Friday, March 22, 2019

The Economist on Alter's Bible translation

WITH A PODCAST INTERVIEW: A monumental new translation of the Hebrew Bible. Robert Alter’s version has taken decades to produce. He makes the case for a more literary rendering of the ancient text ("Prospero," The Economist).
“The Art of Bible Translation” focuses on five main linguistic elements: syntax, word choice, sound play and word play, rhythm and the language of dialogue. For each of these, Mr Alter provides examples that illustrate the challenges involved, showing how a literary sensibility can affect the outcome for the better. ...
Plus a cautionary tale involving awareness of pop cultural idiom.

For past posts on Alter's translation of the Bible, start here and follow the links.

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Museum exhibit for Beit Shemesh roadworks controversy

ROADWORKS VS. ARCHAEOLOGY UPDATE: In Beit Shemesh, new highway collides with surprise biblical-era settlement. Unusual exhibit at Jerusalem’s Bible Lands Museum, ‘Highway to History,’ examines the State of Israel’s fraught attempts to balance preserving the past and developing the future (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).

The controversy over Highway 38 has sparked a lot of public interest, including a Facebook group calling itself the "Knights of the Tel." But even if the entire site could be preserved, its conservation would require a "unicorn chasing" amount of funding.

Background here and links.

UPDATE: Apologies for the bad link, which is now fixed. Also, I forgot to mention that our friend the god Bes appears in this exhibition.

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The Talmud on the no-meat-with-dairy law

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Kosher Overreach. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’: Are the laws of kashrut based on an overly wide interpretation of a single verse in Deuteronomy?
But Chapter 8 of Chullin is different. It focuses on a subject that is of concern to every Jew who keeps kosher, because it has to do with the consumption of meat rather than its production. This is the prohibition against eating meat and milk in the same meal, which is one of the central rules of kashrut. It may come as a surprise, then, to find that the Torah never actually issues such a prohibition. What the Torah forbids—twice in Exodus and again in Deuteronomy—is much more specific: “You shall not cook a kid in its mother’s milk.”
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Judaea Capta coin of Agrippa II

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Judaea Capta Coin Uncovered in Bethsaida Excavations. Judaea Capta coin issued by Agrippa II found at Bethsaida (Robin Ngo). This object was discovered and this essay first published in 2014. It was published again in 2016. For some reason it just came up in my searches, so here it is finally.

A recent post involving Herod Agrippa II is here. And for another Judaea Capta coin, this one overstruck during the Bar Kokhba Revolt, see here. Cross-file under Numismatics.

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Thursday, March 21, 2019

Memory and biblical allusions in Esther

IT'S STILL PURIM: Using Memory, Megillat Esther Confronts the Jewish People with their Past (Dr. Orit Avnery, The Torah.com).
Although the book of Esther seems to have “forgotten” important Jewish themes like God, a closer look reveals that memory and biblical allusions play an important role in how the book tells its story.

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Exhibition on Jews, money, and myth

AT THE LONDON JEWISH MUSEUM: Jews Have Been Seen as ‘All About the Benjamins’ for 2,000 Years, New Exhibition Shows. From Judas and his 30 pieces of silver to internet memes presenting avaricious Jewish bankers, anti-Semitic imagery linking Jews to money is nothing new. The ‘Jews, Money, Myth’ exhibition at London’s Jewish Museum is confronting the problem head-on (Daniella Peled, Haaretz premium). Much of the exhibition involves modern materials, some of them quite chilling. But it also includes ancient coins and a letter from the Cairo Geniza.

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

Jester Bes vessel excavated

ARCHAEOLOGY AND ICONOGRAPHY: Found in Jerusalem’s City of David: The Egyptian God Bes. Pottery fragment dated to Persian period found in Jerusalemite household garbage pit 2,500 years ago (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz). Unfortunately phrased sub-headline, perhaps jinxed by Bes for fun. The fragment was found recently in the 2,500-year-old pit. It was not found 2,500 years ago, at least not by archaeologists.

For more on Bes and the discoveries at Kuntillet ‘Ajrud, see here and links.

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Julia Berenice

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Women of the Ancient Near East: Julia Berenice. Meet the Herodian royal who “bewitched” a Roman emperor (Carly Silver).
This March 2019 is Women’s History Month. To celebrate, let’s meet Julia Berenice: queen of Judea, political operator in a Roman arena, and lover of Titus—the destroyer of Jerusalem.

[...]
She also attended one of the trials of the Apostle Paul with Herod Agrippa II (Acts 25:13-26:32).

