Saturday, July 20, 2024

From Josephus to Yosippon and Beyond (Brill, open access)

From Josephus to Yosippon and Beyond

Text – Re-interpretations – Afterlives

Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism, Volume: 215

Volume Editors: Carson Bay, Michael Avioz, and Jan Willem van Henten

Two millennia ago, the Jewish priest-turned-general Flavius Josephus, captured by the emperor Vespasian in the middle of the Roman-Jewish War (66–70 CE), spent the last decades of his life in Rome writing several historiographical works in Greek. Josephus was eagerly read and used by Christian thinkers, but eventually his writings became the basis for the early-10th century Hebrew text called Sefer Yosippon, reintegrating Josephus into the Jewish tradition. This volume marks the first edited collection to be dedicated to the study of Josephus, Yosippon, and their reception histories. Consisting of critical inquiries into one or both of these texts and their afterlives, the essays in this volume pave the way for future research on the Josephan tradition in Greek, Latin, Hebrew and beyond.

Copyright Year: 2024

E-Book (PDF)
Availability: Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-69329-6
Publication: 11 Jun 2024

Hardback Availability: Not Yet Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-69328-9
Publication: 13 Jun 2024
EUR €140.00

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Friday, July 19, 2024

How did W. F. Albright become a biblical scholar?

THE INSTITUTE OF HISTORY, ARCHAEOLOGY, AND EDUCATION BLOG: Biblical Archaeology and Literature: The ASOR Family Tree: William Foxwell Albright (Peter Feinman).
Albright traced the origin of his journey into biblical scholarship to a childhood incident at age 10 when he was first exposed to the world of archaeology in the library of his Methodist missionary parents in Chile.

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Schiffman on the Lubavitcher Rebbe as a Torah scholar

REFLECTIONS: The Lubavitcher Rebbe as a Torah Scholar (
Watch as Professor Lawrence Schiffman gives an introduction to the Torah of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and his greatness as a Torah Scholar.

Professor Lawrence Schiffman is Judge Abraham Lieberman Professor in Hebrew & Judaic Studies at New York University and director of the Global Institute for Advanced Research in Jewish Studies. He is author of many books including serving as co-editor of the “Oxford Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls” and editor of “The Dead Sea Scrolls: Fifty Years after Their Discovery”

The thirtieth anniversary of the death of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, was in June. PaleoJudaica has many posts on him and the messianic traditions about him, with reflections on their potential for illuminating earlier messianic movements and traditions. Start here (cf. here) and follow the links.

Professor Schiffman's video presentation is technical, but I link to it for those who are interested.

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Watson, The Song of Songs (Peeters)

The Song of Songs

Historical Commentary on the Old Testament

Watson W.G.E.

PRICE: 88 euro
YEAR: 2024
ISBN: 9789042952140

The Song of Songs remains one of the most enigmatic and difficult books to understand. In addition, the text has been fluid, as shown by the Qumran scrolls, although it has reached us in a fairly stable form. There are two main focal points in this commentary. One is language, using comparative Semitics as well as reference to more remote cognates in other languages. The Song of Songs contains a very high number of rare Hebrew words and expressions, some of which are unique twists on well-established forms, and these need to be understood before any attempt is made at deciphering the meaning of the book. In many cases there is no clear-cut solution, so the reader is presented with a series of choices. The other focus is on similar compositions from Egypt – its well-known and extensive love poetry – as well as from Anatolia, Mesopotamia, Syria and elsewhere, which supply an invaluable cultural background. Particular attention is paid to poetic aspects, including comparison with ancient Near Eastern verse patterns. In line with the rest of the series, account is also taken of the many approaches adopted by previous interpreters. The illustrations, black and white versions of original watercolours, help to give this commentary a contemporary appeal.

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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Cave of Skulls yields MBA insect-dyed textile fragment

ANCIENT MATERIAL CULTURE: 3,800-year-old red textile dyed with Biblical scarlet discovered in Judean Desert Caves. Cloth fragment, earliest evidence of textile dyed with kermes, identified with the "scarlet worm" in the source texts, is discovered in Judean Desert Caves (Israel National News).
The earliest evidence of red-dyed textile using scale insects was revealed in the caves of the Judean desert.

According to a new joint study of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Bar-Ilan University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the color of the rare 3,800-year-old textile was produced from the oak scale insects, which the researchers identify with the biblical "Tola‛at Hashani” (scarlet worm).


The small textile fragment was excavated in 2016 in the Cave of Skulls in Nahal Se'elim (Ze'elim). I have posted about earlier discoveries in the cave, and in Nahal Se'elim, and the 2016 re-excavation of the cave here, here, and here.

