Monday, March 07, 2005

THE CODEX SINAITICUS is being digitally photographed. This is an unusually complicated project, because the leaves of the manuscript reside in four different countries. The Harvard Gazette reports on the work of a Widener Library photographer who is part of the team working on the project:
From vellum to pixels
David Remington offers expertise in project to digitize Codex Sinaiticus

By Paula Carter
Harvard College Library Communications

The Codex Sinaiticus is the earliest manuscript of the complete New Testament and the earliest and best witness, according to Bible scholars, for several books of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). Dating from the middle of the fourth century, the manuscript was originally written by hand on vellum (calfskin or sheepskin). Now, having endured into the 21st century, it will soon be replicated in pixels. Four institutions currently hold leaves from the Codex - the British Library, Leipzig University Library in Germany, National Library of Russia, and St. Catherine's Monastery in Egypt - and they have come together to create a digital reunification of the Codex Sinaiticus that will be published and placed on CD-ROM.

David Remington, collections reformatting photographer in the Digital Imaging and Photography Group in Widener Library, is serving on the Codex Sinaiticus Technical Standards Working Party, composed of representatives from each institution and digital imaging specialists. The international team's goal is to create a scholarly edition of the Codex and as exact a replication as possible.


This article via the Bible and Interpretation website. It's over a year old, but I haven't seen it before. The story has also received lots of attention on the Textual Criticism list in the last several days, starting when Jim West pointed to a German article about the project. Dave Washburn also noted the Harvard Gazette article and a brief notice on the SBL website. I wonder if Dirk Jongkind is involved.

One quibble regarding the Harvard Gazette article: Sinaiticus is "the earliest and best witness ... for several books of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament)" in the Greek version, the Septuagint. The Dead Sea Scrolls are much earlier and cover almost all of the Hebrew Bible, albeit only in fragments.
ARCHAEOLOGY MAGAZINE has just published its March-April issue. As usual, there are lots of goodies. Note the following in particular:

"Forgery Fallout" (full text of brief interview with Eric Meyers)

Sandra Scham, "The Lost Goddess of Israel" (abstract)
"CARTHAGINIAN?" This brief, UK article gives a slightly longer version of the Vin Diesel quote about his forthcoming Hannibal movie:

VIN DIESEL is following MEL GIBSON's example and employing ancient and little-known languages for his upcoming HANNIBAL THE CONQUEROR epic.

Gibson caused a sensation with his THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST movie last year (04) when he used ancient Aramaic in his biblical drama, and now Diesel will use JESUS' tongue as well as Iberian and Carthaginian to tell the story of the Carthaginian general.

He explains, "I'm going to make it a non-English multi-lingual film that represents the many languages that Hannibal employed in his army.

"So it will be Aramaic for Rome, Iberian for Spain, there will be some Carthaginian or some Maltese and it will represent all these different languages.


By Carthaginian I take him to mean Punic (the north African dialect of Phoenician). Reconstructing ancient Punic will be a much more challenging exercise than reconstructing first-century Jewish Aramaic. I will be following this story closely.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

WHAT WOULD JESUS DRIVE? Having seen this post by St. Andrews postgraduate Daniel Driver (who is also in my Dead Sea Scrolls course this semester), I made a suggestion to him about what the Jesus of the book of Revelation would drive. I see Daniel has posted on it here.
AN INDEX to scriptural citations in Charlesworth's two Old Testament Pseudepigrapha volumes is now downloadable in PDF format, produced by Kevin P. Edgecomb and available on his website. He writes:
One useful thing about this index is that it includes "both sides" of a citation. That is, if as in 1En 1.1 a citation is noted for PsSol 4.9, at PsSol 4.9 you will find a corresponding citation for 1En 1.1. This may or may not have been the case in the original OTP marginal notations. Imade certain to make it so in this index.

More introductory details can be found on the last page of the file (p. 178!). Looks extremely useful.

(Via Jim West's Biblical Theology blog.)
THE EBLA FORUM is an online forum on the Hebrew Bible and archaeology. The owner, Joel Ng, points to the following discussion threads as of possible interest to PaleoJudaica readers: ("From Manetho to Minimalism") ("Purity and Exile") ("Halpern's Hysteria") ("Was Goliath a Hoplite?")

