Thursday, December 07, 2023

The Hasmoneans, the Oniads, and the high priesthood

HANUKKAH RELATED: The Hasmoneans Usurped the High Priesthood from the Oniads (Prof. Daniel R. Schwartz,
The family of Onias long controlled the high priesthood before the persecution of Antiochus IV and the Hasmoneans’ (“Maccabees’”) rebellion. When the dust settled, the Hasmoneans found themselves in charge of the priesthood and the Oniads had relocated to Egypt. 1 Maccabees, a pro-Hasmonean work, defends the legitimacy of the Hasmonean accession to the high priesthood, and the fact that it went to the family of Judah Maccabee’s brother, Simon.
For PaleoJudaica posts on the Oniad Temple at Leontopolis, in Egypt, see here and links. For more on the Maccabean Revolt, see the immediately preceding post—here—and links.

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Two revolts against Hellenistic Kings

HANUKKAH RELATED: Two Major Native Rebellions Against Hellenistic Kings. Here are two stories of Greco-Macedonian rulers of the Hellenistic period coming to blows with the native population of their empires (Benjamin Davies, The Collector).
The Hellenistic period saw Macedonian rulers on the thrones of both Asian and African empires from 323 BCE until 31 BCE. Although there was certainly a division between the Greek culture of the rulers and the native cultures of the ruled, Hellenistic kings were far more invested in cooperating and displaying themselves as the rightful rulers of their native subjects. However, there were still tensions between the rulers and the ruled. Native rebellions did sometimes erupt and two of these rebellions will be the subject of this article: the Maccabean revolt and the Great Rebellion.


The "Great Rebellion" of the Ptolemies against the Egyptians is the lesser-known one today. But King Ptolemy IV Philopater appears in the Bible. For more on him, see here and links. And the Rosetta Stone is arguably connected with the aftermath of the revolt.

The Maccabean Revolt is the better-know and more immediately seasonal one. This article gives a good, brief but nuanced, account of that revolt.

Some PaleoJudaica posts on the Maccabean Revolt are here, here, here, and links.

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National Judith Day?

OLD TESTAMENT APOCRYPHA WATCH, SORT OF: National Judith Day 2023: History, FAQs, Dates, Activities, and Facts About judges. This day is observed as an opportunity to express gratitude to those who share the name Judith on an international scale. The feminine given name Judith is derived from the Hebrew name Yehudit, which translates to "woman of Judea" (unatttributed, Newsd).
... The Hebrew form of the biblical name Judith, Yehudit, translates to “Jewess” or “woman from Judea.”

Apocryphal records of the incident [referent unclear - JRD] can be found in the Book of Judith. Judith’s narrative is replete with tragedy, triumph and determination, sex, deceit, and murder. The narrative of Judith is situated during the Babylonian subjugation of Assyria by Nebuchadnezzar. Judith is identified as Manassas’ affluent widow. It was stated that she possessed an attractive countenance and was a sight to witness.

This is a new one to me. But salutes to all readers named Judith.

There seems to be some confusion in the headline and the article between Judith Day and Judges Day.

For PaleoJudaica posts on the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Book of Judith, its historical background, and its reception history, see here and links, plus here.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Roof tiles from Antiochus's Acra? Maybe.

SAVED UP FOR HANUKKAH? Archaeologists May Have Found Roof Tiles From Antiochus’ Missing Citadel in Jerusalem. Antiochus Epiphanes built a mighty fort in Jerusalem in the second century B.C.E., and may have used ‘pagan’ tiling technology to annoy the Jews a little more (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz).
Fragments of clay roof tiles dated to the second century B.C.E. have been found in Jerusalem, even though such tiles were unknown in Judea at the time, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Wednesday.

These special tiles may have come from none other than the missing Acra – the massive fortress built somewhere in Jerusalem (where is quite the question) by the angry Seleucid Emperor Antiochus IV, aka Antiochus Epiphanes, as part of his drive to subdue the rebellious region in the late second century B.C.E.


