Saturday, June 11, 2016

Leverhulme Grant: Dispersed Qumran Caves Artefacts and Archival Sources

The Department of Theology and Religious Studies of King's College London, together with the Institute di Culture e Archeologic dell Terre Biblische of Faculty of Theology of Lugano and the University of Malta, are delighted to announce the recent success of a Leverhulme Trust International Network Grant application, for the Study of Dispersed Qumran Caves Artefacts and Archival Sources, obtained by Professor Joan Taylor (KCL’s Principal Investigator), together with Professor Marcello Fidanzio (ISCAB, Lugano) and Dr Dennis Mizzi (University of Malta).

In the Qumran caves that yielded the Dead Sea Scrolls many jars, lids and other artefacts were discovered by local Bedouin and also in joint Jordanian, French and American excavations (1949-56). Some of these material artefacts were sent to collections worldwide very early on, either gifted or sold. Recently the École Biblique et Archéologique Française of Jerusalem and the ISCAB Lugano started a program for the final report on the Caves of the Qumran Area, dealing mainly with the materials kept in Jerusalem and Amman. The program is directed by Pere Jean-Baptiste Humbert (EBAF) and Marcello Fidanzio (ISCAB). The network for the Dispersed Qumran Caves Artefacts and Archival Sources would engage with this publication project, by facilitating the study of all the dispersed artefacts enabling more comprehensive new reports. This will provide more information about the Qumran cave artefacts, and contribute to reconstructing a material profile of each cave’s contents. Alongside the analysis of ceramic jars, lids, textiles, leathers and wooden remains, the network will additionally explore the written and photographic dossiers of archaeologists and visitors.

Anyone with photographs from the 1950s or relevant information is invited to get in touch by contacting the Network Facilitator, Dr. Sandra Jacobs, at Further details of the award are available at:
This announcement is copied from a message today from Vivienne Rowett on the SOTS List. I see that the original announcement was made at the end of 2015, but somehow I – and it seems others – missed it. Belated congratulations to Professor Taylor, Professor Fidanzio, Dr. Mizzi, and their respective institutions. The link in the announcement is a little confusing. The article on the project is in the January 2016 Leverhulme Trust Newsletter.

The Talmud without Judaism?

TALMUD WATCH: Why Talmud Is the Way To Be Jewish Without Judaism (Shulem Deen, "My Heretical Year," The Forward).
For two millennia, our icons were the scholars. “If not for this day,” one Rabbi Joseph says in the Talmud, referring to the day of Shavuot, which occurs during this month of Sivan, and is traditionally held to celebrate the giving of the Torah, “there are many Josephs in the market.” If not for his knowledge of Torah, Rabbi Joseph would be just another Joseph; no other profession could earn him the same esteem.

Not every Jew was learned, but even the lowliest water carrier or illiterate cobbler might, at the end of a long day, listen to a reading of Mishna or the legends of the Talmud; if he could not grasp its legalistic complexities, he could be captivated by its tales, its fantastical musings, its tidbits of historical trivia — real or imagined — scattered between pietistic homilies. For centuries, nearly every Jewish male child could recite at least the beginning of the first passage of Talmud, “From when do we recite the Shema in the evening?”

Today, many of us don’t care about that prayer. Jews in the 21st century are experiencing what is by all accounts a shift unseen since the destruction of the Second Temple. The primacy of the rabbinic paradigm — creed, practice and synagogue; the tripartite nature of traditional Judaism — is no longer relevant to many of us.

But our texts remain — and they remain to all of us.
In recent years the Talmud has been attracting interest from a very wide range of people, including not only both religious and non-religious Jews, but also many others. Some relevant posts are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here (longstanding Daf Yomi series), and here, with many links.

1 Enoch 37-44

READING ACTS: The Book of Parables – 1 Enoch 37-44. Past posts in the series, plus on related matters, are here and links.

Lessons from Indy

NEWS YOU CAN USE: Five life lessons learned from 35 years of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' (Brian Truitt, USA TODAY). Good lessons, all.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Divine Sonship Symposium update

THE DIVINE SONSHIP SYMPOSIUM at the University of St. Andrews finished up on Wednesday. I promised to post some thoughts on it, but since then I have been asked to make a short presentation on the symposium at the upcoming Enoch Seminar in Camaldoli. I am happy to do so, and after giving it I will post the presentation at PaleoJudaica. So watch this space.

