Saturday, March 19, 2005

NON SEQUITUR OF THE WEEK: Performance artist Sandra Bernhard in her current show, Everything Bad and Beautiful: "'Let me tell you,' she said, of Madonna pushing Kabbalah on Britney, 'that girl is a brilliant Aramaic scholar. When she read a portion of the "Canterbury Tales," I wept.'
THE QUMRAMICA BLOG now has last week's material fully posted. There are essay abstracts and seminar summaries for seminars on the Qumran calendrical texts and the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice.
TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: The proposed mass protest of Jews on the Temple Mount on 10 April is getting rather different coverage in different places. In
By J. Grant Swank, Jr.
Mar 18, 2005

"'We must conquer the Temple Mount to abort the withdrawal plan. If 50,000 people go to the Temple Mount, our Father in heaven will see and the (Israeli) institutions will not be able to remain indifferent,' said one of the takeover planners."

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon plans to oust Jews from their Gaza Strip homes starting July 20. Then Strip is the Palestinian Authority's. Jewish police guards will yank "fellow" Jews from their dwellings. To go where? To motels and hotels. And what about their furniture? In warehouses somewhere. Sound bizarre? Yes. And it's also illogical and unjust.

Therefore, devout Jews are rehearsing today how to take over the Temple Mount in order to draw attention to their righteous indignation against the Sharon agenda. The devout Jews' scheme of course also sets up conflict potential with Muslims throughout Israel, particularly in Jerusalem. A Jewish civil war could result. A war between Jew and Arab could erupt.


Then there are these new details:
American Jews likewise are boarding planes to join in on the mob scene in Israel. Professionals such as doctors, teachers, lawyers are planning on moving into vacated dwellings in the Strip as well as lining the avenues and beaches in order to prevent Jewish police guards from ousting Jews from their houses.

"According to the report, extremist Jews will hold a 'dress rehearsal' on the Temple Mount, or the Jerusalem mosques complex, the third holiest site for Muslims, in three weeks time.

"Dozens of police reinforcements were deployed near the compound last month, fearing possible attacks by Jewish extremists, who might try to sabotage the Prime Minister's Gaza plan."

Then in (from APF and Turkish Press) we read:
Threats against Al-Aqsa mosque are "ticking bombs": Imam
Published: 3/18/2005

JERUSALEM - The imam of Jerusalem's Al Aqsa mosque on Friday warned that threats by Jewish extremists against the sacred complex were "ticking bombs" and said the Israeli government must take responsibility for containing the threat.


On Wednesday, Israel private television screened a video showing far right-Jewish extremists, including rabbis, discussing ways of occupying the site in a bid to sabotage Israel's planned withdrawal from Gaza.

"We must conquer the Temple Mount to abort the withdrawal plan. If 50,000 people go to the Temple Mount, our Father in heaven will see and the (Israeli) institutions will not be able to remain indifferent," said one participant.

In response, Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qorei warned of the dire consequences which would result from any such move and called on Israel to act decisively..

"We warn that the region will explode if there is any attack against Al-Aqsa," he told reporters in the West Bank town of Ramallah.


The one thing I think both sides have right is that this plan could lead to an eruption of violence. I hope we're not watching a disaster in the making. I call on everyone involved to keep this peaceful.
THE IRAQI ASSYRIANS and their political situation get favorable coverage in a Reuters article:
Iraq's Assyrians Seek Voice in New Government
Fri Mar 18, 2005 05:08 PM ET

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Supporters of Iraq's minority Assyrians urged the United Nations and the European Union on Friday to pressure Baghdad to give Assyrians more humanitarian aid and a voice in the new Iraqi government.

"Iraq was liberated to have freedom for everybody, not just the Shi'ites, Kurds and Sunnis," Andy Darmoo, who heads the "Save the Assyrians" campaign told a news conference at U.N. headquarters.

Iraq's Assyrians are Christians and speak Aramaic, the language of Christ. There are an estimated 1 million to 1.5 million Assyrians living in Iraq, most of them in the north.

