Saturday, April 09, 2005

DR. HELEN BOND has published an essay on Caiphas on the Bible and Interpretation website:
Joseph Caiaphas: In Search
of a Shadow

The Gospels, despite their differences, all suggest that Jesus had two trials, one before Caiaphas (or at least the Jewish priestly leaders) and one before Pilate. In fact, the initiative for the arrest seems to have come from Caiaphas and his chief priestly colleagues; Pilate's role appears to have been merely to ratify the sentence pronounced by the Jewish high priest. Why, then, is Caiaphas' name so little known?

By Helen Bond
Senior Lecturer in New Testament Language,
Literature and Theology
University of Edinburgh
April 2005
I'VE JUST POSTED some notes on current news stories on the Dead Sea Scrolls over at Qumranica.
Research team recreates ancient underwater concrete technology (

April 07, 2005

A University of Colorado at Boulder professor and his colleagues have taken a page from the writings of an ancient Roman architect and built an underwater concrete pier in the manner of those set in the Mediterranean Sea 2,000 years ago.

CU-Boulder history Professor Robert Hohlfelder, an internationally known underwater archaeologist, said scholars have long been in awe of the engineering feats of the early Romans. A former co-director of the international Caesarea Ancient Harbor Excavation Project, he said the research effort was spurred by the stunning hydraulic concrete efforts undertaken at Caesarea Harbor in present-day Israel and elsewhere in the Mediterranean before the time of Christ.


Friday, April 08, 2005

Tiberias dig unearths very rare marble floor
By Eli Ashkenazi (Ha'aretz)

A marble floor dating from the first century CE was unearthed during this season's excavations of ancient Tiberias.

According to archaeologist Professor Yizhar Hirschfeld, director of the three-week dig that ended yesterday, the floor is apparently a remnant of a pavement in the palace of Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, who ruled the Galilee from 4 BCE to 38 CE.


I posted this item this morning, but as I tried to purge the multiple copies, Blogger ate the whole thing.
BLOGGER IS VERY GLITCHY TODAY. Apologies for the stuttered posts below, which I will clean up when the system allows me to. But for now I give up.
Israeli police guard Temple Mount (BBC)

Thousands of Israeli police have surrounded the Temple Mount in Jerusalem amid fears that Jewish extremists plan to storm the site.

The operation follows reports that extremists hope to thwart Israel's withdrawal from Gaza by inflaming tensions with Palestinians.

Palestinian militants say they will end a truce if Jewish protesters enter the al-Aqsa mosque built on Temple Mount.


And Ha'aretz, has some sane words that I hope will be heeded:
The Palestinians should understand that the majority of the Israeli public is interested in quiet, and they should not fall victim to the anticipated provocations of the right. Even after the security forces do their utmost to prevent violence on the Temple Mount, there is still a chance that an individual terrorist could succeed in carrying out a plot. Even a "success" of this kind, heaven forbid, should not be allowed to disrupt the important plan to promote an agreement between the sides.

Keep your fingers crossed this weekend.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

THE JOURNAL FOR THE STUDY OF THE PSEUDEPIGRAPHA has a new issue out (14.2 - January 2005) devoted to Joseph and Aseneth. Here's the table of contents:
Christoph Burchard
The Text of Joseph and Aseneth Reconsidered
Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 2005 14: 83-96.

John J. Collins
Joseph and Aseneth: Jewish or Christian?
Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 2005 14: 97-112.

Randall D. Chesnutt
Perceptions of Oil in Early Judaism and the Meal Formula in Joseph and Aseneth
Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 2005 14: 113-132.

Anathea E. Portier-Young
Sweet Mercy Metropolis: Interpreting Aseneth�s Honeycomb
Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 2005 14: 133-157.

George J. Brooke
Men and Women as Angels in Joseph and Aseneth
Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 2005 14: 159-177.

The URL for this journal has changed as well. It's now The abstracts are available for free on the table of contents page. The articles themselves can be downloaded in PDF format if you have a paid personal or institutional subscription.
Ezra: Mount rally is very problematic

A scenario in which thousands of Jews plan to flood the Temple Mount is highly problematic and the police will not enable them to reach the site, Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra said on Thursday.

Speaking with Army Radio, Ezra said that there are intelligence indications by which far right activists may carry out some sort of an attack on the mount. He did not specify whether the nature of the warnings was specific.


On Wednesday, Jerusalem police announced that the Temple Mount will be completely closed off to non-Muslim visitors on Sunday, the day of a major ultra-nationalist rally to the site.

Jerusalem police chief Ilan Franco had announced last week that he was barring a massive Jewish pilgrimage to the Temple Mount by a group of ultra-nationalists opposed to the planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip following multiple intelligence warnings that such an event could prompt Palestinian violence at the bitterly contested holy site.


In response to the increasing threats at the site, the Internal Security Ministry recently decided to set up a state of the art security system of electronic sensors on the Temple Mount a cost of about NIS 100 million (US $23 million).