Christian sources for Sassanian Zoroastrianism

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Christian-Zoroastrian Dialogue in the Sasanian Period. Notice of a German article in a new book: Rezania, Kianoosh. 2015. Einige Anmerkungen zur sasanidisch-zoroastrischen Religionspraxis im Spiegel der interreligiösen Dialoge der Christen und Zoroastrier. In Claudia Rammelt, Cornelia Schlarb & Egbert Schlarb (eds.), Begegnungen in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart: Beiträge dialogischer Existenz ; eine freundschaftliche Festgabe zum 60. Geburtstag von Martin Tamcke, 172–80. Berlin; Münster: LIT Verlag.
In addition to the primary Zoroastrian sources, however, there are couple of Christian works, which comprise valuable information relatied to the Middle Iranian languages, the Sasanian administration and not least the Zoroastrian theology and religious practice.


MODERN ARAMAIC WATCH: Chicago's Assyrians Embrace New Technology to Save Ancient Language (AINA reprint, Alex Shams,
Rinyo was founded in 2011, when physician Robby Edo was visiting his family in Qamishli, a town in Syria near the Iraqi border with a large Assyrian population. He noticed that despite the long history of Syriac literature, few books or materials were published in the language anymore. Similar to neighbouring Iraq, the Syrian government has long emphasised Arabic as a national language at the expense of minority languages like Syriac and Kurdish.

Robby spoke to his brother Hedro, a software designer, about the need for more written materials in Syriac to help the younger generation learn, and they began working on a short cartoon.

"We found people who were thinking like us and wanted to produce materials to help the language live," Hedro told Middle East Eye. "And now we have Rinyo: a multi-dialect and multicultural global entity."

Rinyo has since developed interactive storybooks and alphabet lessons that have reached all corners of the Syriac universe. The group conducted numerous tours visiting Syriac-speaking communities in Iraq and Syria, as well as in the diaspora in Sweden, Germany and many US states.

Rinyo even set up a technology lab in Qamishli, employing 10 people on behind-the-scenes technical aspects of the applications. Not only has Rinyo revived interest in Syriac, it is also creating jobs in a war-torn country where the economic situation and political uncertainty have driven many Syrians, especially from the Assyrian minority, to emigrate.
And I found this particularly interesting:
For Rinyo, the language challenge is complex. Syriac has two main dialects - Eastern and Western - and most applications are in both. But each dialect has numerous sub-dialects, not all of which are totally mutually comprehensible, and all of these dialects are only spoken. There is a shared classical written version, but it is never spoken except in formal settings.

As a result, Rinyo members are constantly debating what word to use in the apps. In the process they are developing a standardised spoken variant of the language where none previously existed.
Developing a standardized modern Aramaic language could do a lot to expand its reach and make it more durable. More power to them.

Cross-file under Syriac Watch and Technology Watch.

A sequel for The Passion of the Christ?

CINEMA: Mel Gibson resurrects Passion of the Christ for sequel (Dan Satherley, Newshub).
The Passion of the Christ is to get a sequel, focusing on Jesus' biblical resurrection and ascension to heaven.

"There's a lot more story to tell," screenwriter Randall Wallace, who worked with director Mel Gibson on Braveheart, told The Hollywood Reporter.

Well, I guess that worked for Luke, didn't it? Still, the idea is just a notion so far:
However, the project is still in its genesis and doesn't yet have financial backing or a studio behind it.
Mr Gibson has also talked about movies on Boudicca and the Maccabees without either coming to anything, so we'll just have to see if this goes anywhere.

While we're on the subject, my review of The Passion of the Christ back when it came out is here. And there is endless discussion of the movie, both beforehand and afterwards, in the archives.

New monumental architecture discovered at Petra

NABATAEAN (NABATEAN) WATCH: Massive New Monument Found in Petra.
Satellites and drones helped reveal huge ceremonial platform near the ancient city’s center
(Kristin Romey, National Geographic).
The newly revealed structure consists of a 184-by-161-foot (about 56-by-49-meter) platform that encloses a slightly smaller platform originally paved with flagstones. The east side of the interior platform had been lined with a row of columns that once crowned a monumental staircase.

