Saturday, May 21, 2016

"On the enduring legacy of the Loeb Library"

PHILOLOGY: The bright ghosts of antiquity (John Talbot, The New Criterion). A long essay on the Loeb Classical Library, its evolution, and its influence. You should read it all, but I like the way it closes:
I have a little apocalyptic fantasy that involves the collection of Loebs in my local library. It’s a complete set, from Homer’s rosy-fingered dawn to the twilight of Ammianus Marcellinus. The very sight of it is reassuringly tidy: all the sprawling energies of a thousand years of Greek and Roman thought and song, distilled and compacted into these snug matching volumes, the Greek bound in olive drab, the Latin in scarlet. Run your fingers over the spines. Here are The Classics.

Then comes a nuclear holocaust. My local library, like others around the world, is mostly pulverized, but an accident involving molten rubber preserves the case of Loebs intact within a sealed airtight cavity beneath the rubble. Centuries elapse and deposit their layers of sediment. Above ground, the descendants of the survivors plod on, speaking a crude version of English, and when their vestigial civilization is at last stable enough to permit cultivation of the liberal arts, their curiosity turns to the prior civilization, ours, whose evident sophistication is attested only in the occasionally exposed ruin, or in fragments of excavated texts. Of this second category, a half-page of Danielle Steele, the corner of a Dunkin’ Donuts advert, and the odd shred of Paradise Regained are all scrutinized, edited, and interpreted with equal zeal. The fragments are exasperating: they imply a vast literature, and behind it a teeming culture, all tantalizingly out of reach.

Until one day when excavation unseals that underground cavity, and for the first time in so many centuries, sunlight falls on those green and red spines. The whole Loeb Classical Library, dedicated to preserving whatever could be salvaged from an even earlier lost civilization, has itself survived intact. The excavators fall upon the cache and discover not only the English (which they can mostly make out, though it appears to them as remote as Chaucer to us) but also, to their astonishment, on the facing pages, two strange, even more ancient languages, one with an unfamiliar alphabet. Amid a storm of speculations it is posited that the English is the key to the other two tongues, and in time a latter-day Champollion steps forward and reconstructs the grammar of Latin and Greek. His successors, pioneer scholars of the recovered ancient languages, are at first awestruck—what are these voices speaking out of the dust?—and then electrified, as they begin to read and assimilate Homer and Sophocles and Lucretius and Augustine. These voices must be emulated; the standards are daunting but stimulating; though ancient, they point the way to something new. Academies are organized for teaching the new languages; young souls (they will become poets and historians and scientists) are once again smitten by the songs of Sappho and Catullus, the grave brilliance of Thucydides and Tacitus, the searching effervescence of Plato’s Socrates and Aristotle’s dogged earthbound inquisitiveness. The post-apocalyptic world shrugs off its torpor, hums with ideas and energy and hope.

I suppose what I mean by all this is that it is good to know that the Loeb Classical Library is there, patiently waiting, in case any civilization (not least our own present one) should require a renaissance.
This little apocalyptic fantasy is really not too far from what actually happened in the nineteenth century. We carried on the tradition through the twentieth century and, falteringly, into the twenty-first. It remains to be seen whether the rising nihilism and barbarism of modern society (including academia) can be resisted enough to pass this legacy on to future generations.

Past posts on the Loeb Classical Library are here and here and links.


YONA SABAR: Hebrew word of the week: ’arel “uncircumcised; Philistine (Bible); Christian.”

Hallam, Basics of Classical Syriac

Basics of Classical Syriac: Complete Grammar, Workbook, and Lexicon Paperback – June 21, 2016
by Steven C. Hallam (Author)

Basics of Classical Syriac by Steven C. Hallam is a beginning Syriac grammar, workbook, and lexicon all in one and can be used by independent learners or a classroom setting.

Of the early translational languages of the New Testament, none is more important than Syriac. A working knowledge of Syriac provides a lens from which to study the early texts of the Greek New Testament, the Peshitta (the Syriac translation of the Bible), and various early church history texts and commentary, thus Basics of Classical Syriac is useful for students across a range of disciplines. Workbook exercises for each chapter enable students to know whether they are grasping the fundamentals of the language.

Basics of Classical Syriac provides an ideal first step into this ancient language and focuses on getting the student into text translation as quickly as possible.
Cross-file under Syriac Watch.

