Saturday, April 23, 2005

THE ARMENIAN MASSACRE IN TURKEY is in the news this week because this is its 90th anniversary. This AFP article discusses the attempt to recover ancient Armenian books, many of which were destroyed at that time:
Ancient Armenian books tell a story not written in their pages
22/04/2005 AFP
YEREVAN, April 22 (AFP) - 4h34 - Over a meter (yard) wide when opened and weighing 32 kilograms (15 pounds), the Homilies of Mush is the largest ancient Armenian book to be rescued from eastern Anatolia during anti-Armenian massacres in Ottoman Turkey almost a century ago.

Archivists say the story of how the manuscript and many others like it were saved could be more telling of the plight of the Armenian people then what the intricate Armenian lettering describes within the pages.


Some 9,000 rare manuscripts are estimated to have been destroyed as Armenians were driven from their homeland in World War I, but about 30 books currently on display in Armenia�s Archive of Ancient Manuscripts are believed to have been rescued by fleeing peasants.


A slow trickle of antique texts continues to fill the archive�s shelves to this day as more Armenian works pillaged in Anatolia are discovered by collectors around the world and donated to the repository.

Earlier this week a Diaspora Armenian from Paris was able to convince the sister of a collector who recently passed away to donate a page from a lost tenth century bible to the archive.

"Hopefully when she sees that it is good hands she will be willing to donate more works from the collection," said Claude Mutafrian, a 62-year-old historian on medieval Armenia who carried the sheepskin sheet to Yerevan from Paris.

Ancient Armenian manuscripts are another important source for both Old Testament pseudepigrapha and New Testament apocrypha as well as for the works of Philo of Alexandria, including some Philonic works that are otherwise lost. The loss-to-recovery ratio of thess manuscripts is discouraging, but this tenth-century Bible page is intriguing, both because of its content and its date. Too bad the article doesn't say what else is in the collection (or even what the contents of the Homilies of Mush are).
MARVIN MEYER'S LECTURE ON NAG HAMMADI is summarized in the Billings Gazette:
Talk highlights unused gospels

Of The Gazette Staff

Numerous gospels were written about the teachings of Jesus, but only four made it into the New Testament.

Because those four all climaxed in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, it's not surprising that Christianity has become the religion of the cross, said Marvin Meyer, a professor and chair of the department of religion studies at Chapman University in Orange, Calif.

On Friday, Meyer gave the last in the Distinguished Lecture Series of the academic year at Montana State University-Billings.

During the presentation that nearly filled a 375-seat lecture hall, Meyer talked about how the discovery of the Gnostic gospels 60 years ago reveals that early Christianity was as diverse as it is today.


It also reports that Meyer has a new book on Nag Hammadi coming out in the fall.
FROM THE DEPARMENT OF HOLIDAY SYNCHRONICITIES: Passover begins tonight at sundown. Today is also St. George's Day. (St. George is the patron saint of England.) If you're celebrating one or both, enjoy.

Friday, April 22, 2005

MOTIONS PASSED: The Guardian reports that the AUT has passed two of the three motions to boycott three Israeli universities. The motions to boycott Haifa University and Bar Ilan University passed, while the motion to boycott the Hebrew University was dropped or delayed (not clear which) when the very weak evidence against it was challenged. The following is interesting and my hat is off to Alastair Hunter:
At the end of the vote, delegates angrily demanded to be able to voice their opposition to the new policy and to the cutting short of the debate, due to lack of time, so that no opposition other than from the executive was heard.

Alastair Hunter, a delegate from Glasgow, speaking from the back of the Winter Gardens conference hall, where the debate took place, called the motions "divisive". He said: "I am disgusted we were not given a chance to debate fully."

The BBC also covers the story. Some interesting information in their report:
The lecturers' decision has been criticised by representatives of the executives of Britain's universities, Universities UK.

A spokesperson said: "UUK condemns the resolution from AUT which is inimical to academic freedom, including the freedom of academics to collaborate with other academics."


