Saturday, April 07, 2007

ANNE WIDDECOMBE on Jeffrey Archer on Judas. Whew!

Not even the severest critics of Jeffrey Archer can deny his style. Recognising the need for scholastic input to give some verisimilitude to his fiction, he doesn't bother with the local priest, but goes to the Vatican and one of the greatest living scriptural scholars, Professor Francis Moloney, whom he persuades to get heavily involved. If nothing else, it will ensure that The Gospel According to Judas will not endure the indignity, inflicted on The Da Vinci Code, of being greeted with a published rebuttal, whatever heresy it may contain (eg that Jesus was the actual son of Joseph).

Archer wrote this book knowing that everyone would draw parallels with his own life, although I defy anyone to imagine him going off to the obscurity of some latter-day Essenes. Can a reputation be rescued? Can the reviled man be reinvented as a hero? Can the man shunned become the man venerated?
Interesting. But please don't waste your time on Who Moved The Stone?
TWO NEW GUGGENHEIM FELLOWS at Brown University are worthy of note here:
* Susan Harvey, a professor of religious studies, who specializes in late antique and Byzantine Christianity, focusing on Syriac studies. She is widely published in the fields of asceticism, hagiography, women and gender, hymnography, homiletics, and piety in late antique Christianity. Harvey will work on her current book project, “Teaching Women: Biblical Women and Women’s Choirs in Syriac Tradition.”

* Michael L. Satlow, an associate professor of Judaic studies and religious studies, whose specialty is early Judiasm. A member of the board of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion and a co-editor of the Brown Judaic studies series, he earned his Ph.D. in ancient Judaism from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Satlow will investigate how the Jews of late antiquity understood their relationship with God, in a project titled “Jewish Piety in Late Antiquity.”
Congratulations to Professors Harvey and Satlow, and to the other Fellows listed as well.
THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS were discovered sixty years ago this month. More or less. Maybe.
60 years and still scrolls a mystery

Apr 07, 2007 04:30 AM
Stuart Laidlaw
Faith and Ethics Reporter (Toronto Star)

Sixty years ago this month, a poor Bedouin shepherd named Muhammed edh-Dhib cut down a series of parchments hanging in his tent and handed them to his older cousins, who had contacts in the shadowy world of antiquities in nearby Bethlehem.

Convinced they had nothing of real value on their hands, but needing money, Juma and Khalil walked into the shop of Khalil Eskander Shahin, better known by the nickname Kando, and sold the scrolls for £5, or about $10. Kando later resold them for five times that, a tidy profit.

Today, they are priceless and better known as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Popular legend surrounding the scrolls says, several months earlier, 16-year-old edh-Dhib was looking for lost sheep and became convinced they were in a cave on the edge of the Dead Sea. Throwing a rock in the cave to scare the sheep out, he heard the sound of breaking pottery.

Looks like a pretty good article on the story of the discovery of the Scrolls.

Friday, April 06, 2007

A DIRECTOR has been chosen for NYU's Institute for the Study of the Ancient World:
NYU Antiquities Center Director Is Named

By GARY SHAPIRO (New York Sun)
April 5, 2007

New York University's Institute for the Study of the Ancient World has named a classics professor and former Graduate School dean at Columbia University, Roger Bagnall, as its first director.

For more on the Institute, see here and follow the links back.
TODAY IS GOOD FRIDAY. More info here.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

THE BRITISH LIBRARY has announced a forthcoming important exhibition of sacred texts:
Jewish Christian And Muslim Sacred Texts Exhibition At BL

The British Library is proud to announce that HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and His Majesty Mohammed VI, King of Morocco, are the royal patrons of its forthcoming exhibition, Sacred: Discover what we share, which presents some of the world’s earliest-surviving, most important and beautiful religious texts from the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths.


