Saturday, November 19, 2005

MY SBL PAPER is now available online:

"Enter the Bibliobloggers"

Details on when and where are included.


UPDATE (5:10 pm): This post was put up at 12:23 on the afternoon of Tuesday, 16 November, but I'll keep it at the top of the page until the presentation on Sunday.

Meanwhile Mark Goodacre has inquired how I intend to indicate the 125 or so hyperlinks in the paper during the oral presentation and I have replied in a comment.

I'm heading home in a few minutes. I'm off to Philadelphia early tomorrow morning and my Internet access may be spotty to nonexistent until Saturday, so blogging may be likewise. But I think there will be facilities available once the conference starts. I have a very busy schedule planned, but I'll try to check in now and again. Have a good week, and safe travel to all those heading to Philly in the next few days.

UPDATE (18 November): I've arrived and am starting to add new posts. As I said, I'll keep this one at the top until Sunday, so keep checking below for new ones.
THE TEMPLE SCROLL is coming to America:
Longest of Dead Sea Scrolls to Visit U.S.

By Associated Press

November 19, 2005, 12:02 PM EST

CLEVELAND -- The longest of the Dead Sea Scrolls is scheduled to go on display in a Cleveland museum next year in its first appearance in the United States.

A traveling exhibition featuring the Temple Scroll, which measures 28 feet, will make its first stop at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in suburban Beachwood, The Plain Dealer newspaper reported Saturday. The ancient manuscript dates back to the time of Christ.


This scroll gets around.
MY BOOK is here: I've hefted the copy in the Brill booth. Feels good to be able to do that.

I've spent the morning meeting with people and looking at the book displays and haven't gone to any papers yet. I met with one of my doctoral students who resides in the States, then went to the e-listers get together. From there I had lunch with Ian Scott (of the Online Critical Pseudepigrapha Project) and Justin Dombrowski (of the Midrash le-Justin blog), then headed up to my room for a bit of a nap. In a few minutes I'm going back to the book display area for another meeting or two. And with luck, I may get to blog there on an actual computer. That would be nice; this television thing is getting tiresome. Then on to the Jewish Christianity session.

I have a couple of photos to go with this post [added on 24 November], but the downloading software is on my computer in St. Andrews, so look for those later on. More blogging presently, I hope.

E-listers group photo

Friday, November 18, 2005

PSCO SESSION: Just got back from the PSCO session, so I may as well pull some (I hope) coherent thoughts from my notes. I reserve the right to correct typos (and errors!) and add a link or two and maybe even a photo when I have access to better Internet facilities.

The session was chaired by two Penn postgraduates, T. J. Wellman and Harry Tolley. A speaker had been planned but had to pull out, so it ended up being an informal discussion of David Frankfurter's paper. The main issue taken up was the perimeters of expertise in the category of "ritual expertise" in the light of David's taxonomy. What about holy people who even worked miracles but who di not have a reputation for ritual expertise (e.g. Honi the circle-drawer)? (Was circle-drawing a ritual?)

A key question was raised by Vasilika Limberis: How do holy people who had a reputation for ethical goodness (saints and other do-gooders)rather than ritual expertise fit into this category of ritual expert and how does this relate to the category of "holy man"?