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Site-Seeing Susa

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Site-Seeing: Surprising Susa. Discover the ancient Persian capital (Todd Bolen).
Even for the intrepid traveler who tours Iran, the ancient Persian capital of Susa often gets left off the itinerary. The preferred path through Persia begins at the famous Persepolis, makes a quick stop at Pasargadae, and heads straight north for Isfahan and Tehran. But the Biblical action all happened at Susa. ...
Also Purim related, because of the connection with the Book of Esther.

Todd Bolen is familiar to my regular readers from his Bible Places Blog. I link to it often.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Purim 2019

HAPPY PURIM to all those celebrating! The festival begins tonight at sundown.

Last year's Purim post is here, with links. Posts on Purim since then are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

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Hygoye 22.1 (2019)

A NEW ISSUE: Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies 22.1 (2019). This is a high-quality, peer-review, open-access journal. Issue 21.2 was noted here. And for more, follow the links from there. Cross-file under Syriac Watch.

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The funny phrasing of Leviticus 1:1

DR. ELAINE GOODFRIEND: Is There a Symbolic Meaning to the Awkward Syntax of Leviticus 1:1? (TheTorah.com).
“And He called to Moses and YHWH spoke to him” (Lev 1:1). Why is YHWH, the subject of this verse, missing from the opening phrase, and appearing only after the second verb? Traditional and critical scholars struggle to explain this syntactic problem.
I'm skeptical. There aren't enough examples to convince me that the explanation offered here is real. But you decide. I just blog.

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Remorseless Cannibals and Loving Scribes in Ethiopic

ETHIOPIC WATCH: Priests, scholars gather to celebrate Princeton’s Ethiopian manuscripts. Ethiopian scholars and priests shared their knowledge of Ethiopia’s ancient tradition of written literature and bound manuscripts with a large audience at Princeton on March 12 (Jamie Saxon, Princeton University Office of Communications).
[Associate Professor Wendy Laura] Belcher said there are three facts about Ethiopia that are critical to understanding the significance of these manuscripts; as many mistakenly assume that Christianity in Africa arrived with Europeans.

“First, the Highland Ethiopians converted to Christianity in the fourth century, before most of Europe had even heard of Christ,” Belcher said. “Second, they have been using an African written language for more than 2,000 years, despite the stereotype that Africa is a place without writing. Third, they have been making bound books since the sixth century. This form of Christianity is really ancient, and has nothing to do with Europe.”

About 20 items from the collections were on display, including biblical books in translation, such the Gospel of John, the apocryphal Enoch and a psalter; as well as indigenous Ethiopian texts, including many saints’ stories (especially those about the Virgin Mary); textual amulets (small scrolls that people carried for protection and good luck); and a rare divination text titled ’The Cycle of Kings.”
The title of the University Library event was “Remorseless Cannibals and Loving Scribes: Samples and Highlights from Princeton University’s Collections of Ethiopian Manuscripts (1500s-1900s).”

For more on Princeton's collection of Ethiopic manuscripts, see here. Also, I am glad to hear that a new English translation of the Kebra Negast is in the works.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Consent and agency in the Book of Esther

PURIM IS COMING: But Queen Vashti Refused: Consent and Agency in the Book of Esther (Dr. Jason M. H. Gaines, TheTorah.com).
Personal agency and consent—granted or withheld—pervade the book of Esther, and are inextricably related to pre-existing power structures such as gender and social status.

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Shayegan (ed.), Cyrus the Great: Life and Lore

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Cyrus the Great: Life and Lore. Notice of a New Book: Shayegan, Rahim M (ed.). 2019. Cyrus the Great: Life and Lore. Boston: Ilex Foundation. With essays on Cyrus, his historical background, and his reception history.

For many other posts on Cyrus the Great, start here and follow the links.

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On the Machaerus excavation

ARCHAEOLOGY: Lost biblical fortress of Machaerus restored after 50 years of excavations (Saeb Rawashdeh, Jordan Times).
AMMAN — Prior to 1968, the hilltop of Machaerus, overlooking the Dead Sea near Mount Nebo was an untouched “virgin” site, according to Hungarian archaeologist Gyozo Voros.

Speaking at the “Book Launch and Public Lecture Machaerus III” event at American Centre of Oriental Research on Wednesday, Voros said that 50 years of excavation had finally uncovered a mountain of evidence on one of the most important sites in the region.

[...]
A long, thorough article on the site and the excavation. For past PaleoJudaica posts on Győző Vörös's excavation of Machaerus (the reputed site of the execution of John the Baptist), see here and links. And for past posts on John the Baptist, see here and links

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On John the Baptist

CANDIDA MOSS: The Misunderstood Man Behind Lent. Lent commemorates the forty days and nights that Jesus spent in the wilderness after his baptism. But Jesus never would have ended up there if not for the work of John the Baptist (The Daily Beast).

