Friday, June 23, 2017

Interview with Robert Kraft

WILLIAM ROSS: LXX SCHOLAR INTERVIEW: DR. ROBERT KRAFT (Septuaginta &C. Blog).
This interview highlights one of the senior figures in the field, Dr. Robert Kraft, who is Berg Professor of Religious Studies Emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania (see also Academia.edu). Aside from his work in Septuagint scholarship, Dr. Kraft is well known for his focus on the Apostolic Fathers. He also played a crucial role in creating the earliest digital tools for the study of biblical texts, and was a key player in developing Computer Assisted Tools for Septuagint Studies (CATSS), which is now available in BibleWorks and other software programs.
Read it all.

I talked a bit about Bob Kraft's pioneering contribution to computer-assisted biblical studies research in my 2010 SBL paper: What Just Happened. The rise of "biblioblogging" in the first decade of the twenty-first century.

I have noted some past interviews of LXX scholars by William Ross here and links.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and its world.

Ancient "industrial zone" in the Galilee

ARCHAEOLOGY: Ancient industrial site discovered in Galilee. Students and experts from the Israel Antiquities Authority discover ancient agricultural installations carved into bedrock that appear to have been used to store locally-produced products (Itay Blumenthal, Ynetnews).
"As we expanded the excavation with the students, we found more and more installations, and it would appear that these are not for private use, but rather a real industrial zone, from the Middle Bronze Age (1,800 BCE) or from the Roman-Byzantine period (5th-2nd centuries CE)," said Yoav Zur, the IAA director of the excavation.
HT Joseph Lauer.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and its world.

T. Joseph: So ethical.

READING ACTS: Testament of Joseph. Like many of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, the Greek Testament of Joseph is full of ethical concerns. But, again like the other Testaments, this one is quite oblivious to the ritual law. This seems like a problem if we want to regard them as Jewish works.

Granted, the setting is the Patriarchal period and this was before the Torah of Moses was revealed. That could be why ritual law is ignored. But the Book of Jubilees covers the Patriarchal period and is still full of interest in the ritual law. And the Testament of Zebulon even anachronistically mentions the Law of Moses (3:4). So I am not entirely satisfied with that explanation.

It is clear that some of the Testaments drew on Jewish sources in Hebrew and Aramaic, but I don't know whether all of them are based on such sources. If so, a lot of those sources are lost. Some may be Christian compositions written to fill in the gaps to make of full set of twelve testaments.

I have noted earlier posts in Phil Long's blog series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha here and links. His current series is on the Greek Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. Joseph is number eleven. One more to go. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and its world.

Theosophy and ancient apocryphal scriptures

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: Alternative Scriptures: Theosophy and the Esoteric Tradition (Philip Jenkins). The nineteenth-century Theosophists knew about the Essenes and the Gnostics and had access to Coptic Gnostic texts. All this long before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls or the Nag Hammadi Library.

I have noted earlier posts in Professor Jenkins's series on "alternative scriptures" here and links.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and its world.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Exhibition of Roman emperor's coins at Israel Museum

NUMISMATICS: Coins of the Realm: Heads (And Tails) of the Roman Empire on Display at Israel Museum. Roman emperors shown as they really looked – while their slogans could be taken from today’s headlines (Nir Hasson, Haaretz).
This coin [of the idiosyncratic Emperor Elagabalus] now be viewed in a new exhibit at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, starting on Thursday. ”Faces of Power: Coins from the Victor Adda Collection” displays 75 gold coins of Roman emperors and their wives never shown to the public before. The collection of gold coins was donated to the Israel Museum by Johanna Adda Cohen, an 89-year-old resident of Rome. Her father, Victor Adda, was a Jewish businessman originally from Egypt and he collected the coins in the first half of the 20th century. When the family moved to Italy from Egypt, they smuggled the coins out in the pockets of relatives and friends.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and its world.

T. Asher: Don't be evil.

READING ACTS: Testament of Asher. This Testament is particularly interested in the "two ways" ethical framework.

Earlier posts in Phil Long's blog series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha are noted here and links. He has been posting recently on the Greek Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. Asher is number ten. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and its world.

Burrus on Jewish sarcophagi

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Dissertation Spotlight | Sean P. Burrus.
Sean P. Burrus, Remembering the Righteous: Sarcophagus Sculpture and Jewish Identities in the Roman World (Duke University, 2017).

