Wednesday, January 07, 2004

QUESTIONS FOR PAUL (via Hypotyposeis): On the Corpus Paulinum list Jeffrey Gibson has asked the list:

Imagine if you will (please forgive me, Rod Serling) that

(a) we had the mid 60's CE Paul before us for an hour or two and that

(b) we were able to make ourselves understood by him, and that

(c) he had agreed to answer anything about himself, his career, his
beliefs, and his writings about which we might be inclined to inquire,.

what questions would you put to him?

Let's limit this to your top five.
In another message he clarifies:

OK, once again, I see I have not made the scenario clear enough. What I intended to be part of the "let's imagine" is the premise that we **go back to** Paul's time, and to that point in his time just before Paul met his end. The scenario is not that Paul is brought into ours, let alone that he's been schooled in all that's happened since his time.
I'm not on the Corpus Paulinum list (and I'm not a Paul specialist), but for your amusement, here are the questions I would ask Paul:

1. Have you ever asked Jesus' brother James or his disciples Peter and John to tell you about Jesus and, if so, what did they say?

2. Here are a bunch of letters people claim you wrote. (I brought them with me in my time machine.) Please look them over and tell me which ones you did write and whether the text I have of them presents accurately what you actually said.

3. There's going to be a guy they call "Luke" who will write some stuff about you. Do you know him? Here's his book, which I've also brought in my time machine. What do you think of the parts about you?

4. Do you believe that everybody is "saved" in the end or not?

5. What do you mean by the "wrath of God" in your letter to the Romans? Is this some kind of eternal damnation or is it something else (see previous question)?
Jeffrey doesn't say if we're allowed to bring things in our time machine, but he doesn't say we can't either, so I'm not sure whether I can get away with questions 2 and 3 as written. If he didn't mean we could, they would have to be revised. And they also might take more than an hour or two to discuss!

This exercise reminds me of a midterm question I used to ask my undergraduates back when I taught Introduction to the New Testament at another institution:

Imagine a meeting between a leader of the Q people, the Apostle Paul, and an Essene leader from Qumran in the year C.E. 58. Write your essay from the perspective of the Q person and explain how and where you (the Q person) agree and disagree with the other two leaders on observance of Torah law, proper religious lifestyle, relations with the gentiles (including proselytizing), the correct celebration of the communal meal, and the end of the world.
UPDATE (9 January): Q-heretic Mark Goodacre comments regarding my midterm question:
Nice idea; I'd be interested to hear a conversation between John Kloppenborg, Paul and a Qumran person!
Good one Mark!

If Mark can teach the undergraduates in his Intro to the NT course about the Q theory and why it's wrong, and get them to take it all in, well, my hat's off to him. Me, I'm a Q-agnostic, although I'm happy enough to assume the two-source theory as the current most widely accepted reconstruction when I need to think about such things.

UPDATE (11 March 2014): Just noticed a misstatement ("Paul" for "Peter") and a typo in this one. Now corrected.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

WHICH TESTAMENT AGAIN? Reader "Hershel" refers me to this New York Times column by William Safire on Howard Dean's comments on the Book of Job:

As he heads into what H. L. Mencken called the "Bible Belt," the candidate moved to plug an apparent hole in his r�sum� about an interest in religion. After hearing Dean's observation beginning "If you know much about the Bible � which I do," a reporter asked about his favorite New Testament book. Dean named Job, adding, "But I don't like the way it ends . . . in some of the books of the New Testament, the ending of the Book of Job is different . . . there's one book where there's a more optimistic ending, which we believe was tacked on later."

The candidate returned an hour later to confess error: Job was in the Old Testament, not the New. Beyond that slip, his recollection of "one book where there's a more optimistic ending" is muddled; the Book of Job in the Old Testament has an upbeat ending, with God doubling Job's former wealth and giving him new children for having sustained his piety through all his trials.

"Many people believe that the original version of Job is the version where . . . Job ends up completely destitute and ruined," said Dean in his correction. That's accurate, though there's no other Job book in Scripture with an optimistic ending other than the familiar one. I think he means that some scholars believe that the Old Testament Book of Job that we know was amended by later rabbis fearful of portraying God as unjust.

Many people believe," concluded Dean, presumably among them, "that the original ending was about the power of God, and the power of God was almighty and all knowing, and it wasn't necessary that everybody was going to be redeemed."

Let's not be too hard on Dean; we all make mistakes and people like him have to live with their mistakes being trumpeted across the world at the speed of light. And I do give him credit for fessing up promptly and offering an - admittedly incomplete - correction. Safire's further corrections are essentially right, although the final form of the Job was set centuries before there were any rabbis.