It was more the second quarter of the second century BCE.

In 2015 the first claim came in that remains of Antiochus IV (Epiphanes)'s Acra had been excavated at the Givati parking lot in Jerusalem. It was greeted with some skepticism. See here and here.

These roof tiles potentially add some support to the claim, but there is still a lot of inference involved. And part of what we thought we knew about the Acra's location has to be explained away.

This is one of those things that will probably not be resolved unless we find a plaque inscribed in Greek with "Welcome to the Acra." We'll see.

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Statue smasher acquitted and hospitalized

A "JERUSALEM SYNDROME" DEFENSE: Jerusalem court acquits man who smashed 'blasphemous' statues at Israel Museum. The president of the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court sent him to involuntary hospitalization for four years, a period equal to the maximum prison sentence for the offense attributed to him (YOAV ETIEL, SHLOMI WELLER / WALLA!, Jerusalem Post).

I don't think I got around to this episode when it happened, but you can read the whole story at the link.

For some PaleoJudaica posts on the Jerusalem Syndrome, start here and follow the links.

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Jonathan N. Tubb (1951–2023)

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Milestones: Jonathan N. Tubb (1951–2023). Leading British archaeologist of the biblical lands (Konstantinos Politis).
Jonathan Tubb, renowned archaeologist and long-time curator of Levantine antiquities at the British Museum, passed away on September 25, 2023 in London. He was 72 years old.


Cross-file under Sad News and Obituary.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2023

Latest on the Mount Ebal curse tablet / fishing weight

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Hook, Line, and Sinker: Mt. Ebal Curse Tablet Debunked? Archaeologist offers new interpretation of controversial artifact (Nathan Steinmeyer).

A good summary of the evidence that the object is a fishing weight. Includes a photo of ancient lead fishing weights that look strikingly like the Mount Ebal artifact.

Also, at the Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project Official (and Unofficial) Weblog, Aren Maeir reports that Articles on the Mount Ebal lead object have appeared!

Glad to report that the three articles dealing with the lead object from Mount Ebal, have appeared in IEJ.
The new issue is still not up (i.e., for sale) on the IEJ website, but hopefully that will change soon.

Background here and links.

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Elledge, Early Jewish Writings and New Testament Interpretation (OUP)

Early Jewish Writings and New Testament Interpretation

C.D. Elledge

Essentials of Biblical Studies


This item has an extended shipping time. The typical delivery time is 2 weeks.

Published: 21 November 2023

224 Pages


ISBN: 9780190274580


Early Jewish Writings and New Testament Interpretation is a concise, introductory volume to orient undergraduates, seminarians, and interested readers to some of the most important early Jewish writings that currently inform New Testament interpretation. While the literature of Early Judaism is vast, five specific literary categories stand at the forefront of modern New Testament research. These include wisdom writings, apocalypses, rewritten scriptural narratives, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the writings of Philo and Josephus. Individual chapters explain their respective contributions toward interpreting the theological ideas, socio-historical settings, and literary features of specific New Testament writings.

The volume further describes literary collections that the church would later classify as “apocrypha” and “pseudepigrapha,” providing an historically nuanced perspective on what “scripture” might have looked like prior to the formation of the biblical canon. Interpreted within their ancient context, many of these writings offer insight into a religious environment in which Judaism and the nascent church were still emerging religions that had not yet gone their “separate” ways. The reader of the New Testament today can, therefore, understand the indebtedness of the New Testament literature to traditions found in contemporary Jewish works, while also appreciating the creative, new ways in which the church interpreted them.

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Brakke, The Gospel of Judas (AB Commentary)

The Gospel of Judas
A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary

by David Brakke

Series: The Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries

296 Pages, 6.12 x 9.25 in


Published: Tuesday, 22 Feb 2022

A new translation and commentary on the extracanonical Coptic text that describes Judas’ special status among Jesus’ disciples

Since its publication in 2006, The Gospel of Judas has generated remarkable interest and debate among scholars and general readers alike. In this Coptic text from the second century C.E., Jesus engages in a series of conversations with his disciples and with Judas, explaining the origin of the cosmos and its rulers, the existence of another holy race, and the coming end of the current world order.