A small 28-by-28-foot (8.5-by-8.5-meter) building was centered north-south atop the interior platform and opened to the east, facing the staircase.

This enormous open platform, topped with a relatively small building and approached by a monumental facade, has no known parallels to any other structure in Petra. It most likely had a public, ceremonial function, which may make it the second largest elevated, dedicated display area yet known in Petra after the Monastery.

This new discovery may be a unique public monument from the city's early years.
While the monument has not been excavated, the presence of surface pottery dating from the mid-second century B.C. suggests that construction of the structure began during the Nabataeans' initial public building program.
Hard to believe the structure was missed until now, but it took the satellite observation of Professor Sarah Parcak and her colleague to bring it to our notice:
Archaeologists Sarah Parcak, a National Geographic fellow, and Christopher Tuttle, executive director of the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, used high-resolution satellite imagery followed by aerial drone photography and ground surveys to locate and document the structure.
More on Professor Parcak's work is here and here. Cross-file under Technology Watch. And background on the Nabateans and Petra is here and here with many links.

Dating the Similtudes of Enoch

READING ACTS: Dating the Similitudes – 1 Enoch 37-71. Past posts in the series, plus on related matters, are here and links.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Najman on Moses

PROFESSOR HINDY NAJMAN: The Ancient Practice of Attributing Texts and Ideas to Moses (
Ancient scribes would write as if Moses was the author, or they would claim that a tradition was originally stated by Moses, but they did not intend to convey a historical fact with this description. Instead, they meant that a given tradition was “authentically” Jewish, or God’s will and that Moses would have approved. I call this phenomenon “Mosaic Discourse.”
Professor Najman gave her inaugural lecture at Oxford University at the end of last month. It was titled, "Ethical Reading: Transformation of the Text and the Self." For more on her work, see here.

Goff and Stuckenbruck (eds.), Ancient Tales of Giants from Qumran and Turfan

Ancient Tales of Giants from Qumran and Turfan
Contexts, Traditions, and Influences
Ed. by Matthew Goff, Loren T. Stuckenbruck, and Enrico Morano

[Antike Geschichten von Riesen aus Qumran und Turfan. Kontexte, Traditionen und Einflüsse.]
2016. XII, 257 Seiten.
Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 360

Published in English.
While there has been much scholarly attention devoted to the Enochic Book of the Watchers , much less has been paid to the Book of Giants from Qumran. This volume is the proceedings of a conference that convened in Munich, Germany, in June 2014, which was devoted to the giants of Enochic tradition and in particular the Qumran Book of Giants . It engages the topic of the giants in relation to various ancient contexts, including the Hebrew Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and ancient Mesopotamia. The authors of this volume give particular attention to Manichaeism, especially the Manichaean Book of Giants , fragments of which were found in Turfan (western China). They contribute to our understanding of the range of stories Jews told in antiquity about the sons of the watchers who descended to earth and their vibrant Nachleben in Manichaeism.
The volume is already receiving attention in the Blogosphere. Bibliographia Iranica flags an article by Enrico Morano: "Some New Sogdian Fragments Related to Mani’s Book of Giants and the Problem of the Influence of Jewish Enochic Literature." And, not surprisingly, Remant of Giants is pleased with the publication of the book: Gigantobibliophile Goodness: Ancient Tales of Giants from Qumran and Turfan (Mohr Siebeck, June 2016).

I am pleased too. As I have mentioned recently, Professor Stuckenbruck is translating the Aramaic Book of Giants for the second volume of the More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project. And there's more on other versions of the Book of Giants, which are also being translated for MOTP, here.

A (very) brief history of Sumerology

ASOR BLOG: A Brief History of Sumerology (Erika Marsal). I have to say I was disappointed by this one. The history is weighted toward the discovery of Sumerian and the early stages of its decipherment. That's fine, but, astonishingly, it does not mention either Samuel Noah Kramer or Thorkild Jacobsen. Granted, they were not grammarians per se, but they contributed greatly to the publication and decipherment of the literary texts. And I was looking forward to learning about the developments in Sumerology since the early 1990s when I stopped trying to keep up with it, but the essay leaves off with the publication of the grammar by Marie-Louise Thomsen in the 1980s.

Be that as it may, Sumerian is not entirely irrelevant to the study of ancient Judaism and it has come up from time to time at PaleoJudaica. Some past posts involving it are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

The ASOR Blog requires free registration to access the full text of its posts.

