National Park. “Finding seals that bear names from the time of the First Temple is hardly a commonplace occurrence, and finding a seal that belonged to a woman is an even rarer phenomenon,” the researchers say.

The Givati (Giv'ati) parking lot excavation has been a rich source of archaeological discoveries: see here, here, here, here, here, here, and links

Yazidis visit Yad Vashem

YAZIDI WATCH: ‘How could something like this happen in the 21st century?’ Yazidi and Kurdish delegation visits Yad Vashem and finds parallels with persecution by Islamic State (SETH J. FRANTZMAN, Jerusalem Post).
For the six visitors, the traumatic experience on Sunday of walking through the cement-shrouded museum seeing displays of Nazi brutality was jarring. The group had come to take part in a multiday conference this week at the capital’s Mishkenot Sha’ananim hosted by the Spring of Hope Foundation and dedicated to providing a platform for the voices of persecuted religious and ethnic minorities. The delegation included Sherzad Mamsani, the director of Jewish affairs for the Kurdistan Regional Government, Saeed Khudeda Alo, a lecturer at the University of Duhok, and Khaleel al-Dakhi, a Yazidi lawyer and activist who has helped rescue people from ISIS slavery.

Yazidis are an ancient religious group who live mostly in northern Iraq and were targeted for extermination by ISIS in 2014. In the last year 22 mass graves of Yazidi men and elderly women executed by the terrorist group have been found, and several thousand Yazidi women remain enslaved by ISIS.

“The Yazidis are concerned with their day-to-day needs and their lives. They lost everything,” says Mizra Dinnayi, who runs Luftbrücke Irak, a German humanitarian organization.
For the many past posts on the Yazidis, their Gnosticism-themed religion, and their tragic fate in the hands of ISIS, see here and here and many links.

Josephus Street

West of Mea Shearim run several parallel streets with exalted names:
Malkei Israel, the kings of Israel, evoking the glory of the Davidic monarchy and the sovereigns of ancient Jerusalem.

... Rather, the street joining these three remarkable streets has a name I didn’t recognize: Yosef ben Matityahu.

Maybe you’d know him by another name: Josephus Flavius.

If you are not as mystified as I by how a street named for Josephus merited such illustrious company, well, please read on. Because while the life of Josephus is not the shining example of Rashi’s or David Yellin’s, it is – to say the least – fascinating.
Some past posts on Josephus are here and links. More on his little algorithm (the "Josephus problem") which saved him during the mass suicide at the siege of Yodfat (Jotapata) is here. And the account in Ms. Glickman's article needs a correction: Josephus was not the last of the suicide group to survive. When they were down to two, he persuaded his friend to surrender to the Romans and they came out together.

Review of "Of Kings and Prophets"

TELEVISION: TV Review: ‘Of Kings and Prophets’ (Maureen Ryan, Variety).
“What if David of David and Goliath fame was a hottie?” There’s no way of telling whether that was part of the pitch for “Of Kings and Prophets,” but there’s no doubt that the series hews to rules that govern many ABC dramas: There must be a hurtling sense of momentum, there must be attractive people engaging in secret hookups, and the narrative should feature a lot of fast-paced intrigue, double-dealing and deception.

This does not sound particularly untrue to the David narrative to me, but the reviewer is unimpressed:
To be clear, the idea of dramatic biblical destinies playing out among feuding Lannister-esque clans is a good one on paper (or parchment, or scrolls or what have you). Unfortunately, the pell-mell way that “Of Kings and Prophets” tries to shove the tribes and their enemies into the confines of a broadcast network drama results in a scattered, superficial narrative that doesn’t gain much traction. Despite the efforts of the varied cast and the show’s directors, who come up with some memorable visuals, those looking for either biblical education or soapy thrills are likely to end up praying for deliverance.
Ms Ryan does not see much of a future for the series:
Speaking of prophecy, it’s not difficult to foresee the fate of this mishmash of sword-and-sandals epics and sexy nighttime soaps. Given that it was commissioned by ABC’s previous king — er, entertainment president — and given that, under the new regime, the drama is getting a half-hearted midseason rollout, the destiny of this drama seems clear. ABC was to be commended for trying something far afield of the usual doctor-lawyer-cop formulas, but this dark inversion of the myth-driven ABC show “Once Upon a Time” just doesn’t fulfill its potential. All portents point toward doom.
Background here and links. The series premiers tomorrow.

More on archaeologists' objections to Western Wall compromise

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Archaeologists: Kotel plan 'will cause sorrow for generations.' Archaeologists warn that government's plan to modify Kotel plaza would hurt Israel's cultural heritage, strategic assets (Matt Wanderman, Arutz Sheva).
Gilad Korinaldi, the lawyer representing archaeologist Meir Ben-Dov and other experts, is trying to warn the government about the potential cultural damage that would be caused by adopting the expanded Kotel plan.


"The government's decision to do a 'copy-paste' in creating a new Kotel while covering archaeological finds from the First and Second Temples, including a magnificent Herodian road, stands in complete contrast to international conventions on maintaining historic sites that the State of Israel initiated and signed at the United Nations."

Korinaldi also stated that senior archaeologists have submitted a petition to Prime Minister Netanyahu, which has not yet been publicly released.

