Saturday, February 03, 2007

BIBLICAL STUDIES CARNIVAL XIV has been posted by Chris Weimer at Thoughts on Antiquity.
Thousand-year-old pulpit rises from the ashes
From Stephen Farrell and David Sharrock in Jerusalem (Times of London)

Prayers at the al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third-holiest site, will have a special significance for Muslims today when an ornate pulpit destroyed by a deranged Christian tourist 37 years ago is finally returned to the place it has occupied for almost a millennium.

The pulpit, which was brought to Jerusalem from Aleppo, Syria, by Saladin after he drove the Crusaders out of the holy city in 1887, has taken years to reconstruct and is considered a jewel of sacred art.

Master craftsmen from Egypt, Turkey and Indonesia collaborated on the project under the guidance of a Saudi academic, Minwer al-Meheid. In spite of the pulpit’s near-total destruction in a fire which swept the al-Aqsa mosque, Dr al-Meheid was convinced that he could rebuild it to its original specifications, fashioned from 16,000 separate pieces.

For "1887" in the second paragraph read '1187."
“The story of the pulpit is of the liberation of Jerusalem during the Crusades,” said Adnan al-Husseini, director of the Waqf, the Islamic trust that administers the Sharif site. “Its restoration is a step towards freeing the mosque and Jerusalem from occupation.”

The pulpit was an important historic artifact and I'm glad it has been restored, but this isn't the most constructive spin for the Waqf to put on the story.
In spite of its rich and troubled history Dr al-Meheid sees no controversy over the artefact itself. “This minbar should be a message of peace. It signifies the place of the preacher who carried the word of God, which is the word of peace,” he said.
I think that's a better message.
STILL WAITING: The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition in Kansas City starts on the 7th of February, and their arrival is presumably imminent:
Stage is set for Dead Sea Scrolls' arrival in KC
By: Barbara Bayer, Staff Writer February 02, 2007

After months of preparation, the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit will open next week at Kansas City's Union Station.

An Opening Festival, with a late-1940s Middle Eastern theme, takes place from 5:30 to 9:30 on Wednesday, Feb. 7. The exhibit itself opens to the general public on Thursday, Feb. 8, continuing through May 13.

This is the only time the scrolls will be exhibited in the Midwest. The next stop is San Diego. From there, Union Station officials believe the scrolls will return to Israel and stay there. As of Monday this week, more than 26,000 tickets had been pre-sold, according to Sarah Biles, director of communications. (For ticket information, see box, Page 7)

Linda Segebrecht, Dead Sea Scrolls project manager, said organizers expect big crowds.

"On Saturdays and Sundays, we could have up to 5,000 people each day. It is just amazing what ticket sales are," she said.

Union Station has been preparing for the exhibit since Jan. 7. Once the scrolls themselves arrive, a team of three Israel Antiquities Authority officials - Pnina Shor, head of the artifacts treatment and conservation department; Lena Libman, chief conservator of the scrolls; and Hava Katz, chief curator of national treasures - will finalize the setup of the exhibit.

For those are able to attend, there's lots of detailed information on the exhibit.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Probing Question: How can you spot a forgery?
Thursday, February 1, 2007

By Lisa Duchene
Research Penn State

History is checkered with stories of fakes -- and people duped into believing they were the real thing.

Even an artist as great as Michelangelo was not above being accused of forgery. As the story goes, in 1496 the sculptor created a sleeping cupid figure, treated it to appear ancient, then sold it as such to a cardinal who -- upon learning of the fraud -- demanded a refund. The mystery over the still-lost cupid is credited with drawing attention for the first time to Michelangelo's sculpting work.

So how do you spot a forgery?

Think like a forger, says Baruch Halpern, a Penn State professor of ancient history, classics and religious studies whose class "The Art and Science of Forgery" teaches students to do just that.

"If you don't think like a forger, you're going to get scammed yourself," said Halpern.

