Monday, May 16, 2022

Ancient Samaritan priestly (?) residence opened on Mount Gerizim

SAMARITAN WATCH: The Samaritan connection to Mount Gerizim restoration, conservation. ARCHAEOLOGICAL AFFAIRS: Early Hellenistic period dwelling opened to visitors • Samaritan community has mixed feelings about park on its holy mountain (Judith Sudilovsky, Jerusalem Post). HT Rogue Classicism.
In 2012 the Israel Nature and Parks Authority began new works under the authority of the Civil Administration, and two weeks ago a newly restored, impressive Samaritan residential compound was open for visitors, enabling them to experience history by walking through the ancient rooms.

The compound, dated at around 200-300 BCE, is part of a large city from the Persian and Hellenistic periods which was built around a sacred precinct where once stood the Samaritan Temple, and where today stands the remains of a large Byzantine church built on top of the destroyed Temple, a heavy wall cutting right through the holy Samaritan site where Samaritan tradition holds the Tabernacle stood. During the Muslim period a military guard post was built over one of the church’s towers.

The date 1011 BCE for John Hyrcanus' destruction of Mount Gerizim is, of course, a typo. I think it is supposed to read 111 BCE.

Another golden bell, which everyone seems to think is priestly, was excavated in Jerusalem in 2011.

For PaleoJudaica posts on the Samaritan Temple etc. on Mount Gerizim, see here and links and here. And for a current museum exhibition on the Samaritans, see here.

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When were rabbinic liturgical prayers fixed?

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Were Early Rabbinic Prayers Scripted? (Ruth Langer).
... Are we correct to presume that early rabbinic liturgy had a textual tradition coherent with the models we know, including from their predecessors at Qumran? Did early rabbis have a system of memorized, orally transmitted yet fixed texts, or did their worship operate in a more free-form system? When and where did the verbal worship of the rabbinic elite spread to other social groups and geographic areas? These questions, with answers not yet fully resolved in my mind, have dominated my current investigations into early rabbinic liturgy.

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How many people in ancient Israel?

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: Peopling the Biblical World (Philip Jenkins).
The Biblical world at various eras is probably the most intensely studied society in human history. Just how many books, for instance, have been written about Palestine in the time of Jesus? Despite all that work, though, we still have major areas of ignorance about such a basic issue as population. If we look at a country today, that is such a critical theme. How many people are there to pay taxes, to serve in armies, to populate cities, and to feed those cities? Numbers are not everything, but nor are they nothing. So just how many people lived in Palestine – broadly defined – at any given time? And how many in Jerusalem itself?


Like so much in our ancient sources, ancient claims about the population statistics of Palestine and Jerusalem are on the tabloid level of credibility.

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Sunday, May 15, 2022

Review of Price, Evolution of a Taboo

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Review: Evolution of a Taboo.
Evolution of a Taboo: Pigs and People in the Ancient Near East
By Max D. Price
(Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2020), xxii + 312 pp., 19 figures
(maps, graphs, plans, drawings, photos), $34.95 (hardcover)
Reviewed by Aren M. Maeir

As someone who has been studying the Philistine culture for some 25 years, I am greatly interested in the dietary patterns of the Iron Age Philistines and their neighbors—including who did and who didn’t eat pig. And this is one of the central issues addressed in the recent book by Max Price. An anthropologist and zoologist at MIT, Price explores the complex relations between pigs and humans in the Near East, focusing on ancient times but also providing perspective on the deep cultural ramifications until today.


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Ofer, The Masora on Scripture and Its Methods (Magnes Press - in Hebrew)

The Masora on Scripture and Its Methods
By: Yosef Ofer

Special price $33 $23

More details

Publisher: Magnes Press
Collaborators: De Gruyter
Year: 2022
Catalog number : 45-101139
ISBN: 978-965-7790-35-9
Pages: 357
Language: Hebrew
Weight: 700 gr.
Cover: Paperback


The starting point for any study of the Bible is the text of the Masora, as designed by the Masoretes. The ancient manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible contain thousands of Masora comments of two types: Masora Magna and Masora Prava. This book presents the way in which the Masoretic comments preserve the Masoretic Text of the Bible throughout generations and all over the world, providing comprehensive information in a short and efficient manner. The book describes the important manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible, and the methods of the Masora in determining the biblical spelling and designing the forms of the parshiot and the biblical Songs. The effectiveness of Masoretic mechanisms and their degree of success in preserving the text is examined. A special explanation is offered for the phenomenon of qere and ketiv. The book discusses the place of the Masoretic text in the history of the Bible, the differences between the Babylonian Masora and that of Tiberias, the special status of the Aleppo Codex and the mystery surrounding it. Special attention is given to the comparison between the Aleppo Codex and the Leningrad Codex (B 19a). In addition, the book discusses the relationship between the Masora and other tangential domains: the grammar of the Hebrew language, the interpretation of the Bible, and the Halakha. The appendix to the book contains a description of books and computer software that are tools for researching the Masora. The book is based on the author's research and the research of the great scholars of the Masora in recent generations. It is a necessary tool for anyone interested in the text of the Bible and its crystallization.

