Saturday, October 02, 2004


Peter Kirby, known already for his websites on Early Christian Writings and Early Jewish Writings and the Open Scrolls Project, has just started a new

Christian Origins Blog

He writes:
Recently I have noticed the phenomenon of blogging related to biblical and classical studies. Mark Goodacre's web site is an excellent example. Stephen Carlson has recently brought together blog and site in his Hypotyposeis and Synoptic Problem pages. Realizing that my home page for Christian Origins has been in virtual blog form anyway�brief statements with a date stamp, listed with the most recent at the top�I decided to turn this web site into a blog. Or, more accurately, a hybrid of blog and periodical, as I will continue to create blog-independent web pages for substantial papers, as these are received and reviewed.

Welcome Peter. Assimilation is painless.
A VOLUNTEER AT THE "JOHN THE BAPTIST CAVE" gives the Asheville Citizen-Times a personal account of the excavation. Excerpts:
Harry Tolley joined Dr. James Tabor at the site near the Kibbutz Tsuba in May 2001. . . .

"When I was on the dig, it had this top-secret air to it," Tolley said. "We weren't allowed to take pictures or talk to people because Shimon Gibson wanted to spring this on the archeological world. He also really wanted to have some space to work on the research for his book. I've been telling people about this for years and they never really believed me, but now I'm telling them again."
MORE ON THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS EXHIBIT AT THE HOUSTON MUSEUM OF SCIENCE (Houston Chronicle), including comments from Professor Mattias Henze of Rice University and other local scholars.
"Advance ticket sales have been phenomenal," said Lydia Baehr, public relations director of the museum. More than 13,000 tickets have been sold, the most in the museum's history, she said.

Also, The San Marcos Daily Record has an article on Randall Price and the recent Qumran excavation. As I've said before, it sounds to me as though he's overreading the evidence, but it's hard to say what it all means until a formal report comes out.

This sounds exciting:
A series of DNA tests is set to be performed on the bones found by Price and his team, because the Dead Sea Scrolls were written on the animal's skin. A test could confirm that the DNA of the skin matches that of the bones - thus showing that the same community that buried the bones also posessed the scrolls.

And so does this:
While this mode of work is significant in uncovering pieces of world history, Price would like to bring this world to his native community of San Marcos.

Price said he's considering the idea of bringing a museum to San Marcos. This museum could contain many of the discoveries found in the Middle East by Price and his colleagues - pieces of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Egyptian artifacts were offered as possible examples.

You can find more on the debate over recent excavations at Qumran here.
Ancient bowl heads back to Middle East

Rosie Cowan, crime correspondent
Saturday October 2, 2004
The Guardian

A rare Middle Eastern incantation bowl - which is buried underneath houses to ward off evil spirits - has been handed in to Scotland Yard for return to the region.

A London art dealer, whom police refused to identify, brought in the item, which he had purchased in Jordan some years ago. It may have come from Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Syria or Israel, where it was common to place bowls upside down in the foundations of new homes.


Actually, as far as I can recall, all the incantation bowls that have sure provenances have come from Iraq. Does anyone know of an exception?

Kudos to the dealer for playing it straight and turning in the item.

Too bad there's no photograph with the article.

Friday, October 01, 2004

TWO NEW TRANSLATIONS OF 1 ENOCH: Gabriele Boccaccini e-mails:
Two new English translations of 1 Enoch have been published:

(A) George W.E. Nickelsburg and James C. VanderKam
1 Enoch: A New Translation
Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004
[The volume contains the translation that the authors have done for the Hermeneia Commentary, based on the best critically reconstructed text that takes into consideration all of the textual data now available in the Ethiopic version, the Greek texts, and the Dead Sea Aramaic fragments]

(B) Daniel Olson (with Melkesedek Workeneh)
Enoch: A New Translation
North Richland Hills, TX: BIBAL, 2004
[An edition with annotations and cross-references, aimed at the general reader]
THE FROM THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS TO THE BIBLE EXHIBITION is in Michiana, Elkhart County, Indiana for the month of October. The story is noted in the South Bend Tribune and WNDU-TV. From the latter:
Co-curator Joel Lampe said, "We've had people spend three hours in front of a case we've had people come back 5-6 times because there is 5000 years of history on the exhibition floor."

The exhibit is centered on these fragments of the Old Testament dating back over 2000 years, found in the 1940's in the northwest corner of the Dead Sea. Scholars say the tiny pieces of history speak volumes about religion today. "Its a powerful exhibit it shows how God has preserved His word from the beginning of time to the present. No other faith can do what this exhibit can do for the Jewish and Christian faith," said Lampe.