There's also an associated blog, the Ebla Logs. This posting on it floats the interesting possiblity of a biblical studies blog carnival. That sounds good to me and I'll be happy to contribute posts and to host it now and again (the latter not any time soon though) - as long as someone else gets it started and does the overall organizational work. What do other bibliobloggers think?

Saturday, March 05, 2005

THE MOVIE CONSTANTINE is getting mixed reviews, but a lot of people seem to like it. Here's a pretty positive take (3 stars out of 4) from the Boston Herald:

( R )

Damned good fun: Reeves scares up thrills in `Constantine'
Review by James Verniere
Friday, February 18, 2005

Move over, Hellboy.

In ``Constantine,'' Keanu Reeves, fresh from battling the evil machines of ``The Matrix,'' takes on demons from hell who have the power to enter our realm. It's a supernatural thriller for our terrorist-bedeviled times, if not a training film for the Department of Homeland Security.

Based on the Vertigo/DC Comics' ``Hellblazer'' series, the film, which is set in present-day Los Angeles, might be described as mysticism for headbangers. It's also a kind of B-movie follow-up to ``The Passion of the Christ'' insofar as some of it is in Latin, it's about redemption and is steeped in Roman Catholic beliefs, apocrypha, icons and rituals, beginning with that favorite Catholic horror movie staple, the exorcism.


It also has a female version of the angel Gabriel, played by Tilda Swinton.

It's interesting to note that there's even sympathetic interest in the movie in Baptist circles. Also, blogger Tim Bulkeley and his teenage son saw it and Tim thinks "it could provide the stimulus for lots of good theological discussion, and even an old-fashioned revivalist appeal to conversion." And there's already a spinoff video game.

Because of Rachel Weisz my professional interest in media and religion, I suppose I'll have to get around to seeing it.

UPDATE: Chuck Jones e-mails:
For another take on Constantine have a look at David Denby's review
in The New Yorker and in particular the final few sentences:

"..."Constantine" turns Catholic doctrine, ritual, and iconography
into schlock. God's warrior wins, but is that enough to justify the
tawdry, promiscuous borrowing? Will the trashy exploitation of
Catholicism in movies ever end? Imagine a Jewish version of the
spectacle-"Angel," starring Vin Diesel, in which God's messenger
stays Abraham's hand in mid-sacrifice and then earns His approval by
lowering himself into cursed pharaonic tombs with tied-together
prayer shawls. In a Hindu version-"Vishnu," with Nicolas Cage-Shiva
unleashes his snakes on the outskirts of Poughkeepsie and starts a
war between truck drivers and apple pickers. Somehow, I think these
projects might be shelved. Yet terrible movies like "The Exorcist"
and "The Passion of the Christ" and "Constantine" get made and become
enormously popular. I will leave the issue of blasphemy to experts.
But maybe some of the audience should wonder if they aren't
performing the Devil's work by sitting so quietly through movies that
turn wonders into garbage."

Friday, March 04, 2005

THE BIBLIOBLOG BLOG IS BACK! An improved model too.
PHILO OF ALEXANDRIA is cited by Arutz Sheva in a call for passive resistance to Sharon's disengagement plan. David Meadows has the story over at Rogue Classicism.
A MANIFESTO FOR DEALING WITH THE FORGERY CRISIS has been published on the Bible and Interpretation website by Christopher Rollston and Heather Dana Davis Parker.
Responses to the Epigraphic Forgery Crisis:
Casting Down the Gauntlet to the Field
and to Museums

During recent years, the public has often been inundated with sensational stories of �new epigraphic discoveries�: the �Ya�akov Ossuary� (�James Ossuary�), the �Jehoash Inscription,� �the Moussaieff Ostraca,� and the �Ivory Pomegranate� are some of the most notable. Dominant voices have touted such epigraphs as being of great significance �for the field� and �for the faith.� Voices of caution and moderation (that note the absence of an archaeological pedigree and the potential of forgery) have been quelled with substantial success.

