Saturday, March 12, 2005

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: More Jewish-Temple denial, this time from the Palestine Chronicle. The Temple Mount Faithful are also making things interesting.
Jewish Settlers Plan to Storm Al-Aqsa Mosque
Friday, March 11 2005 @ 08:51 AM EST

"Extremist Jewish groups, which rally for the construction of the 'Temple Mount', are expected to join the storming, according to Israeli press sources.."

By Samer Khuwayera

NABLUS, West Bank - Extremist Jewish settlers are planning to storm Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third holiest place, by next April, according to Al-Aqsa Institution for Reconstruction of Islamic Sanctities.

Leaders of Jewish settlers have declared some 10,000 settlers are planning to storm the holy mosque in a bid to perform Jewish �religious rituals� in the holy place, they claim to be the site of �Temple Mount�.

Leaflets are being distributed by Jewish settlers to urge Jews to join the storming of the Islamic holy site on April 10.

Extremist Jewish groups, which rally for the construction of the "Temple Mount", are expected to join the storming, according to Israeli press sources.

The campaign patron, David Hebrew from the Tfwah settlement in the West Bank city of Nablus, claimed that his campaign aimed at fostering what he termed �spiritual relations� with �Temple Mount� by performing the Jewish religious rituals within the holy mosque.

�Through this campaign, we are trying to bring some 10,000 Jews into the mosque,� he told Israel�s Channel 7.

The extremist Jewish settler pressed for opening up all entrances of Al-Aqsa Mosque before the Jewish people, claiming that Al-Aqsa belongs to Jewish people, not to Muslims.

I can't find complete verification of this story. Neither "David Hebrew" (which doesn't sound like a real name to me) nor "tfwah" (or "tfwa") show up anywhere on Google except this in this article. I can locate no mention of a David Hebrew on the Temple Mount Faithful website (see below). Can anyone in Israel confirm that there is such a settlement in Nablus or that someone named David Hebrew was interviewed on Israel's Channel 7 about these matters?

What I can verify is that the Temple Mount Faithful is planning (or at least hoping), not to "storm" the Temple Mount, but to assemble there on 10 April to perform a Passover sacrifice on an altar they say is already there.

Now let me be quite clear. I am strongly opposed to the objectives of the Temple Mount Faithful. (Links via I have no interest in their theological agenda but I object on archaeological and historical grounds. I don't want anybody interfering with or damaging the historical treasures that are already on the Temple Mount, including the mosques and the ancient archaeological strata of the site. Even if they decided that the site of the temple wasn't where the mosques are so that the mosques don't need to be moved, the thought of the damage that would be done to the archaeology of the site by building a third temple there makes me ill.

All that said, I do respect the right of these people to free speech and peaceable assembly, no matter how much I oppose their agenda. There is sometimes a fine line between these rights and incitement and I leave it to the Israeli government to decide where that line is. I'm glad I don't have to make that decision.

Israel claims Al-Aqsa Mosque was built on the so-called Temple Mount, an allegation refuted by scores of world historians.

This is a variation on a stock Temple-denial sentence we have seen repeatedly before. My comments previously apply as well here.

The article concludes:
Archeologists have also warned that ongoing Israeli excavations weakened the foundations of the mosque, cautioning it would not stand a powerful earthquake.

A part of the road leading to one of the mosque�s main gates collapsed in February, 2004, due to the destructive Israeli digging work.

Israeli soldiers also attempted in June, 2004, to storm the mosque�s prayer hall (Al-Musallah Al-Marwani) and ended by force restoration works that were underway there.

The first paragraph is a bit rich, given the massive destruction wreaked upon the Temple Mount by the WAQF. For a rather different take on the collapse mentioned in the second paragraph, go here. Note also that illicit digging by the WAQF is considered "restoration."

For my take on how the Temple Mount should be treated, see here.

UPDATE: "Manuscript Boy" e-mails:
I would have to check the posters all over Jerusalem to make sure, but
I think the name is David Ivri. Tafwah is surely Kfar Tapuach. And they plan to bring thousands up to the Temple Mount before Passover. It seems to be a different group from the Temple Mount Faithful.

