Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Grappling with Joshua's conquest

DR. GILI KUGLER: Joshua’s Conquest: A Cultural and Pedagogical Dilemma in Modern Israel (TheTorah.com).
Ben-Gurion saw the IDF as a modern instantiation of Joshua’s military might. The Israeli writer and politician S. Yizhar, in contrast, asserted that we should discard Joshua because of the violence and wholesale slaughter recounted in the book. Contemporary Israeli teachers grapple with the question of how to teach students such a core story of Jewish history that is fraught with moral problems.

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Avalos obituary

IOWA STATE DAILY: Hector Avalos: A lifelong teacher (Katherine Kealey).

Background here.

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Eliphaz and the Polyanna Psalm

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: Books Against Books (Philip Jenkins).

For PaleoJudaica posts on Psalm 91, some interacting with earlier posts by Professor Jenkins, see here and links and here. And for some interaction with that post on Ezekiel, see here. Yes, I know the link has rotted.

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Garber, Teaching the Historical Jesus (Routledge)

NEW IN PAPERBACK FROM ROUTLEDGE:
Teaching the Historical Jesus
Issues and Exegesis

Edited By Zev Garber

Copyright Year 2015
Paperback
£29.59

Hardback
£104.00

eBook
£29.59

ISBN 9780367738891
Published December 18, 2020 by Routledge
284 Pages

Book Description

Teaching the Historical Jesus in his Jewish context to students of varied religious backgrounds presents instructors with not only challenges, but also opportunities to sustain interfaith dialogue and foster mutual understanding and respect. This new collection explores these challenges and opportunities, gathering together experiential lessons drawn from teaching Jesus in a wide variety of settings—from the public, secular two- or four-year college, to the Jesuit university, to the Rabbinic school or seminary, to the orthodox, religious Israeli university. A diverse group of Jewish and Christian scholars reflect on their own classroom experiences and explicates crucial issues for teaching Jesus in a way that encourages students at every level to enter into an encounter with the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament without paternalism, parochialism, or prejudice. This volume is a valuable resource for instructors and graduate students interested in an interfaith approach in the classroom, and provides practical case studies for scholars working on Jewish-Christian relations.

The book was published in 2015, but I missed it then. The recent paperback release provides a good excuse to note it.

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Monday, April 19, 2021

The Antikythera Mechanism and astronomy

THE ANTIKYTHERA MECHANISM has been in the news lately:

World’s first computer was the fusion of finest Greek and Middle Eastern scientific knowledge. Greek physicist Aris Dacanalis who is part of the team that has finally put together the puzzle of how the world’s first computer, the Antikythera Mechanism, worked, spoke to Neos Kosmos about what it would have taken to build such a machine in ancient times. (Alex Economou, Neos Kosmos)

“The device could have been made by one person or a team of up to ten specialists. A Hellenistic kingdom like Egypt under the Ptolemies would have had the vast resources to pay for a highly specialised team that would have included an astronomer, a mathematician and highly skilled craftsmen who would have been engineers in their own right,” said Mr Dacanalis. “There was a tradition of engineering in Alexandria under the Ptolemies who were patrons of the arts and who also funded research.”

[...]

“No single culture had the means to make this device. This is the merging of two cultures – the marriage of Babylonian observations of the stars and the mathematical methods that they developed combined with Greek geometry and cosmological models.

New Model of Ancient Astronomical Device Reveals a ‘Creation of Genius’ (George Dvorsky, Gizmodo)
By building a digital model of the Antikythera Mechanism, scientists may have finally exposed a key function of the ancient device, revealing a design that required some seriously advanced thinking.

[...]

“Solving this complex 3D puzzle reveals a creation of genius—combining cycles from Babylonian astronomy, mathematics from Plato’s Academy and ancient Greek astronomical theories,” wrote the authors, which included mechanical engineer Adam Wojcik, also from UCL.

Indeed, the ancient Babylonians chronicled the motions of the planets, while the ancient Greek philosopher Parmenides developed a mathematical model to explain these movements.