BAJS 2016 reminder

REGISTRATION DEADLINE: BAJS Conference 2016: The Texture of Jewish Tradition: Investigations in Textuality. The British Association for Jewish Studies Conference meets this year at the University of Birmingham on 10-12 July. The deadline for registrations is 12 June.
This conference will explore textuality from a variety of perspectives, ranging from the material aspects of texts, including the growing role of digital humanities in the field, to scribal culture and consciousness. The event will also involve discussions around textual plurality, composition, reworking, form, genre, reception, classification, and inter-relationships between textual worlds and corpora. Speakers will also investigate the oral and social aspects of texts and textuality, such as performance, memory and power.

The keynote talk, titled 'Scribal Bodies and the Growth of Scriptures in Early Judaism' will be given by Professor Judith Newman (University of Toronto).
The conference covers the full range of Jewish history and literature, but Judaism from the Second Temple period through the Rabbinic period is well represented.

Clivaz et al. (eds.), Ancient Worlds in Digital Culture

Ancient Worlds in Digital Culture

Edited by Claire Clivaz, Paul Dilley, David Hamidović
The volume presents a selection of research projects in Digital Humanities applied to the “Biblical Studies” in the widest sense and context, including Early Jewish and Christian studies, hence the title “Ancient Worlds”. Taken as a whole, the volume restitutes the merging Digital Culture at the beginning of the 21st century. It also promotes many examples which attest to a change of paradigm in the textual scholarship of “Ancient Worlds”: categories are reshaped; textuality is (re-)investigated according to its relationships with oral and visualization; methods, approaches and practices are no more a fixed conglomeration but they are mobilized according to their contexts and the new available digital tools.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Howe and Müller (eds.), Folly and Violence in the Court of Alexander ...

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Folly and Violence in the Court of Alexander the Great and his Successors? Notice of a new book: Howe, Time & Sabine Müller (eds.). 2016. Folly and Violence in the Court of Alexander the Great and his Successors?. Bochum & Freiburg: Projekt verlag.

Alexander and his successors (the Diadochoi) figure prominently in the apocalyptic oracles in the second half of the Book of Daniel. Any background on the Greco-Roman reception of traditions about them is always of interest.

Geniza Fragments 71

GENIZA FRAGMENTS 71. The April 2016 issue of the Newsletter of the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit, Cambridge University Library has an article on the Faith After the Pharaohs exhibition at the British Museum and another on the symposium honoring the life and legacy of Solomon Schechter, plus articles on some Geniza fragments and more.

The last issue of the newsletter was noted here.

Porter and Yoon (eds.), Paul and Gnosis

Paul and Gnosis

Edited by Stanley E. Porter, McMaster Divinity College and David I. Yoon, McMaster Divinity College.
This collection of essays—the ninth volume in Brill’s Pauline Studies series—features Paul and his relationship to knowledge. Gnosis, the Greek word generally translated as "knowledge," is broadly interpreted, and the essays contained in this volume revolve around both a more general notion of knowledge in relation to Paul and more specific references to Gnosticism. Several of these essays discuss Paul’s use of "knowledge" words, Paul’s knowledge and understanding of key themes and ideas in his writings, Paul’s interpreters in light of gnostics like Valentinus and Marcion, and Gnosticism in light of Paul’s letters. This collection of essays exposes the reader to crucial topics regarding Paul and Gnosis that are not readily addressed elsewhere.

The Provenance of the Pseudepigrapha

OLD TESTAMENT PSEUDEPIGRAPHA WATCH: Jewish or Christian Pseudepigrapha? (Phillip J. Long, Reading Acts Blog). HT James McGrath on Facebook. Professor Long may also want to have a look at my book, The Provenance of the Pseudepigrapha: Jewish, Christian, or Other? (Brill, 2005).

Hurtado on messiahship and divine sonship

LARRY HURTADO: Messiah and Divine Son.
Among interesting points raised in the discussion at the Salamanca symposium last week was the observation by Prof. Guijarro that ascriptions of divine sonship to Jewish messianic figures of the second-temple period aren’t common, whereas in earliest Christian discourse Jesus’ filial status with God is more frequent and prominent.


Thursday, May 19, 2016

Tanach online

AWOL: Tanach - תנ״ך. An online edition of the Hebrew Bible. Looks useful.

Mroczek on the canon etc.

FRANKLY JUDAIC PODCAST: Eva Mroczek, "The Literary Imagination in Jewish Antiquity." Dr. Mroczek's book The Literary Imagination in Jewish Antiquity (OUP), was noted as forthcoming here. It has now been published.

