Saturday, September 03, 2016

Afterman, "And They Shall Be One Flesh”

“And They Shall Be One Flesh”: On The Language of Mystical Union in Judaism

Adam Afterman, Tel-Aviv University
In “And They Shall Be One Flesh”: On the Language of Mystical Union in Judaism, Adam Afterman offers an extensive study of mystical union and embodiment in Judaism. Afterman argues that Philo was the first to articulate the notion of unio mystica in Judaism and is the source of the henōsis mysticism in the later Neoplatonic tradition. The study provides a detailed analysis of the Jewish medieval trends that developed different forms of mystical union and mystical embodiment through the divine name and spirit. The book argues that the development of unitive mysticism in Judaism is the fruit of the creative synthesis of rabbinic Judaism and Hellenistic and Arab philosophy, and a natural outcome of the theological articulation of the idea of monotheism itself.

Stoneworking in the Roman World

AWOL: The Art of Making in Antiquity: Stoneworking in the Roman World. Originally noted by AWOL in 2014, but I didn't link to it at the time. The website covers a broad array of topics on stone work and stoneworking, including some information on ancient stone vessels. This is relevant to the recent discovery of an ancient stone workshop in Galilee and also to the older story of the inscribed ritual stone cup found by the Mt. Zion excavation. Stone vessels are found at ancient Jewish sites from time to time, including, recently, at Tel Rumeida. Stone vessels were useful because they were not susceptible to ritual impurity.

Review of Carney, King and Court in Ancient Macedonia

Elizabeth Carney, King and Court in Ancient Macedonia: Rivalry, Treason and Conspiracy. Swansea: The Classical Press of Wales, 2015. Pp. xxvi, 326. ISBN 9781905125982. $110.00.

Reviewed by Alexis Q. Castor, Franklin & Marshall College (


To sum up, the collection of articles presented in this volume speaks to a clear and important theme concerning the ruling Argead clan and the expectations of the Macedonian elite. Carney has long sought to convince us that kings cannot be assessed without considering their closest companions, and the scholarly debates that she reports in the Afterword essays show how significant her work has been over the past forty years. This volume will offer my students more opportunity to delve into the family, friends, and enemies of Philip and Alexander.
Of potential background interest for Second Temple Judaism, for which Alexander's conquest of the Persian Empire was very important.

Review of Pummer, The Samaritans: A Profile

READING ACTS: Book Review: Reinhard Pummer, The Samaritans: A Profile.
Pummer, Reinhard. The Samaritans: A Profile. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2016. 376 pp. Pb; $30.
Conclusion. Pummer’s introduction to the Samaritans goes beyond the usual topics to include the whole history of Samaritan culture. By blending literary and archaeological sources, Pummer presents a clear and concise picture of the Samarians both in antiquity and in the modern world. Although the arrangement of topics is sometimes odd, this book will be a useful contribution to the ongoing study of the Samaritans.
I noted a Bible and Interpretation essay by Pummer introducing the book early in 2016.

Metratron's indy publishing in Montreal

ARCHANGEL METATRON WATCH: Montreal, In Verse. An Introduction to and Exploration of Local Poetry (Tessa Mascia, The Link).
Apart from venues, many local poetry collectives, such as Metatron, a local independent publisher which specializes in contemporary literature, exist as platforms to move poets and their work into the public eye. Metatron, whose goal is to provide support to emerging writers and publish literature that reflects the thoughts of our generation, is another example of the kind of grassroots organization that flourishes in Montreal.

In its infancy, the collective started as an off-beat reading series hosted by co-editor Guillaume Morissette. Now, Metatron works to help local artists who may not have access or connections to a traditional publishing house.

