Monday, July 07, 2003

30%-60% OF THE BAGHDAD NATIONAL LIBRARY IS SAFE according to library employees. This according to a preliminary report, dated 30 June, by a team of scholars who visited Baghdad for eight days. A longer report is promised by 10 July. Via the IraqCrisis list.
I'M FINISHING MY PAPER for the Anthropology and the Bible Symposium, which starts tomorrow, and while doing some Google research I ran across this page, which extracts lists of the scriptural canon from early Christian writers. The site has its own agenda, which you can take or leave as you please, but the collection of primary passages is useful.

The symposium takes place here at St. Mary's College on Tuesday and Wednesday. Blogging will be light, but on Wednesday I'll give you some treats on Iranian antiquities in honor of the Blogosphere's Iranian Freedom Day. At some point I will also post a draft of my symposium paper.
IT APPEARS THAT SOME E-MAIL WAS LOST from my account while I was away. If you sent me anything, you should assume I didn't get it and resend.
AN INSCRIPTION ON "ABSALOM'S TOMB" in the Kidron Valley refers to John the Baptist's father, Zechariah (Luke 1). But . . . it's an inscription from the Byzantine period.

Tomb References John the Baptist's Father (The Guardian)

Monday July 7, 2003 12:29 AM


Associated Press Writer

JERUSALEM (AP) - The discovery was a stroke of luck: the light of the setting sun hit an ancient tomb at just the right angle and revealed hints of a worn inscription, unnoticed for centuries, commemorating the father of John the Baptist.

``This is the tomb of Zachariah, martyr, very pious priest, father of John,'' the inscription of 47 Greek letters reads.

The inscription probably does not mean that the father of the biblical figure is actually buried in the 60-foot-high funerary monument at the foot of the Mount of Olives, say the text's discoverers. But it does give new insight into the local lore surrounding the early figures of the Christian Church.

Scholars say the words were probably written several hundred years after Zachariah's death - and after the tomb's construction - by Byzantine Christians.


There's more writing on the monument and it may include a reference to the Simeon who blessed Jesus in the Temple according to Luke 2:25-35. The discoverers, osteologist Joseph Zias and epigrapher Emile Puech (Emile was at the Enoch Seminar last week), promise an article publishing the inscription in the next issue of Revue Biblique. This inscription gives us some interesting information about Byzantine Christian traditions but everyone recognizes that it doesn't necessarily follow at all that those traditions preserve accurate data from the early first century.

Sunday, July 06, 2003


"Biblia Hebraica (Biblical Hebrew � Home)"
"Found on this site are notes from a graduate Biblical Hebrew Level I class taught by Dr. David Wallace."

Biblical and Modern Hebrew (DaaT)

The first lesson of each is free but there is a charge for all the rest.

Welcome to Basics of Biblical Hebrew Online. (by Gary Pratico and Miles V. Van Pelt)

"This site has been established to support and complement this recently published grammar, workbook and CD (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001). Basics of Biblical Hebrew is a beginner's grammar which constitutes a one year course at the undergraduate and graduate level. It is designed to prepare students to read most passages of the Hebrew Bible."

The Destruction of the Great Library at Alexandria (Archaeological Odyssey)

This article is by J. Harold Ellens, one of the organizers of the Enoch Seminar. There has also recently been a conference on the Alexandrian poet Callimachus, who catalogued the Library of Alexandria.

Ancient wine press unearthed in Jaffa dig (Ha'aaretz)

Hi-tech imaging could reveal lost texts (BBC)

Deals mainly with carbonized medieval texts but the multispectral imagining technology has already been used on the Herculaneum library. I assume it must be being used on the Petra Papyri too, although I don't know.
I'M BACK. We got in after 11:30 last night. Venice was glorious � I grew up in San Diego and anywhere with warm weather immediately feels like home to me. Venice a fascinating city and I wish I had had more time to explore it. But duty called and much of the time was spent (as one conference spouse commented) in a small room with sixty other people discussing a guy who died five thousand years ago � or maybe he didn't. I had hoped that my comments on apocalyptic (see below, "The Animal Apocalypse and Daniel") would goad people into explaining in more detail what they meant by the term, but mostly they continued using it without comment. John Collins did disagree with me in his response to the papers of the first session, but when we discussed it later it developed that we actually pretty much agreed after all and the misunderstanding arose over my insufficiently informative abstract of the paper, which was all he had seen before the session. He also pointed out that the Book of the Watchers did not work well as an example, since in fact it is fairly interested in eschatology. This is a fair point, so replace it with the core of 3 Enoch (1-15/16, which appears in a separate unit in some MSS). I think some of the Nag Hammadi apocalypses work too; I'll try to dig up another example or two later. Anyway, it was an excellent conference and many thanks to Gabriele Boccaccini, Harold Ellens, and the others who made it all happen.

Lots more came up in the Seminar and if I think of other interesting bits I'll post them. I haven't been able to bring myself to look at the backlog of e-mail in my account yet. I've also been away from the news all week, but I'll try to catch up on everything today. Meanwhile, I'll just note that the Baghdad Museum is still a dangerous place:

British journalist killed in Baghdad (USA Today)

BAGHDAD (AP) � A British journalist was shot and killed outside the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad on Saturday, witnesses said.

The identity of the journalist, a freelance television producer, was not immediately known. Fellow journalists, asking that their names not be used, said the male journalist was outside museum when he was shot.

Britain's ITN television news said it believed the man previously had worked as a researcher for the network but was not employed by them when he was shot.


Ambushes, shootings and other attacks, blamed on loyalists of Saddam Hussein, have plagued American soldiers in Iraq in recent weeks � but so far there has been no sign of journalists being explicitly targeted. An American soldier guarding the museum was shot and killed by a sniper on Thursday.


More presently.