For the most part I couldn't keep track of names, but here are some thouhts and responses that were raised in the discussion
  • The nature of the holy man depnds on specific and different themes emphasized by different communities.
  • The same actions can be interpreted differently by different worldviews.
  • The story in Luke in which someone who wasn't a disciple of Jesus but who was exorcizing demons in his name was brought in. Did this use of a new "technology" (Jesus' name) make him a ritual expert? David said that we really needed to know if the man was already an exorcist. If he then got the reputation of specializing in this particular praxis, then yes. Someone pointed out that Simon Magus went so far as to offer to pay for this new technology.
  • Bob asked if there is any example of an (exorcism?) formula that appeared with different names used for the deity invoked. "Son of David" and Jesus were mentioned, but I'm not sure how this fitted the question.
  • Different communities are going to define holiness differently.
  • The ritual functions as extending the holiness to others.
  • Are ritual specialists really holy men? Need they be? Does the term holy have taxonomic value.
  • What is the locus of similarity between ritual expertise and being an ethical exemplar? One suggestion was that both are people who have power, but not through the normal channels (e.g., government office; military position; being a bishop -- in a Christian context).
  • What about people who are holy but not powerful (Jerome's Life of Paul; Mary of Egypt -- ascetics who just lived out in the desert), who are efficacious only as religious figures? It was suggested that they did not count as ritual experts.
  • David suggested that Vasilika's holy person who had ethical goodness could be considered as a "saint" as distinct from a "ritual expert."
  • This raised the question of whether a saint who doesn't exercise power counts as a holy man. Posthumous miracles might be invoked to make up the difference.
  • How much is holiness based on the closeness of the figure to the god (Honi, Moses) rather than ritual expertise. David did not find the source of the power to be a useful taxonomic criterion.
  • There was a lot of discussion of the scribe in comparison to the ritual expert, but my notes are too confused to make sense of. If you took better notes, please e-mail me a summary.
  • I was curious whether David agreed with the position that magos and goes (i.e, baddy magicians or sorcerors) never actually existed but were just categories of accusation, especially given that some of the Greek Magical Papyri included highly socially deviant actions such as digging up dead bodies and cutting pieces from executed criminals. David said that the PGM were mainly literary texts and that we didn't have evidence of their ever being used (I had assumed it was taken for granted that they were practical manual, but evidently not.) Also, he suggested that aggressive spells do not necessarily require a specific category of ritual specialist for them. Others agreed that the evidence did not support people claiming to be these categories
  • If holiness is to be useful as a category, it cannot be tied to goodness.
  • There was some discussion of whether emic or etic perspectives were more useful in considering these questions. How much does it matter that the people we put together in some of our categories would stridently object to being associated with one another?
  • Bob asked if the ancient sources take the view that there were inherently good and bad powers that one could harness. David said that powers could be peripheral or ambiguous, but were rarely considered specifically evil.

Those are my notes. If you have better notes and want me to supplement what I've said, then e-mail me. If you think I've gotten something in the discussion wrong, please let me know how you recall it. If I have misunderstood something you've said, please let me know so I can correct it.

Thanks to everyone for a really interesting discussion
I'M HERE! In the Philadelphia Marriott, that is. Mark Goodacre will be pleased to hear that I'm blogging from my television screen, as I did a couple of years ago at another SBL meeting.

I got in last night and had a reasonable night's sleep and a nap this afternoon. Factoring in the coffee, I'm doing pretty well. I've spent most of the day shopping and am looking forward to the PSCO session (see several posts below) at 7:30.

By the way, I've lost my printout of the e-mai that told where the Early Jewish and Christian Mysticism dinner is tomorrow night. If anyone going there should happen to see this, would you please e-mail me with the info?

Bob Kraft just called to let me know that some of the PSCO people are going out for dinner, so I'd better post this and get downstairs.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

STEPHEN C. CARLSON, who is also one of the panelists for the bibliobloggers session, has posted his SBL paper (a response to Alan Garrow’s paper, “Didache 16: The Tradition Behind 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18”) at Hypotyposeis. Garrow's paper is also available in advance and Stephen has a link to it.
A JERUSALEM ANTIQUITIES DEALER, writing for the Bible and Interpretation website, discusses forgeries and how to detect them:
One Man’s Forgery Is Another Man’s Antiquity

If a group of suspect objects were sold to one collector who was buying primarily from one man, we have more information. Yet, some of the most successful peddlers of fakes have been first-rank dealers who exploited their reputation of handling the finest merchandise.

By L. Alexander Wolfe
November 2005
THE NYU CONFERENCE ON THE LUBAVITCHER REBBE has been the subject of a couple of recent wrap-up articles:

Steven Weiss reports in the Forward:
Conference Weighs Rebbe's Legacy
By Steven I. Weiss
November 11, 2005

The late Lubavitcher Rebbe was the subject of a groundbreaking three-day conference at New York University this week, a generally laudatory program that could set the tone for how the charismatic leader and his movement will be presented in future academic settings.

"What we are really going to do [with this conference is] set off a mode of research," said the event's organizer, Lawrence Schiffman, a Judaic studies professor at New York University. The conference, he added, was "in certain ways a communal research project."

