Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Sixth Nangeroni Meeting of the Enoch Seminar

I'M OFF TO CAMALDOLI, ITALY, FOR THE Sixth Nangeroni Meeting of the Enoch Seminar, the topic of which is "John the Jew: Reading the Gospel of John’s Christology as a Form of Jewish Messianism." I will be reporting there on the recent Divine Sonship Symposium at the University of St. Andrews and also responding to Catrin Williams's paper, "Johannine Christology and Prophetic Traditions: The Case of Isaiah" and chairing a short paper session.

When I was there three years ago, the internet access at the Monastery at Camaldoli was primitive. I hope it will be better this time around, but I don't know. I have pre-posted plenty of goodies, so there will still be something new for you at PaleoJudaica every day, but it may take me a while to get to news stories — not least when I'm in transit. For some other posts on past Enoch Seminars, see here, here, and here and follow the links. And you may want to have a look at James McGrath's review of a new book by Crispin Fletcher-Louis, Jesus Monotheism Volume 1, which James has posted in advance of the the Camaldoli meeting. Both he and Crispin will be there too.

The Modi'in coin collection?

NUMISMATICS: Israeli Coin Hoard May Be Ancient Coin Collection (CoinWeek). Well, sort of, but the headline is a little misleading. The successive dating of the coins points more toward an annual savings plan than a hobby.

Jeff Stark of CoinWorld also has a video about the recent find of the ancient coin collection in Modi'in (Modiin): Hidden hoard in Israel sheds light on wartime: Monday Morning Brief, June 13, 2016.

Background here.

Kwon, Scribal Culture and Intertextuality


Scribal Culture and Intertextuality
Literary and Historical Relationships between Job and Deutero-Isaiah

[Schriftkultur und Intertextualität. Literarische und historische Zusammenhänge zwischen Hiob und Deuterojesaja.]
2016. XIX, 277 pages.
Forschungen zum Alten Testament 2. Reihe 85
79,00 €
sewn paper
ISBN 978-3-16-154397-5

Published in English.
In this work, JiSeong James Kwon examines a variety of scholarly arguments concerning the distinctive literary and historical relationship between the book of Job and the second part of the book of Isaiah (Isaiah 40–55), so-called Deutero-Isaiah. The general methodology in a comparative study between biblical texts has been the author-oriented approach which traces the complex interrelationships between corresponding texts, considering many verbal and thematic similarities, but this approach often arises from the misleading concepts of literary dependence from an early source to a later one. In this book, the author argues that scribes were writers of biblical materials and belonged to a group of the literate elite in Judahite society, and that resemblances between the two books result from the production of a scribal culture. This view may shed a light on traditional researches influenced by form-criticism, which divides the literate groups in Israelite society into different professional groups—priests, sages, and prophets. The proposed approach of the scribal culture has also resulted in a different way of interpreting the association with ancient Near Eastern literature which is supposed to be closely related to the two books. Similarities with non-Israelite sources have been suggested by scholars as unequivocal evidence of literary dependence or influence, but a careful examination of those extra-biblical compositions possibly affirms that scribes would have a broad awareness of other ancient texts. Finally, shared ideas and interests between the two books do offer insights into the theological views of the scribes in the Persian period. We may see the historical development of scribal ideas by comparing the two books with other biblical texts and by confirming the diversity and discrepancy within them.

Schmitt, Stilistik der altpersischen Inschriften

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Stylistics of Old Persian Royal Inscriptions. Notice of new book: Schmitt, Rüdiger. 2016. Stilistik der altpersischen Inschriften. Versuch einer Annäherung. (Veröffentlichungen Zur Iranistik 79). Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (ÖAW). More information on the Achaemenid (Persian) Empire, which ruled over Judea through much of the Second Temple period, is always welcome. And epigraphic evidence is particularly important since it comes to us unfiltered by foreign viewpoints (e.g., Herodotus) or later evidence (e.g., the Avestas).