The sensors are to be installed around the walls of the mount and are designed to alert security forces in the event of an attempted entry in the area.

But the newly enhanced security plan is unlikely to go in effect before the planned Gaza pullout slated for July.


That's the first I've heard of a new security system. As for the planned protest, it gives us quite enough to worry about. But then there's this:
Islamic movement to mobilize tens of thousands to counter Jewish rally
By DAVID RUDGE (Jerusalem Post)

The Islamic Movement intends to mobilize tens of thousands of Israeli Arab Muslims from throughout the country to take part in a mass pilgrimage to the Aksa mosque in Jerusalem on Sunday to counter a planned demonstration by the Temple Mount faithful and those opposed to disengagement.


This is turning into a volatile mixture, and I hope very much that cool heads prevail on the day.

Ha'aretz covers the same story here.
A GUEST LECTURE by Dr. Maxine Grossman for my Dead Sea Scrolls course has now been posted on the course web page. For more information, see my Qumranica blog.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

A NEW ESSAY on the Bible and Interpretation website:
Assyriology and Biblical Studies:
Time for Reassessment?

Biblical scholars since the 1970s have often tended to be ahistorical or anti-historical in approach. This too needs to change. Comparative ancient Near Eastern methods are necessary to bring balance and perspective to biblical studies without being ideologically polemical or apologetic in nature. It is regrettable that some in the past have used comparative methods as a plank in a Christian or Jewish apologetical platform. However, the excesses or aberrations in the past are no excuse for isolation and restrictivism in the present.

Bill T. Arnold
Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages
Asbury Theological Seminary
April 2005
THE BIBLICAL STUDIES CARNIVAL VOL. 1 is now up over at Joel Ng's Ebla Logs. I read a lot of biblioblogs but a number of the entries, and even one of the blogs, were new to me. Go and have a look.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Jericho synagogue may open for Pessah

Paving the way for the return of Jewish worshipers to the Shalom Al Yisrael synagogue in Jericho, the IDF and Civil Administration officials toured the site on Monday morning. Security officials warned, however, that until the PA security forces live up to their commitments and disarm terrorists and wanted fugitives in the city, worshipers will be barred from returning to the site.


The Shalom Al Yisrael synagogue was founded in the Byzantine period, and discovered in 1936 as part of excavations by D.C. Baramki of the Antiquities Authority under the British Mandate. The 10 x 13-meter mosaic floor was identified as a synagogue due to its image of the Ark of the Covenant, a menora, a shofar and lulav, and a Hebrew inscription reading "Shalom Al Yisrael" (Peace upon Israel), from which the synagogue derives its name.

It has been the subject of a lot of controversy and conflict in recent years.
ARAMAIC STUDIES has a new issue out (3.1 - January 2005). Here is the table of contents:
Alberdina Houtman
The Role of Abraham in Targum Isaiah
Aramaic Studies 2005 3: 3-14.

G. W. Lorein
{alef}{tav}{vav}{kaf}{lamed}{mem} in the Targum of the Prophets
Aramaic Studies 2005 3: 15-42.

Marco Moriggi
Two New Incantation Bowls from Rome (Italy)
Aramaic Studies 2005 3: 43-58.

Craig Morrison
The Relationship of the Peshitta Text of Second Samuel with the Peshitta Text of First Chronicles
Aramaic Studies 2005 3: 59-81.

Hezy Mutzafi
Etymological Notes on North-Eastern Neo-Aramaic
Aramaic Studies 2005 3: 83-107.

Harry F. van Rooy
The Syro-Hexaplaric Headings of the Psalms in Manuscript 12t3
Aramaic Studies 2005 3: 109-126.

The abstracts are available for free at the link above, and you can also access the articles in PDF format if you have a paid subscription or want to buy a single article. Note that the URL of this journal has changed. It's now

Monday, April 04, 2005

HEBREW ON MARS! Sumerian and Mayan too. This article ("Indian mark on Mars") in the Calcutta Telegraph drew my attention to this story. It seems that the two Rovers of Nasa's current Mars Exploration Rover Mission are each equipped with a "sundial" on which the word for "Mars" is inscribed in two dozen languages. I take the full list from an old but informative Cornell News report of a press conference by PBS's "Bill Nye The Science Guy":
Appropriately for a science instrument involving Nye, the sundial design evolved through suggestions and drawings from children across the United States, solicited by Sheri Klug, director of Arizona State University's Mars Education and Outreach Program.


One idea suggested by children was that the sundial bear writing in many languages, representing the diverse cultures of Earth. The face of the sundial is engraved with the word "Mars" in Arabic, Bengali, Braille, Chinese, Danish, English, French, German, Greek, Hawaiian, Hebrew, Hindi, Inuktituk, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Lingala, Malay-Indonesian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Thai. Together these languages are used by more than three quarters of Earth's population. Also included are ancient Sumerian and Mayan. Mars figured prominently in both the Sumerian and Mayan cultures.

