Saturday, September 10, 2005

THE INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR THE STUDY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT has already posted information on its July 2007 meeting at The page also notes dates for the related meetings of the International Organization for Targumic Studies (IOTS), the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (IOSCS), International Organization for Qumran Studies (IOQS), and the International Organization for Masoretic Studies (IOMS).

(Heads-up, Eibert Tigchelaar.)
TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: The Chairman of the Palestinian Authority rejects any possibility of joint authority over the Temple Mount:
Abbas: The big jihad is construction (Ynetnews)

Palestinian leader says no compromise on Temple Mount; committed to 'two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace,' in interview with Israeli Arab newspaper
Roee Nahimas

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said that he was committed to seeing "two states" live side by side in peace, in an interview with an Israeli Arab paper on Friday. However, Abbas said that he "excluded" the division of authority over the Temple Mount.

“The big jihad is the jihad of construction. We want to rebuild our homeland from new, and we will fight for the arrival of peace. If there will be peace between us, there will peace in the whole area and in the world, because the whole world sees the Palestinian problem as the source of the conflict,” said Abbas.


I think what he's trying to say is that construction of Palestine as a viable society is his highest priority, but given the Waqf's destructive construction, the formulation is unfortunate in context.

Friday, September 09, 2005

PSEUDEPIGRAPHA IN THE NEWS (but spelled as "pseudoepigrapha"): Professor Avigdor Shinan reviews Howard Schwartz's Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism for Ha'aretz. Excerpt:
This legend, translated more or less literally from the Aramaic, is one of 670 stories collected by the author in a hefty volume of what he calls "Jewish mythology," i.e., an impressive anthology of oral traditions about God and the creation of the world, the evolution of heaven and hell, the holy tongue and sacred time, saints and the Holy Land, exile and redemption.

The author is a professor of English literature at the University of Missouri in St. Louis who has done extensive research in the subject of Jewish folk literature. In this book, he cites materials culled from every branch of Jewish literature, from the Bible and pseudoepigrapha,the Talmud, the Midrash and ancient mystical lore, kabbalistic writings, the literature and thought of the Middle Ages, Jewish legal texts, memoirs, Hasidic legends of the last few generations, and the ethnic folktales of different Jewish communities. In particular, he hasdrawn on the Israel Folktale Archive (IFA) at the University of Haifa, founded in honor of Prof. Dov Noy.

Translated from Hebrew, Aramaic and Yiddish (sometimes for the first time), the stories are sorted into 11 chapters, accompanied by commentary, analysis and references to previous research (mostly by scholars writing in languages other than Hebrew). The 17-page bibliography is a testimony in itself to the tremendous effort invested in the tracking down the material, not to mention organizing, translating, annotating and compiling footnotes.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

I PLAN TO BE AWAY all or most of the day tomorrow and I doubt that I will have access to a computer. Blogging, if any, is likely to be late in the day.
HERE'S A NATIVE SPEAKER OF ARAMAIC at Arizona State University who has started a club ("Live Suryoyo") which "will seek to educate students about Suryoyo culture, the Aramaic language and the Syrian Orthodox religious traditions."

Someone tell the writer of the article that Hebrew and Aramaic languages come from a common ancestor, but Hebrew is not "a derivative of Aramaic."
THE CLAIMS ABOUT THE TOMB OF CYRUS and Persepolis (see previous post) are incorrect. They are not endangered by the new dam. Chuck Jones forwards the following e-mail about the matter:
Re: Sivand Dam & Pasargadae - A Letter of Clarification by
Professors Touraj Daryaee & Kamyar Abdi

Iranian Studies News Bulletin: September 4, 2005,

Professor Touraj Daryaee, the internationally renowned
premier scholar on Ancient Iranica and Professor of Ancient History at California State University, Fullerton; and the famed Dartmouth College Professor of Archaeology Kamyar Abdi have issued a Joint Letter of Clarification regarding the recent erroneous and absolutely baseless rumors about the Sivand Dam's effects on Iranica Heritage Site Pasargadae.