1 Enoch 17-36

READING ACTS: Enoch’s Heavenly Journey – 1 Enoch 17-36. That finishes up the Book of the Watchers. Earlier post in the series, plus on related matters, are collected here.

More on "Barbarians Rising"

TELEVISION Is 'Barbarians Rising' A True Story? Meet The Real Rebel Leaders Behind History's Docuseries (LAURA ROSENFELD, Bustle). I mentioned this series recently with reference to the first episode on Hannibal and the Punic Wars. But this article profiles a number of other "barbarian" leaders, some of whom are of interest and who have come up in past PaleoJudaica posts for one reason or another. For more on Hannibal and the Punic Wars, see here and links, here, and here. I am astonished that there are no past posts on Spartacus. Boudica (Boudicca) has been mentioned here, although the rumored movie never happened. And there's a post on Alaric (and the Temple treasures!) here (cf. here). Cross-file under Punic Watch.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

1 Enoch 12-16

READING ACTS: Enoch Pleads with the Watchers – 1 Enoch 12-16. Past posts in this series have been noted here, here, and here. And see also here, here, and here. Also, related recent posts here and here. Enoch rules.

Claymation Golem

GOLEM WATCH: Multimedia ‘Golem’ makes monster out of technology (Dan Poorman, The Post and Courier).
As a professional animator, it is Paul Barritt’s job to create golems — or, as Jewish folklore would have it, magical anthropomorphic clay beings.

When Barritt, studying philosophy and illustration at Middlesex University in London in 2006, visited a local bookstore, he found a copy of Gustav Meyrink’s 1914 novel, “The Golem,” with a cover that featured a striking still from Paul Wagener’s 1920 expressionist film of the same title. He bought the book and was “absolutely charmed,” he said. His years of claymation suddenly had meaning.

Yeah, I can see how that could work.
Barritt and his creative partner, Suzanne Andrade, with whom he manages the theater company 1927, decided to make something anyway.

The company’s satirical take on the golem legend, simply titled “Golem,” combines live performance with claymation. The play is written and directed by Andrade, with Barritt handling film, animation and design.

“Golem” made its world premiere in 2014 at the Salzburg Festival in Austria and subsequently appeared at the Young Vic Theatre in London as well as in Taiwan and France. It makes its U.S. premiere at Spoleto Festival USA on Wednesday.

I don't know how I missed this story in 2014, but here it is now. PaleoJudaica has many, many past posts on the Golem legend and its various modern renditions. Start here and just follow those links.

Anton inteview, part 3

FIFTY SHADES OF TALMUD: The Talmudic Sex Exchange, part 3: Some curious bits and insights (Shmuel Rosner, Jewish Journal).
It seems fitting to end this exchange with a couple of examples of “sex segments” from the Talmud that you find wise and illuminating. Your book contains a lot of curious little facts and stories – which ones do you personally feel have the most substance?
Among them is this:
There is a tradition that Torah/Talmud study should not end with an unhappy or derogatory text. In that spirit, I concluded in Section 50 that there may be sex after death. ...
The two earlier parts of the interview were noted here (with background links) and here.

Polonsky Prize for research on ancient mosaics

CONGRATULATIONS TO PROFESSOR TALGAM: Professor Rina Talgam awarded the polonsky prize for her comprehensive examination of a millennium of mosaics. Historical survey of excavated mosaic art of pagans, Jews, Samaritans, Christians and Muslims earns Hebrew University professor the first prize in this year's Polonsky Awards (Hebrew University press release).
Prof. Rina Talgam, the Alice and Edward J. Winant Family Professor of Art History, in the History of Art Department in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Faculty of Humanities, has been following the intricate visual dialogues among Paganism, Judaism, Samaritanism, Christianity and Islam in the Holy Land from before the Roman Empire to after the Muslim conquests.

"Mosaics located in private and public spheres, in both secular and religious buildings, played an important role in constructing cultural, religious and ethnic identities in a multicultural society, often intended to reflect the difference among the various communities, but also testified to the existence of an extensive commonality," Talgam said.

In her recent book -- Mosaics of Faith: Floors of Pagans, Jews, Samaritans, Christians, and Muslims in the Holy Land (Penn State University Press, July 2014) -- Talgam offers comprehensive analytical history of mosaics from a wide chronological range (a millennium), reviewing all aspects of the floor mosaics in their multicultural contexts.


