Saturday, August 06, 2005

THE LUXOR COPTIC PAPYRI get a brief mention at the end of an EgyptToday article on King Tut's cause of death:
Tut is not the only archaeological find to have been in the news of late. A team from the Polish Center for Mediterranean Archaeology recently announced the discovery of a Coptic trove buried in the ruins of a sixth-century monastery.

The team unveiled two papyri books of Coptic writings, a set of parchments (text on sheep’s skin) placed between two wooden labels, Coptic ostraca, pottery fragments and textiles. The manuscripts were hidden beneath a Middle Kingdom tomb in Luxor.

The SCA [Supreme Council of Antiquities] believes Christians fearing Roman persecution may have hidden the texts. According to Hawass, scientists will restore the manuscripts in an effort to learn more about early Christianity.

Nothing much new in this, but it's good to hear that someone is working on them.

Friday, August 05, 2005

TODAY (29 Tammuz) is the 900th anniversary of Rashi's death, but I can't find any mention of it in today's news. Curious.

UPDATE (6 August): Christopher Heard notes this article in Arutz Sheva:
900th Anniversary of Bible Commentator Rashi´s Death
14:54 Aug 05, '05 / 29 Tammuz 5765
By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz

Friday marks the 900th anniversary of the death of one of the Jewish people's greatest Bible and Talmud commentators, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, known as Rashi.

A VICTIM OF THE MT. SCOPUS TERRORIST ATTACK is continuing his ancient philological studies. Kol hakavod!
THE JERUSALEM SYNDROME was the subject of a paper at the 14th World Congress of Jewish Studies:
'I want to be 1st woman to interview the messiah'
By SAM SER (Jerusalem Post)

"What really opened my eyes to Jerusalem Syndrome," said Dr. Maria Leppakari, "was the Rastafarians. I was looking through a travel guide on Jamaica when I saw a little mention of the fact that the Rastafarians believe in a god called Jah. Bob Marley is kind of their St. Paul... You know, 'I'm gonna be iron like a lion in Zion,' that kind of thing," she explained to The Jerusalem Post, trailing off to the lyrics of the reggae legend.


The coming of the year 2000 has been the only disappointment for Leppakari, she said, with the relative quiet of messianic and apocalyptic groups creating a severe anticlimax for research.

"And I was so excited to be waiting there on the Mount of Olives," Leppakari recalled. "I was hoping to be the first woman to interview the messiah!"

Well, maybe she can cover the finding of the Ark of the Covenant.
Digging Deep for Proof of an Ancient Jewish Capital

Published: August 5, 2005

JERUSALEM, Aug. 4 - An Israeli archaeologist says she has uncovered in East Jerusalem what may be the fabled palace of the biblical King David. Her work has been sponsored by a conservative Israeli research institute and financed by an American Jewish investment banker who would like to prove that Jerusalem was indeed the capital of the Jewish kingdom described in the Bible.

Other scholars are skeptical that the foundation walls discovered by the archaeologist, Eilat Mazar, are David's palace. But they acknowledge that what she has uncovered is rare and important: a major public building from around the 10th century B.C., with pottery shards that date to the time of David and Solomon and a government seal of an official mentioned in the book of Jeremiah.

The discovery is likely to be a new salvo in a major dispute in biblical archaeology: whether the kingdom of David was of some historical magnitude, or whether the kings were more like small tribal chieftains, reigning over another dusty hilltop.

The find will also be used in the broad political battle over Jerusalem - whether the Jews have their origins here and thus have some special hold on the place, or whether, as many Palestinians have said, including the late Yasir Arafat, the idea of a Jewish origin in Jerusalem is a myth used to justify conquest and occupation.

The exciting news is that a tenth-century BCE public building has been located in Jerusalem and that (later) epigraphic material has been found, apparently in the same place. All else at this point is speculation and it would be a shame if the squabbling over the speculation were to overshadown the find itself.