Sounds like an interesting and timely class.
Samaritans look further afield to find their future

* The last of an ancient sect have turned to eastern Europe to safeguard their survival, reports Martin Chulov from Jerusalem
* February 03, 2007 (The Australian)

YAIR Cohen is one of the last of the Holy Land's smallest sect, and does not want to let the bloodline die with him.
Facing extinction on the one hand, or grave genetic risks on the other, he did what perhaps no other Samaritan has done in 3000 years - turned a long way from home to find a bride.

Four years ago, Cohen, now 45, returned to Mount Gerizim near the West Bank city of Nablus with a blonde, blue-eyed, fair-skinned 18-year-old Ukrainian woman. Like any budding groom, he was nervous as he took her to meet his parents.

But Cohen had an extra dose of the jitters. His father's blessing would mean much more than his happiness. It would also be an endorsement of a new and critical way out of the Samaritans' chromosomal decay.

The union did receive the sought-for blessing, but so far has not resulted in any children. I wish them well.
TU B'SHEVAT, the "New Year for Trees," began this evening at sundown. It's an ancient, but postbiblical festival. More here and here.
THE JOURNAL OF BIBLICAL LITERATURE has posted a new issue (125.4, winter 2006) on the SBL website. Unfortunately, you have to be an SBL member to access this issue, although back issues are available at JSTOR.
The articles in JBL 125.4 include:
Bishlam's Archival Search Report in Nehemiah's Archive: Multiple Introductions and Reverse Chronological Order as Clues to the Origin of the Aramaic Letters in Ezra 4-6 Richard C. Steiner; Proverbs 8:22—31: Three Perspectives on Its Composition Alan Lenzi ; Analogical Reasoning in Romans 7:2—4: A Woman and the Believers in Rome Peter Spitaler; Taming the Shrew, Shrike, and Shrimp: The Form and Function of Zoological Classification in Psalm 8 Richard Whitekettle; What Becomes of the Angels' "Wives"? A Text-Critical Study of 1 Enoch 19:2 Kelley Coblentz Bautch; Did Paul Loathe Manual Labor? Revisiting the Work of Ronald F. Hock on the Apostle's Tentmaking and Social Class Todd D. Still; Book Reviews and the Annual Index: Volume 125 (2006)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Robyn Art's "Vestigial Portions of the Dead Sea Scrolls"

Robyn Art's "Vestigial Portions of the Dead Sea Scrolls"
[ Featured Underground Poet ] - 01.31.07 - by: Marie Lecrivain (Get Underground)

Robyn Art's Vestigial Portions of the Dead Sea Scrolls is a not-quite-convincing collection of poems loosely constructed, and then presented as one long book-length poem. I say "not quite," because the poems do not quite fit together, but this is the trick of the post-post-modern poet: to hammer the square pegs into the round holes and declare that "it fits," splinters and all.

Catchy title, but the poems appear to have nothing to do with the Dead Sea Scrolls.
EGYPTIAN BLOGGER Abdolkarim Nabil Seliman now has the support of Amnesty International:
Amnesty International today called for the immediate and unconditional release of Karim Amer, the first Egyptian blogger to be tried for writing blogs criticizing Egypt's al-Azhar religious authorities, President Husni Mubarak and Islam.
Their support is very good news. I'm glad this case is finally getting some real attention in the West.
BOOK REVIEW in Commentary Magazine:
Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel by Jon D. Levenson
Reviewed by David Berger

February 2007

“Who Revives the Dead”
Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel: The Ultimate Victory of the God of Life
by Jon D. Levenson
Yale. 274 pp. $40.00


Jon D. Levenson, a professor of Jewish studies at Harvard, is a distinguished biblical scholar and theologian whose interest in this theme was foreshadowed in his The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son: The Transformation of Child Sacrifice in Judaism and Christianity (1993). Here he has given us a beautifully written, multi-faceted work that begins with 19th and 20th-century Jewish theologians and liturgists, moves back in time to touch on Maimonides in the 12th century, back still farther to the Talmud and midrash, and finally turns to the biblical material that stands at the core of the book.

