Saturday, September 17, 2005

PSCO 2006: From Bob Kraft on the PSCO list:
[Please cross-post as appropriate]

in its 43rd year
an Interdisciplinary Humanities Seminar
under the auspices of the
Department of Religious Studies
201 Logan Hall
with support from
the Penn Humanities Forum

TOPIC FOR 2005-2006: Redescribing the Holy Man: Theoretical Frameworks and Specific Applications

Whether Neoplatonic diadochai, Christian saints, Jewish rabbis, or the priests, healers, and prophets of the diverse local religious cultures of Late Antiquity, the methods and descriptions employed by modern scholars to make sense of these figures all speak of a shared imaginaire. Scholars of Christianity, Judaism, and other ancient Mediterranean traditions have embraced the Holy Man as an analytical type since it was introduced by Peter Brown in 1971. Recently, however, some theoretical studies have focused more closely on the various social roles performed by ritual experts in their communities, grounding the general type in more specific sub-types and social dynamics, and thereby pushing the academic community to a new stage of theoretical reflection and critique. Can the utility of the comparative taxon "Holy Man" be increased by refining the concept and, in some cases, employing a more thoroughly comparative method (between traditions, between individuals, between time periods, and between cultures)? It is our hope to use this year of PSCO to initiate an ongoing discussion involving scholars of early Christianity, scholars of early Judaism, and other students of late antiquity in an examination of the roles of these figures in the Greco-Roman world, and especially in early Judaism and Christianity, in order to further nuance the analytical concept of the Holy Man and increase its utility.

TJ Wellman (University of Pennsylvania)
Harry Tolley (University of Pennsylvania)

Douglas Finkbeiner (University of Pennsylvania)

Webmaster: Jay C. Treat (University of Pennsylvania)

THE FIRST MEETING OF THE 2005-06 YEAR will be held on Thursday, 20 October 2005, from 7:00-9:00 pm in the Second Floor Lounge, Logan Hall at the University of Pennsylvania.

Persons wishing to dine with other participants prior to the seminar should meet at 6:00 pm at Logan Hall, Second Floor Lounge (southeast of Locust Walk and 36th Street Walk) or go directly to the Food Court in the basement of Houston Hall (just east of Logan, along Spruce Street), where an international variety of food choices is available at reasonable prices and plenty of table space for us to appropriate.


David T. Frankfurter, University of New Hampshire
Topic: "From Holy Man to Ritual Experts"

Following the emerging tradition, THE SECOND MEETING OF THE 2005-06 YEAR WILL BE HELD on Friday 18 November, in Philadelphia at the AAR/SBL annual meeting. Further details and Program will be provided in the future.

Bob Kraft, coordinator
PSCO website =
METATRON AND NANOTECHNOLOGY feature in the new novel Vellum: The Book Of All Hours: 1 by Hal Duncan.
Metatron, the voice of God as he is sometimes known, gods scribe, once the Prophet Enoch before becoming an angel. He, like many of the characters in this book have 'evolved' from ancient souls, gods or people. They become unkin. Some like Metatron think unkin should choose a side and have it 'written' into the very fabric or reality that is their soul. Using nanotechnology, mindworms and sleeper agents like Jack Carter. He is a pawn of Metatron who doesn't even know he is unkin. There are those who are in the middle and do not wish to choose sides. They remember what it was to be human. Phreedom Messenger, who lived a trailer park existence now searches for her brother across the vellum with Jack Carter and others on their trail.

Sounds eclectic.

UPDATE: It's amazing what a Google News search for "Metatron" turns up. Scott McClellan is "Metatron, Voice of Bush." There's a sheep named Metatron at Simcock Farms in Swansea. The Drums of Death collaborative album by D J Spooky and Dave Lombardo has a soundtrack titled "Metatron." The angel Metatron is a character in the movie Dogma. The "galactic being" Metatron is channeled by a medium named Sally Lesar, who was on the "Channel Panel" at the College of the Siskiyous at Mount Shasta, California. And I'm not sure who Metatron is supposed to be here, but he has something to do with The Hoostock Music Festival 2005.

UPDATE (18 September): There's a race horse named Metatron in Washington State.
IN PRAISE OF JEWISH MAGIC, which has been around for a very long time.

Friday, September 16, 2005

NAPHTALI LEWIS, the distinguished papyrologist, passed away at the beginning of this week, as noted on the ANE list. May his memory be for a blessing.
A TENURE-TRACK JOB in Hebrew Bible, with attention to the Jewish interpretive tradition, is being advertised on Ioudaios-L by the University of Florida.
A (VERY) NEW PHILO APOCRYPHON is noted by Torrey Seland.