Ashley Opheim, managing editor of Metatron, recalls when she first started studying creative writing in 2009.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Meir, Kabbalistic Circles in Jerusalem (1896-1948)

Kabbalistic Circles in Jerusalem (1896-1948)

Jonatan Meir, Ben-Gurion University
This book endeavors to fill a lacuna in the literature on early twentieth-century kabbalah, namely the lack of a comprehensive account of the traditional kabbalah seminaries (Yeshivot) in Jerusalem from 1896 to 1948 as well as the various manifestations of kabbalah within traditional Jewish society. The foundations that were laid in the early twentieth century also paved the way for the contemporary blossoming of kabbalah in many and manifold circles. In this sense, retracing the pertinent developments in Palestine at the outset of the twentieth century is imperative not only for repairing the distorted picture of the past, but for understanding the ongoing surge in kabbalah study.
Yes, this book is on a period well outside PaleoJudaica's normal time frame. But it serves as a salutary reminder that mystical and revelatory experiences have not only been around for a long time, they haven't stopped. They're still here.

The Cairo Geniza on who wrote the Bible

GENIZA FRAGMENT OF THE MONTH (AUGUST 2016): Who Wrote the Bible? (Kim Phillips). A baraita in the Babylonian Talmud gives one account, but there is an alternative account preserved in masoretic traditions and also found in a fragment from the Cairo Geniza.

Past posts noting Cairo Geniza Fragments of the Month in the Cambridge University Library's Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit are collected here.

Satlow teaching on Jews and money

MICHAEL SATLOW: Jews and Money: A New Course. He is teaching it at Brown University and has posted the syllabus at his blog. The course deals with the topic from antiquity to the present.

Review of Sagona, The Archaeology of Malta

Claudia Sagona, The Archaeology of Malta: From the Neolithic through the Roman Period. Cambridge world archaeology. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015. Pp. xix, 449. ISBN 9781107006690. $135.00.

Reviewed by Rowan McLaughlin, Queen’s University Belfast (


Part of the Cambridge World Archaeology series, this book presents a synthesis of the archaeology of Neolithic and Bronze Age Malta not achieved since John Evans’s seminal Prehistoric Antiquities of the Maltese Islands,1 and in addition, also contains chapters covering Punic/Phoenician and Roman sites. This is an ambitious and compendious book that falls intermediately in scope and detail between Evans’s work and Sagona’s own treatise on Punic Malta,2 and more popular accounts of Maltese archaeology.3 The book is generally a success, but the treatment of various cultural phases is uneven and—especially in the Early Neolithic (Chapter 2) and Roman periods (Chapter 8)—the reader is left wondering whether more could have been made of the available evidence within Malta and its relationship to the surrounding Mediterranean worlds.
This section is most relevant to the interests of PaleoJudaica:
The most satisfying Chapters in the book are 6 and 7, which concern the evidence for the Phoenician settlement of Malta in c. 750 BC (although there is much evidence for earlier influence), and their descendants who, two centuries later, came to be known by their Roman competitors as Punic. The end of the Bronze Age is considered first (in Chapter 6), the timing of which is again bedevilled by poor dating. Here, and elsewhere in the book, Sagona is keen to stress continuity, although given the absence of archaeological evidence, one is left wondering what the reasons for this are.

Reading Chapter 8 ‘Malta’s Place in the Roman World’, one is left with the impression that the archaeological evidence for this period is slight. This may be somewhat misrepresentative of the reality—there are many sites, although few that approach the magnificent vestiges of the Roman world found elsewhere in the Mediterranean. There was apparently much continuity with Punic lifeways, the best archaeological evidence for which is present in the funerary record, but unfortunately discussion on this important theme is limited to less than two pages, and fails to account for how burial practices evolved and were elaborated throughout the Roman period.
PaleoJudaica has posted on Malta's Phoenician and Punic connections from time to time, including here, here, here (mentions Dr. Sagona), here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Cross-file under Phoenician Watch and Punic Watch.