Bruce Zuckerman has a very interesting book on the historical development and redaction of the Book of Job: Job the Silent: A Study in Historical Counterpoint. He argues that the poetic dialogues (with the downbeat ending) are a satire of the story in the prose prologue and epilogue (which have the upbeat ending). So he thinks the downbeat version is a theological correction by someone who didn't like the original all-better-now happy ending.

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) � Talk about your electronic global village.

TV Orient, a television channel in Southfield that locally produces programming aimed at Arab-American viewers, has been added to Comcast Digital on Channel 667.

Once available three hours a day and only by satellite dish, the 18-year-old channel has expanded its programming to 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It is now available to an estimated half-million viewers of Middle Eastern descent in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw and Genesee counties.


Programming is broadcast in English, Arabic and the ancient language Aramaic. Aramaic still is spoken by Chaldeans who are Iraqi Roman Catholics.

"EYES ON MESOPOTAMIAN GLORY." The New York Times reports that the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago has opened a new display hall of Mesopotamian artifacts and the University of Pennsylvania has assembled a traveling exhibit about Mesopotamia.

Note that the URL the article gives for the Oriental Institute Iraq Database has an errant space in it, which makes it unusable. The correct URL is Note to the New York Times: it's always a good idea to double-check your links to make sure they work!

Monday, January 05, 2004

REBECCA LESSES is in Israel and has visited the Temple Mount.
THE JOURNAL OF SEMITIC STUDIES also has a new issue out (48.2). There are three articles of interest:


S.P. Harrison

University of Western Australia

Semiticists recognize that pre-modern Northwest Semitic languages had vowel quantity distinctions, but disagree regarding whether quantity was lexical or was predictable from factors like stress or syllable structure. These discussions fail to recognise that quantity cannot be a function of syllable structure and stress if those parameters are themselves quantity-sensitive. In this paper the author proposes a metrical account of main stress in Jewish Literary Aramaic (JLA) under which stress and vowel reduction are governed by an end-right quantity-sensitive (moraic) trochaic foot. It follows that vowel quantity must be lexically specified in JLA for at least some vowels positions, and also that some JLA final vowels generally regarded as long were in fact short. This last conclusion heralds later developments in other Aramaic dialects. Finally, the author argues for some cases of final CV metathesis in JLA.


David Talshir

Ben-Gurion University, Beer-Sheva, Israel

In different languages, or dialects of the same language spoken in different regions, words originally meaning 'above/upper' as opposed to 'below/lower' serve as terms for different cardinal directions, depending on the topographical character of the region (highland versus lowland). Thus, in the Akkadian of Nuzi el[emacr]nu (literally 'above') indicates 'East', while in the Aramaic of the Mandaeans mulia 'upper' means 'North'. Considering the topography of Egypt and Syria and the broad context in which the terms occur, two conclusions follow: (1) In Egyptian Aramaic 'lyh (literally 'upper') indicates 'South', and th&05B4;tyh (literally 'lower') indicates 'North'. (2) 'ly 'rm = ��&05F4;���� �?��ɜ��� = Southern Syria (Lebanon Mountains), and th&05B4;t 'rm = ɻ��&05F3;ɗ [Sorry, I don't have the right fonts installed to make the Greek and Hebrew work properly.]


Stefan Schorch


The work on this study has been made possible by a valuable grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft Bonn, Germany. It forms part of a more comprehensive project carried out by the present author, which is devoted to the significance of the Samaritan reading tradition for the textual criticism of the Torah.

The use of the Hebrew article underwent changes throughout the history of Biblical Hebrew. Some of these changes are documented by the differences between the consonantal framework and the Masoretic vocalization. A comparative view of these materials and the respective variants in the Samaritan Pentateuch including its reading tradition provides further insights. With regard to the use of the article, the consonantal framework of the Masoretic text preserves the oldest stratum, while the Masoretic vocalization represents the youngest. The Samaritan tradition, on the other hand, is uniform in both its parts - consonantal framework and reading tradition - and holds a middle position between the two Masoretic strata from a historical point of view. However, both parts of the Masoretic tradition share at least one common feature, which set it as a whole apart from the Samaritan tradition: the generic use of the article.

There are also many book reviews relevant to ancient Judaism, but I haven't time to put in links to them right now. Go have a look yourself. (Note to the editors of JSS: It would be a lot easier to skim the review titles if they were all on the same page, instead of each hidden behind its own link. This would also save bother in composing the web page.)