Sacred sees priceless examples of the Torah, New Testament and Qur’an mounted alongside each other – not individually in separate zones. The texts will be treated thematically, exploring points in common, looking at the ways in which they have been produced, interpreted and used. By integrating material in this way, the exhibition will demonstrate how these faiths have interacted and influenced one another, and will enable visitors to learn about all three alongside each other.

The exhibition explores inter faith attitudes in the UK both today and in the past and takes a look at community and schools projects from around Britain.

The exhibition is part of the Library’s long-term plans to feature other major world faiths which are represented within its collections.

Among the treasures to be displayed are:

* Codex London: One of the oldest surviving manuscripts of the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, which are central to Jewish worship. The traditional Jewish view is that these five books were written by the Prophet Moses at divine dictation. This rare early copy was made in the Middle East, perhaps Palestine, in the 10th century.

* Codex Sinaiticus: It is the oldest complete manuscript of the New Testament and the earliest and best witness for some books of the Old Testament as well. This copy of the New Testament in Greek is absolutely key in the history of Christian textual scholarship. It was produced around 350 AD, possibly in Palestine, but its name derives from the still active Monastery of Saint Catherine near the foot of Mount Sinai in Egypt where it was preserved for many centuries.

* Ma'il Qur'an: One of the earliest Qur’ans in the world to have survived, this dates from the beginning of the 8th century AD. That equates to the 1st century in the Muslim Hijri calendar, which means that this manuscript was penned within 100 years of a key event in the founding of Islam i.e. the hejira or flight of the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina in 622 AD to escape his enemies. It was produced on the Arabian peninsula, probably in or near the holy cities of Islam.

* Syriac Pentateuch: The earliest known dated Biblical manuscript. This copy of the Books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy in Syriac is the earliest known dated Biblical manuscript. It was written by Deacon John at Amida (modern Diyarbakir in south eastern Turkey) in 463. Syriac was the language of the Syrian Church which extended across modern Turkey, Syria and Iraq. This version of the Bible (known as the Peshitta or 'simple' version) became important as the origin of most of the translations made into other languages of the Eastern churches, including Armenian.

And more! This sounds like a superb project. The article has the usual sort of glitches, such as giving the impression that the whole of Codex Sinaiticus will be displayed (only part of it is in Britain and I doubt they are gather all the surviving leaves from the other sites). It also refers to the Book of "Revelations," which should be "Revelation."
HEROD THE GREAT is to be the subject of a lecture at Bryn Mawr:
Archaeologist Brings Historical Perspective
To the Reign of a Biblical Villain

Each year, the C. Denismore Curtis Lecture is presented by a speaker chosen by the graduate students of the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology. This year, the students have extended the honor to University of Cincinnati archaeologist Barbara Burrell, who will provide an historical perspective on Herod the Great, a biblical figure long reviled in the West. She will deliver the lecture, titled "Conquering Nature: Herod the Great's Caesarea," on Friday, April 13, at 5 p.m., in Carpenter B21. The lecture is free and open to the public; those who wish to meet Burrell are invited to tea in the Quita Woodward Room at 4 p.m.
ONE OF MY BOOKS with Brill is on sale this month at half price. Marinke de Rooij e-mails the following information. Get 'em while they're hot!
I would like to inform you that your title, Descenders to the Chariot - The People Behind the Hekhalot Literature, published in 2001 by Brill, will be available as the monthly special offer of our Biblical Studies & Religious Studies E-Bulletin in April. In case you are not yet familiar with the Brill E-Bulletins I kindly refer you to the attached March edition of this free monthly newsletter, announcing per subject area new and forthcoming titles, new journal ToCs, book reviews, news about our program and a special offer. And as said, this month your title was selected and will be available at 50% discount from 15 April till 15 May 2007: Special offer price EUR 69 / US$ 93. This offer is open to all E-Bulletin subscribers and any interested parties (no additional discounts apply), so please feel free to spread the word. I of course hope you would then also endorse a subscription to this E-Bulletin, as this is a guarantee of receiving the latest information from Brill plus the opportunity to be the first to profit from any special offers and free trials we have for you.

