Saturday, September 18, 2004

OKAY, I'll give you one link on Madonna's trip to Israel. Unless something really interesting happens on it, that's it.

LATER: Well, that one seems only to work via Google, so if it gives you problems, try this A.P. article instead. It's not the same piece but it covers some of the same basic information.

Friday, September 17, 2004

MORE ON DARKLIGHT from Lisa Keys in the Forward:
If it sounds like the stuff of a Hollywood blockbuster, then that's exactly the director's point. "I wanted to present Lilith essentially as a Jewish superhero," Platt said in an interview with the Forward. "I wanted to take her, take this Jewish myth, and put it in the context of modern pop culture allegory. I wanted to see if there was a way to deal with a Jewish-inspired journey, a Jewish heroine, in a pop culture context."

Unfortunately, however, Platt's eagerness to universalize Lilith's appeal means that the myth is quickly stripped of its ancient mystical origins, replaced with a trajectory that's oddly similar to that of Superman. Let's see... a humanlike creature born in a now-extinct homeland, bearing extra-human powers, who is immortal, save a sole organic substance that can bring our hero to ruin? Check, check, check.
MOSES MAIMONIDES is the subject of a museum exhibit in Frankfurt, according to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. This year is the eight hundredth anniversary of his death.
The exhibition �Moses Maimonides: doctor, philosopher and leader of the Jews 1135-1204� at the Jewish Museum in Frankfurt is a small but impressive show that provides insight into how much two great religions and cultures, which seem to have forgotten their common roots, actually have in common. The show also offers a real sensation: two sheets with original Maimonides manuscripts, autographs from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. It also displays fine astronomical instruments from the Orient, a comprehensive overview of the scholar's life and some extraordinary volumes of Talmud commentaries and other wisdom.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Biblical names hot choices for babies today (

My favorite howler is:
� Michael. A perpetual favorite, from the Hebrew, and means "he who is like God," "Godly" or "close to God."

Michael means "Who is like God?" - a rhetorical question whose answer is "nobody." The translation they give is impossible (and perhaps a bit blasphemous), because Mi in Hebrew is an interrogative pronoun that means "who" when asking a question. "He who" would be another word entirely.
THERE IS AN OBITUARY FOR PROFESSOR WILLIAM MCKANE by Johnstone McKay in today's Glasgow Herald.
FROM SUMERIAN TO SHOFAR: Philologos, in "Shofar Sheep" (The Forward) discusses the origins of the Hebrew word shofar, the trumpet made of a ram's horn. Excerpt:
We are told, then, that our shofar derives its name from the Sumerian word for a fallow deer. This may not seem like much of a problem to you, but having looked into it, I can assure you that it is. The fallow deer, Cervus dama, is a medium-sized ruminant, originally native to West Asia and the Mediterranean region of Europe, which stands about a meter high at the shoulder and has broad, palmate antlers. In a photograph, these look like two narrow branches that end in large, spiky leaves. You could make drummer's sticks from the branches and bone cymbals from the leaves, but I doubt whether you could make a shofar from either. How, then, did the segbar get to be the shofar's etymological ancestor?

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

SHANAH TOVAH! Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish new year (and biblical holy convocation of trumpets - Leviticus 23:23-25), begins today at sundown, year 5765.
THE SBL, COPYRIGHT, AND SCHOLARLY COURTESY: Further to yesterday's post, Mark Goodacre reports that Matthew Collins has e-mailed him the following. (If the message was sent to me as well, I never received it.)
my original intent in putting the rider on the papers, however, was not one of claiming copyright or any such thing (you'll notice I don't say they are copyrighted, only that one should ask permission). Rather it was to reinforce the idea of scholarly courtesy in recognizing the provisional nature (both in print and online) of the Seminar Papers as a publication. We have had this approach to the Seminar Papers since its inception. I have seen (and heard) quotations of papers printed in the Seminar Papers used to argue that scholar X holds a particular point of view - when in fact in the final version of the paper published elsewhere, scholar X either takes a very different view or doesn't address the perspective quoted. The Seminar Papers has always been a provisional publication designed to stimulate scholarly interchange at the meeting through the circulation of papers in advance of the meeting. The fact that these papers were bound in a nice volume and sold made many assume they were finished and copyrighted products. If you look at the print versions of the past, you will note the only copyright claimed is for the printed collected volume. Authors still retained all copyrights and publication rights.

