Saturday, October 08, 2016

Review of Kirsch, The People of the Books

BOOK REVIEW: Adam Kirsch’s Anthology of Jewish Civilization’s Greatest Hits. Dara Horn writes that “The People and the Books” is an astute introduction to 18 Jewish classics by one of America’s finest literary critics (WSJ).
The Anthology of Great Jewish Books is a genre with a long history—and it always reveals more about the needs of its readers than about the books it includes. The first instance is right in the Bible itself: The Book of Chronicles, eager to emphasize the centrality of the Jewish kingdom and the Temple in Jerusalem, cheerfully summarizes all the preceding biblical books while leaving out details of little interest to its readers—like the Exodus from Egypt. Every generation gets the anthology it deserves.

Our generation, in which many Jews can’t even name the Five Books of Moses, might not deserve Adam Kirsch, but we are lucky to have him. Mr. Kirsch is one of America’s finest literary critics—I would gladly read him on anything from Genesis to a Geico commercial—and his latest book, “The People and the Books,” is an astute and accessible introduction to 18 Jewish literary classics.

Mr. Kirsch’s choices are just as carefully selected as those in Chronicles: He includes Deuteronomy but not Exodus, Talmudic aphorisms but not Talmudic arguments, philosophy but not poetry, Yiddish literary master Sholem Aleichem but not Hebrew Nobel laureate S.Y. Agnon, and, strikingly, no works published in the past 100 years.

Philo of Alexandria and Flavius Josephus are featured as well.

Regular readers of PaleoJudaica will recognize Adam Kirsch as the writer of a weekly column on the Daf Yomi cycle of Talmud readings. I have been following this column for the last several years and have found his writing on this difficult subject to be lucid, sensitive, and entertaining.

Willgren, The Formation of the 'Book' of Psalms


The Formation of the 'Book' of Psalms
Reconsidering the Transmission and Canonization of Psalmody in Light of Material Culture and the Poetics of Anthologies

[Die Entstehung des ‚Buchs‘ der Psalmen. Überlegungen zur Überlieferung und Kanonisierung der Psalmodie im Lichte der Sachkultur und der Poetik der Anthologien.]
2016. XVII, 491 pages.
Forschungen zum Alten Testament 2. Reihe 88
99,00 €
sewn paper
ISBN 978-3-16-154787-4

Published in English.
In this study, David Willgren attempts to provide answers to two fundamental questions in relation to the formation of the ‘Book' of Psalms: “how?” and “why?”. The first relates to the diachronic growth of the collection (how are these processes to be reconstructed, and on what grounds?), while the second relates to questions of purpose (to what end are psalms being juxtaposed in a collection?).
By conceptualizing the ‘Book' of Psalms as an anthology, and by inquiring into its poetics by means of paratextuality, David Willgren provides a fresh reconstruction of the formation of the ‘Book' of Psalms and concludes, in contrast to the canonical approach, that it does not primarily provide a literary context for individual psalms. Rather, it preserves a dynamic selection of psalms that is best seen not as a book of psalms, but as a canon of psalms.

Forgery of ancient texts

THE ASOR BLOG: Forging Ancient Texts (Heather Dana Davis Parker).
For an accurate and complete understanding of history and culture, it is crucial that written sources be authentic. But what if they are not?

The surest way to verify the authenticity of ancient documents is to determine if they were recovered from secure archaeological contexts. In contrast, the antiquities market is how most modern hoaxes are circulated, including forgeries of ancient texts. Alleged ancient texts are often said to come from particular archaeological sites, but there is rarely a way to verify such assertions.

Alas, this is an evergreen topic. Some recent PaleoJudaica posts on forgeries of antiquities (including the Shapira scrolls and the Gospel of Jesus' Wife, both mentioned in the article) are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Free registration is required for access to the full text of the essays at the ASOR blog.

Romans 4

READING ACTS: Why Abraham? – Romans 4. With background material from Ben Sira and Jubilees.

Many of the previous posts in Phil Long's Romans series are noted here and links.

