Saturday, July 01, 2006

THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS are the subject of an ongoing series in the Tehachapi News by "contributing writer and amateur historian W. E. Gutman, who traveled to Israel recently." The series title is "The fabulous legacy of the Dead Sea Scrolls." The first installment, on 14 June, was "Description: Doctrine, Prophecy and War." The second, which came out today, is "Description: The people of the scrolls." Overall, they are fairly good popular treatments, and they usually stay in the realm of what someone or other has argued as a serious possibility, although today's piece flirts rather heavily with conspiracy theorizing. Excerpts and comments:
Among the beliefs of the Dead Sea Sect was the coming of a superhuman creature called the ‘Son of Man’ who would sit at the right hand of God at the End of Days.
Actually, it is not clear at all that the Qumran sectarians had any interest in the Son of Man, although they did speculate a good bit about eschatological redeemers such as Melchizedek and a couple of messianic figures.
The Essenes’ longing was not satisfied, but it fertilized human history, as did other Essene teachings. Ironically, their writings also came back to haunt evangelical Christian doctrine, sending theological shockwaves. While claims by some Bible scholars that access to Scroll research was denied them have long since been laid to rest, nagging questions linger.
I can't say I recall any "theological shockwaves" in "evangelical Christian doctrine" over the Scrolls. Evangelicals seem to have a very positive interest in them, especially as background to the time of Jesus.
Did Christian editors conspire to suppress the mounting suspicion that members of the Qumran community were actually part of the early Christian Church headed by the Apostle James?
Nope. There have been a couple of people who have argued for this sort of direct connection between the Qumran community and the early Christian movement, but they have not convinced other Qumran specialists and there has hardly been a conspiracy to silence them.
Damaging to traditional religious principles and risking to undermine the Church's authority, the implication is that if the Essenes, with their strict adherence to Jewish law, were in fact “early” Christians, it would then appear that traditional Christianity (which did not become a separate religion until 325 B.C.E) had since drifted far from Jesus’ ethic.
(I think he means 325 C.E., the time of Constantine, although Christianity was a separate religious movement long before then.) Again, no one in real life is actually worried about these supposed concerns, but I guess they makes good press sensationalism
NEIL ASHER SILBERMAN is interviewed in the Dallas Morning News:
'As time went on, the legend spread'

12:00 AM CDT on Saturday, July 1, 2006


Q&A WITH ...David and Solomon, the father-and-son kings of ancient Israel, occupy a central place in biblical history. Over the centuries, religious and secular leaders have looked to them as models of just and effective leadership. The phrase "the wisdom of Solomon" has become embedded in our vocabulary.

In their book David and Solomon: In Search of the Bible's Sacred Kings and the Roots of the Western Tradition, two renowned archaeologists search for the historical David and Solomon amid the legend that surrounds them.

Neil Asher Silberman, a coauthor with Israel Finkelstein, recently spoke with Dallas Morning News Staff Writer Ed Housewright from Belgium, where he is director of the Ename Center of Public Archaeology and Heritage Presentation.

Mummies yield more secrets to a new generation of scanners

By Katharine Ott

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


MILWAUKEE - The patient inside the CT scan didn't have to be reminded to stay still. He hasn't moved in over 2,500 years.

Last week, two mummies from the Milwaukee Public Museum received state-of-the-art computerized tomography, or CT, scans at GE Healthcare in Waukesha, Wisc.

The scans will produce three-dimensional images of the mummies that will help uncover how these ancient Egyptians lived and died.

Researchers also will be able to visualize what the mummies looked like when they were alive and build sculptures of their faces.


The scans are part of a larger effort by the Akhmim Mummy Studies Consortium to gather images of mummies collected from the Akhmim site in Egypt. The Milwaukee Public Museum is one of the founding members of the consortium, and Lupton is its associate director.

Although not well-known today, Akhmim was an important city in Egypt in ancient times. Hundreds of mummies have been excavated from Akhmim, more than from any other site. So many were found there, in fact, that in the late 1800s the Cairo Museum began selling the mummies. Adolph and Ferdinand Meinecke purchased two mummies, named Djed-Hor and Padi-Heru, in this manner in 1887 and later donated them to the Milwaukee museum.

Incidentally, a grave from Akhmim produced a Greek codex that contained the Gospel of Peter and substantial portions of 1 Enoch.

(Via Archaeologica News.)
A babe in any language (Malay Mail)


Nadiah Ahmad Shukri, 18, grew up in Malaysia but spent two years in Italy – her mother’s homeland.

Already adept at five languages (Malay, English, French, Spanish and Italian), this multilingual lass is eager to learn more. A first-year language major at Monash University, Nadiah also admits to wanting to become an interior designer one day.

Why take up languages when you already know so many of them?