A few responses, in part echoing what Mark has already said:

1. This is an unannounced and, as far as I know, undiscussed departure from the previous policy regarding SBL Seminar Papers. Some of the volumes have pointed out that the papers are preliminary work, which is fair enough, but there's never been a hint that they shouldn't be cited and, indeed, they have frequently been cited in the secondary literature. I've published two papers in the SBLSP myself, at least one of which has been cited elsewhere, indeed in the last few months. It never would have occurred to me to expect the citers to ask my permission first.

2. The new policy doesn't make any sense for the printed and bound volumes, let alone for Internet publications. It seems to be aimed at small seminars of, say, a dozen or fewer people in which they circulate the papers among themselves for discussion and feedback before revising and publishing them. In that case it's perfectly reasonable to agree that no one will quote the papers without prior permission. But in the case of the SBLSP, we're dealing with papers that have been published and are available to anyone who buys the volume or takes the trouble to look it up in a library (in the case of the printed version) or to anyone who has an Internet connection and who clicks on the link (in the case of the online version). Not at all the same thing. Scholarly courtesy is natural in the small seminar, but it becomes a more complicated issue when the paper is actually published and widely circulated.

3. I submit that my observations on copyright were relevant. The papers are copyrighted (by the author) and published, whether or not they are "finished." (And few of us ever feel our work is unalterably finished, even after publication.) Suppose I find an idea in one of the papers that is directly relevant to my current research and that moves it in a productive new direction. Then suppose that I ask the author for permission to cite it and the author says no. What do I do? Poach the idea without attibution? That could potentially count as copyright violation and in any case would be unprofessional and immoral. Drop my research and do something else? That\s unreasonable. Or, on the basis of fair use, do I cite the idea from the published work and proceed with my research?

Likewise, suppose I find a discussion in an SBLSP of something I'm working on and I disagree with the conclusions. Suppose I contact the author and ask permission to cite the discussion and the author says that he or she stands behind the view expressed but still doesn't give me permission to cite it. What do I do? If I ignore the discussion, I am not giving a full account of the state of the question (i.e., what has been published). If I include it, I am violating "scholarly courtesy" (but not copyright).

4. The point here is that the policy has not been thought through properly and it has the danger of putting other scholars in an impossible position. If people's work is at such a provisional stage that they don't want it cited, they shouldn't publish it, either in print or on the Internet. Surely the assumption for all these years of printed SBLSPs is that the work in the papers, although more preliminary than what we might find in a peer-review journal or a major monograph, is of sufficient standard to be made public and become part of the discussion.

If some SBL Seminars now don't feel that way, the easiest solution is for them to put the papers online with password protection so that only Seminar members can access them. Nothing simpler. But they shouldn't put the rest of us in the very awkward position outlined above.

5. As for people citing an author's views in a paper after the author has changed his or her mind, so what? We all change our minds all the time. Exactly the same situation can arise after a peer-reviewed journal article has been published. Granted, the peer-reviewed journal article has passed through more hurdles and more thought has been put into it, but it can still be improved upon. The whole point of publishing is to keep the state of the question advancing, and that means we all have to keep changing our minds. That is our glory, not our shame.

Matthew, I hope you will take these points under consideration and will reconsider the policy. In my view, it just doesn't work.