SOTS Booklist 2016

Deborah W. Rooke (ed.) with Holly Morse, Society for Old Testament Study Book List 2016 (= JSOT 40.5) (London: Sage, 2016).
Kudos to departing editor Deborah Rooke for her excellent editorship of the Book List over the last seven years, and likewise to her hardworking assistant Holly Morse.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Karen King: GJW probably a forgery

THE GOSPEL OF JESUS' WIFE: Karen King Responds to ‘The Unbelievable Tale of Jesus’s Wife.’The Harvard scholar says papyrus is probably a forgery
For four years, Karen L. King, a Harvard historian of Christianity, has defended the so-called “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” against scholars who argued it was a forgery. But Thursday, for the first time, King said the papyrus—which she introduced to the world in 2012—is a probable fake.

She reached this conclusion, she said, after reading The Atlantic’s investigation into the papyrus’s origins, which appears in the magazine’s July/August issue and was posted to its website Wednesday night.

“It tips the balance towards forgery,” she said.

Professor King qualifies that judgment a little:
King said she would need scientific proof—or a confession—to make a definitive finding of forgery. It’s theoretically possible that the papyrus itself is authentic, she said, even if its provenance story is bogus. But the preponderance of the evidence, she said, now “presses in the direction of forgery.”
I don't disagree with her, but I would phrase it (and repeatedly have phrased it) more sharply: it is still conceivable that we won the lottery. But I don't think so.

That said, Professor King is to be commended for her intellectual honesty. She has invested a lot in this fragment, supporting the possibility that it was authentic but carefully keeping open the possibility that it was a forgery. Now that new evidence has emerged, she has changed her opinion in light of it. She has set a good example. This is what scholarship is about.

I hope Harvard continues to study the papyrus and the evidence for its provenance and production. That process may turn out just to be mopping up, but it is still important.

Meanwhile, for the record, I called it correctly as soon as the existence of the papyrus was announced and I maintained that position throughout all the twists and turns of the story over the last three and a half years. That was always where the facts pointed.

Background here and oh so many links.

Below are a few posts on the latest developments in the GJW story by bloggers who have also been following and, often, contributing to the story. I know there are more, but that's all I have time to track down at the moment.

Mark Goodacre: The Owner of the Gospel of Jesus' Wife is Unmasked

Peter Gurrey: The Owner of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife Unveiled

Christian Askeland: More on the Gospel of Jesus Wife and Walter Fritz

Larry Hurtado: Jesus’ Wife Fragment: The Back Story and Out of Date? Indifferent? What?

Mars, Edom, whatever

EXPLORING OUR MATRIX: Visiting Edom/Mars. James McGrath groks the Wadi Rum.

JSTOR: (limited) free access

AWOL: JSTOR Register & Read.
JSTOR has a program offering free, read-online access to individual scholars and researchers.
For you, special deal!

Was the Gospel of Thomas Gnostic?

ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: Was the Gospel of Thomas Gnostic? (Nicola Denzey Lewis, Bible Odyssey). The short answer is that it depends on what you mean by "Gnostic" and it to some degree depends on when you think the Gospel of Thomas was written. Professor Lewis gives a good, brief overview of the state of the question.

1 Enoch 64-71

READING ACTS: The Third Parable – 1 Enoch 58-63. Past posts in the series, plus on related matters, are here and links. More here on Enoch's regeneration into the Son of Man in chapter 71.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Latest on the Gospel of Jesus' Wife — a major breakthrough?

THIS COULD BE IMPORTANT: The Unbelievable Tale of Jesus’s Wife. A hotly contested, supposedly ancient manuscript suggests Christ was married. But believing its origin story requires a big leap of faith (Ariel Sabar, The Atlantic).

At first I thought this was just going to be another survey of the story of the publication of the Gospel of Jesus' Wife and the controversy over its authenticity (which has now nearly universally been rejected). There have been many such and they are useful as recaps, but not very exciting. In fact, this article is a major piece of investigative journalism which, if its claims are verified and followed up, could possibly lead to the solution of the whole mystery. It's a long article and impossible to excerpt helpfully, but here's one brief quote:
With King and her critics at loggerheads, each insisting on the primacy of their evidence, I wondered why no one had conducted a different sort of test: a thorough vetting of the papyrus’s chain of ownership.