As for the last sentence, we have plenty of evidence that Jerusalem was inhabited by Hebrew-speaking Judeans during the Iron Age II, especially the last century or so of it (e.g., references to biblical kings in the Assyrian and Babylonian inscriptions, the Hezekiah's tunnel inscription, the Siloam tomb inscription, the Ophel ostracon, etc.). There is legitimate debate about the nature of David's and Solomon's supposed empires and how reliable the biblical sources are for the Iron Age II, but that is another issue and should not be conflated with the frequently bizarre claims of the Palestinians. I don't know exactly what "origins" means here and I don't want to get into the endlessly debatable topic of the political implications of what we do know about Iron Age-II Jerusalem.
Hani Nur el-Din, a Palestinian professor of archaeology at Al Quds University, said he and his colleagues considered biblical archaeology an effort by Israelis "to fit historical evidence into a biblical context." He added: "The link between the historical evidence and the biblical narration, written much later, is largely missing. There's a kind of fiction about the 10th century. They try to link whatever they find to the biblical narration. They have a button, and they want to make a suit out of it."

This is a pretty fair criticism. At the moment they've found a button, which is quite important in itself. It remains to be seen how much of a suit can be inferred from it and what the size and cut of the suit was. It will take years of study and publication in peer-review journals and monographs before we have a clear idea what the find means.

Now I look forward to Professor Nur el-Din's condemnation of the Palestinian Authority's false claims that there never were Jewish Temples on the Temple Mount. If he has gone on record about this, please send me the reference so I can link to it.
Even Israeli archaeologists are not so sure that Ms. Mazar has found the palace - the house that Hiram, king of Tyre, built for the victorious king, at least as Samuel 2:5 describes it. It may also be the Fortress of Zion that David conquered from the Jebusites, who ruled Jerusalem before him, or some other structure about which the Bible is silent.

A couple of corrections: Eilat Mazar's title is "Dr." And the reference should be to 2 Samuel 5:11.

Later in the article we read:
In his book, "The Bible Unearthed," Mr. [i.e. Professor Israel] Finkelstein writes with Neil Silberman, "Not only was any sign of monumental architecture missing, but so were even simple pottery shards."

Ms. Mazar believes she has found a riposte: a large public building, with at least some pottery of the time, and a bulla, or governmental seal, of an official - Jehucal (or Jucal), son of Shelemiah, son of Shevi - who is mentioned at least twice in the Book of Jeremiah.

Three questions. First, is the name on the bulla Jehucal (according to Maariv) or Yehudi (according to the New York Sun)? I assume it's the former, but given the Sun report it would have been helpful to have clarification. Second, where does the name "Shevi" come from? The book of Jeremiah doesn't give Jehucal's grandfather's name and according to the Maariv article the grandfather's name on the bulla was "Nubi." Is Shevi a correction of the earlier report? (Just how well-preserved is this bulla?) Third, what is a late-seventh-century bulla doing in a tenth-century building? Was the bulla excavated in the building or was it just found in its vicinity? What is the stratigraphy of the building? Was it still in use in the seventh century?
The building can be reasonably dated by the pottery found above and below it. Ms. Mazar found on the bedrock a large floor of crushed limestone, indicating a large public space. The floor and fill above it contain pottery from Iron Age I of the 12th to 11th centuries B.C., just before David conquered Jerusalem.

Above that, Ms. Mazar found the foundations for this monumental building, with large boulders for walls that are about 2 yards thick and extend at least 30 yards. In one corner was pottery of Iron Age II, the 10th to 9th centuries, roughly the time of the united kingdom.

Unfortunately, Mr. Mazar said, she found no floor. It is clear the building was constructed after the pottery underneath it, but less clear exactly how much later.


The lack of a floor complicates things, as does the evidence for 10th-9th century occupation being limited to a corner. Again, we should wait for the formal publication of the excavation before we draw any larger conclusions.