Also, Stephen Carlson has the following response on Hypotyposeis:
One of the nice things about the Annual Meeting is receiving feedback from our colleagues about our works-in-progress, so that we can improve them for later publication in a peer-reviewed journal or book. As such, I can understand why someone may not wish their working drafts cited or quoted in other peer-reviewed publications without someone checking with them first--their views may not be sufficiently defined for scholarly comment, or they may have been published in a more appropriate forum. Although there may be nothing legally stopping scholars or anyone else from quoting or citing papers published on-line within the ambit of fair use, it might be wise as a practical matter in more formal writings, such as in peer-reviewed articles and books, to be more restrained in citing or quoting such informal works. Providing a working draft before the Annual Meeting is a courtesy that benefits many, and it does not make much sense to discourage that behavior. We don't want to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

I think I have addressed all these points above. The golden eggs kept coming through all the years of the print version and I don't see why the policy should change with Internet publication.
Perhaps an analogy might help my point. Lots of interesting stuff gets said at cocktail parties at SBL. Should they be cited too?

This is a completely false analogy. It compares chat at parties to published scholarly work. Chat at parties is not written down, is not copyrighted, and is not published. Of course one shouldn't cite it in a footnote without permission.
That being said, there are some aspects about how the courtesy policy is phrased that gives me pause. I have a duty to credit the source of the ideas I use in my work, and I can't see how someone's failure to give permission (perhaps by being unavailable or dead) should prevent that fundamental academic duty.

Agreed. This is the problem I see with the new policy.

UPDATE: Rub�n G�mez (Bible Software Review Blog) comments on my original post here.

UPDATE: Steven Carlson has more here. Just a clarification or two: I am aware of the difference between copyright and plagiarism. In the paragraph from me which Steven quotes, when I said "That could potentially count as copyright violation and in any case would be unprofessional and immoral," I meant that if, for example, in my poaching of the idea I were to copy a page or even a whole section of the paper more or less verbatim and without attribution, that would count as copyright violation. (That's right, isn''t it Steven?) If I just poached the idea but not the wording, it would be unprofessional and immoral (and plagiarism) but copyright would have no bearing. And when I said, "Or, on the basis of fair use, do I cite the idea from the published work and proceed with my research," I was assuming that I was quoting relevant material from the paper in citing it. Steven is right that if I just cited the idea, copyright and fair use would not enter into it. I should have spelled out more clearly what I was thinking.

Steven's post is very helpful for sorting out the ethical and legal issues involved in this whole SBL Seminar Paper controvery.

UPDATE (16 September): Mark Goodacre has more here

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

COPYRIGHT CONFUSION IN THE SOCIETY OF BIBLICAL LITERATURE: Mark Goodacre notes that the 2004 SBL Seminar Papers are now online at the SBL web page. He also notes the following paragraph introducing the papers:
2004 Seminar Papers
The SBL Seminar Papers are made available in advance of the Annual Meeting each year. The goal of this pre-publication is to stimulate discussion of these works in progress during the meeting itself. In keeping with this goal, papers published in the Seminar Papers will be summarized, and not read at the meeting. Because these papers represent works in progress, they should not be quoted or otherwise cited without permission from the author.

Italics in the original. I'm frequently surprised when people think they can make up their own copyright laws. I am doubly so when the Society of Biblical Literature, which should know better, tries to do it. For the record, under the rule of "fair use", anyone can quote from a copyrighted work "for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research." The details are nebulous and I'm not a a lawyer, but it's safe to say that it's just not on to issue an order that your copyrighted work published on the Internet is not to "be quoted or otherwise cited" without your permission. If people want to interact with the paper, they are well within their rights to cite it or quote it in order to respond to it. They can publish the citation or quotation with the response on the Internet or elsewhere, including in a book or journal. What it comes down to is that if you don't want any public response to your paper, don't publish it, including on the Internet.

For some guidelines on fair use, see Copyright and Fair Use in the Classroom, on the Internet, and the World Wide Web, published on the web page of the Library of the University of Maryland University College. And here is a view by UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh on fisking and fair use.

Excuse me for belaboring this point, but I think it's important. If copyright really worked the way the writer of that paragraph quoted above seems to think it does, the Blogosphere couldn't enjoy the vigorous interchange of ideas which characterizes it.
Exclusive Look at Sci Fi's Darklight!
Source: Superhero Hype!
September 13, 2004

This Saturday marks the premiere of the new Sci Fi Channel original thriller Darklight, starring Shiri Appleby ("Rosswell"), and Superhero Hype! has an exclusive look at the film.

