Saturday, February 03, 2018

Review of Gertz et al. (eds.), The Formation of the Pentateuch

THE RELIGION AND LITERATURE OF ANCIENT PALESTINE BLOG: Review of The Formation of the Pentateuch: Bridging the Academic Cultures of Europe, Israel, and North America, ed. J. Gertz, B. Levinson, D. Rom-Shiloni, K. Schmid (Mohr Siebeck, 2016) (Ryan Thomas).
The major challenge facing current research on the Pentateuch is outlined in the introduction: “In the three major centers of research on the Pentateuch-North America, Israel, and Europe-scholars tend to operate from such different premises, employ such divergent methods, and reach such inconsistent results that meaningful progress has become impossible. The models continue to proliferate but the communication seems only to diminish” (p. 3). Thus the lofty aim of the volume, “to further the international discussion about the Pentateuch in the hope that the academic cultures in Israel, Europe, and North America can move toward a set of shared assumptions and a common discourse” (p. 4).

[...]
I noted the publication of this book here.

I agree with the reviewer that this is exactly the kind of conversation we need if Pentateuchal source criticism is to make any progress beyond its current impasse. I have posted some of my own thoughts on the subject at the links given here.

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Review of Herren, The Anatomy of Myth

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Michael Herren, The Anatomy of Myth: The Art of Interpretation from the Presocratics to the Church Fathers. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. Pp. xiiii, 231. ISBN 9780190606695. $74.00. Reviewed by Matthew Kraus, University of Cincinnati (matthew.kraus@uc.edu).
Michael Herren contends that the greatest contribution of Greek thought to Christianity was not philosophical principles but the critical reading of Scripture “as a pagan Greek might read Homer” (p. viii). Central to his thesis is the claim that the transmission of myths included strategies of how to interpret them. Approaching his subject as a history of ideas, he divides myths and their interpretations into periods corresponding to three “shifting paradigms in ancient thought and culture” (p. vii): (1) the Poets (ca. 800-600 BCE), (2) Physis (600-350 BCE) and (3) Theos (350 BCE onward). Jews and Christians adopted Greek methods of criticizing myth which ultimately benefitted the reading of religious texts. “Classical exegesis” prevented fundamentalist reading of Scriptures and protected pagan Classics from overzealous Christians. Hoping to appeal to students, Herren includes a glossary of names and terms in the back and draws connections to contemporary culture wars, maintaining that the open-minded and skeptical interpretive methods of the ancient Greeks might restrain the irrational fundamentalism that tragically colors twenty-first century discourse and ideologically driven violence. The bulk of the book, wherein lies its primary value, is dedicated to tracing the treatment of myth in antiquity. These sections, in which Herren displays his learned expertise, are especially convincing. When he casts his net beyond the traditional Classical world to Jewish and Christian literature with occasional nods to our own context, the results are less satisfying. Nonetheless, this barely detracts from the work’s core elements.

[...]

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Aramaic/Syriac manual translated from Armenian

ARAMAIC, SYRIAC, AND ARMENIAN WATCH: Manual translated from Armenian is published in US for first time.
Gorgias Press academic publisher in the United States has published the English translation of the manual, entitled Introduction to Aramean and Syriac Studies, by Yerevan State University lecturer, philologist Arman Akopian.

[...]
Cross-file under New Book.

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Friday, February 02, 2018

More on those pools at Ein Hanya

ANCIENT ARCHITECTURE: Mystery as archaeologists discover 1,500-year-old pools and 'magnificent' fountain adorned with images of nymphs at ancient Christian site in Jerusalem (Annie Palmer, Daily Mail).
  • Archaeologists believe the Byzantine-era pools may have been the site of a storied baptism by St. Philip the Evangelist, as described in the New Testament
  • It remains unclear why the pool was built, but researchers believe it may have been part of a royal estate and used for irrigation, washing or landscaping
  • Images of nymphs are inscribed on the fountain, making it the 'first of it's kind'
  • The site was unearthed between 2012 and 2016 but is now being made public
Yesterday's article mentioned the pools as "the most significant finding," but then said very little about them. Today's Mail article gives more details. Background here.