John Turner also has republished an essay on The Head of John the Baptist in The Anxious Bench

Some past posts on the Baptist, one of which also brings in the intriguing Mandean (Mandaean) traditions about him, are here, here, here, here, and here.

Incidentally, Salome is not actually mentioned by name in the New Testament accounts of the beheading of John the Baptist. One reading in Mark 6:22 gives the name of the daughter as the same as her mother, "Herodias." But this may be a mistake for a reference to her as the daughter of Herodias. Scholars generally seem to read the New Testament story alongside Josephus's and identify the daughter as Salome.

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Monday, March 18, 2019

Talmudic-era wine press and mosaic excavated at Korazim

ARCHAEOLOGY: ANCIENT WINE PRESS WITH TALMUDIC PERIOD MOSAIC FLOOR DISCOVERED IN GALILEE. This is the only mosaic from the time of the Talmud that has been found in the ancient Jewish village of Korazim (Jerusalem Post). The mosaic has a "patterns of squares and diamond shapes."

The town was also around in the time of Jesus. It is known as Chorazin in the New Testament.

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Review of Stone, Secret Groups in Ancient Judaism

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Book Note | Secret Groups in Ancient Judaism (James Tucker).
Stone, Michael E. Secret Groups in Ancient Judaism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018. Pp. ix + 192. Hardback $74.00. ISBN 9780190842383
Excerpt:
An analysis of the insider and outsider sources can illuminate how secrecy and esotericism were realized apropos the social practices of initiation, graded revelation, and hierarchical structure. This is Stone’s claim, and indeed the study provides a strong argument to demonstrate its utility.
I noted the publication of the book here. And you are likely to be hearing more from me about it. Stay tuned!

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The Golden Gate of the Temple Mount

LEEN RITMEYER: The Golden Gate of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The interior of the Golden Gate in the 1970’s. This gate has been in the news lately.

Cross-file under Temple Mount Watch.

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Free articles from AJS Review

H-JUDAIC: AJS Review FirstView: 3 Full Free Articles Available Online. Two have to do with Rabbinics:
A Seven-Headed Demon in the House of Study: Understanding a Rabbinic Demon in Light of Zoroastrian, Christian, and Babylonian Textual Traditions by Sara Ronis

From Dungeon to Haven: Competing Theories of Gestation in Leviticus Rabbah and the Babylonian Talmud by Shana Strauch Schick
For you, special deal!

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Sunday, March 17, 2019

Korean translation of Mishnah in the works

TALMUD WATCH: Korean Govt. Mishna Translation Project to Be Published in 2020 (David Israel, The Jewish Press).

Past posts on the popularity of the "Talmud" (i.e., a book of Talmudic stories) in South Korea are here and links. But this new story is about a full translation of the actual Mishnah.

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

Hurtado on Magdala

LARRY HURTADO: Magdala: A Galilean Town. A reviewlet of Richard Bauckham (ed.), Magdala of Galilee: A Jewish City in the Hellenistic and Roman Period, on which more here and links. For additional posts on Magdala follow the links there and see also here and here.

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

Persian Islamic stories about Esther

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
Muslims and the Bible, Biblicists and Islam

Muslims have long known of the Bible and its contents. There, are, however, specific corners of the Bible that have been of especial interest to Muslims, not (merely) because they overlap with Muslim scriptural traditions but because they overlap with local, cultural ones.

See Also: Veiling Esther, Unveiling Her Story: The Reception of a Biblical Book in Islamic Lands, Oxford, 2018).

By Adam J. Silverstein
Department of Middle Eastern Studies
Bar Ilan, Tel Aviv
March 2019
The author thinks that some of the Persian Islamic stories about Esther preserve very early pre-Islamic traditions.

Purim is near.

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Legends about Esther

PURIM IS COMING: Queen Esther inspired many midrashim (By Rabbi Dr. Israel Drazin, San Diego Jewish World).
BOCA RATON, Florida — In my book, Unusual Bible Interpretations: Ruth, Esther, and Judith, I showed that Judith, in the apocrypha, the book Jewish ancestors decided not to include in the Bible, was more observant of Jewish practices than Ruth and Esther. The rabbis did not see this in this way and even invented many tales to show how righteous Ruth and Esther were. Here is a chapter from the book about Esther.

People invented many legends, called Midrashim, about the story of Esther. This is not surprising. The biblical tale raises a host of questions about the people in the book, their intentions and actions. The following legends were taken from Louis Ginzberg’s masterful seven-volume The Legends of the Jews. Ginzberg devotes 83 pages to Esther, more pages than the original biblical version. These ancient tales will disturb many people because they depict biblical figures in a strange often bizarre manner. But most of these tales are found in the Talmud and other rabbinical writings. They were prepared as parables and were not designed to relate facts, but to teach significant moral lessons.

