Saturday, May 01, 2004

STUPID MICROSOFT-WORD-X SPELL-CHECKER: so far today it has told me to use "lie out" when I meant "lay out" (i.e., set out) and has suggested correcting "the righteous are" to "the righteouses are." Who programs these things anyway?
Expanded display to be here in May (Bucyrus Telegraph Forum)

By Mike Redelson
Telegraph-Forum staff

An exhibit of rare biblical documents and a portion of the Dead Sea Scrolls that was in Bucyrus just before Easter is returning May 7 and 8.

Rare biblical documents and a portion of the Dead Sea Scrolls are making their way back to Bucyrus, this time in expanded form.

Victory in Truth Ministries Pastor J.C. Church is once again hosting the privately owned exhibit, "From the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Forbidden Book" from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, May 7 and 8 and after church services on Sunday, May 9.

The Israel Museum will reopen the Shrine of the Book, the wing that houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, on June 7 after a yearlong renovation. The restored shrine will display eight of the most complete Scrolls discovered.
THERE'S AN INTERVIEW WITH JOHN RUSSELL in the Art Newspaper. Excerpts:
John Russell (50), professor of archaeology at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, has been in Baghdad for seven months. He has served as the acting senior adviser of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to the Iraqi Ministry of Culture. (The senior advisor has been, by agreement, an Italian, and Professor Russell has been in charge while the post has been temporarily vacant.) Professor Russell has helped to coordinate reconstruction of the National Museum and to improve security at archaeological sites around the country. His tour is about to come to a close, but before his departure from Baghdad, Jason Kaufman of The Art Newspaper spoke with him about the ongoing rebuilding of Iraq�s cultural infrastructure.

The Art Newspaper: Considering the reported increase in violence, you must feel constantly threatened. What is the security situation like for you?
John Russell: I feel a general level of danger. We get rocketed frequently. The bombings are directed at the Coalition headquarters, the so-called Green Zone, the main administrative area where we all live. It�s a few blocks from the Antiquities department complex where I spend a fair amount of time. I�m provided with security outside the Green Zone.

The biggest risk most of us academics take for our field is whether we'll get a job after the Ph.D. Professor Russell has been risking his life.
What is your general assessment of the work done to date?
JR: The general condition of the museum and library has been steadily improving. Archeological site looting seems to be improving, but it�s a job that will take more work. As long as there are poor people in Iraq it�s going to be a real challenge�especially while there are people willing to buy at the consumer end. But as far as I can tell the looting of sites has improved gradually, thanks particularly to the work of the Coalition, most notably in Nasiriya province where the Italian Carabinieri have made it a priority. Also in Babel province where the local CPA administration has set up an extensive site-protection system with a lot of guards, trucks and motorcycles. As far as I can tell that�s been providing pretty good protection. CPA has pledged $1 million in the south central region for equipment to protect archaeological sites. I haven�t seen if that�s been put into place yet.

Also, I am relieved to read that, contra the fears of the Telegraph/BBC in September, the security of Nimrud seems to have been maintained so far. There have been definite improvements overall during the last year, but much remains to be done. I hope that whoever replaces John Russell has the same energy and efficiency.

Friday, April 30, 2004

THIS JUST ARRIVED IN THE POST: The Dead Sea Scrolls Reader, edited by Donald W. Parry and Emanuel Tov (Brill), Part one, Texts Concerned with Religious Law, Part two, Exegetical Texts, and Part four, Calendrical and Sapiential Texts (only the last seems to be available from Amazon). Three volumes out and three to go. I didn't, alas, get these for free, but I did get them at half price, which is nice because they're kind of expensive. They cover the nonbiblical Dead Sea Scrolls corpus, with facing-page Hebrew/Aramaic and English translations. Unlike the Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition, they indicate damaged letters. I haven't had time to work through any of the content yet, but the layout looks good. More please!
ARCHAEOLOGY MAGAZINE has a new issue out (May/June 2004). In it, inter alia, President Jane C. Waldbaum decries the lack of attention to antiquities in Afghanistan in favor of Iraq; Lisa Young has a brief look at the forged Michigan Relics (discussed earlier on PaleoJudaica); and Eric A. Powell profiles a husband-wife archaeologist team who write historical (well, prehistorical) novels. (May they outsell The Da Vinci Code!) Plus, Ramses I (or, at any rate, some Egyptian king) has returned to Cairo from Canada. There are lots of other goodies too, so have a look at the main page.

