Saturday, January 17, 2004


Someone has e-mailed me requesting help with a puzzle from the annual MIT Mystery Hunt, which is taking place right now. "The Lame Puzzle" is about an inscription that evidently is supposed to be in Aramaic. The puzzle reads:

"Here may be found the last words..." He reads the inscription on
the wall. "Oh forget it," says Randall. "More pointless garbage singing the praises of our ex-employer. It sticks in my throat, it does."

The inscription can be found here. I've already made some suggestions to my correspondent, but I won't repeat them here. If you have any ideas about what to make of the inscription and the clue, please e-mail me with them and I will pass them on. The objective of the competition is, by solving numerous puzzles, to find a coin hidden somewhere on the MIT campus. The only prize is the right to organize the hunt next year. Once this year's hunt is over, I'll post the solution.
THERES A NEW BOOK ON CAIAPHAS coming out soon, by British New Testament scholar Dr. Helen K. Bond, who has already published a book on Pontius Pilate. (Heads up, Mark Goodacre.) Helen's specialty is New Testament but, as you can see, her work is also much involved with ancient Judaism. She's currently working on "Josephus and the women of the Herodian Dynasty, particularly Herod�s sister Salome" (see her web page).

That's what the following story, which is all over the news sites, suggests:

Pope Meets With Israel's Chief Rabbis (The Guardian)

Friday January 16, 2004 7:46 PM


Associated Press Writer

VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pursuing his goal of reconciliation among religions, Pope John Paul II received Israel's chief rabbis Friday and assured them of his commitment to Catholic-Jewish cooperation.


For their part, rabbis Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar said they asked the pope to keep speaking out against anti-Semitism, to intercede in favor of Israeli prisoners taken by the Hezbollah militia in southern Lebanon, and to dedicate a day on the Catholic calendar to study and reflect on the Jewish faith.


Before leaving Israel, the rabbis said they would ask to search Vatican storerooms for artifacts, such as the huge golden menorah that stood in the temple in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. But Metzger said Friday they didn't mention the menorah.

``We left it to his discretion to find an object that would be important to us,'' Metzger said. ``We don't know if it (the menorah) exists, but if it does and they decide to give it to us, there will be no greater joy for us.''

They were shown manuscripts written by the 12th-century Jewish scholar Moses Maimonides and asked that they be lent to Israel.

When the Romans sacked Jerusalem in 70 A.D., they took huge amounts of booty home. Legend has it that religious articles from the Temple, including the menorah, were among them.


The notion that the Vatican has artifacts from the Jerusalem Temple strikes me as pretty unlikely, though perhaps not entirely impossible. One would have to assume that the Roman government managed to hold on to them through all its upheavals in the early centuries C.E. and then somehow they got transferred to the Church after Constantine. Given that the idea of the Vatican hiding all sorts of ancient relics is a major theme of fiction and rumor, I'd have to see some pretty striking evidence (say, the actual menorah) to believe this one.

Friday, January 16, 2004


The project is a web-based initiative to provide annotated Greek texts and tools for their analysis. The project aims both to serve, and to collaborate with, the scholarly community. Texts are annotated with various levels of linguistic information, such as text-critical, grammatical, semantic and discourse features. Beginning with the New Testament, the project aims to construct a representative corpus of Hellenistic Greek to facilitate linguistic and literary research of these important documents. These annotated texts will be made freely available to the scholarly community on the understanding that they will in return contribute any additions or alterations made to them. Further, it is anticipated that scholars will be involved in the text annotation process and in the use and development of analytical tools.

There's not much more there: the project still seems to be in its infancy. But if you're interested in getting involved, I'm sure they would be happy to hear from you. I heard about it some time ago from Professor Stanley Porter at McMaster Divinity College, who is one of the organizers.