... In Remembering the Righteous: Sarcophagus Sculpture and Jewish Identities in the Roman World, I examined two groups of sarcophagi from the Jewish communities of Beth She'arim and Rome and explored how the different provincial and cosmopolitan contexts of each influenced the choices and tastes of Jewish patrons. ...

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and its world.

Looking at potsherds in archaeological digs

EPIGRAPHY AND ARCHAEOLOGY: (Adam Abrams/JNS.org).
The recent discovery of a previously invisible inscription on the back of an ancient pottery shard, that was on display at Jerusalem’s Israel Museum for over 50 years, has prompted Tel Aviv University researchers to consider what other hidden inscriptions may have been discarded during archaeological digs, before the availability of high-tech imaging.
This as a result of the story about the newly-recovered text on Arad Ostracon 16 which I noted here and here. Here's what they're thinking of doing about it:
As a result of the new discovery, researchers will approach how they handle pottery shards found during archaeological digs differently.

“Maybe they should just image everything,” [Tel Aviv University applied mathematician Arie] Shaus said. “Using low-cost equipment like the camera used in this discovery would allow each excavation to buy or construct one… or at least create a filtering system whereby only samples of pottery, which could have been used for writing, are saved and scanned. Maybe we have lost more inscriptions than we have found, but didn’t figure it out until now. It’s tragic, but we are also optimistic, because now we have the technology to do this.”
Bring it on!

A more primitive method for identifying inscribed ostraca is to dip each one in water. That is supposed to sometimes makes otherwise unnoticeable writing stand out. When I worked at excavations in Israel in the 1980s as a lowly staff member, I dipped approximately a zillion potsherds. I never found any writing. This new technology sounds more promising.

Cross-file under Technology Watch.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and its world.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Graduation 2017

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE CLASS OF 2017!

This week is full of graduation ceremonies at the University of St Andrews. Many PhD students in the School of Divinity graduated. Well done!

So did many undergraduates. Among them are a number of Semitic philologists whom I have taught over the last several years. Here are some of them with me at the Divinity garden party yesterday.


Congratulations to (L to R) Sarah, Allison, Shelby, and Barbora. They are heading off now to do various things, but some will continue with Semitics. In the autumn Sarah begins a Master's degree in Biblical Studies at Kings College London and Barbora begins a PhD in Comparative Semitics at the University of Chicago. It has been great to work with all of them and I wish them the best in their future endeavors.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and its world.

Bible Cat revisited

REMNANT OF GIANTS: Biblical Cats Again. With reference to my post On cat domestication yesterday, Deane Galbraith reminds us that he once argued that the lilith-creature in Isaian 34:14 could be a cat. I see that I noted that post back in December of 2015. I usually check my own archive for related posts, but I guess I forgot this time.

Deane doesn't refer to any secondary literature, so I assume this is his otherwise unpublished idea. But he makes a plausible circumstantial case that lilit (לילית) in Isaiah could refer to some type of cat.

That said, it is a creature that dwells in ruins, which would apply more naturally to a wild cat then a domesticated cat — especially in antiquity when there was no archaeological tourism. Okay, I cannot rule out that Lilith in Isaiah was a cat. But I need more evidence before I'm willing to backtrack on my statement yesterday that the Hebrew Bible never mentions domesticated cats.

Past PaleoJudaica posts on Lilith are here and many links.


Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and its world.

Inheritance, terumah, and the transgendered in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: How a Cucumber Decides Whether a Son Inherits Over a Donkey. With surprising analogous thinking, ancient Talmudic sages tackled very modern questions—by accident or foresight, depending on how liberal your views—of transgender rights, the rights of unborn fetuses, women’s rights, and wealth distribution.
This week, in chapter nine of Tractate Bava Batra, we saw an example of how the laws of teruma ["heave offering"] can serve the rabbis to elucidate a very different area of halachah. Chapter Nine continues the discussion of the laws of inheritance, addressing the status of bequests promised to a child born posthumously. The Mishna in Bava Batra 140b imagines a situation in which a dying man who is an expectant father bequeaths money to his unborn child, saying, “If my wife gives birth to a male, the offspring shall receive a gift of 100 dinars,” or “If my wife gives birth to a female the offspring shall receive 200 dinars.” The law is that these are binding bequests, and once the children are born they receive the designated amount from the estate.

This is clear enough, but the rabbis identify two possible ambiguities. What if the wife gives birth to twins, a boy and a girl? In this case, both children are given the promised sum, 100 dinars for the boy and 200 for the girl. And what if the child is born neither male nor female? What if it is a tumtum, the legal term for a person whose sex organs are concealed and is thus of indeterminate gender?
He does come back to the terumah part and it does involve cucumbers.