Shiri plays Lilith, an immortal demon based on mythology from the Kabbalah (According to legend, Lilith was the 1st wife of Adam in the Garden of Eden; she was tossed out and became a demon after she wouldn't sleep beneath Adam). In Darklight, she's the sexy, tormented anti-heroine who becomes humanity's last hope.


Darklight is an origin story, about the birth of Lilith as a super-heroine. "Lilith has amnesia, and she's living as an ordinary, 24 year-old woman (played by Shiri), trying to figure out her past. The circumstances of the movie force her to confront her true nature."


UPDATE: Seth Sanders e-mails:
Neat stuff. Those interested in the Jewish background of Lilith are encouraged to check out the earliest narrative source, the "Alphabet of Ben-Sira" (the whole text may be some kind of joke about misogyny, or a misogynist joke), conveniently translated in David Stern et al, Rabbinic Fantasies. Lilith's earlier history is strange--her character seems to begin with Lamashtu, the filthy, baby-killing Babylonian demoness who it is the job of Pazuzu (famous from the Exorcist) and the semidivine fish-men known as Apkallu to chase out. Her name, however, begins with an entirely different demon, the Sumerian LIL2 "wind." The name is re-etymologized as Lilitu from a Semitic stem *layl- or the like "night," hence the Lilith of Isaiah.

Monday, September 13, 2004

THE FOURTEENTH WORLD CONGRESS OF JEWISH STUDIES notes the availability of research scholarships for postgraduates and postdoctoral fellows at European institutions which can be used as travel funding for the Congress:
13 September 2004

Dear friends,

We are pleased to inform you of the availability of funding for European scholars who intend to participate in the fourteenth World Congress of Jewish Studies. The scholarships are titled "Small Grants for Research Purposes" and participation in the congress would mean that you would qualify for consideration if you applied for a grant. Application forms, as well as information about the eligibility criteria, can be found on the following website:

We would like to emphasize a few conditions of the grant programme:

1. Scholarships are limited to PhD. students and Post Doctoral students studying at European institutions only.

2. The scholarships are granted and administrated by an independent foundation which reviews applications and selects candidates without any involvement of the World Union of Jewish Studies.

3. We advise presenting applications only after your lecture proposal has been accepted by the Congress's Executive Committee. Therefore, lecture proposals for the congress should be presented as soon as possible.

We hope these scholarships will enable some of you to attend the congress and take part in its many activities.


Haim Weiss

Congress Secretary

The grants from the Academic Jewish Studies in Europe Grant Programme include many other categories as well (e.g., support for doctoral studies, post-doctoral research, library augmentation, visiting fellowships, support for translation projects, and more. If you're in Europe and work on Jewish studies, do follow the link and have a look.
Zachi Zweig is an archaeologist. Danny Rubinstein is a political columnist- with a political agenda.

Rubinstein states that there are no ruins of value on the Temple Mount, since the ground level before the Roman destruction was higher than the present day, and that damage was done to the underground parts as well.

1- Even if this was true [which is not clear, concerning all the areas of the mount]- large amounts of destroyed portions of buildings and their materials from the Second Temple Period are still on the mount, some in fill near the surface, and much in the underground hollows. This is exactly what the Wakf has been doing- excavating and removing these debris in order to reopen access to "Solomon's Stables" and other underground areas.

2- The information that can be gained from remains of buildings, even though they are not standing, is one of the foundations of modern archaeological investigation. This in addition to the smaller finds of coins, pottery shards, personal items, etc.

3- The question at hand is if these materials will be investigated by trained archaeologists, or clandestinely hidden at various garbage dumps, as has been done by the Wakf during the last three years.

4- The present level of the Temple Mount is built on massive subterranean arches from the time of Herod, some of which were admittedly damaged by the Romans. But most of them are still standing, built of massive hand hewn stones and capable of providing a wealth of information of the period. A casual reading of the Mishna and Talmud of Tractates Midot, Tamid, Yoma and others provides much information concerning underground gates, tunnels Mikvas and other installations.