There's lots of interesting stuff here. Two points are especially important: "For this reason, the default position with regard to non-provenanced epigraphs should now be methodological doubt, regardless of the 'sensationalism' surrounding the epigraph." Then, "Moreover, museums and collections should begin to be even more intentional about addressing the problem by exhibiting forgeries and including discussions of the problems associated with non-provenanced artifacts." The Israel Museum is currently doing this with the Ivory Pomegranate and it's a good policy in general. Both of these seem to me to be eminently sensible policies.

And don't miss the notes, which have lots of interesting tidbits. For example, Rollston has another piece on the forgery crisis coming out in the March issue of the SBL Forum - any time now, I assume.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

THE QUMRANICA BLOG has been updated with the abstract of the first seminar paper (on the Hodayot) and a summary of the seminar discussion. Now that we're in the seminar phase of the course there will be abstracts and seminar summaries (usually two of each) posted each week of class.
MORE ON THE HERPES AND CIRCUMCISION STORY in the Forward. It seems that the practice suspected of causing the infection still has its defenders.
Following Baby's Death, Orthodox Group Urges Followers to Drop Disputed Ritual
By Eric J. Greenberg
March 4, 2005

In response to the death of a New York baby boy from herpes, the top union of Modern Orthodox rabbis is urging Jews to abandon the ancient ritual practice of suctioning the blood by mouth directly from the baby's penis during circumcision.

The Rabbinical Council of America, representing more than 1,000 rabbis, issued a policy statement this week arguing that instead of direct oral suction the tradition known as metzitzah be-peh could be fulfilled with the use of a tube. The statement came following the death of a New York baby from herpes, which officials suspect might have been transmitted from the mouth of a Hasidic mohel during the circumcision process.


RCA's statement is expected to upset Hasidic sects and other ultra-Orthodox communities. Leaders of these Orthodox camps have been vigorously defending the practice of direct oral suction since it came under attack last month ...

Government or religious attempts to ban the direct oral practice were denounced in a pointed February 18 editorial, by Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz, editor and publisher of Yated Neeman, an ultra-Orthodox newspaper.

Update on the Assyrian Voter Lockout Protest At the UN

(AINA) -- The Assyrians (also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs) on the East Coast of the United States gathered to protest the voter lockout of Assyrians in the Iraq elections. The demonstration was held at the United Nations on February 19.

Nearly 100 mostly young people chanted, sang and prayed in Syriac for two hours behind a police barricade. They carried large banner signs in Assyrian (neo-Aramaic), English and in Chinese, all of which addressed the problem of the six towns east of Mosul which did not receive ballots despite two days (Jan 30 and 31) of waiting to vote. These are the same towns in which the candidates on Assyrian list (204) had campaigned for three days, and hundreds of thousands of votes for ChaldoAssyrian representation would have been cast had the people not been prevented from voting. As it was, because the voting did not take place, only enough votes were counted to seat one independent ChaldoAssyrian representative. Four other ChaldoAssyrians came in under the auspices of the leading Kurdish list and one, from Baghdad, gained a seat under the Allawi list.


The sign behind the woman wearing glasses is in Syriac, but I can't see enough of it to read it.

I hope these people get the attention they deserve.
WILLIAM DEVER gave a lecture in New Orleans in February which challenged the minimalists.
Scholar: Archaeology rebuffs effort to erase biblical Israel (Baptist Press News)
Mar 2, 2005
By Michael McCormack

NEW ORLEANS (BP)--Revisionist scholars in Europe are ignoring a wealth of archaeological evidence in seeking to discount and, ultimately, erase belief in the biblical Israel, noted archaeologist William Dever said at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.


Though this postmodern movement seeks to sap the Bible of its historical significance and accuracy, Dever maintains that the archaeological evidence supports the biblical accounts of Israel and its kings. His presentation focused on structures he and other archaeologists have uncovered throughout the Holy Land that point to Solomon and the Solomonic Temple. He began with 1 Kings 9:15-16.


He includes lots of interesting details on the archaeology of Gezer, Hazor, and Megiddo. And it seems that Steven Ortiz, of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (and one of Dever's students) is hoping to reopen the Gezer excavation and to carbon date some material from it. The debate goes on ...