King has steadfastly honored the current owner’s request for anonymity. But in 2012, she sent me the text of e-mails she’d exchanged with him, after removing his name and identifying details. His account of how he’d come to possess the fragment, I noticed, contained a series of small inconsistencies. At the time, I wasn’t sure what to make of them. But years later, they still gnawed at me.

The American Association of Museums’ Guide to Provenance Research warns that an investigation of an object’s origins “is not unlike detective work”: “One may spend hours, days, or weeks following a trail that leads nowhere.” When I started to dig, however, I uncovered more than I’d ever expected—a warren of secrets and lies that spanned from the industrial districts of Berlin to the swingers scene of southwest Florida, and from the halls of Harvard and the Vatican to the headquarters of the East German Stasi.
Mr. Sabar claims to have established that the owner of the GJW is a man named Walter Fritz. Sabar reports on his interviews with Mr. Fritz and his extensive investigation of him. Mr. Fritz denies that he himself forged the papyrus or had anything to do with any possible forging of it. Beyond that, it gets very complicated indeed. As soon as you can, stop what you're doing, get some of whatever it is you drink, and sit down and read this article through.

There are many, many past PaleoJudaica posts on the Gospel of Jesus' Wife. Start here and follow the links. This post from October of 2015 is useful as background to Sabar's article.

Some 2016 SBL sessions

LIV INGEBORG LIED: The 2016 SBL Annual Meeting program book available online: two sessions of interest. Old Testament pseudepigrapha are involved.

1 Enoch 58-63

READING ACTS: The Third Parable – 1 Enoch 58-63. Past posts in the series, plus on related matters, are here and links.

Lo’ tirtsah

YONA SABAR: Hebrew word of the week: Lo’ tirtsah/Thou shall not kill.

I have commented here on the meaning of this Hebrew verb in the Bible.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Conference on the Hebrew and Jewish Collections of the John Rylands Library

“The Other Within - The Hebrew and Jewish Collections of the John Rylands Library”
Date: Monday, 27 June to Wednesday, 29 June 2016
Location: The John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH
Registration is still open until 17 June. Follow the link for details.

Past posts on the conference are here and here. Wish I could go.

1 Enoch 53-57

READING ACTS: A Final Judgment– 1 Enoch 53-57. Past posts in the series, plus on related matters, are here and links.

Conflict over Second Temple-era archaeology at West Bank site

POLITICS AND ARCHAEOLOGY: By end of 2016 allocation of Tel Rumeida archeological park to the Jewish settlement in Hebron to be reversed (Uri Shapira, i24NEWS).
Tension in the area increased after the release of a video showing an IDF soldier apparently shooting an unarmed, incapacitated Palestinian assailant. But as the dispute in Hebron continues, shadows from the past rise up.

Recently archaeologists from Ariel University, also located in the West Bank, have found new exciting artifacts dated to the second Biblical Jewish temple.

Dr David Ben Shlomo from the university who is running the excavations, explains that the vessels from the Second Temple period were destroyed in 68 AD by the Romans, but have now been reconstructed.

“We can see it was a Jewish culture. First of all we have this ritual bath, secondly we have stone vessels which in this period is known to indicate Jewish population," he says.

But not everyone is pleased with the new findings. Yonathan Mizrahi from the left wing Emek Shaveh archaeologist organization opposes the excavations, saying it is a political tool of Jewish settlers who use it to fortify their hold on this disputed area "You cannot say you are just doing scientific work in a conflict area when you are a part of it. You are a university in a conflict area, your activity is in a conflict area, you are unwelcome there, the narrative is definitely one sided, I encourage Dr Ben Shlomo to go inside Israel and to excavate there," says Mizrahi.

Unlicensed antiquities shop in Mamilla Mall raided

Hundreds of Ancient Artifacts that were Traded without a License were Seized during a Raid on a Souvenir Shop in Jerusalem's Mamilla Mall

The Israel Antiquities Authority’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery: an indictment will soon be filed against the shop owner

Bronze arrowheads, coins bearing the names of the Hasmoneans rulers, special vessels for storing perfumes and hundreds of items that are thousands of years old were offered for sale in a store in the Mamilla Mall, which was not licensed to trade antiquities. All of these items were seized yesterday (Tuesday) during an operation carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery. The raid took place after the store, which was under surveillance, sold ancient artifacts to undercover Antiquities Authority investigators.

