Friday, October 19, 2018

LXX interview with Ross and Lanier

THE INTERVIEWER INTERVIEWED: LXX Q&A with Will Ross and Greg Lanier. William Ross is well-known in PaleoJudaica circles for his series of blog interviews with Septuagint scholars. Now the Hedrickson Publishers Blog has an interview with him and co-editor Greg Lanier about their just-released book, Septuaginta: A Reader’s Edition. Past PaleoJudaica posts on it are here and links.

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American Numismatic Society Publications

THE AWOL BLOG: American Numismatic Society Publications Online. A treasure trove of data on coins from all periods. The American Numismatic Society now also has a blog called Pocket Change. I have linked to it from time to time.

Cross-file under Numismatics.

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A Jesus exhibition in the Terra Sancta Museum

REBOOT PHASE TWO: NEW JERUSALEM MUSEUM LOOKS AT THE ORIGINS OF CHRISTIANITY. After extensive renovations, Terra Sancta Museum showcases archaeological artifacts linked to the life of Jesus (Jerusalem Post). The renovation of this century-old museum has been ongoing for some time. Last year I noted a report on it, which included a visiting exhibition in Italy of the Museum's Palmyra collection.

The Museum's newly opened wing on the time of Jesus is also covered by PJ Grisar in The Forward: Museum Shows How He (And First Century Jews) Lived. With links to earlier coverage.

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Noah - everyman or superman?

DR. ARYEH AMIHAI: Noah — A Relatable Ancestor of Humanity (TheTorah.com).
Unlike Adam, Noah is born like a regular human, and unlike the flood hero Utnapishtim, and Noah’s great-grandfather Enoch, Noah is mortal. Yet in Second Temple times, new retellings of his story presented him as something more than human. However, in rabbinic tradition, the biblical image of the all too human Noah prevails.

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Thursday, October 18, 2018

They got the date of the eruption of Vesuvius wrong?

DETAILS MATTER: Pompeii: Vesuvius eruption may have been later than thought (BBC).
Archaeologists in Italy have uncovered an inscription they say may show that the history books have been wrong for centuries.

Historians have long believed that Mount Vesuvius erupted on 24 August 79 AD, destroying the nearby Roman city of Pompeii.

But now, an inscription has been uncovered dated to mid-October - almost two months later.

[...]
The inscription does not bear a date. (CORRECTION: it bears a date, but its year is inferential. Sorry for the error.) This confident dating of it to one month in 79 C.E. rather than another month year is inferential. The inference sounds credible, but ... wait for it ... let's see all the data published in a peer review venue before we revise all the textbooks.

I know what you are wondering. Why would Pliny give the wrong date? He did write the letter quite a while after the event. But still, the date would have stuck in his mind. You have to read to nearly the end of the article to get a plausible answer:
Instead, our modern reading of the text is based on translations and transcriptions made over the centuries. In fact, various copies of the letters have contained dates ranging anywhere from August to November - though 24 August has long been accepted.
In other words, his original letter contained the correct date. But over the centuries it was miscopied and modern scholars selected the wrong date from the available readings in the manuscripts.

For me, the big takeaway from this story is a reminder. Most Classical literature comes to us in medieval manuscripts with a very narrow range of variants. We should always keep in mind that our copies of the works of Tacitus, Pliny, Suetonius, Plato, Aristotle, etc. are many centuries separated from their authors. In this specific case we had manuscript variants and chose the wrong one. How often does that happen? And how often is the original reading lost and all we have in the manuscript is an undetectable copyist error or alteration? I suspect both happen more often than we would like to think.

Many years ago I blogged on the Younger Pliny's letter to Tacitus on the eruption of Vesuvius, which I believe is our only firsthand account of the event. His uncle, Pliny the Elder, led a daring rescue mission into the inferno. Pliny's ship was trapped onshore and he himself died. He probably would have survived, had he not gone out onto the beach to make scientific observations.

We don't know how many of the other rescue ships made it back. But judging from their number and capacity, if most of them returned fully laden with refugees, they may have saved a couple of thousand people. In other words, Pliny's rescue mission may have cut the death toll of the eruption of Vesuvius by half.

(Side thought: Why doesn't somebody make a movie about this?)

For other posts on the eruption of Vesuvius, see here and here and follow the links. And there are many other posts on Pompeii and Herculaneum, two of the cities destroyed in the eruption. See the blog search engine and archive.