I should have thought to Google "David Ivri." The name does exist, but the only references I can find are to a former air force commander, evidently not the man in question. In any case, the basic elements of the story look to be correct.

UPDATE: Manuscript Boy e-mailed again with the website of the group. The English version is There's a Hebrew version as well, of course. David Ha'ivri is one of the named leaders of the group.
SEXY APOCRYPHA? Well, I'm glad someone thinks so, even though the movie Constantine doesn't seem to rise to that level. Columnist Giles Coren reviews the movie for the London Times. You may want to skip the first half, which consists of self-indulgent Coren blather. But the second half, when he actually gets to the film, is kind of funny.
So imagine my delight when I heard he [Keanu Reeves] was to take the title role in Constantine. After Colin Farrell as Alexander the Great and Brad Pitt as Achilles, what could be more natural than Keanu as the man who converted Rome? Only Keanu could give credence to the story of the Emperor who saw a vision of the Cross before the Battle at the Milvian Bridge, built a new capital on the Bosphorus and laid the foundations of Christendom. In hoc signo vinces, duuuude.

When I got to the cinema, though, the posters were not promising. It was Keanu, back in his Matrix-period black coat, toting a silver machinegun in the shape of a cross. Under him, the legend: �The wager between Heaven and Hell is on Earth.� Um, like, I totally know that, dude. Are we talking Job, here? Or the temptation of Christ, maybe? Or the sort of sexy apocrypha that Milton worked up into Paradise Lost? The Bible is full of bets. They�re always the Devil�s idea, admittedly, but God just can�t seem to say no if the odds look half tasty. He�s a regular Sky Masterson, is the Lord.


As ever in Hollywood movies, leather-bound books are used to show that it�s all very old and mysterious. Nothing freaks out the Yanks more than a book. The genre here is legal-thriller meets classy historical adventure, as succinctly indicated when, mystified by the arrival of the wrong kind of zombie (a �soldier-demon�, I believe it is) Keanu yells to Rachel Weisz, in that gurgling wheeze of his: �Check the scrolls, see if there�s any precedents!�

Be warned, however, that the end of the review seems to have a major spoiler in it.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Arabs Destroy Ancient Jericho Synagogue
17:04 Mar 10, '05 / 29 Adar 5765

( The ancient synagogue in Jericho, known as the �Shalom Al Yisrael� (Peace on Israel) synagogue has been destroyed by Arab vandals, says the former head of the yeshiva that studied there until the start of the Oslo War.

ON THE QUMRANICA BLOG I have posted the abstract of this week's essay on 4QMMT, a summary of the seminar discussion, and some links on the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice. The latter is one of our topics next week. Do have a look.

Also: Blogger has been suffering numerous server errors recently, which has led to annoyances such as stuttered posts and posting lost during publishing. It also makes it very hard sometimes to correct typos. Apologies in advance for any problems.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

No relinquishing Western Wall, poll finds
By Nadav Shragai (Ha'aretz)

Ninety-one percent of the Jewish public would be unwilling to give up Israeli control of the Western Wall, 46 percent would agree to joint Israeli-Palestinian control, or sole Palestinian control, with regard to the Temple Mount, according to a poll to be aired tonight on a program on the Knesset television channel.


Ed Cook relays Dave@GracePages's request for a recommendation for a grammar of biblical Hebrew. I can't be of much help, because I've never found one I really liked. I've used Lamdin and Seow long ago. Both are excellent grammars, but they overwhelm a beginner with too much information. Currently I use Martin's revision of Davidson's Introductory Hebrew Grammar. It's fine for the first semester. The level is right for first-year students, the explanations are generally good, and the exercises are helpful. The problem is that it crams all the derived stems, regular and irregular, into three chapters in the last fifth of the book, which again can overwhelm the students unless those chapters are stretched out quite a bit with supplemental material. I see that a number of people are recommending Kittel, Hoffer, and Wright. It seems to be out of print in the U.K., but maybe I should have a look at it anyhow.