UPDATE: Stephen Goranson e-mails:
"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
This quotation (or a variant) is often attributed either to Philo or Plato, though I've never seen a specific citation.

For what it's worth, here's the closest thing I found by searching JSTOR. In The Biblical World (retitled the next year as The Journal of Religion) v. 54 n. 6 (1920) page 606 Ozora S. Davis, in an article on preaching quoted II Peter 1:57 and then commented on each phrase, including: "_brotherly kindness_--Everyone is fighting a hard battle."
OT IN NT SEMINAR in April, 2006: Mark Goodacre has posted information.
ELAINE PAGELS spoke last night at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on the relationship between the Gospel of John and the Gospel of Thomas. More on the lecture here and (in advance) here.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

ANNE RICE is about to publish a novel about the infancy of Jesus:
Vampire novelist takes a bite out of the Bible
Jesus Christ as protagonist of Anne Rice's new book.
Mario San Juan (

Immortality. Homoeroticism. Beauty. These are just some of the most common themes Anne Rice explores in several of her books.

Anne Rice, Queen of the Vampires, well-known for her sensual world of vampirism, has contributed to the canon of literature with rich works of fiction. Creating carefully luxuriant, detailed tapestries where philosophy, humanity, sexuality, history, and, most importantly, homoeroticism play a part.

And now, Rice returns to the world of literature with perhaps her most ambitious project: "Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt," a novel about the infancy of Jesus Christ. It is based on the four gospels, apocrypha, and New Testament scholarship.

The story will be narrated from Jesus Christ's voice, as some of "The Vampire Chronicles" were told through the voice of her most renowned character, the vampire Lestat.


Woo hoo! I bet this will get people going. I've read many of Rice's books and enjoyed them, although I thought that Lasher moved into some icky territory. Her novel Memnoch The Devil includes a retelling of the Watchers myth which I thought was quite well done. It also has the vampire Lestat drinking the blood of Christ during the crucifixion, which hints that her treatment of Jesus in this new book isn't likely to be uncontroversial. Should be interesting.

UPDATE: More here and here.
A DEAD SEA SCROLLS EXHIBITION scheduled to run in Spartanburg, South Carolina, has been canceled due to the unavailability of the scrolls.
Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit is canceled

By Bob Burchette
Staff Writer (Greensboro News Record, NC)

HIGH POINT -- "The Dead Sea Scrolls Back to the Bible in America" exhibit, which broke attendance records in High Point last spring, is dead in Spartanburg, S.C.

Scheduled to open Friday in the Spartanburg Expo Center and run until Oct. 30, the exhibit's Web site notes that the exhibit has been canceled.

Debby Mason, of the Spartanburg Expo Center, confirmed that the exhibit was canceled. "They had legal matters that prohibited them from getting part of the exhibit," she said.

The Rev. Thom Miller of Mansfield, Ohio, who works with the exhibit, said last week in High Point that the exhibit was canceled because owners of the scroll fragments would not agree to make the fragments available.


Unless they've changed it, the title of the exhibit was actually "From the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Bible in America."
A NESTORIAN SEARCH ENGINE has just become available online:
First Nestorian search engine goes online
(Kentucky Lake Times)

Friday the first ever Nestorian Search Engine went online currently offering users more than a million resources.

The Web site says that is the "official Search Engine for all things Nestorian." The Nestorian Search Engine has materials ranging from Assyrian, Chaldean, Biblical languages, Aramaic, Hebrew, Christianity, Judaism, Armenian texts, and much more.

This is the only Nestorian Search Engine on the Internet.


The beta version of the search engine site is found at
A BYZANTINE MOSAIC has been left in Gaza:
Israel to leave 6th century mosaic in Gaza

Shlomo Dror, the spokesman for the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories, told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday that following "the noise made in the media" about the possibility of the removal of a 6th century Byzantine mosaic from Gaza, Dr. Yitzhak Magen, director of the Israel Antiquities Authority's archaeology in the Palestinian Territories, decided "to leave it as it is."

"I really hope the Palestinians will know how to preserve it," said Dror.


However, so far the Palestinian Authority has not picked up the infrastructure files that tell where to find it.
Post' informs PA about 'missing' files

The Palestinian Authority had no clue that Israel left files containing information about the infrastructure of the former Gush Katif settlements sitting on a table at the Erez military crossing until informed by The Jerusalem Post, PA Planning Minister Ghassan Khatib said on Wednesday.