On 2 Baruch and the Fall of Jerusalem

READING ACTS: 2 Baruch and the Fall of Jerusalem. Phil Long takes up a new text in his pseudepigrapha series. William Brown also has a post on 2 Baruch from a few months ago: Pseudepigrapha Saturday: 2 Baruch. Some past PaleoJudaica posts dealing with 2 Baruch are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

BNTC 2016

I'M OFF TO CHESTER for the annual meeting of the British New Testament Conference. The Twitter hashtag is #bntc2016. The University of Chester is the venue and they are reporting that a record number of delegates are coming.

I shall be very busy and may not be blogging many news items in the next few days. But I have pre-posted lots of new posts (look for them somewhat later in the day than normally), so please do keep visiting PaleoJudaica as usual.

UPDATE (4 September): More here.

BAR September-October 2016

BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY REVIEW HAS A NEW ISSUE OUT: September/October 2016. Nice feature articles:
Where Is the Land of Sheba—Arabia or Africa?
by Bar Kribus

How Biblical Hebrew Changed
by Avi Hurvitz

‘Lost Gospels’—Lost No More
by Tony Burke

How Bad Was the Babylonian Exile?
by Laurie E. Pearce
But they and most of the rest are behind a subscription wall. For the present you can read the opening lines at the Current Issue link here.

Review of Debié​, L'écriture de l'histoire en Syriaque

Muriel Debié​, L'écriture de l'histoire en Syriaque: transmissions interculturelles et constructions identitaires entre hellénisme et Islam. Avec des répertoires des textes historiographiques en annexe. Late Antique History and Religion, 12​. Leuven; Paris; Bristol, CT: Peeters, 2015. Pp. xxxiv, 724. ISBN 9789042932371. €105,00.

Reviewed by Héctor R.​ Francisco, Universidad de Buenos Aires-CONICET (

Table of Contents

The aim of the book under review is to provide a tool to facilitate research on Christian historical narratives written in Syriac (p. xv). However, after a closer evaluation of its almost eight hundred pages, the reader discovers that it has a much broader scope. Beyond being a descriptive repertoire of texts and authors, this monumental and valuable volume thoroughly discusses significant issues concerning Syriac historical literature in particular and pre-modern historiography in general.

Cross-file under Syriac Watch.

On the NT and 4 Ezra

READING ACTS: The New Testament and 4 Ezra. The earlier posts in Phil Long's series on 4 Ezra have been noted here and links.

Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

NEH grant for Magness

SOCIETY FOR CLASSICAL STUDIES: NEH Awards Grants to Six Classically-Themed Projects.
The NEH has recently released its list of grant recepients for 2016. Included are six projects on Classical themes that focus on various aspects of ancient history and material culture from Rome to the Middle East. They are:
Congratulations to all six recipients, but notably to Jodi Magness, whose project involves ancient Judaism:
A grant toward the "completion of a monograph on the history of Masada, a mountain fortress overlooking the Dead Sea, from early exploration in the first Century B.C.E. to Jewish revolt and Masada's fall to Rome" (Directed by Jodi Magness)

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Favorite church in the holy lands?

THE BIBLE PLACES BLOG: Reader Survey: Favorite Church in the Holy Lands. Another survey by Todd Bolen, with the results to be announced on Thursday.

Recycling of ancient materials in medieval art

EXHIBITION: The Hidden History of Recycling in Medieval Art (Allison Meier, Hyperallergic).
It’s easy to forget that a historic artifact preserved in a museum is not a static object. Before it was acquired, it went through decades of tactile use and change. The medieval period in particular, with the rise of Christianity, saw ancient Roman gods re-carved as saints, and scarce materials like gold melted down to make new objects. Waste Not: The Art of Medieval Recycling at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore explores this layered history in over 20 objects from the institution’s collections.

I first noticed this article because of this paragraph near the end:
These are objects of both the ancient and medieval world, and today are valued for both those histories. A 1495 edition of Aesop’s Fables is just as prized for its 15th-century printing as the precious pages from a 12th-century Talmud that were reused for its binding. As Herbert said: “To me, it is this trace of creativity and resourcefulness, and the visible transformation the object has undergone, that makes medieval recycling so different and fascinating.”
It's always interesting to keep track of early manuscripts of the Talmud. For more on the reuse of manuscripts in book bindings, see here and here and links.