Review of Kalleres, City of Demons

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Kalleres, City of Demons (Rex Barnes). Review of City of Demons: Violence, Ritual, and Christian Power in Late Antiquity. By Dayna S. Kalleres. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2015. Pp. ix-374.

Grant for the Museum of the Jewish People

IN TEL AVIV: The Museum of the Jewish People receives a major renewal campaign gift from the David Berg Foundation. "The gift will support the creation of a gallery in the new core exhibition at The Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot entitled “Jewish Centers of Antiquity: Babylonia and the Land of Israel” (Shula Bahat, RNS).
The exhibition will tell the parallel stories of Jewish life in the Land of Israel and Babylonia in the centuries following the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. It will look at how the Jews in both centers, living in the heart of the Greek and Persian empires, respectively, created cultural and intellectual traditions that changed the face of Judaism.

Safaee, Darius III: The Last Great King

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Darius III: The Last Great King. New book: Safaee, Yazdan. 2016. Darius III: The Last Great King. Tehran: Hamisheh, Pishinpažouh.

Darius III was the last king of the Persian empire, defeated by Alexander the Great. He appears in the Book of Daniel implicitly in 8:7, when the he-goat from the west (Alexander the Great) strikes down the ram with two horns (the Medo-Persian empire). Darius III may also be the unnamed fourth king of Persia in 11:2. Darius was not actually the fourth king in the series of Persian rulers; he was more like the eleventh (depending on whom you count), but the writer of Daniel seems to have been less than fully informed about such matters.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Furstenberg, Purity and Community in Antiquity

Purity and Community in Antiquity
Traditions of the Law from Second Temple Judaism to the Mishnah

By Yair Furstenberg

Publisher: The Hebrew University Magnes Press
History, Talmud, Jewish Studies
Publish date: May 2016
Language: Hebrew (N.B.)
Danacode: 45-131138
ISBN: 978-965-493-874-7
Cover: Hardcover
Pages: 479
Weight: 1000 gr.

How did purity evolve into the one most significant religious category during the Second Temple period? What was the role of purity discourse in the reformation of Jewish society and religion in Late Antiquity?

The concern for purity shaped Second Temple Judaism, and its significance expanded far beyond the limited realm of the Temple. The fear of impurity shaped daily conduct, stood at the heart of ideological discourse and set the contours of Jewish society. The question how to ensure ritual and moral purity was of cosmic dimensions, and therefore determined the dividing lines between the main parties of Jewish society in Palestine. The Qumran sect developed the notion of the defiling sin, and Jesus was viewed by his followers as the ultimate purifier. Against these alternatives, this book offers a comprehensive analysis of the purity policy in the teachings of the dominant Pharisees. Early rabbinic traditions alongside anti-pharisaic sources uncover a controversial policy focused on the body and not on the purity of the Temple. They provided purification to wider social circles, while preserving its role in maintaining their own status. The book further demonstrates the fundamental change of religious life and social practices from the Second Temple period through the rise of the rabbinic movement, which offered a new version of ritual purity and community. A close analysis of the halakhic traditions in rabbinic literature reveals the gradual disintegration of the ancient religious culture and the emergence of the rabbinic culture within new social contexts.

JSJ 47.1 (2016)

THE JOURNAL FOR THE STUDY OF JUDAISM has a new issue out (47.1 [2016]). TOC:
Research Article
The Language of Stones: Roman Milestones on Rabbinic Roads
Author: Joshua Levinson
Source: Page Count 20

Research Article
Ein Text aus Palästina? Gedanken zur einleitungswissenschaftlichen Verortung der Apokalypse des Abraham
Author: Michael Sommer
Source: Page Count 21

Research Article
Cult Statuary in the Judean Temple at Yeb
Author: Collin Cornell
Source: Page Count 19

Research Article
Listening with the Body, Seeing through the Ears: Contextualizing Philo’s Lecture Event in On the Contemplative Life
Author: Matthew David Larsen
Source: Page Count 28

Research Article
Was There an Altar or a Temple in the Sacred Precinct on Mt. Gerizim?
Author: Reinhard Pummer
Source: Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 1 –21

Research Article
How the “Torah of Moses” Became Revelation
Author: David Lambert
Source: Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 22 –54

Research Article
The Hasmoneans and their Rivals in Seleucid and Post-Seleucid Judea
Author: Benedikt Eckhardt
Source: Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 55 –70

Research Article
Reading Aid: 2 Maccabees and the History of Jason of Cyrene Reconsidered
Author: Francis Borchardt
Source: Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 71 –87