Cool, but too bad they left out Aramaic.
REBECCA LESSES comments on some textbooks for Jewish mysticism, Jewish ritual, and the Hebrew Bible over at Mystical Politics.
CHALDOASSYRIAN WATCH: Two notes in the news:
Turkey Allows a First New Year for a Tiny Minority

Published: April 4, 2005

MIDYAT, Turkey, April 1 - A windswept hilltop here in southeastern Anatolia has become the site for a reunion that once would have been unthinkable, as thousands of Assyrians from across the region have converged to openly celebrate their New Year in Turkey for the first time.

Like many other expressions of minority ethnic identity, the Assyrian New Year, or Akito, had been seen by Turkey as a threat. But this year, the government, with an eye toward helping its bid to join the European Union, has officially allowed the celebration by the Assyrians, members of a Christian ethnic group that traces its roots back to ancient Mesopotamia.


The festivities here on Friday were the culmination of a celebration that started on March 21, the first day of the Assyrian New Year. Behind Mr. Begtas, on a raised stage near the wall of the Mar Aphrem monastery, a balding baritone sang in Syriac, the Assyrians' language, a Semitic tongue similar to Aramaic.


Actually, Syriac is a dialect of Aramaic.
Ancient sect mourns Pope in Iraq
Sun Apr 3, 2005 8:35 AM BST

ANKAWA, Iraq (Reuters) - Followers of the ancient Chaldean Christian sect have gathered for mass among the mountains of northern Iraq to mourn the death of Pope John Paul, watched over by guards armed with AK-47 assault rifles.

"All Christians, even the Muslims, will hope for another pope to re-establish peace in this world," said Rabban al-Qas, a Kurd who is the Chaldean bishop of Amadiya.


Chaldeans, who use the ancient Aramaic language to conduct mass, make up the largest of Iraq's Christian sects, and say they have around 400,000 followers in Iraq. The total Christian community in Iraq is estimated at around 750,000.


Sunday, April 03, 2005

GOSPEL OF JUDAS UPDATE: Stephen Carlson has collected lots of new information at Hypotyposeis.
THE LATE POPE'S RELATIONSHIP WITH JUDAISM is the subject of a thoughtful Reuters article ("John Paul forged historic reconciliation with Jews"). Excerpt:
In 1986, in Rome, he became the first Pope to enter a synagogue. In 1994, he established full diplomatic ties between the Vatican and Israel, a step widely regarded as removing any theological opposition to the existence of modern Israel.

Clarifying an ancient misunderstanding, the Pope also said God had not broken his covenant with the Jews by creating the new covenant with Christians. This repudiated an old Christian view that Jews had "missed the boat" by failing to recognise Jesus as the Messiah and so their souls would not be saved.

The forging of ties was followed by a week-long pilgrimage to Israel in 2000 that touched on issues ranging from the quest for Middle East peace to the horrors of the Holocaust and the search for religious tolerance and understanding.

"Israelis were so impressed by his amicability and felt almost as if he were a relative," Aharon Lopez, a former Israeli ambassador to the Vatican, said of the visit.

Jewish leaders elsewhere were equally impressed. "Of all the popes in history, John Paul II is the one who understood Jews the best," said Theo Klein, a former head of the French Jewish umbrella group CRIF.

Despite the distance crossed by Pope John Paul, hurdles remained in the Vatican's relationship with Israel and the Jewish people, specifically the slow pace of opening Vatican archives to Holocaust researchers and the beatification of Pius.

Lopez said much education was needed to remove the "teaching of contempt" in the Church, while adding that John Paul's papacy had brought the Jewish people's relationship with the Catholic Church to a "point of no return".

"Under the circumstances he went a very far distance, more than any other pope, perhaps because of his acquaintance with Jews and the fact that he lived through the Holocaust where he did," Lopez said.

And this article has more:
Pontiff reached out to other faiths


Chicago Tribune

(KRT) - When John Paul II stepped across the threshold of the Great Synagogue of Rome on April 13, 1986, it marked a milestone analogous to Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon. If not quite "a giant leap for mankind," it certainly was for the two faiths involved.

For almost 2,000 years, the popes and the heart of Rome's Jewish community literally had been neighbors. Only a short distance separates Vatican City and Temple Israeletico. Yet until then, no pope had ever entered the synagogue.


In 1994, he dispatched the first Vatican ambassador to Israel, four decades after other countries established diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. When his predecessor Paul VI visited the Holy Land in 1964, he studiously avoided even using the world "Israel." But when John Paul II traveled there in 2000, he repeated the message of his visit to Rome's synagogue: "You are our elder brothers."

The pope's devotion to improving Jewish-Catholic relations was not limited to grand gestures. He had an eye for the finest details. For example, he suggested the term "Hebrew Scriptures" be substituted for "Old Testament," which implied something outmoded.


And this A.P. article ("Jerusalem hails pope's interfaith outreach") has responses from Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Jerusalem. And note also this Knight Ridder piece: "John Paul II lauded for efforts to mend Jewish-Catholic relations".

This Pope had a remarkable ecumenical spirit.