UPDATE: Ed Cook e-mails:
As far as the Nubi-Shebi confusion is concerned, note that in printed Hebrew nun-vav and shin are easily confused. There could be a "scribal error" at some point in the process.

Yes, that could be it. I just checked: both words (as Nobay and Shobay) are attested as names in the Bible in Neh 10:20 and Ezra 2:42/Neh 7:45. The word "Nubi" does not appear in biblical Hebrew.

I suspect the error in citing 2 Samuel above has a similar origin, i.e., that 2 Samuel 5 ended up as Samuel 2:5.

Another update has been removed at the request of the sender.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

ARK RAIDERS IN THE NEWS: notes that there are currently two would-be Indiana Joneses on the loose:
The Race For The Lost Ark
Posted 8/3/2005
By Dvora Waysman

Thousands of people saw the movie "Raiders of the Lost Ark", and most of them knew that Indiana Jones was based on a real person, famous archaeologist Dr. Vendyl Jones. Less well-known is another charismatic contender, who believes he will be the first to uncover the hiding place of this fabulous prize. He was recently in Jerusalem, and his name is Lt. Barry S. Roffman of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Roffman is basing his search on the Bible Code ... a code encrypted in the Bible some 3,000 years ago, now unlocked by computer. [...]

"Thousands"? More like hundreds of millions. My son and I just watched it last week, he for the first time, I for the umpteenth. But most of them didn't (and don't) know anything about Vendyl Jones. Indeed, Vendyl Jones himself disclaims any connection with the movie character. As for this:
In the case of Vendyl Jones, he plans to uncover the lost Ark of the Covenant by Tisha b`Av.

Jones says on his website that he didn't say this, he just said it would be neat if he did find it before then.

Readers may be interested to learn that I'm working on a relevant Hebrew text that is likely to be translated for the More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project. It's called Massekhet Kelim, the Treatise on the Vessels, and it purports to tell the story of the hiding of the vast Temple treasures -- including the Ark of the Covenant -- at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. The hiding places, we are told, were inscribed on a bronze plaque, and it looks to me as though at least some of them are given in this text. The Massekhet Kelim is not to be confused with the Copper Scroll, but the parallels are obvious and have not gone entirely unnoticed in the scholarly literature. Milik translated this text into French, but it has never been translated into English and it deserves more attention.

So if I come into sudden wealth in the next few years, you'll know why.

Joking aside, I'm not going to go into all the problems with these efforts or I'd be at it all day. (Don't even get me started about the Bible Code.) I'll just say that I'll take this Ark hunt seriously when one of these guys actually produces the Ark of the Covenant. Don't hold you breath.

UPDATE: For those interested, the Massekhet Kelim was published by Adolph Jellinek in the nineteenth century in Bet ha-Midrasch, vol. 2, #xiii, pp. xxvi-xxvii, 88-91. Milik published another copy found inscribed on a marble plaque in Beirut, in Revue Biblique 66 (1959), 550-75, esp. pp. 567-75.
I'M CURRENTLY READING THE RULE OF FOUR. You may recall that this is a thriller built around a mysterious, real, 500-year-old book known as the Hypneratomachia Poliphili, which is written in Latin, Hebrew, Greek, Arabic, etc. Given events here in the last month, it seemed timely. So far it's a pretty good read. The authors have a good sense of paleobibliophiles and the narrator comes across convincingly as someone who knows them but isn't quite one of them. I like this description of the tome on page 51, probably because Plotinus is one of my favorite ancient authors:
The gist is simple: Poliphilo has a strange dream in which he searches for the woman he loves. But the way it's told is so complicated that even most Renaissance scholars -- the same people who read Plotinus while waiting for the bus -- consider the Hypnerotomachia painfully, tediously difficult.

And, in case you're wondering, the sex with buildings is on page 87. Reportedly, it was good for one of the buildings too.

My only complaint is that the British edition by Arrow books has pages that are too narrow, so it's almost impossible to hold the book flat on a desk or a reading stand.

