Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Ezekiel's dry bones

PROF. MATTHEW J. SURIANO: Judah’s Restoration: The Meaning of Ezekiel’s Vision of the Dry Bones (TheTorah.com).
Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones did not assume personal resurrection, a belief that entered Judaism in a later period. In its original context, the imagery of bones rearticulating and coming back to life draws upon the ancient burial practices of Judahite family tombs, offering a message of hope to the exiles in Babylon that YHWH will return them to their land.
I have discussed this topic before. I think that this essay is correct in what it asserts—that the bones of Ezekiel 37 are a metaphor for the exiles and the resurrection of the bones symbolizes the restoration of the exiles in the Land of Israel.

But I am also inclined to think that the essay is incorrect in what it denies—that the vision of the dry bones did not assume personal resurrection. As I asked earlier, "Would anyone have used this image unless some ideas about physical resurrection were not already part of the cultural narrative?"

I have discussed the question at length in my 2018 post, Resurrection in the Book of Ezekiel (and in Ugaritic). I think the idea that the gods could resurrect the dead is a lot older than usually acknowledged. It alreary appears in Ugartic epic. And Ezekiel is at least playing with the idea that personal resurrection could be collective. Full details there.

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Industrial metal meets Nag Hammadi?

MUSIC: Fleischkrieg premieres ‘Eve’ video on Side-Line – Out now (Side-Line).
This is what the band [Fleischkrieg] says about the track: “The song “Eve” is based on the Gnostic tradition of Adam’s wife being the hero in the Genesis creation myth – rather than the villain. This 2nd century Christian sect revered Eve as an early incarnation of the Divine Feminine, and if it weren’t for her courage to commit “original sin” – we’d still be trapped in a genetics lab known as the Garden of Eden.

The song is sung from Adam’s point of view where he praises Eve for delivering them from the tyranny of the Elohim. Though they are “thrown out the gilded cage”, Adam asks Eve to “make the thorns our home”, a poetic nod to human resilience in the face of catastrophe.”

The music video is creative in a metal sort of way. It has just about everything you could imagine. But apart from the opening quote from the Apocalypse of Adam, I struggle to see any direct influence from ancient Gnosticism.

Neverthless, duly noted as on some level inspired by it and the Nag Hammadi Library. For other musical inspirations see here, here, here, and here. Like the Dea Sea Scrolls, the Nag Hammadi Library has become a kind of cultural icon.

For more on ancient and esoteric themes in metal music, see the links collected here.

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Earliest photos of first DSS discoverers?

OVER AT VARIANT READINGS, Brent Nongbri has done some detective work on identifying the subjects and dates of the original discoverers of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Cave One).

The Earliest Photo of the Man Who Discovered the First Dead Sea Scrolls?

Photos of the First Finders of the Dead Sea Scrolls

We can't even keep straight the dates of the first photos of Muhammad ed Dhib and we think we can reconstruct the history of the Qumran sect?

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Monday, July 22, 2024

New info on the central church at Shivta

ARCHAEOLOGY: Before the Storm: How Early Christians Built Another Church in Ancient Shivta. Possibly the early Christians in the Negev didn't identify the storm clouds building over their heads. Or maybe they did, and wanted to pray (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz).
In the late 6th century or possibly the early 7th, the Christians of Shivta built another church.

The Central Church was squeezed in between existing homes in the late 6th or early 7th century, hundreds of years after the village's foundation in the deep desert. It was the Shivta's third monumental church, which ostensibly reflects prosperity and population growth.

Indeed Shivta, founded during the Roman period, flourished in the Byzantine period, from the 5th to the 7th century. The people developed remarkable ways to efficiently farm the Negev, growing the usual suspects, including grapes for wine. Plausibly the third church was erected because of a growing population's need.

In hindsight, that need may not have lasted for long. The Central Church was built on the cusp of the village's decline ...

The site of Shivta is important for the archaeology of the late-antique Negev. It has been the subject of many PaleoJudaica posts.

For more on the apocalyptic social collapse in the late-antique Negev, see here.

Whatever the limitations of Harris Dunscombe Colt, the excavator of Shivta in the early twentieth century, his management of his things, such as it was, resulted in the preservation of a suitcase full of artifacts (noted here and here) and, now, the survival and recovery of important sketches of the Shivta excavation which shed light on that third church.

Shivta is perhaps best known for the portrayal of Jesus's face on a wall painting in the baptistry of the north church. See here links.