And yes, all this is relevant to ancient Judaism, both directly and indirectly, in various ways. See the links.

As I was getting ready to post this, I ran across this article: Study shows people died from body fluid vaporization due to pyroclastic flows from Vesuvius (Bob Yirka, Phys.org; HT Archaeologica News). I flagged the fatal implications of the pyroclastic surge in my post on Pliny's letter, linked above. More evidence for it was published in 2010. This article offers still more evidence.

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Burke on editing MNTA2

OVER AT THE APOCRYPHICITY BLOG, Tony Burke has a couple of posts on his experience of editing the two volumes of New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures (MTNA 1 and 2) — especially volume 2, which is still in progress:

Editing More New Testament Apocrypha, Part 1: Choosing the Texts

Editing More Christian Apocrypha, Part 2: Advice for Young Scholars

There is much wisdom here.

My four-part review of MTNA is here and links. Cross-file under New Testament Apocrypha Watch.

Some of you are wondering what is going on with Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, volume 2 (MOTP 2 or MOTP2). It is still alive and well! I have been working hard on it in recent months and we are making good progress. Volume 1 was published in 2013.

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Luijendijk and Klingshirn (eds.), My Lots are in Thy Hands

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
My Lots are in Thy Hands: Sortilege and its Practitioners in Late Antiquity

Series:
Religions in the Graeco-Roman World, Volume: 188

Editors: AnneMarie Luijendijk and William E. Klingshirn

Sortilege—the making of decisions by casting lots—was widely practiced in the Mediterranean world during the period known as late antiquity, between the third and eighth centuries CE. In My Lots are in Thy Hands: Sortilege and its Practitioners in Late Antiquity, AnneMarie Luijendijk and William Klingshirn have collected fourteen essays that examine late antique lot divination, especially but not exclusively through texts preserved in Greek, Latin, Coptic, and Syriac. Employing the overlapping perspectives of religious studies, classics, anthropology, economics, and history, contributors study a variety of topics, including the hermeneutics and operations of divinatory texts, the importance of diviners and their instruments, and the place of faith and doubt in the search for hidden order in a seemingly random world.

Publication Date: 8 October 2018
ISBN: 978-90-04-38503-0
A related book by AnneMarie Luijendijk was noted here.

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Review of Hidary, Rabbis and Classical Rhetoric

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Book Note | Rabbis and Classical Rhetoric: Sophistic Education and Oratory in the Talmud and Midrash (Michael Rosenberg).
Rabbis and Classical Rhetoric: Sophistic Education and Oratory in the Talmud and Midrash by Richard Hidary, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018.
Excerpt:
More important, however, is Hidary’s contribution to understanding rabbinic literature on its own terms—whether or not those terms were influenced by the rhetorical modes of the Second Sophistic more broadly. Multiple times, I read Hidary’s explanations of rabbinic passages as rhetoric and thought about how this explains frustration my students express at the weirdness of rabbinic literature.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Conflict over the Jewish catacombs in Rome

ARCHAEOLOGICAL COMPROMISE: Religion, Science Clash as Archaeologists Restore Ancient Jewish Catacomb in Rome. New finds in the 2,000-year-old underground cemetery include the first Hebrew inscription at the site, as well as signs that Christians and Jews may have shared the burial space (Ariel David, Haaretz premium).
Archaeologists racing to save a vulnerable and rapidly disintegrating 2,000-year old Jewish catacomb in Rome gave in to pressure from an ultra-Orthodox Jewish group and let them rebury the bones found within, not allowing their study. The decision spurred outrage among some scientists who protested in frustration as the bones were resealed in their tombs, putting the remains beyond the reach of curious researchers forever.

The Italian authorities and the archaeologists involved rebut that the compromise was necessary in order to save the site, which had begun to decay rapidly after its exposure.

[...]
This sounds disappointing, but it may have been a necessary political compromise. The archaeologists are divided on the question. I was not involved and will not presume to judge.

In any case, I take the longer perspective. This is a temporary setback. In twenty years it will be possible to do unobjectionable non-destructive molecular scans of the bones.

On that Hebrew inscription:
The preliminary work has meanwhile turned up new discoveries, such as the only Hebrew inscription found in the catacomb. Most of the writing in the cemetery is in Greek – the lingua franca of early diaspora Jews and Hellenistic-era Israel – and some is in Latin.

Actually, the new-found Hebrew text was first noticed by one of the rabbis working in the catacomb, Rossi says.

