Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Ancient horse figurines found in Israel

EQUINE ARTIFACTS: Heavy Rains Unearth Ancient Horse Figurines in Northern Israel (David Israel, The Jewish Press).
The heavy rains of the past month have revealed two beautiful clay figurines of horses in northern Israel. The figurines were found by different citizens: one— from the time of the Kingdom of Israel (about 2,800 years old)—was found in the area of ​​Kfar Ruppin in the Beit Shean Valley; the other—dated to the Hellenistic period, some 2,200 years ago—near Tel Akko.

The figurines were handed over to the Israel Antiquities Authority, which will honor their finders with a certificate of good citizenship.

[...]
HT reader Yoel. Besides the heavy rain, porcupines or foxes may have contributed again with faunal-assisted archaeology.

As noted here, I found a horse figurine (well, the front half of one) at the Tel Dor excavation in the mid-1980s.

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Still looking for those new Dead Sea Scrolls

OPERATION SCROLL: Experts Racing Against Antiquities Robbers in Hunt for Dead Sea Scrolls. Recent finds have stirred fresh excitement and archaeologists are probing higher and deeper than before, as hundreds of caves remain unexcavated (Reuters via Haaretz).

This article has some rehashing of old news, but it does give some information about a "Cave 52b" that is new to me. It also interviews some people and expresses hope that the new, so far undiscovered, Dead Sea Scrolls may help clarify who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls and illuminate the text of the mysterious Copper Scroll. That would be nice.

It doesn't seem likely that any major scroll finds remain in the Dead Sea area, but I'm still glad they are looking. They may well find some small scroll fragments. And maybe more. Who knows?

Background on Operation Scroll is here and links. I have suggested a couple of other places to watch for new scroll fragments (the Timna Valley here and links; Megiddo here and links). But both are long shots.

Background on the "Jerusalem papyrus," which could well be a forgery, is here and links. And for many past PaleoJudaica posts on the Copper Scroll, start here (cf. here) and follow the links.

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Another review of Sanders, From Adapa to Enoch

REVIEWS OF BIBLICAL AND EARLY CHRISTIAN STUDIES:
2019.1.1 | Seth L. Sanders. From Adapa to Enoch: Scribal Culture and Religious Vision in Judea and Babylon. Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism 167. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2017. pp xiv + 280. ISBN 978-3-16-154456-9.

Reviewed by Ryan D. Schroeder, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver.
Excerpt:
Sanders’ From Adapa to Enoch is a must read for scholars of scribal culture(s) and will offer insights to specialists in fields as diverse as ancient cuneiform scholarship, West Semitic epigraphy, prophecy and divination, early Jewish apocalyptic literature, and the Aramaic and sectarian Dead Sea Scrolls.
Earlier reviews etc. of the book are noted here and links.

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Fake archaeology can be good

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Tel Achzib in Arkansas Is Fake—And Everybody Knows It! Learn about Harding University’s Biblical archaeology field school (Megan Sauter). As usual, this essay is a summary of a recent BAR article that is behind the subscription wall. But it gives you a taste of it.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Aramaic Week at the BL

THIS IS ARAMAIC WEEK AT HERITAGE MADE DIGITAL WEBSITE of the British Library.

Yesterday they posted a Monday Mystery, a fourth-century manuscript from Egypt in Hebrew script. And they have retweeted another Aramaic mystery manuscript here.

Can you help? So far, the comments are uninformative.

They have also posted on a Syriac lectionary and on Aramaic Targums of Esther, the Pentateuch, and the Song of Songs. Plus some other books in Syriac and Aramaic.

The week is not over, so stay tuned. Cross-file under Aramaic Watch.

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Alter, Kafka, and the Bible

INTERVIEW: Robert Alter sets a new literary tone with his translation of the Hebrew Bible (John Hickey, Berkeley News).
There aren’t many stories surrounding the Bible that begin with Czech novelist of the fantastic Franz Kafka, but Robert Alter’s does.

