Saturday, February 18, 2006

MYSTERIOUS VANISHING POST[S!]: Yesterday evening I put up an "in the mail" post to note the arrival of my new iBook. (It was actually a replacement for a defective one that had arrived a week before. It took one long phone conversation on Saturday morning and a work-week's turnaround to get the new machine, which isn't too bad. The new machine is up and running and I'm fiddling with details to get it just so.) For some reason that post never appeared in the list of posts on my Blogger dashboard and it disappeared from the blog sometime the next morning. Most peculiar; I've never had anything like that happen before.

Also, I got back a while ago from the Wilson birthday celebration, which went very well. I have lots of notes and photos (I slipped away a few times to my office to download the latter onto the iBook so I could make sure they looked okay). My long post on the celebration is almost ready, but I'm going to sleep on it and put it up in the morning. Watch this space.

UPDATE: Yikes! Two more posts from this morning have just vanished! Very strange. Is anyone else having problems with Blogger?

Friday, February 17, 2006

MAARAV, A Journal for the Study of the Northwest Semitic Languages and Literatures has a new issue out. I reproduce the annoucement as distributed on the Agade list:
From: "Christopher A. Rollston"

MAARAV 11.2 (2004) has now appeared.


Mark S. Smith
Review Article of The Religions of Ancient Israel: A Synthesis of Parallactic Approaches (Ziony Zevit) 145-218

Anne Marie Kitz
The Curse Behind the Plague of Boils 219-232

Bruce Zuckerman
Shading the Difference: A Perspective on Epigraphic Perspectives of the Kheleifeh Jar Stamp Impressions 233-252

InscriptiFact Announcement 253-254


MAARAV 12:1-2 (2005) will be a special double-issue, consisting of articles based on a "law and society in the ANE" conference that occurred at Bar Ilan University (among the contributors are Bernard Levinson, Raymond Westbrook, Karen Radner, Sophie Lafont, etc). This volume is expected to appear during the early summer.


MAARAV 13:1 (2006) is now full, and should appear at some point during the summer, immediately after MAARAV 12:1-2 appears.


We intend to be "caught up" by the end of the calendar year and I believe that this is feasible.

For subscription information, see
TEN DEAD SEA SCROLLS have arrived in Charlotte, North Carolina:
Dead Sea Scrolls arrive in Charlotte
Updated: 2/16/2006 8:21 PM
By: Adam Shub, News 14 Carolina

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- After months of anticipation, the Dead Sea Scrolls have finally arrived in Charlotte.

Starting Friday and ending May 29, 10 of the 2,000-year-old documents will be on display at Discovery Place. Museum officials said it will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

"Several of the scrolls in this particular collection have never before traveled outside Israel," John Mackay, president of Discovery Place, said at a news conference Thursday. "This particular exhibition has never before been seen in any other city in the world."

The scrolls have been getting good local coverage and I'm sure the exhibition will be a success.

One correction:
The Dead Sea Scrolls are the oldest surviving manuscripts of the Old Testament. Archeologists found more than 900 fragments in the late 1940s.


The 10 fragments will be displayed in individual glass cases. Beside each of them will be the corresponding translation of its Hebrew passage.
That's 900 manuscripts (in tens of thousands of fragments!) and 10 manuscripts.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

JIM VANDERKAM'S 60th birthday is being honored by the University of Notre Dame with a symposium next month. Here's the program, which was sent to me by Notre Dame postgraduate Sam Thomas. (Registration is already closed.) Congratulations, Jim!
Reading Between the Lines:
Scripture and Community in the Dead Scrolls

A Symposium in Honor of James C. VanderKam

March 5-6, 2006
University of Notre Dame
McKenna Hall

Sunday, March 5

Afternoon Session

4:00pm “Whose Scripture? Whose Community? Reflections on the Dead Sea Scrolls Then and Now”
Rob Kugler – Lewis & Clark College

4:45 “The Unfinished Scroll: The End of the Temple Scroll”
Lawrence Schiffman – New York University

5:30 “Decoration, Debauchery and Destruction: Reflections on 1 Enoch 8 in Light of 4QEnb”
Kelley Coblentz Bautch – St. Edward’s University