Israel had intended to give the Palestinians the files at a handover ceremony on Sunday at the Erez military crossing, said Shlomo Dror, the spokesman for the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories, the military body in charge of civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories. "We waited for them [at Erez, which provides access between Israel and the Gaza Strip] at 3 p.m. but they did not come," said Dror.

The Palestinians refused to attend the event.

"We want the files but we don't want the ceremony," said Khatib. ...

Dr. Moain Sadeq, a Gazan archaeologist, is impatient to get his file. The director-general of the Department of Antiquities in Gaza and a professor of archaeology at the Islamic University in Gaza is anxious to see the Byzantine mosaic uncovered in Elei Sinai, a former Gaza settlement, and prevent any damage to it.

"I have no details about what exists in the settlement side. If I have it [there] is benefit for both sides," said Sadeq.

Without the detailed excavation maps and photos he could not identify the site, he said. Israeli government archaeologists had covered the ancient mosaic with dirt to protect it.


Upon learning from the Post that the necessary documents were sitting at the Erez crossing, Sadeq asked for the phone number of the spokesman for the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories. "I will go myself and get the file."

I hope he did.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

"TAKE BACK THE HOLY SITES." In the Jerusalem Post Michael Freund editorializes about the Palestinian destruction of the Gaza synagogues. Excerpt:
The Palestinians have once again failed to demonstrate even the modicum of decency and civility that calls for respecting houses of worship that belong to others.

And so Israel should not hesitate to do what should have been done already: take back Joseph's Tomb, reassert its sovereignty over the Temple Mount, and eject the PA-controlled Muslim Wakf from the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.

These three sites, more than any others, symbolize our ties to this Land, and the abiding faith upon which they are based. It is time for all of them to return to sole Israeli control.

Such a step would send a clear and unequivocal message to the Palestinians that there is a price to be paid for treading on Jewish religious rights and assaulting our holy sites. It would also underline Israel's determination to retain these sacred spaces in any future arrangements that might be reached.

See also the comments at Alt.Muslim. Ironically, only days ago the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority made a point of asserting that the PA alone should be in charge of caring for the antiquities on the Temple Mount.

Regrettably, desecration of religious sites is not unprecedented in the Arab world. As I've noted before, it's even being done to important historical architecture in Mecca. Regarding that issue, I urge you to sign the Stop the destruction of the birthplace of Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) in Makkah petition. Very few non-Muslims have signed, but what is happening at both Mecca and the Temple Mount should be of concern to anyone who cares about the historical heritage of the Middle East.
THEIR DEAD SEA SCROLLS EXHIBIT is bringing the Gulf Coast Exploreum an award at the 2005 Alabama Governor's Conference on Tourism:
'Scrolls' exhibit state's top event
Exploreum's blockbuster show to be honored during tourism conference
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Arts Editor

In tourism as in baseball, the numbers don't lie.

The Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center enjoyed an MVP season with "The Dead Sea Scrolls," which drew 205,661 visitors to downtown Mobile in 109 days (Jan. 20 through May 8) and had a $13.4 million impact on the local economy.

Such results are impossible to ignore, and tonight the Exploreum's 2005 blockbuster will be recognized as Alabama's top tourism event. The award will be presented in Montgomery at the 2005 Alabama Governor's Conference on Tourism.

"EMILY ROSE BEATS 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN." This sounds like a tabloid headline about some strange crime of passion, but it's actually reporting that once again a movie with subtitled Aramaic and Latin is in first place for U.S. box-office sales.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

NEW EXCAVATIONS have begun opposite the Pool of Siloam. I don't think I've noted these previously. The finds include a ritual immersion pool and a coin from the Bar Kokhba revolt.
"THE LAST OF THE ARAMEANS." This article in the Ivy Traveler is noted on the Hugoye list by co-author Sébastien de Courtois, who also has published a book entitled The Forgotten Genocide, The Last Arameans.

Monday, September 12, 2005

THE LARGE RUIN IN JERUSALEM excavated by Eilat Mazar was in the news again last week in Ha'aretz ("A debate of biblical proportions"). There's some interesting new information, especially interviews with other archaeologists and some details about the stratigraphy which call into question a strictly 10th-century date. Excerpts (but read it all):
Nor does Professor Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University's Department of Archaeology, a leader of the band of Israeli archaeologists who doubt David's greatness, share Mazar's exuberance, which he terms a messianic outburst. "Once every few years, they find something in Jerusalem that seems to confirm the biblical description of the magnitude of the kingdom in the time of David. After a while, it turns out that there is no real substance to the findings, and the excitement subsides, until the next outburst," he says.