But the Academic Friends of Israel in the UK said the boycott was "based on false information, imposes discriminatory boycott and vetting of political opinions, and is a backward step in the current climate of positive moves being made in the region".

"It is also the beginning of a dangerous process against the tenets of academic freedom and may rebound on the AUT itself," it said.

It also condemned the way that it had been made difficult for pro-Israel voices to be heard.

The group's chair, Ronnie Fraser, said: "Israelis and Palestinians will continue to co-operate even without the AUT, as they, who live the reality of the Middle East, know no other alternative is available for them.

"If the sponsors of this boycotting campaign succeeded in something, it is only to undermine further progress, collaboration and peace in the Middle East and to marginalise the standing of the AUT and its members in the academic community."

The last sentence is certainly true. I suspect that the main result of this shameful decision is that the international and national credibility of the AUT will now be seriously damaged and any influence it may have had to do some good will be compromised. I certainly want nothing to do with it as long as it comes up with policies like this.
OVER AT QUMRANICA this week's essay abstracts and seminar summaries (three of each) have now been fully posted. Have a look if you haven't already.
THE SCH�YEN COLLECTION is in the news, in an emerging controversy involving Aramaic incantation bowls:
Museum inquiry into 'smuggling' of ancient bowls

By Dalya Alberge, Arts Correspondent (London Times)

ONE of the world�s leading buyers of antiquities is at the heart of an inquiry to establish whether part of his multimillion-pound collection was illegally exported from the Middle East.

University College London has set up a committee of inquiry into the provenance of 650 Aramaic incantation bowls inscribed with magical texts, The Times has learnt.

The bowls were loaned to the university museum � the Petrie � by Martin Schoyen, a Norwegian tycoon who has built up one of the world�s finest collections of antiquities in private hands.


I was aware that these were in London but I didn't know they were part of the Sch�yen collection. Almost certainly these are unprovenanced Iraqi antiquities. I first heard of hundreds of incantation bowls in London in around 2000. I assume these are the same, in which case they must have been exported before the Iraq war.

UPDATE: Ed Cook comments over at Ralph.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

THE GUARDIAN'S 2005 UNIVERSITY GUIDE, which ranks the British universities by institution and by subject, has just been published this week. I am very pleased to see that the University of St. Andrew ranks number 10 in the whole country and, even better, among "Theology" departments (which includes all Divinity and religious studies subjects), our Divinity School ranks number 5. That's a substantial move forward from last year for both the University and the School.
A LECTURESHIP IN OLD TESTAMENT THEOLOGY is being advertised by Ridley Hall, Cambridge.
OXYRHYNCHUS UPDATE: David Meadows collects all the latest news over at Rogue Classicism. Curiouser and curiouser ...

UPDATE: Important news on the Textual Criticism list. Wieland Willker forwards a message by Oxford papyrologist Dr. Dirk Obbink on the PAPY list regarding the Independent. Follow the link to read the whole thing.
Like other collections we do not normally announce our findings in advance of publication. In this case a team from ISPART (formerly CPART) at Brigham Young University in Utah spent last week creating MSI images (that is, at all ranges of the light band) of papyri in Oxford as part of a project begun in 2002. We scanned portions of the unrolled Herculaneum papyrus in the Bodleian Library and experimented on problematic carbonised and non-carbonised samples in the Oxyrhynchus collection in the Sackler Library ...

Details of the results follow.
The London press got wind of this (the unrolled Herculaneum papyrus of Epicurus' Peri physeos in the British Library is being done this week) and reported enthusiastically, if selectively. No mention, for example, was made of the success on the Bodleian Herculaneum papyrus (P.Herc. 118), now thereby revealed to be a Peri Epikourou or at any rate a pre-Philodemean history of the school. The article certainly should not have said (if it did) that all the papyri had been discovered yesterday, only that we made significant (and sufficiently exciting) advances in reading and confirmation of identifications with some, the same with some other pieces, while still others were identified for the first time, some standard classical authors, as usual, while others remain complete mysteries. ...