New regulations have been in force since March 2016 requiring that Israeli antiquities dealers manage their commercial inventory using a computerized system developed by the Israel Antiquities Authority. The move, which will allow the tracking of the items, is designed to prevent antiquities dealers from "laundering" illegal artifacts that are the product of antiquities robbery, namely the illicit excavation of archaeological sites that eradicate knowledge about the country’s and the world’s cultural heritage solely for the purpose of profit. The souvenir shop was selling antiquities at the prestigious mall even though it had not obtained a license to do so.

According to Dr. Eitan Klein, supervisor in charge of the antiquities trade, at the IAA, “Prior to enacting the regulations the situation with the ancient market was nothing short of miraculous, whereby there was always an abundance of finds on the shelves. Yet the dealers were constantly bemoaning the fact that sales were extremely weak. These reports raise questions about the remarkable survival of these stores for decades. In practice, it was abundantly clear that in order to supply the merchandise antiquities sites in Israel and around the world were being plundered and history was sold to the highest bidder. The activity we carried out in the Mamilla store is just part of much broader effort being made in the antiquities market that is aimed at preserving the cultural heritage of the State of Israel, which belongs to all of its citizens, and preventing the "laundering" of stolen antiquities by manipulating the commercial inventory of authorized antiquities dealers ".

In the coming days an indictment will be filed against the store owner who is suspected of illicit trade in antiquities.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The invention of YHWH?

HISTORY OF RELIGION: How the Jews invented God, and made him great. The God of the Old Testament started out as just one of many deities of the ancient Israelites. It took a traumatic crisis to make him into the all-powerful creator of the world (Ariel David, Haaretz). The word "invented" is a bit provocative, but it comes from the title of the 2015 book by Thomas Römer, The Invention of God. I haven't read it, but this article seems mostly to be a summary of it. Inevitably, the farther back we go the more speculative the reconstruction, and of course I want to debate or nuance some of the specifics, but at least in outline the reconstruction is probably more or less correct. The article concludes:
Snatching God from the jaws of defeat

The real conceptual revolution probably only occurred after the Babylonians' conquest of Judah and arson of the First Temple in 587 B.C.E. The destruction and the subsequent exile to Babylon of the Judahite elites inevitably cast doubts on the faith they had put in Yhwh.

“The question was: how can we explain what happened?” Römer says. If the defeated Israelites had simply accepted that the Babylonian gods had proven they were stronger than the god of the Jews, history would have been very different.

But somehow, someone came up with a different, unprecedented explanation. “The idea was that the destruction happened because the kings did not obey the law of god,” Römer says. “It’s a paradoxical reading of the story: the vanquished in a way is saying that his god is the vanquisher. It’s quite a clever idea.

“The Israelites/Judahites took over the classical idea of the divine wrath that can provoke a national disaster but they combined it with the idea that Yhwh in his wrath made the Babylonians destroy Judah and Jerusalem,” he said.

The concept that Yhwh had pulled the Babylonians' strings, causing them to punish the Israelites inevitably led to the belief that he was not just the god of one people, but a universal deity who exercises power over all of creation.

This idea is already present in the book of Isaiah, thought to be one of the earliest biblical texts, composed during or immediately after the Exile. This is also how the Jews became the “chosen people” – because the Biblical editors had to explain why Israel had a privileged relationship with Yhwh even though he was no longer a national deity, but the one true God.

Over the centuries, as the Bible was redacted, this narrative was refined and strengthened, creating the basis for a universal religion –  one that could continue to exist even without being tied to a specific territory or temple. And thus Judaism as we know it was established, and, ultimately, all other major monotheistic religions were as well.
Read it all before it goes behind the subscription wall.

CSBS/CSPS pre-pub review session on More New Testament Apocrypha (part 2)

APOCRYPHICITY: 2016 CSBS/CSPS MORE NEW TESTAMENT APOCRYPHA PANEL (PART 2). Tony Burke concludes his report. The More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project receives quite a bit of attention in this part.