Keynote Address – Introduction by Greg Sterling, University of Notre Dame

8:00 “A Holy House for Aaron: The Aims of the Yahad”
John J. Collins – Yale University

Monday, March 6

Graduate Student Session

8:30am “Scripts, Scrolls and Textual Communities: A New Model for Reading the Serekh Versions”
Alison Schofield – University of Denver

9:00 “The ‘Mystery’ Community: Raz in the Dead Sea Scrolls”
Sam Thomas – University of Notre Dame

9:30 “Geography as an Evaluative Tool in the Genesis Apocryphon”
Dan Machiela – University of Notre Dame

Late Morning Session

10:30 “What Happened to the Laws? The Treatment of Legal Material in 4QReworked Pentateuch”
Moshe Bernstein – Yeshiva University

11:15 “The Community of the Community Hymns”
Angela Kim – Duquesne University

11:45 “Pseudonymity and Exemplarity: The Case of 4Ezra”
Hindy Najman – University of Toronto

Afternoon Session

1:30 “Qumran Self-Identity and the Eschatological Restoration of Israel”
John Bergsma – Franciscan University of Steubenville

2:00 “Some Conceptions of Sin in the Dead Sea Scrolls and in the Book of Daniel”
Gary A. Anderson – University of Notre Dame

2:45 “Methodological Reflections on Determining Scriptural Status in First Century Judaism”
Eugene Ulrich – University of Notre Dame

3:15-3:30 Conclusion of Symposium
Dan Harlow – Calvin College
LEARNING TO READ MIDRASH by Simi Peters is reviewed by Joshua Sharf in
HOWARD CARTER opened King Tut's Tomb on this day in 1923. You've probably already heard that another intact tomb has been discovered recently in the Valley of the Kings.
GENETIC TESTING is raising challenges for the Book of Mormon. The Los Angeles Times has a long article about it.
Bedrock of a Faith Is Jolted
• DNA tests contradict Mormon scripture. The church says the studies are being twisted to attack its beliefs.

By William Lobdell, Times Staff Writer

From the time he was a child in Peru, the Mormon Church instilled in Jose A. Loayza the conviction that he and millions of other Native Americans were descended from a lost tribe of Israel that reached the New World more than 2,000 years ago.

"We were taught all the blessings of that Hebrew lineage belonged to us and that we were special people," said Loayza, now a Salt Lake City attorney. "It not only made me feel special, but it gave me a sense of transcendental identity, an identity with God."

A few years ago, Loayza said, his faith was shaken and his identity stripped away by DNA evidence showing that the ancestors of American natives came from Asia, not the Middle East.


Critics want the church to admit its mistake and apologize to millions of Native Americans it converted. Church leaders have shown no inclination to do so. Indeed, they have dismissed as heresy any suggestion that Native American genetics undermine the Mormon creed.

Yet at the same time, the church has subtly promoted a fresh interpretation of the Book of Mormon intended to reconcile the DNA findings with the scriptures. This analysis is radically at odds with long-standing Mormon teachings.

ADOLFO ROITMAN, Curator of the Shrine of the Book, has given another public lecture, this one in Hartford, Connecticut.
Expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls speaks at Trinity College

By Tracy Hudak (Jewish Ledger)

HARTFORD - "The Dead Sea Scrolls are a real revolution in scholarship, and they changed everything we knew before about the origin of rabbinical Judaism, historical Judaism, and the early church," said Dr. Adolfo Roitman, curator and director of the Shrine of the Book, which houses the Dead Sea Scroll collection at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

Roitman gave a multi-media presentation about the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and their significance for Judaism and Christianity during his Feb. 1 lecture at Trinity College in Hartford. His visit was sponsored by Trinity College's Jewish Studies Program.
The article is pretty good, but it contains this seemingly obligatory glitch:
"Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Biblical manuscripts amongst them, all the Hebrew Biblical manuscripts in hands before Qumran, all of them came from different times. We didn't have ancient testimonies of the biblical texts," said Roitman. There is a Greek version of the Bible from the 4th century, C.E. But, he noted, these manuscripts were not written in Hebrew.

The Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation, is much earlier than this. The Pentateuch was probably translated in Alexandria in the third century B.C.E., with the rest of the books following over the next couple of centuries. There were revisions of this Old Greek version published as well. It may be that Roitman referred to one of the major (more or less) complete LXX manuscripts, Codex Vaticanus or Codex Sinaiticus, which do date to the fourth century C.E., and the reporter misunderstood.
UPDATE ON THE MUSEUM OF TOLERANCE and the Muslim cemetery:
MKs slam Wiesenthal museum site
By ORLY HALPERN (Jerusalem Post)

Jewish MKs slammed the building of a museum for tolerance on a Muslim cemetery in downtown Jerusalem Wednesday, hours after the High Court of Justice held a hearing on whether to stop the construction of the $200 million building.

"Why, for God's sake, does a house of tolerance need to be built on a Muslim cemetery?" asked MK Reuven Rivlin, the Speaker of the Knesset, incredulously. "This goes against logic - there is a contradiction."

Rivlin was invited to join the Knesset Interior Committee hearing about the building of a Museum of Tolerance by the Simon Wiesenthal Center of Los Angeles on a Muslim cemetery. The Jerusalem Post revealed in December that Muslim graves were found on a section of the museum's planned Jerusalem site. The hearing was called for after it came to the attention of Muslim citizens.

The Supreme Court says it will make a ruling soon.

UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times has much more in "Wiesenthal's Jerusalem Excavation Ignites Furor."

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Elisabeth Kendall, Media Arabic: An Essential Vocabulary (Edinburgh University Press, 2005)
Some light bedtime reading.

The ANE e-mail discussion list ceases operation tomorrow:
All ANE subscribers,

The voting members of the Oriental Institute have decided to withdraw
their support for the OI's continued hosting and management of the
ANE list. Therefore, all list activities will end at noon (CST)
February 16, 2006.

The on-line archive with old ANE posts will remain available for the time being. A date for the removal of the archive will be announced in advance on the ANE home page:

We hope that the ANE community will be able to move their discourse from the ANE to one or several alternative list(s). Please note that for the privacy of the subscribed members to the ANE list, we will not distribute to any individual or organization our current email directory.

John Sanders
Magnus Widell

John C. Sanders, Head
Oriental Institute Computer Laboratory
1155 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
(Via the Agade list.)

It's a pity that one of the oldest Internet institutions in the field is coming to an end, but it really is time. I finally unsubscribed from the ANE list a couple of weeks ago when I reached the point of deleting almost every message from the list and resenting the time I was wasting doing it. Many posts were good and thoughtful, but too many others were endless reinventions of the wheel and some of the replies to these were so rude, even when they were right, that it pained me to agree with them. My own experience with e-mail lists is that they have to be very firmly moderated or they end up being abused by a vocal minority, which is why I gave up running them (and is one of the reasons that I normally don't enable comments on this blog).

The Oriental Institute made the right decision and I wish them the best in their current and future online and offline projects. I wonder if they might consider starting a group blog and invite some key figures in the various fields of ancient Near Eastern studies to post to it? Just a thought.

UPDATE: That was fast! Stephen Carlson at Hypotyposes notes that Jeffrey Gibson has already set up a moderated ANE-2 list on Yahoo. At the moment the Agade list seems to be providing all the ANE news I need, but I'll keep an eye on the ANE-2 archive and I may join if the moderator keeps the quality high and the quantity low. If you do join, drop me a note and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

ASSIMILATED TO THE BLOGOSPHERE: Here are two new blogs that I note with considerable interest, both via Mark Goodacre (here and here).
Markus McDowell's Blog
Teaching, researching, and writing about the Second Temple period and early Christianity.

Reception of the Bible, by John Lyons of Bristol University

By the way, tomorrow is filled with meetings and a seminar. If I get to blogging at all, it will be in the afternoon or later.
SOME VALENTINE'S DAY APOCRYPHA: In "No Lover? No Problem," a Valentine's Day essay in the Columbia Spectator, Paul Barndt concludes with the following:
This year, just remember that though Valentine’s Day might be named after Valentinius—a second-century Gnostic theologian who emphasized the importance of marriage to the Christians—there are other kinds of love. Maybe even some lurking around the groups of single guys and single girls sitting together watching television.

