Saturday, October 22, 2005

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH (cross-file under "Jewish-Temple denial watch"): World Net Daily has an interview with "Sheik Kamal Hatib, vice-chairman of the Islamic Movement, the Muslim group in Israel most identified with Temple Mount militancy," in which he is reported to have spouted much lunacy. Excerpts:
WND: But what about the previous Jewish Temples? Do you believe they existed? Do Jews have any historic claims to the Temple Mount whatsoever?

HATIB: We the Muslims believe that Al Aqsa was built since the time of Adam – God bless him. It was built 40 years after the construction of the Al Haram Mosque in Mecca which was built thousands of years ago. Al Aqsa was built by the angels as it is mentioned in a verse of the Quran. The mosque is mentioned in the Quran, which speaks about the raising of the prophet.

We believe that the Jewish Temples existed, but we deny they were built near Al Aqsa. When the First Temple was built by Solomon – God bless him – Al Aqsa was already built. We don't believe that a prophet like Solomon would have built the Temple at a place where a mosque existed.

WND: What you are saying contradicts reality. There is no serious scholar or archeologist in the world who argues Al Aqsa was built before the Jewish Temples. And if the Temples didn't exist on the Mount, what then do you say is the Western Wall? What do you make of all the archeological findings?

HATIB: About the Kotel (the Western Wall), we deny any relation between the Temple and the Al Aqsa Mosque. We believe that the Western Wall is part of the mosque and not the Wall of Lamentation, as the Jews say. ... The Western wall is an inseparable part of the mosque.

And all the historical and archeological facts deny any relation between the Temples and the location of Al Aqsa. We must know that Jerusalem was occupied and that people left many things, coins and other things everywhere. This does not mean in any way that there is a link between the people who left these things and the place where these things were left.

The Dome of the Rock, one of the most sacred sanctuaries in Muslim tradition, was build by the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik approximately on the site of the Temple in the late seventh century C.E., where it still stands to this day. The al-Aqsa Mosque (named after the "furthermost sanctuary" mentioned in Sura 17.1) is located further south on the Temple Mount. It was first build by the Umayyad Caliphs in the early eighth century (although the Caliph Umar cleared the spot and set up a rough structure there c. 638 C.E.), but it has repeatedly been destroyed by earthquakes and rebuilt. The current mosque is, I believe, about a thousand years old. This is all well documented in Muslim and other sources.

The Western Wall (to Jews, the "Wailing Wall") is part of the Temple Platform built by Herod the Great for his rebuilt and expanded Temple complex. This is well documented both in contemporary historical records and by archaeological and epigraphic evidence. See my post on the Herodian and Second Temples here. In the last week I presented a paper on Arab denial of the Jewish Temples at one of our seminars. I can see I really need to work it into an article and get it published.

Then there's this:
HATIB: The fact that Jerusalem is mentioned in the Torah does not in any way mean that the city was populated or built by the Jews. Everyone knows that when the prophet Abraham came from Arik in 1850 before Christ he was given by the Arab King Melchizedek the land where he and his wife lived in Hebron, and it was 600 years before Moses' message, which also proves that Abraham was not a Jew.

So Melchizedek and Abraham were Arabs. Funny that they have Northwest Semitic names. More here.

UPDATE (24 October): More here.
MORE ON ANNE RICE'S JESUS BOOK from the Dallas Morning News (free registration required):
Queen of darkness sees the light in new book on Jesus

12:00 AM CDT on Saturday, October 22, 2005

By BENEDICTA CIPOLLA Religion News Service

The queen of darkness has seen the light.

In her latest book, Christ the Lord, novelist Anne Rice turns away from the doomed souls of her best-selling tales about vampires and witches in favor of a first-person account of the 7-year-old Jesus.

It sounds like she's done her homework, although she's taking a number of artistic liberties too:
Ms. Rice chooses 11 B.C. as the date of Jesus' birth. While she said she found one scholarly precedent for doing so, she uses the earlier date mainly to allow the 7-year-old Jesus to arrive from Egypt in time to witness the well-documented violence that erupted in Judea and Galilee after Herod's death in 4 B.C.

That seminal event in childhood is certain to influence Jesus in Ms. Rice's planned subsequent volumes.


The Gospels are almost silent on Jesus' childhood, giving Ms. Rice a wide berth to take certain liberties with her story. In the book, Jesus is taught in Alexandria by the Hellenistic philosopher Philo, which in turns allows for her Jesus to be fluent in Greek, something many historians doubt was the case.

Ms. Rice also borrows two incidents – the slaying of a playmate and the turning of clay sparrows into live ones – from the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, a second-century work that shows Jesus learning to use his divine powers for good. It was never accepted as part of the Christian Scriptures.

