Sunday, June 26, 2022

Eleazar in the Bible

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Eleazar in the Bible. A High Priest and Leader of Early Israel (Robin Gallaher Branch). You don't hear much about Eleazar, but there he is.
Eleazar’s life is remarkable for the instances the Bible mentions but also for a silence. Unlike the leaders Moses, Aaron, Miriam, and later David, scripture records no rebuke of him. It seems that Eleazar learned a life-long lesson from the deaths of his brothers Nadab and Abihu—he learned obedience.

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YU faculty research grants

YU NEWS: Provost’s Office Awards Grants for Faculty Research.

Congratulations to all the award recipients. Three of the projects are of notable interest to PaleoJudaica.

Dr. Jonathan Dauber, Associate Professor of Jewish Mysticism and Director of the Ph.D. Program

Jewish Philosophy (Bernard Revel)
Project Title: Sefer ha-Bahir: Translation and Commentary

Dr. Shalom E. Holtz, Professor

Bible, Hebrew, Near Eastern Studies
Project Title: Jewish Legal Practice in the Persian Period

Dr. Ari Mermelstein, Associate Professor of Bible and Second Temple Literature

Department of Bible, Hebrew & Near Eastern Studies
Project Title: The Jewish Legal Tradition

For details on the projects, see the article.

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Saturday, June 25, 2022

The Jewish Catacombs Of Rome

ROMAN CATACOMBS WATCH: The Jewish Catacombs Of Rome (Saul Jay Singer, The Jewish Press).
Ancient Roman law prohibited burial within the city, so catacombs were established in the soft volcanic rock outside the city walls. These Roman catacombs, which feature about a half-million tombs interred in a complex underground network of narrow passageways and dark galleries, contain the largest body of archaeological evidence on the early Christian and Jewish communities of ancient Rome.

[...]

This is an impressive article on the Roman-era and late-antique Jewish catacombs in Rome, their rediscovery in the Middle Ages, and their subsequent rediscoveries, exploration, and conservation up to the present.

For PaleoJudaica posts on the Jewish catacombs in Rome, start here (cf. here) and follow the links.

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

Review of Halbertal, The Birth of Doubt

YU NEWS: What the Straus Center Is Reading — The Birth of Doubt: Confronting Uncertainty in Early Rabbinic Literature.
Moshe Halbertal | Brown Judaic Studies | 2020

Reviewed by Rabbi Dr. Stu Halpern

... Surveying concepts such as the kosher status of food found in a public place, purity, possession of property, Shabbat start times, lineage of a mamzer (bastard), and gender identity, Halbertal shows how the rabbis were quite comfortable wrestling with doubt’s very nature. ...

I noted the publication of the book here.

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Friday, June 24, 2022

Review of Fine (ed.), The Arch of Titus

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: The Arch of Titus: from Jerusalem to Rome – and back.
Steven Fine, The Arch of Titus: from Jerusalem to Rome – and back. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2021. Pp. xxvi, 196. ISBN 9789004447783 €110,00.

Review by
Steven Wander, University of Connecticut. steven.wander@uconn.edu

For Steven Fine, the Arch of Titus has been the subject of long study and recently the focus of an exhibition held at the Yeshiva University Museum from 14 September 2017 to 14 January 2018, both to commemorate his achievements and to illuminate its fascinating history. In connection with the exhibit, an international team of scholars provides a broad treatment of The Arch of Titus, From Jerusalem to Rome—and Back. ...

For more on this book, the YU exhibition, and Professor Fine's longstanding work on the Arch of Titus, start here and follow the links.

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

Palmyran portraits

THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST TODAY: Portraits of People and Society From Palmyra (Maura Heyn). With many illustrations.
These Palmyrene reliefs in many ways resemble formal portraits that one might create in the modern era, with the individual depicted in what is presumably their best attire, some holding objects that communicate something about their identity, and many adorned with brooches, necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and rings. In ancient Palmyra, the portraits of men and women were placed side by side in the tombs; they are more or less similar in scale, they are posed in much the same way, and men and women alike hold objects and are identified by name in the accompanying inscriptions.
Cross-file under Palmyra Watch and Funerary Sculpture.