Research Article
Lost and Stolen Property at Qumran: The “Oath of Adjuration”
Author: Kimberley Czajkowski
Source: Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 88 –103

Research Article
The Euphrates as Temporal Marker in 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch
Author: Shayna Sheinfeld
Source: Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 104 –118

Research Article
On Transcription and Oral Transmission in Aseneth: A Study of the Narrative’s Conception
Author: Nicholas A. Elder
Source: Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 119 –142

Book Review
Ancient Jewish Letters and the Beginnings of Christian Epistolography , written by Lutz Doering
Author: Pieter W. van der Horst
Source: Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 143 –145

Book Review
Erste Reihe: Die Tosefta. Seder III: Naschim. Band III,2: Nedarim—Nezirut , written by Rabbinische Texte
Author: Günter Stemberger
Source: Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 146 –147
The abstracts can be accessed for free, but access to the articles requires a paid personal or institutional subscription.

Israel to clear mines from (traditional) site of Jesus' baptism

POLITICAL AND OTHER MINEFIELDS: Israel to Clear Landmines From Christian Holy Site Near Jericho. – Qasr al-Yahud, a site just north of the Dead Sea near Jericho where many Christians believe Jesus was baptized, will be cleared of landmines a half-century after Israel took control of the area during the 1967 Six-Day War.

The site and its unfortunate location between minefields, along with other more political complications, have been noted and discussed here and here. It is a pilgrimage site, so I'm glad this dangerous situation is being corrected.

Russian army barracks at Palmyra?

PALMYRA WATCH: Russians building army base at Syria’s Palmyra site: archaeologist (AP). Apparently the base is located just inside the protected no-build archaeological zone and the construction is proceeding without permission. At the same time, Maamoun Abdulkarim, the head of the Antiquities and Museums Department in Damascus, emphasized that fighting with ISIS is still going on nearby and the presence of the Russian and Syrian troops in Palmyra is needed. Maybe if they ask the Russians very nicely to relocate a little?

Background on Palmyra is here with many links.

Betrothal in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Love and Marriage, Love and Marriage, Go Together Like a— In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ reading, Talmudic debates over marriage contracts are often predicated on linguistic precision, not human needs.
Between the laws of levirate marriage, marriage contracts, divorce, and betrothal, the Talmud has more to say about the subject of marriage than virtually any other topic. Even Shabbat, the subject of two lengthy tractates in Seder Moed, is not so productive of laws and legal debates as marriage. This makes sense, because while Shabbat is the holiest day in Jewish life, its laws are commandments, not subjects for negotiation. When the rabbis say that Jews are not allowed to perform 39 categories of labor on Shabbat, there is no way for Jews to bring God to court and argue with Him about exactly what He intended. Marriage, on the other hand, is understood in Jewish law as a contract between two parties, the bride and the groom, which means that it is capable of endless refinements and disagreements. Indeed, when talking about marriage law, the rabbis laid down many rules that can apply to any kind of contractual agreement—rules having to do with intention, agency, conditionality, and other complex matters.

As I've said before about various Talmudic matters, it's complicated.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Postdoc at HMML

EXPLORING OUR MATRIX: Post-doctoral Cataloging Fellowship at HMML. James McGrath posts the full advert for this two-year fellowship at the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library. It involves cataloging of Arabic (including Garshuni), Syriac, and possibly Coptic manuscripts. This looks like a position that will take up some of the work of Adam McCollum. Adam was Lead Cataloger, Eastern Christian Manuscripts, at HMML, but last autumn he moved to another project at the University of Vienna. When he was at HMML he ran a blog called hmmlorientalia. I wonder if the new appointee will take it up again.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Kabbalah 34-35

VOLUME 35 (2015) 320 pages ISBN 9781933379562

Studies in English
Daniel Abrams: Metatron, the Lesser Lord, the Angel Called Elohim – A Kabbalistic Treatise from Thirteenth-Century Castile: Text, Translation and Commentary
Nathan Wolski: Moses de León and Midrash ha-Ne‘elam – On the Beginnings of the Zohar
Studies in Hebrew
Daniel Reiser and Ariel Evan Mayse – ‘For Many Years He Said This’: A Forgotten Manuscript of the Sefat Emet
Avi Elqayam: Liberating Nudity in Sabbateanism – Between the Messiah and His Prophet
Hagai Pely: The Conception of Halakhah in the Writings of the Author of Tiqqunei Zohar – A Reappraisal
Warren Zev Harvey: What Did the Rymanover Really Say about the Aleph of Anokhi?"
Daniel Abrams: The Earliest Manuscript of the Zohar – Ms. Vatican 202, Circa 1300: A Quote in Aramaic in the Name of R. Shimon bar Yohai in the ‘The Secret of Leverite Marriage’ and the Various Copyings of Zoharic Texts in the Manuscript