I really like languages. I grew up in a home where three languages were spoken. I want to do ancient languages and I’m interested in Hebrew and Greek. However, I really want to get involved in interior design. Although at first, I wasn’t so sure of what I wanted to do, so I thought I’d study languages.


Tell us a bit about the language course you’re undertaking.

I’m enjoying it very much! But not many people choose to do it, so there are only five students in my class!

Philology and interior decorating. Quite a creative combination. Good for her.

(Emphasis added.)
PIETER W. VAN DER HORST tells his story in his own words in The Wall Street Journal:
Tying Down Academic Freedom

By Pieter W. van der Horst

Word Count: 876

Earlier this month, after 37 years of teaching, I retired from the chair of Early Christian and Early Jewish Studies at Utrecht University. In my valedictory speech, "The Myth of Jewish Cannibalism," I intended to trace the accusation that Jews eat human flesh from its Greco-Roman origins through the Christian Middle Ages and the Nazi period to the present-day Muslim world. Much of the Islamic vilification of Jews has its roots in German fascism. Hitler's "Mein Kampf" has been on the best-seller lists in many Middle Eastern countries. The sympathy for Nazism goes back to the F├╝hrer's days. Palestinian leader ...
Unfortunately, the rest is behind a subscription wall. I've seen the whole thing, but I can't post it here. I've e-mailed van der Horst asking whether there is any plan to translate the lecture into English. I also expressed the hope that the WSJ essay might be made more widely available. But, alas, I got an autoreply that he is unavailable until July 19th.

For those who have access to the whole WSJ essay, I'll make a few comments here. Nothing he says in it sounds factually inaccurate or unreasonable to me. Obviously, I don't know what happened in the private meeting between him and the Utrecht University officials, but his side of the story is that the Rector told him he would "have to assume his "rectorial responsibility" if van der Horst did not cut the passage on Islamic anti-Semitism, which sounds rather more like an order than a suggestion. I don't know anything about the Dutch public figures van der Horst made sarcastic comments about in the draft lecture, but if making cutting, sarcastic comments in public about politicians (say, for example, the current President of the United States) is beyond the pale for academics, well, that's news to me. Let's apply the same standard here as elsewhere.

I still want to see an English version of the original lecture.

Friday, June 30, 2006

BLOG WATCH: Some recent blog posts of PaleoJudaic interest:

With Doctor Seussian assonance Ed Cooke notes a review by George Brook of his recent co-authored book: Brooke on Book by Cook (et al.).

Stephen C. Carlson notes a new Jesus apocryphon: The Secret Sayings of Ye Su (Jesus)? As Stephen points out, it has "modern forgery" written all over it.

Torrey Seland notes a recent article in the Charlesworth Festschrift which deals, inter alia, with Philo's use of the bronze serpent passage in Numbers 21: 'Does a Serpent Give Life?'. Possible connections to the serpents in this ancient Judaic apocryphal scripture are not discussed.

Peter Williams at the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog tells how to find images of Geniza Targum manuscripts.

Daniel Driver comments on Slate's "Blogging the Bible" project by David Plotz.
Two years on, dangerous Temple Mount ramp will finally be removed
By Amiram Barkat

The Israel Antiquities Authority will begin removing the Mugrabi ramp in a few days, despite the fear of Muslim riots.

The ramp, which leads from the Western Wall plaza to one of the Temple Mount Gates, is located in one of the most sensitive places in the world, and plans to carry out excavations under it have therefore been held up by the Shin Bet security service and the prime minister's military secretary for the past two years, for fear of Muslim riots.

This seems to be a messy political situation and the article, which is hard to excerpt, describes its ins and outs. I noted the story of the ramp collapse in February of 2004 (here and here).

Thursday, June 29, 2006

THE RENOVATED COPTIC MUSEUM is covered in much more detail in an article ("Coptic treasures get the home they deserve") in Al-Ahram. This in particular is of interest:
Perhaps the most prized exhibit, though, is a copy of The Psalms of David, given a gallery to itself. Philip Halim, director general of the Coptic Museum, told the Weekly that the copy is the only complete version of the psalms ever found. It includes 151 psalms written by David, and the psalms of other Old Testament Prophets, including Solomon and Essaf. Written in Coptic, on very fine vellum, the copy dates back to the fifth century and was found in 1987, buried in sand beneath the head of a child mummy in a tomb in the upper Egyptian city of Beni Sueif.

Along with the psalms is an ankh-shaped piece of ivory which was used as a book marker.
Cool. I'm not sure who Essaf is, though.