For many posts on the ancient metropolis of Palmyra, its history and archaeology, the Aramaic dialect once spoken there (Palmyrene), and the city's tragic reversals of fortune, now trending for the better, start here and follow the links.

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

Manichaean Studies Conference

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Manichaean Studies.
10th International Conference of the International Association of Manichaean Studies ... to be held at Aarhus University (Denmark), Monday 8th – Thursday 11th August 2022
Follow the link for the full program.

Cross-file under Manichean (Manichaean) Watch.

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Thursday, June 23, 2022

More on The Lost Synagogue of Aleppo

EXHIBITION REVIEW: The Lost Synagogue of Aleppo. A new virtual reality exhibit at the Israel Museum brings to life the Great Synagogue, and the great collapse of multinational Jewish life (Matti Friedman, Tablet Magazine).
The new simulation had the effect of bringing the Aleppo synagogue to life for a moment. The impression of being in that building, even if it was only virtual, was so potent for me that it still hasn’t quite worn off. Everyone who can visit the simulation at the Israel Museum should go. But tech has a way of showing us something and leaving us hollow. When the headset came off, I was left with the same feeling I’ve had when reconnecting online with a friend from the past—the knowledge of what existed not long ago, and how truly gone it is.
Background on the exhibition is here.

For PaleoJudaica posts on Matti Friedman's book, The Aleppo Codex, start here and follow the links.

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

Online Event: John the Baptist and the Mandaeans

RELIGION PROF: John the Baptist and the Mandaeans (James McGrath).
For anyone interested in getting a glimpse of some of the exciting insights and groundbreaking new perspectives I’ve already come up with in the early stages of my research project focused on John the Baptist, I’m the keynote speaker at the Apostolic Johannite Church Conclave this weekend. My talk is titled “John the Baptist and the Mandaeans” and presents for a general audience some of what I consider the most interesting discoveries I’ve made thus far. ...
Cross-file under Mandean (Mandaean) Watch.

For more on Professor McGrath's work on John the Baptist, see the links collected here. Likewise, some posts noting his work on the Mandaeans, with some overlap with the preceding, are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

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

New editors for Eisenbrauns

PUBLISHING: Penn State University Press announces new editors for Eisenbrauns imprint.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State University Press has announced the hiring of three new editors for its Eisenbrauns imprint, which specializes in books on ancient Near Eastern and biblical studies. Maria Metzler, who holds a degree in Near Eastern languages and civilizations from Harvard University, joins the imprint as full-time acquisitions editor, and Jennie Ebeling and Nigel Fletcher-Jones will serve as editors-at-large.

[...]

Congratulations to Eisenbrauns and to all three new editors.

For a recent essay by Dr. Metzler on the Shapira fragments, see here. For more on Prof. Ebeling's work, notably on the Jezreel expedition, see here and here and links.

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

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Mokhtarian, Medicine in the Talmud (UC Press)

TALMUD WATCH: Ancient Jewish text preserves real-world remedies (Kate Blackwood, Cornell Chronicle).
In “Medicine in the Talmud: Natural and Supernatural Therapies Between Magic and Science,” Jason Mokhtarian argues that the rabbis subscribed to a common medical culture they shared with pagans, Christians, Mandaeans and other therapeutic schools of thought, while at the same time making it their own.
The full reference is Jason Sion Mokhtarian, Medicine in the Talmud: Natural and Supernatural Therapies between Magic and Science (University of California Press, 2022). The publisher gives the publication as July 2022, but it seems to be available now. Cross-file under New Book.

This article has an interview with the author. I have noted other work by him here, here, and here.

Some PaleoJudaica posts involving medicine in the Talmud are here, here, here, here, and here.

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

VR reconstructs the ancient synagogue of the Aleppo Codex

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: VR tech at Israel Museum resurrects destroyed Aleppo synagogue. Using the advanced technology of virtual reality to produce a digital 3D model of the synagogue, the exhibit brings back to life a community and a period long since vanished (Judith Sudilovsky, Jerusalem Post).
In Aleppo, once the center of a thriving Jewish community, [in 1947, Sarah Shammah] had hired a local Armenian photographer to meticulously photograph the Grand Synagogue building, the treasure of the Aleppo Jewish community where the sacred Aleppo Codex—considered to be the most accurate existing manuscript of the Masoretic text which was written at the beginning of the 10th century CE and is listed on the UNESCO’s World Heritage list—was kept carefully protected in what was known as “Elijah’s Cave.” They photographed every corner of the building, including the adjacent cemetery and garden.