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Caviezel on the "Passion" sequel

I GUESS HE'S IN, THEN: New 'Passion of the Christ' will be 'the biggest film in history,' Jim Caviezel promises (Bryan Alexander, USA TODAY). Yesterday, he didn't sound this committed. Mr. Caviezel clearly understands his media psychology. Make a grand claim so that people will repeat it and debate it, thus getting it stuck in their heads. Nice work.

No word yet whether the sequel will also be in Aramaic and Latin. Hold onto your hats. Here we go again!

Background here and links.

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Review of Schmidt, The Materiality of Power

RELIGION AND LITERATURE OF ANCIENT PALESTINE BLOG: Review of Brian Schmidt, The Materiality of Power: Explorations in the Social History of Early Israelite Magic (Mohr Siebeck, 2016) (Ryan Thomas).
Interest in the subject of demonology in ancient Israel-Judah/early Judaism has grown in recent years, and the present work represents the most recent monograph contribution to the conversation. In Materiality Brian Schmidt, who has already made significant forays into relevant topics such as Israelite mortuary cult and religion at Kuntillet ‘Ajrud (KA), returns to build upon and nuance his earlier work with a special focus on apotropaic magic as evidenced in archaeological, epigraphic, and biblical sources. The stated goal is ambitious, to establish based on historical and comparative analysis the “survival and viability of a previously unidentified, yet extant pandemonium in preexilic Israelite magic” (p. 13).

[...]

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Interview with Eilat Mazar

ARCHAEOLOGY: An Interview With Israeli Archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar (Stephen Flurry, The Trumpet).
Dr. Mazar is currently leading another excavation on the Ophel. As is now custom, Eilat is supported by Armstrong students and alumni: 11, to be exact. I visited Dr. Mazar and the students in Jerusalem last weekend. During the visit, we broke out the microphone and I sat down with Dr. Mazar to discuss the Ophel dig, as well as some of our fondest memories from the past 50 years.
The "Ophel" is an elevated area in Jerusalem between the City of David and the Temple Mount. The 2018 season will be fairly short and will focus on excavating a cave (date not specified), the "medallion house," and a Byzantine-era building. Dr. Mazar hopes to return to the Iron Age remains in a future season.

PaleoJudaica has noted other finds from the Ophel excavation, including a cuneiform fragment, a tenth-century BCE inscribed ostracon, and an inscribed bulla of King Hezekiah.

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

Thursday, February 01, 2018

First-Temple to Byzantine-era finds at Ein Hanya

ARCHAEOLOGY: First Temple-era relics of possible royal estate found in Jerusalem hills. Authorities inaugurate 'extraordinarily beautiful' new site at Ein Hanya, where archaeologists reveal plethora of findings (Michael Bachner, Times of Israel).
Israeli authorities inaugurated a nature park on Wednesday near Jerusalem after five years of archaeological excavations at Ein Hanya, the second-largest spring in the Judean Hills and a key site in the history of Christianity. Along with an announcement that the park will open to the public free of charge within months, the Israel Antiquities Authority revealed some major findings at the site, including a column capital typical of royal structures from the First Temple era and one of the oldest coins ever discovered in the Jerusalem area.

[...]
There is also a complex of pools from the Byzantine period, which is reportedly "the most significant finding." More on the coin:
It said that another significant find from that period was a rare silver coin, described as one of the most ancient discovered so far in the Jerusalem area. It is the ancient Greek currency drachma, with the coin “minted in Ashdod by Greek rulers between 420 and 390 BCE.”
Cross-file under Numismatics.

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Weitzman wins book award

CONGRATULATIONS TO STEVEN WEITZMAN: Penn Katz Center Director Wins Book Award (Marissa Stern, Jewish Exponent).
What is a Jew?

Where did we come from?

Who am I?

Such existential questions not only keep us up at night, they deeply interested author Steven Weitzman — so much so that he set out to research questions of identity and origin in a book.