But as I read the rest of the article, the following also caught my eye:
However, the recycling is often difficult to detect, with conservators only recently discovering melted Roman gold or glass, and old manuscripts with ink scratched off from earlier writing. One gleaming work in Waste Not features a Limoges enamel of the Virgin Mary made with melted Roman glass at a time when cobalt blue glass was quite pricey, and it was easier to reuse existing materials.

“This kind of recycling is really invisible, we only know there is recycling here due to modern science and our fantastic conservation department,” Herbert said. “No one in the medieval era, except the craftsmen themselves, would have known it was made from recycled materials.”

For example, finding traces of the mineral natron in glass, which was common in the Roman era but rare by the 9th century, suggests that a Roman mosaic may have been repurposed. The presence of the white metal bismuth in a 7th-century gold fibula likewise intimates that it was formed from melted Roman gold. Herbert added that this reuse reflected the medieval view of the world, where they saw their era “as part of a continuum, built upon all that came before,” and recycling was a deliberate demonstration of that idea. Waste Not leads with a quote from the 2nd-century Christian theologian Clement of Alexandria, who wrote:
Riches, then, which benefit also our neighbors, are not to be thrown away. For they are possessions, inasmuch as they are possessed, and goods, inasmuch as they are useful and provided by God for the use of men.
So medieval art sometimes recycled ancient materials and the recycling can only be detected by materials-science testing. I imagine that normally the iconographic differences between medieval and ancient art save us from confusion on such matters, but I wonder if this is always true. Might there be objects that have been determined to be ancient on the basis of their material composition but which are actually medieval works that reused ancient materials? I don't know. But given the increasing reliance on materials analysis in the fields of archaeology, art history, etc., it might be worth keeping this possibility in mind.

Cross-file under Talmud Watch and Technology Watch.

4 Ezra 14:1-48

READING ACTS: Ezra’s Seventh Vision – 4 Ezra 14:1-48. My 2012 SBL paper deals with this passage in 4 Ezra: The 94 Books of Ezra and the Angelic Revelations of John Dee. The earlier posts in Phil Long's series on 4 Ezra have been noted here and links.

Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

A 10th century BCE palace at Gezer?

ARCHAEOLOGY: King Solomon-era Palace Found in Biblical Gezer. Monumental 3000-year-old ruins, Philistine pottery support biblical tales of Gezer's rise, and fall to a jealous pharaoh (Philippe Bohstrom, Haaretz).
A palatial building dating to the era of King Solomon 3000 years ago has been discovered in the royal city of Gezer, though there is no evidence which of the Israelite kings lived there, if any.

The monumental building dates to the 10th century BCE, the era associated with King Solomon, who is famed for bringing wealth and stability to the newly-united kingdom of Israel and Judah. The American archaeological team also found a layer featuring Philistine pottery, lending credence to the biblical account of them living in the city until being vanquished by King David.

Clearly an important discovery, whether or not the exact date and proposed biblical connection (on which more below) stand up. This, however, is disappointing:
Archaeologists had assumed that once they cleared the massive stones left behind from the destruction, they would find storerooms filled with artifacts. To their dismay, most of the rooms were empty. “It appears that everything was cleaned out before the destruction. Perhaps they knew of the impending attack and removed most of the objects," [Prof. Steve] Ortiz says.
Sigh. Conscientious people.

And about that dating and biblical connection:
Dr. Sam Wolff, an archaeologist employed by the Israel Antiquities Authority and co-director of the excavation along with Ortiz, urges caution in connecting the finds from the excavation with biblical texts.

