Saturday, April 05, 2003

OKAY, ONE MORE. This article from the Kansas City Star has a nice list of sites in Iraq which are important for biblical and Islamic tradition.
OFF TO KINROSS FOR A COUPLE OF DAYS, where my son and I intend to explore the island castle. Meanwhile, if you want something cool and paleojudaic to browse over the weekend, visit the web page for the interdisciplinary seminar on the Jewish Roots of Eastern Christian Mysticism, run by my good friend Professor Alexander Golitzin at Marquette University. I praise it not because it has links to some of my own stuff, which it does, but for the numerous lectures and resources from Professor Golitzin and others on Jewish and Eastern Christian mysticism and related matters. Get a cup of coffee, get comfortable, click on the link above, and feast! Worth many visits.

I should be back Monday or Tuesday. Have a good weekend.

Friday, April 04, 2003

THREE REVIEWS OF INTEREST in the current issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion online. The theme of the issue, incidentally, is "Religion and Empire," although the reviews are not thematic.

Jason David BeDuhn: The Manichaean Body: In Discipline and Ritual
Reviewed by Horace Jeffery Hodges

Tod Linafelt: Surviving Lamentations: Catastrophe, Lament, and Protest in the Afterlife of a Biblical Book
Reviewed by Francis Landy

Edmondo Lupieri: The Mandaeans: The Last Gnostics
Reviewed by Jorunn Jacobsen Buckley

(via Archaeology Online News)

The war with Iraq has led scientists to place archaeology projects on hold in areas such as Jordan, Syria and Yemen until the ripple effects of the U.S.-led action subside. And while tensions kicked up by the war have led to uncertainty for researchers traveling to that area, a resolution to the situation in Iraq could ultimately provide archaeologists and anthropologists unlimited access to the country for the first time in 12 years.

McGuire Gibson, a professor of Mesopotamian archaeology at the University of Chicago, says that for now, American researchers have stopped working on projects in several countries in the Middle East.

"No one is working in Syria anymore and no one is working in Jordan," said Gibson, who studied in Iraq from 1968 until 1990. "Intellectual life has come to a halt in general until this is over." Representatives of Earthwatch, one of the nation's largest nonprofit sponsors of research abroad, said they have been forced to abandoned projects in the Middle East due to instability.

"In the past we have had projects in Tunisia, Oman, Turkey and Israel," said Blue Magruder, director of public affairs for Earthwatch. "These are all countries where we have done projects before and we are no longer doing them."

In the long run, the promise of political stability in Iraq could open a host of academic opportunities for a new generation of students.

Well, I guess that's bad news and good news.
THERE'S AN ARTICLE ON ENOCH AND JESUS in the current issue of Bible Review online:

Berger A. Pearson, "Parallel Paths to Heaven: Enoch and Jesus"

This is a subject dear to my heart, on which I've written elsewhere (the final draft of the latter piece appears in a book reviewed here).

Thursday, April 03, 2003


(From United Press International)


The past three years have been a powerful journey for early music ensemble Savae. It started when they came across a book of mystical translations of prayers in Aramaic, a language spoken in the Middle East 2,000 years ago. That was just the beginning of this historical mystery that unites ancient music and dialects with modern-day crises in politics and religion. The sacred music of Jerusalem's Second Temple maintains legendary status among scholars. According to the Bible, this ancient holy site was built around 540 B.C. and featured music many religion and music scholars believe directly influenced chant and other early Christian music. Both the music and temple, however, were lost for centuries. Until now. Savae's latest CD, "Ancient Echoes," draws on texts from the Torah, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the New Testament, and an ancient Greek tombstone. The music comes from research by a Jewish musicologist from the last century who demonstrated how dispersed and isolated Jews preserved ancient musical phrases for two millennia as well as from a French theorist who re-constructed the oldest form of musical notation that appears throughout the Bible. The dialect of the songs comes from an Egyptian phonetics instructor who taught members of Savae an ancient dialect spoken by Babylonian Jews and preserved to this day by Iraqi Muslims.

(My emphasis.) I hope it goes without saying that I'm linking to this out of a sociological interest in how this band is using the Dead Sea Scrolls etc., and not because I endorse their theories!

I wonder if their music is any good...


(From H-JUDAIC Digest)

Date: Tue, 1 Apr 2003 20:44:57 -0500

From: Anna Urowitz-Freudenstein

Subject: Call for Papers, AJS Boston 2003 - Genizah Studies (Jerchower)

From: Seth Jerchower

Subject: Call for Papers, AJS Boston 2003 - Genizah Studies

A session on Cairo Genizah studies at the 2003 AJS Conference is currently
being organized. Proposals for papers on are now being accepted. Any topic
pertaining to original and/or current research dealing with the Cairo
Genizah will be considered. Special consideration may also be given to
proposals dealing with the "European Genizah" if the topic involves
original research within the field.