UPDATE (1 May): Chuck Jones e-mails:
That mummy you mentioned from Archaeology magazine was actually returned from the Michael Carlos Museum At Emory University in Atlanta. Some years ago, they had purchased it from a Niagara Falls (CA) freak show, where it had been on exhibit, more or less unnoticed, for ages.
FREE LATIN LESSONS IN ROME, inspired in part by the success of Gibson's The Passion of the Christ:
Latin lovers sought in Rome

Rome, , Apr. 29 (UPI) -- To aid thousands of tourists who wander Rome snapping pictures of Latin inscriptions they don't understand, the city is offering free lessons in Latin.

Beginning next month in 15 downtown bookstores, Aroldo Barbieri, professor of Latin at Rome University and other scholars will conduct a series of three two-hour "digestible" segments to introduce tourists to history, food, dress and entertainment, as well as classical writers such as Petronius and Suetonius.

NEWS FROM QATAR. Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ has been very successful in Qatar:
Gibson's movie proves big hit in Qatar (Middle East Online

"The Passion of the Christ" is close to breaking box office records in tiny gas-rich state of Qatar.

DOHA - Mel Gibson's controversial film "The Passion of the Christ," now in its sixth week of screening here, is close to breaking box office records in Qatar, a movie industry executive said Thursday.

"Some 25,000 people have seen the movie so far, bringing it close to breaking the box office record of 30,000 viewers held by Titanic," Abdul Rahman Mohsen, director of the Qatar Cinema Company, said.

But the grounds for approving its showing are cause for some concern:
Prominent Qatar-based Egyptian-born Muslim cleric Sheikh Yussef al-Qaradawi has backed the showing of the movie, albeit only to adults, a stand which Mohsen said had contributed to its success.

Qaradawi has said Gibson's movie exposes "the Jews' crime in sending Jesus to be crucified ... although we (Muslims) believe he was not crucified."

Qaradawi said he was therefore in favor of screening the movie even though Muslims are normally against depicting prophets on screen.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

PSCO UPDATE: A couple of days ago Bob Kraft sent an e-mail to the PSCO list (Philadelphia Seminar on Christian Origins) and Ioudaios-L which included the following information on the topic for 2004-2005:
TOPIC for PSCO 42 (2004-2005):

Thank you for your responses regarding the topic for the coming year (PSCO 42). It was an unusually close contest, but in the end, the Astrological proposal pulled away for a decisive victory. Please let Sarah Schwarz ( and/or Todd Krulak ( know of any suggestions you may have for topics and participants (including yourselves).

The results of the voting are as follows, with 28 total responses, but some voters giving only their top choice or choices (rather than a ranked list of all three):

1. The Impact of Astrological (and related) Traditions on Early Jewish and Early Christian Perspectives (Sarah Schwarz and Todd Krulak are willing to serve)
- 13 first place, 5 second, 6 third (4 unranked).

2. Stoic Influences on Early Jewish and Early Christian Developments (Howard Kee and Harry Tolley are willing to serve as co-chairs)
- 9 first place, 8 second place, 6 third (5 unranked);

3. An Updated Electronic English Version of Harnack's Mission and Expansion of Early Christianity, incorporating the new materials from the 1924 German edition and updating as appropriate (e.g. more recent archaeological evidence)
-- 8 first place, 7 second, 6 third (7 unranked).

For further information on the PSCO, please go to

Robert A. Kraft, Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania
227 Logan Hall (Philadelphia PA 19104-6304); tel. 215 898-5827
MORE ON THE JEWISH CATACOMBS under the proposed Holocaust museum in Mussolini's former home: David Nishimura points to web pages on them here and here.
BRAVEHEART IN A BRA? Looks like Mel won't be doing The Maccabees as his next film after all. This according to the London Times:
Gibson to film 'Braveheart in a bra' - the Boudicca story

They are already calling it Braveheart in a bra.