UPDATE: Oh, of course: Asaph.
THE SCALE MODEL OF SECOND TEMPLE JERUSALEM which has been relocated to the Israel Museum gets a bad review in Haaretz:
Rock of our existence, at a scale of 1:50
By Esther Zandberg

The model of Jerusalem during the Second Temple period, built during the 1960s at the capital's Holyland Hotel, was never just another nice, innocent tourist attraction, as it should have been. The Second Temple model presents Jerusalem in its glory days, during the rule of King Herod in 66 C.E., and the Herodian architecture in all its imaginary splendor. Despite - or perhaps because of - the lack of scientific credibility, it has become fraught with political and national significance.


The new project suffers from the architectural version of the "Jerusalem syndrome" that has consumed significant portions of the city. Its most obvious symptoms are a heavy, complicated style that smacks of overdone archaism and vast expanses of chiseled stone that are completely divorced from the museum's modern, secular, elegant atmosphere. Even the model itself is almost lost in the crowd. This project would never have passed muster with Herod: Cruel as he was, he knew what architectural excellence was.

PIETER W. VAN DER HORST is complaining that the University of Utrecht censored his farewell lecture. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency summarizes the story:
Dutch issue focuses on Muslim anti-Semitism
A Dutch professor accused the president of his university of suppressing free speech by cutting out parts of a talk on Muslim anti-Semitism.

Pieter W. van der Horst, a professor of New Testament and Judaism, made the accusations after Willem Gispen, president of Utrecht University, cut passages from a van der Horst speech. Gispen said the passages are “offensive to a Muslim audience” and “unscholarly.”

Van der Horst was allowed to deliver the first half of the speech, which focused on Christian anti-Semitism.

The Dutch press has covered the dispute between the two men, which also may have been influenced by van der Horst having to resign his position after budget cuts.
I'm quoting the whole story, since I'm doubtful that the link is a permanent one. (It's currently under "Breaking News" at the JTA website.)

In addition the Dhimmi Watch blog translates a longer and more informative article from the Dutch newspaper Trouw. (I don't know Dutch and cannot vouch for the accuracy of the translation.) Excerpt:
The text of the lecture landed quite some time ago on the desk of Prof. Dr. W.H. Gispen, rector magnificus of Utrecht University. Van der Horst was called to justify himself before a commision of four. In the Nieuw Israelitisch Weekblad he says: “The Muslim students might make trouble, the rector could ‘not even guarantee my safety’, the lecture was ‘below scholarly standards’.”

In his farewell lecture ‘The Myth of Jewish Cannibalism’ Van der Horst wanted to call attention among other things to “a great global problem, namely that part of the Islamic world has taken over the torch of hatred for the Jews from the nazis and is carrying it forward enthusiastically. The Islamisation of European Antisemitism is one of the most horrendous developments of the last decades.”

In the incriminated passage the professor foresaw he would be accused of ‘islamophobia’. “But one should never close one’s eyes to matters one does not like to see or which don’t fit a picture of the world that is often determined by ideological blinkers.”
The University is replying that they urged rather than ordered him to delete the passages. Professor van der Horst's work focuses on ancient Judaism (some of it is listed here) and I am well acquainted with a good bit of it. I should be very surprised if he produced something below scholarly standards in a public lecture. I don't think that the possibility of students protesting should be a factor in such situations. And if it's true that the University could not even guarantee his safety, then they have a serious problem that extends far beyond this single incident.

Some excerpts from the speech and more coverage in the Dutch media are posted in a comment to another post on the same blog. There seems to have been an earlier version of the lecture in circulation which contained things that van der Horst says he would not have presented in the actual lecture, which makes it more complicated. In the version intended for presentation it seems he included some severe criticisms of the policies of the University of Utrecht and suggested that University appointments in Islamic studies should go to people who are willing to address the negative ("sinister") side of the subject as well as the positive. I hope someone translates the whole address into English. I want to see for myself what it says in full context and also which specific parts the University wanted him to cut.

(Heads-up, Ellen Birnbaum.)

UPDATE (1 July): More here.
A MUNICIPAL GARBAGE DUMP from Second Temple-era Jerusalem:
The view from the garbage
By Ran Shapira

The secrets of life in Second Temple-era Jerusalem can be found in a trash heap

Two discs made of bone, which apparently served as buttons, are among the objects found in the municipal dump that served Jerusalem at the end of the Second Temple era. These buttons were intended to be not only practical, but decorative as well. In addition the dump has yielded a handful of glass fragments, which testify to the use of prestigious objects.

However, the vast majority of finds at the dump were very much everyday objects: fragments of household utensils including cooking pots, storage jars, pottery and lamps, coins of low denominations and a large number of animal bones. The dump is located on the eastern slope of the hill where the City of David is located. It was first unearthed in 1867 by Charles Warren, and many other archaeologists excavated there after him, but they did not realize they were digging through garbage. Only in 1995 did Professor Ronny Reich, of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa, and Eli Shukron, of the Antiquities Authority, who directed the dig at the site, realize it was a dump.