She also gets in some criticisms of NT scholarship. The charge of faddishness is not entirely unfair, but I don't know of any serious scholar who has argued that Jesus was married (there's no evidence either way) and I doubt she'll convince many scholars to redate the Gospels before 70 C.E. John Dominic Crossan is interviewed in the article as well.

I'm disappointed that there seem to be no vampires in this book, but it sounds worth a read anyhow.

Read the whole article.

UPDATE (23 October): You can read it here with no registration required.

UPDATE (24 October): More here.

Friday, October 21, 2005

SYRIAC APOCRYPHA BOOK -- This looks cool:
Dear Hugoye members
The second volume of the collection Etudes syriaques, edited by the Societe d'etudes syriaques and published by Geuthner, just came out.

Les apocryphes syriaques, ed. Muriel Debie, Christelle Jullien, Florence
Jullien, Alain Desreumaux, Etudes syriaques 2, Paris, 2005.
ISBN 2-7053-3771-7

Table of Contents
B. Outtier – Préface : Les apocryphes syriaques. Histoire passée et future
A. Desreumaux – Des richesses peu connues : les apocryphes syriaques
D. Taylor – Quand les apocryphes syriaques relisent l’Ancien Testament
M.-J. Pierre – Les Odes de Salomon : genre littéraire et pseudépigraphie
A. Desreumaux – Les apocryphes syriaques sur Jésus et sa famille
A. Desreumaux – Les apocryphes apostoliques
F. Jullien – Figures fondatrices dans les apocryphes syriaques
V. Calzolari – La transmission et la réception des apocryphes syriaques dans la tradition arménienne
G. Troupeau – Notes sur quelques apocryphes conservés dans des manuscrits arabes de Paris
M. Debie – Les apocalypses apocryphes syriaques : des pseudépigraphes de l’Ancien et du Nouveau Testament
H. Kaufhold – La littérature pseudo-canonique syriaque
J.-N. PÉrès – L’intérêt des apocryphes syriaques dans la pensée et la théologie syriaques
A. Desreumaux – Esquisse d’une liste d'œuvres apocryphes syriaques

This volume is sent to all members of the Societe d'etudes syriaques for 2005.
It can be bought from Librairie orientaliste Geuthner, 12 rue Vavin, 75006 Paris, France.

For North America, this volume and the first (Les inscriptions syriaques) can be bought from
Librairie GGCitée
1567, rue King Ouest
Sherbrooke (Québec) J1J2C6
Téléc. 819 566 4305

See the SES web site:

(From Briquel Chatonnet on the Hugoye list.)
MOSES GASTER'S PAPERS are kept at the John Rylands University Library of the University of Manchester. They include hundreds of Hebrew, Arabic, and Samaritan manuscripts; thousands of manuscript fragments; and lots of monographs and offprints, often annotated by Gaster himself. (Heads-up, Jesús de Prado-Plumed on the H-JUDAIC list.)

I wonder what the relation of this collection is to the collection that was auctioned by Sotheby's a year ago.
AN OBITUARY FOR STANISLAV SEGERT has been published by Ed Cook at the SBL Forum site. There are also obituaries there for Robert Funk, by Bob Schwartz, and Timo Veijola, by Raija Sollamo.
WHAT IS A DEMON? Just in case you were wondering.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Ynetnews has clandestine video footage inside forbidden sites on the Temple Mount:
Exclusive: Temple Mount tour

Ynetnews presents rare, exclusive video of holy site, currently closed to Jews, after Israeli able to sneak camcorder into Mount. Prominent archeologist who watched video says Muslim renovation did not damage shrine

I can't get the video to work. It says to use Internet Explorer, which is dreadful for the Mac and which I refuse to use on principle. Firefox and Safari won't play the video. If anyone has suggestions, please drop me a note.

The archaeologist is Ze'ev Herzog. Here's the key section:
Distinguished archeologist Ze’ev Herzog, who has closely dealt with the Temple Mount, watched the video and said it only served to reinforce his stance that Muslim work did not cause any significant damage to the site.

“The Waqf’s renovation activity did not cause archeological damage in my estimation,” he told Ynet. “There’s no chance there were ancient archeological remnants in the area.”

The Waqf has been removing dirt from the site, Herzog says, but notes this dirt was only brought at a later period.

“According to the video, the Waqf in fact reconstructed the site as it was during the crusader period and added a few accessories (such as fans and electricity) to make it a convenient prayer house,” he said.

As so often with media quotes, I'm not entirely sure what some of this means. The "dirt only was brought to the site at a later period" than what? The Second Temple period? The Herodian period? How does he know? How was it brought there? From where was it brought? Doubtless he has answers to these questions, but they didn't make it into this article.