The article lists all the signatories and confirms that Dr. Ayelet Mazar is one of them.

Background here and links.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Cocco, The Torah as a Place of Refuge

The Torah as a Place of Refuge
Biblical Criminal Law and the Book of Numbers

[Die Tora als Zufluchtsort. Biblisches Strafrecht und das Buch Numeri.]
2016. XII, 185 pages.
Forschungen zum Alten Testament 2. Reihe 84

59,00 €
sewn paper
ISBN 978-3-16-154138-4

Published in English.
The law on the “cities of refuge” contained in Num 35,9–34 is almost universally seen as a simple repetition of legal content that is basically already present in the legislation of other biblical books. Francesco Cocco demonstrates that we find ourselves here before a case of reformulation instead of simple repetition, the implications of which are extremely interesting for the understanding of biblical penal legislation. In this particular fragment, it exhibits traces of modernity so surprising as to be as good as the defence of civil liberties in the legal systems currently in force in the majority of democratic states.
The author’s enquiry takes its starting point and develops, therefore, from the novel contribution which the legislation in Num 35,9–34 confers on the entire biblical law of a penal character.

Sanders, Jewish Law from Jesus to the Mishnah: Five Studies

Jewish Law from Jesus to the Mishnah: Five Studies

Author: E. P. Sanders

In this volume E. P. Sanders presents five studies that advance the re-examination of the nature of Jewish law that he began in Jesus and Judaism (Fortress Press, 1985). As usual, he is able to shed new light on old questions and demonstrate that many accepted interpretations are misguided.

A chapter on "The Synoptic Jesus and the Law" considers how serious the legal issues discussed between Jesus and his opponents would have been, had they been authentic. Two chapters explore whether the Pharisees had oral law, and whether they ate ordinary food in purity (the thesis of Jacob Neusner). A study of Jewish food and purity laws in the Greek-speaking Diaspora bears on the particular point of law which led to the argument between Peter and Paul at Antioch. At last, Sanders turns to a pointed essay that sets his own approach to rabbinic traditions and the Mishnah in distinct contrast from that of Jacob Neusner. A new preface points to the enduring contribution of these compelling and influential studies.

ISBN: 9781506406091
Price: $29.00

ISBN: 9781506408163
Release date: March 1, 2016
Follow the link for an excerpt of the book.

HT Christopher Rollston on Facebook.

Conference: Monastic Economies in Egypt and Palestine

ETC: Monastic Economies in Egypt and Palestine (Peter M. Head). Details on "Monastic Economies in Egypt and Palestine, 5th–10th centuries CE, 16th–17th March, Ertegun House, Oxford." Coming soon! Registration required, but attendance is free.

Kabbalah & Mysticism Quiz

TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE: Kabbalah & Mysticism Quiz ( But I should mention that the "correct" answers don't always look correct to me. One question asks what was "the earliest disseminated text of Kabbalistic thought," but does not list Sefer Yetsirah, even though it appears in a later question. And the correct answer to the question about Merkavah Mysticism is none of the above. The object given as the correct answer is very important in Merkavah Mysticism (on which here, here, and many links, plus here!), but God is never conceived of as that object.

Elad's donors

POLITICS: Right-wing Israeli Group Elad Received Millions From Shadowy Private Donors. Donations to the NGO, which champions Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem, topped $115 million over eight years, much from companies based in global tax shelters. (Uri Blau and Nir Hasson, Haaretz).
The right-wing organization Elad received donations worth over 450 million shekels ($115 million) between 2006 and 2013, Elad documents filed to Israel’s Registrar of Non-Profit Organizations show.

According to the Haaretz investigation, most of the donations came from companies registered in global tax shelters like the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands and the Seychelles, and it is unclear who controls them.

Elad, which operates in East Jerusalem, has two main focuses: settling Jews in the largely Arab Silwan neighborhood and running tourist and excavation sites. The chief tourist site is Ir David – the City of David – which it runs for the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. Elad has also been in a legal battle with the government over a planned archaeology park next to the Western Wall.

There's more on Elad (the Ir David Foundation) here with many links. The article includes a very detailed breakdown of the publicly available information on Elad's donors. Of interest to PaleoJudaica:
Another contributor is the Orion Foundation, which is registered in the Isle of Man in Britain. Orion gave 525,000 shekels in 2013 alone.

This foundation is also the sponsor of the Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. It has also contributed to NGO Monitor, which tracks the transparency of human rights organizations.
More on the Orion Center is here.

Also included is the following information about other NGOs:
It is doubtful whether another Israeli NGO can boast such a cash flow and the accompanying outlays.

In comparison, in 2014 the Association for Civil Rights in Israel raised 7.4 million shekels from private donors and foreign countries, the left-wing NGO Breaking the Silence raised less than 1.5 million shekels, Peace Now raised 2.8 million shekels and right-wing group Im Tirtzu raised 1.7 million shekels.
It would be interesting for comparison to have an article with the same level of detail about the contributors to Emek Shaveh, a left-wing NGO that often (see here, here, here, and links) appears in the media in opposition to Elad. The Emek Shaveh link above lists some major donors, but the information is not comprehensive.