Thursday, June 08, 2023

More on Tunisian coinage

NUMISMATICS: Tunisian Coinage Part 2 (Bob Reis, Numismatic News).

This article gives an overview of the mytho-history of Carthage from Dido to the Vandals, and even to the Byzantines. It surveys the coinage in a general way up to the time of the latter. There are some nice photos of Carthaginian coinage.

For Part 1 of the series, see here. For some PaleoJudaica posts on the coinage of Carthage and Tunisia, see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here (cf. here and here) Cross-file unde Punic Watch.

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The Phoenician Rosetta Stones are reunited

PHOENICIAN/PUNIC WATCH: Pillars used to decipher Phoenician language reunited after 240-years. They were first mentioned in 1694 as part of the Ġan Franġisk Abela collection (Daniel Tihn, Times of Malta).
Two ancient Maltese pillars have been reunited for an exhibition in Abu Dhabi after being apart for 241 years.

Commemorating the anniversary of the 50-year diplomatic relationship between Malta and the United Arab Emirates, the pillars, also known as Cippi, carry great historical value as they were once used to decipher Phoenician script, Heritage Malta said on Friday. [...]

I noted the story of the Maltese cippi stones and the decipherment of Phoenican here.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2023

What did the Talmudic rabbis actually say about the Bible?

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: How the Rabbis Taught the Jews (Not) to Read the Bible (Rebecca Scharbach Wollenberg).
The Closed Book:
How the Rabbis Taught the Jews (Not) to Read the Bible

Princeton University Press, 2023.

... But if we survey the sorts of things that the authors of the Mishnah, Talmuds and Midrash actually said about the Hebrew Bible, a very different vision of the rabbinic relationship to the Bible emerges. While the early rabbinic authorities theoretically established the newly canonized Hebrew Bible as a central pillar of Jewish life, many early rabbinic statements about the biblical text and its status were ambivalent at best. In other words, we find that many early rabbinic authorities liked the idea of the Bible but were less enthusiastic about the actual biblical text itself.

It is not that the early rabbinic authorities were critical of the Hebrew Bible the way that modern scholars are (text)critical of the Bible: as an amalgamated and historical text definitively shaped by human hands. Indeed, it isn’t clear that early rabbinic authorities saw anything wrong with the textual record of their written revelation at all. But The Closed Book argues that many early rabbis had a much more capacious and flexible vision of the Sinaitic revelation and its biblical products than modern descriptions of these late ancient thinkers might suggest. ...

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New witnesses to Origen's text of the Psalms

GÖTTINGER SEPTUAGINTA BLOG: The Origenic Recension of the Greek Psalter, Re(dis)covered from the Catena Tradition (Felix Albrecht).
My research, based on all the collations of the Greek Psalter that have been available in Göttingen and have now been completely digitised as part of the Academy project “Die Editio critica maior des griechischen Psalters”, has led to an extremely important insight, the consequences of which are certainly of inestimable value for the constitution of the Greek Psalter text: A careful analysis of the collation results has shown that, contrary to previous assumptions, an Origenic recension (O-group) is detectable in the primary tradition of the Greek Psalter.


HT Drew Longacre at his OTTC Blog. He explains the discovery is somewhat less technical terms.

The Greek text of some of Origen's homilies on the Psalms was recovered in 2012, as noted here. See there for comments on Origen's importance for the study of ancient Judaism.

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Tuesday, June 06, 2023

Codex Sassoon meets its buyer for 1st time

THE BUYER: Alfred Moses sees the Codex Sassoon he bought for over $30 million for the 1st time. Surrounded by family, the 93-year-old former US ambassador views the 1,200-year-old Bible, which he donated to the ANU Museum in Tel Aviv ‘for the Jewish people (JACKIE HAJDENBERG, JTA via Times of Israel).
Part of the reason he decided to give the book to ANU — an institution he has supported for years, including as chair of its honorary board — is that he sees it as serving Jews worldwide. He feels other prestigious homes for historical artifacts in the country, such as the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, are meant to cater to Israelis specifically.

“It’s the museum of the Jewish people and I wanted the codex to go to the Jewish people,” he said. “The Israel Museum is wonderful. But that’s the museum for Israel. I wanted the codex to be for the Jewish people.”

For the story of the Codex Sassoon – roughly the oldest nearly complete copy of the Hebrew Bible – and its recent sale, see here and follow the links.

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Looted Legio X bricks recovered

An operation by police in the Beit Hanina neighbourhood in East Jerusalem has led to the discovery of several cartons in a car trunk containing the pavement bricks. The bricks were likely part of a public building such as a bath house, which has since been looted in modern times for sale in the illegal antiquities trade.

The bricks date from roughly 2,000-years-ago and show the stamp of the Legio X Fretensis from when the legion built a military camp after Jerusalem’s destruction.

