Friday, July 21, 2017

What is a waqf?

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Amid Temple Mount tumult, the who, what and why of its Waqf rulers. Jordan lost control of Jerusalem in 1967, but is now at the heart of a crisis that threatens to plunge the city into violence (Dov Lieber, Times of Israel). The Waqf has come up frequently in PaleoJudaica posts about the Temple Mount. Readers may find this article interesting. It explains what a waqf is, gives the background of the one that administers the Temple Mount, and explains what the arrangement has been. The recent terrorist attack just outside the site has thrown the longstanding status quo into turmoil.

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Biblical kings and gigantic wine bottles

PHILOLOGOS: Why Are Extremely Large Wine Bottles Named after Biblical Kings? The convoluted story of jeroboams, rehoboams, methuselahs, and more (Mosaic Magazine).
Ours is not a Bible-reading age. Ask the average American what the names Jeroboam, Rehoboam, Nebuchadnezzar, and Shalmaneser have in common and he is more likely to guess that all belong to rock bands than that they belong to biblical kings. And even though ours is a wine-drinking age, how many of those who know the right answer would know that there is a second answer, too: namely, that these same names also denote different sizes of wine bottles?

[...]
This makes me think of the song The Mesopotamians by They Might Be Giants. Also, for some reason it really pleases me that the largest bottle of wine (30 liters!) is called a "melchizedek."

Be all that as it may, Philologos proposes a very plausible answer to the question in the headline.

Cross-file under Asking the Important Questions.

P.S. Yes, I know that Methuselah was an antediluvian patriarch, not a king, and that Melchior is a postbiblical name for one of Matthew's magi, who are unnamed in the Bible and who aren't called kings. Don't be such a nerd.

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A papyrologist weighs in on the Hobby Lobby settlement etc.

THE FACES AND VOICES BLOG: The Green collection and the Museum of the Bible: 443,000 square meters of mess. Papyrologist Robert Mazza shares her expert opinion on the Hobby Lobby case and its implications for the Green Collection and the Museum of the Bible. And in a more recent post she follows up the story with some related news: Green papyri: Egypt steps in.

Dr. Mazza is Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Manchester and is currently a Research Fellow at the Rylands Library.

Background on the recent Hobby Lobby settlement with the U.S. Justice Department is here and here. And follow the relevant links for many past posts on the Museum of the Bible and the Green Collection.

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Mandeans in Australia

MANDEAN (MANDAEAN) WATCH: Meet the Mandaeans: Australian followers of John the Baptist celebrate new year (Siobhan Hegarty, ABC News).
Baptism, or masbuta, is the key ritual of this gnostic faith. Unlike Christians, Mandaeans may be baptised hundreds, even thousands of times over the course their life.

This week marked Kahshuzahly, or Mandaean New Year's Eve, and Mandaeans around the world flocked to flowing rivers for a special ceremony.

Anwar Hasan, the 13-year-old daughter of a local priest, was one of the 100 or so Mandaeans who went to the banks of the Nepean River.

Baptisms, she said, are an opportunity to cleanse and refresh one's life and soul.
Their Mandean liturgical language is Mandaic, an ancient Aramaic dialect. Like other religious minorities in Iraq, the Mandeans have suffered much persecution since the Iraq War.

For more on this week's Mandean new-year celebrations, see here. And for many past posts on the Mandeans, follow the links that start there.

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Survey: your favorite site in Jerusalem

THE BIBLE PLACES BLOG: Reader Survey: Favorite Site in Jerusalem (Todd Bolen). I have submitted my response. You are welcome to go and do likewise. I found it difficult to narrow it down from my top three. I'll let you know when the results are in.

I hope Todd is right about those ancient archives. We have been waiting for them a long time. Some of us became so impatient that we went and collected one ourselves.