They are the target of a "quiet campaign of ethnic cleansing," according to Darmoo, who left Iraq in 1965 and now lives in Kent, England.


The Washington Post also carries the article. Keep that spotlight right there!

Friday, March 18, 2005

WHY THE JEWS REJECTED JESUS: The Turning Point in Western History is the title of a new book by David Klinghoffer. It was reviewed yesterday for the A.P.:
Author looks at 'Why Jews Rejected Jesus'

Associated Press Writer

During the Lenten season of 2004 there was considerable fury over Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ" and its depiction of Jewish leaders conspiring to hand Jesus over to the Romans for crucifixion.

A year later, just in time for Good Friday of 2005, a book by Jewish writer David Klinghoffer says of course that's what the Jewish authorities did: "Why the Jews Rejected Jesus: The Turning Point in Western History" (Doubleday).

He bases that not only on the New Testament -- whose history he distrusts to a fair extent -- but on the Talmud, Judaism's authoritative compilation of Bible commentary and rabbinic law, and later Jewish sages such as Maimonides.


Klinghoffer already published some of his ideas on Jesus in the Talmud in January and I have commented on them here. It seems he also delves a bit into counterfactual history, for which Jesus and the rise of Christianity have been popular subjects.
TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Still more on the plans of the Revava group to swarm the Temple Mount on 10 April. The BBC now has a story on it and it includes a response from the Palestinian Authority:
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei has appealed to Israel to stop any action against the compound.

"We warn that the region will explode if there is any attack against al-Aqsa," Mr Qurei told reporters.
THE PROFESSION OF "SCRIBE" is profiled in the Jerusalem Post:
Written by hand

One of the most honored professions in Jewish life is being a scribe or sofer.

The scribe writes the Torah, the parchments inserted into the boxes of teffilin and the parchment inserted within the mezuzot affixed to the doorposts of Jewish homes and premises. Thus, a scribe is usually called a sofer stam - the word stam being the acronym for sefer torah, teffilin and mezuzot.

Scribes are also employed to write gittin - bills of divorce, which must be written individually, by hand, for each particular case. A scribe writes with a quill made from the feather of a fowl and uses ink specially prepared for the task. His work is exacting, time-consuming and painstaking. No mistakes are allowed and in today's technologically advanced world, there are special computer driven programs that check the work of the sofer for accuracy and correctness.


Lots of interesting information here and worth reading in full.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: More on the plans of the Revava group to swarm the Temple Mount on 10 April. Ha'aretz has an article today with this news:
10,000 rightists plan to visit Temple Mt.
Right-wing extremists have announced a campaign under which they are seeking to bring some 10,000 people to the Temple Mount on the eve of the Hebrew month of Nissan. The police have no intention of allowing the plans to be put into practice.

Police usually allow Jews to visit the Temple Mount in groups of a few dozen individuals, with Jewish prayer sessions banned at the site, in keeping with a government decision from 1967. The High Court of Justice has rejected numerous petitions against this decision.


Also, the Jerusalem Post has a short article on the planned protest which refers to "tens of thousands" of people rather than 10,000. But it appears that the Arutz Sheva headline " Channel 2 Claims 100,000 Jews Plan Temple Mount Protest" is a mistake, since the article refers to only 10,000. It looks to me as though 10,000 is the number that is actually being used.
LEONARD GREENSPOON has an essay on the problem of translating the sacrificial terms in Leviticus in the Forward this week ("PORTION: Translations And Transliterations - Leviticus 1:1-5:26"). He advocates a radical solution:
In my opinion, all readers, and especially Jewish readers � for whom these chapters should retain a lively relevance as they did for talmudic rabbis (most of whom, like us, lived after the fall of the Jerusalem Temple, and the end of its sacrificial system) � are best served by transliterating these terms rather than translating them: Thus, we would have in chapter one, "olah"; in chapter two, "a minchah offering/gift", and in chapter three, "an offering of shelamim" (Fox anticipates this with his "slaughter-offering of shalom"). To my mind, this is the best way to alert readers to the fact that, at this point, they need to take some extra time to consider both the nature and purpose of these rituals.