Alas, it isn't so. Valentinus (not "Valentinius") was a second-century Christian heretic, founder of the Valentinian school of Gnosis. Heretics don't get to be saints and they don't get holidays named after them. St. Valentine's Day actually honors three saints by that name, one of whom was reportedly martyred on that day in the third century. The association with love seems to come from a medieval belief that birds start to pair on that day.

Happy Valentine's Day anyway!

Monday, February 13, 2006

DEAD SEA SCROLLS IN CHARLOTTE: Sunday's Charlotte Observer has two articles on the upcoming Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition at Discovery Place. The first:
From the Dead Sea to Charlotte
This tells the story of the discovery of the scrolls in some detail and does a good job of it. My only quibbles are with this:
The scrolls contain previously unknown stories about biblical figures such as Abraham and Noah. Equally wondrous to many are the complete writings of every Old Testament book except Esther -- the only book of the Bible that neither explicitly nor allegorically refers to God. Some books are copied as many as 19 times, and scholars have marveled at the closeness of the texts to modern versions.

"The preservation of the Hebrew text is excellent," says Max Polley, professor emeritus of religion at Davidson College. "It's pretty remarkable that the accuracy is as fine as it is."

Says Flint: "This is very important. There are people who say the Bible has been changed and altered and tampered with. The Dead Sea Scrolls are very affirming. You can check it for yourself."

It's not correct to say that the Scrolls preserve "the complete writings of every Old Testament book except Esther." Most of the manuscripts are very fragmentary. Likewise, it's true that a few of the biblical manuscripts are essentially identical to the Masoretic Text, the traditional Hebrew text, and others have a text that is quite close to it. But there are other Qumran manuscripts, such as the recently fully published Samuel scrolls, which confirm what scholars already had known: that some books in the MT are riddled with copyists' errors, some (by no means all!) of which the Scrolls help to correct.

The second:
Touching our ancient past
Charlotte region eager to be thrilled by seeing real Dead Sea Scrolls

Archaeology is the material evidence of our human past. As an archaeologist, I have long observed and experienced the thrill that ancient discoveries cause in all of us. The look on the faces of my students as we uncover ancient ruins from the time of Jesus, or explore one of the caves where the scrolls were found, is unmistakable.

The effect stems from a combination of the hand, the head and the heart. Ancient things connect us, inform us and stir us emotionally, with a combination of thoughts and feelings that are truly fundamental to us as human beings.

But you don't have to be a field archaeologist to experience this phenomenon. Maybe you have held in your hand a letter or other object from your family several generations back, or stared for long moments at the signatures on our U.S. Constitution. These material things are able to strangely connect us to the past.

Foundation of this civilization

The Dead Sea Scrolls are like that for all of us, whether Jewish, Christian, Muslim or secular, for the Bible is fundamental to us all. The scrolls come to us from a time in history, the 1st century B.C. through the 1st century A.D., that forms the foundation of our Western civilization.

Also, there's an article in the Peoria Journal Star about a local lecture given by Professor Martin Abegg of Trinity Western University:
Scrolls invigorate Abegg's faith
Former Peorian speaks on Dead Sea Scrolls
In it he talks about the text of a manuscript containing Genesis 48:1-11. Incidentally, this is 4QGenf, which I edited in DJD 12. The MT text of Genesis is overall well preserved, although parts of Genesis have significant variants in the Greek translations (the LXX or Septuagint), some of which are probably original. By my count even this fragment, containing only part of a chapter, has seven, mostly minor, variants (ignoring spelling variants) from the MT.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

HAPPY 90TH BIRTHDAY to Robert McL Wilson, Professor of Biblical Criticism Emeritus at the University of St. Andrews and renowned specialist in Gnosticism and early Christianity! And congratulations also to Professor Wilson on the publication of his most recent book, Colossians And Philemon: A Critical And Exegetical Commentary, which came out on 30 December 2005 in the prestigious International Critical Commentary series.

The Divinity School of the University of St. Andrews will be hosting a day-long celebration in honor of Professor Wilson on Saturday, the 18th of February. Naturally, I intend to be there and to blog it. Watch this space!
TU B'SHEVAT, the "New Year for Trees," begins tonight at sundown.

Here's some more background, published today:
Tu B'Shevat shows tree as part of God, faith (Toronto Star)