Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Ethiopian Jews and their sacred books

ETHIOPIC WATCH: Ethiopian Jews and Their Sacred Scripture. The African Jewish holy books that the rabbis never read (Yaacov Gonchel, Tablet Magazine).
What texts did the bahtawi and aqhshti learn and teach the people? The early Italian maskil Samuel David Luzzatto (1800-65), whose interest in the matter was piqued by his son Filosseno (1829-54), posed this very question to a bahtawi named Abba Yitzhak, who in response compiled a list of 62 books sacred to Ethiopian Jews (others have a slightly higher count). The omission of rabbinic literature remains striking, but of further interest is the commingling of scriptural books that form part of the rabbinically authorized canon with those deemed “external books.” For Ethiopian Jews, some of the latter are considered especially sacred and beloved. Before turning to this literature, however, a few words must be said about its language and form.
Besides the books of the Hebrew Bible, this literature includes the Book of Jubilees, the Book of Enoch, and a number of the Old Testament Apocrypha. They are written (translated into) the old Ethopic language Ge'ez.

For more on the Ethiopic Bible, see here and links.

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More images of Oxyrhynchus papyri at the Bodleian

VARIANT READINGS: More Digital Images of Papyri at the Bodleian Online (Brent Nongbri). Including Greek fragments from Oxyrhynchus of the Gospel of Thomas and the Book of Psalms.

Background here and here.

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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Intact 52-foot Book of the Dead scroll found in Egypt

SCROLL DISCOVERY: 52-foot-long Book of the Dead papyrus from ancient Egypt discovered at Saqqara. For the first time in 100 years, a full "Book of the Dead" papyrus has been uncovered at Saqqara (Owen Jarus, Live Science).

A few observations.

This scroll is about twice as long as the longest Dead Sea Scroll, the Temple Scroll.

One would have thought that the Saqqara necropolis would have long since been cleared of all notable antiqities. It was steadily plundered for thousands of years. Archaeologists have been exploring it since the nineteenth century. Yet somehow this enormous intact scroll escaped attention until just now. As the article notes (and as I did), a shorter, damaged scroll, also containing material from the Book of the Dead, was also discovered in 2022.

Saqqara has recently produced other remarkable finds, including a large cache of mummies still in their sarcophagi and a mummy covered in gold leaf.

Egypt in general has been relentlessly plundered since civilization got underway there and, for more than a century, thoroughly explored by responsible archaeologists. Just in the last couple of years archaeologists have found a very old monastery, golden-tongued mummies, a misplaced city, an inscription of Pharaoh Hophra, a cache of 18,000 inscribe ostraca, a "new" Cairo Geniza, a temple of Zeus, a temple of Isis with tombs, documentary texts, etc., and a big tunnel, maybe to Cleopatra's tomb. These are just stories that I happened to notice and thought would be of interest to PaleoJudaica readers.

The point? Even in Egypt, one of the most intensely explored regions for antiquites, discoveries are still coming in right and left. There is every indication that there is more to be found.

And if there are intact 16-meter ancient scrolls still lying around in Egypt, what does that say about the potential for new scroll finds in Israel? Israel has fewer areas that have the right climactic conditions to preserve scrolls. But there are still promising regions. Besides the Dead Sea region and Samaria, both of which have produced remarkable scroll discoveries, both Megiddo and the Timna Valley have potential. I have discussed the matter here.

Searchers continue to find small bits of scrolls and they probably will for a long time. But the two scrolls found recently in Saqqara give me additional hope that there may be substantial ancient scrolls still buried in Israel, waiting to be found.

We'll see.

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Ancient wine press and mosaic damaged in Galilee

APPREHENDED: Nabbed antiquities robbers cause ‘heart-breaking damage’ to ancient wine press. Israel Antiquities Authority says two suspects caught ‘red-handed’ at Soger, in Western Galilee, as they dug beneath and destroyed a 2,000-year-old mosaic floor (Times of Israel).

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Runesson, Judaism for Gentiles (Mohr Siebeck)

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: Anders Runesson. Judaism for Gentiles. Reading Paul beyond the Parting of the Ways Paradigm. In collaboration with Rebecca Runesson. 2022. X, 394 pages. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 494. 159,00 € including VAT. cloth ISBN 978-3-16-159328-4.
Published in English.
For almost two millennia, readers of the New Testament have been trying to figure out Paul. The struggle with his words begins already within the canon itself. While Acts portrays with ease a Torah-observant, Pharisaic-messianic Paul working in partnership with James and other leaders in Jerusalem, the author of 2 Peter famously admitted that the apostle to the nations is difficult to understand. From that moment on debate has ebbed and flowed on all things Pauline; on women as leaders in assemblies and on the status of Jews and Gentiles in God's plan, just to mention two of the contentious topics associated with Paul. For clergy, scholar, and lay person, Paul's letters hold weight and continue to draw in new readers. Anders Runesson seeks to listen to the voice of the historical Paul – a Jew proclaiming a form of Judaism to non-Jews to save them from divine wrath – but also to probe what it means to breathe new life into this historical figure in the twenty-first century.