[...]
The article includes a video clip in which Professor Alter discusses Kafka and the Bible. He also criticizes biblical scholars for trying to "disambiguate" the Hebrew Bible by translation.

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More on Scott Carroll's papyri

OVER AT VARIANT READINGS, Brent Nongbri continues to analyze Scott Carroll's videos to learn more about the papyri to which he has access or, in some cases, which he apparently himself owns:

Scott Carroll’s Classical Papyri
So again, these papyrus manuscripts of classical authors seem to be the property of Scott Carroll himself and not the Green Collection. This was news to me.
More of Scott Carroll’s Papyri?
More classical and biblical papyri.

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Catalogue of Rylands Greek papyri

THE AWOL BLOG: Catalogue of the Greek papyri in the John Rylands Library by John Rylands University Library of Manchester. It's a bit out of date (1911), but has lots of interesting material, including Old Testament and New Testament fragments.

I see that Brent Nongbri has also noted the catalogue here.

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Monday, January 21, 2019

Haaretz on Alter's translation of the Hebrew Bible

THAT CAN HAPPEN. How a Literature Professor Found Himself Translating the Entire Bible From Scratch. I kind of fell into it,’ says Robert Alter of his decades-long project of retranslating the Bible, ensuing from a request to write ‘about Genesis or Kafka’ (Elon Gilad, Haaretz premium).
Really? All the hundreds of different translations of the Hebrew Bible into English have something wrong? Including the celebrated translation published by the Jewish Publication Society in 1985? In his opinion, yes.

“The language of the Bible is quite beautiful – that is, both the narrative prose and the poetry are finely wrought literary artifacts,” Alter explains. “What I found was that none of the existing English versions, with the limited exception of the King James Version, does any justice to the literary artistry of the Hebrew.” The other translations fail to adequately convey – to the extent that any translation can – the power, subtlety and precision of the Hebrew, he says, and that was what he set out to accomplish.
Includes both positive and negative evaluations from biblical scholars.

Background here and links.

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An algorithm to restore archaeological artifacts

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: How This New Algorithm Is Helping Restore Archaeological Artefacts (Ambika Choudhury, Analytics India Magazine).
Since the 1960s researchers have been exploring ways to overcome these challenges. There are findings which suggest that in 1964, computational solver was introduced that could solve a nine-piece puzzle. While these were rudimentary efforts, researchers are now using state-of-the-art techniques based on natural images, colour matching, shape matching, and others to design algorithms and solve twisted puzzles in archaeology.

In a recent development, researchers at Technion and University of Haifa, Israel have proposed a new algorithm that is able to fix these issues with computer vision.
This isn't specifically about ancient Judaism, but the technology is potentially widely applicable to ancient decorative art. As before, the current algorithm is primitive and fallible, but algorithms can learn from experience. Give it some time and it may someday be able to outdo human archaeological art historians.

Cross-file under the Singularity is Near.

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Digital resources for ancient Judaism

MICHAEL SATLOW: Resources for the Digital Study of Jews and Judaism in Antiquity. It's a good list. How about adding a section on blogs?

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Knoppers remembered by Notre Dame colleagues

MEMORIAL: Theology department remembers Gary N. Knoppers (Mary Steurer, The Notre Dame Observer).
{Department chair Timothy] Matovina said Professor Knoppers’ work will shape Notre Dame for years to come.

“He was only here five years, but already he was working with, doing some great work with graduate students who will carry on his legacy, because they’ll go off and be professors themselves with the formation and the training they had from Professor Knoppers,” he said. “But in the department, just his goodness, his community spirit will be his legacy and will be deeply missed.”
Background here and links.

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Sunday, January 20, 2019

Tu B'Shevat 2019

TU B'SHEVAT, the New Year for Trees, begins tonight at sundown. Enjoy!

Last year's Tu B'Shevat post is here. Follow the links there for past posts of interest.

