Saturday, January 08, 2005

SCOTTISH COMET WATCH: It was raining most of the evening. Not raining now, but still clouded over. Oh well.
"PREVIOUSLY KNOWN WRITINGS?" Someone at Deinde (permalinks malfunctioning, at least in my browser) who doesn't seem to give a name, in an aside in a post dealing with "biblioblogger" terminology, writes the following:
I think of the discussions of terminology like 'Pseudepigrapha' and 'Rewritten Bible' which are misleading and are being renamed by some scholars ('Previously Known Writings' and 'Reworked Scriptures' respectively).

I've never heard "previously known writings" applied to pseudepigrapha and I don't know what it means. The term "parabiblical literature" is sometimes used fairly similarly to "pseudepigrapha," but the match isn't exact - depending on your canon, some OT Apocrypha could be regarded as parabiblical, as could the NT Apocrypha in general. Pseudepigrapha is one of those terms that is dreadful, but so entrenched it's unlikely to be replaced.

Anyhow, please say more on this.

Incidentally, I'll take biblioblogger over any of the other options proposed in the post.

UPDATE: Should have thought to Google the phrase. Stephen Carlson has done so and explains that the suggested usage comes from a misreading of something Peter Flint wrote. Some of the nonbiblical Dead Sea Scrolls (material from 1 Enoch, the book of Jubilees, Aramaic Levi, etc.) are previously known writings whereas the others are not: we know them only from the Dead Sea Scrolls. Thanks Stephen. That was fast.
REBECCA LESSES is in Jerusalem and recently saw the Aleppo Codex.
THREE SCHOLARS (James Charlesworth, Adolfo Roitman, and Sean Freyne) will be lecturing in Montana on the historical Jesus in the 21st century.
Election candidate detained at shrine
Fri Jan 7, 2005 12:42 PM GMT (Reuters)

By Ori Lewis

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli police have briefly detained Palestinian presidential candidate Mustafa Barghouthi as he tried to enter a Jerusalem shrine holy to Muslims and Jews without a permit, a police spokesman says.


"Barghouthi was detained at the Lions Gate after trying to enter the Temple Mount. He violated an express agreement with the Israeli authorities that he would not go there," Israeli police spokesman Gil Kleiman told Reuters.

"Barghouthi tried to enter Temple Mount for electioneering purposes but he was prevented from doing so for fear of causing a disturbance in a public place," said Kleiman.


Friday, January 07, 2005

SCOTTISH COMET WATCH: Sorry, it's raining.
ROCHELLE ALTMAN'S BOOK ABSENT VOICES is reviewed on the ANE list (forthcoming also in the journal Maarav) by Peter T. Daniels. He doesn't like it: "Old English paleographers and medieval musicologists deserve better. Semitists can only cringe."

I haven't yet read the book myself, so I can't comment. But I'm sure that Altman will have a response.

UPDATE (8 January): Rochelle Altman responds here. Excerpt:
In-depth studies of each component require separate large volumes --
complete with tables, a data base with a minimum of one thousand
items, and statistical analyses in accordance with the appropriate
methodology. These volumes were planned to appear, one by one,
after the overview was published. Two of these volumes are in
preparation. If, when these strictly scholarly volumes are published,
the reviewer wishes to find fault, that is an entirely different matter.

So far both Daniels and Altman have responded again once. Just keep moving forward through the archive.

UPDATE: And moving, and moving. Lots of discussion in the archive and doubtless more to come.

UPDATE (2 February): More here.
MY UNIVERSITY WEB PAGE has just been thoroughly updated. Besides being very out of date, it was looking shabby with damaged graphics and numerous dead links. In anticipation of my upcoming Dead Sea Scrolls course, which will have a web component and a new blog ("Qumranica" - watch this space), I've adopted a new web-page editing program. It should be easier now to keep all my pages current.
I DON'T THINK THIS IS A PARODY, but then I've been burned before. According to the Jerusalem Post, Davka is selling a new video game based on the story of Ehud in chapter 3 of the book of Judges.