Cross-file under New Testament Apocrypha Watch. Part 1 and background were noted here.

Ashdod vandals make amends

REPARATIONS: High school students restore vandalized Ashdod historic site after ‘paint party.’ Instead of reporting the remorseful students to the police, the IAA used the incident as a lesson in civic responsibility (DANIEL K. EISENBUD, Jerusalem Post).
After dousing the walls of the ancient citadel at Ashdod-Yam with brightly colored paint during a party, the four high school students responsible for the vandalism made amends by working with the Antiquities Authority to restore the heritage site, the authority said on Monday.


Background here and here.

1 Enoch 50-52

READING ACTS: The Second Parable – 1 Enoch 50-52. Past posts in the series, plus on related matters, are here and links.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Har Sinay

YONA SABAR: Hebrew word of the week: Mt. Sinai/Har Sinay. Timely.

Free journal issues until 7 July!

Near Eastern Archaeology, Vol. 79, No. 2, June 2016 is available for free until July 7th;
Journal of Cuneiform Studies Volume 68 is available for free until July 7th.

CSBS/CSPS pre-pub review session on More New Testament Apocrypha (part 1)


Cross-file under New Testament Apocrypha Watch. Background here. I look forward to seeing the volume out in November.

1 Enoch 45-49

READING ACTS: The Second Parable – 1 Enoch 45-49. Past posts in the series, plus on related matters, are here and links.

Afghan "geniza" update

BACK IN THE NEWS: Silk Road Jewish Documents Dating Back to the 11th Century Come to Light. Written in Aramaic, Hebrew, Persian, Judeo-Arabic and Judeo-Persian, the 1,000-year-old documents are the family archive of Abu Nassar Ben Daniel, who lived along the old Silk Road (Nir Hasson, Haaretz). This story has been out for quite a while, but this article contains some new information. Excerpt:
[Israeli antiquities dealer Lenny] Wolfe has been following the clue ever since. About three years ago, he was able to purchase 29 documents and bring them to Israel. The documents were sold to the National Library and have been under study ever since. Six months ago, after a long search, Wolfe managed to purchase 100 more documents from the cache. As in the previous case, the Israel Antiquities Authority authorized Wolfe to buy the documents for the state.

However, he has yet to find a buyer for the new documents, which are held in a safe. “I’m sure the material will eventually find its way to an appropriate institution,” he said, declining to say more about negotiations over the material. Neither would Wolfe disclose the price he paid for the documents.

Experts say they believe the price was not astronomical, because the documents contain only text, and no illustrations.

Scholars now know that the source of he documents is not a genizah – a hidden cache of documents – like the one found in Cairo, but rather the archive of a Jewish family of traders who lived on the Silk Road in northern Afghanistan in the 11th century. The head of the family is named in the documents as Abu Nassar Ben Daniel and the family apparently lived in the central Afghani city of Bamyan. The city made headlines 11 years ago when the Taliban blew up two huge statues of Buddha there. The collection of documents came to light a few years later, after the war that led to the downfall of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Rumor has it that the collection was found in a cave or deep rock crevice somewhere in Afghanistan, where it had been secreted by its owners about a thousand years ago.
Read it all before it goes behind the subscription wall.

Much background here and here and links (cf. here).

Cannabis on Sinai?

NO. NEXT QUESTION? Was Smoke on the Shavuot Mountain a Sign Ancient Jews Used Marijuana? (Susie Davidson, The Forward).
The upcoming festival of Shavuot, which means “weeks,” marks the end of a seven-week period that begins during Passover, and the receiving of the Torah under a cloud of smoke at Mount Sinai.

“And all the people saw the thunder and lightning, and the sound of the shofar, and the mountain in smoke; when the people saw it, they became uneasy and stood far away” (Ex. 20:15)

“According to an interpretation of Exodus 19:18, on Shavuot, Mount Sinai began to burn and smoke,” said Orthodox Jewish geriatrician Yosef Glassman.

What kind of smoke is the question.

This is a ridiculous over-reading of the smoke on Mount Sinai in the biblical narrative. I have commented on a similar claim here and I stand by my comments there.