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More on Beit Shemesh and Route 38

ROADWORKS VS. ARCHAEOLOGY: ANCIENT CITY AROUSES CONTROVERSY IN BEIT SHEMESH. Archeological dig exposes conflicting interests with no simple solution (Meir Ekstein, Jerusalem Post).
The present plans for the road would decimate the site forever – a third destruction (churban shlishi) of a 2,700-year-old site. How does one weigh the immediate economic needs and those of the present community against the preservation of Jewish/Israeli history for generations? There are alternatives that would save the site entirely, such as building a tunnel underneath the excavations, building a bridge over the excavations or rerouting the road near Moshav Yishi. Each of these solutions poses problems, is expensive and will significantly delay the completion of the road. But they are not insurmountable. In contrast, this site is a non-renewable resource. Once destroyed, it will be gone forever.
This article advocates a particular position about the road controversy. For an earlier article that presented a wider range of views, see here. I take no position on the matter myself.

I was about to post this when I saw that Joseph I. Lauer had a new e-mail on the topic. He notes this article and also another from Haaretz Hebrew here, Google English translation at: An achievement for archaeologists: Route 38, which is supposed to cross Tel Bet Shemesh, will be reduced (Nir Hasson).
Netivei Israel agreed to significantly reduce the width of Highway 38, which crosses Tel Bet Shemesh, after archaeologists have warned that it may bury rare and unusual findings from the First Temple period that were discovered there. The Antiquities Authority claims that according to a summary reached a week ago between the IAA CEO and Netivei Israel's CEO, the width of the road will be reduced from 80 meters to 20 meters only. Israel's roads said the road plans were being re-examined in light of the findings, but did not confirm that the road would be reduced to a quarter of its planned area. Even in its narrow form, the road is expected to cause great damage to the findings.

[...]
That seems to represent some progress.

UPDATE (21 January): The article is now published on the Haaretz (premium) English site: Victory for Archaeologists: Planned Road Expansion Cut in Bid to Save Ancient Treasures. Route 38 will cut through a major 7th century BCE site. Roads company: Plans are being ‘reexamined.’

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Ben Wright interviewed on academic co-authorship

THE STECA BLOG: Co-authoring Academic Publications: A Conversation with Ben Wright (Elisa Uusimäki).

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Open Scriptures Hebrew Bible (OSHB)

THE AWOL BLOG notes an open-source online resource for the Hebrew Bible:

Open Scriptures Hebrew Bible (OSHB) version 2.0

unfoldingWord Hebrew Grammar

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Saturday, January 19, 2019

Paul the cosmopolitan?

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Galatians 3:28—Neither Jew nor Greek, Slave nor Free, Male and Female. As published in Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 2018. (Karin Neutel).
Seen in the light of first-century cosmopolitan ideals, Paul’s declaration of unity thus takes on a distinctly ancient form. It does not proclaim the equality of all people, regardless of their social positions, as is sometimes assumed by readers today. Rather, it envisages a social ideal of harmony and connection, where those factors in society that create division and conflict have been removed.

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Review of Engel, Gershom Scholem

H-JUDAIC BOOK REVIEW:
Amir Engel. Gershom Scholem: An Intellectual Biography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017. xiv + 226 pp. $40.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-226-42863-5; ISBN 978-0-226-42877-2.

Reviewed by Jay Howard Geller (Case Western Reserve University)
Published on H-Judaic (January, 2019)
Commissioned by Barbara Krawcowicz (Norwegian University of Science and Technology)
Excerpt:
Engel has written a fascinating study of this nearly incomparable modern Jewish thinker. He has excavated the implicit, making explicit the lines of connection between Scholem’s life and his work. Yet, it should be noted that many Scholem scholars will not regard the ties as clear as Engel does. Some will protest (and already have) that Scholem’s thinking either eludes such neat correlations or requires a holistic approach. Moreover, Engel’s mix of chronological and thematic ordering does not always work. ...
I noted the publication of the book here. Follow the links there and see also here for other recent books about Scholem. And some other recent posts involving Scholem are here, here, and here.