UPDATE: It seems to be real. Arne Halbakken sends me the game's URL at the Davka site.

UPDATE: Helenann Hartley has found a Journeys of Paul� Board Game.
Unscrolling the Commandments (The Birmingham News)
Thursday, January 06, 2005
News staff writer

If Alabamians got excited about former Chief Justice Roy Moore's granite monument of the Ten Commandments, imagine how they'll react when the world's oldest known copy of the Ten Commandments arrives in Alabama for display.

The parchment from the Dead Sea Scrolls contains a complete handwritten Hebrew text of the commandments dated to within 30 years before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. It will be part of a Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit that starts Jan. 20 and ends April 24 at the Gulf Coast Exploreum in downtown Mobile. The exhibit will feature 12 scrolls from the Israel Antiquities Authority, seven of them biblical books.


The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit opened at the Public Museum in Grand Rapids, Mich., in spring of 2003 and drew more than 237,000 visitors in a little more than three months. Mobile will be the third stop. The museums that have hosted the exhibit have been required by Israeli officials to have very strict security and environmental controls for the scrolls. The scrolls are considered so delicate that they are rotated out of public display and go back into dark storage at their home museum, the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem. "They rotate them in there as well," [Renee] Davis [Houston's director of community programs and planning] said. No fragment is displayed more than about three months a year. So the opportunity to see these particular scrolls in person is rare indeed, she said.

Christian Crisis: ChaldoAssyrians May Soon Leave Iraq En Masse (AINA)

Iraq's Christian minority is being driven out of its ancestral homeland by a wave of persecution as devastating as any tsunami. In less than four weeks, a pivotal election will take place in Iraq that represents this community's best hope for finding a secure home there, yet they find themselves marginalized and pushed aside in the electoral process -- not only by their tormentors but, perhaps inadvertently, by the U.S. government. These Christians, who are both pro-Western and pro-democracy, need our help so that they can build a future in their native land with a modicum of security and freedom. Without it, they will leave, and U.S. Iraq policy will be dealt a setback so severe it may never recover.


Should the ChaldoAssyrian community disappear from Iraq, it would mean the end of their Aramaic language (spoken by Jesus), and their customs, rites, and culture. A unique part of Christian patrimony would disappear along with this first-century church. ....
MORE TESTS NEEDED: Not all scholars are convinced that the James ossuary inscription is forged:
James Ossuary needs further investigation, professor says (Baptist Press News)
Jan 6, 2005
By Jeff Robinson


But not all experts believe the James Ossuary is fake -- renowned paleographer Andre Lemaire contends that the Aramaic inscription was penned in the first century.

Steven Ortiz, assistant professor of archaeology at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, says that fake items are common among antiques dealers but the James Ossuary needs further scientific analysis before a final verdict is pronounced.

�You have antiquities dealers who sell actual objects and forged objects,� he said. �You have two or three archaeologists who have looked at it and said it is authentic and two who have said it is not. You have [an official] from the Royal Ontario Museum [in Toronto, Canada] who says it is authentic. So what you need to do is to get scientists in a room, and, like any project, you need a scientific report.

THE VATICAN is loaning an early manuscript of Maimonides' Mishneh Torah and some other Hebrew manuscripts to Israel:
Vatican to share holy medieval texts with Israel (, FL)

By Lisa J. Huriash
Staff Writer
Posted January 7 2005

The Vatican will loan the work of Moses Maimonides, one of Judaism's most celebrated rabbis and sages, to Israel this year in a gesture meant to improve relations between Catholics and Jews.

Jewish community leaders said they are ecstatic to have the opportunity to study the Maimonides document, and at least three other medieval manuscripts.


The work by Maimonides was written by a scribe in the 1400s, 200 years after his death, and is cherished as a one-of-a-kind record that covers the rules of life, such as marriage and other codes of behavior. Opponents who considered Maimonides a heretic burned many of the original works.