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Monday, January 30, 2023

Alex Joffe says goodbye to ANE Today

THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST TODAY: Hello I Must Be Going: The ANE Today Editor Says Goodbye.

Alex Joffe, the founding editor, reflects on his decade of editorship. With many good points. Excerpt:

So academics, sit down and write something aimed at your mother. Explain why what you do or what you’ve found is cool and exciting and new and important. Give the reader some of your enthusiasm, in words we can all understand. You owe it everyone and also to yourselves, as a matter of self-preservation and self-respect.

And dear reader, please keep reading ANE Today (which is sure to thrive under its new editor Jessica Nitschke) but up your demands from academics. ...

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Bloch, Ancient Jewish Diaspora (Brill)

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
Ancient Jewish Diaspora

Essays on Hellenism

Series: Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism, Volume: 206

Author: René Bloch

In the Hellenistic period, Jews participated in the imagination of a cosmopolitan world and they developed their own complex cultural forms. In this panoramic and multifaceted book, René Bloch shows that the ancient Jewish diaspora is an integral part of what we understand as Hellenism and argues that Jewish Hellenism epitomizes Hellenism at large. Relying on Greek, Latin and Hebrew sources, the fifteen papers collected in this volume trace the evidence of ancient Jews through meticulous studies of ruins, literature, myth and modern reception taking the reader on a journey from Philo’s Alexandria to a Roman bust in a Copenhagen museum.

Copyright Year: 2023

Prices from (excl. shipping): €133.00

E-Book (PDF)
Availability: Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-52189-6
Publication date: 19 Sep 2022

Hardback
Availability: Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-52188-9
Publication date: 14 Nov 2022

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Sunday, January 29, 2023

Septuaginta varia

WILLIAM A. ROSS: A SEPTUAGINTAL SMATTERING.
It’s that time of year when academics begin to emerge slowly from the malaise that sets in between SBL and New Year’s Day. I count myself among that number, as it seems like the last two weeks have suddenly burst into new activity, much of which is follow-up from the conferences in late November.

So in that spirit, I thought I’d post a kind of round-up for all things Septuagint — at least those things that have come to my attention. Here’s the rundown:

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Saturday, January 28, 2023

Richey, Visions of Gods and Monsters (PhD thesis)

THE AWOL BLOG: Visions of Gods and Monsters: Levantine and Mesopotamian Iconographies of Divine Combat and Their Textual Impressions. An open-access 2019 University of Chicago PhD Thesis by Madadh Pyrene Richey.

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Friday, January 27, 2023

What is a word and when did we decide that?

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: In the Beginning, Was There a Word? (Aaron J. Koller).
“In the beginning was the word” (John 1:1)—but what is a word?

A “word” is a thing, a concept, that seems clear from afar, but gets fuzzier the harder we look at it. Within English, is “birthday” one word or two? What about “wedding day”? If you thought it was obvious that “birthday” is one word but “wedding day” two, it is because of the way they are written.

Similarly, what gives us the idea that a written sentence is made up of individual words? ...

Surprisingly, the invention of the alphabet only made matters more confusing.

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Cross, The Poetics of Plot in the Egyptian and Judean Novella (PhD thesis)

THE AWOL BLOG: The Poetics of Plot in the Egyptian and Judean Novella. An open-access 2022 University of Chicago PhD thesis by Joseph John Cross. Downloadable for free.

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Thursday, January 26, 2023

Why is Hebrew written right to left?

PHILOLOGOS: How Hebrew Came to Be Written From Right to Left. Hebrew was once written in both directions. How did it fix its direction, and what does that show about the history of writing in general? (Mosaic Magazine).

If the word "Boustrophedon" is not already in your vocabulary, this is your chance to add it.

For more on that lice comb inscribed with the earliest Canaanite sentence, see here.

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Review of a new edition of the Life of Apollonius of Tyana

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Flavius Philostratus. Vita Apollonii Tyanei.
Gerard Boter, Flavius Philostratus. Vita Apollonii Tyanei. Bibliotheca scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana, 2043. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2022. Pp. lxiii, 322. ISBN 9783110218824

Review by
Tomás Fernández, University of Buenos Aires, Conicet. Tomas.Fernandez@conicet.gov.ar

[...]

All in all, Boter’s edition has made significant advances in all major features of critical editions. His collations are more systematic, his stemma more solid, and the conjectures he includes are enough to allow the reader to picture, even in problematic cases, what the genuine reading may be.

For more on the first-century itinerant sage Apollonius of Tyana, especially in relation to Jesus, see here and links.

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