UPDATE: This piece is receiving lots of attention on the ANE list. (Start here.) Note in particular the comment of Niels Peter Lemche:
But think of a sentence in the summary of his New Orleans lecture like this: In fact, Dever said, they have recently argued that Hebrew is not a semitic language -- a garbled summary of an argument that biblical Hebrew may be a kind of artificial language, a kind of 'Mandarin' created for the purpose of writing biblical texts (like Qur'an Arabic is a bit different from other written Arabic, and even Homeric Greek different from other written Greek). However, the argument that it is not a semitic language and that the revisionists are claiming that is of course nonsense, and only show that Dever is a least not a properly educated biblical scholar, but exactly a biblical archaeologist. The sentence must be considered an obvious misprission.

My experience is that when the media portray a scholar as saying something strangely garbled, it's almost always the reporter who got it wrong, not the scholar. I would give Dever the benefit of the doubt here. Would he or someone who actually heard the lecture like to comment?

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: The "atomic paring-knife" laser. Cool.
'Atomic Paring Knife' Will Help Probe Ancient Civilizations

Newswise � Mississippi State researchers are acquiring a high-tech laser instrument described as an �atomic paring knife� that will be used, among other things, to probe the mysteries of ancient civilizations.

Hailed as the first such unit of its type in the Southeastern United States, the university�s Laser Ablation-Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometer will provide organizations across Mississippi�academic, non-profit and industrial�with unique capabilities for quantitative surface analysis and depth profiling.


�The new laser ablation (precise removal) system provides a rapid, non-destructive way of tracing pottery to its source,� Peacock, an environmental archaeologist, said.

Plodinec said the system uses a laser to gently scratch the sample surface, ejecting a small amount of material into plasma, where the atoms are separated by mass.

�The instrument provides a complete, rapid and accurate compositional analysis of almost any materials�stone, glass, ceramics, metals�with no sample preparation and minimal damage to the original sample,� said DIAL assistant research professor Adriana Giordana, who is coordinating the technological effort for the lab.


MSU will be using the instrument on local Native American artifacts, but the potential applications for other archaeological research are obvious.

(Via Archaeologica News.)

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Everyone's on the same page (Ha'aretz)
By Yair Sheleg
They study 2,711 `daily pages' for seven and a half years, and start over again from the beginning the very next day. Today's the end of the 11th Daf Yomi cycle

For 10 years now Rabbi Pinhas (Paul) Lederman has been participating in the daf hayomi ("daily page") lesson in Jerusalem - a lesson in which a page of the Babylonian Talmud is studied every day in sequence, one two-sided page a day, 2,711 pages altogether. The lesson lasts for about an hour in the late morning, with some 20 people taking part, all of them pensioners.


More than 1,000 groups around the globe similar to Lederman's will study the last page of the Talmud today, for the 11th time since this project was started in 1923. The number of pages in the Talmud means that each cycle takes about seven and a half years. Ceremonies will be held internationally to mark this event tonight and tomorrow, with three of the biggest locations being at the Yad Eliyahu sports arena in Tel Aviv, at Madison Square Garden in New York, and for the first time since the Holocaust, in the city of Lublin in Poland, the city where the daily page project began. ...

Congratulations to all those who are finishing the cycle today, and best wishes for the next seven and a half years of study.
David Aronson: A Retrospective in Boston (Artdaily)

March 1, 2005

BOSTON, MA.- David Aronson: A Retrospective will showcase the life's work of David Aronson, an artist and teacher who has remained an influential force in the development of the arts in Boston for over fifty years. A leader in the nationally recognized Boston Expressionist group of the 1940s-1950s, Aronson has spent a lifetime producing monumental narrative works and has won international acclaim for his visual interpretation of themes from the Hebrew Talmud and Cabala.

Often using the ancient encaustic technique of painting with molten wax, Aronson's luminous paintings explore subjects derived from Old Testament, New Testament, and mystical religious and humanist themes. He brings these figures to life, animating them with a combination of fervor and wit. In the 1960s, when he was already a mature artist in his late thirties, Aronson began sculpting figures in bronze. This exhibition features the artist's early encaustics, bronze sculptures, as well as pastels, oil pastels, and oil paintings on canvas.


Unfortunately, the article doesn't include any images of his work.