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Saturday, May 14, 2022

Feldman, Tefillin and Mezuzot from Qumran (De Gruyter)

Tefillin and Mezuzot from Qumran

New Readings and Interpretations

Ariel Feldman

Volume 538 in the series Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft

PDF & EPUB £81.50
Hardcover £81.50

Published: April 4, 2022
ISBN: 9783110725377

Published: April 18, 2022
ISBN: 9783110725261

About this book

This monograph studies ancient tefillin (also known as phylacteries) and mezuzot found in the Caves of Qumran. Most of these miniature texts were published by the end of 1970s and thus have long been available to scholars. And yet in several respects, these tiny fragments remain an unfinished business.

A close scrutiny of their editions reveals a presence of texts that have not been fully accounted for. These fall into three categories. First, there are multiple tefillin and mezuzot that contain legible fragments which their editors were unable to identify. Second, several tefillin and mezuzot feature imprints of letters that have not been deciphered. Third, there are texts which were provisionally classified as tefillin and mezuzot yet left unread.

This monograph offers a detailed study of these unidentified and undeciphered texts. It thus sheds new light on the contents of ancient tefillin and mezuzot and on the scribal practices involved in their preparation.

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New book on Hannibal

BOOK REVIEWLET: Hannibal: Rome’s Greatest Enemy (Pegasus Books), by Philip Freeman (David Luhrssen, Shepherd Express). HT Rogue Classicism.

With some fun counterfactual speculation on what would have happened if Hannibal had won. Cf. here.

For many more posts on Hannibal Barca and his role in the Second Punic War, see here, here, here, here, and links. Cross-file under Punic Watch.

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Friday, May 13, 2022

Where was Jesus baptized?

HISTORICAL GEOGRAPHY: Where Exactly Did John the Baptist Baptize Jesus? if Jesus was indeed baptized, then where? Biblical scholar Shimon Gibson reviews the geo-historical and archaeological evidence, or lack thereof, and presents a new theory (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz).
Now, based on geo-historical and archaeological considerations, Prof. Shimon Gibson, renowned biblical scholar at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, has a new argument: likely al-Mahgtas (Bethabara), certainly not Yardenit, but possibly neither.
The geography is confusing, but I think it is as follows: al-Mahgtas is the traditional site of Jesus baptism on the Jordanian side of the Jordan River. On the other side is Qasr al-Yehud, mentioned briefly in the article. The latter, recently fully de-mined and re-opened, is also presented as the site of Jesus' baptism. There has been some friction over this issue.

This seems to be the first I have heard of Yardenit as another possible site. At least I haven't mentioned it.

I have no opinion about which site, if any, is the real one.

By the way, this comment is odd:

“Those belonging to the ‘Jesus group’ – since Christians only called themselves such from the fourth century – had two problems,” Gibson explains.
According to Acts 11:26, the followers of Jesus were first called Christians in Antioch, apparently during the lifetime of the Apostle Paul. In any case, the term must have been in use when Acts was written in the late first or early second century at latest. It also appears in 1 Peter 4:16. By the early second century, the Roman writes Suetonius, Tacitus, and Pliny the Younger were using it, as was the Christian writer Ignatius of Antioch.

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Bar Kokhba-era finds in a Tekoan cave

ARCHAEOLOGICAL SPELUNKING: Watch: Archaeologists uncover traces of the Jewish Revolt. Researchers say they have uncovered traces of Jewish fighters hiding from the Roman Legions in caves near the town of T'koa in Gush Etzion (Arutz Sheva). The video is from i24: "Tekoah Valley & the rare coin from the Bar Kokhva Revolt." HT Rogue Classicism.

The most important find is a silver tetradrachm coin from the Bar Kokhba Revolt. Cross-file under Numismatics.

For more Bar Kokhba-era discoveries at Gush Etzion, see here and here.

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Turkish Neo-Assyrian panel depicts Aramean gods

PARIETAL PETROGLYPHS: Fertility cult complex discovered under Turkish home dates to the Iron Age. It was almost destroyed by modern looters (Emily Staniforth, Live Science).
"The finding bears witness to the exercise of Assyrian hegemony in the region in its early phases," one of the study's authors Selim Ferruh Adalı, an associate professor of ancient history at the Social Sciences University of Ankara, told Live Science in an email. "The wall panel contains a depiction of divine procession with previously unknown elements, with Aramaic writing to describe some of the deities while combining Neo-Assyrian, Aramaean and Syro-Anatolian divine iconography."