Requires paid individual or institutional subscription to access the articles and reviews.
REVUE BIBLIQUE has a new issue out (111.1). It contains five articles, all having to do with the Hebrew Bible or ancient Judaism. Note in particular the following:

RB 2004 T.111-1 (pp. 28-30)


11519 Monticello Ave.
Silver Spring
United States

The Targum on Hab 2:2

RB 2003 [sic - should be 2004] T.111-1 (pp. 31-60)

Gershon HEPNER

1561 Reeves Street
United States
The Begettings Of Terah and the Structure of Genesis and the Tetrateuch: A Zadokite Polemic

An analysis of the formula we'eleh t�led�t, "these are the begettings", which appears 11 times in Genesis suggests that the pivotal patriarch in Genesis is Terah, the ancestor not only of Abraham but of all the four matriarchs, since the sixth time the formula appears is in association with his begettings. The formula appears a twelfth time in Num. 3:1 where it denotes the begettings of Aaron and Moses. The fact that the first and last time the formula appears in Genesis links the begettings of the heavens and earth to those of Jacob highlights the importance of the Israelites. However, the fact that there is a twelfth citation of the formula in Num 3:1 implies that the redactor of the Tetrateuch considered that the Aaaronites who follow the Mosaic law facilitate the union of the heavens and earth implied by the first citation of the formula at the beginning of Genesis. Analysis of the use of the formula suggests that the Tetrateuch reflects the ascendancy of the Zadokites after the Babylonian exile and their adoption of Deuteronomic law excluding Canaanites.

RB 2004 T.111-1 (pp. 79-89)


�cole Biblique
P.O.B. 19053

Where was the Antonia Fortress?

The hypothesis that the present Haram esh-Sharif/Temple Mount was once the Antonia fortress cannot be sustained. It does not conform to what we know of the Antonia from Josephus, and it does not account for the archaeological remains in the western section of the north wall.

The website only contains the abstracts.
LOS ANGELES TIMES READERS respond to David Klinghoffer's recent article on Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.
BACK TO WORK! The holidays are over and I'm back in my office. I managed to get some rest; spend some time with my family; build a space ship out of cardboard boxes with my son; blog; nearly finish Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver; and read and make extensive notes on about forty articles, most pertaining to a particular section in Chapter One. The last would feel like more of an accomplishment if I hadn't located, cited in the ones I read, some forty or so other articles I need to track down and read too. But that goes on the back burner for now. Just before the break I'd completed a detailed outline of Chapter Two, so now it's time to finish it. Full speed ahead!

Sunday, January 04, 2004

PIGS, ISRAEL, AND JUDAISM: in a long article titled The Secret Life of Pigs" (Jerusalem Post) Lauren Gelfond tells us all about it. Here are a couple of excerpts which discuss pigs and ancient Judaism:

Anti-Semitism comes in many pig forms. One of the most famous and early anti-Jewish pig legends, says Friedman, is found in the Talmud.

"When the Romans seized Jerusalem, it says, the Jews sacrificed an animal every day. As part of an ancient war agreement, the Romans would give the Jews a pure animal every day to be part of this sacrifice. Then one day suddenly the Romans offered a pig. Eretz Israel was shocked, it understood the act was an effort to humiliate. The Talmud is full of [such] pig legends."

All periods of Jewish persecution, from the Roman Era to the Crusades and World War II, he says, are full of stories where pig names or actual pigs were used to humiliate Jews.

"It is fascinating how the pig [as opposed to another non-kosher animal] became a symbol for being anti-Jewish," says Friedman.

As the only mammal to have cloven hoofs without chewing its cud, a midrash argues that this puts the pig in a special category beyond treif, where the pig serves as a metaphor for deception and manipulation, as it sticks its foot out and masquerades as "part kosher" when there is no such concept in Judaism.


It's a confusing subject, causing many Jews to avoid all things piggy. But when it comes down to Jewish law, not all things pig are actually forbidden, says Rabbi Ya'akov Weiner, dean of the Jerusalem Center for Research, Medicine, and Halacha.


Indeed, says Weiner, there is nothing strange about using pigs in Jewish medicine.

"The Talmud was even aware of the similarity of pig physiology to humans. In Tractate Ta'anit 21b regarding if there was a plague in the animal world, the fear was that there would be a plague in pigs - not because they might transfer the plague to humans, but because of the similarity of the organs, that whatever attacked the pigs might also attack the humans."

Though there is a biblical prohibition against touching a pig's carcass, Weiner says that it refers only to priests and the Temple: "You [priests] couldn't enter [the Temple] without a mikveh [ritual bath]."

As for modern Jews, he says, it's even okay halachicly to touch a pig's carcass.