For still more posts involving Shivta, start here (cf. here) and follow the links.

The peer-review article underlying the current Haaretz one is published in the current issue of the Palestine Exploration quarterly (156, issue 2, 2024). It is behind a subscription wall, but the abstract, acknowledgements, and notes are available for free.

Old Ground Plan - New Insights: The Central Church Compound in Shivta Revised

Emma Maayan-Fanar & Yotam Tepper
Published online: 17 Jun 2024
Cite this article https://doi.org/10.1080/00310328.2024.2363671


The three monumental churches of the Byzantine site of Shivta in the Negev Desert were fully excavated in the first third of the 20th century. Lacking the original archaeological reports, discussion of them has been based mostly on contemporary observations of the ruins. The Central Church, situated in the center of the village and surrounded by houses, has received the least scholarly attention of the three churches. Recently recovered data, including its ground plan executed by Colt’s expedition in 1937, and archival materials published here for the first time, enabled re-examination of the Central Church structure within the compound, its history, date, and identification of the function of some of the rooms. Analysis of old and new data led us to propose an updated plan of the Central Church complex. Accordingly, new insights are proposed regarding the place of the church within the village, its neighboring domestic structures, its relation to the other two churches of Shivta, and the layout of the site.

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Another review of Strange, Excavating the Land of Jesus

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Review: Excavating the Land of Jesus.
Excavating the Land of Jesus
How Archaeologists Study the People of the Gospels
By James Riley Strange
(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2023), 192 pp., 29 b/w figs., 2 maps; $29.99 (hardcover and eBook)

Reviewed by Matthew J. Grey

... In short, this book helps its reader understand how archaeologists think and work, particularly when dealing with such significant historical or religious texts as the Gospels.

Although other volumes have recently provided updates on specific aspects of this topic—such as surveys of newly excavated sites or studies of Galilean daily life—Strange’s book focuses on the process of archaeological research itself. ...

Earlier PaleoJudaica posts on the book are here and here.

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And another review of Fine, The Madwoman in the Rabbi’s Attic

BOOK REVIEW: 'The Madwoman in the Rabbi’s Attic': Gila Fine’s fine book on women in the Talmud - review. Gila Fine’s The Madwoman in the Rabbi’s Attic reexamines Talmudic women, challenging stereotypes and offering fresh, scholarly perspectives on their roles and stories (PAM PELED, Jerusalem Post).
Fine’s delightful book The Madwoman in the Rabbi’s Attic: Rereading the Women of the Talmud is written with such a light touch as it dishes up Greek mythology and medicine, midrashim, modern movies, and everything in between, that this seemingly esoteric book is more compelling than any novel. I couldn’t put it down.
I have noted other reviews of the book here and here.

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Sunday, July 21, 2024

Batten (ed.), Review of Biblical Literature, 2023 ) (SBL)

Review of Biblical Literature, 2023
Alicia J. Batten, editor

ISBN 9781628373462
Volume RBL 25
Status Available
Publication Date January 2024

Paperback $100.00
eBook $100.00

The annual Review of Biblical Literature presents a selection of reviews of the most recent books in biblical studies and related fields, including topical monographs, multi-author volumes, reference works, commentaries, and dictionaries. RBL reviews German, French, Italian, and English books and offers reviews in those languages.

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Saturday, July 20, 2024

From Josephus to Yosippon and Beyond (Brill, open access)

From Josephus to Yosippon and Beyond

Text – Re-interpretations – Afterlives

Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism, Volume: 215

Volume Editors: Carson Bay, Michael Avioz, and Jan Willem van Henten

Two millennia ago, the Jewish priest-turned-general Flavius Josephus, captured by the emperor Vespasian in the middle of the Roman-Jewish War (66–70 CE), spent the last decades of his life in Rome writing several historiographical works in Greek. Josephus was eagerly read and used by Christian thinkers, but eventually his writings became the basis for the early-10th century Hebrew text called Sefer Yosippon, reintegrating Josephus into the Jewish tradition. This volume marks the first edited collection to be dedicated to the study of Josephus, Yosippon, and their reception histories. Consisting of critical inquiries into one or both of these texts and their afterlives, the essays in this volume pave the way for future research on the Josephan tradition in Greek, Latin, Hebrew and beyond.

Copyright Year: 2024

E-Book (PDF)
Availability: Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-69329-6
Publication: 11 Jun 2024

Hardback Availability: Not Yet Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-69328-9
Publication: 13 Jun 2024
EUR €140.00

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Friday, July 19, 2024

How did W. F. Albright become a biblical scholar?

THE INSTITUTE OF HISTORY, ARCHAEOLOGY, AND EDUCATION BLOG: Biblical Archaeology and Literature: The ASOR Family Tree: William Foxwell Albright (Peter Feinman).
Albright traced the origin of his journey into biblical scholarship to a childhood incident at age 10 when he was first exposed to the world of archaeology in the library of his Methodist missionary parents in Chile.

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Schiffman on the Lubavitcher Rebbe as a Torah scholar

REFLECTIONS: The Lubavitcher Rebbe as a Torah Scholar (crownheights.info).
Watch as Professor Lawrence Schiffman gives an introduction to the Torah of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and his greatness as a Torah Scholar.

Professor Lawrence Schiffman is Judge Abraham Lieberman Professor in Hebrew & Judaic Studies at New York University and director of the Global Institute for Advanced Research in Jewish Studies. He is author of many books including serving as co-editor of the “Oxford Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls” and editor of “The Dead Sea Scrolls: Fifty Years after Their Discovery”

The thirtieth anniversary of the death of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, was in June. PaleoJudaica has many posts on him and the messianic traditions about him, with reflections on their potential for illuminating earlier messianic movements and traditions. Start here (cf. here) and follow the links.

Professor Schiffman's video presentation is technical, but I link to it for those who are interested.

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Watson, The Song of Songs (Peeters)

The Song of Songs

Historical Commentary on the Old Testament

Watson W.G.E.

PRICE: 88 euro
YEAR: 2024
ISBN: 9789042952140

The Song of Songs remains one of the most enigmatic and difficult books to understand. In addition, the text has been fluid, as shown by the Qumran scrolls, although it has reached us in a fairly stable form. There are two main focal points in this commentary. One is language, using comparative Semitics as well as reference to more remote cognates in other languages. The Song of Songs contains a very high number of rare Hebrew words and expressions, some of which are unique twists on well-established forms, and these need to be understood before any attempt is made at deciphering the meaning of the book. In many cases there is no clear-cut solution, so the reader is presented with a series of choices. The other focus is on similar compositions from Egypt – its well-known and extensive love poetry – as well as from Anatolia, Mesopotamia, Syria and elsewhere, which supply an invaluable cultural background. Particular attention is paid to poetic aspects, including comparison with ancient Near Eastern verse patterns. In line with the rest of the series, account is also taken of the many approaches adopted by previous interpreters. The illustrations, black and white versions of original watercolours, help to give this commentary a contemporary appeal.

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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Cave of Skulls yields MBA insect-dyed textile fragment

ANCIENT MATERIAL CULTURE: 3,800-year-old red textile dyed with Biblical scarlet discovered in Judean Desert Caves. Cloth fragment, earliest evidence of textile dyed with kermes, identified with the "scarlet worm" in the source texts, is discovered in Judean Desert Caves (Israel National News).
The earliest evidence of red-dyed textile using scale insects was revealed in the caves of the Judean desert.

According to a new joint study of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Bar-Ilan University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the color of the rare 3,800-year-old textile was produced from the oak scale insects, which the researchers identify with the biblical "Tola‛at Hashani” (scarlet worm).


The small textile fragment was excavated in 2016 in the Cave of Skulls in Nahal Se'elim (Ze'elim). I have posted about earlier discoveries in the cave, and in Nahal Se'elim, and the 2016 re-excavation of the cave here, here, and here.

The underlying article in the current issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports: Early evidence of an archaeological dyed textile using scale-insects: The Cave of Skulls, Israel. Naama Sukenik, Uri Davidovich, Zohar Amar, Said Abu-Ghosh, Yonah Maor, Roi Porat, Amir Ganor, Eitan Klein, David Iluz.

It is behind a subscription wall, but the INN article is a good summary of it.

Based on the radiocarbon dating, the fragment comes from about 1500-2000 BCE. My own agenda is to add it to the list of very early organic materials discovered in the Judean Desert and elsewhere in Israel (even Megiddo in the more humid north). If a textile fragment survives from the first half of the second millennium BCE in a good enough state that we can tell it is colored with insect dye, it is reasonable to hope that inscribed scroll fragments from the Iron Age stil survive somewhere. Keep looking!

For more on that subject, see the posts collected here.

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Alphabetic cuneiform at Deir ‘Alla?

THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST TODAY: The Enigmatic Tablets from Late Bronze Age Deir ‘Alla (Michel de Vreeze).
Using some sign identifications based on parallels and patterns within the Deir ‘Alla tablets themselves, a preliminary identification of most signs can be offered. This allows the language in the tablets to be identified as Northwest Semitic, which we can call Canaanite after its Late Bronze Levantine inhabitants. Nevertheless, the reading of the tablets remains problematic and far from ideal. What does seem clear is that by reading the signs with reference to later Hebrew grammar, which preserves earlier Canaanite forms, the texts appear to contain short ritual utterances and poetic proverbs written within a cultic setting, related to the temple activities.
This ANE Today essay came out a few years ago, but somehow I missed it. It just came to my attention because of a recent popular article on the tablets.

As far as I can recall, this story is new to me. Briefly: 15 inscribed clay tablets were excavated at Tel Deir ‘Alla from the 1960s on. Recent work, as per the quotation above, indicates that they are written an otherwise unknown alphabetic cuneiform script. There's not much to work with, but you can read preliminary translations in the ANE Today article above. Given the tiny size of the corpus, I would receive the translations with caution.

Northwest Semitic epigraphy and Tel Deir ‘Alla (Deir Alla) are already well connected due to the Iron Age II Balaam inscription discovered there by the same excavation. For many PaleoJudaica posts on it, start here and follow the links.

The corpus of Late Bronze Age alphabetic cuneiform outside of Ugarit is very small. For a recently noted example from Beit Shemesh, see here. It's good to know that there is more.

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The Save Ancient Studies Alliance

ORGANIZATION: Save Ancient Studies Alliance.
Our Story
SASA was founded in reaction to the devaluation of the study of the ancient world in universities and high schools. A group of graduate students and early career scholars came together to expand exposure and access to the ancient world and re-envision how the ancient world is studied. Our founding Director, David Danzig, sought out those who shared this frustration and the commitment to make change. Together, we began to reach out and develop our strategic vision for SASA.

Over the spring and summer of 2020 we took our first steps to engaging the public with our passion for the ancient world and Ancient Studies. Our first major initiative, free virtual Text-in-Translation Reading Groups, was a smashing success, as 13 group leaders engaged over 200 participants. This summer, with the help of our amazing interns and volunteers, we developed “SASA Inspire,” a year-long social media campaign with a goal of inspiring 100,000 people about the ancient world and Ancient Studies. In recognition of our early success, the Society for Biblical Literature and the Society for Classical Studies have expressed their support for SASA with a donation and grant.

We are working on introducing new and varied programming, extending our reach among students, and attracting individuals committed to contribute their time and energy to further our effort. As we work toward meeting our future goals, we continue to seek to partner with academic organizations and financial contributors to support SASA’s growth and development.

They have a free online conference coming up in just a few days: Representations of the Past in Ancient and Modern Times. It is aimed at both a scholarly audience and the general public.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Ancient bronze Minerva ring found on Mount Carmel

ANCIENT BLING WATCH: Israeli Teen Discovers Ancient Ring Depicting Roman War Goddess While Hiking on Mount Carmel. Yair Whiteson, 13, found the bronze ring while hiking with his father. Experts believe it depicts Minerva or Athena and dates back to the Roman period. The settlement on the Carmel forest ridge has been under archaeological investigation for 150 years yet the ring has only now been found (Haaretz).

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Julia Berenice in a new Prime series

TELEVISION: Meet ancient Rome’s real life Jewish princess: Berenice, star of new TV series Those About to Die. She was the real-life Jewish queen who fell for the Roman who destroyed Jerusalem – and now Berenice is the central figure in a blockbuster new TV series (Nicole Lampert, Jewish Chronicle).

The series opens on Prime Video on 19 July. If it is anything like as well researched as this article, it should be good.

For PaleoJudaica posts on or involving Julia Berenice (Berenike), sister of Herod Agrippa II and lover of the Emperor Titus, start here and follow the links. As noted there, Brill published a biography of her by Tal Ilan a couple of years ago.

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Gellar, with Rudolf, The Syriac Book of Medicines, Section Three

THE AWOL BLOG: The Syriac Book of Medicines – Section Three – The Local Recipes. An open-access preprint from the Max Plank Institute. Edited by M. J. Geller, in cooperation with Stefanie Rudolf. Follow the link for a link to the full pdf text.

The manuscripts of this work are quite modern (nineteenth century), but much of its contents arguably goes back to late antiquity.

Cross-file under Syriac Watch.

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