The underlying article in the current issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports: Early evidence of an archaeological dyed textile using scale-insects: The Cave of Skulls, Israel. Naama Sukenik, Uri Davidovich, Zohar Amar, Said Abu-Ghosh, Yonah Maor, Roi Porat, Amir Ganor, Eitan Klein, David Iluz.

It is behind a subscription wall, but the INN article is a good summary of it.

Based on the radiocarbon dating, the fragment comes from about 1500-2000 BCE. My own agenda is to add it to the list of very early organic materials discovered in the Judean Desert and elsewhere in Israel (even Megiddo in the more humid north). If a textile fragment survives from the first half of the second millennium BCE in a good enough state that we can tell it is colored with insect dye, it is reasonable to hope that inscribed scroll fragments from the Iron Age stil survive somewhere. Keep looking!

For more on that subject, see the posts collected here.

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Alphabetic cuneiform at Deir ‘Alla?

THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST TODAY: The Enigmatic Tablets from Late Bronze Age Deir ‘Alla (Michel de Vreeze).
Using some sign identifications based on parallels and patterns within the Deir ‘Alla tablets themselves, a preliminary identification of most signs can be offered. This allows the language in the tablets to be identified as Northwest Semitic, which we can call Canaanite after its Late Bronze Levantine inhabitants. Nevertheless, the reading of the tablets remains problematic and far from ideal. What does seem clear is that by reading the signs with reference to later Hebrew grammar, which preserves earlier Canaanite forms, the texts appear to contain short ritual utterances and poetic proverbs written within a cultic setting, related to the temple activities.
This ANE Today essay came out a few years ago, but somehow I missed it. It just came to my attention because of a recent popular article on the tablets.

As far as I can recall, this story is new to me. Briefly: 15 inscribed clay tablets were excavated at Tel Deir ‘Alla from the 1960s on. Recent work, as per the quotation above, indicates that they are written an otherwise unknown alphabetic cuneiform script. There's not much to work with, but you can read preliminary translations in the ANE Today article above. Given the tiny size of the corpus, I would receive the translations with caution.

Northwest Semitic epigraphy and Tel Deir ‘Alla (Deir Alla) are already well connected due to the Iron Age II Balaam inscription discovered there by the same excavation. For many PaleoJudaica posts on it, start here and follow the links.

The corpus of Late Bronze Age alphabetic cuneiform outside of Ugarit is very small. For a recently noted example from Beit Shemesh, see here. It's good to know that there is more.

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The Save Ancient Studies Alliance

ORGANIZATION: Save Ancient Studies Alliance.
Our Story
SASA was founded in reaction to the devaluation of the study of the ancient world in universities and high schools. A group of graduate students and early career scholars came together to expand exposure and access to the ancient world and re-envision how the ancient world is studied. Our founding Director, David Danzig, sought out those who shared this frustration and the commitment to make change. Together, we began to reach out and develop our strategic vision for SASA.

Over the spring and summer of 2020 we took our first steps to engaging the public with our passion for the ancient world and Ancient Studies. Our first major initiative, free virtual Text-in-Translation Reading Groups, was a smashing success, as 13 group leaders engaged over 200 participants. This summer, with the help of our amazing interns and volunteers, we developed “SASA Inspire,” a year-long social media campaign with a goal of inspiring 100,000 people about the ancient world and Ancient Studies. In recognition of our early success, the Society for Biblical Literature and the Society for Classical Studies have expressed their support for SASA with a donation and grant.

We are working on introducing new and varied programming, extending our reach among students, and attracting individuals committed to contribute their time and energy to further our effort. As we work toward meeting our future goals, we continue to seek to partner with academic organizations and financial contributors to support SASA’s growth and development.

They have a free online conference coming up in just a few days: Representations of the Past in Ancient and Modern Times. It is aimed at both a scholarly audience and the general public.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Ancient bronze Minerva ring found on Mount Carmel

ANCIENT BLING WATCH: Israeli Teen Discovers Ancient Ring Depicting Roman War Goddess While Hiking on Mount Carmel. Yair Whiteson, 13, found the bronze ring while hiking with his father. Experts believe it depicts Minerva or Athena and dates back to the Roman period. The settlement on the Carmel forest ridge has been under archaeological investigation for 150 years yet the ring has only now been found (Haaretz).

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Julia Berenice in a new Prime series

TELEVISION: Meet ancient Rome’s real life Jewish princess: Berenice, star of new TV series Those About to Die. She was the real-life Jewish queen who fell for the Roman who destroyed Jerusalem – and now Berenice is the central figure in a blockbuster new TV series (Nicole Lampert, Jewish Chronicle).

The series opens on Prime Video on 19 July. If it is anything like as well researched as this article, it should be good.

For PaleoJudaica posts on or involving Julia Berenice (Berenike), sister of Herod Agrippa II and lover of the Emperor Titus, start here and follow the links. As noted there, Brill published a biography of her by Tal Ilan a couple of years ago.