In the best of all worlds, this approach would lead all readers to go look up these offerings and learn something about them. But in our world I fear it would just make Leviticus a more intimidating book than it already is to lay people. But it would be an interesting experiment.
THE SBL FORUM for March is devoted to forgeries. Here's a list of the articles. I don't have time to read them right now, but they look very interesting. I may comment on some of them later.

The Antiquities Market, Sensationalized Textual Data, and Modern Forgeries: Introduction to the Problem and Synopsis of the 2004 Israeli Indictment
by Christopher A. Rollston
and Andrew G. Vaughn

The Forgery Indictments and BAR: Learning From Hindsight
by Edward M. Cook

The Crisis of Modern Epigraphic Forgeries and the Antiquities Market: A Palaeographer Reflects on the Problem and Proposes Protocols for the Field [1]
by Christopher A. Rollston

The Probability of Forgeries: Reflections on a Statistical Analysis
by Andrew G. Vaughn
and Carolyn Pillers Dobler

The Jerusalem Syndrome in Biblical Archaeology [1]
by Yuval Goren

The Saga of the Yonan Codex
by Bruce M. Metzger

Epilogue: Methodological Musings From The Field
by Andrew G. Vaughn
and Christopher A. Rollston

Access to my blog accounts has been somewhere between spotty and nonexistent for some time. I hope the situation improves soon, but meanwhile I'll try to fill in the backlog as time and dodgy Blogger software allow.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

SEPTUAGINT ESSAY: Jennifer Dines of Cambridge University has a short essay on the Septuagint posted at the Bible and Interpretation website:
The Septuagint: Greek Scriptures for
Greek-speaking Jews and Christians:
Some Current Research

There are fascinating implications here for how the Bible was used and interpreted in the third to first centuries BCE, but the work is difficult and delicate and scholars often come to different conclusions. This is not surprising since they have been researching these questions piecemeal for at least the last hundred years, often starting from differing premises.

The essay goes through some current issues in Septuagint research and links to the websites of a couple of relevant projects.
TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: WorldNetDaily has an article on the plan of the Revava group to bring thousands of Jews to the Temple Mount on 10 April.
10,000 Jews to ascend
Temple Mount

Group seeks to reclaim
Israeli control of holy site

Posted: March 16, 2005
1:00 a.m. Eastern

By Aaron Klein
� 2005

JERUSALEM -- A grassroots Jewish organization plans to bring 10,000 Jews next month to the heavily restricted Temple Mount to spark Israeli dialogue about reclaiming the holy site from its Muslim custodians.

"The Temple Mount is the single holiest place in the world for Jews. It's about time the Israeli government restores it to the Jewish people, where it belongs," David Ha'ivri, chairman of Revava, the group orchestrating the gathering, told WND.

The visit, scheduled for April 10, would be the largest Jewish presence at the Temple Mount since the ancient Temple period, said Haivri.


This is a messy situation. I have no sympathy with the whole "third temple" agenda, for reasons I've explained before (see first link above). But again, this group has a right to assemble peaceably and they say that is their intention. It's not clear whether the event will happen at all, since the police say they have not made any decisions yet. If it does, I just hope it all stays peaceable.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

THE JOURNAL OF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES has a new issue out (64.1, January 2005). It includes a couple of book reviews of interest:
Zipora Talshir, I Esdras: A Text Critical Commentary (Ralph W. Klein)

Bernard A. Taylor, X Congress of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies: Oslo, 1998 (Ralph W. Klein)

Click on the links to download the PDF files. I think a paid personal or institutional subscription may be required for access, but I'm not sure.
THE PASSION BY GEZA VERMES is reviewed by Karen Armstrong in the London Times:
The Passion by Geza Vermes
Not the Gospel truth
By Geza Vermes
Penguin, �6.99; 130pp
ISBN 0 141 02132 2
Buy the book