The result was The Origin of the Jews: The Quest for Roots in a Rootless Age, which was named the winner of the 2017 National Jewish Book Award in the Education and Jewish Identity category.

[...]
For past posts on Professor Weitzman's new book and his research in general, see here and links.

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Caviezel to reprise role as Jesus?

RESURRECTING A FRANCHISE: He is risen! Jim Caviezel set to return as Jesus in Mel Gibson's sequel to blockbuster The Passion Of The Christ (Daily Mail). Actually, "set to return" sounds premature. The article says that "the actor is in negotiations with Gibson" over the role. We'll see.

Back in 2016, Gibson confirmed "his involvement" in a sequel, but this is the first I've heard of it since. See here (with a link to my review of the first movie), here, and here.

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Tu B'Shevat 2018, belatedly

TU B'SHEVAT, THE NEW YEAR FOR TREES was on 30-31 January and I forgot to note it. Sorry about that.

This year the holiday was on the same day as a blue blood supermoon eclipse, which caused excitement in some circles. I confess myself to be a bit confused though. Tu B'Shevat ended at nightfall on the 31st and the eclipse took place that night, so it does not look to me as though they actually coincided. In recent years there have been four "blood moons" corresponding with four successive major Jewish holidays, on which more here and links.

Some past posts pertaining to Tu B'Shevat are collected here and links.

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

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Still more from Mosaic on the Museum of the Bible

MOSAIC MAGAZINE wraps up its January series on the Museum of the Bible with a final response to Diana Muir Appelbaum's original essay and a last word from Ms. Appelbaum.

A Museum for the Bible in a Religiously Diverse Land. There is no neutral or “universal” way to read—or exhibit—the Bible. What, then, can an American museum of the Bible strive to accomplish? (Jon D. Levenson).
It should, in sum, be possible for a museum to promote to a high degree an understanding of the Bible as a central item in American culture, as a source of truth and authority for Christians and Jews in their different ways, and as the object of enormously productive (and, for some, challenging) academic study in the modern mode. How well the MOTB does this now, I cannot say. But Diana Muir Appelbaum’s splendid essay makes me eager to find out for myself.
The Impact of the Bible. What better explains the sudden rise of republican government in the 16th and 17th centuries than the new and widespread availability of the Bible? And that’s not all. (Diana Muir Appelbaum)

I noted the earlier Mosaic essays here and here. And for other past PaleoJudaica posts on the Museum of the Bible and related matters, start here and follow the many links.

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

Porter on the Museum of the Bible

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Incompatible Sites: The Land of Israel and the Ambulant Body in the Museum of the Bible (Sarah Porter).

This essay is a continuation of the series being published by AJR. They were originally presented as papers at the Association for Jewish Studies meeting in Washington D.C. in December of 2017. Earlier essays in the series are noted here and link. And for many more PaleoJudaica posts on the Museum of the Bible and related matters, just keep following the links from there.

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

1500-year-old jar found near Beit She'an

MORE EXCAVATION BY EROSION: Look what the rain swept in: Families find 1,500-year-old jug during hike. Discovered near the Beit She'an National Park, intact container likely used to hold wheat and legumes for burial ritual (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
According to Nir Distelfeld, head of the Israel Antiquity Authority’s theft prevention unit in the northern region, the strong weekend rains in the Beit She’an region must have turned up earth at the vessel’s site of origin.
I noted a recent similar discovery in the same region here. But that one was a case of excavation by porcupine.

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Exegesis by translation in Symmachus

THE ETC BLOG: Symmachus and the Text of Job 24:25b (John Meade).
In preparation of my critical edition of the Hexaplaric fragments of Job 22-42 for the Hexapla Project, I am noticing again some of the gems among the texts of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion that Origen once assembled in full parallel columns but now come down to us mainly in fragmentary, marginal notes in Christian MSS. The text of Job 24:25b is such a text. ...
Cross-file under Septuagint (LXX).