I must see if the St. Andrews library has a copy of the Hypneratomachia Poliphili among its rare books.

UPDATE: We do have a copy, but I don't have time to look it up right now. Maybe later. Meanwhile, Manuscript Boy e-mails to point to a digitized copy online at the Jewish National and University Library. You have to install special software to access it, and the software works for me with Safari but not Firefox, but the images are cool if you can get at them.
THE CODEX SINAITICUS PROJECT is covered in an article by the BBC:

Oldest known Bible to go online

The Codex is written in ancient Greek
A manuscript containing the oldest known Biblical New Testament in the world is set to enter the digital age and become accessible online.

There's also a nice image of a column that they say is from the book of Esther.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

STEPHEN GORANSON has posted a Dead Sea Scrolls-related paper online:
Jannaeus, His Brother Absalom, and Judah the Essene

Click on the link to download it as a PDF file. It's a 34 page, 334 kb pdf
file and he says it's "on the history and identities of the 'Wicked Priest' and the 'Teacher of Righteousness' in the view of Essenes at Qumran and elsewhere." I don't have time to read it now, but there you have it.
THE HEBREW ROYAL SEAL STORY has now been carried in a brief article in Arutz Sheva. It gives the name of the seal-bearer as "Jehudi, son of Shelemiah," whom it puts in the reign of King Zedekiah. Looks like they just summarized the Sun article, which is very odd. I would have expected them to use the Hebrew Maariv article.

(Via Archaeologica News.)
ZAPPING INSCRIPTIONS WITH RAYS -- the latest in data-recovery technology. Cornell University has a press release:
X-ray technology to shed new light on ancient stone inscriptions
August 02, 2005 (

In an unusual collaboration among scientists and humanists, a Cornell University team has demonstrated a novel method for recovering faded text on ancient stone by zapping and mapping 2,000-year-old inscriptions using X-ray fluorescence (XRF) imaging.


The chosen inscriptions -- one in Classical Greek and two in Latin -- each presented different levels of wear. XRF imaging detected minute amounts of iron, zinc and lead in the inscribed regions, among other elements. Iron chisels were commonly used to inscribe the stones, and the letters were usually painted with pigments containing metal oxides and sulfides. These may account for the iron and lead, but the source of the zinc is a mystery. In the most worn stone, the trace elements measured by XRF clearly revealed the contours of the original letters, even where they were no longer visible to the eye. For modestly worn stones, XRF imaging will help to decipher texts and may provide new information on how the inscriptions were made.

"This means restoring thousands of stones, including, possibly, part of the law code of Draco," said Clinton. Draco was a seventh-century Athenian politician who codified the law of Athens. "It applies to practically any kind of public document you can think of, including many laws, decrees, religious dedications and financial documents."


The research is being published in this month's Zeitschrift fur Papyrologie und Epigraphik.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A QUIET NEWS DAY SO FAR. I'm taking the day off work and may get out of town for a bit. But there's lots of good biblioblogging going on. If you haven't been reading Tyler William's Codex blog, you should go have a look. He's been keeping track of a lot of interesting developments regarding the new Leviticus scroll fragment, including a new photograph. Also, Joe Cathey has a post that gives the TOC of an interesting new book, In Search of Pre-Exilic Israel, which he is reviewing for RBL. And Rick Brannan has announced the advent of the new Logos Bible Software Blog.