Two years ago, a similar delegation requested the Vatican loan out the four manuscripts, each containing hundreds of pages. Three of the books, including one written in 1435, are medieval Hebrew texts written by other authors not immediately identified.

The most excitement, however, surrounds the work of Maimonides, also known as Rambam, the 12th-century doctor and sage in Egypt whose works include the first codification of Jewish law. He is considered one of the most influential of all Jewish thinkers.


Thursday, January 06, 2005

UPDATE ON RABBI JUDAH'S HOUSE (?) IN BEIT SHE'ARIM: Jim West quotes the full text of a letter of Steve Fine to Ha'aretz but does not give a permalink (and I can't find it on the site, but I didn't spend much time looking). According to Fine, who knows about such things, "There is simply no positive evidence for this identification, just as there was none at Sepphoris."

UPDATE: Fine posted the letter on the ANE list.
ODED GOLAN - A CHRIST FIGURE? And a type of James the Just to boot? Ed Cook highlights some poorly chosen metaphors.
SETH SANDERS has published his promised further comments on the forgery scandal in two installments: Biblical Archaeology from Scratch II: The Real Problem and Biblical Archaeology from Scratch III: How It Got Like This.

From installment II:
But I think the real problem might go deeper. Because there is a fundamental difficulty in the way we imagine, and thereby attempt to dig up, ancient Israel. Because of both historical facts and inherent conceptual problems, this enterprise might be doomed to fail in the terms it has set itself. As long as the burning desire to authenticate or falsify Biblical documents exists, as long as the debate is cast in these terms, problems like this will continue to come up. So another question we could ask is, why is the debate cast in these terms, of maximalism vs. minimalism, history vs. ideology, authenticity vs. forgery? Why is the question we're so fixated on--how did it get to be this way--and is this quest somehow already set up for failure?

From the third installment:
This, Hobbes would say, is the boat that Biblical studies missed: once church and state are separated, the Bible is de facto not authoritative any more, and de facto is all that matters. Once we accept the theory that all texts are the same�that communication through writing is necessary, but invisible and functionally uniform, the question of what the Bible did and does is off the table.

My initial reaction is that his analysis captures a central issue. In essence, a fair bit of the scholarly debate in biblical studies is still framed in theological terms based on assumptions that many or most of the scholars in question themselves reject. The language and agenda of the debate have not yet caught up with the metaphysics of the debaters. Verification or falsification of stories in texts is one part of the historian's problem, but that part is bloated out of proportion in biblical studies. Ultimately, in my humble opinion, the biblical texts just aren't well suited to the questions that historians have traditionally wanted to bring to them. Maybe that should tell us something. It certainly seems to me that historical verification of stories is much less of an issue for, say, Homeric studies or the study of Arthurian legends, although I can't claim to be a specialist in either. Yet the time frame between the supposed events and the written sources is not greatly different. I doubt that a forgery conspiracy on the scale of the one the Israeli authorities claim to have uncovered would be cost effective for these fields.

For that matter, how much interest has there been in establishing a historical core for the Ahiqar story, which is partly preserved in a fifth-century B.C.E. Egyptian Jewish manuscript, but which isn't part of anybody's canon? Very little.

The solution? Dare I say that specialists in the Hebrew Bible should start with the earliest surviving manuscripts and quotations (i.e., mostly the Dead Sea Scrolls and the earliest LXX fragments), understand them first in that context, and move backwards from there only as and to the degree that positive evidence requires? This point, more or less, was already made many years ago by Alan Millard in "Methods of Studying the Patriarchal Narratives as Ancient Texts," Essays on the Patriarchal Narratives (ed. Millard and D. J. Wiseman; Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1980), 35-51. One could reply that I'm a boy with a hammer and everything looks like a nail to me, and that might be a fair, if ad hominem criticism. These are just my off-the-cuff, undigested thoughts. Please share your better answer with me.