Talgam's research has earned her the First Prize of the Polonsky Prizes for Creativity & Originality in the Humanistic Disciplines for the year 2016. The prize was presented to her at the Hebrew University's 79th annual meeting of the Board of Governors in Jerusalem.

The Polonsky foundation is also funding a Cambridge manuscript digitization project, research on the Cairo Geniza, and an Oxford-Vatican manuscripts digitization project.

The Norwegian connection

DIPLOMATIC INCIDENT UPDATE: Hidden antiquities stash discovered in diplomatic car travelling from Jordan to Jerusalem. The local driver was arrested on antiquities smuggling charges last week and has been released on bail (Ilan Ben Zion, Times of Israel). This story has already been noted here and here, but the most recent articles include comments on the incident from the Norwegian Embassy and corrects an error in the earlier reports:
Norway on Monday said it is holding an internal investigation into claims that an East Jerusalem driver for its envoy to the Palestinian Authority was arrested last week by Israel for allegedly attempting to smuggle antiquities into the West Bank from Jordan.

The Norwegian Embassy in Israel told The Times of Israel on Monday that the Foreign Ministry asked the embassy for permission to search the diplomatic car as the driver arrived at the Allenby Bridge crossing on May 31, after Israel had received “concrete information” that there was contraband aboard. (An earlier report incorrectly stated, based on a statement by a Tax Authority official, that the car was driving from the West Bank into Jordan. The Norwegian Embassy clarified that the Mercedes was en route to Jerusalem.)


But a spokesperson for the Norwegian Foreign Ministry told The Times of Israel in a statement that “the request to search the diplomatic vehicle, which enjoys diplomatic immunity, was presented to the Norwegian Embassy in Israel by the Chief of Protocol of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“The embassy cooperated with the Israeli authorities and allowed the search under certain conditions, in line with established international practice,” the spokesman said.

“Norway takes this incident very seriously,” Norway’s mission in Tel Aviv said in an email. “We are aware that diplomatic vehicles from other missions have been subject to similar incidents. In addition to the handling by Israeli authorities, we have initiated an internal process.”

An article by Victoria Stapley-Brown in The Art Newspaper includes an important clarification:
A Norwegian diplomat was in the car when it was stopped, a spokesman for the Royal Norwegian Embassy confirmed to The Art Newspaper over email, but “was not accused of any involvement in the case”.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

The Talmud on what women and men are like

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: My Son the Doctor Has Chosen the Wrong Profession. So says the Talmud in this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’—where rabbis call boys a blessing and daughters a necessary evil and blame their uncontrollable lust for actions befitting a rapist. These Talmudic passages have a very bleak view of both female and male nature.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Repairs on Church of Holy Sepulchre have begun

ECUMENICAL AGREEMENT INITIATED: Historic renovation begins at Jesus’ Jerusalem tomb. The project focuses on repairing, reinforcing and preserving the Edicule – the ancient chamber in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Jewish News).
Jerusalem where Christians believe Jesus was buried, overcoming longstanding religious rivalries to carry out the first repairs at the site in more than 200 years.

The project, which began on Monday, will focus on repairing, reinforcing and preserving the Edicule – the ancient chamber housing Jesus’ tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

It is the first such work at the tomb since 1810, when the shrine was restored and given its current shape following a fire.

Background on the repairs to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Sepulcher) is here and links.

Diplomatic incident update

MORE ON THAT LOOTING ARREST: Palestine demands return of seized artefacts. Palestinian youth have been engaged in illegal excavation action by digging mountains and caves spreading around the West Bank (Nasouh Nazzal, Gulf news).
Ramallah: Palestine’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities has urged its Israeli counterpart and the Israeli Tax Authority to return all Palestinian artefacts that were seized by occupation authorities as they were being smuggled out of the West Bank in a Norwegian diplomatic vehicle at Allenby Crossing last week.

The Israeli Tax Authority arrested Eisa Najam, a Palestinian driver for the Norwegian Embassy while on his way to Jordan in an official diplomatic vehicle with a senior Norwegian diplomat.