In this new translation and commentary, David Brakke addresses the major interpretive questions that have emerged since the text’s discovery, exploring the ways that The Gospel of Judas sheds light on the origins and development of gnostic mythology, debates over the Eucharist and communal authority, and Christian appropriation of Jewish apocalyptic eschatology. The translation reflects new analyses of the work’s genre and structure, and the commentary and notes provide thorough discussions of the text’s grammar and numerous lacunae and ambiguities.

This came out in 2022, but somehow I missed it.

For more on David Brakke and his work on the Gospel of Judas, see here. For many other PaleoJudaica posts on the Gospel of Judas, start here and follow the links, notably here.

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Monday, December 04, 2023

Biblical Studies Carnival #212

READING ACTS: Biblical Studies Carnival #212 for November 2023 (Philip J. Long).

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Olyan, Animal Rights and the Hebrew Bible (OUP)

Animal Rights and the Hebrew Bible

Saul M. Olyan


Published: 20 September 2023

152 Pages


ISBN: 9780197609385


Does the Hebrew Bible ascribe an implicit form of legal personhood or legal rights to animals? If so, which animals—domesticated or wild, or both—receive which rights, and for what purpose? Scholars have been slow to consider these questions, and animal-oriented research as a whole, in the field of biblical studies. For the first time, author Saul M. Olyan addresses these questions in detail and explores how the evidence of the Hebrew Bible might contribute to contemporary debates about animal rights in the academy, in the courts, in the public square, and in religious communities.

In this book, Olyan demonstrates that seven different biblical texts extend both legal personhood and rights to animals. The rights conferred upon them are mainly specific and situational, and the legal personhood associated them is in most cases best characterized as limited. Nonetheless, he argues that the animal rights described by these texts are genuine because they are not contingent on the needs or demands of others, they do not disappear or give way because of conflict with the interests of another legal person, and they may not be violated with impunity. Finally, Olyan considers how the biblical texts examined in his analyses might be used to extend or strengthen the arguments of those advocating for animals in judicial, academic, political, or religious settings.

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

The Assassination of Sennacherib

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: The Assassination of Sennacherib. The history behind a little-known biblical story (Nathan Steinmeyer).
The assassination of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, is presented in the Bible as God’s divine justice against an evil king. Outside of the Bible, however, this was one of the most significant events in the history of the ancient Near East. Collecting records and references from contemporary and later sources, historian Christopher Jones has provided a renewed look at this event and its aftermath in the Journal of Ancient Near Eastern History, allowing for the most complete recreation of events to date.


You can read the abstract of the underlying article at the link, but the article itself is behind the subscription wall. The BHD essay summarizes it.

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Sunday, December 03, 2023

Pioske, The Bible Among Ruins (CUP)

The Bible Among Ruins
Time, Material Remains, and the World of the Biblical Writers

AUTHOR: Daniel Pioske, University of St Thomas, Minnesota
DATE PUBLISHED: October 2023
FORMAT: Hardback
ISBN: 9781009412605

£ 85.00


Biblical writers lived in a world that was already ancient. The lands familiar to them were populated throughout by the ruins of those who had lived two thousand years earlier. References to ruins abound in the Hebrew Bible, attesting to widespread familiarity with the material remains by those who wrote these texts. Never, however, do we find a single passage that expresses an interest in digging among these ruins to learn about those who lived before. Why? In this book, Daniel Pioske offers the first study of ruination in the Hebrew Bible. Drawing on scholarship in biblical studies, archaeology, contemporary historical theory, and philosophy, he demonstrates how the ancient experience of ruins differed radically from that of the modern era. For biblical writers, ruins were connected to temporalities of memory, presence, and anticipation. Pioske's book recreates the encounter with ruins as it was experienced during antiquity and shows how modern archaeological research has transformed how we read the Bible.