Monday, August 01, 2005

HISTORY CARNIVAL #13 is up over at Good entries include Rebecca Goetz on "Tribble’s Drivel, or, Why Universities Should WANT to Hire Bloggers" (a response to the infamous, anonymous Chronicle of Higher Education article on blogging); the Little Professor on "Lumping and splitting"; and Philobiblion on "Found poetry" (found in a very unexpected place). PaleoJudaica also makes an appearance.
ANOTHER MOTP ARTICLE: Totally has just published a brief piece entitled "Ancient Texts To Be Translated." It's reasonably accurate and it includes a photo of a leaf from Codex Ambrosianus. We actually have a few Israelis on the team and Richard Bauckham and I are jointly heading the project. (UPDATE: Just to be clear, Richard was listed as the principal applicant for the Leverhulme grant.)
THE ZEALOTS-AS-SUICIDE-ATTACKERS MEME appears now in the Sunday Times. In an article entitled "Biggest suicide wave in a bloody 2,000-year history," Yuba Bessaoud asserts:
The history of suicide assaults dates back to Judaea in the 1st century when Jewish Zealots, an extreme resistance sect, would sacrifice themselves by mounting individual attacks on Roman soldiers with knives. Although documentation is scarce, the Zealots were hundreds strong and committed “numerous daily murders”. Their actions culminated in the Jewish war of AD66 which ultimately brought about the exodus of the Jews from the region.

Neither the "Zealots" (a Jewish group or party that violently opposed the Roman occupation) nor the "Sicarii," which is the group I think Bessaoud actually has in mind here (his unattributed quote from Josephus pertains to them; see below), engaged in suicide attacks. The Sicarii did use small daggers (sicae) to assassinate their foes in crowds, but they used the confusion of the crowds to make their escape. Josephus is our source for the Sicarii:
When the country was purged of these, there sprang up another sort of robbers in Jerusalem, which were called Sicarii, who slew men in the day time, and in the midst of the city; this they did chiefly at the festivals, when they mingled themselves among the multitude, and concealed daggers under their garments, with which they stabbed those that were their enemies; and when any fell down dead, the murderers became a part of those that had indignation against them; by which means they appeared persons of such reputation, that they could by no means be discovered. The first man who was slain by them was Jonathan the high priest, after whose death many were slain every day, while the fear men were in of being so served was more afflicting than the calamity itself; and while every body expected death every hour, as men do in war, so men were obliged to look before them, and to take notice of their enemies at a great distance; nor, if their friends were coming to them, durst they trust them any longer; but, in the midst of their suspicions and guarding of themselves, they were slain. Such was the celerity of the plotters against them, and so cunning was their contrivance.
(Jewish War 2.13.3/2.254-57)

My emphasis. From what Josephus says here and elsewhere, they don't sound like very savory characters, but they clearly had a well-developed sense of self-preservation. They were not suicide attackers. More here.

This looks like a new (at least to me) blame-the-Jews meme starting to make the rounds now that homicide bombing has come to the West. It is very disturbing to see the Times perpetuating it.
I recently received a reply from the curator of the Singapore exhibit, Dr Umberto Utro, who replied in part:
Le confermo che i due frammenti esposti alla Mostra di Singapore sono pertinenti alle collezioni del Reparto per le Antichità Orientali dei Musei Vaticani, e sono abitualmente esposti nella Sala del Vicino Oriente del Museo Gregoriano
Egizio (invv. 57241-57242).

I frammenti provengono dalla collezione del Pontificio Istituto Biblico.

This reply means that a previous email I received from another person at the Vatican is incorrect (perhaps that person thought of scrolls as substantial scrolls, rather than as fragments, so to that extent that person was not incorrect).

The Hebrew fragment is the one previously in a private collection in Rome, published by Lacerenza in Revue de Qumran 2000, p.441-446, with additional article by Puech in the same issue of Revue de Qumran, and a brief mention by Tov in The Texts from the Judaean Desert, Indices ... (Oxford: Clarendon: 2002), p.165 and 214. There Tov notes that the fragment might be from 4Q22, 4QpaleoEx (m).

Regarding the Aramaic fragment, apart from it being not decipherable, I have no other information regarding it.
AN INSCRIBED ROYAL SEAL EXCAVATED IN JERUSALEM? So says the New York Sun. The Sun is a subscription-only service, so only the beginning of the article is available to me:
Royal Seal Supports Biblical Depiction of Jerusalem

BY BENNY AVNI - Staff Reporter of the Sun
August 1, 2005

A royal seal dating to biblical times has been unearthed in the City of David by Israeli archaeologists, and the artifact's inscription supports Old Testament depictions of ancient Jerusalem.