UPDATE: Regarding the sentence "So another question we could ask is, why is the debate cast in these terms, of maximalism vs. minimalism, history vs. ideology, authenticity vs. forgery?" in the first quote above, Ed Cook writes:
I'm not sure why "authenticity vs. forgery" is thrown into this pot. An epigraph either is authentic or it is forged, while, say, "maximalism vs. minimalism" are two ideological grids which may admit of many degrees between ideal forms at the poles, and they may not "correspond" to any actual state of affairs. So I'm not sure how this is relevant to the forgery scandal. But read Seth, not me.

Well, Seth can speak for himself, but I took him to be saying in shorthand that the (ultimately theologically driven) need to authenticate or falsify the (events described in the) texts leads to a situation where physical verification by means of objects becomes excessively important, and thus creates, if you will, an ecological niche in which forgers can thrive. Therefore the authenticity vs. forgery of the artifacts is closely related to the (poorly formulated but widely asked) question of the authenticity or forgery of the biblical stories. Maybe I'm reading a lot into that one sentence, but I think that's the larger point. Am I close Seth?

Anyway, if that's not what he meant, I think it's still true.

Also, as an afterthought, the bipolar distinction between "authentic" and "forged" doesn't even apply unambiguously to epigraphs. If the forgery claims about the James ossuary are correct, the first part is authentic and the rest is forged.
FOLLOWING JOE ZIAS'S ADVICE, Yuval Goren has posted on the ANE list ten principles for authenticating clay bullae which, by implication, give rogues some useful advice for forging them. Dealers and collectors, you are warned!

UPDATE: Zias has yet more advice for aspiring forgers. Maybe someone should publish a handbook.
EPIPHANY COMET ON VIEW IN SCOTLAND? The weather forecast isn't promising, but I'll have a look if it's clear. Thanks for the heads-up, Helenann.
Jordan Foils Terror Plot Against U.S.

Wednesday January 5, 2005 7:46 PM


Associated Press Writer

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) - Prosecutors leveled charges against two suspected Jordanian terrorists after police foiled a plan to kill four American archeologists, security officials said Wednesday.

Jamil Mohammed Kutkut, 27, and Ibrahim Mohammed Zein al-Abedeen, better known by Jihad al-Qashah, 36, were charged with plotting to commit terrorist acts, illegal possession of automatic weapons and infiltrating Jordanian territories.


Wednesday, January 05, 2005

MORE ON ROBERT DEUTSCH: On the ANE List the Directors of the Megiddo excavation give an account of Professor Deutsch's relationship with the dig and the severance of that relationship, they say they are unaware of his being harassed by the IAA while on the site, and they express a hope that he will be able to clear his name. For the full text follow the link.
THE TENTH ANNUAL ORION SYMPOSIUM on the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls takes place in Jerusalem next week. The theme is "New Perspectives on Old Texts." Follow the link for the program and abstracts of the papers.
A MODEST PROPOSAL. Joe Zias has posted a creative solution to the forgeries problem on the ANE List: Teach first-rate forgery skills so widely that the market for unprovenanced ancient Israelite antiquities is flooded with fakes and it is no longer profitable to deal unprovenanced materials. Evidently, it's worked before.
Archaeology / A home fit for a prince? (Ha'aretz)
By Ran Shapira

When Alexander Zeid - who in 1909 founded Hashomer, the first armed Jewish defense force in modern times - began to build his home in the hills of Sheikh Abrik in the late 1920s, the remains of an ancient wall were unearthed. Zeid invited archaeologist Benjamin Maisler - who subsequently changed his name to Mazar - to examine the wall. Mazar determined that it dated to the Roman period, and in 1939 and 1940 he led a team that exposed a large and well-established settlement that peaked between the end of the second century and the middle of the fourth century of the Common Era.

Mazar and Nachman Avigad, the directors of the excavation, identified the site as the historic Beit She'arim, one of the largest Jewish towns in the Lower Galilee in the late Second Temple period and the era of rebellions against the Romans. ...

