Saturday, August 05, 2006

MORE ON KING DAVID: Inspired by the recent publication of David and Solomon by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman, A.P. writer Richard N. Ostling surveys the recent controversy over the historical or legendary status of the two kings. It mostly covers old ground, but there is this summary of a recent BAR article by archaeologist and biblical scholar Michael Coogan:
In the July-August issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Michael Coogan of Stonehill College, editor of The New Oxford Annotated Bible, contends that Finkelstein and Silberman "move from the hypothetical to the improbable to the absurd."

Finkelstein's revised chronology is "not accepted by the majority of archaeologists and biblical scholars," Coogan asserts, citing four scholarly anthologies from the past three years.

Coogan also thinks "David and Solomon" downplays the significance of the Amarna tablets, which include correspondence to Egypt's pharaoh from a 14th-century Jerusalem king. Even if archaeological remains at Jerusalem are lacking, he writes, the tablets indicate that long before David, Jerusalem was the region's chief city-state, with a court and sophisticated scribes.

Friday, August 04, 2006

DARRELL BOCK weighs in on the apocryphal Gospels. The Boston Globe has a review of his new book:
'Gospels' considers diverse early Christianity

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Globe Staff | August 3, 2006

The Missing Gospels: Unearthing the Truth Behind Alternative Christianities
, By Darell L. Bock, Nelson, 256 pp., $21.99

A New Testament specialist and professor at the Dallas Theological Seminary, Darrell Bock offers a crash course in early Christianity with his new book, "The Missing Gospels: Unearthing the Truth Behind Alternative Christianities." In it, he examines the recent claims that the ``new" or ``lost" gospels -- also known as the ``Gnostic Gospels" discovered near Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in 1945, may prove that Christianity as we know it today has changed significantly from its early form s .


Bock argues, though not conclusively, that what is now considered traditional Christianity was fairly widespread in the first and second centuries and it survived because it best reflected the teachings of Jesus. But the light he shines on the alternative gospels and the views they represent may spur people to reexamine what they believe.
ANOTHER EZRA FLEISCHER OBITUARY, this one in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

"LIKE RECEIVING A FAX FROM THE THIRD CENTURY BC." More on the Archimedes Palimpsest and the ray gun being used to recover its text:
X-rays reveal Archimedes secrets
By Jonathan Fildes
Science and technology reporter, BBC News

A series of hidden texts written by the ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes are being revealed by US scientists.

Until now, the pages have remained obscured by paintings and texts laid down on top of the original writings.

Using a non-destructive technique known as X-ray fluorescence, the researchers are able to peer through these later additions to read the underlying text.

The goatskin parchment records key details of Archimedes' work, considered the foundation of modern mathematics.

The writings include the only Greek version of On Floating Bodies known to exist, and the only surviving ancient copies of The Method of Mechanical Theorems and the Stomachion.

In the treatises, the 3rd Century BC mathematician develops numerical descriptions of the real world.

Read it all. The researchers are continuing their work until August 7th, when the machinery is shut down for maintainance. And a webcast tomorrow evening will allow people to watch the work in progress.

(Via Archaeologica News.)
THE NINTH OF AV (Tisha B'Av) began last night at sundown. An easy fast to those observing it.

Sorry, I was one day behind. Now corrected.
THE ANCIENT CITY OF BAALBEK in Lebanon has become a war zone.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

THE SIDON EXCAVATION in Lebanon has been discontinued. There's a report on the BAS website (dated 1 August).
EZRA FLEISCHER, Professor Emeritus of Hebrew Literature at the Hebrew University, has passed away. May his memory be for a blessing.

UPDATE (3 August): The New York Times has an obituary:
Ezra Fleischer, Expert on Hebrew Poetry, Is Dead at 78

Published: August 1, 2006

Professor Ezra Fleischer, an Israeli poet and scholar whose work on a long-forgotten trove of ancient Jewish manuscripts helped shed new light on the development of the early synagogue and Jewish prayer, died last Tuesday in Jerusalem. He was 78.

His death was confirmed by Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where he taught for many years.

Professor Fleischer was among the major scholars who studied and cataloged the Cairo Geniza, a treasury of documents, some of which dated to the first century A.D., discovered by Western scholars in a synagogue in Old Cairo the late 1800’s. ...