Torah-smuggling charges in Egypt

LOOTING ARRESTS: Nine suspects charged with smuggling rare Torah manuscripts into Israel (Al-Masry Al-Youm/Egypt Independent).
Nine suspects are being investigated by prosecutors in Giza over allegations of attempting to smuggle stolen historic artifacts into Israel from Iraq.

The suspects, one of whom resides in Sinai, were allegedly trying to smuggle ancient religious manuscripts from the Torah into Israel for an agreed prices of LE50 million.

The article does not specify the exact age of the manuscripts.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Billionaires are trying to escape the demiurgic world

GNOSTICISM WATCH: Tech billionaires convinced we live in the Matrix are secretly funding scientists to help break us out of it. Many of the world's richest and most powerful people, including Elon Musk and Bank of America, think that we live in a simulation of the real world (Andrew Griffin, The Independent).
Some of the world’s richest and most powerful people are convinced that we are living in a computer simulation. And now they’re trying to do something about it.

At least two of Silicon Valley’s tech billionaires are pouring money into efforts to break humans out of the simulation that they believe that it is living in, according to a new report.

Philosophers have long been concerned about how we can know that our world isn’t just a very believable simulation of a real one. But concern about that has become ever more active in recent years, as computers and artificial intelligence have advanced.

That has led some tech billionaires to speculate that the chances we are not living in such a simulation is “billions to one”. Even Bank of America analysts wrote last month that the chances we are living in a Matrix-style fictional world is as high as 50 per cent.

And now at least two billionaires are funding scientists in an effort to try and break us out of that simulation. It isn’t clear what form that work is taking.

Perhaps surprisingly, the simulation argument is a serious proposal that has support from some philosophers and scientists, but this is taking it to a new level. I have discussed the simulation argument many times at PaleoJudaica: see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. I understand the argument that the odds in favor of us being in a simulation are "billions to one," but I'm not convinced by it. It assumes that we know what consciousness is, and I don't think we actually have any useful explanation of it. See the last link in the previous sentence for a more detailed discussion. That said, I do think that the simulation argument is a real possibility that has some explanatory value for what we see around us.

But the main reason I bring the idea up at PaleoJudaica is that it adds up to a modern, somewhat philosophically and scientifically grounded, version of Gnosticism, complete with a demiurge who created an imperfect world, inhabitants of that world who retain a spark of light and can acquire gnosis that tells them the truth about their reality, and now even gnostic savior figures who aim to release us from the demiurgic world and return us to the pleroma. Whatever the merits of the theory and the responses to it, this is sociologically very interesting.

Whether breaking out of the simulation is a good idea is another matter. If we're really in a simulation, which I can't rule out, we don't know what's on the outside. We also don't know what the demiurgic programmer would think of the idea. Perhaps we're in a video game and escape is the object and how we win. But if not, the programmer may just decide the program has been corrupted and shut us down.

Have a nice weekend.

Radiocarbon dating honored

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: Site of radiocarbon dating discovery named historic landmark (Steve Koppes, University of Chicago/Science Daily).
It was while working in the Kent Laboratory building in the 1940s that Prof. Willard Libby and his UChicago associates developed radiocarbon dating -- an innovative method to measure the age of organic materials. Scientists soon used the technique on materials ranging from the dung of a giant sloth from a Nevada cave; seaweed and algae from Monte Verde, Chile, the oldest archaeological site in the Western Hemisphere; the Shroud of Turin; and the meteorite that created the Henbury Craters in northern Australia.

Now the American Chemical Society has designated the discovery of radiocarbon dating as a National Historic Chemical Landmark. The society will officially recognize the achievement at 4 p.m. Oct. 10, with the unveiling of a plaque in the foyer of the Kent Chemical Laboratory building at 1020 E. 58th St.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of Libby's first publication on radiocarbon dating, which appeared in the June 1, 1946 issue of Physical Review. The work earned Libby the 1960 Nobel Prize in chemistry "for determinations in archaeology, geology, geophysics and other branches of science."

One item tested early-on by Libby is of special interest to PaleoJudaica (my emphasis):
Other tested samples included part of the deck of a funeral ship placed in the tomb of Sesostris III of Egypt, the heartwood of one of the largest redwood trees ever cut, and the linen wrapping one of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The second edition of Libby's Radiocarbon Dating, published by the University of Chicago Press in 1955, lists 27 pages of objects for which he had obtained radiocarbon dates before the fall of 1954.

Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron

I HAVE TO ADMIT I'VE NEVER HEARD OF HIM: This Fascinating Figure Was The Original Indiana Jones (The Foundation for Economic Education, ValueWalk).
Anquetil – This Fascinating Figure Was The Original Indiana Jones

Before Indiana Jones and Lawrence of Arabia came Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron. Born in 1731, Anquetil was the original Orientalist-adventurer: a European scholarly expert of Asian culture who also embodied bold, heroic action in the field.

His speciality was the roots of ancient religions in Asia. He was the first European to translate the Avesta, a millennia-old collection of scriptures central to Zoroastrianism, the ancient faith of pre-Islamic Persia. In order to learn to read the 2,000-year-old form of Persian in which the Avesta was written, Anquetil travelled across India for six years, from 1755. For much of that time, he lived in the port of Surat, studying among the Parsis, a community of Zoroastrians who had fled their ancestral home in Persia centuries before.

Published in 1771, Anquetil’s translation of the Avesta caused a sensation. Most Europeans still considered the Hebrew scriptures to be the most ancient and reliable religious text. Anquetil’s translation confronted Europeans with Zoroastrian scriptures that were ancient and independent of Biblical traditions. He raised unsettling questions about the history and uniqueness of Christianity, and revolutionised European thinking about religion.

But Anquetil’s most lasting achievement might be his particular brand of self-promotion as the Orientalist-adventurer. In a set of memoirs presented as a companion to his translation of the Avesta, he portrayed himself as a fearless man of action, a hunter of esoteric knowledge facing dangers from man-eating beasts to lustful princes. With time, Anquetil’s fame gradually faded. But the image of the Orientalist-hero that he pioneered not only endured, but grew into a celebrated and symbolic archetype of Western culture.

If the details in this article are correct (and I can't vouch for them), Anquetil does sound rather like Indy, including sharing his worst excesses.


YONA SABAR: Hebrew Word of the Week: sliHah “forgiveness; pardon (me), sorry.” Timely, with Yom Kippur coming next week.

Aristotle and Yom Kippur?

LITURGY: Embracing Aristotle at Yom Kippur. When we recite Unetaneh Tokef at High Holiday services, we take a lesson from the ancient Greeks about what to do when life gives us lemons (Eylon Aslan-Levy, Tablet Magazine).
What would Aristotle make of Yom Kippur? He would probably struggle with the Hebrew, and be bemused by the strange ways of the Jews. But at the holiday’s apogee, during the recitation of the haunting Unetaneh Tokef, he would experience an unnerving moment of déjà vu—for its central message is precisely that of his own moral philosophy.


In other words: We cannot stop life throwing lemons at us, but we can stop ourselves being bruised by the flying lemons, and even make lemonade. And with this empowering message, Unetaneh Tokef appeals for Jews to embrace a lesson first laid down by Aristotle, just before the conquest of ancient Israel by Alexander the Great.

Well, maybe. Read it and see what you think. And by the way, ancient Israel had already been well conquered and was a vassal of the Persians when Alexander the Great came along. Presumably the author of this essay knew this, but the phrasing could have been better.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

On the Elephantine papyri

THE ASOR BLOG: Multi-Dimensional Yahwism: The Case of the Persian Period Judaean Community in Elephantine (Gard Granerød).
When reading Jewish literature from the Second Temple period (the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman periods) in light of Nehemiah 8, one gets the impression that the Torah (the Books of Moses)—in one form or another—was the common spiritual denominator accepted by all branches of developing Judaism. But questions concerning the background, date of composition, and provenance of Ezra–Nehemiah remain unsolved. How should we assess the biblical texts as historical sources? Do they primarily reflect the viewpoints of their authors or also historical occurrences?

One important set of Judaean text betrays no knowledge of a “book of law of Moses” (or other sacred writings, for that matter), the Aramaic documents from Achaemenid Egypt, documenting the Judaean community in Elephantine (Jeb in Aramaic). In the fifth century BCE Judaeans in Elephantine were a garrison community under Achaemenid Persian command, controlling Egypt’s traditional southern border close to the First Cataract of the Nile.