According to a statement from the Israeli Tax Authority, the suspect, from Beit Hanina of occupied east Jerusalem, was arrested for attempting to smuggle out at least 10 kilograms of ancient coins, statuettes and artefacts in panelling of the diplomatic vehicle.


The statement of the Israeli Tax Authority said that the age and provenance of the artefacts had yet to be ascertained. The authority said that several of the coins appeared to be Hellenistic and Roman, while the statuettes appeared to be from the Canaanite to Roman periods.

Background here.

Hasmonean-era coin hoard excavated

NUMISMATICS AND ARCHAEOLOGY: Cache of Hasmonean-era silver coins uncovered in Modiin. 2,150-year-old hoard likely buried by a Jew who was never able to return for it, found in dig at agricultural estate that took part in Bar Kochba uprising (Sue Surkes, Times of Israel).
A treasure trove of 2,150-year-old silver coins excavated in the central Israeli city of Modiin apparently belonged to a Jew who had to leave the nearby house but never managed to retrieve his hidden cache.

The 16 coins from the Hasmonean period (2nd-1st century BCE) were concealed in a rock crevice up against a wall of a large agricultural estate, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Tuesday.

Excavation director Abraham Tendler said the shekels and half-shekels (tetradrachms and didrachms) were minted in the city of Tyre, now part of Lebanon, and bear the images of the king, Antiochus VII, and his brother Demetrius II.

The finds, discovered prior to the building of a new neighborhood in the city, will be displayed in an archaeological park in the heart of that neighborhood, the Antiquities Authority confirmed.

The discovery of the silver coins provided “compelling evidence that one of the members of the estate who had saved his income for months needed to leave the house for some unknown reason. He buried his money in the hope of coming back and collecting it, but was apparently unfortunate and never returned. It is exciting to think that the coin hoard was waiting here 2,140 years until we exposed it.”

Dr. Donald Tzvi Ariel, head of the Coin Department at the antiquities authority, said the cache contained one or two coins from every year between 135 and 126 BCE.


1 Enoch 9-11

READING ACTS: The Archangels Render Justice -1 Enoch 9-11.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Divine Sonship Symposium

THE ST ANDREWS SYMPOSIUM FOR BIBLICAL AND CHRISTIAN STUDIES 2016 ON Divine Sonship began today. A host of specialists in biblical studies and related disciplines, ranging from luminaries in their fields to promising postgraduates, has descended on St. Andrews. We've had three plenary sessions so far and one set of parallel short papers. In about half an hour I'm introducing Professor George Brooke, who will be presenting the fourth and last plenary paper today. Then it's off to the pub. Blogging will be a bit irregular in the next couple of days, but I hope as fulsome as normally. And I'll post a few thoughts on the conference once it's over.

Diplomatic incident

LOOTING ARREST: Driver smuggled antiquities in Norwegian Ambassador's car. Norwegian Ambassador's chauffeur arrested in attempt to smuggle 10 kg of artifacts across the border in official car (Ari Soffer, Arutz Sheva).
Customs Authority agents discovered some 10 kilograms of antique sculptures, coins and other items concealed in cardboard boxes and hidden in the walls of the Norwegian Ambassador's Mercedes late last month.
He was trying to enter Jordan.

1 Enoch 6-8

READING ACTS: The Fallen Angels – 1 Enoch 6-8.

Review of Rebillard and Rüpke (eds.), Group Identity and Religious Individuality in Late Antiquity

Éric Rebillard, Jörg Rüpke (ed.), Group Identity and Religious Individuality in Late Antiquity. CUA studies in early Christianity. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2015. Pp. viii, 331. ISBN 9780813227436. $65.00.

Reviewed by Kendra Eshleman, Boston College (


Late antique religious identity has been a fertile site of scholarship in recent decades, with the three-volume Jewish and Christian Self-Definition as an early landmark.1 Such studies have done much to elucidate the contingent, contested, often artificial nature of the categories “Jewish,” “Christian,” and “pagan.” Yet describing the identities of groups and individuals precisely, without lapsing into essentialism or exaggerated dichotomies, remains devilishly difficult. That is the challenge taken up by the volume under consideration, which originates in a 2011 conference held by the research group “Religious Individualization in Historical Perspective.” In their introduction, Rebillard and Rüpke observe that studies of interactions among pagans, Jews, and Christians, even when they acknowledge the fluidity of group identities, tend to reify those identities by attributing them to groups, and treating those groups as internally homogenous or divided simply into “elite” and “popular.” They propose that employing the “instrument of ‘individualization’” will yield a more nuanced, dynamic picture (4); reading evidence of group life “with individuals as the focal point” reveals “the profound complexity of the interactions between group identity and religious individuality” (6). Following that prompt, the papers collected here offer illuminating meditations on ways that individual religious expression shaped, was constrained by, and eluded the demands of emerging group identities in late antiquity (here, late second to sixth centuries).