In addition Bryn Mayr Classical Review has just published a relevant review: Hellenistic astronomy: the science in its contexts
Alan Bowen, Francesca Rochberg, Hellenistic astronomy: the science in its contexts. Brill's companions in classical studies. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2020. Pp. xxxii, 751. ISBN 9789004400566 €197,00.

Review by
Ulla Koch, Copenhagen University. aribu@protonmail.com

Babylonian, Greek, and Alexandrian astronomy, perhaps with Ptolemaic engineering, are at work in the Antikythera Mechanism. The book has many relevant articles, as well as a couple on ancient Jewish astronomy and astrology.

PaleoJudaica posts on the Antikythera Mechanism are collected here with comments. Ancient Enochic astronomy also drew on Hellenistic and Babylonian traditions.

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Coins, ancient and modern

NUMISMATICS: Ancient Coins Tell the Story of the Jewish People. From the Roman conquest of Judea to the rebirth of Israel (Harold Witkov, Aish.com). Ancient coins were a vehicle for political propaganda. But that can work both ways.

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Was the Rebellious Son a glutton or an idolator?

THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST TODAY: Excessive and Deviant Consumption in the Hebrew Bible (Rebekah Welton).

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The Life of Mary Magdalene

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: “Bringing the West Back East, or How to Make Sure the Magdalene Belongs to Byzantium: The Life of Mary Magdalene” (Christine Luckritz Marquis).

This is the second installment of a series on volume 2 of New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures (MNTA 2). I noted the first essay here and the second here.

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Sunday, April 18, 2021

King (ed.), The Syriac World (Routledge)

NEW IN PAPERBACK FROM ROUTLEDGE:
The Syriac World

Edited By Daniel King

Copyright Year 2019

Paperback
£31.99

Hardback
£152.00

eBook
£31.99

Open access content is available for this title.
ISBN 9780367732363
Published December 18, 2020 by Routledge
896 Pages

Book Description

This volume surveys the 'Syriac world', the culture that grew up among the Syriac-speaking communities from the second century CE and which continues to exist and flourish today, both in its original homeland of Syria and Mesopotamia, and in the worldwide diaspora of Syriac-speaking communities. The five sections examine the religion; the material, visual, and literary cultures; the history and social structures of this diverse community; and Syriac interactions with their neighbours ancient and modern. There are also detailed appendices detailing the patriarchs of the different Syriac denominations, and another appendix listing useful online resources for students.

The Syriac World offers the first complete survey of Syriac culture and fills a significant gap in modern scholarship. This volume will be an invaluable resource to undergraduate and postgraduate students of Syriac and Middle Eastern culture from antiquity to the modern era.

Chapter 26 of this book is freely available as a downloadable Open Access PDF under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives 3.0 license. https://tandfbis.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/rt-files/docs/Open+Access+Chapters/9781138899018_oachapter26.pdf

Chapter 26 is on "Syriac Medicine." I noted a review of the book when it came out in hardback in 2019.

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Loader, Sexuality and Gender (Mohr Siebeck)

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: William R. G. Loader. Sexuality and Gender. Collected Essays. 2021. IX, 463 pages. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 458. 154,00 € including VAT. cloth ISBN 978-3-16-160199-6.
Published in English. This collection brings together a wide range of essays on themes related to sexuality and gender, written by William R. G. Loader, who has published widely on attitudes towards sexuality in early Jewish and Christian literature. The essays explore connections and make comparisons among the ancient texts, seeking to understand them in the light of their religious and cultural contexts, providing summaries, and pursuing key themes, from subtle changes in the Septuagint, to the Pseudepigrapha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Philo, and the New Testament.

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Virtual Baalbek

PHOENICIAN WATCH: Virtual Tour Restores Baalbek’s Stunning Roman Temples to Their Former Glory. The free online experience allows users to toggle between views of the ancient Lebanese city today and as it appeared in 215 A.D. (Livia Gershon, Smithsonian Magazine).
The free app—available for computer, mobile devices and virtual reality headsets—offers interactive, 360-degree views of 38 locations in the city, reports Robert McKelvey for Al Jazeera. Users can listen to expert audio commentary in Arabic, English, French or German and call up additional images and text for more information about specific spots. They can also toggle between seeing the buildings as they appear today and as they looked almost 2,000 years ago.
A couple of recent PaleoJudaica posts on the site of Baalbek are here and here.