A good essay that sums up many of the issues raised by the Elephantine papyri for our understanding of Judaism in the Persian Period.

Two comments occur to me, both with reference to this paragraph:
Finally, a major characteristic of Judaean religion in the Aramaic texts from Egypt is that they do not reflect Biblical writings. Possible overlaps represented by words such as “Sabbath” and “Passover” need not be explained as vague hints of knowledge of any proto-version of a biblical text. Quite on the contrary, the facts that the Judaeans in Elephantine had their own temple of YHW and even tried to get support from Jerusalem in their struggles for to rebuild their second temple strongly suggest that they were totally ignorant of the so-called cult centralisation reflected in Deuteronomy 12. The two literary works that may have had some sort of authority among the Elephantine Judaeans were the wisdom literature called Words of Aḥiqar and the Aramaic version of King Darius’s Bisitun Inscription.
I don't disagree with what is said here, but I do want to nuance it. First, the Passover Papyrus shows knowledge of a Judean religious festival in a form not unrelated to what we find in the biblical Priestly source. Second, Papyrus Amherst 63 is also from Elephantine and it may (this is debated) come from the same fifth-century BCE Judean community that produced the other papyri. If so, the community had a larger and even more diverse collection of religious literature than is indicated above.

Gard Granerød's recent book on the Elephantine Judean community was noted here. Other recent past PaleoJudaica posts on the Elephantine Papyri and the site of Elephantine are here, here, here, here, here, and here, with a great many links.

ISAW Visiting Research Scholar Program

The online application for ISAW's 2017-18 Visiting Research Scholar Program is now open.

Each year the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University, makes about 7 appointments of visiting research scholars. ISAW's scope embraces research and graduate education in the history, archaeology, and culture of the entire Old World from late prehistoric times to the eighth century CE, including Asia and Africa. Projects of a theoretical or comparative nature relevant to this domain are also welcome. Academic visitors at ISAW should be individuals of scholarly distinction or promise in any relevant field of ancient studies who will benefit from the stimulation of working in an environment with colleagues in other disciplines. Applicants with a history of interdisciplinary exchange are particularly welcome. Scholars are expected to be in residence at the Institute during the period for which they are appointed and to take part in the intellectual life of the community.
The application deadline for the current round is 20 November 2016. Follow the link for further particulars.

The announcement was retweeted by AJR.

Nibiru, the Nephilim, and the Iraqi transport minister

CAN'T MAKE IT UP: First airport built in Iraq 5,000 years ago, for aliens: minister. Iraq‘s transport minister quotes Jewish ‘expert‘ to justify claims about ancient spaceships (SUE SURKES, Times of Israel).
The Iraqi transport minister has harnessed the works of a Jewish author of books about ancient astronauts to strengthen his claim that the first airport was built 5,000 years ago in the southern Iraqi region of Dhi Qar, and that it was from there that ancient Sumerian spaceships set off to explore other planets.

“If you do not believe me, read the book of the great historian Zecharia Sitchin, who was an expert in Sumerian studies,” Kazem Finjan told various Iraqi TV channels last week, in reference to the Russian-born American who was raised in mandatory Palestine and who moved to New York in 1952 after working as an editor and journalist in Israel.

In his 1976 book “The 12th Planet” and its sequels, Sitchin, a self-taught Sumerian expert, described a planet called Nibiru that was home to extra-terrestrial beings, who came to earth some 450,000 years ago on a colonial mission and subsequently interbred with native earthlings.

And guess who the aliens from Nibiru are. That's right: the Nephilim.

Do watch the MEMRI video embedded below. And keep an eye on the guy on the right in the light jacket, who looks like he can barely restrain himself from cracking up during the minister's speech.

Some recent past posts on various goofy ideas about the Nephilim are here, here, here, here, here, and here. And this one deals with some real information about the Nephilim legend and also with the use of that legend in the 2014 Noah movie.

ETC Blog SBL 2016 dinner

UPCOMING EVENT: SBL 2016 San Antonio ETC Blog Dinner ( Christian Askeland). Anyone attending the SBL meetings is invited.