Mel Gibson, the director and actor who specialises in tales of underdogs rebelling against evil overlords, has decided to add the story of Boudicca to his list of film credits.

Gibson's production company, Icon, has spent two years developing a script and has now appointed Gavin O'Connor to direct the film.

The Hollywood star's latest venture will tell the tale of the fierce widow of the king of the Iceni, a rich Celtic tribe who lived in what is now East Anglia.

History recounts how, in revenge for the rape of her two daughters by the Romans after the death of her husband Prasutagus, Boudicca led a bloody revolt against the occupation of Britain.


I wonder if the dialogue will be in subtitled Latin and first-century Celtic.
GOOD FEED? Okay, I think I understand the problem now. I have, from time to time, been writing out blog entries in a Microsoft Word document and then pasting them into the Blogger "Create New Post" box. Evidently, Microsoft Word (which I've already learned to hate on other grounds) sticks in extra, invisible characters that screw up the RSS Feed. The solution seems to be for me to save the Word document as text-only before transferring to Blogger. I will do this from now on and this post has been done in this way. Please let me know if there are still problems.

Thanks to Greg Gershman and Jim West for sending advice.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

BAD FEED: Evidently, some glitch in PaleoJudaica's RSS feed is preventing the site from being listed among the's Top Ten Bible News Sites. Mark Goodacre kindly suggested that we belonged on the list and the owners of the site replied:
I thought so too, but their feed was not valid due to use of non-unicode characters (as produced by cutting and pasting from Word for example). Due to the current limitations of XML which RSS and Atom are based on, there is no way around it. I did try to hack it by replacing the incoming non-unicode characters but to no avail.

If they produce a valid feed then I will put it in ASAP.

I'm afraid I have no idea what this is about. I put in a link to the site feed as soon as Blogger started offering one, but I haven't done anything with it since and I don't use RSS feed myself, just because I haven't had time to think about it. If someone can explain to me what I am doing wrong and (or) tell me how to fix the glitch, I will be happy to remedy the matter if I can.
IRAQI-ANTIQUTIES-PROTECTION BILL ALERT from McGuire Gibson on the IraqCrisis list. If you're in the United States, please do send a letter in support of it.
Dear Colleagues:

Many of us have been working to gain the passage of a bill in Congress to ban the illegal trade in Iraqi antiquities and other cultural property. The time has come to show support in writing for senators and representatives to enact the "Emergency Protection for Iraqi Cultural Antiquities Act of 2004." The bill was included in the Senate version of the Miscellaneous Trade and Technical Corrections Act (H.R. 1047). H.R. 1047 has passed both the House and Senate, and is awaiting the appointment of conferees. This bill, although not the ideal one that we were backing all last year, will protect Iraqi cultural heritage by forbidding trade in Iraqi antiquities for a period of 5 years. The five-year provision, which was inserted into the bill at our urging, will give time for a new Iraqi government to ask for the enactment of a bilateral treaty with the U.S. to make the ban permanent.

At this point, the bill has only to go before a Senate/House conference to be adopted. As you can see in the sample letter I am appending, there is a time constraint here, and we must ask that the conference be held as soon as possible.

Please make personal changes in the sample letter, but if you have no time to do that, please do send the letter as is. It is especially important to write to anyone on the two committees who comes from your home state, or with whom you have a personal connection. Please note that the three names listed at the top of the list of committees (Grassley, Thomas, and Daschle) are the most important people to contact. They are the ones who can set the conference dates. If you have any personal contact with any of these men, or with anyone on the two committees, please mention that fact in your letter.

Please ask friends and colleagues, Deans and Presidents of universities to add their voices. These letters do have an effect, and they are taken into account.


McGuire Gibson
Professor, Mesopotamian Archaeology
Oriental Institute
University of Chicago
and President, American Association for Research in Baghdad


Dear Senator/Representative _____________:

I am writing to express my strong support for the "Emergency Protection for Iraqi Cultural Antiquities Act of 2004." The bill was included in the Senate version of the Miscellaneous Trade and Technical Corrections Act (H.R. 1047). H.R. 1047 has passed both the House and Senate, and is awaiting the appointment of conferees.