The text is fragmentary but is believed to spell out “Clodius shalom shalom” – likely the equivalent of a rest-in-peace blessing for a man named Clodius.
That is "Claudius." There is a photograph.

The article also advances a surprising hypothesis about the origin of the menorah as a Jewish symbol.

For past PaleoJudaica posts on the Jewish catacombs at the Villa Torlonia (the subject of this article) and elsewhere in Rome, start here and follow the links.

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The Talmud on all those meal offerings

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: There’s No Business Like Showbread Business. ‘Daf Yomi’: Are Jews like olives, crushed for their oil, or like the leaves on the olive branch, enduring through all seasons?
In Chapter Five of Menachot, which Daf Yomi readers finished this week, we learn the answer to this question. Or, rather, the answers, since there a number of types of meal offering, each of which requires a slightly different procedure. Simply keeping the details straight is challenging—the priests in the Temple must have had excellent memories—but the Gemara also attempts to figure out the logical justification for the differences between types of offerings.
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Ancient Judaism postdoc at Yale

H-JUDAIC: Job: Postdoctoral Associate in Ancient Judaism/Jewish History, Yale University, Program in Judaic Studies. This is a two-year post, commencing on 1 July 2019. The deadline for receipt of application materials is 4 February 2019. Follow the link for further particulars and application information.

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Two arrested for bulldozing Horbat Deborah

APPREHENDED: TWO ANTIQUITY SMUGGLERS ARRESTED FOR BULLDOZING JEWISH ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE. Two men in their 30s shattered multiple antiquities at a site in the north (URI BOLLAG, Jerusalem Post).
The two were caught after the Antiquities Authority's Anti-Robbery Unit found the week before that the archaeological site had been damaged and kept the site under round-the-clock surveillance. Known as Horbat Deborah, the site is identified with the biblical heroine Deborah, and with Dabra, a Jewish village that evidence suggested existed in the Sephoris region during the Roman period.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Hebron archaeological park

ARCHAEOLOGY: FROM BRONZE AGE TO FIRST TEMPLE: ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE SET TO OPEN IN HEBRON. "We are happy and excited to unveil another piece of Jewish history and to make it accessible to the general public" (Jerusalem Post).
Remains from the Bronze Age to the early Roman Period and the First Temple Period have all been dug up and will be available for public viewing as of Tuesday, when the Tel Hebron, or Tel Rumeida in Arabic, archaeological site is set to open.

The site's opening follows extensive conservation work carried out by the Archeology Unit in the Israeli Civil Administration, in collaboration with Ariel University, as announced by the Defense Ministry's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories on Monday.

[...]
Some recent PaleoJudaica posts on the archaeology of Hebron are here, here, here, and here. The last post moves into politics and where the money for the renovation of Hebron is coming from.

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A Phoenician fish-factory in Spain

PHOENICIAN AND PUNIC WATCH: ALMUÑÉCAR, SPAIN: El Majuelo Ruins. The extensive relics of an ancient Roman and Phoenician fish processing plant hide in a town park. ("Capemarsh," Atlas Obscura).
Unearthed in the 1970s, these vast and ancient vessels were once full of salted fish fillets and fish guts, which were ground down and fermented to make a popular sauce, called garam. This industrial enterprise began during the Phoenician-Punic era in the 4th century BC, and was later extensively expanded by the Romans to include administrative offices alongside the pungent production area.
With some nice photos of the archaeological site.

There were lots of Phoenicians and Carthaginians in Spain. Cf. here.

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Brave Mosul Muslims saved Syriac books from ISIS

SYRIAC WATCH: Muslims Defied ISIS to Save Two Ancient Assyrian Manuscripts in Mosul (Asia News, rpt. AINA).
Mosul -- A Muslim family hid for three years two ancient Syriac Orthodox books in Mosul during the city's occupation by the Islamic State (IS) group to prevent their destruction at the latter's hands. They did so, putting their own lives at risk. Their courage and action show that Mosul and Iraq can be rebuilt and reborn on the basis of unity and coexistence of its various groups, above all Christians and Muslims.

... They [the two books] contain the offices of the morning and evening prayers in Syriac Antiochene Orthodox rite. ...
Related story here. But the couragous monks who rescued the Mar Benham manuscripts were saving their own holy books. This Muslim family risked their lives out of pure goodwill for their Christian neighbors.

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Academic jobs!