There's more on the tumtum here.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and its world.

T. Gad

READING ACTS: Testament of Gad.

I have noted previous posts in Phil Long's blog series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha here and links. The series has recently focused on the Greek Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and its world.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

On cat domestication

ARCHAEOLOGY MAGAZINE: DNA Study Reveals Tale of Cat Domestication.
Most house cats alive today descend from cats that can be traced back to Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.
I think it is interesting that Israel is on the list. Here's a fun fact for you. Although the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament do mention dogs from time to time, generally disparagingly, they never once mention domestic cats. Sure, there are references to lions and other big cats, but not domesticated ones. The word "cat" never even appears.

Cats are mentioned in the Old Testament Apocrypha in the Letter of Jeremiah 22.

Offhand, I can't think of any references to domesticated cats in any Old Testament Pseudepigrapha or New Testament Apocrypha. But I don't have comprehensive concordances for these and there may be references that I don't remember. If you find any, drop me a note.

UPDATE (21 June): A cat in Isaiah? Maybe.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and its world.

The Forging Antiquity Project

EVANGELICAL TEXTUAL CRITICISM BLOG: Forging Antiquity Website and Blog (Tommy Wasserman). With information on the Macquarie University/Heidelberg University project. I have already noted the Markers of Authenticity Blog back at the end of 2016.

Also, the post has full details about some SBL sessions in November which deal with the problems of forgeries and unprovenanced artifacts.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and its world.

T. Naphtali

READING ACTS: Testament of Naphtali (Phil Long). As I have mentioned before, there is a medieval Hebrew version of the Greek Testament of Naphtali which perhaps shares a Jewish Second-Temple-era source with the Greek text.

In the second volume of Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures (MOTP2) we hope to gather all the ancient and medieval Hebrew material that is possibly related to the Greek Testament of Naphtali.

Earlier posts in Phil Long's blog series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha are noted here and links. His recent posts have been on the Greek Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and its world.

Melville's Gnostic apocryphon?

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: Alternative Scriptures: Melville’s “Lost Gnostic Poem.” (Philip Jenkins). Melville's poem wasn't lost. He gave it that title.

Were the Albigenses descended from the ancient Gnostics? Who knows? Some people thought so and Melville hints at the idea in his poem.

Earlier posts in Professor Jenkins's series on "alternative scriptures" are noted here and links.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and its world.

Monday, June 19, 2017

"Persepolis Administrative Archives"

BIBLIOGRAPHICA IRANICA: Persepolis Administrative Archives. Notice of a new article in the Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2017. Looks like a useful overview and bibliography.

For past posts on the Persepolis Fortification Archive and its its complex and contentious political history start here and here and follow the links. It is not directly relevant to ancient Judaism, but it provides us with background information on scribal practice and Aramaic in Iran in the Persian Period.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and its world.

News on Rabbi Steinsaltz's recovery

UPDATE: RABBI STEINSALTZ LAUNCHES NEW ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF TORAH (Jeremy Sharon, Jerusalem Post). The new translation of the Torah is noteworthy, but so is this:
Steinsaltz himself did not travel to the event since he is still recovering from a severe stroke he suffered in December 2016, although he has partially returned to work of late, and has begun authoring new articles.

The rabbi is perhaps best known for his monumental translation and elucidation of the Talmud, but has also authored more than 60 books on Jewish thought, life and mysticism and is an Israel Prize laureate.
Continued good wishes for his recovery.

For background on Rabbi Steinsaltz and his work, especially his Hebrew and English translations of the Talmud, aee here and links.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and its world.

Translation of the Dialogue of Simon and Theophilus

ALIN SUCIU: Guest Post: Anthony Alcock – Disputation between Simon a Jew and Theophilus a Christian. A translation of the Latin text with a very brief introduction. Roger Pearse notes the post and gives additional background information.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and its world.