As you may have guessed, I'm writing a chapter section today on computer resources for analyzing Hellenistic Greek texts.
HERE'S THE WEB PAGE OF THE INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR SEPTUAGINT AND COGNATE STUDIES. It includes information on their projects (including the New English Translation of the Septuagint � "NETS"); a call for papers for the July 2004 meeting in Leiden; the table of contents for every issue of the Bulletin of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studes, going back to 1968; information on becoming a member of the IOSCS; and (under "Useful Resources on the Internet") links to the online CATSS databases with the parallel aligned text of the Hebrew Bible and the Septuagint, the complete morphologically-tagged text of the Septuagint, and an under-construction corpus of Septuagint variant readings. And more. Highly recommended!
MORE ON THE MEGASITE CONCEPT: Mark Goodacre continues the discussion.

UPDATE (17 January): And Torrey Seland offers final(?) comments.
"QUMRAN-SCIENCE BY TOPIC." This is a web page by Dr. Jan Gunneweg of the Hebrew University which deals with aspects of archaeology and materials science in relation to Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Much of it is still under construction but what's there looks interesting. I'm especially looking forward to the Qumran Gossip page. (Via Bible and Interpretation News.)
ARAMAIC POP MUSIC: The Boston Globe reports on Australian singer Lisa Gerrard's newest album. Excerpt:

Gerrard's voice is otherworldly, and she often sings in unfamiliar languages -- some indigenous, some antiquated, some invented. In the mid-1990s, the writer/director Michael Mann asked her to write music for the film "Heat," and against all odds the uncompromising Gerrard has become a sought-after soundtrack composer, working on "The Insider," "Ali," and "Whale Rider,"among others, and receiving an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe for her score to "Gladiator."

Gerrard's new album, written and performed with the Irish classical composer Patrick Cassidy, comes out Tuesday. "Immortal Memory" grew out of "the desire to bring things from the ancient world into the contemporary world," Gerrard says on the phone from a London hotel."We've got a 6,000-year-old poem on the album, and it still resonates with the same compassion and beauty."

Gerrard spent long hours learning the phonetics of Gaelic -- in which she sings the first words, according to legend, uttered by a mortal in Ireland -- and Aramaic, so that she might perform the Lord's Prayer in the language Jesus spoke. It wasn't until they had finished recording that she and Cassidy realized that the album was a cohesive, thematic whole.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

SOME GOOD NEWS ON THE IRAQI ANTIQUTIES FRONT (via Francis Deblauwe's 2003 Iraq War & Archaeology website):

Archeological site protection discussed in Al-Hilla (Coalition Provisional Authority Press Release January 6, 2004)

Al Hilla, Iraq. On Monday, January 6, archaeologists, representatives from the Ministry of Culture, and Coalition Partners gathered in Al Hilla for an Archaeology Summit. They discussed the Archaeological Sites Protection Project (ASP Project), which holds responsibility for helping to safeguard more than 7,000 identified archaeological sites in Iraq.


The ASP Project intends to organize all the archaeological sites, so that each site is guarded by multiple guards who have radio communications with a nearby police department. The ASP Project will first be implemented in Dhi Qar Province. Once the Dhi Qar province is functioning properly, the plan will be implemented throughout all of Iraq. Italian Cabinnari will assist in training the guards, since they have successfully protected archaeological sites in Italy.

Currently, there are 3,232 sites being watched by 1,272 guards throughout Iraq. The ASP Project changes the status of these guards to members of the Facilities Protection Service (FPS) status. This will allow them to carry weapons and detain suspected looters for up to 12 hours. Additionally, their task will change from defenders of the sites to a strong security force that works closely with the Iraqi Police, alerting the police when looters are discovered at the archaeological sites.

Dr. Mariam U�Mran, from the Babil Archaeological Office, thanked the Coalition for their efforts in providing more than 350 guards to protect 432 archaeological sites in Babil Province. �Babil Province is better off than most provinces. But my desire is that all of Iraq will benefit from this project.�


Obviously they need many more well trained and well equipped guards and they need them now. I hope that's what results from the ASP Project.
"I AM WHO I AM" ('EHYEH 'ASHER 'EHYEH): Professor Gary Rendsburg (who, incidentally, is cited in my 1994 piece that I just posted) has a new explanation of Exodus 3:13-14, based on an ancient Egyptian myth, in the Forward. Excerpt:

Note how the reader learns only that Ra revealed his name to Isis, but that the reader never learns the name itself. It is simply too dangerous for the author to disclose the name publicly, lest malevolent forces gain control over Ra.