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Gellar, with Rudolf, The Syriac Book of Medicines, Section Three

THE AWOL BLOG: The Syriac Book of Medicines – Section Three – The Local Recipes. An open-access preprint from the Max Plank Institute. Edited by M. J. Geller, in cooperation with Stefanie Rudolf. Follow the link for a link to the full pdf text.

The manuscripts of this work are quite modern (nineteenth century), but much of its contents arguably goes back to late antiquity.

Cross-file under Syriac Watch.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

A second Antikythera shipwreck?

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Two Shipwrecks for the Price of One. Divers spot second Antikythera shipwreck (Nathan Steinmeyer).
While exploring the famous first-century BCE Antikythera shipwreck off the southern coast of Greece, divers made some remarkable new discoveries. Among them was a previously unnoticed second shipwreck that may have been caused by the same incident that sunk the first ship.


This is exciting news. The essay has a link to the Greek press release.

The finds include the new ship, another part of the first one, and lots of potsherds and bits of marble statues. But no sign of any additional steampunk calendar computers so far.

For more on the Antikythera mechanism, whose calender recent research has elucidated, and the first Antikythera shipwreck on which it was found, start here and follow the links.

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Monday, July 15, 2024

More on the Hazor dragon seal

ICONOGRAPHY: Newly discovered link between Hercules, Israel suggests cultural exchange in region - study. 2,800-year-old stamp in Tel Hazor connects Hercules to northern Israel, depicting a hero battling a seven-headed serpent, reflecting Levantine visual culture and myth transmission complexities (Eyal Green, Jerusalem Post).

I already noted this story and linked to the underlying peer-review article here. But if you don't have access to the latter, this Jerusalem Post article has a detailed summary.

The connection with Hercules/Heracles is tenuous, but the stamp is interesting for other reasons.

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Volume 1 Empires and Gods (De Gruyter, open access)

Volume 1 Empires and Gods
The Role of Religions in Imperial History

Edited by: Jörg Rüpke , Michal Biran and Yuri Pines
Part of the multi-volume work Imperial Histories: Eurasian Empires Compared

About this book

Open Access

Interaction with religions was one of the most demanding tasks for imperial leaders. Religions could be the glue that held an empire together, bolstering the legitimacy of individual rulers and of the imperial enterprise as a whole. Yet, they could also challenge this legitimacy and jeopardize an empire’s cohesiveness. As empires by definition ruled heterogeneous populations, they had to interact with a variety of religious cults, creeds, and establishments. These interactions moved from accommodation and toleration, to cooptation, control, or suppression; from aligning with a single religion to celebrating religious diversity or even inventing a new transcendent civic religion; and from lavish patronage to indifference.

The volume’s contributors investigate these dynamics in major Eurasian empires—from those that functioned in a relatively tolerant religious landscape (Ashokan India, early China, Hellenistic, and Roman empires) to those that allied with a single proselytizing or non-proselytizing creed (Sassanian Iran, Christian and Islamic empires), to those that tried to accommodate different creeds through "pay for pray" policies (Tang China, the Mongols), exploring the advantages and disadvantages of each of these choices.

There is also a chapter on the hellenistic ruler cult in Ptolemaic Phoenicia and Cyprus.

The volume is also available in hardcover for £91.00.

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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Yamauchi autobiography

An Asian American Ancient Historian and Biblical Scholar by Edwin M. Yamauchi
Foreword by Stephen B. Kellough
Imprint: Resource Publications
664 Pages

Published: June 2024
$49.00 / £41.99 / AU$71.99

Published: June 2024
$49.00 / £39.00 / AU$74.00


An Asian American Ancient Historian and Biblical Scholar is not simply a memoir of Edwin M. Yamauchi. It is an expansive multi-generational story of a Japanese-American family (Issei, Nisei, Sansei) that began with immigrants from Okinawa, who used a narrow window of time (1900-1915) to emigrate to Hawaii to work on the sugar plantations there. After the suicide of his father when he was three, Edwin was raised by his mother, who knew little English, by working as a maid for twelve years. Deprived of other distractions, Edwin turned to the reading of books. From a nominal Buddhist and then a nominal Episcopalian background, Edwin was converted to Christ at the age of fifteen and determined to become a missionary. Lacking in funds, he worked his way through college. With an aptitude for languages, he earned his PhD under Cyrus Gordon. After a short stint at Rutgers University in New Jersey, he enjoyed a long career (1969-2005) at Miami University in Ohio. His memoir includes descriptions of the schools, societies, scholars, and travels of his life, as well as his witness to Christ and his role in the establishment of a campus church.

Edwin Yamauchi was a well-established scholar working in Gnosticism and related areas when I was just starting university. He is still here! He has now published a memoir.

HT Todd Bolen at the Bible Places Blog.

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