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Never too late for Hebrew

AMEN, PREACH IT: It’s NEVER too late to learn Hebrew…. (Phillip Marshall, Biblical Languages Blog).

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Press on the "Finds Gone Astray" Exhibition

HYPERALLERGIC: In Jerusalem, a Museum’s Ethics Go Astray. The Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem recently unveiled a new exhibition, Finds Gone Astray, to great fanfare, but it has so many ethical and legal violations that it’s hard to know where to begin. Michael Press is not happy about this exhibition, on which more here and here.

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Friday, January 18, 2019

Did Moses sing?

THE BIBLE AND INTEPRETATION:
Did Moses Sing? Perspectives on Deuteronomy 32

Based on current knowledge of how scribes worked in the ancient Near East…[Nilsen] proposes that there were groups of scribes in Jerusalem that produced literature in the late sixth-early fifth century or so, amongst them one Deuteronomistic group and one Isaianic group. Texts could cross boundaries between the groups (cf. e.g. Isa 36-39 and 2 Kings 19-20). The poem in Deut 32 is so similar to Isaiah 1; 56-66 that it is probable that the Isaianic group was its author. The poem then crossed the boundary of scribal groups, and was inserted into what we now call Deuteronomy 32, where it took on the role of “the song of Moses.”

See Also: The Origins of Deuteronomy 32: Intertextuality, Memory, Identity (Peter Lang Inc., International Academic Publishers, 2018).

By Tina Dykesteen Nilsen
VID Specialized University, Stavanger, Norway
January 2019

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Affect Theory and Ancient Texts

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: The Codex of Feeling: Affect Theory and Ancient Texts (Donovan Schaefer).
It would seem I am the least qualified person in this forum about Maia Kotrosits’ book to speak to the quality of her Biblical scholarship, so this response will be dictated from a theory cave. ...
Now I know there is a thing called "Affect Theory." It sounds like a slippery, but promising, concept.

Further:
A nation is a tangle of forces fused by the force of affect. There is, then, no pure nation, but instead only a slapdash set of parameters for feeling a nation into existence. This is the milieu within which ancient texts are created, and understanding their affective dimension is the avenue Kotrosits proposes to discern how they make meaning. In particular, Kotrosits uses the affect approach to displace a binary frame of Christian vs Jewish identity in ancient sources. ...
This is another paper presented in the review panel on Maia Kotrosits’s Rethinking Early Christian Identity: Affect, Violence, and Belonging (Fortress, 2015) at the 2018 Construction of Christian Identities SBL seminar. Background here.

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Review of Sussman, Late Roman to Late Byzantine/Early Islamic Period Lamps in the Holy Land

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Varda Sussman, Late Roman to Late Byzantine/Early Islamic Period Lamps in the Holy Land: The Collection of the Israel Antiquities Authority. Oxford: Archaeopress, 2016. Pp. iv, 635. ISBN 9781784915704. £65.00. Reviewed by Daniel Schindler, Elon University (dschindler3@elon.edu).
This book has much to offer as a reference to the oil lamps of the Late Roman and Byzantine periods and for developing research questions with regard to regionalism and small finds. Sussman has produced a volume that will be a basis for further research; it is an indispensable addition for scholars studying the material culture of the Late Roman, Byzantine, and Early Islamic periods in ancient Palestine as there is no other oil lamp catalogue for these periods that is as comprehensive.

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BHD on the Jerusalem column inscription

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: First Person: A Little Jot on a Jerusalem Column. From the January/February 2019 Biblical Archaeology Review (Robert Cargill).
At first glance, the inscription appears rather benign. But to those of us who study Jerusalem, its history, and especially the text of the Hebrew Bible and who pay particularly close attention to the spelling of key words, this inscription carries far more linguistic weight than that of the stone itself.
I have also discussed the orthography and philology of the word "Jerusalem" in the inscription here. I go into somewhat more detail, but end up in more or less the same place.