Here is the Text:

September 4, 2005

To Whom It May Concern:

This letter is written to clarify some of the
misunderstandings that have arisen from the building of the Sivand dam in general proximity to the archaeological site of Pasargadae. Some of our fellow Iranians are misinformed about this project there is at least one organization who is now proclaiming that the entire region will be flooded and as a result our national heritage, especially the tomb of Cyrus the Great will be destroyed. Hence, a petition campaign has began:

The Iranian Cultural Heritage website at regularly informs people of matters such as these. Should anyone argue that the news on this website are false and part of a grand conspiracy by current government of Iran to destroy the Iranian national heritage, please forward them the following link to a brief paper by Dr. Remy Boucharlat, the head of the French Institute of Iranian Studies, an experienced specialist on Iranian archaeology who has been active in archaeological fieldwork in the region including the Sivand salvage work: (As we are both Iranians some people may prefer the word of a farangi to their fellow countryman.)

Not only the Sivand dam is posing NO threat to Pasargadae, but it has proven to be the first opportunity for Iranian and foreign archaeologists to collaborate on a salvage project since the 1979 Revolution, discovering valuable and important information relevant to Achaemenid and other periods of occupation in the region.

Unfortunately, those who do not know about these matters and only have political agendas have rallied the people to an ill-informed cause. This reminds us of the finding of the so-called MUMMIFIED PERSIAN QUEEN "Rhodogoune" which appeared to be a fake from the beginning, except to those how wanted to make it a political issue or create sensationalism. This amateurish modern fake which Carbon-14 showed to be only 3 years old and the body of a poor woman recently strangled was not an Achaemenid queen. Even the name of the lady, Rhodogoune, who was the daughter of King Xerxes, was miswritten as ru-du-gu-u-n which should be in actuality be ru-u-du-u-g-u-n-a, among other childish mistakes on the coffin's text. Of course anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of ancient Persian history would have known that Persians did not mummify the dead! So what happened to the charlatans who made a big fuss and took people's money in the name of recovering and preserving the body of an Iranian queen? Nothing! Just making a quick buck out of people's ignorance!

Please don't do this again with Pasargadae. How come no one cared about Pasargadae when it was in dire need of attention? How come now that, thanks to the efforts by Iranian and foreign archaeologists working with the Center for Archaeological Research of the Iranian Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization, the site has been cleaned up, surveyed, and registered in the UNESCO World Heritage list, these sensationalists have raised the banner of "patriotism"?

One of us was in Shiraz two years ago when the news broke out in the local newspapers and people were in commotion. Now it has reached an international level. This is sensationalism and abusing national heritage to settle political scores! Instead of having a multitude of committees run by amateurs with little or no grasp of intricacies of Iranian history, why don't we have committees to fund legitimate archaeological and historical research to in Iran by professional archaeologists and historians in order to enhance our knowledge of our beloved country?

Touraj Daryaee
Kamyar Abdi
Professor of Ancient History
Professor of Archaeology
California State University, Fullerton
Dartmouth College
PO Box 6846
Hanover, NH 03755
Fullerton, CA 92834-6846

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

THE TOMB OF CYRUS THE GREAT and the ruins of Persepolis are in danger of obliteration, according to a press release from "The International Committee to Save the Archeological," a group I've never heard of. According to them, the Iranian government is planning to open a dam that threatens to submerge the area. Does anyone know of other media treatments of this? Can any specialists in Iranian archaeology verify it or tell us more?

(Via Archaeologica News.)
ARAMAIC IS BACK ON THE BIG SCREEN, this time spoken by a demon:
Exorcism of Emily Rose more like Law and Order than highbrow horror: review


(AP) - It may aspire to be a highbrow horror movie, but deep down, The Exorcism of Emily Rose is more like a two-hour, sweeps-period Law & Order episode, complete with special guest stars and a shocking story that's been ripped from the headlines.