Four of the eight deities depicted on the panel could not be identified, according to the study. The Aramaic inscriptions label three of the gods: the storm, rain and thunder god Hadad; his consort Atargatis, a goddess of fertility and protection; the moon god Sîn; and the sun god Šamaš. The drawing of Atargatis is the earliest known depiction of this goddess, the principal goddess of Syria, in this region, the researchers added.

This discovery is very welcome. Information on the ancient Aramean pantheon is hard to come by. Cross-file under Aramaic Watch.

The underlying article in the journal Antiquity is online, apparently open access, with Cambridge Core: An Assyrianised rock wall panel with figures at Başbük in south-eastern Turkey (Mehmet Önal, Celal Uludağ, Yusuf Koyuncu and Selim Ferruh Adalı)


The Neo-Assyrian Empire of the early first millennium BC ruled over the ancient Near East. South-eastern Anatolia was controlled through vassal city-states and provincial structures. Assyrian governors and local elites expressed their power through elements of Assyrian courtly style. Here, the authors report a rare processional panel recently discovered at Başbük in south-eastern Turkey. Incised on the rock wall of a subterranean complex, the panel features eight deities, three with associated Aramaic inscriptions. The iconographic details and Syro-Anatolian religious themes illustrate the adaptation of Neo-Assyrian art in a provincial context. The panel, which appears to have been left unfinished, is the earliest-known regional attestation of Atargatis, the principal goddess of Syria c. 300 BC–AD 200.

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Thursday, May 12, 2022

Spicy garbage on the Negev's Incense Trade Route

GARBAGE ARCHAEOLOGY: Israeli research on ancient rubbish shine light on Incense Trade Route.Analysis of the ancient trading route's garbage deposits point to early process of globalization between the years of 300 BCE to 300 AD (Yaron Drukman,
Remains of these goods have been uncovered in recent years throughout archeological sites, many of which are located in Israel. Chemical analysis showed reserves of cinnamon remain in Tel Dor, reserves of vanilla have been discovered in Jerusalem, and remains of turmeric were found in teeth of a human buried in Megido.

The new research project - led by Professor Bar-Oz, PhD student Roy Galili from Ben Gurion University, Daniel Fuks, Tali Erickson-Gini, Yotam Tepper, Nofar Shamir and Gideon Avni - aimed to focus on locating the raw materials that had been transported their journey. The route infrastructure, the means by which people walked or rode between road stations (caravanserais), the size of caravan trains, and the remains traders left at the stations along the roads were the focal points of the team's project.

The article links to the underlying article in the journal Antiquity, via Cambridge Core. It is behind a subscription wall: Caravanserai middens on desert roads: a new perspective on the Nabataean–Roman trade network across the Negev (Guy Bar-Oz, Roy Galili, Tali Erickson-Gini, Yotam Tepper, Nofar Shamir and Gideon Avni).

Long-distance trade routes criss-crossed ancient Africa and Eurasia. Archaeological research has focused on the commodities in transit and the excavation of major centres located along these routes, with less attention paid to smaller caravanserai and evidence such as rubbish middens. The ‘Incense Route’ linked the Arabian Peninsula and Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, with activity peaking during the Nabataean and Roman periods. The authors present the results of test-pit excavations of middens at three small Nabataean–Roman desert caravanserai along the ‘Incense Route’. The assemblages recovered include material culture attesting to wide, inter-regional connections, combined with archaeobotanical and zooarchaeological data illuminating the subsistence basis of the caravan trade.

For more on the Incense Trade Route, see here.

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Liturgical or ritualized psalms in the Hodayot?

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: The Ritualization of Psalms in the Dead Sea Scroll 1QHodayotᵃ (Thanksgiving Psalms from Qumran) (Michael B. Johnson).
... One of the chief hurdles in the consideration of the psalms found in 1QHᵃ as compositions that may have been read aloud in communal settings is the use of the term “liturgical” to characterize such settings and texts. In this essay, I will explore an alternative way of conceptualizing the arrangement of psalms in 1QHᵃ, which I hope will advance the discussion of its function or at least unburden it to some extent.
This essay also provides a good summary of the history of scholarship on the Hodayot.

This is the second in an AJR forum on Prayer in Jewish Antiquity. I noted the first here.

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New IAA headquarters nears completion in Jerusalem

MUSEUM FUNDING: National Campus for the Archaeology of Israel set to be completed by end 2022 (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
A decades-long building project to house the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) in Jerusalem’s Museum Hill gets a major boost with a $3 million grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.


Currently, the IAA spreads its Jerusalem offices between the technological park at Har Hotzvim, the Israel Museum, and the East Jerusalem Rockefeller Museum.