Prompt passage of the "Emergency Protection for Iraqi Cultural Antiquities Act" is vital to ensure the protection of Iraqi's cultural objects, which have been looted from museums and archaeological sites throughout the country. The Senate provision would continue emergency import restrictions on Iraqi archaeological and artistic artifacts. By preventing the items from reaching markets in the United States, the bill would go a long way towards ending the illegal trade of Iraqi antiquities, and would discourage the looting of museums and historic sites.

The existing emergency restrictions expire in June 2004, when the transition to the new Iraqi government is schedule to occur. Given the rapidly approaching deadline, I urge you to go to conference on the miscellaneous tariff bill as soon possible, and to retain the Senate language protecting Iraqi antiquities in the final version of the bill.

Thank you for your consideration.


The three most important addressees are:

The Honorable Charles Grassley (R-IA)
Finance Committee
219 Dirksen
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Bill Thomas (R-CA)
Ways & Means Committee
1102 Longworth
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Tom Daschle (D-SD)
509 Hart Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Members of the Senate Finance Committee:

Charles Grassley (R-IA), Chair Max Baucus (D-MT), Ranking Member
Orrin Hatch (R-UT) John Rockefeller (D-WV)
Don Nickles (R-OK) Tom Daschle (D-SD)
Trent Lott (R-MS) John Breaux (D-LA)
Olympia Snowe (R-ME) Kent Conrad (D-ND)
Jon Kyl (R-AZ) Bob Graham (D-FL)
Craig Thomas (R-WY) Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
Rick Santorum (R-PA) John Kerry (D-MA)
Gordon Smith (R-OR) Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)
Jim Bunning (R-KY)

Letters to U.S. Senators should be sent to the following address (street and room numbers are not necessary):

The Honorable ___(full name)_____________
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator __(last name)____:

Members of the House Ways & Means Committee:

Bill Thomas (R-CA), Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY), Ranking Member

Phil Crane (R-IL) Pete Stark (D-CA)
Clay Shaw (R-FL) Robert Matsui (D-CA)
Nancy Johnson (R-CT) Sander Levin (D-MI)
Amory Houghton (R-NY) Benjamin Cardin (D-MD)
Wally Herger (R-CA) Jim McDermott (D-WA)
Jim McCrery (R-LA) Jerry Kleczka (D-WI)
Dave Camp (R-MI) John Lewis (D-GA)
Jim Ramstad (R-MN) Richard Neal (D-MA)
Jim Nussle (R-IA) Michael McNulty (D-NY)
Sam Johnson (R-TX) William Jefferson (D-LA)
Jennifer Dunn (R-WA) John Tanner (D-TN)
Mac Collins (R-GA) Xavier Becerra (D-CA)
Rob Portman (R-OH) Lloyd Doggett (D-TX)
Philip English (R-PA) Earl Pomeroy (D-ND)
J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ) Max Sandlin (D-TX)
Jerry Weller (R-IL) Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH)
Kenny Hulshof (R-MO)
Scott McInnis (R-CO)
Ron Lewis (R-KY)
Mark Foley (R-FL)
Kevin Brady (R-TX)
Paul Ryan (R-WI)
Eric Cantor (R-VA)

Letters to Members of the House of Representatives should be sent to the following address (street and room numbers are not necessary):

The Honorable __(full name)____________
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Representative __(last name)_______:
McGuire Gibson
Professor of Mesopotamian Archaeology
Oriental Institute, University of Chicago

Please forward or repost this appeal as necessary.
A NEW HOLOCAUST MUSEUM is to be built under Mussolini's former home, the Villa Torlonia, in Rome. This article in the Washington Times has this interesting aside, about which I would like to hear more:
Beneath the villa is an enormous network of Jewish catacombs. Some six miles in length, it dates to the third and fourth centuries and contains some of the best-preserved paintings and inscriptions of the Jewish community.