VOLUME 34 (2015) 320 pages ISBN 9781933379548

Studies in English
Daniel Abrams: Divine Jealousy – Kabbalistic Traditions of Triangulation
Elliot R. Wolfson: Anonymity and the Kabbalistic Ethos – A Fourteenth-Century Supercommentary on the Commentary on the Sefirot
Eliezer Papo:
‘Meliselda’ and its Symbolism for Sabbatai Sevi, His Inner Circle and His Later Followers
Nathan Wolski: Radical Allegoresis and Neoplatonic Myth – in Midrash ha-Ne‘elam
Studies in Hebrew
Uri Safrai: ‘What is Absent in One is Revealed in the Other: The Concept of Completeness in the Writings of R. Naftali Hertz Treves
Jacob Barnai: ‘Sabbateanism after the Death of Sabbatai Sevi’ – Gershom Scholem’s Lectures from the Hebrew University, 1960-1961 from the Notebooks of Zalman Shazar
Leore Sachs-Shmueli, ‘I Arouse the Shekhinah’: A Psychoanalytic Study of Anxiety and Desire of the Kabbalah in Relation to the Object of Taboo’
Avi Elqayam: Photography on Gravestones: Iconography and Messianism in Sabbatean Cemeteries in Istanbul
Avishai Bar-Asher: Sefer ha-Nequdah, the Short Sefer ha-Yihud and Fragments from Sefer Or Zaru‘a and Sefer Toledot Adam
You can order volumes of this journal from Cherub Press here.

Binder et al. (eds.), Untersuchungen zu Geschichte und Kultur des Nahen Ostens ...

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: History and Culture of the Ancient Near East. New book: Binder, Carsten, Henning Börm & Andreas Luther (eds.). 2016. Diwan. Untersuchungen zu Geschichte und Kultur des Nahen Ostens und des östlichen Mittelmeerraumes im Altertum. Festschrift für Josef Wiesehöfer zum 65. Geburtstag. Duisburg: Wellem Verlag.

The contents cover a lot of ground, but ancient Judaism is represented.

Apocrypha Now

NEW BOOK: Top Shelf exclusive: Apocrypha Now makes the Bible fun (and funny) (Oliver Sava, A.V. Club).
The Bible is big in comics this season, and just a month after Drawn & Quarterly released Chester Brown’s Mary Wept Over The Feet Of Jesus, Top Shelf is publishing Apocrypha Now, the follow-up to Mark Russell and Shannon Wheeler’s 2013 book God Is Disappointed In You. Pairing Russell’s irreverent prose interpretations of Biblical legend with Wheeler’s droll single-panel cartoons, Apocrypha Now offers a comedic take on stories left out of the canonical Bible, including the Midrash, the Apocrypha, and the Gnostic Gospels. It’s a jam-packed read that turns these ancient texts into engaging, accessible narratives, with a strong sense of humor that draws the reader into these tales.

An excerpt of the Cain and Abel story is included. It is funny, in macabre way. There seems to be a lot of Midrash, but also cross-file under New Testament Apocrypha Watch (excerpt here) and Old Testament Apocrypha Watch.

More Palestinian Jewish-Temple denial

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: ‘Jews invented the Temple Mount lie.’ Organization representing Palestinian religious leaders praises the UNESCO denial of Jewish ties to the Temple Mount (Dalit Halevy, Arutz Sheva). Here we go again:
The Association of Palestinian Scholars and Preachers praised the controversial decision of UNESCO, which recently denied Jewish history at the Temple Mount and referred to the area only as the religious Islamic sites "Al-Haram Al-Sharif" and “Al-Aqsa Mosque."

The Association declared this decision a victory for the religious and historical legitimacy of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is built on the Mount - the holiest site in Judaism.

The Association further declared that the term Temple Mount is an "historical lie" invented by Jews, and that history is not allowed to be established on “lies," in an ironic statement given that the First and Second Temples stood at the site, as has been repeatedly proven by archaeology.

I would phrase the last clause of the last sentence a little more precisely. The archaeological case for the existence of the Herodian Temple (and therefore the Second Temple, of which the former was an extensive refurbishment) is overwhelming. The case for the existence of the First Temple is inferential, but compelling. No specialist in ancient Jewish history or the archaeology of the region doubts the existence of these temples. If you want more details, see the recent story of the embarrassing article on the subject published by the New York Times, one which resulted in repeated retractions by the Times.