Regarding attribution of the palace to the time of King Solomon, Wolff tells Haaretz, “Our 10th century date is tentative, pending further study of the ceramic assemblage and the results of carbon 14 analyses. Others may claim that the pottery we are calling 10th century is in fact 9th century.
The thing to be excited about is the discovery of an early Iron Age II palace. Any biblical background that eventually stands up to scrutiny is just a bonus. Meanwhile, it would be really nice if a nice lapidary inscription turned up in the rubble to tell us all about what was actually going on.

Khirbet Qeiyafa at the Bible Lands Museum

EXHIBITION: Archaeological Evidence of the Kingdom of David in Jerusalem. Israeli archaeologists will present to the public the new evidence recently uncovered of the truth of the Biblical kingdom of David (Anna Rudnitsky, TPS/Tazpit News Agency via the Jewish Press).
Biblical archaeology was revolutionized several years ago when evidence of the existence of the kingdom of David was brought to light in the form of a fortified Iron Age town excavated in the Elah Valley by Hebrew University Professor Yosef Garfinkel and Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) archaeologist Sa’ar Ganor.

The place was described by the Bible as the location of the battle between David and Goliath. The highlights of the findings of the Elah Valley excavations are now to be presented to the public for the first time at an exhibition scheduled to open at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem on September 5.


The Bible Lands Museum exhibition, “In the Valley of David and Goliath” will feature the pottery shards as well as a clay model of a shrine found at the site and the huge stones used in the wall around the town. “Although I led the excavations, I myself was amazed to see the different pieces brought together in a way that allows visitors to get a clear picture of how the town looked and that gives them an opportunity to go back in history to the times of the kingdom of David,” Professor Garfinkel said.
Past posts on Khirbet Qeiyafa and the important inscriptions and other things discovered there are here, here, and here, with many links.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Mishnah on the Lex Talionis (Law of Retaliation)

THE GEMARA.COM: Rabbinic Battery Law in Light of Roman Rule (Dr. Yoni Pomeranz).
Abstract: The rabbinic laws of personal injury differ markedly from those in the Torah. They are, however, substantially similar to the laws of personal injury that guided Roman courts in Palestine in the second century CE. Reading perek ha-ḥovel (m. Bava Kamma 8) alongside Roman law codes reveals the influence that Roman law had on rabbinic law. Roman models were responsible for the rabbinic rejection of a strict “eye for an eye” law, the calculation of נזק by valuing the victim as a slave, and the idea that an assailant could be liable for payments for בושת.
This is relevant as background to and elaboration on the immediately preceding post on The Lex Talionis (Law of Retaliation) in the Talmud.


The Lex Talionis (Law of Retaliation) in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Is ‘An Eye for an Eye’ Really an Eye for an Eye? In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ Talmudic rabbis reinterpret a famous biblical verse to allow compassion to trump logic.
The truth is that, as we have seen over the last four years of reading Daf Yomi, the rabbis very often depart from biblical law, even to the extent of completely rewriting it. Exactly when in Jewish history the practice changed from reciprocal injury to the payment of a fine is unclear, but by the time the mishna was compiled, in the first century CE, the change was already well-established. However, it is a fundamental principle of the Talmud that such revisions can never be acknowledged as revisions. After all, if the Bible is the word of God, no human court can modify it. What it can do, instead, is to reinterpret the Bible so that it says the reverse of what it seems to plainly mean. Such reinterpretation is authorized by the idea that the oral law, as recorded in the mishna, is of equal antiquity with the written law because both were given to Moses at Sinai.
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

UPDATE: The immediately following post above is also relevant: The Mishnah on the Lex Talionis (Law of Retaliation).

Postdocs and PhD positions at Helsinki

The two Centres of Excellence are seeking enthusiastic candidates for several fixed-term positions of


The university and postdoctoral researcher positions are for periods ranging from one to three years. The period of the doctoral student positions may range from one to four years.
One of those Centres is The CoE in Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions (CSTT), which has a blog here. They do a lot of interesting work in ancient Judaism and related areas. Dr. Drew Longacre is currently a postdoctoral researcher there. His Old Testament Textual Criticism Blog and the CSTT Blog are familiar to regular readers of PaleoJudaica.