In light of this Egyptian text, we now can understand what the biblical text is all about. The God of Israel also has a secret name but, unlike his Egyptian counterpart, there is no danger in disclosing that name upon a simple request for the information. Given the Egyptian cultural setting of our story, the author imputes to God a mysterious name and presents Moses as seeking to learn the name. But in contrast to the long give-and-take between Isis and Ra, only a portion of which I have quoted and summarized above, the exchange between Moses and God is simple and direct. Moses asks, and God responds.

Moreover, and here is the most crucial point, it is not only Moses who learns the secret name of God, but every reader of the Torah does so as well. Space does not permit me to discuss further the exact nature of the phrase Ehyeh-asher-Ehyeh; all that is important for the present purpose is to understand that this name of God occurs only here in the Bible, and therefore stands as his special name, whether we consider it arcane, mysterious or esoteric.
MEL GIBSON'S THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST will open next month in America on 2,000 screens, which apparently is a lot for an indy film.

I've just had occasion to dig up and re-read a presentation I made at the SBL conference in 1994 in a panel discussion on ancient Hebrew dialectology. I wrote it nine years ago and I want to fiddle with a few details, but basically it has stood up well. Apart from correcting a few typos, I've left it unchanged. I even poached a paragraph for the chapter I'm currently writing. I've added the piece to the bottommost category of the links section, the one with my own work online. And here's a link as well:

Dialectology in Biblical Hebrew: A North Israelite Dialect? Synchronic and Diachronic Considerations

Wednesday, January 14, 2004


Gabriele Boccaccini e-mails:

Our intention was to post this material on the web, but the quality of the papers we have received is so high that we decided that they are worth publishing. I am glad to inform you that we have reached an agreement to publish the volume with Eerdmans. It will be a perfect companion to the volume published by Zamorani with the material from the First Enoch Seminar.


G. Boccaccini (with J.H. Ellens and J. Waddell), ed., Enoch and Qumran Origins: New Light on a Forgotten Connection

Table of Contents


ch.1 - "Daniel and Dream Visions"
Articles by Armin Lange, Matthias Henze, Matthias Albani, Helge Kvanvig, Stefan Beyerle, Patrick Tiller, James Davila, and Charlotte Hempel.
With a Response by John J. Collins.

ch. 2 - "Enoch and Jubilees"
Articles by Lawrence Shiffman, Helge Kvanvig, Hanan Eshel, Martha Himmelfarb, Jacques Van Ruiten, Jeff Anderson, Michael Daise, Annette Reed, Eibert Tigchelaar, Eric Larson, Liliana Rosso-Ubigli, and Henry Rietz.
With a Response by James VanderKam.

ch. 3 - "The Apocalypse of Weeks"
Articles by Klaus Koch, Michael Knibb, Ithamar Gruenwald, Timothy Lim, Andrea Bedenbender, Eibert Tigchelaar, and Matthias Henze.
With a Response by George W.E. Nickelsburg.

ch. 4 - "The Groningen Hypothesis Revisited"
Articles by Charlotte Hempel, Lester Grabbe, Albert Bamgartner, Benjamin Wright, Emile Puech, Torleif Elgvin, Shemaryahu Talmon, Timothy Lim, and Mark Elliot.
With a Response by Florentino Garcia Martinez

ch. 5 - "The Enochic-Essene Hypothesis Revisited"
Articles by David Suter, John Reeves, Corrado Martone, Philip Davies, James Davila, Paolo Sacchi, Torleif Elgvin, Jeff Anderson, Pierluigi Piovanelli, and Claudio Gianotto.
With a Response by Gabriele Boccaccini

Summary and Conclusion

This, of course, is very good news for the Seminar participants, since a print publication is worth more in the academic world than publication online. Still, I'm sure I'm not alone in looking forward to the day when such things can be published online - at much less expense and with a shorter time lag - and be considered as significant a publication as one with a major print publisher. It's too bad that these proceedings won't be online after all, but at least Eerdmans books are quite reasonably priced.