Background on that UNESCO resolution is here and links.

Maaloula update

MODERN ARAMAIC WATCH: Ancient Christian City in Syria is ‘Rising Again’ (Dan Wooding, ASSIST News Service, Christian Post).
According to a CBN video report by Gary Lane, the CBN News Senior International Reporter, "Maaloula is an ancient Christian city where the people still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus. Located 35 miles northeast of the Syrian capital city of Damascus, Islamic terrorists overran and occupied Maaloula in September 2013.

"Because of its ancient history, Maaloula has become a symbol of Christianity. That's why Islamic extremists wanted to dominate it because it is this symbol for all of Syria. And that's why it was important for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime to regain control of the city."

Lane said that the Syrian army "fought aggressively" and "liberated Maaloula eight months after the terrorists seized control." But, he added, the town had already suffered much hardship and destruction.

"Jihadists left St. George's Church in Maaoula largely intact, but they did their damage to the interior, including some of the church's ancient icons," said veteran journalist, Lane.

"Terrorists tried to erase the city's Christian heritage by shooting up the icons. They used knives to desecrate a depiction of the Last Supper. They knocked down a statue of Jesus and broke it into pieces."

And, he added, the terror inflicted on human lives proved even more devastating.
There seems to have been some progress in restoration efforts:
He said that restoration efforts continue at Saint Sarkis Monastery. It's one of the oldest monasteries in all of Christendom. It was heavily damaged by the terrorists, but today it is mostly restored.

"The monastery chapel remains intact. Built in the 4th century on the ruins of a pagan temple, it predates the Council of Nicea in 325 AD," Lane said. "Missing today are 16th and 18th century icons that once adorned the chapel walls. The jihadists may have either sold or destroyed them."
But I'm sure this is true:
While many buildings have been restored, it will take longer for the people to rebuild their lives.
Background on Maaloula (Ma'aloula, Malula) is here and links.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Ancient shipwreck found at Caesarea harbor

MARINE ARCHAEOLOGY: Divers Discovered a Spectacular, Ancient and Important Cargo of a Shipwreck. Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists diving in the ancient harbor in the Caesarea National Park recovered beautiful statues, thousands of coins 1,600 years old and other finds from the seabed (IAA press release).
A fortuitous discovery by two divers in the ancient port of Caesarea in the Caesarea National Park before the Passover holiday led to the exposure of a large, spectacular and beautiful ancient marine cargo of a merchant ship that sank during the Late Roman period 1,600 years ago.


According to Jacob Sharvit, director of the Marine Archaeology Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Dror Planer, deputy director of the unit, “These are extremely exciting finds, which apart from their extraordinary beauty, are of historical significance. The location and distribution of the ancient finds on the seabed indicate that a large merchant ship was carrying a cargo of metal slated recycling, which apparently encountered a storm at the entrance to the harbor and drifted until it smashed into the seawall and the rocks”. A preliminary study of the iron anchors suggests there was an attempt to stop the drifting vessel before it reached shore by casting anchors into the sea; however, these broke – evidence of the power of the waves and the wind which the ship was caught up in”. Sharvit and Planer stress, “A marine assemblage such as this has not been found in Israel in the past thirty years. Metal statues are rare archaeological finds because they were always melted down and recycled in antiquity. When we find bronze artifacts it usually occurs at sea. Because these statues were wrecked together with the ship, they sank in the water and were thus ‘saved’ from the recycling process”. Sharvit and Planer added, “In the many marine excavations that have been carried out in Caesarea only very small number of bronze statues have been found, whereas in the current cargo a wealth of spectacular statues were found that were in the city and were removed from it by way of sea. The sand protected the statues; consequently they are in an amazing state of preservation – as though they were cast yesterday rather than 1,600 years ago”. The coins that were discovered bear the image of the emperor Constantine who ruled the Western Roman Empire (312–324 CE) and was later known as Constantine the Great, ruler of the Roman Empire (324–337 CE), and of Licinius, an emperor who ruled the eastern part of the Roman Empire and was a rival of Constantine, until his downfall in a battle that was waged between the two rulers

(HT Joseph Lauer.)

Journals on the ancient world in JSTOR

AWOL: The Ancient World in JSTOR: This is the full list of journals in JSTOR with substantial focus on the Ancient World.