This does seem to confirm that the project has made "significant advances" recently, including identifying new fragments of classical authors. It clarifies that both the Oxyrhynchus and the Herculaneum texts were involved. We are not told how "the London press got wind of this" and it seems that Dr. Obbink himself has not seen the Independent article, which seems odd. He will be presenting the results in Berkeley this month and Oxford next month. I hope that means that something will go up on the Oxford Oxyrhynchus Papyri Project website soon as well.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

SBL FORUM ARTICLE UPDATE: It develops that the XSL now being used to publish Forum articles cannot handle hidden links. I've been discussing this with Sharon Johnson and she agrees that this is a problem that will keep coming up and that needs to be fixed. Their technical people are working on it, but apparently this problem is connected to some others and is fairly complex, so it may take several weeks to solve. I am content to wait until the article can be published in the form I intended, so it won't be back up for a while. I am very grateful to Sharon and her colleagues for tackling the difficulty head-on. I'll let you know when the piece does come out.
THE ASSOCIATION OF UNIVERSITY TEACHERS (the UK's trade union for University lecturers, equivalent to the AAUP in the United States) is considering a boycott of three Israeli universities. Individual scholars from these institutions who sign an acceptable political statement would be exempted. (This is the post promised in the previous post below.)
Lecturers may boycott Israeli academics

State's policy in occupied territories fuels union debate

Polly Curtis and Will Woodward
Tuesday April 5, 2005
The Guardian

Israeli academics who refuse to condemn their government's actions in the occupied territories risk a boycott by the UK's leading lecturers' union.

The Association of University Teachers' annual council, which begins on April 20 in Eastbourne, will also debate whether to boycott three of Israel's eight universities - Haifa University, Bar Ilan University and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem - over their alleged complicity with the government's policies on the Palestinian territories.

The union voted against an academic boycott policy two years ago, but campaigners believe the motions are more likely to be passed this year.

Palestinian academics have also issued a call for an international boycott of Israel.


(Via Andrew Sullivan.)

The AUT website has more information on the relevant motions to the AUT council. I'll just excerpt it here, but please do read it all. First of all, let's be clear about the long-term agenda:
56 Open and Birmingham Council notes:

1. That nearly sixty of the most prominent academic, cultural and professional associations and trade unions in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza, including the Federation of Unions of Palestinian Universities' Professors and Employees and the umbrella organization of Palestinian Non Governmental Associations (NGOs) in the occupied West Bank (PNGO), and thus highly representative of the views of major sectors in Palestinian civil society, have now called for an academic and cultural boycott of Israeli institutions.
2. That AUT is affiliated to Friends of Bir Zeit University and Trade Union Friends of Palestine.
3. That the full text of the Palestinian Call can be found on the following websites:
4. That the wording of this call is as follows:
'In the spirit of international solidarity, moral consistency and resistance to injustice and oppression, we, Palestinian academics and intellectuals, call upon our colleagues in the international community to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel's occupation, colonization and system of apartheid, by applying the following:
1. Refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions;
2. Advocate a comprehensive boycott of Israeli institutions at the national and international levels, including suspension of all forms of funding and subsidies to these institutions;
3. Promote divestment and disinvestment from Israel by international academic institutions;
4. Exclude from the above actions against Israeli institutions any conscientious Israeli academics and intellectuals opposed to their state's colonial and racist policies;
5. Work toward the condemnation of Israeli policies by pressing for resolutions to be adopted by academic, professional and cultural associations and organizations;
6. Support Palestinian academic and cultural institutions directly without requiring them to partner with Israeli counterparts as an explicit or implicit condition for such support.'

Council resolves to circulate the full text of the Palestinian call to all LAs for information and discussion.

To be moved by Open and seconded by Birmingham

To put it simply, the long-term goal here is an outright boycott of Israel it its entirety. The specific boycotts called for below are the thin end of that wedge. The Executive has agreed to circulate this call for a general boycott "for information and discussion" during the meeting. (That's what "EA" means.)