"Barbarians Rising"

PUNIC WATCH: ‘Barbarians Rising’ review: Roman Empire’s fall sluggishly retold (Verne Gay, Newsday).
WHEN | WHERE Premieres Monday night at 9 on History

WHAT IT’S ABOUT The Roman Empire rose, then fell, while fighting “barbarians,” or disparate tribes from the north, south, east and west that prodded the boundaries of the expanding realm for weaknesses or entry points. Monday’s episode opens with the Punic wars — notably Hannibal’s epic trek across the Alps, and the Battle of Cannae, which took place in 216 BC, and routed the Roman armies. Future episodes look at wars with Spartacus, Attila, and Alaric, king of the Goths. There are abundant re-enactments with commentary, by many scholars and military experts, including Gen. Wesley Clark, U.S. Army (Ret.)
The verdict:
The sword-and-sandal mini-epics here are lavishly produced, and (for the most part) dramatically comatose.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

SOAS lectures

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: SOAS: Jordan Lectures in Comparative Religion 2016. "The 2016 Jordan Lectures in Comparative Religion will be delivered by Iain Gardner, University of Sydney. The lectures are" on Mani. Follow the link for details.

Review of Collins, Apocalypse, Prophecy, and Pseudepigraphy

READING ACTS: Book Review: John J. Collins, Apocalypse, Prophecy, and Pseudepigraphy (Phillip J. Long). Mostly a summary of the essays in the book, without much critical engagement. But still useful.

Fitzpatrick-McKinley on indigenous elites

Indigenous Elites in the Nehemiah Memoir

But setting aside the means through which Nehemiah sought to deal with opposition and to assert himself, the heart of the imperial mission seems to have been the establishment of a birta (citadel) in Jerusalem which is likely to have been a response to problems in the region. These problems concerned the aggrandisement of indigenous elites who seem to have extended their rule beyond what the Persian government permitted.

See Also: Empire, Power and Indigenous Elites (Brill, 2015).

By Anne Fitzpatrick-McKinley
Department of Near and Middle Eastern Studies
Trinity College Dublin
May 2016

I can has monograph?

REMNANT OF GIANTS: John Barclay – Paul and the Gif. If this makes no sense to you, see here and here.

1 Enoch 1-5

READING ACTS: The Book of Watchers – 1 Enoch 1-5. Summary and commentary. The first in a series.

Review of Derron (ed.), Cosmologies et cosmogonies dans la littérature antique

Pascale Derron (ed.), Cosmologies et cosmogonies dans la littérature antique: huit exposés suivis de discussions et d’un epilogue. Entretiens sur l’Antiquité classique, 61. Vandœuvres: Fondation Hardt pour l’étude de l’Antiquité classique, 2015. Pp. x, 355. ISBN 9782600007610. CHF 75.00.

Reviewed by Carolina López-Ruiz, The Ohio State University (

Publisher's Preview

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

The Geneva-based Fondation Hardt has once again produced an excellent collection of papers. The topic of this volume of Entretiens is cosmologies and cosmogonies in ancient literature, ranging from the early first millennium to Late Antiquity, and from ancient Mesopotamia, Iran, and Israel to Greece, Alexandria, and Rome. This diachronic and interdisciplinary spectrum is crowned by a set of reflections by theoretical physicist Ruth Durrer. Her closing contribution, and the speakers’ visit to CERN, the largest particle accelerator, accentuates the persistence of these questions from Hesiod’s chaos and the biblical tohu-wa-bohu to the Big Bang theory: How did the universe start? Did it appear in a vacuum or was there some matter or energy preceding it and propelling it? How can we describe its composition and dynamics? What is the place of human beings in it?

Includes coverage of Mesopotamian cosmology, the Genesis creation accounts, Mani's cosmology, ancient Jewish creation traditions, and much more.