In addition, I would like to update you on one of the links on your webpage for the Journals Online. As of 2007, the journal Aramaic Studies is available from Brill. Access to the online content from Brill can be found at
With the transition to Brill, we have seized the opportunity to significantly lower the subscription rates to Aramaic Studies. Individual subscription rates for 2007 are now at EUR 54 / US$ 69. For more information please see

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

BIBLICAL STUDIES CARNIVAL XVI has been posted by Brandon Wason at the Novum Testamentum blog. Also, Brandon interviews James Tabor as Blogger of the Month at

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

APOCRYPHA WATCH: Juditha Triumphans, by Vivaldi, is playing in Boston.
Baroque delivers a rare Vivaldi in vivid color

By Jeremy Eichler, Globe Staff | April 2, 2007

Boston Baroque's current season leans rather heavily on greatest hits of the repertoire such as "Don Giovanni," "Messiah," and Beethoven's Fifth. But music director Martin Pearlman also has a nose for sniffing out music that flies a bit below the radar screen -- not exactly obscure but performed rarely enough to perk up the ears. Last year in the rediscovery department was Cherubini's noble yet neglected C minor Requiem (just out on CD); this season it is Vivaldi's only surviving oratorio, "Juditha Triumphans," which the group performed vibrantly on Saturday night in Jordan Hall.

It is a lovely and somewhat peculiar work, written in 1716 for the girls of the orphanage where Vivaldi worked, and labeled "A Sacred Military Oratorio." It adapts a story from the apocrypha featuring Juditha, a Jewish widow who, in order to save her embattled city, seduces and later beheads Holofernes , a general of Nebuchadnezzar's army. The libretto by Giacomo Cassetti gets pretty gory -- in one recitative, Judith urges her servant Abra to put the general's severed head in a bag as they make their escape -- and Vivaldi's vocal writing sometimes seems more concerned with florid display than with deeply probing the complexities of his characters' plights. But the music is consistently imaginative -- and occasionally breathtaking -- in its use of orchestral color.

ELAINE PAGELS is interviewed about the Gospel of Judas etc. in the San Francisco Chronicle. Once again, there is no mention of the contrary scholarly reading that Judas is as evil as ever in the Gospel of Judas. But it's still a very interesting interview and well worth the read.
Dallas museum exhibits artifacts from Jesus time
April 3, 2007

Reporter (Baylor Lariat)

The smell of hot lentils and garlic wafts through the air amid scrolls of Biblical text and bone boxes of men who have been dead for centuries.

Wild treasures lay along every wall, scenes of ancient days coming to life.

Clay squishes and forms into pots as sand seeps through fingers digging for artifacts.

For the first time in history, people will have the chance to step back in time and experience life the way it was centuries ago, the way it was when Jesus walked the earth.

Dallas Fair Park is holding "Ancient Treasures of the Holy Land," the largest cultural exhibit of Holy Land antiquities in U.S. history nearly 30,000 square feet.

Artifacts date back from the time of Abraham until after the death of Jesus, laid out in chronological order.

"This exhibit is the culmination of many years of dreaming, planning and conceptualizing," general manager Dennis Malone said.

"Many people want to go to Israel but can't. So we are bringing it to them "Ancient Treasures of the Holy Land" paints the story of Israel and Jewish heritage."

More than 350 priceless artifacts, many never seen outside their native countries, have been brought together to allow viewers to see the real story.

Displayed items include the ossuary, or bone boxes, believed to have contained the bones of both Simon of Cyrenia, who carried the cross of Jesus, and his son Alexander; large portions of the Dead Sea Scrolls from Leviticus and Deuteronomy; wall decorations from the Ivory Palace of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel; inscriptions more than 4,000 years old from Abraham's home in the city of Ur; ancient coins and weaponry, including a sword dating back to 2200 B.C.; and many other artifacts from Masada, Qumran, the City of David and Egypt.