The exhibit also displays important historic findings including the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence printed in 1776 from the original, some of the earliest printed Bibles and ancient Egyptian artifacts.

Does that mean the Magna Carta? The original? That's impressive.
FURTHER TO THE SBL-SEMINAR-PAPER CITATION CONTROVERSY, which I started a while ago, I've been meaning to note that Paul Nikkel of Deinde has also weighed in on the subject ("Opening access while restricting interaction with papers of a 'provisional' nature discourages dialogue at the point where it is most valuable and fruitful."). And now Mark Goodacre notes that AKMA has posted on it as well ("I�m firmly in the camp of those who regard this as a spasmodic contraction of the failing muscles of the moribund model of print publication"). Near as I can tell, the blogging contingent of the SBL membership agree that the new SBL policy on citation of Seminar Papers is ill conceived and counterproductive. I'm disappointed that the Society hasn't taken the opportunity to discuss this with us more.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

THE EXPOSITORY TIMES is being relaunched in the spring of 2005. Mark Goodacre has details. The press release doesn't mention this, but Alison Jack told me at the BNTC that it would also be online. I'm not sure what the exact arrangement will be. I've promised her an article on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha in the spring.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

"MONITOR THE MOUNT": An editorial in the Jerusalem Post weighs in on the latest Temple Mount controversy. Excerpts:
Now this archaeological travesty is being compounded by a mortal and political danger of hardly less substantial proportions. Imagine if the southeast corner of the Temple Mount, containing the Marwani mosque, collapsed on thousands of worshipers praying inside. This is no idle concern, given that a large bulge has recently appeared on the southern wall of the Mount, and signs of cracking on eastern wall, both at the corner containing the mosque.

We do not know, of course, whether the danger of collapse is exaggerated. We do know that if there is a collapse, the magnitude of the human catastrophe could be enormous. We also know that, no matter how loudly our government warns of danger and complains about its self-imposed lack of access, the blame for a disaster will be laid at Israel's doorstep.

. . . The government has no choice but to insist that its own engineers, with or without an international team of colleagues to make it more palatable, are allowed to properly inspect and monitor the site, from both an archaeological and a public safety perspective.

. . . Caution and prudence are warranted, but simply hoping for the best is neither cautious nor prudent.

Any Israeli effort to increase supervision should receive backing from relevant international bodies, such as UNESCO, to counteract the baseless accusations and conspiracy theories emitted by Islamic authorities. Neither Israel nor the international community should allow extremist bullying to endanger and destroy a treasure of immense national and international significance.
Bible texts on silver amulets dated to First Temple period
By Amiram Barkat

U.S. and Israeli researchers claim to have discovered proof that the Five Books of Moses were in existence during the First Temple period.

The findings are based on new laboratory techniques used to date two small silver amulets, inscribed in ancient Hebrew and discovered in a burial cave in Jerusalem in 1979. Published last week in a scientific journal in the United States, the results were reported extensively in The New York Times yesterday.

The amulets contain the text of the Priestly Benediction, which appear in Chapter 6 of Numbers, and are still recited today in synagogue prayer by descendants of the Jewish priestly clan.


This sounds like an overinterpretation of the evidence to me. My understanding is that the amulets contain the priestly benediction, also found in Numbers 6:24-26, and perhaps also material from Deuteronomy 7:9. The benediction is the sort of thing that would have been in wide circulation and proves nothing about whether the text of Numbers was assembled c. 600 B.C.E. in anything like the form we have today. The material from Deuteronomy is more interesting and, if upheld (all I've seen on it so far is a second-hand report in an e-mail message on the ANE list), indicates that D material was floating around before the exile, which I would have guessed anyway. It would have been more accurate to begin the article by saying that it is now established that some of the material found in the Five Books of Moses existed in the First Temple period.

I haven't seen the BASOR article yet; it hasn't arrived in our library. When it does, I may have more to say on the subject, but I think it's unlikely that anything I've said above will need to be changed.
SUKKOT - the seven-day Festival of Booths or Tabernacles, begins this evening at sundown.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004


Ha'aretz has some additional information:
The warning pertains to the underground expanses known as Solomon's Stables, which have been turned into a prayer hall that can house thousands of individuals. The marble tiles that have been laid there are putting pressure on the spaces below them, as well as on the exterior wall in the southwestern corner, where the dangerous protrusions can be seen.