As fate would have it, as they completed their work the UN made the partition declaration, the riots broke out in Aleppo and the synagogue was burned and with that the Aleppo Codex disappeared. The Armenian photographer realized the value of the negatives he had taken as the last images of the ancient synagogue, and demanded Shammah return them and the photographs to him, threatening to turn her in as a Zionist spy. That is when she, together with her brother, made their escape to the Lebanon border with the help of a Syrian Muslim friend.

The synagogue reportedly "was built between the fifth and seventh centuries CE."

For many PaleoJudaica posts on the Aleppo Codex, see here (cf. here) and links

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

Another 7th-century mosque excavated in Rahat

ARCHAEOLOGY: One of the oldest known mosques in the world uncovered in Negev Bedouin city Rahat. New discovery joins a second very early mosque dated to the 7th century, when Islam was just beginning to spread in the Holy Land (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
The small 7th-century CE prayer hall was uncovered during salvage excavations ahead of the construction of new neighborhoods in the Negev Bedouin city of Rahat. It is located some two kilometers from another 7th-century rural mosque that was excavated in 2019.

[...]

What the scholars are seeing is that “Islam came very, very early in the northern Negev and began to live alongside the Christian settlement,” said Kogan-Zehavi.

Aside from the mosque, the archaeologists uncovered a Byzantine-era farmhouse that they said apparently housed Christian farmers. It included a fortified tower and rooms with strong walls surrounding a courtyard.

I missed the report of the early mosque found in 2019, which was not a good summer for me. But a third seventh-century mosque was also found last year in Tiberias. Reportedly, the latter is "the oldest mosque in the world that can be excavated."

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

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Did Syriac reveal the origin of the Black Death?

SYRIAC WATCH: Central Asia source of Black Death pandemic say researchers. Syriac inscriptions on ancient tombstones in cemeteries in modern-day Kyrgyzstan hinted to a trading community devastated by the plague, leading to a multi-disciplinary international study (Judith Sudilovsky, Jerusalem Post).
Now, by utilizing technology from the relatively new archaeological field of archaeogenetics to analyze DNA from human remains found in ancient graves in Kyrgyzstan over 140 years ago, a multidisciplinary team of international researchers suggest that this Second Plague pandemic originated in Central Asia.

Syriac inscriptions on the numerous tombstones noting that the people had died in the years 1338-1339 of an unknown illness provided the researchers with the evidence the cause of their death may have been the plague.

An article in The Conversation by Philip Slavin, one of the head researchers, gives further details: Black death: how we solved the centuries-old mystery of its origins
Without securely dated ancient DNA from Central Asia, however, the question would ultimately remain unsolved.

This changed when I came across records of the Kara-Djigach cemetary – excavated by the Russian archaeologist Nikolai Pantusov in 1885 and 1886 and analysed by the Russian scholar Daniel Chwolson (1819-1911). Of the total 467 stones, covering the period 1248-1345, 118 are dated to 1338 – a suspiciously large proportions of deaths. Most most of the stones have little detail about the person they commemorate, just bearing the names and death dates, but there are ten longer inscriptions from those years, stating “pestilence” (mawtānā in Syriac, the language of ancient Syria) as a cause of death.

It was intriguing. Not only that “pestilence” was mentioned, but that the associated tombstones were all dated to 1338-9 - just seven to eight years before the arrival of the Black Death in Crimea, and its subsequent spread all over west Eurasia and north Africa. I had a strong gut feeling about the likely connection

Genetic sequencing followed. It demonstrated that three of the "pestilence" victims had the Black Death bacterium.

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

Review of Hellner-Eshed, Seekers of the Face

H-JUDAIC: Verman on Hellner-Eshed, 'Seekers of the Face: Secrets of the Idra Rabba (The Great Assembly) of the Zohar' [review].
Melila Hellner-Eshed. Seekers of the Face: Secrets of the Idra Rabba (The Great Assembly) of the Zohar. Translated by Raphael Dascalu. Stanford Studies in Jewish Mysticism Series. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2021. 480 pp. $75.00 (e-book), ISBN 978-1-5036-2858-8; $75.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-5036-2842-7.