Director Scott Derrickson, who co-wrote the script with Paul Harris Boardman (which was inspired by true events), is all business in telling the story of a Catholic priest on trial for negligent homicide following the death of a satanically possessed 19-year-old on whom he'd performed an exorcism.


That's not to say there aren't a few solid scares. Told in flashback, the possession and exorcism of Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter) can be, at times, truly startling. The college freshman experiences disturbing paranoid hallucinations, contorts her body in impossible ways and screeches and snarls in subtitled Aramaic.


Well, I guess demons must know Aramaic. Otherwise, what would be the point of all those Aramaic incantations bowls that tell them to go away?
ZOHAR -- THE MOVIE? The San Francisco Chronicle has a very interesting interview with Professor Daniel Matt, who is devoting many years of his life to translating the Aramaic Zohar into English. The third volume, up to the end of the book of Genesis, is about to be published.
Kabbalah scholar Daniel Matt takes the mysticism back to the Aramaic

Excerpt (but read it all):
How much a part of your spiritual life is the Kabbalah? It seems like it's more than just an academic interest for you.

I really try to combine an academic and a spiritual approach. I think you lose some of the richness of the Zohar if you look at it only academically -- certainly because it is a spiritual text, and it grew out of spiritual experience. The person writing it is really striving to contact the divine through Scripture, through plumbing the depths of Scripture, trying to discover the divine light hidden in the letters or hinted at by the verses of the Bible.

On the other hand, you lose something, too, I think, if you don't understand when it was written and who composed it. The person writing the Zohar is trying to present it as something ancient, but he knows what he is doing, and when he talks about hidden levels of meaning, part of the hiddenness is his own project of creating the Zohar. His own creativity is part of what's going on. It really is an experiment in fiction, a medieval experiment in fiction. And that's part of its wonder, too.


It sounds like you love what you do. So, my last question: Zohar the movie? What do you think?

I think it definitely has cinematic possibilities. The running into the donkey driver and the spectacular account of creation are pretty compelling. But I'll leave that for others.

UPDATE: I wonder if the movie would be in subtitled Aramaic. (See next post.)

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Andrew S. Jacobs, Remains of the Jews: The Holy Land and Christian Empire in Late Antiquity. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004. Pp. 264. ISBN 0-8047-4705-9. $55.00.

Reviewed by Matthew Kraus, University of Cincinnati
GRONINGEN UNIVERSITY in the Netherlands is offering a full Ph.D. scholarship:

A full four-year PhD-scholarship in Biblical Studies is available at the University of Groningen to work with either Prof. Ed Noort (OT), Dr Jacques van Ruiten (Ancient Judaism), Dr Eibert Tigchelaar (Qumran) or Dr George van Kooten (NT). Application format available at See English Pages: Research / Application format. Please send your initial application to Dr George van Kooten at before September 15th, 2005. Please notify a student or friend.

(Via the BNTC list.)
JEWISH INCANTATION BOWLS, it seems, are alive and well and are still being produced today.

UPDATE: Evidently an Aramaic incantation bowl is on display at a museum exhibition at the University of Melbourne:
Early Writing in Egypt and Mesopotamia
Reviewer Penny Webb (The Age)
September 6, 2005

The Classics and Archaeology Collection,
Ian Potter Museum of Art,
University of Melbourne, Swanston Street, Carlton,
Until February 19

Annexed to the Ian Potter Museum of the University of Melbourne is a first-floor, light-filled room with large Gothic-arched windows visible from Swanston Street. It houses an archaeological display - pots and vases, coins, manuscripts and carvings - that's just a fraction of the 2500 or so pieces in the university's Classics and Archaeology Collection.

And, for a couple of months, it's being supplemented by 18 pieces from the Australian Institute of Archaeology, Melbourne. (The institute has been without a permanent exhibition site since 1999.)