I think everyone was assuming that the material is fill. I had assumed it was fill put into the Temple Platform during the Herodian construction, but maybe Herzog knows something I don't. But in any case, it's fill that is producing a lot of interesting artifacts. At the very least, the dirt should not have been excavated from the Temple Mount without a salvage operation to sift it and catalogue what came out of it before it was mixed with rubble and garbage in the Kidron Valley etc. And I still think it should not have been excavated at all.

(Heads-up, reader Shai Heijmans.)

UPDATE (21 October): archaeologist David Stacey e-mails:
Jim, Surely what Ze'ev was saying was true. The area cleared and turned into a mosque is what is often called Solomon's stables. These were utilised by the templars perhaps even as stables. Whatever they were used for the dirt moved out from them must post-date the Crusader period.

Okay, I think I have this straight now. Professor Herzog was speaking only of the rubble hauled out of Solomon's Stables and he was saying that this area was not damaged. Indeed, that material would not bear on the Second Temple and earlier periods, but surely it still should have been sifted for post-Crusader artifacts.

But the larger issue is the huge pit dug by the Waqf north of the Stables. See this essay by Zachi Zweig on the Har Habayt site. It doesn't sound to me as though the video deals with this area. I believe that it's the rubble from that excavation, which seems to be at least partly Herodian fill, which is providing the interesting ancient artifacts.

UPDATE (23 October): David Stacey replies:
Jim, I think it is important to keep things in perspective. Yes indeed much of the deep pit to the north of Solomon's stables was probably Herodian fill. And yes it would have been better if both it and the spoil removed from the stables themselves had been treated with more archaeological respect. But truckloads of debris were removed by bulldozers from outside the city walls near the Jaffa gate by Israeli archaeologists without the debris being sifted and, moreover, I don't believe that anybody can be absolutely certain that remains from the Umayyad periods onwards were not destroyed in the process. However flimsy these structures may have been they too would have deserved more respect. Let he who is without sin.....

I'm not familiar with that incident, but I take your point. Nevertheless, I still think no one has any business digging big holes in the Temple Mount platform and that it is seriously irresponsible to do so. The way I see it, Herod's work involved dismantaling some or all of the Second Temple, and perhaps its platform too, to build his Temple. This means that, pound for pound, fill from his project is likely to contain considerably more interesting things than fill from elsewhere.

Also, thanks to those who sent suggestions on how to get the video to work. I haven't been able to put much time into it yet, but I'll try to figure it out when I get a chance.
THE EGYPTIAN GOVERNMENT'S WEBSITE ON THE HISTORY OF JERUSALEM -- you know, the one that I and others criticized for being full of careless and tendentious errors -- has been taken down.

Imagine that.

UPDATE: Mark Morgan e-mails:
the whole SIS ( site appears to have been revamped so it has probably changed address. It also appears to be having teething problems!

Well, okay, but I can't find the Jerusalem page anywhere on the site and I can't get the search engine to work. That page seems to be gone. I hope it stays gone.

UPDATE: In case you're curious, the page is archived by the Wayback Machine. I've saved a copy of it now in case it disappears from there too.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

ASSYRIAN STUDENTS UNITE at UCLA. That's a good place to do it, since they have Professor Yona Sabar there, who is one of the world's top experts on Neo-Aramaic.
HAPPY VOLUNTEERS AT THE HAZOR EXCAVATION: has a profile of them. Amidst all the happiness is this bit of information:
The six-week dig is almost over, and though some interesting finds have been uncovered, the whereabouts of the elusive Hazor archive are still unknown. With each passing day, the likelihood of finding the archives this season grows dimmer. No one says anything, but everyone knows that the next strike of the pickaxe could yield the written secrets of the site.

I'll be very happy if they find those long sought-after archives.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

THE BOOK is now available for pre-ordering at Amazon. The publication date is actually November 2005 (by the time of the SBL meetings), not January 2006. It is at the printers now.

UPDATE: Ed Cook's book is cheaper, so while you're ordering mine, order his too.
PHILIP DAVIES, on the Bible and Interpretation website, calls for Hershel Shanks to give up the editorship of Biblical Archaeology Review:
Cancel My Subscription

Why have I have changed my mind and no longer write or subscribe? Not largely for any ethical reasons but for commercial reasons of my own. The publicity I have had for my views is a lasting benefit to me (and maybe to scholarship, but that’s not for me to say). The returns have now diminished, partly because there is little more useful publicity to be had, but mostly because the respect Shanks has among the scholarly community has diminished. His stock value has plummeted, and the benefit to scholars of being included in his pages is much less.

By Philip Davies
University Of Sheffield, England
October 2005

I would hate to see the end of BAR because I believe in popularizing scholarship. But I think it needs to have a new editor if it wants to be of any use to scholarship. Maybe there are other things Hershel can move on to: he has considerable gifts, and with the addition of a little humility, there is still much he might achieve -- elsewhere.
This Wednesday, the Oriental Institute Members' Lecture Series continues with a talk by U of C alum Cynthia L. Miller, followed by a reception in the LaSalle Bank Education Center. Join us!