Joe Cathey calls for a new chrestomathy of Hebrew and even suggests my name as a possible author. Thanks for the vote of confidence, but I have far too many other projects in progress right now. Also, I have to say I'm skeptical whether there's a market for a chrestomathy of biblical Hebrew. With BHS readily available, it's just too easy for a lecturer to assign passages straight from it, creating a personalized chrestomathy on the fly so to speak. There is also a good chapter by chapter listing of less frequently used biblical Hebrew vocabularly in Armstrong, Busby, and Carr's A Reader's Hebrew-English Lexicon of the Old Testament , so rapid reading of any part of the Bible is easy to assign too. It's true that sometimes annotations of difficult passages would be helpful, but such issues are often covered in class and I'm not sure that that annotations alone would create a sufficient market. Not that I'd be sorry to be proved wrong.

If instead you were to think of a chrestomathy involving (vocalized?) Qumran, Bar Kokba, and rabbinic Hebrew alongside biblical Hebrew, you might be able to demonstrate a greater need, but I think the market would be smaller too.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

JACOBY'S FRAGMENTE DER GRIECHISCHEN HISTORIKER is being republished online in a new edition by Brill. David Meadows has the story. Excerpt from the announcement from Ian Worthington, the editor-in-chief of the project:
BNJ [Brill's New Jacoby] will appear online at the rate of 80-100 authors per year (approximately half of this number appearing every six months) beginning in January 2006. Each author will be subject to peer review and revision before publication. The advantage of online publication is that authors will be published as soon as all revision stages are complete, rather than having to wait years before appearing with others (in a numerical sequence) in a hard copy volume. When all 856 authors are online, in approximately ten years' time, hard copy volumes will be produced.

FGrH includes a number of Hellenistic Jewish authors and other related authors such as Berossus.

UPDATE: Sorry for the multiplication of this post. Blogger has been acting up a lot lately and after posting two or three copies of this in the afternoon, it refused to let me make any changes until now (11:00 pm).
Construction workers held for antiquities theft

Eight Palestinian construction workers illegally
employed at a building site in Modi'in were under
arrest for carrying out antiquities theft at a nearby archaeological site, Israel's Antiquities Authority announced Tuesday.

The eight suspects were caught "red-handed" just after midnight Tuesday morning after a chase through a second temple period underground compound at the site, the head of the Antiquities Authority's anti-theft division Amir Ganor said.


Although this seems like good news, the conclusion of the article is discouraging:
Despite the overall drop in violence in Israel, the number of antiquities theft has risen more than 50 percent in the last year alone.

In 2004 there were 314 reported cases of antiquities theft, compared to less than 200 in 2003.

The phenomenon of antiquities theft has taken on gold rush dimensions, with an antiquities site now plundered every day on average.
ALAN SEGAL'S BOOK ON THE AFTERLIFE is reviewed in the National Catholic Reporter. Excerpt:
Alan F. Segal, professor of religion and Jewish studies at Barnard College, Columbia University, claims that even though the afterlife is beyond the purview of science, belief in life after death is older than the existence of Homo sapiens if ancient Neanderthal burial studies can be trusted.

This book is an extensive social history that traces the development and comparative cultural impact of a religious idea.

The author has studied the development of religious belief over 5,000 years of human history. He has mined rich insights about the afterlife from research into many ancient Near Eastern mythologies, rites and rituals. More recently, he has investigated the subject in Islam and compared life-after-death beliefs in the three great Abrahamic faith traditions.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

MORE ON THE HERPES AND CIRCUMCISION STORY: The Commentator, Yeshiva University's student newspaper, covers it in the article "'Metzitzah Be Peh': The Dangers of a Custom Intended to Heal" by Ryan Nadel. It has with lots of new details about the controversy over the practice of metzitzah be peh, including an interview with Rabbi Dr. Moshe Tendler who contributed to the Pediatrics article that called for changes in the practice. The piece concludes:
Even though Rabbi Tendler's position of performing oral suction using a sterile instrument instead of direct oral contact has firm halachic support, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv has publicly stated that, unlike AIDS, herpes does not pose a real threat to the baby and therefore the custom of direct oral suction is permitted. Rabbi Tendler pointed out that although Rabbi Elyashiv permits using an instrument to perform oral suction when there is a concern that the mohel might contract AIDS from the baby, which has never occurred, Rabbi Elyashiv does not allow an instrument to be used to protect the baby from herpes, a substantive and documented concern.

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?