HAPPY PASSOVER to those celebrating. The Festival of Passover began yesterday evening at sundown. (I meant to note it then, but Blogger was down.) More info here.

Monday, April 02, 2007

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: The plan of the new Sanhedrin to sacrifice sheep on the Temple Mount has been nixed by the Israeli High Court of Justice.
Court prevents groups from sacrificing live animals at Temple Mount
By Nadav Shargai and Amiram Barkat , Haaretz Correspondent

In their efforts to sacrifice a live animal at the Temple Mount, the New Sanhedrin Council adopted an almost underground modus operandi. Rabbis Adin Steinsaltz, Israel Ariel, Yishai Baved and their associates secretly located a butcher, found a Cohen hailing from a lineage 1,000 years old and worked out a plan to quickly erect an alter on the Temple Mount.

They tried to revive the customs of the ancient Sanhedrin tribunal, which was the highest judicial body for the Jewish people in Israel some 1,600 years ago. They sought to slaughter a sacrificial animal across from the Western Wall.

The activists, who belong to various religious circles such as the Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful Movement, also petitioned the High Court of Justice for the right to perform the ritual.

Their plans were thwarted on Sunday when the court rejected their request, ruling that "the rights of the petitioners to practice their faith are outweighed by other considerations such as public order and safety."

MORE ON THE NEW (?) JESUS APOCRYPHON located by Tony Chartrand-Burke. Over at Apocryphicity he writes:
Several weeks ago I posted the beginning and ending of a fragment of a text I referred to as the “Funeral of Jesus” which I recently came across in a manuscript catalogue entry. I have since obtained the manuscript and have begun the process of deciphering the text. This is no easy task. While the manuscript is well-preserved, the proliferation of abbreviations makes reading the text quite difficult. I offer this preliminary report on the text with the hope of generating some discussion on its contents. Though I believe the text has never been published, I am curious whether anyone in the field has encountered it before.
For a description and summary of the text, go have a look.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

ASSIMILATED TO THE BLOGOSPHERE: Steve Caruso has a new Aramaic Blog, which has been discussing, inter alia, the epigraphic material from the Talpiot tomb. Plus, he'll sell you an Aramaic tattoo. Don't embarrass yourself with an error-ridden one by a second-rater!

No, this isn't an April Fool's joke.

(Via the New Testament Gateway blog.)
JOHN DOMINIC CROSSAN review a new Gospel of Judas book by Elaine Pagels and Karen King in the Washington Post:
Embracing Judas
A recently translated gospel argues that betraying Jesus was the right thing to do.

Reviewed by John Dominic Crossan
Sunday, April 1, 2007; Page BW11


The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity

By Elaine Pagels and Karen L. King

Viking. 198 pp. $24.95

The Christian Gospels are surprisingly ridden with conflict. Each one -- whether officially part of the New Testament or not -- contains a sometimes acrimonious debate about faith or practice, theology or authority, this leader or that one.

In the recently published Gospel of Judas, for example, that archetypal traitor becomes the only true believer, the one who "lifted up his eyes . . . saw the luminous cloud and . . . entered into it." The gospel was discovered sometime in the 1970s along with some other texts in a papyrus book in Egypt. The original 2nd-century Greek text had been translated into Coptic -- the Egyptian language using the Greek alphabet -- in the 4th century. This version was stored inadequately, protected irresponsibly and bartered greedily for maximum profit. Finally, last year, the badly damaged gospel received expert preservation, scholarly restoration and public presentation by the National Geographic Society.

In their slim but excellent Reading Judas, Elaine Pagels and Karen L. King rightly focus on the text's ancient and provocative theology rather than on the codex's modern and tortured history, with King also providing a new and very well annotated translation of this early Christian document.

Once again, there is no acknowledgment that the Judas-as-a-good-guy interpretation of the text is strongly contested by some specialists.
POEMS RELATED TO ARCHAEOLOGY, including Lord Byron's Destruction of Sennacherib, are being collected by K. Kris Hirst at About: Archaeology.