Languages Without Speakers: Reconstructing Ancient Near Eastern Languages from Epigraphic Fragments
Cynthia L. Miller, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Wednesday, October 19
8:00 PM
At the Oriental Institute, 1155 E 58th St

Artifacts of language pose unique challenges for reconstruction and interpretation. Like other material artifacts, epigraphic remains are often fragmentary and enigmatic. Initially, the script must be identified and deciphered so that the text can be read, but beyond these preliminary tasks lies the real interest of Semitic philologists: What can these languages fragments tell us about the language as a whole? What can we learn about how the language functioned in an ancient society? Philologists must find ways to approach these issues without any access to living speakers of the language in question or to the ancient society within which the language was used. This illustrated lecture examines the challenges that Semitic philologists face in reconstructing the languages of the ancient Near East based on fragmentary epigraphic remains, and considers the ways in which linguistic techniques can shed light on these questions.

Speaker Cynthia Miller is Associate Professor, Department of Hebrew and Semitic Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Professor Miller specializes in the syntax and pragmatics of Classical Hebrew and the related Northwest Semitic languages. She is particularly interested in moving the field of traditional Semitic philology to an understanding of, and appreciation for, contemporary linguistic approaches to the study of ancient texts. She received her Ph.D. with honors from the University of Chicago in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and the Department of Linguistics (joint degree).

Please contact Maria Krasinski in the Membership Office with any questions:
(773) 834 9777 or This lecture is is free and open to the public. Members are reminded that they may dine at the University of Chicago's Quadrangle Club prior to lectures.

The Oriental Institute is located at 1155 East 58th Street, Chicago IL 60637.
Persons needing assistance should contact (773) 702 9513.

This too:
As most of you know, David Frankfurter (University of New Hampshire) will be the guest speaker Thursday night at the Philadelphia Seminar on Christian Origins, on the theme "From Holy Man to Ritual Experts" in late antiquity. David will be arriving on campus in early afternoon (around 1:30 or so), and would be pleased to talk informally with whoever may be interested (probably in the Logan 2nd floor lounge) before the seminar attendees do dinner at Houston Hall around 6.

You can check on any details with the co-chairs of the PSCO, T. J. Wellman and Harry Tolley. Or with me.

I don't have any pre-seminar reading "assignments" to offer, although I suspect that a review of Peter Brown's "holy man" publications and their reviewers would be appropriate as well as David's recent article on "Syncretism and the Holy Man in Late Antique Egypt," Journal of Early Christian Studies (2003). When in doubt, go to google (or similarly).

Note also that at 4:30 that same afternoon, Eric Rebillard (of the Departments of Classics and History, Cornell University) will present a paper sponsored by the Ethnohistory Workshop on the status of saints' relics at the end of the fourth century entitled "Relics and the real presence of the saints: the late Roman evidence" (Room 345 of the University Museum, 4:30-6:30). It may be that David will also want to attend!

For further details on PSCO, see

On David Frankfurter,

Robert A. Kraft, Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania
227 Logan Hall (Philadelphia PA 19104-6304); tel. 215 898-5827

(From the ANE list and the PSCO list, respectively.)

Monday, October 17, 2005

METATRON is playing hip-hop and jazz in El Paso.
The T-Lounge has also always been supported of Metatron.

The nine-member hip-hop and jazz fusion band will perform with Mano Sol, Aztec Zodiac and Fall of an Empire at 8 p.m. Oct. 23.
TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: The "Temple Mount Faithful" group has been forbidden by the Israeli High Court of Justice to put a cornerstone intended for a Third Temple beside the Western Wall.
SUKKOT - the seven-day festival of Booths or Tabernacles, begins this evening at sundown. I wish my Jewish readers a happy holiday.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

VERY BEST WISHES TO BENJAMIN RICHLER, who has just retired as director of the Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts at the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem. Manuscript Boy was at the lecture ceremony and he learned a suprising reason why many Hebrew works were lost in the seventeenth century.
MY ARTICLE "The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha as Background to the New Testament" has been published in the November issue of the Expository Times. It's basically a summary of The Book (although The Book covers much wider territory), which should be out by the time of the SBL meeting in Philadelphia.

This issue also has a number of pieces that deal with Secret Mark, including a review of Stephen Carlson's new book, and it has some other reviews pertaining to ancient Judaism.

You need a paid personal or institutional subscription to access the site. Sorry.
HISTORICAL TRAVELOGUES are in the news this weekend. These are for Ethiopia (with a summary of the story in the national epic the Kebra Negast), Jordan, and the ancient city Petra (also in Jordan). The museum exhibit Petra: Lost City of Stone is coming to Canada later this month.