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Talmud on white roosters, idolatry, and the Emperor "Antoninus"

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: THOU SHALT SELL NO WHITE ROOSTER AND BOW TO NO IDOLS. Daf Yomi: How could Jews live as a minority among peoples, the Romans and the Persians, whose religion they considered sinful?
Throughout the Talmud, it is clear that the rabbis wanted Jews to live apart from gentiles as much as possible. For instance, Jews are not permitted to eat food prepared by gentiles, nor to live among gentile neighbors. In Tractate Avoda Zara, this message becomes still more pointed. Jews cannot do business with gentiles on their festival days, or for three days before or after, lest they “place a stumbling block before the blind”—that is, assist an idol-worshipper in his sin. This week, we learned that there is a catalog of items that Jews could never sell to pagans at any time because they were commonly used in pagan rites. These include various kinds of herbs, as well as white roosters, which apparently were popular for sacrifices.
And read on for some unlikely legends about a certain Emperor Antoninus.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Coin-looting arrest in the Negev

APPREHENDED: Negev antiquities robber nabbed with trove of 150 Byzantine-era coins. Antiquities authority's theft prevention unit discovers resident of Bir Hadaj using a metal detector at the Haluza UNESCO World Heritage Site (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
These particular bronze coins, now held as evidence in court, could date from circa the 1st century CE or slightly earlier to the 6th century CE, said Erickson-Gini.

Their impressive age, however, doesn’t mean they are valuable: Fitoussi would estimate the entire trove to be worth only a few hundred dollars. Their value is in their worth as research aids — at excavation sites.

“The minute they’re found outside of their context, we have no idea where they came from. Coins can give researchers a lot of information. It’s possible to learn a lot about places from them, but since we don’t know from where they came from exactly, the coins’ historical worth is devalued,” said Fitoussi.
Cross-file under Numismatics.

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

BHD on the Ketef Hinnom silver amulet inscriptions

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Miniature Writing on Ancient Amulets. Ketef Hinnom inscriptions reveal the power of hidden writing (Robin Ngo). As usual, the BAR article (Jeremy D. Smoak, "Words Unseen: The Power of Hidden Writing") is behind the subscription wall. But this essay gives an overview of it.

For many past PaleoJudaica posts on the silver amulets excavated at Ketef Hinnom, start here and follow the links. The amulets contain the earliest surviving copies of a biblical text, the priestly blessing in Numbers 6:24-26. Jeremy Smoak's work on them has been noted here and links.

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

More on reading the papyri in mummy masks without destroying them

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: We’re One Step Closer to Non-Invasively Reading Ancient Papyri Hidden in Mummy Masks. Researchers at the University College of London are working to find a way to read the ancient scraps without destroying the artifacts in the process (Brigit Katz, The Smithsonian). I noted this story earlier, but this article gives more detail, or perhaps updated information. The earlier article covered the analysis of the coffin lid, but not the tests on simulated cartonnage or the test of the fragment of an actual mummy mask.
It’s important to note that with all three methods, researchers were only able to determine the presence of different inks within the dense cartonnage; they could not glean enough information to read the texts. Their study is just the first step in what will surely be a long trajectory of research—but it is a significant first step.
Bit by bit, a letter at a time, whatever it takes. Until we're done.

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Monday, January 29, 2018

Syrian Neo-Hittitle Temple damaged by Turkish air strikes

THIS IS WAR: Ancient Syrian temple damaged in Turkish raids against Kurds. '3,000 years of civilization destroyed in an airstrike,' ex-head of Syria's antiquities department says of destruction at Ain Dara (AFP). I'm sorry to hear this. It looks as though Syria has more work to do before its tourism industry makes a comeback.

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The Museum of the Bible and Creationist museums

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: The Creationist MOTB: Judaism and Judaica at the Answers in Genesis Creationist Facilities (James Linville).
To sum up, at the AiG venues Jews and their history are little more than pawns in the ideological struggle with religious plurality, the forces of secularism, and liberal Christianity. AiG’s Bible is not the pluralistic one of scholarship and interreligious dialogue. As one sign in the Creation Museum puts it, “The Prophets, the Apostles, and Jesus Christ proclaimed one truth.” Anyone who objects to their evangelical and young Earth creationist Christian statement of faith will not be hired.[27] The Museum of the Bible has included rabbis and Jewish scholars in their International Advisory Council.[28] But it is hard to see how an honest desire to be inclusive of Jews would permit association with ministries like Answers in Genesis. And so, I must ask whether Answers in Genesis is an organization that the Museum of the Bible, with its interest in the history of the Bible as a cultural artefact and a stated desire for inclusivity, should continue to partner with.
The issue here is that the Green Collection and the Museum of the Bible have lent artifacts to Creationist museums belonging to Answers in Genesis (AiG).