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Young on two books by Paul (etc.) and the Law

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Description, Redescription, and Textual Practices: Thiessen’s and Kaden’s Critical Interventions (Stephen Young).
Description and Redescription – the classic interrelated activities that animate critical scholarship on religion. This roundtable affords the chance to examine two books that push the descriptive and redescriptive envelopes in their sectors of biblical studies. Matthew Thiessen’s Paul and the Gentile Problem rigorously describes Paul’s discourses about the Jewish law and Gentiles, while David Kaden’s Matthew, Paul, and the Anthropology of Law innovatively redescribes Paul and Matthew’s discourses about the Jewish law with theoretical resources from Jonathan Z. Smith, Michel Foucault, and the anthropology of law. ...
I quote just one observation that I found particularly thought provoking:
It is one thing for us modern scholars to persuade ourselves about what is going on in Paul’s letters by investigating how he (as a literate intellectual) may have accessed his ancestral writings and how his interpretive activity may have significantly shaped his writings to Gentiles. In this case, our experiments with excavating possible textual allusions and Paul’s potential transmission and transformation of “traditions” may be crucial. But it is another thing to presume that Paul’s persuasiveness to his (largely illiterate) ancient consumers necessarily turned on their ability to recognize these finely-grained, textual-interpretive steps that we modern scholars devote journal articles and academic monographs to elucidating.[5] Thiessen could more precisely combine his exhaustive comparative readings with an exploration of Paul’s persuasiveness through a sensitivity to practices themselves; practices associated with sacred writings in the Greco-Roman Mediterranean.
Yes, Paul was an educated member of the elite. What made his message persuasive to so many uneducated, lower-status people? I doubt that it was his sophisticated scriptural exegesis.

This is another instalment in AJR's series from the SBL 2016 Pauline Epistles Review Panel. I noted earlier essays in the series here and links.

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Testament of Solomon: so many demons!

READING ACTS has two posts on the Testament of Solomon.

What is the Testament of Solomon?
Testament of Solomon: A Catalog of Demons

The Testament of Solomon is a late-antique Christian work that knows material from the New Testament, but which also is familiar with Jewish traditions. My PhD student Bankole Davies-Brown explored this matter in detail in his unpublished doctoral dissertation: “The Jewish Background of the Testament of Solomon” (University of St. Andrews, 2004).

Past posts in Phil Long's series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha have been noted here and links. His recent posts have been on the Testamentary literature. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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Betulah

YONA SABAR: Hebrew Word of the Week: betulah "virgin; virgo" בתולה.

This essay does not mention the matter of Isaiah 7:14 and it its use in Matthew 1:23, but it is indirectly relevant. The word used in Isaiah 7:14 means a "young woman" (who may or may not be a virgin). The word betulah is not used. The Septuagint mistranslates that word into Greek as parthenos, which does mean "virgin." Matthew's exegesis depends on the meaning of the Greek word. See here, here and here for more.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Hurtado on representing the views of others

LARRY HURTADO: On Representing the Views of Others.
The following exhortation about representing the views of others is primarily directed to students and younger scholars. One of the aims I’ve striven for over the 40+ years of my scholarly work has been to represent the views of other scholars fairly, and especially those views with which I take issue.

[...]
There are some very useful observations in this post.

It is human nature that when we have strong views on a matter and we encounter disagreement — including thoughtful and well-reasoned disagreement — we tend to lapse into cognitive dissonance and create a caricature of the opposing view in our minds. This is the origin of the "straw-man argument," but the effect can be more subtle. This happens to everyone and it is very difficult to avoid.

One of the main purposes of blind peer-review is to ferret out and correct misunderstandings that arise from cognitive dissonance. It is an imperfect tool, but is one of the best ones we have. Professor Hurtado offers some other tools that he has found useful.

Let me add one of my own, which I got from the philosopher of science and epistemologist Karl Popper. When I set out to respond to a position with which I disagree, first I look for ways to make the case for that position stronger. Can weak arguments be reformulated more clearly and compellingly? Can I find any evidence that my opponent has missed which offers additional support to the case I want to refute? I try to make sure that I am responding not just to my opponent's case as presented, but to the strongest possible case I can formulate for my opponent's position. I find that this approach helps me process positions with which I disagree more receptively and with better comprehension. Try it. I think you will find it works.

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Hayes on two books on Paul (etc.) and the Law

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: How Faith Effects the Incorporation of the Gentile (Christine Hayes).
What a pleasure to read two such fascinating books – Matthew Thiessen’s Paul and the Gentile Problem and David Kaden’s Matthew, Paul, and the Anthropology of Law – whose intersections, differences and complementarities promise to enrich and reform the scholarly conversation on Paul and the Law. I’d like to structure my remarks around these features – the books’ intersections, their one primary point of difference and the way in which this difference might in fact be crucial to a full understanding of Paul.

[...]
AJR continues its series from the SBL 2016 Pauline Epistles Review Panel with this essay. I noted an earlier essay in the series here.

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T. Moses: so many Moses pseudepigrapha!