According to an Israeli daily newspaper, Maariv, the seal bears the name of one of the top officials in the court of the last Judean ruler prior to the destruction of the First Temple, King Zedekiah, and was created in about 580 before the common era. It was found at a dig currently carried out in semi-secrecy by Israeli archaeologists in an area known as City of David in Jerusalem.

A Google search for "Temple Mount" also produces this excerpt from the article: "... A succession of Judean kings ruled the area until 586 BCE, when the Babylonians destroyed the First Temple, which stood on what Jews now call the Temple Mount. ..."

The entry appeared on Google just a few minutes ago, so hopefully more news outlets will pick it up. If this report accurate, it's quite an important discovery. We'll see. Incidentally, "about 580" is an odd date to assign the seal, since that would be after the destruction of the city.

If anyone has more information, please drop me a note.

UPDATE: Stephen Goranson e-mails more of the article:
Researchers under the supervision of an Israeli archaeologist, Eilat Mazar, believe that the current dig is conducted at the site where the palace of the Judean kings once stood. As described in the Bible, the First Temple was the center of Judean political and religious life, and is at the center of Jewish claims to historical links to Jerusalem, as articulated by generations of Jews who pray for "next year in Jerusalem."

The name of the court official as it appears on the newly discovered seal - Jehudi, son of Shelemiah - is cited in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah.

Several years ago, another circa-580 B.C.E. royal seal was found in the same region. It bore the name of Gemaryahu, son of Shaphan, who is also mentioned in the Book of Jeremiah, and was a top official in the court of King Zedekiah's predecessor, King Yehoyachim. The existence of two seals from the same era lends historical credibility to the biblical descriptions, and according to Maariv, has encouraged the archaeologists to keep digging.


An excavation in the royal palace sounds very exciting indeed.

Jehudi appears in Jeremiah 36:14-23 in the episode in which King Jehoiakim burned the scroll of Jeremiah's oracles. Jehudi was the official whom the king ordered to read from the scroll as it was burned, piece by piece. However, there appear to be some errors in the article in addition to the "580" business. The book of Jeremiah gives his geneaology as "Jehudi son of Nethaniah, son of Shelemiah, son of Cushi," so Shelemiah was his grandfather, not his father as the article seems to indicate. And he was an official under King Jehoiakim, not King Zedekiah. The episode took place in the fourth year of the former's reign, c. 605 BCE. All this could have been learned by asking for the specific passage in Jeremiah and looking it up in a decent study Bible. So much for the mainstream media's much-vaunted multiple layers of fact checking.

The Gemaryahu seal was recovered in a controlled excavation as well and it's genuineness is not in doubt. Gemaryahu (Gemariah) appears in the same episode as Jehudi (Jer 36:10ff.).

Yes, please do keep digging.

UPDATE: Here's the Maariv article (via Yitzhak Sapir on the ANE list), which I don't had time to read. But it gives the text of the "seal" (bulla?) as יהוכל בן שלמיהו בן נובי, "Jehucal son of Shelemiah son of Nubi. This person is mentioned in Jeremiah 37:3 and 38:1 (Jucal in the latter) and indeed was an official during the reign of Zedekiah. The article in the Sun seems to have gotten the name mixed up. Very curious.

UPDATE: Yitzhak Sapir has posted a translation of much of the Maariv article on the ANE list. He also has some comments on possible reasons for the confusion about the name on the seal/bulla.
MY RECENT EXPERIENCE WITH THE MEDIA has been entirely positive. There was lots of interest and the coverage was accurate. Ed Cook's experience has not been as good.