Compiled by its director Christopher Davey, these pieces illustrate different scripts and early uses of writing (the doings of kings, records of produce, official expenditure, names of troops, a land transaction, property titles) in a variety of materials (stone and ceramic tablets, linen, vellum and papyrus fragments).


But waste no time indulging in invectives against your enemies using the sand-coloured ceramic cursing bowl inscribed on its inside surface with brush-drawn Aramaic script (from Jerusalem, second century BC).


Either the museum placard on this display contained errors, or else the reporter took careless notes, because the provenance and date are clearly wrong. All ancient Aramaic incantation bowls that have a certain provenance were discovered in Iraq. And they date from the fifth to the seventh centuries CE. But the bowl sounds cool. Too bad there's no picture.

Monday, September 05, 2005

THE BRITISH NEW TESTAMENT CONFERENCE: I'm not going to try to blog the whole conference from beginning to end. Instead, I'll just note some interesting things that I heard along the way. I'm including just a few photos here that came out tolerably well.

Liverpool Hope University promised us a new dorm to stay in, and indeed it was:

As you can see, construction on the Wesley Dormitory was not quite finished when we arrived, but the rooms were generally in good working order and the construction machinery noise started late enough and was far enough from the main events that it was not a distraction.

Dr. Darrell Hannah and I chaired the NT & Second Temple Judaism seminar. The first presenter (Friday) was Dr. Grant Macaskill, who argued that, although it is possible that 2 Enoch originated as or descends from a Jewish Urtext of the first-century CE, the case has not yet been persuasively made.

In the second session Darrell and I each gave short papers. Darrell made a case that that the Similitudes of Enoch can be dated securely in the first century BCE based on references in chapter 67.

I (above) argued that the Testament of Abraham is most naturally understood as a Christian composition from the fifth century CE or earlier and that any Jewish Urtext behind the two surviving recensions, if it ever existed at all, has been so throughly reworked that it is now irrecoverable.

In the third session (Saturday morning) Dr. Todd Klutz gave a paper on the Testament of Solomon which is difficult to summarize, but he took the position that something like an original Solomonic exorcistic handbook was updated with an account of Solomon's downfall (in the genre "rewritten scripture") which aimed to undermine the authority of the Solomonic incantations. He also tied the name of one of the demonic characters in the work (Ephippas) to ancient inscribed stone amulets pertaining to Solomon.

In the second plenary session (Friday evening) Professor Christopher Rowland gave a fascinating account of William Blake's drawings and paintings with biblical subjects. I had not known that Blake had read the book of 1 Enoch, but it seems that he had and he produced engravings based on themes in this book. You can find small images of a couple on Enochic subjects at the Biblical Art on the WWW site.

I was also at the late evening whiskey event mentioned by Sean the Baptist.

The third plenary session (Saturday morning) was also given by Darrell Hannah, who is currently on a research fellowship at Oxford, where he is preparing a critical edition of the Coptic and Ethiopic versions of the Epistula Apostolorum.

Darrell argued that this work probably knew all four canonical Gospels and it was composed by 140-150 CE. I found his presentation particularly exciting because in it he alerted me to two quotations of "the prophet" in the Epistula Apostolorum which may be of lost Old Testament pseudepigrapha.

Many thanks to Ursula Leahy and Kenneth Newport for organizing and running the conference, a much larger job than it appears. The food and drink were good, the accommodations were new (at least for those of us in Wesley), and there was an excellent program with lots of intellectual stimulation. Moreover, Ken kindly rescued my conference pack for me when I carelessly left it in the locked-up Chaplaincy (which had been converted to an impromptu donation-only bar). And on very short notice Ursula recruited her colleague David Torevell to drive Helen Bond, Louise Lawrence, and me to the rail station when our taxi failed to show (or got snapped up by someone else). Bless them all.