UPDATE (29 April): More here.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

DAVID NISHIMURA has harsh words for The Da Vinci Code. Well deserved too. He says that historians
"by now are heartily sick and tired of fiction writers laying claim to historical accuracy based on extensive research -- a telling inversion of the historian's standard disclaimer that the writer is responsibly for any errors, which clearly acknowledges that errors there inevitably will be."
Too true. Read the whole post.
LEMCHE COLLOQUIUM. Jim West e-mails:
I am pleased to announce that beginning June 7 and continuing through June 21 Niels Peter Lemche will be participating in a colloquium on the Biblical Studies discussion list ( The topic of the colloquium is "The Bible and History".

If you would like to participate, please sign up for list membership. Appropriate Posts will be forwarded to Professor Lemche and he will respond on list. The topic is rather wide ranging in order to allow maximum latitude within the dual realms where history and biblical texts intersect (if they indeed do).

Also, if you are a member of another list that deals with either biblical historiography or the history of Israel or the Near East, if you would be so kind as to pass this announcement on to them as well I would be grateful.

THE JOURNAL FOR THE STUDY OF THE PSEUDEPIGRAPHA has a new issue out (13.2, 2002 - even though actually published in 2004). The web page has a table of contents with abstracts:
The Psalms of Solomon and the New Testament: Intertextuality and the Need for a Re-Evaluation
Brad Embry

Josephus�s Portrayal of Phinehas
David Bernat

Vita Apologetica: The Lives of Josephus and Paul in Apologetic Historiography
Robert Gnuse

Identity Transformation and Authorial Identification in Joseph and Aseneth
Michael Penn

The History of the Rechabites and the Jeremiah Literature
Ronit Nikolsky

Viewed from Another Angle: Purity and Impurity in the Book of Jubilees
James C. VanderKam

HE'S BACK! Francis Deblauwe's 2003 Iraq War & Archaeology website is up and running again. I missed this IraqCrisis message yesterday due to our Internet outage and subsequent backlog of messages. He writes:
The 2003 Iraq War & Archaeology site was on hiatus from April 4 to 24 due to the fact that my Mac computer died and I lacked the funds to buy a new one right away. The possible donation of a computer by a foundation eventually fell through because I am not affiliated: the classic catch-22 as that was exactly the reason why I needed help in the first place... However, Jim Davila and Jack Sasson were so kind to launch an appeal on my behalf via the internet. I received enough donations to allow me to purchase a new eMac, beefed up with RAM that I salvaged from my broken iMac. I was also able to rescue my old hard drive. With a few more donations I might get some professional web software, e.g., Dreamweaver, so as to improve the design and speed up the updating process. I sincerely want to thank all that have provided assistance.

Let me second that. Thanks to all the readers of IraqCrisis, PaleoJudaica, etc., who made a contribution. And, if you haven't yet, it sounds like he could still use some more help.

Welcome back, Francis.
Beni Atoori is a Hollywood filmmaker and President of Stonelock Pictures in Los Angeles. He is producing the ancient epic of Gilgamesh for theatrical release, starring Michael Madsen, Omar Sharif, Billy Zane and Robert Davi. A cultural partnership has been formed between this production company and the Baghdad Museum Project, bringing to our efforts the visualization resources of a motion picture that recreates life in ancient Mesopotamia. The filmmaking process itself will explore how culture speaks to modern dilemmas.


Gilgamesh will be directed by Academy Award winner Roger Christian, who earned an Oscar for his innovative work as Art Director on the original Star Wars film, A New Hope. As Art Director and Production Designer, he went on to apply his eye for convincing detail and "used realism" to the original Alien film, for which he received an Academy Award nomination. His film, The Dollar Bottom, meanwhile had won an Academy Award for Best Dramatic Short.


(Via Phluzein.)
ISRAEL'S STORY IN MAPS: Israel Insider is launching an online resource of 70+ maps of Israel from the ancient period to the present. Access to the whole site costs $4.95/year, but you can view some of it, including a few maps of ancient Israel (to 11th century C.E.), for free.