That said, I don't know whether the ancient Israelites knew of medicinal or ritual uses of cannabis. There is evidence for such use from ancient Near Eastern archaeology, and it seems entirely possible that they did. There is also evidence that the ancient Philistines used psychoactive drugs, apparently in a ritual context, although I have seen no mention of cannabis specifically.

Likewise the rabbis in late antiquity may well have known of medicinal and ritual uses of cannabis, but I would like to see a peer-reviewed argument for it before I accept that they did.

PaleoJudaica takes no position on the modern debate over the legalization of cannabis.

Possibly related post here?

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Shavuot 2016

THE FESTIVAL OF SHAVUOT (Weeks, Pentecost) began last night at sundown. Best wishes to all those celebrating. Some biblical background is noted here.

X-Ray vision

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: Reading Hidden Text with X-Rays (Peter Gurry, ETC). A good reminder of (Peter) Head's Rule: "the best place to find unknown manuscripts is inside known ones."

Also, Drew Longacre, at one of those text-critical blogs noted in the immediately preceding post (OTTC: A Blog for Old Testament Textual Criticism), has more on the possible application of x-ray technology to manuscripts: European Genizah" and X-Ray Technology. More on the "European Geniza" is here and links.

Text-critical blogs

ETC: Other Text Critical Blogs Worth Noting (Peter Gurry).

Interview with Bruce Longenecker

CRUX SOLA BLOG: Interview: Bruce W. Longenecker on Pompeii (Gupta).
Dr. Bruce W. Longenecker is professor of early Christianity and W.W. Melton Chair of Religion at Baylor University. (I am proud to say Longenecker is a fellow grad of Durham!)

Recently Longenecker published the fascinating book, The Crosses of Pompeii: Jesus-Devotion in a Vesuvian Town (Fortress, 2016). I got the book immediately when it was released and devoured it in a matter of days – it is gripping archaeological and historical research! Longenecker agreed to be interviewed about his book on Pompeii; first, you can read the basic description. If the topic interests you, take my advice and read it. You won’t be disappointed!

HT AJR. Cross-file under New Book. For numerous past posts on Pompeii, see here, here, and here and follow the links.

Caliph Omar and the Temple Mount

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Inside Jaffa Gate, remembering the Caliph who revered the Temple Mount. When Omar iben Al-Khatab visited Jerusalem soon after the Muslim conquest in 638, he was furious to find Judaism’s holiest site covered in trash (AVIVA AND SHMUEL BAR-AM, Times of Israel).
One of the city’s liveliest streets is actually a small plaza called Omar iben Al-Khatab Square and named for the second Caliph of the Islamic world. It runs from just inside Jaffa Gate to the beginning of the Armenian Quarter at Armenian Orthodox Patriarchate Road, and bursts with both ancient and relatively modern historical sites.

Brilliant, sensitive, tolerant and an administrative whiz, Omar visited Jerusalem soon after Muslim Arabs conquered the Holy City in 638. Omar revered many of the Old Testament’s most significant personalities, and greatly honored Judaism’s holy sites – including the peak on which Solomon erected the magnificent First Temple.

Thus when he ascended to the Temple Mount and found it overflowing with trash, Omar was enraged. He immediately ordered the rubbish removed — and, say some, he helped clear it out with his own hands.

At one point Jerusalem Bishop Sophronius invited the Caliph to join him for prayers inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Omar is said to have refused, explaining that were he to accept, Muslims might immediately ravish this most important of Christian sites and replace it with a mosque dedicated to Islam. He then proceeded to pray outside the church — exactly where a mosque named for the Caliph is located today.

The dates of Caliph Omar (Umar) are c. 586 to 3 November 644 CE. A somewhat different version of the story in the last quoted paragraph is given here.

POTC2: Twitter responds

CINEMA: Mel Gibson’s ‘Passion Of The Christ’ Sequel Gets Some Assistance From Twitter (Ryan Harkness, Uproxx).
Internet denizens reacted to the news of a sequel with their typical sarcastic humor, skewering the movie industry’s obsession with sequels and creating a definitive list of names and tag lines for the new Passion of the Christ movie. Here’s some of our favorites ...
Their favorites are of varying levels of humor and taste. My favorite of them: