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.

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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.

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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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Friday, March 15, 2019

“The World Between Empires” at the Met

EXHIBITION: See Ancient Trade Route Treasures at the Met. “The World Between Empires,” linking present and past, celebrates the distinctive art from all the cultures of the Middle East (Holland Cotter, New York Times).
Finally, through their arrangement of those objects — around 190, which date roughly from 100 B.C. to 250 A.D. — the curators make clear why imperial Rome and Parthia were so invested on asserting control of the Middle Eastern “world between”: because one of the most extensive and lucrative trade routes on earth stretched across it, and, gallery by gallery, culture by culture, the exhibition traces its path.

This begins in Southwestern Arabia (modern-day Yemen) and moves north to the kingdom of Nabataea — an ally of the Roman Empire — with its rock-cut capital at Petra (now in Jordan). From there the route continues through the rebellious territory of Judaea (Israel and Palestine), to the ritual center of Heliopolis-Baalbek in present-day Lebanon. Finally come the route’s grand, easternmost cities, until very recently well-preserved ruins: Palmyra and Dura-Europos in Syria, and Babylon and Hatra in Iraq. In the art at each stop, imperial influence is evident, if only as an overlay, and local traditions hold their own.
The article has good photos of many of the remarkable objects in the exhibition. Looks well worth a visit.

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The architects side with the Karaites

KARAITE-AND-CABLE-CAR-CONFLICT WATCH: Internationally renowned architects add opposition to Jerusalem cable car plan. Ron Arad, Moshe Safdie, Santiago Calatrava among 27 figures charging that ‘powerful interest groups’ are putting tourism and politics above safeguarding cultural treasures (Sue Surkes, Times of Israel).

The article only mentions the opposition to the cable car plan by the local Karaite community at the very end. But more on that here.

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On mistranslations of biblical words

BELIEFNET: Biblical Translations We Keep Screwing Up. You keep using that word. It does not mean what you think it means (Stephanie Hertzenberg).

Two comments. First the section on the word Asherah is correct that it means more than just a "sacred pole" and that it is associated with the Canaanite goddess Asherah. But the Hebrew word is used with the definite article, which means it refers to an object rather than directly to the goddess herself. (Personal names cannot take definite articles.) So perhaps translate "Asherah's sacred pole" or some such?

For many past posts on Asherah and the asherah, see here and here and links.

Second, "Lo Tirtsah does mean "you shall not murder" in certain contexts, but the range meaning is wider than that. It also refers to when someone accidentally kills someone else (which we call "manslaughter"). The verb means something like "to kill without provocation" or "to kill in cold blood." Additional details are here.

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Opening Jerusalem's Nea Church to the public?

PETITIONED BY EMEK SHAVEH: Decades after discovery, Jerusalem’s Byzantine masterpiece may open to public (Ilan Ben Zion, Al-Monitor). The article reports that the Nea Church was founded by the Emperor Justinian in the sixth century. It was excavated in the 1970s by Nahman Avigad, but most of its subterranean vaults still remain closed to the public.
But Daniel Shukrun, secretary of the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter, told Al-Monitor that the Nea Church vaults are presently unsafe for the general public. In late 2017, the company conducted a major clean-up operation inside the subterranean chambers to clear out years of accumulated bat droppings and refuse, but the area remains unsuitable for tourists, he said.

“The sanitation problems were so severe down there that we couldn’t even understand what we were up against,” he added. Nonetheless, Shukrun said that in light of Emek Shaveh’s petition, the company has gotten the ball rolling on evaluating a development plan for the Nea Church ruins.
But he says that it would cost a lot of money.

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Thursday, March 14, 2019

Halutza ("Elusa") inscription

EPIGRAPHY: Archaeological Excavations Reveal 1700 Year-Old Inscription of City Named ‘Elusa’ (Halutza) in the Negev (Jewish Press News Desk).
The name of the city of Elusa appears in a number of historical documents and contexts, including the Madaba mosaic map, the Nessana papyri and other historical references. However, this is the first time that the name of the city has been discovered in the site itself. The inscription mentions several Caesars of the tetrarchy which allow to date it around 300 CE.
According to the Jerusalem Post, Halutza is also one of two possible sites for the biblical city of Ziklag.

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Pi Day 2019

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Origins: 3.14159265… Why did the ancients invent increasingly subtle and ingenious methods to arrive at an exact value of pi? Human curiosity (Kim Jonas).

For more on Pi Day and Pi and Judaism, see here and here and links.

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Fishbane on poetics of the Zohar

THE BOOK OF DOCTRINES AND OPINIONS BLOG: Eitan Fishbane on The Art of Mystical Narrative: A Poetics of the Zohar.

Alan Brill interviews Professor Fishbane on his new book, The Art of Mystical Narrative: A Poetics of the Zohar (Oxford University Press, 2018). There is also a survey of recent scholarship on the Zohar. Excerpt from the long interview:
12) If this is the Zohar, then why read Zohar instead of Lord of Rings, Harry Potter, or Game of Thrones?

Certainly, it is a unique literary world unto itself, which is not reducible to these later instances of fantastic storytelling. But it does share certain features with the magical classics you mention here, the creation of a paranormal universe in which characters are transported beyond the bounds of our normal expectations within natural law.
I noted a panel discussion on the book here. And for many, many past posts on the Zohar, start there and follow the links. Cross-file under Zohar Watch.

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Judaism and Coptic Magic

THE COPTIC MAGICAL PAPYRI BLOG: Religion in the Coptic Magical Papyri IX: Judaism and Coptic Magic (Korshi Dosoo). A wide-ranging post that starts with background on the history of Judaism in Egypt and goes on to specific magical traditions and texts, including a new Coptic magical papyrus involving Solomon.

I have noted the previous posts in the series here and here.

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Dos and don'ts: cooking for the Sabbath

DR. SARIT KATTAN GRIBETZ: Shabbat with Food: From Biblical Prohibitions to Rabbinic Feasts (TheTorah.com).
Biblical prohibitions against preparing food on Shabbat are further developed in the Second Temple and rabbinic periods. At the same time, a new emphasis emerges: celebrating Shabbat with festive meals.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

More on the Roman Temple of Peace

THE HOLY LAND PHOTOS' BLOG: Rome — Temple of Peace and a Map of Ancient Rome. Carl Rasmussen gives some further background on the Roman temple where the treasures of the Jerusalem Temple were kept after the Great Revolt of 70 C.E.

Background here and here, with Part 3 still to come.

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Purim was regulated in the Theodosian Code

PURIM IS COMING: The Romans tried to ban wild Purim parties in 408 CE – for a very good reason (Henry Abramson, JTA).
An unusual bit of the Theodosian Code (16.8.18) is apparently the first non-Jewish source to document the phenomenon of Purim parties that get out of hand. Specifically, the law prohibited Jews from burning Haman in effigy. For Jews, the practice of symbolically destroying the notorious villain of the book of Esther, the paradigm of anti-Semitism, was considered an aspect of the Purim commandment to “erase the name of Amalek,” Haman’s Jew-hating ancestor.
The issue seems to have arisen over a misunderstanding of the biblical account of Haman's death.

UPDATE (19 March): I see I noted another story on this topic here.

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Blank cartridges and a fake manuscript

APPREHENDED: Turkish police seize ancient manuscript stolen from Syrian museum (Anadolu Agency/Hurriyet Daily News). The Turkish authorities continue to round up fake ancient artifacts before they reach the antiquities market.

This codex bears the hallmarks of a crude modern fake. Most importantly, the writing on the page shown in the photo consists of lines of meaningless sequences of Hebrew letters with frequent repetition.

There are other suspicious features. The letters are written in gold leaf. The material and cut of the pages is similar to other fakes. There is a drawing, in this case of a wyvern-like creature. The drawing doesn't look very old to me, but I'm not an art historian.

The police also recovered (from the car of the suspects) a gun that fires blanks. Metaphor Watch?

The information that the book was stolen from a Syrian museum comes from the apprehended suspects, who may not be very reliable sources for provenance information. It would not surprise me, though, if it did come from Syria.

Many such artifacts have been apprehended recently in Turkey. The only ones I think are likely to be genuine are some coins. For past apprehensions, start here and keep following the links back. And this post on recent Hebrew forgeries from Arab countries seems relevant too.

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Some early Christian women

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY reposted some posts on women in the New Testament and the New Testament Apocrypha, leading up to International Women's Day, which was last Friday.

Anna in the Bible. Luke reveals the prophetess as a Biblical model for aging (Robin Gallaher Branch)

Who Was Thecla? The early Christian saint, rebel, and protagonist of the Acts of Thecla (Megan Sauter)

Some past PaleoJudaica posts on Thecla are here and links and here.

Lydia and Tabitha in the Bible. Women leaders in the early Christian church (Megan Sauter)

For more on Tabitha and Lydia follow the links for posts by Phil Long in his series on the Book of Acts at his Reading Acts Blog.

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