Thanks, Gabriele, for arranging this.
HERE'S A GEE-WIZ! TRAVELOGUE OF PETRA from, Maryland (evidently originating in the Chicago Tribune - here via Archaeologica News).
Etana turns out to be an excellent site for students of Philo and his social world too. But it makes me think about how long it is useful to keep up all these other collections of links like my own site, NTGateway, and others. I know from my own work that it eats my time, and I can't imagine how Mark Goodacre gets time to keep up his great site as a one-man work...
Have we reached the point where we should seriously consider coordinating more of this work, get some sponsors, and establish a team to work on a really megasite for Biblical studies? Viewpoints are welcome....

Mark Goodacre gave his response here.

Torrey replied:

I am glad to hear he will not stop developing his site,- but even without being a prophet, I can foresee that it will be a more and more demanding task as a one-man work.
Hence I also do think it is time to start thinking about the future. I totally agree with Mark, that SBL would be the major organisation to involve in this. Maybe the CARG sessions at the SBL Annual Meeting would be a setting to start some serious discussions on how to develop ways to get further. The relevant material on the Internet is growing so rapidly, that it is hard to imagine what even the next year will bring.

This is certainly a worthwhile conversation to have and to keep having. My thoughts:

By sponsors do you mean someone to give us web space? Probably one or more academic institution could supply that. Or if we want to have separate space, one can get quite a bit very cheaply. I'm not sure what else we would need sponsors for.

I myself have reservations about the team and megasite idea. Personally, I prefer a Darwinian "emergent order" approach in which each of us eventually says, "I'm going to do this particular thing, because I like it and other people like what I do, and drop the other things I've been doing, because I'm tired of them and someone else is doing them better anyway." Over time (and it's very early days yet), the result is likely to be something like that megasite, only distributed in a more efficient and robust way and done by people who've already shown that they really want to do it and they can do it well. Sure, there will be some duplication and redundancy, but some of those is good, and so is some competition. Some of the duplication is useful: there's a lot of readership overlap between, say, Mark Goodacre's sites and mine, but there are also a good many people interested in one area more than the other and it is convenient for them to look at Mark's links rather than mine, or vice versa. In other words, there's a fair amount of niche marketing but with a healthy overlap and I see no need to give any of it up.

True, it would potentially be useful to have a megasite of links to all our manifold sites and blogs etc. But various people, Torrey included, maintain such things. I'm not sure what the benefit would be to adding another.

Torrey, if you're feeling Internet fatigue, perhaps you should consider cutting back to just the stuff you care about the most. We would hate to see any of your sites go, but you have to decide what is worth your time and effort. And as I've said before, if anyone else wants to start up a website or blog, well, by all means go for it! If it's good and fills a niche, others will link to it and it will become part of the picture. My experience is that having more people with an Internet presence helps us all. For example, when Mark Goodacre started his blog, my hits per day went up, not down.

As for Mark's idea of involving the SBL, I would need to hear more about exactly how. It would be fine for us all to get together over beers at the meetings and discuss what we're doing and what we want to do. I suppose we could consider starting a group on Internet matters and biblical studies, although it would have to be clearly differentiated from CARG, which might not be easy. Or, as Torrey suggests, we could see about arranging a CARG session (or sessions) on the subject. But what I wouldn't want to see is a committee trying to disseminate a centrally planned vision of how biblical studies on the Internet should look. There aren't any hierarchical controls over the Internet, which means that people can and will do whatever they want, and I don't think centralization can or should change that.

That's what I think at the moment: it's rather early to contemplate an SBL-sponsored team effort and I'm not at all sure that it will ever be the way to go. As Torrey said, we don't know what will happen even in the next year (and I suspect all our guesses will be wrong), so it would be very difficult and perhaps futile and even counterproductive to try to plan an overall strategy now. But I don't mean to be a wet blanket and I'm perfectly willing to be persuaded otherwise and to get involved if I think it's in my interest.