THE LOGOS ACADEMIC BLOG: Academic Jobs in Biblical Studies and Theology: Sep 23 – Oct 13, 2018 (Tavis Bohlinger). I don't usually link to the LAB jobs posts, since I assume that those of you in the market are already aware of them. But with the Society of Biblical Literature meetings in Denver just a month away, it seems worthwhile to flag this post.

I see nothing specific on Second Temple or Ancient Judaism, but there are quite a few Hebrew Bible/Old Testament jobs advertised and one or two on Judaism more generally. And also, of course, a good many New Testament jobs.

This is a good list. I've seen sparser ones in October.

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Monday, October 15, 2018

Restored synagogue at Umm el-Kanatir dedicated

ANCIENT ARCHITECTURE: EIN KESHATOT, THE GOLAN HEIGHTS’ HIDDEN ARCHAEOLOGICAL GEM OPENS TO PUBLIC. The restored ancient basalt synagogue was dedicated Monday, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in attendance (Zachary Keyser, Jerusalem Post).
The synagogue, with its ornately carved basalt Torah ark, was built in the 1st century but extensively renovated some 500 years later. The building, which collapsed in the catastrophic earthquake of 749 CE, measured 18 meters long by 13 meters wide, and is calculated to have been 12 meters high. That impressive size made it one of the biggest of the 30 ancient synagogues discovered in the Golan Heights.
Past posts on the ancient synagogue at Umm el-Kanatir (or Ein Keshatot or Keshatot Rechavam) and its restoration are here and links.

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

How did knowledge survive the Flood?

DR. NADAV SHARON: Antediluvian Knowledge (TheTorah.com).
Whose knowledge is the most ancient? In the Hellenistic period, Egyptians and Babylonians, among others, debated the antiquity of their wisdom. Second Temple Jews claimed that their own knowledge dated from before the Flood. But how did it survive the destruction of the flood?
Ancient Jewish and Christian writers had a number of answers to this question. Notice that the ancients assumed that old knowledge was better and more comprehensive than new knowledge. To moderns it is the opposite.

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Gmirkin responds to Anthonioz

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
A Response to Stéphanie Anthonioz, “Review of Russell E. Gmirkin, Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible”

By Russell Gmirkin
Independent Researcher
Portland, Oregon
Academia.edu
October 2018
I noted the review of the book here. Much of the response raises points worth thinking about. But the Hebrew language of the Pentateuch doesn't look like it was written in a Greek-speaking environment (Alexandria). I would expect noticeable Greek influence on the Hebrew. There isn't any.

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A punic winepress in Spain

PUNIC WATCH: The 2,300-year-old winery concealed in a Spanish mountain. he archeologist who discovered the Phoenician site in Cádiz wants to create an information center on the history and culture of wine (JESÚS A. CAÑAS, El País).
The facilities were used to produce wine in the 3rd century BC, and artifacts found at the site suggest that it also hosted religious rituals in which wine was used to establish contact with the gods.

And yet this invaluable legacy continues to languish ever since its discovery in 1991. “Even though there is some earlier archeological evidence of winemaking in the Levante area, San Cristóbal is a complete winemaking facility covering 2,000 square meters. It is unique,” explains Diego Ruiz Mata, an archeologist and professor of prehistory.
Some past posts on other excavated ancient wineries (in Israel) are here, here, here (maybe), here, here (a wine cellar), here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Dr. Ruiz Mata also describes the wine made at the Cádiz facility and suggests that modern producers should recreate it. It sounds sweet for my taste, but some people would like it. For other efforts at vintage resurrection and recreation of ancient beers, see here and links

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Sunday, October 14, 2018

Review of Petersen and van Kooten (eds.), Religio-Philosophical Discourses in the Mediterranean World

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Anders Klostergaard Petersen, George van Kooten (ed.), Religio-Philosophical Discourses in the Mediterranean World: From Plato, through Jesus, to Late Antiquity. Ancient philosophy and religion, 1. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2017. Pp. viii, 420. ISBN 9789004341463. $177.00. Reviewed by Joseph Lipp, Monmouth University (jlipp@monmouth.edu).
This volume, the first in a new series on Ancient Philosophy and Religion by Brill, aims to “examine the potential for engaging in dialogue about the intertwinement of ancient Graeco-Roman philosophy and religion (here confined to Graeco-Roman, Jewish, and Christian religion)” (2). The time period covered is Plato to Julian, and the evidence is entirely textual. The editors cite two recent trends in early Christian studies and Classics, respectively, as scholarly context: first, the growing work on Graeco-Roman philosophy in the New Testament and, second, recent studies on the religious nature of ancient philosophy. Dissatisfied that these developments were occurring independently of one another, the editors organized two colloquia to bring them together, at the universities of Aarhaus and Cambridge in 2012 and 2014. They invited New Testament scholars, classicists, and historians of ancient philosophy, and this volume is based on the colloquia.