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They found WHAT in Egypt?

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Egyptian “Lost Golden City” Uncovered Near Luxor. Archaeology reveals aspects of daily life 3,000 years ago, at height of Egypt’s power.

Recently I noted that, surprisingly, Egypt is still producing important archaeological discoveries even in heavily explored areas like the Pyramid grounds. I wondered, "Who knows what important archaeological treasures remain to be found in Egypt and elsewhere?"

And now archaeologists have just noticed a misplaced city near the Valley of the Kings.

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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Heyden et al (eds.), Jerusalem II: Jerusalem in Roman-Byzantine Times (Mohr Siebeck)

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: Jerusalem II: Jerusalem in Roman-Byzantine Times. Edited by Katharina Heyden and Maria Lissek with the assistance of Astrid Kaufmann. 2021. IX, 593 pages. Civitatum Orbis MEditerranei Studia 5. 54,00 € including VAT. cloth ISBN 978-3-16-158303-2.
Published in English.
The present volume gives insights into the shape, life and claims of Jerusalem in Roman-Byzantine Times (2nd to 7th century). Regarding the history of religions and its impact on urbanistic issues, the city of Jerusalem is of special and paradigmatic interest. The coexistence and sometimes rivalry of Jewish, Hellenistic, Roman, Christian and later Islamic cults had an impact on urban planning. The city's importance as a centre of international pilgrimage and educational tourism affected demographic and institutional characteristics. Moreover, the rivalry between the various religious traditions at the holy places effected a plurivalent sacralisation of the urban area. To show transitions and transformations, coexistence and conflicts, seventeen articles by internationally distinguished researchers from different fields, such as archaeology, Christian theology, history, Jewish and Islamic studies, are brought together to constitute this collection of essays.
The essays are in English and German.

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Review of Kraemer, The Mediterranean diaspora in late antiquity

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: The Mediterranean diaspora in late antiquity.
Ross Shepard Kraemer, The Mediterranean diaspora in late antiquity: what Christianity cost the Jews. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2020. Pp. 520. ISBN 9780190222277 $99.00.

Review by
Görge Hasselhoff, Technical University Dortmund. goerge.hasselhoff@udo.edu

The review is in German. For more on the book, see here.

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9 Facts about Hannibal

PUNIC WATCH: Hannibal Barca: 9 Facts About The Great General’s Life & Career. One of the greatest generals ever seen, Hannibal Barca, crossed the Alps and almost brought Rome to its knees. Hannibal of Carthage was one of Rome’s greatest but most respected enemies (Edd Hodsdon, The Collector). A good summary of the life of Hannibal and the course of the Second Punic War.

For PaleoJudaica posts on Hannibal and his remarkably military campaign against Rome, see here, here, here, and links. For posts on the Battle of Cannae, see here and links.

Now and then I link to this post, which explains why PaleoJudaica pays attention to the Phoenicians, the Phoenician language, the Carthaginians, and Punic and Neo-Punic.

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Jensen, The Greco-Persian Wars (Hackett)

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: The Greco-Persian Wars. Notice of a New Book: Jensen, Erik. 2021. The Greco-Persian Wars: A Short History with Documents. Cambridge: Hackett Publishing.

Important primary sources for the Greek conflicts with the Achaemenid Empire in the Persian Period.

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Friday, April 16, 2021

New Perspectives in Biblical and Rabbinic Hebrew (ed. Hornkohl & Khan; Open Book)

NEW BOOK FROM OPEN BOOK PUBLISHERS:
New Perspectives in Biblical and Rabbinic Hebrew

Aaron D. Hornkohl and Geoffrey Khan (eds)

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-80064-164-8 £24.95
Hardback ISBN: 978-1-80064-165-5 £34.95
PDF ISBN: 978-1-80064-166-2 £0.00

Description

Most of the papers in this volume originated as presentations at the conference Biblical Hebrew and Rabbinic Hebrew: New Perspectives in Philology and Linguistics, which was held at the University of Cambridge, 8–10th July, 2019. The aim of the conference was to build bridges between various strands of research in the field of Hebrew language studies that rarely meet, namely philologists working on Biblical Hebrew, philologists working on Rabbinic Hebrew and theoretical linguists.