This is not my area of expertise, but it looks to me as though the "Legio X Equestris" in the headline is an error. As the article itself indicates, the bricks were stamped by the Legio X Fretensis.

The Legio X Equestris was a legion founded by Julius Caesar which was disbanded in the 40s CE. The Legio X Fretensis was founded about twnety years after Equestris and was involved in putting down the Bar Kokhba Revolt in the 130s. For disambiguation, see here.

In 2014 I noted the discovery of a lapidary inscription set up by the Legio X Fretensis in Jerusalem.

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Monday, June 05, 2023

New Avenues in Biblical Exegesis in Light of the Septuagint (Brepols)

New Avenues in Biblical Exegesis in Light of the Septuagint

Leonardo Pessoa da Silva Pinto, Daniela Scialabba (eds)

Pages: 346 p.
Size: 156 x 234 mm
Illustrations: 17 b/w, 19 tables b/w.
Language(s): English, Greek, Hebrew
Publication Year: 2022

ISBN: 978-2-503-59806-2

A collection of studies by renowned biblical and Septuagint scholars showing the potential of applying a variety of exegetical methods to the Septuagint text


The detailed study of the Septuagint opens new avenues of interpretation of the biblical text and enables new advancements in exegetical studies. The Greek version can be studied through several different approaches and the application of exegetical methods, old and new, contributes to a better understanding of numerous literary, historical and theological aspects of the Bible. The present volume collects the contributions written by renowned scholars who address the issue of the role and impact of Septuagint studies on biblical exegesis and theology. The papers range from more methodological discussions to exegetical studies applying various approaches to the Septuagint text. The wide variety of methods applied reveals numerous aspects of the Septuagint and the biblical text in general, such as their composition, history, textual transmission, literary scope and shape, and theology. The diversity of methods and analyses of the Septuagint represented in this book have, nevertheless, a common denominator: Biblical exegesis would benefit greatly from a deeper knowledge of the Septuagint.

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Philistine craft beer and Canaanite wine

COMING SOON: Brew your own ancient beer: Yeast from 3,000-year-old Philistine beer jug now on sale. Israeli multi-disciplinary research team’s first yeast strain available on preorder for December shipping; Israel Museum and Shikma Brewery launch limited edition commercial batch (Melanie Lidman, Times of Israel).
An interdisciplinary team of researchers, archaeologists and brewmasters in Israel first isolated 5,000-year-old yeast in 2019, as published in the peer-reviewed mBio journal in 2019. But now, the fruits of that discovery are about to become available for hobby brewers and sourdough aficionados everywhere, when the first batch of commercially available ancient yeast ships in December. Pre-orders are open now.
I noted that this project was in the works back in 2020.

The important question is, of course, what does it taste like? I don't remember seeing this at the time, but the current article says:

A Times of Israel reporter who tried one of the first iterations of beer brewed with the ancient yeast in 2019 said at the time it was “slightly sweet, with a subtle tang… and tasted [of] banana and other fruits.”
That sounds interesting.

The researchers are also working on recreating ancient Roman wine. They might be interested in this Haaretz article by Ariel David: L'chaim! | Ancient Canaanites at Megiddo Raised a Glass to the Dead, Archaeologists Find. Analysis of 3,500-year-old pottery found in tombs at the site of Armageddon reveals the Canaanites made wine offerings for their dearly departed – even for newborns.

The newly published research, by archaeologist Ayala Amir and colleagues, focuses on the residue analysis of thirty jugs, jars and other vessels found in two spots of Megiddo, an elite monumental tomb near the city’s palace and burials dug under the floors of homes and workshops in a lower class neighborhood. Both areas date to the late Middle Bronze Age, from 1750 to 1550 B.C.E.
For many PaleoJudaica posts on ancient beer and modern efforts to recreate it, see the link above, plus here, and links. For the other impressive organic remains recovered at Megiddo from c. 1600 BCE, see here and here and links (cf. here). As for the wine, for other efforts at vintage resurrection, see the links that start here.

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Sunday, June 04, 2023

Barber, The Historical Jesus and the Temple (CUP)

The Historical Jesus and the Temple
Memory, Methodology, and the Gospel of Matthew

AUTHOR: Michael Patrick Barber, Augustine Institute of Theology, Colorado
FORMAT: Hardback
ISBN: 9781009210850


In this book, Michael Patrick Barber examines the role of the Jerusalem temple in the teaching of the historical Jesus. Drawing on recent discussions about methodology and memory research in Jesus studies, he advances a fresh approach to reconstructing Jesus' teaching. Barber argues that Jesus did not reject the temple's validity but that he likely participated in and endorsed its rites. Moreover, he locates Jesus' teaching within Jewish apocalyptic eschatology, showing that Jesus' message about the coming kingdom and his disciples' place in it likely involved important temple and priestly traditions that have been ignored by the quest. Barber also highlights new developments in scholarship on the Gospel of Matthew to show that its Jewish perspective offers valuable but overlooked clues about the kinds of concerns that would have likely shaped Jesus' outlook. A bold approach to a key topic in biblical studies, Barber's book is a pioneering contribution to Jesus scholarship.