Levenson’s purpose is to refute two widely held positions, or what might be called contemporary orthodoxies. The first of these is a counter-orthodoxy current among many Jews—to wit, that Judaism rejects belief in physical resurrection, either because Judaism is a this-worldly religion or because it accords pride of place to the idea of a disembodied immortality of the soul. As Levenson notes, those who apply either of these characterizations to classical Judaism are very numerous, but uninformed.

A more serious variant of this same contention is that Judaism should reject belief in resurrection, in favor of a putatively more sophisticated alternative. ...

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

"... JUDAS IS AS EVIL AS EVER" in the Gospel of Judas. So April DeConick on her new Forbidden Gospels Blog. There seems to be an emerging counterconsensus on this issue, originated by Louis Painchaud and now with April and Einar Thomassen on board.

April also has a meditation on postmodernism inspired by Thomas the Tank Engine. Really. I quite agree with her conclusion (which actually sounds pretty postmodern): "the historian cannot privilege one set of texts over another, or one position over another." That said, I also would say a word in the defense of postmodernism, or at least poststructuralism. I have found deconstruction and intertextuality to be very helpful for getting my head around the fact that the meaning of ancient texts (and, particulary, ancient scriptures) has been a moving target throughout history and changed, often radically, as times and cultural contexts changed. This does not mean that we can apply whatever meaning we want to ancient texts. Rather, it means that we need to read each text in a repeatedly new context and new light as we study its meaning during the course of its transmission.

UPDATE: April DeConick e-mails:
Jim, I noticed on your post today that you included Einar and me, but also there is John Turner of Nebraska. He is a very important scholar of NH and Coptic, especially Sethian Gnosticism. Einar and Louis had contact in the summer and their opinions may have influenced each other. But John and I worked through the text independent of Louis and Einar. I didn't have a clue what Louis' position was. In fact, when I went to the Sorbonne, I was very nervous about my paper because I thought that I would be a lone voice critiquing the NG translation and interpretation. I think that our independence is important because it is not a bunch of scholars jumping on the counterposition bandwagon started by one person. What has emerged is a counterposition that has developed independently by Coptic scholars across the world.
This is what I had meant to get across, but April has expressed it more clearly.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: The Israeli excavations are now being used as an excuse for a terrorist bombing.
FEATURE-Israel excavation work near shrine fans Muslim ire
Mon 29 Jan 2007 12:42 PM ET

By Jonathan Saul

JERUSALEM, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Israeli excavations near Jerusalem's most sensitive shrine have sparked fury among Muslims who fear such works endanger its foundations, but officials involved say they will not damage the holy site.


On Monday, Palestinian militants who claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in the Israeli resort of Eilat, which killed three people, said it was a response to Israeli attempts to "defile" al-Aqsa mosque.


Al Aqsa Brigades spokesman Abu Qusai accused Israel of carrying out building work underneath the mosque as well as continued archaeological digging in the area, which could undermine the foundations of the mosque.

"The attack was in response to the continued Israeli aggression and the attempts to defile the al-Aqsa mosque," Abu Qusai said. The militants added the Eilat attack was just the beginning of operations "in defence of al-Aqsa".

Israeli government spokeswoman Miri Eisin said in response: "Palestinian terror organisations never lack a reason to attack innocent civilians wherever they can. This is why we are always on guard against their activities."

Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Jewish holy sites in Israel, said there were no plans to excavate under al-Haram al-Sharif, known to Jews as Temple Mount.

There's also more on the controversy over the bridge to the Mugrabi Gate.
A GOOD QUESTION, submitted to Question, Science Times, of the New York Times:
Speaking in Tongues

Published: January 30, 2007

Q. How do researchers know the pronunciation of the languages of long-gone peoples?

A. Scholars do not so much know the pronunciation of ancient languages as extrapolate and guess. They have had more success with some languages than with others, said Emily Teeter, spokeswoman for the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, a major center for the study of the ancient Near East. For example, she said, Semitic languages like Babylonian and Akkadian are closely related to ancient Hebrew, providing solid clues about how the other ancient Semitic languages were vocalized.