Yigal Tepper, a Land of Israel historian, and Yotam Tepper, an Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist - father and son - have restudied Mazar and Avigad's findings during the last few years and have reached a surprising conclusion: The four structures are essentially different wings of the same building. And not just any building, but the home of Rabbi Judah the Prince, redactor of the Mishna - the core of the Talmud - Judaism's oral law, and leader of the Jewish community in the Land of Israel in the second century of the Common Era. The theory appears in their book, "Beit She'arim: The Village and Nearby Burial."


(Heads up, Ed Cook.)

UPDATE (6 January): More here.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

THERE IS NOW A "BIBLIOBLOG BLOG." I swear I am not making this up.
This website attempts to automatically aggregate the latest blog posts about Biblical Studies.

It's run by someone named Zeth, who tells us "I am not a Biblical scholar but I do try to read their blogs." Look at the sidebar on the right for a directory of the blogs listed, plus some explanatory material. Looks quite useful.
THE PALESTINIAN ELECTION takes place on Sunday. Here's a summary the current state of play regarding East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount:
Meanwhile, although Israel claims sovereignty over all Jerusalem, it is permitting Palestinian candidates to campaign in East Jerusalem's Arab quarters.

Two of the seven candidates have already campaigned in the city, although one was briefly detained when he did so without permission.

Aides to Mr Abbas said he was expected to visit Jerusalem in the next day or two.

The status of East Jerusalem is one of the most sensitive subjects dividing Israel and the Palestinians.

Mr Abbas has made it clear that, like Arafat, his primary goal is to establish a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem, which contains the Noble Sanctuary, the third-holiest site in Islam.

This, however, is also the holiest site of Jews, who know it as the Temple Mount.

Israel's position is that it will not relinquish sovereignty over East Jerusalem, annexed after the 1967 Six-Day War.

Nevertheless, the Israeli Government has agreed to permit the city's 200,000 Arabs to participate in the Palestinian elections.

Also, it seems that the candidates will not be allowed to visit the Temple Mount, although none of them seem to have asked to do so yet.
THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS EXHIBITION at the Exploreum in Mobile, Alamaba, opens later this month. This article from the Brewton Standard has some information on it. Nothing new, but this one paragraph confused me at first:
The Dead Sea scrolls are coming to Alabama this month, and for the first time ever, the traveling exhibit will include the scroll featuring the laws of God as revealed to Moses.

The scroll? This is a bit opaque (a Pentateuch scroll? the Temple Scroll?), but after poking around in my archive, I found an earlier article on the Mobile exhibition that says:
The exhibit includes seven 2,000-year-old biblical scrolls with the oldest surviving text of Genesis, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Psalms, Isaiah and Jeremiah. The remaining fragments are from sectarian documents found at the Qumran site in Israel. One of 29 Deuteronomy fragments found at Qumran, the one that will be displayed in Mobile, is the only one to include all Ten Commandments.

Presumably the current article is referring to this Deuteronomy scroll, but the writer doesn't realize that there are many Dead Sea Scrolls "featuring the laws of God as revealed to Moses."

Monday, January 03, 2005


Bruce Zuckerman e-mails:

The University of Southern California's School of Religion invites applications for a post-doctoral appointment of up to three years, to begin August, 2005.

Duties for the fellowship will include serving as a teaching assistant to one or more of the courses listed below, plus the potential of teaching one undergraduate course each year.

REL 111: The World of the Hebrew Bible
REL 121: The World of the New Testament
REL 140: Religion and Ethical Issues

One of the positions may be filled by an applicant with specialized training in post biblical Judaism and early Christianity, in particular, Dead Sea Scrolls. Further interest in archaeology and the religions and cultures of the ancient Near East (especially Mesopotamia and/or Egypt) is desirable but optional. Applicants' research interests should be especially geared to take advantage of the resources of USC's West Semitic Research (see and InscriptiFact (see projects as well as the USC Archaeolgoical Research Collection (see
The applicant's dossier file must include a letter of application, curriculum vitae, three letters of recommendation and copies of teaching evaluations (if applicable). Transcripts are also preferred. Send application materials to Dr. Donald Miller and Dr. Bruce Zuckerman, Search Committee Co-Chairs, School of Religion, University of Southern California, THH 355, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0355. Applications should be received by February 1, 2005. Compensation will be consistent with that of full-time lecturers. USC is an AA/EOE employer.