READING ACTS has two posts on the Latin Moses fragment that is generally known by the title "The Testament of Moses."

What is the “Testament of Moses”?
Testament of Moses

Richard Bauckham has argued convincingly that there were at least two Moses pseudepigrapha circulating in antiquity: the Testament of Moses and the Assumption of Moses. He thinks that the (more) original Greek version of the Latin fragment was the Testament of Moses, which is quoted in Jude 9. I have argued that the Latin fragment could be a separate work from either the Testament of Moses or the Assumption of Moses.

I agree that the internal evidence indicates that the Latin fragment is a first-century Jewish work. I do not see any convincing evidence that the now mostly-lost Greek version was a translation of a Hebrew original.

See my The Provenance of the Pseudepigrapha (Brill, 2005), pp. 149-154, for details.

Past posts in Phil Long's series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha are noted here and links. For some time he has been working though the Testamentary literature. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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Kotel

YONA SABAR: Hebrew Word of the Week: Kotel "(The Western) Wall" כתל. There are many words for "wall" in Hebrew.

I am behind on these Hebrew Word of the Week columns. I will try to catch up this week.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Talmud on lending and borrowing

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Follow the Money. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ tough-minded and practical wisdom on financial transactions from the ancient rabbis.
Monetary law, on the other hand, is largely secular, devised by the rabbis themselves based on principles of fairness and convenience. Perhaps it is precisely because they leave God out of the equation that such laws are especially good at teaching wisdom.
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Review of Sterling (ed.), Studies in Philo in Honor of David Runia

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Gregory E. Sterling (ed.), Studies in Philo in Honor of David Runia. Studia Philonica Annual: Studies in Hellenistic Judaism, volume XXVII (2016). Atlanta: SBL Press, 2016. Pp. x, 465. ISBN 9780884141815. $61.95. Reviewed by Ilaria Ramelli, Catholic University; Angelicum; Princeton (iramelli@princeton.edu).
The essays that compose this very interesting Festschrift, opened by a fine painting portraying the honorand, are grouped into five main sections: an introduction by Gregory E. Sterling (3-46), containing an overview of the career and impressive bibliography of David Runia, a section on the text of Philo’s works (49-108), a rich section on Philo’s relation to Hellenistic philosophy (111-68), another on Philo’s links with the world of Rome (171-226), one on Philo’s exegesis of the Pentateuch (229-348), and a two-paper section on Philo and early Christianity (351-92). Since it is impossible to discuss all contributions here, given the word limit, I shall focus on some that I found especially interesting and close to my research areas. However, all the essays are of consistently high quality.

[...]
I noted the publication of this book here. It is actually volume XXVIII of the Studia Philonica Annual, not volume XXVII.

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T. Jacob: another death-ascent

READING ACTS: Testament of Jacob. This text looks like another late-antique monastic work.

I am pretty sure there is a recent monograph on the Testament of Isaac and the Testament of Jacob, but I can't find it. Can any readers help?

Past posts in Phil Long's series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha are noted here and links. Recently he has been going through the Testamentary literature. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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

Sabaean Mandaean new year

MANDEAN (MANDAEAN) WATCH: Sabian Mandaeans Perform New Year Rituals in Iran. On the anniversary of the Mandaean New Year, the Sabians in southwestern Iran performed their baptism rite by immersing themselves in Karun River. A photo essay. The rite took place yesterday (Monday).

For review: the Mandeans (Mandaeans) are a Middle Eastern Gnostic religious group coming from an Aramaic-speaking background and with an Aramaic liturgy. They believe that John the Baptist was their founder. Their movement can be traced back to late antiquity and perhaps even to the early centuries CE. The term Sabian (Sabean, Sabaean) is often applied to them, but I am not sure of its exact import.

Most past PaleoJudaica posts on the Sabean Mandeans deal with those in Iraq, whose lot after the war has been very difficult. Background here and links.

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Of flying, burning serpents

DR. RICHARD LEDERMAN: What is the Biblical Flying Serpent? (TheTorah.com).
A number of biblical and non-biblical texts describe encounters with flying venomous snakes in the Sinai and Arabian deserts. Egyptian iconography may help clarify what is being pictured.
One has to wonder what, if any, connection there is between the flying, burning (seraphim) serpents and the biblical angels called seraphim in Isaiah 6. Note 4 of this essay may hint that a discussion of this question is forthcoming.

A related essay by the same author was noted here.