Interview with Gabriel Barkay

ARCHAEOLOGIST: Digging into our lives. Leading archaeologist Dr. Gabi Barkay, who survived the Holocaust as a child, tells Israel Hayom how he responds to "Bible deniers," regrets the lack of excavations in Judea and Samaria, and shares how a pesky kid led him to the discovery of his life. (, Israel HaYom).
The archaeologist Dr. Gabi Barkay came to Israel at age 6 with his mother and father, on board the ship Kommemiyut, one of the ships that smuggled Jewish immigrants into Mandate Palestine. This was the vessel's last voyage bringing Jewish immigrants to Israel before it was sold to iron traders. As part of the events of a national conference hosted by the Israel Exploration Society, the Kommemiyut sailed past the coast one last time, possibly hinting at the future of the child it had carried from the Budapest ghetto to the land of Israel.

Since then, 66 years have passed, and it seems almost arrogant to attempt to sum up in a single conversation with Barkay the progress Israel has made in archaeology since it was founded, or his personal contribution to that progress. Barkay has been involved in so many studies, excavations and events relating to local archaeology that it's doubtful a single interview will do it all justice.

Although he has never worked for the Israel Antiquities Authority -- Barkay says he prefers a university framework that offers freedom of opinion and thought -- he has acquired an international reputation thanks to two things: The first is the historic discovery of the Priestly Blessing Scrolls, the most ancient archaeological discovery of a biblical text dating to the period the Bible is believed to have been put together. The discovery of the scrolls had wide-ranging influence on biblical research, and the assessment of its historical reliability. The second is the project of sifting dirt from the Temple Mount. Barkay describes the Mount as "a black hole in the history of archaeology in general and Israeli archaeology in particular."

Includes lots of details about the excavation at Ketef Hinnom, where the silver priestly blessing scrolls were found (on which more here [cf. here, here, and here] and links). And there's more on the Temple Mount Sifting Project here and here and follow the many links.

Luzzatto and Metatron

ARCHANGEL METATRON WATCH: This Day in Jewish History 1746: A Messianic Kabbalist Blackballed by the Establishment Dies. Though his ideas about redemption upset the rabbis, Moshe Luzzatto's works are still admired for their beauty, and their ethical messages (David B. Green, Haaretz).
May 16, 1746, is the date on of around which rabbinical scholar, mystic and moral philosopher Moshe Chayim Luzzatto died (sources vary on both the day and the year). Luzzatto was a prolific and charismatic writer and teacher, who had the misfortune of living in the shadow of the false Messiah Shabbetai Zevi. As a consequence, many of his rabbinical contemporaries feared he would similarly lead followers astray from traditional Judaism with his kabbalistic teachings. Matters were not helped by the hints given by Luzzatto in his writings that he himself was the Messiah.

This story is a little late for PaleoJudaica, although I do try to keep an eye on messianic traditions from all periods. But the more immediate reason for noting it is that the archangel Metatron receives a mention:
Luzzatto was part of a group of like-minded students of kabbala, possibly at the University of Padua, and it was with them that he shared his reports of the visits he received from various divine messengers, beginning when he was 20. He spoke in particular of encounters with a maggid, an angel-like figure who brought him news about the coming of the Messiah.

In one of his written accounts, Luzzatto described how the maggid was followed by an appearance of the prophet Elijah, who told the rabbi  that “Metatron [the angel], the great prince, will come to me…. Souls whose identity I do not know are also revealed to me. I write down each day the new ideas each of them imparts to me."
There's no word in the article on whether Metatron ever showed up.

Past posts on Shabbetai Zvi and Sabbateanism are here and links.

New antiquities registration law in Israel

REGULATION: In new crackdown, antiquities authorities tighten noose around dealers, thieves. Regulatory agency mandates digital database, ‘closing the loopholes’ to prevent stolen artifacts reaching the Israeli market (Ilan Ben Zion, Times of Israel).
The antiquities thief finally gives up and leaves, stepping out into the April air.

“It would be better for him to find a new means of livelihood,” the antiquities dealer tells this reporter.

The thief is likely not alone. A new requirement by the Israel Antiquities Authority requiring the country’s licensed antiquities dealers to register their artifacts in a digital database is aiming to shut down the blight of antiquities theft in Israel.

The requirement was introduced on March 28, following a last, desperate failed appeal by dealers to the High Court of Justice to halt the regulation.

As one antiquities dealer told The Times of Israel, the goal is to “close all the loopholes” through which some licensed dealers have interacted with Israel’s “very dark gray” antiquities market. Some dealers will drop out of the business as a result, he speculated.