ROBERT DEUTSCH RESPONDS ON THE ANE LIST. (Via Ralph.) Deutsch says he's innocent, that the IAA has been harassing him for a long time, and that he's going to sue them. I'm confused: has he been indicted or not? Excerpt:
In a news conference the IAA has insinuated that I had "an involvement in a ring dealing with forgeries." They purposely distorted the truth by announcing my name as one of the "criminals," with the malicious intent to connect me in the mind of the public with the fake Joash inscription and the highly debated James ossuary. Even the IAA has never made such charge against me; the IAA knows perfectly well that I never saw either of these pieces before they were published, nor did I have any connection with them what-so-ever. Yet they purposely and maliciously linked my name with these objects and with the pomegranate "forgery" sold to the Israel Museum, with which I also had absolutely no involvement. The IAA never charged me with any involvement with these objects, yet included my name in their announcement of indictments against those that did, to purposely give the misimpression that I had some involvement with them. Again the purpose of the IAA is clear: to destroy my reputation and ability to continue to be a licensed antiquities dealer, and thereby harass, intimidate and destroy all of the antiquities dealers that operate in Israel in full compliance with Israeli law.

If he has been indicted with the other three, this whole thing has gone well beyond the IAA. If he hasn't, the media has royally screwed up its recent reporting. Hopefully the indictment itself will be online soon (see Ralph post linked to above).
LEIDEN UNIVERSITY is advertising a distance learning course on Textual History and Textual Criticism of the Old Testament, starting in September. (Via the Hugoye list.)
A GUARD at an archaeological park in Israel has been murdered. Terrorism is suspected.
Police suspect terror in murder of park guard (Ha'aretz)
By Yuval Azoulay

Police are investigating whether the murder of a security guard at Bet Guvrin national park, whose body was found yesterday morning at the site, was a terrorist act.


Managers of the archaeological site said yesterday that Rubin's presence had ended the spate of thefts that had plagued the park. The site was guarded all night, according to Yigal Ben Ari, central district director at the Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority. He said that Rubin's job was to guard the park's office area, where a lot of expensive equipment is kept.

"The need to guard the park arose following a spate of thefts and break-ins here in the past. In one case they stole a tractor, work tools and computers. In most cases the trail would lead to the village of Idna in the Hebron Hills," he said.


According to this Agence France Presse article in the Turkish Press the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades has claimed responsibility in phone calls.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

"ANTIQUIBLOGGER" does have a certain ring to it. But those who have spoken seem mostly content to stick with biblioblogger. Vox bloggatorum, vox dei.
ROBERT ALTER'S TRANSLATION of the Pentateuch is reviewed in the Times. Excerpt:
If this book is to be welcomed as a vital part of literary culture rather than religious culture, that says a great deal about the current rate of secularisation. But it is not less to be celebrated. Alter has achieved the significant feat of refreshing English by taking it back to one of its sources of strength; he is not unworthy to follow in the distinguished line of Wycliffe, Tyndale and the �King James� committee as one who has made the language live again as an instrument of revelation and power.
THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT has been translated into hieroglyphic Egyptian. In what is perhaps the understatement of the year (so far), the foreword tells us that "The literary traditions and styles of England and Egypt are very different."
BULLAE UPDATE: This Hebrew article in Ha'aretz (via Ralph) gives a list of suspected forgeries and it includes the "Baruch ben Neriah" bulla in the Moussaieff collection. It says the name was added to the bulla, so apparently the object itself is agreed to be a genuine ancient artifact, like the James ossuary and the ivory pomegranate.