If in addition to this thousands more worshipers assemble in the plaza above Solomon's Stables, the ancient archways could collapse and lead to a horrific disaster.

and a recommendation:
The danger exists in only a very small section of the mosque compound. There is an ongoing dialogue among the Waqf administration, the Jordanian authorities and representatives of the Israeli government, and everyone should agree to restricting the number of worshipers in the prayer hall and on the roof of Solomon's Stables.

The mosque compound is an extensive area that can accommodate hundreds of thousands, and the restrictions in question relate to a few thousand individuals being prevented from entering one corner of the Mount.

But here's another view:
Israel seeking to control Al-Aqsa mosque compound: Jerusalem mufti (

BEIRUT, Sept 27 (AFP) - The top Palestinian Muslim cleric accused Israel in remarks published here on Monday of seeking to seize control of the Al Aqsa mosque compound by raising safety concerns at the holy shrine in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem mufti Sheikh Ekrima Sabri said in an interview with Lebanon's An Nahar newspaper that "the foundations ... do not raise concern and the Israeli claims to that end are baseless."

These claims were only "a justification" for Israel to put its hand on the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam, he charged.

The mufti said a recent report by engineers from the Islamic endowments authority, experts in Islamic arts and Egyptian archaeologists confirmed that the shrine stood on solid foundations, with works needed only to cover cracks in the southern and eastern sections of the structure.


You may recall from the MEMRI Special Report on Palestinian Authority Sermons 2000-2003 (cited earlier on PaleoJudaica here) that Sheikh Ikrimeh Sabri is Arafat's hand-picked Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine who has called for the destruction of the U.S.A. and Britain, said the Israelis should all go back to their own countries, and praised child suicide bombers.

I don't know what the truth is about the safety of the Solomon's Stables mosque for the Ramadan crowds, but I do know whose opinion I don't trust.
FISTICUFFS in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (and not for the first time):
Jerusalem clerics in punch-up row

Roman Catholic and Orthodox clerics have exchanged blows inside Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of Christianity's holiest sites.

The punch-up began after Greek and Russian Orthodox believers took offence at a door left open by members of the Franciscan order during a service.

At least five people were injured in the fracas - including Israeli police officers called in to quell it.

The church is shared jealously by six rival Christian sects.

Kind of embarrassing.
THE KETEF HINNOM SILVER AMULETS are the subject of an article in the New York Times:

Solving a Riddle Written in Silver

Published: September 28, 2004

he words are among the most familiar and ecumenical in the liturgies of Judaism and Christianity. At the close of a worship service, the rabbi, priest or pastor delivers, with only slight variations, the comforting and fortifying benediction:

"May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord cause his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; may the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and grant you peace."

An archaeological discovery in 1979 revealed that the Priestly Benediction, as the verse from Numbers 6:24-26 is called, appeared to be the earliest biblical passage ever found in ancient artifacts. Two tiny strips of silver, each wound tightly like a miniature scroll and bearing the inscribed words, were uncovered in a tomb outside Jerusalem and initially dated from the late seventh or early sixth century B.C. - some 400 years before the famous Dead Sea Scrolls.

But doubts persisted. The silver was cracked and corroded, and many words and not a few whole lines in the faintly scratched inscriptions were unreadable. Some critics contended that the artifacts were from the third or second century B.C., and thus of less importance in establishing the antiquity of religious concepts and language that became part of the Hebrew Bible.

So researchers at the University of Southern California have now re-examined the inscriptions using new photographic and computer imaging techniques. The words still do not exactly leap off the silver. But the researchers said they could finally be "read fully and analyzed with far greater precision," and that they were indeed the earliest.

In a scholarly report published this month, the research team concluded that the improved reading of the inscriptions confirmed their greater antiquity. The script, the team wrote, is indeed from the period just before the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. by Nebuchadnezzar and the subsequent exile of Israelites in Babylonia.

The researchers further reaffirmed that the scrolls "preserve the earliest known citations of texts also found in the Hebrew Bible and that they provide us with the earliest examples of confessional statements concerning Yahweh."

Some of the previously unreadable lines seemed to remove any doubt about the purpose of the silver scrolls: they were amulets....