  • The first book that provides a history of ruination in the Hebrew Bible
  • Compares the biblical writers' response to ruination with our own contemporary efforts at archaeological excavation
  • Draws on an inter-disciplinary conversation involving recent developments in biblical scholarship, historical theory, philosophy, and archaeology

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The Bloomsbury Handbook of Material Religion in the Ancient Near East and Egypt

The Bloomsbury Handbook of Material Religion in the Ancient Near East and Egypt

Nicola Laneri (Anthology Editor) , Sharon R. Steadman (Anthology Editor)

$230.00 $207.00

Ebook (PDF)
$207.00 $165.60

Ebook (Epub & Mobi)
$207.00 $165.60

Product details

Published Jul 27 2023
Format Hardback
Edition 1st
Extent 526
ISBN 9781350280816
Imprint Bloomsbury Academic
Illustrations 106 bw illus
Dimensions 10 x 7 inches
Series Bloomsbury Handbooks
Publisher Bloomsbury Publishing


With contributions spanning from the Neolithic Age to the Iron Age, this book offers important insights into the religions and ritual practices in ancient Egyptian and Near Eastern communities through the lenses of their material remains.

The book begins with a theoretical introduction to the concept of material religion and features editor introductions to each of its six parts, which tackle the following themes: the human body; religious architecture; the written word; sacred images; the spirituality of animals; and the sacred role of the landscape. Illustrated with over 100 images, chapters provide insight into every element of religion and materiality, from the largest building to the smallest amulet. This is a benchmark work for further studies on material religion in the ancient Near East and Egypt.

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Saturday, December 02, 2023

On the Eshbaal inscription

NORTHWEST SEMITIC EPIGRAPHY: Who Are You Eshba‘al ben Bad‘a? (unattributed,

The Eshbaal (’Eshba‛al / Ishbaal / ’Ishba‛al) inscription was excavated in 2015 at Khirbet Qeiyafa. Ishbaal is the name of a son of King Saul. The name means "Man of Baal" or Man of the Lord." The Masoretic Text prefers the bowdlerized form Ishboshet, "Man of Shame."

PaleoJudaica posts on the Eshbaal inscription are collected here.

For the Jerubbaal jug, mentioned in the article, see here and follow the links back from here.

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Kynes, An Obituary for "Wisdom Literature" (OUP)

An Obituary for "Wisdom Literature"

The Birth, Death, and Intertextual Reintegration of a Biblical Corpus

Will Kynes


Published: 15 September 2023

352 Pages


ISBN: 9780198898689


An Obituary for "Wisdom Literature" considers the definitional issues long plaguing Wisdom scholarship. Will Kynes argues that Wisdom Literature is not a category used in early Jewish and Christian interpretation. It first emerged in modern scholarship, shaped by its birthplace in nineteenth-century Germany. Kynes casts new light on the traits long associated with the category, such as universalism, humanism, rationalism, empiricism, and secularism, which so closely reflect the ideals of that time. Since it was originally assembled to reflect modern ideals, it is not surprising that biblical scholars have faced serious difficulties defining the corpus on another basis or integrating it into the theology of the Hebrew Bible.

The problem, however, is not only why the texts were perceived in this one way, but that they are perceived in only one way at all. Therefore, Kynes builds on recent theories from literary studies and cognitive science to create a new alternative approach to genre that integrates hermeneutical insight from multiple genre proposals. This theory is then applied to Job, Ecclesiastes, and Proverbs, mapping out the complex textual network contributing to their meaning. With the death of the Wisdom Literature category, both the so-called Wisdom texts and the concept of wisdom find new life.

Published in hardback in 2019, but this is the first time I have noted it.