Visiting Petra

TRAVEL: The Real Adventurer’s Guide to the Ancient City of Petra. Visitor numbers to the iconic ruins of Petra, in the Jordanian desert, have dropped by half in the last five years. But fearless travelers don’t give up that easily. Here’s the best way to see one of the world’s most astounding archaeological sites (ROGER TOLL, WSJ). Personally, I'm inclined to wait until the region is a little quieter before I visit Petra. But if you are of a more adventurous mind, this might be the article for you.

Cross-file under Nabatean (Nabataean) Watch. For lots more on the Nabateans and the ancient city of Petra, start here, here, here and here, and follow the many links.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Qedem Reports in JSTOR

AWOL: New in JSTOR: Qedem Reports. Some of the archived Qedem volumes involve the archaeology of ancient Judaism.

Podcast interview with Christine Hayes

MARGINALIA REVIEW OF BOOKS: First Impressions # 92: Christine Hayes on the Nature of Divine Law.
Greco-Roman conceptions of divine and human law forced Judaism to examine and debate the divine identity of Mosaic law. In this special extended edition of First Impressions, Joseph Ryan Kelly talks with Christine Hayes, the Robert F. and Patricia Ross Weis Professor of Religious Studies in classical Judaica at Yale University about her new book What’s Divine about Divine Law? Early Perspectives.
Past PaleoJudaica posts on the book are here, here, and here.

Postgraduate conference on alcohol in the ancient world

CAS Graduate Student Conference: Call for Papers

Alcohol in the Ancient World

Conference Date: February 24th and February 25th, 2017
Conference Location: Penn Museum, Philadelphia, PA, USA
Host: Center for Ancient Studies, University of Pennsylvania
Keynote Speaker: Dr. Patrick McGovern, Penn Museum
Abstracts Due: December 1, 2016

The Center for Ancient Studies (CAS) calls for papers from graduate students in any discipline who are engaged in the study of alcohol in the pre-modern world. Beer, wine, and other fermented beverages have played an important role in the social, political, economic, and religious lives of humans for thousands of years. The embedded nature of alcohol in human societies makes it a productive locus for research on a wide range of topics. Possible subjects include the role of alcohol in:

• Production technologies and techniques
• Consumption practices and contexts
• Visual and literary culture
• Law
• Medicine
• The construction and negotiation of identity and gender
• Trade and political economy
• Ritual

Research on the prohibition of alcohol in pre-modern societies is also encouraged. This can be approached from a number of angles. Who is prohibited and why? When and where do these prohibitions apply? What do they entail? How are they enforced and how are they circumvented?
Follow the link for information on submitting a paper proposal.

Romans 3:9-18

READING ACTS: The Power of Sin – Romans 3:9-18. Phil Long continues to interact with ancient Jewish texts in his pericope-by-pericope series on Paul's Letter to the Romans. This time: Jubilees, 1QHa, 1QS, etc.

Many of the previous posts in his Romans series are noted, with comments, here and here.

Penn symposium on ancient divination

CAS Annual Symposium Fall 2016

Divination in the Ancient World

All sessions are in Rainey Auditorium at University of Pennsylvania Museum. Enter via the Kress Entrance.

The belief in divination, the possibility of learning the future and/or thewill of the god(s), is one that is prevalent throughout the world, in both ancient and modern times. In the past, scholars tended to avoid working on divination, which was looked down upon as superstition and not worthy of study. However, over the last few decades more and more scholars have become interested in this topic, realizing that it provided insights into the fears and belief systems of ancient peoples, and that it had real effects on how people acted. This conference brings together leading scholars to present and discuss original scholarship on divination in ancient societies across the world.
The Symposium takes place on 10-12 November. Follow the link for an in-progress program. The topics are wide ranging, but biblical discourse on divination receives attention.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

DeConick, The Gnostic New Age

April D. DeConick, The Gnostic New Age: How a Countercultural Spirituality Revolutionized Religion from Antiquity to Today (New York, Columbia University Press, 2016)
Noted earlier here. This is my review copy for the review session in the Mysticism, Esotericism, and Gnosticism in Antiquity Group at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in San Antonio, Texas, in November. I am very much looking forward to reading it.