The patient, scholarly work of Geza Vermes has performed an invaluable service by placing the career of Jesus in its original Jewish setting. Now he has turned his attention to the Gospel accounts of Jesus�s Crucifixion. Christians believe that Jesus, God incarnate, died on the Cross to save them from the sin of Adam in an act of supreme love. Yet the story has inspired shameful atrocities, because the Gospels place the blame squarely on the Jewish people. After the reading of the Passion on Good Friday, crowds of worshippers regularly stormed into the Jewish districts, looting and killing, to take revenge.


Naturally, Mel Gibson's movie also figures in the discussion.

(Via Bible and Interpretation News.)
THE ARTICLE ON CODEX SINAITICUS from the Dallas Morning News has been reprinted by Christianity Today [correction: Christian Today - see update] with errors intact. I would have expected them to have a clue and add some corrections.

UPDATE: Oops! Peter Head e-mails:
It is "Christian Today" - a UK based Christian news agency (it is too easily confusable I think, perhaps deliberately so). Not to excuse poor journalism.

I did email the author with the following list:

Dear Eunice,

It is a pity for Christian Today to publish such an un-informed article on Codex Sinaiticus:

Sinaiticus was originally produced on high-grade papyrus
WRONG: parchment/vellum = animal skins

written between the 1st and 4th centuries A.D.,
WRONG: written in the fourth century

The Codex was produced as the Greek version of the principal Jewish and Christian scriptures to match Greek heritage.

The Codex has a very special significance in Theology because the texts were written so soon after the life of Jesus, therefore it is the largest and longest-surviving Biblical manuscript in existence, including both the Old and New Testaments.
WRONG: many earlier fragments, individual books and smaller collections of Biblical books in Greek survive. Sinaiticus is 300 years after the life of Jesus. It is neither the largest Biblical manuscript in existence nor the longest-surviving (Codex Vaticanus is more complete in the OT and on most accounts older).

In addition, it contains two Christian texts written by the Shepherd of Hermas and Apostle Barnabas at around 65 A.D.
WRONG: Both Hermes and Barnabas (Not actually by the apostle) are mid-second century compositions. CHECK ANY REFERENCE BOOK!

However, since then, the texts were divided when visitors bribed and deceived monks into letting certain sections be removed for further examination in Russia, Britain and Germany, according to the Dallas Morning News.
WRONG: DMN gives only the Orthodox side of a complex issue (we might expect such from Dallas I suppose).

By comparing the texts in the world's oldest Bible with the prevalent interpreted Bible in modern language, the team of top experts and scholars involving in the project will be able to trace back and research how and more importantly, why changes were made to the original version of the Bible.
NONSENSE: this doesn't make any sense as a research method. Nor is it widely accepted that Sinaiticus is 'the world's oldest Bible'

Thanks, Peter, for the correction and my apologies to Christianity Today.

Also, on the Textual Criticism list Peter notes the following more accurate but still overstated press release from the British Library.

Monday, March 14, 2005

A NEW HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY CENTER IN ISRAEL is under discussion in the Knesset:
MKs back memorial day for `father of voluntary transfer'
By Dalia Shehori

Under a bill endorsed by 50 MKs, the state would set up a Rehavam Ze'evi Heritage Institute to receive the same resources as those allocated to the Yitzhak Rabin Heritage Institute. The bill would also dedicate a annual day of mourning for the memory of the man who put the concept of "transfer" on the public agenda.


Former tourism minister Ze'evi, who founded the Moledet Party, was killed by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in Jerusalem in 2001.

The bill was introduced by National Union MK Aryeh Eldad to perpetuate the work and heritage of Rehavam Ze'evi through the establishment "of a Rehavam Ze'evi center for the study of the history, geography and archaeology of the Land of Israel," with an emphasis on "the vision, work and heritage of Rehavam Ze'vi."