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Friday, December 01, 2023

More on the Mount Ebal curse tablet / fishing weight

NORTHWEST SEMITIC EPIGRAPHY OR ANCIENT PISCATORY PROCUREMENT? New Studies Debunk Controversial Biblical ‘Curse Tablet’ From Mt. Ebal. A lead tablet discovered at ‘Joshua’s altar’ in the West Bank was trumpeted as the oldest Hebrew inscription. Skeptics suspect it says nothing and the thing was a fishing weight (Ariel David, Haaretz).
Look! It’s a 3,400-year-old inscribed lead tablet that could prove the historicity of the Bible. But actually there is no discernible writing on it and the purported tablet is likely a fishing-net weight commonly used in ancient times.

That’s the short version of the latest chapter in a bizarre archaeological row centered on a minuscule lead artifact and a contested ancient site in the West Bank, believed by some to be the biblical altar built by Joshua on Mt. Ebal.


Yeah, that about sums it up.

Yesterday I noted a Jerusalem Post article on the as yet unpublished IEJ articles. Follow the links from there for many other posts on the object. This Haaretz piece has more details while we wait for the IEJ articles.

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Himmelfarb Festschrift (Mohr Siebeck)

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: Above, Below, Before, and After. Studies in Judaism and Christianity in Conversation with Martha Himmelfarb. Edited by Ra'anan Boustan, David Frankfurter, and Annette Yoshiko Reed. 2023. VII, 540 pages. Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism 188. 169,00 € including VAT. cloth ISBN 978-3-16-162520-6.
Published in English.
The research of Martha Himmelfarb has pushed scholars to re-examine what we thought we knew about the formative histories of Judaism and Christianity. In studies on such topics as apocalypses, pseudepigrapha, and messianism, Himmelfarb opened up new perspectives on Second Temple Judaism and its legacy within its late antique and medieval successor communities. Inspired by the sweeping breadth of her learning and scholarship, this volume explores the transmission and transformation of Jewish and Christian texts and traditions within and across the boundaries of language, culture, and religion. The volume's contributors range widely across sources, genres, and contexts, from the Dead Sea Scrolls and Hellenistic Judaism to Nag Hammadi literature and Jewish and Christian magic, and from classical rabbinic literature and patristic writings, to Hekhalot literature and medieval midrashim. Contributors not only revisit the histories of apocalypticism, sectarianism, and messianism but also take up questions regarding the materiality of manuscripts, the boundaries of religious communities and identities, the ritual uses of heavenly visions, and the history of Jewish priests and priesthood before and after the destruction of Jerusalem Temple. In dialogue with Himmelfarb's work, the volume exemplifies the value of studying Jewish and Christian traditions in concert as well as bridging the disciplinary divides that too often fragment the fields of Biblical Studies, Second Temple Judaism, New Testament Studies, Rabbinics, Patristics, Late Antiquity, and Medieval Studies.
Congratulations to Professor Himmelfarb. Well deserved!

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Southwood & Morse (eds.), Psalms and the Use of the Critical Imagination (Gillingham Festschrift; T&T Clark)

Psalms and the Use of the Critical Imagination

Essays in Honour of Professor Susan Gillingham

Katherine E. Southwood (Anthology Editor) , Holly Morse (Anthology Editor)

$39.95 $35.95

$115.00 $103.50

Ebook (PDF)
$35.95 $28.76

Product details

Published Oct 19 2023
Format Paperback
Edition 1st
Extent 256
ISBN 9780567706188
Imprint T&T Clark
Dimensions 9 x 6 inches
Series The Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies
Publisher Bloomsbury Publishing


The contributors provide fresh insight into the context surrounding the composition and reception of the Psalms, the relationships between the Psalms, and of early audiences who engaged with the material. Close attention is also paid to specific interpretative problems which emerge in the Psalms, both linguistic and theological.

Consequently, there is the creation of a more sophisticated historical reconstruction of how the Psalms were used originally and in subsequent periods, opening up challenges and possibilities for scholars through emphasizing the need in critical Psalms scholarship for vitality and imagination.

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