As for my intentions, PaleoJudaica is still fun and as long as it remains fun I'll keep it going. And I'm hoping to hold another online course in the next year or two, this time blog-based rather than using e-mail.

UPDATE (15 January): Torrey responds here. I can't think of anything more to say right now except that I'll be happy to meet with those interested either at the International SBL meeting in July in Groningen or at the SBL meeting in San Antonio in November, and either beer or wine is fine with me.
ADOLFO ROITMAN, Dead Sea Scrolls curator at the Shrine of the Book (Israel Museum) will be lecturing on ancient Judaism in Billings, Montana.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

MORE ON THE ANCHOR FROM THE DEAD SEA in the Scotsman (via Archaeologica News):

Could Dead Sea Anchor Be from Herod's Royal Yacht?

An Israeli archaeologist has discovered what he says is a unique Roman-era wooden anchor on the shores of the Dead Sea, preserved by the water�s high salt and mineral content.

Archaeologist Gideon Hadas said he would like to believe � but has no proof � that the anchor came from a royal yacht of biblical King Herod who ruled Judea at the time of Jesus� birth and had a palace on nearby Mount Masada.


Hadas said that while there is no record of Herod having a boat, it is recorded that in his old age he would travel from Masada to hot springs on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea for treatments.

�It is unlikely the ailing king travelled all the way around through the harsh desert by donkey,� Hadas said. �He would probably have gone by boat.�


MORE ON LILITH from Rebecca Lesses. You can still get Lilith amulets in Jerusalem.
MORE ON THE JEWISH MANUSCRIPTS discovered in Iraq last May: The Iraqi Jewish Archive Preservation Report is now available on the website of the Middle East Librarians Association Committee on Iraqi Libraries (on the Oriental Institute's Lost Treasures from Iraq website - heads up, Chuck Jones on the IraqCrisis list).

The report opens:

Rare, historic and modern books, documents and parchment scrolls pertaining to the Iraqi Jewish community were found in the flooded basement of the Iraqi Intelligence (Mukhabahrat) headquarters in Baghdad in early May 2003. Upon removal from the basement, the wet materials (known as the Iraqi Jewish Archive) were packed into sacks and transported to a nearby location where they were partially dried. Dr. Harold Rhode, expert in Middle Eastern and Islamic Affairs, Department of Net Assessment, Office of the Secretary of Defense, provided a general review and initial sorting of the contents during the retrieval process, after which the materials were placed in 27 metal trunks. The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) arranged for the materials to be frozen, which served to stabilize the condition and eliminate further mold growth.

At the request of the Coalition Provisional Authority, conservators from the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) traveled to Baghdad June 20-23 to assess the condition of the materials and develop recommendations for their preservation. The following report outlines the preservation action plan and funding requirements for preserving this important collection.

Description of the Iraqi Jewish Archive

The Iraqi Jewish Archive contains 16th-20th century Jewish rare books, correspondence and document files, pamphlets, modern books, audio tape and parchment scrolls. Languages represented in the Archive include Hebrew, Judeo-Arabic, Arabic and English (a few items).

The following descriptive information, provided by Hebraic and Arabic area study specialists at the Library of Congress, was gleaned from the photographs taken of the frozen materials in the open trunks. Once the materials are dried and have had the mold remediated it will be possible to provide a clearer and more detailed assessment of the contents.

? Hebraic materials. The Hebraica includes an eclectic mix of materials, ranging from holiday and daily prayer books, Bibles and commentaries, sections from a damaged Torah scroll, books on Jewish law, as well as children's Hebrew language and Bible primers. The printed books were published in a variety of places, including Baghdad, Warsaw, Livorno, and Venice, and most are from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Rare works include:

? the 'Ketubim' volume of the monumental Third Rabbinic Bible that was published in Venice by Giovanni di Gara in 1568; and

? what appears to be Abraham Brudo's 'Birkat Avraham,' which was published in Venice in 1696.


There's more on the contents and much more on the steps being taken to conserve the manuscripts. There are also some color photographs.