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Arrest for smuggling of Alexander-era coins

APPREHENDED: Palestinian caught trying to smuggle rare, ancient coins from Gaza. Security forces arrest merchant crossing to Israel carrying 2,300-year-old coins from era of Alexander the Great (Times of Israel).
The coins were allegedly smuggled from Egypt into the Gaza Strip and were en route to Israel for sale.

The coins show Herakles (known later to the Romans as Hercules) on their face, and a seated Zeus, who was the head god of the ancient Greeks, on the reverse side. Zeus is holding a scepter and eagle.
Follow the link for photos.

I have noted other recent looting arrests in Israel and on the West Bank here and links. Cross-file under Numismatics.

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T. Isaac: Like father like son

READING ACTS: Testament of Isaac. It is a pretty big stretch to try to find a Jewish core work in the Testament of Isaac, although this is, of course, possible. It reads naturally as a Coptic Christian composition with monastic interests. It is based in part on the Testament of Abraham. Like that document, it includes a pre-mortem ascent of the patriarch to heaven.

Past posts in Phil Long's series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha are noted here and many links. Recently he has been posting on Testamentary literature. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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Greek Orthodox Church sells Roman amphitheatre in Caesarea

ANCIENT ARCHITECTURE: Ancient Roman Amphitheater in Caesarea sold by Greek Orthodox church to mystery foreign buyer. Justice ministry calls meeting over surprise sale of 700 dunams of land belonging to Patriarchate in ancient port city, TV report says (Times of Israel). Well, that's a surprise. If I recall correctly, I have seen the Caesarea amphitheatre. But I have never blogged about it.

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Hellholm and Sänger (eds.), The Eucharist – Its Origins and Contexts

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: The Eucharist – Its Origins and Contexts. Sacred Meal, Communal Meal, Table Fellowship in Late Antiquity, Early Judaism, and Early Christianity. Volume I-III. Ed. by David Hellholm and Dieter Sänger. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 376. 289,00 € cloth ISBN 978-3-16-153918-3.
Published in English.
These three volumes are the results of two conferences on the Christian eucharist and its context in the traditions of sacred and communal meals; the first conference was held at the University of Kiel, the second at the University of Agder's Study Center at Metochi (Lesbos). Scholars from all around the world form an international, interdisciplinary and interdenominational collaboration from various fields including History of Religion, Classics, Old and New Testament, Judaism, Patristics, Archeology, and History of Art. Volume I deals with Old Testament, Early Jewish, and New Testament traditions, volume II with Patristic traditions and Iconography, and volume III approaches Near Eastern and Graeco-Roman traditions, as well as Archeology. Images, illustrations and indexes complete the volume.
The broad scope covered by these studies invites readers not only to a clearer interpretation of the origin of the Eucharist and its development in the early church, but also enables them to reach a better understanding of the religious and cultural background of sacred and communal meals in general in ancient societies.
Follow the link for the TOC and ordering information.

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Where should Chronicles go in the Bible?

ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: Where Should the Books of Chronicles be Placed? (John Meade, ETC Blog). This actually is an important question, about which there is debate in the scholarly literature.

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Saar, Jewish Love Magic

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL: Jewish Love Magic: From Late Antiquity to the Middle Ages.
Ortal-Paz Saar, Utrecht University
.
Jewish Love Magic: From Late Antiquity to the Middle Ages is the first monograph dedicated to the supernatural methods employed by Jews in order to generate love, grace or hate. Examining hundreds of manuscripts, often unpublished, Ortal-Paz Saar skillfully illuminates a major aspect of the Jewish magical tradition.

The book explores rituals, spells and important motifs of Jewish love magic, repeatedly comparing them to the Graeco-Roman and Christian traditions. In addition to recipes and amulets in Hebrew, Aramaic and Judaeo-Arabic, primarily originating in the Cairo Genizah, also rabbinic sources and responsa are analysed, resulting in a comprehensive and fascinating picture.

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More on tagging the Talmud

THE TALMUD BLOG: It Functions, and that’s (almost) All: Another Look at “Tagging the Talmud”.
Itay Marienberg-Milikowsky is currently a visiting scholar at the Interdisciplinary Center for Narratology, Universität Hamburg, where he conducts his post-doc research entitled “The Rise of Narrativity in Talmudic Literature: Computational Perspectives.” This is our third post in an ongoing series on Digital Humanities and Rabbinic Literature.
This will be of considerable interest to the growing band of digital humanists.

The two past posts in the series were noted here and here.

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