This volume is the published outcome of this initiative. It contains peer-reviewed papers in the fields of Biblical and Rabbinic Hebrew that advance the field by the philological investigation of primary sources and the application of cutting-edge linguistic theory. These include contributions by established scholars and by students and early career researchers.

That's right, there is a free PDF edition. For you, special deal!

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Amun Amen?

AFP FACT CHECK: ‘Amen’ is of Hebrew, not Egyptian, origin (Natalie Wade).
Facebook posts claim the word “amen” is derived from the ancient Egyptian god Amun Ra. This is false; experts say the common ending to prayers has Hebrew origins -- not Egyptian.
Yes. Silly Facebook.

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Review of Dabrowa, Camps, campaigns, colonies

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Camps, campaigns, colonies. Roman military presence in Anatolia, Mesopotamia, and the Near East.
Edward Dabrowa, Camps, campaigns, colonies. Roman military presence in Anatolia, Mesopotamia, and the Near East: selected studies. Philippika. Altertumswissenschaftliche Abhandlungen, contributions to the study of ancient world cultures, 138. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2020. Pp. 216. ISBN 9783447113816 €54,00.

Review by
Andrea De Giorgi, Florida State University. adegiorgi@fsu.edu

Notable for PaleoJudaica:
The following two essays shift the focus to Judea and the long season of wars that culminated in the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. At issue are the mobilization of the legions, their intersection with local communities, and, lastly, a topography of siege operations.
There is also an essay on the military camp at Dura-Europos and one on Roman conflicts with the Parthians/Arcasids.

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Excavating in the plague year: ‘Auja el-Foqa

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Excavating ‘Auja el-Foqa. 4 Questions for the Dig Directors of ‘Auja el-Foqa, an ancient Israelite fortress in the Jordan Valley (Megan Sauter).

See also the interview with the excavators of Abel Beth Maacah, noted here.

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Thursday, April 15, 2021

A Canaanite "missing link?"

PALEOGRAPHY: Canaanite Inscription Found in Israel Is ‘Missing Link’ in Alphabet’s History. The tiny inscribed pottery shard unearthed at Lachish dates to 3,500 years ago and is the oldest text from the Southern Levant to use alphabetic writing, rather than pictographic, archaeologists say (Ariel David, Haaretz). Cross-file under Northwest Semitic Epigraphy.

The story has received a lot of attention. The Daily Mail has coverage with some background on the earliest alphabetic Canaanite inscriptions, discovered in a turquoise mine in the Sinai: Has the 'missing link' in the history of the ALPHABET been discovered? Archaeologists find evidence of an early example in Israel from 1450 BC that could explain how the alphabet arrived in the Levant from Egypt (Jonathan Chadwick).

Both articles note the underlying open-access article in the journal Antiquity:

Early alphabetic writing in the ancient Near East: the ‘missing link’ from Tel Lachish

Published online by Cambridge University Press: 15 April 2021

Felix Höflmayer, Haggai Misgav, Lyndelle Webster and Katharina Streit

Abstract

The origin of alphabetic script lies in second-millennium BC Bronze Age Levantine societies. A chronological gap, however, divides the earliest evidence from the Sinai and Egypt—dated to the nineteenth century BC—and from the thirteenth-century BC corpus in Palestine. Here, the authors report a newly discovered Late Bronze Age alphabetic inscription from Tel Lachish, Israel. Dating to the fifteenth century BC, this inscription is currently the oldest securely dated alphabetic inscription from the Southern Levant, and may therefore be regarded as the ‘missing link’. The proliferation of early alphabetic writing in the Southern Levant should be considered a product of Levantine-Egyptian interaction during the mid second millennium BC, rather than of later Egyptian domination.