Fontaine, Carole R.
Smooth Words: Women, Proverbs and Performance in Biblical Wisdom
Reviewed by Christine Roy Yoder

Murphy, Catherine M.
Wealth in the Dead Sea Scrolls and in the Qumran Community
Reviewed by Eileen Schuller

Otzen, Benedikt
Tobit and Judith
Reviewed by Dan W. Clanton, Jr.

Soggin, J. Alberto
Storia d'Israele: Introduzione alla storia d�Israele e Giuda dalle origini
alla rivolta di Bar Kochb�

Reviewed by James E. West

Trebolle, Julio and Susana Pottecher, eds.
Libros de los salmos: Himnos y lamentaciones
Reviewed by Pablo Torijano Morales

Kenneth Atkinson, I Cried to the Lord: A Study of the Psalms of Solomon's Historical Background and Social Setting (Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism, 84; Leiden, Brill, 2004).

The author e-mails:
Although it is not explicit in the book description, readers of the blog may be especially interested in my use of the PssSol and the Qumran texts to reconstruct the worship practices of the Sadducees at the time of Pompey's conquest as well as Jewish beliefs regarding the messiah in the first century B.C.E.

I've found his earlier work on the Psalms of Solomon very useful and I look forward to reading this as well.

Monday, January 12, 2004

"ARCHAEOLOGY, ARAMAIC, AND MEL GIBSON" appears to be an actual class taught at Loyola Marymount University by Father William Fulco, the Semitist who served as consultant to Gibson's upcoming movie The Passion of the Christ and who translated the dialogue into Aramaic. It's not unusual these days to have courses based on movies (we've had one at St. Mary's on the Bible in film) or, I suppose, even a single movie. But how many courses are based on a movie that hasn't even come out yet? Is that postmodern or what?

The writer of the letter to the Modesto Bee certainly seemed to feel she got something out of the course. It would be cool if Aramaic was actually required, but I suspect it wasn't. I wonder what the enrollments were like. And I hope the class got a special preview of the movie.
BIBLE TIMES TECH is a new exhibition in the SciTech Hands-On Museum in Aurora, Illinois. The Chicago Tribune (requires registration) has a brief article on it. Excerpt:

Based on the research of the late Ken Mull, who was a professor of religion and archeology at Aurora University, the exhibit compares tools and machines used in the Middle East during biblical times with their modern counterparts.

An electric bulb glows beside the two dozen clay oil lamps it would take to equal its light. A reconstructed well from which visitors can haul water is dwarfed next to 50-gallon bottles representing the amount of water the average Fox Valley resident uses each day. A lyre, doumbek and hanging cymbals show children what it was like to make music without a stereo system.
THE DENVER JOURNAL has begun a new online volume (no. 7). Items of interest so far include reviews ofThe Da Vinci Code and of Dunn, James D. G., ed., The Cambridge Companion to St Paul both by Craig L. Blomberg. There also are continously (I think) updated versions of an Annotated Old Testament Bibliography by M. Daniel Carroll R. and Richard S. Hess and a New Testament Exegesis Bibliography by C. L. Blomberg, and William W. Klein.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

REBECCA LESSES blogs on Lilith in Jerusalem.
WOODEN ANCHOR FROM ROMAN TIMES FOUND IN THE DEAD SEA (Haaretz via Archaeologica News). The brief article says it may have belonged to Herod's royal yacht, but it doesn't say why they think so. There's also a picture.

UPDATE (12 January): As has been noted by various people, Arutz Sheva has a little more information in its article "Roman Anchor Found In Dead Sea".

Historic sites destroyed in territories

Israel is systematically destroying historic sites in the territories, Claire Smith, president of the World Archaeological Congress (WAC), said in a statement at the weekend. She accused Israel of destroying world heritage sites in Bethlehem, Nablus and Hebron, many located on the separation fence route. Israel has admitted demolishing at least one site, an ancient Byzantine monastery in Abu Dis, partly destroyed by IDF bulldozers before Antiquities Authority inspectors arrived. Smith urged world governments to insist Israel observe the Hague treaty protecting cultural assets in armed conflicts. (Amiram Barkat)

I blogged on the original story of the damage to the Byzantine monastery here.