Arabic is also very important for comparative Semitics. The answer continues with ancient Egyptian, drawing on the Rosetta Stone and Coptic.

Monday, January 29, 2007

THE OLD TESTAMENT PSEUDEPIGRAPHA COURSE that Grant Macaskill and I are teaching next semester holds its first session on Friday, 9 February. I have fully revised and updated the St. Andrews Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Website and all systems are now go. The course will include a blog, which has been set up, but does not have any posts yet, and which will open on the day of the first class meeting. PaleoJudaica will continue as normally, so I hope you will follow both blogs.

If you want to keep up with the course, you might want to make sure you have access to these books:
James H. Charlesworth (ed.),
The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 1, Apocalyptic Literature and Testaments vol. 2, Expansions of the "Old Testament" and Legends, Wisdom and Philosophical Literature, Prayers, Psalms, and Odes, Fragments of Lost Judeo-Hellenistic Works (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1983, 1985)
Reading assignments will come from them. They should be available in any decent sized public library. You can also order them through Amazon.

I recommend that you also read the following articles, all of which are available online, although unfortunately mine requires a paid personal or institutional subscription to access:
James R. Davila, "The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha as Background to the New Testament," Expository Times 117.2 (2005): 53-57.

Robert A. Kraft, "The Pseudepigrapha in Christianity," in Tracing the Threads: Studies in the Vitality of Jewish Pseudepigrapha (ed. John C. Reeves; SBLEJL 6; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1994), 55-86. This article is also available on Professor Kraft's website and can be accessed by clicking here.

Robert A. Kraft, "The Pseudepigrapha and Christianity Revisited: Setting the Stage and Framing Some Central Questions," JSJ 32 (2001) 371-395.
If you can't access my Expository Times article, the following conference paper from some years ago covers much of the same ground:
"Jewish Pseudepigrapha and Christian Apocrypha: (How) Can We Tell Them Apart?" (BNTC, September 2002)
Watch this space.
ASSIMILATED TO THE BLOGOSPHERE: April DeConick has just started a blog on the New Testament Apocrypha and Christian origins. It's called The Forbidden Gospels Blog.
I'd like to start this blog with what may be a shocking observation, but one which I know to be true: the major obstacle to any historical study of early Christianity is the New Testament canon.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Neo-Nazi group plans book burning

MINNEAPOLIS, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- Jewish, Christian and Muslim groups in Minnesota have joined to oppose a neo-Nazi group's burning of "anti-white" books.

The books targeted by the National Socialist Movement, which is based in Minneapolis, include the Talmud, the compilation of laws and religious practices and discussions by Jewish rabbis on them.

THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS are coming to Kansas City any day now. The preparations sound very thorough and a little cloak-and-dagger.
Union Station making ready for Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition
By: Barbara Bayer, Staff Writer [Kansas City Jewish Chronicle] January 26, 2007

The Dead Sea Scrolls are on their way to Kansas City, Mo.

It's just that nobody knows exactly when.

"It will arrive sometime between the end of January and the beginning of February. They don't tell us for security reasons," said Andi Udris, president and CEO of Union Station. "They will tell us about a half hour before it gets here."

Union Station Kansas City will host the international Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit beginning Feb. 8. The exhibit, on display through May 13, was developed in conjunction with the Israel Antiquities Authority. It will feature pieces of 10 scrolls. Six of the scrolls are original and have not been on public display in the United States. The other four are replicas. The exhibit will also feature a replica of the famous Copper Scroll. It also includes more than 100 artifacts - clay jars, sandals, even a hair comb - found in the community of Qumran, near where the scrolls were found.

I've fixed the typo for them in the headline.