There follow three motions for the boycotts of the three specific Israeli universities. I will quote one of them below but, again, do follow the link and read the whole document.

As I said in my previous post, I am not a member of the AUT, in no small part because of their habit of championing this sort of trendy political cause. But as a British academic who specializes in Judaism, I think I need make some comments.

1. I wish that the AUT would concentrate on its real job of working to supporting British academics and improving our working conditions. There's work enough there to keep them busy.

2. I have no trouble with AUT members or anyone else criticizing the actions of the Israeli government or of particular Israeli institutions or particular Israelis. I'm not happy myself, for example, with the Israeli government's neglect of the safety of the archaeological relics on the Temple Mount, as I've said before. But the full agenda of the people who wrote this is a complete boycott of Israel, which is not reasonable. This fits in pretty well with the AUT's policy statement on Israel and Palestine, which is entirely one-sided against Israel.

3. I am not well acquainted with the particular cases above involving the three Israeli universities. At least two of them (the Hebrew U and Haifa) deny that the charges are true. Such cases get very complicated and often come down to "Did too! Did not!" and can take years to decide in court. Moreover, there are some warning signs in the AUT document that make me nervous. The first specific motion reads as follows:
57 Birmingham Council notes:

1. That on Sunday, November 21 2004 at 7:15AM, bulldozers and armed security guards hired by Hebrew University Properties, Ltd. Arrived at the home of the Al-Helou family in Jerusalem to announce that their land would be confiscated for the expansion of the university.
2. That the Al-Helou family is among seven Palestinian families whose houses are trapped among the university dormitory buildings.
3. That the families have lived in this area, called Ard Al-Samar, since 1948 when they were forced out of the Jerusalem village of Lifta with the establishment of the state of Israel.
4. That after the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem began in 1967, these families' land has been confiscated repeatedly by the university to build student dorms, so that the families are now confined in small pockets of land surrounded by the fences.

Council resolves:

1. To call on all AUT members to boycott the Hebrew University of Jerusalem until it calls a halt to all attempts to confiscate land from Palestinian families, and reaches an acceptable settlement with the families' lawyers regarding restoration or compensation in the case of land already confiscated.
2. That the boycott should take the form described in the Palestinian call for academic boycott of Israeli institutions.


The source of this report appears to be an article from the Electronic Intifada dated 22 November 2004. It reads in part:
On Sunday, November 21 at 7:15AM, bulldozers and armed security guards hired by Hebrew University Properties, Ltd. arrived at the home of Al-Helou family in Jerusalem to announce that their land will be confiscated for the expansion of the university dormitories. ... The Al-Helou family is among seven families whose houses are trapped among the university dormitory buildings. They have lived in this area, called Ard Al-Samar, since 1948 when they were forced out of the Jerusalem village of Lifta with the establishment of the Jewish state. ... After the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem began in 1967, their land has been confiscated time and again by the university to build student dorms. The dormitory buildings have been closing in on the families, who are now confined in small pockets of land surrounded by the fences.

As you can see, the information in the AUT resolution is lifted without attribution and pretty much verbatim from the Electronic Intifada piece. The Electronic Intifada is not the first place I would go to for objective news. It may well be that the story is entirely true, but I think it's a matter for serious concern that it has not been picked up by any of the major mainstream media. As far as I can tell, this is the one and only source for the story. My own rule is to be very wary of any report that comes only from a single source with a clear ideological agenda. I certainly would not make a big deal about such a story until I saw it was taken up by, Reuters, the A.P., or the like. The AUT is calling for an academic boycott of a major, world-class university on the basis of what certainly appears to be a single ideologically-oriented Internet source which they copy almost word for word without naming the source. If they have made any efforts to verify the account, they say nothing about it in the motion. That doesn't strike me as impressive research or presentation and I strongly encourage anyone who attends the meeting to point this out and call for further verification.