The new campus aims to display “millions of excavated artifacts that will be assembled and displayed for the public for the first time,” according to the IAA, as well as house the IAA staff offices and laboratories. The Dead Sea scrolls laboratory will also be open to the public, according to the IAA website.

The first announcement I saw of this project was in 2006. I noted updates in 2014 and 2016. I hope the new funding is enough to bring it to completion.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Review of Thonemann, Lucian: Alexander or the false prophet

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Lucian: Alexander or the false prophet.
Peter Thonemann, Lucian: Alexander or the false prophet. Clarendon ancient history series. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2021. Pp. 256. ISBN 9780198868248 £90.00.

Review by
Jan Bremmer, University of Groningen.

There is no doubt that Lucian’s pamphlet on the religious entrepreneur Alexander of Abonouteichos belongs to the most entertaining writings of antiquity. At the same time, it is a precious witness to the religious atmosphere of the later second century AD, that is, the same period in which we find the major Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles (John, Andrew, Paul and Peter). It would perhaps have paid off for Thonemann to compare them more closely, as they portray more or less contemporaneous religious entrepreneurs, partially working in the same area as Alexander.


I think I might want to have a conversation about whether the apostle Paul "failed to reach [Alexander's] success." Really? On what time scale?

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Smith, ... Allusion and the Elihu Speeches ... (Brill)

Allusive and Elusive: Allusion and the Elihu Speeches of Job 32–37

Series: Biblical Interpretation Series, Volume: 198

Author: Cooper Smith

Elihu is among the most diversely evaluated characters in the Hebrew Bible. Attending to the inner-Joban allusions in the Elihu speeches (Job 32–37) provides both an explanation and appreciation for this diversity. After carefully defining allusion, this work identifies and interprets twenty-three allusions in Job 32–37 that refer to Job 1–31 in order to understand both their individual significance in the Elihu speeches and their collective significance as a compositional feature of the unit. This allusiveness is shown to both invite and explain the varied assessments of Elihu’s merits in the history of interpretation.

Copyright Year: 2022

Prices from (excl. VAT): €115.00 / $139.00

E-Book (PDF)
Availability: Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-50814-9
Publication Date: 14 Feb 2022

Availability: Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-50800-2
Publication Date: 22 Feb 2022

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Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Himmelfarb receives Princeton Humanities award

PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Martha Himmelfarb and Simon Morrison receive Behrman Award for the humanities (Jamie Saxon).
Martha Himmelfarb is the William H. Danforth Professor of Religion and a leading scholar of ancient Judaism and early Christianity. A member of Princeton’s faculty for more than 40 years, she joined the University in 1978. She will transfer to emeritus status at the end of this academic year.


Her scholarly work has had a profound impact on the study of ancient Judaism and early Christianity, noted one colleague in nominating Himmelfarb for the Behrman Award. Her insistence on the need to study both religious traditions, their texts and their communities in connection with one another distinguishes her research. Her approach challenged and reoriented the long-standing paradigm that assumed the inevitability of Judaism and Christianity diverging into distinct religious traditions, and her research has pioneered new ways of understanding this ongoing relationship from the Second Temple period through the Middle Ages.

Congratulations to both recipients, but especially to Professor Himmelfarb, whose contribution to the study of ancient Judaism has been vast.

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Fixed-term, part-time OT/HB job at Edinburgh

Teaching Fellow in Old Testament and Hebrew Bible

Job Description

UE07 £34,304 - £40,927 pro rata per annum

College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

School of Divinity

Part time – 21 hours per week (0.6FTE)

Post available from 1st August 2022 to 31st July 2023

The Opportunity:

The School of Divinity is looking for an enthusiastic and organised Teaching Fellow to deliver and assess courses, primarily relating to Old Testament and Hebrew Bible. The post holder will be expected to design and deliver course materials and assist with the supervision and assessment of dissertation students. The appointee will be expected to take a share of the administrative and management responsibilities of the subject area and to play a full part in the collegiate life of the School of Divinity.

Follow the link for further particulars.

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Fixed-term NT job at Exeter

Lecturer in New Testament Studies (Education and Scholarship)

College of Humanities

This full time role is available 1 September 2022 to 31 January 2024.

The role

You will be to contribute to the delivery of teaching in this area, including dissertation and tutorial support, and to the administration of the Department.

The post will include delivery of modules in New Testament Studies (provisionally: introducing biblical studies, Level 1 core, shared with a colleague; reading New Testament letters, Level 2/3 option; introductory New Testament Greek (Level 1, option)). It will also involve contributing to an MA module in Biblical Studies, and supervising UG dissertations. You will also be expected to act as a tutor to UG students, and to contribute to the administration of the Department, as directed by the Director of Education and Head of Department.

Follow the link for further particulars. The closing date for applications is 2 June 2022.

HT the British New Testament Society mailing list.

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