Dr. Ruth Langer, associate professor of Jewish Studies at Boston College called Professor Fleischer “a path-breaking scholar who unpacked the liturgical passages of the geniza.” He was said to have worked on 60,000 fragments over 40 years.

His major contribution, Dr. Langer said, was to demonstrate that Jewish prayer as it is known today was first developed by the rabbis after the destruction of the Second Temple in A.D. 70. Until Professor Fleischer’s work, the prevailing scholarly understanding was that the prayers had emerged earlier, in the synagogues of the Second Temple period.

(Via the Agade list.)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

LOST BOOK FOUND: Regular readers will recall the thread on lost books we wish we could recover, started by Michael Pahl and taken up at PaleoJudaica here, here, and here. This is not a new discovery, but we've recently worked out that one of the books I listed in my first post probably does survive intact after all. The List of the Sixty Books mentions an apocryphal Book of Lamech. In fact, as M. R. James noted already in 1920, a Narrative of Lamech is extant in Old Church Slavonic. Alex Panayotov checked some manuscripts of it during a recent trip to Bulgaria and he summarized the story in an e-mail as follows:
The Slavonic story tells that Lamech shot Cain by accident – he was blind and his arrow was guided by the young slave. Then, after hearing that he actually killed Cain, Lamech beat the boy to death. Consequently, he confessed the double murder and repented. The story concludes with the advice that if a man commits sin because of ignorance or lack of knowledge, he must repent like Lamech.
Versions of this story are alluded to and summarized in late antiquity (e.g., in the Cave of Treasures) and thereafter and there are no other contenders, so it seems likely that the Slavonic version is the lost Book of Lamech, or at least a medieval recension thereof. We are including it in our More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha corpus (which needs updating again), with Alex as its editor.

One lost book accounted for.

Bit by bit, a letter at a time, whatever it takes. Until we're done.

UPDATE (7 September 2011): Alas, we have verified that this work is not the independent Lamech book after all, but rather it was lifted from the Slavonic version of the Palaea Historica. Oh well, keep looking.
BIBLICAL STUDIES CARNIVAL VIII has been posted by Kevin P. Edgecomb at Biblicalia. It's an exceptionally rich edition, so do have a look. Well done, Kevin. And well done too, all you bibliobloggers.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Crossing This Line Could Cost Him Deals
By Robert W. Welkos and John Horn, [Los Angeles] Times Staff Writers
July 31, 2006

Mel Gibson is rich enough to finance his own movies, including the 2004 blockbuster "The Passion of the Christ" and the upcoming release "Apocalypto." But although riches can buy a certain freedom from creative interference, no man is an island in the movie business.

Gibson, who apologized Saturday for making "despicable" remarks in what was described as an anti-Semitic tirade after a drunk driving arrest, in some ways now finds himself at the mercy of a Hollywood establishment that may or may not be inclined to extend forgiveness.

His most immediate issue is with Walt Disney Co., which is distributing "Apocalypto" and which also, through its ABC television network, has a development deal with his company to make a miniseries about the Holocaust.

Several prominent critics of "The Passion" have stepped forward to suggest that Gibson, who denied there was an anti-Semitic undercurrent in his movie about the last hours of Christ's life, has now shown his true colors.


Sunday, July 30, 2006

THE BAS WEBSITE continues to track the status of Israeli digs. Sepphoris has shut down excavations halfway through their season (28 July entry -- no permalinks). Richard Freund also has a report on Bethsaida and other sites (23 July entry).
Bless This Boggy Book
How do bogs keep things fresh?

By Daniel Engber (Slate Explainer column)
Posted Friday, July 28, 2006, at 6:50 PM ET

A construction worker discovered an ancient book of psalms while excavating an Irish bog last Thursday. Ireland's National Museum has called it "a miracle find" and labeled the 1,200-year-old tome the "Irish equivalent to the Dead Sea Scrolls." How could the book have survived for so many years in a bog?

European peat bogs happen to be excellent at preserving organic matter. Bits of animal skin—like the vellum pages upon which the ancient psalter was written—can last for hundreds or thousands of years when they get trapped under the surface of peat at the top of a bog. That's because they're exposed to an acidic environment with lots of sphagnum moss and very little oxygen. These factors make life very hard for the microbes that would otherwise cause rotting and decomposition.

Read it all for much more detail.