5- Even if given that the present surface level is below that of the Second Temple- are we willing to give up on the opportunity to find remnants of the First Temple, which was built on a lower level, and whose remnants also provided fill for Herod's constructions?

6- And even given all the above, that all the remnants of the First and Second Temples miraculously evaporated from the Mount- from where is this arrogance to state that we are not interested in research to reconstruct Byzantine, Arabic and Crusader structures on the Mount? Does Danny Rubinstein suggest that since he feels that our past is not important to us- the remains of other civilizations should not be either?

Sunday, September 12, 2004

THE ROMAN BONES AND THE UNDERPASS: This sort of thing seems often to be an issue for Israeli construction work:
Dispute over Roman bones halts underpass (Ha'aretz)
By David Ratner

The contractors of Yefe Nof construction company received a direct order from Transport Ministry director-general Bentzi Salman to stop building a two level underpass at the eastern entrance to Acre-Safed. The Acre Municipality says stopping the work has caused a number of problems, the greatest of which is the danger to life.
The stoppage was the result of heavy political pressure from the ultra-Orthodox community following the discovery of ancient graves. Meir Porush, MK (United Torah Judaism), led the move to stop construction of the road, which will pass beneath railroad tracks and which is essential both for safety and to ease traffic congestion at the main eastern entrance to Acre due to the passage of four trains an hour during rush hour.

Israel Antiquity Authority (IAA) archaeologists' explanations that the graves belong to Roman legionaries and not to Jews have fallen on deaf ears.

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: An article in today's Ha'aretz by Danny Rubenstein (about whom I know nothing except that he's a Ha'aretz correspondent) claims that the Temple Mount rubble heap contains no (or negligible) ancient Jewish material:
Remnants of the Temple? Not in this garbage
By Danny Rubinstein

The removal of refuse from the Temple Mount is being criticized by some experts, but does the dirt really hold any archaeological treasures?


Beneath the courts were - and to some extent still are - spaces, cisterns and arches, of which the Marwani Hall (or, as the Crusaders called it, Solomon's Stables) is the most famous and the largest. When the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE, large portions of these courts were also destroyed. The arches that supported them collapsed, many stones were removed from the mountain, and the site stood deserted for hundreds of years. The Byzantines sought to perpetuate the ruination in order to prove that Jesus was right when he predicted the destruction of the Temple. Only about 600 years after the destruction, the new Muslim rulers of Jerusalem began to restore the esplanade. They rebuilt the large retaining walls on the foundations of the Herodian walls, and recreated the underground spaces and the arches of Solomon's Stables. But the new level created by the Muslims in constructing the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque was not the same as the Herodian level - it was lower. How do we know this?

The archaeologist Meir Ben-Dov gives a few examples: The golden Dome of the Rock stands over a large piece of bedrock, which is without a doubt the highest point on the mountain. All scholars agree that the Temple was built above this level. Therefore, if we dig beneath the rock and around it, there is no chance that we will find remains from the days of the Temple. Robinson's Arch, the large stone protruding from the southern part of the Western Wall, provides additional proof. This was the spring of an arch that supported a bridge that led into the Temple Mount. If the arch is reconstructed, it comes out at a point approximately three meters higher than the present esplanade around the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The conclusion is that there is no chance today of finding any remnant of the structures that once stood in the Temple courts. All scholars agree on this point. They also all agree that the arches of Solomon's Stables, in their present form, date from the Early Muslim period or later.


For a quite different evaluation, see the online article "What can we learn from this destructive dig?" by Zachi Zweig (whom, again, I don't know - and his web page isn't too informative) at

If any archaeologists out there have comments, please drop me a note.
HERE'S A BRIEF REPORT ON THE 2004 QUMRAN EXCAVATION, written by Randall Price. (Click on the link to download it as a pdf file.) He mentions the discovery of some storage jars of the same type in which some of the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. They also found some caches of animal bones, which he thinks represent a ritual installation. I'm skeptical until I hear more. And tying them to the celebration of the messianic banquet strikes me as rather an overinterpretation. Anyhow, read it yourself and see what you think. It also has some nice photos of the recovered artifacts. (Via Ken Penner on the g-Megillot list.)