I noted the discovery of the other early inscribed ostracon at Lachish here in 2015. For posts on the earliest Hebrew and Hebrew-ish inscriptions, see the links collected here. Other relevant posts are here, here, here, and here.

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Pure leprosy?

PROF. ALBERT I. BAUMGARTEN: The Tzaraʿat Paradox (TheTorah.com).
Why is partially infected skin impure but fully infected skin pure? Mary Douglas’ insight into the polluting power of anomalies helps us make sense of this counterintuitive rule.

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Oedipal Judas?

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Translating the Traitor: A Medieval Life of Judas (Brandon W. Hawk). .
Such a complicated textual tradition is not altogether rare among apocryphal literature. In this sense, the Life of Judas is not idiosyncratic for its variant, fluid, and multilingual transmission history but representative of the types of issues encountered with many apocrypha, including some of those translated in the MNTA volumes. This case presents one intriguing example of a work that likely moved from Western Europe into Near Eastern contexts (rather than the reverse, as scholars often expect), but the afterlives of many apocrypha follow similarly complex cross-cultural paths.
This is the second installment of a series on volume 2 of New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures (MNTA 2). I noted the first essay here.

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Hector Avalos, 1958-2021

SAD NEWS: Hector Avalos has Died (Jim West, Zwinglius Redividus).
Via Jack Sasson-

Hector Avalos, Professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State University, succumbed yesterday afternoon to a persistent illness.

Professor Avalos and I overlapped as NELC doctoral students at Harvard University in the late 1980s. Then in the mid-1990s we both taught in Iowa at different institutions.

Among other contributions, Hector did important work on health care and disability in the biblical and ancient worlds. His Wikipedia page is here. Just last weekend I linked to one of his essays here.

Requiescat in pace.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

When is a jug leprous in Leviticus?

PROF. MARTHA HIMMELFARB: Priests & Rabbis Determine Ritual Reality (TheTorah.com).
The Torah allows the removal of vessels from a house before the priest quarantines it for tzaraʿat, understanding impurity here not as the result of physical reality but of a human declaration. This idea is developed further by the rabbis, who apply it to other areas of Jewish law.
The purity status of the ceramic vessels is in a superpositioned state until the priest observes them.

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The reception of Semiramis

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Semiramis: From Antiquity to the Modern Times. Notice of a New Book: Droß-Krüpe, Kerstin. 2020. Semiramis, de qua innumerabilia narrantur: Reception and argumentation of the Queen of Babylon from antiquity to the opera seria of the Baroque (Classica et Orientalia, 25). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz (in German).

Semiramis (Shammuramat) was a real Neo-Assyrian queen who reigned in the late eighth century BCE. But in the Greek Fantasy Bablyon tradition she became the founder of the city of Babylon.

For PaleoJudaica posts on Semiramis, see here and links.

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Review of Memories of utopia: the revision of histories and landscapes in Late Antiquity (ed. Bronwen & Simic),

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Memories of utopia: the revision of histories and landscapes in Late Antiquity.
Bronwen Neil, Kosta Simic, Memories of utopia: the revision of histories and landscapes in Late Antiquity. Routledge monographs in classical studies. London; New York: Routledge, 2019. Pp. 284. ISBN 9781138328679 $155.00.

Review by
Hope Williard, University of Lincoln. hwilliard@lincoln.ac.uk

Notable for PaleoJudaica:
Strickler’s chapter how the Christian and Jewish writers sought to explain the events and changes of the seventh century through apocalyptic discourse that frequently invoked visions of dystopia while remaining hopeful for a brighter future. An ideal but unrealized future characterizes utopian thinking, so this struck me as a productive and intriguing way to approaching late antique apocalypticism.

11. Ryan W. Strickler, Paradise regained? Utopias of deliverance in seventh-century apocalyptic discourse, 171-188

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Was the Flood futile?

IS THAT IN THE BIBLE? Noah’s Flood: Competing Visions of a Mesopotamian Tradition. Paul Davidson surveys the J and P strata of the Genesis Flood story in comparison to the Gilgamesh/Atrahasis Flood story.

One detail: the Atrahasis Epic is in Akkadian, not Sumerian.

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