Incidentally, the Herald article did not come out over the weekend, probably due to being bumped by all the coverage of the IRA deal and the capture of the 21/7 suspects. Too bad; there were some nice photos. But I'm glad of the good news that bumped it.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

MORE ESOTERIC UNIVERSITY COURSES are also being called for at the 14th World Congress of Jewish Studies:
Jewish studies to woo with mysticism and practical magic
By Amiram Barkat, Haaretz Correspondent

Increasing the number of courses offered in Jewish mysticism, practical magic and the significance of Jewish existence are among the proposals to make Jewish studies more attractive to Israelis that will be debated at the 14th World Congress of Jewish Studies, which opens Sunday in Jerusalem.

Some 1,200 speakers, one-third from abroad, will take part in the congress, organized every four years by the World Union of Jewish Studies, in fields ranging from Talmud to Jewish art and poetry, and contemporary Judaism.

Of interest to the congress is how to teach about Jewish mysticism and practical magic, which includes exorcism and spells, in an academic framework. Professor Itamar Greenwald of the Philosophy Department of Tel Aviv University says, "The intention is not that the students will deal with exorcism, but it is certainly important for students to understand what is behind processes like this. We know that in a trance things can happen that don't happen in normal waking states and these things cannot be discounted as lies or hallucinations."


No one will be surprised to hear that I think this is a good idea. These days people like esoteric stuff (as the response to the More OT Pseudepigrapha project last week demonstrated), and offering courses on such things can sometimes lead students to a broader appreciation of the field and a better-informed interest in more mainstream elements of it. I bet that the introduction of courses on Jewish mysticism and magic will lead to better enrollments in Talmud courses.

By the way, it's Professor Gruenwald, not Greenwald. He is a major figure in Hekhalot literature/Merkavah Mysticism studies.
THE 900th ANNIVERSARY of Rashi's death is this Friday, 5 August. The Jewish community of Louisville, Kentucky, will be commemorating him this year. I'm sure will see more about Rashi commemorations in the coming week.
Events honor key Jewish scholar

Special to The [Louisville] Courier-Journal

The Louisville Jewish community is commemorating the life of one of Judaism's most influential thinkers with a yearlong slate of special events that organizers are calling "The Community-wide Rashi Project."

Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, or Rashi for short, was an 11th-century Jewish scholar from Troyes, France, whose writings revolutionized the contextual reading of the Tanakh, the Jewish Bible, and the Talmud, the repository of Jewish law and lore. Rashi died on Aug. 5, 1105, so Friday will mark the 900th yahrtzeit, or anniversary of his death.

THE DA VINCI CODE is to be the subject of a university course at Trinity College, Dublin:
Da Vinci Code put on Trinity syllabus
Siobhan Maguire (London Times)
IT HAS sold more than 18m copies worldwide and been translated into 44 languages. Now The Da Vinci Code, the controversial bestseller by the American author Dan Brown, is to be the subject of an evening course at Trinity College Dublin.

The Decoding Da Vinci module will, among other things, analyse the contentious claim made in the book that Jesus married Mary Magdalene. Dismissed as mumbo jumbo by historians, the book represents an unusual choice of subject matter for the country’s leading academic institution.

Nigel Biggar, a professor of theology and head of TCD’s school of religions and theology, said The Da Vinci Code was chosen precisely because it confused fact with fiction.


Sean Freyne, director of the programme for Mediterranean and Near-Eastern Studies at TCD, who helped organise the Da Vinci course, said: “Every airport I have been to, I have seen people reading this book and there is no doubt that it raises a lot of questions about the historical Jesus. What intrigued me was how fascinated people were by this piece of fiction and the whole mystery and arcane ways of early Christianity.

“This is our first attempt at something like this and we want people to walk away from this course with a better appreciation of the use and spread of Christianity, without the fiction.”

However, supporters of the Catholic church, which furiously denounced the book, are not convinced that it merits a course.


An interesting experiment. It sounds to me like a good opportunity to get across to students just how absurd the book is and to introduce them to some real (and really fascinating) history.