Those interested in participating are kindly asked to submit a brief
abstract no later than 9 April 2003. Please direct abstracts and/or
inquiries via email to Seth Jerchower at For
additional information on the conference and the call for papers, please
visit the AJS website at:


Seth Jerchower

Public Services Librarian

Center for Advanced Judaic Studies Library

University of Pennsylvania

Petra - An eerie silence grips the Nabatean splendors of Petra, Jordan's first tourist destination, where the only visitors to be seen are foreign journalists in the kingdom to cover the war in neighbouring Iraq.

The ongoing US-British offensive in Iraq has killed tourism in the southern red-rose archeological site of Petra with its imposing tombs sculpted into the rock just as it has crippled it around the Roman temples of Jerash in the north.

Jordan has been striving hard to shake off a slump in visitors, which followed the outbreak of the Palestinian intifada against Israeli rule two and a half years ago and was later compounded due to cancellations after the September 11 attacks.

From Petra to Jerash, shops and stalls manned by souvenir hawkers are closing one after the other with tourist guides desperately seeking to recycle themselves in new jobs.


As of April 1st, the ruins and their caretakers seem to be unharmed.

TELL al-MUQAYYAR, Iraq (AP) - Burrowed in the sweltering desert, U.S. infantrymen ring a stark temple of a moon god and the sand-swept ruins of a city where 6,000 years ago civilization first budded and from which, it is said, three great religions blossomed.

In the opening days of the war, U.S. forces drove through Ur, home to the Biblical Abraham and an ingenious population that irrigated fields, forged agricultural tools and devised the written word.

The fighting, which continues in the nearby southern Iraq city of Nasiriyah, has so far spared the remains of Ur and the two families guarding them, who have worked as guides there for generations.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003


The remains of a Hellenistic city have been uncovered in the Barne'a quarter of Ashkelon.

The dig has thus far revealed a number of two- and three-room mud buildings built around a common yard that contained cooking facilities, apparently dating back to the third century BCE.

A three-meter wide road connecting some of the buildings has also been unearthed.

I was an assistant square supervisor at the Ashkelon excavation in 1987 and '88.
FORECAST OF MORE SERVER PROBLEMS: this time the University servers will be undergoing repairs during the next couple of days, with frequent loss of Internet access. I'll do my best to post around this. Also, I'll be gone over the weekend. So if things are quiet here for awhile, it doesn't mean I've forgotten you.


Saddam Hussein plans to destroy religious sites in Iraq and blame the damage on Coalition forces, Tony Blair has told the House of Commons.

Speaking at Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Blair said he had intelligence information about Saddam's plan.

Mr Blair said: "The fact that he is willing to do this underlines once again the true nature of his regime."

And he said the Coalition is doing "everything we can to protect those holy sites and shrines."

No specific mention of antiquities, but perhaps relevant.

(From Biblical Archaeology Review via the Archaeologica News Page)

Excavators have found two folded papyri and 11 bronze coins in a desert cave within the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, near the western shore of the Dead Sea. Three of the coins bear the name �Shimon,� Hebrew for Simon, and date to the Second Jewish Revolt against Rome (132-135 A.D.), which was led by Simon Bar-Kokhba. The artifacts were discovered last November by a team headed by Hebrew University�s Amos Frumkin and Bar Ilan University�s Hanan Eshel, inside a cave measuring just 23 feet by 13 feet.

Apparently these were found in November, but this is the first I've heard of them. Guess I need to get out more. Or something.

From UPI

CANBERRA, Australia, April 2 (UPI) -- Australia Wednesday accused Iraq of using historic sites to hide its weapons and Prime Minister John Howard continued to defend the length of the war, as anti-war protests in Sydney led to one arrest.

Australian Defense Force spokesman Brig. Mike Hannan said Iraq was using historic sites, such as the Ctesiphon, to hide its weapons. According to Hannan, Iraqi vehicles were parked in strategic places at the site, which is protected under The Hague Convention.

The ancient city -- dated to the 2nd century BC -- lies on the Tigris River, southeast of Baghdad. The Hague Convention protects the world's cultural and heritage sites.

The Guardian reports on the looming "Battle of Babylon":

In the Pentagon, they are calling it the battle of Kerbala gap, after the 19-mile stretch of dry land between Razzaza lake and the Euphrates river. For the headline writers, however, it may become better known, from the ancient ruins on the river's east bank, as the Battle of Babylon.

Iraq's military commanders appear to have thrown parts of five of their six Republican Guard divisions into defending the southern approaches to Baghdad, and the seat of Mesopotamian civilisation lies along the 50-mile ring around the capital, where the Iraqi guardsmen have been told to make a stand.

In the past 24 hours US mechanised and airborne forces probing the Iraqi defences have reported coming across corpses in uniforms of the Hammurabi and Nebuchadnezzar divisions, both named after ancient Babylonian kings in whose steps Saddam Hussein believes he is treading.