Chiesa, Filologia storica della Bibbia ebraica

EVANGELICAL TEXTUAL CRITICISM BLOG: Chiesa’s Historical Philology of the Hebrew Bible (Peter Gurry). It's good to know about these things. I hope there will be an English translation someday.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and its world.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Review of Coşkun and McAuley (eds.), Seleukid Royal Women

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Altay Coşkun, Alex McAuley (ed.), Seleukid Royal Women: Creation, Representation and Distortion of Hellenistic Queenship in the Seleukid Empire. Historia Einzelschriften, 240. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2016. Pp. 322. ISBN 9783515112956. €62.00. Reviewed by Branko F. van Oppen de Ruiter, Allard Pierson Museum, University of Amsterdam (b.f.vanoppen@uva.nl).
This collection brings together a selection of papers on Seleucid queenship delivered at the fourth “Seleucid Study Day” workshop held at McGill University, Montreal, on February 20-23, 2013. Apart from a preface, prologue and introduction, the volume’s twelve chapters are divided into three parts: (1.) the first generation of queens, i.e., Apame and Stratonice I; (2.) the representation of royal women, i.e., Laodice I, Cleopatra Tryphaena, and female portraiture; and (3.) queenship on the periphery of the empire. In all, sixteen authors (eight of whom are from Canada) have contributed to the publication, which additionally comes with a substantial bibliography (31 pp.), three indices (13 pp.) and four genealogies.
The Book of Daniel has a lot of interest in the Diadochoi (the generals that succeeded Alexander the Great) and their royal lines. Two of the women who feature in the book under review, Laodice I and Berenice II, were involved in the events of Daniel 11:6-9. Like the other people in that chapter, they are not named.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and its world.

Menē Inc. weighed in the balance?

ARAMAIC WATCH: (Digital Journal).
TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - June 15, 2017) - Goldmoney Inc. (TSX:XAU) ("Goldmoney"), a precious metal financial service and technology company, today announced its investment in Menē Inc. ("Menē"), a newly formed direct-to-consumer fine jewelry venture. Menē will manufacture and retail timeless 24 karat gold jewelry online through an innovative first-to-market user experience and transparent pricing model.

[...]
Naturally the Aramaic word caught my eye. The press release goes on to explain the name:
Menē - The Name

Menē ("meh-ney") is an ancient Aramaic word with a deep meaning that links jewelry, gold, money, and savings. A "Menē", reflecting 567 grams of pure gold, is the first written word for "money" as codified in the Code of Hammurabi approximately 4,000 years ago. For much of written history, humans exchanged value by pricing goods and services in units of "menē", which provided a predefined measurement of gold. Those units were often ultimately settled as pure 24 karat jewelry that could be readily exchanged. This ancient tradition, though often misunderstood by economists, is alive and well in the East where pure gold jewelry powers a savings economy in which jewelry is bought, sold, exchanged, and borrowed against as an asset that maintains its purchasing power.
Yes it is an old word for a unit of weight and the information about the Code of Hammurapi is interesting. But to modern people the word is best know from the biblical phrase "Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin" in the story of the writing on the wall in Daniel 5. It was the text of the writing and its (somewhat esoteric) interpretation was "You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting." The "you" was the kingdom of Babylon, which fell to the Persians that night. (See here especially, but also here and here.)

Now Menē Inc. sounds like a nice company and I wish them well. But I wonder if they fully thought through the implications of their name. Given what even minimally biblically literate people will hear in their heads when they encounter it, it is not what I would have chosen for my brand.

But that's just me. I hope I'm wrong and that Menē is successful.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and its world.

DeConick on Czachesz, Cognitive Science and the New Testament

THE FORBIDDEN GOSPELS BLOG: Book Note: Cognitive Science and the New Testament (István Czachesz). April DeConick reviews an important new textbook. The application of cognitive psychology to the study of the ancient past is a relatively new approach. It has contributed much to our understanding already and it shows great promise.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and its world.

Phoenician textual criticism

PHOENICIAN WATCH (SORT OF): Phoenix: A New Hotbed of Textual Criticism (Peter Gurry, Evangelical Textual Criticism Blog). And that is a good thing. Congratulations to Peter and his colleagues at Phoenix Seminary.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and its world.

Omarkhali, The Yezidi Religious Textual Tradition

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Yezidi Religious Textual Tradition. Notice of a new book: Omarkhali, Khanna. 2017. The Yezidi Religious Textual Tradition: From Oral to Written. Categories, Transmission, Scripturalisation and Canonisation of the Yezidi Oral Religious Texts with Samples of Oral and Written Religious Texts and with Audio and Video Samples on CD-ROM. (Studies in Oriental Religions 72). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

Cross-file under Yazidi Watch. Earlier work on the Yazidis by Khanna Omarkhali has been noted here. For past PaleoJudaica posts on the Yazidis, their Gnosticism-themed religion, and their tragic fate in the hands of ISIS, start here and follow the many links.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and its world.