Evidently pigs are also used in traditional Jewish magic. The article opens:

Avi Ben-David is a butcher with a secret. Owner of the Ivo Delicatessen in downtown Jerusalem, he knows which former prime minister favors pork, but he won't tell. He also keeps mum the who's who list of VIPs who likewise indulge.


On a recent breezy afternoon, customers wander in and out of Ivo's Deli, joking around with Ben-David. Since its opening in 1988, the store is thriving, serving all kinds of unexpected clientele, he says. In addition to the regulars: Knesset members, judges, doctors, athletes, journalists, diplomats, and regular folk, he claims some eyebrow-raising requests.

"Sorry, this store is not kosher," he recalls with a wave of his arm, imitating his warning to the haredi man with a black hat and sidecurls, who strolled in with his modestly-clad wife.

But the couple shyly remained, he says - in search of pig bones.

"Their rabbi had told them to make an amulet with pig bones, and if the wife wore it, it would help her have children."

Rabbis do make all kinds of halachic [Jewish legal] exceptions, permitting the use of pig parts in surgery, in some medicines, and on rare occasions in mystic treatments, such as amulets. But more often, religious neighbors pop in to curse Ben-David and his non-kosher wares.

"Still, it's a good thing that pig bones could be found," says Ben-David, twisting his face in disbelief about the wife's atypical prescription. "I wish I knew whatever happened to her, if it worked."

Saturday, January 03, 2004

THE MOVIE THE ORDER is now available on video and DVD, which may account for the number of people doing searches online for "sin eaters" and being referred to PaleoJudaica. I haven't seen it myself but I've posted links and comments on the trailer, reviews, sin eaters, etc., here and here and here.

Every review I've seen has panned it.

David Suter alerts me to the following links on this site:

The Babatha papyri (Babatha was a Jewish woman who was involved with the Bar Kokhba revolt and who died in it and left behind her personal papers.)

The Zenon papyri (These are third-century B.C.E. Egyptian papyri that, inter alia, illuminate ancient Judaism. There's more on them at the Michigan Papyrus website.)

English to Greek Liddell and Scott Lexicon

English to Latin Lewis and Short Lexicon

Perseus Tools and Information ("Tools for searching and browsing the Perseus Digital Library")
"THE GREAT JERUSALEM CAPER." That is, the caper bush. Excerpts from the Jerusalem Post article:

This invincible plant is the caper bush, Capparis spinosa.

In the Talmud, Rabban Gamliel pointed to the caper as an example of what all plants will do when the Messiah comes - namely, produce new flowers and fruits daily. Capparis is the Greek word for caper; spinosa means spiny, and refers to the thorns that grow along the plant's stems.

The caper bush is native to Jerusalem, where it is found growing in crevices of ancient stone walls. At more than 50 feet above ground level, caper bushes can even be found cascading out of the cracks in the Western Wall.


There is another significant site where caper bushes grow. It is Masada National Park, near the western edges of the Dead Sea.

During Israel's great revolt against Rome in the first century, a group of zealots, determined to resist conquest, took refuge in Masada, a fortress atop an isolated mountain. For seven months, 15,000 Roman soldiers laid siege to Masada, which was defended by 967 men, women, and children. When they could no longer hold out against Rome, this band of zealots chose to die by their own hands rather than be taken captive, forced to give up their religion, and live as slaves. It is only natural that the caper bush, the world's most defiant plant, flowering luxuriously in the middle of summer, should flourish atop Masada.

Friday, January 02, 2004

MARK GOODACRE has a New Year's retrospective as well, and much of what he says is similar to my experience since starting PaleoJudaica in March. I won't be posting one myself right now. Maybe for the first anniversary, if you're good.

By the way, I've just corrected some glitches in the Links page and added a few new links, including ones to the Early Church Fathers, Graham Lester's M.A. dissertation, ABZU, and Torrey Seland's Philo blog.
STEPHEN C. CARLSON reflects on his blogging experience in Hypotyposeis.
THE 2002 SEASON OF THE KURSI EXCAVATION (of a Byzantine monastery in the Galilee) is summarized on the Bible and Interpretation website. At the bottom of the report there are links to reports on the 2000 and 2001 seasons as well.

Music man's bid to restore harmony in Middle East (the Scotsman via Archaeologica News)


A SCOTTISH musicologist is bringing a little harmony to the Middle East by recreating an instrument that has not been heard since the days of the Old Testament.

John Kenny was part of a team of scientists and musicians who resurrected the Pictish instrument known as the carnyx, a 2,000-year-old metal trumpet in the shape of a boar�s head which was used by ancient Scots in their battle against Roman invasion.

Using this experience, Kenny, a teacher at Glasgow�s Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, is now working with Israeli and Palestinian academics to recreate an ancient horn instrument described in the Old Testament.