The New York Times article is long, informative, and looks quite accurate to me. Lots of fascinating information on the work of Barkay, McCarter, the Zuckerman brothers, etc. The scholarly article is published in the May 2004 issue of the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research. (Unfortunately, they only publish their tables of contents online in PDF format.) It is extraordinary to have sixth-century B.C.E. magical amulets from ancient Israel.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Wakf officials reject Israeli allegations about Mosque's imminent collapse (Palestine Information Center)
Sep 26, 2004, 14:46

Occupied Jerusalem - Muslim Wakf (religious endowment) officials in Jerusalem have rejected Israeli allegations that an ancient mosque at the Haram al Sharif compound is in danger of collapse.

The officials termed the allegations " baseless" and "mere pretext to take over Islamic holy places."


First, the location is ancient but the mosque itself was built in 1996. Second, my regard for the accuracty of this article didn't go up when I read the following at its end:
Israel has been carrying out excavation works beneath and in the vicinity of al Aqsa in a desperate efforts to locate the remnants of an Old Jewish Temple in the area.

However, after more than 37 years of digging, archaeologists found no evidence of any ancient Jewish structure.

Obviously, this is just more Jewish-Temple denial. Classes start today and I'm too busy to dig up much on the whole tiresome issue, but note the first-century Greek inscription excavated in Jerusalem in two copies in the nineteenth century by Claremont-Ganneau, which warns gentiles not to stray into the Temple compound beyond the Court of the Gentiles, on pain of death. Josephus mentions the inscription too.








Sort of implies a temple, doesn't it?

On the whole issue of the possible collapse of the Solomon's Stables area, note also the comments of archaeologist Shimon Gibson:
Shimon Gibson, a British archaeologist who is an expert on the more than 45 chambers under the shrine, including Solomon's Stables, said it is unclear if there is a danger.

Describing the area under the shrine as a "Swiss cheese of underground spaces," he said there was a definite need to have a team of professionals survey the damage that may have been caused by the earthquake.

"I'm aware of some dangers that could be in existence due to the ancient age ... of 2,000 years," Gibson said. "At the same time I find that all sides tend to heat things up unnecessarily and they don't deal directly with the problem at hand."

Sunday, September 26, 2004

RECENT PH.D.S IN MIDEAST STUDIES AT UCLA are listed on the UCLA International Insitutute website. The list includes the following dissertations of particular interest:
Jacob Dahl (NELC, 2003), "The Ruling Family of Ur III Umma: A Prosopographical Analysis of a Provincial Elite Family in Southern Iraq ca. 2100-2000 BC." Jacob was awarded a fellowship by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique for postgraduate research at the Mus�e du Louvre in Paris.

Lynn Swartz Dodd (NELC, 2002), "The Ancient Past in the Ancient Present: Cultural Identity in Gurgum during the Late Bronze Age-Early Iron Age Transition in North Syria." Lynn is Visiting Assistant Professor in the School of Religion and Curator of the Archaeological Research Collection at the University of Southern California.

Roger Good (NELC, 2003), �The Septuagint�s Translation of the Hebrew Verbal System in Chronicles.�

Fred Mabie (NELC, 2004), �Ancient Near Eastern Scribes and the Mark(s) They Left: A Catalog and Analysis of Scribal Auxiliary Marks in the Amarna Corpus and in the Cuneiform Alphabetic Texts of Ugarit and Ras Ibn Hani.� Fred is an Assistant Professor at Biola University in La Mirada, California.

Congratulations to all the recent Ph.D.s
The Berbers and Other Minorities in North Africa: A Cultural Reappraisal
Information publi�e le samedi 25 septembre 2004 par Jean-Louis Jeannelle (source : Nabil Boudraa )

Berber culture and the cultures of historically rooted North African minority groups (Jewish, Coptic, Turkish, among others) are not common foci of study in higher education. These cultures also remain shadowed in public discourse and in public policy. The same cultures have existed and thrived for a long period of time under the dominance of successive colonial powers in North Africa. Unfortunately, there is still a huge misunderstanding and a knowledge-gap regarding the diversity that constitutes the richness of a large region, situated between the East and the West and between Europe and Africa.

This conference's purpose is to promote a clearer comprehension of the complexity of these North African cultures. It will situate them in space (from Egypt to the Canary Islands) and in time (from early history to the present) within the larger dynamics of successive colonial epochs.


The conference seems to be taking place in Oregon and 1-page paper-proposals should be turned in by 1 December 2004.
Authorities fear collapse of section of Temple Mount

By Haaretz Service

The defense establishment fears the Solomon's Stables area on Jerusalem's Temple Mount will collapse under the weight of the hundreds of thousands of Muslim worshippers who are expected to arrive for Ramadan observances which start in another three weeks, Israel Radio reported Sunday morning.