Several of the sessions featured basic introductions to the rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, and the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement's basic rituals and slogans, including its trademark declaration: "We Want Moshiach [Messiah] Now." Many presenters also offered detailed explications of Schneerson's thought. These were based on a review of his extensive writings, which are relatively unfamiliar to Jews outside of Lubavitch circles.


And there's this article from the Baltimore Jewish Times:
Lubavitcher Rebbe Meets The Academy

Debra Nussbaum Cohen
Special to the Jewish Times

NOVEMBER 16, 2005
New York

"Reaching for the Infinite: The Lubavitcher Rebbe - Life, Teachings and Impact" was more apt a title for the conference which took place this week at New York University than even its organizers may have realized.

Trying to convey the impact of the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson in two dozen or so 20-minute long academic presentations, which were delivered at the conference held Sunday through Tuesday at NYU's student center on Washington Square, was a little like reaching for the infinite with arms only inches long.

This was the first-ever academic conference devoted to the life and work of Rabbi Schneerson, who led the Chabad movement from 1951 until his death in 2004, and helped it grow into the largest Jewish outreach network in the world. Held under NYU's auspices, the meeting was funded by Chabad supporters George and Pamela Rohr, and Craig and Deborah Cogut, and attended by up to 150 people at a time, ranging from Lubavitch chasidim to Reform rabbinical students.

The conference's organizer, Lawrence Schiffman, said in an interview that he hoped "to create an intellectual discourse that didn't exist before" on the rebbe. Schiffman, a Dead Sea Scrolls expert and chairman of NYU's department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, explained that "the rebbe is a major phenomenon in modern Jewish life."


Apparently there was a fair bit of discussion of the messianic themes and claims surrounding the Rebbe.
NOT ANCIENT, but archaeology and worth a mention:
Survivors find hidden treasures
15/11/2005 19:36 - (SA)

Warsaw - Four survivors of the Holocaust have found jewellery and other precious objects which they and other prisoners buried some 62 years ago near Majdanek death camp in eastern Poland, the head of the camp's museum said on Tuesday.

"Four survivors - Polish Jews who were sent to Majdanek by the Germans after the Warsaw ghetto uprising in the spring of 1943 - were able to indicate the place where they and their loved ones hid valuable personal possessions," said museum director Edward Balawajder.


"An archaeological dig allowed us to find, around 35 centimetres below the surface, some 50 objects: rings, wedding rings, watches, earrings, and coins, including a $10 coin minted in 1894," said Balawajder.

... The Majdanek museum has agreed to classify the items and put them on display to the public.

"It's a real treasure, not only because of its financial worth but because it is proof of the tragedy which occurred in the death camps," said Balawajder.

An Israeli archaeologist participated in the excavation.
THE PHILADELPHIA SEMINAR ON CHRISTIAN ORIGINS will be meeting as usual on Friday evening at the SBL convention. Bob Kraft e-mails on the PSCO list:
Sorry for the delay of the notice. Some last minute details are still not in place, but we will meet, at 7:30 pm (not 7:00) in the Regency B room at the Loews Hotel (1200 Market -- #10 on the Conference Hotel map).

Here is the context for discussion, as laid out by the co-chairs:

The topic of the 43rd year of the Philadelphia Seminar on Christian Origins is "Redescribing the Holy Man: Theoretical Frameworks and Specific Applications." We envision this topic as providing a focus for an ongoing discussion about the analytical and explanatory possibilities of recent reassessments or developments of Peter Brown's Holy Man typology. When Peter Brown published his seminal essay, "The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity" (1971), he introduced an analytical concept immediately lauded by specialists in a number of academic subfields. In the decades since then this concept has been deployed to make sense of various figures and events in Late Antiquity and beyond across the range of religious traditions of the ancient Mediterranean basin. 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 all speak of this shared imaginaire.