Among the instruments that could be recreated are the hazerot, which consists of a pair of joined silver trumpets and is mentioned in the Old Testament.

Although no surviving instruments have ever been found, a representation can be found on the Arch of Titus, which portrays how they were used by defending forces when Roman Emperor Titus sacked of Jerusalem in 70AD.

The instrument was used in conjunction with the shofar - which is carved from a ram�s horn - to gather people to tribal meetings, to alert camps of danger and to signal in warfare.

Working with renowned music expert Professor Joachin Braun at the University of Jerusalem and Palestinian musician Bassam Abdul Salam, Kenny�s ambition is to create a working example of the instrument that can be used by musicians on both sides of the divide.


Thursday, January 01, 2004

THERE'S NOW A PHILO OF ALEXANDRIA BLOG, run by Torrey Seland. Excellent!
DAVID KLINGHOFFER defends Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ on the basis of Talmudic references that assume that Jewish leaders were involved in the death of Jesus. (The article is in the Los Angeles Times, which requires a lengthy and rather intrusive, but free, registration.) Excerpt:

A relevant example comes from the Talmudic division known as Sanhedrin, which deals with procedures of the Jewish high court: "On the eve of Passover they hung Jesus of Nazareth. And the herald went out before him for 40 days [saying, 'Jesus] goes forth to be stoned, because he has practiced magic, enticed and led astray Israel. Anyone who knows anything in his favor, let him come and declare concerning him.' And they found nothing in his favor."

The passage indicates that Jesus' fate was entirely in the hands of the Jewish court. The last two of the three items on Jesus' rap sheet, that he "enticed and led astray" fellow Jews, are terms from Jewish biblical law for an individual who influenced others to serve false gods, a crime punishable by being stoned, then hung on a wooden gallows. In the Mishnah, the rabbinic work on which the Talmud is based, compiled about the year 200, Rabbi Eliezer explains that anyone who was stoned to death would then be hung by his hands from two pieces of wood shaped like a capital letter T � in other words, a cross (Sanhedrin 6:4).

These texts convey religious beliefs, not necessarily historical facts. The Talmud elsewhere agrees with the Gospel of John that Jews at the time of the Crucifixion did not have the power to carry out the death penalty. Also, other Talmudic passages place Jesus 100 years before or after his actual lifetime. Some Jewish apologists argue that these must therefore deal with a different Jesus of Nazareth. But this is not how the most authoritative rabbinic interpreters, medieval sages like Nachmanides, Rashi and the Tosaphists, saw the matter.

Maimonides, writing in 12th century Egypt, made clear that the Talmud's Jesus is the one who founded Christianity. In his great summation of Jewish law and belief, the Mishneh Torah, he wrote of "Jesus of Nazareth, who imagined that he was the Messiah, but was put to death by the court." In his "Epistle to Yemen," Maimonides states that "Jesus of Nazareth � interpreted the Torah and its precepts in such a fashion as to lead to their total annulment. The sages, of blessed memory, having become aware of his plans before his reputation spread among our people, meted out fitting punishment to him."

It's unfair of Jewish critics to defame Gibson for saying what the Talmud and Maimonides say, and what many historians say.

You can read some of the relevant texts here. And I've discussed some of them here and here. I would say that we just don't know the exact circumstances of Jesus' death. The fact that he was crucified indicates Roman involvement. The Gospels certainly portray some Jewish leaders as being involved, but there is much debate on how historically accurate the Passion narratives are. The Talmud (Gemara, that is - the Amoraic commentary on the Mishnah), of course, was written many centuries after the Gospels and anything it says about the first century is very dubious. Historically speaking, what Maimonides thought is irrelevant. He lived many centuries after the writing of the Talmud and we know more about the first century than he did. But pretty much everyone seems to agree that he's right in this case: the Talmud's Yeshu was Jesus of Nazareth.

Klinghoffer's argument seems to be that some of Gibson's critics are themselves being inconsistent if they accept the authority of the Talmud and of Maimonides yet still condemn Gibson. I'll leave that debate between him and them.
A GOOD JIHAD for the New Year. Really. Professor Reuven Firestone tells us about it in "Religions Hold Mix of Justice and Mercy" (Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles).
THERE ARE ARKS AND THEN THERE ARE ARKS. Philologos tells us about it in "Sephardic Arks." (But Indy, how did Noah fit all those animals in that little box?)
HERE'S AN HISTORICAL SURVEY of celebration of the new year in various cultures around the world. It should also have mentioned that the Jewish New Year takes place in September-October (although there's evidence for another new year reckoning in ancient Israel in the spring).