The Hammurabi has traditionally had the task of guarding Saddam's hometown of Tikrit; the Nebuchadnezzar are there to protect the eastern flank from Iranian invasion, while the south had been left to the Medina Division.

Both links via The Command Post, whose coverage of this issue has been excellent. They also link to this photograph of Ctesiphon.

UPDATE: More details on the situation in Ctesiphon from And - tangentially related - according to the London Times the British Museum is trying to raise �1.5 million to save the "Whore of Babylon".

THE British Museum is raising funds to save a spectacular carving of a naked woman, thought to be a high-class prostitute, which may have hung outside a brothel 4,000 years ago.

The terracotta relief is thought to have been made by a craftsman from the ancient city of Babylon, about 55 miles (90km) from what is today Baghdad.

It will be sold abroad unless the British Museum can raise the price � believed to be �1.5 million � although the owner, a Japanese collector, is keen for the sculpture to go to the museum.

I wonder how John of Patmos would feel about that (Revelation 17). (10:22 am)

UPDATE: More Iraq links and commentary at Archaeology Magazine. Plus ancient batteries from Baghdad? Really. (The latter is via the Archaeologica News Page.) (4:12 pm)

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

MAKE THAT TWO: It seems that the system published everything I lined up during the day. Well, whatever.
FOR APRIL FOOL'S DAY Blogger's publishing server decided to crash, hence no posting until now. Apologies. Meanwhile, it's spring break and I've had a day of bliss in the library, rooting through journals and photocopying articles. It's bedtime, but I'll put up one substantive post after this. Nitety-nite.
JUST GOT THE GOOD NEWS that my paper "Is the History of the Rechabites Really A Jewish Composition?" has been accepted for presentation in the Pseudepigrapha Section of the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in Atlanta this November.
RECENT REVIEWS from the Review of Biblical Literature:

Doudna, Gregory L., 4Q Pesher Nahum: A Critical Edition

Luker, Lamontte M., Passion, Vitality, and Foment: The Dynamics of Second Temple Judaism

Runesson, Anders, The Origins of the Synagogue: A Socio-Historical Study

Wellhausen, Julius, The Pharisees and Sadducees: An Examination of Internal Jewish History

Wineman, Aryeh, The Hasidic Parable: An Anthology with Commentary

Monday, March 31, 2003

MORE ON HOUSE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION 113.IH, which I blogged on here a few days ago. I've just sent Rep. English an encouraging fax about this resolution. If you would like to do the same, his web page has a link to contact details. If you live in the U.S.A. you can send him a letter, fax him, or fill out an electronic form to e-mail him; from outside the U.S.A. you're limited to faxes or the post (which have more weight anyway). It wouldn't hurt for Mr. English to be able to point to letters of support, including from abroad.

The full text of the resolution is available online and the same link allows you to keep track of its status. I realize that we have become all too acquainted lately with the futility of resolutions, but if Congress passes this one, they will feel obligated to keep an eye on the situation and this is desirable.

LISTMANIA! "Ploni Almoni's" Amazon two-part list of books on Hebrew Bible, Early Judaism, and Ancient Near East History.

Looks good to me.


The fourth and nearly final stage of a major repair of the southern wall of the Temple Mount compound, during which most of the stones in the bulging part of the wall will be replaced, has finally begun.

(From Haaretz.)

Sunday, March 30, 2003

James Snyder, director of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, is emphatic. "We're not standing still in this complex period," he said. "With all the complexity here and in the rest of the world, we're operating as usual."

This week Mr. Snyder announced plans to restore its Shrine of the Book, the building that houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, one of the most important archaeological treasures uncovered in the last century and one of Israel's most important patrimonial treasures. On April 1 the shrine will be closed for a year for a $3 million restoration and renovation.

Designed by the Austrian-born American architect Frederick Kiesler and the American architect Armand Bartos, the shrine has not been altered since its completion in 1965. While the original architecture will be preserved, the surface tiles on the dome will be replaced, as will the limestone of the plaza. There will also be new outdoor lighting. Inside, new displays are being designed, along with a lab and study center. The $3 million cost of the project has come from two grants, from the D. S . & R. H. Gottesman Foundation and from the Los Angeles collectors Herta and Paul Amir.

(From the New York Times)

MORE ON SADDAM AND NEBUCHADNEZZAR: A letter by Mr. Hazhir Teimourian to the Editor in yesterday's Times of London (unfortunately requires registration - and dinero - outside the U.K.) comments that
He [Saddam] told his first biographer:

I want every Iraqi to think of Nebuchadnezzar every day . . . we could go to Israel once more and bring all the Jews back here in Babylon with their hands tied beyond their backs.

Anyone know who this "first biographer" might be or which biography?

By the way, I can't get the link to the letter to work and have lost patience with trying, but if you're getting a search page, enter "Hazhir Teimourian" and it should get you the text of the letter. (Sorry, I seem to have accidentally overwrittten this post with the Masada story below, so I'm reposting it. This blogging thing can have a steep learning curve.)