Other posts on the Jerusalem column inscription are here and here.

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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Hebrew forgeries from Arab countries

THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF ISRAEL BLOG: A glimpse into the flourishing counterfeit industry of manuscripts from Arab countries (Hen Malul). The essay is in Hebrew, but you can read a very comprehensible Google English translation here (link now correct!). There are also many photos of fake manuscripts.
Hebrew letters that do not make up any sentence, prints on metals - and a Star of David everywhere: The National Library is flooded with appeals from "collectors" and antique dealers from Arab countries, who offer "historical manuscripts" that supposedly belonged to Jewish communities in Islamic countries.
The Jordanian lead codices (on which much more here and links) get a mention, although I don't see any clearly lead-codex-like artifact among the photographs.

I have been approached a few times in the last three weeks for help with supposed Hebrew writings. One message from the UAE included photos of a scroll that was obviously not very old.

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The Talmud is still big in South Korea

TALMUD WATCH: Talmud-inspired learning craze sweeps South Korea (Tim Alper, JTA).
“Koreans don’t have to emulate Jewish belief systems,” educational researcher Seol Dong-ju said, “but we do need to copy the way Jews teach their children.”

The result is dozens of private chavruta-themed academies, with busy branches in major cities throughout the country, catering to everyone from toddlers to adults. Some make use of Korean-language Talmudic texts, while others follow entirely secular curricula.

Kim Jung-wan, who directs one such academy — the Havruta Culture Association — explains that South Korea’s Jewish education quest is over 40 years old. It began in the mid-1970s, when Korean translations of Talmud-inspired stories by Rabbi Marvin Tokayer, an American military chaplain stationed in Japan, first arrived in Seoul bookstores.

Tokayer’s stories were a runaway success. The Talmud, the vast Hebrew and Aramic compendium of first millennium law and lore, effectively went viral in South Korea: In the decades since, hundreds of Korean versions of the Talmud have appeared, mostly deriving from English-language translations and commentaries. These range from picture story books for children to thicker, more ponderous volumes for adults.
Background here and here.

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Intersectionality and ancient "Judaism?"

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Engaging with Intersectionality and 1st-2nd c. "Judaism" (Shayna Sheinfeld).
In 2018, the Construction of Christian Identities SBL seminar organized a review panel on Maia Kotrosits’s Rethinking Early Christian Identity: Affect, Violence, and Belonging (Fortress, 2015).

To open this forum and as a member of the steering committee of the Construction of Christian Identities SBL seminar, I want to begin with some reflection on what the goals of this seminar have been in order to bring Kotrosits’s work into discussion with our larger aims.

[...]

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On ancient Greek

PHILOLOGY: Greek to Me. The Comma Queen on the pleasures of a different alphabet (Mary Norris, The New Yorker).
A few years ago, in the Frankfurt airport on the way home from Greece, I bought a copy of Virginia Woolf’s “The Common Reader,” which includes her essay “On Not Knowing Greek.” I already had the book at home, but I was impressed that anything by Woolf was considered airport reading. When I was about ten years old, my father, a pragmatic man, had refused to let me study Latin, and for some reason I assumed that “On Not Knowing Greek” was about how Woolf’s father, too, had prevented his daughter from studying a dead language. I pictured young Virginia Stephen sulking in a room of her own, an indecipherable alphabet streaming through her consciousness, while her father and her brother, downstairs in the library, feasted on Plato and Aristotle.

Well, apparently I had read only the title of the essay. Of course Virginia Woolf knew Greek. ...
Of course she did. Sean Connery also makes a cameo appearance.

This article is not specifically about ancient Judaism, but it is full of fun facts about ancient Greek. HT Philo scholar Ellen Birnbaum.

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