PhD scholarship at Groningen

THE UNIVERSITY OF GRONINGEN, THE NETHERLANDS: PhD scholarship in Faculty Theology and Religious Studies: Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Origins.

Horn appointed to Heisenberg Professorship at MLU

CONGRATULATIONS TO CORNELIA HORN: Heisenberg Professorship strengthens Oriental Research at the University of Halle.
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) has filled another Heisenberg Professorship through the support of the German Research Foundation (DFG). The internationally renowned researcher of Oriental Christian Studies, Dr Cornelia B. Horn, will assume the professorship "Language and Cultures of the Christian Orient" starting in winter semester 2016/17. The appointment of Dr Horn by Rector Professor Udo Sträter further strengthens the unique position of the Institute of Oriental Studies at MLU which examines the Islamic, Oriental-Christian and Jewish traditions as part of its research and teaching.

"I’m very pleased that we have been able to attract Cornelia Horn to take up this one-of-a-kind professorship in Germany. The Institute of Oriental Studies gains an outstanding and multifaceted researcher whose work examines how Oriental Christians impact the cultural and social development of the societies in the Near East," says Rector Sträter. The DFG’s funding of the professorship strengthens the so-called small disciplines that are under pressure around the country from funding cuts. "Together with our network partners at the universities of Jena and Leipzig, we are engaged in intensive conversations on how we can join efforts in the field of Oriental Studies and attract relevant third-party funding."

Cornelia B. Horn, born in 1968, studied classics, philology, philosophy, Oriental languages, church history, computer-supported linguistic text analysis and theology in Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and the United States. She also devoted much of her time to the study of the Arabic, Syriac, Ethiopic, Hebrew, Armenian, Georgian, and Coptic languages. ...
That's some serious philology! Congratulations also to MLU on this excellent appointment.

Hurtado on Tilling on Jesus devotion

LARRY HURTADO: Why and How did Jesus-Devotion Erupt? Professor Hurtado interacts with a podcast by Chris Tilling.

Ginzei-Qedem, 12 (2016)

H-JUDAIC: TOC: Ginzei-Qedem, 12 (2016). Ginze Qedem is the "Genizah Research Annual." This volume includes articles on the Karaites, Saadia Gaon, and early vocalization systems of Hebrew.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Profile of a Zohar translator

ZOHAR WATCH: New translation of Jewish mystical text for a new audience (Kristin E. Holmes,
For the last six years, Joel Hecker, an associate professor at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, has pored over a set of medieval writings to help unlock one of the most important texts in Judaism.

Hecker, 56, of Bala Cynwyd, has dissected centuries-old manuscripts and translated hundreds of pages of Aramaic to contribute to a new English translation of the Zohar, a compendium of commentaries and essays that is the foundation of the Jewish mystical tradition known as Kabbalah.


Hecker, who trained as a rabbi and later studied for his doctorate under Wolfson, is part of the translation team led by Daniel C. Matt, a Kabbalah scholar and former professor at Graduate Theological Union seminary in Berkeley, Calif.

Matt began translating Volumes 1 through 9 in 1997. He selected Hecker and Nathan Wolski, of the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilization at Monash University, in Victoria, Australia, to join the project in 2010 and help complete it.

Hecker's Volume 11 contains commentaries on the Song of Songs (also known as the Song of Solomon) and the Books of Ruth and Lamentations. He and Wolski collaborated on Volume 12, which has discussions of the ancient and medieval practice of deducing character traits from hands and facial features.

Past posts on the Zohar, and Daniel Matt's Zohar translation project, are here with many, many links.

The Herculaneum Conservation Project

AWOL: The Herculaneum Conservation Project on I have mentioned the Herculaneum Conservation Project in a couple of old posts here and here. I'm glad to see that they are still around and they are keeping up with online tools for disseminating information on their work.

UPDATE: Also, past posts on the site of Heculaneum and its carbonized library are here, here, and here, with many, many links.