Michael Pahl has collected the other accounts by bloggers of this year's BNTC.
JOB AND THE QUR'AN: The Bible and Interpretation website has posted a new essay:

The Image of Ayyub (Job) in the Qur'an and Later Islam

In Mohammed’s view, Job is to be numbered among the best of human beings to receive Allah’s revelation.

By Stephen Vicchio
Professor of Philosophy
College of Notre Dame
Baltimore, Maryland
August 2005

It's interesting that Islamic tradition seems to be aware of the Testament of Job.
MICHAEL HOMAN, I am happy to note, has made his escape from New Orleans with his family and is now in Omaha.
THE ASSYRIAN DEMOCRATIC ORGANIZATION has rejected the Iraqi draft constitution:
(AINA) -- The Assyrian Democratic Organization (ADO), founded in Syria in 1957 and the largest Assyrian organization in Syria and Europe, has rejected the Iraqi draft constitution. In a strongly worded statement, the ADO objected to the language in the constitution which artificially divides the Assyrians into two groups, "Chaldeans" and "Assyrians".

The full ADO statement follows:

On August 25, Iraq's draft constitution was submitted. The draft will be voted on in a general referendum and ratified by the general assembly on October 15. The submission of the draft constitution was a great disappointment and blow to the ambitions of the Chaldean Assyrian Syriac people.

The preamble of the draft constitution intentionally ignored the historical reality of the indigenous people of Iraq (known as Assyrians or Chaldeans or Syriacs). It does not mention the Assyrians as being one of the components of the Iraqi people, alongside Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen, nor does it mention Christianity, Sabaeanism and Yezidism as religions that existed and preceded Islam in Iraq. Article 135 of the draft constitution divides the Assyrians by inserting the dividing conjunction AND between the designations "Chaldeans" AND "Assyrians", aiming at showing them as two separate independent and different ethnicities. In fact, this article comes to falsify non-negotiable historical truth and reality about the unity of the Assyrians as one nation historically, culturally and linguistically, in spite of the fact, that the three known designations Chaldean, Assyrian and Syriac have been used interchangeably during the course of Assyrian history.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU is campaigning for leadership of the Likud party. One of his campaign promises is to make the archaeological sites at Beit She'an into a "tourist Mecca."
'Beit She’an will be tourist Mecca'

Benjamin Netanyahu hits campaign trail in ancient town, pledges to bring millions of tourists to archeological sites in eastern Israel; mayor says town 'behind' Netanyahu, predicts former fianance minister will be next prime minister. During talk with students in local school, Netanyahu slams Sharon for acting undemocratically

THE MACCA BEE: From the Department of You Couldn't Make This Up:
(PRWEB) September 5, 2005 -- Finally a unique, fascinating Hanukah toy for Jewish children, Jewish adults and mixed Jewish marriages. A Hanukah toy for those who seek to identify with their Jewish roots during the Hanukah season. If you always wanted to learn the Hanukah prayers and songs while lighting the menorah candles, then the Macca Bee is for you. The menorah has eight candles and the Macca Bee sings the Hanukah prayers and eight songs: 2 in English; 2 in Yiddish and 6 songs in Hebrew. All the songs are orchestrated and the quality is excellent. The stuffed animal yellow-and-black-striped Macca Bee comes with a full songbook so you can sing along or accompany the music with your own instruments. A dreidle is also available for the popular game.


Sunday, September 04, 2005

THE LENGTH OF THE ANCIENT CUBIT could be a factor in determining the location of the Jewish Temples on the Temple Mount, according to this AP article. Asher Selig Kaufman has een proposing relocation of the Temple for the last couple of decades. His proposal was first published in Biblical Archaeology Review in 1983 and the genesis of the current article seems to be another BAR piece. I'm not sure how seriously actual archaeologists are taking this discussion. (Kaufman was trained as a physicist originally.) Do any archaeologists want to comment?
PHILOLOGOS discusses the history of Tefillin.