4 Ezra 13:1-58

READING ACTS: Ezra’s Sixth Vision – 4 Ezra 13:1-58 (The Man from the Sea). The earlier posts in the series on 4 Ezra have been noted here and links.

Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

DeConick, The Gnostic New Age

RICE UNIVERSITY PRESS RELEASE: New book by Rice's DeConick explores the emergence and revolutionizing role of gnosticism.
Gnosticism is a countercultural spirituality that forever changed the practice of Christianity. This is the premise of a new book by April DeConick, the Isla Carroll and Percy E. Turner Professor of Biblical Studies and chair of the Department of Religion at Rice University.

"The Gnostic New Age: How a Countercultural Spirituality Revolutionized Religion From Antiquity to Today," published by Columbia University Press, will hit bookstores in September. The 392-page book has already been selected to receive a subvention award from the Figure Foundation, which very selectively supports publications, mainly in philosophy and religion.

I shall be reviewing this book in the Mysticism, Esotericism, and Gnosticism in Antiquity Group in November at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in San Antonio. I'm looking forward to reading my copy when it arrives.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The denarius

NUMISMATICS: Silver denarius was centerpiece of Rome’s currency for centuries. Most famous ancient coin is silver ‘Eid Mar’ denarius (Jeff Starck, Coin World).
Just as the Greeks had a signature silver coin, the Roman denarius (plural: denarii) was the centerpiece of the Roman currency system.

The small silver coin was first minted about 211 B.C. during the Second Punic War, and became the most common coin produced for circulation, remaining useful long after memories of the war had faded.


Early denarii feature the head of Roma, patroness of the city, on the obverse. The reverse features the Dioscuri, known individually as Castor and Pollux, the twin sons of Zeus and Leda. These young gods became widely popular as protectors in a moment of crisis, and a temple was built in their honor.

As the decades passed, designs for the denomination made way for the political realities of a world where the moneyers (those who struck the coins) and later the rulers themselves, highlighted their own achievements, relationships, or both.

The denarius is probably best known from this story in the New Testament:
13 And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Hero′di-ans, to entrap him in his talk. 14 And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true, and care for no man; for you do not regard the position of men, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? 15 Should we pay them, or should we not?” But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a coin,[a] and let me look at it.” 16 And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were amazed at him.

a. Mark 12:15 Greek a denarius

(Mark 12:13-17 RSV)
And cross-file under Punic Watch.

Glenny, "The Septuagint and Biblical Theology"

THEMELIOS 41.2: The Septuagint and Biblical Theology (W. Edward Glenny).

This article addresses the question: How does the LXX relate to the Christian Old Testament, and more specifically, what role does the LXX play in Christian biblical theology? The first part of the article is a brief overview of five different approaches to the role of the LXX in a whole-Bible biblical theology. The five approaches are: (1) LXX Priority and Canon, (2) LXX Priority, Hebrew Canon, (3) Hebrew Priority and Canon, LXX Bridge, (4) Hebrew and Greek Are Sanctified by the Spirit, and finally (5) Hebrew Priority and Canon, LXX Commentary. Building on the different perspectives surveyed in this study, it is suggested that that the importance and function of the LXX in Christian biblical theology is at least fourfold: (1) The LXX can function as the source of Christian biblical theology; (2) The LXX is valuable for biblical theology in its role as a commentary on the biblical text; (3) The LXX is a bridge or link between the Christian OT and NT; and (4) The LXX complements the Hebrew Scriptures.

4 Ezra 11:1-12:51

READING ACTS: Ezra’s Fifth Vision – 4 Ezra 11:1-12:51 (The Eagle Vision). The earlier posts in the series on 4 Ezra have been noted here and links. So far there is not a post on Ezra's fourth vision, the woman and Jerusalem.

Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

The Living Torah Museum

EXHIBITION: Talmud for Taxidermy. At the Torah Animal World, one Brooklyn Rabbi Brings Stuffed History to Strange Life (Jamie Manelis,
I was surrounded. Seven lions encircled us, mouths ajar with eternal hunger. It was me, a photographer and a rabbi. Sounds like the beginning of a bizarre, hacky joke or the kind of anxiety-ridden dream you tell your therapist about (maybe you should have just had that bat mitzvah?) or possibly even a premise for a very strange and specific horror film. Regardless, it’s the kind of scene you would never imagine happening in your real life, especially in Brooklyn.

This is Torah Animal World.

“Don’t be afraid. How about holding a baby lion?” Rabbi Shaul Shimon Deutsch, founder and curator of Torah Animal World, attempts to comfort me with the stuffed baby lion, his face frozen in ferocious spirit. “Kids come in here, and they are in love because you feel like you’re walking into a lion’s den.”

That’s only the beginning of the fascinating journey through Rabbi Deutsch’s treasure chest of taxidermy delights and ancient artifacts of time forgotten. Torah Animal World is a subset of the Living Torah Museum (voted Best Museum of New York by the Village Voice) offers peculiar insight on an otherwise conventional history. Located in Borough Park, Brooklyn, Rabbi Deutsch has reconstructed his ideal museum with a collection of antiquities (both secular and not) and taxidermy animals, which he’s been collecting for over 23 years. “This was a lifelong dream,” Deutsch admits with a gleaming smile. He poses next to a smug ostrich whose plastered smirk survives even death. “I felt that if we could create something like this it would outlast my lifetime.

I posted on Torah Animal World and the Living Torah Museum back in 2010. But this new article is a good excuse to mention it again.

CFP: How the Bible Came into Being

THE DUNELM ROAD BLOG: How the Bible Came into Being. HBU Spring Theology Conference. A conference on 2-4 March 2017 at Houston Baptist University. Follow the link for details and the call for papers.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Review of Ryan and Shamir (eds.), Bigger than Ben-Hur

Barbara Ryan, Milette Shamir (ed.), Bigger than Ben-Hur: The Book, its Adaptations, and their Audiences. Television and popular culture. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2016. Pp. xviii, 269. ISBN 9780815634034. $34.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Ruth Scodel, The University of Michigan (

Timely. Background on the new Ben-Hur movie is here and links. Those links will lead to discussions of the book and previous film adaptations etc.

4 Ezra 6:35-9:25

READING ACTS: Ezra’s Third Vision – 4 Ezra 6:35-9:25. The earlier posts in the series on 4 Ezra have been noted here and links.

Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

New translation of Sifre Devarim

Sifre Devarim

Marty Jaffee

A new translation of the 4th-century rabbinic oral commentaries on Deuteronomy

This new translation of the tannaitic midrash Sifre Devarim by Professor Emeritus Marty Jaffee of the University of Washington emphasizes the oral performative dimension of the text.
More details:
Book Description

Professor Marty Jaffee’s new translation of the tannaitic midrash, Sifre Devarim, a 4th-century compilation of rabbinic oral commentaries on Deuteronomy, uniquely captures the spoken dimension of the original text.

Previous translators were rightly concerned with the accurate negotiation of meaning between rabbinic Hebrew and modern English, but neglected the text’s social matrix in an oral-performative milieu. This new translation brings a fresh and often poetic perspective to the work.
And this:
Project made possible through a Digital Media Fellowship at the
University of Washington Stroum Center for Jewish Studies
HT the Talmud Blog on Facebook.

New Series: Texts and Versions of the Hebrew Bible

NEWS YOU CAN USE: New Series: Texts and Versions of the Hebrew Bible (Peter Gurry, ETC Blog).

Review of Compton, Psalm 110 and the Logic of Hebrews

2016.08.16 | Jared Compton. Psalm 110 and the Logic of Hebrews. London: T&T Clark, 2015.
Review by Madison N. Pierce, Durham University.