Reading Acts on Romans

OVER AT THE READING ACTS BLOG, Phil Long continues his informative series of posts on Paul's Letter to the Romans. I hadn't planned to follow it, but he is interacting with a lot of ancient Jewish (and occasionally not-so-Jewish - see below) literature, so I'm going to list his recent posts and the texts they cite. Regarding the not-so-Jewish literature, both the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs and the Odes of Solomon are second-century CE unambiguously Christian texts and should not be cited as "Second Temple" texts. It is true that the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs used some Jewish sources. The Greek Testament of Levi is based on Aramaic Levi (most of which still survives) and the Greek Testament of Naphtali appears to be based on an ancient Jewish Naphtali text (in Hebrew?), some of which can be reconstructed from later sources. But both Greek Testaments are Christian texts as they stand now. Aramaic Levi is well worth citing on its own, if relevant, but if material in the Greek Testament of Levi is not also found in Aramaic Levi, it is better not to use it as evidence for ancient Jewish thought.

For attitudes toward same-sex relations in ancient Judaism, see here and here.

An earlier post in Phil Long's Roman's series was also noted here.

September 2016 Biblical Studies Carnival

BIBLE STUDY WITH RANDY: Biblical Studies Carnival September 2016.

Satan in Judaism

THE ADVERSARY: Where Did Satan Come From? (Laura Geggel, Live Science).
The devil goes by many names — Satan, the Prince of Darkness, Beelzebub and Lucifer to name a few — but besides this list of aliases, what do people really know about the brute? That is, how did the story of Satan originate?

This article discusses various ideas about the origins of the figure of Satan, with forays into early Christianity and even modern ideas. Elaine Pagels is interviewed.

A few thoughts. I would not say that the satan is a " demon-like figure" in the Book of Job. He is one of the angelic divine council that meets with God and the term satan means "adversary." He is more the prosecuting attorney of heaven, whose job it is to report to God on human sin, than he is any kind of evil figure. Contrary to what the article says, the satan does appear again in the Hebrew Bible: first in Zechariah 3, where he has a similar role to that in Job; second in 1 Chronicles 21, in which he successfully incited David to sin by undertaking a census of Israel. The same story is told in 2 Samuel 24, but with God playing the role of divine inciter. Also, the reference to Isaiah 4 should be to Isaiah 14.

Some past posts on Satan are here and here and links.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Rosh HaShanah 2016

HAPPY NEW YEAR (ROSH HASHANAH - Jewish New Year 5777)! The New Year begins tonight at sundown. For biblical and historical background, see the links here.

University of Toronto postdoc

H-JUDAIC: JOB: University of Toronto - St. George, Centre for Jewish Studies, Postdoctoral Fellow.
The Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto offers two, two-year Postdoctoral Fellowships to support advanced research in Jewish Studies. The positions will run August 1, 2017 - July 30, 2019. Applicants must have completed their doctoral dissertations by July 1, 2017 on a topic related to the history, culture, literature or thought of the Jewish people. The successful candidate will receive an annual salary of $45,000 (CAD) and an additional $1500 for conference travel. Fellows are expected to continue their research; deliver a public lecture and teach one full course in each of the two years.
Follow the link for further particulars.

A text-critical spirit?

ETC BLOG: Spirit Testimony. Any man can call spirits from the vasty deep; but will they come when you call for them? And will they do textual criticism?

Campbell Bonner Magical Gems Database Newsletter

AWOL: Open Access Journal: Campbell Bonner Magical Gems Database Newsletter. As noted at the link, the newsletter has been replaced, as of this year, with updates at the database's page. I noted and commented on the database here.

Review of Blumell and Wayment, Christian Oxyrhynchus

2016.09.27 | Lincoln H. Blumell and Thomas A. Wayment (eds.), Christian Oxyrhynchus: Texts, Documents, and Sources. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2015. ISBN 9781602585393.

Review by Matthew J. Hama, Trinity Western University
In Christian Oxyrhynchus, Blumell and Wayment deliver an invaluable resource for both students and scholars engaged in or connected to Oxyrhynchus study and research. Through their work, students and scholars are afforded a unique glimpse into the early Christian world and are given an ideal foundation for future scholarship in this area. This groundbreaking volume is rich in content, excellent in organization, hugely relevant to a wide range of audiences, and highly recommended for both students and scholars alike.
Past PaleoJudaica posts noting announcements and reviews of the book are here, here, here, and here.