[...]
Some of them are pretty strange.

For more on Ginzberg's Legends of the Jews, see here and links. You can read his chapter on Esther, minus the notes, here.

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Saturday, March 16, 2019

Leviticus 4-5: sin, guilt, and rhetoric

PROF. JAMES W. WATTS: Leviticus’ Rhetorical Presentation of the Sin and Guilt Offerings (TheTorah.com).
The transition from the chatat (חטאת) sin offering in Leviticus 4 to the asham (אשׁם) guilt offering in Leviticus 5 is sudden, even seeming to collapse them into one offering. The history of these offerings, when and why they were introduced into the Temple service, sheds light on the interpretation and structure of these chapters.

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Review of Bull, The Mithraeum at Caesarea Maritima, vol. II

BYRN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Robert J. Bull, The Mithraeum at Caesarea Maritima, vol. II. American Schools of Oriental Research archeological reports, 25. Bristol: American Schools of Oriental Research, 2017. Pp. xiii, 100. ISBN 9780897570978. $74.95. Reviewed by Kevin Stoba, University of Liverpool (k.stoba@liverpool.ac.uk).
The mithraeum at Caesarea Maritima was constructed within an existing horreum, one of several such warehouses which had been built by Herod the Great at the end of the first century BC. There have already been several brief publications on this mithraeum (p. xi), but the present volume, edited by Jane DeRose Evans, provides much more thorough and comprehensive analysis of in situ Mithraic activity, which dates from the beginning of the third century AD to the beginning of the fourth century. ...
For a recent photo essay on the Mithraeum at Caesarea, see here.

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Aries 19.1 (2019) on Practical Kabbalah

CURRENT ARIES (19.1, 2019) SPECIAL ISSUE: PRACTICAL KABBALAH. Contents:
Practical Kabbalah
Guest Editors’ Introduction
By: J.H. (Yossi) Chajes and Yuval Harari
Pages: 1–5
Publication Date: 02 Jan 2019

How Jewish Magic Survived the Disenchantment of the World
By: Gideon Bohak
Pages: 7–37
Publication Date: 02 Jan 2019

“Practical Kabbalah” and the Jewish Tradition of Magic
By: Yuval Harari
Pages: 38–82
Publication Date: 02 Jan 2019

Intentionality and Kabbalistic Practices in Early Modern East-Central Europe
By: Agata Paluch
Pages: 83–111
Publication Date: 02 Jan 2019

Kabbalah Practices / Practical Kabbalah
The Magic of Kabbalistic Trees
By: J.H. Chajes
Pages: 112–145
Publication Date: 02 Jan 2019

Review Essay
New Lights on Oracles, Platonists, and Esotericism in Late Antiquity
By: Dylan M. Burns
Pages: 147–158
Publication Date: 02 Jan 2019

The Siblys of London: A Family on the Esoteric Fringes of Georgian England, by Susan Mitchell Sommers
By: Christine Ferguson
Pages: 159–162
Publication Date: 02 Jan 2019

Satanic Feminism: Lucifer as the Liberator of Woman in Nineteenth-Century Culture, by Per Faxneld
By: Michele Olzi
Pages: 163–166
Publication Date: 02 Jan 2019
At the Brill website, but, alas, requires a paid personal or institutional subscription to access. But I'm pretty sure you can see the abstracts without one.

HT Dylan Burns at the NSEA Blog.

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Koskenniemi, Greek Writers and Philosophers in Philo and Josephus

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
Greek Writers and Philosophers in Philo and Josephus

A Study of Their Secular Education and Educational Ideals


Series:
Studies in Philo of Alexandria, Volume: 9
Author: Erkki Koskenniemi

In Greek Writers and Philosophers in Philo and Josephus Erkki Koskenniemi investigates how two Jewish writers, Philo and Josephus, quoted, mentioned and referred to Greek writers and philosophers. He asks what this tells us about their Greek education, their contacts with Classical culture in general, and about the societies in which Philo and Josephus lived. Although Philo in Alexandria and Josephus in Jerusalem both had the possibility to acquire a thorough knowledge of Greek language and culture, they show very different attitudes. Philo, who was probably admitted to the gymnasium, often and enthusiastically refers to Greek poets and philosophers. Josephus on the other hand rarely quotes from their works, giving evidence of a more traditionalistic tendencies among Jewish nobility in Jerusalem.

Publication Date: 26 February 2019
ISBN: 978-90-04-39192-5

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