Monday, April 26, 2004


Kalimi, Isaac
The Book of Chronicles: Historical Writing and Literary Devices [Hebrew]
Reviewed by Frederick E. Greenspahn

Lohfink, Norbert
Translated by Sean McEvenue
Reviewed by Raymond C. Van Leeuwen

B�e, Sverre
Gog and Magog: Ezekiel 38-39 as Pre-Text for Revelation 19, 17-21 and 20, 7-10
Reviewed by Michael Barram

Davis, Stephan K.
The Antithesis of the Ages: Paul's Reconfiguration of Torah
Reviewed by Gary D. Salyer

Gathercole, Simon J.
Where Is Boasting?: Early Jewish Soteriology and Paul's Response in Romans 1-5
Reviewed by H. H. Drake Williams III

Moscovitz, Leib
Talmudic Reasoning, From Casuistics to Conceptualization: Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism
Reviewed by Siam Bhayro

Neusner, Jacob
Judaism When Christianity Began: A Survey of Belief and Practice
Reviewed by Zev Garber

Sokoloff, Michael
A Dictionary of Jewish Babylonian Aramaic of the Talmudic and Geonic Periods
Reviewed by Stefan Schorch
JUST GOT MY FREE COPY of Inscriptiones Judaicae Orientis I Eastern Europe. It's not yet on Amazon, but I mentioned it here a while ago. Supervising doctoral students does have its perks. Thanks Alex and congratulations.
INTERNET ACCESS has been down all day at the University and is still not reliable. Sorry for the silence; I'll try to post some things later on.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

READER EVY NELSON e-mails regarding the missing Greek on the cross inscription in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ:
I think it's an important point to bring up because the omission of Greek from the plaque is a key to grasping Gibson's storytelling objectives. The omission has to represent a conscious departure from, not just a historical critical perception of the times (which has been the critique leveled at Gibson for the omission of Greek dialogue), but also a literal Gospel reading, which one might have assumed would be a central Gibson concern if one is thinking that he is simply a Bible literalist. To grasp these objectives is to then understand why Gibson, in addition to omitting Greek speech, prefers a more medieval-sounding Latin over the Latin of Pilate's day. These are not anachronisms born of ignorance.

Did you ever see Terry Mattingly's article on Passion's use of language? Given the cacophony of outcry from language specialists, Gibson appears to be clarifying his earlier assertion about having the movie "tell the truth" in that he now speaks of contrasting "the sacrifice of the cross with the sacrifice of the altar." In seeing the movie and deciphering its rich symbology, it's in an assertion like this that answers about presumed historical mistakes (language choices, wrist nailing, hand washing, and so forth) are to be found.

Excerpt from that article:
It is crucial to realize that the images and language at the heart of "The Passion of the Christ" flow directly out of Gibson's personal dedication to Catholicism in one of its most traditional and mysterious forms - the 16th-century Latin Mass.

"I don't go to any other services," the director told the Eternal Word Television Network. "I go to the old Tridentine Rite. That's the way that I first saw it when I was a kid. So I think that that informs one's understanding of how to transcend language. Now, initially, I didn't understand the Latin. ... But I understood the meaning and the message and what they were doing. I understood it very fully and it was very moving and emotional and efficacious, if I may say so."

The goal of the movie is to shake modern audiences by brashly juxtaposing the "sacrifice of the cross with the sacrifice of the altar - which is the same thing," said Gibson. This ancient union of symbols and sounds has never lost its hold on him. There is, he stressed, "a lot of power in these dead languages."

Thus, the seemingly bizarre choice of Latin and Aramaic was actually part of the message. The goal of Gibson's multicultural, multilingual team was to make a statement that transcended any one time, culture and tongue.

Note: I have moved this from an update on the review post to here for esthetic reasons.
MARK GOODACRE has an essay on the Gibson movie over at the Bible and Interpretation website:
The Passion, Pornography and Polemic: In Defense of The Passion of the Christ

While there are some troubling elements in the film, as there are in all the Jesus films, the case that the film is peculiarly anti-Semitic, or, more accurately, anti-Judaic, has been seriously overstated.

This is a must-read. I especially appreciated the way he placed the film into the context of other Jesus movies, an area few people are as well informed on as Mark. He also makes a very interesting observation about the resurrection scene which had never occurred to me.