This essay is a continuation of the series being published by AJR. They were originally presented as papers at the Association for Jewish Studies meeting in Washington D.C. in December of 2017. Background here.

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

On food in the Torah

THE BIBLE AND INTEPRETATION:
Sweet Dreams? Interpreting Food in the Dreams of Pharaoh’s Cupbearer and Baker

So…once I started thinking about the role of food and drink in this story, I realized that I’d stumbled across a tool that could help uncover what was going on behind the scenes.


See Also: From Forbidden Fruit to Milk and Honey: A Commentary on Food in the Torah (Urim Publications: 2018).

By Diana Lipton
January 2018

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A New NRSV

THE ETC BLOG: Plan to Review and Revise the New Revised Standard Version (Peter Gurry). A lot of philology has happened in the last thirty years.

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Sunday, January 28, 2018

Roman-era (?) tombs found in Gaza backyard

EXCAVATION BY EROSION: Heavy rain unearths ancient graves in backyard in Gaza. Local archaeologists believe the site is about 2,000 years old, dating back to the Roman era (AP via Times of Israel).

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

5 books not included in the Bible (sort of)

YOU'RE GONNA NEED A BIGGER BIBLE: 5 Books That Are Not Included in the Bible. The Bible once looked very different (Stephanie Hertzenberg, Beliefnet). I don't think that "the Bible once looked very different" quite captures the issue. There was a time when there was a still imperfectly-defined set of prophetically-inspired scriptures. As these settled down into fixed canons of scripture at various times and various places, the resulting "Bibles" had overlapping but somewhat different contents. This is still true today for the Jewish, Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox Bibles. This is pretty much what the article says, and the author should not be held responsible for the sub-heading.

The Book of Enoch (1 Enoch) is actually part of the Bible for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. None of the other four are in any major formal canon. That said, as the article observes, many people today prefer to mix and match from inside and outside the canons to form their own personal set of scriptures.

I could quibble over some of the other details in the article. But I fully agree that everyone interested in the Bible (not just Christians) should read all five of these books: the Gospel of Thomas, 1 Enoch, the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary, and the Acts of Paul and Thecla.

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Aramaic in the world today

MODERN ARAMAIC WATCH: Aramaic, the language of Jesus, comes to New Jersey (Matthew Petti, America Magazine).
Syriac, Assyrian and Chaldean Christians—their chosen name varies by denomination, but most recognize themselves as part of the same ethnic group—originally hail from the Middle East, where their Aramaic dialects were once the dominant language. Forced into diaspora by both ethnic and religious conflicts, the Syriac Christians in New Jersey, who number about 2,000 families and are mostly members of the Syriac Orthodox Church, have created Syriac establishments ranging from language schools to restaurants. They are now attempting to balance the American Dream with preserving their faith and reviving their ancient culture.
A detailed account of the current fate of Aramaic-speaking Christians in the Middle East — and in New Jersey.

HT Joseph Lauer.

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Exhibition on Carthage and the Etruscans

PUNIC WATCH: Exhibition highlights links between Carthage and Etruria. 2,000 artefacts on show at Carthage National Museum.
(ANSAmed) - TUNIS, JANUARY 22 - A new exhibition showing at the Carthage National Museum highlights the links between the Carthaginian and Etruscan civilisations before the Mediterranean came under Roman dominion. 'Carthage et les Etrusques, une si vieille amitiƩ' presents a selection of over 2,000 Etruscan archaeological items from the 4th to the 7th century BC and the oldest existing 'passport', used by a Carthaginian travelling to Etruria (Italy).

[...]

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