This post is getting too long, so I'll refrain from commenting on the other two motions. My point is made.

4. Even if all the charges are completely true, the call for a boycott is very extreme. It's one thing to criticize particular problems or abuses, it's quite another to cut off communication and any relationship entirely, and nothing here justifies it. Moreover, the call for a boycott occurs in a curious vacuum. The AUT is putting itself forward as a champion of human rights, yet a search of their site for "Saudi Arabia" and "Syria," both renowned for their gross human rights abuses, including of academics and students (notably censorship and denying the rights of women), comes up empty. (Try it!) Where is the call to boycott Saudi Arabia and Syria, whose abuses are flagrant, widespread, and systemic? Where is the condemnation of the Saudi education system or the now defunct pseudo-academic Zayed Centre for Co-ordination and Follow-up in the UAE?

And is everything really quite satisfactory with the Palestinian Authority? What about the destruction of the Temple Mount antiquities by the WAQF? Or the hate filled Palestinian Authority sermons that encourage children to become suicide "martyrs"? Or the eleventh-grade Palestinian Authority textbook that calls for the execution of anyone who abandons Islam? It's illuminating to note that the author of that textbook is offended by Christian missionaries not so much because they teach faith in Jesus, but because they promote Western culture, history, and literature; lead people to take an interest in ideas such as capitalism, atheism and communism; and promote the freedom of thought to criticize Islam and its teachings, including polygamy. Is this really the education the AUT wants Palestinian students to enter university with?

I could go on and on in this vein but, again, the point is made. Should Israel and Israeli institutions be criticized if they do something wrong? Of course. But is it right to single Israel out and boycott its institutions and even the whole country, especially in light of the ghastly human rights abuses in Israel's neighbors in the Middle East? I think not. The causes promoted by the AUT are very selective, very oddly prioritized, and advocate disproportionate and inappropriate responses.

As for me, the two conferences I organized at St. Mary's College in 1998 and 2001 included invited Israelis. I maintain close relations with Israeli colleagues and am happy to be involved with Israeli academic institutions. This is not going to change, and if the AUT has a problem with that, it's their problem.

I hope very much that these proposals are defeated by the AUT when they are voted on this Friday. It is embarrassing enough for British academics that the motions are being considered at all.

Some other recent articles on the ongoing annual AUT council in Eastbourne and the proposed Israel boycotts include these: "Academics vote on Israel boycott" (BBC); in the London Times: "Jews criticise lecturer boycott" and "Dons' boycott raises Jewish student fear"; and in the Guardian: "Why we ask for a boycott"; "To Boldly Go"; "Blunt Boycott"; "The Sins of the Few"; "Israeli debate threatens to eclipse university pay talks". And a response from Israel: "Who's turning up the heat on Palestinian academics?" (Jerusalem Post).

UPDATE (22 April): More here. For shame.

UPDATE (24 April): More here.

UPDATE (26 April): More here.

UPDATE (28 April): More here. Resistance is mounting.

UPDATE (29 April): More here.

UPDATE: (7 May): More here. A new debate has been scheduled for 26 May.

UPDATE (8 May): More here.

UPDATE (13 May): More here.

UPDATE (15 May): More here. (Response of Haifa University.)

UPDATE (18 May): More here.

UPDATE (23 May): More here.

UPDATE (24 May): More here.

UPDATE (26 May): The boycott has been repealed. This is good news, but do follow the link and read the rest of my comments.
THIS SORT OF THING is one of the main reasons I'm not a member of the Association of University Teachers (the British union for University lecturers, comparable to the AAUP in the United States). I've been working on a post on this embarrassing proposal by the AUT, but haven't had time to finish it. Rebecca Lesses lays out the basic issues.
OXYRHYNCHUS UPDATE: On the Ars Technica forum an anonymous papyrology student at the University of Chicago is expressing serious skepticism about Sunday's Independent article on the Oxyrhynchus Papyri. The writer sums up:
So as of right now, the rest of the papyrological community is waiting to hear Dirk Obbink at Oxford either back up for disavow the claims made in the article. At the very best, the Independent's reporters are covering some kind of new imaging breakthrough in an extremely hyperbolic fashion. And at the worst, they're trying to make a major story out of 20-year-old news.