There are fractious politics behind all this, which I know little about and don't want to get mixed up in. But another Ha'aretz article today, "A requiem for Gandhi," has a detailed analysis of the political context.

The concluding paragraph of the article pulled me up short:
Yahad MK Yossi Sarid, on the other hand, said there was no reason to establish "a monument to a racist theory."

I didn't know that there was an Israeli political party called "Yahad." This word means "together" but it was also used by the Qumran sectarians in the idiosyncratic sense of "community" as a title for their own group. The Yahad party seems unaware of the earlier usage. It is a leftist social democratic party that would not exactly look on the Qumran sectarians as their ideological forebearers. Here is the Wikipedia article on "Yachad" and here is the party's own basic covenant.
A NEW TYNDALE TECH E-MAIL was distributed by David Instone-Brewer a while ago and is now up on his website. This one is on Rabbinics and Jewish Research. Many of the resources for ancient Judaism have been noted at one time or another already on PaleoJudaica and lots are in my links page, but it's useful to have them all collected on this page as well. When I get around to it, I'll add the remaining relevant links to my page.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

THERE'S MORE ON HERCULANEUM and the proposed excavation to try to recover more carbonized scrolls in the Art Newspaper ("British scholars call for the excavation of the Villa of the Pa[p]yri"). In this week's Explorator (link not yet available) David Meadows points to this two-part article. One writer is Martin Bailey, otherwise unidentified, and the other is Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, who "is director of the British School at Rome and also of the Herculaneum Conservation Project." The excavation project seems more tentative here than I had thought. Bailey writes:
Outside funding for Herculaneum has already come from David Packard, whose family helped set up the Hewlett-Packard computer company. At present Mr Packard wants money to be devoted to preserving what has been found, rather than spent on new excavations. His US-based Packard Humanities Institute is backing the Herculaneum Conservation Project, which has already spent $2 million. Mr Packard says that �when the Italians decide it is time to resume excavation at the Villa of the Papyri, our foundation expects to be in a position to offer appropriate financial support��but �for the present, conservation is the responsible priority.�

Wallace-Hadrill confirms this in his contribution, taking very much the line that further excavation is desirable and should be thought about but is not in any way urgent:
It is right that it look at every aspect of the problem in a far-sighted way before leaping to conclusions. In terms of urgency, the unexcavated part of the villa stands in no danger.

Equally, in terms of urgency, the already excavated portions of the same site stand in great danger. The only responsible way forward is that embraced by the Superintendency, the Packard Humanities Institute, and the international world of archaeology: of saving and recording what we have while there is still time, and planning ahead to ensure that any future excavations will not add to an existing crisis.

The emphasis in this article is different from the London Times piece of 13 February titled "Millionaire to fund dig for lost Roman library" (noted here on PaleoJudaica). This article seemed to say that there was no conflict between excavation and conservation and that Mr. Packer was ready to fund both. As I look over it again that does seem to be the message. But the Art Newspaper has Packard and the director of Packard's conservation project putting much more emphasis on conservation and seems to indicate that there are no actual plans for excavation in the foreseeable future. I'm not sure why the tones of the articles are so different. Was the Times just being selective and overly enthusiastic in its presentation? Does anyone have more information?
THE HADRIAN MOVIE - yet another pastsploitation flick. David Meadows has some info over at Rogue Classicism. I wonder how significantly the Bar Kokhba revolt will figure in it.
THE CODEX SINAITICUS digitalization project has come to the attention of the media and, as usual, they are garbling the story. Ed Cook has details over at Ralph.
AMIR DRORI, former director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, has died.
Commander of Golani Brigade during Yom Kippur War dies
By Haaretz Service

Israel Defense Forces reserve Major General Amir Drori, who was the commander of the Golani Brigade during the 1973 Yom Kippur war, died on Saturday during a trip in the Negev Desert.


Since his release from the IDF, Drori has served as the director of the Antiquities and Archaeological Authority.

May his memory be for a blessing.