Reviewed by Mark Verman (Wright State University)
Published on H-Judaic (June, 2022)
Commissioned by Robin Buller (University of California - Berkeley)

Melila Hellner-Eshed’s Seekers of the Face is an enchanting work, in terms of both content and style. It constitutes the first monograph in English devoted to one of the most important parts of the Zohar, the crown jewel of medieval Jewish literature. A translation of Hellner-Eshed’s Hebrew book Mevakshei ha-Panim (2017), Seekers of the Face is also a wonderful sequel to her earlier work, A River Flows from Eden: The Language of Mystical Experience in the Zohar (2009), which is a translation of her Hebrew monograph Ve-Nahar Yotse me-'Eden (2005). Both are part of Stanford University Press’s ambitious series, Stanford Studies in Jewish Mysticism, which has published a number of important studies of the Zohar.

[...]

Cross-file under Zohar Watch. For many PaleoJudaica posts on the Zohar, start here and follow the links.

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

Review of Neumann, Antioch in Syria: a history from coins (300 BCE-450 CE)

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Antioch in Syria: a history from coins (300 BCE-450 CE).
Kristina M. Neumann, Antioch in Syria: a history from coins (300 BCE-450 CE). Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2021. Pp. xxvii, 410. ISBN 9781108837149 £90.00.

Review by
Alan Stahl, Princeton University. astahl@princeton.edu

... In this new work, Kristina Neumann uses the coinage of the city as a source for an understanding of its history and, especially, as a way to probe into the ways the Antiochians used the imagery and epigraphy on the coins minted in and for the city as a way of creating and projecting their self image.

Cross-file under Numismatics.

For a CoinWeek series on the Seleucid coins, see here, here, here, and here. Other posts on the Seleucid coinage are here, here, here, here [link now corrected], and here. And for more on late-antique Antioch, see here.

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

Monday, June 20, 2022

Zoom Event: The Revelation at Sinai in Early Synagogue Poetry

H-JUDAIC: EVENT: The Revelation at Sinai in Early Synagogue Poetry.
7 July

We are honoured to welcome Professor Raymond Scheindlin, Jewish Theological Seminary, USA, to lead a session on The Revelation at Sinai in Early Synagogue Poetry.

This session is a part of the new International Interfaith Reading Group on Sacred Literature in Interfaith Contexts organised and chaired by Professor Glenda Abramson, Professor Emerita in Hebrew and Jewish Studies at University of Oxford, UK.

Here are the details of this fascinating session.

The event requires free pre-registration.

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

How to make your own Nag Hammadi codex

NAG HAMMADI WATCH: Local Focus: The art of Nag Hammadi bookbinding in just 2 hours. Classical historian Robyn Ramsden teaches the ancient craft of Nag Hammadi bookbinding at Featherston Booktown (Ellie Franco, New Zealand Herald).
Robyn's Booktown workshop condensed the binding process to just two hours, and most of that time was waiting for glue to dry.

"I teach [Nag Hammadi] because they're a one-quire book, with one set of pages and you don't have to get fancy," she said.

Ramsden uses a milliner's needle, scissors, glue and pushpins to construct her books from thick card, paper, greaseproof paper, leather, linen thread and a 3B1 notebook - all tied together in a kangaroo sheath band.

The Nag Hammadi-style books Robyn made at Booktown workshops were done in a simplified process. They're quick and easy to put together and pull apart.

"I cheat, so a 3B1 notebook is the innards, so when you've finished filling up your notebook with however you use notebooks, you can just pop their stitches and stitch a new one in and off you go," she said.

The noncanonical scripture doesn't come with it though. You have to provide that yourself.

For many PaleoJudaica posts on the Coptic Gnostic library in the Nag Hammadi Codices, see here and links, plus here and here.

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

Altman, Banned Birds (Mohr Siebeck, open access)

THE AWOL BLOG: Banned Birds: The Birds of Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. This 2019 Mohr Siebeck book by Peter Altmann is now open access.

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