  • Offers an up-to-date and thorough engagement with recent critiques of the standard tools used in Jesus research and proposes a fresh approach that seeks to move the field forward methodologically
  • Draws on new developments in Gospel of Matthew research that have important yet neglected implications for Jesus research
  • Describes how Jesus envisioned the disciples' role in the eschatological age. More than mere students, this study shows that Jesus likely applied priestly and temple imagery for his followers

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Saturday, June 03, 2023

Early coinage of Tunisa

PUNIC WATCH: Coinage of Tunisia: The Beginning (Bob Reis, Numismatic News).
Tunisia has had written history almost as long as there has been writing. People have been making coins there almost as long as we have been making coins.
This article is more a brief history of Tunisia than an account of its numismatics. It does get to the title subject eventually. And there is a photo of a billion tridracm coin, something you don't get to see very often.

Since new readers might wonder why PaleoJudaica is interested in Phoenician and Punic history and language, I like to link to this post now and then to explain.

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

More on the renovation of Carthage

PUNIC WATCH: Carthage was Rome’s greatest rival. Go see its side of the story. Roman conquerors tried to erase the past of this ancient Tunisian port city—but these historic sites shed light on the true glories of Carthage (NICK HILDEN, National Geographic).

For a National Geographic article, this one is thin. It amounts to an infomercial for tourism to the renovated site of Carthage. But the information is accurate and it does have some new details about the renovation and some nice photos.

Given recent events, I would still be cautious about traveling to Tunisia, but you can do your own risk assessment.

Background here.

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Friday, June 02, 2023

Eliav, A Jew in the Roman Bathhouse (Princeton)

A Jew in the Roman Bathhouse: Cultural Interaction in the Ancient Mediterranean

Yaron Z. Eliav
A provocative account of Jewish encounters with the public baths of ancient Rome


Price: $45.00/£38.00
ISBN: 9780691243436
Published: May 16, 2023
Copyright: 2023
Pages: 392
Size: 6.13 x 9.25 in.


Public bathhouses embodied the Roman way of life, from food and fashion to sculpture and sports. The most popular institution of the ancient Mediterranean world, the baths drew people of all backgrounds. They were places suffused with nudity, sex, and magic. A Jew in the Roman Bathhouse reveals how Jews navigated this space with ease and confidence, engaging with Roman bath culture rather than avoiding it.

In this landmark interdisciplinary work of cultural history, Yaron Eliav uses the Roman bathhouse as a social laboratory to reexamine how Jews interacted with Graeco-Roman culture. He reconstructs their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about the baths and the activities that took place there, documenting their pleasures as well as their anxieties and concerns. Archaeologists have excavated hundreds of bathhouse facilities across the Mediterranean. Graeco-Roman writers mention the bathhouse frequently, and rabbinic literature contains hundreds of references to the baths. Eliav draws on the archaeological and literary record to offer fresh perspectives on the Jews of antiquity, developing a new model for the ways smaller and often weaker groups interact with large, dominant cultures.

A compelling and richly evocative work of scholarship, A Jew in the Roman Bathhouse challenges us to rethink the relationship between Judaism and Graeco-Roman society, shedding new light on how cross-cultural engagement shaped Western civilization.

See also the related essay by the author on the PU Press website: Rabbis in the Roman public bathhouse: Ancient perspectives on modern sensibilities.

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

Dysentary found in ancient Jerusalem toilets

ARCHAEOPARASITOLOGY: 2,500-year-old poop from Jerusalem toilets contain oldest evidence of dysentery parasite. A fecal analysis from two toilets dating to biblical times in Jerusalem has revealed the oldest evidence yet of the parasite that causes dysentery (Kristina Killgrove, Live Science).
The researchers discovered evidence of G. duodenalis under stone toilet seats previously found at two large sites that were likely elite residences dating to the seventh to sixth centuries B.C. The stone blocks had a curved surface for sitting, a large central hole for defecating, and a smaller hole that was possibly for urination, and were situated above a cesspit. Because the ancient toilets were still in their original locations, a unique opportunity arose for specialists to identify microorganisms in the old poop.
I was not familiar with the "house of Ahiel" toilet, but you can read more about it here. I noted the discovery of intestinal parasites in the fecal matter from the toilet excavated at Armon Hanatziv here. Follow the links from there, plus here for more ancient Latrine News.

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