[...]
There are lots of articles of interest for the study of ancient Judaism and related matters.

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JQS 25.3 (2018)

THE JEWISH STUDIES QUARTERLY has published a themed issue (25.3, September 2018): Talmud and Christianity: Rabbinic Judaism after Constantine, Part 1. The TOC:
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 219

Michal Bar-Asher Siegal
Minim stories and Jewish-Christian Debates over Scripture: Babylonian Talmud Ye v a m o t 102b . . . . . . . . . . . . . 221

Holger Zellentin
Typology and the Transfiguration of Rabbi Aqiva (Pesiqta de Rav Kahana 4:7 and BT Menah ̇ot 29b) . . . . . . . . . . . . 239

Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe
Demons between the Desert Fathers and the Rabbis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 269

Helen Spurling
Interpretations of Daniel 12:1 and Perceptions of the Christian “Other” . . . . . 297
You need a paid personal or institutional subscription to access the articles.

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Primordial matter in Genesis 1:1?

PHILOLOGOS: There's a Strange Grammatical Difficulty with the Opening Verse of the Bible. It could suggest a different story about the creation of the world. The language of Genesis 1:1-2 does not fit very well with the idea of creatio ex nihilo, creation out of nothing. Rather it seems to say that God had to work with the primordial chaos (tohu vavohu, "formless and void") that was already there. That was the normal understanding of creation in ancient Near Eastern myth, and also in the philosophy of Plato. That's awkward, but there it is.

That said, the idea of creation out of nothing was read into the passage fairly early.

Past PaleoJudaica posts on the subject are here and here. Cross-file under Philology.

Remember, you can only read three free articles from Mosaic per month. Choose wisely. This is a good one.

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Saturday, October 13, 2018

Video: The Ancient Coins of Israel

THE HOLY LAND PHOTOS' BLOG: Ancient Coins — A Great 10 Minute Video (Carl Rasmussen).
The folk over at the Friends of the Israel Antiquities Authority have placed on their Facebook page an informative, entertaining 10 minute video on Ancient Coins. IMHO it is well–worth viewing. Especially interesting is how the coins were produced and some hard to get behind the scenes at museums, libraries, and the Israel Antiquities Authority.
This really is a good video, with excellent production, fine visuals, informative content, reference to coins from antiquity to the Islamic era, and an engaging presenter. Cross-file under Numismatics.

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Yeroushalmi, The Jews of Iran

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: The Jews of Iran. Notice of a new book: Yeroushalmi, David. 2017. The Jews of Iran: chapters in their history and cultural heritage (Bibliotheca Iranica : Judeo-Iranian and Jewish Studies Series 4). Costa Mesa, California: Mazda Publishers.

Follow the link for description, TOC, and publisher link.

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Review of Drake, A Century of Miracles

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Book Note | A Century of Miracles: Christians, Pagans, Jews, and the Supernatural, 312-410 (Peter Morris).
H.A. Drake A Century of Miracles: Christians, Pagans, Jews, and the Supernatural, 312-410. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.
Excerpt:
Historians in the twentieth century tended to read the fourth century as a great conflict between diametrically opposed ideologies: “paganism” and “Christianity.” Drake argues that these historians—influenced by the categories and anxieties of the Cold War—exacerbated a tendency amongst scholars to narrate the fourth century as a “black and white” contest between two incommensurable ideologies that for power over the late Roman Empire (19-21). In contrast to this approach, Drake contends that it might be better to look to a center of interests, concerns, and attitudes that were shared by those with varied religious identities. This shared middle is revisited and expanded throughout the book, and is fully on display in Drake’s chapters that describe Judaism.

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The Eden story as exposition

PROF. YAIRAH AMIT: The Exposition of the Garden of Eden Story (TheTorah.com).
The Garden of Eden story includes a lengthy introductory exposition (vv. 2:4b-3:1a), whose seemingly tangential details contrast the utopia of Eden with the dystopia of the real world.
Interesting idea. Now what is the relationship of the Eden story in Genesis to the alternate account of Eden in Ezekiel 28? Another essay?

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