Professor Finkelstein has visited the City of David excavation, and says that he was impressed by two of the walls built of large stones, but that it is very difficult to date them precisely because of construction work in the area over the years. "One thing that can be said with certainty is that these walls were built before the Roman period [which begins in the late first century BCE]. Between that and the conclusion that these are the foundation walls of a palace from the period of King David is a pretty far stretch," adds Finkelstein.

Finkelstein says the latest of the many pottery shards found in the earthen fill on which the walls were built are circa the 9th century BCE or even later - and not the 12th or 11th centuries, as Mazar claims. He links the pottery to a structure that was discovered in Area G, not far from the site of Mazar's dig. This structure, which is called the Stepped Stone Structure, is a retaining wall that was built to prevent the collapse of the slope. Finkelstein says that pottery from the 9th century BCE, and maybe even from the 8th century BCE, was also found in the Stepped Stone Structure.

"Based on these findings, it may be possible to conclude that the walls in Mazar's excavation are from the 9th century or the early 8th century BCE," he says. "That is an important finding, because it describes an interim stage in the development of Jerusalem from a small and pretty meager village, as it was in the 10th century BCE, into an important, large and fortified provincial city. But it arrived at this status not in the 10th century BCE, but rather in the 8th century BCE, about 250 years after David's time."

This is obviously a debate that is going to go on for a long time, and it won't even get properly started until the site is published fully -- which undoubtedly will take some years.

(Heads-up, Mladen Popovic.)

Sunday, September 11, 2005

THE JOURNAL OF SEMITIC STUDIES has a new issue (50.2, Autumn 2005) out. Some relevant articles include:
Hans-Peter Müller
Der Gottesname B'L Und Seine Phraseologien Im Hebräischen und im Phönizisch-Punischen
J Semitic Studies 2005 50: 281-296

The article deals with the semantics of Hebrew and Phoenicio-Punic b'l and with its functions in special phrases indicating attributes, appositions, localizations etc., above all in the phrase ba'al samayim and its isoglosses. Its ultimate aim is to make a proposal on the function of Ba'al religion as such in the context of the Ancient Oriental view of life.

Avi Sheveka
A Trace of the Tradition of Diplomatic Correspondence in Royal Psalms
J Semitic Studies 2005 50: 297-320

This paper suggests that the phrase וארשת שפתיו בל מנעת (Ps. 21:2) reflects an idiom from the tradition of diplomatic correspondence (documented in EA9), that expresses a proper ‘brotherhood’ relationship between equal kings. Besides explaining the use of the hapax legomenon ארשת in this specific instance, this assumption gives us a key to explaining the fact that a variant of this word — ירשת — appears in another psalm (Ps. 61:6) in a very similar context. The author suggests that the Israelite court scribes saw this word as particularly designated for requests made by a king from his counterpart, because they knew this word — which disappeared from Hebrew — only through their education in schools for scribes, where they were trained in the international diplomatic style. In both cases, then, the use of this word was a result of a conscious intention to imitate diplomatic style while referring to relations between the king and God, an intention motivated by rhetorical needs. This attempt exposes for us some of the authors' theological conceptions. While proving these conclusions the author reexamines the debated question of Psalm 61's classification, and shows that there are decisive arguments for deciding (versus the dominant opinion) that this is indeed a royal psalm.

Vincent DeCaen
On the Distribution of Major and Minor Pause in Tiberian Hebrew in the Light of the Variants of the Second Person Independent Pronouns
J Semitic Studies 2005 50: 321-327

This paper establishes for the first time the nature and distribution of Tiberian Hebrew (TH) pausal phonology. The results are consistent with the proposal by Dresher (1994) that TH pause is a direct function of intonational phrase boundaries. His prosodic analysis is extended here by establishing the half-verse as the maximal prosodic domain for TH phonology. It is on this basis that we can explain the statistical distribution of pause at syntactic and accentual phrase boundaries, extending the first approximation of the syntactic projection of TH pause delineated in Revell (1980). The results reported here define a long-term research programme in TH prosody.

E. Martín Contreras
Continuity of the Tradition: Masorah with Midrashic Explanations
J Semitic Studies 2005 50: 329-339

This article examines three masoretic lists with midrashic explanations placed in appendix IV of codex M1 from the Complutensian University Library. The study shows the original final form of these three lists and their content suggests that the traditions that present textual commentaries in the midrashim up until medieval times coexisted with the Masorah.

There are also a great many interesting book reviews.

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