The IAA attempted to introduce the system, called Antique-net, four years ago, but a handful of antiquities dealers sued, putting its implementation on hold. Now it is legally binding, and dealers must photograph, register and detail all items in their storerooms and upload them to the IAA’s network. All purchases and sales have to be placed through the registry for approval by the IAA; once cleared, an object is digitally transferred from a dealer’s inventory to the buyer’s.

This means it will become significantly harder for black market antiquities to make their way to a licensed dealer’s shop.

I hope this does some good. As of this writing the "Antique-net" link was dead.

Another matter of interest is mentioned toward the end of the article:
In March, the IAA called on Israelis to volunteer a few hours a month to help protect Israel’s 30,000 archaeological sites from looters and vandals. In the month and a half since the initiative was made public, over 180 people have registered, Ganor said.

“We recognize that among the general public there are people who can help the operations of the IAA in protecting and preserving the country’s antiquities,” he said in his office at the Rockefeller Museum in East Jerusalem.

“It’s no secret that there aren’t a lot of employees in the IAA,” he said. In all there are around 700 staffers nationwide to protect the country’s thousands of ancient sites. “Pretty much every other hill out there is an archaeological site.”

Sunday, May 15, 2016

NT TC anniversary

ETC: 135 Years Ago Today (Peter Gurry).
Today [Thursday, May 12, 2016] marks the 135th anniversary of the publication of Westcott and Hort’s momentous edition The New Testament in the Original Greek. The date was May 12, 1881 (see FB discussion here). Later in the same year they would publish their introduction and appendix justifying and explaining their text critical method.


Today, our critical editions typically vary less from the text of Westcott and Hort than they do from the textus receptus. To some, this might suggest that we have made little progress. From another perspective it is a testament to Westcott and Hort’s skill. As Gordon Fee has said, “If all of this means that we still appear to be crossing the Atlantic in an 1881 ship, it may be that they built them better in those days.”*


Mor, The Second Jewish Revolt

The Second Jewish Revolt
The Bar Kokhba War, 132-136 CE

Menahem Mor, University of Haifa
In The Second Jewish Revolt: The Bar Kokhba War, 132-136 C.E., Menahem Mor offers a detailed account on the Bar Kokhba Revolt in an attempt to understand the second revolt against the Romans. Since the Bar Kokhba Revolt did not have a historian who devoted a comprehensive book to the event, Mor used a variety of historical materials including literary sources (Jewish, Christian, Greek and Latin) and archaeological sources (inscriptions, coins, military diplomas, hideouts, and refuge complexes). The book reviews the causes for the outbreak while explaining the complexity of the territorial expansion of the Revolt. Mor portrays the participants and opponents as well as the attitudes of the non-Jewish population in Palestine. He exposes the Roman Army’s part in Judaea, the Jewish leadership and the implications of the Revolt.

Schøyen Collection NWS manuscripts

FROM THE SCHØYEN COLLECTION: 4.6 Aramaic, Hebrew & Syriac. It's been a while since I mentioned the Schøyen Collection (here and here and links). I saw this link on Facebook at the Syriac Aramaic studies group page, so it seemed like a good idea to share it.

Online indices to BiOr

AWOL: Open Access Index to Bibliotheca Orientalis. All book reviews, articles, and In Memoriams are listed. Looks useful.

The carob

FOOD: Second Look: Carob (Meg Cotner, Paste Magazine).
Carob is an ancient food, found in the greater Mediterranean region, in parts of South America, and Southern California. The carob tree is an evergreen, and drought tolerant (thought rain is necessary for it to fruit). Its pods contain legumes, but the entire thing – pod, beans and all – is used as food (both for humans and animals).

It is also plays a part in the world’s major faiths. It’s mentioned in the Talmud – a basket of carob pods alone nourished the impoverished Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa from Sabbath eve to Sabbath eve. (Ta’anit, 24b), and Jews eat it during Tu Bishvat (a celebration of the trees). In Islam, carob juice is consumed during Ramadan. The conventional interpretation of a section in the Book of Matthew, is John the Baptist ate carob in the desert – “locusts” may very well mean carob beans, the fruit of the Locust Tree; it is sometimes referred to as St. John’s Bread. In any case, carob trees are one of the most common in Israel.
The carob has come up from time to time in various PaleoJudaica posts, collected here. James A Kellhoffer has devoted a whole book to the subject of The Diet of John the Baptist and he thinks John ate locusts.