My correspondence also seems to indicate that papyrologists who ought to have known already about these new texts if they were real haven't heard anything about them.

David Meadows notes some more media coverage here

Developing ...

UPDATE: Paul Nikkel e-mails:
I do believe Hannibal at Ars is Jon Stokes. Just so you can give him proper credit.

As I wrote initially at deinde when this came up, even if there was some breakthrough in the "spectral analysis" the real problem of piecing together the fragments still remains. This is the same point brought up by Meadows and Stokes. The fact that the Independent article doesn't mention anything about the fragment problem seems to indicate there's nothing substantial to report here. A statement from the Oxford team would certainly clear the issue quickly.

I certainly agree with that. Oxford papyrologists, speak!
TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: For some reason this Arutz Sheva article from 14 April did not show up on Google. I only found it yesterday at the Bible and Interpretation News website.
Exclusive: Dumped Temple Mount Rubble Yields Jewish Artifacts
23:09 Apr 14, '05 / 5 Nisan 5765

A historic excavation has been taking place in an eastern Jerusalem valley for the past six months: the first-ever archaeological examination of the Temple Mount.

I note this passage in particular:
�The very act of spending time and making the effort to examine debris just because it originates from the Temple Mount transmits a very powerful message to the general public and to the world as a whole about the importance of the place,� Dr. Barkai said, likening the painstaking examination of the Temple Mount rubble to the respect given to a dead corpse by burying it.

He said the project is of particular importance due to the Islamic Waqf efforts to perpetrate something that he says is worse than Holocaust denial. "There is a phenomenon of Temple denial," Barkai said. "I just heard [Arab] MK Dahamshe this week in the Knesset denying that there were ever temples on the Temple Mount. It is a part of the cultural Intifada. I think it is just as serious as Holocaust denial. This intifada started in Joseph�s tomb and is trying to deny Jewish rights to the country."

The sifting and examinations have already yielded important artifacts from various periods, starting from the First Temple period until today. ...

I think it's an overstatement to say this is worse than or as serious as Holocaust denial, but it's still vile.

As for the artifacts discovered, the list is too long to copy here, but you should read it all. Some wonderful things have been found, which are important despite the fact that they have been torn from their precious stratigraphic context. It is very important that this salvage project get funding so that it can be completed.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

MY ARTICLE, "Assimilated to the Blogosphere: Blogging Ancient Judaism," has just been published in this month's SBL Forum. However, the scores of links I put in it have been stripped!!! This will not do. I'm running to the next class right now, but I've e-mailed the editor and will tell you when I know more.

UPDATE: The article had about 63 links to my blogs, other blogs, and other websites. I assure you it makes much more sense with those links included.

UPDATE: Thanks Mark!

UPDATE (10:55 pm): For now the article has been taken down. I am in discussion with the SBL people about how to proceed in light of technical limitations of which I was only made aware today. It's late here and today has been long enough. More tomorrow.

UPDATE: (morning, 20 April): Still discussing. This may take a while. More in due course.

UPDATE: More here.
SCOTLAND IS CASHING IN on the success of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code:
Star role for Scots chapel in Da Vinci Code film


HOLLYWOOD is coming to Midlothian. An 11th hour deal has been struck that will bring filming of the blockbuster movie based on the bestselling book The Da Vinci Code to Rosslyn Chapel.

The genteel village of Roslin is now preparing for an invasion of A-list celebrities when Tom Hanks, who plays the book�s hero Professor Robert Langdon, and Am�lie star Audrey Tautou fly in for an eight-day shoot in August.


Since The Da Vinci Code was published in 2003, visitor numbers at the 15th-century chapel have risen by 56%, but it is hoped a substantial sum can be raised from the shoot itself. Last year almost 70,000 people visited the building in Midlothian, making it one of the country�s most popular tourist attractions.