Recently, however, Anita Kolenkow and David Frankfurter have each independently suggested developments or refinements of the heuristic concept to focus 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. In order to generate an conversation throughout the year's sessions, it is our hope that each presenter will engage to some degree with David Frankfurter's essay, "Dynamics of Ritual Expertise In Antiquity and Beyond: Towards a New Taxonomy of 'Magicians.'" [in Mirecki, Paul and Marvin Meyer, eds. Magic and Ritual in the Ancient World. Brill, 2002. Pages 159-178.] as a starting point for their presentation. By doing so, we can take a second look at the Holy Persons who populated various areas of focus and examine the possibilities and constraints offered by this development from Peter Brown's typology. The question is whether the utility of the comparative taxon "Holy Man" to elucidate data can 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).

T.J. Wellman (University of Pennsylvania)
Harry Tolley (Univ. of Pennsylvania)

Details to follow. Hope to see you there!


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

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Archaeologist Dan Bahat lectured at the University of Connecticut on his recent excavation of a tunnel under the Western Wall.
Archaeologist brings Temple Mount within audience's reach

By Lauren Klein
Special Correspondent (Stamford Advocate)

Published November 14 2005


Bahat, former chief archaeologist of Jerusalem, spoke about the 1,600-foot tunnel running under the western retaining wall of the Temple Mount. He and his team have been excavating the tunnels since 1985.

The lecture, "The Secrets of the Tunnels of Ancient Jerusalem," was co-sponsored by the Center for Judaic & Middle Eastern Studies at UConn, Temple Beth El in Stamford and the Jewish Historical Society of Lower Fairfield County.


Bahat highlighted his findings of massive stones used to build the first and second temples; remains of the Herodian road that ran alongside the Temple Mount; and a Hasmonean-period aqueduct that was blocked by King Herod the Great's construction of the Western Wall in about the 1st century, B.C.E


Monday, November 14, 2005

EGYPTIAN BLOGGER Abdolkarim Nabil Seliman, who was arrested and held incommunicado by the Egyptian Government last month, has reportedly been released. This is based on a new post on his blog and, like the Sandmonkey, I reserve the right to be a little skeptical. But it's definitely good news. At the very least the authorities have been bothered enough to put up a fake post on his blog, one which isn't going to fool anyone for long. More likely (I hope), he actually has been released. If so, I trust he'll keep blogging as usual. Otherwise, we'll all start to get suspicious. Also, I urge Egyptian bloggers to telephone him or, better yet, see if you can see him in person, and report back to us to confirm his release. If you happen to read my post here, please drop me a note if you reach him.

Meanwhile, many thanks to readers who wrote to the Egyptian Embassy and signed the petition. The power of a blog-swarm is not to be dismissed! And the mainstream media sure have been missing a hell of a story.

(Via Instapundit.)

In addition, I should note that an Egyptian blog that helped keep Seliman's case alive has won an award from Reporters Without Borders:
"Manal and Alaa’s Bit Bucket" won the Special Award from Reporters Without Borders in the Deutsche Welle’s 2005 Weblog Awards. The wife-husband pair has become an institution among Arabic bloggers and journalists critical of the Egyptian regime. Manal and Alaa strive to promote freedom of expression and protect human rights as well as highlight the need for political reforms in Egypt. Their Weblog also offers other bloggers free storage space and practical help starting their own initiatives and has been has been crucial is developing a critical and engaged blogger scene in Egypt and the Arabic-speaking world.

Congratulations, Manal and Alaa!

UPDATE (15 November): Bad link fixed. Apologies. And more details about the release of Seliman here.
MARK GOODACRE'S SBL PAPER for the Matthew section is now available online.
THE TEL ZAYIT ABECEDARY is the subject of a thoughtful Chicago Tribune article ("Research on ancient writing linked with modern Mideast conflict"). I can't find the original, but it's being reprinted in lots of places. Excerpt:
Because he found it in the Holy Land, [Tappy's] lecture will raise tempers. Archaeologists generally are gentle folk. But biblical studies imperceptibly shade over from scholarly pursuits to modern-day passions inflamed by contemporary struggles of Israelis and Palestinians. One camp, "the maximalists" implies the other harbors anti-Semites. The "minimalists," in turn, charge their accusers with confusing Zionism with scholarship.

"In the Middle East, you can start a mini war over who got there first," said William G. Dever, professor emeritus of the University of Arizona and a fierce opponent of the minimalists. "This isn't about ancient Israel. It's about modern Israel and the Palestinians."