A garbage dump is a very exciting find. Kilogram for kilogram, few other kinds of strata contain as many artifacts.

The article also discusses a wealthy house from the same period which is being excavated nearby.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

CARTHAGE from on high.

(Via Rogue Classicism).
SAMUEL L. JACKSON is prophesied in biblical apocrypha? That would explain a lot.
And lo, unto the land of Babel shall come a man, one like unto the Son of man, clothed with rich garment down to the foot, and girt about the ears with a Kangol cap. And he shall be called Samuel, son of Jack, with an "L" in there somewhere, and speaking with a great voice, as of a blasphemous trumpet, he shall banish yon serpents from the sky�
THE COPTIC MUSEUM at Misr Al Qadim, Egypt, has reopened after three years of renovations.
ANTIQUITIES AS TERRORISM COMPENSATION? Here's the latest on this story:
Iranian antiquities may be seized in suit

CHICAGO, June 27 (UPI) -- A federal judge has ruled the University of Chicago cannot protect Iran's ownership rights to a collection of Persian antiquities.

U.S. District Judge Blanche Manning's ruling means a group of people injured by a terrorist bombing in Israel can seize the tablets from Persepolis, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. They sued Iran in the United States and won a $71 million judgment.

Lawyer David Strachman, who represents the plaintiffs, said collectors are interested in the antiquities.

I have commented already here and here.
Extremists curse Olmert with Pulsa Denura (YnetNews)

Right-wing extremists hold mythical Kabbalistic ‘death curse’ against prime minister, exactly one year after identical ritual against then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
Efrat Weiss

Exactly one year after carrying out a “Pulsa Denura,” an ancient Kabbalistic death curse, against former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Right-wing extremists held a similar ritual targeting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Channel 10 reported Tuesday.

One of the participants related, “The ceremony took place exactly one year after the one for Ariel Sharon. If, God forbid, Olmert continues to hold his position, we will pay a heavy price.”

I suppose Sharon's stroke has encouraged them. It's worth noting, however, that former mayor of Jerusalem Teddy Kollek is still alive at age 95, more than twenty-five years after a pulsa de-nura ceremony was carried out against him.

UPDATE: Dead link now fixed. Sorry about that.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A SYRIAC SYMPOSIUM is to be held in Berlin in July. (Via Martin Lang on the Hugoye list.)
A RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBORHOOD from the Second Temple era has been discovered in the City of David according to Arutz Sheva. There's not much detail at this point. (Via the Agade list.)

Monday, June 26, 2006

THE GULF COAST EXPLOREUM, which had a highly successful exhibition on the Dead Sea Scrolls last year, has a new exhibition coming on Pompeii:
Pompeii exhibition is coming in January
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Arts Editor
(Mobile Register)

Mobile has heard the rumblings, but the molten lava really starts flowing in six months, when the Gulf Coast Exploreum opens "A Day in Pompeii."

The multimedia exhibition, replete with artifacts, a virtual tour and an IMAX movie, will be the Exploreum's third major international show in two years.

"The Dead Sea Scrolls" drew 205,000 visitors in 2005, and "Mummy: the inside story" might draw more than 90,000 before it closes July 31.

THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS are now an advertising point for a Beaufort, SC, engineering company:
Local company helps protect ancient scrolls
BY JASON RYAN, The Beaufort Gazette
Published Sunday, June 25, 2006

BEAUFORT -- The Dead Sea Scrolls have been hardy enough to last more than 2,000 years, much of that time spent stashed in clay jars within a secluded cave in Qumran, Israel.

Beaufort Engineering Services has helped keep that survival streak going the past two years, creating climate-control systems for two museums that exhibited the prized ancient texts.

The company's most recent work was modifying heating and air systems for the Discovery Place in Charlotte, which hosted 10 of the scrolls and other artifacts from February to May.


Sunday, June 25, 2006

WITH REFERENCE TO Manchester University's grant to digitize its Cairo Geniza collection, Manuscript Boy writes:
The article seems to say that the library has 30,000 fragments, all written by Maimonides.

Of course, this is a mistake. And I am sure that it was the journalist who misunderstood.
Actually it says 300,000 fragments, but he's right that it doesn't make any sense that all of them should belong to Maimonides. Curiously, I can't find any reference to the award at the website for Manchester's Centre for Jewish Studies or at the AHRC's awards listings website. The John Rylands University's web page on its Hebrew Manuscripts collection mentions "almost 10,600 [Geniza] fragments in Hebrew and Judaeo-Arabic," including "several autograph fragments of Maimonides." There must be some garbling in the article, but I'm not sure what the actual story is. If I see Philip Alexander at the International SBL Conference a week from now, I'll ask him.

Manuscript Boy goes on to tell an interesting anecdote about the Cairo Geniza and Maimonides, so have a look at his posting.