As well as the chapel, The Da Vinci Code could be worth millions for Scottish tourism. Harry Potter fans have flocked to the west Highlands to see locations, and 18% of visitors from the United States cited films as a factor in their decision to come to Scotland in a survey in 1996, the year after Braveheart was released.


Ah well, at least it's good for the Scottish economy. On the positive side, The Da Vinci Code is good for tourism and is likely to get people interested in biblical-related history and even perhaps get some bright young people interested in the field as a vocation. (Since my interest in what I do now was sparked by Erich Von Daniken's dreadful books, I shouldn't discount this factor.) But the negative side of The Da Vinci Code is, of course, that it's bogus.
MARATHON MAN II: With the extra seminar rescheduled for today, my five-hour teaching marathon begins later this morning. To start the day off right, the fire alarm went off just as I got in my office and we all spent the first 25 minutes of the morning standing out in the St. Mary's Quadrangle waiting for the fire brigade. At least there was no fire.

Blogging is likely to be light today, but I am posting some essay abstracts at Qumranica.

Monday, April 18, 2005

THE WIKIPEDIA "ARAMAIC LANGUAGE" ARTICLE is today's featured article on the Wikipedia main page. That's all to the good, but the current version of the article includes this unfortunate sentence:
Biblical Aramaic was originally written in Achaemenid Aramaic, but heavily influenced by later forms of Aramaic and Hebrew due to the work of the Masoretes in the first century CE.

The Masoretes worked in roughly the second half of the first millennium C.E. (The Aleppo Codex of the Hebrew Bible was produced by them.)

It's also a bit of a stretch to call Biblical Aramaic "Achaemenid Aramaic." Granted, Official Aramaic was settled into its mainstream form then, but the material in Daniel, while in the Official Aramaic dialect (apart from its late orthography) was written in the second century B.C.E. (granted, in some cases perhaps based on earlier stories). I think "Achaemenid Aramaic" should read "Official Aramaic" here.

UPDATE: The broken link to the article has now been fixed.

UPDATE (19 April): Ed Cook comments over at Ralph. He says the whole article needs to be rewritten, not just revised.
CHUCK JONES, the Librarian at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, has announced that he is leaving the OI to become the Head of the Blegen Library at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. Chuck is well know as moderator of a number of e-mail discussion lists and as founder and maintainer of the ABZU database. I have cited the ANE list and the IraqCrisis list frequently here on PaleoJudaica. We should all say thanks to him for his hard work over many years on Internet projects from which we have all benefitted. Good luck and best wishes, Chuck!

Let's hope someone takes up his mantle at the Oriental Institute and keeps these projects going.
Highway engineer receives threat note warning road damages graves
By Roni Singer, Haaretz Correspondent

The chief engineer of the Trans-Israel Highway received a threatening letter on Sunday, apparently part of a stand-off over extending the road into an area some ultra-Orthodox Jews say contains ancient graves.


Ultra-Orthodox Jews have criticized plans to extend the partially-completed toll road, arguing that it passes over a site where Jews were buried during the Second Temple Period (536 B.C.E. to 70 C.E.). ...

And what do archaeologists say?
"PRINTING THE TALMUD: From Bomberg To Scottenstein" is a new exhibition at the Yeshiva University Museum. The Art Daily has the story:
The exhibition Printing The Talmud: From Bomberg to Schottenstein provides the visitor with a once in a lifetime opportunity to view outstanding examples of early Talmud manuscripts, such as an exceptionally rare Spanish 13th century copy of Avodah Zarah (a tractate that was frequently destroyed by Church censors), and rare examples of early printed volumes, including one of the very few extant complete sets of the famed 16th century Bomberg Talmud, the publication that established the layout of the Talmud page for future generations. Also on display is a rare copy of the Holocaust Survivors' Talmud, published in 1948 in Heidelberg Germany with the help of the U.S. Army.