Philip Davies, professor emeritus at the University of Sheffield in England, is generally considered the founding father of the minimalists - most of whom are European-based. He is coming to the Philadelphia meetings prepared for battle with his American colleagues.

"When I fly the Atlantic, I feel like a gladiator," Davies said. "Tappy's research is going to be a football, kicked around from one side to the other."

Then there's this:
"The minimalists argue that the ancient Hebrews didn't know how to write, so they couldn't have had a real state, a kingdom," noted Hershel Shanks, editor of Biblical Archeology Review. "But Tappy's discovery shows they were already writing in an outlying settlement. Imagine what you must have had in Jerusalem."

I don't recall anyone saying that the ancient Hebrews couldn't write, only that we haven't found monumental inscriptions in Hebrew from the period of the United Kingdom. Am I missing something?

UPDATE: Benjamin Zimmer has a good, links-rich summary post at the Language Log.

Also, Tyler Williams is tracing the letters in the picture of the Tel es-Safi (non-Goliath) inscription with Photoshop. Cool!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

NO NEW JEHOASH TABLET: For the record, since this may be causing some confusion, there is not a new Jehoash tablet find. This Ha'aretz article apparently reappeared on Google briefly and was noted in the latest Explorator. The information is about the Jehoash tablet that was in the news a couple of years ago and which is now widely agreed to be a forgery. The article is old, long out of date, and now inaccurate. Unfortunately, Ha'aretz seems not to keep original dates on its archived articles, which is very confusing. But this Telegraph piece links to the Ha'aretz article (under "External Links" to the right) and dates it to 17 January 2003.

Had there been a new Jehoash inscription found, there would have been a great kerfluffle.
THE MEGIDDO EXCAVATION is looking for volunteers for the 2006 season. (Via Eric H. Cline on the ANE List).
MARK GOODACRE has some good presessional posts on the upcoming SBL CARG session on biblioblogging here and here, in which he suggests ideas for what we can talk about in the session and gives some background links on academic blogging and biblioblogging. I'm adding references to both posts in my paper, which is nearly done.

UPDATE: More from Mark here and here. And Michael Pahl responds here.
SLOW NEWS DAY. The Tel Zayit abecedary is covered by the BBC in a brief but accurate article. Personally, I can't see how this inscription bears on the minimalist/maximalist debate. If it is Hebrew script, we already knew that Hebrew was being written in the tenth century BCE from the Gezer Calendar (apparently a scribal exercise). It's interesting that people in Judah could write too and that they even made crude stone inscriptions, but it's not anything surprising.

On a more amusing note, Pravda also has an article on the inscription and, not having access to an actual photo of it, has posted one they made up or got from somewhere else. The photo on the right shows a stone with the Hebrew alphabet carved thereon in six lines in the modern square script, complete with final (sofit) letters. A little misleading, wouldn't you say?

Pravda means "Truth."

UPDATE (14 November): Seth Sanders e-mails:
It's tough to fit the new inscription into the old (and to my mind unhelpful) debates. Crucially, there is no clear evidence that Gezer is in Hebrew, rather than Phoenician or (more likely, I think) an unmarked Canaanite scribal dialect that may not have been what anyone spoke (an argument advanced nicely in Bill Schniedewind's recent book). The case for Gezer's lack of paleographic and dialectal distinctiveness is already laid out in detail in Joseph Naveh's Early History of the Alphabet.

Chris Rollston, who's done the most recent, detailed and comprehensive studies of Iron Age paleography that I'm aware of, isn't convinced it's Hebrew either:

In fact, our teacher and the stone's epigrapher, Kyle McCarter, describes it as "of a Phoenician type" here:

For what it's worth, my contribution to the topic, The Invention of Hebrew and the Formation of Ancient Israel (out next year from U of Illinois) will argue that Hebrew, as a formal written standard, was most probably created in the 8th or 9th century. This isn't to debunk the authenticity of earlier Israelite history--just to suggest that if they wrote it down it was either in Phoenician or a Canaanite variety
not yet defined as "Hebrew."

Stay tuned for the SBL session, folks!