Exhibited alongside these rare manuscripts is a floor mosaic from the ancient synagogue at Rehov in Israel�s Bet Shean Valley. Dating back to the 6th century this unique mosaic is the oldest preserved copy of a Rabbinic text, and the only example to survive from the time the Talmud was compiled and redacted.

UPDATE: The exhibit and some lectures associated with it are also covered by the Commentator.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: According to the Independent, new imagining techniques are allowing the recovery of a vast amount of new information from the Oxyrhynchus papyri.

Decoded at last: the 'classical holy grail' that may rewrite the history of the world

Scientists begin to unlock the secrets of papyrus scraps bearing long-lost words by the literary giants of Greece and Rome

By David Keys and Nicholas Pyke

17 April 2005

For more than a century, it has caused excitement and frustration in equal measure - a collection of Greek and Roman writings so vast it could redraw the map of classical civilisation. If only it was legible.

Now, in a breakthrough described as the classical equivalent of finding the holy grail, Oxford University scientists have employed infra-red technology to open up the hoard, known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, and with it the prospect that hundreds of lost Greek comedies, tragedies and epic poems will soon be revealed.

In the past four days alone, Oxford's classicists have used it to make a series of astonishing discoveries, including writing by Sophocles, Euripides, Hesiod and other literary giants of the ancient world, lost for millennia. They even believe they are likely to find lost Christian gospels, the originals of which were written around the time of the earliest books of the New Testament.

The web page of the Oxford Oxyrhynchus Papyri Project is here (and note this page especially), but there's nothing about the breakthrough there yet.

The Independent article describes the techniques as follows:
Since it was unearthed more than a century ago, the hoard of documents known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri has fascinated classical scholars. There are 400,000 fragments, many containing text from the great writers of antiquity. But only a small proportion have been read so far. Many were illegible.

Now scientists are using multi-spectral imaging techniques developed from satellite technology to read the papyri at Oxford University's Sackler Library. The fragments, preserved between sheets of glass, respond to the infra-red spectrum - ink invisible to the naked eye can be seen and photographed.

The fragments form part of a giant "jigsaw puzzle" to be reassembled. Missing "pieces" can be supplied from quotations by later authors, and grammatical analysis.

Much like the Dead Sea Scrolls.

And this passage really caught my eye:
When it has all been read - mainly in Greek, but sometimes in Latin, Hebrew, Coptic, Syriac, Aramaic, Arabic, Nubian and early Persian - the new material will probably add up to around five million words. Texts deciphered over the past few days will be published next month by the London-based Egypt Exploration Society, which financed the discovery and owns the collection.

We are already aware that the Oxyrhynchus papyri contain some of our earliest fragments of important Old Testament pseudepigrapha (2 Baruch is an example), and it's on our agenda to go through the published material to look for hitherto unidentified pseudepigrapha fragments for the More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project. With luck, perhaps these new developments will add to our corpus.

UPDATE: David Meadows, over at Rogue Classicism says that most of the information in this article is a couple of years old and he speculates that this is opening hype for an as yet unannounced documentary. Maybe so, but some of the most interesting information about the new texts is presented as less than a week old. Is this poor editing of an older article or is the information actually new? Anyhow, it's new to me and has never been noted on PaleoJudaica before, so I'm glad they ran the piece.

UPDATE (18 April): Wieland Willker is skeptical.

UPDATE: More from David Meadows. BBC Radio 4 had a documentary on Oxyrhynchus.

UPDATE (20 April): More here.

UPDATE (1 May): More here, here, and here.
ANOTHER ANCIENT MOSAIC has been uncovered in Israel:
Impressive' villa mosaic unearthed near Caesarea (Ha'aretz)
By Amiram Barkat

A 500-square-meter mosaic depicting an intricate design of flamingos, peacocks, ducks and other animals that adorned the floor of a fifth-century C.E. villa, was unearthed recently on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean near Caesarea.


Cool photo.